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2021 Audi RS 7 Sportback grows up for better or worse

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2021 Audi RS 7

Reunions can be funny things, where memories run headlong into current realities in unpredictable ways. The more fondly you remember someone, the more nervous you will be to see them again. What if they’ve changed? What if you’ve changed?

It’s with this sense of trepidation that I headed into my time with the redesigned 2021 Audi RS 7, because the previous generation of the RS 7 was one of my favorite cars. It had an appealing brutishness that belied its tame styling. Hit the gas and that car would explode with acceleration and a rumbling soundtrack to match. Its dual nature, a luxurious cabin with uncivil performance and sound, appealed to me.

The new RS 7 is excessive in many of the same ways, with comically large wheels and a twin-turbo V-8 under the hood offering more power than anyone needs. But it’s gotten a makeover, with a technology forward interior that’s also quieter and new layers of refinement for the ride and handling. The RS 7 has grown up in the time we’ve been apart, more than I have I’m afraid. I fear that in its growth, it’s lost some of the playfulness that made me love it so much in the first place. 

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

Rumble young man, rumble

Under the hood lurks a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that makes 591 hp and a nearly matching 590 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough power to get this big car from 0-60 mph in only 3.5 seconds and up to a top track speed of 190 mph with the optional carbon-ceramic brake package (155 mph without it). All-wheel drive is standard, along with a sport differential that actively splits torque between the rear wheels and is a necessary addition on a car with this much raw power.

Without such wizardry working at the rear wheels, this thing would get squirrely very quickly. With the electronic gatekeepers on, it’s easy to roll onto the power with confidence. If you mash the pedal on a corner exit, there’s a small hiccup until the computers figure things out and get you pointed in the right direction, but I prefer that to the frankly dangerous alternative. 

In a straight line, the RS 7 is a rocketship. I didn’t come close to touching any of the top speed figures, but this car absolutely leaps from 20-60 mph. It happens in the blink of an eye and you’ll have to watch your speed merging onto the highway as you overtake traffic with supreme ease.

Though the new RS 7’s 0-60 mph time is faster by 0.1 second,  it feels like it lacks some of the off-the-line burst of the old car. The previous generation seemed to rocket from a stop, enough so that I’d remind passengers to put their heads back against the headrest before any kind of launch. The 2021 RS 7 is still obscenely fast, but some of its edge has been blunted—and I miss it. 

Though the RS 7’s performance figures do induce smiles, the fuel economy does not. The EPA estimates 15 city, 22 highway, 17 combined mpg on premium fuel. With a 19.3 gallon tank, you can still cover about 400 miles on a highway road trip, but the fuel costs add up quickly if you engage in any throttle-related hijinks. 

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

Fit to cruise

As prodigious as the RS 7’s power output is, its handling isn’t in the same league. It’s not sloppy, it’s just heavy. The engine is enough to overcome the liftback’s curb weight of 4,938 pounds in a straight line, but in corners there’s no hiding that amount of bulk. There’s noticeable understeer if you really cook it into a corner, and turn-in response isn’t sharp. As with most Audis, the steering is too light and doesn’t offer enough feedback to really feel what the front end is doing. The adaptive suspension does a good job of keeping the big car balanced, but you can tell it’s working overtime.

The counterargument is that the RS 7 wasn’t meant for agility. There’s some merit to that because the RS 7 is an absolute delight as a touring car. The quiet and well-appointed cabin makes chewing up the miles on a road trip a breeze. The sport seats have aggressive bolstering but remain very comfortable over extended periods. You might look at the gigantic 22-inch wheels with low profile tires and think that you might need a mouthguard on anything but the best roads, but the ride is shockingly supple (and quiet) with the suspension in its more comfortable settings. 

If I had to pick a car to drive across the country, the RS 7 would be near the top of that list. The combination of ride quality and luxury, intermingled with the occasional burst of delightful acceleration, never gets tiring. That’s even truer if guests come along for the journey. Four adults will fit in great comfort and the rear hatch has room enough for luggage with 24.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. 

2021 Audi RS 7

2021 Audi RS 7

Speed isn’t cheap

The RS 7’s price makes my dreams of road trips just that, dreams. My test vehicle’s base price was high enough at $115,045, but options brought the total to $137,540. The largest culprits in the price hike were the carbon-ceramic brakes ($9,000) and a carbon-fiber appearance package ($6,650) that included those 22-inch wheels. That’s more than the even higher performance last-generation RS 7 Performance I tested cost, which makes me a bit fearful of how high the price will be for the new version. 

If the rumors are to be believed, the new RS 7 Performance will feature plug-in hybrid power and that has me excited. Such a system will add even more weight, but imagining an electrified jolt to help the RS 7 launch with even more gusto has me tickled and may hew closer to the rush of excitement the old model offered. It should also make the fuel economy figures more palatable. 

The new RS 7 is an upgrade over the old car in nearly every way. It’s more luxurious, features better technology, offers superior comfort, and the handling has improved as well (believe it or not, the old generation was even more vague). However, I came away from this reunion with bittersweet feelings.The old RS 7 was a wild child but in the most entertaining way, and I miss that rambunctious feel. The new RS 7 has grown up and left a hefty portion of its playfulness in the rear view mirror of youth. I’m glad we got to catch up. I just miss the old days.

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Autos

Edd China gets a driveable orange back on the road in “Workshop Diaries” episode 6

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Edd China's Outspan Orange

For the latest episode of his “Workshop Diaries” YouTube show, former “Wheeler Dealers” host Edd China starts work on one of his more unusual projects. It’s an Outspan Orange, a fruit-shaped vehicle built in the 1970s to promote a South African orange grower.

China acquired his driveable Orange directly from the company, restored it, and has driven it occasionally ever since. Because it’s been acting up recently, China puts aside his other projects temporarily to focus on it in Episode 6.

The Orange is based on a classic Mini, though with a tiny 48-inch wheelbase that matches the track. Owing to the unusual bodywork, the engine sits under the dashboard. So if it breaks down at the side of the road, China will be sheltered from the weather while working on it, at least. The spherical interior has a definite ’70s vibe, with a smattering of Mini gauges and controls.

Edd China’s Outspan Orange

After removing a bird’s nest from the engine compartment, China finds a leaking fuel line. Fixing that smooths out the previously rough-running engine, seemingly addressing the problem, but because the Orange had been sitting for awhile, China also replaces the air filter and the spark plugs.

The work gets the car back on the road—a dirt road in this instance—and a short test drive reveals plenty of other problems, including a hesitant engine, a bearing in need of replacement, and steering that pulls dangerously to the right. China plans to tackle those issues in future episodes, so instead he segues into a segment answering viewers’ questions, which in turn leads him to briefly pop the hood of his ongoing Land Rover Range Rover project to make the sure the engine has oil pressure.

This episode also continues the story of the world’s fastest electric ice cream van, which China started building in 2018 for a successful Guinness World Record run. He started out with a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and has spent the past few episodes focusing on how he got the stock transmission to couple with an electric motor. That continues in this episode, where China discusses machining down the flywheel to save weight, and machining an adapter to allow the motor to fit with the transmission. That leads to the next issue, which is the need for a bellhousing of sorts. The finished product will certainly be included in a future episode.

Watch the full episode for a complete explanation of the processes China uses to work on all three of his ongoing projects.

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Autos

2022 Genesis G70 Launch Edition limited to 500 units

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Teaser for 2022 Genesis G70 wagon

Genesis has thoroughly updated its G70 for the 2022 model year, giving the small sport sedan a new look, more refined cabin, and unfortunately a more streamlined transmission offering. There’s now just an 8-speed automatic as the previous manual option has been dropped.

For early buyers, Genesis is offering a special Launch Edition limited to just 500 units. It comes in an exclusive matte finish known as Obsidian Black, and the interior is decked out in a delicious red leather with diamond stitching. The car is also fitted with 19-inch wheels.

Genesis hasn’t mentioned a powertrain. G70 buyers have two powertrain options to choose from. The standard option is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 rated at 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Buyers seeking more performance are able to opt for a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 with 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. As mentioned above, the only transmission is an 8-speed automatic.

The 2022 G70 starts sales this summer priced from $38,570, including destination. Genesis hasn’t said how much the Launch Edition will cost.

In other markets, Genesis will also offer a wagon body style. The G70 wagon, previewed here in a teaser shot, is due soon. Its arrival will coincide with Genesis’ launch in Europe this summer, where premium wagons sell in significant numbers.

Teaser for 2022 Genesis G70 wagon

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Autos

Street truck returns May 19 with electric power

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2001 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning

Ford will call the upcoming battery-electric version of its top-selling F-150 pickup truck the F-150 Lightning, the automaker said on Monday.

The zero-emission pickup will be revealed on May 19 ahead of the sales launch in mid-2022. The date of the showroom appearance points to the F-150 Lightning arriving as a 2023 model.

The name of course comes from the F-150 SVT Lightning street truck that was launched for 1993 and lasted two generations. Ford later filled the void with the off-road-oriented F-150 Raptor.

Electric connotations aside, the Lightning name is fitting considering the new F-150 Lightning will also be positioned as a street truck rather than an off-roader or serious workhorse, with Ford promising it will be more powerful than any F-150 to date.

2001 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning

Ford has been tight-lipped on details but we know the F-150 Lightning will come with a dual-motor powertrain, helping it to deliver traction. It will also accelerate quicker than any F-150 to date and have the ability to tow heavy trailers. Ford last June used a prototype to tow 10 double-decker train cars weighing a combined one million pounds.

Other new attributes F-150 Lightning owners can look forward to over the regular truck include a front trunk (a.k.a. a frunk), less frequent maintenance, and a power take-off. Ford has said the pickup will be able to power a home during an outage. It will also be a high-tech ride, with Ford promising digital aspects. One we know of is constant improvements via over-the-air updates.

Ford F-150 electric teaser

Ford F-150 electric teaser

Production of the electric F-150 will start next spring at Ford’s Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan, which has been churning out Ford pickups since 1948. The automaker is spending over $700 million at the plant to prepare it for the F-150 Lightning, as well as the hybrid F-150 PowerBoost which recently went into production at the plant.

When it arrives, the F-150 Lightning will already have a lot of competition. Some of the electric pickup trucks that should be at dealerships by the time the Ford arrives include the GMC Hummer EV and Rivian R1T. The Tesla Cybertruck and Lordstown Endurance may also be available by the F-150 Lightning’s mid-2022 arrival date. Stay tuned.

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