Weekend Roundup: 2012 Toyota Camry, Ferrari 458 Spider, Ford and Toyota Partner on Hybrids

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.

2012 Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid Revealed in Webcast

Toyota revealed the 2012 Camry sedan in a live webcast this week. Having sold 9.7 million copies of the Camry in the U.S., the car is hugely important for Toyota. The 2012 model is marginally cheaper than its predecessor, even though it has smart new styling and a thorough mechanical upgrade. The Camry’s 2.5-liter inline-four and 3.5-liter V-6 engines are more fuel efficient than in 2011, while the 2012 Camry hybrid is expected to receive EPA ratings of 43/39 mpg (city/highway). The 2012 Camry goes on sale this October.

First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry

The 2012 Toyota Camry has undergone substantial revisions that make the nation’s best-selling sedan even better. The redone interior has high-quality, attractive materials; the driving experience has less wind and road noise, as well as an even-smoother ride; and both the traditional and hybrid models are all more fuel-efficient than the 2011 Camry. We confidently predict that the 2012 Camry will remain the sales king, even in the face of stiff competition from cars like the Hyundai Sonata.

Ferrari Announces 458 Spider with Folding Aluminum Hardtop

Time to bring the sun screen: Ferrari has launched a new convertible called the 458 Spider. It’s mechanically identical to the 458 Italia coupe, which means power comes a 4.5-liter V-8 engine making 570 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. The Spider’s aluminum roof folds away in just 14 seconds to stow between the seats and the Ferrari’s engine. Chopping the roof reportedly doesn’t compromise the Italian exotic driving experience: the 458 Spider can hit 62 mph in 3.5 seconds and will exceed 198 mph. Better still, Ferrari claims that a special wind blocker is so effective that occupants can maintain top-down conversations at speeds up to 124 mph.

The Odd Couple: Ford and Toyota to Collaborate on SUV/Truck Hybrid Technology

Ford has long sold more pickup trucks than any other car maker, and Toyota is the undisputed king of hybrid technology. So it seems logical that the two companies would pair up to develop new hybrid systems for trucks and SUVs. The companies won’t build vehicles on a common platform, but will instead share the basic hybrid drivetrain technology. The rear-wheel-drive systems will probably be for duty in vehicles like the Ford F-150, Toyota Tacoma and Tundra, Ford Expedition, and Toyota 4Runner. We can expect to see production vehicles on sale within a decade.

Spied: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Testing in Nevada

A reader traveling through Nevada managed to snap pictures of a next-generation Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. The roadster was spied at a gas station under plenty of camouflage. The new SL will likely be based on the rear-wheel-drive chassis of the Mercedes E-Class. Its wheelbase should be longer than that of the current model, providing more interior and luggage room. We think the new SL could debut as early as next year’s Geneva Motor Show -- stay tuned for the official word from Mercedes.

Audi to Launch A8 Hybrid in 2012, Gets 37 MPG

To ease the consciences of luxury-car buyers, Audi has announced it will sell a hybrid version of the A8 sedan starting next year. The A8 hybrid is expected to return the equivalent of 37 mpg; Audi says the car marries V-6 performance with four-cylinder fuel consumption. It uses Audi’s tried-and-true 2.0 TFSI gasoline inline-four coupled to a 54 hp electric motor and an eight-speed automatic transmission. A lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk stores electrical energy. The A8 hybrid will be offered only with front-wheel drive, and scores an assortment of visual upgrades including unique wheels and Arctic Silver paint.

2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Revealed Before Frankfurt Debut

After a slew of leaked and spy photos, we now have an official look at the Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The first vehicle built on the new Mercedes Front Architecture chassis, the B-Class mixes styling from the prior B-Class hatch and the Concept A-Class. The basic design is an upright greenhouse with a short nose, as well as a flat hatch. Engine choices include 1.6-liter gasoline and 1.8-liter diesels, with a choice between six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic transmissions. The 2012 B-Class makes its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show and will go on sale in Europe this November.

Subaru to Show BRZ Prologue Concept at Frankfurt, Previews Rear-Wheel Drive Coupe

There is yet another chapter in the long story that is the promised Subaru/Toyota rear-wheel-drive sports coupe: at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Subaru will preview its version of the performance car with the BRZ Prologue concept. The letters BRZ, we’re told, stand for Boxer engine, Rear-wheel drive, and Zenith. We expect the car to offer about 200 hp; it also will be Scion FR-S on our shores. The Subaru BRZ sports coupe goes on sale in spring 2012.

Street Legal 2012 Aston Martin V12 Zagato Debuting in Frankfurt

As was expected, Aston Martin will sell road-going versions of the V12 Zagato race car. Based on the V12 Vantage, the Zagato is a restyled car with a taut, sexy new body. Production will be limited to just 150 copies, and each is expected to command at least $525,000. The car will be displayed in Frankfurt, although the show car is merely a reworked version of the V12 Zagato race car that recently competed in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring endurance race.

Weekend Racing:

- NASCAR Nationwide Series, Food City 250, Bristol Motor Speedway, Friday August 26 at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN

- NASCAR Sprint Cup, Irwin Tools Night Race, Bristol Motor Speedway, Saturday August 27 at 7:30 p.m. EST on ABC

- Indycar, Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, Infineon Raceway, Sunday August 28 at 4:00 p.m. EST on Versus

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