Monthly Archives: October 2016

Pop top camper bus with accessorized Atlas

The Chicago Auto Show starts on Thursday, and Volkswagen will brighten up midwinter in the Windy City with a taste of summer road-tripping. The Weekend Edition concept adds some strategic accessories to the new Atlas SUV, transforming it into a shuttle set for family recreation and adventure with room to pack the kids, gear, suitcases and even the family dog up for a long weekend on the road.

Revealed last October, the new Atlas will hit US roads this spring. Volkswagen is marketing it as an active lifestyle vehicle that it hopes inspires people to “live a life as big as their imaginations,” and the Weekend Edition better illustrates what it means, for those that might not have the biggest imaginations.

The Weekend Edition designation recalls the “Weekender” packages once offered on classic Vanagon and Eurovan pop-up campers. Unfortunately, the Atlas package doesn’t get a true pop-up roof or overnighting amenities of its own, but it does get a distinctive roof box that Volkswagen imagines as a modern version of the pop-up roof.

The Urban Loader cargo box looks like a hard-shell roof-top tent, but it only provides space for resting gear and cargo, not resting campers. The box expands to offer up to 17.7 cu ft (501 L) of storage for whatever bits and pieces are required for the trip.

If VW really wanted to pay tribute to its classic pop-tops, it might have opted for a modern roof-top tent-cum-cargo box, such as the Tepui White Lightning or Roost, offering flexible space for sleeping campers and hauling recreational gear. But we guess such a tent wouldn’t provide enough sleeping space for the full Atlas-load of passengers, so it was probably right in just sticking with a pure cargo box.

The Urban Loader cargo box can also be removed, and the crossbars used to carry skis, kayaks, bikes and other large gear. Side steps help occupants access whatever’s riding up top.

Take the dashboard with you

As cars become more connected, a range of clever apps to interact with them has popped up. BMW offers up a clever personal assistant, and Volvowill let you lock your car, check the fuel level and activate the heating using an Apple Watch. Now, Volkswagen will let you keep track of all servicing using the (inventively named) My Volkswagen app.

At its core, the My Volkswagen app is all about keeping a handle on what’s happening in your car. Families with multiple VW cars in their garage are able to see all their vehicles in the one place, and even track cars that haven’t arrived as they progress from the factory to the dealer and, eventually, their driveway.

The real benefit of a system like this comes when it’s time to get the car serviced. Rather than having to consult the service book to work out when it’s time for a service, the app is able to keep a detailed log of all services and government checks carried out on the car in its history. Buyers can also use the app to book services, and receive warnings about when the car might need a check up based on mileage driven.

Once the car has been booked in, owners are able to see the car making its way through the workshop, and can approve work on any problems found during the service or, if they’re feeling a little stingy, tell the dealer to put it off until next time.

Of course, all of this benefits Volkswagen as well: the service department is a great money spinner for dealerships, and making it easier for people to book and visit authorised local service departments makes them less likely to get work done at the little garage around the corner.

GT Sport is a hot i30 by any other name

Hyundai has used the Chicago Auto Show to unveil its newest play at American hatchback supremacy. Europeans might know it as the i30 but Hyundai likes to do things differently in the US, launching the warmed-over Elantra GT Sport with a 200 hp (149 kW) engine and purist-pleasing six-speed manual gearbox. The Golf GTI won’t be losing any sleep, but the good-looking warm hatch bodes well for the incoming i30N.

When it came time for the team at Hyundai America to turn the regular European i30 into the hotter Elantra GT Sport, the formula was relatively simple. Rather than running with the range-topping 138 hp (103 kW) 1.4-liter turbo on offer elsewhere, the GT Sport is fitted with a 1.6-liter turbo punching out 201 hp (150 kW) of power and 265 Nm of torque. Sure, they’re not full “hot hatch” numbers, but they make the car a more practical hatchback alternative to the VW Jetta GLI or Hyundai’s own Elantra Sport.

Power is put to the road through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but purists (and those with restless left legs) will want the six-speed manual.

Of course, for the Elantra GT Sport to be considered a true member of the warm hatch club, it will need to know how to handle a set of corners. It certainly seems like Hyundai has done everything it can to make that happen – gone is the torsion beam rear end from standard cars, and in its place is a fully-independent multilink setup. Combined with the stiffer, lighter new body and bigger brakes, the Sport should be able to get up and dance when the driver demands it.