Mercedes-Benz has been testing and teasing its Tesla Model S-fighting EQS all-electric luxury sedan for a long time now, and in a final step ahead of the full unveil has pulled the sheet off the wild new interior. Yes, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS will have a dashboard-spanning “Hyperscreen” display, but that’s just one of many special options and features of this new EV flagship.See all 48 photosTwo Dashboards to Chose FromThe so-called Hyperscreen (of which we have a deep dive you should read if you haven’t), a 56-inch wide concave glass panel with three integrated OLED screens making up the entire dashboard, is the showstopper, but it’s not the only option. It’s actually an optional upgrade and you get a lot for your money—which is good because even though we don’t know the price yet, it can’t be cheap. The digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel portion measures 12.3 inches, as does a touchscreen in front of the front passenger. Between them is a massive 17.7-inch infotainment touchscreen. The passenger’s screen mimics the center screen and will play an animation when no passenger is aboard. It will also automatically dim if a camera mounted in the ceiling catches the driver looking at it instead of the road.With no transmission to house, the Hyperscreen connects to the center armrest by an arched console with storage space below, an metal inlaid wood cover on top, and more touch sensitive controls for the stereo and driving modes surrounding a physical starter button.See all 48 photosThose who don’t fancy an all-glass cockpit, or paying for one, will get a standard dashboard very similar to the new 2021 S-Class. A freestanding 12.3-inch instrument cluster screen sits behind the steering wheel while a tablet-like 12.8-inch infotainment screen leans up from the center of the dash on a stand that runs down into the center console. The starter button moves back to the dashboard and the space in front of the passenger is occupied by either a massive piece of inlaid wood trim or one of two plastic trim pieces, one a 3D relief of a geometric pattern and one a pattern of laser-cut and backlit three-pointed stars. The beautifully crafted metal turbine air vents incorporated into either end of the Hyperscreen are relocated to the upper corners of the dashboard.Regardless of dashboard, the screens run the next generation of MBUX software, and it’s loaded with features. The “Hey Mercedes” digital assistant is far smarter now and uses artificial intelligence technology to study your routines and suggest everything from turning on the seat and steering wheel heaters to phoning a friend you often speak with to pulling upcoming events from your calendar or to-do list. It will also bring up specific vehicle function controls when it thinks you need them, such as remembering where you’ve previously used the vehicle lift function to clear a speed bump or steep driveway and popping up the digital button when the obstacle is nearby.The touchscreens also incorporate haptic feedback technology to vibrate the surface when you touch a digital button, and pressure sensors to allow you to press harder to go deeper into a menu.Don’t Call It a Screen, but It Basically IsTwo optional head-up displays are offered, a small one and a large one. The larger one uses the same technology as the S-Class to project a 77-inch field of vision on the windshield ahead of the driver. Both use augmented reality technology to assist the driver with navigation and alerts.See all 48 photosBeyond the ScreensAlso independent of your dashboard choice is a black band wrapping from door to door just above the screens which hides the center air vents and is accented by a rose gold pinstripe. Both on the dash and doors, it also serves as a dividing line for the two-tone color schemes, with darker colors on the dash top and door card tops and lighter colors below.Ambient lighting abounds, hiding in seemingly every recess and able to change color manually or automatically to match your mood, the music, or signal a function. Wood is used sparingly in the cabin if you order the Hyperscreen, only showing up on the center console lid and on the door arm rests.In addition to dashboards and color schemes, you also have option of two different seats in the front row. The comfort seat is standard, while a sport seat with integrated headrest is part of the AMG Line interior package. The seats and interior panels can be finished in natural leather or a vegan leather option with microfiber inserts.The seat controls remain mounted on the upper door cards, but are now touch sensitive as in the S-Class. Powered rear seats are an option, as is rear seat heating and cooling.What’s That Noise?Every automaker has a different idea about what EVs should sound like. Some take to amplifying the natural noises of the electric motors and gearboxes, while others, including Mercedes, invent new noises from whole cloth. The EQS will come with two different sound profiles obnoxiously named Silver Waves and Vivid Flux, with the option of immediately downloading a third called Roaring Pulse via an over-the-air update.All three sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, with Silver Waves calmer and softer, Vivid Flux techno and modern, and Roaring Pulse akin to a digital internal combustion engine. Rather than pre-recorded tracks, each is generated in real time depending on factors like your speed, accelerator and braking inputs, driving mode, and more. They can also be switched off entirely.Even when not moving, the car will emit special noises to let you know it’s aware of your presence and your actions. A soft sound plays as you approach the car, different tones play when you turn the car on or off, and audible cues sound when you plug in or unplug.See all 48 photosGet ComfortableThose driving sounds are played by the 710-watt 15-speaker Burmester audio system, which can pump out tunes from literally any streaming music service through MBUX, Mercedes says. It can also play relaxing sounds like the ocean, summer rain, or a forest.Further relaxation can be had from the hot stone seat massagers, which can also be employed to help keep you awake. The overhead camera, along with light and temperature sensors, can work with the vehicle settings to guess your mood, level of distraction, and alertness and make suggestions to keep you happy, safe, and awake. There’s even a nap mode that’ll close the windows and sunroof cover, lean the seat back, play soothing sounds, display a starry night on the screens, adjusting the lighting, ionizing the interior air, then waking you up later with a combinations of lights, seat vibrations and ventilation, a scent, more soothing sounds, and raising the seat.What’s That Smell?Like other high-end Mercedes products, there’s a fragrance system built into the ventilation system and the EQS gets its own unique scent. There’s also a HEPA filter certified to remove over 99 percent of airborne particles, including 86 percent of viruses and 90 percent of bacteria.See all 48 photosWhat About the Outside?Mercedes also dropped a few details about the still-camouflaged exterior of the car, which will be revealed on April 15. The styling is the latest evolution of the brand’s “Sensual Purity” design language, taking a step further to eliminate sharp character lines as much as possible.The overall shape differs from other larger Mercedes sedans by taking a cab-forward approach that shortens the hood and trunk and moves the windshield forward. This maximizes passenger space, which should be huge in a car that’s roughly the size of the S-Class. The design is defined by the “One Bow” shape originally previewed on the F 015 Concept, with the top surface of the car one uninterrupted curve from front bumper to rear bumper.This shape, along with crazy 19-inch wheels with a latticework of three-pointed stars between the five spokes, allowed the aerodynamics team to get a 0.20 coefficient of drag, which Mercedes is claiming beats both the Lucid Air and Tesla Model S for slipperiest in the world. If you don’t really care about that, wheel sizes go up to 22 inches.Mercedes also revealed some of the details that liven up the exterior design, such as the 3D helix shapes in the taillights and the lightbar connecting the headlights. Without a combustion engine to cool, the grille has been replaced with a solid panel punctuated by a pattern of, you guessed it, three-pointed stars. Behind the panel are the various sensors needed for advanced driver aides like adaptive cruise control and lane centering.What About the Rest of the Car?Mercedes is keeping details about the car’s motors, batteries, suspension, pricing, and more a secret until the big reveal next month. We know it should have a maximum range over 400 miles on the lenient WLTP cycle, which translates to well over 300 miles on the stricter EPA cycle. We also know it will have a height-adjustable air suspension and we suspect it with have both front and rear motors for Tesla-fighting performance. Pricing is expected to come in well over $100,000.See all 48 photosOh Yeah, What Are We Supposed to Call It?This part is confusing and ridiculous. Mercedes-Benz decided to change how it names its various sub-brands several years ago from Mercedes-Benz AMG and Mercedes-Benz Maybach to Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Maybach (Mercedes-AMG S63 instead of Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, for example). This goes for the EQ sub-brand of EVs as well, which is officially Mercedes-EQ. However, Mercedes-EQ EQS sounds dumb and redundant, so Mercedes-Benz would prefer you just call it the EQS rather than try to make sense of this ridiculous naming convention. More
The excitement surrounding the recently revealed Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer hasn’t even died down yet, and we have it on good authority that Jeep isn’t done making news with this family of vehicles. For example, we know that there will be a long-wheelbase model coming, along with a PHEV version. And you shouldn’t be surprised if, down the road, there’s an off-road version as well—which we had our talented artist, Abimelec Arellano, render in the images you see above and below.Not Trail Rated?While it might not wear a “Trail Rated” badge due to its size, the Wagoneer is still a capable off-roader from the factory—and a “Trailhawk” version would be more so. On a regular Wagoneer, you’ll be able to get adjustable air suspension, 18-inch wheels, skid plates, tow hooks, and a capable traction management system. The market for off-road versions of full-size SUVs is evidenced by the Ford Expedition FX4, Chevy Colorado Z71, GMC Yukon AT4, Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro, and even the full-size Range Rover. Jeep started the red tow hook trend, and it isn’t going to sit on the sidelines and let the Yukon AT4 be the only full-size SUV sporting them.See all 158 photosWe believe an off-road variant of Jeep’s largest offering would be built on the more mainstream Wagoneer and not the ultra-luxurious Grand Wagoneer. Following the strategy of Jeep’s existing Trailhawk lineup, we expect Jeep to enhance the base vehicle’s capability and styling.Improved Off-Road Protection—and MoreMore aggressive tires will be standard on the Wagoneer’s 18-inch wheels, and we expect more robust underbody protection, along with some sort of rock rail/step combination to protect the rockers. In order to improve the approach and departure angles of the big SUV, we imagine front and rear facias will be reshaped.To set it apart visually, there will be some unique color offerings, an anti-glare decal on the hood, blacked-out chrome trim and grille for a more contemporary look, and of course Jeep’s signature red tow hooks (sorry GMC) and requisite badging. A special wheel design with greater offset will give this off-road ready Wagoneer a wider stance and add stability.Crawling and GoingPowertrain and suspension changes should be modest but effective upgrades to the already capable Wagoneer. Jeep will likely replace the mechanical limited slip on the base Wagoneer with a driver-selectable rear locker. Expect some re-tuning of the adaptive suspension for more control off-road. A new electronic stability strategy would allow for more driver engagement, while a bank of auxiliary upfitter switches (or something similar nested in the Uconnect system) will easily allow owners to add electrical accessories.See all 158 photosSince the Wagoneer is not technically badged as a Jeep, we don’t know if it will share the Trailhawk name with its lesser siblings or get its own name exclusive to the Wagoneer line. If that ends up being the case, you could be getting a first glimpse of the 2023 Wagoneer “Trailwagon.” More
Off-road SUVs are having something of a moment. Put another way, the Jeep Wrangler is getting some direct competition for the first time in years from the upcoming Ford Bronco, and automakers are rushing to add capability to crossovers and SUVs of all sizes and prices. Even so, there are some holes in the playing field: Toyota long ago killed off its retro-flavored FJ Cruiser, as did Nissan its burly Xterra 4×4. And as of now, neither Japanese SUV is due for a comeback, even though Nissan just unveiled a thoroughly modernized Frontier pickup—the same pickup that shared components with the old Xterra. That got us thinking …
If Nissan were about to reveal a new Xterra today, what might it look like? We turned to our speculative artist wizard, Abimilec Arellano, for a rendering of the 2022 Nissan Xterra that does not, and likely will not, ever exist.
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Wait, why?! While rumors abound that a new Xterra is coming, and such a model would make tons of sense in today’s 4×4-crazed market, Nissan has said it’s not doing a new Xterra, at least not any time soon. Given the automaker’s big new-model push that includes not only the new Frontier but also the freshly redesigned 2022 Pathfinder three-row SUV, updated Armada SUV, refreshed Kicks, all-new Rogue crossover, and a new Z sports car, it’s little wonder there might not be time or resources for picking up the Xterra mantle six years after the SUV was canceled in 2015.
But we think if Nissan brought back the Xterra and made it look anything like this, it’d have a winner. (Heck, the original 2000 Nissan Xterra won that year’s MotorTrend SUV of the Year award!) The new Frontier, on which our rendering is based, is a handsome, burly looking thing. It looks even better with the old Xterra’s signature stepped roof design, built-in roof rack, and tailgate blister. No, that bulge on the tailgate isn’t a faux fuel can or something—it’s where Nissan punched out the sheetmetal on the original Xterras to fit a first-aid kit. Neat.
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As before, the Xterra has been imagined as a four-door, two-row SUV. We figure a new Xterra, to maintain the original’s off-road capability and credibility, would utilize a shortened version of the frame that sits beneath the Frontier midsize pickup. Rear-wheel drive could be standard on low-cost variants, but most would be built with four-wheel drive with available low-range gearing.
When the previous-generation Xterra faded out, it was offered only with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, an ancient lump of a powertrain that nonetheless continued on for years in the Frontier. Today, were the Xterra to come back, it’d inherit the 2022 Frontier’s new 310-hp 3.8-liter V-6 and nine-speed automatic transmission.
A Pro-4X ultimate-off-road-capable trim would be a given, and we’ve done up our hypothetical Xterra in the same Pro-4X treatment offered on the 2022 Frontier. Stir in the Frontier’s interior improvements, and Nissan has everything it needs to put the SUV back in service. We’d welcome a new Xterra, if only to provide some price competition for the ever-more-expensive Jeep Wrangler and the long-awaited and sure-to-be-sold-out-for-years new Ford Bronco. More
When Will the Ferrari SUV Come Out?
The Purosangue, or “thoroughbred” if you will, is due to break cover in the first half of 2022. If auto shows ever make a comeback, the Purosangue will likely make its debut at the Geneva show, which is typically scheduled for the middle of March. There are plenty of spy shots of mules running around Ferrari’s global HQ in Maranello, Italy, as well as in frosty climates for cold-weather testing.
We know relatively little about what the Purosangue will look like, but according to a report by the British publication Autocar, the SUV’s design has already been finalized by Ferrari. Mules of the Purosangue that have been captured in spy shots appear to be Maserati Levantes concealing Ferrari running gear. That said, these Purosange test vehicles appear to lack the ground clearance of competitors such as the Urus and Bentayga. It seems Ferrari wants its SUV to out-handle the competition.
What Engine Will the Ferrari Purosangue Use?
Rumor has it the Purosangue will be built on a scalable architecture that can handle a V-6, V-8, or even a V-12. Our money, however, is on Ferrari’s tried and true twin-turbo 3.9-liter V-8 serving as the default setup. This engine powers a number of Ferrari models at the moment—the F8 Tributo, Roma, and Portofino—and can be tuned to produce more than 700 hp. However, we don’t think the Purosangue will be powered by internal combustion alone.
Even though Ferrari went to great lengths to develop a trick all-wheel-drive system (with an independent gearbox on the front axle) for its FF and GTC4Lusso grand tourers, we think the pressure to lower emissions means the Purosangue will offer—if not come standard with—a gasoline-electric hybrid system similar to the setup of the SF90 Stradale. That means two electric motors at the front axle will motivate the front wheels, and power from the engine will be sent to the rear. The result? An all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid SUV with a Ferrari badge on it. Sacrilege, we know.
Ferrari will no doubt want to keep up with its main rival from Sant’Agata, and it’s safe to assume the Purosangue’s V-8 will have a similar power figure to the Urus’ 641 ponies. However, add in the extra hit of electric power from the electric motors, and the power figure could be in excess of 700 hp. Should it crest the Durango Hellcat’s 710 hp figure, the Purosangue would be the most powerful SUV in the world, and that’s not a bad title for your very first SUV to lay claim to.
How Big Will the Ferrari SUV Be?
We think the Purosangue will be a four-seat SUV that’s similar in size to the Aston Martin DBX and Lamborghini Urus. Expect a wheelbase of just under 120 inches and an overall length of around 195 inches—figures that closely follow those of the Maserati Levante. Ferrari will no doubt want this car to drive like its sports cars. Given that extra size and heft are the antithesis of driving purity, Ferrari likely views keeping the Purosange’s size and heft to a minimum as a must.
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Will the Purosangue Handle Like a Ferrari?
Well, if Ferrari has anything to say about it, yes. The electric motors in the SF90 can already vector torque independently, much like the current Acura NSX. Massive wheels and sticky rubber will almost certainly help the Purosangue put its power to the ground, as well.
Not only will the Ferrari SUV likely have some electric motors helping it out, but the Purosangue will surely feature an improved version of the rear-wheel-steering found on the GTC4Lusso. Other items, such as an electronic limited-slip differential and carbon-ceramic brakes should help the Purosangue live up to the performance expectations of a vehicle bearing the prancing horse badge.
Hopefully, we’ll know a little more about the six-figure Purosangue’s behind-the-wheel experience before its expected arrival in the U.S. of late 2022 or early 2023. More
The eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette. It’s a mid-engined masterpiece that is so far pretty great in both base and Z51 flavors. And it will have even more variants in the future. That much is almost certain. What exactly these variants are, however, remains an open question until Chevy makes it official. That said, intel that we’ve gathered suggests a Z06 is on the horizon. While the C8 Z06 is an extremely exciting proposition, it’s the so-called “E-Ray” that truly has our attention.
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What Is the Chevy Corvette E-Ray’s Name All About?
To be very clear, nothing’s official until Chevy tells us so. And at this early date, we have only rumors and a few scant firm details to work with. Still, this combination gives us a reasonable idea of what to expect from the gasoline-electric hybrid Corvette. For one, General Motors has held the “E-Ray” trademark since 2015. It renewed it in August 2020. Automakers hold trademarks for lots of reasons, and it doesn’t always mean they intend to produce a vehicle so named. However, with the latest GM push toward electrification, the stars are aligning for an electrified C8.
Will the C8 E-Ray Be a Hybrid?
That’s the rumor at the moment. We’ve heard the E-Ray will adopt a pair of front-mounted electric motors, which will provide low-speed motivation, as well as an extra kick in various performance scenarios. The layout would be loosely reminiscent of the recently-departed BMW i8: an internal combustion engine aft of the cabin, and two electric motors powering the front wheels. That means the E-Ray would be all-wheel drive.
What Gas Engine Will Power the Corvette E-Ray?
The E-Ray is anticipated to use the stock 6.2-liter V-8 engine found in the regular C8 coupe and convertible. For such a large engine, the V-8 returns reasonable fuel economy thanks to a bevy of advanced fuel-saving features, such as Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation). GM could detune the engine slightly for better economy, considering the E-Ray’s electric motors will likely add a good deal of power to the powertrain stable. We’re confident that if an E-Ray comes to market, it’ll best the stock C8’s 495-hp and 470 lb-ft of torque (when equipped with the performance exhaust). We envision power numbers that slot it firmly in between the regular C8 and the high-zoot Z06.
E-Ray May Not Be the Only Hybrid C8
We’ve heard that the E-Ray’s electric motors could be paired with a twin-turbocharged version of the Z06’s flat-plane crank V-8. The resulting all-wheel-drive hybrid monster could be called the “Zora” to honor the “Father of the Corvette,” GM engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov. We expect it to have more than 900 hp. In other words, it’ll be a true monster of a Corvette. It’d be a smart way for GM to re-use some of the development dollars spent on the E-Ray, too, giving the C8 a variety of mix-and-match powertrain components to dial in several performance price points. Again, GM hasn’t confirmed the Corvette Zora, so things may change in the future.
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When Will the E-Ray Arrive?
As soon as we find out when the E-Ray is due, we’ll let you know. The C8’s been out for a while, and after GM’s recent EV and electrification announcements, the time is certainly ripe for the company to announce the addition of the E-Ray. Unfortunately, with most auto shows canceled due to the pandemic, we can’t point to a particular show that might serve as the likely reveal date. Stay tuned. More
Update: This article was originally published on April 14, 2016, and has been updated to include updated market information, as well as information recently reported by Reuters that Apple plans to produce a car by 2024.
It’s a moment we’ve all had with an Apple product. When the ordinary awkwardness between you and an electronic device becomes a relationship between you and a friend. Mine happened way back when I used an early Compaq computer. The keyboard clacked. You typed things that looked like C: >find /V into DOS. And stories extruded across a murky screen in a green, constipated font. Then a friend let me use this thing called a Macintosh while she was away. I slowly circled my right hand to get used to its strange, plastic clicker-box.
Suddenly, the screen blinked “Hello.” In script.
I’m not sure if I said hello back, but I might have. Encounter by encounter, Apple has woven a series of obtuse electronic tools into the fabric of our lives. How many times has somebody held up their iPhone and said, “This IS my life!” The automobile of today is a Compaq computer. And Apple knows it.
Steve Jobs knew it way back in 2008, too, when Apple was at an early iPhone crossroads. What to focus on next? An electric car reportedly shared the shortlist with the maturing multitouch smartphone. Given Cupertino’s less formidable, 2008-era resources, Jobs’ final pick proved insanely right. Apple’s iPhone-fueled market cap topped a brain-boggling, $2 trillion in 2020. What’s that mean to paycheck-to-Taco Bell types like us? It’s enough to purchase all the stock of General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Combined. And then buy Detroit again. Some of Apple’s shareholders have been clamoring for Apple CEO Tim Cook to snap up Tesla with its loose change.
And sometimes, Apple has nonchalantly jangled that change. In late 2013, Elon Musk met with Apple’s head of acquisitions and later huddled with Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, at a post-Oscars party. Adding to the warm visuals, Laurene Jobs returned her husband’s famously plateless Mercedes-Benz SL 55 AMG for a Tesla Model S. But Musk doubts an Apple deal will advance his goal of creating a compelling mass-market EV. “I don’t currently see any scenario that would improve that probability,” he said.
Read more about our exclusive take on the Apple Car:
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As Apple’s code-named Project Titan inhales Silicon Valley’s brightest car brains, it’s left enemies swirling in its wake. The tug-of-war grew tense with Tesla, as evidenced by Musk famously stating, “We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.” At a recent press dinner in Palo Alto, I sat next to an executive with a German brand who heads an SV tech center. “We’re battling to hang onto people,” he said after a few drinks. “Recently, we actually hired somebody back from Apple. It felt like a victory.”
In September, the car was allegedly raised to “committed project” status with a 2019 release date.
An estimated 1,000 people are thought to be working at an Apple complex in Sunnyvale, California, according to AppleInsider. Operating under an apparent shell name, “SixtyEight Research,” employees have supposedly been told to turn around their Apple name badges (which already have their Apple logos deleted).
And then there are the autonomous rumors. Apple has pored over the fine points of self-driving regulation with the California DMV. It’s supposedly negotiated use of the nearby GoMentum Station (the repurposed Concord Naval Weapons facility that’s now the nation’s largest secure autonomous-focused test site).
Early sightings of a camera-festooned Dodge Grand Caravan sparked speculation that the van was actually an autonomous prototype. Apple made a rare comment to quell the chatter: wrong, everybody. They’re just compositing their own version of Street View for Apple Maps. So maybe the car isn’t a minivan. Then what is it?
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Fruit From the Apple Tree
In September 2015, the car was allegedly raised to “committed project” status with a 2019 release date, presumably meaning its design completion. But after a program review, Ive “expressed his displeasure.” Reportedly, it was not moving fast enough. The program was in disarray. Its goals were unclear. (Meanwhile, management was accused of unrealistic targets). Ive froze the hiring spree that was projected to spiral toward 1,800 employees, AppleInsider heard. And program head, Steve Zadesky—who spent six years with Apple after a stint with Ford—resigned, though it’s said he did so for personal reasons. In 2019, Apple laid off nearly 200 employees from the project.
Ive, the world’s most celebrated industrial designer, is the Cupertino Car Czar. Once tempted by a Royal College of Art’s automotive class, he instead chose industrial design at Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University) and later became Jobs’ right hand. And what does he drive? A Bentley Mulsanne and an Aston Martin DB4. His design co-conspirator, Marc Newson, penned Ford’s 1999 021C concept for J Mays and curiously also owns an Aston Martin, a 1929 Bugatti, a ’50s Ferrari, and a Lamborghini Miura. (Another Apple designer, Julian Hönig, previously worked at Lamborghini.) These are impeccable-taste, Goodwood-attending, genuine car guys. And Newson, for one, has a dim view of current automotive design. Per a Wall Street Journal interview, “There were moments when cars somehow encapsulated everything that was good about progress. But right now we’re at the bottom of a trough.”
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Envisioning the Apple Car
To get a higher vantage point on all this, we traveled to the hills above Pasadena, California. The ArtCenter College of Design’s famous Hillside Campus is a giant beam-and-glass shoebox designed by Craig Ellsworth, dropped in an arroyo above the Rose Bowl. Here, childlike scribbles flower to sophisticated artistry. Within is a curriculum that’s so influential that it’s essentially become the international epicenter of automotive design. We’re at its far end, sprinkled around a table.
On my left is Stewart Reed, ArtCenter’s chair of transportation design who recently envisioned the bodywork of Peter Mullin’s unfinished Type 64 Bugatti. Tim Huntzinger, a professor in graduate transportation systems and design, has worked for Fisker, Rivian, and Daqri, a Los Angeles-based augmented reality company. Tim Brewer, a faculty member and an inventor of the first mouse scroll wheel. Di Bao is a Chinese national who specialized in interiors. Akash Chudasama, a recent grad student with an aerospace engineering degree, has interned at JPL. On my right is Garrett DeBry, who’s intrigued by personal mobility and would become our Apple Car designer of record, folding the group’s ideas together and placing them in his own imaginative envelope to create the images you see here.
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OK, everyone. Imagine Apple is our client, and we’re going to brainstorm what its car will be.
“My iPhone has become my social life and my career life,” Chudasama says. “I don’t really use this to make calls. I use it for everything else. So if they can make a telephone—something that’s been around a hundred years—part of your way of life, what will they do with a car?”
“You tell me,” I reply.
“It’ll be your entire way of life,” Chudasama says. “And probably also the walled garden that turns some people off but others want for the impeccable experience someone else has anticipated for you. Tesla is kinda there; the BMW i3 isn’t there yet, but aesthetics aside, it’s a really easy-to-use car, simple to get into its back seat.”
There’s immediate dissension. “I totally disagree,” Huntzinger says.
“The i3 is Windows. They’ve crammed too much functionality into the vehicle, so it actually gets in the way of the experience. The eucalyptus wood is cool, but if you count them, there are 35 different materials in your field of view.”
Reed takes the high ground. “I just got out of a meeting with a manufacturer who is now calling their designers ‘experience designers,’ ” he says. “Their team sounds like a movie crew: acoustics, haptics, interpreters. To me, that would be an Apple approach.”
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How about car-sharing? Apple products have always been premium. You spend more to have them, and you prize their finish. Besides the obvious reason—saving money—why would you share your car if you wouldn’t share your phone?
Stewart: “That’s a question we’ve spent 14 weeks discussing with another manufacturer: how do you share a premium product?”
Chudasama: “The car would be ownable if you want to own it, but the real value of the phone isn’t the hardware but in its apps. Traditionally your connection to a car is through its steering wheel; now it might be more about how the total transportation experience makes you feel.” Eyes turn to a sleek MacBook Pro on the table; you feel good without even touching it.
DeBry: “The advertisement for the iPod was a black silhouette jamming to music, and that sold the whole thing. A car that comes to mind was Volvo’s YCC Concept that was designed by women for women. It even had a hole in its seat for a ponytail. That’s really anticipating use cases. The core experience of an Apple vehicle is that it’s as easy to use as possible.”
Might the famous Apple ease of use be particularly suited for countries with developing driver populations, such as China? “Owning a car in any city is a pain, so an Apple Car could make urban transit simpler,” Huntzinger says. “With iPhones in the pockets of many non-Apple Car drivers (and pedestrians), the whole urban system could be communicating with itself.”
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Reed taps the brakes on this thinking. “I feel many of us are getting too focused on the rise of urbanization,” he says. “Remember, the best-selling vehicle in the country is still a Ford F-150.” But an autonomous future could blur these lines; you could sleep on your way home or start to work on the way in.
DeBry: “People historically travel for about a half-hour—whether it’s by foot or horse or car. But an autonomous model could change that. Apple could sell this as giving you a half-hour of your life back. It’s a time machine, particularly valuable as careers become more immersive.” My caution not to get too optimistic about autonomy’s timeline proves futile.
Herding cats, I ask again: “So what’s the Apple Car?”
Stewart: “It’s the old-time, really great family chauffeur who knows the family, knows your schedules.”
Chudasama: “It could be more of a tiny, mono-shaped minivan.” Minivan? “No, we’re talking about a premium mono-volume.” Sketches start to appear on the dry-erase board.
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Brewer: “Sleek metal—the mono-volume doesn’t have to have those minivan stigmas.”
Reed: “And the future of automotive glass isn’t laminated safety glass. It’ll be in the realm of hard-coated polycarbonates that allow expansive glass surfaces for augmented or, as I prefer to call them, ‘merged-reality’ projections.”
Time to pin the group down. Going around the table: “What would your Apple Car look like?”
“I would start from the inside out,” Bao says, “with usability coming first.”
Brewer: “What’ll be most striking will be the quality of its parting lines, how materials come together. The big gaps on current cars make them seem dated.”
Chudasama: “It’ll be a mobility device. A way of life. It won’t be taking cues from an animal or something. Rather, it would be honest to what it really is. It’s not faking its meaning.”
Huntzinger picks up on that. “Those haunches and big wheels are old memes we use just because people think they’re valuable,” he says.
Chudasama: “The new premium is ‘convenience’. We want our time back. That’s the most valuable thing we have.”
Huntzinger: “I think it’ll look like a blend of Toyota’s Me.We concept and Marc Newson’s Ford 021C concept. There’s a trend toward super-organic forms—and some can be timeless, but in five years we’ll know exactly when they were made. Apple’s really good at finding ways to ride that line between exciting without having a timestamp on them.”
Reed: “The glazing would be beautiful, well-proportioned with some automotive cues that look sure-footed and capable, not cutesy. Approaching it will be like walking up to an amazing store in Tokyo, the way the door opens up and presents isn’t a door you grab but a roof that raises and you walk in.” DeBry is starting to sketch.
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Silicon Valley Cars
The response of most carmaking veterans to the Apple rumors has been one loud harrumph. Lighting up a La Libertad Robusto cigar, he puffs smoke and growls, “Cars are very complicated. These software guys will never figure out how to build them.” PayPal co-founder Elon Musk has. And in the same manner, Google is expected to collaborate with Ford. Apple will probably contract it out. Last year, Tim Cook visited the BMW i3 plant in Leipzig, Germany, which is pioneering the mass production of carbon-fiber chassis. Reps also toured Magna-Steyr, a contract builder of premium (sometimes aluminum) cars in Austria. Either way, it makes sense that Apple outsources the manufacturing intricacies overseas (iPhone/Foxconn-like), avoiding U.S. taxes that could take upward of a 40 percent bite from its overseas war chest.
“Well, maybe,” our archetypal veteran barks. “But,” as the stogie lolls between his molars, “Apple is used to fat profits. Car margins are paper-slim. They’d be crazy to build cars.” Apple’s margin was about 40 percent in 2015. But making smartphones is intensely competitive, too, and its $53.4 billion profit in 2015 reflects strategies that legacy car companies should study, not dismiss. However, we’re being presumptuous of the Apple Car’s business model.
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ZipCar and Uber are the early breezes of a cyclone of shared use/ownership model that’s readying to blow the industry’s spreadsheets right off their monitors. Replacing single-user ownership with a shared model could collapse your get-around costs. A recent Deloitte study projected our typical per-mile travel costs (that’s all-inclusive) dropping 70 percent for shared, fully autonomous vehicles. Meanwhile, a manufacturer that retains ownership could charge for all that way-greater use while simultaneously building far fewer cars.
Yet all this might be missing something bigger. Although making ever-more billions is surely motivating, many Cupertino watchers have been wondering if the Macintosh magic is fading since Jobs’ death. Back when Jobs was romancing Pepsi’s John Sculley into being Apple’s CEO, he famously asked, “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?” For Cook and Ive, an Apple Car might be the answer to Steve Jobs’ question about themselves.
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Apple of Your Eyes: The Windshield
If the iPhone’s screen is the Mona Lisa of multitouch, an automobile’s windshield and dash would be a blank Sistine ceiling. But what should it look like? Google has amassed its fortune by connecting search-related advertising to people sitting at their desks. Transplant that idea into a car, and it becomes the moving world as seen through Apple’s eyes.
See all 59 photosWraparound entertainment projections appear below the window line as the steering wheel is released and autonomy is engaged. Above it, augmented reality remains journey-focused to enhance safety and provide location-based information.
The vehicle will become an extension of your Apple device. — Garrett DeBry, designer of MotorTrend’s imagined Apple Car
Approaching the Apple Car with your phone or watch pre-positions the seat and mirrors. The climate control prepares your cabin temperature. Your music swells. The door rises. You climb in. The dash—smooth, featureless leather that notably lacks today’s electronic screens—suddenly brightens with projected displays. A Siri avatar greets you. “Hello. Any errands on our way to work, Bob?” You’re still a bit sleepy this morning, so you reply, “Starbucks.” Siri: “OK, I’ll call in your grande latte. But let’s go to the one on Fifth Street instead. There’s construction on our normal route.” The dash’s graphics are swipable and expandable, with only the simplest instruments on display because electric drivetrains no longer need monitoring. You can even toss some graphics up onto the augmented windshield. Made of Corning’s thin automotive Gorilla glass, it’s wraparound to maximize the augmented field of view. “Siri, I have a lot of work today, so I’ll need to eat at my desk again. Any ideas?” Siri: “I sense that you’ve gained four pounds recently despite our going to the gym three days last week. Your Facebook friend Jill, who has similar tastes, liked a cucumber salad at the Blue Garden Cafe that’s right along our way. I’ll highlight it as we get close.” Beyond downloading entertainment from iTunes, the car will be a personal assistant. And one Apple might hope you adopt for your non-driving time, as well.
Want to see how our final Apple Car renderings took shape? Check out these preliminary sketches right here.
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Calling the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS a Tesla slayer this early in the game seems like a stretch–or maybe it’s not. Inspired by the EQS concept from the 2019 Frankfurt show, the production EQS is set to arrive on our shores in 2021 riding on an EV-specific platform with room for a battery pack large enough […]
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