Still hope for the Nissan IDX concept

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Call me jaded, but it has been a very long time since I have seen a concept car that had me literally begging the manufacturer to build it. At last Fall’s Tokyo Auto Show, I actually begged Nissan’s global VP of design to build the car. I put my Platinum Visa on the table and told him to take a deposit. I want Nissan to build the iDX NISMO that badly.

The fact that they brought BRE Datsun leader, designer and photographer extraordinaire to the party just sweetened the pot.

The problem is that we haven’t heard much about the iDX since those buggers at R&T actually drove one of the concepts earlier this year.

Peter Brock and iDX designer Peter Beasley

Peter Brock and iDX designer Peter Beasley

There was a story floating around a couple of weeks ago that the project has been shelved, but Matt Campbell at Car Advice spent some time with Nissan VP of product development, Keno Kato, who shot that story down. Sort of.

“That’s a funny story around iDX. Andy [Palmer] said it’s under way, and Pierre Liong, head of product planning in Nissan North America said it’s not so feasible. But Pierre Liong is under me, and Andy is my boss.” Kato told Campbell.

In fact, Kato’s message echos what I was told when he said: “It is under preparation and development. [The project is] 50/50 until some milestone to decide ‘go!’”, however he suggested that by ‘go’ he meant that the car would be further assessed in terms of the profits required, the investment needed and securing the manufacturing sight.”

So, it sounds like there is still hope. If Kato’s thoughts on pricing become reality, then I will happily plunk down my Visa again!

South African Porsche driver caught on camera while raging on fellow driver

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They say that BMW drivers are assholes, but this Porsche Cayman driver near the South African town of Witkoppen was caught on camera proving that you don’t have to be driving a Bimmer to succumb to road rage.

YouTuber Andre Snyman posted this video, with the hopes of sending this guy viral. Let’s hope the local police are paying attention.

“we witnessed an assault on witkoppen this afternoon.

A porsche was driving recklessly down witkoppen road towards four ways from sunning hill.
at one of the traffic lights the passenger of the porsche threw something out of the window at the car behind them.
when the driver of the targeted vehicle hooted ( and probably flipped him the bird and rightly so )
the porsche then proceeded to swerve in and out in front of the other car until coming to a stop at the next robot where the the passenger of the porsche got out of the vehicle and started to kick and bash the other car door and side mirror
I recorded most of the event except where the thug repeatedly punched the other driver in the face.

we stopped and helped the other driver find his keys and calm down. Also called 10111 to report suspected drunk/reckless driving and assault on witkoppen road. to which they replied “report it at the police station”. what the hell does that do for other innocent drivers in the path of these troglodytes?

this sort of disgusting behaviour should be dealt with severely.
the registration of the vehicle: Cc24msgp”

/DRIVE reveals new business strategy, pledges to continue creating great content

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Here in The Garage, we’ve been big supporters of the gang behind the stellar YouTube channel /DRIVE since I met up with a bunch of the guys at IMPA Test Days way back in 2007. Back then, we were all considered the new kids of automotive media and were the first batch of webbies to be accepted as members. Since then, we’ve all had life changes, but have continued working in automotive media to fulfill our passion for automobiles, with varying levels of success.

J.F. Musial, Mike Spinelli and their crew have gone on to create some of the best automotive video content the world has ever seen, across a variety of outlets, from YouTube up front, to behind the scenes for a few auto manufacturers. The team’s latest project, /DRIVE not only provides stunning visuals and commentary, but has generated some staggering statistics. In just two years, /DRIVE has amassed a staggering 1,146,724 subscribers and their videos have been viewed 193,522,560 times.
[Read more...]

Tom Cruise the racer

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Before we started hearing about all of the crazy religious stuff, Tom Cruise seemed like a pretty much normal guy. Except for the whole good looks, fame and getting up close and personal with Rebecca de Mornay on a train thing, but you see my point. He even took some interest in racing cars, before Days of Thunder.

To his credit, Cruise took a pretty smart route to racing, beginning in showroom stock (the American Firehawk series if memory serves correctly) before moving to SCCA GT-3 with a Nissan prepared by Bob Sharp. You might recognize the cars, as this was Paul Newman’s team.

I just came across this video from way back in 1988, as Cruise was racing at Summit Point. It isn’t great quality, but it is worth a watch for all of you celebrity gawkers.

Meet the Jagerbomb – E30 M3

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This may come as a surprise to some, but the first generation BMW M3 was the first unobtainable German car to catch my eye that wasn’t a P-car. You have to remember that in the early to mid Eighties in Ontario, Audis were garbage and by then, most BMW 2002s had succumbed to rust. Volkswagens were super cool, but also attainable enough that I had buddies who drove them.

The M3 was a revelation for what it was, as much as what it wasn’t. It was a no holds barred street fighter, built to go fast and it looked the part. For the time, the M3′s rear spoiler and fat fenders were as outrageous as those on a Subaru are today. What is wasn’t was comfortable, or quiet. It was everything that North American cars weren’t, and for that, I loved it.

I would still love to have one.

Thanks to my teenage obsession with building plastic model cars, there was one M3 race car that stood out in my mind. It was bright orange and wore advertising from the Jagermeister brand. At the time, I knew it was booze, but didn’t realize how prominent that brand would later become as party people started doing Jager shots.

The folks at the Box One Collective hooked up with CG Motorsports to have a look at their latest creation, a 500 horsepower recreation called the Jagerbomb.

Evil.

Toyo Tires F1600 Championship brings the excitement to Toronto Indy

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There is a reason that F1600 has long been considered a key element in any serious open wheel racer’s education. The competition is fierce, which means there is tons of on track excitement for the fans.

F1600 participation has been somewhat lagging in Canada in recent years, until Jason Sharpe took over the series and injected an unprecedented level of energy. Sharpe’s efforts have been rewarded as the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship rolled into the Honda Indy Toronto with an impressive field of 28 entries. The series hasn’t seen a field of this size in years and the drivers put on an incredible show all weekend.

Check out some of the high flying (pun intended) action in this great video from 2 in TO.

This 13 year old is a better driver than you will ever be!

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Many have wondered over the year just why Finland has created so many of the world’s greatest rally (and F1 for that matter) drivers. Given the rural nature of much of the country, many young kids start driving on the family farm well before they get a driver’s license. Then of course there are those who have rally car drivers as parents.

Take 13 year old Kalle Rovanperä as a prime example. The son of WRC veteran Harri Rovanperä, Kalle has been driving rally cars since he was 8 years old and has chronicled his adventures on YouTube. The latest addition to his channel shows Kalle taking his Mom for a leisurely drive through the forest. She is very relaxed. Or not.

Going further back to when he was just 8, check out they boy’s skills at the wheel of a rear wheel drive Toyota Starlet.

Mad Max: Fury Road trailer released at Comic-Con

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Like most car guys my age, I was captivated when the original Mad Max movie came out. I was twelve at the time and the post apocalyptic tale of survival was the most exciting thing I had ever seen. Blood, fire and freaks were key points, but that car just blew my mind. Like everyone else, I had no idea who this Mel Gibson dude was, but he was just the right mix of cool and badass for the part.

At San Diego Comic-con over the weekend, the original director, George Miller, revealed the first trailer for a fourth edition. Needless to say, Gibson is too wrinkled to pull off the role this time around, so Tom Hardy is playing the lead this time around. No idea who Hardy is? Neither did I, so I glanced at IMDB and learned that this guy played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Suitably badass I think. Charlize Theron also stars in the flick. Interestingly, a young lady named Zoë Kravitz is also on the roster. Kravitz is the daughter of Lenny and Lisa Bonet, so you know she’s cool.

Review: 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

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There comes a time in a man’s life where one of his best friends bestows upon him the honour of being the best man at his wedding. Several months ago, one of my best friends, Andrew, asked if I was willing to be his best man. I, of course, happily accepted.

Betcha didn’t think you’d be reading about a wedding when you clicked on the link to this Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid review, did ya? Don’t worry, I’ll get to the car stuff shortly.

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This trip was to be a bit of a trek (pun intended) as the wedding was not in the Greater Vancouver area where I reside, but in fact at a beautiful vineyard/orchard (named Kurtz Orchards) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

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Moreover, two other mutual friends from Vancouver were also invited to be groomsmen, and therefore whatever vehicle I was going to drive had to have enough room to house luggage and 3 guys.

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Plus, it had to have enough oomph under the hood to squirt around on a 3 hour highway drive without feeling like it was in limp home mode the whole time.

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As many of my readers know, much of the driving in my reviews is city-based. I figured this would be a unique opportunity to take a vehicle on a proper out-of-town road trip and give it a full road test.

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So this is that story of a 2014 Plasma Green Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, 3 dudes from Vancouver, and a beautiful wedding between two of my favourite people.

EXTERIOR

“You’re driving us in what to the wedding”, asked my fellow groomsmen.

“A plasma green Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid”, I answered, “…but it’s cool!”, I added with some apprehensiveness.

“What the heck is a XV Crosstrek?” was the reply I got back.

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To the uninitiated, the Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid is a relatively new vehicle in the Subaru line-up and somewhat of a category buster. There really isn’t anything out there that is directly comparable, especially in hybrid form.

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For simplicity-sake, Subaru compares it to other small SUVs in the market, even though its own Forester is in that mix.

The XV Crosstrek is supposed to offer the benefits of a crossover (better visibility due to the raised seating position, ample cargo room, and increase ground clearance) and also the advantages of a hatchback (superior handling and better fuel economy).

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When North American dealers first saw the XV, originally conceived as a way for Subaru to capitalize on the small-SUV trend in Europe, they convinced Subaru’s top brass that it would be a hit with young urban families. And so we have them to thank for bringing the vehicle to our shores.

After decades of successful “Outback” branding to separate the Subaru Outback from the standard Legacy wagon, the company hopes to repeat the success with the XV Crosstrek as well by separating it from the Impreza namesake. But the XV Crosstrek is still essentially an Impreza hatchback with a bit more crossover utility.

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Compared to Subaru’s own Forester, the XV is 4.1” lower, 4.3” shorter, but shares the same width. Engineers have worked in additional ride height (versus the Impreza hatchback) for a total of 22 cm (8.7 inches) of ground clearance.

Tough and tumble plastic cladding helps the XV Crosstrek to further stand out from its donor platform and look more utilitarian.

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The effect is an attractive looking vehicle that boasts more ground clearance than the Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, and even the Jeep Compass.

Note that the Plasma Green paint job on my test vehicle is a colour unique to only the hybrid versions of the XV Crosstrek.

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There aren’t any optional extras available on the XV Crosstrek hybrid as it only comes n well-equipped trim level that is equivalent to the non-hybrid’s “Sport Package” trim line.

This includes all of your most wanted bits and bobs including a moonroof, HID headlights, LED taillights, iPod/USB audio integration with Bluetooth phone and streaming audio capabilities.

INTERIOR

The interior is typical Subaru. Attractive enough, highly functional, well-equipped, but not exactly luxurious.

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With the high up sitting position afforded by the raised ride height, the driver enjoys a commanding view of the road ahead and around.

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The cabin was surprisingly spacious for a compact vehicle and easily swallowed up our suitcases, camera gear, laptops, and more. The rear seatbacks still fold flat for larger cargo and because the battery capacity of the hybrid system is only 0.55 kWh, its packaging is virtually invisible.

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Subaru says that the rear floor areas have been revised, but you’d need to park the hybrid and non-hybrid vehicles side-by-side to truly notice the difference.

As for the seats, the back seat room is  more than sufficient in the outboard positions. Both front and rear seats were comfortable enough for the 2-3 hour trek between the airport and Niagara Falls. My rear passenger even had the chance to get comfortable and catch a few winks in between cities!

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Flanking the typical no nonsense instrument cluster is what Subaru calls their MFD (Multi-Function display). The 4.3” screen can be configured to display a wide variety of information including fuel consumption, range to empty, torque distribution, and many other car settings. The screen, while small, is at least high resolution enough to be highly usable. It allows endless tweaking and a huge variety of adjustable features.

The rearview camera’s video feed also shows up on this display.

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I left the MFD in the hybrid system status mode most of the time to monitor the car’s performance as I suspect most hybrid owners will as well.

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The downside of the MFD is that its menu interface seems to have been designed by the same people who design programmable thermostats. In short, it’s not exactly intuitive and the adjustments are done via steering wheel button controls and not a touchscreen. As such it can be quite awkward until you get the hang of it.

I found myself having to cycle through the menu a couple times to get to a the same function because I pressed the wrong button the first time around.

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Despite being in the press fleet for some time now, my test vehicle’s settings were mostly unchanged from the factory defaults. I have a feeling that many of my fellow journalists never even came close to using the MFD’s full set of features or took the time to read the owner’s manual to figure out how to do so.

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Few things are more important on a road trip than a decent sound system and the Crosstrek didn’t disappoint. Its 6 speaker system was much better than expected thanks to good frequency separation. Subaru even offers a number of speaker and tweeter upgrades as dealer-installed accessories for those wanting more.

In addition to the typical USB hook-up in the centre console, Bluetooth audio streaming was relatively easy to setup even on the standard non-touchscreen head unit.

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If there is one other minor interior item I have to gripe about, it’s that the centre console armrest slides fore and aft a bit too easily (at least in my test vehicle) making it more annoying than useful.

SO HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

Ah the beauty of All-Wheel Drive. Like other Subarus, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is equipped with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Although there isn’t the same level of adjustability that one would find in the Subaru WRX or STI, the XV’s sure-footed nature was still confidence inspiring.

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While plowing along the mud or puddle-filled dirt tracks in the vineyard where the wedding was taking place, not once did the car falter on the slippery surfaces.

The XV Crosstrek’s raised ride height also paid dividends as it breezed through these surfaces without jostling the bridesmaids’ carefully quaffed hairdos out of place.

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Steering feel from the electric power steering is bit numb but at least its precise. The system weights up progressively off centre and is actually quick enough to be somewhat fun.

Powering the hybrid Crosstrek is more or less the same 2.0 litre horizontally opposed boxer 4-cylinder engine that is found on non-hybrid models. However the engineers have bumped up the compression ratio from 10.5:1 to 10.8:1 and have fitted it with a thin electric drive motor to supplement the gas engine.

Although the small electric motor only makes 13 hp, it boosts the vehicle’s torque figures by a useful 48 ft-lbs from a low 0 to 1,500 rpms. Subsequently the hybrid Crosstrek ends up with 161 hp and 193 ft-lbs of torque versus 148 hp and 145 ft-lbs of torque in the standard gas-only car.

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The electric motor’s ability to supplement torque from the get-go also eliminates the elastic band feel that plague many CVT-equipped vehicles, including the XV Crosstrek.

The electric drive’s effect is most noticeable when moving out across an intersection after a stop light, accelerating or climbing hills, or even when executing passing manoeuvres.

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Is it possible to drive the vehicle on pure electric vehicle mode? Yes it is, but it’s not easy unless you’re very light on the throttle, creeping through stop-and-go traffic, or coasting downhill.

It quickly became a game for me to try to keep the vehicle in EV-only mode for as long as possible.

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Transport Canada rates the hybrid at 6.9L/100 kms in the city and 6.0L/100 kms on the highway. In contrast the non-hybrid version is rated at 8.2L/100 kms in the city but the same 6.0L/1000kms on the highway.

My real world road test resulted in an average of 8.5L/100 kms in a mix of highway and city driving with the vehicle loaded with 3 passengers and luggage for much of the time.

After 5 days of driving between Mississauga, Niagara Falls, and Niagara-on-the-Lake, we were still left with ¼ tank of fuel when we pulled into the gas station by Subaru press office. I have to say that I was impressed even though the XV is not as efficient of a hybrid as others out there on the market.

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WRAP-UP

Little did I know how big a part the Crosstrek would play in making the wedding the glorious success that it was. Not only did it function as reliable transport for three groomsmen to their friend’s wedding, but also as the wedding gift repository and more!

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More memorably, it was the first vehicle that the bride and groom rode in as a married couple.

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After 5 days of putting the Crosstrek hybrid through its paces and a wide variety of conditions, my road trip buddies and I came away impressed by its versatility and all-round capabilities.

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It lived up to expectation as a go-anywhere vehicle for the urban off-road enthusiast that is unlikely to see anything more challenging than logging roads, dirt paths leading to camp grounds, or snow covered ski slopes.

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I have to credit Subaru for taking a good crack at their very first hybrid vehicle. It would’ve been easier for them to develop a mild-hybrid (one that never goes into pure EV mode) and then slap a hybrid badge on for mostly marketing purposes, but they didn’t.

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Sure, the XV Crosstrek hybrid isn’t perfect. Given the $3,000 price delta between the hybrid and the non-hybrid Sport Package vehicle, one could wish for better fuel economy and more power from the electric motor.

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However, the car is sure to find its fans amongst those who are looking for all-wheel-drive safety and security to get through Canadian winters, but unwilling to compromise for front-wheel-drive hybrid such as the Toyota Prius.

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Sure it’s ultimately a quasi-small SUV version of the Impreza hatchback but it certainly has enough differentiation to make it the perfect choice for a lot of people.

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And it’s sure to be a vehicle that will always have a special place in my heart and mind.

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Climb Pike’s Peak with Jeff Zwart

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At this year’s Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb, legendary Porsche photographer, videographer and racer, Jeff Zwart struggled with a failing fuel pump, which prevented his GT3 from pushing to its full potential.

As part of the lead up to next week’s new season, our friends at /DRIVE have posted a helmet cam video to provide Zwart’s POV during the attempt. Up past Devil’s Playground, the fuel pump problem got worse, which makes the video kinda hard to watch as Zwart’s head jerks back and forth.

Keen eyed viewers may notice a big, green blob on Zwart’s left at the 8:37 mark. That is your’s truly, getting the photo you see above.