Newsflash: Lexus komt met RZ 300e

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+++ Alfisti will be happy to hear the company’s designs won’t radically change in the impending electric era. In an interview, the man in charge of styling, Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos, promised to retain the modus operandi by sketching EVs with the same emotional design that has beautified ALFA ROMEO cars for decades. He went as far as to say going with a bespoke design for electric cars doesn’t make sense. “Electrification changes the way the car moves, but the character, the style, the values will remain. Looking electric for the sake of it doesn’t make sense from my point of view. We’re not going to say, ‘OK, it’s an electric car, let’s make it look different because it’s electric’ “. He went on to say such a strategy made sense for BMW because the German luxury brand was an early EV adopter with the i3 that recently went out of production. However, with every single automaker going electric sooner or later, it would be pointless to come out with designs that shout “hey, hello, I’m electric, look at me”, added Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos. Of course, there will be some changes compared to the current crop of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. A purely electric car that rides on a dedicated platform typically has shorter overhangs and a longer wheelbase, along with a lower centre of gravity and enough space to fit a large battery pack. These factors will impact a car’s proportions, but Alfa’s design chief says future models must have a “visceral” appearance that exudes a “wow effect” like ICEs of the past. Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos has been telling designers not to obsess over the fact it’s an EV. One of the goals is to create a bold appearance, one that won’t leave you indifferent, even if you don’t necessarily like it. At the end of the day, it must look like an Alfa first and foremost, without giving the impression it is trying too hard to tell you it’s electric. The fabled Italian brand will introduce its first EV in 2024, likely a subcompact crossover positioned below the Tonale and also offered with ICEs. The first zero-emissions model to ride on a dedicated platform is scheduled to arrive in 2025. From 2027, Alfa Romeo will become an EV-only marque in key regions such as Europe, North America and China. A next-generation Giulia has already been confirmed and is going to be offered exclusively with an electric drivetrain. In addition, Alfa says the Tonale’s platform is compatible with an electric setup, but it’s too soon to say whether an EV derivative is in the works. +++

+++ Staying up to date with AUDI ’s lineup takes a full-time job as the German luxury marque has one of the most confusing portfolios in the business. It recently launched an MQB-based Q6, which is actually longer and wider than the Q7. It’s sold only in China as a fancier alternative to the Volkswagen Atlas. It carries a name that’ll also be used for the PPE-based Q6 e-Tron (Sportback) electric SUVs twinned with the Porsche Macan EV. Although the Q6 and Q7 offer 3-row seating, they’re not as spacious for rearmost passengers as a Mercedes GLS or a BMW X7. For this reason, Audi is believed to be cooking up a larger Q9 as its flagship SUV to primarily sell in the United States and China. Dealers in the US have already been informed about the model, which is expected to hit the market in 2025. It would be among the final new ICE-powered models launched by Audi considering the Ingolstadt-based marque has already announced all products from 2026 will be purely electric. It’s unclear whether the Q9 will be sold in Europe, but don’t be too surprised if it’ll happen since both the GLS and X7 are available on the Old Continent where a three-row Range Rover is also sold. At the other end of the SUV lineup, Audi will retire the Q2 at the end of the subcompact model’s life cycle. The mechanically related A1 Sportback is also going away, with the Four Rings deciding to focus on bigger and more expensive models since these have higher profit margins. Needless to say, a potential Q9 would be appreciated by accountants, a lot more than the TT and R8 sports cars that have been living on borrowed time for quite a while. Little is known about the Q9, although Audi design boss Marc Lichte said back in June 2018 that the company has “so many ideas” for a range-topping SUV. +++

+++ BENTLEY will reveal the latest limited-production creation from in-house coachbuilding arm Mulliner at Monterey Car Week on 21 August. The Bentley Mulliner Batur will provide a first look at the brand’s new design language, which will set its first electric models apart from its current V6, V8 and W12-engined cars. The first Bentley EV, due in 2025, is expected to be a high-riding saloon using the Volkswagen Group’s upcoming SSP platform and offering 500 km of range. The Batur will feature a large, flat grille area with a red-accented, cross-hatched design. The new language also influences the badgework. Whereas the Bentayga features cursive badging, the Batur gets a low-profile block font. The Batur, named after a lake in Indonesia, will be fully revealed on 21 August. It’s expected to be similarly limited as the  Mulliner Bacalar, of which just 12 units were sold, four of which remain to be delivered to customers. Mulliner has evolved into a key component of Bentley as a business. The brand attributed its record-setting profit for the first half of 2022 to the Created by Mulliner personalisation programme. Mulliner’s role in informing Bentley’s future (especially concerning the marque’s Beyond100 sustainability plans) is likely to grow as a result. As for the Beyond100 plan, the Crewe-based firm has committed to only offering EV or PHEV models from 2026 and total electrification by 2030. Aside from the EV saloon, the firm is likely to launch EV replacements for its existing models (the Bentayga, Continental GT and Flying Spur) with 1 model per year from 2025. +++

BentleyBaturPlaag

+++ The next-generation BMW M2 is just around a corner with an official and full debut scheduled for October this year. The model won’t go on sale until April 2023, though we already know quite a bit about its hardware. It will share its engine and brakes with the M4 and it seems that there’s more to be borrowed from the larger sports car: it’s available all-wheeldrive. This is the first time I hear about a potential M2 xDrive and the information comes from a leaked BMW technical document, which seems to indicate there will be an all-wheeldrive version of the new M2. The xDrive system will be identical to the one used in the M4 Coupe xDrive. A brief description in the sheet promises “outstanding traction” and “further improved driving dynamics”. The leaked document explains the way BMW’s AWD system operates and says the maximum transmissible torque is 1,300 Nm. The tuning companies will probably be happy to hear this as the figure is well above what the new M2 is expected to deliver in stock form. Or, simply put, there’s enough room for performance upgrades once the model goes on sale. According to the document, just like on the M4, the M xDrive on the new M2 codenamed G87 will offer 5 different driving modes covering a broad range of driving conditions. The system only gets the front axle involved when the rear wheels lack enough traction and additional tensile force is required. BMW says the vehicle “behaves predictably” under all conditions, even with a sporty driving style. Keep in mind this leaked document is not necessarily a confirmation that the new M2 is coming with AWD. It’s a strong hint but nothing is confirmed at this point. As a final note, we’d like to remind you BMW will sell the sports car with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or an optional 8-speed automatic. +++

BMWm2prototype

+++ Tesla sold 28,217 vehicles made in CHINA in July, nearly two-thirds less than a month earlier as a scheduled upgrade to its factory lines in Shanghai disrupted production. The U.S. carmaker exported 19.756 Model 3s and Model Ys from China last month, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said. In June, it sold 78.906 vehicles and exported 968. Tesla China usually exports more cars at the beginning of a quarter while focusing more on domestic sales at the end. Tesla suspended most of its production at the Shanghai plant in July due to an upgrade that aims to bring the factory’s weekly output to around 22.000 units compared with levels of around 17.000 in June. The output ramp-up at Tesla’s most productive manufacturing hub comes after production losses during a 2-month Covd lockdown in Shanghai hurt the company’s profit margin in the second quarter. China’s overall passenger car sales in July jumped 20.1% from a year earlier to 1.84 million, the CPCA said. Sales of electric cars accounted for 26.4% of the total in July and increased 117.3%, it added, with sales of plug-in hybrids outpacing pure electric cars. The association now expects electric car sales for the whole year could reach 6 million units, higher than an earlier estimate of 5.5 million. BYD led the EV players with 163.042 cars delivered in July, with plug-in hybrids accounting for more than half of its sales. Nio, Xpeng and Li Auto delivered 10.052, 11.524 and 10.422 vehicles, respectively. Sales of conventional hybrid cars in July also increased 81% from a year ago, with Toyota and Honda leading the segment. +++

+++ It appears even huge, all-electric SUVs require testing at the Nurburgring, because that’s precisely where KIA ’s all-new EV9 was spotted. We first saw the car in concept form at last year’s LA Motor Show and it looks like the production version will take plenty of design cues from that car. The EV9 will act as a family-friendly flagship within Kia’s EV range and we expect it will hit European markets in late 2023. There’s significantly less camouflage on this test car suggesting it is near to production-ready (a full reveal could happen as early as this year). The Concept EV9’s boxy proportions (more inline with the funky e-Soul than the curvy EV6) are likely to be carried over to the finished model. Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ design cues can clearly be seen and you can expect the grille to be completely filled-in due to the EV powertrain not needing a traditional radiator. There’s also a smaller grille underneath with thin vertical LED headlight strips to either side. The side profile shows the EV9 is fairly toned-down in terms of the angular creases and boxyness seen in the concept. These changes will no doubt have been affected by the prioritisation of aerodynamics to maximise range. Even still, there are large wheel haunches and angular wing mirrors (not rear-facing cameras like on the concept) which should help the EV9 stand out in a sea of large SUVs. Towards the rear I expect the concept’s upward flick of the window line to the rear pillar to remain, as will the show car’s rear lights and roof spoiler. What you don’t get are the Concept EV9’s ‘triangular aero design’ 22-inch wheels. They’ve been swapped for a smaller set of rims. I’ve not seen inside the EV9 yet, although we expect plenty more inspiration from the concept car. A 27 inch widescreen display would be one of the largest screens fitted to a production car (still smaller than the 31-inch unit in the new BMW 7 Series, however), and it’ll sit high up on the dash. I also expect a fairly minimalist cabin design, with few physical buttons but don’t think the concept’s one-spoke, oval steering wheel will come to market. In the Concept EV9 the cabin can actually change its layout depending on which of its three settings is selected. There’s ‘Active Mode’ for a traditional driver-focused set-up, while ‘Pause Mode’ rotates the front and third-row seats around, turning the second row into a table to mimic a “first-class lounge”. ‘Enjoy Mode’ sees all three rows of seats face the tailgate, which opens to give occupants “the opportunity to connect with the outside environment”. While the EV9 will probably stop short of rotating the seats, we think there’ll be a selection of modes to alter the cabin’s feel. At 4.930 mm long, 2.055 mm wide and 1.790 mm tall, the Concept EV9 is larger than the Sorento, the firm’s range-topping model in Europe, and 1 cm shorter than the North American-market Telluride. I don’t expect the EV9 will deviate too much in size from its concept. Unsurprisingly, it will sit above the EV6 in Kia’s electric SUV range, offering 3-row seating to rival the likes of the Mercedes EQB and upcoming Hyundai Ioniq 7. Just like the Ioniq 7 that’s due in 2023, the EV9 will be based on the modular E-GMP platform. This means we could see the EV6’s 77.4 kWh battery being made available for the EV9. The EV6 has a maximum range of 424 km, so expect a bit less in the EV9 due to its extra size and weight if this pack is carried over. Of course, Kia could enlarge the battery for this bigger, heavier and less aerodynamic model, with the larger wheelbase providing scope for this in future as well. Just like the EV6, the EV9 should also offer single and dual-motor options, while its 800 Volt electrical architecture will allow super fast charging speeds of up to 350 kW. The Concept EV9 is a core part of Kia’s plan to become a “Sustainable Mobility Solutions Provider”. It aims to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the firm’s value chain by 2045 – through logistics, vehicle production, vehicle use and disposal. +++

KiaEV9prototype3

 

+++ If you like the Toyota BZ4X or the Subaru Solterra but you want a more premium feeling and luxurious vehicle, you will soon also be able to opt for the mechanically related LEXUS RZ , initially revealed as the ‘450e’. This is considerably more powerful than the Toyota and Subaru models (and also more expensive) but Lexus is reportedly working on a cheaper version of the RZ, which may feature the powertrain from the non-premium models. A trademark filed by Lexus with the EUIPO (European Intellectual Property Office), as well as with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property,mentions an RZ 300e, basically a lower power RZ variant. I don’t know what will power this most likely base version of the RZ, but I believe it will be the powertrain from the aforementioned models built on the same platform. For reference, the RZ 450e comes with a dual-motor setup with 313 hp and 435 Nm, enough for a sprint time to 100 km/h of 5.6 seconds. By contrast, the Toyota can be had with just front-wheel drive, driven by a 204 hp front motor, or a 218 hp dual-motor all-wheel drive setup; the Subaru Solterra is only available with the latter. I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be one of these powertrains that will find its way into the RZ 300e, and I expect it to be the all-wheel drive powertrain. Even for a base model, buyers may find a front-wheel drive RZ not premium enough a proposition, even if Lexus does offer a front-wheel drive electric version of the smaller UX, which is badged UX 300e, coinciding with the recent trademark filing. The Lexus RZ 300e will probably debut next year. It will rival premium electric high-riders like the Audi Q4 e-tron or the BMW iX3, although it should have an edge over the latter given that it is built on a bespoke EV architecture. +++

+++ With a low centre of gravity, good traction, and a powerful electric powertrain, the POLESTAR 2 is one of the solid options on the EV market. It offers a practical cabin and a relaxed driving experience, and it’s currently one of my favourite electric vehicles on sale. But is it good if you want to drive aggressively and attack corners at high speed? The moose test  will answer this question. The test vehicle is from the Performance trim level and has 480 electric ponies under the skin. It rides on 20-inch wheels with Continental Sport Contact 6 tyres. Stopping power is provided by a Brembo brake kit and there are some small visual tweaks compared to the less expensive Polestar 2 grades. But the way the electric vehicle looks is not that important in this case. What matters is how fast it can go around the cones in a moose test and the best result the Polestar 2 got was 74 kilometres per hour. Attempts at a higher speed, even with the highest level of recuperation engaged, lead to understeer and the vehicle hitting the cones. At 74 kph, the driver decided to put the regenerative braking at the lowest level and the vehicle managed to safely go through the chicane. The reactions of the Polestar 2 were similar to the previous attempts, though with less skidding making the attempt successful. During the test, the vehicle was also evaluated around the cones in a 22-metre slalom test. The high grip of the tyres and the minimal body roll allowed the driver to perform the slalom smoothly and reach a quite high speed. In fact, the electric crossover did the test in 22.8 seconds putting it right at the top of the slalom chart. There, it beats the Mini Countryman Cooper SE, the Cupra Born and the BMW i4 for the top spot. Just recently, the Polestar 2 was updated with a faster available charging and a more powerful electric motor in the single-motor configuration, now capable of 231. An improved and optimised heat pump is also part of the update, making the car more efficient at temperatures between -7 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius (19.4 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit). +++

+++ There has been a swift backlash to proposed SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES in cars. BMW recently faced the brunt of it after an option for a heated seat subscription accidentally became available for South Korean customers. The automaker corrected the error, but there was swift backlash at such a proposition, a backlash BMW believes will dissipate with time. BMW is moving ahead with a heated seat subscription service Europe, which will charge owners €19 a month for the feature. Owners can save by paying €190 for a year or €300 for 3 years, and they can get unlimited access for €420. The German automaker believes that subscription services could generate €5 billion in sales by 2030. BMW told that its subscription services would allow for more flexibility in its vehicles, like paying for heated seats only in the wintertime. BMW won’t have a heated seat subscription in the US, but BMW’s Functions and Demand feature does offer dash cam capability and remote engine start functionality. Other services could end up behind a paywall in the future, like more potent drivetrain options that an owner could pay to unlock. Subscription services aren’t an avenue every automaker is taking, at least not entirely. Ford CEO Jim Farley said earlier this year that subscriptions for things like heated seats are unlikely from the company; however, the Blue Oval does believe that services could be a $20-billion market by 2030. Stellantis also thinks money can be made through subscription services and other connected car technologies. The automaker introduced a $20 billion software plan late last year that will prepare future models for such monetisation efforts. Subscription services, like EV powertrains, could radically change how we buy and sell cars in the future. The idea of paying for certain services only when needed sounds great, but that doesn’t negate the hardware cost many of these features require. Will automakers build and sell cars at a loss in hopes of making up the difference in subscription services? If customers don’t want heated seats and never subscribe, will they still have to pay for the hardware? How do you recoup those subscription costs when selling the vehicle? Only time will tell, and it doesn’t add up well for the customer. +++

+++ TESLA is lobbying the Ontario government as part of an effort to set up an “advanced manufacturing facility” in Canada, a filing by the electric-vehicle maker to the province’s Office of the Integrity Commissioner showed. The company’s Canadian unit is working with the government to “identify opportunities for industrial facility permitting reforms”, the amended filing from July 18 said. Tesla as well as the office of Ontario’s minister for economic development, job creation and trade did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Canadian Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne had said in May there were “very active discussions with a number of players” to develop an EV supply chain in Canada. Tesla has been ramping up production, with chief executive Elon Musk last week speaking half in jest to shareholders yelling “Canada”, “We’ve got a lot of Canadas, I’m half Canadian, maybe I should”. He said the company “might be able” to announce a new factory later this year and it could ultimately have 10-12 gigafactories. Tesla manufactures vehicles from 2 factories in the United States and one each in Germany and China. U.S. electric-vehicle makers are also looking to source materials and build cars closer home to diversify supply chains and lower their dependence on China, the world’s largest supplier of EV batteries. Such efforts could gain pace from a $430 billion bill approved on Sunday by the U.S. Senate that restricts automakers from using Chinese-made materials by phasing in required percentages of North American-sourced battery components. After 2023, vehicles with batteries that have Chinese parts could not receive the credit, while critical minerals also face limitations on sourcing. +++

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