A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Land Rover Defender to return
I learned to drive (roughly speaking) in a Land Rover - a 1976 Series III to be exact.
Imagine my surprise to grow up and find "Land Rover" emblazoned on the facade of a luxury car dealership, crammed to the rafters with big-dollar, leather-lined SUVs.
Nope, to me, proper Land Rovers have always had more of an agricultural bent, like a Jeep, or tractor, or somewhat unreliable pack mule. But Land Rover hasn't sold anything like that over here for years. . . .
Which could all change with the recent announcement that the next-generation Defender will be making its way across the pond. Landie fans have been importing the odd Defender here and there for years, and they're much more the pugnacious, go-anywhere boxes-on-wheels we all know and love/hate.
When are we likely to see these trucks reach our shores? Sometime around 2017. Drat.
Class action lawsuit hits Nissan in the Leafs
Nissan's all-electric Leaf created quite an - erm - buzz when it debuted in 2012. Here, finally, was a warranty-clad electric vehicle that could be driven like a regular car; you just had to plug it into the wall at the end of the day.
Greenies and gearheads embraced the car with open arms, even as the malcontents grumbled about range anxiety. Still, the car sells strongly, not least because it makes a rolling statement about owner commitment to alternative fuels.
But all is not blue-sky motoring. Leaf owners in California have been reporting early battery degradation; with so many drivers of the electric Nissan being electrical engineers themselves, you can bet these folks keep a careful eye on things. Two cars have even been bought back under California's "lemon law."
Now a class action lawsuit has been brought to bear, alleging that Nissan didn't accurately reflect the range of its car, nor the potential for battery damage. Nissan has responded by standing by both the cars and their batteries.
It's all a bit of a black eye for the EV movement - not just Nissan either, any manufacturer of electric vehicles has to overcome an initial market resistance (oh dear, more unintended punnery), largely based around battery lifespan. Hopefully, the whole mess can be sorted out before any more Leafs wilt.
Tesla opens Supercharger
Even as Nissan wrestles with its PR issues, startup company Tesla is plugging a major problem with the electric car - long-distance travel.
They've just unveiled their solution in the Supercharger, a sort of gas station for the electric car. With solar cells soaking up the sun's rays, the effect is a net plus to the power grid, even as the charging station is able to charge six to eight cars at a time.
With 100kW as well as 120kW charging down the line, a Tesla Model S (their latest sedan) can be charged up to three hours worth of highway-speed travel in around 30 minutes of plug-in time. The hope is to have a network of stations in California and Arizona, as well as running up the coast to Vancouver (hopefully the ones we get work with hydro-electric power as well).
It's a big step forward, and yet there's a catch - the Supercharger only works with Tesla products, and specifically only the Model S. Leaf owners? Plug in hybrid drivers? Take a hike!
Tesla is claiming that the charging technology only works with their vehicle technology as both were co-developed. Truth is, the electric vehicle won't really supplant the good ol' internal combustion engine until there's a standardization in the industry.
Ford and General Motors working together on multi-speed transmissions
Two-speed powerglide, three on the tree, four on the floor, five-speed, six-speed, seven-speed PDK, and . . . more?
Yes, in an apparent bid to try to make cars more like bicycles, Ford and General Motors are working together on a nine-speed front-wheel-drive transmission and a 10-speed rear-wheel-drive tranny. Good grief.
Aside from having more gears than my road bike, there's also a bit of an oddness to the collaboration between two fierce rivals. GM and Ford fans have been scrapping it out at dragstrips and pickup truck towing competitions for years. To see the two working together is like the Boston Red Socks teaming up with the New York Yankees to figure out a new type of bat.
Lamborghini still working on Urus SUV
While on one hand, it could be pointed out that Lamborghini has a tradition of building SUVs, having produced the boxy LM002 in the 1980s, the counter-argument runs that the previous effort was ridiculous, unreliable, and really quite crappy overall. So why are they at it again?
Despite selling nearly 1,500 Aventador supercars, Lamborghini knows profitability is in mass-marketable SUVs and sedans - just ask VW group co-member Porsche. Therefore, they've come up with the Urus, which is exactly what you'd expect: a sort of Gallardo-creased Rav4.
Lamborghini is still waiting for the design to be approved by the VW group, although even if the go-ahead were given, the Urus wouldn't be available until 2017. Hooray!
Watch this space for all the best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.