Rold Gold: The Rinspeed eXasis

Rinspeed Exasis

With all apologies to my favorite pretzel maker, I couldn’t help thinking that Swiss autodesigner Rinspeed’s eXasis (pronounced ee-ex-asis) concept looked a lot like a rolling golden finger.  Attendees at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show couldn’t help staring at the gears and engine that shamelessly revealed themselves under the transparent Makrolon plastic.  The buzz quickly established the new model as one of the most intriguing cars you’ll never get to drive.

So if the maker doesn’t plan to sell it, why build it?  Well, as Rick James Chappelle used to say, “It’s a celebration!”  Rinspeed marked its 30th anniversary by building the machine and headache-breaker Bayer popped the cork for the 40th anniversary of its own plastic car design by wrapping Rinspeed’s technology in yellow Makrolon.  This 2 seat model could probably help you take home the neighborhood soapbox racing title with its 150 hp, 2 cylinder engine that runs on bioethanol.  As for the seats themselves, they look a lot like beach chairs with their ribbed design.  Overall, the eXasis looks like the perfect companion for a day of fun in the sun.

While you won’t find the Rinspeed eXasis for sale, the design reflects the growing trend toward sleek, lightweight frames and cleaner engines in the automotive industry.  This slender concept car should help fuel the imaginations of those who like to think outside the box.

To learn more about the eXasis, check out the following links:

The Car Connection

IGN Preview 

Road & Track Video

– posted by Taeho Lim

Big, Bold and Beautiful: the Lexus LX 570 Debuts in New York

A new plus-sized beauty made her official debut April 4th at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, turning heads all around and most certainly garnering a wolf-whistle or two along the way. Eager Lexus representatives pulled the veil off their dazzling new full-sized SUV, the LX 570, which is more than ready to oust the rather tired LX 470.

Besides measuring in at 4 inches longer and one inch wider than its predecessor, the LX 570 boasts a 5.7-liter VVT-I V8 that blasts out 381 horsepower, a full 113 more stallions. This engine, which was developed for the Toyota Tundra, isn’t the only gift from the parent company’s stalwart pickup—it also shares its 6-speed automatic transmission. Another new highlight is the electrohydraulic suspension, which is said to reduce body roll by 30 percent. It also includes a feature called active height-control. This function decreases vehicle height by two inches for easier passenger entry and exit and also during highway travel to reduce wind-resistance.

But this beautiful beast is eager and equipped to be taken off-road, right down to its trail-specific antilock brakes, which improve stopping on all surfaces, and Crawl Control, which gives the driver more throttle control over the rocks. And, as you might expect, all of the latest safety features commingle in this most luxurious of SUVs, including not merely active head restraints and a legion of air bags (10 of them), but also a pre-collision system and a blind-spot monitor that allows the driver to keep an eye on what’s beyond the vehicle’s rear corners as he’s maneuvering in tight spots.

This plusher-than-plush 8-passenger SUV will compete to some degree with its more down-to-earth cousin the Toyota Land Cruiser and the ultra-exclusive Mercedes-Benz G-Class, but its true rivals will be Land Rover’s Range Rover as well as the Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator. The 570’s immediate advantage over the Range Rover is in seating capacity, as the British product lacks a third-row seat. But it’s also hard to argue that the U.S.-branded offerings can hold a candle to the LX 570, although their price tag is lower. Rear-wheel-drive versions of the Navigator are rated to tow a tiny tad more (8,600 pounds vs. the 570’s 8,500), yet the Lexus gets the edge when it comes to torque.

Lexus spokespeople say there was a definite intention to make this impressive offering even more refined than the outgoing LX 470. Sure enough, the long-awaited overhaul is showing true results, and you can bet there will be a good bit of hoity-toity hubbub when this baby hits the lots at the beginning of 2008. Although Lexus has not announced an MSRP, it is expected to range upward from $70,000.

2008 Jeep Liberty: Freedom of the Road

Jeep unveiled its 2008 Liberty mid-size SUV on April 4 at the New York Auto Show, and although the Liberty is all-new from the ground up (the first redesign of the vehicle since its introduction in 2002), there’s a lot about it that has a familiar look. In fact, Jeep pulled design cues from its iconic past to give the Liberty a somewhat retro though still contemporary look.

It all starts with that grille, which evokes the Jeeps of the World War II and Korean War eras, with its seven slots framed by round headlights. There’s almost a militaristic look to it. The flared trapezoidal wheel openings, however, are distinctively modern, giving the Liberty a rugged appearance. One of the new Liberty’s coolest features, though, is something you can’t quite see unless you’re looking down on it from above. It’s an optional canvas canopy roof, which Jeep calls the Sky Slider. The roof retracts to a huge 30-by-60-inch opening, which Jeep says is the largest opening in its class and an industry first. The idea is to give occupants an open-top driving experience similar to what you might have enjoyed tooling around decades ago in an open-air Jeep, while still maintaining the safety features of a rigid cabin.

Another nice feature: The new Liberty is available with a choice of four-wheel-drive systems, including Jeep’s Command Trac part-time four-wheel drive system, which has been around for awhile, or the next-generation Select Trac II on-demand four-wheel-drive system. The Liberty is also available with two-wheel drive.

The Liberty comes in both Sport and Limited packages. The standard engine is a 220-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. Other options include a high-tech towing package with Trailer Sway Control.

Inside features include power windows, door locks, and mirrors, as well as a fold-flat rear seat, remote keyless entry, and an MP3 audio jack in the stereo system. A wide range of interior options is also available, including automatic temperature control, memory seats, remote start, and a 6-disc CD/DVD audio system. The 2008 Jeep Liberty is expected to be in showrooms this summer.

VW Unveils New Diesel Flagship

Volkswagen will introduce a new slightly face-lifted generation of its flagship Phaeton sedan in 2008, with a myriad of technical innovations and a new diesel power plant.

In order to meet the 2009 Euro-5 soot particulate standards, VW has produced a new 3.0 liter TDI V-6. This efficient new diesel engine will deliver 238 horsepower, which is a slight increase over the previous TDI. The Phaeton’s three other engine options are a 3.2 liter 240 horsepower V-6, a 4.2 liter 335 horsepower V-8, and a 6.0 liter 450 horsepower W-12. The diesel will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Several new technical features will also debut on the next Phaeton. Highlights include an upgraded DVD-based navigation system, an advanced tire pressure control system, bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming/activating high beams, and Adaptive Cruise Control.

The Phaeton also has two very unique features: Front Assist and Side Assist.

Front Assist uses radar to monitor the proximity of other vehicles. If a possible collision is detected, the system begins a two-stage preparation. First, a warning and a brake adjustment occurs. Then the Stopping Distance Reduction automatically slows or stops the car.

Side Assist scans laterally when a driver is preparing to change lanes. If a car in the blind spot is detected, a warning is sent to the driver.

The entertainment system has also been improved, and the Bluetooth system will now store 1000 contacts.

Unfortunately, Volkswagen has stopped delivering the Phaeton to the United States. Sales here were slow, as American consumers seemed to have a difficult time accepting the idea of a VW priced to compete with the BMW 7-Series. There are rumors of Grey market or on-demand availability in the future.

For more information on the 2008 VW Phaeton check out: