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2022 BMW i4 EV Sedan First Look: Big Range, Big Power, Big Grille

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  3. 2022 BMW i4 EV Sedan First Look: Big Range, Big Power, Big Grille

Production model promises up to 300 miles range and 523 horsepower.

The 2022 BMW i4 EV sedan premiered a bit earlier than expected, with the first few exterior photos and even fewer details released during the company’s annual conference in Munich today. It is the latest i model to be introduced under BMW’s electrified sub-brand, which has fielded stuff like the i3 EV hatchback and the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.

The production i4’s styling, it turns out, was accurately previewed by the Concept i4 last year. That said, the sedan’s visual were toned-down substantially, particularly in the headlights and wheels. While the concept looked like an aggressive sport sedan, we were told back then that wasn’t the goal for the production car. As such, the i4 you’ll be able to buy later this year looks like a less-aggressive version of the new 4 Series coupe, which will itself debut in four-door Gran Coupe guise soon, albeit with blue accents like those on the (discontinued) i8 sports car. Though BMW refers to the i4 as a Gran Coupe in a press release, it’s unclear if that appellation will be an official part of the car’s name.

While details are scarce, the Concept i4’s headline numbers have arrived intact or improved. BMW now promises up to 300 miles of range on the EPA cycle (based on internal estimates), bettering the 270 miles previously announced. (367 miles on the more generous WLTP cycle.) The automaker is continuing to promise up to 523 hp and a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time “around four seconds” for the quickest model. Those stats are likely to apply to an upcoming M Performance model (not a full M car), while the big range number may apply to a less sporty model.

Another, less fortunate carryover from the concept car to the real-deal i4? The rodent-with-braces fascia, wholly unnecessary in this case as electric cars don’t need big radiator grilles as they don’t have combustion engines to cool. BMW has instead chosen to use the inflamed kidneys as a place to mount all the forward-looking sensors necessary for advanced semi-automated driving features and, someday, autonomous driving. We hope this choice doesn’t lead to expensive repair costs in the event of a front-end collision, although other manufacturers stuff similar equipment in their vehicles’ noses.

It remains to be seen how much of the somewhat radical concept interior makes it to production as BMW has not released any interior photos yet. BMW i models tend to have futuristic interiors, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the design elements make it to production, especially the massive, curved, floating instrument cluster and infotainment screen. We’re told the crystal iDrive controller is unlikely to go into production, but otherwise, BMW’s plans are still a mystery.

BMW has promised to release more details over the coming weeks ahead of the car’s on-sale date late this year as a 2022 model.

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2022 Volkswagen Taos Gets Basecamp Accessory Package for More Effective SUV Cosplay

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Volkswagen is introducing an outdoorsy accessory line for the all-new 2022 Taos. The accessories add a rugged look to the compact SUV and are available bundled together in a package or sold separately.

Inspired by the Basecamp line for the Atlas, the package includes custom plastic body cladding, front and rear fender flares with integrated splash guards, and lower side plates. The grille also gets a Basecamp badge. The Basecamp package gives the Taos a more aggressive appearance and creates a cohesive styling upgrade that extends from the nose to the rear.

In addition to the new Basecamp accessory line for Taos models, Volkswagen has a full suite of equipment options that bolster convenience and vehicle protection. Featured gear from the extensive catalog consists of Rubber MuddyBuddy and carpeted floor mats and Bumperdillo guards for the rear bumper that help prevent damage when loading and unloading cargo.

Aimed at folks with an adventurous lifestyle looking to boost functionality while adding distinctive styling, Volkswagen seeks to build on the vehicle’s dynamic exterior design. Except for the Basecamp badge, which is only a part of the complete package, the dealer-installed components are available individually. The Taos Basecamp bundle costs $999 and is on sale now.

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Tesla’s New AMD Graphics Chipset Should Have Sony PS5 Performance

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During Computex 2021 (aka Taipei International Information Technology Show), AMD disclosed it is providing APU- and RDNA2-based GPUs to Tesla to use in its new Model S and Model X’s infotainment systems. That explains Tesla’s bold claims, noted on its website, that “[u]p to 10 teraflops of processing power enables in-car gaming on-par with today’s newest consoles” in its Model S and Model X vehicles. Essentially, Tesla is putting a gaming computer on wheels, but more importantly, it shows the company is doubling down on a smart-connected vehicle future.

The Hardware

The current MCU2 (the second-generation media control unit) found in all Tesla models on sale today uses an Intel Atom processor, which is a lower-end product usually found in budget laptops. This new chipset from AMD—some Tesla fans have dubbed it “MC3″—should be a major upgrade, and Tesla claims it will be in vehicles this month. The APU (a CPU with an integrated, lower-performance GPU) generally handles the media system, using less power to handle simple tasks. The high-power dedicated GPU kicks in for high demand applications such as AAA games.

According to an earlier leak from developer Patrick Schur on Twitter, this high-power chip is based on AMD’s Navi 23 GPU, which should put it more or less on par with Sony’s PS5 gaming console in terms of raw computing power. Since the new Tesla infotainment screen has a 2200 x 1300 resolution, gaming performance should be at least equivalent to a PS5 hooked up to a 4K (3840 x 2160) TV.

Overall, this new chipset from AMD is a huge leap from the old Intel chip; think of it like going from a $400 netbook to a $2,000 gaming laptop. However, this change to a higher end chipset may put Tesla in a slight manufacturing disadvantage for a while, as the current global microchip shortage and strong demand from both gamers and crypto miners means GPUs are scarce. The demand is far bigger than supply, and manufacturing can’t scale up quickly to accommodate the demand, so don’t expect this new chipset to trickle down to higher volume Teslas such as the Model 3 and Model Y any time soon.

(Speaking of crypto-mining, the AMD GPU should provide 40-60 MH/s—millions of hashes per second—for mining Ethereum, but don’t buy a Model S as a mining rig. At the current rate, profit is roughly $4 a day, you will need 20,000 days to reach ROI, unless you “diamond hands” hold and ETH moons someday. And it’s not like Tesla would let you install any mining software, anyway.)

The Software and Future Potential

Nerdy hardware talk aside, what does this new chipset bring to the in-car experience? A smoother infotainment UI should be the most noticeable benefit. The Intel Atom chip from 2018 has started to show its age as Tesla added more functions throughout the years; the in-car browser can’t even scroll smoothly on this site, motortrend.com. And entertainment features such as Netflix and YouTube UI have started to feel sluggish. The new chip will almost certainly improve the UI experience.

Being able to run AAA games—big-budget blockbuster video games, in other words—is a gimmick that helps sell an expensive car, but it’s a gimmick no other brand has attempted. But there is more to it below the surface: This highly capable hardware paves a path for extra revenue for Tesla in the future, should it decide to sell games and apps on its own platform. The gaming industry is worth $150 billion; Apple’s AppStore made an estimated $64 billion in 2020.

Tesla has the ability to reach a user base of over a million owners, so selling software and subscription features is a potential revenue stream that is difficult to ignore. When driver-assistance technology becomes more mature in the coming years, and drivers don’t have to monitor the road at all times, the in-car infotainment system may become the major feature for car buyers.

It took Apple’s iOS 13 years to build up a customer base capable of generating $64 billion in one year. Since Tesla is intent on developing true self-driving systems in the future, it makes sense to start thinking about how to lock their customer base into their software ecosystem.

Game Time

To see how the current MCU stacks up, we booted up some AAA games for an unscientific test. It worked … with a few caveats.

As mentioned above, due to chip shortage, don’t expect to play AAA games in the Model 3 and Model Y anytime soon. But what if you really wanted to play high-end games while waiting in line for an available Supercharger in a parking lot (stationary, absolutely NOT driving on the road), and you didn’t have the latest Model S or Model X? Well, Tesla’s in-car browser is based on Google’s Chromium—the open-source code that underpins Chrome and many other browsers—and Google has a game streaming service named Stadia, so in theory you can play AAA titles through the in-car browser.

I plugged in my Stadia controller to an in-car USB slot, opened up the browser and logged into my Stadia account. And … it worked. I was able to play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on a Tesla Model 3’s screen.

But it didn’t work well. In fact, it was nigh-unplayable, due to frequent disconnects and numerous input lags. Game streaming requires a stable internet connection, and the car’s network module failed to provide that. Whether it was on full bar LTE cellular or a stable WIFI home internet, the MCU2 struggled to maintain a stable connection. Still, it works, in a technical sense, and the better internet module that will come with the MCU3 hardware improvements should bring Tesla’s dream of premium gameplay to a small screen near you.

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Obscure, Futuristic ’70s Mazda RX500 Concept Was Immortalized in Die-Cast Form

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  3. Obscure, Futuristic ’70s Mazda RX500 Concept Was Immortalized in Die-Cast Form

With a wild, eye-catching wedgy shape, it’s no wonder the RX500 inspired a Matchbox model that outlived it.

It’s late 1970. Mazda has been at the rotary engine game for almost a decade, developing the problematic Felix Wankel/NSU design into a formidable, powerful, and futuristic little powerplant. It was the highlight of the forward-looking production 1967 Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S. While beautiful, and interesting, the Cosmo Sport merely (albeit expertly) epitomized the now. The RX500 Concept, which took the stage at the 17th Tokyo Motor Show, envisioned a rotary-powered future straight out of a Syd Mead sketchbook.

The RX500’s aesthetic is pure ’70s sci-fi, with a wrap-around windshield that makes it look like a starfighter for the road. The ports on the engine cover and fenders look like exhausts for some sort of fusion reactor, the mirrors look like sensor pods, the large inlets just behind the windows could be jet intakes. Fair in the wheels, and it looks like it could hover, or fly. Pop up the butterfly doors and the impression is enhanced.

But the profile is the most striking. The high, nearly horizontal rear decklid streams backwards from the roof, terminating in a bluff rear flanked by a quadrangle-vented dark ring. Inset is a huge red-painted stripe emblazoned with the words “Powered by ROTARY.” Underneath, two prominent square exhaust outlets are painted red. There’s a loose thematic link with the Ferrari 250 GT SWB known as the “Breadvan,” but the RX500 is much busier in the details, yet arguably more elegant overall.

The shape came from Mazda’s design team, in particular Shigenori Fukuda, who later became head of the company’s design team. The designer admitted some influence from Italy in an interview with Pen, in particular Bertone’s work, but the design is on the whole original. And the spaceship influence is quite overt, directly inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fukuda told the outlet.

It wasn’t enough to simply build a futuristic mid-engined supercar, albeit one with a modest (by today’s standards) 247 horsepower from a modified two-rotor 10A engine that revved to a stratospheric 15,000 RPM. As was the trend at the time, the RX500 explored safety concepts, with a taillight cluster that used colored indicators to show whether the car was accelerating, braking, or coasting. That particular concept didn’t catch on, but adaptive brake lights did, decades later.

What did endure was the shape, although not in a full-size vehicle. In 1971, Matchbox immortalized it with a die-cast model, which differed from the fantastic RX500 mainly in the re-imagined engine cover, which opened as one piece (as opposed to the gullwing engine bay doors on the RX500).

The RX500 speaks to a future that never was for Mazda, and one that arguably wouldn’t have worked out very well considering the oil crises that followed shortly after the concept’s debut. While Mazda never built a road car much like the RX500, its mid-engined race program eventually led to an overall win at Le Mans with the legendary 787B in 1991—after which rotary engines were banned from the series. The Autozam AZ-1, a mid-engined kei car with gullwing doors, is perhaps the closest thing to this RX500 to hit production, and it utilized a Suzuki I-3 engine.

Just one RX500 was made, and it was restored in 2008 to display at the Numaji Transportation Museum in Hiroshima, the home of Mazda. But the 1:59 scale Matchbox model remained on sale for over a decade, with a hiatus of several years in between, giving the RX500 a broad fanbase and a stronger legacy than it might have had otherwise.

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