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.
As we had long expected, Chevrolet will soon launch a version of its Cruze sedan powered by a diesel engine. The Cruze diesel will debut in 2013, but that’s about all we know so far. Chevrolet says it’s too early to say what engine will be used or what kind of fuel-economy ratings it might return. In Europe, the Cruze is offered with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder, producing either 127 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, or 163 hp and 265 lb-ft depending on trim. We’d wager one of those engines will migrate to the American Cruze.
Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that the 2012 SLK55 AMG will get a new, normally aspirated 5.5-liter V-8 engine. Though it based on twin-turbocharged AMG engines, the new M152 V-8 produces 415 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque without the benefit of forced induction. Those figures represent an improvement of 60 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque over the last AMG-fettled SLK. Better yet, the new SLK55 is slated to be more fuel efficient than before because the V-8 can shut down two or four cylinders in order to save fuel. The 2012 SLK55 AMG debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
Fiat S.p.A. is now the majority shareholder of Chrysler Group. The Italian automaker paid $625 million to secured the U.S.’s six-percent share and Canada’s 1.5-percent stake in Chrysler. Another 41.5 percent of Chrysler shares are held by the United Auto Workers’ VEBA retiree health trust; Fiat could potentially buy this share and become the sole owner of Chrysler Group.
Nissan has hiked the price of its all-electric Leaf for the 2012 model year by $2000. That means the car now starts at $36,050, including an $820 destination charge and before any applicable tax credits. The price bump reflects an addition of more standard features, including a heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats, and a battery warmer. Sales of the Leaf will also expand through the southeastern U.S., with buyers in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C now eligible to buy an electric Nissan.
New data from the Highway Loss Data Institute reveal that active collision-avoidance systems can reduce vehicle accidents by up to 25 percent. The study specifically praised Volvo’s City Safety feature, which can avoid low-speed collisions by automatically braking the vehicle. As proof, the HLDI notes that the Volvo XC60, which has City Safety as standard, logged 22-percent fewer collision claims and 51-percent fewer bodily-injury insurances than comparable midsize SUVs. The bottom line? The numbers show that automatic braking systems are helping avoid car accidents and are reducing their severity. City Safety is now also standard on the 2012 Volvo S60, S80, and XC70.
Owners of the BMW 335i and 335i xDrive sedans can now get an additional 20 hp from their cars’ turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engines. The new BMW Performance Edition package retunes the engine computer to produce 320 hp, along with 317 lb-ft of torque for cars with manual transmissions and 332 lb-ft for those with automatics. Stock output ratings are 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. The $550 package also includes black kidney grille inserts and a Performance Edition badge. From this August, BMW will also make the kit available as a retrofit to current owners of the 335i and 135i.
Don’t even think about trying to outrun these police cars: Italy’s military police, the Arma dei Carabinieri, recently took delivery of two Lotus Evora S police cars. The cars will be based in Rome and Milan, and are fitted with a special refrigerated compartment to facilitate high-speed delivery of donated organs or blood. And high-speed won’t be a problem, as the Evora S packs a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 with 345 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 0-to-60-mph sprint takes just 4.6 seconds and the cars can manage 172 mph, according to Lotus.
United Auto Workers President Bob King says that his union won’t take any concessions when it has to renegotiate labor contracts with Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford. King reportedly doesn’t want workers to accept any concessions in base pay or healthcare packages from Detroit’s Big Three automakers. King also said that the UAW is courting foreign automakers with factories in the U.S. The first of these could be Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Although southern states have traditionally been anti-union, King believes UAW expansion into these areas is critical for the union’s survival.
First Drives: 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8, 2012 Scion iQ
This week we drove two drastically different new vehicles. The 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 is Dodge’s latest take on the classic rear-drive, high-horsepower muscle sedan. With a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 pushing 470 hp to the rear wheels, it’s sure to elicit a smile. In addition to straight-line blasts, sporty chassis tuning means the Charger SRT8 feels equally at home on a winding race track. For a more leisurely driving experience, we spent some time with the 2012 Scion iQ. Claimed to be the world’s smallest four-seat car, the iQ neatly packages four seats into a three-door hatchback that is shorter than the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500. Despite the petite dimensions, the iQ provides a perfectly acceptable driving experience and can be slotted into the tiniest of parallel-parking spaces.
- NASCAR Nationwide Series, Federated Auto Parts 300, Nashville Superspeedway, Saturday July 23 at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN
- Indycar, Rexall Edmonton Indy, Edmonton, Sunday July 24 at 2:00 p.m. EST on Versus
- Formula 1, German Grand Prix, Nürburgring, Sunday July 24 at 8:00 a.m. EST on FOX