As is fast becoming custom, there were a number of high-dollar performance, concept and luxury vehicles that debuted in and around the August Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – including a new edition of the SRT Viper GTS, BMW Zagato Roadster and McLaren X-1.
Chrysler’s Viper GTS sported its new Launch Edition blue and white-stripe colours, a paint scheme that makes the reborn Viper GTS look even more similar to its Dodge Viper GTS coupe predecessor than before. The mighty all-aluminum, 8.4-litre V-10 engine also returns from the Viper’s brief hiatus, but this time with stability control, ABS and launch control, all in an effort to help rein in its mountainous 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, which Chrysler says is the most powerful of any non-turbocharged sports car engine in the world.
No word yet on pricing, but the Viper’s set to arrive in dealers by the end of 2012, just in time to plant its massive rubber mitts into the snow.
BMW showed off a convertible version of the Zagato coupe it had displayed a few months earlier on the shores of Lake Cuomo in Italy at the Villa d’Este Concours, going from coupe to this elegant one-off Z4-based concept in a mere six weeks. Leather-encased roll bars and Zagato’s signature double-bubble theme roof signature is reflected in its rear body work, top up or down. No word yet on whether this or the comely two-seat two-door will actually ever be offered for sale, as it’s officially still a design exercise.
McLaren, on the other hand, showed that it can challenge Ferrari in its ability to modify great-looking sports cars into personalized monstrosities. The Judge Dredd-worthy X-1 it concocted as a one-off model for a client of the firm’s bespoke McLaren Special Operations division features an exterior design based on a design chosen as the winner of a competition between McLaren’s design team and some outside non-automotive designers. The contest was eventually won by McLaren’s Hong Yeo.
Using the admirable bones of McLaren’s MP4-12C, the X-1 covers its rear wheels in original Honda Insight fashion, which may look better in person, once the details such as solid aluminum machined brightwork and deep black carbon fibre body panels can be appreciated close up.
Fiat 500 Turbo on the way
A new turbocharged Fiat 500 will land between the base three-door hatchback and the performance-oriented Abarth by this fall, called simply, the 500 Turbo. Using a 135 hp version of the same 1.4-litre turbo four available in the Abarth, the new Fiat is set to arrive this fall with handling, sound system and subtle styling upgrades that also give Fiat’s little hatchback an added punch of fun.
The $24,000 Abarth will still have 25 more horses under the hood and 170 lb-ft of torque, compared to the new 500 Turbo’s 150 lb-ft. But with a starting price set at $20,995, Chrysler calls it one of the least expensive vehicles on the market to offer turbocharged performance – along with the similarly powerful Chevrolet Sonic hatchback, both of which start at less than the turbocharged version of the Mini Cooper’s S models.
The Fiat Turbo’s manual transmission is a five-speed unit, a lift-gate spoiler is added to more easily distinguish it as a Turbo, and it will have an audio system upgraded to a Beats by Dr. Dre set-up.
Jaguar to offer AWD, V-6and turbo four
British car maker Jaguar will radically expand its powertrain offerings for 2013, bringing V-6 and turbocharged four-cylinder engines to its luxury sedans, and will also offer all-wheel drive on its two four-doors as well.
This means that Jaguar is no longer stuck offering only different versions of its strong but thirsty 5.0-litre V-8, in various states of natural aspiration and supercharged tune. In fact, it looks like the XF will no longer offer a V-8 at all, save the performance-oriented XFR M5-fighter.
The brand will also update the mid-size XF and full-size XJ models to include auto start/stop and an eight-speed automatic, both of which should reduce fuel consumption significantly from the prior V-8 six-speed automatic drivetrain. Now XF buyers will have the ability to choose a turbocharged-four similar to the one in the popular Land Rover Evoque, or a supercharged 340 hp V-6 that replaces the naturally aspirated V-8.
This supercharged V-6 will also pair up with a new all-wheel drive system that Jaguar dealers and potential buyers in snowy areas will be happy to see, with rival luxury auto makers in Canada boasting up to 70 per cent or more of total sales as all-wheel drive models.
Pricing hasn’t been released yet for 2013 Canadian XF models, but the XJ will start at $89,000 for an AWD V-6 model, on up to $128,500, while the revised-in-2012 XK two-door models will range from $98,625 to $146,000, before the $1,350 freight charge.
Fisker dumps Canadian CEO for ex-Chevy Volt exec
After only five months leading Fisker Automotive, Canadian and former Chrysler boss Tom LaSorda was replaced as CEO of the company by Tony Posawatz, the former chief engineer of the Chevrolet Volt and one of its most public advocates while at General Motors.
He will put all that plug-in experience to good use at Fisker, which is battling a number of quality issues on its sultry but so-far problematic Karma sedan. Those quality issues have led to multiple recalls, the most recent last week after at least two reported fires, the most recent being traced back to an overheated cooling fan. Fisker was quick to point out that the fire was not caused by the plug-in hybrid’s sizable lithium-ion battery, nor any related components.
Auto consulting firm IHS said in a report released this week that Posawatz will help with the development of its planned second car, the Atlantic, as well as in resolving the issues cropping up in the Karma. But Fisker will miss LaSorda’s experience in manufacturing, labour and supplier relations, and organizational abilities, concluded senior analyst Aaron Bragman, solving some of Fisker’s problems but potentially creating a new ones in the process. The Karma is built under contract in Finland, but the company was supposed to start tooling up for the development of a former GM plant in Wilmington, Del., though that company growth has ceased as Fisker’s government funding has been frozen while the U.S. Department of Energy takes a closer look at the company’s business plan.
“To replace LaSorda after just five months is astonishing, especially since much is left undone in terms of the company’s status with regards to its Delaware plant,” said the report. “The appointment of Posawatz is one Fisker really needed to make before putting the Karma into production; the late timing of the appointment is somewhat alarming.”
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