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    We Drive Porsche's Mission R Electric Concept Race Car

    Electric cars are supposed to be quiet, but this one isn’t. This very loud EV is the Mission R, a 1073-hp one-of-one concept/racer that provides a look at a potential future for customer sports-car racing, a niche that Porsche usually feeds with 911s. While the Mission R might not sound like any race car we’ve ever driven, the same advice applies: Wear earplugs. From inside it sounds like you’re sitting next to a washing machine with a bad bearing as it kills itself during a spin cycle. Credit the two straight-cut reduction gears (one front and one rear) that transmit power to mechanical limited-slip differentials.Hitting the brakes really makes the thing scream. Like every EV, the Mission R’s two electric motors work to convert speed into electricity through regenerative braking. As the motors fight against the car’s inertia, the noise cavitates your eardrums. As a result of the aggressive regen, the friction brakes are barely stressed. Porsche doesn’t even fit dedicated brake ducts. A full 60 percent of the braking in front is done by the motor, and all the rear braking is handled by the motor—Porsche suggests starting with the battery charged to 85 percent so that regen is always available. The brake pedal is race-car firm and easy to modulate, which is good because there’s no ABS.

    Properly slowed, the Mission R turns in instantly with a small movement from the yoke. In goes the nose and then it tucks into the bend. Suddenly, the straightaway calls and it’s time to send the battery’s juice to the motors. The two motors thrust the horizon into the foreground and strain your neck in a way that will lead to a funny conversation with your physical therapist. The 1073 horsepower is available in Qualifying mode, but in Race mode (the one we ran in) peak power is 671 horses. Porsche claims a top speed of more than 186 mph, but this prototype is governed to 62 mph to protect Porsche’s $10 million investment. The Mission R maxes out in a couple of places on the track, but the course at the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles (PECLA) is tight enough to make us feel like we’re not missing out on much. Accelerating to 62 mph from a stop is claimed to happen in less than 2.5 seconds.

    Another odd part of the experience is the lack of gear shifts. Chasing a new 911 Turbo S around the track, you notice how much the 911 is upshifting and downshifting because the Mission R is a direct-drive setup. There’s no need to reach for a wooden shift knob or a paddle, there’s no tachometer to monitor, no shift lights, and you don’t need to think about keeping the engine near its torque peak. The arresting thrust of the motors is there no matter how fast you’re going, a seemingly endless rush of power. To ensure that the power out of the motors doesn’t taper off, Porsche bathes the motor windings in oil to keep things cool. The battery cooling strategy involves a fluid bath too. Porsche promises that the Mission R’s 82-kWh battery makes a 30-minute track session possible.
    Based very loosely on a production car—the floorpan is lifted from the current 982 Cayman—the roughly 3300-pound racer is 170.3 inches long, a couple of inches shorter than a Cayman. At only 46.9 inches high and styled to kill, the Mission R looks like a Le Mans prototype left in the dryer a little too long. Inside, the concept has a 3D-printed race seat and some switchgear that does nothing more than look good on the auto-show floor. Clear polycarbonate roof panels let the light shine in. Compact and mean looking, aside from the shrieking drivetrain, the Mission R is easy to drive quickly. There are no tricky handling characteristics, the 40/60 front-to-rear balance isn’t easily upset, and the race slicks hang on tight.
    Provided the pits have a fast-charging hookup, the onboard charger can swallow 350 kilowatts, allowing the 900-volt battery to go from five to 80 percent in a claimed 15 minutes. The connection is at the back and the battery isn’t far away, mounted transversely behind the driver. As a proof of concept, the Mission R works. It’s fun and fast and shows us what electrification will be like on a track. The sounds it makes aren’t particularly pleasant, and from outside all you hear is what sounds like gear whine. In terms of mechanical music, a ripping flat-six will always outplay an electric motor. We imagine that fans of piston aircraft felt the same sort of way as roaring turbines began to invade their airspace. We’re at the beginning of a similar shift, but at least early jets sounded like really loud blowtorches and not dying appliances.

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    2022 BMW 128ti Is a Europe-Only VW GTI Rival

    Contrary to the expectations of some traditionalists, the world didn’t suddenly end when BMW quietly introduced front-wheel-drive models a few years ago. The X1, X2, and 2-series Gran Coupe all ride on the company’s UKL platform, shared with bigger Minis, bringing the combination of transversely mounted engines and drivetrains that pull rather than push. While all are offered with the option of xDrive in the U.S., the base “28i” versions are all front-wheel drive.Given the marketing BMW used to put behind the dynamic purity of rear-wheel drive, it isn’t surprising these models’ wrong-wheel-drive configuration is barely mentioned—the configurator website features a prominent tab promoting the xDrive upgrade. But in Europe things are different. There, BMW has used the same mechanical package to create the 128ti, a front-drive hot hatch, one that positively celebrates the new driveline configuration.

    The “ti” suffix is drawn deep from BMW’s past. The original TI (with capital letters) was launched in 1963 as a performance version of the “Neue Klasse” sedan. The designation stood for Turismo Internazionale and brought a collection of mechanical tweaks engineered by what was then a little-known tuner called Alpina, including a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with dual carburetors and an output of 110 horsepower. A lower-case ti version of the 2002 coupe followed, with the later fuel-injected version becoming, with Germanic logic, the tii. After a long lapse, ti branding was brought back for the chopped-tail variant of the E36 (and, in Europe, E46) 3-series, precursors to the first 1-series hatchback.Today’s F40-generation 1-series hatchback is effectively the 2-series Gran Coupe’s utilitarian sibling: shorter in length, taller, and less fashion-conscious. The design shares the Gran Coupe’s goofy front overhang and aggressively angled headlights, but the rear hatchback appears both simpler and more elegant than the four-door coupe’s baroque derriere. Whereas the range-topping M135i xDrive uses the same 301-hp four-cylinder engine and front-biased all-wheel-drive system as our M235i xDrive Gran Coupe, the 128ti variant you see here features a less powerful (261-hp) version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and just two driven wheels. It would be sweet if European exceptionalism had also given the 128ti a manual gearbox—more basic versions of the F40 are still available with a stick—but sadly the only transmission option is an eight-speed torque-converter automatic.
    Despite that, the driving experience is impressively raw and unfiltered. Fears that BMW might try to disguise which axle is driven are disproved by the first dose of full throttle, as the 128ti scrambles for traction when launched hard. Bumpy surfaces also produce the unmistakable sensation of torque affecting the steering, although in an exciting rather than a wayward way. A limited-slip differential and quick-acting traction control ensure the driven wheels fight for a common cause rather than battle each other. The steering delivers keen response and a level of feedback unfamiliar in a modern BMW outside of those that wear an M badge.Although 19-inch wheels are optional, our sample car rode on the standard 18-inch alloy rims shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, which generated impressive grip on cold, greasy British asphalt. The 128ti’s chassis has been given a sense of fun, its cornering line readily influenced by accelerator position. It fights understeer gamely, but excessive speed in slower, tighter corners sees the front tires run short on adhesion first. Easing off the accelerator persuades the car to rotate and tighten its line neatly, and snapping the throttle shut with enough lateral load can even bring modest oversteer. The factory-stated curb weight of 3350 pounds is hefty for a front-drive hot hatchback, but it’s 100 pounds lighter than the M135i xDrive.
    Unlike the junior M car, the 128ti doesn’t get adaptive dampers, and on rougher roads the suspension setup is definitely on the firm side of comfortable. There was also noticeably more road roar in the cabin than would be experienced in the better-insulated and more pliant 228i Gran Coupe. Yet it’s hard to criticize any hot hatch for prioritizing performance over refinement. The turbocharged engine sounds good when being worked hard, pulling strongly through its muscular midrange and only starts to fall off when closing in on its 6500-rpm redline. BMW’s claimed 6.1-second zero-to-62-mph time makes the 128ti 1.3 seconds slower than the M135i xDrive, but much of the difference is likely due to the all-wheel-drive model’s greater traction off the line. The front-drive car certainly never feels slow or boring. The eight-speed automatic swaps among its tightly packed ratios smartly and snappily in Drive, and although manual shifts never feel dual-clutch fast, the engine’s flat torque curve helps mask the delay between requesting a new gear and it being delivered.
    We were disappointed by the plastic shift paddles’ lack of weight and resistance, though. And other areas in the cabin suffer what seem like nonpremium materials. The shiny black plastic around the gearshift—shared with the 2-series Gran Coupe—feels particularly cheap. Visually, we also felt a little shortchanged. The 128ti gets a bigger front air dam than the standard 1-series, plus some colored inserts and a small “ti” graphic on the liftgate but lacks the sporty aesthetics that normally characterize hot hatches. The 128ti is competitively positioned in the European market. Based on U.K. pricing, the 128ti’s pretax base price ($35,600) makes it significantly cheaper than the equivalent DSG-equipped Volkswagen GTI ($39,400), and it slightly undercuts the faster and more exciting Honda Civic Type R ($36,050).The combination of front-wheel-drive feel and a BMW badge still seems incongruous, but the 128ti has made a virtue of its new powertrain—it is more entertaining to drive hard than many of the company’s more potent rear- and all-wheel-drive models. BMW’s first front-drive hot hatch is certainly good enough to deserve an encore, one it would be nice if American buyers could also experience.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 BMW 128tiVehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
    PRICE
    Base (U.K.): $35,600
    ENGINE
    turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 122 in3, 1998 cm3Power: 261 hp @ 6500 rpmTorque: 295 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
    TRANSMISSION
    8-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 105.1 inLength: 170.0 inWidth: 70.8 inHeight: 56.5 inCargo Volume: 13 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 3350 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 5.6 sec1/4-Mile: 14.0 secTop Speed: 155 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
    Combined/City/Highway: 27/24/33 mpg

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    Prototype Drive: Hyundai RM20e Teases the Future of N

    Hyundai’s N performance subbrand is not big on concept cars, at least not in the traditional sense. Rather than the superficial glitz of auto show mockups, the group prefers its science projects to have the substance of rolling development platforms. Witness the evolution of its RM prototypes, which the company has utilized since 2012 to refine its performance ethos and flesh out new technologies, largely with a focus on mid-mounted internal-combustion powertrains. But to show how its RM program relates to an automotive world that is quickly going electric, Hyundai invited us to drive its latest version, the 799-hp RM20e—on a challenging racetrack no less.Seeing as we were already at California’s undulating Sonoma Raceway for the launch of the 276-hp 2022 Elantra N sedan, the timing of our drive was convenient. But it also was significant: Hyundai has numerous EVs in its product pipeline, including at least one dedicated performance model, and the company has struck up a significant development partnership with Croatian EV startup Rimac, maker of the impressively powerful Nevera hypercar.

    In Hyundai-speak, RM stands for a rear-midship powertrain placement, which lends these prototypes a favorable weight distribution and agile handling. They’ve historically used Veloster hatchback body shells with adjustable control-arm rear suspensions and transverse four-bangers stuffed into where the rear seat and cargo area used to be. Recent iterations have taken the form of captive competition vehicles; the RM19 we previously drove is a modified version of the company’s TCR race car, featuring a 390-hp turbo four mated to a six-speed sequential manual. But the RM program has been instrumental in developing new production components, including active exhaust systems, electronically controlled limited-slip differentials, and the current eight-speed dual-clutch automatic found in a few Hyundai Motor Group vehicles.The RM20e is the first electric RM model. Based on the RM19 and its EV counterpart that competes in the burgeoning ETCR racing series, the RM20e is a bundle of flared fenders, carbon fiber, and roll-cage tubing, decked out with aerodynamic appendages and a livery inspired by wiring diagrams. It is unmistakably a race car, complete with harnessed sport seats and a fixed competition steering wheel. Yet, it shares many interior bits with the Veloster N, even its pedals. Big six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers are metered by a motorsports-grade ABS system. And instead of slick tires, the 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels are wrapped with DOT-approved Pirelli P Zero rubber, sized 265/35ZR-19 and 305/30ZR-20, respectively.
    Peer through the rear hatch and you can make out the Rimac label affixed to the rather small (60.0-kWh gross capacity) battery sitting atop the rear axle. With a stout 800-volt output, the lithium-ion pack feeds four motors that are mounted in pairs to power each rear wheel independently, allowing torque-vectoring capability. Maximum output is 799 horsepower and 708 pound-feet of torque, with the battery capable of being recharged from zero to 80 percent in a claimed 30 minutes. At more than 4100 pounds, the RM20e weighs half a ton more than the RM19, yet we have little reason to doubt Hyundai’s claims that it can hit 60 mph in less than three seconds and 124 mph in under 10.The RM20e is noisy for an electric vehicle, and we mean that as a compliment. In addition to the whine from its direct-drive gearboxes with straight-cut gears, an array of speakers and amplifiers mounted both inside and outside the car can emit several sound-and-vibration profiles, from the authentic whir of an electric motor to a deeper, V-8-inspired thrum. The latter will never be confused with the rumble of a small-block, but it does give the car the effect of having a lumpy idle when parked. Toe into the surprisingly progressive accelerator, and the sound builds to a high-pitched warble, joining a chorus of go-fast noises from the cargo area. Fully programmable and adding some welcome entertainment to the often-dull vibe of driving an EV—Hyundai says the system can even simulate gear changes for additional theater—it’s a fitting technology from the maker of some of the best-sounding four-cylinder engines extant.
    The RM20e is 5.3 inches wider than a Veloster N, yet its axles are only about an inch farther apart, at 105.2 inches. With its squat footprint and rear-weight bias, it’s not the easiest car to drive quickly. Trail-brake into a corner or disrespect the accelerator and it will bite, breaking loose in a pronounced yet controllable slide—even with the power turned down and the multi-stage traction control fully activated via buttons on the steering wheel. But once acclimated to how easily this car rotates around its center axis, it feels balanced and responsive, with laser-sharp steering and absolutely zero body roll. Our confidence grew as we progressed from a warm-up on an autocross course to laps of Sonoma’s big track. The full hit of the RM20e’s instant torque squishes you into the seatback and erases short straightaways in a blink, with the noise from the audio system elevating the excitement to what we expect from something with 799 horsepower. The greatest challenges came from toying with the various levels of regen under braking (effectively changing the brake balance) and adjusting to the seemingly endless powerband with no gears to shift through.Hyundai’s engineers were obviously eager to talk about the next N model, even if they remained tightlipped regarding specifics, only hinting at an N drift mode and promising more details soon. Also of continued interest is the company’s commitment to hydrogen fuel cells, which has spawned both the portable fuel-cell generator that was on hand to charge the RM20e and the recent 671-hp Vision FK concept sports car that was co-developed with Rimac. That technology is likely further down the product pipeline, but experiencing the RM program firsthand left us excited for the future of Hyundai’s performance cars, regardless of what powers their wheels.

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    2022 Porsche Taycan GTS Looks Fierce, Has Performance to Match

    It would be an understatement to say that the Porsche Taycan has been a raging success. In just two years, this svelte four-door electric sport sedan has already begun to outsell the vaunted Porsche 911, the iconic heart and soul of the brand. It has also proven wildly successful even when compared to Tesla, the established EV juggernaut. Through the first three quarters of 2021, Taycan sales far outstripped those of the Model S and Model X combined. Porsche is keeping up the pressure by introducing the new-for-’22 Taycan GTS, a stunning driver-focused variant that neatly slots into a price and performance gap in the Taycan lineup.Until now, the step up from the dual-motor all-wheel-drive Taycan 4S to the Turbo has been a humongous one. The price gap is nearly $42,000 after you equip the 4S with the 83.7-kWh Performance Battery Plus option that’s standard on the Turbo, but your big-battery 4S will still give up 108 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque to the Turbo’s 670 horsepower and 626 pound-feet of maximum output. This leaves a lot of white space for the Taycan GTS, which slots in about midway between the two in price while delivering a stout 590 horsepower and a Turbo-matching 626 pound-feet. Range figures are not yet available, but Porsche hinted that the GTS could better the 227-mile range of the 2021 4S. But the best part may be what happens—or doesn’t—when jawing with folks at your local Cars & Coffee. No one is going to be needling you about the word Turbo on the ass end of your electric Porsche.

    Besides, there will be far more interesting things than badges to discuss when your GTS is parked, simply because it looks far more purposeful and menacing than any of its siblings. This begins up front with a blacked-out SportDesign chin spoiler and enlarged air-curtain ducts below the black-background headlight buckets. Along the sides, there are blacked-out side-glass surround moldings and deeper SportDesign side skirts with gloss-black inserts replacing body color. The rear diffuser is likewise accented with gloss black instead of body color, and the word Porsche in the translucent taillight band is accented in black. The GTS rolls on satin-black wheels with sizable red calipers peeking through—20-inch Turbo S Aero Design wheels in standard trim or our sample car’s racier 21-inch forged RS Spyder design wheels with massive 265/35R-21 front and 305/30R-21 rear tires. And yes, there’s a Taycan GTS badge on the tail, also in black.
    The blacked-out theme continues inside, where you’ll find a GTS interior dominated by black Race-Tex, Porsche’s faux-suede material. It’s the primary treatment on the standard 18-way adaptive sport seats, the headliner, roof pillars, and sun visors. It covers the horizontal design axis below the dash top and the central spine that divides the cockpit. It’s also the grippy wrapping material on the multifunction GT sport steering wheel, which is equipped with a prominent driving mode dial because the Sport Chrono package comes standard on the GTS. The cabin also features red stitching throughout, and dark-finish brushed-aluminum trim—unless you opt for matte-black carbon fiber, as in our car. As an option, there’s a panoramic sunroof with a new Variable Light Control system, an embedded array of nine massive car-spanning LCD segments that can be manipulated using a touchscreen interface.We’ve driven many flavors of the Taycan, and they’ve always impressed. But the GTS takes it to another level, with an intentionally more driver-focused setup that delivers the kind of fierce capability that’s implied by its no-nonsense looks. The same adaptive air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) systems are present, but they’ve been thoroughly recalibrated with the aim of creating a more neutral cornering attitude and better turn-in response. The tweaks extend to the standard Torque Vectoring Plus and Power Steering Plus systems, as well as the optional rear-steer system and PDCC adaptive anti-roll bars. The engineering team has absolutely succeeded, as the front end feels far more responsive when pushed hard in tight bends. The buildup of steering effort in all types of corners is especially authentic because the electric power-steering system utilizes a unique feedback loop that considers the road forces pushing in from the tie-rod ends and tweaks the level of assist according to the GTS playbook.
    A good deal of our driving occurred on the Big Willow track at Willow Springs, and here the Taycan GTS proved to be a potent track car with predictable and approachable limits. This venerable track needs repaving, but the cracked surface only served to show how tenacious, unruffled, and downright smooth the GTS can be when pushed hard on a less-than-perfect surface. We nudged the limits of the stability-control system on a tight right-hander that crests a hill, but a one-second press of the Traction Management button toggled the system to Sport mode and expanded the intervention limits enough to get through the same section with our foot hard on the accelerator the next time around. Afterwards, we were fully able to review and break down the game film via the Porsche Track Precision app for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Controlled via the main touchscreen, these apps integrate data streaming from the car’s onboard systems with a smartphone camera or Bluetooth-connected GoPro to produce detailed driving traces that are fully synchronized with video. The Taycan GTS represents the first integration of this app in a Porsche four-door, and it can absolutely produce performance worthy of this level of track-day nerdery.
    Once again, Porsche has proven that the GTS trim level is the one that driving enthusiasts should slaver over. The 2022 Porsche Taycan GTS does not have as much ultimate horsepower or straight-line punch as the Turbo and Turbo S, but it’s no slouch, and you can absolutely wring it out when the road turns twisty. It starts at $132,750, but as with any Porsche, you can inflate that quite a bit with options. Our sample car was priced at $180,070. Deliveries are set to begin in early 2022, but the order books are open now. If you have the means, we suggest you get cracking, because Taycans of all stripes are in increasingly high demand. The Taycan GTS will only add more fuel to the fire.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Porsche Taycan GTSVehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 4- or 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
    PRICE
    Base: $132,750
    POWERTRAIN
    Front Motor: permanent-magnet synchronous ACRear Motor: permanent-magnet synchronous ACCombined Power: 590 hpCombined Torque: 626 lb-ftBattery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 83.7 kWhOnboard Charger: 9.6 or 19.2 kWTransmissions, F/R: direct-drive/2-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 114.2 inLength: 195.4 inWidth: 77.4 inHeight: 54.4 inPassenger Volume: 88 ft3Cargo Volume: 17 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 5100 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 3.1 sec100 mph: 7.8 sec1/4-Mile: 11.4 secTop Speed: 155 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
    Combined/City/Highway: 75/73/78 MPGeRange: 235 mi

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    2022 Hyundai Elantra N Brings Four-Door Fun

    The demise of the sedan has been highly exaggerated. True, many of today’s examples have adopted sleek, flowing rooflines, and some manufacturers have abandoned cars almost entirely. But plenty of exciting three-box four-doors have thrived into the modern age of the crossover, from wickedly powerful supersedans, like the 10Best-winning Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, to updated versions of the Honda Civic Si and Subaru WRX. New to that list is the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N, the latest sport-compact extension of the company’s N performance subbrand. The front-wheel-drive Elantra N falls into the no-brainer category of product development. Not to be confused with the lesser Elantra N Line—a 201-hp pepperoncini to the 276-hp habanero that is the full N version—this new model simply wraps the turbocharged goodness of the Veloster N hatchback and also-new Kona N crossover in the packaging of Hyundai’s redesigned compact sedan. This is a good thing. Our long-term 2019 Veloster N thoroughly entertained us over 40,000 miles, a mid-cycle update brought meaningful improvements to that car for the 2021 model year, and the higher-riding Kona N is a hoot in its own right, albeit lacking a manual transmission option.

    Sedans have often served as stealthier body styles compared to more extroverted hot hatches and coupes. But that’s not necessarily the case with the Elantra N, what with its red exterior accents, rear deck spoiler, and darkened model-specific grille that gives it the face of an angry catfish. Uncork the Elantra N’s active exhaust system and its 2.0-liter turbo four—mated to either a standard six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with launch control—emits the same popping, crackling growl that makes its siblings such aural treats to drive hard. We recommend a darker exterior color if you want to keep a low profile, though the latest Elantra does wear N’s signature Performance Blue paint well. The ingredients for the Elantra N are mostly the same as those for its Veloster and Kona counterparts. There are numerous preset drive modes, and the 10.3-inch touchscreen allows you to configure two steering-wheel-mounted buttons with Custom settings for throttle sensitivity, steering weight, the lockup of the electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and more. Also on the wheel is a large red button for adjusting the automatic rev matching feature on manual cars or activating the automatic model’s N Grin Shift overboost feature, which unleashes 10 additional horsepower (for a total of 286) in 20-second bursts.
    Based on Hyundai’s latest K3 compact car platform, the Elantra N shares the N Line model’s multilink rear suspension instead of the standard car’s rear torsion beam. Updates for N duty include adaptive dampers and a stiffer rear anti-roll bar, reinforced front strut towers, and a chassis brace behind the rear seats that connects the suspension’s uprights. The brakes feature larger rotors—14.2 inches in front, 12.4 inches out back—and all Elantra Ns roll on intricate 19-inch wheels shod with 245/35R-19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires—the widest rubber yet fitted to an N car. Also model specific is a racing-inspired front-axle design that integrates the drive shafts with the wheel hub and bearing assemblies, which the company says improves rigidity and saves roughly seven pounds. Overall mass should be slightly greater than the Veloster N’s and range from 3200 to 3300 pounds, with 60-mph times coming in between 4.8 and 5.3 seconds, depending on the transmission.Though we’ve previously driven a prototype, this was our first stint in the production car, which was primarily limited to the grounds of Northern California’s undulating Sonoma Raceway. But it only took a quick jaunt on a nearby back road to reveal that the Elantra N rides far more comfortably than the Veloster N, thanks to its newer platform and 2.8-inch longer wheelbase. While both cars offer similar levels of composure, the sedan’s firmest damper setting is comparable to the stubbier hatchback’s softest, which we’ve described as barely tolerable on less-than-perfect pavement. Unsurprisingly, the wheelbase stretch also translates to a more welcoming back seat with two full doors, nearly four additional inches of legroom, and a smidge more headroom under the sloping roofline. The attractive and supportive front seats that are shared with the hatchback also have been mounted 0.4 inch lower compared to lesser Elantras, making it easier to fit inside with a helmet on.

    Despite its rather livable character, the Elantra N displays the rowdy playfulness that we’ve come to expect from the N subbrand. Though not as planted or talkative at speed as, say, a Honda Civic Type R, the Elantra N’s direct steering allows it to navigate a twisty racetrack with precision. Power out of a corner and the electronically controlled front differential limits understeer to a slight push and almost eliminates torque steer. The strong brakes are well matched to the car’s power, and the suspension has a reassuring balance, shrugging off Sonoma Raceway’s curbing yet maintaining solid body control through both fast sweepers and tighter hairpins. The Elantra N obediently tucks into line around corners when you let off the gas, and the intervention of its three-stage stability control is fairly lenient in its more aggressive settings. The real entertainment comes in surges as you wind the engine to redline and fill the cabin with sound, from the brap of the exhaust to its augmentation through the stereo speakers. There’s even an equalizer function for tailoring the soundtrack’s volume and tone. While the automatic is surely the quicker setup—despite the additional mass it brings versus the manual—working the six-speed stick and well-positioned pedals is far more satisfying, especially with the manual’s no-lift shift feature. As with the Veloster N, the manual transmission also is the more efficient setup, earning an EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined to the dual-clutch’s 23 mpg.
    Hyundai is still coy about pricing ahead of the Elantra N’s on-sale date later this year. But we expect a base price in the low-$30,000 range, which will include an array of active safety features, the updated 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster and touchscreen interfaces, and a sunroof on cars equipped with the automatic. Aside from paint color and transmission choice, there are no options. Hyundai makes a point to emphasize entertainment over outright performance with its current N lineup, and it shows. The addition of a better-riding and more spacious sedan variant makes that fun factor even easier to enjoy.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Hyundai Elantra NVehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
    PRICE (C/D EST)
    Base: $30,000
    ENGINE
    turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 122 in3, 1998 cm3Power: 276 or 286 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque: 289 lb-ft @ 2100 rpm
    TRANSMISSIONS
    6-speed manual, 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 107.1 inLength: 184.1 inWidth: 71.9 inHeight: 55.7 inPassenger Volume: 101 ft3Trunk Volume: 14 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 3200–3300 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 4.8–5.3 sec100 mph: 12.2–12.7 sec1/4-Mile: 13.4–13.9 secTop Speed: 155 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 23–25/20–22/30–31 mpg

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    2022 Nissan Rogue Gets a High-Tech Variable-Compression-Ratio Engine

    A lot of people probably don’t know—or care—what’s under the hood of their daily driver. If it gets them where they need to go and delivers decent fuel economy, who cares how much horsepower the engine has or what type of transmission it uses? Well, credit Nissan for caring because one year after the company introduced a fully redesigned Rogue, it has swapped the compact SUV’s indifferent 2.5-liter four-cylinder for a punchy turbocharged three and paired it with a new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Not only does the updated powertrain make the 2022 Nissan Rogue quicker and more powerful, but it promises better fuel economy too.One of our few gripes about the new-for-2021 Rogue was the so-so performance of its naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four. With only 181 horses and 181 pound-feet of torque, the engine was among the weakest in its class and provided unremarkable acceleration. Most vehicles in this class offer more than one powertrain choice, including turbocharged engines or hybrid options, but the redesigned Rogue retained its one-size-fits-all approach to propulsion. And while that’s still the case, the Rogue’s new prime mover is the latest iteration of the company’s innovative, albeit complex, variable-compression-ratio turbocharged engine. A 2.0-liter VC-Turbo inline-four first appeared in the 2019 Infiniti QX50 before also powering upper-crust versions of the Nissan Altima.

    The VC-Turbo’s ingenious mechanism to move the crankshaft slightly allows the engine to adjust its compression ratio on the fly, between 14.0:1 for maximum efficiency and 8.0:1 to enable max boost. The Rogue’s new 1.5-liter three-cylinder is basically the Altima’s 2.0-liter with one cylinder lopped off. This new, smaller three-cylinder variant generates 201 horses and 225 pound-feet of torque, which is 20 horsepower and 44 pound-feet more than last year’s Rogue and 47 horsepower and 48 pound-feet fewer than the Altima’s 2.0-liter version. Notably, the Rogue’s VC-Turbo makes those peak-output figures on regular 87 octane rather than pricier premium fuel. To compensate for the newfound torque and quell any three-cylinder thrash, the 1.5-liter gets hydraulic engine mounts. The other new addition is Nissan’s latest Xtronic CVT with a wider gear-ratio spread (increased by 17 percent to 8.2), reduced friction (down 32 percent), and a twin oil pump system that’s designed to increase fuel economy and, during aggressive driving, improve shift responsiveness.
    Compared with the old 2.5-liter, the VC-Turbo makes the Rogue feel considerably peppier underfoot. Despite the 2021 Rogue’s class-competitive 8.2-second sprint to 60 mph, the previous powertrain felt relaxed to the point of lethargy, particularly during passing maneuvers. We’ll compare subjective opinion to objective results once we get one to the track, but we expect the new Rogue to knock about a half-second off the zero-to-60-mph time. Numbers aside, there’s now a reassuring wave of torque that peaks at 2800 rpm and continues up to 4000 rpm, fattening up the midrange response. The new Rogue delivers its power more quickly, if not always more linearly. Mashing the throttle reveals an initial hesitancy before a sudden surge of thrust; with variable compression and a continuously variable transmission, there are a lot of variables to align before your throttle input translates to action. Prolonged time with the accelerator near the floor elicits a dull roar underhood, but otherwise, the cabin is a hushed and spacious place.
    Along with its increased power, the downsized engine also delivers better fuel-economy figures. With EPA ratings as high as 33 mpg combined—Nissan wouldn’t yet elaborate on city or highway values or with all-wheel drive—the front-wheel-drive Rogue improves on its predecessor’s numbers by about 10 percent. For comparison, nonhybrid rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 both top out at 30 mpg combined. Since our drive route was limited to roughly 30 miles of mixed driving on the streets and highways around Detroit, we’ll need an extended test to evaluate the Nissan’s real-world mpg. (In the case of the Infiniti QX50 with the VC-Turbo, our observed mileage in our 75-mph highway test fell short of the EPA numbers, 27 mpg compared to 30 mpg EPA highway.) The short trip did allow us to appreciate the Rogue’s all-day-comfortable driver’s seat and the top-of-the-line Platinum’s rich-looking interior. We’re happy that wireless Apple CarPlay comes with the larger 9.0-inch touchscreen, but Android Auto still requires a wire, and we’re not impressed with the display’s low-res graphics. Plus, the built-in navigation system got us lost.The 2022 Rogue arrives at dealerships in January. We’re told that all models will cost either $650 or $750 more than their 2021 counterparts (depending on whether they’re front- or all-wheel drive), which suggests a price range of $27,875 to $39,155. We doubt that too many crossover buyers will appreciate the technical wizardry of variable compression, but all of them should recognize that this clever new engine puts the Rogue driving experience more in line with the promise of its name.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Nissan RogueVehicle Type: front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
    PRICE
    S, $27,875; S AWD, $29,375; SV, $29,565; SV AWD, $31,065; SL, $34,225; SL AWD, $35,725; Platinum, $37,655; Platinum AWD, $39,155
    ENGINE
    turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 12-valve Miller-cycle inline-3, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 90–91 in3, 1478–1498 cm3Power: 201 hp @ 5600 rpmTorque: 225 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
    TRANSMISSION
    continuously variable automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 106.5 inLength: 183.0 inWidth: 72.4 inHeight: 66.9 inPassenger Volume: 101–106 ft3/
    Cargo Volume: 39 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): ¬3400–3650 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 7.5–7.7 sec1/4-Mile: 15.7–15.9 secTop Speed: 116 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
    Combined/City/Highway: 32–33/29–30/35–37 mpg

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    2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Reaches New Heights

    It’s been a mixed bag recently for Jeep Grand Cherokee aficionados. A new three-row Grand Cherokee L debuted for the 2021 model year to much fanfare, but the GC’s two-row fourth-generation variant has soldiered on unchanged, despite being on the market for 11 long years. A redesigned two-row Grand Cherokee has been eagerly anticipated, and our initial experience with the 2022 model tells us that the patience of its fan base will be rewarded—if they’re willing to pay for more than a decade’s worth of catch-up. The new standard two-row Grand Cherokee is some 11.4 inches shorter than its three-row L counterpart. More to the point, it’s 3.7 inches longer, an inch wider, and has a lower roofline than the outgoing model. It rides on a 116.7-inch wheelbase that’s exactly two inches longer than before, and the track width is up 1.4 inches. The result is a subtle swelling that’s almost undetectable because its proportions remain pure Grand Cherokee. There’s a certain fireplug stoutness to its shape, with its straight character lines, tented greenhouse, trapezoidal wheel arches, and a tapered D-pillar that tips forward a bit more than the boxier three-row L’s. This time out the hood is a bit longer, and the nose and requisite seven-slot grille are canted slightly forward, à la Jeep J-series. Consider yourself forgiven if you didn’t notice that the side glass extends nearly a half inch lower, improving visibility.

    Despite its growth, Jeep says the new Grand Cherokee weighs about 250 pounds less than before. You can’t point to just one change to explain this, as it derives from numerous advancements. The unibody structure now contains more high-strength steel, there’s more aluminum in the upper body, and the rear liftgate is made from a combination of aluminum and composite materials. The front subframe cradle is now made of aluminum, as are nearly all of the front and rear suspension pieces. The front axle shafts on four-wheel-drive models are hollow, and they run through the oil pan so the engine can sit about 1.5 inches lower.The available engines—a standard 293-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and an optional 357-hp 5.7-liter V-8—largely carry over. Both remain paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, though minor tweaks have added 1 mpg to the EPA combined estimate for V-6 models, now to 22 mpg. V-8 models continue to carry a federal combined score of 17 mpg yet gain a shorter final-drive ratio that helps them get off the line a little better than before. Maximum towing capacities remain unchanged at 6200 pounds for the V-6 and 7200 pounds for the V-8.
    Less weight and an engine mounted lower in the chassis can aid handling, but the new Grand Cherokee also employs revised multilink front and rear suspension, which contribute to its pleasantly direct steering, steady cornering attitude, and its ability to soak up bumps like never before. The vehicles we drove were fitted with optional air springs and adaptive dampers, a combination that delivered impressive composure and admirable isolation over neglected asphalt, even when riding on the Summit Reserve model’s 21-inch wheels. We also sampled a more rugged Overland model with 18-inch wheels on gnarled dirt roads and came away equally impressed. As before, the Trailhawk model is the real off-road star of the lineup. It starts with standard air springs, which can now deliver 11.3 inches of ground clearance in their highest setting, plus a reshaped front fascia that helps boost the approach angle from a previous 30 degrees to 36. Breakover and departure angles also have been improved, while an electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar translates to more than five additional inches of suspension droop in frame-twisting situations, as well as considerably less head toss when traversing uneven terrain. The Trailhawk also comes with the top Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system, which combines the lesser Quadra-Trac II system’s two-speed transfer case and 2.72:1 low-range gearing with a limited-slip differential. Add in 18-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT tires, a forward-looking off-road camera that can peek over crests, and an automatic crawl control system, and you’ve got a great turnkey off-road SUV that’s still impressively civilized on asphalt.
    Most people will never push their Grand Cherokees to the max off-road, but occupants will be massively impressed with the new model’s refined interior design and upgraded materials. Standard equipment across all trim levels includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and a meaty tilt-and-telescope steering wheel that simply feels good in the hands. Rear-seat legroom is solid and a smidge better than before, but those seeking cavernous interior appointments likely are already eyeballing the three-row L model. Techwise, the GC has come a long way. A responsive Uconnect 5 infotainment system is standard and features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android connectivity. An 8.5-inch touchscreen is included on most trims, with a 10.1-inch setup available on Limited trims and above. An interactive front-passenger display also is available in the Trailhawk on up, and it’s angled away from the driver so the passenger can watch movies via Amazon Fire accounts without distracting the pilot. The person riding shotgun also can play DJ, seek out map destinations and port them to the main display, or see what the kids are watching on the optional Fire TV–enabled back-seat screens. Meanwhile, the driver can gaze out through the optional head-up display while sampling the optional 950-watt, 19-speaker McIntosh audio system. In the background, all Grand Cherokees come with adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, rear park-assist sensors, and more.
    Production is set to kick off in late November, with some trickling into dealerships before the end of the year. Technically, there are five trim levels: Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit. You may see mention of the Altitude trim, but it’s actually a $4555 package on the Laredo. Likewise, the Summit Reserve is really a $4000 option bundle atop the regular Summit. Pricing for rear-drive models starts at $39,185 for the Laredo and extends to $59,160 for the Summit. Four-wheel drive is an additional $2000 on anything but the Trailhawk, where it’s standard, and the V-8 adds another $3295 to the Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit. There will be a 4xe plug-in hybrid powertrain in the near future, but its pricing hasn’t been finalized. For now, the top of the heap is the four-wheel-drive Summit Reserve with the V-8 at $68,455 to start. What this boils down to is roughly a $3000 increase for most models compared to the outgoing versions—except for Trailhawk and Overland, which are up by $5000 or so.That increase probably doesn’t matter, though. The latest Ram 1500 and Jeep Wrangler brought upcharges when they debuted, yet their overall success has shown that customers are apt to gloss over price hikes if there also are meaningful upticks in interior quality and feature content. The new Grand Cherokee brings all that and more, including significant improvements to its chassis. Jeep’s iconic luxury SUV doesn’t just look like it costs more, it drives like it too.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Jeep Grand CherokeeVehicle Type: front-engine; rear-, all-, or 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
    PRICE
    Base: Laredo, $39,185; Limited, $45,505; Trailhawk, $53,070; Overland, $55,100; Summit, $59,160
    ENGINES
    DOHC 24-valve 3.6-liter V-6, 293 hp, 260 lb-ft; pushrod 16-valve 5.7-liter V-8, 357 hp, 390 lb-ft
    TRANSMISSION
    8-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 116.7 inLength: 193.5 inWidth: 77.5 inHeight: 70.8–70.9 inPassenger Volume: 107 ft3Cargo Volume: 38 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 4250–5050 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 6.6–8.2 sec1/4-Mile: 15.0–15.7 secTop Speed: 120 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 17–21/14–19/22–26 mpg

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    2022 Ferrari 812 Competizione Caps Off an Era

    If it feels like we’ve been saying goodbye a lot lately, that’s because we have. The Ferrari 812 Competizione isn’t just the last version of the F12 that launched in 2012, it likely also will be the last new Ferrari that isn’t a hybrid. Every prancing horse that follows it will have a battery pack and an electric motor to aid acceleration, improve efficiency, and reduce emissions. With the LaFerrari and the SF90, Ferrari has proved that it can integrate and optimize a hybrid system for performance, so we’re not too concerned about the short-term future. But the 812 Competizione does feel like the end of an era—the last glorious stand of the nonhybrid V-12-powered Ferrari.The 6.5-liter V-12 under the hood of the new Ferrari 812 Competizione is an internal-combustion exclamation mark. It types in ALL CAPS as it revs all the way to a valvetrain-pulverizing 9500 rpm. Suddenly the 8600-rpm redline of the new Chevy Corvette Z06 doesn’t seem so impressive.

    Granted, at $601,570, the Competizione costs a lot more than a Z06, and the production run of 500 coupes and 312 Competizione A models—the A is for Aperta, or “open” in Italian—are all spoken for. What those very lucky buyers will get is an 819-hp V-12 to end all V-12s. To bump the redline up by 500 rpm over the 812 Superfast’s already-dizzying 9000-rpm limit, the Competizione’s engine gets titanium connecting rods, a lighter crankshaft, a new cylinder head with finger-follower actuated valves, and diamond-like carbon coating on several surfaces to reduce friction. A redesigned oil tank better handles lateral and longitudinal forces, and it holds a less-viscous oil than other V-12 Ferraris, allowing a variable-rate oil pump to move the engine’s blood more efficiently and at a greater rate. Thinner oil is the equivalent of this car being on blood thinners. No one wants a clot. If the 812 Superfast is truth in advertising, then the Competizione is super-duper fast. Your mind struggles to process the experience because your senses can’t quite keep up. Surges to the 9250-rpm power peak in first and second gear happen so quickly that if you think about anything but pulling the right shift paddle, you’ll bang into the rev limiter. Thoughtfully, Ferrari fits shift lights on the top of the steering wheel to help track the approaching redline. They’re your only hope of getting it right.
    Even in the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic’s higher gears, the engine pulls doggedly and fast to the redline. Power delivery is exactly what you’d hope for in a 12-cylinder car: smooth, linear, and uninterrupted. From the outside, the sound is right out of the combustion engine’s greatest-hits album. Inside, the engine growls deeply and directly through the redesigned intake. Hold the accelerator down and straights shrink to nothing, with braking zones arriving sooner than expected. Front brake calipers borrowed from the SF90 feature integrated cooling ducts to improve fade resistance and facilitate the removal of dedicated brake ducting.To keep the Competizione on the ground, Ferrari added a new rear diffuser and a revised rear-spoiler profile. The most obvious change made to satisfy the air is the rear window, which is no longer a window. Instead of rear glass, a lighter-than-glass panel with riblike protrusions disrupts the airflow, helping balance the downforce acting on the rear of the car. There’s still an inside rearview mirror, but it projects what the little camera stuck on the panel sees out back.

    Typical of Ferrari, steering efforts are light. Quick to respond to every tiny movement, the nose moves with an amazing agility that never seems darty or nervous. Even with a big V-12 up front, the Competizione manages to carry 49 percent of its weight over the nose (thank you, rear-mounted transaxle). Helping to keep this missile stable is a retuned rear-wheel-steering system. In addition to moving in response to steering inputs, the rear steer now acts without steering-wheel input to stabilize the car or help mitigate understeer. Brake hard in a straight line and the system will toe the rear wheels in to keep the car on its path. In our few laps around Ferrari’s test track, we didn’t exactly notice the system at play, but the Competizione is without bad habits, and the predictable handling engenders the confidence to whip this ridiculously expensive and powerful car around a racetrack.
    For the trackbound, Ferrari offers a Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R tire option. Base versions (if something this expensive can be called “base”) ride on Pirelli P Zero Corsa PZ4Cs. Tire width remains the same as on the Superfast—275/35R-20s in front and 315/35R-20s in back—but the aggressive Michelins (and even the Corsas) should better the Superfast’s 1.00 g of grip we measured on the skidpad back in 2018. Those grip levels take a bit of getting used to—we didn’t drive on the Pirellis—but so do the power, the sound, and the entire experience. There’s joy in the challenge of probing the Competizione’s limits and switching the steering-wheel knob (manettino) from Race to C/T off, the setting that dials back the stability control and shuts off the traction control. A mix of tradition and technology, the Competizione carries its V-12 proudly up front as if this is still the early 1960s. But every inch of the car has been tweaked and pushed to technological limits. The only thing left is to add an electric motor to the mix. And that’s likely what will happen with every Ferrari from here on out.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Ferrari 812 CompetizioneVehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door hatchback
    PRICE
    Base: $601,570
    ENGINE
    DOHC 48-valve V-12, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 396 in3, 6496 cm3Power: 819 hp @ 9250 rpmTorque: 510 lb-ft @ 7000 rpm
    TRANSMISSION
    7-speed dual-clutch automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 107.1 inLength: 184.9 inWidth: 77.6 inHeight: 50.2 inCargo Volume: 18 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 3750 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 2.6 sec100 mph: 5.6 sec1/4-Mile: 10.3 secTop Speed: 212 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 14/12/16 mpg

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