Sunday, July 3, 2011

Toyota unveils hybrid sports car concept

toyota hybrid sports car

A potential successor to the departed Toyota MR2 mid-engine sports car was shown at last weekend’s Nürburgring 24-hour endurance race, a concept car which adds electric motivation and potentially all-wheel-drive.


Dubbed the GRMN Sports Hybrid Concept II, the prototype uses Toyota’s 3.5-litre V-6 and an electric motor in the centre of the sleek convertible body to primarily propel the rear wheels, while another electric motor powers the two front wheels. Combined output is rated at 295 hp, with 50 of those ponies coming from the electric motor up front.

Wrapped around a menacing-looking body that weighs “1,500 kg or less,” says Toyota, its impressive power numbers are down 100 ponies compared to the first GRMN Sports Hybrid concept, revealed last year at the Tokyo Auto Salon. That was a much-less-polished concept vehicle, with bulbous bodywork meant to cover the new hybrid components that were added onto the platform of a last-generation MR2 – a Miata-sized mid-engine sports car that didn’t make it to Canada.

The Concept II’s much-more-finished lines are still aggressive, and appear closer to prototype if not quite production-level yet. Toyota isn’t committing itself to selling a version of this beast, saying only that it has long researched hybrids as potential sports cars and racers, with this droptop “the next step in the evolution of these efforts.”

The mouthful of a name certainly won’t make it to production, although there is some poignant meaning there. The GRMN stands for Gazoo Racing, a factory-friendly tuning and racing outfit, with the MN representing “Meister of Nürburgring,” a tribute to Hiromu Naruse, a long-time Toyota test driver who was killed in a crash last year near the famed ’Ring circuit while driving a Lexus LFA.

Honda leads quality survey

Three Canadian-built vehicles rated highest for initial quality in their segment, according to the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, with Honda products finishing atop one-third of the vehicle categories.

The Alliston, Ont.-built Civic was one of Honda’s seven vehicles found to have the fewest problems for recent purchasers in its class, out of 21 total segments. The Civic actually tied Honda’s Insight hybrid as the compact class winner, and joined the Accord, Accord Crosstour, Element, Fit, and Ridgeline as IQ segment leaders.

The other Canadian-built class winners included the Chrysler Town & Country minivan, built in Windsor, as well as the Brampton-built Dodge Challenger in the mid-size sporty car group, which finished just ahead of Oshawa-built muscle car, the Chevrolet Camaro.

J.D. Power gathers feedback from more than 73,000 new car buyers in the United States, taken after vehicle owners have owned their cars for 90 days – thus the key word here is “initial” quality. It’s this large sample and near-instant feedback on its new models, in this case 2011 models, that tweak auto maker interest in this survey, since reported problems are often not mechanical or reliability issues, but often just things that owners don’t like about their new car.

One of the more interesting findings this year is that vehicle quality scores decreased for newly redesigned models, by 10 per cent even though the overall quality of new vehicles improved slightly. So, the new but largely unchanged models were therefore found to improve quality enough to offset the flashy latest and greatest products, which featured the most technologically advanced systems. The overall problems per 100 score decreased from 109 in 2010 to 107 in 2011.

David Sargent, J.D. Power vice-president of vehicle research, attributed this to new and unfamiliar technologies, citing in particular voice-activated sound and navigation systems that can seem impressive on paper, but less so in practise. Ford and Lincoln new vehicles have been criticized for their MyFord and MyLincoln Touch systems, though the auto maker-friendly market research firm doesn’t call them out in particular.

Lexus takes home the crown for highest average brand score, with 73 problems per 100, while its full-size LS was for the second straight year judged to have the highest quality of any of the more than 200 models rated in the survey, which are not quite all cars available in the U.S. market, but close. The next highest brands were Honda (86), Acura (89), Mercedes-Benz (94) and Mazda (100).

Land Rover finally extricated itself from its usual basement placing in the brand comparison this year, improving to a score of 123/100, leaving Dodge (137/100) in a virtual tie with Suzuki (136/100) with the lowest initial quality scores. The full results of the study and winners in every segment can be found online at jdpower.com.

Activists ask Subaru to leave Saudi Arabia

A group of Saudi Arabian women fighting against the strict Islamic country’s ban on women drivers have called for Subaru to stop selling cars in the oil-rich nation until the country’s leadership drops laws against women taking the wheel.

The Saudi Women for Driving group succeeded in enlisting the support of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for its protests, which calls for Subaru to pull out of the country. “It is our hope that this will put huge pressure on the Saudi royal family and shine a bright light on the ‘gender apartheid’ in our country,” the group wrote in an online petition at change.org, a social activism website. The site’s human rights editor, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, told wire services that the protest may spread to GM’s Cadillac brand, as well as Hyundai.

A Subaru spokesperson said the firm only sells 300-400 cars there a year, but the group said it targeted the company because it markets heavily to women around the world.

Chrysler’s Gilles to add more tech to reborn SRT brand

Montreal-born Ralph Gilles will spearhead Chrysler’s revived SRT group, with plans to reintroduce revised SRT8 versions this fall of the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Only the two-door Challenger SRT8 survived the recent SRT8 purge. Traditionally focused on increasing go-fast power and the brawny looks of its vehicles, Gilles told trade journal Automotive News recently that the new SRT brand would also include more high-end audio and advanced electronics inside.

The upcoming 2012 SRT models will all feature active suspensions, as well as some of the best sound systems Chrysler has put in a car, said Gilles.

The brand is also working on a Dodge Viper at the top of its performance food chain, says Gilles, who is the former Dodge boss and still head of design Chrysler-wide. The Viper is likely to have a less spartan interior than the former V-10 beast and – finally – a long-overdue electronic stability control system.

source: theglobeandmail