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Auto Sleuth: New Acura wagon, no more car washes

A rendering of Acura's SUV-X small wagon, which

A rendering of Acura's SUV-X small wagon, which debuted at the 2013 Shanghai (China) Auto Show. Photo Credit: Honda/Acura

Acura's upcoming small wagon
Now that the news is out concerning the Honda Fit-based HR-V that's due in early 2015, The Spymaster is more certain then ever that the Acura SUV-X that was displayed at the 2013 Shanghai (China) Auto Show will form the basis of a new model from the Honda's up-market division. Currently there is plenty of activity on the small-wagon front, ever since Buick proved it could be done with the small and tall the Encore. With others, including the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA, Lexus NX and BMW X2 also jumping on board, Acura really has no choice but to follow suit. It's unlikely that the new Acura will use the HR-V's 130-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder. Instead, you can expect something in a small turbocharged four-cylinder, accompanied by standard all-wheel-drive. Oh, and in keeping with the competition, the price tag for Acura's yet-to-be-named model will be in the low-$30,000 range.

Frisky Fiskers coming soon?
According to The Sleuth's sources, Fisker Karma automobiles could start rolling off the assembly line as soon as mid-2015. A spokesman for Wanxaing, the China-based company that purchased the bankrupt Fisker, is claiming that the electric-powered Karma sedan will be joined in 2016 by a wagon version called the Surf, followed by a smaller sedan called the Atlantic in 2017. At this point, management and assembly staffing has yet to be initiated and an actual production site hasn't been decided, although the reconstituted automaker currently owns the former General Motors facility in the state of Delaware. Your intrepid Spy Guy also hears that the Fisker name (it originated with the former owner, Henrik Fisker) could be changed to something else.

Parlez-vous, Peugeot?
The last Peugeot that The Sleuth drove belonged to one of his cloak-and-dagger associates: a 1986 405 sedan. It was nicely trimmed-out, although a bit on the sluggish side. The brand disappeared from North America in the early 1990s, but your obedient Spymaster hears there's a possibility that the 125-year-old nameplate (Peugeot was founded in France in 1889 and is now called PSA Peugeot Citroën) will return. Apparently the automaker's head maître is seeking ways to staunch the red ink on the corporate balance sheet through streamlining product offerings, modernizing production facilities and increasing production through expansion in other lands. Despite its problems, Peugeot Citroën makes some very appealing fuel-efficient vehicles that, with a concerted effort, could catch on here. However any advance on this continent is probably at least four to five years of.

The beginning of the end for car washes?
Here's a little stealthy tidbit from The Sleuth's European contacts. Rumor has it that Nissan is well on its way to developing automotive paint that actually repels water and assorted dirt, grease and grime. This is the sort of technology that environmentally sensitive types will love as it could save literally millions of gallons of water from going down the drain, not to mention the untold millions of dollars spent on car washes. Apparently testing has been under way for some time and the special paint, which is being developed by an outside supplier, is proving effective at repelling all manner of nasty stuff in a variety of weather conditions. The Sleuthy One can't wait to have his car painted with the stuff so he can sleep in on weekends instead of soaking and sudsing his car.

Mustang burnouts made easy:
The 2015 Mustang GT will have a feature called line lock, which is a term that drag racers will be familiar with. Flip the switch and owners will be able to spin the Mustang's rear wheels pretty much forever without destroying the rear brakes (without line lock they would be engaged). This "burnout" heats up the tires and essentially makes them stickier for maximum off-the-line traction. It also creates plenty of tire smoke for all to enjoy. When the line lock is released, the 'Stang will take off like a spooked pony. The Sleuth isn't sure if this will void the tire manufacturer's warranty, but Ford says that activating line lock in any competitive event will definitely void your Mustang's warranty. The inference is that using the launch system on your own, either on off the street, means you're still covered. That being the case, you can look forward to Mustang burnouts coming to your neighborhood stoplight soon.

Market indicators
Up, Dodge Challenger Hellcat: The Internet is teeming with news that a new Challenger Hellcat model will be built to go head to head to head with the 662-horsepower Mustang GT 500 and the 580-horsepower Camaro ZL1. Being last to the party gives the Dodge something to shoot for, which is likely why rumors persist the car will have somewhere around 700 horsepower. There's no point in building an also-ran, so that number seems about right. Power would likely come from a supercharged 6.4-liter V8.

Up, BMW i3 Demand: The luxury automaker has already built more than 5,000 of its unique-looking four-seat electric cars for European markets and will soon ramp up production at its Leipsig, Germany factory to 100 units a day from 70 to meet expected demand for North America. The car will have a base price of $42,300 ($47,000 in Canada) when it arrives later this spring.

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