Jaguar F-type coupe
Jaguar has big plans for the F-type as it tries to follow the much-envied Porsche 911 approach by spinning out a plethora of high-profit variants. The 2011 concept that previewed the F-type was a hardtop, and it's easy to see how well that roofline works with the production F-type. So, with the roadster hitting showrooms this summer, the coupe will be the next model. The production coupe will debut at the Frankfurt show in September--probably looking a lot like this illustration--and roll into dealerships several months later. Expect it to offer the same supercharged engines as the roadster: a 3.0-liter V-6 (340 hp or 380 hp) and a 5.0-liter V-8 (495 hp). The latter should bring the 0-to-60-mph time down close to 4.0 seconds. The coupe will likely follow current Jaguar practice by being a bit more affordable than the roadster, whose base price range extends from $69,875 to $92,875. Jaguar, however, will be eager to bring out costlier temptations, offering all-wheel drive, hotter R iterations, and even an ultraextreme GT street racer. As the F-type lineup fleshes out, watch for the next-generation XK to edge away from sport and toward luxury--and to also move up in price.
Jaguar's new sports car would miss half the market without a hardtop, which should be an even more focused driver's car.
As the new Maserati Quattroporte has increased in size to better match up against the Mercedes-Benz S-class and friends, it opens up room for the Ghibli, a second Maserati sedan that will compete in the heart of the luxury-sedan market against Mercedes' E-class and the like. The Ghibli could resemble the spy illustration above.
Although the name was first used on the classic late-1960s GT, the modern Ghibli is exclusively a four-door based on the same platform as the new Quattroporte (the next GranTurismo coupe will also use that platform). That means its chassis employs a control-arm front suspension and a multi-link rear. For European markets, the Ghibli is expected to be powered by Maserati's first-ever diesel, a 270-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. For America, though, the Ghibli will have a direct-injected, 3.0-liter V-6 bolstered by twin turbos. The 60-degree V-6 has an aluminum block and cylinder heads and will appear first as the base offering in the new Quattroporte, where it is expected to produce 404 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, which flows to the rear wheels through ZF's familiar eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive will be optional. A plug-in hybrid powertrain is also expected, along with a so-called efficiency pack that includes auto stop/start, brake-energy regeneration, a coasting mode, and on-demand auxiliaries.
Maserati hopes that the Ghibli will sell in volumes of more than 20,000 units per year, as it's the key player in the company's planned march to 50,000 units per annum--from only 6300 in 2012.
Maserati needs a sedan in this volume segment if it's ever to become more than a bit player among luxury brands.
This is actually the second time Maserati has resurrected the Ghibli name. The first was in the early 1990s on an evolution of the much-unloved Biturbo.
Mercedes-Benz SLC AMG
The SLS was the first car wholly developed by AMG, and it won't be the last. The next product of the busy complex at Affalterbach will be the SLC AMG. Although it steps in as the SLS departs, the SLC is not a direct replacement. Instead, it will be less expensive (starting just north of $100,000) and will have conventional doors and, for now at least, coupe-only bodywork (like the illustration at left). The 3400-pound SLC is the first AMG model to use the new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. The 90-degree V-8 should be good for 480 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, which will flow to a rear transaxle. Oh, and if that's not enough, there are rumors of a Black Series that would put out roughly 575 hp and 550 lb-ft.
Like so many others, Mercedes-Benz wants a Porsche 911 competitor, and neither the SL nor the SLS hits that target.
The final variant of the second-generation Mini-the John Cooper Works Paceman-was just recently introduced, and that can only mean one thing: the next Mini is right around the corner. The third-generation Mini-previewed above by a spy illustrator-won't look radically different from the outside (how could it, really?), but underneath there's an all-new, modular platform that will also underpin a new family of compact, front-wheel-drive BMWs. The other major mechanical change is the expected move to a three-cylinder engine-a 1.5-liter turbo-for the standard Minis. The Cooper S and JCW get new 2.0-liter four-cylinder units; a plug-in hybrid might also be offered. Today's Mini family is sold in a plethora of body styles but only one that's a true four-door. In contrast, four-doors will play a much bigger role in the Mark 3 Mini. The traditional two-door hatchback will be supplemented by a four-door version that gets its own grille, rear quarter windows, a more upright C-pillar, and a slightly longer rear overhang. The Clubman returns but this time with four conventional doors. It retains the twin-door rear opening and stretches about a foot longer than today's version. Mini also plans to add a four-door minivan (code-named Spacebox) with an extralong wheelbase and a low roofline that product planners hope will help it avoid the dowdy minivan image. Finally, Mini will add a four-door sedan with a stubby trunk to battle premium compact sedans from Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Mid-2014 (two- and four-door hatchback), 2015 (Clubman, Cabriolet), 2016 (Roadster, Coupe, Countryman), 2017 (Paceman, Spacebox, sedan)
The second-generation Mini showed that the concept can be applied across many body styles, so the third-generation is branching out into four-doors, where the real volume is.
Porsche 918 Spyder
Porsche's new supercar, the 918 Spyder, is nearing production readiness, but are buyers ready for it? The concept car was first revealed at the 2010 Geneva auto show. Three years later the idea is intact: an ultra-high-performance successor to the 2004-2006 Carrera GT that uses a hybrid powertrain rather than a V-10, bringing the supercar firmly into the modern idiom.
The hybrid powertrain marries a mid-mounted 4.6-liter V-8, alone good for 570 hp, with two electric motors, bringing the total output to 795 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic handles the shifting. Top speed is said to exceed 202 mph, and the electric motors can push the car beyond 90 mph by themselves. Porsche is estimating a fifteen-mile electric-vehicle range (although presumably not at 90 mph). There is a plug-in charger and an optional fast charger; brake-energy regeneration also recharges the batteries.
The high-revving V-8 (redlined at 9000 rpm) utilizes dry-sump lubrication and an aluminum block, heads, and crankcase. It drives the rear wheels on its own or together with one electric motor. The second electric motor can drive the front wheels, creating on-demand all-wheel drive and torque vectoring. The front motor is the primary power source in EV mode, but the rear motor can kick in, too. That means the 918 Spyder can be rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, depending on the circumstances.
A steering-wheel-mounted joystick allows the driver to choose from several operating modes: E-Power, Hybrid, Sport Hybrid, and Race Hybrid. Additionally, a Hot Lap button taps the full power output of the batteries to supplement the gasoline engine.
Riding on a 107.5-inch wheelbase, the same as the Carrera GT, the new two-seater is 1.2 inches longer and 0.8 inch wider than its exotic predecessor. A carbon-fiber monocoque, a two-piece lift-off roof, (optional) magnesium wheels, and body panels of carbon fiber, magnesium, and aluminum are all employed to help keep mass in check. With the 330-pound battery pack and electric motors, total weight is expected to be 3750 pounds (which is still some 600 pounds more than the Carrera GT); 57 percent of the weight is over the rear wheels.
The 918 Spyder will use four-wheel steering, which makes its debut on the 911 GT3. The rear wheels countersteer at low speeds to aid maneuverability and turn in sync with the front wheels at high speeds for improved stability. Porsche has stated that the 918 Spyder will lap the Nürburgring in 7 minutes, 14 seconds (handily beating the Carrera GT's 7:32).
For all that, the question is whether the faithful are waving their checkbooks for a chance at this pinnacle of Porsche engineering. Not according to what we're hearing. Word is that supercar buyers are unconvinced by the hybrid concept and put off by the pricing, which starts at $845,000 and doesn't include extras like the fast charger and fancy metallic paint. Perhaps it will take a test drive to convince Porsche-philes to open their wallets, or maybe Porsche will find that the air is just too thin at this lofty altitude.
The dream of a latter-day Carrera GT was too strong to deny.
What's in a number?
918 isn't just the model designation, it's also the production start date (9/18/2013) and the build quantity: 918 units.
Wherefore art thou, [Alfa] Romeo?
To import, or not to import? That is the question for Italy's version of Prince Hamlet, Alfa Romeo. Once again, Alfa Romeo has a new plan to re-enter the U.S. market. This time the spearhead is the 4C, which was recently revealed at the Geneva auto show. Production of the mid-engine coupe begins this fall at Maserati's factory in Modena, and imports to U.S. Fiat dealers will commence shortly thereafter.
A couple of months before the Geneva show in March, however, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said he would rather cancel Alfa for our market than import the wrong cars and destroy what remains of its reputation. "I cannot come up with a schlock product," he stated.
Alfa's engineers and designers have been hard at work on a full lineup. It helps that Marchionne views Volkswagen Group's bid to buy Alfa with the same kind of distaste Hamlet had for Claudius and Gertrude's marriage. The upside of VW's unsolicited attention is that Fiat now understands the brand's value as a poor man's BMW.
The 4C coupe is about the size of a Mazda Miata. It's powered by a 240-hp, 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine paired with Alfa's dual-clutch automatic transmission. Extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum is said to keep weight below 2200 pounds. By 2015, we should see a 4C roadster; a new crossover-utility vehicle; and the Giulia, a BMW 3-series-size sedan on a new rear-wheel-drive platform that also will underpin the SRT Barracuda. That same year, Alfa will launch a Spider built in Hiroshima alongside the next Miata but with a Fiat engine.
Could it be? At long last, a plan to import Alfas that is not destined for a tragic ending.
Because it's long overdue--and it's damn good-looking.