The Sleuth hears that Toyota is working in a minivan inspired by this TJ Cruiser concept. Photo: Toyota

Is Toyota building an off-road minivan?

An industry insider spills the beans on new product, tech and personalities

Is Toyota building an off-road minivan?

The Sleuth hears that it’s a possibility, although the vehicle takes inspiration from the rugged-looking all-wheel-drive TJ Cruiser concept from 2017. It combines the usefulness and utility of a sliding-side-door people mover with the ability to go where regular minivans fear to tread. The concept has three rows of seats that, other than the driver’s chair, fold perfectly flat. The likely engines for the home market of Japan include a 2.0-litre four-cylinder and an optional hybrid system, but bet on something more potent for North America. Should it get the green light — your intrepid gumshoe expects an announcement in May — TJ Cruiser production likely would start in 2022.

Interested in new or used vehicles? Visit TodaysDrive.com today!

The Sleuth hears that Toyota is working in a minivan inspired by this TJ Cruiser concept. Photo: Toyota

Performance Corvette models are lining up, topping out at 1,000 horsepower:

The word reaching The Sleuth is that Chevrolet will unleash several higher-output versions of its new mid-engine sports car. The first to arrive, for the 2022 model year, will be the Z06, fitted with a 5.5-litre double-overhead-cam V-8 making 650 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque. In base form, the Corvette makes 495 horsepower. For the 2023 model year, the Corvette Grand Sport hybrid will arrive with the base 6.2-litre V-8 plus two electric motors producing a combined 600 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Then comes the 2024 ZR1, with 850 horsepower and 825 pound-feet of torque. Lastly, the Zora hybrid — named for engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, who is considered the spiritual father of the Corvette — is slated for the 2025 model year and gets a twin-turbocharged version of the Z06’s engine plus an electric motor for the front wheels. Total system output is 1,000 horsepower and 975 pound-feet.

The timeline for rolling out all the performance variations of the new Corvette stretches to the 2025 model year. Photo: Chevrolet

The Fusion returns for 2021, as a wagon:

The Sleuth hears that the sole Ford sedan will be terminated sometime during the 2021 model year, or possibly before that. Replacing it will be the Fusion Active wagon that’s based on the Mondeo that the automaker sells in Europe. The Active label refers to the vehicle’s standard all-wheel-drive plus added ground clearance and body cladding for off-road suitability. The vehicle also appears to be taking direct aim at Subaru’s successful Outback wagon. The powertrain options include a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that’s connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid will be available shortly after launch with a 188-horsepower system from the 2020 Fusion sedan. A $30,000 base price is anticipated for the U.S. market, but there’s no Canadian estimate yet.

Hyundai expands the N performance brand:

Following the arrival of the hot-hatch Veloster N, there’s word that the compact Kona utility vehicle will receive a similar treatment. The Sleuth hears that the Kona N will be fitted with the same turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine as the Veloster N, which is rated at 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The Kona’s standard engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that makes 147 horses and 132 pound-feet. The optional engine is a 175-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-litre. Although the Veloster N comes with a six-speed manual transmission or an available eight-speed automatic, The Sleuth expects the latter to get the nod in the Kona N when it launches in 2021 as a 2022 model.

Volvo’s Polestar division readies a lower-priced e electric sedan:

The Sleuth was concerned that the $200,000-plus cost of the electric Polestar 1 Coupe, which arrived for 2019, meant that any future models would be priced out of reach for most EV enthusiasts. They Spymaster is pleased to report that the new Polestar 2 sedan will start at $70,000 in Canada, plus destination charges. There’s also word that a less expensive version will join the lineup following a late-2020 launch. The built-in-China all-wheel-drive Polestar 2’s electric motors produce 408 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque. The automaker claims they can propel the car to 60 mph (96 km/h) from rest in less than five seconds.

The Polestar 2 sedan is less than half the cost of the Polestar 1, but still has 408 horsepower. Photo: Polestar

Ups and downs

Up: Virtual auto racing:

Viewers can catch this season’s NASCAR, Formula One, Formula E and Indycar racing on various sports channels. Of course, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the competing drivers aren’t seated in actual racing machines, but instead are piloting simulated cars around virtual racetracks from the comfort and safety of their homes. According to published reports, TV viewership for these events is strong.

Down: Another sedan bites the dust:

Toyota’s Lexus division has announced that 2020 will be the last model year for the midsize GS sedan. In its final iteration, the GS is equipped with a 311-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6, while a 467-horsepower 5.0-litre V-8 is available in the GS F variant. The final 200 GS models will come in Black Line Special Edition trim.

Photo: Lexus

-written by Wheelbase Media

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