To the Moon

Meet the Lunar Cruiser, Toyota's four-seater moon rover designed in partnership with JAXA

The newly named Lunar Cruiser is set to arrive on the moon's surface in 2030.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

A partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has delivered the Toyota Lunar Cruiser, a four-seat moon rover. Work on the project has lasted over a year, commencing in July 2019.

With a name inspired by Toyota's Land Cruiser SUV, the Lunar Cruiser is a six-wheel utility vehicle that is six meters long, five meters wide and about four meters high. It can accommodate two people for regular use and four in an emergency.

JAXA-Toyota Lunar Cruiser

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

This isn't just a one-off project designed to generate publicity for JAXA and Toyota. The Lunar Cruiser's design and engineering process has a number of milestones set out to meet. Starting in 2022, the partnership will manufacture a 1:1 scale prototype of the rover then begin acquiring and verifying testing data on driving systems required to explore the moon's polar regions.

Two years later, it is expected that progress will be able to advance to allow for design, manufacturing, and evaluation of an engineering model of the rover and design of the actual flight model will begin. By 2027, the flight model will be manufactured and design and evaluation of the model will be underway.

It's projected to be ready for work in 2029. JAXA plans to use it as part of a manned exploration in 2030.

When manned, the rover will be pressurized and is designed to use fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technologies to navigate the moon's surface.

Pressurised Rover Concept | Toyota and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency www.youtube.com

This isn't the only massive fuel cell technology undertaking Toyota is involved in. They recently revealed plans to create an alternatively fueled live-work-play testing facility at the base of Mt. Fuji.

While those projects are ongoing, Toyota is moving forward with passenger car and tractor trailer FCEV technology. They recently debuted a redesigned Mirai sedan and have begun installing hydrogen fueling stations along the western coast of California to be used by the overland trucking industry. The company continues efforts to lobby towns on the East Coast of the U.S. to adapt restrictive laws to be more receptive to FCEV vehicles.

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The King Ranch trim level has been added to the Ford Explorer lineup for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2021 Ford Explorer is getting a King Ranch trim level. The midsize SUV's new grade combines rugged appearance and premium appointments for a look befitting the Texas ranch's name. Ford currently sells King Ranch versions of the Expedition, F-150, and Super Duty as well.

"In 1853, Captain Richard King bootstrapped the King Ranch in the harsh landscape of southern Texas until it became a shining example of agricultural and livestock innovation and success," said Lee Newcombe, Ford Explorer marketing manager. "Ford Explorer families can now enjoy a piece of the King Ranch's renowned craftsmanship and the multi-generation legacy that still thrives 168 years after its founding."

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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The Explorer King Ranch gets a Stone Gray-painted mesh grille insert, 20-inch aluminum wheels with Running W center cap, liftgate scuff plate, King Ranch badging, and quad chrome exhaust tips.

It is powered by a 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The new version of the Explorer adds a standard Class III Trailer Tow Package, which makes the SUV capable of towing up to 5,600 pounds.

The interior of the new model gets mahogany-colored Mesa Del Rio perforated leather seats. The leather extends to the armrest. Both areas wear the King Ranch Running W logo. Leather door trim rollovers, a leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel, Sapele wood appliqués, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with Norias stitching and a Salepe wood insert add sophistication.

"Introducing King Ranch's specialty leather, genuine wood, crafted details and signature colors to Ford Explorer elevates the SUV's brand," said Janet Seymour, Ford color and materials manager. "The warm, earthy Norias colorway, natural open pore wood appliqués and rope perforation design on the seats are just a couple ways we were able to bring the King Ranch lifestyle to a whole new group of customers."

Introducing the 2021 Explorer King Ranch® Edition | Explorer | Ford www.youtube.com

Buyers can add the Premium Technology Package to the model, which will give them multi-contour seats with massage functionality, a 10.1-inch informant touch screen, and a 14-speaker B&O Sound System.

Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ is standard on the model.

The Explorer King Ranch edition will start at $52,350 for rear-wheel-drive configuration and $54,350 MSRP for four-wheel drive models. It will be available in dealerships this spring.

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The 2022 Kia Carnival was designed to look more like an SUV than a minivan.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

When is a minivan not a minivan? When Kia's marketing department decides its not. Apparently. The 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona minivan in the company's lineup and instead of being called a minivan, Kia has decided that it's a 'multi-purpose vehicle' or MPV for short.

Kia says that the new Carnival stakes a claim on the "unoccupied space between SUV and family hauler". It's not the first model in that territory. The Ford Carousel may be considered the first modern model to occupy the space, but it was just a prototype.

The Carnival was designed at Kia's California design studio. It's bold and boxy rather than sleek and function-forward, like the bodies of the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Toyota Sienna. The Odyssey and Pacifica were both refreshed for the 2021 model year while the Sienna was redesigned.

2022 Kia Carnival: Exterior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia carries over many of the design elements of the Telluride, Sorento, and Seltos into the new Carnival. It has the company's new tiger nose grille and integrated LED headlights. At its sides are substantial wheel catches while two-tone mirrors and and cutlines run the length of the vehicle. At the rear, geometric trail lamps, a rear skid plate garnish, and reflectors are positioned to make the vehicle look like an SUV. The model rides on 17- and 19-inch wheels, which are available in gloss black.

The Carnival is a three-row van that seats seven or eight, depending on the buyer's preference. The vehicle uniquely features Side-Flex seating in its eight-passenger variant that allows for multiple configurations. Kia describes it as including "a sliding second row center seat which, when in the forward-most position, allows the front passenger easy access the baby or child riding in it. This seat also converts into a functional table."

Heated and ventilated second row 'VIP Lounge Seating' with power controls, wing-out headrests, and leg extensions is available for seven-passengers Carnivals.

2022 Kia Carnival: Interior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia will offer the model in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX< and SX-Prestige.

Kia has given the U.S.-bound version of the Carnival a 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers best-in-class 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain is completed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and provides 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.

The van's dimensions offer best-in-class passenger room (168.2 cubic feet) and best-in-class cargo room (145.1 cubic feet behind the front row in LX, EX, and SX grades). Removable second-row seats and fold-in-floor third-row seats help the model achieve its best-in-class cargo room (second row seats not removable in SX-Prestige) title.

Kia will offer the model in three interior color schemes.

The list of standard features includes hands-free opening power sliding doors with Smart Key, and 8-inch infotainment touch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2022 Kia Carnival: Details

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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A hands-free power lift gate with auto close, Smart Key with one-button open/close functionality for rear sliding doors and liftgate, passenger voice recognition (allows second row occupants to control numerous in-vehicle functions through voice commands by pushing a button mounted on the ceiling), the Passenger Talk intercom system, Rear Passenger View in-cabin camera, dual-screen entertainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android screen mirroring, wireless smartphone charging, navigation, full digital instrument cluster, multi-Bluetooth, up to nine USB ports, a Bose premium audio system, and UVO link telematics are available.

The long list of standard advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on the Carnival includes: forward collision warning with collision avoidance assist, blind spot monitoring with collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic warning with collision avoidance assist, rear park assist, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, automatic high beam headlights, and driver attention monitor.

Buyers can add to the safety technology in the Carnival to include the new 'Kia Drive Wise' ADAS, which includes: Blind-Spot View Monitor, a technology that projects live video view of adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster and activated via the turn signal; speed limit adjustment; navigation-based adaptive cruise control; park assist; and surround-view monitor.

It's the first vehicle Kia is selling in the U.S. with the company's new logo displayed on it. It will go on sale in the second quarter of 2021. Pricing is expected to be made public in the coming months.

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