Highs and Lows
Elon Musk suffered a setback when a COVID-19 diagnosis kept him from attending the launch of NASA's SpaceX Crew-1, which carried four astronauts to the International Space Station. The launch was a success, and four astronauts were safely delivered to the ISS, and Musk's luck continued when Tesla stock rose 8.2 percent on the news that the carmaker would be included in the S&P 500 index starting December 21. It's all about silver linings.
This Week in Sheetmetal
In a perfect world, the 2020 Los Angeles Auto Show would have taken place this week. In this imperfect world, we were forced to enjoy the glut of new product reveals from the safe remove of our home offices. Here's the bounty:
Honda revealed a prototype for the 11th-generation Civic, which will hit dealer lots for the 2022 model year. The design is more refined, the active safety features more plentiful, and the Si and Type R models are alive and well. The same cannot be said for the Civic coupe, which took its final bow in 2020 and will not return with the new generation.
The Subaru BRZ will finally enter its second generation with the 2022 model, on sale in fall 2021. The new car will feature significant design changes and a new 2.4-liter naturally aspirated flat-four making 228 horsepower, but the BRZ retains its rear-wheel-drive layout and a six-speed manual transmission.
The 2021 Lincoln Nautilus got a swanky interior makeover, borrowing heavily from its Aviator and Corsair siblings. Expect the refreshed Nautilus at dealers in early 2021.
GMC allowed us the first glimpse of the SUV variant of the Hummer EV (previously shown in pickup guise) during a video call for investors. General Motors also gave us a peek at an as-yet-unnamed Chevrolet EV pickup, which was parked in the shadows behind chief EV officer Travis Hester during the call.
Infiniti showed us its QX55 for the first time, essentially a coupe variant of the 2022 QX50.
Jeep announced the 470-hp Wrangler Rubicon 392, powered by a 6.4-liter V-8 and expected to launch to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, even more impressive considering its standard 33-inch all-terrain tires. The 392 will go on sale in early 2021.
Mercedes gave us the Maybach version of the new S-class sedan, dubbed the Mercedes-Maybach S580, available with a classy (we guess) two-tone paint scheme and outfitted in unimaginable luxury. Mercedes says it plans to double Maybach sales, which sat around 12,000 units last year, and promises to Maybach-ize more Mercedes vehicles in the future. Wake us up when they get to the E-wagon.
We Knew It!
We drank deeply from the keg of glory this week when a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) confirmed what we've been saying all along: Autonomous driving technology might make for a less-engaged driving populace. IIHS gave 20 drivers a month to acclimate to driving with adaptive cruise control (ACC) or with ACC and lane-centering technology. By the end of the month, those with the lane-centering tech were twice as likely to "show disengagement" while driving and 12 times as likely to take both hands off the wheel than they had been previously.
Big Data Is Watching You
General Motors announced that it is getting back into the insurance game after exiting that arena during the Great Recession. The new product, which will live under the OnStar brand umbrella, will offer drivers rates based on data about their driving habits—how many miles the car is driven and how fast, how many times the car's automatic safety features engage, and even if the tires are properly inflated. Anyone who has allowed an insurance company access to their OBD-II port will know that locking in a behavior-based discount is much easier said than done.
It was a busy week at GM, where a call to detail the company's updated EV plan for investors and financial analysts—they're going to build more of them, faster—was somewhat undermined by the company's recall of more than 50,000 Bolts for a risk of battery fires. Hyundai, which shares battery supplier LG with GM, is facing a class-action lawsuit related to EV battery fires.
Like it or not, there's going to be a new sheriff in town come January. This one's a car guy, a train guy, and a proponent of EVs. What will a Biden administration mean for transportation policy? Only time will tell, but the Wall Street Journal has some predictions.
In case you missed it—how could you miss it?—Car and Driver announced the winners of our annual 10Best Cars and Trucks awards this week. If you're shopping for a car or know someone who is, this is required reading.
If you have big plans for your retirement years, seek inspiration from George Poteet, who set a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats this year at the age of 72. What have you done lately?
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