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+++ The reborn BMW 8 Series convertible has been spotted testing, ahead of an expected launch in 2018. BMW’s flagship model will be a two-door coupé version of the 7 Series saloon, in much the same way as the 4 Series and 3 Series are related. A convertible sibling, spied here, will join it. The 8 Series coupé and convertible will indirectly replace the 6 Series coupé, which will finish production in 2018. The 6 Series convertible will then be replaced by the 8 Series convertible the following year. The final 6 Series variant, the Gran Coupé, despite running out at the same time as the convertible, is unconfirmed for replacement, but could be replaced with another 6 Series Gran Coupé. Meanwhile, the 5 Series GT will be replaced late next year by a 6 Series GT, with an inside source describing it as “sleeker and sportier” than the current model. It might not be the end of the road for the coupé and convertible 6 Series variants though; BMW is still undecided as to whether direct replacements for the two will be introduced. Sources close to the company say the 8 Series will rival the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé and Bentley Continental GT when it’s launched in 2018, with pricing to compete with these, too. The long-rumoured 8 Series will feature the same top-end technologies found in the 7 Series, including the latest and next-generation semi-autonomous features. Being so closely related to the 7 Series, it’s likely that the 8 Series will share engines with its saloon sibling. This means that an iPerformance-badged plug-in hybrid will feature in the range, as well as the entry-level 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel found in the 7 Series and a more performance-orientated 4.4-litre V8 from the 750i xDrive, accompanied by all-wheel drive. A V12-engined model will come later in the car’s life cycle. The naming structure of the 8 Series is expected to mirror that of the 7 Series after the first digit, so the 830d is likely to kick off the range. +++

+++ The construction company employed by FARADAY Future to build its billion-dollar megafactory in Nevada has confirmed that work on the complex has stopped. The company, AECOM, released a statement saying that construction of the factory has been halted and is scheduled to resume early next year. “Faraday Future commenced work on its $1-billion state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in North Las Vegas earlier this year. To date, we have completed grading and foundation prep work. At this time, Faraday Future is temporarily adjusting their construction schedule with plans to resume in early 2017. We remain fully committed to our client and our employees working on this project, and we look forward to the facility’s successful delivery”. Faraday Future itself has also confirmed that construction work has stopped. Although no official reason has been given for the decision, just last week, the Chinese billionaire funding FF admitted that his company had run into money issues due to an over-extension of its global strategy. In the meantime, the electric automaker startup is preparing to launch its first production model at CES 2017 in January. +++

+++ The HYUNDAI all-electric Ioniq isn’t even here yet, and the company is already admitting that it can’t compete. That’s one way to read a statement by Ahn Byung-ki, director of Hyundai’s eco-vehicle performance group, who said recently that that 200 kilometer EV will be supplanted by a 320 kilometer-plus version in 2018. After all, in a world full of Bolt EVs, second-generation Leafs, and Tesla Model 3s, an electric car that goes 200 kilometers isn’t going to wow the way it could. Despite the push Hyundai is making with the Ioniq – which will come with plug-in hybird, standard hybrid and full EV powertrains – Ahn told Automotive News that 200 kilometers is “not enough, and we have a plan to extend that to more than 320 by 2018”, Ahn and Hyundai are working on more than just the Ioniq line-up. Aside from the hydrogen-powered Tucson Fuel Cell, the company has a totally new hydrogen-powered large-ish vehicle. We might see the first taste of that in the same year as the Ioniq EV gets its first range boost. In other words, everything’s moving fast as the company works to introduce 26 green models through 2020. +++

+++ “We’ve had a lot of fun with this car”, says JAGUAR ’s design director, Ian Callum, running his eye over the powerful rear haunches of the I-Pace concept. “We wanted to break a few rules, because with an electric car you’re allowed to”, Callum says. “The I-Pace has given us a rare chance to repackage the car fundamentally. The new powertrain is very compact, so we’ve had fewer constraints than usual. In essence, we’ve been able to put people where mechanical bits normally go”. Callum says Jaguar decided to make its first all-electric car an SUV because these are now the world’s best-selling cars and everyone (designers, engineers and marketing types alike) liked the idea of delivering the interior space of a luxury saloon in a much more compact package. Not that the I-Pace looks much like a conventional SUV. “We’ve pushed the screen forward and given it a lot of rake”, says Callum, “which allows us a lovely, long roofline. We believe the car needs a sports car profile to go with its impressive performance. There are even some influences from the C-X75 supercar concept”. Some critics have suggested a ‘real’ Jaguar needs a long nose, but Callum demurs. “A long nose suits many models”, he says, “but it’s not a necessity. Neither is a low, tapered tail. The I-Pace doesn’t have either, but we still reckon it’s a proper Jaguar. People think electric cars don’t need grilles, but that’s wrong, too. They need a lot of cooling for the battery and our grille helps with that”. Callum admits he’s taken licence in the concept’s body lines but says the shape is still a good guide to production models due in 2018. “There’s a bit of exaggeration in the haunches, the wheels are bigger, some of the radiuses are tighter and the interior is a bit more flamboyant. But fundamentally, the two aren’t very different”. +++

+++ Nascent electric car brand NEXT EV will reveal its new electric supercar for the first time at an event in London on 21 November. So far, a shadowy teaser image is the only official image released of the low-slung hypercar – although a prototype has previously been spotted testing at the Nurburgring and also in the UK. A young start-up brand, with its nerve centre in China but with R&D and design centres in multiple countries, including the USA, Germany and the UK. It currently has around 2.000 employees. One of the company’s co-founders was the late Martin Leach, former president of Ford of Europe and CEO of Maserati. NextEV, in collaboration with Chinese automotive company JAC, plans to launch a range of electric vehicles with various internet-connected functions. These are hoped to form a key part of the cars’ appeal. The company has so far been building its brand name by fielding an official NextEV team in the FIA Formula E championship, with Nelson Piquet Jr and Britain’s Oliver Turvey at the wheel. The new electric supercar will no doubt net a few further headlines. This supercar primarily purpose to create interest in the brand and showcase its engineering clout. While the as-yet-unnamed supercar will be built in low numbers at a high price, future models are expected to be more accessible. NextEV isn’t necessarily planning to position itself as a supercar company in the long-term. With low-lying, aero-influenced bodywork, the new supercar could be seriously quick; NextEV quotes a power output in excess of 1.400 hp. +++

+++ A plug-in hybrid SKODA Superb will launch in 2019, kick-starting an electrification programme for the Czech manufacturer that will lead to it launching a bespoke battery-electric car based around Volkswagen Group technology by 2020. Talking at the launch of the Skoda Kodiaq, brand boss Bernhard Maier said that the electrified Superb will use the underpinnings of the Volkswagen Passat GTE, and that other Skoda models, including the new seven-seat SUV, will go on sale using the same technology soon afterwards. “We will start with the Superb as it has the strongest following in China, which is where we anticipate the greatest demand coming from”, said Maier. “Some will say we are late to the market, but actually we see 2019 as being a point where demand for such cars will actually start to build to a level that is strong enough to bring down costs. As a brand, Skoda does not need to be first to market – it needs to offer technology people want at a price they can afford. That is why 2019 is our target”. The electric car will sit within the Volkswagen Group’s ambitious electrification strategy that was highlighted by the Volkswagen ID concept at the Paris motor show. It is expected to sit on the firm’s MEB platform and Maier stressed that the design of the car will be unique to Skoda. “I cannot tell you much, but I promise this all-new car will be awesome”, he said. “The advantages of lots of space in a smaller footprint play to Skoda’s strengths for offering good value”. +++

+++ While it may be hard to believe at first, TOYOTA asserts that its 2017 Yaris WRC car will help advance the firm’s autonomous driving technologies. The World Rally Championship is one of the most driver-focused forms of motorsport with racers relying on few electronic nannies and only their expert skills to tackle narrow roads at exceptionally high speeds. But according to the firm’s motorsport boss Koei Saga, self-driving tech can indeed benefit from this. Saga said its 2017 WRC car will help Toyota develop better sensors for its autonomous systems. “Right now the biggest technical difficulty for autonomous driving is that on the road you cannot expect everything. So when somebody suddenly drives directly in front of you or if the road is quite crowded or if some people are crossing the road without checking whether a car is coming, most of the sensors that we have right now cannot react that fast. This is one major challenge we are dealing with. “We also put our sensors on to our rally cars and they can, for example, predict a rock that is in the road in front of the car. When the sensors become capable of dealing with those obstacles at the speed of a rally car, we can enhance the level of sensor technology as a whole”, Saga said. To help with its WRC programme, Toyota’s rally team has joined forces with Microsoft in a collaboration set to further cement the relationship between the two which already includes work on self-driving systems together. +++

 

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