+++ The AUDI R8 is soon to become more affordable, thanks to the introduction of an entry-level variant powered by a V6 engine that will arrive as part of a model facelift later this year. Using a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 petrol unit that’s shared with the Porsche Panamera and RS4 / RS5, the model will extend the R8’s reach in the sports car segment and in effect fills the void left by Audi’s older, naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine. The 6-pot powerplant is a 90 degree engine that has been developed in a joint venture between Audi and Porsche as part of a new modular engine family known under the working title of KoVoMo. Audi has not offered a V8 with the second generation R8 because of what Ingolstadt officials describe as a combination of the high cost of updating it to meet future emissions standards and concerns in markets such as China, where road tax is linked to engine capacity. In the latest Panamera 4S, the V6 engine delivers 440 hp at 5650 rpm and 550 Nm between 1.750 and 5.500 rpm when running a relatively low 0.4bar of turbocharger boost pressure. With subtle tweaks, including greater boost, this engine is claimed to offer more than 500 hp and up to 670 Nm, although Audi has yet to confirm the output of the new R8 variant. Audi officials have told that the unit will come with more than one power output. One example of Audi’s desire to extend the R8’s reach is the recent launch of a rear-wheel-drive version of the V10 model, the R8 RWS. Whether the V6 R8 will adopt an entry-level rear-wheel-drive version has yet to be revealed; Audi might choose not to offer such a low-cost version to retain a certain level of exclusivity for the R8. Despite sharing a layout and the number of cylinders, this 2.9-litre engine differs in capacity from the 3.0-litre V6 recently launched by Audi in the new S4 that was also developed by the joint venture. Further differentiation is found in the induction system, with the S4’s engine using a single twin-scroll turbocharger and the 2.9-litre version getting twin turbochargers. The only visual cues to differentiate the V6 model from its V10 sibling, according to spotted development cars, are smaller exhaust baffles hidden behind the rear grilles. The former has been made possible due to the V6’s lower volume. +++

+++ BENTLEY ‘s first-ever SUV, the Bentayga, arrived almost 3 years ago and quickly became a commercial success. While it was initially offered solely with a W12 petrol engine, the lineup was eventually extended and now includes a petrol V8, a diesel V8 and a V6 plug-in hybrid. In spite of being an SUV, Crewe intends to give the Bentayga the Speed treatment. The company’s design chief, Stefan Sielaff, has confirmed the design will represent a “big change”. Bentley’s executive didn’t delve into specifics, but it will feature “more power for the W12 engine”. The twin-turbo 6.0-liter W12 unit currently puts out 608 hp and 900 Nm, so a Lamborghini Urus-matching 650 hp seems entirely plausible. The bump in power will allow the Bentley Bentayga Speed to be faster to 100 km/h than the current W12, which takes 4.1 seconds, and top speed will probably increase from the latter’s 301 km/h. Responsible for channeling the output to all four corners will, in all likelihood, be the same ZF-developed 8-speed automatic transmission, possibly with an updated software. Given that the car marque launched the plug-in hybrid and V8 gasoline derivatives of the Bentayga earlier this year, the Speed version should arrive sometime in 2019. +++

+++ The BMW 2-Series Convertible is the most affordable drop top from the German automaker. However, the next-generation has been canceled. Its role will be filled by the 4-Series Convertible and the upcoming Z4. This will mean getting into a BMW convertible could become significantly more expensive. Despite the convertible’s demise, the 2-Series Coupe will live on and continue to be rear-wheel drive. This will make the coupe a bit of an oddball in the 2-Series lineup as the 2-Series Gran Coupe and 2-Series Active Tourer / Gran Tourer will be front-wheel drive. The future of the M240i and then M2 has also been secured thanks to the decision to stick with a rear-wheel drive layout. Little else is known about the next-generation 2-Series Coupe but it’s still probably a ways off as BMW introduced a minor facelift for the model last summer and unveiled the M2 Competition in April. There’s been conflicting reports on when the new model will arrive with some publications claiming the next 2-Series could be launched in 2020. However, others suggest a redesign isn’t due until 2022. Regardless of when the car is unveiled, it will have some pretty big shoes to fill as current coupe and its performance variants are popular with enthusiasts. +++ 

+++ The average new car loan recently hit a record of $31,455 in the United States and this means are number of consumers are looking for a more affordable alternative. A gently used car is a great option as they cost thousands of dollars less than a new model while still providing many of the same benefits. The savings vary by make and model but savvy shoppers can potentially get a deal if they shop for vehicles with high levels of DEPRECIATION . iSeeCars recently compiled a list of the vehicles with the highest depreciation rates and they lose between 46 and 52 % of their value after just 3 years. For comparison, the industry average is just 35 %. Unsurprisingly, luxury vehicles are among the hardest hit as the BMW 5-Series loses more than half (52.6 %) its value in just 3 years. As a result, the average price of a 3-year old 5-Series is just $30,846. The similarly sized Mercedes E-Class was the vehicle with the third highest level of depreciation as the car loses 49.9 % of its value in 36 months. Unfortunately, they’re still pretty expensive as the average price is $34,010. Among the other luxury and near luxury models hit hard by depreciation are the BMW 3-Series (49.8 %) and Audi A3 (47.9 %) While these models are significantly more affordable than their new counterparts, the cheapest is the Audi A3 which has an average price of $21,120. If that’s out of your budget, there are plenty of mainstream models with high depreciation. The Volkswagen Passat loses 50.7 % of its value in 3 years and this means the model has an average cost of just $14,906. The Volkswagen Jetta has a depreciation rate of 48.1 %. The company introduced an all-new Jetta at the North American International Auto Show earlier this year, so expect prices for older models to fall in the future. iSeeCars also recommends value shoppers check out models such as the Mazda 6 (45.9 %) and Ford Focus (45.7 %). As you’ve probably noticed, virtually all of the highest depreciating models are sedans. However, that doesn’t mean crossovers and SUVs hold their value. Value losers include the Mercedes GLE (46.2%), BMW X5 (44.1%) and Kia Sorento (42.9%). Pickups have the lowest levels of depreciation as they typically lose 23.3 % of their value in 3 years. This means used models are relatively expensive but the ones with the highest levels of depreciation include the Ram 1500 (33.2 %), Ford F-150 (32.4 %) and GMC Sierra 1500 (26.7 %). +++

+++ JAGUAR is working on a facelift for the XE. It will be launched in 2019. Jaguar isn’t expected to change the car’s styling too much with its first proper refresh. Expect slimmer LED lights front and rear, as well as tweaked bumpers and fresh interior trim. We could see the implementation of new semi-autonomous tech, as well as infotainment upgrades across the range. But the biggest changes are likely to feature under the skin. With Jaguar recently launching its revolutionary I-Pace, it looks well set to forge ahead with its extensive plans for future electromobility. As a result, the XE is expected to adopt fuel saving mild-hybrid (MHEV) tech for the first time. It’s unlikely we’ll see a EV version of the BMW 3 Series rival in this generation, however. The 12 and 48 volt mild-hybrid tech would help lower emissions by switching the engine off when it’s not needed. It should provide a coasting function, as well as a seamless stop/start system for stop-go city driving. While nothing has been announced, this should help improve efficiency by around 10 %. There’s little reason why the tech couldn’t be fitted to JLR’s latest range of Ingenium engines, so it’s highly likely the current range will be carried over wholesale. That means a choice of 4 cylinder petrol and diesel engines (with each unit boasting a belt alternator starter and lithium-ion battery).  Jaguar will continue to offer the XE with a choice of rear and four-wheel drive, although it’s not clear whether the entry-level manual box will be dropped. As the 6 cylinder XE S was removed from the range earlier this year, it’s not expected to feature at all in the revised 2019 line-up. With the brand targeting a 2019 launch, there is a good chance we’ll first see the facelifted car at the Geneva Motor Show in March. +++ 

+++ SKODA is having trouble to respond to the booming demand and might outsource some production to a contract manufacturer. The Czech car maker expects its Kodiaq and Karoq models to lead production at Skoda at over 2 million vehicles per year by 2025, from 1.2 million currently. Despite the forecast, Skoda is already grappling with stretched capacity at its plants. “There is a wide range of options to cover order peaks”, a spokesman said, adding that taking advantage of unused capacity in VW Group’s other factories will not do the trick. “For that reason we keep looking into alternatives that also include possible contract manufacturing”, Skoda said. “Demand is exceeding our production capacities also in 2018”. In March, company sources said Skoda was looking at ways to build more cars, including building a new factory outside Czech Republic. VW Group labor boss Bernd Osterioh said last week that shifting some of Skoda’s production to Germany by 2019 will not solve the Czech brand’s bottlenecks. Skoda has passed Audi within the Group to become the second most profitable unit after Porsche. Osterioh added that a decision on how to increase Skoda’s output will likely be reached by November, when the VW Group’s supervisory board will decide on the rolling budget for capacity, technology and equipment. +++ 

+++ TESLA ’s upcoming Model Y crossover could be the company’s most important model yet, finally propelling it into a long-promised self-sustainable future, according to the latest information from the supply industry and hints from company boss Elon Musk. Although the Model Y is set to be based on the structure that underpins the existing Model 3 saloon, the fourth vehicle in Tesla’s range will be produced in a radically different way to its predecessors.It is understood that the Model Y could be built outside the US, is likely to feature a new electrical architecture and will be more thoroughly resolved from a manufacturing perspective. Perhaps most importantly, though, it will compete in a much bigger market segment than the troubled Model 3. Industry experts believe the demand for pure-electric crossovers will explode in the coming years. The Model Y will fight for market share against the likes of the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-tron. The announcement of a 2020 launch for the Model Y came in early May during an earnings call with analysts, during which Musk came under fire for an eccentric performance. The company CEO’s insistence that the Model Y was only “24 months” away from launch exasperated some who felt Tesla should be concentrating on getting production of the Model 3 back on track. There was also bafflement about the prospect of adding a new model because, as Musk himself said, Tesla’s Fremont factory is already “jam-packed”. However, a solution could be found in China. On 10 May, Tesla registered a new company called Tesla Shanghai Co Ltd, which is intended to deal in EVs, batteries and spares. The move comes after the Chinese government recently announced that it will phase out the rules that require foreign car makers to forge 50:50 manufacturing partnerships with local companies. Tesla had been trying to get permission to build a factory in Shanghai without a Chinese partnership, but had failed to convince the Chinese authorities. The ownership restrictions will be lifted first on electric cars, a move scheduled to happen later this year. Tesla currently sells cars into the booming Chinese EV market but suffers a 25 % import tax. Also on 10 May, Tesla’s battery partner Panasonic unexpectedly revealed that it was poised to build battery packs with the car maker in China as well as in the US, although these plans were later said to be “not set in concrete”. Analysts say Tesla and Panasonic are both in tight financial situations and significant investments will have to be weighed carefully, which might explain why any formal announcement of a Chinese factory is scheduled for the end of the year. It seems that Tesla is already working on leap-frogging the Model 3 technically and getting the Model Y ready for May 2020. Executing a 24-month launch plan would be easier in China than in the US and Tesla would also be manufacturing in the country that buys 50 % of all Electric Vehicles made. Although it will be based on the Model 3’s steel and aluminium hybrid structure, Musk said the Model Y will use new ‘Flex circuit’ technology. Flex circuits replace enormous lengths of conventional cable with extremely thin conductive elements sandwiched between flexible plastic mouldings. This technology will be used on the Model Y to dramatically reduce the amount of wiring in the car. While the Model 3 is said to have 1.5 km of wiring, the Model Y’s new flex circuits could reduce that to just 100 meter. Its also highly likely that the production line for the Model Y will be different to that for the Model 3. While the flex circuits will allow greater automation by eliminating the extremely complex (and heavy) wiring looms from the production line, Tesla will remove other automated processes. Musk recently said that the Model 3 line is over-automated and major changes are being made at Fremont to relieve ‘robotic bottlenecks’. +++

+++ The 25 % tariff on imported vehicles threatened by President Donald Trump could cost the car industry in the UNITED STATES 1 million sales annually. According to researcher LMC Automotive, if the government goes through with this plan, sales will fall by approximately 1 million units a year if automakers absorb at least half of the tax and pass the other half on to customers through higher prices. If car manufacturers pass the 25 % price hike directly on to consumers, sales could plummet by 2 million. Bloomberg reports that a 25 % tariff on imported vehicles could lead consumers to do one of three things. For starters, those looking for a new car may instead opt to purchase a used vehicle. Secondly, some buyers would choose to purchase locally produced vehicles that are cheaper while others may simply postpone the purchase of a new car in the hope that the tariffs are only temporary. Trump recently ordered an investigation into auto imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 for potential trade penalties on national security grounds. Although some view the threats as a negotiating tactic, Trump’s recent tariffs on imported steel and aluminum shows that the leader is willing to adopt such drastic trade measures. General Motors chief executive Mary Barra is providing input on the trade negotiations but didn’t say exactly how a 25 % tariff could affect the brand. “We want to make sure that we maintain affordability in vehicles, because that’s so important, to continue to support the market that’s strong, that is supporting a lot of jobs”. +++ 

+++ Germany’s diesel crisis shows no signs of slowing down but VOLKSWAGEN hasn’t been forced to face the music in its home country. That’s changing now as the Braunschweig public prosecutor has slapped the company with a 1 billion euro fine for its involvement in the dieselgate scandal. The massive figure consists of a 5 million euro plenty (the maximum allowed) and a 995 million euro fee for “disgorgement of economic benefits”. According to the prosecutor, “monitoring duties had been breached in the Powertrain Development department” and this caused 10.7 million vehicles to be advertised, sold and placed on the market with diesel engines featuring an “impermissible software function.” That’s a fancy way of saying defeat device and the prosecutor notes the cheating occurred on EA 288 engines sold in Canada and the United States as well as EA 189 engines sold worldwide. The prosecutor went on to say this illegal activity occurred between mid-2007 and 2015. In a short press release, Volkswagen said they have decided to accept the fine following a “thorough examination” of the prosecutor’s administrative order. The company also promised not to appeal the penalty. By accepting the fine, Volkswagen says they admit “responsibility for the diesel crisis”. While the company will have to cough up a significant amount of cash, Volkswagen noted “active regulatory offence proceedings conducted against Volkswagen will be finally terminated”. The automaker went on to say this termination will likely have “significant positive effects” on other administrative proceedings against the company and its subsidiaries. While this particular matter is resolved, Bloomberg reports the company is still facing legal proceedings in 55 countries and still isn’t off the hook in Germany. Speaking of the latter, German investigators are looking into whether or not Volkswagen hid knowledge of the scandal from investors. Volkswagen subsidiaries Audi and Porsche are also being investigated and Audi CEO Rupert Stadler’s home was recently raided by authorities. +++

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