High-end brands on the cutting edge of propulsion technology
Electric power is intended to enhance or even replace internal-combustion propulsion on a mass scale. Maybe not right now, but within the next decade.
That this seismic shift is under way is not surprising — General Motors, for example, has announced that it plans to end the sale of internal-combustion vehicles by 2035 — but high-end sports and luxury automakers are setting the pace with aspirational offerings that are electrified. The reasons are simple: Such halo vehicles have always lived on the razor’s edge of technology, and the higher cost of that matters less as a percentage of the total cost of the vehicle.
Following are five examples:
Ferrari GTB 296
To some Ferrari faithful, the idea of a V-6 hybrid might be sacrilege, especially when one considers that the least-loved Ferrari model of all-time might be the V-6-powered Dino 246 of the mid-1970s. And Ferrari made its bones with legendary V-8 and V-12 engines that sang like opera stars.
Not to worry. The new Ferrari GTB 296 is the real deal, even if it comes with a combination of a V-6 internal combustion engine and an electric motor driving the rears wheels. The combination produces 818 horsepower, enough to send this sleek Italian into ludicrous speed in just seconds.
Bear in mind this in not Ferrari’s first hybrid, which was the V-12-powered LaFerrari.
Still, the 120-degree V-6 in the GTB 296 revs to 8,500 RPMs, giving a top speed of 330 km/h, or a tick over 200 mph. Zero to 100 km/h takes less than 3.0 seconds.
Everything else is legit, too: the engine is mounted behind the two-seat interior and the body is the model of Italian style. What’s under the engine cover might have fewer cylinders than enthusiasts are used to, but the GTB 296 is phenomenal as a high-end sports car.
The first electric luxury sedan from the legendary automaker is an exercise in both style and technology. Mercedes-Benz says its new EV flagship is the world’s most aerodynamic production car, with a coefficient of drag of 0.20. A Chevrolet Volt is about 0.28 and the Jeep Wrangler is about 0.55 (the lower the number the better).
When it goes on sale late this year, the EQS will be offered with either 329 horsepower or 516. Also in the works is a 630-horse version.
According to Mercedes-Benz, the EQS has an electric range of up to 770 kilometres. Give credit to the battery system, which can be recharged at a rate of about 300 kilometres in 15 minutes.
The interior shows a next-level touch-screen sophistication with only a small number of buttons located on the centre column and the steering wheel. Even the vent outlets appear embedded in the touch-screen panel. Note that an EQC electric utility-vehicle had been planned for 2021, but it’s on hold for the North American market.
Although none of Lamborghini’s current offerings — the Huracan, Aventador and Urus — are electrified, they will all be hybrids by 2024. A fourth model yet to be named is slated to be an EV. Whether the internal-combustion engines stay the same, the top-tier Aventador will retain a V-12 engine, but with hybrid assist.
This business strategy was announced in May by Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann.
The sports-car brand got a jump on most of the competition with its stylish — and incredibly quick and expensive — Taycan EV four-door sedan, which the automaker has been heavily promoting. Next up, in 2023, will be an electrified version of the Macan compact-utility vehicle.
Porsche says the Macan EV will have logged more than 1.8 million test miles before going on sale. Porsche has 20 digital prototypes for testing, which saves time and money, helping to speed development. The goal with the new model is to be the sportiest in its segment, which is appropriate for the brand.
This will be Maserati’s first EV, with most of the details still to come. The Italy-based automaker teased a prototype from the Maserati Innovation Lab and let it cruise the streets of Modena while a photographer captured images of the carefully camouflaged body.
There are no specifications available, but even in disguise, the GranTurismo looks fast and almost certainly will have sophistication and elegance.