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+++ BMW ’s 5-Series Gran Turismo is set to be replaced in 2017 by a sleeker, sexier model widely expected to be badged a 6-Series. Backing this up is the sighting of a prototype with a window on its sticker describing it as a 630d xDrive. More potent versions are planned, including some M Performance offerings. The range-topper will be an M650i xDrive M Performance model equipped with the same powertrain as the M550i xDrive, in this case a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 delivering 462 horsepower and 650 Nm of torque to all four wheels. A M650d xDrive is also said to be in the works. This model is said to be coming with BMW’s quad-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 diesel, good for about 400 hp and 750 Nm of torque. BMW will offer at least 3 different plug-in hybrids. They will reportedly include 630e, 640e and 650e iPerformance models. The 630e should feature the 252 hp powertrain of the 530e and the 640e should get the 326 hp setup of the 740e. It’s not clear what BMW has planned for the 650e but it could be a version of the Power eDrive system shown in 2014. Look for the debut of the 6-Series GT to take place around mid-2017. Key rivals will be the Audi A7 Sportback and the Porsche Panamera. +++

+++ BRITAIN made fewer cars last month for the first time in more than a year, driven by slower domestic demand and prompting the industry’s lobby group to renew its call for the government to maintain free trade as Britain leaves the European Union. Overall output fell by an annual 1 percent to 151,795 units in October, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said, although year-to-date volumes remain on course to beat the 10-year high achieved in 2015. Demand for the 81 percent of British-built models which were exported rose marginally in October, but there was a 10.9 percent drop in the output destined for British buyers. The SMMT said that model changes, which can reduce output as manufacturers phase out older products and bring in newer vehicles, had an impact on the monthly figures. But separate car registrations data shows that overall sales growth has slowed since the June 23 referendum and rising business demand has compensated for a fall in sales to individuals in every month since April. Britain’s overwhelmingly foreign-owned car industry backed EU membership ahead of the vote and Nissan, which operates the country’s largest plant, sought guarantees that its cars would not face tariffs before committing to a major investment. SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said the data showed the need for government to guarantee that it would not become more expensive to sell British-made vehicles abroad. “It is crucial that British-built cars remain attractive to international buyers and exports are not subject to additional tariffs, costs and other barriers to successful trade”, he said. +++

+++ LOTUS chief executive Jean-Marc Gales has confirmed that the small automaker will launch the next-generation Elise in 2020. The next generation Elise will be the brand’s first all-new model launched since Gales has led the company and despite the model growing slightly in size, it will still tip the scales at less than 1,000 kg. Underpinning the next-generation Elise will be an updated version of the aluminium chassis currently in use and unlike the existing model, the new one will be developed to comply with U.S. crash regulations, opening up the popular model to the world’s largest sports car market. Additional details about the new Elise are difficult to come by but according to Gales, the brand will be selling about 4,000 units annually when it arrives. Approximately 2 years after, the new Lotus Exige will launch. Prior to the arrival of the new Elise, Lotus will continue to develop and improve its existing Elise, Exige and Evora models. +++

+++ According to some, Elon Musk has a habit of overpromising and underdelivering or, at the very least, delivering late. One respected TESLA analyst believes this could be the case with the upcoming Model 3. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jones predicts that deliveries of the entry-level Model 3 won’t commence until the end of 2018, over 1 year later than Musk expects the first deliveries to commence. Tesla says that production of the Model 3 will commence in mid-2017 but if Jones is correct, that date will be pushed back well into 2018. Additionally, the analyst says that the electric automaker will be producing around 60,000 Model 3s in 2019 and 130,000 units in 2020, well below Tesla’s objective of building 400,000 units in 2018. If this is accurate, it means that some of the 400,000-odd Model 3 reservation holders could be waiting until 2021 or even 2022 to receive their cars, some 6 years after placing their orders. A delayed launch of the Model 3 could hurt the company by giving the Chevrolet Bolt / Opel Ampera-E a greater head-start in the affordable Electric Vehicle market. It would also reduce Tesla’s advantage over large automakers like Volkswagen who will launch droves of electric models early next decade. +++

+++ TOYOTA said it aims to develop a more advanced electric-car battery “in a few years” that will allow the Japanese automaker to build vehicles with up to 15 percent greater range and battery life than they have currently. “Lithium/ion battery is a key technology for electrifying cars, and there is a clear need, going forward, for improving this technology and its performance even more”, Hisao Yamashige, a battery technology researcher at Toyota, told a media briefing in Tokyo. Improving the performance of lithium/ion battery technology is a pressing issue for traditional automakers such as Toyota and new entrants such as Tesla because of its limiting characteristics. Producers of all-electric battery cars, plug-in electric hybrids, as well as conventional gas-electric hybrids are all striving to source or develop more advanced battery technologies to improve range, battery life and safety. Toyota, Japan’s biggest automaker by volume, has pioneered gasoline-electric hybrid technology and is gearing up to launch a new, near-all-electric plug-in hybrid called the Prius Prime. It is also aiming to come up with an all-electric battery car by about 2020. Using techniques developed in collaboration with a Japanese publicly-financed laboratory and four universities in Japan, Toyota engineers were able to better see in “real time” how lithium ions moved inside electrodes, Yamashige said. This should lead to new designs that prevent lithium ions from moving unevenly and bunching up in the electrodes, something that currently limits battery life and vehicle range and can be a factor in causing overheating, he said. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ’s famous Transparent Factory in the German city of Dresden will soon be churning out cars again. The plant, which features glass walls and an open-plan design, was last used to build the Phaeton. But after production of the flagship sedan came to an end in March, the plant served as a demonstration center for Volkswagen’s upcoming technologies in the areas of electric mobility and digital services. However, Volkswagen has now announced that its updated e-Golf will enter production at the plant starting in April 2017. As demand for electric cars grow, the e-Golf will also enter production at Volkswagen’s main plant for the Golf located in the automaker’s home town of Wolfsburg. Furthermore, customers will be able to take delivery of all the electrified Volkswagen cars from the plant in future. The list includes the battery-electric e-Golf and e-Up as well as the plug-in hybrid Golf and Passat GTE. +++

+++ VOLVO is rolling out some updates on its 90 series cars which for the 2017 model year include the S90, V90, V90 Cross Country and XC90. The updates enhance what was already a high level of safety and connectivity. In the area of safety, Volvo is adding the new features Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Light Alert. These are vehicle-to-vehicle communication features that allow vehicles to share important information, such as slippery road conditions ahead or a vehicle with its hazard lights switched on. Right now the features only operate between Volvo cars but they preview what driving in the future will be like when cars from multiple brands will be able to anonymously share information on traffic conditions with surrounding vehicles and infrastructure. Volvo’s features will go live in Sweden and Norway initially with other markets to follow. In the area of connectivity, Volvo’s range-topping models will now offer Android Auto smartphone integration alongside Apple CarPlay. In addition, the cars are getting a Tesla-style over-the-air update system that will initially be used to send out the latest map data for onboard navigation systems. One final update is the color palette for the S90 and V90 being expanded with Maple Brown. Volvo says the updates will be introduced to the production line from November. +++

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