New-vehicle inventory up as sales slow, AMG’s 687-hp electric SUV, Kurt Busch hangs up helmet

Unsplash/Acton Crawford

Dealer inventories rise as sales slow

Intake: New vehicle inventories have climbed to 1.32 million vehicles in September,  according to Cox Automotive and the Automotive News Research & Data Center. It is almost a half-million vehicles more than where inventory levels were this time last year, and about 90,000 more than a month ago. But it’s down more than two million from September of 2019, before the pandemic hit. The data suggested that one reason inventory levels are up is because sales are down, allowing dealers to add more new vehicles to their stock.

Exhaust: Kind of a classic good news-bad news situation—more cars to sell but fewer customers to buy them, thanks to higher interest rates and generally higher prices on most everything. Selections were best, the study said, among high-profit, full-sized pickups, and that’s good news for dealers. —Steven Cole Smith

AMG’s first electric SUV outguns everything but the GT Black Series

Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 4MATIC+ SUV

Intake: The new EQE SUV is Mercedes-AMG’s most powerful electric model to date, and you’ll need a Black Series GT to outrun it. In 53 4MATIC+ guise with the AMG Dynamic Plus Package the AMG EQE delivers 687 horsepower to both axles thanks to two permanently excited synchronous motors—and permanently excited will also be the driver’s condition when all its electrons are unleashed to deliver a 0-62 mph time of 3.5 seconds. Mercedes-AMG says its massive 90.6 kWh battery can provide a range of up to 292 miles according to the European WLTP test, with up to 260 kW of energy recovery possible through regenerative braking. Power is nothing without control so there’s an AMG Ride Control system with adaptive damping, rear-axle steering and fully-variable all-wheel drive. The powertrain has a selection of drive programs from Slippery to Race Start and optional carbon ceramic brakes are available to put a stop to proceedings. Adding further entertainment is an AMG sound experience to create an “emotional soundscape” through the Dolby Atmos audio system. The AMG is distinguished from the Benz-badged version by a black panel radiator grille with chrome vertical struts, a unique front apron, wheel arch cladding and a rear diffuser, plus 21- or 22-inch AMG alloys.

Exhaust: A key omission in the published specifications is the weight. AMGs have always been heavyweight fighters but this takes things to a whole new level and while its tires might shred the pavement beneath its mass might just open up a sinkhole as well. Mercedes talks about using environmentally-friendly materials inside the EQE but this march towards heavier and heavier vehicles simply isn’t sustainable and undermines the eco credentials of EVs. —Nik Berg

Moke Californian returning to the U.S.

EV Moke Californian front

Intake: Moke is returning to the U.S. market with the “improved and more powerful” electric Moke Californian, 40 years since the original version was last sold in America. The Californian, the company says, will be the only “highway-legal” Moke vehicle available in the U.S. and first genuine version of the original Mini Moke to go on sale since 1982. The electric Californian, powered by a lithium-ion battery and a 44-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels, has a top speed of 50 mph and a range of 80 miles per charge. A full charge takes four hours on a Type 1 charger. The Californian is hand-built in the United Kingdom to the same “high specifications and standards” as the electric Moke that recently went on sale in Europe, but its name is a U.S. market-specific tribute to the 1977 Moke Californian—an uprated version of the Mini Moke that was sold in America and ceased production in 1982.

Exhaust: All we can say is, cute! Information on price and availability is coming soon, Moke International says. SCS

Concussion ends Kurt Busch’s NASCAR hopes for 2023

NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 kurt busch
Kurt Busch prior to the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 10, 2022. Getty Images | James Gilbert

Intake: Former NASCAR Cup champion Kurt Busch, who has been out of action since he suffered a concussion in a crash in July, said in an emotional announcement at his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, that he would not compete for a championship in 2023, leaving the door open for one-off rides if he recovers. According to the Associated Press, Busch choked up when he said doctors told him: “It is best for me to ‘shut it down.’ I know I am not 100 percent in my ability to go out and race at the top level in the NASCAR Cup Series,” Busch said. “These are the best of the best drivers, and lately, I haven’t felt my best. My long-term health is priority number one and I don’t feel committing at this point to compete for a championship next year is in my best interest or the best interest of the team.”

Exhaust: Meanwhile, driver Alex Bowman has said he will miss at least five races at the end of this season due to the concussion he suffered last month. Both Bowman and Busch, since they had won races before they were injured, were eligible for the elimination rounds that will decide the championship, but both had to give up their spots. NASCAR has pledged to work on the problem, which is apparently that the rear on the new-for-2022 “Next-gen” car is too stiff, transmitting the shock in a crash straight to the driver without absorbing enough of the impact. The fix will likely be new rear clips and center-sections in the chassis, which are the same in all cars, manufactured by Dallara. —SCS

Lexus LFA successor could be called the LFR

Lexus LFA
Hagerty Media

Intake: New trademark filings with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) may be our first clue as to what Lexus’ next halo car will be called, according to a report from AutoBuzz. The filings show that Lexus trademarked the name LFR last Friday. In December of last year, Toyota and Lexus unveiled a slew of EV concepts, saying that 30 new EVs would be available by the start of 2030. Chief among those vehicles was a low-slung, two-door coupe with a long hood and a very athletic stance—it bore the Lexus badge. At the special event unveiling all these new EVs, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda noted that the car will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in two seconds, have a driving range of over 430 miles, and may use solid-state batteries. Those claims are still just vaporware for the time being, but if the LFR can make good on those promises, it will be a commendable successor to the vaunted LFA.

Exhaust: This all sounds wonderful, but: What are they going to do about the sound? The LFA’s 4.8-liter V-10 was one of the best sounding engines of all time, singing a baleful song through an intake manifold that was tuned like a musical instrument. EV’s are not typically known for their sound, but if the LFR carries all the auditory sensation of a Keurig, that’s going to feel like an opportunity lost. We’ll choose to remain hopeful for the time being. —Nathan Petroelje

Renault 4EVER Trophy concept is eager to explore

Renault 4Ever concept 6

Intake: Renault has reinvented the classic 4 as a dainty, electric off-roader. The 4EVER Trophy concept revealed at the Paris Motor Show is much farther removed from the car that inspired it than Renault’s reinterpretation of the 5, however. The 4EVER’s face, with its horizontal grille and circular headlamps are all that have been carried over from the original 4L, which sold more than eight million examples in 100 countries. Instead, the 4EVER boasts a cookie-cutter SUV profile, with a few nice details such as the trapezoidal rear side windows. It sits on sizeable 4×4 tires giving the 4EVER a decent-looking lift for off-road excursions. A spare wheel on the carbon roof, a shovel and waffle boards add to its expedition credentials. Quite how far off the grid you’ll be able to go is unclear as Renault hasn’t revealed the details of its electric drivetrain.

Exhaust: “The 4EVER Trophy show car paves the way for the future all-electric B Segment SUV that will be at ease on urban and rural roads alike,” says Renault. That suggests that the concept is pretty close to being production-ready, although we’d expect pricey items such as the carbon roof to be dropped. The car will be built on the brand’s new CMF-BEV platform and assembled at Renault’s ElectriCity in northern France. —NB


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    Who the hell would take an electric anything into the boonies where absolutely no services exist? Most people can’t even keep their cell phones charged!

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