Posted on by Thomas Nelson 7

When Mazda first introduced its Wenkel engine in 1961, the automotive world was set alight it. Soon after, many manufacturers clamored to build their own. This engine was an automotive Gibraltar, no matter the challenges it faced, the Wenkel soldiered on. These challenges came from every angle from new emissions standards in 1970 to an oil crisis three years later, in addition to innumerable engineering issues. Mazda cultivated their Wenkel engine and planted it in their sporty RX-7 and it was an instant hit. Even when the RX-8 emerged as a successor to the RX-7 in 2001, the Wenkel heart beat on. Now as the RX-8’s production run is scheduled to end in 2011, a steady stream of rumors about the current Wenkel engine’s successor have flown past our desks.

First, we are going to ask all Mazda fans to take a deep breath. Okay, now that that is taken care of, we have some bad news according to Ward’s Auto Mazda is considering putting the new engine development on hold. The reason for this cutback was that at this time of economic woe, Mazda was looking for a way to reduce expenses and apparently this new engine program is very expensive.

We hope that even as the bean counters are clamoring about diminishing profit margins, Mazda continues to develop this engine. It provides the RX-8 and it’s successor with fantastic high performance and, in the era of pretty and almost all identical cars, Mazda offered a unique take on a sports car. We all hope that Mazda comes to their senses and keeps this iconic power plant.

Source: Jalopnik

The Toyota Highlander entered production in 2000 and, in 2007, Toyota was already offering the second generation of the SUV. Being the first car-based midsize SUV or midsize crossover offered in North America, the Highlander soon became one of the most successful models on the market, setting the industry standard for car-based SUVs in innovation, comfort, and sales.

The second generation revealed in 2007 was significantly larger, roomier, and more powerful than the previous Toyota Highlander. It is noticeably quieter, smarter, and more spacious with improved unprecedented versatility and ride comfort. It is powered by a new 3.5-liter V6 with dual independent variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) that delivers a total of 270 HP - a 55 HP increase over the previous generation. This engine delivers an impressive fuel economy of 31 city and 27 highway, making the Highlander the most-fuel efficient mid-size SUV.

Hit the jump to read more about the second generation Toyota Highlander.

Posted on by Thomas Nelson 8

BMW has essentially kept the same vehicle lineup since 1975. This lineup was based on the standard sedans and eventually added SUV’s. These were all made to preform to a demanding sports car standard. The world we know today has changed with a majority of the people living in large urban environments which has led to a explosion of small "city" cars. These cars whilst being small enough to park in a shoebox are known to have the driving dynamics of an office chair on a cobblestone road. Now, can you imagine the utility of a city car with that uniquely BMW BMW traits of phenomenal engineering and handling combined with a peppy engine. It’s enough to make our mouths water.

These BMW models known as the i3 and the i8 (due to be introduced in 2013 and 2014 respectively) were described by BMW as "[concept studies..[and] the sports car for a new generation — pure, emotional and sustainable." These concept studies represent a huge technological push for BMW as the i3 is their first purely electric car and the i8 is a gasoline/electric hybrid. Inside Line points out that this electric car (i3) is going to bring sport into this previous dull electric vehicle market. For example, the i3 will use carbon fiber extensively to fend away the unnecessary weight ( it weighs 600 pounds less than its main competitor the Nissan Nissan Leaf.) Under the bonnet you will find a 125 KW electric motor that will move this 2,756 lb car to 60 mph in an astounding 7.9 seconds and up to a top speed of 93 mph. Although most electric cars have a range that can be measured in blocks rather than miles, the BMW manages a fantastic range of 93 miles between charges.

The innovation continues with the i8 which is powered by a 3 liter gasoline engine and an electric engine that develop 349 horsepower and 406 lbs/ft of torque. This will propel the full size sedan (182.6 inches long) to 60 mph in "less than 4.6 seconds" and onto a governed speed limit of 155 mph.

Here at TopSpeed we do admire for BMW for making this market segment more geared towards what we call "eco-sport" cars. We think the combination of zero emissions and performance will make the i3 a instant hit. The i8 however will face tough competitor from the Honda CRZ sports hybrid. The one complaint we have with both these cars is their overall look. Both these cars look a little too much like they escaped from the set of "I, Robot." We believe this could be a "Concorde moment" and invigorate the electric car/hybrid market and show the way to the future.

Posted on by Thomas Nelson 17

When we are looking for a sport utility vehicle that can negotiate the urban jungle as well as the real jungle, the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD (Toyota Racing Development) is an outstanding option. This descendant of rugged Toyota off roaders is no longer a one trick pony and has added urban practicality to its impressive off road reputation. Toyota has made the FJ Cruiser TRD a utilitarian option that can do both jobs supremely well whether it is navigating the parking lot at the supermarket or crawling over a sand dune in the Sahara.

Of the different versions and options offered for the vehicle, we picked the the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser with the TRD package because it offers quite the bang for your buck ($33,461). For that price, we got a genuinely brilliant off roader that can seat five adults, but more importantly, receives a sportier feel with TRD 16-in. 6-spoke alloy wheels and hefty BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires. Then there’s the TRD-developed, high-speed–tuned Bilstein shocks for extra support.

The FJ is a relative newcomer to the market (introduced in 2006) . Now, the FJ is aiming to tackle the suburbs as well the trail. Let’s see if the FJ can truly be the best of both worlds.

Hit the jump to see if Toyota was successful.

It seems that Audi is rather serious about expanding their SUV line-up. The current range includes the Q3 , Q5 , and Q7 models, and the company is preparing a Q6 to target the BMW X6 and the Q1 to do battle with the Mini Countryman . One would think that would be enough, but the company is apparently readying another model in the Q4 SUV. The model will be a direct competitor to the Range Rover Evoque and will actually be a sporty version of the Q5.

Not much has been said about the Q4, but it is definitely not a rumor. The SUV is already at the advanced concept stage at Audi’s Ingolstadt R&D centre in Germany. It will be built on the same MLB platform as the Q5. The model will be a five-body SUV with design elements inspired by the A5 Sportback .

For the engine line-up, the company will offer a new 2.0-liter turbodiesel with 170 HP and 210 HP, as well as a 240 HP 3.0-liter V6 diesel. Petrol engines will include a 270 HP naturally aspirated 3.2-liter V6 and a 328 HP supercharged 3.0-liter V6 petrol. The latter engine will only be available in selected markets, including North America. A hybrid version will also be offered.

Expect this model to hit the market no earlier than 2015.

Source: AutoCar

The Cadillac SRX was unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and is going on sale starting at $33,330 for the base 3.0 Liter V6 powered front wheel drive version and climbs all the way up to $51,360 for the 2.8 Liter six cylinder Turbo Premium version. As the Cadillac of crossovers enters its second generation, the completely redesigned SRX delivers a dynamic alternative in terms of visual appeal and driving character to ordinary CUVs with its downsized fuel efficient gas burning engines. The SRX comes standard with a front wheel drive layout and is available with all wheel drive as an option. It is built atop a version of General Motors’ Theta platform that is also used for the Chevrolet Equinox and the Epsilon II platform that is also used for the European Opel Insignia .

UPDATE 04/12/2011: After being dramatically redesigned back in 2010, the Cadillac SRX has once again been put under the magnifying glass, but this time the changes that were made to the lineup were minimal. All SRX fans out there will have much to rejoice over as the 2012 Cadillac will get a more powerful version added to its line-up: a 3.6 liter direct-injected V-6 engine that will deliver a total of 300 HP and 260 lb.-ft. of torque.

UPDATE 07/26/11: Cadillac has released some new information about the 2012 SRX, including adjustments to the performance figures on the SUV, as well as new interior features that will be included in the 2012 model. Head on after the jump to find out what’s in store for us with the 2012 SRX.

UPDATE 04/10/12: Cadillac has unveiled the 2013 SRX at the New York Auto Show a series of exterior and interior updates, but the most important one is the addition of the company’s latest CUE - a in-vehicle user experience that incorporates touch-screen controls similar to the most popular mobile devices.

Hit the jump for more details on the Cadillac SRX.

True to its promise of reinventing itself for the new year, Dodge is coming to the 2011 Chicago Auto Show with a roster of R/T edition models, one of which is the hulking mass of power, the Dodge Durango R/T. Joining the Durango R/T at show will be four other R/T models, including the Charger R/T, the Challenger R/T, the Grand Caravan R/T, and the Journey R/T. Incidentally, the last two models are the first of its line to be outfitted with Dodge’s road & track setup.

Similar to the Durango Heat revealed earlier, the Durango R/T comes with a bevy of aesthetic improvements and performance modifications. Essentially, both the Durango R/T and the Durango Heat are the same models except for one pretty important aspect: engine performance. Regardless of the different powertrains, Dodge has set high expectations for both the Durango R/T and the Durango Heat within the full-size SUV segment.

At the Chicago Auto Show, we’ll get a pretty good idea on whether these two gnarly machines are up to the task.

Details on the Dodge Durango R/T after the jump.

Posted on by Matt McDonald 19

Mini has released many new models in the past two years, but its bread and butter has always been the Cooper and it still remains a high priority. Updates to the Mini Cooper have been coming steadily every year since day one. The R50 Cooper that started the revival for the company in the United States was utilitarian compared to these new models and had left much to be desired.

For 2011, the car receives some minor updates that will help keep it viable until a replacement model is introduced. Refinement is the one word that we would use to describe the new model and that does not mean it is as refined as its BMW cousins, just refined enough for a Mini. The refresh may only be minor, but it is helpful to this car in every way.

Hit the jump for more details on the 2011 Mini Cooper.

Source: Mini
Posted on by Michael Sheena 2

Chevrolet chose San Diego to launch its long awaited Camaro Convertible. On hand were both the high performance SS models and V6 models that will likely account for more than half of convertible sales. Chevrolet also offered writers the chance to get behind the wheel of V8 and V6 Ford Mustangs for competitive evaluation. We were one of the lucky ones to do so.

The Camaro Convertible offers the same engine choices as the coupe: a 312-hp Direct Injection V6 engine for the standard version and a 6.2-liter V8 engine producing 426 hp for the SS version. A six-speed manual transmission will be standard, with an optional six-speed automatic.

The Convertible Camaro will be offered with four-wheel disc brakes, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, and 18", 19" or 20" wheels. The SS model gets Launch Control with a manual transmission to optimize hard-acceleration launches for quicker, more consistent performance.

Update 01/31/2011: General Motors has finally put the Camaro Convertible into production at their Oshawa plant. The first units will arrive at dealerships in February with prices starting at $30,000 for a Camaro Convertible equipped with a 3.6L V-6 engine to $37,500 for the SS version.

UPDATE 05/29/11: We’ve uploaded a new video featuring the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible as it undergoes some extreme testing courtesy of General Motor’s highly entertaining Dept. 180. As always, Dept. 180 takes the testing and puts its own unique twist on it. Pretty enjoyable video if you ask us and something that you can spend three minutes of your life watching.

More details on the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible after the jump.

Like with the sedan version, the Lexus IS Convertible is entering the 2011 model year with interior and exterior updates. Customers will have to choose from two versions: the IS 250C and the IS 350C, with prices ranging from $39,890 to $45,340.

The headlamps are now offered with new LED daytime running lamps and there is a new exterior color - Deep Sea Mica - that replaces the Ultrasonic Blue. For the interior, the IS convertible receives black metallic and silver finished trim to complement its sophisticated and sporty style. Vehicles with the optional Luxury package can now be equipped with Saddle Tan or Light Gray interior selections in addition to Black.

Both versions can be equipped with F Sport Performance Accessories that include performance enhancing parts such as 19-inch forged alloy wheels, brake upgrades, suspension systems, air intake, exhaust systems, and more.

Hit the jump to read more about the 2011 Lexus IS C.

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