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Automotive News - October 2014

Honda CR-V Wins CUV of the Year

The newly restyled and upgraded Honda CR-V has just been voted CUV of the year by Motor Trend, one of the automotive industry's most prestigious publications. After a few missteps over the last few years, many publications have been hard on Honda lately, so this is a big victory for the automaker. Regardless, Honda continues to sit at the top of many bestseller lists, because of the Civic, Accord and now the CR-V. A panel of nine judges determined the winner of the CUV of the year award. They applauded the improvements of the new design and aesthetics, but were most enthused by the CR-V's engineering. "This feels like a Honda should, with light steering, great feedback, and competent handling chops. It’s way more fun than any compact crossover ought to be," noted one judge.

Fastest PickUps

We know that pickup trucks are known for their incredible power and torque, however, rarely are they applauded for their speed. Speed is often traded for the features that make trucks useful, like size, power and capacity. Pickups have big tires, bigger engines and a lot more torque and horsepower. Still, there are some fast pickups out there, usually modified, and even some at the production level. With it's legions of fans, the F-150 SVT Raptor is both fast and fierce whether it be off road or on asphalt, sprinting the 0-60 in as little as 6.5 seconds and topping out at 150 mph. The Raptor's 411 hp 6.2-litre V8 and 434 lb-ft of torque ensure that speed did not come at the sacrifice of power. Production of the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner is ending, so if a truck that runs the 0-60 in 6 seconds is important to you, grab one of these 236 hp trucks quick.

Winter Driving Vision

Yep, it's that time of year again. We can expect frost any minute, and it's just about time to swap out our summer tires for snows. Winter driving isn't just about tires, warmth and slowing down, however. The window situation can be an issue for many of us too. They fog up, have to be cleared of snow, are constantly being splattered by the car in front. We use gallons of washer fluid during the winter, and while the rear defroster works properly on occasion, the side windows take forever to unfog. Here are a few suggestions to keep your vision clear during winter driving situations. Before winter hits, change your wiper blades. Don't wait until it's leaving streaks or scratches. They're cheap, and new ones always seem to do a better job, allowing you to see properly.

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT

Mercedes-Benz recently debuted the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT supercar in Germany. The GT is the second car in the company's line-up to be entirely developed by AMG, the first being the SLS AMG. In the past, Mercedes has often partnered with McLaren for it's sports cars. The GT will be powered by a new 4-litre V8 engine, which features two turbos that are laid out in an arrangement known as the "hot inside V." This layout helps the engine to remain compact. It delivers 456 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. The GT S variant gets even more, 503 hp and 479 lb-ft. Mercedes says that the GT S will run the 0 to 60 mph race in as little as 3.7 seconds, and the GT in 3.9 seconds.

Dash Cam Craze In Japan

Windshield-mounted dash cams are a bit of a novelty over here, though they can be helpful. They can record accidents, crimes, or even unfortunate encounters. The technology can also be used more creatively, as you will see below. In 2013, Russians managed to capture a meteor as it streaked across the sky. There is a new craze in Japan these days, one involving vehicle crash recorders. It's not all about guts and gore, however. All over Japan, drivers are uploading and trading footage captured by their vehicle dash cams. Sure, we've seen a lot of gruesome scenes filmed this way on sites like YouTube, particularly out of Russia, where the cams are popular. These scenes are different. Instead of twisted metal and blood, drivers are capturing footage of neon-lit streetscapes, lonesome country roads, and romantic sunsets. Other videos capture near-misses.

Tesla Model D Announced

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced this week that the company will offer an all-wheel-drive version of it's electric Model S sedan, called the Model D. The "D" stands for "dual motor."Musk made the announcement in a hanger near Los Angeles, where a robotic arm swung the car's AWD chassis through the air on stage. It had previously been mentioned on Twitter that the "D" would be unveiled on October 9. This two-motor version of the Model S gives us a hint of the new powertrain that will drive the company's upcoming Model X crossover, arriving next year. The system adds a second electric motor, this one mounted above the car's front axel to power the front wheels. All current versions of the car have a single electric motor attached to the rear axel, powering the rear wheels. Musk said that despite the additional weight, the new car will accelerate more quickly, have better grip and a longer range. This is due to the two motors being automatically adjusted to maximize efficiency.

Marchionne Stepping Down

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has announced that he plans to step down at the end of 2018. That year will mark the completion of his $70 billion, five year strategic plan announced on May 6 to expand the combined automakers. Marchionne said in an interview that he plans to do something else, perhaps pursuing other interests such as theoretical physics. He said "I am not going to do any more turnarounds. I'm done; let some of the young punks do it." He has suggested that the role he fills will have to be reconfigured, possibly being split among more than one executive. While it is not an official list, there are a few names being tossed about as potential replacements for Marchionne. Some of these include Fiat's European chief Alfredo Altavilla, Jeep head Mike Manley, head of Fiat Brazil Cledorvino Belini or CNH Industrial CEO Richard Tobin. It is certain that Chairman John Elkann, a member of Fiat founding family Agnelli will not be on the list. As the company's largest shareholder, he has said that his non-executive role "has worked well" for the family.

Tesla Used Cars

In June 2012, Tesla began selling the Model S. To reassure customers about committing to an electric car that had yet to prove itself, Elon Musk offered a personal guarantee to buyers. They were told that they could return the car in three years, and recover 43 to 50 percent of what they paid for it, a figure comparable to that of the trade-in value of a three-year old German luxury vehicle. It won't be long until that three year mark comes around. This means that there will be a whole bunch of used Teslas hitting the market late next year, or in early 2016. In 2017, three years after Tesla got into the leasing game with three-year terms offered to both businesses and consumers, there will be a lot more. Currently, in 37 states one can lease a Tesla Model S for $5,000 down and $932 per month. This is perfect timing, since as those cars come in, the Model X and maybe even the Model III will be arriving. The Model X crossover is set to hit the road in June, 2015, giving those Model S owners a reason to trade for a new Tesla.

Ferrari 458 Speciale A Convertible

At this week's Paris Motor Show, one of the biggest draws comes from Ferrari, as they debut their limited edition 458 Speciale A convertible. 'A' for Aperta, which means 'open' in Italian. The Ferrari 458 Speciale A Convertible is a classic Ferrari spider mated with the body of the 458 Speciale, a lightweight and track-focused car. It's hood has two ports built into it to vent the hot air out from the rad. The front and rear ends have also been redesigned, bringing back the styling of vintage Ferraris such as the 350 GTO. It's retractable aluminum roof takes a mere 14 seconds to fold down, though this feature adds 110 pounds to the car's weight.

2014 Paris Motor Show

Hurray! It's auto show season again, and right near the top of the list is the auto show in Paris, known as Mondial de l'Automobile 2014. Auto shows are often our first chance to glimpse new models, whether they be super cars or fuel sippers, and of course, the only place to get close to concept cars, my personal favourite part of car shows. Here are a few of the vehicles that will make their debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show. On the supercar front, the stars of the Paris show are sure to be the new 900 horsepower Lamborghini, along with the Ferrari 458 Speciale which is considered to be the most aerodynamically efficient Ferrari spider to date. Don't think that the French are snobs though; supercars will be sharing floor space with fuel-efficient plug-in hybrids, including the Volkswagen Passat GTE.

The Ram 750 Arrives In Mexico

Automotive fans, you might remember the Dodge Ram 50, the little truck that came straight from Mitsubishi. Sold during the 1980s, this little truck, smaller than the Dakota, brought a great deal of joy to many owners. Within Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Fiat has it's own small truck, the Strada. RAM has the same type of small truck... in Mexico. Granted, this type of pickup is popular in that country. GM is already distributing the Chevrolet Tornado, and we can count on the Ford Ranger, which is a little bigger. The RAM 750 is highly derivative of the Strada, to the point where the only changes are the Fiat badges having been replaced by a goat's head on the griller, on the box panel and on the steering wheel. The rest of the vehicle is identical in all respects to the Italian Fiat Strada.

Nissan's Project Titan

Some of you might have heard about Nissan announcing Project Titan at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show earlier this year in Las Vegas. The auto maker crowdsourced ideas from it's fans to modify a Titan pickup truck, making it capable to handle extreme off-roading. The heavily modified and fortified truck will be heading to Alaska, to be driven in the backcountry by two Wounded Warrior Project Alumni, David Guzman and Kevin McMahon, and an automotive journalist to see what the upgraded truck can handle. Fans were encouraged to vote on 10 different areas of customization on a 2014 Titan Crew Cab PRO-4X. Keeping the aesthetics rugged looking, the truck was wrapped in digital camouflage with a Wounded Warrior Project emblem.

Subaru STI To Tackle Rally

Subaru Rally Team Canada will be debuting the all new 2015 WRX STI At Rallye Défi, with a model tricked out specifically for rally racing. The car was tweaked by Rocket Rally Racing, to prepare it for the Canadian Rally Championship. The return of Subaru Rally Team Canada (SRTC) will happen at Rallye Défi in the 2014 Canadian Rally Championship (CRC) in Ste-Agathe, QC on September 5-6. Not only does the team have a new car, but a new driver will be joining them. Martin Rowe is the previous winner of the Production World Rally Championship (PWRC), and he knows the Subaru brand well. Rocket Rally Racing has invested countless hours, meticulously preparing the car. Under the supervision of Pat Richard, the company has used computer aided design (CAD) systems to virtually test the improvements to the car. Since the research, design and production of each part can be well documented, it will be easy later for the company to reproduce and replicate each part in the future for their own purposes, or for customer's vehicles.

Next Generation Chevrolet Niva Concept

At the 2014 Moscow Motor Show, Chevy unveiled it's newest concept, the Niva. Chevrolet has officially unveiled the next generation Niva Concept during the 2014 Moscow International Auto Salon, in a world premiere. The Niva, which is a joint venture between General Motors and AvtoVaz, Lada's parent company. Lada, has been in production sine 1998. Lada is now owned by Nissan/Renault. In the past, this 4x4 had a reputation of being both reliable and simple to fix, but prone to rust and not very capable off-road. The Niva is a big seller in Europe, thanks to it's rugged look.

Consumer Reports Declares Ram 1500 EcoDiesel A Winner

Consumer Reports, the recognized judge of most everything, has bestowed the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel with the honour of being the top half-ton pickup truck. The popular Ram 1500 EcoDiesel beat out rivals from Ford, GM, Nissan and Toyota in the full size-light-duty pickup truck category. The diesel-powered half-ton 1500 scored well for it's fuel economy of 27 mpg, and for it's "whisper quiet" interior. In a statement, Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports said: "These are about the same fuel-economy numbers that we typically see in a midsized SUV." He added: "Ram is currently the only truck to offer turbo-diesel technology. It will be interesting to see what impact it will have on the half-ton truck market."

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