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New three-row Lexus and Toyota crossovers to be built in Indiana, feature hands-free driver assist

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Toyota plant in Princeton, Indiana

Toyota on Wednesday announced an investment of $803 million to support production of two new crossovers at its plant in Princeton, Indiana—and one of them will be a Lexus.

The investment is expected to create approximately 1,400 jobs at the plant and even more at supplier facilities.

Both crossovers will be large, three-row models aimed at young, active families, and offered with electrification and seating for up to eight.

The Toyota is expected to be a long-wheelbase Highlander to be called the Grand Highlander. A quick search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office reveals Toyota made moves to protect the name last December.

The Highlander, which is built at the Princeton plant alongside Toyota’s Sequoia and Sienna, already comes with three rows but the last row is suitable for small children only. The Grand Highlander should address this shortcoming.

Toyota plant in Princeton, Indiana

Count on the Lexus being related to the Grand Highlander, just as the current RX and RX L are related to the Highlander. However, the Lexus is expected to be marketed under a new name, likely TX. The TX name has been rumored for almost a decade and Lexus last September filed trademark protection for it.

Toyota also confirmed on Wednesday that both crossovers will feature a driver-assist feature that will enable hands-free driving in certain conditions. This will likely be a version of the new Lexus Teammate feature that debuts in the 2022 LS. The system, which requires constant monitoring, can function in a single lane on some highways, as well as negotiate lane changes, navigate certain interchanges, and operate in traffic jams.

There will also be the ability to use a smartphone as both a digital key and a remote control system to park the vehicles from outside the cabin, Toyota said.

Timing for the new crossovers wasn’t mentioned.

Shown above is the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept vehicle from 2018. It may hint at some of the styling cues destined for the new Lexus crossover, though it’s thought to actually preview a more upmarket crossover to sit alongside the LS and LC in Lexus’ flagship range. The LQ name has been mooted.

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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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