Sep 132016

The clash this year over the future of iRobot pitted visionary robotics against the retail success of the company’s Roombas, the circular-shaped domestic helpers that have cleaned millions of living rooms around the world.

Colin Angle said he never imagined when he co-founded the company 26 years ago that it would change the way the world views vacuuming. But the chairman and CEO of iRobot also said it’s a misconception to think he’s running a vacuum cleaner company.

Automated vacuums are the “beachhead of practical robotics in the world today,” an important step on the path to the smarter homes to come, Angle said in a recent interview with The Associated Press at the company’s headquarters in Bedford, Massachusetts. The mapping software that helps the latest Roomba model remember where it’s already picked up dirt could be the building block for future devices that can fetch a glass of water or adjust the lights when a human walks into a room.

“What iRobot is going to be most appreciated for is not going to be vacuums, it’s going to be allowing people to live independently longer so that we can maintain our standard of living as a society,” Angle said. “That sounds big and grandiose other than the fact that it’s a freight train coming down the tracks that we’re going to need to address.”

After spinning off iRobot’s lagging and volatile military robot division in April and fending off a disruptive proxy fight in May, Angle said he’s excited about a new chapter for the company that revives its original 1990 goal: building the kind of useful, everyday robots we’ve spent generations imagining in books and movies.

“It will allow robots to live up to the Rosie the Robot vision that everyone wants robots to be,” Angle said. “Hopefully we’ll do it in time, before we have to truly face the reality of our aging demographic and the fact that there aren’t enough younger people to take care of the older people.”

Earlier this year, Angle’s management team and Los Angeles-based activist investor Red Mountain Capital Partners battled over the company’s direction and leadership but agreed on one thing: to strengthen the core consumer robots business, iRobot’s once-lucrative defense division needed to go.

“We were going to end up starving defense if we were going to continue to own it,” Angle said.

Government demand for rovers capable of performing dangerous military and disaster-relief tasks in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks gave iRobot what Angle proudly describes as a “very important and noble” mission designing robots to keep troops and first responders out of harm’s way. It also helped subsidize iRobot’s other ambitions. The profits from wartime contracts allowed iRobot to experiment with a variety of other robots, producing some duds and one huge commercial success: the first Roomba, introduced in 2002.

Now it’s vacuum cleaners and other home robots that are iRobot’s bread and butter. The company divested its defense division in April, spinning it off into a new company called Endeavor Robotics.

“As far as iRobot’s concerned, defense has always been somewhat of a wild card,” said analyst Bobby Burleson, a managing director at Canaccord Genuity Inc., who said selling the division “has helped focus the company, but also investors, on what the story is.”

Spinning off the division wasn’t enough to appease hedge fund Red Mountain, which demanded more capital discipline and a stronger focus on consumer products expertise. Company leaders fought back this spring, making the case to shareholders that fortifying the technological prowess of the 550-employee, $1.1 billion company was more important than acting like a traditional, low-tech consumer product maker that devotes its attention to switching up packaging and color schemes.

Shareholders sided with management at their annual meeting in May, rejecting proposals to shake up the board.

“Ultimately, the disagreement was around iRobot’s desire to invest in the future versus drive profits up in the shorter term, as far I understand it,” Angle said. Representatives at Red Mountain didn’t return email requests for comment this week.

Angle said the dispute is now “happily in the past.” He traveled to China this week to open a Shanghai office and introduce the company’s new Braava jet, a mopping robot that launched in the United States earlier this year but is thought to have a promising market in countries where most homes have hard floors and vacuum cleaners are less common. He also said the company is working on a robot that can help homeowners with another hated task: mowing the lawn.

 Posted by at 5:12 am
Sep 112016

Fifty years ago this month (on September 9, 1966), President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety laws that launched a great life-saving program for the American People.

The summer is over, meaning you’re probably heading back to campus. You’re maybe considering bringing your car with you this year. Having your car at …


A small business will go to great lengths to save money. Some ambitious entrepreneurs will sell their car and ride a bike to work. In sunny l…

Laiza King

Entrepreneur, Fashion Enthusiast, Freelance Writer, Startup Guru, Inspirational Speaker

While the prospects of spending less will likely steer more people on to the roads, saving at the pump isn’t the only way drivers can save money on gas. Whether you’re driving an SUV rated at 15 MPG, or a subcompact which can reach 45 MPG, you still have the ability to save a buck or two on fuel costs.

A vehicle is an investment with benefits that can last for many years. The last thing anybody wants is to spend their hard earned money on a vehicle that is going to require constant upkeep and maintenance just to remain roadworthy.

Zak Mustapha

Author of Undefeated Marketing and founder of Foolishness File

A cherished right for Oregonians, or an environmental and safety nuisance?

R.J. Marx

Editor of The Cannon Beach Gazette and Seaside Signal. South County reporter for the Daily Astorian.

Have you decided what you’re looking for in your next car? Perhaps it’s the eco-friendly nature of a fuel efficient car or the power and capacity of a…

MoMA’s Arthur Drexler nailed the concept back in 1951, when he described his exhibition of Eight Automobiles as “hollow rolling sculpture.”

“They hav…

Where there’s a will, there’s a way — even when the situation at hand involves circumventing top-level national secrecy. When the British government some years ago enlisted aircraft design engineer Michael Axon to assess various locations (and design new ones) overseas where the military’s planes could be securely built, he did his usual: took detailed notes and precise laser measurements.

Ian Spanier

Award-Winning photographer/author, in LA from NY. For him, there is no “one” subject that he photographs; he chooses to shoot what he sees.

Image Source

Trucking is a huge business for the transport economy. Being a trucker puts you in a position w…

William Morrow

Motivational Speaker, Blogger, Entrepreneur, Freelance Writer.

Today, the Earth got a little hotter, and a little more crowded.

Soon Thi…

The cars did change the way we look at the world and explore it. Cars give us the freedom of movement and independence. With all the downsides like getting stuck in a traffic jam or paying too much for the petrol, we still need cars as they give us flexibility and are our second homes.

By Jerry Zezima

It’s not every day that you get the oil changed in your car (in fact, it’s every 3,000 miles) and drive away feeling like you’ve just…

Research suggests lower blood alcohol concentration limits and interventions like ignition interlocks can make a big difference.

The Conversation US

Independent source of news and analysis, from the academic and research community.

Last week’s release of the Ghostbusters reboot recalls the original’s classic scene where Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) gravely warns Peter Venkman…

Matt Gold

Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham University, and former Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for North America within the Executive Office of the President.

Stains may become baked onto surfaces, and will be harder to clean if not attended to right away. I’d recommend keeping some sort of fabric cleaner and a little brush in your trunk.

 Posted by at 11:13 am
Sep 092016

BERLIN Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) has won German regulatory approval for technical fixes on another 460,000 diesel cars with illicit emissions control software, it said on Sunday, raising the number of vehicles cleared for repair to over 5 million.

Approval by Germany’s motor vehicle authority KBA is valid for countries throughout Europe where 8.5 million diesel cars are affected by Volkswagen’s emissions test-rigging scandal. About 11 million autos are implicated globally.

In the United States, where VW’s manipulations came to light eleven months ago, the German group still lacks technical fixes and is in the process of testing hardware and software that could help it avoid having to buy back about 475,000 affected cars.

VW said on Sunday that Germany’s KBA had signed off on a fix for models with smaller 1.2-litre diesel engines, such as the Polo subcompact and Spanish division Seat’s Ibiza model.

VW group models with 1.2-litre and 2.0-litre engines only require a software update on pollution control systems, whereas about 3 million 1.6-litre engines, besides the software update, also require a mesh to be installed near the air filter.

Wolfsburg-based VW has said the majority of the 8.5 million cars can be repaired this year but an unknown number of vehicles will not be fixed until 2017.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; editing by Andrew Roche)

 Posted by at 5:13 pm
Sep 072016

If you are unfamiliar with FIRST robotics, you should get yourself familiarized.

The FIRST Robotics Competition (or FRC for short) is an international robotics competition where teams ranging from twenty to one hundred students build game-playing, 120-pound robots in just six weeks to compete in tournaments all across the globe.

If you are a freshman through senior in high school, you are eligible to join. Though there are hundreds of reasons you should be a part of FIRST, here are five to get you started:

1.) There is no high school activity more like the real world

While I was involved in FIRST, I was operating drills and drill presses, miter saws and band saws and making real-life engineering decisions. I worked on CAD models, went and talked to manufacturing companies, and did volunteer work. I was able to experience first-hand what it’s like to be a in a project leader role, including all the pressure and dynamics that go along with it. Even if you won’t be in a leadership role, FIRST robotics is by far the most real-world high school activity I have had the pleasure of being involved in.

And FIRST is not just for engineering fanatics. There are other sides to FIRST that require diverse skills. There are people on my team in charge of the website design, public relations for the team and even a student CEO that manages overall organization. There is something for everyone, and everyone can learn something.


2.) The people and networking opportunities you have

At every regional tournament in FRC, there are always adults from the engineering and science workforce that come to help out as volunteers or judges. Some come as mentors, coaches or even sponsors, as they find the atmosphere of FIRST just as engaging as the kids. Beyond being able to meet and greet these networking opportunities at competition, the mentors and coaches you’re able to interact with all season long are there to provide wisdom and knowledge you could never have received at school.

More than just the networking, though, the friends and students I have met in my FIRST robotics experience have been some of the greatest people I have ever met. They are competent, intelligent, ambitious, just all-around great people. You become a better person just being around them.


3.) You get to be your wild, crazy self

Every single team involved in FRC has a “theme.” To name just a few, there is the FBI, the Kraken, Robobroncs and my own team, Rocky Mountain Robotics. Similar to car racing, at robotics competitions, there are “pit areas,” where every team can fix and maintenance their robot. Teams always decorate their pit areas in accordance to their themes; the FBI team, for example, covers their pit in “DO NOT CROSS” tape.

And to match the pit areas are crazy team outfits. My own team wears climbing hats and ropes, and our team colors are blue and yellow. Analogous to football or soccer, robotics teams can also have mascots. These mascots get just as crazy as those out on a football field.

Despite all the color-coding and dress-up, the real part of robotics is the cheering and the craze. Stadiums can literally pulse with the festivities and excitement. And the best part about it: no one cares what you look like, that you’re dancing like a fool, or that you have colored your hair with team colors. Fact of the matter is, they’re probably doing it right alongside you. At robotics competition, your wild side can come out to roam.


4.) The great scholarship opportunities

Yes, that’s right. There’s money involved. And lots of it. Even if you’re involved in FIRST for just one year, there are a plethora of scholarships available to a variety of schools. From the Ivy Leagues to state public schools, and from full rides to 5,000 a year, there is a scholarship from FIRST for everyone.


5.) The gracious professional environment

The skills you will learn from being a part of FIRST robotics goes so far beyond knowing the right tool to use, or how to figure out a center of mass problem. In addition to the problem-solving and general technical know-how I gained from FIRST, I have also acquired other professional skills necessary in the real-world work environment.

As part of the drive team this year (responsible for driving the robot on the competition field), I had to go and talk to other robot teams before every match to know their game strategy. This required social and soft skills in order to communicate. The student CEO on my team had to give a chairman’s award presentation to a group of judges, and another student leader was selected for a Dean’s List scholarship (money opportunity!), in which he had to interview. Just walking through the pits you have to explain your business plan and robot to judges, talk with other teams about scouting and, if you are in the stands cheering, you have to be positive and cheering for all teams, not just your own. This goes off the idea of “gracious professionalism,” a motto coined by the founder of FRC. Being in this environment, and having this motto be integrated into your life, impacts you for the better.


As a senior, my last robotics competition just happened this past weekend. Though I will be continuing on with mechanical engineering for my career, I am nostalgic to see it go.

But look at me! I’m nostalgic about robotics ending. That must mean it’s good…so what are you waiting for? Go join!

 Posted by at 11:12 pm
Sep 062016

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 Posted by at 5:12 am
Sep 042016

Disney has received a patent for foot recognition technology that could be used to improve the guest experience at the entertainment giant’s theme parks.

One potential application of foot recognition technology could use a sensor to capture a foot shape and a camera to capture the foot’s appearance. This would be used to create a foot model that “can be used to identify a particular guest and the guest data can be used to output a customized guest appearance,” according to the patent documents.

Foot recognition technology could also be used to enroll guests in a venue and by a robot that interacts with guests. “The robot may also include a movement mechanism allowing the robot to roam the amusement park or a portion thereof and an input/output interface for receiving guest information from the guest,” the patent said.

The technology could provide an alternative to “rather invasive methods” for acquiring guest information, such as retinal and fingerprint identification, according to the patent filing. “These methods are obtrusive and some guests may not feel comfortable providing this type of biometric information to a third party,” it added, noting that accessories such as hats and sunglasses could also limit the effectiveness of the technologies.

The technology could be used at amusement parks, theme parks, sporting events and other entertainment venues, according to Disney.

The entertainment company has no immediate plans to use the system, according to the Orlando Sentinel, which notes that the foot recognition technology is part of the firm’s ongoing research process.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was the world’s top amusement park in 2015 with 20.5 million visitors, according to a report released earlier this year by engineering firm AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA).

 Posted by at 11:12 am
Sep 022016

The “ice car” that’s been encased in thick ice in an upstate New York parking lot near Lake Erie for over two days was finally freed today.

Crews from a local car dealership were able to dig the car out this afternoon, though an ice shell outline of the front of the car remained, ABC affiliate WKBW reported.

A car that was frozen by Lake Erie waters overnight was freed from a Hamburg, New York, parking lot on Jan. 13, 2016.

The car was taken to a garage to be thawed out.

A car that was frozen by Lake Erie waters overnight was freed from a Hamburg, New York, parking lot on Jan. 13, 2016.

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer had been stuck at the parking lot of Hoak’s Lakeshore restaurant in Hamburg, New York, since Sunday night when 24-year-old Justin Yelen left the car behind because he had been drinking with friends that night, he told ABC News.

Yelen said when he left the restaurant around midnight, his car already had a thin coat of ice around it. The tires were stuck in puddles of water that had frozen over.

To Yelen’s surprise the next morning, he found out on Facebook that a video showing his car coated in ice had been viewed over 10 million times.

A car off Route 5 in Buffalo froze over from waters from Lake Eerie Sunday night and Monday morning.

The 24-year-old’s father, Joe Yelen, told ABC News on Tuesday that he had actually driven to the lot to try to get the car out, but waves on Monday and Tuesday from Lake Erie continued to splash over and freeze the car.

Justin Yelen, 24, found his car completely frozen from waters from Lake Erie in Hamburg, N.Y. Monday after he left it there overnight.

Joe Yelen said that despite all the trouble, he and his wife are happy their son left the car in the lot since he had been drinking that night.

“It was a smart move,” Joe Yelen said. “Even if it doesn’t seem like it now.”

Water from Lake Eerie froze over on the deck of Hoak’s Lakeshore Restaurant in Hamburg, N.Y. Sunday night and Monday morning.

ABC News’ Julia Jacobo contributed to this report.

 Posted by at 5:12 pm
Aug 312016

The 2016 model year has plenty of workhorses, including new versions of the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Titan pickups, Chevrolet Malibu and Kia Optima sedans and the Honda Civic small car.

But it also has some sparkling show horses. Ford, Audi, Ferrari and Acura all have new supercars. Cadillac is launching the racetrack-ready CTS-V. Dodge is unleashing its fastest Viper ever, and Lamborghini has amped up the power in its Aventador. Drivers with a smaller budget can also have a lot of fun in the new Ford GT350, Audi TT or Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Hyper luxury is in: Bentley is releasing its first SUV and Mercedes has a $189,350 Maybach version of its S-Class sedan with its own fragrance system. The new top-of-the-line Range Rover SVAutobiography starts at just under $200,000.

Carmakers haven’t completely forgotten about fuel economy. Many are using more aluminum and high-strength steel to drop weight and improve fuel economy. The new Audi Q7 SUV is 717 pounds lighter than the previous version, while the new Chevrolet Camaro is up to 300 pounds lighter.

Toyota is introducing a new Prius hybrid and a hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai, which will be sold in California. Hyundai is releasing a hybrid version of the Sonata sedan. Chevrolet has a new Volt hybrid that goes for 53 miles on battery power alone, and Mercedes, Audi and BMW have new plug-in hybrids.

Here are new or significantly refreshed cars and trucks coming in the 2016 model year, by brand:



ILX: The small sports sedan gets a significant freshening with a new 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that puts out 201 horsepower. It’s linked to an eight-speed dual clutch transmission. It also gets new front and rear styling with jeweled LED headlights, as well as better noise insulation and thicker door glass. Went on sale in February. Starts at $27,900 excluding shipping.

RDX: Midsize lux SUV is refreshed with a new, more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 279 horsepower. The RDX gets updated, rounder styling and jeweled LED headlights. Starts at $35,270 without shipping. Went on sale in April.

MDX: Luxury people-hauler with three rows of seats gets a new nine-speed automatic transmission and a top-end luxury trim line. Went on sale in February starting at $42,865 excluding shipping.

NSX: Acura’s build-to-order supercar is all new with a 550-horsepower, twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 and a three-electric-motor sport hybrid system. The mid-mounted engine is mated to a new nine-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. The NSX also comes with a multi-material frame that keeps it rigid but lightweight with crisp handling, Acura says. The all-wheel-drive supercar also gets a sleeker design with 10 air-cooled heat exchangers for the powertrain. Due out in the spring with a starting price of about $155,000.



A3 SPORTBACK E-TRON: This is the first plug-in hybrid Audi to hit the market. The five-seat wagon combines a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor powered by a battery hidden under the rear seats. It can be driven in electric mode for up to 19 miles; in hybrid mode, the car decides whether to use the motor, the gas engine or a combination of the two. Fuel economy numbers haven’t yet been released. Recharging through a 120-volt outlet takes eight hours; recharging through a 240-volt outlet takes two hours and 15 minutes. Home installation of a 240-volt outlet and home charging station is optional. The Sportback e-tron goes on sale in October starting at $37,900.

A6/A7: Audi’s A6 midsize sedan, last redesigned in 2011, gets some significant updates. The front and rear have a taut new design and there are new LED headlights and a wider grille. The A6 has a new, more powerful base engine: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 252 horsepower, up from 220 horsepower in the previous model. The front-wheel-drive version is paired with a new, seven-speed transmission, while the all-wheel-drive quattro version has an eight-speed transmission. Both the A6 and its sibling, the coupe-like A7, also get a new 3.0-liter V6 engine option with 333 horsepower, up 23 horsepower from the previous model. Inside, there’s a new wireless hotspot for up to eight devices in the car. There are also new safety features, including night vision with animal detection. The 2016 A6 and A7 went on sale this spring; the A6 starts at $46,200, the A7 at $68,300.

TT: The third generation TT coupe has a sportier, more muscular design and new LED headlights. Audi used more high-strength steel and aluminum to make the new TT lighter and stiffer. The TT coupe and roadster have a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 220 horsepower; the sporty TTS coupe gets a turbocharged four-cylinder with 292 horsepower. Both are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Inside, there’s a fully digital instrument cluster and the most advanced version of Audi’s infotainment system, which reads newspaper headlines and Twitter alerts and can access more than 7,000 Web radio stations. The 2016 TT went on sale this summer, starting at $42,900.

Q7: This is Audi’s first full redesign of its three-row, seven-seat SUV in nearly a decade. It has a shorter, leaner, more wagon-like look than its predecessor. Audi managed to shave 717 pounds off the Q7 by using more lightweight materials; the doors, engine hood and rear hatch are all made of aluminum. Audi says the weight savings help make the Q7 26 percent more fuel efficient. U.S. buyers have three engine choices: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 252 horsepower; a 3.0-liter turbodiesel with 272 horsepower; or a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 333 horsepower. Inside, the Q7 will be Audi’s first vehicle that lets drivers access certain smartphone apps through Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. The Q7 goes on sale early next year. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but the current Q7 starts at $48,300.

R8: The second generation of Audi’s R8 supercar has a racier, more chiseled look and a top speed of 200.7 miles per hour. It can go from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds. Thanks to new construction with more extensive aluminum and carbon fiber, the R8 is 110 pounds lighter than the outgoing model. The V10 mid-engine comes in two variants: one with 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque and one with 610 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. The second is Audi’s fastest and most powerful series-production Audi ever. An electric version, the R8 e-tron, is also available. It has a range of nearly 280 miles, up from 133 miles in the outgoing model. The R8 is already on sale in Europe, starting at $180,980. The U.S. sale date hasn’t been announced.



BENTAYGA: Bentley’s first SUV — named for a rugged peak in the Canary Islands — goes on sale early next year. It has an aluminum body and a frame of aluminum and high-strength steel, a Bentley first. It’s powered by a 12-cylinder engine, which Bentley says will make it the fastest production SUV in the world. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but it’s likely to be north of its nearest competitor, the $138,000 Range Rover Autobiography.



3 SERIES: The 340i high-performance variant of BMW’s most popular line gets a new inline 3-Liter six-cylinder twin turbo that puts out 320 horsepower, 20 better than the current model. There’s also the new 330e plug-in hybrid that can go 22 miles on battery power and puts out 250 horsepower. Otherwise, the small BMW sedans and sport wagons get a freshening with a retuned chassis, revamped electric power steering and sportier fronts. Sale date and pricing not announced yet. 340i goes on sale in the fall. Pricing hasn’t been revealed.

7 SERIES: The all-new flagship large sedan gets up to 190 pounds lighter and comes with an improved ride and better handling. BMW says it used a lot of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic in the passenger area to help shed the weight. In the U.S. it comes as a 740i and 750i xDrive. The 750i gets a revamped 4.4-liter V8 engine with 445 horsepower. 740i gets latest generation 3-liter inline turbocharged six with 320 hp. Plug-in hybrid 740e coming next year. Can go 23 miles on battery power alone. The 740i starts at $81,300 without shipping, while the 750i xDrive starts at $97,400. Both are available in the fall.

X1: New for 2016, the small SUV gets a roomier interior, more space for cargo and a new 2-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder engine that puts out 228 horsepower. It’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. BMW says a new chassis enhances handling and ride comfort over the current model. New version is 1.7 inches taller than the old one. Goes on sale in the fall. Price hasn’t been released.

X5: BMW’s first plug-in hybrid SUV joins the lineup, the X5 xDrive40e. The midsize SUV can go 13 miles on battery power and zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds. It comes with a 2-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder gas engine plus an electric motor. Combined, they put out 308 horsepower. Available in the fall. Price not yet announced.



CASCADA: Buick goes for a little ragtop bling with the Cascada, an American version of a stylish Opel convertible from Europe. The four-seater is the brand’s first convertible in a quarter-century, and it comes with a turbocharged 200-horsepower engine, and a safety system that deploys rollover protection bars behind the rear seats if the car detects that a crash is possible. The insulated soft top can be opened in 17 seconds while traveling up to 31 miles per hour. Price hasn’t been released yet. The convertible is due in showrooms early next year.



ATS-V: High-performance version of Caddy’s small sports sedan and coupe. Comes with a 3.6-liter twin-turbo engine that puts out 464 horsepower and the choice of eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmissions. Sedan starts at $60,465, the coupe at $62,665, both excluding shipping. Already on sale.

CTS-V: It’s a new iteration of the racetrack-ready CTS based on the lighter and leaner new version of the midsize sports car. It’s the most powerful car in Cadillac’s 112-year history with a 640-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 mated to an eight-speed automatic tranny. Starts at $83,995 without shipping. On sale now.

CT6: Cadillac goes back to its roots with a new rear-drive luxury land yacht that isn’t supposed to behave like one. The CT6 has an aluminum-intensive body with 11 different materials for strength, performance and efficiency. GM says it’s lighter than the smaller BMW 5-Series. Buyers can choose from a new 3-liter twin-turbo V6 with 400 horsepower, plus two less-powerful engines from the previous generation. Night vision that helps identify people and large animals with heat signatures on a dashboard display. Pricing hasn’t been announced. On sale early next year.

XT5: The first of the new generation of GM sport utilities is a replacement for the aging SRX midsize SUV. GM will release details later this year.



CAMARO: The classic Chevy muscle car slims down to fit on the frame of a Cadillac ATS small sports sedan. And it gets something that’s almost unheard of in a muscle car: a standard four-cylinder engine. The sixth-generation Camaro loses 200 to 300 pounds over the 2015 model, and it’s also shorter. And the new turbocharged 2-liter four is nothing to be embarrassed about. It puts out 275 horsepower, more than many V8s from years ago. But buyers also can choose a 335-horsepower V6 or 455-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 engine. Starts at $26,695, excluding shipping. Due in showrooms in the fall.

CRUZE: Chevy’s now 5-year-old pedestrian-looking compact car is replaced with a more stylish, aerodynamic-looking sedan that’s longer and 250 pounds lighter. GM engineers say the new Cruze addresses the faults of the old one, which had a noisy underpowered engine, a cramped back seat and bland styling. Gone are two older four-cylinder engines, both with 138 horsepower. They’re replaced by an all-new 153-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo four. Six-speed manual is standard and a new six-speed automatic is available. It’s due in showrooms in the spring. Price hasn’t been announced.

MALIBU: General Motors makes another run at the popular midsize car segment. But if the sleeker and lighter new Malibu runs and handles as well as it looks, Chevy might make a dent in the market now controlled mainly by Honda and Toyota. The new sedan has a wide stance and a coupe-like look that’s lower than the old version for better aerodynamics. A longer wheelbase creates more room inside the redesigned model, including 1.3 inches of additional rear-seat legroom. Comes standard with a new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 160 horsepower. It’s smaller and lighter than the previous four-cylinder, helping to cut 300 pounds of weight. GM says highway mileage will rise 1 mpg to 37. There’s also a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission. A gas-electric hybrid version gets an estimated 48 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Gasoline versions available in December and hybrid in the spring. Pricing not announced.

SPARK: The Korean-made inexpensive Chevy mini-car gets revamped with a more powerful 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 98 horsepower, 14 more than the current model. It also looks less bug-eyed and more modern, with a lower roof line, jeweled headlamps and a rounded front end. Choice of a continuously variable transmission or five-speed manual. Has 10 air bags for safety. Price hasn’t been announced. Due in showrooms in the fall.

VOLT: Chevy’s gas-electric hybrid gets sleeker looks and increased battery range in a redesign for 2016. The new Volt can go 53 miles on battery power before a new 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine kicks in to generate electricity and keep the car going. The current version goes only 38 miles on electricity. The new gas-powered generator also is more efficient than the current model. When it’s on, the Volt gets 42 miles per gallon in combined city-highway driving, 5 mpg better than the current car. The more aerodynamic look of the new Volt comes with a price, though. Rear-seat headroom is shallow, as is legroom. The new Volt is due out in the fall, priced at $33,170 excluding shipping and a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric cars.



VIPER ACR: It stands for American Club Racer, and it’s the fastest street-legal Viper ever, according to the company. The ACR is designed to squeeze faster track lap times out of the venerable Dodge super car with a race-tuned suspension. It has high-performance Kumho racing tires and is powered by the Viper’s hand-built 8.4-liter V-10 with 645 horsepower. Already on sale. Starts at $117,895, excluding shipping and a gas-guzzler tax.



488 GTB, 488 SPIDER: New V8-powered sports cars that replace the 458 Italia and Spider. Each are powered by a 3.9-liter turbocharged motor that puts out 641 horsepower and takes the cars from zero to 62 miles per hour in a screaming 3 seconds. GTB is more aerodynamic than their predecessors with a double front spoiler and a new rear spoiler. The Spider has a retractable hard top. GTB available later this fall for about $245,000. Spider hits showrooms next year at about $275,000.



500X: Fiat gets a much-needed small crossover SUV to take advantage of the worldwide SUV craze. The bulked-up 500 keeps the brand’s cute European styling but can seat five comfortably. Choice of two engines, a 1.4-liter, 160-horsepower turbo four mated to a six-speed manual transmission and a 2.4-liter, 180 horsepower four with a nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive version has a rear axle that disconnects when it’s not needed, for better fuel economy. Already on sale. Starts at $20,000 excluding shipping.



GT: After a decade’s absence, Ford’s GT returns at the end of 2016. The chiseled supercar looks more like a Ferrari than a Ford. It will get more than 600 horsepower with its mid-mounted, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, which is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s Ford’s most expensive vehicle ever, with a price tag around $400,000. The company plans to make just 250 GTs per year for the next several years.

SHELBY GT350/GT350R: The GT350 is a performance version of the new Mustang, which went on sale last fall. It boasts a howling, 5.2-liter V8 engine with 526 horsepower. The aluminum hood is lower and more sloped than on the regular Mustang, for better aerodynamics. The inside is spare; chrome and bright finishes were removed to prevent sun glare from distracting the driver. If the GT350 isn’t enough, enthusiasts can check out the GT350R, a pure racing car that’s 130 pounds lighter than the GT350 thanks to the removal of anything extra, including air conditioning, rear seats and even carpet. There are carbon fiber wheels and a big rear spoiler for even faster cornering. Production will be limited. The GT350 starts at $49,995, which includes $1,300 for a gas-guzzler tax, which applies to cars with combined fuel economy under 22.5 mpg. The GT350R starts at $63,495.



CIVIC: The current Civic compact car strayed from its roots with bland styling, a cheap interior and lackluster performance. An emergency refresh after a year on the market improved it, but still didn’t offer much excitement. That should change with the 2016, or 10th generation, model. Honda claims it will be the sportiest Civic ever, and judging from the fastback look of the coupe, the company may be right. The new Civic gets two new engines: a normally aspirated direct-injected four-cylinder with an undisclosed size, and a 1.5-liter, direct-injection turbo four-cylinder. Specifications haven’t been released. They’re mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic. Sedan debuts later this fall, while the coupe comes in the winter. Prices haven’t been released yet.

PILOT: Honda’s biggest SUV gets re-engineered for 2016, shedding its worn-out boxy look for a more sculpted body that mimics its smaller cousin, the CR-V. It comes with an all-new 3.5-liter, direct-injected V6 with 280 horsepower, 30 more than the old version. It also gets two new automatic transmissions, either a six-speed or an optional nine-speed. The new power plant and transmission help the Pilot get up to 27 miles per gallon on the highway, two more than the 2015 model. For those who want luxury, the Pilot also gets a new Elite grade with a panoramic roof and second-row captain’s chairs. Went on sale in June. Starts at $29,995 without shipping.



SONATA HYBRID: The gas-electric version of the Korean automaker’s midsize car is new this year. The latest version gets a more powerful electric motor, a bigger battery pack and a revised transmission to boost fuel economy by about 10 percent. Car is powered mainly by a 2-liter direct-injected four-cylinder gas engine, with a more powerful 38-kilowatt electric motor. Combined they put out 193 horsepower. Hybrid is expected to get 39 miles per gallon in the city and 44 mpg on the highway. Front and rear fascias and new wheels help it look different than standard Sonatas. Already on sale. Starts at $26,000 excluding shipping.

TUCSON: Hyundai’s entry in the fast-growing small SUV market gets longer, wider, sleeker and more efficient. The automaker added 3 inches to the Tucson’s length and made the SUV just over an inch wider. That increased passenger room and added more than 5 cubic feet to the cargo area. Suspension was bolstered to improve handling without hurting ride quality, Hyundai says. The old version’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is gone. Base model has a 2-liter, 164 horsepower four, while upper-level models get a 1.6-liter turbocharged four with 175 horsepower. The turbo engine gets a seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission. An Eco version is expected to get 33 mpg on the highway, while Sport and Limited front-wheel-drive versions get an estimated 30 mpg highway. That’s 3 mpg better than the outgoing model. Already on sale. Starts at $22,700 excluding shipping.



XF: All-new big luxury sedan goes on sale in October with a lightweight aluminum-intensive frame, a coupe-like look and more space inside. The second-generation car comes with a 3-liter supercharged V6, and buyers can chose between 340 and 380 horsepower versions in either rear or all-wheel-drive. The all-wheel-drive model is 265 pounds lighter than the previous version. All engines are mated to eight-speed automatic transmissions. Price hasn’t been announced.



OPTIMA: Kia’s best-seller in the U.S., the Optima midsize car, gets its first full redesign since 2011. It’s longer, wider and stiffer, and has a bigger interior. There are three engine choices, including a new 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 178 horsepower. Two other engines — a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 247 horsepower — are carried over from the previous Optima. Inside, Kia will soon offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allow drivers to access certain apps from their smartphones on the car’s 8-inch touchscreen. The 2016 Optima goes on sale at the end of this year. Pricing and fuel economy haven’t been announced, but the 2015 Optima started at $21,690 and got up to 27 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

SORENTO: The Sorento crossover, last redesigned in 2010, gets a thicker, brawnier look for 2016. It’s longer and slightly wider and has a more aggressive grille with narrowed headlights. The Sorento comes in five- or seven-passenger configurations; the five-passenger gets either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower or a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower, while the seven-passenger gets a 290-horsepower V6. Inside, there’s more headroom, legroom and cargo room than before. Kia is offering new safety technology, including a forward collision warnings system and blind-spot detection. The Sorento gets up to 24 mpg in combined city/highway driving with the base engine, and up to 21 mpg with the V6. The Sorento, which went on sale in January, starts at $24,900.



AVENTADOR 750-4 SUPERVELOCE: If you have a spare $500,000, the new performance version of the Aventador — dubbed the Superveloce — might be for you. The track-ready race car has a 740-horsepower V12 engine — up from 700 in the Aventador — and is 110 pounds lighter thanks to more use of carbon fiber. It’s the fastest series-production Lamborghini ever, with a blisteringly fast 0-62 mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 217 mph. It gets 14.7 mpg in combined city/highway driving if anyone cares. The Superveloce went on sale this summer, starting at $492,595. That includes a $3,700 gas-guzzler tax and a $3,495 shipping charge. A convertible version — the SV Roadster — goes on sale next spring for $530,075.



RX: Lexus’ best-selling RX SUV gets its first major redesign since 2010. It has a polarizing design with a lot of sharp angles, including L-shaped LED front lights and a big spindle grille. The roof appears to float above the windows thanks to blacked-out pillars. Inside, there’s more rear leg room and an available 12.3-inch dashboard monitor with a full-screen map. The RX is powered by an upgraded 3.5-liter V6 with 300 horsepower and a new eight-speed transmission. A hybrid version of the RX will also be available. Fuel economy and pricing will be released when the RX goes on sale later this year.

GS 200t, GS F: The Lexus GS family of midsize cars gets two new members: the 200t and the GS F. The 200t is a rear-wheel-drive sedan with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 241 horsepower; for comparison, the GS 350 gets 311 horsepower with its 3.5-liter V6, and the hybrid GS 450h gets 338 horsepower with its V6 and electric motor combination. Lexus says the 200t will get up to 33 mpg in highway driving, nearly beating the hybrid. The high-performance GS F has a 5.0-liter v8 with 467 horsepower. It also sits lower and wider than the other GS models, with big air vents and carbon fiber accents. All four versions of the GS get Lexus’ signature spindle grille for 2016, along with new, standard LED headlights. New safety features include pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection. The new GS lineup goes on sale later this year. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but the outgoing GS 350 started at $48,600.

LX 570: Lexus says it changed everything but the door panels on the eight-passenger LX 570 SUV. The front gets Lexus’ signature spindle grille and new LED headlights. The 383-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 engine is paired with a new eight-speed transmission to improve performance and efficiency. There’s also a new driving mode selection system, which adjusts the powertrain and suspension depending on the driver’s choice of eco, comfort or sport modes. New safety features include dynamic radar cruise control, which works at high and low speeds. Fuel economy and pricing haven’t yet been released.



RANGE ROVER: A new, 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 engine is being offered for the first time in North America on the 2016 Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. It has 254 horsepower, which is less than the 340-horsepower supercharged V6 on the gasoline model, but it gets 25 mpg in city/highway driving, which is 32 percent better than the gas option. Other new options include a hands-free tailgate, which opens when the driver swipes a foot underneath. A diesel-powered Range Rover Sport starts at $66,450; a diesel Range Rover starts at $86,450.

RANGE ROVER SVAutobiography: The SVAutobiography replaces the Autobiography Black at the top of the Range Rover lineup. It’s the most powerful production Range Rover in the model’s 45-year history, with a 550-horsepower, 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine. The engine is shared with the Range Rover Sport SVR, but specially tuned for the SVAutobiography. New options include two-tone paint, with black on top and a choice of nine colors for the bottom, and a unique front grille. The SVAutobiography gets 15 mpg in city/highway driving. It goes on sale this fall starting at $199,495.



MKX: Lincoln’s mid-size crossover has a sleeker, less bulbous design and an updated grille to match other new Lincolns. Under the hood, there’s a base 3.7-liter V6 engine with 303 horsepower or a new 335-horsepower, 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. Both are mated to a six-speed, push-button transmission. The base engine gets up to 20 mpg in combined city/highway driving, while the EcoBoost gets 21. The MKX is the first Ford or Lincoln to offer pre-collision alert with pedestrian detection, which warns the driver of an impending collision and applies the brakes automatically. Other new features include auto hold, which holds the brake automatically in traffic and releases it when the accelerator is pressed, and a hands-free lift gate that opens when the driver kicks a foot beneath it. The new MKX went on sale this summer starting at $38,100.



CX-3: Mazda is entering the fast-growing subcompact SUV segment with the CX-3, joining competitors like the Honda HR-V. At 168.3 inches long, it’s a little more than 10 inches shorter than the CX-5 SUV, but it shares the same swooping, “soul of motion” design Mazda has adopted throughout its lineup. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 146 horsepower, paired to a six-speed transmission. It gets an estimated 31 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Buyers can opt for front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Standard features include push-button start and a system that reads your incoming text messages aloud. High-end options include a lane-departure warning system and rain-sensing wipers. The CX-3, on sale this fall, starts at $19,960.

MX-5 MIATA: Twenty-six years after the debut of the first Miata, Mazda is introducing the fourth generation of the popular soft-top convertible. The new MX-5 hints at Mazda’s “soul of motion” design language, with its long hood, flowing sides and large wheels pushed out to the edges, even as it keeps the playful, classic look of the original. Thanks to more extensive use of high-strength steel, the new Miata weighs 150 pounds less than the previous model, improving fuel economy and driving dynamics. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 155 horsepower. Paired with either the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic, it gets an estimated 30 mpg in combined city/highway driving, a 25 percent improvement over the most efficient previous model. The MX-5 starts at $24,915.



C350 Plug-In Hybrid: The midsize C-Class family gets a plug-in electric hybrid, one of 10 hybrids the brand plans to launch by 2017. It will be sold only in zero-emission states, including California, New York and Oregon. The C350 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an 80-horsepower motor powered by a lithium-ion battery; combined, the engine and motor are capable of 275 horsepower. It can travel around 20 miles on electric power alone. Fuel economy and pricing will be released closer to the car’s launch next spring.

C450 AMG: Mercedes hopes to broaden the customer base for its exclusive AMG performance brand with the C450 AMG, a $50,800 midsize sedan. The C450 has an upgraded, 3.0-liter V6 with 362 horsepower as well as AMG’s 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. Other AMG-specific touches include a specially tuned suspension adapted from the C63 AMG (which costs $13,000 more), bigger brakes, a spoiler on the rear and red-stitched sport seats. Fuel economy hasn’t been released. The C450 goes on sale this fall.

GLC300: The second generation of Mercedes’ midsize SUV gets a new name — GLC, to tie it more closely to Mercedes’ C-class family — and an elegant new look. The GLC replaces the boxy GLK; it has the same elongated hood but a much more aerodynamic roofline. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 241 horsepower and a new nine-speed transmission. Fuel economy hasn’t been announced, but the GLC is 176 pounds lighter than the outgoing model thanks to more extensive use of aluminum and high-strength steel. There is a full suite of safety features, including a system that detects an impending rear-end collision and alerts the traffic behind it by operating the hazard warning lights. The GLC goes on sale in November, starting at $38,950.

GLE COUPE: The GLE Coupe is the newest member of the GLE-class (formerly M-Class) of midsize SUVs. It’s a four-door, five-seater; it gets the “coupe” name for its sloped roof and sporty driving. There are two variants. The GLE450, designed to bring more buyers into Mercedes’s AMG performance brand, has a 3.0-liter V6 producing 362 horsepower. It has a new, nine-speed transmission. Standard features include a system that lets drivers choose between five driving feels, including one for comfort, one for slippery conditions and two sport modes. The more exclusive GLE63 S has a hand-built, 5.5-liter V8 with 577 horsepower that accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. It’s mated to AMG’s seven-speed automatic transmission. The GLE63 S gets some sporty touches, including diffuser fins in the rear, red brake calipers and chrome-plated twin tailpipe trims. The GLE Coupe goes on sale in late summer; fuel economy for both models hasn’t been announced. The GLE450 starts at $65,100, while the GLE63 S starts at $109,300.

MERCEDES-AMG G65: Mercedes dials up the power in the third variant of its boxy G-Class SUV. It has a 621-horsepower, 6.0-liter V12 engine and a seven-speed transmission. Fuel economy hasn’t been released, but it won’t be good. The G65 goes on sale this fall, starting at $217,900. That makes it the fourth member of Mercedes’ exclusive AMG performance family to be priced above $200,000.

MERCEDES-MAYBACH S600: This is a stretched, hyper-luxury version of Mercedes’ full-size S-Class sedan. It has a 523-horsepower, V12 engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission; it gets 20 mpg on the highway. There’s an advanced suspension control system that scans the road ahead with a camera and prepares to absorb any bumps. Standard perks include heated arm rests and door panels, a fragrance system on the glove box that diffuses one of five aromas and a power footrest on the right rear seat. A heated and cooled rear cup-holder is $1,950 extra. The Mercedes-Maybach S600 went on sale in the spring; it starts at $189,350.



CLUBMAN: A complete redesign makes the Clubman longer and wider than any other car in the BMW mini-car brand’s lineup. It also gets more leg, shoulder and elbow room and bigger cargo space. The Clubman is powered by a 1-5-liter, 134 horsepower, three-cylinder engine, while the Cooper S Clubman gets a 2-liter, 189 horsepower engine. Manual transmissions and an eight-speed automatic are available. Goes on sale in January. Prices not announced yet.



OUTLANDER: Mitsubishi’s seven-passenger SUV gets refreshed with more than 100 engineering and design improvements and a price cut of $200. The company says it looks, drives and feels like an all-new vehicle because of the improvements. It gets a rounder, less boxy outside look, a reconfigured interior to improve second-row seating comfort, and new seating surfaces. The engine and suspension get refinements to make the vehicle ride and handle better. Priced at $22,995 excluding shipping. On sale now.



MAXIMA: Nissan brings some life to the flagging full-size sedan segment with the new Maxima. It has a bold, chiseled surface, the “V”-shaped grille found on other new Nissans like the Rogue SUV, and a roof that looks like it’s floating above the car thanks to blacked-out pillars. Under the hood is an updated version of the 300-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine from the outgoing Maxima. It’s mated to a new continuously variable transmission. Those revisions helped increase the Maxima’s highway fuel economy to 30 mpg; city fuel economy is 22 mpg. New safety options include a driver attention alert system, which warns drivers if changes in steering indicate they might not be paying attention. The Maxima went on sale in early June at a starting price of $32,410.

TITAN: Nissan, a bit player in the full-size truck market dominated by Ford, Chevrolet and Ram, hopes to shake things up with the new Titan. Among its engine offerings will be a Cummins 5.0-liter V8 turbo diesel, the kind of engine normally found on more expensive heavy-duty trucks. The engine gives the truck maximum towing capacity of more than 12,000 pounds and maximum payload of 2,000 pounds — near the top of the segment — but with what Nissan says will be 20 percent better fuel economy than a gas-powered V8. Gas-powered V6 and V8 engines will also be available. Nissan will release pricing and other details closer to the launch of the new Titan later this year.



911 GT3 RS/Targa 4 GTS: Porsche has reworked 90 percent of the components on the seventh-generation 911 sports car. It has a new rear axle for improved precision and stability and a new power steering system, and it’s longer, lower and wider than its predecessor. In 2016 comes the new racing version, the GT3 RS, with a rear-mounted 4.0-liter flat six engine with 500 horsepower paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The GT3 RS accelerates from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds and has a top track speed of 193 mph. Fuel economy has improved to 16 mpg in city/highway driving. The Targa 4 is the updated convertible version of the 911, with a 430-horsepower, 3.8-liter flat six engine and a choice of seven-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Targa went on sale in the spring, starting at $132,800. The GT3RS starts at $175,900.

CAYENNE Turbo S/GTS: Two new sport versions sit atop the Cayenne SUV lineup. The GTS has a newly designed 3.6-liter V6 with 440 horsepower, an improvement of 20 horsepower over the previous V8. Fuel economy also improves 2 mpg over the previous model, to up to 23 mpg on the highway. The Turbo S has a 4.8-liter V8 with 570 horsepower, also 20 horsepower more than the previous model. Both models are all-wheel-drive with an eight-speed transmission, and both have sporty features like large front air intakes and specially amplified engine sound. The GTS starts at $95,500; the Turbo S starts at $157,300.

CAYMAN GT4: The new top-of-the-line Cayman sports car borrows the 911’s 3.8-liter flat 6 engine for 385 horsepower. It’s paired with a six-speed manual transmission for up to 23 mpg on the highway. Top track speed is 183 miles per hour, and it accelerates from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds. The Cayman GT4 starts at $84,600, a $32,000 premium over a base model Cayman.



iM/iA: The Scion brand has a new entry point with the iA small car and its hatchback sibling, the iM. Scion hopes to draw value-oriented buyers with its new no-haggle pricing promise and an impressive list of standard features like keyless entry and a 7-inch touchscreen dashboard with voice recognition. The iA has a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 106 horsepower and a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; the automatic gets 37 mpg in city/highway driving, while the manual gets 35 mpg. The iM has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 137 horsepower; it gets 32 mpg in city/highway driving with an automatic transmission and 31 mpg with a manual. Both cars went on sale Sept. 1. The iA starts at $15,700, while the iM starts at $18,460.



FORTWO: Smart’s all-new Fortwo — a tiny subcompact with a total length of 8.8 feet — has numerous improvements, including a more powerful, turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 89 horsepower and a tighter turning radius thanks to the redesigned front axle. The car is 3.9 inches wider than the outgoing model, for more stable driving and interior room. Customers can choose a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. LED daytime running lights, cruise control, power steering and Bluetooth are now standard. The ForTwo goes on sale this fall; pricing and fuel economy haven’t been released, but the previous model started at $13,270.



Model X: Tesla’s third vehicle, the Model X, is scheduled to go on sale this fall. The seven-seat SUV will turn heads with its “falcon-wing” rear doors, which open out and upward. The Model X is powered by two electric motors. Like the Model S sedan, buyers will likely have a choice of batteries that determine the vehicle’s electric range; a top-of-the-line Model S can go up to 300 miles per charge. More details, including the price, will be released when the Model X goes on sale.



LAND CRUISER: Toyota’s eight-passenger SUV gets a significant refresh. There’s a new hexagonal grille, narrower LED headlights and a bulging hood atop the 381-horsepower V8 engine. There’s also a new eight-speed transmission to enhance fuel efficiency; the Land Cruiser gets 15 mpg in city/highway driving. New safety features include blind-spot detection and a front collision warning system. Everything is standard; the only thing buyers choose is the color. Pricing will be released this fall, but the previous model started at $80,155.

MIRAI: In Japanese, “mirai” means future, a fitting name for one of the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The Mirai has an electric battery powered by hydrogen, and it emits nothing but water vapor from its tailpipe. It can go 312 miles between fill-ups and gets the equivalent of 67 miles per gallon. Like the gas-electric hybrid Prius, which it resembles, the Mirai is meant to be instantly recognizable as something different. Its pointy hood sits above huge, triangular air intakes, and the sides are swept back and deeply grooved. It could be tough to get your hands on one, since only a few hundred will be made in the first year. Only California buyers are eligible, and they must take delivery from one of eight authorized dealers in the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas. They must also live close to a hydrogen refueling station. The Mirai starts at $57,500 plus an $835 destination fee; that price includes free fuel and maintenance for three years.

PRIUS: Toyota is launching the fourth generation of the hybrid Prius early next year, 15 years after it first went on sale here. The new Prius has sportier, more emotional styling, with a lower hood and a sharp side crease that morphs into the rear spoiler. LED headlights are now standard. A new suspension and a more rigid body will improve the Prius’ ho-hum driving dynamics. Toyota says it expects fuel economy to be 10 percent better thanks to a smaller, lighter hybrid motor, an improved gas engine and batteries with higher energy density. The Prius currently gets 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The Prius will also be among the first to offer Toyota’s new Safety Sense package, which includes lane departure warning and pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection. Pricing hasn’t been released.

RAV4 Hybrid: A hybrid version of Toyota’s RAV4 SUV goes on sale this fall. No details have been released.

TACOMA: With fresh competition from the Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota aims to hold on to its spot at the top of the midsize pickup market with the new Tacoma. It’s the first full redesign for the Tacoma in 12 years. The frame and body have more high-strength steel, to make them lighter but more rigid and better for off-road driving. Toyota also gave the Tacoma a new chiseled face and hexagonal grille, to better match its bigger sibling, the Tundra. The Tacoma has a 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and an optional 3.5-liter V6 with 278 horsepower. Both are paired with a new six-speed transmission; six-speed and five-speed manuals are also available. The front-wheel-drive version gets up to 21 mpg in combined city/highway driving; the four-wheel drive gets 21 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Five versions will be offered, including a top-of-the-line Limited and an off-road TRD with multi-terrain select and a built-in mount for a GoPro camera near the rear-view mirror. The Tacoma, which will be built in Texas and Mexico, goes on sale this fall starting at $23,300.



JETTA GLI: The sporty version of the compact Jetta gets a new engine: the 210-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s also in the smaller Golf GTI. It gets 27 mpg in combined city/highway driving with either the manual or automatic transmissions. It also has a more aggressive grille and a new rear bumper with a diffuser to improve the aerodynamics. There’s a new touchscreen entertainment system and safety features, including bind-spot detection and a post-collision braking system that can mitigate damage after a crash. The GLI goes on sale next month, starting at $26,920.

PASSAT: The midsize sedan will get its first major refresh since it debuted in 2011. Details haven’t been released.



S60: Volvo adds 3 inches to its smallish sedan to come up with the Inscription version. The extra length adds a like amount to the rear-seat legroom to make passengers more comfortable. Volvo says it has the most rear-seat legroom when compared with the Audi A4, BMW 328 or Mercedes-Benz C300. Inscription gets walnut wood on the armrests with new silk metal buttons. Volvo also introducing a Cross Country version of the S60 with a higher ride height and standard all-wheel-drive. Inscription goes on sale in September and starts at $38,700 excluding shipping.

XC90: Volvo’s big seven-seat SUV is all new for 2016, and it’s loaded with luxury and safety features. Even the base model gets leather seats, and the XC90 comes with a 9-inch touch screen that Volvo said behaves like a consumer tablet. It has 32 different seating combinations and up to 85 cubic feet of cargo space. Safety features include automatic braking that comes on if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car, plus rear collision warning. Volvo says the safety cage around the passenger compartment is 200 pounds lighter than the old model, yet stronger because it uses boron steel. Powered by a 316-horsepower, 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. On sale now. Starts at $48,900 without shipping.

 Posted by at 11:12 pm
Aug 302016

Holy water at hand, the bishop begins the invocation.

“We call on God to bless all these cars and the people who bring them here,” intones the Most Rev. Richard Garcia of the Catholic diocese of Monterey, Calif. “He has blessed us to create great and beautiful work.”

Then Bishop Garcia and fellow prelates spread out to sprinkle the 52 classic cars on display in the courtyard of the Carmel Mission, the iconic church where Father Junipero Serra, who was canonized a saint last year, is buried.

The Blessing of the Automobiles, formally called the Carmel Mission Classic, is perhaps the most unusual event during Monterey Car Week. It’s nine days (a week being no longer enough) of parades, parties, shows, races and lectures that culminates in Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance classic car show on the 18th fairway at the Pebble Beach golf course. The course is about as sacred to golfers as Father Serra’s grave is to Catholics.

The Blessing, sponsored by the Carmel Mission’s Knights of Columbus Chapter, is a fairly new car-week event — just four years old. It’s the brainchild of Frank DiPaola, now chairman of the event. He saw the need, he explains, to “combine the passion of fine automobiles with the passion of the soul.”

Adds Rico Tesio, the Carmel Mission’s Deputy Grand Knight: “We are men of faith. But we are also men of cars.”

The Blessing draws only about 1,100 people compared to the tens of thousands who flock to many of Car Week’s other events. There’s no official number for overall attendance during the nine days, but it’s so many people that some local residents take their own vacations during this time — outside of Monterey and Carmel — to avoid the invading hordes.

Tickets to the Blessing cost just $50 each, as opposed to $375 for tickets at the door to the Concours. The proceeds in both cases go to local charities. Blessing attendees sip local wine (there is lots of it produced nearby) and chow down spicy hot dogs and other fare. There was live music, including that hymn to the automobile, “Mustang Sally.”

“It’s a very special event because it’s so relaxed,” explained Dana Newquist of Santa Barbara, Calif., who was sporting a period-dress duster coat and displaying his 1926 Locomobile. (The car actually has a 1906 chassis and a body built two decades later, he explained.) “That’s why this event is blessed.”

Few, if any, of the cars at the Blessing will be shown at Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours. But the group did include an eclectic range of collectible autos — among them a 1915 Ford Roadster pickup truck, a 1934 Packard, a 1959 Porsche Carrera, a 1968 Pontiac GTO and a 2005 Ford GT.

While looking at those and other cars, Blessing attendees eagerly swapped car stories (all truthful, one presumes, at an event like this) with each other. The camaraderie theme was invoked by Bishop Garcia, who said: “The Son of God came into the world to bring people together. Whatever brings us together also brings us closer to God.”

(Paul Ingrassia is a former managing editor at Reuters and is currently working with for the Revs Institute, an automotive research center in Naples, Fl. For more articles, pictures and video on Monterey Car Week, click on

 Posted by at 5:12 am
Aug 282016


Americans are often said to have a love affair with cars, but sometimes it can be more like a love-hate relationship.

Car-buyer satisfaction is on the rebound after a dip last year, when consumers were hit with a record number of recalls and rising prices, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, an independent benchmark of consumer experiences of products and services sold in the U.S. Still, while satisfaction is up overall, a few automakers suffered from lower customer ratings in the ACSI’s 2016 report.

Domestic cars are catching up with foreign-made vehicles, while mass-market cars — the affordable and midprice cars that are produced by the likes of GM (GM) and Honda (HMC) — are catching up with luxury cars. Consumers may be more impressed these days with midprice cars because of technological innovations that are adding to their appeal, such as built-in Wi-Fi, apps that allow you to unlock cars from mobile phones and safety gear like blind-spot alerts.

“Consumers are choosing technology over what we think of as traditional luxury, like the stick shift covered in leather,” said David VanAmburg, the director of the ACSI. “The anticrash features, the GPS-type systems and higher technology systems that are available in mass-market vehicles are what is really appealing, rather than the interior materials.”

Luxury cars have also differentiated themselves from mass-market models through their enhanced handling and performance, but many mass-market cars are now built on the same chassis as luxury models, VanAmburg noted.

Of course, prestige remains an important element in why some consumers choose to purchase a luxury car over a mass-market vehicle.

Read on to learn about the 5 highest and lowest scoring cars, according to the latest ACSI survey.

 Posted by at 11:12 am