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 for your convenience.
Our spy photographers once again managed to snap the next Chevrolet Corvette testing, this time on a test track in Michigan. The C7 Corvette is expected to debut in early 2013 as a 2014 model, most likely at January’s Detroit auto show. Even though it’s covered in camouflage, the car’s basic shape is easy to discern. Like the current C6, the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette has a long, low, and wide hood with fenders than protrude upward. The car’s “egg-crate” front grille is clearly visible at the front, while the rear shows off rectangular taillights similar to those on the Chevrolet Camaro and Malibu. We believe the 2014 Corvette will use General Motors’ next-generation small-block V-8. The direct-injection mill will probably displace 5.5 liters and produce about 440 hp. On top of that, the car will switch from its current six-speed transmissions to a seven-speed manual and eight-speed automatic, updates that should improve acceleration and fuel economy. Expect more official news on the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette over the coming months.
It may look like any other Ford F-150, but the pickup truck we spotted this week is actually a prototype for the next-generation 2015 F-150. Moreover, plenty of evidence points to the fact that the truck is used to test out aluminum body parts that would help Ford shaved all-important pounds, increasing the popular truck’s fuel economy. It’s still unclear exactly which parts would be made for aluminum, but F-150 fuel economy is key to Ford meeting future Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers. With 408,656 F-Series trucks sold so far this year, the model is twice as popular as the Ford Fusion sedan. In other words, Ford needs strong fuel economy from its top-selling product if the company hopes to meet or exceed increasingly stringent emissions regulations.
Porsche is ready to demonstrate that diesel engines and performance cars need not be contradictory ideas. The company this week unveiled the Cayenne S Diesel in Europe, which has a gutsy twin-turbo 4.2-liter V-8 engine. Peak outputs are 381 hp and an incredible 627 lb-ft of torque — enough, Porsche says, to rocket the SUV to 62 mph in 5.7 seconds. That’s only one-tenth of a second slower than a gas-powered Cayenne S. Better still, Porsche says the Cayenne S Diesel returns the equivalent of 28 mpg on the European test cycle. Bear in mind that the U.S.-market, 240-hp Cayenne Diesel returns 29 mpg on the highway, and it’s clear Porsche has found a great balance between performance and economy. But here’s the downside: only European customers will be privy to the new Porsche Cayenne S Diesel.
As expected, the long list of improvements to the latest sports car wearing the Viper name have resulted in a higher sticker price. The 2013 SRT Viper coupe will start at $99,390, a figure that includes a $1995 destination fee. That nets buyers a no-frills, no-nonsense performance car with manually adjusted cloth seats as standard. The optional Touring package adds goodies like a cup holder, a backup camera, and navigation. All those features are standard on the 2013 SRT Viper GTS, pushing its price tag up to $122,390. The car also includes as standard a 12-speaker audio system, better sound insulation, power Nappa leather seats, two-mode adaptive suspension, and four-mode stability control. Think those prices are tough to swallow? The EPA hasn’t yet produced fuel-economy figures for the SRT Viper, and the car might attract an additional gas-guzzler tax on top of the aforementioned price tags.
This year, Fiat will fix one of the 500′s biggest shortcomings: despite its small stature and tiny engine, the Italian-bred subcompact didn’t achieve the new benchmark of 40 mpg on the highway. To tackle this, Fiat has endowed manual-transmission models of the 2013 500 with a slightly taller fifth gear ratio, making for lower engine RPMs and higher fuel economy on the highway. The car’s second-gear ratio also has been altered to improve acceleration. As a result, the 2013 Fiat 500 and 500c are rated at 30/40 mpg (city/highway), up from 30/38 mpg previously.
Honda revealed pricing for the all-new 2013 Accord sedan and coupe, and the new model unsurprisingly is a tiny bit more expensive than the outgoing Accord. The 2013 Honda Accord sedan, equipped with a 2.4-liter inline-four engine good for 185-189 hp, starts at $22,470 (after destination) in LX trim with a manual transmission. Upgrading to the Sport trim requires $24,180, while the Accord EX sedan is $25,395 with a manual transmission. Opting for a continuously variable transmission on any of those cars requires an extra $800. The Accord V-6 sedan starts at $30,860. As to two-door versions, the four-cylinder-powered LX-S coupe starts at $24,140, while the cheapest V-6 coupe is $31,140.
Just how much will buyers pay for the newest British luxury SUV? Land Rover announced that its 2013 Range Rover will start at $83,500 (after destination) when it goes on sale here this winter. The top-of-the-range Autobiography will ring in at $130,950 — although Land Rover declined to specify prices for models in between those two extremes. Either way, the stickers represent modest increases compared to the 2012 Range Rover. That’s understandable considering the innovation in the new SU, including aluminum monocoque and suspension components that reduce weight by as much as 39 percent, and a switch to more efficient eight-speed automatic transmissions.
First Drives: 2013 Honda Accord, 2013 SRT Viper
Could there have been two more different cars? First, we drove the 2013 SRT Viper and found that it’s a far more refined sports car than ever before. The new 640-hp, 8.4-liter V-10 engine still makes for a wild, fast car — but the SRT Viper feels tamer on the track and easier to live with than the unruly Dodge Vipers of the past two decades. Not only will that appease Viper faithful, but SRT also hopes the newfound civility will interest new conquest buyers to the 2013 Viper. Meanwhile, the 2013 Honda Accord has managed to climb back toward the top of the midsize sedan heap. Compared to previous generations, the 2013 Honda Accord has a much nicer interior, is better to drive, and has made huge leaps in fuel economy. We even drove the 2014 Accord plug-in hybrid, which accelerates quite slowly but returns excellent fuel economy. The hybrid’s highlight, however, is the smoothest transition between regenerative and friction braking of any hybrid we’ve driven.