Invasion of the Cloaked Car Gods

Ford Evos concept

Front of the next Mustang?

If there are deities in the car world, the Ford Mustang and Ferrari Enzo might be candidates for the top job. Both have reached legendary status, have legions of fans and have spawned many years of devotional writings and devout followers.

Both the Mustang and the Enzo are about to undergo changes and reveal all-new versions, and both have been spotted in cloaked disguises on the streets of their respective countries.

Like hidden sentinels, these gods of all things automotive will surely redefine their categories… as soon as the cloaks come off.

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Cars Coming Soon: A Silent But Raging Return for Toyota Performance

Toyota Supra

The next Toyota Supra?

You might want to begin thanking everyone who bought a new Scion FR-S.

Because of the success of Toyota’s new little sports car, the company is considering bringing back the vaunted MR2 and Supra names. Yes, these rumors have been floated before, but now that Toyota has confirmed the public’s thirst for its performance offerings, there will probably be more on the way.

This possibility was mentioned in yesterday’s Car of the Year post, but since then a little more info has surfaced. Not all of it good.

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Here Come the Car of the Year Awards

Tesla Model S

The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year

Anyone can give out a Car of the Year award these days. In fact, the list of COTY awards seems to grow every year. There’s the old stalwart, the Motor Trend Car of the Year, but there’s also the North American Car and Truck of the Year, the World Car of the Year, and now the Popular Mechanics Car of the Year. Perhaps there should be an equally prestigious “tgriffith Car of the Year.”

Maybe there will be.

With such a wide variety of awards, it’s pretty hard to label the one true Car of the Year. In this era of “everyone’s a winner,” every car has some chance of winning some kind of award.

Motor Trend, though, seems to have nailed this year’s choice.

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2013 Honda Civic Tries to Bring Back the Passion

2013 Honda Civic

2013 Honda Civic

In its First Drive review of the 2012 Honda Civic, Car & Driver said,

The Civic lacks the passion, soul, and entertaining driving dynamics of its predecessor. Mainstream buyers may not care, but enthusiasts surely will.

That echoes the theme for the 2012 Civic from virtually all auto reviewers and even led to Consumer Reports revoking the car from its “Recommended” list. It’s a stumble from Honda that used to be unthinkable but seems to be more common with today’s models (specifically the Crosstour and Ridgeline).

To Honda’s credit, it’s been able to act fast and provide an “emergency refresh” for the 2013 Civic, pictures of which were released yesterday and posted on Facebook. Will the quick tweaks be enough to get that lost passion back?

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A McLaren of Psychedelic Proportions

The McLaren in normal dress

Today I treat you to a blog post for the eyes.

The 2013 McLaren MP4-12C uses a 3.8-liter twin-turb0 V8 to produce 616-hp, good for 0-60 sprints of 3 seconds and a top speed somewhere north of 200-mph. It’s an engineering marvel to be sure, but some say it’s also a supercar without emotion. At least compared with its nemesis, the Ferrari 458 Italia.

How can some real feeling be injected into a car that might be compared with the nerdy-type competing in a bikini contest? Well, you have to make her look the part, obviously.

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Don’t Get Fleeced When Renting a Car

Wrecked rental car

Car rental insurance might be a good idea

I can’t remember ever sitting in a rental car and thinking, “You know, I’d really like to own this car. I enjoy it so much.”

Rentals are typically the lowest of the low, a step below the base model, built and sold specifically for the rental fleet market. I rented a Pontiac G6 once in North Carolina and could not believe the amount of plastic and lack of anything particularly useful in the cabin. Of course, that’s also the car that sounded like a broken weed-wacker under acceleration and the car that left me stranded on a remote on-ramp somewhere in the middle of NASCAR country, so perhaps my memory is a little jaded.

Even being a relatively new car, that G6 felt a decade old. It rattled, it was uncomfortable, and it had an assortment of dings and scratches. My point here is that rental cars get abused, and a lot of normal wear and tear gets piled on with each new renter. Most of that normal stuff gets ignored when it’s time to return the car.

But not always.

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Cars Coming Soon: Vehicles Without Electronics?

iPad Mini in car

Imagine shopping for a new car. You pick out a model you like, open the door for a test drive, take a seat, start the engine and reach for the radio knob. Only there’s no radio knob. Or touch screen. Or navigation unit. In fact, there’s nothing to suggest this new car offers any kind of entertainment or technology other than the required driver input information.

What’s going on? Is this car a throwback to the days of basic transportation when no air conditioning or car stereo existed? Is it the result of the government trying to limit driver distraction? Or is the lack of technology actually a sign of some of the greatest in-car tech ever used?

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When a Prius Changes Shape, Is It Still a Prius?

Toyota NS4 concept

Will the next Prius look like this NS4 concept?

The shape of the Toyota Prius defines it as much as its name. In its earlier days, people wanted the hybrid to look different so it was immediately clear to other motorists that the driver cared for the environment and believed in saving money at the pump. That was a time when hybrid buyers were more Ed Begley, Jr., than regular families looking to save a few bucks.

Of course, the Prius’ wedge-like shape also contributes greatly to aerodynamics, helping push mileage figures ever higher.

The current-generation Prius has looked mostly the same since the Bush Administration. Can a new Prius, that looks nothing like a Prius, still sell well for Toyota?

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It Finally Happened: Suzuki Dies in America

Suzuki Kizashi

We kind of knew it was coming, but still the news arrives as something of a shock: American Suzuki has filed for bankruptcy and will cease selling vehicles in the U.S. as part of its restructuring plan. When current inventories are gone, new Suzukis will vanish from U.S. shores.

That means no more Grand Vitara, no more SX4, no hope for the cool little crossover that would have replaced the SX4 and no more Kizashi.

If you’ve been eyeing a Suzuki, act now for a new one or watch the CarGurus used listings for older models. American Suzuki will still exist in the U.S., but selling new cars won’t be part of its business plan.

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Will FIAT Trade Ferrari for Chrysler?

2012 Ferrari 458 Italia

Would you trade one for a Chrysler?

Let’s say you own a gleaming new Ferrari 458 Italia. It’s your baby, your pride and joy. Your neighbors drool, and potential suitors swoon. Having that car gives you instant credibility and access to a class of living that would be impossible without it.

But oh boy, is it ever expensive. As many benefits as owning that Ferrari gives you, you know you could trade it in and own a Chrysler 300 outright while paying off other debt. Do you give up ownership of perhaps the greatest car brand in history just to own a more sensible Chrysler?

That’s a question, on a bigger scale, that FIAT and company CEO Sergio Marchionne may have to face.

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