Newsflash: Mercedes stopt met stationwagons

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+++ AUDI ’s push towards a full-electric future started with the e-Tron, but that car is already being put under pressure, with higher-technology rivals being launched by the month. The e-Tron will fight back in 2022, though, with what the firm’s tech boss calls “a big update” on charging speed and range, plus a new name: Q8 e-Tron. The e-Tron is based on MLB Evo, a converted combustion-engined platform, and these compromises have been exposed, not only by competitors but also by the lower, sleeker e-Tron GT, which sits on a bespoke electric architecture shared with the Porsche Taycan. The forthcoming Q6 e-Tron, which sits on the next-gen PPE platform, is also likely to have a significant advantage over its larger sibling. However, Audi’s board member for technical development, Oliver Hoffman, has revealed that the e-Tron will get significant upgrades to its electrics and battery when it is facelifted in the second half of next year. “We are very clear: with the Q6 e-Tron we have D-segment, while the e-Tron is focusing on the E-segment”, Hoffman said. “The e-Tron really is a special car for Audi because it was really the pioneer of electric mobility for us. “So it’s important to keep the car fresh, and therefore we are developing a big update in terms of range and charging time”. Hoffman declined to discuss specific figures, but the increased energy density could allow Audi to beef up the maximum battery capacity to more than 100 kWh. This, combined with increased efficiency from its electric motors, could give the e-Tron range comfortably north of its current maximum (400 km). A figure of 500 km is almost certainly Audi’s target. The updated e-tron isn’t likely to match the Q6 e-Tron’s expected 350 kW recharging speed; that’s based on 800 volt technology that isn’t stitched into the existing model’s platform, but Hoffman’s admission that charging speeds will also be updated would indicate that an increase from the current 150 kW rate is part of the plan. The updates will allow the e-Tron and e-Tron Sportback to continue on sale for a conventional 7 year life cycle, before they are replaced by cars based on the Volkswagen Group’s forthcoming SSP architecture. Audi CEO Markus Duesmann has confirmed production of the e-Tron’s successor will commence in Brussels in 2026 and it will be called Q8 e-tron. However, Autointernationaal understands that Audi will now use the significant facelift being lined up for the e-Tron to introduce the name change earlier than first planned. Audi executives are keen to quickly align the rapidly growing e-Tron line-up along the brand’s traditional numerical naming convention, according to reports in the German automotive media. The facelifted e-tron will take on the Q8 e-Tron name, to end any potential confusion about the model’s positioning. +++

+++ The next generation BMW 5 Series is set to launch in 2023 and the Bavarian manufacturer has begun development work on the new M5 super saloon which will arrive a year later. The next BMW M5 will adopt a plug-in hybrid powertrain, which could be borrowed from the forthcoming XM super-SUV, which is rumoured to develop 750 hp. The styling of the new M5 will be a significant departure from the model it replaces. At the front, the kidney grille will grow and they will be flanked by a set of much smaller, narrower headlights with laser light technology. The lower grille arrangement will be wide and aggressive, and BMW will install what look to be fog lamps beneath the headlight clusters. The bonnet will be smooth and uncluttered by vents or scoops. As ever, the new M5 will use a wider track than the regular 5 Series for improved handling, hence the wheel arch extensions. The side sills will also be beefed up for a sportier stance, but the surfacing will be smooth along the car’s flanks, with minimal body lines and flush-fitting door handles. As with its forebears, the new M5 is fitted with a set of quad tailpipes housed within a deeply sculpted rear bumper, and the tail light units look to be much smaller than before. BMW has again used riveted panels to shield what looks to be a small lip spoiler. The new M5 could receive the same hybrid powertrain as the upcoming XM flagship, which is set for release this year. The SUV will probably utilise the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 from the current most powerful BMW (the M5 CS) combined with a hybrid system from the X5 xDrive45e PHEV. This would provide a total of 750 hp and a torque output of around 1.000 Nm is expected. The hybrid system will also enable electric-only running for the first time in an M5. The X5 xDrive45e can travel 85 km in EV mode and the M5 could improve on this figure with lower weight and improved aerodynamics. The new M5 will continue to be four-wheeldrive, with a selection of drive modes to alter the system’s torque delivery. A dual-clutch gearbox is unlikely, with BMW shifting from DCTs to traditional automatics with the current M3, M4 and M5. An uprated version of the current car’s 8-speed automatic is expected, to cope with the extra torque of the new car. The M5’s cabin will be all-new and borrowed from next year’s 5 Series, featuring BMW’s iDrive 8 infotainment system. This combines a 14.9 inch central touchscreen with a 12.3 inch digital instrument panel beneath a single piece of curved glass, with features such as 5G connectivity and an augmented reality navigation system. The new M5 is expected to go on sale in 2024. +++

+++ The unveiling of the Airflow Concept at last week’s CES marks CHRYSLER ’s clear commitment to an electric future. The Stellantis brand has pledged to build its first electric vehicle in 2025 and to become an all-electric automaker by 2028. In the wake of the Airflow Concept’s debut, Chrysler CEO Christine Feuell has revealed more details about the brand’s future EV lineup. For starters, Feuell says it’s a “certainty” that the brand will have more offerings in 2028 than its 3 nameplates today (the 300, the Pacifica and then fleet-only Voyager). The sleek Airflow electric crossover concept provides a glimpse at what’s ahead, although Chrysler has refrained from openly saying that it previews the production electric crossover planned for a 2025 launch. Actually, Feuell said the Airflow Concept itself would not go into production. She wasn’t ready to commit to using the Airflow name, either. However, the CEO admitted that Chrysler’s first production EV will borrow a lot of the Airflow Concept’s styling and technology. Scheduled to debut in 2025, the EV will be built on the STLA Large platform, as will all of Chrysler’s upcoming products. If the Airflow Concept is anything to go by, the electric crossover will have a 118 kWh battery pack enabling a range of 550 – 650 km. After the Airflow-like production car arrives, Chrysler will follow up with “1 or 2” more electric SUVs. While Feuell wouldn’t go into detail, one of the new vehicles is likely to be a full-size 3-row SUV, seeing as the Airflow-like vehicle will be a midsize electric crossover with two rows of seats. One should not rule out a 3-row midsize model either. What about an all-electric Chrysler MPV, though? Feuell says that despite being eclipsed by booming SUV sales, MPVs are still important to the brand and will endure the EV transition. Don’t expect just an electrified Pacifica, though. Feuell wants to see a “fresh perspective” on what an MPV can be, a vehicle that works for and appeals to any type of family, not just the outdated “soccer mom” stereotype. She didn’t provide a timeframe for the next-generation minivan, which she likes to call a “multi-purpose vehicle”, but with the Pacifica still in its fifth year, a successor will probably arrive after Chrysler’s planned electric SUVs. The future may not be as favourable to the 300 saloon; when asked directly, Feuell did not confirm or deny a next-generation 300. The current model will bow out in 2024 along with its platform siblings, the Dodge Charger and Challenger. But while the Dodge models will be replaced by a new EV muscle car in 2024 (also built on the STLA Large platform), the 300 might not get a successor. +++

+++ LOTUS has confirmed further expansion of its United Kingdom footprint with the opening of a new design centre in Warwickshire, which will come online early in 2022. The Lotus Tech Creative Centre is the new name for parent company Geely’s existing UK design studio, and the centre will be responsible for leading the design direction of some of the new Lotus models planned for the coming years. This new LTCC will be responsible for steering the direction of models outside the brand’s traditional remit of sports cars, and will be led by automotive designer Ben Payne, formerly of Bugatti and Aston Martin. As such, the upcoming Type 132 SUV (the first such model in the brand’s history) has been designed by the team at the LTCC, and will be revealed in the spring. The LTCC will also be Geely’s lead design studio for further Lotus ‘lifestyle’ models, including the Type 133 four-door coupe and the Type 134, which will be a smaller, crossover-sized SUV to sit beneath the Type 132. The LTCC’s remit goes beyond exterior design. It will also set the tone for the interiors of future Lotus models, and will also work on user interface and experience projects. Materials that will trim future Lotus models will also be selected by a colour, materials and finish team based at the site. Lotus’s design team at Hethel will continue to work on sports car design and development, and the team at the brand’s Norfolk base will also work in ‘close collaboration’ with the teams designing lifestyle models in Warwickshire. +++

+++ MAZDA has filed a series of patent images for a new, electrically assisted rotary engine, adding a little more credence to the rumour that the Japanese brand will soon revive its RX-badged, rotary-powered sports car lineage. The last rotary-powered sports car from Mazda was the RX-8. It was pulled from the showrooms back in 2012, but the company has since teased the powertrain’s return with the RX-Vision concept. The unconventional engine will also make a return later this year as a range-extender in certain versions of the electric MX-30 SUV. Mazda’s latest patent drawings show a new 3-rotor wankel engine, meaning the engine in this sketch has 1 rotor more than the old RX-8’s powertrain. That, coupled with the company’s new hybrid system, should provide a healthy boost in power over the previous RX model’s 231 hp output. These patent images also preview a new transaxle gearbox, likely designed to help with the car’s weight distribution. In this application, the engine’s power is transferred to a gearbox mounted on the rear axle via a torque tube. Mazda hasn’t yet confirmed what platform the new rotary engine will be bolted to. However, the current front runner looks to be the company’s upcoming Large Architecture, which was designed to suit the brand’s new range of 6-cylinder hybrid powertrains. Both 48 Volt mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology have already been engineered for the platform. There should also be plenty of room to house the larger 3-rotor engine up front, as the space it occupies is about the same as a conventional 6-cylinder petrol engine. +++

+++ Although stationwagons have been a staple of MERCEDES ’ range for decades, the German automaker has reportedly lost faith in the body style and will ditch all of them from its lineup by 2030. The CLA Shooting Brake will disappear from the Mercedes lineup in 2025 with no successor to follow it. The E-Class will apparently be the last holdout, but by 2030, a new E-class will have arrived offering no stationwagon variants. The move comes as Mercedes looks to streamline its offerings because of the big investments it’s making in electric vehicles. As it dumps money into the development of entirely new platforms that will help it maintain an edge in the marketplace of the future, the humble wagon will apparently be left by the side of the road. Mercedes is working on alternatives to please those customers who want something more practical and suggests that a high-riding SUV-sedan may be the solution. Combining the advantages of an SUV with the design of a car, the vehicle can better hide batteries and lends itself to the imperious size demanded by customers these days. The rumor is a little surprising since Porsche seems to have successfully produced a stationwagon variant for its first electric vehicle, the Taycan Cross Turismo. Enthusiasts have also gone mad for the Audi’s RS6 Avant and the first-ever BMW M3 Touring. Even if enthusiasts are more interested in talking about wagons than they are in buying them, and even if SUVs are the popular option, we can’t help but hope Mercedes changes its mind. +++

+++ MITSUBISHI confirmed in 2021 that it’ll return to motorsport by reviving the Ralliart brand and these new cars are our best look yet at how the brand is planning to bring some sporting aesthetic to its production cars. Due to be exhibited at the 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon, the Ralliart cars consist of 3 SUVs; the Outlander Ralliart Style, Eclipse Cross Ralliart Style and Vision Ralliart Concept. The Outlander and Eclipse-based concepts should look the most familiar to European motorists. The Vision Ralliart Concept is based on the Outlander and features wheelarch extensions, a new grille and diffuser as well as 22 inch wheels, large brake discs and opposed-piston 6-pot brake calipers. Unfortunately, the brakes and wheels appear to be the only mechanical upgrade. Mitsubishi’s Outlander and Eclipse Ralliart Style will probably be a little disappointing for those wishing for something to replace the Lancer Evolution X. Tweaks are limited to Ralliart accessories, with red accents, black wheels, side decals and Ralliart-badged mud flaps. Ralliart has a rich history of motorsport, competing in a multitude of disciplines but most famously winning the four World Rally Championships with Tommi Makinen at the wheel of various generations of the Lancer Evolution. As Mitsubishi looks to return to racing, fans will probably be hoping for more motorsport influence in the Ralliart-badged cars. +++

+++ SUBARU has launched an updated version of the Forester, which features some extra safety technology, a little more standard equipment and some mechanical changes that the company says has improved the car’s ride and handling. The revised SUV will soon wade into battle with segment favourites such as the Mazda CX-5 and the Skoda Karoq. Subaru is yet to confirm prices for the tweaked Forester, but I’m expecting a marginal increase over the outgoing car’s starting price at the most. Subaru’s biggest update for the Forester is the addition of its fourth-generation EyeSight driver-assistance technology. All of the system’s sensors now have a wider field of view and there are now an extra 3 functions: automatic emergency steering, lane-departure prevention and adaptive cruise control with lane centring. Buyers also get an upgraded version of the Forester’s driver-monitoring system. Now, there’s a gesture control function that allows the driver to adjust the climate control by waving their hand, and the system can still automatically adjust the seat position and mirrors simply by recognising the driver’s face with its interior camera. On the chassis front, Subaru has replaced all of the Forester’s coil springs, which it says has smoothed out the car’s ride and improved its handling. As before, four-wheel drive comes as standard, and every variant gets torque-vectoring differentials. Like the smaller XV, the Forester now gets Subaru’s e-Active Shift Control system, which automatically senses when the car is driving down a winding back road using G-meters, and adjusts the gearbox shift pattern to make the car feel more agile. Subaru’s engineers have fiddled with the SUV’s hill descent-control system, too. Now, it only releases the handbrake once the accelerator is pressed, and it re-engages the moment the driver takes their foot off the pedal. The updated Forester is powered by the same 2.0-litre 4-cylinder boxer engine as the previous model, and has an identical output of 150 hp and 194 Nm of torque. The engine is assisted by a small 16 hp electric motor that can drive the car on electric power alone for about one mile, at up to 40 kph. The revisions are rounded off by a handful of styling and functionality tweaks. The Forester’s front end has been redesigned, with a new radiator grille, new surrounds for the fog lamps and slightly rejigged headlamps. Meanwhile, there’s some new cargo hooks for the boot to make sure buyers can take full advantage of the SUV’s 509-litre boot. Lastly, there’s a choice of three new paint finishes, called Cascade Green Silica, Brilliant Bronze Metallic and Autumn Green Metallic. +++

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