Monday, May 05, 2008

2 + 2 = How Many?

I'm hoping to be in the market for a 4-seat car in 2012 or 2013. I'd be interested in a 2-door, rear-wheel-drive coupe, and preferably a lightweight 2+2. If I were shopping for that kind of car now, I'd mostly be limited to something like the BMW 1-Series, which is heavier, more expensive, and more German than I'd prefer, or the Mazda RX-8, which is considerably more quirky,* interesting,* and Japanese. I'm most certainly not interested in the Mustang, since I prefer my automobiles to have independent suspension.

Fortunately, it looks like there will be a few new models on the market by the time I start seriously looking. Here, listed from most likely to least likely, are 5 (or 6) of them:
  • Hyundai has already unveiled the production version of the Genesis coupe, a surprisingly attractive 2+2 with up to 312 bhp. Unfortunately, the car is burdened with a Mustang-like weight of 3500 pounds. The Genesis coupe should be in dealerships shortly.
  • Toyota and Subaru have announced that they will each offer a version of a compact, RWD, 4-place coupe that rides on a shared chassis and is driven by a Subaru boxer engine. That's right, a Subie with only 2 driven wheels. I suspect the Subaru variant's styling won't be my cup of tea; perhaps I'll enjoy the Toyota's better. I'll be able to say more about that when production begins in 2010.
  • According to "company insiders," Nissan is planning to release it's own lightweight, RWD coupe based on a shortened version of the latest Z-car's chassis. It's not clear if this vehicle would be a 2+2 or a 2-seater, but earlier reports have suggested the 2+2 is more likely. I'm skeptical that anything based on the portly 350Z could truly be light, but I'm still curious to see how this car turns out when it hits the showrooms in late 2010.
  • Mazda is rumored to offer a production version of its Kabura concept car in 2009 or so. The car will be built on a modified MX-5 chassis---itself is a modified RX-8 chassis---be powered by a reciprocating engine, and offer 2+2 seating. The vehicle should be priced much lower than the RX-8 (or presumably the RX-whatever described below).
  • Rumors are afoot that Mazda will be producing a new RX-7 in 2011 or so. The 7 was a 2-seater in all 3 of its incarnations, but said rumors are suggesting the car will be a 2+2. I'm skeptical of that; I'd wager that, if the car is labeled an RX-7, it will have 2 seats; if it has 4, it will be called an RX-8 or RX-9. These reports of a 4-place RX-7 may be the result of confusion between the aforementioned Kabura and the next-generation rotary-powered car.** In any event, the vehicle will be propelled by Mazda's latest evolution of the rotary, the 16X. The 16X not only bumps up the displacement to 1.6 liters from the 13B's 1.3 liters, but it also increases the rotors' diameter while decreasing their width. These changes are similar to increasing the stroke while decreasing the bore of a piston engine; they will increase low-end torque. The 16X is also said to offer improved fuel efficiency. Since low torque and low fuel economy are the main shortcomings of rotaries, these changes have piqued my interest.
So, check back in 3 or 4 years for the latest addition to our stable.***

* I find rotary (or Wankel) engines fascinating, and I think they have considerable potential. Thus, I'm glad that Mazda continues to work on developing them. However, the rotary does have substantial drawbacks, and I'm not sure it's the right engine for the kind of driving I do, especially when laden with the 2900-pound weight of the RX-8. The new 16X engine may ameliorate the situation. Time will tell.

** I'm also skeptical that a company as small as Mazda could support the MX-whatever Kabura, the MX-5 Miata, and the RX-whatever. 3 sporty 2-seaters or 2+2s seems like a lot for such a little manufacturer. The Miata has been a solid sales performer for 18 years, and Mazda seems dedicated to the rotary, so I don't know If the Kabura will happen. Perhaps we'll see a small rotary-powered 2+2 sold as an RX-9 Kabura.

*** Alison will likely need a car before then. Don't worry; I'll cover that purchase in excessive detail, too.

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