Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

AC Schnitzer’s BMW S3 does diesel right

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When the next generation of clean diesels finally make their way into the hands of anxious American consumers, we expect some tuners to welcome them with open arms. After all, vehicles equipped with turbos from the factory are begging to be tweaked, and when it comes to diesels, the results can boost fuel economy, along with performance.

AC Schnitzer is already making inroads with BMW’s dual-turbo 3-liter diesel, boosting output of the oilburner from 231 HP to 265 HP through a remapped ECU and a dual exhaust. Their S3 package not only includes tweaks to the engine, but also a fully reworked body kit. Designed for the new 3-series convertible, the kit comes complete with a new front spoiler, rear apron and side skirts, while the suspension gets a strut tower brace and a revised rear stabilizer bar.

An AC Schnitzer makeover wouldn’t be complete without some trick rolling stock, so customers can choose between either 19- or 20-inch rims, with the latter sporting 245s up front and 295s in the rear.

While we can espouse the virtues of diesel all day long, what we’re really looking forward to from AC Schnitzer is it upcoming tweaks to the twin-turbo three-liter six in the 335i. If the S3 is any indication, good things are on the way.

[Source: InsideLine]


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Worse or Worser: Automakers consider new mpg standard to prevent Senate bill

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In the Wild West, the order would have been “Cut them off at the pass!” For carmakers today battling with wildly fluctuating forecasts for mpg, CO2, and CAFE standards, the mission is to cut them off at the Capital. Taking matters upon themselves, some manufacturers are considering a proposal that would require 36 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for light trucks.

That proposal is being offered in an attempt to derail the fuel economy measure being taken up by the Senate in a couple of weeks. That’s the one that calls for a CAFE standard of 35 mpg fleetwide by 2020 and a 4% increase every year for ten years, to which the automakers have unanimously replied, ‘never gonna happen.’ Environmentalists are trying to make that bill even stronger, seeing that is has a provision allowing the government to reduce the standard if it is found to be too technologically or financially difficult for automakers to achieve. Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who’s a friend of the industry, is proposing an alternative that mandates 36 mpg for cars by 2022, and a 30 mpg for trucks by 2025. Let’s see — that would give a 33 mpg average for cars and trucks in a maker’s fleet by 2025, which is 2 mpg and 5 years shy of the CAFE standard requested in the bill the carmakers don’t like. Is it us, or is this really just about timing?

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req’d]


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VIDEO: Ford’s Driving Skills for Life takes drivers’ ed to the web

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Ford launched its Driving Skills For Life website a few months back, and as far as a resource for new drivers and their white-knuckled parents, its a worthy effort. Sure, the kitsch level is a bit high and some of the modules could be improved, but any attempt by an automaker to focus on driver safety and highlight the number one killer of teens gets a gold star in our book.

Along with some games, a car care clinic and some fuel conservation tips, Ford produced a series of videos hosted by a variety of professional instructors and racers to tackle some of the basic skills that new drivers face when they hit the road. All ten of these video tips are posted after the jump and are worth a watch as a quick primer for the up-and-coming motorist in your life. They may even teach some of the more battle-hardened among us a thing or two.

[Source: Driving Skills For Life, YouTube]

Continue reading VIDEO: Ford’s Driving Skills for Life takes drivers’ ed to the web


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Toyota delays introduction of Li-ion batteries for Prius

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When talking about the (hopefully coming in 2010) Chevy Volt, Bob Lutz repeatedly said he was waiting on battery makers to provide GM with battery packs that were up to the challenge, seeing as the show car relies on technology that doesn’t exist. GM isn’t the only maker with battery issues — Toyota has pushed back the introduction of lithium ion batteries in the next generation Prius, saying that they’re not just not ready to be put in cars because of safety issues. There are independent companies that are installing li-ion battery packs into cars and getting stunning results. Toyota, though, in light of corporate liabilities and its recall record of late, simply can’t afford to risk what would be a huge black eye if the next Prius suffered from a hasty misstep.

[Source: Winding Road]


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UAW to take on automaker healthcare burden?

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As many of you know (and have commented prolifically on), the Big 3 carry an enormous burden that import competitors like Honda and Toyota don’t: unionized retiree health care costs. GM, for example, had $81 billion in salaried and hourly retiree health care obligations at the end of 2005. Chrysler is on the hook for $19 billion. That’s no small amount when you’re trying to turn a company around — or in this case, three companies. In fact, the term used for it is indicative of just how health care is regarded: “liability.”

The UAW will be negotiating a new labor contract agreement this summer, and one of the far-reaching ideas being considered is for the UAW to take over responsibility for health care liabilities. The Big Three would pay a huge lump sum (many billions), but afterward their obligation would be capped at some agreed-upon and competitive number. Tony Faria, an industry expert, said “The unions fully realize these companies are in trouble. The auto companies would provide some major amount of funding. From there on, they’d be paying at a known rate, rather than an ever escalating rate.”

The setup is called a “voluntary employee beneficiary association,” and there are models for it. Goodyear set one up last year in an agreement with the United Steelworkers, and GM already uses VEBAs for some of its retiree costs. It isn’t a done deal, but it is something being considered. The UAW understands how serious the situation is, and could be prepared to do the previously unthinkable in order to gain other guarantees and create a better competitive climate for the domestic makers.

[Source: Christian Science Monitor]


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Um… we want these: 60 years of Ferrari race posters

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Ferrari poster exhibit
Click image for photo gallery

Man, these sure would look good in the TV room. Galleria Ferrari is exhibiting collector Sergio Cassano’s eye-popping collection of Ferrari racing posters all summer. The posters reflect a variety of artistic styles from a number of different artists, and all of them have a common theme: Ferrari is the featured marque in each one. That’s not surprising, given Scuderia Ferrari’s rich racing history, and to make the exhibit even more special, the posters are joined by a pair of the racers that helped shape the Ferrari racing story over the years: the 500 F2 and 750 Monza. Come to think of it, those’d look really good in the garage. Y’know… to match the posters in the TV room.

The exhibition will run through Spetember 16.

Full details are in the press release after the jump.

[Source: Ferrari]

Gallery: Ferrari Racing Poster Exhibit


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Toyota expresses regret for Tundra camshaft failures on internet forums

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Our good buddy Mike Levine over at has updated his report on the story surrounding the failure of 20 camshaft in the 2007 Toyota Tundra’s 5.7L V8 engine. Levine noticed that Toyota has already posted on two internet forums expressing regret to Tundra owners over the incident. Though the author’s name was not provided, identical posts were published by “TMSUSA” on and that address customer concerns and provide this expression of remorse:

“Although the number of affected Tundras is very small, we very much regret that even one of our trucks was manufactured with a camshaft processing flaw and certainly any inconvenience caused to our customers.”

Meanwhile, Levine also tracked down a consultant who confirms the estimate we originally reported that it will cost $5,000 to swap out each engine that experiences a failed camshaft. Toyota will certainly pay the estimated $100,000 to repair the 20 trucks already known to have experienced a camshaft failure, but the looming question that’s yet to be answered is how many more trucks might need to have their engine replaced? Toyota Spokesperson Bill Kwong told Levine, “Our dealers have approximately 1,600 new Tundras nationwide for disposal as a loaner vehicle while a customer’s truck is being repaired, and that doesn’t include older Tundras and Tacomas.” While meant more as an assurance that the company will do whatever it can to help out customers who find themselves with an affected engine, that statement also implies Toyota is at least prepared for the number to grow.



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eBay Find of the Day: Miata-based BMW Z9

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Click the image above if you really want to see more.

It’s obvious that someone was champing at the bit to get a 1-series convertible before it makes its way to the U.S. This Miata-based BMW rip- off might not be a finished replica of the Z9 concept from a few years back, but the progress, is, ummm… progress?

The owner makes it clear that the car is still street legal, with its stock emissions systems left intact. So that side exit exhaust is merely for show, as is the plastic BMW engine cover.

Were you to part with your hard-earned cash for such a misshapen homage to Bavaria, you might be willing to spend some coin on a nice coat of silver metallic or midnight blue paint, and then take to the interior with a hacksaw and some vision.

Good luck, you’ll need it.

[eBay via Carscoop]

Gallery: Miata-based BMW Z9 clone


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Rendered Speculation: Euro Focus hatches coupe

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These rendered images of the next-generation Ford Focus for the European market are, to put it bluntly, painful to look at. That’s not because the artist penned a dog, but rather because he or she gives us a glimpse of Ford’s next-gen Focus in the form of a three-door coupe, not unlike the coupe version of the redesigned 2008 Focus that Ford will be selling in the U.S. soon. Our Focus, however, is based on the same platform the original Focus used when it debuted back in Y2K, whereas the Euro Focus will be moving over from the already excellent C1 chassis, which our Focus never got, to a shortened version of the Eureopean Mondeo’s platform. Plus, our Focus coupe will not look like a 3/4-scale Mondeo with snazzy Kinetic styling. Instead, the redesigned 2008 Focus for the U.S. takes a step backwards in styling, landing somewhere in the time of the Tempo and LTD. We’re a little rusty with our Italian, so we’re not even sure if Infomotori is claiming that Ford of Europe will offer a three-door coupe version of the next Focus or if these renderings are just fun. They’re still painful to gaze upon, knowing what awaits an unsuspecting public at our own Blue Oval dealerships.

[Source: Infomotori – Google Translation]


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BMW releases new M Sport package for X5

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Click image for gallery of the BMW X5 M Sport package

BMW has unveiled its new M Sport package for all members of the X5 range, giving the SAVs a sportier look and feel inside and out. A new bodykit gives the X5 a more aggressive appearance, with updated fascias, flared fenders, black low-profile roof rails, and a choice of different 19″ and 20″ wheels. Inside, electrically-adjustable sport seats and an M steering wheel can be augmented with any number of customization options from BMW Individual, and the X5’s already-sporting character is further enhanced by a retuned suspension that reinforces the “sport” in Sport Activity Vehicle (hey, that’s what they want to call it, so who are we to argue?). A variety of available paint finishes complete the deal.

German pricing for the M Sport upgrades is €6,350 for the X5 3.0si and 3.0sd, and €4,840 for the more-powerful X5 4.8i. There’s no word yet on if or when the package will be available stateside.

[Source: BMW]

Gallery: BMW X5 M Sport


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