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.
Chevrolet has released teaser photos of the two new cars that will grace its New York auto show stand: the 2013 Traverse and the 2014 Impala. The Traverse crossover will be refreshed, and its updates will likely mirror those of platform-mates Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. Expect a new grille, some freshened interior trim, and perhaps more tech upgrades. The 2013 Traverse also gains the unique front-center airbag that is now available on the Enclave and Acadia. As for the 2014 Impala, it will be an all-new version of Chevrolet’s full-size sedan. Not much is known about the model so far, though we expect it to be built on a lengthened version of the platform that underpins the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. The next-generation Impala will be built in Oshawa, Ontario, and Hamtramck, Detroit. Both new Chevrolets will be revealed in early April in New York.
The long-awaited Scion FR-S sports coupe has been given an official price tag: $24,930 including destination with a manual transmission, or $26,030 with an automatic transmission. In addition, the FR-S comes with Scion Service Boost, a free-of-charge service plan that covers all normal factory-scheduled maintenance for either two years or 25,000 miles. If we haven’t yet beaten the specs of the rear-wheel-drive FR-S into your head, allow us to recap that the car was jointly designing by Subaru (as the BRZ) and Toyota (as the GT86 and Scion FR-S). It has a new 2.0-liter Boxer-four engine producing 200 hp and 151 lb-ft, a center of gravity that is lower than that of many other sports cars, and a 2+2 coupe design. The car goes on sale at the roughly 1000 Scion dealers nationwide later this year.
Chevrolet has made a six-speed automatic transmission optional on models of the Sonic equipped with a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine. The engine, which previously was only offered with a manual transmission, produces 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. With the automatic, it returns 27/37 mpg (city/highway). The Sonic’s base 1.8-liter engine, by contrast, offers 138 hp and 125 lb-ft, and only returns 25/35 mpg with an automatic transmission. Opting for the new automatic on Sonic turbo models will cost an extra $440 for LT trim levels, and an extra $630 for LTZ trims.
Mercedes-Benz will launch the 2013 GLK-Class crossover at the New York auto show, and claims there are nearly 1000 new components in this year of the model. The main changes comprise a new face, with revised grille and fascia; as well as a new liftgate that adopts LED taillights and a new chrome skid plate. Inside, the transmission shifter moves to the steering column to create space for two cupholders beneath a retractable cover, while the dashboard air vents change from rectangles to elegant turbine-design circles.The GLK350′s 3.5-liter V-6 receives more power, with outputs climbing from 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to 302 hp and 273 lb-ft. Also, in early 2013 Mercedes will launch a GLK250 BlueTec diesel model in the U.S. It will have a turbodiesel 2.1-liter inline-four with 190 hp and 369 lb-ft.
The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek makes its official U.S. debut at the New York auto show — although eagle-eyed readers will recall that the car bowed at last year’s Frankfurt show, and we even got to drive the car in December 2011. The XV Crosstrek is essentially a taller, more rugged Impreza that is designed to serve as a small crossover in the Subaru lineup. It is powered by a 2.0-liter boxer-four engine and has standard all-wheel drive. Raised suspension gives the XV Crosstrek 8.7 inches of ground clearance, while black linings for the fenders and side sills help make the crossover more rugged for mild off-roading. The Subaru XV Crosstrek goes on sale this fall.
Oops: BMW has been forced to lower the fuel-efficiency ratings of its new 328i sedan. BMW had originally said the car, which uses a new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine, would return 24/36 mpg (city/highway) with an automatic transmission, but the EPA says the car returned only 23/33 mpg in its testing. Models with the six-speed manual transmission didn’t have their ratings revised, and continue at 23/34 mpg.A BMW representation told us that although the company had already tested the 328i’s fuel economy internally, the EPA decided to validate the car and came up with different test numbers. BMW can’t appeal the figures until the 2013 model year.
We’ve already heard that Chrysler is investigating nine-speed automatic transmissions for front-wheel-drive cars, and now it seems Honda is following suit. A source told us that Honda plans to adopt a ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic by 2014, which is said to improve fuel economy by as much as 14 percent. We expect the transmission will appear in heavier and pricier Honda models, like the Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV, as well as luxury division Acura’s MDX SUV and TL sedan.
In response to complaints that the 120-volt power cord that comes with the Volt was overheating and occasionally even melting, Chevrolet will allow owners to “trade in” their power cord for a new, redesigned one. All unsold models of the Volt will henceforth come with the updated cable, while existing Volt owners will receive a letter informing them that they can trade for a new, more durable charging cord at their local Chevrolet dealer. At the same time they grab the new power cord, buyers also could take advantage of an update meant to better protect the Chevrolet Volt’s battery from damage during accidents. Such damage was linked to a slight risk of battery fires.
We drove a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe on snow around the Teton Mountains to see how well the car’s newly available 4Matic all-wheel-drive system coped with slippery conditions. We found the C350 4Matric pleasingly confident in snow and slush, which should make the car a comfort to buyers who live in northern parts of the country. Adding all-wheel drive hasn’t significantly altered the driving dynamics or fuel economy of the C350 coupe, either. We also drove the 2012 Subaru Impreza, which has been updated to make Subaru’s least-expensive car considerably better to drive. The new 2.0-liter flat-four engine helps bump fuel economy up to as much as 36 mpg, without sacrificing performance. Along with a new exterior design and a revamped interior, we think the changes for 2012 make the Subaru Impreza even more appealing. Finally, we were able to drive the 2013 Subaru BRZ on public roads in France, having already sampled the car on a track in Japan. In something of a surprising move, Subaru has built a sports car — the BRZ has low, supportive seats, a very low center of gravity, and delightful handling. The 2.0-liter Boxer engine also proves eager to rev, and produces an excellent gritty engine note under hard acceleration.