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.
The world got an early look at the new, smaller Prius, the Prius c. Not long after Toyota ran a commercial touting the four kinds of Prius including “the smaller one” – though only showing the Prius c Concept – brochure scans of the upcoming Prius C hit the web. Roughly the size of a Yaris hatchback, the Prius c carries over number design similarities from its larger Prius and Prius v siblings. Powering the Prius c will be an 87-hp 1.3-liter gasoline engine coupled to a 14-hp electric motor; front-wheel drive will be standard, as will be a continuously variable transmission. Expect to see the official reveal of the Prius c at the Detroit auto show in January.
Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed this week that diesels will definitely be coming to the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2013 for U.S. buyers. Chrysler group is looking to increase its diesel sales in the states, as well as looking into hybrid powertrains, to help it meet more stringent fuel economy regulations in the coming years. Said Marchionne, “I have no other way of getting to 2025 [CAFE] numbers than by going to hybrids.” There is no definite word yet on what diesel engine we’ll see in the Grand Cherokee, but Chrysler sells the SUV with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 in Europe that’s good for 237 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.
Ford’s workers ratified a new four-year labor contract between the comapny and the United Auto Workers, and lucky for us, the new contract includes details on upcoming Ford product. The most notable is the addition of the Transit large cargo van coming to the U.S. for 2013, which will be built in Kansas City, Missouri. Also, the labor agreement has clued us into a “new unnamed vehicle” that will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Escape at Ford’s plant in Louisville, Kentucky. Through the new contract, Ford has promised to add 12,000 new jobs to U.S. manufacturing.
Fisker was able to officially sell its first 2012 Karma sedan this week thanks to final certification by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Karma has been rated at 52 MPGe combined and an all-electric range of 32 miles. The Karma is powered by two 201-hp electric motors that drive the rear axle, drawing power from a 180-kW, 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Doing range-extension duty is a General Motors-sourced 2.0-liter I-4, which can charge the battery pack but not drive the rear-wheels.
Those who buy the diminutive 2012 Fiat 500 no longer need to be worried about their safety – the tiny hatchback was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 500 earned the pick thanks to its standard electronic stability control, seven airbags (two front, two side-impact, two side curtains spanning both seats, and one knee), and a “good” rating in frontal-offset and side-impact crash and roof strength tests. The Fiat 500 is only the second minicar (subcompact) car in its class to earn the rating, after the 2012 Ford Fiesta.
For 2012, Ram has rolled out a few new special editions for its 1500 and 2500 series trucks. First up is the Power Wagon, which gains ST and Laramie editions (the current Power Wagon will be rebadged SLT). The Power Wagon ST is aimed at commercial buyers and ditches the chrome trim of the now-SLT while keeping all of the truck’s go-anywhere, off-road goodies. On the other end, the Laramie adds more chrome over the SLT, along with leather and wood interior trim, a premium audio system, and special badging. The Power Wagon remains available only on the Ram 2500. For those shopping for a light-duty Ram, the brand has introduced the 1500 Mossy Oak Editon for the Ram Outdoorsman. The Mossy Oak Edition adds – no surprise – mossy oak camouflage exterior paint and interior trim, and specific badging; it will be available only in four-wheel drive Crew Cab guise. All three of the new Ram models will hit dealerships in December.
The enthusiast community let out a collective cry when news circulated that the rally-bred Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was being put out to pasture. Now, news comes that Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko has given the green light for a next-generation Evo with a hybrid powertrain. The front wheels will be powered by a reworked version of the 63-hp electric motor from the Mitsubishi i electric car and the rear-wheels receiving thrust from a traditional internal-combustion engine of some variety. Combined power output should end up around 350 hp, 59 more than the current Evo X. Rumor has it that the engine paired with the electric motor could end up being a diesel to help increase torque and fuel economy. No matter what, the next Evo will come with a trick electric all-wheel drive system, and will most likely also see the addition of active steering and active dampers as well. Masuko promised that we would see the new Evo on the roads within three years.
Porsche celebrated its fourth annual Rennsport Reunion last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California. The automaker teased us at the beginning of the week with a photo of a slew of classic and current racing Porsches, and then later in the week released a video celebrating the reunion. The Rennsport Reunion IV had 400 race cars, around 1500 owner cars, and four of the six RS Spyders in existence. The video is a must-watch for any fan of Porsches or classic race cars.
Sad news in the world of racing this past week – 33-year-old IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon died in a crash during a race in Las Vegas last weekend. Weldon suffered serious injury after being involved in a fiery, 15-car pileup and was pronounced dead a few hours after being airlifted to University Medical Center of South Nevada. Weldon had been a long-time racer, racing karts from age four and then pursuing a profession racing career starting 12 years ago. In 2000 he came in first in the Indianapolis 500, becoming the first Englishman to do so since 1966, and won again just this year. IndyCar will hold a public memorial service for Wheldon this Sunday, October 23at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana; doors open at 1:30 p.m. and the service will begin at 4:00 p.m. and will also be shown live on VERSUS.
This week we drove two luxury grand tourers looking to push the performance envelope, and two cars that are looking to the future of automotive propulsion. The 2013 Audi S8 keeps all of the luxury and technology we love from the A8 while injecting the big sedan with more of an enthusiast’s bent. Gone is the naturally-aspirated V-10 and in its place is a 520-hp twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8.
With the 2012 GranTurismo MC, Maserati is hoping to win over more buyers by giving them more of what they want: a sharper, more responsive car and an automatic transmission. The MC adds an aerodynamic bodykit that increases downforce, and sees the 4.7-liter V-8 massaged to 444 hp and 376 lb-ft. It’s a car that can be driven – and enjoyed – everyday without having to compromise on performance.
Looking to the future, we also got behind the wheel of the Audi e-tron Spyder Concept. Powered by a mid-mounted 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 and a front-mounted set of 69 64-kw lithium-ion batteries, the e-tron Spyder offers 300 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque and plug-in capability to go with the sexily Teutonic exterior and roofless cabin. Check out the e-tron Spyder in action here.
Finally, the 2012 Mazda3 i Grand Touring Skyactiv-G is a look to the future that you can buy now. The compact 3 has seen a minor facelift for the 2012 model year along with the addition of the all-new Skyactiv engine and transmission. Through direct injection and a high 12.5:1 compression ratio, the Skyactiv 3 manages to eke out 40 mph on the highway without turbocharging or aerodynamic aids.
– NASCAR Sprint Cup, Gold Sam Club 500, Talladega Superspeedway, Sunday October 23 at 2:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN
– NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Coca-Cola 250 powered by fred’s, Talladega Supespeedway, Saturday October 22 at 4:00 p.m. EDT on SPEED
– IndyCar Public Memorial Service for Dan Wheldon, Conseco Fieldhouse, Sunday October 23 at 4:00 p.m. EDT on VERSUS