Green Car Journal logo

Karma’s new GS-6 is offered in Standard, Luxury, and Sport models, all sharing the sleek exterior design of the company’s upmarket Revero GT. The three GS-6 variants are powered by a transversely mounted, 400 kW twin-motor rear drive module (RDM) energized by a 28 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that delivers 61 miles of battery-electric range. The combination, which produces 536 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of peak torque, comes with an EPA rating of 70 combined city/highway MPGe. Range increases to 330 miles with additional electricity from a 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder gas engine spinning a 170 kW generator.

The driver can select one of three modes that control how the motor is powered: Stealth mode uses the battery pack only; Sustain mode accesses the generator to create electricity to power the car; Sport mode uses both the batteries and the generator to supply power directly to the motors.

The drive system’s Sport mode is available in all GS-6 versions, not just the Sport model. The line-topping Sport model is differentiated from the other GS-6 versions by its 22-inch wheels (21s are standard on the others), red Brembo brake calipers, and torque vectoring from the RDM.

The GS-6’s leather interior is available in a choice of five colors and accent trim that range from carbon fiber to reclaimed wood from forests burned by California wildfires. The car’s Human-Machine Interface enables driver control of features including steering feel, accelerator pedal aggressiveness, and its Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). Controls in the haptic steering wheel give the driver command of the sound system and phone, driving modes, adaptive cruise control, and a three-mode regenerative brake system. The center touchscreen contains controls for the HVAC system, heated and ventilated seats, audio, and lighting. Also controlled through the center screen is the GS-6’s Track Mode, which provides data ranging from lap times and g-forces to energy use and even tire pressure and temperature.

The ADAS aboard the GS-6 has a long list of assistance and safety features including adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring/rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, and parking distance monitoring. Onboard cameras provide a 360-degree view around the Karma. Apple Car Play and Android Auto capability are built into the GS-6, and it can receive over-the-air updates for remote diagnostics and software upgrades.

While it sells vehicles globally, Karma's operations are in Southern California with headquarters in Irvine and a production facility in Moreno Valley.

The all-new five-door, five-passenger BMW i4 is right-sized for fans of the marque, similar in overall length and wheelbase to its 3 Series stablemates. Both i4 variants utilize BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology, which combines an 83.9 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with either a single electrically-excited synchronous motor on the rear axle (in eDrive 40) or motors front and rear (in M50). BMW expects up to 300 miles of driving range in the single motor i4 and an estimated 245 miles in the M50.

Taking its Ultimate Driving Machine strategy a step further, the all-wheel-drive i4 M50 – the first fully electric performance model from BMW’s M Group – ups the 335 horsepower of the standard i4 eDrive40 to a combined 536 horsepower. In addition, special attention is paid to chassis tuning and powertrain responsiveness in the M50 so it delivers the level of driving engagement expected from a BMW with the M badge.

The i4’s combined charging unit accepts either home-based AC power, at a rate of up to 11 kW, or up to 200 kW of DC power at a fast-charging station. BMW has partnered with EVgo to provide i4 owners access to EVgo and partner charging network stations. The partnership includes $100 in EVgo charging credit for buyers and lessees of qualifying BMW electric vehicles.  

Helping to boost the i4 models’ efficiency are their adaptive energy recuperation systems, which use data from the navigation and driver-assistance systems to vary the intensity of brake energy recuperation. The driver may also select high, medium, or low brake energy recuperation via the iDrive menu. Putting the gear selector in drive mode B provides enough regen for one-pedal driving with little or no use of the brakes, depending on driving habits and current driving conditions.  

The i4’s handling dynamics benefit from the battery pack’s location in the floor, which lowers its center of gravity below that of a 3 Series sedan. Both models are equipped with a rear air suspension using a self-leveling and lift-related shock system that controls damping force based on spring travel. An adaptive M suspension, optional on the eDrive 40 and standard on the M40, enables the driver to adjust shock settings electronically at each wheel.

Inside the i4, the BMW Curved Display puts the 12.3-inch driver information display and 14.9-inch control display behind a single piece of glass. Features in BMW’s new iDrive 8 system can be operated via the Curved Display or by voice commands. Among them is the new Cloud-based BMW Maps navigation system, which combines real-time information with forecasting models to improve navigation accuracy. Both Apple Car Play and Android Auto are programmed into the i4.

There are more than 40 driver assistance systems available for the i4 as either standard or optional equipment, including some Level 2 automated driving functions such as speed limit assist and route guidance when the optional active cruise control is engaged. Collision warning, pedestrian warning, and lane departure warning are all standard. Cross-traffic warnings, blind-spot detection, and rear-collision prevention are part of the optional driving assistant system. Optional parking assistant will control the i4 when entering or exiting parallel or perpendicular parking spaces, while its back-up assistant offers automatic reversing for up to 50 yards. A Driving Assistance Professional system utilizes three front cameras, one front-facing radar sensor ,and four side-facing radar sensors “to build a detailed picture of the car’s surroundings,” says BMW. That data is used for such functions as active navigation, steering and lane control assistant, lane-keeping assistant, emergency stop assistant, and evasion assistant.

The BMW i4 eDrive40 can be preordered now starting at $56,395 with the performance-oriented i4 M50 coming in at $66,895. Availability here in the States is spring 2022, according to BMW.

Similar in size to Audi’s Q5 SUV, the Q4 e-tron is powered by one or two electric motors depending on configuration. The base Q4 40 e-tron sends an estimated 240 horsepower to the rear wheels through a permanently excited synchronous motor. The Q4 50 e-tron quattro and Q4 50 Sportback e-tron quattro add a temporary on-demand asynchronous motor to drive the front wheels as needed. The second motor brings total output to an estimated 290 horsepower. When not in use, the front motor doesn’t consume any energy or add any load resistance, so the drivetrain’s efficiency is like that of the rear-wheel drive system.

Both drive configurations are powered by a single 77 kWh battery located between the axles to optimize weight distribution. Preliminary estimates put the Q4 40 e-tron’s range at approximately 250 miles.

The drivetrain is configured to regenerate energy using what Audi calls intelligent recuperation, which incorporates navigation and topographical data in addition to the three regen modes selectable via steering wheel paddles and brake pedal modulation. The battery can be charged using either alternating or direct current, up to 11 kW with AC and up to 125 kW DC using a high-speed charger.

The Q4 e-tron interiors feature a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver and a second, 10.1-inch touchscreen to operate the infotainment and navigation systems. A new steering wheel has seamless touch surfaces to control the instrument cluster. Available as an option is an augmented reality head-up display, which superimposes relevant driving information over the real-world view out the windshield at what is perceived to be a distance of 30 feet ahead of the driver, “creating an integrated and eyes-forward experience,” says Audi.

Several driver-assist systems are packaged into the Q4 e-tron models, ranging from High-Beam Assist to Adaptive Cruise Assist. Combined with Traffic Jam Assist, the adaptive cruise control can guide the SUV through its entire speed range. A Predictive Efficiency Assist program optimizes energy consumption over the duration of a trip.  

Audi expects to produce the Q4 e-tron models at its Zwickau, Germany, plant with a net carbon-neutral footprint. Zwickau will incorporate renewable electricity to help achieve this certification. The Q4 e-tron SUVs should be on sale in the U.S. in late 2021 with a starting MSRP of less than $45,000.

Volvo’s positioning of the C40 Recharge is interesting in an era where an abundance of new models are identified by their makers as SUVs, though many could just as easily be called large hatchbacks. This is in reverse. Volvo doesn’t describe the C40 Recharge as an SUV – thought it certainly could be categorized that way – but rather, says it ‘has all the benefits of an SUV’ like a high seating position, but with a sleeker body design. We’ll chalk it up to marketing.

However you define it, the model is powered by a 78 kWh battery driving front and rear electric motors for zero-emission driving. Anticipated range is estimated at about just over 200 miles on a charge, with an official EPA rating still to come. Range is expected to improve over time with over-the-air software updates, Volvo says. The battery is configured to be fast-charged to 80 percent in about 40 minutes. Buyers of the C40 Recharge, and all-fully electric 2022 Volvo vehicles, will receive 250 kWh of complimentary charging for the first three years of ownership using Electrify America’s charging network. After that, owners will be eligible for Electrify America’s Pass+, with Volvo picking up the membership fees for the first year.

The C40 Recharge is the first Volvo with a leather-free interior. Upholstery options include renewable wool fiber or a combination of suede textile (made of recycled plastic) and micro-tech material. The carpet and much of the interior panels and trim are also made using recycled plastics.

Other interior features include dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front and rear seats, a heated sport steering wheel wrapped in a synthetic material, a 12-inch driver display instrument panel, and a 9-inch center display panel. The infotainment system in the C40 Recharge was developed with Google and is based on the Android operating system. Google services, such as Google Maps, Google Assistant, and the Google Play Store are built in, and owners have access to Google apps using the car’s unlimited data.

Driver aids built into the C40 Recharge include Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Aid, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, and Road Sign Information, which displays information alerts – speed limits, do not enter and other signs – in the speedometer.

Starting at a base price somewhat south of $60,000, the C40 Recharge is available through online orders only. It will come with a convenient care package that includes service, warranty, roadside assistance, insurance, and home-charging options. To simplify the online ordering process, the C40 Recharge will be available in one trim level called Ultimate. This model has ‘every available feature,’ says Volvo, including a panoramic fixed moonroof, pixel LED lighting, 360-degree surround-view camera, and Harmon Kardon premium sound.

The Santa Fe’s new plug-in hybrid powerplant comes a year after the all-new generation 2021 model saw its first hybrid option. Hybrid power was just one of many important upgrades for this five-passenger, mid-size sport utility vehicle last year. Along with its bold new look, Santa Fe gained upgraded electronics, additional driver-assist systems, and two new efficient 2.5-liter/2.5-liter turbo engines plus the efficient 1.6-liter hybrid.

Augmenting the standard hybrid’s 1.6-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder turbo engine and 90 horsepower electric motor is this year’s PHEV’s plug-in capability and larger battery pack. Power is transferred to the wheels through a smooth-shifting six speed automatic transmission. Electrical power is stored in a 12.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which should provide enough juice to propel the Santa Fe up to 30 miles in pure electric mode.

Available in SEL Convenience and Limited trim levels, Santa Fe is a right-sized package measuring in at 188 inches in overall length and 74 inches tall, riding on a 108.8 inch wheelbase. The Santa Fe PHEV is sure-footed for all-weather duty courtesy of Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system complemented by four drive modes.

Its interior features large digital touchscreens including a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display, an 8-inch audio display, and a widescreen 10.25-inch navigation display. Wireless device charging, smart phone integration, and BlueLink are provided. Leather upholstery and ventilated front seats are standard equipment. The Santa Fe features multiple cameras positioned around the vehicle to give the driver a better view of surrounding conditions and obstacles. The front camera also serves to provide forward collision avoidance and active cruise control functionality.

For added convenience, Santa Fe PHEV has a self-parking function and cross-traffic backup alert. Hyundai calls this safety suite Reverse Parking Collision Avoidance Assist, or PCA for short. It will warn the driver if a collision risk is detected while backing up under challenging conditions, such as reversing out of a driveway into cross traffic.

Model-specific styling helps the PHEV variant stand out with a bold and aggressive grille treatment, 19 inch alloy wheels, and a panoramic sunroof. Initially, Santa Fe PHEV will be available in eleven states including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Expect a MSRP of $40,535  for the SEL model and $46,545 in Limited trim.

Manufactured in Tennessee on Volkswagen’s MEB modular world electric car platform, the 2021 VW ID.4 presents a new and compelling all-electric SUV that enters a segment presently dominated by Tesla, Chevrolet, and a select few others. What ID.4 brings to the battery electric SUV segment that Tesla doesn’t is price, coming in at a base cost of $39,995, some $10,000 less than Tesla’s Model Y.

For this, electric vehicle buyers get SUV hatchback utility, three-foot legroom in all seating positions, and ample luggage capacity for 5 adults. VW estimates ID.4 driving range at 250 mile on a full charge, and additionally points out that an additional 60 miles of range is attainable in just 10 minutes from a public DC quick-charge station.

Powertrain, battery module, and chassis

Sporting a stature similar to that of Honda’s CR-V, the Volkswagen ID.4 rides on a steel-framed architecture featuring strut-like front suspension and multi-link suspension with coil-over shocks at the rear. This, combined with a long wheelbase and short overhangs, promises a smooth ride dynamic. Braking is handled by front disk and rear drum brakes.

A single permanent magnet, synchronous electric motor directs power to the rear wheels. The ID.4 produces 201 horsepower and 228 lb-ft torque that’s expected to deliver a 60 mph sprint in about 8 seconds. Electricity to power the motor is provided by an air-cooled, frame-integrated 82 KWh lithium-ion modular cell battery. An onboard 11KW charger enables three charge modes via standard 110-volt household power, 220-volt Level 2 charging, or DC fast charging. Typical charging with a home wall charger or public Level 2 charger will bring a full charge in 6 to 7 hours.

Controls, displays, and features

A minimalistic yet futuresque cabin with segment leading cabin volume rounds out ID.4’s architecture. Features include a driver-centric, touch sensitive steering wheel and a view-forward 5.3-inch ID information center that replaces conventional gauges. Vehicle operation is through steering wheel-mounted switches, with infotainment, climate control, device connectivity, navigation, and travel information accessed through a 10.3 inch touchscreen monitor. A 12 inch monitor is available with the model’s Statement Package.

Topping the list of features is expanded voice command and a communicative dash-integrated ID light bar. ‘Intuitive Start’ driver key fob recognition enables pre-start cabin conditioning capability. Base model upholstery is ballistic cloth with leatherette seat surfaces optional.

Volkswagen’s IQ Drive driver assist and active safety suite features travel assist, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, front and rear sensors, emergency assist, blinds spot monitoring, rear traffic watch and more. All this comes standard along with Pro Navigation, a heated steering wheel and front seats, wireless phone charging, and app connectivity for compatible devices. 

The ID.4 EV is available in six colors and two trim levels, Gradient and Statement, for personalization. The optional Gradient package features a black roof, silver roof trim, silver accents, and silver roof rails along with 20-inch wheels to complete the upscale look. Looking forward, while rear-wheel drive is the choice today, Volkswagen is already talking up an all-wheel drive variant for early 2021 along with a lower-priced base model. 

As the world’s largest automotive group, Volkswagen has the capacity to change the ever-expanding electric-car landscape. Looking at the style and utility of VW’s all-new ID.4, you can sense the renewed “people’s car” direction of the brand that accompanies the automaker’s commitment to electrification. VW says it’s aiming at selling 20 million electric cars based on the MEB electric car platform by model year 2029. Certainly, the potential for selling in truly significant numbers is reinforced by ID.4 pre-orders selling-out in just weeks, it’s safe to say.