Mazda is putting a petrol engine in its electric car, BMW is still making an MPV and Caterham builds high, all in this week’s Car news
Mazda steadfastly refuses to give up on its mission to make the internal combustion engine more efficient and more environmentally friendly-ish. For years its executives have said the petrol and diesel engine could be much more efficient, producing more power, lower fuel consumption and lower emissions. We all paid attention but then electric vehicles came along and everyone became distracted. Mazda is introducing electric models of course, but it has just announced that it will bolster its SUV line-up with the CX-60 and CX-80 models in Europe. These will use various engines including a straight-six and a straight-four petrol as well as a diesel, yes a diesel and will be available as with mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid technology.
What’s even more interesting is that after launching its first pure electric model, the MX-30, Mazda is going to expand the choices in 2022 by making it available with a rotary petrol engine. Before Mazda RX fans get too excited, this isn’t a sports car, its a compact crossover thing and the rotary engine isn’t even going to provide power to the wheels, it’s going to be a generator for an electric motor that will power the wheels, rather like the range extender in the BMW i3 or the Vauxhall Ampera (remember those?)
BMW has launched the latest generation of its 2 Series Active Tourer. If, like us, you thought BMW had killed this thing off, then you’ll be surprised at this news. However, it’s still here and now it has upgrade powertrains including 48V mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and there’s lots more tech. This includes the curved screens that debuted in the new electric i4 and iX as well as the latest BMW iDrive control and operating system. There will be a choice of Sport, Luxury and M Sport versions and loads of marketing trying to tell you that it’s an adventure lifestyle vehicle for those who like mountain biking in the forests or kayaking down rapids, rather than what most people will actually use it for - the school run. The SUV has been slowly killing off the MPV in recent years, so you keep at it BMW.
Audi is keeping at it too, but in a slightly different category. It has always done well by combining performance with its quattro all-wheel drive system, but when it comes to its R8 supercar, it’s the rear-wheel drive (RWD) model that is one of the most engaging to drive. Now it has upped the power on the R8 V10 RWD by 30hp to give it 570hp. Torque goes up 10Nm to 550Nm with the 0-62mph time now 3.7 seconds, or 3.8 off you opt for the droptop Spyder. The big question though is with the rise of the electric car, how much longer does the R8 have to live?
We drove some new stuff this week too, well some new, some not so new and all were from the Renault Group. That means Renault, Dacia and Alpine in case you aren’t sure. It was our first drive of the Alpine A110 and this one was a limited edition Legende GT. Now we understand what all the fuss is about. It’s fantastic, with steering that could match a Porsche, a chassis that feels as though it was designed and engineered by a top motorsport team (funny that) and comfort that easily makes it feel like an everyday sports car. It’s quick too and it has just the right combination of tech and design. Yes, the Alpine is rather good.
We also got to drive the new Dacia Duster, which is good in a very different way. Value for money is still its key attribute but it now looks so much smarter and has smarter tech, including a new touchscreen infotainment system. Its less camper’s choice and more anyone’s choice, plus with its new looks and more equipment it’s probably better value for money than ever, but it’s a Dacia, so thats probably not news.
Finally and because as you can probably tell, it’s been a fairly quiet week this past week, remember that Caterham that was being built high up in the British Airways i360 tower in Brighton? Well they did it and in the process claimed the crown of the highest known height from ground level that a car has ever been built at. Cool, but what they didn’t say was how they got it down again.
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