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.
It didn’t take long after the announcement of the 2014 Chevrolet SS for our spy photographers to catch a prototype car in the act. Seen here is an early example of the new rear-wheel-drive performance sedan at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Michigan. Despite the heavy camouflage, it appears this car is a Holden VF Commodore wearing Chevrolet body parts. The Commode was the Australian progenitor of the Pontiac G8, and it looks like this Australian-American mule presages the 2014 Chevrolet SS. The new SS sedan is expected to reach dealerships here by late 2013.
Lexus has been busy revamping its lineup, and these shots from our spy shooter lend credence to the idea that the LS flagship is next on the brand’s refresh schedule. It’s no surprise that the spindle grille treatment seen on other new Lexus models has made an appearance on this camouflaged car. We also spy LED headlights, the L-shaped LED running lights familiar to other Lexus products, and a new lower fascia with redesigned air intakes. The rest of the car’s shape looks to be a lither, more slimmed-down version of the current LS luxury sedan. We expect the new model to ride on an evolution of the current LS platform, with an updated version of the current 4.6-liter V-8 engine.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has revealed several dramatic product strategies for the coming months, including replacing the Chrysler Town & Country minivan with a crossover. As we reported in our July 2012 issue, the Dodge Grand Caravan will live on as the only Pentastar-built minivan, while the Town & Country is reborn as a shapely, upscale crossover that could resemble the Mercedes-Benz R-Class. Also on the table: killing off the Jeep Compass and Patriot. The compact SUVs will live on through August 2014, by which time Chrysler will have decided which of “a number of candidates” will replace the models.
Mercedes confirmed at the Beijing Motor Show that its stylish Concept Style Coupe would become the CLA-Class, and now we’ve gotten an early peek at the CLA on the road. Styled like a “baby” Mercedes CLS-Class, the CLA rides on the same front-wheel-drive MFA platform as the new A- and B-Class. This prototype hews closely to the concept car, retaining its coupe-like silhouette, blunt nose, oversized grille, triangular taillights, and frameless windows. Powertrain choices could range from small gas and diesel turbo-fours, to a hybrid setup and even a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain. The CLA will go into production this year at Mercedes’ new factory in Hungary.
For the first time in the luxury SUV’s history, Mercedes has launched an AMG version of the GL-Class. The GL63 AMG uses the twin-turbo, 5.5-liter V-8 engine familiar from other new AMG products, in this case producing 550 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. That enables a 0-to-60-mph sprint of 4.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155 mph. Like other GL-Class models, the GL63 AMG has 4Matic all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission. Unlike the other models, the GL63 rides on unique 21-inch wheels, wears flared fenders, and has interior touches like a flat-bottom steering wheel and stainless-steel pedals. The Mercedes ML63 AMG goes on sale in the U.S. in early 2013.
What’s next for Porsche? After the Macan small SUV, the German automaker is set to take on the Mercedes CLS-Class with a smaller sedan tentatively called the Pajun. It would be a smaller, more attractive version of the Panamera, and probably would go on sale in 2016 or 2017. Porsche will likely build two versions, an attractive five-door coupé-style, and a slightly more practical shooting brake. The Pajun would use exclusively V-6 engines, ranging from a 260-hp diesel all the way to a 420-hp unit in the Pajun Turbo S. And reports suggest there could even be a 520-hp turbocharged model in the future. Launching this car would help Porsche with its goal of ramping up global sales dramatically, potentially to 200,000 cars per year.
Porsche has announced a new version of the 2012 911, and it won’t just be exclusive because of its high price. No, the 911 Club Coupe will only be offered to members of the Porsche Club — and even then there’s no guarantee of owning one. Thirteen examples are being built, of which one will be kept in the Porsche Museum. For a chance to own one of the remaining 12, owners must put their names in an online lottery and hope they get picked. The reward for that tribulation? A 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S coupe upgraded from 400 hp to 430 hp, and fitted with the Sport Design Package, 20-inch Sport Techno wheels, and a new shade of Brewster Green paint.
This weekend, Detroit will host the IndyCar Belle Isle Grand Prix, representing the city’s first auto race since 2008. The race will be paced by two Chevrolet sports cars: a 2013 Camaro ZL1 will be on duty for the Saturday Grand-Am race, while a 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible will paced the Sunday afternoon IndyCar race. Both cars are plenty powerful to set a healthy pace for the race cars: recall that the Camaro ZL1 has a 580-horsepower supercharged LSA V-8 engine, while the Corvette 427 has the 7.0-liter, 505-horsepower V-8 engine from the Z06 coupe, making it Chevrolet’s fastest Corvette convertible yet.
First Drives: 2013 BMW 640i Grand Coupe, 2013 Cadillac XTS, 2013 Lexus ES
This week we were fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of three new luxury cars, each from a different manufacturer. The 2013 BMW 640i Grand Coupe is essentially a sexier version of a BMW 5 Series, with a curved roofline and a slightly more constrained interior. The four-door coupe is significantly pricier than either a 5 Series sedan or 6 Series coupe, but the Grand Coupe compensates by providing plenty of style, equipment, and a gorgeous interior. Aside from a rough ride caused by stiff suspension and big wheels, the 640i Grand Coupe is an impressive luxury machine. The 2013 Cadillac XTS is the latest volley in Cadillac’s quest to become an even more successful luxury brand. The front- or all-wheel-drive sedan is big, comfortable, handsome, and surprisingly good to drive. A solid touch-screen infotainment system, active safety technology, and the best Cadillac interior in years round out the new XTS. The 2013 Lexus ES is an important vehicle, as it is the most popular Lexus. The new model is now based on the Toyota Avalon, rather than the Camry, making it slightly bigger and allowing for more interior room. More important still, the 2013 ES becomes more exciting because it has the creased, defined design trend that started with the 2013 Lexus GS, as well as sportier steering and a responsive 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The new ES300h hybrid is less satisfying to drive, but boasts stronger fuel economy to the tune of 40/39 mpg (city/highway).