Archive for December, 2013
Every story dealing with a new rotary engine from Mazda lands in a different place on the matrix of possibilities between “Coming soon!” and “Never gonna happen!” In 2011 it was speculated that the rotary engineering program would be shut down with the demise of the RX-8, in 2012 the program was still alive and taking lessons from the SkyActiv engines, in August 2013 a Mazda insider said a rotary engine called 16X would be here in two years, in November the CEO said the only way we’d ever get a new rotary is if Mazda could sell 100,000 of them per year. Meaning that, for the moment, you can forget about it.
And yet, last month Mazda was putting journalists in a Mazda2 RE Range Extender, an electric car using a 0.33-liter rotary to power its lithium-ion batteries when the charge runs down. With a 75-kilowatt, 100-horsepower electric motor turning the front wheels, the Wankel generator and its 2.6-gallon gas tank living under the trunk double the range of the electric-only Mazda2 to 250 miles.
There’s been talk of using a rotary to assist an alt-fuel vehicle for at least seven years, with Mazda pairing an electric motor with a rotary that ran on gas and hydrogen in a Mazda5 in 2007. Since then, almost all of those stories debating its return or demise also spoke of the oddball motor’s advantages, such as compact size and ability to run on various fuels, as an aid in an unconventional powertrain.
Its development was said to be born from dissatisfaction of 70 percent of Mazda2 BEV owners in Japan who said they weren’t happy with the 124-mile range of their electric car even though they never needed more; however, such a car was hinted at by the previous Mazda CEO at the 2012 Moscow Motor Show. AOL UK drove the range extended version in November and found it to be a fine experience, with Mazda engineers at the event putting such technology at least three years out while stressing that the test car is just that, and not scheduled for production.
Mazda2 with extended-range hybrid rotary tech shown originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 23 Dec 2013 07:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its annual list of the best-rated vehicles for safety, and like last year, they’re again divided into two groups: Top Safety Picks and winners of the tougher Top Safety Pick+ award. This year, however, the IIHS has changed its minimum criteria for each award, making them both significantly tougher to earn than last year.
The IIHS uses five tests to judge vehicles: moderate overlap front and side crash tests, a roof strength test, head restraint test and the recently added small overlap front crash test. Last year, a basic TSP award could be earned by achieving a Good rating in the first four tests, regardless of the vehicle’s score in the new small overlap front crash test. For 2014, however, the IIHS is making the small overlap front crash test score count, requiring a Good or Acceptable score, along with a Good rating in the other four tests, to earn the award.
With the small overlap front crash test now incorporated into the basic TSP award, IIHS is changing the TSP+ award to recognize automakers that offer an extra level of protection with crash prevention technology. This year, any vehicle satisfying the criteria for the basic TSP award that also offers a forward collision warning system or automatic braking system will earn the TSP+ award.
As for the list of winners, Honda stands out as having the most TSP+ awards, a total of six spread among itself and Acura, as well as two more basic TSP awards. The IIHS also found it exemplary that smaller manufacturers like Volvo, Subaru and Mazda were able to achieve three TSP+ awards each. In total, 22 vehicles earned TSP+ awards, an increase over last year’s count of 13. What’s more shocking is that while 117 vehicles earn basic TSP awards last year, only 17 were able to meet the more stringent requirements this year.
The full list of IIHS award winners can be found below, along with a video by the IIHS explaining their testing procedures and this year’s new requirements.
IIHS announces this year’s safest vehicles, toughens standards again [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 19 Dec 2013 19:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Mazda has set an ambitious goal of selling 400,000 units by the end of the 2015 Japanese fiscal year in March 2016, and to do that, it’s going to need to take some aggressive action. That means that underperforming members of its 637-showroom strong dealer network are about to get the axe.
The purge won’t just be limited to dealers that aren’t performing, though. Mazda will seek to consolidate poorly located dealers and build new showrooms in better locations. It still isn’t clear how many dealers are being targeted or at what point Mazda would end its cull.
This consolidation of dealers is all part of a one-two punch for the Japanese brand, that will also see increased marketing efforts in 35 key areas. Of those markets, Mazda is placing a special emphasis on New York and LA, although there’s not much mention of what other regions are being looked at.
The shuffling of dealers is being called “aggressive” by Akira Marumoto, Mazda’s North American executive vice president. “I believe we can achieve our goal. Our initiatives are bearing fruit,” Marumoto told Automotive News at last month’s Tokyo Motor Show.
As we mentioned in a previous story, Mazda’s 400,000-unit goal is going to be done largely on the back of the Mazda3, which is still being rolled out.
The 2014 North American International Auto Show is right around the corner, which means it’s high time we find out which cars and trucks have become finalists for the prestigious North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards.
The finalists – three in cars and three in three trucks/utilities – are dominated by American brands, with two-thirds of the finalists hailing from either General Motors or Chrysler (don’t worry Ford, there’s always next year), while models from Mazda and Acura can also be found in each contest. Here now is the list of finalists for the big prizes:
2014 North American Car of the Year:
2014 North American Truck/Utility of the Year:
Interestingly, the North American Car of the Year grouping is identical to the three finalists chosen by Motor Trend for its Car of the Year – a contest won by the Cadillac CTS. The Corvette Stingray, meanwhile, is the most performance-minded entry we’ve seen on the list for some time, and the diminutive Mazda3 is there as the affordable, stylish and economical entry.
For the truck/utility award, we’re somewhat surprised to see the Acura MDX make the list, while the Chevrolet Silverado is the sole ‘traditional’ truck to make it to the finals. Despite its controversial looks, Jeep’s Cherokee is more than a dark horse in our eyes, and advanced features like a nine-speed auto and a range of four-wheel drive systems could make it a compelling choice.
There are some enthusiast-leaning omissions in each category (you can view the entire list of finalists in the press release), including the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Jaguar F-Type on the Car of the Year side. In the trucks/utility category, both the new Land Rover Range Rover Sport and the BMW X5 are great steers, too. All of the aforementioned were voted onto the NACTOY short list for the awards, but failed to make it into the final three slots.
As always, we want to know which of these vehicles will win their respective competitions. Put yourself in the shoes of the 48 journalists that are able to cast a vote, and have your say in the polls below. Once your vote has been cast, dive into Comments and let us know which models you’d pick if you were on the jury.
2014 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year finalists announced [w/poll] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 10 Dec 2013 15:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
This past September we reported on Top Gear‘s destruction of the Mazda Furai, one of the finest concept cars to ever grace an auto show stage. It turns out that the Furai, which was burned nearly beyond recognition at the hands of the British magazine, was actually destroyed back in 2008, and that the entire thing had been covered up for five long years.
Now, a few months after publishing that heart-wrenching composite of a half-baked Furai (shown above), the lads at TG have published their account of just what resulted in a priceless concept car being transformed into a smoking hulk on a Suffolk runway. Click over to read the full story about just what happened, along with pictures of the Furai before, during and after the inferno.
Top Gear recounts the fiery demise of the Mazda Furai originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.