Friday, October 23, 2009
For the past 30 years, Japan has declared a car of the year, an award given to newly released or redesigned vehicles released from November 1st of the previous year to October 1st of the current year. More than 60 jurors composed of Japanese journalists receive an allocation of votes, and the car with the most votes comes away with the crown.
This year the Toyota Prius narrowly edged out the Honda Insight, continuing the recent trend of environmentally-friendly winners. Other notable winners included the new Volkswagen Golf, which was named the Import Car of the Year, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which was declared to have the Most Advanced Technology. The Nissan Fairlady Z won the category of Most Fun, and finally the Subaru Legacy took top honors for Best Value.
We were frankly astounded that the prospect of a gutted Tokyo Motor Show didn't get any maker, save one, to trot out some of their historical home runs. Even if they didn't want to go in for a nostalgia-fest, a few brands could have at least peppered the show with some of Japan's seminal machinery. After all, if you're not going to give us anything really new and exciting, you could at least let us have some fun with the past.
But no. The only historic machine at an automaker's booth was a vintage Suzuki Alto near the new Alto Concept. Otherwise, nada. The other vintage machinery – a 1917 Mitsubishi A, a Toyota GT HYBD (a Sports 800 gas-turbine hybrid), and a Honda Accord CVCC – were in the "motor lounge" seating area. A big, fat raspberry is all we have to say to that. So for your viewing pleasure, feast your eyes on the historic cars of the Tokyo Motor Show in the high-res gallery below. All four of them.
Ford is currently awaiting the ratification of a new labor deal that would put labor costs of the Dearborn, MI-based automaker on a nearly equal footing with General Motors and Chrysler. A major tenet of the negotiations is the guarantee of new product to build in U.S. assembly plants, effectively giving 41,000 blue collar Ford employees some much needed job security. A summary of the tentative agreement between the UAW and Ford reportedly states that the Louisville facility will receive a new product with "considerable export volume," so it's not a far leap to surmise that the Kuga will become Kentucky born and bred.
At this point, Ford has only announced that the Louisville plant will receive a more fuel efficient product based on Ford's global C platform. The Kuga certainly fits that bill, and building the small crossover in the good ol' US of A makes financial sense right now since the dollar is worth less than the euro or British pound, and labor costs in the U.S. could be $10 per hour cheaper than they are in Germany, for instance.
Before we begin, we have to state up front that we've rarely – if ever – had more fun with a car than we had with the Hotchkis E-Max Challenger. And the loud yellow Dodge was in our possession for maybe five hours. Why are we cutting to the chase like this? Why not structure this review like any other and start with the basics, describe the vehicle and then state a conclusion? First of all, just look at the bloody thing: "dripping with sex" is the only proper description. But the truth is that this is more the recounting of an adventure than a plain old car review. Keep reading. You're going to have some fun. Though not nearly as much fun as we did.
However, Lexus is actively considering offering owners the option to purchase a decontented LFA, stripped of its luxurious, tech-laden interior and fitted with more track oriented features to be used as a weekend racer. A final decision hasn't been made yet, but Williamsen was clear that these hardened LFAs would have to be created out of the current allocation, as Lexus is intent on keeping production to a "hard" 500 units. Considering that nearly all the components fitted to the LFA were derived from prototypes that ran at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and other events (the suspension remains adjustable for corner balancing and nearly all the components on the race cars were serialed production pieces), it wouldn't take much to turn the LFA into a tried-and-true racer with a few thoughtful, minimal mods.
The new concept uses a complete drive-by-wire system with joystick-like controls that feature a steam-punk design motif. The result is wide open space in the front, which conspire with the very thin-shell seats to offer decent room inside. The car also has sliding doors on both sides. It's not known if this concept represents a design direction for an urban BEV that Toyota will likely build to meet ZEV mandates in the next five years, but it would seem to make sense for Toyota to do a custom design such as this.
Sounds like a good time, though we've heard through the grapevine that despite receiving around 120 applicants, the five vehicles chosen by GM to take on the CTS-V don't stand much of a chance. One we do know that will be present is a Jaguar XFR piloted by Wes Siler from Jalopnik.
We also asked Porsche about this whole business, since it would seem that the Panamera Turbo has one of the best shots at beating a CTS-V. Unless an actual owner was chosen by GM to be a challenger, however, there won't be a Panamera Turbo present. Porsche told us that they weren't approving any loans of the Panamera Turbo to the media for this event, and we've heard rumblings of the same sort from Mercedes-Benz concerning its AMG-fortified hardware.
We can't blame them. This is a GM event and the deck is stacked in their favor. Letting an auto journalist represent your brand in this super sedan pissing contest seems like a lose-lose proposition for any automaker in its right mind. Jaguar apparently disagrees, but we'll see what happens come October 29.