Alex Zanardi undergoes neurosurgery for a second time

ROME — Former Formula One driver and Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi, seriously injured in a handbike accident 10 days ago, has undergone neurological surgery for a second time, a hospital statement said on Monday.

The Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Siena said that the surgery lasted around 2½ hours and that Zanardi, who suffered severe head injuries in the accident on June 19, was sedated and intubated in the intensive care unit.

“His condition remains stable from the cardio-respiratory and metabolic point of view, serious from the neurological point of view,” said the statement. Hospital director Roberto Gusinu said that a second surgery had been envisaged by doctors beforehand.

The 53-year-old Italian is an inspirational figure in the worlds of motorsport and Paralympics, a hugely popular and positive competitor who returned from life-changing injuries with a smile.

Both his legs were amputated above the knee, with his heart stopping seven times as he lost all but a liter of the blood in his body, after a horrific crash in a Champ car race at the Lausitzring in Germany in September 2001.

He later turned to paracycling and won a total of four Paralympic gold medals, two each at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and raced in 2019’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.


2020 Mazda CX-5 diesel is still, and perhaps forever, MIA

Halfway through 2020, the most recent Mazda CX-5 diesel you can find anywhere in the U.S. is a 2019 model year — the only one offered so far. With automaker factories beginning their model-year turnovers shortly, CarsDirect did some poking around as to the fate of an oil-burning 2020 CX-5. The outlet couldn’t get definitive answers, but a host of secondary evidence suggests the diesel crossover will skip this year, naturally leading to the question of whether the model will skip this market from now on. 

Asked in April about the crossover’s fate or its arrival, Mazda would only say that “with the current state of the world, many things are tentative.” The following month, the automaker’s early fleet ordering guide pegged this month as marking the end of CX-5 production, 2021MY crossovers starting down lines in August. Mazda had nothing to say about that information, either. When CarsDirect got in touch again for this latest report, Mazda professed the delay has nothing to do with emissions certification. Then the wall went up again, the only other comment being, “We cannot confirm any details for the CX-5 Diesel at this time.”   

We’re speculating, but at this point, even if Mazda could get 2020MY CX-5 diesels on the lot, why should the automaker bother? The challenges for diesel in general, and this expression of diesel particularly, are clear to everyone; our last post on the CUV, six months ago, was about the five-figure discounts dealers were offering. A quick check on Autotrader at the time of writing shows 45 examples of the 2019 CX-5 diesel available nationwide, plenty of them still priced in the low- to mid-thirties. On Autotrader Canada, which specifies vehicle availability beyond the “1,000+ Results” on the American site, there are 6,135 CX-5s listed nationwide, only 58 of them diesel. Canadian outlet Motor Illustrated wrote, “Mazda recently told us they had a lot of Mercedes-Benz GLE diesel owners and other diesel fans with upscale models trade for a CX-5 diesel.” Apparently luxury diesel crossover conquest buyers aren’t numerous enough to support a model line.

The gasoline versions of the 2020 Mazda CX-5 launched in November last year. It shouldn’t take that long for us to find out about the fate of the 2020 CX-5 diesel, or if there will be a 2021 model.

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Tesla’s Musk calls on workers in to help company break even in second quarter

Tesla chief Elon Musk in an internal email called on employees to work hard to allow the electric car maker to break even in the second quarter despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The rallying cry has become a familiar theme in recent quarters at Tesla, with Musk calling on employees to quickly build and deliver vehicles at the end of the quarter to achieve specific targets.

“Breaking even is looking super tight. Really makes a difference for every car you build and deliver. Please go all out to ensure victory!” Musk wrote in the Monday email seen by Reuters.

Electric vehicle site Electrek first reported the news. Tesla shares rose 5.2% to close at $1,009.35 on the Nasdaq on Monday.

The automaker is expected to report second-quarter delivery numbers this week.

Analysts on average expect the company to deliver roughly 74,000 vehicles in the months from April to June, according to Refinitiv data.

Much of the United States was under some form of lockdown orders during that time, which caused auto sales to plummet.

Tesla in April surprised investors when it said production and delivery of its new sport utility vehicle, Model Y, was significantly ahead of schedule despite the virus outbreak. The company delivered 88,400 vehicles in the first quarter.

Production at Tesla’s only U.S. vehicle factory in California was shut down for more than six weeks from the end of March to early May due to local lockdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

(Reporting by Neha Malara in Bengaluru and Tina Bellon in Warwick, R.I.; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Matthew Lewis)

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2021 Geneva Motor Show already cancelled and the future beyond is cloudy

This year has seen pretty much every auto show on the planet cancelling as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. One of the first was the Geneva Motor Show, which had to shut down at the last minute as the pandemic hit Europe. Now the organizers are cancelling next year’s Geneva Motor Show well in advance for health and participation reasons. It’s also facing some financial problems.

One obvious reason for canceling next year is the continuing coronavirus concern. It’s still unclear when a vaccine or effective treatment will be available, and having thousands of journalists and attendees coming to an indoor event and crowding together is likely a bad idea. Besides that, the organizers of the show surveyed manufacturers, and many of them reported that they would sit out the Geneva Show next year if it were happening. So even if a show was happening, there might not have been many exhibitors to flesh it out.

This also leads us to the financial issues the organizers of the Geneva Motor Show are facing. With the show closing suddenly this year, after many exhibits had been set up, it didn’t have a way to recoup expenses. The organizers reached out to the local government for a loan to cover the shortfall and prep for a future show, and the government put together a proposal for a 16.8-million Swiss franc loan, but the organizers’ weren’t pleased by the terms. The proposed loan would require hosting a show in 2021 and a minimum repayment of 1 million francs by June 2021. And since the show isn’t happening next year, that would mean the organizers wouldn’t have revenue to start paying off the loan.

So what’s the plan to make up the show’s losses and prepare for a 2022 show? The organizers have proposed selling the show to the Palexpo SA, the organization that operates the convention center where the show takes place. That proposal has not yet been accepted, so the future of the show is murky. There is reason to believe that the sale will go through and the Geneva Show will return in 2022, though. The organizers point out that the Geneva Show is the largest public event in Switzerland, and is thus important economically. We suspect many automakers, particularly smaller cottage industry and supercar builders, want the show to continue, as it’s a great place to find investors and new customers.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter gets a second turbodiesel option

Mercedes-Benz is adding a third engine option to the Sprinter range. Motorists in the market for a fuel-efficient full-size van will soon be able to order the company’s biggest van model with a four-cylinder turbodiesel under the hood.

With 2.0 liters of displacement, the Sprinter’s new diesel engine develops 161 horsepower and a stout 266 pound-feet of torque. It spins the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy figures haven’t been published, but this variant should stand out as the efficiency champ of the Sprinter line-up.

Sprinter buyers who order the 2.0-liter turbodiesel will be able to haul up to 6,636 pounds depending on how they configure their van, and tow between 5,000 and 7,500 pounds. Top speed is electronically limited to 90 mph, which is plenty in a studio apartment-sized box on wheels that’s up to 290 inches long and 111 inches tall.

There are no visual differences between the 2.0-liter-equipped Sprinter and variants fitted with the gasoline-burning four or the turbodiesel V6. The list of standard features includes keyless entry, a hold function, a pair of USB-C ports, shift paddles and a tilt-adjustable steering wheel. Power-operated front seats, an electric side sliding door, a heated windshield, and what Mercedes calls a high-performance air conditioning system are optional.

Mercedes-Benz will only offer the turbodiesel four-cylinder in the cargo-hauling Sprinter; Autoblog learned from a company spokesperson that there are currently no plans to put the engine in the passenger-carrying model. Pricing starts at $38,770 for the regular van with a 144-inch wheelbase, $44,100 for mid-range version with a 170-inch wheelbase, and $45,950 for the extra-long model with an extended rear overhang.

For context, Mercedes charges $34,394 for a 144-inch model with the gasoline-powered four, and $40,620 for the same van equipped with the more powerful 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel. At the other end of the spectrum, the extended variant costs $47,800 with six cylinders in its engine bay; it’s not available with the gasoline engine.

Update: This post initially reported output for the diesel four-cylinder as 190 horsepower and 324 pound-feet of torque. The correct numbers are listed above.

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Junkyard Gem: 1986 Pontiac Sunbird Sedan

The J-Body platform was a giant seller for GM, staying in production from the first 1981 Chevrolet Cavalier all the way through that final 2005 Pontiac Sunfire. Outside of North America, Opels and Daewoos and Isuzus and Holdens and Vauxhalls and even Toyotas flew the J flag, and better than ten million rolled out of showrooms during that quarter-century. In the United States, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac each sold J-Bodies. Of those, the Pontiac Sunbird often had the sportiest image, more cavalier than even the Cavalier Z24. I’ve documented a discarded Sunbird Turbo in the past, and now here’s a bread-and-butter Sunbird sedan from the same era.

The Sunbird name began its life in 1976 on the Pontiac-badged version of the rear-wheel-drive Buick Skyhawk, itself based on the Chevy Vega. The first J-Body Pontiacs had J2000 badges, then 2000 badges, then 2000 Sunbird badges, until finally the pure non-2000 Sunbird appeared for the 1985 model year. I remain disappointed that the 2000 name didn’t survive into our current century, because we could have had a 2000 Pontiac 2000, or just the “2000 2000” for short.

The base engine in the ’86 Sunbird was this SOHC 1.8-liter four of Brazilian origin, rated at 84 horsepower. Originally developed by Opel in the late 1970s, this engine family went into cars built all across the sprawling GM empire.

84 horsepower doesn’t sound like much— and it wasn’t much, even by 1986 standards— but at least the original buyer of this car had the smarts to get the five-speed manual transmission. This car weighed just 2,336 pounds, a good 500 pounds lighter than the current Chevy Sonic, so performance with the manual transmission was tolerable.

The ’86 Sunbird’s interior was much nicer than those in its Cavalier siblings, though nowhere near the Cadillac Cimarron’s reading on the Plush-O-Meter.

An AM/FM/cassette stereo with auto reverse was serious audio hardware in a cheap car during the middle 1980s, when even a scratchy factory AM-only radio cost the equivalent of several hundred 2020 bucks.

The price tag of this car started at $7,495, or about $17,500 in 2020 dollars. The cheapest possible Cavalier sedan went for $6,888 in 1986, but a zero-option base ’86 Cavalier would make you think you’d been transported to the Soviet Union every time you slunk into its harsh confines.

The cool moms drove new Sunbirds in 1986.

So much excitement in a Sunbird!

Let’s take a quick J-Body World Tour now, starting with Japan and the Isuzu Aska.

In the UK, the Vauxhall Cavalier got the same fuel-injected engine as its American Sunbird sibling, making it capable of jumping over its competition. Literally.

Sales of the Australian J-Body, the Holden Camira, benefited from this science-fiction-movie-style TV commercial in 1986.

Electronic fuel injection was a big selling point during the 1980s, especially in technology-crazed West Germany, home of the Opel Ascona C.

After a chain-smoking domestic dispute with his wife, a Brazilian J-Body owner finds solace in his ’87 Chevrolet Monza.

Because you couldn’t have a global GM platform in this era without a Daewoo version, the Espera rolled onto South Korean streets on the J platform. Here we see that the Daewoo Espero and the F-14 were more or less the same vehicle.

We’ll head back to Detroit for this ad for the King of J-Bodies in 1986: the Cadillac Cimarron.


2021 Jeep Wrangler supposedly ditching 2.0L eTorque

Last year, Jeep made a few changes to the powertrain options that appeared focused on encouraging greater adoption of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo. Instead of charging for the four-cylinder engine option and the obligatory eight-speed automatic transmission on top of that, Jeep made the four-cylinder free and only charged for the gearbox. Along with the price drop, Jeep made the 2.0-liter mill supplemented by FCA’s 48-volt eTorque system available only on the Sahara trim, when it had been available across the range. For 2021, “dealer connections” told Mopar Insiders that Jeep will drop the 2.0-liter with eTorque from even the Sahara model for the 2021 model year.  

That leave the 2.0-liter with stop/start (ESS), the 3.6-liter V6 with stop/start and the 3.6 V6 with eTorque in the gas engine lineup for 2021, and the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6. As is currently the case, the V6 with ESS remains the standard engine. It appears output won’t change from 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and the V6 ESS engine is the only one of the four that can be paired with the six-speed manual transmission. The other three engines require the automatic. The EcoDiesel will continue as an option for the four-door Unlimited trim only.

We still don’t know what powertrain lives under the skin of the Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid launching later this year. Some wonder if the 2.0-liter will return as the heart of a Wrangler plug-in for next year, or if the Jeep will borrow the PHEV mechanicals from the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid. The minivan pairs the same 3.6-liter V6 used in the Jeep to drive the front wheels with a battery-driven electric motor turning the rears, and Jeep execs have mentioned that eAWD system coming to the Jeep lineup.

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BMW explains progress of G80 M3 dynamic development

The everlasting development of the G80 BMW continues. Last time we checked in with a camouflaged version of the super sedan we expected to debut either last year at Frankfurt or this year in Geneva, powertrain certification was the only holdup from production. Otherwise, BMW M overlord Markus Flasch said the four-door and its M4 coupe brother are ready to do the assembly line dance. Fitting, then, that BMW has released a video of the test engineers refining the M3’s suspension and driving dynamics systems at the Nürburgring and on gnarled country roads in the German countryside.

There are no jaw-droppers in the video, but there are plenty of shots of the sedan from all angles. Starting BMW’s Test Center at the ‘Ring, the engineer responsible for driving development runs the M3 through and around the venues used to hone performance of the steering, damper tuning, and dynamic stability control. The vid ends with a hard lap around the circuit, with an engineer in the shotgun seat providing track notes about car setup and response in various sections, so anyone headed for a lap of The Green Hell might want to take their own notes.  

As for the shape of the sedan itself, every angle compels us to believe the sixth-generation M3 is going to be beefy.

The car’s reveal comes sometime this year, but it feels like we have a few months left to go. The checklist of features and capabilities so far includes a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine redlining at 7,500 rpm or thereabouts, the mill generating something between 473 and 503 horsepower, a slightly less powerful rear-wheel drive powertrain offering a manual transmission, an all-the-beans powertrain with M xDrive all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, a trim with an advanced aero package, interior components like the instrument cluster borrowed from the M8, and according to Car and Driver, a starting MSRP estimated at $68,000, rising to around $99,500 for the M3 CS. 

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Manned drone racing is coming soon

Transcript: Manned drone racing is coming soon. The Drone Champions League (DCL) has completed testing on its manned aerobatic drone, bringing us one step closer to manned drone racing. The craft is inspired by a Formula 1 race car design. It has 12 motors and 24 14S batteries. The body is made out of carbon fiber and weighs a little over 308 lbs. The future of drone racing looks exciting.

Although you probably won’t be able to personally fly one of these manned racing drones, smaller drones are readily available and can be ordered, like the DJI Mavic Air 2 and it’s younger sibling the DJI Mavic Mini. However, if you want to be a part of the drone racing community, a decent starter choice may be the Hubsan H122D X4 Storm, which is a solid pre-built racing drone. 

DJI Mavic Air 2 Fly More Combo – $988.99 at

DJI Mavic Mini Combo – $499.00 at

Hubsan H122D X4 Storm – $279.99 at

Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability is subject to change.


Bugatti Chiron roadster could be in the works

Regular reversals make it hard to tell what Bugatti will do next. In 2018, the Molsheim, France-based carmaker said it wouldn’t go after the 300-mph mark, screaming from the mountaintop that would be “missing a big part of what the [Chiron] is all about.” Not even a year later, a modestly reformed Chiron reached 304.773 mph at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track, the feat spun into the $5.19M Chiron Super Sport 300+ and, more recently, the $580,000 Jacob Twin Turbo Furious 300+ wristwatch. In 2019, Bugatti said “There will be no SUV.” Eight months later, Bugatti revealed it had already designed a crossover, and that “some potential customers have seen it, and they liked it.”

If The Supercar Blog is correct, we could have another take-back on our hands. In 2016, Bugatti pronounced the Chiron would get “no roadster or convertible” version. Since then, the closest accommodation the Chiron makes to open-air motoring is the fixed Sky View roof panels. But TSB sources told the outlet “Bugatti does intend to build” a Chiron roadster. It’s not clear if this would be a one-off like the La Voiture Noire or a limited run like the Divo or Centodieci, but TSB states Bugatti is “reportedly gauging interest in a one-of-a-kind open-top variant.”

A one-off roofless screamer is one of Bugatti CEO Stephan Winkelmann’s go-to maneuvers, though. When Winkelmann ran Lamborghini, he commissioned designers to work up the Aventador J roadster for the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, later selling the car’s birth as a customer commission. The following year, he presided over the creation of the single-seater, targa-top Egoista for the brand’s 50th anniversary. Bugatti has a much deeper roadster tradition than Lamborghini, offering plenty of material to pull from that designers have so far barely mined.

With a rumored price of €9 million ($10.1M U.S.), Bugatti’s roofless hypercar wouldn’t be a ‘mere’ targa-ficiation of the Chiron mimicking the Veyron Grand Sport. The asking price is a nice condominium beyond the €8 million ($8.9M U.S.) sought for the Centodieci, the EB110 homage limited to ten units, and a good deal less than the $18.7M sum needed for the La Voiture Noire.  

If there’s any truth to this, guesswork says Bugatti’s either doing up a roofless roadster in the vein of the Bentley Bacalar or a speedster in the Ferrari SP1 mold. More detail than that will need to wait until another source pipes up, or Bugatti decides to drop hints. When Robb Report asked the automaker for comment, Bugatti responded “that the story is just a rumor.”

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