Toyota’s lifted Minivan, Ken Block goes Quattro, Lotus’ new EV architecture


Not even minivans are safe from overlanding editions

Intake: Toyota will add a special-edition Sienna minivan targeting outdoorsy adventurers. The Sienna Woodland Edition packages the standard minivan’s electronic-assisted all-wheel drive system with a host of outdoor-focused bits, including increased ground clearance, a 1500-watt inverter with a 120V outlet, a tow hitch with a 3500-pound towing capacity, and roof rails with crossbars. There’s also a Woodland Edition-exclusive color called Cement. For each one sold, Toyota will donate $250 to the National Environmental Education Fund.

Exhaust: Overlanding: so hot right now. While the idea of a lifted minivan is usually the type of modified thing you watch on YouTube while 60 percent certain it’ll tip over, a factory Toyota Sienna with a light lift seems especially silly. Aren’t these people just buying Highlanders? Don’t plan on seeing one of these shredding your local rock garden, but it’ll certainly intimidate pickup owners at state campgrounds. Can’t we all agree these Wilderness/Timberline/Crunchy Critter Editions are getting out of hand?

Signing for Audi is a dream come true for Ken Block

Ken Block and Audi
Audi Audi

Intake: It was seeing the Audi Sport quattro S1 power up Pikes Peak that first made ultimate hoonigan Ken Block dream of a career in motorsports. However, it won’t be a five-cylinder turbo motor that powers Block’s new deal with Audi, it will be electricity. “I see the electric car as a leap forward for us as a society in order to create something that can not only reduce emissions and hopefully make the planet a better place,” he says. “But not only that: it’s also about performance. I love anything that makes me go faster. Electric cars can do that.” No further details on the exclusive partnership have been released yet.

Exhaust: “Audi is the brand that ignited my passion for motorsport,” says Block. “I am extremely excited to start this new chapter. Together, we will develop innovative projects and push the boundaries of electric mobility.” Cue some entertaining YouTube videos at the very least; we’re here for an EV-only Gymkhana.

This is what lies beneath the future of Lotus

Lotus EV architecture

Intake: We’ve known for a while that following the Emira, Lotus is planning to build EVs exclusively. Thankfully, the new cars should be pretty exciting, judging from the few details released so far. Next generation Lotus cars will be built on a new modular architecture (pictured above) that will allow for a two-seater roadster, a 2+2 coupe and a longer wheelbase car. The platform features a standardized rear subframe that’s mounted to the rest of the chassis, which comes in different sizes. The all-aluminum design sticks to Lotus’ lightweight principles, and that rear subframe is actually 37 percent less weighty than the equivalent from the Emira. Lotus says it will fit its new Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture (LEVA) with a 66.4 kWh battery and 350 kW (470 hp) electric motor in the 97.2-inch short-wheelbase two-seater. A larger 99.6 kWh battery back and twin electric motors producing a combined 650 kW (872 hp) will be available on the long wheelbase (more than 104.3 inches) version, which can also host a combination of smaller batteries and a choice of either single or dual motors.

Exhaust: It’s hard to talk about new performance EVs and not wonder bout weight. We’ve been more than a little bit skeptical about how Lotus, a company rooted in lightweight thinking, will handle this shift. Early details are promising that maybe, just maybe, not every EV on the road will weigh four tons and look like a transformer. You’ll need to be patient, however. The first car to appear on the new platform, a two-seater known as the Type 135, won’t arrive until 2026. Don’t forget Lotus is collaborating with Alpine so a French version will also arrive shortly thereafter. 

Semiconductor chip shortage is nearly twice as severe as predicted

300 mm Silicon Wafer Auto Worker Hands
A worker at U.S. chip supplier GlobalFoundries holds a 300-millimeter silicon wafer on which has been photo-etched hundreds of “die,” or integrated circuits, which each have billions of semiconducting “lines.” A shortage of such chips has caused slowdowns in the auto industry. Liesa Johannssen-Koppitaaz/Bloomberg

Intake: It looks like the semiconductor chip shortage is way worse than previously thought. According to Automotive News, consulting firm AlixPartners says the ongoing chip shortage will be nearly twice as costly as it predicted in May. AlixPartners says production of 7.7 million vehicles could be lost, up from its prediction of 3.9 million units just four months ago. The shortage will cost the global automotive industry $210 billion this year; in May, AlixPartners predicted $110 billion. General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Stellantis each have had to pause production, and dealer inventory for both new and used cars has taken a dramatic hit.

Exhaust: The shortage of semiconductor chips affects a multitude of industries worldwide. One economic consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been increased demand for personal electronics, so much that there is no telling how long it will take for supply to meet demand. That means not only long waits but also higher prices, conditions affecting everything from cars to smartphones, laptops, gaming systems, home appliances, and more. Chip manufacturing is exorbitantly expensive, and the U.S. Senate passed a bill earmarking more than $50B for investment into domestic production to curtail dependence on China.

Volvo’s new logo follows minimalist trend

New Volvo logo - September 2021

Intake: It appears that Volvo has replaced its 3D-like logo with a thinner, simpler design. Unveiling the new logo on its Facebook page, Volvo follows a trend toward minimalist designs, a road also recently taken by BMW, Nissan, and Volkswagen. Volvo first used the chemical symbol for iron—a circle with an arrow pointing to the upper right—as its logo in 1930.

Exhaust: With the rise of “green” marketing and electric vehicles, companies are looking for more and better ways to project their “less is more” philosophy, so it makes sense for them to reflect that attitude by simplifying their logos. Social-media responses to Volvo’s new look have been mixed (but mostly negative). While the logo looks sharp on a cell phone, the jury is still out on how it’ll look on the nose of a car.

Ram gets fiery with TRX’s Ignition Edition paint

2022 Ram 1500 TRX Ignition Edition

Intake: Ram is trotting out three new special editions of its stalwart light-duty pickup at the State Fair of Texas. The first is a limited-run version of the raucous TRX, called the Ignition Edition, of which there will be 875 examples. For $93,280, the Ignition dons bright orange paint and comes loaded with the Level 2 Equipment group, special 18-inch wheels, and Copperhead Orange interior stitching. The Longhorn Southfork, which replaces the ritzy Longhorn 10th Anniversary, which will cost $63,315. The Southfork gets a cozy Mountain Brown interior with tons of leather and suede details. The Ram 1500 (RED) Edition is part of Ram, Jeep, and Fiat’s $4 million pledge to the (RED) fund, which fights global health emergencies. It costs $64,945 and is based on the Ram Limited. All three special models will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Exhaust: The State Fair of Texas is a prime venue for this type of reveal, like announcing a new type of vegan book jacket in downtown Portland. Ram is seizing the opportunity to triple up. If the existing TRX’s attitude was somehow not loud enough for your liking (?!?!), the Ignition Edition’s blazing orange paint should get the job done.

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