If you’ve ever shopped for a car in the United States, chances are you’ve read or seen a comparison test. They’re the mainstays of many automotive publications, both in print and online, and just as vehicles have grown more complicated, so too have the tests. We asked Joe Wiesenfelter, the executive editor of Cars.com, one of America’s most popular automotive sites, to explain what goes into their process. (And yes, the fact that the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan and the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas recently came out on top in two Cars.com SUV comparisons did catch our attention.) Q: How many comparisons does Cars.com conduct every year? Joe Wiesenfelter: We’re currently at a rate of 6-8 per year including pickuptrucks.com, a subsidiary. Q: Who do you use as evaluators? JW: We usually use three of our editors plus a guest consumer judge. Unfortunately the consumer was a no-show for the Compact SUV Challenge in which the Tiguan competed, but we typically find someone who’s in market for the vehicle type or at least owns or has an interest in a similar vehicle. The guest judge for our Luxury Sport Sedan Challenge, which the 2018 Audi A4 won, was the owner of an older BMW 3 Series. Our editors have an average of 12 years’ experience as car reviewers; actually, most have 11 or 12 years. The least tenured has been at it for seven years, and the most more than 20. Since 1997 we have built a staff of journalists that are also car fans and experts, not the other way around. The fairness and ability to communicate well is foundational; it’s who they are. Usually we’re joined by a producer and videographer from PBS’ MotorWeek, a longtime partner of ours. Though they don’t serve as judges for the Cars.com Challenge, they take advantage of the vehicles and typically ask us to share impressions on camera for their broadcast. Q: How do you determine the criteria? What do you tell the judges to look for? JW: To borrow from the published results: Three judges individually awarded points in 12 categories: interior quality, front-seat comfort, backseat comfort, cargo storage, in-cabin storage, handling, powertrain, ride quality, noise, visibility, worth the money and multimedia — the latter a category that accounts for the touchscreen-based interfaces that are, more than ever, the means to activate and adjust fundamental features of the vehicle itself, not simply ways of controlling audio sources and navigation systems. Each model is also awarded points for the advanced active safety features with which the test vehicle is equipped as well as for its grades in our Cars.com Car Seat Check, which gauges the accommodation of various child-safety seats. To elaborate, the above categories are pretty common across our Challenges, but there is variation based on the vehicle type. We don’t do zero-to-60 testing for SUVs, but we have for sport sedans, hot hatches, muscle cars and the like, sometimes with a road course as well. Fuel economy testing also comes and goes depending on the vehicle type and consumer mood. We’re always trying to whittle our conclusions down to what matters most, so if the scoring from a predetermined category proves inconsequential, it doesn’t get mentioned in our reporting. Likewise, if we find on location that a truly distinguishing characteristic or feature isn’t accounted for in our scoresheets, we’ll add it. We always attempt to test a vehicle as it’s meant to be used, which is why we use track testing when called for, as mentioned above, we stuff cargo areas full of luggage, bicycles or widescreen TV boxes.1 We install a variety of child-safety seats to see how accommodating the vehicles are. We use pickup trucks to tow trailers of varying weights and often include an off-road component. What we try to do is share the information consumers can’t get by looking at specifications or feature lists. Just because a feature is present doesn’t mean it’s well executed, so a lot of our effort goes toward revealing how well features that look the same on paper actually perform in the real world, from transmissions to multimedia systems or driver aids like lane-centering steering. We do comment on interior quality, because it plays into a vehicle’s value, but we tend to leave most aesthetic issues off the table and the scoresheet. A consumer can draw his or her own conclusion about how a vehicle looks. We use our opportunity to rate it on what’s less obvious. Q: How long does one take to conduct? What kind of work goes into it? JW: Apart from planning and all the writing and production that follows, the Challenge usually takes four to seven days, depending on the vehicle type(s) and location. Pickups tend to take the whole week. When winter hits Chicago, we hold them elsewhere. We may have a dozen people on location at a given time – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on photography, video and testing schedules. It’s a heavy lift, sometimes literally, because the sacks of rock salt used to weigh down pickup truck beds for testing aren’t going to move themselves. Suffice it to say we’re extremely busy and the days are long, but we’re trying to squeeze as many impressions and as much content as possible out of having closely matched competing models all in the same place. Q: What value do such tests have for your readers? JW: Competitive comparisons are part of much of our content. Even our model-specific reviews address the competitive set and attempt to compare different aspects. It helps shoppers determine what’s most important to them and can lead them to cross-shop a vehicle they wouldn’t have considered. Our Challenges are an extreme example of this approach. Nothing is as instructive as driving vehicles back to back, or sitting in one after the other. Throw in the relatively close pricing and equipment we require for Challenges, and it’s extraordinarily illuminating. This is what we attempt to share with consumers. Apart from an auto mall, dealerships are designed for the opposite: to show you one brand to the exclusion of others. For consumers, our Challenges are the next best thing to an auto show. The value is clear in the demand for the Challenges, which is high. Site visitors gobble them up. It’s clear in the traffic and engagement.
The next time you go skiing or snowboarding, don’t be surprised if a beautiful, snow-covered mountain just happens to pull up next to you in the parking lot. For a second year in a row, Volkswagen is the official sponsorship vehicle for the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) to help promote snow sports on the slopes. The education association has more than 32,000 members who work as professional ski and snowboard instructors at more than 400 ski and snowboard schools at resorts across the country. These instructors teach everyone from novices to experts about learning to ski or ride so they can find just the right way down the slopes. PSIA-AASI develops education resources that are used as the core component of most ski and snowboard school training. When driving during cold, snowy, or icy weather conditions, ensure that your vehicle is equipped with appropriate all- season or winter weather tires. Even with appropriate tires, you must always drive in a manner appropriate for the weather, visibility and road conditions. Tires are supplied and warranted by their manufacturer. Last season, PSIA-AASI’s operational leadership teams across the country had the Golf Alltrack as their support vehicle, and this season, Volkswagen expanded the fleet to include two new SUVs with 4MOTION all-wheel drive capabilities—the Atlas and all-new Tiguan. “VW has been a great supporter of PSIA-AASI this past year, providing our division staff and event teams access to the mountains in various types of weather. This collaboration gives our teams an invaluable measure of confidence that they’ll arrive at their destination,” said PSIA-AASI Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Herrin. “PSIA-AASI is eager to hit the road with new vehicles from Volkswagen that feature 4Motion All-Wheel-Drive.” And as before, those vehicles add to the scenery around them. Mimi Kvinge, an artist from the Pacific Northwest, who painted the mountain artwork featured on the Golf Alltrack last year, tackled the challenge of putting her touch on the Tiguan, Golf Alltrack and Atlas. “I could not be more excited about being involved with the evolution of this project. Even though this my second year working with Volkswagen and PSIA-AASI, it is still so exciting and surreal to see my painting on such iconic vehicles,” Kvinge said. Since working with Volkswagen and PSIA-AASI, Mimi’s social presence has grown significantly, which has helped bring more attention to the benefits of taking a professional lesson, PSIA-AASI and the Volkswagen fleet. For a sneak preview of the custom artwork that Mimi describes as a “piece of her imagination on a unique canvas,” check out her Instagram feed next week at https://www.instagram.com/mimikvinge/ The best way to appreciate these murals is up close and in person. This winter, they’ll be making appearances at practically every major resort in the country from California to New England. And PSIA-AASI will be creating some digital spotlight feature stories and a podcast with Mimi about the murals. You can also see more details about the partnership by visiting the social feeds for Volkswagen and PSIA-AASI: Volkswagen: https://www.instagram.com/vw/ https://twitter.com/vw https://www.facebook.com/VW PSIA-AASI Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesnowpros/
Electric vehicles are the future of transportation, but making that future a reality will require a lot of innovation and manufacturing know-how. Today, Volkswagen unveiled one of its major steps toward an electric future with the first North American appearance of the I.D. CROZZ concept vehicle in Los Angeles – a four-door, all-wheel-drive SUV that previews the next-generation Volkswagen electric vehicle anticipated to arrive in America in 2020. Built from the same platform that is expected to revive the iconic VW Bus in 2022, the I.D. CROZZ concept vehicle offers 302 hp and an anticipated all-electric driving range of up to 300 miles, along with a host of technological innovations and the space modern SUV owners demand.1 “Electric mobility is the future, period, and today we take a big step forward,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “The I.D. CROZZ and the I.D. BUZZ concepts demonstrate how Volkswagen will kick off an EV revolution in America.” The I.D. CROZZ, I.D. BUZZ and original I.D. hatchback concept revealed last year all are built from the same modular electric toolkit, or MEB in its German acronym. This chassis was exclusively designed as a mainstream electric vehicle to help maximize range, power and the benefits of electric mobility – while giving Volkswagen’s award-winning design team new creative freedom. “The beauty of doing an all-new architecture is how much it can deliver to the customer,” Woebcken said. If the I.D. BUZZ was the look back at Volkswagen history, the I.D. CROZZ offers a fashionable sneak peek of the future. Its sleek, four-door coupe shape has a similar footprint to the new 2018 Tiguan, with dramatic doors that open 90 degrees in the front and slide back in the rear to reveal a cavernous interior. On the outside, the I.D. CROZZ greets passengers with a light show, with lighted VW logos and daytime running lights that “awaken” like eyes. of The I.D. CROZZ also features Volkswagen’s I.D. Pilot self-driving system concept , planned for production in 2025.2 In self-driving mode, the steering wheel of the I.D. CROZZ retracts into the dash, and the interior lights change color. Drivers can summon the I.D. Pilot by simple voice controls, and the concept system is designed to rely on four laser scanners that pop up from the roof of the I.D. CROZZ, as well as ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors, side area view cameras and a front camera. Whoever’s driving, the I.D. CROZZ can deliver on the power of electric mobility. Power hits the road via two electric motors, one on each axle, to deliver an anticipated 302 hp and all-wheel-drive. The low-slung battery pack in the floor of the I.D. CROZZ’s helps to lower the center of gravity and provide an optimum weight balance. And it is expected that the battery pack will be able to be recharged up to 80 percent in 30 minutes when using a 150-kWh fast charger. Volkswagen’s EV plans are among the most ambitious in the industry, and call for launching next-generation electric vehicles on three continents – Europe, Asia and North America – anticipated to begin in 2020. “In order to make EVs cost competitive, electric vehicles have to be built at scale, and Volkswagen has the potential to deliver global scale in EVs quickly,” Woebcken said. “We stand for making electric cars affordable; as we like to say, we build cars for millions, not millionaires.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Baja 1000, one of the world’s most unique and challenging motorsports competitions. Today, it’s a grueling and dangerous test of endurance; a non-stop dash through dirt roads and terrain by hundreds of stock and custom-built race cars or trucks of up to several hundred horsepower. Yet to hear Bruce Meyers tell it, it all started as basically a dare. At 91 years old, Meyers stands as a living link to the cradle of Southern California hot-rod culture. His Meyers Manx dune buggy combined VW Beetle mechanicals with a custom fiberglass shell to create a unique American icon. Meyers was one of a host of racers, motorcyclists and hot-rodders who would run their creations across the sands of California and Mexico in the ‘60s. Here, he tells the story of how the Baja 1000 got started, and why it’s persisted as a special event when so many other races have been forgotten.
As powerful and omnipresent as computers are today, they have their limits. Despite the pace of innovation, scientists have started bumping against the outer boundaries of modern computing, finding that even the most powerful machines can’t solve some of our most pressing challenges. That’s where Volkswagen Group and Google have an idea. The two companies announced last week that they would team to explore the potential of quantum computers – a revolutionary new technology that, if its promise holds true, could crack some puzzles in seconds that would take today’s strongest supercomputers years. Specialists from the Volkswagen Information Technology Centers in San Francisco and Munich will develop the first automotive software simulations and algorithms on Google’s experimental universal quantum computer, working alongside Google’s own experts. The goal? Unlocking the theoretical power of quantum computing for real-world issues. “Volkswagen’s collaboration with Google marks the beginning of quantum computing in the automotive industry,” said Abdallah Shanti, Executive Vice President and Group Chief Information & Digital Officer for Region Americas, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “It’s a paramount step to addressing modern mobility challenges unlikely to be solved with binary digital electronic computers.” Google’s quantum computer. Photos copyright Google, Eric Lukero The quantum ghost in the machine To understand what makes quantum computers such a breakthrough, you have to dig into the basic structure of all computers. Computing is, after all, just working with numbers, and all modern computers do so by using transistors. A transistor, or “bit,” is a tiny switch; generally, when it’s on, it represents the number 1; when it’s off, it stands for a zero. After several decades of ever-smaller designs, today’s phones and laptops pack billions of transistors handling trillions of digits to stream TV shows and find the nearest four-star sushi place – all of it through shuffling ones and zeros. Quantum computers don’t use transistors. Instead, they rely on quantum bits, which can be individual atoms or subatomic particles. Qubits also have an on or off state, but – and here’s where things take a turn into the cosmic weirdness of quantum physics – they can also be both at the same time. That means one qubit can represent two numbers, and that a quantum computer’s capacity for numbers doubles with every additional qubit. With just 50 qubits, a quantum computer could handle as much data as a supercomputer – while using a tiny fraction of the time and energy. “The difference in speed is incredible,” says Martin Hofmann, Chief Information Officer of the Volkswagen Group. “A quantum computer can complete calculating tasks in just a few seconds that would take the world’s fastest conventional supercomputer more than a year to perform. “This does not mean that quantum computers are superior per se to conventional computers,” he adds. “But they can perform many highly complicated tasks much faster than conventional supercomputers, or make it possible to perform such jobs in the first place.” From theory to practice Quantum computing has only been a theory until recent breakthroughs, and the entire field remains highly experimental, with many technical hurdles to prove the concept’s potential. Volkswagen was the first automaker in the world to explore with the power of a quantum computer, building a successful simulation of how to move 10,000 taxis around Beijing. Hofmann says VW’s programmers will build on that work with fresh challenges. “One such challenge…would be integrating urban traffic management systems, public transportation or weather conditions into route planning,” he says. “Cities could manage traffic associated with major events or construction sites more efficiently and prevent congestion. In another project, we will simulate material structures, especially for high-performance e-vehicle batteries.” The group will also explore how quantum computers could bolster machine learning or artificial intelligence. Beyond that lies the potential for a second computing revolution. “We plan to seize this opportunity and be one of the first companies to use quantum computers for practical business activities,” Hofmann said. “Together with Google, we are moving application-oriented research forward.”
Following a successful, championship-winning Red Bull Global Rallycross season, Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammates Scott Speed and Tanner Foust shifted their focus to vehicles that represent their off-duty passions. The duo oversaw the building of three new Volkswagen concept show cars for the 2017 Specialty Equipment Marketing Association show – or SEMA, as it’s known to fans of all things chopped, raised, lowered or otherwise hot-rodded. Like a remixed song, a good custom show car adds some visual excitement without erasing the underlying character of a vehicle. Here’s a closer look at how Foust and Speed did just that with these three: of Built in conjunction with Fifteen52, the GTI sports a modern interpretation of the 1986 Group A World Rally Championship winner with that vehicle’s TA logo (Triumph-Alder) turned into “TF” (Tanner Foust). Version 1 of the Mountune x Foust GTI features several newly engineered Mountune components including engine management, intake, downpipe, and exhaust yielding an estimated 350 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Additionally, ST XTA coil overs, uprated brakes, 19-inch 9J Formula GT wheels, Euro-spec front and rear lighting and Recaro Sportster seats make the concept a well-rounded performer. “We set out to showcase the entry of an aftermarket performance juggernaut into the VW world through this Mountune-Foust concept GTI,” says Foust. “The GTI is the original hot hatch, and is already a great platform to start with. This build will be evolutionary and this step is only the beginning. I cannot wait to show you what we have in store with this Mountune collaboration.” of One of the more unique choices for customs throughout the entire show this year, the Speed Edition e-Golf concept features a 2-inch lower sloping roofline, giving the e-Golf a slimmer and sleeker look. Adding to the overall design, custom painted headlamp eyelids were fitted to the car. Custom one-off Titan7 Ultra-E P1 wheels in anodized blue, wrapped in low-rolling resistance Nexen tires, connect the e-Golf to the pavement. “I am not your traditional hands-on car guy, but I do have my own unique sense of style,“ says Speed, the 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross Champion. “We have really gotten aggressive with the look of this car but at the same time maximized the aero and fitted it with a performance eco tire which can provide additional range and driving enjoyment.” of Built from the all-new Volkswagen Atlas, this concept imagines what a deep-country off-road edition might look like. It begins with large tires and rugged wheels, extended fenders and lower-body panel cladding, giving the vehicle a true off-road look. The armored front bumper raises the approach angle and provides underbody protection. Bumper inset and roof mounted light bars illuminate the night for backcountry camping trips, while a roof rack and access ladder keep the interior space passenger-centric. Inside, plaid seat inserts are reminiscent of Volkswagen’s GTI heritage and Foust’s childhood spent in Scotland. “Overlanding has risen in popularity in the past couple of years,” says Foust. “People are looking for ways to get outdoors and go on adventure trips with the whole family. The Atlas is perfect for trips off the paved road and I wanted this concept to enhance the vehicle’s capabilities while maintaining its utility and VW DNA.” Check out the photos below, and go here for a recap of the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team’s 2017 championship-winning Red Bull Global Rallycross season. Modifying vehicles can adversely affect reliability, warranty coverage, & compliance with safety and other standards.
From building houses to preparing meals for those in need, giving back to the communities where they live and work is part of the everyday roadmap of Volkswagen Group of America (VWGoA) employees. This past summer, VWGoA locations across the country made a difference in their communities during the inaugural “Summer of Service.” As part of the effort, more than 450 employees around the country volunteered about 1,400 hours working with various charities and organizations to improve the neighborhoods around them. From May to early September, the Summer of Service volunteer effort featured more than 25 different employee volunteer projects organized by VWGoA locations across the U.S. “After a successful, inaugural Get Involved Week in 2015, and a Get Involved Month in 2016, the company expanded the community service initiative to the entire summer after a large number of employees expressed even more interest in volunteering,” said Machelle Williams, Senior Director for Diversity and CSR at VWGoA. While this summer was designated as a concentrated effort to volunteer together, the company encourages employees to “Get Involved” year-round through initiatives like matching employee donations, a paid day off to volunteer and an annual leadership award recognizing employees for their outstanding efforts giving back to their communities. As part of the Summer of Service, Volkswagen headquarters in Herndon, Va. welcomed Generosity Feeds, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing food to local children for a meal-packing event. In under two hours, roughly 50 employees assembled more than 5,000 meals to be delivered to a local elementary school. “One of the great things about our Get Involved efforts is that they bring people from the entire company together,” said Ryan Forkenbrock an Experiential Marketing Specialist for Volkswagen. “Volunteering brings people who don’t normally get to work together, together.” “When non-profits and businesses work together they strengthen their communities,” said Ron Klabunde, President and Founder of Generosity Feeds. “We are grateful to Volkswagen for the work they are doing to strengthen their community and offer children hope.”