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BMW X4 reclaims dash of utility with Clemson student project [w/videos]

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Concept Cars, Trucks/Pickups, Videos, Crossovers/CUVs, BMW, Design/Style

BMW X4 Clemson University Project

BMW seems willing to exploit every automotive niche it can find with creations like the four-door, 'crossover coupe' X4 and X6. Of course, these designs come with a compromise. That svelte fastback means that they just can't haul as much cargo as a more traditional, boxier hatchback. Fortunately, students at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research might have a novel solution: the engineering graduate program has turned the crossover into a unique pickup.

Dubbed Deep Orange 4 concept, this functional prototype has an enclosed cargo area with a sliding glass panel that opens up to expose a pickup bed if more room is needed. Think of it as the GMC Envoy XUV of German crossovers. This isn't just an X4 with its roof hacked off, though. The students actually started with an X3 and grafted on this top later in addition to the two barn doors for access to the bed.

To make this project even more impressive, this pickup-crossover could conceivably be produced. The graduate students conducted an in-plant analysis of BMW's manufacturing abilities and went back to the university to create a plan for a low-volume vehicle that could actually be built. "The students working on this phase of the project did an excellent job of keeping costs down while finding optimal integration opportunities," said Rich Morris, vice president of assembly at BMW Manufacturing, in the university's release.

Deep Orange 4 is now on display at the CAR Group Management Briefing Seminar in Michigan. Scroll down to read the university's release and watch two videos about the concept; one shows the final product and the other a time-lapse of the build going from X3 to X4-looking pickup.

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Cars and people nearly swept away in US 95 flash flood near Vegas

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Etc., Videos

Nevada Mudslide

Nevada may not often be thought of as a state plagued by heavy rains, but some residents who are being inundated with severe storms that are causing flash flooding and mudslides might beg to differ. One recent deluge was strong enough to overflow the US 95 highway and shut down the road. The powerful current turned the median into raging rapids capable of carrying away people and cars. Of course, with everyone carrying a camera at all times these days, the horrifying incident was captured on video.

Unfortunately, two vehicles somehow got sucked into the surging water and were pushed into the stream below. According to bystanders, the whole thing seemed to happen out of nowhere, but people put themselves in danger to try to save those stuck in the out of control cars. Thankfully, no one was injured in this terrible incident. At about 1:29 into the video, you can also catch a glimpse of the mudslide first flowing onto the road.

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Acura NSX bodywork to be sheathed in zirconium e-coat, fewer paint layers

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Tech, Videos, Supercars, Acura, Honda

Acura NSX prototype

Automakers make halo cars to drum up excitement and show off what they can do, but there's more to it than that. Advanced platforms allow a company's engineers to experiment with all sorts of technologies. And in the case of the upcoming new Acura NSX, that includes new paint processes.

Speaking with Autoline in this video interview, Honda's North American Senior VP Jon Minto talked about an innovative zirconium e-coat which it's applying to the new NSX. Unlike some experimental paints developed for Formula One, however, this coating is not designed to minimize drag or enhance cooling: it's designed to be more environmentally friendly.

It's one of a few measures which Honda is implementing on the NSX before expanding it to more accessible models, along with another process that uses fewer coats to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent. Watch the interview with Autoline host John McElroy right here.

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Evo makes the case for the world's best driving road in Majorca

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Videos, Porsche

Porsche Boxster GTS in Majorca

What good is a sports car if you haven't got a great place to drive it? It's a common refrain that we've heard time and time again. But few are as familiar with the problem as they are in the UK, where the number of people, cars on the road and traffic cameras keep growing to conspire against the joy of driving. Leave it to Evo, then, to depart in search of the greatest driving road in the world.

It's a pursuit that's taken the British car mag across Europe, most recently to Romania's Carpathian Mountains where it added the Transalpina Pass to its short list. But its latest journey has taken Evo to the Spanish island of Majorca, where Henry Catchpole found not one, but two spectacular driving roads from behind the wheel of the new Porsche Boxster GTS. We could drone on about the smooth, empty ribbons of twisting tarmac with excellent visibility and panoramic vistas... but you really want to see the video for yourself. Don't miss Evo's previous trip to Romania in the Jaguar F-Type, which we've included below, as well.

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Navdy is portable HUD with smart phone integration and a sense of humor

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Tech, Videos, Infotainment

Navdy Portable HUD

Automotive head-up displays were once limited to high-end luxury sedans and sports cars, but in recent years they have started trickling down to affordable models like the latest Mini Cooper and Mazda3. Navdy, a startup from San Francisco, is aiming to broaden this tech even more with its new, portable device that combines all of the features of a HUD with apps and smartphone controls.

The Navdy sits on a vehicle's dashboard and has a tiny screen that seemingly projects information about six feet in front of the car. It plugs into the model's OBDII port for data and syncs with Android 4.3+ or iOS 7+ smartphones. When driving normally, Navdy displays important info like speed and direction, but with hand gesture and voice recognition the user can also control apps, take calls and dictate text messages.

Navdy is pitched as much for its safety benefits than as a cool toy. According to the company, it keeps your focus on the road and eliminates the need to look down at a phone. The device already supports popular apps like Google Maps, Spotify and iTunes Music and can read text messages.

"Touchscreen-based apps force you to take your eyes off the road. So we started by completely rethinking what the experience of using apps behind the wheel should be like," said company co-founder and CEO Doug Simpson in the company's release.

Pre-orders for the Navdy are available now with shipments starting in early 2015, and for the first 30 days it's priced at $299 - $499 after that. The company is also borrowing from Kickstarter and allowing early-bird customers to vote on what apps and features the device should support later. The company's humorous video showing off the product (above) has some funny Easter eggs - check out the logo on the Ford Fusion.

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Mystery movie stunt shoot goes awry in a big hurry

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Safety, Videos, TV/Movies

Movie stunt goes bad

Stunt choreography is a business that really needs to be done properly. A failure in any one area has the potential to not just ruin the stunt and waste a film or TV show's budget, but could lead to a member of the cast or crew getting seriously hurt (or even killed).

We won't spoil what happens in this particular video, which looks like it's from a set somewhere in China (we hear Mandarin at the end, but clear, unaccented English in the beginning), buy it's safe to say that this particular stunt has gone very, very wrong. It's difficult to know if the failing was with the stunt driver or in the planning, but it seems clear that this video wasn't staged - something really did go wrong here, judging by the chaos following the stunt.

It's unclear if anyone was injured inside the car, although it seems that there were no injured bystanders. Take a look and let us know what you think.

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Ducati Scrambler to debut September 30

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Videos, Motorcycles

Franco and Elvira on the new Ducati Scrambler

Ducati has come a long way since the halcyon days of 1960s and '70s. These days it's known primarily for making sport bikes, with the occasional cruiser (Diavel) and off-road bike (Hypermotard) thrown into the mix. But it's preparing to go back to those simpler times with a new Scrambler.

The original Scrambler, for those unfamiliar, was a bare-bones, single-cylinder bike which Ducati made from the early '60s through the mid-70s, with engine sizes ranging from 125 to 450cc, with the largest-capacity versions sold as the Jupiter. They were cheap, simple, easy to ride and nothing like the Ducatis we know today, which half explains the cult following their picked up along the way. And it's that image into which Ducati hopes to tap with the new Scrambler.

The Italian motorbike company, now owned by Lamborghini and part of the Volkswagen Group, confirmed the new Scrambler was on its way when it launched the first episode in a three-part series to drum up some excitement. The Franco & Elvira Story recreates the two Ducati employees who were used in the advertising campaign for the original Scrambler, rendered in claymation in a time-traveling plot that takes Franco from the future to the past and (after meeting Elvira) to the present day.

With the release of the third and final episode, Ducati has confirmed that the bike will debut at the Intermot motorcycle show in Cologne, Germany - giving us the sneak peak above at what the final version will look like while we wait for the show to open on September 30. Watch the final episode (as well as the previous two) right here.

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Smart driving shoes provide Bluetooth-connected haptic feedback [w/video]

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Videos, India

Lechal shoes by Ducere Technologies

A purist driver's car is all about the feedback it provides: what the front wheels are doing through the steering wheel, how the gears are meshing through the shift lever, how the brakes are gripping through the middle pedal, how much traction you have through the seat.... Generally electronic intervention (in the form of the latest drive-by-wire systems) only serve to numb that feedback, but here's a technology that could actually use vibrations to tell us more without having to take our eyes off the road.

The innovation is a vibrating shoe - or more specifically, a vibrating insole. Interfacing with the smartphone via Bluetooth, these smart insoles could have any number of applications - for runners, for the visually or audibly impaired, the elderly... but also the driver, racer and motorbike rider. A buzz on the left could prompt you to turn left, a buzz on the right to turn right. A pulse could prompt you to change gears, extended vibration to warn you of imminent danger.

The only limit would be how you'd interpret the different vibrations, but the possibilities are virtually endless, especially when combined with the vibrating seats being produced by the likes of General Motors and Mercedes-Benz that warn you if you're veering out of your lane and such. They could, in theory, even extend navigational guidance to show you how to get from your car to your specific destination, and guide you back to where you parked again, just like Google Glass.

Designed by Ducere Technologies in India, the Lechal rechargeable, water-resistant, washable smart-soles are set to go on sale (either on their own or in their custom-designed shoes pictured above) in the fall with prices running between $100 and $150.

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TFLcar going from Prague to Pebble in a Tatra [w/videos]

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Time Warp, Sedans/Saloons, Euro, Videos, Luxury, Read This

Tatra 603

Today, the Tatra brand is best known for its heavy-duty trucks that carry goods all over Europe, but their legacy as a carmaker is a bit less celebrated, especially in the US. That's a shame, because the Czech company's legacy includes some of the oddest passenger vehicles to ever hit the roads. Case in point: the Tatra 603. With four lights in its round grille, the sedan has a face only a mother could love, but things get truly odd in the rear where you find an air-cooled, V8 engine.

Coincidentally, the Tatra is getting a special class dedicated to it at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Auto journalist Roman Mica and the rest of the team from The Fast Lane Car decided on a wickedly cool project to coincide with the event. They bought a 1968 Tatra 603 in Liberec, Czech Republic, with the goal of driving it across a continent and a half, all the way to Pebble Beach. The undertaking has a personal touch too because Mica was actually born in the former Czechoslovakia and fled the country as a child in 1968 after the communists invaded.

The site is documenting the whole endeavor, which it calls Prague to Pebble or Bust, on video and is posting them online. If you're a fan of quirky old cars or what it takes to live with them, you really need to check this series out. You can check out the project page here to see all of the videos so far. Scroll down to watch the episodes where the team picks up the car in Europe, its arrival in the US and a brief mechanical look.

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Toyota Sienna Swagger Wagon rides again with Busta Rhymes

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Toyota

Let's face it: there are few things less "gangsta" than a minivan (which goes a long way towards explaining why crossovers have been gradually taking their place as the family-hauler of choice across America, but we digress). The point here is not lost on Toyota, which has embraced the uncool image of the minivan with the Swagger Wagon campaign.

We first saw the suburban-goes-urban campaign pop up with the introduction of the new Sienna back in 2010. And now that the Sienna's been updated for 2015, the campaign is back again, featuring none other than Trevor Tahiem Smith, Jr. himself... better known to most as Busta Rhymes. The decidedly white-bread video spot that follows may make you cringe, but you've got to admit that it's well done, even if it doesn't have the charm and freshness of the original.

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