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2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS (Porsche)
2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS (Porsche)

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Fastest, priciest Porsche coming to Canada Add to ...

The most powerful Porsche ever and the priciest variant of the 911 will arrive in Canada this fall, and the numbers are both jaw dropping: 620 hp, for $297,000. Called the 911 GT2 RS, it is the successor to the GT2, and it claims the highest top speed of any prior production Porsche, as well as the fastest time around the hallowed Nürburgring circuit.

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In terms of power for the dollar, the GT2 RS is actually "reasonably" priced, if one can say that about any six-figure car. Especially when you consider that Porsche's last record-breaking car in power and price, the mid-engine, race car-based 2007 Carrera GT, offered 605 hp for a Swiss bank account-punishing $445,000 - and priced only in U.S. funds.

On the other hand, the GT2 RS doesn't look much different than the standard 450 hp 911 Turbo, which starts at a much more reasonable (in supercar terms) $165,300. Porsche-philes will note some new carbon-fibre bits, unique centre-locking wheels, and wider front fenders and tires.

Acceleration from rest to 100 km/h in the rear-wheel drive GT2 RS is stunning (3.5 seconds), but essentially equal to the standard all-wheel drive Turbo coupe (3.6 for 6-speed manual, 3.4 with PDK and launch control engaged). When pointed out to a Porsche rep that perhaps the GT2 RS should be notably quicker than its less pricey Turbo variants, he argued that the rear-drive setup doesn't allow for as much instant acceleration hookup, plus the seven-speed PDK shift paddles can shift faster than a person can.

He pointed instead to the GT2 RS model's Nürburgring-Nordschleife time of 7 minutes and 18 seconds, or about 20 seconds faster than a latest generation 911 Turbo, helped by those wider tires, standard carbon ceramic brakes, and extra 170 hp. Its top track speed is said to be 330 km/h, again faster than the Carrera GT. It is slated to make its public debut at the Moscow auto show in late August, and arrive in Canada in very limited numbers starting in October.

Ford C-Max hybrids announced for Europe in 2013

The compact Ford mini-minivan coming to North America by the end of next year will offer hybrid versions by 2013 as well, at least to European customers.

Ford confirmed this week that both plug-in hybrid as well as regular fill and go gas-electric hybrids will be offered on the Continent that year, in five-seat versions of the C-Max, a Mazda5-sized compact car with a tall roof and sliding rear doors. Ford has confirmed that the seven-seat extended C-Max will also be sold in North America, with vehicles coming from the same plant in Valencia, Spain starting in late 2011, but hasn't confirmed that the hybrid version will make it here.

However, the signs look promising, if you look closely into Ford's announcement of the hybrid models recently in Valencia.

"These new advanced technology models are key to Ford's commitment to delivering a portfolio of alternative powertrain vehicles globally and to European customers in the next few years," said John Fleming, Chairman and CEO, Ford of Europe and executive vice president of global manufacturing.

With the Mazda5 North America's only other sliding-door equipped compact minivan rival, it appears that Ford is waiting to see its sales reception here in North America before committing to selling lower volume and pricier hybrid versions too. Ford has previously confirmed that an unspecified plug-in hybrid would be built at its Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, where its compact Focus will be built starting next year for the 2012 model launch, including a battery electric (BEV) version.

Lexus GX 460 'Do not buy' CR safety warning dropped

After Consumer Reports slapped its dreaded "Do not Buy: Safety risk" rating on the newly introduced 2010 Lexus GX 460 mid-size SUV, parent company Toyota has quickly upgraded the stability control system's software, leading CR to drop the designation late last week.

Toyota briefly stopped selling Lexus GX 460 models to address a safety concern that the influential magazine discovered in its tests for fish-tailing in emergency manoeuvres, or "lift-throttle oversteer," as performance driving schools and racers call it. The SUV's back wheels were found to slide out dangerously in turns where the driver let off the gas abruptly, a condition that Toyota was able to repeat upon its own further tests.

The GX comes standard with electronic stability control (called VSC by Lexus) which is designed to prevent this by braking individual wheels and cutting power if needed. While the system engaged in time to prevent a spin, it activated too late to prevent the rear wheels from sliding, CR found. This is a particular risk in taller vehicles, as it could lead to a rollover if the sliding wheels struck a curb or pothole, said CR, although the magazine made clear it did not know of any injuries resulting from the condition.

The "Do not buy" rating was dropped after the Lexus GX 460 was returned to the Lexus dealer where it had been bought anonymously by the magazine, and the quickly distributed VSC upgrade prevented the same condition from recurring on subsequent tests.

Desrosiers predicts higher incentives may be coming to Canada

More lucrative and widespread rebates on new cars may be coming to Canada later this year, predicted auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers, even though new car buyers in April already enjoyed all-time record levels of incentive spending by many auto makers last month.

Looking at a projected annualized sales pace of about 1.5 million vehicles in Canada now, based on the past six months of Canadian new vehicle sales, DesRosiers found that this total figure is lower than what some auto makers had predicted the overall market to be, and therefore some companies may have to aggressively market their cars if the overall sales pie doesn't grow substantially. DesRosiers admits that rosier sales numbers are still a possibility, but he sees a four per cent gain last month as ominous, since that was in the throes of the bankruptcy proceedings of GM and Chrysler.

"If there isn't a huge spike in sales later this year - still very possible - there is going to be a war between certain competitors for market share with devastating impact on (profit) margins," he wrote in a recent note to clients.

Aston Martin Vantage V12 coming to North America

After stuffing its most powerful DBS-derived V12 engine in Aston Martin's smallest product for European customers as of last year, the independent boutique auto maker will bring the model to North America by the end of this year.

Remarkably, the monstrous 5.9-litre hp V12 will not even be detuned from its 510 hp output in the top-line Aston Martin DBS for use in its smaller brother. This will result in a 4.2 second 0-100 km/h time, and a 305 km/h top speed, says Aston Martin, the British luxury marque known for its alluring shapes and James Bond association.

Sales are to begin by the fourth quarter of 2010, and will include a Carbon Black model with black wheels and paint.

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