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.
While the Kia Stinger has yet to fully complete its distribution to all of the world’s markets, Kia is already shedding some light on potential variants of the already desirable liftback, including perhaps a range topping performance model that would slot above the current GT model, and possibly adopt the GTR moniker.
These revelations come from Albert Biermann the chief exec behind the company’s performance models during a recent interview with the folks at Motoring magazine. Biermann revealed that while “The car technically has more potential no doubt” the reason why Kia has not introduced any variants of the Stinger yet is actually very simple and straightforward.
According to Biermann before the company can introduce a “GTR or something” Kia has to know how the current iterations of the Stinger will do in terms of overall sales, as well as their long term sustainability in the broader marketplace. Biermann also revealed that Kia needs to identify the customer base for the car, and after that it will then make its mind up on whether there should be a spicier version of the Stinger for buyers that want to have even more performance than the current range topping model, the Stinger GT.
With that said, it appears that for the moment, the Stinger GT (which is the fastest accelerating car Kia has ever produced) will remain the flagship version. As for U.S. buyers, the StingerGT will arrive in our country by the end of the year in either rear or all-wheel drive with a 3.3 liter biturbo V6 producing 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to propel the car to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds, so look for the proposed performance model (whenever it arrives) to shave some seconds off of that figure as well as a higher top speed than the GT’s 167 mph.
It’s not too often we have a chance to encounter upcoming model, but that’s exactly what happened when we had the opprotunity to encounter this 2019 Ram 1500 quad cab tester in the wilds of Michigan.
Being an early stage mule, this particular tester does not shed a whole lot of light on the styling direction that the next generation Ram 1500 will embark on. However, a closer look does showcase glimpses of whats in store. For example the switch from the traditional 5-lug setup to an all new 6-lug arraignment for its wheels could suggest that the new Ram is gaining weight, and that in turn could lead to increased towing and payload capacities.
Extensive interior camoflauge thwarted our efforts to get a clear view of the IP and dashboard. But the appearance of a Chrysler Pacifica derived steering wheel, as well as a mysterious contraption on the front grille could indicate that some of the van’s technologies will carry over to the 2019 Ram 1500. These could include lane keep assist, collision detection software, as well as adaptive cruise control.
Performance hardware is unknown at this juncture, but look for the familiar 3.6 liter V6 and 3.0 liter diesel engine to make their respective returns. The 5.7 liter Hemi V8 however could be axed, and replaced with an all new engine that would embrace turbocharging. This would allow Ram to follow Ford’s lead in this area, while also improving fuel economy.
Look for the 2019 Ram 1500 to eventually make its debut either later this year, or early next year at a future auto show, most likely in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show, or the Chicago Auto Show.
With the launch of the hybrid version of the Niro CUV, a new report suggests that Kia is considering an all electric version of the Niro in a bid to help it nab sales as well as increase Kia’s reputation and pedigree in the growing green car segment.
This comes from a statement released by Kia Motors operating chief Tae-Hyun-Oh who revealed in an interview with the British publication Car Dealer magazine that the Niro’s size, utility, as well as stricter emissions laws could force the Korean firm to build a Niro EV. Kia’s sister company Hyundai already sells the Tuscon Fuel Cell crossover in limited markets, as such Kia could also be considering a fuel cell car in order to further expand the brand’s experience in this segment even further.
Currently the Niro has done relatively well for Kia with the brand selling roughly 1,000 units to customers since it made its formal debut in dealer lots back in August. The all-electric version of the Niro would be underpinned on the same platform as the Kia Ioniq. The Ioniq was designed to feature hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric variants with all three part of a unified “three pronged attack” that was designed to help maximize the Ioniq’s exposure in the marketplace. The all electric version of the Ioniq made its debut in South Korea and is expected to make its way to the U.S. before the end of 2016. When it eventually arrives, the car will feature a 28 kilowatt-hour battery pack that provides a driving range of about 110 miles on a single charge.
At the moment, Kia sells an all electric version of the Soul crossover in select markets. That model has a 93 mile driving range but it could increase thanks to a 2018 refresh that Kia has planned for the Soul. This boost would allow the Soul EV to better compete against rivals like the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3.
Look for the momentum of this project to hinge on sales of the Niro hybrid and whether they are high enough to justify expanding the Niro family especially as an all electric vehicle which tends to make development expensive.
The Dodge Challenger has never been shy about broadcasting its intentions on being the best rear-wheel drive muscle car on the market especially in V8 spec. However, a new report has revealed that an all new all-wheel drive variant is in the works.
Dubbed the GT AWD, this model would be a production version of the GT AWD concept which debuted at SEMA last year and was built to be “a one of a kind year round muscle car.” The concept also featured wider body work, flared fenders, and staggered 20-inch black alloy wheels. While the production version will most likely have tamer styling, the production AWD would still look distinctive, and have improved off the line acceleration thanks to the fore-mentioned all-wheel drive system. According to Automotive Newsthe GT AWD will make its official debut later this year which could mean that it will make its debut either in Los Angeles or at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The same report also claims that Dodge is working on a new Hellcat powered flagship model that would feature wide body work and is rumored to be dubbed the Challenger ADR. The ADR could possibly draw some of its inspiration from the past and serve as a loud and bold sendoff to the current generation Challenger, before the next generation model ditches its aged Mercedes derived platform in lieu of underpinnings based off of the Giorgio platform.
The new platform is derived from Alfa Romeo, and is designed to help the Challenger be much leaner than before with initial estimates claiming that the Challenger would lose 500 lbs of excess weight with the transition to the new platform. This weight loss would help the Challenger overcome a key weakness, and could allow the model to finally have the same levels of handling finesse as its two domestic rivals the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang. It is unknown when the new Challenger will appear, but the report claims that it is expected to appear sometime in 2018.
Following up on a report that was released by The Globe and Mail. Hyundai revealed that it plans to retire the current generation Genesis Coupe, and replace it with a more suitable successor when it formally launches its all new Genesis subbrand.
The current model is a blast to drive when the roads get twisty, but a closer look reveals that it lacks polish in a few key areas, especially with regards to its interior plastics and it’s front fascia. This new model aims to rectify that, and will most likely be aimed at buyers willing to sacrifice some handling prowess for the sake of comfort.
“A new, more sophistocated and luxurious coupe appropriate for the Genesis brand is currently under development” revealed Hyundai Motor America PR manager Christine Henley in a seperate statement to The Truth About Cars.
The coupe will make its apperance after the launch of the Genesis subbrand with the G80 –rebadged Hyundai Genesis — leading the charge with the flagship G90 sedan following close behind. After those two models launch, Genesis will unleash the G70 compact sedan followed by two luxury crossover vehicles.
The new coupe also fuels prior rumors that suggested that Genesis and Hyundai’s N performance brand were collaborating on the development of a new performance coupe that would target the benchmark set by the BMW M4 as well as the Mercedes C63 AMG. It is expected that the rumored model would be a two door version of the G70 and wield a twin-turbocharged 3.3 liter V6 engine to allow it to go head to head in the horsepower race.
Neither Hyundai nor Genesis has released a formal time table for the coupe’s arrival in Genesis showrooms, but look for an announcement to take place within the next few years.
The current generation MX-5 Miata is already a stunning example in lightweight handling prowess with the car already benefiting from a weight savings suite. However, a more drastic weight loss plan could be in the works for the next generation Miata according to a recently published report.
The report which was released by the publication Autocarreveals that Mazda engineers are considering lightweight materials including carbon fiber and aluminum versus shrinking its overall footprint.
“The size is right” revealed Nobuhiro Yamamoto program manager for the MX-5 Miata in remarks to Autocar. “But in the future lightweight materials will be very important and will be used in this car. Now carbon fiber is very expensive, but we have in development affordable carbon fiber, so the MX-5 will be lighter in the future.”
In addition to the obvious improvements in fuel economy and handling. The lighter weight would also allow the Miata to be equipped with smaller engines. There have been rumors of a three cylinder engine that is possibly under development, but it is unclear if it will remain naturally aspirated or if Mazda will equip it with a turbocharger.
“It’s a simple concept” Yamamoto revealed. “The vehicle weight gets lower, there’s a smaller engine, smaller tire. It’s a lightweight sports car.”
While all of these changes do sound promising, don’t expect them to come to the Miata for a very long time. The current model was just launched over a year ago and Autocar suggests that the next generation model will not make its apperance until 2021. This is admittedly a long wait, but it will certainly be worth it when the car eventually makes its apperance.
Hummer and its Wrangler chasing HX concept were axed and swept under the rug several when GM went through its bankruptcy. However, a new report reveals that this once shelved idea is possibly gaining newfound life and vigor.
According to a report released by Automotive Newsseveral inside sources have revealed that GMC is still considering a body on frame SUV model that would share its DNA and platform with the Canyon and Colorado midsize pickups. The exterior styling is said to embody Hummer cues, and would not be that far off from the HX concept which debuted at the North American International Auto Show back in 2008.
The report also reveals that executives met with dealers last year to gauge interest and feedback on the idea with initial interest being very positive especially for a model that could potentially revive sales.
Low sales figures have been a persistent issue for GMC over the past few years, with the brand suffering a four percent slide in sales during the first half of this year. This is despite the overall boom in the SUV and CUV segments which have largely helped the wider market grow.
Not suprisingly Jeep sales have continued to soar to new heights, with the off road oriented brand recording a 17 percent surge in sales during the month of June. These figures are quite potent and also represent the sales gap between the two camps.
If GMC does decide to go forward with its Wrangler competitor, look for it to arrive possibly as early as 2020. When it does arrive, it will have quite a challenge on its hands with the Wrangler currently serving as a segment benchmark.
Dodge has big plans for the next generation Journey, and if a new report is to be believed, the changes will go much further than first anticipated.
A key change is a new platform. Unlike the current Journey which uses a platform that has roots with its older and dearly departed minivan siblings, the new one is expected to use the same capable set of bones that also underpins the recently launched Giulia sedan. Not only will the new platform allow the Journey to finally get in touch with its performance character, but it will also help the Journey shed pounds of flab. Rear wheel drive would be standard with all-wheel drive optional for buyers in snowier climates.
The report does not specify what will be under the hood, but it’s safe to assume that the base engine will be the same 2.0 liter turbocharged “Hurricane” four cylinder engine that will make its debut in the upcoming Jeep Wrangler. The 3.2 liter Pentastar V6 could make its appearance in higher grade trims but with FCA’s commitment to smaller engines, the odds of it making the cut are not good.
The new Journey has also reportedly had its fair share of challenges while in development. FCA announced two years ago that the revamped Journey would launch before the end of the 2016 model year. Since then the project has been delayed and the folks at Automotive News claim that the second generation Journey will not arrive until 2019.
Simply put this means that the current generation Journey will be around for two more model years, and will be over a decade old before it is axed for good. This advanced age will make it a tough sell against more capable CUV entries and also further highlight its outdated interior technology. Lastly, its decade on the marketplace would put it in the same league as some high end exotics including the Aston Martin Vantage coupe which surpassed the decade barrier awhile ago.
Recently Kia revealed the return of its popular hamster mascots who proceeded to tackle “Dueling Banjos” in their newest commercial. The ad was cute and very entertaining, but the rodents also released a compelling taste of the future at the end slide, an early confirmation that a turbocharged version of the Soul is coming.
This potential injection of performance would be a welcome addition to the current generation Soul which has been with us since 2013. The funky crossover recently received a mid cycle update based on the Track’ster concept and offers four different engines including an electric and diesel variants. However, one notable flaw lies with the most powerful engine currently in the Soul lineup which makes a measly 162 horsepower and an equally mundane 148 lb-ft of torque. As a result, the Soul is currently slower than many of its rivals but that would change with the addition of a turbocharged performance model.
It is currently unknown what will ultimately power the new variant, but a strong contender is the current 1.6 liter twin-scroll turbocharged four cylinder engine. Already seeing duty in the Kia Optima, Koup, and Forte sedan it is capable of producing 201 horsepower and it was developed closely with its sister brand Hyundai (who also use it in the Veloster Turbo.) In addition to its potent power, the engine can also be mated to either a six speed manual gearbox, or a more advanced dual clutch automatic transmission which should please performance enthusiasts that want the perfect engine and transmission combo in their performance vehicle purchase.
The current generation Soul was designed to primarily flaunt its funky exterior styling versus carving corners at the local race track, but Kia engineers could add some spice to the overall package including bigger, brakes, a sport tuned suspension, as well as model exclusive exterior styling that would not only allow the car to broadcast its sporting intentions, but also add a degree of functionality to the car as well. Kia for its part has not released any further comment on the matter, but look for more clues to emerge in the near future in other Hamster themed advertisements.