All of its rivals have a head start. Some are already in their second-generation models. But from the What the Heck Took So Long department, it looks like Toyota’s premium Lexus brand has finally decided to jump into the exploding small SUV/crossover market.A report from Automotive News says Lexus will unveil a concept of a new compact crossover at this fall’s Tokyo auto show, followed by the unveiling of the production version at the 2014 Geneva show, next March. The new-for-Lexus luxury cute-ute should then go on-sale in late-2014 as a 2015 model.
At this year’s New York auto show, spanking-new, gasoline-electric hybrids are still popping up on a regular basis. But as an alterative for automakers to meet ever-tightening fuel economy standards, good old-fashion diesels seem to making a comeback.
While Europeans long ago jumped on the diesel bandwagon (I mean who wouldn’t want a powerplant that offers a longer driving range, 25 to 30 per cent better fuel economy in the city and on the highway and more torque than a gas engine), North Americans (for various reasons, from General Motors’ dreadful diesels in the 1980s to the lack of availability at gas pumps) have been more reluctant.
By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
And the Ganassi Racing powerhouse wins once again. The undisputed heavyweight champion of the Grand-Am sports-car world put on a clinic of hard and clean driving, working your plan and the benefits of intense pre-race preparation. When the team's lead car crossed the finish line at 3:30 pm local time at Daytona International Speedway, it cemented its reputation as the winningest team in decades. This year's Daytona 24 win was CGR's fifth out of 10 attempts, and lead driver Scott Pruett's fifth overall victory, a feat that ties him with legendary Porsche driver Hurley Haywood.
Pruett's Daytona teammate Juan Pablo Montoya was tasked with bringing the 01 BMW-powered Riley home during the final stint, and did so despite mounting pressure from second-placed Max Angelelli in a Corvette DP. Montoya's gap over Angellelli was about 22 seconds at the end of 24 hours (plus one lap) of racing, which is pretty impressive, although other years have been one by significantly less time. The defending champs from Shank Racing fielded the same five-driver lineup as last year, but suffered a broken suspension piece early in the race and went seven laps down trying to fix it. In the end, they fought back to third place, but obviously without the mechanical issues would have been right into the mix with their Ford-powered Riley.
In GT, Porsche had dominated in qualifying taking the top-four spots on the grid, but by the end of 24 brutal hours, couldn't place higher than fifth... Audi took a one-two victory with its more-generously-supported R8's, a first for the manufacturer in Grand-Am. It might have been a podium sweep for Audi had the Rum Bum Racing R8 not run out of gas late in the race. That gave the Toronto-based AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 with Emil Assentato, Nick Longhi, Anthony Lazzaro and Canadian Mark Wilkins a well-deserved podium place.
The new GX class for more experimental and environmentally friendly racecars basically saw a trio of well-proven Porsche Caymans outlast the three brand-new never-raced Mazda6 SKYACTIV entries. The Mazda's 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engines were a first in Grand-Am, but proved fragile over the race. Mazda says it planned the Rolex 24 to be one giant test and the car can only improve from here.
Another Porsche legend David Donahue was the lead driver on the GX-class-winner Cayman from Napleton Racing, while Vancouver-based Bullet Racing with Canucks Darryl O’Young and Karl Thomson finished second.
Plenty of other Canadians in the race, including Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani, James Hinchcliffe, Sylvain Tremblay, David Empringham, Michael Valiante, Dave Lacey, JF Dumoulin and Paul Dalla Lana.
There seemed to be fewer yellow-flag periods because of silly driving this year and more from general wear-and-tear or unproven parts. However, moving into morning, a giant bank of fog hit the track, forcing the race to run under yellow for around 90 minutes until conditions improved.
For full results, check out the Grand-Am page.
Anyone else watch the race? Enjoyable? I can't wait to see how it'll shake out with the additional cars in the merged ALMS/Grand-Am series.
Photos courtesy Grand-Am.
By Greg Migliore, AutoWeek
Audi is upping the SUV ante at the Detroit auto show with a muscle-bound, all-wheeling machine, the 2014 SQ5.
This is the first Audi ute to get S treatment in the United States. It packs a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 pumping out 354 hp and 347 lb-ft. That prodigious output enables a sprint to 62 mph in 5.3 seconds en route to a top speed of 155 mph.
Jim Motavalli, AutoWeek
Who would have thought it: After decades of resistance, Americans are starting to realize that today's smooth-running, fuel-efficient diesel cars bear little resemblance to the smelly, polluting slowpokes of old. According to recent sales information, clean diesel sales have jumped more than 25 percent so far in 2012. In October alone, they were up 21 per cent over the same month a year earlier. CNW Research of Brandon, Ore., reports the number of consumers considering diesels rose from 13 percent in 2006 to 28 percent in 2011.
So what happened to the diesel? It's fair to say that it cleaned up its act. Since 2007, new diesels have had to run on ultra-low-sulfur fuel (ULSD). It's a dramatic environmental change. According to the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance, switching to ULSD will have the same effect as “removing the pollution from more than 90 percent of today's trucks and buses, when the current heavy-duty vehicle fleet has been completely replaced in 2030.”
Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, says that today's entries “meet the same stringent standards as hybrids or other passenger cars. There's no longer a question as to whether diesel is a clean technology.”
By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
Billed as motorsport's answer to an All-Star game, the Race of Champions is an annual racing extravaganza that pits top drivers and titlists from all corners of the globe against each other. This year is extra special since it's the ROC's 25th anniversary, and the event is making its first trip to Thailand, using the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok as a temporary track.
The ROC format is pretty simple: drivers race each other in identical cars around a mirrored track that includes a couple crossovers. Whoever beats the other to the line wins and it's best two out of three. The vehicles this year include some regulars, like the specially built ROC 'buggy' and KTM X-Bow, and newcomers like the Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo, Toyota GT86 (our Scion FR-S) and a NASCAR-esque "Euro-racecar."
There are 12 invited drivers that are joined by few more local heros who can get to the ROC by winning a pre-qualifying event... The Saturday features the Nations Cup where drivers are split off into teams based on their country/region while Sunday is simply every driver for themselves.
Some of the heavyweights included this year include Formula 1 champions like Sebastien Vettel, Micheal Schumacher, Le Mans legends like Tom Kristensen, rally stars like Sebastien Ogier, and IndyCar champ Ryan Hunter-Reay...
While live television coverage can be iffy to find, the online Drive Channel will be covering both Saturday and Sunday starting at 7 p.m. eastern time both days.
By Diana T. Kurylko, AutoWeek
Audi will begin offering 3.0-liter V6 diesel engines in the A8, A7 and A6 cars and the Q5 crossover beginning next year.
The four TDI diesel-equipped models will make their debuts next week at the Los Angeles auto show. Audi already offers a diesel powerplant in the Q7 crossover but the 2013 model features an updated engine. The A3 TDI has been dropped but will return with the launch of the redesigned A3 in early 2014.
Audi said the diesel models will have 30 percent improved fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions than comparable gasoline engines.
By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
Bruno Spengler, a Canuck open-wheel and touring car racer living in Europe, finally won the German Touring Car (DTM) Championship after seven years of trying. Spengler also helped BMW win its first title in its return to the series after a couple decades off...
Going into the race, Spengler was in second place with a good shot at beating Mercedes-Benz' Gary Paffett, who'd led the championship from the season's opening round. But in the end, Spengler just out-performed Paffet over the last six races of the year, including the season finale at Hockenheim that the Canadian won.
For Spengler, the title finally means his personal monkey is off his back; two or three times at his previous team, Mercedes-Benz, he was runner up to other drivers. Bridesmaid, and all that. No more.
“To be honest, I still really don’t know how or what I should feel,"Spengler said. "I am still at sixes and sevens and can hardly believe what has happened. I am just proud to be the first DTM champion for BMW after the big comeback. This is a dream come true for me. I have come close to winning the Drivers’ Championship a few times already, but it never worked out. And then I win the title in my first season with BMW. That is simply unbelievable. We have made motorsport history with this triumph. It will probably take me a few days to fully grasp what BMW Team Schnitzer and the entire BMW Motorsport team have achieved this season.”
By John LeBlanc for MSN Autos Canada
PARIS – Based on the number of electric-powered concepts that debuted here at this year’s Mondial de l'Automobile 2012 — a.k.a. the Paris Motor Show — you would think the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine was as dead as silent movies. Mercedes-Benz alone showed-off three EV's: the compact B-Class Electric Drive, the SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive super car and the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive city car. The question is: Who is going to buy them?