Audi continues record U.S. sales streak for 68th consecutive month

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Volkswagen to unveil new midsize SUV

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The Tiguan compact SUV has been one of VW’s stars in the U.S., with sales growing by 49 percent through the first seven months of 2016. The company hopes to build on that success with the new midsize SUV.

With new leadership for the North American market, VW plans big changes. An expanded factory in Tennessee, and an all-new 2017 mid-size SUV are all pointing the way. It will VW’s entry into the lucrative soccer-wagon market.

After test driving a camouflaged prototype, Volkswagen North America chief engineering officer Matthias Erb said the new sport utility vehicle fills a gap for growing families. “If someone already had a Passat but wanted something bigger after having two kids, we didn’t have anything to offer them,” he said, “the Tiguan was too small, because a compact SUV offers essentially the same space as a midsize sedan.”

VW hasn’t finalized a name for the new SUV just yet, but their recent choices (Touareg and Tiguan) have started with a “T” so for now call it To Be Decided. VW plans to unveil it on October 27th and display it the L.A. Auto Show in November, so full details are not far off.

The test mule shown is heavily masked both inside and out, but larger than the 5-passenger Touareg, and easily has room for 7 adults. Two 6-foot, 260-pound men can fit into the third row seats, with two more in the second row. Third-row entry is easily achieved through an unique second-row seat that tips forward with both the seat base and back, allowing more space for getting in and out.

The new SUV is coming at a good time for VW. Challenges will include changing consumer perceptions of Volkswagen as a seller of compact sedans, and to filling the needs of U.S. drivers, who don’t need vehicles that can hold their own on the Autobahn.

The success of the new SUV is also key to the future of VW’s Chattanooga plant, which has made only the Passat sedan since opening, to great fanfare, in 2011. Most other Volkswagens destined for the U.S. are made in Mexico.

Porsche 960 supercar delayed

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Porsche wants a bigger slice of the supercar market but may have to wait longer than previously expected.

Buoyed by the success of the 918 Spyder, Porsche is keen to launch a more accessible performance offering to fill the gap between the top-end 911s and the hypercar segment that the 918 sits in. The car, a spiritual successor to the legendary 959, hence the reason it’s doing the rounds as the “960,” would target the Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracán and McLaren 650S. And like those rivals, it too would feature a mid-engine layout and be a more permanent fixture in the lineup.

But according to Automotive News, we may not see the 960 until as late as 2026. An original due date this decade is reportedly proving difficult, despite development of the car having been underway for some time. We previously heard the car would be launched around 2017 and be the first model to ride on a modular sports car platform being developed by Porsche for its next-generation 718 and 911 models, as well as a new Audi R8 and next-generation supercars from Lamborghini.

The primary reason for the delay could be VW’s efforts to cut costs by eliminating niche products. Much of the German auto giant’s resources are now tied up in electric cars. The 960 on the other hand was thought to be coming with a quad-turbocharged flat-8 engine with as much as 650 horsepower on tap. Another reason could be concern the car could cannibalize sales of supercar models from Audi and Lamborghini.

And Porsche already has a lot on its plate. Later this year we’ll see a new Panamera wagon. There’s also the next-generation 911, a new electric car (likely to be a sleek sedan) based on 2015’s Mission E concept car, and even the possibility of an SUV with coupe-like styling.

Audi to employ Virtual Reality Headsets in future showrooms

 

myAudi Sphere: Following a complete remodeling, the former Audi Forum at Munich Airport is reopening as a discovery platform for progressive tools in the dialogue between customers, the manufacturer and dealers. The focus is on digital innovations that connect the real and virtual worlds of Audi. myAudi Sphere is the first showroom worldwide to stage an advanced setup of the brand’s virtual reality application: the “Audi Walking VR experience”. Visitors using the virtual reality headset to get an especially realistic view of their dream Audi can now walk around it freely and even take a seat inside.

 

Virtual Reality is here and now. You can buy an Oculus, there’s a headset that comes with a Samsung phone, and if you wander the halls at the next Consumer Electronics Show, you’ll be surrounded by a sea of developers creating worlds for virtual reality exploration. Soon Audi customers will get a taste of virtual reality as the company’s dealerships begin rolling out VR headsets to its showrooms.

The German automaker is diving into the VR landscape in a variety of ways. On a training and technical level, Audi has developed a system that lets sales people show customers what it’s like driving in one of its cars fitted with the Pre Sense City Safety feature. This safety system helps mitigate accidents by sensing the world around it and applying braking forces when deemed necessary. It’s difficult to show the full capabilities of this system with actual cars, but it’s quite easy in the virtual world.

Beyond safety tech, Audi is using VR to show potential customers exactly what they can see in the latest model lineup. This normally would prove difficult from a logistics standpoint for dealerships located in major metropolitan areas. Space is at a premium, and cars take up a fair share of it. With a VR headset, a customer is able to experience an Audi model in 360 degrees and can even move around the car, examining it both from the outside and virtually sit in the cabin. Turning his or head left and right would allow the shopper to see all that the car has to offer. The sales person could have the shopper stand and virtually walk around the outside of the car. While doing so, the exterior color could be changed so that the buyer could see how their car will look.

Acting as a complex configurator, the virtual reality software allows users to cycle between different paint colors, wheels and even interior and exterior options. What’s more, a car can be viewed in a number of different light conditions and locations, such as in Paris and for those so-inclined. Apparently, some folks want to experience the Audi R8 on the moon… as judging by the supplied photo from Audi seen above. If we can incorporate that surface and that car into the next iteration of Forza Motorsport, we’re all for it.

According to Marcus Kühne from Audi’s digital retail solutions division, “Our challenge is that our customers often only come to a dealership to talk about the price. They already know everything there is to know about their chosen car from internet research. But we would like to engage them and give them a better time at the dealership. “We’d like them to have a consultation about the car rather than look on the internet. The VR technology could do this: it is invasive, emotional and unexpected,” he said.

Autocar says Audi is trying the system in six of its German dealerships and is still yet to decide between the two virtual reality headsets it is testing, the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.

2016 Porsche Cayenne GTS test drive

Back in the ’80s, if you told a Porsche 962 engineer that Porsche would eventually produce an SUV (then an unknown term)with 440 horses, capable of being driven on track, they would have called you a dreamer. All these years later the Cayenne — an SUV — is Porsche’s best-selling model.Buyers love it. Porsche sold over 16,000 Cayennes in 2015, more than any other Porsche by quite a margin. And the Cayenne GTS is the top of the line, with a muscular body, lowered ride height and the spirit of a sports car.

The Cayenne’s success allows Porsche to build supremos like the Cayenne GTS. The GTS differs from its Turbo counterparts, with a 20mm drop in suspension travel for better handling, not to mention a great looking stance, particularly with 20-inch wheels. But if necessary, you can raise the suspension for off-road travel. The Cayenne will ford water, cruise highways, or it will drive the commute with equal poise.

A new 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 replaces the earlier V8, with an additional 20 horsepower and plenty of torque. Combined with the 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission, the engine generates  fast, brutal acceleration: 0-60 of 4.8 seconds.

Inside, Porsche combined the best from the Panamera and the 911 for an interior that is necessarily complex, but also easy to learn.

Its impressive that trucks and SUVs are made like this — ones that can handle tremendous horsepower and handling efforts and still provide comfortable driving dynamics. It’s proof that racing technology really does trickle down from the track to the street. Give Porsche credit for that.

Cayenne GTS in stock >>

First Look: 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo

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Now that even the “entry-level”  2017 Porsche 911 Carrera will be turbocharged, the iconic Porsche 911 Turbo has to maintain its lead for 2017. Its twin-turbo 3.8-liter six-cylinder now turns 540 hp, and the even more-powerful Turbo S puts out 580 hp. Modified cylinder head intake ports, new injectors and greater fuel pressure supply the increased output on both models, with the Turbo S adding a larger turbocharger impeller. With their redlines increased 200 rpm to 7,200 rpm, the cars generate zero-to-60 mph times of 2.9 seconds for the Turbo and an even quicker 2.8 seconds for the Turbo S.

Despite the increased power, fuel economy is improved thanks to better engine and transmission management. A new dynamic boost function in the engine programming with will improve throttle response, maintaining boost pressure when the throttle is briefly let up for quicker response once the pedal is pressed.  The most aggressive use of the dynamic boost function comes in the Sport and Sport Plus modes.

The 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S will be the cars to beat for the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S, Nissan GT-R. They are expected in April 2016.

2017 Audi Q7: First Drive

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Audi’s three-row SUV gets a new look, more space and a major upgrade in technology. It’s a solid choice in the seven-passenger SUV arena.

The upright, angular, three-dimensional grille trademarking Audi cars (like the A4 and the TT) now lives on the flagship SUV. Sharp shoulders give the body a new, substantial, angular presence.

While essentially the same size as the previous model, the new Q7 has more interior space. The door panels and the backs of the seats have cut-outs for shoulders and knees. It feels spacious and ample enough to comfortably seat at least five adults. The third row has gained space thanks to a more compact rear suspension and lower floor, and allows for an additional two passengers, albeit small ones. Aluminum body panels and an all-new chassis help give the Q7 more interior space. The new design and smaller center differential means that the floor inside the Q7 is lower than it was in its predecessor, making more room for luggage and passengers.

Audi has outfitted the new Q7 with more than 31 driver assistance packages. The rear cross-traffic alert system uses two radar sensors embedded in the bumper of the Q7 that scan crossing traffic while you are backing out. If you aren’t paying attention, the system alerts you with visual cues, and then strongly applies the brakes if you continue to back into traffic.

The collision avoidance system helps prevent frontal collisions. Using the forward-looking camera mounted behind the rear view mirror in the windshield, the Q7 can detect when you are about to turn into oncoming traffic. If you continue to do so, the Q7 sends out an audible alert and then applies the brakes, holding itself in the lane until the oncoming car passed.

Audi’s Presense Plus not only senses and warns about collision, but also can stop the car at up to 137 miles per hour.

Plus Audi offers a suite of technologies including everything from Apple Car Play and Android Auto to the ability to open your Q7 using your phone. With Audi Connect you can set various tracking situations for your Q7, including a “curfe,” that can alert you when the Q7 has been started or stopped between certain hours; speed and valet alerts when the car is out of your possession (like with teenagers or valets); and geo-fencing, alerting you when the vehicle has entered or exited a specified area. You can also remote lock and unlock your Q7 using Audi Connect.

The Q7 even has a smart rack that attaches to rails on the Q7’s roof. When a load is detected the damper settings are automatically adjusted to keep the Q7 planted.

The Audi Q7 is powered by a 3-liter, V-6 with 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive—all good for a run from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. An optional air suspension can be adjusted based on your driving style using Audi’s MMI system or by using hard keys on the dash.

Audi expects the new Q7 to get similar gas mileage to the current one. The 2017 Audi Q7 is still elegant, and has beefed up its offerings with a suite of new technology and more space inside a good-looking package.

Porsche Sets Record Year in 2015: 51,756 Vehicles Delivered in the US

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U.S. Porsche dealers sold 3,936 vehicles in December

ATLANTA, Jan. 5, 2016 — Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA), importer and distributor in the United States of Porsche 918 Spyder, 911, Boxster and Cayman sports cars, Macan and Cayenne SUVs, and the Panamera four-door sports sedan line-up, today announced December 2015 sales of 3,936 vehicles, up 20.2 percent over December 2014. This brought 2015 sales to a close at 51,756 vehicles, a new PCNA sales record and a 10.1 percent increase over 2014.

“We are very proud that for the first time in the history of Porsche in the United States, sales have exceeded 50,000 vehicles in a year,” said Klaus Zellmer, President and CEO, Porsche Cars North America. “Our current vehicle portfolio is the most attractive Porsche has ever had, which made this milestone attainable.”

“For the fourth consecutive year, PCNA has set a new annual retail sales record by a double digit margin,” Joe Lawrence, Executive Vice President and COO, commented on the annual sales. “This continued success is a tribute to the collaboration between our highly professional sales organization and dedicated dealer network.”

In comparison to December 2014, Macan models displayed the largest growth with a 60 percent sales increase. The Boxster model range was up by 48.6 percent and the Cayenne model line also increased in December, experiencing a sales rise of 31.6 percent.

Porsche Approved Certified Pre-Owned vehicle sales in the United States reached an all-time record, with sales of 1,541 units inDecember 2015. This resulted in a record year, with 14,749 Porsche Approved Certified Pre-Owned vehicle sales in 2015, a year-over-year increase of 25 percent.

Audi to test high-speed autonomous vehicle tech at Thunderhill

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Audi will hone its high-speed autonomous vehicle technology at Thunderhill Raceway Park in northern California.

Like several other automakers, Audi has already begun highway testing of its self-driving vehicle tech, but public roads aren’t suitable for high-speed evaluations. In order to test the upper limits of its autonomous systems, Audi has signed a multi-year deal with Thunderhill to gain access to the facility’s 3.0-mile road course.

Thunderhill is conveniently located just outside of Willows, California, which is about 180 miles north of Volkswagen’s San Francisco-area Electronics Research Lab in Belmont, California.

“Thunderhill provides a perfect setting to safely test the wide range of systems that will make highly automated driving a reality in the new future,” said Ewald Goessmann, Director, Electronics Research Lab.

Audi hopes to launch its version of autonomous technology — known as piloted driving — with the next version of its A8 sedan. The next Audi A8 is scheduled to launch sometime around 2020.

The Volkswagen Bus Is Back…And Now It’s Electric

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Debuting at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, the Volkswagen Budd-e previews an electric VW Microbus successor that could debut in 2019. While still technically a concept, the Budd-e rides on the new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) that will underpin future small electric cars from VW. Even if the Budd-e doesn’t make it to showrooms, some of its hardware might.

The Budd-e, a pint-sized version of the company’s legendary hippie van, stays true to what seems to be the automotive theme of CES this year – connection to everything on command. The Budd-e will let you know if a visitor is at the front of your house, what’s in your fridge and “make sure your robot cleaner is ready” before you get home, according to one LG exec who came onstage during the presentation.

The Budd-e name is a play on Bulli, the original name of the VW Microbus in Germany. But instead of an air-cooled boxer-four engine in back, the Budd-e features two electric motors, one for each axle. They can propel the van to a top speed of 93 mph, while the 101-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack provides enough juice for 373 miles of range. Admittedly, that’s as measured on the European testing cycle; expect a slightly less impressive performance on the U.S. EPA cycle. Wireless charging is also included, and VW claims the battery pack can be charged to 80 percent capacity in 15 minutes.

The tall, slab-sided, design certainly recalls the Microbus, isn’t as retro as some people might have expected. There’s a modern-style front fascia with thin headlights and a prominent grille that serves no obvious purpose on this electric vehicle. That grille is at least V-shaped in reference to the old bus’ chrome-trimmed face, and the Budd-e sports a two-tone paint job and full LED lighting. The battery pack is also flat like in a Tesla, freeing up interior space.

That interior is packed with tech. An “Active Info Display” is divided into three sections: Drive, Control, and Consume. The “Drive” section features a 3D navigation map with highlighted points of interest, while the “Control” section includes other relevant information like vehicle status and trip data. The “Consume” section displays infotainment content like messages, a calendar, and audio menu. There’s also a 13.3-inch central display linked to the driver-focused Active Info Display.

Other notable features are an “e-Mirror” display that integrates feeds from two external cameras, a multifunction steering wheel that uses haptic feedback instead of buttons and switches, and the next generation of the gesture control technology shown on the Golf R Touch at CES in 2015. But the tech isn’t limited to what is in the car.

Perhaps inspired by hippies using old Microbuses as improvised dwellings, Volkswagen also envisions an integrated “Drop Box” where a delivery person can drop off and pick up packages wherever your car is parked.

Budd-e also seems to be adherent to “the force.” The handleless car doors will automatically open at the command of your voice.

The Budd-e can also be integrated with smart homes; Volkswagen claims it can monitor a smart fridge or put an entire house into energy-saving mode remotely. We’ve clearly come a long way from the old Type 2.