New 2017 Volkswagen Touareg previewed by T-Prime concept

The VW Touareg was one of the first large SUVs from a mainstream manufacturer – but now it’s almost time for the large crossover to get a complete overhaul, and Auto Express has had an exclusive tour of the T-Prime concept that previews the new model. 

Unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show earlier this year, the T-Prime is an imposing large four-seat SUV concept. It looks considerably wider and lower than the existing Touareg – but senior Volkswagen sources say it is a close preview of how the new generation will look.
“The wheelbase of the show car is an Audi Q7’s,” says Frank Thomas, VW’s sales and marketing boss for full-size vehicles, as we walk around the T-Prime in a studio in Hamburg, “so we’ll take a few millimetres out of the rear door length for the production car. If anything, we think the slightly shorter body makes the crease along the sides and the falling roofline look even more dramatic.”

The front end certainly doesn’t lack drama, with a huge chrome-plate grille, deep air intakes and aggressive running lights that actually stretch right across the base of the VW badge. At the rear, there are neat tail-lights whose graphics reference the symbol often used to show a mobile phone’s signal strength – or, you could imagine, the amount of charge left in a plug-in hybrid’s batteries. The overall look is a more dynamic one than the current Touareg’s – particularly around the rear wheelarch, where there’s a subtle blister to create a stronger shoulder line.
Despite the switch of platforms, Thomas says VW will resist the temptation to offer the T-Prime with a conventional four-cylinder diesel engine. “Our experience is that customers want the extra relaxed performance of six cylinders,” he says. “We’ll start with a V6 diesel – although we will also offer a V8 TDI at the top of the range.”
The Touareg will be offered with VW’s 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder petrol motor in some markets – notably China. But the same unit will also be paired with an electric motor to power the Touareg GTE, a plug-in hybrid that can replenish its battery reserves by using a little more of the combustion engine’s capacity, or travel for small distances on electric power alone. “We’re thinking the pure-EV range of the Touareg GTE has to be at least 50km (30 miles),” says Thomas.

Inside, the T-Prime’s cabin is a showcase for the future direction of Volkswagen interiors. The front is dominated by the huge touch-screen mounted in the centre of the dashboard but angled towards the driver. It’s a 15in display – as large as many laptops, in fact – and VW’s engineers plan to use the increased desktop space to allow levels of configuration previously unseen on a car interface.

Sitting inside the concept, it’s clear that the switch to VW’s MLB chassis technology has helped the packaging; even with the lower roofline and the show car’s panoramic glass sunroof, there’s plenty of headroom for six-footers. “You sit very slightly lower than before,” admits Thomas, “and that makes all the difference with the headroom.”
The rear cabin is laid out in a two-seat format, with a large central tunnel between the pair of passengers and three more screens – one each on the back of the front headrests, and a portrait-oriented display low down near the centre console. The extra screens are not expected to make production – “We think our customers would rather have strong 4G connectivity for their own devices like iPads and smartphones,” says Thomas – but while the four-seat configuration will not be the Touareg’s standard layout, it could yet appear later in the car’s life.
“We are exploring the possibility of maybe a more luxurious version of the Touareg,” says Thomas. “It is now the global VW flagship [privately, VW sources say the prices of high-end, fully-optioned editions could even crack the £80,000 mark] so maybe there is the chance to do a four-seat version at some point, even more focused on luxury, with even higher-end materials and more complex stitching on the seats.” There will not be a seven-seat configuration, however. 


Open-wheel EV sets new 1.5-second 0-100km/h world record time


Students from Switzerland’s ETH Zurich university have successfully set a new 0-100km/h world record time for an electric car, completing the benchmark sprint in a mind-numbing 1.513 seconds.

With support from the BMW group, and in partnership with students from Lucerne University located 50km south of Zurich, the student-developed open-wheel ETH Zurich EV set the world record sprint time during testing, ahead of this year’s Formula Student competition.

According to a release on the record-breaking run, the 168kg (predominantly carbon-fibre) open-wheeler features four wheel-hub motors that transfer a combined 149kW of power to the road, via “four-wheel-drive technology”.


Breaking the previous world record EV 0-100km/h time of 1.779 seconds, set in 2015 by a team from the University of Stuttgart, the ETH Zurich car needed less than 30 metres of a military airstrip near Zurich to break triple figures.

Officially kicking off at the Silverstone circuit in the UK July 14-17, the Formula Student competition – founded in 2006 – will see 115 teams from more than 25 nations compete against each other, with teams’ open-wheel racers judged not only on dynamic metrics comprising acceleration, skid-pad, autocross, endurance, and efficiency, but also on presentation, design and cost analysis.

Formula Student Austria – held August 1-4 at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg – will follow the UK event, with Formula Student Germany set for the Hockenheimring August 8-14.

Australia’s own Monash Motorsport student team is set to compete in this year’s event, with its turbocharged KTM-sourced 510cc one-cylinder-powered ‘M15-R’ set to be one of many combustion engines tacking the fight to 40 EV racers… Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

482,000 Toyota Prius, Lexus CT200h Hybrids Recalled for Curtain Airbags


Toyota is recalling 482,000 hybrids in the U.S. to repair side-curtain airbags manufactured by the Swedish supplier Autoliv, the companies said on Wednesday.

On 2010–2012 Prius, 2010 and 2012 Prius Plug-in, and 2011–2012 Lexus CT200h models, the side-curtain airbags can partially inflate at random and the inflator can potentially “enter the interior of the vehicle,” which could injure occupants, according to a Toyota press release.

Autoliv said in a press release that it knows of seven inadvertent deployments in Prius models worldwide, all of which occurred in cars that were parked and unoccupied. Autoliv is investigating the root cause, but for now, the company believes no other automakers are affected by this problem since “vehicle specific characteristics” contributed to the issue. A manufacturing problem was corrected in January 2012, and the total number of cars under recall—about 1.4 million worldwide—represent half of all the side-curtain airbag inflators produced before that date, Autoliv said. A crack between the two inflator chambers can form over time due to poor welding, which can cause the two chambers to separate, Toyota said.

Dealers will install a retention bracket on the chambers to prevent them from separating and entering the interior. It is unknown whether there will be additional hardware or software fixes, as the airbags have deployed “without a deployment signal being given by the airbag controller,” according to Toyota. Recall notices will go out to owners at a later date.

That Was Fast: Porsche’s New Panamera Turbo Has Set a Lap Record at the Nurburgring


Porsche has just revealed its Panamera Turbo, and already the vehicle is claiming the lap record for production sedans at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. The Panamera set a seven-minute-and-38-second lap, which is just one second quicker than the previous benchmark, set by the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

The new car is equipped with VW Group’s new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, which in this tune can push out around 550 horsepower. The Panamera used to set the lap has yellow calipers, which indicates that it’s equipped with Porsche’s ceramic composite brakes (PCCB). These brakes are a $9210 option on current Panamera Turbos, and the new model probably won’t be much different.

This time represents a vast improvement in speed compared with the current Panamera Turbo, which set a time of seven minutes, 52 seconds on the ‘Ring—and that was actually a Turbo S.

In the video, Porsche calls the new Panamera the Fastest Luxury Sedan in the World, thanks to the lap time. The Nordschleife is the track Porsche has been using to test cars for performance benchmarks for years, so it isn’t surprising that its new top-spec sedan has set a record there.

Porsche makes note that the lap was set with a standard, unmodified vehicle on street tires. The Alfa Romeo Giulia reportedly used racing tires to set its lap and was some 220 pounds lighter than the production version.

Volkswagen Settles Diesel Emissions Violations for $14.7 Billion, Even More Fines to Come

Volkswagen will pay $14.7 billion to settle with three federal agencies suing the automaker for its excessive diesel emissions, the highest ever paid by a company for violations under the Clean Air Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice announced the partial settlement with no lack of joy for the influx of new federal funding, with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy (pictured below) admitting the money will cut nitrogen-oxide emissions in “ways that current budgets could never have realized.” A total of $10 billion will cover costs to buy back all 475,000 Volkswagen TDI models with 2.0-liter engines. A total of about 460,000 Volkswagen and 15,000 Audi models are still registered on the road out of the 499,000 cars originally cited by the EPA.
Owners of these specific 2009–2015 models will receive the “fair replacement value” of their cars as of September 17, 2015, the day before the company’s scandal went public. The values will range between $12,500 and $44,000, depending on model, age, trim, and region, according to FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez. Leases can be terminated early with no penalty. Volkswagen can’t resell or export the cars without first performing a repair approved by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, which the automaker also must offer to owners for free. Anyone who only elects the emissions fix—which may not even be possible, according to McCarthy—will receive between $5100 and $10,000 to compensate for diminished resale value. All 2.0-liter TDI owners will have up to May 2018 to decide. It’s important to note that Volkswagen owners are still under no obligation to stop driving or sell their vehicles unless state emissions requirements prevent them from renewing their registrations.

Speaking to reporters, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said she was “incredibly proud” of the settlement.

Another $2.7 billion will fund future state-level projects that reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions under the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which are federal grants marked to replace old diesel engines and for retrofit kits for alternative-fuel powertrains and other similar vehicle hardware. Volkswagen must buy back 85 percent of all cars by June 2019, or else it must pay even more to fund such projects. The automaker also must spend $2 billion over the next 10 years to invest in green energy and electric cars, including paying for new public charging stations and public-education programs.

More practical Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo on the way

We first heard back in 2014 that Porsche were considering a production ‘shooting brake’ version of the second-generation Panamera, but now we’ve seen the evidence. Porsche CEO Oliver Blume has confirmed that it’s on the way soon, with early 2017 looking likely.

“It will have a very sharp design and I think it will be the first body style that we will offer in this segment,” Blume told us. “The usability is even better – we have five seats, for example – but with all the sportiness of a Porsche.”

These spy images show the new model on public roads, with ony a little disguise. The differences aren’t huge, but it’s clear that the rear gains extra bodywork and a less sloping window than the saloon. With the standard car getting a large centre console in the rear, we expect the biggest changes to be on the inside to allow for the extra seat.

Based on the 2012 Sport Turismo concept and likely to carry the same name into production, it’s set to rival the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake. Porsche’s head of research and development, Wolfgang Hatz, revealed in an interview in 2014 that it was coming, but also that coupe and cabriolet versions of the Panamera are under consideration, though less likely.

“First of all we are developing at the moment a new Panamera, that is true, you’ve probably already seen pictures of the first prototypes. What we have designed is an entirely new car with a new platform,” Hatz explained. “We have prepared it for a lot of derivatives, personally I like very much the Sport Turismo, I love this car. But there is a good chance for more derivatives.”

“The reason we have done this [new platform] is so all things are already included, could be coupe, could be convertible, could be Sport Turismo and now we have to decide which is the one that hits our needs,” Hatz told us. “Convertible? For me we already have so many good convertibles with the Boxster and 911, is it something we really need? It’s something more for the luxury segment.”

Chevrolet Announces Plans For 50th Anniversary Of The Chevrolet Camaro


Chevrolet had a big year in 1966, and it had everything to do with a car that played an important role in defining what American performance cars meant back then. I’m talking about the Chevrolet Camaro. The pony car is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer with a series of events lined up during the Woodward Dream Cruise presented by Chevrolet.

It’s only fitting that Chevrolet made the announcement 50 years to the day – June 28, 1966 – when Chevrolet first announced the Camaro’s name. Obviously, both the name and the model have endured and remain, to this day, important parts of the U.S. automotive industry. The Camaro’s status is a big reason why Chevrolet is organizing these events to pay homage to the model that helped usher in the muscle car era.

The Camaro 50th Anniversary Celebration is scheduled to kick off on August 18 at the Lansing Grand River plant in Lansing, Michigan. Here, Chevrolet will play host to Camaro owners and aficionados with a car show, heritage display, a tour of the plant, and meaningful discussions with current Camaro team members, including the car’s chief engineer, Al Oppenheiser.

The very next day, August 19, will see Chevrolet host a “Camaros and Coffee” meet at the Joe Louis Arena Riverfront parking lot in downtown Detroit. Owners of the Chevrolet Camaro are welcome to join in on the festivities, which will be highlighted by a Camaro Rally that will be led by the 50th anniversary edition camaro that Chevy unveiled in March 2016.

The three-day extravaganza will conclude on August 20 with a special Camaro heritage display at the company’s site for the Woodward Dream Cruise. Befitting the purpose of the event, Chevrolet will display rare and milestone examples from the Camaro’s six generations. Among those that will be a part of the heritage display are two of the latest Camaros to hit dealerships, the all-new 2017 Camaro ZL1 and 1LE models.

Why it matters

It’s hard to believe that the Chevrolet Camaro is 50 years old. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there was a seven-year gap between the fourth- and fifth-generation models. Some people could argue that it only makes the Camaro 43 years old, right? Personally, I don’t care about the gap. I like that Chevrolet is celebrating the muscle car’s 50th anniversary on the year it first broke into the scene. And to make the announcement on the same day 50 years ago that the Camaro name was first announced? That’s a nice symmetry right there too.

The planned events are also a nice touch, but I don’t think they’ll be the only ones that Chevy plans to celebrate this year. More will be announced in the coming months. For now though, the focus is on the three-day weekend of August 18 to 20 in what looks to be a massive gathering of Camaro owners and fans alike. It’s a great way for Chevrolet to have all these fans and owners together from different generations themselves to talk about their shared passion for a car that has become one of the most iconic American-made cars in history.