The Auto Sleuth: Hyundai composing a Sonata makeover

A source for the Spymaster indicates that the Korea-based Kia is planning an overhaul of its Sonata midsize sedan for the 2020 model year. Word has it that the next Sonata will be in part influenced by Hyundai’s Le Fil Rouge concept model that was shown to the public this past spring at the 2018 Geneva (Switzerland) auto show. That car’s extreme fastback shape and minimalist interior won’t be used, but at least some the design cues are expected to be part of the Sonata’s new look. There’s no official word on powerplant choices, but both non-turbo and turbocharged four-cylinder engines are likely to return, as well as a more advanced hybrid option. Given the drop-off in sedan sales for most automakers, competition for market share is becoming more intense, and the Sonata is right in the thick of it.

Travelling on with the Avalon

The fifth-generation of Toyota’s Camry-based flagship sedan has now been revealed and the Sleuth generally likes what he sees. Although the Avalon still plays to more established (older) buyers, the automaker has managed to introduce some youthful elements as part of the 2019 design, especially more expressive sheetmetal and swoopy fastback roofline. The new car is a bit wider and lower than before and there’s more space between the front and rear wheels. But the Avalon is also shorter, with less front and rear overhangs. The four- and six-cylinder engines are from the Camry, as is the optional gasoline-electric hybrid system. The Avalon might give other entry-luxury sedan brands a reason to worry, were it not for the lack of an all-wheel-drive option. The base price in Canada is about $44,500 including freight charges.

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What does Honda have up its Civic-Type-R sleeve?

The Sleuth took a look at some pics of a camouflaged vehicle purported to be a mild makeover of the automaker’s high-performance hatchback, or a possible new addition to the line. Speculation includes an impending all-wheel-drive option for the Type R that would help it compete more directly with the Subaru WRX STI and Volkswagen Golf R, plus an expected entry from Hyundai’s N performance brand. Yet another possible scenario sees a new “base” Type R positioned between the existing model and the tamer Civic Si. Lastly, perhaps the existing Type R’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is due for a bump in output from the current 306 horsepower, which could also coincide with a newly optional paddle-shift transmission (to supplement the current six-speed manual). An official announcement is expected by the end of the year.

Jaguar plans a new cat

Reports from the Sleuth’s operatives indicate that the British-based automaker is looking to replace the XK-series coupes and convertibles, which were discontinued after the 2014 model-year, with a single model labelled the J-Type. It’s expected to be a mid-engine vehicle that’s positioned at the premium end of the lineup, and will likely use some form of electric propulsion. An all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid drivetrain using a supercharged V-6 plus two electric motors would be one possible scenario. As for the J-Type’s design, the automaker’s C-X75 electric concept (first shown in 2010) would be the Spy Guy’s pick. Jaguar probably has something even more exotic up its sleeve, especially if it intends to give Aston Martin and other Europe-based exotics a run for their money.

A four-cylinder Ferrari? Say it isn’t so

According to the ever-active rumour mill, the builder of exotic Italian sports machinery is planning to launch a new hybrid model within the next three years. Behind the passenger compartment will be a four-cylinder engine assisted by an exhaust-driven turbine that spins a generator, which in turn spins a compressor to force air into the engine’s intake manifold for added power. Although some believe the system will go to Fiat or Alfa Romeo (both part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), such cutting-edge technology is logically destined for Ferrari.

A record run for a car on two wheels

Stunt-driver Terry Grant, driving a Range Rover Sport RVR, recently set a record for the quickest mile (1.6 kilometres) on two wheels, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England in July. Grant accomplished the feat over a curvy and partially uphill stretch of pavement in a time of two minutes, 24.5 seconds. To carry the load, both grounded tires were overinflated to 90 p.s.i., or close to three times the normal amount.

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