Kia shows "Go Anywhere" Soul-based Trail'ster AWD Hybrid Concept in the Windy City - w/video

Kia's Soul is one of my favorite compacts available today and with its funky looks, style, and Hamstar marketing, what more could you ask for? How about an off-road capable Soul that can go "any where" that is "intended for Urban Escape and Mountain Adventures." Sound good? Well here it is, the Trail'ster concept that debuted at the Chicago Auto Show. I like the look of the Trail'ster with handsome style updates like the raised ride height, K900-inspired front lighting, aluminum skid plates, the weatherproof rollback canvas roof, the larger wheel/tire package and the list goes on and on. The cool thing is that the Trail'ster could see production. The look is a possible peek at the Soul's future. But it is the innovative hybrid/all-wheel drive system that is the most interesting piece that is the Trail'ster puzzle. The hybrid system consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (185 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft of torque) and a six-speed automatic transmission that is paired with an electric all-wheel-drive system on the rear axle intended for low-speed assist, enhanced launch acceleration, and improved traction in inclement weather or off-road situations. Neat huh. Total system output is 220 horses and 285 lb.-ft of torque. "This powertrain strategy of a downsized turbo and ‘Through-the-Road’ hybrid power yields a dual benefit of increased performance – torque and traction – and optimized efficiency,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Center of America (KDCA). “This is AWD being done the advanced, intelligent and responsible way, while sacrificing nothing.” Should the Trail’ster find its way to production, fuel economy would be targeted at a 25 to 30 percent improvement in city driving and 5 to 10 percent in highway driving (over the normally aspirated 2015 2.0-liter gasoline-engined Soul). The compact battery pack is stored under the cargo floor. The Trail'ster even has an electrically-driven A/C compressor that can run even when the engine is off. There are some excellent ideas here wrapped in a stylish package. Let's hope that Kia produces the Trail'ster Soul hybrid off-roader. For more info, check out the press release, pics, and video after the jump. If you like it, let Kia know...who knows.

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

Hyundai adds Sonata Plug-in Hybrid for 2016 - w/video

Hyundai is expanding its line-up of "electrified" vehicles with the new Sonata Plug-in Hybrid. The last-gen Sonata was outstanding for its swoopy design and the new Sonatas are a more conservative interpretation of the previous car's breakout styling. Thank goodness that Hyundai has dropped the current hybrid's style with the front chrome mustache that screams "look at me" but not in a good way. The PHEV(Plug-in Hybrid Electrified Vehicle) Sonata has a clean look that should offend no one and please many. Early estimates for the PHEV Sonata give the car a 93e EPA city score with 22 miles of EV only range. Regular city/highway numbers (non-electrically enhanced) are 38/43. Power is provided by a 2.0-liter Nu engine (154 hp) mated to a 50kW electric motor for a total system output of 202 hp. Transmission duties are handled by a six-speed automatic. The PHEV Sonata sits at the top of the range with all of the goodies including a few PHEV exclusives like special smartphone apps to handle charging. charge notification, etc. Prices will be reduced by tax incentives available in many locations. Initially, the Sonata PHEV will be available in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont later this year. Two exclusive paint optiuns will be available, Graphite Blue Pearl and Seaport Mist, with grey, beige, or optional Blue Pearl interior fitments. For more info, check out the press release and video after the jump.

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

Mega Hot Hatch - Ford Focus RS coming to the US - w/video

Ford has a long history with hot hatches, the fast, rally-ready compacts that have been extremely popular in Europe and other parts of the world. Due to regulations and cost, Ford has kept its best hot hatches from US consumers. But not anymore. Ford's latest super hot hatch, the Focus RS, will make the trip across the pond complete with all the goodies like Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control, Performance All-Wheel Drive, a special 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine (315+ hp), aero body kit, 19-inch wheels with special Michelin tires, unique RS interior and exterior mods, and lots more. This isn't your regular Focus compact. And if you haven't figured it out, the Focus RS won't be inexpensive due to all the goodies and outstanding performance. Yes there are hi-po cars that will beat the new RS at a drag strip (but it should hold its own), but throw in some curves and you'd want the RS. In fact, the new RS was developed with input from professional rally driver Ken Block (see video after the jump). “The all-new Focus RS is a serious machine with high-performance technology and innovative engineering that sets a new benchmark for driving exhilaration on the road and track,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company. “The RS line ... is a great example of our passion for innovation through performance, and creating vehicles that make people’s hearts pound.” The new Focus RS should be arriving soon (from Germany where all RS models are built) in your choice of Frozen White, Absolute Black, Stealth Gray, and the new Nitrous Blue (not shown) that is a four-coat metallic paint exclusive to the RS. (What no Rosso Red.) For more info, check out the press release and video after the jump.

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

Ram joins the luxury truck segment with the new Laramie Limited trim level - w/videos

Luxury pick-em-ups are big business for automakers these days and FCA's Ram division just revealed their entry at the Chicago Auto show, the new Ram Laramie Limited. The new Limited trim level is available on 1500, 2500, and 3500 model trucks in two- and four-wheel drive, short- and long-wheelbase iterations, and Crew Cab and Mega Cab (3500) configurations. The exterior is highlighted by the Ram LL's unique grille, extensive use of LED lighting, and chrome accents like the grille, bumpers, side steps, mirrors, and other trim pieces including the LL exclusive tailgate (some exterior colors allow for body-colored grilles). Inside, black Natura Plus premium leather covers almost everything with chrome and Black Argento wood trim. To give you a further idea of the level of interior luxury, the black leather seats are contrasted with pinstripe stitching in Graystone leather piping, the rear flap-closure seatback map pockets are fitted with chrome Ram-lettered buckles, there are special dark finish gauges, and more. While prices and a full equipment list weren't released, expect the Laramie Limited to be outfitted with just about everything in the Ram truck catalog and yes, it won't be cheap (inexpensive). For more info, check out the press release and two videos after the jump.

Source: Ram - Press release, pics, and two videos after the "read more" jump.

2016 Honda Pilot: When the box becomes less of a box - w/video

Honda's Pilot was know for its boxy styling that was considered unique and that provided lots of room in a small(ish) footprint. Then the grille demons at Honda attacked and the Pilot went from boxy to clunky and overdone. They still sold a quite a few of them (it is a Honda am I right?), but the crossover segment was increasingly being ruled by sleek, aero designs. Not one to miss out at the party for too long, Honda redesigned the Pilot for 2016 with a look that is a vast improvement compared to the last generation. The grille is still a bit fussy, but it is a vast improvement. The side view (pic after the jump) is very nice and the interior seems ready to take on the competition. Other than the "new suit," what's new you ask? The three-row Pilot is 300 pounds lighter but still provides an interior that you can fill with lots of people and stuff. The new EarthDreams 3.5-liter, direct-injected i-VTEC® V-6 engine is mated to a new six-speed automatic or a new nine-speed automatic (in upper trim levels) that should provide class-leading fuel efficiency (even with AWD). Safety equipment includes LaneWatch™ display, Blind Spot Indicators, a standard Multi-Angle Rear View Camera, and available Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, a Honda-first Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) system, and more. The '16 Pilot gets Honda's latest tech either standard of in trim groups like an upsized 8-inch capacitive touchscreen Display Audio telematics interface (powered by a new Android-based operating system and more powerful processor), along with an available all-new embedded Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™.  The Pilot's Display Audio system enables simplified smartphone connectivity making for easier access to all the features and connectivity options of the HondaLink™ connected-car system. A 9-inch rear entertainment system with DVD and new Blu-Ray disc™ capability is available. In other words, the new Pilot can be equipped with as little or as much equipment that you want, need, of can afford...a Pilot for almost everyone. Honda should sell lots of these. 2016 Pilot availability, prices, and EPA numbers will be announced soon. If you've been waiting for an updated, more attractive mid-size Honda crossover, your wait is almost over. For more info, check out the release, the live reveal video, and pics after the jump.

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

Ford adds a little "R" to the Shelby GT350 Mustang - w/videos

Ford added a little "R" (use your best Pirate voice) to the already fast Shelby GT350 Mustang to create one of the best track-day Mustangs that is still quite street legal. For "R" duty, Ford dropped more than 130 pounds from the GT350 by using lightweight components wherever possible, like the carbon-fiber wheels (a savings of 13 lbs. per wheel). The air conditioning, stereo, back seats, trunk floorboard and carpet, back-up camera, and emergency tire sealer and inflator were deleted to save weight as well. An available Electronics Package adds back in the dual-zone climate control, 8-inch touch screen with navigation, seven-speaker audio system, turn signal mirrors, and more for those that do not want to go without. On hand is a new 5.2-liter dual-overhead-cam V8 engine that uses a flat-plane crankshaft (typically found only in racing applications) that creates 500 hp and more than 400 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission gets the prodigious power to the pavement. A special handling suspension keeps the GT350R glued to the road and improved aerodynamics like the the hood vent (for heat extraction and lift reduction), underbody belly pans front and rear, an aggressive diffuser, vented wheel wells and turbulence-reducing fender vents, wheel air curtains and side skirts help the car glide through the atmosphere. The limited-production Shelby GT350 R Mustang will be at Ford dealers later this year.“This is the pinnacle of performance Mustangs today,” said Dave Pericak, director, Ford Performance. “The Shelby GT350R Mustang lays the groundwork for a story that will play out for years to come on the track and the street.” For more info, check out the press release and videos after the jump.  Prices weren't announced, but if you have to ask...

Ford auctioned off the first Shelby GT350 R Mustang at the recent Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction for $1,000,000 to benefit JDRF (a Diabetes research organization). For more info regarding the auction, check out the second press release.

Source: Ford - Press releases, pics, and videos after the "read more" jump.

Fiat unveils new Doblo compact van - w/videos

Fiat has released the latest version of it's compact "people-and-stuff hauler," the Doblo and Doblo Cargo. The new Doblo is an attractive compact van that offers a competitive product in a competitive (in Europe) vehicle segment that competes with the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV 200 to name two. when you look at the recent versions of the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey minivans, you realize that these vans aren't so "mini" anymore and these new compacts are here to provide the vehicle for those that really don't need something so large. They are also relatively economical as well in both price and efficiency. Various engine/transmission choices are on hand for Euro consumers. The Doblo follows other Fiat models with trim levels ranging from Pop, to the mid-level Easy, and to the top Lounge option. The Doblo can be outfitted to seat seven and the seats (see pic after the jump) can be folded to haul various sizes and shapes of cargo. Ultimately you ask "why do we care in the US?" Well, Fiat has brought its other vans to the US as Ram models (see the Promaster) and with Ford's sucess with the Transit Connect, you can expect to see the Doblo at your local Ram dealer at some point in the future. I bet US Fiat dealers would like to get their hands on this one too and it would make a nice addition to their line-up. For lots more info regarding the new Doblo (and a brief release, pics and video of the Doblo Cargo), check out the informative release and video after the jump.

Source: FCA - Extensive press releases, pics and videos after the "read more" jump.