Powerful Plug-In: 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 eAWD PHEV Tested

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The Volvo XC60 T8 is a new addition to the model range as part of the compact crossover’s overhaul for 2018, offering a plug-in-hybrid powertrain, distinctive styling, and a host of safety features that set it apart from its American and European rivals in the luxury ranks. Sitting below the XC90 in the Volvo hierarchy, the XC60 range accounts for about 30 percent of the brand’s worldwide sales volume. The first model in Volvo’s revised 60-series range, the XC60 was recently joined by the new V60 wagon, which will be followed by the S60 sedan later this year. Featuring the T8 plug-in-hybrid powertrain and turned out in top-drawer Inscription trim, the vehicle tested here represents the XC60 at the peak of its luxury and technical prowess. READ MORE ››

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Growth Spurt: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan, Tested in Depth

2018-Volkswagen-Tiguan-01-Placement

It can be hard to explain America and Americans to Europeans. “What is a Big Gulp?” they’ll ask. Or, “You know American cheese isn’t cheese, right?” And always, inexplicably: “Have you ever been to Texas?” But the brass at Volkswagen’s Virginia offices seem to have finally succeeded in communicating at least one of our national beliefs to their German overlords: Bigger is better. And so, as the Volkswagen Tiguan enters its second generation, it has been stretched by nearly a foot so that it can accommodate either a lot more cargo or a third row, depending on your needs. It also has been redesigned to match the brawny, squarish look of Volkswagen’s new halo SUV, the monstrous Atlas, which was designed to match the brawny, squarish look of red-blooded American SUVs. All that’s missing is a powertrain to match; despite inflating the Tiguan’s body, VW has implanted a new, less powerful heart in its engine bay, which can’t match the refinement or acceleration we enjoyed in the last generation. Ah, well. Even in America, you can’t have it all. READ MORE ››

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2018 Volkswagen Tiguan – In-Depth Review

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2018 Volvo XC60 T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid – Instrumented Test

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Pedestrian Deaths Remain High, Maybe Because Drivers Are, Too

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The number of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles on U.S. roads remains at or near levels not seen in more than a quarter of a century.

A new report released Wednesday calculates that 5984 pedestrians were killed in motor-vehicle crashes in 2017, according to preliminary data. If those numbers hold, they’re essentially unchanged from the 5987 deaths documented one year earlier. Both are the highest numbers recorded since 6482 were killed in 1990, according to federal data.

The deadly figures are the continuation of a decade-long trend, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), which published the report. Over the past decade for which final numbers are available, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased 27 percent. All other traffic deaths fell by 14 percent in the same timeframe, though the overall numbers have been on their own steep climb over the past five years, reaching 37,461 deaths in 2016.

Those divergent trends highlight safety gains made by automakers, whose vehicles face more rigorous crash-test scrutiny and are now equipped with more active and passive safety systems, like collision-avoidance warnings. And they highlight the hostile road conditions that vulnerable road users are increasingly facing.

Scenes of New York City

“Two consecutive years of 6000 pedestrian deaths is a red flag for all of us in the traffic safety community,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA executive director. “These levels are no longer a blip, but unfortunately a sustained trend. We can’t afford to let this be the new normal.”

Pedestrians now account for 16 percent of all traffic deaths, the largest proportion in 33 years. Transportation officials both in the government and in safety organizations have been scrambling to address the decade-long rise, and in some respects, the plateau between the 2016 and 2017 numbers suggests their efforts may have thwarted further increases.

But the source of the scourge remains nebulous—everything from more driving because of improving economic conditions to lower fuel prices and warmer weather patterns may have contributed to the numbers. The GHSA report raises the questions—but does not definitively answer—whether the legalization of marijuana in some states and the rise in smartphone use may be culprits.

““When it comes to deaths on our roads, our nation
-seems content to simply tread water.”

– Deborah A.P. Hersman, National Safety Council

“Without making a direct correlation or claiming a definitive link, more recent factors contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities might include the growing number of state and local governments that have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, which can impair judgment and reaction time for all road users,” the report said.

Several states where marijuana use has become legal collectively logged a 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian deaths during the first six months of 2017 compared to the first six months of 2016. (The states named in the study were Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia.) All other states reported a collective 5.8 percent decrease during the same period.

New York street scenes

The national average is 1.9 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents. But the number of states with a fatality rate at or above 2.0 per 100,000 residents has more than doubled, from seven in 2014 to 15 in 2016. In the nation’s 10 largest cities, the GHSA report found a 28 percent increase in fatalities, even though more cities are adopting Vision Zero goals of eradicating traffic deaths through redesigned infrastructure and more aggressive enforcement.

Los Angeles County holds special distinction as being the most deadly county for pedestrians: 265 were killed there in 2016, the latest year for which county-specific numbers were available. That’s nearly double the second highest: Maricopa County, Arizona, which contains Phoenix and its suburbs, had 133 pedestrian deaths in 2016.

The latest figures were discouraging to safety organizations that have tracked the increase closely and lobbied for a more aggressive response from federal safety regulators. “When it comes to deaths on our roads, our nation seems content to simply tread water,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We are apathetic to the issue, and this complacency is killing us.”

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Toyota’s New Dynamic Force Engine and Novel Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission Explained

Toyota Dynamic Force engine

Toyota’s buildout of its new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), headlined by the latest Prius and Camry, has progressed to powertrains. Among the first developments out of that gate will be a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine called Dynamic Force for both gasoline and hybrid vehicles, a new six-speed manual transmission, two new all-wheel-drive systems, and—most intriguing of all—a new continuously variable automatic transmission.

Dynamic Force!

Toyota offers few specifics on its new 2.0-liter Dynamic Force gasoline inline-four, likely because it will ultimately end up in a plethora of cars and crossovers in various states of tune. The basics, however, are as follows: The Dynamic Force engine will have Toyota’s D4-S port and direct fuel injection as well as an electronically controlled thermostat and an electrically driven water pump; it also is said to be capable of an incredible 40 percent thermal efficiency. That pushes the boundaries of gas-engine thermal efficiency, and the version that will power future Toyota hybrids does even better, at a claimed 41 percent.

Presumably, the 2.0-liter four will be compatible with the new six-speed manual transmission Toyota has developed for “global needs”—fingers crossed that it comes stateside. The transmission is more compact and lighter than Toyota’s current unit and incorporates rev-matching capability.

Toyota TNGA CVT

Continuous Variable Improvements

What about that CVT is so interesting? Toyota’s claim that it will address belt-type CVTs’ worst bugaboo: their laggard, disconnected feel when accelerating from a stop. For those who’ve never experienced it, imagine pressing your foot on the accelerator pedal and hearing the engine rev up out of step with how quickly the car accelerates. This is due to a CVT’s continuous ratio changes, which are realized by shifting a belt along two angled pulleys. Ratio changes chase engine speeds, rather than the other way around; CVTs are designed to keep the engine running at its torque peak to maximize efficiency.

In an effort to give its new CVT the feel of a conventional automatic transmission when accelerating from a stop, Toyota has added a “launch gear.” Essentially, this fixed ratio—not a simulated gear as in some CVTs—is just like a normal transmission’s first gear. As vehicle speed builds, the transmission then shifts out of launch gear and continues as a CVT. Toyota claims this is “unprecedented,” although we found some precedent in transmission supplier Jatco’s CVT7. In that CVT, engine torque enters the CVT as usual but exits on the output shaft to an “auxiliary gearbox” that is, in effect, a two-speed transmission. The difference is that, in the Jatco unit, the car always starts from a stop with the CVT engaged. Toyota claims the new transmission enhances both performance and fuel economy compared with its existing CVT, and with an even wider ratio spread.

Two Ways to AWD

Coming soon to a TNGA-platform Toyota near you is a new all-wheel-drive system. It will have torque-vectoring capability with the ability to distribute torque between the left and right rear wheels, bringing a bit of high-tech verve to future all-wheel-drive Toyotas. Hybrid all-wheel-drive models, which in Toyota’s world typically feature a two-motor hybrid transaxle powering the front axle and an electric motor powering the rear axle, will get a more powerful rear-axle motor in the new E-Four AWD system.

If this seems like an onslaught of powertrain news, well, buckle in. Toyota says it plans to bring “17 versions of nine engines, 10 versions of four transmissions, and 10 versions of six hybrid systems” to market by 2022. The new gas and hybridized 2.0-liter engines, six-speed manual, and new CVT apparently count for just four of those options.

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Just the Custom Work on this Carbon-Themed McLaren Senna Cost $414K

2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"

McLaren will show off five different special-edition cars at the upcoming 2018 Geneva auto show, but only the car seen here will be in physical attendance; the others will be displayed on screens. Tagged the Carbon Theme, this Senna has been liberated of much of its paint, exposing through its gloss clear-coat finish the intricate carbon-fiber weave that makes up the body of the car. The little splashes of color that are applied serve as a reinterpretation of Ayrton Senna’s yellow, green, and black helmet. Because naming the car after the late Brazilian racing legend wasn’t a big enough gesture.

Exposed carbon-fiber bodies have become something of a trend in supercars (just ask Bugatti), but McLaren Special Operations (MSO) gave the Senna a bit of extra pizazz to set it apart. According to McLaren, the Senna’s body is composed of 67 individual parts and takes close to 1000 hours to craft. Just to paint the sills, rear wing, and front and rear aero pieces in Solar Yellow added nearly 250 hours of labor.

Other spots of color include Laurel Green brake calipers and door struts and satin Memphis Red and Vega Blue center-locking wheel nuts (the left side is red, the right side is blue). The combination of the Laurel Green and Solar Yellow are a direct reference to Senna’s racing helmet, but there’s no explanation of the significance of the blue and red. Our best bet would be a nod to his racing suit, which featured red and blue, or perhaps a call to Brazil’s national flag, which features a blue sky.

Additional visual pop comes via Senna logos and branding on the wing and the front left fender, and the featured wheels are a new option. McLaren calls it a hybrid wheel, as the seven-spoke design uses a combination of forged aluminum and carbon fiber. At 16.5 pounds, the front wheels are approximately 10 percent lighter than the standard wheels.

The interior is less flashy but still maintains the overall motif. The dash, steering wheel, and center tunnel are all crafted in part with carbon fiber. Carbon Black Alcantara adorns the seats, steering wheel, and dash, with Solar Yellow contrast stitching on the wheel and seats. The seats also feature the Senna S logo on the headrests.

The mid-engined heart of the Senna remains untouched. For those who may have forgotten, its power comes from a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that makes 789 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, and that output goes solely to the rear wheels. All 500 examples of the approximately $1 million car are spoken for, but that doesn’t mean the money is done flowing. Just for the customization of this Carbon Theme Senna, the customer had to pay the equivalent of about $414,000.

McLaren-Senna-Carbon-Theme-Reel

2018 Geneva Auto Show Full Coverage

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Just the Custom Work on this Carbon-Themed McLaren Senna Cost about $400K

2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"2019 McLaren Senna "Carbon Theme"

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We Drive Every Generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-class

We Drive Every Generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-classW180: The Mercedes-Benz 220 Lands in 1954A Modest PacePart of the CharmW111: Fins Up!Lightweight LuxuryTailfins Until ’71—ReallyW108: Coldly ElegantYou Could’ve Had a V-8The Mighty 6.3W116: That ’70s CarDoktor DieselAutomatic Still OptionalW126: QuintessenceThe Arrival of RivalsThe ClassicW140: Size XLThe Urge to PerfectionBetter by the DozenW220: Humbled into UnderstatementForced Induction ArrivesDegraded MaterialsW221: A Bigger DealReady for RevisionW222: Bigger and Bolder21st Century Spaceship

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All-New Hyundai Three-Row SUV Spied in the Snow

Hyundai 8-seater SUV (spy photos)

What It Is: Hyundai’s as yet unnamed three-row, eight-seat SUV, caught testing in snow. The latest model to emerge from the automaker’s developing SUV product strategy, it’s poised to become the largest SUV in the Hyundai lineup, above the current three-row Santa Fe. Hyundai is going after a wide swath of market here, targeting everything from the Chevrolet Traverse and the Ford Explorer to the Honda Pilot and the Volkswagen Atlas. READ MORE ››

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