Big screen for 3 Series, China patents classic Mini ripoff, traffic fatalities highest since 2005?

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BMW’s facelifted 3 Series gains giant touchscreen to rival C-Class

Intake: Four (model) years into the seventh-generation (G20)  of the 3 Series, BMW is giving its compact luxury sedan some exterior design tweaks and significantly upgraded interior kit. Thankfully, the two-tier headlamps of the 2022 X7 are absent from the refreshed 3 Series, which gains squintier DRLs above a more heavily creased lower fascia. The upright lines and generous use of black plastic (Shadowline trim now comes standard) echo the new 7 Series, whose single, 14.9-inch Curved Screen comes standard on the 2023 3 Series, replacing the dash-mounted 10.25 Control Display and separate, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The shift lever also departs, replaced by a finger-controlled toggle switch. It talks to the same eight-speed transmission, however, which mates to the already available suite of engines, with one subtle upgrade: The 3.0-liter inline-six of the M340i and M340i xDrive adopts the 48V mild-hybrid system of the 3 Series’ two-door sibling (M440i). The tweaked U.S.-market 3 Series will be built in Mexico, and BMW expects the first cars to be available in this July. Pricing isn’t yet available.

Exhaust: Now three years old, BMW’s 3 Series is facing off against a brand-new version of its archenemy, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. BMW seems to have made up the ground lost to the fresh-faced C-Class, however, which rides on a chopped version of the S-Class platform and boasts Mercedes’ stunning 12.3-inch portrait display. The real test, of course, is whether BMW can prove its supremacy out on the road. Stay tuned. 

Toyota trucks lose bling to gain SX appeal

Intake: As part of the ever growing trend to replace bright or color-matched trim with charcoal, matte black, or gloss black upgrades, Toyota now has an “SX” package for SR5-grade Tundra and Tacoma pickups. The Tundra SX is de-badged at the doors, has 18-inch wheels finished in dark gray metallic paint, black interior finishes instead of the silver bits, and uses black instead of body-color trim at the “outer door handles and the rear inboard bumper.” The Tacoma SX follows suit with black wheels/fender extensions/lug nuts, and replaces color-matched door handles for black ones. Other unique graphic items differentiate the SX from the regular SR5 models, and pricing has yet to be announced for either truck in SX form.

Exhaust: Remember when only the cheapest trucks—those intended for fleet buyers—had black door handles and bumpers? Erstwhile poverty-spec aesthetics have newfound appreciation these days, but perhaps in a mea culpa (of sorts) to truckers of the Cowboy Cadillac variety, Toyota is also offering the Tacoma SR5 with a chrome package that includes shiny wheels, door handles, exhaust tip, and tailgate emblems. Perhaps everyone wins?

Radical 1951 Vincent wins Best in Show at The Quail motorcycle gathering

2022 quail motorcycle gathering best in show winner vincent restomod
Kevin-James Gonzalez

Intake: Of the 250 motorcycles entered in the 12th annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering, it was the 1951 Vincent Rapide built by Hazen Motorworks that rode off the show field with Best in Show honors. The one-man, California-based shop used the Vincent engine as a centerpiece to realize a radical form-over-function custom build that left no detail untouched—a painstaking level of attention that was made even more by the other restored Vincent models on display at the same event.

Exhaust: Other events on the Monterey peninsula often get more press, but those with two wheels on the brain know that The Quail is as good as it gets. The best of the best custom and restored machines come out for a weekend of motorcycle-centric fun. With a wonderful ride the day before the show, this event should be on any rider’s calendar. Tickets and more information can be found on The Quail’s website.

Chinese startup makes a better EV Mini Cooper than BMW?

Intake: First the Corvette …  and now the Mini Cooper? Beijing Estech Technology (BST), an EV startup, is not only planning to make an electrified Mini clone but has successfully patented the iconic design for the Chinese market. According to CarNewsChina, the electric Mini clone lacks a name, but is designed with a large battery pack under the cabin, and a lower hood line/larger windshield indicative of electric propulsion for the front wheels. Even Mini’s traditional exposed fuel cap was retained to become the clone’s charging port.

Exhaust:Wow, this is beyond ironic. Consider that, come 2023, BMW will be selling an EV version of its Mini Cooper for the Chinese market. But now it will likely and unintentionally do battle with the original, as BST’s clone could make a better city car by remaining true to designer Alec Issigonis’ original template. The wheel size is a good indication this will be a relatively small car, and it arguably looks far better than BMW’s swollen, British-badged hatchback.

Seventh Rennsport Reunion heads to Laguna Seca

Porsche Rennsport Reunion 2023
Porsche

Intake: The seventh running of Porsche’s Rennsport Reunion is set to take over WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca from September 28 to October 1, 2023. After a five-year hiatus the event returns to the California circuit to celebrate Porsche’s incredible presence in motorsports–past and present. Over the course of four days tens of thousands of fans will be treated to vintage and contemporary racing action, static displays, new car launches and Esports. “California and Porsche are a dream pairing, and the Monterey Peninsula is an ideal spot to bring the two together for an unforgettable weekend with so much happening both on and off the track,” says Kjell Gruner, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America. “Rennsport Reunion is for everyone—we’re creating an experience that’s special, whether you’re a long-time enthusiast or are new to Porsche and are learning about our cars for the first time. Rennsport Seven is going to be bigger and more exciting than ever and yet at its core it’s the people that sets it apart—all are welcome, and I can’t wait to share our plans in the coming months.”

Exhaust: Porsche fans will be marking their calendars with glee after such a long break. Some 80,000 enthusiasts visited the last Rennsport Reunion in 2018, and Porsche is promising that 2023 running will be bigger and better than ever. Stay tuned for details of the event’s theme and ticket availability.

rennsport seven porsche reunion venue laguna seca 2023
Porsche

Iron Man likes old iron? Robert Downey Jr. enters restomod business

Intake: Robert Downey Jr. is setting up shop to restore classic cars with an environmentally friendly twist. The Iron Man actor’s exploits will be filmed for a new show on Discovery+, provisionally titled Downey’s Dream Cars and set to air before the end of 2022. “My goal is to showcase that it’s possible to keep the integrity of classic cars while leveraging new tech and innovation to make them more eco-friendly,” he says. The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Downey’s own collection will be the first to undergo conversion.

Exhaust: RDJ is gearhead on- and off-screen, with a collection that has included a 1965 Corvette, a Mercedes SL Pagoda, a 1970 Mustang Boss 302 (a Speedkore build, shown above), a Porsche 993, Ferrari California T, and an Iron Man–style Audi R8. It will be interesting to see if he’s as hands-on as Tony Stark when it comes to building these restomods.

Preliminary NHTSA data from 2021 reveals fatality surge

2021 nhtsa estimate traffic fatality death surge spike
Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange, Los Angeles. Unsplash/Denys Nevozhai

Intake: In early estimates, the NHTSA’s traffic fatality system reports that 2021 saw the highest number of traffic-related deaths in a single year since 2005. Approximately 42,915 people died on American roads, a swell of 10.5 percent over 2020 and the sharpest increase NHTSA has observed since its tracking began in 1975. Public officials are pointing fingers at post-pandemic recklessness and bad driving etiquette once statewide lockdowns lifted. Most interestingly, large categories like the rural interstate and urban arterial fatality rates rose in parallel by 15 percent, while the urban collector/local roads saw a jump of 20 percent. These estimates are still subject to alteration, as the definitive FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) results won’t finalize until later this year.

Exhaust: Traffic accidents and fatalities can be stubborn statistics to parse, and context is vital. In the same early findings, the report also suggests that 2021’s worst quarter was the first, and every subsequent one resulted in a decline of fatalities per 100 million VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled). Complexities inherent to this study make trend-spotting inconclusive and regulation of the problem a nightmare, as no better antidotes exist outside of an increased enforcement presence and individuals taking personal accountability behind the wheel. Buckle up, everybody.

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