A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Fiat 124 Spider is sushi carbonera
From the crowded floor at the beginning of a whole new silly season, it's the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show. Your humble correspondent is pleased to report that traffic in L.A. is still stupefyingly bad (seriously. There are people who've been stuck in six-lane stop-and-go since the mid-1980s), but that the sunshine state is still firmly in love with the automobile.
Befitting an Italian automobile, the Fiat 124 announced its rebirth by way of a leak. Even before the wraps came off on the podium, we'd all had a good chance to gaze over the official press photos and details, which snuck out early. In person, this new Fiat droptop is something of an acquired taste. The bones are the new Miata MX-5 through and through, from chassis to infotainment. The styling is intended to imbue the little Japanese roadster with a little Latin flair.
I'd have to say it's not been entirely successful, depending what colour you choose. The Fiat is longer than the MX-5 and looks a little more bulbous. That's not really what you want in a hot little Italian sportster. Under the hood, the
Mazda's 155 horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder is gone in favour of a Fiat 1.4-litre turbocharged engine making 160 h.p. That's not really that big of a change, but the bump in low-end torque to 184 foot-pounds will make the automatic-equipped version a sunny cruiser.
Be that as it may, it's not the pulse-raiser Fiat would have you believe. For that, you'll have to wait for the upcoming Abarth version.
Car thieves drop off kid at school
You're not supposed to leave your kids in the car, and certainly not when it's running. Still, sometimes there's the temptation to just dash in and out solo. For one Virginia mother, that temptation proved too much, as she reportedly left her eight-year-old son in the car listening to music as a regular part of running errands at the beginning of the day. A pair of opportunistic car thieves spotted the running car, and when mom returned from the post office, both car and kid were missing.
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, as police found the boy just 10 minutes later sitting in class at his school. When the thieves turned to look in the back seat, they quickly realized their mistake - but simply asked the boy where he went to school and dropped him off.
The cops would also recover the car just three miles away, so all's well that ends well. Just remember, don't leave 'em in the car, kids or keys.
Lincoln goes nuts with MKZ
Odds are you don't even know what an MKZ is without looking it up - that'll be the entry level one, analogous to the Ford Fusion. The twin-wing front grille might be an acquired taste, but the car's overall bones were pretty good. Well, Lincoln's refreshed their littlest sedan with a brand new grille and some nip and tuck work to the sheetmetal. Never mind that, because it's what's underneath the hood that counts.
Gone is the peppy little 3.7-litre normally aspirated V-6, and in its place is a completely nutty 400 h.p. twin-turbo Ecoboost V-6. Has Lincoln gone mad? These are the people behind the Town Car - lengthy luxury, best driven slowly. Now, all of a sudden, they've bolted together a machine to give the Audi S4, BMW 335i, and Mercedes-Benz C400 heart palpitations.
Throw in the same torque-vectoring rear end you get in the Focus RS, and that's one way of shaking up brand expectations. Whether or not it'll be enough to shock life into Lincoln's sales remains to be seen.
Volvo previews the future of not actually driving
Volvo's been making waves of late with their forays into the world of autonomous driving. It makes a lot of sense, actually, as the Swedish brand's focus on accident- safety systems has self-driving capabilities almost as a side-effect.
In L.A., Volvo didn't even preview a whole car, but a sliding seat arrangement accompanied by a digital rendering of a self-driving crossover. As you might expect from Sweden, the furniture looks great, but here there are several modes.
The first, standard position is the self-explanatory Drive. The second is Create, which slides the seat back and deploys a small table for you to bust out the ol' laptop. The Relax mode is even more laid-back, with a deployable ottoman.
Imagine having access to this kind of tech on a rainy day in rush hour, managing to get work done instead of battling traffic. And by "getting work done," I of course mean improving your Angry Birds score.
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.