A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Nissan releases electric LeMans racer
With the echoes of last weekend's 24 Hours of LeMans still ringing around the track, Nissan has just announced a new concept to take the famous endurance race into the future. There is no engine, only ZEOD.
Well, that's what they're calling their electric-only racer: the Zero Emission On Demand. A bit of a mouthful, and not really very descriptive.
Nissan is saying their battery powered machine will be capable of travelling at more than 300 km/h, but they're not telling anyone just how it's going to do so. Not to be skeptical or anything: the body is shaped like the Batmanish DeltaWing concept they were involved in last year, and that machine had a tiny 1.6-litre turbo and still knocked heads.
Nissan has a history of taking their electric technology to the track with the super-cute Leaf RC, but the problems remain the same. Unless the company has some hidden battery hot-swapping ability up its sleeve, it's hard to see how the ZEOD is going to go a full 24 hours at full chat.
Turbo-diesel VW Passat sets ultra-stingy Guinness World Record
Most manufacturers make a lot of noise about their motorsports successes - race on Sunday, sell on Monday is the old saying. These days, potential purchasers are often interested in performance of another kind.
It's all well and good to have big horsepower when the traffic thins and the road curves, but for both long distance travel and city commuting, it's all about how much the rising cost of fuel is going to hit your wallet. Which is why you want a Volkswagen TDI.
Just entered into the record books is the nearly unbelievable figure of 3.0 litres/100 kilometres fuel consumption, attained by a VW Passat TDI over 13,000+ kilometres of driving. Mein goodness me - that's a full-size sedan with better fuel economy than a Prius!
The record was set my a duo of VW-backed drivers, Wayne Gerdes and Bob Winger, both of whom are experienced hypermilers, skilled in the art of eking out extra klicks from every litre of fuel. They pulled off the feat by hitting all 48 states of the continental United States in one massive, cheapskate-friendly roadtrip.
Add in the strong resale of a diesel-engined car, and VW's clearly built a highway star. Is Dodge defunct?
Chrysler recently released a statement to the effect that their long-running, best-selling minivans will soon be sold under the Town and Country label only - no more Grand Caravan. Not the biggest news in the world, but it's part of a disturbing trend.
The new Viper is now referred to as the "SRT Viper," rather than the Dodge Viper. The entire pickup truck line has been moved over to sit under the Ram branding. Fiat sales are growing quickly.
Glancing over the current product lineup, the Charger is basically a Chrysler 300, the Challenger muscle car is rumoured to be refreshed as the SRT 'Cuda, and both the Avenger and the Durango are on the way out. Only the compact Dart remains as a new-ish offering, and it could just as easily be sold as the Fiat upon which it's based, or as a compact Chrysler.
Remember Mercury, or Plymouth, or Oldsmobile, or Pontiac? All storied nameplates with years of heritage, none of which matters one whit against the mighty bottom line.
Dodge has been around long enough to feature in vaudevillian bad jokes (say friend, my car doesn't need a horn - it says "dodge" right up front! Wokka wokka.), but that won't save it if Chrysler is starting the slow, gradual process of phasing it out.
Volkswagen builds 30 millionth Golf
The venerable Beetle is probably the first machine anybody thinks of when they hear the words "people's car," and rightly so. With 21 million sold over an unprecedented 65-year run, it's a huge feature in the automotive landscape.
With this milestone, however, its humble hatchback descendant blows it into the weeds. VW has just built its 30,000,000th Golf in Wolfsburg, Germany.
That's a lot of Golfs. Like, an incomprehensible amount nearly. While the water-cooled front-driver is much more mechanically complicated than the old Beetle, many of both are still on the road, and early performance-oriented GTi models are already collectible.
VW will keep this milestone car, a turbodiesel, on display at its factory. While much has changed, with airbags and crash protection and traction control, the basic formula remains the same: a simple box with lots of room and a bit of a fun-to-drive factor. Onward to the next 10 million.
Next-generation Mustang Shelby dials back the crazy
You'd only need a short-range time machine to blow minds with the current Shelby GT500. How much horsepower does my mustang have from the factory? Try 662 ponies crammed into this rear-drive, supercharged steed. Nice Ferrari - wanna race?
That's a ludicrous amount of horsepower for a street car, and Ford is rumoured to be softening up the new car, as a new-generation Mustang is already on the way. The new badge you'll see will read GT350, and will lose the supercharging.
Not to worry, Ford fans. With the next-gen GT cranking out somewhere in the neighbourhood of 450 h.p., the Shelby model is bound to have a still-silly amount of horsepower. Ford will also doubtless program in a little of that tail-happiness that all the best Mustangs have.
Watch this space for all the week's best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendan_mcaleer
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