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Porsche's pricey new hybrid: only $845,000

Porsche 918 Spyder


The upcoming 2014 918 Spyder Hybrid will be Porsche's priciest model; the company has started taking orders for the car, at a price of $845,000 (U.S.).

Only 918 Spyder Hybrids will be built. Each will produce at least 718 net horsepower, Porsche confirmed this week: at least 500 horses from its 4.0-litre or higher V-8 engine, then another 218 ponies courtesy of two electric motors that will help accelerate it in anger mode from 0-100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, or less, up to a top speed of at least 320 km/h.

The electric motors will also allow the Spyder Hybrid to creep along electrically at lower speeds, and return fuel economy figures of 3.0 litres/100 km in European testing, or lower than a current Toyota Prius, the most fuel-efficient car sold in Canada.

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While the first 918s aren't expected to arrive in Canada until the end of 2013, those dropping fat deposits on the 918 can also order special 911 Turbo S "Edition 918 Spyder" models, which have the 918 Spyder name emblazoned on the door sills and the same colour treatments, to tide them over.

New guidelines released for child car seats

Parents should keep their children in rear-facing car seats, harness seats and booster seats for as long as possible to maximize safety, says a study released this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a move quickly supported by revised safety guidelines in the United States.

The children's doctors' group concluded that babies and young children should be kept in rear-facing child seats until two years of age, or right up until a child reaches the maximum height and weight for the seat. The previous policy suggested a child should be a minimum of one year old before being placed in a forward-facing harness seat, but that minimum age requirement has been removed because researchers have found the rear-facing seats to be safer overall in a crash.

"Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage to the next, but these transitions should generally be delayed until they're necessary, when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage," said Dr. Dennis Durbin, lead author of the policy statement.

With rear-facing seats, there are generally two types - the infant-only seats that often have a removable "basket" that can be removed with the child and locks into place, as well as the "convertible" seats, which can be used forward and backward, and generally have higher weight and height limits.

The AAP's findings therefore suggest you shouldn't be in a rush to put that snazzy new car seat in facing forward. Safety-focused parents should also compare height and weight limits when car seat shopping.

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"A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body," Durbin said. "For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly."

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also updated its child seat guidelines this week to closely conform to the AAP's revised recommendations. NHTSA advises that one- to three-year-olds should ride as long as possible in a rear-facing seat, and that four- to seven-year-olds remain in harnessed child seats until they outgrow the weight capacity or height of the seat (when there's an inch or less of room from the top of the seat to the top of the child's head).

The two groups also suggest that children aged eight to 12 continue to use booster seats, right up until the regular three-point belt fits them properly: lower lap belt over the upper thighs, not stomach, higher shoulder belt running between the shoulder and chest, not face or neck.

Most kids will need a booster until they reach a height of 4-foot-9 (1.45 m), usually between eight and 12 years old, Durbin says.

Canada won't get Murano two-door convertible

The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet two-door convertible is not coming to Canada, after Nissan Canada looked at it and said no thanks.

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The fabric drop-top Murano is headed to the U.S. only, Nissan officials confirmed this week, where the company is hoping to market it as an alternative to upscale convertibles and SUVs such as the 3-Series convertible and the Cambridge-built Lexus RX350 crossover.

The Murano convertible will be available there starting in April, its-near $50,000 (U.S.) price tag the most likely reason for its non-appearance here, although Ian Forsyth, Nissan Canada director of corporate planning and business strategy, said it will keep an eye out for proof that there may be demand for it here.

"We will continue to assess the opportunity and success in the U.S. market to see if there is evidence to support a change in our position," he said in an e-mail.

This U.S.-only product goes against the trend of globalizing vehicles for various world markets, suggesting that the quirky/risk-taking side of Nissan that produced the funky Pulsar/NX models of the mid-1980s and 1990s still beats strongly in the Nissan-Renault era. Indeed, perhaps more than ever, as seen most dramatically with this Murano coupe/convertible/crossover category-buster, but also the slab-sided Cube and insect-faced Juke.

Speaking of the Juke, the mini-ute is Nissan's rival to the Mazda3 Sport hatchback and Toyota Matrix, according to Forsythe. So don't expect a Canada-only version of the Nissan Note hatchback sold in Europe, arguing it is a taller hatchback version of the Versa.

But he did note that a business case can be made for certain Canada-only vehicles, as Nissan did with the X-Trail small SUV for many years, though it costs as much to certify a car in Canada as in the U.S., making it prohibitively expensive on a per unit basis.

GM shows details of all-new Colorado 'concept'

General Motors has released shots and details of the replacement for its mid-size Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck, dubbing it the Colorado Show Truck, while admitting that it previews the next-generation version of the production hauler.

The Colorado concept will be officially unveiled to the public and press at the Bangkok auto show in Thailand, where it will go on sale later this year, and likely in other countries as well. The Thai truck features a turbo-diesel 2.8-litre engine and a high-riding, all-wheel drive chassis.

Ironically, GM is showing the next Colorado just as it has suspended North American production of the current Colorado/GMC Canyon twins.

Jim Gillette, a parts analyst with IHS Automotive, told The Associated Press that GM may have enough parts but is choosing to use them for vehicles that are more popular and more profitable, judging by the swiftness with which it closed the small truck's Shreveport, Louisiana, assembly plant, and this week the Tonawanda plant near Buffalo, N.Y., that supplies engines for the trucks.

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