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First member of new sports car range spotted

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2023 Lotus Type 131 sports car test mule spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Lotus will soon phase out its Elise, Exige and Evora and replace them in 2022 with a new series of sports cars, the first of which has been spotted in test-mule form.

The first of the new sports cars, code-named the Type 131, will be revealed in prototype form later this year though production won’t start until 2022. This means we’re likely to see it arrive as a 2023 model.

At least two others are planned, and all of them are expected to reach the United States.

2023 Lotus Type 131 sports car test mule spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

The test mule wears a makeshift Evora body but we can see that the wheel arches front and rear have been extended significantly, pointing to a widened track.

The platform will be a heavily revised version of the extruded and bonded aluminum platform that dates back to the original Elise launched in 1996. Key changes will include thinner door sills to make getting in and out of the car easier, as well as support for hybrid powertrains.

At least one of the new sports cars will be powered by the same Toyota-sourced 3.5-liter V-6 used in the Evora and Exige, but augmented with a hybrid system (likely a mild-hybrid system). The engine produces up to 430 hp in some current Lotus cars, so with electrification we could be looking at something closer to 500 hp.

Lotus Evija with new series of sports cars

Lotus Evija with new series of sports cars

It’s too early to talk pricing but Phil Popham, in one of his last interviews at Lotus CEO, hinted at a price range for the new sports cars spanning from about $75,000 to $150,000. The sole Lotus currently sold in the U.S. is the Evora which starts just under $100,000.

The new sports car range is expected to be the last Lotus cars fitted with internal-combustion engines. The automaker is already geared up to start production of the battery-electric Evija hypercar this year, and Lotus in January said it will jointly develop an electric sports car with France’s Alpine. The company is also known to be working on an SUV that will most likely be based on a dedicated EV platform borrowed from Geely. The SUV will be built at a plant in Wuhan, China, with Lotus keeping its U.K. production for sports cars only.

Not surprisingly, Lotus’ new CEO, Matt Windle, worked with Tesla for a handful of years on developing the original Roadster, which was based on a donor Lotus chassis.

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2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S-Class brings the V-12

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2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

When the 2021 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S-Class debuted it was missing one piece of utter excess: a V-12 engine.

On Monday the German automaker confirmed it would indulge excess in the form of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680. It’s the Maybach S-Class with 12 cylinders and twin turbos, and it arrives in U.S. dealers in the first half of 2022.

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

What sets the new Maybach 680 apart from the lesser 580 is its four additional cylinders. The twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12 engine produces 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, which is 125 hp and 222 lb-ft more than the twin-turbo V-8 model. The extra power will accelerate the Maybach and its owners in comfort from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds vs the V-8 model’s 4.7-second jaunt. Top speed is limited to 130 mph. A 9-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels for the first-time in a V-12-powered Maybach with 31% of the power going to the front wheels and 69% to the rear.

Like the V-8-powered models, the V-12 Maybach features four-wheel steering. The rear axle can turn the wheels up to 4.5 or 10 degrees depending on whether the wheels are staggered.

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

Determining whether a Maybach has a V-12 or V-8 under its hood will be difficult as the only discernible difference will be a small V-12 badge on the front fenders and the exhaust note.

V-12-powered Maybach S-Class sedans will feature the same long wheelbase as the V-8 models. The grille gets the Maybach treatment with vertical slats that look like what one would find on a pinstripe suit. A two-tone paint finish can be ordered.

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

2022 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S680

Inside the Maybach S-Class offers up a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster augmented by a 12.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The interior is lined in real wood, nappa leather, and metal.

The reclining rear seats feature a heated cushion on the headrests and a massage function comes standard. Silver-plated champagne flutes and a refrigerated compartment are optional.

Mercedes-Benz is quiet on pricing for now, but the Maybach S680 will undoubtedly cost more than the 580 model, which is priced from $185,950. 

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Stellantis and Foxconn forming partnership to produce connected electric cars

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Stellantis logo

Stellantis and Foxconn, the Taiwanese firm best known for contract manufacturing the Apple iPhone, appear ready to announce a partnership to produce electric cars.

Reuters first reported the news Monday, and Stellantis later announced a joint press conference with Foxconn, to be held Tuesday.

The partnership follows a deal announced last year between Foxconn and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), before the automaker finalized its merged with PSA Group to form Stellantis. That deal, which called for a joint venture to manufacture electric cars for the Chinese market, was put on hold due to the merger, according to Reuters.

Stellantis logo

Foxconn appears eager to expand from manufacturing smartphones to manufacturing electric cars. The company unveiled its own modular EV platform in October 2020. Dubbed MIH, it features in-house-developed hardware and software, and is designed for both car and SUV body styles, Foxconn said at the time.

Earlier this year, Foxconn also entered into a joint venture with Fisker Inc. to build a sub-$30,000 EV, with a target launch date of 2023. The two companies have said this EV, codenamed Project Pear, will be built in the United States. However, Fisker’s first model—the Ocean crossover—will be built at Magna’s factory in Graz, Austria, using a platform designed by that company.

Foxconn has also invested in some Chinese automakers. It invested $350 million in Xpeng in 2018, and invested in troubled EV startup Byton earlier this year. Byton started pre-production of its M-Byte crossover in April 2020, but progress stalled due to cash shortages. The two companies said in January that the new goal is to start deliveries in the first quarter of 2022.

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McLaren Formula One team to run Gulf Livery in Monaco

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McLaren MCL35M Formula One car in Gulf livery

One of racing’s classic liveries will soon be paired with one of its most iconic venues. The McLaren Formula One team will run a one-off Gulf livery for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix on May 23, the team announced Sunday in a press release.

Both McLaren MCL35M race cars will be decked out in the familiar Gulf Oil blue and orange, while drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Land Norris will wear matching race suits and helmets with “bespoke retro designs,” the team said.

Gulf Oil is already a McLaren sponsor, and has a long history with the company. It first became a McLaren sponsor in 1968 and continued through 1973, in both F1 and the Can-Am series. The partnership was renewed in the 1990s, with the #41 McLaren F1 GTR Longtail that finished second at the 1997 24 Hours of Le Mans wearing a version of the Gulf livery.

McLaren MCL35M Formula One car in Gulf livery

The livery is rarely seen in F1, but has adorned numerous race cars in other series, including the Porsche 917K and Ford GT40, making it one of the most recognizable in motorsports.

The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix is scheduled for March 23. F1 skipped Monaco in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. McLaren enters Monaco third in the Constructor standings, behind Mercedes and Red Bull, and just ahead of Ferrari. Norris and Ricciardo are currently fourth and seventh in the driver points standings, respectively. It’s a big improvement from just a few years ago, when McLaren was reduced to a backmarker team.

The Gulf Oil sponsorship also allows McLaren supercar customers to request the blue-and-orange livery through the McLaren Special Operations (MSO) personalization program. The company showed off a Gulf-liveried Elva speedster late last year to entice customers to open their wallets for what is likely a costly option.

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