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Why the next Mercedes-Benz C-Class is coming exclusively with 4-cylinder engines, including AMGs

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2023 Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class at present offers 4-, 6- and even 8-cylinder engines but this won’t be the case for the next-generation model due for a reveal on February 23 and on sale later this year as a 2022 model.

As first reported by Car and Driver last week, the next C-Class will come exclusively with 4-cylinder engines. This will also extend to the future performance variants from Mercedes-Benz AMG.

Why such a radical decision? Speaking with Germany’s Automobilwoche (subscription required) in an interview published last week, the car’s chief engineer, Christian Frueh, said a V-8 was ruled out primarily for emissions while an inline-6 was ruled out for packaging. It seems that adding an inline-6 would have required the front end of the vehicle to be stretched by about two inches. Bigger, heavier engines would have also added too much load on the front axle, negatively impacting the driving dynamics.

To make up for the performance deficit caused by downsizing, Mercedes, as well as the AMG performance skunkworks, will rely on electrification. In most cases the electrification should come in the form of a mild-hybrid system. It should be somewhat similar to what we’ve seen in some existing Mercedes mild-hybrids—essentially an electric motor-generator that replaces the starter motor and alternator typically found on internal-combustion cars. The setup is designed to provide a boost during high loads and recover energy during braking and coasting.

In the next C63, the setup is expected to match the 503 hp of the current C63 S while peak torque could even exceed the current car’s 516 lb-ft.

2023 Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2023 Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2023 Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Plug-in hybrid powertrains are also planned, though likely for non-AMG models only.

We’ve also heard that the rear-axle steering system that debuted in the redesigned 2021 S-Class will be available on the next C-Class. The system helps with maneuverability at low speeds and stability at high speeds.

The C-Class family in the U.S. is expected to start with a C300, followed by two AMG versions (a C43 replacement and C63) and possibly a plug-in hybrid. No wagon body style is planned for our market, but redesigned versions of the current C-Class Coupe and C-Class Cabriolet should arrive eventually.

In his interview with Automobilwoche, Frueh also confirmed that a C-Class All-Terrain soft-roader wagon is coming, and this model could potentially end up here as a little brother to the E-Class All-Terrain.

He also said not to expect a battery-electric C-Class, at least with the coming generation of the small sedan. That’s because the engineers wouldn’t have been able to fit the necessary batteries without compromising the rear axle’s design and balance of the car.

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Redesigned 2022 Toyota Tundra coming soon

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2021 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

A new generation of the Toyota Tundra is coming up shortly.

The Japanese automaker on Tuesday released a teaser image of the redesigned Tundra and confirmed the full-size pickup truck’s arrival for the 2022 model year.

The teaser image hints a tougher design for the Tundra, with some elements expected to be influenced by the recent update to the Hilux mid-size pickup truck sold overseas. The Tundra is also expected to grow in size. Those marker lights you see on the grille and flanks are required for wider trucks in the United States.

With the bigger size, you can count on there being bigger cabin options and possibly bigger bed options, too. Towing capacity should also match or exceed the current truck’s 10,200-pound max rating.

2021 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Not much is known about the new mechanicals but we’ve heard the redesigned Tundra will introduce a new modular platform that will eventually underpin future versions of the Hilux and Tacoma, as well as the 4Runner and Sequoia SUVs.

We’ve also heard that a twin-turbocharged V-6 will be offered in the Tundra, possibly as a replacement for the current generation’s 5.7-liter V-8. The V-8 is indestructible but the 381-hp peak power rating is a tad underwhelming, especially compared to much more fuel-efficient V-6 rivals with similar performance.

A hybrid option is also likely. Toyota has pledged to fit every vehicle it sells in the U.S. with some sort of electrification. Keep in mind, electrification can be as simple as a mild-hybrid system. We definitely don’t expect the Tundra’s hybrid option to be a plug-in hybrid setup.

Stay tuned.

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This is the updated 2022 Kia K900 we won’t see in the US

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2022 Kia K900 (Korean spec)

Kia on Monday posted the first photos of an updated K9 sedan on the Facebook page of its home market of Korea. The full reveal is scheduled for later this year.

The K9 is badged a K900 in the United States and ended sales here after the 2020 model year, together with the Cadenza. Considering just 305 examples were sold here in the past year, we’re not surprised. The pool of buyers willing to drop around $60,000 on a Kia sedan is small, it seems.

The updated K9 has taken on the more modern design language Kia introduced earlier this year on its new K7/Cadenza-replacing K8 sedan sold overseas. There are new lights at both ends of the full-size sedan, plus an enlarged grille that connects with each of the headlights. You’ll also notice the car sports Kia’s latest logo design.

2022 Kia K900 (Korean spec)

Kia hasn’t shown the interior but there’s likely to be a new design for the dash coupled with the latest in in-car technology and electronic driver-assist features.

Kia also hasn’t announced any powertrain details. Depending on the market, K9 buyers can choose between V-6 and V-8 engine options, as well as either rear- or all-wheel drive. Expect most powertrains to carry over and possibly be joined by a new hybrid option with this update.

With the K900 and Cadenza gone from Kia’s U.S. lineup, buyers looking for a roomy sedan will have to settle for the mid-size K5 and Stinger. The Stinger may be on its last legs as well, with Kia rumored to be considering replacing it with an electric equivalent.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands will make Jeep (Compass) buyers reconsider

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Subaru and Jeep should be nervous. Ford’s done its homework. The Baby Bronco has arrived to make shoppers question their brand loyalties.

No, this isn’t the Ford Bronco. That’s the most common question people asked me about the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands. It’s the Baby Bronco, the Bronco Sport, and while it’s less capable than its big, bad brother, it’s endearing in its own way with its perky turbocharged engine, creative packaging, and terrific style.

I spent a week living with the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands in suburbia to see exactly where it hits and misses off the trail and in the day-to-day world of Dad life.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Hit: A kick in the pants

A lot of Bronco Sports will be powered by the base 1.5-liter turbo-3 that makes 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. West coast editor Brian Wong said it’s enough power for day-to-day living. My Badlands tester had the hotter 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Also on board was a twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system (related to the system that was in the Ford Focus RS, may it RIP) and an 8-speed automatic transmission. With the turbo-4, the Bronco Sport scoots from a stop. The power comes on quickly as the turbo spools up to deliver full torque at about 1,600 rpm. The transmission shifts quickly, and there’s more than enough power for passing or any other need given the Bronco Sport’s size. It makes the Jeep Compass’s archaic 2.4-liter inline-4 seem more anemic than it already is.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Miss: The steering wheel

My Badlands tester had a sticker price of $35,745, which isn’t cheap for a small crossover SUV. The price felt justified given its capabilities, thoughtful features, and punchy turbo-4. However, every time I touched the steering wheel I felt like Ford was cutting corners. The cheap-looking, cheap-feeling, polyurethane steering wheel seemed like it was pulled out of the bin of leftover base Fiesta parts. To get a leather-wrapped steering wheel buyers need to pony up $2,595 for the awkwardly named Badlands package (on the Badlands model), which also adds such niceties as a B&O audio system, body-color door handles, and a sunroof. There is no way to option out of the cheapo steering wheel without the entire Badlands package, which adds things buyers might not need, or even want, for more money than they may want to spend.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Hit: Looks like a Bronco

It doesn’t matter that the Bronco Sport is based on the Escape. Its looks say Bronco, just like the lettering on the front and back of the SUV. The squared off shape, the round headlights bisected by horizontal daytime running lights, and even my Badlands tester’s 17-inch carbon gray painted aluminum wheels that mimic steelies are all Bronco cues. It’s cute in a rugged kind of way, and it’s endearing.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Miss: Rolls around corners

Coming from an Escape? Prepare for some sloppy handling and body roll. Coming from a Jeep Compass? You’ll feel right at home albeit with more engaging steering. The off-road-oriented Badlands model features monotube rear shocks, softer springs, and 8.0 inches of ground clearance. It rides soft, and Midwest highway expansion joints and broken pavement do little to upset it, but around corners weight shifts and presses on the soft shocks to create body roll. The soft suspension is quite comfortable, but the floatiness might surprise buyers coming out of street-oriented crossover SUVs.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Hit: Creative thinking

Kudos to the Bronco Sport’s design team. They really did their homework and thought of things from new angles. My Badland’s tester featured rubber floors that would be easy to wipe down, a snap-in rubber liner for the rear cargo area, hooks in the rear cargo area, adjustable LED lighting in the tailgate to read maps while out on a dark adventure, and even zippered pockets on the front seatbacks and on the side of the front passenger seat toward the driver. This is just smart stuff. Webbing on the front seatbacks also provides a place to clip gear for easy access.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Miss: It’s not efficient

My Badlands tester wasn’t exactly frugal despite being small. That turbo-4 drank gas at an average rate of 23 mpg in mixed suburban driving over the course of 340 miles. The design that makes the Bronco Sport so appealing also turns it into a brick that pushes through the air, which means the turbo is often spooled up and in use. The fuel economy I experienced is in line with the EPA ratings of 21 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 combined. The Escape offers a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid, and both would improve the Bronco Sport’s efficiency.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Hit: It has opening tailgate glass and a built-in bottle opener

A bottle opener is hard-mounted to the rear end on the passenger side. The tailgate has to be open to use/expose it, but it’s still a simple and useful feature. The tailgate glass can also be opened independently of the tailgate. This feature has disappeared from a lot of SUVs including Ford’s own Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee (after 2013). It’s an incredibly functional feature that’s welcome on the Bronco Sport.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Miss: Wind noise prevails

Jeep Wrangler drivers are used to wind noise, but most people aren’t. The Bronco Sport’s square shape creates noticeable wind noise at highway speeds. It’s not atrocious, but it isn’t as quiet as the Escape, and that might catch some people by surprise during a test drive.

Not everyone is going to need, or want, a Ford Bronco. For those who want a vehicle that is smaller, yet still impressively capable and fun, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport fits the bill while making the Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Compass seem hopelessly underpowered.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands
Base price: $28,155
Price as tested: $35,745
EPA fuel economy: 21/26/23 mpg
The hits: Looks like a Bronco, punchy turbo-4, creative features
The misses: Inefficient, body roll, wind noise

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