The upcoming Outlander will be on sale in Mitsubishi's 2012 fiscal year, which ends in March, 2013, and “will use a plug-in hybrid system derived from MMC's already existing EV technology.” (Mitsubishi/Mitsubishi)

Auto Buzz

Fiat, Mitsubishi and Tesla announce new electric vehicles

Special to The Globe and Mail

Fiat, Mitsubishi and Tesla all confirmed recently that they have new electric vehicles coming in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne tweeted the news that an electric version of the Fiat 500 would start production by the end of this year, presumably to go on sale soon after that. The official tweet read: “At Chrysler we are working on an electric version of the Fiat 500 that we'll begin manufacturing later this year.”

Whether that means a market introduction in 2012 or 2013 is still up in the air, though a Chrysler Canada spokesperson confirmed this week that the 500 EV is expected to be sold in Canada, to compete with the new-generation Smart fortwo EV from Mercedes-Benz that is slated to arrive here this fall.

As of early this week, potential EV rivals like the electric versions of the Toyota iQ and the Honda Fit were still not confirmed to be coming to Canada, though Toyota will showcase its RAV4 EV at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.

The Woodstock, Ont.-built Toyota RAV4 EV will compete against the next-generation Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in, which will make its official public debut at the Geneva auto show in March. Mitsubishi just released photos of the upcoming Outlander, and confirmed that the range-extended EV will be on sale in its 2012 fiscal year, which ends in March, 2013, and “will use a plug-in hybrid system derived from MMC's already existing EV technology.”

The all-new gas Outlander is expected to arrive later this year, with technologies such as stop/start, upgraded safety systems and a nicer interior.

The most intriguing announcement was of Tesla’s Model X crossover. Its signature feature is what Tesla calls its “falcon-wing” rear doors. They’re similar to the SLS’s gullwing doors in that they open upwards, but an extra hinge on the floor means they can also be folded inward toward the body of the vehicle. This should help avoid the many head knocks that plague SLS drivers and passengers. The company insists these doors are not “concept” features, but headed for production.

Since it uses the same flat battery architecture of the upcoming Model S sedan, there’s cargo room at the back and at the front, even if all seven seats are occupied, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at a media preview. The all-wheel-drive Model X will feature the top two battery packs as the Model S, at 60 and 85 kilowatt-hours, which Tesla says in the S sedan will provide (likely best-case) ranges of 370 and 480 kilometres, respectively.

Due to the Model X’s 10 per cent higher weight, it will have a range of about 10 per cent less than the sedan when it goes on sale early in 2014, Tesla estimated. But as well as zero local emissions, it will also be as quick as many high-end sports cars, with a sprint from 0 to 96 km/h in 4.4 seconds.

The Acura ZDX-ish shaped Model X will reportedly start at about $60,000, with a fully loaded one approaching 100 large. That’s right around Porsche Cayenne territory – and much less than the similarly speedy Cayenne Turbo.

CBB announces best four-year resale award winners

Canadian Black Book announced the winners of its 2012 Best Retained Value awards this week, which measures which vehicles depreciated the least over four years in 17 categories. Japan-based brands continued to dominate the awards, followed by European then North American brands, but the individual vehicle that lost the least value was the BMW X6 sports-activity vehicle.

In terms of overall awards, Toyota and Lexus were the “far-and-away leaders for retained value,” said CBB. They garnered five first-place finishes (Avalon, Tacoma, Tundra, Lexus GS, Lexus LS), or half of the 11 awards that went to Japan-based auto makers; there was a tie in the mid-size sedan group, between the Honda Accord and Subaru Outback. European auto makers accounted for four top awards, with Chrysler waving the flag for the American contingent with three awards.

Other 2012 CBB award winners include the: Honda Fit, Volkswagen Golf, BMW 1-Series, Dodge Challenger, Audi R8, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Sprinter (now Mercedes-Benz Sprinter), Jeep Wrangler and BMW X6.

A complete list of second- and third-place finishers in each category will be posted at canadianblackbook.com, the company said.

BMW M6 coupe

BMW unveils M6 coupe and convertible

BMW has taken the wraps off its high-performance M6 coupe and convertible models, and if you were paying attention when the company introduced the M5 super sports sedan, you’ll find many similarities underneath its more-aggressive two-door designs.

The same turbocharged 4.4-litre V-8 pumps out the same 560 hp in both M6s, while torque is within a couple of lb-ft at 500. All this oomph also comes with a reduction in fuel consumption of 30 per cent over the outgoing V-10 models, BMW says. Both models will use the same seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as found in the M5, though there are online reports of a manual being considered for an option later.

Like the M3 Coupe, the M6 Coupe will offer a carbon-fibre roof, while the M6 drop-top receives the same folding hardtop as the regular 6 cabriolet. BMW lists the M6 coupe benchmark 0-100 km/h sprint at 4.2 seconds, and at 4.3 seconds for the slightly heavier convertible.

The M6 drop-top is slated to arrive early this summer in North America, while the coupe is scheduled for a fall arrival.

McLaren MP4-12C super-car on display at Pebble Beach.

McLaren super-car comes to Toronto

A last-minute change in plans will bring the McLaren MP4-12C super-car to the Canadian International Auto Show, which dealer Pfaff Motors says will be the first time the car has been shown at an auto show in this country.

Located in the Auto Exotica section near Pfaff’s Porsche and Pfaff Tuning vehicles, the $247,500 mid-engine two-seater started arriving in Canada this month.