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    2022 Ford Expedition Goes Big on Power and Tech

    Over the course of four model years, the current-generation Ford Expedition has gone from one of the full-size SUV segment’s newest entrants to one of its oldest. With the 2021 redesigns of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, the rebirth of the Jeep Wagoneer for the 2022 model year, and the imminent arrival of a new 2023 Toyota Sequoia, the aging Expedition now finds itself grouped with the even older Nissan Armada. Rather than rest on laurels, Ford has thoroughly updated the Expedition and its extended Expedition Max counterpart for 2022, donning it with more attractive and memorable front and rear ends, a modern dashboard design, new trim packages, the availability of Ford’s latest infotainment and driver-assist technology, and slightly more power.Expeditious ExpeditionA twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 continues to power every 2022 Expedition. The engine now produces 380 horsepower (five more than before) in XL STX and XLT trims. Higher-end Limited, King Ranch, and Platinum models get a boost to 400 ponies, which Ford previously reserved only for the Platinum. Check the option box for the Limited’s available Stealth Performance bundle or opt for the off-road-oriented Timberline trim and the output swells to 440 horsepower, a sum shared with the mechanically similar Lincoln Navigator.

    Both the Stealth Performance package and the Timberline are new to the Expedition lineup for 2022. The former setup pairs the top powertrain’s additional grunt with model-specific tuning for the suspension and brake pedal, neither of which notably improved the Expedition’s plodding dynamics during our drive on the largely straight, flat, and surprisingly heavily trafficked two-lane roads around Holly, Michigan. But the boosted V-6 and the standard 10-speed automatic transmission gave us little reason to suspect anything amiss about the Stealth Performance package’s straight-line power. The setup shares the minimal turbo lag and the deluge of low-end torque (its 510 lb-ft of twist peaks at 2250 rpm) of its less powerful stablemates. We figure this new configuration should cut a few ticks from the 5.7-second run to 60 mph that we recorded for a 400-hp 2018 Expedition Platinum.
    Though the Stealth Performance package’s suspension updates and accompanying adaptive dampers seem to quell excess body motions without noticeably affecting ride quality, the setup fails to make the Expedition any less cumbersome. The regular version’s 210.0-inch length and slow, numb steering exacerbate the Expedition’s unwieldy nature in urban environments.Given its $76,955 cost of entry (nearly $10,000 more than a base Expedition Limited), the Stealth Performance package seems to offer minimal performance enhancements for a hefty premium. Admittedly, this sum also brings a handful of handsome styling details, including black-painted 22-inch wheels, black exterior decor, red-painted brake calipers, and red stitching throughout the cabin. But many of these decorative items are availble with the simpler Stealth package, which costs over $5000 less.
    Platinum BluesWe’d wager that those in the market to spend north of $75K on an Expedition should look to the $80,095 Platinum model. Besides ditching the standard analog gauges and 12.0-inch touchscreen infotainment setup for a 12.4-inch digital gauge cluster and a portrait-oriented 15.5-inch touchscreen, the Platinum also includes Ford’s BlueCruise hands-free driving assistant. Unlike the big screens that are optional on a number of other Expedition models, BlueCruise is a Platinum-exclusive feature that allows the driver to cede control of the vehicle on more than 130,000 miles of divided roads at speeds up to 80 mph. In practice, the setup performed as advertised on a short stretch of I-75. Still, BlueCruise remains a step behind General Motors’ Super Cruise, which enables hands-free driving at higher speeds and, in its latest iteration, performs automatic passing maneuvers. (Ford plans to add that latter feature to BlueCruise via an over-the-air update.) Potential high-dollar buyers unmoved by BlueCruise’s capabilities may want to consider stepping up to a fancier full-sizer, such as the $78,330 Lincoln Navigator. Whereas the Expedition’s cabin relies on hard plastics befitting the entry-level $54,315 XL STX’s base price, the Navigator’s high-quality insides look and feel like those of a proper luxury vehicle. Though the Lincoln’s 13.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system lacks some of the pizazz of the Ford’s available display, its landscape orientation and physical buttons make it far easier to operate on the move.
    The Expedition’s big screen, on the other hand, relies almost entirely on touch-sensitive on-screen buttons that occasionally require a brief glance to identify, particularly the low-mounted climate-control functions. Of course, sticking to the Expedition’s smaller touchscreen largely eliminates this issue, as it, like the Lincoln, employs physical climate-control and audio switches. Breaking TrailThose bent on buying a 440-hp Expedition may want to set their sights on the new $71,390 Timberline model. Ford limits this trail-friendly trim to the standard-wheelbase version and offers it strictly with four-wheel drive (a $3050 extra on all other Expeditions). Alongside its distinct styling and decor—beefy front and rear bumpers, red tow hooks, black-painted 18-inch wheels, and green interior upholstery with contrasting orange stitching—the Timberline includes a multitude of hardware enhancements that we put to use at Holly Oaks ORV Park.
    Despite its girth, the Timberline clambered over rocks and ruts with little drama, its knobby 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires gripping the trail’s dusty surface as F-150 Raptor–sourced skidplates clanked and clanged against the undulating terrain. As in the Bronco, a Trail Turn Assist function can brake the inside rear wheel to help the Timberline pivot around tight turns. With 10.6 inches of ground clearance plus greater approach, departure, and break-over angles—28.5, 23.7, and 21.9 degrees, respectively—the Timberline ably ascended and descended large rock faces that probably would have hung up its less capable siblings. Meanwhile, its two-speed transfer case and electronically locking rear differential helped this full-size Ford crawl through sand and mud pits with ease. We’re anxious to see how this setup compares to other trail-oriented big rigs, such as the Tahoe Z71, the Yukon AT4, and the Sequoia TRD Pro. While the 2022 Ford Expedition is no longer the young gun in the segment, its revised looks, extra power, additional trim packages, and available hands-free driving tech certainly enhance its appeal, even if its trucklike driving characteristics and middling interior materials remain. In a highly competitive segment, Ford’s full-size SUV remains solidly capable and has even learned a few new tricks.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Ford ExpeditionVehicle Type: front-engine, rear- or rear/4-wheel-drive, 5–8-passenger, 4-door wagon
    PRICE
    Expedition, $54,315–$83,145; Expedition Max, $60,380–$85,145
    ENGINE
    twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 213 in3, 3492 cm3Power: 380–440 hp @ 5000 rpmTorque: 470–510 lb-ft @ 2250 rpm
    TRANSMISSION
    10-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 122.5–131.6 inLength: 210.0–221.9 inWidth: 79.9 inHeight: 76.2–76.6 inPassenger Volume: 172 ft3Cargo Volume: 19–34 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 5500–5900 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 5.3–5.7 sec1/4-Mile: 13.9–14.3 secTop Speed: 124 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 17–19/15–17/19–23 mpg

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    2023 BMW iX M60 Is about EV Theater

    Compared to a conventional internal-combustion vehicle, an EV’s fewer moving parts, lack of exhaust ruckus, and firewall of computerized insulation limit its avenues for excitement. Standing out requires bold effort, especially for legacy automakers. BMW hasn’t been shy in embracing that tack, asserting its funky side first with the diminutive i3 hatchback and recently with the iX mid-size luxury SUV. Now the brand’s M performance outfit has gotten hold of the iX to create the new 2023 M60 model, though it serves mostly to buff the model’s image with a $106,095 shine. The iX M60 is not the first electric BWM to get an M variant. (The relatively conventional i4 M50 sedan took that honor.) The iX M60 is not a fully vetted M model in the vein of, say, the M3 or the similarly sized X5 M. It’s a half-step above the xDrive50 version, bringing more power, a firmer chassis setup, and a higher sticker price. Visual differences are minimal, amounting to darkened M60 badges on its tail, blue M-branded brake calipers, and specific wheel designs. But the iX’s angular surface treatment and unmistakable grille already make it a peacock, so that’s probably for the best. On the street, the M60 bristles with technology and status, looking and feeling as expensive as it does futuristic.
    The M60’s main draw will be its greater score of electrons, which are converted to a default of 532 horsepower and 749 pound-feet of torque—increases of 16 horses and a big 185 pound-feet over the xDrive50 model. Toggle to Sport mode and the pony count jumps to 610, with a launch-control function temporarily boosting torque to 811 pound-feet. We estimate the M60 should cut 0.7 second from the xDrive50’s 4.0-second 60-mph time. The higher claimed top speed of 155 mph when fitted with optional summer tires (or 130 mph on the standard all-seasons) is less of a factor in markets lacking unrestricted autobahns.

    Like the xDrive50, the all-wheel-drive M60 employs BMW’s current-excited AC motors devoid of rare-earth permanent magnets. While both models feature a similar front-axle motor, the M60’s power bump comes from a stronger rear drive unit plus a more powerful inverter. The xDrive50’s lithium-ion battery (105.2-kWh usable capacity) carries over, as does its 11.0-kW onboard charger. As a result, EPA range estimates fall from the xDrive50’s high of 324 miles to a max of 288 miles for the M60 on its standard 21-inch wheels; go for the 22s like on the cars we drove, and it drops to 274 miles. That said, the xDrive50 returned the second-best range we’ve recorded for an EV on our 75-mph highway test, going 290 miles, highlighting the efficiency of BMW’s EV engineering. Hooked to a DC fast-charger, the company says the M60 can draw power at up to 195 kW and go from a 10 to 80 percent charge in 35 minutes.
    Hit the road in the M60 and it’s tricky to tell if onlookers view it with approval, disgust, or just plain curiosity (we’d wager a mix of all three.) But it is undoubtedly quick and pulls hard well into triple digits. Still, the xDrive50 model’s already near-immediate response to accelerator prods make it plenty rapid. Gauging the more powerful M60’s wallop is a bit like gauging two similar kicks to the backside. To help further distinguish the M60, BMW partnered with acclaimed film score composer Hans Zimmer on a model-specific soundtrack that’s tied to the car’s Sport mode or selectable via its customizable setup. Depending on your views, such sound profiles are either welcomingly invigorating or annoyingly gimmicky. But we did find the M60’s synthesized whirring to be effective at conjuring visions of speeder bikes zipping through the Star Wars universe. Additional theatrical arrangements—Expressive and Relax modes—will come via over-the-air updates. Far more impressive is the iX’s adaptive regenerative braking mode, which uses the car’s sensors, cameras, and GPS data to choose the best means for conserving and recouping energy, depending on the situation. Lift off the right pedal on the highway and the M60 will effortlessly coast with minimal deceleration, yet it smartly reverts to one-pedal operation when traffic snarls to a stop in city centers. Combined with the iX’s seriously quiet cabin, augmented reality navigation, and the improved usability of BMW’s expansive curved-dash infotainment display, the M60 is a comfortable—and comforting—way to cover miles.
    If those miles turn twisty, the M60 also features slightly stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars compared to the xDrive50 model, providing it with marginally better body control at a small expense to ride comfort, at least on the 22-inch wheels. But that’s the extent of the handling updates, as the M60’s standard air springs and rear-wheel-steering system can be optioned on the xDrive50 with the $1600 Dynamic Handling package (both models feature standard adaptive dampers). Though the iX’s variable-ratio steering remains agreeably direct, if somewhat muted in conversation, the biggest helpers to the M60’s cornering ability are its optional summer rubber and its inherently low center of gravity brought by the low-mounted battery. The similarities between the M60 and the xDrive50, together with the $21,900 separating their base prices, ultimately give us pause about this new iX model. True, the top-of-the-line version packs a greater punch, a few extra tricks, and more standard equipment. But it drives awfully similarly to the xDrive50, which has more range and can be optioned to near parity (the loaded iX xDrive50 we tested cost $104,020). As much as we appreciate more speed, we wish the iX’s M badge added more to the M60’s experience.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2023 BMW iX M60Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
    PRICE
    Base: $106,095
    POWERTRAIN
    Front Motor: current-excited synchronous AC, 255 hpRear Motor: current-excited synchronous AC, 483 hpCombined Power: 610 hpCombined Torque: 811 lb-ftBattery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 105.2 kWhOnboard Charger: 11.0 kWTransmissions, F/R: direct-drives
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 118.1 inLength: 195.0 inWidth: 77.4 inHeight: 66.8 inPassenger Volume: 112 ft3Cargo Volume: 36 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 5800 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 3.3 sec100 mph: 8.8 sec1/4-Mile: 11.7 secTop Speed: 130¬–155 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 77–78/76–77/80 MPGeRange: 274–288 mi

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    2023 Volkswagen ID.5 GTX Attempts to Take the ID.4 up a Level

    The diesel-emissions scandal is fading from public consciousness, but the repercussions are far from over. The chief one for Volkswagen is a big push into EVs, and the models on its MEB platform are a key part of this strategy. In the U.S., the ID.4 crossover is VW’s most important EV offering, and now in Europe, VW has added a sporty variant called the ID.5. Volkswagen’s EV “coupe” follows similar offerings from its corporate siblings, the Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback and the Skoda Enyaq Coupé, which ride on the same platform.When you buy a coupe, you might deal with slightly diminished practicality but expect a payoff of visual excitement. Unfortunately, here the ID.5 falls flat on its dull face—which, in fact, is unchanged from the ID.4. The ID.5’s roofline is somewhat lower and more sloped, but since the ID.4 looks somewhat coupelike itself, the ID.5 design doesn’t mark a major change when viewed in profile either. The taillights are identical too. Only the liftgate looks truly different thanks to a prominent spoiler.

    Volkswagen

    Inside, the ID.5’s dashboard is lifted straight from the ID.4. The infotainment system has a 12-inch display and could be more intuitive. A touch slider controls volume, and some important functions—such as turning off the irksome lane-keeping assistant—are hidden in submenus. The electronic gear selector requires you to push away (or forward) for Drive instead of pulling back, which takes some getting used to. (We’re told the setup, which is the opposite of a conventional automatic transmission, was the subject of intense internal debate at VW.)But there are many good ideas in this car too. A plug-and-charge function does away with the need for a separate RFID tag, app, or charging card—the billing runs via VW’s own We Charge. In Europe, Volkswagen’s system is recognized by many major charging networks such as Ionity, Aral, BP, E.ON, and Enel, as well as Iberdrola and Eviny, with more to come.

    Volkswagen

    On the road, the ID.5’s Travel Assist adaptive cruise control keeps the car centered in its lane, adjusts to speed limits or bends, and maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. Parking can be automated too: In addition to the usual automatic steering, accelerating, and braking when pulling into or leaving a parking space, the ID.5 can remember a path of up to around 50 yards below 25 mph, such as pulling into a narrow driveway or a tight garage. Once you have parked yourself and stored the process, the vehicle can repeat the parking maneuver it has learned, while the driver only has to monitor the proceedings.The 77.0-kWh battery can now be charged with 135 kW, up from 125 kW. For a standard charge from 5 to 80 percent, this should save up to nine minutes. And the e-route planner, which offers multistop planning via the 12-inch touchscreen, has become smarter and full of clever details. For example, the route planning can suggest two short faster charges instead of one long lower-power charge.

    Volkswagen

    As on the ID.4, rear-wheel drive is standard on the ID.5. The GTX model we drove comes with all-wheel drive. It is fitted with an asynchronous motor at the front axle and a synchronous motor at the rear. With 295 horsepower (same as in the all-wheel-drive ID.4), the powertrain provides quick response despite the ID.5’s considerable heft. The GTX gets to 62 mph in a claimed 6.3 seconds, and unlike the rear-wheel-drive model, it doesn’t let up until reaching its top speed, governed at a modest 112 mph. The brake regeneration is adjustable—to an extent. In the Sport setting, turning it off is impossible, which is a shame, as some drivers prefer their EVs to coast when the accelerator is lifted.Handling is pleasantly agile, and the software has been fine-tuned to whisk this portly EV around corners with astonishing agility. There is considerable body roll, but understeer has been virtually eliminated. The emphasis is still on comfort, though, and those who hope that the GTX moniker could indicate an analogy to the gasoline-powered GTI models will be in for disappointment.

    Volkswagen

    One thing we particularly like about the GTX version is the blue vinyl decor accentuated by red stitching on the doors and dashboard. The color and trim provide a pretty and saving element in an otherwise generic and uninspired interior. The ID.5 GTX is currently the VW brand’s ultimate expression of this platform, and it doesn’t come cheap. Has VW cut too many corners in creating meaningful differentiation from the ID.4? We think so, and evidently, Volkswagen of America agrees. We’re told the ID.5 won’t be offered in the U.S. market.

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    2022 McLaren 765LT Spider Keeps 755 Horsepower Civilized, Barely

    The 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider hits hard. Horsepower? Several herds worth, 755 equines stampeding from the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. Torque? 590 pound-feet, enough to get your undies in a twist with you still in ’em. McLaren says it will do zero to 60 in 2.7 seconds, run a 10-second quarter-mile, and hit a top speed of 205 mph. We have no reason to doubt those claims for the convertible as the 765LT coupe version set a top-speed record during Lightning Lap 2021. The Spider is a tiny bit heavier and a tiny bit softer, but it’s clear from the first fast corner that it’s as quick and violent as you’d expect from a performance-focused upgrade of McLaren’s well-rounded 720S. What you might not predict from perusing the spec sheet is that the McLaren 765LT Spider can be driven through the mountains with one hand while crying. This is not normally part of our supercar testing procedure, but soft-close dihedral doors also hit hard when your fingers are in the way. Impressive latch on that car. If you’re one of the cool Malibu teens who saw this happen, please don’t post it on TikTok, we hurt enough as is. Thankfully, the cupholders are waterproof, which meant they could, and did, work as an impromptu ice bath for the drive home. [image id=’8508406f-e046-4280-8d44-b635f9803bb7′ mediaId=’1f7878a9-e3f1-4d9e-939b-145d22e15b61′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]McLaren’s LT models are spiritual successors to the F1 GTR Longtail, the recipe being to take an already-bonkers supercar, pull weight out, enhance the aerodynamics, pump up the power, and make the result somehow street-legal—and in the case of the 765LT, downright streetable. An F1 GTR would have been far more difficult to pilot with one fist in a cup of ice, what with the manual transmission and the center seating position and the notably firm steering. Our 1994 review of the F1 mentioned that it took both hands just to get into the driver’s seat. The 765LT didn’t love puttering through the hills at sobbing speed, but it stayed the course, no tramlining or lurching. It’s also easier to get in and out of than an F1, both physically and financially. The base price is a cool $382,500, but the finger-chomping car we drove came with a $507,420 price tag, a bargain compared to the $20-plus mil you’d need to get close enough to an F1 to slam the door on your hand. But enough about that, we did have a full day in the Spider with both hands on the reins, and—boy howdy—this thing is a ride. [editoriallinks id=’c144a278-3c86-4080-aa48-5f0570b4dea6′ align=’left’][/editoriallinks]As its name suggests, the 765LT Spider is longer in the rear than a 720S. Only a smidge, though: The tail end grew by 0.4 inch, while the front gained 1.9 inches. Apparently, “McLaren Longnose” doesn’t have the same marketing cachet. The elongated bodywork is tunneled and twisted like the inside of an anthill, every edge a stern command to nearby air molecules as to when they should enter, exit, and move along there, buddy. Hardcore aero isn’t always pretty, but the 765LT has the hypnotic grace of a Utah slot canyon with its jutting front splitter, delicately bridged headlight sockets, cavernous door hollows, and honeycomb-pocked metal-mesh rear. One wants to explore its overhangs, spelunk in its scoops. It’s more interesting than the 720S, more organic than the sharp-angled Senna. [image id=’b911ed27-f725-4331-ba14-284529f366de’ mediaId=’3fa1cb97-40fb-4569-bb87-b9c3d64f239b’ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]On the weight-loss front, McLaren says the Spider, at its trimmest, is 3060 pounds. To achieve that, it uses titanium for the exhaust, thinner glass in the windows, barely-there carbon fiber for the center tunnel, ditches the carpet altogether, and comes with no stereo or air conditioning. As is usually the case with lightweighted cars, the last two features can be added back in at no extra charge. For a combined weight penalty of 25.3 pounds, it would take a more dedicated purist than us to go without. If you did, though, you’d end up with a convertible that’s 176 pounds lighter than the 720S Spider and 108 pounds heavier than the 765LT coupe. We happily settled for being a claimed 130 pounds heavier than the coupe and blowing cold air across the open, sunlit cabin. Let’s just give it the beans real quick and—oh, yeah, that’s the stuff. You can’t see the flames shooting out of the high-mounted exhaust, but you can feel them in your soul as you rattle through the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, taking full advantage of the dumb-but-entertaining “limit downshift” feature. On most paddle-shifted cars, a too-early downshift request would be denied, but the new setting throws a few bounces off the limiter as the revs drop to a safe shift point. It makes the Spider sound as if it’s setting everything behind you aflame. Maybe we’d leave out the stereo after all—who needs it when you can listen to the sharp cracks and rising whine of a twin-turbo troublemaker? [image id=’b61fd7b7-6ce4-474f-993d-4c9ef895b7ca’ mediaId=’9620939d-b9b8-49e0-83b0-4ca684db0390′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image][editoriallinks id=’59ab95f6-3f00-45a4-9c62-71c41c17f1e6′ align=’left’][/editoriallinks]Lower the top, and it feels as if the powerplant is in the passenger seat. The roof goes down in 11 seconds, at speeds up to 31 mph (so, barely off idle). For our vampire readers who want engine noise without sunshine, the rear window can be lowered to allow all the rage and none of the rays inside. With the top up and windows down, the McLaren still manages a summer airiness. As supercars go, it has decent visibility, with transparent panels in the roof pillars and wide side windows. The biggest blind spot is under braking, when the active wing flips up, blocking out the mirror like a sudden solar eclipse. Sightlines over that wing when it’s in its downforce position or its lowest top-speed setting are good, thanks to a little notch in the center, which has the added benefit of keeping your pricey carbon fiber from getting toasted by the fire-spitting tailpipes. It also, to quote McLaren designer Rob Melville, “looks badass.” To get equally badass performance levels required more than just adding boost to the 720S’s engine—which already was no slouch. McLaren upgraded the internals, including pistons and gaskets; changed the ECU and fuel system to move more gas through; and reworked the exhaust system to minimize backpressure. Adding power wasn’t enough, though. The goal was to add drama, so the transmission ratios are all closer together than they are in the 720S. The result is a machine-gun snap of shifts in rapid succession. That would normally require heavier physical gears to handle the increased stress, but McLaren chose a stronger, lightweight alloy used in Formula 1 racing for the internals to avoid adding extra rotating mass. [image id=’a6616bf3-8a70-4d60-8a51-2dddbcd5b505′ mediaId=’c5e4e316-7957-4579-b958-2598781537db’ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]Racing tech came into play again to cool the brakes, which are fed air via F1-inspired caliper cooling ducts that can lower pad temperatures by 50 degrees during hard track use. The calipers themselves are monoblock units from the Senna, and if you want the Senna’s full carbon-ceramic-disc setup, as was on our test car, it can be yours for $18,030. Between the big discs and the wing air brake, the Spider felt capable of Looney Tunes Road Runner stops, sliding right to the edge of the cliff while watching Wile E. overshoot it and frantically backpedal. It’s massive overkill for street driving, but then, everything about this car is.McLaren reworked the suspension for a firmer, more connected ride. The front and rear spring rates are higher than in the 720S, and both the physical dampers and the software that controls them were recalibrated to the 765LT Spider’s lighter weight and more focused mission. In Comfort mode, you can feel the bumps, but they don’t break through. In Sport and Track modes, it’s like walking through your living room in stocking feet after someone scattered Lego blocks across the floor. It’s terrible—don’t bother unless you’re on a track. [image id=’fae43e8e-948d-4c64-b80e-06f4563c8b78′ mediaId=’b630b669-98d2-45d9-ab04-e719897082d1′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]On the other hand, dial up the engine settings—which are separate from the suspension—and you get instant throttle response and the aforementioned rear flames, so don’t sleep on that Active button to unlock the mode options. An added bonus: Calling up Track mode triggers a transformation in the gauge cluster, as the larger display tucks away into a narrow band like a periscope sight, leaving only the essentials of rpm, speed, and gear. The rotating cluster is the most exciting element in the 765LT’s interior. It’s purposely bare-bones, mostly faux suede and exposed carbon weave. There is a backup camera, a blessing in parking lots, although it’s predictably difficult to see when the top is down in bright sun. There are cupholders, as previously mentioned. The seats, another Senna trickle-down, are not unbearable, but you wouldn’t settle into them for the evening with a cuppa and a novel. It’s best to keep yourself amped on adrenaline to avoid thinking too much about creature comforts. Luckily, adrenaline rushes are just a squeeze of a pedal away. [image id=’350b77f5-ed5e-4a11-bb4c-303a95b6d370′ mediaId=’c47d3188-fa22-4fb0-a169-801ed49596c9′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]Flat-footing the Spider once is easy. Doing it a second time is like returning to the scene of an electric shock. Guts get watery and life insurance policies are considered. The only thing working harder than your nervous system is the traction management that catches your wheelspin through every gear and keeps the Spider moving forward in a straight line and, even more miraculously, around corners. One expects to come to a stop and find the 10-spoke wheels melted into a lightweight spiral, dripping superheated rubber into a Pirelli puddle, but there they are, barely warm, dappled here and there with one of the few bits of gravel that didn’t get thrown up into the cooling ducts in the door. When you open it, a small avalanche of pebbles lands at your feet, an offering to the gods of asphalt. There is nothing sensible about the 765LT Spider. It’s an invitation to trouble with minimal comfort along the way. Driving it around town will have you constantly scrambling for the nose lift, and when you get on level ground it will spit rocks at your friends. It will wake up all your neighbors when you start it, and it probably calls them late at night and breathes heavy into the phone. It’s not an impossible street car, but it sure isn’t polite and easy. That’s part of its charm. Some people ride horses, others ride bulls. And they do it with one hand. [vehicle type=’specpanel’ vehicle-body-style=” vehicle-make=” vehicle-model=” vehicle-model-category=” vehicle-submodel=” vehicle-year=”][/vehicle][image id=’bf222a99-967e-406f-a4d3-886f2d33b440′ mediaId=’6e9c524b-eae9-497b-8e06-1693bf0fa447′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=’A car-lover’s community for ultimate access & unrivaled experiences. JOIN NOW’ expand=” crop=’original’][/image]

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    2023 BMW XM Prototype Previews a Different Kind of M

    What’s in a flagship? As a torchbearer for its brand, it not only must bring more of everything found in the models positioned below it, it also must do everything better. Or so the thinking goes. Which makes it a curious—and controversial—decision for BMW’s M performance group to choose a big, luxurious SUV, the 2023 XM plug-in hybrid, as both its new lead act and the first M-exclusive model since the M1 supercar of the 1970s. But these are the times we live in. Fortunately, they don’t preclude such a vehicle from being surprisingly good to drive. Quite the contrary. Today’s crop of high-performance SUVs, from the Aston Martin DBX to the Lamborghini Urus to the Porsche Cayenne, offer stunning abilities bathed in varying degrees of opulence. Yet, as some M officials admitted before letting us drive an XM prototype in Austria, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for inherently large, heavy, and utility-oriented vehicles to be focused purely on speed. Better to concentrate on nailing a good ride-and-handling balance than setting a new Nürburgring lap record. Broadly speaking at this stage in the XM’s development (sales won’t commence until early next year), it comes across as a spacious grand-touring machine imbued with the nuanced tactility that is rare among the M brand’s contemporary offerings, which for all their speed and capability can often feel edgy and aloof. Tellingly, BMW M’s engineers cited both the Urus and the statelier Bentley Bentayga as initial inspirations for their flagship’s road manners—decidedly athletic but not hardcore.

    While the prototype we drove was still clad in extensive camouflage inside and out—a good or bad thing, depending on your views of the XM concept that the production model should closely mimic in design—BMW did reveal more of the XM’s technical makeup. Compared to its closest mechanical relatives, the X5 M and X6 M, the XM sits lower, and its snout stretches longer from dash to axle. Although the XM will be two rows only, its length and wheelbase—spanning 203.3 and 122.2 inches, respectively—are closer to those of the three-row X7’s. Its unibody is mostly steel draped with aluminum panels, and we expect its curb weight to be around 6000 pounds, split close to 50/50 front to rear. Under the hood is an M-massaged version of BMW’s latest twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 that debuted in the updated 2023 X7 and redesigned 7-series. Hybrid assistance is via an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the excellent ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, with the combined output of the vehicle we drove amounting to 644 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque—strong but not segment-leading figures, though BMW promises a more powerful setup with closer to the concept’s 750 horses also will be available. An all-wheel-drive system that can route up to 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels is standard, as is an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. The fuel tank is situated under the spacious cargo area, making for a somewhat high liftover height, and a lithium-ion battery pack of as-yet-unknown capacity is stashed under the rear seat. Electric-only range is estimated at 50 miles in Europe’s generous WLTP cycle but should still be sufficiently usable by EPA standards.
    Our drive was relatively brief on damp mountain roads surrounding Austria’s Salzburgring racetrack, just over the German border. Although the XM’s engine can rev above 7000 rpm, we didn’t need to spin it hard to be squished into the seatback, thanks to the electric motor’s instant low-end torque that almost seamlessly blends into the V-8’s powerband. With the 60-mph time of the model we drove likely in the 3.5-second range, we’ll call it unassumingly quick. Even in EV mode there’s enough thrust to safely pull out into traffic; mash the accelerator past its detent, and the gas engine fires up for assistance. Being a modern BMW, the XM’s expansive curved dash display offers a dizzying array of drive-mode settings, including drivetrain response, steering and brake-pedal effort, ride stiffness, regenerative braking intensity, and more. But even in Sport mode, the active exhaust system’s internal-combustion fireworks were tempered, the aggressive growl of the V-8 sounding distant under the accompaniment of an electronic whir played through the audio system. Far more compelling is the XM’s chassis tuning, to which M engineers took an “old-school” approach. Despite its three-position adaptive dampers and front and rear 48-volt active anti-roll bars—a first for an M car—the XM’s multilink front and rear suspensions are supported by steel coils rather than the air springs we expected to find. That made its combination of astute body control and comfortable ride compliance, at least compared to the X6 M Competition we also drove, all the more impressive. And this is while riding on the standard 22-inch Pirelli P Zero summer tires (21- and 23-inchers will be optional). Those rollers surround big six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes with cast-iron rotors, which smoothly took over from the regenerative braking system when we laid into the left pedal.
    Better yet, the action of the XM’s steering—linear, nicely weighted, and blessed with actual feedback—rewards its pilot in all the ways that its lesser siblings (and even some of the M brand’s current coupes and sedans) do not. When pressed about this welcome responsiveness, M officials pointed to the model-specific suspension bushings in the XM’s front end plus the unique programming for its variable-ratio steering rack that it shares with the comparatively darty X5 M and X6 M. But the effect is pronounced in bringing greater confidence and fun to the driver. Aided by rear-wheel steering hardware that can swivel up to 2.5 degrees, which makes the XM feel agile for its size yet eminently stable at higher speeds, the vibe from behind the wheel is reminiscent of the progressive helms that BMW traditionalists have been clamoring for the return of since the days of the E90 M3. That this level of over-the-road satisfaction comes in a vehicle with a back seat that could pass for a cushy living-room sofa—partly a concession to the chauffeur-heavy Chinese market—does little to alleviate the head-scratching surrounding the XM’s existence. That it’s also a plug-in hybrid lends it as much novelty in this segment as additional flexibility. But as BMW’s launchpad into the rarefied air of big-power SUVs costing well in excess of $100,000, it does drive with a cohesiveness that we hope filters down to other BMW models—exactly what you want from a flagship.

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    2023 Genesis GV60 Is Like at First Sight

    Before it lets you in, the Genesis GV60 takes a deep look into your eyes. Don’t get too excited, its stare isn’t a romantic one. A small camera on the B-pillar gives you a once-over and then unlocks the doors. Once you’re in, there’s more getting to know you because to start it, you touch a fingerprint-recognition button on the center console. The car is electric, though, so you’re not really starting anything. The GV60 is Genesis’s first EV. Without an engine that whirrs to life, the telltale sign you’ve turned on the GV60 is that the glass-like sphere in the center console rotates around to reveal a shifter. It’s a novel bit of design and one we expect will soon spread to the rest of the Genesis range. Like the other Genesis models, the interior has a clean and uncluttered appearance. A glass panel as wide as the Mississippi houses two 12.3-inch displays: gauges directly ahead of the driver and a center touchscreen. Unfortunately, phone mirroring (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) requires a cord, even as wireless systems are becoming the norm—one of the few missteps in the GV60.

    Built on the E-GMP architecture, a dedicated EV platform shared with the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, the GV60 comes in a crossover shape and a sleek and attractive one at that. A clamshell hood hides a small storage space up front, and behind the second row there’s 24 cubic feet of space, enough for a full complement of luggage. The brand’s signature split headlight design makes an appearance, as does the winged badge, although it’s slimmer and less in your face than on other models. Two versions will be available at launch: The Advanced AWD model has two electric motors totaling 314 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque, while the all-wheel-drive Performance trim delivers 429 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque with a brief “overboost” of 483 horses and 516 lb-ft available for 10 seconds of silliness.
    We drove the more powerful Performance version and can report that from a stop with the overboost activated, the front motor briefly overwhelms the front tires despite the rears also being driven. Judging by the pressure on our spine under full whack, we expect that in 483-hp mode, the GV60 will shoot to 60 mph in the mid-3s. Tackle a few bends, and the GV60 corners securely and has a liveliness borne of its quick steering. An electronic limited-slip differential in back keeps power flowing to both sides of the road, and the front-to-rear torque split lends a rear-drive attitude. The harder you push, though, the more you’re made aware of the estimated 4900-pound curb weight as the Michelin Primacy Tour A/S tires begin to audibly protest. A regen system that’s capable of one-pedal driving keeps the brakes from feeling much stress. Body control is good. The handling is Porsche Macan-like, except the Genesis doesn’t futz with downshifts and upshifts—it just goes.
    A camera-based system that reads the road surface keeps the adaptive dampers supple over bumps. Quiet and refined, the GV60 is a convincing luxury vehicle if you drive it calmly. Turn off the ridiculous and headache-inducing Jetsons sound effects that whoosh and whirr in response to accelerator position, and there’s near silence thanks to the absence of road and wind noise. Perhaps some credit is due to the active noise cancellation system with eight microphones that plays through the audio system’s 17 speakers. Whether it’s the noise cancellation or the sound deadening or the aero package, the GV60 is a quiet machine.A 77.4-kWh battery provides 248 miles (Advanced) or 235 miles (Performance) of EPA range. A Level 2 charger will replenish the battery from 10 to 100 percent in about seven hours. Hook up to an 800-volt DC fast-charger, and the battery can go from 10 to 80 percent in a claimed 18 minutes. The Advanced model starts at $59,980, which is roughly $11,000 more than this same powertrain in the Hyundai Ioniq 5, but less than $4000 more than the top Limited-trim Ioniq 5, while the Performance variant starts at $68,980. We’ll have a GV60 for instrumented testing soon, but after our initial time behind the wheel, we can say it’s like at first sight.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2023 Genesis GV60Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
    PRICE
    Advanced AWD, $59,980; Performance AWD, $68,980
    POWERTRAIN
    Front Motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 99 or 215 hp Rear Motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 215 hpCombined Power: 314 or 483 hpCombined Torque: 446 or 516 lb-ftBattery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 77.4 kWhOnboard Charger: 10.9 kWTransmissions, F/R: direct-drive
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 114.2 inLength: 177.8 inWidth: 74.4 inHeight: 62.6 inPassenger Volume: 101 ft3Cargo Volume: 25 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 4700–4900 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 3.4–4.5 sec100 mph: 11.3–12.6 sec1/4-Mile: 12.0–13.3 secTop Speed: 117–149 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 90–95/97–103/82–86 MPGeRange: 235–248 mi

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    2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Is One for Traditionalists

    Like many automakers, Mercedes-Benz is rushing headlong into the electric future—with cars such as the EQS and the EQE—but that doesn’t mean the brand is forsaking its familiar models. Case in point is the C-class sedan, which has been redesigned for 2022. The new C gets updated mechanicals and fresh tech features, but it’s also comfortably familiar in concept and appearance.More than past generations, the latest C-class presents as a junior S-class. That starts with the new design’s proportions. Mercedes describes the new C’s design as “cab-backward”, and the set-back passenger compartment draws a sharp contrast between this car and the lesser A-class (which is departing our market at the end of the model year) and CLA-class sedans, with their transverse-engine, front-drive architecture. The C-class also stands apart from the highly cab-forward, arc-shaped profile of the battery-powered EQE and EQS. Instead, the long hood and the stretched dash-to-axle ratio give the C-class a statelier appearance. This is despite smoother form language overall and a front-end design that adopts the wide, rounded grille shape pioneered by the AMG models, now slightly canted forward. An AMG Line package is available across all trim levels that brings a resculpted lower fascia, rocker panel extensions, and a rear diffuser.

    Mercedes-Benz

    The car sits astride an inch-longer wheelbase but has grown 2.5 inches in length thanks to a longer rear overhang. Although overall width only increases fractionally, rear-wheel-drive models have a 1.9-inch-wider rear track that pushes the wheels out closer to the edge of the bodywork, while the front track increases by 0.8 inch. The track dimensions for the all-wheel-drive model aren’t available at this time.

    As in the outgoing car, the C300 uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. (A bigger change comes to the new-generation AMG C-class models, which switch to four-cylinder power as well for the C43 and even for the mighty C63.) For the first time, Mercedes is pairing a four-banger with a 48-volt hybrid-assist system, with the motor-generator integrated into the transmission housing. The electric motor cannot propel the car on battery power alone, but it does make for ultrasmooth auto stop/starts. It also enables engine-off coasting but only under braking as the car nears a stop, which means you can creep up silently to your garage door.

    Mercedes-Benz

    Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is a $2000 upcharge on any trim level. Once again, shifting duties are handled by the brand’s 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic. The engine’s stated horsepower is unchanged at 255, but torque swells from 273 to 295 pound-feet—plus, there’s an additional 20 ponies and 148 pound-feet available in short bursts from the 48-volt starter-generator, but they do not add to the engine’s total output. The factory-stated time to 60 mph is 6.0 seconds, although we got the previous C300 4Matic to 60 mph in 5.4. The hybrid system effectively helps mask turbo lag at low speeds, and in passing maneuvers or highway merges, the powertrain zips the C-class ahead. As the tach needle approaches 5000 rpm or so, the formerly subdued engine emits a satisfyingly angry snarl, which is a bit of a surprise given that, when you’re standing outside an idling C300, this engine sounds almost like a diesel.The new rear-drive C-class carries EPA fuel-economy estimates—25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined—are 2 mpg better than the outgoing model but still short of the BMW 330i’s 26/36 city/highway rating. With all-wheel drive, the figures drop by 2 mpg across the board.

    Mercedes-Benz

    The chassis features adaptive dampers, but Mercedes’s Airmatic air springs are not offered in the new C-class. The AMG Line package includes a sport suspension, which is not tuned differently but has a 0.6-inch-lower ride height. The C-class offers Eco, Comfort, Sport, Individual, and (with the AMG Line) Sport+ drive settings, but they have little discernible effect on the proceedings. In any mode, body motions are well controlled, but a fair degree of harshness is transmitted to the cabin. Evidently it’s hard for Stuttgart’s chassis engineers to wrap their heads around the idea of a pothole-strewn infrastructure like we enjoy in the U.S. We’d lay some blame on staggered-fitment low profile tires that wrapped the artful 19-inch wheels in our AMG Line sample car, but the situation was much the same in a different C300 that enjoyed slightly more sidewall—18-inch wheels and 225/45 front and 245/40 rear tires.The AMG Line’s meaty rubber did help the C-class hang tough on empty back roads in New York’s Putnam County and across the Hudson in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Even when the road jogged away from us coming over a blind crest and we quickly jerked the wheel, or when we had to wind on more lock in response to tightening curves, turn-in was responsive with barely any push. Nor was there much in the way of body roll. The C300 would provide a sportier driving experience, though, if the steering weren’t so inert. There’s also more brake pedal travel than we’d like.

    Mercedes-Benz

    For the driver and passengers, the C-class cabin exudes S-class vibes. The front chairs feel much like those in the senior Benz, with deep but not confining lateral bolsters, while the cushion, which can be lengthened or shortened, offers generous under-thigh support. The 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display and the new, portrait-oriented 11.9-inch central touchscreen are freestanding. Behind them, the dash curves downward, waterfall style. Black wood trim with vertical aluminum lines accentuates the shape, although other materials choices are available. Continuing the theme of freestanding elements, the door handle and seat switches are contained in a pod that sits proud of the door panel, and the forward part of the door armrests appears to be floating. Bullseye air vents return but have been flattened at the top and bottom, and metal speaker grilles contribute to an atmosphere of calculated ostentation.

    Mercedes-Benz

    The navigation system now features augmented video, as in the S-class. When approaching a turn, the display switches from the map to a forward-cam video feed overlaid with directional arrows and street names. The forward camera can also function as a dash cam. The central touchscreen sweeps up from the center console, and the previous rotary controller is banished, as are all knobs and most buttons. At the base of the screen are touch-sensitive buttons to select the drive mode, to call up the (excellent multi-view) camera, to open the vehicle settings menu, and a touch slider for audio volume (ugh). There’s also a fingerprint-recognition pad, which can be used to access personalized preferences. Climate controls are entirely on screen, occupying the lower section of the display. Audio tuning is also on screen. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, but wireless device charging costs extra; wired connections are USB-C only.

    Mercedes-Benz

    The controls on the steering wheel are all touch sensitive. They include a touch slider to raise and lower the cruise control set speed and another for audio volume. Four-way swipe touchpads navigate the driver-information display or move around the central screen. Combine the imprecision of touch sliders with four-way touchpads that frequently give you a vertical-motion response when you’re trying for a horizontal-motion action, and we just have to say: Enough with the touch madness, already.That modern annoyance aside, the C-class should appeal to those seeking a classic Benz at an attainable price. The C300 is offered in Premium, Exclusive, and Pinnacle trim levels, which are priced at $45,250, $47,500, and $51,450, respectively. Even though some expected luxuries cost extra—leather, for example, and adaptive cruise control (which includes automated lane-change capability)—those starting prices seem like something of a bargain given how faithfully the new C-class emulates its six-figure sibling.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 SedanVehicle Type: front-engine, rear- or all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4 -door sedan
    PRICE
    Base: rear-wheel-drive, $45,250; 4Matic, $47,250
    ENGINE
    turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 121 in3, 1991 cm3Power: 255 hp @ 5800 rpmTorque: 295 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
    TRANSMISSION
    9-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 112.8 inLength: 187.0 inWidth: 71.6 inHeight: 56.6 inPassenger Volume: 94 ft3Trunk Volume: 13 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 3900–4050 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 5.6–5.7 sec1/4-Mile: 14.2–14.3 secTop Speed: 130 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 27–29/23–25/33–35 mpg

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    2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS with Drive Pilot: Autonomous on the Autobahn

    We travel the world to drive new cars, but not today. Today, we’re in Berlin attempting to not drive the Mercedes EQS for as long as possible, while sitting behind the steering wheel. This is the brave new future we’ve been promised for so long: a self-driving car legally operating on real roads.Mercedes in Germany is offering both the EQS and the S-Class with optional Level 3 Drive Pilot support for 7430 euro ($7726) and 5000 euro ($5199), respectively. But finding a road that will allow me to deploy the new Drive Pilot is a challenge, owing to the long list of restrictions around its operation.Although Germany is allowing Level 3 driving automation—on the 1-5 SAE scale that goes from adaptive cruise control to full-Johnnycab robo-chauffeur, this is an “eyes-off-the-road” level of conditional driving automation—vehicles can only do so in very limited circumstances. They must be on one of the nation’s 8200 miles of autobahn highway in traffic traveling at no more than 60 km/h (37 mph) in dry conditions and away from tunnels or construction zones.

    Mercedes-Benz

    Which is why the journey starts with me scanning Google Maps to try and find just the right level of stau, as the natives call traffic jams. The first plan to take the A111 toward Tegel is stymied by the fact it has been shut down by an accident. Stop-and-go traffic is one thing, but the EQS won’t be able to route itself around the obstruction on surface streets.

    The A100 that runs across the south of the city looks more promising, although there are only patches of yellow among the green on the map—and I’m warned that it contains many tunnels, which will limit my chance to experience the system. Who would have thought finding a jam would be so hard? The legalistic reticence is because Germany has adopted UN Regulation No. 157 on Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS), which lays down the restrictions on speed and also the need to limit operation to divided highways, where pedestrians and cyclists are banned. While most of Europe is set to bring these standards into law, the U.S. is going its own way, with different regulations state by state.While it’s both tempting to think of the Level 3 Drive Pilot as being a continuation of the existing Level 2 system, it’s considerably smarter. The existing Drive Pilot has been keeping Mercs in their lanes and a safe distance from other vehicles for several years, and their driver is always in control, at least nominally, and legally responsible if anything goes wrong. Level 3 reverses that equation. Once the car has taken control, it—and in liability terms, Mercedes-Benz—is on the hook for any crashes caused by the system’s negligence.

    Mercedes-Benz

    The system requires a much more complex set of sensors. On the S-class and EQS that includes radar, laser-based lidar, a stereoscopic 3-D camera, and short-distance ultrasound to detect the presence of nearby vehicles. Each has different strengths and weaknesses: Radar is good for range and speed but struggles to separate stationary objects, lidar operates at longer range and can readily separate targets (but the sensor is sensitive to dust and spray), and the 3-D camera is great at classifying different types of road users but struggles with backlighting.That’s not all. There is also a moisture detector in the left front wheel well to make sure the road surface is dry, and there’s a camera on the top of the instrument display to make sure the driver isn’t asleep or obviously incapacitated. Positional data comes from a triple antenna that orientates the car through a combination of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), including the USA’s GPS, Europe’s Galileo, and Russia’s GLONASS satellite constellations. The collected data is put through an algorithm that returns positional accuracy better than 3.9 inches. These inputs are then correlated against high-definition mapping—Germany’s entire autobahn network has been scanned for this purpose.

    Mercedes-Benz

    Only if all the systems agree the operating criteria are satisfied do the pair of “A” buttons on each side of the steering wheel illuminate to show the car is willing to take control. Pressing one of these then brings up a legal-disclaimer warning on the dashboard, which needs to be clicked away each time to satisfy the lawyers. Turquoise lights above the main control buttons then show the car is driving itself. I’ve been using the lesser Level 2 system on my way to the autobahn, the EQS steering, accelerating, and braking on its own as my hand rests on the steering wheel, so switching to the fully automated system in the first patch of slow-moving traffic feels like anticlimactic. Yet the car is now in charge and must give me 10 seconds of notice if it wants me to take over driving. The car then takes up to another 10 seconds to gradually bring itself to a standstill and activate its flashers if the driver fails to respond.

    Mercedes-Benz

    Despite being liberated from the need to pay attention, it’s surprisingly hard to look away from the road for more than a few seconds. With the turquoise light on, I’m able to legally look at my phone—normally a big no-no in Europe—or to use the center display to watch videos or live TV. Mercedes has even installed a suite of games, although trying to play sudoku on a touchscreen in slow traffic doesn’t feel like I’m making the most of my liberated time. I end up mostly looking at the dashboard display, which shows the vehicle Drive Pilot is following overlayed with an “A.” The sentinel camera prevents me from attempting to snooze; closing my eyes for a couple of seconds produces angry beeps and the immediate start of the hand-back sequence. Drivers also aren’t allowed to recline the seat all the way back or motor it too far away from the pedals to ensure they can readily resume driving if called upon by the system.The hand-back sequence from car to driver is forcefully Germanic, escalating rapidly from a polite ping to a red flashing dashboard display and then a shaking of the seatbelt. Had I failed to respond, the car would have stopped in a live autobahn lane, so I didn’t try that. The approved method for retaking control is to press the “A” button again, but any other control input should also do it. I experience the hand-back sequence repeatedly, rarely getting more than half a minute under automated control. This is largely because traffic speeds up beyond 60 km/h or the vehicle the system is following moving out of range. But tunnels or big overpasses and construction zones or narrowing lanes have the same effect. Even so, the Mercedes engineering team says the record in Germany for continuous use during the development program is well over an hour.

    Mercedes-Benz

    Nor can the Level 3 system change lanes, even in response to instructions from the navigation system—this is also prevented by the current regulations. But it can move over to create a pathway for emergency vehicles, something it does in response to hearing sirens approaching from behind.Mercedes has won the race to a production implementation of Level 3 driving automation, but in a sensible and unexciting way. It’s hard to imagine too many S-class and EQS owners following the free-wheeling experimentalism of those Tesla owners who film themselves putting what often seems to be excessive faith into that company’s dubiously more permissive Level 2 system. There is no doubt that Drive Pilot is capable of safely handling greater speeds and freer-flowing traffic, the question is when it will be able to do so on public roads—or, indeed, when it will be able to operate at all in the U.S. Given the current restrictions, it feels more like a neat trick than a transformational change unless, of course, you have a predictably tedious slow-and-go freeway commute.

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