Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

Tesla raises “full self-driving” price from $8,000 to $10,000

October 30th, 2020
Interior of Tesla's Model 3.

Enlarge / Interior of Tesla's Model 3. (credit: Tesla)

Tesla is wasting no time cashing in on excitement over the company's forthcoming "full self-driving" software release, which was released in beta form to a small number of customers last week. Tesla has now raised the price of the FSD upgrade from $8,000 to $10,000.

Tesla has tinkered with pricing for the full self-driving package repeatedly over the last two years. In 2018, the package cost $3,000 at vehicle purchase time or $4,000 when purchased later. In 2019, Tesla briefly cut the price to $2,000, angering customers who had paid higher prices. Then Tesla revamped its price structure, making basic Autopilot features standard and raising the FSD package price to $5,000. Tesla subsequently raised the price to $6,000, $7,000, and then $8,000.

Musk has long warned customers to expect the price of the full self-driving technology to continue rising. "If you buy a Tesla today, I believe you are buying an appreciating asset—not a depreciating asset," Musk said in a 2019 podcast episode.

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“Oh Jeeeesus”: Drivers react to Tesla’s full self-driving beta release

October 30th, 2020
Two cars nearly collide in a parking lot.

Enlarge / YouTuber Brandon M captured this drone footage of his Tesla steering toward a parked car. "Oh Jeeeesus," he said as he grabbed the steering wheel. (credit: Brandon M)

Last week, Tesla released an early version of its long-awaited "full self-driving" software to a limited number of customers. It was arguably Tesla's biggest Autopilot update ever. The software enables Tesla vehicles to autonomously navigate the vast majority of common roadway situations and complete many trips from start to finish.

Tesla considers it to be beta software and says it's not intended for fully autonomous operation. Drivers are expected to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times.

To understand the new software, I watched more than three hours of driving footage from three Tesla owners who got the FSD update. These YouTube videos underscored how important it is for drivers to actively supervise Tesla's new software. Over the course of three hours, the drivers took control more than a dozen times, including at least two cases when the car seemed to be on the verge of crashing into another vehicle.

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Chevrolet readies an electric crate motor for homebuilt EV hotrods

October 29th, 2020

I don't know about you, but I am totally here for the growing trend of putting electric propulsion in classic cars. Much of the pioneering work has been done by small aftermarket shops: Zelectric and EV West in California, Electric Classic Cars in the UK, and so on. But increasingly, OEMs are giving it a go as well. For a while, Jaguar was preparing to sell a (very expensive) conversion kit for its XKE-engined cars, although sadly that has been cancelled. Volkswagen has been working with eClassics on an electric conversion of the Type 1 bus. And here in the US, the annual SEMA show has featured some factory-blessed high voltage hot rods for the last couple of years.

SEMA is going virtual this year, and one of the cars that Chevrolet will show off will be a 1977 K5 Blazer—called the Blazer-E—that previews the company's new eCrate aftermarket powertrain. The build team traded the Blazer's huge 6.6L V8, with its meagre 175hp (130kW), for the 200hp (150kW) motor from the Bolt EV, which connects to the Blazer's four-wheel drive system via a four-speed auto that replaces the original three-speed transmission.

The fuel tank and exhaust also went in the recycling bin, and a 60kWh lithium-ion battery pack was mounted in the Blazer's cargo area. This is also from the Bolt EV and includes all the wiring and power electronics one needs to manage a modern battery EV powertrain.

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The 2020 Genesis G90—a good luxury sedan from an alternate dimension

October 28th, 2020

When Genesis was spun out as its own brand, the G90 luxury sedan was chosen to lead the way. A flagship sedan makes sense when the point was to show that Korea could mix it alongside the Germans. And the G90 did that, feeling solid and over-engineered. Now the big car has had its midlife makeover, gaining a whopping new grille and some other distinctive styling details that better align the G90 with Genesis' design language. It has also received a bit of a tech upgrade, with some new advanced driver assistance systems.

And yet, despite the car's competence it felt out of step, like it belongs to a reality close to ours but subtly different. In this alternate universe, there's no climate change, and so the naturally aspirated V8 in the $76,695 G90 5.0L Ultimate still makes plenty of sense. Its 420hp (313kW) and 383lb-ft (519Nm) is more than enough to move the big rear-wheel drive sedan via an in-house eight-speed automatic transmission. And it's only 1 mile per gallon more thirsty than the twin-turbo V6 version we tested last time, at 24mpg (9.8l/100km) on the highway and 17mpg (13.8l/100km) in the city.

Just as importantly, in this alternate timeline, the SUV never reached ascendancy. Instead, executives still flock to the sedan as their preferred form of conveyance, and the G90's newly sharpened jawline offers a more classic look alongside the power bulges of a BMW 7 Series or the crisp folds and creases of an Audi A8. The high points are the intricately detailed headlights, a new family look for the Genesis range, and the 19-inch alloy wheels that go from flat disc to G-Matrix crisscross pattern to tire, seemingly skipping the rim altogether.

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Consumer Reports: Tesla Autopilot a “distant second” to GM Super Cruise

October 28th, 2020
The dashboard of the 2021 Cadillac CT4-V.

Enlarge / Super Cruise will be available on the 2021 Cadillac CT4-V. (credit: Cadillac)

Cadillac Super Cruise has retained its title as the best driver assistance system on the market, Consumer Reports declared in a new ranking. Super Cruise also won CR's last ranking in 2018. While Super Cruise started out as a Cadillac-only feature, GM is planning to bring it to 22 vehicles by 2023.

Tesla's Autopilot came in second place—a "distant second" according to Consumer Reports. The group says it saw "minor improvements in lane keeping performance" from Tesla's offering since the system was last evaluated in 2018.

Those minor improvements were enough for Autopilot to get the top spot in the "lane keeping and performance" category of CR's report. CR ranked Autopilot 9/10 for performance, while Super Cruise scored 8/10. Tesla also got top marks for Autopilot's ease of use.

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Ford is making new Broncos; mockumentary John Bronco has its ideal pitchman

October 25th, 2020

The trailer for Hulu's John Bronco.

John Bronco—Hulu's new sub-40-minute mockumentary about a "lost" "Ford pitchman"—is a good idea, well-executed. What if you took the competent-idiot Southern charm of Justified's Boyd Crowder, but, instead of an Appalachian criminal, made the character the unlikely pitchman for a beloved classic SUV, who oozes over-the-top marketable machismo a la the Marlboro Man? And... what if you can get Walton Goggins himself to play the S.O.B? To call that comedic premise excellent, well, "It'd be like saying, 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is just margarine...' which I guess it is," as one interviewee describes Bronco.

In case the title alone doesn't explain the premise: sometime around the 1960s, Ford had a rugged SUV, called the Bronco, lined up for the masses. But it needed a way to sell this new contraption. The company decided it would enter a prototype of the vehicle in the Baja 1000, a famed off-road race. It needed someone tough enough to handle this beast of a vehicle and course, so it sought out whoever seemed to be the most rugged guy in the region—a rodeo champ named John Bronco. John Bronco chronicles the (to be clear, fictional) man's rise, fall, and disappearance before trying to figure out where the legendary ad icon is now.

The team behind John Bronco—Director Jake Szymanski (HBO's Tour de Pharmacy) and producer Marc Gilbar—started on the idea in 2019 but ultimately timed the project for maximum impact when they learned Ford had real-life plans to relaunch the iconic Bronco late this summer. According to The Ringer, the team met directly with Ford and earned access to the company's marketing archives, which get mined thoroughly for aesthetic and pseudo-accuracy in the film. For instance: if you, too, were also born after the mid-1980s, maybe it'd be surprising to learn Doug Flutie had enough of a Q score to actually hawk cars for Ford in 1985 (though the original ad does not seem to end in tragedy).

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Lamborghini’s Huracán Evo RWD is made for maximum fun, not lap times

October 25th, 2020

"Hang back for a second so I can show you the course," Dean DiGiacomo says over the radio as we approach the skid pad in a pair of 610hp (455kW), Skittle-colored Huracáns.

A professional racer and the chief instructor for Lamborghini's various performance schools—which range from customer track days to an intensive training programs for the automaker's Super Trofeo wheel-to-wheel racing series—DiGiacomo takes a moment to explain the vehicle settings I'll need to select before he sets off on a demonstration pass.

The matte purple machine arcs gracefully from one cone of the figure eight to the next, V10 wailing as it turns rubber into smoke. Before I know it, DiGiacomo is already back in the pit area and it's my turn to give it a go. "Now, do it just like that," a photographer says to me with a knowing grin. We share a laugh. But how hard can it be, right?

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Why is everyone building an electric pickup truck?

October 24th, 2020

The electric pickup trucks are here. Or almost here, at least.

General Motors dropped a pretty penny to debut its new electric Hummer during the World Series on Tuesday, with a two minute, 15 second ad that took up an entire commercial break. But you won’t be able to drive the $112,595 truck off the lot until at least next fall. Tesla staged a smashing reveal for its Cybertruck pickup nearly a year ago, but it hasn’t yet built the factory in Texas that will make the thing—reservation holders can probably expect their truck late next year. Other contenders on the horizon include the Rivian R1T, which, after delays, should show up around June; the Lordstown Endurance(sometime in 2021); the Bollinger B2 (probably next year); the Ford F-150 EV(due mid-2022); and the Nikola Badger (thanks to the company’s leadership troubles, who knows). The competition for the hearts and minds of the American electric pickup truck buyer is bound to be intense.

Here’s the problem: No one knows who that American electric pickup buyer is. “It’s not like people have been asking for this,” says Jessica Caldwell, the executive director of insights at Edmunds. “I don’t think people have been sitting around and thinking, ‘You now what I need? A pickup with an electric motor.’”

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The 2020 Polaris Slingshot—still a conversation starter on three wheels

October 22nd, 2020

The Polaris Slingshot was definitely the most unusual vehicle I reviewed last year. Classified as a motorcycle, this three-wheeler looked like nothing else on the roads. In fact, it would be hard to draw more attention without the help of some sirens and a bullhorn. For 2020, Polaris has substantially revised the Slingshot. Well, on the inside, that is. There's an all-new four-cylinder engine, unique to the vehicle, and an optional automated gearbox for those who want three wheels but only two pedals. But it still looks like nothing else on the road, and as I discovered over the course of a few days, it still isn't the vehicle for you if you want to blend in.

Instead of using a 2.4L Ecotec engine from General Motors, Polaris decided to create its own in-house. It's a 2.0L four-cylinder design called the ProStar, and in addition to being smaller than the old engine, it's also about 65lbs (30kg) lighter thanks to an aluminum block. It's also more powerful, and it likes to rev, too. In SL-spec, it makes 177hp (132kW) at a heady 8,500rpm; we tested the Slingshot R which packs 203hp (151kW) at 8,250rpm. Both SL (120lb-ft/163Nm) and R (144lb-ft/195Nm) are less torquey than the old Ecotec (166lb-ft/225Nm), although that never felt like a problem as there's just that single 20-inch rear tire with which to apply it.

The other major new addition is the AutoDrive automated manual transmission, something the company says has been its most common request from potential customers. It's a five-speed with a hydraulically activated clutch and is the only gearbox available for the $26,499 Slingshot SL. The R offers buyers the choice of AutoDrive ($32,699) or a conventional three-pedal manual option ($30,999). Polaris says that AutoDrive only weighs about 14lbs (6.3kg) more than the regular manual, and at 1,645lbs (746kg) the 2020 Slingshot R is about 100lbs (45kg) lighter than a 2019 model.

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Tesla made $331 million profit in Q3 2020

October 21st, 2020
A Tesla logo superimposed over a mess of numbers and figures.

Enlarge (credit: Tesla / Aurich Lawson)

On Wednesday, Tesla published its financial results for the third quarter of 2020. The company says it ended Q3 2020 with a GAAP profit of $331 million, the fifth profitable quarter in a row for the US automaker. Encouragingly, despite the pandemic it is a strong improvement on Q3 2019.

Tesla ends Q3 2020 with a positive free cash flow of $1.4 billion and $14.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents. Tesla says in its presentation to investors that Q3 was marked by substantial growth in vehicle deliveries, which counteracted a decrease in the average selling price as the company sells fewer and fewer Models S and X and sells more and more Models 3 and Y. Regulatory credits accounted for $397 million of its revenues, and the company had to pay out $280 million in stock-based compensation for CEO Elon Musk after the company reached certain milestones.

The automaker had already released data on its Q3 deliveries earlier in October, but to reiterate, it made 16,992 Models S and X, delivering 15,725 of the same. Models 3 and Y production clocked in at 128,044; in total, it delivered 124,318 of these vehicles during the three months in question. Impressively, total deliveries are up 54 percent quarter-on-quarter and 44 percent year-on-year. In total, the company's automotive business brought in $7.6 billion in revenue.

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