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.
Audi has revealed that the A5 and S5 coupes and convertibles will undergo mild visual tweaks for the 2013 model years. New fascias and lighting elements headline the changes, with minor trim revisions for the cars’ interiors. Additionally, the S5 coupe ditches its 354-hp 4.2-liter V-8 engine in favor of the 333-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 used by the S5 cabriolet. All A5/S5 models switch to electric power steering and get new optional safety tech like active lane assist and attention assist. The refreshed cars bow at the Frankfurt Motor Show this fall and go on sale in the U.S. in summer 2012.
The Street and Racing Technology (SRT) group has a new batch of vehicles, and we now know how much it will cost to get a 470-hp, 6.4-liter dose of Hemi V-8. The 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 starts at $46,660, including an $825 destination charge, while the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 will start at $47,995. The 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 rings in at $44,077, and the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 stickers for $55,645.
This BMW 5 Series sedan spied on a California highway wore a big “HYBRID” sticker on the trunk and a unique front fascia. It is likely a mule for the upcoming 5 Series ActiveHybrid, which will join the X6 and 7 Series in offering hybrid technology from BMW. A 5 Series hybrid concept bowed at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show with BMW’s N55 engine, a single-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six producing 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It was coupled to a 40-kW electric motor/generator and an eight-speed automatic transmission. When the car debuts, it is expected to be 10 percent more fuel-efficient than a comparable BMW 535i sedan.
Think that Americans will forever shun hatchbacks? Don’t count on it. Ford says half of all new Fiesta buyers opt for the hatchback version, while 41 percent of Focus buyers pick the five-door. Those numbers hold true for other models: Hyundai says that 40 percent of Accent sales are hatchbacks. In fact, nearly every compact car on the market offers both a traditional sedan and five-door variation, giving buyers the flexibility to choose which body style suits them best. And if enthusiasts like us have anything to do with it, even more of them will continue buying hatchbacks.
We caught the Mercedes-Benz B-Class hatchback testing on American highways — even though the car isn’t official headed for this market. Whether it was here for testing purposes or otherwise, seeing the B-Class here gives us a sliver more hope the hatch will come to America. It is based on the same Mercedes Front Architecture chassis as the new A-Class, which will debut here sometime after its European launch in late 2012.
The official Jeep-issued kit to convert your Wrangler Unlimited into a pickup truck will cost just $5499. The JK-8 kit is on sale at any Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, or Ram dealership. The dealer can perform the installation, or skilled wrenchers can opt to try the cutting and hacking themselves. Either way, the extensive modifications required mean that the JK-8 transformation cannot easily be reversed — so think carefully being converting your prized Wrangler Unlimited.
There’s a new Lexus product being tested on Germany’s Nürburgring, and it’s not the LFA supercar. It appears the new GS sedan is undergoing some development work on the ‘Ring. It looks like the new car will wear a sportier look than the current model, with larger air intakes, lower bodywork, and LED running lights. The basic styling premise was previewed by the Lexus LF-Gh concept that went on display at the New York auto show.
About a year after Detroit, Michigan news channel Fox 2 spotted Chrysler employees drinking during their lunch break, Chrysler workers are once again in hot water. Fox 2 cameras once again found evidence of workers drinking and smoking marijuana before working at Chrysler’s Trenton Engine Plant. The factory builds Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Chrysler executives said that would take appropriate disciplinary action against any employees imbibing before working on the assembly line.
First Drives: 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan, 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo, 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
This week we got behind the wheel of three high-performance machines and one economy car. The 2012 Nissan Versa sedan plays on its high fuel-economy ratings and low base price, but it’s not a very satisfying car. This one is best for the buyer who wants a new car but can’t spend too much. The Volkswagen GTI generously lends its 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine to the 2012 Beetle Turbo. The sportiest Beetle is thus quick and good to drive, just like an equivalent GTI. The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 packs massive Hemi-powered grunt and can defy physics on entering corners. Better still, it finally has enough on-road refinement to make the Grand Cherokee SRT8 an appealing choice. Finally, we got to wring out the 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG in Europe. The new twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission deliver serious acceleration and a burbling exhaust note.
- NASCAR Nationwide Series, New Hampshire 200, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Saturday July 16 at 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN
- NASCAR Sprint Cup, Lenox Industrial Tools 301, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday July 17 at 1 p.m. EST on TNT