Newsflash: nieuwe Range Rover Sport SV debuteert volgende maand


+++ +++ Volkswagen unveiled an electric luxury sedan that promises a 700-kilometer battery range as global and Chinese automakers displayed their latest SUVs, sedans and muscle cars Tuesday at the world’s biggest auto show. AUTO SHANGHAI 2023 reflects the intense competition in China’s fast-growing electric vehicle market after the ruling Communist Party poured billions of dollars into promoting the technology. China accounted for two-thirds of global electrics sales last year. Brands including General Motors, BMW and Nissan, and Chinese rivals BYD and Nio unveiled dozens of new EVs in the cavernous Shanghai exhibition center. Brands touted faster charging, satellite-linked navigation and entertainment, and the future possibility of self-driving technology. Volkswagen’s ID.7 sedan, the new flagship model for its electric vehicles, was one of 28 models displayed by the German automaker, half of them electrified. “We are turbo-charging our electric campaign”, said the CEO of VW’s passenger car brand, Thomas Schäfer, who rode onto the stage aboard an electric minibus. Schaefer said VW plans to release another 10 electric models in the next 3 years. The show is the auto industry’s first full-scale sales event in its biggest market since 2019 following the end of anti-virus controls in December that blocked most travel into and out of China. Automakers are looking to China to drive sales growth at a time of slack American and European demand, but that requires then to pour money into creating competitive models that can appeal to Chinese buyers in a crowded market. Established global brands face pressure from ambitious Chinese newcomers and to meet government sales quotas for electrics. Many are forming partnerships to split soaring development costs. China is “playing a leading role in the industry’s electric and digital transformation”, said Ford CEO Jim Farley in a recorded message played on a video screen. Electrics accounted for just over a quarter of the 23.6 million SUVs, sedans and minivans sold last year in China while sales of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles declined. GM debuted an electric SUV, the Buick Electra E5, ahead of the auto show. Toyota unveiled 2 new models for its BZ line of zero-emissions vehicles. Honda premiered a new prototype for its China-focused electric brand, e:N. Toyota also displayed a prototype self-driving taxi developed with China’s, a leading competitor in the country’s fast-evolving autonomous vehicle industry. Chinese luxury electric brand Nio, which competes with Tesla, at the premium end of the market, unveiled its latest SUV, the ES6 (photo), and an update of its flagship sedan, the ET7. Both have digital cockpits and an onboard computer with connections for tablet computers and other devices. BMW showed an all-electric lineup including 2 new models, the i7 M70L and XM Label Red. The German sport luxury brand’s M760Le had its China debut. Automakers also highlighted China’s growing role as a source of exports and innovation, especially EVs. Nio and BYD are among a growing group of Chinese EV brands that are starting to sell in foreign markets. BYD exports to Europe and opened a dealership in Japan this year. Nio started selling in Europe in 2021 and says it plans to serve 25 countries by 2025. Global brands all have design centers in China and increasingly are drawing on Chinese talent for engineering, software and other development. VW is adding as many as 2,000 employees to a research and development center in the eastern city of Anhui to work on “intelligent connected vehicles”, Schäfer said. He said a separate software unit would add up to 1.200 employees this year. “We are gaining innovative strength by taking on local R&D responsibility”, Schäfer said. “Our guiding principle: Developing in China for China”. The organizers said automakers would debut 100 new models, 70 of them electric, according to Chinese media. Drivers in China bought 5.4 million all-electric vehicles last year (about two-thirds of the global total of 8 million) plus 1.5 million gasoline-electric hybrids. This year’s EV sales are forecast to rise another 30%. Beijing is winding down government support and shifting the burden to automakers by requiring them to earn credits for EV sales. China’s BYD , which competes with Tesla for the title of world’s biggest-selling EV brand, displayed the U9 supercar from its luxury Yangwang brand and an SUV, the U8. The automaker says the U9, with a 1-million-yuan ($145,000) sticker price, can accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in 2 seconds. Another Chinese EV brand, Aion, part of state-owned GAC, announced rapid charging technology it said needs as little as five minutes to power up a battery to go 200 kilometers. Aion also unveiled a system it said can remove a drained battery and install a fresh one in as little as 2 minutes. The company said that would be quicker than filling a gasoline tank, eliminating a drawback to EV ownership. China’s auto sales peaked in 2017 at 24.7 million but collapsed in 2020 to 20.2 million after dealerships closed as part of efforts to contain Coid-19. They are recovering but have yet to return to the pre-pandemic level. For drivers who aren’t ready to give up fossil fuels, state-owned BAIC unveiled a hulking, American-style pickup truck, the Mars, with a 6.8-liter diesel engine. The company boasted that with its flaring wheel wells, the Mars is 2.1 meters wide. The ruling party’s support for EV development is part of plans to gain wealth and global influence by transforming China into a creator of profitable technologies. That campaign has strained relations with Washington and other trading partners, which are cutting off access to advanced processor chips used by makers of smartphones, electric cars and other high-tech products. China’s own foundries can supply low-end chips used in many cars but not processors for artificial intelligence and other advanced functions. Sales of gasoline-electric hybrids and all-electric vehicles rose 26.2% over a year ago in the first three months of 2023 to 1.6 million, according to the China Association of Auto Manufacturers. Sales of purely electric vehicles rose 14.4% to 1.2 million while hybrids increased 75.1% to 433,000. Tesla and some other brands cut prices by 5% to 15% starting in January after sales growth slowed, though to still-robust levels compared with the slack U.S. and European markets. That prompted warnings that the squeeze on an industry with dozens of fledgling brands might force smaller automakers into mergers or out of business. +++

China Auto Show

+++ Unveiled in 2020, and approved for production a year later, the BUGATTI BOLIDE is one step closer to hitting the track. The automaker just published photos of the car being put through its paces, and it released details about some of features that differentiate it from the Chiron. Writing off the Bolide as a rebodied Chiron would be an oversimplification. While the 2 cars share an 8.0-liter, quad-turbocharged W16 engine, the list of Bolide-specific parts is long. Bugatti explains that its engineers designed the model around a new carbon fiber monocoque, and they were unfettered by the various rules and regulations that shape modern cars because the Bolide isn’t street-legal. It’s exclusively a track car. Changes were made to the cooling system, the suspension system and the transmission; the suspension is notably 3 times stiffer than the Chiron’s, and it includes uniball bearings. Several 3D-printed parts, including titanium rockers, will be used to build it. Even the engine isn’t carried over; not quite. In the Bolide, the 4 turbochargers always provide boost because the 16-cylinder is expected to spend a lot of time at higher revolutions. In comparison, the Chiron uses a sequential setup: The 2 smaller turbos generate boost at up to 3.800 rpm, and the 2 bigger units kick in beyond that. The end result is 1.578 horsepower. Slick tires designed by Michelin put the power to the ground, while a carbon-ceramic braking system keeps it in check. Interestingly, Bugatti designed new calipers that generate and absorb heat to help the brakes warm up as quickly as possible (they’re less effective when cold). Bugatti will begin delivering the Bolide in 2024. Production is limited to 40 units and the model is sold out in spite of a base price pegged at €4 million excluding taxes, which represents approximately €6 million in the Netherlands. If that’s too much, or if you missed your chance to buy one, one alternative is a 905-piece Lego Technic kit that stretches about a foot long and that costs about $50. It’s too early to tell what’s next. We know that the Bolide is one of the last W16-powered Bugatti models along with the Mistral convertible and the final examples of the Chiron. The 16-cylinder chapter is about to end, and Bugatti confirmed that the Chiron’s replacement (which hasn’t been shown or given a name yet) will use a plug-in hybrid powertrain and feature a design described as “leaner and more athletic”. +++


+++ HONDA has revealed its next wave of battery-electric vehicles at Auto Shanghai 2023. 2 of them are close-to-production prototypes, while a third concept stands in for a future vehicle a bit further down the road. The e:NP2 Prototype and e:NS2 Prototype represent crossovers that will be available in Chinese showrooms in early 2024. They’re part of the second wave of Honda’s China-exclusive e:N series of battery-electric models, built on a new dedicated EV architecture. The first wave included the e:NP1 and e:NS1, which used the sheet metal of a model that we in Europe would recognize as the ZR-V. If you think the e:NP2 and e:NS2 look similar, that’s not your eyes deceiving you. They’re likely the same car with slightly different designs. Honda has 2 joint-ventures in China, GAC Honda and Dongfeng Honda, and each one built a version of the car. The e:NS2’s nose more closely resembles the Honda Clarity, while the e:NP2 looks more like the last-generation Honda Accord. Both have a fastback-style rear. Meanwhile, the Honda e:N SUV 序 Concept previews the third wave of the e:N series, scheduled to arrive in late 2024. It features a more traditional squared-off rear. “序” means “prologue” in Chinese, but the car looks to have little in common with the U.S. Honda Prologue that shares a General Motors platform. Honda says the driving dynamics of all these vehicles draw on the history of its sharp-handling passenger cars and let the driver “enjoy a sense of oneness with the vehicle”. Considering how much of a departure modern Hondas are from their CRX and Prelude heyday, we’ll believe that when we see it. All 3 also feature the latest software including Honda Connect 4.0. The press images show a fourth Honda EV, a low and sleek sedan that looks like something the big bad’s chauffeur would drive in a dystopian cyberpunk movie. Sadly, there’s no mention of the car in Honda’s press release. Hopefully it will appear down the road, as Honda has pledged to release 10 new EV models in China by the year 2027 and have a completely electric lineup there by 2035. +++


+++ The buzz at Auto Shanghai when it opened Tuesday was the slew of electric vehicles being showcased. Automakers from JAPAN were among the manufacturers pushing their EV concepts at one of the largest auto shows in the world. China also happens to be where EVs are proliferating rapidly. Toyota unveiled 2 new models in its BZ series, a brand exclusively for EVs. One is an SUV marketed to families. The other is being produced through a joint venture with major Chinese EV manufacturer BYD and marketed to the younger generation. Toyota plans to market them in China in 2024. Honda announced a plan that all new vehicles sold in China will be EVs by 2035. The automaker had previously announced that it set a target of converting all new vehicles sold worldwide to EVs or fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) by 2040. Honda unveiled 3 new models of the e:N EV series for the Chinese market, which are scheduled to be on sale by the end of 2024. Nissan unveiled the world premiere of its concept car Arizon, an EV for the Chinese market. The SUV is connected to the internet so it can interactively inform the driver of the best route to take based on the weather and time. +++


+++ MASERATI is going electric, first with the announcement of the GranTurismo Folgore, its first electrified performance car, and now with the reveal of the Grecale Folgore. The brand announced the electric SUV at the Shanghai Auto Show this week, along with the promise that all its models would offer electric options by 2025. The 550 horsepower electric SUV gets a dual-motor powertrain, which delivers 800 Nm of torque, and standard all-wheel drive. Maserati promises a range of around 500 km and a top speed of 210 kph. Compare that with the gas-powered Grecale Modena’s 325 horsepower, and it’s clear this will be the performance halo of the SUV line. Though electric, the Grecale Folgore retains Maserati’s signature grille look and trident logo up front. It’s a more traditional presentation than the weird closed-off nose many EVs carry, and the automaker left its iconic three-porthole styling element on the front fenders. Wheel sizes range from 19 to 21 inches, depending on the market, and the SUV gets gloss-black exterior trim. Maserati installed a 12.3-inch touchscreen and an 8.8-inch digital gauge cluster and said that many of the Grecale Folgore’s controls have gone digital in the infotainment system. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto join a few Chinese-market apps like WeChat and Baidu CarLife, and the Maserati digital assistant system has been updated for the electric SUV. Grecale Folgore buyers can work with Maserati on home or public charging solutions, including facilitating charging across Europe and China. The automaker can facilitate home charging installation, including shipping a wallbox charger to buyers’ homes or offices. The SUV itself comes with 400 volt electric architecture, as well as battery preconditioning and temperature management to ensure the fastest charging. +++


+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is injecting an extra dose of style into the EQS, the flagship of its EV range. It unveiled 4 limited-edition models lumped under the Manufaktur Signature Edition label that stand out with details such as unique paint colors and hand-stitched leather upholstery. Manufaktur Signature Edition buyers have two EQS flavors to choose from: the 580 and the AMG-branded model. Mercedes-Benz notes that “a limited number of units will be produced”, though it hasn’t provided a specific figure or announced how many will be made. Regardless of powertrain, the electric sedan gets Exclusive Nappa leather upholstery on the seats, the 2-tone steering wheel, the lower part of the dashboard and the armrest integrated into the center console. It also receives headrest pillows embroidered with either the Mercedes-Benz star or the AMG logo, high-pile floor mats, and a high-gloss chrome “Manufaktur” logo on the center console’s trim. The 516 horsepower EQS 580 Manufaktur Signature Edition is available in Silicon Gray Non-Metallic with a Mystic Red interior or Rubellite Red Metallic with a Deep White interior. It also ships with a key fob that features Rose Gold and high-gloss black accents. Buyers who select the AMG variant, which puts 649 horses under the driver’s right foot, can select 1 of 2 paint colors called Night Black Magno and Kalahari Gold Magno, respectively. The interior is finished in Deep White leather in both cases, and this model doesn’t get a special key fob. Mercedes-Benz dealers across the nation will begin receiving the EQS Manufaktur Signature Edition in the spring of 2023. Pricing hasn’t been released. If you miss out on both, or if the aforementioned color combinations aren’t to your liking, Mercedes-Benz also offers standalone Manufaktur options (like Vintage Blue paint and Tobacco Brown leather) for the EQS. +++


+++ An automotive legend has reached a serious milestone. The MERCEDES-BENZ G CLASS has hit 500.000 units built. The latest one rolled off an assembly line in the same factory that has been building the SUV for 44 years. And that 500.000th G-Class was given a retro makeover. Mercedes says the design inspiration for this special G-Class was a relatively early 1986 280 GE. And to get that retro look, the SUV was painted in one of the original color offerings, Agave Green, along with black for the grille, bumpers, fender flares, rub strips and door handles. The headlights get stone guards, and small, silver-painted wheels with chunky tires are fitted, including at the rear where a vintage-style vinyl spare cover hides it. One detail Mercedes is particularly proud of is the front turn signals. They had to use a different bright amber plastic to emulate the old look. The inside of the G-Class also has vintage touches (though, tragically, Mercedes didn’t provide images). The seats have a checkered fabric like the 1986 inspiration. On the grab handle, there’s a badge denoting that this is the 500.000th model and it’s painted to match the exterior. The G-Class has come a long way since it was introduced in 1979. The original version only made between 72 and 150 horsepower, though you could get it in 2- and 4-door versions and in hardtop and convertible variants. And until the current generation that was introduced in 2018, they had solid axles front and rear. Today’s version, at least in the U.S., comes standard with a 415 horsepower twin-turbo V8, and it can be optioned up to 577 with the AMG model. And now it has independent front suspension and much better packaging. There’s no sign of the G-Class ending production, either. And Mercedes has confirmed there will even be an electric one coming out next year. That model will apparently pack 4 motors, one for each wheel, that should allow for some impressive off-road capabilities. +++


+++ The hottest version of the new RANGE ROVER SPORT will be revealed on 31 May as “the fastest, most dynamic and technologically advanced” version of Solihull’s sports SUV yet. Expected to nudge power output past the 550 hp of its predecessor, the next range-topper will be called the Range Rover Sport SV in acknowledgement of the Special Vehicles department that is developing it. The previous car was called the SVR, for Special Vehicle Ratings. Further details will emerge as the launch date approaches, but JLR (the new company name) has already confirmed the new car will be a “highly limited” proposition, offered by invitation only, and will pioneer a number of ‘world-first’ technologies to reach new performance heights. The SV is set to use a highly strung version of the Range Rover’s BMW-derived 4.4-litre V8, as featured in the standard Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, pushing power and torque to unprecedented heights in a bid to rival the Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin DBX 707 for super-SUV supremacy. The Range Rover Sport SV will be one of JLR’s final new combustion cars; earlier this week JLR gave a wide-reaching update on the progress of its Reimagine transformation plan, which will see an electric Range Rover arrive next year, before the Discovery Sport, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Evoque and Range Rover Velar go electric from 2025. The new Sport SV will top out the new-look Range Rover family when its launched, roughly a year after the standard Range Rover Sport, which offers a host of powertrains including the 530 hp BMW-derived V8, boosts low-speed agility and high-speed poise from a new four-wheel steering system, and features an overhauled interior with Jaguar Land Rover’s latest Pivi Pro infotainment. The latest Range Rover Sport was developed alongside the fifth-generation Range Rover, revealed in 2021, to ensure consistency within the Range Rover family but also, crucially, enough distinction between the 2 models. JLR design chief Gerry McGovern said the latest model “redefines sporting luxury” and described it as “modern, relevant and progressive”. Reflecting on the model’s impact, McGovern called the Range Rover Sport “the first of its breed in 2005, heralding a new vehicle with Range Rover luxury and sporting character”. He added: “It created a new vehicle segment and was the first model in an extended Range Rover family which paved the way for Evoque and Velar”. The range-topping model (prior to the SV) is the twin-turbocharged 530 hp 4.4-litre BMW-derived petrol V8, which can accelerate from 0-100 kph in 4.5 seconds. It will be a popular model, predicts Nick Collins, JLR’s executive director of vehicle programmes. “V8 demand is very strong at the moment”, he said. “There seems to be a split between big petrol engines and EVs”. The new plug-in hybrid is expected to be a strong seller, too. In its most powerful form, it uses a 3.0-litre 6-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine with a 143 hp electric motor, powered by a 38.2 kWh battery, for a total output of 510 hp. It completes the 0-100 kph sprint in 5.4 seconds and delivers 110 km of EV range and CO2 emissions of 18 g/km. Combining its petrol and electric reserves, it offers 740 km of range. The initial line-up is completed by a number of 48 Volt mild-hybrid options, which use either a P400 straight-6 Ingenium petrol engine or 6-cylinder D300 and D350 diesel powertrains. 2 important models will arrive later: the SV and, in 2025, an electric version which could use a drivetrain sourced from technical partner BMW, such as that found in the top-rung BMW iX M60, which makes 620 hp and 1.100 Nm. The new Range Rover Sport sits on JLR’s flexible mixed-metal architecture, known as MLA-Flex, which is also used by the Range Rover. The firm claims it has 35% higher torsional stiffness than the outgoing model, which lays the foundation for a number of chassis technologies all specially tuned for the car. Collins said: “The MLA architecture and the latest chassis systems come together to deliver… the most engaging and thrilling Range Rover Sport ever”. The model’s Dynamic Response Pro uses a 48 Volr electronic active roll control system, capable of applying up to 1.400 Nm of torque across each axle to offer “new levels of body control and cornering composure”, said the firm. It works hand in hand with the latest-generation Dynamic Air Suspension, which introduces switchable-volume air springs for the first time. For best responses, the car monitors the road ahead using navigation data to prepare for upcoming bends. The Range Rover Sport is now available with all-wheel steering, which, along with torque vectoring by braking and the electronic differential, should mean improved cornering agility. The steering system enables rear-wheel steering of up to 7.3 degrees out of phase with the front wheels to achieve better manoeuvrability at low speeds, as well as turning in-phase for improved stability at high speeds. The model, which has Land Rover’s latest Terrain Response 2 system for off-roading, introduces the brand’s new adaptive off-road cruise control. Drivers can select 1 of 4 settings and the system adjusts the speed accordingly so the driver can focus on steering. As with all Land Rover models, the new Range Rover Sport is an evolution of the outgoing model in appearance, keeping its short overhangs and steeply raked windows at the front and back. It has a 75 mm-longer wheelbase than previously to improve rear leg room. Chief exterior designer Dominic Najafi highlighted 3 fundamental elements to its design: a roofline that ‘accelerates’ down to the rear; a so-called waistline that is a continuous loop around the car; and a lower part that follows through and kicks up at the back. He said: “It has a seamless finish from body to glass and the body side is very smooth. It’s more sophisticated than the outgoing Range Rover Sport. “At the rear, we’ve moved the numberplate down to give a cleaner surface than before. Even the graphics on this car are harmonious. We don’t want anything to stand out. It’s a very modern approach”. Digital LED lighting units at the front, the slimmest ever fitted to a Land Rover, create a daytime-running light signature. At the back, uninterrupted LED light graphics introduce surface LED technology to a production vehicle for the first time, claims Land Rover. Inside, the Range Rover Sport has been designed to be more driver-oriented than its Range Rover sibling. The steering wheel is similar to the Range Rover’s but the seating position is 20 mm lower. The high centre console rises up into the dashboard, which has a 13.1 inch curved screen that uses JLR’s Pivi Pro infotainment system, plus a 13.7 inch driver’s display. It has over-the-air updates, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android and Amazon Alexa capability. +++

+++ Investors and analysts questioned Elon Musk on TESLA ’s recent price cuts during the companies earnings call on Wednesday. The Tesla CEO answered over a half dozen questions around the company’s recent price cuts and their impact on the electric-car maker’s profit margin during the call. The company has slashed its prices 6 times this year. Just this week, Tesla trimmed the prices for some of its Model Y and Model 3 vehicles by $3.000 and $2.000, respectively. Tesla owners and investors alike have not responded positively to the price cuts. During the first quarter, Tesla’s automotive revenue dropped more than $1.3 billion compared to the previous quarter, even as the carmaker carmaker made a record number of deliveries. Its gross profit margin dipped just below analyst expectations to about 19.3%, with analysts blaming price cuts. Tesla signaled in its report that it could cut prices further. Musk told investors that he believes Tesla could technically even sell its cars for “zero profit” and that the company could instead make money in the future through its autonomous software. “We’ve taken the view that pushing for higher volumes and a larger fleet is the right choice here versus a lower volume and higher margin”, Musk said during the call. “However, we expect our vehicles over time will be able to generate significant profit through autonomy. So we do believe we’re like laying the groundwork here, and then it’s better to ship a large number of cars at a lower margin and subsequently harvest that margin in the future as we perfect autonomy”. Musk has spoken out against claims that the electric-car maker has launched a price war with traditional carmakers in the past. “We’re not trying to, say, take pricing actions in order to deliberately undermine competitors or anything like that”, Musk said on Wednesday’s call. “We really don’t think about competitors that much”. Tesla’s stock has dipped about 10% since the company released its earnings on Wednesday. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors that the carmaker’s profit margins “are keeping Tesla investors up at night”. “Elon Musk is using pricing as a cudgel against the competition”, former Ford CEO Mark Fields told. “He’s doing it because he has positive margins on EVs versus the competition which may not. When you look at using pricing to grow demand, you have to ask ‘how low can you go?’ ” +++



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