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Hyundai phoning it in with new lock system

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird: Hyundai: Use your phone to drive Long, long ago, cars didn't have keys.

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:

Hyundai: Use your phone to drive

Long, long ago, cars didn't have keys. Then they did, but you had push-button starters as well, then power door locks, then remote keyless entry, and now you can just walk up to the car, touch the door and in you go!

Not good enough, as far as Hyundai is concerned.

They're looking to give owners full access to their cars through their smartphones: swipe to unlock the doors, hook the phone up via Bluetooth to start the engine.

Excellent stuff, at least in theory, and certainly doable using available modern technology. Almost every car these days has Bluetooth, and touchscreen interfaces can be optioned on the most basic machines.

Of course, anyone who's had their phone run out of batteries and/or stolen will see that there's a few kinks to be worked out. Hyundai is likely to preview the technology in their Euro-only i30, but plans on running the system through the full range starting in 2015. Washington state charges EV owners

Given the efforts to incentivize electric vehicle ownership, charging owners an extra tax for having a plug-in car seems a bit counter-intuitive. For Washington state residents, however, it's a reality.

No big deal really, just a US$100 charge against the fact that EV owners won't be paying into the road tax that's imposed on gasoline sales. A hundred bucks a year seems hardly a cause for complaint.

However, complaining about taxation is practically an Olympic event. Washington's policy-makers are indicating a move away from gasoline tax to a user-fee system as more efficient cars become readily available.

Alfa-Romeo promises new model for 2013

You could argue that either Ferrari or Lamborghini were the best iconic brand to represent the thrill of con brio Italian motoring, but you couldn't make the argument to anyone driving an Alfa. Or fixing their Alfa.

The prancing stallion and rampant bull make exotica for the super-rich, and Fiat makes workhorse machinery for paisans. Alfa-Romeo, on the other hand, makes special cars that ordinary people could still aspire to own. At least, they used to.

We'll be getting Alfa back in this country before too long, which is good news for driving enthusiasts looking for a little Italian flair. The manufacturer has trademarked the 4C designation in North America, and is projecting to lift the wraps off their latest creation this year - details still to come as to when the cars will actually arrive on our shores.

Renault bringing back Alpine

If you've never heard of a Renault Alpine, then listen up: one of the most iconic French manufacturers, Alpine is responsible for many mid-engined special-builts like the Clio V-6 and the 1980s R5s.

Perhaps the best known Alpine is the A110, a rally winning, bright blue machine that looks a bit like a Porsche 904.

The new Alpine is going to be the size of a Mazda MX-5 or Porsche Cayman and will offer around 250 h.p. Will we get one here? Probably not. C'est dommage.

AMG shrinks their V-8

I thoroughly love Mercedes-Benz and their obsession with stuffing big engines into small cars. These days though, you can't just go around with huge-displacement muscle cars: turbocharging is the new black.

Similar in size to the new Audi powerplants, AMG's replacement for their 6.2-litre V-8 will be a 4.0-litre V-8 with forced induction ensuring that horsepower levels remain healthily in the mid-400 range. Better yet, the torque on tap that forced induction provides should make the new car even quicker, although we'll miss some of that sonic excellence of the old "big stove."

Bentley: New convertible launched, priest fired

Still powered by a gargantuanly powerful 600+ h.p. W12, the new Bentley GT Speed convertible is one big, fast machine. Put the top up and it should crack the 200 miles per hour (322 km/h) barrier. Put the top down and your hair will probably blow off, assuming you have any.

In an unrelated story, Bentley has also blown off their in-house chaplain, serving the good reverend with walking papers just days before Christmas. Thus ends more than a decade of tradition at one of the world's more traditional auto-makers.

Bentley cites the move as an effort to be more sensitive towards their multi-faith workforce. We're sure that whoever's got the job to test out the brakes from a 200 mph stop will be doing plenty of in-house praying.

Watch this space for all the best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to Follow brendan on Twitter at @brendan_mcaleer.