A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Ford's fuel economy woes
Remember Hyundai's recent adjustment of their official fuel-economy figures? Talk about egg on your face - and certainly one felt that competing manufacturers took every possible advantage of the fuel-pas.
Now the same thing is happening to Ford, and worst of all, it's hitting their new Prius-fighting C-Max. The C-Max is a small people-mover in the style of a European MPV (although here we only get five-seat versions), and was supposed to blow the Prius V out of the water with significantly better economy ratings.
Just one problem: those economy ratings were better on paper, but whenever anyone drove the cars in the real world, they were getting only 75 per cent of the advertised MPG. When this happens once or twice, it's the usual lead-foot journalist issue. When it happens to everyone, including the folks at eco-publications like greencarreports.com, you know there's a problem.
Mind you, the Prius often misses its mileage target as well; hybrids are notoriously
variable when it comes to real-world performance. Even so, expect competing brands to make the most of the current brouhaha.
Porsche launches latest GT3 cup car
Inasmuch as the 911 remains an iconic sportscar for the street, it owes its success to racing roots. While Porsche has other cars competing at LeMans and other prestigious races, it's still the GT3 cup cars that remain the most recognizably tied to what you can buy off the showroom floor.
With the new 991-designation chassis available in two-and four-wheel-drive models (and with the Turbo models on the way), Porsche just got everyone very excited by pulling the wraps of their new GT3 racecar version, based on the new 911. According to factory drivers, it's more stable at speed, more controllable, and even faster.
Power comes from an uprated 3.8litre flat-six making 460 horsepower, and there's a quick-shifting six-speed automatic
gearbox. Expect the street version of the GT3 to arrive sometime after the mighty 911 Turbo takes a bow, and the way things are going, expect it to be equipped with the PDK automatic only.
Mercedes-Benz presents new Popemobile
Everybody knows that superheroes don't actually exist, but at least one person in the world gets his own specialty car: the Popemobile.
It's not quite as fast as the Batmobile, and certainly we hope his Holiness restrains himself from driving it across rooftops in an attempt to flee a massive police chase, but the little white truck with the glassed-in dome is just as iconic. It's also far too long in the tooth for its duties, so Mercedes-Benz has just presented the Pontiff with a new one.
Based on the M-class, the new Diamond White Popemobile features the usual safety precautions, like bulletproof glass, and has a reduced height, making it easier to ship around the world.
Honda fits more variants into small car range
In Canada, the Fit hatchback sells very well. It's got great space flexibility, excellent fuel economy and it's a hoot-and-a-half to drive - what's not to like?
Building on this success, Honda is planning the launch of a Fit-based sedan and the inevitable crossover. Some would argue that the Civic has already got the small-sedan job well in hand, but judging by sales of the Fiesta and Versa sedans, there's still untapped market potential.
Frankly, this is great news for Honda fans. The big H is always at their best when they're fiddling around with small cars. This, combined with the improved Accord and Civic, seems to indicate something of a comeback for a stalwart brand in the Canadian landscape. Here's hoping.
Nissan and Fiat: Yeah, so's your face
Who doesn't love a good spat between car companies? I know I do.
Recently, Fiat ruffled a few feathers over at Nissan by suggesting that its Leaf was ugly. Specifically, Fiat brand head Oliver Francois said, "Isn't ugliness the worst kind of pollution?" Ouch.
Not one to take this sort of thing from an upstart company that only has one offering in North America, Nissan quickly shot back, calling some Fiat products either "controversial" or "visual pollution." They also called the new Fiat 500e electric vehicle an attempt to appease U.S. emissions requirements, rather than an actual attempt to build a workable plug-in.
Meanwhile, over at Tesla, folks continue building one of the most beautiful cars on the road today, electric or not.
Watch this space for all the week's best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to email@example.com. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendan_mcaleer.
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