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Takata’s successor has another major mess on its hands, this time with seatbelts

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Some of the biggest recalls ever seen in the automotive industry focused on defective airbags provided by Takata, now known as Joyson Safety Systems Japan. The faulty airbags hit virtually every automotive manufacturer and led to the unfortunate death of some involved in accidents in vehicles using the defective airbags. The Takata successor is in trouble again, this time for delivering as many as 9 million seatbelts that don’t meet quality standards to domestic customers.

Domestic customers in this instance indicate Japan, and the report came from the Japanese government. The Japanese Transportation Ministry says that the substandard belts were produced at one domestic plant where test data was altered to allow the belts to clear safety requirements. The Ministry is warning automakers to prepare for a recall, potentially impacting 2 million vehicles around Japan.

The report also found that the company falsified data on belts made for child safety seats. The company currently holds 40 percent of the domestic market share in seatbelts and does significant business with most Japanese automakers. The products are also shipped outside of Japan. There is no indication at this time that defective products are in the US.

Sources cited in the report claim that during strength tests at a plant in Hikone, numbers were altered to appear as if the seatbelts satisfy requirements, and the defective products were delivered to clients. Word of the deceit came from a whistleblower that bought the misconduct light prompting a full internal investigation over the summer.

At this time, it’s unclear exactly how many defective products are on the market. The 9 million figure is an estimate offered as of Thursday. The number of faulty seatbelts could change moving forward. On the child safety seat front, the falsified results will likely mean tens of thousands of child safety seats on the market don’t meet mandated quality standards.

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Hyundai unveils its smallest EV based on the 45 concept car

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It’s hard to forget the wedge-shaped body style of Hyundai’s 45 concept vehicle. First seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year, the 45 will lead Hyundai’s assault in the EV segment along with the shapely Prophecy concept vehicle. But now, Hyundai is in a playful mood, and we mean literally.

Feast your eyes on the 45 mini EV. Yes, it’s a toy similar to McLaren’s 720S and Senna Ride-On, but it’s essentially a miniaturized version of a full-size 45 minus the roof. Also, notice the centrally-mounted driver seat like in a McLaren F1 and Gordon Murray’s T.50 supercar? Hyundai said the seat location ‘boosts driver confidence’ and takes inspiration from the motorsports arena.

Hyundai’s yet-to-be-named 45 mini EV is crafted from sustainable wood. It has a pair of DC electric motors, enough for a top speed of around 4.5 mph (7 kph). According to Hyundai, the 45 mini EV utilizes Emotion Adaptive Vehicle Control (EAVC) technology to increase the vehicle’s driving range. Hyundai didn’t specifically mention how this new tech works, but it did say the ‘driver’s laughter is believed to fuel the vehicle to travel further.’

Will this new tech finally rid future EVs of range anxiety? Only time will tell, but it’s interesting to see how smiles, giggles, and laughter may soon power future EVs. Meanwhile, we’re loving the blue and orange theme of Hyundai’s mini EV, and it somehow reminds us of the Veloster N’s signature hue. This mini EV is just a concept for now, but it may reach Hyundai dealers sooner than expected.

In the meantime, the full-size 45 EV will enter production near the end of 2020, while the curvaceous Prophecy EV is set to replace the Ioniq starting next year. Hyundai plans to unveil nine new EVs in the next three years, with up to 13 electrified vehicles in its portfolio by 2022. We’re not sure if the 45 mini EV is part of that count, but it’s an interesting little toy, nevertheless.

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2021 Jaguar E-PACE upgrades style and tech – adds mild-hybrid

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Jaguar has revamped its smallest crossover, with the 2021 E-PACE getting a redesign, a mild-hybrid, and more technology. Still serving as the entry point to Jaguar’s SUV line-up – and, indeed, the automaker’s most affordable model in the US, with the demise of the XE sedan – the E-PACE is also getting a little more expensive for the new model year.

Launched back in 2018, the E-PACE caused a little confusion with its name – despite what the “E” might imply, it’s not electric; that’s the Jaguar I-PACE – but borrowed plenty from its bigger F-PACE sibling. Although purists might have scoffed, it proved to be a sensible move, with Jaguar saying that its SUVs now account for the majority of sales in the US.

For the 2021 E-PACE, the exterior is getting some tweaks. The big grille remains, but now has a mesh design with chrome detailing, along with Noble Chrome grille tips. There’s a reworked lower aperture, with new blades, and all-LED headlamps with Jaguar’s “Double J-Blade” daytime running lights.

At the rear, there’s now a new mesh insert in the lower bumper, and all-LED taillamps to match the front. Jaguar will have a Black Exterior Pack, too, which swaps out much of the chromework for Narvik Black: on the grille surround and tips, the lower bumper mesh inserts, the side vents, the window surrounds, and the rear badging too. There’s now a new Jaguar Leaper logo on the side vents as well, and new wheels up to 20-inches in size.

The cabin gets a refresh too, now with a curved 11.4-inch HD touchscreen for the Pivi Pro infotainment system which is standard on the P250 SE and 300 Sport. Jaguar says it’s not only treated to remove glare, but also to make wiping off fingerprints and smudges easier. The system itself should be swifter to start up, and has Google and Outlook calendar integration, along with embedded dual LTE modems. The P250 gets the regular Pivi system, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Wireless phone charging is now easier to access, in the storage area behind the shift-by-wire selector. Cricket-ball contrast stitching has been added, and there’s more metal and soft-touch plastics. The rotary dials and steering wheel have been revamped, with metal and hidden controls, and there are now metal paddle shifters rather than plastic.

There’ll be five color options – Ebony, Light Oyster, Deep Garnet, Caraway, and Cloud – while other options will include a new cabin air ionization system with PM2.5 particulate filtration. A 12.3-inch digital driver display is available too, along with a color head-up display, and the rear view mirror can be swapped for a digital version beaming a camera view from the rear of the SUV. Adaptive cruise control is available too.

Under the hood there’ll be a choice of two engines. The entry-level 2021 E-PACE P250 and mid-tier P250 SE get a 2.0-liter inline-four turbocharged Ingenium engine, with a 9-speed automatic. It’s tuned for 246 horsepower. The 300 Sport kicks that up to 296 horsepower, courtesy of a mild-hybrid upgrade.

All-wheel drive is standard, with an electromechanically controlled clutch pack that shifts torque between the front and rear axles. During cruising, it can also disconnect the rear axle for more efficiency. The 300 Sport throws in the Active Driveline AWD, with two electronically controlled wet-plate clutches on the rear axle delivering torque vectoring by shifting power between the rear left and right wheels.

Jaguar has made other drivetrain tweaks, too. New engine mounts help with throttle response, and the front suspension attachment points are stiffer; that, the automaker says, helps both with agility and comfort, as well as cutting vibrations and cabin noise.

The Dynamic Handling Pack – standard on the 300 Sport, and an option on the P250 SE – adds Adaptive Dynamics to adjust the dampers based on how the E-PACE is being driven. All E-PACE get switchable drive modes – Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, and Adaptive Surface Response – with the Dynamic Handling Pack cars adding a driver-customizable mode.

The 2021 E-PACE kicks off at $40,995 (plus $1,050 destination) for the P250 AWD, an increase of just over $1k versus the MY20 crossover. The P250 SE starts at $46,095, while the 300 Sport will be $49,995.

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2020 Mercedes-AMG G63 Review – Because too much is just right

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In 2020 we take our reassurance where we can find it, even if that’s in the sound and feel of an SUV door when it closes. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG G63 is known for plenty of things – not least its wanton profligacy, Brutalist proportions, and conspicuous dedication to excess – but even with 577 horsepower to play with it’s those doors I keep coming back to.

Mercedes is a pretty obsessive company – though that isn’t terribly unusual among German automakers – and it sweats the small stuff. When it redesigned the iconic G Wagen back in 2018, what was carried over was arguably just as important as what was new. Of the four visible parts the old G Class handed down its successor, the door handle design was one of them.

It’s big, and a little clunky, and that describes the door mechanism too. That’s hefty, and requires a fair slam to properly close, and quite honestly when you’ve lived with the automatic-closing doors on other recent six-figure Mercedes you might wonder why you’re going to all this effort. Especially since the rest of the truck is so lavish.

In AMG form, the tuning division takes the “normal G550” and cranks the ridiculous up. In goes a handcrafted 4.0-liter V8 birturbo engine – with 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque – and an AMG Speedshift TCT 9-speed transmission. There’s AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension, all-wheel drive, and both a high-performance brake system and a performance exhaust.

The G63 keeps the clever lockable differentials, though, and the low range gearbox. You could, in theory, take it all the off-road places the G550 can go, though swapping out the 22-inch Forged AMG cross-spoke wheels might be an idea first. Mainly because their skinny rubber probably isn’t the best idea in the rough stuff, but also because they’re $4,450 for a set and so damaging them would be painful.

They weren’t the only pricey option on my test car, either. The $156,450 base sticker (plus $995 destination) was left far, far behind once Jupiter Red paint ($6,500), AMG carbon fiber exterior trim ($3,700) and a carbon fiber engine cover ($1,500), the AMG Night Package ($1,950), G manufacktur Interior Package ($3,100), and AMG top-speed delimiter ($2,200) were thrown in. With a handful of other options, you’re looking at a $182,545 SUV.

It looks, and feels, like a huge Tonka truck. People stare at you – because you’re in a bright red SUV with massive blacked-out wheels and side exhausts – and they certainly hear you coming, when the AMG V8 starts rumbling then yowling. Top speed, even delimited, may only be 149 mph, but 0-60 mph comes in 4.5 seconds and it feels… otherworldly.

I’ve been in fast cars. Fast SUVs, too. There’s something, however, uniquely silly about staring down that squared-off hood, at the G63’s chunky little corner marker lights, and being surrounded by sheet metal that still feels like it was designed with a set-square not an aero tunnel, as twin-turbos hurtle you away from the lights. Silly, and addictive.

It is difficult to make a convincing argument that anybody needs an AMG G63. The regular G550, on standard wheels, can make the most of the complex and flexible locking diff system; in AMG’s version, those milled-bullet buttons on the dashboard could easily go the lifetime of the SUV unpressed. An AMG GLE 63 S is more powerful, and cheaper, and faster, and still seats five. It corners better, too, courtesy of its trick air suspension.

In the end, I think I find the G Wagen’s doors so reassuring because they’re decidedly low-tech. Predictable. Understandable. You yank them open with a strong tug on the oversized handle, and you slam them shut again afterwards. If that doesn’t close them properly, well hell, then you slam them harder still.

The rest of the SUV isn’t quite so blunt. Cabin upgrades brought fancier tech onboard, with twin 12.3-inch displays, tri-zone climate control and heated seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and even multicolor ambient lighting. There’s adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, and a sweet-sounding Burmester audio system to distract you from the 14 mpg combined fuel economy that few if any G63 owners will really care about.

Usually we’re encouraged to forgive the rough edges, but in the AMG’s case it’s the cosseting, the softness I can force myself to look beyond. It feels like a year where we need anchors, tangible things we can count upon and believe in, and it may sound silly but the G63’s ridiculously over-engineered door handles are just that. AMG excess may give this six-figure monster its ability to turn heads, but the solid foundations that’s all built upon is why the G Wagen remains unique – and uniquely appealing – in a sea of SUVs.

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