Saab has been in the news in the past couple of weeks with a number of technology announcements. While not particularly enlightening when considered in isolation, looking at the announcements together tells us much more, and offers a good prediction of what we will see in the next-generation 9-3, which can be expected in 2012.
We first saw the pre-Paris revelation of the all-electric 9-3 ePower, which uses high density energy storage in lithium-ion battery cells with 35.5 kWh capacity, to drive the front wheels with a 184 hp electric motor through a single-speed transmission. Instant torque enables zero to 62 MPH acceleration in just 8.5 seconds, together with a top speed of 93 MPH. Now on the Saab stand at the Paris Auto Show, the working example of the all-electric 9-3 SportCombi is great to see. Of course, the 9-3 chassis (or any existing ICE chassis, for that matter) is not the most efficient or lightweight starting point for an EV (which is why, for example, Nissan and Mitsubishi have created new platforms for their Leaf and iMIEV vehicles).
By George Straton
Lately auto manufacturers have become veritable Baskin Robbins outlets when it comes to product variety. Consider this past decade’s trend towards increased utility, which came at the expense of personal sporty cars. In 2004, Mercedes-Benz served up a new flavor, the “four door luxury coupe,” in the form of the CLS. Trying to capitalize in this niche, luxury stalwarts including Audi and BMW have followed suit. Volkswagen, partly in its quest to increase global sales, offers up a variation of the flavor – the affordable four-door premium coupe – which it calls the Comfort Coupe or “CC.” Here at Techshake, we recently spent a week in a 2010 entry-level CC Sport to see how well Volkswagen addresses the four-dour coupe issue.
Costing just $600 more than the functional-yet-conservative Passat from which it is derived, the CC is about high style. The nose is more aggressive than anything else Volkswagen manufactures, except for the not-for-North-America Scirocco sports coupe. The beltline is quite high where it joins the sloping roof line. Frameless door windows allow more glass to brighten the cabin. While not as low-slung as the Mercedes CLS, observers claimed the CC looked longer than other cars in the segment, including the Passat. (The Passat is actually longer by a hair.)
By Charles Krome
In a sure sign that the auto show season is just around the corner, the 10 semifinalists for the annual North American Car of the Year award have been announced. It’s one of the more interesting honors in the industry, since the judges are automotive journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, not just the editorial (and advertising?) team of a single media outlet. In other words, you don’t have to worry about a car like the Suzuki Kizashi taking home high honors just because its automaker has a friendly relationship with a given magazine. That being said, it’s also worth pointing out that this doesn’t guarantee a better class of winners. Just consider that three of the last four COTY vehicles—the Ford Fusion hybrid, Hyundai Genesis and Saturn Aura—have been essentially non-starters with customers, and the fourth, the Chevrolet Malibu, is a badge-engineered Aura.
Will the 2011 honoree be any different? Well, let’s take a look at the 14 cars that COTY jurors selected as semifinalists, drawn from the 27 new or “substantially changed” models that were eligible for the 2011 prize.
By Kevin Miller
Once upon a time, Subaru was known for making durable, reliable, and unexciting front- and four-wheel drive passenger cars and wagons. Featuring horizontally-opposed four cylinder engines and manual engagement of the rear wheels on 4WD models, the cars were rudimentary but functional and the earned a reputation in the Northwest and Northeast US. Then Subaru began its involvement in the World Rally Championship (WRC) series, and some of those boring cars began to get much more exciting, boasting sophisticated full-time all-wheel drive systems, turbochargers, and suspensions that handled very well.
It was the company’s WRC participation that caused the Impreza WRX, and later the WRX STI, to come in to existence, initially as homologated production versions of the company’s race cars. While Subaru is unfortunately no longer involved in WRC, the hot WRX and even-hotter STI developed a strong following, and still exist today as a legacy of Subaru’s time in the WRC.
By Kevin Miller
Officially launched just last month, the CTS Coupe is the newest member of the successful CTS family. After recently spending a week in the CTS Sport Wagon, I had the opportunity to do the same with the new coupe.
The CTS Coupe has the most dramatic interpretation of Cadillac’s Art & Science design language to date, and from many angles it comes off looking like a futuristic concept car rather than an actual production model. One of my favorite design features of the CTS Coupe is its angular backside with boomerang-shaped CHMSL spoiler and center-exit exhaust. Other favorite design elements include the frameless doors and the nice lower sill extensions/bodywork, though the latter surely will get cuffs wet in the rain.