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 for your convenience.
To imbue the compact car with an air of sportiness, Chevrolet will launch the Sonic RS hatchback in late 2012. Though there are no power upgrades to the car’s turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four engine, the RS will wear an assortment of new components like edgy new rocker panels, unique 17-inch wheels, and a flat-bottom steering wheel. Along with firmer suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and new bucket seats, the RS should be slightly more interesting to drive than a regular Sonic hatchback.
Though it seemed the company would forever teeter somewhere between death and resurrection, Saab has finally declared bankruptcy. Swedish Automobile, Saab’s parent company, announced that it “does not expect to realize any value from its shares in Saab Automobile and will write off its interest in Saab Automobile completely.” Saab had hoped to get a financial lifeline from Chinese automakers, but the sale was ultimately blocked by General Motors -- the American automaker feared its intellectual property, some which is included in new Saab vehicles, might be stolen by the Chinese.
A shadowy teaser photo released this week previews the Nissan Pathfinder concept, which will bow in January 2012 at the Detroit auto show. The SUV appears to gain a more curvaceous, sculpted design, as previewed in part by a character line that swoops below the greenhouse. We believe it will add up to a sportier (and less boxy) look for the new Pathfinder as Nissan’s SUV switches from its truck-based platform to a new, unibody chassis. It’s likely the new Pathfinder will ride on the same underpinnings as the Infiniti JX35. Power will likely come from a 3.5-liter V-6, which produces 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque in the JX35.
Lexus has confirmed that leaked photos do indeed provide an early look at the LF-LC, a concept sports coupe that is slated to bow at the Detroit show. The 2+2 sports coupe is supposed to preview future Lexus styling trends; its aggressive fascias resemble those of the Lexus LFA supercar and GS luxury sedan. Rumors suggest a production version of the LF-LC would use a plug-in hybrid drivetrain and could be built on a shortened version of the next Lexus LS chassis. The company says the 2+2 coupe concept “blends both high technology and organic shapes to connect the driver to the machine,” and promises that the “futuristic sport coupe” previews future Lexus design trends.
Toyota released a photo of a headlight to tease a hybrid concept car. Set to make its debut at the Detroit auto show, the NS4 concept is a plug-in hybrid that might use the same drivetrain as employed by the new Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. The Prius can travel about 15 miles on electrical power alone, and combines a 98-hp, 1.8-liter inline-four gasoline engine with an 80-hp electric motor. The teaser photo shows that the blue-tinged headlights feature Toyota’s prototype Adaptive Driving Beam technology, which can automatically shield high-beams to prevent dazzling oncoming drivers. Expect more details to trickle out over the next few weeks before the Detroit show.
Though we are already very familiar with the car, BMW has yet to show the new, F30-generation 3 Series sedan on American soil. The 2012 3 Series will make its stateside debut in January at the Detroit auto show, before the car goes on sale here in February 2012. The new 3 Series sedan is 3.7 inches longer than its predecessor, yet approximately 88 pounds lighter than the current sedan. It also wears all-new sheetmetal, including restyled kidney grilles and narrower, more tapered headlights. The 328i uses a new240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine, while the 335i continues to employ a 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. A six-speed manual is standard, with an eight-speed automatic transmission optional. BMW also will show the ActiveHybrid 3 at the Detroit show, which is a hybrid version of the new sedan with an undisclosed hybrid drivetrain.
Honda’s Crosstour will receive an additional engine choice for 2012: a 2.4-liter inline-four joins the 3.5-liter V-6 on the Crosstour’s options list. The new engine, which produces 192 hp compared to the V-6’s output of 271 hp, will be significantly more fuel efficient. Honda predicts the four-cylinder Crosstour will return 21/29 mpg (city/highway), compared to 18/27 mpg for the front-wheel-drive V-6 model. Four-cylinder models receive the same list of standard and optional equipment as those with the V-6 engine, but should be priced a few thousand dollars cheaper. The Crosstour four-cylinder goes on sale in January 2012.
We previously spied a car we thought might be the Audi RS1 on Germany’s Nürburgring, but now Audi has released full information on the spunky hatchback: the A1 Quattro packs 256 hp and can hit 62 mph in a claimed 5.7 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 152 mph. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine, and is routed through a six-speed manual transmission to quattro all-wheel drive. A big rear wing, turbine-style 18-inch wheels, a red-faced tachometer, and upgraded bucket seats help the A1 Quattro stand out from its more plebian hatchback siblings. Just 333 copies of the car will be produced, and all are destined for the European market.
A photo of a car beneath a sheet previews a new Volvo V40. Scheduled to be unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show in March, the V40 will be all-new. However, officials here say the Volvo wagon won’t be sold in the U.S. -- Volvo already nixed the slow-selling V50 wagon in our market, and instead is focusing on crossovers. With regard to the new V40, Volvo Cars CEO Stefan Jacoby says, “We’re making a big, big step to moving up to our core competitors.” Volvo plans for the new car to steal market share from the likes of the BMW 1 Series hatchback and Audi A3 in Europe.
This week we drove the 2012 Honda Civic Si sedan, which enters the new model year with a 2.4-liter inline-four engine in place of the old 2.0-liter mill. The new powertrain means the Civic Si has significantly more torque at low speeds, yet still maintains the light, high-revving nature for which Honda performance engines have become famous. The sedan body style provides ample practicality with excellent outward visibility. Ultimately, the 2012 Civic Si isn’t quite exciting enough to grab the attention of enthusiasts, but it’s still the best version of the new Honda Civic.