Porsche’s 75th birthday throwback, Civic Hybrid due in ’24, Toyota’s new CEO
357 Concept honors Porsche brand’s first car
Intake: 2023 marks 75 years since Porsche began its journey. The car that started it all was the 356, and now the firm is paying tribute to its first production model with a concept dubbed the 357. Porsche designers have attempted to echo the humpback shape of the 356. The result is a noticeably larger and wider 357. The 356 had a purity of purpose, a lightweight form with uncomplicated lines, in which form followed function to create an iconic beauty. While the 356 was a true original, the 357 is based on a Cayman GT4. It boasts some steampunk-esque design elements, such as rounded headlamps and an interesting grille pattern at the rear. The magnesium alloy center-lock wheels are worth geeking out over, and the large graphics are fun in a cartoonish way, too. The 1948 car made do with a 1.5-liter boxer-four from Volkswagen, but Porsche’s 2023 homage has a 493-hp, four-liter flat-six engine that makes five times the power of its ancestor. It’s a reminder not just of how much we’ve gained in the last 75 years, but what has been lost as well.
Exhaust: “Thinking out loud about the future is one of the core missions of Style Porsche. Design studies are the pool of ideas that feed the design of tomorrow,” says Michael Mauer, vice president of Style Porsche. We love the idea of a modern 356, but the 2023 execution lacks the simple daintiness of 1948. The end result is a little blubbery, and the combination of old and new just doesn’t feel as resolved in this design. Still, expect many more special projects to bow before the year is out—nobody celebrates a birthday quite like the folks in Stuttgart. —Nik Berg
Honda hones off-road, hybrid models for 2023
Intake: Honda has laid out plans for its product lineup in 2023. Amidst the slew of tweaks and forecasts, two noteworthy items—from opposite ends of the vehicular spectrum—caught our eye. The first is that the Honda Passport SUV and the Honda Ridgeline pickup will both receive TrailSport trims. Although the TrailSport name first appeared on the Passport in 2021, it was just a set of tires and a few body flares. With the debut of the fourth-generation 2023 Honda Pilot, however, the TrailSport upgrade got serious, adding a one-inch lift, meatier tires, a re-tuned all-wheel-drive system, steel skid plates, and more. Expect the same treatment to be doled out to the new 2024 Passport SUV and the Ridgeline pickup.
On the other end of the spectrum, we now have concrete confirmation that Honda is planning to bring the Civic hybrid to our shores—albeit in 2024, not this year. The Civic Hybrid has been on sale in Europe for a little while now, but until yesterday, it wasn’t confirmed for the U.S.—only rumored. According to a report from Car and Driver, the Civic Hybrid will be sold alongside the purely gas-powered version and will come in both sedan and hatchback versions.
Exhaust: Honda is aiming to achieve a 50 percent hybrid/non-hybrid mix for its three core models, the CR-V, Civic, and Accord in the coming years, so it’s not a stretch to say that the Civic Hybrid is Honda’s most important forthcoming model. That said, off-roady uni-boxes are all the rage these days—see Subaru’s Outback Wilderness—so the Passport and Ridgeline TrailSport models might be more noteworthy in the near term. At long last, like the lifted Subaru, Honda’s TrailSport treatment is finally more than just the vehicular equivalent of a flannel shirt in the woods. — Nathan Petroelje
Quarterly earnings call: It’s good to be Tesla
Intake: Tesla CEO Elon Musk, on Wednesday’s quarterly earnings call, said demand for Teslas is beyond strong. “We’re currently seeing orders at almost twice the rate of production,” Musk said, according to Automotive News. “We’ve actually raised the Model Y price a little bit in response to that.” That was after lowering the price by $13,000 as part of a 20 percent across-the-board cut to ensure demand stays strong and counter increased competition from other manufacturers. Net profit for the quarter was $3.69 billion, or $1.07 per share, compared with $2.32 billion, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier.
Exhaust: Musk did say to not expect the Cybertruck in any sort of large volume until 2024. “We do expect production to start sometime this summer,” Musk said, “But I always try and downplay the start of production because start of production is always very slow.” — Steven Cole Smith
Lexus chairman to take over Toyota
Intake: The chief executive of Toyota Motor Corporation will step down as head of the company his grandfather founded, the Japanese automaker said today, turning over the company to the president of Lexus. According to Reuters, Lexus head Koji Sato, 53, will become chief executive of Toyota on April 1, as Akio Toyoda becomes chairman. “The issue of who would take over from Toyoda, the 66-year-old grandson of the company’s founder, had increasingly been a focus for investors. But the timing of the succession announcement was a surprise,” Reuters said.
Exhaust: Toyoda has been the subject of criticism for his approach of moving more slowly toward all-electric vehicles and applauding high-mileage hybrids like the Prius. Whether Sato can quiet that criticism remains to be seen, but to our way of thinking, Toyoda’s point that not every consumer is immediately ready or able to flip the switch to full-electric is entirely valid. – SCS
Game on: No changes to BoP for Rolex 24
Intake: One of the main reasons why the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship holds a three-day “Roar Before the Rolex” mandatory test prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona is to gauge the competitiveness of the field, car against car. If one model is significantly faster or slower than its competitors, IMSA can use its Balance of Performance modifications to speed up or slow the outliers by increasing or decreasing engine power, fuel capacity, weight, aero, or other adjustments. IMSA must have liked what it saw because according to SportsCar365, the only adjustment made was a slight increase in fuel capacity for the BMW M4 GT3.
Exhaust: There was some thought that IMSA might speed up the new Porsche 911 GT3 R cars, as they were at the bottom of the qualifying list, with the fastest Porsche 2.8 seconds slower than the pole-winning Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, but it didn’t happen. This could be a long race for the seven 911s. – SCS