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Archive for March, 2007

Medium Rare: The 2008 Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione Compact Coupe Arrives for a Limited U.S. Release

March 11th, 2007

2008 Alfa Romeo 8c

After a 13 year hiatus from the American market, Italian automaker Alfa Romeo plans to commence its comeback tour with the 2008 Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione Compact Coupe. Take a walk around the new 2 door, 2 seat model and you’ll find smooth curves, elliptical headlights, and an understated yet elegant grille.

You’ll also like the power that the Competizione packs under the hood. The 4.7 L, 450 hp V8 engine gives the new coupe the giddyup to go from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.2 seconds. In addition, the 6 speed gearbox comes in 3 modes: manual-normal, manual-sport, and automatic-normal. 20 inch tires will ensure your status as a high roller wherever you go.

However, keep in mind that Alfa Romeo intends to issue only 500 models for U.S. consumption. The starting gun in the race to get one goes off sometime later on in 2008, so brace yourself for some competition for the Competizione. Should you miss the initial run on the coupe, droptop enthusiasts will get another bite at this automotive apple when the 8c Spider convertible comes out in 2009.

For more information, check out the following links:

http://www.mobilemag.com/content/100/354/C8818/

http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/FVDP/Preview/styleId=100805076

- Posted by Taeho Lim

Exotic Cars, Foreign Cars

Want the most “bang” for your buck? CarGurus can help!

March 9th, 2007

CarGurus.com recently launched its Sport Value Index(TM). Our index takes into account each car’s suggested retail pricing, standard/stock engine horsepower, and more to rank cars by horsepower per dollar. Cars near the top of our list provide the best value when you’re trying to turn your Benjamins into brute force under the hood. Check it out, and find your car!

Coming soon: more cars, and a breakdown of sport value rankings for each model year!

CarGurus Features and Updates, General Chat

A 170-Horsepower Shrink?

March 8th, 2007

Driving as a form of therapy? Sure, a pedal-to-the-metal run down an open road with the stereo blasting can get many a person out of a funk, but we’re not quite talking about that. We’re talking about what Nissan VP and GM Bill Bosley means when he states that the new Nissan Rogue CUV was designed to satisfy “both the functional needs of the buyer and his emotional needs.”

This 170-horsepower shrink means to keep you off the couch and in its “driver-oriented cockpit” (Nissan’s term). The crossover had better have a good list of unique qualities in order to stand out from its competitors (e.g. the Toyota RAV4 and the Hyundai Santa Fe) and its own Nissan siblings. The carmaker already has the Xterra, the Murano, and the Pathfinder in its lineup.

The Rogue, which made its debut at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is most obviously different from those other utility vehicles in that it’s not as large as any of them nor as well-appointed as the latter two. Its sticker price is closest to the Xterra’s, a vehicle blatantly aimed at a demographic that’s not only young and active but relishes getting wet and dirty. The Rogue is smaller and not as evidently utility-oriented as the Xterra – for instance, you have to discover its storage spaces, whereas the Xterra comes right at you with a basket on its roof and that signature first-aid kit bump barely disguised on the tailgate. The Rogue is also aimed at an ever-so-slightly older crowd: people in their early 30s vs. 20-somethings purchasing their first new SUV.

Nissan consciously means to satisfy those who still wish to live an Xterra-type lifestyle, while they acknowledge the increased responsibilities that a few more years of living has brought. And while this crowd was previously fine with the somewhat spartan equipment list – standard and available – that the Xterra offered, they’re now ready for more refined style and additional amenities. The Rogue’s optional heated seats, for example, might be very soothing to a back made sore by years of extreme sports.

Built on the Sentra’s C platform (that’s a 105.9-inch wheelbase), the Rogue is 182.9 inches in overall length and will come standard as FWD with AWD available. The cute-ute’s manufacturer prefers that it be known for its performance, which is fairly impressive considering it’s only available with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. The inline four’s 175 lb-ft of torque put it near the beginning of the pack of four-cylinder crossovers, and it comes close to the 2.7-liter V6 Santa Fe’s 185 hp and 183 lb-ft of torque.

The sole transmission in the Rogue’s two trims, the S and the SL, will be the Nissan Xtronic CVT, featuring adaptive logic control. Other standouts on its list of standard features include traction control, a complete system of airbags (including side-impact supplementals and roof-mounted curtains), active head restraints, and a seven-speaker Bose audio system with a 6-CD changer (plus a subwoofer and set-up for satellite radio). The Zone Body design will maximize occupant protection, thanks to its deformation zones.

The ride is kept in check by a front independent-strut suspension with large diameter stabilizer bar and a rear multi-link independent suspension, each with high-performance shocks with rebound springs. Nissan’s choice of the latter type of suspension left a little more room for cargo.

Some of the options you’ll be able to add to your chosen Rogue are AWD with yaw control, leather seats (heaters are available), a leather steering wheel and shifter knob, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, heated side mirrors, a roof rail system with detachable cross bars, a power sunroof, Xenon headlights, halogen fog lamps, the Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, and the HomeLink Universal Transceiver.

It’s scheduled to go on sale in September 2007 at Nissan dealers nationwide. The price will start around $20,000 when it goes on sale in the fall of 2007, but Nissan will offer a long list of high-tech options for those who aren’t afraid to edge closer to the $25K mark.

Car Minded, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Trucks & SUVs

MPVs: The Next MVPs?

March 8th, 2007

Here in the US, automakers and dealers don’t use the term “MPV” very often.  An acronym for Multi Purpose Vehicle, the MPV category is used in Europe to describe vehicles by function, rather than by size.

The common denominator of all MPVs is their emphasis on passenger and cargo space: in addition to minivans like the Ford Freestar and Honda Odyssey, the European MPV market segment includes “compact” and “mini” MPVs, designed to provide a roomy and accessible interior on a smaller platform.

Right now, the Mazda MAZDA5 is the only compact MPV on sale in the United States.  Without a lot of marketing behind it, and somewhat under the radar of the automotive press, the MAZDA5 has become the darling of environment-conscious young families. You’ll see thirty-something suburban moms gushing about it on Internet forums with the mixed awe and lust usually reserved for Brad Pitt in a bathing suit.

MAZDA5
Why?  The consensus seems to be that the MAZDA5 combines the comfort and flexibility of a roomy minivan interior with the agility and fuel efficiency of a sedan.  Low-riding and high-ceilinged, the MAZDA5 is easy to load up with kids, dogs, packages, car seats…you name it.  Drivers praise its maneuverability and quick acceleration.  And with a sticker price under $20,000 and a EPA rating of over 20 miles per gallon, the MAZDA5 is a lot easier on the wallet than the usual minivan.

So why aren’t more manufacturers getting into the MPV game over here?  The European market is full of interesting takes on the compact MPV, from the Citroen Picasso, Renault Scenic, and Opel Zafira to the Honda Stream, Kia Carens, Toyota WISH, and Mitsubishi Chariot.

Then there’s the mini MPV segment, of which the Fiat Idea is perhaps the most appealing: a versatile, boxy little vehicle that delivers a lot of flexibility for surprisingly few Euros.  The mini MPV is one of the hottest new market segments in Europe; don’t hold your breath until they make their way into the North American sales stream, though.  Which is a shame, because these guys are adorable.Fiat Idea

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Foreign Cars

The 2008 Volvo V70: Your Own Personal Bodyguard

March 6th, 2007

Volvos have long been known for their safety features, and with each new model, those safety features become more sophisticated. Case in point: The all-new 2008 Volvo V70 station wagon, which is scheduled to be introduced this week at the Geneva Auto Show. The third generation V70 features a number of new safety systems designed to protect not only passengers on the inside of the vehicle but pedestrians outside as well.

One of the more intriguing additions, which Volvo describes as a world breakthrough, are built-in child booster cushions in the rear seats. The cushions can be adjusted for children of different heights, and not only provide children with views out the windows but also are designed to work with the seat belts to provide maximum safety restraint in all situations.

For taller passengers (i.e. adults) Volvo has equipped the V70 with the latest version of its head restraints with the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), which protect the head in the event of a side impact. The car also is equipped with an improved Side Impact Protection System, borrowed from the new S80 Sedan, which includes new side impact airbags and stronger side structures.

Another cool safety feature, also borrowed from the S80, is the Personal Car Communicator, a remote keyless entry device that includes a heartbeat sensor, which can not only detect if someone (such as an intruder) is in the car as you approach it, but also reportedly can monitor your own heart as you’re driving and alert you if it senses you’re becoming sleepy.

The other big news is that the V70 will for the first time be available with a six-cylinder engine (as opposed to the five cylinders available in previous versions). In this case, it’s an efficient 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder that produces 235 horsepower. A 285-horsepower 3.0-liter turbo and a 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder also will be available.

Design-wise, the V70 features a more sculpted appearance with dynamic lines (according to Volvo), as well as a black egg-crate grille and a new soft nose that reduces leg injuries in the event you should run into a pedestrian or cyclist.

The 2008 V70 should be in showrooms early next year. If you can’t wait that long, you can learn more about the current-model V70 here: http://www.cargurus.com/Cars/Overview-d518-Volvo-V70.html

Car Shows, Foreign Cars

Hope Springs Eternal for the New Chrysler Sebring

March 3rd, 2007

Other than incremental rentals from the local Enterprise, no one’s given the Chrysler Sebring convertible much love since it hit showrooms in the mid ’90′s. The bland design and weak powertrain relegated it to its established status as a temporary droptop for a quick trip to anywhere with enough sun.

Chrysler aims to change that perception when it releases the 2008 Sebring this spring. The new model will come in three trim levels: Standard, Touring, and Limited. The Standard model gets a 2.4 L, 173 hp 4 cylinder powertrain with 4 speed automatic transmission, an upgrade of 23 hp from the previous year. The Touring and Limited trims get a 2.7 L, 189 hp V6. If you need more oomph, opt for a special Limited trim that boasts a 3.5 L, 235 hp V6 engine with 6 speed automatic transmission.

While all three trim levels sport a soft top, the Touring and Limited models offer an optional 3 panel retractable hardtop that makes it a little safer to sunbathe. Chrysler also adds some high-tech extras to the new Sebring, including heated cupholders and Sirius Satellite Radio.

Unfortunately, the 2008 Chrysler Sebring just doesn’t have the same aesthetic appeal as the competition. However, if you don’t mind looking a little inconspicuous on the highway, the new Sebring may have just enough in the tank to make it worth your while.

For more info, check out the following links:

Sebring Coverage on CarGurus

The Edmunds Inside Line

Do a 360 degree tour on YouTube

- Posted by Taeho Lim

Car Industry News, Domestic Cars

Tax Credit Where Credit is Due

March 1st, 2007

The 2007 Toyota Prius

If you are the proud new owner of a hybrid or diesel for personal, business or trade use you may qualify for an IRS tax credit of up to $3,400.

The Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, GMC Sierra Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h, and Toyota Highlander Hybrid are among the cars qualified for the tax credit which was a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That legislation became effective in January of 2006 and could apply to vehicles purchased until 2010 or until each manufacturer uses up its allotted eligible vehicles.

The specific credit for each individual vehicle is calculated based on fuel economy and a “conservation credit” for heavier vehicles which makes their tax breaks more competitive.

Both hybrids and diesels are eligible for the credit if they meet emission certifications. All hybrids already meet these qualifications but if any diesels qualify from the 2007 model year they will be the first to do so and that will be because they utilize ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

Leasing a qualifying vehicle does not earn you the tax credit although the owner of the car you are leasing does benefit. And of course only the original buyer of the car is eligible for the credit.

Each manufacturer is allotted 60,000 eligible cars and Toyota has already used up their limit. That means the credit for their vehicles has begun the process of being phased out. Eligible Toyota and Lexus vehicles bought after September 30th, 2006 have their tax credit cut in half. Those same vehicles purchased after March 31, 2007 will only yield 25% of their original credit. If you want to buy a Toyota or Lexus and collect a tax you need make your purchase by September 30th of 2007. That’s when these credits run out completely for Toyota.

For more information about how to apply for the credit visit: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/tax_hybrid.shtml

For up to date information check out this US Department of Energy publication: http://www.ott.doe.gov/hev/pdfs/032873mFS_TAX_FS2.pdf.

Additional information on both the tax credits and deductions is available on the EPA’s fuel economy website.

Hybrid Cars

Another Saab Story: Is There a Hot Coupe in the Future?

March 1st, 2007

It’s exotic, it’s fast, and it’s purely un-American. Saab’s Aero X concept car is the Swedish maker’s way of proving that it’s not under its U.S. parent’s thumb. Even if Saab never releases a car like this, it still makes the statement that it’s more a jet than a GM.

The flashy coupe is meant to scream “jet” both inside and out. Its sleek, low-lying, carbon-fiber body features a wrap-around windshield that eschews A-pillars and shrugs off headwinds while it affords the occupants unobstructed vision.

It also catches a lot of eyes – at least it did so at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show. What captures the most attention is its canopy-style opening, wherein the doors are connected to the windshield as a unit, which is raised up and rearward, fighter-jet style, for entry and exit. The huge wheels garnered some attention too: the front ones are 22 inches and the rear ones are 23.

The telltale Swedish badge adorns its face, as do unusual smoked-glass headlights, but the intakes are exaggerated over the familiar three-port grille and slanted Saab look that we’re all used to. But in case we start to forget, the overriding aeronautical flavor is more than enough to remind us who has made this car.

Inside the jet theme is just as obvious in the absences of dials and buttons, as well as wood trim and carpeted floor. Saab looks at those things with a big “tut-tut,” simply because you won’t find them in any jet, so why would you expect them in a car that was Born from Jets?

The speedster’s power source is a 2.8-liter, twin-turbo V6 that eats ethanol exclusively to power its all-wheel drivetrain, which allows it to produce a very hefty 400 horses and 369 lb.-ft. of torque. Wowza. A 7-speed paddle-shifted manual transmission with dual-clutch set-up moves things along, and an electronically-controlled suspension makes for a smooth and probably very enjoyable ride. Saab’s computer-generated findings say that this Velociraptor will get to 60 with some change due back from 5 seconds, even if it’s only a tenth of a second.

But this isn’t just some fantasy race car; the Aero X concept shows ample roominess, thanks to innovative design of the hatchback storage area, which features a high floor with a pull-out storage drawer beneath it. Saab designers say that this feature was necessary in increasing rigidity.

Saab apparently has a goal of building a hot little two-seat coupe, sooner rather than later. But even if nothing like the Aero X ever sees the light of day, this concept makes a statement of independence and progressiveness for Saab. Right now what the company may need most is to prove to the world that it’s not just some appendage of GM, but a vital and viable avenue into the most exciting Scandinavian automotive endeavors.

Exotic Cars, Foreign Cars

Hyundai Makes Headlines in Geneva

March 1st, 2007

Hyundai announced this week that it plans to showcase two new vehicles–a stylish new hatchback and a concept crossover–at next week’s Geneva Auto Show. I don’t think any of the CarGurus are going to be there in person, but the folks at GlobalAutoIndex.com have a preview for us. The newly launched hatchback, named the “Hyundai i30″, is clearly influenced by the curvilinear Arnejs concept car displayed at last year’s Paris show.

Hyundai i30 It’s pretty! A little safer and boxier than the Arnejs concept, but overall it’s an attractive tweak of the standard hatchback form. According to the Hyundai press release, the new i-Series will expand to include a station wagon as well. One of the advantages of the i30 (again, according to the press release) is a longer wheelbase than other hatchbacks; this, Hyundai contends, means greater comfort for passengers and more cargo capacity.

That’s all well and good. What intrigues me most about the Hyundai i30, though, is its modular design. The i30 will be available with a choice of three gasoline engines and three diesel engines; all will be offered with both manual and automatic transmission.

Hyundai’s offering the i30 on the European market as a serious rival to the Volkswagen Golf. The five-door hatchback segment is super-hot right now, with Fiat’s Bravo relaunch and Punto retooling, not to mention the Opel Corsa OPC I’ve been drooling over. Hyundai’s entry, though, is stylish and affordable enough to give the European automakers a run for their money.

The other new Hyundai offering, the HED-4, is a concept crossover utility vehicle created in conjunction with GE Plastics. Yep, you read that right–plastics. Its features include a wrap-around Lexan windshield and a proprietary Elastic Front (TM) pedestrian safety system. All we’ve got is a sketch right now, but it looks super-cool.

Hyundai HED-4 The idea here is that the lightweight body is both environment- and pedestrian-friendly. Of course, this is a concept, and I’m not expecting to see people driving around in Lexan SUVs any time soon. But once again, we’re seeing a lot of creativity here, this time from South Korea. Are the Big Three going to catch up?

Read all about it at GlobalAutoIndex.com: http://www.globalautoindex.com/news/plt?no=1764

and at Caradisiac.com.

Car Shows, Foreign Cars

New Wrangler-Based Pickup A Possibility For Jeep

March 1st, 2007

jeep_gladiator_concept.jpg

Jeep introduced the Gladiator in 1962, as full size pickup truck variation of what later would become the Wagoneer SUV. By the early 1970s, the Gladiator evolved into the Honcho, which was also based on the large Wagoneer. Jeep replaced the Honcho with the smaller, Cherokee-based Comanche in the late eighties, before discontinuing the pickup body altogether in 1992.

There has been much skepticism about Jeep re-entering the pickup market, considering the disappointing sales of the Comanche nearly fifteen years ago, and the steadily emerging competition ever since then. However, the recent arrival of a new Jeep concept seemed to suggest that the American automaker may be planning to give the pickup another try.

Jeep reintroduced the Gladiator in 2005, really as a demonstration vehicle to help publicize the future direction of the company. It served as a preview for the new Wrangler, which arrived in 2006 with a similar shape and overall dimensions. It was most directly a foundation for the new four-door Wrangler variation. The Gladiator was 205 inches long with a 138 inch wheelbase, and about 75 inches in both width and height. The bed strentched to a very accommodating length of just under six feet. The bed could expanded one additional foot, extending into the cab, by folding the rear into lower compartments. Ground clearance was 13.7 inches, thanks to the massive 34 inch tires.

gladiator_dc_interiorfull.jpg

Despite DaimlerChrysler’s intention to use the Gladiator solely as a marketing tool, a cult following quickly developed. There are now many rumors surrounding the possibility of production.
If the attributes of the concept Gladiator are retained, Jeep’s new pickup will be powered by a 2.8-liter inline four turbo diesel engine. This power plant will generate 163 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, and will be paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

Car Industry News, Trucks & SUVs