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.
BMW has finally divulged all the information on its new hybrid luxury sedan, the ActiveHybrid 5. It is based on the 535i sedan, and employs the same direct-injected, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine rated for 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. An electric motor provides 55 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque, with power stored in a lithium-ion battery mounted in the car’s trunk. BMW hasn’t yet released pricing or fuel economy numbers, but says the car’s hybrid drivetrain produces a peak 335 hp and can propel the ActiveHybrid 5 from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. The car goes on sale in March 2012.
Ford’s go-anywhere, scale-anything F-150 SVT Raptor is becoming even more capable for the 2012 model year. The truck will receive a standard Torsen limited-slip front differential, which is intended to help the Raptor better climb over obstacles and steep inclines. It also scores an optional front-facing camera to help drivers spot obstacles and rocks. It works at speeds below 15 mph, and even has a dedicated washer nozzle to keep the camera lens free of mud and dirt. Finally, there are a few visual upgrades like a new blue interior trim package and new “Euroflange” wheels.
Swedish Automobile, the parent company of Saab and Spyker, has sold Spyker to an American private equity firm for a cool $44 million. Spyker was purchased by North Street Capital, and current CEO Victor Muller will remain in charge. There’s no word so far on how the deal will affect the incredibly slow production rate of the Spyker C8 Aileron. Earlier this year, Swedish Automobile had intended to sell Spyker to CPP Global Holdings, but the deal apparently was put on hold in August.
In addition to upgrading the SVT Raptor, Ford has rolled out a slew of changes for other trims of the 2012 F-150. A new FX Appearance Package includes new 20-inch wheels, smoked taillights, and other aesthetic tweaks. F-150s equipped with the EcoBoost engine and four-wheel drive now have a 36-gallon fuel tank, up from 26 gallons last year. This permits a maximum hypothetical driving range of 756 miles between fill-ups. A shift-on-the-fly transfer case becomes standard for several F-150 trims, while some trims receive a locking rear differential in place of the current limited-slip differential. Finally, Hill Start Assist joins the features list for F-150 4x4 models.
General Motors has introduced a unique new airbag design, which will debut on the 2013 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia crossovers. The front-center airbag deploys from the right-hand side of the driver’s seat. It can help provide cushioning between the driver and passenger during a side-impact collision. The airbag also is said to help keep drivers in place during rollover or single-occupant accidents. The three crossovers already have five-star crash ratings and are rated Top Safety Picks; the 2012 models come standard with dual-stage dual front airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags.
The first 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 offered to the public has sold for $250,000 -- but fear not, the car’s real MSRP will be far lower. The lofty price was paid by the owner of a NASCAR team at a Barrett-Jackson auction, with all proceeds benefiting the YMCA of Southern Nevada. The Camaro ZL1 was the 69th such car built at the Camaro’s factory in Canada, and will be the only ZL1 painted Carbon Flash Metallic. The numerology pays homage to the fact that the original Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 debuted in 1969 and was limited to just 69 units. The modern-day Camaro ZL1 goes on sale in spring 2012.
Toyota has launched its first-ever minicar, the Pixis Space, in the Japanese market. Designed to comply with the nation’s “kei” car rules, the Pixis space is tiny and has engines displacing just 660 cc (0.66 liters). As a result, the Pixis Space qualifies for significantly lower taxes than regular cars. The car, however, isn’t a unique Toyota design: it is supplied by Daihatsu as part of an agreement signed in 2010. The Pixis Space is narrower and shorter than a 2012 Fiat 500 and will be offered in four trim levels. Prices range from the equivalent of about $14,607 to $21,015. The petite hatchback won’t be coming to American dealerships.
Fiat has launched a special version of the 2012 500 Lounge that benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Bedecked with pink stripes, accents, and embroidery, the 500 Pink Ribbon costs only about $300 more than buying a comparably equipped normal 500 Lounge. For each car sold, Fiat will to help research cures for breast cancer. Regardless of how many cars sell, Fiat plans to donate at least $50,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Mini wants to encourage people to drive cars with manual transmissions, a cause we vigorously support. Having already promised a $500 discount to anyone buying a new Mini with a stick, the company has now released a brief viral video highlighting the virtues of manual transmission use. Called “Becoming a Manual,” the brief YouTube clip apes the public service announcement videos of the 1950s and 1960s. Mini also published the results of a survey evaluating the differences between people who can and cannot drive a car with a manual transmission. Among the findings? Seventy-five percent of those who can drive a manual have changed a tire, compared to 33 percent of people who only drive automatics.
Driven: 2012 Audi TT RS, 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe, 2013 Audi S5, 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco
Our driving experiences this week begin with the 2012 Audi TT RS, a car so sporting and powerful that it easily defies any “chick car” stereotypes. Equipped with a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five producing a staunch 360 hp and propelling the car to 60 mph in a claimed 4.1 seconds, the TT RS is a bona fide performance machine. Although the 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe is also a sporty two-door, it offers significantly less performance than the Audi. What is does offer is a new take on the Mini Cooper hardtop that we love. While the driving experience is very similar to a regular Mini Cooper S, the Coupe’s rakish profile lends it a boy-racer appearance that impinges on both visibility and interior room. While we didn’t think there was much wrong with the old car, the 2013 Audi S5 has been enhanced for the new model year. The chief change is that the 4.2-liter V-8 has been dropped in favor Audi’s supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, as well as a switch to electromechanical power steering. Finally, we got behind the wheel of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco, a version of Chevy’s new global sedan fitted with an eAssist mild hybrid system. We found the system far less intrusive and noisy than other hybrid systems, although the fuel savings aren’t as great as in other models. Still, the new Chevrolet Malibu once again has the chops to put up a solid fight in the midsize sedan segment.
- NASCAR Nationwide Series, OneMain Financial 200, Dover International Speedway, Saturday October 1 at 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN 2
- NASCAR Sprint Cup, AAA 400, Dover International Speedway, Sunday October 2 at 2 p.m. EST on ESPN
- Indycar, Kentucky Indy 300, Kentucky Speedway, Sunday October 2 at 2 p.m. on EST on Versus