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Ford to become EV brand in Europe, invest $1B in main German plant

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Planned upgrades to Ford plant in Cologne, Germany

Ford on Wednesday announced major changes to its operations in Europe. Key among these will be a switch to an full-electric passenger vehicle lineup by 2030.

Ford’s sole electric vehicle currently on sale in Europe is the Mustang Mach-E, but the automaker estimates that by as early as 2026 its full lineup will consist purely of plug-in hybrids, battery-electric vehicles, and other types of zero-emission capable vehicles.

Part of the plan is to introduce EVs tailored to the European market. The first of these is due in 2023 and will be built at Ford’s plant in Cologne, Germany. The site is where Ford’s European headquarters is located, and it’s set to receive a $1 billion upgrade to prepare it for EV production. The plant currently builds the Fiesta subcompact.

Planned upgrades to Ford plant in Cologne, Germany

The European-built EV is expected to be based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform. Recall, Ford in 2019 entered a deal with VW Group to use the MEB platform for a European-built EV due in 2023. The automaker also said at the time it was considering a second EV based on the platform. Currently found in the VW ID.3 and ID.4, the MEB platform will eventually underpin dozens of models across multiple brands.

The investment in the Cologne plant is part of Ford’s $22 billion global investment in EVs covering the period 2016-2025, which was announced by the automaker earlier in February. Part of the funds will also go toward developing an electric version of Ford’s Transit van, which is popular with commercial customers in Europe.

Ford’s announcement of its plans for Europe comes after the automaker announced a strong return to profit in the region. Ford earlier in Feb. said it generated an operating profit of $414 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 in Europe, up from $21 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. This was thanks in part to a major restructuring initiated in 2019 that included 12,000 job cuts across Europe but primarily in Germany.

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Autos

Bugatti Chiron Super Sport, 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid, 2022 Ford Maverick: This Week’s Top Photos

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Tesla Model S Plaid specs

Bugatti this week launched a new variant of the Chiron packing 1,578 hp. It’s related to the recent Chiron Super Sport 300+ but features a lower top speed and tuning that prioritizes comfort.

Tesla Model S Plaid specs

If you’re looking for a car that accelerates quicker to 60 mph than the Bugatti above, look no further than the 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid. The electric super hatch started deliveries this week, and owners can look forward to 0-60 times in less than two seconds and a quarter-mile ET of a bit over nine.

2022 Toyota Land Cruiser

2022 Toyota Land Cruiser

A new Toyota Land Cruiser was revealed this week, the iconic off-roader’s first redesign in more than a decade. It features a new platform as well as twin-turbo V-6 power, and while it won’t be sold in the United States its hardware should end up in a redesigned Lexus LX.

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

2022 BMW X3 M Competition

BMW unveiled updated versions of its X3 and X4 small crossovers. The updates extend to the high-performance M versions which also benefit from a boost in torque figures for the Competition models. A redesigned BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe also made headlines.

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick

Ford unveiled a compact pickup truck that goes by the name Maverick. It’s essentially a twin under the skin with the Bronco Sport, and it’s headed to showrooms shortly with standard hybrid power and a base price of about $20,000.

2022 Volkswagen Multivan

2022 Volkswagen Multivan

Another new vehicle in the headlines this week was Volkswagen’s T7-generation van, which debuted in passenger-oriented Multivan guise. Unlike the T6 generation, which uses a dedicated van platform, the T7 has moved to the more car-like MQB platform shared with multiple models sold by Volkswagen Group brands.

2022 Ferrari V-6 hybrid supercar spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2022 Ferrari V-6 hybrid supercar spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

And finally, Ferrari was spotted testing its upcoming V-6-powered supercar. The new model will feature a mid-engine layout and hybrid technology, making it a rival to the recently revealed McLaren Artura.

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Princess Diana’s 1981 Ford Escort heads to auction

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Princess Diana's 1981 Ford Escort - Photo via Reeman Dansie

A 1981 Ford Escort sedan previously owned by Princess Diana is headed to auction with Reeman Dansie, which plans to put the car under the hammer on June 29.

The car was given to Diana by Prince Charles as an engagement present in May 1981, two months before their wedding, and was used by her until August 1982, according to the auction house, adding that the Escort has been out of public view for 20 years.

An Escort might not seem worthy of a princess, but this is the upmarket Ghia version, at least. It also sports a silver frog hood ornament, a copy of a gift from Diana’s sister, Lady Sarah Spencer, inspired by the fairy tale of a beautiful girl whose kiss turns a frog into a prince, per the auction listing.

Princess Diana’s 1981 Ford Escort – Photo via Reeman Dansie

The current owner is a “great admirer” of the princess, and has kept the Escort’s history secret until now, according to the listing. Auctioneers verified the car’s authenticity from its vehicle-history file and registration number, according to a BBC write-up of the sale. The auction house also claims photographs of Diana in the car—with the same WEV 297W license plate it wears now—confirm the royal connection.

The Escort still sports its original paint and upholstery, and currently shows 83,000 miles on its odometer, according to the listing. This was the third generation of Escort, marked by a switch from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. Ford eventually devised some performance versions of the third-ten Escort for the European market but, despite having one of the larger 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engines, this isn’t one of them.

Reeman Dansie expects the royal Escort to fetch between 30,000 and 40,000 British pounds (approximately $42,000-$57,000 at current exchange rates) at auction, and noted that Diana’s Audi 80 cabriolet sold last year for 58,000 British pounds.

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2022 Lexus NX leads a youth movement with hybrid options, new infotainment

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2022 Lexus NX

The redesigned 2022 Lexus NX ushers Toyota’s luxury brand into a new era defined by more than a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The luxury compact crossover showcases the most significant and overdue update to the brand: a new touchscreen interface.

The 2022 Lexus NX made its world debut late Friday with four new powertrains, a fresh look inside and out, and the latest technology crowned by an available 14.0-inch touchscreen developed in-house at Toyota Motors North America. 

“Our previous multimedia systems were developed in Japan,” Steve Basra, group vice president of TMNA Connected Technologies, said in a press conference the week before the launch. “The customer experience in Japan is not necessarily the same customer experience that we should have in the U.S.”

2022 Lexus NX

The Lexus Interface multimedia system will “fit into the lives of Gen Y customers,” Basra said, and broaden the appeal of Lexus to a new generation of customers. The broad display addresses one of the biggest shortcomings of Lexus and Toyota vehicles, according to J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Surveys. It replaces a frustrating console touchpad.

Debuting on the 2022 Lexus NX, Lexus Interface comes standard with a 9.8-inch touchscreen or the larger landscape-oriented 14.0-inch screen canted toward the driver. A volume knob and HVAC buttons remain, but tuning is relegated to the screen, steering wheel controls, or natural voice commands. It comes with cloud-based mapping and over-the-air updates, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The user can set profiles with personalized seat, climate, and media settings that will transfer from one Lexus vehicle to another. 

While Lexus Interface will trickle down to subsequent Lexus and Toyota vehicles, its debut in the 2022 NX reflects the sweeping updates meant to revitalize the brand. 

The second-generation NX sports a new look headlined by a taller, broader spindle grille pinched near the top. Daytime running lights move from below to above the standard LED headlights, and the lower airtakes take on larger proportions. In back, a full-width taillight crosses over the Lexus name stamped on the liftgate in place of the L-shaped logo.

2022 Lexus NX 450h

2022 Lexus NX 450h

2022 Lexus NX 450h

2022 Lexus NX 450h

2022 Lexus NX 350

2022 Lexus NX 350

2022 Lexus NX 350

2022 Lexus NX 350

Four new powertrains move the five-passenger 2022 NX. The base 2022 NX 250 employs a basic 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The uprated NX 350 has a 2.4-liter turbo-4 that makes 275 hp and 317 lb-ft, and Lexus claims it can go 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds. Both four-cylinder engines come with an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard front-wheel drive or  available all-wheel drive.

Even though Lexus expects the NX 350 to account for at least one quarter of sales, it is not the most potent powertrain. That comes from the Lexus NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid that ties a 2.5-liter inline-4 with a battery-powered motor on the rear axle for all-wheel drive. Mechanically similar to the Toyota RAV4 Prime, the NX 450h+ hits 60 mph in 6.0 seconds, or it can deliver 36 miles of battery-only driving. Lexus didn’t release power figures but said it would reveal specs closer to its launch later this year. On a Level 2 charging system with a current of 240 volts, it can be topped off in about 2.5 hours with an available 6.6-kw on-board charger (a 3.3-kw charger comes standard). 

A more traditional hybrid powers the NX 350h, which gets an estimated 36 mpg highway, or 6 mpg more than the 2021 Lexus NX 350h. It has a 2.5-liter inline-4 hybrid system with two motors that make 239 hp total with standard AWD. Its eCVT simulates shifting through 10 gears, and Lexus quotes its 0-60 mph time at 7.2 seconds. 

Lexus says more torsional rigidity limits lateral movement and improves aerodynamics over the outgoing model.

2022 Lexus NX

2022 Lexus NX

For better handling, shoppers can opt for an F Sport Handling package on NX 350 and NX 450h+ models. It comes with adaptive dampers, sport seats, 20-inch black alloy wheels, and other cosmetic upgrades.

Lexus hasn’t released cargo and passenger dimensions, or the full feature set and pricing. Riding on a new global platform shared with everything from the 2021 Lexus ES to the 2021 Toyota Highlander, the 2022 NX features more head room, leg room, and cargo room than the outgoing model, according to Lexus. 

Every 2022 NX comes with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high beams. A rear camera mirror and head-up display are available.

Heated front seats come standard, as do synthetic leather upholstery and keyless entry for all four doors. Smart door handles called Digital Latch prevent the passengers from opening the doors if the blind-spot monitors detect a passing car, cyclist, or runner going more than 5 mph. 

The 2022 Lexus NX goes on sale in late 2021.

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