Two-Door Decadence: We Go for a Ride in the Next Mercedes-Benz E-class Coupe

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“If you think you cannot take off another line, go ahead and do it anyway,” says Mercedes-Benz chief designer Gorden Wagener. For instance, a crease that runs along a vehicle’s shoulder line is a styling element that defines virtually every current Mercedes, yet it is absent on the new E-class coupe. In fact, no Mercedes-Benz since the Bruno Sacco era (1975–1999) is as minimalist in its surface treatment or as classic in proportions as the next two-door E. Even so, the car stays true to the design language that was launched with the current S-class. READ MORE ››

So Excited! Spot the Terrible Renaults and Sweet Jeeps in This Awesomely ’80s AMC Video

A Renault Alliance screams away from the Christmas tree at a drag strip. A wood-sided AMC Eagle wagon brings a bit of elegance to a surf spot with its wire wheel covers. A Renault Fuego revs to a mind-shattering 4000 rpm. A Jeep pickup carries a big white box marked RUSH the way only a Jeep pickup can. It’s all to the pulsing drum-synthesizer beat and get-up-and-move vocals of the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” It doesn’t get much more ’80s than this.

This two-minute clip has no voice-over—the better to let almost the entire circa-1985 AMC/Jeep/Renault lineup speak for itself. We’re guessing it’s a rah-rah piece used at a dealer meeting or perhaps sent to dealerships (on VHS and Beta, we presume) to get salespeople pumped. The Pointer Sisters have that effect on people.

What’s awesome is how many different models are on display. Clearly, Renault is being pushed hard. The Alliance convertible is the glamour machine of the lineup and features prominently—a yuppie couple with identically feathered blond hair enjoys the thrill of open-air motoring, while a trio of dancers gets down in front of a trio of convertibles, their outfits color-matched to the cars. But there are more obscure models: the Renault Sportwagon, an AMC Eagle sedan, a turbo-diesel Jeep Cherokee—how many members of the sprawling, Franco-American lineup can you identify?

Volkswagen Doubles Down on Ride Sharing, Expects Big Revenue by 2025

Volkswagen Beetle Stuffed with Students

Volkswagen already is one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world. In the future, it might become one of the world’s largest ride providers, too.

Like many other automotive companies, Volkswagen is moving beyond its traditional role of merely building cars and morphing into a business centered on mobility. The company said this week that it is launching a new subsidiary called Moia that is intended to hatch innovations based around ride-hailing apps. The name Moia comes from the Sanskrit word for “magic.”

Volkswagen is no stranger to ride hailing. In May, it invested $300 million in Gett, a global competitor of Uber and Lyft with a strong presence in Europe. It’s unclear exactly what role Gett will play with Moia, but Volkswagen sees the combination of the two as a means of entrenching its position on its home continent and elsewhere.

“We want to demonstrate that innovative mobility solutions are possible outside of Silicon Valley.”
-—Ole Harms, Moia

“Our sights are set on becoming one of the global top players for mobility services in the medium term,” said Moia CEO Ole Harms.

Beyond ride hailing, Moia will develop an app for what VW calls “connected commuting,” offering customers ways to plan journeys across different modes of transportation on a one-stop platform, a plan similar in concept to Moovel, a Daimler subsidiary that offers integrated bookings and payments.

Moia also will focus on on-demand pooling, in which customers summon vehicles and share rides with others headed in the same direction on small shuttles, a plan similar to the on-demand shuttles tested by Ford’s recently launched Smart Mobility subsidiary. Another similarity to Ford’s approach: Volkswagen says it will both market these services directly to customers and explore partnerships with cities.

“The objective is holistic transportation solutions that make individual transport and public transport more effective,” Harms said, “thus avoiding unnecessary journeys and optimizing use of the existing road infrastructure.”

Based in Berlin, Moia will launch with 50 employees at the outset and grow throughout 2017. The company intends to launch a pilot project testing connected commuting next year. Volkswagen says it expects to “generate a substantial share of its sales revenue from this new business by 2025,” although it does not elaborate on more specific revenue targets.

Volkswagen’s announcement comes on the heels of one from another German automaker. BMW’s iVentures, the company’s venture-capital arm, soon will raise $530 million for mobility-related projects and relocate to Silicon Valley, according to Forbes. That is one move Moia won’t make. Volkswagen appears eager to demonstrate that the California hub does not have a monopoly on such technology.

“With Moia,” Harms said, “we want to demonstrate that innovative mobility solutions are possible outside of Silicon Valley.”

Our Jaguar XE Long-Termer Arrives: What We Like (and Don’t Like) So Far

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-Longtime Car and Driver readers might remember a succession of long-term Jaguars, four of them through the 2000s, that did little to dispel the stereotype of unreliable British cars. The last of these Jags born from the Ford-ownership era to finish its tour of duty was a 2009 XF Supercharged sedan. Its long-term wrap story began with a Seinfeldian inquiry: “What is it with Jaguar and electronics?” READ MORE ››

Apple Agrees with Feds on Automated-Vehicle Policy—with a Few Key Changes

Apple autonomous car

Although Apple’s plans for the world of self-driving cars remain opaque, the tech behemoth has taken a keen interest in the federal government’s new policy on autonomous vehicles.

In five pages of comments submitted to regulators, a top Apple executive outlined the company’s position on the new Federal Automated Vehicles Policy and offered suggestions on how it could be clarified to accelerate the process of putting test vehicles on U.S. roads.

The letter gave no hint on whether or when Apple is planning to introduce its own autonomous vehicles or provide self-driving technology to another company that produces cars. But Steve Kenner, director of product integrity at Apple, nonetheless conveyed enthusiasm for a foray into autonomous vehicles.

“The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation,” he wrote in comments submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Nov. 22.

“By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could
-create alone.” – Steve Kenner, Apple

His comments generally supported the major planks of the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which federal leaders unveiled in late September, including plans for a 15-point safety assessment of autonomous cars and the development of a network in which competing companies could share anonymized data on autonomous crashes and near misses.

“By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone,” Kenner wrote. “This will allow everyone in the industry to design systems to better detect and respond to the broadest set of nominal and edge-case scenarios.”

Kenner emphasizes these shared datasets should be stripped of any identifying data to ensure motorist and vehicular privacy. He went further, proposing that the auto industry should create privacy standards that are more stringent than the ones adopted by the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of major OEMs, in November 2014.

Apple’s top concern isn’t necessarily one that arises in the policy, but it’s one that a revised policy could potentially fix. A provision in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, enacted into law in December 2015, permits established manufacturers to test new technologies on public roads without the need to receive an exemption from federal motor vehicle safety standards. But that doesn’t extend to newer entrants into transportation.

This is not the Apple Car

“To maximize the safety benefits of automated vehicles, encourage innovation, and promote fair competition, established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally,” Kenner wrote.

While NHTSA can’t override the FAST Act–that would require an act of Congress–regulators could amend the policy to state that exemptions are not required for testing of vehicles on public roads, as long as they are never used by the general public. NHTSA has already signaled its willingness to give prompt attention to the exemption process to help new innovations that may not conform to the safety standards.

In a separate section of its comments on the policy, Apple said that, while it supports the 15-point safety assessment, it’s concerned about a section that asks companies to submit documents four months before testing on public roads takes place.

“As written, the safety assessment provision of the policy could be interpreted as requiring preapproval by NHTSA prior to testing,” Kenner wrote. “This could result in a testing blackout period while NHTSA reviews the safety assessment.”

Overall, Apple offered NHTSA high compliments on the policy development, something the agency isn’t accustomed to receiving from the industry it regulates. Apple praised portions that included a discussion of ethical considerations that should be incorporated into vehicle development, the encouragement of the data-sharing network, and a push for model state policies that would help avoid a patchwork approach that subjects manufacturers to different laws in different states.

In July, Apple undertook a high-profile shift in the direction of its autonomous-car project—if developments in a secret project can be described as high profile. The company, which has never publicly acknowledged that it’s working on a vehicle, tapped longtime executive Bob Mansfield to take over its self-driving-car program, dubbed Project Titan, according to many reports.

While Kenner’s letter to NHTSA didn’t delve into details of how Apple intends to deploy its machine learning and automated technologies in the realm of transportation, it does, if anything, confirm that the project exists and that Apple remains hard at work.

More Details Emerge on 2018 Buick Regal, Thanks to GM’s Overseas Brands

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Buick has yet to let out a single peep about the next-generation Regal, but General Motors’ Opel brand is blabbing all about the Europe-market Insignia sedan that is essentially a Regal with different badges. After seeing undisguised photos of the Insignia sedan and wagon earlier this week, we now have even more insight into the 2018 Regal thanks to official photos of and info on the Insignia Grand Sport sedan; and there’s more from the new Australia-market Holden Commodore, which is abandoning its previous rear-drive platform and migrating to the Insignia architecture as well.

With a 3.6-inch-longer wheelbase than the last Insignia, the new model now has the exact same stretch between the axles as the Chevrolet Malibu—no coincidence given that the two sedans share Epsilon E2XX underpinnings. Indeed, we can see some Malibu in the overall proportions of the Opel, although the Insignia’s attractive side surfacing, tasteful chrome detailing, and sharp headlight and taillight treatments give it a style statement all its own.

Opel Insignia

The Opel’s interior, too, looks to be significantly more upscale than the Chevy’s, with a dash design similar to that of the Buick LaCrosse. Holden’s press materials give details on the interior’s frameless 8.0-inch touchscreen, which offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, while rear-seat room and trunk capacity are both said to increase compared with the outgoing car.

Also setting the Insignia apart is the availability of all-wheel drive with the same Twinster torque-vectoring system used in the Cadillac XT5 and Buick Envision, as well as an optional adaptive suspension with FlexRide dampers. While the only detail Opel will provide on the Insignia’s powertrain is the fact that it’ll have an eight-speed automatic transmission, Holden divulged that the Commodore will offer a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with front-wheel drive and an optional 308-hp V-6 mated to a nine-speed automatic and the aforementioned AWD system.

Opel Insignia

That V-6/AWD combination might well be in store for the high-performance Regal GS in the United States, although we admit we’re disappointed that there’s no mention of a manual transmission from either Opel or Holden (the U.S.-market Regal GS offered a six-speed manual as recently as 2015 with its 259-hp 2.0-liter turbo four). Nor were photos of the wagon variant included, although we got a good look at the long-roof Insignia in spy photos.

U.S.-specific info on the Regal likely won’t be out until next spring, perhaps around the same time the Insignia makes its official debut at the Geneva auto show in March.

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