Newsflash: BMW gaat nieuwe M2 leveren in 2 vermogensvarianten


+++ ASTON MARTIN has previewed an open-roof version of its Valkyrie hypercar, which will be revealed in full next week at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California. The occasion has been chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the first Aston Martin sold in the US. Since the brand’s launch in the country with the DB2 in 1951, some 25 % of all Aston Martins built have been sold in North America. To celebrate the anniversary of its US division, Aston Martin will host Pebble Beach showgoers at a private “luxury club house” nearby, where tribute will be paid to the “past and present” of the British brand with a historic model display and two new-car debuts. The Valkyrie roadster will be shown privately at the event on Thursday 12 August before going on display from the 13th. The preview image gives little away beyond confirming that the doors will be hinged from the front in a scissor arrangement, rather than the hardtop car’s gullwing set-up. It’s not yet confirmed whether the Valkyrie Roadster will be a permanently open-top proposition, like the new Aston Martin V12 Speedster, or whether it will be offered with a removable roof panel. Aside from the bodywork revisions, the new open-top can be expected to closely match the hardtop for performance statistics, using the same Cosworth-supplied 6.5-litre V12 and carbonfibre tub. Appearing alongside the open-roof Valkyrie will be the new production-spec Valhalla supercar, making its US debut following its unveiling in the UK last month. At the time, Aston Martin boss Tobias Moers said the build number would be unlimited during the car’s 2-year production run, but the company has now confirmed that it will build a maximum of 999 units. +++

+++ AUDI has teased the new Sky Sphere concept ahead of its official launch on 11 August. The prototype will be unveiled at the company’s new design studio in Malibu, California. The Sky Sphere is part of Audi’s trio of Sphere concept cars, which will showcase the company’s future design direction as it moves into the electrified (and autonomous) age. It joins the Grand Sphere luxury limo, which will be unveiled at the 2021 Munich Motor Show, and the upcoming Urban Sphere SUV. Audi’s design boss, Marc Lichte, and vice president, Henrik Wenders, announced the Sky Sphere’s launch date in a short video, which also included a few teasers of the car. The concept will be low and sleek, with a long bonnet, relatively short overhangs and a sweeping rear. Lichte and Wenders say the prototype’s lines were inspired by the Horch 853A; a similarly forward-thinking car for its period. Despite the future-gazing design, teasers hint that the Sky Sphere’s grille will have a similar shape to Audi’s current models, while a shadowy silhouette of the car confirms that it will be a convertible. The concept will also have an unusual pixelated rear light bar, which appears to display animations to following road users. Lichte discussed how the concept will have a dual personality, saying: “Driving autonomously is the pinnacle of progressive luxury. This concept is, one one hand, a real sports car, and it can transform in only a few seconds to an autonomous lounge”. Audi is yet to release any specifics about the technology that will support this “autonomous lounge” function, or if it draws from existing engineering that will underpin future Audi models. The EV can already take control of its own steering, throttle and brakes on the motorway (with the driver’s supervision), and the necessary hardware for this functionality is already available to the brand. However, it is also worth remembering that the Sky Sphere is a concept, so it may not be based on any existing platforms within the Audi stable. The brand did recently confirm that its Grand Sphere concept sibling will be based on Audi’s PPE Premium Platform Electric architecture. The prototype will be unveiled at this year’s Munich Motor Show, as a preview of the company’s pure-electric replacement for the A8. i know the Sky Sphere is an all-electric model though, so when it comes to performance it’s likely that the most powerful drivetrain available in Audi’s RS e-tron GT, which has a maximum output of 650 hp thanks to 2 electric motors and an 85 kWh battery pack, could find its way into the Sky Sphere concept. +++

+++ BMW ’s M division engineers are working on a new model that’s sure to thrill the brand’s traditional customer base; the firm’s second-generation M2 compact performance coupe. It will make its debut in 2022. In 2018, BMW M labelled the M2 as its “strongest growth driver”. Though the M brand’s portfolio has broadened significantly in the intervening years, with more SUVs and now even electric models with M division input, the M2 remains a key model to the brand. This new performance car, rumoured to be codenamed G87, will look to take advantage of the new 3 and 4 Series-derived platform that the 2 Series coupe is based on. Significant updates will arrive under the bonnet and with the car’s chassis set-up. BMW won’t downsize the M2. Power will almost certainly be provided by BMW M’s latest 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-6 engine, known as the S58 unit. Having made its debut in the X3 M and X4 M in 2019, it’s since found a home in the M3 and M4. In the Competition-spec versions of those cars the engine develops 510 hp, but it’ll be detuned for the M2, to avoid the smallest member of the M line-up treading on the toes of its larger and more expensive siblings. Revving to a redline of 7,200 rpm, the M2 won’t be any different to other BMW models in that buyers will be offered 2 power levels: a base M2 model with a more potent M2 Competition variant positioned above. Speculation suggests that the M2 base model will offer at least 400 hp, possibly a little more, and that’s no coincidence. An output of this magnitude would put clear breathing space between the M4 and the new M240i xDrive, which has 374 hp. It would also mean that the M2 would have enough grunt to compete with a new breed of superhatches from Audi and Mercedes; the new RS 3 comes with 400 hp from its 2.5-litre turbocharged 5-cylinder engine, while the A 45 S AMG offers 421 hp. Unlike those cars, and unlike the M240i, BMW is tipped to keep the M2 rear-wheel drive rather than adopting the rear-biased xDrive system available on the new M3 and M4. A 6-speed manual gearbox will be available alongside an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Sitting above the M2 will be the M2 Competition. The engine will be the same unit but with more power, possibly punching towards the 430 hp mark if the gap between the normal and Competition versions of the M3 and M4 is mirrored in the M2. BMW could even look to push the M2 to new heights, if it goes for a power output in excess of the 450 hp developed by the M2 CS; the most powerful road-going M2 so far. The track of the car will be widened further over the M240i, while the chassis will be stiffer too, and the M Sport rear differential will be fitted as standard alongside stronger brakes to mark it out as the halo model in the 2 Series line-up. Suspension choices will include BMW’s stroke-dependent mechanical damper technology tuned to match the M2’s stiffer and wider chassis, or M Sport adaptive electromechanical dampers. To really mark the M2 out compared with the M240i xDrive, the design of the car is tipped to change quite dramatically at the front end. It won’t take on the large, vertical kidney grilles used to differentiate the M3 from the rest of the 3 Series line-up. Leaked pictures suggest that the kidney grilles will move to a squared-off, horizontal design compared with the rounder look of the 2 Series. The square theme will extend to the lower sections of the front apron too, with a large rectangular central intake flanked by two square elements at the front corners. Spy shots show that it will reincorporate the quad-exit exhaust system of the old M2 into a new look rear diffuser. It’s not just on the outside where it’ll be different to the M240i, however. Our spies have seen inside the new M2, revealing that BMW will equip the model with its new Curved Display iDrive set-up. This means that the digital instruments and the central infotainment screen join together in one seamless display. The rest of the cabin will see classic M division touches such as huge bucket seats and a sports steering wheel with two bright red M mode buttons, enabling the driver to dial up two individually configured vehicle set-ups straight from the wheel at the touch of a button. As for when we will see the M2, late 2022 is the most likely time frame for the car’s debut, but if it’s due to hit the road before the end of next year is uncertain. Sales commencing in 2023 is more likely, with a price approaching 100.000 for the M2 Competition. +++

+++ DS Automobiles will switch to electric-only production for new vehicles from 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, and four years earlier than other Stellantis-owned brands. The announcement was made on social media by Jules Tilstone, managing director of DS in the United Kingdom. The announcement came as parent company Stellantis announced its half-year results, in which the group announced all segments were in profit, with an average 11.4 % margin. “It’s been a turbulent time for the automotive industry, but great to see the Stellantis teams pulling together to deliver such a fantastic result”, said Tilstone. “We’ve also announced that from 2024 all new models from DS will be launched as full electric only”. The firm originally announced it would move to electric-only from 2025, while other Stellantis-owned brands including Opel will begin to switch from 2028. DS currently has several electrified models on sale, including the all-electric 3 Crossback E-Tense, with the current models all offered with plug-in hybrid power. Existing combustion models will see out their lifecycle as scheduled beyond the 2024 date. “Our ambition is very clear: for DS to be among the global leaders in electrified cars in its segment”, said DS’s then CEO, Yves Bonnefont, in 2018. Current CEO Béatrice Foucher previously said she was “not happy” with the brand’s sales performance, but was confident new models could provide a springboard into a “very large and competitive” premium market. Stellantis is pressing ahead with an accelerated EV strategy, with plans to launch 11 battery-electric vehicles and 10 plug-in hybrid vehicles over the next 24 months. “While delivering this strong operational performance, the company also made significant progress on strategic matters related to electrification acceleration and software, which are fundamental pillars of our strategy”, said Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares. +++

+++ Hot on the heels of the new FERRARI 296 GTB will be a drop-top variant, which has been spotted on public roads for the first time. The prototype snapped by photographers wears characteristically heavy camouflage, but it’s clear that the open-roof 296 will be nearly identical to the already-revealed coupé when its roof is closed. In keeping with Ferrari nomenclature tradition, it will likely be called the 296 GTS, arriving to join the Portofino M, F8 Spider, 812 GTS and SF90 Spider as the newest and final member of Maranello’s convertible line-up. It’s not anticipated that the new Roma coupé will gain a convertible option, given its close mechanical relationship to the Portofino. The 296 GTB draws heavily on styling cues taken from the SF90 Stradale flagship, and as such the convertible version looks to use a similar roof-opening set-up to the SF90 Spider. The roof itself is likely to be made of aluminium to save weight and space and could be retracted in as little as 14 seconds. Like the SF90 Spider, the 296 GTS is expected to feature a small rear screen that can be raised or lowered on demand. Otherwise, it will be mechanically and technically identical to its coupé sibling, meaning power will come from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine and an electric motor inside the 8-speed automatic gearbox. All in, the system produces 819bhp; and because Ferrari convertibles are so closely matched in performance terms to their fixed-roof siblings, the 296 GTS should crack the 0-100 kph sprint in around 3.0 seconds and hit a top speed of more than 330 kph. There has been no official word on a scheduled unveiling, but Ferrari tends to leave a gap of roughly 6 months between coupé and convertible variants, so the wraps are likely to come off around the end of this year. As for price, I expect the 296 GTS to command a premium of about 30.000 euro over the price of the GTB and for customer deliveries to begin in the second half of 2022. +++

+++ HONDA has revealed a preview of the NSX Type S, which will arrive at the end of 2022 as the swansong for its hybrid V6 supercar. The limited-run model will be officially unveiled in the coming weeks, but it has been teased in a series of images, under a low-light camouflage, revealing bespoke design cues that will mark it out from the standard NSX. Grey exterior paint, black trim, red brake calipers and Type S badging positioned just ahead of the rear wheels will be the defining cues, while a red engine cover will nod to Honda’s performance car heritage. Each of the 350 units built will receive a numbered build plaque, too. Honda has also promised “enhancements to performance and design with the goal to create a model that goes beyond all NSX models that came before”. Performance figures are yet to be revealed, but it’s highly likely that the electrified 3.5-litre V6’s output will be bumped up from a standard 580 hp closer to the 600 hp mark, alongside upgrades to the brakes and suspension to enhance the car’s agility. Production of the second-generation NSX will continue to take place at Honda’s Performance Manufacturing Centre in the US, before coming to an end in December 2022. Honda will produce 350 units worldwide, with 30 of these for Japanese customers. The model will not be offered in Europe. +++

+++ MAZDA has reintroduced a 115 hp engine to the Mazda 2 as part of a mid-life update for the supermini. The uprated version of the firm’s 1.5-litre Skyactiv-G petrol engine will join the existing 75 hp and 90 hp models from 1 October, with new trim levels and improved efficiency.All models are equipped with sat-nav, cruise control, Bluetooth and air conditioning as standard, and engines above the 75 hp model feature Mazda’s mild-hybrid system for an e-Skyactiv-G badge. Sport models gain wireless Apple CarPlay, while the GT Sport adds a choice of a manual or automatic gearbox for the first time, as well as heated front seats, a colour head-up display and a reversing camera. The new 115 hp engine will be available only for top-of-the-range GT Sport Tech model which ismated to a 6-speed manual. The GT Sport Tech gains adaptive LED headlights, blindspot monitoring, rear city brake support and a 360 degree parking camera. Mazda says all versions of its 1.5-litre engine now have improved efficiency, with increased compression ratios and an upgraded exhaust manifold, leading to a drop in CO2 emissions. The 75 hp model produces 109 g/km, while the range-topping 115 hp model produces 113 g/km. “The Mazda 2 is now more efficient than ever, while thanks to the generous equipment tally across all models, we have a distinctive and premium contender in what is still one of the most competitive segments in the UK car market”, said a Mazda spokesman. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ has confirmed that the EQE electric saloon will be unveiled at this year’s Munich Motor Show. The EQE will go on sale next year, slotting into the Mercedes line-up beneath the S-Class sized EQS and becoming an electric alternative to the E-Class. It’ll also become the first electric executive saloon from a German manufacturer, beating BMW and Audi to the punch. Mercedes’s new teaser image previews the rear three-quarters of the EQE, showing the electric saloon’s clean surfacing, swooping roofline and full-width LED light bar. However, most of the car’s design features remain hidden behind well-placed shadows and shading. The car’s interior is heavily influenced by the larger EQS, using a similar dashboard layout to the EQS, though the EQE may not use the same Hyperscreen full-dashboard infotainment system. We can see an integrated digital instrument cluster and portrait infotainment system. I also expect those blue lights around the dash and door cards will change colour depending on which driving mode the car is in. Mercedes’s design team will incorporate its EV styling language, which originated with the EQC SUV, into a lower, sleeker saloon. The EQE’s front end shares the same ultra-slim LED headlamps and blanked-off grille as the EQC. Its rear will be rather more conventional, albeit with some aerodynamically efficient tail lights, which have been designed to clean up the trailing air in the car’s wake, to reduce drag and improve the maximum range figure. The most notable element of the side profile, meanwhile, is an extremely short rear overhang – a sign of how Mercedes has tried to exploit EVA and the lack of a combustion engine by stretching the wheelbase to its limits in search of better cabin accommodation. No dimensions have been issued, but the EV layout means that the EQE could boast rear legroom comparable to that of the latest S-Class. The EQE will be based on Mercedes’s new Electric Vehicle Architecture (EVA); the same platform found under the EQS limo. In the EQS, with its long wheelbase, it supports a battery 107 kWh in size, with a maximum claimed range of 700 km on a single charge. EVA has been described by Christoph Starzysnki, vice-president for Electric Vehicle Architecture at Mercedes, as “fully scalable”. That means a downsized version of the platform with a smaller battery delivering around 500 to 600 km of real-world range, will support the EQE and a sister SUV with the same badging. Multiple motor configurations will be available, with buyers likely being offered a choice of single motor rear-wheel drive and dual-motor four-wheel-drive options, with a broad range of power outputs ranging from around 300 hp to more than 700 hp in the flagship AMG model. Mercedes has been working on an AMG-badged performance powertrain for the EQS saloon for some time now. In the larger saloon, it’ll produce 760 hp, but that figure could easily be dialled back for the smaller EQE saloon. Also, as both cars are based on the same platform, the motors should just bolt straight in. With regular, non-AMG versions of the EQE, Mercedes won’t chase BMW and Audi on driving dynamics. Our previously spied test mule looks quite softly sprung; the cornering shots revealing how much body roll the platform has, suggesting Mercedes is looking to prioritise comfort over dynamics. +++

+++ The MERCEDES-MAYBACH EQS SUV concept is to be revealed at this year’s Munich Motor Show. It is expected to morph into a flagship version of the upcoming EQS SUV. The concept is previewing how the company will carry its most luxurious brand into the electric era. Mercedes hasn’t announced the car’s name, but I expect it’ll be a concept version of the upcoming Maybach EQS SUV, which was recently teased by one of the brand’s executives. During the firm’s electrification conference, Britta Seeger, Mercedes’s head of marketing and sales, said: “Next year we will present SUV versions of our EQE as well as of our EQS. All these cars will provide high range, first-class comfort and impressive dynamics. And I can promise you that we will maintain this momentum going forward. What applies to the Mercedes portfolio also applies to our incredibly strong sub brands: we want to go electric. So, you can look forward to a top-notch EQS SUV version of Mercedes-Maybach, for example”. The announcement is supported by a teaser image showing the rear three-quarters of an SUV painted in trademark Maybach two-tone paint. There’s also a Maybach badge fixed to the car’s C-pillar as a further giveaway. Like most Maybach vehicles, we expect the Maybach EQS SUV will have a slightly different front end to the Mercedes it is based on, though how the company will interpret the large chrome grille with vertical slats seen on the latest Maybach GLS and S-Class models onto an electric car is unknown. Enormous alloy wheels and a lavishly appointed interior will form a part of the package, with items like captains chairs, a champagne cabinet and additional touch screens appearing for rear seat passengers. The Maybach EQS SUV should be based on the same EVA2 underpinnings as the EQS saloon and the standard EQS SUV, although it’s likely that Mercedes will only offer this flagship model with its most potent electric powertrains. I expect buyers will only be offered the EQS’s largest 107.9 kWh battery pack, which offers a maximum range of 700 km in the saloon. The Maybach SUV’s less aerodynamic shape will certainly make a dent in that figure, but a range of around 650 km should be possible. The EQS saloon’s 340 hp and 580 hp rear-wheel drive electric motors will also likely be shunned in favour of its 530 hp four-wheel drive powertrain. Mercedes is also working on an AMG-badged 760 hp four-wheel drive powertrain for the EQS, which would bolt straight into the Maybach EQS SUV. While this concept will show what to expect from an electric Maybach, we still have quite a wait on our hands before we see the production car in showrooms. Mercedes won’t unveil the standard EQS SUV until next year, which means this SUV won’t break cover properly until the end of 2022 at the earliest. +++



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