Friday, May 23, 2008

EVC re-launches website, accepting deposits on bikes

It appears as if the efforts of a new electric step-through scooter/motorbike company we first brought to your attention last Fall are finally about to bear some two-wheeled fruit. We have received word from EVC, Llc that they are now taking deposits (fully refundable) from those people who have previously made inquiries about their machines. The offer will be opened to the public if there is any remaining availability of the initial production run of 250 units after the initial contactees have had the opportunity to pursue the deal. According to the company, "Each bike will carry a limited edition badge that will identify it as one of the original product group." We all know the significance of owning the earliest production vehicles.

The Volta series is comprised of "three model lines of six product models" under the nomenclature. The Metro, The RoadKing and the X21 and can now be viewed at their newly-revamped website (note: the embedded video may not work well with Firefox so you may need to use Explorer). Specs are available for all the models there as well.

And speaking of specs, we were recently expressing some skepticism of the performance claims made by the head of EVC, Llc. In an interview with a CBS affiliate it was stated that the companies top-of-the-range Volta, presumably the X21 HP, could hit 175 mph. We've now heard back from the company's president, William Kent, who says of the statement, "Now I certainly meant to say 175 kilometers per hour, which is roughly 120 mph (108 mph to be exact) in the interview and have said as much to everyone who has asked." We suspect it may be that the "top speed" was calculated with pen and paper rather than on a long straight-a-way while wearing a helmet. It is hoped that, for the edification of our faithful readers, arrangements might be made for a few passes around a track somewhere to put the question to rest.

Alfa Romeo confirms SUV for 2010

If Alfa Romeo is to make a successful return to the North American market, it will need to rely on more than its sexy Italian image. On these shores, that means two contradictory elements are needed in its line-up: sport-utes and green tech. Towards that end, Alfa's newly-appointed CEO, Fiat Group wunderkind Luca de Meo, has confirmed two new developments for the company. The first is the production of a sport-utility or crossover vehicle. The second is a start-stop engine system, possibly to be bolstered by hybrid technology borrowed from parent company Fiat.

The crossover, previewed by the Kamal concept at the 2003 Geneva show, is scheduled to debut in 2010. It is anticipated to be based on the 159 platform, which already supports Alfa's Q4 all-wheel-drive system and offers a range of gasoline and turbodiesel engines. Upon its arrival to market, the new Italian SUV will face tough competition from Germany's best compact SUVs, including the Mercedes GLK, BMW X3, Volkswagen Tiguan and Audi Q5.

Hyundai i10

Hyundai looks set to be latest challenger in the ultra low cost car ranks in India with their announcement of a new model targeted for that market. Tata Motors kicked things off with the introduction of the Nano earlier this year with its starting base price of only $2,500 U.S. It doesn't look like Hyundai plans to go quite that low, instead coming in a little higher at $3,500. Development of the new model is only now beginning with a target launch date of 2012. According to Hyundai's Indian boss H.S. Lim, the new car is not meant to be a direct competitor to the Nano (a thousand dollars might not be a big deal on a $50,000 SUV, but since that amount is almost half the cost of the Nano, people will notice), even though better-equipped versions of the Nano can exceed the Hyundai's price point. In the meantime, Hyundai is launching natural gas and propane versions of several models, including the Accent and Santro this year.

Best Buy's Geek Squad getting smart-er?

We're not going to comment regarding the capabilities of Best Buy's Geek Squad, the team of technology-savvy guys and gals working at the big box retailer which makes house calls to fix computers and the like. We will say, though, that their choice for the geeky-team-vehicle of a black and white Volkswagen Beetle (the new one, not its elder) seems fitting. Here's a topic or conversation, though: Could they find a geekier vehicle? Well, some people seem to think of the smart fortwo is a chick car, though that theory seems to have been mostly debunked. Would the smart be a better fit for the Nerd-Herd Geek Squad? If you think so, perhaps you'll be happy to find that the diminutive smart is actually in use as the nerd-mobile of choice in the UK. I don't know about you, but if I were a geek (watch it, buddy!), I'd rather be seen in a smart. Just saying...

Yesterday we showed you the first clear spy shots of Jaguar's upcoming XF-R super sedan courtesy of CAR, but our own photogs have caught a black version of the cat driving around city streets in the UK, and we thought they'd be the perfect accompaniment to the tuna fish sandwich you're eating in your cubicle right now. We think the exterior mods are even more apparent on this car than the white one caught yesterday. Black tape can be clearly seen surrounding new hood vents and also adorns the more sinister front air dam that we're guessing gulpa a lot more air than the standard XF. The traditionally chromed vertical fender vents now match the jet black body color of the car, as do the new side sills that give it even more curves. New 20-inch wheels with a turbine-style design are fitted and project the appropriate degree of mechanical competence this car will offer, while quad exhaust tips out back complete the transformation. As we mentioned yesterday, speculation says power will be provided by a direct-inject, supercharged V8 producing 500 horsepower. The German super sedans must be at least a little worried, because not only will the XF-R be just as fast as them, in our opinion it looks a whole lot better, too.

According to an unofficial source who may have previewed some upcoming promotional materials, it looks like the diesel-powered version of Toyota's off-road brute may be landing in North America this fall. The recently redesigned Toyota Land Cruiser offers a new 4.5L diesel V8 in overseas markets, but North America has had to be satisfied with the gasoline-fueled variant. Unfortunately for Americans, it appears that only our northern neighbors will access to the compression ignition Land Cruiser for now since they are not subject to Tier 2 Bin 5 standards. However, a cleaner version of this engine should arrive stateside for use in the Sequioa and Tundra about a year from now. According to our source the new V8 is rated at 280hp and 520lb-ft of torque. The fuel mileage of the diesel Land Cruiser is expected to be about 22.4mpg, which makes it comparable to the Chevy Tahoe hybrid. The low volume is Land Cruiser is quite a bit pricier though starting at about $77,290 Canadian (roughly $78,000 U.S.).

Honda Fit Hybrid In The Works, Fit Is Green

As if the Honda Fit didn't already sip gas like fuel is approaching stratospheric prices, which it is, Honda is working on sticking a version of their hybrid system in the little city cruiser. The company had originally expressed some reluctance to increase the price of small cars by dropping in the expensive hybrid parts, but President Takeo Fukui explains that with the price of crude oil going up "a Fit hybrid is starting to make sense." The plan is to make the switch in the early 2010, which means that it would likely launch on platform similar to the 2009 Honda Fit that debuted in New York this year, depending on where exactly in the development range this falls.

2009 Nissan Maxima, Reviewed

We've yet to get behind the wheel of the 2009 Nissan Maxima, but our good friends at Popular Mechanics have put the 2009 Maxima through its paces to determine if the car once hailed as the "four door sports car" has returned to its roots. It's hard to argue with the 3.5-Liter VQ which is good for an additional 35 horsepower and 9 lb-ft of twist. On the other hand, we have rarely been impressed with a CVT transmission at the center of any kind of sports car, even one that promises a manual mode that emulates a conventional gearbox. With a sampling of pieces from the Nissan parts bin, including some suspension bits from the Infiniti M45 and a steering wheel said to wind up in some form on the new Nissan 370Z, could this new Maxima chart Nissan's flagship sedan back into sportier waters?

Audi TT Clubsport Quattro Interior Defies Meme, Made Mit Aluminum Und Orange?!

Audi's apparently taking the TT Clubsport Quattro — the same show car we spotted looking much more production-like earlier this month — to the Wörthersee Tour. That's the same Tour we could make neither heads nor tails of a few days later when Audi revealed their A3 TDI Clubsport Quattro concept. At least now we understand why we're seeing the Clubsport Quattro's exterior aluminum und shteel looking a little less concept-like and a little more prêt-à-porter, it's the interior that's got us flummoxed. Audi's thrown caution, and apparently "shteel," to the wind. The interior of the new for-show version of the TT Clubsport Quattro? It's made in that typical Audi fashion — heavy amounts of aluminum — und — und — orange? Ja, mit orange. Can you imagine what the job of vetting an Audi press release translation must be like before they go out? "Hans, that does not sound like what you think that sounds like!" "Nein, our vives demand zee TT clubsport quattro mit zee oranghe! Zis vee musht do!" Full press release below the jump reveals all.

Taste The 2009 Ferrari California Rainbow!

Sure, you could get the 2009 Ferrari California — the new GT from the prancin' Italian stallion — in red. But that's so, predictable. This is an Italian drop-top sports car with an American name — ostentatiousness is the name of the game. Why not get it in any of the other colors under the rainbow — like "Great Pumpkin Orange" above? Well, for starters, we're not sure you'll be able to get a visit to the Hotel Ferrari California in these color combinations, but the good folks at have come up with a way to make your color-coordinated fantasy a reality with a nice do-it-yourself Photoshop Barbie doll-like game of Ferrari dress-up. Although a California painted to match your Malibu dream house will still cost you extra, for the meantime you can check out some of the detail shots we've just received once you're done with the colorgasm below.