Archive for October, 2010

A “Dream Team’s” life work in 60 seconds

The world’s best automotive designers work ’round the clock and through the seasons to create the perfect Jetta.

That’s the premise of the second of four Volkswagen Jetta television commercials rolling out over the next couple of months. Developed by Volkswagen and its agency of record, Deutsch LA, the “Dream Team” chronicles an elite group of designers as they collaborate on the design of the new Jetta. When the vehicle is finally revealed, they beam with pride—until, at the end, the price is displayed. Here’s a tip: Be sure to catch the subtle (and not so subtle) changes to the designers as time ticks away and their work continues.



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We have an idea for a new reality show. Makeover: 2011 VW Touareg Edition

Every so often, a VW model gets a few touch-ups. Even less often, a VW model gets a full redesign. In the case of the new 2011 Touareg, the latter is a more appropriate description. There’s a ton that’s different about this handsome new machine, but sometimes it just takes one detail to really change the driving experience.

To that end, we’d like to take a moment and focus on the new panoramic sunroof, which is a full 350% larger than the sunroof in the previous model, and comes standard in the “Lux,” “Executive” and “Hybrid” trim lines. Add a wind deflector to help eliminate turbulence and associated noise, and you’ll get not only a quieter drive, but one that touches all the senses.

Have you ever driven a car with a panoramic sunroof? If not, imagine a few scenarios, if you would…

Imagine seeing an entire palm tree, instead of a couple fronds. Imagine the warmth of the sun at mid-day, instead of just its glare. How about being able to feel the breeze off the ocean, instead of just seeing the waves crash?

So while it may seem like just another feature among many, we beg to differ. These are the things that make an average driving experience above average.

Now, we could go on and on about all of the new features and specs and options available with the new 2011 Touareg, but that’s what the press release is for. Speaking of which, there’s a link to it just below this sentence. Enjoy!

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World Premiere: New VW Touareg takes the SUV idea into the future

Touareg debuts with hybrid drive and high-tech range of engines
Wolfsburg / Munich, February 2010. Today, Volkswagen is unveiling the completely redeveloped Touareg as a world premiere. It is the most technically innovative “VW” since the brand has been in existence. This Touareg is reinterpreting the fascinating multipurpose SUV idea in a contemporary way. It sets standards among fully off-road capable SUVs with petrol engines that have a fuel consumption value of just 8.2 liters fuel per 100 kilometers. The Touareg Hybrid can be driven up to 50 km/h in purely electric mode – emissions-free. Among the diesel engines, the Touareg V6 TDI with 7.4 liter combined fuel consumption now posts the best value in the segment of genuine SUVs.

New era SUV –lighter, more aerodynamic and fuel efficient
As has already been accomplished on the globally successful, smaller Tiguan, Volkswagen is systematically striving for sustainability on the new Touareg too. The SUV was lightened by 208 kilograms in the base version. Yet, the body has five percent greater torsional rigidity, which makes it the leader in its competitive class. Along with aero-dynamic refinement efforts, another factor at work here is that this Touareg is built lower to the ground than the previous model. Together with front end styling based on the new Volkswagen design DNA, this results in a smaller frontal area. All engines, now offered with a standard 8-speed automatic transmission – a first in this market segment – demonstrate significant fuel economy advantages over the previous model.

SUV for all trails – All-wheel drive
Also modified in pursuit of reduced fuel consumption was the standard all-wheel drive. In the base version (“4Motion”), all new generation Touaregs have all-wheel drive with Torsen limited-slip differential (4MOTION; climbing ability: 31 degrees).

SUV for everyday driving – more space, more innovations
Volkswagen has not only made the new Touareg lighter, more fuel efficient and an agile performer; it has also made it into an even more versatile, all-round vehicle. The new interior was made more functional, the seats more comfortable and leg room in the rear is larger. Now the rear bench seat has 160 millimeters in longitudinal adjustment, and the backrest angle can be adjusted. Electrically unlatched at the press of a button as an option, it folds down in seconds and frees up 1,642 liters of cargo space.

The parking brake is now activated by pushbutton. As an option, the tailgate can be opened and closed by a RF remote control unit integrated in the car key. The largest panoramic sunroof of all SUVs provides for light even on overcast days. Bi-Xenon headlights with Dynamic Light Assist perceive oncoming traffic and adjust the light beam to eliminate unwanted glare, and adaptive roll compensation ensures that the Touareg sits solidly on the street.

Touareg – the best of two worlds
About 500,000 car drivers chose to buy the first generation of the SUV. It is a luxury sport utility vehicle that offers a high level of comfort, sporty driving properties, avant-garde styling, and unlimited expedition capabilities – essentially the best of the passenger car and off-road worlds unified in one concept. This is now being followed up by the new Touareg – a high-end and versatile all-round vehicle that brings these two worlds together even more perfectly.
*Available in the U.S. late 2010.
**European model shown.
The material above has been translated and adapted from the original Volkswagen AG press release about the European version of the new Touareg. Some equipment and features will vary in U.S. models.

August 20, 2010

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2011 VW Touareg To Debut at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show

Far from being a simple update of the first-generation model, the new VW Touareg has been thoroughly re-engineered. Among the more significant changes is a decision to dump the Touareg’s complex dual-range transfer case as standard equipment (instead it will be optional), a move that reduces the weight of this sport-utility by about 400 pounds.

Much like other recently introduced Volkswagen models, the Touareg’s steel body adopts an edgier look with tauter surfacing, more defined feature lines and squared-off wheel arches. The front is characterized by VW’s latest corporate grille, while the rear updates the look of the old model with a large single-piece tailgate carrying distinctive LED-enhanced taillights.

At 189.0 inches long, 76.0 inches wide and 67.3 inches high, the Touareg has grown in length by 1.7 inches while retaining the same width and height. It rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase (1.7 inches longer) and sits 0.7 inch lower.

The increased exterior dimensions have improved the first-generation’s Touareg’s poor interior packaging and limited versatility. While seating remains restricted to five, Volkswagen says accommodation has been improved both up front and at the rear.

Four engine choices are available, though not all of them will make it to the U.S. The direct-injection 3.0-liter V6 makes 280 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, while the 3.0-liter turbodiesel makes 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. A new 4.2-liter V8 turbodiesel replaces the former 5.0-liter V10 turbodiesel and makes 340 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, but unfortunately it’s not coming to America. In its place, Volkswagen is expected to offer U.S. buyers a revised version of the direct-injection 4.2-liter V8 with 366 hp and 328 lb-ft of torque.

The big news, however, centers on a new gasoline-electric drivetrain that Volkswagen has developed in cooperation with Porsche. The German carmaker’s first ever production hybrid uses an Audi-built supercharged 3.0-liter V6 supplemented by a battery-powered electric motor mounted within the transmission to provide a combined 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. (It uses a nickel-metal hydride battery.) VW claims the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid will accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 149 mph.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment in place of the former six-speed, and it sends power to all four wheels via a Torsen-type drive system similar to that featured by the Audi Q7. As part of Volkswagen’s efforts to reduce the weight of its new SUV, the more complex Haldex-built center differential with its fast-acting multiplate clutch, dual-range transfer case and electronic locking differentials now will only be offered as part of an optional 4XMotion off-road package on selected models.

Inside Line says: Volkswagen finally realizes that Americans don’t need to drive across the red rocks of Moab, Utah, on the way to the grocery store. — Andreas Stahl, Correspondent

Inside Line, February 2, 2010

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The 2011 VW Jetta hopes to drive off with the 2011 North American Car of the Year Award

The all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta has accepted its nomination for the 18th annual North American Car of the Year, along with fourteen of this year’s top vehicles, foreign and domestic, vying for the title.

We at Volkswagen are proud that our newest addition to the Jetta family is competing against the industry’s best vehicles. In fact, we’re honored. But we can’t say we’re surprised. We think we made a great car and this nomination proves it.

Up to 50 of the industry’s best journalists decide the winner, keeping value for the dollar, innovation, handling, performance, safety and driver satisfaction in mind as they cast their vote. Lucky for us, the new Jetta is luxurious, spacious, and truly affordable, starting at just $15,995*. Now there’s an award we’d be proud to place on our mantle.

Do you think the all-new 2011 VW Jetta has what it takes to win? Let us know by leaving a comment or posting to our Facebook or Twitter fan pages!

*All prices shown are the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. Base MSRP for 2011 Jetta is $15,995 with manual transmission. MSRP for model shown is $21,395, including manual transmission and options and accessories noted below. All prices exclude taxes and dealer charges. Dealer sets actual price.

Model shown price includes:
2011 Jetta SE with Convenience and Sunroof: MSRP $20,795 ,24 city/34 highway mpg (2011 2.0L manual transmission). EPA estimates. Your mileage will vary. Limitations apply. See dealer for details.

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Ferrari 458 Italia vs. Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera

Cross-town supercar rivals–one in track cleats, one in street shoes–meet to determine who is king.

By Patrick Hong / Photos by Guy Spangenberg

No other brands in the world more clearly embody the term “exotic cars” than Ferrari and Lamborghini. Not only do they define incredible performance, but they also invoke passion and excitement among car enthusiasts everywhere. While both companies have a healthy respect for each other, make no mistake that each also has a strong sense of pride and a desire to one-up the other. Given their intertwined history—Ferruccio Lamborghini was snubbed by Enzo Ferrari early on when he complained about Enzo’s road cars—there is nothing more thrilling than to see both carmakers try to out-duel each other with each new generation of cars. So it only made sense to round up these two Italian builders’ latest creations and toss them into the ring for a good fight: The 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia versus the 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera.

In one corner is the all-new Ferrari 458 Italia. It comes from a rich lineage of being the compact berlinetta of the Maranello family. First there was the mid-engine Dino, then came the 308, the 328, the 348 and the F355. The subsequent 360 Modena took the model line forward a giant step with a dramatically different look that evolved into the F430. The new Italia now takes over the reins and charges ahead with numerous technologies learned from the company’s famed Formula 1 program. Racing is deeply rooted within Ferrari—Enzo actually sold road cars simply to fund his motorsport ventures.

In the other corner, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera—from the cross-town Sant’Agata Bolognese family that gave birth to the much-revered Miura and the out-of-this-world Countach—is based on the standard Gallardo unveiled in 2003. The Superleggera is designed to live on the track, and is equipped with firmer suspension tuning and weight-saving carbon-fiber components that shave 154 lb. from the stock Gallardo. Interestingly, racing was never in the company’s blood. But Ferruccio set out to build a better and more exciting road car than Ferrari.

On the surface, it might seem that pitting the Italia against the Superleggera is like comparing apples to oranges. After all, the Ferrari is designed essentially as a high-performance road car, while the Lamborghini is a track-focused version of the Gallardo. But look closer; surprisingly, both sports cars share unusually similar technical specifications.

Weighing in at 3490 lb., the Ferrari is equipped with a direct-injection 4.5-liter mid-mounted V-8 engine generating 570 bhp at 9000 rpm, with 398 lb.-ft. of torque at 6000 rpm. Tipping the scales at 3470 lb.—a mere 20 lb. lighter than the Italia—the Lamborghini also has a direct-injected powerplant residing amidships that can pump out 562 bhp at 8000 rpm and 398 lb.-ft. of torque at 6500 rpm. The contrast is that the Superleggera’s power comes from a 5.2-liter V-10, and it drives all four wheels. According to their respective factories, the top speed for each car is a claimed 202 mph. The starting price for each hovers around $230,000. Coincidence? Perhaps. And it is probably also safe to guess that Ferrari closely benchmarked the Gallardo while the Italia was being developed.

Round 1: Road Performance

Climb aboard the Ferrari 458 Italia, and you’re treated to a mixture of old and new complete with richly stitched Italian leather complemented by new technology such as carbon-fiber trim and an all-digital dash. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the outward view is very good all the way around the car—even to the rear. In contrast, the Lamborghini’s cockpit is all about business: thinly padded carbon-fiber seats with carbon-fiber door panels and center tunnel, matched by the generous use of Alcantara fabric, all meant to shave pounds and convey a sense of speed.

Stare into the Italia’s instrument cluster—front and center is the all-important yellow analog rev counter. To the right is the TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screen that can toggle through various features such as radio and navigation via a clunky and off-putting iDrive-like knob. In the off position, the right screen becomes the speedometer. On the far left there are several screens that can be keyed up (via another iDrive-like knob), including driving aid settings based on different chassis configurations. On the steering wheel you’ll find the manettino dial—just like in an F1 car—enabling you to select your preferred chassis setup: Sport, Race, CT Off (traction control off) and CST Off (everything off except ABS, and you’re on your own). The turn signal buttons are located on the steering wheel as well, just on the inside corners near where you would normally rest your thumbs. This can be annoying for some, especially if you are in the middle of a turn and don’t remember which turn signal is on. Others have found them quite logical in that your hands will never be off the steering wheel. As expected, the large paddle shifters for Ferrari’s Ge­trag 7-speed twin-clutch transmission are fixed on the steering column.

The Gallardo’s instrument cluster is based on a much older 2003 design. All the important gauges such as the speedometer and rev counter are in analog form, with a small center digital display showing a trip computer and a few of the car’s vital signs. The infotainment system on the center stack is similar to those used in Audis (Lamborghini’s parent), and the climate control is basic with just a few buttons. Just as in the Ferrari, the Lambo’s paddle shifters stay fixed on the steering column (left downshift, right upshift), engaging its hydraulically actuated single-clutch 6-speed gearbox. And there are similar driving modes available as with the Ferrari: standard, Sport and Corsa (for track use), as well as an “everything off except ABS” setting. Although the Superleggera isn’t as technology-laden as the Italia, there’s some appeal to its simplicity and no-nonsense approach.

Driving the two exotics on public roads, the difference in character is apparent. The Lamborghini makes no excuses that its suspension is tuned for the racetrack. On Interstates or winding mountain roads, the Superleggera makes every bump and crack on the road known, and you feel the direct impact of those imperfections clearly through your lower back. The steering’s on-center and off-center feel is direct and nicely weighted, with increasing effort needed through decreasing-radius turns. The car’s all-wheel drive adds that extra sense of safety and confidence so you can drive through the corners a bit faster and count on the front wheels to pull you out.

In the Ferrari, thanks to the car’s adjustable magnetorheological shocks, you can set it to “bumpy road” and it will soak up the concrete gaps on the highway with minimal fuss. The cockpit feels quieter and more isolated from road noise. As the pavement gets twisty, turn the manettino to Race. Not only does the exhaust open up through two of the outer trio of tailpipes for a more racy engine note, the damping also firms up for you to tackle the turns with more composure. The steering on the Italia is lightning quick and ultra-responsive. The turn-in is effortless. In fact, the faster you turn, the faster the car’s computer will adjust its damping real-time to prevent more roll. The trick is to learn to trust the car and know that its rear will stay put when you attack the apex more aggressively. The Ferrari feels lighter on its feet than the Lambo, and is able to dance through the switchbacks with more precision. That said, the Superleggera’s more calming on-track mannerisms—albeit more weighty in feel—invites the driver to take more risk.

Round 2: Track Performance

Through our standard Road & Track test regimen, both exotics turned in almost identical numbers, though from entirely different approaches. The Lamborghini accomplishes its acceleration, braking, slalom and skidpad runs mainly through raw power and mechanical grip, while the Ferrari accomplishes the task with more finesse and electronic optimization.

On the drag strip, the Italia and Superleggera ripped off identical 0–60 mph and quarter-mile runs, tripping the timer at 3.0 seconds and 11.0 sec., respectively. The Lambo’s trap speed of 128.9 mph at the quarter mile showed only a 0.4-mph advantage. Both cars come equipped with launch control where all you need to do is apply full brakes and throttle as the engine rpm builds. When ready, just release the brakes and you’re on your way for a thrill ride. While the Superleggera isn’t bothered by less-than-optimal asphalt, the Italia needs more attention to the timing of the brake release and full throttle application to properly launch off the line with just the right amount of wheelspin.

The higher grip exhibited by the Lamborghini is attributed to its all-wheel drive and its very sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber. These tires have an ultra-low 60 treadwear rating compared to the 160 rating of the Pirelli P Zeros on the Ferrari. Through our slalom, the Superleggera snakes through the cones averaging 74.3 mph, and the Italia counters with 73.4 mph. Circling our skidpad, the awd Lambo’s natural tendency to understeer hinders it a bit, although it still generated 0.99g, just a tick below the Ferrari’s 1.00g.

Beyond the test data, the home of both the Ferrari and Lamborghini is really on the racetrack. Around the Streets of Willow in Rosamond, California, the 458 Italia’s engine screams with power and its twin-clutch gearbox swaps gears in just 0.04 sec., making the car slingshot down the straight in uncannily smooth fashion. The Superleggera’s single-clutch transmission, while also quick in upshifting, feels clunky and slow by comparison.

Slowing down, both cars are equipped with carbon-ceramic brake rotors so there is no hint of fade after repeated applications. In fact, the Italia’s brake calipers nudge the pads closer to the rotors as it anticipates you applying the brakes. This, combined with the car’s ability to perform multiple downshifts when you hold the left paddle in, further heightens the Ferrari’s impression that it can anticipate your every command and enhances its nimbleness on the track.

That said, apexing and accelerating out of the corner in the Italia also requires more trust in the car. The front wishbone and rear multilink suspension coupled with those magnetorheological shocks and the rear E-diff will find the most optimal settings to keep body roll in check and the back end in place. But relying more on electronic assistance also means that it will take longer to learn the car’s behavior to be able extract more speed.

With all-wheel drive and a fixed all-around double-wishbone suspension setup, the Superleggera doesn’t quite have the quickness in transitions. But what it does offer is the assurance and the predictability that if you do toss the car into a turn, the behavior of the chassis and the grip on the asphalt can be more directly felt through the steering and the seat. And powering out, having driven front wheels and a limited-slip rear differential means you can get on the throttle a bit earlier to pull the car around the apex. Driving the Superleggera requires a bit more effort, but you are rewarded with a stronger sense of connection to the pavement.

Final Round: The Decision

At the end of the day, with both the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Lamborghini Superleggera turning in similar road and track driving impressions and test data, how do we decide which exotic reigns supreme?

The Italia technology is wrapped in a beautifully sculpted body. Every exterior design detail on the car serves an aerodynamic purpose, from the lower front aerolastic winglets that bend to reduce drag and improve downforce, to the rear fender’s raised lip where it meets the engine cover so the air flows more smoothly into the rear radiators. With the Superleggera, one look at the car—visible carbon-fiber components inside and out, the deep front air scoop, the ever-present rear wing, and the strong cut lines that go straight to the back—it is impossible to mistake the car’s intended purpose. The Ferrari is graceful, and the Lamborghini is bold.

So the final decision really comes down to personal preference. The all-around exotic crown would go to the Ferrari 458 Italia. The no-nonsense, singularly track-focused crown would go to the Lamborghini Superleggera. For any car enthusiast, having either one of these exotic overachievers in the garage will do.

Article and photos courtesy of

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“Moonlighting” spot debuts Jetta commercials

A hospital employee opens the blinds to a patient’s room to let in the early morning light. He sees a billboard on the building next door that announces the all-new 2011 Jetta with the caption “coming soon.”

These are not fragments of a disjointed dream, but descriptions of the first two of four new Volkswagen Jetta television commercials rolling out over the next couple months developed by Volkswagen and its agency of record, Deutsch LA, and each spot underscores different features of the all-new Jetta. In the hospital scenario, titled “Moonlighting,” there’s a captivated protagonist working extra jobs so that he can afford what he perceives to be a vehicle otherwise unaffordable. Having saved his money from working the oddest selection of jobs—including as rodeo clown—he discovers he can afford not one, but two new Jetta vehicles.


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