Mirror Mirror On The Door, Lexus Just Switched To Digital Monitor

Mirror Mirror On The Door, Lexus Just Switched To Digital Monitor

The digital side-view monitors are located around chest height at the bottom of the A-pillar.

Most new cars today have rear-view monitors. Many others have around-view monitors which allow drivers to see their vehicle in a digitally-generated aerial 3D view that helps when parking. Meanwhile, other models offer front-mounted cameras that point left and right allowing drivers to see around blind corners. Up until now, however, all of these images have been displayed on a centrally-located dashboard-mounted monitor that doubles as a sat-nav unit.

Get ready for the next revolution in driver aids. Being touted as world-first technology, digital side-view monitors will replace conventional door mirrors on the new Lexus ES. And this is just the beginning.

High-definition cameras mounted on stalks that protrude from the doors like traditional door mirrors capture traffic approaching from behind and project what they see on two 5-inch, iPhone-sized LCD screens located at the bottom of the A-pillars.

Mirror Mirror On The Door, Lexus Just Switched To Digital Monitor

High-definition cameras mounted on stalks like traditional door mirrors capture traffic approaching from behind and project what they see on two 5-inch LCD screens.

Concept cars at motor shows have featured this technology since the 1980s. However, cost concerns and regulatory red-tape have restricted the commercial application of side-view monitors. That red-tape is lifting, slowly, in some countries like Japan and parts of Europe. For the present at least, this digital camera technology will be exclusive to Japan which passed a law allowing cameras to replace door mirrors in 2016. Even though the Lexus ES just went on sale in the U.S., it will employ traditional side-door mirrors as the digital variety are still not legal on American roads.

Many motorists will be asking whether such digitalization is necessary for the humble door mirror. But manufacturers like Lexus, and Audi who have just launched similar camera technology on their new E-Tron electric crossover, are adamant that this is the way of the future. In fact, there may be a minor dispute brewing as to which manufacturer actually brought this technology to the mass market first. Although according to Lexus they will beat Audi by a couple of months.

Mirror Mirror On The Door, Lexus Just Switched To Digital Monitor

The ES goes on sale in the U.S. in October with conventional door mirrors.

One reason carmakers are promoting side-view cameras and dash monitors is to improve aerodynamics. Replacing conventional door mirrors with sleeker and thinner design creates less drag, permitting better fuel economy. Other benefits include the ability of cameras to stop raindrops and snow from forming on mirrors.

Lexus also points out that using cameras will create less wind noise, a factor that will complement quiet running electric cars. According to Lexus, using cameras and in-car monitors also improves rear vision in any weather including rain and snow. Toyota’s luxury brand boasts this technology increases forward side visibility while at the same time reducing the size of a blind spot caused by traditional side-view mirrors.

To further enhance the safety aspect, a blind-spot-warning icon alerts the driver of approaching traffic. Drivers can also manually adjust the settings based on their comfort. To cater for night driving, the camera incorporates image enhancement to brighten the screen and give drivers a clearer image than standard glass mirrors in the dark.

Playing the devil’s advocate, there is one question begging to be asked. What happens if the cameras malfunction? How will drivers be able to see what’s behind them? While manufacturers say that this technology has been developed not to malfunction and to work in any weather conditions, lengthy real-world testing seems necessary to answer that question.

Source: Mirror Mirror On The Door, Lexus Just Switched To Digital Monitor


Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar’s Sport Brake

Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar's Sport Brake

The Discovery HSE Td6 aims and succeeds at providing all the posh benefits of premium SUVs while retaining every bit of its “I can crawl almost horizontally right over that mountain of dirt” flavor.

It’s a great ride for the big and tall, with a driver’s seat seemingly capable of housing two of me, an average-sized dude. You won’t feel a thing as you ride over rough terrain, yet cornering is surprisingly nimble, which makes it fun to drive instead of the plodding flavor of some big rides. Heated front and second-row seats in “Windsor leather,” each have individual programmed settings. Though its interface is on the slowpoke side, the sound system is high-end crispy and thudding-bass heavy.

Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar's Sport Brake

2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6

A Meridian Digital Surround Sound System with 14 speakers, dual-channel subwoofer and a 10-inch color touchscreen all add to the high-end experience.

But most of all, you step on it and the vehicle’s response is “Hell, yea,” despite the diesel engine.

You’re offered the choice of two 3.0-liter V6’s: a supercharged gas engine making 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, or a turbodiesel making 254 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Both come with an eight-speed automatic and variety of driving modes so you can leave the highway and bounce around over hill, dale, rocks, streams and so on should you wish to. We did not wish to, and didn’t, but it’s nice to know we could if need be. The vehicle comes in three trims; the SE, HSE and HSE Luxury, our tester.

Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar's Sport Brake

2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6

Another unique feature is its powered inner tailgate which, when you deploy it, will give you a platform for use at rock concerts, sporting events or wherever such an inner tailgate can aid you.

We really don’t have a single bad thing to report about the Discovery HSE Td6. It’s $62,095 sticker isn’t a disaster for this type vehicle, and what’s delivered is elegant, swank, all leather and wood and olfactory goodness.

2019 Jaguar Sportbrake

Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar's Sport Brake

2019 Jaguar Sport Brake

The Discovery’s cousin, (same company, you know) the Jaguar Sportbrake, redefined for us what a pleasure it is to rock a station wagon with no apologies over a recent week’s test. Buffeted over the last 20 years by the preponderance of Sport Utility Vehicles, Crossovers and Minivans and usually as hip as your Uncle Howard’s combover, the Sportbrake brings a wagon that succeeds both as a luxe ride and Home Depot delivery vehicle.

It does not boast world-class Jaguar ferocity straight out of the gate, though the 380-hp supercharged V-6 engine with its eight-speed automatic shift and rear-biased all-wheel drive will deliver what you need when you need it.

Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar's Sport Brake

2019 Jaguar Sport Brake

Paddle shifters help, and velocity’s assisted by a lightweight suspension and all-aluminum chassis, which give it a better road feel than one might expect from a wagon, though we weren’t crazy about the slightly stiff brakes. The Sportbrake’s starting price is $71,445 which puts it higher than many in this class – but after our week’s test, we find the price may be worth it to loyal fans of the brand. One aspect worth noting is that the Sportbrake has undergone only minor tweaks from 2016 to now, so you could buy a 2017 model, for instance, for much less money and get (practically) the same ride.

With your base price, you get:

Front and rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, power tailgate with foot-swipe activation, an “S-trim body kit” and rear self-leveling air suspension.

Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar's Sport Brake

2019 Jaguar Sport Brake

Other options include a $2860 Luxury Interior Upgrade package, a $3265 Technology package, and a $360 package where exterior trim pieces are painted a sleek gloss black. At the very least, you’ll want to check out the $3495 Driver Assistance package, delivering adaptive cruise control, active parking assist, and a 360-degree surround-view camera, all of which make more sense to us. A Comfort and Convenience package ($1805) brings cooled front seats and heated rear seats. The Sportbrake’s main caveat, as usual with many of today’s Jags, is its climate/nav/audio system, which refused to pair with our Droid and which we found clumsy to use when compared to similar systems.

That said, we fell in love with our dear little wagon, and suggest you consider it if you’re thinking of breaking from the SUV cookie-cutter pack on your block and you don’t want a sedan, either.

Source: Test-Driving the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6 and Jaguar’s Sport Brake

Top 5 Cars To Buy This Festive Season

The festive season is around the corner and fuel prices aside, car-makers are hoping to increase demand by launching new models left right and centre. Here are our top cars cherry picked for you to put your money on this festive season.

1. New Hyundai Santro

Top 5 Cars To Buy This Festive Season

Hyundai is bringing this iconic name back and we are glad. The new Santro will replace the Eon as the entry level hatch in the Hyundai range. It will be slotted below the Grand i10 and will compete with the Celerio and Tiago. The new Santro, though, will be feature-loaded with a touchscreen and rear AC vents, among other features. It will have a petrol engine only and will come with both manual and AMT options.

2. New Ford Aspire

Top 5 Cars To Buy This Festive Season

Ford has re-launched the Aspire with a new look and a new interior at a price lower than the earlier model. The Aspire would also be available in an automatic variation. It is the best value for money as it is the most powerful, plus cheaper than its rivals.

3. New Honda CR-V

Top 5 Cars To Buy This Festive Season

Honda has been absent from the SUV segment, but is coming back with the new CR-V. The new CR-V is now much better equipped with all the right tools to wage battle in the competitive SUV space. It features seven seats, a diesel engine plus a petrol too, along with a new interior which is by far the most luxurious one from Honda. It will not be cheap, but a seven-seater SUV that is comfortable to use in the city is the USP here.

4. New Maruti Ertiga

Top 5 Cars To Buy This Festive Season

Maruti will bring the Ertiga in an all new avatar soon. The new Ertiga is bigger, has a new platform and is more spacious, along with being more luxurious. The interior is similar to the Dzire with load of features. Another positive would be the more practical interiors, the fuel efficient engines and the value for money quotient.

5. Mahindra XUV700

Top 5 Cars To Buy This Festive Season

Mahindra will bring its new flagship SUV, which is essentially the new gen Rexton from SsangYong, but since that brand failed to take off in India, it will be badged as a Mahindra instead. However, make no mistake: this will be the most luxurious offering from Mahindra and will priced lower than rivals too.

Source: Top 5 Cars To Buy This Festive Season

The Electric Car Is Here, If You’ve Got The Money

While new luxury EVs are on display at the Paris Motor Show, the rest of us will have to wait a little longer

The Electric Car Is Here, If You’ve Got The Money

Photo: Jaguar

The annual parade of the world’s biggest auto shows is about to start this week in Paris, and for what really feels like the first time, a number of carmakers are finalizing, building, selling, or even nearing the delivery of their first flagship electric cars. And these aren’t just concepts, or camouflaged pre-production cars like we’ve seen in the past. EVs from big-name luxury brands like Audi, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW are on the way, meaning incumbents in the space, like Tesla, will soon have lots of direct competition.

But only a few models will approach the more affordable mid-$30,000 starting price set by GM’s Bolt. That means many of the fully electric vehicles scheduled to hit the US market in the next few years will start at or comfortably exceed the average sale price of a car in the country. The electric car may finally be here, but it’s still not going to be for everyone.

Electric cars are supposed to help the world cut back on the emissions caused by transportation, which makes up for a large chunk of the world’s overall numbers. Even if you set aside other market forces that could stop people from switching to an all-electric car (spotty charging infrastructure, range anxiety), the focus on EVs as luxury vehicles means this potential relief is still theoretical.

This week’s Paris Motor Show — which will spotlight luxury EVs from the likes of Mercedes and Audi, but will be skipped by more attainable brands like VW and Ford — looks like it will be a stark reminder of this. It’s ironic, really, since it takes place in the city after which the most ambitious climate action plan in history was named.

The new all-electric car closest to hitting the road in the US is the Jaguar I-Pace. Officially unveiled earlier this year, the $69,500 five-seater electric SUV will start making it to customers this fall. It matches up fairly with something like the base-level Tesla Model X, offering quick performance (0–60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and just shy of 400 horsepower), solid range (240 miles), and a high-end interior with Jaguar Land Rover’s dual-screen InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system (the same kind that can be found in a Range Rover Velar). It doesn’t have any driver assistance features that approach or match Tesla’s Autopilot, though, and it also can’t compete with the higher-capacity or dual-motor versions of the Model X on performance.

Audi’s E-tron is a step above the I-Pace in both price and luxury, and it arrives in the second quarter of 2019. It also seats five, and starts at $74,800, but it can be optioned up to $81,800 in order to get Audi’s driver assistance package — which is one of the better on the market next to Tesla’s, though the best version won’t come to the United States anytime soon — with massage seats, a heads-up display, and more. Where the E-tron falls short of the I-Pace and Model X is that it’s not quite as quick, and it also may not offer quite as robust a range. Its 350-horsepower drivetrain is about a second slower to 60 miles per hour, and though final testing has yet to be performed, it’s possible that the E-tron will get closer to 200 miles per charge than the 240 or 237 offered by the I-Pace and base Model X, respectively.

The Electric Car Is Here, If You’ve Got The Money

Audi’s new E-tron SUV.

One of the most anticipated all-electric vehicles to make it to market in the next few years is also coming in 2019, and it’s actually two models: the Porsche Taycan (née Mission E) and its sibling EV, the Cross Turismo. The Taycan is like a futuristically styled 911 that will feature fast performance and, maybe most importantly, fast charging. The Cross Turismo more closely resembles Porsche’s wagon-y Panamera lineup, and it’s meant to offer a little more practicality than the Taycan. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but both cars should cost around $100,000. (The powertrain platform that the Taycan is being built on will also be shared with Audi for an even more expensive performance version of the E-tron, due out in 2020.)

Continuing the luxury EV trend, Mercedes finally made a serious splash in the world of all-electric cars when it announced the EQC in early September. It’s not arriving until 2020, and there’s no pricing yet. The company also sort of flubbed its first guess at what the range will be (though it’s expected to be a little bit above 200 miles). But it’s otherwise a very Mercedes car, with a typically premium interior that centers on the company’s sharp-looking MBUX interface, one of the most attractive automaker-provided in-car infotainment systems.

BMW’s iX3 electric SUV will also arrive around 2020. Its specs are similar — above 200 miles of range and 270 horsepower — and it looks to build off of the success that BMW has found with its SUV offerings over the last decade. No pricing or other details have been announced, but BMW is no stranger to electric technology. It released the hybrid i8 sports car in 2014, and it has made the all-electric i3 (which tops out at just around 150 miles of range in its latest configuration) for basically just as long. Being BMWs, both of those cars also command a premium: the i8 sits at about $150,000, and the i3 starts at $44,000.

Lastly on the luxury side of things, some of the most well-known EV startups are delivering or nearing production of their own electric cars, but they won’t come cheap, either. Lucid Motors, which just struck a $1 billion deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has targeted a price of $60,000 for the base version of its Lucid Air luxury EV, which has lay-back rear seats and a Tesla-style touchscreen dashboard. That won’t come for a few years, though; instead, much like Tesla is doing by holding back the cheapest version of the Model 3, Lucid plans to sell a more expensive (and therefore higher-margin) spec of the car at the outset to help fund its efforts going forward. That version’s price tag? Over $100,000.

The Electric Car Is Here, If You’ve Got The Money

Jaguar’s I-Pace.

Chinese startup NIO, which recently went public in the US, plans to sell its electric SUVs outside of China, though its first one costs the equivalent of about $70,000 right now. SF Motors, another company from China with similar ambitions (and backed by Chinese automaker Sokon), will be in a similar price range. Byton’s SUV will dip below these a bit and start at around $45,000. Meanwhile, Faraday Future, which bounced back from the brink of bankruptcy and is on the verge of entering production, is reportedly considering a price tag of anywhere from $180,000 to $300,000.

With all that in mind, anyone looking to spend less than, let’s call it, $40,000 — aka, most of us — will at least have some options beyond GM’s Chevy Bolt in the near future. One is the Kona Electric from Hyundai. It’s starting to ship in South Korea and should come to Europe and North America soon, too. Pricing in the West is still not set in stone, but the Kona Electric comes in short- and long-range versions that should start close to $30,000 and go up to $40,000. The short-range version is a bit of a compromise at under 200 miles, but the long-range Kona Electric beats out most of the competition (save for the most expensive Teslas) with an EPA-rated 253 miles per charge.

Kia has a similarly priced all-electric SUV coming very soon, too, though the company has been light on details. The Niro might even eke out the Kona’s range with 260 miles per charge and maybe even a few thousand dollars less.

The Electric Car Is Here, If You’ve Got The Money

Hyundai’s Kona could be one option on the lower-end when it comes to the US in the next half-year.

Volkswagen is also bringing an all-electric car to market sometime in 2019. The company has sold an all-electric Golf since 2015, but the new I.D. hatchback — the first in a line of “I.D.”-branded electric cars — will be sold in three different range options, starting with a little less than 200 miles and a price of a little over $30,000.

Tesla, too, will offer a $35,000 spec of its cheapest car in 2019: the Model 3. While that price was always the promise from the car’s inception, the company’s laser focus on becoming profitable before the end of 2018 means only higher-margin versions are currently being made.

The automakers behind these more affordable electric cars will look to take some momentum from the Chevy Bolt, which is one of the best electric cars on the market as far as price (under $40,000) and range (about 240 miles) are concerned. Other existing EVs are more affordable, but none — not the Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, eGolf, or Kia Soul EV — can go as far on a single charge.

The Electric Car Is Here, If You’ve Got The Money

The Chevy Bolt is the most capable EV under $40,000 right now.

GM is about to become the second company to bleed out eligibility for the $7,500 federal tax credit buyers of EVs receive, though. (Tesla was the first.) That tax credit functions kind of like a consumer rebate, discounting the sticker price. While states offer similar credits, they’re typically for far less, between $1,000 and $3,500. This means cars like the Kona electric or the Niro or the I.D., which will start around the same price as the Bolt have an opportunity. With the federal tax credit, they’ll be cheaper, making them more attractive for some buyers.

In time, some of those lower-end EVs might be within reach of more consumers in the US. In other parts of the world, though, like Europe and China, that’s already happening. And to be fair, the Paris Motor Show represented this. Smart showed off another EV concept and Renault revealed an all-electric version of its ultra-cheap Kwid.

Maybe the first wave of luxury electric cars is not all bad: having desirable EVs at the top end of the market might help make affordable electric cars more attractive by association. But while nearly every automaker has made a grand promise about shifting to electric power by the mid-2020s, the rollout won’t be instant here. Those fleets will also fill up with hybrids, which tend to be even more affordable. Battery technology still makes up a large part of the price of an all-electric car, and the market forces — material costs, overall supply — aren’t helping to quickly bring costs down.

The dream of cars powered by electricity is finally becoming a reality. But as with most futuristic technologies, people with money will get the first crack at living with them.

Source: The Electric Car Is Here, If You’ve Got The Money

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC

Mercedes brings its A-game to the compact sedan segment

Seattle, Washington — Pity the poor sedan. Cheap gas and shifting market demands mean that consumers who once loaded up the family four-door for that summer road trip are now packing crossovers and SUVs up to their panoramic sunroofs in people, gear, and pets. That’s bad news for automakers pushing smaller, lower three-box vehicles, so much so that Ford recently announced its decision to stop selling sedans altogether. Other automakers may soon follow.

But not Mercedes-Benz, who is banking on the success of its new entry-level model in sedan form. The new A-Class sedan will join the small CLA “four-door coupe” and GLA CUV in its U.S. showrooms starting early next year, completing a trio of sub-compact, premium vehicles targeted at bringing new young, mostly urban buyers into the Mercedes-Benz family from competing brands. The CLA, launched in 2013 and the previous Mercedes entry point, did this in droves, with over 50 percent of its buyers being first-time Benz owners that the German brand hopes will move up into its larger, more expensive products when they outgrow the A-Class lineup.

Riding on an all-new chassis with a short 107.4-inch wheelbase, the A220 is the U.S.’s first taste of a small traditional, three-box A-Class sedan. Equipped with MacPherson strut front suspension and a four-link rear suspension, the new chassis was optimized over the current CLA/GLA platform to provide improved noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics as well as more positive handling. This same chassis will underpin the new CLA and GLA models when they launch in the coming years and it’s all but certain that the sedan’s new 2.0-liter, 188-hp, 221 lb-ft turbocharged four-cylinder engine will also be shared with its siblings as the base engine in the United States, paired to the brand’s 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC

Inside, the A220 looks every bit the premium car Mercedes-Benz wants it to be, with turbine-styled climate control vents and a free-standing, fully-digital instrument panel and display that is similar in appearance to the E-Class sedan. Both digital IP cluster and display are 7.0-inches in base configuration, or 10.25 inches if you select the $2,100 Premium Package, which also includes auto-dimming mirrors, Blind Spot Assist, and keyless start and entry among other features. Center stack switchgear and gloss black trim looks every bit as swanky as on MB’s more upscale models and the perforated and grained soft-touch plastic dash materials are very nicely fashioned.

Bigger news is the implementation of the brand’s new MBUX infotainment system, which makes its debut on the A-Class sedan and will go on to replace the current COMAND setup across the full line-up (next up to receive MBUX is the 2019 GLE, we’re told). The MBUX system does away with the old center-console mounted rotary controller in favor of a touchpad in its place and a touchscreen display on the center stack. That said, Mercedes is expecting that MBUX’s new voice command interface will ultimately be what most A-Class sedan owners use to input their demands.
Similar to other “smart” tech products, users call up the voice command system by saying “Hey, Mercedes…” and then giving a command in plain, conversational speech. Brand engineers say the artificial intelligence-enabled system is designed to understand more complex commands than your typical automotive interface. “Hey Mercedes, what is the meaning of life?” yields a thorough and thoughtful response from MBUX’s robo-woman voice and asking “Hey Mercedes, find an Italian restaurant in Seattle with at least four stars that is open at 9:00 pm,” as you might ask your iPhone’s resident personal assistant, Siri, is a viable request. What MBUX can’t change by voice is vehicle drive settings, such as ESC or active safety features, as a function of safety. We found the system to work reasonably well in practice, though we’d like to spend a week with MBUX so that it better “learns” our voice and speech patterns before arriving at a final conclusion. That said, you quickly learn that while you could task MBUX with simple commands such as turning down the radio volume or turning up the climate control temperature, it’s often faster and easier to just do such menial tasks yourself and save the more complex stuff for the computer.

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC

Other advanced system features include some nifty navigation tricks. For example, using the front-mounted camera to project an image of the road ahead on the center display, MBUX can superimpose a turn arrow as you approach the street it asks you to turn on, helping to clarify exactly where the navigation system is directing you. It can also superimpose building addresses on each side of the street as you approach them and the names of cross streets. This is technology that is more than just flashy, it’s also extremely useful and is clearly the way forward for manufacturer-integrated navigation systems and possibly future versions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We were also impressed with the 10.25-inch system’s sharp resolution and its tablet-like functionality, with swipe and multi-touch gestures available. The steering wheel controls were also useful, with tiny pads for swipe functionality and individual controls for instrument panel and center displays on the left and right wheel spokes, respectively.

Move to the rear seats and you’ll find a more spacious rear cabin than in the CLA or GLA, though this is still a small car with limited room for those over six-feet tall. Really, rear seating is best kept to shorter trips for average-size adults, though smaller children will find plenty of space.

During the drive program, we logged miles on the city streets of Seattle, twisty mountain roads that circle Washington’s Mt. Rainer, and stretches of highway further east towards Yakima. Our tester was a pre-production A220 4MATIC (designating all-wheel drive) equipped with 19-inch AMG wheels on low-profile summer tires and the AMG Line package with the lowered sport suspension (adaptive suspension is also an available option), drilled brake discs and various AMG trim items. We found the ride to be on the firm side, as expected from such a setup, though still compliant enough that we don’t feel passengers would be unduly uncomfortable. We’re confident that opting for the base suspension and 17-inch wheels would provide a more compliant ride though we weren’t able to experience a car so-equipped.

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC

The new 2.0-turbo engine is impressively smooth and linear in its response, eager to run to its 6,500-rpm redline and with full torque feeling like it arrives arrive low in the rev range (Mercedes was unable to give us peak hp and torque rpm, leading us to conclude that final tweaking is still underway before the car’s launch in the first quarter of 2019). This is the A-Class’s base engine, and if 188 hp doesn’t sound like much, it doesn’t feel like it either and output is unfortunately significantly less than the CLA 250’s 208-hp, 258 lb-ft 2.0-liter turbo-four. The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is up to the task, with quick, smooth shifts whether in automatic mode or using the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. While the A220 is more than capable of keeping up with fast-moving traffic, the chassis is talkative and lively enough (especially with its sport options) that we couldn’t help but think what a future AMG version might be capable of.

Mercedes used a new electric power steering setup on this A-Class which provides good feel and excellent weighting and precision, stiffening up nicely when the car is switched from Comfort to Sport mode, which also sharpens throttle tip-in, holds the seven-speed DCT’s gears longer before upshifting, and allows a little more slip before the ESC reins in the fun. An Individual drive mode is also available to mix and match sport and comfort settings.

Is the sedan segment dead? We certainly hope not if manufacturers can still bring fun-to-drive models to market like the A220. In our time with the car we came away very impressed and itching for more time in a full production version as we get closer to the A-Class sedan’s launch early next year. Mercedes is mum on pricing, though you can expect the A220 to start at roughly the same amount as the current CLA, or around $34,000 including destination fee, while the upcoming all-new CLA moves slightly upmarket.

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4Matic Sedan Specifications

ON SALE Spring 2019
PRICE $34,000/$45,000 (base/as tested) (est)
ENGINE 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/188 hp @ N/A rpm, 221 lb-ft @ N/A rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD sedan
L x W x H 179.1 x 70.7 x 56.9 in
WHEELBASE 107.4 in
WEIGHT 3,600 lbs (est)
0-60 MPH 7.0 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 130 mph (est)

Source: 2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Inaugural high-end show debuts in Switzerland with a bevy of automotive beauties

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Basel, Switzerland — If there’s an upside to the proliferation of globetrotting one-percenters, it’s that their vehicular eye candy has more venues than ever in which to be ogled. Crashing the ultraluxe car show circuit this year is Grand Basel, a highfalutin auto expo that borrows a page from Art Basel’s playbook: take the crème de la crème in rolling sculpture, light them like a Rembrandt, and celebrate them in a gallery-like space without the distraction of hard sunlight, cluttered surroundings, or gawking throngs.

About a quarter of the 113 gorgeously illuminated cars shown at the first Grand Basel show were up for sale, though you’d never guess it from the discreetly embedded displays (the distinction was available on Grand Basel’s app if you dig deep enough). Whether commerce or art, what Grand Basel’s debut proved to be above all else is a refreshing and innovative take on the postmodern car show. With conventional industry auto shows waning and appreciation for high dollar classics on the ascent, this latest event joins the likes of Goodwood, Chantilly, and Amelia Island as an emergent force in this rarified space.

Missed the inaugural exhibition? Grand Basel goes to Miami (with primarily U.S.-sourced cars) February 22-24, 2019 and Hong Kong in May, 2019.

Here are ten of our favorites from the Swiss show.

1. Lancia Delta Futurista by Automobili Amos

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Anyone who grew up with posters of rally monsters like the Lancia Delta Integrale will fully comprehend this high-dollar restomod. Spearheaded by Eugenio Amos, this reimagining of the venerable Integrale deletes two doors, goes wider and lighter with plenty of carbon fiber, and upgrades the engine to 330 horsepower. If the $350,000 asking price seems too dear, consider the early days of Singer and how it helped inject notoriety into the classic Porsche car market.

2. 1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Note to Lamborghini Aventador enthusiasts: respect your elders. Specifically, elegant progenitors like this un-flared, elegantly bodied Countach LP400, which paved the way for today’s monstrously styled supersleds. In these simpler times, Lamborghini’s longitudinally mounted V-12 produced only 375 horsepower. But oh what a silhouette it cut. Thanks to its razor sharp crease lines and slotted air intakes, the LP400 resembled nothing else on planet earth. Only 157 of these models exist, making early Countaches all the more covetable.

3. Land Rover Series I

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Land Rover’s 70th anniversary has celebrated the famously rugged British marque ad nauseam, but this seemingly orthodox Series I specimen offers a clever twist on the off-road icon: discreetly uprated steering and brakes, and a 3.9-liter V-8 tucked under the hood. Built by a Bavarian outfit called Landy Point, this pumped up Rover is among the most understated vintage off-roaders out there.

4. 1968 Giugaro Corvair Testudo

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

We love a good transcontinental mashup just as much as the next guy, and the Giugaro Testudo is one of the more unsuspecting combos in automotive history. First debuting at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, the Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned Testudo was a visual harbinger of the future, evoking elements of the Lamborghini Miura, Corvette C3, and Porsche 928 which wouldn’t appear for years. This rarely seen one-off was the property of Carrozzeria Bertone for decades until Giugiaro bought it back.

5. Picasso’s 1963 Lincoln Continental

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Just when you thought you knew everything about Pablo Picasso’s well-documented predilections and preferences, this comes out of the woodwork: the last car ever owned by the Spanish master. Fresh out of restoration, this suicide-door equipped sedan was curated by artist Sylvie Fleury, who has links to Picasso’s family. Designed by Elwood Engel and powered by a 7.0-liter V-8, the all-American sedan adds an interesting footnote to one of the most famous painters of all time.

6. 1953 Fiat 8V Vignale

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

The vast majority midcentury Italian V-8s were of the racy Ferrari variety. Yet Fiat, purveyors of scrappy hatchbacks and workaday people movers, tried its hand at the eight-cylinder genre with their 8V Vignale, which reversed its nomenclature because Ford owned the rights to the “V8” model name. Motivated by a tiny 2.0-liter V-8, this Fiat was a nascent sporting coupe which managed to dominate its Italian GT class, scoring class wins at the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. Only 114 models were built in all, with roughly half featuring bodies by Ghia, Pininfarina, and Zagato.

7. 1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Aston’s recent reissue of this rarity makes the original all the more intriguing. Only 19 of the allotted 25 homologation specials were built and featured a dual Weber-carbureted 3.6-liter six-cylinder producing anywhere between 270 and 314 horsepower. With slick bodywork by Zagato head designer Ercole Spada, this tiny, taut runabout still looks fresh to death, making the 21st century redux all the more comprehensible.

8. 1978 Lancia Sibilo Concept

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

How do you follow up a legend like the Lancia Stratos? Chief Bertone stylist Marcello Gandini—the man responsible for the Lamborghini Miura, Alfa Romeo Montreal, and Bugatti EB110 among others—produced the Sibilo. Built on an extended Stratos chassis, this Ferrari Dino V-6-powered concept took a stab at the future with package that could be equally at home on the set of “Tron.” The one-of-one wedge featured angular shapes against rounded forms, and originally contrasted its brown hue with yellow wheels.

9. 1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 GTS

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

Switzerland is known for many things—chocolate, banking, and stunning Alpine passes, for starters. But supercars is not one of them. Hailing from Binningen, a suburb just outside of central Basel, Peter Monteverdi was responsible for 1967’s High Speed 375 and this, the successor which debuted at Geneva three years later. Powered by a mid-mounted Chrysler 7.0-liter Hemi V-8 and bodied by Carrozzeria Fissore di Savigliano, Switzerland’s only true automotive upstart offered a promising alternative to the typical Italian fare. But with a 30 percent higher asking price than a Maserati Indy, Monteverdi sadly sealed its own fate.

10. 1996 Bentley Continental P116

Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

While the Lancia Futurista by Eugenio Amos practically stole the show at Basel, his heavily customized 1996 Bentley generated its own quiet buzz at the end of the hall. Originally commissioned by Harley-Davidson importer Carlo Talamo, this NACA-ducted, rollbar-equipped Conti enjoyed a number of factory mods, including a Cosworth-tweaked V-8 with bigger turbos, a polished aluminum hood, and more than 440 pounds of weight shed. Aren’t precious grand tourers all the more endearing when they’re lovingly transformed into fearsome, track-ready streetfighters?

Source: Our 10 Favorite Cars From Grand Basel

2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive

Aging bull does not go quietly into the night, swipes Nürburgring record on the way out

2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive

Lisbon, Portugal — A half-decade before the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ entered the world, the roaring, snorting automotive malfeasance that was the original Aventador served up a wicked paradox to the supercar faithful. Though it bore all the markings of an indomitable flagship—scissor doors, massive V-12, jaw scraping silhouette—those primordial markers didn’t exactly translate to greatness on the racetrack. And while it had ludicrous hardware and visual shock and awe to spare, the O.G. Aventador shifted tentatively and cornered ponderously, making it an unfortunate weapon of choice for the racetrack.

What a difference five years makes.

Hot on the heels of the upgraded and refined suspension and steering setups that marked the debut of the Aventador S, the SVJ earned its fate-defining headline the old fashioned way: by scoring the fastest production car record around the Nürburgring Nordschleife, smashing Porsche’s title along the way. The biggest indicator of the best-of-times state of today’s supercars? The fact that the smaller, nimbler, and supposedly more venerable Huracán Performante’s Nürburgring ranking has slipped to fourth place, behind its big brother SVJ, the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, and the Radical SR8 LM.

2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive

It’s at the Estoril circuit on the outskirts of Lisbon—a spot where F1 legends earned their keep in Technicolor glory—that I find myself behind the wheel of the Lamborghini that now claims the greatest power-to-weight ratio in Sant’Agata history. The 2.598-mile circuit, which also happens to be where McLaren recently launched the million-dollar Senna, promises to fully evoke the top dog Lamborghini’s fearsome soul with its 13 technical corners and lengthy straight. But it turns out the circuit was repaved only two weeks ago, an unfortunately timed update that introduces an ice-like surface that only gets slicker with sunshine as the heat releases chemicals and residues, further reducing friction. Sigh.

Thus, with a heavy heart (and an earful of naturally aspirated sonic pleasure), I nestle into the idling Aventador SVJ’s fixed racing seat, ready to attempt the seemingly contradictory task of testing its limits on a limited friction surface. The stiff perch is wide enough to contain a human larger than myself, but nonetheless feels appropriately uncompromised for the rigors of the racetrack. In the customizable EGO mode, I go for broke right off the bat, selecting the most aggressive Corsa setting for drivetrain (which sets the 6.5-liter V-12 and 7-speed single clutch gearbox to ‘stun’), steering (which heightens effort while maintaining a constant ratio), and suspension (which provides maximum stiffness to the adaptive magnetic dampers.) The resulting mechanical alchemy, it turns out, is like bringing a laser vaporizer to a zombie attack. Just pulling out of the pits, the throttle responds with startling alacrity and I jerk the car forward like a pre-teen with a learner’s permit. The SVJ’s steering responds with similar sharpness, imparting a trajectory that can sometimes feel exaggerated at turn-in thanks to the four wheel steering system, which countersteers the rear wheels at lower speeds. Acceleration is intense as I follow the blend line onto the track, slamming me back before crescendoing, pausing briefly, and jerking again with the staccato shift of the 7-speed. Though it manages to swap cogs better than ever, it still lacks the smoothness of virtually all of its competitors. These animal sensations have become relatively alien in these times of muted turbocharged powerplants and Teflon-slick dual-clutch transmissions. But they also provide a deliciously rude awakening for those accustomed to the polite expedience of modern supercars. Estoril, I’m comin’ atcha.

2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive

It takes multiple laps to adapt to this more capable, yet equally sharp-edged Aventador. For starters, the four-wheel steering system removes some of the sugary ease of hustling a Huracán Performante through a corner; delicate inputs are required (especially when set to Corsa) in order not to overdo it at corner entry. The ratio is quick, demanding smooth, measured inputs; along with the slick track surfaces, these dynamics require equal measures of caution and bravado. Because traction control is more restrictive in Corsa than Sport mode, the SVJ feels less playful and willing to slide its tail. But the setting is also optimal for faster lap times. I can still feel weight transfer when I release that trigger-sharp throttle, but the electronics also step in noticeably and catch the tail when I come in hot on the final corner, a long sweeper that leads to an enormous straightaway. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the SVJ picks up speed quickly and lays the power down on corner exit better thanks to the four wheel steering and added downforce. Ameliorating the risk factor is also the all-wheel drive system, which uses a Haldex differential to route 40 percent of power through the front wheels, helping to propel it out of a corner.

2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive

Transforming the Aventador S into a track beast capable of unseating its smaller, nimbler, V-10-powered stablemate required a considerable mechanical reworking. For starters, the mid-mounted 6.5-liter V-12 now churns 759 horsepower and 531 lb-ft of torque, an improvement of 69 hp and 22 lb-ft. The greater grunt comes thanks to lower friction components, titanium valves with a more aggressive valve lift strategy, and larger intake runners, among other tricks. Lamborghini’s ALA active aerodynamics package has been inherited from the Huracán, with upgrades that merit a 2.0 designation. The system, as with the setup in its littler brother, uses small electric motors to strategically channel air through the front splitter and the rear. Unlike the Senna’s moveable spoiler, the SVJ disrupts the rear spoiler’s downforce by shifting the airflow, effectively stalling the wing and creating a zero lift scenario. In full effect, up to 1,100 pounds of downforce can be created at vMax (which should come in at around 220 mph when official numbers are released). Furthering the cornering cause is the so-called aero vectoring effect, which can divert air to either side of the wing to create downforce on one side, helping rotate the car through corners. Lamborghini says the system improves aero-loading by 30 percent over the Huracán Performante, and creates 40 percent more downforce than the previous Aventador SV. The SVJ’s claimed 3,615 lb curb weight matches the SV’s, with the weight reduction ameliorated by the addition of active aero and four-wheel steering hardware.

2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive

Since there’s so much electronic wizardry going on between the active aero, four-wheel steering, and adjustable dampers, I switch the steering and suspension to Sport during my second session, hoping to get a better grasp of this bucking bull of a supercar. The setup makes the SVJ feel instantly more at ease, enabling an incrementally more manageable, less manic drive through Estoril’s esses and straights. A brutal stab of the brakes after hitting an indicated 175 mph along the straightaway creates a bit of skittishness at the tail, which I suspect might have resulted from the inevitable engineering reality that rear wheel deflection is likelier when the four wheel steering hardware introduces an element of instability to the rear end. Fixing those two wheels firmly to chassis would go a long way towards stabilizing the tail. Comparison to the McLaren Senna here is inevitable, particularly because the McLaren decelerates with the certainty and solidity of an aircraft carrier arrestor cable. On the other hand, the Senna is some $441,196 dearer than the Lambo and built of more unobtainium than you can shake a carbon fiber stick at. But the SVJ is also an entirely different beast, one whose aesthetic charisma evokes sexier, more Italianate emotions. The supremely capable Senna takes the company’s racing learnings and applies them into a utilitarian, track-focused tool; the Lamborghini, though engineered with Teutonic guidance from the Volkswagen Group, remains an emotional animal that requires a bit of patience and deliberation to master, especially when the wild card of an unexpectedly slick track is thrown into the mix.

2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive

Following my final session in the SVJ, a debrief with Chief Technical Officer Maurizio Reggiani reveals that Lamborghini test driver Marco Mapelli scored the Nürburgring record with the drivetrain in Corsa and the steering in Sport, because he wanted a lighter effort over the famously demanding 12.9-mile course and didn’t mind the Sport setting’s variable steering ratio setup. Interestingly, Mapelli said the suspension was set to Sport, though other sources say it was actually in its mildest setting, Strada.

Still buzzing from the SVJ’s sensory overload, I ponder the curiosity of this wondrous moment in history when street cars are capable of producing considerably more power than race cars and packing technology that would very likely be banned in competition. From that vantage point the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is a double curiosity, not only because it has managed to overcome the limitations of its challenging package and single-clutch transmission, but also since it has stubbornly retained its gloriously sonorous naturally aspirated V-12. After lapping Estoril more than a dozen times, I’m left wanting more—hungry to fiddle more with the settings, try different lines, and tame that damn slip ’n slide of a track. It’s fair to say the SVJ’s fascinating combination of traditional non-turbocharged engine tech and forward thinking handling and aerodynamics have created a different sort of paradoxical matrix, one that finally brings the Aventador into the forefront of the supercar conversation.

019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Specifications

  • ON SALE January 2019
  • PRICE $517,770 (base)
  • ENGINE 6.5L DOHC 48-valve V-12/759 hp @ 8,500 rpm, 531 lb-ft @ 6,750 rpm
  • TRANSMISSION 7-speed single-clutch automatic
  • LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, AWD coupe
  • EPA MILEAGE 11/15 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
  • L x W x H 194.6.X x 82.6 x 44.7 in
  • WHEELBASE 106.3 in
  • WEIGHT 3,615 lb
  • 0-60 MPH 2.7 sec (est)
  • TOP SPEED 220 mph (est)

Source: 2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, First Drive