The first news summary of 2020 and we are in with a bang. First off happy new year to you all, I hope you had a great holiday season. But now manufacturers are back up to speed, lets look at the most exciting news over the last week.

Mercedes are arguably making the most noise this week with their preview of what an S-class may look like in the 22nd century. Also at the CES show, Sony have surprised the industry by showing an EV demonstration that, if produced, could rival current market leaders Tesla. Back in old money, Lamborghini have taken the Huracan back to rear-drive only. While Aston Martin, in similar vein to Mclaren's recent announcement, have previewed a new limited-run speedster model. Toyota meanwhile. have unveiled the little car we have all been waiting for, the rally homologation special, GR Yaris.

The Yaris That Isn't Pensioner Friendly

Possibly the most mundane (boring, slow etc..) hatchback on sale, the regular Toyota Yaris, has been turned all the way up to 11 by Toyota's Gazoo racing team to homologate next years WRC rally machine. This has lead to lots of internet excitement and possibly the most eagerly awaited hot hatchback in 2020. Despite the shared name there are very few parts linking the new model with the standard Yaris, Toyota has committed full force to this car with a 25,000 model run expected (thanks to homologation rules).

The car will be powered by a bespoke 1.6-litre, 3-cylinder, turbocharged engine, mounted lower and further back in the car and capable of producing 257bhp and 266lb ft of torque. The big power, small size and lightweight materials Toyota has thrown at the GR Yaris means impressive performance. With the aid of four-wheel drive the car dispatches the 0-62mph sprint in just 5.5 seconds before hitting a limited 143mph top speed. Power is sent to all four wheels via a good ole 6-speed manual 'box and centre differential apportioning the power to each axle.

The car comes with a 3-door only body that is 91mm lower and much wider than the standard 5-door car. The enlarged body covers a much wider track and a wider wheel and tyre package, when compared to the standard car. As mentioned, Toyota have not spared the use of expensive lightweight materials, with aluminium used for the doors, bonnet and boot and a carbon polymer roof skin. All this has resulted in kerbweight of 1280kg, or about 150kg lighter than a Golf GTi performance (with more power to boot).

Prices for the new car are yet to be announced but customer deliveries are expected to start before the year is out.

Mercedes AVTR - A Distant Future S-Class?

Working with the team behind the blockbuster Avatar film, Mercedes have shown off a new concept called the Vision AVTR (Advanced Vehicle Transformation). The car was unveiled last week at the CES in Las Vegas with a bold design and ideas previewing the future of motoring.

The car was developed with help from the team behind James Cameron's Avatar film, set in the mid 22nd century. The idea being that the car is purely an idea of what designers and engineers believe will bring human interaction with their vehicles closer together in the future.

The shape is distinctly Mercedes with the image of this being how an S-class or similar could look in the future. The design is created purely of curved surfaces, with large open areas allowing lots of natural light and transparency. This is taken one step further along the roof of the car, with 33 scale-like panels that can raise and lower to alter aerodynamics on the move, while conventional wheels and tyres have been replaced with spherical items.

The interior continues the curvaceous, futuristic theme, with a distinct lack of controls hinting heavily towards an autonomously driven vehicle. The infotainment meanwhile is controlled via an interactive hologram. The materials used for the interior bring the car "closer to nature", using renewable and low-carbon cost materials for more sustainable production.

When Four-Wheel Drive is Just Too Many

The new, driver's choice for the Huracan? Dropping the front two drive shafts from it's powertrain, it's the latest Hurcan variant, imaginatively named the Huracan Evo Rear-Wheel Drive.

The new model houses a lightly detuned version of the 5.2-litre V10 found in the normal Huracan Evo (though still producing 610bhp and 413lb ft of torque). Ditching the four-wheel drive system does help to save 33kg off the dry weight (now 1422kg), though a reduction in traction yields a slightly less impressive 3.3 seconds 0-62mph time (2.9 for the regular Huracan Evo). The car will still reach the same top speed of 201mph, so fast enough for most.

The idea of this car though is not to be quicker than other Huracans, but to be more fun and engaging to drive. To this end, Lamborghini have modified the programming of it's driver aids, likely allowing for a little more slip and slide before interfering. The new rear-drive car also does without some of it's siblings complicated technology such as the four-wheel steering and torque vectoring.

Exterior changes meanwhile are kept to a minimum, with a new front splitter, new diffuser and some fins in the enlarged front intakes being the only changes.

The "back-to-basics" Huracan will begin deliveries later in the year, with price starting from £137,000 ($208,000). This makes the car nearly £40,000 (or over $50,000 in the US) cheaper than the standard 4WD Huracan Evo thanks to all the reduced complexity. Turns out increased driver enjoyment also leads to a healthy discount.

Preview of Exciting Aston V12 Speedster

A new halo model for Aston Martin, the limited run V12 Speedster is expected to land with customers starting in 2021. The car is being designed entirely in house by the companies Q-division. The new speedster sticks rigidly to classic speedster principles, with it's open air design, long bonnet and complete lack of windscreen or side glass.

As the name suggests, the new car will be propelled by a V12, a similar 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged unit to that seen in the DBS Superleggera no less, albeit in a slightly de-tuned state. In the Speedster the powertrain will push out 690bhp and 516lb ft of torque, so expect rapid performance thanks to the weight shedding. All power will be sent rearwards courtesy of the ubiquitous 8-speed ZF auto 'box.

The typically Aston themed body will likely share underlying architecture with lower DB and Vantage models, though will require some re-thinking (under and side-body strengthening) courtesy of it's roof-chop. We currently only have with the above graphic sketch to work with, but it should be an exciting stylish vehicle, particularly in an age of fridge like Teslas. The overall design language is said to be inspired by the companies legendary DBR1 Le Mans racer from 1959.

The Speedster will begin production shortly, at Aston Martin's Gaydon facility, with the limited run of 88 cars set to begin landing on customers driveways from the first quarter 2021. Pricing is set to start somewhere around £750,000 (circa $1 million).

The Tech Giant Invading the Car Industry

A big surprise from Sony at the Las Vegas CES last week, as they unveiled their concept car, to demonstrate their work on autonomous driving systems and infotainment. Though there are no plans for a full scale production car, Sony boss Kenichiro Yoshida has hinted about mobility being the future of technology, signalling a likely emergence by Sony into the expanding EV market, Tesla be warned.

The concept is said to be powered by two small electric motors, each producing 268bhp, allowing for a 4.8 second 0-62mph time and 149mph top speed.

The goal of the Vision-S however, is not speed, but autonomy. To this end the car comes fitted with over 30 sensors to identify objects both outside and inside the vehicle for a continuous "safety cocoon". Interior sensors can adapt the cars infotainment and comfort systems to best suit the occupants, while a large panoramic centre touchscreen allows access to AI, cloud and telecommunication technology.

Sony need to be quick if they want to enter the war-zone that is the EV car market. Apple and Samsung have also both showed an interest in creating mobility solutions, while car companies like Tesla and Porsche are building their expertise and knowledge in the field. The next few years will be very important for the future of electric cars.

Let me know your thoughts on the steroid-infused Yaris, Mercedes' future concept, Lambo's RWD Huracan, Aston's speedster and the new Sony car down in the comments. See you next week.

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