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+++ The facelifted Ecosport has been spotted testing in ST-Line form, as FORD finalises the model for launch at next month’s Frankfurt motor show. The updated model will inherit the more aggressive exterior styling of the Kuga and Edge models. Its look will be near identical to the US-spec model that was revealed last year, as will the kit and technology the crossover will come with. Development cars spotted by a spyphotographer display restyled front bumpers with a new black mid-section and lightly tweaked rear bumpers. Earlier test cars had a spare wheel fixed to their tailgates. This feature remains popular in South American and Chinese markets, but European-spec Ecosports now do without it. Across all markets, the 2017 Ecosport will come with Ford’s latest-generation Sync 3 infotainment system. It seems likely that the current car’s engine line-up, which comprises a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol, 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol and 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel, will be unchanged. The most recently spotted test car appears to be fitted with the 1.5-litre petrol engine however. The option of four-wheel drive may be added to the range. However, if such an option is introduced, it’ll only be available on the most potent variants. The facelifted Ecosport’s entry-level price is expected to stay close to the current model’s. +++

+++ Automakers have innovated just about everything inside cars these days, but the owner’s manual is one not-so-obvious exception. Now, GENESIS is taking the owner’s manual out of the glovebox and into an interactive smartphone app. Drivers can use their smartphone’s camera to scan a part of their vehicle they want to learn more about, and the app pulls up all the necessary information. The fancy owner’s manual, called the Genesis Virtual Guide, is available for the 2017 G80 and G90 sedans. It will be compatible with 2018 models later this year. Hyundai has been experimenting with the concept since at least 2015. Using 2D and 3D tracking technology, the Virtual Guide tells drivers information about many parts of the vehicle. Positioning the smartphone camera on the engine bay will give drivers maintenance instructions for each part of the engine, and drivers can also take pictures of the car’s front, rear, or trunk to learn more about these exterior features. Open the doors, and the augmented reality experience continues. The app generates a 360-degree virtual reality experience of the car’s interior, allowing the user to move his or her smartphone around the interior to learn more information about different components. A scanner uses the smartphone’s camera to identify different buttons inside the cabin and educate owners about them through videos. Another tool explains the meaning of the different warning lights and pop-up messages that can appear on the instrument cluster. Through videos, the app can virtually identify and educate owners about the car’s smart cruise control, Bluetooth phone pairing, clock, and the air filter, not to mention the fuse box, engine oil, brake fluid, battery jump start, washer fluid, and spare tire installation. This isn’t the only way Genesis has made its vehicles more connected. The luxury brand rolled out an app earlier this year allowing owners to control the locks, lights, and other features on their cars remotely via smartwatch. You can also command your Genesis from the comfort of your home via Amazon Alexa. The Genesis Virtual Guide is available as a free download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. +++

+++ LAND ROVER is finalising the technical set-up of a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of its Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models, which are due to hit roads in the early part of 2018. The petrol-electric models will combine power from Jaguar Land Rover’s 2.0-litre Ingenium engine with an Electric Drive Module (EDM). The former is predicted to provide 300 hp / 400 Nm, while the latter injects 204 hp / 450 Nm and will also enable about 50 kilometers of pure electric range.The EDM was created in-house and and fits into the existing structure of the Range Rover model line-up, mating to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and using power from a lithium-ion battery located beneath the boot floor. On-road testing for the new drivetrain is well under way. Badges will signify the car’s zero-emission capability. The Range Rover PHEV’s closest rival will be the BMW X5 xDrive40e, but the hybrid-electric X5 electric motor produces 115 hp, meaning it is likely to fall short of the Ranger Rover’s straight-line and electric-only performance. The model will be the first to use JLR’s newly developed PHEV drivetrain, but it is expected to be introduced into the Jaguar F-Pace, XE and XF ranges in the future. It will give each model drastically lower CO2 outputs (according to the New European Driving Cycle), helping these PHEV models to become the least-taxed models in their line-ups. JLR already produces a diesel-electric hybrid version of the Range Rover, but that system mates a larger 3.0-litre oil burning V6 engine to electric drive. It produces more power than the new petrol-electric system with a peak of 350 hp available, but the new system should undercut the V6 diesel’s 164g/km of CO2 emissions. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG will introduce a new petrol-electric hybrid line-up to sit below its 63 range, starting with a CLS version later this year. The model is due to be revealed as part of the next-generation CLS range at the Los Angeles motor show in November, before reaching roads in the middle of 2018. It will use AMG’s 3.0-litre straight-six engine, as used by the new 53 models, in conjunction with a 68 hp electric motor. The hybrid AMG CLS’s combined system output is expected to exceed 450 hp, likely ranking it more than 100 hp behind the current V8-engined CLS 63 S. However, the hybrid six-pot model’s electric torque-filling ability should ensure performance is much closer, so much so that it will likely take the 63’s place and become the CLS’s top variant. This would clear space for the AMG GT four-door that’s due in 2018 as an entirely different model, inspired by the GT Concept of the 2017 Geneva motor show. The GT four-door will use a twin-turbocharged V8 engine, borrowed from either the AMG GT or E63, with a hybrid range-topper producing 804 hp. The hybrid CLS is expected to come with regenerative braking technology to help replenish its lithium ion batteries when on the move. This technology is already in use elsewhere in Mercedes’ range, and would come as part of 48v electric architecture. Following hybrid six-pot models will share the CLS’s drivetrain. An AMG E-Class would be the most likely next candidate for the system, due to the CLS’s strong technical links with the E-Class. Sources suggest that the electric and six-cylinder system will be the only drivetrain available on AMG coupé and convertible E-Classes, while larger saloon and estate models will remain as E63s with V8 engines. +++

+++ Toyota may still be a little resistant to electrified vehicles but the Prius PLUG-IN is officially the world’s best-selling plug-in this year. From January to June 2017, a total of 26,867 Prius Primes have been sold worldwide, just edging out the Nissan Leaf at 26,591 units and the Tesla Model S with 25,430 deliveries. Plug-in sales also show no signs of slowing down. In fact, the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf is just around the corner and will reach customer hands early next year. Additionally, deliveries of the Tesla Model 3 started a few days ago and the affordable Chevrolet Bolt continues to grow in popularity as it reaches more states throughout the United States. In the first half of the year, Tesla continues to lead the way as the highest-selling plug-in car manufacturer, delivering a total of 47,000 vehicles. Following Tesla is BMW with 41,715 sales, China’s BYD and BAIC with 34,802 and 30,151 deliveries respectively, Nissan in fifth with 29,055 and Toyota behind on 26,920. +++

+++ Since TESLA has announced the complete specifications and technical details for the current Tesla Model 3 versions (the standard and long range), everyone has been scouting them to see how they fare compared to the competition. For example, EV fans have an interesting measure of comparison for the electric cars: how much it costs each electric mile of range. The Chevrolet Bolt was the best proposition at $157.54 dollars-per-mile of electric range, way ahead of its closest follower, the Hyundai IONIQ Electric at $237.90. Now with the introduction of the Tesla Model 3, the California-based automaker can no longer be considered a premium one, as it has effectively entered mainstream. According to US media, the Model 3 tops the chart for cheapest range ration. We’re dealing with the long-range version rated (via EPA estimate) at 310 miles, and costing $44,000 MSRP. Mind you, this is before any incentive has been applied, so the actual cost of $141.94 might be substantially lower depending on each purchase. The standard 220-mile Model 3 is just behind the Bolt, and the top3 is not expected to change at least until Nissan presents its new generation Leaf in September. There are still small details that haven’t been released by Tesla, such as the battery pack size for both standard and long-range versions. +++

+++ TOYOTA is gearing up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Prius by taking a look back at the original model which was introduced in 1997. The story begins in 1993 when the company began discussing a “vehicle for the 21st century”. These discussions paved the way for the creation of the G21 Project which would eventually be known as the Prius. The project originally had the goal of “raising fuel efficiency performance to 1.5 times the level of that of conventional engines”, but that target was later increased to twice the level of conventional engines. The company toyed with several ideas but the development team finally decided to go with a hybrid powertrain when management wanted to show a concept at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show. The concept was unveiled in the fall of that year and it featured a 1.5-liter D4 engine, a continuously variable transmission, and a capacitor which acted as an energy storage device. This, along with an engine start/stop system, enabled the car to return 30 km/liter, which was roughly twice as much as other vehicles in the same class. The production model was launched two years later and became the world’s first mass-produced hybrid. The car remained relatively faithful to the original concept but it returned a slightly less impressive 28.0 km/liter. +++

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