Electric Vehciles

New all-electric Fiat 500 revealed, but it might not come to the U.S.

The new Fiat 500 is only available with an electric powertrain.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has debuted a new chapter in Fiat 500 history. The car is now only available with an electrified powertrain, though FCA is still deciding if it will ever be sold in the U.S.

The new 500 has a more aggressive exterior that's less bulbous but still retains many fo the design characteristics of the 500 of years past. At the front, for the first time, there's a 500 badge instead of just a Fiat badge. The front bumper is like the one on the 1957 model while LED headlights and flush body handles push the model into the 21st Century.

2021 Fiat 500 Fiat added vintage design touches to the exterior of the new model.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

It is 2.4 inches longer and wider than before with a slightly longer wheelbase and larger wheels.

The car is powered by a 42-kWh lithium-ion battery and Ann 85-kWh fast charger. It has an output of 87kWh and is able to accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 9 seconds (not exactly a land speed record). But, it can get to 31 mph from a standstill in 3.1 seconds. It has a range of approximately 199 miles (WLTP).

Fiat has given the car three drive modes: Normal, Range and Sherpa. Sherpa is like an extreme eco mode, using the least amount of fuel required to get to the destination. To do this is limits the speed to under 50 mph, lessons throttle response, and deactivates the climate control system and heated seats.

The Range drive mode allows for one-pedal driving.

2021 Fiat 500 The car has a thoroughly modern interior that has come a long way in recent years.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In Normal mode, the car has a top speed of 93 mph.

The 500 is the first Fiat to receive FCA's new UConnect 5 system, which is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless communication. It comes equipped with a 10.25-inch touch screen.

2021 Fiat 500 The large 10.4-inch screen sits front and center on the dashboard.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The car, which was designed primarily for the European market, features Level 2 autonomous drive capability. That's relatively standard for new cars these days. Its features include:

  • Front-facing camera monitoring technology
  • Adaptive cruise control system that brakes or accelerates in response to cars, cyclists, pedestrians
  • Lane centring that the vehicle in the centre of the lane when the markings are correctly identified
  • Intelligent Speed Assist reads the speed limits and recommends applying them
  • Urban Blind Spot uses ultrasonic sensors to monitor the blind spots and warn of any obstacles with a triangular warning light on the wing mirror
  • Attention Assist provides warnings on the display, recommending that you stop and take a break when you are tired
  • 360-degree sensors provide a drone-like view to avoid any obstacles when parking or performing complex maneuvers
There is no word when a decision will be made regarding the model being brought to the U.S.

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OTA software updates

Tesla rolls back FSD beta before issuing fix

Tesla issued a beta update but quickly pulled it back.

Tesla

Tesla's Full Self-Driving tech is currently in public beta testing, which means that the automaker allows a subset of its owners to download the software to their cars. Over the weekend, Tesla released FSD beta 10.3 and users started reporting issues almost immediately. Since Tesla's PR department is essentially CEO Elon Musk's Twitter account, he took to social media to outline the process to fix problems with the beta.

Tesla FSD Drivers reported issues with vehicle safety systems after updating.Tesla

Musk tweeted that public beta version 10.3 was rolled back to 10.2. "Please note, this is to be expected with beta software," he said. Issues began popping up with Tesla owners on various forums and on social media. Drivers reported that cars shut off active safety features without their input and some noted that their forward collision warnings and automatic emergency braking systems malfunctioned, causing the cars to apply the brakes without any apparent danger in the road ahead.

Tesla FSD A new beta was released this morning with fixes for the problems.Tesla

Early this morning, Musk tweeted again to note that beta version 10.3.1 is rolling out now, which would re-update users to the latest version with fixes. All of this illustrates how FSD is not final and has a way to go before it's ready for showtime. Developing software of any type is difficult work, made even harder by the fact that public roads are so unpredictable at times. So, while Tesla's public beta approach, which puts unproven functions into the hands of everyday drivers, may not be the most palatable for many of us on the roads at the same time, it's certainly netting the company plenty of data to work with.

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The AWD ID.4 model is on its way.

Volkswagen

There was a lot of buzz when VW introduced its 2021 ID.4 all-electric crossover with rear-wheel drive earlier this year, but there's plenty more now that the Wolfsburg automaker has added an all-wheel-drive version. The 2021 VW ID.4 AWD gets another motor onboard this compact SUV that brings all-wheel-drive traction. The SUV appeals to buyers in the snow belt states but will also tickle the fancy of performance enthusiasts. Now with motors on both the front and rear axle, there is nearly fifty percent more power, with impressive gains to horsepower and torque as well as the added battery-electric boost to that scoots the 5-seater from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds (the RWD model took 7.5 seconds to achieve the same).

2021 VW ID.4 AWD An extra motor brings AWD to the ID.4.Volkswagen

On sale now, the 2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro starts at $44,870, before federal or other incentives; this is a $3,680 premium over the rear-drive model. The AWD Pro S starts at $49,370; both models are eligible for $7,500 income-tax credits. It's worth noting that current delivery estimates for the AWD Pro are running into 2022. The AWD Pro trim has been rated by the EPA at 249 miles (only 11 miles less than the Pro RWD) while the AWD Pro S has been validated at 240 miles (as compared to 250 miles). The AWD Pro has been rated at 102 MPGe for city driving/90 highway/97 combined; the Pro S gets 93/98/88. Both are rated at 2,700 towing. Competitors include the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y.

While the AWD and RWD look the same outside, one exterior badge designates the newest variant with an "AWD" badge, plus it gets 0.6 inches of added ground clearance, slightly bigger brakes and sway bars. From the front, the electric SUV has smoothed jelly-bean styling that is highlighted by standard LED headlights and standard black roof rails that sit atop the body-colored roof. From the rear, it wears hatchback-like looks.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4's cabin is tidy and upscale, no matter the model.Volkswagen

We drove both the Pro and Pro S versions, with different premium interior trims and found the Gradient Package ($1500) visually upscale and appealing. It brings a black roof with silver rails, along with 20-inch wheels and the availability of King's Red Metallic paint, as a $395 option. The Pro is well-equipped with attractive trim elements and an impressive collection of communication and infotainment technologies. Pro S comes with a glass roof with an electrically-retractable shade and front seats with leatherette upholstery and 12-way power adjustments (including four-way lumbar support and a massage system).

We drove the new ID.4 AWD over a course of 160 miles along a variety of roads to sample its handling and ergonomics. The interior has a clean and open feel with good visibility. Controls and gauges are well-placed and the seatbelts are height-adjustable, while a configurable console holds different drink sizes and has removable cupholders. A futuristic LED "Light" strip with 10 different ambient lighting selections extends across the dashboard and pulses with directional signals, incoming phone calls, navigation prompts and other in-cabin inputs (optional is 30-color lighting selection on the Pro S). Driving is also a bit futuristic with no stop/start button; the vehicle senses the approaching key and can start climate control, unfold side mirrors, unlock doors and illuminate door handles at night, among a number of other high-tech features. There is 30.3 cubic feet of stowage behind the rear seats and up to 64.2 cubic feet with the second row folded. Under the floor storage holds the charging cable and small items. Pro S has an adjustable trunk floor that can be raised and lowered and a ski passthrough.

Pushing the brake pedal triggers the ID.4 to begin motoring, with the option of a "D" mode for typical driving or "B" for a more regenerative driving experience. Travel Assist brings semi-autonomous driving. Notable is the fun and responsive torque-on-tap, well-balanced direct steering and a suspension system that allows the small compact to maneuver well through traffic and along twisty roadways, as well as an impressive turning radius. The vehicle dynamics control system is integrated with the stability control system and an electronic differential to seamlessly engage the front axle, when needed. Volkswagen has added a different asynchronous motor to the front with a permanent-magnetic synchronous motor at the back for a combined 295 hp. and 339 lb.-ft. of torque.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4 AWD will start shipping in early 2022.Volkswagen

Carried over are 82-kWh battery packs and the 5 to 80 percent fast-charging time of 38 minutes, when using 125kW fast-charging. VW says it can add 62 miles of range in 10 minutes; home charging on a Level 2 charger is projected to take approximately 7.5 hours for a full charge.

Of note: VW includes three years of complimentary charging up to 125 kW, with any ID.4 purchase or lease; VW Group's Electrify America charging network has over 650 stations and more than 2,700 fast chargers.

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