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.
Porsche is using the Beijing Motor Show to add yet another model to its lineup, this time a version of the Cayenne SUV. The 2013 Cayenne GTS slots between the Cayenne S and Turbo models, with a 4.8-liter V-8 engine providing 420 hp and enabling a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.4 seconds.The GTS wears the more aggressive body kit of the Cayenne Turbo, but is essentially based on the Cayenne S, albeit with its suspension riding 0.8 inch lower. Pricing also fits in between the S and Turbo models: the 2013 Cayenne GTS will start at $83,025 when it goes on sale here in August.
At least one person was injured Wednesday when a battery exploded at a General Motors test facility in Warren, Michigan. The battery was reportedly a prototype undergoing extreme testing, and wasn’t related to the Chevrolet Volt or any other current GM production car. The building was evacuated and all employees were accounted for. Five employees were evaluated by medical personnel, and one employee was said to be receiving further medical care.
It may wear a poorly fitting Alfa Romeo body, but this test mule is the next Jeep Liberty. It will ride on the same Compact U.S. Wide platform that debuts with the 2013 Dodge Dart sedan, and based on these spy photos, may use some sort of turbocharged engine. Despite the car-chassis roots, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has promised the new Liberty will be “A trail-rated, full-blooded Jeep.” It goes into production in Toledo, Ohio, in 2013, and will likely debut as a 2014 model.
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage has been updated for 2012, with a variety of tweaks that are supposed to make the car even better to drive. The changes start with a new “Sportshift II” automated manual transmission, with seven speeds and programming meant to reduce shift times. The steering rack is quicker, the brakes larger, the tires wider, and the front splitter mildly restyled. The ferocious 510-hp V12 Vantage is pretty much unchanged, continuing with its 6.0-liter V-12.
It’s not often that Mercedes updates its old-school G-Class, and the updates applied to the SUV for 2013 are pretty subtle. Visual changes are limited to LED running lights and a new fascia for AMG models, while the interior scores new instruments, a restyled center stack, and a leather-wrapped dashboard. The base model here will continue to be the G550, the 5.5-liter V-8 engine of which now makes 388 hp instead of 382. The G63 AMG replaces the old G55, and has a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 with 544 hp. Sadly but sensibly, the 603-hp V-12-powered G65 AMG won’t be sold on our shores.
Porsche has already been working to revamp its lineup, and over the next three years that work will continue. By 2016, the entire range will be new. Later this year Porsche will unveil the new Cayman, which is just a coupe version of the new Boxster. We’ll also see a revised Panamera for 2013, the chief change being visual updates to make the sedan more attractive. There also will be a long-wheelbase Panamera (for China), plus a potential four-seat convertible and a shooting brake. The 918 Spydersupercar is still under development, as is the Macan crossover and an eventual two-door Macan. There will be a racy four-door coupe version of the Cayenne SUV (think BMW X6 competitor), as well as a new 960 coupe powered by a V-8 engine. More immediately, expect several more variants of the new 991-generation 911, including a Targa, lightweight Clubsport, Turbo, Turbo S, GT2 RS, and a GT3 model with a dual-clutch transmission.
Toyota plans to bring hybrid power to Le Mans with its TS030 race car, but unfortunately the racer will miss its first outing at the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 5. A crash during testing destroyed the car’s carbon-fiber monocoque, and Toyota doesn’t have any spares. By the time a replacement is prepared and tested, it will be too late for the TS030 to compete. Toyota Racing is now working to procure a new monocoque in time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in June.
Porsche has purchased the Nardo test track in Italy. The famous test facility features a 3.9-mile handling course, off-roading areas, and so on, but is best known for its 7.8-mile banked track. It’s on this track that many automakers test the top speeds of their cars: the Koenigsegg CCR reached 241 mph at Nardo, briefly becoming the world’s fastest production car until the Bugatti Veyron stole the crown. Porsche AG CEO Matthias Muller says that Nardo “ideally complements our facilities in Weissach,” referring to its test facility outside Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche also notes that Nardo’s mild weather ensures that engineers can evaluate cars on the track year round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There are plenty of customers who don’t want a minivan and don’t want a regular crossover. For those buyers, the four luxury three-row crossovers in our comparison test are a perfect fit. Each model proved able to meet customers’ needs with practicality, style, comfort, and even some fun on-road performance, but one car stood above them all. We picked the Acura MDX as our favorite of these crossovers because of how well it blends usability, style, and sportiness.
As the numbers at gas stations creep higher and alarmist TV anchors instill fear of $5-a-gallon gasoline, many customers might want to turn to cars like the Mazda 3. Equipped with a new powertrain combination called SkyActiv, the 2012 Mazda 3 returns far better fuel economy than in previous years — up to 40 mpg in sedans and 39 mpg for the hatchback. Fortunately, in squeezing more miles out of each gallon of gas, Mazda hasn’t squeezed the fun from the 3. It remains one of the more entertaining compact cars on the market, with competent steering, a lively chassis, and an excellent driving position.