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2020 Porsche Taycan Gets a Workout at Nardo and the Nurburgring

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 13:37
  • The 2020 Porsche Taycan completed 2128 miles in 24 hours, running between 121 and 133 mph, around the Nardò Ring in Italy.
  • It also lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany in seven minutes and 42 seconds.
  • The multitasking EV makes its official debut on September 4, a week ahead of the Frankfurt auto show.

Porsche is keen to prove that the Taycan is a track-worthy EV. During a ride in a prototype earlier this year, Porsche's battery-electric-vehicle product line director, Robert Meier, claimed that the Taycan had already lapped below eight minutes on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Now, just days before the new model's big reveal, and after a 24-hour run at the Nardò Ring in Italy where it covered 2128 miles, Porsche has announced the actual time: 7 minutes and 42 seconds over the 12.8-mile circuit, which is the quickest ever recorded on a production EV.

Running an electric car at high speeds tests the vehicle's range, how long it takes to charge, and how well it deals with the heat generated by discharging and charging the battery. Warm weather made the Taycan’s thermal challenges even more difficult. Track temperatures at the Nardò Ring in Italy shot as high as 129 degrees Fahrenheit during testing. Nardò has been used for high-speed testing for decades for endurance testing of supercars including the Bugatti Veyron and the Koenigsegg CCR. Porsche Engineering Group purchased the track in 2012.

Porsche wouldn’t reveal how much time during the 24 hours was spent charging, or how many times the team had to plug in the Taycan. Porsche did claim that the Taycans only stopped to recharge and swap drivers, however, and from its claims of speeds between 121 and 133 mph when it was running indicates that the car spent between six and a half and eight hours stopped and presumably charging.

C/D saw a predicted 234-mile range from a fully charged Taycan during a ride in a prototype earlier this month. Going by those numbers means that Porsche could have completed 2128 miles in as few as nine stops depending on how far they let the battery discharge. But that range is very likely based on speeds well below the triple digits sustained during the endurance run. The key element to this run is the Taycan's quick charging times, which is possible because of the car’s 800-volt electrical architecture. Porsche claims that the Taycan can add 62 miles of range in only four minutes when plugged into a 350-kW charger.

Using 800 volts, which is far higher than competitors use, allows the Taycan to do a lot of things that EVs haven’t been able to do until now. Porsche claims that the Taycan will do 10 launch-control starts in a row without power degradation whereas Teslas slow down after just a couple of runs.

Porsche developed the Taycan's battery and EV technology on the racetrack. Lessons learned from the 800-volt Porsche’s 919 hybrid system have transferred to the street car. And while a Taycan is unlikely to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times, it’s good to know that it can go 2128 miles in 24 hours.

World's Largest Electric Vehicle Is a Dump Truck

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 12:00

While electric vehicles are quickly proliferating throughout the world, most electric engines are still relegated to smaller vehicles. The serious work, some argue, is still done by gas-guzzling diesel engines. But then there's the Elektro Dumper—the world's largest EV—which flouts the rule that EVs can't handle serious work.

The truck is used to haul lime and marlstone, which contains clay and silt, from the sides of mountains in Switzerland. Then the material is transported directly to a cement factory. But here's the really impressive piece of engineering: this heavy dump truck never needs to be charged.

Here's how it works: The dump truck itself weighs 45 tons. Say it ascends a hill with a 13 percent grade. On the way back down, it's carrying 65 tons of ore, making it more than twice as heavy. To manage that scenario, the truck's regenerative-braking system recaptures the energy created by going downhill, refilling the battery's charge for the next time the truck travels uphill.

The dump truck is officially called the Elektro Dumper, but the Swiss manufacturer, Kuhn Group, made life a lot easier by naming it eDumper for short. The eDumper was modeled on the Komatsu HD605-7, a massive dump truck that's 30 feet long, 14 feet wide, and 14 feet tall. The tires are six feet high, and the dump bed reaches up to 28 feet when fully extended.

The stock dump truck was also painted green, and Kuhn added a 600-kWh battery pack to the vehicle—that's enough to power six long-range Tesla Model S cars. The lithium batteries tack on another 9000 pounds.

The company said that making the trip from quarry to cement factory 20 times in one day produces a surplus of 200 kWh of energy (or 77 megawatt-hours per year). Your average dump truck, by contrast, uses between 11,000 and 22,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.

You do the math.

Colorado Will Require Automakers to Offer More EVs

Sun, 08/25/2019 - 21:00
  • By 2023, carmakers' sales lineups in Colorado will have to be 5 percent EVs.
  • The new rule is part of a strong environmental push by the state and includes joining California and nine other states in the zero-emission-vehicle (ZEV) mandate.
  • Currently, 2.6 percent of vehicles on Colorado roads are EVs, which puts it in the top tier of states for electric-car adoption.

Following California's lead on the electric highway, Colorado has become the 11th state to adopt the Golden State's zero-emission-vehicle (ZEV) mandate. That means that automakers will now have to offer more electric vehicles for sale in the Centennial State.

The new rule, passed by Colorado's air-quality commission on August 23 by an 8–1 vote, states that EVs must make up at least 5 percent of automakers' product lineups in the state by 2023, rising to more than 6 percent by 2025. As in California, there is some flexibility for automakers here, since they can bank credits for the EVs they sell now, before the mandate goes into effect, as well as buy credits from other automakers that exceed the targets. The amount of credits an electric vehicle gets depends on the vehicle's zero-emission range.

Colorado already had one of the highest rates of adoption for electric vehicles—it reached 2.6 percent last year, twice the national average. Under the new Colorado rules, automakers can include both plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles in the 5 percent of vehicles that must be EVs. Shoppers, of course, don't have to buy them.

The state's recently elected governor, Jared Polis, has made environmental protection a centerpiece of his administration. This week's announcement was jump-started when he signed an executive order in January to mandate a move toward zero-emission vehicles in Colorado. As the Denver Post reported, he "rolled up in a blue electric vehicle" (it was a Nissan Leaf) to the signing ceremony. The order called for a team within state government to work on EV infrastructure. It also said the $68 million Colorado was awarded as part of the Volkswagen Dieselgate settlement will go toward making the state's own fleet electric, including switching to battery-electric transit buses.

The new mandate should also be seen as Colorado's effort to support the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in its ongoing battle against the federal government under President Trump, which is seeking to roll back fuel-economy and emissions regulations. As the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division's director, Garry Kaufman, pointed out this week, "It's a modest proposal in the face of a critical threat. Where the federal government refuses to act, states must lead."

Watch Bollinger Put Finishing Touches on Its EV Pickup and SUV

Sun, 08/25/2019 - 16:01
  • Electric-truck startup Bollinger Motors has released a video showing its B1 and B2 EV prototypes being worked on by employees.
  • The B1 is a boxy SUV and the B2 is a traditional pickup; both have all-aluminum bodies and an estimated 200 miles of range between charges.
  • The trucks will be revealed in the Detroit area on September 26.

Bollinger Motors has about 30 days to go before revealing its all-electric vehicles, the B1 sport-utility and the B2 pickup. A month seems like soon enough to start teasing the new versions of the utilitarian EVs, which is why the company has released a video that shows the work that's going into getting the fully operational, proof-of-concept vehicles ready for their upcoming public debut, which will happen near Detroit on September 26.

It's the next step in a long journey to bring something new to market, Bollinger CEO Robert Bollinger told Car and Driver.

"We started Bollinger Motors with the intent to make a truck that no one else would build," he said. "We want to be unique and the best. As a Class 3 truck with unbeatable off-road capabilities and unmatched storage options, the B1 and B2 don't have any competition."

That may be Bollinger's view, but there's no doubt that the public will be making comparisons to other announced electric trucks. That starts with Ford's upcoming electric F-150, which was just shown towing a million pounds of train, and Tesla, which has been teasing a supposed under-$50,000 futuristic electric pickup. And the competition for battery-powered trucks also includes Rivian, which has announced its R1T electric pickup for the 2021 model year. That startup raised $700 million in a financing round led by Amazon earlier this year and received a $500 million investment from Ford.

The upcoming Bollinger B1 and B2 are more easily compared to each other. Both seat four, have all-aluminum bodies and all-wheel drive, and will have similar underlying powertrains, offering 614 horsepower and an estimated EPA range of 200 miles from a 120.0-kWh battery pack. Bollinger claims the trucks will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and have a top speed of 100 mph. There are minor differences: the B1 SUV's 668 lb-ft of torque is 20 lb-ft less than the B2 pickup's, and its wheelbase, at 118.8 inches, is 20 inches shorter than the B2's.

Bollinger will build the EVs in Detroit. He claims 32,000 reservations are already in—and since the company is taking them with no money down and no obligation, why wouldn't they be?

10 Most Significant Cars of the 2010s

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 18:00

As this is written, truckloads of new 2020-model-year vehicles are being dumped off at dealerships. Yup, we have squeezed through yet another decade of semi-civilized life. The 2020s are now upon us. So looking back on the 2010s, what will be the cars that are remembered? The ones that mattered? There's no better intro to a list story than some rhetorical questions.

These are my picks for the top 10 cars that mattered during this fading decade. Some of them were hits, some were flops, and some flat kicked ass. The immediate future of wheeled transportation, competition, and entertainment will be fueled by the standards these machines have set.

All opinions are my own. If you don't like it, badmouth me in the comments, slam me on Twitter, or Facebook a fart at me. Just don't ignore me. I'm desperate for attention.

Here, in no discernible order, are the 10 Most Important Cars of the 2010s according to me.

2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat In May I wrote a column about how Dodge's marketing of the Challenger has set the development of performance cars on a new and profitable path. The Hellcat and its subsequent developments don't handle, they weigh too much, and they look an awful lot like the Challenger SXT you can rent at Avis. But the output ratings start at 707 horsepower and go up from there, and the margins on them put money in FCA's bank.

2012 Tesla Model S – Elon Musk has leveraged every edge granted by government to put Tesla in the game. He also did the smart thing every other electric-car maker should have, by giving his flagship Model S the form factor of a luxury car instead of an econobox. He knew that virtue-signaling members of the ruling class wanted comfort and panache to go with their environmental sensibilities. Tesla has had quality and production issues, but the cars are good to drive, and the company is sticking around.

2011 Chevrolet Volt – GM shot out its engineering heart in making the sophisticated plug-in-hybrid Volt work. The problem is that they couldn't make enough people care about a car that was perceived as a Cruze with a battery. Volt production ceased in February of this year. The Volt's failure shows something about what hybrids must be to succeed. Exactly what that something is will be debated.

2010 Ford F-150 Raptor – Beef up the suspension, bulge the fenders, bolt up some big tires, and the result is a truck that Ford can't keep in stock. It's like printing money, with dealers asking insane sums for the privilege of buying a Raptor. Back in 2010 when the Raptor first went on sale, it had a base price of $38,995. The 2020 edition now starts at $54,800. Imitators abound, but none duplicate the Raptor's abilities or success.

2014 Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 918 Spyder, and McLaren P1 – The future of hyper-mega-supercar performance is found in these three hybrids that appeared practically atop one another. Well-heeled buyers seem to be fine with hybrids as long as they're fast . . . and they're Ferraris, Porsches, or McLarens (those three links all go to stories about how awesome these particular cars were to drive). The trickle-down from these three monsters has already begun with the second-generation Acura NSX. What's next may be a hybrid version of the C8 Corvette.

2015 Ford F-150 – Aluminum body construction comes to the best-selling vehicle in America, and sales show nary a blip. Meanwhile Ford's marketing of the EcoBoost V-6 has practically killed the V-8 versions of this truck. A revolution in plain sight.

2013 Toyota RAV4 – Toyota sold 171,875 third-generation RAV4s during the 2012 model year. With the introduction of a new fourth-generation RAV4 at the 2012 Los Angeles auto show, that number jumped to 218,249 for 2013. In its last year, 2018, Toyota put an astonishing 427,168 fourth-generation RAV4s in American garages. Since 2017 the RAV4 has outsold the Camry to become Toyota's best-selling product. The fifth-generation RAV4 appeared for 2019 and is now comfortably established as the best-selling vehicle in America that isn't a full-size pickup truck. Beyond that, four of the top 10 best-selling vehicles are now compact-crossover SUVs. Trunks are doomed.

2014 Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid This is what racing dominance looks like in the second decade of the 21st century. Of the 19 races run in 2014, the W05 Hybrid won 16 of them. Of course, Mercedes won the Constructors' Championship, and Lewis Hamilton used his to win the Drivers' Championship. Then in 2015, the W05 Hybrid's successor, the W06 Hybrid, won another 16 of 19.

The W07 Hybrid took 19 of 21 in 2016. The W08 EQ Power+ went 12 for 20 in 2017. Only in comparison does the 2018 car seem a letdown, as the W09 EQ Power+ took 11 of 21. At this writing, in 2019 the W10 EQ Power+ is 10 for 12. Ferrari won six straight Constructors' Championships between 1999 and 2004. The smart money is on Mercedes topping that.

2014 Porsche 919 Hybrid – Three straight overall wins—2015, 2016, and 2017—at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is impressive. Plus three straight LMP1 FIA Endurance championships those same years is pretty good, too. Then last year, running beyond the rules, the 919 Evo shattered the overall record at the 12.9-mile, 73-turn Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit with a 5:19.55 run under the spur of Timo Bernard. Awesome looks like the 919.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage – It's a terrible car, and C/D has told you so on many occasions. But as much as it is despised, it has sold better every year since that 2014 debut, except for 2016 when it was absent from our market entirely. A full 24,316 hit America's roads in 2018, which is not a huge number but does represent continued growth even after we called it out as rolling rubbish on tiny, ugly wheels. It's a reminder of the not-all-that-awesome persuasive power that is in our hands at C/D.

That Iconic VW Logo Is about to Change, and There's Going to Be a Brand Sound

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:00
  • As Volkswagen continues to move forward from the Dieselgate scandal and metamorphose into an EV company, it is set to change its famous VW logo.
  • The new logo loses the 3D effect for a simplified, flattened-out look, part of a new strategy that VW is calling Vibrant Power.
  • Intriguingly, VW is getting a new "sound logo" as well.

Volkswagen will have more than its ID. 3 electric hatchback on display at the Frankfurt auto show next month. The German automaker is set to unveil a new logo and design direction. It's partly an attempt to reach new, younger customers and partly to change the conversation from Dieselgate to electric mobility. The company thinks digital branding and grabbing attention with the logo change will help—but even more essential is making good on its promise to bring out an impressive lineup of electric vehicles in the next several years, including the eagerly awaited 2022 Microbus.

Although Volkswagen hasn't officially rolled out the new logo, it will not be radically different; it's a simplified, two-dimensional version of the iconic circular V and W logo, which until now has been three-dimensional. The new, flattened look has already been used in some promotional materials, including VW's recent "Hello Light" video highlighting the Microbus. You can expect to see some variations on the theme, including color changes: Think red for future GTI models.

"The new logo has been reduced to its essential components," Jochen Sengpiehl, VW sales and marketing board member, said. He explained that the new logo "has been reduced to its essential components," but he also added that "the W hovers."

The new look, he said, is "a striking difference to previous versions if one traces back the history of Volkswagen logos." It's designed to look as good on a smartwatch as it does on a billboard, he added.

Interestingly, Sengpiehl also said that the automaker has developed a "sound logo." It will be heard in advertising and promotions as well as in future VW vehicles. We may hear it first at the Frankfurt auto show, where the ID.3 will emit the "brand sound" when people exit the car on the show floor.

"This sound will make Volkswagen unmistakable acoustically as well," he said.

Will this sound be more Wörthersee or Herbie the Love Bug? We'll find out in a few weeks.

Your Fast & Furious Binge-Watching Days Are Numbered

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 20:01
  • Netflix has marked three Fast & Furious movies for removal from its streaming service.
  • Fans have until Sunday, September 1, to watch the first three movies in the long-running franchise.
  • Not to worry: The ninth installment is set to debut (in theaters) next May, and there's a spinoff out now.

With all the buzz around the Fast & Furious franchise recently, the news that Netflix is removing some of the classic series of movies from its lineup could mean disappointment to fans of the long-tenured franchise.

The move comes at the beginning of September as, in line with Netflix practice, new titles are added to the streaming service and older ones are removed. The titles that are bowing out include The Fast and The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, which are the first three movies in the series.

Well, at least the animated series Fast & Furious: Spy Racers will debut on Netflix sometime later next year.

There's always the movie theater, since the F&F franchise recently released a spinoff movie, Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw. Additionally, Universal has already started filming Fast & Furious 9, which features a mid-engined Dodge Charger and an orange Toyota Supra, a bit of an homage to the original movie: The Fast and The Furious. But F&F 9 isn't out until next May. It could be a long winter.

Check Out This Epic Commercial for the Eagerly Awaited Audi RS6 Avant

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 18:14
  • Audi has released a video about its upcoming RS6 Avant that runs more than six minutes and will make any Audi or wagon fan tear up.
  • The video co-stars the 1970s Audi Fox Avant.
  • See it below and on YouTube.

When Audi announced earlier this week that the mighty RS6 Avant is officially coming to the United States, car lovers from sea to shining sea rejoiced. After all, this is a 591-hp wagon that, reportedly, goes from zero to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds and can hit a staggering 190 mph. Not bad for a grocery getter!

Well, prepare to fall in love even more, thanks to a tear-jerking six-minute YouTube spot that follows an Audi lover's obsession with the brand from birth through fatherhood—and from a '70s-era Fox Avant all the way to the 2020-slated RS6.

The ad has fun with the idea that this is the first wagon to come to North America in Audi Sport's 25-year history; during the part the video where the protagonist is a teen, we see an ad for a '94 RS2 Avant that notes it is "not available in U.S." Sad!

If you're at your desk and don't want to get choked up watching parents die, children be born, and an Audi-centered romance blossom, skip to the end and you can listen to the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in all its glory.

On second thought, that might make you cry, too.

Volkswagen Recalls 679,000 Cars for Electrical Defects That Could Lead to Rollaways

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 17:00
  • NHTSA filings state that late-model Volkswagen Beetle, Golf, Golf SportWagen, GTI, and Jetta models with physical ignition keys have an electrical switch defect within the gear selector.
  • The cars can roll away only if a driver removes the key and does not shift into park.
  • The newly announced recall expands on a 2018 recall for the same problem.

Volkswagen is expanding a recall from 2018 to prevent drivers from removing the ignition key if their vehicles are not in park, according to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The problem is electrical, a kind of issue that has plagued VW in the past, and relates to a defective switch contact in the gear selector housing. A silicate layer can form on the contact; and, because of higher resistance, prevent the switch from detecting whether the gear selector is in park. When that happens, the car might throw a warning message, issue a chime sound, or do nothing at all.

A total of 679,027 cars are affected in the U.S, including the 2011–2018 Jetta, 2012–2019 Beetle, 2015–2019 GTI, 2015–2016 and 2018–2019 Golf, and 2017–2019 Golf SportWagen. However, only these models with a manual-crank hand brake and a flip-out metal ignition key—remember, the ones you used to stick in the steering column?—have the problem, VW said.

The company previously recalled 33,168 Golf and Golf SportWagen models in July 2018 and, through further testing, realized the problem extended to hundreds of thousands of extra cars. At this time, the company did not cite any injuries or accidents related to this defect.

As with that recall, the solution is rather extensive. Dealers have to install a new switch inside the gearshift lever housing, disable the old switch without removing it, and connect a circuit board to the wiring harness that wasn't originally equipped on these cars. The board is supposed to limit the "current spikes" that were causing the problem, VW said. The company has made fixes to all current models in production and said it will begin notifying owners in mid-October.

20 of the Craziest Pickup Trucks Ever

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 15:55
Shelby F-150 Super Snake

Sporting a massive grille and a lower stance, the F-150 Super Snake is one of the most extreme aftermarket F-150 kits you can buy. The supercharged V-8 under the hood makes 750 horsepower, and it even comes with a three-year warranty.

Shelby AmericanFord F-150 SVT Lightning

Ford decided it would be a good idea to plop a supercharged V-8 under the hood of the mid-1990s F-150, creating the SVT Lightning. The result was a tire-smoking 380 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque and a blistering 5.2-second zero-to-60-mph time. Here's one up for bidding right now on eBay.

David Dewhurst - Car and DriverModern Ford F-150 SVT Lightning Tribute

Looking for a sporty road-going F-150 , but don't want to buy a decade-old truck? Pioneer Ford, a dealer in Bremen, Georgia, makes a tribute package based on a new rear-wheel-drive V-8 F-150 that uses lowering springs, Bilstein shocks, stylish five-spoke wheels, and a Roush supercharger. It makes 650 horsepower and does great burnouts.

Pioneer FordHummer H1

Not many people know this but, you could actually get a two-door-pickup version of the Hummer H1. Very few were sold, and just like the "normal" Hummer H1, it has a serious presence on the road. This one has the 6.5-liter diesel engine, and you can own it.

HummerHolden HSV Maloo

We know, the Holden HSV Maloo Ute isn't really a pickup truck per se, but we still think it deserves a spot on this list. It's a supercharged V-8 pickup sports car with rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and a solid towing capacity. A true all-rounder.

Holden - Car and DriverDodge Li'l Red Express

Dodge kicked off the whole fast-pickup-truck thing back in 1978 with the Li'l Red Express. It came standard with a 360-cubic-inch V-8, and yes, those vertical exhausts are functional. It only made 221 horsepower, but it was genuinely quick for the time. This one has just 44,000 miles on the clock, and it's up for sale for $20,000.

Dodge - Car and DriverMercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6

The previous-generation 577-hp Mercedes G63 is already one of the silliest SUVs on sale, but add a second set of rear wheels and jack the thing up on portal axles, and you get a truck that's truly unhinged. You're more likely to see one of these tearing up a Middle Eastern desert than at your local job site, but, hey, it's got a bed and a tailgate.

Mercedes-AMG - Car and DriverFord F-150 Raptor

Offering a limited-run nut job like the G63 6x6 is one thing, but it's truly amazing Ford sells such a crazy off-roader as a production vehicle from the factory. The first-generation F-150 Raptor generated quite a cult following, and the second-gen doesn't disappoint. Here's one you can buy today for under $65,000.

Ford - Car and DriverShelby Baja Raptor

If the regular Raptor just isn't crazy enough for you, Shelby American has a solution: the Baja Raptor. You get better Fox Racing shocks, 75 more horsepower, and even more off-road equipment for bombing through the desert. Plus a couple of sweet bed-mounted spares. This one's listed on eBay now, and it can be yours for $117,460.

Shelby AmericanFord Ranger Raptor

Though Ford hasn't made plans to bring the Ranger Raptor to the U.S. (yet, at least), it still deserves a spot on this list. It's everything great about the F-150 Raptor in a smaller, more nimble package.

Ford - Car and DriverFord Ranchero GT 428 Cobra Jet

Ford built a few thousand Ranchero GTs, but only 11 of them were optioned with the iconic 428-cubic-inch Cobra Jet V-8 engine. Who doesn't love a ute that can do burnouts? The one you see here sold at Barrett-Jackson last year for $66,000.

Barrett-JacksonSubaru BRAT

Tiny pickups weren't that uncommon in the 1970s and the 1980s, and yet there's something undeniably quirky about the Subaru BRAT. Perhaps it was the name, or the bed-mounted seats installed to avoid a tax on imported trucks in the U.S. This one's in good running condition, and you can own it.

Subaru - Car and DriverChevrolet SSR

Of all the retro cars that came about in the early 2000s, the Chevrolet SSR was easily the strangest. Combining a rear-drive V-8 chassis with a folding hard top, throwback styling, and a small bed answered a question no one asked, but it's a compelling car all the same: something that could have only existed in the early 21st century. This manual one for sale on eBay can be yours today.

Chevrolet - Car and DriverDodge Ram SRT10

Stick a 500-hp V-10 from the Viper in a pickup truck? Why not? The Ram SRT-10 is puzzling, but we're very happy it exists. If only Dodge would do it again.

Dodge - Car and DriverGMC Syclone

The GMC Syclone wasn't great at being a pickup considering its tiny bed and low towing capacity, but thanks to a turbocharged V-6, it was Corvette quick. It was only built in limited numbers, but it still became a cult classic. This one has low miles, and it's up for grabs on eBay.

Tom Drew - Car and DriverDodge Dakota Convertible

The convertible pickup truck fad never caught on, but not for lack of trying. In 1989, Dodge produced the Dakota convertible, which was produced in semi-limited numbers for two years. Nowadays if you want a convertible pickup, your only choice is the Jeep Gladiator. Here's a used Dakota for sale right now.

Dodge - Car and DriverHummer H3T

The H3T was one of the last Hummers you could buy. It was outrageous, but not in a good way. The short bed made it pretty useless as a pickup, and the awkward proportions didn't do any favors for the look.

HummerMazda Rotary Engine Pickup

Mazda was very proud of its innovative rotary engine. So proud, in fact, that it stuck one in a pickup truck and named it, creatively, the Rotary Engine Pickup. Rotaries are high-revving, low-torque engines, which is precisely the opposite of what you want in a truck. Needless to say, Mazda abandoned the concept after a few years.

Mazda - Car and DriverLamborghini LM002

The LM002 might have the least useful bed of all the trucks featured here, but it still merits inclusion. It marries a 450-hp V-12 from a Countach and a desert-ready suspension in a thoroughly over-the-top pickup. How many other trucks share their engines with supercars?

Al Satterwhite - Car and DriverHennessey Velociraptor 6X6

If the regular F-150 isn't outrageous enough for you, consider Hennessey's heavily modified six-wheeled version, the Velociraptor 6X6. It's a lot like the 6x6 G-wagen, except it's based on the Raptor. That means Fox Racing shocks at all six wheels, and a 600-hp twin-turbo V-6. Here's one you can buy now for the low, low price of $299,000.

Hennessey Performance

Honda's New Airbag Will Give Front Passengers Better Protection

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 15:00
  • Honda's new airbag was developed by engineers at Honda's Ohio R&D center in conjunction with pioneering safety-system manufacturer Autoliv, part of Honda's Safety for Everyone initiative.
  • The bag has three inflatable compartments and a "sail panel" that arrests and decelerates movement of the occupant's head.
  • Honda plans to start rolling out the new airbags on U.S. models during the 2020 calendar year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017 about 37,000 people lost their lives on U.S. roadways as a result of motor-vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, an unbelievable 47 percent were not wearing their seatbelts. Although that number represents a slight decrease from the previous two years, it's still a dismal statistic that Honda hopes to improve on with its new multi-chamber airbag for front-seat passengers.

The new airbag technology is designed to protect occupants in a wide range of front crash types. It was developed by engineers at Honda's Ohio R&D center, working with safety-system manufacturer Autoliv. Honda says the airbag is especially protective in crashes between two vehicles, or between a vehicle and a stationary object. In particular, it is designed to be more protective in angled frontal impacts where the passenger's head could rotate severely or slide off the airbag.

It utilizes a three-chamber inflatable design aided by a noninflatable "sail panel" component. Honda describes the integrated pieces as a "catcher's mitt" of sorts, the two outward-projecting side chambers creating a wide base across the dash with the sail panel stretching between them during inflation. The sail panel catches and gently—at least in comparison to a typical airbag—arrests the forward movement of the occupant's head, and that force simultaneously pulls the side chambers in to cradle the head. Honda notes that the "geometry of the cushion" is a key element in preventing the head from rotating, which preliminary research indicates can contribute to traumatic brain injuries. Inertia is unyielding, and arresting high-speed movement of the human skull without damage requires a delicate balance of force and cushion.

Demonstrated in the video at top, the new airbag functionality is complemented by a knee airbag as well as the dramatic pretensioning of the three-point belts. While Honda continues to evaluate this design and others, it is currently developed specifically for the unique needs of the passenger side of the vehicle.

Honda was the first manufacturer to employ the upward-deploying airbag back in 1990, a design that would grow to become common across the industry. While Honda believes the new multi-chamber bag will follow a similar path, the patent does contain a "first to manufacture" clause effective for an undisclosed period of time.

In a more abstract fashion, the new airbag serves as an opportunity for the maker to further distance itself from the disastrous Takata airbag debacle that afflicted numerous manufacturers in previous years. Honda hasn't used Takata inflators for more than two years (Takata filed for bankruptcy in June 2016) and told us the inflator for the new airbag is manufactured by Autoliv, Honda's partner in the development of the new multi-compartment inflatable restraint.

As part of its efforts to bring its comprehensive safety efforts back to the forefront, the maker is reemphasizing its "safety for everyone" mantra as a blanket philosophy for all its current and emerging safety technologies. As part of the initiative, Honda plans to make its Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assistive systems (automated emergency braking, road-departure mitigation, lane-keeping assist, traffic-sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control) standard across the lineup by 2022.

Florida Detective Makes Millions Tracking Down Stolen Cars

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 01:00
  • Joe Ford is a lawyer turned private detective who specializes in recovering expensive and rare cars that have been stolen or otherwise lost.
  • Ford makes money by offering his services for free in return for majority ownership of the car in question. When he finds one, he sells it and splits the profits with the previous owners.
  • Read about his quest to recover a stolen Talbot-Lago Teardrop coupe in Esquire.

For many car enthusiasts, the preoccupation with the mechanical has a slow sucking effect on our finances, as we pile money into repairs and restorations for cars that will never again be worth what they were when new. But Joe Ford, a private detective with a yen for rare cars who was profiled in Esquire's September issue, has managed to turn his love of cars into a lucrative career.

Ford first got involved in the car world when he turned to gray-market imports and exports of European cars to finance his law degree (you can read more about the nuts and bolts of that semi-lucrative business here). He has recently been on the trail of a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C SS Teardrop coupe, which Esquire says was one of only two built with a 140-hp 4.0-liter inline-six race-car engine. A similar car was sold by RM Sotheby's in 2011 for the equivalent of about $4,441,000 in 2011 money. Ford thinks this one is worth $7.6 million.

The Talbot-Lago teardrop is a strikingly beautiful car with a long hood, swooping front and rear fenders, and an aerodynamic water-droplet shape that today's automakers have executed with infinitely less grace in cars such as the Hyundai Ioniq and the Tesla Model 3. The T150 in question was imported from France to Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1938 and eventually ended up in the hands of Milwaukee businessman Roy Leiske. Then, in 2001, it was stolen in broad daylight by thieves who dressed up as workmen and carried the car, piece by piece, from the warehouse where it was being stored to a waiting box truck. Leiske died a few years later, leaving the stolen car's title to a second cousin, Richard Mueller, who assumed the car itself was lost for good. Enter Joe Ford.

Ford had learned about the stolen Talbot-Lago from a French mechanic while digging up dirt on a former friend who became an enemy when he allegedly cut Ford out of a seven-figure paycheck for the sale of a 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus Spider in which they shared ownership. Ford got his frenemy on the record in a deposition saying he had purchased the car legally from an estate sale. Then Ford got in touch with Mueller and offered to help him track down the car in return for a majority stake in it. If he managed to find the rare beast, he would sell it and use the profits to fund his various exploits.

It turns out finding it wasn't that hard: it was sold, using fabricated paperwork, to millionaire businessman Rick Workman for $7.6 million in 2015. When Workman tried to register the car in 2017, it popped up on a government database of stolen cars, and Ford and Mueller were alerted.

But finding is not the same as possessing. Workman says he purchased the car in good faith and refuses to return it. So the beautiful, rare coupe is still sitting in a workshop in Massachusetts while the three men hash out their legal dispute.

Joe Ford may get part of his payday soon, though. The T150C and its engine were separated in the course of the car's long journey, and the FBI has recovered the original engine and will return it to Ford and Mueller. Ford says it's worth $2 million all on its own.

What's Taycan You So Long? Look at The New Electric Porsche's Interior

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 22:01
  • The all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan's interior is stuffed with displays and touch controls.
  • It has the first ever curved display in an automobile, too, plus electronically controlled air vents as on the Tesla Model 3.
  • Porsche will fully reveal the Taycan on September 4 at the Frankfurt auto show.

Porsche's upcoming Taycan electric sedan is stalking Tesla's Model S, and we're finally getting close to its full reveal at the 2019 Frankfurt auto show. Now, to join the slow tease of Taycan information—we've already ridden in a prototype model, and the details of free Apple CarPlay have been announced, too—here is a sneak peek at its screentastic interior.

In fact, most of the Taycan's dashboard is covered by displays, left to right, top to bottom. There is one 16.8-inch unit in front of the driver that serves as the Porsche's gauge cluster, another (a 10.9-inch unit) to the right where most cars situate their infotainment displays, and a third, gigantic monitor ahead of the front-seat passenger with tiles that can be set to show phone, audio, and navigation information simultaneously.

Oh, and there's an 8.4-inch haptic-feedback touchscreen laid nearly flat across the forward portion of the center console, ahead of a weird shifter like the one in the discontinued 918 Spyder supercar. That's for the climate controls, but it includes shortcuts to the navigation, audio, phone, Apple CarPlay, and settings menus. It also can display the current charge state while the car is plugged in taking on more juice. An optional four-zone climate control ups the screen tally even more, adding a 5.9-inch touchscreen to the rear-seat area.

The coolest feature by far is the gauge cluster's curved glass—which makes it the first curved screen used in a production car. It wraps gently behind the steering wheel, its concave face giving drivers an enveloping sense that the display is just for them. (Of course, it always is, but the effect is sweet—trust us.) At its fringes are touch-sensitive controls for the headlights, suspension settings, and more. Boldly, the cluster lacks a "hood" for shading it from sunlight; we'll have to wait and see if this proves a big mistake and allows the display to wash out during the day.

In spite of the interior's visual simplicity, Porsche will offer customers plenty of ways to spend more money customizing things. (The basic look is, apparently, a nod to the original 1963 911 model—and if you look close at these photos, the odometer on this Taycan reads "1963 km.") There are a host of primary interior colors, plus a host of metal and wood trim options. To appeal to greenies, Porsche offers naturally tanned leather (olive tree branches are used in the tanning process), as well as a new leather-free recycled microfiber material.

Further proof that Porsche is after Tesla types can be found in the air vents, which, similar to the Model 3's, are electronically controlled—meaning their directionality is determined on a screen, not by sliding some little plastic slats around to direct air where you'd like.

One free configurability option pertains to the curved gauge display, which can be toggled to a Classic mode with round gauges or a Map mode where one of those gauges flips to display a round navigation map. As in other Volkswagen Group products, a Full Map option turns the entire screen into a nav map with an embedded speed readout and other critical info, while the Pure setting lives on the opposite end of the spectrum, paring the visuals down and showing only speed and charge info along with rudimentary turn-by-turn navigation directions when activated.

Porsche may have gone electronics crazy with the Taycan's interior design, but it got one thing oh, so very right: the location of the starter button. Drivers will turn on their Taycans using a button positioned to the left of the steering wheel—where the ignition has lived on every Porsche to date. Why? Because back in the day, the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race would begin with drivers sprinting to their cars, turning them on, and driving off. Placing the ignition to the left of the steering wheel and closer to the door gave Porsche's drivers a tiny edge. Sure, the Taycan's starter button could be placed anywhere—it's electronic—but it shouldn't have been placed anyplace else. We can't wait to press it and drive the Taycan for ourselves.

Trump vs. Automakers, and What's the Deal with Their Bizarre Fuel-Economy Fight

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 20:55
  • President Trump, in a series of tweets on Wednesday, claimed automakers' stubbornness is all that stands between consumers and much cheaper, safer cars.
  • Several major automakers have signed a deal with the California Air Resources Board to meet voluntary fleet averages of roughly 50 mpg by 2026, which conflicts with Trump's interest in lowering fuel-economy standards.
  • Carmakers are afraid spending the money to meet California's stringent fuel-economy targets could be a waste given the Trump administration's opposition to the higher standards.

President Trump's reaction to automakers refusing to back his backtracking on fuel-economy standards requires more than 280 characters to explain. This is a genuinely bizarre play—by the auto industry.

Of Trump's three consecutive tweets on Wednesday decrying Ford and General Motors for "wanting to build a much more expensive car that is far less safe and doesn't work as well" and invoking Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan, the sentence that made actual sense was a rebuke of California's separate emissions standards that will affect 2021–2026 model-year cars.

The Legendary Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan, the Founders of Ford Motor Company and General Motors, are “rolling over” at the weakness of current car company executives willing to spend more money on a car that is not as safe or good, and cost $3,000 more to consumers. Crazy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019

....that when this Administration’s alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin. Only reason California is now talking to them is because the Feds are giving a far better alternative, which is much better for consumers!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019

"Car companies should know that when this Administration's alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin," the president wrote. (For its part, Ford responded that it is seeking "regulatory stability.") Setting aside his other words, here's what that means.

In August 2018, the EPA released its proposal for the 2021–2026 model years that lowered fuel-economy targets—and thereby increased greenhouse-gas emissions—in relation to the original Obama-era rule enacted in 2012. The proposal, which explicitly called for revoking California's waiver to the Clean Air Act that has allowed the state to set separate standards since 1970, was favored by most automakers and their lobbies in 2017, back when Trump announced he would consider loosening the regulations. The 2012 rule mandated this "midterm review" to let automakers petition for a more realistic set of rules for 2017 and later cars that would better reflect the current market at that time.

The idea, as with most federal policies, was that things change and laws should be able to change with them. However, in an effort to block an immediate rollback by the incoming Trump administration, Obama's EPA rushed the review and finalized the rule more than a year ahead of schedule, without changes, in the months before Trump took office in January 2017. This ran contrary to the agreement reached with automakers in 2012 and their assumption, however wrong, that California would no longer force a costly, separate standard upon the industry.

Since October, the California Air Resources Board, which for decades prior had mandated separate, more stringent fuel-economy regulations for new cars, voted to revoke its "deemed to comply" rule that linked both state and the Obama-era policies together. That meant CARB and the 12 other states that follow its emission rules—a bloc representing 35 percent of all U.S. auto sales—would revert to the original, tougher standards. It also meant those states, in order to "not fall victim to the Trump administration’s rollback," as CARB chairwoman Mary Nichols said, would refuse to negotiate—at all.

After talks between the White House and CARB had come to a halt, in late July four automakers (BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen) quietly brokered a deal with CARB to meet voluntary fleet averages of roughly 50 mpg by 2026. The deal came a month after 17 automakers sent a letter to Trump urging him to renegotiate with CARB. Every major automaker, except Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ferrari, was on the list. They signed without Auto Alliance or Global Automakers, their two major lobbies. However, while CARB had agreed in spirit to negotiate, Nichols said her agency's October ruling would "cover only vehicles that meet the standards originally agreed to by California, the federal government, and automakers in 2012."

Suddenly, out came two separate emissions standards for new cars about to launch in less than two years—and for cars in development that auto executives had budgeted years before. Automakers had assumed, as they took billions in government grants, loans, and tax credits, that electric cars in particular would eventually become profitable. Faced with billions of dollars spent, more billions earmarked to comply with stricter laws worldwide, and a weak national demand for EVs, automakers now faced a major problem. Fight for the lower standards they really wanted seven years ago, or forget it?

Obama's fuel-economy targets for the 2012–2025 model years were the most aggressive in history—laudable for their attempt to fight climate change, but heinously expensive. Only the late Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler publicly stated just how much automakers were losing on EVs. Automakers conceded anyway. Those targets, first drafted in 2008, assumed a continuation of record-high gas prices, a heavy adoption of electric vehicles, and could not predict a U.S. oil boom that dramatically increased domestic production.

Fully invested in these policies, automakers have taken a vocal stand against the Trump administration in ways they never did when Obama was in office. They're worried they'll overspend to meet California targets that could ultimately be stricken by the feds. While they claim to be environmental stewards, automakers aren't so much concerned with the planet as they are to reducing risk to their shareholders. California is a reckonable force that threatens their sales, and Trump is standing in the way of their profit and loss calculations. As automakers forecast their business plans, they think it's too late to go back.

James Bond’s Iconic Aston Martin DB5 Spied on Set of Next Film

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 19:35
  • Multiple Aston Martin DB5 cars were photographed by Bond fan site MI6-HQ on the set of the upcoming No Time to Die in Matera, Italy.
    Two other Aston Martins—the Valhalla hypercar and V8 Vantage Series II—will reportedly appear in the film as well.
    The film’s official title, release date, and plot were released this week.

We knew the newest Aston Martin, the Valhalla, would appear in the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die; now we know the most famous model will as well.

#Bond25 pretitle sequence shooting starts in Italy.

— James Bond (@jamesbondlive) August 16, 2019

Spies from the 007-obsessed site MI6-HQ released photos of multiple DB5s in a car transport near the set in Matera, Italy. As Autoblog points out, the last Bond film, Spectre, ended with Bond driving into the sunset in the classic GT that made its 007 debut in 1964's Goldfinger.

This has been a big week for Bond fans, as the title, release date, and plot were revealed on Tuesday. Here’s the official synopsis:

In NO TIME TO DIE, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Along with Daniel Craig, the movie stars Rami Malek as the villain, Ana De Armas as the Bond girl, and Lashana Lynch as a new agent who takes on the 007 moniker, along with Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Ralph Fiennes, and—apparently—at least three Aston Martins.

No Time to Die opens in the United States on April 8, 2020.

2020 Toyota Camry TRD Is a Screaming Deal, Starting at $31,995

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 18:53
  • Ahead of its September release, pricing for the sporty Camry TRD has been leaked.
  • The TRD is the cheapest way to equip the Camry with the V-6.
  • This special Camry, tuned by Toyota Racing Development, has a revised suspension, larger brakes, and aggressive styling.

When touchscreen-equipped smart refrigerators became a thing, we knew it wasn’t long before the Camry received a proper sports-sedan makeover. Now we know how much the 2020 Camry TRD will cost. As reported by CarsDirect and confirmed by Toyota, a leaked order guide has revealed the starting price for Toyota's most sporting Camry to date. For $31,995, the Camry TRD will be the cheapest way to get it with the 301-hp V-6. For reference, the TRD undercuts the V-6–powered Camry XSE by $3920. It's also far cheaper than the TRD version of the Toyota Avalon, which starts at $43,255.

The tricked-out Toyota is based on the SE trim, so the TRD will forgo the leather interior and features such as navigation and driver-assist systems found on pricier Camry models. In place of the creature comforts, there's a lengthy list of performance-enhancing hardware.

The Camry TRD rides on retuned dampers supported by stiffer springs that lower the ride height by 0.6 inch. Beefier anti-roll bars, additional chassis bracing, and wider lightweight wheels wrapped in summer rubber ready the Camry TRD for the Acorn Stairlift 350. The front brake rotors increase in diameter by 0.9 inch and are clamped by dual-piston calipers, and there's a TRD-specific exhaust system to sound the part. The exterior is complimented by an aggressive body kit, and the interior is dressed in red to complete the look.

We'll soon get some seat time in the TRD. Stayed tuned for the full review.

Why You Won’t Be Seeing the Toyota Supra in Racing Games Like "Need for Speed"

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 15:30
  • A Twitter user asked Toyota's U.K. account why none of the company's vehicles, such as the 2020 Supra, are in the new Need for Speed video game.
  • In a response, since deleted, Toyota said its cars can be found in Gran Turismo Sport, a game that doesn't "promote illegal street racing."
  • Toyota later tweeted a thread that explained the official reason: The company has no immediate plans to license its model range to any games besides Gran Turismo Sport.

Wondering why you can’t drive your favorite new sports car in your favorite racing game? Toyota was mulling that over this week, too, and in a very public forum: Twitter.

On Tuesday, a Twitter user asked the Japanese company’s U.K. account why there were no Toyotas in the upcoming Need for Speed Heat. GTPlanet captured the now deleted tweet, in which Toyota responded that the automaker won't include its vehicles in games that "promote illegal street racing."

However, as The Drive pointed out, not only were Toyota street cars absent from 2017's closed-circuits-only Forza Motorsport 7, but the 2020 Supra was recently spied on the set of Fast & Furious 9. (Call it a hunch, but we’re guessing Dominic Toretto and crew will not be using the car to demonstrate proper three-point-turn techniques.)

View this post on Instagram

The cat is out of the bag. 2020 Zupra on-set of Fast 9. Reports of four Zupras being used in production. #mkivdotcom #toyotasupra #thefastandthefurious #rememberthebuster #fastandfurious #toyota #supramkiv #Supranation #supralife #paulwalker #paulwalkerrip #suprasandskylines #2jz #jdmlife #supra.gang #suprahub #supraculture

A post shared by Fast and Furious (@craiglieberman_42) on Aug 19, 2019 at 10:46am PDT

That’s when Need for Speed's official account jumped into the fray, calling Toyota "nerds." Ouch.

pfft nerds

— Need for Speed (@NeedforSpeed) August 20, 2019

The following day, Toyota had a change of heart—or PR messaging, at least—and tweeted a thread that begins: “About last night . . . ”

We love that you want to see our cars in all your favourite racing games, and honestly, we want the same thing. 1/5

— ToyotaUK (@ToyotaUK) August 21, 2019

Officially, Toyota Motor Corporation has no concrete plans to license its model range to any other games besides Gran Turismo Sport at the moment. 3/5

— ToyotaUK (@ToyotaUK) August 21, 2019

We'll be really excited to share our future plans with you as soon as we're able to. In the meantime, whether it's Gran Turismo Sport, Forza or Need for Speed, keep on racing. 5/5

— ToyotaUK (@ToyotaUK) August 21, 2019

In other words, because Toyota has an exclusive deal with Sony’s Gran Turismo Sport, you won't be seeing a Supra, a Tacoma, or even a Corolla in any other video games.

Now why didn't they just say that in the first place?

2020 Chevy Bolt EV Gets More Driving Range

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 13:39
  • According to the EPA, the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV has an estimated driving range of 259 miles, up from 238 miles.
  • Chevrolet isn't saying yet exactly what it did to achieve this improvement, but we hear it has to do with new chemistry for the lithium-ion battery pack.
  • This range improvement puts the Bolt EV ahead of several competitors from Hyundai, Kia, and Tesla.

The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV will go further on a charge than before, with the EPA reporting that the electric hatchback's range goes up to 259 miles, from 238. Chevy isn't saying yet exactly what caused this 8 percent improvement, but we hear that new battery chemistry is at play. Previously, the Bolt EV used a 60.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Chevy's order guide does not show any other significant changes to the 2020 Bolt other than a few new features and colors (Oasis Blue and Cayenne Orange Metallic join the palette, while the bright-yellow Shock color has been dropped). The 200-horsepower electric motor remains the same.

This new, bigger range number puts the Bolt EV in front of several newer competitors, if only just. The Hyundai Kona Electric is close behind, at an EPA-rated 258 miles, while the Kia Soul EV sits at 243 miles, the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range plus offers 240 miles, and the Kia Niro EV sits at 239 miles.

We will update this post with any additional information from Chevrolet as it becomes available.

Lamborghini Aventador's Final Curtain Call Is the SVJ63 Roadster

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 01:00
  • The debut of this SVJ63 roadster means there will be 63 more Aventador roadsters gracing the world's garages, all of which are already spoken for.
  • Custom color schemes are unique to this model, including the ability to paint the slats of the engine cover and diffuser.
  • Lamborghini's 759-hp V-12 remains in the same frenzied, highly intimidating tune as the regular SVJ.

If there's one thing to remember before buying a Lamborghini Aventador, it's the V-12 engine's extreme thirst for oxygen that will, like the tiger sharks this car resembles, leave you unable to remain still. Mercifully—as this writer can confirm firsthand—the new Aventador SVJ solves the cooling challenge with air intakes that actually do their job. And the SVJ roadster is cooler, literally, like this gray special edition that made its debut last weekend in Monterey.

The SVJ is the Aventador's curtain call, and the 63 roadster is the SVJ's last stand before Lamborghini replaces the whole car with another mid-engined model with nearly 800 horsepower and doors that open the correct way. As with the coupe that launched during last year's Pebble Beach festivities, there are only 63 numbered examples allocated for sale (the "63" has nothing to do with displacement but with the automaker's founding date, 1963). All 63 have already been sold, according to Lamborghini.

The automaker has produced thousands of Aventador models since the model's launch in 2011, so the order books are most certainly open on others. Lamborghini is producing both 63-series cars in addition to the coupe's 900-car run and the roadster's 800. Since an SVJ coupe starts at $526,854, including a $5400 gas-guzzler tax, you can predict where the 63 roadster is headed, pricewise.

The Pebble Beach example's matte gray against black carbon and red-orange scheme is an inspiring start (and the SVJ's colored seat accents and floor patterns glow under UV light). Lambo's Ad Personam customization options include eight color combinations that are exclusive to this model, including painted highlights for the engine cover's slats, SVJ logos on the engine cover's outer flanks instead of on the rear fenders, and more color tracing the SVJ's chin spoiler, side sills, diffuser, and Superman-style wing that also, like the 759-hp V-12, gulps and traps air for improved downforce through a central inlet.

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Top speed remains something in excess of 217 mph. With or without the number 63 on the hood and doors, the Aventador remains one of the hottest supercars of the modern era. With the SVJ's aero improvements, we really appreciate that it's not actually the hottest.

Three Years Later, the French Solar Road Is a Total Flop

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 22:00
  • The French government invested in building a solar road to a rural town in 2016.
  • The project has not delivered on its goals, according to French newspaper Le Monde.
  • Solar streets face significant infrastructure challenges if they want to succeed.

It was a solar experiment that seemed ingenious in its simplicity: fill a road with photovoltaic panels and let them passively soak up the rays as cars drive harmlessly above. The idea has been tried a few times, notably in rural France in 2016 with what was christened the Wattway.

Three years later, even the most optimistic supporters have deemed the Wattway a failure.

The Wattway consists of 2800 photovoltaic panels lining one kilometer (0.62 mile) on the way to the small northern town of Tourouvre-au-Perch in Normandy. At the time of its opening, its builder, the construction group Colas, part of the Bouygues telecommunications group, said that the solar panels were covered with a resin containing silicon, strong enough to fend off traffic even from 18-wheelers.

"The engineers of this project surely did not think about the tractors that would roll over," Pascal and Eric, two local roofers leaning on the counter of the Café de Paris in Tourouvre-au-Perche, told the French newspaper Le Monde in 2019. While the resin coating might be strong enough to keep a big rig from crushing the solar panels, the two said that driving over it generates so much noise that locals required the road's speed limit to be lowered to 70 km/h, or a paltry 43 mph.

Le Monde describes the road as "pale with its ragged joints," with "solar panels that peel off the road and the many splinters that enamel resin protecting photovoltaic cells." It's a poor sign for a project that French government invested in for the equivalent of about $5,546,750.

The noise and poor upkeep aren't the only problems facing the Wattway. Through shoddy engineering, the Wattway isn't even generating the electricity it promised to deliver. In 2016, the builders promised it would power 5000 households.

There proved to be several problems with this goal. The first was that Normandy is not historically known as a sunny area. At the time, the region's capital city of Caen only got 44 days of strong sunshine a year, and not much has changed since. Storms have wreaked havoc with the systems, blowing circuits. But even if the weather was in order, it appears the panels weren't built to capture them efficiently.

“If they really want this to work, they should first stop cars driving on it,” Marc Jedliczka, vice president of the Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), which promotes renewable energy, told the Eurasia Times.

To power the households, the road was expected to generate 790 kilowatt-hours per day, but that failed. How? It might seem simple, but solar panels are most efficient when pointed toward the sun. Because the project needed to be a road as well as a solar generator, however, all of its solar panels are flat. So even within the limited sun of the region, the Wattway was further limiting itself.

Jedliczka says Colas pursued the project too quickly before fully investigating its cost-effectiveness.

"It confirms the total absurdity of going all out for innovation to the detriment of solutions that already exist and are more profitable, such as solar panels on roofs," Jedliczka told Le Monde.

For its part, Colas has admitted the project is a bust. "Our system is not mature for interurban traffic," Etienne Gaudin, Colas's chief executive of Wattway, told Le Monde. The company also operates 40 similar solar roads smaller than the one in Normandy.

Other solar roads across the globe have faced a variety of challenges. In 2018, a week after a solar road opened in China, its solar panels were stolen.