Would you consider an electric car if your lease cost was $ 999 down and $ 199 per month for 36 months? And if the dealership had a special hotline you could call to untangle confusion regarding costs, incentives, and more? What if, each year of your lease, you received 12 days’ use of a gas-powered car? And if there were a smartphone app that could communicate the vehicle’s charge level, control charging, help find charging stations, and heat or cool your car while it was still plugged in? Suppose that electric car drove very much like its gasoline counterpart except quieter? And, honestly, do you drive more than 87 miles each day? If this sounds peachy—and you live in California—Fiat has an electric 500E waiting with your name on it.
Get Down with the Down Low
The new 500E moves under the power of a three-phase AC synchronous motor that delivers 111 horses and 147 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission. Energy is stored in a 642-pound, liquid-cooled (and heated), 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that lives under the floor between the side rails. The flat pack stretches from the front seats to 10 inches shy of the rear bumper.
One could make the case that Bosch deserves a badge on this car, as the firm provides the battery (cells by Samsung), the battery packaging, the management software, the electric motor, and the regenerative braking system. Fiat calls the braking fully blended, so that, when you’re coasting or braking, the motor is recovering every electron possible and shoving it back into the battery. This only lessens when the battery is full or if the car is traveling slower than 8 mph—at that point the car reverts to conventional friction braking. The regen also shuts off during full-ABS panic stops.
Overall weight gain stands at some 600 pounds over a regular 500, which places the 500E dangerously close to the 3000-pound mark. It was this extra poundage that motivated engineers to use the flattened battery shape to mount the pack down low in the car, where the weight is less deleterious to handling. There are other alterations, including a reworked body structure that is said to be 10 percent more rigid, much stiffer springs, and a heavy-duty rear axle shared with the hotted-up 500 Abarth. The 500E rides on 15-inch Firestone Firehawk GT low-rolling-resistance tires.
Mercedes-Benz’s recently unveiled CLA-class is more than just the brand’s most recent foray into the world of front-wheel drive. It’s also an indicator of the entire lineup’s stylistic future—for proof, simply look at the freshly updated 2014 E-class. Indeed, Mercedes design director Hans-Dieter Futschik tells us to expect a lot more of the new look going forward, and an additional piece of evidence just arrived in the form of the unofficially unveiled 2014 S-class.
We dig the new style. The new E-class carries forward the availability of two distinct front-end designs. The Luxury model features the traditional Benz grille with three louvers and the three-pointed hood ornament, while the Sport version has the star integrated into the grille for an aesthetic that associates it more with the brand’s performance-oriented offerings. The head- and taillights, both bumpers, the front fenders, the hood, and the rear doors are all new across the board, but the effect is a car that looks stately rather than seductive in its workaday duds. For a wilder take, move on over to the E63 AMG 4MATIC, which backs up its aggressive looks with 550 horsepower (or 577 in the performance S model).
At the other end of the E spectrum lives the car we’re discussing here, the new E250 BlueTec. It may have just one-third the horsepower of the E63 AMG S 4MATIC, but this new diesel is just as interesting. The 2014-model-year replacement for the six-cylinder E350 BlueTec, the E250 and its 2.1-liter turbo-diesel four packs two sequential turbos—that is a smaller one to get things moving and a larger one that takes over at increased engine loads—and 195 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. That output nearly matches the 210 horses and 400 lb-ft of the outgoing E350’s V-6, and the 2.1’s torque figure rings in just 22 lb-ft below that of the last naturally aspirated V-8 offered in the E. The new four-cylinder will also be available shortly in the GLK250 BlueTec crossover.
The four scoots the E-class around. If it’s not in a hurry, then at least it’s not notably lazy. Widely spaced ratios that prolong the transmission’s stay in each gear help the BlueTec feel quicker than it is. Engine noise is subdued, and clues that it’s a diesel are remarkably few. There’s the low shift rpm, and some minor vibrations at highway speeds, when the engine lugs along below 1500 rpm. While that sort of low-rev loading would have most four-cylinders gnawing through their bearings, it’s merely unseemly in this luxury car. For a more transparent and nearly as torquey E-class experience, you might wish to look into the new turbocharged V-6–powered E400 when it arrives to supplant the E550 sedan in about a year.
All 2014 E-classes include an engine stop-start system and a redesigned instrument panel and dashboard, while the options list is now jam-packed with the latest in Mercedes’ safety gadgetry—which we’ve detailed here—as well as a rear trunk you can open by waving your foot below the bumper. Rear-wheel drive is the default for the E250, but 4MATIC all-wheel drive will be available in a diesel E for the first time here in the U.S.
In recent times, the fuel-stingiest Golf in Volkswagen’s global lineup has been the diesel BlueMotion model. Now, with a new Golf on the way, it’s time for a new BlueMotion, a name we think is pitch-perfect for an efficient, potentially money-saving model entering the sagging European marketplace.
The latest iteration is bowing at the Paris auto show in nearly production-ready “concept” form, but the hyper-efficient hatch will go on sale in Europe essentially like this next year. The first Golf BlueMotion model went on sale in 2007; two years later, that car was supplanted by a refreshed version. Like those two previous cars, the 2014 is powered by a super-efficient 1.6-liter diesel four-cylinder. The diesel springs from VW’s new EA288 engine family—we’ve already detailed this engine’s 2.0-liter sibling—that we’ll see here in a variety of MQB-platform VWs. It produces 109 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, six more hp than last year’s engine.
As per BlueMotion standards, this new model receives a thorough rework to extract the most miles per gallon possible. VW fits the car with ultra-low-rolling resistance tires, tall gearing for the five-speed manual gearbox, and numerous aerodynamic tweaks, including underbody cladding, a rear spoiler, a blocked-off grille, and a ride height that’s 0.6 inch lower than a standard Golf’s. An engine stop-start system and regenerative braking setup that fuels the car’s electronics are standard on all new Golfs, and so are present here.
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Not a single day passes without some horrid story about the future of V12 engines. This one is different though. This one’s good news. BMW is celebrating the 25th anniversary of using V12 engines with a special edition 7-Series, limited to only 15 units for the North American market. This unique 760 Li will costs very nearly $ 160,000.
That is good money, but the engine you receive in exchange for it, is better. It’s a 6.0-liter Twin Turbo V12 developing 535 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque. It will give the massive 7-Series a 0 to 60mph sprint time of 4.5 seconds.
To make sure people notice this is a V12 – because nothing’s cooler than having a V12-powered car – and a rather special one no less, you get V12 logos on the dashboard, all of the headrests, door sills, and even on the iDrive joystick thingy. That’s not all. You also get a “V12 25 Years Edition” badge on the boot lid.
These cars all get the Individual treatment with stuff like 20-inch wheels, special wood and piano black trimming, Merino Leather, Alcantara headliner and so on. Further customization is also possible.
The new Ford F-150 Limited is the most refined version of the pickup truck yet. Not only it comes with a bunch of great features as standard, it has special interior and exterior appointments. No other car in this segment currently offers this level of sophistication. The Limited is the latest addition to the lineup of high-end F-150s, including the Harley Davidson, King Ranch and Platinum versions.
On the outside this special truck features 22-inch polished aluminum wheels and center caps with a monochromatic exterior theme available in three hues – Ruby Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Tuxedo Black Metallic and White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat. It also gets body-color front and rear bumpers, front bumper valance, sideview mirror caps, wheel-lip molding, upper fascia and grille surround, bold three-bar grille, tie-down hooks lining the cargo box, Limited lettering, and HID headlamps as well as a tuned exhausts with a single tip.
But it’s the interior where the F-150 Limited really shines. The heated and cooled seats have a red and black leather upholstery, while aluminum trims and Piano black accents adorn the console and the dashboard. The amazing design of the cabin is complemented by the standard SYNC system, featuring MyFord Touch and a 4.2 inch programmable instrument cluster.
What’s more, a standard moonroof provides the upward view, while the rear view camera aids maneuvering visibility. Voice-activated navigation offers a bird’s-eye view via a centrally mounted 8-inch LCD screen. A power-sliding rear window features privacy tint and defrost functionality.
BY JOHN PHILLIPS, PHOTOGRAPHY BY A.J. MUELLER AND THE MANUFACTURER
Hard to believe, but what we have, here, is the eighth-generation Malibu, a car spanning 35 years and, uh, six decades. It has historically been a kind of peripatetic approximation of Midwestern mobile civility—here today, gone tomorrow, then suddenly back again—and it was surely facing another passenger-pigeon demise when GM startlingly imbued the Malibu with all of the stellar credentials found in its sister, the Saturn Aura. Faster than we could say, “GM did what?” the previous-gen Malibu landed on our 2008 10Best list.
The first brand-new Malibu, slated to appear in the spring of 2012, is the Eco, featuring GM’s “light electrification of a traditional powertrain,” a.k.a. eAssist. GM doesn’t want us calling it a hybrid, although “hybrid” sure rolls off the tongue easier than “light electrification.” The system includes an all-in-one motor/generator that replaces the alternator, connected to 32 lithium-ion cells jammed into a 65-pound battery pack located aft of the rear seat. Via a rubber belt, the electric motor—built in China, with no permanent magnets—contributes a bonus 15 horses directly to the crankshaft, mostly under wide-open throttle. Fun fact: The belt has a duty life of 75,000 miles. The Eco’s gas engine displaces 2.4 liters and produces 182 horsepower. Combined, engine and motor are expected to deliver 26 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway. We shall see.
Then, next summer, the more traditional gas-only Malibus will arrive—LS, LT, and LTZ—and they’ll all be powered by a brand-new 2.5-liter Ecotec producing an estimated 190 ponies. If so, that’s a healthy 21-hp nudge beyond the Malibu’s existing inline four. By the way, GM is so certain you’re freaked out over fuel prices that no V-6 will be offered. That’s a bold wager.
We didn’t drive a Malibu with the new engine. It wasn’t ready. Nor was GM positive about its power output. Nor of its fuel economy, although “more than 30 mpg highway” was a stated goal. Instead, what we drove was a preproduction Malibu Eco with 17-inch tires and an LTZ-level cabin that wasn’t finished. Price? GM didn’t know that, either. Hey, sometimes you make the trailer for a movie before you make the movie, okay?
The Malibu’s upscale cabin remains upscale, awash in contrasting colors and classy stitching, as well as so-called basketball graining, which sounds awful but contributes to dimension and depth. So, too, do new decorative lateral dashboard “vanes” that glow with ice-blue ambient lighting. The radio’s touch screen cleverly flips up to reveal a six-inch-deep bin that’s big enough to swallow a cell phone and abag of Fritos. The front seat cushions are firm and nicely scalloped. For two folks, back-seat comfort is excellent, with the Malibu’s wider front and rear tracks resulting in a 3.2-inch gain in shoulder room.