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.
This week we announced five awards, starting with Automobile of the Year. We picked the Tesla Model S not just because it’s an electric car, and not simply because it’s a luxurious car, but for the way it demonstrates how a Silicon Valley start-up has created a world-class car. The Model S impressed us with its solid build quality, long real-world driving range, and effortless (and BMW M5-equalling) acceleration.
Design editor Robert Cumberford greatly admired the 1993 Porsche Boxster concept, but found the subsequent production models far less attractive. So it’s telling that this year he named the new PorscheBoxster our Design of the Year, thanks to a host of subtle revisions that improve the roadster’s proportions. Credit Porsche design chief Michael Mauer, who has “brought the Porsche design team into a realm it had never before occupied, with pure style and pure functionality fused in products of exceptional elegance.”
Chrysler once seemed beyond saving, but today the automaker is profitable, has launched a range of great new products, and has posted thirty consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases. Much of that success can be attributed to the actions of CEO Sergio Marchionne, also head of Europe’s Fiat, who has guided Chrysler from bankruptcy and bailout to being able to pay back government loans. Even though Fiat is struggling in Europe, Marchionne has proven himself a shrewd businessman capable of keeping car companies on the right financial track.
We haven’t named a Racing Car of the Year for some time, but the Nissan DeltaWing project was so revolutionary that we decided to resurrect the award. It may not have won a single race so far, but we think the DeltaWing could easily be named Racing Car of the Decade. Designer Ben Bowlby has created a small, nimble racing platform that has proven dramatically more fuel-efficient than traditional Le Mans prototypes — while still delivering solid on-track performance. It may look weird, but the DeltaWing may render an entire generation of racing cars obsolete.”
Cameras have been available in cars for years, but this year we recognized the technology because it is starting to become more prevalent on affordable, everyday cars. The cameras themselves may be less powerful than the ones in your cellphone, but the software behind them has the capability to improve driving and prevent accidents. Whether it’s watching for children behind a parked car, warning of vehicles in a blind spot, or monitoring lane markers in case the driver veers off course, in-car cameras are proving they have untold numbers of applications that could save lives.
The 2012 Honda Civic had a lukewarm reception due its perceived cost-cutting, so Honda is in a rush to launch an updated version. As our spy photos show, the car benefits from tweaked fascias and sheetmetal, including revised taillights, a new front fascia and grille that ape the front of the 2013 Accord, new wheels, and a redesigned trunk lid. No major powertrain revisions are expected, although at some point in the future we hear that a new version of Honda’s IMA system will be added to the Civic hybrid, and non-hybrid models may eventually add direct-injection engines. We expect the 2012 Honda Civic will bow at the L.A. auto show later this month.
Hyundai and Kia admitted this week that they will lower the fuel-economy ratings of about 900,000 cars, after determining that the companies’ internal fuel-economy tests didn’t match the tests required by the EPA. That means seven different 2013 Hyundai models and different 2013 Kia models will see their ratings drop by anywhere from one to six mpg. To make amends to consumers, the automakers will mail debit cards that cover the approximate cost of fuel based on the difference between the original and new MPG ratings for each car.
This week’s SEMA show gave us a chance to admire (and sometimes cringe at) the wide range of tuned, tweaked, and modified vehicles on display at the annual Las Vegas show. We picked through the long list of entrants to select our ten favorite new cars on display at the 2012 SEMA show. Some, like the Chevrolet Camaro Hot Wheels Edition, are destined for showrooms, while others, like the wild Ford Cobra Jet Twin-Turbo concept, are merely meant for automakers and aftermarket tuners to show off their wrenching skills.
A new version of the Subaru Forester will make its debut later this month at the L.A. auto show. Subaru revealed photos of the 2014 Forester, which adopts more mature body lines, a grille shared with the new Impreza, and a slightly larger body. The company promises more interior and cargo room, better on-road suspension manners, and better fuel economy. The base engine remains a 170-hp, 2.5-liter flat-four engine, while the upgrade powertrain is a new turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four with 250 hp. Look for the 2014 Subaru Forester to reach showrooms by spring 2013.
First Drives: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover, 2013 Toyota Avalon
This week we headed to rain-drenched Morocco to evaluate the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover. The new luxury SUV proved just as capable as ever of tackling sand dunes, mud, and steep inclines as we trekked across rough terrain in Morocco. And keeping up with the other half of its promise, the new Range Rover kept occupants comfortable, entertained, and ensconced in such luxury that we could easily imagine luxury sedan owners abandoning their cars for this fancy SUV. We also got behind the wheel of the 2013 Toyota Avalon and Avalon hybrid, both of which prove far more interesting and exciting than the previous Avalon. The V-6-powered model is quick but not a sporty car, while the Avalon hybrid impresses with strong fuel economy and the ability to drive on electrical power alone at low speeds.