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2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon

07/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Euro, Volkswagen, UK, Quick Spin

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon

There are those European automakers that compete in the North American market and those which don't. Volkswagen, for its part, may stand firmly in the former category, but there are still entire model lines that remain out of reach for American buyers: diminutive hatchbacks like the Up! and the Polo, of course, but also entire brands like Seat and Skoda which (unlike Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini) aren't offered Stateside altogether. But there's another brand within the Volkswagen Group whose products don't, in Wolfsburg's estimation, warrant shipping to the United States - one that would be all too easy to forget. And that's Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

Though its products wear the familiar VW emblem, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles stands essentially as another brand within Europe's largest and most successful auto group. It mostly produces vans like the Caddy, Transporter, Crafter and Caravelle, but is also responsible for the only pickup truck built in Germany: the Volkswagen Amarok. Like its van stablemates, the Amarok isn't offered in North America, so we crossed the pond to drive it for ourselves (and, of course, for you) to see what we were missing out on.

  • Previewed by the Robust concept back in 2008, the Amarok has been on the market (certain markets, anyway) since 2010. Assembled both in Argentina and in Hannover, Germany, the Amarok is similar in form to other short-bed, four-door pickups like the Mitsubishi Triton (similarly not available in America) and the Honda Ridgeline.
  • The version we drove on both paved and off-road sections of the Milbrook Proving Ground in the UK was the Amarok Canyon, a special edition that's based on the mid-spec Trendline (not on the base Startline or top-spec Highline) but upgrades with more bells and whistles, from 19-inch alloys and running boards (which are mounted too close to the body to actually use as a step) to tinted glass and two-tone upholstery. As a result of all the extra equipment, the relatively reasonable 20,000-pound UK starting price (before tax) balloons to a comparatively enormous as-tested price of 37,841 pounds (including VAT). That makes this fully-loaded pickup about the same price in the UK as an entry-level Touareg, which starts at nearly $45k in the US. Significantly more, for comparison's sake, than the Honda Ridgeline that starts here at just under $30k and tops out at $37,505.
  • Powering the Amarok Canyon - an interesting trim name considering the GMC pickup of similar size and nameplate - is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI packing 178 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. (A scrawnier 138hp version available on base models.) It's mated to either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, and drives through VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive system. We drove both versions, and found ourselves wondering why more pickups aren't available with stick-shifts back in America, because the combination of rough-and-tumble truck with manual transmission, quite frankly, proved intoxicating. (Last we checked, for reference, you could still get three pedals on the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Ram HD, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, but that's about it.)
  • With the six-speed manual, the Amarok Canyon will run from 0-62 miles per hour in 11.0 seconds and top out at 110 mph. (Add another 0.3 seconds and cut two mph for the automatic.) In other words, the Amarok is not one of Volkswagen's more performance-oriented models, but then it's not designed to be.
  • Driving the Amarok on a variety of surfaces, we were, however, impressed with the combination of truck attributes and German engineering - a rare combination considering that every pickup available Stateside is a product of either an American automaker or a Japanese one. Their trucks may be able to haul more than VW's, but if you've ever stepped into a pickup and felt a bit of a disconnect between the ruggedness of its construction and that of its fit-and-finish, the Amarok would likely surprise you with its German build quality. The overall feeling is of a truck - inside, out and underneath, right down to the knobs and interior trim - that has been hewn from sturdy materials.
  • What you shouldn't expect, however, is for the Amarok to drive like a Touareg with a pickup bed at the back. It's not a crossover - it's a truck, and it drives that way (even if it exhibits more car-like refinement than most). But after a day of piloting nimble hot hatches and cossetting diesel luxury sedans (more on those to follow if you watch this space), the Amarok proved a breath of fresh, earnest air and left us with a big smile across our faces. This writer never considered himself much of a truck guy, and in truth has not driven many pickups; it took the Amarok's unique combination of go-anywhere capability coupled with German engineering to really see the attraction (especially where necessity doesn't dictate the form).
  • Which only raises the question: should Volkswagen bring the Amarok to North America? We don't doubt that it would find a fair few customers in American dealerships (and maybe a few more in Canada, where European tastes often prevail), but the Amarok was never designed with the US market in mind. And four years since its introduction overseas, the opportunity may have passed VW as the Amarok soldiers along. But sooner or later, Volkswagen will have to replace the Amarok with a new model. When it does, we hope it at least takes American tastes and potential demand into account. Because as it stands, we're missing out.
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Review: 2010 Ford Fiesta Euro-Spec almost ready for U.S. arrival

06/26/2009   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Garage, Economy, Euro, Hatchbacks, Ford

2010 Ford Fiesta (Euro-Spec) - Click above for high-res gallery

For longer than we can remember, words like 'cheap', 'unattractive' and 'lousy' were used to describe America's domestic offerings in the compact car segment. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have never figured out how to make money with small cars, so the domestic trio seeming has rarely put forth the effort to create competitive compact products. And although FoMoCo had a solid player in 2000 with the introduction of the Focus, when Ford of Europe received the thoroughly revised model in 2005, customers in the States got the short end of the stick. Until now.

While the 2011 Ford Fiesta isn't the Euro-Spec Focus that we've long-admired from abroad, this compact five-door offers a compelling list of kit in a tidy package. Ford is billing it as a great looking, high-quality vehicle that just happens to inhabit a small footprint. So the Blue Oval has imbued the Fiesta with the same technology and amenities found in other larger, more expensive offerings and added a healthy dose of nippy handling and top-notch fuel economy to boot. But those attributes come at a cost that - historically - Americans haven't been willing to pay for. So is the Fiesta worth your time and hard-earned coin? It's time to find out.

Gallery: Review: 2010 Ford Fiesta (Euro-Spec)

Photos Copyright (C)2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

Continue reading Review: 2010 Ford Fiesta Euro-Spec almost ready for U.S. arrival

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Win a Pedego Classic Cruiser electric bike

12/06/2012   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Etc., On Two Wheels

Our friends at Translogic get to have all the fun, whether that's cruising around on battery-powered skateboards or in solar electric vehicles. Luckily, they are also people who like to share, and are currently offering readers (well, technically, people who "like" them on Facebook) the chance to ride away in a Pedego Classic Cruiser electric bike.

We don't spent too much time (just a little) covering electric bikes here on the Autoblog and AutoblogGreen, but we're certainly big fans. The bicycle is already the most efficient vehicle we know of, and adding a battery - in this case, a 36-volt rechargeable pack - and motor to the package can easily encourage more people to push pedals in circles instead of just up and down, if you get our drift. Plus, the forward-set pedals of a cruiser bike always make us feel like we're headed to the beach, which is impressive for some metal tubes and rubber tires.

If you'd like the Pedego bike for your very own, go ahead and try your luck. There's no cost to enter, other than clicking here and showing Translogic some Facebook attention.

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Shanghai: Suzuki Authentics Concept is genuine but drab

04/20/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Concept Cars, Sedans/Saloons, China, Suzuki, Shanghai Motor Show

Suzuki Authentics - front three-quarter view live at 2013 Shanghai Motor Show

Looks can certainly be deceiving. Have a glance at this new Suzuki Authentics concept, for example - we were told that this would, essentially, be a proper sedan version of the new SX4, but our folks on the ground in Shanghai tell us it's actually much larger. Like, bigger than the Kizashi. (Hey, remember the Kizashi?)

Regardless, Suzuki says that the Authentics concept previews a C-segment vehicle for the Chinese market. A good move, too, since that segment has the highest volume in the Chinese market. (That's why automakers like Ford, for example, have more than one offering in the class.) If we're honest, the Authentics concept looks a bit "meh" for our tastes - there isn't a whole lot of emotion going on here with the design. Consider it a competitor for that spiffy new Ford Escort that also took the stage here in Shanghai.

We don't have any more details about the Authentics concept at the moment, but considering the fact that Suzuki has officially exited the US market, at least we don't have to worry about this thing showing up on our shores anytime soon.

Continue reading Suzuki Authentics Concept is genuine but drab

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Jaguar confirms 575-hp F-Type Project 7 for Goodwood debut

06/25/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Convertibles, Sports/GTs, Jaguar, Misc. Auto Shows

Jaguar F-Type Project 7

Two days ago, Jaguar announced it had something special in store for the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend. Then yesterday images of that special creation, the F-Type Project 7, leaked out. And now, as promised, Coventry has released the full details on the ultimate F-Type to date. And its even better than we expected.

The production version of the concept revealed last year, the F-Type Project 7 celebrates the 60th anniversary of the D-Type by borrowing some of that legendary roadster's design cues, right down to the rear fin and British Racing Green livery with white racing stripes.

Of course the Project 7 is more than just a retro appearance package. The bespoke speedster packs a version of Jaguar's prolific 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with 575 horsepower - 25 more than the F-Type R Coupe - to make it the Leaping Cat marque's most powerful production car to date. Mated to Coventry's familiar eight-speed automatic transmission, that's said to be enough to propel the Project 7 to 60 in 3.8 seconds en route to an electronically limited top speed of 186 miles per hour. Keeping all that power and pace in check and on the road are such features as carbon ceramic brakes, a full complement of carbon-fiber aero components, electronic differential and brake-based torque vectoring system.

Fully road-legal, the flagship F-Type features a folding cloth roof that can be removed entirely. Fortunate buyers will be able to choose between blue, red or green (with white graphics), or black or white (with grey graphics). Jaguar's new Special Operations division will only make 250 examples of the F-Type Project 7, each of which is sure to command a suitable premium over the $92K MSRP of the F-Type V8 S roadster or $99K F-Type R Coupe. Scope out the full details in the press release below.

Continue reading Jaguar confirms 575-hp F-Type Project 7 for Goodwood debut

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Why Elon Musk is right about batteries being the future of automobiles

07/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, China

China International Battery Fair 2014

Recently, I visited the China International Battery Fair in Shenzhen. This is perhaps the largest battery show in the world, with over 980 exhibitors covering three-quarter of a million square feet. The three-day exhibition was followed by a three-day conference on battery technology and innovation drawing battery scientists from all over the world.

Almost everybody in the battery industry in China attends this show. There were lead acid batteries, NiCad batteries and all kinds of lithium-ion batteries. There were manufacturers of battery electrodes, separators and battery cases. Battery assembly equipment manufacturers were also present.

Most people think of China as a low-tech cheap labor market, but Chinese companies are now making the robots to produce batteries. Back in 2008, Chinese battery assembly equipment manufacturers were struggling to produce cylindrical cells. Today they have mastered the production of cut and stacked cells (which is where the future of lithium-ion technology is heading).

China's central government is investing huge resources into the battery industry to make China the world leader of battery technology.

One hundred years ago the engine was the key to manufacturing an automobile; for electric vehicles the battery is the key: that is where the power comes from. Batteries are the most expensive component in an electric vehicle, sometimes exceeding more than half the bill of materials cost. Tesla's Gigafactory will change the entire automobile industry and give Tesla an incredible competitive advantage, putting Tesla years ahead of all other automobile manufacturers. Tesla will turn its electric vehicle manufacturing volume into a battery cost advantage and make it very difficult for other automobile manufacturers to compete.

The Chinese government also understands the importance of batteries to the electric vehicle industry. The central government is investing huge resources into the battery industry to make China the world leader of battery technology. Close to 900 of the exhibitors at the CIBF were Chinese manufacturers.

Continue reading Why Elon Musk is right about batteries being the future of automobiles

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Shia LaBeouf is hitchhiking across the country for art

05/27/2016   [Original: Autoblog]

Filed under: Etc.,Humor,Videos,Weird Car News Shia LeBeouf has taken a lot of lumps in the press since he started his perplexing career as a performance artist.Continue reading Shia LaBeouf is hitchhiking across the country for art Shia LaBeouf is hitchhiking across the country for art originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 26 May 2016 18:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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The Dolphin hand-built wooden car with Datsun mechanicals is for sale

03/14/2018   [Original: Autoblog]

Filed under: Design/Style,Etc.,Weird Car News,Classics,Specialty The British Morgan sports cars still have wood in their frames. But it's rare to see wood used to the extent that you see here: Californian car fabricator Peter Portugal is selling "The Dolphin," a hand-built wooden roadster that uses a 1979 Datsun 280ZX drivetrain and an MGB front suspension. The wood used in it comes from a 250-year-old tree that fell in a storm in 1981, certainly making it more Redwood than Radwood.Continue reading The Dolphin hand-built wooden car with Datsun mechanicals is for sale The Dolphin hand-built wooden car with Datsun mechanicals is for sale originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 13 Mar 2018 16:45:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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Jaguar XKR - New HI-REZ pics and press release

06/30/2006   [Original: Jaguar via Autoblog]
Category: Convertibles, Coupes, Sports/GTs, Jaguar

So far we've scoured the internet for news of the new Jaguar XKR, but as of today the British automaker has made the high performance coupe and convertible official by bestowing us with high-resolution image, some not seen before, and an official press release. Below are the highlights of the press release, though you can read it in its entirety after the jump. Check out the pics, as well. Just click on one to see its high-rez version.

All-new 2007 Jaguar XKR At-A-Glance Highlights

  • 4.2-liter, supercharge V8 engine developing 420bhp and 413 lb.-ft. (560Nm) of torque
  • 0-60mph acceleration in 4.9 seconds and 155mph (electronically limited) top speed
  • All-aluminum construction means a lighter, stiffer vehicle, which improves handling and agility. At 3,671lbs (1,665kg), the Coupe is 154lbs (70kg) lighter than its predecessor, while the 3,781lbs (1,715kg) Convertible is 220lbs (100kg) lighter than its previous XKR Convertible
  • Uprated springs and dampers, and recalibrated Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) system for enhanced ride and handling
  • Class-leading six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles

  • Active Exhaust System to ensure cruising speed refinement, but purposeful V8 roar under hard acceleration
  • Subtle XKR exterior styling enhancements include a sportier grille and front bumper design, vented hood, unique aluminum-effect side power vents and new wheel designs
  • Enhanced interior includes unique aluminum 'weave' design on the fascia (polished burl walnut is optional at no extra cost) and XKR sports seats
  • Intuitive controls and driver-focused technologies are available - including Keyless Entry, Keyless Start, advanced Touchscreen and Active Front Lighting


IRVINE, Calif, June 30, 2006 - Jaguar is proud to announce its new supercharged sports cars - the 2007 Jaguar XKR Coupe and Convertible. Making its global reveal at the 2006 London Motor Show on July 18, 2006, the all-new XKR takes the Jaguar experience to new heights.

Designed in parallel with the naturally aspirated 2007 XK Coupe and Convertible, the new supercharged XKR makes intelligent use of practical, modern technology such as its industry-leading aluminum monocoque body structure. In fact, the new XKRs' aluminum chassis are significantly lighter and stiffer in both Coupe and Convertible form than the steel counterparts they replace.

A 420bhp, 4.2-liter supercharged V8 engine makes the Jaguar XKR capable of rapid 0-60mph performance in just 4.9 seconds (XKR Coupe) and produces an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

Both XKR Coupe and Convertible exhibit enhanced performance styling cues such as a sportier new grille and front

bumper design, a vented hood and distinctive aluminum-effect side power vents. Its unique option 19- or 20-inch alloy wheel designs and standard quad-exhaust system also add to its overall presence.

"The new supercharged XKR captures perfectly the essence of what makes a Jaguar XK so special," commented Bibie Boerio, Jaguar Cars managing director. "It is a perfect combination of refined Grand Tourer and serious performance sports car that delivers a truly rewarding and exhilarating driving experience."

Building on the excellence of the 2007 XKs introduced in 2005, the 2007 XKR is the epitome of a contemporary sports car and perfectly illustrates Jaguar's philosophy of building beautiful, fast cars. It combines beauty with power, and style with dynamism to deliver a world-class performance automobile.

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Americans skeptical of SMARTs for the real world

07/04/2006   [Original: Reuters via Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Coupes, Economy, Etc., Safety, DaimlerChrysler, SMART

Size, or lack thereof, seems to be the biggest concern of Americans when asked about the SMART car. The conclusion is based on a survey asking about last week's announcement that DaimlerChrysler, which manufactures the car, would begin selling it in the U.S. in 2008. Penske's UnitedAuto Group Inc. has been picked to be SMART's distributor.

The SMART car is not quite eight feet long, or half the size of a Toyota Camry and two-thirds the size of a MINI Cooper, the latter of which is considered its closest competitor. Though its diminutive size is often touted as a major advantage when parking, most of those interviewed are concerned about the SMART's ability to survive on roads dominated by SUVs and 18-wheelers. States Keith Wagner of New York City, "You'd have to keep your will in the glove compartment. If you got hit by an SUV or a truck, it looks like you'd be dead."

If we remember correctly, SMART sales will begin on the densley populated coasts where their knack for negotiating urban environments would be most appreciated.


DaimlerChrysler to make SMART move in U.S.

SMART coming to the U.S., Penske to distribute

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