Posts Tagged ‘ILX’


When you visit your Acura dealer (if you can find one) to test the new Acura ILX, just don’t say any word that starts with an I and ends with an A. They are very sensitive about past history.

2013 Acura ILX 5-speed Automatic in Silver Moon

An example of the most-stolen 1994 Acura Integra. Love the headlights!

It’s been six long years since Acura offered an entry level vehicle based on the Honda Civic. The Acura Integra (damn, there’s that I-word) and its successor, the RSX, achieved almost mythical status as an entry level sports luxury coupe (and sedan) with exemplary front-drive handling characteristics. In fact, in the latest Insurance Industry statistics, the 1994 Acura Integra holds the esteemed number eight position on the most stolen list. It was that popular!

Enthusiasts are still wounded over the unceremonious demise of the Integra/RSX’s. The Acura brand found itself in crisis after a widely-panned styling gamble and mixed messages about its place in the crowded luxury car field.  Customers stayed away in droves and Acura fell off many shopping lists.

After the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the equally crushing criticism of the ninth generation Civic, Honda was a company in crisis, battered into a corner, bruised and bleeding. The 2012 Civic, introduced shortly after the earthquake, is an all-important model for Honda. It was widely-panned for its lack of inspirational design and warmed-over technology.

The styling of the Acura ZDX never caught on and its price (base $47,015, loaded with the Technology and Advanced Package, $57,565) scared off many buyers.

The NSX was Acura’s halo car for 15 years. This beautiful 2005 model still looked fresh; but Acura simply dropped the ball on its successor. We won’t see a new NSX for another two or three years.

Acura, Honda’s luxury division, was also in trouble. Its flagship RL sedan, introduced in 2005 with a mild refresh in 2009, flopped from day one. The odd BMW X6-like and expensive ZDX SUV remains unknown to most consumers. The beloved and the sublime NSX sports car wore Acura’s halo for its 15 year run; but Acura never planned for its replacement and it disappeared from showrooms in 2005. In short, Acura, the first Japanese luxury brand introduced in the United States, has been adrift in brand wilderness for a while now.

The 2012 Acura TL is a very nice Honda Accord

The 2012 Acura MDX is very popular. It’s based on the Honda Pilot

Before the new ILX, Acura relied on two models to keep the ship afloat. The TL is a dressed-up Honda Accord stuffed with extra luxury touches and the option of a trick “super-handling” all-wheel drive system. The MDX, a traditional luxury SUV also bristling with technology and luxury features, is based on the Honda Pilot and has been a solid seller since its introduction.

Starting at just $25,900, the ILX, the smallest Acura, is an excellent upgrade to its Honda Civic cousin. The base ILX 5-Speed Automatic is outfitted with Honda’s 2.0L i-VTEC four making 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque – an upgrade over the Civic’s 1.8L mill. Honda’s ubiquitous 5-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportsShift is the only transmission. I doubt it will set the performance world on fire; but it will likely be the volume leader. It was also the only model that wasn’t available to drive at the Acura ILX All Access Ride & Drive Event I attended in a parking lot across from the Staples Center.

The Acura ILX All Access Ride & Drive Event was held in a parking lot across from Staples Center. In this picture, both Hybrid and 6MT models await drivers for the cross-town drive portion of the event.

The Acura magic wand also means that the cheap, nasty, hard plastic interior panels and surfaces that offended drivers of the Civic have been banished in favor of upgraded softer and textured materials that feel and look upscale. In addition, a heavy dollop of soundproofing isolates the cabin from outside road noise.

The interior of the 2013 Acura ILX is a much more inviting place than its Honda Civic cousin. Hard plastic surfaces have been banished in favor of soft-touch and textured materials.

The 2012 Audi A3 Sportsback doesn’t come to mind when I think about the 2013 Acura ILX. Sorry, Acura.

Acura would like us to believe that the sole competitor to the new ILX is the Audi A3 Sportsback.  Really? The A3 is more expensive and its excellent German engineering coupled with superb, class-leading interior craftsmanship don’t spring to my mind when I look at the ILX – not to mention that the A3 is a wagon and the ILX is only available as a sedan.

The 2012 Buick Verano is a nice small, upscale near-luxury sedan – exactly what I equate with the 2013 Acura ILX.

To me, the closest competition in price and luxury features would be the new Buick Verano. But Acura doesn’t want its customers to associate Buick with Acura.  Buick is an “old man’s” car, right? Well, yes, sort of, but Buick is desperately trying to change that image and Acura is desperately avoiding any suggestion that it’s anything other than a sporty youth-oriented brand.

My first drive was the ILX 6MT featuring the entertaining drivetrain lifted directly out of the Civic Si. It features a 2.4L naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine making 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque married to Honda’s exemplary close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission.

The 2013 Acura ILX MT6. It uses the excellent powertrain from the 2012 Honda Civic Si. The sweet 2.4L four cylinder engine is only offered with the 6-speed manual transmission. This will severely limit sales as most people want an automatic. It will, however, satisfy some enthusiasts.

We had our safety rules for the closed course portion of the Acura ILX All Access Event. This was the starting point, from inside a tent.

Honda estimates that the 6MT model with standard Premium Package ($29,200) will account for only 5% of ILX sales. If Acura dropped the 5-speed Sequential SportsShift automatic from the TSX (which uses the same 2.4L engine) into the sporty ILX it may get more sales from drivers wanting a bit more than 150 ponies under the hood. I’m not holding my breath.

I had forgotten just how excellent the Civic Si was and I was happily reminded with the ILX 6MT. Honda’s close-ratio row-it-yourself 6-speed gearbox is polished perfection. Our ten minute on-road course took us on the surface streets around Staples Center. The clutch was so creamy, linear and easy that you could drive it on a daily basis in LA with little distress to your clutch foot. The car never bucked on gear uptakes and I didn’t stall it once.

The food in the lounge/food tent was pretty good. Overall it was a nice setup.

The slalom course included lane change, an NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) test and potholes.

The little steering wheel felt just right in my hands and the electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion power steering provided sufficient feedback and on-center accuracy. It cuts a tight turning circle too. The happy revs, variable-ratio EPS and well-sprung and dampened 4-wheel independent suspension chassis meshed effortlessly for lighthearted entertainment if not blistering speed. It even performed well in our off-street mini-slalom/NVH course.

My second drive was the ILX Hybrid that comes standard with the Premium Package. If you believe the EPA estimates, the Hybrid should get around 38 mpg, no matter where you drive. Assuming normal driving, you’re likely to get closer to 35 mpg. The extra weight on the ILX accounts for the reduction in fuel economy from the Civic Hybrid which is rated at 44 mpg.

The Hybrid’s drivetrain is identical to the drivetrain in the Civic Hybrid: A 1.5L four-cylinder 110 hp gas engine coupled with Honda’s Eco Assist system which includes a 23 hp permanent magnet electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the continuously-variable transmission. The new-generation Civic/ILX Hybrids use a 20 Kw lithium-ion battery pack.

As long as the green ball in the middle of the dash display stays green and grows, the car is happy. Any sudden moves on the accelerator are greeted with disapproval from both the shrinking, yellowing ball display and the whining CVT. It’s not going to win any races, but the people who buy this car don’t care.

2013 Acura ILX Hybrid in Silver Moon

The ILX Hybrid with the Technology Package and shipping is a whopping $35,295. The Civic Hybrid with all the goodies is about $6,500 cheaper. I’m not sure Hybrid buyers will drop the extra dough for the Acura upgrade and extra features.

The ILX Premium Package is a must-have and it’s standard on all but the base ILX. It includes perforated, heated, 8-way power leather-trimmed sports seats, a multi-view rear camera and dual-zone automatic climate control – goodies you’ll never find on Honda Civic. At 6’1”, I was able to find a comfortable seating position in the ILX – something that never happened with the Civic.

The ILX 6MT interior, with the Premium Package, shows the nice sports, power perforated leather seats. Cup holders are large and should suit American tastes.

The Technology Package is the top trim level for all ILX and encompasses all the tech-geek features we have come to expect from Acura: Acura’s excellent satellite-linked navigation with Real-Time Traffic and Weather; An Acura/ELS sound system with more speakers (10 not 7), more watts (415 not 360) and a 15 GB media storage hard drive good for storing up to 3,500 songs. Acura’s voice recognition system is better than others.

Acura steps things up in the Tech Package with a Pandora internet radio interface, USB audio cord and Bluetooth 2.0 streaming audio as well as hands-free mobile phone functions. The big new feature is the SMS text message function which reads incoming texts aloud and lets you verbally respond from a list of pre-programmed responses: “I’m running late, the 405 is a parking lot” or “Call me you idiot, I’m driving.”

The Technology Package trim level adds a terrific sound system, navigation, text-to-voice and many other goodies. Notice the red pushbutton start in the lower left corner. It’s standard on every ILX.

All this great technology and yet HomeLink, the decades-old nifty feature that allows you to control gates and garage doors with a built-in interface, is nowhere to be found. Not even as a dealer accessory. I just shake my head.

A keyless entry and pushbutton ignition system is standard across the ILX range. The key fob is small and slim – something I wish every manufacturer would adopt. If you have a keyless system, why does the fob have to be big? A big fob may work well when lost inside a woman’s purse, but doesn’t do wonders in pants pockets.

The brushed chrome “beak” of the new ILX gives it a nice edge and I think the new sheet metal is handsome. If only the Honda Civic looked this good!

The ILX carries the latest softened version of Acura’s bold front beak/blade look. I rather like the handsome, if conservative looks and think it’s a good entry-level product for Acura. If you yearned for a Honda Civic with better styling, respectable interior plastics, a longer warranty and a host of luxury features, look no further than the ILX.  If you were looking for another Integra, check out the ILX 6MT. It’s not the “I-word” and it’s not a coupe, but it’s sure an impressive upgrade to the Civic Si sedan.


The 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicked off Monday with a slew of new, exciting products.

GM, Ford and Chrysler came on strong with some exciting new designs that are sure to be a hit in the market. Nissan and Porsche returned to the show after being absent during some of the dark years of the recession.  The all-new Mercedes-Benz SL made its world debut, VW showed off some cool green concepts and the all-new, all-important BMW 3-Series made its North  American debut.

I sifted through the deluge of information from Day 1 and below are the ones I found most interesting and/or important.

Acura:

Honda’s mild-luxury division is back in the chair for another round of hair and makeup.  The current TSX, a slightly restyled Euro Accord, is gone in favor of an all-new ILX sedan based on the new generation Honda Civic.  Acura thinks that the ILX will nail Gen Y who demand something better (and better-looking) than a Civic.  Priced under $30,000, the ILX will be available with three powertrains, just like the Civic:  A 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to an automatic (hopefully 6-speed); the hybrid system out of the Civic Hybrid – a 1.5L gas engine with Integrated Motor Assist, and the 2.4L 4-cylinder Civic Si engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. If you think it looks like the outgoing TSX, join the club.

2013 Acura ILX. I wish Acura would ditch the beak.

The 2013 Acura ILX looks a bit better from the rear, but not by much.

Not satisfied with one new product, Acura showed the all-new RDX, based on the new Honda CR-V. This time around, thankfully, Honda ditched the laggy turbo four, 5-speed automatic and expensive SH-AWD in favor of Honda’s 3.5L 273 hp V6, a six-speed automatic and the simpler and lighter AWD system found in the CR-V.  The Acura beak is still there, but to my eye, this “concept” (which is production ready) looks a bit dull and sad. I don’t see anything that will make it stand out in the crowd of smaller CUVs.

2013 Acura RDX - Concept - although we understand it's pretty close to the production version.

The interior of the 2013 Acura is handsome; however, it's not too much different from the outgoing TSX - which has a similar interior.

The real news is the long-awaited return of the Acura NSX super car.  This time around, Acura is aiming high. As high as the upcoming Porsche 918 Hybrid and the Audi R8.  The  NSX is to be designed in the US and built in Honda’s Ohio plant.  The details released are the stuff of boy-racer dreams.   It will have Honda’s first Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.   A next-generation 3.5L V6 engine will add direct injection and be good for at least 308 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. It will be mated to a dual-clutch automatic with a built-in electric motor driving the rear wheels.  In addition, a pair of electric motors at the front axle will drive the front wheels and also be capable of propelling the NSX in electric-only mode.  Also new is another wordy system: Bilateral Torque Adjustable Control – a.k.a. torque vectoring.   The entire system is melded together with silicon chips and highly-sophisticated software to produce all-wheel drive.   It should be amazing. Honda says is should go into production in 3-4 years.

Acura NSX Concept. I hope the eagle beak gets toned down in any production version.

Acura NSX Concept

Cadillac:

GM’s luxury division is finally dead serious about taking on the Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class.  No more rebadged Chevrolets (Cimmaron)  and no Opel reskins (Catera).  The Cadillac ATS rides on an all-new, bespoke rear-drive platform and offers the choice of three engines as well as all-wheel drive:

  • Base engine is a 2.5L inline four with 200 hp and 188 lb-ft torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic and it’s only available in RWD.
  • Optional 2.0L turbo four making 270 hp and 260 lb-ft torque.  Choices of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. AWD is optional, but only with the automatic transmission.
  • Optional 3.6L V6 with 318 hp (take that BMW 335i) and 276 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is the 6-speed automatic and AWD is available.

Cadillac is using a sophisticated 5-link independent rear suspension with struts up front – this matches what the Germans have had for years. Cadillac claims a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution to match BMW’s long-held mantra. It’s also relatively svelte at around 3,400 lbs, which should help performance and fuel economy.  Electric power steering is sourced from ZF in Germany.  It will offer a vast array of electronic gadgets and nannies, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, heads-up display, and adaptive headlights.  Cadillac’s new CUE (Cadillac User Experience) is optional with an 8-inch display.  Prices haven’t yet been announced; however, you can bet it will closely match the new BMW 3-series, so maybe $32,000-$34,000 base. It should go on sale this summer.

2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS

The Cadillac ATS has a handsome, balanced interior. The leather looks nice and Cadillac swears the wood is real.

Chevrolet:

The Heartbeat of America had some interesting concept cars and one hot hatch.

The 2013 Chevy Sonic RS is more of a styling exercise than tuner car.  The RS starts with the 5-door Sonic with the optional 1.4L turbo four making 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque – so there is no engine upgrade or tweak.  It comes with a 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission. The exterior gets some new fascia, unique grille, rocker panels, a revised bumper and a spoiler. Inside, Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system will be standard with a 7 inch touch screen and Bluetooth. The Sonic RS does get a stiffer suspension and rear disc brakes, so it should handle and stop a bit better than the standard Sonic.  Pricing hasn’t been announced yet.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

Chevrolet also debuted two concept cars in an attempt to attract more Gen Y buyers (a burgeoning demographic).

First up is the Code 130R. It’s a rear-drive (yah!) four-seat coupe that has some of the looks and about the size of the BMW 1-series coupe.  Car & Driver magazine reports that it sits on the same platform as the ATS, but this isn’t confirmed by GM.  Power comes from Chevy’s 1.4L turbo four, bumped to 150 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. It is also fitted with GM’s mild-hybrid system called eAssist, currently in the Buick LaCrosse. It comes with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.  Frankly, I think it looks cartoonish – like it comes from the latest Cars animated film.  Chevy calls it a “heritage” look.  The rear looks like a squeezed Camaro.

Chevrolet Code 130R Coupe Concept

Chevrolet Code 130R Coupe

Next is Chevy’s Tru 140S Concept hatchback. It’s about the size of a Chevy Cruze and rides on the same platform. Like the Code 130R, it has a 1.4L turbo four making 150 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. However, instead of the eAssist, it gets a start/stop system to save gas.  Transmission choices are also the same as the Code 130R – six speeds, automatic or manual. Chevy says it seats four people (albeit very tight).  While I’m not in Detroit and didn’t see it in person, the matte white paint is supposed to be sick.

Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Hatchback. I love the headlights.

Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Hatchback

Dodge:

I can’t resist the obvious metaphor: The 2013 Dodge Dart is right on target.  Starting at $15,995, this stellar new 4-door sedan (and only a sedan) based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, is a star among a sea of subcompact anonymity.  While it’s instantly recognizable as a Dodge by the cross-hair grille and mini-Charger-like taillights, you can see the Italian influences in the interior.

2013 Dodge Dart

2013 Dodge Dart - it definitely has the Charger's rear end.

Some dizzy designers at Dodge decided that the Dart should be easily customizable.  There are no less than twelve exterior colors and fourteen interior and trim colors.  The model levels will sound familiar to Dodge buyers:  SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and coming a bit later, R/T.

The Dart's cockpit looks inviting. The large 8 inch touch-screen is also used in other Dodge products.

The Dart's seats look much nicer than a standard subcompact car. That's the Italian speaking.

There are three different engines and three transmissions:

  • The base engine is a “Tigershark” 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine  making a respectable 160 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. It can be had with either a six-speed manual or automatic.
  • Optional on the SE, SXT, Rallye and Limited is a 1.4L 4-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine similar to the unit found in the Fiat 500 Abarth.  It makes 160 hp and a whopping 184 lb-ft of torque, which makes all the difference given the engine has the same ponies as the Tigershark 2.0. It can be mated to Fiat’s all-new 6-speed dual clutch automatic as well as the regular 6-speed manual and automatic.
  • A few months after launch, an all-aluminum 2.4L  Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with a tantalizing 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque will be introduced. It’s available only on the R/T trim level. You get your choice of the 6-speed manual or automatic – no dual clutch option.

Dodge hasn’t released full pricing levels or fuel economy ratings. However, it’s likely that at least one of the powertrains will hit the seemingly-magical 40 mpg highway mark.

Ford:

In keeping with Ford’s “One Ford” mantra, the 2013 Ford Fusion is the Mondeo in the rest of the world. Like the Focus from last year, the same great car available only outside the US is now the same worldwide. Only the names are different.  The styling is forward and dynamic. It’s the new face of Ford and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the sensational Ford Evo concept shown in Frankfurt last year.

The Ford Evo concept car from the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

The Fusion is already a best-seller for Ford, with 248,067 units in 2011. By comparison, Honda sold 235,625 Accords, Toyota sold 308,510 Camrys and Hyundai sold 225,961 Sonatas.  In short, this mid-size sedan is the heart of the passenger car market in the US.

2013 Ford Fusion

2013 Ford Fusion

The new Fusion will be sold in three familiar trim levels: S, SEL and Titanium.  There are five (!) engine configurations, and none of them have more than four cylinders:

  • Base powertrain is a naturally-aspirated 2.5L  inline 4 with 170 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy figures were not released by Ford.
  • Option 1: An EcoBoost 1.6L direct-inject turbo-charged engine with 179 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. It’s available with either a 6-speed manual or automatic.  Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 37 mpg  highway.
  • Option 2: An EcoBoost 2.0L direct-inject turbo-charged engine with 237 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is Ford’s dual clutch 6-speed automatic.  Fuel economy: Ford says it will get 25% better fuel economy than the outgoing V6.
  • Hybrid powertrain: 2.0L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine and a permanent-magnet AC synchronous motor. The pair is good for 185 hp and 130 lb-ft torque. The only transmission is an eCVT.  Lithium-ion batteries replace the old nickle-metal hydride batteries. Fuel economy: 47 mpg city, 44 mpg highway. (Take that, Camry and Sonata hybrid!)
  • Plug-in Hybrid powertrain: 1.6L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder replaces the 2.0 unit in the non-plug-in hybrid. The combined electric motor and gas engine is good for 185 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque and it has the same eCVT transmission. However, with benefit of the plug-in EV range, Ford says the Fusion Energi will get 100 mpg-e (equivalent).

Ford is offering a slew of electronic nannies to help distinguish the Fusion from the competition. It will offer adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping system (to help the drowsy driver), blind-spot warning, active parking assist (it will parallel park the car for you) and Ford’s controversial MyFord Touch infotainment system with voice recognition and customizable screens.

2013 Ford Fusion interior. You can see that it's similar to the Focus, but larger and better equipped.

It’s a slick package that is sure to attract the attention of the millions of car buyers looking for a mid-size family sedan. The two hybrids will also be a hit with greenies and hypermilers.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes chose Detroit for the world debut of its sensational new SL. The styling is controversial and I’ve read lots of complaints about it, but the more I look at the pictures, the better I like it. And I think color has much to do with opinions – you know, like it in black, hate it in silver.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

For those not steeped in Mercedes’ Byzantine nomenclature, SL = sport leicht, or sport and lightweight.  The SL lineage goes back to the ground-breaking 300SL Gullwing racer of the 1950s.  For much of the past two decades, the concept of “lightweight” has been more of a formality than a reality as the SL easily weight two tons.  For 2013, the all-new SL has an all-aluminum body and high-strength, lighter-weight steel in the frame.  Mercedes claims a 275 pound weight loss – as much as one healthy Texan.

2013_Mercedes-Benz SL550

Power comes from Mercedes’ new 4.7L twin-turbo direct-inject V8 also found in the larger CL coupe. It’s good for 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a revised Mercedes 7-speed automatic with a start/stop function to improve fuel economy (like anyone buying an SL really cares).  The 550SL should sprint to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds – about the same as the outgoing SL63 AMG.

Mercedes thinks there is lots of Magic in the new SL. Like the refreshed SLK from 2011, you can opt for the Magic Sky Control folding glass roof.  It’s like a gigantic skylight; however if you’re not in the mood for too much sun, you can press a button and the electrochromatic glass can be “dimmed” from opaque all the way to black. Neat trick and expensive.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 with the Magic Sky Control electrochromatic glass roof.

The other Magic option is the Magic Vision Control.  MVC is really a high-tech windshield wiper system. The heated wipers can de-ice your windshield and when you need the washers, the nozzles are incorporated into the wiper arms.

The interior of the 2013 Mercedes SL550 looks like a comforable place for a long trip. I love the red leather.

Of course it has all of Mercedes’ electronic nannies and safety systems. Also the latest version of the company’s COMAND infotainment system complete with downloadable apps.  It goes on sale this spring (just in time for summer convertible weather) and although prices haven’t been announced, just figure it starts around $100,000.

Mercedes didn’t want to leave the green crowd out in the cold, so it introduced the E400 Hybrid.  The hybrid system in the 2013 E400 is an evolution of that found in the S400 Hybrid.  The E-class gets a 302 hp 3.5L direct-inject V6 coupled with a 27 hp electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the 7-speed automatic transmission.  The electric motor musters 118 lb-ft of torque on its own so the E400 can go up to 22 mpg or a whole half a mile on electric power alone.  Also, like the S400, the lithium-ion battery is placed in the engine bay so no trunk space is lost.  I’m not impressed with the fuel economy numbers of 24 city, 31 highway.  The 2012 E350 BlueTec diesel, on-sale now, gets 21 city, 32 highway — why pay the hybrid premium for the E400?

2013 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

Detail of the engine bay for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

As if to rub salt in a wound, Mercedes also showed the 2013 E300 BlueTec Hybrid Concept. It will get substantially better fuel economy, but as usual, it’s not for the US market. WTF Mercedes?

Nissan

In the face of steadily-climbing fuel prices, Nissan served up a larger, non-truck-based 2013 Pathfinder SUV concept.  It should be no surprise that Nissan would get its own version of the new Infiniti JX35, a 7 passenger unibody SUV introduced last year. The Pathfinder concept shares the same chassis and probably the same drivetrain, although Nissan was short on details.  The Infiniti JX35 uses Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5L V6 making 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.  The Pathfinder numbers would likely be a bit less.  Also, like the JX, the engine will be coupled with Nissan’s despised CVT (continuously variable transmission).  I know so many people who wish Nissan would ditch the use of the whiny CVT in almost all its cars; but Nissan is sticking with it.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Concept

Nissan Pathfinder Concept Interior.

The old Pathfinder is an 0ld school body-on-frame, truck-based SUV.  The Pathfinder Concept grows in practically all dimensions, but Nissan probably needs a big SUV that will hold a large family and not look like a tank (yeah, I’m talking about the Armada).  The concept is handsome, if not exciting. I like it better than the Infiniti JX.

Porsche:

I know you might be tired of Porsche grabbing all the headlines and magazine covers for its all-new 911 that goes on sale this February.  The accolades keep rolling in and I can’t wait to drive it.  The big “news” in Detroit is the world debut of the cabriolet versions of the 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S.  Of course, the top is lighter and quieter and goes down in 13 seconds.  Here are a couple pictures to drool over.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet in Guards Red

The new Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet's top in action

The interior of the new 911 Cabriolet is about as good as it gets. It's sublime.


Volkswagen:

VW still wants to achieve world domination by 2018, knocking out both GM and Toyota for total worldwide sales. A big part of that strategy is doubling sales in the US.  The new Jetta has been a hit, with sales up 44% for 2011 and it looks like VW will have the same success with the US/China-only Passat.

VW showed off two new “green” cars in Detroit.  The production-ready 2013 Jetta Hybrid is VW’s 2nd hybrid in the US market following the expensive Touareg Hybrid.  The gas-electric Jetta is powered by a new 1.4L turbocharged, direct-injected gas engine and it’s able to drive a whopping (not) 1.3 miles in EV mode.  VW is short on details like fuel economy ratings and price, but it’s expected to go on sale this November.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

The second VW concept – and this time it’s really just testing the public’s temperature – is the e-Bugster, a highly-stylized Beetle with a chopped roof and lowered suspension. It’s powered by what VW calls Blue-e-Motion electric drive using a 85 kWh 114 hp electric motor and a single speed transmission.  It uses a compact lithium-ion battery pack behind the front seats.  The drivetrain is real and VW is planning to use it in an electric Golf to be sold in Europe and maybe later in the US.  If we do get a “Bugster” (1) it won’t look nearly this cool and (2) VW has to change the name – it’s just a tad too easy to replace the “s” with another “g.”

Volkswagen Blue-e-Motion Bugster concept

Great looks for this VW concept Bugster