Trans Am Worldwide Takes on the Demon With a 1,100-HP Firebird Drag Car

Trans Am Worldwide made a splash at last year’s New York auto show with their latest creation, the Trans Am Super Duty. Little did they know, their 1,000-hp throwback would land at the same time as the Dodge Challenger Demon. Rather than let that take the wind out of their Screaming Chicken’s wings, the boys from Florida took it as a challenge.

To take on the Demon, Trans Am worked with a willing owner to develop its first dedicated drag car. You’d think the Super Duty’s 1,000 hp would have been plenty when compared to the heavier Demon’s 840 hp, but Trans Am says it wanted to make that number at the wheels, not the crank. Switching from pump gas to race gas and adding methanol injection accomplished that goal, giving the engine more than 1,100 hp. Only the limits of the already beefed-up eight-speed auto kept the team from going higher.

Other mods include a Strange nine-inch rear end, Weld wheels with proper pizza cutters up front, and Eibach springs. Trans Am also developed a roll cage and will install it and a five-point harness before the car hits the strip. Also waiting back at the shop: a parachute that hides behind the license plate. The car will need it, too: Trans Am expects it’ll run the quarter mile in the low 9-second range, but hopes it can break into the 8s.

Speed ain’t cheap, of course, and neither are custom carbon-fiber body panels. The standard Trans Am starts at $107,000 including the base car (a brand new Camaro SS 1LE) and go up from there. This car is a one-off for now, and Trans Am figures the finished version will cost about $190,000. But with development completed, Trans Am plans to offer the drag package to future owners who want to dust Demons at the strip.

Better get your order in now, though, because the company already has a nine-month waiting list.

Seven Questions With Acura Boss Jon Ikeda

With a redesigned 2019 RDX crossover that boasts a 272-hp 2.0-liter turbo engine, a sharper suspension design, the return of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, and a dramatically upgraded infotainment interface, Acura is on a roll. We chatted with Acura Division general manager Jon Ikeda on the sidelines of the New York auto show about the RDX and other issues facing Honda’s luxury brand.

Acura vice president and general manager Jon Ikeda

What is so special about the redesigned RDX?

It’s the first of a new generation of Acuras to get back to our original mission of “precision crafted performance.” It’s a great car to show where we are trying to take the brand. It’s another whole level of a new car. I am confident there’s going to be a lot of people enjoying what they’re looking at and driving. When you have a 2.0-liter turbo making 272 horsepower, which is best in class, and a 10-speed transmission, and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, then you add a humongous panel roof … there are so many touch points and features the previous RDX did well. But this is the kind of increase we want for the next TLX and MDX. That’s the kind of escalation we’re looking at.

The RDX used to share a lot of underpinnings with the Honda CR-V. Is that still the case with the redesigned 2019 version?

It’s its own platform. We always think of efficiencies, but in the end, it’s about building the right product. It’s not on the CR-V platform. It’s the first on a new platform. It’s the lead vehicle.

Right now A-Spec is more about trim packages. When will we see suspension and engine upgrades as part of the package?

Most of it is about getting the performance look, yet there are some enhancements. The MDX A-Spec comes with wider tires, which is good for performance, but we also want people to get that image for a reasonable cost. We have talked about the return of Type S models in the future, and we have a V-6 turbo engine coming. Those are on the horizon. But that’s separate from A-Spec. Type S will be very performance-oriented.

With its redesign, the RDX has grown yet again. And a lot of your rivals are creating new models with a smaller footprint, such as the Lexus UX. Does Acura want to go below the RDX, or do you worry that going smaller will compete with Honda?

The key for us right now is focusing on our core models. And when we bring in core models, we want segment-leading core models. Then we look at, if we are playing in the premium field and it’s all trucks, not everyone is going to be able to become Range Rover. We have to have a balanced portfolio. There are still cars on the road. Balance is a good place to be. We’re a performance brand, so no matter where the market goes, our cars better drive like stink. If it’s about trucks, we’ll have the best, most fun-to-drive trucks.

But to me, it’s still early days for luxury SUVs. I don’t want to drive what my dad was driving, [a heavy station wagon]. SUVs used to be big Suburbans, but now they’ve gotten smaller to the point where there is almost no utility. I own a TSX Sportwagon, and I’m always wondering, if I slam down an RDX, will I get the same handling I can get from my TSX wagon?

The NSX has been on sale for a couple years now. How would you gauge interest?

The key is build-to-order. Dealers want one in their store. Now we’re racing with Penske, we have GT3 race cars, and we have posters on the walls of dealerships. You add to that a shiny red NSX, you give a test drive, and sell an A-Spec MDX. The NSX has many purposes beyond sales. It’s a halo, a flagship.

There are several premium brands (Acura, Infiniti, Genesis, Volvo) that aren’t seen as “true” luxury, in the same category as the German brands and Lexus. But Volvo is trying to elevate to that status. Does Acura have similar ambitions?

We’re focused on what Acura does. We’re a performance brand. For us, we’re 31 years old and trying to be honest with ourselves. We like the youthful energy. We’re going back to our “precision crafted performance” roots. This is not what everyone else is offering. It’s what we can bring to the forefront. Trying to pit yourselves against others is not the way to do it. If the other brands want to do that, that’s fine. I’m looking for 200,000 people to hang out with us.

So you aren’t looking to make something larger or more opulent than the MDX?

The MDX changed the dynamics of the industry. Obviously, it has done nothing but great things for our brand, and we will continue to evolve it. But we’re not thinking about doing something like everybody else is doing.

2018 Mazda6 to add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

One of our favorite midsize sedans is getting a cool upgrade, we learned at Mazda’s press conference at ythe 2018 New York auto show. After talking briefly about the subtly refreshed 2019 CX-3 subcompact crossover and unveiling a new “brand truth” called “Feel Alive,” Mazda announced that the 2018 Mazda6 will get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

That’s right, the aging but still attractive and entertaining Mazda6 adds the popular Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features for the 2018 model year on the Touring trim or higher, starting this summer. Those already driving a 2018 Mazda6 Touring or higher will eventually be able to take in their cars to dealerships for a retrofit. Expect other Mazdas to follow the 2018 Mazda6’s lead, possibly including the 2019 CX-5 and 2019 CX-9.

Speaking in front of the sexy (but impractical) Kai concept making its North American debut in New York, Mazda chief marketing officer Dino Bernacchi said that although Mazda products met owners’ expectations, the brand itself didn’t connect with them. To that end, Mazda is rebranding itself under the “Feel Alive” moniker and claims to have started the first automotive social hub on Amazon, where fans can learn about new products and upcoming Mazda experiences.

If that last effort can actually sustain itself after the initial effort from the automaker, it could be a good way to increase Mazda’s connection to its fans. On a more basic level, though, we’re just happy the Mazda6 is getting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2019 Nissan Altima: 7 Things to Know

The sixth-generation Altima makes its debut at the 2018 New York auto show with a feature that the Camry and Accord don’t offer at any price: all-wheel drive. But beyond newly available AWD, Nissan has reimagined the Altima in a few other ways—keep reading to learn more about the new midsize sedan.


A Nissan First

Nissan is offering all-wheel drive on the 2019 Altima, and it’s not just a first for that midsize sedan nameplate. It’s also the first time any U.S.-spec Nissan sedan will offer all-wheel drive.

“One less reason for [buyers] to defect to CUVs is if we offer all-wheel drive,” Nissan product planning manager Derek Kramer said.

Currently, only Subaru and Ford offer all-wheel-drive midsize sedans. Ford offers all-wheel drive with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost powerplant, requiring an engine upgrade over two other engines, but Subaru includes all-wheel drive as standard on every Legacy. Nissan’s approach is closer to Subaru’s—at least at first, the Altima with AWD will be available on all five trims with the 2.5-liter base engine; the 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine is front-drive only.


Nissan Gets SRious

Just as Toyota has found success broadening the Camry’s appeal with SE and XSE variants, Nissan is seeing a similar trend with the Altima. The 2019 Altima will be available in S, SR, SV, SL, and Platinum trims. Although the SV has been a popular variant, the SR is gaining ground.

“We’ve seen the dynamics in the segment change over the last couple years,” Kramer said. “So it’s definitely migrating toward the sportier variants.”

The 2019 Altima SR, which is available with both engines, gets 19-inch wheels, a different suspension and chassis tuning, and paddle shifters, and it offers a dark interior with orange accents. One feature the Altima SR doesn’t get is Nissan’s package of active safety tech, called ProPilot Assist.


ProPilot Assistance

The 2019 Altima gets a full package of advanced safety features, which includes lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and automatic rear braking. Although it’s standard on the SV, SL, and Platinum, the package isn’t available on the S or SR. That strategy differs from that of Toyota and Honda, which make their active safety tech packages standard on every Camry and Accord. Of course, not all such systems work exactly as well as the others, but we hope the lack of ProPilot Assist on lower-trim Altimas will help Nissan keep those models affordable. (Pricing hasn’t been announced yet.) If an increasing number of consumers experience—and appreciate—such systems, expect a future Altima to offer some of ProPilot Assist’s features on lower trims.


But the Altima DOES Offer Other Standard Features

The 2019 Altima becomes another new mainstream-branded car to lack a true base model. Yes, the 2019 Altima S rides on 16-inch steel wheels with covers, but even that model comes standard with push-button start (and a smart key that requires a push of a button on the door handle to open the car), an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7.0-inch gauge cluster info display, four USB ports (two in front and two for rear passengers), and an eight-way power driver seat.


Going Up

As someone who spent a year behind the wheel of Motor Trend’s long-term 2013 Altima, I’m happy to see that the 2019 Altima’s standard 8.0-inch touchscreen is positioned at the top of the dash. That’s a huge improvement compared to the outgoing car, allowing for easier quick-look visibility than before. As with the Accord, though, it’s too bad the screen isn’t tilted a little toward the driver.


Going Down

The 2019 Altima’s low hood makes an impression when seeing it in person. Along with those slim headlights, it helps make the midsize sedan look more aggressive and even a little angry if you anthropomorphize cars. The car’s 30-millimeter hood drop was made possible in part because of the fact that Nissan’s upgraded 2.5-liter I-4 base engine was reoriented 180 degrees, Kramer said.


Fours for Everyone

The 2019 Altima will not offer a V-6 engine. In its place, a new 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine is the upgrade engine that’s offered in front-drive form on the SR and Platinum trims. The V-6-replacing turbo-fours we’ve tested in midsize sedans have offered different levels of performance, from the Malibu and Accord options whose sub-6-second 0–60 times keep up with a Camry V-6 to the highest-horsepower variants from Hyundai and Kia, which have 0–60 times just above 7 seconds. Even the outgoing Altima had impressive EPA-rated fuel economy, so we’re interested to see how well the updated base 2.5-liter I-4 will perform with its standard CVT.

Audi RS Avant Wagons Could Still Make it to America

Attention, fast wagon fans: Audi is not ruling out the possibility of selling RS Avants in the U.S. market; it’s just concentrating on Sportbacks for now.

“We always look at potential new opportunities in the market. It’s a niche to explore,” said Filip Brabec, vice president of product management for Audi of America. “We keep holding discussions. Keep writing us letters.”

For now, however, Audi is concentrating on the launch of its RS 5 Sportback, a five-door hatchback that is currently the closest thing to an Avant in the U.S. lineup.

“The RS 6 and RS 4 Avants are well accepted in Europe,” said Michael Renz, the new head of Audi Sport worldwide. “In the U.S., it might be a different situation.”

a

Renz hears the shouts of the very vocal Avant fans in America. But Avant fans also represent a small niche compared to the rest of the lineup. Could RS Avants arrive in a few years as a way to spark awareness and sales for the rest of the RS lineup? Renz would not commit to it, but he didn’t rule it out either.

“The Sportback is not a weird hatchback,” Renz said. “It adds to a sedan, as a beautiful layer on top of that. It’s for sedan buyers who want to be a bit more expressive.”

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback

That said, the demographic for a Sportback and Avant are quite different, at least in Europe.

“The Sportback offers more image than the Avant. There is a clear hierarchy,” Renz said. “The Sportback is for young families who are looking for a sporty, fashion-oriented car with functionality that they can put the kids in. The Avant customer is a little bit older, more entrepreneurial.”

Trans Am Worldwide Takes on the Demon With a 1,100-HP Firebird Drag Car

Trans Am Worldwide made a splash at last year’s New York auto show with their latest creation, the Trans Am Super Duty. Little did they know, their 1,000-hp throwback would land at the same time as the Dodge Challenger Demon. Rather than let that take the wind out of their Screaming Chicken’s wings, the boys from Florida took it as a challenge.

To take on the Demon, Trans Am worked with a willing owner to develop its first dedicated drag car. You’d think the Super Duty’s 1,000 hp would have been plenty when compared to the heavier Demon’s 840 hp, but Trans Am says it wanted to make that number at the wheels, not the crank. Switching from pump gas to race gas and adding methanol injection accomplished that goal, giving the engine more than 1,100 hp. Only the limits of the already beefed-up eight-speed auto kept the team from going higher.

var domainPath="http://c14.zedo.com/utils/zplayer/wrapper/v8.2/HTML/app/", playerid ="inReadMovie_268170", muteOnLoad =true, debugMode = false;

” width=”100%” height=”100%” frameborder=”0″>

var domainPath="http://c14.zedo.com/utils/zplayer/wrapper/v8.2/HTML/app/", playerid ="lastframe0", muteOnLoad =true, debugMode = false;

” width=”100%” height=”100%” frameborder=”0″>

Other mods include a Strange nine-inch rear end, Weld wheels with proper pizza cutters up front, and Eibach springs. Trans Am also developed a roll cage and will install it and a five-point harness before the car hits the strip. Also waiting back at the shop: a parachute that hides behind the license plate. The car will need it, too: Trans Am expects it’ll run the quarter mile in the low 9-second range, but hopes it can break into the 8s.

Speed ain’t cheap, of course, and neither are custom carbon-fiber body panels. The standard Trans Am starts at $107,000 including the base car (a brand new Camaro SS 1LE) and go up from there. This car is a one-off for now, and Trans Am figures the finished version will cost about $190,000. But with development completed, Trans Am plans to offer the drag package to future owners who want to dust Demons at the strip.

Better get your order in now, though, because the company already has a nine-month waiting list.