Cosworth Subaru Impreza STi CS400 Blows Away the Supercars

Never having been an enormous fan of Subaru cars, I must admit they seem to have hit a home run with the new WRX STi from Cosworth. With a 0-62 mph time of 3.7 seconds, this beast can actually take on the Lambos and up-powered Porsches—or at least play in the same ballpark.

Cosworth, one of the world’s great tuners and engine-tweakers, managed to get 395 hp from Subaru’s 2.5-liter boxer four. Some of the details are here. With chassis and suspension redos, the car promises to go very fast—and not just in a straight line.

There will be only 75 copies built, each costing $72,000, and they’re only available in the U.K.

So why should we in the U.S. care? It’s just another high-priced hotrod that we can’t buy, right?

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Jaguar F-Type: A Cat to Fight the Audi R8?

Jaguar F-Type concept

Jaguar F-Type concept

The true meaning of Memorial Day is to reflect on the people who gave their lives in defense of freedom in the United States. For that, our country is eternally grateful to all who have served, and currently serve, in the military.

Americans typically celebrate this freedom by marking the arrival of summer with barbeques, pie, and road trips. In my humble opinion, if you’re going to eat pie, it should be made from apples, and if you’re going to take a road trip, you should do it in a convertible.

Soon, there will be an all-new roadster to consider for future Memorial Day Weekend trips: the reportedly green-lighted Jaguar F-Type.

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Of Garage Doors, Porsches, Buicks… and Consequences

Maybe you saw the story about Peter Cheney, an automotive writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail, whose 16-year-old son slammed a 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo (borrowed for a road test) through Dad’s garage door.

How the accident happened, how the kid and his father responded, and what the consequences were (not many for the son) are all detailed here and here. Basically, son Will found the keys and took a friend to check out the stereo and the car’s interior. Who cares about the stereo in a Porsche 911 Turbo, for God’s sake? Teens really are weird. He didn’t do a Ferris Bueller; he just wanted to hear tunes!

Anyway, not knowing how the Porsche’s ignition switch worked, not knowing how to drive a stick shift, not knowing what a clutch does—well, one thing led to another and, blamm, the $180,000 car went through the door and sustained a reported $11,000 in damages. Ego and relationship damage to father and son were harder to quantify.

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Time to Take Mercury Off Your List? Ford May Shut Down Brand

Mercury logo

After 70 years of existence, it looks like Mercury will be the next auto brand to go the way of Pontiac, Hummer, and Saturn.

According to Bloomberg, which cites unnamed sources within Ford, top executives are preparing a proposal to kill Mercury. That proposal will be presented to the board in July, but it seems the Ford family is in favor of axing the brand.

This isn’t a huge heartbreaker, for me at least, and many analysts have expected it would happen at some point. I mean, Mercury hasn’t made a truly exciting vehicle since the ’67 Cougar.

I will miss one thing when Mercury vanishes, though:

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If We Build It, Will They Come? (to Electric Cars, That Is)

Nissan LEAF Smyrna Plant

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is surely a believer in EVs and predicts sales of “as many as 500,000 electric cars a year by 2012.” Which is “just wildly optimistic,” says a noted automotive consultant in the same story.

President Obama has set a goal of 1 million plug-ins and battery-powered vehicles on our roads by 2015, so maybe Carlos isn’t so crazy. The man is putting the U.S. government’s loan money—$1.4 billion of the $1.7 the company is investing (good deal, no?)—in the ground at Smyrna, Tenn., where the North American Leaf will be built (rendering above) along with a new plant to furnish its lithium-ion batteries.

Is that a leap of faith or a sound business decision?

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Cars Coming Soon->MINI Beachcomber, Infiniti Performance Line and the All-New Jetta

MINI Beachcomber

What would you get if you crossed a Jeep Wrangler, a MINI Cooper, and a dune buggy?

MINI thinks the result would look something like the vehicle pictured above. It’s called the Beachcomber, and MINI is reportedly seriously considering creating a production version of the concept that debuted at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

AutoExpress says,

The Beachcomber was built around the road-ready version of the Countryman, but lost the doors and roof panels in homage to the Moke – the legendary Mini-based take on the classic beach buggy. Its four individual seats are wrapped in wetsuit material for all-weather durability, and the rear-mounted spare wheel holder is actually a lockable storage box. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, a fabric tonneau can be attached to the car, while more long-term rain protection is provided by lightweight, removable plastic door and roof panels.

I don’t live very near an ocean beach, but I do live in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest, so wetsuit-wrapped seats sound pretty awesome! Heck, I’d take ’em even in a car with doors and a roof.

If the Beachcomber does make it to production, expect MINI’s ALL4 four-wheel-drive system to come standard.

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Is Honda Losing Its Way?

Honda Accord Crosstour

It’s always interesting to read Michelle Krebs, who knows more about the auto biz than most of her peers. Her piece today on the problems at Honda elaborated on the fact that the company is drifting (to put it nicely) on several fronts.

This won’t be news to you car gurus who follow such things, but for a company that’s been on top so long to be sagging in product development, engineering, marketing, and sales—while losing market share to Ford, Hyundai, and Kia—signifies big trouble.

Yesterday Moody’s announced that it will not upgrade credit ratings for Toyota, Nissan, or Honda. “Honda needs an operating margin of 7% before Moody’s will consider raising its A1 rating [Toyota’s is Aa2, highest among carmakers], while a margin of less than 5% may trigger a downgrade.”

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Volkswagen AG Continues to Grow, Buys Famous Design Firm

What's next for Volkswagen design?

When you want your car company to be the undisputed champion of the world, you don’t just use the greatest design firms in the world, you buy them.

Volkswagen Automotive Group is flirting with becoming the world’s largest automaker, and wants to own the title outright by 2018. To achieve that goal, Volkswagen AG will launch a score of new models each year. That kind of output will create a hefty strain on any automaker’s design capacity, so the easiest way to expand it is to buy an actual design house.

But not just any design house.

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Green Update–>The Volt, the Ampera, and Some Weird Stuff

Opel's Ampera, the first pre-production vehicle

You don’t have to tell the people of Michigan that there is a lot riding on the Volt. A recent AP story documents how GM and its workers, and the state they live in, feel the car is crucial to the car industry’s viability in the U.S.

Is that an overstatement? Well, maybe not.

The state has lost 860,000 jobs in a decade, the majority since 2007. Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently noted the state has shed 78 percent of its auto manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years, as GM, Chrysler and more than 50 suppliers declared bankruptcy.

In a way, everybody, not just Michigan, is rooting for this car. GM has put $700 million into its production facilities, and apparently has made a deal to import the Opel Ampera (preproduction car shown above), “a Volt with a nose job,” from Germany and sell it as a Buick in China (with another name) in the first half of 2011.

Talk about internationalizing the car biz!

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Transformers 3: Megan Fox Out, Ferrari 458 Italia In?

Megan Fox in Transformers

Remember when you first saw Megan Fox leaning over the engine bay of her car in the first “Transformers” movie?

That movie was her passport to instant fame, which she rode, well… straight into the “Transformers” sequel. Now, though, the gossip all over says Miss Fox won’t appear at all in the upcoming “Transformers 3,” which is about to begin shooting.

Most blogs I’m reading are pretty torn up about this little fact, even wondering if people will bother seeing the movie if their favorite little starlet isn’t it. I, on the other hand, am just fine with Fox moving on and leaving room for another unknown little hottie to take her place.

Even if that hottie comes in the form of an exotic Italian supercar.

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