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.
One of the biggest stories at the New York auto show was the emergence of the 2013 SRT Viper. With a body made from aluminum, plastic composite, and carbon fiber, as well as a ferocious 8.4-liter V-10 engine, the new Viper is just as much a supercar icon as the previous Vipers. The design is very much true to the old car, albeit with some more graceful and mature curves. Under hood, the V-10 has been updated to produce 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, which is sent through a six-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels. Engineers note that the car’s theoretical top speed is 206 mph.
The new Lincoln MKZ is, again, a midsize near-luxury car, but it has made significant steps forward from the outgoing model. Designed to begin a push for Lincoln to become a renowned luxury-car maker, the 2013 MKZ wears dramatic styling with a giant panoramic glass sunroof, LED lights, and a bold coupe-like roofline. A high-class interior includes genuine metal and wood trim, along with five push buttons that take the place of a transmission shifter. There will be both a turbocharged four-cylinder and V-6 powertrain, along with an eventual hybrid that should match or beat the 41-mpg rating of the 2012 MKZ hybrid.
We’ve been following the story of the Subaru BRZ sports coupe for many months, and now the final piece of the puzzle emerges. The 2013 BRZ goes on sale later in April for $26,245 (including destination). That price nets a BRZ Premium with a manual transmission; the BRZ Limited starts at $28,250 with a manual. Adding a six-speed automatic transmission bumps the price up by $1100 on either trim. The BRZ Premium comes with Bluetooth, an eight-speaker audio system, navigation, a USB audio input, a HD radio tuner, and satellite radio. The Limited adds bits like leather and alcantara seating trim, automatic climate control, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats and side mirrors, fog lamps, and a rear spoiler.
Fuel economy is coming to the truck segment, thanks to the 2013 Ram 1500. The truck will be offered with a new eight-speed automatic transmission with the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, a combo that should return “best in class” fuel economy figures. It will almost certainly best the 17/23 mpg (city/highway) rating of the 2012 Ram 1500’s 3.7-liter V-6. Other tweaks to reduce fuel consumption are a lighter frame and hood, low rolling-resistance tires, active grille shutters, and systems to reduce the energy use of the cooling fan and fuel pump. There also will be a new active air suspension, minor interior updates with nicer materials, and a slightly different front grille.
Jaguar announced that it already has prototype versions of a new “pure” sports car called the F-Type, which goes on sale in mid-2013. Styled as a smaller XK, the F-Type is based on the C-X16 concept of the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. It will debut as a roadster and later as a coupe. Jaguar won’t yet talk powertrains, but the C-X16 had a hybrid setup with a 374-hp, supercharged, direct-injection, 3.0-liter V-6 and a 94-hp electric motor. The company says the 0-to-60-mph sprint will take fewer than five seconds, and top speed will exceed 180 mph. Pricing could be somewhere between that of a Porsche Cayman R (about $66,000) and a Porsche 911 ($82,000).
Although it has traditionally been the vehicle of choice for those who want a big, comfortable sedan, the 2013 Toyota Avalon looks to a move a little bit more towards sportiness and luxury. The new car is a bit shorter than before, and wears a swooping roofline, a large front grille, and a few subtle character lines. Luxury touches for the interior include extra sound deadening, a “floating” center stack, and generous amounts of faux-wood trim and soft-touch padding. Toyota says the 2013 Avalon is the automaker’s first car designed, engineered, built, sold, and serviced in America. It should reach dealers by the end of this year.
Nissan updated its midsize sedan for 2013, starting with a new exterior design. There’s a new curved trapezoid grille like on the Versa sedan, as well as boomerang taillights recalling those on the Maxima and 370Z. Inside, the cabin remains roomy and comfortable, with smart materials and a smattering of new technology like lane-departure and blind-spot warnings. The 2.5-liter inline-four and 3.5-liter V-6 engines carry over from the old car with only minimal tweaks, but a second-generation continuously variable transmission enables up to 38 mpg highway with the former engine. The Altima goes on sale in June.
The 2013 Lincoln MKZ is finally starting to stand apart from the Ford Taurus, thanks mainly to the Lincoln Drive Control system that offers comfort, normal, and sport modes for the steering, suspension, throttle, transmission, and active noise control. The adaptive suspension is one of the most notable changes, as it helps provide greater body control while still soaking up bumps. Along with a revised steering rack, new all-wheel-drive system, and various other tweaks, the 2013 Lincoln MKS manages to feel more impressive and distinct from the Ford Taurus. The 2012 Nissan Maxima may claim to be a four-door sports sedan, but we find its powertrain a bit lackluster. The continuously variable transmission somewhat mutes output, and there’s a lot of torque steer. Mostly, though, we find it hard to justify buying the Maxima over the Nissan Altima. The Nissan Maxima is a nice car, but it has lost the unique and sporty nature on which it made its name.