2014 Chevrolet Malibu gets early updates

You've gotta give it to automakers when they look at a car that was just introduced, realize that they didn't go far enough with the redesign, and then do something about it...quickly. Honda did it with the Civic and now the new Malibu gets a little nip/tuck and some updates to be more competitive in the mid-size sedan segment. When I saw the new-generation Malibu a couple of years ago, I thought what an improvement the car was compared to the outgoing Malibu "Classic." But a car doesn't compete with itself in the marketplace. At that same auto show, the Sonata was already wowing consumers, the Fusion was right around the corner (as was the Accord), and the new Camry was there for those that like their cars more appliance-like. When I heard that Chevy was updating the Malibu, I had high hopes for a car that looked more like the new Impala. I was hoping that the double grille with the large bowtie emblem (although this is better than recent attempts) would be gone. So I was a little surprised when I saw these pics. The 2014 Malibu is an improvement, don't get me wrong. The styling is more aggressive, especially the front fascia. The interior is revised for more room and upgraded fitments. There is new equipment, engine upgrades, and better mpgs. Does it go far enough? Can't tell just yet, but the '14 'Bu should be more competitive or at least hold on to what market share it has. Last complaint...why roll out these changes now when the car won't be available until the Fall? Does Chevy really think consumers are going to hold off making a purchase until the new 'Bu is ready? Probably not. I guess you gotta pound on your chest when you can. Know what I mean? The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu is an attractive sedan in a very competitive segment. More to come...

Source: Chevrolet - Press release after the jump.

2014 Acura MDX breaks cover

Acura has released preliminary information regarding the all-new 2014 MDX which should hit your local dealer in July. For 2014, MDX prices start at $42,290 (+ taxes, license, fees, destination, and options) for the front-wheel drive base model (Super-Handling, all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option on all models). Step up to the Tech Package (Acura/ELS Studio® 501-watt Premium Audio System, Acura Navigation, AxuraLink, tri-zone climate control, ten spoke 19" wheels, and more) and prices jump to $46,565+. The next level is the Technology and Entertainment Package which goes for $48,565+ and adds the Tech items plus a Rear Entertainment System (RES) with DVD player, 115 volt outlet, heated rear seats, and rear window sunshades (gotta block the light for the movie, right?). Top-of-the-MDX line is the Advance and Entertainment Package which stickers at $54,505+ and adds to the previous packs the Ultra-Wide Rear Entertainment System (RES) with DVD player, 7-spoke 19-inch wheels with Euro Silver finish, Milano leather interior, Parking Sensors (4 front/4 rear), Enhanced NVH package, and more. So, your $56,505+ MDX with everything gets you an attractive, well-built vehicle that gets you there in style. The roofline has been lowered, which won't be good news for folks that want a vehicle that is very easy to get into and out of. The seating hipline has been lowered a little over an inch which will diminish the tall seating position that is very popular today. And while I'm kinda complaining, simulated wood trim for $56k? Anyway, the newr 3.5-liter V6 (290 hp, 267 lb-ft of torque) is mated to a new six-speed automatic which slightly improves fuel economy. The Acura beak has been toned down a bit more and looks good with the new Jewel-Eye headlights (see pic after the jump). The MDX is good-looking and a quality piece (click on the interior pic above and see how well put together it is). Acura should sell a bunch of them.

Source: Acura - Press release; pricing, specifications, and features charts; and additional pics (4) after the jump.

Quick Look: 2014 Dodge Durango

I have a rough time writting about some vehicles due to the incredible number of permutations that are available...they just don't lend themselves to "brief." The Durango is one of those vehicles. Dodge's Durango is a big, full-size, seven-passenger SUV that is Dodge's largest and most expensive vehicle (now that the trucks are Rams). For 2014, Durango got updates and a little nip/tuck. For example, the front clip is more aggressive looking with a smaller grille opening, LED running lights, and sleeker projector headlamps. The rear fascia is updated with Dodge's racetrack tail lamps that utilize 192 LEDs and bring the Durango in line with other Dodge vehicles. The new '14 Durango comes in five trim levels: SXT, Rallye, the new Limited, R/T, and Citadel with either the standard flex-fuel 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (290 horsepower,  260 lb.-ft. of torque) or the optional 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine (360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft.of torque). An eight-speed automatic with rotary shifter is standard with both engines. The Durango shares a platform with the Grand Cherokee so the Cherokee's new diesel engine will fit, but no word on availability at this time. Since the Durango is at the top of the heap, it gets all of the good stuff in the Dodge bag of tricks as standard or as an option like Uconnect tech, Wi-Fi capability, mobile apps (including Pandora and iHeartradio), a dual screen Blu-ray / DVD player, three rows of seats, available second row captain's chairs and Nappa leather, and much more. Check out the extensive press release for a break down of features and equipment and their availability. There is also an intro video. Let's hope that Dodge starts spending some ad dollars on the Durango so that more consumers will consider the SUV from the Dodge boys. This is an attractive, muscular-looking ute with all the features and space you could want. It certainly beats the ancient designs from the competition. The 2014 Durango should be available in the Fall.

Source: Dodge - Extensive press release, pics (5), and video after the jump.

Honda drops price on Fit EV leases

Automakers have decided that EVs (electric vehicles) are not just for early adopters anymore. In an attempt to get their EVs in to the hands of consumers, many companies are offering leases on EVs with monthly payments that are out of proportion to the car's purchase price. As an example, the new Fiat 500e would cost almost $32,000 to buy, but the Italian automaker is offering a 36-month lease for $199/mo with $999 down (you know the pluses on leases). Even Ford's almost $40k Focus e can be had for $284/mo for the same 36 months and $929 down. Honda has dropped the price on its Fit EV (almost $37k to buy, EPA mile-per-gallon-equivalency rating of 118 MPGe, an EPA-rated driving range of 82 miles) lease from $389/mo to $259/mo for 36 months with $0 down. The cool thing is that for your $259 monthly charge, Honda includes the Leviton charger (you must pay for installation) and there is no annual mileage limit. Since EVs are usually urban dwellers, annual mileage limits should not be a problem, but it is nice to know that you can go as far afield as you like. And Kelly Blue Book recently named the Fit EV one of the "10 Best Green Vehicles for 2013."  More info after the jump.

Source: Honda - Press release, comparison chart, pics (4), and video after the jump.

Subaru WRX Concept previews production model

What you see here is said to be a preview of the next Subaru WRX sport sedan, although the concept seems to be screaming. "I am the mighty STI!" Subaru is one of the automakers that seems to be able to move from concept to production without the production model losing all of the concept's flavor (remember the BRZ concept transition to production model?), so I have high hopes that we will eventually see a car like this on the road. The design is sleeker and more aerodynamic looking and their are a few hints of the BRZ in the design. Even the giant 20-inch wheels look production ready...in fact there is little here that doesn't look like your local dealer could have one on the lot. The other good news is that the WRX shares a basic body design with the Impreza, so a stunning Impreza might be just around the corner as well. More to come...

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

Just for fun: The All-new BMW X5 closer look video

Source: BMW - Previous Post.

The all-new 2014 BMW X5

First off, only preliminary info has been given by BMW so far, but the images show a new X5 with evolutionary styling changes and possibly a longer body (to hold the optional third-row seats). It was rumored that the new X5 would grow in size since the current X3 almost matches the dimensions of the out-going model. The new X5 is a good-looking SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) with nice adjustments to the classic BMW front clip. I like the side vent accents on the flanks which provide visual interest. The interior update is very nice and typical BMW with new available options like the free-standing 10.25-inch Control Display for iDrive, a Bang & Olufsen High End Surround Sound System, and second row "comfort" seats (captain's chairs?). Individualization is the new X5's middle name with the Design Pure Experience and Design Pure Excellence choices along with the M Sport package allowing you to get the X5 of your dreams or at least your needs. The option list is huge with numerous updates to the ConnectDrive system like full-color-spectrum heads-up display, 360 degree surround viewing, collision warning, active cruise control, Traffic Jam Assistant, in-car use of Facebook and Twitter, and gobs more. Standard equipment includes all-wheel drive (except on the new X5 sDrive25d which is rear-wheel drive), iDrive, Dynamic Performance Control, and more depending on the model chosen and option boxes checked. At launch, there will be three variants available the X5 xDrive 5.0i (V8, 450 hp, gas, brown car in pics), X5 xDrive 3.0d (inline-six, 256 hp, diesel, white car in pics), and the X5 M50d (twin-turbo inline-six, 381 hp, performance diesel), but in the US we should see the first two as well as the X5 xDrive3.5i (turbo inline-six, 300 hp, gas). It would be nice to see the M performance diesel, but I wouldn't hold my breath. In December, the turbo four-cylinder versions will make the scene at least in Europe. The new X5 is an attractive update to one of BMW's biggest sellers. Interesting note: the X5 is produced in Spartanburg, South Carolina for the entire globe. Prices and more info will be released closer to the SAV's intro. The press release does have a lot of info for the X5 faithful so check it out and five additional pics after the jump. Pics are click-able for a closer look. BTW: it won't be cheap (inexpensive?).

Source: BMW - Press release and additional pics (5) after the jump.

Quick Look: '14 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition

Ford's F-150 SVT Raptor is an astonishing vehicle. You can't miss it. This truck has presence with its bold grille and wide fenders. The SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Raptor is also extremely capable, if not the most capable off-roader available from a major US automaker. The Raptor would get my vote as the vehicle to have in case of Armegeddon or alien invasion or if you really, really need to get out of town. Ford's Raptor is outfitted with everything you need to go anywhere like the aggressive all-terrain tires, industry-exclusive internal triple-bypass FOX Racing Shox™ dampers, skid plates, standard Hill Descent Control™, a grille-mounted camera to improve driver visibility when climbing over rocks, a Torsen® limited-slip differential, and more. Ford's 5.2-liter V8 (411 hp, 434 lb.-ft. of torque) comes standard mated to an electronic six-speed automatic and the 4WD system features electronic shift-on-the-fly capability. This Fall, a Special Edition Package that adds to the Raptor's Luxury Package will become available that includes things like special Ruby Red Metallic paint (shown), special box-side and hood graphics, and interior upgrades including Brick Red seat bolsters with black inserts and cloth honeycomb highlights, console top finish panel, and center stack and door panel appliqué accents. The Raptor Special Edition will also be available in Tuxedo Black Metallic and as a four-door SuperCrew. “Raptor owners are looking for a high-performing, uncompromising off-road pickup truck with the features and luxuries found in today’s premium trucks,” said Doug Scott, Ford truck group marketing manager. “Since its launch in 2009, we’ve continually moved Raptor forward in capability and design, and the 2014 Special Edition is the best Raptor yet.” Check with your dealer regarding availability and bring a pretty big checkbook with you. Click on pics for a closer look.

Source: Ford - Press release after the jump.

All-New 2014 Jeep Cherokee set to tackle mid-size SUV segment

Jeep is resurrecting the storied Cherokee name for its all-new entry in the mid-size SUV segment. Using Chrysler Group’s Compact U.S. Wide (CUS-wide) platform, the new Cherokee will have several Chrysler/Jeep firsts like the new nine-speed automatic (standard), first use of the new optional 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 (271 hp, 239 lb.-ft. of torque), new independent front and rear suspension, and more. The 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark I-4 engine (184 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque) is standard. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee comes in four flavors Cherokee Sport, Cherokee Latitude, Cherokee Limited, and the Trail-Rated Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. Three four-wheel-drive systems are available and the new Trailhawk model (red and dark silver cars with black trim) is fully "Trail Rated" meaning the model is fully up to the needs of most ardent off-roaders. The standard features for each model as well as optional packages are outlined in the second press release, so check out the four very extensive releases for all the information you could want. While many have called the styling off-putting and odd, I like it (especially the Trailhawk with the black accents and wheels). Prices have not been announced, but the new Cherokee won't be a price-leader and could get quite expensive without judicious use of checkmarks on the options sheet. Expect things to start in the low to mid $20k range. The all-new Jeep Cherokee has gone into production at the Toledo (Ohio) plant, so the new Cherokee should be hitting the trail very soon. Fiat calls their showrooms studios. So check with your local Jeep Outpost for more info and availability dates.

Source: Jeep - Extensive press releases (4), pics (3), and video after the jump.

Power to the people - Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Aston Martin makes some of the most beautiful cars on the road and the Vantage is no exception. Aston Martins are synonymous with fast, grace, handling, and performance. This latest performance model takes Aston's smallest car, the two-seat Vantage, and adds the big V12 under the hood to create the V12 Vantage S. The 6.0-liter V12 has been breathed on to produce more than 560 hp and the new seven-speed Sportshift™ III AMT (automated manual transmission) helps the V12 Vantage S hit 60 in about 4 seconds with a top speed in excess of 200 mph. Aston uses their race-car-technology and expertise to create this supercar with items like three-stage active damping, paddle shifters, light-weight ten-spoke alloy wheels, ZF Servotronic power assisted steering, a new exhaust system derived from the One-77 hypercar, and more. A carbon-fiber trim package and lightweight carbon fiber seats are just two of the options available. Now the bad news...pricing wasn't announced but it should be north of $200,000 (plus taxes, license, fees, destination, and options). Personally I don't like the yellow paint with the black accents. A dark or light silver would have been better to my eyes but I like sleepers. I mean how many of these flashy models can they sell to Justin Bieber and friends. For more info, check out the press release and video after the jump.

Source: Press release and video after the jump.

Nissan Leaf EV reports for taxi duty

Electric vehicles could be naturals for city taxi duty with their quick acceleration and zero emissions. Nissan has provided New York City with six Leaf EVs for evaluation to join the city's taxi fleet. Nissan's NV200 commercial van was chosen as the Taxi of Tomorrow recently and a recent court case overturned the exclusive contract due to the lack of access to hybrid and electric vehicles. While some might see that an EV taxi could have range issues, electric vehicles are very suited to urban environments and Nissan's new quick chargers can charge the lithium-ion batteries to 80 percent within 30 minutes (regular taxis need gas fill ups, right?). Leaf taxis have been in use in Europe for a while and have meet the needs of both drivers and users. Another added benefit to an EV taxi is the lower service costs, since EVs don't need oil changes, etc. The European Leaf taxis have held up well to heavy-duty taxi use and some customers prefer the silent EV taxis. Maybe Nissan could put a version of the Leaf's powerplant into the NV200 and make everybody happy. More to come...

Source: Nissan, NewsPress - Press releases and video after the jump.

Quick Look: 2014 BMW M5

The updated 2014 BMW M5 performance sedan is sort of the regular 5-Series sedan squared. Everything gets turned up a notch. The M5 features a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 560 hp. All that power gets routed to the 20-inch wheels through the seven-speed M dual-clutch transmission with slippage controlled by the Active M Differential. Both M5 and M6 models have access to a new, optionally extra Competition Package that takes the Ems up one more level with an additional 15 hp and even tighter suspension settings (see second press release for more). The '14 M5 gets all of the additions noted in the refreshed regular sedan (see previous post), but also with new styling including the very scoopy front fascia (I like it), revised wheels, and the new M signature twin kidney grille. The BMW Individual program (in other words order exactly what you want and spend even more) will add new colors in July like the Pure Metal Silver (shown in pics) that has special-effect pigments with the addition of ultra-thin aluminum flakes that plays with the light accentuating the car's lines and contours. Matte exterior finishes are also on the offing as well as special interior colors. BMW's ConnectedDrive is updated and the Online Entertainment, Navigation System Professional, Concierge Services, Remote Services, and Real Time Traffic Information are also available. For more information about the 2014 BMW M5 and the new Competition Package, check out the press release after the jump.

Source: BMW - Press releases (2) after the jump. Previous 2014 5-Series post.

One-off Mini Paceman by Roberto Cavalli receives largest winning bid in Life Ball history

Mini has been involved with the Life Ball fundraiser for the last thirteen years. The Life Ball Solidarity Gala raises funds for several organizations that fight AIDS ans HIV. This year, designer Roberto Cavalli created a one-off Mini Paceman to be auctioned during the AIDS Gala. The Cavalli Paceman featured special iridescent paint that shimmers between black and brown with gold accents. The color scheme was carried over to the interior as well with the Cavalli logo on the roof. The winning bid for the Life Ball Mini 2013 was 150,000 Euros (almost $195,000 at today's exchange rates), the largest bid ever for a special Mini created on behalf of the organization. Ralf Schepull, Head of MINI Brand Communications, was delighted at the sum achieved by this year’s Life Ball MINI: “We are very pleased that the one-off MINI has sold for a record price and can thus make a special contribution to projects dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS. The charity principle is an important part of the MINI brand, which enjoys a unique platform through this partnership with the Life Ball.”

Source: Mini - Press release after the jump. Previous intro post.

ACWWG: CITROËN C4 Picasso Technospace

People movers, or what we might have called mini minivans here in the US, are big business in Europe and other parts of the world. CITROËN has just relased the production info and pics of its latest offering, the C4 Picasso Technospace that becomes the latest entry into the Another Car We Won't Get (ACWWG) files. Like Ford's C-Max, the C4 Picasso is a small to mid-size vehicle that seats five comfortably with four regular opening doors (as opposed to minivan sliders). The C4 Picasso pulls the cab forward for more interior space and "executive" versions of the car have a reclining feature for the front passenger seat and pull-down trays in the front seatbacks (like airplanes - see pics after the jump). The new C4 Picasso is a uniquely styled vehicle that might seem a little odd to US consumer eyes due to the large greenhouse that is pulled forward with an extra window ahead of the outer rear view mirrors. To these eyes the styling is nice and keeps the C4P from looking dull and plain. The C4P is available with a variety of gas and diesel engines with both manual and dual-clutch automatics. Pricing wasn't disclosed, but there should be a C4P for almost every budget. Too bad we won't see it in the US.

Source: CITROËN - Extensive press release and additional pics after the jump.

Quick Look: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Diesel

Chevrolet announced that it would be adding a diesel-engine model to its car line-up and here it is, the 2014 Cruze Clean Diesel. The Cruze is a good-looking vehicle and the clean diesel model is no exception (about the only differences are the subtle 2.0 TD badges...interior pic is from a 2013 model). Chevrolet drew upon its extensive European experience with diesel engines (GM sold more than 400,000 diesel-powered cars globally last year, including 35,000 Cruzes) to develop the US turbo-diesel. The 2.0-liter, four cylinder, clean turbo diesel creates 151 hp and 264 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic. The Cruze Clean Diesel hits 60 in about 8.6 seconds and manages an estimated 46 mpg on the highway. The Cruze Diesel is not a stripper with lots of equipment standard like 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seating, rear spoiler, and an aero performance package with a base price of $25,695 (plus taxes, license, fees, options, destination - $810). To this point, VW has had the clean diesel market to its self but Chevy has countered with a very competitive product. We shall see if US consumers embrace this home-grown oil-burner. I've personally owned diesel-engined cars and have found that actual mileage can often exceed estimates so unlike Hybrids and other gas-fueled vehicles, a clean diesel car should be seriously considered if fuel economy is important to you. I've even noticed that here in California, more stations are carrying diesel fuel and diesel has actually been cheaper than unleaded regular from time to time. Good job, Chevy...

Source: Chevrolet - Press releases (3) additional pics (5), and video after the jump.

2013 Life Ball Mini Paceman by Roberto Cavalli debuts

The Life Ball is held every year in Vienna's Hofburg Palace to benefit AIDS charities. For the last thirteen years, Mini has provided a vehicle(s) that is styled by a world-renowned fashion designer and is subsequently auctioned at the AIDS Solidarity Gala as a fundraiser for the chosen organizations. This year's Life Ball Mini, a Cooper S Paceman, has been styled by Roberto Cavalli. Using Cavalli's signature colors and style, the 2013 LB Mini is done up in an iridescent paint that shimmers between black and brown, depending on the light, with gold accents. The Cavalli logo is featured on the roof with special signage on the doors. Inside, the special leathers receive gold stitching and logos with more gold accents on the doors and dash. (Click on the pics for a closer look.) While you might not want the Cavalli look for your Paceman, it certainly won't get lost in the crowd and if you do like the look, go for it...Proceeds raised from the auction will be announced later, but these special Minis have garnered six figure bids in the past.

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

2014 Fiat 500L arrives with affordability and style

Interest has been fairly high in Fiat's latest edition, the four (five)-door 500L. Many like the idea of the Fiat but want a little more room so your wait is over. The 2014 Fiat 500L is days away from a Fiat Studio near you at a very affordable price. The Base model 500L Pop starts at just $19,100 (+ taxes, license, fees, options, destination - $800) and comes fairly well equipped. Jump up to the next level 500L Easy and pricing starts at $20,195 (+) and gets you the Pop stuff plus 16-inch aluminum wheels, leather-covered shifter and steering wheel, six-speaker Fiat premium audio system with 520-watt amplifier, deep-tint rear glass, body-colored accents, and more. Step up to the SUV-look 500L Trekking (the yellow car), and prices start at $21,195 (+) and adds (to the Easy equipment) 17-inch wheels, special front and rear fascia, dark accents, special interior colors, and more. The range topping 500L Lounge starts at $24,195 (+) and adds all the good stuff to the Easy model like four-way power and heated leather front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, chrome accents, 60/40 split-fold rear seatbacks with segment-exclusive fore-aft adjustment and recline and tumble feature, and well, gobs more. (Check out the press release for more equipment specifics.) In this first year on the market in the US, Fiat will throw in the Premier Package which includes ParkSense rear-park assist, ParkView rear back-up camera and Uconnect 6.5 with a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen and navigation (the Uconnect 6.5 features voice operation of navigation, AM/FM and mobile phones; handsfree phone and Bluetooth-streaming audio, text message reader, personalization settings, premium media hub with SD card reader, auxiliary jack and USB inputs) for no additional buckaroos to Easy, Trekking, and Lounge models. The 2014 500L will hit studios in June, so check with your dealer regarding availability.

Source: Fiat - Press release and running footage video after the jump. Previous post.

Automotive beauty personified: the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé

BMW and design house Pininfarina have gotten together and created a piece of automotive sculpture with BMW overtones. The stunning BMW Pininfarian Gran Lusso Coupé is a "one off" design study highlighting "cutting-edge technology, style, dynamics, and aesthetics." When I look at the pics (slideshow after the press release), I'm taken not only by the styling, but also by the detailing put forth in this study of BMW luxury grand touring. Look at the 21-inch wheels that have a multi-spoke design that mimics 5-spoke wheels. The muscularity of the sculpted flanks and hood. The sweeping roofline. The LED lighting that takes BMW design cues to the next level. Some will look at this design and see Audi or Jaguar (especially the rear view). Regardless of any influences, the Gran Lusso Coupé is all BMW and looks ready to go to a happy driver. The V12 powered Bimmer study (badges proclaim the V12 power) makes one ponder whether this is the long-rumored 8-Series. This "one-off study" would make a nice coupe, four-door coupe, and convertible don'tcha think? Make sure to check out the well-written press release that really knows how to use an adjective...

Source:BMW - Press release, slideshow, and pics after the jump.