Sunday, July 5, 2009

Review: 2009 Audi A6 3.0T suits high-speed cruising to a "T" - or is that an "S"?

In 1982, Audi introduced its redesigned 5000 to the world and unwittingly influenced the shape of sedans to come. The 5000's smooth flanks, disk wheels and flush-mounted side glass were replicated by a generation of cars over the next two-and-a-half decades, and when its successor debuted in 1994, the A6 grew some curves while retaining Audi's patented blend of staid Germanic modernity.

The 2009 Audi A6 isn't nearly as revolutionary. It sits atop the same C6 platform we've known since 2005, and last year, the automaker gave its upper mid-sizer a mild makeover consisting of new front and rear fascias, light clusters and a few interior tweaks. Maybe that's why Audi thought it need to commission actor Jason Statham to star in a multi-million dollar Super Bowl advert to boost the A6's image. Well, that and to highlight the automaker's all-new supercharged 3.0-liter TFSI V6 – the same engine due to be fitted to several new Audis, including the 2010 Audi S4. How does the restyled A6 fair during a week of testing? And more importantly, is this new blown V6 a suitable replacement for Audi's 4.2-liter V8? Find out after the jump.

2009 Audi A6 3.0T

First Look: 2011 BMW X1

Recent studies suggest that American car buyers are just fine with giving up their larger vehicles for smaller ones -- so long as they don't have to give up any of their precious big-vehicle features and gadgetry. Few automakers are more acutely aware of that philosophy than BMW. Sure, BMW still produces large luxury cars as a sizeable percentage of its business, but Mini -- its runaway-hit of a sub-brand -- has captured a vast share of the subcompact market. More recently, the Bavarian automaker brought its entry-level 1 Series to the U.S. market, slotting the two-door coupe just below its ever-growing, bread-and-butter 3 Series. It's also the much-lauded 1 Series that provides the underpinnings for the newest -- and smallest -- member of BMW's Sports Activity Vehicle lineup -- the all-new 2011 BMW X1, which is on its way to the U.S.
First shown in concept form at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, the primary BMW X1 package remains remarkably similar in production trim. Based strongly on BMW's current X Series styling, all the trademark visuals of the X1's big brothers are present and accounted for. Jutting, blunt-nosed front end? Check. Prominent arching side character line? Check. Signature "Hoffmeister Kink" at the D-pillar? Check. Double kidney-shaped grille? Double check.

2010 BMW X1

Saturday, July 4, 2009

First Drive: 2010 Kia Forte a compelling new compact sedan option

If there's one thing we can say about Kia, it's that it keeps making progress. In the 15 years the brand has been selling cars in the United States, South Korea's second largest auto manufacturer has increased its market share every single year. The future looks bright as well, with new vehicles like the Soul receiving rave reviews and a new billion dollar production facility set to open this year. Hoping to build on that success, Kia has launched its new 2010 Forte, replacing the Spectra that failed to stand out among cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. With a new name, a new face, upgraded powertrains and aspirations to exceed consumer expectations about the brand, can the Forte help Kia finally make its mark in the compact sedan segment? Read on to find out.

We have to admit we've never been overly excited about Kia or its cars. The brand's emphasis has always been on affordability, a bogey that generally doesn't speak to the enthusiast's adrenal glands. However, when the Forte sedan was launched at the Chicago Auto Show earlier this year, we took notice. The striking design is much more appealing than the comparatively staid Spectra, and the available 2.4-liter inline-four comes with an impressive 173 horsepower.

2010 Kia Forte

2010 Mercedes S63/S65 AMG Facelift in Depth

New details have been released for both the 2010 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and S65 AMG facelifts. With a starting price of €115,700 before tax, the S63 AMG short-wheelbase brings a 525 horsepower, 6.3-liter V8 engine producing up to 630 Nm of torque. A long wheelbase model is available for an additional €6,000.

At €185,900 the S65 AMG is hardly cheap, but the 612 horsepower delivered by the 6.0-liter biturbo V12 may be enough to convince new customers. The V12 delivers a massive 1000 Nm of torque, guaranteeing a 0-100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than the S63. Both cars are electronically limited to 250 km/h. On the S63 the driver controls the AMGSPEEDSHIFT 7G-Tronic transmission, while the S65 utilizes a five-speed automatic.

Impressively, Mercedes did not have to degrade the performance of these two vehicles to improve fuel economy. Both "consumption and CO2 emissions" were reduced "by up to 3 percent."

2010 Mercedes S63 AMG Facelift

First Drive: 2010 Subaru Legacy improves commercial appeal, retains character

For one reason or another, we've always thought that if you delved deep enough into the history of Subaru, you'd discover the Japanese automaker is, in fact, Swedish. One can imagine rifling through the company's dusty archives, only to discover that at some point in time, through some quirk of fate – or perhaps a common love of fish – Subaru was born in Scandinavia, yet it ended up turning Japanese (I really think so). Just look at the evidence: Quirky styling? Check. Steadfast adherence to left-field drivetrains? Check. Time-honored emphasis on honest utility? Check. Willfully different clientele base? Check. Good in winter? Uh-huh. Sound like any Swedish automakers we know?

There's one key difference between the Nipponese automaker and its kindred spirits over at Saab and Volvo, and it's a biggie: Subaru is making money, and they're picking up share. Year-to-date, Subie has lost just 1.8% of its sales year-over-year in America's wretched, turd-down-the-toilet economy. In this "flat is the new up" market, that's a stellar performance – far better than any other mainline automaker, including current industry darlings Hyundai/Kia. And after a day's drive in the firm's new-for-2010 Legacy, we think they're poised for even greater success.

2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pics aplenty: 2010 Audi TT RS is ready for its closeup

Audi has released a plethora of new beautiful photographs of the Audi TT RS Coupe and Roadster, and it just makes us want them to change their mind about bringing the car to the United States even more. After all, what's not to love? The 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder puts out 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft torque running through a six-speed manual transmission and Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system.

It also comes with other goodies like a stiffer suspension, five-spoke 18-inch wheels, more aggressive exterior styling, Alcantara /leather sports seats, and more. Why wouldn't we want a TT that has all that?

A Pure Driving Machine developing 340 bhp

Audi is once again producing a five-cylinder engine – and a very special one at that. Arriving at dealerships this summer, the TT RS has a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine with direct gasoline injection; it produces 250 kW (340 bhp) and 450 Nm (331.90 lb.-ft.) of torque. The blazing five-cylinder engine enables the TT RS to perform extraordinary feats. In conjunction with quattro permanent all-wheel drive and a high-performance chassis, the engine makes the compact Audi TT RS a top-notch sports car – available as a coupĂ© or roadster.

2010 Audi TT RS

Review: 2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible adds open-air fun for a price

Back in 2001, BMW revived the Mini brand by unveiling a new Cooper model that updated the classic English design of the original while growing the car's trademark size just enough to fit the engineering, safety equipment and conveniences that modern drivers demand. It was a perfect play, and if Mini sales haven't exactly set the world on fire here in the U.S., that's only because the brand has been alone in teaching American car shoppers what Europeans already know: Premium small cars are worth every penny. In other words, Americans generally associate the value of a vehicle with its size – the more you pay, the larger a vehicle you should get. The Mini Cooper exists in stark contrast to this notion.

Fast forward to 2009 and we're already a couple of years into the second generation of the modern Mini Cooper, also known as the R56. The redesigned hatchback was joined last year by the long-wheelbase Clubman and the R56 lineup is now complete with the arrival of the convertible model. Our tester, a 2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible, will challenge the notion that value equals size. Why? Aside from opting for the high-performance John Cooper Works trim, the convertible is the most expensive model in the Mini lineup, and the S model makes it even more so. The total tally for our tester, including $650 in destination charges, is $32,700. Read on to find out if the Mini Cooper S Convertible is packed with enough value to prevent its sticker shock from sending you into cardiac arrest.

2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible