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VW diesels, Subaru’s sporty concept, Tesla Model 3 interior details: What’s New @ The Car Connection

Volkswagen TDI diesel vehicles owned by Phil Grate and family, Seattle, WashingtonGreenpeace boards ship to keep VW diesels out of UK Last week, dozens of members of environmental activist group Greenpeace descended on a port in Kent, England, intent on preventing Volkswagen from importing more than 1,000 diesel-fueled vehicles into the UK. 2018 GMC Terrain Review Compact crossover SUVs aren’t inherently macho, but…
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The Body Electric: Infiniti’s 1930s-Inspired Prototype 9 Concept Is Great

Infiniti Prototype 9 concept

Earlier in the week, Infiniti teased its Prototype 9 retro racer that is set to bow at Pebble Beach. Nissan’s luxury unit has now released more images and details, and the more colloquially inclined among us breathed quiet exclamations to the effect of: “Dag, bro. That’s a mo’ flippin’ machine.”

Infiniti Prototype 9 concept

Underneath its front-engined Grand Prix racer skin, the 9 carries what Infiniti terms a “prototype electric motor and battery from Nissan Corporation’s Advanced Powertrain Department,” apparently based on the next-generation Leaf powertrain. The motor makes 148 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, allowing the low-slung silver machine to hit 60 in 5.5 seconds and top out at nearly 106 mph. And while the powertrain may make it the most relevant aspect of the car to modern buyers, it’s hardly the point of the thing. Experiencing it is the point. It’s a distillation of late 1930s cues and configurations, most of which lasted into the late 1950s, until Cooper’s lightweight, mid-engined machines changed the way European racing machines in the top rank were constructed.

Infiniti Prototype 9 concept

While some of the Axis powers dove straightaway back into motorsport once the post-conflict chaos of World War II began to clear, with Enzo Ferrari’s first cars appearing in 1947 and Mercedes reentering the fray in the early 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1960s that Japan began to compete in global motorsport, Honda’s exploratory foray at the 1959 Isle of Man TT notwithstanding. Thus, the Prototype 9 really is a “what if” machine. What if Japan had leapt back onto its feet with the same speed as the industrialized West? What if Infiniti had existed 40 years before Nissan ginned it up to compete with Honda’s Acura and Toyota’s Lexus in the race to take on the established European luxury marques? What if history wasn’t history?

The result is a blazing success. The Prototype 9 expertly covers the spread between classic and modern, its body creases the result of modern machine technology and old-fashioned panel beating.

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The 9 was originally an after-hours project, a dalliance based on a brief handed to Nissan senior vice president of global design Alfonso Albaisa. As more divisions of Nissan saw what was taking shape, the labor of love snowballed into an actual concept-car program. Sometimes hype and navel gazing can overwhelm a concept machine, and more and more often, what’s hailed as a concept is merely a thinly disguised preview of an upcoming vehicle. In the Prototype 9, Infiniti has taken on a captivating flight of fancy, the sort of thing that was de rigueur during the eras celebrated on the Monterey Peninsula every August. It’s a shot across the bow of complacency as well as a fine, fine piece of eye candy. We can’t wait to bask in its presence.


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Mars Car: Manned Mars Rover Concept Debuts at Kennedy Space Center

Mars Rover Concept

NASA wants to send humans to Mars by 2030, marking the first time the American space agency will send a manned mission to another celestial body since the Apollo 17 moon mission in 1972. During that final lunar mission, astronauts rode in a rudimentary 10.2-foot-long rover that had a modest payload of just 1080 pounds. Fortunately, the first humans to set foot on the red planet likely will have a much improved vehicle for Martian exploration, if the six-wheeled concept rover that debuted at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is anything to go by.

The concept was built by the Florida-based Parker Brothers Concepts, a vehicle design studio headed by Marc and Shanon Parker, and is nearly three times as long as the original lunar rover. At some 28 feet long and 11 feet high, the Mars rover concept boasts an enclosed cockpit and a mobile lab for completing quick analyses of Martian finds. Although NASA did not commission the Mars rover concept, the vehicle does represent what a possible land-going vehicle for a manned Martian mission could look like.

Mars Rover Concept

For its part, NASA is already working on a manned rover called the Space Exploration Vehicle concept, or SEV. Like the Parker Brothers’ Mars rover concept, SEV contains an enclosed cabin for maneuvering the vehicle and conducting missions. Additionally, the SEV includes a dozen wheels that pivot and allow it to crab-walk around alien terrain. Additional features include a docking hatch and suitports designed for easy entry into a spacesuit.

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While a manned mission to Mars is still more than a decade away, fans of the red planet can get a look at the Parker Brothers’ Mars rover concept as part of the Kennedy Space Center’s Summer of Mars program. The rover also will be touring the country throughout the summer, with stops planned in Georgia, D.C., New Jersey, and New York.


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