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Volkswagen to form its R performance division

Most carmakers limit themselves to making normal vehicles, with various engines and standard features. But some of them have special divisions which are tasked with transforming regular models into more powerful, more aggressive and more fun to drive cars.

As such, BMW has its M, Mercedes-Benz has AMG and even Audi has Quattro, but a new carmaker will officially form its own performance department soon, as a Volkswagen executive said that the R division will be announced soon, at the Geneva Motor Show.

Up until now, Volkswagen did release performance models under various badges, like the GTI or R, but it never had a formal section to upgrade current cars. The new R GmbH will handle every upgrade made in Volkswagen’s European lineup, and, according to some voices, might even reach North America with the Golf R next year, and with a possible R edition of the next generation Jetta.

Overall, the more performance models the better. Hopefully VW’s R will amaze us with new cars soon enough.


2011 BMW X6 gets new N55 turbocharged engine and eight-speed automatic

BMW is continuing to revamp its engine lineup, and the most recent model to receive a new unit is the X6 in its 2011 model year, which saw the old twin-turbo N54 replaced with a brand new and more efficient single turbo 3.0-liter N55 unit, which is currently being used by the 5 Series GT.

Not only does the new engine weigh less, which for the big SAV means something, but it also produces a bit more power, outputting 306 HP and 295 lb-ft of torque. Future X6 owners, no matter what their engine choice, will also be able to choose an optional ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox, which provides not only smoother gear shifts but also improved efficiency.

Overall, BMW knows staying ahead of the pack is important, and these new changes are more than welcomed by fans.


Video: Ferrari F430 Spyder falls off truck at dealership

You’d think that problems for powerful sportscars begin when the owner takes control of the vehicle and starts pushing it until he gets into a crash.

That’s what usually happens when we report exotic accidents, but this time, a Ferrari F430 Spyder didn’t even reach the dealership from which it should have been sold, and it was already damaged, after falling of the top level of the transport truck.

Details are sketchy, but you can guess that the guy responsible of taking it off the truck is in a lot of trouble. What’s worse is that the Fox News helicopter was around the area and got to film the aftermath of the crash. The only thing funny about this crash is that the windshield wipers were, for some reason, turned on the whole time.

Hit the jump to see a video of this crashed Ferrari F430 Spyder.

Nascar changes rules, makes everything exciting again

For most car fans watching Nascar from outside of North America doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but when the crashes occur, you can bet it gets our attention. With last season’s change in regulations though, where trading paint or driving dangerously was banned, in order to avoid any accidents and promote clean racing, audience figures plummeted as many people just lost interest in the whole championship.

Things are going to change though in 2010, as a Nascar executive, Robin Pemberton, revealed that changes will be made to the rules so that sponsors worried about their brand image won’t be able to affect how the driver and the team plans a race, and everyone will do whatever they want. The new rules “will put it back in the hands of drivers, and we will say ‘Boys, have at it and have a good time,’” revealed a Nascar rep.

This doesn’t mean the competition will turn into a glorified crash derby, as the bumps and grinds will need to be kept “withing reason”, but I’m sure many drivers will have various understandings of such a concept.

Besides the changes which will guarantee more excitement, the cars will see the current rear wing be replaced with a spoiler setup, in order to improve both looks and downforce.

What do you think about these changes? Will it make you watch Nascar once more or are other motorsport competitions more exciting?


Citroen DS5 previewed by new render

Citroen is betting big on reviving its iconic DS badge for new premium models, starting with the upcoming DS3. But after the compact hatchback appears, which will give competitors like Mini or the Audi A1 something to think about, the next model scheduled to appear is the DS5, based on the C5 flagship sedan.

Besides hearing that it will sport a diesel hybrid setup, not much was revealed about the model, which will hit sometime in 2011. Now, thanks to French magazine L’Auto Journal, we have one of the first possible pics of the DS5, which is featured as a cover story.

The model will sport the new grille style, as previewed by the Revolte concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and does seem quite attractive, offering a decent hatchback take on the current C5 design. If it will improve on the quality of the interior, for which the French sedan has been applauded, Citroen might have a great contender for rivals like the BMW 5 Series GT.


Videos: Saab workers celebrate sale, Spyker and Saab CEO talk about it

Saab’s sale to Spyker was one of the most welcomed news coming from the automotive industry at the beginning of the year. Many fans and enthusiasts were relieved that GM finally reached an agreement with the Dutch company, and that it prevented the brand from being closed down.

Two new videos have now appeared, one with a lot of Saab workers celebrating the news and watching Spyker CEO Victor Muller and Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson, outside of the Trollhattan plant, and another with the Spyker and Saab executives during a press conference, which talk about the great news.

Hit the jump to see them, and to celebrate the sale of Saab. Hopefully things will go straight up for the Swedish brand from now on.

Ferrari unveils its 2010 Formula 1 race car

The 2010 Formula 1 season is rapidly approaching its start, and with it more and more teams are getting ready to present the cars with which they will attack the upcoming season of the famous motorsport competition.

The first team to presents its car was Ferrari, which unveiled the F10 model at its Maranello headquarters in Italy, alongside its two drivers for the season, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Stefano Domenicali, the team manager revealed that this next season will be a tough one, but he is confident in both the drivers and the team he has under him.

“This championship will be very important for us,” said Domenicali. “The last championship, for different reasons, was not very positive, that is why we are dealing with this one looking to be competitive – and this is what Ferrari deserves to have.

The 2010 season is certain to be filled with quite a lot of surprises, and Ferrari will have its work cut out if it wants to bring another title back home to Italy. The first organized practice rounds are scheduled to start in Valencia next week, and we will finally get to see just how the drivers and teams handle themselves.


Reports indicate Toyota and NHTSA knew about unintended acceleration problems as early as 2004

Reports indicate Toyota and NHTSA knew about unintended acceleration problems as early as 2004

Thing’s are going from bad, to worse, to catastrophic for Toyota these days, as not only did it issue a huge recall for both North America and Europe, but it was also forced to suspend sales of the recalled models, over the unintended acceleration claims.

Things might take a turn in an even uglier direction, as two new reports indicate that Toyota knew about such problems as early as 2004. First, the Detroit Free Press reveals that the NHTSA had investigated short (one second or less) acceleration issues that year, after receiving quite a lot of complaints from owners of Camry, Solara or Lexus ES300 models. The inquiry however didn’t result in any recalls or such things.

Why you ask? Well according to a 2008 lawsuit filed after the death of a woman from a car accident with a 2005 Camry, it seems that around that time, a former NHTSA employee, Christopher Santucci, found a job at Toyota, and according to the claims of the lawsuit, negotiated with his former buddies at the NHTSA so that no recalls would be issued. If such a thing is true, things can get pretty ugly for the Japanese carmaker.

But we’re not done yet, as another report from the Wall Street Journal reveals that the carmaker was plagued with such issues as unintended acceleration stemming from the gas pedal, as early as 2007. The first problems appeared with the Tundra pick-up, which had faulty throttle sensors, then in 2008 on the right-hand drive Aygo and Yaris compact cars, which was caused by a heat source causing friction to the pedal.

All in all, Toyota seems to have had problems with its accelerator pedals for quite some time. Whether these claims are true or not is still unclear, but will no doubt raise an even bigger question mark over Toyota’s quality brand image.


2011 Volkswagen Touareg also revealed by scale model

After yesterday’s Renault Twingo CC reveal thanks to a scale model, it’s Volkswagen‘s turn to spill the beans on the next generation Touareg SUV, which will be formally presented at the Geneva Motor Show, thanks to a set of two die-cast models.

From what we can see, the new Touareg will share quite a lot of things with its more upscale cousin, the Porsche Cayenne, and will also sport a slightly tweaked variant of the Golf 6 front fascia. While in itself not a bad thing, I do get the feeling VW doesn’t want to take any chances with the design of new models for the time being.

Either way, from what we can see in the back, it will be almost identical with the Cayenne, and will also sport some chrome accents, as well as premium features like the dual sunroof.

What do you believe about this new design? Is it a step forward from the current Touareg or should VW take more risks and give it more defining characteristics? Share your thoughts below.


Vath tunes the Mercedes-Benz E Class E63 AMG

Mercedes-Benz really changed the way people look at its E Class with the current generation, but even though it has a more aggressive style, there are plenty of things to be improved upon, even in the top-of-the-range E63 AMG performance model, at least according to the tuning crew at VÄTH Automobiltechnik.

Entitled the Vath V63RS, the model sports a new bodykit, with a starless grille, a boot spoiler, a new carbon fiber diffuser, and a front lip spoiler from the same material. The suspension has been lowered by 30mm, and a set of 20-inch forged three-piece wheels, with high performance tires, were also fitted. For the inside, you can get special carbon trim, and velour floor mats, with the logo of the tuning company.

But what’s really interesting about this project is the increased performance. The team enlarged the cylinder head channels, installed a new ECU, added performance parts like pistons, valves or cam shafts, fitted a larger air intake and bigger exhaust valves. What do you get from all these new pieces? A whopping 605 HP and 690 Nm of torque, an increase of 87 HP and 60 Nm from the standard figures. This translates in a 0 to 62 mph time of 4.1 seconds, while the top speed is a dizzying 211 mph (340 km/h).

Overall, the E63 was quite extreme, but thanks to the Vath crew, you’ll think the stock model was pretty slow.


RPMGO answers: Front wheel drive or rear wheel drive – Which is better?

Welcome to another edition of RPMGO answers, our bi-weekly feature in which we tackle various questions or debates from the auto world.

We’ve already revealed the advantages or disadvantages of the manual and automatic transmissions, but now we will take on another spirited debate: front-wheel drive or rear wheel drive – Which is better?

Hit the jump as we reveal to you which is better in unfavorable conditions like snow, mud or rain; which more fun to drive and which is better in the long haul in terms of cost.

Toyota extends unintended acceleration recall to Europe

I know most of you are getting sick and tired about the issues regarding the major recalls coming from Toyota, but it seems that the company will be expanding it to Europe, not only to North America as it was up until now.

According to the Toyota spokesman for Europe, Paul Nolasco, the Japanese corporation is in talks with regulatory bodies and organizations to start recalling specific vehicles into service so that the issues concerning unintended acceleration, whether they are linked to faulty floor mats or malfunctioning gas pedals, will be resolved.

The specific models, or their number isn’t known yet, but you can clearly guess that a lot of customers will be affected, given Toyota’s popularity, which has surely taken a nose dive in recent weeks. Either way, if you have a Toyota or maybe even a Lexus model, and the acceleration has been acting up, you should be more careful. It is still unknown if the Japanese company will (be forced to) suspend its sales in the territory, but maybe GM and Ford will extend their incentives in Europe.


Video: New Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG tunnel commercial shows Schumacher behind the wheel

Mercedes-Benz always thinks ahead, at least this is what you can say after it presented a new version of the SLS AMG tunnel commercial, in which the car, driven by a professional pilot, goes upside down in a tunnel, proving physics isn’t a match to the engineering of the MB supercar.

But while the original video showed an unnamed driver, the new version of the ad shows none other than Michael Schumacher, which recently signed with Mercedes GP Formula 1 team for the 2010 season (see what they did there?).

If you’re interested in seeing the new ad, with added Schumacher, hit the jump!

GM and Ford reveal new incentives to current Toyota owners while rental companies pull models from fleets

Toyota is going from bad to worse in the last few days, as not only did it issue a huge recall for the unintended acceleration issues and was also forced to suspend the sale of the models in question until a solution will be found, but now GM and Ford are trying to steal its customers by offering some very interesting incentives.

If you are a current Toyota owner and decided that a model from either Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC will suit you better, GM now has various offers for any type of purchase. If you choose to lease, you will get a waiver of up to three payments or $1,000. If you take a loan, you will get zero percent interest for the loans for 60 months. Last but not least, for those willing to pay cash, a $1,000 discount will be given.

If you might fancy a Ford model, you can get a $1,000 discount if you trade in a model from Toyota, Lexus, Scion, Honda or Acura, made between 1995 and 2010, and is applied to all models in the Ford stable, from the Fusion hybrid, to the F-150 pick-up of the Shelby Mustangs.

As yet another low blow, car rental companies like Avis Budget Group or Enterprise Holdings, have announced that they will pull the models affected by the recall from their big fleets.

No matter how you put it, things aren’t good for Toyota.


Porsche considering entry-level model, might be based on upcomind Audi R4

Porsche isn’t wasting any time, and has already established quite a lot of plans with its newest buddy, Volkswagen, with the brightest example being the shared platforms between the next generations of the Cayenne and the Touareg SUVs.

But according to VW group’s chairman, Martin Winterkorn, a new entry-level Porsche model might soon make its way into showrooms, and, according to some rumors, might share a lot of its underpinnings with the upcoming Audi R4 sportscar, which is previewed by the e-Tron concept.

“The Porsche model range is firmly based on the 911, Boxster, Cayenne and Cayman, and it will stay that way,” said Winterkorn. “We are also investigating opportunities for a smaller sports car and a smaller SUV – but I cannot say more at the moment.”

The model, dubbed the “new 356″, is rumored to be priced at around $55,000, and might sport one of the company’s first forced-induction four-cylinder units, which will offer a better fuel economy than current engines fitted to the Boxster or Cayman, and might output somewhere around 250 HP.

It is expected that the same aluminum/steel platform will be shared by this new Porsche and the Audi R4, alongside things like the transmission system. But while the R4 may arrive as early as the middle of next year, the Porsche won’t be rushed, and will be making an appearance at the end of 2012.

Overall, a pretty bold move for Porsche. What do you think? Would this “people’s Porsche” make an impact on the future market? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment.


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