2017 Nissan Versa, Tested in Depth: Not at All Well Versed

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Transportation doesn’t get much more basic than the Nissan Versa. Proudly claiming the title of America’s least expensive new car, the Versa feels every bit as cheap as its $12,875 price suggests. Still, the subcompact sedan offers a cavernous back seat, a large trunk, and a comfortable ride, making it a prime choice for those who moonlight as Uber or Lyft drivers. Just don’t expect to have any fun behind the wheel of the Versa, as its agricultural-sounding engine, numb steering, and listless chassis offer all the excitement of a PBS documentary on the history of watching paint dry. READ MORE ››

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2017 Nissan Versa – In-Depth Review

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Here It Is: The Restyled 2019 Jeep Cherokee

When the current Jeep Cherokee made its debut at the 2013 New York auto show, it was immediately met with plenty of opinions. Strong opinions. The returning nameplate was attached to a vehicle with an extremely polarizing front end that some thought gave it the appearance of a creature that had crawled out of the depths of the New York City subway system. Brickbats aside, the Cherokee has sold well—in one of the most popular segments—so Jeep has been in no rush to change it. For its sixth model year (late by current standards), the Cherokee is finally getting a makeover, and this is our first look at the 2019 model’s new visage.

Ahead of its big reveal in January at the 2018 Detroit auto show, Jeep released a few images that show off the entire exterior design. Most notably, the insect face is no longer. The strange, stacked dual-light setup is gone, with the main headlights now at the top of the fascia for a normal look. On the red vehicle, which appears to be the Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4, the fog lights are small dimples beneath the headlights; on the gray Jeep, which looks like a Limited, the fog lights are housed in the lower corners of the fascia. Both versions maintain the seven-slot grille.

2019-Jeep-Cherokee-104

The body of the Cherokee is largely carryover, but the rear has undergone some minor changes. The license plate is incorporated into the liftgate, which makes for a simpler rear bumper design. The reworked bumper and the redesigned taillights together make the 2019 Cherokee look wider and less top-heavy. Based on the one interior picture, the center stack has had a few things tweaked or moved around, but for the most part it remains the same.

Jeep claims the 2019 Cherokee will have more fuel-efficient powertrains; currently the model uses an 2.4-liter inline-four and a 3.2-liter V-6. Expect more information in the coming weeks when the full reveal happens at the Detroit auto show.

2019-Jeep-Cherokee-REEL

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Here It Is: The Restyled 2019 Jeep Cherokee

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10 Awesome Cars We Don’t Get in America

The 10 Best Cars We Won't GetAlfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio ManualAlpine A110Audi RS4 AvantAudi SQ7Honda S660Mercedes-Benz C-class estateRenault Mégane R.S.Seat Leon Cupra RSubaru Levorg STI SportVolkswagen California

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Mercedes Dreams Up the Connected School Bus of the Future

Sprinter School Bus

No seatbelts. Windows that required an advanced degree in quantum physics to open. And a driver who may have shocked you into realizing what might become of you if you didn’t strive for excellence each day after arriving at your destination. If this sounds like the bus in which you rode to school, rest assured that those days are long gone. And with its new Sprinter on the way, Mercedes-Benz has plans to drive the school bus even further—right into the digital age.

Although different regulations prevail in the United States, in other parts of the world the Sprinter is commonly converted for school-bus duty. So, while developing its next-generation van, one of the many applications Mercedes parent company Daimler looked at was how it could be used to transport young pupils. What it came up with would probably look to our childhood selves like something straight out of a science-fiction movie.

Imagine, as a parent, your kid waiting by the curb outside in the morning. The bus pulls up, the child steps onboard and swipes his or her pass, and you get a notification on your smartphone. You’d also receive notifications when the bus arrives at school, picks up the student at the end of the day, and drops him or her at home again. Whether the parent is present at home for those departures and arrivals or not, that real-time information could go a long way toward assuaging parental anxiety and safeguarding children’s security. Along the way, your kid could be watching educational content—approved, naturally, by the school board and PTA—instead of rambunctiously distracting the bus driver (as we did when we were young). Will your kid not be riding the bus to school one morning? Just send a message directly to the bus driver.

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Mercedes isn’t putting these connectivity functions into practice just yet, but that future doesn’t seem very far off, even here in America, where Sprinters are more often dispatched to haul cargo than children. Although they were focused on their new van, the engineers we spoke to recently at Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Innovation Campus in Stuttgart, Germany, responded positively to the prospect of those same technologies being applied to U.S.-standard school buses, like those made by Thomas Built or Freightliner (above)–both divisions of Daimler Trucks North America.

Like the futures of the children on those buses, the possible applications for this technology seem virtually unlimited.

 

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Toyota Will Electrify Everything by 2025, Powering Up with Panasonic

2016 Toyota Avalon hybrid

It took Toyota two decades to sell 11 million hybrid and electric cars. But in another 12 years, Toyota thinks it can sell 5.5 million of them annually.

Until now, Toyota had been reluctant to commit to dedicated battery-electric cars, instead offering limited-scale, expensive retrofits like the RAV4 EV. Now it plans to have 10 battery-electric cars in its lineup by the early 2020s and to sell one million fully electric cars annually by 2030. By 2025, all new Toyota and Lexus models will offer hybrid or electric trims. To put those numbers into perspective, Toyota’s prediction of  5.5 million electrified-vehicle sales in 2030 is more than half its current 10 million worldwide sales of all its vehicles.

This certainly is not the end of internal combustion, however. Toyota will sell dedicated electrified vehicles as it does now, such as the Prius and the Mirai, while offering an option of hybrid and electric powertrains across its lineup. This means traditional hybrids in the grand Prius tradition, plug-in hybrids like the Prius Prime, performance hybrids for Lexus, heavy-duty hybrids for trucks, electrified powertrains for low-cost models, battery-electric vehicless, and hydrogen fuel-cell electrics for both passenger and commercial duties.

2016 Toyota Mirai

It’s interesting that despite naysayers and the dearth of refueling stations, Toyota isn’t giving up on hydrogen, the world’s most abundant element. Without going into specifics, Toyota said it will arm hydrogen-heavy markets (likely meaning California) with more fuel-cell vehicles, including trucks, starting in the 2020s. But since plug-in gasoline-electric hybrids are much simpler to build and sell in all 50 states, we can expect many more of those models.

To aid that effort, Toyota said it plans to make the world’s “best automotive prismatic battery” with longtime supplier Panasonic. Toyota has used prismatic batteries—which are thinner, lighter, and potentially better for underfloor packaging than the cylindrical cells found in most electric-car batteries—for years in the Prius. It’s also continuing research on solid-state batteries, a technology that could offer faster charging, higher power density, and a longer life.

There’s still no consensus on battery formats among global automakers. Executives at both BMW and Volkswagen, for instance, speaking during the recent Los Angeles auto show, pointed to prismatic cells as the format that would work best for the future, but they underscored that they aren’t planning exclusively for any one specific format because none has yet emerged as dominant.

Over the longer term, the battery announcement could disrupt relations between Panasonic and Tesla, which produces cylindrical lithium-ion battery cells at its Gigafactory in Nevada. Anything Panasonic develops for Toyota will be proprietary—and, interpreting Toyota’s subtle wording, the prismatic and solid-state designs could upstage the cells Panasonic currently builds for Tesla. On the other hand, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda stated last week that a goal of the Toyota-Panasonic partnership is to reduce the cost of batteries over time, and he underscored that this isn’t a closed alliance.

Toyota announced in June that it had sold off its remaining stake in Tesla, officially demarcating the end to battery R&D between the two companies. If the battery performance and cost improvements achieved by the Toyota-Panasonic alliance go beyond what the Gigafactory can achieve as the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant, Tesla could get into a tug of war with Toyota over Panasonic. By profit margins and sheer size, we’re pretty sure which company would get drawn into the mud.

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MBUX Marks the Spot: Mercedes-Benz to Roll Out Its Next-Gen Infotainment System at CES

The new A-class interior will have a new infotainment system

Mercedes-Benz will debut its latest infotainment system at the CES electronics show in Las Vegas in January. The new infotainment system, to be named Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), will begin appearing in Mercedes vehicles next year.

It won’t be limited to the most expensive Mercedes products, either. The three-pointed-star brand confirmed that the improved infotainment system will come standard on the forthcoming entry-level A-class sedan. While Mercedes is remaining tight-lipped about the details surrounding the new system, the company did release images of the new A-class interior showing the subcompact sedan will supplant the system’s usual control knob with a large touchpad. Currently, Mercedes limits infotainment inputs to a central control knob or an available touchpad that sits atop the standard control knob. We’ve heard that a touchscreen is a possibility as well.

Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL

While Mercedes would confirm only the new infotainment system’s arrival in the A-class, interior images of the hydrogen-powered GLC F-Cell compact crossover show a display screen and touchpad that are similar to those in the upcoming subcompact sedan. Needless to say, we anticipate that both the updated C-class and GLC-class will adopt the MBUX system, too, before the turn of the decade.

Watch for more details about the new system in the coming weeks.

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Our 10 Favorite Concept Cars of the Year

Our 10 Favorite Concept Cars of the YearAston Martin ValkyrieBMW 8-SeriesBorgward IsabellaHonda Urban EVInfiniti Prototype 9Jeep QuicksandKia ProceedMazda Vision CoupeMcLaren Ultimate Vision Gran TurismoPeugeot Instinct

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We’re Number 1: U.S. Customers Will Be among the First to Get Access to the Polestar 1 Sports Coupe

Volvo Polestar 1 concept

Polestar is going from being a simple in-house tinkerer of Volvo products to its own full-fledged automotive brand. With an emphasis on electrification, the Polestar brand’s first independent offering is a sleek and low-slung coupe that goes by the name of 1. Unlike Volvos, however, consumers won’t be able to purchase a Polestar 1. Instead, they’ll be able to subscribe to one. And thanks to strong initial demand for the Polestar 1, customers in the United States will be among the first in the world to have the opportunity to park the 600-hp coupe in their driveways.

Other countries selected as initial launch markets for the four-seat coupe include China, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. For an undisclosed monthly sum, Polestar 1 drivers will be given full use of the plug-in hybrid sports car that promises nearly 100 miles of all-electric range by way of two electric motors at the coupe’s rear axle. A separate gasoline-fed engine supplies power to the front wheels. Fees for insurance, maintenance, and additional services are included in the subscription’s cost.

Like Tesla, Polestar will bypass the common dealership model for individual factory-backed retail centers dubbed Polestar Spaces. The brand plans to set up two such spaces in the U.S. initially in the middle of 2019—one on the East Coast and another on the West Coast. If we were the gambling type, we’d wager that New York City and California are likely candidates for the first Polestar Spaces in North America, before the brand expands to other areas of the country.

Volvo-Polestar-1-concept-Reel

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