+++ The new AUDI Activesphere is a next-generation concept car with an electric powertrain and Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities. Taking the form of a rugged, off-road crossover, the surprise model will provide both on- and off-road capabilities to enable drivers to live a more active lifestyle, according to Audi. The Activesphere is the brand’s latest addition to its next-generation concept line-up, which was originally revealed as a trio of cars consisting of the shape-shifting Skysphere sports coupé, the Urbansphere MPV and the Grandsphere executive saloon. Likely to be based on the PPE platform shared by the Urbansphere and Grandsphere, the Activesphere features a raised stature and a large set of wheels, contrasting with sleek bodywork and narrow, sharply designed headlights. Those design features indicate the model will have some degree of off-road capability. Although Audi has remained tight-lipped about specific features, all four concepts are crammed full of next-generation technologies, including level four autonomous driving capabilities and creative solutions to improve practicality, relaxation and sustainability. Audi has previewed a handful of different battery technologies for its concepts. The Urbansphere, which will be the firm’s largest car yet, is fitted with a 120 kWh battery with up to 750 km of range and can charge at speeds of up to 270 kW. Battery sizes for the Skysphere have not been revealed, although Audi has said the capacity is expected to be higher than 80 kWh, offering a range of around 500 km. As for powertrains, Audi’s concepts have figures ranging from 408 hp and 660 Nm for the Urbansphere, to the 720 hp and 1.000 Nm in the Grandsphere. The Activesphere will make its first public debut at the start of 2023. The firm’s other 3 concepts (the Skysphere, Grandsphere and Urbansphere) will all appear together for the first time at the Monterey Car Week. +++
+++ When drivers of future Mercedes AMG models stomp the accelerator of their electric performance cars, they’ll get extra oomph out of the batteries from something that sounds straight out of “Back to the Future”. No, not flux capacitors, but AXIAL FLUX MOTORS . Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari are turning to this type of electric motor to generate headrest-hitting torque. Axial flux motors are much smaller than predominantly used radial motors, yet pack a more powerful punch. High-end motors like these will be crucial to brands like AMG and Ferrari as they race to electrify the high-performance vehicles that earn prestige and bumper profits. All EVs offer the sensation of instant acceleration, from Nissan’s Leaf to Tesla’s Model S Plaid. Whereas in the combustion age, quicker times off the line and higher top speeds were achieved with more engine cylinders, manufacturers will differentiate performance EVs by getting the most out of batteries with lighter and more efficient motors. “The power-to-weight ratio is really a record number, and much better than conventional motors”. Markus Schaefer, Mercedes’s chief technology officer, said of the automaker’s upcoming AMG electric vehicle platform. “It will make use of the small size of the motor”. With each press of the accelerator, EV drivers push hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of amps of electric current to copper coils. When these coils are energized, they become electromagnets with attractive and repulsive forces. The magnetic force created by a stationary stator surrounding a rotating rotor produces the torque that turns the wheels of the vehicle. In axial motors, rather than have a rotor spin inside a stator, disc-shaped rotors spin alongside a central stator. This leads the flow of current (the flux) to travel axially through the machine, rather than radially out from the center. Since the motor generates torque at a bigger diameter, less material is needed. Yasa, an Oxford, England-based manufacturer of motors used in Ferrari’s SF90 and 296 GTB plug-in hybrids, uses just a few kilograms of iron for its stators, reducing the mass of the machines by as much as 85%. Yasa’s motors are the brainchild of Tim Woolmer, whose work on them were the focus of his electrical engineering PhD at the University of Oxford. Within a few years of earning his doctorate, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) made plans to use Yasa’s motors in the C-X75, a hybrid-electric two-seater with enough horsepower to rival the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari. While JLR ended up cancelling the project due to financial constraints, Yasa’s motors found their way into the Koenigsegg Regera hybrid hypercar, followed by the Ferrari SF90. In July of last year, Mercedes announced it had acquired Yasa for an undisclosed sum and would put its motors in AMG models slated to launch starting in 2025. “If you look at the history of automotive generally, the auto companies have wanted to have the engine, their core technology, in-house”, Woolmer said in an interview. “The batteries, the motors, this is their core technology now. They recognize the importance of having long-term differentiation in these spaces, so they have to bring it in-house”. The most important aspect of axial motors is form-factor potential, according to Malte Jaensch, professor of sustainable mobile drivetrains at the TUM School of Engineering and Design in Munich. Their smaller size could allow carmakers to put one motor on each wheel, which isn’t feasible with radial motors. Putting a motor on each wheel (or at least one on each axle) could translate into hair-raising EV driving performance. The innovation allows for torque vectoring that better controls how much power the motors send to each individual wheel for improved agility. High-speed cornering may help AMG and Ferrari drivers get over the lost roar of their 8-, 10- or 12-cylinder engines. Yasa’s motors also could completely remove the need for a powertrain on the so-called skateboard underneath the middle of an EV, Woolmer said. That would open up more space for engineers to package batteries, make more room for bigger front and rear trunk spaces, or allow designers to experiment with new aerodynamic ideas. The small size and light weight of axial motors won’t just benefit high-performance cars. They’re also finding a home in aerospace, leading Yasa to spin out its electric aviation division Evolito last year. The world’s fastest electric vehicle, Rolls-Royce’s electric aircraft called the Spirit of Innovation, uses three axial flux motors to drive its propeller. The aircraft can travel around 610 kilometers per hour, making it faster than the Spitfire fighter aircraft that was powered by a Rolls-Royce V12 engine. “The critical thing is their efficiency”, said Matheu Parr, the Spirit of Innovation project leader at Rolls-Royce. “This allows you to keep the weight of the aircraft low”. Axial motors won’t necessarily be the death knell of radial motors, which deliver higher top speeds. This led Ferrari to use two radial motors on the front axle of the SF90, along with an axial motor on the rear axle. For the 296 GTB, handling was deemed more important, so only a lighter axial motor was used between the engine and transmission. “It’s just a matter of what kind of driving experience you want to design for your customers with a specific engine”, said Davide Ferrara, Ferrari’s electric motors manager. “Different voices make sweet notes”. +++
+++ BUGATTI ’s mighty W16 engine will retire in the coming years, but it’s not sailing off into the sunset quietly. It will power one final street-legal car: a roadster named Mistral that stands proud as the first convertible of the Chiron era. Built due to customer demand, the Bugatti Mistral is a striking, limited-edition model that looks ready to add another speed record to the French firm’s trophy case. I sat down with some of the people who created it, including Bugatti design director Achim Anscheidt and head of design Frank Heyl, to get the droptop’s full story. “For the final road-going appearance of Bugatti’s legendary W16 engine, we knew we had to create a roadster. Well over 40% of all Bugatti vehicles ever created have been open-top in design”, said Bugatti-Rimac CEO Mate Rimac. Heyl added that customers “begged” Bugatti to create a Chiron-derived convertible, and that granting them this wish was a “bucket-list” item for the members of his team. Power for the Mistral comes from the same 8.0-liter, quad-turbocharged 16-cylinder engine that propelled the Chiron Super Sport 300+ to a record-breaking 487 kph in 2019. It’s rated at 1.600 hp and it spins the 4 wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Bugatti estimates that the Mistral’s top speed will check in at approximately 420 kph. Will this number get verified? Hell, yes! “There can only be one goal in mind: to become the fastest roadster in the world once more”, Bugatti pledged in a statement. While the Mistral is Chiron-based, Bugatti made several important structural changes to offset the inevitable loss of structural rigidity caused by chopping off the roof. Heyl explained that the monocoque’s sills and transmission tunnel were reinforced and that the a- and b-pillar structures are new, though the front crash structure is the same. And, the 2 models intentionally share no exterior styling cues. “We had the pressure of creating something that is precious and valuable in a car collector’s garage. It’s not just a fashion statement: ‘Oh, let’s do a roadster!’ Or, even worse, ‘Let’s take a Chiron and just cut it open,’ which would have looked terrible. This burdens us with the responsibility that this is the last of its kind of that generation and how that’s going to sit in those collections”, Anscheidt told. Up front, the Mistral wears a redesigned rendition of Bugatti’s horseshoe grille and headlights with four LED strips (a configuration chosen as a tribute to the four-wheel-drive system and the four turbochargers) while the X-shaped lights characterize the rear end. There’s a lot more to the design than initially meets the eye, however. Heyl explained that his team added air curtains behind the headlights, for example. And, they separated the intakes that feed air into the engine from those that feed air into the oil coolers to avoid making the Mistral too wide. The former are now right above the front passengers, while the latter remain on the quarter panels. This setup brings a few unexpected benefits. “The driver hears the air intake system and the turbo blow-off valves, and it’s very nice stylistically; it reminds us of the Vitesse”, Heyl said. Interior designers kept the Chiron’s basic layout with a handful of exceptions such as new, more ergonomic seats. Check out the gear selector, too: It’s made of wood and features an amber insert with a replica of Rembrandt Bugatti’s “dancing elephant” sculpture. Bugatti told me this part is “just a proposal for the show car,” though it added that it will find a way to bring it to production if customers request it. What if it rains? Act fast; The Mistral will come with what Anscheidt described as an “emergency roof” but it will not feature a fixed top. Bugatti will cap Mistral production at 99 units, though it will build an additional car for testing purposes. Pricing is set at €5 million before taxes and options are factored in (about €7.5 million in the Netherlands) and the entire production run is already spoken for. And, while many hypercars are only street-legal via loopholes, Bugatti went to significant lengths to fully homologate the Mistral around the world. Is the Mistral the end of the W16? Sort of. It’s the last W16-powered street-legal car, Anscheidt explained that ever-stricter regulations are escorting the big engine off the stage, but the engine will also power the limited-edition Bolide that was developed exclusively for track use. “To be honest, I can do all of the design talking that I want, but if we didn’t have the W16 engine, these cars would not be worth half the money”, Anscheidt said. “The W16 is the ultimate unique selling proposition for the modern-day Bugatti brand, from 2005 to today. It means something to us. The Mistral is a tribute to this engine, and now we go on to the next generation and think about something else”. +++
+++ Even salesmen with delicious cuts of meat to offer know that you sell the sizzle, not the steak. That’s what CZINGER went to Monterey Car Week to do with a third version of its tandem two-seater 21C and its planned Hyper GT. I’ll start with the 21C, which, remember, was launched with 2 body styles. There was a road version and a track version whose aero accoutrements provided three times the downforce of the road car. The 21C V Max takes the road car in the opposite direction of the track car, streamlining and elongating the bodywork to trade drag for velocity. The package should make more speed from the 2.88-liter twin-turbo V8 that sits behind the cabin in all 21Cs, aided by the 2 electric motors on the front axle. Founder Kevin Czinger said in Monterey the 1.233 hp powerplant enables the same sub-2-seconds 0-100 kph time as the other variants. Having reworked everything from the front splitter to the rear diffuser, the Vmax should be even faster than the claimed 27-second sprint from 0 to 400 kph and back to 0 for the regular 21C. Claimed quarter-mile time is 8.1 seconds, claimed top speed is 405 kph. The V Max will be part of the 80-unit build of the 21C, giving buyers three flavours to choose from at a cost of $1.7 million per. First deliveries are planned for the end of next year.
At some point after the 21C begins deliveries, Czinger plans to have its second vehicle headed to production, known for now as the Hyper GT. It’s powered by the same hybrid setup as the 21C but with the ICE put up front and (I assume) the e-motors in back. Czinger says this will be “the most powerful grand tourer ever produced” and “by far, the top performing GT ever built and ever put out on the street” that also happens to have room for 4 adults and their luggage; those occupants will enter via gullwing doors, because you can’t see the wow factor of 1.233 hp at the valet stand. Being so far out from production, I’m not sure what the interior will hold. But the company plans to produce 1.000 of the Hyper GT at its Los Angeles headquarters, each costing between $750.000 and $1 million, and then follow it up with a battery-electric model sometime before 2030.
Czinger told: “The original conception of Czinger was to produce that ultimate road-track car (the 21C, red.) that could set all of the records”. After the reception to the 21C and breaking the Laguna Seca lap record, he said, “Then the idea was ‘This could be a really, really cool brand,’ with the father-son combination [referring to his son and co-founder Lukas] , that creates a whole series of the most off-the-hook vehicles in each of the categories”. +++
+++ This is a big year for KOENIGSEGG. It’s the 20-year anniversary of the Swedish supercar builder’s first production car, the CC8S. It’s also the 50th birthday of the founder, Christian von Koenigsegg. To celebrate, the company has put together the CC850, which is a reimagining of that original supercar, but using modern technology. It looks very much like the old car, but packs way more power and some wild features. The exterior is quite close to the original. The biggest changes are the switches to more flowing LED lighting up front and in the rear. It has reworked wheels with the phone-dial round openings and has a smooth, uncluttered design. Part of that is due to the hidden rear wing that deploys at speed. The car has the signature tumble-forward doors, powered hood and engine cover, and it has a removable top that can be stowed in the car just like the CC8S. The interior is much more modern Koenigsegg, and the highlights include the beautiful analogue instrument dials and the gated shifter in the middle. That shifter features a wood knob with a Swedish flag, again like CC8S. As is often the case with Koenigseggs, the parts that make it go are as interesting if not more so than the swoopy shell. The CC850 is powered by a twin-turbo 5.0-liter V8 that makes 1.185 hp and 1.400 Nm on gasoline. Put E85 ethanol in it, and power climbs to 1.385. Christian von Koenigsegg noted that these numbers are a bit lower than for the Jesko, which provided the base for much of the CC850. The reason is because the company went with smaller turbos for better response and less lag, since the car has a manual transmission, sort of. Ok, so let’s talk about the transmission. It’s a version of the Light Speed Transmission, which has a set of 7 clutches and 9 gear ratios and can jump from any gear to any other gear, unlike most dual-clutch transmissions that have to shift sequentially. In the Jesko, it’s an automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Here, it has an automatic mode, but it also has a manual mode, complete with clutch pedal. The clutch pedal does actuate the transmission’s multiple clutches, and it is possible to stall the car if you’re not balancing your clutch and throttle inputs. And the shifter will tell the car which gear you want. Curiously, there are only 6 gates for the manual mode. Christian von Koenigsegg said that having to pick through 9 gates would be complicated, so the company stuck with 6. Depending on what drive mode you’re in, though, the different gates will get you different ratios. So hypothetically, you could have a set of closer ratios for a track mode, and more widely spaced ones with a tall top gear for street and highway driving. Naturally, the CC850 is also light. With its carbon fiber construction, it weighs in at just 1.385 kilos. It actually has the same power to weight ratio as the Koenigsegg One:1 when measured in metric with the ethanol output. The car also features adjustable ride height and damping. Only 50 CC850s will be built. No price was given, but I’m sure buyers don’t care. I also imagine that the car will be sold out very soon after this reveal. +++
+++ LAND ROVER is at Monterey Car Week, and it just revealed the 2023 Range Rover SV Carmel Edition. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Monterey Peninsula: Carmel in California is but one of the super-wealthy towns found in the area, and this Range Rover is named after it. Think of it like a Texas edition of a pickup, but for the uber-wealthy. And we do mean uber-wealthy: the SV Carmel Edition is priced at $346,475. Only 17 examples will be made and Land Rover made its availability known to a select group of Land Rover owners prior to this public reveal. The Carmel Edition will only be available to those in the U.S. and is largely a preset spec that uses the Long Wheelbase version of the Range Rover with the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8. Every Carmel Edition will be done up in the exclusive Satin Bronze paint you see in the photos here. Unique 23-inch wheels finished in dark gray gloss and featuring bronze inserts are the only wheels you can have, too. On the inside, the Carmel Edition will have Liberty Blue front seats and Caraway-colored (tan) rear seats with exclusive Carmel Edition embroidery as contrast. The 4-seat “SV Signature Suite” configuration is standard. This means you get the massive front-to-rear center console and all sorts of luxury. Fanciful trim on the Carmel Edition features Gloss White ceramic controls, Satin White ceramic finishers and a bunch of embossed mosaics. SV-etched Dartington Crystal glassware is provided along with the integrated refrigerator and electrically deployable cupholders. It may just feel more like an art gallery inside than a car. The sill plates denote this model as the Carmel Edition, and they also display its exclusivity with a “1 of 17” designation. Every owner will be custom-fitted for a set of Titleist golf clubs that come with the vehicle. And lastly, Land Rover notes that a portion of the $346,475 selling price will be donated to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. +++
+++ This is the LUCID AIR Sapphire, and it takes the Air to a whole new level of performance. Just revealed at Monterey Car Week, the Sapphire features a 3-motor powertrain that Lucid says is capable of delivering over 1.200 hp. That nutty amount of power will be good for 0-100 kph times in less than 2 seconds, 0-160 kph times in less than 4 seconds and a quarter-mile time of under 9 seconds, all according to Lucid. Top speed for the Sapphire is claimed to be “over 320 kph”. Unlike the Tesla Model S Plaid that posts similar acceleration figures, Lucid says that all of the times are doable without “protracted preconditioning routines”. Similar to the Plaid, the Lucid Air Sapphire features 2 electric motors driving the rear wheels and 1 driving the front. Lucid’s twin rear drive unit is capable of providing a torque vectoring effect by providing torque to the rear wheels in opposite directions. It’s able to provide regenerative braking to the inside wheel while powering the outside at the same time to increase rotation and make for quicker turn-in, similar to what you’d see on a car with rear-wheel steering. The Sapphire isn’t just about straight-line speed, though. Lucid installed stiffer front and rear springs, stiffer bushings and is running more aggressive damper settings. It also gets unique tuning for the electric power steering, stability control, traction control and ABS. Speaking of the brakes, carbon ceramic brakes come standard to ensure durability during high-performance driving. Larger wheels and tires are fitted: 265-section-width in front and 295-section-width in back. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber it’s using is developed specifically for the Sapphire and as such features the unique designation on the sidewall. In order to fit the wider rubber, Lucid has given the Air a widebody re-style. The front is 0.83 inch wider, and the rear is 0.94 inch wider than a standard Air. The new wheels (20-inch in front and 21-inch in rear) also feature carbon fiber aero disc covers to improve the drag coefficient, plus they look cool. Lucid says it made light changes to the exterior in an effort to enhance downforce without greatly affecting range. Lucid doesn’t provide a range prediction, but claims it will retain the range advantage it holds over competitors. To aid the high-speed driving the Sapphire will be capable of, Lucid installed new 18-way power sport seats that are trimmed in leather and Alcantara with Sapphire blue stitching. They’re still heated, cooled and massaged. The screen displays will have new performance-focused menus to check out and it’ll feature new drive modes, too. You’ll get the vehicle’s maximum performance in “Sapphire” mode. Lucid says the Sapphire will only be offered as a limited-production model in the U.S. and Canada. Deliveries will begin next year, and the starting price is $249,000 (€335.000 if sold in the Netherlands), not including a yet-to-be-announced destination charge. Lucid only has the Air in its lineup for now, but it says to expect a high-po Sapphire version of every car it produces in the future. +++