A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Chrysler and Nissan pair up with NHL teams
In case you hadn't noticed, what with the chill in the air, the proliferation of blue-n'green jerseys everywhere and the increasing number of armed mobs fighting pitched battles in the street shouting either, "Looooooooooouuu!" or "Luongo sucks, put Schneider in!", it's officially hockey season again.
As usual, it's also time for corporations to jump on the bandwagon (and here in Vancouver, we know a little about bandwagons, eh?). Car companies are among the biggest advertisers during hockey broadcasts, so it makes perfect sense for them to partner up with an NHL team to become their official car.
So it is now with the Nashville Predators, who claim Nissan as their official, uh, "exclusive non-luxury import automotive supplier," as the press release terms it. This move makes perfect sense, as Nissan has factories in Tennessee. Also, the mascot of the Nashville Preds is a sabretoothed tiger, and the current Tennessee-built Altima is, after six years without a major redesign, getting a bit . . . long in the tooth. Hey-ooooooo!
Meanwhile, over in the motor city, the Detroit Red Wings have renewed their partnership with Chrysler and again named the Dodge Ram as their official Interestingly, "dodge, ram" is also the name of one of the most commonly used defensive plays of many elite hockey defensemen. pickup truck.
The question raised here is what car company best suits our own Vancouver Canucks, particularly since GM vacated The Garage (now Rogers Arena). I have it on good authority that many of the Canucks drive Audi products, and I figure that particular company's blend of European stickhandling, on-ice performance and occasional lapses in reliability is a perfect fit.
Quick, somebody go paint a C-shaped orca on a blue R8.
Mazda Takeri concept: The next Mazda6?
As a life-long Mazda fan, I can't help but feel better and better about the company's current efforts. It's as though shaking off the shackles of their long-term partnership with Ford has finally allowed Mazda to come into its own, first with the Skyactiv concepts, then with the CX-5, and now with this.
It's dubbed the Takeri, and it's a concept-only car taking its bow at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, but between you and me and the guy reading over your shoulder on the 250 bus, you can bet that this is what the new Mazda6 is going to look like.
Mind you, don't expect the concept's 2.2-litre diesel to make the leap overseas just yet. Pity, as it's a stump-puller that loves to rev and is pretty much the best engine I've driven all year (some pre-production mules were on the West Coast in September). Leaving that aside, the new Kodo design language - known as Soul of Motion - looks fantastic, and based on the way it looks here and on the upcoming CX-5, we can't wait to see it make its way range-wide.
Blackberry outage results in reduced accidents
Here's one for the, "Well, I could have told you that" column: recent problems with Blackberry's email and messaging services made our roads a safer place.
Well, not our roads exactly, but in the Middle East, specifically Abu Dhabi, the number of traffic accidents was reduced by nearly half when the region's Blackberry messaging service dropped out over a three-day period.
Normally, Dubai sees a crash every three minutes on average, and a fatal traffic accident occurs in Abu Dhabi every two days.
Locally, our province-wide crackdown on the use of handheld devices surely must have netted similar results, and yet some drivers will insist on using their phones in-car, and even worse, texting while driving.
Two lessons here: 1. Turn off your smart phone when you get in the car so that you aren't tempted to check for messages when it chirrups, and 2. Should you ever find yourself in Abu Dhabi, make sure your rental car is a tank.
Hyundai Veloster Turbo coming
The three-door Hyundai Veloster is quite a sporty little coupe, with decent handling, a funky design, and more available gizmos than you can shake an iPad at. However, the current direct-injection, 138 horsepower 1.6-litre engine skews more to the frugal end of the graph. It's a gas-sipper, not a barn-burner.
Not to worry, because here comes the version all the gearheads have been waiting for: the 204 h.p., Veloster Turbo! Well, not officially of course. Hyundai and Kia like to play their cards so close to the vest that you'll probably get passed by one of these new hot Hyundais before the official press release comes out.
However, camouflaged testers have been caught in the wild and Hyundai has officially announced the successful development of a 1.6-litre, turbocharged engine with 204 h.p. and 195 foot-pounds of torque. What's it developed for? They won't say. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.
Another small-displacement turbo in the market is good news for all those looking for a fun-to-drive car that's still reasonably efficient. Better yet, it gives the Veloster the oomph to match its racy looks.
Rally-inspired Mini in the works
It was just last week that I was bombing around the North Shore in a Mini Countryman S, and finding the little crossover to be a willing backroad bandit, with a fun-to-drive flair worthy of its incredibly large Mini badge. Now, off on the horizon, perhaps we'll be getting an even better one.
You may not have heard of Prodrive, but they're the U.K.based company responsible for much of Subaru's rallying success in the past decade, and for building everything from souped-up Australian V-8 cars to spec-racers for LeMans. Currently, Prodrive builds Mini's World Rally Championship racecar, a rollcaged, race-bred, definitelynot-street-legal terror.
Mini has a long history of rallying and motorsport, making its name with the John Cooper special editions in the 1960s with maniacs like Paddy Hopkirk wedged behind the wheel. You can already buy a John Cooper Works edition of both the Cooper and the Clubman, and a JCW Countryman must surely be on the way.
Whether Prodrive's expertise will be integrated into the JCW-edition Countryman (now rumoured to be held off until the 2013 models arrive) remains to be seen. However, I can happily report that the idea of a WRC-prepped Countryman for the street is the best thing I've heard all week.
Follow Brendan on Twitter: @ brendan_mcaleer, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.