2011 Mazda RX-7

The expected on-sale date of the new-generation rotary car is 2010 to 2011.

Behind closed doors, far from the public's eye, an anonymous source at Mazda revealed to one of our spies in Japan that there will be another rotary-engine car coming from the Hiroshima-based company. It's still early, but a team is being assembled as you read this to produce such a car. The basis for the future car -- we have yet to confirm if it will be called the RX-7 -- is the 16X rotary engine, unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. The 16X is an all-new Wankel -- an evolution of the Renesis 13B powerplant in the RX-8 -- with a revised eccentric shaft designed to produce more low-end torque. While Mazda hasn't published horsepower figures yet, we hear it's in the neighborhood of 200–250 bhp.

Because of the increase in torque, there probably won't be a turbocharged version of the 16X, at least not in the beginning. But our source went on to say that Mazda is still experimenting with forced induction. So, our first glimpse of the 16X will not be in a pure high-performance sports car like the last RX-7, discontinued more than a decade ago in the U.S., but rather something along the lines of the original RX-7 -- an affordable, user-friendly sports car that was nimble and fun to drive.

Does this mean that the RX-8's days are numbered? Probably so. It's hard to imagine a small company like Mazda with two rotary cars in its lineup. It's also hard to imagine such a company having two 2-seat sports cars unless its name happens to be Lamborghini or Lotus.

With the MX-5 firmly established in Mazda's lineup, the new rotary-powered car will most likely be a 2+2 with distinct sports-car styling. That it will be built on an extended MX-5 platform is a given, which means it will share the dimensions and proportions of the Kabura concept car. Expect upper-and-lower A-arm suspension systems at both ends, as well as a low curb weight, something south of the 3000-lb. mark.

The expected on-sale date of the new-generation rotary car is 2010 to 2011, according to our source. Price? It's still too early to say, but Mazda's aim is to bring it in under $30,000.

2009 Nissan 370Z

The new Z will be a rocket.

The Tokyo-based company has quietly been working on the next-generation Z. We knew months ago that the 350Z would undergo a significant makeover, but now our friends at Mag X, Japan's leading car spy magazine, uncovered key elements in the upcoming Z's styling along with providing vital information.

The first thing you notice when looking at the new Z is the headlights. They're an odd "V" shape, which creates a "squinting" effect. But the face is now more distinctive than before. Also adding spice to the new-look Z are "fangs." These body-colored dividers are incorporated inside the grille to separate the air going to the radiator and the brake vents.

The overall shape and profile of the new Z will remain relatively unchanged. However, it will be slightly smaller than the current car, measuring roughly 163 in. from bumper to bumper, about 6.5 in. shorter than today's 350Z. Interior space will stay the same, but the car will weigh some 200 lb. less, tipping the scales at about 3010 lb.

What this means is the new Z will be a rocket. A reliable source in Japan has told us it will be powered by a 3.7-liter V-6, the same engine used in the Infiniti G37 coupe, with output bumped to 350 bhp at 6500 rpm and torque to about 280 lb.-ft. at 4500. This new power-to-weight ratio for the "370Z" will allow the car to reach 60 mph in less than 5.0 seconds, and should give the Porsche Cayman S a run for its money around any racetrack.

2012 Maserati Sports Car

It's a clear hint of a more dynamic Maser, competing not only with Aston's V8 Vantage, but also with Porsche's 911.

Maserati has been through some tough times. But after years of loss, the Italian sports-car maker finally returned to profit in 2007. The comeback was possible because of new models like the Quattroporte Automatic and the brand-new GranTurismo luxury coupe. Demand for Maseratis has been growing, pushing production to an all-time high of about 9000 cars. Maserati CEO Roberto Ronchi talks of increasing output "to 20,000 cars after 2012."

Clearly a third model line is essential for this ambitious plan, and a sporty coupe (or spyder) for younger customers looks to be the likely choice. A Geneva study by IED (Istituto Europeo di Design) has been a good test of the public's reaction. Ronchi says the show car "has the right proportions, but still needs some detail work." It's a clear hint of a more dynamic Maser, competing not only with Aston's V8 Vantage, but also with Porsche's 911. The car should be on the road by 2011 or 2012.

Tech-wise, Maserati will benefit from R&D at Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Fiat. Additionally, there is still the Sigma platform developed in cooperation with GM. Denied in the past, it could still be used in the next Alfa Romeo 169 in 2009 (offering both rear- and all-wheel drive).

2010 Alfa Romeo Mi.To

Alfa wraps its style in a tidy package.

Alfa Romeo will bring to market a sporty new 3-door hatchback this July in Europe. Although we heard such possible names as "Junior" and "Furiosa" being bandied about, Alfa brass settled on Mi.To. Although seemingly a strange choice, the abbreviation designates the collaboration between the city of Milan (Milano) -- where the Mi.To was styled -- and the city of Turin (Torino), which is where the car will be manufactured.

Alfa officials say the Mi.To is its "most compact sporty car to date." They are also quick to point out similarities in style with the flagship 8C Competizione, such as the shape of the frameless side windows, the front-end treatment as well as the head- and taillights. Except this Alfa wraps its style in a tidy package that's only 159.8 in. long (still about 14 in. longer than a Mini Cooper), 56.7 in. tall and 67.7 in. wide.

There will be an assortment of gasoline and diesel engines, ranging from 90 bhp to 155 bhp at the car's launch, with higher-powered versions due later (especially if the car comes to the U.S.). The Mi.To has Alfa's new DNA system, which allows the driver to switch among three driving modes (Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather) that affect the behavior of the engine, brakes, steering, suspension and gearbox.

Alfa officials promise the Mi.To will have a truly sporting suspension setup, one that minimizes body roll and aids aggressive driving. What they aren't promising is whether the Mi.To will come to the States. The rumor is it will, possibly by 2010.

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