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Weekly Update - October 30, 2002

First, a special message. If I don't get on this site tomorrow, I'd just like to wish everyone a happy Halloween. I'll mention that you shouldn't scare the little trick-or-treaters too badly when they come to the door - but I'll also say that a simple rubber goblin mask, if used effectively, will easily have most four- and five-year-olds running for their lives. :ph34r: (Just kidding - I've never scared any little kid that badly...well, not intentionally, anyway. :shifty: )

Second, I'll remind everyone to get out and vote next Tuesday, simply because it's important to make your voice heard. :)

Having said that, I'll get back to cars now...

Mazda Minutes

The biggest deal of the week is the EPA's new list of fuel economy estimates for the 2003 cars and trucks. Unsurprisingly, the Honda Insight hybrid has taken the crown for the fourth consecutive year - the automatic version runs at 57/56 city/highway MPG, and the five-speed manual gets a whopping 61/68 MPG. And the new Enzo Ferrari (featuring a decidedly uneconomical 6.0-liter V12 engine) has beaten out last year's bottom-feeder, the Lamborghini Murcielago, with an exceptionally depressing 8/12 MPG. Congrats, Ferrari!

Anyway, for your convenience, I've gone through this year's guide and picked out the Mazda models' rankings. As always (well, excepting the early-1970s rotary years), the company did pretty well. Mileage rankings for the following data are in city/highway format, with an average yearly fuel cost in US dollars included after that.

Mazda MX-5 Miata:
1.8L four, 4-speed auto - 22/28, $1032
1.8L four, 5-speed man - 23/28, $990
1.8L four, 6-speed man - 23/28, $990

Mazda Protege and Protege5:
2.0L four, 4-speed auto - 25/30, $860 (Sport-mode automatic is the same)
2.0L four, 5-speed man - 25/31, $860

Mazda 6:
Strangely, there is no data yet for the 6. I'll let you know...

Mazda B-series:
B2300 (2.3L four), 2WD, 5-speed auto - 23/26, $970
B2300 (2.3L four), 2WD, 5-speed man - 24/29, $895 (see Leader note below)
B3000 (3.0L V6), 2WD, 5-speed auto - 17/22, $1223
B3000 (3.0L V6), 2WD, 5-speed man - 19/23, $1162
B3000 (3.0L V6), 4WD, 5-speed auto - 16/20, $1293
B3000 (3.0L V6), 4WD, 5-speed man - 18/21, $1223
B3000 (3.0L V6 flex-fuel), 2WD, 5-speed auto - 17/21, $1223 (see E85 note below)
B4000 (4.0L V6), 2WD, 5-speed auto - 16/21, $1293
B4000 (4.0L V6), 2WD, 5-speed man - 17/22, $1223
B4000 (4.0L V6), 4WD, 5-speed auto - 15/19, $1367
B4000 (4.0L V6), 4WD, 5-speed man - 15/19, $1367

Mazda MPV:
3.0L V6, 5-speed auto - 18/25, $1162

Mazda Tribute:
2.0L four, 2WD, 5-speed man - 23/28, $930
2.0L four, 4WD, 5-speed man - 22/25, $1011
3.0L V6, 2WD, 4-speed auto - 19/25, $1107
3.0L V6, 4WD, 4-speed auto - 18/23, $1162

Leader note: The Mazda B2300 5-speed pickup, along with its Ranger twin over at Ford, is noted as the MPG champ among 2WD standard-sized pickups for this year. Way to go!

E85 note: The B3000 flex-fuel version is able to run on either regular gasoline or an E85 ethanol blend. Despite the fact that ethanol burns cleaner, it ironically gets markedly worse fuel economy. When tested with E85, the B3000 FFV made only 13/16 MPG - working out to an average of $2356 in fuel costs over a year. That's nearly double the standard version!
Race Report

The Speed World Challenge series is over for this year, and the Touring class manufacturers' champion is...Acura. But it was a close race at VIR, and Mazda still ended up in third place with just a few points separating them from the leaders - Acura finished with 59, BMW with 58 (razor-thin margin, anyone?) and Mazda had 55.

Jeff Altenburg pulled his Protege in behind Pierre Kleinubing's Acura Integra to take second, with three other Mazda drivers also finishing in the top 10 (taking the 4-5-9 slots). Altenburg, in fact, missed the win by just 0.209 seconds. Any wonder why the World Challenge is one of the SCCA's most popular events?

As always, coverage on Speed Channel is delayed, so the Touring finale at VIR will air on Saturday, November 9 at 8:00 PM (EST). Look out for it.

Auto Show News: Birmingham

Along with the MG SV sport coupe that I told you about last week, several other interesting vehicles fought for the spotlight at Great Britain's national motor show. Forthwith, the highlights - as provided by The Car Connection, with extra info researched by yours truly.

For instance, Morgan announced that they've cut waiting periods for their custom-built cars down to just twelve months, thanks to a fully updated factory system. Though a year probably seems like a long time to wait for a car, it sure beats the previous mark of five years. In addition, Morgan has begun the safety/emissions certification processes to get its BMW-engined Aero 8 roadster into this country and has named four new distribution channels in the USA (for a total of six). Expect to see the Aero 8 here sometime during 2003, priced at about $75-85k (my estimate, so don't shoot me if I'm wrong). Check out Morgan's web site if you're intrigued.

Also on the rise is Noble, formerly a builder of sleek GT kit cars that has (like Lotus before it) grown to become a true manufacturer with its race-inspired M12 coupe. Powered by a turbocharged version of the Ford 2.5-liter Duratec V6 engine (similar to the one in the Mazda 6, Tribute and MPV), the M12 GTO pumps out 310 hp and has been tested at 3.9 seconds in the 0-60mph run by the UK's Autocar magazine. At Birmingham, the company announced a new GTC roadster version along with a GTO 3R racing edition. No plans for American sales of any M12 version yet, but it can't hurt for me to pass the word along to all of you. You can also check out the specs for yourself (along with more impressive performance stats) at Noble's web site.

And finally, there's Spyker of Holland. Spyker cars and airplanes were originally built (using Benz or Maybach engines) from 1898 to 1925 and are fairly well-known among old-car enthusiasts in Europe. And though the brand disappeared after that early start, several Dutch investors with a passion for cars have effected a full-scale Spyker revival. It's being spurred on by the beautiful C8 Laviolette coupe and Spyder convertible, both of which feature a much-modified 4.2-liter Audi V8 engine making either 400 or 450hp, depending on the owner's preference. But the most impressive aspects of the C8 are the aluminum construction (actually crafted in the UK before being shipped to Holland for assembly) and the styling, which can best be described as the ultimate Audi TT. There are cool aluminum accents everywhere (outside and inside), beautiful interior trimmings, and prominent placement of the trademark Spyker "propeller" logo in numerous locations. The company is on a major roll, having even competed with great fervor in this year's Le Mans race (before dropping out thanks to the failure of a minor, but irreparable, part). And Spyker has announced their intention to sell in the USA - hopefully by next year, and for around $250,000 or so. It seems worth it, I think. Check out the Spyker site for more info.

Those Other Guys

ISUZU CUTS BACK: Facing heavy losses and declining market-share, Isuzu has decided to sell off its holdings at the joint-venture Subaru-Isuzu assembly plant in Lafayette, Indiana. Though Isuzu's sport-utility vehicles will still be built at the facility through at least 2003, the truck-maker will be contracting them from Subaru - who will now own the plant outright, thus allowing them to concentrate more fully on their own hot-selling Legacy and Outback lines. However, with the removal of the Trooper for 2003 in favor of the GM-cloned Ascender SUV, this means that all of Isuzu's products for North America will be built in the USA. Good for us, I suppose, but considering Isuzu's minimal sales in this country, that may not mean very much.

GM GOES WAY GLOBAL: First, there's a rumor going around - started by the head of the Canadian Auto Workers union - that GM will be using a Chinese-built engine for its upcoming "Equinox" crossover SUV. I have strong doubts about this (even though it's being reported by Reuters), but we'll see. Second, there's more GM-China action in the form of a proposed vehicle that would be built by the new GM-Daewoo Auto Technology group in Korea, and intended for sale in multiple Asian countries (including China and Japan). The GM-Daewoo combine, which was finally completed last week, is a joint venture between GM, Suzuki and China's Shanghai Automotive that controls Daewoo Motors assets in Korea - thus giving all involved parties a big leg-up in the burgeoning Asian market.

PEUGEOT UPS THE ANTE: The PSA Group, otherwise known as French carmakers Peugeot and Citroen, has announced its intention to build a new plant in Central Europe (location as yet undetermined) by 2006. Currently, PSA's factories are maxed-out thanks to booming demand for the company's popular range of small cars, so another production facility means they're not planning on relinquishing their currently strong sales position. In addition, PSA has made noise recently about a possible return to the American market - so news of increased factory capacity can only help to fuel more rumors along those lines. Stay tuned.

CHRYSLER MAKES A STAND: Last week, I told you about Hyundai's intention to show a remarkable 22 different vehicles at the upcoming SEMA show in Las Vegas. Today, Chrysler announced several high-powered concepts that will be coming along on the company's annual Vegas blitz. Witness the 350hp Dodge Ram Cannonball Express (featuring a tuned-up Cummins turbodiesel) and the 500hp Kenne Bell Hemi Ram (carrying a massive 2.2-liter-capacity twin-screw supercharger nicknamed "Blowzilla"). You can say whatever you will about gas-guzzling behemoths like these two trucks, but just don't discount their ability to seriously burn up the road when asked.

Duncan Malloch :D

(!) Any questions? Comments? Suggestions? Simply reply to this topic and speak out, or e-mail me at [email protected] with your thoughts.
 
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