Ask Aston: British Sports-Car Maker Launches Consultancy Business

1967 Aston Martin DB6 Shooting BrakeAutomakers have long shared their engineering expertise with each other, albeit usually at a hefty price tag. Now Aston Martin is trying to snag itself some of the pie with the launch of its own consultancy business.

Aston Martin Consulting will, as its name suggests, offer other companies the chance to benefit from Aston’s knowledge of design and engineering, whether they be fellow car manufacturers or firms that operate in completely different sectors. The company has previously collaborated with architects Foster + Partners on the design of a London bus and also a yacht company to make a speedboat (the model of which is proudly displayed in company HQ at Gaydon), but the new venture shows intent to dramatically increase this third-party work.

It certainly seems like a good idea. Lotus Engineering has often supported the company’s car manufacturing operations and—although downsized in recent years—is known to have worked for manufacturers including GM and Ford. Porsche’s engineering consultancy actually pre-dates the company’s decision to start building sports cars, and in the 1980s its work led to some European-market SEAT Ibizas wearing “System Porsche” badging on account of their Weissach-designed four-cylinder engines.

 





 

Aston Martin Consultancy will be led by Bradley Yorke-Biggs, formerly Aston’s head of product strategy, and it will be able to call on extensive experience within the group. This includes the Q Advanced Operations division we told you about recently, which designed and manufactured the Vulcan track car. When we interviewed Aston CEO Andy Palmer a little while back, he outlined his plans for the new division by suggesting it would be most likely to help other manufacturers on ride and handling, aluminum and carbon structures, and powertrains.

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Honda Offering 1.5L Turbo Engine with Stick Shift on All 2017 Civic Body Styles

2016 Honda Civic coupe Touring

Honda’s latest Civic stands to offer buyers more choices than the breed has in several years, with three body styles—sedan, coupe, and the upcoming hatchback—as well as two engines, new sporty Si versions, and even the long-awaited high-performance Civic Type R. Among this sea of choices, the one choice Honda has yet to offer—one we’ve been pining for since the new Civic debuted—is the top-level 174-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a manual transmission. Today, Save the Manuals fans, brings good news.

At an event on the eve of the 2016 New York auto show, Honda has confirmed that, for the 2017 model year, it will offer the 1.5L turbo, six-speed manual transmission combo in every Civic body style—sedan, hatch, and coupe. In the non-Si, non–Type R Civic (those versions are forthcoming), that turbo engine thus far has been available only with a CVT automatic, and the only stick shift in the lineup is paired with the Civic’s base, 158-hp non-turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The reason we’re so eager to try the regular Civic’s top-line engine with the manual transmission is simple: The new Civic has a great chassis and drives superbly. That said, the CVT that Honda bolted to the turbo engine for the 2016 model year—which will continue to be offered in 2017—saps half the fun. We found a lot of that missing fun when we sampled the Civic 2.0L with the manual transmission, and the turbo engine’s extra power and smoothness can only improve on the experience.

Besides whetting our appetites for the missing stick-shift link in the new Civic lineup, Honda’s timing for the new powertrain confirms that of the new hatchback, which is coming for 2017. The Si models, as well as the Type R, will arrive next year.





2016 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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Next Bentley Continental To Debut Next Year, Will Be Lower and Edgier

2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 SMore details of the new Bentley Continental have emerged ahead of its debut late next year. Indeed, we’ve actually seen images of the car, albeit very quickly and in a video presentation that Bentley showed us during a briefing about its future design direction. Sadly, despite begging, we can’t share that with you, nor were we allowed to take pictures, so we’ve dropped in an image of the current car.

To judge from those fleeting frames, the new Continental is set to be far more dynamic looking than the current model, albeit clearly sharing much of the same DNA. It also looks to be both lower and more muscular. Design work was mostly done under Bentley’s former styling boss Luc Donckerwolke, who has recently moved to Hyundai, and the renderings showed some of the same edgy character he gave to the Murciélago and Gallardo during his time at Lamborghini, with both coupe and cabriolet versions looking ripped. We also noticed a ‘12’ logo on an air intake set into the trailing edge of the front wing, confirming our recent report that the Conti will offer both V-8 and W-12 configurations.

Stefan Sielaff, Bentley’s newly arrived design director, confirmed the new car is a far more radical step than the first Continental GT’s refresh for 2011, which hid some substantial changes behind near-identical styling.

“Sometimes it’s easier to do a next-generation model than a whole-new model,” he told us at the event in London. “You have to carry over certain ingredients from the old generation from an aesthetic point of view, but we also need to make a clear step, not doing something too small so everybody says it is a facelift. It will be obvious that the new car is the next generation; I would say that the job Michael Mauer does at Porsche is a good example; you can tell the 911 is new, but you can also immediately tell it is a 911.”





We can tell you about the new Conti’s headlights, with insiders confirming that they will be very similar to the “whisky glass” units that were shown on the EXP10 Speed 6 concept last year; indeed we got a look at some prototypes that featured “progressive animation,” with more of the light’s elements illuminating as the keyholder got closer and then turning fully on with the ignition. We also learned that some interior trim is likely to be 3D-printed in metal as this will both eliminate tooling costs but also allow patterns and designs that would be impossible to create any other way. Anticipate a steady drip-feeding of information ahead of the car’s official debut, probably at next year’s Frankfurt auto show.

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2017 Buick Encore: A Makeover for Buick’s Surprise Hit

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-When the Buick Encore joined the brand’s lineup for 2013, it seemed to have come out of left field—but really it came from Korea. Buick at the time was selling only one SUV/crossover model in the big, three-row Enclave, and while the brand might have been expected to add a second entry in the mid-size or compact SUV segments, instead the Encore was an extra-tall hatchback that staked out a claim alongside the Nissan Juke in the micro-SUV space. READ MORE ››

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Gives You Wings: Aston Martin and Red Bull to Collaborate on New Hypercar

Aston Martin and Red Bull plan new hypercar

Aston Martin hasn’t been short of news recently, what with the unveiling of the DB11 and the announcement it is to open a new factory in Wales. But the British sports-car maker has trumped all of that with the announcement it will be developing a new hypercar alongside Formula 1 team Red Bull.

Or, as the slightly breathless press release puts it, “codenamed Project ‘AM-RB 001’, the new hypercar will represent the ultimate blend of cutting-edge F1 technology with Aston Martin’s signature sports-car design.”

Other details are noticeable only by their absence at this stage, so you’ll have to forgive us for speculating around the lack of solid facts. Aston has plenty of previous form when it comes to building high-performance cars, of course, with the One-77 being the quickest of its roadgoing offerings to date. But Red Bull has also dropped some broad hints about its ambitions to construct extreme roadgoing machinery, with Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing’s chief technical officer, having previously collaborated on various virtual concept cars including the impossibly fast X1/X2010 for Gran Turismo 5 and three more cars for GT6, and having apparently influenced the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept from a couple years ago.

The release confirms that the final car will indeed be streetgoing, not another racetrack special like last year’s Vulcan, and goes on to say that the two companies are “in the process of developing a hypercar that combines the latest in aerodynamics from F1 and the stunning design language of an Aston Martin sports car.” We’re anticipating that the finished version, when we see it, will have lots of wings, and some kind of Formula 1–inspired hybrid system would also seem to be a fair bet. It might even dispense with any kind of internal-combustion power to become one of the mega-performance EVs that luxury makers have been promising to build for several years.





To celebrate the new partnership, this year’s Red Bull Formula 1 car will carry the winged Aston Martin logo throughout the season, the first time Aston branding has been seen on an F1 car since 1960.

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2017 Buick Encore: A Makeover for Buick’s Surprise Hit – Official Photos and Info

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Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Fuel Economy Tops Among Mid-Size Hybrids—For Now

2016 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid cutaway

The EPA has released its fuel-economy estimates for the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid, and the gas-electric mid-size sedan beats all comers. We await the Honda Accord hybrid’s return to the lineup for 2017, but for now, the Chevy’s 47-mpg city/46-mpg highway ratings (46 mpg combined), places it above the hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Toyota Camry, and even the smaller Volkswagen Jetta hybrid. The numbers also confirm Chevy’s in-house estimate.

So what about that Honda Accord hybrid? The Honda, which is on hiatus for the 2016 model year, was rated for 50 mpg in the city, 45 mpg on the highway, and 47 mpg combined for the 2015 model year; we don’t expect those numbers to change much, if at all, when the Accord hybrid returns to the lineup next year with a new powertrain. That said, arguing the nuances between the Malibu hybrid’s 46 mpg combined rating and the 2015 Accord hybrid’s 47 mpg combined rating proves how far hybrid tech has come.





Chevrolet was able to extract those mpg thanks to both the newest Malibu’s diet—the sedan is said to weigh roughly 300 pounds less than the previous-generation model—and a hybrid powertrain derived from the Volt’s. A direct-injected 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine works with two electric motors and a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack to drive the Malibu hybrid’s front wheels. Total system horsepower stands at 182, and the hybrid can motor up to 53 mph on electricity alone. When it goes on sale, the ’16 Malibu hybrid will start at $28,645, right in the thick of the mid-size hybrid market.

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U.S.-Spec 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth Is a Miata Club with an Italian Accent

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The Fiat 124 Spider, otherwise known as the Mazda Miata’s Italian cousin, showed its sportier side when the Abarth-tuned droptop made its debut at the Geneva auto show earlier this year. Now we have full details on the Abarth-ized 124 that we’ll get in the States. Officially called the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth, this new model’s performance upgrades are roughly equivalent to the Miata’s Club package.

Unlike the European-spec Abarth, which has 170 horsepower, the U.S.-spec Fiat 124 Abarth doesn’t get any extra power (sadly). The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes the same 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque as the standard 124, although the Abarth’s specially tuned exhaust should offer unique aural delights. Other upgrades include a limited-slip differential, Bilstein dampers front and rear, and an optional Brembo brake package that includes 17-inch wheels. If that equipment list sounds familiar, it’s because it is nearly identical to the Miata’s Club trim level and its extra-cost ($3400) Brembo/BBS package.

2017 Fiat Abarth 124 Spider

Luckily, America’s 124 Abarth doesn’t cede anything to the European version in terms of looks. It still features the same more-aggressive front fascia, matte-black hood, and larger wheels finished in gray that make it look a whole lot meaner than the cutesy standard 124. The Abarth’s interior, too, is done up with red accents everywhere, aluminum pedals, and optional Recaro sport seats.





Look for the 124 Abarth to reach our shores a few months after the standard Spider, which is scheduled to arrive this summer. It will offer both a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and should be priced a few thousand dollars higher than the non-Abarth 124 range.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

2016 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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2016 Ford Mustang GT-H: The Hertz Rent-A-Racer That You Definitely Shouldn’t Race

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In 1966, Ford and Carroll Shelby teamed up to produce a special run of rental cars. This would be an odd footnote in automotive history had the two companies gussied up a few Falcon sedans with stickers and a special weekend rental rate, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the Shelby GT350-H was created from the Mustang and dubbed the “Rent-A-Racer.” Offered through select Hertz rental locations, the GT350-H was an actual Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, only with a black paint job with gold stripes. We even rented one that year—$17 per day, $70 for the week!—and beat on it, er, we mean “tested” it. Fifty years later, Ford and Hertz are back at it, with a new Mustang GT-H.

Before your eyes mist over with nostalgia for the good ol’ days when you could rent a legit race car from Hertz and sneakily track it for a weekend, returning the car on Sunday with Hertz none the wiser, you should know a few things. First, most of those tall tales were just that; second, even if they were true, Hertz has long since wised up. In 2006, when Ford reintroduced the Rent-A-Racer (like this GT-H, it, too, was based on the Mustang GT, not a real Shelby), we rented a few and took them to Virginia International Raceway. This put us in a gray area with regard to the rental agreement, which explicitly forbade any “SPEED TEST, SPEED CONTEST, RACE, RALLY, SPEED ENDURANCE CONTEST OR DEMONSTRATION.” Lacking timing equipment and not wishing to demonstrate anything, we’re pretty sure we cleared Hertz’s test. The point is, the restrictions—and Hertz’s tabulation of all the special GT-H components fitted to the car when you return one after a rental—made clear that Hertz wasn’t about to let its retro-styled Rent-A-Racers be anything more than Rent-A-Racer-Lookalikes.





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That stance likely hasn’t changed. So you can’t race the 2016 Mustang Shelby GT-H or steal parts off of it, but then, why would you need to? The GT-H’s transformation from a regular, V-8–powered Mustang GT includes a Ford Performance cat-back exhaust, a Ford Racing Handling Package (with lowering springs, new dampers, anti-roll bars, and 19-inch staggered-width wheels), and carbon-fiber front and rear spoilers. All of these items are available through Ford’s performance-parts catalog, leaving the paint job, the Shelby hood, and the various Shelby-branded badges and doorsill plates as the only GT-H–specific components. And the temptation to put one of these on a racetrack would be stronger if Ford actually furnished Hertz with today’s track-ready, yowling Shelby GT350. If there’s a race this special-edition Ford will win, it’s the collectibility race. Just 140 GT-Hs will be built and provided to select Hertz locations nationwide starting this Memorial Day, but we expect that, as it did with the 2006 GT-H, Hertz will eventually sell the cars to private owners.

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2016 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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2016 Ford Mustang GT-H: The Hertz Rent-A-Racer That You Definitely Shouldn’t Race

2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H 5.0-liter V-8 engine

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