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2022 Lexus LS 500h to offer hands-free driver-assist system called Lexus Teammate

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2022 Lexus LS 500h with Lexus Teammate

Lexus’ flagship sedan, the LS, is finally getting driver-assist technology worthy of its status. All-wheel drive versions of the 2022 Lexus LS 500h will be available with a new system called Lexus Teammate when the sedan arrives in dealerships this fall, Lexus said in a press release Thursday.

Teammate corresponds to Level 2 on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) vehicle-automation scale. That means if offers a high level of driver assistance, but still requires an attentive driver at all times. There are no self-driving cars on sale today, and this system is well below that threshold.

Teammate, which won’t be available on rear-wheel drive versions of the LS 500h or the non-hybrid LS 500 model, will launch with two main functions: Advanced Drive and Advanced Park. Lexus didn’t explain why only the hybrid gets the system.

2022 Lexus LS 500h with Lexus Teammate

Advanced Drive will allow the car to accelerate, brake, and steer to keep itself centered in its lane and maintain a safe distance from other cars on limited-access highways. It will also be able to negotiate lane changes, navigate certain interchanges, and operate in traffic jams, Lexus said. The automaker calls it “partial hands-free, eyes-on-the-road operation.”

Advanced Park will control steering, acceleration, braking, and shifting into forward or reverse when parallel parking or backing into a parking space. Cameras and ultrasonic sensors will provide a bird’s-eye-view display so the driver can check the vehicle’s position, Lexus said. No details were provided on the sensor suite, but cutouts in the front fenders and front bumper indicate placement of additional sensors, likely radar.

Pricing and other information on Lexus Teammate will be detailed closer to the 2022 LS 500h’s launch this fall. Note that the LS just got a refresh for the 2021 model year.

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Autos

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet drives a second wind

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2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

When the days were really short last winter, and the pre-vaccine despair had set in, I got some welcome relief in the form of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet. Call it naturopathy, but in the dark days before Pfizer and Moderna became vernacular, the Cabriolet came to play here in the Gulf of Mexico’s backyard, just in time for the lyrical 70-degree days that flagrantly defy winter.

The Cabriolet came just in time to give me a social-distancing second wind, and a second shot at the aborted summer of 2020. Here’s where it cured my seasonal blues—and where needed its own remedies.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

Hit: Mild-hybrid, served up purely smooth. 

A 362-hp mild-hybrid 3.0-liter turbo-6 and effortless 9-speed automatic powered this all-wheel-drive Cabriolet. I wasn’t convinced that the changeover in powertrains would do much for the E-Class, but the new inline engine family spreads torque as smoothly as speculoos, and its mild-hybrid system gives it effortless low-end power and excellent gas mileage for its size.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

Miss: Back seat space is slim. 

We’d spend days in the Cabrio’s multi-adjustable cooled front seats; they’re fabulous. The back seat, not so much. Two adults slipped into the back seat of the Cabriolet, but neither wanted a repeat performance. Medium-size passengers will do fine for short sunset runs down the shore road, but for the three-hour round-trip to Costco, you’ll want to borrow a friend’s SUV.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

Hit: The look.

The mid-size Mercedes convertible and coupe have polished their shapes to near-perfection. (We’ve driven the Benz E450 Coupe up north; it looks good even in salt spray.) The E450 Cab fits in at the BBQ stand and the show-off spot in front of the club. Where it fits in best is the empty gulf-front drive where the only things keeping pace are rare birds and a gentle breeze. With a diamond-flecked grille, sharp LED eyebrows, and stylish AMG Line wheels, the E450 Cabriolet profiles in the only good and acceptable way.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

Miss: Touchpads on steering wheel and screens on the dash.

Haters live among us and they say the E450’s touchscreens and steering-wheel touchpads are misses. They either too small or too inexpensive-looking or too sensitive or something else we heard but didn’t absorb. Sure, they may be flawed—but flaws aren’t always fatal. In my Cabriolet tester’s case, the Insignia-esque look of the displays was offset with open-pore wood and red-and-black leather.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet (E450 4Matic)

2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet (E450 4Matic)

Hit: “Hey, Mercedes.”

 The E450 doesn’t mind being a hollaback girl. Say “Hey, Mercedes” and it responds to a wealth of natural language commands that can change audio functions, find your favorite podcast, choose a new route around paralytic hurricane-induced traffic, and find a coffee spot with patio seating.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

Hit: Top-down details.

The power-folding roof can go away in under 20 seconds and at speeds of up to 30 mph, but the E450 Cabriolet also has sun-reflecting leather, the Airscarf neck-warming vents, and a wind deflector, all standard.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

Hit: In touch with safety.

The E450 Cabrio gets standard automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, a surround-view camera system, and automatic parking assistance. This one came also with a Driver Assistance Package with adaptive cruise control that reduces the speed for curves, traffic sign recognition that adjusts cruise control speed, active lane control, and automatic lane changes at the tap of the turn-signal stalk. The Benz systems have been some of the best since their introduction and their fluid and precise supplemental behavior lets drivers take a second away from the controls.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 cabriolet

Hit: It’s well stocked.

The E450 comes standard with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, heated front seats, spectacular Burmester sound, and 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires. Spend up to the AMG Line trim if you want, but don’t miss out on the cooled multi-contour front seats or the high-wattage low-gloss wood trim. 

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2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic Cabriolet

Base price: $75,500, including destination

Price as tested: $86,320 including an AMG Line styling package, advanced safety gear, a head-up display, and cooled multi-contour front seats

Drivetrain: 362-hp mild-hybrid 3.0-liter turbo-6, 9-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined

The hits: Exceptional front-seat comfort, powertrain smoothness, top-down driving, sterling audio and voice recognition

The misses: Slim back-seat leg room, steering-wheel touchpad sensitivity

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Lime Rock Park has new ownership

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Lime Rock Park

One of America’s oldest and most revered road-racing courses, Lime Rock Park, located in the northwest corner of Connecticut, has been sold by Skip Barber to a group that includes former Airstream president Dicky Riegel, who will serve as the track’s new chief executive.

“Lime Rock has been one of my favorite places and my home track for over 40 years; the same is true for my partners, Charles (Mallory) and Bill (Rueckert), both of whom consider Lime Rock a home away from home,” Riegel is quoted in the announcement of the sale.

“All of us have deep roots in Connecticut and look forward to being active in the community and working collaboratively with the Town. To now be owners of this iconic and storied brand is a dream come true.”

Lime Rock Park

Skip Barber, the racing school founder who has owned the track for nearly 40 years, will remain part of the new ownership team, according to the announcement. He said the new ownership group brings “outstanding new vision and vitality to Lime Rock’s operations and to our local and regional community. They are the ideal stewards of the Park’s long and successful legacy.”

The race track, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a challenging 1.5-mile circuit founded in 1956 by Jim Vaill with design help from racer John Fitch and the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory and was the first track built using highway-safety principles. The first race was staged in April 1957.

A quirk of the track’s scheduling is a local ordinance that bans racing on Sundays, which enables the track to feature a schedule with Friday, Saturday, Monday holiday racing events with car shows on Sundays.

The track also is known for buildings designed by auto racer and architect Sam Posey.

For more information, visit Lime Rock Park’s website.

Andy Reid contributed to this article

This article, written by Larry Edsall, was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.

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One of the $1M, 1,300-hp Saleen S7 LMs is up for sale

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Saleen S7 LM - Photo credit: Bonhams

A rare chance to own one of the seven examples of the Saleen S7 LM is coming up shortly.

The 1,300-hp supercar was announced in 2016 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Saleen’s seven-year consecutive run of championships in various motorsport competitions that started in 2006. The first of the seven cars was shown in 2017.

The third car in the line, a silver example with black and yellow accents, can now be yours as auction house Bonhams will put it under the hammer at its upcoming Supercars on Sunset sale. The estimate is between $1 million and $1.3 million.

This particular car was built in 2018 and has had just the one owner, and he or she only put 300 miles on the clock. The car isn’t perfect, though. It appears that there’s some residue or possibly heat damage on the rear fascia caused by the exhaust tips.

Saleen S7 LM – Photo credit: Bonhams

Power in the S7 LM comes from a 7.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 that featured in the original S7 Twin Turbo model. Here, its output matches the 1,000 hp that Saleen originally offered to S7 customers in 2006 via a Competition package. That rating is on pump gas. Use higher octane racing fuel and the output rises to a hypercar-worthy 1,300 hp.

Saleen is still in the tuning scene here in the United States. Most recently, the company announced plans to build a special version of the modern Ford Bronco, as well as a sports car dubbed the S1.

The company had attempted to crack the Chinese market as well, teaming up in 2019 with local player Jiangsu Secco Automobile Technology Corporation. However, things turned sour the following year, with Saleen founder Steve Saleen in a Wall Street Journal op-ed making claims of intellectual property theft.

The auction of the S7 LM will take place on April 10 in Los Angeles, California. Other impressive cars going under the hammer include a Ferrari 458 Speciale, McLaren Senna, McLaren Senna GTR, a modern Ford GT, and a Porsche 911 GT3 RS previously owned by Jerry Seinfeld.

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