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+++ The BMW X7 Concept will reportedly be unveiled in September, and preview a new 7-seat crossover due to go on sale globally next year. The X7 Concept will make its debut at the Frankfurt motor show, press days for which begin on September 12, European time. The X7 Concept will share stage space with the i3 S, the next-generation X3, and the recently revealed 6 Series Gran Turismo. Last spotted in late April, at the Nurburgring no less, the new X7 will have seating for up to 7 passengers, and will be pitched against the Mercedes-Benz GLS and full-size Range Rover. Ian Robertson, BMW’s global head of sale and marketing, told the new X7 will have “all the technology and luxury of the 7 Series”, and will be priced accordingly. He also claims the X7 won’t simply be a long wheelbase version of the X5. It’s unknown at this stage which engines will power the X7, but the company’s six- and eight-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines are a good bet. A plug-in hybrid variant, possibly sharing a drivetrain with the 326 hp / 500 Nm 740e iPerformance sedan, is also likely at some point. Initially conceived as a model for the US and China, the X7 will be sold in other parts of the world, including Europe. Like most of BMW’s range of crossovers, the new X7 will be built at the company’s US plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. +++

+++ ELECTRIC cars, aside from being significantly more expensive than conventional cars, are also discarded by many people because of “range anxiety”, the fear they could remain stranded in the middle of nowhere with no battery juice. Mareike Wolter, Project Manager of Mobile Energy Storage Systems at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Dresden, Germany, and her team are looking to alive that concern, possibly coming out with a breakthrough in the process. That’s because they are developing a new type of battery with an impressive energy density that could yield a range of around 1,000 km on a single charge. The project is not your garage outfit (researchers from Fraunhofer united with ThyssenKrupp System Engineering and IAV Automotive Engineering to see how they could mprove the energy density of automotive lithium batteries): their starting point being the most popular EV of today, a Tesla. For example, their longest-range example: the Model S 100D comes with a 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack, good for a range of 540 km. The pack consists of more than 8,000 lithium/ion battery cells, making it bulky. “We thought if we could use the same space as the battery in the Tesla, but improve the energy density and finally drive 1,000 km, this would be nice”, comments Wolter. They did that by completely changing the design: instead of individual cells they have a thin, sheet-like design coated with an energy-storage material made from powdered ceramic mixed with a polymer binder. One side is the cathode, the other the anode; these so-called bipolar electrodes were stacked on top of each other, like sheets of paper in a ream, separating them with thin layers of electrolyte and a material to prevent accidental shorts. The researchers are now looking to have a real world application of the innovation in a test car by 2020. +++

+++ The new HONDA Civic Type R looks likely to be the first in a series of variants for the hot hatch. Hideki Matsumoto, chief engineer of the Civic range, told: “We’re hoping that by gradually putting out more variants that we’ll be able to maintain a more stable sales volume”. The next cab off the rank is likely to be a more hardcore version of the Civic Type R. This model should feature more power than today’s Type R, which comes with a 320 hp / 400 Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a 6-speed manual and a 0-100 km/h time of 5.7 seconds. Also on the drawing board is a version “focused more on the grand touring aspect”. This toned down version would be tasked with broadening the Civic Type R’s market appeal. An all-wheel drive variant is also possible, and would give Honda a model directly in competition with the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX and WRX STI, and Volkswagen Golf R. If these plans come to fruition, the Civic Type R will follow in the footsteps of the Ford Focus ST.RS ansd Volkswagen Golf GTI/R, amongst others, which are available with a variety of engine outputs, trims and specifications. +++

+++ HYUNDAI is planning to leverage its soon-to-arrive N performance sub-brand with a range of packs and lower powered models. Speaking at an exclusive N event in the top secret Namyang test facility south of Seoul the head of N, Albert Biermann, confirmed there was a lot more to come from the brand set to arrive late in 2017. “There’s more to come from N. We will also widen the scope of N products”, said Biermann, adding that such models would boast the N thinking (tweaking everything from design and dynamics to the powertrain) but to a lower level. “It’s substantial, it’s a different driving experience, but not to the extent of the N models. Trying to use that brand power of the sporty sub-label and sell sports packages or sport lines or something. Why would we not do it?” The move is similar to that taken by the performance brands of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, each of which offers a half-way house that delivers some of the go-fast bits without the big price tag.That’s perhaps no surprise given the head of Hyundai N, Albert Biermann, was formerly in charge of M cars at BMW, a brand that evolved from doing M3s and M5s to a broad model spread as well as lesser powered M Performance cars that are not as hard core and track focused as fully-fledged Ms. The detail of the sorts of models the N-light might take is yet to be revealed, although one option is to rebrand cars such as the i30 1.6 T-GDI as being tweaked by N. With 204 hp and suspension modifications that improve the handling and introduce adjustable dampers the i30 appears to be a prime candidate for some N branding and tweaks. But Biermann also want to sell packs that customers could option without going to a fully-fledged N model. “First you have to have that hero car. Then the power can come to do packages”, he said. As for the expansion of the regular N family, Hyundai has currently only confirmed one N car: the i30N. But the company is also working on a i30 Fastback N, which uses the i30’s basic underpinnings but with a sleeker, lower five-door body that lowers the centre of gravity slightly. The company is also working on a Veloster N, based on the yet-to-be-revealed second-generation of the quirky coupe. +++

+++ The upcoming KIA Stinger will have an aftermarket and specifically designed exhaust system as an option, in order to meet the demand for a more muscular sound not available from the factory. Speaking at the Nurburgring race track in Germany, Albert Biermann, Kia Motors’ head of vehicle testing and high-performance development, admitted the Stinger needs a better exhaust note. “I agree, it needs a more sporty sound”, Biermann told when quizzed about the Stinger’s rather lacklustre exhaust note. The problem? European emissions regulations. Biermann says that in order to combat that, the company has fitted an active sound design (ASD) system that pumps artificial noise into the car. “Active systems might be good for now but in a short time it will be cut off in Europe due to emission regulations, so this is why we added the ASD, to give more feedback about the engine”, Biermann added. “Noise is important, I think everyone has agreed within the company that the car needs to sound like it looks. Unfortunately, we are not going to get that out of the factory, straight away, so what we are planning on doing is to develop an aftermarket sound system, which will be a proper bi-modal exhaust system”. The exhaust system will be an option on the V6 models initially, with potential for the four-cylinder models down the track. +++

+++ The one thing most high-performance sports cars share, is a memorable exhaust note. Think of Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche, and it’s the noise these cars make under full throttle that usually gets the heart racing as much as the head-turning looks. Aficionados of these highly-prized exotics only have to hear the engines at work for a few seconds, before naming the precise make and model. British sports carmaker MCLAREN is the new kid on the block, though, only kicking off its series production business 6 years ago from its home base at Woking, in the United Kingdom. It’s a brand steeped in motor racing history with multiple Formula One Championships under its belt, along with a string of other racing success stories. McLaren Automotive, the division that builds the road cars, employs a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine across its entire range, in various states of tune, depending on which of the three-performance series you choose; Sports, Super and Ultimate. But some in the industry have argued McLarens lack the same level of visceral exhaust note as many of its rivals. It’s a notion I put to McLaren Asia Pacific boss, George Biggs at the recent launch of the all-new 720S. “I think with the powertrain we have, we are definitely working through that exhaust note, and with 720S we have made significant improvements. But I also think it’s a very personal thing, just like styling is personal, that sound is also quite personal. To that end, we’re working on making sure we have a distinctive McLaren sound, and I’m sure there will be some people that like it, and some that don’t. But it is one area that we are focusing on to improve. There are a number of development stories where we’ve got people very much focused on the sound of our cars, describing it as ‘the voice’ of our supercar, so we’re very aware of it”, said Biggs. “We’re also a brand that is making sure that everything on the car is absolutely authentic on our car. So, it’s interesting, there’s a way to bring the engine note closer to you, but we’re not creating a different sound to the engine itself. “Even the P1 doesn’t have what you would probably describe as your traditional V12 roar that gets you in the stomach, but actually, the P1 is a super exciting car because of all the pops, bangs and whizzes that you have with all of the forced induction. So, I think the market generally will start to move to a point where that forced induction sound is a bit more accepted, and then from a McLaren perspective it’s making sure we can get both a distinctive note and one that appeals to the market”, he added. +++

+++ Formula E may be attracting yet another high-profile brand to its form of electric motorsport: PORSCHE . Porsche is mulling over the possibility of joining Formula E in 2018. Porsche CEO Oliver Blume, board member Michael Steiner, and LMP1 racing chief Andreas Seidl met with Formula E boss Alejandro Agag at the Monaco ePrix last month. The appearance of those key figures from Porsche and its racing staff signal the brand is getting serious about running a vehicle in the all-electric motorsport. Additionally, Porsche staff met with Agag at the Berlin ePrix last week. “We received an invitation to Monaco from Alejandro Agag to have a look and experience Formula E for the first time”, Seidl told. “We just had an invitation to an interesting series, though maybe there are not enough technical freedoms yet”. Formula E has long used a 2-car standard, meaning the driver switches cars halfway through a race. Porsche, reportedly, is not a fan of the setup. However, Formula E will switch to a traditional one-car standard next year. The motorsport will also change chassis suppliers as Spark Racing Technology has been tapped to replace Dallara. Of course, much of this makes sense. Other manufacturers have seen the potential that Formula E offers to perfect electric and hybrid powertrains. Ferrari has also hinted at an entry into the motorsport. Porsche will launch its first all-electric car (the Mission-E) in 2020. Formula E could provide some helpful insight into the development of future electric Porsches. +++

+++ TESLA CEO Elon Musk, who is also known for missing his own timeframe expectations from time to time, has so far admitted the new Roadster is still “some years away”. Tesla’s first model, the Roadster, was sent to greener pastures back in 2012 and rumors about its return from automotive Valhalla have been swirling ever since. So, no reason no to talk about the latest, even though we’re basically aware that Tesla is still going to stick to its own schedule, deliver the Model 3 this month, the Tesla Semi in the fall, and the Model Y compact SUV next year. Then we should think about successors for the Model S and X, as well as the arrival of the pick-up, most likely all that before the new Roadster arrives. But this is a long-awaited open-top sports car, and any information is good for its fans. Apparently, the new Roadster will be setting a new benchmark in the quest to prove electric cars are faster than hypercars, hitting 100 kilometers per hour in about 2 seconds. Bear with me: this will not be achieved with “Ludicrous” mode, but with the new factory kick-off “Maximum Plaid” mode, whatever that is. CEO Elon Musk commented the 2-seconds threshold would “only count if capable of doing so right off the production line with street legal tires”. +++

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