STUTTGART, August 24 -- Elon Musk has talked about making an electric Tesla Van for a while, Volkswagen has teased the return of its iconic bus as an EV.
But Mercedes-Benz beat everybody to the punch in this critical segment with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQV—an electric van that seats up to eight and runs a claimed range of over 200 miles. At least in Europe. Mercedes-Benz showed off a “concept” version of the EQV previously, but it was rather obviously very close to production-ready. That’s backed up now that we have the real deal just in time for this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show next month.
The press release only talks about the public charging network services in Europe, so it may be unlikely we’ll be getting this electron-powered van Stateside, but you never know. That said, the EQV has a 90 kWh battery pack centrally mounted under the floor of the van, offering a claimed preliminary range estimate of 405 km, or roughly 250 miles on a single charge. The van is driven by a single motor on the front axle with an output of 150 kw, or 204 horsepower, and 362 nm of torque, or just about 267 lb-ft. On a 110 kw public DC rapid charger, the Mercedes claims the EQV can charge from 10 to 80 percent of its battery capacity in around 45 minutes. On an AC charger, like a standard public parking charger or using the Mercedes-Benz Wallbox Home 11 kW charger that can be installed in your house, the battery should charge in less than 10 hours. The EQV picks up a little bit of the exterior design language of the EQC crossover, and inside it gets some rose gold accent touches and adaptable seating with optional bench seats, which means you can shove up to eight people in this thing. The EQV is nice and acceptable because it’s just an electric version of the regular Mercedes-Benz van, so it’s very practical. EVs do not all need to be fancy! Just zoom around town without contributing to localized pollution! And now it can. In Europe.
TORONTO, August 20 -- Convoys of Chinese patriots in Ferraris and other high-end sports cars have been revving up pro-Beijing demonstrations in Canada, home to tens of thousands of Chinese millionaire migrants.
Drivers of luxury sports cars – which also included McLarens, Porsches and Aston Martins – waved Chinese flags, gunned their engines and honked their horns to cheers from pro-China demonstrators in Vancouver and Toronto, who were facing off against groups supporting the Hong Kong protest movement. In Vancouver, at the busy intersection of Broadway and Cambie Street, hundreds of rival demonstrators had gathered on Saturday afternoon at a major subway station. Protester Kevin Huang Yi Shuen, who supported the Hong Kong camp, watched as the sports cars repeatedly buzzed the protest scene. He said the scene was a big-money “power play” and “a way of showing force”. One black Ferrari 458 had a Chinese flag covering its bonnet, while the passenger waved another on a three-metre flagpole. It followed a black McLaren 570 with a smaller flag hanging out the window of the driver, who covered his face with his hand. A second group, whose cars included a matt-black convertible Ferrari, drew the attention of police, who spoke to the drivers after they repeatedly honked their horns. Huang said a police officer on a motorcycle chased after another car as it pulled away from the busy intersection, dragster style. Huang, executive director of the non-profit Hua Foundation, which is based in Chinatown and works with Asian diaspora youth, said he doubted if the motorists did their cause any good, if the goal was to convince undecided Canadians to support the pro-China camp.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, a protest near the Old City Hall also attracted a line of supercar drivers waving Chinese flags and revving loudly. “Worst Fast & Furious movie ever,” said Stephen Punwasi on Twitter, sharing a video of the scene. Lindsay Brown, a Vancouver based community activist who was visiting Toronto, watched a white BMW M6 gun its engines on Bay Street, creating “the most unbelievable din”. The young driver pumped his fist as his passenger waved a Chinese flag. “The mood was pretty aggressive … The [Chinese] nationalists reacted enthusiastically to the revving – you can hear them whooping and whistling in response,” she said.
Canada has attracted huge numbers of Chinese millionaires, under the now-defunct federal immigrant investor programme (IIP) and the still-running Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme (QIIP). Most participants of both schemes who stay in Canada end up living in Vancouver or Toronto. But many others leave the country after obtaining citizenship, federal data shows. The QIIP has an annual application limit of 1,900 families, with the Chinese quota capped at 1,235. Current figures are unavailable, but 65 per cent of the 55,000 arrivals under the QIIP from 2002 to 2012 were Chinese. When the federal IIP shut down in 2014, there was a backlog of 45,000 mainland Chinese applicants and family members in the queue, out of a worldwide total of about 60,000. The IIP and QIIP were for many years the world’s most popular wealth migration vehicles. By 2014, about 200,000 millionaires and family members had moved to Canada under the two schemes.
ROTTERDAM, August 19 -- The Maastunnel in Rotterdam reopened again in both directions after two years of renovations.
During the work, the tunnel was closed in the direction of Rotterdam-Zuid. Since 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning, traffic can fully use the tunnel again, Dutch media reported. The renovation to the tunnel started in July 2017. In the two years that followed, concrete rot was dealt with on the roadways and the floor beneath, and the technology in the tunnel was updated so that it meets the latest safety requirements. The two sides of the tunnel were tackled in turns. One of them always had to be open in a northerly direction, in order to keep the city center and Erasmus MC accessible. The Maastunnel has been connecting the banks of the Nieuwe Maas for some 75 years and is the Netherlands oldest tunnel. The renovations on the tunnel is not yet complete. From December on the Maastunnel will be temporarily closed for pedestrians and cyclists.
With that much power, it’s unsurprising that La Voiture Noire rockets from 0 to 60 mph in a face-reshaping 2.5-seconds, and keeps on surging to a top speed of 261 mph. As I said, nothing makes the eyes water or the lips dry faster than reading the fine print of a Bugatti vehicle. But the La Voiture Noire isn’t the solo limited-edition Bugatti coming out at the Molsheim factory right now. Echoing the historic EB110 super sports car of the 1990s is the Bugatti Centodieci, making its debut this week.
“With the EB110, Bugatti catapulted itself to the top of the automotive world once again after 1956 with a new model,” said Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. “With the Centodieci we pay homage to the EB110 super sports car which was built in the 1990s and is very much a part of our tradition-steeped history.” Centodieci is Italian for 110, which also means the car inherited some DNA of the original EB110 sports car. From a styling perspective, this is quite a challenge. The EB110 has a glorious wedge-shaped design, and Bugatti needed to integrate this philosophy into what is essentially a Chiron. “We faced a number of technical challenges in terms of the development and design of the Centodieci,” Achim Anscheid, Head Designer at Bugatti, explains. “Transporting this classic look into the new millennium without copying it was technically complex.” “The challenge was not to allow oneself be captivated too much by the design of the historic EB110 – we had to create a new way of combining the complex aerothermal requirements of the underlying Chiron technology with a completely different aesthetic appearance,” Anscheid concludes. The end result is a sportier, more aggressive, and undoubtedly more extreme version of the Bugatti Chiron and Divo, borrowing a little of the timeless appeal of the La Voiture Noire. Unlike the aforementioned hyper sports cars, though, the Centodieci takes a different route with its grille design. Bucking the trend of oversized radiator grilles, the Centodieci makes do with a smaller and less pronounced horseshoe grille, more reminiscent of the nose of the classic EB110. The Macaron Bugatti logo is now relocated to the hood, while the deep-seated front spoiler and three-section air intakes are a direct nod to the Centodieci’s 90s inspiration. The front section is dropped close to the ground to give the car a prowling stance, further accentuated by narrow LED headlamps and daytime running lights. “Thanks to the newly developed lighting elements, we were stylistically free in the front and rear sections to pay respectful homage to the EB110 while at the same time transposing this appealing visual reminiscence into modern technology,” says Anscheidt. The thing that stands out in terms of body design, though, is the missing C-line on the B pillar, which happens to be the most iconic styling element of the Bugatti Veyron, Chiron, Divo, and even the La Voiture Noire. You can think of the Centodieci as the black sheep in the family. The longer you look, though, the easier it is to understand the Centodieci’s design. It’s totally familiar yet entirely different at the same time. It looks serious and quite playful, although it can undoubtedly bite your hand if you’re not careful.
Instead of having a dominant and sweeping C-line in the B pillar, the Centodieci has five round air inserts that are positioned in the form of a diamond. More than just a design flourish, however, those air inserts feed vast amounts of air to the hungry W16 engine underneath. Yes, the Bugatti Centodieci has an 8.0-liter W16 motor producing 1,600 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, allowing the car to reach 60 mph from a dead stop in 2.4-seconds, 124 mph (200 kph) in 6-seconds, and 186 mph (300 kph) in 13.1-seconds. They’re not just impressive numbers, they’re positively mind-boggling.
LONDON, August 15 -- Jeremy Clarkson has revealed that his co-host James May had to be rescued by crew from monsoon waves during filming of The Grand Tour in Vietnam.
The 59-year-old told The Sun that the team were attempting to cross part of the South China Sea in monsoon season, when they were hit by treacherous weather conditions. Clarkson, May and Richard Hammond have recently filmed the first of the new, special episodes of The Grand Tour in Cambodia and Vietnam, but things didn’t exactly go to plan. The team rowed out into the Mekong Delta river, but suffered serious problems when they entered the sea. Clarkson said: “It transpired four people were killed an inch away from us. “It’s about the only time health and safety has made the correct decision. “I, of course, was fine, but May had to abandon ship as crew boats were filling with water.” Responding to fan questions on DriveTribe, Clarkson promised that the special will prove to be an “astonishing show”, despite the fact filming went very wrong. He said: “It was an incredibly dramatic ending which was entirely accidental.
Hammond also narrowly escaped death when he crashed a high-performance electric car during filming in 2017. The Grand Tour is set to return on Amazon Prime later this year. All three presenters have signed a two-year deal with Amazon that is expected to yield as many as four stand alone shows a year, with the presenters travelling to far flung parts of the world in scenes not dissimilar to their globe-trotting adventures on Top Gear. And fans can expect no-holds barred excitement when the specials do eventually air, with Jeremy claiming they have been given a huge budget to rival the Marvel film franchise. Top Gear, which suffered a ratings drop following Jeremy's departure, is now hosted by Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff.
Despite Red Bull team boss Christian Horner saying in Hungary the team intended to keep Gasly in the seat until the end of the season, the decision has been taken to demote the Frenchman back to Toro Rosso. "Alexander Albon is being promoted to the team to drive alongside Max, while Pierre will return to the Red Bull sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso," a statement from Red Bull reads. "Red Bull are in the unique position of having four talented Formula One drivers under contract who can be rotated between the Team and Toro Rosso. The Team will use the next nine races to evaluate Alex’s performance in order to make an informed decision as to who will drive alongside Max in 2020.
"Everyone at the Team looks forward to welcoming Alex and supporting him during the next phase of his F1 career."
BANGKOK, August 10 -- The new 992-generation Porsche 911 is now fully launched in the Thailand and the iconic sports car based on the 911 series gets non-S power and lower prices.
How much slower is it than the S?
After Porsche launched its latest generation 911 Carrera late last year in S guise, it has revealed the base version. Dubbed simply as Carrera, the entry-level 911 receives the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six albeit with 385hp, 65hp less than the Carrera S and 15hp more than in the outgoing 991-based predecessor. When equipped with eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Carrera goes from 0-100kph in 4.2sec. That’s half a second slower than the Carrera S with the same gearbox.
How much cheaper is it in price?
Thai pricing has yet to be finalised. But given that the Carrera S commands a circa-10% price premium in Europe, the Carrera could cost from under 11 million baht in Thailand. Due to its lower performance and market position, the Carrera gets smaller 19in wheels and 330mm disc brakes with calipers painted in black. The Carrera S, which sells for 11.5 million baht, has 20in wheels and larger discs (410mm up front and 390mm on the rear) with red calipers. The Cabriolet version is also available albeit with slightly higher pricing and slower 0-100kph acceleration time than the hard-top variant.
The other 992 models in the pipeline
As is customary, Porsche will fill every conceivable niche with its benchmark sports car - and we've got the lowdown from humble Carrera 2 to top-brass 911 Turbo, from soft-top convertibles to the red-hot new GT3 version. This is when you can expect to see the new 911 range derivatives:
And a 911 Targa?
Our spy photographers snapped the Targa version of the 992, and if we’re honest, it’s everything we expected. The Targa implementation at the back of the car looks very similar to what we’ve seen on previous 911s, and aside from a little tape, the car isn’t really camouflaged at all. Do you prefer the Targa to the ‘standard’ cabriolet? Let us know in the comments.
BANGKOK, August 6 -- Updated M2 is still in a class of its own amid the arrival of more price-affordable sports cars.
Like in many new Mercedes-AMGs, BMW’s M cars now come in two power guises. While the basic version carries a regular badge, the Competition moniker is used on the go-faster variant (AMG uses the S letter). But that’s not exactly the case with the M2 Competition, as tested here on Thai roads, which actually forms as the mid-life update of BMW’s smallest M-honed coupe. Yes, it’s more powerful than the regular model, but the M2 Competition boasts a new engine. Replacing the 370hp single-turbo sixer (N55) is a 410hp twin-turbo unit (S55), detuned from that used in the M3 and M4. For M fans, this mechanical change might already be sufficient for an update, which is probably why they might choose to overlook some small cosmetic alterations like a reshaped black kidney grille, as such. The price of the M2 Competition is set at 6.259 million baht, higher than the pre-facelift model by 360k. That’s still decent when you consider that the 300hp versions of the Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 718 Cayman are priced from six and 6.6 million baht accordingly. But, on the other hand, some new lower-priced sports cars have arrived on Thai shores after the M2’s inception including the sub-5 million baht 460hp Ford Mustang V8 and 390hp Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe. Can any comparison with the M2 Competition be valid?
When we first drove and thrashed the M2 around a racetrack in the US three years ago, it was noted that more power could have served better justice for the chassis. In fact, the M2 inherited the front sub-frame from the M4 ever since. So here it is, the S55-tagged straight-six that not only makes the M2 Competition genuinely powerful in a straight line but highly entertaining when roads start to meander. The carried-over dual-clutch automatic is still terrific to use thanks to its quick shifting operation (the M2 could be among the last to use such a gearbox now that the M boys have gone soft with torque-converter autos in their latest creations). Thanks to a rear-drive chassis, it’s relatively easy to unsettle the car’s tail upon a moderate tap on the throttle. It’s a playful attitude that many driving enthusiasts have come to like, apart from the M2 already being highly agile to steer. Adding up to driving fun is the so-called MDM mode that allows drivers to enjoy wheel spins and control slides within a loosened safety net. Power from the 400hp-plus engine easily overwhelms the chassis in many real-world conditions recalling the old days of the E46-based M3. Yes, you don’t have to risk losing your license to have a good time in the M2 Competition. But if you like outright speed, it’s governed top speed will be attained with no sweat in the open, like in the Mustang. Despite being a compact coupe, the M2 manages to offer enough space for four without being inferior to both the Ford and AMG. The racy feel in the M2 Competition is enhanced with the usual quad exhausts, nice-looking 19-inch wheels, blown rear wheel arches and sumptuous amounts of carbon fibre trim in the cabin. Rivals are also tailored similarly, but it feels more pure in the Bimmer.
Possibly the biggest downside in the M2 Competition is the stiff ride where no adjustable dampers can be found. It’s quite bouncy over uneven road surfaces, even for driving purists. The obvious benefit, though, is good high-speed stability. Anybody liking to blast away in an unfussed manner might find the all-wheel drive system (and more comfortable riding chassis) in the C43 a boon. But that’s almost missing the point in a car designed for tail-waggling. And, surely, the M2 Competition can’t match the Mustang’s V8 for aural thrills. But, again, as a turbocharged inline-six, the noise sounds naturally mechanical and loud when provoked. Some people like that.
Buy or bye?
To answer the question posed earlier, making comparisons with the cheaper alternatives is quite invalid because each of these trio serve a different purpose and slightly varied audience. The Mustang appeals to enthusiasts liking its V8 and for what it is in a name; the C43 offers fast and easy manners for those not needing the full-fat AMG treatment; the M2 Competition serves up raw thrills for those seeking the joy of driving fun. And if you’ve already read about AMG’s latest CLA45 we've driven for the first time recently, Merc’s pocket rocket is still less involving to drive in comparison to the M2 Competition. What the M2 Competition has managed to really do for the first time is plug the gap between itself and that equally fine 718 Cayman in terms of driving enjoyment. That bi-turbo engine should have been available in the M2 all along its time.
TOKYO, August 6 -- NEC Corp. unveiled Monday a prototype of an electric flying car as it seeks to offer its communications and control technologies to other companies amid the global boom to develop such airborne vehicles.
Starting with a roaring sound, the 148-kilogram helicopter-like prototype with a length of 3.9 meters, height of 1.3 meters and width of 3.7 meters came afloat by itself to 3 meters above ground and hovered for several minutes at a testing ground at NEC's Abiko plant in Chiba Prefecture. Equipped with four propellers and unmanned, the prototype moved using NEC's software to control flight and determine its location. NEC officials said the company is not seeking to become a maker of flying cars but hopes to see its technology used in them from 2023, starting with the transportation of cargo. "There will come an age where airspace will be used commonly for transportation. We will combine our technologies to create an innovation," said NEC Senior Executive Vice President Norihiko Ishiguro at a press conference. NEC said it plans to provide its technology for flying the cars to engineers' group Cartivator, with which it signed a sponsorship agreement last year. Cartivator, which is also supported by over 80 other companies including Panasonic Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., aims to start operation of a two-man flying car from 2023, conduct a demonstration flight during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, carry people at the Osaka Expo in 2025 and mass produce the vehicle in 2026.
The Japanese government is also pushing the development of flying cars in collaboration with private companies ranging from the logistics and automobile sectors, in an effort to catch up with global rivals, including Boeing Co., Airbus S.A.S. and U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. Flying vehicles are expected to be used for tourism, leisure activities, disaster relief, cargo transportation and easing of traffic congestion, but ensuring safety remains a key challenge amid the lack of standards and rules. Under the road map compiled by the government, it aims to build prototype electric flying cars and conduct test flights this year and put the technology into practical use from 2023 onward. By the 2030s, they are envisioned to be used in urban transportation.
2019 Formula 1 World Championship Drivers' Standings