BMW Vision ConnectedDrive Concept at 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Looks Like: A raft of interesting technology wrapped in a bizarre exterior
  • Defining characteristics: No roof; a windshield that no auto glass shop would touch
  • Ridiculous features: A navigation system with an “Emotional Browser” (yes, really) that can give audio-visual tours of your surroundings
  • Chances of being mass-produced: Odds are better that gas prices don’t rise before your afternoon commute

BMW rolled out an array of user technologies in its Vision ConnectedDrive concept at the Geneva International Motor Show this week. Many involve the automaker’s ConnectedDrive initiative, a suite of telematics and online services that provide in-vehicle access to the world outside.

The concept car underpinning it all looks like a lot of things — few of them any recent BMW. The tail has similar deck-lid nacelles as those on the defunct Porsche Carrera GT, and the nose looks to be BMW’s take on a Detroit muscle car. There’s no roof, and the windshield blends into the hood in a sort of way that could make a spider fracture seriously expensive.

No matter. Inside, driver and passenger technology includes a three-dimensional head-up display that can project, for example, an upcoming right turn on the street as it approaches. Onboard instruments can be arranged in a number of free-form ways, and a display for the front passenger includes an online module that allows the passenger to find a new address and send it over to the driver’s display — addressing an inherent constraint of most navigation systems that lock out any sort of involved operation while the car is moving.

We’re not so sure about the Emotional Browser, which BMW says can do everything from playing the music selection at a nearby cafe to issuing an audio tour of your surroundings or showing the exhibits on deck at the museum across the street. It seems useful for Sunday meandering — because we all have time for that — and less so if you’re just trying to get to work.

Odds are slim that a car like this makes it to production, but certain technologies could always filter down. More photos below.

By Kelsey Mays | March 2, 2011 | Comments (1)

Mazda Minagi Concept at 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Looks like: Mazda is taking on Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport and Kia’s Sportage
  • Defining characteristics: New design language for the brand
  • Ridiculous features: An LCD control panel ... for rear passengers
  • Chance of being mass-produced: This will be what the next Mazda compact SUV looks like

Mazda spends the better part of its press release about the Minagi concept stressing its new design language — called Kodo — and not the fact that the company is displaying the future look of a new, vital product to its lineup.

Sure, it’s somewhat interesting to read how the stance of the Minagi has “pent-up energy” like a cheetah. But wouldn’t the car-reading public like to know when a production version will go on sale to take on the likes of the Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport?

We do know it will feature the company’s latest fuel-efficient engines, which could help it win in the mileage column versus the current competition. The interior looks upscale.

We guess Mazda would be ready with a real-world Minagi by next season’s auto-show circuit. Until then, check out the photos below and weigh in on Kodo.

By David Thomas | March 1, 2011 | Comments (7)

Audi A3 Concept at 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Looks like: A baby A6
  • Defining characteristics: 408-hp, turbo five-cylinder; seven-speed dual-clutch transmission; mobile Internet access
  • Ridiculous features: 20-inch wheels
  • Chance of being mass-produced: Count on the U.S. getting a sedan or hatchback

Audi has never sold a sedan version of its A3 compact car in the U.S., instead marketing just a four-door hatchback, but the A3 sedan concept the automaker revealed at the Geneva International Motor Show would be more than welcome on our shores in production-car form. With taut lines, a great stance and signature Audi cues like LED headlights, the A3 concept exudes style.
It would have been understandable if Audi had decided to debut the A3 concept with a hybrid drivetrain and tout some extremely high mileage figures, but we're glad to see Audi went another route and highlighted performance. The concept is powered by a 408-horsepower, turbocharged five-cylinder — a well-known engine layout from Audi's past — that works with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Naturally, the concept has Quattro all-wheel drive.
The A3 concept's white interior probably won't make the jump to a production car, but the cabin's design seems production-ready. Round dashboard vents recall those of the current A3, but the overall appearance is much more minimalist. Audi's MMI controller knob is on the center console, but the new touch-pad element seen in the A8 full-size sedan has moved to the top of the controller knob in this concept. Audi says production cars will get this setup soon. In a sign of the times, the concept also features iPad cradles on the backs of the front seats for rear-passenger viewing.

By Mike Hanley | March 1, 2011 | Comments (5)

Saab PhoeniX Concept at 2011 Geneva Motor Show

Saab PhoeniX Concept

  • Looks like: The Saab Aero X concept, now featuring more “Tron” 
  • Defining characteristics: Hybrid all-wheel-drive capability, Android-powered multimedia system 
  • Ridiculous features: Two roof-mounted “winglets” 
  • Chance of being mass-produced: The undercarriage will be applied to the next 9-3 

Historically, Saab has been known for its fuel-efficient and quirky-styled cars, though under General Motors’ stewardship many Saab models lost a lot of their luster. The just-unveiled Saab PhoeniX concept illustrates a potential push by Saab’s new owners to return the company to its founding ethos.

Let’s be clear: The PhoeniX concept isn’t a thinly veiled production car. It’s more of a statement by Saab of what it wants to be. The PhoeniX is a 2+2 coupe, featuring all the common staples you’d expect on a concept vehicle: butterfly doors, abstract interior, humongous wheels and little side-mirror camera replacements.

By Colin Bird | March 1, 2011 | Comments (8)

Toyota FT-86 II Concept at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Looks like: Toyota is picking black over beige
  • Defining characteristics: Lexus LF-A supercar styling
  • Ridiculous features: BMW M/Aston Martin front fender vent
  • Chance of being mass-produced: A sure thing

It’s been a long wait for a production version of the Toyota FT-86 Sports Car concept that was unveiled in October 2009. And now, finally, we have ... another concept? Toyota took the covers off an FT-86 II concept at the Geneva International Motor Show that it says gives the clearest indication yet of what the FT-86 will look like in its final design.
The FT-86 II shows off more flair than the previous concept with the addition of a gaping front grille accented by what look like LED lights. Out back, there is a more aggressive rear diffuser, and a spoiler makes its way to the deck lid. Usually the more aggressive concept leads the way to a dulled-down production version, but it seems Toyota went the other way with its FT-86.
The FT-86 is a product of Toyota’s joint venture with Subaru to build a rear-wheel-drive sports car. The 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine under the FT-86’s hood comes from Subaru. The engine and six-speed manual transmission are said to be positioned as low and far back as possible for an optimal low center of gravity to help driving dynamics.
There aren’t many details or full specs available yet, but we do know the sports car will go on sale in Europe starting in 2012. It probably will look a lot like this.

By Joe Bruzek | March 1, 2011 | Comments (18)

European Prius V Can Fit Seven People

Toyota Prius +The Toyota Prius +, which was just unveiled at the 2011 Geneva International Motor Show, may look familiar. That’s because we’ve already seen it — more or less — as the 2011 Toyota Prius V, which debuted at January’s Detroit auto show.

Dimensionally, the Prius + MPV is identical to the Prius V, which goes on sale stateside in April. You can learn more about the model, here.

The only discernible difference between the two is there’s a 50/50-split folding third row in the European model. The Prius V will only be offered with two rows of seats in the U.S. There aren’t any photos showing off the third row, so we don’t know how cramped it will be.

Toyota hasn’t commented as to whether this configuration will come to the U.S., but we doubt it will, at least initially. The Toyota RAV4 has a seven-seat option with 144.4 cubic feet of passenger volume. Toyota might think the two models will compete with each other. On the other hand, if the seven-passenger Ford C-Max or the Ford C-Max Hybrid takes off, Toyota may be forced to bring the model here for competitive reasons.

The EPA has classified the Prius V as a midsize station wagon, which means it has between 130 and 159 cubic feet total interior volume.

In Europe, the Toyota Pirus + will be the most fuel-efficient seven-seater on the market, according to Toyota. The European model will go on sale early in 2012.

By Colin Bird | March 1, 2011 | Comments (13)

2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 at 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Competes with: Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Lexus LFA
  • Looks like: Bruce Wayne will soon be trading in his Murcielago
  • Drivetrain: 700-hp, 6.5-liter V-12 with seven-speed dual-clutch transmission; all-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: June 2011
  • MSRP: $376,705

As far as exotic sports cars go, it's hard to top the panache that Lamborghini brings to the table. The automaker has outdone itself with the new Aventador, which is even more aggressive-looking than the Murcielago and stunningly quick.
A cursory look at the critical specs will make you do a double-take. At full steam, the Aventador can reach 62 mph in just 2.9 seconds. The car's top speed is 217 mph.
What enables such stupefying specs? The Aventador features a 700-horsepower, 6.5-liter V-12 that sends power to all the wheels through a Haldex all-wheel-drive system. The car is also a showcase of aluminum and carbon fiber construction, with a curb weight of just 3,472 pounds.
As if the Aventador's distinctive wedge shape weren't enough of an attention-getter, there are vertically opening side doors, electronically controlled air intakes and a movable rear spoiler. A transparent cover for the mid-mounted V-12 is optional.
In terms of design and materials, the Aventador's cabin is a significant improvement over the Murcielago's. Unique design elements include a red cover on the large center console that hides the engine's start button, and the instrument panel consists of a large LCD screen. Lamborghini's Ad Personam program offers a number of personalized colors and materials for the car — if it doesn’t stand out enough as is.

By Mike Hanley | March 1, 2011 | Comments (6)

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan at 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Competes with: Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Chevy Equinox
  • Looks like: A manlier mini-SUV
  • Drivetrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Hits dealerships: Fall 2011 

We knew Volkswagen was giving its oft-forgotten compact SUV a face-lift. Now we know when it will go on sale and the fuel efficiency it’s aiming to achieve.
While a few online denizens have bemoaned the new corporate look sported on the new Jetta and Passat, it makes the Tiguan look more aggressive. Inside, the updates are more minimal, but there are new controls and a standard touch-screen stereo on the SE trim. You can upgrade to two different navigation systems depending on the trim level.
The other trim levels in the lineup are the base S and the top-tier SEL, which has the LED daytime running lights you see here as optional equipment, along with bi-xenon headlights. Inside, that means S trim levels have cloth, SE leatherette and SEL leather.
Bluetooth connectivity and an auxiliary audio input will be standard along with power heated side mirrors, but not USB connectivity.
The engine will remain the same, a turbocharged 2.0-liter gas engine. Neither horsepower nor transmission availability was given, but VW said it estimates the highway fuel economy to go from 25 mpg in the current model to 29 mpg highway. That would put it near the top of the compact SUV class.

Pricing will be announced closer to the Tiguan’s on-sale date in the fall, but we’d expect it to be similar to the current model’s $23,720 starting price.

By David Thomas | March 1, 2011 | Comments (4)

Volkswagen Bulli Concept at 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Looks like: VW’s answer to the Scion xB
  • Defining characteristics: Electric powertrain, seats six
  • Ridiculous features: An iPad controls onboard entertainment
  • Chance of being mass-produced: Better than iffy

In 2001 Volkswagen debuted a concept Microbus that to this day looks fresh and makes us long for it to star in a “Little Miss Sunshine” sequel. VW says it didn’t forget about that concept and has developed a new one, called the Bulli, to take up the mantle as the next small van from the company.

The verbiage from the Geneva International Motor Show makes this sound like a compact van, with an electric motor with a 186-mile range. The range alone makes us want one, as most EVs on the market today or planned for the near future top out at 100 miles. A high-speed charging station could fully charge the Bulli in less than an hour, VW says. If electric isn’t your thing, the company says small power plants — think 1.0- or 1.4-liter — will also fit under that puggish hood.

But at 157 inches long, this is one small, small van. Mini’s new Countryman SUV is 161 inches long. A Scion xB is 167.3 inches long. That means when you recline all the seats to form a “large reclining surface” or bed, there might not be room to stretch out.
When the rear seats are completely stowed for maximum cargo room, the Bulli has 56 cubic feet of storage. The Countryman has just 41.

We’d worry more about the specs if this were a production vehicle, but automakers rarely give them out for concepts like this. Instead, they focus on unusual interior treatments, like the integrated iPad dock that controls onboard entertainment features such as music.

There are also few controls, like a traditional shifter, since it’s an electric concept. Clearly, if they do put an engine in it, they’d need to put one somewhere …

By David Thomas | February 28, 2011 | Comments (28)

Ford B-Max Concept at 2011 Geneva Motor Show


  • Looks like: The neighbor’s C-Max has been messing around with your Fiesta
  • Defining characteristics: Sliding doors and no B-pillar
  • Ridiculous features: None; this is production ready
  • Chance of being mass-produced: 100%

Europe’s auto marketplace is different from the U.S. Folks prefer smaller cars due to smaller roads, tighter parking confines and higher fuel prices. That’s why this concept car will likely never show up in the U.S. despite being production ready from the second it hits the auto-show turntable in Geneva.
Dubbed B-Max, the concept is 4.7 inches longer than a Ford Fiesta five-door hatchback on sale in the U.S. but more than a foot shorter than the just-introduced C-Max electric vehicle (a smaller version of the C-Max that goes on sale in the U.S. later this year).
The difference will be in the tall greenhouse. You sit 4.3 inches higher in the B-Max compared with the Fiesta. No cargo room figures were given, but we assume they, too, would be higher than the Fiesta. With the front and rear passenger seats folded flat, bulky items like bikes would fit, Ford says. The sliding doors would make it easier to get access to bulky items and make it easier for people to get in and out of what are typically tight seats.
Powering the B-Max is a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the next EcoBoost power plant being prepared for production. No power or fuel-efficiency numbers were given.
For now, check out more photos below and let us know if you think the U.S. could use another pint-size Ford to sell next to the Fiesta.

By David Thomas | February 28, 2011 | Comments (6)

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