The Friday Five:The Mercedes-Benz Level 3 Hands-Free Achievement, GM EV Trucks Coming 2023, and Mini Gifts Pet Adoption Fees Edition

Beverly Braga | Dec 10, 2021

This week, our Shopping Guides section is even more robust with 2022 model-year updates for AcuraCadillacFiatInfinitiMaseratiMazdaMitsubishiSubaruTesla, and Volvo. Whew. But we've also had a chance to review these newbies as our team of experts gives their take on the Lexus IS 500Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and Subaru BRZ.

From the factory, the Ford Bronco Sport is the first-ever model to utilize parts exclusively made of recycled ocean plasticspricing for the 2022 Honda Passport is released, Stellantis revealed plans to scrap the automaker moniker for "mobile tech company," and the NHTSA is questioning Tesla for allowing drivers to play video games… while driving.

But that's not everything that was happening in the automotive space.

Approved: Mercedes-Benz OK'd for Level 3 Autonomous Driving

Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot

We've known that fully self-driving cars are inevitable, but today's vehicles have been stuck on Level 2 automation for some time. Of the levels of autonomous driving, Level 2 allows for hands-free driving only when certain conditions are met and only on certain roads. Regardless of what Tesla's marketing materials may suggest, not a single vehicle on sale today can fully drive itself. But finally, there is a breakthrough.

Mercedes-Benz has received approval for Level 3 conditional autonomous driving in Germany. Audi tried first with the A8 but gave up on government approvals, and Toyota has launched a small number of Level 3-capable sedans in Japan. Benz is different because its Drive Pilot system got the thumbs up while using an international standard known as UR-157. This minimizes the roadblocks to expanding use in other markets.

Drive Pilot will be available starting next year on the S-Class, followed by the EQS.

General Motors' Electric Trucks Get 2023 Production Start

In less than a month, the all-new battery-electric Chevrolet Silverado will debut. But now we have production timing as well. According to Reuters, the Silverado electric truck will begin production in 2023 along with the GMC Sierra E and "multiple" other EVs.

Considering the nearly 200,000 hand-raisers for the Ford F-150 Lightning, General Motors needs to start positioning itself in the electric truck segment. The F-150 Lightning will bring in buyers on name alone, but the offerings from Rivian and Bollinger shouldn't be dismissed as small potatoes. Particularly the Rivian R1T, which has garnered positive press and earned awards as of late.

Hyundai Tucson Adds Aggressive XRT Trim Level

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson gets swole with an all-new XRT version. Building on the mid-level SEL trim with the Convenience package, the XRT adds notably rugged features (aka replacing luxury-leaning chrome with dirt-loving black). The front and rear bumpers receive design updates, and the side cladding is more prominent. The outside mirrors, window surrounds, and alloy wheels on the Tucson XRT also are matched in black.

The interior? Yup, black cloth seats, and black headliner. While there are no performance changes, actual get-outside-and-do-stuff utility like roof cross rails, a tow hitch, and approach lighting is standard. Starting at $32,625 (plus destination), the Tucson XRT is available in either front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive configurations.

Polestar 1 Discontinued, Opens Door for Three New EVs

The Polestar 1 launched Volvo's dedicated high-performance sub-brand in 2017, but four years later, we're already saying goodbye. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) offered not only a sleek design but performance on every level. Enthusiasts enjoyed its 619 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of instant torque, while eco-friendlies appreciated its 70 miles of EV-only range, which is still the most of any PHEV available today.

Although the Polestar 1 ended production in November, its departure doesn't mean performance is dead. Au contraire, mon ami. Polestar reiterated its position as an EV automaker whose products are already available on a global scale during a business presentation. The automaker also announced three new EV models arriving in as many years. Using Porsche as a baseline, the Polestar 3 will be a Cayenne challenger, the Polestar 4 a Macan match, and the Polestar 5 (Precept Concept) a Panamera/Taycan fighter. All featuring a brand-new global platform and bespoke motors. Things are certainly looking bright in Sweden.

Holiday Treat: Mini to Cover Pet Adoption Fees

During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, having a pet became all the rage. However, as the global health crisis continues, that initial excitement has waned while many animals remain in shelters waiting to find their forever homes. Starting today and throughout the weekend, Mini will cover the adoption fees through a partnership with Best Friends Animal Society. Best Friends is a leading animal welfare organization and runs the nation's largest no-kill animal sanctuary.

Best Friends works with more than 3,300 animal welfare and shelter partners nationwide, and all pets are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. With the no-cost adoption incentive, new and returning pet owners can put the savings toward food and supplies to welcome their newest family member home for the holidays and beyond.

The automakers are the sources of information for this article. It was accurate on December 10, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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