Newsflash: Maserati gaat Grecale ook als extra potente Trofeo leveren

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+++ Remember when BMW used to have only one SUV, the X5? Those days are long gone as the “X” family has blossomed to include no fewer than 7 members, plus the fully electric iX3 and iX along with the long-wheelbase X1 for China. Spy shots have revealed yet another (pseudo) high-riding is on its way, tentatively called X8 M or a Citroën-esque XM if we are to rely on a recent report. The flagship SUV has been indirectly mentioned this week by BMW chairman Oliver Zipse in an interview. Without disclosing the model’s identity, the 57-year-old executive briefly talked about “another high-end car” that will be announced towards the end of the year before entering production at the Spartanburg plant. The manufacturing facility in South Carolina is where most BMW SUVs call home as the X3 through X6 models are built there together with their M versions and the flagship X7, which has also spawned an Alpina XB7. As for the upcoming product, Zipse said it won’t replace an existing product as it will be a new addition to the lineup: “brand-new model, high-end for the American market but also for the world market”. Allegedly carrying the “Project Rockstar” codename, the new X8 M / XM is rumoured to feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 engine and an electric motor to deliver a combined output of roughly 750 hp. I’m hearing the same PHEV setup is earmarked for the next-generation M5. As far as styling is concerned, spy shots of camouflaged prototypes are quite worrying, although it’s best to wait for the disguise to come off before judging the SUV’s appearance. We do know it will have stacked quad exhausts, split headlights, and a slightly more sloped roofline compared to the X7. Whether it will keep the latter’s third row is not known, but if BMW wants the X8 M / XM to be its most athletic SUV to date, it might forgo the rearmost seats to shave off some weight. That would make sense since the sheer size of this thing along with the V8 PHEV setup suggest it will be quite a porker. Likely coming for the 2023 model year, the new range-topping BMW SUV will easily cost more than €200.000 in The Netherlands. +++

+++ Back in July, MASERATI revealed that there will be three trim levels for its lineup for the 2022 model year and beyond. The trim levels are called GT, Modena, and Trofeo, which will be available for all of its cars. And yes, the upcoming Grecale crossover will also have these trim levels, including the hot Trofeo trim. This was confirmed to The Drive by William Peffer, CEO of Maserati North America, which looks to be optimistic about what the Grecale is supposed to bring to the table when it makes its global debut in November. That said, the Grecale is looking piped up to go against its rivals, including the Porsche Macan and its hotter Macan GTS trim. To challenge Stuttgart, we could see the Grecale Trofeo powered by the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 from the Maserati MC20. This mill makes 621 hp and 729 Nm of torque in the supercar, so it’s possible that it will be detuned for the more practical SUV. Another engine option would be a 2.0-litre mild-hybrid powertrain. Of note, these engine options are yet to be confirmed, but Maserati has confirmed that an all-electric version will arrive later following Maserati’s previous announcement. Slotted below the Maserati Levante SUV, the Grecale will arrive as a compact SUV, expanding the profitable segment in hopes to fortify the automaker’s strategy, including the inevitable electrification. Also part of the strategy is the renaming of trim levels, with the GT trim representing the brand’s “more urban, minimal, and contemporary spirit”; Modena for those looking for a balance of “innate elegance, dynamism, and fun-to-drive”; and Trofeo representing the top of the range and the sportiest of the bunch. +++

+++ MERCEDES is preparing for a product push quite unlike any other in the brand’s history, with fresh coupés, convertibles, people carriers, mega off-roaders, hypercars, hyper-luxury cars, plus plug-in hybrid and fully electric AMG models all on the horizon. However, one of the most important models in this huge rollout will be the next-generation Mercedes GLC, previewed in our exclusive main image and due in the UK next year. In 2020, SUVs accounted for 43 % of all Mercedes sales globally and the Audi Q5-rivalling GLC is the brand’s best-selling SUV. As such, away from the headline-grabbing announcements and revolutionary new models, vehicles such as the GLC remain core to the brand’s business; and it’s a car many people new to the marque find themselves buying. This fresh version may well be the last GLC developed on a combustion-engine chassis, using the Modular Rear Architecture 2 (MRA2) platform shared with the latest C-Class and S-Class saloons. 4-cylinder petrol and diesel power supported by 48 volt electrics, and a significant new plug-in hybrid model with a far larger battery than the outgoing GLC 300 e’s, will see the model electrified further than it has ever been. Joining the evolutionary styling will be a totally revamped interior. It’ll come with a cabin overhaul similar to that of the C-Class, using the brand’s latest portrait-style MBUX infotainment system. But while the next GLC will aim to make a splash in a market space that’s safe territory for Mercedes, much of what’s in development behind the scenes at the brand’s HQ will see the brand go down unexplored paths, as well as revisit old ideas with new impetus. We’ll start seeing some of these fresh models in new sectors very soon: as soon as September’s Munich Motor Show, in fact. And it looks like Mercedes is on for a bumper 2022. One of these new models has already been revealed. The new C-Class All-Terrain sees Mercedes venture into the off-road-ready compact-exec estate market with a rival for the longstanding Audi A4 Allroad. It’ll be on sale towards the end of 2021 or early 2022. This is not the only new Mercedes built for off-road capability that is set to be introduced in the coming months. A new G 4×42 is being readied for introduction in early 2022, and it’s been caught testing several times by spy photographers. The format looks similar to that of the previous version of the luxury monster truck, transformed by the fitment of portal axles and huge off-road tyres that enable massive ground clearance. The new car will benefit from the latest G-Class’s updated platform and driver technology, alongside its serious off-road assistance systems. We’ll see an electric stablemate for the regular G-Class, too, although not until 2024. Mercedes has confirmed that it intends to turn its off-road legend fully electric, and the EQG nameplate has been trademarked. Technical details are unknown for now, but it’s thought the brand will electrify the current car’s ladder chassis, rather than turn to a purpose-made EV platform such as the new EVA system under the EQS limo. The brand is likely to preview this EQG with a concept much sooner than its anticipated 2024 release. Of course, electric cars will make up the bulk of introductions over the next few years, and we’ll see the next new EQ model very soon indeed: the E-Class sized EQE. It’ll be revealed at the Munich show in September and will be on sale in early 2022, packing the battery and motor technology used in the new EQS flagship into a smaller, executive saloon-sized package. Teaser images suggest very similar styling to that of the EQS, while the EVA platform’s scalability means that a shorter wheelbase will accommodate a smaller and more affordable battery pack than the huge 107kWh set-up used in Mercedes’ largest EV. Electric SUVs are in vogue, and that’s why we’ll see three new Mercedes models in this sector by the end of 2022. The first will be the EQB:  a compact SUV based on the small but versatile GLB. This car has already been revealed for the Chinese market with a range of 400 km on a full charge and seating for up to seven. The European version will be on sale in early 2022. Following this GLB will be 2 electric SUVs built on the brand’s fit-for-purpose EVA platform. The EQE and EQS saloons will gain SUV stablemates by the end of 2022, integrating both the drivetrain and cabin technology of their lower-riding namesakes. The EQS SUV will most likely become the longest-range electric SUV on the market, with a slightly downgraded estimate on the EQS saloon’s official 484 miles. It will also aspire to be the most luxurious electric car on the planet, because the EQS SUV will gain a Maybach version come 2023. We’ll see a concept previewing this model shortly, but the transformation will likely be in keeping with that of the Maybach GLS compared with the regular version of the brand’s flagship SUV: bespoke styling and badging, unique touches in a finely crafted cabin, and with two full-size seats in the rear. Alongside the electrification of Maybach, the AMG performance division will push on with full EVs and hybrids in the near future. We’ll see the first fully electric model later this year, in the form of the EQS AMG, tipped to take on the Tesla Model S Plaid with up to 751bhp from an AWD electric powertrain. We’ll also see a plug-in hybrid version of the brand’s Porsche Panamera-rivalling AMG GT 4-door on sale in early 2022. Combining battery, electric motor and 4.0-litre V8 turbo, power will step up to 804bhp, with 0-100 kph in as little as three seconds and zero-emissions running possible. Similar technology will be used in the next C 63 saloon and estate. It’ll drop V8 power in favour of a development of the A 45’s 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol turbo combined with an electric motor, as it targets at least 500 hp from both power sources combined. One AMG hybrid we’ve seen for some time now (but not in production form) is the AMG One hypercar. It uses a version of the 1.6-litre V6 hybrid turbo used in Mercedes’ all-conquering 2016 Formula One car, with 1.000 hp and modified to enable pure-electric running. Teething troubles have delayed its arrival, but we should see it on roads in 2022. AMG has been busily working on a model launching within the core Mercedes brand, too: the next-generation SL, which will be revealed towards the end of 2021 and go on sale next year. It will be an altogether sportier affair than the old model, using an AMG-developed platform that will be shared with the next-generation AMG GT. The SL 43 version will make use of a 3.0-litre turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, with the SL 63 adopting the well known 4.0-litre V8 turbo from other AMG-badged models. And it’s not the only convertible model on the horizon. Breaking cover in 2023 will be a car with a new name, the CLE. Also coming as a coupé, this will cover fresh ground for Mercedes as a bridge between the C and E-Class convertible and coupé models, replacing both to reduce complexity in the line-up. It means that Mercedes is poised to limit the next-gen E-Class, also due in 2023, to saloon and estate bodies only. And CLE isn’t the only new badge that will be appearing in the near future. The brand also has plans to introduce a T-Class line-up in 2022, which will be a van-based MPV based on the same platform as the latest Renault Kangoo. As with the Renault, Mercedes is planning an all-electric version,  the EQT, which has already been previewed in concept form. This will be launched towards the end of next year. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG has previewed a plug-in hybrid version of the GT63 4-Door Coupé ahead of its public debut at the Munich motor show. The front end of the new range-topping performance saloon was pictured on social media along with the confirmation that it will be unwrapped in full on 1 September, just before the show. The ‘GT73e’ will be the first in a series of new plug-in hybrid Mercedes-AMG models. It will be driven by an uprated version of the GT63’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, mated to an electric motor that’s said to provide a “significant” performance boost. AMG sources previously told that the GT73e’s electric motor alone will offer up to 204 hp and 400 Nm, for a total output figure of over 800 hp. The engine, which produces 639 hp and 900 Nm in the GT 63 S, is said to offer “previously unattained levels of power and torque” for a road-going four-door AMG in its electrified form. The model will serve as a rival to the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid and command a premium over the current, non-electrified GT63, with prices likely to start upwards of €250.000 in the Netherlands. It will also be a spiritual successor to the AMG’s debut model, the 300CE Hammer, which helped build the firm’s reputation as a builder of uprated large saloons with supercar pace. The model’s P3 PHEV system will also be used by top-rung versions of the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the upcoming Merdedes-AMG SL grand tourer, as well as underpinning the petrol-electric successor to the Merdedes-AMG C63 4Matic, where it will be used in combination with a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, rather than a large-capacity V8. +++

+++ The new NISSAN Z debuted just last week, and there weren’t many surprises. The Z Proto set expectations, and the production version appears to exceed them. It has slick exterior styling, a new powertrain, and a revised interior even if the underpinnings are carried over from the current 370Z, with modifications, of course. In a new interview, Nissan Z chief engineer Hiroshi Tamura described the car as a “dance partner”. Though it’s not a potent powerhouse, the new Z has considerably more power than the outgoing model. Under the bonnet is a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine delivering 400 hp and 475 Nm. Tamura told the publication that the car isn’t “chasing” numbers, and it’s not too concerned with zero to 100 times. The important thing about driving the new Z to Tamura is enjoying the “conversation with the car.” You should look elsewhere if you’re looking for a pure numbers machine. Nissan did a lot to improve the car’s underpinnings and, subsequently, the handling. The automaker increased the car’s structural rigidity, tweaked the suspension, and added electronic power steering. A six-speed manual is standard, which will certainly help spark conversation between the driver and the car. A 9-speed automatic is optional, as is a limited-slip differential. Nissan says the new Z is 15 % quicker to 60, with a 13 % increase in cornering Gs. As exciting as the new Nissan Z is, we’ll be waiting for it to hit showrooms. The automaker hasn’t said when it’d go on sale, though it’s a 2023 model-year vehicle, so it’ll likely arrive sometime next summer. That seems like a safe estimate considering the current supply chain issues affecting a large portion of the auto industry. Pricing information is still elusive, though Nissan executives told us that it would start at around $40,000. Unfortunately, as previously reported, the Z will not be offered in Europe. +++

+++ The world’s largest SEMI CONDUCTOR manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), is rumoured to be raising its prices by as much as 20%, dealing a further blow to a beleaguered car industry. TSMC is planning to increase costs for its most advanced chips by 10%, while less advanced items more commonly used in cars will rise by 20%. The price increase is set to come in either later in 2021 or in 2022. Autointernationaal approached TSMC for comment but the company declined to confirm or deny the reports, saying: “TSMC does not comment on pricing, nor market rumours”. The news comes off the back of many car makers being forced to scale back production to cope with a lack of semiconductors. Toyota was the latest to announce significant cuts to factory output, reducing its worldwide production levels for September. According to reports, the Japanese company intends to build 540.000 vehicles next month, 40 % down on its initial target of 900.000. In all, 27 of its 28 production lines across 14 factories in Japan will be affected, with plants in the US, Europe and Asia also facing disruption. However, Toyota has confirmed to Autocar that its UK facilities in Burnaston and Deeside “are currently operating as planned” and shouldn’t be affected. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it could lose 50 % of its capacity, while Nissan, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover have also said they will reduce factory output. Even companies that had a larger stockpile of parts, such as Toyota, are now starting to feel the pinch. +++

+++ Harald Kröger, member of the board of management for Bosch, one of the automotive industry’s largest suppliers, believes that the SEMI CONDUCTOR supply chain for the automotive industry is no longer sufficient to supply its needs regardless of the impacts of Covid-19. Although the pandemic is what led to the current shortage of semiconductor chips, Kröger told that automakers have to talk with suppliers about fundamentally changing how the supply chain is managed. “As a team, we need to sit together and ask, for the future operating system is there a better way to have longer lead times”, he said. “I think what we need is more stock on some parts of the supply chain because some of those semiconductors need 6 months to be produced. You cannot run on a system where every 2 weeks you get an order. That doesn’t work”. As cars become smarter and smarter, the pressure on the supply chain is only expected to grow. Francois-Xavier Bouvignies, a UBS analyst, told that cars with internal combustion engines typically require around $80 worth of semiconductors. Electric vehicles, meanwhile, use around $550 worth of the parts, or nearly 7 times more. Bosch is building a €1 billion semiconductor plant in Dresden, construction on which started last week. As Kröger points out, though, the fact that the company started planning the plant a few years ago shows that they were expecting a boom in semiconductor demand. Although Intel and TSMC are also building new plants to boost production, Kröger expects chip supply to remain low until “way into 2022” because the companies building them need time to ramp up supplies in order to fulfill demand. Indeed, the semiconductor shortage has been particularly severe this summer, with automakers around the world slashing production and cutting features as they deal with the supply issues. And as almost every automaker plans to make the switch to electric, the demand on the global semiconductor supply chain is sure to become greater. +++

+++ TOYOTA is grounding all e-Palette self-driving vehicles currently operating within the athlete’s village at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. The decision follows an accident in which one of the vehicles ran into a visually impaired pedestrian. In a statement, Toyota apologized to the pedestrian, a paralympic athlete. Reuters reports that the vehicle was driving at only 1 or 2 km/h when it struck the pedestrian, who remained conscious and was promptly taken to the athlete village medical center for treatment. Fortunately, they were able to walk back to their residence. According to Toyota, the vehicle was at a T junction and about to turn under the control of the operator when the vehicle struck the athlete who was using the pedestrian crossing. Despite apparently being under manual control, the e-Palette is capable of driving fully autonomously. Toyota said that it is suspending the use of all e-Palettes and is fully cooperating with the police investigation into the incident. It will also conduct its own investigation into the causes of the accident. In a video, Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda apologized for the incident and said that it shows the challenge of developing self-driving vehicles. According to Toyoda, “it shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads”. He added that the athlete is still set to compete at their event on Saturday. +++

+++ WAYMO , a self-driving taxi company backed by Google, will no longer sell its light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors to outside companies, reversing a previous business strategy. The company says it will instead focus on its self-driving technology. “We’re winding down our commercial lidar business as we maintain our focus on developing and deploying our Waymo Driver across our Waymo One (ride-hailing) and Waymo Via (delivery) units”, a Waymo spokesperson told in a statement. Although the company will continue build its own LiDAR sensors in-house for now, it will no longer sell them to non-automotive customers. The company had hoped to use the sale of the sensors as a revenue stream to help bring down the costs of developing self-driving technology. Farther down the line, the company may rethink its LiDAR business completely. An unnamed source told that although Waymo is still considering building next-generation LiDAR equipment, it is also considering buying them from an external supplier. In 2019, the company said that it had customers for its LiDAR sensors in the fields of robotics, farming, and others, but no rival self-driving car companies, such as Cruise Automation or Argo AI, which are backed by General Motors and Ford, respectively. It has not been made clear, however, if Waymo was ever able to meaningfully offset the cost of developing autonomous tech by selling sensors. The company announced this week, though, that it will begin offering customers in San Francisco rides in self-driving vehicles through a pilot program called “Trusted Tester.” The service gives people rides in an autonomous Jaguar I-Pace with a human operator for safety on the condition that they provide feedback and sign a non-disclosure agreement. The service follows a similar pilot program from Waymo in Arizona. +++

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