Weekend Roundup: Cadillac ATS and XTS, 2013 Lexus GS, Chevrolet Spark

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.

Cadillac Teases ATS, Promises XTS to Debut Spring 2012

Cadillac will soon launch two new luxury cars, which bookend the CTS. The ATS will be a compact, rear-drive sports sedan that Caddy hopes to pitch against the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It will be built in Lansing, Michigan and is intended to attract buyers (many of them younger) who had never previously considered a Cadillac. The XTS is a large, luxurious sedan that will essentially become Cadillac’s halo car. The front- or all-wheel-drive XTS was previewed at the 2010 Detroit auto show by the XTS Platinum concept. Both cars go on sale sometime in 2012.

2013 Lexus GS Teased, Previews Future Lexus Styling Direction

We got our first look at the 2013 Lexus GS courtesy of this teaser photo. As it shows, the new Lexus sedan wears styling heavily influenced by the LF-Gh concept that we saw at this year’s New York auto show. The wide-mouth grille, bisected by a flat plastic bar, and LED running lights are likely to show up on other future Lexus models. Indeed, Lexus says the GS previews a styling trend for all its new products. The GS makes its official debut at Pebble Beach on August 18.

Confirmed: Chevrolet Spark Subcompact Coming to U.S. Market

Chevrolet will bring the tiny Spark hatchback to the U.S. market. The product plan was confirmed via Twitter, matching our earlier prediction that the Spark would ignite the U.S. subcompact marketplace from mid-2012. Already on sale throughout Europe and Asia, the Spark is based on the Korean-market Daewoo Matiz. It’s a five-door hatchback which Chevy claims has adequate interior space for five passengers. Propulsion will probably come from an inline-four engine displacing between 1.0 and 1.4 liters. Look for the car to go on sale summer 2012 as a 2013 model.

2012 Jeep Wrangler With Pentastar V-6 EPA Rated at 21 MPG Highway

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler ditches its old 3.8-liter V-6 in favor of Chrysler’s lauded 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. That means the two-door Wrangler will henceforth offer 17/21 mpg (city/highway), while the Wrangler Unlimited returns 16/20 mpg with a manual transmission and 16/23 mpg with an automatic. Those represent healthy increases of the 2011 Wrangler’s EPA ratings of 15/19 mpg (city/highway). Better still, the Pentastar is much more powerful than the current 3.8-liter mill -- expect about 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque in the 2012 Jeep.

Mazda Releases Renderings of Next-Gen CX-5 Ahead of Frankfurt

Though its official reveal is scheduled for the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, Mazda has loosed some early pictures of the CX-5. It wears styling following Mazda’s “Kodo” design language and loosely inspired by the earlier Shinari and Minagi concepts. The baby Mazda crossover slots beneath the CX-7 and CX-9, and will bow with the company’s planet-saving SkyActiv technologies. European markets get a choice between a 2.0-liter gasoline or 2.2-liter turbodiesel engine.

Ten Things We Learned About the BMW i3 and i8

BMW showed journalists its new i3 electric city car and i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. In addition to seeing the two cars, we learned a host of things about BMW’s plans to future energy-efficient vehicles. Those two models are just the beginning, as executives repeatedly hinted that cars with names i4, i5, i6, or i7 could debut at a later date. BMW will employ lots of carbon-fiber reinforced plastics in its future small cars: the material is very strong and very light, allowing engineers to trim as much as 770 pounds from the i8’s curb weight. BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer even asserts that electric cars -- presumably he means those made by BMW -- will become the dominant form of personal transport within the next few years.

Fall from Grace: 2012 Honda Civic Stripped of Consumer Reports Recommendation

All good things come to an end, including the Honda Civic’s multi-year run as a Consumer Reports “Recommended” car. Though Honda insists that “the completely redesigned 2012 Civic is a step forward,” the testers at CR disagree. The not-for-profit magazine criticized everything from braking performance to interior quality, and from handling to road noise in the 2012 Honda Civic. As a result, the Civic is almost bottom in its segment, just above the new Volkswagen Jetta. The new segment leader in CR’s testing? The Hyundai Elantra.

Lotus Elise, Exige Get Special Models to Celebrate Exit From U.S. Market

Model-year 2011 marks the end of Lotus Elise and Exige sales in the U.S. market, as the cars’ Toyota-sourced engine is going out of production and new airbag regulations will make the Lotus twins illegal for new-car sale. But it’s not all bad news: Lotus is bringing us three special edition cars, the Elise SC Final Edition, Exige Matte Black Final Edition, and Exige S260 Final Edition. There will be just 15 copies of the Elise SC, 25 of the Matte Black, and 30 of the S260. Foreign markets will still be able to enjoy the Elise and Exige. We Americans will have to wait until the next Elise bows in 2015.

Driven: 2012 Buick Regal GS, 2011 Dodge Charger R/T, 2012 Cadillac SRX

Though we won’t get a chance to flog it on public roads for a few more weeks, General Motors let us get a feel for the 2012 Buick Regal GS at its proving grounds. The GS sends 270 turbocharged horses through a six-speed manual transmission to the front wheels. Sachs adjustable dampers, big brakes, and sticky tires all work together to produce a truly sporting, agile Buick sedan. The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is a pleasant departure from the last-generation Charger, sold from 2005. A retro-styled interior finished in high-quality materials, powerful  V-6 engine, and commendable suspension tuning make the new Charger a true all-American sedan. The second-generation Cadillac SRX bowed in 2010, yet GM’s engineers have already bestowed a bevy of improvements on the crossover. The 2012 Cadillac SRX benefits from a more powerful 3.6-liter V-6 engine as well as myriad other tweaks. It adds up to a refined, luxurious Cadillac crossover that could conceivably steal sales from the likes of the Lexus RX.

Weekend Racing:

- NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250, Iowa Speedway, Saturday August 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2

- NASCAR Sprint Cup Good Sam RV Insurance 500, Pocono Raceway, Sunday August 7 at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN

- Indycar Honda Indy 200, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Sunday August 7 at 2:50 p.m. EST on Versus

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Buick Regal

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