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Escape to get overdue update

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
The roof of the 2013 Camaro ZL1 goes up and down while its ridiculous 580 h.p. engine goes "vroom!".

2013 Ford Escape ditches the V-6

While the Ford Escape is still a hot seller in the Canadian market, there's no denying that it's getting long in the tooth, design-wise. Walk into a Ford showroom filled with sleek Focuses, muscular Edges and swoopy Mustangs, and you might be forgiven for thinking the Escape is a bit of an ugly truckling.

Introduced in 2000 as a 2001 model, the Escape has been refreshed exactly once, but it still has decade-old underpinnings and a big lump of a V-6 that produces a reasonable 240 horsepower, but a fairly ho-hum 223 foot-pounds of torque. Well, the new 2013 Escape is on the way, and you can say goodbye to six cylinders.

It's more evidence that we're entering a new golden age of turbocharging, as the 2013 Escape will retain the 2.5-litre four-cylinder base model, but add two new turbocharged engines: one a 1.6litre engine with around 180 h.p. and a powerful new 2.0litre producing 247 h.p. and 275 foot-pounds of torque. What do all these numbers mean? More down-low grunt, but with greater fuel savings, especially for highway driving.s

What's more, the Escape's new Euro-design is going to up the curb appeal from boxy to modern. We've seen the current Vertrek concepts, and the rumour is that the 2013 Escape is going to look a lot like it. Here's a question though, the current model has many fans simply because it's an honest, utilitarian sort of a rig in a world of over-styled cute-utes. How will this new Escape fare with more traditional buyers?

Infiniti puts Sebastian Vettel FX SUV into production

BMW has their M division. Mercedes-Benz has AMG. Even Lexus has got into the factory hot-rod game with their F-designation models. It seems like you can't run a proper luxury company unless you're going to put out a range of hi-po barnstormers. Infiniti is not quite last to the party on this one - Acura still doesn't have a performance division - but a single IPL version of the G37 coupe is not quite a performance arm. In fact, that car is only lightly tweaked compared to some of the totally tuned options from competing brands. Infiniti has always been the Japanese BMW: they need some serious halo cars.

Here's one right here, a special version of the already potent FX sports SUV, bearing the name of current F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel. It's a wicked-looking ride, in all white with black wheels and extra aero trim. The sharkish-looking FX has also been lowered and 30 more horses of extra oomph have been squeezed out of its 5.0-litre V8 engine for a total of 414 h.p. and a top speed of more than 300 kilometres per hour.

All well and good but, "who is Sebastian Vettel?" you may be wondering. Well, I just told you: the current F1 world champion for the second year in a row, and the driver for Red Bull racing which has a partnership with Infiniti (hence the tie-in). However, there's no denying that F1 superstars aren't well known on this side of the pond, so it remains to be seen how Infiniti intends to sell this and other tuned-up models.

White takes first place as most popular paint choice

Here's something you may have subconsciously noticed on the road: more and more new cars are being sold in white. For a long time out there it was a sea of silver and grey, but there's been a shift towards white in the buying colour palette recently, and it's just pipped silver as the best seller.

Here, according to paint manufacturer PPG, is the breakdown: 20 per cent of North Americans chose white for their new cars, with silver taking 19 per cent, black 18 per cent and grey 15 per cent. In other parts of the world, those results were sometimes reversed, with Europeans favouring black and Asian markets choosing silver most often.

What does this mean? Nothing really, there's always a four-way tug of war between white-grey-silver-black. However, I suppose you could interpret the results and make the deduction that buying that pink BMW isn't such a good idea, resale-wise. 2013 Camaro ZL1 is most powerful Chevy convertible

Chevy's pony car, the Camaro, had to take a little break from production a few years back, as it was getting the sales stuffing knocked out of it by the Mustang. Camaros were interesting, sure, but the 'Stang was always the big seller.

Fast-forward a few years and those roles are nearly reversed, with the Camaro regularly outselling the Mustang by a noticeable margin. What does that mean for Chevy? Well, if your products are selling, let's start with the special editions. Just like Ford does with its Mustang, it's time to bring out the Camaro not just in Mild, Medium and Hot, but also in Muy Caliente My Mouth Is On Fire I May Never Taste Anything Ever Again.

Here it is: the extra-Guatemalan-insanity-peppers ZL1 Camaro Convertible with 580 h.p. and no roof. In case you're counting, that's more ponies than the Mustang Shelby 500 convertible, and even more power than the quarter-million-dollar Mercedes SLS AMG roadster.

Does this make the ZL1 Chevy Convertible a racecar-fast muscle-car for the track? Well, no, actually, that's a job for the ZL1 coupe. The 'vette-engined Camaro drop-top is more about engine noise, straight-line performance and doing big, smoky burnouts. Don't be surprised if your local tire supplier makes a little "ka-ching!" noise every time you drive past him.

Braking News Glimmer of Hope edition: Mazda working on Skyactiv rotary

Many tears (well, some tears anyway) were shed at Mazda's announcement earlier this year that the rotary-engined RX-8 would be retired, with no replacement forthcoming. It was the end forever, we all thought, of the smooth-revving Wankel rotary engine.

That was a shame because while the rotary engine was a bit inefficient and slightly low on torque, it was a character-full motor with a screaming redline and turbine-like thrust. But now it's gone, right? Perhaps not.

A leaked tweet from Mazda PR on a Japanese website has confirmed that a rotary engine incorporating the company's new Skyactiv technologies is under development. Here are the details:

Sorry about that, but there aren't any; this is a pretty tenuous lead. Still, if rumour be true, it's a glimmer of hope for fans of lively RX-designation Mazda sport coupes.

Follow Brendan on Twitter: @brendan_mcaleer, or submit your own auto oddities to

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