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Automotive News - April 2013

The End of An Era

No, the company is not going out of business as the title of this article might suggest, but we are in mourning nonetheless. It is the end of an era and we must say farewell to the last of a breed of sportscars, namely the Porsche 911 GT3 997. Following in the footsteps of Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini, Porsche has announced that the next GT3 will switch it's manual gearbox for an automatic transmission. Expect the new Porsche 911 GT3 to hit North American dealerships late this year, priced at a little over $130,000 US. At this year's Geneva Motor show, the new 911 GT3 991 was unveiled, leaving Porsche (and other super car) fans in shock. The company announced that starting in November 2013, the much loved GT3 will be sold with a paddle shifter automatic instead of manual gearbox.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Gets Rugged

Most SUV's only look tough enough to take off road. Few are actually capable, but the Toyota 4Runner, one of the original SUV's is most definitely capable. The 4Runner is a pick-up truck based SUV and the sister of the Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck. Off-roading enthusiasts have loved the 4Runner's go-anywhere capabilities for nearly 30 years. The fifth generation 4Runner is getting a refresh, one that will further distinguish it from the minivan mom crowd that seems to have embraced the SUV in recent years. It's new rugged exterior design will leave no doubt that this is the truck that goes up to the cottage, rather than picking up groceries and kids after soccer practice. Inside though, it will possess all of the creature comforts and conveniences that mom or dad could want for making that long drive up north.

Volvo's Flywheel Hybrid System

Two years ago Volvo announced that they were going to begin testing a new type of battery-free hybrid system. This innovation, a flywheel based kinetic energy recovery system called KERS was being developed for production vehicles. The company has now completed it's exhaustive testing of the project on public roads, using their S60 sedan. Essentially, it works by recovering energy during braking which is then temporarily stored for use when the car moves again. The carbon fibre flywheel is fitted to the back axel and rotates in a vacuum to avoid friction losses, spinning as fast as 60,000 rpm. As the car decelerates, the flywheel spins and the front mounted engine shuts off. The energy collected by the flywheel can be used to accelerate the car via a special transmission, or it can be used to power the vehicle once it reaches cruising speed, all of which has a major impact on fuel consumption.

190 MPH Hydrogen Powered Aston Martin

British auto manufacturer Aston Martin is set to make automotive history at one of the top racing events in Europe with it's hydrogen powered entry. The company's Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S, a record breaking zero CO2 emissions sports car gets 190 MPH and runs on hydrogen gas. It will be the first hydrogen powered vehicle to compete in an international event, competing at the 41st ADAC Zurich 24-Hour Nürburgring race next month. The Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S is based on Aston Martin's new Rapide S, a four door, four seater sports car that is expected to hit showrooms around the world any day now. It's capable of hitting 62mph in a mere 4.9 seconds, reaching speeds up to 190 mph. The hydrogen powered version is powered by a prototype twin turbo 6-litre V12 prototype engine that the company's engineers developed in collaboration with hydrogen experts Alset Global.

Shake Up At Mini

BMW's Mini division is considering some big changes in the near future. As it ponders the future of it's small car line-up, it's thought that the company will end production of some of it's current models. Don't worry, the brand's core models, the Mini Cooper Hardtop and the Cooper Countryman will be here for a long time; but the other Mini models are less secure, likely to be replaced once they reach the end of their product cycle. During an interview at the 2013 New York Auto Show, the Mini U.S.A.'s vice president Jim McDowell said that while models will be replaced, "we won't replace every model exactly." The brand has evolved from two models to the current seven, and is gearing up to start the next generation of Minis in a year's time.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

Two years ago we saw this car as a concept at the Montreal Auto Show. This year it was there again as a production model, but it was still nameless. At this year's auto show in Edmonton, the car was introduced to the Canadian market as the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage, a small city car that will be available for less than $13,000. In the form of a small hatchback, the new Mirage hides a three-cylinder powertrain under it's hood. With a 1.2-litre capacity, the three cylinder generates 74 horsepower, at a rate of 6,000 revolutions per minute and the same number of pounds per foot of torque at 4000 revs per minute. The Mitsubishi Mirage should be a fuel economy champ. The basic version with a five-speed manual transmission will only consume 5.3 L per 100 km (combined).

The Ten Best Interiors, As Determined By WardsAuto

The editors of American magazine WardsAuto have been determining the top ten best engines in automotive production for the past twenty years. A little less known about them is that they have also been choosing the ten best interiors too. Based on factors such as quality of materials, ergonomics, comfort, safety, value, fit & finish and overall design, Wards has been compiling this list for three years now. Points were also awarded for the user-friendliness of a car's machine-human interface, as well as the ability to integrate mobile phones and access information. This year the magazine evaluated 46 vehicles with all new or significantly upgraded interiors. In the past, a car's interior was often considered to be an easy mark for auto manufacturers looking to trim manufacturing costs. More recently though, automakers are beginning to understand that drivers spend much more time looking at their car's interior, than the outside.

The Sky's The Limit

Introduced last year, we're now starting to see Mazda's Skyactiv technology integrated into new models. Despite the name which sounds like an infotainment system, its a much bigger, and more important project. It's creating a whole new segment of super fuel efficient gasoline powered cars. Mazda says that the name is representative of their feeling that "the sky's the limit". Skyactiv is Mazda's name for their new approach to improved fuel efficiency, engine output, road handling and packaging by combining all new engines and transmissions with a simple and light body structure. Last year the manufacturer introduced it's new CX-5, the first vehicle to use the new technology. Since then, the company has implemented Skyactiv into other models, including the 2014 Mazda6. Previously not a big seller in Canada, the Mazda6 has been dramatically improved enough that it's a worthy challenger to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

A New Breed Of Upscale Cars & Customers

People want more. No matter how perfectly adequate our possessions, we can't help but admire and aspire to something just a little bit better than what we've got. While few of us are silly enough to think that a Ferrari is in our reach, we just might be able to swing an entry level BMW to show that we can play with the big boys. Upscale automakers are catching on, and adding entry level models to their lineups, putting their luxury models within reach. Mercedes-Benz has added it's new CLA line in an effort to reach a younger, aspirational audience. BMW has it's 1 Series, and the X1 subcompact SUV. The company has reintroduced it's 320i at a much lower sticker price than any other 3 Series vehicle. In order to keep the price low, the engine has been downgraded from 240 HP to 180 HP. Performance junkies will notice a difference, but few daily commuters will even care. Interior trim options have been scaled back, and the M Sport package is not available on this model.

One Millionth Mustang Gallops Out of Flat Rock

It's unquestionably uncommon for a car to remain in production for more than a decade or so. Trends change. One whopping exception to this theory is the Ford Mustang. Continuous production for this much loved muscle car has been going on for an incredible 49 years. Nine years ago, Ford moved production of the Mustang to it's Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan. On April 17th, exactly 49 years to the day after the very first Mustang was presented in New York, the plant produced it's 1 millionth copy. The move coincided with the introduction of the fifth generation model of the car. Since 2004 the plant has produced several variations of the Mustang, including the Boss 302R, the FR500 and the Cobra Jet drag racer.

AJAC Announces Canadian Green Car Winner

At last week's Green Living Show in Toronto, AJAC- Automobile Journalists Association of Canada announced the winner of the first annual Canadian Green Car Award. Winning the award was the Ford Fusion hybrid. Originally among a pool of 15 environmentally advanced vehicles that were submitted by their respective manufacturers, the Ford Fusion hybrid beat out four other finalists- Volkswagen's turbocharged clean diesel Jetta, Mazda's Mazda3 highly efficient compact, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Ford says that the Fusion hybrid is an important vehicle in their line-up, offering their eco conscious customers innovative technology and leading fuel economy packaged in a sleek and desirable design. This year's award the first of it's kind, the Canadian Green Car Award will be an annual competition. The aim is to provide Canadian consumers with information about vehicles that show potential for advanced levels of environmental benefits.

Toronto Built Evade Aimed At Elite

Toronto based Conquest Vehicles, best known for creating ultra posh armoured vehicles for well heeled, security minded clients is generating buzz in a big way. Their first unarmoured vehicle targeted at the uber rich. Their new EVADE has set a whole new standard in luxury handcrafted SUVs. It's both elegant and utilitarian, blending rich finishing with military inspired design cues. Famous for building the armoured SUV KNIGHT XV - essentially a bomb shelter on Ford's 350 Duper Duty chassis, Conquest's Evade is a slightly softer version while remaining beastly. While keeping the military look, there are many subtle differences, from design to weight. Made of aluminum and steel, the Evade is about 2,000 pounds lighter than it's big brother, improving fuel efficiency and performance. The Evade is wider, riding on the F550 Super Duty frame.

Epic EV TORQ Roadster

Dismissed as a pipe dream (and it nearly was one), the long awaited Epic EV TORQ Roadster has become a reality, the first copy having been delivered. The lucky recipient of the three wheeled electric vehicle was David Vespremi, former Director of Communications at Tesla Motors. Epic Electric Vehicles is a California based manufacturer. This front wheel drive Roadster runs on three wheels (two in the front, one in the back) and is powered by a 300 kW electric motor and Flux Power lithium phosphate battery. It's got 400 HP, and a massive 600 pounds of torque; going from a standstill to 100 km/h in a staggering 4 seconds all on electric power. Getting 1.3 Lateral G's, the 80.5" track width helps with those corners. This completely emissions free vehicle can get as much as 100 miles to a single charge, though don't expect anything close to that when driven on the track.

2014 Ford F150 Raptor SVT Special Edition

First seen at SEMA is 2008, the Ford F150 Raptor began storming muddy trails in 2010. Since that time, Ford has made continuous improvement of the Raptor it's mission, despite sales of their $60,000 fun truck being more subtle. This raptor however, is anything but discrete. This all-terrain high performance truck is newly equipped for 2014, and offered in a Special Edition for buyers who want a more unique product. The new Special Edition adds luxury tier equipment, including custom Ruby Red Metallic paint, and new graphics alongside the cargo box. Inside are beautiful Brick Red bucket seats with contrasting black highlights and honeycomb highlights. The centre console and dash are made of high quality materials adorned with applique accents. The 2014 Raptor Special edition can also be ordered in Metallic Black Metallic.

Mercedes GLA-Class Sneak Peak

While it's still officially under wraps, Mercedes-Benz's newest project has been caught in action on the Nurburgring testing track. The still-secret GLA, a compact crossover intended to compete with BMW's X1 is being tested, and will be built at the company's production site in Rastatt, Germany. The concept version of the GLA will make an appearance at the Shanghai Auto Show running this month from April 21-29. A production ready model should debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2013. The luxury compact crossover market is heating up, with the X1 fending off competition from the Audi Q3 in Europe and very soon, Lexus too. All of the manufacturers have announced plans to move the game to North America. Other competitors include the Range Rover Evoque and Mini's Countryman.

2014 Infiniti Q50

You may have already heard about Infiniti's new naming convention for their vehicles. The letter Q denotes cars, and QX identifies crossovers and SUVs. The first Infiniti to utilize the new naming convention is the Q50, previously known as the G37 sedan. The coupe and convertible versions of this car will carry the Q60 logo. A diesel model will be available in Europe. While the Infiniti G has always been nice, the new Q50 offers a more refined silhouette. Sleek and sculpted with an athletic stance, it looks good from all angles. Upfront, everything is built around the signature Infiniti double arch front grille. In back, the small integrated spoiler and thoughtful bumper lines show great style. Two different powertrains will be offered. The first is a V6 all aluminum dual overhead cam head 3.7 litre with 328 horsepower. It features Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control (CVTCS) and Variable Valve Event & Lift (VVEL).

Subaru WRX Concept Prototype

For several years, Subaru's WRX series was closely linked to the Impreza. However, since the Impreza's last overhaul, the WRX seems to have abandoned the tradition; it has kept the lines of the Impreza's previous generation. We got to see the future lines of the series when Subaru exhibited the WRX concept at the New York Auto Show. In fact, the car's production could very well begin immediately. This newest version will focus on ultra precise handling, the legendary Subaru AWD grip and the power of a turbocharged engine. The concept's low, wide and aggressive looking figure suggests sharp handling, agility and high performance. In addition to the famous WRX power, this concept relies on an improved manoeuvrability through a responsive chassis.

Volkswagen Introduces The Cross Up!

At the recent Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen unwrapped it's new Cross Up! a slightly more rugged and taller version of it's Up! city car. While there currently are no plans to introduce the Cross Up! to North American markets, overseas travellers may be familiar with it's brother, the Up! Loading on a bunch of body cladding, the Cross Up! has undergone an image makeover. Sitting slightly higher on a new set of 16 inch alloy wheels wrapped in 185/50 tires, the five door front wheel drive sports chunky bumpers, silver roof rails and plastic wheel arch protectors, along with a larger front air intake. Inside, the Volkswagen Cross Up! does not differ greatly from the regular Up! It sports extra chrome trim, silver accents, revised upholstery with red and grey trim, a dash pad that's available in red, black or silver, special floor mats, and new kick plates. The centre console is finished in piano black. Features include a spilt folding rear seat, multifunction display and power windows and locks.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee

In what appears to be an attempt to pursue new markets, the newly revived 4th-edition Jeep Cherokee has undergone an extensive facelift for 2014. At the recent New York Auto Show, Chrysler debuted what's become a controversial and polarizing design. No longer looking rugged and utilitarian, the new design makes the SUV nearly unrecognizable as a Jeep. Taking off road to the streets, Jeep has taken it's rugged sturdiness and put a pretty face on it, making it more competitive in the hot mid size SUV segment, where vehicles get more stroller action than dirt roads. The off-roading abilities are still there, making the Cherokee likely the family vehicle that hauls everyone to the cottage, or serve as a dual purpose vehicle between job site and suburban family duty. Jeep calls it a capable off road vehicle that also performs well on pavement. In reality, while consumers like the idea of a rough & tough truck that will keep their family safe and manoeuvre through all situations, other factors such as fuel efficiency and car-like drivability rank higher on their list of priorities.

The Camaro Z28 Comes Back To Life

Hot on the heels of their ressurection of the much loved and missed Stingray, GM has pulled a new trick out of it's hat, and it's a great one. The Z28 has come back to life! Chevy says that it's their most track-capable car ever. I say it's a 500 HP Camaro! If I didn't have space to fill on this page, that really would be all that anyone needs to know... At the recent New York Auto Show, Chevrolet took everyone by surprise by announcing the 2014 Camaro Z28. The Z28, one of the most revered names in the domestic automotive industry, hasn't been sold since 2002. During the announcement, Chevy disclosed that they are updating the entire Camaro line with minor tweaks involving trim, nose and tail. While the Z28 is indeed legendary, there is nothing heritage about it but the name. This is a modern road rocket.

2014 Chevy Impala Production Starts

Chevrolet's new flagship vehicle, the new 2014 Chevrolet Impala sedan began rolling down Oshawa production lines yesterday. Arriving in showrooms later this month, the completely redesigned tenth generation of the sedan has a list price of only $28,445, only $145 more than it's predecessor. The newcomer is gifted with the latest version of Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. For the first time at Chevrolet, natural voice recognition is offered through the entertainment system, which also features an 8 inch customizable colour screen. Several other features that are normally only found in more luxurious cars can be found in the 2014 Impala. It's adaptive cruise control automatically adjusts the distance between the car and the vehicle ahead if it is travelling slower than the speed set, averting possible rear end collisions.

Wonder Woman SUV Joins Kia's Superhero Line-Up

Furthering the trend of co-branding vehicles with fashion houses, magazines and automotive icons, a few months ago Kia embarked on the most ambitious marketing relationship yet- DC Comics! Last week, the company showed off the 7th member of it's superhero line-up with the Wonder Woman themed Kia Sportage SUV. Unveiled last week at the New York auto show, the flashily designed Sportage was inspired by super heroine Wonder Woman, and even comes with her tiara. In tribute to Wonder Woman, the Sportage comes complete with an aero kit, and a colour scheme to match her costume- red and blue exterior complete with stars and gold trim to represent the super heroine's Lasso of Truth. The tiger nose grille is integrated with Wonder Woman's eagle chest plate emblem, and it is flanked by a pair of blue headlights, to mirror her blue eyes. Chrome side panels invoke her invisible jet, a windshield banner her tiara and five spoke wheels her stars.

Mitsubishi iMiev, Outlander PHEV Battery Overheating

Mitsubishi is reporting some serious problems with the lithium ion batteries that the company uses in their iMiEV and Outlander vehicles. The company said this week that an i-MiEV's batteries caught on fire during testing at the company's Mizushima Plant, while the batteries in an Outlander plug-in hybrid melted at a dealership, prior to delivery to a customer. In both instances, the battery packs were made by Japan based GS Yuasa Corporation. Adding fuel to the fire is that GS Yuasa Corp is also the battery supplier for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, all of which have been grounded due to battery fires since January. They also make battery packs for Honda's Civic HV and the Accord PHEV. Honda says that they have not received any reports of battery incidents.

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