The heavy and thirsty Range Rover will become less of each for 2013, the super-luxury SUV maker announced last week, debuting a redesigned model that's lighter and more planet-friendly, especially in the new diesel-hybrid version that is scheduled to go on sale in Europe in 2013.
Unfortunately, that diesel-electric hybrid combo won't be available in North America, at least not at launch. Nor will either of the two diesel engines on offer in Europe, a 3.0-litre V-6 and a 4.4-litre V-8. What will help it save fuel however is a massive (and much-needed) weight reduction, courtesy largely of an advanced lightweight all-aluminum monocoque body structure, with overall weight savings that result in up to 420 kg of mass that the SUV will no longer have to haul around.
The engines in North America will be similar to the ones available in the top-of-the-line Range Rovers now: 5.0-litre V-8s, in regular and supercharged versions, but with a more fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission. These tweaked, but largely identical, engines will put out 375 hp in naturally aspirated form and 510 in the supercharged models.
If you look closer at the numbers, the astounding 420-kg diet is a result of Range Rover being able to replace the outgoing diesel V-8 model with a similarly powerful diesel V-6. But even in like gas V-8 models, the aluminum structure saves a still significant 350 kg. That's enough to bring the 0-96 km/h acceleration time of the speediest Range Rover down to 5.1 seconds from 5.9, the company says, and more importantly, cut fuel consumption by 9 per cent.
That's still going to leave the Range Rover with a healthy appetite for premium fuel, especially compared to the intriguing diesel-electric hybrid set to bow in Europe in mid-2013. According to the company, this model should provide fuel efficiency averages of less than 7.3 litres/100 km, on optimistic European test cycles.
Various reports have quoted Land Rover executives stating that although current U.S. diesel regulations are much more stringent than the EU5 ones in Europe, the EU6 standards set to be implemented in about a year and a half almost perfectly align with North American EPA standards. So don't be surprised if some or all of these engines appear on our shores in tweaked forms, while a supercharged V-6 was also a frequently mentioned possibility as well.
Mitsubishi fuel misers coming to Canada
The subcompact Mitsubishi Mirage will arrive as early as spring 2013, while a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander SUV will also go on sale later next year, an insider familiar with Mitsu's Canadian plans confirmed this week.
Mitsubishi Canada will only officially say that its new global small car will come to Canada, and that there is a new 2013 Outlander coming, but will not divulge the timing on either one, or even confirmation of the small car's name.
Both will be presented at the Paris auto show later in September, but Mitsubishi has recently released information about the plug-in crossover that will compete with the Ford C-Max Energi, which is to arrive by the end of 2012.
The Outlander PHEV will offer an electric-only EV range of up to 55 km on optimistic Japanese testing cycles, and 880 km of total combined range once the 2.0-litre gasoline four kicks in to help charge the 12 kWh lithium-ion battery. That special high-capacity battery is significantly larger than the 7.5 kWh one in the C-Max Energi, which is rated to reach up to 32 km of no-gas EV driving, and for which there are provincial incentives of $5,808 in Ontario and Quebec, and $2,500 in British Columbia. This will likely put the Outlander PHEV's rebates in central Canada above $7,000, but below the $8,320 the Chevy Volt and its 16 kWh battery receives.
The Mirage is built in Thailand, and debuted earlier this year with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine, though the European version will feature an even smaller 1.0-litre mill, complete with Stop-Start for even more fuel savings. No word yet on what engine will come to North America for the Chevrolet Spark rival and Fiat 500 five-door rival, but a three looks the most likely now.
Mitsubishi Canada also announced recently that it will offer a special Lancer 10th anniversary edition model in Canada, to mark its first decade in the country. It will start at $19,998, and come loaded with standard niceties such as rear spoiler, sunroof, new alloy wheels, and fog lamps.
Greenpeace protests Golf VII launch
Volkswagen unveiled its seventh-generation Golf compact recently in Berlin's new National Gallery, but about 50 protesters from the environmental group Greenpeace picketed the firm's glitzy event, arguing that VW is moving too slowly in its emissions reduction efforts, and is hurting the planet by lobbying against increasingly stringent fuel economy regulations.
The environmental group argued that even though the new Golf will be lighter and more fuel-efficient than before, the company should have made it even more fuel-efficient, and used its hefty market leverage to encourage/coerce other auto makers to pursue more aggressive fuel savings as well.
Wolfgang Lohbeck, Greenpeace's spokesperson on German transportation issues, told Reuters recently that the new car's 4.9 litres/100 km overall average (in European fuel ratings) is disappointing, and that VW should have set a more ambitious target of 3.0 litres/100 km for the base gasoline version.
The protest was a back-handed compliment to the company, because Lohbeck acknowledged that the Golf, built on four continents and amongst the three best-selling cars in the world, is a key market influencer, especially in Europe. Upcoming European diesel versions are coming that will beat these figures, and even a limited-volume electric Golf EV with zero local emissions (though not yet confirmed for North America) are also on their way, but Lohbeck argues that the key is what the base gasoline model achieves, since that's the one that always sells the most.
Toyota Prius Plug-in now on sale
After a delay of a few months, the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicle is now on sale in Canada and, if it follows the same pattern as Prius PHEV sales in the United States for the past six months, it may quickly become the Chevrolet Volt's main competition for best-selling plug-in vehicle in the country.
Starting at $35,700, the Prius PHEV qualifies for a $5,000 provincial rebate in Ontario, $5,092 in Quebec, $3,000 in Prince Edward Island, and $2,500 in British Columbia. These rebates are generally less than those offered for the Volt, but GM's high-profile plug-in starts at a notably pricier $41,545. The higher rebates derive from the fact the Volt has a much larger battery, 16 kWh versus the Prius PHV's compact 4.4 lithium-ion unit, which also gives the Volt about three times the real-world all-electric range as the Prius PHEV.