SUBARU: UNVEILING THE NEW DUO
Two significant projects fill Subaru's highly anticipated performance docket, and the first is a rendition of the Toyota/Scion FR-S rear-drive sport coupe. Like the Scion, the coupe's compact dimensions and sumptuous design are undoubtedly athletic and modern. But while its form may evoke a notion of triple-digit speeds, it is the nimbleness of the car's lightweight chassis that engineers are most enthused to highlight.
Subaru Tecnica International (STI) is currently beefing up an STI model based on the new 2012 Impreza and soon-to-be released WRX. Expect to see a more muscular physique with wide shoulders and hindquarters. Handling benefits from a broader track, a heavily revised suspension, and an aggressively returned all-wheel-drive system. When it hits dealers sometime late next year, you can bet it will be the most powerful STI sedan ever, and likely the most efficient.
TESLA: STILL JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
What will Tesla's flagship sports car be like 10 years from now?
Far better! The Model S motor packs twice the continuous power of the Roadster's, is about the same size package, and was developed in only three years. We are still just scratching the surface with the capabilities of an electric powertrain. It is not bound by the mechanical constraints of a combustion engine -- the possibilities are scary. Also, the relatively compact and efficient design of electric motors allow for much increased packaging options. -J.B. Straubel, Tesla Motors Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer
TOYOTA: THE PERFORMANCE SCION
You've probably already seen the various takes on the Toyota concept commonly known as FT-86 -- a play on the famed '80s-era Corolla GT-S code named AE86. In 2012, this new-age sport coupe will be sold as the Scion FR-S in the United States (in conjunction with the version co-developed with Subaru) and the ingredients are intriguing.
The FR-S ticks many of the archetypal sports car boxes. The drive wheels are at the rear, and a six-speed transmission is under hand. A finely balanced chassis promises agile handling, helped by an ambitious low weight target and special engine selection. Sitting up front is a tidily packaged, 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder sourced from Subaru, and mounted as close to the ground as feasibly possible and pushed deeply toward the vehicle's middle to optimize the coupe's center of gravity and polar moment of inertia.
The lightweight Scion is expected to not only dance in the curves, but achieve impressive efficiency as well. With federal fuel economy and emissions police always around the corner, the FR-S' timing couldn't be better.
A FUTURE ACCORDING TO MAXIMUM BOB
What will be the key performance-enabling technologies of the next decade?
A lot of the performance mid-range and low-end torque may well wind up enabled by batteries and torque assistance, for fuel economy and performance. So, the idea of an ultra-performance hybrid car, maybe even plug-in, with say eight to 10 gasoline-free miles in town and the rest of the time the electric drive system serving to enhance torque, is a very credible proposition. Two generations from now, it's entirely conceivable that a Corvette -- not a GM plan, this is just purely hypothetical on my part -- would be a direct-injection, stratified charge, twin-stage turbo-boosted two-liter, four-cylinder engine developing 800 horsepower.
Is the V-8 dead?
I think it's definitely moribund. Absolutely. Everything is moving to smaller engines and smaller numbers of cylinders. This new generation of Malibu will not be offered with a V-6. In cars that had both sixes and fours, the six is being kicked out, and everybody is emphasizing the smaller engine.
We had 75 years of Communism in China, where we raised generations of kids who never heard the sound of a decent engine. And yet, the minute the shackles are off, the Chinese youth are performance-car crazy. So I think it's an innate part of the human being, you could argue especially males, that we love high-performance automobiles. And if they can't buy them when they're young, they buy them when they're old. -Bob Lutz, former vice chairman, General Motors, member of advisory board, Lotus Cars
BY THE NUMBERS: WE LOOK BACK TO SEE WHAT'S AHEAD
Even performance cars like the 911 and Corvette have weighed over a ton and a half for 30 years. That these cars will fall to an even ton in 10 years seems unlikely. We examined data from the past 20 years for the 911 Carrera 2, base Corvette, Mustang GT, Miata, and M3 and plotted power, weight and the resulting power to weight ratios. We then used that data to project where these cars would be 10 years from now with no outside intervention. While the projected weights of Mustangs, Miatas, and M3s seem unlikely, the numbers for the 911 and Corvette are almost believable. Likely the most believable of these graphs is pounds to horsepower. How we get there is another story.
WEIGHT: While the 911 and Corvette seem to have leveled out in weight, BMW continues to increase size and weight of the M3. It is unlikely that the M3 will ever reach the nearly 4100 projected pounds, but some of that will depend on the ever-inflating size of what was once the small Bimmer.
HORSEPOWER: Although it's claimed the power war is over, the numbers say otherwise. Another battle is being fought on the emissions and efficiency fronts, as well as with government regulators. Future tech will allow smaller gas engines to be supplemented by electric motors. The Corvette may easily reach 533 hp and 40 mpg using a 350-horsepower forced-induction engine and a 183-horsepower electric motor.
POWER-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: While the Miata's power seems to have plateaued, we'd like to think that weight will start dropping substantially and decrease the pound/horsepower ratio. The Corvette is projected to reach 5 pound/horsepower by 2016, squarely where the ZR1 sits in 2011. Porsche can currently add more than 200 horses with a 250-pound KERS system, and the technology is still evolving.