Friday roundup: Highlights from the week in autos

Friday roundup: Highlights from the week in autos
The all-new Range Rover Sport will serve as the official pace car for the 91st annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb on Sunday. (Range Rover)

It was a busy week in the world of auto news, particularly for the alternative energy side of things. After last week’s debut of Tesla’s swappable batteries, this week continued the trend with good news from the electric car industry, and a promise from Toyota of a $50,000 hydrogen fuel cell car by 2015.

We also saw the release of Mazda’s all-new Mazda3 sedan and hatchback, with a sleek new design that wisely borrows its look from the Mazda6 Highway 1 tested back in April. And speaking of testing, we also logged some seat time in Nissan’s Versa Note, a compact hatchback aimed at the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit. Read our thoughts on it here.

Slightly larger than the Versa Note is the Beast. It’s a replica of the armored limousine by the same name the Secret Service uses to shuttle President Obama around. Three replicas were built from scratch for use in “White House Down,” which opens Friday. Check out our story on the process of building the replicas here.


Finally, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette is back in the news, announcing a special edition called the Premiere. Essentially a loaded version of the car with unique paint and a luggage set, the car will be limited to just 500 copies.

Here's what else happened in the last five days:

Infiniti announced pricing on its all-new Q50. The compact sports sedan goes on sale in early July, and will take on a viciously competitive segment that includes the venerable BMW 3 Series, the completely redesigned Lexus IS, the Mercedes C-Class, the Audi A4 and the Cadillac ATS.

The Q50, which replaces the G37 sedan in Infiniti's lineup, will be available in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations. The base RWD model will start at $37,605 (including destination), and AWD adds an extra $1,800.

Both models come with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy ratings for this engine have not been released.

Infiniti fans looking for a hybrid model will have the Q50 Hybrid to look forward to. This model pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a 50 kW electric motor and lithium-ion battery for a total of 354 horsepower. Infiniti says this car will be rated at 36 mpg on the highway.

The Q50 Hybrid will be available in RWD versions starting at $44,855 and AWD starting at $46,655.


RAM continues to make efficiency news with Friday's release of an EcoDiesel engine option on its 1500 full-size truck for 2014. This 3.0-liter powerplant makes 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, and will be paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Ram didn't specify what a diesel 1500 model would cost, saying only that it would run $2,850 more than a similarly equipped truck with a Hemi V-8 and eight-speed transmission.

That Hemi V-8 makes 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. The eight-speed automatic transmission is optional; a six-speed gearbox is standard.

The 2014 Ram 1500 models will continue to offer the excellent V-6 and eight-speed automatic combination that Highway 1 tested in May.

All 2014 Ram 1500 models will arrive in dealer showrooms in the fourth quarter of this year.


Sunday will mark the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The 12.42-mile "Race to the Clouds" wends its way 4,720 feet up Pikes Peak in Colorado, with the finish line sitting at a lung-scorching 14,110 feet high.

The event attracts around 157 competitors, who race up the mountain in such vehicles as minivans, motorcycles and semi trucks. Crashes, often dramatic ones, are also part of the event, with entrants occasionally putting a wheel in the wrong place, only to land them hundreds of feet down the side of the mountain or lodged in the pine trees.

Land Rover's new Range Rover Sport will be the official pace car for the event. Not one to miss a promotional opportunity, the automaker put Paul Dallenbach into the driver's seat of one such Sport for a run up the course. You can see a video of it here. The Sport is a slightly smaller, yet no less quick version of the full-size Range Rover Highway 1 tested in early June.

The race will be broadcast worldwide to race fans on