Mercedes SL goes 2+2, Marsien is a modern-day 959, Harley Sportster breaks cover


Welcome to The Manifold, our fresh daily digest of news and what’s happening in the car world.

Mercedes-AMG reveals new SL interior

Intake: Mercedes-AMG is working up to the launch of the new SL by giving us a good look at the car’s cabin. Clearly inspired by the AMG GT and GT 4-Door Coupe, there’s no denying that it looks like a delightful place to cruise down the PCH or make a desert dash to Las Vegas. The center console is dominated by a giant 11.9-inch touchscreen which can be tilted towards the driver to reduce glare from the sun when you’re driving with the roof down. The instrument panel is a 12.3-inch screen that can be customized to display whatever information you fancy, and an optional head-up display will show not only speed and navigation but also project the car’s surroundings in three dimensions. As you can see from the photos the next SL is s 2+2 again, so there’s room in the back for small kids or trophy dogs. If you’re carrying either you may well want to throw a blanket over those lovely quilted leather seats.

Exhaust: So the SL has gone fully digital, which may not please some fans. However, the return of rear seats, a quick-folding fabric roof, and the use of aluminum, magnesium and composites to add a bit of Sports Leicht again can only be good news.

Meet Marsien, the off-road 911 Turbo S that evokes the Porsche 959

Marc Philipp Gemballa Marsien
Marc Philipp Gemballa

Intake: Marc Philipp Gemballa has taken a Porsche 911 Turbo S and turned it into a desert storming supercar. Gemballa, whose father Uwe was a legendary Porsche tuner, named the car Marsien (French for Martian) and is apparently inspired by the dunes of the United Arab Emirates where it was developed. Gemballa brought in the boffins at RUF to uprate the engine to 750 hp, with a Stage 2 tune of 830 hp also offered. The car’s lifted suspension is by KW automotive, featuring double wishbones at the front and solid piston dampers with intelligent control. In road mode the car hunkers down to 4.7-inches above the ground, but can be raised to almost ten inches for off-roading. Pre-set driving modes for snow, gravel, mud and, of course, sand are added to Porsche’s regular road driving settings. If the standard car isn’t enough for customers’ off-road antics then Gemballa will fit Reiger rally suspension which adds even more travel and ground clearance. A carbon-fiber body is also available at extra cost. The cabin can be fully tailored to customer desires, with full leather or Alcantara trim as a starting point. Just 40 Marsiens are to built and they’ll be homologated for Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. You’ll need to find around $580,000, plus the $207,000 price of a new Porsche 911 Turbo S, to get started.

Exhaust: Lifted Safari-style 911s are on the rise, and even Porsche is believed to be getting in on the game, but nothing we’ve seen compares to this 959-echoing dune-basher. Mars, Earth, wherever—this looks like a blast.

2022 VW GTI and Golf R see price creep to match added performance and equipment

2022 VW GTI and Golf R

Intake: The all-new 2022 VW Gold GTI and Golf R both come with more potent 2.0-liter engines, more standard equipment, and bigger price tags. The GTI, identified by its red-trimmed grille, packs 241 horsepower and starts at $30,540 including destination for the manual S model, about $1000 more than its predecessor, but comes standard with goodies like heated cloth seats, Digital Cockpit, and wireless phone charging. The GTI SE ($35,290) adds premium sound, LED front lighting, voice control, and an optional leather interior package with a power driver’s seat. The Autobahn trim ($38,990) loads up the GTI with heated rear seats, ventilated leather front seats, summer tires on 19-inch wheels, and adaptive dampers. The 315-hp, AWD Golf R, identified by its quad exhaust tips and blue-trimmed grille and calipers, starts at $44,640 for the six-speed manual and $45,440 for the dual-clutch seven-speed.

Exhaust: Both the GTI and Golf R seem to be giving buyers more of what they already love. The Golf R is seriously pricey, although it does come in just one fully-loaded trim. Buyers looking for a hot hatch with VW levels of refinement and performance won’t have much to cross-shop.

Harley-Davidson packs Sportster S with Revolution Max 1250T engine

2021 Harley Davidson Sportster S

Intake: Harley Davidson went aggressive with the all-new 2021 Sportster S. The styling is a departure from HD tradition while also giving nods to the brand’s history. The exhaust and tail section, for example, recall XR750 vibes quite vividly. But it’s the powerplant that represents the most radical change. The Revolution Max 1250T is a V-twin first seen in the Pan America adventure bike. The compression ratio is 12:1, down from the Pan’s 13:1 which likely explains why the Sportster is down 29 horsepower from the ADV machine. Even “tuned down” the Sportster packs 121 horsepower and Harley is claiming a very handling-focused chassis.

Exhaust: The Sportster has been a staple of the Harley lineup for over 60 years, but this new direction leaves a lot of the heritage angle behind. Buyers of the Sportster seemed to be chasing the nostalgia of an air-cooled simple lump, but that will soon be history. Leaving what has previously defined Sportster put this new S model into more direct competition with bikes like the Honda Rebel 1100 and Indian Scout. While the Sporty packs more power, it might be tough to get buyers from the competition to swing their legs over a Harley.

Ram adds BackCountry Edition option package to 1500 Big Horn and Lone Star 4x4s

Intake: Ram is giving 1500 Big Horn and Lone Star 4×4 buyers the option to add off-road prowess as well as some aesthetic upgrades. The new BackCountry Edition includes hardware from the 4×4 Off-Road Group: shocks tailored to off-road driving, all-terrain tires on 18-inch wheels, skid plates, and an electronic locking rear differential. It pairs those off-road tools with the useful features of the Bed Utility Group like tie-downs and a spray-in bedliner. Black two-tone paint, black mirrors, black headlight bezels, black “BackCountry” badging, a tonneau cover, and body-colored grille surround help differentiate the BackCountry from other Rams. The package will be available on 4×4 Quad and Crew Cab models with the 5.7-liter Hemi as well as the 5.7-liter Hemi eTorque mild-hybrid. Production begins in the third quarter of 2021 with a starting MSRP of $41,780.

Exhaust: Ram buyers normally have to add a convenience package in order to equip the 4×4 Off-Road Group and Bed Utility Group. As it stands, a Ram 1500 Longhorn Quad Cab 4×4 has an MSRP of $42,485 without any additional options. By pairing some useful groupings of hardware with the popular 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, Ram has created a serious value proposition for those looking to hit the trail in style.

35 years ago, we said goodbye to Avanti designer Raymond Loewy

Intake: Raymond Loewy was a multi-faceted industrial designer of everything from streamlined locomotives and Greyhound buses to the Shell logo and USPS emblem. At age 86, he even took a stab at creating a Soviet “world car” called the Moskvich XRL. Loewy was perhaps best known, however, for the Studebaker Avanti, his 1960s jet-inspired creation with the long nose and no grille. On this date in 1986, the legendary Loewy died at the age of 92.

Exhaust: Although born in France, Raymond Loewy had a profound influence on American life, and his legacy lives on in familiar brands and products throughout the world.

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