Newsflash: lot Mazda 6 is onzeker


+++ BENTLEY will add a fifth car to its line-up on 10 May and cryptic teasers given by the brand suggest it will be a new long-wheelbase version of its Bentayga. An extended version of the SUV has been on the cards since 2016, when company bosses told that the model’s sales success had prompted internal discussion about various new derivatives. Mooted were a coupé version, a limited-edition high-performance model (which we now know as the W12 engined Bentayga Speed) and a long-wheelbase version, which has been testing in camouflage on public roads since 2020. Bentley has not confirmed whether the new model arriving next month is this extended-wheelbase Bentayga, but references to a “long-awaited” new model and its engineers and craftspeople going to “new lengths” certainly suggest that’s the case. Adding “an extra dimension of on-board wellness”, this will be the fifth model in the Bentayga line-up, joining the standard V8 car, the V6 plug-in hybrid, the firmed-up Bentayga S and the range-topping Speed. No details have been released yet on pricing or specifications. However, these are expected to be announced during the full reveal on 10 May. The new model is expected to command a healthy premium over the standard Bentayga, although it remains to be seen whether it will be offered with the same array of engines. Bentley said: “The company’s designers, engineers and craftspeople have gone to new lengths to combine luxury, technology and performance in a way that only Bentley can deliver. With an extra dimension of on-board wellness, the new model will sit in sumptuous comfort at the pinnacle of its range and deliver a breadth of capabilities beyond anything previously offered”. This follows on from the news that Bentley will be releasing 5 electric cars from 2025 as part of its Beyond100 plan to become an electric-only carbon-neutral brand by 2030. +++

+++ Ex-Aston Martin designer Miles Nurnberger’s arrival at DACIA coincided with the unveiling of the new Jogger and came shortly after a radical transformation plan for the marque was detailed as part of parent company the Renault Group’s Renaulution strategy. Speaking on an array of topics, including the brand’s future designs, concept cars, and the car maker’s “wonderful” simplicity, Nurnberger gave the first clues of what to expect as Dacia embraces its new identity and turns to electrification. Question: When will we see your influence on Dacia’s cars? Answer: “It’ll be years yet for production cars. The majority of my job is spent worrying about cars coming 4 years down the line; or even as long as a decade. But I have been able to have some influence on the next big model programs we’ve got coming before that; more about the execution of them rather than conception. Just being able to ‘squeeze the lemon’ on them, really”. Q: How was the transition from your previous role at Aston Martin? A: “Everything’s the same and everything’s different. I feel a bit like an F1 driver who’s moved teams. His job is still basically to turn a steering wheel; and my approach to design hasn’t changed. But the terminologies, and all the interactions I need to have, are so different. Dacia is part of a bigger group, so it makes strategic decisions in a different way than Aston did. I’ve had to understand how the machine works here. My first 3 months were all about understanding the strengths and weaknesses in our design team. I’m happy to say there were more of the former! We’ve got a great foundation, and I’ve been able to strengthen the team, bringing in new heads of Advanced Design and Colour and Materials who both joined us in January”. Q: Will we see a Miles Nurnburger concept car to start a new era? A: “You might. The brand’s gone through incredible evolution. Luca de Meo’s ‘Renaulution’ plan has now given Dacia its own dedicated design team, which it never had before. Our culture is growing; and I’d say that culture, and the concept you’re talking about, is now mine to be guardian of. We have a proper brand mindset now. That will quite naturally lead us to progress, and to make new design statements”. Q: How is working with Laurens van den Acker and Gilles Vidal? “It’s great. Laurens lived at the end of my street when we both lived in California and worked for different parts of Ford. Gilles was my boss back at PSA 15 years ago. Their qualities as designers was definitely an attraction for me, and they’re both people I already knew I could work well alongside”. Q: How do you feel the group’s commitment to design is now compared with decades ago? A: “Renault has always been a quiet powerhouse for design, but it feels like there’s a new emphasis on design throughout the group now, on design as a differentiator. Luca is definitely a design enthusiast: very literate and perceptive. But there are other key design facilitators throughout the organisation, too, like engineering boss Gilles Le Borgne. When I ask him for great proportions in cars, he will deliver them, because he understands why I’m asking and why the customer wants them”. Q: Where do you think design ranks as a motivator for a Dacia buyer? A: “Right now, price, value and functionality all outrank it. So for us, being pragmatic is very important. But our customers are surprisingly emotional, too. Some of them rank design number one already. But that doesn’t mean we need to start doing design for its own sake. We need to be honest and authentic in what we give; there will be no flamboyance. Clean, friendly, readable designs will always shine, a bit like the sort of cars Land Rover used to make. Simplicity is a wonderful theme for us”. Q: Can you develop Dacia design without moving the brand upmarket? A: “Of course. We all naturally associate better design with more expensive products, but actually it’s a phoney equivalence. And in terms of the process, you often get the best ideas when you tighten the purse strings, reduce the component count and complexity, and end up with more elegant, functional solutions”. Q: How do you feel about retro car design? A: “It’s not part of my vocabulary at Dacia. There’s a mood for it elsewhere in the group, and the Renault 5 production car is super nice, but if you’re doing retro, it should be more about recapturing a feeling than making a visual pastiche of something. I have no problem being romantic about old ideas spun in new ways, but it’s not my go-to place. I’d much rather be progressive”. Q: How do you give a cheap compact car kerbside appeal? Is there a trick to it? A: “You need good proportions. That means you don’t need to tart up a design with bad stance or long overhangs. Beyond that, I’d say we express our character, keep things neat and simple, but not go down the Russian-doll route”. Q: Can you lower Dacia’s entry price in Europe with an A-segment city car? A: “They’ve become very difficult to do, but it’s an interesting challenge. We could look at it. There’s definitely still a place for those cars, even though government policy isn’t really for lightweight hatchbacks with efficient engines at the moment. Cars like this are fundamentally important to us. We’re a popular brand and we have to remain accessible”. Q: Do you feel restricted by Renault Group platform strategy, or enabled by it? A: “CMF-B (the Jogger/Sandero platform) is a remarkably flexible thing. I’ve been surprised by what it’s ready to do. It’s our foundation. But I’m also finding that we can lead new platform development now; we’re an equal partner when it comes to new technologies”. Q: You’re trading a lot on rugged design at the moment. Is that trend going to continue? A: “There are many ways to do rugged. It fits the brand well. It’ll work on EVs too. And you can make robust-looking cars that are also dynamic-looking, so we can have bandwidth within our model range. The spirit of adventure is what matters”. +++

+++ MAZDA is deploying its new rear-driven platform and straight-6 engines for the CX-60 and 3 more models to follow, but a production version of the firm’s admired Vision Coupé concept looks increasingly unlikely, 5 years after its reveal, and it’s no surprise that SUVs are to blame. The Vision Coupé was revealed at the Tokyo motor show in 2017 as a flagbearer for the marque’s new Kodo design language, which has since been deployed on a raft of production models including the MX-30, the 3 and the all-new CX-60. It followed in the footsteps of 2015’s more performance-oriented RX Vision concept, and similarly promoted the Japanese firm’s ‘less is more ethos’. The firm never categorically said it planned to put the concept into production, but it was thought to closely preview the next-generation 6 saloon, which was due to take on the BMW 5 Series with a new range of inline-6 engines. But now, Mazda has shifted focus to developing more popular SUV models in the vein of its new CX-60; the first model in its line-up to use the natively rear-driven architecture, dashing hopes for a low-slung, rakish saloon to rival 5-door coupés in the vein of the Volkswagen Arteon and Mercedes-Benz CLA. Mazda Europe’s Joachim Kunz said: “This SUV trend is continuing, and even more for Mazda. It’s what’s selling best. It would be very nice to have the front-engine, rear-driven concept and 6-cylinder engine for a 6 successor or a large sports coupé. We would like to have it, but at this point in time, it’s most important to sell SUVs”. Kunz’s remarks raise questions about the likelihood of a successor to today’s 6, which was launched in 2012 and heavily updated in 2018. Mazda has confirmed 2 new models to follow the CX-60 into European dealerships: the rotary-powered range-extender version of the MX-30 and the 7-seat version of the CX-60, which will wear the CX-80 badge. Meanwhile, it will launch the wider CX-70 and CX-90 SUVs, also atop the rear-drive architecture, on the North American market. Specific details of future models have not been confirmed beyond these 5 SUV models, but the new platform can also support transverse engines and a front-wheel-drive drivetrain for smaller models, perhaps paving the way for successors to today’s Mazda 2 supermini and Mazda 3 hatchback. +++

+++ MINI has stopped production of all model variants with a manual gearbox. The manufacturer cited supply-chain constraints as the main cause for the decision, these having been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and the global semiconductor shortage. Production therefore stalled, it told Autocar, and due to this, plus increased customer demand, a decision to halt production of manual cars was taken to “ensure production stability”. Mini hasn’t yet confirmed if this decision will be permanent. Before this decision, all of its models were available to buy with a manual gearbox, bar the Mini Electric. The company said: “Current circumstances, including the war in Ukraine and semiconductor shortages, are causing supply chain restrictions across the global automotive industry. In order to secure maximum production output to meet increasing customer demand, our product offer needs to be simplified. This solution is the most effective way to ensure production stability so that we can continue to supply all our customers with new Minis”. Earlier this year, the Mini factory in Oxford was forced to shut down by a shortage of parts caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Other car makers forced to slow production because of war-related shortages included Mini parent company BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Skoda and Volkswagen. +++

+++ The MINI COUNTRYMAN Plug-In Hybrid made an outstanding performance in the Moose Test; a test that aims to simulate an event wherein a vehicle was to avoid an obstacle on the road, such as a moose. The  Countryman Plug-In Hybrid has been put to the test and as it turns out, it’s among the top of the class in both moose and slalom tests. In the first attempt, the presenter noted that they still didn’t know how the car will react. It was at 74 km/h and the Countryman Plug-In Hybrid was able to complete the test with relative ease despite the vehicle’s lofty weight. The driver noted that the Countryman Plug-In Hybrid was quite nimble and the body barely rolled. The ESC was also employed in a subtle way. The Mini Countryman Plug-In Hybrid’s best performance was at 79 km/h, which was above the 77 km/h benchmark. At this speed, the plug-in hybrid Mini was able to avoid all the cones. The presenter said that the vehicle was easy to control despite the speed. There was another attempt at 81 km/h, but the Countryman Plug-In Hybrid failed to exit the obstacle cleanly in spite of the good initial evasive manoeuvre. The testers blamed it on either the reaction time of the driver or the traction of the tyres. Apart from the moose test, also slalom tests were conducted, which the Countryman Plug-In Hybrid passed with flying colours. In fact, the crossover was able to finish the course in 23.3 seconds. That time puts the Countryman Plug-In Hybrid at the top of the channel’s tally, besting the new Cupra Born and Peugeot 308 Hybrid. +++

+++ ABB E-mobility and SHELL announced that they are taking their collaboration to the next level with a new global framework agreement (GFA) related to EV charging. The main point of the deal is that ABB will provide an end-to-end portfolio of AC and DC charging stations for the Shell charging network on a global and high, but undisclosed scale. ABB’s portfolio includes AC wallboxes (for home, work, or retail installations) and DC fast chargers, like the Terra 360 with an output of 360 kW (for refueling stations, urban charging stations, retail parking and fleet applications). I guess that the deal has a substantial value because Shell underlines its target of over 500,000 charging points (AC and DC) globally by 2025 and 2.5 million by 2030. According to the press release, the GFA will help address two of the challenges to increasing EV adoption; availability of the charging infrastructure (more charging points) and charging speed (ultra-fast chargers). The image, attached to the announcement highlights two ABB fast chargers, installed at a Shell fuel station, which is an important step in the transition from internal combustion engine cars to electric cars. ABB is one of the largest EV charging suppliers in the world with a cumulative sales of more than 680,000 units in more than 85 markets (over 30,000 DC fast chargers and 650,000 AC charging points, including those sold through Chargedot in China). The partnership between ABB and Shell does not surprise us. It’s actually something expected. Recently we heard about a multi-year contract between BP and Tritium. Large charging networks are simply securing high volume supply and attractive prices for chargers. In general, it seems that the industry has reached a point at which it becomes obvious that chargers at fuel stations will have strong business foundations and it’s time to increase investments. It means also that maybe fuel stations will not disappear, but maybe rather will gradually transform into charging stations, as they usually have outstanding locations and already offer other services. +++


+++ German sports car firm WIESMANN has made a hard-hitting comeback after several years of media silence with the reveal of its new Project Thunderball – not only its first electrified product, but also the world’s first electric rear-wheel-drive convertible sports car since the original Tesla Roadster. The brand (best known for a series of retro-styled sports cars using straight-six, V8 and V10 BMW engines) is on the comeback trail after a tumultuous period since filing for bankruptcy in 2013. Wiesmann was acquired in 2016 by international technology firm Contec Global, whose managing director Roheen Berry now serves as the car maker’s CEO. He hailed the new car’s arrival as “a remarkable moment in time for the Wiesmann brand and the culmination of a dream of years of design and engineering excellence”. It will be, he said, “the world’s most exciting electric sports car”. Priced from €300,000 and expected on roads late this year, the Thunderball features a pair of motors on the rear axle delivering a combined 680 hp and 1.100 Nm; enough, Wiesmann says, to get the circa 1.700 kg roadster from 0-100 kph in just 2.9 seconds. The powertrain was developed in partnership with fellow German sports car maker Roding Automobile, which specialises in lightweight, carbonfibre construction and is best known for its flagship model, the Roding Roadster, which uses a BMW straight six and weighs just 950 kg. Roding also supplied the Thunderball’s 83kWh battery, which features 800 Volt hardware for charging at speeds of up to 300 kW and should be good for a range of 500 km. The firm is keen to emphasise how closely related, dynamically, the new EV will be to its combustion-engined forebears. It claims the regenerative braking system has been developed especially for the Thunderball and, with 5 settings, can be used “to give a powerful engine braking effect into corners” and thereby give “a purposeful moment of enjoyment to the driver, something lacking in most EVs on the market today”. The links to previous Wiesmann models extend to a familiar design treatment, clearly still inspired by sports cars of old but with fresh touches throughout to mark this out as the beginning of a new era for the firm. The distinctive ovoid grille mirrors reference those of the V10-engined Wiesmann MF5, for example, and although the headlights are integrated into prominent new air vent housings, they are arranged in a familiar vertical layout. The clam-shell bonnet is still long, too, despite the lack of an engine, so the roadster bears a familiar cab-back silhouette reminiscent of historic British sports cars like the Austin Healey and Jaguar XK120. Inside, Wiesmann has sought to showcase the same blend of modernity and tradition, with a carbonfibre dashboard housing a large touchscreen and 7 analogue dials with laser-etched badging. There are carbonfibre sports seats, too, finished in the same leather as the door panels and glovebox, and a new-look multifunction sports steering wheel. The car will be built at Wiesmann’s ‘Gecko’ factory in Dülmen, Germany, by “many of the team which helped grow this iconic German brand, the last truly independent European sports car marque remaining today”, the firm says. +++



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