Newsflash: Opel Astra-e krijgt 156 pk en 54 kWh

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+++ BMW ’s new X3 has been spotted testing and I expect it to be the last generation of the model to come with an internal-combustion engine. Spy shots give a first look at the latest iteration of the mid-sized premium SUV and they reveal plenty of key design details. Starting at the front of the test car, there is a typically large kidney grille design with a lower grille in a similar style to the current X3, which was recently facelifted. The headlights will become sleeker however, in line with the new 7 Series and BMW’s updated X7. The roof spoiler at the back will grow. The current X3 was recently facelifted so we should see the next-generation car revealed towards the end of 2023, with an on-sale date of 2024. This arrival is an awkward time for BMW as the X3 would just miss out on the introduction of the ‘Neue Klasse’ platform scheduled to launch in 2025. It means that the all-electric iX3 (based on the current X3) will stick around well into the next X3’s lifecycle. The new X3 will likely be based on an updated version of BMW’s CLAR platform, which accepts mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure-EV powertrains. A mix of 4-cylinder petrol engines and 6-cylinder petrols with electric assistance are expected to make up the bulk of the range. The current BMW X3 M uses the same 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-6 motor as the M3, and as we’ll see the adoption of hybrid technology in an M car with the upcoming XM so don’t be too surprised if the X3 M follows suit. I haven’t seen inside the next-generation X3 yet, but the infotainment system will surely be based on the latest version of the firm’s OS 8 operating system. It should display on a curved display made up of a 14.9-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen first seen in the iX. +++

+++ Under normal circumstances, one would expect an infotainment system to improve in every way as it transitions from one version to the next. Screens become more responsive, brighter and clearer. The software is tweaked to be better, and you gain more capabilities than before. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but the BMW IDRIVE 8 system does not follow this line of thinking. It hurts me to say this, too, for I’m a big advocate of iDrive 7. There’s a perfect blend of hard controls and touchscreen controls for vital vehicle functions, and the iDrive knob ties it all together in a happy harmony. The software itself is glitch-free, super-quick to respond, and the menu structure makes sense. Most of you will probably agree that these are all big pluses for iDrive 7. Unfortunately, iDrive 8 takes a lot of iDrive 7’s best qualities, then throws them out the window entirely for a replacement that is worse. What the vast majority of my grievances boil down to is added complexity to complete tasks. Something that could’ve been done with a single tap in a iDrive 7-equipped BMW now requires upwards of 3 or more taps. Take, for instance, the climate controls. BMW removed all of the hard climate controls from the center stack besides front and rear defrost, then tucked them into a new “climate menu.” Temperature control remains docked at the bottom of the touchscreen, but if you want to activate your heated seats, it requires a trip through the climate menu. The same goes for fan speed, direction of the fan and anything else you can think of re: climate controls. Predictably, it’s more time-consuming to operate and far trickier to fiddle with while driving than the nice row of buttons BMW employed previously. Then there’s the BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control settings. There is still a hard button on the center console that you can tap to put it into “Sport Traction” mode (my favorite for enthusiastic motoring), but instead of just tapping the button, now you must tap the button, then tap twice more on the touchscreen to fully activate “Sport Traction”. Why!? Meanwhile, the new settings “menu” is a maze of icons. Accessible via the home screen of customizable tiles, the new iDrive menu just looks like the app drawer of someone else’s phone you just picked up. The previously-used column style menu for vehicle settings was much more fitting for iDrive knob navigation via scrolling and rocking. This new scattershot strategy looks like it was designed to be navigated exclusively via touchscreen, and therefore staring at something other than the road for a longer period of time. More time getting accustomed to the new structure could improve matters, and heavy usage of the voice controls to find settings might help, too, but that’s a work around. The previous structure made good sense, and this one is deeply lacking. Finally, the whole system is just slower! Apps and other items take noticeably longer to load on the screen. There’s occasional lag when touching the screen, and it’s generally less responsive/not as smooth as iDrive 7 is. This could be a result of the software being brand new with some kinks that still need working out, but this is not the direction we expect tech to move. The new iDrive 8 should be zippier and easier to use than iDrive 7, but it’s far from that now. After about 5 minutes in the BMW i4, I felt like Charleton Heston at the end of “Planet of the Apes” staring up at the Statue of Liberty. “You blew it up! Damn you. The Volkswagen tech interface / nightmare has a similarly nonsensical and terrible radio setup. My guess is it was designed by someone who can’t comprehend that people still listen to the radio (even if the radio in question is basically just a streaming service with songs selected by people rather than an algorithm) and that their newfangled way was totally better. It isn’t. Even if that’s the case, why not just say “OK Elder Millenial” and give ancients like me the old thing they were used to? Why bother reinventing the wheel when you’re convinced the world has moved onto hoverboards? Also, I don’t want to dive into a touchscreen to turn on my heated seat. Especially if that damn screen takes forever to load. You blew it up, BMW. Damn you. +++

+++ The shift to electrification appears unstoppable and LAMBORGHINI is preparing to invest billions into new hybrid models. In an interview, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann said the company is planning to invest at least €1.8 billion to hybridize their lineup. That’s up from the original estimate of more than €1.5 billion and these funds will apparently be used to introduce hybrid versions of the Huracan, Urus and Aventador successor. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg as Winkelmann told the total figure will be “much more” as that number doesn’t include investments in electric vehicles. As a result, they’re looking at the “biggest investment in the history of Lamborghini Automobili”. As Winkelmann explained, “The investment will be huge because we have to face the full electric era, while maintaining the values of Lamborghini’s DNA. It will be a very difficult challenge”. While Lamborghini has been tight-lipped about the upcoming models, they revealed their roadmap for electrification last year. At the time, they noted the Sián kicked off their electrification journey and would be followed by their first series production hybrid car in 2023. By the end of 2024, the company’s entire range is slated to be electrified. While some people may not be keen to see Lamborghini electrify their lineup, the company stated “performance and the authentic Lamborghini driving experience” will remain their key focus. Furthermore, the “application of lightweight carbon fiber materials will be crucial in compensating for weight gain due to electrification”. At the same event, Lamborghini confirmed plans for a fourth model which will become their first EV. It will be introduced in the second-half of this decade. +++

+++ Electrification is coming to the OPEL Astra with the new 8th generation model receiving an all-electric Astra-e variant from next year. It’ll follow the introduction of the plug-in hybrid variant version, hitting the roads in 2023. Opel plans on having an electrified version edition of every model by 2024, with the Opel range to be fully electric from 2028. The firm already has electric cars in the shape of the Corsa-e and the Mokka-e and they’ll be joined by the Astra-e as a hatchback and a Sports Tourer estate. Technical details on the Astra-e remain light. Stellantis has developed a new electric-specific STLA Medium platform, suitable for C and D-Segment vehicles, so think family hatchbacks like the Astra and larger SUVs like the Grandland. The platform is the Stellantis branded version of the eVMP platform, which was being developed by PSA back when it was a standalone company. It is, in effect, a further development of the EMP2 platform that sits underneath the new Astra in petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid format. It all means that despite being on a platform with a different name, there will be some mechanical similarities between the combustion engined and fully-electric versions of the Astra, and if the STLA Medium/eVMP system works in the same way as the e-CMP platform for smaller cars, it will run down the same production line as vehicles on EMP2 as well. Battery packs between 60 kWh and 100 kWh in capacity were initially touted for the eVMP system when it was a pure PSA project. Since it has been incorporated into Stellantis as the STLA Medium, the group has promised that the platform will deliver EVs capable of up to 700 km on a single charge, more or less tallying with the 100 kWh maximum capacity previously confirmed by PSA. I expect Astra-e’s battery pack will be the same as the upcoming Peugeot e-308 EV, given the 308 and Astra already share the same powertrains. This means a 54 kWh battery and 156 hp electric motor. Peugeot claims the e-308 will offer over 400 km of range; expect a similar amount from the Astra-e. If the Astra-e model follows the design convention set out by the Corsa-e and Mokka-e, there will be minimal difference in the way the Astra-e looks in comparison with its combustion engined siblings. A few key identifiers, such as a charging flap, distinct alloy wheels and paint options, may be the only real source of differentiation. +++

+++ POLESTAR is planning on releasing a volley of new models in the coming years, but it’s not scared of taking on additional projects. Company boss Thomas Ingenlath said that his team is looking at ways to build a production version of the O2 concept unveiled in March 2022. “My ambition is to make it a production car, but it’s not that easy”, he told. Part of the issue is undoubtedly that the O2 would land in a segment that’s shrinking. Demand for cabriolet models is falling, and carmakers from all over the spectrum are ditching the segment. Ingenlath also hinted that the O2 wasn’t necessarily envisioned as a production car, it was more of a statement of intent for the brand, so his team needs to figure out how to make it one. “You have to respect the complexity. We have to see where the O2 is going. When you’ve painted a painting, it’s always good to let it rest and look at it after a couple of months and still see if it’s a good painting”, he said. None of the components used to build the O2 are currently in production, but some will be in the not-too-distant future. The convertible rides on an evolution of the bonded aluminum platform that Polestar developed for the Polestar 5, an electric sedan tentatively due out for 2024. Since the platforms are related, it stands to reason that the O2 could be configured to take the 5’s dual-motor, 870-plus hp drivetrain. Of course, it usually takes more than the chief executive’s nod of approval to bring a new model to the market. Cars are almost always shaped by a business case rather than by one person’s personal preference, even if this person holds an important role in a company. Dan Akerson, the former head of General Motors, voiced his desire to see Opel’s Adam and Cascada models sold in the United States in 2013. While the Cascada made it across the pond as a Buick, the Adam (a small city car aimed at the Fiat 500) never turned a wheel here. And last year, Ford CEO Jim Farley expressed a desire to bring Europe’s Puma ST to the States. That hasn’t happened, either. Ingenlath didn’t reveal when his team will decide whether to give the O2 the proverbial green light for production. Polestar has more pressing things to deal with: it’s working on a pair of crossovers called 3 and 4, respectively, that should significantly increase its annual sales. The 3 will take the form of a crossover, while the 4 will be positioned as a sportier-looking model that will stand out with a fastback-like roof line. +++

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+++ It’s no secret that there’s a stereotype amongst automotive fanboys and girls that TESLA has some of the fiercest backers. Now a new study indicates that not only is that fandom a reality far beyond any stereotype, but that it’s also a cause for serious concern among the rest of the luxury segment. The study, conducted by S&P Global Mobility, compiled data about brand loyalty ranging from January of 2020 until April of this year. To determine brand loyalty, it calculated what percentage of buyers go back to the same brand they had when trading in or purchasing their next vehicle. In general, things don’t look great for the industry as a whole. Luxury brands have been especially affected with loyalty rates for the category as a whole dropping by 4.7 percent since March of 2021 when parts shortages took hold. The most affected brands were Porsche that watched its loyalty rate drop 8.5 points while Land Rover was down 9.2 points in that same time span. Despite that, 3 brands held firm, namely Maserati, Genesis and Tesla, which were the only luxury marques to actually increase their loyalty rates in the past 14 months. A report rightly points out that among those 3 brands, Tesla is bar far the biggest and its success is somewhat hiding the overall decline of the segment. Tom Libby, associate director and loyalty principal at S&P Global Mobility, clarified the situation further saying: “Tesla’s sort of, frankly, hiding a little bit of the luxury decline, which is really twice as much as mainstream”. Much of that success is attributed to the Model 3, which saw a 7.5 percent increase in brand loyalty from March 2021 through April 2022. On average, 62 out of every 100 Model 3 customers already owned a Tesla during that time span. The brand as a whole saw a 73.1 percent loyalty rating in March of this year as well. That’s a 24 percent increase over March 2021 when it had a still respectable 49.1 percent loyalty score. Tesla owners are the brand’s biggest customers and they’re driving the trend. Libby went on to say; “The story here is that Tesla owners are coming back to market in increasing numbers. But just as important, if not more important, they love the brand and they’re getting another one. So this is an ominous, frankly, ominous trend for the rest of the industry, something that has to be faced, and it has to be acknowledged”. The market is full of brands that are working hard to challenge Tesla in terms of technology and production volume but this new loyalty metric is another area that they’ll need to address too. What About Mainstream Brands? S&P Global Mobility found that overall, brand loyalty has fallen since last year, mainly due to inventory shortages, with mainstream brands such as Ford, Hyundai and Chevrolet seeing their loyalty rates drop 2.7 percent, from an average of 54.8 percent in March 2021, to 52.1 percent in April 2022. +++

+++ An UBER driver has more than doubled her monthly tips after she swapped out her Toyota Camry for a Tesla Model 3. Heidi Barnes says that in a 25-day period she made $2.600 in tips alone after switching to the electric vehicle, which is a huge increase from the $800-$1.000 that she would make in her petrol vehicle. “Usually I’m lucky to get $1 to $3 tips but it’s now $10 or $15, sometimes consecutively”, Barnes told. Customers are “a lot more generous”, said Barnes, who mostly drives around the Los Angeles area. She’s 1 of 15.000 drivers who have switched to a Tesla since Hertz made a deal with the brand in October of 2021, an increase of 186% since May of 2021.The switch came at a perfect time for drivers, just as gas prices are shooting through the roof. Barnes also said that the rise in gasoline costs made her regular fill-up jump from around $60 to $100. Not having to pay a dime for gasoline means that drivers can pocket that extra cash, and the benefits don’t end there either, Uber itself offers drivers a $1-per-ride incentive if they use a zero-emissions vehicle rather than a traditional petrol car. Although Heidi is leasing the Tesla, the costs are still much less than the Camry. All in, it costs only around $450 a month to run the Tesla, compared to over $600 for the fuel alone in the Toyota. The weekly rental rate from Hertz for a Tesla is $344, but that includes insurance, basic maintenance, and unlimited miles. +++

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