Must…Have…Now

So Tesla will be producing much more than just a couple of awesome cars in the future, as laid out in a few tweets and blog post from Elon Musk, the president, founder, and all around billionaire guy who runs the company.

That blog post, entitled “Master Plan, Part Deux“, basically publicly outed how Tesla plans to move forward in its world domination of all things electric vehicle and technological awesomeness. And of course the Internets are all a flutter of what it all means.

To get you up to speed, the first part of Tesla’s electric world domination looked like this:

  1. Create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive: Tesla Roadster
  2. Use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price: Tesla Model S and X
  3. Use that money to create an affordable, high volume car: Tesla Model 3 (or III?)
    And…
  4. Provide solar power.

The next steps are:

  1. Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage: think on buses and other large vehicles
  2. Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments (emphasis mine)
  3. Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
  4. Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it

Number 4 is quite intriguing….make money by letting other people drive your car when you’re not. hmmm.

But what I want is the Tesla Minibus!!!!! Especially if it’s going to look anything like the render posted by Jalopnik:

tesla_minibus_render

Click the pic to head over to their site to see their write up.

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2016 Dodge Dart GT (non-turbo)

041316_0153_2016DodgeDa1.jpgThe original Dart was a stylish (for the time) car but it was killed off in the mid-70s. The irony is that in its first few years of life the Dart was a full-size sedan. Its 3rd year brought something interesting; they shrank it, making it into a compact car…something that is pretty unheard of today!

041316_0153_2016DodgeDa2.jpgI was pretty sad when I heard that FCA was killing off the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. They seemed like very well put together cars that were also stylish and fun to drive. But unfortunately, the car landscape is changing and with low gas prices all around people are buying more small or medium crossovers than passenger cars, not even taking pickups into consideration as the Ford F-150 is still the top selling vehicle in the US some 30+ years running. Another factor is ease of ingress/egress in today’s crossovers compared with small sedans and the amount of money car makers are putting into the small crossover realm.

2016 Dodge Dart
2016 Dodge Dart

The real shame is that FCA has that styling thing down pat. Good looks and sporting intentions abound in the lineup and the Dart is no slouch in either aspect. We got to drive a Dart in a closed-loop urban setting and were happily surprised with how well it handled and how nice the car actually is.

2016 Dodge Dart Limited
2016 Dodge Dart Limited

With plenty of power on tap from the start, we were able to get through city traffic with little effort and the suspension soaked up the bumps with ease.

Surprisingly quick and very comfortable. The interior is very nice and the instrument cluster is top-notch. Seriously, the design of these is crazy good.

2016 Dodge Dart GT
2016 Dodge Dart GT

Look to pick up one starting at $22095. Just hurry as the Dart is short on life these days.

2016 FIAT 500 Abarth

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The FIAT 500 is a small car with a big heart. That shows in its interior accommodations, at least in the front seats, as well as its fun-to-drive ratio. Like most other automakers who are looking to appeal to more customers on all levels, FIAT now (since the 2015 model year) offers a six-speed automatic transmission on the performance-oriented Abarth model, making the car accessible to more people than just high performance seeking enthusiasts.

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The trade off with having the automatic is a loss of 3 horsepower but a gain of 13 lb.-ft. of torque. What that means in the real world is that you’re really not going to feel a difference between the two versions. The nice thing is that the turbo should stay spooled up so that it should stay in the power band longer, giving the car more oomph (technical term).

2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio

For such a small car, the 500 Abarth handles rougher roads easily without a harsh ride. Also, the peppy engine makes getting around town fast and easy. Since I didn’t get a chance to take the 500 Abarth out on the open road I will not even speculate on how it handles on the interstate, except to say that small cars like this usually feel very skittish at highway speeds and with such a short wheelbase expect a lot of porpoising over road undulations and expansion joints.

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For 2016, the high end Abarth gets FCA’s UConnect system 5.0 which sports a 5-inch touch screen radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and integrated voice command to control it all. Couple that with the available BeatsAudio 368-watt six-speaker/subwoofer and DSP system and you’ve got one great-sounding ride with tunes from coast to coast.

For 2016, the high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio

There’s also a bunch of high-tech safety features to keep you safe and on the road. Some of the more than 35 safety and security features include seven standard airbags (including full-length side-curtain air bags, standard seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags and even one for the driver’s knee) and an Abarth-tuned three-mode Electronic Stability Control.

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The FIAT 500 Abarth starts just over $22,500 and goes up from there but you can easily keep it under $30k if you watch your options. Speaking of which, our test vehicle had a few options like that Aisin six-speed automatic transmission ($1350); premium leather-trimmed bucket seats ($1200); premium Italian stripe package by Mopar ($515); BeatsAudio ($700); and the comfort/convenience group ($975) and it was just under $28k! Drive the manual off the lot and you can see how much you’ll save ($1350) but you’ll also have so much more fun!

2017 FIAT 124 Spider

Soon there will be more to FIAT in North America than the 500. Recently announced at the LA Auto Show was the FIAT 124, a roadster based on the Mazda MX-5, but with the FIAT 1.4-liter MultiAir (read turbocharged) four cylinder putting out 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. The Mazda version has 155 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. out of a non-turbo 2.0-liter. That engine is the one found in the FIAT 500 Abarth and will likely turn the little car into a roadster rocket compared with the MX-5 due to the leap in torque. Here is the original 124 for comparison: And here is the new one: Why would someone take a Mazda MX-5 and slap some different sheetmetal on it to make it their own??? Especially someone as big and full of great cars like FIAT! Granted, it’s easier to bring a model to the US market that has already passed safety and emissions testing, and the MX-5 is perpetually lauded for its handling prowess, but this has the propensity to be either a boon for FIAT or a bust. That judgement will have to wait until that production vehicles make it here. We should all be grateful that the 124 can be had with either the wonderful six-speed manual or six-speed automatic found in the MX-5 So that’s the bad. The good is that the new 124 indeed looks like the original and this adaptation promises to be a wonderful performer and welcome addition to the FIAT portfolio in the US. On the safety front, the 124 has advanced features like adaptive front headlamps, blind-spot monitoring and a backup camera.

Tesla Model X…Addendum

Tesla Model X Front Falcon Doors

After finally watching the entire launch video…the uncomfortableness of Elon Musk on a stage, which is actually a little comical, was mostly palatable…I have to admit that there are two things that I missed in my previous post.

Firstly, that front end. From the front three-quarter view it’s not bad but straight head on it’s…weird. There’s a great expanse of nothingness under the badge and the opening that surrounds it down to the widely dark and foreboding opening just above the air dam. It just seems that it was cut off too short, adding to the egg look of the vehicle. It is definitely not as profound as the Model S and maybe that’s why it seems odd. It’s just a flat surface heading into the wind that is guaranteed to be a great bug collector in the Summer months.

The second thing I missed was all the storage space in the thing. I should have known that Tesla wouldn’t let the buying public down and they sure didn’t. There is space under the second row of seats, much like a on an airplane, with room for backpacks or other small bags. There is also a deep well in the rear hatch area that seems deep enough to handle large bags and suitcases. I think the only thing you can’t really do is haul a yard of dirt in it…I hope someone proves me wrong on that one!

Thanks for stopping by.

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X Front Falcon Doors

Tesla has done the unthinkable. They have taken their fast, very fast, Model S sedan and grafted an egg-shaped SUV body onto it and are calling it the Model X. Yes, they’ve been hyping the Model X for a few years now and had some production issues (most notable due to the design of the rear passenger doors) but the official unveiling and first delivery just happened.

Now that we have official specs let the nitpicking begin.

Tesla Model X Rear Wing

There are two models of the Model X slated so far; the 90D and P90D. With the 90D you get all wheel drive, and EPA estimated range of 257 miles, 4.8 seconds to 60 miles per hour and two 259 horsepower electric motors, one for each axle. The P90D (P for performance) gives you a 250 miles estimated range, 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds and one electric motor powering the front wheel with 259 horsepower and one electric motor powering the rear wheels rated at 503 horsepower! Your range may vary.

Tesla Model X Side

Now, about those rear passenger doors. Tesla is calling them Falcon Wing doors. In concept they are like gull wing doors in that they open upwards but that is where the conceptual likeness ends. Falcon Wing doors are hinged near the top of the window glass so that the doors open almost straight up and then out rather than simply opening out. this design facilitates quite a few interesting and awesome ideals; you can stand in the rear seat, it’s easier to get child seats into and out of the vehicle and the children along with them and you can open the doors with about a foot of room between the Model X and the nearest obstacle. And for you ninnies who will complain about low overhangs, there are sensors built in that will detect a low garage ceiling or other obstruction.

Tesla Model X Side 2

One thing that might be a deal-breaker for some people is the lack of folding rear seats. That second row, with either two or three seats, is rigid and not much has been shown yet as to how it works to get people into the far back seats. We do know that they do not fold for cargo purposes like the far back seats do. It will be interesting to see how this pans out once more people get their hands on these machines.

Tesla Model X Rear Tow Rack

Pricey? Yes. But these are not for the mainstream as we know it. No, these are for those on the bleeding edge, those who need to have the latest and greatest technology no matter the cost…and also for those looking for bragging rights. “I’ve got the new Tesla. What do you have?”

Here are some manufacturer’s specs for your reading pleasure:

-Falcon Wing rear doors with built in sensors, which automatically adjust to the optimal opening arc in confined spaces or small garages.
-Automatically deploying rear spoiler
-Maps and navigation with real time traffic updates
-Daytime running lights
-Power-folding and heated side mirrors
-Front trunk with room for luggage, strollers or two golf bags
-Full size rear cargo area for your gear
-Free long distance travel on Tesla’s expanding Supercharger network
8 year, infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty
-Automatic keyless entry, with automatically opening front doors
-GPS enabled Homelink
-Parking sensors, blind spot warning and side collision avoidance
-Automatic emergency braking to assist in avoiding collisions, even at highway speeds
-Seating for up to seven adults
-Four LATCH child seat attachments, two in each passenger row

P90D Performance All-Wheel Drive:
250 miles range (EPA est.)
3.8 seconds 0-60 mph
3.2 seconds with Ludicrous Speed Upgrade
259 hp front, 503 hp rear motor power
155 mph top speed

90D All-Wheel Drive:
257 miles range (EPA est.)
4.8 seconds 0-60 mph
259 hp front, 259 hp rear motor power
155 mph top speed

Stow everyone’s gear in Model X’s large front trunk, rear cargo area and under passenger seats. The front trunk is large enough to hold two golf bags and the rear cargo area can easily hold large items like bicycles, skis and snowboards. Hitch mounted accessory carriers hold additional gear. Model X is the first electric vehicle with a 5,000 pound towing capacity.

Model X has the largest all glass panoramic windshield in production, providing an unparalleled view of the stars and sky above. Optimized solar tinting and obstruction-free view creates unlimited visibility for the driver and all passengers.

Model X is able to achieve 250 miles of range in part because it is the most aerodynamic SUV in production. At 0.24, Model X’s drag coefficient is 20% lower than the next best SUV. In addition, an active spoiler deploys from the rear liftgate to optimize highway efficiency and stability.

Falcon Wing doors allow easy access to second and third row seats from even a tight parking space, while traditional SUV doors or Minivan sliding doors would not grant any access.
With only a foot of clearance on either side, Falcon Wing doors articulate smoothly up and out of the way, allowing passengers to enter from both front and rear directions. The side and overhead opening is so large that parents can buckle children in without ducking or straining and without bumping their child’s head on the roof.

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept

Santa Cruz Crossover Truck ConceptThe North American International Auto Show is always a big deal when it comes to new vehicle introductions and future-looking concept cars. Take the surprise announcement from Hyundai of the Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept. It’s a small trucklet that looks very much like the Honda Ridgeline and seems to have similar functionality.

Santa Cruz Crossover Truck ConceptHere’s what Hyundai has to say about the Santa Cruz, “The Santa Cruz crossover truck concept meets the unspoken needs of a growing Millennial lifestyle we call ‘Urban Adventurers’,” said Mark Dipko, director, corporate planning, Hyundai Motor America. “This new crossover allows them all the expandable utility they need throughout their active week, from work-life professionalism, to social interests, to a whole variety of outdoor pursuits, without the typical compromises they have come to expect from the industry’s current product offerings.”

Santa Cruz Crossover Truck ConceptThe interesting part of the passenger compartment is the doors. They look like those found on extended cab pickups and the Honda Element and the third door on the Hyundai Veloster, the rear doors open backwards and cannot be opened while the front doors are closed. It’s an efficient package that takes some getting used to but works really well.

The tailgate, according to the pics, has built-in extenders which is a great addition to a short-looking bed. We’re not sure if the tailgate will drop and swing out like the Ridgeline.

SANTA CRUZ CROSSOVER TRUCK CONCEPTSANTA CRUZ CROSSOVER TRUCK CONCEPT

SANTA CRUZ CROSSOVER TRUCK CONCEPT

It’s an attractive concept that will be an attractive alternative to a “regular” compact utility vehicle.

Here’s what the PR scribes at Hyundai have put together on the Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept:

Santa Cruz Crossover Truck ConceptURBAN ADVENTURERS

Modern urbanization is impacting the market in a broad way, and this trend is especially strong with young adults, who face tighter parking on streets and parking garages, and increasing congestion overall. These trends are not confined to one specific region of the U.S.; they’re happening in urban hubs everywhere. These “Urban Adventurers” have a different mindset, being very active both socially, and in their communities, bringing a pioneering spirit to make their neighborhoods a better place to live and work.

So whether it’s loading up friends and firewood for a bonfire at the beach, coaching the youth soccer team, volunteering for a community restoration project, or a quick drop-off at the local recycling center, they need a vehicle versatile enough to accommodate both passengers and gear, while being efficient enough to fit into their unique urban lifestyle.

SANTA CRUZ CONCEPT

To meet the specific needs of these Urban Adventurers, Santa Cruz doesn’t focus on all the same attributes as traditional pickups. It’s designed to meet more of their desires for expression, efficiency and maneuverability. Hyundai designers created a bold design that conveys this lifestyle, with a wide, sure-footed stance and an aggressive side-profile rake. The front view features an upright, hexagonal grille with cascading lines framing the sides, dual lens-free, honeycombed headlamp projectors, and prominent LED fog lamps. The side profile is highlighted by oversized wheels, Michelin® tires with a special tread design, center-locking hubs and yellow Brembo® brake calipers.

For ease of access to the rear seats, Santa Cruz features convenient, rear-hinged rear doors which integrate seamlessly with the front door design. The wheel arches, roof, and bed rails offer convenient tie-down cleats for securing cargo of all shapes and sizes. From the rear, the concept presents highly-contoured bed forms, and for extra utility, the expandable bed can be easily reconfigured for longer cargo, using a unique drawer-like sliding function.

Efficiency is a key attribute of its advanced powertrains, with an environmentally-friendly 2.0-liter turbo diesel powertrain delivering 190 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque, while achieving fuel economy in the high 30 mpg range. Santa Cruz also offers Hyundai’s HTRAC® All-wheel drive system, so there’s no anxiety about getting those snowboarding “fresh tracks” right after a storm moves through.

The concept is purposefully compact, and although it has four doors and seating for five, its overall footprint is similar to a small CUV. These dimensions make it ideal for navigating the urban jungle or a tight parking spot that most pickup drivers often have to pass by. It offers typical CUV driving character, but with a versatile cargo bed that provides separated storage for all they want to bring along, whether it’s a trip to the recycling center, a surf or paddleboard session, or a couple of mountain bikes for the trails. Whatever the day’s activity might bring — all that dirty, sweaty, wet, sandy, bulky gear remains in the back of the truck, cleanly separated from the passenger compartment.

During the work week, gear for that early morning hike or after-work hockey game stays securely locked in the back, under an integrated, rigid tonneau cover that conveniently retracts when not needed. It not only keeps items safe and out of sight, it also keeps the interior clean and fresh. Santa Cruz is the perfect vehicle for those that want the attributes of a CUV, but still have dirty stuff that belongs “in the back.”

INNOVATIVE TAILGATE EXTENSION

Sometimes, there are those needs that call for even more cargo room; that’s why Santa Cruz offers an innovative tailgate extension that allows the bed length to be expanded whenever those “just in case” moments arise. The extension is perfect for everything from an epic mountain bike trip to bringing home an antique chest or classic motorcycle that’s ripe for restoration. When fully extended, Santa Cruz’s bed length is similar to a mid-size pickup, providing the ability to carry much more than its compact footprint would suggest, yet only when needed. Santa Cruz was designed to accommodate whatever the Urban Adventurer’s lifestyle calls for, whether expected or unexpected.

Some of the industry’s past attempts to blend truck-bed flexibility with passenger-car attributes were limited because they didn’t deliver the practical benefits the customer expected. Most tried to straddle the line by attracting traditional truck buyers with compromised products at a similar price point, failing to deliver any differentiating benefits. Santa Cruz, by design, isn’t an alternative to a truck, so towing, payload and ground clearance were not primary goals. Rather, Santa Cruz is intended to attract CUV and sedan buyers who are seeking greater utility, without the compromises that traditional trucks often require.

MORPHING LIFESTYLE DEMANDS

Hyundai research revealed that not everyone who wants an open-bed vehicle is willing to accept the tradeoffs that come with it. As evidence of this, industry pickup truck share is down over five percent in the last 10 years, with the biggest shift among young adults, reflecting a need for something that more closely matches these morphing lifestyles. In the past, small trucks accounted for half of pickup sales, and they were particularly popular with younger buyers. Today, that same young truck market is almost non-existent, and millennials under 30 represent just seven percent of all pickup purchases. Women, who buy more than half of all CUVs sold, now account for only 10 percent of pickup sales. Santa Cruz is intended to meet the customer needs that the current truck product offering is simply not fulfilling.

Santa Cruz is for the growing population who sees and pursues the world differently, those who want all the traditional attributes of a small CUV, but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed. It’s the crossover truck that meets the unspoken needs of Urban Adventurers.

HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA