Newsflash: Nissan broedt op elektrische sportwagen

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+++ The new DACIA Jogger has scored 1 star out of 5 at in the latest round of Euro NCAP safety tests, while the DS 4 and Honda HR-V both secured a respectable 4 stars. The results for the Jogger, Europe’s cheapest 7-seat car, were based on those achieved by the Sandero Stepway with which it shares a nearly-identical platform. That Dacia model scored 2 stars out of 5 last year and Euro NCAP compared both cars before verifying that the Sandero Stepway’s results could be applied to the Jogger, prior to completing further tests. Dacia’s MPV scored 70% for adult occupant safety and 69% for child occupant safety. It managed a 41% score for vulnerable road user protection and 39% for its safety assist functions. The Jogger also lost marks because it didn’t offer a seatbelt reminder for the rearmost seats and the side-curtain airbag didn’t provide sufficient protection for those seated in the back. “For a family car, this safety performance is disappointing. The vehicle may be more affordable than others in the same category, but in terms of safety, it appears that you do get what you pay for”, said Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research’s chief research strategy officer. “In this case, not only is the Dacia Jogger lacking the active safety features that buyers expect as standard, but even some of its basic passive safety features aren’t up to the industry standard set by the vast majority of car makers”. A Dacia spokesman said in a statement: “At Dacia, we take the safety of our customers extremely seriously. As a car maker, Dacia’s objective has always been to produce vehicles that meet the expectations of our customers: modern, affordable and fully compliant with European regulations”. The Romanian firm reiterated that it wouldn’t “chase Euro NCAP stars” or implement features and technologies “that customers don’t want to use and/or pay for”. “The Jogger is a safe new C segment car that’s homologated and compliant with European safety regulations. It’s safe and protects occupants to a high standard”, Dacia continued. “It proposes a full list of safety features, providing better protection than most of the cars on the roads of Europe today. “The Jogger is structurally identical to the Sandero Stepway but has a different roof line towards the rear. Based on the Euro NCAP protocol, Jogger 5-seater should have the same rating as the Sandero: 4 stars in occupant protection and 2 stars overall. However, there will not be details published about Jogger 5-seat version by Euro NCAP. The final rating of Jogger is linked to the 7-seat version only”. Meanwhile, the new DS 4 achieved 4 stars out of 5, rising to a perfect 5-star score when equipped with its optional Safety Plus Pack, which Euro NCAP said helps it achieve a “performance that’s more comparable to its rivals in the segment”. The family hatchback scored an 85% adult occupancy safety score, 86% for child occupants, 74% for vulnerable road users and 65% for safety assistance. Its score was bolstered by its “solid crash protection equipment”, but its standard, camera-only autonomous emergency braking system was deemed underwhelming. The new Honda HR-V hybrid crossover scored a good all-round performance. Adult occupancy was rated at 82%, while child occupants scored 75%. In terms of vulnerable road users, the car was deemed adequate, with a 72% rating, and it got a slightly higher 78% for safety assist. Euro NCAP said the HR-V would have achieved a higher score had its restraint performance been more robust, especially for children seated in the back. +++

+++ The world of drop-top supercars is getting another member in 2022, in the form of the new FERRARI 296 Spider. I expect to see this new model (which could be badged GTS) to utilise the same 830 hp 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 plug-in hybrid powertrain as the Berlinetta, mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. The upright design of the rear window and the surrounding body panel mimics the legendary 250 LM of the sixties. With this in mind, the 296 Spider will likely be more of a targa than an full open-top convertible. Like most drop-top supercars, the 296 Spider should receive some strengthening to compensate for the lost roof, resulting in some extra mass added to the coupe’s 1.470 kg dry weight. The changes shouldn’t disrupt the 296’s straight-line performance too much though, although we do expect the fixed-roof car’s 2.9-second 0-100 kmph time to slide slightly for the Spider. Expect a top speed that still exceeds 320 kph. As for pricing, the car hasn’t even been officially confirmed yet, but a debut on the 19th April will see specs outlined. It’s almost certain the 296 Spider will surpass the GTB’s price tag when it goes on sale later this year. +++

+++ GENESIS has built 2 eye-catching coupes for the auto show circuit in the past 4 years, and it strongly hinted that at least one is on its way to production. While nothing is official, a recent trademark filing suggests the 2-door model could be named after a race track. Hyundai’s luxury division trademarked the “X Speedium Coupe” nameplate earlier in April. X is seemingly a reference to the X concept introduced in March 2021, while the Speedium part of the name comes from the Inje Speedium circuit located in South Korea. Several high-profile races have been held there, including World Touring Car and Ferrari Challenge events. As always, a trademark filing isn’t a guarantee that the nameplate it details will see the light that awaits at the end of a production line. If that were the case, the Chevrolet Cheyenne and the Volkswagen Thing would have made a triumphant return to showrooms. But the idea of a Genesis coupe isn’t new or far-fetched; keep in mind that most of the firm’s closest competitors are present in the two-door segment. Genesis tellingly previewed the range of electric vehicles that it plans to release during the 2020s in September 2021, and the dark outline of a coupe stood out in a lineup made up mostly of sedans, crossovers, and SUVs. At the time, head designer Luc Donckerwolke appeared on video next to the X concept saying “we have to put it in production”, though it’s unclear if he was referring to the car or its paint color. Even more tellingly, the company asked its followers on Twitter if they would be interested in reserving an X with a $1,000 deposit. If launched, the X Concept will lean more towards the touring side of the coupe scale; it’s relatively big, and it has 4 seats. Genesis also explored a sportier direction when it unveiled the Essentia concept in 2018. It doesn’t sound like that one will reach production, however. +++

+++ There’s no doubt that the new Range Rover is an incredible piece of design and engineering. I was blown away by how well it drives and was really surprised how much I enjoyed throwing it around some seriously twisty roads. You forget just how big and heavy it is, until you slide out of the super-comfy driver’s seat and your feet eventually hit the ground! There’s an incredible amount of tech on board, too, and some real high-end luxury features. The quality seems to be superb. However, there’s one question that hangs over the Range Rover (and other JLR products) and one which must be banished for good with this car. Being honest, whenever I recommended a LAND ROVER to people in the past, it was with a caveat: it might go wrong. Reliability is not the brand’s strongest suit and it’s not just me saying so. Survey data proves owners are frustrated. And mud sticks, as social media proved when I uploaded a video of the clever motorised Club Table in a top-spec Range Rover SV rising into position. Responses included: “Another feature to go wrong”, “Give it 12 months and that’s the only electrical component that’ll work”, and “So much to rattle after 18 months and then fail just after the warranty ends”. JLR is aware of its issues and its reputation, and we’re assured no stone is being left unturned in addressing them. 2 things will help the new Range Rover: millions of pounds have been spent on the plant in Solihull to build the new car; we’re told it’s like a new factory and we know new factories tend to build better-quality cars, as we’ve seen with the Defender, built in a brand-new facility in Slovakia. Then there’s the new electrical architecture, with software-over-the-air compatibility, which can fix problems before customers know there are problems. This Range Rover deserves to succeed, but that success must come with reliability. Let’s hope that this time it will. +++

+++ Following the news that MERCEDES ‘ Vision EQXX concept has achieved a 1.008 km journey on one charge while still having 15 per cent of its batter capacity left, the brand’s chief technology officer Markus Schäfer has said that the next chapter in the story is “to cover the more sporty side”. Speaking on a technology debrief following the EQXX’s range run, Schäfer outlined that “My team are so excited, they have tons of ideas for what’s next. If EQXX is just covering the efficiency side of e-mobility and taking it to the extreme, I would like to cover another side, which is the more sporty side. You know that we have our sub-brands like AMG, and they are also turning electric. We would like to also tell the story of what’s happening on the EV sports side of the house in the next couple of years, so I would say stay tuned, there will be some news in the next few weeks of what we’re doing on the power/EV/sporty side”. Mercedes has already dipped its toe into the pool of hot EVs, with its EQS 53 and EQE 53 AMG models. It confirmed last year that pure-electric performance models would launch, with 43 and 53-branded models set to feature. Key to Merc’s future performance EVs will be axial flux e-motors following its buyout of UK firm Yasa that has worked on the technology. “Our collaboration with Yasa in England in Oxford is a very important part of our sports powertrain and performance powertrain of the future. We have different e-motor architectures – the radial motor for the Mercedes side, and the super compact and super powerful axial motor for the performance side of the house. This is enough to build another vision to display what will happen on the AMG side in the next few years”. The EQXX was a product of a collaboration between Mercedes and its British-based F1 team, and this link could be further strengthened for future products from its AMG division. “We’re using the link now. Over the last 2 years it was such a close cooperation that never happened before. We became Formula E champions and developed our e-motors in-house in the UK. The electrification side of F1 is increasing and in the next generation 2025/26 there’s much more focus on the F1 side on systems thinking, inverters, e-motors and battery technology, so there’s so much carryover: the technology and the spirit. “It’s combining this spirit and the turnover of ideas, a brutal force of improvement, which is really needed and a good add-on for our series production cars, combining both together. It’s a unique asset we have, we have two world champions in our house here, so why shouldn’t we work together?” +++

+++ Performance and enthusiast cars are still part of the plan for NISSAN and solid-state batteries are key to making them viable in Europe in the EV era, according to company executives. As the Nissan GT-R supercar bows out after a lengthy 13 years in production with no replacement lined up, and with tight emissions rules keeping the new Z sports coupé out of Europe, the Japanese brand looked set to continue without an enthusiast offering in this market. However, Nissan executives have confirmed to Autocar that, thanks to advancing battery technology, performance cars are definitely “on the table”. Nissan recently unveiled a quartet of concept cars. The Chill-Out compact crossover is the closest to production, as it previews a replacement for the Leaf. It will be an electric crossover based on the same CMF-EV architecture as the Nissan Ariya coupé-SUV and will be built in Sunderland. The concepts also included the Surf-Out pick-up truck and the Max-Out sports car. When asked how realistic those were, François Bailly, senior vice-president and chief planning officer for the AMIEO region (Middle East, India, Europe and Oceania), said: “We announced 23 new electrified models, 15 of them EVs, and we’ve revealed 5 so far. The question is: what is the next phase?” 2 of those 15 EVs are the Leaf replacement and a successor for the Micra, and the suggestion is there is room in that product plan for enthusiast cars. As well as for the GT-R and Z, there is a lot of enthusiasm (especially outside Europe) for the Patrol. Bailly told that the solid-state battery technology Nissan is working on is likely to make these cars possible by giving them the range they need without adding excessive weight. Bailly even went so far as to confirm internal discussions are under way on a potential electric follow-up to the GT-R: “In the end, it will be a prioritisation so, yes, we’re looking at it. We’re all car people, right?” However, he added that more mainstream models will come first: “I would love to have an EV sports car, but we need to organise. We’re not ready to announce the sequence, but it’s clearly on the table”. Nissan’s timetable for solid-state batteries gives clues to when enthusiast-oriented EVs could arrive. Research is in a relatively advanced phase and a pilot factory is due to come online in 2024. The technology is expected to be ready by 2026 and the first production cars using it should be on the road by 2028. This new technology ought to markedly increase energy density and speed up price parity between electric and petrol and hybrid cars. Nissan estimates an initial cost of $75 per kWh, compared with the current cost of around $140 per kWh. +++

+++ RENAULT will reveal a new concept car on 19 May, showcasing a fresh approach to design and previewing plans for a new hydrogen powertrain. The car was previewed earlier this year in Renault’s annual results presentation, and while details are thin on the ground, it clearly bears a raft of new design cues – including angular new daytime running lights, a heavily sculpted bonnet and a flush front end that looks to be modelled on the new Renault 5 supermini’s. The concept has yet to be named, but visual similarities with the 5 suggest it could preview the similarly retro-styled Renault 4ever crossover, which is due on sale in 2025. It will also showcase Renault’s circular economy ambitions by employing recyclable materials throughout its construction. Company CEO Luca de Meo was keen to emphasise that it is more than a simple design study. “When we do a concept, we want to turn that into real cars”, he said. Details of the powertrain will be given at the reveal, but Renault’s use of the phrase “hydrogen engine” strongly implies a deployment of a modified petrol motor that runs on hydrogen. The firm currently uses hydrogen in commercial vehicles, but so far in only conventional fuel cell drivetrains. This technology is emerging as a potential means of reducing fleet emissions without integrating costly and heavy EV drivetrains, with Toyota and Yamaha among its highest-profile proponents so far. The 2 Japanese firms recently revealed a 5.0-litre V8 that has been converted to run on hydrogen. The eventual production car could also be available with a pure-electric powertrain, though. De Meo said the concept will showcase “electric, hydrogen… maybe other things”. Notably, Renault has confirmed plans to go all-electric by 2030, which suggests that if it does launch a hydrogen combustion engine in a production car, it will serve as a bridge offering to a full-EV. Renault will unwrap the concept at the climate-focused ChangeNow conference in Paris. The brand will use the event to showcase the three core themes of de Meo’s company transformation strategy: safety, inclusion and environment. “On-board technical innovations” suggests the concept will preview a new approach to interior design and equipment as well. +++

+++ TOYOTA plans to launch a SUV version of its Crown sedan for Japan, China and North America, 3 people said, revamping a car that has been a showpiece of Japan’s market for nearly 7 decades. The SUV (which will come in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-electric models) marks an attempt to bring the 67-year-old Crown more in line with market trends as consumers shy away from sedans, the people said, declining to be identified because the information has not been made public. Sales of the hybrid are expected from the summer of 2023 and will include exports to China and North America, while the plug-in hybrid is intended for the domestic market, they said. The electric model is due to launch in early 2024 and the automaker has yet to finalize export plans, 2 of the people said. As part of the overhaul, Toyota will also roll out a fully remodeled sedan version of the Crown from this summer, the people said. Both the SUV and the sedan will be manufactured at factories in Toyota City, Japan. A Toyota spokesperson declined to comment. Largely sold in the domestic market for much of its history, the Crown was the first passenger car developed and built entirely in Japan, marking a pivotal moment in the country’s rise to become a global automaking giant. It was also the first car (in 1958) Toyota exported to the United States. 2 years later Toyota was forced to suspend exports as the Crown engine wasn’t capable of speeds needed on American freeways. Toyota sold more than 200.000 of the sedans in 1990 at the height of Japan’s economic boom, but by last year domestic annual sales had dwindled to 21.000. The Crown revamp also comes as Toyota (like other Japanese automakers) looks to shed the perception it has been slow to embrace battery electric vehicles. The carmaker said last year it would invest around $70 billion to electrify its automobiles by 2030. +++

+++ Land Rover has added 2 new models to the Range Rover VELAR line-up, which are driven by a choice of petrol and diesel engines with mild-hybrid technology. The Range Rover Velar HST 400 is driven by a 3.0-litre straight-6 petrol engine, producing 404 hp and 530 Nm. The Range Rover Velar HST 300, meanwhile, is powered by a 3.0-litre diesel engine, also with mild-hybrid technology, producing 300 hp and 650 Nm. Each model is equipped with Land Rover’s Black Pack, with a contrasting black roof, privacy glass and gloss-black 21 inch wheels. Inside, the HST features a black suede cloth headliner and steering wheel. A sliding panoramic sunroof is also included as standard. It also gains electronic air suspension with adaptive dynamics, the Park Assist Pack and Land Rover’s Cabin Air Purification Plus system. Sibling brand Jaguar is now offering the same powertrain and handling package for the closely related F-Pace. “The new Range Rover Velar HST offers a combination of carefully curated design enhancements and chassis features to add to its breadth of capability without compromising its trademark refinement and comfort”, said Finbar McFall, Land Rover brand director. As well as the HST variants, the Range Rover Velar Edition has also been reintroduced to the model line-up. It features equipment based on the R-Dynamic SE and comes with 20in wheels, a black panoramic roof and privacy glass. Similar to the F-Pace, it also gains Amazon Alexa compatibility integrated into the Pivi Pro infotainment system. It can stream media, make lists and reminders and control smart-home functions. +++

 

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