It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for June 29, 2012. BMW and Toyota team up to build a sports car, the new Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaguar's V-6 gambit, a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee for 2014, and the MINI Clubvan - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. BMW and Toyota To Build Sports Car(s) Together
First Subaru and now BMW - it almost seems like Toyota has completely lost confidence in its ability to build performance cars in-house. In a surprise move this week the Japanese giant announced that it would be expanding its collaboration with BMW past engine development and into the realm of actually building vehicles together in the near future. The agreement between the two automakers will see continued work together on powertrains (including increased cross-pollination in developing electric vehicles), but it will also take the form of co-development of new car platforms with an eye towards lightweight high performance. The deal cuts BMW's ties with GM and Peugeot in fuel cell and hybrid development.
02. Aston Martin Revives Vanquish Name
Aston Martin has revealed that the name for the vaunted Aston Martin DBS supercar replacement will be the 310 Vanquish. The Vanquish name was last used in 2007, when it was affixed to a vehicle that went up against high end touring coupes rather than the cutting edge exotics that the 310 model will face. More rigid than the departed DBS, the Aston Martin 310 Vanquish will be powered by a V-12 engine that is capable of generating 565 horses and 457 lb-ft of twist, and it will feature a body shell that is completely manufactured out of carbon fiber. In a story published by the Telegraph, Aston Martin estimates that the two-door coupe will be able to hit 60-mph in just 4.1 seconds - thanks in part to a launch control system - when it arrives on the U.S. market in the first half of 2013.
03. Jaguar Says Goodbye To V-8 Engine In Base XJ Sedan
Not even Jaguar could resist the wave of engine down-sizing that is sweeping across the luxury segment. The 2013 Jaguar XJ flagship sedan will be trading in its base 385 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 for a supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 that will grind out a respectable 335 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic gearbox joins the XJ's drivetrain party, helping to add 14 percent better fuel mileage to the four-door premium car's bottom line. Also in the cards for next year's Jaguar XJ: remapped adaptive suspension software as well as shocks and springs that have been tuned to improve comfort.
04. Refreshed Jeep Grand Cherokee On The Way Early Next Year
That didn't take long. The Automotive News is reporting that significant upgrades will be made available with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, with the most significant change being a new diesel engine. The 2013 model will be given a short production run from August until early next year so that the improved SUV can be brought to market roughly around the same time the older edition ceases to roll off the assembly line.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee will feature an optional 3.0-liter, six-cylinder diesel mill that will offer up roughly 240 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The sport-utility vehicle will also gain Chrysler's eight-speed automatic transmission for Pentastar V-6 models, helping to improve overall fuel economy.
05. Does The MINI Clubvan Dilute The Brand?
The MINI Clubvan is a micro-van that converts the Clubman from a passenger vehicle to a panel delivery. By replacing the rear seats with empty cargo space, the MINI Clubvan is essentially aimed at commercial buyers who want to add extra flair to their hauling experience. The question becomes does the presence of a more utilitarian MINI hurt the brand's image in the United States, where it has become associated with providing reasonably affordable, fun-to-drive compact cars?
BMW has stated that its goal is to expand the MINI lineup to service as many different niches as there are potential customers, and so far the company has yet to fall flat on its face, finding owners even for extra-large vehicles like the MINI Countryman. Could the Clubvan represent the point at which MINI exhausts existing customer tolerance for building vehicles that stray further and further from its original mission?
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