A.J. Foyt to replace Donald Trump as Scott Speed and Ho-Pin Tung debut at 100th Indy 500

Filed under: Motorsports, Celebrities

Donald Trump in the Indy 500 pace car

It’ll be a landmark running for the Indianapolis 500 later this month, as the event celebrates its 100th anniversary as the premier open-wheel racing event in America. All of which only gave some fans more reason to be ticked off when Donald Trump was announced as this year’s pace car driver.

Annoyed by political implications detracting from the spirit of racing, many fans were up in arms when Trump was announced as the official pace car driver, evidently prompting the celebrity businessman and possible presidential candidate to change his plans. In his place, organizers at the Speedway have invited none other than A.J. Foyt to drive the Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible that will serve as the official pace car. As a four-time Indy 500 winner, Foyt is among the most decorated drivers ever to lap the Brickyard, and his nomination will surely come as more welcome news to the legions of open-wheel devotees.

In related news, two drivers better known for their formula racing activities overseas will make their Indy debuts at the 500 this year. One of them is Scott Speed, the last American to race in Formula One. Speed shifted over the NASCAR after things didn’t pan out in F1, until Red Bull dropped his sponsorship last year. Given his experience in open wheels and oval tracks, Speed may find a new home at Indy.

Also making his Indy debut will be Ho-Pin Tung, who will become the first Chinese driver to contest the Indianapolis 500. Tung is a reserve/test driver for Renault F1 this season and has contested such feeder series as GP2, A1GP and Superleague Formula. Both he and Speed will be driving for Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing team and will be eligible for the $5 million bonus available to drivers from outside the series should they overcome the insurmountable odds to claim the checkered flag and drink milk in victory lane.

A.J. Foyt to replace Donald Trump as Scott Speed and Ho-Pin Tung debut at 100th Indy 500 originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 12 May 2011 18:42:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Volkswagen Jetta price quietly increases by $500

Filed under: Sedan, Volkswagen

2011 volkswagen jetta

2011 Volkswagen Jetta – Click above for high-res image gallery

Volkswagen has made a big deal about the 2011 Jetta’s $15,995 starting price. After all, how many times have you seen those commercials that show a guy working hard to afford the new Jetta, only to find out that it’s starting price had been lowered. And then there’s the baby-holding dad that drops his cup as the baby drops his bottle after checking out the German sedan’s bargain-basement MSRP.

At any rate, you can pick up your cup and get back to work, because the starting price of the Jetta has now been increased by $500. The VW website clearly shows that the S model, which comes equipped with an anemic 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a scant 115 horsepower, now starts at $16,495.

This isn’t exactly great news for Jetta-loving budget shoppers, but we hear rising commodity costs is making it more expensive to build vehicles these days, so it isn’t totally unexpected. On the bright side, only the entry S model has been given a price bump. The rest of the Jetta lineup is unchanged.

Volkswagen Jetta price quietly increases by $500 originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 12 May 2011 17:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2012 Fiat 500 Abarth [w/video]

Filed under: Performance, Europe, Hatchback, Quick Spin, Fiat

Not Exactly Like America’s Abarth – Ours Will Be Better

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth – Click above for high-res image gallery

Covering the automotive business is rife with surprises. Case in point: On a recent trip to the stunning Algarve region of Portugal to test Continental Tire’s new ContiEcoContact 5 (verdict: they’re very good), we had the chance to sample a bit of forbidden fruit.

In the process of learning about the German company’s doughnut-making capabilities (which included a journeyman’s seminar on velocity-excited short- and long-chain polymers, the CEC5’s three-percent fuel economy bump and improved wet-braking capabilities), one test car fitted with Continental’s new rubber was a EU-spec 2011 Fiat 500 Abarth.

Knowing that the factory-fettled 500 is headed our way in two year’s time, we snagged the keys to see if Italy’s hottest hatch was ready to bring the pain to the John Cooper Works-infused offerings from Mini. Continue reading…

Continue reading 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth [w/video]

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 11 May 2011 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2011 Kia Optima Hybrid priced from $26,500*

Filed under: Hybrid, Sedan, Kia

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

We’re capturing our first driving impressions of the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid this week, but we’ve already learned that the midsize fuel-sipper will be priced at $26,500 when it goes on sale in the coming months, excluding $750 for destination and handling.

Curiously, the $26,500 price tag represents an increase of $705 versus the Optima’s platform mate, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Kia tells us that the price increase is because the Optima comes with more standard equipment than the Sonata, including things like a rear backup camera, rear spoiler, auto-down front windows for the driver and passenger, a cooling glovebox, compass, and Uvo, Kia’s brand new infotainment system.

Like its Sonata kin, the Optima Hybrid uses the automaker’s 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine, mated to an electric motor and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination expected to return fuel economy ratings of 35/40 miles per gallon city/highway, same as the Sonata Hybrid.

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid priced from $26,500* originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 10 May 2011 17:26:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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GM leaps Ford into top 10 on 2011 Fortune 500 list

Filed under: Ford, GM, Earnings/Financials

fortune 500 top 10 gm tops fordFord has been taking the lion’s share of the headlines lately thanks to a fresh product lineup and a string of very impressive profit margins, but General Motors has been winning on the revenue front. CNN Money‘s annual Fortune 500 list was recently published, and GM climbed all the way from number 15 in 2010 to number seven in 2011. The General managed $135 billion in revenue, putting the automaker behind only Wal-Mart, some oil companies and a couple financial/investment conglomerates.

Meanwhile, Ford’s Fortune ranking went in the other direction. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker went from number eight in 2010 to number 10 for 2011. The Blue Oval dropped in the rankings in spite of the fact that revenue jumped from $118 billion in 2010 to $128 billion in 2011.

While GM can claim a higher Fortune 500 ranking than Ford, we’re guessing nobody in Dearborn is losing sleep over the matter. Both companies are in the top 10 and each company is solidly profitable, and that’s the stuff happy stockholders are made of.

GM leaps Ford into top 10 on 2011 Fortune 500 list originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 06 May 2011 13:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Future Chryslers to include Charger Super Bee, 40+ mpg Fiat 500

Filed under: Sedan, SUV, Hatchback, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat

2011 Dodge Charger

2011 Dodge Charger – Click above for high-res image gallery

Chrysler is fresh off the introduction of 16 new or refreshed models, but Team Pentastar isn’t out of breath just yet. According to Inside Line, CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters and analysts that there will be more changes throughout 2011.

For starters, the Dodge Charger will reportedly add a Super Bee variant. The familiar badge will likely be a mostly cosmetic upgrade, though Chrysler hasn’t yet announced any specifics. Meanwhile, the Jeep Wrangler will finally – finally – receive a new engine. The ancient 3.8-liter six will be replaced by the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which boasts 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque in most applications. The far more powerful 3.6-liter will also come with a reported 10 percent increase in fuel economy, though the Wrangler won’t get the eight-speed auto transmission that should arrive from Getrag later in the year.

One of the Chrysler brands will also receive a rebadged version of the Fiat 500 before the end of 2011. The efficient little runt, which could be badged as a Dodge, must hit at least 40 miles per gallon to satisfy a requirement necessary for Fiat to receive another five percent ownership of Chrysler. If and when that happens, Fiat will own a 51 percent majority of the American automaker.

Team Pentastar is also looking to add more diesel models to its lineup. The oil burners will reportedly make up 14 percent of the automaker’s model mix by 2014. We know that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is getting Chrysler’s 3.0-liter CRD V6 in the coming years, and we’re crossing our fingers for an oil-burning Wrangler, as well.

Gallery: 2011 Dodge Charger: First Drive

2011 Dodge Charger2011 Dodge Charger2011 Dodge Charger2011 Dodge Charger2011 Dodge Charger

Future Chryslers to include Charger Super Bee, 40+ mpg Fiat 500 originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 04 May 2011 11:28:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Awesome mid-engine, RWD Abarth 500 Motore Centrale revealed at Top Marques [w/video]

Filed under: Aftermarket, Performance, Europe, Videos, Hatchback, Misc. Auto Shows, Racing, Fiat

Lucarelli Monza 500 Motore Centrale R230

Lucarelli Monza 500 Motore Centrale R230 – Click above for image gallery

There’s a grand tradition to mid-engined hatchbacks that blend exotic layout with utilitarian bodystyle, and as promised, that tradition has now embodied itself in the Fiat 500.

Developed by Lucarelli Monza – a new tuning house eager to make its mark – the Abarth 500 Motore Centrale is a substantial re-engineering of the Italian retro hatch. The engine has been moved – apparently to a glass display case – in the rear, and extensively modified in the process. With a new turbocharger and intercooler, new catalytic converter and pistons, the 1.4-liter turbo four now drives 230 metric horsepower to the rear wheels, aided by an electronic limited-slip differential.

While the front MacPherson struts have been left intact, a new wishbone suspension has been crafted for the rear, joined by upgraded brakes with four-pot calipers all around and some revised bodywork with ducting fitted to help keep the engine cool in its new orientation. Aznom, meanwhile, has been brought on board strictly to outfit the interior with Poltrona Frau leather and Alcantara.

The road-going R230 is quoted for a 4.7-second sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) and a 240 km/h (150 mph) top end. An R280 Pista version is also available with an extra 50 horses and 220 fewer pounds, plus a mechanical diff, full roll cage, adjustable suspension and data recorder, dropping its sprint down to 3.9 seconds and raising its top end up to 260 km/h (160 mph). No word on pricing, but you can bet that getting a budget hatchback to reach those kinds of numbers isn’t a cheap proposition.

Have a closer look in the gallery below, and follow the jump to see and hear the pocket rocket zipping around the streets of Monte Carlo thanks to Marco at Marchettino. Thanks to all for the tips!

Gallery: Lucarelli Monza 500 Motore Centrale R230

[Source: MotoreCentrale.com via Italiaspeed]

Continue reading Awesome mid-engine, RWD Abarth 500 Motore Centrale revealed at Top Marques [w/video]

Awesome mid-engine, RWD Abarth 500 Motore Centrale revealed at Top Marques [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 21 Apr 2011 17:20:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Video: Fiat 500 does 360-degree vertical loop at AutoRAI

Filed under: Coupe, Etc., Videos, Fiat

Fiat 500 vertical loop

Stunt driver Steve Truglia loops a Fiat 500 – Click above to watch the video after the break

If there’s an automotive spectacle that rivals the jump in sheer visual excitement, it’s got to be the classic vertical loop (aka loop-de-loop or loop-the-loop). There’s just something special about seeing a car go vertical, then upside-down and back all in one swift motion that makes the crowds go bonkers… and Shell (purveyors of gasoline that they are) used such a stunt to good effect at the 2011 AutoRAI show in The Netherlands.

Waiting for you past the jump are a trio of videos that include different angles (in-car and out, plus a bonus behind-the-scenes look) of a specially prepared Fiat 500 coupe tackling the famed vertical loop, which looks like a giant spoked bicycle rim more than anything else. Most of the videos are in Dutch, but the stunt driver, Steve Truglia, speaks English… so you won’t be completely lost.

Click past the break to see it all go down for yourself.

[Source: Youtube]

Continue reading Video: Fiat 500 does 360-degree vertical loop at AutoRAI

Video: Fiat 500 does 360-degree vertical loop at AutoRAI originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 15 Apr 2011 14:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio released in U.S. “just in time for spring”

Filed under: Convertible, Chrysler, Fiat

2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio

2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio – Click above for high-res image gallery

Good news, lovers of open-air motoring: Fiat has just announced that its diminutive little 500 Cabrio will be hitting the U.S. market “just in time for spring” as a 2012 model. That’s a little nebulous, mind you, as the announcement doesn’t specifically say when we should expect the droptop 500c to actually hit a dealership near you.

In any case, the North American 500 Cabrio mimics its European cousin with an electrically powered fabric roof that can be opened while driving at any speed up to 60 miles per hour. Unlike most convertibles, the 500 Cabrio keeps its fully-framed side windows, as the top slides back and forth on roof rails instead of folding down into a pile at the rear of the car.

Fiat will offer the 500 Cabrio with three different soft top colors, 14 exterior colors and 12 combinations of interior colors and fabrics. Customization is a good thing, no? We’ll get our first live impressions of the 500c at the New York Auto Show next week. Hit the jump for the official press release and be sure to check out some fun-in-the-sun motoring in our high-res image gallery below.

Gallery: 2012 Fiat 500c

2012 Fiat 500c2012 Fiat 500c2012 Fiat 500c

[Source: Fiat]

Continue reading 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio released in U.S. “just in time for spring”

2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio released in U.S. “just in time for spring” originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 14 Apr 2011 12:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Hot Wheels to attempt World’s Longest Jump at Indy 500 [w/video]

Filed under: Motorsports, Videos, Toys/Games

Hot Wheels World Record Jump attempt

We all did it as kids – grabbing one end of an impossibly long stretch of plastic track, heaving it up and attaching one end to the highest object we could find (usually a door) and creating a ramp at the other end with a carefully planned trajectory to score the longest possible airborne distance, then finally setting our favorite Hot Wheels car on a journey of no return.

Team Hot Wheels, a newly created group of stuntmen and extreme sports addicts, are setting out to recreate those childhood memories in the real world. To get there, the group is assembling a 100-foot-tall starting ramp in the shape of a door that leads to – you guessed it – a giant jump. The resulting flight has a goal of reaching 302 feet, which would be a new world record distance.

We don’t know who’s piloting the machine just yet (we suspect we’ll find out for sure if it’s an official record). In any case, it’s the actual off-road truck, which features rear fins reminiscent of a ’59 Cadillac, and the giant Hot Wheels V-Drop replica track that are the real stars here.

Are you asking yourself why Hot Wheels is going to all this trouble to promote kids toys? Well, therein lies the issue. These don’t have to be just toys for kids – Hot Wheels is hoping to attract the attention of adults (males mostly, as you’d imagine) that grew up with these little cars and have fond memories of them. Collectors, take note.

Click past the break for a little teaser video of the event that’s scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 29th. You’ll also find the complete press release for your reading pleasure, if you’re so inclined.

[Source: Hot Wheels]

Continue reading Hot Wheels to attempt World’s Longest Jump at Indy 500 [w/video]

Hot Wheels to attempt World’s Longest Jump at Indy 500 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 12 Apr 2011 19:25:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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