Category Archives: Japan

Mazda’s Rotary Engine Could Return As Range Extender Option

When the Mazda RX-8 ceased production several years ago, its departure represented not only the end of an era for Mazda, but also seemingly sealed the fate of the rotary engine, which was once seen as a novel solution for higher fuel economy by automakers back in the 1970s. However, recent comments by a high ranking Mazda executive appear to suggest that the rotary could be making a return to production automobiles, albeit in an unexpected role.

In a recent interview with the folks at Automotive News, Mitsuo Hitomi chief of Mazda’s powertrain division revealed that there could be a very good chance that the next iteration of the rotary engine could appear as a range extender for electric automobiles. While this would be a dramatic change in role for an engine that once defined the pinnacle of Mazda performance, its potential shift in function could help the novel powerplant fulfill its original green intentions, especially when one looks at prior efforts at this idea by Mazda.

Back in 2013 Mazda was already working on a rotary engine equipped extended range EV, with this early effort materializing in the Mazda2 RE Range Extender concept car. The tiny concept had a 250 mile driving range with half of it coming from its battery, while the other half was supplied by a 330 cc rotary engine which was hooked up to a 2.6 liter fuel tank. More recently, the RX-Vision concept also teased a rotary powered performance vehicle that could also add electrification to its list of tricks if it ever makes its way into formal production.

With all that said, its important to look at the finer details into how such an idea is possible. While the rotary engine has never been known for its efficiency (a key trait that made automakers such as GM and AMC abandon the idea for their lineups,) it is a very smooth running engine, and is also reasonably compact when compared to a conventional engine. Modern technology could allow Mazda engineers to make the engines even smaller than before, which will not only improve overall fuel economy, but also improve space and weight savings for the vehicle at the same time. These latter two traits would allow Mazda to add more batteries, or simply keep the car lightweight, and use this newfound lightness to retain the spirited handling that Mazda models have been long known for.

While this news might not be encouraging to rotary die-hards eagerly awaiting an RX-8 successor, Hitomi also revealed that a bigger rotary engine is also in development with the engine being tuned towards formal sports car applications. However, like many good things in life, the engine is reportedly being stonewalled by management that want a better business case for offering such a model in the first place. If we were in the board room, we would highlight the lack of a formal halo entry in Mazda’s lineup, which would help create a halo effect for other Mazda models including its growing CUV lineup. Either way, it looks like the humble rotary has a strong chance at catering to a new era of buyers if all the cards are right.

 

Mitsubishi Unleashes Blacked Out Lancer Limited Edition

Mitsubishi’s venerable Lancer sedan is getting ready to head to greener pastures in 2017, but that doesn’t mean that the Japanese auto giant is letting it exit with a whimper. Mitsubishi has formally unveiled an all new Lancer variant that adds to bring more style and a few pinches of new technology to sedan buyers.

Dubbed the Lancer Limited Edition, this all new variant is positioned directly above the base ES model, and is designed to help add more style and technology to the Lancer’s value oriented mission. The LE was inspired by the recent emergence of popular blacked out models that are being offered by competitors, and while it will never match the dearly departed Lancer Evolution’s bold styling cues, it does bring some boldness back to the car.

As mentioned earlier, the LE takes its inspiration from other blacked out models and comes equipped with black 16-inch wheels as well as black accents for the roof, upper front grille trim, fender garnish, as well as the door mirrors. These tweaks certainly help the Lancer stand out better in a crowd, though it is still a step behind Nissan’s recently expanded lineup of Midnight Edition offerings.

The interior has also seen its fair share of upgrades, and is swathed in black fabric with red stitching covering the steering wheel, shift knob, parking brake lever, armrests, as well as the door trim. Other goodies include a trim exclusive black headliner, aluminum pedals, and Mitsubishi’s familiar 6.5 inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

The Lancer LE will begin arriving in Mitsubishi showrooms later this month with a base price of $19,795. This pricing still puts the Lancer in the lower end of the sedan segment, and should make it a compelling choice for buyers that want a balanced blend of style and technology but don’t want to break the bank in the process.

Honda Showcases Clarity Electric and Plug-in Hybrid

The Clarity fuel cell was a big achievement for Honda when the Japanese auto giant first unveiled it several years ago. However, the fuel Cell represented only a small portion of the Clarity’s full potential, and Honda has unveiled the final two members of the Clarity family under the bright lights of the New York International Auto Show, the Clarity Electric and the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid.

The Clarity PHEV is equipped with an ultra efficient 1.5 liter Atkinson cycle engine to generate electricity and directly power the front wheels in certain driving conditions. The engine is capable of delivering 181 horsepower and is paired with a lithium ion battery pack. Honda claims that the PHEV can be driven on all electric power up to 42 miles and achieve up to 42 mpg when the gasoline engine is running.

Meanwhile the Clarity Electric is solely powered by an electric motor that delivers 161 horsepower, and its battery can be fully charged in three hours or up to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. Honda claims that the Clarity Electric is capable of achieving up to 111 MPGe but curiously its 25.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack is not that much bigger than the plug-in hybrid. This particular figure contributes to the Clarity Electric’s rather modest 80 mile driving range which is one of the lowest in the market and falls short of the Chevrolet Bolt and the Volkswagen e-Golf.

Honda claims that the Clarity Electric compensates for that initial disadvantage by being more spacious and luxurious than any other non-Tesla offering out on the market. It will be interesting to see if this will be enough to win over electric car buyers, but both models feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability as well as sustainable bio-fabric and plastic trim.

Honda revealed that both models are expected to start in the mid-$30,000 range before tax incentives but wheras the PHEV will roll out in all 50 states right out the gate, the Clarity Electric will initially only be available in California and Oregon before eventually rolling out in the remaining 48 states.

How Toyota’s FT-4X Concept Could Revamp Future Of SUVs

Toyota’s FT-4X concept SUV certainly made waves when it was unveiled in New York yesterday, but the pint sized utility also hints at what could be in store for Toyota’s CUV lineup.

Currently Toyota has a very diverse lineup of CUVs, but a notable void exists in the compact CUV segment. Granted the C-HR is a commendable attempt at filling the gap, but its odd styling does detract from its overall mission somewhat.

This is where the FT-4X finds its niche, building on a rugged looking canvas that hints at crossing the beaten path. However, Toyota claims that the FT-4X’s suit of clothes actually highlight its “Rugged Charm” (whatever that means) and that it was designed to appeal to “casual core” consumers. The flat panel roof houses power outlets, which allows buyers to power campsite electronics directly from the exterior.

The interior was also designed to reflect the needs of city dwellers with Toyota claiming that it is a “rolling gearbox” with the cabin offering commendable levels of storage in a deceptively open layout. A key feature is the dual temperature controlled storage boxes in the tailgate that can keep food hot or cold while still moonlighting as a handy place to store your gear.

Curiously, Toyota chose to not add a formal infotainment system, and instead constructed a unit that allows occupants to mount their phone to it in a nod towards Generation Y’s varied uses for smartphones (including navigation.)

Toyota has not formally commented on whether the FT-4X will eventually spawn a production model or not. But buyers clamoring for a reborn FJ Cruiser will most likely be disappointed. Instead, the production version would most likely be a compact CUV that would give Toyota an entry against the Jeep Renegade as well as the Kia Soul and Honda HR-V.

Honda Civic Si Torque Figure Revealed

With all the attention focused on the range topping Civic Type R, its easy to forget that the Japanese car maker is also preparing to unleash an updated Civic Si to appeal to budget minded enthusiasts. Honda has kept the bulk of the details under wraps so far, but it appears that this tight cloak of secrecy is beginning to unravel.

While it is currently unknown how much horsepower the next generation Civic Si will produce, an email that was sent to a prospective buyer has revealed the amount of torque that the upcoming model will produce. The message was posted on the CivicX forum last Thursday, and proclaims “The all new Civic Si features a turbocharged engine and 192 lb-ft of torque, making your everyday errands more exciting than ever.

If this figure is true, then the 1.5 liter turbocharged engine that will be powering the Si will be significantly less potent than the 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder that will be powering the Type R. For reference, the Type R’s engine will produce 295 lb-ft of torque. As a matter of fact, this figure is actually not that much higher than the 177 lb-ft of torque wielded by the Civic Hatchback Sport.

However, look for the Si to stand out from that model by offering more horsepower with early projections suggesting that it will have at least 200 horsepower versus the 180 horsepower that the Sport possesses.  This would also support Honda’s plans to formally revive its performance intentions, and create ample separation in performance numbers for each of its models.

Despite this relatively modest figure, 192 lb-ft is still an impressive number from a 1.5 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine, and it would also finally resolve the lack of torque that defined older iterations of the Si, which embraced higher rev limits and a pure naturally aspirated layout in terms of power delivery.

2018 STI front fascia

Subaru Showcases 2018 WRX, WRX STI

Subaru and its iconic WRX and WRX STI models have been the number one choice for enthusiasts looking for a budget oriented slice of speed. With the Ford Focus RS looking to take over where the axed Mitsubishi Evolution left off, Subaru has unveiled the updated 2018 WRX and WRX STI ahead of their debut at NAIAS.

The new variants collaborate earlier reports, and are based off the previous generation Impreza versus the all new model that is launching this year. For 2018 Subaru focused on giving the duo a more aggressive front fascia that features an all2018 STI wheel new grille design, and a larger lower grille opening. WRX Limited and STI models also get all new LED Steering Response Headlights that turn in sync with the steering wheel, which improves both night time visibility and safety. The only other key change for 2018 is new mounting brackets for the roof rack.

Both engines carryover unchanged, but Subaru engineers have made significant improvements to the car’s drivetrains. A new synchro design makes its debut in the WRX’s six speed manual gearbox, and the internals were revamped to reduce overall friction. The clutch was upgraded and now offers easier take-up behavior versus older STIs. The electric power steering system was also re-calibrated to give drivers a more natural feel that is smoother and less artificial.

The suspension for both cars was also redone, and promises to give buyers better stability as well as boosted comfort for long journeys. With the Focus RS offering a solid balance of both comfort and razor sharp handling, Subaru had to do what it takes to keep both models on their respective “A” games.

Befitting its role as the pinnacle of Subaru performance, Subaru engineers went even further with the STI version. Beefier Brembo brakes are nestled in all four 2018 STI brake rotorwheels, and are highlighted by six-piston front calipers, and drilled rotors all around. Meanwhile, a revised all-wheel drive system with a fully electronic center differential sharpens the cars handling, and keeps occupants from bashing the slick 19-inch wheels.

As for the WRX, a new performance package highlights its 2018 revisions, and adds eight-way power adjustable Recaro seats, a sunroof delete, upgraded JURID brake pads, and red painted brake calipers. The STI Limited also gets the new seats, but base STI buyers can only get them as an optional extra.

Both models also strive to be quieter than before, and this is achieved with thicker door glass, revised door sealing, and a foam filled windshield header beam. Convenience has not been forgotten either, and all WRX models gain heated outside mirrors and a bigger multi-function display.

Stepping up to the WRX Limited nabs power lumbar adjustments and WRX Premium models feature a new 7-inch multimedia display. Rounding out the laundry list of2018 STI side profile improvements is a revised front structure for better collision performance in accidents, and a new vehicle hold system that allows the driver to take their foot off the brake pedal when at a stop on a flat surface.

Subaru did not release any pricing information or when the 2018 STI and WRX will make their way to dealer lots. But, look for them to begin streaming into showrooms over the next few months, with a pricing ladder that will most likely not stray too far from the current generation WRX and WRX STI and their respective pricing ladders.

Stay tuned for live photos, and our thoughts on the 2018 Subaru WRX and WRX STI when they make their debut at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. We look forward to perhaps test driving either of these models to see how they fare against a new generation of budget sport entries.  In the meantime you can check out the gallery below, and tell us what you think of the 2018 WRX and WRX STI.

Nissan To Debut Qashqai CUV In Detroit

Nissan’s popular Rouge CUV has proven to be a hot seller for Nissan but has also exposed the lack of a smaller entry for the Japanese car giant. Nissan appears to be eager to solve this problem, and introduce the Qashqai CUV to the U.S. market if recent rumors are to be believed.

This is according to several unnamed sources via The Truth About Cars who revealed that the Qashqai will make its debut at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. If this move is indeed legit, it would give Nissan a second entry in the popular CUV segment which is experiencing a surge of demand here in the U.S. There is also some precedence for this as well, with the larger Rouge becoming Nissan’s best selling model in the U.S. during 2016. This achievement also allowed it to completely overtake the Nissan Altima and Sentra sedans for the first time ever in corporate vehicle sales.

Meanwhile, the Qashqai is the best selling model in Europe, and while there is a concern that the Qashqai will cannibalize sales from the larger Rouge if it is offered in the U.S. market, Nissan could treat it as a necessary evil especially since the company would rather prefer that option versus seeing potential customers drifting to rivals like the Toyota CH-R, Honda HR-V, and the recently announced Ford EcoSport.

It’s currently unknown how extensive of a revision program NIssan would have to do to the Qashqai in order to make it pass U.S. regulations, but at first glance the Rouge and Qashqai look very similar to one another though, the Qashqai’s smaller wheelbase and the lack of a third row seat blow its cover on closer inspection. Both models also underpin a platform that is currently used in several other world market Nissan products, but it is unknown what engines would make it over to the U.S. version. That said, we’re confident that the diesel engine that sees duty in the dCi 130 variant will most likely not make the trip across the pond due to it needing extensive work to meet tougher U.S. diesel regulations, especially in the wake of the ongoing Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.

Look for the Qashqai to go on sale sometime in 2017 if the current time table is confirmed with more information possibly being unveiled in Detroit.

Honda Teases 2018 Odyssey With New Sketch

With Chevrolet’s recent announcement regarding the arrival of the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, Honda has followed suit, and announced plans to debut the 2018 Odyssey minivan ahead of NAIAS.

In addition to its official announcement, Honda also released a teaser sketch that provides a glimpse at the new minivan. While some of the wilder elements such as the oversized rims will not make production, it does show that an evolutionary update is in store with the previous generation’s trademark “lightning bolt” window line and D-pillar making the transistion.

It also appears that the 2018 Odyssey will have a more sculpted body than before and benefit from a renewed focus on lines and curves. This would allow it to stand out against the blander Toyota Sienna, while also being on par with the strong selling Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

Honda elected to not release any photos of the interior, but expect the evolutionary theme to continue with a revised center stack. tweaked gauge cluster, as well as a new suite of convinence and safety features for all occupants.

Stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for our live coverage of the 2017 North American International Auto Show as well as the official debut of the 2018 Honda Odyssey on January 9th.

Lexus To Debut Next Generation LS Sedan At NAIAS

When Lexus first unleashed the LS flagship sedan at the North American International Auto Show back in 1989, it was a big gamble for a young brand that was making its debut in the luxury automobile market. However, its combination of technology, performance, and style helped it and the Lexus brand as a whole grow into a successful powerhouse in the segment. 28 years later, Lexus is aiming to recreate this success with the unveiling of the 2017 Lexus LS sedan in the very venue that started it all.

Lexus claims that this iteration will be a true world class flagship offering, and will debut an all new styling theme that is said to boast a coupe-like sillhouette. This has us excited, especially since the more conventional current gen LS looks awkward, and has fallen behind stylish entries from BMW and Mercedes. It will be interesting to see what the full extent of the design is, but expect a renewed emphasis on sport and elegance.

Look for the revamped interior to also follow this mantra, and take a few pages out of the LC 500’s playbook especially with its dash and gauge layout. The platform (dubbed GA-L) is an extended version of the LC’s, and is expected to bring new levels of vigor and sharpness to the car’s handling manners.

Expect more details and teaser images to gradually be revealed over the next few weeks before its debut at NAIAS and stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for our live look at the 2017 Lexus LS in all of its glory.

Toyota Teases 2018 Camry Ahead of Detroit Debut

The Toyota Camry has always been known for two key attributes its ability to bring strong sales to the Japanese auto giant’s coffers, and its equally bland styling elements. However if a lone teaser image is to be believed, 2017 will bring big changes to the venerable four door.

While a lone shot of the tailight may not be too revealing at first glance, a closer look reveals that a substantial redesign is in store for the 2018 Camry. The LED taillight design is quite handsome, but what has our attention is the vent that runs from the bumper into the tailight. While it is most likely non-functional, it adds a dash of boldness and, intergrates nicely into the design.

Lastly the intresting crease in the C-pillar has us wondering how the trunk and rear window will mesh since it resembles a five door hatchback-esque layout versus the traditional four door sedan approach. The one aspect we aren’t fans of is the obvious traits that it borrows from rivals especially the Ford Fusion and the Kia Optima.

This is a minor complaint of course, and we look forward to seeing what else is in store for the 2018 Toyota Camry when it maked its debut in Detroit. Stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for the latest on the 2018 Toyota Camry, as well as our live coverage from the 2017 North American International Auto Show.