The production Tesla Model 3

Elon Musk has officially unveiled the production Tesla Model 3, delivering on his promise to develop an affordable EV for the masses. With more than 200 mi (354 km) of range in base form, a pared back interior and the cool factor associated with buying a Tesla, the Model 3 looks good on paper. But hitting the promised US$35,000 price is going to take some restraint.

When he announced plans to build the Model 3, Elon Musk promised to deliver an EV with usable range for $35,000. Turns out Chevrolet had the same idea and beat Tesla to the punch with the Bolt, but we’ll leave that aside for now. Credit where it’s due, Musk has delivered a 200-mile electric sedan for $35,000 – but you’ll need to show restraint to drive away with a car for that price.

The base car takes less than two hours to fully charge on a Supercharger, while range replenishes at around 30 mi (42 km) per hour when hooked up to a 240V, 32A home plug. Thankfully, the car accelerates faster than it charges, hitting 60 mph (97 km/h) in just 5.7 seconds from standstill.

People regularly covering longer distances will likely want to tick the box for the Extended Range package, which adds $9k to the list price, but boosts range from 220 to 310 mi (499 km). It also cuts the 60 mph (97 km/h) sprint to 5.1 seconds, and slightly improves charge times. Few owners are likely to care, but top speed jumps from 130 to 140 mph (209 to 225 km/h).

Regardless of what battery is under the floor, the Model 3 interior looks absolutely brilliant. Telsa has dropped the digital instrument binnacle and vertical touchscreen combination of the Model S and X, replacing them with a freestanding central touchscreen responsible for giving the driver information about essentials like speed, along with infotainment. We’ll be interested to see if this layout is easy to use, or whether it proves distracting.

Land Rover Discovery review

In a nutshell, the 2017 Land Rover Discovery is rugged, capable, and much more like last year’s Discovery Sport model in terms of handling and fuel economy. Improvements have been made on several fronts, not the least of which in how the Discovery now handles itself on around town.

The Land Rover Discovery was formerly known in the US as the LR4. Whatever the reason for the change from the world-known Discovery name to the ambiguous letter-letter-number thing, Rover has realized its mistake and made a much better SUV to go with the return to its globally-recognized moniker.

Throughout the modern era, the Land Rover name has been ubiquitous with off-pavement capability and robust “gettin there” possibilities. Where the US had “Jeep”, the British empire had “Rover.” Seen continually in safari magazines, on film, and in documentary series, the Land Rover Discovery became a staple of adventure and rugged capability. Alongside the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Discovery was co-owner of offroad adventure around the world. The Wrangler, meanwhile, stayed largely within US borders where it would become the most iconized and accessorized consumer vehicle on the planet.

As time progressed, most of vehicles in the Discovery’s class began to show upgrades to their interiors to match the new expectations of sport utility buyers. Rugged capability is still expected today, but in a softer, more family-friendly (and family-toting) way. These days you’re less likely to see the roof-mounted luggage baskets, snorkels, and huge “roo bars” (deer guards) across the grille. Instead there’s three rows of comfortable seating, climate control for everybody, wireless headphones, rear seat television sets, and attention to detail like sensibly positioned smartphone sockets.

Things we had like to see in Formula E

Since launching in 2014, Formula E has developed into a high-voltage showcase for what battery-powered cars can do. The third season came to a close on the weekend, with Lucas Di Grassi snatching the driver title in dramatic circumstances. Races in big cities, plenty of drama and growing support from big brands have made the category a growing force, but it’s far from perfect. Here are three things we’d like to see for more engaging racing in Formula E … and one thing we’d like to keep.

This seems like an obvious one for any type of racing, but hear us out here. Cars produce around 200 kW (270 hp) of power in qualifying trim, and hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in just under three seconds. They’re dialled back to just 172 kW (230 hp) in race trim. Faraday Future says its 880 kg (1940 lb) car tops out at 241 km/h (150 mph), although there aren’t many straights on the Formula E catalogue long enough to reach that lofty pace.

Formula 1 and World Endurance Championship cars run on specially designed slicks in the dry and wets in the, er, wet. On the other hand, Formula E cars are forced to run with all-weather Michelin tires that are directly related to the ones you can buy at the local Tire Rack. This is supposedly designed to make the sport more relevant to the real world, but we’d suggest it may have a bit more to do with the better battery range offered by their low rolling resistance.

Although it’s nice to see the cars slithering around on track, this series is designed to act as a showcase for what electric cars can do. Rather than artificially limiting the cars with road tires, we’d love to see them let loose with proper racing rubber. Let’s see just how hard cars with batteries can really go.

Now EV in China

Much noise has been made about the “affordable” Tesla Model 3, but it looks seriously pricey compared to the latest electric car from GM. Dubbed the Baojun E100, it has about 100 miles of range and costs less than the average motorbike when government subsidies are taken into account. The caveat? It’s only available in China.

That’s right, the E100 won’t be showing up in Chevrolet or Buick dealerships anytime soon. It was been developed in conjunction with state-owned SAIC, one of the largest manufacturers in China. GM has been working with SAIC since 2001, selling cars under the Wuling and Baojun brand names. The pairing, known colloquially as SGMW, sold more than 1.5 million cars last year.

Aimed at city dwellers, the E100 is absolutely tiny. It has a 1,600 mm (5.25 ft) wheelbase and is just 1,670 mm (5.48 ft) tall, with a 3.7 meter (12.14 ft) turning radius. Those figures make the SmartForTwo look like a Land Rover Defender, so they should make the car perfect for swinging into small spaces in downtown Shanghai.

Power comes from a single motor making 100 Nm of torque and 29 kW (39 hp), with about 155 km (96 mi) of range on a single charge. There isn’t any mention of fast charging, but the regular wall plug will charge the lithium-ion pack in 7.5 hours. Regenerative braking also helps feed energy back into the battery on the move.

Even though it’s not overly powerful, Baojun says the car will still hit 100 km/h (62 mph) on the highway. After all, even people who live in the city need to get away occasionally. Whether you would actually want to mix it with semi-trailers and big family four-wheel drives that dominate the highways in your tiny EV is another question.

Inside, the two-seat E100 has a 7-inch touchscreen with wireless connectivity. The options list isn’t particularly long, but buyers of the upscale Zhixiang model benefit from keyless entry and a better air filter for the climate control. Given how poor air quality has become in some Chinese cities, the more expensive model might be worth a look. Much like the Model 3, the E100 has its air vents integrated into the dashboard, and there are no conventional instruments in front of the driver.

Bamboozled by stickers on street signs

Amid the rush to develop self-driving cars, there are a few questions that need answering. We’ve been worrying about hackers taking control of our autonomous vehicles, but it turns out they could be spooked by much simpler means. A team of researchers says strategically placed stickers on street signs could be enough to confuse self-driving cars.

The team, which included researchers from the University of Washington, University of Michigan, Stony Brook University and UC Berkeley, needed only a regular printer and a camera to trick the vision systems in their autonomous test subjects.

One method for bamboozling the self-driving cars involved printing a poster and simply sticking it over the existing sign. The result would look slightly off or faded to human eyes, but it caused the cars to misidentify the stop sign as a speed sign from a number of different angles. In the real world, that could obviously have some serious implications.

The other approach taken by researchers was more akin to an abstract art or guerrilla marketing project. The team stuck a few small stickers in strategic places on the stop sign and found they had the same impact as the full-sign coverup. Stickers reading “love” and “hate” made the cars think the stop signs were actually speed signs (or a yield sign, in one case), while smaller stickers placed around the sign had the same effect.

Gray stickers masking a right turn arrow made the test cars think it was a stop sign two-thirds of the time, or an added-lane sign for the rest of the time.

Dominate the auction grid at Monterey Car Week

The rash of supercars we have seen since the turn of the millennium are already beginning to ripen at auction, and no less than 17 modern supercars are expected to sell for more than a million dollars at Monterey Car Week this year.

Monterey has traditionally been the domain of classic cars of yesteryear, but the spending power of the Monterey audience has seen it become the domain of anything rare and exclusive. This year RM-Sothebys is adding selected jewelry to the auction card, recognizing that any large gathering of wealthy individuals is an opportunity to market a myriad of wares.

The most prominent of the supercars of recent years is Ferrari’s La Ferrari, with no less than four of the 949 hp hybrids going to auction with prices ranging from US$4.7 million through to $3.3 million.

That’s considerably above what buyers paid for the car from Ferrari – the buy price was around $1.4 million for each of the 499 LaFerraris built, but to get on the list of prospective buyers, you also needed to be a good Ferrari customer with a string of Ferraris behind you going back a few years. Hundreds of people met those criteria and still missed out.

Getting a LaFerrari, McLaren P1 or Porsche 918 requires qualifying as a good customer which can be a difficult task, and they are so desirable as a badge of success that it has inflated the sell price well beyond the buy price – when the 500th and first publicly available LaFerrari was auctioned by RM-Sothebys last December (2016), it fetched $7.0 million – five times the sale price to Ferrari’s finest clients.

Compression ignition gasoline engine

Car manufacturers are delving deep into their boxes of tricks to make internal combustion engines more efficient. Infiniti unveiled a variable compression ratio engine last year, and hybrid technology is getting smarter, but Mazda has a different solution. In 2019 it will release the first commercial compression-ignition gasoline engine, dubbed SkyActiv-X.

At the core of Mazda’s upcoming range of engines is technology called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition. Currently, gasoline engines ignite their air-fuel mixture with a spark from (aptly-named) spark plugs. The new SkyActiv-X line of engines will break with that process, instead delivering spark-free ignition of the air and fuel mix through compression.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because diesel engines do the same thing. The process allows the engine to operate at lower temperatures, which reduces a lot of the heat energy normally lost in gasoline engines. This, in turn, allows Mazda to run with a much leaner air-fuel mix for better fuel consumption and lower emissions. According to the company, the technology is an evolution of the ultra-high compression ratio being used in its current range of engines.

Mazda says the new (proprietary) process combines the benefits of both diesel and gasoline engines, for significant improvements in fuel efficiency. Some other manufacturers have tried to nail the process in concepts, but the narrow temperature range at which compression ignition engines do their best work has caused problems. SkyActiv-X will avoid the issue by operating as a conventional, spark plug-ignited engine when conditions demand it.

Powered SUV glory of its Trackhawk

A Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat dressed up in its toughest outerwear and all-terrain hiking boots, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is an absolute force to be reckoned with. This was not in question coming out of its New York International Auto Show debut. What was a question was just how much it would cost to park the “most powerful and quickest SUV ever” in your driveway. Jeep gave the answer today, putting an US$85,900 sticker on its high-horsepower Grand Cherokee.

The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk goes up for order this Thursday, ahead of deliveries starting later this year. The $85,900 MSRP is before a $1,095 destination fee, so buyers are looking at just under $86,995 all told.

“As the most powerful and quickest SUV, there is nothing else like the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk in the market, and with its starting price of $85,900, there is no better value for a high-performance SUV,” promises Jeep chief Mike Manley.

Ultimately consumers and drivers will decide if that’s true, but to help sway them there’s Trackhawk’s 707-hp 6.2-liter V8. That big, supercharged engine puts out 645 lb-ft (875 Nm) and pushes the Trackhawk to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 3.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 116 mph (187 km/h). On the other end, the new Brembo braking system pulls things back from 60 to 0 mph in 114 ft (34.7 m). Top speed is listed at 180 mph (290 km/h).

Protect connected cars from hackers

As cars become more reliant on connected services, and autonomous cars appear on the horizon, they’re shaping as juicy targets for hackers. Rather than sitting back and waiting for cyber criminals to strike, the UK Department of Transport has created a list of principles designed to make cyber security a top priority for car manufacturers.

The list, catchily dubbed “The key principles of vehicle cyber security for connected and automated vehicles,” is made up of eight central ideas. As a start, car companies are expected to make sure security is “owned, governed and promoted at board level,” and any risks should be “assessed and managed appropriately and proportionately.”

The third principle says organizations need to continually update and support their older products as new threats arise, and the fourth encourages third-parties and OEM suppliers to work with manufacturers in pursuit of better security. Given many of the electric parts in modern cars – from engine-managing ECUs to window switches – come from external suppliers, that’s an important consideration.

Guideline five suggests computer systems need to be designed to make hacking difficult. That means making sure they don’t rely on single points of failure, and having appropriate security and early warning on cloud-based systems working away in the background. Finally, any data storage or transmission needs to be controlled and secure, and systems should be able to respond appropriately when their defences are compromised or sensors damaged.

The list is designed to address public fears that hackers might be able to target connected cars, either to steal personal data or for other malicious purposes. The basic message from the UK Government is simple: this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, and carmakers need to be dealing with security from a management level.

Replace Drive-Axle Boots

Front-drive vehicles, many all-wheel-drive vehicles and some rear-drive vehicles have constant-velocity joints that connect the transmission to the drive axles and wheels. A front-drive vehicle will have four CV joints, each covered by a boot.

CV joints are covered by rubber or plastic boots that keep the joints lubricated and prevent dirt and water from getting in. If a boot tears, grease can leak out and moisture and dirt can get in. If left unattended, it’s only a matter of time before the joint fails from lack of lubrication or corrosion. When that happens, the whole axle may need to be replaced.

Drive axle boots often last the life of a vehicle and are not listed among items that need periodic replacement. They should, however, be inspected at least once a year, or more often on high-mileage vehicles or ones that see what manufacturers describe as “severe” service, such as off-road use or driving-industry conditions.

If a small tear is caught early, it may require only the relatively minor repair of replacing the boot and adding fresh grease instead of more major surgery. Many repair shops, though, will recommend replacing the entire axle if a boot is torn because there may be unseen damage to the CV joints and axle shafts that could result in other problems.