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.
Ford has issued more photos of the upcoming Focus ST as it completes track and street testing around the world. The hot hatchback is promised to provide the same driving experience in all markets in which it will be sold, meaning the ST available to American drivers will be just as potent as the models sold in Europe. The heart of the Focus ST is expected to be a turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine producing at least 246 hp. More details should trickle out over the next few months.
There are now even more variants of the Porsche 911, thanks to the addition of the Carrera 4 GTS Coupe and Cabriolet. The 4 GTS is essentially the same car as the existing Carrera GTS, but with all-wheel instead of rear-wheel drive. That means the 3.8-liter flat-six engine has been tweaked to offer 408 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, channeled through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. The Carrera 4 GTS hits showrooms this fall.
Apparently unable to wait for the car’s scheduled debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz has released photos and information on the SLS AMG Roadster. Like the hardtop on which it is based, the convertible packs a 563-hp punch from a 6.2-liter V-8 engine. Unlike the hardtop model, there are no trademark gullwing doors. Mercedes says the soft top folds and deploys in just 11 seconds, and that the SLS AMG Roadster should launch in the U.S. by the end of 2011.
BMW tantalized us once again with a preview video of the upcoming 2012 M5, which shows the sports sedan being put through its paces on a test track. Burnouts, sideways drifts, and even wet-weather testing are all on the agenda. The new M5 is slated to debut this fall, and will most likely pack the turbocharged V-8 engine from the X5M and X6M.
New software from Google and Ford may soon help tailor your car’s performance for your driving route. The companies claim the Google Prediction API would collect data about a driver’s habits and destinations, then suggest more fuel-efficient routes. It could also be used to alter the behavior of a plug-in hybrid, for example by forcing the vehicle to retain battery power for the end of a commute. The idea is just a concept for now, and one of the biggest hurdles is ensuring the security and privacy of the data collected.
General Motors will invest $204 million into a transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio to build a new eight-speed automatic transmission. No word yet on what vehicles will use the transmission, but sources tell us it’s a longitudinal design that will reach full production by 2014. The Toledo plant currently builds six-speed automatic transmissions for several GM vehicles.
Wagon fans cheered this week as Mercedes-Benz confirmed the high-performance E63 wagon will be returning to the U.S. market this fall. Like the sedan version, the E63 wagon will employ a 5.5-liter turbocharged V-8 with 518 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque; adding the AMG Performance Package enhances output to 550 hp and 590 lb-ft. Mercedes predicts 0-to-60-mph times in the low four-second range, which is likely a conservative estimate.
Hyundai took the wraps off the i40 sedan, a European-exclusive model that is the equivalent of the Sonata sold on our shores. Visually, the car looks much like the Hyundai i40 wagon that debuted at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, and it’s quite reminiscent of the American-market Hyundai Elantra. There are gasoline engines displacing 1.6- and 2.0-liters, as well as a 1.7-liter turbodiesel offered in 113 hp and 134 hp strengths.
A portion of downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan was cordoned off this afternoon after an Acura press kit caused a bomb scare. We thought we had properly disposed of the unusual promotional box, which touted Acura’s ties to the upcoming movie Thor, but a passerby spotted it on the curb and called the police. The confusion is understandable: the package is supposed to resemble a secret agent test kit, and included a vial of blue liquid and the words “detonation” and “dead.” Thankfully, we got in touch with the authorities and cleared up the misunderstanding.
We got a chance to try the rear-wheel-drive Gallardo Bicolore and the lightweight Gallardo Spyder Monticello Motor Club. Both cars are high-performance, celebratory versions of the Gallardo, which will probably be replaced by a new model in a few years. Until then, these cars are a lot of fun for driving enthusiasts.
Compact cars are no longer boring, vanilla vehicles. We took six of the newest small cars to visit Michigan’s great craft breweries to find out how new compacts like the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze stack up against mainstays like the Mazda 3 and Honda Civic.
-NASCAR Sprint Cup Dover International Speedway, Sunday May 15 at 1:00 p.m. EST on Fox
-NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover International Speedway, Saturday May 14 at 2:00 p.m. EST on ESPN