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 August 30, 2013. The Lexus LF-NX concept, Chrysler's Pentastar triumph, the Cadillac XTS vSport, Toyota's Cummins gambit, and a twin-turbo Chevrolet Corvette Z07 - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Lexus LF-NX Compact Crossover Concept Most Aggressive To Date
Lexus' new styling language - with its impossible-to-ignore 'spindle' grille and its sharply-angular F-Sport package - has pushed much of its lineup into new, more aggressive territory. The Japanese automaker is clearly hoping for a sea change in how its products are perceived by the general public, which has for decades identified Lexus models as very comfortable, well-appointed cars that come up a bit short in the driver engagement arena.
This explains the look of the Lexus LF-NX compact crossover concept, a vehicle that has been unveiled ahead of its official Frankfurt auto show debut. The LF-NX aims to plug a hole in the Lexus lineup, fitting in under the popular, but conservative RX crossover with the goal of drawing younger buyers to the fold. It's unlikely that the LF-NX will look quite as sharp-to-the-touch in production form, but it's a definite departure for the brand that could pay off with entry-level shoppers. One other important improvement: the concept does away with the tedious console-mounted mouse in favor of a 'Remote Touch Interface' pad to control its on-screen electronic systems.
02. Chrysler Kisses Non-Pentastar V6 Designs Good-bye
Chrysler has completed its six-cylinder renaissance with the news that the very last of its non-Pentastar V-6 engines have been eliminated from the company's product portfolio. There was once a time when Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep conspired to offer a multitude of slow and inefficient six-cylinder engines in all manner of products, with vehicles like the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan displaying a bewildering array of V-6 choices that varied little in terms of output but definitely crimped the wallet at the gas pump. Now that Pentastars rule the land even in far-flung markets like China (the last bastion of non-Pentastar motors), the world can breath easier and savor the excellent engineering that has completely transformed Chrysler's entry-level engine options.
03. Cadillac To Offer vSport Edition Of XTS Sedan
I was initially surprised to hear that Cadillac would be offering a high performance Cadillac XTS vSport model, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. In fact, blessing the luxury brand's full-size sedan with a 410 horsepower, twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 and available all-wheel drive doesn’t just give the somewhat portly cruiser some performance credibility - it also allows it to go head-to-head with pricier options like the Audi A6. Thanks to vSport, Comparing the A6 to the Cadillac is no longer an exercise in dissimilarity but rather a more compelling conversation about value. Neither the Audi nor the Cadillac is designed to go anywhere near a race track - regardless of what the former's S-line trim package might want you to believe - but the XTS now has the mechanical guts and grunt to work its way into comparisons with all-weather premium Euro sedans.
04. Cummins Diesels For Everyone!
It wasn't all that long ago that I used this column to discuss Nissan's strategy for re-invigorating its Titan full-size pickup line-up with a Cummins diesel engine. It would seem that Toyota does not want to be left out of the Cummins party, as Edmunds has published an interview with a Toyota product planner where it was mentioned that a turbodiesel Tundra full-size pickup is seriously being considered. The move would be a bold one for the typically conservative brand, which has been criticized for standing pat on its engine options for the recently-refreshed 2014 Toyota Tundra. One can't help but feel sorry for Ram, which has for over a decade lorded its formerly-exclusive Cummins power plants over other diesel drivetrains in the heavy duty truck segment - an advantage that appears to be rapidly evaporating.
05. Twin-Turbo Corvette Might Happen After All
For years there have been rumors of a twin-turbocharged Chevrolet Corvette being on the verge of hitting the streets, typically paired with the sacrilegious inclusion of a V-6, and not a small-block V-8 engine under the hood. Well, according to Car and Driver we might soon get the twin-turbo Corvette we have been waiting for - and with a proper eight-cylinder engine, to boot. The upcoming replacement for the high performance Z06 edition of America's sports car could conceivably be named the Z07 (to go with the all-new Vette's C7 designation) and feature a smaller-displacement V-8 fed by a pair of snails to produce 600 horsepower. This is a massive jump over the last-generation, 505-horse Z06, and the car's purported $100,000 price tag is an equally heady stretch for what was previously an affordable supercar. How much of this turbo-talk is reality? We won't find out until the model goes into production in 2015.
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