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VW Iroc gives taste of new Scirocco

You may find it surprising, as I did, that Volkswagen would name its latest concept car after a NASCAR stock car-related race series that has for most of its three-decade existence been a showcase for North-American cars (or at least their look-alikes).

You may find it surprising, as I did, that Volkswagen would name its latest concept car after a NASCAR stock car-related race series that has for most of its three-decade existence been a showcase for North-American cars (or at least their look-alikes).

But there it is. The Volkswagen Iroc, which is expected to make its public debut at the Paris Auto Show later this month.

Dig a little deeper, however, and it becomes apparent the American IROC series played no role in its naming.

The four letters in Iroc are extracted directly from the middle of Scirocco, with two left over on either end.

The car itself is a preview of what we might expect when the revived production Scirocco is released, a couple years hence.

With its squared-off back, its styling is more in the Golf mode than that of the original, slope-backed Scirocco, but it is undeniably dramatic, particularly up front. Look for its ever-bolder grille surround to migrate to other VWs as well.

In concept form, the Iroc is powered by VW's pioneering 210-hp TSI engine, which incorporates both a supercharger and a turbocharger. It is now offered in the European Golf and is expected to be offered in other models in the near future.

Also featured in the concept is VW's DSG auto-manual gearbox. A broader range of engines and transmissions will probably be offered in the production car.

The original Scirocco, designed by Giugiaro's Ital Design studio, was revealed at the Geneva auto show in 1973 and was offered for sale a year later. It continued in production until 1993.


SKY RED LINE PRICING

The turbocharged Red Line version of the Saturn Sky roadster will carry a starting price of $37,190 when it arrives at retailers this fall.

The Red Line's direct-injected, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Ecotec engine (GM's first DI gasoline engine for North America) produces 260 hp at 5300 r.p.m. and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 2500 r.p.m, making it the company's highest-specific-output engine ever, at 130 hp per litre.

According to GM, it can accelerate from 0-to-100 km/h in about 5.5 seconds. Serious performance!

The Red Line's many features include a torque-sensing limited-slip differential, performance-tuned suspension with coil-over Bilstein monotube shocks, a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission with self-adjusting clutch, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control and StabiliTrak electronic stability control.

Other unique elements include dual exhaust with polished chrome outlets, 18-inch polished aluminum alloy wheels, functional brake cooling vents in the lower front fascia, a larger mesh pattern in the lower grille and black headlamp bezels.


CLEAN DIESELS FOR PICKUPS

Tight new emissions regulations on diesel engines, which take effect in 2007, were once expected to spell the demise of that engine type in North American pickup trucks and other non-commercial vehicles.

Diesels are too big a part of that business to let them die, however, so engineers at the Detroit auto makers, which are the big sellers in that market, set about finding ways to meet the new regulations.

Both Ford and General Motors have recently announced details of new or revised emissions-compliant diesels for the heavy-duty vehicles in which they are now offered, and Chrysler is expected to do the same next month.

In addition, both Ford and GM will broaden the scope of their future diesel offerings to include light-duty pickups (under 3,900 kg Gross Vehicle Weight).

The new emissions regulations, which take effect on Jan. 1, mandate a 50 per cent reduction in emissions of nitrogen oxides — a component of smog — and a 90 per cent reduction in particulate matter (soot), relative to current regulations, which were implemented in 2004.

A key factor in enabling the implementation of these new standards is the introduction of low-sulphur (15 parts-per-million) diesel fuel this fall, in both Canada and the U.S. The high-sulphur (up to 500 parts-per-million) fuel permitted until now would poison the emissions after-treatment devices necessary to meet the new standards.

Those devices include an additional oxidizing catalyst converter and a diesel particulate filter, which traps particulates in a honeycomb-like ceramic "brick." Those particulates are automatically burned off periodically at very high temperatures.

Perhaps more exciting is the news of new diesel engines on the horizon for lighter-duty applications, in the 2010 time frame and beyond.

At that point, emissions regulations get even tighter. Light-duty diesel trucks will have to meet the same requirements as gasoline-engined passenger cars.

Given that diesels typically consume about 25 per cent less fuel than comparable gasoline engines, this could be the technology that will save the pickup, not to mention the big SUV.


WANNA BUY JAGUAR?

By declaring that "nothing is off the table," in an attempt to restore Ford's sagging fortunes, company CEO William Clay (Bill) Ford Jr. has effectively put it luxury brands, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover and Volvo, on the auction block.

And one of the bidders may be the man Ford turfed out of the top spot the last time the company was in dire straits — a state from which it has never really recovered.

Jacques Nasser, who Bill Ford replaced as CEO in 2001, is now a senior partner in a financial institution (JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s One Equity Partners LLC) that is said to be one of a few entities interested in taking all or some of the luxury brands off Ford's hands.

The company would probably be glad to be rid of money-losing Jaguar, which has reportedly cost Ford more than $10 billion (U.S.) since it was acquired 18 year ago.

Ford might be less keen to dump Land Rover which, after its resurrection by BMW, is now said to be profitable. Rumblings

  • Hyundai was rumoured to be a potential candidate to take Jaguar off Ford's hands, but the company put that rumour to rest with a formal statement last week. "At one point we did conduct an internal review to acquire a luxury nameplate like Jaguar," it said, "but we really have enough on our hands (so) we must rule out any acquisition at this point."

  • Euro-buzz suggest that Porsche may follow up the forthcoming four-door Panamera with a coupe version of the front-engined luxury sedan car. A successor to the 928?


    mgmalloy@aol.com


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