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Toyota reveals a sporty little number

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird: Toyota sports coupe finally officially revealed. Finally. The operative word in the preceding sentence is, of course, finally.

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

Toyota sports coupe finally officially revealed. Finally.

The operative word in the preceding sentence is, of course, finally. After years of leaks and concept-reveals and more name changes than Prince, Toyota has at last released the production model of their sports coupe. It's called, "The Symbol Formerly Known As FT-86."

Only joking. Toyota has actually dubbed the little sports coupe simply "86," an homage to the boxy little AE86 chassis Corolla GT-S. If you've never heard of InitialD, a Japanese anime series which follows a tofu delivery driver battling his way through the underground street racing scene, you'll no doubt have seen a clapped-out 'rolla for sale and wondered why they were asking so much money for it.

Simple, the old GT-S was low on power but high on handling prowess. This new coupe follows in those footsteps closely.

The specs are . . . well, if they're not entirely underwhelming, they're pretty far from overwhelming as well. Prepare yourself to be thoroughly whelmed.

The Toyota 86 has a 197-horsepower boxer four-cylinder engine lifted from Subaru (there will also be a Subaru version called the BRZ), and is capable of a 0-100 kilometres-per-hour time of around six seconds. Peppy, sure, but a V-6 Camry is quicker.

Never mind the straight-line stuff, this little coupe is purported to be one of the cornering greats, like a bargain version of a Lotus Elise. When can you actually buy one? Oh, not for another year or so. Argh!

Nismo Juke concept ready for production?

Nissan's little toadlet, the Juke, is the most fun vehicle to drive in the Nissan lineup. Granted, the 370Z is quite a bit faster - and the mighty GT-R is a LOT faster - but the Juke has a rally-car scampering quality, and that torque-vectoring all-wheel drive makes cornering a hoot.

Of course, the old adage applies: where some is good, more is better. Nissan has just pulled the covers off a Nismo (Nissan Motorsports) version of the Juke that's tuned-up and ready to rock.

Featuring an aerodynamics-enhancing bodykit, a widened, lowered stance and new 19-inch alloy wheels, the Nismo Juke certainly has curb appeal nailed down, and should grip the road even more tenaciously. There's also a power bump (how much, Nissan won't say), but as the Juke's powered by a 1.6-litre turbo engine, new software and a freer-flowing exhaust should work out to nudge the numbers closer to 200 h.p.

It's not officially headed for North American shores just yet, but the Nismo Juke could either be a special model - like the Nismo 370Z - or it could be a package of parts to upgrade your current Juke.

This could be the first of a wave of Nismo products to hit showrooms: Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has hinted that the timing is right for Nissan's performance wing to step in and provide sportier versions of much of Nissan's product lineup. Personally, I'd love to see a two-door, 200 h.p. Versa SE-R that's a Mini Cooper S fighter.

Volvo announces pricing on Polestar performance upgrades

Something's up over at mild-mannered Volvo. Didn't they used to be about safety, and practicality and a design that looked like the engineer had lost everything in his pencil case except for a straightedge?

Now, of course, Volvo is all about luxury and technology, and that's just fine. But like the aforementioned Juke, most of Volvo's lineup comes with turbocharged powerplants, and turbo engines are easy to tweak.

Polestar, a tuning company that built racecars for Volvo in the past, is releasing software packages for T6-and T5-equipped Volvos that bumps the power up by 25 h.p. and 30 foot-pounds of torque, with no loss in fuel economy. Pricing is $1,295 for T5 models and $1,495 for T6 cars, at least in the U.S.

What does this mean? Basically, you can turn your Volvo into the automotive version of a track-shoe tasselled loafer. An S60 so equipped would be able to run with an Audi S4 or the BMW 335i.

Mazda reveals capacitor-based regenerative braking system

As a concept, all hybrid cars make perfect sense: recapture the energy used while braking, use it to get you going again from a stop. Unfortunately, doing so means carting around several hundred pounds of batteries and a full-sized electric motor, which inevitably blunts the performance and handling somewhat.

Here comes Mazda with a clever way to get around the problem. It's called i-ELOOP, and is apparently named after the sound made by dropping your iPhone in a puddle.

Mazda's system is quite clever, using capacitors to store energy recovered while braking or decelerating. The capacitor system then releases the stored electricity to power the vehicle's electrical needs. This allows the alternator to decouple from the engine, so that you're no longer using gasoline to produce the electricity to, for instance, run the interior fan on high to try and dry out your sodden iPhone.

Mazda claims that this technology should start showing up in its cars starting in 2012, and projects a 10 per cent increase in fuel-economy figures. Combined with their Skyactiv fuel and weight-saving measures, we should soon be seeing the cleanestrunning Mazda lineup yet.

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