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The Countdown To The Debut Of Kia’s New Performance Fastback Has Begun

All eyes will be on Kia when the Detroit Auto Show arrives

Kia’s long-awaited fastback sedan is inching closer to making its world debut at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. For its part, the Korean automaker is making sure that there’s an appropriate buzz surrounding the model that’s supposedly carrying the “GT” name. While the name is still a mystery, the anticipation isn’t and Kia isn’t about to let that buzz die down. The company even created a dedicated website – www.thecurveahead.net – for the specific model, complete with a massive countdown timer, a short yet revealing film series, and a photo gallery that’s, well, "coming soon."

At this point, the only thing we know is that the debut will be for the performance fastback that Kia’s releasing to compete against some of Germany’s finest performance sedans, including the Mercedes CLS and the Audi A7. Everything else though is still shrouded in mystery, which I expect is what Kia wants to happen as it slowly starts teasing the car ahead of its highly anticipated debut in January at Detroit.

Speaking of teasing, the aforementioned teaser series on The Curved Ahead site did point to something revealing about the car. Apparently, at least one variant of the model can do 244 kmh on the Nürburgring, which converts to about 151 mph. While that’s not exactly reason to start salivating about the performance possibilities of the model, a separate teaser image of the second teaser episode – there are a lot of teasers on this website! – shows a speedometer’s needle pointing just north of 280 kmh, or 174 mph. That’s where the intrigue really kicks in because it could be Kia’s subtle way of telling us that this fastback model will have different engines under its hood.

Given the market that it’s expected to enter, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the model gets a tuned version of the 3.3-liter V-6 engine that’s currently being used by Hyundai’s Genesis models. Those engines are currently rated as high as 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, or maybe they could go even higher if those needles are going to push close to 300 kmh, or 186 miles.

That’s one of the many mysteries we’re dealing with regarding Kia’s upcoming performance fastback. Oh, and about it’s name? It could be GT, Stinger, or maybe even an amalgam of the two. Add that to the number of questions we have about this model.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Family sedans might not be the hottest thing on the market, having given that spot to crossovers and SUVs, but the humble four-door is certainly not down and out. Volkswagen set out to capture more of this market with the revised 2016 Passat. It wears an updated face, has a new rear end, and even sees some updated bits on the dashboard. Volkswagen even says it redesigned the 2016 Passat to appeal towards American buyers who want muscular lines and upscale interiors.

In reality, you’d have to be a Volkswagen enthusiast to spot the differences without a side-by-side comparison photo (which we have in the Exterior section below.) Nevertheless, the changes are apparent and the Passat feels more mature and less bulbous for it.

The changes inside are equally minimal but no less important. A slight change in the dashboard’s shape and trim piece are all that’s new for 2016. However, the modest update gives the dash a more angular appearance, which mirrors the Passat’s fresh face.

To see how these changes impacted the Passat, I spent a week driving a 2016 model like I would if I owned it. Trips to the grocery store, the Lacrosse field, preschool, and even date night at the movie theater were all taken. My four-year-old’s car seat was buckled in the back seat and the trunk was filled with everyday items. This is a departure from [my last experience with the 2016 Passat. Volkswagen had flown me to Vermont in 2015 to experience the car when it first launched, so I knew what to expect. This time the car was on my home turf in Central Florida. So how’d it do? Keep reading to find out.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

The math involving the production of the Mercedes-Maybach S650 Cabriolet is tricky when you consider that the German automaker is only building 300 units of the luxury convertible and that of those 300 units, only 75 will go to the U.S. market. That’s not a lot of models to offer, so in lieu of making the S650 Cabriolet available to everyone, Mercedes is instead going to its VIP customers first and giving them, in the words of Mercedes-Benz USA Dietmar Exler, “the right of first refusal.”

Not that Mercedes USA is going to sweat trying to sell the 75 units of the S650 Cabriolet – the automaker has already received plenty of interest in the special edition convertible during its debut party last week. All 75 available units are expected to sell out quickly in the U.S., even if model comes with a pretty steep $320,000-plus price tag.

Given the car’s status and exclusivity, the price is where you expect it to be. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s inundated with the most luxurious of features and amenities, not to mention at 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 engine that produces 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough power to propel the luxury convertible from 0-to-60 mph in 4.0 seconds to go with an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

It’s unclear how long Mercedes USA is going to take to sell out the Maybach S650 Cabriolet, but considering the demand for the car and the fact the super-luxury convertible will likely only last a model year or less, all 75 units should be scooped up faster than it takes to write all those zeros in the checkbook. Or as Exler proudly told Automotive News: "We’ll be running out. We’re pretty happy with the way it’s going." 

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

2017 BMW M4 Coupe "Wittmann" Edition

Well-deserved one-off M4 for a well-deserved champion

If you race for BMW and you win a championship, there’s a good chance that the German automaker will create a limited edition car to celebrate your conquest and for bringing honor and glory to Bavaria. Two-time DTM Driver’s Champion Marco Wittman has received this honor twice, having won the DTM championship for BMW in 2014 and 2016. The German automaker subsequently celebrated those two titles by releasing special edition M4 models, both of which went on sale in very limited quantities. But the awards just keep coming to the 26-year-old German racer and the latest one comes in the form of an M Performance-enhanced, Java Green BMW M4 that BMW gave to its title-winning driver.

To be clear, the one-off M4 Coupe is different from the M4 DTM Champion Edition that BMW launched to celebrate Wittman’s DTM driver’s title. That model will be sold in limited quantities – only 200 units – in Germany. This particular Java Green M4 is for Wittman alone. It’s a literal one-off model and he has the keys to it. It’s his.

Wittman joked that the M4 is his new “company car,” and if it is indeed that, it’s a pretty incredible one at that. Not only does it have a unique paint finish, it also has an assortment of aerodynamic bits and pieces that BMW’s M Performance division installed specifically to make the car that much more exclusive. It’s no wonder that Wittman was effusive with praise when he was handed the keys to the car, even complementing the Java Green paint finish as a color that “suits me very well.”

We’d be appreciative too if BMW built a one-off car specifically for us. Beyond the car though, the gesture is something that isn’t new to the German automaker. It’s built a lot of this special edition models for championship-winning race cars, past and present. Even Marc Marquez, the three-time Moto GP champion who doesn’t even race for BMW – he races for Repsol Honda – has been the recipient of special edition BMW cars as part of the company’s BMW M Awards in MotoGP. Marquez took ownership of a BMW M2 a few weeks after winning the M Award for the fourth time in a row, establishing his own reputation as the fastest qualifier in MotoGP.

But as nice as Marquez’s new M2 is, Wittman’s one-off M4 is a little saucier in our eyes. Translation: we like that one better.

Continue after the jump to read more about the BMW M4 Coupe “Wittman” Edition.

2017 Ford Mustang Black Shadow Edition

Ford rolls out sporty looking package for the Euro-spec Mustang GT

The sixth-generation Ford Mustang arrived in late 2013 for the 2015 model year as the company’s most advanced pony car yet. Not only redesigned inside and out, the new Mustang also gained an independent rear suspension, a first for the muscle car since its inception in 1964. The new generation also marks the return of the four-cylinder engine, with Ford having added a turbocharged, 2.3-liter EcoBoost to the usual V-6 and V-8 engine lineup. On top of that, FoMoCo finally turned the Mustang into a global car, sending it to dealerships in places like Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.

As expected, the sixth-generation Mustang has been received with great enthusiasm in Europe, where it is being offered with all engine options sans the V-6. For 2017, Ford decided to spice things up for European customers and created two special-edition models, one of which is called the Black Shadow. As the name suggests, the limited-edition model is about blacked-out exterior elements, but the package also adds extra features inside the cabin, as well as contrasting body stripes.

“Special edition Ford Mustangs have been an important part of the Mustang story for more than 50 years, and now customers in Europe can play their own part in the iconic car’s rich special edition history," said Roelant de Waard, vice president of Ford of Europe.

This is great news for European customers and the move should open the door for other special-edition Mustangs with even more unique features in the future. Meanwhile, let’s have a closer look at the Black Shadow Edition.

Continue reading to learn more about the Ford Mustang Black Shadow Edition.

2017 BMW M6 GTLM Art Car

New art car racer will make its competition debut in Daytona

Art cars are always fun, especially when an automaker makes it annual habit to introduce one. Over the past few years, BMW has done just that, releasing some colorful pieces like Andy Reiben’s 3 Series “Fluidum” from 2013 and Jeff Koons’ M3 GT2 from 2010. The latter even participated in that year’s staging of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, adding another layer of lore to the German automaker’s yearly tradition. 2016 now sees the continuation of that tradition with the introduction of the M6 GTLM Art Car, designed by no less than John Baldessari, the world renowned, 85-year old American conceptual artist, who is famous for his minimalistic approach toward art that combines colors, shapes, and texts.

It’s no surprise then that Baldessari’s interpretation of the M6 GTLM Art Car includes these elements. It is surprising though that for all of his years in the art game, Baldessari, by his own admission, had only done one project that involves a car, and that was just a two-dimensional image of car. Tasked with working on an actual car – and a big one at that with the M6 GTLM racer – Baldessari took on the challenge of creating a piece that showcased the car’s status as an “icon of contemporary life” while also infusing his own trademark ideas.

The final product is tamer in design compared to the works of Reiben and Koons, but fans of Baldessari should appreciate how the 85-year old artist was able to translate his ideas and create a piece that’s worthy of being included in BMW’s growing number of personality-driven art cars.

And just like Koons’ M3 GT2 Art Car, Baldessari’s M6 GTLM racer won’t just be a showpiece model; it’s actually headed to a race track where it’s scheduled to compete at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on January 28 and 29, 2017. In the meantime, those interested in seeing the M6 GTLM Art Car in the flesh can do so at the Miami Beach Art Basel event, which is currently on-going.

Continue after the jump to read more about John Baldessari’s BMW M6 GTLM Art Car.

Audi is Going to the Moon with the Audi Quattro Rover in 2017

It’s a little guy, but it should provide us with new information on our only natural satellite.

Considering the Moon is our only natural satellite, and is relatively close to our home planet, it still seems a little odd that only a few people have ever set foot on that big ball of rock that smiles back at us on a clear night. To put things into perspective, the last time any human (that we know of) has stepped foot on the moon was back in 1972 when Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent just over three days there. Since then, we haven’t been back. As someone who has a heavy interest in other planets and the cosmos itself, I was pretty excited when Audi announced its lunar rover project last year. And, while it was an exciting idea, it didn’t seem like anything would ever come from it. But, all that has changed and Audi is set to send its Quattro Rover to the moon, and it looks like it will happen by the end of next year!

To fill you in on a little background, the Lunar Quattro tips the scales at just 66 pounds and uses a mix of lightweight materials and aluminum 3D printing. It was developed by Audi and a group called Part-Time Scientists. As any Audi fan would expect, its power source is derived from Audi’s E-Tron battery technology. Unfortunately, we don’t know any specifics as far as range, top speed, or anything of that nature, but it is fitted with a solar panel that covers a good majority of its upper surface, so the Lunar Quattro shouldn’t have a problem getting juice from our life-giving star. While the mission will help expand our knowledge of the moon and its terrain – and maybe even lead to future missions and an eventual colonization – there’s also a secondary motive behind this Rover.

See, Audi’s biggest motivation is probably the $30 million prize that it could very well claim from the Google Lunar XPRIZE program. The program promised the prize to the first privately funded rover to land on the moon, drive 500 meters, and send images back to our lovely planet. And, while the Moon isn’t exactly the harshest environment in our solar system, it will give Audi the unique opportunity to test some of its technology in much harsher conditions than those found here on Earth. To put that into perspective, the moon can hit as high as 253 degrees in the daylight, while the dark side of the moon can reach as low as negative 243 degrees. As you can imagine, the Quattro Rover has its work cut out for it with those kinds of temperatures.

But, before I go off on some rant about our solar system and get too far off topic, take a look at the video Audi released that shows off the Quattro Rover and explains why it is such an important mission.

TopSpeed’s Top 10 Karts For The Road

Leave your turtle shells and banana peels at home

If you’re into cars and going fast (and for some reason, I suspect you are), you owe it to yourself to get a session in with a real, honest racing kart. Notice I’m not saying the word “go-kart.” That’s because a go-kart is something you drive at the carnival, something just this side of bumper cars in terms of adrenaline production. No, I’m talking about racing karts, some of the most terrifying, violent machines you can pilot without a permission slip from the military or Bernie Ecclestone. And while racing karts are a hoot on the track, their performance potential is off limits everywhere else. So what do you do if you want kart-like fun, but in a road-legal package? Well, we’ve got 10 solutions for you right here.

The criteria for this list are straightforward. To be considered, each car has to have the traditional kart-like characteristics. It’s gotta be small, lightweight, agile, and uncluttered in its engineering and design. Oh, and it’s gotta be fun, too.

Sound good? Then grab your helmet and driving gloves, and read on.

Continue reading for TopSpeed’s Top 10 Karts For The Road.

Rumor says Jeep is cancelling the 2019 Grand Wagoneer

Could Jeep’s ultra luxury SUV be dead?

It seems the rumor mill is spinning out word that Jeep has canceled plans to build the Grand Wagoneer – the high-end competitor slotted to compete with vehicles like the Range Rover. Early speculation had put the Grand Wagoneer debuting for the 2019 model.

The news comes from Autoline Daily, which cites speculation from AutoForecast Solution, a company that provides automotive business planning. The purported problem stems from engineering problems with the Grand Wagoneer’s chassis. The luxury SUV was slated to ride on a widened and lengthened version of the unibody platform that underpins the Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. AutoForcasts Solution says the platform could not support a full-size SUV with three rows.

Autoline did add speculation to the news, supposing the Grand Wagoneer could borrow the Ram 1500’s ladder frame chassis. That move is plausible given the Ram’s rear suspension uses a multi-link system with coil springs, just a many modern body-on-frame SUVs do. If this were the case, the Grand Wagoneer would become a competitor to the Cadillac Escalade, as Truck Trend points out. We would also add the Infiniti QX80 to that mix.

However, we find it incredibly hard to believe the engineers at Jeep can’t make the Grand Cherokee’s chassis work. After all, the Durango is already 11.4 inches longer than the Grand Cherokee and has a five-inch-longer wheelbase.

What’s more, FCA boss Sergio Marchionne seems to be smitten with the idea of the Grand Wagoneer competing with big-time players like the Range Rover and Jeep CEO Mike Manley confirmed the three-row luxury Jeep in a conversation with Motoring. Last but certainly not least is the spied silhouette rendering of the entire future Jeep lineup, including the range-topping SUV, at a dealership meeting back in October.

The final nail in this rumor comes from an unnamed inside source that very recently told Truck Trend the Grand Wagoneer and its less-luxurious brother, the Wagoneer, are both still headed to production.

Continue reading for more information.

2017 Ford Mustang Blue Edition

FoMoCo launches first special-edition model for the European market

The sixth-generation Ford Mustang arrived in late 2013 and brought many new features to Ford’s iconic nameplate. Arguably the most important addition was the independent rear suspension, a system that the Chevrolet had adopted for the Camaro way back in 2009. The pony car also gained a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making it the first Mustang to use one since the third-generation model. Finally, Ford made the Mustang a global car, which means that customers in markets such as Europe and Asia can buy the pony from dealerships rather than the gray market. The move was met with much enthusiasm in Europe, where countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom are home to many Mustang collectors.

While U.S.- and Euro-spec cars are mostly the same, Ford developed a special suspension system and engine internals for the European market, in order to better suit the roads and emission requirements of the "Old Continent." Now that the Mustang has found its way into European dealerships, Ford also created a couple of special-edition models for customers on the other side of the pond. The Blue Edition is one of them, and it pays tribute to the high-impact colors that Ford offered in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“The Ford Mustang has no trouble standing out on European roads, and with the new Ford Mustang Black Shadow Edition and Blue Edition models, Mustang drivers will be turning even more heads,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president of Ford of Europe. “Special edition Ford Mustangs have been an important part of the Mustang story for more than 50 years, and now customers in Europe can play their own part in the iconic car’s rich special edition history.”

Continue reading to learn more about the Ford Mustang Blue Edition.


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