Honda Sports EV — performance-focused cousin of that cute Urban EV we all liked

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If you loved the retro-themed Urban EV concept Honda brought to the Frankfurt show, get ready for its sporty sibling — the Sports EV Concept. The coupe will be unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, where Honda will also show the Urban EV, and it’s a far sleeker affair than the retro EV hatch. If the Urban EV harked back to early Civics, could the Sports EV be a hint that Honda hasn’t forgotten the Prelude and the S2000, and those who bought and loved them?

The near-minimalistic styling is a welcome departure from, say, the current Civic Type R’s everything-at-the-same-time spoilerfest. Although Honda’s teaser sketch doesn’t reveal much more than sweeping, simple lines, the coupe promises to be a handsome thing, and in its press release Honda hints of an “unforgettable silhouette” and a friendly front fascia. Honda says it’s based on the same platform as the Urban EV, which most likely means it’s going to be a small thing, if not as positively diddly as the 1960s S600 coupé.

According to Honda, the Sports EV’s aim is to combine EV performance with artificial intelligence. That’s a step beyond Mazda’s “Jinba Ittai” philosophy inherent to the Miata, which refers to the feel of the rider and his horse being one. Similarly, with the Sports EV Honda says it’s all about a feel of unity with the car, accomplishing emotional attachment in owning it. Could AI tech make it a true automotive companion in the style of Knight Rider’s KITT? One good thing is that the Urban EV is apparently going to make it to production by 2019, so the Sports EV could also be production feasible in some form.

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Why the Honda Urban EV concept is a success, and how Honda could replicate it in America

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One of the big surprises at this year’s Frankfurt auto show is the Honda Urban EV concept. Not only was Honda able to keep the car under wraps right up to the reveal, but the styling was a significant departure from what we expected of a future electric car designed for Europe. Instead of a funky, one-box urban pod, Honda gave the Urban EV sporty, retro looks. It looks like a cross between a first-generation Honda Civic (the thick, raked C-pillar and front fascia), crossed with a classic Mini Cooper(the tiny size, low stance and flared fender arches).

This design is such a success because it both bucks the trend of EVs primarily being ultra-futuristic and aerodynamic machines, and it does that with classically attractive design cues. It allows the Urban EV to stand out from slippery-looking amalgam of Hyundai Ioniqs, Chevy Volts and Bolts, Teslas, Nissan Leafs(Leaves?), and even Honda’s own Clarity line. And it shows that traditionally appealing elements like wide fenders and a low, forward-leaning stance that have been successful on internal combustion cars for ages can work just as well on an electric car.

We love the design, and many of us would love to see the car in the United States. It’s very unlikely to happen though, and, as hard as it is to admit, that’s probably the right move for Honda. Americans seem to be uninterested in subcompact hatchbacks, unless they’re lifted with cladding or have a Mini badge. But the thing is, there’s no reason Honda can’t transfer what it’s learned with the Urban EV to something with a more American-friendly body style.

At the bare-minimum, Honda could scale up the Urban EV to be sized similarly to a Civic, add a couple doors, lift it an inch or two, and paint the fender flares in a matte black. Then they could call it a crossover, but retain most of the Urban EV’s slick, old-school looks. Honda could also create a sedan with some of the same, crisp, squared-off lines of the Urban EV. Keep the C-pillar raked forward, leave the body as straight and unadorned as possible save for some aggressive wheel arches, and emphasize width in the front and rear fascias. It could be Civic or Accord sized, or somewhere in-between, and would make for a lean, mean sedan.

In the end, Honda has something really sweet in the Urban EV. It would be a shame if Europe was the only beneficiary, and there are clearly ways Honda can bring the same aesthetic here, too.

[Source: Autoblog]

2018 Jeep Wrangler JL spotted playing offroad in the sand dunes

The videos here and here, among other things, highlight some of the reasons why it’s so terribly difficult for Jeep to introduce a new Wrangler. Needless to say, the ute has got to work offroad. Not only that, but the engineers need to make sure the vehicle is at least semi-content on the road and in the emissions and safety labs, and they have to make sure it pleases the diehards by keeping vestigial bits like external hood latches. Oh, and it can’t be priced out of the reach of the average car buyer. That’s a tall order.

Nevertheless, we’re pleased to see that Jeep is taking its offroad testing seriously. These videos were reportedly shot at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes near Lake Michigan. You’ll see some splashing through puddles, some steady-state medium-speed cruising, and even some Hazzard-style fishtailing. And you can rest assured that the Toledoans at Jeep have been busy testing their latest Wrangler in other off-road scenarios, like rock crawling at the Rubicon Trail.

These three clips are short, and it’s difficult to draw conclusions on the suspension action since we can’t really tell how flat or bumpy the terrain may be. Still, they’re fun to watch and important to Jeep fans. We expect to see plenty more spy footage of the 2018 Wrangler before its likely debut at the LA Auto Show later this year.

[Source: Autoblog]

Autonomy and alcohol: You’ll be drinking while the car’s driving

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When fully autonomous vehicles hit the road en masse, we can expect fewer accidents, less traffic, and reduced tailpipe emissions. But according to two reports, we could also see sharp increases in the consumption of booze due to self-driving cars, and even more time spent staring at screens, binge watching and being bombarded by ads.

In a recent report, Morgan Stanley predicted that booze will get a significant boost in sales since the technology could allow people to drink more if they know they don’t have to worry about driving drunk. “Shared and autonomous vehicles could expand the total addressable market of alcoholic beverages while reducing the incidence of traffic fatalities and accidents,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a report titled “Shared autonomous mobility: The solution to drinking and driving?”

Jonas predicted that autonomous vehicles could lead drinkers to consume on average one extra alcoholic beverage per week over the next decade. With what he calls “more opportunities to drink before getting in the car,” Jonas pointed investors to consider stock in brands like Anheuser-Busch and restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings, since self-driving cars present a “significant growth opportunity for alcoholic beverage firms.”

Jonas also believes that autonomous vehicles could allow drinkers to imbibe in the car once machines take over driving, further increasing liquor sales since there will be “more opportunities to drink while in the car,” he wrote. And I’m going on record predicting that autonomous shuttles will be used as mobile bars, similar to those pub-crawl beer bikes you see in cities, except for lazy booze hounds.

You’ll also be able to watch movies, TV and other content while knocking back a beer or two in an autonomous vehicle. An Ernst & Young report released last year predicts that streaming in-car entertainment could bring the entertainment industry an additional $20 billion in revenue, and Hollywood is already gearing up to keep us captivated while in confined in autonomous cars.

“That is the next journey for entertainment,” Ted Schilowitz, a futurist for Paramount Pictures, told The Hollywood Reporter, perhaps pun intended. “Multiple studios are looking at this and meeting with strategic partners.”

Judging from futuristic self-driving concepts like Mercedes-Benz’s F 015 Luxury in Motion concept that has six screens to turn the cabin into a “digital arena,” automakers are also looking at how to turn cars into drive-in theaters. “We’re re-envisioning the automotive experience,” said Alex Hilliger, advanced engineer at Mercedes-BenzResearch & Development North America.

“The vehicle could have a lounge atmosphere, and the passengers face forward or backward,” Hilliger added. “If you don’t need a steering wheel or driver’s seat, the car can be a new space.”

Schilowitz said that the entertainment industry believes “there’s a lot of real estate” in self-driving cars to project images. “If you look at the windshield and windows, they are screens at the right distance to be entertainment portals.”

Of course, with content will come ads, making autonomous cars a marketer’s dream since they’ll be able to literally drive consumers to purchase their products. “We could deliver interactive, geolocated advertising based on nearby shops, restaurants and businesses,” said Dennis Wharton, executive VP at the National Association of Broadcasters.

“The content personalization possibilities are endless,” added Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive at chipmaker Nvidia. “The telcos, content providers, game developers and e-commerce companies will be transacting business within the car.”

So enjoy driving in peace while you still can, free from the constant content consumption that’s invaded every other aspect of our digital lives. On the other hand, if using your evening commute to catch up on Game of Thrones while sipping a cocktail sounds cool, the autonomous vehicle future has you covered.

Ford creates ‘Team Edison’ to ramp up EV development

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Ford has formed a team to accelerate global development of electric vehicles, whose mission will be to “think big” and “make quicker decisions,” an executive said on Monday.

One aim of Ford’s “Team Edison” is to identify and develop electric-vehicle partnerships with other companies, including suppliers, in some markets, according to Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification.

The news came on the same day General Motors announced plans to bring 20 EV models to market.

Global demand for electric vehicles has “a significant potential to increase” as governments implement EV mandates and quotas, Marakby said in an interview.

He said the group will be based in the Detroit area and work with regional Ford vehicle electrification teams in China and Europe.

China, India, France and the United Kingdom all have announced plans to phase out vehicles powered by combustion engines and fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040.

Marakby said Team Edison “will look holistically at the electric vehicle market.”

“The idea is to think big, move fast and make quicker decisions” on EV production as demand increases and technology advances, he added.

Ford has not altered its previously announced plan to spend $4.5 billion over five years on electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, Marakby said.

He declined to say how many new electric vehicles Ford expects to add in the future.

The new team will report to Ted Cannis, who has been named global director of electrification.

The 2018 Hyundai Azera looks pretty classy

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With the reveal of the new Azera, Hyundai has made it clear that it has no plans to leave the large, upscale sedan market. This South Korean Avalon-fighter underwent a significant redesign inside and out and will first go on sale in Korea next month.

Outside, the Azera has a significantly different and more formal, profile. While the previous model was rakish and wedgy, the new model adopts an upright version of Hyundai’s new corporate grille, along with a long hood and more vertical windshield. The flanks also receive long, flowing character lines that give it a muscular appearance. At the back, the Azera gets a new version of the full width taillights that the model has had since the nameplate’s introduction two generations ago.

The Azera also changes radically inside. Instead of the downward flowing dash of the old model, the new interior features an instrument panel that emphasizes width, with a dark top portion and lighter lower section. Sandwiched between the two halves of the dash is a section that rises up at the center stack to house the large touch screen and an analog clock, which looks a bit out of place.

Hyundai has yet to reveal any stats, pricing or availability for the new Azera, except for its aforementioned launch date in South Korea, where it will carry the Grandeur name. However, we would imagine more details will be coming soon ahead of its US launch.

[Source: Autoblog]

2018 Ford F-150 Police Responder is Ford’s first pursuit-rated pickup

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Ford introduced its latest police vehicle, the Ford F-150 Police Responder, today. It isn’t the first F-150 police vehicle ever, but it is the first one to achieve the same pursuit rating of other Ford police vehicles – including its Taurus- and Explorer-based Interceptors, and the new Fusion hybrid-based Police Responder Hybrid Sedan. What this means is that it’s fast enough for pursuits, and it can handle extended high-speed driving without risking overheating, reduced braking performance, or other mechanical issues. It also distinguishes it from the Expedition and F-150 SSV models that are already available, which are not pursuit-rated.

Under the hood is the familiar twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 used in other F-150s and the Expedition. It makes 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, and will propel the truck to a limited top speed of 100 mph, which is 5 less than a civilian F-150. That engine is coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission and a part-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case.

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All Police Responder F-150s also come standard with the FX4 off-road package, which adds a locking rear differential, skid plates, and off-road tuned shocks. The shocks are also supplemented by a stiffer front anti-roll bar specific to the Police Responder. Upgraded brake calipers are fitted that can better handle heat, with reformulated pads.

The aluminum wheel and all-terrain tire package is also exclusive to the Responder. According to a Ford representative, aluminum wheels were acceptable because of the thicker tires. To complete the Police Responder package, a 240-amp alternator is fitted, along with redesigned cloth seats to allow for utility belts, steel-plates in the seat backs, and a column-mounted shifter. The shifter frees up space in the center console for equipment, and allows for quicker shifting.