Mercedes Concept GLA projects the way forward

 As I've said before, concept cars have varying functions for car makers such as testing out a new styling direction, a new model, or just to show off what an automaker can do. Let's hope that the Mercedes-Benz Concept GLA falls into the middle grouping. This very good-looking concept is the latest offering in the compact "premium-class" SUV category that includes the Range Rover Evoque, the BMW X1, and maybe the Acura RDX. If (when) produced, the GLA would give the Evoque a run for its best-looking SUV dollars. The Rover hasn't been a huge success due to its high price and limited availability, but let's hope Mercedes learns that lesson and brings the GLA to market at a lower price point. The Concept GLA has a few unique features like the laser headlights that can also project images from your tablet, iPhone, or on-board cameras; interior vents with lighting based on selected temperature; and the Alubeam paint finish. Some might see production, others won't...who knows? Generally though, you don't see a concept that seems this close to being production ready not seeing eventual production, unless said concept is a total disaster and the GLA is no disaster. MB's new A-Class compact vehicle platform reportedly provided structure and mechanicals (2.0-liter Turbo Four rated at 211 hp mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission) with all-wheel drive. If the GLA makes it to the streets near you, let's hope the styling isn't watered down (love the giant wheels), although I wouldn't count on the projector headlamps or the dual finish aluminum interior surfaces. A little more power wouldn't hurt either (the Evoque engine produces 240 hp) or is that reserved for an AMG version? If you like what you see, let your Mercedes dealer know by asking when you can take delivery. Here's hoping...

Source: Mercedes-Benz - Press release, pics (3). and video after the jump.

Prices drop on all-new Lexus IS models for 2014

The 2014 Lexus IS models will be showing up at your Lexus dealer in the weeks and days ahead with prices that are less than the outgoing models. The IS 250 model will start at $35,980 (+ taxes, license, fees, options, and an $895 destination fee) which is a reduction of just over two percent. Almost $1,400 worth of previously optional equipment is now standard as part of the lower pricing strategy. Base pricing tops out at $41,700+ for the IS 350 F-Sport (pic above). AWD is available on F-Sport models for the first time (AWD option pricing varies by model - about $1,500). For more pricing information, check out the press release after the jump that includes a package pricing spec chart (by model) and individual options prices. Click on the link above for the Lexus IS intro posting.

Source: Lexus - Press release after the jump.

Toyota intros new 2014 4-Runner at music festival

Toyota took the wraps off of the new 2014 4-Runner at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival that was held in Indio, California. The new 4-Runner has been "freshened" in Toyota speak with a new "bulldog" front fascia and more exaggerated fender flaring. The overall look is unique and an interesting "tough" look. I actually kind of like it, especially the fender flares although the wheels in the model shown in the pics, could use larger wheels to more completely fill out the wheel openings. The dash is a disappointment and can best be described as retro (or possibly we'll change it next time). The interior seems a little less finished when compared to the Runner's competition (Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Jeep Grand Cherokee, etc.), but I doubt Toyota will charge less for the less swanky digs. All in all, the new 2014 4-Runner is a nice update with will certainly warm the cockles of the Toyota Faithful. The good stuff is all there like the 4.0-liter V6 (270 horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. of torque), the Star Safety System, and more with available options like Toyota's Entune infotainment system, the Trail Grade package, JBL audio, SR-5 and the top-of-the-line Limited models, all-wheel drive, and yes, lots more. Check out the press release after the jump for more info. The new 4-Runner will be available later this year.

Source: Toyota - Press release after the jump.

The latest DS: the Citroën Wild Rubis concept

What we have here is another one of those vehicles for the CWWGH (cars we won't get here) files, the Citroën Wild Rubis concept. The Wild Rubis is considered an extension of Citroën's popular DS range of vehicles. The ruby red concept (hence the name) is a hybrid-powered crossover/SUV with a 1.6-liter gas-fueled engine and a total system power rating of almost 300 horsepower. Expect good performance and efficiency along with French luxury and the latest tech like the moveable full-LED front lighting modules. No interior shots or details were available at the time this was published, so stay tuned. I hope this attractive vehicle makes it to the road. Too bad we won't see it (except at auto shows) in the US. Check out the two press releases, specs., and video after the jump.

Source: Citroën - Press releases and video after the jump.

Rolls-Royce Wraith powers into Shanghai

Rolls-Royce has added to the company's line-up with the new Wraith performance coupe. While the V12 (624 hp) and eight-speed ZF automatic will help the latest Rolls coupe get to sixty from a standstill in 4.4 seconds, luxury and grand touring are the name of the game. With leather and wood everywhere as you would expect in a Rolls, the Wraith adds some style with the front-opening "Coach" doors and fastback roofline. This is one of those "if you have to ask" cars, that will start at just over $320,000 (using today's exchange rates) and go up from there especially if you make extensive use Of Rolls-Royce's bespoke program and really, why wouldn't you? Couple of outstanding features include the on-board valet, the Satellite Aided Transmission that uses GPS data, and the starlight interior roof. At this price point, why wouldn't you have stars in the headliner? This is a large car that puts the capital GT in grand touring. The first deliveries will begin in the fourth quarter of this year. If you've got the bucks and you want to be one of the first, get thee to thine Rolls-Royce dealer and discuss your order. Nice looking car...

Source: Rolls-Royce - Press releases (2) and video after the jump.

Ford Escort returns as Chinese Concept

Ford unveiled an interesting concept with an interesting name at Auto Shanghai 2013, the Escort Concept. As many of you will remember, Escort was the name given to Ford's compacts before they became Foci. The Current Focus is popular in China, but many Chinese prefer more conservative styling with commodious back seats so Ford created what is essentially a long-wheelbase Focus with a conservative, yet flowing sedan design. This type of model configuration would be easy for Ford to produce on existing production lines to meet consumer demand. Obviously, Ford is using the auto show to judge consumer interest in this new model. There is very little that would need to be changed with maybe the exception of the headlights, but even they are doable. The press release intimates that the Escort might be an affordable model, so this concept might be seen as a Titanium trim Escort in Ford-speak. The Escort Concept is an interesting design study that might do well in other markets. Maybe Ford could bring it here as a hybrid-only model like they did with the C-Max.  BTW, expect this front end on the next Focus update.

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

VW shows CrossBlue Coupé Concept

The latest CrossBlue concept from Volkswagen comes in four-door crossover coupe form (think Range Rover Evoque) that is a sharp contrast to the CrossBlue Plug-In Diesel Hybrid Concept that was shown in near-production-ready form in Detroit. The CB Coupé features a V6 that puts out over 290 hp that is mated to a hybrid drive that powers electric motors front and rear to provide front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive with more than 400 total system horses. You can hit 60 in about 5.7 seconds and drive more than 20 miles in electric only mode while achieving excellent fuel efficiency (79 mpg in the Euro cycle). The styling is crisp and clean and more aggressive than the CB Crossover shown before and would make an excellent competitor for the Evoque and other sporty crossover/SUVs. (Note the 3D effect front and rear.) This concept looks about ready to go just like the last CrossBlue, so when VW? With all of the tech on board the CrossBlue Coupé (check out the extensive press release for all the available info), it wouldn't be cheap but maybe the hybrid could be a top model with a more affordable model with just the V6 on board for the masses. Oh and build it in the US Passat plant to keep prices in check due to currency fluctuations, like BMW does with its SAVs.

Source: Volkswagen - Press release after the jump.

New Buick Rivera Concept debuts at Auto Shanghai 2013

Every so often, Buick China makes a lovely Riviera concept and threatens to build it, but doesn't. China is Buick's largest market, so it is understandable that the brand gets a lot of attention there. In fact, a lot of Buick's current design function is handled by the brand's Chinese designers and this new Riviera bodes well for the future. The new Riviera is said to "preview ... Buick’s future design language" but it also showcases new GM tech, like the wireless plug-in hybrid system and 4G LTE accessibility. The Riviera's new "waterfall" grille is much more attractive than current designs and the side sculpting recalls current Camaros. The tail is very clean and this is a very nice design that could see production with few changes, like regular versus gull-wing doors, and I could see this becoming a four-door coupe with little change in proportions. It would be nice to see a new Riviera, but don't hold thy breath. But expect to see the Riviera influence future Buick design and that's a good thing. For more info, check out the fairly informative press release after the jump.

Source: Buick - Press release and pics (2) after the jump.

Nissan Friend-Me Concept previews sedan for a new generation

China has a "one child" policy that attempts to control population growth.  The Friend-Me Concept from Nissan is a response to the single-child generation of young Chinese that are now reaching adulthood and searching for new wheels and a way to stay connected to friends. Sounding like the latest social media catchphrase, the Friend-Me Concept is a four-door hybrid sedan that showcases the latest style and features from Nissan. The interior is cleanly styled with features like the "Oracle Stone" that allows for privacy with a level of available connectivity. The exterior design is "cutting-edge" yet buildable with a nicely shaped tail and roofline that cloaks the center opening doors (see pic after jump). This is a very nice design that would make an interesting Maxima in the US and would elevate the Maxima from nothing more than a stretched Altima to something special. Nissan, if you can't see this as a stateside Nissan then make it an Infiniti. Either way build it and not just for China. The press release does not mention the powertrain, but the car wears hybrid badges. I know a couple of people that would buy this one. More to come...

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

Honda Concept M - Next Odyssey preview?

MPVs (read minivans) are big in China right now and Honda used Auto Shanghai 2013 to debut the Concept M that previews a model that will debut next year in select markets. Is this the new Odyssey? On some levels let's hope so. First, I'm not a fan of the current Odyssey's lightning bolt side accent that makes an otherwise clean design overly busy. The Concept M has a nice side view although the aluminum accents might not see production in this form. The grille is fussy, but it does seem to be a new interpretation of current Honda "truck" designs. When the production model makes the rounds in the coming year, expect the styling to be toned down (which is typical for Honda). The interior is clean (watch the video) but I doubt the hidden tray tables will see this side of the Pacific if this is in fact a precursor of the next Odyssey van. The size is hard to pin down from these pics, but it is a six-passenger vehicle (with middle row captain's chairs) and therre are numerous Odyssey styling cues. Interesting. Definitely more to come...

Source: Honda - Brief press release and video after the jump.

Acura shows SUV-X Concept in China

Acura took the wraps off of the SUV-X Concept at Auto Shanghai 2014 that previews a production model that will debut in the near future. The SUV-X (not the production name hopefully) will be a global model that will join the ranks of the increasingly competitive small SUV/CUV market. The design is an interesting departure for Acura with numerous swoops and curves that is said to be the upscale Honda's new styling direction. We shall see. At least they are trying something new. This is one that will need to be seen in the flesh. It could be great or overdone (I'm afraid it is approaching the latter). At least the shield grille seems to look better here. More to come...

Source: Acura - Brief press release and video after the jump.