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, as well as the weekend racing schedule, for your convenience.
When the new Ford Transit commercial van goes on sale in the U.S., it will be offered with a diesel engine. The newly announced diesel model joins a version of the Transit powered by Ford’s EcoBoost twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Both engines are supposed to be highly fuel efficient; it’s unclear whether the Transit’s diesel will be the same 2.2-liter turbodiesel used in the European-market Ford Tourneo van. The new Transit will replace the E-Series (aka. Econoline) vans in the U.S., with production starting in Kansas early next year.
This is fastest Ford Explorer you can buy from the factory, the new-for-2013 Explorer Sport. The big news is that the SUV gets the EcoBoost twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, rated in this application for over 350 hp. That makes the Sport far gutsier than Explorer models powered by the existing turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four or 3.5-liter V-6 engines. On top of the power boost, the Explorer Sport gets unique trim pieces like dark head- and taillights, a different grille, new 20-inch wheels, a new steering wheel, and unique leather seats. The 2013 Explorer Sport will be the priciest version of Ford’s SUV, although exact pricing won’t be announced until closer to the model’s on-sale date later this year.
Another week, another glance at the 2013 SRT Viper supercar. This week’s teaser photo, posted by Chrysler Group’s SRT division on Facebook, shows us the interior of the 2013 Viper. We spy red leather seats, a prominent grab handle for the passenger, and a large shift knob for the six-speed manual transmission. The wait to see the new Viper is almost over, as it will be unveiled next week at the New York auto show. We expect it will have an 8.7-liter V-10 engine with at least 650 hp.
Fifty-three year-old Ford performance director Jost Capito is moving to Volkswagen Motorsport. Capito was formerly director of Ford’s global performance vehicles, responsible for cars like the uropean-market Fiesta ST, Focus ST, and Focus RS road cars — plus the F-150 SVT Raptor and upcoming Focus ST. Capito’s lengthy career includes stints at Porsche, BMW, and the Sauber Petronas Formula 1 team. He joined Ford of Europe in 2001 to help develop the company’s World Rally Championship cars.
It’s not just journalists who love the new Subaru BRZ: after just two months on sale in Japan, the rear-drive sports coupe has sold at four times the pace expected. Two other statistics that don’t surprise us about the affordable sports car: two-thirds of BRZs sold so far have manual transmissions, and almost 28 percent were bought by someone under the age of 30. Sales of the car won’t start in the U.S. until the end of April, but already Subaru says it has received 1000 pre-orders for the 2013 BRZ. Subaru will sell only 500 copies of the car here per month, for about 6000 cars annually.
With its debut at the New York auto show less than a week away, Lexus revealed a teaser photo of the 2013 ES luxury sedan. So far we can only see the grille, which adopts the chrome-trimmed spindle look seen on the 2013 GS, as well as new headlights with LED running lights. We expect powertrain offerings will comprise a four-cylinder hybrid and V-6.
Subaru will introduce refreshed versions of the 2013 Legacy and Outback in New York. The cars’ base 2.5-liter boxer-four engines receive a slight power bump to 173 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque, increases of 3 hp and 4 lb-ft. The optional continuously variable transmission has been updated to make it more fuel efficient. The two Subarus also will get EyeSight, a new stereoscopic camera system that provides adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and collision warning functionality.
Among the new safety systems planned for the 2013 Cadillac ATS and XTS are vibrating seats. The idea is that the seats will signal impending collisions in situations when audible alerts might otherwise be drowned out by exterior noise or the audio system. The seats are part of a raft of new safety gear that will be available on the ATS sport sedan and XTS luxury sedan. The new features include forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and more.
This week we drove three new car of wildly varying sizes. The 2012 Toyota Camry is better than ever, and even manages to counter criticism that previous versions of midsizer were boring. With a more interesting design, smarter interior, and updated engines, the 2012 Camry is a polished and improved version of a successful formula. The 2013 Infiniti JX35 seems to follow the lead of Lincoln and Lexus, as the three-row crossover prioritizes comfort and usability above all else. A sumptuous and spacious interior contrasts with a somewhat dull and soggy powertrain, which provides only adequate acceleration thanks in part to its continuously variable transmission.
The 2013 Acura RDX has been reinvented, losing its turbocharged four-cylinder engine and torque-vectoring system in favor of a 3.5-liter V-6. The new engine feels quicker than the old turbo-four, and also is more fuel efficient. Along with refined handling and a mild face lift, the 2013 RDX should continue to please buyers. Finally, we spent some time driving the 2012 Kia Rio hatchback, which has finally risen above its beginnings as an economy machine. With a handsome exterior, refined driving experience, and lengthy equipment lists, the Kia Rio demonstrates just how much manufacturers have improved their economy cars.
– NASCAR Sprint Cup, Goody’s Fast Relief 500, Martinsville Speedway, Sunday April 1 at 12:30 p.m. EST on Fox
– IndyCar, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Sunday April 1 at 2 p.m. EST on NBC Sports