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NAIAS 2009

New MINI Convertible due in March 2009

Busting out of simulated ice blocks in one of the more notable pieces of razzle dazzle at last week's Detroit Auto Show preview was MINI's new convertible. Due for release in March, the 2009 MINI convertible gets new generation turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines (118 hp for the MINI Cooper Convertible and 172 hp for the MINI Cooper S Convertible), a pop-up rollover bar activated by the car’s central safety electronics, a redesigned storage compartment and an electrohydraulic-powered soft-top roof that can be opened in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 20 mph. There's also a new "Openometer" feature which keeps track of the time spent traveling with the roof down. Gimmicky? Yes, but it will give you one unique stat that your non-MINI convertible driving friends can't match.  Read More

Tesla to make battery packs for SMART EV

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, announced Tuesday in Detroit that Tesla is producing the battery pack for Daimler AG's Smart EV. The companies, which have been partnering on electric powertrain technology for almost a year and a half, will produce 1,000 vehicles in 2009 and 2010, and Musk said the deal could grow into the "tens of thousands" of Smart EVs after that. Daimler already has an existing relationship with German tier one automotive supplier Continential who will supply a 25kg lithium-ion battery pack, with cells from Johnson Controls-Saft, to be used in the new Mercedes S400 BlueHYBRID hybrid-electric car available from the middle of 2009.  Read More

The 2009 Lincoln C Concept

The 2008 oil price bonanza seems to have given the U.S. auto industry a much-needed kick in the pants - pity it was closely followed by a crippling recession. While last year's petrol prices in America still seemed outrageously cheap to many Europeans, the spike was enough to finally put fuel economy and smaller cars on Big Auto's agenda. Take this concept from Lincoln, Ford's luxury brand, better known for its enormous presidential limousines. The 'C' Concept is Lincoln's vision of a luxury compact. Its 4cl, 1.6l, 180-horsepower Ecoboost engine gets 43mpg on the highway, 25% better than the Ford Focus manages - and its reconfigurable dash, hubless steering wheel and spooky KITT-style omnipotent conversational computer ("Eva, I need the most fuel efficient route to Luciano's") combine to make it one of the most unabashedly "futuristic" concepts shown at this year's Detroit Auto Show.  Read More

BYD's F3DM

One of the carmakers showing off its electric power at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is from China. The Shenzhen-based company BYD — which stands for Build Your Dreams — has built the world's first mass-produced, plug-in hybrid car, beating both Chevrolet and Toyota to the punch. BYD is targeting 2011 to get into the United States market.  Read More

2010 Honda Insight world premiere

While Honda revealed the 2010 Honda Insight Hybrid at the Paris Motor Show in October 2008 the Paris car was a ‘show’ version with LED headlights and 18 inch wheels that were never intended for the final production model. Today Honda revealed the full specification of the ‘production’ version. Honda's plan to sell half a million hybrid vehicles annually by 2012 with the upcoming Honda Insight to account for 200,000 of those. It was nearly 10 years ago that Honda shook up the automotive world with the then-new Honda Insight, the world's first mass-production hybrid vehicle that looked like a CRX and packed a unique hybrid powertrain.  Read More

Chrysler displays EV vision - first electric vehicles due 2010

Chrysler introduced three electric-vehicle prototypes in September 2008, while expressing its intention to broaden its all-electric and Range-extended Electric Vehicle portfolio across its vehicle lineup. At the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Company unveiled updated versions of those vehicles – along with two new electric vehicles. Chrysler will produce at least one of these vehicles for North American markets in 2010 (still no word on which one), with at least three more models to follow by 2013. Between its ENVI electric-drive vehicles and GEM neighbourhood electric vehicles, Chrysler expects to have 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2013.  Read More

VW's clean diesel BlueSport concept: more economical than the Prius, with 80% more power

January 13, 2009 The latest generation turbo injected clean diesels are already delivering proper sportscar performance at fuel economy levels that beat even the updated version of Toyota's pedestrian Prius hybrid - and Volkswagen's major concept debut at Detroit's Auto Show is determined to ram home the point. Using similar technologies to what VW subsidiary Audi has employed in its Sportback concept, the VW BlueSport concept's 54mpg fuel economy makes a mockery of the third-generation Prius's 50mpg, while delivering nearly twice the horsepower. A compact, corner-carving roadster, the BlueSport looks like a real giggle.  Read More

Toyota's 2010 Prius breaks cover

The third-generation Toyota Prius 50 MPG hybrid was revealed today at the 2009 North American International Auto show. The new Prius features a more aerodynamic shape, larger 1.8 liter petrol engine with optional roof-mounted solar panels and intelligent park assist. Unfortunately the 2010 Prius is not yet a plug in hybrid and still comes with a relatively small Nickel-metal hydride battery so EV only mode will not exceed approx 5 miles. While the current model Prius is EPA rated at 46 mpg, the third-generation Prius has increased fuel economy to an estimated 50 miles per gallon for the new Prius (it has not been EPA rated as yet).  Read More

Audi's Sportback concept

January 13, 2009 While the firebreathing 5.2-litre V10 R8 supercar is clearly the performance king of Audi's Detroit NAIAS lineup, the Sportback concept unveiled does an excellent job of marrying performance, economy, stunning looks and practicality. Its 3-litre, 6-cylinder direct-injection turbo 'clean diesel' engine puts out 225 horsepower and 550 Nm, for a top speed over 150mph - and yet its average fuel economy nearly tips 40mpg. Ultra-low CO2 emissions are the result of smart decisions throughout the car, from the advanced exhaust emissions control, to electric systems like the power steering that consume no energy when they're not immediately in use, to automatic engine stop-start at the traffic lights and power-smart sunlight-white LED headlights. The Sportback's ultra-clean lines and fastback hatch somehow make this four-door coupe look sportier than some of its two-door contemporaries. Beautiful.  Read More

BMW's 2009 Z4 roadster

January 13, 2009 We previewed the new Beemer Z4 roadster back in December - now we've had a chance to dribble on it at the Detroit NAIAS. The hardtop convertible is as slick and sporty as you'd expect, but its posing credentials are backed up a serious performance focus. Dynamic Drive control gives you three engine mapping/stability settings for the 300hp twin turbo inline 6 engine, to control your degree of hooliganism. Adaptive suspension with electronic damping control can adjust ride height on the fly, and adapt to road conditions so quickly that if you hit a bump with the front wheels, the back wheels will be adjusted in time to deal with it. The gearshift is accomplished either through an extremely short-travel manual 6-speed, a standard paddle-shift auto or a ripping seven-speed double-clutch sports auto. Bavarian beauty, brains and brawn in a 150mph top-down giggle machine.  Read More

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