Acura ALMS Race Car Enters Stage Left
Acura used its time at the 2006 New York auto show to formally introduce its 2007 RDX, which goes on sale in summer 2006; tease us with a near-production-but-still-concept version of the 2007 MDX (on sale in fall); and to announce it will enter into the American Le Mans Series in 2007. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific contributors were on hand when the racing engine roared to life on the stand.
Following the overview and reveal of the two SUV products, which had been announced before the show, Acura surprised one and all with a racing car hidden off to the left side of the stage. The decision to go racing with the Acura brand follows Lexus and Audi fielding teams, and comes before the next-generation NSX. Though the NSX has been sold as a Honda outside of North America all of its long years, the Acura brand is going global and the NSX replacement will more likely wear the Acura badge world wide. Acura will use a 3.4L V8 for its LMP2 car and develop the chassis with Lola and Courage. Step two will be to build a LMP1 car and earn an invite to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.
2007 RDX Share Center Stage with MD-X Concept at New York
RDX Brings Acura a Small SUV
Acura used its time at the 2006 New York auto show to formally introduce its 2007 RDX, which goes on sale in summer 2006 and tease us with a near-production-but-still-concept version of the 2007 MDX (on sale in fall). VehicleVoice and AutoPacific contributors were on hand when the new Acura SUV lineup went on display.
This vehicle comes to market wearing the name RDX, similar to the RD-X concept cars of 2005 and of 2002. At the 2006 Detroit auto show a near-production model was shown, followed by the production car at the 2006 New York auto show in April. Sales begin in summer 2006. The first two RD-X concepts explored the needs of what Acura calls active urban professionals, with the 2005 concept more realistic than the first. The 2006 Detroit concept was clearly the closest of all. The philosophy is to combine sports sedan performance with the utility of an SUV, in theory more akin to a smaller Infiniti FX than to a Toyota RAV4, and has the BMW X3 in its sights.
When Ford announced its new 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V6 engine, many were underwhelmed by its 250-horsepower output. After all, similar displacement modern V6s from Ford’s Japanese competitors have achieved that level of output for years. Gads, even Japanese Minivans were approaching 250-horsepower with the Honda Odyssey at 244-horsepower. The Acura MDX gets 253HP from 3.5L. The Nissan Altima gets 265 from 3.5L.
Those of us at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice were wondering if Ford just didn’t get it. Couldn’t they read competitive specifications?
Ford’s New 3.5L V6 Gets 265-Horsepower
Well, Ford finally has let the “official horsepower” number slip and it’s good news. The 3.5L V6 gets 265-horsepower on regular grade fuel. That means the first vehicles to get it should feel pretty darn nice. Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKZ all get the new powerplant. And, Ford says that the 3.5L will be its high volume powerplant of the future.
Hope it feels as good as it sounds.
Special Editions and Hertz Rentals
Part of Ford’s strategy to keep Mustang fresh involves special editions rather than a specific facelift or minor change. Implementing the strategy included Ford’s introduction at the 2006 New York auto show of a Mustang being built specifically for the Hertz rental fleet, with the help of Carroll Shelby. About 500 examples of the Shelby Mustang GT-H will be built and put in service through Hertz‘s Fun Collection in rental fleets across the nation. Just to make sure they are easily to spot, they are painted black with gold stripes, the colors of Hertz. This is a partner project between Ford, Shelby Automobiles, and the Hertz Corporation. Ford supplies the V8 Mustang to Shelby Automobiles, where the Shelby and Ford Racing Performance Parts are installed, and then Hertz rents the cars. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice contributors were in New York for the show, and here are some pictures and information we found.
Nissan GT-R Comes to the States
GT-R Was Almost an Infiniti
Video racing games and word-of-mouth have elevated prior generations of the Nissan Skyline GT-R to iconic status, though the entry has not yet been offered in the States. This finally changes with the new GT-R. Though Nissan looked long and hard at bringing the GT-R to the States through the Infiniti channel, tradition won out. At the 2006 New York auto show, Nissan announced the 2009 Nissan GT-R will arrive in North American Nissan dealers in spring 2008. A concept version was shown at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were there to see it, and here’s how it looked on Nissan’s home-turf stand.
Before the announcement, speculation reported the car as both a Nissan and an Infiniti. The primary benefit for putting the car in the hands of Infiniti dealers was the luxury brand experience and that Infiniti dealers are better-equipped to deal with customers looking for a relatively expensive, high-end sports car. Nissan has the 350Z, which comes with a base price just above $40,000 when the convertible is selected. The production GT-R is likely to play in a price range closer to Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper.
Based on the same platform that spawned the Nissan 350Z, Infiniti G35, and Infiniti FX SUV, the GT-R promises to capable of taking on the likes of the Lexus SC430 and Cadillac XLR. Styling is distinct from the G35/Skyline to help enable dramatically different positioning.
Standard and Optional Features Should Significantly Reduce Accidents Small and Large
Counterpoint – the Devil’s Advocate
Though not all of the details have been revealed regarding the fourth-generation Lexus LS sedan, at the Detroit auto show Lexus uncovered styling and gave us a peek at some new luxury features. In Geneva, more information on the big car’s safety systems was revealed. Just around the corner, at the New York auto show in April, the LS hybrid will be unveiled. Lexus has also announced that the new LS will be offered in two wheelbase lengths, something new to the Lexus strategy but which entries like the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class long have done (although Mercedes sells only the long wheelbase version of the S-Class in the USA). AutoPacific and Vehicle Voice give you a brief preview of some of the upcoming wow! systems Lexus buyers will soon get to choose from.
After you read the following summary of the technology coming on the 2007 Lexus LS, ask yourself these questions, “Is this technology necessary? Will this technology significantly enhance the driving experience? How expensive will all these wow! systems be? How reliable will they be? Are Lexus engineers answering questions no one is asking?”
In AutoPacific research there appears to be an undercurrent that some drivers are beginning to push back at technology that tries to do too much. “Why do I need that,” one Mercedes driver may ask. A 7-Series driver brags that they have mastered the audio functions of iDrive after owning the car for five months and is looking forward to now learning how to learn the navigation functions. A Mercedes driver complains that the “car is taking over control” and says he’ll buy something different next time. Then, there is the luxury car owner that asks, “Why is a $25,000 car like the Honda Accord never in the shop, but my $70,000 7-Series always there?” Technology needed? Or technology run amok?
When you ask someone to name the most remarkable aspect of an electric car, they typically reply with one of three answers:
- Electric cars free us from oil
- Electric cars are expensive
- Electric cars are slow
Well, what if you were to learn that some of the latest battery-driven sedans, coupes and convertibles were not only electric, but faster than a Corvette or a Porsche? We’re kidding, right?
No, we’re not.
Let’s Talk Cars: Gadget Special Report – Part I
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While the Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in the Fall may be like a candy store to car guys, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is its equivalent to electronics geeks – NOT GEEKS – they are our friends! IN fact, at CES automotive electronics is a major, major feature with one building full of displays focusing on car stuff (with the traditional bling, babes and blaring).
With portable DVD players, built-in MP3 capability and surround sound speakers, our cars are quickly becoming rolling entertainment centers. In the first of three special reports from the Consumer Electronics Show, VehicleVoice takes a look at some ground-breaking new multimedia gadgets for your car. Our three featured interviews are with Delphi Electronics, TomTom and Scosche.
01:19 Delphi’s Automotive Streaming Media: Ken Erickson, Integrated Media Systems, Delphi
09:53 TomTom’s New Portable Navigation System: Anne Louise Hanstad, Vice President of Marketing, TomTom
16:34 Scosche’s Bluetooth Transmitter: Marketing Administrator, Scosche
Aston Martin May Beat Porsche Panamera to Market
At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Aston Martin unveiled a concept called Rapide. Within a month or so of the introduction, suppliers confirmed to Automotive News reporters production is being planned for summer 2007. Aston could bring out its new sports car two model years ahead of the Porsche Panamera, due in 2009CY for 2010MY. Reports are that Aston is planning to build 3,000 to 3,500 units annually, compared with the Porsche’s 20,000-unit target. Comparing the Porsche to the Aston Martin is a touch misleading, however, as the Aston is likely to command a transaction price comfortably above the Porsche. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand when the Rapide was unveiled complete with a designer pooch. We’ll take the car, you can have the dog.
The addition of the Aston Martin Rapide will give luxury-minded buyers several four-seat, grand touring entries to choose from by the end of the decade, whether two doors like the BMW 6-Series and Bentley Continental GT or four doors like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera, and Aston Martin Rapide. Though not necessarily direct competitors, entries like these similar philosophies, with seductively gorgeous exteriors, pampering and sumptuous interiors, more power than you ever need, and a driving experience tuned for the grand touring side of life as much as the sporting side. These aren’t racing cars barely dressed for the street like a Dodge Viper or Porsche Carrera GT, though they have enough power to win most stoplight challenges.
The January 2006 report issued by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) concludes that larger vehicles are safer than smaller ones. DUH! It took a six page pdf report written by a government contractor from URC Enterprises to summarize crash statistics from 1997 through 2004 to reconfirm the basic equation in physics – F=MA (force equals mass times acceleration).
In a time when more people may be considering smaller cars to offset the skyrocketing cost of fuel, new small B-Segment entries like the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Honda_Fit are being introduced. These cars meet the need for small, fuel efficient transportation and certainly carry impressive safety credentials like crush zones and air bags galore. Even our own VehicleVoice survey research shows that that there is increased consideration for small cars these days. So, what’s the right thing to do?
Well, as the government report confirms, F still equal MA.