Cobalt SS SuperchargedFirst, let's be clear: The Cobalt SS will be the best small Chevy ever. Based on the same Delta platform that underpins the Saturn ION and Opel Vectra, the body structure promises to be satisfyingly stiff. The suspension is strictly conventional, with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam semi-independent (that's sort of like Puerto Rico) rear suspension. Those are 18-inch wheels on five-lug hubs on the SS and they're wrapped in P215/45R18 Z-rated tires. The brakes are four-wheel discs and the whole handling package was, GM is proud to point out, "refined at Germany's famous Nrburgring, one of the world's most challenging road courses, with more than 170 turns in nearly 13 miles." Hey, we don't care if it was tuned in Akron by a blind marmoset, just as long as it works.
All supercharged Ecotec four-cylinder engines are built in Germany (a turbocharged version for Europe is screwed together alongside it) and the Cobalt's 2.0-liter is no exception. The huffer itself is an Eaton M62 unit heaving up to 12 pounds of boost through an air-to-water intercooler. The intercooler sits under the front bumper where it can be appreciated by the cognoscenti and feared by squirrels, possums and stray cats. Total output is 205 hp at 5600 rpm and 200 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. Hey, that's the same as the Saturn ION Red Line. Talk about a coincidence. The only transmission will be a five-speed manual.
In appearance, the Cobalt is a big step forward for all of GM. The styling is a bit truck-ish and bullnosed in the front, but the greenhouse is aggressive and low slung. The detailing is just about perfect with deeply tunneled driving lights up front, a rear wing which the engineers claim actually produces measurable downforce, and round taillights that recall the Corvette. The five-spoke design of the wheels is sweet, even if their vast diameter make the brakes (11.6-inch rotors in front, and 10.6-inchers in the back) look somewhat puny behind them.
The interior is even better. The instrumentation is titanium faced and easy to read, and the black upholstery is nicely set off by "satin nickel" accents that are attractive even if they are neither a metal nor a fabric. The aftermarket influence is apparent by the aggressive bolstering on the front seats and the boost gauge inserted into the left A-pillar. XM satellite radio, the OnStar panic button and a seven-speaker Pioneer sound system will all be offered.
If there's one problem that's immediately apparent with the Cobalt SS Supercharged car, it's that it's available solely as a two-door coupe. There's a lot of fast sedan competition out there, and while some of us want a two-door, a lot of us need a four-door.
Evo MrThe big question about Mitsubishi's EVO VIII MR is why Mitsu didn't go ahead and call it the EVO IX. The changes that turn the regular VIII into an MR are in fact more significant than the differences between a VII and a VIII and are nothing less than scintillating. And the MR will go on sale in the United States this fall.
The most apparent modification that makes an MR an MR is the sixth gear in its transmission. But the sixth gear is, relatively speaking, an almost superficial improvement. The real substance of the MR lies in additional power (up to 280 hp), reduced mass (an aluminum roof and even lighter-weight BBS aluminum wheels) and better adhesion (an active center diff for the all-wheel-drive system and new Yokohama Advan tires). Externally, the most readily apparent differences are a new set of multi-element headlights, revised front spoiler, tweaked taillights and a row of trim tabs along the trailing edge of the roof that supposedly creates small vortices in the airflow to enhance the downforce generation of the rear spoiler.
The additional power is mostly the result of a larger turbocharger heaving into the otherwise familiar 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve four. The six-speed it feeds has ratios more closely spaced to stay in that bigger blower's sweet spot, and the active center diff should ensure a better use of the power. Mitsu also packs its Active Yaw Control (Super AYC) system into the MR with fresh programming that's intended to deliver more stable and neutral handling.
Weighing about 30 pounds less than a regular EVO VIII, the MR should easily beat archrival, the Subaru WRX STi, in any drag race. The best thing that could happen, obviously, is that Subaru responds to this challenge aggressively.
Don't expect the EVO VIII to cost much less than $34,000 when it goes on sale. So get down to Kinko's and use the color copiers to make more money.
Comptech Blows the TSXComptech has supercharged practically every Honda product except the HHT25SLTA four-stroke hedge trimmer. So it's no surprise it's been hammering away on the Acura TSX.
Still in development as it was shown at the IAS show, Comptech is being closemouthed about its plans for the blower installation. But it does admit to already bolting on its own intake, header, cat-back exhaust system, short shift kit for the six-speed manual transmission, titanium strut tower brace, rear anti-roll bar, lowering springs (1.5 inches downward), specially tuned Koni shocks, Brembo 13-inch front brakes, 12.9-inch rear brakes, Work Meister 18x8-inch wheels, Michelin 235/40ZR-18 Pilot Sport tires, the Honda Factory Performance body kit and a Comptech front grille.
In other words, Comptech has done the usual stuff. Now the question is whether that supercharger makes it all worthwhile. We look forward to Comptech dropping the car off to us soon. Our address is on the masthead.
A Lithe Lexusexus has produced mechanically impressive cars, but it hasn't made something truly beautiful. The LF-C concept shown at the New York Auto Show threatens to change that. It's about time.
The LF-C concept is basically a preview of the upcoming replacement for the IS-series sedan. Obviously this one isn't a sedan; rather, it's a retractable hardtop, but a four-door will be spun from this shell as well. In fact, the next IS will stretch so there's a version to take on every version of the BMW 3 Series head-on.
While the LF-C is only fractionally longer than the current IS, it's a massive 5 inches wider and sits on a 5.1 inch longer wheelbase. Power for the concept car comes from a "high-output double overhead cam V8" and Lexus won't say anything beyond that. However, we expect the production version will be powered by either V6 or V8 engines, depending on how manly the buyer wants his vehicle to be. The transmission behind that speculative V8 is a sequential six-speed automatic.
Both the inside and outside of the LF-C are nothing less than spectacular. Here's hoping/praying/pleading that those good looks carry into the production car and that the chassis is as engaging as the appearance.
Acura's New RLAcura hasn't given up on the RL, and the next one is a vast improvement. The prototype RL shown at the New York Auto Show is a spot-on preview of the production car and features a new version of Honda's 3.5-liter V6 making a stout 300 hp and powering an all-wheel-drive system that Acura calls, rather arrogantly, the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive System, or SH-AWD. Acura claims up to 100 percent of the rear torque can go to the wheel with traction.
Other RL elements include a five-speed automatic transaxle with shifting that can be actuated by steering wheel paddles, really big brakes, front lights that track with the steering, and an all-independent suspension shod with 20-inch wheels and 255/35R-20 Michelins. For the electro-dweebs out there, the most intriguing bit may be the navigation system that incorporates satellite-updated traffic reports so the driver can optimize routing or just decide to stay home.
This is a fine-looking, handsome vehicle built around a new structure that Acura says will be safer and stiffer than ever. It doesn't have to do much to be more exciting than its immediate predecessor, but will that be enough to drag buyers out of their Mercedes?
Turbo Scion tCUnwilling to wait for the car to actually go on sale, Performance Dealer Options already had a turbocharged version of the Scion tC on display at SEMA's International Auto Salon in Los Angeles last April. Sometimes impatience can be at least an interesting thing.
First, the tC looks like a natural when it comes to accommodating oversize wheels and tires and an intercooler. In this case, the intercooler feeds a Turbonetics T3/T4E turbo controlled by an Evolution wastegate and Raptor blow-off valve. PDO isn't making any claims for the turbo installation yet, beyond, of course, more than the normal 160-hp output of the tC's 2.4-liter, DOHC, VVTi four.
Beyond being blown, this tC features Tein coil-overs which lower the car a bit, Wilwood oversize 13-inch front brakes, and a set of Deep Racing D5R wheels wrapped in 225/35R-18 front and 245/35R-18 rear Toyo Proxes T1-S tires.
Citron Re-Armshile the World Rally Championship has its problems (manufacturers dropping out, rising expenses, Finnish drivers with silly dots over the 30 vowels in their first names), the Peugeot and Citron teams have been claiming the rallying world for France. At the Geneva Auto Show, Citron indicated that it's only going to be tougher in the future.
Citron's current rally weapon is based on the compact Xsara (see page 163). This car, the C4 Citron Sport, previews both the replacement for the Xsara WRC car and the production successor to the Xsara which is likely to be called... the C4. Citroen has been moving to alphanumeric names since the introduction of the larger C5, and the C4 will follow the C2 minicar and dang small C3 into the market. The C4 shares its basic structure with its corporate stablemate the Peugeot 307 and the 307 is, yup, the base upon which Peugeot's rally machine is based.
The C4 is, like so many current French production cars, dang attractive and it ought to look fine pounding along the planet's cow trails. In WRC form, expect it to mimic the 307 in specification with a 2.0-liter four pressurized to near shrapnel-producing levels, all-wheel drive and as much technology as the French four-day work week and two-hour, wine-soaked lunches will allow.
The C4 WRC car should appear in competition next year.
Rumors&Lies* Saturn will get a version of the Pontiac Solstice, but it won't be the Curve coupe seen at the Detroit Auto Show. Instead, it's likely to be a rebadged version of the Vauxhall VX roadster, which has been shown in concept form.
* Audi is on the verge of bringing its A3 hatchback to the U.S. market. It may show up in S3 form.
* Club Motorsports has finalized plans for its road course/country club and Valley Motorsports Park in Tamworth, N.H., and begun construction. This thing is starting to look like a reality. More info is at www.clubmotorsports.com.
* Ford is looking at building Volvos in China. Szechuan Swedish meatballs will be served.
* BMW is working on a series of turbocharged engines to power various regular production and M Series vehicles in the future. The first car to show up here with a turbo may be an M2 coupe based on the upcoming 1 Series sedan that will have a blown 2.0-liter four making nearly 300 hp aboard.
* Cadillac is eyeing GM's Kappa (Pontiac Solstice) platform as the basis for a smaller roadster to sell alongside the XLR. If such a car is green lighted, expect it to be the first Kappa to be powered by a V6 engine.
The Love Of MothersSEMA's International Auto Salon (IAS) was a perfect place for Mothers Polishes to announce the two winners of its inaugural Top Tuner Award for builders of, you guessed it, tuner cars.
In the consumer category, the award went to Seth Rowan and his 1992 Acura NSX. The radical NSX is almost completely cloaked in a carbon-fiber body and has been thoroughly savaged in the suspension, driveline and interior departments as well.
Meanwhile, over in the manufacturer category the prize went to a 2004 Scion xB from Five Axis. Essentially an xB turned into a full-on club-spec DJ station, it was about as radical as a Scion could be without being strapped to the top of a Titan IV booster and sent into geosynchronous orbit.
Mothers designated two separate classes of Top Tuner to even the playing field. "Consumer-built cars have virtually no chance of competing against the limitless resources of manufacturer-built cars," asserts Ken Holland, the director of marketing for Mothers. "Seth's NSX is a perfect example. He puts all his money, time and energy into his Acura. It is a truly amazing car. But to pit his vehicle against a manufacturer-built car with corporate funding would hardly be fair." Judging for the awards was the responsibility of an independent panel of aftermarket experts.
The Top Tuner Awards will be awarded every year as a supplement to the Shine Awards that Mothers distributes at the SEMA show. Info is naturally online at www.mothers.com and they maintain in-depth car care tips at www.DetailGuide.com and www.WaxForum.com
A Little LincolnWith Cadillac ascendent and Lexus, Infiniti, BMW and Mercedes now filling every product niche possible, Lincoln is feeling itself squeezed on every end of the luxury spectrum. Can a smaller Lincoln lead it to new success? The 2006 Lincoln Zephyr debuted at April's New York Auto Show and besides being the smallest Lincoln (about the size of an Audi A4) since Abraham himself was in training pants, it's also the best looking.
Based on the same front-drive platform that lies underneath the Mazda 6 and what-was-going-to-be-the-Ford-Futura, the new Zephyr's basic mechanical elements are firmly planted between ho and hum. The powerplant will be a 3.0-liter version of the ubiquitous Duratec V6, this time carrying variable valve timing on the intake side. The transmission is a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive will be offered eventually.
But it's the looks, obviously drawing inspiration from the classic '61 Lincoln Continental, which will be this car's doing or undoing. Truthfully, the interior looks even better than the exterior. Dramatically lit and featuring a large center console, the interior takes Lincoln design up somewhere between six and 17 notches.
Expect the Zephyr to hit showrooms sometime next year. We expect a lot of Civics, Supras and AE86s will soon be flooding Lincoln dealers as trade-ins. Or, maybe not.
WebsideLong before there was an Internet there were cars. You may have heard of them. And these cars were cool even before they carried on-board computers. Keep that in mind as you read this month's "Webside" that travels back to the childhoods of those who write this column. If there's a site out there that expresses your automotive childhood, tell us at SCCNews@Primedia.com.