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Automotive News - December 2014

Great Cars, Trucks And SUVs For Winter

Looking for a great car, but live in an area that receives a lot of snow? Some vehicles are better than others in wintry conditions, but that doesn't mean you need to go the SUV route. Here are a few great cars, trucks and SUVs for winter that are easy to drive, safe and more than capable. The Subaru Crosstrek XV takes drivers from mud to snow seamlessly. It's got high ground clearance, protective body paneling to reduce salt and sand damage, and is small enough to be easy to manoeuvre in and out of tight spaces, a particularly tough task in the winter. All-wheel drive is just the icing on the cake. Similarly, the Volvo XC70 also has high ground clearance, sheet metal protection from corrosive salt and all-wheel drive. Volvo says, “we created a whole new idea — an elegant station wagon with the off-road capability of an SUV.” Alternatively, Audi's own wagon, the Audi Allroad offers better ground clearance and a turbocharged 4-cylinder combined with Quattro all-wheel drive.

The New Bentley Grand Convertible

There is still a certain segment of the population who craves large, ostentatious automobiles. Some are the newly rich in China, some are European royalty, and some just come from old money and appreciate the finer things in life. Bentley is happy to fulfil the needs of these demographics with their ultra luxurious cars. While the playing field has lost rival Maybach, even super-high-end automakers like Bentley and Rolls Royce compete to outdo each other. Bentley is now taking things up a notch by debuting a convertible version of the Bentley Mulsanne Speed, called the Grand Convertible. With it's 6.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine that produces an astounding 811 lb-ft of torque, this 530 horsepower beast could easily be confused with a locomotive. No longer are convertibles the domain of slick little roadsters, the new Bentley Grand convertible is the size of a boat. Actually, it's the size and weight of a full-size SUV, only much lower to the ground. "We are eagerly awaiting the response of our customers to this car. We will ensure that this car — if it reaches the roads – will be a highly exclusive, extremely limited collector’s piece," said Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer as the car was unveiled at the recent LA Auto Show. "This concept demonstrates Bentley’s ability to create a pinnacle convertible Grand Tourer, while embodying elegance beyond compare. With this car we combine the opulent Mulsanne experience with the full sensory indulgence of open-air touring, continuing to unite luxury and performance in new ways."

A Cheaper AMG

One of the most coveted vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz line-up is the AMG GT sports car. AMG is the performance division of Mercedes, putting the brand in competition with Porsche and BMW's M series. AMG offers very sporty versions of traditional Mercedes-Benz models. Last year, Mercedes-AMG introduced it's first hatchback, the 45 AMG. Mercedes has announced that they plan to put AMG into more hands, by offering lower priced vehicles. The German automaker will debut two new models at the auto show in Detroit this January, with more to follow. As many as nine performance versions of 11 Mercedes-badged new models could be launched by 2020. The company is hoping to double AMG sales over the next three years by offering a cheaper product line and narrowing the price gap between AMG and Mercedes-Benz cars. This strategy has been successful for rival Audi, who launched the S-line, slotted between Audi's base cars, and RS models.

Don't Make These Mistakes When Buying A Car

While choosing the right car can be exciting, it can be a downright arduous task too. The vehicle we drive often sends a message to others about personality, status or individuality. Driving a BMW conveys a much different message than the one sent by driving a Volkswagen Golf with a rooftop carrier. We see the luxury car driver as wealthy and successful, and the minivan driver covered in honour-student stickers as a proud mom. The purchase of a new vehicle can mean changing the image sent out to the world, and at the same time is an opportunity to snap up all the gear and gizmos that weren't available when you purchased your last vehicle. Your very first brand new car may be even more exciting, coming loaded with comfortable and technically advanced features, and the peace of mind knowing that it's unlikely to break down any time soon. Many people get caught up in all of this excitement, and make big mistakes when buying a car. Here are a few of the most common mistakes.

Audi R8 Competition: Audi's Fastest R8 Ever

Supercars are becoming commonplace these days, even landing on dealer lots in average cities. Just look at the new Corvette and the Hellcat if you are in any doubt. This new generation of supercars had better be quick, however. Favourite supercar makers like Audi are putting these new guys on notice that they aren't going to sit by and watch the competition. Audi just debuted the fastest R8 ever made, and it's indeed an impressive contender. The new Audi R8 Competition comes with astounding performance stats. It coasts through the 0 to 60 mph race in a neck snapping 3.2 seconds, hitting a top speed of 199 miles per hour. With 570 horsepower, it is the fastest and most powerful vehicle ever produced by Audi. That was the good news. The bad news is that it is a limited edition car with only 60 units being produced for the North American market.

Expensive Car Repairs

If you are purchasing a used vehicle that is no longer covered by a warranty, reliability is one of your greatest concerns. Nobody wants to buy a lemon and get stuck with expensive repairs. These problems can be caused by poor maintenance, manufacturing issues or simply bad luck. People often seem to be reluctant to spend much on automotive repair, but neglected vehicle maintenance is the cause of many accidents. According to a press release from AAA, one should expect to spend 5 cents per mile on maintenance for a sedan, which really isn't a whole lot to avoid much more expensive car repairs. Spending a few bucks on essential maintenance such as oil changes, tune-ups and tire rotations can save you from shelling out for catastrophic mechanical failure. Sometimes those repairs can cost more than the car is worth. Before purchasing, check out your potential vehicle's track record. Guides such as Lemon Aid will let you know what to expect from your new set of wheels, and any track record when it comes to commonly needed repairs. Here are a few of the most expensive car repairs, ones you really want to avoid.

Crossovers Moving Downscale

There is little doubt of the popularity of crossovers. SUV styling and practicality, with the fuel economy of a car. They're handy, trendy and come with reasonable operating costs. Once the crossover boom took hold, it's natural progression was towards upscale models such as the Porsche Cayenne, or the BMW X5. Every luxury automaker rushed out their own luxury crossover, with good results. The crossover trend is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, counting for 11 percent of the U.S. new-car market; and has now moved downscale. Cheaper, smaller versions that are definitely with the reach of most budgets. Often referred to as 'cute utes' these tiny crossovers are essentially bigger, more capable econoboxes and are aimed at younger buyers.

Scion iM Concept

Scion, a division of Toyota, is hoping to regain momentum in North America as they prepare to introduce their iM concept at Los Angeles Auto Show this month. The iM, is a hatchback designed to appeal to younger, adventurous drivers. "The tastes of today's younger buyers have evolved," Doug Murtha, Scion vice president, said in a statement. "They want a car that provides excitement and individuality, as well as the comfort, technology and reliability that Scion offers." He added: "The iM Concept combines sleek styling with the versatility of a modern hatchback to catch the eye of Scion customers," and that we should "stay tuned for more on how we will bring this vision to the road."Scion describes the concept's looks as having "sleek styling with the versatility of a modern hatchback" and was designed "to catch the eye of Scion customers."

At The Los Angeles Auto Show

At this year's Los Angeles Auto Show, the focus seems to be on two opposing segments- gigantic luxury sedans sharing the spotlight with cute utes. At one end of the spectrum, the show will highlight Mercedes-Benz' Maybach high end sedan, while sharing the same stage with pint-sized crossovers found at the opposite end of the spectrum. As well, the show will feature Audi's new concept for a future flagship, and new crossovers from Honda and Mazda. Based on the Honda Fit subcompact, Honda will unveil it's HR-V crossover. The HR-V puts a premium on cargo space, thanks fot fold-flat rear seats, and a fuel tank hidden under the front seats. It is already available in Japan, known there as the Vezel. Mazda, too, will unveil a small crossover- the CX-3. Slotted below the CX-5 compact cross, it will share a platform with the new Mazda2. The automaker will also bring out it's updated versions of the 2016 CX-5 and Mazda6. In much bigger vehicles, Mercedes-Benz is planning to revive the Maybach marquee.

Consumer Data And Your Privacy In The Car

Your car generates an astounding amount of data. It knows how fast you tend to drive, where, whether or not you're wearing your seatbelt, or even fiddling with stereo or settings at the time of a crash. That data isn't a secret kept between yourself and your car. It can be sent back to manufacturers through the vehicle's connected-car service such as OnStar or built-in 4G data connections. It can be subpoenaed, or even shared with insurance companies. This situation can make a privacy conscious individual a little wary. As cars become smartphones on wheels capable of collecting more and more data about us, automakers have had to adapt in this connected car era. Recognizing this, automakers have come together to adopt a set of protocols for handling consumer data, offering at least a veneer of privacy in the car. They are committing to a set of privacy practices, which is meant to both reassure consumers, and to head off new regulations which could hinder innovation. Essentially, their message to consumers is one of where people drive, and how they drive is of no concern to automakers. This is an agreement between BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen on industry-wide principles regarding the handling and safeguarding of consumer data and privacy.

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