Upgraded Honda CR-V gets new look and engines for 2015

Sometimes ya gotta wonder, what goes on in the minds of car company executives. Honda (and other Japanese automakers) became very conservative when the financial meltdown took place a few years ago making small updates to models that were already through a major redesign. My business school teaches that when economic times get tough, R & D budgets should go up to better compete for a smaller market (and you end up in a better place when things turn around). As a result I surmise, Honda (and others) have released new models that were underwhelming and received tepid reviews instead of the glowing reports that were the norm. As a result, Honda has updated most of their line-up with fresh looks and new tech to better compete and this is the upgrade to the popular CR-V. More upscale styling makes the CR-V fresh and the addition of Honda's Earth Dreams engines and (unfortunately) a continuously-variable transmission let the "cute ute" go further on a gallon of dino juice. Fuel efficiency is up, but a dual-clutch transmission would provide even better economy, not to mention a better driving experience with a minimum price increase. Maybe the next update Honda? Honda has also added lots of new tech and a top-of-the-line Touring model that receives all the good stuff. New available features include a power tailgate, 10-way power and heated driver's seat with memory, LED daytime running lights, and Display Audio, the Honda Sensing™ suite of advanced safety and driver assistive features (includes Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System™, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Honda LaneWatch™, and more. For a complete rundown of what's new, check out the press release (with links) after the jump. Prices start at $23,320 (+ taxes, license, fees, $830 destination, options) for the CR-V LX and go up to $32,770 (+) for the new Touring model with AWD.

Source: Honda - Press release after the "read more" jump.

New Euro Passat adds GTE plug-in hybrid for the 2016 model year

If you live in the US, don't get excited cuz this is not your Passat that is built in Tennessee. The US Passat is larger and equipped differently than the Euro model shown here. But, the tech may make it to the US in one vehicle or another. The GTE is Volkswagen's top-of-the-line plug-in hybrid model that combines a 1.4-liter engine with electric bits for great economy and decent performance (0 to 60 in less than 8 seconds). The driving range is well over 600 miles and E-drive (electric-only drive mode) has a range of 31 miles. Four driving modes are available. Fuel economy is extraordinary with an NEDC rating of more than 141 mpg (US results would be lower). Since the GTE is a stand-alone model in the Passat line-up, much of the content can be applied to other Passat trim levels, but the GTE gets pretty much everything like LED headlights, Driver Alert System, Automatic Post-Collision Braking system, Front Assist including City Emergency Braking function, rain sensor, ParkPilot, unique badging and trim, and lots more. Pricing wasn't announced, but it won't be bargain-basement or top-drawer. Either way, the Euro Passat is a good-looking car (the body kit and bumper accents are a bit fussy) that will put smiles on the faces of eco-conscious drivers. It will be interesting to see how much of the Euro Passat GTE will make the trip across the Pond. Lots more info and pics (including the Estate aka stationwagon version) after the jump.

Source: Volkswagen - Press release after the "read more" jump.

Ford C-Max updates shown ahead of Paris Show debut

Ford has introduced the C-Max and Grand C-Max pair ahead of their Paris Motor Show introduction. In the US, we get a very different vehicle when compared to other market's Maxes. Our C-Max comes in the more rakish five-seat version with hybrid and plug-in hybrid (Energi) drivetrains only. Europe (and other markets) can choose between the C-Max and the seven-seat Grand C-Max (grey car above and after the jump) with various gas and diesel engines...but no hybrids. Of course, this engine playlist could change at anytime, but for now we can only assume that things will remain the same engine-wise. Although that isn't really true since Euro Maxes get new EcoBoost gas and diesel engines to go along with the updated Ford family face. Additional equipment has been added to the roster like the latest Sync 2, Cross Traffic Alert, Park-Out Assist, the Active City Stop collision avoidance system, and more. How much of this new tech will make it to the US remains to be seen, but we will get the handsome new face and sculpted bodywork. While I like the roofline of the C-Max better than it's Grand sibling, it is a shame that we don't get at least the option in the US. We shall see...more to come... Euro press release after the jump.

Source: Ford - Press release after the "read more" jump.

Volvo adds Drive-E T5 with AWD to V40 Cross Country

Volvo is expanding the availability of its Drive-E powertrain to the V40 Cross Country model for 2015. The V40 Cross Country joins the Drive-E T5 Turbo engine (245 hp), the eight-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive to provide a sure-footed premium compact that is efficient and sporty at the same time. “Volvo Cars is continuing to evolve the V40 Cross Country with this powertrain upgrade. The combination of the Drive-E T5 engine with AWD will give adventurous customers the power to explore, and all the control they need to be confident in all road conditions,” says Dr. Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research & Development at Volvo Cars. Additionally, 2015 V40 Cross Country models receive the available 19” Damara alloy wheels with grey diamond-cut rims, new colors, the Ocean Race Edition package (interior shown), and the updated on-board infotainment and navigation system, Sensus Connect. The 2015 V40 Cross Country with Drive-E T5 power will arrive in Europe in the coming weeks, with other markets to follow. Check with your dealer regarding availability in your area. For more information, check out the press releases (including one for the 2015 V40 Cross Country) and a Drive-E video after the jump.

Source: Volvo - Press releases, pics, and video after the "read more" jump.

Gulf States Toyota pairs with Bass Pro Shops for Tundra Off-Road Edition

Take a 2015 Toyota Tundra 4X4 CrewMax SR5 with the 5.7L i-Force V8 (381 hp) engine and 6-speed automatic transmission and add 20” milled-matte black wheels, an all-terrain upgrade, pocketed fender flares, spray-on bedliner, 5” oval black step tubes, stainless-steel exhaust tip, and custom Bass Pro Shops carpeted floor mats and Off-Road bed decals and you have the Bass Pro Shops Off-Road Edition Tundra. Gulf States Toyota (the regional Toyota Distributor for Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas) has teamed with Bass Pro Shops to create this special edition that will only be available in those five states (or you could make your own with aftermarket parts if you like what you see). For their part, Bass Pro Shops will provide equipment for specific sports for each truck..The 2015 Toyota Tundra Bass Pro Shops Off-Road Edition has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price starting at $43,975 that includes either a special fishing, hunting, camping, or marine outdoor gear lifestyle package from Bass Pro Shops, valued at approximately $1,000. For more info, check the release after the jump.

Source: Toyota - Press release after the "read more" jump.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban get the Z71 treatment

What we have here is the off-road designation for Tahoes and Suburbans, Z71. In fact, Z71 was the order code for this off-road package for Chevy's trucks and SUVs (just like Z28 was the order code for performance Camaros). Some die-hard off-roading Tahoe and Suburban shoppers were alarmed when the Z71 was no where to be seen when the all-new models were introduced. Fear not, cuz here they are for 2015. Chevrolet used the Texas State Fair (which has become sort of a truck introduction party) to introduce the new Z71s to a waiting public. 2015 Z71s come well-equipped with four-wheel drive (required for now), fog lamps, front tow hooks, front parking assist, 18-inch wheels, an updated suspension, wider track, four-wheel-disc brake system with Duralife™ brake rotors, new electric variable-assist power steering system, and more. Available options include OnStar with 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot (standard on LT and LTZ), wireless phone charging, hands-free liftgate, third-generation magnetic ride control, and lots more. You can spend as much as your wallet or credit will allow. If you've been waiting for Chevy to intro the Z71 package for their new full-size utes, your wait is over with deliveries beginning in October. Normal stuff after the jump.

Source: Chevrolet - Press release after the "read more" jump.

Audi goes topless with new TT and TTS Roadsters

Audi's TT is a Bauhaus-design favorite with its simple lines and gentle curves making for a sensual sports car that has few rivals. But all "true" sports cars must be capable of open air driving and here is the latest from Audi, the TT and TTS Roadsters (TT shown). The formula remains the same...two seats, decent power, incredible handling, good looks, and a high fun-to-drive quotient. Did I mention that it looks good? In the US we'll get the 2.0-liter turbo four in two stages of tune (230 hp - TT, 310 hp - TTS) mated to a six-speed manual or optional six‑speed S-tronic. dual-clutch automatic. Euro consumers have the option of a sport turbo diesel that is fun and returns excellent fuel economy. quattro (lower case intentional) permanent all-wheel drive is optional. The dash is updated with Audi's latest infotainment (MMI navigation plus with Touch) and virtual cockpit - Audi's digital instrument cluster. Since Audi creates some of the best interiors in the biz, the TT keeps the bar high with a simple, yet clean and elegant cockpit that underscores this sports car's premium status. The options list is about as long as the standard features list, so that you can create the TT Roadster of your dreams. The new Audi TT and TTS Roadsters should hit the US early next year as a 2016 model, but at this point only your dealer knows...car dealer that is (sorry couldn't resist). To get more info, check out the extensive press release (with Euro pricing) after the jump.

Source: Audi - Press release after the "read more" jump.

Volkswagen intros low-cost, back-to-basics Beetle Classic for 2015

VW's new Beetle is an interesting vehicle...a modern interpretation of a classic car with decent performance and efficiency with a retro flair. For 2015, Volkswagen is making the purchase of a new Beetle just a bit easier with a car that doesn't mean you have to do without, the Beetle Classic. The Beetle Classic gets the new 1.8-liter turbo engine (170 hp, 177 lb-ft. of torque) mated to a six-speed automatic with 17-inch “Heritage” aluminum-alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, a leather-wrapped shifter knob and handbrake lever, Sirius XM® Satellite Radio, an RNS® 315 navigation system, a multifunction steering wheel, two-tone brown “Sioux” leatherette and checked cloth seating surfaces, and comfort front seats with driver’s side lumbar support on top of the regular Beetle's long standard features list. Three exterior colors will be offered: Pure White, Black Uni, and Reflex Silver to go with the brown interior. But the good news is that the well-equipped Beetle Classic will set you back just $20,195 (+taxes, fees, options, license and $820 destination) which is about a $1,500 savings over a similarly equipped  regular Beetle with the Beetle Convertible Classic (on sale in early 2015) starting at $25,995 (+). The Beetle Classic Coupe should be at your local dealer shortly. For more info, check out the release after the jump or contact your local VW sellor.

Source: Volkswagen - Press release after the "read more" jump.

Opel enters the hot hatch segment with the new Adam S

Opel's Adam hatchback has been a good seller for GM in Europe and the German (and its British Vauxhall sibling) automaker is heating up the littlest Opel with the new Adam S hot hatch (dash pic is of the Adam Slam model). To turn the Adam into an "S," Opel has added the 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec engine (150 hp) mated to a six-speed manual transmission, an OPC braking system, 18-inch propeller-design alloys (16s are available), body kit, special paint combinations (including the Red 'n' Roll option shown), IntelliLink infotainment, and special interior trim including options with Recaro Performance seats in Morrocana or nappa leather. While the Adam S won't be the fastest hatch in the segment, it won't be the slowest either and the Adam's looks should be enough to sway many hot hatch shoppers. I didn't file this using the ACWWG banner since many Opels show up in the US as Buicks and there have been rumors that the Adam could see US duty as a premium sub-compact entry. Who knows? Press release and pics after the jump.

Source: Opel - Press release after the "read more" jump.

ACWWG: Ford showcases new S-Max ahead of Paris Motor Show

Yup, here's Another Car We Won't Get (ACWWG), the newly updated Ford S-Max people mover. Ford calls it a sports activity vehicle, but I'm not sure BMW would like that since the coined the term for their 'utes. Anyway, the S-Max is a people and stuff mover one size larger than the C-Max we get here in the US (which is also getting updates) with the much larger Galaxy taking on what we would consider minivan duties. I guess you could call it a "tweener." The S-Max is an elegant design that proudly gets the Ford family face along with revised engines and new tech. The S-Max is powered by various EcoBoost gas and TDCi diesel engines with manual or automatic transmissions. No hybrid here (unlike our C-Max which is hybrid only). With seating for seven, S-Max offers 32 different seating and load-space combinations with available heated and cooled multi-contour front seats (that offer the Active Motion massage function) and easy-fold second and third row seats. On the tech and safety side, Ford of Europe's Sync is updated and the extensive safety features list is filled with pre-collision assist, blind-spot information system (BLIS), cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, lane keeping alert, lane keeping aid, and lots more. And, all-wheel drive is available. In other words, Ford seems to be keeping some of their best stuff "across the pond." The press release (with video links) will fill you in. Now grant you, unless Ford builds the car here or in China (for export), the S-Max might be too expensive for the US market, which is a shame cuz this is one nice car/crossover/people mover/whatever-you-want-to-call-it vehicle. More after the jump...

Ford - Press release after the "read more" jump.

Citroen shows their latest eco-tech with the C4 Cactus Airflow 2L concept at the Paris Motor Show

Citroen is "strutting its eco stuff" at the Paris Motor Show with the C4 Cactus Airflow 2L concept. Citroen took a production Cactus and applied the latest aero tweaks and their Hybrid Air technology to create a vehicle with class-leading fuel efficiency. Aerodynamics were improved more than twenty percent with extensive wind tunnel development (see pics) that lead to "cleaner" surfaces with the soon-to-see-production (hopefully) rear-view cameras (right) one of the more interesting outcomes. Vehicle weight was reduced with the utilization of lighter parts. Lower rolling resistance tires were used and the concept showcases Citroen's Hybrid Air tech (a 30 percent improvement). For more info, check out the brief release after the jump. More to come...

Source: Citroen - Press release after the "read more" jump. Previous Post.

GMC thrusts another entry into the sport truck market, the Sierra 1500 Elevation Edition

GMC has announced another sport truck for 2015, the Sierra 1500 Elevation Edition (EE). Unlike the Sierra Carbon Edition, the Sierra EE will be available as a double-cab only with the 4.3-liter Ecotec V6 (285 horsepower, 305 lb-ft of torque) as standard fare and the 5.3-liter Ecotec V8 (355-hp) and all-wheel drive are optional. Transmission choices have not been disclosed.  The Sierra EE is a mean looking truck (in the best way) with black paint, body-colored trim (grille surround, color-keyed door handles, mirror caps, side moldings and front and rear bumpers), and matching black 20-inch wheels. The prominent (dominant?) front fascia also includes premium headlamps with distinctive light-emitting diode (LED lighting) and fog lamps. Also standard on the Sierra EE is remote keyless entry, power mirrors, a 110-volt AC power outlet, LED cargo box lighting, a 4.2-inch Intellilink color touchscreen audio system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and OnStar with 4G LTE (which provides an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices). Pricing will be announced closer to the Sierra Elevation Edition's arrival at your local dealer later this year. Normal stuff after the jump.

Source: GMC - Press release after the jump.

Nissan engineers make a Leaf pick-up truck - w/video

This should technically be part of the Another Car We Won't Get (ACWWG) files, the Nissan Leaf truck. Yup, it's a pick-em-up. Carmakers often let R & D folk create vehicles for specific purposes and the people at Nissan's Arizona facility needed a light-duty hauler. The idea was to marry the Leaf EV with parts from a Nissan Frontier and the result is seen here, affectionately called "Sparky." This one-of-a-kind electric vehicle will haul supplies and people around on the tech center property. "We tried to keep it a secret and be exciting for everybody. But we have visitors and they come and they see that truck and they go straight to 'what is it?' and they start looking at it, and it makes great conversation," said Roland Schellenberg, Nissan Durability & Reliability. "It's something that we all put together. We all share. So it has a little bit of everybody in there." While I doubt that this would see production, it would make an interesting niche vehicle that just might have a few takers. Press release and video after the jump.

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

Bentley unleashes new Mulsanne Speed model torque monster

When Bentley adds a performance "Speed" edition to their line-up, they mean it. Speed that is and the ultra-luxury Mulsanne is the latest to get the Speed treatment. The 6.75-liter V8 has been massaged to put out more than 500 hp and over 800 lb-ft. of torque getting the large Mulsanne sedan to 60 in 4.8 seconds towards a 190 mph top speed. Even the eight-speed automatic has been re-calibrated to handle the prodigious power. A sport suspension, dark tint exterior accents, Mulliner Driving Spec interior, and more, including new colors like Spectre ("Seemingly black at first glance, heavy gold metallic and a hint of green result in a rich tone inspired by reptilian skin.") and Marlin ("A rich blue with a hint of green, inspired by the shade of deep ocean waters and with a metallic shimmer") elevate the Mulsanne Speed above more plebeian Mulsanne models. This is a Bentley after all and if it is available, the car probably has it and the best version at that. This car has presence and if you want to be anonymous, this is not your ride. Lovely. And don't forget, you can get this car built to your exact specifications utilizing Bentley's extensive list of choices and options. For more info, check out the release, pics, spec chart, and video (featuring a salt-flat speed run of the regular Mulsanne). Pricing wasn't released, but if you have to ask...

Source: Bentley - Press release, pics, and video after the "read more" jump.

Volvo releases all-new XC90 R-Design model

Well this is better. I was underwhelmed by the first shots of the new XC90, but I do like the look of new R-Design trim better than the standard car. As a reminder, the new XC90 will be available in three trim levels,  Momentum (a well-contented vehicle designed to meet the needs of consumers), Inscription (designed for customers that have a focus on craftsmanship, increased comfort with exclusive features not found on Momentum) and the sporty R-Design. R-Design features include 20-inch wheels (22-inch wheels available), satin silver and "silk" metal  body accents (grille, lower front spoiler, window in silk metal and integrated bright roof rails and mirror covers in matte silver), sports seats with perforated leather, and R-Design interior accents (shift knob, pedals, floor mats, and illuminated thread plates), and the 12.3-inch driver display with new infotainment features. Volvo's new e-Drive powetrains will be available including the new T8 hybrid system with more than 400 hp. Interesting. If this looks like your thang, get to your dealer now to place your order to be the first on your block to own this Swedish/Chinese hauler. The first 1927 special edition models sold out in two days, so... Press release and pics after the jump as well as a link to the previous XC90 post (some pics have disappeared...looking into it).

Source: Volvo - Press release after the "read more" jump. Previous XC90 post.

The Mercedes Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid for when your car must have everything - w/videos

Okay, okay, almost everything. Let's list them out shall we? Long wheelbase luxury sedan...check. Full list of standard features, safety equipment, and comfort items...check. Leather and (German) luxury everywhere...check. Adjustable everything including suspension, infotainment, and front AND back seats (with memory)...check. V8 power from a 3-0-liter twin-turbo V6 and a plug-in-hybrid drivetrain (over 400 hp system total)...check. Fuel efficiency...check and the list goes on and on and on... When you peruse the press releases, you get the idea that this is the car for the near future and it's here today. I mean come on, it's a top-of-the-line Mercedes S-Class for goodness sakes.Yes the V12 is higher on the scale, but do you really need it? This large car will hit sixty in around five seconds and return compact-car fuel economy. Now I'll grant you that all of this tech, beauty, and luxury doesn't come cheaply with a sticker price that will start above six figures. And even with a car this fully equipped, there will be options like seat cooling and such. One of my favorite items is the pre-entry climate control where you use your smartphone to pre-heat or cool your car before you even make it to the garage (cooling and heating is done electrically and the batteries aren't drained since the car is plugged in). Brave new world indeed. Let's wrap up. We all know the S-Class Mercedes is a stunning automobile. The new S500 Plug-In Hybrid just adds one more reason to lust after the uber German sedan. Check out the three extensive press releases and videos after the jump for loads of information. Did I mention that it drives well, pollutes less, and has an almost twenty mile electric-only range? If you've got the buckaroos, get thee to your Mercedes Benz dealer ASAP and order yours today. Enjoy!

Source: Mercedes Benz - Press releases (3), pics, and videos after the "read more" jump.

2016 Mini Four/Five-Door Hardtop makes getting into a Mini (literally) easier - w/video

It was just three months ago that Mini announced the four/five-door hardtop for 2016. Caught me off guard, cuz I thought the spy shots I'd seen were for the new Countryman. But since we're getting close, more info is being offered by the British (by way of Germany) marque. In fact, BMW is reportedly using the Mini platform for the next 1 Series, but I digress. The Mini Four/Five-Door Hardtop (the press releases vacillate between descriptions so why can't I) will come to the US in January 2015 in Mini Cooper and Cooper S versions with turbocharged three- (134 hp) and four-cylinder (189 hp S) engines mated to either a six-speed manual or (optional) automatic transmission. No word on John Copper Works or diesel versions for the US. The Four/Five Door will get the new and improved interiors and ergonomics of the Hardtop which is a very good thing and like all Minis, you will be able to spend as little or as much as you'd like. Prices start at $21,450 (+ taxes, license, fees, options and $850 destination) for the regular Cooper Four/Five Hardtop and jump to $25,100 (+) for the Cooper S version. Overall length and wheelbase (compared to the Two-Door Hardtop) are up for more rear seat and storage room. EPA ratings are not yet available, but really do Mini owners care? The cars are efficient and handle like nothing else on the road, so... For lots more info, check out the latest global release, the US release, 2015 Mini pricing chart, pics, and video after the jump. The Mini link (below) will take you to the "build your own" section of the consumer site.

Source: Mini - Press releases, pics, and video after the "read more" jump. Previous post.