Toyobaru duo hits the bull’s eye

2013 Scion FR-S

Mere days after the “official” unveiling at the Los Angeles Auto Show, followed by well-orchestrated first drives at Japan’s Sodegaura Forest raceway and Subaru’s Test and Development Centre in Tochigi, the verdict in in: the Toyobaru Triplets have hit the enthusiast bull’s eye.

The online reviews from Japan – especially the detailed reporting from Jonathon Ramsey and Michael Harley at autoblog – should serve as notice to other manufacturers that the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are actually cleverly engineered automotive stun grenades, designed to shake up the status quo in the entry-level performance market. When the dust settles, the Toyobarus will almost certainly snag a sizable chunk of sales in a segment that’s long been dominated by Asian and European FWD offerings and less sophisticated RWD American iron.

The specs tell part of the story: 200 hp @ 7,000 RPM and 151 pound-feet of torque @ 6,600 RPM from a 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated flat four that’s mounted low and snug to the firewall to keep the centre of gravity low; short-throw six-speed manual gearbox (six-speed auto available); rear-wheel drive with standard limited-slip differential; 2,700 lb. (estimated) curb weight; MacPherson struts up front, double wishbones at the rear.

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New Boss plays retro part well

Boss 302: The "Bad Boy" Mustang is back

Ford has flooded the gearhead info pipeline with details on the 2012 Boss 302, the latest performance version of the venerable Mustang.

Based on the numbers, the Boss looks like the real deal: 444 horsepower, 380 lb.-ft of torque, 7,500 RPM redline, manual-only gearbox, forged aluminum pistons, upgraded con rods, revised oil pan baffling, additional chassis bracing/stiffening and Brembo brakes (front only; the rear retains parts-bin sourced stoppers and the embarrassingly outdated live rear axle). The Laguna Seca version takes it up another notch, replacing the rear bench (not the nicest place to spend time in a Mustang) with an X-brace, and adds cloth Recaro seats and dealer-installed brake cooling ducts. Pricing is around $50k Canadian for the ‘base” version and $58k for the Laguna Seca.

Clearly the Boss 302 is intended to address a market niche – two niches, actually. The first niche is potential buyers who remember the original Boss 302s dueling with Z28s back in the heyday of SCCA’s Trans Am road racing series. Owners in this niche might actually take their Boss to the track, and perhaps kick some unwary foreign butt. The other niche is target customers who don’t know what SCCA is, have never been on a road course, but have a thing for Mustangs.

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Budget track day: Ex-karter JP Pera autocrossing in his ’06 350z

Current M3 last of the NA breed

BMW brass signaled the marketplace as far back as 2008 that the M division planned to ditch its trademark high-revving, naturally aspirated (NA) powerplants in favor of smaller-displacement turbo engines.

The transition from NA to forced induction (FI) began when the 4.4 liter turbo V-8 showed up in the X5 M and X6 M. While some loyalists wince at the notion of the revered M logo gracing the rumps of an SUV and a crossover, the choice of powerplants is a secondary issue: after all, any BMW model beginning with an X couldn’t be a “real” M anyway, so whether there’s a tradition-busting turbo mill under the hood is moot. The XMs are undeniably entertaining alternatives to mainstream trucks and crossovers, but they’re 2nd cousins to bona fide, pavement-snorting Ms.

E9x 8300 RPM redline is destined to disappear

When the 1 Series M Coupe launched with a 335-hp variant of the N54 inline-6 Turbo, more than a few M cognoscenti applauded the concept of a quick, taut 1 Series, but quietly lamented that a 3300 pound 3-series chassis in a 1-series skirt is less loyal tothe E30 concept than the brand spin-doctors would have the marketplace believe. The 1986 E30 – produced to homologate the M3 for Group A Touring Car racing – was around 500 pounds lighter than the 1 Series M Coupe, and its S14 engine was never turbocharged from the factory in standard, Evolution or Sport Evolution variations.

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