Hyundai set to turn Ioniq name into a global EV brand

LOS ANGELES — Hyundai Motor Co. is launching a global battery-electric brand using the Ioniq name from its current hybrid and EV hatchbacks. It plans to release three electric vehicles from the new brand in the next four years, starting in early 2021 with a midsize crossover.

Hyundai Motor Group, which includes Kia and Genesis, has said it aims to sell 1 million battery-electric vehicles and take 10 percent market share to become a leader in the global EV field by 2025. Hyundai Motor plans to become the third-largest maker of eco- friendly vehicles, including fuel cell EVs.

The Ioniq 5 coming next year is based on the concept 45 vehicle from the 2019 Frankfurt auto show, the automaker said in a statement. The Ioniq 6 — to be launched in 2022 — is a sedan that takes its inspiration from the Prophecy concept shown in March. It will be followed in early 2024 by a large SUV, the Ioniq 7.

The naming of the vehicles is based partially on body style. Crossovers and SUVs will use odd numbers and sedans will use even numbers, Hyundai said in a press release. The current Ioniq vehicles will be known simply as Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and Electric.

The new Ioniq brand will be sold through the existing Hyundai dealership network.

“To fulfill Ioniq’s brand mission, Hyundai will combine its current EV capabilities — such as ultra-fast charging, spacious interior and battery-supplied power — with future innovations that combine design, technologies and services to integrate in-car and out-of-car experiences,” the company said.

Hyundai said that additional Ioniq models will follow after the first three are launched by 2024. “The creation of the Ioniq brand is in response to fast-growing market demand and accelerates Hyundai’s plan to lead the global EV market,” the company said.

Separately, the automaker’s luxury Genesis brand has said it will sell an EV after the launch of its upcoming gasoline-powered crossovers this year and in 2022.

SpaceX, ULA win multibillion-dollar military launch contract years in the making

SpaceX, ULA win multibillion-dollar military launch contract years in the making

Ending a process that began almost two years ago, the US Air Force (now Space Force) has selected SpaceX and ULA to be the recipients of a multibillion-dollar series of launch contracts that stretch into the late 2020s.

Known as the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Services Acquisition (LSA), the US Air Force publicly began the initiative in Q4 2018. In May 2019, the LSA process was opened to bidders and the military ultimately received serious proposals from SpaceX, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), Northrop Grumman, and Blue Origin.

While the latter three companies proposed their respective next-generation rockets – still in development – to complete at least a dozen military launches from 2022 to 2027, SpaceX offered up Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. As of April 2020, Falcon 9 officially usurped ULA’s Atlas V rocket to become the United States’ most prolific operational rocket. While ULA has technically included Atlas V as a backup option in its NSSL Phase 2 bid, the company’s primary launch vehicle is Vulcan Centaur, scheduled to fly for the first time no earlier than July 2021.

(Teslarati – ULA/NGIS/Blue Origin/SpaceX)

As a result, failing to award SpaceX at least one of the two NSSL LSA Phase 2 slots – split 60:40 – would have almost assuredly made a farce of the US military competition. The real question, then, was who would win the other award, and whether the US military would shock the industry with a final decision more technical than political. As previously discussed on Teslarati, the fact that four separate companies submitted serious bids for Phase 2 gave the US military a significant opportunity.

“For dubious reasons, the US Air Force (USAF) has structured the NSSL Phase 2 acquisition in such a way that – despite there being four possible competitors – only two will be awarded contracts at its conclusion. The roughly ~34 launch contracts up for grabs would be split 60:40 between the two victors, leaving two competitors completely empty handed.” — August 14th, 2019

Despite repeated petitions by Blue Origin and the attempted intervention of lawmakers in Congress, the US military remained ardently against awarding Phase 2 launch contracts to more than two providers throughout the competition. Barring a successful protest from snubbed bidders Northrop Grumman and/or Blue Origin, it appears that the military ultimately won the battle, selectingtwo providers.

Omega. (Northrop Grumman)
New Glenn. (Blue Origin)

Instead of awarding even just a handful of the 34 launch contracts up for grabs to Northrop Grumman, the US Space Force is all but guaranteeing that the company’s Omega rocket will die in the cradle without an immediate slew of additional military contracts. There’s a chance that NSSL Phase 1 LSA funding will continue, likely giving NG the money it needs to complete Omega’s development, but that’s far from guaranteed.

Funded entirely out of Jeff Bezos’ pocket, Blue Origin’s ambitious New Glenn reusable rocket is more insulated from a lack of US military contracts and the company could also continue to receive several hundred million dollars as part of an LSA Phase 1 award. For Blue Origin, already set on entering New Glenn into the commercial launch market, military funding could ensure that the company does the extra work needed to certify the rocket and its production facilities for military launches.

Down the road, that means that the US Air Force, Space Force, or National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) could all feasibly award Blue Origin or Northrop Grumman launch contracts outside the 34 Phase 2 missions without requiring having to start a development and certification process that can take a year or longer from scratch.

SpaceX completed its first operational US military Falcon 9 launch on June 30th. (Richard Angle)

Regardless of the missed opportunities, the NSSL LSA Phase 2 contract is a major win for SpaceX and guarantees the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets some 13-14 military launch contracts over a five-year period. For ULA, the victory is like a massive relief, given that the company’s next-generation (expendable) Vulcan Centaur rocket has next to no chance of sustaining itself with commercial launch contracts. Much like Atlas V in the last decade of the rocket’s life and Delta IV over most of its two-decade career, ULA’s Vulcan rocket will continue the trend of relying almost exclusively on US military contracts.

This time around, however, the US military’s preferential treatment of ULA is nakedly obvious. At almost every turn, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets can provide the same launch services as ULA for anywhere from 20-50% less. For the few missions (direct to geostationary) where ULA’s Atlas V, Delta IV, and Vulcan rockets might actually have a step up over SpaceX, the US could have easily awarded ULA the smaller 40% share or even split that 40% share with Blue Origin or Northrop Grumman, giving SpaceX the lion’s share and likely saving hundreds of millions of dollars – if not $1B+ – over the next seven years.

Instead, business (more or less) as usual will continue for at least another decade as the US military functionally subsidizes ULA’s existence by prioritizing a more expensive rocket to achieve the same outcome. The first LSA Phase 2 launches are currently scheduled to begin no earlier than (NET) 2022.

Check out Teslarati’s newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX’s rocket launch and recovery processes.

SpaceX, ULA win multibillion-dollar military launch contract years in the making

Should You Really Want A BMW M3 E46 In Your Life?

When thinking about certain modern classics, nostalgia tends to hit like a train. And it’s even worse whenever you’re out driving, because it seems like there’s a BMW 3-Series E46 around every corner, and practically every petrolhead loves an M3 from that very same generation.

Depending on the model, miles and overall condition, the best E46 M3s can almost nudge the six-digit territory, and when we think about other cars that we could get for that kind of money, the nostalgia suddenly seems to vanish.

Watch Also: A BMW M3 CSL With A Manual Transmission Is The Greatest M Car In The World

But what if there is a perfect E46 M3 out there that’s on sale for a reasonable price by someone who does not care about the money and only wants to find a nice home for their prized jewel? Should you do everything possible to buy it? We would say ‘hell yeah’ again and again, because this is probably one of the best-looking M3s ever, not to mention that it goes like stink and handles wonderfully.

Let’s talk numbers. The E46 M3 does the 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) in around 5 seconds and will sprint up to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h). Its 333 HP and 262 lb-ft (355 Nm) of torque in the U.S.-spec model produced by the 3.2-liter naturally aspirated inline-six engine, was sent to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or the less-favored SMG. The latter provides horrible shifting in automatic mode, but becomes more decent in manual, a thing highlighted by the owner of this blue example sampled by RegularCars on video below, along with a whole bunch of stuff pointed out by the reviewer.

Note: The following video contains language that some viewers might find offensive

Review update: 2020 Ford Mustang convertible sends SVO shivers up the ‘Stang’s spine

Review update: 2020 Ford Mustang convertible sends SVO shivers up the ‘Stang’s spine

When I was 16 years old, no car lit up the tires in my mind like a Ford Mustang SVO. It was so “other”—not a GT, not a 5.0 LX. It was something with whiny noises and double louvers and hand-squeezed lumbar seats—part Reebok Pump, part Merkur XR4Ti, with a little RX-7 thrown in for good measure. I almost bought a crimson-red one, with gray cloth seats, stick shift, and low miles, until a Ford dealer convinced themselves they’d get two grand more than I had.

I’m glad I never got that car, because an Audi Coupe GT came my way instead, but I’ve forever thought a turbo-4 Mustang was a perfectly fine way to translate the pony-car image into something that didn’t thump a V-8 soundtrack. It was other enough for me.

Enter the 2020 Ford Mustang convertible, the first car I’ve driven with Ford’s latest turbo-4 hot-swapped in for the thundering and gleefully malicious 5.0-liter V-8.

In some ways the Mustang I drove earlier this month is the worst-spec Mustang I can imagine. Turbo-4, yes, but in a convertible body style that loosens lots of things in not-ideal ways. It’s a convertible—and a manual, which makes it almost unsellable on the secondhand market and unusable in the traffic that’s become a second life in the unaccustomed South.

Finally, it’s saddled (in this sense equipped, not hindered) with the higher-output turbo-4 and a raft of handling hardware—a strut-tower brace, heavy-duty front springs, larger brakes, a larger rear sway bar—so it sets high expectations and has to find a way to at least pull into the rearview mirror of the GT, GT350, and GT500. (Mach-E? One quandary at a time, please.)

That ’80s dream machine filtered through my brain while I drove, while recent drives in the Shelby GT350 and GT500 rang in the background as if they were on call waiting. Could this droptop ersatz SVO give me something new to fixate on? Is it still other enough? Here’s where it landed a hit—and where it missed.

2020 Ford Mustang Convertible review update

2020 Ford Mustang Convertible review update

Hit: Brawn on a budget. At 22 mpg on the EPA combined cycle, this is the least efficient turbo-4 Mustang you can buy, but the high-performance version puts 330 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque at your disposal—in this case, through a well-staged 6-speed manual transmission and a Torsen diff at the rear wheels. Instinct puts it at a five-second run to 60 mph.

Miss: Engine noise. You want to hear something evocative in a Mustang, and this isn’t it. The SVO never sounded great; this turbo-4’s a bit like a Miata going off from behind a box fan. It’s not bad at low engine speeds, but the higher-frequency, less pleasing sounds of a turbocharger wastegate and inline-4 vibrations overwhelm it above 3,000 rpm.

Hit: Heavy steering feel. The Mustang’s drive modes have a companion toggle switch for steering heft, and though it’s all dialed in by algorithm, the Mustang’s sport steering mode strikes a nice natural balance with the high-performance hardware on board.

Miss: Shift sticks. Has any Mustang ever had really great clutch take-up? Not this one either. There’s a dip in torque as you unpedal and it makes driving in traffic a real nuisance. The movement between gears itself is notchy, not snicky like the Miata touchstone I’m used to driving. With manual boxes accounting for fewer and fewer buyers each year, it’s hard to see this 6-speed as anything but a legitimacy box ticked. 

Hit and Miss: Cushy, but far from plush. The convertible’s front seats weren’t the pinchy Recaros from the Shelby Mustangs, but moderately bolstered chairs that felt relaxing and in tune with the car’s sunny demeanor. The seat coverings had a beer-cozy texture that might have been a little too on the nose for the Target audience. It’s driving, not tubing down the Nantahala.

Miss: Body rigidity. There’s a reason no one races Mustang convertibles. This one quivers into corners like it’s doing drag in heels for the first time. It prefers a brisk pace, not a hot one. The turbo-4’s advantages in weight and body structure in the Mustang coupe get wiped away here. 

Hit: Top-down wind and noise. The convertible ‘Stang manages air flow well enough to keep out of the soaring Beach Boys vocals I put on shuffle. You don’t get in the way of The Beach Boys. Not even latter-day sub-in John Stamos.

Miss: Dated and big feel. The Mustang’s likely in its golden years, and it shows in oddly dished controls in the steering wheel and mock carbon-fiber dash trim. This Mustang convertible had modern touches for safety and infotainment but the array of controls and switches and textures felt old. It’s going to seem very dated when the Mach-E rolls around, too.

Hit: It’s a convertible, duh. On a sunny day, the smell of fresh cut grass and lake water wafting into the cabin in a continuous wave, this Mustang life was for the moment at least, the best Mustang life—SVO or no. 


2020 Ford Mustang convertible

Base price: $33,365, including destination

Price as tested: $40,360 including premium package and High Performance drivetrain and handling packages

Drivetrain: 330-hp, 2.3-liter turbo-4; 6-speed manual transmission; rear-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg combined

The hits: High output, high value, sky-high view of the outside world

The misses: Shaky bones, a kludgy clutch, feels big and dated (and will feel more so when Mach-E arrives)

2021 Hyundai Sonata

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata banks on fewer rivals competing for buyers of mid-size sedans. The way it’s chosen to surface in the still-congested group: dramatic flair, along with lots of features and value.

With the Sonata, Hyundai’s shaped a silhouette with luxury overtones, crafted a cabin with the same, and stocked it all with some of the best warranty coverage and standard gear of any family four-door. We give it a TCC Rating of 7.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Hyundai sells the Sonata in a range of trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited in gas-only models, and Blue, SEL, and Limited in Sonata Hybrid flavors. Among the former, the base 2.5-liter inline-4 has more power on the spec sheet than the turbo-4 (191 horsepower versus 180 hp), but the turbo’s percolating performance at low speeds gives it a slight nod, though its automatic transmission tries to damp down on the fun. Fuel economy of 52 mpg combined comes with the most efficient Sonata Hybrid Blue, and it’s a stellar scrimper and saver, especially at its sub-$30,000 price.

Review continues below

The Sonata may pass on driving thrills—its ride and steering take a leisurely set to match its acceleration—but its style takes all the chances it can. We’re still mixed on the amount of bright trim on the body, and on the frowning grille applied to an otherwise lissome and lanky body, but the Sonata’s interior chalks up its win unanimously, despite some sportswear-knit fabric and black plastics on base models. 

Front-seat passengers can spread out with ample room to spare in the Sonata. The back seat’s trimmed down but still can fit three adults—or can be folded down to boost trunk space from its 16.0 cubic feet. We’re smitten with high-end Sonatas: They have more sound deadening, wider swaths of nicer finishes, even quilted leather. They have the ambiance of luxury cars minus the high-end badge and sticker.

Every Sonata has automatic emergency braking, a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and LED headlights. New for 2021 are 19-inch wheels on middle trim levels, a power front passenger seat on the top trim, and a safe-exit warning based on the car’s blind-spot monitors. Pricey Limiteds can be fitted to use Android smartphones as car keys, can wear leather upholstery and can come with a panoramic roof—while Hybrids offer a solar roof panel that can increase fuel economy by collecting energy passively while they sit parked. The pretty, efficient 2021 Sonata Hybrid even makes sense when it’s not moving.