Subscribe via RSS
Subscribe via iTunes
There are few things more fun than walking through a major auto show along side AutoPacific Analyst and former General Motors brainiac, Jim Hall. You have to be patient. He knows everybody and everybody knows him, so the going is often slow. But the one liners you get to overhear as he comes upon the latest in concept cars are worth the wait. So we decided to follow him around the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but this time,we brought the video camera.
Jim checked out the new Cadillac CTS, due to hit showroom floors this October. If you haven’t seen this performance sedan yet, you’re going to be blown away whether you’re a Cadillac fan or not. Cadillac must have had BMW’s 5 series and the Audi A6 in the crosshairs when they dreamed up this beauty. Even Jim was impressed.
He also reviewed a crop of new concepts –
Mercedes S-Class Convertible Ocean Drive
Jim went to design school, so watching him chat about stamped steel is actually interesting. And you can’t beat descriptions like “swoop du jour” and “Ingmar Bergman on acid.”
Thanks for the stroll, Jim. It was fun.
Show Runtime – 14:44
Finally! A formidable adversary to the BMW 3-Series. I’d call it an adversary, others may call it an antidote or a nice alternative. But what ever you call it, this Audi A4 was pretty impressive. When I think of Audi, I think of Bavaria, when I think of Bavaria I think of BMW. Some may enjoy the current generation 3-Series but I think BMW may have lost their aficionado edge. Some may even say they’ve gone off the reservation. I think the real BMW cowboys left the marque just as Bangle’s design caught on and these enthusiasts are looking for a place to hang their hat. Well, my guess is they’ll find Audi a brand that may meet their demands.
Audi is poised to make waves over the next few years. Some of those waves are going to take prospective new car owners away from BMW and into new Audi’s like this A4 3.2 Quattro.
Audi’s Johan de Nysschen clearly stated the objectives for Audi of America in an Automotive News World Congress speech given in Detroit last week. de Nysschen is the Executive Vice President of Audi of America Inc. and has plans to make the brand much more aggressive in the United States.
Traditionally, Audi has positioned itself as a traditional, understated European luxury brand in the U.S. Now, de Nysschen says, these days are over.
Audi’s Solid Sales Year Leaves it Still in the Shadow of Lexus, Mercedes and BMW in the USA
Audi sold 90,116 vehicles in the USA in 2006 last year, but has languished in the shadow of its Bavarian competitor BMW from Munich and the unfocused Mercedes lineup from Stuttgart. In Europe, Audi competes much strongly with BMW and Mercedes than it does in the USA, and in China Audi is kicking butt.
This mis-match is not lost on Audi of America and Audi AG management, they want to increase Audi’s position in the USA and de Nysschen is implementing plans to make that happen. Early in his regime at Audi of America, Johan de Nysschen participated in a VehicleVoice video podcast
. It would be instructive to watch that podcast again. Very informative.
Audi’s “Separation Plans”
de Nysschen is very high on having all aspects of Audi of America separate and unique from Volkswagen USA. During a dinner at the 2005 Frankfurt Auto Show there was a wide ranging discussion concerning whether Audi should relocate their headquarters in teh USA and where it should go. I volunteered that Bermuda would be a fine choice, but the New York suburbs in New Jersey seemed to be a front-runner as did the suburbs of Atlanta. Shortly after that show, Audi of America it was going to relocate down the street from Volkswagen of America but in completely separate facilities. Apparently, that plan has been put on hold for budget reasons.
But even without physical separation, Audi has gone a long way inside the Volkswagen of America building to make itself different and more upscale.
At this time of year, everyone wants you to know about the best cars, trucks and SUVS of the year. AutoPacific has already taken a big step in that direction, but with a twist: Partnering with Intellichoice, AutoPacific shared the best vehicles of the year, as picked by you – and that’s saying something! The Awards are called the Motorist’s Choice Awards and this year included the Lexus LS430, The Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4×2, the Infiniti QX56 and the Audi A6 4.2 Quattro. Where else can you go to get the best possible input from your own peers about the latest vehicles in the marketplace? Since you’re here, we think you’ve come to the right place.
My Personal Choices for Best Rides of the Year
Watch the Podcast: AutoPacific & IntelliChoice Motorist’s Choice Awards
It’s part of my job to drive a new vehicle nearly every week. In some cases, more than one vehicle at week gets the once-over, not only by me, but by a number of the analysts and experts at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. As the resident speed-guy, I might have a slightly different take on things and while I do try to avoid going to court, I do need to put my foot down. And that’s part of what my list is about. The other things I’m taking into consideration are everyday drivability, cost, and return on investment. And as you know, everyone is concerned about fuel costs and gas mileage. Not me! Not yet… So, let’s get to it.
WardsAuto.com has announced its 10 Best Engines for 2007. Let’s see how VehicleVoice agrees with the Wards’ results… they are presented in alphabetical order:
Audi AG 2.0L turbocharged DOHC I4 – Audi A3 – We agree wholeheartedly with this engine selection, but Ward’s gives it short shrift by identifying only the Audi A3 as having this engine. It is also found in the Audi A4, Volkswagen Eos, Volkswagen GTi, Volkswagen Jetta and even the Volkswagen Passat. A real nice driving 4-cylinder turbo that is the workhorse of the spirited Volkswagen/Audi lineups.
BMW AG 3.0L DOHC I6 – BMW Z4 3.0si – BMW in-line sixes are always works of art. Smooth, effortless, always feel that they are putting out more horsepower than their ratings. Ward’s has selected the higher horsepower version found in the Z4 3.0si – it puts out 255-horsepower and has 220 pound-feet of torque. This engine is also found in the BMW 530 sedan.
BMW AG 3.0L turbocharged DOHC I6 – BMW 335i – We don’t really go with turbocharged engines much. There is usually no replacement for displacement. But the 3.0L Turbo in the 335i is a sweet piece. Turns the 335i into a Q-ship with near M3-levels of performance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 3.0L DOHC V6 turbodiesel -Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec/Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD – We appreciate the sentiment, but until a diesel can be sold in all 50 states, we won’t agree that it is one of the best engines. Diesels deserve a significant place in the USA automotive landscape, but regulations, technology, fuel costs, fuel availability have all conspired against widespread diesel acceptance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 5.7L OHV Hemi V8 – Chrysler 300C – Chrysler Group has built a franchise around the HEMI. The low cost, Mexican-produced, overhead valve, high output engine almost singlehandedly resurrected Chrysler from its early 21st Century doldrums. Don’t forget the HEMI can be found in all large, rear wheel drive Chrysler, Dodge products as well as the two largest Jeep entries.
Ford Motor Co. Duratec 35 3.5L DOHC V6 – Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX – Ward’s specifies the Ford/Lincoln Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles as the vehicles where the new Duratec 35 is found, but don’t forget the Lincoln MKZ (Zephyr) and the Mazda CX-9. While this higher output V6 is sorely needed by Ford and will eventually find its way through the Ford lineup, somehow the horses feel weaker than its 263-horsepower output suggests. We’ll reserve judgment on this one.
Ford Motor Co. 4.6L SOHC V8 – Mustang GT/Mustang Shelby GT – The 4.6L is the workhorse V8 for Ford’s rear wheel drive platforms. A very reliable, bulletproof powerplant, the 4.6L has proven to be very flexible up and down the horsepower scales. Driving the higher horsepower versions in the Mustang is a delight.
Mazda Motor Corp. 2.3L DISI turbocharged DOHC I4 – MazdaSpeed3 – A very willing and berserk powerplant in the MazdaSpeed3, the 2.3L Turbo provides more than enough power to generate nutso torque-steer in the MazdaSpeed3. Torque steer has always been a bugaboo in high output front wheel drive Mazdas and the combination of power and chassis dynamics in the MazdaSpeed3 may have set a new high (or low).
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Infiniti G35 – We assume that Ward’s is referring to the higher output VQ found only in the Infiniti vehicles for 2007/2008. A significant upgrade from previous VQ V6s, the Infiniti has been finessed to new levels of power, smoothness and “engine music”. Still a bit of a lump in the fuel efficiency category, however. And the VQ’s refinement has pretty much been sub-par compared to the Audi, BMW and Lexus (Toyota) sixes against which it competes.
Toyota Motor Corp. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Lexus IS 350 – Another Japanese V6 putting out over 300-horsepower from 3.5-liters. Sweet, quick revving, quick. But unlike the Nissan VQ in the Infiniti, the Lexus 3.5L seems to lack the passion that really stirs the senses. Maybe it is the “engine music” thing. But it’s far more likely the effect of the Toyota engine’s astonishing refinement.
Subscribe via RSS
Subscribe via iTunes
This year the L.A. Auto Show celebrated it’s 100th Anniversary, and it did so in style. With 13 North American debuts and 23 World debuts, the 2006 Los Angeles International Auto Show earned the adjective international.
One of the cars making its first appearance before the automotive press and the general public is the all new 2007 Audi TT Roadster. AutoPacific Vice President and Senior Analyst Jim Hall has been looking at cars professionally for a long time now, and he just so happens to be a huge Audi fan, not to mention the owner of the World’s Most Expensive (older model) TT. So who better to give this new open-air Audi a walk around?
Show Runtime – 1:39
Audi had two introductions at the November 2006 version of the Los Angeles Auto Show, to excite the senses of sports car drivers preferring both closed and open top driving, as well as expanding budgets from under $50,000 to well over $100,000.
Audi introduced the 2008 TT in Berlin just ahead of the New York auto show, where it was displayed for U.S. buyers. There’s quite a delay between that launch and sales, however, as Audi of America decided to launch coupe and convertible together. And here in Los Angeles, we got our first look at the convertible. (Both go on sale in late spring or early summer in the States.)
The TT convertible eschews the current craze for power retractable hardtops and launches with a softtop. As with the coupe, two engines are expected to be available for U.S. buyers, including a 200HP 2.0L turbo-charged direct-injection four-cylinder and a 250HP 3.2L direct-injection V6. The 2.0L is a standard front-driver, while opting for the V6 gets quattro all-wheel drive. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, with Audi’s terrific six-speed automated manual, now called S-tronic instead of DSG, available as an option.
brought you the Paris reveal of this supercar (click here
), but this is the first U.S. auto show introduction for Audi’s new superstar, the R8. The R8 is the production evolution of a concept that was first shown in Frankfurt in 2003 as the LeMans Quattro. With this car, Audi is taking on the Porsche 911 with a thoroughly sleek, modern shape and automobile. The R8 uses an aluminum space frame like the concept did and is related to the Lamborghini Gallardo, though the two diverged substantially between development and production. While the model launches with Audi’s direct-injection 420HP 4.2L V8, more powertrains will join the range down the road.
IIHS released the results of its 2007 Safety Pick Awards on November 20. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific feel that these results are important to communicate to our readers. Along with other awards for quality, satisfaction and performance, safety awards can and should be among the information sources a buyer uses when deciding which new vehicle to buy. After all, the Internet gives us almost perfect information.
While we do appreciate the safety value of electronic stability control, it will take years for the entire fleet to be equipped with ESC. For IIHS to eliminate all vehicles lacking ESC eliminates many otherwise safe vehicles from their analysis. This is too simplistic an approach.
2007 TOP SAFETY PICK award winners: award criteria are tougher; SUVs eligible for first time
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announces 13 vehicles that earn TOP SAFETY PICK awards for 2007. Winners include 4 cars, 7 SUVs, and 2 minivans. This award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute tests. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC).
Audi A6 manufactured in Dec. 2006 and later
Subaru Legacy equipped with optional electronic stability control
Mercedes M class
Subaru B9 Tribeca
Subaru Forester equipped with optional electronic stability control
As luck would have it, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staff had the chance to drive the Audi S6 and S8 this October, after spending time in the RS4 in spring and summer (click for our RS4 driving impressions and general overview). Audi’s high-performance sedans have provided some of our happiest driving hours this year.
Hierarchy Weakens S6
Seemingly as an effort to carve out a niche for the S6, Audi has given it a middle of the road personality; it is sporting, but not as involving as the RS4. It is nearly as powerful as the S8, but doesn’t offer as much luxury or presence. The S6 is a nice, powerful sedan. But the more involving driving experience of the RS4 is worth the loss in interior room compared with S6. And the S6 doesn’t fill power and luxury shoes nearly as well as the S8, even keeping in mind the S8’s $92,000 base price.
The 450HP S8 and the 435HP S6 share a 5.2L V10. The S6’s exhaust is tuned for a higher, sportier note, but the S8 gets a throatier and more pleasing rumble. The S8’s deeper tenor supports its powerful personality. Both are tuned to deliver 90 percent of their 398 pound-feet peak torque starting at 2500 rpm, so putting your foot in the throttle always brings the immediate rewards of acceleration and the pleasing exhaust notes.
The V10 gets a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that is smooth and quiet in both applications, and the S6’s Sport button can liven up the experience. All in all, I’d rather have a manual for the smaller S6. Its mix of a stiff chassis, superb sport seats, and power is let down by the lack of a manual and, by extension, a lack of driver involvement. The automatic is at home in the S8, with its more remote and powerful personality.
Selecting an Audi S car, understated as they are, can bring the admiration of those who know what to look for and keep those who don’t away. One of the coolest elements of the S6 is the daytime running lights under each headlight; each bank has five white LEDs to honor the V10 under the hood.
The S6 offers a usual Audi quality interior and uplevel equipment, with wonderful sport seats (the S8 seats tip to the comfortable side of the scale) wrapped in silk nappa leather. The S6 does not offer as many features as the S8, including the ultra-special Bang & Olufsen stereo, but does come with more stuff than the RS4.
Sports Car Concepts Reach Production
Three years ago, in September 2003, there were two head-turning concept stars at the Frankfurt auto show. This year, the Paris auto show (Mondial de l’Automobile) hosted introductions of both in production form. Both are low volume propositions, both borrow chassis from related low-volume models, both offer 420HP V8 engines, but each takes a different personality. One is the German all-wheel-drive, mid-engine Audi R8 and the other the front-engine, rear-drive Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.
The good news is that North America will see the R8. Unfortunately, the Alfa is a tease. Though the brand intends to return to the North American market, the limited-edition 8C is not among the expected products.