Aston Martin’s 2013 DBS Coming, with 550 hp

Aston Martin 0ne-77, front

You cannot put 550 hp in a car without paying the closest attention to its other systems—in other words, steering, braking, handling, suspension, weight, etc. That is obvious, and that is why the 662-hp Mustang Shelby GT500 is a bad joke, even at its $55k price.

The horsepower wars are typically American, kind of like trying to pack the most calories into a Big Mac. Adding more bacon and cheese doesn’t make the meat any better.

Aston Martin’s much-revised 2013 DBS is supposedly based (in styling, at least) on the One-77 supercar shown above. That V12 beast has 750 hp, which, you can be sure, will be perfectly applied to the ground.

The more-or-less custom-built One-77 (only 77 cars built, now sold out) began around $1.5 million. The present DBS starts at $275K. You simply cannot achieve anything close to that kind of performance for $55K. Aston Martin hasn’t released prices yet and has said very little on what the 2013 DBS will cost.

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Here Come the 30-MPG SUVs

2013 Ford Escape

2013 Ford Escape

Stepping onto a dealer’s lot five years ago and asking for a small SUV that was comfortable, had decent power and returned over 30 mpg would have resulted in a blank stare.

Today, buyers at Chevrolet, Honda, Mazda and Ford dealers can ask that question and will happily be shown the Equinox, CR-V, CX-5 and Escape. Amazingly enough, none of those reach the magic number with the help of a hybrid powertrain.

As of right now, it’s the Ford Escape that has the distinction of being able to say it offers the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the small crossover segment. At least when it comes to vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions.

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Finally, an Interesting Car from Acura: the ILX

For at least ten years now, Acura has been unable to decide what it wants to be. It made cars with beak-like fronts, no style and no mechanical personality. Remember the Vigor? The company never could produce what it claimed to want—a well-made entry-level luxury car with its own drivability and style.

I had a 1990 Legend coupe, a great car and one of the last of the Acuras that wasn’t dull and uninspired. Most recent Acuras are rebadged Hondas with pasted-on luxo features. The RL, which replaced the Legend (sort of), has been a sales disaster, with only 1,096 sold in 2011.

The company is still fumbling, as is its parent, Honda, but there are glimmers of hope. The new ILX, from the reviews I read, is not in any way a bad car and certainly an improvement in terms of getting Acura into a new market segment where it can compete with the Buick Verano. There is a long conversation here about which of these is best.

The Acura is probably the better-engineered car and certainly has a nicer interior. Flaws: Reviewers complain about the no-feel electric steering, the slow hybrid version (three powertrains are available) and—most damning—that it’s just an upgraded, overpriced Civic Si.

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The Most Powerful Production V8 in the World Belongs to the Mustang

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

Here come the superlatives!

The biggest. The best. The most powerful. The awesomest. (I made that last one up, but I like it.)

Yes, the battle to be the best has all come down to this. In our modern world of American muscle cars, where horsepower is king and dyno tests reign supreme, we have a new champion. A new wearer of the crown for the Most Powerful Production V8 in the World!

The 2013 Ford Shelby GT 500.

This is significant for two reasons.

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More from the World’s Hottest Auto Market

V12 BAIC C90L, doors open

Rolls-Royce’s Phantom was surely not the only supersized, stretched sedan to grace the Beijing show. Chinese makers have also gotten in the game. Above is the V12 BAIC C90L (more pix and description here), from a state-owned company that has partnered with Mercedes and Hyundai.

BAIC owns rights to two Saab platforms, one of which (the 9-5’s?) may underpin the C90L. The car was designed in Italy and Hong Kong and is very sharp with suicide doors and an “opulent” interior. A truly international car.

Another stretcher came from Infiniti—the M25L, which has puny V6 power—but now (in China, at least) you can get a hybrid M35h L with 360 hp—a cheaper way to get luxo length.

And Jaguar has its XJ Ultimate (shown after the break) with the now-mandatory champagne cooler, plus built-in iPads in the front seatbacks, an 825-watt Meridian sound system (20 speakers and 2 subwoofers) and God knows what else.

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Cars Coming Soon: The Great 2014 Chevrolet SS Performance Debacle

Chevrolet 2014 SS Performance confirmed

Blogs everywhere are running with the story that a technology blogger has uncovered the mysteries of Chevrolet’s 2014 product plan.

At first glance, it appears the find may be something. On second and third glances, though, it seems like something might be fishy.

The story goes something like this:

Technology blogger Christopher Price has found out that two all-new 2014 models from GM are coming, thanks to some digging around OnStar’s website.

It then continues to say that this proves Chevy is planning a performance sedan, called the SS Performance. That news is even hotter right now because of the recent announcement of GM’s trademark application for the name SS.

Clearly something is up. But come on, let’s think this through, people.

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Rolls-Royce Rolls on with Phantoms and Ghosts

Rolls-Royce Extended Wheelbase Phantom

We don’t write enough on this blog about Rolls-Royce, the people’s car. That’s possibly because rich people are very different from you and me, as a famous writer said. It’s also because we don’t get to road-test many Phantoms.

However, an Extended Wheelbase Phantom (above) has appeared at Beijing, and I’m having one shipped to Mexico for a test drive. The thing is one-half inch shy of being 20 feet long. It costs around $450,000. If I like it, I may keep it.

The Chinese are getting so rich that R-R has opened three new China stores, “with five more to follow ‘in the near future.’” How many new stores has R-R opened in your neighborhood?

So it follows that chauffeur-driven cars are becoming a new rage in the People’s Republic, and “most luxury automakers offer extended versions of their entry-level models.”

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The End of the Box? Scion Changing Direction, Saying Goodbye to xB

Scion xB

The old look of Scion...

Some car brands have certain models that define them. For Scion, that model is the xB. No question, when people think of Scion, they think of college kids driving around in this box-shaped vehicle. The edgy brand and odd looks of the car combined to create a hit with Generation Y.

Of course, Scion sells other vehicles, too. The tC is a mostly lame attempt at a sports coupe, and the xD is, well, I can’t think of anyone who has ever liked the little hatch. The tC, at least, still sells well enough to justify its existence, but the xB and xD seem to have hit the end of the road.

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Green Update: Two Interesting Hondas at Beijing

Honda Concept S minivan

Beijing is right now the most important auto show in the world, because it links carmakers and the buying public to the most important auto market in the world. GM plans to open 600 dealerships in China this year.

The show is also significant for giving companies like Honda, whose fortunes have declined, a chance to show off concepts that may lead the way back.

The company brought an interesting Concept S hybrid minivan (above), whose name signifies, Honda says, “stylish,” “smart” and “surprise.” I guess that’s better than “slow,” “stinky” and “shoddy.”

This is a sharp-looking minivan design in which Honda finally seems to have gotten a good basic shape without screwing up the details (except for the front driving lights and some kind of jet-exhaust rear reflector things under the well-designed taillights). The car will debut in China next year, then go global.

I think it is designed to give the Prius V some real competition. Good pix can be found here.

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2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S: To PDK or Not To PDK?

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, profile

When someone invites you to drive a 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, you do it. That’s just a simple rule of life.

Whatever might be on the schedule for the day should be cleared and an appropriate amount of time reserved for one of the most iconic cars ever built.

So, after a call to the dentist (cavities can wait a week), I headed toward Northern Idaho on a clear and sunny 80-degree day to fulfill my obligation to the 911. But there was just one problem.

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