Jaguar considers production for the C-X75

Jaguar C-X75 Greg Migliore
Jaguar is studying the possibility of building the C-X75.

By JULIAN RENDELL on 10/08/2010

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Jaguar is planning production feasibility studies of up to 2,000 cars a year for its new 780-hp supercar, sources say.
Jag is remaining coy about firm production plans for the elegant mid-engine C-X75, but AutoWeek sources say that two levels of production are under consideration.
The higher one is up to 2,000 cars a year, the lower one up to 1,000 cars a year. Each needs to be explored independently because each demands different production methods--the lower number with more hand assembly and lower tooling costs; the higher one with more automation but higher tooling costs.
A production version faithful to the gas-turbine powered C-X75 will also have to wait between five years and seven years while Jaguar proves the Bladon Jets micro gas turbines at the heart of the hybrid-electric powertrain.
“We're talking two to three years for implementation of the gas-turbine technology, then another three to four years to integrate into a vehicle,” said Tony Harper, Jag's head of advanced powertrain.
The cost of developing the gas turbines for production could be in the C-X75's favor, being significantly less than an equivalent internal-combustion engine, running into the tens of millions of dollars.
Harper is also confident that the gas turbines can be engineered and proved to rigorous car-industry reliability and endurance standards. There's much less to go wrong; there are about 100 times fewer parts in a gas turbine than in an IC engine.
Replicating a production supercar faithful to the C-X75 design is largely dependent on these gas turbines, because they take up such little space in the engine bay that Jaguar has been able to position the cabin 300 millimeters further back than typical in a conventionally powered supercar.
The styling of the C-X75 is the work of designer Matt Beaven, whose credits include the R Coupe and RD6 concepts. A former Volkswagen designer, Beaven counts the original VW Touran and the second-gen Audi A3 among his work.

Toyota Prius gets sporty with Plus Performance package

a rear view of the Toyota Prius Plus Performance Package.
The Toyota Prius Plus Performance Package includes a ground effects kit.

By DALE JEWETT on 6/30/2011

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No one is going to confuse a Toyota Prius hybrid with a sports car. But the Japanese automaker has released a styling and suspension package developed by Toyota Racing Development that gives the Toyota Prius a sportier look.

The Prius Plus Performance package first appeared at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas in November 2010.

Now, you can order the upgrade for your new Prius and add $2,999 to the sticker if you take the Prius Five trim, or add $3,699 to the sticker price if you take the Prius Two, Three or Four trim levels.

What does that get you?

-- A ground-effects kit.

-- 17-inch forged alloy wheels with all-season tires.

-- New springs that lower the car 1.1 inches in front and 1.3 inches in the rear.

-- A rear sway bar.

-- Special floor mats and an exterior badge.

The package is installed at the port, Toyota says.

Toyota says quantities of the Prius Plus Performance package will be limited to 200 copies per month. If it makes you green with envy, ordering begins in July.

Prices set for the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

a front view of the 5-door Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Land Rover
The 5-door Land Rover Range Rover Evoque carries a sticker price of $43,995.

By JULIE ALVIN on 6/30/2011

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The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, the smallest vehicle in Land Rover's history, will carry a sticker price of $43,995 for the five-door model and $44,995 for the three-door model when they go on sale in the United States this fall. The prices include shipping charges.

The Range Rover Evoque is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 240 hp.

Land Rover points out that extensive use of lightweight materials keeps curb weight down to 3,680 pounds for the five-door and helps the new Evoque ring up fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

In an effort to be environmentally friendly, the Range Rover Evoque uses recycled materials in the headliner, center console, air ducting, parcel shelf and engine cover.

Full Land Rover press release below:

PRICING & FUEL ECONOMY ANNOUNCED FOR THE ALL-NEW 2012 RANGE ROVER EVOQUE

With an impressive 28 highway MPG**, the Range Rover Evoque is the brand's most fuel efficient model to date and will arrive in showrooms in Fall 2011 for $43,995*.

MAHWAH, N.J., JUNE 30, 2011- Land Rover revealed today that the all-new 2012 Range Rover Evoque will have a starting price of $43,995* for the five-door, and $44,995* for the coupe. Both prices include Destination and Delivery.

As the lightest and most fuel efficient Range Rover ever, the Range Rover Evoque sends a powerful message that the company is serious about sustainability and is determined to deliver vehicles that are both relevant and highly desirable. The Range Rover Evoque addresses the growing consumer need for more environmentally friendly vehicles.

The Range Rover Evoque achieves 28 MPG** EPA highway and 19 MPG** EPA city. This excellent fuel economy is the result of new efficiency technologies, lightweight materials, and environmentally conscious design.

Weight saving was a primary objective in the development of the Range Rover Evoque, and engineers have applied a range of advanced lightweight materials to make this the lightest Range Rover model ever, with the five-door starting at just 3,680lbs (1,680 kg)***. Weight-saving technologies can be found throughout the bodyshell and chassis of the Range Rover Evoque, including a steel body structure with over 18%*** Boron/high strength steels in key load-bearing areas. Additional features include polymer and composite front fenders and tailgate, an aluminum hood, roof panels, front lower control arms and front/rear suspension knuckles, and a magnesium cross car beam.

As part of the comprehensive effort to minimize the car’s ecological impact, the Range Rover Evoque focuses on the use of more sustainable materials. Each vehicle uses approximately 35lbs (16kg)*** of recycled plastic material. Parts with recycled content include: headliner, center console, wheel arch liners, air cleaner, cooling fan and shroud, air ducting, side under trays, parcel shelf, engine cover and subwoofer box. In addition, the metal interior trim on the center console and dashboard is produced from recycled aluminum. The trim fabric used on the headlining and pillars is produced from recycled polyester.

This vehicle will be sold in 160 countries worldwide with North American deliveries beginning in Fall 2011.

Mission: Impossible 4 movie gets green action with BMW electric supercar

BMW Mission: Impossible 4 Ghost Protocol BMW
The BMW Vision EfficientDynamics electric supercar will appear in Mission: Impossible 4--Ghost Protocol

By MICHELLE KOUEITER on 6/30/2011

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BMW is casting a green starlet for its automotive role in Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol, slated to hit theaters in mid-December.

Behind the wheel, Tom Cruise will probably continue to defy all realities of city driving--but this time he'll at least be sending fewer emissions into the atmosphere.

He'll be driving a BMW Vision EfficientDynamics electric supercar, a concept vehicle that the company claims will evolve into the BMW i8 before it hits series production in a few years' time.

In concept form, the full-hybrid plug-in gets roughly 63 miles to the gallon, with a three-cylinder turbodiesel engine and an electric motor situated on each axle. It has regenerative braking capacity to recharge the 98 lithium-polymer batteries, and a thermoelectric generator for the on-board power supply.

“With its futuristic design and large glass surfaces, the car offers a fascinating perspective on the future of sheer driving pleasure, in combination with maximum efficiency,” BMW spokesman Ian Robertson said.

The few BMW-released photos of the Mission: Impossible 4 version of the supercar call to mind a crouching black panther waiting on its prey. And since this beast is only four feet tall, the villains battling Cruise will be lucky to see it coming.

Hybrid Honda Insight too fast for U.K.'s Formula 1000 Rally

The racing Honda Insight has a curb weight of 1,829 pounds.
The racing Honda Insight has a curb weight of 1,829 pounds.

By JAKE LINGEMAN on 6/30/2011

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It's a fact of racing--cars get disqualified. The vehicle in question might be too light or too powerful, leading to an unfair advantage.

But being too fast while sticking to series guidelines? That's just awesome.

So goes the tale of the U.K.'s OakTec rally team that has been asked to leave Formula 1000 Rally Club events--and the team campaigns a hybrid Honda Insight!

The 100-mpg (when driven slowly) ride captured two first-place finishes and a second-place this season. Now, organizers have asked OakTec to move up a class.

OakTec boss Paul Andrews said he was surprised.

"It was a bit of a shock when I got the call, as after six years we finally had our chance at a bit of glory," Andrews said. "But I fully understand the perspective of the organizers and their wish not to spoil the sport for other drivers.

"It's a shame that it had to happen midseason, but it's the risk you face going against the grain and trying something radical. If it fails, no one notices. If it's successful, you have an unfair advantage."

According to the rules, the car has to be 1,000 cc or less, with no form of sequential gearbox. It has to run on pump gasoline. Cars can be boosted with a turbocharger or a supercharger, and tires and suspension must conform.

OakTec followed those rules, but the organizers do reserve the right to make changes based on season events. The organizers asked, and OakTec complied.

The hybrid Honda Insight is a technical marvel, with a high-strength, lightweight aluminum body and one of the lowest coefficients of drag in the industry. OakTec partnered with Lotus Engineering for the car, which currently has a curb weight of just 1,829 pounds. More powerful batteries were added, and the hybrid system was tuned to recover more energy during deceleration and give more power when taking off. The car uses a continuously variable transmission and runs on E85 fuel.

OakTec doesn't know where to go next, Andrews said. The Super 1000 class is for all-out race cars, with which the Insight could never compete. One possible option is for OakTec to develop its Civic hybrid into an open-class car. Either way, we'll be watching.

High-performance electric cars set for public debut at Goodwood

EEMS Accelerate will show electric cars such as the Ecotricity Nemesis at this weekend's Goodwood Festival of Speed.
EEMS Accelerate will show electric cars such as the Ecotricity Nemesis at this weekend's Goodwood Festival of Speed.

By MICHELLE KOUEITER on 6/30/2011

The EEMS Accelerate project based in Britain aims to show that driving an electric car doesn't have to be a bland experience. It's taking the effort public starting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Four British-made, high-performance electric cars will be displayed at the FoS-TECH Exhibition at Goodwood this weekend. The exhibit showcases new technologies developed for an environmentally sustainable future.

EEMS gives car lovers a 12-month testing period with these types of cars, hoping to demonstrate the potential for them to appeal to conventional driving enthusiasts. By showcasing the effort at Goodwood, the program aims to challenge people's perceptions about how electric vehicles should look and drive.

Last year's festival brought in about 154,000 guests over the three-day weekend. EEMS hopes to wow a large crowd with the torque capacities of some of the cars that are slated to tackle the Goodwood Hillclimb.

Rhys Millen loses brakes, takes second place at Pikes Peak


By JAKE LINGEMAN on 6/30/2011

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Rhys Millen, nephew of parts guru Steve Millen, didn't break Nobuhiro Tajima's world record at the 89th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb--Tajima did that himself.

But Rhys Millen did clock a fast second-place run up the 12.42-mile course with a time of 10 minutes, 9.242 seconds in a prepped Hyundai Genesis PM580.

That time was made even more impressive by the fact that Millen lost brake power in the last few miles before reaching the peak.

The Genesis prototype, which competed in the Unlimited class, looks quite like a Le Mans racer. With rumors of factory cars coming back next year, Millen likely will face an even tougher field.

Organizers say next year's event will be moved back on the calendar to allow construction crews to finish paving over the remaining dirt section of the road. We expect more records to be broken in all manner of vehicle.

For now, check out the on-board video of Millen attacking the hill, and enjoy the drive.

Audi U.K. celebrates Le Mans win with special-edition R8 V8 Limited

Audi R8 V8 Limited Le Mans special edition
The Audi R8 V8 Limited--100 copies for the U.K. to celebrate the brand's Le Mans win.

By DALE JEWETT on 6/30/2011

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Audi is giving its U.K. fans a chance to celebrate the brand's 10th win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with a special-edition R8, the R8 V8 Limited.

The price? The equivalent of $150,277, which includes a bunch of taxes. Production will be capped at 100 copies.

An Audi spokesman in the United States said there are no plans to offer the package here.

The Audi R8 V8 Limited package rolls with Audi's 4.2-liter V8, rated at 424 hp, mated to either a six-speed manual or the R-tronic dual-clutch transmission. Inside, there is a navigation system, magnetic ride suspension, the Audi Music Interface and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

The exterior gets specific alloy wheels and red-painted brake calipers. Options include a titanium-look paint finish and a carbon trim package.

Toyota recalls Highlander hybrid, Lexus RX 400h

The 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is being recalled.
The 2007 Toyota Highlander hybrid and the related Lexus RX 400h are being recalled.

By DALE JEWETT on 6/29/2011

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Toyota is recalling about 82,000 hybrid vehicles in the United States to fix a flawed control board inside the powertrain.

The recall covers about 45,000 Toyota Highlander hybrids and 36,700 Lexus RX 400h hybrids from the 2006 and 2007 model years.

Toyota says some of the transistors on the control board might have been improperly soldered and could be damaged from large current flow during high-load driving.

If the control board is damaged, Toyota says warning lamps on the instrument panel will illuminate. The vehicle could enter a low-power driving mode, or the power-supply-circuit fuse could blow and the hybrid system will stop working.

Visit www.toyota.com/recall for more information.

Full Toyota press release below:

Toyota Announces Voluntary Safety Recall of Certain 2006 and 2007 Model Year Highlander Hybrid and RX 400h Vehicles

TORRANCE, Calif., June 29, 2011 – Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. (TMS), today announced that it will conduct a voluntary safety recall involving approximately 45,500 Highlander Hybrid and 36,700 Lexus RX 400h vehicles sold in the U.S. No other Toyota or Lexus vehicles are involved.

The Intelligent Power Module (IPM) located inside the Hybrid System Inverter contains a control board with transistors. Certain transistors on the control boards in some of the subject vehicles were inadequately soldered and could be damaged from heat caused by a large current flow during high-load driving.

If this were to occur, various warning lamps will illuminate on the instrument panel. In most cases the vehicle will enter a fail-safe driving mode, resulting in reduced power in which the vehicle can still be driven for short distances. In limited instances, the power supply circuit fuse could blow when the transistor is damaged. If the fuse blows, the hybrid system will stop and the vehicle will coast to a stop.

Toyota is currently working on obtaining the necessary replacement parts. Once the replacement parts are available, we will notify owners. In the Interim, owners of the involved vehicles will be notified of the recall by first class mail in mid-July, 2011.

Once the replacement parts have been produced in sufficient quantities, Toyota will send a second owner notification by first class mail advising owners to make an appointment with an authorized Toyota dealer to have the IPM inspected and if necessary replaced at no charge.

Detailed information and answers to questions are available to customers at www.toyota.com/recall and the Toyota Customer Experience Center (1 800-331-4331) or www.lexus.com/recall and Lexus Customer Satisfaction (1 800-255-3987).

2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist, an AutoWeek Flash Drive Car Review

A front view of the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist Photo by: Buick

A front view of the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssi. Photo by Buick.

A side view of the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist Photo by: Buick

A side view of the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssis. Photo by Buick.

Inside the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist Photo by: Buick

Inside the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist. Photo by Buick.

The instrument cluster inside 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist Photo by: Buick

The instrument cluster inside 2012 Buick LaCrosse . Photo by Buick.

IntelliLink on the center display inside the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist Photo by: Buick

IntelliLink on the center display inside the 2012 . Photo by Buick.

Inside the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist Photo by: Buick

Inside the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist. Photo by Buick.

Trunk room in the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist  Photo by: Buick

Trunk room in the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist. Photo by Buick.

By MICHELLE KOUEITER on 6/29/2011

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What is it?

The midsize Buick LaCrosse looks about the same for 2012, but buyers will notice more oomph with better economy. This extra power boost comes from a new light-hybrid system called eAssist, which will be standard on the four-cylinder LaCrosse going forward.

The technology uses stored electric power to provide extra juice, adding up to 15 hp and 79 lb-ft of torque to augment the 182-hp, 172-lb-ft 2.4-liter Ecotec engine. Buick swapped out the alternator for a belt-driven, 15-kilowatt electric-motor generator and a 115-volt lithium-ion battery pack.

In launching eAssist, Buick claims its intent is to improve performance and mileage without making any sacrifices to the familiar styling or essence of the LaCrosse. Regenerative braking and fuel shut off during deceleration are meant to cast a green halo on the car without overwhelming its personality or familiar driving dynamics.

What is it like to drive?

The 2012 LaCrosse doesn't feel like a typical “green” car. The eAssist technologies at work manage to exist humbly in the background of the driving experience instead of stealing the limelight.

Buick is advertising the LaCrosse with eAssist as a more refined ride than that of the standard LaCrosse, claiming the system provides a quicker throttle response at cruising engine speeds, thereby creating smoother transitions and reducing the need to downshift as often. We sampled it on various terrains around San Francisco--in rush-hour traffic, on winding roads and coasting on the highway. No matter the circumstance, any hint of electric assist was only apparent with heavy acceleration. The vehicle wasn't fussy going up and down hills or sitting in stop-and-go traffic. It felt as if we were driving the standard LaCrosse, with more of a fun factor when hitting the on-ramp for less money at the pump.

Meanwhile, though it might not meet full-electric standards of silence, the four-cylinder was refined and the ride was Buick-smooth, further camouflaging the green technologies at work.

Transitions from one mode to the next didn't produce the slightest shudder, even when repeatedly lifting off and hitting the brake to restart and shut down the engine. If it weren't for the “auto stop” marking where the “0” would typically reside on the tachometer, the stop/start system would have gone unnoticed.

One subtle reminder that this LaCrosse is different is a green ECO gauge below the speedometer--a neat little nonintrusive feature that lets you monitor and correct your sloppy driving to maximize efficiency. If you slam on the brakes or speed up too quickly, the needle wags a disapproving finger by sliding out of the green zone.

One big qualm: the counterintuitive functionality of the control knob in the center display when using the navigation. You zoom in on the map by spinning the knob to the left and minimize by spinning to the right, in total defiance of human instinct. We eventually gave up trying to zoom.

Do I want one?

If you're in the market for an efficient, larger midsize sedan, the LaCrosse with eAssist is worth a close look. This car performs better than the current four-cylinder model, with 26 percent better fuel economy. With eAssist, Buick has done an admirable job of creating a green car with minimal compromise.

2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist

On Sale: August

Base Price: $30,820, including destination

Powertrain: 182-hp, 172-lb-ft Ecotec 2.4-liter DOHC inline-four; 15-hp, 79-lb-ft, 15-kilowatt electric motor; FWD, six-speed automatic

Curb Weight: 3,835 lb

0-60 MPH: 9.0 sec (est)

Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway

2011 Kia Sportage SX, an AutoWeek Drivers Log Car Review

2011 Kia Sportage SX

2011 Kia Sportage SX.

2011 Kia Sportage SX

2011 Kia Sportage SX.

2011 Kia Sportage SX

2011 Kia Sportage SX.

2011 Kia Sportage SX

2011 Kia Sportage SX.

2011 Kia Sportage SX

2011 Kia Sportage SX.

2011 Kia Sportage SX

2011 Kia Sportage SX.

Published on 6/29/2011

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EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: The 2011 Kia Sportage SX is a standout in styling among the cute utes, with strong character lines and sharp creases defining its fenders and flanks. It might be too in-your-face for some, but I like it. The front-end treatment is especially strong.

The theme carries inside, where the clean interior offers a plethora of easy-to-manage controls and a good seating position, though the seat bottom could use a little more length. The car seems well designed and well built.

The trick is whether one could spend every day in what seems to be a relatively noisy place, without much isolation from road, wind and engine noise. It’s not overwhelming, but combined with the car’s noticeably taut ride, it could become tiresome over time. That’s for each buyer to decide, but I’d recommend a test drive longer than around the block--perhaps out on the local freeway--before signing on the dotted line.

Speaking of power, this is one of those cars that you know is packing a four-cylinder without even trying to count spark plugs. When pushed, it strains mightily against the curb weight and doesn’t really feel like the power is as advertised. But then you check the speedo and find that you’re already up to speed, so maybe it’s just an impression of underwhelming power versus weight. Out on the highway, the car holds 70 mph easily, but running between 50 mph and 75 mph seems to require an aggressive pedal.

This is a well-equipped, well-built little SUV, but I find it hard to believe that vehicles in this small-ute class command $32,000 in the marketplace--especially one from Korea. Perhaps that explains why every company selling one of these now also offers an even smaller and less expensive utility vehicle, such as the Soul for Kia.

COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: The Sportage SX was a fine ride for running around over a weekend. And the little ute seemed up to the task, particularly on the expressway, where after some initial lag we were cruising at speed and above with no problem. Passing also was a breeze, and the power was smooth as long as we didn’t have to drop down much. There is a bit of hesitation at in-between speeds and you do feel the weight. But otherwise, the Sportage was strong.

Inside, our back-seat passengers had plenty of room to ride in comfort, as we did upfront. I liked the higher-up seating position, which allowed for a great view of the road. The center stack is nicely laid out and all of the controls are easy to reach and use. The sound system was good, and we took advantage of the summerlike weather and cruised around with the windows and the roof open.

Complaints? Way too much noise from the ute, the roads and such enters the cabin. I found myself turning the radio louder to be able to hear. And the Sportage bounces around quite a bit over bad roads. Also, there’s not much cargo space behind the back seats. Then, there’s the sticker. While I really like the face, the sheetmetal (especially in this orange-red hue), the hunkered-down styling and the overall package, $32,000 seems a bit much.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: The 2011 Kia Sportage SX is sharp in style and execution, complete with a well-tailored appearance on the outside set in a striking shade of red. This crossover looks buff to me, sort of like Kia put it in the gym for a while before letting it loose on the streets. The wheels, headlights and taillights complement the look in athletic fashion.

Still, there is a small element that comes across as inexpensive--the reliance on black plastic for the grille, fascia and a prominent stretch of the interior. Everyone uses plastic, but this stuff looks and feels of lesser quality, which is a shame because the rest of this crossover looks excellent and stands out.

The drive is fine, with more juice than expected from this 260-hp turbo I4. Passing is little trouble, and the driver does get a fairly responsive weight from the steering and braking. The Sportage offers a slightly elevated road view, which many Americans will like and seem to want today. The seats were folded flat when I got in, which I didn’t need but left as is, and the ute seems to offer a ton of extra cargo room.

The electronic goodies--the backup camera and satellite radio--were welcome add-ons, and really I had little complaint with this Kia crossover. The power is better than most will expect, and it’s a decent daily driver.

2011 Kia Sportage SX

Base Price: $27,990

As-Tested Price: $32,565

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4; AWD, six-speed automatic

Output: 260 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 269 lb-ft @ 1,850-3,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,466 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 23/21.8 mpg

Options: Navigation with premium audio including Sirius traffic and camera display, premium audio with exterior amp, subwoofer ($1,500); premium package with leather including leather seat trim, heated front seats, air-cooled driver’s seat, push-button start with smart key, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, cargo cover, panoramic sunroof, backup warning system, heated outside mirrors ($3,000); cargo mat ($75)

2011 Infiniti QX56 AutoWeek Long-Term Update: Purple people hauler

a front view of the Infiniti QX56.
After six months with the Infiniti QX56, we're averaging 14.9 mpg.

By GREG MIGLIORE on 6/28/2011

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The first quarter of life in our long-term Infiniti QX56 could best be described as a bit bruising--to say the least. In fact, we capped our early months in this monstrous people hauler with back-to-back crashes. Yikes. But this inauspicious start gave way to a more tranquil second quarter with less bumper-car action and more seat time.

Still, this is our notorious QX56, so, naturally, it had to spend some time in the shop, and our flagship SUV required four days of rest licking its wounds from a first-quarter rear-ending. We paid a $2,132.24 tab and moved on to better times. Those included traveling in supreme comfort through the waning days of winter, which around One AutoWeek Tower are quite dreary, and then an arctic spring. The four-wheel drive was up to the task in nearly all situations, smoothing road imperfections and ruts, while the commanding driving position offered an easy view of the often treacherous roads.

We love the V8 power on tap in this big Infiniti. It comes on strong, resonates with a note of anger and is smooth through the band. Occasionally, we like to jump on the throttle, and the QX56 always responded.

The negative is that the fuel economy is downright awful, with many a staffer feeling chagrined after a lengthy fill-up session (requiring premium fuel, no less). One senior editor came to the defense of this troop transporter, pointing out that it weighs nearly three tons and can haul seven people in first-class fashion.

"The point here is that when you need a sledgehammer to do a job, a simple claw hammer just won't work," he noted.

That came in handy for another AW chief, who transported part of a high-school drum corps to an event in style. And that's the beauty of this beast. It's in a class almost by itself. If you want to travel in something this large and opulent, you're pretty much limited to the Cadillac Escalade, the Lincoln Navigator or the Queen Mary.

The QX56's interior drew raves for its posh seats, soft leather and pleasing materials. The front of the cabin has a dual-cockpit layout, set off by handsome wood-colored plastics and easy-to-read gauges. Mix in the steering-wheel heater and seat burners, and we were quite content to brave the elements in this ute.

"The creature comforts are second to none in the QX56," one editor gushed. "You absolutely bask in the leather and sink into the deep chairs. The defrosters were spot-on, melting away a 29-degree chill with ease. The headlights are also impossibly good, catching a street sign perhaps 200 yards away and completely illuminating it at dusk."

Several editors noted that the Infiniti pulled a bit to the left, and others have carped about smaller things such as the seatbelts, the brakes and a mysterious lurch from shifting into park. Nothing was severe enough to require service. The only other beef is that the cabin's caramel-colored accoutrements get dirty quite easily.

Quirks and quarrels aside, most on staff did favor the looks of the QX56, which is gaudy and over-the-top yet stands out like nothing else on the road. It's curvy and imposing, has old-school blinged-out portholes and rolls on 22-inch forged-aluminum wheels set off with nine spokes. There's no doubt that this is an attention getter. One fellow gas-station patron best summed it up as a "big rig" and a "tank" during a fill-up on a cold evening. That's the view from the outside. But inside--if he only knew.

SECOND-QUARTER UPDATE

2011 Infiniti QX56

AS-TESTED PRICE:$72,560

MILES DRIVEN (QUARTER/TO DATE):4,804.7/10,601.5

FUEL ECONOMY (QUARTER/TO DATE): 14.3/14.9 mpg

FUEL COST (QUARTER/TO DATE):$1,247.53/$2,462.65

DAYS OUT OF SERVICE (QUARTER/TO DATE):Four/34

MAINTENANCE:Repair accident damage ($2,132.24); 7,500-mile service including oil change, tire rotation, fluids, hinge lubrication and general inspection ($125.43)

Six Shooter: BMW to bring six-cylinder 6-series to the United States

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

BMW 6-series

BMW 6-series.

By GREG MIGLIORE on 6/29/2011

Related Articles

  • 2012 BMW M5 revealed in production trim

  • 2011 BMW X6 M Car Review

  • 2012 BMW 6-series coupe revealed in production trim

  • BMW brings back four-bangers

BMW will bring a six-cylinder version of its elegant 6-series to the U.S. market this fall, a spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.

The German luxury-car maker will sell a version wearing the 640i badge. The car will employ a 3.0-liter twin-scroll, turbocharged six-cylinder powerplant that uses Valvetronic technology.

This mill is code-named N55, and it is rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque in the 3-series.

The smaller engine will provide fuel economy and likely will cost less than the superlative 650i, which uses a twin-turbo V8 that pushes out 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque.

The 6-series was updated for the 2012 model year.

Cars 2 Premiere: A closer look at Finn, Holley and Rod

Finn McMissile Disney / Pixar
Finn McMissile from Cars 2.

By ANDREW STOY on 6/24/2011

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  • Warm up for Cars 2 with new preview

  • On the 'road' carpet at the Cars 2 premiere

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  • The Great Date Car Debate: Top 10 date cars from his perspective--and hers

  • Car-movie review: Drive Angry

Cars 2, which opens on Friday, stands to be one of the top box-office hits of the summer. Many of our favorite characters are back, such as Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, but there are also a bunch of new rides rolling onto the big screen.

Some, like Grem the Gremlin and Acer the Pacer, take obvious inspiration from real cars. Others are a bit more ambiguous.

Let's take a quick look at three of those newcomers--Finn McMissile, Holley Shiftwell and Rod Redline--along with their descriptions courtesy of Disney/Pixar. We've also put them side-by-side with the vehicles we think they might be modeled after.

What say you? Add your thoughts in the Comments section.

Finn McMissile and BMW 507 Disney / Wikipedia
Finn McMissile bears a striking resemblance to the BMW 507...with some Aston Martin DB5 thrown in.

Finn McMissile

Disney: Finn McMissile is a master British spy. Though charming and eloquent, it's his stealth maneuvering, intelligence and years in the field that enable him to thwart unexpected attacks from bad guys, making quick daredevil escapes.

Finn's design is sleek and timeless, but he's also prepared for any tricky situation with an arsenal of ultracool gadgets and weaponry, including front and rear grappling hooks, a missile launcher, deployable magnetic explosives and a holographic disguise emitter.

AutoWeek: Call him British if you want, but Finn McMissile bears more than a slight resemblance to the BMW 507. The animators seem to have spliced in some Aston Martin DB5 from the A-pillars back, but that grille is all Bimmer.

Holley Shiftwell Jaguar XJ220 Disney / Wikipedia
Holley Shiftwell could be a number of cars, but we're going with the Jaguar XJ220 as her main inspiration.

Holley Shiftwell

Disney: Holley Shiftwell is a beautiful young British desk-agent-turned-spy-in-training who's stationed in Tokyo. Well-educated and sharp, she knows every trick in the book--or rather, she relies on every trick in the spy manual.

AutoWeek: Holley is all curves. Given her British pedigree, we're leaning toward the Jaguar XJ220 supercar of the 1990s for her inspiration. The headlights aren't quite right, but there's enough resemblance for us.

Rod Redline Challenger Disney / Wikipedia
Rod "Torque" Redline is all about channeling the Dodge Challenger...and the AMC Matador?

Rod “Torque” Redline

Disney: Rod “Torque” Redline is considered by many as the greatest American spy in the world. Recruited after the Cold War for both his brains and brawn, Torque is a tough-as-nails Detroit muscle car with a mastery of disguises.

AutoWeek: They're using the grille to try to throw us off the scent here, but that Rod fellow is all Dodge Challenger behind the louvers. And about that grille: We know they were going for Mustang, but they ended up with AMC Matador.

2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI Premium Plus Car Review

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

Published on 5/31/2011

Related Articles

  • Wild thing: Audi A1 clubsport quattro unveiled

  • U.S. sales of quirky 5-series GT disappoint BMW

  • Artist crafts huge Audi A7 out of paper

  • Audi announces U.S. sales goals, Stephen Colbert sailing sponsorship

  • Audi sets 2012 A7 prices for U.S.

  • 2012 Audi A6, an AW Flash Drive

INTERACTIVE ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN Of the swoopy four-doors out there, only two are good-looking to my eyes: the Aston Martin Rapide and this 2012 Audi A7. The garnet-red pearl paint make the shape look even better.

The car got a lot of looks from traffic, especially from the Audi drivers. A few sped up to catch me, the rest nearly swerved out of their lanes to see.

The 2012 Audi A7 is a lot of car for $66,000. Our long-term Audi S4 stickers at $58,000 with everything. This car is well worth $8,000 extra. It has more room, a cavernous trunk and almost as much power.

Audi interiors are usually top-notch, and this is no exception. The seats are somehow firm but soft, the multicontrol is easy to use and the dark wood grain has a flat finish. Everything else is done in satin-finish metal and black leather.

The A7 cruises pool-table smooth in comfort mode and stays library-quiet. Switch to dynamic and throw it in either sport or manual-shift mode, and the A7 becomes an enthusiast car with room for four adults and their golf clubs.

I didn't get to toss the car around too much because it rained all night, but I never felt nervous on the expressway, even over the wet blacktop that looks like glass. The few bits of standing water I hit didn't upset the car in the least.

The brakes and steering both have a good amount of feel to them. At first I thought the clampers felt kind of soft, but the pedal travel and stopping distance are low. The steering heft is nice and light when parking but tightens up once you're at speed.

Audi dropped an eight-speed ZF transmission in the A7 and it works beautifully. Ninety percent of the time it's completely unnoticeable, but when using the paddles or the shifter to switch, it's extremely responsive.

I like the fuel rating of 28 mpg highway, and I think we could actually get it. With anything less than a stomp on the pedal, the Audi A7 shifts out of first and second by the time you've reached 25 mph. When you get on the highway it's already cruising comfortably in eighth gear. It also looks very slippery; I'm sure the wind resistance is low.

This is a great car. It's luxurious without being gaudy, and it's quiet and quick when you need it to be. Did I mention it looks like a spaceship?

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Geez, these sedans with coupelike profiles are really catching on, aren't they? We have the Mercedes-Benz CLS (beautiful), the Porsche Panamera (not beautiful) and now this 2012 Audi A7 (beautiful, but not as beautiful as the CLS). On the less expensive end of the scale, you have the Volkswagen CC.

So what do we have here with this A7? It sits on the next-generation Audi A6 platform and packs the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 we've become quite familiar with during the year with our long-term S4. For the A7 application, the engine produces 310 hp instead of the 333 hp it churns out in the S4. The 325-lb-ft of torque is the same, though. Thankfully, the engine still felt more than up to the task of moving this 4,200-pound A7 briskly. There is good thrust in the middle of the rev range for easy expressway merging and passing.

What's the most impressive part of the Audi A7 to me? It has to be how well this big car handles. It rounds corners with composure that is shocking for a car this size, with loads of grip available. Turn-in is quick, but the steering feedback available through the wheel is a little disappointing. We can give a lot of credit for this A7's handling prowess to the optional sport package with the sport suspension system and 20-inch tire package wrapped with Yokohama Advan Sports.

There is a big downside to those wide, low-profile tires, though. Thuds, small bumps and expansion joints reverberate through the cabin to disturb the otherwise quiet ride.

I'll echo Jake's comments about the ZF eight-speed automatic: impeccable shifts and with a satisfyingly responsive paddle shift mode.

The interior is handsome with high-quality materials throughout. The fine-grain ash brown wood trim sports a nice matte finish, and the navigation system with Google Earth mapping looks and works great. I easily punched in a few destinations just to test out the touchpad, which we first saw on the A8, and it works quite well. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive.

Out back, there is a large trunk area. The only problem is that the coupelike profile prevents you from storing anything really tall back there. Of course, you can solve that problem by just folding down the rear seats.

I'm looking forward to driving the new Mercedes-Benz CLS to see how it stacks up against this. Hopefully, Mercedes has sharpened the new car some because this Audi is a heck of a good driver.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This 2012 Audi A7 is cool to look at. It's different. A luxury hatch isn't necessarily an everyday sight in the United States, and people definitely notice this thing. It reminds me of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, but that's not a hatch. This is Audi's twist on it, I guess, with near the function of a wagon. This completely blows away the BMW 5-series GT in looks and the way it drives.

The supercharged 3.0-liter V6 is stout and more than satisfying. Power is smooth and linear, and there's plenty of it. And throttle response is good. The transmission is smooth, too, so this A7 is all good on the powertrain front.

I fiddled with the adjustable suspension and ended up with it in auto all the time. Sport was a little firm and soft was a little too soft. Auto felt just right. The steering is a bit overboosted at slow speeds, but above about 40 mph it feels a lot better. There's terrific grip in turns and the brakes are strong.

The cabin was, to me, one of the highlights. It's stunning and well-built with terrific seats. I loved the matte-finish wood trim. When it comes to interiors, Audi keeps raising the bar. This is a terrific car.

2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI Premium Plus

Base Price: $60,125

As-Tested Price: $66,220

Drivetrain: 3.0-liter supercharged V6; AWD, eight-speed automatic

Output: 310 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 2,900-4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,210 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 22/21.8 mpg

Options: Premium plus package including 19-inch wheels with all-season tires, Audi navigation plus with MMI touch, Audi connect, front and rear parking sensors with rearview camera, HD radio, auto-dimming, manual-folding heated exterior mirrors, seven-inch color driver-information system ($3,620); 20-inch sport package including 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires, sport suspension, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and shift paddles ($1,500) Audi side assist ($500); garnet red pearl effect exterior paint ($475)

Long-Term Car Introduction: 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T

a side view of the long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata.
Our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 274 hp.

By GREG MIGLIORE on 6/01/2011

It arrived a few days after the holidays, wrapped in slinky blue packaging and with a surprise lurking inside: a 274-hp turbo with plenty of pull and punch. And just as we shooed the final guests out the door, we eagerly welcomed the 2011 Hyundai Sonata to the AW long-term fleet.

What does the year hold? We've resolved to make proper use of the turbo power, which is served up easily and often from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Our editors immediately noticed this, even during the break-in period. Passing on the expressways and knifing through congested surface streets are simply on-demand.

The Sonata turbo starts at $24,895, and we checked the boxes for navigation and sunroof, XM satellite radio and other electronic goodies, adding $2,600 to the price. With a couple of other small items, our long-termer stickered for $27,630, which we all agreed was reasonable.

The previous two generations of the Sonata were solid executions and formed a foundation for Hyundai's rapid growth. Emboldened by success, Hyundai dramatically restyled this sedan with swoopy lines and creases, highlighted by a prominent beltline and a classy chrome-colored grille. The looks have drawn comparisons to luxury-level cars. One editor succinctly summed up our early observations: "I think it's a terrific-looking car inside and out."

Another staffer said, "The Sonata is an exceptionally nice little sedan."

But we've picked up on some annoyances, most gratingly the steering. The wheel feels overly weighted at times and artificial, as if it's trying to channel the gravitas of a BMW 3-series without the proper mechanical elements to back it up. The rack-and-pinion system directs the car adequately, although it lacks some refinement. The cabin is also a bit breezy, and road noise intrudes at times.

Those faults aside, we enjoyed the Sonata as we endured the Michigan weather near One AutoWeek Tower. Our Hyundai is sure-footed in the snow, and the chassis is compliant over potholes and other road imperfections. The suspension is flat in corners, and in nicer weather, we expect to push the car harder. It tips the scale at 3,452 pounds, and with 269 lb-ft of twist available between 1,750 rpm and 4,500 rpm, we're bracing ourselves for some seat-pulling torque. It also runs on 87 octane, which is nice for a turbo and even nicer for the wallets.

The Sonata's cabin is drawing raves. Our version is clad in a stately blue, almost black material over the dashboard, which is pleasing to the eye and the touch. The black door panels and subtle trim enhance the layout. The back seat offers decent space, and passengers have not complained so far about being relegated to steerage.

Overall, early indications are good. The turbo Sonata is one holiday gift we won't return any time soon.

SPECS & DATA

2011 HYUNDAI SONATA SE 2.0T

PRICING & OPTIONS

Base price (includes $750 delivery): $24,895

As-tested price: $27,630

Options: SE Navigation and Sunroof package, with power sunroof, navigation with high-resolution touch-screen display, XM NavTraffic, XM NavWeather, XM sports and stocks, Dimension premium audio system with subwoofer ($2,600); carpeted floor mats ($100); iPod cable ($35)

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase (in): 110

Track (in): 62.5 front, 62.5 rear

Length/width/height (in): 189.8/72.2/57.9

Curb weight/GVWR (lb): 3,452/4,497

ENGINE

Front-transverse 2.0-liter/122-cid DOHC turbocharged I4

Power: 274 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm

Compression ratio: 9.5:1

Fuel requirement: 87 octane

DRIVETRAIN

Front-wheel drive

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Final drive ratio: 2.885:1

SUSPENSION

Front: MacPherson struts with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar

Rear: Multilink with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar

BRAKES/WHEELS/TIRES

Vented discs front and rear, ABS with EBD; aluminum 225/45R-18 Hankook Optimo H431

FUEL ECONOMY

EPA combined: 26 mpg

TRACK TEST DATA

STANDING-START ACCELERATION

0-60 mph: 6.2 sec

0-quarter-mile: 14.6 sec @ 97.4 mph

BRAKING

60-0 mph: 124.8 ft

HANDLING

490-ft slalom: 42.8 mph

Lateral acceleration (200-ft skidpad): 0.79 g

INTERIOR NOISE (DBA)

Idle: 41.7

Full throttle: 73.6

Steady 60 mph: 68.6

Long-Term Car Introduction: 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T

a side view of the long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata.
Our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 274 hp.

By GREG MIGLIORE on 6/01/2011

It arrived a few days after the holidays, wrapped in slinky blue packaging and with a surprise lurking inside: a 274-hp turbo with plenty of pull and punch. And just as we shooed the final guests out the door, we eagerly welcomed the 2011 Hyundai Sonata to the AW long-term fleet.

What does the year hold? We've resolved to make proper use of the turbo power, which is served up easily and often from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Our editors immediately noticed this, even during the break-in period. Passing on the expressways and knifing through congested surface streets are simply on-demand.

The Sonata turbo starts at $24,895, and we checked the boxes for navigation and sunroof, XM satellite radio and other electronic goodies, adding $2,600 to the price. With a couple of other small items, our long-termer stickered for $27,630, which we all agreed was reasonable.

The previous two generations of the Sonata were solid executions and formed a foundation for Hyundai's rapid growth. Emboldened by success, Hyundai dramatically restyled this sedan with swoopy lines and creases, highlighted by a prominent beltline and a classy chrome-colored grille. The looks have drawn comparisons to luxury-level cars. One editor succinctly summed up our early observations: "I think it's a terrific-looking car inside and out."

Another staffer said, "The Sonata is an exceptionally nice little sedan."

But we've picked up on some annoyances, most gratingly the steering. The wheel feels overly weighted at times and artificial, as if it's trying to channel the gravitas of a BMW 3-series without the proper mechanical elements to back it up. The rack-and-pinion system directs the car adequately, although it lacks some refinement. The cabin is also a bit breezy, and road noise intrudes at times.

Those faults aside, we enjoyed the Sonata as we endured the Michigan weather near One AutoWeek Tower. Our Hyundai is sure-footed in the snow, and the chassis is compliant over potholes and other road imperfections. The suspension is flat in corners, and in nicer weather, we expect to push the car harder. It tips the scale at 3,452 pounds, and with 269 lb-ft of twist available between 1,750 rpm and 4,500 rpm, we're bracing ourselves for some seat-pulling torque. It also runs on 87 octane, which is nice for a turbo and even nicer for the wallets.

The Sonata's cabin is drawing raves. Our version is clad in a stately blue, almost black material over the dashboard, which is pleasing to the eye and the touch. The black door panels and subtle trim enhance the layout. The back seat offers decent space, and passengers have not complained so far about being relegated to steerage.

Overall, early indications are good. The turbo Sonata is one holiday gift we won't return any time soon.

SPECS & DATA

2011 HYUNDAI SONATA SE 2.0T

PRICING & OPTIONS

Base price (includes $750 delivery): $24,895

As-tested price: $27,630

Options: SE Navigation and Sunroof package, with power sunroof, navigation with high-resolution touch-screen display, XM NavTraffic, XM NavWeather, XM sports and stocks, Dimension premium audio system with subwoofer ($2,600); carpeted floor mats ($100); iPod cable ($35)

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase (in): 110

Track (in): 62.5 front, 62.5 rear

Length/width/height (in): 189.8/72.2/57.9

Curb weight/GVWR (lb): 3,452/4,497

ENGINE

Front-transverse 2.0-liter/122-cid DOHC turbocharged I4

Power: 274 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm

Compression ratio: 9.5:1

Fuel requirement: 87 octane

DRIVETRAIN

Front-wheel drive

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Final drive ratio: 2.885:1

SUSPENSION

Front: MacPherson struts with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar

Rear: Multilink with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar

BRAKES/WHEELS/TIRES

Vented discs front and rear, ABS with EBD; aluminum 225/45R-18 Hankook Optimo H431

FUEL ECONOMY

EPA combined: 26 mpg

TRACK TEST DATA

STANDING-START ACCELERATION

0-60 mph: 6.2 sec

0-quarter-mile: 14.6 sec @ 97.4 mph

BRAKING

60-0 mph: 124.8 ft

HANDLING

490-ft slalom: 42.8 mph

Lateral acceleration (200-ft skidpad): 0.79 g

INTERIOR NOISE (DBA)

Idle: 41.7

Full throttle: 73.6

Steady 60 mph: 68.6

2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI Premium Plus Car Review

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

2012 Audi A7 quattro Photo by: David Arnouts

2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.

Published on 5/31/2011

Related Articles

  • Wild thing: Audi A1 clubsport quattro unveiled

  • U.S. sales of quirky 5-series GT disappoint BMW

  • Artist crafts huge Audi A7 out of paper

  • Audi announces U.S. sales goals, Stephen Colbert sailing sponsorship

  • Audi sets 2012 A7 prices for U.S.

  • 2012 Audi A6

INTERACTIVE ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN Of the swoopy four-doors out there, only two are good-looking to my eyes: the Aston Martin Rapide and this 2012 Audi A7. The garnet-red pearl paint make the shape look even better.

The car got a lot of looks from traffic, especially from the Audi drivers. A few sped up to catch me, the rest nearly swerved out of their lanes to see.

The 2012 Audi A7 is a lot of car for $66,000. Our long-term Audi S4 stickers at $58,000 with everything. This car is well worth $8,000 extra. It has more room, a cavernous trunk and almost as much power.

Audi interiors are usually top-notch, and this is no exception. The seats are somehow firm but soft, the multicontrol is easy to use and the dark wood grain has a flat finish. Everything else is done in satin-finish metal and black leather.

The A7 cruises pool-table smooth in comfort mode and stays library-quiet. Switch to dynamic and throw it in either sport or manual-shift mode, and the A7 becomes an enthusiast car with room for four adults and their golf clubs.

I didn't get to toss the car around too much because it rained all night, but I never felt nervous on the expressway, even over the wet blacktop that looks like glass. The few bits of standing water I hit didn't upset the car in the least.

The brakes and steering both have a good amount of feel to them. At first I thought the clampers felt kind of soft, but the pedal travel and stopping distance are low. The steering heft is nice and light when parking but tightens up once you're at speed.

Audi dropped an eight-speed ZF transmission in the A7 and it works beautifully. Ninety percent of the time it's completely unnoticeable, but when using the paddles or the shifter to switch, it's extremely responsive.

I like the fuel rating of 28 mpg highway, and I think we could actually get it. With anything less than a stomp on the pedal, the Audi A7 shifts out of first and second by the time you've reached 25 mph. When you get on the highway it's already cruising comfortably in eighth gear. It also looks very slippery; I'm sure the wind resistance is low.

This is a great car. It's luxurious without being gaudy, and it's quiet and quick when you need it to be. Did I mention it looks like a spaceship?

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Geez, these sedans with coupelike profiles are really catching on, aren't they? We have the Mercedes-Benz CLS (beautiful), the Porsche Panamera (not beautiful) and now this 2012 Audi A7 (beautiful, but not as beautiful as the CLS). On the less expensive end of the scale, you have the Volkswagen CC.

So what do we have here with this A7? It sits on the next-generation Audi A6 platform and packs the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 we've become quite familiar with during the year with our long-term S4. For the A7 application, the engine produces 310 hp instead of the 333 hp it churns out in the S4. The 325-lb-ft of torque is the same, though. Thankfully, the engine still felt more than up to the task of moving this 4,200-pound A7 briskly. There is good thrust in the middle of the rev range for easy expressway merging and passing.

What's the most impressive part of the Audi A7 to me? It has to be how well this big car handles. It rounds corners with composure that is shocking for a car this size, with loads of grip available. Turn-in is quick, but the steering feedback available through the wheel is a little disappointing. We can give a lot of credit for this A7's handling prowess to the optional sport package with the sport suspension system and 20-inch tire package wrapped with Yokohama Advan Sports.

There is a big downside to those wide, low-profile tires, though. Thuds, small bumps and expansion joints reverberate through the cabin to disturb the otherwise quiet ride.

I'll echo Jake's comments about the ZF eight-speed automatic: impeccable shifts and with a satisfyingly responsive paddle shift mode.

The interior is handsome with high-quality materials throughout. The fine-grain ash brown wood trim sports a nice matte finish, and the navigation system with Google Earth mapping looks and works great. I easily punched in a few destinations just to test out the touchpad, which we first saw on the A8, and it works quite well. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive.

Out back, there is a large trunk area. The only problem is that the coupelike profile prevents you from storing anything really tall back there. Of course, you can solve that problem by just folding down the rear seats.

I'm looking forward to driving the new Mercedes-Benz CLS to see how it stacks up against this. Hopefully, Mercedes has sharpened the new car some because this Audi is a heck of a good driver.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This 2012 Audi A7 is cool to look at. It's different. A luxury hatch isn't necessarily an everyday sight in the United States, and people definitely notice this thing. It reminds me of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, but that's not a hatch. This is Audi's twist on it, I guess, with near the function of a wagon. This completely blows away the BMW 5-series GT in looks and the way it drives.

The supercharged 3.0-liter V6 is stout and more than satisfying. Power is smooth and linear, and there's plenty of it. And throttle response is good. The transmission is smooth, too, so this A7 is all good on the powertrain front.

I fiddled with the adjustable suspension and ended up with it in auto all the time. Sport was a little firm and soft was a little too soft. Auto felt just right. The steering is a bit overboosted at slow speeds, but above about 40 mph it feels a lot better. There's terrific grip in turns and the brakes are strong.

The cabin was, to me, one of the highlights. It's stunning and well-built with terrific seats. I loved the matte-finish wood trim. When it comes to interiors, Audi keeps raising the bar. This is a terrific car.

2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI Premium Plus

Base Price: $60,125

As-Tested Price: $66,220

Drivetrain: 3.0-liter supercharged V6; AWD, eight-speed automatic

Output: 310 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 2,900-4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,210 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 22/21.8 mpg

Options: Premium plus package including 19-inch wheels with all-season tires, Audi navigation plus with MMI touch, Audi connect, front and rear parking sensors with rearview camera, HD radio, auto-dimming, manual-folding heated exterior mirrors, seven-inch color driver-information system ($3,620); 20-inch sport package including 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires, sport suspension, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and shift paddles ($1,500) Audi side assist ($500); garnet red pearl effect exterior paint ($475)

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