Volkswagen’s Passat wins Car of the Year 2015!

Volkswagen’s Passat is the 2015 Car of the Year. A jury of 58 motoring journalists from 22 countries anointed the VW top dog from a seven-strong shortlist, which also included the BMW 2-series Active Tourer, Citroën C4 Cactus, Ford Mondeo, Mercedes C-class, Nissan Qashqai and Renault Twingo.

Each juror has 25 points to split among the shortlisted seven, with the Passat racking up 340 points in total. That was almost 100 points clear of the second-placed Citroën C4 Cactus which landed 248 points, while the Mercedes C-class came in third with 221 points.

CAR has two jurors on the shortlist, Phil McNamara and Georg Kacher, who both nominated the C4 Cactus as their favourite, giving it six points. But the Car of the Year approach, asking jurors to spread 25 points among the contenders rather than just pick one outright winner, means a consistently scoring car with broad international appeal tends to come through the pack to gain victory.

How the editor of CAR voted

McNamara gave the Passat four points – the same as the Mondeo. Part of his verdict read: ‘Buyers have shifted from saloons to crossovers, but the new Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat attempt to fight back. The Mondeo is the most fun dynamically: drive it hard on our demanding test routes, and its body control, ride quality and responsive controls are exceptional. It’s a very refined motorway car, and the punchy 1.5-litre Ecoboost is great, but the drab, cheap-feeling cockpit is a real letdown.

‘The Passat reeks of quality engineering throughout: it’s a little lighter than the Mondeo, its cabin feels very special, and its sophisticated technology delivers for the consumer: self-driving in traffic jams, automated piloting if the driver is incapacitated, forthcoming active binnacle, and world first trailer assist. If you could combine the Passat’s quality and tech with the Mondeo’s chassis, you’d have an ideal (if trad) car to stem the crossover exodus.

‘But my winner is the Citroën C4 Cactus. It eschews the complex tech of its peers, making a virtue of simplicity to minimise weight and cost, for the consumer’s benefit. So mpg and CO2 figures are impressive. It’s compact but has decent cabin space. The exterior design is handsome, and the interior design peppered with delightful touches, from the asymmetric vents to the cloth grab handles to the gearbox lever.

‘Citroëns often flop in our dynamic assessments, but the controls, peppy 1.2-litre triple, ride and steering are a step forward for the brand. The good value Citroën is brimming with feelgood factor, and it’s my Car of the Year.’

Volkswagen’s strong record in Car of the Year

But that’s one person’s opinion: 57 other voters ensured the Volkswagen won by a comfortable margin. The Passat’s victory means Volkswagen’s three core current models, the Polo in 2010 and the Golf in 2013, have all won Car of the Year.

The award has a long heritage: it dates back to 1964, when the Rover 2000 scooped the first win. ‘It’s the most prestigious award in the automotive industry,’ said CotY president Hakan Matson. ‘Our voting is totally transparent: all the points and the jurors’ verdicts are published on our website.’

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Automatic Parking Robot: just park your car and Ray will do the rest!

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A robotic parking system recently debuted at the Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, and while it’s not the first automated parking system to see the light of day, it is among the first to prioritize elegance and design. Most robot parking solutions have thus-far been rather warehouse-like, made with big yellow and blue steel girders and large, visible mechanical parts. Your average BMW owner would probably be much more likely to trust Billy the valet with his brand new paint job, whether or not that’s a justified view. Big, moving pneumatic platforms tend to have a dour, steam-ejection aesthetic, and people don’t generally like watching their $100,000 car get shunted around like boxes at an Amazon factory — but what about a slick, friendly robot named Ray? That’s a solution that could capture the lucrative luxury market.

The user experience on Ray is seamless — just park your car in Ray’s little area, pay for parking, and walk away. The system performs a 3D scan of the vehicle, and Ray adjusts its tines and tires to perfectly slide beneath each car and lift it by the tires. When holding a car aloft, Ray does not take up much more space than the car itself, allowing the system to pack vehicles densely without blocking anything off. You don’t need to remember where you parked, because you won’t be going there anyway; Ray will retrieve your car and bring it to the pickup area when you’re ready to leave. In many cases, this means the system will have your car waiting for you when you walk out of the terminal, since your flight schedule is logged with the airport.

Check out the video below for some shots of Ray in action.

The creators at Serva Transport Systems, which created the system, say that Ray can pack up to 60% more cars into the same parking area. That’s an impressive claim, and not a difficult one to believe if you’ve ever tried to navigate a large, chaotic parking garage. Not only does Ray pack cars more closely together, but it can plan elaborate and efficient layouts no collection of human drivers, or even valets, would put up with.

Of course, there are downsides to Ray — such as the fact that, right now, getting a robot to park your car will cost you almost $40. If you’re choosing Ray over a human valet service though, that might not be such an enormous fee, as tips and valet fees are often quite hefty themselves. Many people are more comfortable ordering machines around than people, and getting more drivers to use parking services (human or robot) should increase efficiency. Additionally, Ray is fully insured against any damage it might cause to a car, so drivers needn’t worry about too much about hypothetical hiccups in the self-driving software.

Cool, but certainly not the parking robot from Minority Report.Ray can also only lift cars just high enough to move them, which means it can’t do any multi-level stacking of automobiles. Ray can dramatically increase parking density in a given area, but it can’t take advantage of any vertical space — though it could theoretically drive cars up and down ramps between floors of a parking garage. The incredible Volkswagen autopark system at Autostadt Wolfsburg (which you can see below) certainly marries the aesthetic and technological sides of robot parking quite effectively, though the costs are prohibitive; one of Ray’s biggest advantages is that it can go to work in virtually any parking area with minimal need to retrofit.

Right now, people are paying for novelty and to subsidize a nascent industry, but costs should come down soon enough. When they do, high-traffic facilities all over the world may find that buying a few automatic parking robots is cheaper, easier, and more readily embraced by the public than building 60% more parking area.

The new super VW Golf GTI Roadster is here!

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Worthersee has never been home to the gentlest outpouring of subtlety, but even by its standards this is something different: it’s a Volkswagen Golf GTI that’s quicker than a Ferrari FF.

You saw it last week as a teaser, now here’s the real thing. It’s Volkswagen’s take on Gran Turismo’s ‘Vision GT’ series – following in the footsteps of BMW’s and Mercedes’ efforts – and follows up last year’s ‘Design Vision GTI’ concept we drove in LA. But rather than just leave it as a digital offering for the gaming community, VW decided to make a proper one.

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And the headline of course, is that engine. It’s a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 TSI (out of the Touareg) producing a whopping 500bhp and 413lb ft of torque, complete with a seven speed DSG gearbox and VW’s ‘4MOTION’ all-wheel-drive system.

Because it only has to propel a kerbweight of 1420kg, the GTI Roadster is capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds (an FF will do it in 3.7s), and top out at 192mph. Better wear a helmet, because you may have noticed there is no roof.

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As with the Design Vision concept we saw last year, this GTI Roadster shows a glimpse of where the road-going GTI’s design will venture in the future. This being a concept car of course, means it’s shorter, lower and wider than both the road car and last year’s DV concept.

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It’s been optimised for aero, this GTI Roadster, with that monster rear wing creating lots of downforce, while the C-pillars have been formed into a rollover protection bar. Another schoolboy-cool element is the doors that swivel upwards to open, framed by huge side sills and flanked by flared wheel arches.

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There are 20in wheels. There are monster 380mm ceramic discs up front (356mm at the back). There are LED daytime running lights. There is a carbon monocoque interior with two ‘race-shell’ seats partitioned by a central bar. The instrument display is on a V-shaped wing on top of the steering column, itself longer, like a racing car.

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“When Sony asked us if we would develop a Vision GT vehicle exclusively for the game to mark the 15th anniversary of Gran Turismo we didn’t hesitate for a moment,” said Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design at Volkswagen. And for good reason: GT creator Kazunori Yamauchi used to own a Golf GTI, so he’s a fan.