Newsflash: BMW plaagt met M4 CSL


+++ A few days ago, BMW announced it would bring the new M4 CSL to the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este for the coupe’s world debut. Someone at the M Division decided to post 2 teaser images of the lightweight and extra spicy 4 Series to M’s official Facebook page, then decided it against it, and deleted them. The Internet had already taken notice, though, so the teasers have been officially entered into the register and will never be removed. In the front image, the yellow DRLs quickly grab attention, these making their second appearance after debuting on the M5 CS. What’s hidden in the shadow is the retro M Motorsport badge on the hood, which features slashes of color in a white background that the Roundel sits on, and that prominent carbon fiber splitter down low. In back, we can make out the silhouette of the ducktail spoiler shaped into the decklid. Below that, we’re not sure what to make of the taillights. They could be LED, or it’s possible they’re OLED units like those BMW used on the 2016 M4 GTS. It’s just that we haven’t seen taillights matching these on any of the M4 CSLs caught in spy shots nor in a special video BMW M put out earlier this year. That video, called “We are M”, included a split-second peek at an M4 CSL with its taillights lit. None of the units included the fine, 3-dimensional angel hair lines found in this latest tease. In less than 2 weeks, after years of anticipation, we’ll finally see the coupe that former M boss Frank van Meel said would be “the top-of-the-line track tool, made on the track, for the track, just with a number plate. With a CSL, you can expect cup tires, coilover suspension, a roll cage, water injection and a fire extinguisher”. It’s possible we can expect more than one CSL, too, an M3 version predicted to follow the M4. Rumor says we can also expect about 100 kilos in weight savings thanks to measures like deleting the rear seats. It will undoubtedly be as expensive as it is limited, though. +++



+++ The HONDA NSX will return as a supercar flagship for a 30-strong line-up of electric vehicles that Honda will launch as part of an ambitious €40 billion electrification strategy. The supercar will be part of Honda’s commitment to launching 30 new pure-electric vehicles globally as part of the strategy. The Japanese firm has outlined its shift to electrification, pledging to achieve annual EV production volumes of more than 2 million units by 2030, ushering in solid-state battery technology and launching a pair of all-electric sports car flagships. Honda aims to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050 but says “a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional approach” to electrification is needed, “not a mere replacing of engines with batteries”. To this end, it will allocate a portion of a committed 8 trillion yen (€ 60 billion) R&D budget to developing hydrogen powertrains and battery-swapping hardware as a means of facilitating the phase-out of combustion powertrains over the next 10 years. Some 5 trillion yen (€37 billion) is reserved exclusively for “electrification and software technologies”. Honda has also given initial details of its rapid-fire global EV roll-out in the run-up to 2030, which most shockingly looks to include an all-electric successor to the NSX supercar and a new grand tourer flagship. “Honda always has a passion to offer fun for its customers”, the firm said, giving no details of the new sports cars but promising they will continue to offer a “sports mindset and distinctive characteristics”. The NSX is currently in its third generation as a 580 hp hybrid with a mid-mounted V6 and will bow out of production at the end of this year. This latest announcement is the first official indication that Honda plans to remain in the supercar segment as it transforms its business. Honda is the latest Japanese brand to commit to offering dedicated sports cars in the electric era. Toyota has previewed a lightweight 2-seater in the vein of the MR2, Lexus is working on an EV follow-up to the LFA, Nissan recently showed the drop-top Max Out concept and Subaru revealed a 1.100 hp 4WD EV racer called the STI E-RA. Meanwhile, in North America, Honda will launch 2 ‘mid to large’ electric SUVs in partnership with General Motors (one called the Honda Prologue and the other from its Acura premium brand) in 2024 and 3 years later will launch a range of ‘affordable’ EVs with “a cost and range that will be as competitive” as petrol-fuelled cars. Honda also plans to open a new EV factory in North America. In China, it will launch 10 new EVs by 2027, and in its home market, Japan, it will start with a small commercial EV priced from around €9.000 before introducing larger, passenger cars, including a new electric SUV. The first details of the brand’s European EV roll-out were given last month, when the firm confirmed it will launch a HR-V-sized EV SUV in 2023 and is targeting a 40% share of sales for EVs and fuel cell EVs by 2030 in Europe. Honda will end combustion car sales globally by 2040. Currently, Honda sources lithium ion batteries from an array of suppliers worldwide: EV development partner General Motors supplies its Ultium batteries for use in future US-market Honda EVs, CATL supplies the manufacturer’s Chinese operations and Envision AESC will power Honda’s small Japanese-market EVs. But the marque has now detailed a plan to bring its own solid-state battery technology to market, investing the equivalent of £263m into the construction of a demonstration production line, which is planned to be in operation in spring 2024. Honda plans to have EVs powered by solid-state batteries on sale in the second half of this decade. At around the same time, in 2026, Honda will start rolling out a new software-integrated ‘e:Architecture’ EV platform, which will come with the latest generation of the firm’s Sensing autonomous driving functionality. +++

+++ MERCEDES is virtually sold out of electric cars as tight supply chains make it tough for the luxury carmaker to keep up with rising demand, its chief executive said. Asked about comments by rivals, including Volkswagen, that demand for electric vehicles was outstripping supply, Ola Källenius told: “That’s largely true for us as well”. He said the customer response to the company’s EQ family of electrified luxury vehicles had been “so tremendous that we’re doing everything we can to get the cars to the customers as fast as we can”. Källenius also teased details of a fully-electrified platform for its high performance AMG brand, which he said would be unveiled at a strategy update the company has scheduled for May 19. “We’re now in full development of a fully-dedicated electric architecture for AMG, from the ground up”, he said, adding the platform would hit the market “sometime towards end of 2025”. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ boss Ola Källenius has given the clearest indication yet that the futures of smaller models, such as the A-Class, are under debate. He revealed that more details of the firm’s future product plan will be given next week at an event for capital investors. While not specifically confirming that the future of any model is under threat, he said: “We will talk more next week, but it’s not our goal to be a competitor of the volume producers. That’s not what the Mercedes-Benz brand stands for. So stay tuned as far as our product portfolio is concerned. But we would rather be looking up than down”. Sales volumes of Mercedes’ smaller vehicles have been constrained in recent times as the firm has prioritised semiconductor supplies for more profitable models. Without specifying the conclusions, Källenius confirmed that the high profitability of the company during this period had provided insights into operating more profitably. “Even before the supply constraints started, we had made it clear that our strategy isn’t to chase volume but to chase value for our customers and company”, he said. “We had already started taking actions in our channel management to make sure we watched the quality of our margins and pricing power, and in that regard, the supply constraints have been like an unwanted experiment. And it’s true, you can see the profitability has been very robust during these times”. Mercedes reported earnings of around €14 billion in 2021, but warned at the time that the rising costs of raw materials could threaten profitability. Those concerns have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Källenius revealed, while referencing smaller car margins, that the year-on-year rise in commodity prices is expected to cost Mercedes about €2.5 billion in 2022. +++

+++ PORSCHE appears to be testing a new RS variant of the 718 Spyder that will likely be powered by the same 4.0-liter flat-6 found in the 911 GT3 and the spectacular Cayman GT4 RS. If Porsche’s engineers are hard at work cramming that 500-plus horsepower into a lightweight Spyder model, what you’re looking at is sure to be one of the most impressive machines Stuttgart’s finest have ever churned out. This prototype lacks its Cayman sibling’s track-ready rear aero treatment, but as popular as the Spyder’s ducktail profile is, I’m inclined to believe this will carry over to production. It does pack wheels and brakes befitting what we expect to be found under the Spyder’s engine cover, namely a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-6 that revs to 9.000 rpm and makes 510 hp at 8.400 rpm in the 911 GT3 and 500 hp in the Cayman GT4 RS. I expect the Spyder RS will get an output to match that of the Cayman GT4’s since both will utilize the same exhaust routing, which is slightly more restrictive than the 911’s. With the Cayman GT4 RS already in production, we expect it won’t be long before we hear more about its Boxster equivalent, though as behind as Porsche’s current production queue is, there’s a chance we won’t see these in the real world for quite some time. +++

+++ TESLA has halted most of its production at its Shanghai plant due to problems securing parts for its electric vehicles, the latest in a series of difficulties for the factory. The automaker’s sales in China had already slumped by 98% in April from a month earlier, data released by the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) showed on Tuesday, underscoring the hit from China’s hard Covid-19 lockdowns. Shanghai is in its 6th week of an intensifying lockdown that has tested the ability of manufacturers to operate amid hard restrictions on the movement of people and materials. Tesla planned to manufacture fewer than 200 vehicles at its factory in the city on Tuesday, according to the memo, far below the roughly 1.200 units per day it had ramped up to shortly after reopening on April 19 following a 22-day closure. After reopening, the factory produced 10.757 vehicles by the end of April, selling 1.512 of them, the CPCA said. That compared to 65.814 cars sold in March and marked the lowest sales tally since April 2020, 4 months after the factory started delivering China-made cars. Tesla did not export any China-made Model 3s and Model Ys from the Shanghai plant in April, the data showed. 2 people familiar with Tesla’s operations said earlier that the Shanghai plant suspended work on Monday after it faced difficulties procuring supplies. The company had been aiming to increase output at the plant to 2.600 cars a day as soon as next week. Overall passenger car sales for China, the world’s largest auto market, dropped almost 36% in April from a year earlier, the CPCA said. However, sales of battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids (a category China targets for incentives) rose more than 50%, boosted by particularly good performances by BYD and SAIC-GM-Wuling. Another auto association estimated last week that overall auto sales in China had dropped 48% in April as lockdowns shut factories, limited traffic to showrooms and put the brakes on spending. Shanghai authorities have tightened a city-wide lockdown imposed more than a month ago on the commercial hub with a population of 25 million, a move that could extend curbs on movement through the month. +++

+++ TESLA announced last week that it is recalling 129.960 vehicles to address a hardware overheating issue that can lead to issues with the factory control screen. Tesla says certain 2021-2022 Model S, Model X, and 2022 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles are running firmware that allows the infotainment CPU to overheat while preparing the vehicle’s batteries for fast-charging. “During fast-charging or preparation for fast-charging, the infotainment central processing unit (‘CPU’) may not cool sufficiently to prevent higher than expected temperatures, which may cause the CPU to slow processing or restart”, Tesla said in its recall report. “Slower processing or restarted processing could cause the center screen display to lag or appear blank. A lagging or blank center screen display may cause the rearview camera display, windshield visibility control settings, drive modes (i.e., Drive, Neutral or Reverse), and telltales to be unavailable, which may increase the risk of a collision”, Tesla said. The issue affects only those vehicles running firmware that does not include certain temperature control checks. Tesla began deploying updated firmware to models covered by the campaign with an over-the-air update that it made available May 3, 2022. +++

+++ While the new TOYOTA Corolla Cross is somewhat ho-hum compared to its peers when it comes to day-to-day driving, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has identified its redeeming virtue: it’s fantastically safe. The organisation announced Tuesday that Toyota’s new SUV earned its coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating. This rating means the Corolla Cross aced all of the safety group’s primary collision prevention and mitigation tests and offers no trim with standard headlights rated lower than “Acceptable”. The Corolla Cross was dinged only for its performance in subcategories that didn’t impact overall test outcomes. For example, it earned an “Acceptable” for the strength of its structure/safety cage in the passenger-side small overlap test; it still earned a “Good” rating overall in the test thanks to the performance of other safety components. Also earning the top nod for 2022 was Toyota’s RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid. The standard RAV4 model earned the generic Top Safety Pick (no +) when equipped with the LED projector headlights offered on every trim but the barebones LE. The standard reflectors offered inadequate illumination in IIHS’ curve visibility testing and were rated only “Marginal”. +++


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