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.
Chevrolet has finally put an end to the rampant speculation about a new rear-wheel drive performance model: it confirmed that it will launch the 2014 SS sedan to the U.S., and that it will ride on a Holden-based rear-wheel drive platform similar to what was used in the Pontiac G8. Much more beyond those details are still hazy, but we do know that the 2014 Chevrolet SS will be the basis for the brand's all-new NASCAR racer.
Ferrari fans, get ready: chairman Luca di Montezemolo says that the prance horse will pull the wraps off of its Enzo successor before the end of the year. And get this, the new car will be a hybrid. No, no, get rid of those images of rosso red Prii out of your head. The next Enzo, codenamed F70, is expected to pack a tweaked variant of the brand's 6.3-liter V-12 -- tuned to around 800 hp -- along with a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) and a 120-hp electric motor. Total horsepower count is expected to be somewhere around 920 hp, which is much more than the 660 hp offered up by the original Enzo.
The September 18th on-sale date for Porsche's new 918 Spyder supercar is inching ever closer. With development nearing the end, Porsche put out a set of "spy" shots of the car this week. While the body looks to maintain much of the sinewy svelteness of the concept, we're most excited about the 918's plug-in hybrid powertrain: a total of 770 hp from a combination of a 570-hp 4.6-liter V-8 with two electric motors, one making 121 hp and the other rated at 107 hp. Porsche claims that the 918 can travel up to 16 miles on electric-only power, return the equivalent of 78 mpg, hit 0 to 62 mph in just three seconds, and hit a top speed of 202 mph.
BMW will be plugging the hole left by the now-departed 1 Series M Coupe at the top of the 1 Series lineup with the 2013 135is. The new top-dog 1er uses the same powertrain as the larger 335is model – a 320-hp turbocharged I-6, either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch, and rear-wheel drive. The extra oomph amounts to an added 20 hp over the regular 135i, and down just 15 hp from the 1M. The 135is will go on sale this fall starting at $44,145 for the coupe and $48,845 for the convertible, with destination.
Hybrid buyers now have one less car to choose from – Lexus has quietly killed off its HS 250h thanks to disappointing sales. Sales of the HS peaked at just 10,663 in 2010, well below the 25,000 to 30,000 units the brand had expected from the compact hybrid sedan. Powering the HS was a 2.4-liter I-4 engine rated for 147 hp combined with a 141-electric motor-generator that pulled power from a Ni-MH battery pack. Part of what may have hurt HS sales was its not-quite-hybrid-like fuel economy of 35/34 mpg city/highway, which paled in comparison to the 51/48 mpg achieved by the Toyota Prius and the 43/40 mpg achieved by the HS' Lexus CT 200h stablemate.
Mini pulled the wraps off the second-generation John Cooper Works GP package this week. The limited-run package is just the cup of tea for hardcore enthusiasts who want more performance from their Minis thanks to things like an adjustable suspension, race-spec brakes, and a new aerodynamic body kit. Power figures have yet to be announced for the new JCW GP, but assume something around or north of the 214 hp that the last JCW GP produced and definitely more than the 208 hp the base JCW Cooper extracts from the 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4.
Not to be left out of the subcompact crossover game, Chevrolet has unveiled the Trax, which will debut at the Paris Motor Show this fall. The Trax is based on the same Gamma II platform that it will share with the upcoming Buick Encore and Opel Mokka crossovers; however, unlike the Buick, the Chevrolet Trax will not be sold stateside as a sub-Equinox offering. No word yet on what will motivate the Trax, but don't be surprised to see the same 1.6-liter I-4, 1.4-liter turbocharged I-4, or 1.7-liter turbo-diesel I-4 that will offered in the Mokka.
Driven: Mazda MX-5 Super20, 2013 Ford Taurus SHO Performance Package, 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI, 2012 Buick Regal GS Automatic
Enthusiasts will enjoy the four cars we got behind the wheel of this week. Most exciting was the Mazda MX-5 Super20 – the Super20 is basically an MX-5 with all the aftermarket go-fast bits. The yellow roadster sprints from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, has a Racing Beat header and exhaust, big anti-roll bars, a Mazdaspeed coil-over suspension, and oversized wheels. We desperately want to buy one, but Mazda says that there are no plans to sell it. What we can buy is the new 2013 Ford Taurus SHO with the Performance Package. The new pack helps remedy the big car's lack of handling finesse and turn the Taurus into a track-day special that can be driven every day. For the practical purist, we also got behind the wheel of the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and found it to still be an enjoyable GTI with a trunk, although found the interior to be just as low-rent as on lesser Jetta models. Finally, we got a chance to test the 2012 Buick Regal GS Automatic, which may not quite match the heritage of Buick's Gran Sport badge but was surprisingly sophisticated, if not very sporty.