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In Gear

In Gear offers a fresh look at the world of cars – its technology, economics, and future – through the eyes of Monitor staffers and other automobile writers from around the world. 

The Toyota FT-1 concept is unveiled during media previews during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Toyota FT-1 concept: a Supra replacement?

By Antony IngramGuest blogger / 01.14.14

Car enthusiasts have been clamoring for a replacement for Toyota's iconic Supra for years now, and the Toyota FT-1 concept unveiled at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show is our best look yet at just such a car. The work of America's own Calty Design Research, the FT-1 steps away from Toyota's more eco-friendly concepts of late and delivers something truly exciting--a powerful, agile sports car with sensuous curves and a focused interior layout. Gearhead Toyota boss Akio Toyoda gave designers a simple but important motive before they set to work on the car: Make it cool.

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Calty has a long and illustrious history of producing interesting designs--it's previously worked on the original 1978 Celica, the Lexus SC400, the Supra and the FT-HS concept--and the FT-1 concept is no different. The profile is long and low, the low nose leads into an extended hood, and the concept features powerful rear haunches for the traditional sports car stance. One of the designers' main goals was to create a form that looked sculpted by the wind and by speed, at once remaining functional--hence the large air intakes either side of the extended nose, and the deep side intakes aft of the doors.

While hard to tell from some angles, that black area on the hood isn't just paint, either. Like on many supercars, the FT-1 features a glass panel to allow a glimpse at the internal combustion engine below. There are large alloy wheels, a deep front spoiler and a pronounced kick to the rear end, not dissimilar from the aggressive, cab-back shape of American sports cars like the Corvette and Viper. For the car's glasshouse, there's more than a passing nod to one of Toyota's most celebrated models--the stunning 2000GT. ( Continue… )

Mercedes-Benz cars are displayed in a dealership of German car manufacturer Daimler in Munich, Germany, earlier this year. Mercedes showed off its newest S-Class, the S600, at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. (Michaela Rehle/Reuters/File)

2015 Mercedes-Benz S600 brings power at Detroit Auto Show

By Nelson IresonGuest blogger / 01.14.14

Those in the market for the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class need not only opt for the 2015 S65 AMG if they’re after a V-12 under the hood. The German automaker has introduced an S600 model at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show this week, complete with a twin-turbocharged V-12 engine and some exclusive tech goodies.

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The latest S-Class has impressed us at every turn in V-8 guise, from the 2014 S550 to the 2014 S63 AMG, and the new V-12-powered S600 should offer just as much in the way of luxury, style, and competence along with the knowledge that there’s a brute of an engine waiting to be unleashed at every turn.

The engine isn’t simply a hand-me-down from the previous generation. The new unit displaces 6.0 liters instead of 5.5 liters this time around, and its output registers at 523 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque. That’s 13 more horsepower than before but the real story is the torque level, which peaks at just 1,900 rpm. The engine also features a fuel-saving stop-start system. Gear shifts are handled by the 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic. ( Continue… )

Ford unveils the new F-150 with a body built almost entirely out of aluminum. at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (Carlos Osorio/File/AP)

2015 Ford F-150 makes its Detroit Auto Show debut (+video)

By Viknesh VijayenthiranGuest blogger / 01.13.14

The all-new 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck, the latest version of America’s best-selling vehicle, has been revealed on the eve of the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. The new workhorse is radically different to anything we’ve seen before in the full-size pickup market, as it features a body that’s mostly aluminum and an available engine that displaces just 2.7 liters.

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In designing the backbone of the F-150, Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] engineers improved the truck’s signature fully boxed ladder frame, which now incorporates high-strength steel to make it stronger and lighter. Aluminum, featuring a similar grade to that used in the military and aerospace industry, has been applied to the body, helping to save upwards of 700 pounds from the kerb weight. ( Continue… )

The 2015 Corvette Z06 debuts at media previews during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (Paul Sancya/AP)

2015 Corvette Z06 first look revealed at Detroit Auto Show

By Bengt HalvorsonGuest blogger / 01.13.14

A new King Corvette has arrived, and it definitely gives General Motors [NYSE:GM] some bragging rights at the Detroit Auto Show. With “at least 625 horsepower,” and 635 pound-feet of torque, this top-performance variant of the latest C7 Stingray could shake up the roster of top production-car performance numbers.

And it sets the form for the Corvette C7.R race car, also shown here at Detroit and headed for Daytona later this month.

The Z06 is powered by an all-new 6.2-liter ‘LT4’ supercharged V-8, making at least 625 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque—37 percent more horsepower and 40 percent more torque than the ‘standard’ 2014 Corvette Stingray.

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The LT4 engine is only one inch taller than the LT1 in the Corvette Stingray. The LT4 is one of the only supercharged engines in the world to incorporate cylinder deactivation technology, and it also has variable valve timing. ( Continue… )

The 2015 Ford F-150, with a body built almost entirely out of aluminum, on Display at the Detroit Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

2015 Ford F-150 pickup goes aluminum at Detroit Auto Show (+video)

By Antony IngramGuest blogger / 01.13.14

Ford has released full details on the new 2015 F-150 pickup, and with a host of new technologies and engines, it may be the most advanced full-size truck ever.

The company says it's tougher, smarter, and more capable than ever before--and looking at the styling, it's hard to argue on the first point.

We're aware that many of our readers are less than keen on big pickup trucks, and the brash, square-edged styling, three-bar grille, and enormous proportions are unlikely to change that.

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It isn't hugely different from before--Ford knows better than to mess too much with the formula which has kept it at the top of sales charts for years--but the new grille, unique divided headlights, and familiar proportions should appeal to new and old buyers alike.

Lighter than before

Restyle aside, the most interesting development with the new body is its construction, now aluminum in an effort to reduce weight.

There's only so much you can do with a full size truck body sitting on a steel chassis, but the upshot is a reduction in weight of up to 700 lbs compared to the previous model--a not insignificant figure and one that should aid the F-150's performance, handling characteristics and of course, efficiency.

It's also stronger than before, according to Ford, as well as being more corrosion resistant--always important for a hard-working truck. ( Continue… )

The 2014 GMC Sierra in Pontiac, Mich. General Motors is recalling 370,000 new GMC and Chevy pickups with a cylinder deactivation issue that could pose a fire risk. (Paul Sancya/AP/File)

General Motors recalls 370,000 GM, Chevy pickups with engine fire risk

By Stephen Edelstein / 01.13.14

General Motors' redesigned 2014 full-size pickup trucks have only been on the market for a few months, but now they're being called back to the dealer to fix a potential flaw.

Certain 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 models are being recalled due to a fire risk associated with their cylinder-deactivation systems, the Detroit News reports.

Cylinder deactivation--branded Active Fuel Management by GM--shuts off some cylinders when extra power isn't needed, to improve fuel economy.

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The trucks are only supposed to use two cylinders when idling, but a software glitch is causing them to idle with most of their cylinders. This can cause exhaust components to overheat, and hence potentially catch fire.

The problem is signaled by a "check engine" light on the dashboard and an "engine power reduced" message in the driver information center.

The recall affects 370,000 of the full-size trucks equipped with the 4.3-liter V-6 and 5.3-liter V-8 engines. It includes 303,000 trucks sold in the U.S. and 67,000 sold in Mexico. ( Continue… )

A 2012 Prius. The 2014 Prius model had its federal safety rating notched down slightly, but its safety credentials are still stellar. (PRNewsFoto/File)

Toyota Prius' safety rating falls

By Bengt HalvorsonGuest blogger / 01.12.14

Toyota’s iconic hybrid, the Prius, has held quite a reputation for safety, as well as for efficiency and technology, of course. Yet new results from the federal government show that it’s been downgraded from five stars to four stars in New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) safety ratings.

In the new set of crash tests, conducted last month on a 2014 model, the Prius earned just a four-star rating in the frontal barrier test. That was enough to keep its frontal score at four stars—the same as before—but nudge its Overall rating down to four stars in the frontal category.

The previous test, applied to the 2013 Prius, had been of a 2011 model, in February 2011.

The federal frontal test uses an average-sized adult dummy, with the car run at 35 mph into a fixed barrier. And the star rating is based on force measurements (and injury likelihood) at the head, neck, chest, and legs.

However, the Prius remains a top five-star performer for all federal side tests, including the side barrier test (for driver and passenger) and the side pole test, which simulates a side collision with a narrow, fixed object like a utility pole or tree.

In our full review of the 2014 Toyota Prius, we do note that this model includes seven standard airbags—including a driver’s knee bag—and it achieves the new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ accolade.

Of course, it’s also worth taking this all into perspective, and noting that the Prius was last redesigned for 2010, with its occupant protection remaining competitive—and close to top-notch—five years later.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks past the Tesla Model S after a news conference at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. Mr. Musk says there's no need for a recall after three Model S electric cars caught fire after crashes in the past six weeks. (Paul Sakuma/AP/File)

Tesla Motors douses fire concerns with upgraded wall charger

By Stephen EdelsteinGuest blogger / 01.11.14

Tesla Motors is in the midst of another trial by fire.

The company faced public scrutiny after three accident-related Model S fires last fall, and now it'supgrading wall-charger adapters after complaints of overheating, Bloomberg reports.

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Tesla will ship new charger connectors--which connect the Tesla charging cord to a wall outlet--to owners over the next two weeks, CEO Elon Musk said in an interview.

Musk noted that the overheating may be caused by substandard household wiring. ( Continue… )

A sign is painted on a parking space for electric cars inside a car park in Hong Kong. The first car to use regenerative braking technology, now nearly standard on electric cars, debuted in 1967. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters/File)

What happened to the first regenerative braking car?

By John VoecklerGuest blogger / 01.11.14

Regenerative braking is a standard and expected part of any electrified car now, from Honda's mild hybrids up through battery-electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S.

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It lets the car recapture energy from momentum, which would otherwise be wasted as brake heat, by running the electric motor in reverse to recharge the battery. ( Continue… )

Cyclists travel on the road on a hazy day in Huaibei, in central China's Anhui province, Jan. 14. Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country's rapid pace of industrialization, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard for environmental laws. (AP)

Car sales in China hit 20 million, smog levels reach staggering heights

By Stephen EdelsteinGuest blogger / 01.10.14

The number of vehicles on China's roads continues to grow--and so does the severity of the country's air pollution.

China became the first nation to surpass 20 million new-car sales last year, Bloomberg reports. That represents a 14 percent increase over 2012, and continues its reign as the world's largest car market.

Sales are expected to grow by a further 10 percent in 2014, according to the government-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. ( Continue… )

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