Nissan hits the right Note with new Versa hatchback

This summer, Nissan dealers will be singing a happy tune with the addition of the all-new, made-in Mexico Note hatchback to the Versa model range. The new five-door hatch will adopt the name given to Versa hatchs in other markets. The Note is a stylish compact with a new take on the Nissan corporate grille (kinda smiley, but ok otherwise), a body side swoosh (well executed here), and good proportions. The Versa Note will be offered in S, S Plus, and SV grade levels – along with a Convenience package, SL Package and SL Tech Package with prices starting at just under $14,000 (plus taxes, license, fees, and options). The 1.6-liter four (109 hp,107 lb-ft of torque) is the only engine available with either a five-speed manual (S model) or a continuously-variable automatic (CVT) that should offer class-competitive fuel economy numbers. Navigation, around view monitors, a hands-free texting assistant, and more are available in packages. For more info, check out the press release after the jump. With the new 2014 Versa Note, Nissan has an attractive five-door hatchback that should stand out in the parking garage. Check online or with your dealer for availability. Click pics for a closer look.

Source: Nissan - Press release after the jump.

Bond, Mini Clubman Bond Street that is

Mini seems to be in a contest with Chrysler to see who can create the most special editions, but no matter, consumers love 'em. One of the reasons consumers love them is partially due to the inclusion of special paint treatments and equipment that are generally not available or are made available at a special price when you opt for the latest special. Case in point, the Mini Clubman Bond Street edition that will be available as a regular Clubman (121 hp four) or Clubman S (181 hp four) with the standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic. Your Bond Street bucks get you your Clubman choice in Midnight Black metallic paintwork with the Cool Champagne accents (even the 17-inch wheels, see pic after the jump) with Lounge Leather sports seats in Carbon Black with piping and stitching in Deep Champagne, and a leather-covered instrument panel in Black/Carbon Black.Your BS bucks also get you foglamps, the special chrome accent package, and more. Prices were not disclosed, but you can expect a price premium for this group if for no reason other than the leather everywhere on the inside. The Mini Clubman Bond Street will be limited to 500 units and will go on sale in March 2013 worldwide. For more info, check out the release after the jump or contact your closest Mini dealer.

Source: Mini - Press release after the jump.

All-new 2014 Kia Forte sedan shown in Detroit

Kia's Forte sedan is a good-looking compact and the all-new 2014 Forte sedan just extends the styling "roll" that the South Korean automaker has been on of late. This is an attractive compact with a nice(r) example of Kia's corporate grille. The all-new 2014 Forte will come in LX and EX flavors with a choice of a 1.8-liter engine (148 hp, 131 lb.-ft. of torque) or a more powerful 2.0-liter engine (173 hp, 154 lb.-ft. of torque) that is standard on EX models. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on LX models with a six-speed automatic standard on EX variants and optional on the LX. EX models also include UVO infotainment, remote keyless entry with trunk opener, rear camera back-up display, a sliding center armrest, and a cooling glove box. Add the Premium Package and you get heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with class-exclusive air-cooled ventilation, leather seat trim, a heated steering wheel, power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, and push button start with Smart Key. The Technology Package adds HID headlights, LED tail lights, a 4.2-inch color LCD cluster screen, and dual-zone automatic temperature control with rear seat ventilation. In other words, with the new 2014 Forte sedan you can get an awful lot for your compact-sedan bucks. The 2014 Kia Sedan will be at your local Kia dealer within the next few weeks. For more info, check out the press release after the jump.

Source: Press release after the jump.

ACWWG Files: 2014 Opel Cascada

What you see here is one for the Another Car We Won't Get (ACWWG) files, the new Opel (and Vauxhall) Cascada. This new softtop will be available soon (in Europe) with a choice of gas and diesel engines with a manual or optional automatic transmission. Entry level models will be available, but nicer trim levels will include leathers, infotainment systems, climate control, an adjustable suspension, and more. The base model would start at a dollar equivalent of more than $27,000 with today's (high) exchange rates and without Germany's Value Added Tax (19%). This is a very nice convertible (or cabriolet as you prefer) that would really make a nice Buick, don't you think? Buick Cascada... sounds good.

Source: Opel - Press release and video after the jump.

2014 Acura MDX Prototype preview

Acura took the wraps off of the 2014 MDX, kinda. What you see here, Acura is calling a prototype meaning that this MDX is almost ready for production, but not quite. The overall look will remain the same featuring the lowered arcing roofline first seen on the new RDX, the more sculpted (for Acura) flanks, lots of LED lighting, a longer wheelbase, and the latest version of the Acura schnoz, er shield grille (admitedly, not a fan). The latest version of Acura's 3.5-liter V6 and SH-AWD will be on board as well as the latest infotainment systems (next-generation AcuraLink cloud-based connected car system featuring Pandora® connectivity, SiriusXM™ radio, SMS text messaging, and cloud-based Aha™ by Harman connectivity), safety equipment, and an available premium Acura/ELS® audio system. A front-wheel-drive version will be available for the first time. Plus the interior is said to be more luxurious than before. "While we aren't showcasing the interior today, I can assure you it will further improve the already great functionality in the cabin and cargo area while really amping up luxury, comfort and quiet," added Jon Ikeda, chief designer, Acura Design Studio. "And that's really the focus of this new MDX, delivering outstanding luxury performance and family capability in a more refined and alluring package." If you mean it, change the grille. Anyway, the new MDX will hit showrooms later this year. Fo mo info, you know the drill...

Source: Acura - Press release after the jump.

Latest generation NSX Concept steps out in Detroit

Acura brought the latest generation of the NSX Concept to the Detroit Auto Show that includes a first peek at a possible interior design for the new supercar. The interior is modern but details like the tall console harken back to the original. The suede and leather seats and carbon-fiber accents should make this NSX a nice place to be. The exterior is still a stunner with a look that is a nice evolution of the first NSX with a few Porsche hints for good measure. A version of this car will see production at a new facility in Ohio (no exchange rate worries now) using a mid-mounted, direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 with hybrid assist. The Acura Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is an all-new, three-motor high-performance hybrid system that combines torque vectoring all-wheel drive with advanced hybrid efficiency through the use of three electric motors – one motor integrated with the V-6 engine and two motors driving the front wheels – along with an all-new dual-clutch transmission (DCT). All-wheel drive handling with supercar performance and great fuel economy...who'da thunk it? I don't know about you but I can't wait to see these on the road. More to come...

Source: Acura - Press release and additional pics (4) after the jump.

New Lexus IS sport-luxury compact breaks cover

The compact luxury segment is getting a lot more competitive and Lexus has updated the IS sport sedan to take on the likes of the Acura ILX, Audi A3, and the BMW 1-Series sportsters. The biggest change comes by way of the styling updates including the side profile swoop that starts at the lower center of the front door and ends at the trunk lid, outlining the rear taillight clusters along the way (see profile shots after the jump). The front fascia adds the latest version of the Lexus gaping maw grille (not necessarily a bad thing in this application) with nicely shaped headlamps flowing over the fenders. While few will call this design aggressive (even in F Sport trim - the white car in the pics), it is a definite improvement giving the new IS some character. The IS 250 gets a 2.5-liter V6 and the IS 350 utilizes the Lexus 3.5-liter unit. F Sport models start with the IS 350 and add a sport suspension and other tuning bits, along with subtle visual changes. An IS 300h is available in markets outside the US that uses Lexus' latest hybrid tech. Expect all of the Lexus luxury and technology (either standard or optional) that you've come to expect from the automaker. For more info, check out the press release and additional pics after the jump. The Lexus IS Sports Sedans should be hitting your local dealer midyear.

Source: Lexus - Press release after the jump.

Nissan Resonance Concept previews the next Murano

Nissan introduced the new Resonance Concept Crossover stating that the concept was a peek at the next Murano. Unlike the recently introduced new Pathfinder or LA Show concept Hi-Cross, the Resonance concept is all about style. The Resonance concept is basically a five-passenger crossover that utilizes Nissan's latest hybrid technology, wrapped in a pleasingly futuristic package. I especially like the "layered pages from a book" look of the trailing edge of the floating roof and the muscularity of the side profile. The giant grille is an interesting take on Nissan's recent truck(ish) grilles. While I doubt we'll see a truck exactly like this at a Nissan dealer near you, expect some design elements to make the cut, like the sweeping dash, floating roof, muscular flanks, and a similar grille with exaggerated headlamps. Should be interesting. Will there be a Murano Hybrid? We shall see. For more info, check out the press release after the jump. Definitely more to come...

Source: Nissan - Press release after the jump.

Ford Atlas Concept previews the future of the next Built Ford Tough pickup

What you see here, the Ford Atlas Concept, is probably an early peek at the next F-150. The pick-up truck wars have been heating up and Ford wants to make sure that the market leader can show consumers that they have the latest and greatest pick-em-up features. Besides an amazing new take on Ford's truck grille treatment, the Atlas Concept features extensive use of LED lighting (headlamps, taillamps, interior and cargo bed lighting), an integrated roof rail and tie-down system, a tailgate extender for long items (see pic after the jump), integrated cargo bed tie downs, 110V outlets in the bed, and more. The Atlas Concept also showcases new fuel efficiency features like grille and wheel shutters, extendable running boards, and a self-lowering front spoiler that work together to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Tweaks to Ford's EcoBoost technologies promise to further improve fuel economy while increasing towing and payload capacities. Definitely cool stuff. For more info, check out the extensive release and video after the jump.

Source: Ford - Press release and video after the jump.

Cadillac tackles an electrified market with new ELR

When the Converj Concept was unveiled a while ago, the consensus was make it NOW. Cadillac hemmed and hawed, but ultimately decided to build it and here it is, the all-new ELR. And they will come... The ELR shares the Volt platform to create a plug-in hybrid coupe that puts Cadillac's Art & Science design philosophy to its best use to date. A good-looking 2+2 two-door coupe that will get class-leading fuel economy in a market segment that has few (if any) competitors. The ELR will take the basic goodness from the Volt and layer on the Caddy touches like premium leathers, wood, Cue infotainment with navigation, Bose sound, 20-inch wheels, LED headlamps, and much more. Did I mention that it's really stunning? The Cadillac ELR will go into production later this year with the first deliveries expected about this time next year so expect the ELR to be considered a 2015 model. For more information (that's available), pics, and a brief video, press the read more link. If you can wait a year and have the bucks (the ELR won't be cheap), you can get an economical two-door coupe that is a feast for the eyes at your local Cadillac dealer.

Source: Cadillac - Press release, pics, and video after the jump.

Beauty and power - the new Audi RS7 Sportback

Whenever you see RS added to the name of any Audi model, you know that you're in for a treat. A treat for the eyes, ears, not to mention the seat of your pants as the car thrusts you back into the seat as you depress the "go" pedal. What we have here is the lovely RS7 Sportback outfitted with all the gear necessary to take on the rest and look good doing it. The RS7 is one of those cars that is larger than expected (don't forget that this car is slotted between the mid-size A6 and the luxo-sized A8). By checking the RS box on the A7 checklist, you get Quattro all-wheel drive, a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 (560 hp), an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, a sport suspension plus with dynamic ride control, 20-inch wheels, giant brakes,  electronic stabilization control, black Alcantara and leather RS sport seatin, xenon plus headlights, the parking system plus, three-zone automatic air conditioning, Audi's MMI infotainment system, and more. There are options available, like the Advanced Sound System from Bang & Olufsen, that let you tailor your RS7 to fit your needs and desires. As the proverbial they say, if you can afford it, go for it. For more info, check out the press release (with additional pics) after the jump. (One new paint offering is the Daytona Gray - matte effect that is shown in the after jump pics.) Audi, brains, and brawn in one package.

Source: Audi - Press release after the jump.

All-new Maserati Quattroporte unveiled

Maseratis are interesting cars. Fast, beautiful. curvaceous, unique, and storied are just a few of the words that come to mind when thoughts of the Italian marque enter your daydreams. Also, most pictures don't do the cars justice. When you see one in person, they have a presence that is not conveyed in mere pictures. For example, take the new Quattroporte. It is a big car. Like Jaguar XJ or BMW 7-Series big. But the photos don't show that. So what we have here is Maserati's new flagship sedan that will be racing down US roads very soon. The Quattroporte will come in two flavors, fast and really fast. Two engines will be available a 3.0-liter V6 and a 3.8-liter V8 that are both twin-turbocharged and assembled by Ferrari. Yes that Ferrari (don't forget that Maserati is part of the Fiat family that includes Ferrari and Chrysler). Power is handled by an eight-speed automatic transmission developed with ZF for both engines. Maserati's Q4 all-wheel-drive system can be added to the V6-powered Quattroporte. The V8 will hit sixty in about 4.5 seconds, in other words, supercar territory. But the Maserati Quattroporte is about more than speed, it is also about luxurious accommodations for four lucky people. The new big Maser Q gets the finest leathers, woods, and technology like the Maserati Touch Control screen, reverse cameras and the optional 15-speaker, 1280 Watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system, as well as WLAN-based WiFi. It is an amazing vehicle and one that falls into the "if you have to ask" category (prices start around $125,000). For more info, check out the press release after the jump or visit Interesting side note...the US (with Canada) is Maserati's largest market followed by China and Japan.

Source: Maserati - Press release after the jump.

Honda shows Fit-based sub-compact "Urban SUV Concept" in Detroit

Okay, when I first laid eyes on Honda's Urban SUV Concept, I said to myself, "Self, this is the Honda Juke." While the Honda Urban is a cleaner overall design than Nissan's little crossover, there are many similarities like the exaggerated headlamp design, the smooth side profile, hidden rear door handles, etc. Did I mention that the are both smaller than a traditional ute? The Honda Juke, er Urban is based on the Honda Fit platform and is the basis for a new vehicle that will launch in 2014. I hope that Honda does a better job bringing this concept to production-ready form than they have in the past. This is a nice looking vehicle that looks almost ready to go. Change the headlamps, switch out the auto show giant wheels (although they look good), and add regular production front door handles and you've got it. But we shall see. More info (and interior shots) will be coming down the pike in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned...

Source: Honda - Press release after the jump.

US-built 2013 Nissan Leaf EV debuts new lower pricing and new features

Nissan's Leaf was the first regular-production electric vehicle (EV) to hit the market. Now in its third year of production (has it been that long?), the Leaf enters the 2013 model year with a few upgrades that make the compact EV more desirable. A new base S model drops prices on the US-built Leaf to just $28,800, which means that with Federal and State taxes rebates (if applicable), you can get your own Leaf for less than $20k. LEAF S, LEAF SV and LEAF S models feature standard features like a 6-way manual driver's seat, 4-way manual front passenger's seat, trip computer (instant and average energy consumption, driving time, outside temperature and autonomy range), Automatic Temperature Control (ATC), center console storage and 3.6 kW onboard charger. Other standard equipment includes Nissan Intelligent Key® with Push Button Start, Bluetooth® hands-free phone system, power windows with driver's window one-touch auto up/down, power door locks with auto locking feature, remote charge door release, variable intermittent windshield wipers,and more. Step up to the top-of-the-line SL model and you add leather-appointed seats, 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, DC 480V fast charge port, automatic on/off LED headlights, fog lights, photovoltaic solar panel rear spoiler, and HomeLink® Universal Transceiver for an MSRP of $34,840. (All prices are plus taxes, license, fees, and options.) The 2013 Nissan Leaf EV gets some nice mid-cycle upgrades (including new batteries with shorter charge times) that should get more folks interested in electrified driving. For more info and pics, check out the press release after the jump. (BTW: the video linked to Nissan looks a little squished.)

Source: Nissan - Press release and video after the jump.

Hyundai releases the HCD-14 Genesis Concept

No its not the next Batmobile. This is Hyundai's latest HCD concept, the HCD-14 Genesis. With some regular bumper extensions in the fascia (front and rear) this is a very nice design, so there is hope. Hyundai has been on a major role of late having some of the best looking cars in their respective segments. The current Genesis is a good-looking premium sedan that has aged well and a next-gen Gen could do worse having the HCD-14 be its design inspiration. The look also hints at a possible four-door coupe direction that looks like the Audi A7 from the back (not a bad thing) which makes me ponder whether there is a rear hatch similar to the Audi's. If this were the case, I would suggest that the HCD-14 could be the basis of a new Genesis model and not a replacement for the existing vehicle. Interesting. The HCD-14 uses Hyundai's 5.0-liter TAU V8 for the go. The two "back" doors are rear-hinged and can open to provide easy access (see pic after the jump). Hyundai is good at executing show car features for production models, so maybe these easy-access doors will make the transition to production. We shall see. It looks like things may get interesting again down at your Hyundai Genesis dealer.

Source: Hyundai - Press release after the jump.

Toyota Furia Concept hints at next Corolla...maybe

Let's just say that we can only hope that the next Corolla looks half as good as the Furia Concept...I mean the Corolla Furia Concept. Automakers will often use auto shows as a way to test a new design direction. Management should rest easy since the Furia puts the current Corolla to shame and lots of its competition as well. The design is a little chunky, but unique. The grille is an expansion of Toyota's current maw with some nice lighting touches. It would be a shame if the light bars above the grille and at the faux air intakes on the bumper don't see production. The contrasting body accents work well and give the Furia some toughness and break up the car's profile. The greenhouse is especially clean, but is the one thing that I'd expect to change. Too bad. The profile is very nice (see pic after the jump.) and makes the Furia stand out as a clean design. All in all, this is one nice-looking small car and that's not an easy thing to do. If Toyota doesn't make this the new Corolla, how about a new Prius, since the next Prius is rumored to be a departure from the current model. Good job Toyota designers. More to come...

Source: Toyota - Press release after the jump.

Volkswagen CrossBlue Plug-in Diesel Hybrid Concept combines high MPGe with style

Volkswagen has been hinting at possible new models to round out their line up and a seven-passenger crossover is one of those possibilities. What you see here, the CrossBlue Plug-in Diesel Hybrid Concept, is quite possibly that new least in one form or another. In Volkswagen speak, CrossBlue would mean a crossover/SUV that accentuates fuel efficiency and that's exactly what we have here. The CrossBlue Concept features a diesel hybrid drivetrain that is unique in many ways. First, it gets an estimated 89 MPGe from the plug-in hybrid powertrain that features a diesel engine that would get an EPA-estimated 35 mpg/combined on its own. It can travel 14 miles in pure electric mode if fully charged. It can travel as a front-wheel drive, four-wheel-drive, or rear-wheel-drive vehicle depending on the engine and economy mode chosen (kinda cool right?). The VW CrossBlue would probably come to market as a seven-passenger crossover, replacing the concept's two-center buckets for a three-seat bench (or not). Let's hope the CrossBlue, or whatever they call it, makes it into the marketing product plans. I could see five, six, and seven-passenger models with gas or diesel engines along with a top-of-the-line Plug-in Diesel Hybrid. How's that for something for everybody. Since the CrossBlue shares VW's latest platform with the American Passat, it could be built in Tennessee which could help control costs. With the CrossBlue, you get a good-looking (kinda like a German Grand Cherokee, not a bad thing) people and stuff mover that gets class-leading fuel economy. Wanna sign up? Let Volkswagen know. For lots of information, check out the extensive press release after the jump.

Source: Volkswagen - Extensive press release after the jump.