2018 Volkswagen Passat GT First Drive: V(olks’)-6

Motortrend News Feed - 1 hour 53 min ago

These days $30,000 doesn’t get you a top-shelf midsize sedan. No, today’s enthusiastic family-car buyer must budget closer to the national average new-car transaction price of $35,444 to get the coolest engine and the latest driver-assistance toys to secure block-party bragging rights. Or must they? This month the Peoples’ Car folks are introducing a 280-horse, 258-lb-ft V-6-powered bargain Q-ship: the 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT, and they’re only asking $29,995 for it.

To save you the Googling, that’s fully $5,505 off the former opening bid for a V-6 Passat in the range-topping 3.6 SEL trim. It’s $4,520 less than a Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, $4,725 cheaper than the Ford Fusion Sport, $5,300 less spendy than a Camry XLE V-6, and it represents a $5,850 discount off the similarly sporty Camry XSE V-6. It’s even $1,205 less than the Honda Accord Sport 2.0 and $1,900 cheaper than the Chevrolet Malibu Premier 2.0.

The new Passat GT even comes with its very own Yankee Doodle Dandy of an origin story: Engineers and product planners in VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee office dreamed up this package on their own, pitched it to the suits in Wolfsburg, and got the green-light. #MakeAmerican-madeSedansGreatAgain! I can attest to this, having had a sheet surreptitiously lifted from this top-secret project during an August 2016 plant visit to drive an Atlas SUV prototype.

The car they described then was purely an appearance package that primarily consisted of replacing nearly everything chrome with shiny black trim (grille, fascia openings, side window trim, mirror caps, lower door trim), then painting the roof panel black, adding a rear lip spoiler, and fitting cool 19-inch “Tornado” wheels that frame red brake calipers. The grille also gets GTI-inspired red accents. There’s a choice of four colors—Pure White, Reflex Silver, Deep Black, and Platinum Gray—but no options, save the usual dealer stuff (wheel locks, luggage net, etc.).

Fortunately the Tennesseans managed to sell management on providing a bit more steak with the above sizzle. The suspension is uniquely tuned for the GT, with slightly stiffer springs and dampers, and a ride height that’s 0.6 inch lower. The six-speed dual-clutch transmission gets steering-wheel shift paddles and very sporty S-mode tuning and the exhaust rumbles a bit throatier and louder. They even managed to throw in standard LED headlights, running lights, and taillights (an $1,195 option on the R-Line trim that serves as the basis for the GT).

Alterations to the interior include replacing the light headliner and pillar trim with black, fitting the black V-Tex leatherette seats with Moonstone Gray inserts and contrast stitching, and adding aluminum GT-logo sill plates. The GT’s cross-car dash trim includes a textured aluminum-look strip above a glossy, quasi-photorealistic attempt at carbon fiber. It works reasonably well, and the cockpit makes an upscale first impression. You get heated front seats, a sunroof, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. Naturally, shaving $5,505 off the SEL V-6’s bottom line costs the GT buyer some niceties—like leather upholstery, a power front passenger seat and heated rear seats, Fender audio with navigation and telematics, parking sensors and assistance, lane assist, remote start, and rain-sensing wipers. Frankly, we think any serious enthusiast can get along fine without that stuff.

How’s it all work? Pretty darned well. As luck would have it, my press car for the week was a Camry XSE V-6 (301 hp, 267 lb-ft). Subjectively, the Passat seemed closely matched in acceleration performance, engine note, and linearity of power, and if anything VW’s six-speed dual-clutch transmission’s sport tuning in the S shifter position was more eager to downshift and hold lower gears than was the Toyota’s eight-speed automatic. Indeed our test figures place a Passat SEL V-6 right on top of the 120-plus-pounds heavier Camry XSE, with both hitting 60 mph in 5.8 seconds en route to a 14.3-second quarter-mile (at which point the Camry’s going a tad faster—99.6 mph versus 98.8). Among V-6-powered mid-size family sedans, only the fire-breathing twin-turbo AWD Fusion Sport is substantially quicker, hitting 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and clearing the quarter in 13.9 at 97.7 mph. Of course, those who can tolerate the coarser grain of a 2.0-liter turbo will find both the Honda Accord Sport 2.0T and Chevrolet Malibu Premier 2.0 slightly quicker than the Passat GT, at 5.7 seconds to 60 and 14.3 seconds in the quarter at 99-plus mph.

On what passes for twisty roads in southeast Michigan, the Passat GT seemed to corner eagerly on a reasonably even keel. Test figures from our slightly heavier, more lux-tuned SEL V6 (on less aggressive 18-inch ContiProContact TX tires, versus the GT’s 19-inch ContiProContact GTs) trail only the vastly torquier Fusion Sport and the lighter Malibu 2.0 on the figure-eight—and then only by a half-second and a few hundredths of a g. Of course, one way VW can get away with this car’s value pricing is that its tooling is WAY paid for. Remember, this Passat earned our Car of the Year calipers way back in 2012 when it was new. It had a freshening in 2015, but it’s overdue for replacement. This shows up in a structure that reverberates a bit after suspension inputs, and in a bit more structure-borne road and tire noise. Suspension inputs are also heard at least as intensely as they’re felt.

The narrow-angle VR6 has been accounting for just about five percent of Passat sales. That pencils out to about 3,000 cars last year. This strong value play stands to improve those numbers substantially, without any threat of becoming “common.” It’ll also remain American—our super-sized Passat gets distributed to Latin America, the Middle East, and South Korea, but only the U.S. and Canada are getting in on the GT bargain.

2018 Volkswagen Passat GT BASE PRICE $29,995 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan ENGINE 3.6L/280-hp)/258-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT 3,600 lb (mfr) WHEELBASE 110.4 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 191.9 x 72.2 x 58.5 in 0-60 MPH 5.8 sec (MT est) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 19/28/22 mpg ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 177/120 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.87 lb/mile ON SALE IN U.S. Currently

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Spied! Refreshed BMW 7 Series’ Grille Looks Even More Massive up Close

Motortrend News Feed - 2 hours 5 min ago

A few weeks ago, we caught BMW testing an updated 7 Series prototype. It didn’t look drastically different from the current 7 Series, but the front and rear ends had clearly been reworked. Specifically, we noted new taillights, sleeker headlights, and a larger grille. These new spy shots don’t reveal much more, but they do show the updated grille in more detail. And if it wasn’t clear before, that grille is humongous.

The 2019 Toyota Avalon is probably still the king of large grilles, but based on these photos, the 7 Series is set to give it a real run for its money. The X5 prototype we saw back in February wore a slightly different grille, but both appear to be influenced by the awkwardly styled X7 iPerformance concept that BMW showed off at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. Look closely at this 7 Series prototype’s headlights, and you can see they have their own X7 influences, as well.

We’ll have to wait to see the final, undisguised version before we give our official verdict, but at least for now, it’s hard to imagine the larger grille improving the flagship sedan’s look. Especially in M760i form, the grille on the current 7 Series looks pretty good. Mercedes has sold nearly three S-Classes for every BMW 7 Series sold so far this year, but we doubt that has anything to do with the BMW’s grille not being big enough. Then again, with the new headlights and reworked fascia, it could end up making the whole car better looking.

As we said before, though, we’ll have to wait and see.

Photo source: CarPix

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Lay takes on director role to grow Landwood Auctions

Property Week News Feed - 3 hours 49 min ago
Landwood Property Auctions, the recently launched auctions platform backed by the Landwood Group, has continued its growth with the appointment of Kate Lay as director.
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Conductor creates team to analyse social impact of new developments’

Property Week News Feed - 4 hours 51 min ago
Proptech firm Conductor has created a new team to analyse the social and economic impact of new developments.
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Modular housebuilder Click to deliver 238-home scheme in Slough

Property Week News Feed - 4 hours 53 min ago
Housebuilder Click Properties has received approval to build a residential development at Herschel Street in Slough, comprising of 238 homes and approximately 600 modular units.
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Mercedes, BMW to Minimize Design Lines on Future Cars

Motortrend News Feed - 5 hours 20 min ago

Nowadays, vehicle designs reflect an increasingly competitive space. New technologies have allowed designers to get more creative with a car’s styling, and no one wants to look boring and trite compared to rivals. But there are plenty of times automakers overwork their vehicles in the pursuit of innovation. BMW and Mercedes are far from the worst offenders, but execs at these companies say they want to make cars with fewer design lines in the future.

Speaking with Automotive News Europe, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said Mercedes is reducing aggressive design cues on its new cars. He uses the new A-Class as an example.

“The previous A-class design had to be edgy and loud for a reason: to attract attention, a concept that has been widely adopted by the competition, so it’s time to move on,” he said. “As our head of design, Gorden Wagener, puts it: ‘If you like it, take a line off. If you still like it, take another line off’.” According to Mercedes, the biggest reason a customer will choose the A-Class hatch over a competitor is design.

Robert Lesnik, exterior design boss for Mercedes, chimed in, “If you look around at what others are doing, a lot are chocking their cars full of lines, trying to achieve the sharpest edge in the world with the smallest radius. It looks very aggressive–you don’t want to touch it. You’re afraid you could almost hurt yourself.”

Of course, design is highly personal. Some will like the look of a particular car while others won’t. But it’s safe to say Lexus employs some of the most polarizing designs, particularly with the aggressive spindle grille found throughout the lineup. The design trend comes after years of criticism for bland designs. We’ve also noticed Cadillac isn’t afraid to shy away from sharp corners, and even Acura is stepping up its game with bolder lines and shapes on the body and grille.

BMW will also minimize design cues on its cars. Speaking with ANE, BMW Group design chief Adrian van Hooydonk said, “We’re going to clean things up. We’re going to use fewer lines; the lines that we will have will be sharper and more precise.”

As ANE points out, automakers are looking at ways to play with design without adding excessive lines. BMW and Mercedes are reinterpreting design from heritage cars. We can already see this on the GT R, which adopts the Panamericana grille from the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL that won the Panamericana road race in Mexico back in 1952.

Source: Automotive News Europe (Subscription required)

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2018 GMC Yukon

The Car Connection News Feed - 6 hours 43 min ago
The 2018 GMC Yukon is a traditional SUV with enough muscular V-8 power to tow just about anything. It’s old-fashioned underneath with its body-on-frame construction, but it doesn’t feel like a relic. Accordingly, we’ve rated the Yukon lineup—which includes standard-length and Yukon XL body styles—at 6.6 out of 10...
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Uber self-driving car crash, Porsche Cayenne E Hybrid, Mitsubishi electrics: What’s New @ The Car Connection

The Car Connection News Feed - 7 hours 21 min ago
Police chief: Uber self-driving car may not be at fault in fatal Arizona crash The Uber test car involved in a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, may not be at fault, the city's police chief said Tuesday. Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir chief instead suggested that the impact between a pedestrian and a Volvo XC90 equipped with self-driving technology...
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S Harrison secures Lincoln hotel sale to council

Property Week News Feed - 9 hours 9 min ago
Lincoln Council has acquired a new Travelodge hotel in the city centre from developer S Harrison for £13m.
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Smith set to replace Laffin as Assura chairman

Property Week News Feed - 9 hours 47 min ago
Primary care investor Assura has announced that its non-executive chairman Simon Laffin will leave the company in July after seven years in the role.
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PLA criticises draft bill on business rates for multi-occupied properties

Property Week News Feed - 10 hours 5 min ago
The government’s draft bill correcting how multi-occupied properties should be assessed for business rate purposes leaves too many areas open to interpretation, the Property Litigation Association (PLA) has warned.
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Aprirose markets £75m UK portfolio

Property Week News Feed - 10 hours 14 min ago
Aprirose has appointed Knight Frank to sell a £75m UK mixed-use commercial property portfolio.
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Tishman Speyer’s Verde reaches full occupancy

Property Week News Feed - 10 hours 34 min ago
Tishman Speyer’s Verde development in London Victoria has reached full occupancy after two leasing deals for a total of about 28,000 sq ft.
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Sweet success for Workspace with green light for Chocolate Factory redevelopment

Property Week News Feed - 11 hours 12 min ago
Workspace has been granted planning permission to create a significant mixed-use redevelopment featuring 230 new homes at its 2.3 acre Chocolate Factory and Parma House properties in Wood Green, London.
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Aberdeen Standard announces £70.8m City sale

Property Week News Feed - 11 hours 33 min ago
The Standard Life Pooled Property Pension Fund has announced the sale of its long leasehold interest in 60 Gresham Street in the City of London for £70.75m.
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Hermes seals deal for Glasgow office campus

Property Week News Feed - 11 hours 36 min ago
Hermes Investment Management has acquired the 508,144 sq ft Skypark office campus in Glasgow.
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Student REIT GCP sees NAV and dividends rise

Property Week News Feed - 12 hours 24 min ago
Student accommodation specialist GCP Student has reported strong interim results with EPRA NAV increasing 5% year-on-year to 146.1p and dividends rising 3.5% to 2.96p per share.
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Regional REIT records strong growth in EPS

Property Week News Feed - 12 hours 51 min ago
Regionally-focused office and industrial group Regional REIT has reported strong growth in earnings in full-year results but NAV per share dipped a fraction due mainly to the impact of new equity issuance and debt refinancing costs.
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Range Rover Velar D300 Diesel Forbidden Fruit Review

Motortrend News Feed - 13 hours 51 min ago

Diesel is, ahem, in bad odor in Europe right now. Following the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal, state and local governments have announced that diesel vehicles will be banned from cities, and there have been astonishing allegations that Daimler, BMW, and VW funded tests that involved live monkeys being forced to breathe diesel exhaust fumes. The end result is a snowballing backlash against diesel powered cars and SUVs. Sales of diesel-powered vehicles in Europe crashed 20.5 percent in December. In Britain, diesel sales in January were down 25 percent on the same month last year. Few analysts expect the trend line to change direction.

That’s a problem for the Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300, the most powerful and expensive diesel-powered model in new Velar lineup.

The Velar is available in the U.S. with three engines, two gasoline—a 247-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four and a 380-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6—and one diesel, the 180-hp version of JLR’s 2.0-liter I-4 oiler. But British Velar buyers can also choose from an additional three engines—a 300-hp version of the 2.0-liter gasoline four banger, a 240-hp version of the 2.0-liter diesel four, and a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel that makes 300 hp. And here’s the moral dilemma facing British consumers, post dieselgate: The worst engine is the best option.

Two reasons: Weight, and torque. According to Land Rover’s spec sheet the Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300 weighs almost 4400 pounds. It needs every bit of the big diesel’s 516 lb-ft to deliver the performance to match its breathtakingly elegant styling.

On paper, the turbodiesel-powered Velar D300 is slower than the supercharged, gasoline powered P380—Land Rover claims a 0-60 mph time of about 6.1 seconds for the D300, versus 5.3 seconds for the P380 – though claimed top speeds are similar, 150 mph versus 155 mph. But after driving near-identically equipped P380 and D300 Velar R-Dynamic HSEs back-to-back, it’s clear the diesel V-6’s 55 percent more torque makes the D300 model the more fluidly responsive, more relaxedly rapid of the two, especially on winding British back roads.

The diesel Velar is also better value for Brits. The D300 engine can be ordered on the base-spec Velar, but if you want the P380 engine, you have to order a top-of-the-line HSE model. Even then, an R-Dynamic HSE D300 retails for about 3 percent less than an R-Dynamic HSE P380, and Land Rover UK’s own finance calculator quotes a 7.8 percent lower monthly repayment over identical three-year lease terms. Throw in the fact the diesel V-6 delivers—according to Land Rover—46 percent better fuel economy than the gas V-6 on the European test cycle, and it looks an even more compelling choice.

And then there’s the fact the diesel has lower CO2 emissions than the gas V-6. A moral dilemma indeed…

In truth, most British buyers who want a diesel Velar will opt for one of the less expensive four-cylinder variants, trading off performance for style. Base Velars come standard with 18- or 19-inch wheels, which is a bit like seeing Giselle Bundchen out on the town in your mom’s fluffy slippers. Unlike U.S. customers, however, UK buyers can option a base car with the 20-, 21-, or even 22-inch wheels that work best with the Velar’s stunning proportions. But they pay heavily for the privilege: The cheapest 20-inch wheel/tire combo adds the equivalent of $2,800 to the sticker, while the most expensive 22-inch setup takes it up an eye-watering $6,200…

Both of our six-cylinder HSE-spec Velar testers had air suspensions. The P380 rode on 22-inch wheels and tires, and the D300 on 21s. We’d opt for the 21s. They still look the part, and there’s just a little more compliance in the ride. You could probably get away with 21s even on cars without air springs: The base Velar’s suspension is set up softer than that of the closely related Jaguar F-Pace—which rolls on steel springs—and copes better with road acne.

Although it doesn’t have a low-range transfer case, Land Rover engineers claim the Velar is still more off-road capable than most SUVs. The height-adjustable air suspension, standard on six-cylinder models, can raise and lower the Velar 3.9 inches to give a maximum ground clearance of 9.9 inches, and it can wade through water more than two feet deep. The Velar boasts more wheel travel than the F-Pace, and the finely calibrated Land Rover Terrain Response system delivers better off-road performance. That off-road capability is important, even expected, just like it’s expected a Porsche 911 will do more than 180 mph. But just as few 911 owners ever venture the omigod side of 150 mph, not many Velar owners will take the lowest, most aerodynamic Range Rover in history rock crawling.

Very few production cars deliver the breathtaking street presence of a concept car. The Range Rover Velar is one of the very few. Its elegant, sheer surfacing, extravagant proportions, and obsessively reductive detailing set a new benchmark for modern SUV design. And for many buyers that’s all that really counts.

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2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF First Test: A More Civilized Miata

Motortrend News Feed - 13 hours 51 min ago

If you like a dreary days, don’t move to Los Angeles. On average, we get well under two feet of rain per year, and it’s normal to go months without so much as a drop. I, on the other hand, was perfectly happy to move here. After putting up with Boston weather for the last several years, L.A.’s convertible-ready weather would be A-OK with me.

Unfortunately, when it does rain here, the timing can be incredibly inconvenient. Take, for instance, the week we were supposed to test the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. It rained almost every day, making it difficult to fully enjoy the “retractable” part of the Miata’s “Retractable Fastback.” Thankfully, one dry day allowed us to run the RF through our battery of performance tests. And even though Mazda technically updated the Miata for 2018, the results weren’t much different than they were the first time we tested an RF with a manual transmission.

In the acceleration test, for example, our car hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 14.9 seconds at 92.2 mph. The 2017 Miata RF may have posted a 0.2 mph faster trap speed, but its times were identical. We also recorded a negligible difference in braking distances. The 2018 model needed 110 feet to stop from 60 mph, while the 2017 convertible needed 109 feet.

As road test editor Chris Walton wrote in his notes, “Nothing new to report.” Like before, he appreciated the rev-happy engine and firm brake pedal, but he did note a slight lag on the tachometer and a power drop-off just before 7,000 rpm.

On the skidpad, the Miata averaged 0.91 g of lateral acceleration, matching our previous test. It also posted a figure-eight time of 26.0 seconds at 0.70 g, ever so slightly off the 2017 Miata RF’s time of 25.9 seconds at 0.71 g.

After driving the car on the track, testing director Kim Reynolds called out “the usual Miata cues [including a] superb shifter, weak lower rpm torque, great seats, and terrific steering,” but also mentioned that he was surprised at the extent of the body roll on this hardtop model.

Despite that issue, the Miata impressed him yet again. “If you can’t drive this car well, you really can’t drive at all. It’s both a superb car to drive well and incredibly forgiving to those who don’t/can’t.”

Even though the rain didn’t completely throw off our testing schedule, it did minimize the amount of top-down fun I could have throughout the week. By the time I actually got up to the canyons, the amount of mud and debris on the road forced me to enjoyable myself in a more restrained fashion than I would have preferred.

Although our last Miata RF tester was a mid-level Club trim, this one was the top-of-the-line Grand Touring version. Among other features, the Grand Touring trim comes standard with leather seats, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, automatic climate control, navigation, and lane departure warning. Our tester added Soul Red Crystal paint and the purely aesthetic Interior package, bringing the total to $34,660. That’s pretty pricey for a car with only 155 hp, but if you’re planning to use your Miata RF as a daily driver, you’ll probably come to appreciate the extra features.

Considering how much the B-pillars impact visibility, however, I would have gladly traded lane departure warning for a rearview camera. Mazda also needs to add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ASAP, and despite the fact that the roof raises and lowers in a respectable 13 seconds at up to 6 mph, I missed the speed and simplicity of operating the soft-top. Beyond those things, my complaints were minimal.

Yes, the Miata is tiny by modern standards, but after the first couple days, I stopped noticing. And although less body roll would make it a better track car, the softer suspension paid off around town. And even when you’re not driving it hard, the manual transmission is a total delight. This hardtop variant is also noticeably quieter than the soft-top.

Add in the convenience of Grand Touring features such as rain-sensing wipers and automatic adaptive headlights, and the Miata RF becomes a car you don’t have to justify owning. It’s just an excellent all-around car.

Surprisingly, it even won over my sports-car-hating wife. “I can’t believe I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would,” she told me. “It’s actually nice.” Coming from her, that’s a serious compliment.

Sure, you could buy a soft-top Miata Club, save about $3,600, and have just as much, if not more fun on winding back roads. But if you’re going to spend most of your time driving around town, the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF in Grand Touring trim could be worth the extra money.

2018 Mazda MX-5 (RF Grand Touring 6MT) BASE PRICE $33,640 PRICE AS TESTED $34,660 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible ENGINE 2.0L/155-hp/148-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 2,422 lb (50/50%) WHEELBASE 90.9 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 154.1 x 68.3 x 49.0 in 0-60 MPH 6.4 sec QUARTER MILE 14.9 sec @ 92.2 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 110 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.91 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.0 sec @ 0.70 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 26/33/29 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 130/102 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.67 lb/mile

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