Welcome to the Hooniverse News! As always, this is a weekly recap of some of the biggest stories in the automotive industry without the fluff or bull. There’s also just a little opinion of mine because I can. This week:
Ferrari reveals stunning J50 to celebrate their anniversary in Japan
Mercedes-Benz took a C-Class Coupe, stretched it, and called it the E-Class Coupe
Aston Martin announces 25 new continuation DB4 GT Lightweights
US DOT proposes connected car mandate to make future roads more predictable
McLaren produces 10,000th car after just six years of being on their own
Google reportedly dumps in-house autonomous car project to focus purely on the tech
What’s your automotive news?
Ferrari is a brand that loves to celebrate their anniversaries and they almost always do so with a proper special edition car. So many special edition cars I cover are differentiated by “special” paint, fancy seats hand-stitched by Tibetan monks, maybe some slightly different wheels, and a special plaque to let the world know you overpaid for something. When Ferrari does a special edition, almost everything about it is different. The latest special edition car is a shining example of that… even though it does have pretty much everything listed above as well. Except for the stitching by Tibetan monks part, probably.
Ferrari unveiled the J50 to kick off celebrations for their 50th anniversary in the Japanese market. Only ten J50s are being produced and all will be sold exclusively to the most loyal Japanese customers, probably. While they didn’t explicitly say it’s for Japan only, it should be implied. Ferrari did something similar for their 60th anniversary in America when they unveiled the F60 America; in that case, the ten cars they built were only sold in America.
Ferrari’s gift to Japanese enthusiasts starts life as a 488 GTB and gets thoroughly reworked into a stunning roadster that looks vastly different from any other Ferrari currently produced – or maybe ever produced. All of the bodywork is bespoke and includes unique aero solutions all around. For starters, the front bumper has a bigger splitter that sort of mimics an F1 car and a huge single-piece air intake.
Additionally, the front trunk cover is vented, there’s a black dividing line that runs all around the front of the car and feeds into the revised side air intakes, and air flow over the top of the car was revised to allow more air to reach the decklid spoiler.
Unlike the 488 Spider, the roof is a removable two-piece carbon fiber t-top. The interior is largely unchanged. The 488 already had a great interior, so it seems unique seat upholstery and new colored accents is the only new addition that was needed.
The 488’s 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 lives on in the J50 as well but it delivers an additional twenty horsepower over stock, bringing the total up to 680 horsepower. Power goes through the same super quick seven-speed DCT to the rear wheels, which also happen to be bespoke to the car.
There’s no word on pricing yet, but don’t worry, all of them have probably been bought anyway.
[Source: Ferrari via Autoweek]
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe
[Mercedes-Benz design head to CEO] “A lot auf our customers are accusing us auf doing z ‘same sausage, different lengths’ thing again…”
“I LIKE SAUSAGE.” – CEO
And thus, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe was born.
It’s an indisputable fact for most that Mercedes-Benz’s newest design language is drop dead gorgeous, but when every car in the lineup looks nearly identical, it gets old. Fast. Nevertheless, the new E-Class Coupe gets a great new look for the 2018 model year and lots of new tech compared to the outgoing model.
I’ve run out of things to say about Mercedes-Benz design, but I’ll help with those trying to keep track of these things. Compared to something like the C-Class Coupe or the S-Class Coupe, both of which look hilariously similar to this thing, the E-Class Coupe has a more elongated C-pillar that gives it a fastback roof line and larger rear quarter windows than the others. Additionally, the headlights don’t have the same jewel effect the others have and the air intakes on the corners have some horizontal blades added. Otherwise, they’re all annoyingly similar.
The coupe grows a bit in every dimension to improve cabin space and hopefully make the rear seats more usable for adults. Inside that cabin is a stunning layout that’s also like every other car they currently produce. The floating center screen we all complained about is more cleanly integrated into the dashboard on these newer cars now. Two screens look like one and it’s very nice to look at.
It also gets the rest of the tech found in the other E-Class cars including various semi-autonomous driver assistance features. One of those systems is an adaptive cruise control which can work at 130 mph. The rest of them will try to keep you out of danger by braking or even steering away from obstacles up to a certain speed. You’ll have to try pretty hard to crash this thing.
The base engine in the US-spec car is the 3.0-liter biturbo V6 with 329 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque and there will certainly be a V8 and AMG option to follow. Europe also gets a small diesel engine. I would also expect this car to eventually get MB’s sweet new inline-six in the not too distant future.
Pricing was not announced but no one really cares.
[Source: Mercedes-Benz via Autoweek]
Aston Martin DB4 GT Continuation
This actually broke last week right after the news went live, but I felt it was still worth mentioning. The DB4 GT, one of Aston Martin’s rarest and most iconic models, is being celebrated with a special series of 25 continuation cars meant for the race track exclusively. The cars are being built to lightweight specification and will be exact recreations of the original cars.
From 1959 until 1963, 75 DB4 GTs were produced and raced throughout the world, but only eight of them were in an enhanced lightweight specification. The 25 “new” cars will more than triple the amount of the lightweight DB4 GTs in existence when they start shipping in Q3 2017.
Each DB4 GT continuation will be built by Aston Martin Works at Newport Pagnell where true artists employ a blend of old world craftsmanship and modern techniques to produce these faithful recreations. These continuation cars do benefit from said modern techniques in their engine performance, handling, braking and safety, all while preserving the original car’s character.
It’ll be powered by “a version” of the celebrated Tadek Marek-designed 3.7-liter straight-six engine with 340 horsepower. That’s sent to the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. That’s all wrapped inside a tubular frame with thin-gauge aluminum perfectly recreating the original’s stunning body. Aston uses digital scanning to ensure the body’s accuracy but it’s ultimately hand-finished.
The VINs on these continuation cars picks up where the original cars left off – chassis 0202R – for an unbroken bloodline spanning half a century. It’ll be a spectacular sight to behold when they finally finish building them. I, for one, hope this trend of manufacturer-built continuation cars continues.
[Source: Aston Martin]
US DOT proposes connected vehicle mandate
Image borrowed from Automotive News
US auto safety regulators have proposed a vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication mandate, according to a report from Automotive News. If signed into law, this would require all new cars and light trucks sold in the US after a certain point to be equipped with short-range V2V communication systems that allow vehicles to “talk” to other vehicles on the road.
They would all be speaking the same language as they transmit and receive vehicle location, direction, speed info, and more with every vehicle around them. This is aimed to provide advanced warning to drivers and autonomous system about accidents around them while also preventing more accidents from occurring by sending and processing this data ten times per second. The proposal also states that drivers should not be able to turn off the V2V tech in their car but can disable the warnings to ensure the system is always transmitting to those who are still listening.
In short, it’s trying to make the roads a safer place by making it more predictable. They hope to eliminate “hundreds of thousands” of crashes through this tech once it’s fully implemented. Here’s a quote on some of the intended benefits from the NHTSA’s report on this, which you can read here:
V2V communications can provide the vehicle and driver with enhanced abilities to address additional crash situations, including those, for example, in which a driver needs to decide if it is safe to pass on a two-lane road (potential head-on collision), make a left turn across the path of oncoming traffic, or determine if a vehicle approaching an intersection appears to be on a collision course. In those situations, V2V communications can detect developing threat situations hundreds of yards away, and often in situations in which the driver and on-board sensors alone cannot detect the threat.
There will undoubtedly be serious privacy concerns raised about this, but the NHTSA report indicates that data is not linked to any individual. The proposed rule also does not mean drivers get to see every bit of data their car receives and every transmission would be secured by 128-bit encryption. Older cars won’t need to be retrofitted with the V2V systems either. This V2V tech could also go hand-in-hand with vehicle-to-infrastructure systems that are already being implemented in select areas, as mentioned last week.
V2V tech will be essential to future roadway safety, especially as autonomous cars start hitting the street in larger numbers. An essential part of driving is being predictable; obeying signs, minding the lane markings, signaling intentions, and just not driving like a moron help keep everyone moving without conflict. Using tech to enhance this predictability seems like the logical next step. Passing a government mandate to ensure everyone’s car is connected and speaking the same language sounds like a good idea to me, but only if the proposed privacy measures are guaranteed. This proposal is open to public comment for the next 90 days. Several automakers who have already started testing V2V tech are also weighing in on the proposal.
[Source: Automotive News]
McLaren just produced their 10,000th car since the branched out on their own in 2010. The 10,000th car is the 570S you see sitting amongst the crowd of people who all contributed to this historic build. The car itself is fairly normal; just Ceramic Grey paint sourced from the McLaren Special Operations catalog and ordinary options make up the car. But it shows remarkable progress from a brand that’s only been building their own stuff for the last six years. In that time they’ve given us the MP4-12C, P1, 650S, 675LT, 570S, 570GT, and various other special cars along the way. Meanwhile, it took Nissan nearly ten years to update the Titan.
“The fact that it took us 42 months to build our 5,000th car and just 22 months to build the next 5,000 speaks volumes about the pace of development of the company”, said CEO Mike Flewitt, adding that “much of that development is thanks to the introduction of the Sports Series family of cars, and it is therefore fitting that the 10,000th car is a McLaren 570S.” This is incredible progress from an incredible company and we hope there’s plenty more to come.
In other good news, we’re not going to see this big dumb cartoon toaster thing on the highways of the future. Google, one of the earliest and biggest innovators of autonomous car tech, has announced that their plans to produce their own fully autonomous car have been put on hold indefinitely. They’ve not given up on autonomy all together, but they’re no longer looking to build their own complete package. This is very similar to Apple’s decision to abandon their own in-house autonomous car as well. It seems the Silicon Valley underestimated how hard and expensive it is to build a complete car from scratch.
Nevertheless, their tech will be integrated into other cars that don’t look like a background character from a Cars movie. Expect to see Google partner with auto brands to bring their tech to the market quicker. In the meantime, Google announced they’ll be spinning off the team that was working on the original cartoon toaster into a new company called Waymo. They’ll be working on launching an autonomous car service by the end of next year. Maybe their product won’t look as childish.
What’s your automotive news?
That’s all I’ve got for you this week, so now it’s your turn. If you saw anything, fixed something, broke everything, or otherwise did anything even remotely car related that you want to share with your fellow hoon, sound off in the comments.
Have a good weekend.
[Image © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]