Category Archives: Autos

Quick Take: 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring

LOS ANGELES, California — “This is one of the rare vehicles that would probably be more enjoyable as an automatic instead of a stick,” said online editor Ed Tahaney while testing a manual-equipped 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Sport during our 2018 All-Stars competition. While the Accord came away with a well-earned All-Stars trophy, it’s no secret that even middling manual transmissions garner bonus points from the likes of us. But some time spent with an automatic Accord indicates Tahaney may have been onto something.

The automatic Accord in question is a Modern Steel 2.0T Touring with a $36,695 price tag. This is the top-of-the-range Accord, and aside from the powertrain upgrade from the 1.5-liter turbo-four and its CVT to the 2.0-liter turbo-four and its 10-speed automatic, it offers zero options. Not just on our tester, but period. Everything offered on the Accord is standard on the Touring, including Honda’s full range of driver-assist and automation systems, wireless phone charging, and a head-up display.

The 10-speed auto proved itself well in multiple flavors of Los Angeles traffic, always remaining smooth and never hunting for the right gear. Response to throttle application in normal mode is a bit delayed and there’s often a slight bit of lag while the engine spools up—despite its 273 lb-ft torque-peak beginning at 1,500 rpm (peak output of 252 hp is reached at 6,500 rpm), but it is completely reasonable for normal driving. When more response is needed, hitting the Sport button heightens the throttle’s response, quickens shifts, and stiffens steering.

Once the engine, which is a smooth operator as well, wakes up, things move quickly. During testing, our colleagues at Motor Trend hit 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds. Yes, you read that right—this family sedan is a 14-second car. It’s even quicker in a straight line than a Volkswagen GTI. And it doesn’t chug gas in the process, earning an EPA mileage rating of 22/32 mpg city/highway.

It doesn’t hurt that this new Accord has a balanced chassis, either. It would be a stretch to describe this luxury-spec Accord as fun, but it is certainly enjoyable to drive, and the excellence in its overall execution is satisfying. Despite offering a sportier suspension setup than the average midsize sedan, the 2018 Accord was no less comfortable on the truck-pounded and poorly maintained pavement of Interstates 5 and 605 through Los Angeles county, absorbing impacts with luxury-car levels of composure. Road noise was contained surprisingly well, too.

One place Honda succeeded here after a few years of stumbling is the interior controls’ layout. For starters, there’s only one screen, a high-resolution 8.0-inch unit, instead of two. Second, the infotainment system features the volume and tuning knobs that Honda was widely panned for removing in much of its lineup. Third, the overall user interface is improved considerably as well, and it now features large, colorful icons along with physical buttons for key functions. Fourth, climate control, er, controls, receive temperature and fan speed knobs instead of buttons. Not only is it all easier to use, it looks better, too.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included for the phone-connecting set along with a host of other apps. Converting the data of the streaming audio into sound is a premium audio system that divides 450 watts of power across 10 speakers, including a subwoofer. It’s not the punchiest setup in the world, but the overall sound fidelity is solid.

Space for humans and their cargo alike is, unsurprisingly, excellent. The 2018 Accord provides more than 37 inches of headroom and more than 40 inches of legroom for both rows, so space is not a premium unless three full-size adults are shoehorned into the backseat. Even then, that middle seat might be more comfortable than its equivalent in economy class. As for cargo volume, the spacious trunk offers 16.7 cubic feet of space, and the 60/40-split rear seats fold easily, with the 40-percent piece conveniently located on the driver’s side.

Odd details include the Acura-sourced push-button shifter and the mostly-but-not-entirely digital gauge cluster, which retains an analog speedometer. Speaking of Acura, the 2018 Accord Touring is equipped well-enough to make the TLX, which is based on the outgoing Accord and uses the older car’s engines, a rather pointless exercise unless you need all-wheel drive or can’t live without Alcantara. You’d do well to consider this Honda if you’re looking at Audi A4s as well. It’s a better value and a more memorable drive.

As an enthusiast and manual fanatic, I’d still sacrifice some of the fancy bits and go for the 2.0T Sport with the stick. But those of you that want to avoid the three-pedal dance in heavy traffic will come away extremely pleased with the 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring and its 10-speed automatic. The manual Accord might be a better sports sedan, but the automatic version is a much better daily driver.

2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $36,695 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/365 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 22/32 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 192.2 x 73.3 x 57.1 in
WHEELBASE 111.4 in
WEIGHT 3,428 lb
0-60 MPH 5.7 sec
TOP SPEED 124 mph

2020 Porsche 911 spied completely uncovered for the first time

The current 991-generation Porsche 911 is nearing the end of its life. We’ve seen spy photos of the upcoming 911 Speedster, a car that served as a swan song for the old 997-generation. We’ve also seen plenty of spy photos of the upcoming 992 generation, most of them wrapped in a light camouflage. We now have one of our best looks yet at the new car, though it’s just a few photos of the rear.

All of the test cars we’ve seen so far have been black. These photos show a yellow 992 completely uncovered. As expected, the rear lighting looks straight off the 2018 Porsche Panamera or 2019 Porsche Cayenne. The lower half of the rear bumper has been updated, too, with vents on the side and a black panel spanning the car’s width. The quad exhaust tips and the lack of a rear wing suggest that this is the new Carrera S, though it’s hard to say for sure.

We don’t know when the new model will be released, but expect to see more news this upcoming auto show season.

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Terrafugia Transition flying car going on sale next year

Those flying cars we’ve been waiting for since “The Jetsons” first aired are right around the corner. Earlier this week, we got news that the BlackFly personal aerial vehicle aims to go on sale next year. Workhorse Group’s SureFly looks promising, with a hybrid electric flight system and redundant safety features. Even Uber, Daimler, Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce and others have their own flying car and air taxi ambitions. Terrafugia has been working on its Transition flying car for years — and we say car in this case because this one actually has road-going capabilities. According to the company, the Transition has plans to begin production in 2019. Terrafugia has announced new features as well.

The next batch of test vehicles gets some valuable upgrades, including a hybrid mode that uses a lithium-iron-phosphate battery. A “boost” feature gives the Transition a brief surge of extra power when flying, which will surely be helpful for overtaking in crowded skies (we’re winking, if you can’t tell).

The remodeled interior gets better seats, a new user interface and more cargo space, along with improved seatbelts and airbags. On the road, it’ll use a three-camera system for a better view out the rear of the car.

Terrafugia has also announced that it has partnered with new suppliers. It’s working with Dynon to source its electric flight information systems, and BRS for a full-frame parachute system. Terrafugia says the Transition will comply with both Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety rules.

Following the Transition, Terrafugia — which is owned by Volvo’s parent company Geely — is planning a vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft called the TF-2.

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Ferrari patents a fancy and fascinating electric turbocharger

While turbocharging has improved vastly over the years, and it has enabled cars to become both more powerful and more efficient, there’s always room for improvement. Turbochargers scavenge exhaust gas pressure and use it to turn a compressor that forces intake air into the cylinders. However, as the patent points out, this means the intake compressor and the exhaust turbine are physically coupled, and have to spin at the same rate. Ferrari’s design divorces the two, and it’s a happy breakup.

The key is hooking up the two components of the turbo to their own individual electric motors, with an energy storage device in between. It’s different than the electric supercharger systems you have seen on certain Audi products, for example. Those systems recover energy like a hybrid, store it, and then use it to drive an intake compressor. It supplements conventional turbochargers that harvest energy from the exhaust. In systems like Audi’s, the electric supercharger is supplementing the sequential conventional turbochargers when they’re not operating efficiently, at very low RPM in particular. It works well, but it’s complicated, and it is a workaround for the limitations of a conventional turbocharger. See below for an animation of the Audi system.

Usually, optimizing a turbo is a compromise between figuring out what RPM is ideal for each side to spin at to generate power. A smaller compressor generates boost more quickly, but loses efficiency at higher RPM. But there’s way more energy in high-RPM exhaust gasses. By hooking up the turbine to an electric motor instead, you can harvest energy from the exhaust throughout the rev range, and particularly when the engine is pushing lots of gasses through. And you can store that energy in a battery if it’s not needed at that moment.

The intake-side compressor also has a reversible electric motor attached. It is not physically connected to the turbine, so it can operate at any time the computers decide it’s beneficial. As engine RPM increases, the compressor doesn’t have to increase its speed beyond its optimal range, so there’s less energy wasted. And at low RPM situations, when a conventional turbocharger wouldn’t have enough exhaust gas passing through its turbine side to generate useful boost in the compressor side, the electric motor can spin up Ferrari’s divorced compressor to provide some boost. That practically eliminates turbo lag.

Lastly, in high-RPM operation, the turbine can provide more than enough power to run the compressor at full speed. So it can also send some additional energy to a third motor/generator mechanically attached to the driveline. That means the turbine is providing boost through the compressor and additional mechanical energy by way of the crank- or transmission-mounted motor/generator, increasing efficiency. And of course, making total engine output even greater.

There are other benefits. Packaging, for one. Since the compressor and turbine aren’t physically connected to each other, they can be placed wherever is best in a tight engine bay. With a conventional turbo, even the best laid-out systems still end up having a lot of piping, routing both exhaust gasses and compressed intake charge to and from the same location. It puts a very hot turbine in close proximity to the intake tract, reducing efficiency by heating up the intake charge. But if the compressor is separate, you can put it pretty much anywhere, and have a shorter, more direct path to the intake manifold. It could even eliminate the need for a charge-air cooler (an intercooler) in certain applications, saving weight and complexity.

Sound quality is another. In a typical turbocharged car, using the exhaust gas pressure to spin a turbine necessarily quiets the car down. Ferrari’s system can actually, in certain situations, use electricity to spin the turbine to generate some additional exhaust pressure to increase the sound quality — at the expense of some proportion of theoretical mechanical power. It can be spun faster for higher-pitched sounds, or slowed down with the electric motor to produce lower ones. It’s all governed by a computer that seeks to balance power output with an overall sound quality profile. This system can eliminate or supplement exhaust systems with active valves.

It’s certainly a fascinating design that could be beneficial to both supercars and commuter cars. It also seems pretty feasible, since we’ve already seen car companies use electric compressors on their own for performance applications. We’re excited to see what future Ferraris might get this technology, and what other companies might try something similar.

By Joel Stocksdale and Alex Kierstein

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Watch Faraday Future’s high-speed FF91 field tests

Reporting by Mariella Moon for Engadget.

Faraday Future hasn’t given up on the FF91 despite going through a financial crisis and losing executives along the way. Now, a few months after a Hong Kong investor reportedly threw the startup a $1.5 billion lifeline, it has dropped a new video showing the tests it recently conducted to validate the luxury EV’s battery, thermal and powertrain controls. The company’s engineers staged what they call the “Autobahn drive cycle” and “Operation 120 mph” tests, which are critical to the FF91’s engineering process. Chou Yeh, Faraday’s Senior Manager of Powertrain and Thermal Controls, said the tests will help “eliminate issues before they arise and [continue] to add value to the vehicle during the final stages of verification.”

While the engineers call the first trial the Autobahn test, they didn’t actually conduct it in a German expressway. Instead, the FF91 sped down the test track in Ohio at 155 mph for 3 minutes, followed by 75 mph for 2 minutes. The driver repeated the cycle thrice for a total of 15 minutes. After that, they subjected the EV to a 55-minute test drive at a constant speed of 120 mph, monitoring the batteries’ thermal temperature and making sure the motors and inverters are getting adequate cooling from start to finish.

The company said it’s pleased with the tests’ results and that the initial data “looked really promising.” Its engineers believe they could go even further — if they want to release the car later this year, we’ll likely see more videos like these in the near future.

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A fast Lamborghini, a four-cylinder Supra and Peugeot’s return | Autoblog Podcast #547

On this week’s Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale and Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski. We talk about driving the Lamborghini Huracán Performante Spyder, Porsche 718 Boxster GTS, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and Audi Q8. We also discuss the Toyota Supra and how it could impact the 86, the possibility of a Civic Type R with a small wing, as well as Peugeot’s plans to return to America.

Autoblog Podcast #547

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Toyota might stop importing certain models if tariffs imposed

In case you hadn’t heard, the entire automotive industry, both domestic and foreign, is very much against the automotive tariffs proposed by the Trump administration. And while the industry is lobbying hard against such tariffs, companies are also having to consider what to do in the event they are passed. CEO of Toyota’s North American operations, Jim Lentz, told Bloomberg that the company will certainly be reconsidering its strategy in the event of tariffs between 10 and 25 percent the cost of the car. He told the news outlet that, depending on how high the tariffs are, Toyota might just increase the price of some models, or stop importing them altogether.

Toyota does build a large number of its cars here in the United States. The Toyota Camry, Avalon, Tundra, Highlander, Sequoia, Sienna models are all built here, as well as some Tacomas, Corolla sedans, and Lexus ES sedans. Many of those vehicles are big sellers for Toyota, too, so that’s good for the company.

But many other Toyotas are built outside the country. The Toyota RAV4, Prius range, C-HR, Corolla hatchback, Land Cruiser, 86, Yaris, Yaris sedan, Mirai, 4Runner, and the entire Lexus line are built in other countries.

Some of these imports we’re sure are safe no matter how high the tariffs might be. The RAV4 is the company’s biggest seller, and the Prius sells well, too. Even if the Prius wasn’t selling so well, the company would probably still sell it simply because it’s an image builder. Somewhat related, we imagine Toyota would continue offering a handful of Mirais. The 4Runner, C-HR and Corolla hatchback would probably be safe, too. If these models stick around after potential tariffs are imposed, expect their prices to increase.

But in the Toyota line, anything that’s not selling well and has tight margins is probably doomed. Chief among them are the French-built Yaris hatchback and the Mexican-built Yaris iA sedan. Both cars have terrible sales, and being low-end cheap cars, they’ll only sell worse with higher prices, and Toyota will lose money if it has to eat the tariff. The 86 is a similar situation in which it’s a niche vehicle that has had weak sales and is being sold at a relatively low price. The Land Cruiser could go either way. It sells in small numbers, but it’s already extremely expensive and continues to sell. Buyers might not be put off by spending some more.

Moving over to the Lexus side of things, mainstream models are undoubtedly safe such as the IS, GS and LS sedans, and especially the NX, RX, GX and LX SUVs. The RC and LC coupes might be in a tough spot because their sales are pretty small compared with the other models. But as luxury products, they all may have some room to increase prices somewhat. We’ll have to see what happens with tariffs to have a better sense of the particular impact on Toyota and Lexus.

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The Furrion Elysium RV takes luxury to a new level

The Elysium concept glamper was created by tech company Furrion. It has tons of technology and is luxurious as they come. It even has a heli pad.

Transcript: The Elysium concept glamper is a state-of-the-art RV. Tech company Furrion created this RV with tons of technology and luxury. The upper ‘deck’ is equipped with a hot tub and helicopter landing pad.

Inside you’ll find luxurious accommodations including a fireplace and complete kitchen. All of this fits inside Elysium’s 45′ long, 8′ wide, and 13′ 6″ high unit of space. Elysium is one of three concept vehicles from Furrion who also make The Limitless and The Hercules, which debuted at CES 2018. Learn more at furrion.com.

Waymo’s autonomous vehicles are driving 25,000 miles every day

Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under Alphabet, has driven 8 million miles on public roads using its autonomous vehicles.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik shared the company’s milestone Friday while onstage with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at the National Governors Association conference in Santa Fe, N.M. The figure is notable when compared to where Waymo was less than a year ago. In November, the company announced it had reached 4 million miles, meaning the company has been able to double the number of autonomous miles driven on public roads in just eight months.

Waymo’s fleet of self-driving vehicles is now logging 25,000 miles every day on public roads, Krafcik said. He later tweeted out the stats along with a graphic. Waymo has 600 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on the road in 25 cities. It’s also adding 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace crossovers and has plans for another 62,000 Pacificas.

The company also relies on simulation as it works to build an AI-based self-driving system that performs better than a human. In the past nine years, Waymo has “driven” more than 5 billion miles in its simulation, according to the company. That’s the equivalent to 25,000 virtual cars driving all day, everyday, the company says.

This newly shared goal signals Waymo is getting closer to launching a commercial driverless transportation service later this year. More than 400 residents in Phoenix have been trialing Waymo’s technology by using an app to hail self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

The company says it plans to launch its service later this year.

Waymo’s driverless ride-hailing service has received the most attention. But the company is also working to apply its self-driving system to three other areas, including logistics (so trucking), making public transportation more accessible and, further off, plans to work with automakers to make personally owned vehicles.

Waymo, and more specifically Krafcik, has never provided much detail about how its self-driving system would make public transportation more accessible. On Thursday, Krafcik teased a future announcement.

“We’ll have announcements soon about how we’re going to use our technology move people from their homes or work to existing public infrastructure hubs so we as a society can get more ROI from those public transportation infrastructure investments,” Krafcik said.

You can watch the full video with Sandoval and Krafcik at the top of this page, which begins at the 46:40 mark.