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.
Our spy photographers caught the next-generation Porsche 911 and Boxster on public roads. Neither car receives dramatic styling changes, but both will be thoroughly revamped beneath the sheet metal. The new 911 will be lighter and more aerodynamic than the current generation, and will offer commensurately improved horsepower. The Boxster, meanwhile, will begin to share some chassis components with the new 911. Both cars are expected to pack new interiors, likely inspired by the high center-console design that bowed in the Porsche Panamera.
Chevrolet’s upgrades for a factory in Detroit will include capacity for the future Impala sedan. It will join the Volt, Euro-market Opel Ampera, and 2013 Chevrolet Malibu at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant. This announcement lends further credence to the expectation that the new Impala will be based on the same front-drive platform as the 2013 Malibu. Expect the new Impala to be more fuel-efficient than the current model, and slightly larger than the new Malibu. It should arrive by 2014.
Chrysler this week paid back its government-backed loans, which were issued in 2009 by the U.S. and Canadian governments. The repayment sent $6.5 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $2.0 billion to Export Development Canada, a government-owned holding company. Chrysler had until 2015 to repay its debts, but did so earlier than expected. The move has provided Chrysler with $10 billion in liquidity, and allowed Fiat to increase its ownership stake in Chrysler from 30 to 46 percent.
The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the new fuel-economy stickers that will be affixed to all new model-year 2013 vehicles. The agency had originally proposed a convoluted letter-grade rating that would have favored all-electric cars, but it has fortunately been scrapped. Instead, the new stickers show mpg and MPGe (miles-per-gallon-equivalent for electric cars) ratings, as well as gallons used per 100 miles, and predicted annual fuel costs. Some automakers may adopt the new stickers in the next few months for model-year 2012.
We spotted Alfa Romeo’s gorgeous Giulietta hatchback cruising through southeast Michigan. It’s likely the car was here as part of Chrysler’s testing fleet -- Fiat (which owns Alfa Romeo) is now partners with Chrysler. Take a good look, as the Giulietta is expected to be sold in the U.S. market from 2014 onward, likely after a facelift. It should be one of the first new Alfa Romeo vehicles sold here once the Italian brand returns to America in 2012 or 2013.
BMW paid homage to its original 328 roadster with this 328 Hommage Concept, which bowed at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy. The original 328 is celebrating its 75th birthday this year, and boasted exceedingly light weight thanks to magnesium-alloy and aluminum construction. In keeping with that tradition, the modern 328 Hommage uses carbon-fiber reinforced polymer, a modern material that is strong and lightweight. Little else was revealed about the special car, although in BMW fashion it employs an inline-six engine.
First Drives: 2012 Volkswagen Passat; 2012 Mercedes-Benz C250, C350, and C63 Coupes
This week we scored seat time in the 2012 Volkswagen Passat, a unique model for the American market that will be built at Volkswagen’s new factory in Tennessee. The comfortable, refined Passat is designed to help Volkswagen increase its sales in the U.S. market by competing with vehicles like the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata. Mercedes-Benz has removed two doors from the C-Class, creating the C250 and C350 coupes. The sporty and luxurious coupes hit Mercedes dealerships this September. For maximum fun, there’s also the fire-breathing Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe. It uses the same 481-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 as the C63 sedan, and performs wonderfully at full-tilt on a track.
-Indycar Indianapolis 500, Sunday May 29 at 11:00 a.m. EST on ABC
-Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, Sunday May 29 at 7:30 a.m. EST on Speed
-NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday May 29 at 6 p.m. EST on Fox
-NASCAR Nationwide Top Gear 300, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Saturday May 28 at 2:30 p.m. EST on ABC