• MINI previews Detroit-bound John Cooper Works Concept

    December 17, 2013

    BMW’s MINI division has published preliminary details about the John Cooper Works Concept that will greet the public for the first time at next month’s Detroit Motor Show.

    Billed as a close-to-production concept, the John Cooper Works show car previews the upcoming performance-focused version of the all-new 2015 MINI Cooper. It stands out from its regular-production counterpart thanks to a hand-polished Bright Highways Grey paint job with contrasting Chili Red accents, black trim around the radiator grille, aggressive bumpers with large air dams and a roof-mounted spoiler.

    Low-profile tires mounted on 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, side skirts and bespoke emblems all around finish off the look.

    Interior pictures were not published, and MINI has chosen not to reveal what lies in the John Cooper Works Concept’s engine bay. Rumors indicate the car is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that sends over 210 horsepower and 200 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, enabling the hatchback reach 62 mph from a stop in a little under six seconds.

    As before, a sport-tuned suspension and upgraded Brembo brakes all around help the driver exploit the engine’s full potential.

    Look for a full set of details about the MINI John Cooper Works Concept to emerge in the weeks leading up to its debut in Michigan. The production version of the show car will likely greet the public at next March’s Geneva Motor Show and go on sale next fall as a 2015 model.

  • Italian design house Bertone nearing bankrutpcy

    December 17, 2013

    Bertone’s design arm is on the brink of bankruptcy following years of mounting losses.

    Although it has produced concept cars for almost every major European auto show held in the past few years, Bertone’s order book has been nearly empty for a long time and it is operating in the red. A new sub-division called Bertone Workshop that aims to build one-off cars at the request of the lucky few that can afford it also failed to win over customers, so the company’s 165 workers have reportedly been furloughed without pay and ten interns have been sent home for good.

    A court administrator is in the process of finding a new buyer for Bertone. An unidentified company based in Turkey has expressed an interest in buying the design firm and its assets for the relatively low sum of €2 million (approximately $1.37 million). The deal will be presented to an Italian judge over the coming days and, if approved, Bertone will file for bankruptcy early next year in order to facilitate the change of ownership.

    If the Turkish deal falls through, Italian media outlets are reporting that seven other parties have voiced an interest in buying the company but none have been identified.

  • Next Mitsubishi Evolution to ditch Lancer roots, go hybrid?

    December 17, 2013

    Mitsubishi is charting a radical new course for its next-generation Evolution performance sedan, a recent report finds.

    Buoyed by a successful internal restructuring and anticipated record profits for fiscal 2013, the Japanese automaker is turning its attention toward designing an ambitious and advanced new Evolution that will share little more than a name – and perhaps not even that – with the current model, according to a Motor Trend report.

    Drawing on lessons learned from the development of the Outlander PHEV crossover, Mitsubishi will likely fit the Evo with a hybrid AWD powertrain composed of two electric motors and an uprated version of the 135-horsepower 1.1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder than debuted in the XR-PHEV concept.

    Critically, the electric motors will be significantly smaller and lighter than those in the Outlander PHEV. They will be mounted one apiece to the front and rear, a setup that, along with a battery pack mounted under the rear seats, will contribute to a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.

    In conjunction with Mitusbishi’s next S-AWC (super all wheel control) system, the setup is said to provide exemplary handling as well as much-improved fuel economy.

    However, the powetrain is apparently too potent for the Renault Megane platform that will underpin the new Lancer, meaning that Mitsubishi will be forced to develop bespoke architecture for the Evolution.

    As a result, the Lancer name will likely be dropped from the sport sedan. Given its stark departure from its predecessors, the Evolution moniker may be retired as well.

    Rumors suggest that the Evolution successor is at least two years away from production.

  • Infiniti Q50 recalled over steer-by-wire problem

    December 17, 2013

    A problem with Infiniti’s industry-first steer-by-wire system has forced the automaker to recall a handful of Q50 luxury sedans.

    Known as Direct Adaptive Steering, the steer-by-wire setup actually features no direct connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels in normal driving situations. Instead, it uses a sensor to measure steering inputs and convert them into front wheel movement, while a conventional mechanical steering system stands ready to take over if the electronics fail.

    It’s an impressive feat of engineering, but as the recall shows, there are still bugs to be worked out.

    According to a notice posted to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration’s website, the issue stems from a particular version of the steering software that, when confronted with weather cold enough to drive engine bay temperatures below freezing, is liable to disable the steer-by-wire.

    Even worse, it can delay the engagement of the backup mechanical steering system, leaving the driver without any means to steer the vehicle.

    Thankfully, only 23 Q50 sedans are impacted by the dangerous software glitch.

    Infiniti parent company Nissan has already notified owners of the affected Q50s, and dealers will apply a software update to remedy the defect.

  • ’15 Mustang GT to outrun old Boss 302 Laguna Seca

    December 17, 2013

    Ford’s new-for-2015 Mustang is months away from hitting the road, but already the automaker is hyping up its ponycar’s improved performance.

    Speaking with Automotive.com, Ford representative Brian Cotter indicated that the standard Mustang GT will best the outgoing track-oriented Boss 302 Laguna Seca. A short-run special edition, the Laguna Seca lapped its namesake race track – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California – in a hair under 1:40.

    The new Mustang GT, says Cotter, will lap the course in even less time. The site says that Ford benchmarked the Porsche 911 and BMW M3 when it was developing the car’s on-track performance.

    Ford has indicated that the new Mustang will weigh somewhere around 200 lbs. less than its predecessor, which will help its power-to-weight ratio. Although exact performance specifications haven’t been announced, a small power boost for the brand’s 5.0-liter V8-powered GT is expected.

    Not to be ignored is the fact that the new Mustang will boast an independent rear suspension for the first time (admittedly, the mid-’90s Mustang Cobra featured an independent setup), which should further boost its handling prowess.

    Look for Ford to do some serious track testing at Laguna Seca before the Mustang hits the road in the middle of 2014.