Monday, January 24, 2011

GM Researching Passenger Car Diesel, Mid-size Pickup, Minivan

Now the GM is past the bankruptcy distraction, it appears that management is back to investigating segments that a new, leaner GM can be competitive in.

Before his sudden departure last year, GM boss Ed Whitacre asked the product team to look into a new minivan offering (possibly based on a stretched version of the next Opel Zafira (current generation pictured here), as well as a replacement for the outgoing Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-sized pickups.

On the powertrain front, GM is back to looking at a diesel engine for passenger cars (a technology that should offer hybrid-like mileage numbers without the extra complexity of multiple power sources and complex transmissions.

If any of these projects is close to getting a green light, expect a concept previewing the segment or technology to show up during the coming months' auto shows.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Could Be a Buick?!

Now that we've seen Buick go all the way down-market with their Delta-based Verano compact sedan (Delta is the chassis we see under cars as varried as the Chevy Volt, Cruze, the not for sale in the US Orlando, and the Opel Astra) - is it only a matter of time before the sportiest of Astra's makes its way across the pond?

What you see here is the Opel GTC 'concept' which is a thinly veiled version of the 3-door Astra that will go on sale soon.

Picture this with a variation of the Verano's waterfall grill and you might imagine this being a sporty coupe that would serve to get those younger buyers Buick is craving into the showrooms.

This could be a worthy little brother to the Regal coupe we keep hearing rumors is on its way to Buick as well.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lotus Debuts 2015 Elise

Yeah, seems a bit early to show a 2015 model to us as well.

In Paris, Lotus showed off their entire upcoming line - as much to telegraph the vision they have for themselves as a company as anything else.

Of interest to most Lotus-philes is the new Elise - the replacement for the core of their current line.

What we've been shown now is a brand new styling theme for the brand (less cosmic insect, more sophisticated sports car contender) - but also that even the super-lightweight Elise will end up putting on almost 20% more weight...likely so the interior appointments can stack up to buyer expectations (while disappointing the folks who like to see no-frills structural members as 'styling' elements).  It remains to be seen how this affects overall dynamics of the car and its appeal to the core Lotus demographic.

Power will come from a 2.0l four with 316hp.

Sales should begin as early as 2014 for likely a bit more money than you'd plunk down on a current generation car (and if you prefer yours with no-frills - get 'em while they still make 'em).

Lotus Shows Off a Smart Done Right

One major criticism of the Smart ForTwo is that for a roller-skate of a car, it doesn't really deliver the high-economy numbers you might expect...well that and a driving experience that falls seriously flat (in no small part due to its poorly developed automated manual transmission).

Lotus looks to resolve all of these issues with a concept they are calling the City Car.  It has the standard microcar 2-seat configuration, but packs a Chevy Volt-like series hybrid powertrain.  Range on electric only is projected at 37 miles with a 3-cylinder range extender, developed by Lotus, providing electricity from that point on.

Differentiating the City Car from other offerings in this segment are Lotus styling - with a wide and aggressive stance, as well as a 4-seat configuration (trumping the Smart's 4 and the 3-ish seats of the Toyota/Scion iQ)

Expect the City Car to hit the streets in 2013.  Availability in the US is anyone's guess - though tighter CAFE requirements likely make it a sure thing.

Performance is on par in the segment with 0-60 times of about 9 seconds and a range of over 300 miles.

If this allows Lotus to maintain some independence and continue to produce their wonderful line of sports cars - bring it on.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mazda shows off Minagi Concept

Mazda is showing the second concept of their new Kodo design language - or as you might want to consider it...the CX-5 crossover.

While we've known for a while that a smaller than CX-7 was on its way, we had to guess at how it would look.

The Minagi concept, shown in sketch form here, is way too production ready to be anything other than a thinly-veiled preview of that car - likely to go on sale in under a year.

It shows that the new design language for Mazda is much easier to swallow and won't be prone to the previous language's overly-happy criticism.

Mazda Mulling Options for next RX

Rumors abound of what Mazda plans for its next flagship sportscar.

Most rumors center on Mazda dropping the 4-seat, 4-ish door model of the current RX-8 - while leaving the people's sportscar duties to the new, lighter MX-5.

What we are hearing runs from the new model being badged RX-9 (though a 2-seater could likely bring back the storied RX-7 moniker just as easily).

Expectations are that the 1.6l version of the rotary that was shown recently by Mazda would help give the new RX additional torque.  Direct injection is likely.  Turbocharging is a possibility (with some rumors of an electrically driven turbo being tossed around - this uses an electrically driven turbine to replace the the normal exhaust-driven setup and giving even more low-speed response...further reducing the need to visit high-rpm and further improving fuel consumption).

Expect a production model to hit in 2013 as a 2014...unless technical challenges prove too much for even the rotary's lone champion to resolve.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Porsche Green-Lights 918 Spyder

Porsche has announced that the 918 Spyder hybrid sportscar has been approved for production.

Packing a 3.4l V-8 and an electric motor at each axle, the 918 takes the brands flagship position vacated a few years ago by the Carrera GT.  Expected to be limited production, the car will showcase the engineering prowess of the Porsche brand and establish them as a leader in hybrid technologies that will trickle into the rest of the line during the next decade or so.

Expect a total output of over 700hp and a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds when the car hits production in a few years.

Source: DailyTech