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 September 13, 2013. The Honda S1500, one more row for the 2014 Nissan Rogue, the ultra-efficient 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250, a mini-Buick on the horizon, and VW's electric push - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
The Honda S2000 was an exciting and stylish roadster that was also arguably the last Honda that was truly fun to drive. A rumor published by GTchannel.com that the brand could be developing a successor to the S2000 has enthusiasts chomping at the bit for a chance to sample a fresh interpretation of Honda's roadster heritage (which dates back to the emergence of the automaker). The vehicle would be dubbed the S1500, and it would be aimed at the same crowd that currently shops for the Subaru BRZ and the Mazda Miata. This means a very light curb weight of roughly 2,000 lbs, and a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine pumping out 130 horses - a combination that would make it a force to be reckoned with when combined with its proposed rear-wheel drive layout.
In an era where compact crossover builders are eliminating third row seats in their entry-level models, Nissan appears to be bucking the trend. The 2014 Nissan Rogue, which was unveiled this past week at the Frankfurt Auto Show, is only slightly larger than the model it replaces but it can now be ordered with an extra set of seats that increases total passenger capacity to seven. Pricier than before, the 2014 Nissan Rogue comes with styling that is strongly reminiscent of its larger Pathfinder sibling, and it features a 170 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Production for the more capacious crossover shifts to Nissan's Tennessee plant.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC has stepped up in a significant way with the announcement of its impressive fuel efficiency rating from the EPA. The 2.1-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine in the mid-size luxury car - which is currently available in sedan form - offers 28-mpg in city driving and 45-mpg on the highway. This is an excellent performance for a premium model that also offers 195 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard with the E250 BlueTEC. The continued run of good luck for diesel lovers is a positive sign for the auto industry in the United States, which could be on the verge of convincing the general public that turbodiesel engines are an effective alternative to hybrid automobiles.
Buick is already selling a subcompact crossover - the Buick Encore - but are the surging premium brand's customers ready for an even smaller city car? Speaking at the Frankfurt Auto Show was the chairman of GM's European subsidiary Opel, who stated that the Opel Adam, a subcompact two-door hatchback along the lines of the FIAT 500, might make it across the Atlantic and into Buick showrooms.
Before gnashing one's teeth at what at first glance appears to be the anti-Buick, keep in mind that this is a car company that has effectively given itself an all-new image over the course of the past five years by way of a continual stream of innovative and engaging products. The Opel Adam could very well be the next piece of Buick's renaissance to fall into place as an option for city folk who want something fun to drive and easy to park that is also attractively styled and well-appointed inside.
Volkswagen rarely hides its plans for world domination, and anyone willing to listen can easily get an earful about grandiose strategies to become the world's largest and most-loved automaker. Frankfurt's home turf allowed the brand a larger-than-normal soapbox from which to make bold predictions, leading to the announcement that the company will offer up to 40 hybrid or pure electric cars by the year 2018. The effort would make the German stalwart the largest producer of electric vehicles in the world, overtaking Toyota at the cost of $10 billion in technology investments per year. The news is somewhat of a surprise from VW, which had just a few years ago decried the idea that electric automobiles represented a viable economic path for the conglomerate.