Range Rover Evoque Marks First Nine-Speed Production Vehicle Ever Built

Range Rover Evoque gauge cluster

Range Rover is the first automaker out of the gates to release the 9-speed production model with the unveiling of its Evoque next week at the Geneva Motor Show.

Other car manufacturers will be in hot pursuit, as they use this latest move to incrementally increase the mileage of their vehicles. Land Rover says by increasing the Evoque’s gear ratios from 6 to nine, they have effectively increased fuel efficiency and lowered emissions using the new ZF0HP transmission. Land Rover partnered with ZF to tune the system specifically for the automaker’s needs.

With barely noticeable shifting, the smaller gear ratios on the 9HP nine-speed transmission are specifically designed for off-roading. It also has a skip-shift mechanism that incorporates the driver’s driving style and makes downshifting quicker. The adaptive shifting system senses and learns the driver’s movements and adjusts accordingly.

The ZF9HP transmission is more lightweight although it has three extra cogs but is slightly longer than the previous version. It’s built for towing, climbing grades and higher altitudes.


Honda Opens First New Factory in Japan After Almost 50 Years

Honda plans to open a brand new facility in Japan this July. It will be the automaker’s first new factory built there since 1964. This move comes as the value of the yen takes a dive that could spell profits for the automaker’s U.S. interests.

The new factory, located in Yorii, will be able to roll out 250,000 vehicles annually. However, Honda factories outside Japan make up about 75% of the automaker’s annual output of 4 million cars per year.  

Honda’s move to open a new plant indicates a positive shift in the performance of the Japanese market. The yen fell by more than 12% against the dollar and, according to Bloomberg, that dip is expected to boost the value of Japanese products sold outside the country. That could spell higher earnings for the company on the U.S. market.

Analysts expect Honda to post a profit of $4.4 billion for this financial year, almost double last year’s profit. The automaker’s shares have increased by at least 40% since the end of October, putting them ahead of Nissan which reports an increase of over 30% for the same period.

Jesper Koll, head of Japanese equity research at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Tokyo said the Japanese plant “is very important because big companies have high multiplier effects and will lead to many jobs.” He also said the move “signals Japan is now a viable host for cutting-edge manufacturing.”

Honda’s new plant will create jobs that the city of Yorii needs and we’ll be eager to see if it will be enough to give Honda the boost in sales that the company expects.



Porsche Recalls 911 Carrera Models from 2012 and 2013

Porsche has been forced to recall 911 Carrera Models from 2012 and 2013 due to a faulty exhaust system. Reports confirm that The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has placed the number of vehicles affected at 2,263.

Internal testing conducted by Porsche reveals that the tailpipes could crack and completely break away from the rear muffler when the 2012 and 2013 models pass the 25,000 mile mark. The NHTSA notice states, “If the exhaust tailpipe separates from the muffler it may become a hazard for other vehicles on the road, increasing the risk of a crash.”

Only the standard Carrera and Carrera 4 exhausts are affected on models manufactured between March 7, 2012 and November 12, 2012. None of the sport exhaust systems are said to be affected by this recall and Porsche confirms that no customers have reported any failures.

Dealers are expected to replace the mufflers with reinforced units free of charge when they become available. Owners have been asked to contact Porsche at 1-800-767-7243.


Toyota FT-86 Convertible Concept Opens Up for Unveiling in Geneva

The Toyota FT-86 Open Concept makes its official debut in Geneva next week. It’s a two-door four-seater that gives buyers a taste of the 86 convertible that the automaker is expected to release.

Toyota has not confirmed what’s under the hood but it’s expected to have the Subaru BRZ’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine.

The Open Concept’s exterior is stunning, with clean lines and a tapered front fascia for improved aerodynamics. Fitted with the 2+2 cabin, the FT-86 Open concept should make cruising along the highway with the top down twice as fun with friends in tow.

The star feature of the FT-86 concept car is that it’s topless. Buyers will love the fact that the concept’s electrically operated soft-top roof smoothly retracts directly into the trunk.

It’s clear that Toyota spared no expense on the inside of the vehicle, which is eye-catching and seemingly well thought out. The car’s nautical navy blue and white upholstery pops against the yellow carpeting and its interior styling captures the high-end feel of a luxury yacht, with perforated white leather seats and trim.

The FT-86 Convertible Concept comes with a smartphone holster on the GT86 emblem, a compact audio head unit and three gauges.

More information on the specs and features of the Toyota FT-86 Open Concept will be revealed at the vehicle’s launch at the Geneva Motor Show March 5, while the production model could be available by 2014.


Street Legal Go Cart Made Highway Ready For Geneva Debut Next Week

Is that a go-kart with a windshield? Yes it is! The KTM X-Bow GT looks nothing like any other ordinary go-kart in history and it’s sure to raise more than a few eyebrows at next week’s Geneva Motor Show.

A far cry from regular go-karts, this one could easily be the fantasy of every boy and quite a few grown men. Looking like it runs on testosterone and pure adrenaline, the KTM X-Bow GT may be fitted with an Audi 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine so it could push up to 300HP with 300lb-ft of torque.

The new X-Bow GT comes with a muscular carbon fiber body, doors, windows and a windshield. We’re excited that this small monster could be making its way onto U.S. roads.

It looks tough, mean, quick, gritty and powerful. We’re pretty sure the windshield will come in handy for keeping bugs out of your mouth and eyes but alas, there’s no roof yet. Heck, who needs a roof? The KTM X-Bow GT is more than worth getting drenched in the rain. Besides, buyers will want no obstruction from envious eyes as they whiz past. Our only question is about the GT designation. Maybe that part of the name was just a joke.

The fact that the KTM X-Bow GT looks like a miniature supercar is more than enough to set tongues wagging and to open up a few checkbooks. Every guy with a pulse is going to want to get his hands on this when full specs and pricing of this new model are released in Geneva on March 5.


Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale Set to Grace Geneva Show Seats 4

The new Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale is poised to take the Geneva Show by storm and the automaker confirms that the two-door coupe will be able to seat four persons.

Under the hood the Stradale sports a 4.7-liter aspirated V-8 engine at a thundering 460HP paired to a six-speed manual automated transmission and it reaches speeds of up to 188mph.

Sitting on 20-inch forged alloy wheels and carbon ceramic Brembo brakes, Maserati made sure to also add a vented carbon fiber hood to keep the race look and feel. The automaker fitted the stunning Stradale with two rear seats so buyers get to share the experience with friends and family.

The design of the car is elegant and the central air intake of the Stradale looks similar to the Bertone Jet 2+2 front fascia. The angle of the “nose” increases aerodynamics and downforce.

We love the shape of the front and rear lights and the dual exhaust has some unique styling that sets it apart but the rear doesn’t seem to match the clean lines of the rest of the car.

Next week the Stradale will make its mark in Geneva. The Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale will be produced at the automaker’s plant in Modena but is not expected to hit the U.S.


Highway Body Blames Spike In Teen Driver Deaths On Texting & Driving

A new survey by the Governors Highway Safety Association has shown an almost 20% increase in teen driver deaths in the first six months of 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011.  And they’re placing some of the blame on teens talking and texting while driving.

According to the officials who compiled the report, another factor is that more teens are behind the wheel than before, but they believe it’s the increased use of mobile devices while driving that is contributing to the rise in accidents and fatalities.

The increase comes after steady decreases between 2000-2010, when 16-year-old driver deaths had dropped by almost two-thirds. 17-year-old driver deaths had also dropped by more than half in the same period.

Compare that to the preliminary data from 2012 which shows among specific age groups, deaths of 16-year-old drivers increased by 24% in the first half of last year, while deaths of 17-year-old drivers rose by 15% across the U.S.

This adds fuel to the growing concern over the use of mobile electronic devices when driving and brings into focus the limits that may need to be set as we move into the era of in-car apps and internet connectivity.

The US Department of Transportation had made driver distraction a top priority for the agency.  In 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban of the use of electronic devices behind the wheel. At the time, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman while explaining the recommendation had said, “No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.”

I think we can all agree on that.



Ford Plans Move to Cut Carbon Footprint by 41% per Vehicle by 2016

Ford’s assembly plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.

Ford Motor Co. is taking steps to reduce the amount of waste from the production of each vehicle by 41% as part of the company’s five-year plan to send less material to landfills.

Instead of the 22.7lb of waste per vehicle they sent in 2011, they intend to move to 13.4lb of waste each by the year 2016.

But even 22.7lbs was a significant feat for Ford. Before their environmental campaign started Ford was sending 37.9lbs of waste to the landfill, but in a four-year period between 2007 and 2011 they managed to reduce this by 40%. Part of that initiative included sending paint solids to utility companies to be used as fuel, which was spearheaded by Ford’s plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.

Larry Merritt, Ford’s global manager of environmental policy, told Bloomberg that the automaker’s challenge is finding a solution for metallic particles, abrasives and oils left over from the production of engine and transmission parts. So far, he said they can cut down on the amount of oil they use for lubrication during machining.

One release from Ford states that the company is “committed to reducing the overall environmental footprint of our vehicles and operations”.

Ford made $225 million by recycling 568,000 tons of scrap metal in North America last year so there’s no doubt that being environmentally responsible is a feather in the automaker’s cap. It won’t just attract buyers but will also ensure the company’s fiscal profitability.


Gloria Concept Heads to Geneva as Alfa Romeo Gives a Peek Inside the 4C

Alfa Romeo is set to lead the way with its Gloria concept at next week’s Geneva Motor Show. The Alfa Romeo 4C will also make its debut but we suspect the Gloria will steal the show.

More than likely the Gloria will be sporting  a version of a 3.0-liter V-6 or 3.8-liter V-8 twin turbo engine, so it could push out between 404-523HP with anywhere from 406-479 lb-ft torque.

Credit for the Alfa Romeo Gloria’s stunning design goes to the European Design Institute and the Alfa Romeo Style Center. This collaboration is definitely worth seeing and buyers will love the sports sedan’s fastback roof and sleek lines. The headlights are streamlined and undeniably gorgeous. We wonder if the ultrathin headlamps are practical but with the right LED bulbs the effect and functionality will be spectacular.

The roof has an elegant streak of gray running along each side and the black roof seems to almost disappear into the windshield. We’re not sure why Alfa Romeo installed orange indicators across the “cheeks” of the hood like war paint but the Gloria looks ready to do battle.

It’s going to be an easy fight because although the Alfa Romeo 4C is not lacking in the looks department its design is far from innovative. It looks like the traditional sports car that we’re used to so Alfa Romeo has some work to do with the car’s wow factor.

We’d say the fun is on the inside. One glance at the world’s first look at the 4C’s interior leaves no doubt that Alfa Romeo (like most car lovers) appreciates the intrigue of carbon fiber because it’s all over the place. Complete with a flat-bottom steering wheel and paddle shifters, it’s like sitting inside a video game. The automaker’s “DNA” drive mode selector also comes with a Race mode in the 4C that’s sure to drive motorsports fans wild.

Not everyone wants a flashy sports car and that’s why the Gloria will be tough to beat because of its futuristic design. It looks downright seductive.

Alfa Romeo is also showing its Giulietta Veloce, Giulietta (with QV Sportiva pack) and MiTo vehicles alongside these two beauties in Geneva.



Tony Schumacher Takes Top Fuel For a Colossal 70th Career Win

It was a spectacular moment for Tony Schumacher as he sped past Morgan Lewis to win the Top Fuel final of the NHRA Arizona Nationals on Sunday. This marks Schumacher’s 70th career win and it’s his fourth victory at Firebird International Raceway.

Schumacher did his run in 4.606 seconds while Lucas came in at a close 4.652. Reaching up to 213.20MPH, Schumacher admitted that the race was thrilling.

“I could hear Morgan beside me the whole time. As a driver that kind of race is so much fun and I enjoy winning like that more than a record run,” Schumacher said.

Schumacher beat Sidnei Frigo, Khalid alBalooshi and Antron Brown who survived a dramatic crash in this leg of the series. The 70-time champion now leads the standings.

He said both cars were engineered to run at high speeds and they both handled the track with ease. Although both he and Lucas lost traction near the start of the race, Schumacher got his dragster under control first, and at 8000HP that is no small feat.





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