2017 Genesis G90 5.0 V-8 Tested: Good, But Where’s the Beef?

2017 Genesis G90 V8

The G90 sedan is as new as the Genesis brand it belongs to, but neither the car nor the company is entirely fresh, at least in concept. Hyundai has been dabbling in the luxury space since 2008, when it introduced the mid-size, rear-wheel-drive Genesis four-door and, later, the larger Equus before sweeping together the former (rechristening it G80) and the redesign of the latter (this G90) and creating the stand-alone luxury entity Genesis. As a successor to the Equus, the megahuge G90 casts a wide net, hoping to both skim buyers away from pricier establishment players such as the Mercedes-Benz S-class, BMW 7-series, and Lexus LS and offer buyers a larger alternative to fully loaded mid-size luxury sedans for similar money. Within this scope, the G90 mostly succeeds. READ MORE ››

On Patrol: 2017 Nissan Armada Tested!

2017 Nissan Armada Platinum

When Nissan created its first full-size sport-utility vehicle, the Pathfinder Armada, it did so in the traditional way, using the platform of its full-size Titan pickup. Although there’s now a new Titan pickup from which a new full-size ute could be spun, Nissan decided that worldwide volume for big, body-on-frame SUVs—which sell pretty much only in North America and the Middle East—could be accommodated by consolidating its offerings around the international-market Nissan Patrol. That vehicle, ­leather-lined and reengineered for a more pampered, pavement-oriented life, already is the basis for the Infiniti QX80, and now it has spawned the new Nissan Armada. READ MORE ››

Can LeEco Rattle Apple and Tesla with an EV That Connects with All Your Devices?


Product ecosystems are powerful brand agents. Put more simply, you are hooked on Apple, Google, and Amazon because they provide a unified, productive experience that keeps improving.

Yet, as wildly successful as they are, each of these ecosystems lack a truly consistent interface that smoothly handshakes among home, car, and personal devices. Apple and Google are working on making cars part of their vision; Tesla is starting with cars and headed for Apple and Google territory on the way to building up its own unique ecosystem. Now a fresh disrupter has entered the scene. LeEco, a company that until recently was known only as China’s Netflix, is slated to introduce a connected network of phones, smart TVs, autonomous cars, and more. Its partnership with EV startup Faraday Future—and Aston Martin—means there may be something to that plan.

It starts with the LeEco LeSee Pro concept, which made its U.S. debut in San Francisco this week. It is an evolution of the concept by the same name shown last year at the Auto China show in Beijing. LeEco chairman Jia Yueting’s presentation was sorely lacking any concrete details, and LeEco wouldn’t confirm any of this concept’s specs or the level of autonomous driving the company is anticipating to enable. However, this coupelike sedan has received some cosmetic nips and tucks in the months since the Beijing show, and some instrument-panel tweaks show that the interface is taking form.


Plans Include Faraday Future and Some Very Aggressive Pricing

LeEco, now with dual headquarters in China and San Jose, California, has a partnership with Faraday Future, the new California-based electric-car company that LeEco has helped fund, and with Aston Martin to help develop an all-electric model for the British sports-car maker. While the LeSee Pro teases a model to be built in China, for that market, Faraday is expected to build a future successor or version at a $1 billion Nevada plant; and the relationship goes both ways as it will use some degree of the LeEco’s open-content technology.

Faraday Future, Jia revealed, will be showing its first production-ready electric vehicle at the CES technology show in January, with an on-sale date as early as the following January. Faraday’s first vehicle, a family-size crossover that has been spied in testing, is expected to be more oriented toward the luxury experience and marketed to those who wish to drive themselves, but the cars are also anticipated to be capable of autonomous operation.

LeEco’s Plan: Undercut on Price and Gain a Strong User Base

The kind of pricing that gets people’s attention is part of LeEco’s strategy at every hardware level, unlike Apple, which still depends on making money from its high-margin hardware business. LeEco chairman Yueting has gone so far as to say that he hopes the brand’s cars will eventually be free, because the company’s revenue model relies on content and services—and the more users, the merrier. Its pricing for its latest smartphones dramatically undercut prices for the Apple iPhone, for instance. Although it’s hard to imagine how the revenue from streaming video, apps, and telematics services would ever offset the billions to be spent developing and building an autonomous car.


The company’s smart-TV business launched in 2013, and this past year it was already the top-selling TV maker in the China market. With the company’s purchase of Vizio this past year, it’s gained a foothold in this lucrative market in the United States as well. Expect some great displays and screens in these vehicles, as well as turnkey entertainment options that don’t require multiple subscriptions.

Just as LeEco said that its iPhone rival isn’t a smartphone but “a device for a new generation of entertainment,” it says the LeEco LeSee Pro isn’t an electric car but “an ecosystem for the new era of connected mobility.”

LeEco has been stepping into the role of content producer in the style of Netflix. In China, LeEco has bankrolled original TV series and the upcoming Matt Damon movie The Great Wall—one of 20 big-budget English-language movies in the works. Globally, it also owns the digital rights to more than 300 sporting events and more than 10,000 games and matches, and it has enlisted Cisco Systems as a core partner in developing its proprietary digital rights-management (DRM) software.

More Than Taking Your Device Along: It Is the Device

The heart of the LeEco ecosystem is making sure that everything works—and works the same—across the platform and into vehicles. That will be a tremendous leap from today’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces, which are already feeling like stopgap solutions. Just as the company said that its iPhone rival isn’t a smartphone but “a device for a new generation of entertainment,” the company says that the LeEco LeSee Pro isn’t an electric car but “an ecosystem for the new era of connected mobility.”


The vehicle’s reveal involved some hiccups, such as the story of an accident with one of the LeEco Pro prototypes, and a fixed vehicle that made it to the venue too late to be driven (or drive itself) onto the stage. But the company also confirmed, with a clip for the conference from Michael Bay, that the LeEco Pro will be featured in Transformers 5, currently being filmed in the U.K.

Sharing is another part of the plan; the company is working on a module that will anchor an “ownership sharing platform,” with a dynamic interface that will let a pool of drivers jointly use a single vehicle.

As driving tasks become increasingly automated, the quality of the interface and the user environment will take center stage in the vehicle experience. The seamlessness of the connection among devices will start to become a strong factor in what distinguishes one vehicle from another—which may give LeEco an advantage, if its partners can pitch in with some of the traditional vehicle development of what the company seems to see as just another device. At the very least, it’s definitely a company worth watching.


2017 Mercedes-AMG SL65 Tested: Ludicrous the Old-School Way


Context matters. While it’s one thing to read that our track test of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG SL65 recorded a zero-to-60-mph blast in 3.7 seconds, it’s another thing entirely to see it happen on the street. One vigilant defender of public safety secreted behind a building saw this one light up 74 mph on his radar gun, which wouldn’t be remarkable if he hadn’t first seen it standing still just on the other side of a broad exurban intersection. Our test driver—who admits yielding to temptation when the light turned green only after confirming that there were no pedestrians or other traffic in sight—agreed with the wide-eyed police officer that this would be a one-time experience for them both. But think on it while you count off five seconds: More than two tons of static sculpture converted itself into a left-lane-on-the-freeway projectile in less time than it takes to think, “Is that a cop?” Our guy says he actually lifted before the radar got a reading on this matte-gray missile. READ MORE ››

Volvo’s Geely Launches New Auto Brand, Lynk & Co, and It’s Headed to the U.S.


Dozens of new cars launch every year, but the launch of a whole new auto brand is a far rarer event. Geely, the Chinese automaker that also owns Volvo, is rolling out a new one: Lynk & Co—yes, that’s the name—and it’s set to launch globally with a raft of new models and ambitious sales targets. How ambitious? Half a million cars a year by 2021.

The brand will kick off with the production-ready compact SUV that you see here, unveiled yesterday in Sweden alongside a considerably more zany coupe-sedan concept that drops broad hints that something lower and sleeker will follow. The SUV will be known simply as the 01—what we presume is a deliberate contrast to the screwball name of the brand. The company claims the cars will be sold in all major markets including the United States, where sales are promised to start in 2018, a year behind the introduction in other markets.

These are grandiose ambitions, but the carmaking potential certainly exists. All of its models are to use the same Volvo-developed Compact Modular Architecture that will underpin the Swedish brand’s next generation of small cars. Lynk & Co models will be built by Geely in China, but the emphasis is on the fact they’ve been designed and engineered in Europe (as apparently even the Chinese prefer to buy non-Chinese brands).

The 01 sets out much of the visual language for the new brand. Geely’s design director, Peter Horbury, who was formerly in charge of styling for both Volvo and Ford, said we can expect the upcoming family of “four or five” models to include plenty of the same themes, including those fender-mounted headlights and the shark’s-fin detail at the rear of the car. The design identity is based around the themes of “personal,” “respectful,” “new technology,” and one you probably didn’t see coming: “dark.”

At least there are no obvious similarities to the concept that presaged the closely related Volvo XC40. According to Horbury, the cars have been designed without reference to each other. “There are two ways to do a collaboration. Either we show everything and then we each know what the other is doing, or we do it separately,” he said at the unveiling in Gothenburg. “We did the second—the chance of coincidence is pretty slim; we know what Volvo’s new design language is, so steering clear of that meant we’d be okay.”


The Lynk & Co 01 will be bigger than its XC40 sibling, with platform technical boss Mats Fägerhag telling us the 01 will be 175.1 inches long and 72.7 inches wide and will sit on a 106.6-inch wheelbase. Power will come from both three- and four-cylinder gasoline engines, with a four-cylinder diesel being considered for some non-U.S. markets. There also will be a three-cylinder hybrid featuring the same powertrain that we detailed at the launch of the XC40 concept. We don’t have any powertrain output figures, but Fägerhag did state that the base three-cylinder version will weigh 3252 pounds based on the usually optimistic EU-DIN methodology, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder with all-wheel drive and the dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) will weigh 3506 pounds, and the three-cylinder hybrid will be 3749 pounds.

Lynk & Co so far is refusing to share any images of the second car and wouldn’t let us snap it at the event. But we can tell you it’s a lower and leaner-looking four-door coupe with a similarly upright front end but without the 01’s towering radiator grille. It keeps the SUV’s high-mounted headlights, though, and—since it’s a concept—was sporting four gullwing doors.

We’ve also been told that the Lynk & Co brand is aimed at the millennial market (surprise!) and that the company will be selling mobility as much as actual cars. We’ll tell you more about its plans, including how the company aims to cuts costs—and prices—with a dealer-free sales and distribution network in a separate post.


Jeep Wrangler Airbags May Not Deploy, 182,000 Recalled

2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is recalling 182,308 Jeep Wrangler SUVs in the U.S. from the 2016 and 2017 model years to fix airbag sensors that may unplug during a crash, according to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A change in assembly methods on 2016 and 2017 Wrangler models can compromise the two front impact sensors and completely disable the airbags and pretensioners in a crash. The Toledo, Ohio, plant routed the wiring to these sensors in a different configuration from the 2015 Wrangler to speed up production. However, during an internal crash test in July, FCA found the left headlight had rotated and yanked a connector from one of the sensors, so that the airbags never received a signal to deploy. FCA said it investigated and reverted to the wire routing on 2015 and earlier Wrangler models starting on August 14. All 2016 and 2017 Wrangler models built before this date are at risk.

At this point, FCA said it knows of no warranty claims, injuries, or crashes from this defect. Dealers will begin repairs after Thanksgiving. In July, FCA recalled 410,000 cars, 323,000 of which were in the U.S., for wiring harnesses that could lead to engine stalls.