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What’s the future of the internal-combustion engine?

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Ferrari 488 GT Modificata

With stricter emission standards and the rise of electric powertrains, it might seem like the internal-combustion engine’s days are numbered. But Engineering Explained host Jason Fenske believes internal combustion will live on—thanks to new technologies.

Fenske is pretty optimistic about the longevity of the internal-combustion engine, both because of the inherent energy-density advantage of gasoline over batteries, and because of efficiency-boosting technologies. In this video, he takes a closer look at some of those technologies.

One option is homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI). An HCCI engine burns gasoline, but uses compression ignition—like a diesel engine—rather than a spark plug. In theory, that provides the efficiency of a diesel, without the soot and high levels of nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions. However, it requires much finer control of the intake temperature, as well as the timing of ignition.

Ferrari 488 GT Modificata

The next option is pre-mix charge compression ignition (PCCI). Fenske described it as a “middle ground” between diesel-engine compression ignition and HCCI, because it injects some fuel early to let it mix with air in the combustion chamber, and then injecting more fuel later. That provides more control over ignition timing than HCCI, but can also create pockets of unburned hydrocarbon byproducts, which is bad for emissions. PCCI engines also have a fairly narrow operating range, with high potential for knock under full throttle, Fenske said.

Finally, we have reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI). This uses two fuels: a low-reactivity fuel (like gasoline) that is port injected, and a high-reactivity fuel (like diesel) that is direct injected. “Reactivity” refers to a fuel’s tendency to ignite under compression. This method leads to big efficiency gains, but still with fairly high emissions, Fenske said. The complexity of using two fuels could also make it a non-starter commercially.

These alternative internal-combustion engine designs may not be ready for prime time, but automakers are looking to squeeze every ounce of efficiency out of today’s gasoline engines using more mature technologies like direct injection. Fenske also covered another possible future internal-combustion technology—entry ignition—in another video, which is also worth checking out.

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2021 Audi RS 6 Avant blends massive performance and mass appeal

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2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

As a formerly shy child myself, I do not hold it against my neighbor’s daughter that she hadn’t spoken any words to me in the five years we’ve lived in the same building. She’ll usually sort of hide behind her mom as we exchange pleasantries, then give a little wave on the way out.

Until last week that is. I was behind the wheel of the 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant and we passed each other as I pulled into the shared garage underneath our building. The two sets of windows on their Subaru Outback rolled down simultaneously. Her mom went first, saying “that thing is…” before trailing off with a nod. Then the child leaned forward out of her booster seat, gave me a thumbs up and said “great car.”

She ain’t lying.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

The wagon’s throaty exhaust note and handsome looks were a worthy wrecking ball to bring down the wall of silence between us. Apparently, the RS 6 Avant isn’t just an enthusiast’s dream, it speaks to all ages. It’s a special car, a part of a dying breed of performance vehicles draped in V-8 excess that make no apologies for their poor fuel economy. The RS 6 gets 17 combined mpg—worse if you let it off the leash frequently, as I did.

Settling into the RS 6 Avant feels familiar. I tested the 2021 RS 7 earlier this year, and the two cars are twins that differ in appearance. The DNA is the same; the powertrain, suspension, and interior hold constant, just with a slightly different body on top. The RS 6 Avant is 0.5 inch shorter in overall length, but 2.5 inches taller in height, and a mere 22 lb heavier with a curb weight of 4,960 lb. Audi did not provide a direct measurement of the RS 6 Avant’s cargo room, but said it should be spot on with what you get in the A6 allroad. If that’s that case it also has a bit more cargo room than the RS 7, at 30.0 cubic feet vs. 24.6 cubic feet.

As you might expect, the two feel nearly the same behind the wheel. I spent much of my week with the car trying to figure out exactly where the differences lie, testing them on identical roads and with identical cargo (both easily swallow a pair of golf club bags). But rather than finding a difference in the vehicles, I found more of a difference in myself. I enjoyed Audi’s RS formula more the second go round.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

The RS 6 Avant’s best attribute is still its engine, a fire-breathing twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 that cranks out 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque in the RS 6 (matching the output of the RS 7). That’s enough power to get the RS 6 Avant from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 190 mph (without my test vehicle’s optional carbon-ceramic brakes it’s limited to a measly 155 mph).

It still doesn’t feel quite as snappy off-the-line as I’d like, there’s a hint of hesitation when you slam the throttle. But once it gets out of first gear, the wagon pulls and keeps pulling well past 80 mph. The RS 6 Avant doesn’t really squat down on its rear wheels under acceleration, even hard acceleration, so it feels like you’re not moving all that fast since the whole process happens with such little drama. But a quick glance at the head-up display shows the numbers flying by and the RS 6 Avant’s soundtrack of low rumbles and burbles quickly rises up to match.

After I drove the RS 7, I wrote “as prodigious as the RS 7’s power output is, its handling isn’t in the same league. It’s not sloppy, it’s just heavy.” I still think this is true; the power is the star here. But what I came to appreciate more was the RS 6 Avant’s superb balance, despite its heft.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

The RS button on the steering wheel toggles between RS1 and RS2 drive modes that can be customized through the center screen. I turned the stability control to “Sport” for RS2, which lets the car get a little loose before the nannies kick in, which, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to safely test on public roads. There’s so much grip, that to get the RS 6 Avant to step out would require some real carelessness, and I wasn’t about to engage in that type of driving on the Angeles National Forest’s mountain roads, where mistakes can mean disaster.

That balance inspires confidence. I took each winding corner with a bit more vigor, and the RS 6 Avant’s exhaust snorted appealingly as I rolled back onto the gas at each apex. With all that weight, the tires do begin to protest if you carry too much speed and the RS 6 Avant tends to understeer.

Learning this tendency helped me find the best way to drive the RS 6 Avant: get the braking done early, take a late apex to give yourself more run out, and get on the power as soon as possible. The wagon shines most here. The AWD system is so adept at moving power to the right spot at the right moment that you can get on the gas earlier than you think. You can’t drive this way In a rear-wheel-drive vehicle or you’ll send it spinning. But here, it’s practically point-and-squeeze on corner exits. With all that raw power, it’s an extremely satisfying sensation.

The steering could be better. It’s very accurate, but it doesn’t offer the amount of feedback and responsiveness I’d like midcorner. However, this car is so balanced that even with that bit of vagueness, it still feels rather planted and stable. I’d also like a more-aggressive transmission setting that would hold gears longer, though this can be accomplished with the paddles shifters. The transmission’s shift logic feels a hair behind Porsche’s PDK and the BMW 8-speed automatic, but those two set the bar exceedingly high.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

When you’re not driving the RS 6 Avant hard, it’s still plenty good. The softer suspension settings give it a compliant ride around town. The interior offers top-grade luxury, with four extremely comfortable seats (don’t sleep on the rear buckets) and that wagon-sized cargo area that swallows up cargo with ease. Drivers are well advised to carry a microfiber cloth to wipe down the multimedia and climate control screens. Those sleek surfaces are a crime-scene investigator’s dream, holding any and all fingerprints for a long time.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant

This level of luxury and performance carries with it a matching price tag. The RS 6 Avant starts at $110,045 (including destination), undercutting the RS 7 by $5,000. My test vehicle added the options, the highlights of which were the excellent carbon-ceramic brakes ($9,000), a carbon-fiber package ($6,350) that also includes 22-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero summer tires, and a sport exhaust ($1,000). Interestingly, adaptive cruise control and active lane control are not standard and they have to be added in as part of a $2,250 safety package. All in, my test vehicle cost a cool $131,645, which puts it in direct confrontation with the BMW M5, though it is slightly cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 4-Door Coupe.

Picking between the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 is impossible in some regards, given their similarities and nearly identical nature. If I had to pick one, I’d take the RS 6 Avant because I enjoy its brutish, yet classy style just a bit more—like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a tuxedo. Still, I’d be just as happy in an RS 7.

Though the sun may be setting on V-8 powered performance cars, the forthcoming performance variant of the RS 6 Avant will act as a bridge to the future. It will add a plug-in hybrid system to the car, similar to the one in the Porsche Panamera if rumors are to be believed. That system will enhance both performance and efficiency, and hopefully add some of that off-the-line burst that the car needs to feel more lively. I can’t wait to show my neighbors.

Audi provided a loaner RS 6 Avant for Motor Authority to bring you this first-hand report

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Hyundai aims for the sky with flying taxis, possibly by 2025

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Urban Air Port Air-One with a Hyundai Motor Group flying taxi concept

Hyundai is aiming to put flying taxis into the air sooner than expected. An executive from the automaker now believes the first flying taxis could lift off as soon as 2025, Reuters reported Monday.

The automaker previously mentioned 2028 as the target date for launching a flying-taxi service, using small battery-electric aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). But Jose Munoz, Hyundai’s global COO and North American CEO, said in an interview with Reuters that it could happen “before 2025.”

Hyundai announced an Urban Air Mobility division headed by a NASA veteran in 2019. At the time, the company said it would invest $1.5 billion in urban air mobility by 2025.

Hyundai subsequently announced a partnership with Uber Elevate, the ride-sharing giant’s nascent air-mobility division, to use its flying taxis on a planned Uber aerial network. The automaker also unveiled an electric flying-taxi concept at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Urban Air Port Air-One with a Hyundai Motor Group flying taxi concept

Earlier this year, Hyundai also announced a partnership with a company in the United Kingdom called Urban Air Port to develop the infrastructure required for flying taxis. That will include development of an urban airport for the vehicles in Coventry, U.K. Hyundai has also partnered with the company that runs South Korea’s Incheon International Airport to incorporate flying-taxi infrastructure.

While Hyundai primarily envisions flying vehicles carrying five or six passengers between airports and urban centers, the company is also considering cargo services, Munoz told Reuters.

Electric air taxis are essentially unproven, but several other companies are also experimenting with them.

Boeing and Porsche have teamed up to design a “premium” air taxi, and Daimler, Geely, and Toyota have backed projects as well.

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Electric Lincoln arriving in 2022 with three more EVs on the way, electrified lineup by 2030

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Ford uni-body EV platform for mid-decade

Lincoln’s the last luxury brand standing in Ford’s orbit, and the Blue Oval has a roadmap for the historic brand.

On Wednesday the future of Lincoln was laid out with four new electric vehicles on the way, a lineup of electrified choices by 2030, a hands-free driver assistance system, Lincoln boutiques, charging network agreements, and a focus on China. Here’s where Lincoln’s going.

Ford uni-body EV platform for mid-decade

In 2022 the first electric Lincoln will arrive, the first of four new vehicles, and it will ride on a new flexible electric vehicle architecture. One of two new dedicated EV platforms being developed by Ford. The first electric vehicles will be based on the automaker’s current anchor products with derivatives to come. Ford said an electric Ford Explorer is on the way during the automaker’s Capital Markets day in May, and used an Aviator as an example of another potential EV. The two new EV platforms being developed by Ford are capable of underpinning smaller crossover SUVs and full-size body-on-frame trucks, all part of the automaker’s more than $30 billion investment into electrification by 2025.

Despite the new four electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids are an important step in the transition to electric vehicles, according to Lincoln. The automaker plans to electrify its entire lineup by 2030—meaning plenty of hybrids and plug-in hybrids—and predicts half its global vehicle sales will be electric in about five years.

Lincoln’s partnered with Electrify America, along with other charging networks, to create the Lincoln Charging Network. A plug-and-play experience for owners similar to what Ford’s set up for the Mustang Mach-E, though it will be managed via the Lincoln Way smartphone app.

Lincoln Nautilus_Alexa Built-In via Lincoln Enhance

Lincoln Nautilus_Alexa Built-In via Lincoln Enhance

Future Lincolns will be connected cars with always-on technology based on a new electrical architecture and cloud-based computing with a tech stack based on Google’s Android operating system. Over-the-air updates will enable new features and functional upgrades. A version of Ford’s BlueCruise Level 2 hands-free driver assistance system will be rebranded Lincoln Active Glide and available on future models. Hands-free Alexa will arrive on Lincoln models this fall.

Lincoln Zephyr Reflection concept

Lincoln Zephyr Reflection concept

Lincoln Sketch_Interior Space

Lincoln Sketch_Interior Space

Lincoln Sketch_Interior Sanctuary

Lincoln Sketch_Interior Sanctuary

While the Lincoln Zephyr Reflection concept shown in April at the Shanghai auto show won’t be coming to the U.S. it gives an indicator of the automaker’s future design direction, global design director Kemal Curic said. Minimalist body panels, lighting element across the entire front end connecting the headlights, and large glass roofs to allow natural light into the cabin will potentially define future Lincolns. Inside, future models will feature coast-to-coast screens that will include various themes to reflect the driver’s mood.

Lincoln is looking to offer personalized services and benefits for its customers. It’s testing mobile and vehicle detailing and or cleaning via a subscription service in Houston, Texas, and might expand or scale the test beyond the Lone Star state.

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

One of three Lincoln sales take place remotely via the automaker’s remote sales platform. It will double down on this and build out a start-to-finish experience on Lincoln.com, including financing, trade-in, accessories, and fees. Executives told Motor Authority this is not a direct-sales approach and will still go through local dealerships.

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

Lincoln boutiques and dealerships

To reach new and existing customers in new ways, boutiques called Vitrines are being created in locations outside of traditional dealerships. These boutiques will be placed in high-end retail and dining locations and there designs are inspired by glass display cases. Customers can stop in to view vehicles in a lifestyle retail-free environment.

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