Newsflash: komt de laatste echte Alfa Romeo in 2023?


+++ ALFA ROMEO will offer a fully electric line-up by 2027, but before the brand turns to EVs it could launch some special celebratory products commemorating Alfa’s history with combustion engines, and the first car will be an ICE-powered sporty 2-seater inspired by the brand’s past performance icons. Alfa Romeo chief executive officer Jean-Philippe Imparato hinted at a special pure-combustion-engined sports car project that we’ll see next year, with styling that could be inspired by historic Alfas such as the iconic 33 Stradale: “Alfa is sportiness. You will see something sporty in the first half of 2023. I am on 2 scenarios: full EV or full ICE. I can tell you [this car] will be a very exciting one, very expensive, very selective. We will probably have some surprising, interesting proposals that will not always be full EV for the coming 2 years”. The new car is likely to be mid-engined and use a carbon fibre chassis. It will get a low, curvy front end inspired by the brand’s sports cars of the sixties, plus a low roof and chunky rear wheel arches; expect Alfa’s traditional telephone dial alloy wheels to feature. The brand’s boss was also quick to point out that Alfa has just resigned its agreement with Formula 1 for next season, so drawing upon links with the Sauber-run F1 operation, the new car could be powered by an evolution of the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 as used in the brand’s Giulia and Stelvio Quadrifoglio performance models. “At the end of November, I will be in a situation to present to you a 2023 product event”, Imparato said. “After ‘sportiness’ you add ‘Italian’ and ‘red’ and you have the positioning of Alfa Romeo. It’s simple. Easy to execute”. On the subject of what will inspire the new car’s styling, Imparato added, “I am not the only one to love Alfa’s past. We have so many fantastic ideas based on our iconic history, so I can say yes, but I can say it’s like nothing else. In each of our proposals you will always, always find a kind of signal of our DNA and our heritage, and you will find it clearly and quickly, so I am sure when you see something [the car] you will say this reminds me of whatever. You will hear more in November”. Alfa won’t stop at sports cars though, as the brand has plans for more special, limited-run models. When asked about the potential for these, Imparato said “The answer is yes. We have to be transparent and consistent, let me say I will not make any new GTA special editions. We sold 500 cars and we will respect this commitment on this kind. We won’t bulls**t the customer with a new special edition on the GTA every year, so I will no do that. Having said that, if the question is are you working on some very specific, high-level offers, the answer is yes”. +++

+++ BENTLEY ’s future is not as bright as its past, at least when we’re talking about exterior trim. The blacked-out Blackline Specification package that the firm introduced on the Continental GT earlier in 2022 has been so popular that it’s now available on the Flying Spur Mulliner. Unveiled on the sidelines of Monterey Car Week, the Flying Spur Mulliner Blackline Specification ditches nearly every piece of bright exterior trim. Designers replaced the chrome bits with gloss black trim and painted the door mirror caps in Beluga Black. The grille and the Winged B hood ornament keep some of their bright accents, and buyers can order black 22-inch wheels with polished pockets at an extra cost. Bentley left the interior untouched, meaning buyers can configure it to their liking. And, there are no mechanical modifications: The Blackline Specification package is offered on the hybrid, V8 and W12 powered variants of the Flying Spur Mulliner. In its quickest configuration, meaning with a twin-turbocharged, 635 horsepower 12-cylinder under the hood, the big sedan hits 100 kph from a stop in 3.8 seconds. Pricing for the Blackline Specification package hasn’t been announced. I’m guessing it’s not cheap, but that’s unlikely to deter buyers: Bentley announced that nearly 20% of Continental GT Mulliner buyers have ticked the Blackline Specification box since its introduction. At the other end of the Mulliner spectrum, the limited-edition Batur coupe is scheduled to make its debut during Monterey Car Week as well. +++


+++ This week has been a little bittersweet for Mopar fans. Some great variants and options for the Charger, Challenger and Durango are returning, but mostly because those first 2 models only have a little more than a year of production left. DODGE is hoping to cheer people up with this, the Charger Daytona SRT Concept, which is a preview of the brand’s electric muscle car future. I think fans will be pretty pleased. The design is unapologetically based on the second-generation Dodge Charger introduced for 1968. Dodge says it’s “subtle”. Though I’m not sure Dodge knows what “subtle” means, which the folks there would probably take as a compliment. Regardless, the car looks good. It has the same squared-off shape, wide, rising rear fenders and notchback roofline of the classic model. It even has the wide, rectangular front grille and just two doors. Dodge is quite proud of the nose. The grille doesn’t open to any sort of powertrain. Instead, it’s an aerodynamic passthrough, allowing for low drag, but with classic design. It’s this aerodynamic nod that led to naming the concept after the also aerodynamic Charger Daytona homologation special. And the bridge on front that provides the classic look is called the “R-Wing”. The exterior also features some very slick 21-inch center lock wheels with turbine-inspired details. They’re wrapped in 305 mm tires up front and 325 mm tires in the back. And they’re stopped by 6-piston brake calibers. The Charger Daytona hides a hatchback, too, making it highly practical. Moving to the inside, the design is actually quite grounded in reality. There are some slightly concept-y design flourishes such as the highly sculpted texture with ambient lighting that wraps around to the doors, as well as the ribbed and flowing center console, which is actually a bit reminiscent of the Chrysler Turbine Car’s. But the big screens (16 inches for the instruments, 12.3 for infotainment and 8.3 for HUD), leather trimmings and general layout are all extremely plausible for a production car. Some other fun touches that are also plausible are the modern take on the pistol-grip shifter, and the starter button placed under a safety cover like a jet fighter. Dodge is still being quiet about powertrain details, but it did share some interesting bits. The powertrain uses an 800 volt electrical system called “Banshee,” which inspired the “screaming banshee” badges on the fenders. That should enable it to handle up to 350 kW fast charging. Dodge also said that the Charger Daytona is all-wheel-drive and faster than a current Hellcat. It gets a PowerShot overboost button like the newly revealed Hornet, which can be used any time, and the car has drive modes named Slam, Drift, Drag and Donut. Dodge boss Tim Kuniskis noted that this concept “is not a science project” and is previewing future models that will launch in 2024. Dodge representatives also noted that there will be multiple-output versions of this powertrain, along with possibly entry-level 400 volt versions. Plans are in place for Direct Connection aftermarket upgrades, too. Besides those key details, there are a couple other unusual mechanical features to the Charger Daytona SRT. One of them is the inclusion of a multi-speed transmission. No details on how many ratios or how the gearbox works were given. It wouldn’t be the first multi-speed transmission in an EV, as the Porsche Taycan has a 2-speed setup, but it will still be unusual. And Kuniskis said the only real reason for it is because the car’s team liked the feeling of gear changes when driving hard. Continuing with that theme is the Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust system. Kuniskis emphasized that this is not just an external speaker system. It’s actually a pipe system with various chambers tuned to make noise, presumably with air being pumped through it. Basically like a brass instrument or as Kuniskis likened it, a pipe organ. It’s tied to information such as speed, throttle input and other information. Dodge demonstrated it for us, and it did sound surprisingly good, with hints of turbine and V8 rumble, with a bit of rasp on the high end. It’s loud, too, with a volume of up to 126 decibels, the same as a Hellcat’s exhaust. And like the multi-speed transmission, it’s just there to add to the experience. Dodge wouldn’t say if the Charger Daytona SRT would enter production as its own model looking like this. It did imply that this is a preview of a couple muscle car variants that will launch in 2024. We would imagine it will be a product split basically like the current Charger and Challenger, with one as a 4-door, and the other as a 2-door. And I would expect those products to be heavily inspired by this concept, which already doesn’t seem far away from production feasibility. I’m certainly excited to try them out in a few years. +++


+++ During the development of the LUCID AIR, the company showed off a 3-motor version that seemed capable of very impressive performance. Judging by a new teaser, we’ll see a production version of that speedy EV at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, on 19 August. The teaser’s brief animation shows 3 cylindrical objects spinning and rotating. The items have a resemblance to a portion of the stator, which is a major component of an electric motor. To push the message even harder, the company includes the statement: “Three is a magic number”. Assuming this really is the 3-motor Air, then it could be a real competitor against the Tesla Model S Plaid. In 2020, the company sent a prototype of the tri-motor around Laguna Seca and managed to set a lap time of 1 minute and 31.3 seconds. For comparison, a Plaid was able to do it in 1:30.3. Lucid also showed off the tri-motor prototype covering the quarter-mile in 9.245 seconds at 157.26 miles per hour. Although, as a pre-production vehicle, we can’t be certain whether the version going on sale is also capable of this acceleration. When Lucid released all the details about the Air Dream Edition in 2020, it also provided some hints about the three-motor model. The company claimed the 2 motors in the rear axle were capable of making an outrageous 1.300 hp. At the time, the automaker hoped to launch this vehicle in late 2021. The most powerful version of the Air so far was the Dream Edition Performance that made 1.111 hp. Lucid no longer offers this trim level, so the Grand Touring Performance with 1.050 hp is the current top dog in the line-up. One of them was the fastest production vehicle in the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed hill climb with a time of 50.79 seconds. In August, Lucid reduced its estimated Air production in 2022 to between 6.000 and 7.000 units. This was the second reduction during the year after initially hoping to build 20.000 vehicles and later revising that number down to between 12.000 and 14.000 cars. The automaker cited “extraordinary supply chain and logistics challenges” as the reason for changing plans. The Lucid Air Stealth Look Package will also be on display during Monterey Car Week. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ has 2 electric cars joining the growing list of new EV recalls, and it’s not the first recall for the German luxury automaker’s electric cars. Mercedes is recalling some 7.810 electric vehicles worldwide for “faulty threads of the towing devices”. The recall impacts both the fully electric EQE saloon and the EQS, which is referred to as a saloon, though it’s actually a liftback. The report also notes that only 1.746 of these particular electric vehicles are affected at home in Germany, so the remaining ±6.000 are being recalled by Mercedes-Benz across the globe. While the recall doesn’t appear to be a devastating issue, it will certainly be cause for concern and annoyance for Mercedes-Benz. According to the KBA recall database, the problem may be related to the depth of the screw threads for towing devices. The automaker isn’t aware of any injuries or property damage related to the problem. The issue with the faulty screw threads is such that the “required screw depth of the towing eye in the thread of the towing device might not be reached”. If the threads are faulty and don’t allow the screw to enter deeply enough, the screw connection may loosen. When a vehicle goes in to have the problem addressed, the towing devices are checked. If the issue is found, the screw threads are reworked to ensure that they’re designed properly and will remain safe and secure. Mercedes-Benz has already recalled both the EQE and EQS in the past. The automaker recalled 341 EQE saloons across the globe for steering concerns. The EQS is already under a recall in the US for a potential fire hazard related to faulty ground connections. The electric saloon was also previously recalled for issues with its charging cables and infotainment glitches. +++

+++ A new sketch has revealed the dashboard design of the SKODA Vision 7S, the company’s new electric 7-seater SUV, which will be revealed on 30 August in concept form. The new concept will preview Skoda’s next design language inside and out. Based on the sketch, you can expect the Vision 7S to come to market packing a huge, free-standing, portrait-style infotainment screen. The steering wheel also gets a new look with four spokes and with what looks like touch-sensitive controls. Below the portrait infotainment screen, you’ll find three large, haptic rotary controls, with more buttons beneath. These will likely be used to control the car’s ventilation system. A large centre console provides space to store and charge smartphones and other devices. Because most of the car’s functions will be controlled via the centre touchscreen and digital dashboard display, conventional buttons will be in short supply giving the cabin a minimalist design, with a wraparound theme that emphasises width. Expect the Vision 7S to make the most of its EV powertrain with a lounge-like cabin with a flat floor and a floating centre console that make the car feel lighter and brighter than a conventional alternative. The latest teaser follows an image released last month showing the Vision 7’s interior layout complete with 7 seats. The top-down sketch shows that the concept has, in effect, a 6+1 layout, with 2 adult seats in each of the 3 rows and then a novel centrally mounted child seat, which would place a baby right in the centre of the vehicle. This is likely to be a show-car element, with the space in the middle of the car ultimately being used for 3 seats, to deliver a full 7-seater. Other elements of note include what appears to be a light bar in the middle of the dashboard top (potentially a reference to Skoda’s Bohemian glass culture) and, in a sign of the brand’s developing self-confidence, a Skoda text logo on the outside of the C-pillar. Skoda says that the Vision 7S will alter its dashboard configuration when the driver wants to relax (during a recharge for example). The steering wheel and instrument cluster will slide forwards, while the large central touchscreen will move from a portrait layout to a landscape format to make it better suited to watching entertainment. This is confirmed by the ‘Drive/Relax’ switch in the centre console, which illustrates the screen rotating, and the teaser image, which shows the landscape screen featuring shortcuts to media sources such as YouTube and Netflix. Skoda also says the car will feature backpacks integrated into the second-row seat backs, and phone mounts in the backs of the front seats to allow middle-row passengers to enjoy entertainment on the move. +++


+++ The link between SMART and Brabus is a historical one. The German tuner has been involved in the creation of some of the hottest ultracompact cars in the range in the last 20 years, and the future will be no different. These days, Smart has strong connections with China-based Geely as well as Mercedes-Benz, but that’s not stopping Brabus from offering an upgraded version of the small electric crossover. The Smart #1 by Brabus has a sharp, sporty look but keeps the clean and curved design of the original version. The modified model is distinguished visually by small red inserts on the door profiles and the bumpers, with a red roof spoiler also in the mix. The bumpers have been redesigned with new air intakes, while the 19-inch alloy wheels stand out at the corners. More red also exists in the cabin: it can be found in the seams of the seats and in the details of the dashboard and headrests. Being Brabus, there is no shortage of leather, microfiber, and Alcantara spread through the interior. You’ll find aluminium pedals at your feet, too. The big news could be something that’s not yet confirmed, but rumoured according to Chinese media. No technical specifications have been released, but the Brabus-tweaked Smart #1 could pack dual electric motors for an all-wheel-drive setup. Moreover, the powertrain could offer a combined output of up to 440 hp. Obviously, that would be a huge upgrade to the current model, which is already snappy with 272 hp driving just the rear wheels. Such a power upgrade with all-wheel drive in something this size of a Smart #1 would no doubt deliver some impressive performance figures. With nothing officially revealed, we’re left to ponder just how quick this hot EV hatch could be. We expect Brabus to also upgrade the brakes and suspension accordingly, but the flip side for more performance could be a reduction in range. Ultimately, we’ll just have to wait until full information is revealed. When will that happen? The debut is scheduled for 26 August at the Chengdu Motor Show in China. It is unclear if and when this model will arrive in Europe or other markets. All kinds of new vehicle debuts are happening soon. +++


+++ You’ve probably heard on a number of occasions that perhaps TESLA shouldn’t be using the Autopilot name for its advanced driver-assist systems. The same has been said about the EV maker’s use of “Full Self-Driving” for cars that aren’t fully autonomous. However, a lawsuit brought against Tesla with those claims was unsuccessful after the automaker won its appeal. Tesla won in an appeal to a lawsuit filed by the Wettbewerbszentrale (Competition Centre). As the story goes, a court in Munich ruled against Tesla in 2020, claiming that the company was using misleading marketing practices related to Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) capability, the latter of which is still in beta form and currently unavailable outside of North America. The Competition Centre, a highly influential German regulatory agency, along with several other companies, insisted that Tesla’s consumers were being misinformed when they were told that Autopilot was included in every Tesla vehicle since Autopilot suggests that the cars could drive themselves. Taking it a step further, the group went to bat against Tesla’s FSD since the automaker’s website noted that the cars were capable of “automatic driving in town”. When Tesla first learned of the lawsuit, it was clear the automaker would be able to appeal, and, of course, it did. A higher Munich court ruled in favour of Tesla back in October 2021, though the verdict was apparently kept quiet until now. Tesla will reportedly still be able to use the Autopilot name since anyone visiting Tesla’s website can learn that its vehicles aren’t fully autonomous. The Competition Centre did make some progress, however. The reports suggest that Tesla was forced to change some of the wording on its website related to the advanced driver-assist system’s features. For example, if Tesla is providing context about an upcoming feature that will further advance the system’s capabilities, it must provide an estimated availability date. More specifically, the feature language can’t just read “coming soon”, “next up”, or “by the end of the year”. Rather, there has to be an actual date that Tesla expects the feature to be completed and rolled out to its customers. As you may already be aware, this comes at a time when Tesla is facing a similar lawsuit filed by the California DMV. We’ll have to wait and see how the case plays out +++

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