A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Corvette Z06 details leak out
Last year saw the seventh generation Corvette take its bow at the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. General Motors planned to recreate the excitement with the unveiling of the high performance track-special version, their Z06.
Unfortunately, the Internet happened.
As part of the lead-up to the launch, GM faithfully created a special launch site, and prepared to release the pertinent information to 'Vette fans everywhere at a later date. Sadly, whoever was in charge of the meta data - the keywords and identifying phrases that Google uses to locate sites - decided to plug in hushhush details like horsepower and torque figures. Anyone who searched for "Corvette Stingray Z06" or similar would see the brief blurb under the link, and it basically let the cat out of the bag.
So how much power are we talking about? Oh, a lot. Really a lot.
Unofficially, of course, GM's new track-special will have a supercharged V-8 engine producing 620 h.p. and a colossal 650 foot-pounds of torque. With pundits already agog over the latest 'Vette's handling and acceleration improvements in the basic version, the new Z06 should be even more giant-killing-ey.
Audis to come equipped with lasers
It sounds like something an eight-year-old came up with, or perhaps a nefarious plan cooked up by Dr. Evil: at this year's consumer electronics show, Audi took the wraps off a version of their Sport Quattro Concept with laser beams for headlights.
While the immensely heavy Sport Quattro is more mutated sea bass than shark, strapping a laser beam to its forehead has worked wonders for long distance illumination. Essentially, the laser lights work as the high beams, and the signature Audi LEDs function as low beams.
The frickin' lasers provide greatly improved illumination of the road ahead with a pair of tightly controlled beams. Sadly, flashing your brights at a fast-lane-hogging, slowmoving Corolla doesn't cause it to explode as if zapped by the Death Star. Pew pew pew. Nope, nothin'.
Sounds great, and Audi will be putting their (literally) brilliant technology into both their R18 LeMans endurance racer and eventually into production form. However, whether the new tech passes Canada's ill-tempered safety standards is another thing entirely.
Mercedes-Benz unleashes AMG crossover
At the risk of sounding a bit like Ned Stark - brace yourselves: the high performance crossovers are coming.
With the Porsche Macan due to arrive in dealerships at any moment, the future is about to devolve into a sea of small, sporty crossovers in various high performance trims. Not one to let a new niche go unexploited, Mercedes-Benz has just released their pint-sized scrapper-on-stilts.
Based on the AMG version of the CLA, the GLA45 AMG packs a potent four-cylinder turbocharged punch, huffing out a hefty 355 horsepower. Wait. Four-cylinder? Ah yes, speaking of brave new worlds, we now must accept that AMG is no longer synonymous with giant V-8s and burbling exhausts. Perhaps sensing the encroachment of emissions standards, Mercedes is pinning a great deal of their sales projections on their new front-wheeldrive platform, which fits under the B-Class, the aforementioned CLA, and this new crossover.
Still, hard to argue with 355 h.p., especially when it's channelled through a sevenspeed dual-clutch automatic, and harnessed by a trick all-wheel-drive system. Does your practical city runabout need 300+ horses and a mode dubbed "Race Start?" Mercedes certainly thinks it does.
Nissan reinvents the London taxi
There's little that's as evocative as the humpy shape of the good ol' hackney cab. "'Ullo guv'nor!" its smiling face seems to say.
I used to have a Corgi model of one of these things, and there's a gent in West Vancouver who's always bombing around in an imported one. Stephen Fry once drove a London cab around America for a TV program, distributing pithy pommy-ness wherever he went.
However, out with the old and in with the Nissan. The Japanese company recently revealed their take on the cheery London cab in the form of the small NV200 van, set up to carry passengers. To make it more Olde London Town, the car is painted black and comes with round, chrome-ringed headlights and a prominent chrome grille.
Quite frankly, this nosejob puts the "blight" in "Old Blighty." If you happen to know the cockney term for eyesore, you may use it here. Cor blimey, is this thing ever mingin'.
However, with an efficient 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine, a tight turning radius, and - most important of all - a cheeky London cabbie at the wheel, it might just prove to be cricket after all.
Fine print: Enterprise bills woman for Mustang replacement
Kristen Cockerill of Nova Scotia rented a convertible Mustang GT for two days. It might have cost her $47,271.
After dropping back the car late on a Sunday, Cockerill used the after-hours key drop and returned home. Before her local Enterprise office opened again on Monday, the car was stolen.
But so what — cars get stolen all the time, right? In this case, Enterprise is passing along the bill to Cockerill, claiming that even though the car was stolen off their lot, it's still her responsibility, as noted on the contract.
Hopefully, it'll all be covered under insurance, but not only is this poor form for Enterprise, it's a warning to us all to check the details on any rental contract. As for the thief of the Mustang, may a crate of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale fall on his head from a great height.