Hot off the press!

Hot off the press!

FORD’S HEAVY-DUTY PICKUP ADDS MUSCLE

There are horsepower wars between the North America-based automakers in the pony car segment — Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. However, The Sleuth finds the torque wars in the heavy-hauling pickup class equally competitive. In the latest gauntlet throw-down, Ford’s 2017 F-Series Super Duty truck series with an available 6.7-liter V-8 turbo-diesel makes 440 horsepower and an astonishing 925 pound-feet of torque. That, claims Ford, allows the SDs to tow up to 32,500 pounds of gooseneck (fifth-wheel) trailer weight and up to 7,630 pounds of payload. In contrast, the diesel V-8s in General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD models top out at 397 horsepower and 765 pound-feet of torque, while the Cummins turbo-diesel in the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty comes closest to the Ford with 385 horsepower and 900 pound-feet. The Spy Guy predicts that the 1,000 pound-feet torque plateau soon will be breached.

HONDA TAKES THE FASTBACK LANE

The Japan-based automaker is one of the top players in the midsize-sedan wars with the nicely turned out Accord. It’s also hard at work developing the next-generation four-door that will debut in late 2017 for the 2018 model year. Honda usually is pretty hush-hush when it comes to future models, but The Spymaster’s intelligence points to a less-conservative-looking Accord coming our way. Along with a more exciting grille, Honda is adopting a slanted fastback roofline that isn’t that dissimilar to the ones penned for the Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. As for power, rumor has it that a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder and non-turbo 2.0-liter I-4 from the Honda Civic will be used, but will make a bit more power. There’s some talk that Honda’s excellent V-6 will be dropped, or perhaps available only on the Accord coupe.

VOLKSWAGEN IS DONE PUSHING DIESELS

Given the months and months of bad press related to the emissions-cheating scandal, it comes as no surprise to The Sleuth that VW’s North American CEO, Hinrich Woebcken, stated that his company is backing off on the sale and promotion of turbo-diesels, and will only offer them “wherever diesel makes sense as a package to the car.” Reading between the lines, The Spymaster believes that you probably won’t see any new Jetta or Golf TDI models — the vehicles most affected by the scandal here — anytime soon, but that larger models, such as the next-generation Touareg sport utility vehicle and other all-new products, could have sanitized V-6 turbo-diesels listed on the option sheets.

MERCEDES-BENZ PLAYS THE COPYCAT WITH AN UPCOMING MODEL

Traditional wagons aren’t the most popular body styles, but that hasn’t prevented the Audi A4 all-road from doing well here. The all-wheel-drive wagon is essentially a hiked-up version of A4 Avant that Audi sells in Europe and elsewhere. According to The Sleuth’s sources, the all-road’s success has prompted Mercedes-Benz to develop its own version, based on the E-Class wagon. Dubbed the All Terrain, it’s scheduled to go on sale in 2017. Initially, Europe will be the first continent to get the all-wheel-driver, with North America likely to follow later in the year. You can expect the All Terrain to be available with both V-6 and V-8 gasoline powerplants, along with a possible AMG model with close to 600 horsepower on tap.

MAZDA INSTALLS SOME NEW SKYACTIV STUFF IN THE “3”

The Sleuth reports that the Japan-based automaker has a new trick up its sleeve and will make it available in the mildly updated 2017 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback that arrive this fall. Called G-Vectoring Control, the system varies engine torque to the front wheels, depending on steering inputs, whether the car is traveling in a straight line or turning. Mazda claims G-Vectoring Control maintains the car on its intended trajectory by reducing the need for steering corrections, especially on rough or slippery road surfaces. It’s also claimed that it smooths out acceleration inputs, which makes it more comfortable for passengers.

MARKET INDICATORS

é Trending up: In the latest J.D. Power rankings, General Motors vehicles earned top honors in six categories — the most of any brand related to automotive performance, execution and layout.

The winners included the Chevrolet Camaro, Colorado truck, Sonic small car and Tahoe tall wagon, along with the GMC Sierra HD pickup and the Buick Cascada convertible. The study measures “owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement (to a particular vehicle) across 77 attributes.” J.D Power is a U.S.-based marketing information services company.

é Trending up: It appears that Katech, General Motors’ racing-engine builder, inadvertently has confirmed that a mid-engine Corvette is due out in 2018. On Katech’s website (the post has been deleted), it made reference to a 2018 launch of the “C8 Corvette ZR1/Zora.” Other details remain scarce, but it’s widely believed that a new dual overhead cam V-8 engine will be used.

Up to now, the Corvette’s engine has been in the front (current Z06 pictured), but a model with the engine behind the passenger compartment is in the works.

é Trending up: Ford recently announced that it has partnered with Mexico-based Tequila producer Jose Cuervo to make interior and exterior bioplastic parts made from agave plant fibers. The fibers are what remain after the agave plants are used in the fermenting and distilling of tequila that would otherwise go to waste.