The Auto Sleuth: Smaller Engines, Evolution Ends

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Photo Credit: Handout

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General Motors downsizes with next-gen powerplants

The Sleuth is hearing rumblings that GM's small-car family will soon be powered by a new range of three- and four-cylinder engines. And we're not just talking about a few assorted powerplants, but close to a dozen brand new "Ecotec"-branded engines will be created and are to be used in various of the automaker's vehicles throughout the globe. Of course, a number of these Ecotecs will find their way inside vehicles either made or sold in North America, including a 1.0-liter three-cylinder (likely in turbocharged form) as well as a 1.5-liter four-cylinder (also turbocharged) with at least 165 horsepower on tap. The second-generation Chevrolet Cruze, which is slated for a 2016 model-year launch, will probably get the 1.5 turbo as an option, while the turbo three-cylinder could wind up being employed by the next-generation Chevy Sonic as well as the tiny Spark.

The end of Evolution

It appears that, after the 2014 model year, Subaru's all-wheel-drive WRX STI will have one less competitor to worry about, both on the international rally circuit and in its dealer showrooms. The Sleuth has learned that Mitsubishi will cancel the Lancer-based Evolution X that arrived for the 2008 model year. The whispers in The Spy Guy's ears are that the Japan-based automaker will focus its attention on electric-powered models and leave the performance machinery to others. With seven model years behind it and without any significant changes to speak of, the current model is getting rather long in the tooth and is really ready for replacement. The only glimmer of hope is that the rumored development of a performance hybrid model will eventually come to pass, returning Mitsubishi to a leadership role in the hot-compact-sedan class.

Volvo is going small after all

It wasn't that long ago that The sleuth was reporting on the demise of the compact C30 hatchback as evidence that this Sweden-based (but owned by Geely of China) car company was shifting all of its energies to larger, more premium-priced models. Now The Trenchcoated One has discovered that, as the song goes, it ain't necessarily so. Apparently Volvo is busy developing a companion platform to its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which is called the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) that it will share with its Geely parent. Furthermore, the plan includes building new Geely models for primarily Asian markets, as well as Volvo-branded products, including a new V40 station wagon, an XC40 tall wagon and a four-door sedan replacement for the retired C30 hatchback to be called the C40. The forthcoming SPA growth spurt is likely at least three to four years away.

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Four-cylinder engines for Porsche's Boxster and Cayman

According to The Sleuth's insiders, the next-generation Boxster roadster and Cayman coupe will be fitted with smaller four-cylinder turbocharged engines instead of the current non-turbo six-cylinder configurations. However they won't be based on the V4 powerplant that was developed for Porsche's upcoming 919 gas-electric hybrid racecar, as some erroneous reports have speculated. Instead, the automaker will stick with tried-and-true horizontally opposed engines (Two banks of two pistons fires at 180 degrees to each other). In other Boxter/Cayman news, you'll shortly be able to order either model in GTS trim which, among other goodies, gets you a 330-horsepower 3.4-liter six-cylinder in the Boxster (up 15 horses from the Boxster S) and 340 in the Cayman, up from the Cayman S's 325.

Aston Martin to become part of Mercedes-Benz?

Aston Martin, the British boutique luxury sports car maker, has an arrangement with Mercedes-Benz's in-house tuner division, AMG, to supply engines for its upcoming models. In fact, AMG holds a five percent stake in Aston Martin, a figure that The Sleuth suspects will soon increase. M-B won't be taking a majority position in AM, but it appears likely that the five percent will soon climb to 25 or even 30 percent, if The Spymaster's hunch is correct. Aston Martin, it appears, has suffered from cash-flow problems almost since the automaker was founded back in 1922 and partnering with Mercedes-Benz and its AMG offshoot makes perfect sense. Aston-Martin gets a steady supply of proven engine technology, which it really needs, along with injections of operating capital so it can keep doing what it does best - produce exciting sporting machinery for the favored few.

Market indicators

DOWN: Dodge Viper sales: The Chrysler Group recently announced that it would stop production of the SRT Viper for "at least two months" owing to sluggish sales. As a result, 91 workers at Chrysler's Connor Avenue assembly plant in Detroit, Mich., will be laid off. At close to $100,000, the 640-horsepower Viper costs about $45,000 more than a 2014 Corvette Stingray coupe, which is selling like hotcakes.

DOWN: Design studio Bertone: The Turin, Italy automotive styling house that was founded 102 years ago has filed for bankruptcy for the second time since 2008. Some of the cars that Bertone has created over the years include the Ferrari 308, Lancia Stratos, Fiat X1/9 and several Lamborghini models, including the Muira and Countach. A number of companies have expressed interest in acquiring Bertone, but no offers have been made yet.

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