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.
Toyota has issued another large recall, which this time covers 7.4 million vehicles globally and 2.5 million in the U.S. The problem concerns "sticky" power window switches which can overheat, smoke, and melt if a lubricant is applied to alleviate the stickiness. Toyota dealers will inspect the switches in affected cars and use a special type of grease that won't overheat. Cars affected include the 2007-2008 Toyota Yaris, 2007-2009 Toyota RAV4, 2007-2009 Toyota Tundra, 2007-2009 Toyota Camry, 2008-2009 Scion xD, 2008-2009 Scion xB, 2008-2009 Toyota Sequoia, 2008 Toyota Highlander, 2009 Toyota Corolla, and 2009 Toyota Matrix. Also affected is the 2009 Pontiac Vibe -- it was engineered and built by Toyota.
Our spy shooters caught the next version of the Cadillac Escalade luxury SUV out testing. While the prototypes look very similar to the 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe mules we previously spied -- not surprising, as the two models are mechanically related -- we spotted several unique Cadillac details like larger wheels, LED running lights, and a large grille cribbed from the Cadillac XTS sedan. Both short- and long-wheelbase models were seen testing, but it looks like the truckish Escalade EXT has been discontinued. General Motors is working on retooling a stamping plant in Texas to build the new Escalade, as well as its platform mates GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburbdan, and we expect the 2014 Cadillac Escalade will debut in late 2013.
Our intrepid spy photographers also snapped the Cadillac ELR electric car testing. Although we had previously seen the Chevrolet Volt-based ELR from the outside, this time we caught a glimpse of the interior. The center stack appears to use the CUE touchscreen infotainment and climate-control system that debuted in the ATS and XTS sedans, while the instrument cluster looks like that of the Lexus LFA supercar. A center-mounted analog speedometer has a color LCD screen in the middle, while to the left-hand side of the cluster is another LCD screen showing battery charge and driving information. Leaked schedules and hints from Cadillac officials suggest the 2014 ELR will make its production debut sometime in 2013.
Photos from Germany show a prototype of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series burning to a crisp after an accident on the Nürburgring. We don't currently know what caused the accident, but our source on the ground says both driver and passenger escaped without injury. This isn't the first time we've seen the SLS AMG Black Series testing on the 'Ring. The Black Series will probably use a version of the car's 6.2-liter V-8 but tweaked to produce as much as 650 hp. No wonder it can prove tricky to drive on the so-called Green Hell.
Want a faster, more powerful SUV? Whether you answered yes or no, Porsche will launch the 175-mph Cayenne Turbo S in early 2013. The car uses the same twin-turbo 4.8-liter V-8 engine as the Cayenne Turbo, but with power turned up from 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque to 550 hp and 553 lb-ft. Porsche says that's enough to send the Cayenne Turbo S to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds -- 0.1 seconds quicker than the regular Cayenne Turbo. The Turbo S also comes standard with optional handling packages like Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, and Power Steering Plus. The outside features gloss-black trim pieces and 21-inch 911 Turbo II-style wheels. The interior can be finished in Turbo S-exclusive Black/Carrera Red or Black/Luxor Beige leather upholstery. Pricing starts at $146,975 (after destination) -- a cool $37,250 more than the regular Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
If you're starting to prepare your Christmas list for Santa Claus, allow us to suggest this item from Neiman Marcus. The Texas-based retailer will offer 12 specially modified McLaren MP4-12C Spiders in its 2012 Christmas Book. Your $354,000 nets an MP4-12C Spider with unique volcano red paint, diamond-cut wheels, gloss-black trim pieces, and a stainless-steel plaque commemorating its special-edition status. Also included: a custom-fit McLaren luggage set, a business-class flight to London, a tour of McLaren’s Technology Center, and a private dinner with McLaren Chairman Ron Dennis. Another $3000 of each purchase will also be donated to the Big Brothers Big Sisters charity.
Lexus is investigating the emergency opener handles in some of its cars after the four-year-old son of a Consumer Reports staffer was inadvertently locked inside a 2013 Lexus ES350. The legally-mandated release handle apparently can break free if it's pulled toward the driver's side of the trunk, potentially trapping the occupant. It's unclear whether this will lead to a recall.
There are plenty of front-wheel-drive, turbocharged sporty cars priced between $20,000 and $25,000, but we decided to examine three oddball choices to see how they stack up. We put the 201-hp Hyundai Veloster Turbo, 188-hp Nissan Juke, and 200-hp Volkswagen Beetle Turbo to the test to find out which funky turbo car was most fun to drive. While all three are quick, fun to drive, and have quirky styling, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo won our hearts for the way it combined virtues of sporty coupes, sensible runabouts, and efficiency-minded hatchbacks in one vehicle.
Driven: 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish, 2013 Buick Verano Turbo
The 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish might seem like a non-event at first, because it's only marginally different from the Aston DBS, but there's no denying this car's appeal. The curvy exterior is beautiful, the interior fit-and-finish is sumptuous, and there's no denying how satisfying the 565-hp 6.0-liter V-12 engine is to drive. The 2013 Buick Verano Turbo hides its sporting intentions very well, but it's still got performance in spades. The 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four makes for a 6.2-second 0-to-60-mph time, and does so without too much torque steer from the front wheels. Better yet, the Verano Turbo's interior remains hushed and filled with nice materials and equipment appropriate to the $29,990 sticker price.