The Auto Sleuth: Honda's tiny SUV gets makeover for 2019

The Sleuth always thought that, although generally quite appealing, the Honda HR-V’s front end was on the bland side. Honda must have arrived at the same conclusion, since it has given the small-and-practical hatchback wagon a more expressive nosepiece plus new front and rear bumpers for 2019. On the technical side, more welcome news awaits HR-V shoppers. The standard continuously variable transmission has been revised to include built-in steps that mimic a regular automatic transmission (Honda has quietly deleted the manual gearbox). The available all-wheel-drive system has also been updated to better deal with slippery road conditions. Buyers can now opt for a full range of dynamic safety technologies, just as they can with the larger CR-V and others in Honda’s fleet.

Sergio Marchionne was a driving force

The death of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO at age 66 on July 25 shocked the automotive world. It was the sweater-wearing Marchionne, a Canadian at the helm of Fiat, who engineered a turnaround strategy that restored the former Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy to profitability. This, after seeming indifference under Mercedes-Benz’s control, followed by years of ineffective ownership by private-investment firm Cerberus. Marchionne’s aggressive, no-nonsense stewardship was just what the ailing Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram divisions needed, but Jeep and Ram became the most profitable, by far. Although not everything Marchionne touched turned to gold — the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart sedans being two notable failures — the tough-minded former lawyer and accountant was the right man at the right time for Chrysler. Marchionne died after undergoing surgery for cancer in his shoulder.

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Ford transplants Raptor engine for 2019

The market for luxury pickups is booming these days, along with the sky-high prices being charged for them. To that end, it is not that surprising that Ford will make available the 450-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-6 from the off-road Raptor model in the premium four-door F-150 Limited SuperCrew for 2019. The engine was originally introduced in the 2017 Raptor and makes the same 510 pound-feet of torque. Of course the F-150 Limited SuperCrew won’t have the Raptor’s off-road-capable suspension, underbody protection and knobby 31-inch tires. Instead, the Limited gets the full-on luxury treatment, including dual sunroofs, ventilated two-tone leather seats, suede-like headliner and genuine wood trim. Unique trim pieces and 22-inch wheels will also be standard. There’s no firm word as to pricing, but something close to $80,000 would not be out of the question.

Audi Q3 takes is cues from the new Q8

The Sleuth is still scratching his head after seeing the 2019 changes to the automaker’s well-appointed small utility vehicle. Chief among them is a chiseled hexagonal grille frame that might look good to some, but seems out of character with the rest of the Q3’s understated lines. Apparently, the inspiration for the new look originates with the new-for-2019 Q8 luxury utility wagon and could also point the way to similar-looking grilles for future Audi products. More welcome Q3 updates include a roomier interior and a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that gets a horsepower bump to 230 from 200.

Mercedes-Benz rates an “A”

The Spy Guy can confirm that the automaker’s new small car, at least on our shores, will be a sedan model that’s about eight centimetres shorter overall than the CLA class. The front-wheel-drive A 220 and A 220 4MATIC models — due here later this year — are equipped with turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines that make 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed paddle-shift transmission is standard equipment. What is yet to be confirmed is when the A 250 hatchback model will appear stateside. That car is a definite go for Canada and runs with a more potent version of the turbo 2.0 (221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque). There will also be front- and AWD variants. A-class-sedan pricing has yet to be announced, but a mid-to-upper-$20,000 starting point is likely.

Ups and downs

Up, actor Mark Wahlberg now owns a new-car dealership: Along with his business partner, the former boy-band singer and star of films such as Boogie Nights, The Italian Job and Deepwater Horizon has purchased the Bobby Layman Chevrolet dealership in Columbus, Ohio. It will now be called, appropriately enough, Mark Wahlberg Chevrolet.

Up, Paul Walker documentary: It has been nearly five years since the Fast and Furious movie-series star died. Walker was the passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT that was being driven by his friend Roger Rodas. The car went out of control Nov. 30, 2013, in Calfifornia, hitting a tree and a light standard, and then catching fire. Rodas was also killed in the crash. A documentary about Walker’s life will be aired on the Paramount Network on Saturday night.

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