Monday, November 13, 2017

Highlights From the 2017 SEMA Show



Alexander Carabitses


(Image credited to Hennessey)

Some may find it strange to hear that Las Vegas does not have a large international auto show, but rather, a pitiful regional show that's only a little bit better than what I grew up with in Providence, Rhode Island.  However, Las Vegas is also the home of the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association Show or SEMA Show.  This is essentially a trade show and playground for aftermarket companies to showcase their latest and greatest offerings.  However, many automakers have taken it upon themselves to bring as many modded vehicles as they possibly can so that their brands' can receive some media coverage.  Because the list of debuts from each manufacturer is long and pretty much irrelevant, I am only going to cover the best and most significant vehicle (or product) from each OEM that chose to participate.

Honda:  Honda didn't have any new products to show this year at SEMA.  However, the brand did announce that the Civic Type-R's powerplant would be offered as a crate engine.  That means that tuners and individuals will be able to purchase the 2.0-liter 306 horsepower engine for $6,519.87 (excluding destination charges), which is actually not a bad deal.
(Image credited to Honda)

Acura:  Acura showcased a new one-off iteration of the NSX called the Acura NSX Dream Project.  The car was created by the tuner, ScienceofSpeed, and features a series of aftermarket components that are meant to make this look akin to the NSX GT3 race car.
(Image credited to Acura)


Lexus: While this may look like an ordinary Lexus LC500, it's actually special edition called the Inspiration Series.  The unique thing about the car is its "structural blue" paint, which is not actually painted at all, but rather an optical illusion. This is because the car's actual bodywork reflects blue light, similar to how the ocean reflects the color of the sky.  The brand plans on producing 100 examples.
(Image credited to Lexus)


FCA:  Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles surprisingly had no specialty vehicles at SEMA this year.  What it did have was 200 accessories for the all-new Jeep Wrangler.  Like Honda, it is now offering the Hellcat engine as a $19,530 crate engine.  There is also a $2,195 engine kit that includes many necessary components that the engine requires in order to perform at its best.
(Image credited to Dodge)

Toyota:  Of the various specialty Camrys and CH-Rs in SEMA, this one stands out the most. Built by Dan Gardner, the idea behind this CH-R is to set the record for the fastest front-wheel-drive vehicle to lap the Nuremberg Ring.  Of course, that's what Toyota says; whether or not they actually do it is another matter entirely.
(Image credited to Toyota)


Hyundai: Hyundai actually showed up with a lot of new vehicles a SEMA, and out of all of them, the HyperEconiq Ioniq (talk about a catchy name) is the standout act.  The car is said to return over 80 mpg, thanks to some slight engine tweaks and aerodynamic enhancing add-ons, with the skirted rear wheels being the most obvious.
(Image credited to Hyundai)

Kia:  Hyundai's sister brand, Kia, showed up with many special versions of the Stinger. The Stinger GT Federation that you see below is the launch vehicle for Kia's aftermarket parts and accessories program.  It will be interesting to see how many people actually decide to modify their Stingers so that they look like this.
(Image credited to Kia)

Ford:  To put it simply, Ford brought a lot of crap that was instantly forgettable. However, if I had to pick one standout vehicle, it would have to be the Project SD126.  Built by BDS Suspension, this F-250 Super Duty features 42-inch tires and a suspension that pretty much takes inspiration from a monster truck.  The orange paint is pretty cool too.
(Image credited to Ford)

Mini: Mini's biggest piece of news at SEMA was the 2018 Cooper S Ice Blue Special Edition.  The only thing that sets this Mini Cooper S apart from every other one on the planet is the paint job.  Some have said that it looks like a Gulf livery because the car has orange accents.
(Image credited to Mini)

BMW:  While BMW did showcase a lot of accessories at SEMA this year, it also brought the 2018 M3 30 Years American Edition.  This is a one-off that's based on the M3 Competition Package and designed through the brand's BMW Individual program.  In addition to the unique look of the exterior (wheels, paint, and trim) the interior upholstery features colors and patterns that were inspired by the American flag.  Judging by this and the name, you can probably guess what BMW is trying to celebrate with this vehicle.  Oh, and it was put on sale the moment that the show closed its doors.
(Image credited to BMW)

Chevrolet: While many may be thinking that the Hot Wheels Camaro is my pick for best in the show for Chevrolet, it only gets this honorable mention.  That is because the Silverado Performance Concept was on the stand.  Why rave about this pickup truck?  Well, it features the same supercharger that's in the Camaro ZL1 and Corvette Z06, which brings the truck's output to 460 horsepower, which is up by about 100 horses.  Plus, it looks just like a classic modded pickup truck should with its low stance and aggressive demeanor.
(Image credited to Chevrolet)

Audi: Like BMW, Audi brought a lot of aftermarket parts and accessories, but it had one standout vehicle.  The TT Clubsport Turbo Concept (which initially debuted this past summer) is meant to pay homage to the Audi 90 race car that ran in the IMSA GTO class back in 1989.  Audi has claimed a few performance figures (600 horsepower and a top of 193 mph), but at the end of the day, this is nothing more than a good looking show car.
(Image credited to Audi)

Hennessey: The biggest news at SEMA, by far, was the debut of the Hennessey Venom F5.  Unlike the brand's last hypercar, this one is built on a brand new chassis that was designed by the tuner, itself.  Power comes from a twin-turbo V8 that cranks out 1,600 horsepower, with 0-186 mph taking place in only 10 seconds, while 0-249 mph happens in less than thirty seconds. However, the most impressive point about this car is the fact that it has a top speed of over 300 mph.  The car comes mated to a 7-speed DSG transmission and as you'd expect, power is sent to the rear wheels.  The car's impressive power output and 2,950 lb curb weight makes this faster than the Bugatti Chiron and virtually every Formula 1 car.  It is simply the fastest car in the world.  But before you get overly anxious and write out the $1.6 million check, be warned:  The car shown at SEMA lacked an interior and was only a plastic model; for that reason, my message to Hennessey is less talking and more developing.  The car has a lot of potential and we've seen them to great things before, but in the automotive industry, it will always come down to what's being done now, rather than what was done in the past.
(Image credited to Hennessey)

So as far as I'm concerned, this is the standout news at the 2017 SEMA Show.  As always, the show was filled with the weird, the wacky, and the ridiculous.  And of course, how can we forget the downright pointless that don't do a thing to tug at the hearts of enthusiasts and just scream for media attention?  Quite easily in fact.  Hopefully, we aren't forced to forget about Hennesey's potentially marvelous creation.

Thank you for reading and have a good week.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Halloween Candy From the Brands and Nameplates That We've Come to Love



Alexander Carabitses

(Image credited to Lamborghini)

Just about everyone who has read this post consistently is well aware of my summer product reveal posts and my miscellaneous product debut posts that take place during the auto show season.   What you see before you is one of the latter, but with some hot stuff, courtesy of the brands and nameplates that we've all come to revere throughout our lives.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack Level 2:  Of all the vehicles on this list, this one, in particular, is the most affordable. It is a simple performance trim pack that's available for the Ford Mustang GT, but it is not a Scatpack and 1LE competitor (although that is coming soon).   In addition to the minor exterior design tweaks, Ford has also recalibrated the steering a little bit, added a few new suspension parts and has given the car new wheels and tires.  Ford has yet to announce how much these upgrades are going to cost, but we do know that sales begin next Spring. 
(Image credited to Ford)

2018 Porsche 911 Carrara T:  At this point, it's safe to say that there are about as many version of the Porsche 911 as there are Heinz condiments.  So what's new with this model?  Well, it's kind of hard to say, but this is basically a tweener between the GTS and the GT3 if that makes any sense.  It's powered by the same 3.0-liter flat-six as the regular Carerra, only the engine now makes 370 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque.  You can hit 60 mph with this thing in about 4.3 seconds (0.1 seconds faster than the standard Carerra, as if anybody will notice) and a top speed of 182 mph.  In addition to some minor suspension changes, the brand has made the effort of reducing weight through the reduction of sound deadening materials.  Porsche has already started taking orders for this car and people are shelling out $102,100 (not including destination). When Porsche can do so little to a car and get people to pay a hefty amount of money for it, it serves as a clear testament to the amount of loyalty people have towards the vehicle and the brand.
(Image credited to Porsche) 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S Ultimate:  There's not a whole lot to say about this one, as it is nothing more than a special trim package that is being limited to 175 units.  Its purpose: to commemorate the end of the line for the current Vanquish, as we await its successor to come along in the not-too-distant future.
(Image credited to Aston Martin)

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake: We've seen the coupe, the convertible, and the roadster.  Now, we have the last of the bunch, and again, it comes looking better than ever in everybody's favorite body style. As with the other Vanquish Zagato models, the changes are limited to the exterior, while everything else remains the same.  Only 99 of these will be produced and sales kick off next year.
(Image credited to Aston Martin)

Lamborghini Terzo Millennio Concept:  About 30 minutes away from where the post that you're reading was published, Lamborghini and MIT unveiled their new pet project.  The first thing you'll notice about this vehicle is that the styling makes the much-criticized Veneno of 2013 look about as conservatively styled as a Toyota Sienna.  The car is electric but uses supercapacitors instead of batteries.  The supercapacitors only store energy, but send power to motors in each of the wheel hubs. The supercapacitors are actually located within the carbon fiber bodywork, and for this reason, both the brand and the students have developed a system that detects cracks in the carbon fiber, while the material would be engineered to heal itself.  As you'd expect, all of this is pure fantasy at the moment, but its great to see that Lamborghini is collaborating with students in this fashion
(Image credited to Lamborghini


2018 Ferrari FXX-K Evo:  While the Ferrari FXX-K was supposed to be the most extreme Ferrari ever made, it now has company in the form of this incredible white car that you see before you.  In reality, this vehicle is nothing more than an aerodynamic handling package.  A variety of carbon fiber components have been added, with the rear wing being the most prominent example.  The suspension has been retuned to better the downforce, while the steering has also been recalibrated.  In total, this car produces 75% more downforce than the LaFerrari and 23% more downforce than the FXX-K.  Although it does plan on producing a few of these, Ferrari will predominantly be offering this as an upgrade for existing FXX-Ks. The downside is that the car is not street legal, so owners will only be able to drive them in the nine XX program events that Ferrari has planned, starting in March of next year.
(Image credited to Ferrari)

That's all for now.  My highlights of the 2017 SEMA show will be coming on, or before the thirteenth of November.  Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your week.

Monday, October 30, 2017

My Take on the 2017 Tokyo Auto Show




Alexander Carabitses

This is the first time that I have covered the Tokyo Auto Show (albeit from afar), and I have to say that I was initially very excited.  There was a lot of hype in the months leading up the show, with multiple sources claiming that we'd see previews of the next Nissan Z sports car, the new Toyota Supra, and the Lexus LC-F.   However, none of those vehicles actually debuted, which was extremely disappointing. None the less, there was still a lot of good stuff at the show, with just about every vehicle being a concept.

As a bit of background, I should note that neither the American or the Korean manufacturers participate at the show.  Renault, all of the PSA brands, Volvo, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen all participated, but their debuts were simply Asian premiers of some Frankfurt debuts and some other stuff that we'd already seen. This means that all of the attention was on the home market brands, all of which showed a lot of great concepts.  Toyota showed about six concepts and the one world debut of a production car, all of which you can read about in the latter half of last week's post, but I've included photos of them at the end of this post as well.  Nissan also showed a pair of Nismo concepts that I covered in that post as well (again, photos are at the end).

During press days, Nissan also pulled the wraps off of the IMx Crossover Concept, an electric autonomous crossover concept that has absolutely no chance of making it to production in the near future, due to the fact that it's fully autonomous.  However, if Nissan were to place the 429 horsepower electric powertrain in a production crossover, it would make an ideal competitor to the Volkswagen I.D. Crozz.  Another electric crossover that received a lot of attention, mostly because of its name, was the Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept, a vehicle that bears a portion of the iconic Evo's name, but is certainly no Mitsubishi Evo.  This point has actually disgusted a lot of enthusiasts, but I haven't had time to be disgusted by this point, as I am already disgusted by the styling.  There are many people that complain about Lexus's front end, but honestly, this is ten times worse, a that's just on the concepts.  We already know that the production vehicles feature grilles that have more chrome than a 1953 Buick Skylark.
(Image credited to Nissan)
(Image credited to Mitsubishi)


Honda showed a lot of robot-like concepts (all of which are for personal and home use), but their show star was the Honda Sports EV Concept, which is nothing more than a little electric sports car that may or may not make production alongside the Urban EV, with which it bears a striking resemblance.  It isn't often that you can call a car adorable, but in this case, I think we have an exception.  Another concept that has a fifty-fifty chance of making production is the Subaru Viziv Performance Concept.   Because the car was dubbed "the next generation sports sedan" by Subaru, many automatically began pointing to this as a preview of the next generation WRX, which we should see in a few years; I for one agree with them.  The real question is how many of the details make production. As we already know, Subaru has a history of showing good looking concepts that are followed up by some truly dreadful production renditions.  However, it appears that the brand may be getting better, as is evidenced by the new Impreza and the Ascent.  All I can say is don't count on the wheel arches being as wide on the production version as they are on the concept.
(Image credited to Honda)
(Image credited to Honda)
(Image credited to Honda)
(Image credited to Honda)
(Image credited to Honda)
(Image credited to Subaru)


Some miscellaneous concept car debuts from brands that don't get any recognition for their cars in the US included the Suzuki E-Survivor concept (an-off road vehicle that looks like it was pulled straight out of a video game), a series of Daihatsu concepts, and the Yamaha Cross Hub.  Now for those who are keeping track, this is Yamaha's second concept car, and much like the first, it caters to a potential niche market.  Still, the idea of having a specialty vehicle for hauling around a motorcycle or an ATV does sound exciting.
(Image credited to Suzuki)

(Image credited to Daihatsu)
(Image credited to Yamaha)


While Toyota showed all of its reveals in advance, Lexus waited and surprised people with three reveals, two of which were commemorative editions of the GS F and RC F that are meant to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the IS F.  My response: where did these come from and why should I care?  Lexus also pulled the wraps off of a ridiculous concept car that got the exact opposite response of what the brand was looking for.  The LS+ Concept is the most embarrassing vehicle that Lexus has ever done, worse than the SC (a vehicle which Jeremy Clarkson and James May proclaimed as "the worst car in the history of the world").  First off, we don't need a concept version of a car before the current version of that particular car goes on sale (unless it's a new trim line, which this is not).  Second, although I'm not bothered by the spindle grille on Lexus's other models, I must say, I don't understand what they were thinking this time.  Why would the brand take the most hated element of its vehicles and make it three dimensional, and then have the headlamps amplify it?  And all of this for what, so that the brand could announce that it would have a level 4 autonomous system for highway use in its cars by 2020? This vehicle is a total joke from a brand that I know is capable of a lot better more and will probably prove this in the next few months.
(Image credited to Lexus)
(Image credited to Lexus)

Finally, we have Mazda, which stole the show with its two concept cars: the Vision Concept and the Kai Concept.  The former is a sports sedan concept that features sleek proportions, and a roof that resembles the Aston Martin Lagonda.  Personally speaking, this was my favorite vehicle of the show.  However, a lot of other people in the media disagree with me and prefer the Kai Concept.  This vehicle serves as a design preview for the next Mazda 3, and I must admit that it looks very good.  The redesign won't look as radical as the concept does from certain angles, but what this does show is that the redesign will be quite evolutionary, similar to what we saw out of the second generation CX-5. Another big piece of news from Mazda is that the rotary engine will return by the end of the decade as a range extender for electric vehicles.  I know that it's not what enthusiasts had in mind, but it's still something.
(Image credited to Mazda)
(Image credited to Mazda)
That covers all of the debuts from Tokyo. While the concept cars were very exciting, the show did seem a little bit light on news as a whole, but this is honestly a trend that we've seen from this show for a while now.  Very few foreign (i.e. non-Japanese) automakers can do business in the country because they can't meet Japanese emissions targets. Plus, the majority of production cars that normally debut here are Kei cars that the US will never get.  In other words, this show is about as irrelevant to the US as the Chicago Auto Show is for those living in Germany. However, the global automotive media still overs it for tradition's sake, and besides, it seems like a fun place to be.

Our next stop on the auto show calendar is SEMA, and rest assured, I plan on covering that venue with a new format that I feel is suitable for that show in particular.

Until then, thank you for reading and have a good week.

(Image credited to Nissan)
(Image credited to Nissan)


(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Miscellaneous Debuts and Some Early Tokyo Reveals



Alexander Carabitses

(Image credited to Audi)

I had anticipated that the product cadence amongst automakers would be strong this year and so far, I'm not disappointed.  Here is the latest batch of reveals.

2019 Porsche 718 Boxter/Cayman GTS:  As far as mid-cycle refreshes are concerned, this is quite predictable.  The six-cylinder is gone and has been replaced with a 365 PS/317 lb-ft of torque, 2.5-liter four cylinder engine. Both a manual and an automatic are still on offer, while aesthetic changes are quite limited, both inside and out.  Expect the Cayman GTS to cost $79,800 and the Boxter GTS to cost $81,900 when the cars go on sale in March.
(Image credited to Porsche)
(Image credited to Porsche)

2018 Louts Elise Cup 260: Lotus is the master at taking ultra lightweight cars and somehow making them even lighter, which is exactly what the brand has done with this model.  It is the lightest Elise  ever made, yet the heaviest at speed (because of downforce).  It makes 250 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque, with 0-60 mph possible in 3.8 seconds.  The car, itself weighs only 1,900 pounds, which is astonishing.  What is also astonishing is that Lotus plans on capping production at 30 units, making this a very rare piece.
(Image credited to Lotus)

2019 Buick GL6:  For those who need a reminder, Buick sells a minivan in China called the GL8.  We don't get that car and we most likely won't be getting the smaller GL6 either.  This is basically Buick's version of the Opel Zafira Tourer, which was developed by GM before Opel's sale to PSA.  As much as I like Buick's design language, it just doesn't seem to translate well on this model. One other thing:  the Opel Zafira has been on sale for nearly five years at this point, so what took so long for Buick to get its own version?
(Image credited to Buick)

2018 Jaguar XE L:  This is exactly what its name implies (a long wheel base XE) and it will only be sold in China starting at some point next year, with an official debut set for the Guangzhou Auto Show in November.
(Image credited to Jaguar)

2018 Land Rover Range Rover:  Just days after Land Rover launched the refreshed Range Rover Sport (which I touched upon in my last column), the brand pulled the wraps off of its bigger brother. The changes are quite similar: some new exterior sheet metal, minor interior tweaks, and of course the addition of a plug-in-hybrid powertrain.  Sales in the UK kick off later this year, and I would place bets on a US premier at the LA Auto Show in December.
(Image credited to Land Rover)

2018 Aston Martin DB11 Volante: Powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo Mercedes-AMG V8, the droptop variant of Aston Martin's latest car produces 503 horsepower and 513 lb-ft of torque. The car can sprint to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, while the roof can be raised and lowered at 14 seconds and 16 seconds respectively (at speeds up to 31 mph). Prices will start at $216,495, when sales kick off early next year.
(Image credited to Aston Martin)

2018 Volvo XC40:  I believe it was the summer of 2016 in which Volvo pulled the wraps off of a pair of concepts that previewed that brand's new line of 40-series compacts.  We now have the first production example, in the form of the new XC40.  Riding on Volvo's new CMA architecture, it is  exactly what one would expect in terms of both style and substance, given what Volvo has already shown it's capable of with other recent introductions. While an electric model is on the table, it won't arrive for at least another year.  Diesel and petrol versions go on sale in Europe this November with other markets to follow shortly thereafter.  Again, expect a US premiere in LA.
(Image credited to Volvo)

2019/2020 Polestar One:  What was once a tuner company for Volvo that eventually became an in-house performance sub-brand, Polestar will now make electric performance vehicles that will, at least initially, be based on Volvos.  I say initially because the first of their cars is actually based on the concept car that marked Volvo's design renaissance, a vehicle that many thought most likely wouldn't make it to production.  While this may look like a Volvo S90 coupe with different badges, that isn't the entire story, as it is what's inside that truly counts.  The car is technically a plug-in hybrid that's powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cyliner Drive-E engine that makes 218 horsepower.  Thanks to the battery, the car makes a combined 600 horsepower and has an electric-only range of 93 miles, which is better than every other plug-in hybrid on the market.  As far as styling is concerned, beauty speaks for itself.  Because Polestar will be run as an online subscription service, customers can preorder the car right now, with production kicking off in China in mid-2019 (yes, 2019).  One thing's for sure, and that is that this will be worth the wait.
(Image credited to Polestar)

2019 Audi A7:  It may seem hard to believe, but it's already time for the gorgeous Audi A7 to be redesigned, and somehow, the second generation model looks even better.  The basic silhouette is the same, but the front and rear fascias are all new; while I am not a big fan of Audi's new front end on the A8, it does look good on the A7, although I can't figure out why.  The interior also looks like a magnificent place to be, and a huge step up from the current car. Audi AI, Audi's driver assistance system, is on offer and will autonomously maneuver in and out of parking spots and garages.  The car will initially be offered with a 3.0-liter TFSI V6 that makes 340 PS and 368 lb-ft of torque, but more engines will arrive later.  The car will go on sale in Germany in February, and I anticipate US sales will begin sometime in the late spring/early summer 2018 timeframe, following a US premier in LA or Detroit.
(Image credited to Audi)

Early Tokyo Reveals

Although the Tokyo Auto Show officially kicks off in a few weeks time, both Nissan and Toyota have already revealed some of their offerings, and believe me when I tell you that, in the case of Toyota, there are a lot of them.

Starting off with Nissan, the brand has revealed two new Nismo performance models.  The first is the Serena Nismo, which is a sport trim package for the brand's minivan.  Then there's the Leaf Nismo Concept, which previews a sporty version of the Leaf, although no power upgrades are expected for this car.  I'll categorize the Serena as pointless, but I'll be kinder than usual and keep an open mind towards the Leaf, at least until a production version arrives.
(Image credited to Nissan)
(Image credited to Nissan)

As I said before, Toyota will have as many concepts as there are bones in my body.  First, there are two mobility concepts dubbed the Concept i-Ride, which is essentially a mobility pod, and the Concept i-Walk, which is some futuristic electric scooter.
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)


Then there's a trio of miscellaneous concepts that don't really serve too much of a purpose.  First there's the Toyota TJ Cruiser Concept, which is a cross between an off road SUV and an MPV, meaning that it's versatile, yet extremely boxy.  Next is the Fine Comfort Ride Concept, which can be best described as a hydrogen powered, autonomous MPV.  The exterior styling looks a lot like previous Toyota MPV concepts, but the interior is quite lavish and offers a good indication of what the interior of autonomous cars may look like.  Then there's the God-awful GR-HV Concept, a slapped together commemorative piece that's really nothing more than a botched up Toyota 86.  The front end looks to have been inspired by a heavy duty yard shovel that was placed upside down.  It is horrendous an I hope that this is the last I see of it.  Finally, there's the Toyota Crown "Concept", which is really nothing more than a pre-production version of Toyota's second largest sedan.  While the Crown isn't sold in the US, it is anticipated that this could preview the impending Lexus ES/GS replacement.
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)


Now in this slew of concept cars, there is still one production car that Toyota has managed to trot out: the 2019 Toyota Century.  This car was redesigned twenty years ago and looks nearly identical, but of course there are many substantial updates.  For those who are unaware, the Toyota Century is quite literally the Roll Royce of Toyotas, as important dignitaries, politicians, and aristocrats ride around in these.  As strange as it my sound, I quite like this vehicle and find it ashamed, albeit quite understandable, that it isn't sold in the US.
(Image credited to Toyota)

That's all that I have for now.  Thank you for reading and have a good week.