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TopsandSeats.com :: Automotive News

Automotive News

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fiat 500 Convertible to Officially Drop(top) at Geneva Motor Show

The highly anticipated Fiat 500 Convertible will finally be taking off its top at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show this March. The funky 500 Convertible is scheduled to make its way onto showroom floors across Europe by summer of 2009, and will most likely share the same range of engine options as its hatchback sister - a 1.2-liter and 1.4-liter gasoline powered engine, as well as a 1.3-liter turbodiesel.

Unlike most convertibles, such as the MINI Cooper Cabrio, the droptop 500 does not have a fully retractable roof. Instead, it features a folding-back canvas top that covers the roof and the rear glasshouse section, retaining the car's standard pillars (as can be seen in our spy shot gallery of the 500 mule above). While the pillars may inhibit a full convertible experience, it should help keep both the price and weight additions down, potentially making it one of the most inexpensive and unique cabriolets out on the market.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Nissan 370Z Roadster expected to make New York Auto Show debut

With the first trickle of 370Z Coupes starting to hit showrooms across the United States, Nissan has confirmed that the Roadster version of the car will make its world debut at April's New York Auto Show. Nissan chose to avoid this month’s Detroit Auto Show in an attempt to cut costs but the company has a tradition of making major reveals at the New York event and with the Roadster due to go on sale in the second half of the year the decision was an obvious one.

The confirmation was first reported by Edmunds, which also claims that the car will stick with a conventional folding soft-top roof to keep weight down and set it apart from the more premium Infiniti G37 Convertible and its folding metal hard-top. Under the hood of the Roadster will be the same 3.7L VQ37VHR V6 as the Coupe, rated at 332hp (247kW) and 270lb-ft (366Nm) of torque.

In keeping with the ‘affordable performance’ theme of its 350Z predecessor, Nissan will price the new 370Z Roadster only slightly above the Coupe, which starts at $29,930 (excluding destination charges). The new price represents a $1,420 increase over the 2008 350Z, so expect a similar hike for the Roadster.

Gearbox options will include a six-speed manual with the new "SynchroRev Match" function, as well as a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

Earlier this month, several design sketches of the upcoming Roadster were leaked from Europe's Office for Harmonization of the Internal Market (OHIM). While the last-generation 350Z drop-top was often criticized for its looks with the roof up, the leaked images show that the roof lines of Nissan’s new 370Z Roadster are in much better proportion with the rest of the car.


Friday, January 23, 2009

When Beauty removes her bonnet

The Montreal Auto Show has every car aficionado dreaming. Standard cars are obviously legion, grouping the latest and most important offerings on the market. Same story for the exotic cars occupying 7th Heaven, where Aston Martins vie for the spotlight alongside Lamborghinis, Ferraris and assorted Porsches and Maseratis.

But there's nothing better than antique cars originally preserved to catch the eye. And when these cars doff their hats, as is the case of the superb collection of 1950 convertibles at the Auto Show, car buffs are nostalgically transported back in time.

Of the 10 convertibles in 7th Heaven, some have literally made history or fired the imagination. The 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, for instance, is one of the best preserved specimens of the car, one of the brand's most popular at the time.

Also noteworthy is the presence of the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner, a mechanical marvel with its retractable hardtop that was a true breakthrough in 1958.

Others are just as famous for their significance or their design. It's the case of the 1954 and 1957 Chevrolet Corvettes, two automotive gems restored according to the original requirements and the value of which surpasses 250 million dollars each.

The ultimate full-size luxury cars with their imposing dimensions and still eye-catching design, the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz is the brand's heritage, while the Cadillac Series 62 version (a 1956 model here) is directly inspired from the car used by American president Eisenhower at his nomination ceremony in 1953.

No visit would be complete without a peek at the Pontiac Star Chief, the Mercury Monarch Lucerne and the Mercury Montclair, true collector's pieces restored in accordance with the standards of the time.

This collection of 1950 convertibles is one of the largest ever gathered in a Canadian auto show.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Audi A4 Tops BMW 3-Series In German Sales

For years now Audi has coveted the number one position on the prestige sales charts. The release of 2008 sales figures for Germany show just how close it is now getting to claiming that ‘prize’. In its domestic market, Audi sold 98,714 units of the A4, outselling the BMW 3-Series in the process.

The A4 was the second-best selling model in Germany, behind the Volkswagen Golf. Audi’s A6 and TT also topped their market segments. Audi also saw increased sales figures in Germany and across all of Western Europe.

Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler said, “Audi is presently experiencing stronger growth than any other premium brand in the region - and thanks to new models we will maintain this dynamism.” Audi sold just over one million vehicles worldwide in 2008; behind BMW with total sales of 1.3 million.

Audi will this year be celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary and will be looking to improve sales results in 2009. For this, Audi will be pinning its hopes on the launches of the S4 sedan and avant, A5 and S5 convertible and the rumoured TT-RS.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Peugeot 207CC & 308CC To Debut At Melbourne Motor Show

Peugeot has confirmed that it will have not one but two convertible models on display at the upcoming Melbourne Motor Show, opening late February (Feb 27th to March 9th). Peugeot, who will be the only manufacturer on hand with two different convertible models, will display the 207CC and 308CC.

The 308CC is due to go on sale in Oz later this year and, like the 307CC it replaces, features four full-size seats in a neat coupe cabriolet package.

Peugeot has a long history with drop-top motoring, beginning way back in the 1930s with the 401, 601 and 402 ‘Eclipse’ models. It is no surprise then to see that new 308CC comes laden with special features like its warm air system. Adjustable for temperature and flow, air is diffused around the necks and shoulders of occupants for maximum comfort when driving with the top down.

The 308CC follows the 307CC in utilising a stylish, metal folding roof. But there is a little more balance to the lines of the new model, especially around the rear haunches. Expected to go on sale mid this year, the 308CC will complete the 308 range of hatches and Touring wagons.

Stay tuned for more info closer to the Melbourne Motor Show.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Video: Best cars of 2008

2008 may have been brutal for the auto industry but there have never been so many great cars.

Competition is fierce to say the least.

Despite what our congressmen in Washington D.C. may think, everyone, and I do mean everyone is turning out world class product these days.

I drove nearly 100 different examples of modern transportation this year and only a couple were duds.

Things are just that good.

With a tip of my hat to''This is Spinal Ta'' I humbly offer up my Top 11 List.

I base my choices on design, value, overall driving dynamics and how each vehicle stacks up to the competition in its class.

There are a few rules I always follow in this yearly ritual.

To keep things somewhat sane I have a price cap of $75,000.

That keeps the fabulous Nissan GT-R, BMW M3 convertible and Audi R8 out of the hunt.

If I didn't drive it then it doesn't make the cut.

Embarrassingly it means I have to pass on both major league pickup debuts, Dodge Ram and Ford F150.

I hear excellent things about both.

Finally, previous winners are allowed to compete even if I didn't warm their seats in '08.

Let's begin in alphabetical order.

Audi A5/S5. I drove the V8 S5and I can still hear the throaty engine in my dreams. Athletic and full of character, the A coupes ooze sophistication inside and out. We should all be so lucky. This Audi handles both luxury and performance roles with ease.

Cadillac CTS returns from 2007's Top 11 list. Distinctive knife edged style, dynamic performance and a well crafted cabin keep this car a winner. Available in rear and all-wheel drive, CTS proves The General has what it takes to compete. Leave this performance sedan off your test drive list and you're only cheating yourself.

Chevy Malibu is also back for a second year. In the white hot sedan market Malibu offers up what people want - an exceptional balance of handsome design, composed comfort and excellent fuel economy. All that at a reasonable price. A friend of mine saw one drive by and assuming it was imported asked''Why can't Americans build cars like that'' They do and it is good.

The perfect '70s time machine has been built and it's the Dodge Challenger R/T. The Prius crowd may not like the idea of a muscle car revival but this Dodge really draws a crowd. Punch the go pedal and an involuntary grin will stretch across your face. Not only does it have excellent performance and handling, it's perfectly drawn. Challenger gets my vote for design of the year. I prefer the R/T version to the uber powerful SRT8 because R/T offers better bang for the buck.

Ford’s Flex delivers on their outgoing slogan Bold Moves. It looks like a giant Scion xB or MINI Cooper. This rectangle on wheels is uncommonly quiet, spacious as a limo and can be had with Microsoft’s Sync system. There’s even an optional refrigerator allowing Ford to quip it’s the only vehicle on the road with a Sync and a fridge. If you need to transport seven people, Flex makes it hip to be square.

The small Honda Fit is a big deal. New and improved this year, it's frisky, frugal, and functional. It can hold five adults and handle loads of cargo with unique folding seats that have more moves that Juliana Huff. Looking to keep the budget lean? Fit is clearly the most engaging car in its class. Put it on top of your test drive list. I’ll have a full report on the Fit in the next week or two.

Jaguar XF is luxury redefined. Artistic, theatrical and emotional, the XF delights everyone who comes near it. The start button pulses with a heartbeat and the transmission controller rises up upon engine ignition. At night the instrument panel looks like a character from the classic Disney movie Tron. This is a beautiful car that almost seems alive, especially to a driver.

Who says families have to drive boring cars? Mazda6 has grown up in its redesign. There's generous room for five adults, spirited acceleration with the optional V6, crisp handling and sheetmetal that looks as if it were rendered in Italy. The 6 is one of the most dramatically improved cars of 2008. Check it out.

Pontiac G8. Possibly the most overlooked sedan of 2008. Many cars claim to be a budget BMW, G8 comes the closest. A true rear-drive performance machine, it's sized like a 5 Series but priced below the 3. Where I come from that's called a good deal. Available in V6, V8 GT, and soon the extra-strength GPX edition. Screwed together in Australia, G8 is the classic American performance sedan.

At first glance it would be easy to view Toyota's Venza crossover as the new Lexus RX350. It looks that good. The pleasantly designed cabin will haul five adults and their luggage. Venza is not a radical new kind of vehicle but a steady stream of small details keeps popping up, winning people over. Available in front or all-wheel drive, Venza will keep families happy for the long haul.

Finally, Volkswagen’s Jetta SportWagen. German engineering that looks and feels more expensive than it is. In the week I spent with this car it served my family’s needs perfectly, even enduring a mega shopping spree at IKEA. Available with a clean diesel engine that returns high MPG, SportWagen is fun to drive and useful to boot. If you don’t buy in to the misconception that wagons are dowdy, SportWagen just may become your best friend.

Those are my top picks for 2008.

You may have noticed the links that will send you to longer written reviews and streaming videos.

It was unusually tough to cull this list down this year. Other cars I enjoyed in '08 are Acura TL, TSX and MDX, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Buick Enclave, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Journey, Infiniti G37, Kia Rondo, Mazda5 and Subaru Forester. All of these were seriously considered as possible Top 11 choices and worth a strong look.


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