Time for some automotive odds and ends that have come my way lately.
First, if you’ve been watching the Tokyo Olympics, you may have noticed these funny little model cars zipping all over the place. They’re especially obvious during the athletics events, such as shot put, javelin, relay races and so on, where they schlepp equipment around and deliver things.
Some look like miniature production models, while others are one-off robots. They’re all part of an electric/driverless car program from Toyota, a major sponsor of the Tokyo Olympics.
It’s not the first time these little guys have been used. They were employed at the Brazil Olympics in 2016 and elsewhere.
But what’s interesting about these ones is that the technology is satellite-based, not some guy with a control panel standing on the sidelines. Apparently, each one is pre-programmed, and they automatically come and go when summoned. Cool.
Speaking of small things, Honda has a new monkey on its back. The Monkey mini-bike is back in Canada, with various improvements and upgrades. A cult favourite with a new generation of enthusiasts and nostalgic riders seeking a trip down memory lane (its heritage extends back to 1961 when the original version was used in a Honda-owned Japanese amusement park), the Monkey “oozes fun and charm in a pintsize package.”
The newest iteration of the Monkey comes with a fifth gear for more comfortable cruising, thanks to a new engine and a wider spread of gear ratios with a 37-tooth final-drive sprocket (previously 34). Apparently, the changes provide not only peppy acceleration from low speeds but increased top speed as well. The 124-cc two-valve, overhead-cam, air-cooled engine has an undersquare design, with a narrower bore and longer stroke.
The Monkey starts at $5,299 and joins the latest version of Honda’s “signature Neo-Sports Café model,” the CB300R ABS. Apparently, this is the ultimate entry-level sport-naked machine, delivering “exemplary sporting performance.” It will cost $6,099.
Still with Honda, the company will launch a limited edition version of its newest 2022 Acura NSX sports car. Details are sketchy but power will be provided by a twin-turbo V6, with an all-wheel-drive system. Just 350 of the new NSX Type S models will be manufactured, and since the new NSX is already a sellout, these special versions won’t last long.
Moving right along, Mitsubishi took home top honours in the latest AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award with its Eclipse Cross model. Now in its 25th year and based solely on owner input, the award measures owner satisfaction within individual categories ranging from driving performance and features’ usability, to seating comfort and interior design.
According to Mitsubishi, the Eclipse Cross equalled or surpassed competitors in 32 of the 36 measured attributes, receiving strong praise for safety features and safety ratings, as well as owners’ perception of durability and quality. Some of the competitors for this award included the Jeep Compass, Hyundai Tucson and Subaru Crosstrek.
Still with Mitsubishi, the company is set to launch a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model of the all-new Outlander. It will be “fully evolved,” with a new-generation PHEV system. The vehicle will roll out in Japan in the second half of this fiscal year and North America in the second half of 2022. Outlander PHEV is Canada’s top-selling plug-in hybrid SUV based on 2020 full-year sales.
My favourite news item comes from Kia, which recently staged a concert featuring Fefe Dobson and her accompanist, Ryan Chalmers. Chalmers’ electric guitar was entirely powered by the Kia EV6 – an all-new electric vehicle built off the company’s E-GMP platform. I love the concept.
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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