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B&M 80642 Universal Auto / Automatic Trans T-Handle Shift Knob (BLACK)
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Archive for the ‘hatchback’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Faraday Future Is Living The Difficulties Of Being An Auto Start-Up

By now, most of you have probably heard of Faraday Future, the Chinese-backed ambitious start-up electric car maker that has fallen into hard times in recent months after a string of debacles that piled up on after another. Now, two divergent developments have cast the company’s future back into question. Is Faraday Future back in business or is its existence still hanging on by a thread? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle because it really is anybody’s guess what the status of the company is right now.

First, let’s start with the bad news. Apparently, working in Faraday Future has become so tenuous that five – yep, five! – senior executives have decided to ply their craft elsewhere. In no particular order, the company has lost its director of interior design and brand Pontus Fontaeus; head of supply chain management, Tom Wessner; former Ford Fusion program leader Bill Strickland; chief financial officer Stefan Krause; and chief technical officer Ulrich Kranz. I can’t speak for the level of involvement these five individuals have had since working for the company, but their departures are indicative of the climate within the company at the moment.

Fortunately, there is some good news to report from the company. According to Chinese news outlet Gasgoo, the embattled automaker received $900 million from Tata Motors in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the company. Neither Faraday nor Tata have commented on the reported deal, but if it does come to fruition, it would be a much-needed break for the electric car company. Where it goes from here is still anybody’s guess so, at this point, it’s probably best to expect this long, drawn-out soap opera to continue into the new year, perhaps even longer than that.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

How did it come to this for Faraday Future?


2018 Faraday Future FF 91 - image 700041
“The embattled automaker received $900 million from Tata Motors in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the company”

If I had a crystal ball and could peek into the future of Faraday Future, I probably still wouldn’t have any clue as to what’s in store for this automaker. I could tell you that it probably didn’t have to come to this for the company. It had such a promising start that trying to rehash everything that’s happened since it burst onto the scene in 2016 will inevitably turn into a complicated exercise.

What I can tell you is that the company is a long way from where it probably hoped it’d be at this point. All things equal, Faraday would, at this point, be in the middle of building that massive production facility in Nevada. It would also be doing a lot of testing of its first vehicular offering, the FF91. Maybe it’s doing some press tours too, to get its name in the headlines. A lot of things that should have happened hasn’t because the company, first and foremost, bit off more than it could chew.

It promised the world, but ultimately didn’t have enough resources to live up to those promises. It made bold claims of electric car legitimacy by bringing the fight to Tesla for supremacy in the burgeoning market. Heck, it called its own shots on so many things that it might as well have had a flourishing career in the NBA. But alas, none of those promises came to fruition because Faraday didn’t have as potent a bite as its bark suggested.

It’s financer, Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, mismanaged the handling of the company’s finances so bad that he became the subject of a Chinese government investigation. His refusal to release Faraday from his grasp also prevented other firms from stepping in and infusing the cash-deprived company of some serious moolah. All of this bungling would’ve made the Three Stooges proud, except that none of it was funny to begin with.

Eventually, Faraday had to pull back on what it had already built or was supposed to build, as was the case of the production facility in Nevada. That ambitious project crumbled to the ground when Faraday decided to relinquish its status in the state as a “qualified project,” essentially freeing up Nevada to back out from its previous agreement of shelling out tax funds to help finance the construction of the facility. That aspect of the company’s grandiose plans bit the dust when it probably shouldn’t have had Faraday scaled down its ambition from the very beginning.

What does the future hold now for the company?


2018 Faraday Future FF 91 - image 700026
“Is that it probably still won’t be enough to get the company back on track”

It’d be so easy to look at Tata’s infusion of $900 million into Faraday Future and call it a much-needed lifeline. But the truth is that it probably still won’t be enough to get the company back on track. Losing all those executives in short succession isn’t going to help the company either. What Faraday needs to do at this point is to evaluate itself clearly, maybe even do it with a sprinkle of humility just in case it gets too far ahead of itself again.

I’m not going to pretend to know this for sure, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I’m still hopeful for the future of this company. Clearly, there’s still some potential there that can be mined out of all this barren misery. Maybe Tata stepping into the picture is the jolt in the arm it needs to finally get its act together. The Indian conglomerate does have the resources and the technology to provide Faraday with whatever it might need towards its road to rehabilitation. That said, that’s still a lot of “maybe’s” for a future that’s about as uncertain as anybody else’s in the auto industry at this point.

So yes, while I am hopeful for Faraday that it can still get its act together, you better believe that I’m not betting any money on it. Maybe I’ll throw in a good luck card, but that’s the best I’ll do until I see some concrete progress coming out of the company. Maybe it can still happen, maybe it can’t. All we can do is see what steps Faraday Future takes from here.

References


2018 Faraday Future FF 91 - image 700035

Read our full review on the 2018 Faraday Future FF 91.

PostHeaderIcon 2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S.

The Golf line-up gets a humble facelift across its range. This includes the Golf hatch, Alltrack, SportWagen, GTI and the R. Some models get just the cosmetic updates, while the others get changes under the hood. Although they are mere updates and not new models altogether, the changes are significantly prominent to differentiate them from the older versions.

There are a few common changes across the range – the LED DRL’s being made standard on all models, slightly tweaked LED Tail-lights which complement the all-new rear bumper, rain sensing wipers, and automatic headlamps. The interiors get a new infotainment touchscreen, which according to Volkswagen, feature the latest software and react faster to touch inputs.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744062

Kudos to Volkswagen for making continuous changes all across its range. While other manufacturers generally follow a mid-life facelift once in the product’s life span, VW keeps tweaking its cars which not only keep the cars fresh but also invoke customer’s attention. Perhaps, the competition must tear a page from VW’s book (you listening Ford, Kia?). That being said, the changes to the Golf line-up surely differentiate them from the earlier models. The best part is how Volkswagen tries all permutations and combinations – like introducing the 7-speed DSG transmission from higher cars, or trickle down the Performance Package to the standard trims, etc. and succeeds almost every time. Despite being a model that is in production for 44 years now, it still feels fresh and new due to these little updates and upgrades from time-to-time.

Facelift breakdown for each VW Golf trims:


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744058

The Golf hatch gets a 1.8-liter, turbocharged engine producing 170 horsepower. It is mated to a five-speed manual or a six-speed DSG. The Golf is available in two trims – S and SE. The S gets 15-inch “Lyon” alloys while the SE gets 16-inch “Toronto” wheels. In addition to that, the SE also gets full LED lights, fog lights, and panoramic tilting sunroof over its sibling-counterpart.


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744050

The Wagons from the stable – Alltrack and Sportwagen – come in 3 trims – S, SE and SEL. Not much of an upgrade here except for the LED DRL’s, Automatic Headlamps, and a fresh, new shade of green. The SE and SEL trims get the updated 8-inch touchscreen.


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744076

The GTI comes with a 2.0-liter unit returning 220 horsepower; 10 hp more than the earlier version. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG. The GTI comes in three trims – S, SE and Autobahn. All features that were in the Performance pack can now be seen in the SE and Autobahn models (like the tire size, larger breaks, etc.,) as standard. The Golf GTI gets major updates in terms of safety. The SE and Autobahn get the VAQ Electronic Limited Slip Differential, autonomous emergency braking, and forward collision warning. Over and above this, the Autobahn trim also gets Lane departure warning, High beam control, and updated maneuver braking, to name a few.


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744071

The hottest of the lot, the Golf R comes with the same specifications under the hood as before; 2.0-liter engine generating 292 horses. But, the facelift now offers the seven-speed DSG transmission instead of the previous six-Speed automatic, along with the standard six-speed manual. The Golf R features special LED headlights and 19-inch aluminum alloy rims called the
“Englishtown” which , according to VW, are specially designed for enthusiasts. Apart from this, the Golf R also gets VW’s trademark DCC Adaptive Cruise Control with Navigation and 4Motion (All Wheel Drive). On the inside, the car gets the new 8-inch infotainment system with VW’s Digital Cockpit.

How much is this gonna cost?


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744078
Golf Hatch $21,760 (six-speed manual) or $22,860 (six-speed auto)
Golf SportWagen $22,535 (five-speed manual) or $23,635 (six-speed auto)
Golf SportWagen 4Motion $24,785 ( manual) or $25,885 (six-speed auto)
Golf Alltrack $26,845 (six-speed manual) or $27,905 (six-speed DSG)
Golf GTI $27,265 (manual) or $28,365 (six-speed DSG)
Golf R $40,635 (six-speed manual) or $41,735 (seven-speed DSG)

References

Volkswagen Golf


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744066

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf.


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744053

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen.


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744079

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI.


2018 Volkswagen Golf Facelift launched in the U.S. - image 744071

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf R.

PostHeaderIcon Audi RS3 By ABT Sportsline

2018 Audi RS3 By ABT Sportsline

ABT Sportsline is no stranger to working on performance vehicles of German origin and ahead of the 2018 Essen Motor Show, it’s releasing its latest piece de resistance with a kit for the Audi RS3. The kit is available for both sedan and sportback versions of the RS3 and is packing an assortment of different accessories covering the car’s exterior, interior, drivetrain, and suspension.

The result of ABT’s work on the RS3 gives Audi’s performance sedan a whole new personality. Not that it needs one, but there is something to be said for a car like the RS3 that doesn’t get enough attention as it should. The Audi, after all, has to deal with both the BMW M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C63, two of the most established German performance vehicles in the market today. It’s more than capable of holding its own even without the assistance of ABT Sportsline, but if you own an RS3, this king of aftermarket package is one of those offerings that’s going to be hard to turn down. In the end, improvements come in many forms, and in the case of the RS3, there’s enough of them from this program to justify a good long look at the kit.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Audi RS3 by ABT Sportsline

Exterior

  • Front fender vents
  • Revised front grille
  • Rear skirt set that includes rear muff channel and new exhaust system
  • 19- or 20-inch wheels (available in DR, ER-C, ER-F, or FR designs)

2018 Audi RS3 By ABT Sportsline - image 744357
“The exterior of the RS3 is only good for a number of styling accessories, including front fender vents and a revised front grille”

It goes without saying that when a tuner prepares a program for a car like the Audi RS3, there’s only a certain amount of changes that can be made to improve the car’s aesthetics. That’s not so much a lack of creativity on the part of the tuner, but a testament to the outstanding design quality of the car. That’s what we have here because the truth is, ABT Sportsline didn’t have to dig deep into its chest of exterior upgrades with its program for the sedan and sportback versions of the RS3.

Based on ABT’s description of the kit, the exterior of the RS3 is only good for a number of styling accessories, including front fender vents and a revised front grille. There is an option though to add a glass black rear skirt set into the cart. It’s easy to make out in the photos because the set itself comes with a rear muffler channel and ABT’s exhaust system. The latter also includes a pair of 102-mm double pipes, each finished in a fancy matte black shade.


2018 Audi RS3 By ABT Sportsline - image 744360
“ABT’s offering for this kit revolves around a set of 19- or 20-inch wheels that you can choose in a variety of different designs”

Far more than just being a throwaway addition to the kit, the rear skirt set gives the rear section of the RS3 a more attractive design characteristic. Onto the set of wheels, ABT’s offering for this kit revolves around a set of 19- or 20-inch wheels that you can choose in a variety of different designs. I personally like the “FR” design the best, but the other designs – “DR,” “ER-C,” and “ER-F” – do have their own distinct appeal.

That’s the extent of the upgrades that you can expect for your Audi RS3. It may not be on the same level of other programs in terms of volume, but the quality of what you stand to get speaks for itself. That’s the mark of a true ABT Sportsline tuning kit.

Interior

  • Carbon fiber trim
  • Illuminated door sill plates
  • ABT-branded gear shifter
  • Push-Button ignition
  • Anti roll bars
  • Special floor mats

2018 Audi RS3 Sedan - image 690344

Note: Standard Audi RS3 pictured here.

“The highlight of the offerings is a nice carbon fiber trim, generously distributed throughout the interior to give the RS3 a more premium feel to it”

ABT Sportsline has never been the type of tuner to go all-out on the interior of the cars it develops programs for. But there are upgrades in store for the RS3, just not as expansive as you might like. The highlight of the offerings is a nice carbon fiber trim, generously distributed throughout the interior to give the RS3 a more premium feel to it. The ABT-branded illuminated door sill plates add a nice touch of personalization, while the shifter – ABT-branded as well – and push-button ignition add functional improvements to the whole driving experience of the car. Everything else though can be described as standard tuner additions, including the ho-hum special floor mats.

There is one extra offering that’s of particular interest, and it’s quite frankly, a surprising addition to a car like the RS3. Apparently, ABT Sportsline is also offering to install anti-roll bars at your behest, should you at least decide to take the tuner up on its offer. Not quite sure why it’s there, but it does speak to the breadth of tuning options that are at your disposal when you’re talking to a tuner like ABT Sportsline.

Drivetrain

  • 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine
  • 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque (stock output)
  • 4.0 seconds standard 0-to-60-mph time
  • 155 mph standard electronically limited top speed
  • New ECU unit
  • New exhaust system with two matte black 102-mm (4.01) inch tailpipes
  • 460 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque (tuned output)
  • 3.8 to 3.9 seconds tuned 0-to-60-mph time
  • 174 mph tuned top speed

2018 Audi RS3 Sedan - image 690352

Note: Standard Audi RS3 pictured here.

“The result of it is an extra output of 60 horsepower and 36 pound-feet of torque”

Since this is the main focus of ABT Sportsline’s tuning kit for the Audi RS3, let’s first set the table on the German automaker’s standard engine features. At the heart of this proud sedan rests a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine that produces an impressive 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. That’s a lot of power for a car like the RS3, but in true aftermarket fashion, “a lot” is never enough when you’re talking to a tuner like ABT Sportsline. Guess what the tuner did then? If you’re thinking about a remapped ECU unit, then give yourselves a pat on the back. That’s exactly what the tuner did and the result of it is an extra output of 60 horsepower and 36 pound-feet of torque. Decent gains in it of themselves, but when you add it to what the RS3 already has, the total output suddenly goes up to 460 ponies and 390 pound-feet of twist.

ABT didn’t say how the extra muscle contributes to its performance time, but considering that the standard RS3 Sedan is able to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a shade over four seconds, it stands to reason that with ABT Sportsline’s influence, this RS3 can now hit the same speed mark in around 3.8 to 3.9 seconds. Gnarly.

As far as top speed goes, the tuner did say that with the remapped ECU in place, the RS3 now has an increased, though still limited, top speed of 174 mph. With that kind of power and performance abilities, it would be a travesty if you don’t add the aforementioned ABT exhaust system with its pair of 102 mm (4.01 inches). Throw that into the equation and you’re looking at an attention-grabbing RS3 that will have no problems waking the neighbors.

Suspension

  • New sports springs
  • New brake system

2018 Audi RS3 By ABT Sportsline - image 744359

At this point, your Audi RS3 already has cosmetic upgrades, a more powerful engine, and fancy carbon fiber trim on the interior. That’s already a trifecta right there. Ok, let’s add the floor mats too. Quad-fecta? Fantastic four? Regardless, why not complete the whole ABT program with the addition of new sports springs and a meatier braking system? The former should be able to help keep the RS performing in peak abilities when its stretching its legs while the latter is always nice to have around in case you need to slow down from the madness. Either way, both options are on the table from ABT and as is most often the case in the tuning business, better to get the whole lot than skip on the underratedly important bits.

Pricing


2018 Audi RS3 By ABT Sportsline - image 744361

The whole kit is scheduled to make its debut at the 2018 Essen Motor Show in January of next year so as you might expect, there are still no pricing details about the whole thing. Don’t worry though because ABT Sportsline isn’t the type to be bashful with announcing pricing figures so expect those to arrive sooner than later. Even better, the tuner has a reparation in the aftermarket scene for being reasonable with the cost of its programs so if you’re going to get this kit for your RS3s, there’s a chance that you’ll be able to afford it, at least if you loosen the purse strings a little.

Competition

Audi RS3 8V by B&B Automobiltechnik


2016 Audi RS3 8V By B&B Automobiltechnik - image 678590

Comparing one program for the Audi RS3 opposite another is actually a pretty straightforward thing to do because there are a number of kits that are in the market today. One rival tuner with a program for the RS3 estate comes by way of B&B Automobiltechnik. This program was presented back in 2016 and it came with a four-stage engine kit that offers a number of different output increases. The Stage 1 kit, for example, returns 430 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque, all thanks to a similar remap of the ECU unit. Add an air intake system into the mix and that becomes the Stage 2 kit with 450 horsepower and 483 pound-feet of torque on tap. The Stage 3 kit takes it a step further with the installation of air intake mods, a free-flow sports exhaust system, and a new, in-house, high-performance intercooler and the output goes up again to 485 ponies and 516 pound-feet of torque. Then there’s Stage the Stage 4 kit, which includes every upgrade from the first three stages and adds a bigger and more bespoke turbocharger. The result is an output of 550 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, enough power to propel the RS3 to go from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 186 mph.

Read our full articles on the 2016 Audi RS3 8V by B&B Automobiltechnik.

Conclusion


2018 Audi RS3 By ABT Sportsline - image 744358

The name behind the product says it all. In the world of aftermarket tuning, few are as esteemed and trusted as ABT Sportsline. That reputation was earned and has served the tuner well. It’s new aftermarket program for the Audi RS3 may not offer the most powerful engine upgrades, but what you get in return is quality, and the highest level of it. From the aesthetic mods to the output increase, there’s nothing to worry about should you get this kit from the well-respected German tuner.

  • Leave it
    • More powerful options available in the market
    • Not as extensive as I thought

References

Audi RS3


2018 Audi RS3 Sedan - image 690330

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi RS3 sedan.


2015 Audi RS3 - image 585650

Read our full review on the 2017 Audi RS3 hatch.

PostHeaderIcon Volkswagen Beetle to Live On as RWD Electric Car

There’s been a lot of talk about Volkswagen looking to drop the Beetle nameplate in the future. While rumors from a couple of years ago quoted slow sales and Volkswagen’s plans to reduce manufacturing costs, newer reports claim that the “Dieselgate” scandal will force the company to axe the Beetle alongside the Scirocco. The brand has yet to confirm any of this, but a more recent report says that the Beetle may have a chance to survive as an all-electric car.

That’s the word from Autocar, which claims that Volkswagen is “actively considering plans for an electric, rear-wheel-drive successor to today’s Beetle” as part of its range of zero-emissions models based on its new MEB platform. More specifically, the new Beetle will be a system model to the company’s upcoming small electric van, which was previewed by the ID Buzz concept at the Detroit Motor Show. The electric Beetle will also be rear-wheel-drive, according to Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess.

“If we wanted to do a Beetle, electrically it would be much better than today’s model, much closer to history, because it could be rear-wheel drive,” he said, adding that the MEB platform provides the perfect basis for emotional cars like the Beetle and Microbus. Volkswagen is reportedly also considering open-top models such as the Kubelwagen and the Buggy, so we may get a full lineup of electric cars that revive the company’s most iconic vehicles. On the flipside, Diess said that a firm decision on the Beetle’s successor has yet to be made.

Introduced in 1938, the original Beetle was produced in Germany until 1978, but assembly continued in other countries, with the Mexican plant rolling out vehicles until as recent as 2003. The New Beetle was launched in 1997 and redesigned in 2011.

References

Volkswagen Beetle


2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven - image 599665

Read our full review on the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle.



Read more Volkswagen news.

PostHeaderIcon No More Ludicrous Prices: 2018 Honda Civic Type R Goes On Sale

2018 Honda Civic Hits Dealers in Full Force

The Honda Civic Type R was finally launched in the United States in 2017 (for the first time in 20 years) and caused lots of chaos at dealerships, which had to cope with incredible demand for very low supply. The first run was preordered in a matter of hours, and many dealers tried to speculate and used all sorts of tricks to up the sticker. Some of those who preordered a Type R tried to resell their orders at higher prices too, sometimes well in excess of $70,000. But it looks like all these shenanigans may finally be over, as the 2018-model-year Civic Type R went on sale in the United States.

The beefed-up hatchback retails from $34,100, excluding the $890 destination charge and other costs. Definitely much better than the $50,000 sticker some dealerships were asking, or the $80,000+ some nut jobs were trying to score by selling their preorders. The only bad news here is that demand is so high that there may still be a long waiting line at dealerships, but the ordering and delivery process should become easier in a couple of months. On a related note, the Type R turbocharged engine is now also available as a crate engine for amateur and professional race team through the company’s motorsport division.

References

Honda Civic


2017 Honda Civic Type R - image 719343

Read our full review on the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.



Read more Honda news.

PostHeaderIcon You Can Have the Honda Civic Type R Crate Engine For $6.5K

For years, Honda enthusiasts in the United States watched with envy as Europe and Asia had access to the awesome, beefed-up Civic Type R. Launched in 1997, the Type R remained a forbidden fruit for U.S. gearheads for decades. Two decades to be more specific, as the high-performance Civic didn’t cross the pond to North America until 2017. And, needless to say, it created the utmost hype, with backed-up preorders and crazy price speculation over to-be-delivered cars. With the hatchback finally on its way to customers, Honda has more good news for Type R fans: the turbocharged 2.0-liter powerplant is now available as a crate engine.

The big announcement was made at the 2017 SEMA Show, where Honda confirmed that enthusiasts would be able to purchase the Type R engine through Honda Performance Development’s Honda Racing Line program. The crate engine is rated at the same 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque as the one in the road car. The turbocharged four-banger is priced at $6,519.87, but here is a catch: it’s only available for “verified, closed-course racing applications,” which means it can’t be used in road-going models.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why It Matters?


2017 Honda Civic Type R - image 719399
“This crate engine is great news for both amateur and professional racing drivers alike”

On top of being an appealing car of regular drivers, the Civic Type R was also seen as a great engine source by racing enthusiasts. So, this crate engine is great news for both amateur and professional racing drivers alike, who finally have access to Honda’s most powerful engine in the United States. It’s also reliable, which makes things that much better on the race track. With Honda Racing Line involved in the project, drivers will also benefit from something similar to factory support, which is way better than just sourcing an engine and trying to make it work by doing your own research and development.

The Bad News


2016 Honda Civic - image 651097
“If you were dreaming of building your own Type R version of the Civic sedan, the Accord, or any other Honda available in showrooms, it won't happen anytime soon”

Unfortunately, this engine isn’t yet available for road cars. So if you were dreaming of building your own Type R version of the Civic sedan, the Accord, or any other Honda available in showrooms, it won’t happen anytime soon. Sure, it could be offered outside the Honda Racing Line program in the future, but it will be tricky to install this engine in a production model and get it homologated for road use. So yeah, this announcement is somewhat disappointing when it comes to road cars, but at least we’ll see more of this fantastic engine on race tracks across the United States!

References

Honda Civic


2017 Honda Civic Type R - image 719343

Read our full review on the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.


2017 SEMA Show – Preview - image 741107

Read more news on the 2017 SEMA Show.

PostHeaderIcon Mazda Kai

2017 Mazda Kai Concept

Welcome to the future! Well, we’re not there quite yet, but the Mazda Kai Concept is essentially a quick look into the crystal ball that exposes the future of Mazda vehicles. Unlike Mazda’s “Vision” concept at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the Kai is something that Mazda could actually make some in the near future. It could even possibly represent the next-gen Mazda3 hatchback – a model that will be due for replacement in the next three to four years anyway. So, what does it bring to the table? Try stunning looks, aggressive lines, sleek curves, and the SkyActiv-X powertrain that’s expected to propel the Mazda brand into the next decade. Meanwhile, the interior gets a toned down look with accents in just the right places, a display screen that’s as wide as the day is long, and a cabin that emphasizes space as much as it does the car’s sporty prowess.

So, will Mazda turn this into the next-gen Mazda3 Hatch? Well, it’s certainly too early to tell since the third-gen model was just revamped for the 2017 model year. So, by the time 2020 get here, we could see a production prototype of that bad boy tearing up the streets with the usual pre-production camo and cloud of mystery floating above it. But, until that happens, let’s take a closer look at this concept, talk some more about it, and speculate a bit about what it could become in the future.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mazda Kai Concept.

Mazda Press Conference at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show

Exterior

  • Bubbly appearance
  • Aggressive front end
  • Sexy Roofline
  • Attractive rear end

2017 Mazda Kai - image 740410
“Violent, mean, aggressive, intense, rampant, raging, wild, and frenzied”

Violent, mean, aggressive, intense, rampant, raging, wild, and frenzied – these words, among others, could all be used to describe the exterior design of the Mazda Kai Concept. The lines just seem to flow in a way that most automakers can seem to match. Take a look at the bottom of the A-pillars then look at how the hood line runs toward the nose, tilting in ever so slightly to make the hood narrower up front. Without a frame below, the hood and inner points of the fenders come together to create a bit of an overhang that shadows the chrome Mazda emblem positioned in the top-center of that recessed, black honeycomb grille. The design of the headlights, which appear to be LED units, flow seamlessly into the gloss black bezel that surrounds the sides and lower edge of the grille, coming to a point right in the center that matches that of the front fascia. Speaking of the fascia, notice how those long fenders seem to seamlessly blend in with the fascia? That’s what you call attractive from any angle.

The fascia itself features those stout lines in the corners that are put in the place most manufacturers would have dumped some fake vents to keep up with the Jones’ while the air dam below runs nearly the full width of the fascia but maintains a low profile despite the overwhelming style of the car itself. Finally, the lip running across the bottom of the fascia is a hit that some down pressure is needed and gives us hope that this little four-door hatch could provide some decent performance More about that later, though.


2017 Mazda Kai - image 740411
“As you move along to the side, it becomes evident that Mazda took its time when it came to design”

As you move along to the side, it becomes evident that Mazda took its time when it came to design and made it a point to put an emphasis and excessively tight clearance for not only the body panel but the doors as well. If this thing drove by you at 50 mph, you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it has doors. Of course, the lack of traditional door handles does help that a bit, as do those side view cameras. On the other hand, there are three features to the side profile that make this car so attractive. The first is those excessively long fenders that seem to run on forever. The second is the sheer smoothness of the side profile with its somewhat bubbly nature, while the third is the waistline that rides just north of parallel to the road and takes a sharp turn upward near the end of the rear doors. Down below the side skirts are accented by a small lip that curves upward just ahead of the rear wheel to create a little wingtip of sorts.

Looking at the Kai concept from the rear end and you can actually notice (and absorb) the fact that this thing has some very flared wheel arches. They aren’t all that noticeable from the front or side view, but from the rear, they are so flared that they the car actually has a smooth but muscular appearance to it. Meanwhile, the bubbly appearance continues around back but is toned down a bit thanks to the dramatic cutout for the headlights that feature circular LEDs recessed into the body. The Mazda emblem sits all by its lonesome in the center of the hatch and the little lip just below it makes the rear hatch look a little wider than it really is. It should also be pointed out that the “rear fascia” is part of the body shell. Now, this does make for a cleaner look, no doubt, but it poses a problem should this model shift into production as it could lead to some expensive repair bills or even a total vehicle loss after even a minor rear-end collision.


2017 Mazda Kai - image 740414
“The rear hatch is actually a bit wider up top where the rear windscreen is, and that little overhang holds tight to the top of the rear hatch”

Outside of this, the rear hatch is actually a bit wider up top where the rear windscreen is, and that little overhang holds tight to the top of the rear hatch. The bottom of the “fascia” gets a massive, flat-black insert with a black-hole-like opening along the bottom that runs almost the full width, being flanked but the circular exhaust outlet on each side. At the bottom, another lip is in place to level things out and tie the front and sides together in full harmony. The last thing I want to point out is the rood actually has two glass panels that for a T-top like-look, with the center portion of the roof getting two very sharp boy lines that provide some serious style if you happen to be looking down on this sexy little hatch.

Interior

  • Leather interior
  • Red accents
  • Long digital display
  • Digital Controls

2017 Mazda Kai - image 740409
“There is a sporty appearance while the smooth, elegant lines provide a feeling of length and dominance”

The interior of the Kai is just as intriguing as the exterior. There is a sporty appearance while the smooth, elegant lines provide a feeling of length and dominance. The seats sit far to the rear of the cabin, ultimately creating a legroom problem for those in the rear, but plenty of space for those up front. The dash has a two-tier look to it with a thin pad up top that overhangs along the full width of the dash with a longer overhang above the instrument cluster. The second tier sits lower and is widely smooth – a feature that helps the cabin feel wider than it really is. A long, thin screen sits between the upper dash bad and the lower, serving as a home for the infotainment system that looks to be more accessible to the passenger than the driver until you look at the center console and notice the circular touchback to the rear of the shifter.

Sitting below the dash is the HVAC console that appears to include the vents and control. The HVAC controller itself is fully digital, however, there is one number in the corner closest to the driver. The center console sits high between the rear seats, something that gives the car a real sports car feel and is certainly rivaled only by the Kia Stinger at this point in time. The face of the center console is recessed a bit and is either black glass or very glossy plastic. The gear shifter sits about in the middle and looks to be a spring-loaded unit that allows for a slapstick-like driving experience. Red accents make up the walls above the console face and match those accents on the door trim panels. The seats are upholstered in the blackest of black.


2017 Mazda Kai - image 740417
“The view of the driver includes a three-gauge cluster that would be quite nice as a digital unit but appears to be analog in nature”

The view of the driver includes a three-gauge cluster that would be quite nice as a digital unit but appears to be analog in nature. The steering column is short, much like the levels coming off the column while the steering wheel has thin spokes and a smaller central hub, giving the wheel a classic feel even with the chrome inserts and leather wrapping. The questions I’m left with are where do the side view cameras display their images and how much passenger and cargo room does this thing really have in the rear. The answer for the former is likely the rearview mirror, which could also be an all-digital unit and display a picture from the rear facing cabin out back. As for the passenger and cargo room, well, that’s like asking how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop: the world may never know.

Drivetrain

  • SkyActiv-x Engine
  • 20-30 percent more efficient
  • 10-30 percent more torque
  • Up to 230 Horsepower
  • Could preview next-gen Mazda3 Hatch

Mazda has a lot Planned for the Tokyo Motor Show - image 737439
“Kai is powered by the new SkyActiv-X powerplant that will find its way into production cars as soon as the 2019 model year”

Mazda didn’t say very much about either of the new concepts that it brought to Tokyo, but we know that the Kai is powered by the new SkyActiv-X powerplant that will find its way into production cars as soon as the 2019 model year, with the Mazda3 hatchback being the most likely candidate for its initial introduction. For now, very little is known about the SkyActiv-X, but we do know that it uses a spark-assisted compression ignition system. This works by using very high compression to combust the gasoline-air mixture inside each cylinder. It works the same way a diesel engine fires, however, gasoline requires much higher compression rates and, as such, doesn’t work quite as well at all engine loads and temperatures, which is why you need the spark plug for the occasional assist. The engine itself is a 2.0-liter four-banger and should be able to deliver some 200 horsepower or maybe a little more. According to Mazda, it can deliver 10 to 30 percent more torque than the current SkyActive engines in use today while being 20 to 30 percent more efficient.

It really does sound promising, but test drives of vehicles fitted with pre-production versions yielded conditions such as spark knock – which was said by Mazda to be “normal” as well as some sluggishness at certain engine speeds like the engine was struggling to determine exactly when to use spark assist and when not to. Almost like it was experiencing a pre-ignition sort of situation. Of course, considering this engine is only good for so much horsepower, and there’s no telling what can actually be done to improve power, Mazda has to have a solution to offer even more power down the road. Well, this engine can be paired with a standard transmission or a hybrid unit so that more power could, in theory, be delivered with this engine with a little bit of electric help. On top of that, if the concept will work with four-cylinders it should work with six as well (Mazda hopes, anyway.) The biggest thing is, however, is that purchasing a car using this new type of engine is quite risky – it has no proven track record, no word for reliability, and good luck finding a mechanic that knows how to work on it, even at your local Mazda dealer in the first year or two the engine is in service.


2017 Mazda Kai - image 740424
“You can probably expect this concept to jump to 60 mph in around 6.5 seconds or so, while top speed would probably be around 140 mph”

On the plus side, if the technology does prove to be worthy of long-term production, it could help keep the internal combustion engine in play for a long time to come and will give Mazda time to bank up a little cash to do some more R&D on the electrification front – something it wants to push but claims to have limited funds for R&D. For now, you can probably expect this concept to jump to 60 mph in around 6.5 seconds or so, in optimal running conditions, while top speed would probably be around 140 mph based solely on an educated guess that the engine will produce somewhere around 200 horsepower an 230 pound-feet of torque.

Conclusion


2017 Mazda Kai - image 740414

When I first looked into Mazda today, the first thing I saw was the Vision Concept, and I have to say, I wasn’t impressed. I thought it looked a lot like the Mercedes-Maybach6 Concept with some different lines. Of course, it could also show Mazda’s intent to take the plunge into more luxurious territory, but we’ll leave that conversation for another day. In the end, I browsed past that Vision concept and took a good hard look at the Kai, and I said (Yes, I actually said it out loud to myself,) “that’s the future Mazda3 Hatchback right there. Whether or not it will be the fourth-gen model remains to be seen, as we’ve already seen prototypes on the road and they look nothing like this, but it could very well represent a future version of the car. We can at least hope anyway, right? For now, there’s not much else to say about this concept except that it has all the right credentials to become a production model so hopefully Mazda won’t leave this concept lost in time past. What do you guys think? Would you roll a hatchback like looks like this baby? Let us know in the comments section below.

  • Leave it
    • No details on SkyActive-X
    • Who knows when it’ll get to production
    • Little word from Mazda

References

Mazda3


2019 Mazda3 - image 689583

Read our full speculative review on the 2019 Mazda3.


2017 Nissan IMx - image 740404

Read more Tokyo Motor Show news.

PostHeaderIcon Ford Focus RS by Rally Innovations

“Subtlety” is not one of the first words you think of when talking about the SEMA Auto Show. Proving as much is Ford, which is headed to the annual aftermarket show in Las Vegas with a series of specially modified Focus hot hatches. We’ve already seen the Blue Oval’s collaborations with Bloody Type Racing, VMP Performance, and a triple-team effort from Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil. Now, it’s Rally Innovations’ turn in the spotlight, and the rally racing tuner is bringing with it a heavily tuned Ford Focus RS that now looks like its ready to throw down in Baja or Dakar.

The project car officially goes by the name “Ford Focus RS Rally Revival,” and if there’s one thing that passes the proverbial eye test, it’s that this hot hatch looks ready to go flying in some sand dunes. It’s arguably the Focus hatch that underwent the heaviest and most significant of modifications among the four that are headed to SEMA. Given the new purpose it was given as a full-fledged rally marauder, it’s not far-fetched to think that the Focus RS Rally Revival can go throw down with the best rally cars. That’s the depth of Rally Innovations’ program for the Focus RS. It may sit at SEMA looking all peaceful and contained, but rest assured, there’s a beast lying underneath that modified body, and it’s one that’s itching to get uncaged.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Ford Focus RS by Rally Innovations

Exterior


2017 Ford Focus RS by Rally Innovations - image 738745
“There’s an intensity by which Rally Innovations tackled the Ford Focus RS’ exterior.”

There’s an intensity by which Rally Innovations tackled the Ford Focus RS’ exterior. You can see it by how the hot hatch looks post labor and there’s no question that it’s been retuned to fulfill one specific purpose: get down and dirty.

The front section is noticeably different with the addition of aluminum front splitters. You’re going to see this trend in the side and rear too, but its most distinct in this section because of its vulnerability to the elements in rally racing. Notice also the presence of those LED lamps on the radiator grille? Those are Baja Designs 3×3 Squadron Pro & S2 LED Amber and they’re high priority for any rally racer, especially this one. Then there’s the inclusion of the vents on the hood, which Rally Innovations installed in collaboration with Anaheim Rod & Custom.


2017 Ford Focus RS by Rally Innovations - image 738744
“The wheels themselves also benefit from getting diverters and mud flaps courtesy of RS4”

The wheels themselves also benefit from getting diverters and mud flaps courtesy of RS4 while the rear section of the newly created rally car is the recipient of an aluminum diffuser and a massive rally wing. Hard not to see that wing even from the angle of the photo.

Stainless steel latches from Sparco complete the functional upgrades on the Focus RS while an Avery Intense Blue and 3M Storm Gray vinyl wrap make up a significant part of the aesthetic enhancements.

Last but not least is the wheel-and-tire set-up. For this creation, Rally Innovations opted for a set of 19-inch OZ Racing Superturismo GT wheels and wrapped them all up in Nitto NT01 tires, 235/35- series tires on all four corners. Shop TPMS tire pressure monitoring sensors and Tred Wear raised white letter tire inserts complete the upgrades for this section of the hot hatch.

Interior


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 615129

Note: Standard Ford Focus RS pictured here.

“Rally Innovations stripped away the rear seats of the hot hatch and put in its own version of a four-point roll cage.”

Given that this is a rally car we’re talking about, the objective of the interior upgrades on the Focus RS is to make it as light as possible while also offering enough protection to ensure the safety and well-being of the driver and his navigator. On that front, Rally Innovations stripped away the rear seats of the hot hatch and put in its own version of a four-point roll cage.

Interior panels from R4S and EVO racing seats add to the quality of the custom job on the cabin. The seats in particular should come very useful considering how unforgiving rally terrains traditionally are. A custom R353 steering wheel and globe shift knob are important in their own way, the latter specifically since quick and rapid gear changes are arguably one of the most important skills needed for any full-fledged rally racer. Combine those new equipment with an Omni pod mount and Autometer Cobalt Series boost, oil, air/fuel and Pro Shift light gauges and all the requisite equipment needed to get a full rally run is right in the cabin and within reach of both the diver and navigator.

Last but most definitely not least are the HPI 4-point harnesses. Nobody should be reminded about the importance of safety when racing in a rally car.

Drivetrain


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 702708

Note: Engine of t he standard Ford Focus RS pictured here.

“Rally Innovations took those specs and added a series of refined equipment modifications”

Dressing the Ford Focus RS to look like a rally car is one thing. Actually turning it into one is another matter entirely. This is where Rally Innovations’ drivetrain upgrades come into the forefront. The base car still uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged I4 EcoBoost engine that’s paired to a six-speed manual transmission.

Rally Innovations took those specs and added a series of refined equipment modifications, including an upgraded intercooler, a high-flow induction kit, and a Ultra-High Performance Silicon Boost/Coolant hose kit that come by way of noted Ford tuner Mountune. A new CSF triple-pass high performance radiator was also installed and the same goes in the back of the car where a Ford Performance S-Type 3” cat-back exhaust makes its way into the picture. A special COBB Access Port V3 tune round out the drivetrain modifications on the Focus RS.

Neither Ford nor Rally Innovations divulged details on how much power this Focus RS rally car now boasts, but given that the standard version of the hot hatch is already capable of producing 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, there’s no question that this project rally car has more of that on tap.

The likelihood of a significant increase in output is made more evident by the amount of modifications Rally Innovations put into the hot hatch’s chassis and suspension. Suffice it to say; the Focus RS now sits on coilovers (supplied by RS-R Sports-i) at all four corners with upgraded sway bars in the front and rear (courtesy of Eibach), and an adjustable camber kit from Whittling. Throw in the 4000 series front and rear slotted rotors from DBA USA and Rally Innovations’ own intercooler “X” brace, and you have the makings of a custom Focus RS that can can display its newfangled destiny on any rally course in the world today.

Conclusion


2017 Ford Focus RS by Rally Innovations - image 738197

I’m impressed by how this particular project turned out, and not because of the novelty that comes with turning a Ford Focus RS into an actual rally car. We’ve seen that before and we’re likely to see more of that again. What I am impressed with is how Rally Innovations somehow made this project look easy. I’m sure it wasn’t by any stretch, but if we judge the difficulties based on how much work was done and the result of all that work, it does feel like the people from Rally Innovations didn’t have too many sleepless nights working on this project.

The result is exceptional enough that I’m now legitimately curious to see how this rally car can perform when it lines up against its ilk in a race. Maybe somewhere down the road it’s going to happen. But for now, it’s going to be nothing more than a display at SEMA and a showcase of what Rally Innovations is capable of. Seems like a waste of a perfectly solid project car, doesn’t it?

  • Leave it
    • What was once the Focus RS is now all but gone
    • Not for everybody
    • Should be quite a handle on its own

References

Ford Focus RS


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 664701

Read our full review on the 2016 Ford Focus RS.


2016 Ford Focus RS – Driven - image 718773

Read our full driven review on the 2016 Ford Focus RS.

PostHeaderIcon What Happens When A Toyota Prius Has A Dead Battery?

Remember when the Toyota Prius was new and everybody was worried its battery would fail and would cost a small fortune to replace? Me too. Well, it turns out that hybrid battery packs do indeed fail and are very expensive to replace from Toyota – roughly $4,000. On an older Prius, that could theoretically exceed the value of the car, leaving it totaled according to your insurance company. Thankfully, there’s a way around this mess.

Automotive journalist and YouTuber Tyler Hoover bought a 2005, second-generation, Toyota Prius for $1,500 suffering from just that – a dead battery with no more life juice to squeeze. Interestingly, the Prius will drive just fine with a dead battery, though the 1.5-liter four-cylinder is solely responsible for moving the car, making it even more doggishly slow. Naturally, it also makes the Prius’ fuel economy drop like a rock.

But, rather than spending $4,000 at the Toyota stealership… errr, I mean dealership, Hoover went to the aftermarket. These days, third-party companies dealing in hybrid batteries are growing in number and popularity. Used Prii (yep, the official pluralization of Prius) are everywhere now, and folks aren’t willing to spend big money on OEM replacement parts. One such company, Electron Automotive, sells an entire bank of battery cells. See, the Prius’ battery pack consists of 28 individual, iPad-sized cells. These are what fail but generally do so individually. That means some of the cells are still good. Electron Automotive takes these good cells from old Prius batteries, pairs them with other working used cells, “rebalances” the cells to work together, and sells the rebuild kit for $1,000. There’s also a warranty, too. That’s a pretty good discount off the price Hoover says Toyota is asking.

Best of all, replacing the cells within the battery pack isn’t all that hard. In fact, the process seems almost plug-and-play once the suitcase-sized battery pack is removed from the trunk. So, check out Hoover’s video from his YouTube channel, Hoovies Garage. It’s a fun watch.

References

Toyota Prius


2006 Toyota Prius - image 94430

Read our full review on the 2005 Toyota Prius.


2016 Toyota Prius - image 645154

Read our full review on the current 2017 Toyota Prius.

PostHeaderIcon Ford Focus ST by Blood Type Racing

Launched in 2012, the latest Focus ST was the company’s range-topping hatchback until the RS model arrived for the 2016 model year. Although the ST was revised for 2015, the drivetrain remained unchanged, as did performance. As a result, the Focus ST lost its place under the spotlight as soon as the Focus RS made its entrance. Fortunately, several tuning companies are still offering upgrades for the ST, which remains an important model in the lineup despite being some five years old as of 2017. Blood Type Racing is one of those companies, and it just unveiled a flashy package for the 2017 SEMA Show.

Described as a concept that combines “lifestyle elements of moving images with motorsports,” Blood Type Racing’s Focus ST boasts several upgrades inside and out, as well as under the hood. And while the aero kit is heavily based on modern racing, the wheel design and the paint remind of flashy vehicles you usually see in the Fast & Furious franchise. What’s more, the hatchback sports a roof rack and a custom landing pad for drones. A rather awkward package for what sort of elements it combines, but more than suitable for an event like the SEMA Show.

Continue reading to learn more about the Ford Focus ST by Blood Type Racing.

Exterior


2017 Ford Focus ST by Blood Type Racing - image 738527
“Up front, it's the massive splitter that draws the most attention”

Blood Type Racing’s take on the Focus ST is somewhat weird, in the sense that it blends a race-specific exterior with a flashy paint and rims that are usually seen on tuning show cars (not exactly recommended for track use). But the car fits quite nicely in the SEMA Show context, where many tuning companies display out-of-the-box approaches on road-legal cars.

There are quite a few features that help this Focus ST stand out from the pack. Up front, it’s the massive splitter that draws the most attention. Made from carbon-fiber by Rally Innovations, it’s very similar to what we can usually seen on GT3- and GT4-spec race cars. The bumper and engine hood were also given a more aggressive design, but nothing compared to the really wide fenders from SoCal Garage.


2017 Ford Focus ST by Blood Type Racing - image 738528
“Around back, there's a massive, carbon-fiber wing atop the tailgate”

Onto the sides, we can see a set of B-Forged Performance wheels that measure 19-inch and feature a unique, twin-seven-spoke design and a brushed smoke gloss.The rims are wrapped in low-profile Toyo T1 Sports tires that sunk deep into the body under the flares. They look really cool, but I wouldn’t drive this car on a race track with this wheel and tire configuration. The blacked-out pillars and the carbon-fiber side skirts complete the look.

Around back, there’s a massive, carbon-fiber wing atop the tailgate, also provided by Rally Innovations. The roof carries a Thule rack system that includes a custom drone helipad that’s supposed to add “functionality to curb appeal.” But I think is just a fancy feature that’s not exactly useful, as landing a drone on such a small platform is rather difficult and inconvenient. But hey, drones are popular nowadays and I’m sure that most of the SEMA crowd will find this feature interesting.

Finally, the car is finished in a flashy Midnight Purple paint created by BASF, while the standard headlamps were replaced by Diode Dynamics units for a more modern look.

Interior


2014 Ford Focus ST - image 513098

Note: standard Ford Focus ST pictured here.

“Cabin upgrades include Sabelt carbon-fiber seats and a race-spec roll bar and harness system”

There are quite a lot of upgrades to talk about inside the cabin too. Arguably the most interesting is the racing package that includes Sabelt’s carbon-fiber seats with four-point harnesses. The latter are attached to an Autopower roll bar with harness bar, while the rear section comes with a BTR storage compartment for camera and drone. There’s also a SoCal Garage carbon-fiber steering wheel and a Ford Performance short-throw shifter. But this Focus ST isn’t just about racing and all the gear you need to make a cool video. Blood Type Racing also added all weather floor mats for enhanced practicality and illuminated door sill plates for a bit of glitz. Both were taken from the Ford Accessories catalog.

Drivetrain


2014 Ford Focus ST - image 513106

Note: standard Ford Focus ST pictured here.

“The 2.3-liter EcoBoost was enhanced with a Full Race Turbo kit that cuts turbo lag”

Under the hood, this souped-up hatchback hides the same 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine as the stock Focus ST. However, the four-banger was enhanced with a Full Race Turbo kit that cuts turbo lag for quicker throttle response and increased output. It also features a Borg Warner EFI turbo instead of the standard unit and a Ford Performance exhaust. Blood Type Racing also added a Mishimoto radiator and coolant reservoir, a new, improved intercooler, and a Hoonigan oil cap. A COBB Tunning Accessport tuner revised by Blood Type Racing rounds off the engine package.

Unfortunately, there’s no word as to how powerful the beefed-up EcoBoost engine is after all these upgrades. The unit cranks out 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque in stock configuration and this package could increase that to around 270 horses and 290 pound-feet. The extra oopmh should also drop the 0-to-60 mph sprint from the standard 5.9 to around 5.7 seconds.

More upgrades were made to the chassis, starting with a performance air suspension from Air Lift. A Pierce Motorsports underbody brace enhances stability, while a bigger brake kit from Wilwood provides the necessary stopping power.

Conclusion


2017 Ford Focus ST by Blood Type Racing - image 738198

While Blood Type Racing’s take is definitely exciting as far as performance upgrades go, it’s a bit too exotic (or may I should say flashy?) for my taste. And it has nothing to do with the purple paint. Though I’m not a big fan of these Fast & Furious type finishes, I actually like how it looks the Focus ST. What I don’t like about this build are the wheels, which are rather inappropriate for a race-inspired body. I also think that the roof rack system is out of place, while the drone roof pad is anything but necessary. Why would I want to land a drone on the roof on my car when I can use any surface on the ground? Sure, it’s not a bad idea if you look at this car as a SEMA Show project only, but it’s not a feature I’d pay for in an aftermarket tuning package.

  • Leave it
    • Roof rack doesn’t go well with the race-inspired design
    • Drone landing pad is a useless feature

References

Ford Focus ST


2014 Ford Focus ST - image 513093

Read our full review on the 2017 Ford Focus ST.


2017 Hyundai HyperEconiq Ioniq - image 737254

Read more SEMA news.

PostHeaderIcon Ford Focus RS “TriAthlete” by VMP Performance

The latest Ford Focus RS was unveiled for the 2016 model year and gave the hot-hatch term new meaning through its aggressive exterior, race-prepped cabin, and surprisingly powerful drivetrain. Rated at 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, the Focus RS is significantly more powerful than anything else in this niche, including the much-praised Volkswagen Golf R. To put things into perspective, the Focus RS is quicker and more powerful than he awesome Porsche 718 Cayman. At the same time, it’s only marginally less powerful than the base Porsche 911, but around two tenths quicker from 0 to 60 mph. But while the Focus RS is arguably the most exciting hatchback you can buy nowadays, there are quite a few tuning companies that find a way to make it even better. VMP Performance is one of them, and its version of the Focus RS was just unveiled ahead of the 2017 SEMA Show.

Dubbed “TriAthlete,” because it can “smoke the competition in true Olympic triathlete style” at the drag strip, the road course, and on twisty backroads, this souped-up Focus RS boasts upgrades in just about any department. Fitted with parts from Ford Performance, CoBB Tuning, and Anderson Composites, among others, the “TriAthlete” is a more aggressive proposition inside and out, while its drivetrain is a significant departure from the standard 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. Some details are still under wraps, but until Ford spills the beans at the SEMA Show, let’s take a closer look at what we already know about this exotic concept car.

Continue reading to learn more about the Ford Focus RS “TriAthlete.”

Exterior


2017 Ford Focus RS “TriAthlete” by VMP Performance - image 738440
“If you're a big fan of carbon-fiber, you'll definitely love this one”

Thanks to its beefed-up aero kit, the standard Focus RS is already a menacing hatchback on the outside. But that didn’t stop VMP Performance giving it an even more aggressive look. And if you’re a big fan of carbon-fiber, you’ll definitely love this one as the tuning firm used plenty of it. The engine hood, the front splitter, rear spoiler, rear diffuser, rocker panels and foglamps surround are all made from the lightweight material. But while the hood and the foglamp surrounds are identical to the standard model as far as design goes, the splitter extends the bumper closer to the ground, giving the front fascia a sportier look. The same goes for the side skirts, which feature aggressive extensions and winglets toward the rear wheels.

All these parts were sourced from Anderson Composites, a California-based company specialized in fiberglass and carbon-fiber components for late-model U.S. models.


2017 Ford Focus RS “TriAthlete” by VMP Performance - image 738441
“Exterior modifications continue onto the sides with a set of Forgestar CF5 Deep Concave wheels”

Exterior modifications continue onto the sides with a set of Forgestar CF5 Deep Concave wheels finished in matte black. The rollers measure 19 inches and are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 high-performance tires. Unfortunately, there’s no photo of the rear section, but we can see a large wing atop the tailgate and it’s safe to assume that the diffuser is motorsport-inspired element that’s far more aggressive than the standard unit.

The souped-up hatchback also features lighting components with RetroShop custom fitment by Diode Dynamics and lens tint by Anchor Room. A dark gray paint rounds off the menacing exterior, giving the carbon-fiber elements a more subtle look.

Interior


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 615129

Note: Standard Ford Focus RS pictured here.

“Much like the exterior, the cabin received some carbon-fiber parts”

There aren’t photos of the interior yet, but VMP Performance added a range of new features, starting with a Brey-Krause custom bolt-in harness bar and a Simpson Racing five-point harness. There’s no mentioning of racing seats, but it’s safe to assume that the harness comes with a race-spec unit for the driver.

The tuning firm also mentions some Ford Accessories, but there’s no specific info as to what that may mean. However, there’s a big chance that this Focus RS will be used to showcase some upcoming features from the brand. Much like the exterior, the cabin received some carbon-fiber parts, like the shift knob, the window switch cover, and the instrument cluster. Finally, there’s a cargo area protector in the trunk.

Drivetrain


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 702708

Note: Engine of t he standard Ford Focus RS pictured here.

“The beefed-up Focus RS uses the same engine 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, but there are plenty of upgrades to talk about”

The beefed-up Focus RS uses the same engine 2.3-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine as the standard model (paired to the six-speed manual transmission), but there are plenty of upgrades to talk about.

For starters, VMP Performance added a short throw shifter and a cat-back exhaust system from Ford Performance. There’s also a carbon-fiber cold air intake and an Accessport handheld tuner, both made by COBB Tunning, while the new internal wastegate actuator comes from Turbosmart. A dual port blow-off valve from Kompact rounds off the engine upgrade list.

“The chassis was also enhanced by means of a performance suspension from Air Lift”

The chassis was also enhanced by means of a performance suspension from Air Lift — the lowered ride height is more than visible from the outside — as well as DBA USA 4000 series slotted brake rotors at all four corners.

There’s no word as to how these upgrades modify engine performance, but it’s safe to assume that the turbocharged EcoBoost unit cranks out more than the standard 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, although likely not by a lot. Still, the extra oomph, the new internals, and the revised aerodynamics should shave some two tenths of the Focus RS’ standard 0-to-60 mph time of around 4.6 seconds.

Conclusion


2017 Ford Focus RS “TriAthlete” by VMP Performance - image 738199

While we still have no information about the actual output and performance and we still need to see shots of the rear end and the cabin, it’s pretty clear that the Focus RS “TriAthlete” is one of the main highlights at this year’s SEMA Show. All I can say right now is that I wish VMP Performance would put this kit into production. I bet it wouldn’t be overly expensive and that it will turn the Focus RS into an even better car for weekends at the race track.

  • Leave it
    • Just a show car for now
    • We still don’t know much about its performance

References

Ford Focus RS


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 664701

Read our full review on the 2016 Ford Focus RS.


2016 Ford Focus RS – Driven - image 718773

Read our full driven review on the 2016 Ford Focus RS.

PostHeaderIcon Ford Focus RS By Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil

The SEMA Auto Show is just around the corner. That means a number of different things for a number of different automakers, specifically the Toyotas, Ford, and Hondas of the world. The Blue Oval is a regular presence at SEMA, and this year’s no different, as the company is planning to unleash as many as 50 different custom projects at the event. One of those projects is this Ford Focus RS, which comes to us by way of Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil.

It’s hard to escape the long name of the custom Focus RS because of the companies involved in its creation. What’s really cool about this project though is that it doesn’t straddle the line between realistic and overbearing. It just sits on the lawn of “realistic” comfortably, and that itself may be it’s biggest strength because Focus RS owners won’t have to worry about others thinking they’d lost their minds on a gaudy custom project. That’s not to say that it’s lacking in kits because it has its fair share of them. They’re just subtle enough that the identity of the Focus RS is still intact, as opposed to getting drowned by some overbearing custom work that’s too difficult to even stomach.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Ford Focus RS by Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil

Exterior


2017 Ford Focus RS By Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil - image 738196
“It’s called the Axalta Pennzoil yellow paint finish and it just so happens to be the biggest contribution of Pennzoil to the cause”

There’s not much in the way of modifications in this section, though, somewhat ironically, the most eye-catching of all is the car’s body color. Officially, it’s called the Axalta Pennzoil yellow paint finish and it just so happens to be the biggest contribution of Pennzoil to the cause. Not that it matters because the color itself bursts out of the body panels, giving the custom Focus RS is most identifiable feature. Complementing it is a carbon fiber aerodynamic body kit that you can see with the presence of a lip spoiler, side skirts, and a rear spoiler. It’s not clear if the spoiler is made of the same good stuff, though it wouldn’t be surprising if it is.


2017 Ford Focus RS By Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil - image 738195
“The tuners opted to use a set of 19-inch Rotiform wheels that are wrapped in a set of 245/35-series Falken FK150 tires.”

Last but certainly not least is the wheel-and-tire, two-hit combo. For this particular project, the tuners opted to use a set of 19-inch Rotiform wheels that are wrapped in a set of 245/35-series Falken FK150 tires.

Interior


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 615129

Note: Standard Ford Focus RS pictured here.

There are no photos of the interior as I write this, but it is known that the program will feature a bevy of interior upgrades. One of the most prominent of these mods is a Ford Accessories kit made up of carbon fiber bits and pieces, including a carbon fiber shift knob, instrument cluster, and window switch cover. The tuners also threw in
audio components from Kicker because no self-respecting, SEMA-bound project car is complete without some modification to the car’s audio system.

Drivetrain


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 702708

Note: Engine of t he standard Ford Focus RS pictured here.

“The team went to work by adding a new exhaust system and upgrading the shifter with a short throw system”

To be clear, the modified numbers brought about by all the drivetrain modifications have yet to be announced so, at best, we’re speculating on how much power this particular Ford Focus RS has under its hood. What we can tell you at this point is that the tuners opted for the version of the Focus RS that’s carrying a 3.0-liter EcoBoost I4 engine mated to a six-speed transmission. With these pieces in place, the team went to work by adding a new exhaust system and upgrading the shifter with a short throw system. A new intercooler with new piping from FullRace were also thrown in, as was a new intake from the same source to go with an Optima Battery. To help maximize the hot hatch’s potential, the tuners also added new coilovers from BC Racing and brakes from Baer, specifically six-piston caliper’s with rotors.

Altogether, these upgrades should be enough to help the Ford EcoBoost see an improved output that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 horsepower. It’s not much of a mental upgrade by tuning standards, but it should be more than enough to turn the Focus RS into a full-fledged sports car hiding inside a hot hatch body.

Conclusion


2017 Ford Focus RS By Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil - image 738194

I like what I’m seeing from the work of Universal Technical Institute, Tjin Edition, and Pennzoil. I’m not blown away by it, but I appreciate how the tuners resisted from turning the Focus RS into something more than it probably should be. As a result, they were able to implement their modifications effectively without getting rid of the hot hatch’s identity. I get the urge to simply go all-out on a car like the Focus RS and, while it works on some occasions, it’s not a blueprint that has proven to be effective on a car like this.

References

Ford Focus RS


2016 Ford Focus RS - image 664701

Read our full review on the 2016 Ford Focus RS.


2016 Ford Focus RS – Driven - image 718773

Read our full driven review on the 2016 Ford Focus RS.

PostHeaderIcon Pour One Out For This Dearly-Departed Volkswagen Model

It probably lasted longer than it should’ve, but in the end, its time had finally come. The Volkswagen Scirocco is no more, ladies and gentlemen. It’s current form had a good nine-year run, but that run has come to an end after Car and Driver discovered that the German automaker had stopped taking orders for the sport compact coupe. There is, however, an unspecified number of models that are still in stock so if anybody’s keen on getting one before they’re all sold out, now’s the time to do it.

The status of the Scirocco shouldn’t have been in question to begin with. Despite its lack of fanfare, the sports compact coupe was as enticing an offering in its segment as any other model of its kind. But, the Scirocco never seemed to get out of the huge shadow cast by the vastly more popular Golf hatchback, which has become Volkswagen’s go-to front-wheel-drive vehicle. Compound the loss of appeal with Volkswagen’s idiotic Dieselgate scandal and the Scirocco suddenly became expendable in the eyes of the VW Group brain trust. So, is this the end of the Scirocco nameplate? It may as well be, although there’s a chance that the name could be brought back at some point in the future, albeit in a different package.

There have been rumors that VW was considering axing the current Scirocco and then bring back the name at a later date as part of its electric car lineup. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine such a scenario happening and there have even been whispers that a Scirocco EV is already in the works with plans to fit it with a number of different output options, including a range-topping unit that produces 300 horsepower. Think what you will of the gossip, but rest assured, the current iteration of the Volkswagen Scirocco is all but retired. It had a good run, though, so raise those glasses and toast to the dearly departed FWD sports compact coupe. It’s been fun.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

The Volkswagen Scirocco was a victim of circumstances that were out of its control


2014 Volkswagen Scirocco - image 542285
“Dieselgate is partly to blame for the Scirocco’s demise, but it’s not the only reason either”

Every decision that Volkswagen has made recently somehow finds its way back to the Dieselgate scandal. That’s how devastating it’s been for the German automaker, though, nobody’s going to throw it any pity parties. The punishments were well deserved and, while we’ve had to deal with the consequences ourselves, there’s nothing we – or Volkswagen – can do about it but look forward to the future.

So, Dieselgate is partly to blame for the Scirocco’s demise, but it’s not the only reason either. Sagging interest for a car that was once named Car of the Year by Top Gear Magazine compounded the issues plaguing the sports compact coupe, as did new priorities within VW that looked into the future of the automaker as a whole. One could also argue about the car’s age as a reason behind its axing. The current generation has been around for nine years and has only had one facelift – back in 2014 – to show for it. In short, the Scirocco was long overdue for a makeover if it was to continue its role as the automaker’s entry-level sports coupe.


2014 Volkswagen Scirocco - image 542287
“The current generation has been around for nine years and has only had one facelift – back in 2014”

It just so happened that the rationale for developing one wasn’t all that attractive anymore. It certainly would’ve cost the German auto giant money to develop it with absolutely no guarantees that it could hold up for as long as the current-gen model has. So, instead of forcing it, Volkswagen smartly cut its ties on a car that wasn’t long for the world anyway.

The good news to all of this though is that the Scirocco name may not be dead very long, especially if rumors about Volkswagen bringing the name back end up being true. We know that the VW is planning and developing a new small coupe with its upcoming MEB platform. Could it be that this small coupe will take the name of the Scirocco once it’s launched? I wouldn’t put it past anything that it does. For now, we’re going to need to start getting used to a world without the Volkswagen Scirocco in it. The car may be relatively new in its current format, but in the space of nine years, it sure as heck made quite an impression on the thousands of people who proudly got the chance to own one.

References

Volkswagen Scirocco


2014 Volkswagen Scirocco - image 542289

Read our full review on the Volkswagen Scirocco.


2014 Volkswagen Scirocco R - image 542295

Read our full review on the Volkswagen Scirocco R.


1974 - 1992 Volkswagen Scirocco - image 240161

Read more about the first generation Volkswagen Scirocco.

PostHeaderIcon Mini Cooper 1499 GT

It’s a funny thing what a special edition car can do to polish an automaker’s shine. Nobody knows this better than Mini, which has created its fair share of special edition models, including one that it had just announced for the French market: the Mini Blackfriars Edition. Now, it’s doubling down on the SE goodness with yet another offering called the Mini 1499 GT.

In essence, the 1499 GT is not a special edition model that was concocted out of someone’s imagination, but rather, a tribute piece to one of the most iconic Minis to have hit the pavement: the 1971 1275 GT. Most of the functioning 1275 GTs have probably been lost in the sands of time and rust, but the 1499 GT is now here to breathe some life back to the legacy of the legendary hatchback. Between exterior features that pay homage to the classic Mini to suspension tweaks that ensure that it can perform as well as advertised, the new Mini 1499 GT is a stunning example of the best of what Mini can come up. The only downside is that only 1,499 units of the car will be made, and worse, all units will be sold exclusively in the UK market. It’s a bummer, sure, but don’t let dampen your spirits. It’s rare enough to see a special edition tribute car that properly pays homage to the car it’s supposed to be tipping its hats to. It’s even rarer to see one that takes the inspiration to a level that makes people actually reminisce about the classic. The 1499 GT does that, and then some.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Mini Cooper 1499 GT.

What makes the Mini Cooper 1499 GT special?


2017 Mini Cooper 1499 GT - image 737857
“There’s a lot to like about the Mini Cooper 1499 GT, especially if you count yourselves as fans of the original 1275 GT”

There’s a lot to like about the Mini Cooper 1499 GT, especially if you count yourselves as fans of the original 1275 GT. I may not be old enough to remember the latter’s rise to fame, but I do remember riding in one when I was a little tot. It wasn’t the most luxurious car to begin with, and the interior space was literally unbearable even for a petulant child. But boy, oh boy, the old 1275 GT had character, something that a lot of today’s cars continue to lack. Not only that, but the 1275 GT also attracted plenty of attention, something I’m confident the 1499 GT will also have in droves.

The biggest and most important styling cues of the 1499 GT can be found in the exterior where customers are given a choice of getting the special edition hatchback with either a Pepper White finish or a Midnight Black paint. Here’s the catch though: depending on the color, the color of the distinctive graphics on the body will also change. Should customers opt for the Pepper White version of the 1499 GT, the graphics will be featured in pure black. On the other hand, a Midnight Black body will be treated to gold side stripes, the same exact stylistic feature that elevated the 1275 GT into one of the most famous cars Mini has ever produced. Don’t take my word for it; look at the photo. You’ll see what I’m talking about.


2017 Mini Cooper 1499 GT - image 737862

Outside of the choice in body color, the 1499 GT also received a slew of aesthetic and aerodynamic upgrades, most notably the inclusion of John Cooper Works front and rear bumpers, spoiler, side skirts, and even bespoke door entry plates. The special edition Cooper also benefits from getting tinted windows, clear indicator lenses, and a set of 17-inch black allow wheels.

Step inside the car and the upgrades to the interior are just as dramatic, maybe even more so than the exterior. Greeting you once you open the door are sports seats dressed up in leather and Dynamic. Just in front of the driver’s sports seat is another JCW transplant: a sports steering wheel with its own Chili Red stitching. There are also scattered Piano Black trimmings throughout the cabin, to go with carbon black details, an Anthracite headlining, and enough JCW badges to emphasize the contributions made by the German automaker’s performance division.


2017 Mini Cooper 1499 GT - image 737851

2017 Mini Cooper 1499 GT - image 737853
“Step inside the car and the upgrades to the interior are just as dramatic, maybe even more so than the exterior”

Suffice to say, the Mini Cooper 1499 GT hit all the right spots as far as paying homage to the 1275 GT is concerned. It even has the whole “affordable” spiel down pat, thanks in large part to the car carrying nothing more than a small-capacity Twin Power turbo three cylinder engine that produces a total of 102 horsepower. Powerful it is not, and the 1499 GT shows as much with an acceleration time from 0 to 60 mph of 10.1 seconds and a top speed that’s likely locked in at around 120 mph.

Designed to pay homage to the classic 1275 GT, the car will be limited to just 1,499 units in the UK market. The automaker says just like the car that inspired it, the new 1499 GT is affordable, offers unique styling features and an “entertaining drive.”


2017 Mini Cooper 1499 GT - image 737854

In other words, the Mini 1499 GT is an affordable Mini hatchback with a unique personality of its own. Don’t confuse it for a road-wrecker because it’s far from one. It does offer a good and hearty slice of Mini nostalgia, something that very few of its kind have been able to do. By that merit alone, the 1499 GT already stands out from other special edition Minis around, including the Blackfriars Edition.

What’s the deal with the Mini 1275 GT?


2017 Mini Cooper 1499 GT - image 737864

The Mini 1275 GT’s history dates all the way back to 1970 when then Mini owner British Leyland decided to bring Ford designer Roy Haynes into the fold. Haynes, as some of you may know, is the designer of the Ford Cortina Mk II, and his initial responsibility was to revamp the Mini lineup. Tapping into his experience with Ford, Haynes went and restyled the Cooper, giving it larger headlights, a revised bumper, a boxy snout with a fender-to-fender grille section, and was fitted with a set of 10-inch Rostyle alloy wheels. That design eventually came to be the Mini 1275 GT as we know it today.

The 1275 GT ended up being a unique car of its own, owing to the fact that it was offered with a 1.275-liter four-cylinder engine that used a four-synchro close-ratio four-speed manual transmission. More to that, the 1275 GT was also the first Mini in history to receive a tachometer, a pretty useful trivia for the next time you find yourselves talking to someone who claims he knows more about the automaker than he actually does. Soon enough, the 1275 GT laid the foundation for what would come to be known as the “People’s Car” in Britain, a status that not a lot of other cars have been able to replicate in the years since. The 1275 GT even proved successful enough that its production ran for nine years before it was replaced by the Austin Metro in 1980. In that time, a total of 110,673 1275 GTs were made.


2017 Mini Cooper 1499 GT - image 737863

Incidentally, one of those 1275 GTs actually went up for sale earlier this year in Los Angeles, California. According to Petrolicious, the model in question came with a Bronze Yellow exterior and a Black Vinyl interior. It also underwent significant restoration, owing to the fact that its owner actually found it “unloved on his brother’s work premises at Somerford Mini” back in 2004. The unidentified owner eventually bought the car and spent good money restoring it, even going so far as to get specialists from Somerford Mini to carry out the car’s complete restoration.

In the end, the car itself sold for $25,000, as good of a deal as you can find for a restored 1971 Mini 1275 GT that, at that time, only had 10,000 miles in it since it was rebuilt.

References

Mini Cooper


2014 Mini Cooper - image 532525

Read our full review on the 2017 Mini Cooper.


2017 MINI Electric Concept - image 732151

Read more Mini news.

PostHeaderIcon This Alfa Romeo Model May Not Be Dead Yet

It may not mean much in the long run, but Alfa Romeo’s recent trademark application of the “Giulietta” name in the U.S. could be a sign that the Italian automaker is doubling down on its push to be relevant in the business again. According to Car and Driver Alfa’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, filed a trademark application for the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Now what this means is anybody’s guess at this point, but it is worth mentioning that Alfa Romeo does have a hatchback model in its future plans, something we all learned about when the company unveiled its updated five-year plan back in 2016. At that time, the “mysterious hatchback” was being penciled in to debut sometime between 2017 and 2020. It’s not clear if this future hatch will still carry the Giulietta name, but the possibility of that happening is a lot more real now that FCA has filed a trademark application for the name. It would be better though if we got any sort of updates from Alfa Romeo itself beyond its typical PR spin. As it stands, the company is making some noise on the back of how well the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV have been received. But those two models can’t continue to carry the weight for Alfa Romeo. At some point, they’re going to need a third model to share in some of that burden. Whether that model is the Giulietta or not remains to be seen. But if this trademark application bears fruit in the end, we could be seeing the Giulietta in U.S. shores sooner than later.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

What could this trademark application mean for Alfa Romeo


2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta - image 667226
“The current-generation model certainly has some mileage in it on account of it being around for seven years now”

To be fair, the current Alfa Romeo Giulietta isn’t dead yet. It’s actually still being sold in the US, and somewhat surprisingly, it has held its own against more established rivals like the Mercedes CLA-Class, BMW 2 Series, and Audi A3. It’s not lighting its segment on fire, but it has performed about as well as Alfa would’ve expected out of it. That leads us to questions about its future. Is the Giulietta doing well enough to warrant getting another update or an entirely new-generation offering? The current-generation model certainly has some mileage in it on account of it being around for seven years now so if Alfa Romeo does decide to bring back the Giulietta, it could be doing so under the premise that a next-generation model is around the corner.

That’s probably why this trademark application was taken care of pretty quickly, especially with all the rumors swirling about its own fate as part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Remember, the automaker is in a curious position because of all the whispers that FCA is looking into selling its stake in the company. It’s not the most ideal place to be in knowing that the company could change ownership at any given point in time so even that long-term strategy that started with the respective launches of the Giulia and Stelvio could change if Alfa finds itself answering to a new boss.


2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta - image 667214
“Alfa Romeo's updated five-year plan includes a hatchback model that may or may not be the next-generation Giulietta”

Nevertheless, that situation really is out of Alfa Romeo’s hands so it can’t wait for any resolution on that matter before it starts doing anything meaningful again. What it should do is to remain committed to meeting goals from its updated five-year plan. That includes a hatchback model that may or may not be the next-generation Giulietta. Either way, Alfa Romeo’s doing its homework by filing this trademark application. If it decides to go in a different direction, it can do that. But if it decides to once again ride on the shoulders of the Giulietta name – here in the U.S., at least – it can do that as well.

Should be interesting to see where this goes because the Giulietta, for all its quirks and hang-ups, is still a very interesting model.

References

Alfa Romeo Giulietta


2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta - image 667218

Read our full review on the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta.


2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia - image 676909

Read more Alfa Romeo news.

PostHeaderIcon Nissan Leaf Nismo

Nissan Leaf Nismo by X-Tomi Design

Introduced in 2010, the Nissan Leaf set many benchmarks in the electric car market and has become one of the most popular EVs out there. But, after seven years on the market, the Leaf got a bit long in the tooth, and with other companies having introduced more modern EVs in this niche, Nissan had no choice but to develop a second-generation model. Unveiled for the 2018 model year, the new Leaf is better in just about any department, but it’s still not as powerful and efficient as the recently unveiled Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3. This could change in 2018 when Nissan is reportedly planning to launch a Nismo version of its electric hatchback.

Although Nissan has yet to confirm that a Leaf Nismo is underway, the concept unveiled at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show pretty much confirms that the Japanese firm is working on one. What’s more, the brand already announced that a “higher power, longer range version at a higher price” variant of the Leaf is in the works for the 2019 model year. Specs are still a mystery at this point, but the Nismo concept provides a few valuable hints as to what we may get in dealerships soon. Find out what we already know about the upcoming Nismo Leaf in the speculative review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Nissan Leaf Nismo.

Previous Leaf Nismo Creations


2011 Nissan LEAF NISMO RC - image 404683
“Although it has yet to launch a production Leaf Nismo as of 2017, Nissan has been toying with the idea since 2010”

Although it has yet to launch a production Leaf Nismo as of 2017, Nissan has been toying with the idea since the first-generation Leaf arrived back in 2010. The first Nismo concept based on the Leaf, the Nismo RC, was actually a very radical interpretation. Showcased at the 2011 New York Auto Show, it had a race-inspired aerodynamic kit and a full carbon-fiber monocoque body which made it about 40-percent lighter than the standard model. The Nismo RC was designed to run for around 20 minutes under full racing conditions and testing revealed a 0-to-62 mph sprint of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. The drivetrain was identical to the production Leaf. Nissan reportedly built eight units, but none was sold to customers.

A second Nismo concept was launched at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, this time around in a more production-friendly format. Although not as aggressive as the Nismo RC, this concept has a revised aerodynamic kit inspired by the race car, new alloy wheels, and bespoke features inside the cabin. The drivetrain, on the other hand, was again identical to the standard Leaf’s. In early 2013, Nissan announced that the Leaf Nismo will be produced in small numbers for the Japanese market, but no production model was launched so far.

Exterior


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735737

Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

“The concept car sports a range of familiar Nismo upgrades, starting with a red-painted front splitter”

With Nissan having already unveiled what appears to be a production-ready Leaf Nismo at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the sportier version of the company’s already familiar EV isn’t much of a mystery. However, while the concept car may look ready to go into production with the exact same body features, the Japanese firm may choose to change a thing or two. And this rendering by X-Tomi Design shows what we may get at dealerships.

The concept car sports a range of familiar Nismo upgrades, starting with a red-painted front splitter and slimmer LED daytime running lights integrated into black trim with a honeycomb structure. The center hood is finished in black for a sportier look. While these features are very plausible for a production model, Nissan may choose to give the EV a redesigned bumper with a larger grille, as well as bigger daytime running lights. The rendering also includes an actual honeycomb grille instead of the blue 3D mesh and I think this would be a really cool feature, despite the Leaf not needing an actual grille for cooling.


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735736

Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

“Onto the sides, the production model should look very similar to the concept and include more aggressive side skirts”

Onto the sides, the production model should look very similar to the concept and include more aggressive side skirts with red detailing and matching mirror caps. A set of new, larger wheels is also on the table, but it remains to be seen whether the production model will get the concept’s two-tone rims. A slightly lower ride should add extra sportiness.

Around back, Nismo upgrades should include a revised roof spoiler in black to match the C-pillars, and a diffuser-like element. The concept car features a two-piece device with red accents and a Formula One style brake light in the middle and I think it’s very similar to what we should see on the production model.

All told, the Leaf Nismo will get the full Nismo treatment on the outside, which will make appealing to hot-hatch enthusiasts all over the world.

Interior


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735740

Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

“Just like the concept car, the production Leaf Nismo will get sportier front seats”

The interior should also have a few extra features, but don’t expect it to be radically different. Just like the concept car, the production Leaf Nismo will get only a handful of add-ons in the form of Nismo-specific trim and minor changes to the infotainment display. Look for red accents around the A/C vents and the start button, as well as red contrast stitching on the door panels and seats. The concept’s red stripe on the 12-o’clock position of the flat-bottom steering wheel should also find its way into the production model.

Arguably the biggest upgrade will be the sportier front seats. These will have heavier bolstering on the sides and a different upholstery layout. Some Nismo badge and logos could also adorn the headrests and the dashboard. Finally, we should find some Nismo goodness in the infotainment display. There should be a unique Nismo start-up screen and a few extra apps to monitor performance. Similar upgrades will be made to the digital instrument cluster too.

Drivetrain


2018 Nissan Leaf - image 729721

Note: Standard Nissan Leaf pictured here.

“If previous Nismo models are any indication, there's a big chance that the Leaf won't get a power bump with the Nismo package”

Here’s where things are a little unclear as Nissan didn’t say a thing about the Leaf Nismo’s concept electric motor. This could mean two things. Either the Leaf Nismo will get the same drivetrain as the standard model or Nissan hasn’t decided on how much extra power and torque the EV will get.

Unfortunately, given that Nissan has launched quite a few Nismo models that are only as powerful as their standard siblings in recent years — including the Sentra, Note, and Micra — there’s a big chance that the Leaf won’t get a power bump with the Nismo package. And this is a pretty big issues because although the new Leaf is more powerful and returns better range compared to its predecessor, it’s still significantly inferior to the competition.


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735735

Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

“The update will include a sport-tuned suspension and revised ECU for improved performance”

Specifically, the new Leaf comes with 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet on tap. That’s 40 horses and 49 pound-feet more than the old Leaf, but 53 horsepower and 30 pound-feet below the Chevy Bolt. Output figures for the new Tesla Model 3 aren’t yet out, but it will most definitely have at least 200 horsepower in its entry-level version. The Leaf also comes behind when it comes to range, returning up to 150 miles on a single charge. The Chevy Bolt is good for up to 238 miles, while Tesla promises 220 miles in the least expensive model and up to 310 miles in the range-topping Model 3.

You can see why Nissan needs a Nismo version with a larger battery, more oomph, and better range.


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735738

Note: 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept pictured here.

“Nissan is in dire need of a more powerful Leaf in order to remain relevant in this market”

But while the Leaf Nismo concept uses the standard drivetrain, not all hope is lost. When it launched the new Leaf, Nissan promised that a “higher power, longer ranger version at a higher price” will be launched for the 2019 model year. This could very well be the Leaf Nismo or just a normal Leaf with increased power and range. In the latter scenario the Nismo could be just an equipment update, meaning we’ll get two models with different outputs.

Whatever the case, Nissan is in dire need of a more powerful Leaf in order to remain relevant in this market.

Nissan also mentioned something about a sport-tuned suspension and a “custom-tuned computer that delivers instant acceleration at all speeds” and it’s safe to assume that the production model will get something similar. Hopefully the revised computer will make the Nismo at least a tenth-second quicker to 60 mph, even with the same drivetrain as the standard model, while the revised suspension will make it a more exciting car. A set of higher performance tires are also on the table for this model.

Prices

As with all Nismo products, it’s safe to assume that the upcoming Leaf Nismo will cost more than the standard model. The second-gen Leaf retails from $29,990 in base guise, while the range-topping Leaf SL costs $36,200 before options. The Leaf Nismo will probably cost a bit more than the SL, so expect it to fetch close to $40,000. However, with incentives and all, pricing should drop below the $35,000 mark.

Competition

Chevrolet Bolt


2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV - image 660933

Chevrolet isn’t planning on doing a higher performance version of the Bolt anytime soon — although a Bolt RS would be a good idea — but the American EV is already more powerful than the Leaf and would be on par with a souped-up Leaf Nismo. Launched for the 2017 model year, the Bolt is Chevy’s first mass-produced EV and aimed at the already popular Leaf. It’s about as big as the Leaf and boasts a premium feel on the inside, as well as a comprehensive tech package. You get Bluetooth connectivity, personalized settings, MyChevrolet App, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, among other modern apps and features. Additionally, the Bolt is the better machine when it comes to performance, as the electric drivetrain cranks out a solid 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The range is estimated at up to 238 miles on paper and up to 210 miles in everyday driving conditions, so you get far more than in the 150-mile Leaf. Charging takes 9.5 hours, a bit longer than the Leaf, while pricing starts at $37,495 before incentives.

Read our full story on the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.

Tesla Model 3


2018 Tesla Model 3 - image 727994

Tesla’s latest and most affordable offering, the Model 3 is not yet in production and deliveries won’t commence until 2018, but once it arrives, it will be one of the best EVs on the market. While aimed at the Nissan Leaf, as Elon Musk himself pointed out a dew years ago, the Model 3 is actually slightly larger, being similar to the BMW 3 Series in size. It’s also more of a notchback rather than a classic hatchback. What’s more, it should be more powerful and quicker than the Leaf and Bolt, while providing more range than the Japanese EV. The range is estimated at 220 miles for the base model, but opt for the Long Range upgrade, and it goes up to a whopping 310 miles, double than what you get with the Leaf. Tesla’s Supercharger network also brings impressive charging time, with 30 minutes being enough for a 130-mile range in the base model. On the other hand, while the entry-level model comes in at $35,000, the Long Range upgrade and other options increase the sticker to more than $50,000. Not exactly competitive, even when compared to the Leaf Nismo.

Read our full review of the Tesla Model 3.

Conclusion


2019 Nissan Leaf Nismo - image 734726

The Leaf Nismo is a car that Nissan needs badly at this point, but only if this version brings increased output and better range. If Nissan chooses to sell it with the same drivetrain as the standard model, the Nismo won’t be more than a marketing scheme aimed at Millennials and EV enthusiasts who want a sportier looking vehicle. It had already been confirmed that Nissan will indeed offer a more powerful version of the Leaf, but it remains to be seen if it will be able to match the Bolt and Model 3. If this model will carry the Nismo nameplate, it will not only make a proper introduction of the badge to the electric car market, but it would also enable Nissan to stand out as the only mainstream carmaker that actually uses its high-performance division to create EVs.

  • Leave it
    • Could use the standard Leaf drivetrain
    • Stiff competition from Chevrolet and Tesla

References

Nissan Leaf


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 736206

Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept.


2018 Nissan Leaf - image 729747

Read our full review on the 2018 Nissan Leaf.


2011 Nissan LEAF NISMO RC - image 404686

Read our full review on the 2011 Nissan LEAF NISMO RC Concept.


2012 Nissan Leaf Nismo - image 428707

Read our full review on the 2011 Nissan Leaf Nismo.

PostHeaderIcon Mini Cooper Blackfriars Edition

Mini’s pantry of special edition models is stock full of unique creations, adding weight to the thought that the German automaker is no stranger to this fancy exclusives. Even with an inventory that’s bursting at the seams, special edition work soldiers on for Mini with the presentation of its latest creation, the Cooper Blackfriars Edition.

Taking inspiration from the Blackfriar’s section of London where the order of Dominican monks who carry the same name reside, this unique Cooper hatchback is defined by its subdued yet effective upgrades. There’s plenty of black to go around too, a nod to the traditional black robes worn by the Blackfriar’s monks. Inspired color motifs aside, the special edition Cooper also features plenty of unique details in its exterior and interior, not to mention the references to the Blackfriars from where it got its name. It’s not the flashiest special edition Mini Cooper we’ve seen, and it may not even be the most appealing one, but it does stick to the identity of the institution that it takes inspiration from. That’s more than what we can say for other special edition vehicles that lack the connection to what they’re supposed to be celebrating or at least shining a light on.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Mini Cooper Blackfriars Edition

What makes the Mini Cooper Blackfriars Edition special


2017 Mini Cooper Blackfriars Edition - image 737840
“The focus was put squarely on Blackfriars, an area of central London where the famed Blackfriar monks reside”

Like with most special editions to come out of Mini in recent years, there’s as much importance put on the name it gets as there is on the actual features that make it unique in the first place. The streets of London themselves have turned into a rich pool of special edition versions from the German automaker with past works including the Baker Street Special Edition, Mayfair Special Edition, and Bayswater Special Edition. There’s even been a Green Park Edition, proving that there are no shortages of places in the bustling metropolis that Mini can’t draw inspiration from.

This time, the focus was put squarely on Blackfriars, an area of central London where the famed Blackfriar monks reside. These monks traditional wear black cloaks over their white habits as a way to identify their order. It’s no surprise then that the Mini Cooper Blackfriars Edition gets a similar black-ish treatment, albeit without any hints of white in it. The all-black look is the visual highlight of the hatchback. It features a dominant black body color, matte black trim on the B- and C-pillars, and a set of 17-inch Cosmos Spoke wheels with its own dark accents. Typical of Mini’s special edition models, the Blackfriars Edition also comes with identifying badges throughout the body as a way to ensure that nobody confuses it for anything other than a special edition Cooper.


2017 Mini Cooper Blackfriars Edition - image 737842
“On the interior the treatment is largely similar with the use of black leather and fabric upholstery”

Move inside, and the treatment is largely similar with the use of black leather and fabric upholstery to dominate the interior. Those who end up buying this special edition model will also be treated to a navigation system, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and a panoramic sunroof.

Unfortunately, not all variants of the Cooper will be given the Blackfriar’s treatment as only the lower trims of the Mini Hardtop, including the Cooper, Cooper D, One, and One D, will be available with the Blackfriars special edition. Worse, and somewhat ironically, the special edition Cooper will actually be exclusive to the French market. That means that despite the car being inspired by an area in London, those who live in the UK aren’t unlikely to get the car for themselves.


2017 Mini Cooper Blackfriars Edition - image 737846
“The special edition Cooper will actually be exclusive to the French market”

It may seem strange to think of it in those terms, but Mini’s history of naming its special edition models after different streets and areas in London isn’t a prelude to these models being sold exclusively in that market.

What were the other special edition Minis that were named after places in London?


2012 MINI Cooper Baker Street Special Edition - image 434769

There’s been a lot of them over the years, but some of the most prominent ones were the Bayswater Edition, Mayfair Edition, Baker Street Special Edition, and Green Park Edition.

The Bayswater and Baker Street Special Editions were introduced back at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. Yep, that’s how long Mini has been hustling on this front. As expected, both SEs came with unique styling touches. The Bayswater Edition, for example, featured an exclusive Kite Blue metallic finish with optional Midnight Black and Eclipse Grey finishes available for the Cooper S and SD models. In also received special racing stripes on the hood and side mirrors, a black-finished roof, and a new set of 17-inch wheels.

Meanwhile, the Baker Street Special Edition was presented in Geneva with a Rooftop Grey metallic finish with special racing stripes on the hood, black mirror caps, and a new set of 16-inch alloy wheels. Optional paint finishes – Pepper White and Midnight Black – were also part of the offering.


2012 MINI Cooper Bayswater Special Edition - image 434754

Note: photos of the Mini Cooper Bayswater Special Edition.

If Mini isn’t naming its SEs after streets in London, it’s doing so with specific – and popular – areas in the metropolis. One such example was the Cooper Green Park Edition, which also arrived in 2012. This particular Cooper SE was defined by a
Pepper White paint finish complemented the company’s traditional British Racing Green finish on the roof. Aside from the fancy two-tone color, the Green Park Edition also had with an interior dressed in the same Pepper White color with seats that came in either black or Polar Beige.


2012 MINI Cooper Green Park Edition - image 450342

Note: photo of the Mini Cooper Green Park Edition.

References

Mini Cooper


2014 Mini Cooper - image 532525

Read our full review on the 2017 Mini Cooper.


2017 MINI Electric Concept - image 732151

Read more Mini news.

PostHeaderIcon Pops’ Rants: Here’s Why the Nissan Leaf Nismo Will Suck

If you’ve been following me, you probably know that Nissan is my favorite brand. Yeah, I know, why can’t I be a normal person and worship brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini or Bugatti? Well, I’m not in the mood to write a piece on why I like Nissan, so I’ll explain it in a few simple sentences. I think that cars made by this brand come with a lot of bang for the buck, I love its latest design language, and the massive efforts it makes to keep all motorsport projects alive. I also think that the Maxima, Juke, and Murano are exotic vehicles in their respective niches and that almost every other car or crossover have what it takes to give the competition a run for its money.

But I admit that Nissan has its own flaws. For starters, both the 370Z and GT-R are getting a bit too long in the tooth, which leaves the brand without a solid sports car lineup. Second, the Rogue and Rogue Sport are too damn similar, and the $3,000 price difference between them has cannibalization written all over it. And third, I simply can’t forgive them for giving up on the GT-R LM Nismo project at Le Mans. Nissan just gave up too soon. Which brings me to today’s rant: why can’t Nissan build every Nismo the proper way, as in with a significantly more powerful engine than the standard model? More specifically, why in the hell is the Leaf Nismo Concept — and at the same time the upcoming production car — just a regular Leaf with a nicer appearance? It’s so frustrating!

Continue reading for the full story.

What’s Wrong with the Leaf Nismo Concept?


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735737
“Nismo means more power and enhanced performance, and this is exactly what I can't find in this concept car”

I could say nothing because it has a cool, sporty exterior packed with Nismo-specific features. Seen from the outside, it says what a proper Nismo should say: “I look cool, and I’m faster, more powerful than my standard sibling.” The interior isn’t bad either with all that contrast stitching and the sportier seats. I could spend hours in that cabin with a big smile on my face every day. But it all becomes disappointing under the hood, where the Leaf Nismo Concept is just a regular Leaf.

Am I being picky here? Some would say yes because the new Leaf is significantly more powerful than the outgoing model, it has a better range, and it has many new features that make it more exciting to drive. But, I’m not. Nismo means more horsepower and enhanced performance by tradition, and this is exactly what I can’t find in this concept car.

Why Is This a Problem?


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735736
“A production Leaf Nismo with the same specs as the standard Leaf wouldn't do much to help Nissan in the current EV market”

For starters, I’m pretty certain that the production Leaf Nismo will be 99-percent identical to the concept car. Just look at it, it’s basically ready to go on the production line. The design add-ons are similar to those seen on production Nismo models, and those interior updates are definitely doable, simply because they aren’t such a big deal. And, the drivetrain… well, the drivetrain is already in production and a revised suspension isn’t something that Nissan and Nismo couldn’t develop immediately.

The big issue is that a production Leaf Nismo with the same specs as the standard Leaf wouldn’t do much to help Nissan in the current EV market. Sure, some would pay the premium to get that sexy exterior so sales wouldn’t be bad, but the issue here is that Nissan actually needs a more powerful version of the Leaf. With an output of 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet, the standard Leaf falls behind the Chevrolet Bolt (200 horsepower, 266 pound-feet) and it will probably do the same compared to the upcoming Tesla Model 3. The same happens in the range department, with the Leaf being able to deliver 150 miles, whereas both the Bolt and Model 3 are returning in excess of 200 miles.

A proper Leaf Nismo version would reduce that deficit — and maybe even deliver matching performance — but for some reason, Nissan doesn’t want that yet…

It Already Happened


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735735

Sadly, the Leaf Nismo won’t be the first Nismo to lack proper engine/motor upgrades. While the GT-R and Juke received notable drivetrain updates with the Nismo badge, cars like the Sentra, Patrol, Note, and Micra didn’t. And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Nismo as an appearance and suspension package, but it’s been a while since Nissan launched a proper Nismo car with a noteworthy engine under the hood.

References

Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735734

Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept.

PostHeaderIcon Mercedes-AMG A40

Mercedes is on a mission to replace its models every six years or so. So, with the current generation A-Class turning five years old as of 2017, it was no surprise to us when we saw the next-gen prototype putting in some work somewhere in Europe. Alongside the redesigned hatchback, Mercedes-Benz is also testing a new version of the AMG A45. More importantly, it seems that the German company wants to introduce a new model into the lineup. It’s reportedly called the AMG A40 and will slot below the familiar AMG A45.

As of June 2017, the prototype is still wrapped in lots of camo and padding, but that isn’t to say that we can’t identify some of the changes we can expect when the model does shed its prototype skin. It’s rather obvious that the next-gen A-Class will bring some evolutionary changes, all of which will find their way on the performance-oriented versions. The biggest news here is this new A40 trim, which will most likely be sold as an answer to the Audi S3 and BMW M140i. Until we get some official information, let’s have a closer look at what we already know about this hot hatch.

Update 10/23/2017: It’s only been a few weeks since we last so the Mercedes-AMG A40 out testing on the roads, and white as rain, it was caught in public again. Not a lot has changed, but there is something noteworthy to mention, so check out the spy shot section below for details.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes-AMG A40.

Spy Shots

October 23, 2017 – On the Long Road to Production


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 740090

2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 740098

At this point, very little is changing on the Mercedes-AMG A40. When you combine that with the fact that we’re seeing it for the second time in less than a month, it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing the official production model soon. As of now, most of the padding that originally covered the prototype has been removed, leaving just the camo to distract our eyes. On the other hand, the slightly wider fenders leave us wondering if these fenders are, indeed, wider or if they are simply still padded down a bit. Then again the wheels are a bit wider to support the 400+ horsepower under the hood, so it’s not outlandish to think that they may very well be a bit wider than on the standard A-Class. It would certainly be refreshing, anyway.

With that in mind, this prototype is still sporting the same Panamerican grille, and still rocks out the same production headlights and hood. This time around, the headlights are on, so we can see the LED lights illuminated in both the front and the rear. The side skirts look to have gotten a little more aggressive up front while the rear end now gets official dual exhaust outlets. Speaking of which, did you notice something weird about those outlets? Since when does Mercedes-AMG use dual, circular outlets instead of a single rectangular unit? That’s quite interesting, don’t you think? We suspect that Mercedes will be debuting the new A40 AMG sometime in the near future with the Detroit Auto Show or Chicago Auto Show being potential candidates if Mercedes is thinking of bring it to the United States. Well, unless Mercedes decides to surprise us at the Tokyo Motor Show later this week. What do you all think? Fill us in with your thoughts in the comments section below.

October 4, 2017 – Droping some padding and getting a new face


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 736303

2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 736302

This time around, the A40 hasn’t exactly shed any camo, but it has shed a lot of padding. The most noticeable change to us is that the hood is now a production hood, while the headlights also follow suit. Instead of those annoying projection-like units on the last mule, we’ve got the official LED units with the top-positioned LED strip. The lights are sleeker, sit a little higher in the body, and are slanted downward toward the nose to provide extra character. With that in mind, the other major factor here is that we’re getting a look at a completely different fascia and a different grille. Now, it’s not likely that the A40 will end up with a grille that looks anything like what you see here, as it will likely feature AMG’s current grille design, but there could be something more in the looks. It is sporting a big, fat Mercedes emblem that was cleverly wrapped tight enough so you could see its camel toe peeking through.

“The most noticeable change to us is that the hood is now a production hood, while the headlights also follow suit”

As you can see, the lower fascia isn’t exactly production ready as of yet, but it is on its way and clearly under development. The passenger side is rocking out a number of drilled holes while the passenger side is rocking just a few in place of the traditional corner intakes. To put it simply, Mercedes is trying to figure out just how fake those corner intakes need to be for the best aerodynamics, performance, and efficiency. Oddly, the front in now features a smaller, or shorter, air dam that features curved edges without any of the fancy stuff on the sides. A small louver crosses the air dam at the tip, which could indicate a strange front-end styling here or just a cheap and easy way for Mercedes to mount that front plate for testing purpose. Only time will tell for that one.

To the sides, nothing has really changed thus far, but we can now see that the A40 will have smaller side mirrors that is predecessor and the mule we saw a few months ago. This time around our photographers didn’t get as good of a shot of the rear, however, we can see that some of the camo has been removed from the taillights, At this point, it’s hard to tell if these are production units or not, but given the fit an finish I would guess that the production model will at least sport the same style of lights, most likely with a larger number of LEDs present.

What do you guys think so far? Let us know in the comments section below.

October 6, 2016 – First testing session


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 719231

2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 719233

Exterior


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 719231
“Since there’s so much camo and padding, the number of enhancements that we can spot to the new AMG A40 are pretty slim.”

Since there’s so much camo and padding, the number of enhancements that we can spot to the new AMG A40 are pretty slim. If the front fascia is truly representative of change, then it looks like the A40 could get circular running lights up front, with smaller air intakes on the corners. The air dam will likely grow a bit, but the radiator grille should remain roughly the same size and shape. It looks like the headlights will be much smaller on the A40, but it’s really hard to tell. There does appear to be an aggressive body line on each corner of the fascia, which could indicate that the A40 could be void of corner intakes at all. The hood is heavily padded, leading us to believe that it will change dramatically by the time the car hits dealers. Expect to see muscular lines on each side, just like on the current A45.


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 719230
“The A-pillars on this model looked to be angled a bit more aggressively, and the roof may sit just a little lower.”

Moving over to the sides, the biggest thing we’ve spotted is the shape of the windows. The A-pillars on this model looked to be angled a bit more aggressively, and the roof may sit just a little lower. This leads to shorter windows overall, especially in the back. As you can see, the rear doors are now a little bit longer than before, and the upper curve of the rear doors curve downward farther back. This makes for a larger stationary window and wider primary glass in the rear door. Notice how the rear side of the door actually follows the contour of the rear wheel well on this prototype? It also looks like the fuel filler door will be square on the A40.


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 719236

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45 4MATIC - image 635510
Future Mercedes-AMG A40 Current Mercedes-AMG A45
“All told, the A40 should be a bit more aggressive than the standard model, but not as sporty as the range-topping A45.”

Farther back, the pillar between the back doors and the rear hatch is now a little bit wider. Sure, there’s a lot of padding on the rear hatch that helps to throw us off a little, but if you look closely, you can spot the extra length. The more you look at it, the more it becomes clear that the extra length on the new A40 will be found in the rear. To go along with the wider rear pillars, the rear fascia is now at least twice as long as before. In reality, it makes this car look more like a small wagon that a hatchback.

Around back, the biggest difference is that the rear hatch is actually a little bit wider, and comes to a very sharp point where it jukes inward around the taillights. It also looks like the rear hatch will also get its own taillight lens, but those reflectors could just be there to throw us off.

All told, the A40 should be a bit more aggressive than the standard model, but not as sporty as the range-topping A45.

Interior


2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
- image 492687

Note: Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG interior shown here.

“It's safe to assume that it will have the same features as the redesigned A-Class plus a number of unique items.”

Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten a good look inside the future A40, but it’s safe to assume that it will have the same features as the redesigned A-Class plus a number of unique items. From the outside, we can spot the hump over the instrument cluster as seen in the current model, and it’s safe to assume the floating infotainment display will also carry over, albeit with some improvements and maybe a slightly larger screen. Expect to see the traditional circular HVAC vents, but the audio control panel in the center stack should be toned down quite a bit. The center console will evolve a bit, but nothing too extreme. There will naturally be race-inspired sport seats (likely optional though), and there will be little doses of color accenting here and there.

Drivetrain


2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
- image 492587

Note: Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG drivetrain pictured here.

“Expect the AMG A40 to arrive with at least 300 horsepower, but no more than 320 horses.”

We’re expecting the A-Class to debut with some updated engines, while other engines will be replaced altogether. Considering the A-Class will use an updated version of Mercedes’ MFA platform -– dubbed MFA2 -– Merc will have the chance to offer more drivetrains than ever before across the entire range. The platform is also lighter, and obviously longer, so it has that going for it as well.

The current A45 uses a 2.0-liter that delivers some 381 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. It’s enough to push the A45 to 62 mph in a matter of 4.2 seconds on the way to an electronically limited 155 mph. With output of the new AMG A45 likely to increase to a bit over 400 horsepower and maybe 380 pound-feet of torque, the AMG A40 will bridge the gap between the range-topping model and the A250 trim. All told, expect it to arrive with at least 300 horsepower, but no more than 320 horses.

Ultimately, the A40 should be quicker than any other A-Class but slower than the A45. Look for 4.5-second sprints from 0 to 62 mph and the same top speed limited at 155 mph
As is the case with the current A45, shifting duties should be handled by an AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT seven-speed sports transmission.

Pricing


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 719223

As of June 2017, U.K. pricing for the A-Class starts from £20,715 (around $26,700), while the range topping 250 AMG retails from £30,225 to £36,200 (about $38,970 to $46,680), depending on specs. The AMG A45, on the other hand, starts from £41,875 (around $54,000). It’s safe to assume that the A40 will split the difference between the 250 AMG and A45, meaning it should start from around £36,000 (some $46,420). Unfortunately, unless Mercedes-Benz suddenly decides to bring the A-Class range to the U.S., the AMG A40 won’t be available on this side of the pond.

Competition

BMW M140i


2017 BMW M140i - image 705769

2017 BMW M140i - image 719218

Unfortunately, BMW has yet to produce a successor for the BMW M1, so the closest we can get to it is its newest little hatch, the BMW M140i. While it’s not a full-fledged M car, it replaces the M135i and comes with a little extra juice on tap. Unlike the Mercedes-AMG A40, the M140i uses a 3.0-liter six-cylinder. It delivers 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, which is an increase of 10 horsepower over the M135i and 46-horsepower less that the current Mercedes-AMG A45. The M140i can hit 62 mph in about 4.6 seconds when equipped with an eight-speed automatic or 4.8 seconds with the standard, six-speed manual. When equipped with xDrive all-wheel drive, the M140i hits the same benchmark in just 4.4 seconds. Pricing for the M140i starts from £32,650 (around $42,070) for the three-door version and from £33,180 (around $42,750) for the five-door version. Just like the A-Class, the BMW 1 Series isn’t available in the United States.

Read our full review on the BMW M140i.

Audi S3


2017 Audi S3 - image 671902

2017 Audi S3 - image 671900

The Audi S3 is yet another reason why Mercedes needs an AMG A40. Slotted between the A3 2.0 TFSI and the bonkers RS3, the S3 uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that cranks out 310 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Fitted with an S-Tronic transmission, the German hatch needs 4.6 seconds to hit 62 mph from a standing start on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. Styling-wise, it has a sportier exterior and fancied-up interior compared to the regular A3, but it’s not as menacing to look at as the RS3. Pricing starts from £33,505 (around $43,170) for the two-door S3 and from £34,125 (about $43,970) for the five-door S3 Sportback version.

Read our full review on the Audi S3.

Conclusion


2018 Mercedes-AMG A40 - image 719233

Mercedes isn’t playing around with that hand-built 2.0-liter engine. We’re talking about a small-ish four-cylinder that’s delivering a lot of power. It would be nice if the new A40 came with a little extra compared to its rivals, but I really don’t see this model sporting more oomph than the BMW M140i. The hot-hatch market is pretty strong these days, and in theory, a model like the AMG A40 could also be competing with cars like the Focus RS and the Civic Type-R under the right circumstances. Sure, those cars aren’t German, and some don’t exactly approach 400 horses like the AMG A45 and the RS3 Sportback, but they are big hitters in the hatch market. Now, if only we could convince Mercedes to bring the A40 to the U.S., I’d be a happy camper.

  • Leave it
    • Probably not U.S. bound
    • It is a little pricey

References

Mercedes A-Class


2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class - image 720850

Read our full review on the next generation 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class.


2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
- image 492695

Read our full review on the previous 2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.

Update History

Update 10/4/2017: We’re finally getting a second look at the upcoming Mercedes-AMG A40 and this time around there are some serious changes taking place that brings the little hatch much closer to its goal of being production ready in 2018. Check out our special update section below to see what the changes are and learn more about them.

PostHeaderIcon Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept

The Nissan Leaf has been around since 2010, and it’s already one of the most popular all-electric vehicles on the road. The Japanese compact has been declared the best-selling EV in both 2013 and 2014 and sales have already surpassed 250,000 units as of 2017. On top of that, it has won numerous awards globally. Come 2017, and Nissan has launched the second-generation Leaf, a significantly improved vehicle that’s not only more appealing to look at, but also a better competitor to brand-new EVs like the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3. And it seems that the second-gen Leaf may finally spawn a Nismo version. Or at least this is what the Leaf Nismo Concept that was built for the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show suggests.

Although it hasn’t been confirmed for production, the Leaf Nismo Concept seems ready to hit the assembly line, as every new feature it received is inspired by previous Nismo cars. As usual, it has a sportier exterior, while the interior is highlighted by contrast stitching and the Nismo-specific red trim. The drivetrain has also been upgraded with a new, sporty suspension and revised ECU. On the other hand, both the electric motor and the battery are as standard as they get, which raises some concern as to whether or not the production version of the Leaf Nismo will be an authentic Nismo vehicle or just an annoying visual package. But, let’s find out more about that in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept.

Exterior


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735737
“One quick look at this concept is enough to notice that this EV received the full Nismo treatment”

One quick look at this concept is enough to notice that this EV received the full Nismo treatment. Sure, it still has the standard headlamps, hood, and clear blue 3D mesh pattern that looks as if crystals were frozen behind a transparent plastic lens instead of a traditional grille, but everything below is decidedly sportier.

The daytime running lights sit higher in the fascia, are thinner, and feature LED technology. They’re embedded into black covers with honeycomb patterns, which in turn are integrated into the deeply sculpted creases that mimic large intakes seen on gasoline-powered sports cars. The apron was also redesigned and now includes an aggressive splitter painted in red, the norm for Nismo-made vehicles. The hood also has a black center section, which adds to the sportiness of the car.


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735735

2018 Nissan Leaf - image 729747
Nissan Leaf Nismo 2018 Nissan Leaf

More Nismo goodness can be spotted onto the sides, starting with the red accents on the mirror caps and the side skirts. The roof and the A-pillars are now finished in black, while the rather mundane, standard wheels were replaced by Nismo-branded rims with a more exciting design. The lowered ride height rounds off the profile of this all-electric hot-hatch.


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735738
“The rear section also sports a number of Nismo-specific features, starting with the aerodynamically enhanced roof spoiler”

The rear section also sports a number of Nismo-specific features, starting with the aerodynamically enhanced roof spoiler. The fascia is actually identical to that of the standard model, but the bumper was revised for a more aggressive look. The old diffuser-like element was replaced by a proper, racing inspired diffuser. The unit is split into two pieces, each with two large fins, while a red stop light sits in the center just like on Formula One cars. Naturally, the diffuser is highlighted by red stripes.

Nissan claims that all these changes are more than a way to make the Leaf seem hotter. The new body elements also enhance aerodynamic performance and reduce lift. And there results were obtained without sacrificing the hatchback’s excellent drag coefficient.

Interior


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735739
“Bright red accents borrowed from other Nismo cars can be seen on the A/C bezels and the steering wheel”

Nissan didn’t have much to say about the interior, but the two photos speak for themselves. The first thing that catches the eye is that Nismo went with an almost all-black layout. This is typical for performance-oriented vehicles and it’s not particularly exciting, but at least there are a few red details that brighten up the place a bit.

These bright accents are borrowed from other Nismo cars and can be found on the A/C bezels and as a stripe at the 12 o’clock position of the steering wheel. The latter also has a flat bottom, but you shouldn’t get excited because this is an option on the production Leaf as well. The start button is also red instead of the standard blue.


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735740

2018 Nissan Leaf - image 729736
Nissan Leaf Nismo 2018 Nissan Leaf

Other features that set the concept apart from the production model are the sport seats with heavy bolstering and red and white stitching on the sides and seating surfaces, and more contrast stitching on the door panels. Far from spectacular for a concept car, but the Leaf Nismo is more of a production model rather than a show-off product.

Drivetrain


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735736
“The concept features a sport-tuned suspension, high-performance tires and a "custom-tuned computer"”

Drivetrain details are rather scant, but Nissan says that the concept features a sport-tuned suspension, high-performance tires and a “custom-tuned computer that delivers instant acceleration at all speeds.” There’s no specific data as to how all of the above influence the Leaf’s performance, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t break any records on the Nurburgring (unlike its GT-R Nismo sibling). The package could shave a tenth of two of the standard model’s sprint time, but since we don’t have any official ratings for the production Leaf yet, it’s impossible to estimate.

As a reminder, the recently launched Leaf uses a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor rated at 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The range is estimated at up to 150 miles on a single charge. With that in mind, I think it’s a bit disappointing that the concept car didn’t get the usual output increase that comes with almost all Nismo upgrades. On the other hand, this could change with the production model, given Nissan will make one.

Conclusion


2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept - image 735735

Despite the “concept” tag, the Leaf Nismo is actually a production-ready show car. Those exterior add-ons aren’t something Nissan couldn’t throw on a production line, while the interior is just a slightly fancied-up version of the standard car. The drivetrain upgrades are also very doable, so this is basically a very realistic preview of a Leaf Nismo we could find in dealerships in a short while. Granted, Nissan didn’t confirm such a scenario, but it did not deny it either, so everything is possible at this point. My only complaint about this concept car is that it doesn’t have a more powerful electric motor and a higher capacity battery. In many ways, it’s very similar to the Nissan Sentra Nismo, which is identical to the range-topping production Sentra under the hood, with the Nismo package being mostly a visual upgrade. The production Leaf Nismo could be of the same variety, but I’m hoping Nissan will come to its senses and offer a higher-performance version. The thing is, the Japanese firm actually needs one since the Leaf is inferior to both the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 in terms of range and performance.

  • Leave it
    • No notable drivetrain upgrades
    • Needs a more powerful electric motor

References

Nissan Leaf


2018 Nissan Leaf - image 729756

Read our full review on the 2018 Nissan Leaf.


2016 Nissan Leaf - image 645345

Read our full review on the previous generation Nissan Leaf.

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