Report: Alfa Romeo's fourth relaunch plan to hinge on new rear-drive platform
Filed under: Alfa Romeo
Brands come and brands go in the automotive industry, but for enthusiasts, the prospect of Alfa Romeo
disappearing from the face of the earth altogether is a thought too painful to bear.
Fortunately, parent company Fiat isn't about to give up on the storied Italian marque, even after decades of losses. This year, Automotive News
reports, Alfa Romeo's sales are expected to drop below the 100,000-unit mark for the first time since 1969. But Fiat
chief Sergio Marchionne has a plan to turn it around. Or another plan, we should say, since this will actually be his fourth
attempt at returning Alfa to profitability since taking the helm less than ten years ago.
The details of Marchionne's plans for Alfa - and for the Fiat and Chrysler
groups altogether - won't be revealed until April, but what we already know is that it will center around a new rear-drive platform being developed by sister-brand Maserati
. That'll be good news for enthusiasts who sigh at generation after generation of lackluster, front-drive Alfas, but it gets better: since Alfa itself can't justify the development cost of new architecture, the new rear-drive platform is also expected to be used for future Chrysler and Dodge
products like the replacements for the 300
For Alfa's part, the platform is anticipated to underpin the new Giulia sedan and wagon, a larger sedan and a midsize crossover, the first of which are expected to arrive late in 2015 or early the following year. And best of all, each of these new models is tipped to come to the United States at long last, as well as help Alfa get a stronger foothold in the Chinese markets.
Alfa Romeo's fourth relaunch plan to hinge on new rear-drive platform originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 03 Dec 2013 11:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink
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Quick Spin: Honda CR-Z carbon-fiber prototype
Filed under: Concept Cars, Hybrid, Japan, Hatchback, Honda, Quick Spins
rolled out the CR-Z
a few years ago, it hoped to bridge the gap between those who would save the planet and those who would rather burn all of its resources in a glorious cloud of tire smoke. But enthusiasts recalling the CRX of 1980s vintage balked, imploring Honda to ditch the heavy battery packs and electric motors in favor of a lighter-weight, more conventional powertrain. At this point it seems less likely that Honda would do so at one end of the market than Porsche
would ditch the hybrid component of its 918 Spyder
at the other. But that doesn't mean Honda isn't still cooking up ways to curb the CR-Z's weight. And it had just one such idea waiting for us when we visited its Japanese R&D center at Tochigi last week.
Nestled in between the JDM hatchbacks, powertrain test mules and new technology prototypes Honda rolled out for us sat the experimental CR-Z you see here. While it may look mostly like the hybrid sport-hatch you can pick up at your local dealer (albeit blacked out), nearly all of this prototype's bodywork has been completely replaced, as have its basic underpinnings, with carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. The exotic material is usually reserved for high-end exotics, but like BMW
is democratizing its use in the new i3
, so too is Honda researching ways to implement the use of carbon fiber on a mass scale. This one-of-a-kind CR-Z prototype stands, for the time being, as the embodiment of that effort.
- Ingress and egress in the carbon CR-Z is a bit more challenging than in the stock version. This prototype has been rebuilt on a carbon floor, with high sills and deeply bolstered buckets positioned down low. The door aperture is subsequently higher, prompting the R&D crew to fit a pair of butterfly hatches in the roof to allow those without the physique (or core strength) of a professional racing driver to get in and out without bumping their noggins. Once inside, the lower seating position - along with the visible carbon fiber all around - gives this prototype a feel more akin to a racecar than a mass-market hybrid hatchback.
- As soon as you get moving (and before even getting used to shifting with your left hand - a first for this writer), the carbon CR-Z feels markedly quicker than stock. Honda insists the powertrain remained intact, which we'll take on faith. But the 30 percent faster 0-62 time they quoted us - now down to 8.3 seconds from 9.5 stock - strikes us as conservative. Just imagine this machine fitted with HPD's supercharger and the CR-Z's mild image would go right out the split rear window.
- With at least 30 percent less weight and a lower seating position, the carbon CR-Z feels more sure-footed than a hybrid hatchback should. We say "at least" because while the CFRP chassis and bodywork helped Honda trim 30 percent off the stock CR-Z's sprung mass (now down to about 1,760 pounds), that weight reduction also enabled it in turn to lighten up the suspension, brakes and rolling stock. With a center of gravity closer to the ground, there's little body roll to be detected and the prototype grips with tenacity through the corners - evident even on the short handling circuit at Tochigi, around which we were permitted only two laps.
- Of course with less heft to keep in check, the brakes also felt considerably stronger, grippier and all around more adept at shedding speed coming into the corner than you'd expect of the stock CR-Z. Given this prototype's scarcity, though, we were admittedly more hesitant to push it to its limits of adhesion.
- Noise, vibration and harshness obviously suffered, as this is a research prototype not a production model - nor even intended to directly preview one, for that matter. The car creaked and pinged audibly the whole way, but we don't doubt that if Honda were to develop it for production, the final fit and finish would be up to the standards you'd expect from a major Japanese automaker.
- We couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the R&D engineer who had to endure lap after lap of journalists (some less talented behind the wheel than this one, some undoubtedly more) flinging this prototype around the tight circuit. But when we left him and his one-off prototype (developed and built at untold expense), both were still in tact.
- Although the cost of producing carbon-fiber is always dropping as production methods are improved and streamlined, we're still a long way off from seeing a $20,000 hatchback built out of the stuff. Of course if Honda were to put its buying power and production expertise behind it, we're sure it could get the price down to a more manageable level, but we still doubt that would go far enough and come soon enough to implement on something as mainstream as the next-generation CR-Z. And given the costs associated with repairing carbon bodywork and structures in the event of a crash, we're not sure mainstream buyers would want something so mass-market to be made out of the high-tech woven material, either. But if this prototype is anything to go on, it sure would be fun - for both tire-smoker and tree-hugger alike.
Honda CR-Z carbon-fiber prototype originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 03 Dec 2013 12:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink
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Official: Red Bull X2014 revealed for Gran Turismo 6
Filed under: Concept Cars, Toys/Games, Racing
Most racing games try to go for as realistic a representation of real-life driving as possible. But Gran Turismo
goes a step beyond that. Its programmers at Polyphony Digital have a track record of creating fantastical cars just for the game, and this is their latest.
Created in collaboration with Red Bull's celebrated and accomplished chief engineer Adrian Newey, the new X2014 imagines what a Formula One
racecar would look like if it weren't bound by any regulations. Three versions will appear in the soon-to-be-released GT6
: the Fan car (dubbed X2014/F), the Standard car (X2014/S) and the Junior car (X2014/J). We have no idea what the difference is between the three versions, but the Fan car is the one pictured here.
This, of course, isn't the first time Polyphony Digital has rendered a car in digital form that doesn't exist in real life (beyond a solitary show car, anyway). Newey penned its precursor, the X1
, for GT5
created a concept car for the game called the GTbyCitroën
that never saw life beyond the show stand and the game system. And most recently, Mercedes
created the AMG Vision Gran Turismo
concept specifically for the game - the first in a series of cars designed by automakers for the new game. Watch this space for more.
Red Bull X2014 revealed for Gran Turismo 6 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 03 Dec 2013 12:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink
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Breaking: 2015 Ford Mustang leaked in Autoweek
Filed under: Coupe, Performance, Ford, Design/Style
We would have to imagine that Ford
knew it couldn't keep its 2015 Mustang
under wraps for too long, and with only days to go before the pony car's official unveiling, the dam seems to be cracking. SVTPerformance.com
member Screamin 40th just posted some images taken of the sixth-gen Mustang prominently featured in and on the cover of the December 9 issue of Autoweek
These images show that recent renderings
we saw weren't too far off. The face is just like what we saw in spy shots a few months back
, but the rear of the car features some of its more striking cues. Starting with the pronounced haunches and hidden B-pillars, the rear view of the new Mustang might be its best with the ridged, three-bar taillights, a rear diffuser and the lack of a faux gas cap, which allows the galloping pony to be an even more prominent element against the black trim. The images also reveal a small portion of the updated interior carrying over retro themes like the deep-dish steering wheel and dual-gauge instrument cluster, but it also adds some modern tech with a big MyFord Touch display with a clean center stack layout.
No official word on powertrain or other specs, but while we can't make out most of the magazine's text, our eyes did catch the mention of a "2.3 Performance Pack" suggesting that the rumored 2.3-liter, turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder will be available. In terms of performance, the Mustang GT will still offer the 5.0-liter V8, and the article reads that the 2015 GT with the Performance package will actually be faster on the track than the Boss 302. Some other interesting tidbits about the new Mustang are the standard push-button starter, the availability of adaptive cruise control, an independent rear suspension, a 200-pound weight reduction (that at least somewhat will be afforded by using aluminum front fenders) and a wheelbase that measures the same 107.1 inches as the current design.
As the Mustang looks to go global, Ford expects about 10 percent of this car's volume to come from outside the US and Canada, and it appears that the only change for its role in One Ford is that the LED taillights will not be offered with a sequential turn signal outside of North America.
2015 Ford Mustang leaked in Autoweek originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 03 Dec 2013 13:17:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink
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Official: Audi confirms new Q1 to cross over into smaller territory
Filed under: Europe, Crossover, Audi
The latest Q3
is smaller in every dimension than the Q7
that launched Audi
into the crossover back in 2006. It's over two feet shorter, four inches narrower, five inches lower and rides on a wheelbase that's nearly a foot and a half shorter. But in Audi's eyes, it's still not small enough.
That's why the German automaker has just confirmed that it will proceed with production of the oft-rumored Q1 crossover
. The new line will form just one of 11 new models which Audi aims to launch by the end of the decade, and will be built starting in 2016 at the main plant in Ingolstadt where Audi currently makes the A3
Audi isn't saying much else about the Q1, confirming only that it will be based on a modular transverse-engine platform. But contrary to the brand's Quattro-centric image, it has been rumored to be offered in front-drive form only. One way or another, the business case for expanding Audi's crossover range is as suitably rock solid: The Q family accounts for over a quarter of Audis sold worldwide, with the Q5
accounting for over half of that to stand as the most popular in the range.
Continue reading Audi confirms new Q1 to cross over into smaller territory
Audi confirms new Q1 to cross over into smaller territory originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 03 Dec 2013 14:18:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink
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