Formula One: Chandhok replaces Trulli for German Grand Prix

Karun Chandhok

By ADAM COOPER on 7/21/2011

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Karun Chandhok is to replace Formula One veteran Jarno Trulli at Team Lotus for the German Grand Prix on July 24 in a one-off arrangement. Most F1 observers assumed for some time that Chandhok would get to race only in his home race in India in October, so his inclusion at the Nürburgring comes as a surprise.

The Indian driver contested 10 Grands Prix for HRT last year, until losing his seat to Sakon Yamamoto. He has driven in Friday practice for Team Lotus on four occasions this year, although he did hardly any laps during his first three appearances.

The team added that it is negotiating with Trulli for 2012, thus ruling out any suggestions that he has been dropped.

“Ever since I first joined the team, I have been looking forward to this opportunity,” Chandhok said. “I am determined to do my best to repay their faith in me and help the team progress, this season and for many years to come. I am approaching the weekend in a very realistic frame of mind.

“I will be doing my best to push and to make sure I learn as much as possible all weekend, take each session as it comes and work as closely as I can with the engineers and the whole team to do the best job I can. Whatever happens, I am very excited about lining up on the grid on Sunday, and I know there will be millions of Indian fans, and Team Lotus fans around the world, who will be behind me and the whole team, so I will do the best I can to give them something to cheer for.”

Trulli added, “I'm looking forward to working with Karun this weekend and doing whatever I can to help him get the most out of his opportunity in Germany. It's great that the team is true to its word of helping develop young talent, particularly from parts of the word where it is even harder to break through into the top rung of motorsport, so I'll be there to give him guidance and assistance, in and out of the car.

Team principal Tony Fernandes confirmed that Trulli is likely to return to the team in 2012.

“Ever since I first met Karun, I have been impressed with his whole demeanor,” Fernandes commented. “He is talented, passionate, committed, and he brings great energy to the whole team, so I am delighted that we are giving him the chance to add even more value to us in the cockpit over a whole race weekend.

“I also want to take this chance to thank Jarno for helping make Karun's opportunity this weekend possible. He has been extremely accommodating in stepping to the side for this race, and our commitment to him is unwavering. I am delighted to confirm that we are in the process of negotiating an extension to his contract with us, and we are all looking forward to unveiling the details of that very soon.

“He is a key member of our team, and I hope that we can give him a car as soon as possible that allows him to utilize his considerable talent to the full. For this weekend, he will be on hand to lend his huge experience and support to Karun, and I am sure Jarno, Heikki [Kovalainen] and Karun will do me, the whole team and all our fans very proud indeed.”

Team technical boss Mike Gascoyne said, “I am delighted that we are able to give Karun a full weekend in the car. He has been a very good addition to our driver lineup, and now we are giving him a chance to take the next step in fulfilling his potential. Jarno will be stepping aside for him for this race, and we will use Karun's feedback over the weekend as a comparison against Jarno's and Heikki's experiences this season with a number of aspects of the car, including the power-steering system, to help us keep moving forward in 2011 and beyond.”

Porsche ponders successor to 550 roadster

Porsche 550
A 1955 Porsche 550 RS from the Porsche Museum in Germany

By JAKE LINGEMAN on 7/21/2011

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Hot on the heels of Porsche 928 rumors from last week, the company's CEO, Matthias Müller, told a German newspaper that it's been contemplating a Porsche 550 successor as well.

Müller told Handelsblatt that he likes the idea of a variant of the famous roadster, which could have retro styling cues.

“I can imagine that such a modern version of the famous James Dean Porsche would be well received by our customers,” Müller told the paper.

He also spoke in the report about increasing the number of employees and raising the profile of the sports car even further.

The Porsche 550 was produced from 1953 to 1956. The 1500RS version became known as the “Giant Killer” for its race-winning ways. The 550 owned by James Dean—and in which the actor was killed—was called “Little Bastard.”

Replicas of the 550 can cost almost $40,000 today, while the originals still hold iconic status.

OnStar rolls out at Best Buy

2011 Chrysler 300 Chrysler
The Chrysler 300C is compatitble with OnStar's aftermarket system at Best Buy.

By JULIE ALVIN on 7/21/2011

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Car consumers no longer have to buy a General Motors vehicle to get OnStar. An aftermarket version of the system goes on sale July 24 at Best Buy.

The OnStar-equipped rearview-mirror setup costs $299.99 to purchase and $75 to install. Best Buy offers on-site installation through its network of more than 1,000 auto bays nationwide.

The aftermarket system offers the same core features as on the original-equipment unit that comes with most new GM cars and trucks. OnStar has automatic crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, hands-free calling, stolen-vehicle location assistance, emergency services and roadside assistance.

The system is compatible with 90 million vehicles on the road today that are 10 years old and younger. This includes new or recent launches. Customers can check their cars' compatibility at the OnStar Web site.

To see if your car is compatible, click on the OnStar Web site.

Chevrolet six-month global sales highest in a century

Chevrolet Cruze Chevrolet
The Chevrolet Cruze helped the brand's sales surge.

By MICHELLE KOUEITER on 7/21/2011

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Chevrolet saw 2.35 million global sales in the first six months of 2011--its best first-half mark in 100 years.

The automaker credits the success of new small-car models for much of the growth, namely the Cruze compact, the Spark minicar, the Aveo/Sonic small car and the Orlando MPV.

Chevrolet sales increased 14 percent in the United States from the same half-year period in 2010, with 286,499 more units sold.

Its biggest seller--the Cruze--is in heaviest demand in the Chinese and American markets. Chevy sold 132 percent more Cruzes (330,000 units total) worldwide in the first six months of this year than during the same period in 2010.

So far this year in the company's top five markets--the United States, Brazil, China, Russia and Canada--Chevy has seen 16 percent, 0.4 percent, 15 percent, 54 percent and 8 percent sales increases, respectively.

Meanwhile, Spark minicars have been in high demand in South Korea, Mexico and Uzbekistan. About 220,000 Sparks have sold worldwide since the car's December 2009 release, and more than 100,000 of those sales were in the first half of this year.

2011 Acura RDX Tech, an Drivers Log Car Review

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

Published on 7/21/2011

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ART DIRECTOR TARA KLEIN: This 2011 Acura RDX is considered a premium vehicle? Wow, could have fooled me. While the Acura RDX does feature a few niceties, it needs an overhaul to get it up to par.

The exterior design is . . . eh. I get a bit confused as I take it all in, moving from the back to the front. The halves seem a bit disjointed, with the extreme angles on the nose not really matching up with the look of the rest of the vehicle.

When I opened the door, Plain Jane greeted me with a typical composition executed with middle-market materials. While the ergonomics were adequate thanks to well-placed controls, I was too busy yawning to be really impressed with just that. I will say that the backup camera had a crisp, clear display, like that of our long-term Honda Odyssey, so that was a plus.

On the road, the turbo churned out plenty of power, making for a bit of fun, but the rough and noisy nature of the ride overshadowed that.

There is so much competition that is far superior to the RDX (even within some nonluxury brands) that I see it getting left in the dust.

DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Ah, 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque flowing through the front wheels. That explains why this thing possessed the nastiest case of torque steer I've felt this side of a Dodge Omni GLH-S. Unfortunately for Acura, the RDX didn't feel particularly more refined than the Shelby econobox, either. The engine was remarkably coarse, and while I enjoy turbo whistle, the RDX had more of a water-rushing-through-pipes sound that seemed to come from the footwell. Not pleasant.

Turbo aside, the RDX was loud overall, with plenty of tire and wind noise at highway speeds. The interior was a pit of blackness; the plastics had good texture and grain, but they weren't much better than what you'd expect from Subaru--a company not generally known for premium interiors. And the entire SUV smelled like a sporting-goods store on the inside. It was exactly the scent of new athletic shoes--that's the only way I can describe it.

Another lasting impression the RDX left me with was its appallingly ugly front mug. The nose comes to a point and then falls off below the car, with no spoiler or grille or trim to give it any heft. It looked like the nose of an Amphicar, with its prowlike beak jutting way out over the front wheels.

Did I like anything? The brakes were excellent, with nice pedal feel and very progressive application. Pressure exerted by my foot translated into exactly the stopping action I expected; it seems like a small thing, but it's amazing how many cars get the brakes wrong, even if they have good panic-stopping distances.

Overall, I was as unimpressed with the Acura RDX as I had been impressed by the 2012 Acura TL just a few weeks earlier. There are still some demons to work out in the Acura lineup.

COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: While I enjoyed the MDX that was part of ourlong-term fleet a couple of years ago, this RDX didn't elicit any strong feelings. It's a crossover. It carries you and your stuff in basic comfort; I certainly wouldn't call anything herein luxurious. But it served its purpose over a weekend when I needed space to transport a large graduation cake and to pick up some boxes.

Getting up to speed wasn't much of a chore, but you do have to put your foot into it a bit to get the turbo juices flowing. And the brakes satisfactorily slowed things down. The seats had good bolster. The overall ride was fine, but the crumbling roads upset the suspension quite a bit. I did like the big, clear screen for the backup camera and the nav unit, which was super easy to use.

There's nothing overly exciting about the RDX, from the odd lines of the sheetmetal to the power underhood. If you're looking for this kind of crossover/small ute, you certainly could find something that looks better and is more fun to drive, possibly for less money.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Is the RDX a small luxury SUV? I would argue that it's a small entry-level luxury SUV, more compact than the likes of the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, which are also more expensive. For the cost of this loaded FWD RDX with navigation and satellite radio, you would only get a bare-bones version of the Audi or the BMW.

A more direct competitor in terms of size and content is the Infiniti EX. When compared with that; I would tip my hat toward the Acura for sportier drive character with its tight chassis, responsive steering and muscular brake performance. Except for the front end, I also like the lines of the RDX better than those of the EX, but that's all personal preference. Neither interior is great, but they are nice enough for entry-luxury vehicles with some soft-touch surfaces sprinkled in among quality hard plastics. As with all Acuras, the front bucket seats are great, with good side support.

I will admit that the stiff ride and louder than expected tire noise can get annoying. By the end of a night of motoring around the beat-up roads in my area, I was wishing for more give in the suspension. Of course, the payoff for the stiff suspension is apparent in turns, improving the driving-fun factor. Along with the new grille added during the facelift Acura gave the RDX last year, the brakes, which were already good, got an update.

I'm also a fan of this turbocharged K-series engine. There's actually torque here, which is fun if you make sure to have the wheels on the FWD RDX pointed in your desired direction before rolling onto the throttle. The powerband is wide, and the five-speed automatic delivers quick and seamless shifts. Is there torque steer? Yes, but it isn't terrible at all. You want bad torque steer? Go drive the first-generation Mazda Mazdaspeed 3, and then come to talk to me.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: The 2011 Acura RDX is a mediocre entry in this segment, considering that so many new crossovers can be loaded up and had for a similar price. The cabin does not feel very luxurious to me. Even basic vehicles can be dressed up with leather and electronics to get a similar result. Upscale crossovers should have differentiating materials in the cabin, and they are mostly absent or too subtle in this execution. Plus, the center console is busy and not very intuitive to use.

That said, this Acura does a lot of things well. The engine is strong and potent for aggressive launches and merging, and the chassis is well done and comfortable. Passengers remarked on the roominess, and the interior is reasonably pleasant aside from the other faults.

The turbo is a hoot, but as others note, the torque steer is, uh, present. It's almost fun, but you really do need to hold on. On the other hand, I doubt that's the feel people want for family hauling.

In general, the RDX is a nice vehicle, but the interior could use a facelift.

2011 Acura RDX Tech

Base Price: $36,880

As-Tested Price: $36,880

Drivetrain: 2.3-liter turbocharged I4; FWD, five-speed automatic

Output: 240 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,752 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 21/22.4 mpg

Options: None

IndyCar: Travis Pastrana to attempt entry in $5 million season finale in Las Vegas

Travis Pastrana LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC
Travis Pastrana could be a guest driver in the October season finale for the Izod IndyCar Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Published on 7/21/2011

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X Games legend, rally racer and extreme-sports wildman Travis Pastrana wants a shot at driving an Indy car. The chance to win the $5 million bonus the Izod IndyCar Series is offering for the season finale in October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is, well, just a bonus.

Pastrana, who turns 28 in October, has agreed to participate in IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard's challenge at Las Vegas, although the first step is to test a car. Pastrana said he understands that the stakes are too high to mess around with an open-wheel race car on an oval. If the driver is not comfortable in the car during testing, he said he won't participate in the Oct. 15-16 event.

“I just told them I would be honored with the opportunity and that I think we can find a way to make it happen,” Pastrana said of talks with IndyCar officials.

A test has not yet been scheduled. Pastrana said he has talked to a couple of teams about running for them.

IndyCar is remaining mum on the subject of driver selection for the event, where, if Bernard gets his way, five drivers from outside IndyCar's regular lineup will make guest appearances. If one of them somehow manages to win the race, he or she also takes home $5 million. A committee is reviewing applications, but the series boss has acknowledged interest in Pastrana, who is enormously popular with the “Red Bull generation” that is key to IndyCar's future growth.

Bernard recently said that 26 professional drivers have inquired about the five available starting spots in Vegas, but none of them has been approved, and there are no IndyCar teams lined up to field them.

Pastrana, a four-time Rally America champion who will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut next weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis, said he wants to get through that stock-car race and other business-related endeavors before focusing on the IndyCar opportunity.

“I've got a lot of work to do in a short period of time,” he said.

He has a deal with Michael Waltrip Motorsports to compete in seven Nationwide races this season.

Pastrana said he has attended a couple of IndyCar races in the past, but he's never joined his group of friends at the Indianapolis 500. They have been regular attendees in the past 10 years or so, he said.

Pastrana lives near Baltimore, which will host its first IndyCar race on Sept. 4. He said IndyCar driver Marco Andretti has encouraged him to attend the event.

“He said, ‘Look, it's coming to Baltimore, you have to make it out to a race this year,'” Pastrana said of his conversation with Andretti. “I told him I might make it to a race this year, actually. I might be racing against him. That was pretty funny.”

NYC approves Ford Transit Connect for taxi fleet

ford transit connect taxi new york city Ford
New York joins Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago on the list of major cities that have approved the Ford Transit Connect for taxi service.

By GREG MIGLIORE on 7/21/2011

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New York signed off on the Ford Transit Connect to be used for taxi service, paving the way for the nation's largest city to begin switching to the small van in place of the aging Crown Victoria.

The move was announced Thursday after a public hearing; New York joins Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago on the list of major cities that have approved the vehicle for taxi service. The Transit Connect (and Taurus sedan) is approved for use now, but a Nissan van will become the exclusive vehicle in 2013.

The Transit Connect has a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and it gets a combined 23 mpg.

The first Transit Connect taxi was delivered in December to a Boston user, and California has also approved the compressed-natural-gas version for taxi use in that state.

Still, don't expect the long-running Ford Crown Victoria to disappear from the nation's taxi fleets anytime soon. Sales have increased this year as companies stock up on the tried-and-true rear-wheel-drive sedan ahead of its cancellation, so look for them to be in use for years to come.

Today's approval merely means that companies can begin to switch to the Transit Connect van when they need to replace their existing cars.

Fleets—both police and taxi—have faced challenges this year as Ford prepares to end production of the Crown Vic after a run of more than three decades. Based on the Panther platform, the sedan has made up the bulk of fleet sales for years. Ford is trying to get firms to make the transition to the Transit Connect van for taxis and Taurus- and Explorer-based vehicles for police use.

Ford recalls more than 26,000 trucks for faulty switch

Ford switch recall Excursion F-series Ranger Ford
NHTSA has recalled more than 26,000 F-Series trucks, Excursion SUVs and Ranger pickups for a potentially faulty switch. The 2004 Excursion is pictured.

By MICHELLE KOUEITER on 7/21/2011

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Ford Motor Co. is recalling about 26,700 copies of the F-series truck, Excursion SUV and Ranger pickup for a potentially faulty switch that could cause turn signals, taillights and brake lights to malfunction.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, affected vehicles include certain 2002-2007 F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 trucks and Excursion SUVs. Rangers built between 2002 and 2011 are also affected.

Ford will begin notifying owners of affected vehicles around August 15.

ALMS: Level 5 Motorsports switches to new HPD LMP2 car

Level 5 new HPD LMP2 car Level 5 Motorsports
Level 5 Motorsports car at the 2011 Long Beach Grand Prix.

Published on 7/21/2011

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American Le Mans Series regular Level 5 Motorsports on Thursday confirmed that it has a new alliance with Honda Performance Development that will see the championship-winning team make a midseason switch from its Lola chassis to HPD's new LMP2 car, beginning with the Six Hours of Silverstone round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in September.

Level 5's midseason switch comes following a successful start to its LMP2 program, with class wins at this year's 12 Hours of Sebring and the Grand Prix of Long Beach (where it was the only LMP2 entry). Team owner Scott Tucker and co-drivers Christophe Bouchut and João Barbosa also achieved podium finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Six Hours of Imola in a separate Honda-powered prototype.

The team will now use the HPD ARX-01g, Honda's chassis and engine combination, in the remaining Intercontinental Le Mans Cup rounds at Silverstone, Road Atlanta and Zhuhai, China. Additionally, Level 5 plans to field two HPDs in the six-hour American Le Mans Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September and also in the 14th annual Petit Le Mans series finale in October.

"We looked through all of the numbers, inside and out, and from our perspective, there's no doubt the Honda package in the new cost-capped configuration will be a front-runner in LMP2," Tucker said. "We've seen gains with the engine all year, and the good thing is that there's still room for development. The HPD engine and chassis combination has proven to be the best over the years. We feel very comfortable and confident in making this unprecedented and decisive move in the middle of the season."

Built by Wirth Research, the HPD ARX-01g is an evolution of the highly successful prototype, which has captured 22 class victories worldwide since its debut in 2007, including the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans. While sharing DNA with the ARX-01d, Level 5's new open-top contender will conform to the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's cost-capped rules introduced this season. The team has reserved the first two chassis that will be produced.

BMW adds performance edition for 3-series

BMW 335i performance edition BMW
BMW's performance edition adds 20 more hp to the 335i.

By GREG MIGLIORE on 7/21/2011

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In politics, power comes with privilege. In the car world, power comes with a price. And in the case of the 2011 BMW 3-series, it can be specified for $550.

BMW announced pricing for the performance edition of the 335i this week, and it will be offered on a limited basis through the end of the year. It is available for the rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive models.

The pack increases output from 300 hp to 320 hp, and it pushes torque from 300 lb-ft to 317 lb-ft with the manual gearbox and to 332 lb-ft with the automatic. BMW is quick to note that the horsepower is now the same as that of the 335is.

The power boost comes from modifying the engine-tuning software—while not adding any new hardware. It also shaves 0.2 second off of the sprint to 60 mph and is 0.5 second faster when blitzing from 50 mph to 70 mph. Emissions are unaffected by the power jump, BMW said.

The pack also includes a black kidney grille and special badging.

BMW also announced that the pack will be offered to existing 335i and 135i customers for retrofitting, with pricing to be announced in August.

Formula One: Press conference transcript from the German Grand Prix

German Grand Prix Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic
Sebastian Vettel answers a question in the Thursday German Grand Prix press conference.

Published on 7/21/2011

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Here is Thursday’s transcript of the FIA press conference from the German Grand Prix, including Timo Glock (Virgin), Nick Heidfeld (Renault), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Adrian Sutil (Force India) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).

Q: Timo, earlier this year, you called for some sort of change of direction with the Marussia Virgin Racing team. Are you happy with recent developments?

Timo Glock: To be honest, on track, definitely in terms of the performance of the car, I think we are not where we want to be, but in terms of changes for the future, I am happy. The commitment the team made and the announcement of the partnership with McLaren are a positive sign for the future. At the moment, operating on track, we are getting the maximum out of our package, more than 100 percent sometimes, and it is a bit unfortunate that people don’t see it that we are doing a good job at the back, but that’s how it is. We have to make the best for next year.

Q: When would you expect to see improvement, then? Not until next year?

TG: It is difficult to say. Depends on how quickly we can really start in terms of looking into this year’s car. If we find quick improvement, I think we can manage to bring an update at the end of the year, but it is too early to say. I just hope we can do a proper job in terms of the development for the 2012 year, and if we have something for the 2011 year, it would be great.

Q: Nick, we understand the team has recently upgraded its wind tunnel from 50 percent to 60 percent. Has that held up things, and are you expecting now to see progress?

Nick Heidfeld: Yes, definitely, it slowed things down a bit, but in the long term, it is definitely a benefit. After we changed that, already we understood more and saw a few more directions we could develop into. We are actually bringing some bigger parts for the Nürburgring race here onto the car which hopefully will work straight away. The figures look good, but it is quite big, so it is going to be interesting to see the data from the circuit. I hope even more than usual we will have dry conditions, as in the wet it will be more tricky to find out.

Q: It is interesting to hear from some people that you are still considered a stand-in driver for Robert [Kubica]. Obviously, you would like to hold on to your drive for next year. What do you need to do?

NH: Well, as always in Formula One, you just do the best job you can. I try to deliver on the circuit, and then you hold talks and see how it goes. So far, I think the season has gone quite well. We have had some problems over the last couple of races but were still able with the team to hold on to some points. We try to fight Mercedes--but not Sebastian, he is a bit too far away--but trying to beat Mercedes. They just overtook us on the last race, and that’s what we are targeting.

Q: Adrian, your thoughts on the team’s and your performance at this halfway juncture in the championship?

Adrian Sutil: I would say a difficult start to the season, but we knew that after the winter test. Now we are creeping up, getting better and better, so I think the next half of the season is going to be our season. That’s what we are fighting for. It is not too bad. We wanted to have a bit more points, of course. I think we missed a big opportunity in Montreal and also at the last race in Silverstone. The cars were running fine. We were both [Sutil and Paul Di Resta] in the points, but then we had a little issue in the pit stops, and strategy didn’t work out so well. But the potential is there. You can really feel we are really close to the Q3. Sometimes we are able to go into Q3, and then the race pace is there as well. Not too unhappy, but we have to show it on track again and score a lot of points for the next few races.

Q: What does it mean for you to be racing here, your home Grand Prix? It could be a wet weekend. A huge number of fans are expected, and a quarter of the field is coming from the host country.

AS: Yeah, the Nürburgring for me is something special. It is the home of motor racing here in Germany. It is so beautiful, and it is a real historical, old circuit, and the atmosphere is very special anyway all around this area. I did my license here, my race license in the Nürburgring, as well many years ago. It is a place where I always like to go. My family also is close to this place, and so it is my real home Grand Prix.

Q: Did you learn sledging here, like, as Nick said, he learned to sledge here as well?

NH: And bicycle.

AS: Not yet, no, no. A lot of rain here, that’s normal, so you need to take shorts, you need to take rain jackets, probably winter jackets altogether. Your suitcase is always very big here.

Q: Michael, recently the message coming from Mercedes seemed to be very, very positive, very optimistic. The recent upgrades seemed to give you, both drivers, and the management, as well a lot of hope. What are your feelings about it?

Michael Schumacher: Certainly, we very much look forward to this weekend. Despite the upgrades, in particular hearing that we have almost sold out Nürburgring weekend. Ticket sales are going very well. Coming here as the German national team, Mercedes and us two drivers, it is going to be a very special weekend. I have lots of good memories from this place, and with the recent updates, we hope to be able to improve our game and give something to our fans here. The weather, as you pointed out before, is going to be a subject, and it is going to be interesting, but listening to our guys in terms of upgrade and positioning where we could be, coming back to the rules as they exist right now, it will be interesting to find out what that means to the individual teams and where that is going to move us. So lots of things to look forward to, and it is going to be an exciting weekend.

Q: Everyone is waiting for your first win since your comeback.

MS: Me, too.

Q: How far away is it?

MS: I don’t think we are in a position yet to talk about winning races. We are on the way. We steadily improve, although maybe results don’t show it, but if I see in terms of the organization how we equip ourselves, how we move forward, what’s the actions for the future, I am very optimistic, to be quite honest. It wasn’t initially a long-term project for me when I signed up, but after a while, I understood it is going to be, and there is nothing that you can rush through. You have to progressively step up, and that’s what we are doing.

Q: Sebastian, your first home Grand Prix as world champion. What does that mean to you?

Sebastian Vettel: Generally, after winning the championship last year, coming here, it is not that different from two years ago or last year in Hockenheim. It is always great, first of all, to have the opportunity to race in your home country, in front of your home crowd. We are six drivers now, so we all share that feeling this weekend, and I am looking forward to it. Many times, people talk about extra pressure or things that could slow you down, but to be honest, I think it is more positive than anything else to have people in the grandstands, people outside the paddock and inside the paddock as well, support you and trying to push you forward to allow you to find maybe this extra tenth or two around the lap.

Q: With the results of the last three Grands Prix, you have been a winner, McLaren has been a winner, and Ferrari has been a winner. The regulations have slightly changed as well. Are you going to find out this weekend, or is it going to be next weekend in Hungary, where the true performance is and where the true position is?

SV: I think we have seen the true performance throughout the season so far already. We have had enough races to judge. Last weekend, unfortunately, we were discussing or we were talking more about rules and rule changes rather than the racing. But from here, it should be clear right from the start, so there is not a lot to talk about in that regard, and we focus on racing again. I think it has been fairly tight all year, especially, as you said, the last three races with three different teams winning, so for here, it is difficult to say who will be strongest. We are here to find out, but I think we have a good chance. We seem to like the track. We had a very good race two years ago, very, very good race pace, so we will see. Since then, things have changed. I think we have learned a lot. At this stage, everything looks fine. We are as confident as we can be, and I, in particular, am looking forward to the race on Sunday.

Q: Nico, first of all, I believe you were meant to drive the W196 around the Nordschleife this morning or maybe yesterday. Did it happen, and what was it like?

Nico Rosberg: Yeah, it was this morning. It was a very, very special experience for me to drive the car in which [Juan Manuel] Fangio had his first win in a Mercedes in 1954 and around the Nordschleife. It was just a part of it, but still it was very, very nice. Even I must say I didn’t know what to expect. To drive the car was fun. It feels like a go-kart, and the position is cool. The gear shifting was very easy to shift and everything, so it was great. The only thing was the driving position, which was very strange. A big steering wheel and the pedals completely right and left, as there was the big gearbox in the middle, right between your legs, so it was quite strange.

Q: Like the question to Michael, what about the progress of Mercedes and also driving for virtually the national team this weekend?

NR: Of course, all that comes together. As I say, this morning, to see the history of the team and then to drive the Silver Arrow here in the Nürburgring in front of the home crowd is a great experience. For us, performance-wise, this weekend is about consolidating our upgrade that we brought to Silverstone, so there are another few bits and pieces just to make sure that is working well, and so, as Michael said already, we are genuinely optimistic that we can move forward from here and that we are going to progress. That’s why I hope I can put in a very good result here at home.

COVER

Published on 7/22/2011

McLaren F1 designer signs on with Florida start-up

McLaren F1 McLaren
Peter Stephens designed the McLaren F1. He's joined a Florida startup company called Rivian Automotive.

By GREG MIGLIORE on 7/22/2011

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A small Florida company with hopes of making green performance cars has landed a big name.

Rivian Automotive said this week that it has signed on Peter Stevens--the designer of the McLaren F1--as its director of design. It hopes to bring its first car to market in 2013 and launch more in 2014.

Stevens penned the body, interior and aerodynamics for the McLaren. He's worked for General Motors, Jaguar, BMW, MG Rover and other carmakers.

He has also had a hand in the Jaguar XJR-15 Le Mans racer, Lotus's Esprit and Elan and an MG ZT-T, which hit 225.609 mph at Bonneville.

Rivian Automotive was formerly called Avera Motors but changed its name in March after being sued by Hyundai for having a similar name to that of its Azera sedan.

Rivian was founded in 2009 and is an offshoot of a Florida thermal control and energy company.

Infiniti releases another JX crossover teaser ahead of Pebble Beach

2012 Infiniti JX crossover teaser image Infiniti
Infiniti has dropped another teaser of its JX crossover; the concept will be revealed at Pebble Beach.

By JAKE LINGEMAN on 7/22/2011

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We get it, Infiniti. You're being coy. You release one small picture of the new three-row Infiniti JX crossover every week until Pebble Beach, when we'll finally see the full concept. It's the dreaded “slow reveal via Internet teaser” that's lately become a hallmark of new-car introductions.

We already know that the JX will include styling cues from the Essence concept car that debuted in 2009 at the Geneva motor show. We also know that it will be produced at the Nissan's American plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

With the addition of the JX to the current Infiniti EX and FX models, the company will have three crossovers to compete with the likes of Lexus, Acura, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

We'll be on the ground at Pebble Beach to bring you the full Infiniti JX concept reveal and again at the Los Angeles auto show for the production version's unveiling, so stay tuned.

NASCAR: Nationwide and Truck Series in action this weekend

Brad Keselowski LAT PHOTGRAPHIC
Brad Keselowski (shown) and Carl Edwards are the only drivers from the Sprint Cup garage entered in the Nationwide Series race this weekend.

By AL PEARCE on 7/22/2011

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NASCAR Sprint Cup teams are off this weekend, their last break before an uninterrupted 17-weekend grid from the July 31 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the Nov. 20 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This weekend marks the last of Sprint Cup's three breaks since the season opened at Daytona International Speedway in mid-February.

The Camping World Truck Series has a 150-lap, 200-mile race on Friday at Nashville Superspeedway at 8 p.m. Eastern. This is the 12th of the series' 25 races on the 2011 calendar.

The Nationwide Series runs a 225-lap, 300-mile race Saturday at the 1.333-mile track in Lebanon, Tenn. Teams will qualify on Saturday and run their 20th of 34 races at 7:30 p.m. The Federated Auto Parts entry list shows Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards as the only drivers from the Sprint Cup garage entered in this race, giving Nationwide regulars one of their few good chances to win this year.

The Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 31 for the 18th-annual Brickyard 400. The Camping World and Nationwide teams have races that same weekend on Friday and Saturday at Lucas Oil Raceway at Clermont, Ind., just outside Indianapolis.

2012 Volkswagen Eos Komfort, an Drivers Log Car Review

2012 Volkswagen EOS

2012 Volkswagen EOS .

2012 Volkswagen EOS

2012 Volkswagen EOS .

2012 Volkswagen EOS

2012 Volkswagen EOS.

2012 Volkswagen EOS

2012 Volkswagen EOS .

2012 Volkswagen EOS

2012 Volkswagen EOS .

2012 Volkswagen EOS

2012 Volkswagen EOS.

2012 Volkswagen EOS

2012 Volkswagen EOS .

By JON WONG on 7/22/2011

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EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: I really dislike labeling a car masculine or feminine, but I really came away feeling that this 2012 Volkswagen Eos is a perfect car for a female. Maybe it has to do with all the rounded, curvy styling features and the lack of any real excitement when you step on the throttle. Maybe a manual gearbox would help give the Eos a more sporting attitude?

The top operation is straightforward, but without any rear wind deflector, there was quite a bit of movement from back to front. The pop-up front deflector does make quite a bit of difference in the amount of wind that buffets front-seat passengers.

While I didn't dislike my time in the Eos, I could never imagine owning one.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: So the Eos gets the facelift the Jetta got with the more horizontal grille--I liked the old chrome front end better.

I do like the powertrain a lot—I've written volumes on how good I think this VW Group 2.0-liter turbo four is--and with the top up, the car is quiet. I was impressed with the lack of chassis shake. It's perfect for cruising but not necessarily for flinging around. The cockpit is generic VW, with good build quality, fine materials and good ergonomics. Oh, and terrific seats.

The retractable hardtop cuts into the trunk and cramps rear passengers, but then, they all do.

I liked it better than I thought I would overall.

ART DIRECTOR CHERYL L. BLAHNIK: I was lucky enough to have two separate stints in this 2012 Volkswagen Eos, and I have to say that this is a cute little car. Top operation is easy enough that my four-year-old niece was able to lower it without any direction from me.

The interior design is simple, with plenty of legroom up front. Materials and the fit and finish are typical VW high quality. There's very little wind and road noise with the hardtop up, which I doubt would be the case with a conventional soft top.

On the road, the Eos handles well, but I wouldn't be against a little more power from the turbocharged four-cylinder to add to the fun factor. As Roger said, a manual gearbox may help give the car a more spirited feel.

2012 Volkswagen Eos Komfort

Base Price: $34,765

As-Tested Price: $34,765

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4; FWD, six-speed dual-clutch sequential manual

Output: 200 hp @ 5,100-6,000 rpm, 207 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,569 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 25/24.8 mpg

Options: None

Book captures Ford's Farley launching F-bomb at GM

jim farley drops fbomb in new book Ford
Ford VP of global marketing Jim Farley at the 2011 North American International Auto Show.

By JAMIE LAREAU, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS on 7/22/2011

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A new book about the Detroit auto industry rebuilding itself is showing that old rivalries are still alive and kicking in the Motor City.

In Once Upon a Car by Bill Vlasic, Ford Motor Co.'s marketing chief lobs an F-bomb at General Motors.

"We're going to beat on them, and it's going to be fun," the book quotes Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of global marketing, sales and service, as saying.

"F*** GM," he says. "I hate them and their company and what they stand for. And I hate the way they're succeeding. Ford is back because people trust us. And that is a powerful message. I'm a car guy. I wake up each morning thinking about cars. Watch out. We're only going to get better."

Such comments might seem like innocent trash talk. But the Detroit 3 have coexisted for decades in the same city by observing an unwritten code of conduct that shuns such badmouthing.

Yet last month, GM CEO Dan Akerson was quoted in the Detroit News as saying that Ford "might as well sprinkle holy water" on Lincoln, implying that the brand is dead.

In a statement, Ford said: "We have not yet seen the book and are unable to comment on the specific quotes. This is a passionate, competitive industry, and we respect all of our competitors."

The comments appear on the final page of an uncorrected proof of the book, distributed before an Oct. 4 sales date. The passage doesn't indicate when Farley made the remarks or to whom.

Author Vlasic is Detroit bureau chief of the New York Times.

Farley joined Ford in November 2007 after nearly two decades at Toyota Motor Corp.

He is also quoted in the book as saying, "I'm going to beat Chevrolet on the head with a bat. And I'm going to enjoy it."

In the early 1990s, GM had handed out baseball bats to various assembly plants with the words "Beat Toyota" carved into them.

Formula One: Webber leads Alonso in German Grand Prix afternoon practice

Webber LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC
Mark Webber paced Friday afternoon Formula One practice.

By ADAM COOPER on 7/22/2011

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Red Bull Racing and Ferrari on Friday shared the honors during the first day of practice for Sunday's German Grand Prix, as Ferrari showed that its British Grand Prix win two weeks ago was no fluke. Fernando Alonso led Mark Webber in the morning session, and then the Aussie led the Spaniard in the afternoon, though only by 0.168 second.

Meanwhile, in both sessions, Sebastian Vettel was a close third, and Felipe Massa was a slightly more distant fourth, indicating that this race weekend is likely to be all about the two teams.

Significantly, Ferrari is quick at the Nürburgring GP circuit despite the return of exhaust-blown diffusers, after the one-off clampdown on the technology for the British GP.

Although the skies on Friday were gray, no rain fell, but it is virtually guaranteed to come down at some point during the weekend.

“It was good fun. Obviously, the circuit was quite slippery, the temperatures being low,” Vettel said, enjoying his first home race as reigning world champion. “All in all, I think we did a lot of laps, and the cars seem to be OK. We're not 100 percent happy yet. We'll see what happens tomorrow [in qualifying]. At this stage, [there is] obviously a lot of work ahead. Ferrari looks very competitive; McLaren is a bit more difficult to judge, so we'll see.

“I think if we can make a step forward, then it's worth a lot. We don't know the conditions for tomorrow and Sunday. Rain is forecasted, so it's on the way. It's a question of where and when it will hit us. Now we need to sit down and see what we can improve, but surely I think there is room to improve.”

In the afternoon's faster session, Michael Schumacher gave his German fans something to cheer with fifth place, ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton was only seventh for McLaren, complaining that a lack of downforce was simply costing the silver cars speed in the corners--and it's not something that can be resolved overnight. Jenson Button, who had an exhaust failure and missed gaining some useful mileage, was only 11th.

With blown diffusers back in action, the Renaults looked good in eighth and ninth, with Nick Heidfeld ahead of Vitaly Petrov. The former was trying a new rearward-facing exhaust layout, instead of the usual side exit. Adrian Sutil rounded out the top 10 for Force India.

Karun Chandhok is having his first full race weekend for Team Lotus and was 20th in the afternoon session. His countryman Narain Karthikeyan returned after missing Silverstone, but only as a test driver in the first session before handing the HRT car to Tonio Liuzzi.

Practice Times

1. Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing-Renault, 1 minute 31.711 seconds, 34 laps

2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:31.879, +0.168, 38

3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing-Renault, 1:32.084, +0.373, 28

4. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:32.354, +0.643, 36

5. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:32.411, +0.700, 31

6. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP, 1:32.557, +0.846, 32

7. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:32.724, +1.013, 28

8. Nick Heidfeld, Renault, 1:33.098, +1.387, 17

9. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:33.138, +1.427, 22

10. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes, 1:33.211, +1.500, 34

11. Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:33.225, +1.514, 17

12. Paul Di Resta, Force India-Mercedes, 1:33.299, +1.588, 34

13. Sergio Pérez, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:34.113, +2.402, 34

14. Rubens Barrichello, Williams-Cosworth, 1:34.344, +2.633, 34

15. Jaime Alguersuari, Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari, 1:34.487, +2.776, 37

16. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:34.491, +2.780, 35

17. Pastor Maldonado, Williams-Cosworth, 1:34.996, +3.285, 35

18. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus-Renault, 1:35.753, +4.042, 42

19. Timo Glock, Virgin-Cosworth 1:36.940, +5.229, 32

20. Karun Chandhok, Lotus-Renault, 1:37.248, +5.537, 33

21. Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin-Cosworth, 1:37.313, +5.602, 33

22. Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT-Cosworth, 1:38.145, +6.434, 31

23. Daniel Ricciardo, HRT-Cosworth, 1:40.737, +9.026, 5

24. Sébastien Buemi, Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari, no time, 3

French gathering celebrates Citroën 2CV

Amis de la 2CV
A gathering of Citroën 2CV owners will take place in France near the end of July.

By JULIE ALVIN on 7/22/2011

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France’s answer to the Volkswagen Beetle, the Citroën 2CV, sold nearly 4 million copies in its 40-plus years of production. Now fans of the Deux Chevaux are gathering to celebrate the car at the 19th international “Amis de la 2CV” in Salbris, France.

Organizers expect more than 6,000 owners to bring their 2CVs to the July 26-31 event, where they will compete in a disassemble-reassemble competition, check out four of the original prototypes designed in the 1930s and get a look at the Citroën Revolte concept introduced at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show.

There will also be a bring-and-buy sale, children’s events, driving simulators and, of course, a few 2CVs on hand for those wishing to get behind the wheel.

2012 Lexus GS 350 prototype, an Flash Drive Car Review

2012 Lexus GS 350 test drive Lexus
The 2012 Lexus GS 350 was disguised for our early test drive.

By MARK VAUGHN on 7/22/2011

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What Is It? No, it is not the all-landau-bodied GS. That is camouflage to keep prying eyes away from discovering the truth about Lexus' attempt to get some sales out of its flagging GS line. A total of about 7,000 sales a year is not acceptable to the luxury division, and Lexus hopes that changes to the GS will improve those figures.

Lexus called this prototype a new platform, but it has the exact same 112.2-inch wheelbase as the current car. The new GS is lighter by 157 pounds, at 3,638, and it gets more spot and laser welds to stiffen it up. There are changes to the suspension geometry and to electronic systems such as Adaptive Variable Suspension and Lexus Dynamic Handling. And one model has four-wheel steer. The goal is to make it competitive with sports sedans such as the BMW 5-series, the Audi A6 and the Infiniti M37. We were offered no specifics about horsepower, but Lexus says that the new car's 3.5-liter V6 will have more of it, while getting better gas mileage. The current GS 350 makes 303 hp and 274 lb-ft of torque while returning 22 mpg combined city and highway, so we figure the new car will have at least 304 hp, 275 lb-ft and 23 mpg.

How Does It Drive? Lexus put together a very tidy driving experience for us, combining city streets, an autocross course and a respectably twisty mountain road. In the city, the GS 350 showed that it still had all of the quiet and comfort for which Lexus is renowned. There is more headroom front and rear and a lower hip point for the driver.

On the autocross course, we put the Drive Mode Select into sport-plus and tried like crazy to get the rear end to come out, this being rear-wheel drive and us thinking we were do-rifto kings. But all we could do was make it understeer, even with the current and (we assume) prototype car's 52/48 front/rear weight balance. Despite Lexus's claims that the electronic controls allow more slip in this new version, we were danged if we could get it very much out of line. That's probably good for Lexus buyers, who value predictability and stability above all else. Similar hamstrings kept the IS from being as much fun as it could have been when it debuted.

Finally, we discovered that the off switch for all of that electronic stability stuff was covered under black camo tape on the dash. We peeled it back and held the switch down for three to five seconds, and then . . . a little oversteer. That was because we were in the upscale model of the two GS 350 prototypes we drove, and that model had four-wheel steer. The 4WS does, indeed, keep this car in line very well and increases cornering grip by a huge factor. So we got into the prototype without the 4WS, peeled back the tape, held down the switch, and--woo-hoo--watch out, Rhys Millen and Tanner Foust. With all of that stuff shut off, the car was really fun, hanging the tail out as long as we wanted to hang it out. Although it still took a focused effort to do so, once we got the rear out, it was easy to keep it there, countersteering into the turn like Drift King Tsuchiya himself.

Then we headed up to the mountain road. Again, the 4WS car proved to be much faster through corners, as you would expect. That stability and speed meant less braking entering the corners. On the straights between turns, the 3.5-liter V6 (if that is indeed what's under the hood) responded with alacrity. The new car has the same 5.7-second 0-to-60-mph time as the current model. The controls on the six-speed automatic could be cranked up for quicker upshifts and for nicely matched throttle blips on downshifts.

It was good on the mountains but not great, as if Lexus had tried again to make a decent car great through tuning and tweaking of the electronic systems instead of starting out with, say, a 5-series chassis. As such, it still might fall short of performance sedans in the segment, at least as far as performance goes. Those looking for Lexus attributes such as quiet and comfort won't be disappointed and might be surprised and delighted to find how responsive the new GS is.

Do I Want It? If quiet and comfort are a priority--but you might want to have some fun occasionally--you might like this attempt by Lexus to make the GS more sporty. But if you're a 5-series/A6/M37 buyer, it might not be sporty enough. You decide; you're the buyer.

Look for a teaser photo to be released to the media Aug. 4, the gasoline version of the Lexus GS 350 to be revealed at Pebble Beach, the hybrid at Frankfurt and an F-Sport at SEMA. Somewhere around there, we'll get more specs and pricing and will drive a production version without the vinyl camo cladding, although we kind of liked the camo cladding.

Wild Ride: Jenson Button drives McLaren F1 car around Moscow's streets

Jenson Button streets of Moscow video Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic
Formula One driver Jenson Button behind the wheel of his McLaren MP4-26 Mercedes at the German Grand Prix.

Published on 7/22/2011

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Vitaly Petrov in 2010 became Russia's first-ever Formula One driver, and interest in motorsports in the former Soviet state has grown significantly during the past 10 years--even though the country still does not host an official F1 event despite several proposals in recent years.

However, that doesn't mean that Russians must travel abroad to experience the power, sounds and smells of F1 machinery. Thanks to the fourth-annual Moscow City Racing event on July 17, fans witnessed firsthand the performance of F1 cars from McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari and Team Lotus-Renault GP.

As seen in the video, 2009 world champion Jenson Button was more concerned with providing an impressive display of car control--and the rarely seen art of F1 drifting--than finding the fastest way around a damp circuit that ran through the historic center of the capital from Bolotnaya Square to the Kremlin and along the Kremlin walls.

As for an actual race, the mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, wants to host the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in 2014, the same year the Black Sea resort will also stage the Winter Olympics.

Sochi has a seven-year deal with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone to host the series on a 3.4-mile circuit designed by F1 architect Hermann Tilke on the Olympic Village site.

Watch the Jenson Button Moscow drive video here.

Lotus Evora does special duty for Italian Carabinieri

A pair of Lotus Evora S sports cars join the Italian Carabinieri Photo by: Lotus

A pair of Lotus Evora S sports cars join the Itali. Photo by Lotus.

Dark blue Evora S complete with lightbar and voice activated controls Photo by: Lotus

Dark blue Evora S complete with lightbar and voice. Photo by Lotus.

Italian Carabinieri practice at the Lotus test track Photo by: Lotus

Italian Carabinieri practice at the Lotus test tra. Photo by Lotus.

Lotus and Italian executives look at a stripped Lotus Evora S Photo by: Lotus

Lotus and Italian executives look at a stripped Lo. Photo by Lotus.

The view from the rear of the Lotus Evora S built for the Italian Carabinieri Photo by: Lotus

The view from the rear of the Lotus Evora S built . Photo by Lotus.

By JAKE LINGEMAN on 7/22/2011

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In a tip of the hat to Britain, the Italian Arma dei Carabinieri, a division of the army charged with civilian police duties, accepted two new Lotus Evora S models for special duty. The headquarters of the Carabinieri in Rome hosted a ceremony culminating in the Evora twins being turned over by Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar.

“Everyone knows that Italy has more than its fair share of high-profile sports-car manufacturers, so it’s a real honor for a relatively small British brand to be in this position,” Bahar said. “The feedback from the driver training on the Evora S at our test track was very positive.”

Both police Evora models are equipped with enhanced vehicle automation, including voice-recognition software. Additionally, a special refrigerated compartment is installed behind the front seats for transport of vital organs or blood in case of an emergency.

The Italian army sent some members to Norfolk, England, to train in the cars.

“Our special Lotus Evoras combine the very best of our technology with excellent British engineering from Lotus,” said Carabinieri spokesman Colonel Marco Minicucci. “We carefully selected some of our team to attend a driver-training session at the new test track, where they learned all about the very special characteristics and incredible potential of the cars.”

The Lotus Evora S has a supercharged V6 under the hood, producing 345 hp and capable of a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.6 seconds.

Toyota shows self-steering car at safety demonstration

toyota safety Toyota
Cars like the Toyota Corolla and Camry (pictured) may be the recipients of new accident avoidance technology.

By JAKE LINGEMAN on 7/22/2011

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We already have cars that can take control of the brakes, park for us and maintain a safe distance from the car in front of us. Soon some Toyota models will be veering themselves away from accidents, too.

The new system uses cameras and a supersensitive radar called millimeter wave. Together, they help detect impending frontal crashes, such as one caused by a pedestrian crossing the street, and help the car take steps to avoid collision.

According to Toyota's chief safety technology officer, Moritaka Yoshida, the vehicle instantly calculates how much braking and steering are needed to avoid a crash.

Toyota didn't say when the technology would hit the market but hinted that it would be soon, the Detroit News reported.

Last month, Volkswagen demonstrated a car that could drive itself using radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors.

During the safety demonstration, Toyota also presented a pop-up hood that rises slightly during a pedestrian crash. The action would soften the blow to a person being hit by the front of the car. Both Jaguar and French automaker Citroën currently use the technique.

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