Archive for November, 2011

First Look: BMW Active 5 Hybrid

German maker goes green for Tokyo.

by on Nov.30, 2011

BMW Board Member Ian Robertson introduces the new Active 5 hybrid.

Japanese automakers are virtually tripping over one another to show the public who’s the greenest manufacturer of them all.  Now, BMW is entering the fray.  The German marque, one of the few foreign brands to still have a presence at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, is giving the first public showing to the all-new BMW Active 5 Hybrid.

Bringing a hybrid into the Japanese market isn’t easy, acknowledged BMW Board Member Ian Robertson.  It is, after all, “the land that has made hybrid cars so well-known.”

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Nonetheless, the Bavarian marque is betting that it can gain traction with the new BMW Active 5 which, it proclaimed during a media preview, “is the world’s most powerful and efficient hybrid in its segment.”


First Look: Nissan Juke NISMO

Power to the people.

by on Nov.30, 2011

Nissan will put the Juke on NISMO-brand steroids.

The Nissan Juke has proven wildly popular, selling more than 232,000 copies in its brief time on the market.  Now, bets the number two Japanese maker, it could build up demand by pumping up performance.

The Nissan Juke NISMO will be the most mainstream model yet to wear the maker’s performance badge, said CEO Carlos Ghosn during a Tokyo Motor Show preview, calling the compact crossover, “a logical platform to take NISMO…in a mainstream product range.”

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Brazilian-born Ghosn didn’t have much more to say about the Nissan Juke NISMO Concept, though a press release fills in a few blanks about the prototype, which starts off with a lower, wider and decidedly more aggressive look than the more mainstream crossover.


Suzuki Keeps Tradition Alive with the Wacky Q-Concept and Retro-Futuristic Regina.

Small cars for a big future?

by on Nov.30, 2011

The Suzuki Q-Concept.

The 2011 downsized Tokyo Motor Show may not have the grandeur of years past but thanks to Suzuki tradition remains alive.

The biennial event has long been known for bringing us some of the wildest-weirdest and wackiest concept vehicles – and that’s about the best way you can describe the three concepts brought to the show by Suzuki as part of its corporate theme, “Small cars for a big future.”

That notably includes the Q-Concept, which company officials described as “ideal for everyday journeys within a radius of about six miles,” during the makers Tokyo Motor Show news conference.

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Its bright orange body would likely look more appropriate in a Japanese manga comic strip than on the streets of modern-day Tokyo, the split two-piece doors opening up like a children’s toy to give it a distinctive, Q-like shape.  The interior, meanwhile, can be outfitted with a single, rotating front seat and used for, say, pizza – or sushi? – deliveries, or two child-sized seats can be added in the rear.


It’s Official This Time: Subaru Reveals the Production BRZ

Is racing in the new sports car’s future?

by on Nov.30, 2011

Subaru's new sports car, the BRZ, gets its long-awaited introduction.

It may not have been the longest gestation in automotive history but it was beginning to feel like it, both Subaru and Toyota staging seemingly endless advance looks at the new sports car they’ve been jointly developing.

Now, the long wait has finally come to an end, the two Japanese makers staging separate news conferences at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show to reveal what their efforts have wrought.

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Despite some earlier indications, there’s relatively little difference between the Subaru BRZ and its step-sibling the Toyota 86 (which will be called the GT-86 in Europe and Scion FR-S in the States).  Stretch and you’ll spot some modest tweaks that offer slight distinctions between the two models.  But there isn’t much else to differentiate them – if that matters – beyond the Subaru’s bumpers and a side air intake that replaces an “86” badge on the Toyota.


VW Teases with Cross Coupe Concept

Production likely, but U.S. may not get another new VW model, the Passat Alltrack.

by on Nov.30, 2011

VW's Cross Coupe Concept reveals "the new face of future SUVs from Volkswagen."

One of the few foreign manufacturers to stage a presence during – or unveil any new products at – the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, Volkswagen rolled out two surprises for the assembled media masses.

The first to roll onto the stage will also be the first to reach market: the latest spin-off of the popular VW Passat platform, the new Alltrack.  But the maker also revealed a striking concept vehicle, the Cross Coupe, a senior official all but confirming it, too, will find a place in the maker’s global line-up.

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And, at the very least, expect its basic design to help reshape the maker’s current crossover line.

With its bigger wheels, increased approach and departure angles and upgraded suspension, the Passat Alltrack “closes the gap between the conventional Passat and VW’s SUVs) like the Tiguan,” noted product boss Ulrich Hackenberg, during a preview on the maker’s stand.

The new Passat Alltrack with VW's Ulrich Hackenberg.

The well-equipped crossover will come with a range of goodies, including leather-wrapped wheel and an optional navi package.  It’s got the familiar, cavernous Passat interior, here offering even more head and cargo space – with a rear cargo hold that handles 21.3 cubic feet of luggage – expanding to 61.1 cf with the rear seats folded down.

Four engines, two gas and two diesel, will be offered, including a 208 hp petrol offering and a high-mileage 138 hp turbo-diesel.

The Passat Alltrack was quickly followed by the Volkswagen Cross Coupe Concept – which appears destined to fill the niche just below the current Tiguan.

“We wanted to create a sense of understated performance,” VW design czar Klaus Bischoff said of the show car, with its sports car-like short overhangs and “condensed” greenhouse.  The goal was to give the Cross Coupe a feel “as if it were milled from a block of metal,” he added.

The front end features a grille whose crossbars now flow into the Cross Coupe’s xenon headlamps.  Look closely and you will see what Bischoff describes as “the new face of future SUVs for Volkswagen.”

But what about the concept itself?  Might it see production?

“Perhaps,” hinted the German giant’s CEO Martin Winterkorn.  The telltale smile and nod gave further indication that the Cross Coupe Concept is more than just a design exercise that will vanish from view once this auto show season wraps up.

First Look: Honda EV-Ster

Japanese maker provides tantalizing hint of what it may have coming.

by on Nov.30, 2011

Honda's electric sports car concept, the EV-Ster.

It’s just a concept.  It’s just a concept. That, at least, is what Honda is officially calling the EV-Ster, the show car making its debut at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show.  But you certainly should anticipate seeing some of the basic technology under its sexy hood reaching market in the not very distant future, company officials broadly hint.

The Honda news conference in Tokyo disappointed some who had been hoping to see a long-anticipated revival of the maker’s extreme NSX sports car.  That will likely have to wait until the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.

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If anything, the EV-Ster is a bit closer to the old Honda S2000, a more modest and affordable sports car that would pick up on the Honda brand’s historical emphasis on performance.

The goal was to create a look that expresses speediness at the same time as sustainable mobility,” said Honda design exec Ichiro Tobisawa.


First Look: Toyota 86

Americans will see the results of new alliance with Subaru marketed as the Scion FR-S.

by on Nov.30, 2011

Toyota finally reveals the production version of its new sports car - to be called 86 in Japan and Scion FR-S in the States.

Nearly four years in the making, Toyota has finally pulled the wraps off the 2-seat sports car it has developed as part of a joint venture with the smaller Japanese automaker Subaru.

Targeted at the small, affordable sports car niche now dominated by the long-lived Mazda Miata, Toyota will call the new model the Toyota 86, a reference to the maker’s legendary AE86 Corolla of the 1980s.  The sports car will actually go by a variety of different names.  The Japanese will also know it as the Hachiroku, while it will go with the moniker Toyota GT-86 in Europe — and appear under the Scion FR-S badge in the States.

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Whatever you prefer, the 2-seater is a low-slung design that was developed as part of a tandem effort that appears to have put the emphasis on Toyota design and Subaru technology – such as the so-called 2.0-liter boxer inline-four engine both manufacturers will share.  But the lines are a bit blurry, insiders stress, Toyota, for example, reportedly kicking in its fuel delivery system.


Subaru Releases BRZ Photos Ahead of Official Debut

The much-anticipated sports coupe is expected to go on sale in the spring.

by on Nov.29, 2011

The production version of the Subaru BRZ will differ from its Toyota siblings in trim only.

A day after learning the names for the Toyota version of its joint sports coupe project, Subaru is has released photos of its version ahead of its official reveal at the Tokyo Auto Show.

The 2013 Subaru BRZ was co-developed with the Toyota sport coupe – which will be known as the 86 in Japan, GT 86 in Europe and Scion FR-S in the states – and has been teased repeatedly, most recently at the Los Angeles Auto Show, where Subaru displayed the BRZ Concept STI. Earlier, a version called the BRZ Prologue was shown in Geneva. The bizarre “technology concept,” which showed the car’s internal workings, was on display in September at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

The Full Story!

Subaru didn’t release any new details about the car, but Toyota has released technical specifications, which are listed below. The two cars will differ in trim only, so the specs should stay the same.


What to Look For at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show

Updated: Our guide to the biennial event’s biggest unveilings -- and absences.

by on Nov.29, 2011

The 2011 Tokyo Motor Show opened its doors to thousands of media with some significant news coming out of the biennial event – even though Detroit’s Big Three and a number of other foreign makers decided to sit on the sidelines this time ‘round.

The Tokyo Motor Show has a history of revealing some wild, weird and wacky concept vehicles and that’s expected to continue this year but the emphasis has been shifting to production models – as at other global auto shows.  The concepts that will be on display will be more likely, this year, to hint at technology that very well could be brought to production in the not-too-distant future.

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The 2009 Tokyo Motor Show was widely considered a dud, and with so many makers boycotting the 2011 event the eyes of the industry will be looking closely to see if organizers have been able to regain at least some momentum.  Otherwise, this could be the last truly global auto show for Tokyo – especially with the motor shows in Beijing and Shanghai becoming increasingly large and important every year.

So, what might you find if you could mingle with the media this week at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center? Here’s our now-updated guide to some of the most significant previews.


BMW, Toyota To Swap Hybrid Engines for Diesels

Makers would share some of their strongest assets.

by on Nov.29, 2011

Toyota will swap hybrid technology used in models like the 2012 Prius v for BMW's diesel technology.

BMW and Toyota have reportedly agreed to swap diesel and hybrid powertrains in an effort to improve their fleet fuel economy.

Such partnerships are becoming increasingly popular as automakers face the rapid increase in government-mandated mileage standards in key markets such as the U.S., Europe, Japan and China.  The challenge for even the best manufacturers is to ensure they can not only meet new regulations but do it in a way that lives up to customer expectations.

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As part of their new alliance BMW would supply some of its advanced diesel technology to Toyota in return for some of the Japanese maker’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrains.  Toyota is the world’s biggest seller of hybrid-electric vehicles, its Prius model accounting for roughly half of global hybrid demand.

According to Automotive News a formal announcement of the partnership would likely be made this week at the Tokyo Motor Show.

BMW was a latecomer to hybrid power and has been struggling to play catch-up, with a gas-electric version of its 5-Series line to be announced at the biennial Tokyo event.  While Toyota has dominated the hybrid field it, in turn, has been slow to embrace diesel technology.

So have its key Japanese rivals – but that appears to be changing.  Mazda plans to offer a diesel version of its new high-mileage Skyactiv system and a senior Honda official told that the maker is also working to expand its diesel line-up.  Significantly, as the Tokyo debut of the 5-Series “oil-burner” suggests, there are signs that diesel demand is expected to grow out of its traditional European stronghold, with sales on the rise in both the U.S. and Japan.

It’s not the first time the two makers have turned to partnerships to expand their powertrain and vehicle options.

BMW previously joined a hybrid consortium that also included General Motors, Chrysler and Daimler AG.  That helped it develop the Bavarian maker’s first hybrid offering though BMW has since walked away from that alliance.

Toyota, meanwhile, will unveil its new GT86 sports car at the Tokyo Motor Show, a vehicle it has developed in partnership with Japan’s smaller automaker Subaru – which will market its own version of the two-seater as the Subaru BRZ.  Toyota is also allied with Silicon Valley-based Tesla Motors.  The start-up battery car maker will, among other things, handle the development of the Toyota RAV-4 EV, due out in less than two years.

Toyota also announced a partnership with Ford, in August, to jointly develop new hybrid SUVs and trucks.  The U.S. maker, for its part, pays a licensing fee to Toyota for patents covering the gas-electric technologies it uses in models such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

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