A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird: Toyota surpassed in 2011 sales race
The second part of this headline should read: "And you'll never guess who beat them." Go on then, take your best shot.
Hyundai? Nope (good guess though).
General Motors? Maybe. The General is hedging its bets and hasn't reported total sales yet for 2011.
OK, enough teasing. The unlikely juggernaut that blitzed Toyota's worldwide 7.9 million units with an 8.19 million banner year was... VW! Yes, more and more Volks are choosing VW when it comes time to pick out a family Wagen.
This marks the first time VW has cracked the eight million barrier, and there's a ways to go before VW's stated target of 10 million cars sold. Also, it's worth noting that echoes of the March Japanese earthquake still affected all the Japanese manufacturers, and Toyota's yearly sales certainly suffered due to product shortages.
Still, with new products like the punctuationally challenged Up! in the pipeline, 2012 could be another big year for VW worldwide.
2013 Nissan Pathfinder returns to its roots - sort of
When it debuted in the mid-1980s, Nissan's Pathfinder was one tough truck. Built on Nissan's Hardbody pickup truck frame, it was a go-anywhere, do-anything small SUV that had about as much urban chic as a long woollen underwear onesie with a flap in the rear.
For the second generation, Nissan turned to unibody construction, sacrificing a little of that off-road capability for a smoother ride and better interior layout. By 2001, the Pathfinder was available with Nissan's glorious 3.5-litre V-6 engine, making it a bit of a rocketship, with fuel economy to match.
Despite the horrible fuel efficiency, the Pathfinder was a sales success. But then Nissan went back to the body-on-frame drawing board for the 2005 model, a seven-seater, off-roadgoing truck. Capable, but a bit rough around the edges for in-town duties, which is why the new 2013 Pathfinder is returning to its 1996-2004 roots with unibody construction again.
If you're confused, let me simplify things for you a bit: the new Pathfinder weighs 225 kilograms less than the outgoing model and should be 25 per cent more efficient.
Big numbers to be sure, and let's not forget the new, Murano-like interior and more aerodynamic, sculpted shape. The new Pathfinder should woo back Nissan buyers who wanted the size of an SUV, but not an off-road machine.
For those who do want to take their Nissan up into the backcountry, not to worry: the body-on-frame Xterra is going to continue as a rugged rock-crawler for the foreseeable future.
Toyota supercharges its iQ
It's surprising to think that Toyota should be responsible for one of the most exciting sports coupes that's coming down the pipeline - the 86 or Scion FRS - but perhaps there's a bit of a sea change coming for the big Japanese manufacturer. After all, their Lexus subdivision keeps putting out wilder and wilder concepts, and now there's this: the teensiest hot rod ever.
The Toyota (or Scion) iQ is a Smart Car-battling microvehicle that you can expect to see in showrooms later this year. Unlike the Smart, which is limited to two seats and hamstrung by the very worst automatic transmission ever fitted to any vehicle in the history of mankind, the iQ seats four and is actually a bit of a hoot to drive, sort of in the same vein as one of the early 1960s Minis.
Now Toyota is building a supercharged version in cooperation with the excellently named Gazoo Racing. The forced-induction tyke will jump up to 130 horsepower and 133 foot-pounds of torque - pretty modest numbers until you consider that they represent a 30 per cent increase in power.
Other improvements include the usual flares and larger wheel packaging, and Toyota/Gazoo are only building 100 of the little super-iQs, with no plans to sell them in North America. However, when the car lands at Scion, you can be fairly confident there'll be a TRD package with a supercharging option. It remains to be seen whether a suspension package will be released if you want to lower your iQ.
Porsche CEO says nein to baby Boxster
Just as quickly as rumours can spread through the automotive industry, so too can they be speedily quashed. Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller hinted at the idea of a small, sub-Boxster runabout in February, and with VW already having a successful roadster concept ready for re-badging, it looked like we could be receiving a 914 successor by 2014.
Now, Mueller has put the kibosh on such concepts, claiming that an inexpensive sub-Boxster would dilute the brand's image (i.e. no poor people in Porsches).
Unfortunately, this is complete poppycock from Mr. Mueller considering that the next car to roll out of Stuttgart will be the Cajun, a small SUV that will price below the Boxster, compete with the BMW X1 and the Audi Q5, and have about as much to do with Porsche's racing heritage as I have to do with this year's symposium on sub-atomic particle physics.
2013 Boxster totally redesigned
However, Porsche fans, take heart. The new Boxster is here and it's a thing of beauty.
Don't expect any massive changes, as Porsche has always been about slow, incremental and evolutionary design rather than giant leaps forward. The new Boxster is a little lighter, has 10 more h.p. in the base mode (five more in the "S" variant), is slightly wider and has a little longer wheelbase.
It's also 15 per cent more efficient - a considerable improvement, due in part to the improved aerodynamics and lowered weight, but also due to innovations such as start/stop technology.
Best of all, the new Boxster dodges the silly seven-speed manual gear box they're putting in the 911 - in favour of a six-speed - and now offers the Sport Chrono option with all kinds of go-fast goodies like dynamic engine mounts and a torque-vectoring rear end.
How to best sum up all these improvements? If this is what the 2013 Boxster is like, then the 2018 Cayman R is going to be absolutely epic.
Follow Brendan on Twitter: @brendan_mcaleer, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.