Been away from your computer this week and missed all the automotive news? We’ve gathered a few of the top stories of the past week along with the weekend racing schedule for your convenience.
Volkswagen fans going bug-eyed over the 2012 Beetle now know how much they’ll need to spend on the new car. The 2012 Beetle starts at just $19,765 (including destination), with a 170-hp inline-five engine on board. The 200-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter model requires $24,765; pricing for the TDI diesel hasn’t yet been disclosed. Standard trim on all models includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, and an eight-speaker sound system.
The new generation of the BMW 1 Series hatchback made its debut in Europe this week. We’re not wholly sold on the front-end styling, but the overall car grows a few inches to provide more space for occupants and cargo. European customers can choose from five engines, three diesel-fueled and two gasoline units; the thriftiest 116d diesel is touted to return up to 62 mpg in European testing. The 2012 1 Series hatch hits BMW dealers later this summer -- but not, alas, on our shores.
Ford has reversed earlier decisions and will not bring the Euro-market, seven-seat C-Max minivan to the U.S. However, plans are still in place for the five-seat C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi PHEV crossovers to go into production here in late 2012. Little is known about each vehicle, but they’ll use lithium-ion battery packs assembled in Michigan. Ford claims the C-Max Energi will have shorter charging times than the Volt and a total range of up to 500 miles.
Volvo is planning to introduce a plug-in hybrid to the U.S. market between 2013 and 2014. Sound familiar? Well, we already knew that Volvo would launch a plug-in hybrid version of its V60 in Europe. That car isn’t slated for sale here, though, so we may get a car with the same plug-in hybrid tech bolted into a different car. Our expectation is that we’ll see a Volvo S60 plug-in hybrid within a few years. We do know that it will definitely use a gasoline engine, rather than the diesel mill destined for use in the Euro-market V60 hybrid.
Contrary to earlier studies, a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety asserts that modern SUVs are safer than passenger cars. Based on accident data from 2006 to 2009, the IIHS says drivers of SUVs had a drastically lower fatality rate than drivers of other vehicle types. The institute believes that the SUVs provide better occupant protection because they are larger, heavier, and taller than other vehicles, while the growing adoption of electronic stability control has drastically reduced the number of rollover accidents. The report also says the most deadly cars from model years 2005 through 2008 were the Nissan 350Z and Titan, and the Chevrolet Aveo and Cobalt.
The U.S. government doesn’t want to let go of its remaining shares in General Motors just yet. The U.S. Treasury holds 500 million shares in GM, and they’re trading 13-percent lower now than when GM stock hit the market in August 2010. In GM’s Initial Public Offering, shares were sold for $33 each; now they’re trading at around $28 to $29 per share. Selling now means the Treasury would lose a significant amount of money on its investment.
General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said that rival luxury brand Lincoln is “over,” but we’re not so sure. We examined the current sales successes and future product plans of GM’s Cadillac and Ford’s Lincoln to see which American luxury brand is more likely to succeed. Both brands have plenty of future products lined up, and we’d say success is mostly dependent on the successful development and roll-out of those vehicles.
Reshuffling within Chrysler means that Dodge Brand CEO and President Ralph Gilles will now serve as CEO and President of the new Street and Racing Technology brand. Previously an in-house engineering department, SRT has been spun off as a unique Chrysler-group division. The department builds high-performance versions of Chrysler products (like the Dodge Challenger SRT8) and is involved in various motorsports activities.
Land Rover’s smallest off-roader, the LR2, will ditch its current inline-six engine in favor of a turbocharged four-cylinder. We expect the update will come in mid 2012. The LR2 will use the same 240-hp turbo mill slated to arrive in the Range Rover Evoque later this fall. Land Rover also plans to bring diesel engines to the U.S., possibly starting by installing its Euro-market 2.2-liter turbodiesel in the LR2.
First Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe John Cooper Works
The Mini Cooper Coupe and its baseball cap-inspired roofline aren’t quite ready for a public debut, but we managed to slip behind the wheel on a race track in Europe. It may be 55 pounds heavier than an equivalent hatchback model, but the Cooper Coupe retains the fun, engaging driving experience of other Minis. The 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe should be fully revealed later this summer, and will be priced between the hardtop and convertible models when it reaches American dealerships.
-Formula 1 Montreal Grand Prix, Sunday June 12 at 1 p.m. EST on Fox
-NASCAR Sprint Cup, 5-Hour Energy 500, Pocono Speedway, Sunday June 12 at 1 p.m. EST on TNT
-Indycar Firestone Twin 275s, Texas Motor Speedway, Saturday June 11 at 8 p.m. EST on Versus