Car & Driver

Subscribe to Car & Driver feed
Car and Driver occupies a special place in the world of automotive magazines, a position earned by a unique combination of dedication, style, technical expertise, and the ability to put our readers in the driver’s seat. Once they’re in that seat, we do our best to see that they learn something of use. And that they enjoy themselves.
Updated: 1 day 8 hours ago

Looking for an EV? Here's Every 2019 and 2020 Electric Car and SUV

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 19:11
2019 Audi e-tron

New this year, the five-passenger, all-wheel-drive Audi e-tron is larger than the brand's compact Q5 crossover yet smaller than the mid-size, three-row Q7. The e-tron shares most of its basic styling cues with the blocky Q8, meaning that it looks largely like a normal vehicle. (Audi intentionally is chasing EV intenders spooked by upstart automakers or conspicuously strange styling.) The SUV's two electric motors are fed by a 95.0-kWh battery pack and produce a combined output of 402 horsepower. Audi estimates that the e-tron's driving range is 204 miles, and the EPA estimates its combined efficiency at 74 MPGe (for more on miles per gallon equivalent, here is our explainer).

Audi2019 Audi e-tron

  • Base price: $75,795
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 74 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 204 miles
  • Audi2019 BMW i3

    BMW's i3 has been around since 2014. The design no longer appears as radical as it did then, but the rear-wheel-drive, four-seat hatchback with suicide-style rear doors is undeniably funky. Its body structure is even made of an exotic carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic to save weight. Mechanically, the i3 isn't quite as distinguished. Its 42.2-kWh battery pack and electric motor generate 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque—typical gasoline-powered compact-car numbers—while the driving range is claimed to be just 153 miles. If you'd like more range, BMW sells a version with a gasoline-fueled onboard generator that extends the total range to 200 miles, but that doesn't count as a full EV.

    BMW2019 BMW i3

  • Base price: $45,445
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 113 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 153 miles
  • BMW2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    When it comes to balancing purchase price with driving range, Chevy's Bolt is one of the best values in the EV space. The four-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback seats five, can be driven about 238 miles on a charge, and is priced as low as $37,495. Tesla's Model 3 achieves similar range but costs slightly more. The Bolt isn't as high-performance as the Tesla, being powered by a single 200-hp electric motor (it makes 266 lb-ft of torque), but it's sprightly around town and delivers solid range from its 60.0-kWh battery pack. Next year, that range improves to a whopping 259 miles.

    Chevrolet2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV

  • Base price: $37,495
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 119 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 238 miles
  • Chevrolet2019 Fiat 500e

    The $34,705 Fiat 500e is one of the smallest and least expensive EVs available, as well as one of the cutest. Only available for sale in California and Oregon, the Fiat is powered by a 111-hp electric motor and uses a small 24.0-kWh battery pack. Efficiency is estimated at 112 MPGe, but the estimated driving range is a paltry 84 miles per charge.

    Fiat2019 Fiat 500e

  • Base price: $34,705
  • Available nationwide? No
  • Efficiency: 112 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 84 miles
  • Fiat2019 Honda Clarity EV

    Like the Fiat, the Honda Clarity EV is only available in California and Oregon. It's also only available for lease, as in, you can't actually purchase one. As of this writing, the lease involves $1799 due at signing and monthly payments of $199 (before tax) for 36 months. The Clarity isn't beautiful, but it is spacious, with one of the most commodious rear seats in the EV segment. Unfortunately, its driving range of 89 miles ranks near the bottom of the class, thanks to its small, 25.5-kWh battery pack, and its electric motor makes a so-so 161 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque.

    Honda2019 Honda Clarity EV

  • Base price: For lease only, $199/month with $1799 down
  • Available nationwide? No
  • Efficiency: 114 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 89 miles
  • Honda2019 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

    The Hyundai Ioniq Electric can be bought or leased, but it's only available for sale in California, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The four-door hatchback starts at $31,245 and delivers 124 miles of range per charge. Its 118-hp electric motor drives its front wheels, and its battery pack is small, with a capacity of only 28.0 kWh. Still, the Ioniq package is useful, with plenty of space in the front and rear seats and a large cargo hold—plus, it's fairly normal-looking, unlike the similarly shaped Toyota Prius hybrid that the Ioniq family is modeled after (the Ioniq is also available in gas-electric-hybrid and plug-in-hybrid iterations).

    Hyundai2019 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

  • Base price: $31,245
  • Available nationwide? No
  • Efficiency: 136 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 124 miles
  • Hyundai2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

    The Kona Electric is a small electric crossover based on our current favorite subcompact SUV, the gasoline-fed Hyundai Kona. It is only available in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It has a substantial 201 horsepower and its 64.0-kWh battery pack provides an impressive 258 miles of EPA-estimated driving range, all for a base price of less than $40,000.

    Hyundai2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

  • Base price: $38,045
  • Available nationwide? No
  • Efficiency: 120 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 258 miles
  • Hyundai2019 Jaguar I-Pace

    Jaguar's I-Pace takes on Tesla in the luxury-EV space, and it's a compelling alternative, based on looks alone. This sharp, low-slung, five-passenger SUV backs up its style with a 90.0-kWh battery pack, all-wheel drive, and two electric motors generating 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque. Driving range stands at 234 miles, but its battery pack's efficiency is low, at just 76 MPGe, and we've had issues with long charging times in our testing.

    Jaguar2019 Jaguar I-Pace

  • Base price: $70,495
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 76 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 234 miles
  • Jaguar2019 Kia Niro Electric

    This front-wheel-drive, four-door Kia Niro is an electric hatchback with SUV aspirations. It shares its 201-hp electric motor and 64.0-kWh battery pack with the Hyundai Kona Electric. Here, the combination delivers a slightly lower 239 miles of driving range, as well as a less lustrous 112 MPGe. The base price is, strangely, slightly higher than the Kona's, at $39,545, but, like the Hyundai, Niro EV sales are limited. It's available in only 13 states—California and the other ZEV states, along with Georgia, Hawaii, Texas, and Washington. The Niro also is available in gas-electric-hybrid and plug-in-hybrid forms.

    Kia2019 Kia Niro Electric

  • Base price: $39,545
  • Available nationwide? No
  • Efficiency: 112 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 239 miles
  • Kia2020 Kia Soul EV

    The redesigned 2020 Kia Soul EV also uses Hyundai's 201-hp electric motor and 64.0-kWh battery pack—the same found in the Kona and Kia Niro Electric—which gives it a big boost in driving range and performance relative to the original Soul EV. Interestingly, despite its boxier shape, the Soul posts a better driving-range figure (243 miles) than the smoother, more aerodynamic-appearing Kia Niro. Unfortunately, the Soul EV will only be available in 13 states, while its direct rival, the Chevy Bolt, is sold nationwide.

    Kia2020 Kia Soul EV

  • Base price: $37,500 (estimated)
  • Available nationwide? No
  • Efficiency: 114 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 243 miles
  • Kia2019 Nissan Leaf

    Nissan's original Leaf was one of the first mainstream, affordable EVs sold in the United States. This is the second-generation follow-up, and it's now available with two different battery packs. The entry-level, 147-hp Leaf comes with a 40.0-kWh unit and runs $30,885, which buys you an estimated range of 150 miles and 112 MPGe. The 214-hp, $37,445 Leaf S Plus gets a 62.0-kWh battery pack, which increases its range to 226 miles but lowers MPGe to 108.

    Nissan2019 Nissan Leaf

  • Base price: $30,885
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 108–112 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 150–226 miles
  • Nissan2019 Smart EQ Fortwo

    Need some Smart advice? You can no longer purchase a gas-powered Smart in the United States. Only the electric versions of the teeny two-door Fortwo coupe and convertible models are available here, and soon, you won't be able to purchase any Smart here—the entire brand is leaving the United States at the end of the year. For now, though, the Smart EQ Fortwo cabriolet is the only droptop on this list. The Smart EQ is also the least powerful EV available (only 80 horsepower!), and it has the shortest driving range (a teensy 58 miles for the coupe). Speed is not its forte; the EQ requires more than 10 seconds to reach 60 mph, and its top speed is just 81 mph.

    Smart2019 Smart EQ Fortwo

  • Base price: $24,650
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 102–108 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 57–58 miles
  • Smart2019 Tesla Model 3

    Tesla's smallest and least expensive car is also its most popular. The five-passenger Model 3 sedan is about the size of a BMW 3-series, and it has a traditional trunk, unlike the larger Model S, which is a hatchback. Prices start at $40,190 for the rear-wheel-drive Standard Plus model (although those prices are constantly changing), which buys you a 240-mile range. Part of the base Model 3's appeal is that it's not lame to behold and sits on the quicker end of the electric-car spectrum, with a claimed zero-to-60-mph time of 5.3 seconds. The hotter, all-wheel-drive, dual-motor Long Range and Performance models hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and 3.2 seconds (in factory testing), and offer 310 miles of range. They also cost significantly more, running $49,190 for the Long Range and $57,190 for the Performance.

    Tesla2019 Tesla Model 3

  • Base price: $40,190
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 116–131 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 240–310 miles
  • Tesla2019 Tesla Model S

    About the size of BMW's mid-size 5-series, the Model S was Tesla's first passenger car when it debuted for 2013—and it hasn't changed much since. Nevertheless, it remains one of America's most popular EVs, as well as one of its quickest, and is capable of the longest range per charge. Two all-wheel-drive models are available. The $81,190 Model S Long Range lives up to its name with a range of 370 miles, a combined rating of 111 MPGe, and the ability to reach 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds (as claimed by Tesla). The $101,190 Model S Performance is claimed to reach 60 mph in an incredible 2.4 seconds and has a range of 345 miles. Its combined efficiency rating is slightly lower, at 104 MPGe.

    Tesla2019 Tesla Model S

  • Base price: $81,190
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 104–111 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 345–370 miles
  • Tesla2019 Tesla Model X

    The Tesla Model X is the world's best-selling all-electric SUV. It seats up to seven, and it is as well-known for its power-operated Falcon Wing rear doors (pictured) as it is for its impressive performance and range. Two models are offered, the $86,190 Long Range with a 96-MPGe rating and 325 miles of driving range, and the $106,190 Performance, which has a 97-MPGe rating and 305 miles of driving range. Both are all-wheel drive, and according to Tesla, the Long Range hits 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, while the Performance drops that time to only 2.7 seconds, making it the quickest SUV on earth.

    Tesla2019 Tesla Model X

  • Base price: $86,190
  • Available nationwide? Yes
  • Efficiency: 96–97 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 305–325 miles
  • Tesla2019 Volkswagen e-Golf

    Volkswagen may be gearing up for an all-out EV assault in the coming years, but today its only EV is this, the e-Golf. Basically, the e-Golf is VW's popular, mainstream, four-door, front-wheel-drive Golf hatchback with the gasoline-engine bits removed and a 134-hp electric motor and a small 35.8-kWh battery pack installed in their place. Like most EVs converted from traditional gas-powered vehicles, the VW's range is limited; it is capable of an EPA-estimated 125 miles between charges. On the upside, the e-Golf drives much like a regular Golf, which is to say quietly and in an upscale manner.

    Volkswagen2019 Volkswagen e-Golf

  • Base price: $32,790
  • Available nationwide? No
  • Efficiency: 119 MPGe
  • EPA driving range: 125 miles
  • Volkswagen

    Tesla Backs Car Insurance for California Owners and Promises Rate Cuts

    Thu, 08/29/2019 - 17:08
    • Tesla will offer car insurance for any new or current Tesla owner through a company-backed broker in California.
    • The EV maker says it will not use owners' driving data to determine rates, although the insurance company that underwrites the policies has suggested it would do so.
    • The EV maker does say it will offer rate cuts as high as 30 percent over other insurers in the state.

    Between its perfect weather and incredible back roads, California is still a great state to own a Tesla without even factoring in the EV-friendly legislature. Now there's another reason, as California Tesla owners with outrageously priced homes know all too well: car insurance.

    After toying with a factory-backed insurance plan for two years, Tesla Insurance is now a legit entity in California promising rate cuts of up to 30 percent. Unlike short-lived plans offered through Liberty Mutual in 2017, Tesla Insurance is a separate company set up to broker for State National Insurance Company, according to Reuters. Tesla claims that its driver assists, which are standard across its three-car lineup, have proven to lower insurance claims, thus it claims to offer lower-cost insurance rates. The insurance is open to any Tesla owner in California, with or without those assists, including the original Roadster. Costs are completely up in the air, just like any insurance policy, which must factor age, location, gender, and other actuarial data points that try to predict your entire life's future on a spreadsheet.

    With regard to data, Tesla says it won't track your personal driving data to determine insurance rates—although the company's filing with the state's insurance board suggests it would. Keep in mind that Tesla downloads video and sensor data from every owner's car to improve its Autopilot functions, and it also has access to charging usage and anything else connected to a computer.

    Whether Tesla drivers crash less often or make fewer insurance claims than the average driver is unproven. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), using limited data from mileage and airbag deployments provided by Tesla, said in 2017 that Model S and Model X drivers were crashing "38 percent less often" since the company introduced Autopilot with its Autosteer lane-centering feature. That's the feature that has convinced enough owners to fall asleep, text, or die in accidents under misguided assumptions that Autopilot is fully self-driving.

    Studies, including those from AAA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have varied as to whether Tesla insurance claims are higher or lower than those for comparable luxury vehicles, depending on what pool of drivers in all 50 states the researchers chose to study. But regardless, any new car that costs upward of $70,000 and often trends past $100,000 is going to be more expensive to insure than the average new vehicle. Repairing a Tesla, which is still a comparatively low-volume vehicle with expensive proprietary electronics, is often impossible at independent shops. Just look at the curved windshield of a Model X. If you buy a Tesla, you're not buying aftermarket parts, and neither can your insurance company.

    Tesla says it will expand insurance to other states, but first, we'll wait to see whether California customers come out saying they've saved money.

    The 10 Least Expensive New Mid-Size SUVs to Own

    Thu, 08/29/2019 - 16:02
    1. 2019 Dodge Journey SE - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $33,331

    MSRP: $24,740 Engine:2.5-liter inline-4 EPA Combined: 21 mpg

    While the Journey is undeniably outdated, it remains a very affordable alternative to newer rivals. And despite an unspectacular interior and weak handling, the Dodge’s three-row seating and user-friendly infotainment are plusses. We would point out that while this flavor of the Journey is a bargain, it has less cargo space than other three-row competitors.

    Dodge2. 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe SE - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $34,289

    MSRP: $26,995 Engine: 2.4-liter inline-4 EPA Combined: 25 mpg

    Formerly known as the Santa Fe Sport, the two-row Santa Fe was all-new for 2019. The Santa Fe is stylish inside and out and is packed with features. Modest power and good fuel economy are provided by its 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which is mated with a relatively sophisticated eight-speed automatic. The Santa Fe is a solid choice.

    Hyundai3. 2019 Kia Sorento L - 3 - Year Ownership Cost: $34,629

    MSRP: $27,335 Engine: 2.4-liter inline-4 EPA Combined: 25 mpg

    The Sorento has a comfortable cabin, nicely chosen interior materials, good cargo space and generous standard connectivity equipment. It rides well, but its base four-cylinder engine is not particularly strong. Its tight third row can only be accessed from the passenger side, a definite drawback.

    Kia4. 2020 Chevrolet Blazer L - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $37,477

    MSRP: $29,995 Engine: 2.5-liter inline-4 EPA Combined: 24 mpg

    The Blazer has a low roof and a high waistline, seemingly odd choices in a segment where high seating and good visibility are desired. The base model has cloth seats, and big serving of gray in­teri­or plastics. But the back seat is spacious, it's got plenty of cubby storage to drive, and has a good infotainment system.

    Chevrolet5. 2020 GMC Acadia SL - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $39,121

    MSRP: $30,995 Engine: 2.5-liter inline-4 EPA Combined: 23 mpg

    Sharp styling, a solid infotainment system, and room for seven passengers make the Acadia a worthy family hauler—though the third row is tight for adults. GMC’s mid-size crossover was all-new for 2017 and sports a host of modernized features that make it better by leaps and bounds than the larger SUV it replaced.

    GMC6. 2020 Ford Edge SE - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $39,490

    MSRP: $32,195 Engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 EPA Combined: 25 mpg

    The two-row Edge has a roomy interior, a supple ride, and an easy-to-use infotainment system. But the modern and sporty exterior writes acceleration and handling checks that the base engine and suspension can’t cash. Its warranty coverage doesn't match up to the best in the business, either.

    Ford7. 2020 Chevrolet Traverse L - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $39,586

    MSRP: $30,995 Engine: 3.6-liter V-6 EPA Combined: 21 mpg

    If interior room matters, the three-row Traverse has what it takes to seat eight and carry tons of gear. The V6 driveline is strong enough, and the suspension provides good handling with a sweet ride, but visibility to the rear is a weak point. And parking this jumbo SUV in your garage won't leave much extra space.

    Chevrolet8. 2019 Nissan Murano S - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $40,101

    MSRP: $32,415 Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 EPA Combined: 23 mpg

    This Murano is easily the most fashion-forward of this group of affordable mid-sizers. Inside this two-row SUV you'll find a stylish, plush cabin with lots of standard features. It doesn't drive as sporty as it looks, however. Despite its strong 260-hp V-6, it will only tow 1500 pounds, and its handling is uninspired.

    Nissan9. 2019 Volkswagen Atlas S - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $40,238

    MSRP: $31,890 Engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 EPA Combined: 22 mpg

    Size is the Atlas' special strength. Big and boxy, the three-row has one of the roomiest interiors in the class. Acceleration and fuel economy from the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 are decent and the ride is smooth and easy. The interior is a touch plain, but the standard infotainment system is feature-rich.

    Volkswagen10. 2020 Dodge Durango SXT - 3-Year Ownership Cost: $40,581

    MSRP: $31,990 Engine: 3.6-liter V6 EPA Combined: 21 mpg

    We really like this three-row SUV's muscle-truck look. But along with that comes less passenger and rear-cargo space than most rivals offer, difficult third-row access, and a 293-hp V-6 that's strong but thirsty. The Durango is entertaining to drive and yet delivers a smooth ride. The interior design is straightforward and has an intuitive infotainment system.


    This Might Be the Most Extreme Ford Taurus on the Planet

    Thu, 08/29/2019 - 15:25

    Front-wheel-drive cars might not be the most logical choice for the drag strip, but as we've seen time and time again, there are plenty of formidable front-drivers that dominate at the drag strip. This Ford Taurus SHO is no exception.

    The 1320video YouTube caught up with Zach, owner and driver of what is arguably the most extreme Taurus on the planet. It has a Yamaha V-6 engine with high-strength internals paired with a 72-mm Precision turbocharger, getting power to the front wheels via a five-speed H-pattern manual gearbox. Thanks to an intake mounted where the passenger's-side headlight used to be and a custom two-piece manifold, it's said to make 1000 horsepower, which is a whole lot.

    Zach was able to run a best time of 9.65 seconds in the quarter-mile at 160 mph at the Street Car Takeover event that took place at Bandimere Speedway in Denver this past July, reaching his goal of breaking into the nines. We have a feeling he'll only get quicker from here.

    Limited-Edition Mopar '19 Dodge Challenger Commemorates a Decade of Factory Customs

    Thu, 08/29/2019 - 14:10
    • Production will be limited to 100 units, with 90 vehicles designated for the U.S market and 10 for Canada.
    • Priced at $47,330, with ordering opening in September and vehicles arriving in dealerships in the fourth quarter.
    • Purchase is accompanied with an Owner’s Kit that includes a "birth certificate" with the exact date of manufacture and proprietary build number.

    The latest entry in the league of factory-built, limited-edition vehicles cooked up by Dodge and Mopar, FCA's service, parts and customer-care division, the '19 Mopar Challenger offers buyers a chance to get their hands on a personalized vehicle without getting them dirty.

    This is the 10th vehicle to emerge from the limited-edition program. The Mopar ’19 Dodge Challenger is based on the Challenger R/T Scat Pack model. That means a 475-hp 392-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 under the hood with six-speed manual offered as the standard transmission; the eight-speed automatic is optional. Silver-hued strut tower braces contribute to chassis rigidity, and silver-hued strut caps add under hood visual appeal. Red Brembo calipers reside at all four corners.

    Available in either White Knuckle or Pitch Black, the Mopar '19 Challenger gets the Shaker hood package complete with asymmetrical blue strips from the Shakedown graphics package. Functional—but likely redundant—hood pins and a unique badge on the decklid spoiler contribute to the exterior look. Standard 20-inch forged aluminum wheels get Mopar center caps and valve stem caps. Interior bits include a two-tone embroidered Mopar logo on the seatbacks, an instrument panel badge on the passenger side air vent, Berber floor mats and polished sill guards with a Challenger logo.

    As is the case with most limited-run muscle cars, they'll likely be more than enough buyers waving checkbooks than there are available cars. Buyers determined to get their hands be one of the 100 Mopar '19 Challengers will want to contact their dealer sooner than later.

    Nissan's Newest Self-Driving Tech Helps Golf Balls Find the Hole Every Single Time

    Thu, 08/29/2019 - 01:00
    • A video of a toddler making a difficult putt shows the ball—with a monitoring system that determines the route—in action.

    Here's a video that will delight frustrated golfers and autonomous driving aficionados alike.

    Nissan has developed high-tech golf balls that find the hole no matter how poorly they are hit, demonstrated in this clip of a four-year-old who putts about as well as your old boss.

    As Automotive News explained it, the ball operates via an overhead camera that detects the position of the ball and cup. When the ball is hit, a monitoring system calculates the correct route and adjusts its trajectory. That, plus an internal electric motor, keeps the ball on course all the way to the cup.

    So why is the Japanese automaker interested in golf all of a sudden? The never-miss ball tech is a way for them to show off its upgraded ProPilot driver assistance system, which debuts in the new Nissan Skyline sedan next month in Japan.

    Among other innovations, ProPilot 2 allows drivers to remove their hands from the wheel on designated roads if the destination has been entered into the nav system. Once activated, it will assist handle passing and lane changes as well—all in all quite similar to Tesla Autopilot.

    Let’s just hope it doesn’t drop you into a massive hole.

    2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 Is AMG's New 302-HP Baby SUV

    Wed, 08/28/2019 - 22:01
    • The GLB35 is the AMG version of Mercedes-Benz's new small GLB-class crossover.
    • It has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
    • The GLB35 will go on sale in the U.S. in mid-2020 as a 2021 model.

    Mercedes-Benz officially wants to be all things to all people: The GLA, CLA, and A-class sedan have all gotten the AMG treatment, and next up is the GLB. The new Mercedes-AMG GLB35 is a family-friendly compact seven-seat crossover—but it is powered by a 302-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that propels it from zero to 62 mph in just 5.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 155 mph.

    The torque, up to 295 lb-ft, is transmitted to all four wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The engine and transmission are tuned to produce a delightful crackle when shifting. AMG's engineering team has also made sure that this crossover can be coaxed into a drift with relative ease, as up to 50 percent of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels. An AMG-specific high-performance braking system is standard.

    Depending on the market, the wheel portfolio ranges from 19 to 21 inches, and that is not the only remarkable design feature of the Mercedes-AMG GLB35: It is the first AMG "35" mid-range model that wears an aggressive grille with vertical chrome teeth. It sure looks impressive, but we are not sure what to deduce from this: We think it means that there may not be a higher-powered AMG GLB45, contrary to speculation. Or, it is just a further blurring of design distinctions.

    The GLB35 also has a front splitter, a roof spoiler, and a rear bumper with dual exhaust tips. Inside, the sporty attitude is mirrored with microfiber materials, an AMG-specific steering wheel, a digital gauge cluster that includes the futuristic "Supersport" display, and the fussy MBUX touchpad on the center console. Like the standard GLB, the GLB35 has a large and easily accessible trunk, as well as a standard third row of seats that increases passenger capacity to seven.

    The Mercedes-AMG GLB35 will come to the US market in mid-2020 as a 2021 model, and pricing is not available yet. We are told the U.S. will be its most important market, and with its combination of capability and performance, it may well find a comfortable and profitable niche.

    Porsche's Macan Turbo Is Back with 434 HP and Fancy New Brakes

    Wed, 08/28/2019 - 22:01
    • The Porsche Macan Turbo rejoins the Macan lineup for 2020 after a one-year hiatus.
    • It has a new, smaller engine that is up 34 horsepower over the one it replaces.
    • Look for the new Macan Turbo to appear in dealerships before the end of 2019, priced starting just under $85,000.

    When Porsche lightly updated its Macan crossover last year, information on the range-topping Turbo model was conspicuously missing. Turns out, that's because the newest version of the mighty Turbo was being reserved for the 2020 model year—when it rejoins the base Macan and the S after a brief hiatus.

    Welcome back, Turbo.

    As before, the Turbo is, um, turbocharged—to be fair, so is every other Macan—but it has swapped its twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 for a new twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 shared with versions of the larger Cayenne SUV and the Panamera. The new V-6 makes 434 horsepower, or 34 more than the old 3.6-liter engine; its output falls just six ponies shy of the 440 horsepower in the outgoing Macan Turbo with the optional Performance package.

    Either way, that's a lot of cheese, and Porsche claims that it's enough to punt the all-wheel-drive Macan Turbo to 60 mph 0.3 second quicker than before. That places the regular Turbo at 4.3 seconds, according to Porsche, and the version equipped with the Sport Chrono package at 4.1. Per usual, those figures are likely very conservative. A 2015 Macan Turbo we tested hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, while the 440-hp Performance package model (remember, the one with only 6 hp more than this '20 Turbo) did the deed in 3.7 seconds. We can possibly expect the new Turbo to break into the 3.0-second space. Oh, and top speed is up 3 mph, for those who care that their compact luxury crossover can do 167 mph.

    Porsche has added quite a lot of standard equipment to the Turbo as well. The brand's new Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) are included (the rotors have a special layer of tungsten carbide that reduces brake dust), as is a sport exhaust system. An adaptive suspension, 20-inch wheels, Turbo-specific front bumper, LED headlights, 18-way power sport seats, Bose audio system, and a faux-suede headliner are all part of the Turbo mix. (The Turbo also receives the same new full-width taillights as the 2019 Macan and Macan S.) That almost makes the most powerful, most expensive Macan (for now) a good value. We say "almost" because the 2020 Macan Turbo starts at $84,950.

    Here's Your First Look at the 2021 Formula 1 Car Design

    Wed, 08/28/2019 - 18:26

    The 2021 Formula 1 regulations promise big changes for the sport, with goals of making passing on track easier and reducing costs for teams. The cars are getting a new set of rules that will redefine how the cars are shaped and alter how much the teams can tinker with things like aero. Now we get to see the 2021 F1 car design .

    Formula 1 released a video recently that shows a 50 percent sized model of a 2021 Formula 1 car testing at Sauber's wind tunnel in Switzerland. The design isn't exactly finalized—F1 says the front wing will evolve as testing goes on—but things like the side pods and rear wing are expected to stay the same. We also get a look at the new 18-inch wheels, which will replace the comparatively tiny 13-inch units used on the current cars.

    As before, Formula 1 says the main goal for the 2021 design is to reduce the car's wake disruption through the air with the goal of making races more appealing. Today's cars have a disruption level of 50 percent, making it difficult for the following car to get close and pass. As a result, there is less close racing and fewer passes, making for less exciting racing. Formula 1 says these new cars will have just a 5 to 10 percent wake disruption. So hopefully, we should get some better racing once the rules take effect.

    The results are “actually beyond what I thought we could achieve when we started the project," says F1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds. “With the configurations we have got at the moment, the results are exceptional," he added.

    Jessi Combs, Fastest Woman on Four Wheels, Dead at 39

    Wed, 08/28/2019 - 17:19
    • Land-speed racer Jessi Combs died on Tuesday in Oregon while trying for a new record as a driver with the North American Eagle team.
    • Combs had been attempting to break 512 mph, according to an Instagram post on Sunday, August 25.
    • Combs was also a successful off-road racer, a custom automotive fabricator, and a TV host.

    Jessi Combs, an automotive fabricator, television host, off-road racer, and popularly known as the Fastest Woman on Four Wheels, was killed in a crash on Tuesday as she attempted to break her own land-speed record. Combs was 36 years old.

    The crash occurred on a dry lake bed in Oregon's Alvord Desert. Combs was behind the wheel of the four-wheeled, 52,000-hp reconfigured F-104 jet that she used to break the previous women's four-wheeled speed record in 2013, with a 393-mph effort. She broke 440 mph in the vehicle in 2016, but mechanical problems stopped the attempt short before she could break her own record. Official land-speed records require two runs in opposite directions on a mile-long course. Combs indicated in an Instagram post on Sunday that she was hoping to break 512 mph.

    View this post on Instagram

    It may seem a little crazy to walk directly into the line of fire... those who are willing, are those who achieve great things. . . People say I’m crazy. I say thank you ;) . . . #fastestwomanonearth #almost #fasterthanfast #jetcar #afterburner #landpseed @landspeed763 #iwillgofaster #gottabreak512 #aimingfor619 #currentlyat483 #northamericaneagle #i❤️afterburners

    A post shared by Jessi Combs (@thejessicombs) on Aug 24, 2019 at 2:22pm PDT

    In addition to her speed records, Combs had a degree in custom automotive fabrication and a distinguished career in off-road racing. She had two podium finishes in the Baja 1000, finished in the top 10 at the Rally of the Gazelles, and was the 2014 national champion of the Ultra4 off-road racing series. Combs hosted the automotive bucket-list TV show The List for Autoblog and appeared in Velocity's All Girls Garage, Discovery's Mythbusters, and several other shows.

    The video below from 2015 shows Combs talking about her love of the sport and inside the North American Eagle record car. "I'm not afraid of dying," she said. "I don't want to die, but I'm not afraid of it . . . I just go, and I don't let up until I have to . . . Let this be a testament that girls can do anything we want to."

    Details of the crash have not yet been released, but Combs's family confirmed her death in a statement. "Jessi's most notable dream was to become the fastest woman on earth, a dream she had been chasing since 2012," they wrote. "She left this earth driving faster than any other woman in history."

    What We Know about the Flat-Plane-Crank V-8 That Will Power the C8 Corvette Z06, ZR1, and Hybrid

    Wed, 08/28/2019 - 17:18
    • The 2020 C8 Corvette Stingray has arrived, but there will be many more high-performance Corvette models to come.
    • We expect that the Z06, ZR1, and hybrid versions will use a 5.5-liter flat-plane-crank V-8 engine in various states of tune, making between 600 and 1000 horsepower.
    • The Z06 is likely to arrive first, possibly sometime in 2020, with the ZR1 and hybrid versions to follow.

    The 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 engine in the new 2020 Corvette Stingray is just the beginning of the C8 Corvette's story. Numerous higher-performance variants, wearing the expected Z06 and ZR1 nomenclature, are in the works. They will each depend on a new flat-plane-crank V-8 that will take the Corvette to new heights. We first reported on this future engine last year before the Corvette made its official debut—and Motor Trend and others have been talking about it this week. Here's everything we know about it to date.

    The all-new 32-valve flat-plane-crank V-8 has been under development within General Motors for several years. This is not an offshoot of the 4.2-liter Cadillac Blackwing V-8, but rather an entirely new engine inspired by the Wagnerian exhaust notes of cars like Ferraris and McLarens.

    The new engine is expected to be 5.5 liters in displacement and have a firing order that mimic the Italian and British supercars'—which produce a richer, deeper wail than the shriek of Ford's flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter Voodoo engine in the Mustang Shelby GT350.

    Corvette Z06

    We expect the C8 Corvette Z06 will use a naturally aspirated version of the engine that will supposedly rev to 8600 rpm and develop in excess of 600 horsepower, a power figure that's credible given the Voodoo's power rating and 8250-rpm redline. (More revs equal more power per liter.) It is rumored that GM engineers had designed the motor to spin to 9000 rpm, but that design elements of the Tremec-built dual-clutch automatic transmission—the same one that will be standard across all versions of the C8—restricted the redline to the lower number.

    This engine will help the Z06 return to its roots as a lightweight, naturally aspirated, high-revving, rear-drive, track-focused car. We believe that, as in our illustration above, it will have a wider body than the standard Stingray to cover its wider wheels and tires.

    Corvette ZR1

    The ZR1 will be the big daddy of Vettes, and its twin-turbocharged version of the flat-plane crank engine can be expected to put out well over 800 horsepower. It will likely not have as high a redline as the Z06. It will be rear-wheel drive and have a movable rear wing, along with a front suspension that can automatically adjust ride height with speed to move the center of pressure and increase downforce for optimum handling balance. It will probably be the quickest C8 around the Nürburgring, but not the fastest in a straight line.

    Corvette Hybrid

    That Nürburgring honor will go to the hybrid version of the C8, rumored to be called eRay or Zora. It will have a powerful electric motor where the front trunk is in other models (see cutaway, above), which powers the front wheels independently of the rears; the twin-turbo engine will drive the rear tires. A small battery will be housed low in the structure, possibly inside the car's central spine. Total system power is expected to approach 1000 horsepower for brief periods. The resulting all-wheel drive and instantaneous low-end torque will launch the Corvette like a rifle bullet and make it one of the quickest-accelerating cars on the planet. The extra weight from the motor and battery, however, will probably keep it from being the quickest around the 'Ring.

    Here's a Rare Look under the Skin of the Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina

    Wed, 08/28/2019 - 01:00

    As with any one-off vehicle, the chances you'll ever see the Ferrari P4/5 in person are pretty low. Your chances of seeing it without its Pininfarina-designed body panels? Even slimmer. But thanks to the power of the internet, we get to do just that.

    Jim Glickenhaus, the person who commissioned the P4/5 in the mid-2000s, shared a short video on Twitter recently with the car in pieces. He says it's being given a general once-over after nearly 20,000 miles of use in preparation for the next driving season. The front and rear clamshell have been removed so all vital components can be properly inspected. Additionally, the mid-mounted V-12 engine has been taken out for a full servicing.

    Ferrari P 4/5 by Pininfarina

    — Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus (@Glickenhaus) August 21, 2019

    Though the video is short, it's a rare chance to take a peek under the skin of the P4/5. The car, based on the Ferrari Enzo, uses the same pushrod suspension and Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes. But exterior panels are made from carbon fiber, and the interior has been redone to suit Glickenhaus's desires. There are custom seats, new paddle shifters, and a new stereo system. Road & Track drove the car a few years back alongside its race-ready sibling, the Competizione, and found it, perhaps unsurprisingly, fantastic.

    Glickenhaus uploaded an additional video to his Instagram page, detailing the extent of the engine rebuild. He cites pump gas as the reason why the valves and pistons need some attention before he take the car on any longer journeys going forward.

    View this post on Instagram

    Ferrari P 4/5 Pininfarina

    A post shared by Glickenhaus (@glickenhaus) on Aug 22, 2019 at 7:32am PDT

    2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE “Coupe” Is Portly but Powerful

    Tue, 08/27/2019 - 22:01
    • The "coupe" version of the new Mercedes-Benz GLE-class has arrived, sporting a more rakish roofline.
    • Initially available in the U.S. only as an AMG GLE53 model, the coupe comes standard with a hybridized inline-six engine making 429 horsepower.
    • The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 coupe will go on sale in the U.S. in mid-2020.

    Mercedes-Benz was late to the crossover "coupe" party. Not only did it take the brand almost seven years to come up with an appropriate response to the BMW X6, but the previous-generation GLE coupe was an afterthought that only appeared when the base model received its mid-cycle facelift (and new nomenclature).

    Given how both Audi and BMW have gone to considerable lengths to differentiate the Q8 and X6 from their more practical Q7 and X5 siblings, we find it a bit disappointing how little Mercedes has done to set apart its new GLE coupe from the regular GLE. In fact, there is little that differentiates the two body styles at first glance, even though the wheelbase of the coupe is a full 2.4 inches shorter than that of the regular GLE.

    Combined with the lower roof and and sloping posterior, it makes for a tall, stocky, and powerful appearance that hints at the considerable power hidden under the GLE coupe's hood. The taillight contours are reminiscent of the A-Class sedan's, and 21-inch wheels on appropriately thick rubber are standard. A set of 22-inch wheels is available, too.

    While Europeans can order the new GLE coupe with torquey and efficient diesel engines, the U.S. market gets only one choice: the AMG GLE53 coupe. It's powered by the same 3.0-liter inline-six found in other AMG 53 models that is fitted with a 48-volt hybrid booster. For short bursts, the system adds a further 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque to the gasoline engine, which maxes out at 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque.

    This powerplant conspires to achieve a claimed zero-to-60-mph sprint in 5.2 seconds, and top speed is an electronically governed 155 mph. Down the road, we expect AMG to add a GLE63 coupe model with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that will also offer an even more powerful GLE63 S variant.

    The AMG GLE53 coupe's torque is sent to all four wheels through a nine-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, and the performance-tuned chassis can be enhanced with the optional electromechanical Active Ride Control suspension, which aims to reduce body roll.

    The interior is available with a wealth of different color and trim options, and the MBUX infotainment system offers an AMG-specific Supersport screen. Also serving to underscore the sporting pretensions of the GLE53 is an AMG Track Pace option that includes a performance data recorder to track acceleration metrics and racetrack GPS data, and it will even record photos and videos.

    While AMG is touting the GLE53 coupe as a track-ready machine, its natural habitat is American suburbia, where it serves to fetch groceries and the kids from soccer practice. So it's good news that the new GLE coupe is more practical, too: The doors are larger, there is more legroom inside, and the loading sill of the trunk has been lowered by 2.4 inches.

    Look for this crossover to arrive at U.S. dealerships by mid-2020, with a starting price somewhere in the low-$70,000 range.

    Woman Achieves Peak Tesla, Implants Electronic Model 3 Key in Arm

    Tue, 08/27/2019 - 21:00
    • A Tesla Model 3 owner from Texas has implanted the chip from the car's key in her arm.
    • This enables the owner to enter and start her Tesla using her, um, built-in key.
    • We wouldn't implant anything inside of us, least of all not part of a Tesla, but we get that all people are different.

    Have you ever spoken with someone who owns a Tesla? They usually really really like Tesla. This next-best-thing-since-sliced-bread camp tends to have an openness to tech and isn't shy about sharing that information with you. So it should come as no surprise that one Model 3 owner from Dallas, Texas, took her Tesla love to a new level by implanting the chip from the car's valet key in her arm. You know, so she doesn't have to pull out the credit-card-shaped key and swipe it over the Model 3's door to lock or unlock it. See the full process below (trigger warning: may be a bit disturbing for some viewers).

    As she explained in an earlier video, this wasn't even a new idea for Amie Dansby; she already had an RFID implant in her hand for "basic access control" for her front door and to call up her website on her smartphone. Still she went through quite a process to get part of her Tesla's keyless entry system into her arm. Doctors and medical professionals turned her down, wary of the procedure, so she turned to a body-modification artist named "Pineapple" to do the insertion. To extract the chip she wanted implanted from the Tesla's card-shaped key, she dissolved the whole card in acetone until only the chip was left. After placing the chip in a sort of membrane—similar to a silicone, ahem, implant—it was ready for implantation beneath her skin.

    The video makes no mention of how well this works; in our experience, waving that valet key over a Tesla's door (specifically, one must rub it against the door pillar) takes several tries and can make you look rather silly. Ever been caught at the turnstile in a subway, frantically waving a transit pass to no avail? It's kind of like that, only now, we imagine, Dansby spends her time rubbing her forearm against her car like she's buffing the B-pillar. A quick side note: You can also open the Model 3 using your phone, no swiping or, um, implantations necessary—unless you count putting a phone in your pocket.

    What happens when I go through TSA with my chip implants? There is more metal in a tooth filling, your glasses or the buttons on your pants than the amount of metal in the chip implants I have. Only time I’ve ever been stopped at the airport was for all the LEGO bricks in my bag

    — Amie DD (@amiedoubleD) August 19, 2019

    Anyway, the intersectionality of Tesla ownership and medically implanted devices seems, in hindsight, totally predictable. Why hasn't Tesla thought of this? You could buy a Tesla, revel in its electric whirlygig-ness and the sense of self-satisfaction that comes with all of that, and have a helpful Tesla sales associate shoot a chip under your skin before you leave the store. Dansby's in favor; she volunteered, via Twitter, to head up a Tesla "body hacking division."

    How We'd Spec It: The 2020 Ferrari SF90 Stradale We Can't Fully Spec

    Tue, 08/27/2019 - 19:10

    In the interest of promoting Ferrari's first plug-in hybrid, we have selected the right way to order a 2020 SF90 Stradale. And order you can. Unlike the LaFerrari, the SF90 is a series model without a production cap. A 986-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8/three-motor powertrain should make it faster, while a 7.9-kWh battery could make it completely silent for 16 miles. The SF90 promises hypercar heroics without straying from Ferrari's more conventional mid-engined cars, the F8 Tributo and the 488 Pista. In terms of size, ergonomics, and doors that open the boring way, the SF90 is less garage queen and more late-night grocery getter. All those empty charging stations at supermarkets might as well see some action.

    Of course, the Ferrari waiting game means if you place a deposit today, your SF90 may not arrive for another year after the first deliveries in early 2020. That's typical. But for all the radical style and technology, an SF90, with its somewhat accessible price, is the workaround to Ferrari's most unapproachable models—those limited runs where Ferrari can choose not to accept your money.

    Model We'd Choose

    • SF90 Stradale ($512,800)

    Not as expensive as you thought, right? At roughly half the cost of a new LaFerrari (and with four fewer cylinders), the SF90 is a steal if it can reach 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and top 211 mph as Ferrari claims. Since it's a plug-in hybrid, the EPA is likely not to saddle the SF90 with a gas-guzzler tax—a roughly $3000 discount off the bat. Including the $3750 destination charge and a $1750 fee to pay for Ferrari's marketing (really), you're in for at least $512,800 before taxes if you do the right thing and don't register the car in Montana. Since it's a plug-in, the feds will credit $4126 off your taxes. We'll repeat: The government will pay you to drive a Ferrari.

    While we could have brought the 812 Superfast loaner we're driving at this very moment to our local Ferrari dealership in Connecticut to spec a complete car, we'd rather not waste the salesman's time with fantasies. Instead, we headed to the configurator that doesn't show any prices. It also doesn't have any big red books filled with paint samples, no polished tables with stacks of leather swatches and colored seatbelts, or walls and walls of brakes and steering wheels. Actual Ferrari buyers can choose whatever they want and have access to a private configurator that renders all of their options as it does on the company's public website. So take our SF90 spec as just the start of our wishes, not the final build.

    Options We'd Pick

    • Fiorano Pack
    • Azzurro California (light blue) paint
    • Argento Nürburgring (silver) and Giallo Modena (yellow) stripes
    • Yellow brake calipers
    • Carbon-fiber wheels
    • Titanium exhaust pipes
    • Daytona seats in Bordeaux
    • Carbon interior upgrade
    • Floor mats with embroidered logo

    The Fiorano Pack drops weight, adds a carbon rear lip spoiler, upgrades the shocks, and fits stickier tires. It probably puts a Corolla-sized dent in the window sticker, too. Carbon-fiber wheels were first seen on Shelby Mustangs, so that's an obvious pick. They also match the SF90's deep air intakes and other black carbon bits. But this sinewy body needs a lighter color to reveal its muscle. We chose the gorgeous Azzureo California because baby sky blues don't age, and we picked the silver stripe and yellow front bumper accent because it says "race car" without shouting Dodge Hellcat. The yellow coordinates with the SF90's version of a matching necktie and pocket square, its brake calipers and Scuderia Ferrari side shields. We picked titanium pipes since that exotic metal, combined with its thinner gauge in exhaust applications, tends to emit shriller, louder sounds. On an EV, that's critical for pedestrian safety.

    Inside, Ferrari doesn't allow many choices in the regular configurator. Still, we went for the comfortable and deliciously ribbed Daytona seats in a dark red. Forget the racing seats. In a roadgoing Ferrari, it's preferable to put carbon fiber on the dash instead of at your back, so we chose the carbon interior upgrade. The 16-inch curved display for the instrument cluster is standard, and for some first-time Ferrari buyers, it may be the entire reason to buy the car. Throw in some floor mats, and this SF90—for what we estimate would be $600,000 with these options—is a wonderful gift to ourselves before the market crashes again.

    2020 Mazda 3 Gets More Standard Equipment

    Tue, 08/27/2019 - 13:55
    • The Mazda 3 gets some new standard equipment for 2020, with all trims now coming standard with Mazda's i-Activsense driver-assist features.
    • It's still available in sedan and hatchback forms with a single engine choice, a 2.5-liter inline-four paired with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual.
    • The starting price rises $500 to $22,420 for the base 3 sedan, while the hatchback's starting price rises $100 to $24,620.

    The fourth-generation Mazda 3 is getting some small changes for its second year on the market. For 2020, Mazda is adding its i-Activsense driver-assist features to all sedan models; these features were previously standard on the sedan's higher trim levels and all hatchback models. The base 2020 Mazda 3 sedan now includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking; this brings it in line with rivals such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, which also include active-safety features as standard across the board.

    Prices rise accordingly, with the base 3 sedan going up $500 to a starting price of $22,420. The one-step-up 3 sedan in its Select trim level goes up $100 and now starts at $23,620, while the base hatchback goes up $1000 to $24,620. All other trim levels hold the line on pricing compared with 2019, and all-wheel drive remains a $1400 option on all but the base sedan trim. The sole engine remains a 2.5-liter inline-four mated with either front- or all-wheel drive and either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission (offered only on the 3 hatchback in Premium trim). There's still no word on when the anticipated Skyactiv-X compression-ignition-capable engine will arrive in the U.S.

    Mazda also says that it has changed the wheel finish on the Premium trim level, although it hasn't yet released photos of what the updated wheels look like. 2020 Mazda 3 sedan models go on sale this month, while 2020 hatchback models will be available starting in September.

    Dr. Piëch's Legacy: Hits and Misses from a Distinguished Career

    Mon, 08/26/2019 - 23:41
    Dr. Ferdinand Karl Piëch, the architect of the VW Group—an entity that makes hyper-fuel-efficient cars, the fastest car in the world, and everything in between—

    died on Sunday, August 25, at age 82.

    His detractors may have called him megalomaniacal, but that’s because none of them could outsmart him. And Piëch did not come by automotive domination accidentally. His grandfather was Ferdinand Porsche, whose portfolio includes the Auto Union 16-cylinder GP racers, the Volkswagen Beetle, and the Porsche brand. Piëch got his start there after graduating from school in 1962. At Porsche, the young Piëch worked on the 911 and the audacious, Le Mans–winning 917.

    Piëch then helped take Audi from the maker of the stodgy 100 and Fox to a plucky, tech-pioneering winner in rally racing.
    Then there’s the little matter of Piëch’s resurrection of Volkswagen itself in the early ’90s. In 1993, the year that Piëch became VW CEO, the company lost $1.1 billion and sold just 62,061 cars in the U.S. When Piëch retired as CEO in 2002, VW sold 355,648 cars here.

    He also engineered the ouster of Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking and finagled the absorption of Porsche as VW’s 10th brand.

    This is a man who has touched more important cars in the last half-century  than has any other single human being—for good and ill. What follows is a survey of the man’s hits and misses.

    When Piëch arrived at Audi in 1972, the brand was the stodgy and neglected child of Volkswagen, building uninspired cars like the 100 and the Fox. Under Piëch, the company would turn out a succession of technologically advanced and sophisticated cars such as the 1981 Quattro. Based on the relatively pedestrian Audi Coupe, the Quattro fused turbocharging and all-wheel drive to create a practical supercar. Even though it sold in small numbers, the Quattro is credited with establishing the brand’s sportiness and technological proficiency almost overnight. The Quattro dominated the rally circuit from 1981 to 1986, bringing home two manufacturers’ and two drivers’ world championships.

    Piëch’s greatest accomplishment at Porsche would have to be his leadership role in developing the legendary 917 race car. At the time, Porsche was a tiny company, and the 917 was a huge gamble that swallowed giant sums of money and manpower. But the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the 917 made it one of the greatest race cars ever. A technical marvel, the 917 utilized advanced lightweight materials and had a pressurized aluminum tube frame to ensure weld integrity. Its air-cooled flat-12 developed about 600 horsepower; later turbo versions made well over 1000. It won Le Mans twice and went on to dominate Can-Am racing so thoroughly that it contributed to the series’ demise. While the 917 put Porsche on the map as a virtually unbeatable engineering powerhouse, the risk and cost involved with its development put the company’s existence at stake. Today, Piëch acknowledges some uneasiness about the money spent on the 917, but at the time, it was the Porsche family that had reservations about Piëch’s gamble. In 1972, Piëch was forced out of Porsche and moved on to an engineering position at Audi.

    In a quest for fuel efficiency, Audi introduced the aerodynamic 5000 to the U.S. market in 1984. Although its body possessed a low drag coefficient, the 5000 was a sports sedan underneath, boasting turbocharging and all-wheel drive. In America, however, it is best remembered for being the car accused of unintended acceleration. Audi blamed its customers for the accidents while Piëch stated, “We must teach Americans how to drive.” Audi sales plummeted from a high of 74,601 in 1985 to 41,332 two years later. Eventually, NHTSA cleared Audi of all charges, but its reputation would remain damaged in the U.S. for years.

    Early on, this complex technology, which allows for ultraquick shifts and works far more efficiently than a conventional automatic, had few proponents. Used in race cars such as the Porsche 962, the technology’s value was understood by Piëch, and he fought to bring it to market years ahead of the competition.

    Considered to be one of Piëch’s greatest failures, the Phaeton was his attempt to push VW into competition with flagship sedans from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus. The Phaeton’s lavish and hideously expensive plant in Dresden, Germany, has operated below capacity for years. To make matters worse, the Phaeton directly competed with another VW Group product, the Audi A8, but the VW was built on a different platform than the Audi. VW pulled the car from the U.S. market after three years.

    After his tenure at Audi, Piëch turned his attention to Volkswagen; he was the company’s CEO from 1993 until 2002. One of his first cars at VW was the fourth-gen Passat. Inspired by Peter Schreyer’s Audi A1X concept (an internal project), it was a lavishly engineered sedan with Audi mechanicals and refinement, and it contributed to VW’s resurgence. A pricey (nearly $40,000) eight-cylinder (W-8) version flopped but showed Piëch’s willingness to take risks in his attempt to move VW upmarket.

    To slash costs, Piëch poached cost-cutter José Ignacio López from General Motors. Soon after, López was accused of stealing corporate secrets from GM. VW agreed to pay $100 million to GM in 1997 to avoid a courtroom battle—but Piëch denies wrongdoing: “In my 40 years in the business, my admiration for Opel has never reached the level of arousing my interest in any secrets behind it,” he would comment later.

    In 1998, under the direction of Piëch, the VW Group purchased the Bugatti brand name. After a series of concept cars, the 1001-hp Bugatti Veyron 16.4 arrived in 2005. We’re not sure if Bugatti will ever be profitable, but to us, a 253-mph supercar with a quad-turbocharged W-16 cannot be considered anything but a triumph. The 268-mph Super Sport, an even faster version followed. His resurrection of Bugatti made today's Chiron possible.

    Ferdinand Piëch, Former Volkswagen Group Chairman, Has Died

    Mon, 08/26/2019 - 20:20

    The iconic Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch died on Sunday, August 25, at age 82, Bloomberg News reported this afternoon. His tenure at VW was marked by the acquisition of Porsche, the rise of Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and the transformation of Volkswagen from a money-losing company to the pinnacle of the world's auto industry.

    Piëch, a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, trained as an engineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and then joined Porsche in 1963, becoming head of R&D five years later and technical director in 1971. The Porsche and Piëch families then agreed that no family member could be an executive at the company, so he moved to Audi and Volkswagen. Piëch was behind the inclusion of Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, and Ducati motorcycles in the VW portfolio.He is credited with coalescing them along with a group of mass-market brands into a formidable automotive power.

    But he wielded power in a way that did not always bear fruit. His leadership style amounted to, as the German publication Handelsblatt described it, "the life of a warrior," and although he remained on the company's supervisory board after mandatory retirement at age 65, he fell out with the company in the spring of 2015, just before news of Volkswagen's devastating Dieselgate scandal came to light.

    Handelsblatt wrote at the time that he became "something like a grand war memorial that the world looks upon with respect, but also with a sense of loss."

    Neither Volkswagen nor Porsche has issued a statement at this time. We will update this story with more details as they become available.

    Dogs Unrestrained in Cars Are Yet Another Cause of Distracted Driving, Volvo Says

    Mon, 08/26/2019 - 17:27
    • A new study from Volvo Car USA and the Harris Poll has revealed that allowing pets to roam unrestrained while driving led to significantly more unsafe driving behaviors.
    • The study followed 15 drivers and their dogs for more than 30 hours to examine how driving with an unrestrained pet affected driving behavior.
    • The study further illustrates the dangers to all passengers, human and canine, when drivers do not restrain their dogs.

    Today is National Dog Day, but you might not want to take your furry best friend out for a ride to celebrate.

    The safety-obsessed Swedes at Volvo have released a study, which found that allowing pets to roam unrestrained while driving leads to "significantly more unsafe driving behaviors, more time distracted, and increased stress" on drivers and animals alike.

    Along with the Harris Poll, Volvo followed 15 drivers with dogs for more than 30 hours on the road, examining how driving with an unrestrained pet affected driving behavior versus when the owner used restraints such as pet seatbelts, harnesses, crates, and carriers. When the pets were allowed to roam freely throughout the car, unsafe driving behaviors more than doubled, the amount of time drivers were distracted more than doubled, and stress levels (measured by heart rates) increased for both humans and dogs.

    An emergency-car veterinarian echoed Volvo's findings. "While pets roaming around the car can be cute and convenient, it poses serious risk for both drivers and their pets," says Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, "both in terms of causing distractions and increasing the chances of serious injury in the event of an accident."

    Want to Beat Traffic in Tehran? Hire an Ambulance—Just Remember, It's Illegal

    Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:02
    • Wealthy and connected Iranians are hiring private ambulances to beat Tehran's notoriously gridlocked traffic, the New York Times reported.
    • Because motorists are required to make way for the ambulances, it's actually a rather genius traffic-jam hack.
    • . . . except that using emergency vehicles for non-emergencies is strictly illegal.

    Financial inequality, as you're likely mighty aware, often manifests in different privileges for the haves than for the have-nots. A prime example is playing out in Tehran, Iran, these days: Wealthy Iranians are using ambulances to skip through the city's crushing traffic jams. The less fortunate, those without the means to hire a private ambulance, are stuck being, well, stuck in traffic.

    The New York Times reports that this practice of hiring emergency vehicles for non-emergency reasons is, as you might expect, illegal. Unsurprisingly, many of the private ambulance firms—which pick up the slack from the government's ambulance fleet—denied to Times reporters that they had ever participated in the transport of not-sick, moneyed people. And yet, there seem to be numerous accounts of Iranian celebrities hiring ambulances to run errands, as well as educational tutors using them to make their class appointments.

    These ambulances are intended to be used for both emergencies and sub-emergency medical needs, such as getting to critical medical appointments and to and from medical procedures. (Government ambulances are said to be used only for direct, gotta-get-to-a-hospital-now emergencies.) Trouble is, with rumors flying that the city's private ambulances are potentially being used for rich people's convenience, some citizens are refusing to make way even for ambulances with their sirens and flashing lights going. That's an issue for patients who are actually patients.

    Speaking of patients: they typically ride in the back of ambulances. As the Times points out, it isn't immediately clear how these ambulance-hiring scofflaws are riding in the vehicles—as in, we have no idea whether they're in the back, on a gurney pretending to be patients, or sitting up front with the driver.

    Iranian officials are insistent that violators are subject to fines and prosecution, but then, Tehran's police force doesn't seem to be able to crack down on this problem. They're apparently quite busy with other, more pressing issues, but even if they were to stop potential violators, that ambulance chasing opens up thorny issues—namely, slowing down an ambulance that might have a critical patient inside. Also, the Iranian police are apparently quite open to roadside financial incentives (bribes) and accepting them in exchange for making tickets disappear.

    Naturally, regular Iranians are pissed. For a society in which rule bending is normal—see the aforementioned bribes, as well as boundary pushing on restrictive, religiously motivated laws limiting certain social behaviors and social-media use—the abuse of ambulance privileges is almost universally loathed. Leaders are coming around to the notion of a crackdown, but no concrete plans or stepped-up enforcement has taken hold—yet.

    For now, if you plan to visit Tehran, plan on sitting in traffic. We don't suggest hiring an ambulance to skip the line.