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.
A partnership between British and Italian designers has created this striking Aston Martin V12 Zagato. The car, based on the Aston V12 Vantage, has an aluminum body that was made entirely by hand. The car marks the 50th anniversary of the first collaboration between Aston Martin and Italian design house Zagato, the Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato. The new car is set to race in endurance races at the Nürburgring this year, and there’s a possibility Aston may build a road-going version in small quantities in 2012.
Spy photographers caught a glimpse at the Scion FR-S sports coupe being tested on Germany’s Nürburgring. In spite of the camouflage, we can tell that the styling of this prototype has been significantly toned down from the Toyota FT-86 concept cars we’ve seen at past auto shows. A rear diffuser and twin exhaust tips still convey the car’s sporting spirit, but the front valance has lost its aggressive flared ducting in favor of fog lights and turn indicators.
More performance is on the way for Honda’s CR-Z hybrid hatchback, thanks to tuning firm Mugen. The Mugen CR-Z packs a supercharged, uprated suspension, new wheels, and a funky bodykit. The car is said to hit 60 mph in about the same time as a Honda Civic Type R, which does the deed in 6.6 seconds. Mugen will unveil the supercharged hybrid at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, but there are no plans to put the car into production.
Production at the General Motors factory in Hamtramck, Michigan will cease for four weeks this summer so the plant can be upgraded. In addition to adding a bank of solar panels, GM will re-tool the factory to add more capacity to build the Chevrolet Volt and its European derivative, the Opel Ampera. The extra capacity will allow Chevrolet to keep up with consumer demand for the plug-in hybrid Volt.The closure will also let GM prepare for production of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, which should begin in 2012.
Saab once again has a hope of staying in business, thanks to an influx of $92 million from Chinese auto distributor Pang Da. Under the new deal, Saab and Pang Da will form a joint venture to build and distribute vehicles in China. The two companies may also create a China-specific sub-brand at a later date. Pang Da is the largest automotive distributor in China, with over 1000 dealers around the country.
A new report from pricing authority Kelley Blue Book warns that the Chevrolet Volt will retain just 51 percent of its value after three years, a mere $17,000. However, that beats out the 46-percent three-year residual rate for the Toyota Prius hybrid. Chevrolet doesn’t think the report is a bad sign for the all-new Volt; a spokesman told us that a 51-percent residual is “a good starting point.”
A keen-eyed reader snapped a photo of a Fiat Doblo van on American roads wearing Michigan license plates. Seeing the European-market van here isn’t all that strange, as Fiat and Chrysler are now partners. We suspect Chrysler may eventually sell a version of the Doblo in the U.S. market to compete with the Ford Transit Connect. There have been no official announcements about the launch of such a van, but a Chrysler’s five-year plan from November 2009 indicates a Fiat-derived commercial van could be sold on our shores from 2012.
A goof in the specifications for all-wheel-drive models of the Nissan Juke means some owners will be scoring a $400 check. Nissan’s website, marketing brochures, and new-car Monroney stickers listed the all-wheel-drive Juke’s fuel tank capacity as 13.2 gallons, instead of the actual capacity of 11.8 gallons. We calculated the $400 apology check from Nissan could fill the Juke’s gas tank about eight times, which is sure to appease the 4000 affected owners.
A slight gearing change means the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze (when not equipped with the optional Eco package) gains two additional highway mpg, for a total of 38 mpg. Non-Eco Cruze models are equipped with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic transmission. The adjustment helps the Cruze compete better with the latest crop of small cars, some of which return up to 40 mpg on the highway. City mileage for the Cruze is unchanged, at 24 mpg.
This week we drove two luxury cars with vastly different powertrains. The 2011 Bentley Continental GT has new sheetmetal and a redesigned interior for this year. With a 567-hp punch from a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12 on board, the Continental is a sublime luxury tourer, but hardly a green choice. At the other end of the spectrum is the 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid. The newest version of Porsche’s luxury sedan mates a 333-hp supercharged V-6 to an electric motor, yielding a modest improvement in fuel economy versus non-hybrid Panameras.
-Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, Catalunya, Sunday May 22 at 7:30 a.m. EST on Speed
-NASCAR Sprint Cup, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Saturday May 21 at 7 p.m. EST on Speed
-NASCAR Nationwide Series John Deere Dealers 250, Iowa Speedway, Sunday May 22 at 2 p.m. EST on ABC