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Mark Phelan: Details emerge on new supercars

By Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press –

Details have begun to emerge about the technology behind two eagerly anticipated performance cars: the Chevrolet SS and Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid.

The Chevrolet SS sport sedan will feature advanced safety systems and lightweight materials when it goes on sale late next year, according to Go Auto News, an Australian publication. Engineers at General Motors’ Australian tech center led development of the architecture that underpins the SS, Chevrolet Caprice police car and Chevrolet Camaro coupe and convertible.

The main criticism of the architecture has been that it weighs too much, so shedding pounds was a key goal in new SS development.

Reduced mass should improve the car’s fuel efficiency, performance and handling. High-strength steel, electric power steering, and lightweight suspension and interior components figure in the weight reduction, Go Auto reports. New safety features will include front-collision and blind-spot alert systems.

Mildly disguised prototypes of Porsche’s 770-horsepower 50-mpg-plus 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar have hit the road for final testing.

The all-wheel drive 918 Spyder features a 570-horsepower mid-mounted 4.6-liter V-8 and separate electric motors on the front and rear axles. It goes on sale in the U.S. late in 2013.

The 918 Spyder boasts a top speed of 200 mph and sub-3-second 0-60 mph acceleration with all three power plants running.

In all-electric mode, the 918 Spyder will have a 15-mile range and 90-mph top speed.

The car’s body and chassis make extensive use of race-car-style carbon-fiber reinforced plastics. Despite the Spyder name that usually applies to convertibles, the two-seater will have a removable two-piece Targa top. It features a pair of unique top-venting exhaust pipes and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Porsche plans to build only 918 of the cars, which will probably cost about $850,000 each.

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