Category Archives: Car News

Chrysler Reveals Major Revisions to Pentastar V-6

Fiat-Chrysler Pentastar V-6 2016

To hear Chrysler tell it, the automaker’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 essentially will be a new engine when it makes its debut in the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee, its first application in the FCA lineup.

Basic dimensional elements—bore, stroke, bore-center spacing—carry over, but the engineering team claims greater efficiency, improved torque characteristics, a small horsepower uptick, and better NVH performance.

New components include cylinder heads with an 11.3:1 compression ratio (up from 10.2:1), eight-hole ignition coils, platinum-tipped spark plugs, new valve springs, low-tension piston rings, lightened crankshaft and crank pins, extensive friction reduction, and cooling of exhaust-gas recirculation.

3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 adds cooled EGR for model-year 2016

However, the biggest single efficiency improvement, according to FCA engineers, is a revision to the engine’s variable valve timing, giving intake-side valves a two-stage lift strategy—low lift for routine power demands, high lift when the driver calls for more urgency.

Operating range of the variable-valve-timing system has been increased from 50 to 70 degrees to mitigate detonation during hot starts, improving operation of the automatic engine stop-start (ESS) function. Carried forward from the current V-6, the ESS system has been enhanced with a new high-speed starter motor in order to reduce cranking time and deliver quicker, smoother starts.

Conspicuous by its absence from the engine’s catalog of revisions is direct fuel injection. FCA chose to continue with an upgraded port-injection system, citing added cost and weight as tradeoffs that go with direct injection. (According to FCA, the new engine will weigh 326 pounds in the Grand Cherokee, four pounds less than the current V-6.) The engineers also looked at, and ultimately passed on, Fiat’s MultiAir induction system, for reasons of cost and U.S. market suitability. While it would be nice to see DI (or even MultiAir), this strategy gives FCA something in its pocket for future development of the engine.

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

Although FCA isn’t ready to deliver all the engine’s performance specifics, it did reveal that output in the Grand Cherokee advances from 290 to 295 horsepower. Torque is said to improve by “more than 14.9 percent” between 1000 and 3000 rpm. (Which would be . . . what? 14.91? 14.98? You’re getting ridiculously specific here, Chrysler.) Note that there was no mention of the maximum torque figure changing—it stood at 260 lb-ft in 2015—but the low-range boost will be welcome given that torque peaked at a rather lofty 4800 rpm. FCA also anticipates a fuel-economy improvement of “more than six percent.” (So, 6.1?) That would translate to roughly 18 mpg city and just over 25 mpg highway.

The revised 3.6-liter V-6 will be under the hood of the six-cylinder 2016 Grand Cherokee when it rolls into showrooms this fall. FCA is still mum on when it will spread to the rest of the lineup, but the 3.6-liter Pentastar currently appears in the Dodge Challenger, Charger, Grand Caravan, Journey, and Durango; the Chrysler 200, 300, and Town & Country; the Jeep Wrangler; and the Ram ProMaster, Ram Cargo Van, and Ram 1500 pickup.

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Production-Ready 2017 Infiniti Q30 Revealed Ahead of Frankfurt Debut

2017 Infiniti Q30

After a long, multi-year (and multi-concept-car) gestation, Infiniti’s all-new compact Q30 hatchback has finally been revealed. Scheduled to fully debut at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show this fall—so far Infiniti has only released the photo above—the Q30 marks Infiniti’s first foray into the “premium-compact-car” field since the G20. Don’t remember the G20? It vaguely resembled a Tehran taxi, but was somehow even less interesting to look at. Hence why you don’t remember it. The Q30, on the other hand, is quite a different creation.

For starters, whereas the G20 was based on a humble Nissan, the Q30 is a rather successfully re-skinned Mercedes-Benz A-class/GLA-class, using the same front-drive architecture, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as those cars. (The Benz pieces come by way of a technology-sharing agreement between Daimler and Nissan-Renault.) As promised by company representatives, the final Q30’s bold styling is carried over from the Q30 concept with nearly zero changes. The only standout difference between the two is the production car’s realistically proportioned tire-and-wheel package.

2017 Infiniti Q30 interior

This being the Q30, not the QX30 pseudo-crossover that will debut slightly later this year, the rocker panels, fascias, and wheels and tires are decidedly street-oriented pieces. The QX30 will add body cladding, unique front and rear styling, a taller ride height, and all-wheel drive to do battle with the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLA-class. We’re told to expect the Q30 and QX30 to feel and drive completely differently from their platform-mates, the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 and the GLA250; Infiniti even went to the effort of making its own infotainment system work with the Benz’s electrical architecture in the hopes of differentiating the cars as much as possible. The only whiffs of Mercedes in the Q30’s interior are the steering-wheel and door-panel switchgear; otherwise, the infotainment control knob is of Infiniti’s own design, as is pretty much everything on the center stack and in the gauge cluster.

Unfortunately, final Q30 details—beyond a couple of photos—will have to wait until closer to the car’s big reveal in Frankfurt this September. The wait for the Q30’s arrival in dealerships will be slightly longer, as the baby Infiniti won’t go on sale until midway through next year as a 2017 model.

This story was originally published on July 21, 2015, and has since been updated to include discussion and an image of the Q30’s interior.

2015 Frankfurt auto show full coverage

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Porsche Cayman S Long-Term Update: 30K in and It Still Cuts Like a Knife

2014 Porsche Cayman S LT Update
WHAT WE LIKE: What we like best is not its rousing engine note or its eagerness to turn or its excellent steering system or its near-perfect shifter. No, what we like best about our long-term Cayman S—now 75 percent of the way through its stay with us—is that a drive in it is an automotive palate cleanser. The Cayman S’s clarity of purpose and deliciously mechanical nature is the perfect salve for our enthusiast hearts after commuting in overwrought crossovers or whittling away hours of our lives in CVT-equipped econoboxes or driving any number of cars that, despite excellent performance, fail to connect with their drivers. Nothing that we’ve encountered in our 30,000 miles with the car has diminished the Cayman S’s place as our North Star of sports-car goodness. We have no proof of this, but we’re convinced that the word “love” has never appeared so many times in any of the logbooks of previous long-term cars. The most recent note in the book reads, “I wish this car’s odometer would stop working so that we might keep it forever.” READ MORE ››

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Fiat-Chrysler Recalling 158,671 Jeep Cherokees for Potential Wiper Fault

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Fiat-Chrysler’s recall woes for the latest Jeep Cherokee just keep coming. The latest in a line of recalls for the crossover addresses static electricity buildup on the windshield wipers when they’re operated in dry conditions. An internal FCA investigation revealed the issue, which affects 158,671 2014 Cherokees in the U.S., as well as 47,997 abroad.

The static electricity buildup can affect the control module for the windshield wipers, potentially rendering the wipers inoperative. Jeep says that the fix calls for dealers to install a ground strap to the modules to “eliminate the potential for static buildup.” Customers will be instructed to visit their dealers for ground-strap installation, which will be performed at no cost.

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2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC Coupe Tested: Sometimes Big Power Isn’t Everything

2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC Coupe

Well, this is refreshing, a Mercedes coupe that’s actually a coupe—with two doors. It’s one of four available E-class body styles, joining a traditional four-door sedan, a station wagon, and a convertible. It’s an extensive lineup with a number of engine options that brings the total available models to 14, including a thrifty 2.1-liter turbo-diesel and a big-output twin-turbo V-8 in the E63 AMG at the top of the range. READ MORE ››

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2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC Coupe – Instrumented Test

2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC coupe twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine

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FCA Codifies Buyback, Incentive Programs for Recalled Dodge, Jeep, and Ram Trucks and SUVs

1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Fiat-Chrysler has now codified its incentive offerings to owners of some 200,000 Dodge, Ram, Jeep, and Chrysler trucks and SUVs in order to either get the affected vehicles in for fixes or have them traded in toward new purchases.

Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty

Owners of 1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002–2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs, which were recalled for exhibiting a fire risk in rear-end collisions (one incident that resulted in the death of a 4-year-old went to trial and resulted in a $150-million jury award, which Fiat-Chrysler has appealed), are eligible for a $100 restriction-free Visa prepaid card in exchange for having the recall work performed, which entails having a tow-hitch installed to reinforce the structure around the fuel tank. This offer is being extended to those who have had their Jeeps repaired since July 24, 2015, as well as those who have yet to go in for the service. Alternately, owners of affected Grand Cherokees can trade in their vehicle and get their choice of an additional $1000 toward the purchase of a new FCA vehicle or a $1000 Visa card toward parts or service at the dealership accepting the trade-in.

2012 Ram 1500 Mossy Oak edition

Dodge, Ram, and Chrysler

Some 200,000 Dodge Ram, Ram, Dodge Dakota, Dodge Durango, and Chrysler Aspen trucks and SUVs are also eligible for a similar program stemming from three separate recalls for steering issues. The affected vehicles are as follows:

  • 2009 Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen (production dates between 1/3/08 and 12/18/08)
  • 2009–2012 Dodge/Ram 1500 (2/27/08 and 6/30/09, and 12/1/09 and 10/20/11)
  • 2009–2001 Dodge Dakota (2/27/07 and 6/30/09, and 12/1/09 and 9/30/11)
  • 2008–2012 Dodge/Ram 2500 and 3500 4×4
  • 2008–2012 Dodge/Ram 2500 4×2 chassis cabs
  • 2008 Dodge/Ram Mega Cab 4×4
  • 2008–2012 Dodge/Ram 4500 and 5500 (2/20/07 and 12/31/12)

Owners who’ve yet to have recall work performed as of July 24, 2015, can take their vehicle in for service and receive a $100 unlimited Visa card; as with the Jeeps, those who had the repair performed after that date also are eligible. Trade-ins also are an option here, provided the owner takes advantage by January 4, 2016, with incentives on top of trade-in value being $2000 toward a new Ram or $1000 toward a new Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, or Fiat.

The buyback program for the Dodge, Ram, and Chrysler vehicles does not expire and offers fair-market value, plus 10 percent. To get an estimate for value, consumers can visit starting September 1; physical inspections will begin on October 1, but any value of modifications—unless performed by the dealer or factory as part of the original purchase—will not be factored into the buyback offer.

Fiat-Chrysler suggests using NHTSA’s VIN-lookup tool or to determine a particular vehicle’s recall-repair status. The automaker says it has already started contacting owners.

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S660 Roadster a No-Go for U.S., But There’s More to Honda’s Sports-Car Story

Honda S660

While a new Automotive News report indicates that the fantastic, super-mega-tiny S660 roadster isn’t coming to the U.S. as was expected—we understood that a 1.0-liter S1000 was on the table—we thanked our lucky VTECs that we will at least be sold the Civic Type R. According to American Honda executive vice president John Mendel, the S660 is likely too small to cut it stateside, but he did add that we shouldn’t give up hope for a Honda-brand sports car here, which hooray!

Honda S660

As much as we’d love to see the fun-to-drive S660 here, it is truly very, very small: A Fiat 500 is 10.7 inches longer and six inches wider than the S660. Given how poorly micro machines like the Smart Fortwo and others do in the American marketplace, keeping the mid-engined S660 in Japan is likely the smart move. Yet Mendel says U.S. dealers are clamoring for both a low-priced sports car like the S2000 and something akin to the rumored baby Acura NSX designed to take on the likes of the Porsche Cayman.

Now we wait for the follow through from Honda. An affordable sports car would help rekindle enthusiast interest in the brand, and we’ll never turn down any sort of mid-engined anything.

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Cell Mate: 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel-Cell Sedan Tested

2016 Toyota Mirai

Mirai is Japanese for “the future.” This is Toyota’s way of saying that its sedan most resembling SpongeBob SquarePants on a skateboard runs on hydrogen and produces no emissions. The Mirai is the first fuel-cell car offered for sale, not just lease. (The conceptually similar Honda FCX Clarity and Hyundai Tucson FCEV remain corporate property through and after the duration of their leases.) The stand­ard rap on fuel-cell vehicles—that the technology is always five years away—expires when eight California dealers deliver 200 Mirais before the end of the year, followed by another 2800 cars over the next two years. The $58,325 base price isn’t much of a return on the 23 years of development and 5680 patents that Toyota invested in this future, but milestones never come cheap. READ MORE ››

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Jeep May Actually Build Wrangler-Based Pickup

Jeep J-12 Concept

The oft-teased idea of a pickup version of the Jeep Wrangler has gotten a new lease on life, according to a recent report in Automotive News. Springing from Fiat-Chrysler’s recent dealer meeting, the report says that a Jeep-branded mid-size pickup “could begin production in 2018,” depending on what happens with the Toledo, Ohio, factory that has long been the home of the Wrangler. The report also says the truck would have a short bed and make use of Wrangler suspension bits and powertrains.

Jeep fans have long memories, and they have not forgotten the 1981–85 Scrambler, which was based on the CJ. The Scrambler featured a stretched wheelbase, a removable roof, and (naturally) four-wheel drive. Jeep itself has certainly been guilty of stoking the fires with a series of Wrangler-based pickup concepts. The most recent was the J-12 (which we drove) that additionally featured the retro goodness of the early ’60s Jeep J-series/Wagoneer front end.

2005 Jeep Gladiator Concept

Back in 2005, we saw the more straight-up Wrangler pickup notion in the form of the Gladiator concept shown above. Its production-ready appearance and sweet-looking side-mounted spare had the faithful salivating, but the project never went anywhere. Then there was the Wrangler JT concept, which wowed crowds at the annual Jeep Easter Safari in Moab in 2009. Yet another two-door Wrangler pickup, this one was built on the four-door Wrangler Unlimited chassis. To fill the void, conversion and aftermarket companies have stepped in, such as AEV and its awesome Brute.

Enough already. With a new Wrangler on the way in 2017, Marchionne and friends need to figure out a way to add a pickup variant. There’s a reason this idea just refuses to die.

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