Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ugur Sahin Design unveils USD GT-S Passionata concept

You may not remember the name Ugur Sahin, but if you've been reading Autoblog for a while you probably remember his designs. The Turkish designer has dreamed up the Corvette Z03 Concept, and before that brought the world his interpretation of what a modern Ferrari Dino might look like (he was a little off). It turns out that Sahin has been continually evolving his Dino design, however, and today we get our first look at the result of his extra doodling: the USD GT-S Passionata concept. Based on the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, the Passionata retains the grand sports tourer personality of its host chassis, but adds a body that's much more organic with swoops, bulges and soft curves everywhere the eye falls. The mega hood scoop makes the car look a little insect-like, and we also see some cues inspired by the Corvette, Lotus and even McLaren F1 in the front end, but overall it's a knock out design and the connection to Ferrari's own design language is unmistakable. Truthfully, we just wish that we could draw cars this well. Sahin, however, is hoping to do more than just draw the Passionata, as he claims in his press release after the jump that "production will be arranged" if there's a demand for it. Unfortunately, a brand new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano will have to be sacrificed to build the Passionata, which we think probably violates Ferrari's warranty. Check out a high-res gallery of the Ugur Sahin USD GT-S Passionata below to view the design from every angle and let us know what you think in the comments.

Project Track Slut, Part Two: Suspension

With over 140,00 miles on the clock, the stock suspension of our BMW 318is project car was far from ready for its upcoming track assault, and the stiffer sidewalls and stickier rubber we fitted in our first installment accentuated the tired springs and shocks. Thankfully, the popularity of the E36 chassis makes shopping for new suspension bits an easy, if slightly overwhelming, affair. The choices range from pieced together spring/shock combos to race-ready coilovers, so we decided to split the difference with one of H&R's Touring Cup Kits (31005T-1). The package includes springs and shocks that lower the front by 1.5-inches and the rear by one inch, balancing ride comfort and stiffness while allowing us to traverse speed bumps without having to worry about teetering on our oil pan.

Hit the jump to read our impressions on how the H&R kit fared during our first week of testing and you can read through the entire suspension swap in our tagged gallery below.

Madrid Motor Show: Kia eco_cee'd - 104g/km of CO2

At the Madrid Motor Show this week, Kia is showing off its latest entry in the low CO2 derby with the eco_cee'd hatchback. With power coming from 1.6L diesel that automatically shuts off whenever the vehicle is not in motion, the oddly named eco_cee'd is claimed to improve the standard cee'ds 50mpg (U.S.) to 60.3mpg (U.S.). The new variant also goes from a 5 to 6 speed gearbox, adds low rolling resistance tires and the usual array of aero tweaks that get added to such low carbon specials. So far, this one is a concept but a production version is likely before long. The 104g/km CO2 will appeal to drivers in the growing number of cities that are imposing emissions based taxes and congestion charges.

Volt pricing and timing takes another twist: under $30 grand by 2010?

Round and round we go... where we stop, nobody knows! That sounds like an apt description of the merry-go-round that is the Chevrolet Volt, especially when pricing and delivery date are concerned. Perhaps what we are witnessing in this case is the first truly transparent product launch in history. Do major shifts like this happen with all vehicles, or is the new technology needed to make the Volt a reality causing pricing headaches for GM management? Maybe it's all of the above. Whatever the case, GM CEO Jim Wagoner has been quoted on Forbes as suggesting that General Motors will be selling an electric car for less than $30,000 by the year 2010.

Another possible explanation for this pricing confusion could involve the upcoming plug-in Saturn Vue. How can we be sure that Wagoner was referring to the Volt when he cited the pricing and deadline of the electric vehicle? We can't. It's possible that GM could have a plug-in Vue ready for the market in 2010 with an electric-only mode, making it an electric car of sorts. We'll just need to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the Volt's, and the Vue's, debut.

TVA Gazelle tilting vehicle joins Automotive X Prize

In the last few years, we've witnessed a rash of new three and four-wheeled vehicles which are radically different than what is currently considered normal for automobiles. Many of these tilting designs have been created expressly to combat the growing problems associated with congestion and emissions. Add another unique machine to that list, the TVA Gazelle. Designer Phillip James from Australia is tackling the efficiency issue with an new design, the most interesting part of which is the steering system. Instead of connecting the steering wheel directly to the front wheels, the steering wheel in the Gazelle controls only the tilt of the vehicle, leaving the front wheels alone to point themselves in the direction the vehicle is headed in. This is a similar principle to that of a leaning motorcycle, and James has videos on his site which show the potential stability of such a system.

TVA will be entering a vehicle in the Automotive X Prize using this innovative platform which features four wheels. The Gazelle platform could accept an electric or hybrid drivetrain, it will be powered by a conventional four-stroke engine displacing 350ccs from a modern ATV which should be capable of delivering 100 miles per gallon. We look forward to seeing how the Gazelle fares under testing.

Dealer selling Dodge Chargers branded "SRT-6"

When is a Chrysler product branded as an SRT-6 not really an SRT-6? When it comes from Scott McCorkle's Liberty Dodge in Charlotte, NC. The dealership has created what it is referring to as a Dodge Charger SRT-6, though its fitted with just the standard 2.7 liter V6 engine and no performance mods. Also absent are the normal SRT-spec suspension, braking or interior refinements. So, what exactly is it that makes this vehicle qualify as an SRT? Umm, nothing; besides some cosmetic tweaks that range from new wheels to some leftover Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 badges, there is nothing at all with which to distinguish this model from a run-of-the-mill base model Charger. Sheesh, way to dilute the SRT brand, guys.

We would never suggest that making modifications to a stock vehicle is a bad thing. Far from it, in fact. We do, however, feel a bit bad for all the SRT engineers at Dodge who do an admirable job of taking a normal car and making it much, much better. When pressed, the dealership admits that what it's done amounts to nothing more than simple cosmetics, but we feel that they shouldn't have messed with the SRT badge in the process. Thanks for the tip, Bill!

Inside Line pits the Nissan GT-R against The World

Inside Line has done what all of us have dreamed about at some point in our lives. They've contacted the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and had a 1.8-mile section of twisting mountain road closed off for the explicit purpose of running some of the hottest machinery in the world in the Mother of All Performance Tests.

What machines could bJustify Fulle worthy of such a fantastical feat? Let's start with the Nissan GT-R and follow it up with the Audi R8, Mitsubishi Evolution X MR, Porsche 911, Subaru Impreza WRX STI and Lotus Elise SC. Josh Jacquot's engaging prose is coupled with some stellar photography to make this incredible story come to life. But no serious performance test would be complete without hard numbers, so the crew at Inside Line equipped each vehicle with a Racelogic VBOX to log everything from 0-60 sprints (both from a standing start and a one-foot rollout) to timed laps of both the mountain road assault and a run around the Streets of Willow Springs. Which machine reigns supreme?

AMP vehicles to convert Saturn Sky roadsters to electric power

Saturn Sky 6 Embargo

Thanks to a tip from a reader, we've been introduced to a new electric sports car maker based in Cincinnati, Ohio: Advanced Mechanical Products. AMP has taken a major shortcut to offering its first electric vehicle by starting with a gas-powered Saturn Sky as the base. Out goes the GM Ecotec four-banger, in goes an electric motor and lithium phosphate batteries. According to the manufacturer, the electric car will accelerate to sixty miles per hour in less than six seconds and have a top speed of around ninety miles per hour. A full charge will give a range of up to one-hundred-fifty miles. The company is currently accepting orders for the first batch of three-hundred cars, which will cost around $50,000 each.

For those who want an electric car conversion but can't make do with a two-seat sportscar platform, AMP says that its next two projects will center around a Saturn SUV and a Saturn sedan. Sounds like they have an affinity for the Saturn brand, huh? We look forward to finding out more information about AMP and its new vehicle, and you can be sure that we'll keep you informed with whatever information we get.

Wrightspeed "SR-71" will deliver 0-60 in 2.5 seconds

Ian Wright is a name familiar to many electric car enthusiasts as the man who turned an Ariel Atom into the Ferrari-beating Wrightspeed X1 prototype. It's been a while since we've heard from Mr. Wright, who has been working on engineering a hybrid system for heavy duty pick-up trucks, but now there is news from the former Kiwi. And if you are still disappointed Wrightspeed didn't bring the X1 to market, the news is good. According to Michael Kanellos over at greentechmedia, the builder of the world's quickest electric car wants to produce a conveyance that's even quicker, with a 0 to 60 mph target of 2.5 seconds.

You see, back when Wright was visiting different tracks embarrassing Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, it seemed there was one gas guzzler that still could best him, the infamous 1001hp Bugatti Veyron. The X1 came up about a half second short from 0-60 mph while his 0-100-0 time of 11.2 seconds was a full second and a two whiskers behind that of the W16-powered supercar. With luck, 18 months from now will see a newly-fashioned, battery-powered bolt of lightning, code-named the "SR-71", destroy the Bugatti, leaving in its wake only salty $1.4 million-dollar tears. To show he's not such a bad chap, Wright will then be able to turn those frowns upside-down by offering this new machine up for sale.

Though sanctioned tracks may be the only asphalt the first "SR-71"s will be licensed to circulate, thoroughly road-ready machines, quite possibly featuring enclosed cabins, will follow after an additional 18 months. Hit the jump to watch a few videos of the original creation, the Wrightspeed X1, take on all comers.

Ford of Italy adds LPG option to the Focus and C-Max

Ford of Italy has announced a new LPG-option for the Focus and the C-Max. The option comes from a kit sourced from BRC Equipment and can be installed by M.T.M. s.r.l. (owned by BRC). The kit allows the vehicles to use either unleaded gasoline or LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). The kit is installed to the 2.0-liter 145 HP gasoline engine. The new gas reservoir is installed into the gap usually reserved for the spare tire, holds up to 48 liters of LPG (enough for up to 400 kilometers of driving). The system is electronically managed and uses software that switches from gasoline to LPG automatically depending on engine conditions. While there are plenty of conversion kits available in Italy, it is only recently that automakers have started to offer them in new vehicles and under standard warranties.

Ferrari Soapbox Derby kicks off at Imola

What do you think racing engineers do with their spare time? Go fishing? Watch some television? Fill in crossword puzzles? No! They build more race cars! Less complicated race cars, actually. That's what the boys at Bentley did with their Continental DC at the Greenpower Corporate Challenge. Over in Maranello, meanwhile, Scuderia Ferrari has joined the ranks of little kids across America with the 2008 Scuderia Soap Box Trophy.

The first round of the trophy took place on Sunday... while the Monaco Grand Prix was underway, leaving us to wonder just who was taking part in this competition. (The Italian-language video after the jump doesn't clarify things, either.) The cars themselves seem as different as can be imagined, and Adriano Zocca of Bologna won this first round – held at the Ferrari-owned track at Imola – with his XFX soap box racer. The next round will take place this coming weekend in Milan. Congratulazioni, Adriano!

Follow the jump for the video and press release, and check out the images in the gallery by clicking the thumbnails below.

Porsche Panamera to start production next April

We've known about the Porsche Panamera for more than two years, and it appears we've still got another year to go before the sedan hits dealer showrooms. AutoTelegraaf is reporting that the Panamera will begin production next April, with the goal of producing 20,000 four-doors per year. The 4,000-pound Porsche will be available with a choice of 300 hp 3.6L V6, a 4.8L V8 packing 405 ponies, or 520 hp with forced induction, and prices are rumored to be between €80,000 and €125,000. Word on the street is that the V6 won't be available until 2010 and a hybrid will follow for 2011.

The Panamera has been in the headlines for a long time, and hopefully the talented designers in Stuttgart have been taking their time making the beefy sedan look better than the preproduction model above. We find it hard to believe that Porsche will make an ugly vehicle, though. The Cayenne doesn't count.