Newsflash: Cupra werkt aan facelift Formentor en Leon

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+++ BMW will unveil the first M3 Touring in the performance car’s history at the Goodwood Festival of Speed later this month, it has confirmed. The announcement comes nearly 2 years since BMW revealed it had given the green light to a Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate rival, based on the G80-generation M3 which launched in 2020. This is the second high-profile Goodwood unveiling in as many years for the German firm, following the debut of the new 2 Series at last year’s event. The M3 Touring shares many styling features with the M3 saloon, but the 3 Series Touring bodystyle is a notable difference. The sharp rear bumper is carried over from the M3 saloon, along with the four exhaust pipes that bookend a large diffuser. A 3D-printed lip spoiler can be seen above the rear windscreen, with roof rails extending towards the front. Like the rear, the front end is carried over largely wholesale from the regular M3, featuring a double kidney grille, bonnet bulges and large intakes towards the edges. The car is one of a number of imminent M models in the works as the performance subbrand celebrates its 50th anniversary, with a new M2 Competition, the lightweight M4 CSL and the 750 hp XM also on the way to dealerships before the year is out. The M3 Touring bears a strong resemblance to the 3 Series Touring, although it can be differentiated by flared arches, large air intakes and a sports exhaust system. It will give BMW a direct rival to the long-established Audi RS4 Avant for the first time. BMW has yet to reveal technical details of the M3 Touring, but has confirmed it will use its turbocharged 6-cylinder petrol M engine. The M3 Touring is expected to share its mechanicals and powertrain with the M3 saloon and M4, in which the S58 twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line engine delivers 480 hp and 600 Nm in standard form. According to BMW, the M3 Touring will offer the full space and capacity of the regular 3 Series Touring. The brand previously said that the car will fulfil “the hopes of all those who wish to take the M-specific interplay of racing-orientated performance and everyday suitability to the extreme”. Although BMW has never previously offered an M3 Touring in the 34-year history of the M3, it did produce a feasibility study prototype based on the third-generation model in 2000. The firm has also twice offered a Touring version of the larger BMW M5, on the models made from 1992-1995 and from 2006-2010. The new M3 Touring’s debut forms part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for BMW’s M performance division, which takes centre stage at this year’s Festival of Speed. The Central Sculpture outside Goodwood House will this year pay tribute to BMW M, with a striking sculpture housing some of the division’s most successful race cars: the 3.0 CSL, M1 Procar, WTCC E30 3 Series and Le Mans-winning 1999 V12 LMR. The firm’s latest top-flight race car, the M Hybrid V8 LMDh prototype, will make its public debut at Goodwood. Also on display on the BMW stand will be the new track-focused M4 CSL, the 620 hp iX M60 electric SUV, the radical Concept XM and a raft of other ‘iconic’ M models new and old. BMW will also showcase both combustion and electric variants of the new 7 Series and X1. +++

+++ There can’t have been a more surprising hypercar event in recent years than the plan announced last year to merge BUGATTI and Rimac into a new company, with Mate Rimac as CEO and Porsche as the key technical partner. At the time, there were few specifics about the Bugatti Rimac purpose, although it had been clear that the Volkswagen Group was reluctant to invest the billions in new Bugattis for the EV era. Mate Rimac’s key mission, it turns out, was to get much better control of model development costs. “On a car-by-car basis, Bugatti is very successful”, he says. “People would be surprised how profitable each one is; I certainly was. But it has been less successful in developing cars. It cost them more to create the Chiron from the Veyron, which has the same W16 engine and 8-speed gearbox, than we spent developing our Rimac Nevera from scratch”. Volkswagen’s technique had been to outsource a lot of work to other companies, Rimac explains. It faced a choice: invest billions in EVs (“they didn’t want to do that, because Ferdinand Piëch is no longer with us”) or kill off Bugatti, with all the practical problems that would bring. Then somebody had the idea of merging it with Rimac. “I see this new arrangement as a win-win-win-win”, says Mate Rimac. “It’s a win for us, having a wonderful brand with a 113-year tradition. It’s a win for Volkswagen, because Bugatti has a great future, they have a shareholding and we will keep costs under control. “It’s a win for the employees, because we will expand. And it’s a win for customers, because we have exciting new products coming. We won’t just hump along; we will flourish”. +++

+++ The CUPRA Formentor and Cupra Leon will be radically redesigned as part of a significant round of updates in the next 2 years, as the Spanish brand looks to more heavily differentiate its cars from those of parent company Seat. Prototypes for the updated duo were shown briefly and dimly as part of a showcase for Cupra’s 2025 line-up, which will also include the new Tavascan electric crossover, the compact Urbanrebel EV, Terramar hybrid SUV and an updated Cupra Born EV hatchback; the latter of which will be redesigned to more obviously distinguish it from its Volkswagen ID 3 sibling. Likewise, the Cupra Leon’s new look sets it apart from the standard Seat Leon from which it derives the bulk of its underpinnings. The new-look front end is a complete departure from today’s car, and brings it closely into line with Cupra’s expanded and updated line-up. Slim-line headlights featuring Cupra’s distinctive triple-triangle motif are the most obvious addition, but the Seat grille has disappeared, to make way for a smoother central section like that of the Born and Tavascan. A prominent decorative bar splits the lower intake, which curves up into the front wings for a more purposeful stance. It’s a similar story for the Formentor which, as a bespoke Cupra product in the first place, is already heavily visually distinguished from the Seat Ateca to which it is related. It gets the same headlight designs and a similar lower air intake design to the next Leon, but overall looks to bear more of a resemblance to the slightly larger new Terramar. It is unclear how extensively the 2 cars will be updated mechanically, but the new Terramar has already been confirmed for a new family of plug-in hybrid powertrains with much longer EV ranges than the existing PHEVs in Cupra’s line-up, so EV ranges of more than 100 km are on the cards for the plug-in Formentor and Leon variants. The new Formentor and Leon can be expected to launch in 2024, following a full unveiling sometime next year, in line with Cupra’s plan to have a complete bespoke line-up in place for 2025. +++

CupraFormentorLeonFacelift

+++ Production volumes of the FORD Focus could be slashed, as the American car giant is reportedly planning to significantly reduce output at its plant in Germany. The factory in Saarlouis, which currently produces the standard Focus and the hot ST version, will see production reduced after 29 August. The long-term future of the plant, which opened in 1970, is also in doubt, with a decision on the direction of the factory expected to be announced by the end of June. Just last year, Ford closed all of its factories in India after 27 years. The year before, it shut its engine plant in Bridgend, Wales, with 1.700 jobs going. Ford Saarlouis works council chairman Markus Thal told this mooted production cut increases fears of major employee lay-offs in Germany. Some 6.190 workers are currently involved in Focus production at Saarlouis. These concerns have been compounded after Ford chose to invest £1.59 billion into its Cologne factory, where it currently builds the Fiesta, instead of its Saarlouis one, as part of a wide-reaching electrification offensive in Europe. The closures would be another blow for the Focus, which has lost its long-held position in the list of Europe’s bestselling cars as Ford diverts supply of scarce components to more popular models, such as the Puma, in light of the ongoing supply chain crisis. In April, just 5.000 Focus models were sold, compared with 10.000 the year before, Jato Dynamics figures show. The similarly sized but higher-riding Puma, on the other hand, is one of the continent’s topselling cars, selling almost 13.000 models in the same month this year. +++

+++ The GORDON MURRAY Group is developing a pair of mass-market-friendly electric SUVs for launch after the V12-engined GMA T50 and GMA T33 supercars, signalling the start of the company’s shift into the mainstream. The SUVs will be the first vehicles to ride on a bespoke new EV architecture currently under development at Gordon Murray Design (GMD), while the closely related Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) division readies the supercars for customer deliveries over the next two years and works on a “very noisy” hybrid follow-up along similar lines. Giving the first details of the SUVs after accepting Autocar’s Mundy Award for Engineering earlier this month, Gordon Murray promised they would “change the way we think about range anxiety and vehicle dynamics”. This suggests that, despite their consumer-friendly billing, the SUVs will follow the same principles as GMA’s supercars: weight saving, tight packaging, aerodynamic efficiency and high manoeuvrability. Murray remained guarded on specifics, saying only that one of the SUVs will be a front-wheeldrive 4-seater, the other a four-wheeldrive 5-seater, and that each will be priced with accessibility in mind. Autointernationaal understands that one will wear a GMA badge when it arrives in its final form, while the other is being developed for an unnamed third-party manufacturer. Murray previously hinted at plans to diversify beyond supercars in 2021, detailing a massive £300 million, five-year expansion plan for the Gordon Murray Group as it ramped up to begin construction of a state-of-the-art campus in Windlesham, Surrey. He revealed that GMD was working on a “revolutionary, lightweight, ultra-efficient electric vehicle architecture” that would first underpin “a little SUV with a compact delivery-van derivative”. Murray described this sub-4 metre EV as a “practical small car, rather than a tiny city car”. Therefore, depending on the volumes in which it’s made and the timing of its arrival, it could feasibly serve as a rival for the new family of affordable urban EVs on the way from Cupra, Skoda and Volkswagen. Both SUVs will be built according to Murray’s iStream production method (see below), whereby the battery forms an integral part of the vehicle shell and weight is kept to a minimum with a view to maximising efficiency and affordability. Murray told recently: “It can’t be correct to have family cars routinely weighing 2.5 tonnes, yet everyone’s piling into the thing the way OEMs do. We think there’s a better way”. The most likely scenario is that the GMD-badged smaller SUV will be built in Windlesham and presented as an urban mobility solution for private customers or fleets or, in van form, delivery services. +++

+++ Days after news came out of a JEEP Wrangler tipping over during IIHS crash testing, a new question has been raised about the SUV’s performance in an emergency, and it’s coming from an unlikely location: prison, where Harvey Weinstein is doing time for sex crimes. The former Hollywood movie producer, 70, sued Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), now owned by Stellantis, over a 2019 crash in which he flipped a Jeep Wrangler while trying to avoid a deer. Weinstein seeks $5 million in damages, saying the August 17, 2019, accident in Bedford, New York, left him “catastrophically injured and rendered paralyzed” with “significant and continuing conscious pain and suffering”. His attorney says Weinstein suffered “severe spine and back injuries”. You may recall that during Weinstein’s trial in 2020, he came and went from the courtroom while hunched over a walker and faced accusations that he was faking his injuries as a ploy for sympathy from the jury. If so, it didn’t work: He was nonetheless convicted of rape and sexual assault of several women, and is serving a 23-year sentence. The verdict against him was upheld on appeal last week in New York, and he awaits trial on 11 other counts in Los Angeles. According to the complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, Weinstein was wearing his seatbelt when the brakes on the 2017 Wrangler failed as he approached the deer, and the Jeep rolled over. Weinstein said FCA had provided him with an “unreasonably dangerous” vehicle, in exchange for product placement in one of his films. Bedford is about 64 km north of Manhattan. Stellantis, which now owns FCA, had no immediate comment. Gary Kavulich, a lawyer for Weinstein, disputed press reports suggesting his client was uninjured, saying Weinstein told authorities he was hurt at the time of the accident. “He is in constant pain, it’s debilitating”, Kavulich said in a statement, adding that negotiations with FCA to avert a lawsuit “went on for months and months”. The case remains the highest-profile trial in the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct by prominent men. Allegations from several women against Weinstein first came to light in the New York Times in 2017. Weinstein underwent back surgery in December 2019. He is awaiting trial in Los Angeles on other alleged sex crimes from 2004 to 2013, and has pleaded not guilty. Weinstein has denied any non-consensual sexual encounters. +++

+++ The majority of MERCEDES-BENZ B-CLASS variants have been dropped ahead of a facelifted model’s launch later this year. The German marque now offers just the B 200 and B 200d, it has confirmed, with a 1.5-litre 165 hp petrol engine and a 2.0-litre 150 hp diesel engine respectively. This means the B 180 petrol and B 250e plug-in hybrid have been culled, as well as the B 180d and B 220d diesels. Mercedes has also cut the trim levels to 4, leaving just 8 variants of the compact MPV available to order. Previously, buyers could choose from 26.  The updated version of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer rival is set to be launched later this year, with spy pictures showcasing a slightly redesigned front bumper and grille, similar to those of the updated Mercedes A-Class. An updated interior, including a fresh steering wheel and an updated infotainment system, is also expected. Mercedes has told that an engine line-up for the facelifted B-Class hasn’t yet been confirmed, although it’s still expected to come with petrol, diesel and PHEV variants. This is expected to be the final iteration of the B-Class, which arrived 2 generations ago in 2005, as Mercedes bosses plan to turn the company into a pure luxury brand by launching more high-margin models and culling entry-level cars. +++

+++ The new POLESTAR 3 electric SUV has effectively been revealed in a new official image that shows it completely unwrapped ahead of a public debut in October. Polestar has issued a preview image that shows its upcoming Audi e-Tron rival from the side, proving that this will be no mere adaptation of the firm’s existing Polestar 2 saloon or its earlier Volvo-based 1 plug-in hybrid coupe. Familiar Polestar styling cues are present: the Y-shaped ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED headlights, yellow brake calipers, wraparound rear light bar and chunky side cladding, for example. But the new SUV’s rakish silhouette is all-new – more closely related to the upcoming Polestar 5 grand tourer (revealed in design patents yesterday) than it is the 2. A panoramic glass roof panel curves gently towards the rear, passing under a prominent rear spoiler; part of what looks to be a fairly extensive aero package, together with air-channelling vents at the leading edge of the bonnet, flush-fitting door handles and prominent rear haunches. Aerodynamic efficiency will be crucial in taking the Polestar 3 to a targeted range of more than 370 miles, as will a “large battery” of unspecified capacity and an efficient dual-motor powertrain. Polestar has given no further details on the 3’s specifications, but has confirmed it will feature a ‘best-in-class’ lidar sensor from partner firm Luminar, as well as an advanced software stack supplied by tech giant Nvidia, with a view to integrating autonomous driving functionality. The firm will start building the 3 alongside the electric successor to the Volvo XC90 (with which it shares its SPA2 underpinnings) in both America and China in early 2023. CEO Thomas Ingenlath said: “The Polestar 3 is the SUV for the electric age. Our design identity evolves with this high-end large luxury EV, with a strong, individual brand character. With this car, we bring the ‘sport’ back to the SUV, staying true to our performance roots. This is a major milestone for our company, one that boosts our growth trajectory and takes us into our next phase”. The 3 will be followed by the smaller Polestar 4 crossover in 2024, before the 5 grand tourer enters production in 2025, as Polestar ramps up to increase its global sales figures from 29.000 units in 2021 to 290.000 by the end of 2025. Earlier this year, Ingenlath told that the 3 would have 2 rows of seats, not 3, and that both single- and dual-motor versions would go on sale. He also said the 3 will be more potent than the closely related XC90 successor. +++

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