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.
Acura shared some its future product plans, the most exciting of which were promises of a new NSX supercar. A concept version of the NSX will bow at the Detroit auto show in January 2012, but we probably won’t see the finished production model for another three years. The aggressive, angular new coupe will showcase Honda’s technology know-how, with a hybrid SH-AWD drivetrain that uses a gasoline engine to power the rear wheels, and twin electric motors to power the fronts. In addition, Acura dished on the 2013 ILX, which is a small Honda Civic-based sedan; the 2013 RDX, which is an updated version of Acura’s small crossover; and a new flagship model that might be as large as a BMW 7 Series.
Buick revealed a small teaser image of the 2013 Encore, a small crossover that will make its official debut at the Detroit show. The Encore will slot below the Enclave in Buick’s lineup, and is slated to offer the same range of upscale amenities, including QuietTuning noise reduction, we’ve come to expect from all Buick products. Both four- and six-cylinder engines are likely in store for the Encore.
Dodge has revived the Dart name from its archives and will apply it to a new small sedan, the 2013 Dart. Having granted us a look at the outside, Dodge has now shared photos of the interior of the upcoming Dart. A high-quality, Dodge Charger-inspired dashboard is home to a touch-screen infotainment system and a customizable LCD in the instrument cluster. The new Dart is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, although that platform will be lengthened and widened slightly for use in the American-spec Dart. The new car will make its debut at the Detroit show and should go on sale next year.
Though the Dodge Viper nameplate may have a storied heritage, it’s time for a slightly new moniker. When the 2013 Viper enters production in late 2012, it will be under Chrysler’s SRT (Street and Racing Technology) brand, rather than the Dodge umbrella. That will make the Viper the first and only model exclusive to SRT. The company also confirmed that the 2013 Viper will be built at the Conner Avenue facility in Detroit, Michigan, which formerly built the Viper and (for a brief period) Plymouth Prowler.
Ford on Wednesday assembled journalists to reveal more about three upcoming electrified vehicles: the Focus Electric, C-Max Hybrid, and C-Max Energi. All three models go into production in 2012, but they each have a different sort of powertrain. The Focus Electric is a traditional full-electric car, powered by a lithium-ion battery that probably returns a range of 80 to 100 miles per charge. The C-Max Hybrid fits Europe’s five-passenger people mover with a unique new hybrid drivetrain that is reportedly more fuel-efficient than the Toyota Prius v. Finally, the C-Max Energi is a plug-in hybrid that can travel a total of 500 miles on a combination of electric and gasoline power. All of the vehicles are to be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan.
A close-up teaser photo previews a new Lexus concept car that will debut at the Detroit auto show. The new concept was styled at Toyota’s Calty design studio in California, and is said to showcase new Lexus styling trends. We don’t know much else about the car so far, although the gaping air intakes and narrow headlights visible in the teaser shot make us think this is a performance car. In fact, the concept’s front end somewhat reminds us of the Lexus LFA supercar. We know Lexus is developing both a front-wheel-drive performance-oriented car, as well as a rear-wheel-drive sporty coupe.
Honda has admitted that it will show a concept version of the 2013 Accord coupe next month in Detroit, but that’s about all we know so far. As has been the case with other Honda “concepts”, including the Civic and CR-V, we imagine the Accord coupe concept will be almost identical to the production model. The current generation of Accord has been on sale mostly unchanged since 2008, so a 2012 launch of a new version would be about the right timing for a product refresh. Expect Honda to eventually roll out an Accord sedan “concept”, too, before bringing the 2013 Accord to production -- possibly by the end of 2012.
A shadowy teaser sketch is all that Hyundai has revealed so far of its I-oniq concept, which will take the stage at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2012. The new vehicle will demonstrate the latest iteration of Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design language. The concept was styled at Hyundai’s European design center in Russelshiem, Germany. We think the lines and silhouette are those of a sultry shooting brake, given how much the rear roofline slopes. We’ll learn more when the car is unveiled in Geneva.
As Cadillac continues development of its ATS sports sedan, we have now learned what engines will power the BMW 3 Series-fighter. The base engine will be a 2.5-liter inline-four, likely similar to that used in the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu and probably producing at least 190 hp. The next step up is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecotec inline-four, slated to produce 270 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The mill has a twin-scroll turbocharger designed to yield a flat torque curve. Finally, the ATS will offer the same 3.6-liter V-6 found in the CTS and SRX; in the CTS, the V-6 is rated for 318 hp and 275 lb-ft. The Cadillac ATS will bow at the Detroit show in January.
Driven: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco, 2012 Mini JCW Countryman All4 Prototype, 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek
This week we drove three new vehicles with vastly different goals. The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco is a special, high-efficiency version of the new Malibu sedan equipped with General Motors’ new eAssist mild hybrid system. Acceleration is adequate, and the overall driving experience is premium-feeling. The Malibu Eco, though, will have to battle cheaper four-cylinder sedans, and more-efficient true hybrid cars.
The 2012 Mini JCW Countryman All4 Prototype isn’t quite ready for dealerships yet, but that didn’t stop us from blasting one around the snowy slopes of Austria. The JCW variant will be the most powerful, best-handling, and costliest version of Mini’s mini-SUV. The car will bow at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2012 and should go on in the U.S. by late next year.
Finally, we drove the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, a raised-up version of the Impreza that is designed for buyers who want a more rugged vehicle that can handle light off-roading. Though European buyers get a gutsy and efficient turbodiesel engine, the only powertrain choice for the U.S. is a lackluster 2.0-liter boxer-four engine with a continuously variable transmission. While the XV Crosstrek is a nice small crossover, we wish it had more power and a more exciting personality.