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2021 Toyota Supra appeals with its fun and flaws

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2021 Toyota Supra

The fifth-generation Toyota Supra had a lot to live up to. The legacy of the beloved A80 generation of the 1990s with its bulletproof 2JZ straight-6, its BMW engineering, the beautiful FT-1 concept car that inspired it, and the promise of a modern sports car in an SUV world all had enthusiasts frothing at the mouth with visions of tire-shredding power and track-ready performance.

For the most part, the Supra has lived up to its promise. It’s fun and powerful, but flawed in some ways that almost make it more endearing. I drove the Supra on a track for our first drive review when it arrived in 2019 as a 2020 model and again during the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2020 testing. This past week, however, I experienced the 2021 Supra, with its more-powerful turbo-V-6, as a daily driver. Those experiences gave me good insight into where the Supra hits and where it misses.

Hit: That engine

The Supra’s original BMW-sourced 3.0-liter turbo-V-6 made 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, which was more than enough. It rocketed the car from 0-60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. But you know what’s better than plenty? More. Toyota must have been jealous of the version in the Supra’s cousin, the BMW Z4, because the 2021 Supra gets that engine—all 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. The turbo-V-6 draws from a deep well of torque that maxes out at just 1,800 rpm and stays on boil through 5,000 rpm. It launches the car to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and just keeps pushing the Supra toward its electronically limited 155-mph top speed. The BMW engine has satisfying throttle response and Sport mode gives it ready power when exiting an apex, but the V-6 still manages to be docile around town.

2021 Toyota Supra

2021 Toyota Supra

2021 Toyota Supra

Toyota FT-1 concept, 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Toyota FT-1 concept, 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Toyota FT-1 Concept at 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Toyota FT-1 Concept at 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Miss: The looks

The Supra takes its design from the FT-1 concept car Toyota revealed at the 2014 Detroit auto show.  At 184.1 inches long, that car was almost a foot longer than the Supra it would spawn (172.5 inches) on a wheelbase more than 10 inches longer (107.9 vs. 97.2 inches). The extra length let the FT-1’s lines play out over longer stretches, which resulted in a graceful, flowing look. Look at the two side by side and you can see the same lines on the Supra, but they’re shorter, stubbier, and less artful. If Toyota would have left some of the lines out or stretched the car, the look may have been more graceful and better integrated.

2021 Toyota Supra

2021 Toyota Supra

Hit: The looks

Nonetheless, the Supra draws a crowd.  Those over-the-top styling elements announce the Supra as an in-your-face sports car. It has some serious driving work to do and the ducts and scoops to prove it. Paint it Renaissance Red 2.0 like my tester or go with Nitro Yellow or the A91 Edition model in Refraction (blue) and revel in the attention your sports car commands.

2021 Toyota Supra

2021 Toyota Supra

Miss: Tightly packed

The Supra is a two-seat hatchback, a body style that usually offers a healthy amount of cargo room. Unfortunately, it has only 10.2 cubic feet of cargo space under the rear glass, which is similar to many convertibles. The two seats have decent head and leg room, but the driving position sits so far back that the windshield header can cut off the view to stop lights if you get too close. Set low to the ground, getting in and out of the Supra is also awfully hard after a sedentary year of COVID-19 isolation.

2021 Toyota Supra

2021 Toyota Supra

 

Hit and Miss: Agility and trackworthiness

A short wheelbase, a low center of gravity, quick steering, and wide, sticky tires give the Supra water bug agility. It’s fun to zip in and out of traffic, through corners, and especially around a track—the tighter the better. The powerful and responsive V-6 also makes it easy to steer the car with the rear wheels. All of that makes the Supra an ideal autocross competitor, though we caution newbies to be careful with throttle application in corners or they may become the latest YouTube video fail. We also experienced instability from the rear end through high-speed corners in the 2020 model. It’s an issue for big tracks that nobody should ever encounter on the street.

2021 Toyota Supra

2021 Toyota Supra

Miss: Manual blues

The sports car is a dying breed and sports cars with manual transmissions have a short shelf life with the oncoming electric revolution. Yet Toyota chooses not to offer the engagement and driver interaction of a manual transmission on the Supra. It comes with a quick and slick 8-speed automatic, but we prefer to #GiveAShift around here.

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2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 Premium

Base price: $55,485, including destination

Price as tested: $56,680 including Driver Assist Package with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and parking sensors with emergency braking function

Drivetrain: 382-hp turbo V-6, 8-speed automatic rear-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined

The hits: Incredible turbo V-6, agile, the looks

The misses: Tight inside, high-speed instability, no manual transmission, the looks

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NASCAR Next Gen race car debuts, brings the sport into the 21st century

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Chevrolet NASCAR Next Gen Camaro ZL1 race car

The top NASCAR Cup Series has just taken a massive leap out of the dark ages.

On Wednesday, the NASCAR Next Gen race car debuted as a clean-sheet rethink of what the stock car is. The structure, design, suspension, materials, wheels, and transmission are all new.

The clean-sheet design has a lower greenhouse, a shortened decklid, and a wider track, though the current car’s 110-inch wheelbase carries over. NASCAR gave automakers the latitude to stylize the greenhouse to look like the production cars upon which these race cars are based, be it the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, or Toyota Camry.

“From an engineering standpoint, this is a seismic shift. It’s a completely new car that brings with it a lot of opportunity from a technical standpoint,” said Eric Warren, Chevrolet director of NASCAR Programs.

Chevrolet NASCAR Next Gen Camaro ZL1 race car

Up front, the side air intakes are now functional and they, along with the front center intake, now feed the engine as well as the brakes. There’s no longer an intake at the cowl near the base of the windshield, which feeds the engine on the current car. NASCAR has also mandated a symmetrical design of the composite body, which will remove the current aero advantage achieved by using different shapes for the left and right sides of the current cars. NASCAR says that will put the emphasis back on the car’s setup and driver’s skill.

Another important visual change is the new center-locking 18×12-inch forged aluminum wheels that will be wrapped in Goodyear Eagle rubber. The current car runs on 15-inch wheels. The larger wheels with smaller tire sidewalls will dramatically change the handling of the Next Gen car, but Toyota TRD Racing Development’s team noted that automakers really wanted the larger wheels to help make the style appear closer to production cars.

The larger wheels allow NASCAR to require larger brakes with 15-inch rotors and 6-piston monoblock calipers up front and 14-inch rotors and 4-piston monobloc calipers in the rear.

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

What can’t be seen is the modular structure. While the current car’s steel tube chassis carries over, the Next Gen car features a modular construction (like a modern production car) with bolt-on front and rear subframes that should make repairs after a crash easier and less expensive. The underside of the car features a full carbon-fiber undertray with a stepped center splitter and a new rear diffuser, which is all modular and can be replaced in the event of a crash.

New independent front and rear suspensions use a double-wishbone configuration, billet aluminum control arms, and adjustable coil-over shock absorbers. The previous car had a 2-link live rear axle. The steering system is now a modern rack and pinion design instead of recirculating ball.

President of TRD Toyota Racing Development David Wilson told Motor Authority, “The significance of the Next Gen for Toyota TRD would be difficult to explain given that over the course of a year, or year-over-year, the car raced will see more change than the NASCAR race car has seen in over the last 50 years.”

The 358 cubic-inch naturally aspirated V-8 carries over with 670 hp or 550 hp depending on the track. The engine continues with fuel injection, a dry sump oiling system, and split-side exit exhaust. The transmission, however, is new. It’s a 5-speed sequential transaxle with a gearshift but not a clutch. The setup will still require drivers to remove one hand from the steering wheel and match revs to shift.

NASCAR Next Gen race car

NASCAR Next Gen race car

New rules state that each team can have a maximum of seven cars rather than the unlimited number previously allowed. Wilson noted that additional cost savings will arise from the car being standardized as teams will no longer need large fabrication operations. “There’s nothing stock about a stock car,” executive engineer for TRD Toyota Racing Development Andy Graves joked, but there are now about 30 suppliers that teams can buying parts from, and those parts can’t be modified or touched once bought.

While the driver seat and roof flaps are carried over, the Next Gen car has improved safety gear. Additional roll bars have been designed along with form-fitted foam inserts between the chassis and nose and tail like what is found in production cars. The driver seat has been moved closer to the center of the car to move drivers away from the source of impacts.

NASCAR didn’t go into specifics but noted the Next Gen car has been upgraded to allow for in-car cameras in every vehicle so fans can see more real-time data.

While development of the Next Gen race car was completed in February, it won’t make its racing debut until the start of the 2022 season in February at the Daytona International Speedway.

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Adorable Citroen Ami coming to US

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2020 Citroen Ami

Free2Move, a global mobility company owned by Stellantis, is bringing the adorable Citroen Ami to its car-sharing fleet in the United States.

Before you get too excited, note that only five of the electric minicars are being brought over to be used in a trial in Washington, D.C., where Free2Move currently operates a fleet of Chevrolets. The company plans to expand its U.S. fleet to Portland, Oregon, but hasn’t confirmed a date.

Free2Move is committed to electrifying its fleet and will use the Citroen Ami trial to gather feedback on usability and drivability for such a tiny car on U.S. roads, the company said on Monday. In case you’ve forgotten, the Ami measures just 7.9 feet in length, tops out at 28 mph, and has a 5.5-kilowatt-hour battery good for only about 43 miles of range.

2020 Citroen Ami

Free2Move customers book cars via a dedicated app. Parking, gas, and insurance are included in the cost of each vehicle rental. Rental rates are based on how long a customer has a vehicle, on a per minute, per hour, or per day basis.

Confirmation of the Ami’s arrival in the U.S. coincides with the reveal of a commercial version of the Ami. Called the Ami Cargo, the vehicle matches most of the specs of the standard Ami but has a storage area instead of a passenger seat. The maximum payload rating is 308 pounds and there’s over 14 cubic feet when you include the standard storage area in the rear.

The Ami Cargo starts sales in Europe this June with a price tag of 6,490 (approximately $7,800), or 410 euros less than the standard Ami.

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Self-driving technology company Argo AI makes lidar breakthrough

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Argo AI lidar technology

Argo AI, the self-driving technology company backed by Ford and Volkswagen Group, claims to have overcome one of the main challenges holding back the deployment of driverless cars: accurately seeing and identifying objects at long distances.

The company on Tuesday announced its own lidar sensor, aptly named Argo Lidar, which it says can accurately spot and identify objects more than 1,300 feet away, or about 300 feet more than current lidar sensors—something that’s vital for highway driving. Argo Lidar is said to be so accurate that it can even correctly identify graffiti on a wall or spot small moving objects such as animals among vegetation and static objects.

Most players in this space rely on a combination of sensors to guide self-driving cars, with the primary ones being cameras and lidar. While cameras work well at long distances, they don’t work well in poor light, for example during night driving or inclement weather. While lidar doesn’t suffer the same light issues as cameras, the technology until now was limited by its range and accuracy.

Argo AI lidar technology

The key breakthrough in the case of Argo Lidar is a technology referred to as Geiger-mode, which Argo AI acquired in 2017 via its acquisition of lidar technology company Princeton Lightwave. Geiger-mode lidar is able to detect the smallest particle of light—a single photon—and as a result is able to detect the darkest of objects. Argo Lidar also operates at a relatively high wavelength of 1,400 nanometers, which also helps accuracy.

Argo AI already has prototypes fitted with Argo Lidar testing on public roads. The testing is taking place at six U.S. cities, with more locations, including the first in Europe, to be added this year.

Argo AI is developing a full self-driving system comprising both software and hardware. Ford is expected to be the first company to offer a commercial service using Argo AI’s self-driving system. The service was originally due to be deployed in 2021 but has been pushed back to 2022 due to the pandemic. VW Group has said it will offer a driverless taxi service powered by Argo AI’s self-driving system in 2025.

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