When this Jaguar XF arrives in the States next year, no one will ask, “Is that the new Jag?” But the 2016 XF is entirely new, it just doesn’t look as new as it is. When the XF first debuted in late 2007, it broke Jaguar sedans away from the old-world aesthetic they’d been mining since the 1960s. Gone were the four round headlights, the lavish chrome, and the slavish devotion to the British firm’s heyday. It was the new Jaguar. We were so smitten by the XF’s design and dynamics that we put it on our 10Best list in 2009. As the first modern Jaguar you could drive without looking like you’d borrowed your great uncle’s car, its rejection of retro design made it possible for the rest of the Jaguar lineup to shake some of the design vestiges of the 1950s and ’60s. But as the XF enters its second generation, it has emerged looking a lot like its predecessor, which is now an old Jaguar. Even if it doesn’t advance Jaguar design like its predecessor, the 2016 XF is still a damn good sequel. Its shape retains the aggression you expect of a brand named after a predatory cat. The XF isn’t likely to become the avatar of the gray-haired, but rather the gray-templed. Despite looking like the old XF, no sheetmetal is shared. “A few screws are all that we kept,” says Mike Bradley, senior launch manager. Put old and new next to each other and the new car’s nose appears more blunt, the side glass more upright, and the tail longer. The added length is simply a visual trick, though, as the XF is about the same size as before. The new platform offers two inches of extra wheelbase, but the car is a fraction of an inch shorter overall and lower. In the wind tunnel, the new car’s body is more slippery, boasting a claimed 0.26 Cd to the old car’s 0.29. Aluminum Everywhere Look underneath the bodywork, and it’s likely you’ll be eyeing a piece of aluminum. The XF’s aging Ford architecture that dated back to the Lincoln LS and the baroque Jaguar S-type is dead and buried. Aside from the doors, the trunklid, and the rear floorpan, the XF’s architecture is made up of bonded and riveted aluminum castings, extrusions, and stampings. The new platform is shared with the smaller XE, but according to Jaguar, only 20 percent of the XF is shared with the XE. What we find curious is that the doors and trunklid are steel. Saving weight by making door skins and trunklids out of aluminum is a relatively easy and obvious way to shave pounds. So why are the doors and trunklid steel? “It’s done to improve weight distribution,” says Bradley. There is a bit more steel hidden away in the XF. For example, behind the stamped B-pillar is a high-strength-steel insert that bolsters rigidity and improves side-impact crashworthiness. A cast-magnesium crossbar hides behind the instrument panel and another cast-magnesium piece ties together the front structure. In all, the XF’s unibody is said to consist of 75 percent aluminum and be 28 percent more rigid. In all-wheel-drive V-6 guise, the car will weigh 265 pounds less than before, which would put it at about 4150 pounds. (The last supercharged AWD XF we weighed came in at 4385.) Powering Up When the XF goes on sale next year, the available engine will be the current XF’s 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. In base versions, the 60-degree V-6 again inhales from a twin-vortex supercharger, has its thirst slaked via direct fuel injection, and turns out 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. This model, dubbed the XF 35t, will start at $52,895, a price drop of about $5000 from last year’s V-6 XF. A 380-hp version of the same V-6 (as seen in the F-type) will be available, too. The extra power is due to zeros and ones and not any physical differences—the engine is mechanically identical to the 340-horse version. Jaguar didn’t reveal what the 380-hp option will cost in the 35t, but the sportier XF S with the higher-output six will start at $63,695. All-wheel drive will be optional. The rear-biased all-wheel-drive system is similar to its predecessor and can send power forward on demand, but the transfer case now has a chain drive instead of gears. Quiet operation is said to be the major advantage of the chain, but it’s also 16 percent lighter and 10 percent more efficient. Moving Out Over the road, the XF is quiet, even with the 2.0-liter turbo-diesel that Jaguar had us sample first. A cold start did make us think that it might be powered by a vibrating iPhone, but once warm and on the road its NVH lessened considerably. This diesel is part of Jaguar’s in-house-engineered Ingenium engine family. When the diesel arrives in the States in the middle of 2016, it will have 180 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque and may surpass 40 mpg on the highway. Jaguar hasn’t announced pricing for the diesel, but it did promise that it will start at less than $50,000. We also experienced the supercharged V-6s that will go on sale first. We drove both rear- and all-wheel-drive versions in the 380-hp tune. Equipped with a balance shaft, the V-6 doesn’t make much noise, even as it spins right past its 6000-rpm redline and hits its governor near 7000 rpm. There’s a mellow rumble from the engine but no supercharger whine. The eight-speed automatic transmission snaps off shifts quickly and with ease. In Jaguar’s estimation, an all-wheel-drive 380-hp V-6 will run from zero to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds; we figure it’ll be a bit quicker. In our last test of a 340-hp 2015 XF with AWD, we managed a zero-to-60 time of 5.3 seconds. When asked about the possibility of V-8 versions, Jaguar reps smirked, but they aren’t ready to confirm anything. Some of what the XF shares with the new XE is in the chassis. The independent rear suspension, made mostly of aluminum, comes from the XE. In front, the double wishbone is an adapted version of what’s in the F-type. Two suspension setups will be offered, a standard version with conventional shocks and an optional one with electronic shocks that can adjust damping on their own or via driver input. The roads in Spain where we sampled the cars are glassy smooth, the country apparently having spent its last Euro on road construction, so it’s difficult to judge the ride quality. On these roads the XF is taut but never harsh. Body control is excellent and the XF drives smaller and feels lighter than the German cars in its class. The electric power steering comes across as light, but it imparts a sense of liveliness. While our European-market test cars were equipped with summer tires, American versions will get all-season rubber that likely will reduce grip and steering feel, but we’ll have to wait and see. It is theoretically possible to order summer tires for the XF, but Jaguar reps tell us it’ll be a special-order situation. Inside the Shell Like the exterior, the interior of the XF is a modernization of the themes established by its predecessor. The air vents still open like miniature garage doors; the gear selector is still a small dial that rises when you push the start button. In the center of the instrument panel is a large touch screen that features Jaguar’s latest infotainment system, InControl. On the standard version, phone, audio, and navigation functions, as well as the home screen, have a button for quick access. Once within the system though, there are no redundant controls, so you have to tap the screen to enter a point of interest into the navigation system or tune in a radio station. Response time is good, but it would take some getting used to before we were comfortable using it in traffic. Below the big touch screen are actual buttons that manage the climate-control system. We’d rather have volume and tuning knobs than HVAC buttons. Some audio functions can be controlled via the steering-wheel buttons, but we adjust the radio far more often than the climate control. An InTouch Pro system with greater functionality will be optional. The Pro version features a larger screen that doesn’t have buttons, but the main screen can be personalized so that the functions you use most are immediately accessible. Opting for InTouch Pro also replaces the mechanical gauges in the cluster with a large configurable TFT screen that can display a large map from the navigation system, and it can show several different gauges that mimic mechanical gauges. Switch the car to Dynamic mode and the speedo and tachometer trade places, with the tach taking center stage. In-car Wi-Fi will be available and the XF also will feature an app that allows the owner to monitor their car’s mileage, whereabouts, and fuel level. The app will also allow you to start the car, set the interior temperature, turn on the heated or cooled seats, and lock and unlock the doors. Tesla and other manufacturers have offered these capabilities for a couple of years, but they’re new to Jaguar. Without a formal comparison test, and without driving the finalized U.S. version, we’re not quite ready to lock in the XF’s position in the mid-size luxury-sedan segment. But we can say that the new XF feels more lithe, involving, and playful than the usual suspects from Germany (the Audi A6, BMW 5-series, and the Mercedes-Benz E-class). While it isn’t as aggressive as the sports-car-aping Cadillac CTS Vsport, and its primary controls lack the dogged alertness of the Cadillac’s, it’s not far off. It does have a more pleasing interior than the CTS, and the Jag's supercharged V-6 is smoother than, if not as powerful as, the American car’s twin-turbo six. But this is just the first version of the new XF. Sportier and more powerful versions are undoubtedly on the drawing board.
Mazda revealed the all-new Mazda CX-3 to the world at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The all-new crossover SUV is the fifth model in Mazda’s line-up of new-generation vehicles to feature the full suite of the company’s award-winning SKYACTIV technology along with a stylish KODO – Soul of Motion design. With the global market launch set for Japan in spring 2015, the CX-3 is set to become a core member of Mazda’s model line-up. Click here for our detailed coverage of the LA Motor Show>>> European models will have a choice of three engines: the petrol SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre in two power versions and the new SKYACTIV-D 1.5-litre clean diesel. Six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic and SKYACTIV-MT manual transmissions will be offered either in front-wheel drive format or with Mazda’s new-generation all-wheel drive system. The all-new Mazda CX-3 will feature Mazda’s latest i-ACTIVSENSE active safety systems as well as superb passive protection from its lightweight yet stiff SKYACTIV-Body. Suited to the needs of a modern market, it also offers a generous infotainment package including the MZD Connect in-car connectivity system. The Mazda CX-3 will be on display throughout the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show along with the all-new Mazda MX-5, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 and the 2015 Mazda6, which are also making their debuts. The show is open to the public from 21-30 November. What do you think of the new Mazda CX-3 crossover SUV? Share your thoughts and opinions with us through comments below.
Hyundais, they’ve come a long way. From being the butt of jokes in the West, today’s Kia/Hyundai range of cars are winning accolades and topping sales charts across the world. On that note then, a ravishing concept from the Korean manufacturer appears. This is the Hyundai HCD-16 Vision G Coupe Concept, and has been unveiled at a media event at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, before its public unveiling at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this weekend.

Vision G Coupe Concept

The Vision G is a large grand tourer, has a coupe bodystyle with a “slingshot-like” profile, seats four and features styling that is “purposefully understated”. Hyundai insists that the design has a “chivalrous” theme going around it, with the car not having to stylistically shout to get noticed and respected. The Vision G Concept was designed in California, US, with the design team led by Christopher Chapman.

Vision G Coupe Concept

The insides are sumptuously appointed, with quilted ivory leather upholstery, golden accents and fine wood overlays. When the driver approaches the Vision-G, the doors automatically open, as if by a valet. Hyundai calls the “valet door” feature. The HCD-16 in the nomenclature represents Hyundai California Design center, and the number 16 denoting the 16th concept to come out of that facility.

Vision G Coupe Concept

The Vision G is powered by Hyundai’s 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine, which produces 420 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 519 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm. Like the brand’s flagship Genesis sedan which also employs the same engine, the Vision G does away with conventional Hyundai badges, and gets winged Genesis badges, both inside and outside. The Vision G gives a fairly accurate representation of what a Genesis with two doors and more panache could look like.
It’s a bit of a mind bender this. You’re probably wondering what the hell is going on here. Well, the digital realm knows no boundaries, so one of India’s most popular cars in recent times just played the core of a premium brand’s entry level model in Photoshop. ‘Automotive Manipulator’ Theophilus Chin has imagined what a sub-Evoque, Range Rover SUV could look like; and he chose the Hyundai Creta as the base for what will essentially be Land Rover’s cheapest.

Most of the bodywork from the Creta has been shaved off, and digitally re grafted with Range Rover Sport elements; apart from the glasshouse and the roof. The front end is straight off the RR Sport, with a few tweaks to accommodate itself into the Creta’s volume. Range Rover or Land Rover branding above the grille would have sealed the deal. The rear view mirrors also come off a Range Rover, we believe.

Hyundai Creta Land Rover Render (2)

The sides also have a distinct Range Rover touch, with Evoque like wheel arch trim and a waistline that emanates from the front fender. A rear quarter window has been added, which gets a prominent kink at the bottom. New alloy wheels come off the new Discovery Sport. The back end of this automotive anomaly seems like the new Range Rover Sport rear ended into a Creta, while some wittiness has gone into making those Creta-Range Rover hybrid tail lamps. The roof rails and “shark fin” rear antenna are still retained from the Hyundai though.

A sub-Evoque Range Rover, if it happens at all, will draw swords against the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA Class It’ll be an interesting car, but won’t look anything like the renders above, which is just some good food for thought.
Hyundai has introduced an Audio Video Navigation System in the Elite i20 Asta (O) and i20 Active SX models. The system features a large 17.78cms (7”) Touch Screen with pre-loaded Maps, satellite-based voice guided navigation, rear camera display and other in-car entertainment and connectivity features.

The system comes with Bluetooth Connectivity that lets the user sync their phone with it and implement functions on screen including dialing, answering and sync their music. The built-in navigation features intuitive and suggestive keyboard allows the user to search locations and helps to reach their destination conveniently. It also imbibes pre-saved routes for easy access.

Using the multimedia’s touch screen and paired compatible Bluetooth mobile phone, one can browse contacts, place calls and even navigate to contacts’ addresses all without touching the phone.
The Buddh International Circuit makes a fitting location to thrash out Yamaha's potent new, twin-cylinder 300, the YZF-R3. The Japanese company shook the Indian sportsbike scene with its YZF-R15 a few years back, bringing with it a rich pool of bike technology at the time – fuel-injection, liquid-cooling, four valves per cylinder, a steel spar perimeter frame, six-speed gearbox and a lot more. The bike maker has already upped that game with the V2.0, making the R15 sharper, and adding premium bits including an alloy swingarm, which makes now the right time to introduce Indians to a whole new next level, the R3, a serious Ninja 300 challenger.

You can see the R3 lives up to its rich YZF lineage, looking racy, faired and ready to attack a race track. Where Honda's CBR bikes seem to look tamer today, the YZFs are getting sharper, sleeker and a touch wilder looking. The R3's steeply raked front fascia stares ahead with a macho, twin-light 'don't mess with me' air. The visor bubble is smartly integrated, easy to peer through and works well on track to provide excellent wind protection. Instrumentation is smart and modern with all essential information prominently displayed on a soothingly lit backdrop, and the R3 comes with all the high-quality feel you can take for granted on any Yamaha bike in India.

Grips offer top-notch, plush feel, and the switches, though little used at Buddh, are crisp, and smooth to operate. The levers are easy on your fingers and mirrors solid feeling, and easy to adjust. As with all track-focussed sportsbikes, the R3 comes with a forward biased riding position, that worked perfectly at the fast, flowing Buddh track but isn't overly aggressive for regular street use either.

Since the advent of democracy in 1976, Spanish politics has been dominated by the two largest parties: the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) socialist party and right-wing Partido Popular (PP) party. In the 2011 national, regional, and local elections, the PSOE—in power since 2004—was handed widespread defeats, giving the opposition right PP outright majorities in 8 of the 13 regions that were up for grabs, and, nationally, installing PP party leader Mariano Rajoy as prime minister.

The electorate soured on the austerity measures the PSOE had adopted to cope with the country's considerable economic problems—not the least of them the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone—but the PP government has taken many measures even further: It raised income taxes, introduced labor reforms that make it easier for employers to fire workers, weakened the system of collective bargaining (thus lowering wages), and reduced both the numbers and salaries of public-sector, public-health, and education employees. The months following the election turned the spotlight on the indignados—the “indignant ones”—who gathered in Occupy Wall Street–style protests against the cutbacks in major cities nationwide; demonstrations have continued sporadically since then.

An important element of PP policy is its opposition to any further devolution of powers to Spain’s autonomous regions, which are responsible for their own education, welfare, and health care budgets—and where chronic borrowing and overspending have contributed significantly to the nation’s economic crises. Rajoy’s determined centralism has only added fuel to separatist sentiments, especially in Catalonia, where parties advocating outright independence won the regional elections in late 2012. In 2013, the regional parliament set the date for an independence referendum in 2015, although this is unlikely to go ahead because it’s unconstitutional.

The introduction of the euro in January 2002 brought about a major change in Spain's economy, as shopkeepers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and real estate agents all rounded prices up in an attempt to make the most of the changeover from the old currency, and the country became markedly more expensive. This did little to harm Spain's immense tourism machine, at least until the recession began to take its toll in 2009. A weaker euro and an improvement in global economic conditions brought the hospitality industry bouncing back in 2012 and 2013; this reflected, in some measure, a return on the government's €1.5 billion loan to "de-seasonalize" the industry (reducing its dependence on the summer beach-bound holiday market) and expand both the eco-friendly and the upscale cultural components of the Spanish travel experience. With the economy staging a slow recovery (the economy shrank by some 1.2% in 2013), tourism remains a bright spot: Spain's 60-million-plus visitors contribute around 12% annually to the country's GDP.

The state-funded Catholic Church, closely tied to the right-wing PP and with the national Cadena Cope radio station as its voice, continues to hold considerable social and political influence in Spain, with members of secretive groups such as Opus Dei and the Legionarios de Cristo holding key government and industry positions.

Despite the church's influence, at street level Spain has become a secular country, as demonstrated by the fact that 70% of Spaniards supported the decidedly un-Catholic 2005 law allowing gay marriage. And although more than 75% of the population claims to be Catholic—attendance at Mass has been bolstered over the last decade by strongly Catholic South American and Eastern European immigrants—less than 20% go to church on a regular basis.

More than 1 million Muslims reside in Spain, making Islam the country's second-largest religion.

Spain's devotion to the arts is clearly shown by the attention, both national and international, paid to its annual Principe de Asturias prize, where Prince Felipe hands out accolades to international high achievers such as Philip Roth and Annie Leibovitz, and to homegrown talent such as the golfer José María Olazábal and writer Antonio Muñoz Molina, who has taught at the City University of New York.

Film is at the forefront of the Spanish arts scene. Acclaimed director Pedro Almodóvar notched another triumph in 2013 with his comic take on air travel in I’m So Excited!, starring Spanish leads Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz (who also teamed up with her husband, Javier Bardem, under the direction of Ridley Scott for The Counselor).

In contrast, Spanish music continues to be a rather local affair, though the summer festival scene, including the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim and WOMAD (World of Music and Dance), serves up top names to revelers who come from all over Europe to soak up music in the sun.

While authors such as Miguel Delibes, Rosa Montero, and Maruja Torres flourish in Spain, few break onto the international scene, with the exception of Arturo Pérez Reverte, whose books include Captain Alatriste and The Fencing Master, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of the acclaimed Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and Prisoner of Heaven. Spain's contribution to the fine arts is still dominated by three names: the Mallorca-born artist Miquel Barceló; the Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida, who died in 2002; and the Catalan abstract painter Antoni Tàpies, who died in 2012.

With Real Madrid and FC Barcelona firmly established as international brands, and La Liga recognized as one of the world's most exciting leagues, soccer remains the nation's favorite sport. The national soccer team, known as La Roja ("The Red One"), is the only team in the world to have won the European Cup twice and the World Cup in succession. La Roja was a serious contender for its second successive World Cup in summer 2014, but was eliminated early in the group stages. After fútbol, what rivets the Spanish fan's attention are cycling, tennis, basketball, and motorcycle racing. Alberto Contador, who won the 2012 Vuelta de España; Rafael Nadal, the first tennis player to hold Grand Slam titles on clay, grass, and hard court; brothers Pau and Marc Gasol, who play for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies respectively; and Marc Márquez who in 2013 was the youngest winner ever of MotoGP, are national heroes.
Iceland is one of the most dramatic natural spectacles on the planet. It is a land of dazzling white glaciers and black sands, blue hot springs, rugged lava fields, and green, green valleys. This North Atlantic island offers insight into the ferocious powers of nature, ranging from the still-warm lava from the 1973 Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) and the 2000 Mt. Hekla volcanic eruptions to the chilling splendor of the Vatnajökull Glacier.

Iceland was settled by Vikings with strong Celtic elements in the late 9th century. Tradition has it that the first Norse settlers arrived in AD 874, but there is some evidence that Irish monks landed even earlier. Icelanders today speak a language remarkably similar to the ancient Viking tongue in which the sagas were recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Norse settlers brought to the island sturdy horses, robust cattle, and Celtic slaves. Perhaps Irish tales of the supernatural inspired Iceland's traditional lore of the huldufólk, or hidden people, said to reside in splendor in rocks, crags, caves, and lava tubes.

Iceland's near-universal literacy might be attributed to its long tradition of participatory democracy, dating from AD 930, when the first parliament met at  ingvellir. Icelandic tribal chiefs decided to join the Norwegian crown in the mid-13th century, and after many centuries under Norwegian, and later Danish, rule, Iceland finally gained full independence in 1944. Today Iceland is a modern Nordic—most find the term Scandinavian too limited—society with a well-developed social-welfare system and one of the highest standards of living in the world.

Iceland almost defies division into separate regions, thanks to its inlets and bays, thorough lacework of rivers, and complex coastline of fjords, all crowned by an unpopulated highland of glaciers and barrens. To divide the country into four compass directions is to oversimplify, but since the Icelandic national emblem (seen on the "tails" side of every local coin) depicts four legendary symbols—one for each corner of the country—the number is not totally arbitrary.

Reykjavík is the logical starting point for any visit to Iceland, before venturing out into the countryside, where rainbow-arched waterfalls cleave mountains with great spiked ridges and snowcapped peaks. You can climb mountains, ford rivers, watch birds, catch trout or salmon, even tend sheep and cattle at a typical Icelandic farm. The west is an expansive section of rugged fjords and lush valleys, starting just north of Reykjavík and extending all the way up to the extreme northwest. The north is a region of long, sometimes broad valleys and fingerlike peninsulas reaching toward the Arctic Circle. The east has fertile farmlands, the country's largest forest, and its share of smaller fjords. Iceland's south stretches from the lowest eastern fjords, essentially all the way west to the capital's outskirts. It encompasses rich piedmont farmland and wide, sandy coastal and glacial plains. Powerful rivers drain the area, carved with impressive waterfalls. The national parks of Skaftafell and  ingvellir are here, as well as the nation's highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur.
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