A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
All-new Toyota Supra debuts in Detroit
At long last, the fifth-generation Toyota Supra is here. And it’s a BMW.
Before the complaining begins – oh, and there’s going to be a bunch of it – let’s look at the car without its baggage. The looks don’t quite live up to the concepts from a few years back, but few production cars do. Overall, it’s a sharp-looking rear-wheel-drive coupe with classic long-nosed lines and a kicked up rear spoiler. If it were prettier, it could be a baby Aston Martin.
Under the Supra’s hood is all sorts of engineering goodness. Like its most immediate ancestor, it comes with a twin-turbocharged inline six engine, here making 335 horsepower and 365 foot-pounds of torque. Weighing in at 1,500 kilograms, these are very similar figures to the fourth-generation Supra, and it’s something of a legend.
But hang on. Says here that the only available transmission is an eight-speed automatic. OK, maybe that’s just the way modern technology is going but – does that sticker say “made in Austria?”
If you’ve been following along, you’d already know that Toyota and BMW had been working closely on co-developing two cars together: the BMW Z4 and the Supra. What we’ve got here is basically a Z4 hardtop, with some unique Japanese styling, and a bit of a weight savings. It’ll probably be stiffer around a racetrack too.
The reason some people (most, admittedly, not in a position to afford the Supra’s US$50,000 price tag anyway) are disappointed is that the previous Supra’s legend was built on its over-engineered powertrain and world-beating performance on a relative budget. It wasn’t very fancy, but it offered outstanding performance.
I’m not sure this new Supra will be able to keep up to a V-6-equipped Camaro. And I’m absolutely sure that it won’t offer Toyota reliability 10 years down the road. It’s a neat car overall. It’s not really a Supra though.
Hyundai unleashes a zippy new Elantra
Over at Subaru’s platform, the new S209 STI was shown off, offering a host of minor tweaks to make it the fastest production STI yet. It has to be said, however, that the Rocket Rally shop up in Squamish has been turning out far faster Subies for more than a decade.
The reason I bring up Subaru is that it does feel a little like Japanese brands have been resting on their enthusiast laurels a bit of late. Even Mazda, which has an absolute jewel in the current MX-5, hasn’t brought a Mazdaspeed model out in ages.
So, an unlikely challenger steps into the void: Hyundai. Yes I know: Hyundai, that formerly budget-oriented brand for cheapskates. Here’s the thing, Hyundai has long proved its engineering is up to scratch. Why, their Genesis G70 sedan was just crowned North American car of the year.
Which brings us at long last to the Elantra GT N-Line. It has 205 h.p., which seems a zippy but not anti-social amount. It has a stiffened up suspension and either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It also comes with 18-inch wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires, the best currently on the market.
And, because it’s a Hyundai, this well-sorted package will be reasonably priced, and accessible to younger buyers. Never mind all the supercar stuff, it’s fun little runabouts that will preserve the spirit of automotive enthusiasm. Perhaps the next wave of import fans will fall in love with cars from Korea.
King of the Mustangs charges into view
While overseas manufacturers work to package useful and reasonable power levels, the domestic marques have all got Hellcat scratch fever. First it was Dodge, then came GM with their supercharged Camaros and Corvettes, and now here’s Ford with an absolutely looney-tunes Mustang.
The GT500 hearkens back to the Shelby GT500KR of the late 1960s, which came with a monstrous 428 cubic inch (7.0-litre) engine. The “KR” stood for king of the road.
Hail to the new king. The new GT500 is based on the Shelby GT350 (wonderful car, slightly deranged), but gets a supercharged version of that car’s 5.2-litre V-8. Here, it’ll make more than 700 h.p., which is bananas.
However, I can see some of the non-gearheads in the audience glazing over already. Who cares about straight-line machines with eleventy-billion horsepower when the government’s just lowered speed limits on various roads around the province? What are you supposed to do with that kind of power?
Well, you take it to a track like Area 27 to properly enjoy it by running down Lamborghinis and the like. That’d be one way.
And, even those interested only in hybrid or electric vehicles should check out the GT500’s wheels. Those are 20-inch carbon fibre wheels, wheels that weigh less than the tires.
That’s supercar stuff, now available on a Mustang. Enough time passes, carbon fibre wheels will start showing up elsewhere, saving rotating and unpsrung weight, and thus improving range and handling. Even if a 700 h.p. Mustang seems a bit silly to you, the aftershock might be positive for everyone.
Watch this space for all the best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.