German supplier Bosch traveled to CES 2020 to introduce an artificial intelligence-powered sun visor called Virtual Visor. It's a major update to a part that has barely evolved in the history of the car.

The Virtual Visor takes the form of a rectangle that swings down from the headliner to block sunlight, but the similarities between it and the sun visor in your daily driver stop there. It's a transparent LCD screen that uses an occupant-monitoring camera to track shadows across the front passengers' faces. Artificial intelligence then identifies facial features, like the nose, the ears, and the mouth, and uses this information to tint only the parts of the visor through which sunlight hits the passenger's eyes, creating a shadow that looks like a robotic Venetian mask. The rest stays transparent.

While this innovation sounds relatively minor compared to the massive changes sweeping across the automotive industry, Bosch predicted it will have a major effect on safety, especially at dawn and at dusk. The company's research found the sun's glare causes nearly twice as many accidents as other weather-related conditions, and statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) back up that assertion. The agency annually blames thousands of accidents on the sun.

Interestingly, Bosch didn't begin the project by throwing millions of development dollars at it. The supplier explained the idea came from three forward-thinking powertrain engineers who built the original prototype with an LCD screen they found in a trash bin. Executives liked what they saw, so they gave the group the proverbial green light, and much-needed resources. While the Virtual Visor is still at the concept stage, and its implementation in a production car depends on automakers, Bosch told Autoblog it's talking with manufacturers about bringing the technology to production.

    What better way to celebrate 2019's record bull market than with a bull stamped on the nose of a shiny 10-cylinder supercar? Certainly, Lamborghini would have introduced the 2020 Huracán Evo RWD without a six-year high from the S&P 500 or double-digit spikes in the Dow and Nasdaq indexes. But upgrading to the latest Lambo is now unavoidable. It's promising more powerslides and a brand-new body kit for a lot less money.

    The Huracán Evo made its debut last January as the first mid-cycle refresh since Lamborghini's "entry level" model came out in 2014. Replacing the Performante and carrying that car's 631-hp tune, the Evo added rear-wheel steering, torque vectoring, revised aero, and a new computerized brain called LDVI that makes minute adjustments to the entire car 50 times every second. We've tried it, twice. Now subtract the front axle, the rear steering, and 29 ponies from the 5.2-liter V-10. That equals us having to get behind the wheel again.

    Lamborghini

    As before, Lamborghini could care less that this 602-hp Huracán is slower on the track than the more powerful all-wheel-drive version. But the Evo RWD should be faster than the LP580-2 that's been on sale since 2016, and not simply because of a 31-hp advantage. In Sport mode, the older rear-wheel-drive Huracán softened its adaptive dampers and incorporated a trick front-braking system to ensure long-lasting, repeatable drifts.

    The newest solution is the P-TCS (Performance Traction Control System), unique to the Evo RWD, which lets the car "slide and skate during acceleration." Lamborghini says that P-TCS never cuts torque abruptly. Instead, in Sport mode, it'll feed extra torque before the car gets into an epic slide and then will back off more gently. In Corsa mode, it assumes the driver is smarter and will allow the car to exit corners more quickly. A retuned steering rack helps the driver better master the slip angle. Using its proprietary fun calculator, Lamborghini says oversteer is up 30 percent versus the LP580-2, which had overloaded our expert butt sensors in 2016. This is valuable data to every Lamborghini customer.

    In a parking lot, you'll notice the RWD model up front rather than behind. The front splitter has been reshaped with a simpler design connecting the outer air intakes to the nose in a single, body-color piece—much like the final Gallardo models. That's to help generate more airflow underneath the car and pass it to the revised diffuser, increasing overall downforce on the rear wheels compared to the regular Evo. While the human eye can distinguish between millions of colors, the Evo RWD wears its own shade, Giallo Belenus, along with matching leather and microsuede trim. To our eyes, it's just another hot yellow Lambo.

    Most compelling is the price, which at $214,366 starts at a cool 52 grand less than the all-wheel-drive Evo. Until Audi imports a de-axled 2020 R8, this Lambo will be the only new car on sale with rear-wheel drive and a V-10.

    TOKYO — Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn fled Japan while awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges. He escaped to Beirut, where he grew up and is considered a national hero by many. Here's a look at the unfolding case of the fallen auto industry superstar:

    Where is Ghosn?

    Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, arrived in Lebanon on Monday after a stop in Turkey. Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan told The Associated Press that Ghosn entered the country with a legal passport. Ghosn, who has not appeared in public, issued a statement saying he left to avoid a “rigged Japanese justice system." He issued a second statement saying his family members played no role in his escape and that he did it alone. He said he will talk to reporters next week. Serhan said Lebanese prosecutors will question Ghosn, but there are no charges pending against him in Lebanon.

    Escape despite heavy surveillance

    Little is known about how Ghosn was able to leave Japan. He picked a time where security lapses are more likely — government offices are closed all week for New Year holidays. But his whereabouts were closely monitored, including by 24-hour security cameras, and his lawyers supposedly had all of his passports. He was able to use the internet only in his lawyer's office, and he was forbidden from seeing his wife, Carole. They were recently allowed video calls, but only in the presence of his lawyer. Ghosn's chief lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, said he had no knowledge of the escape and was stunned by it.

    How did Ghosn get out?

    The dramatic disappearance has set off wild speculation, including that Ghosn was carted off inside a musical instrument case, though Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Friday that surveillance video showed him exiting his home alone shortly before he left Japan. A Turkish charter airline company said its jets were used in the escape and blamed an employee who falsified records. MNG Jet said Ghosn's name did not appear on the official documentation for a flight from Dubai to Osaka and then on to Istanbul or another for a flight from Istanbul to Beirut. It's not known how Ghosn might have traveled to Osaka to get on the flight.

    Ghosn as fugitive

    Interpol issued a wanted notice Thursday for Ghosn. Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, must now decide how to respond. Expectations are low that Lebanon would hand over Ghosn. Interpol's Red Notice is a non-binding request for law enforcement agencies to locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive. The notice is not an arrest warrant. Legal experts say Ghosn's ability to travel will be restricted.

    Japan's response

    Japanese prosecutors, who had opposed Ghosn's release on bail, raided his Tokyo home on Thursday. Turkey made several arrests as part of an investigation into how he passed through the country. Japanese government officials have not said anything publicly about Ghosn's escape but they revoked the 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail. Trying someone in absentia is rare in Japan. A trial dealing with allegations against Nissan as a company and Greg Kelly, another Nissan executive, will continue. A date has not been set.

    The charges

    Ghosn, who was first arrested in November 2018, has repeatedly denied the charges against him. Part of the allegations center around his failure to report compensation that was promised to him. Ghosn has said those payments were never decided on. Nissan filed additional papers concerning the compensation after his arrest. Other charges of breach of trust involve Nissan money allegedly diverted to Ghosn for personal gain, including payments in Oman and Saudi Arabia. Ghosn has said those payments were for legitimate services. Prosecutors have released few specifics, saying they will do so at the trial. If convicted on all counts, Ghosn could face the maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The conviction rate in Japan is higher than 99%.

    Ghosn as star

    Ghosn built a stellar reputation for his managerial acumen in transforming Nissan over the last two decades from near-bankruptcy to one of the biggest global auto brands. Several of his books on management were translated in Japanese, and one depicts him as a manga comic book character. Especially in his early years, he was cheered as a celebrity, admired for his hard work, and dubbed "7-11" after the convenience-store chain for the hours he kept. He still has close ties to senior politicians in Lebanon. After his arrest, he has become a symbol of protest against Japan's so-called “hostage justice” system, which human rights advocates have long criticized as unfair and too reliant on confessions. Ghosn was held in detention for 130 days before posting bail.

    Other twists

    Two Lebanese lawyers have submitted a report to the Public Prosecutor's Office in Beirut against Ghosn, saying he violated Lebanese law by visiting Israel. The two countries are in a state of war. Ghosn visited Israel in 2008 to launch electric cars, and met with the prime minister and the president. Journalists, including those from Japan, have flocked to Ghosn's rose-colored residence in Beirut's affluent neighborhood of Ashrafieh. A Lebanese lawyer who said he worked for Nissan told reporters the building belongs to Nissan, which Ghosn also confirmed. Nissan officials have pointed to Ghosn's extravagant lifestyle, including expensive chandeliers and a sarcophagus buried beneath transparent walkways at the Beirut residence.

    Nissan's future

    Nissan's brand has been seriously tarnished, and its sales and profits are tumbling. Ghosn was such a key figure for the brand in Japan, where foreign executives are still relatively rare, that it would be a challenge for anyone to fill his shoes. His successor, Hiroto Saikawa, resigned in September after financial misconduct allegations related to a dubious income surfaced against him. Nissan picked Makoto Uchida, who used to head its China business, as its new chief executive.

    What happens to Nissan's alliance with Renault SA of France, engineered by Ghosn, is a bigger question. Experts say the alliance is irreversible because so much is shared between the automakers, including model development, manufacturing sites and vehicle parts. Ghosn has said his arrest was prompted by those who opposed a fuller merger between Nissan and Renault. Renault owns 44% of Nissan, but in recent years, until Ghosn's downfall, Nissan had grown more profitable than Renault. Nissan has been historically closely associated with Japanese pride. Uchida has affirmed the importance of the alliance and promised to restore Nissan's credibility.

    Reporting by Yuri Kageyama, with contributions from Bassem Mroue and Aj Naddaff.

    LONDON — Fernando Alonso will make history as the first Formula One champion to compete in the Dakar Rally when the world's toughest endurance event enters a new era in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, and the star rookie has no illusions about the challenge.

    Nothing in the 38-year-old Spaniard's track career compares to the obstacles ahead, including 250 meter high dunes, over thousands of kilometers from Jeddah to the finish in Qiddiya on Jan. 17.

    "The challenge of the Dakar is undoubtedly the biggest I have faced in my sporting career," the Monaco Grand Prix winner, double Le Mans 24 Hours champion and Indianapolis 500 contender said when his entry was announced last year.

    "But taking on things that look impossible on paper and trying to make them possible in six or seven months of preparation is a thrilling challenge."

    Alonso, who is driving a Toyota Hilux pickup with five times motorcycle winner and compatriot Marc Coma alongside as co-driver, will be happy to finish.

    The only ex-Formula One drivers to win the Dakar are Belgian Jacky Ickx, also a former Ferrari ace and Le Mans champion, in 1983 and Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser in 1999 and 2000 although many have tried.

    This year's Dakar is held for the first time in the Middle East, with the event moving from South America a decade after it had left Saharan Africa for security reasons.

    The route will visit the mountains in the north and the Rub al Khali, or 'Empty Quarter', desert region in the south.

    Defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar remains a favorite with the same Toyota team as Alonso.

    The field also includes Spaniard Carlos Sainz, a double Dakar winner and father of the McLaren Formula One driver, as well as record 13-times champion Stephane Peterhansel.

    The Frenchman had hoped to race with wife Andrea as co-driver but doctors ruled her out on health grounds..

    Saudi riders or drivers will be present in all categories, with Yazid al Rajhi a contender with Toyota after finishing seventh last year.

    On two wheels, dominant KTM -- winners for the past 18 years -- return with the last three champions in Australian Toby Price, Austrian Matthias Walkner and Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland.

    There will be some 351 starters but the switch to Saudi Arabia, which lifted a ban on women driving in June 2018, has drawn criticism from rights activists.

    "More than a dozen women drivers will take part in the Dakar Rally while Saudi women activists languish in jail for promoting the right to drive," said Ines Osman, director of MENA Rights Group, in a statement with Human Rights Watch and 11 other campaigners.

    It’s part of a larger influencer campaign that will include postings from other Beetle enthusiasts. The TV ad was also slated for NBC’s Jan. 1 coverage of the National Hockey League’s “Winter Classic,” as well as during college football programing, including the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl.

    It amounts to a sizable investment in a campaign for a car that won’t be sold again. The Beetle debuted in Nazi Germany in 1930s and later became countercultural force in the U.S., beloved by hippies. But VW killed the model this year -- the last one rolled out of VW's Puebla, Mexico, plant in July -- as more consumers dump small sedans in favor of crossovers and SUVs.

    Cultural heyday

    The ad attempts to bridge the Beetle’s cultural heyday with VW’s future, which includes a heavy investment in electric vehicles. The final scene shows the Beetle morphing into a beetle insect and ascending into heaven. It ends with the line “where one road ends, another begins,” as well as the brand’s “Drive Bigger” tagline that was launched earlier this year.

    The “Drive Bigger” campaign, which marked ad agency Johannes Leonardo’s initial work on VW, began in June with an ad that referenced the automaker’s global diesel emissions scandal. The scandal began in 2015 when VW was caught installing “defeat devices” on vehicles to manipulate emissions test results. The June ad, backed by Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” positioned the emissions crisis as an impetus for VW’s aggressive move into electric vehicles. The EV push comes as VW tries to recapture environmental high ground it lost in the wake of the scandal.

    In “The Last Mile,” VW nods to environmentalism with a scene showing the Beetle driving by a wind farm. Leo Premutico, co-founder and co-chief creative officer at Johannes Leonardo, characterized the ad as “the Beetle giving its blessing to the new path the company is going to be going down.”

    With the Beetle a part of so many pop culture moments, the agency had a wealth of real-life footage it could have pulled from. But “part of the reason we wanted to animate this film is to really to paint everybody who's in it, irrelevant of how famous they are, with the same brush -- to really put everyone on the same footing,” Premutico says, referring to the Beetle as “an extremely democratic vehicle.”

    “This is obviously a big moment for the company to say goodbye to the vehicle,” he adds. But “when a car is this ingrained in the culture, it’s everyone’s goodbye.”

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    Toyota has an interesting problem on its hands: The Prius, once the ubiquitous and obvious answer for those seeking fuel savings or environmental cred, is losing ground. And it’s not losing ground to other specialist green vehicles in the company’s lineup; it’s losing sales to hybrid versions of otherwise normal vehicles like the Camry, the Corolla, and the RAV4 on the company’s sales sheet.

    With Toyota's sales figures in for December, we can look at the entire year-to-date trend. And the Prius (all versions) is down a substantial 20.4% year-to-date, and -4.6% month-over-month. That’s more than just a downturn in cars compared to crossovers and SUVs; the entire car lineup at Toyota is only down 4% overall YTD. What’s telling is looking more closely at the company’s other hybrid sales trends, which thankfully the company breaks out.

    A quick aside: The Corolla Hybrid is too new to draw any conclusions about, and it’s our best guess that as the months roll on it’ll really start to eat further into Prius sales, considering its admirable specs and reasonable price. Toyota managed to move more than 16,000 of them in 2019 despite a late start. For comparison, in the same time period, Honda sold just a hair more than 26,000 examples of its dedicated hybrid, the Insight. We’ll be interested to track data in the coming months to see if Toyota's compact continues to widen its footprint (especially since unlike the Prius and Insight, it's only available in a single, lightly equipped trim level).

    But we can presume the impact of the company’s other products. The RAV4 Hybrid is the most important, since historically its predecessor already killed off a Prius variant, the larger Prius V, despite being more expensive and offering significantly lower fuel economy. We think that started a trend: Consumers became less concerned with signaling their green cred via a unique model, like the unmistakably efficient Prius, and more interested in a conventional vehicle shape. In other words, the uniqueness of the Prius became a sales liability rather than an asset.

    The significant improvement in the new RAV4’s fuel economy (and performance, and overall desirability) have apparently paid dividends. The RAV4 Hybrid is up 92.3%, moving a full 10,127 units in December ’19. That’s a good showing for a hybrid vehicle in general, besting for example the entire month’s sales of the conventional Volkswagen Tiguan (7,931). It also offers 41 mpg city and 37 highway in an otherwise normal-looking crossover, with a reasonable starting MSRP of $29,217. It’s the killer app – and it’s getting more people to drive Toyota hybrids, with 92,525 moved last year, to be specific.

    The Camry Hybrid is a smaller factor, but it should be noted that it offers the same fuel economy as a basic Prius while being overall a significantly better car, with conventional looks. Its share of the pie is smaller, at 26,043 sales YTD, but there’s an increase of 13.7% YTD.

    So too it goes with the Highlander Hybrid, moving 18,248 units in 2019, a 25.7% increase YTD. Being much larger than the Prius, it might not be eating into its sales directly, but it does help show an increased interest in hybrid variants of conventional vehicles. It doesn’t hurt that the Highlander Hybrid is a unique beast on the market, either, with no direct competitors.

    What other factors are at play? Toyota's always tried to set the Prius apart, stylistically, but the fourth-generation Prius landed with a dull, wet thud of apathy. When we ran early spy photos, our commenters were revolted – and we only partially warmed up to it in person. From certain angles. Toyota, chastened, quickly redesigned it, using the introduction of the AWD-e variant as an excuse. While the weirdness is mitigated to some degree, who could call the 2019 Prius truly attractive? As we've just argued, if the unique bodystyle is less of a factor for buyers who overwhelmingly desire crossovers, certainly the overtly strange sheetmetal doesn't help any. The RAV4 Hybrid isn't just a crossover, it's a relatively handsome one. That's a hard uphill battle, against market forces and inertia, for the Prius to win.

    It might be the subject for more prognostication later, but as we discussed Prius sales in the office, many of us wondered if it is the beginning of the end for the hybrid and PHEV Prius. Toyota has hinted that "Prius" isn't necessarily synonymous with "hybrid" as far as the company's concerned, and that has many of us wondering if it's time for the Prius to be the company's green tech vanguard again. Do you know Toyota hasn't built an EV since the extremely limited production Scion iQ EV and Tesla-powered RAV4 EV circa 2012? EVs are proliferating, even if sales are limited. If Toyota could re-envision the Prius as a compelling mass-market electric vehicle, doing for EVs what the original Prius did for parallel hybrid adoption, it could make the Prius relevant again for American consumers.

    As for now, we'll wait and see how 2020 treats the Prius and its hotter-selling hybrid stablemates.

      2019 sales numbers are rolling in, and we're rounding up the most notable winners and losers among the different automotive brands. Find out which companies gained and lost the most in year-over-year U.S. sales. (Not all automakers have reported year-end 2019 sales yet, so we will keep this post updated as more numbers become available.)

      The Good

      Fiat Chrysler's Ram brand, which includes full-size pickups and ProMaster cargo vans, rose by a huge 18 percent, to 703,023 units. The pickups, which were redesigned recently, were up by 18 percent overall to topple the Chevy Silverado from its usual second-place perch in the truck wars. The full-size ProMaster was up 21 percent, which can be partially attributed to large-scale orders from Amazon for its fleet of delivery vans.

      Subaru was up 3 percent to 700,117 units, largely thanks to the addition of the Ascent three-row SUV and strong sales of the Outback and Forester, both of which were recently redesigned. The company says that 2019 marked the 11th consecutive year of sales gains.

      Hyundai rose 3 percent to 688,771 units as its growing SUV lineup more than made up for declines among sedans such as the Elantra and Sonata. The subcompact Kona and mid-size Santa Fe crossovers rose significantly, while the addition of the three-row Palisade helped to boost the brand's overall SUV sales by 20 percent.

      Volkswagen's SUV-heavy product strategy is working well, as its sales rose 3 percent to 363,322 units. 53 percent of those sales were from the Tiguan and Atlas SUVs, and more crossovers are on the way including the Atlas Cross Sport and an unnamed model that will slot in below the Tiguan in size.

      The Bad

      Despite the fact that its hot-selling CX-5 crossover was up 2.6 percent, Mazda declined 7 percent to 278,552 units in 2019. That's because Mazda's car lineup, the 3, 6, and MX-5, was down by double digits—24 percent, to be exact. In fact, the CX-5 alone outsold the rest of Mazda's entire lineup, as it did in 2018.

      2019 was a tough year for both Nissan and its luxury arm Infiniti. The mainstream brand was down nearly 9 percent, to 1,227,973 units, and fell significantly behind Toyota (down 2 percent) and Honda (up 0.3 percent). Infiniti was hit even harder and declined 21 percent to a paltry 117,708 units, putting it well behind second-tier luxury brands including Acura and Cadillac, not to mention bigger players such as Lexus and Audi. Infiniti promises that new products are coming soon, but will it be soon enough?

      Chevrolet fell further than GM's other brands in 2019, with a 4 percent decline to 1,958,925 units. The new Silverado pickups were down, and the discontinuation of the Cruze, Impala, and Volt nameplates led to a significant drop in volume. GM's overall sales dropped 2 percent, as slight increases from Cadillac and GMC were not enough to counter Chevy's declines.

      image

      This comparison test is more than a decade in the making. Usually, German automakers chase each other down every segment, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. But, in this case, it took BMW 13 years to deliver a response to the full-size, three-row Mercedes-Benz GLS-class. The X7 is BMW's answer to that big Benz.

      Initially launched as the GL in 2006 and renamed the GLS for 2017, it has been steadily chipping away at the marketspace long dominated by the domestics such as the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, Ford Expedition, and GMC Yukon. Those domestic entries have evolved from pickup-truck-based SUVs to properly civilized machines in their latest generation. A couple years ago the Lincoln Navigator received a massive update, and the new generation of the Escalade, Tahoe, Suburban, and Yukon will have independent rear suspensions that add much-needed third-row space. Those General Motors SUVs haven't arrived yet, so we'll simplify matters and pit the BMW against the Mercedes to see how they stack up.

      Michael SimariCar and Driver

      The Matchup

      Although both Mercedes and BMW sell smaller SUVs with third rows, the promise in this segment is a combination of luxury and space for up to seven people. Both the X7 and the GLS offer available heated seats and automatic climate control in their third rows. (That's five zones of separate temperature control.) It also means sufficient stretch-out space for the rearmost area to be used in more than just a pinch and for more than just small children, plus there's space for cargo even when that back row is occupied.

      The X7 and GLS we're testing here are the entry-level six-cylinder models—the X7 xDrive40i and GLS450 4Matic. Both start in the $75,000 neighborhood and can be optioned until they soar past $100K. Our test vehicles came well equipped, bringing their prices to $85,445 for the BMW and $96,835 for the Mercedes. The V-8–powered models, the X7 xDrive50i and the GLS580, start near $100,000 and continue the climb from there.

      Michael SimariCar and Driver

      On the Road

      These two vehicles largely deliver on our expectations for speed, comfort, and sophistication at this lofty price point. The GLS is refined and comfortable no matter what driving mode it's in. Even in Comfort mode, it can hustle without feeling floaty. In contrast, an X7 in Comfort mode is softened to the point that its body motions are bothersome. But selecting Adaptive or the Sport setting cinches up those movements considerably. Think raised S-class and 7-series wagons and you won't be far off. In fact, it's easy to forget the size and mass and find yourself driving both of them much faster than you realize or intend to.

      As in many BMWs, the X7's steering is somewhat numb and disconnected. We thought we liked the GLS's far better until we drove them back to back and found the Mercedes's to be only slightly better. On big impacts, the GLS will send an occasional quiver through its structure, and the giant wheels send more noise and vibes into the cabin over broken roads. The X7 is resolutely solid. The GLS also exhibited odd body undulations over rough sections of roads, almost like they were tripping up its active, hydraulic-and-air suspension, called E-Active Body Control, a $6500 option. Perhaps the base air-spring suspension would do better in this regard. But E-Active Body Control also enables bounce mode, which is always a crowd pleaser, and also the possibility to lean into turns in three different intensities, but that sensation just feels strange in practice.

      Michael SimariCar and Driver

      We might have preferred the X7's firmer brake pedal over the initial squishiness of the GLS's, but the GLS dominated in braking and cornering performance—0.92 g on the skidpad and a 154-foot stop from 70 mph—thanks to its $1750 21-inch wheels wearing Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires. Upgraded performance rubber also is an option on the X7, but ours was fitted with 21-inch all-season Bridgestones.

      Both of these SUVs are powered by turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-sixes. One key difference is that the GLS's engine is assisted by an electric motor to boost low-rpm acceleration. The BMW's engine makes 335 horsepower, and the Benz boasts 362. Despite the power difference, acceleration times are close. The Bimmer and the Benz remain within a tenth of a second of each other from their mid-five-second dashes to 60 mph all the way up to their governed 129-mph top speeds. But it wasn't hard to pick BMW's inline-six as our favorite. It's simply more refined and expensive sounding, more willing to rev to its higher, 7000-rpm redline, and also more responsive. Despite the GLS's electric assist, the X7 outhustled it in our 30-to-50-mph and 50-to-70-mph passing tests, although part of the credit goes to the BMW's brilliantly tuned ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The GLS channels its thrust through Mercedes's own nine-speed automatic. These big boys also can tow when properly equipped, with the X7 rated to tug up to 7500 pounds and the GLS good for 7700.

      Michael SimariCar and Driver

      The X7's maintains its powertrain advantage at the gas pump. In our steady 75-mph highway test, the X7 returned 28 mpg versus the GLS's 24 mpg. And although our GLS had the $1100 acoustic comfort option, which includes additional sound insulation and a laminated, sound-attenuating windshield and double-paned side glass, the X7 was quieter at 70 mph. We measured 66 decibels for the GLS and 64 for the X7.

      The Inside View

      Take a seat and it's clear that both of these SUVs are all about extravagance. The GLS's interior likely benefits from an upcoming Maybach version of the GLS that will crest $200,000. It's likely that the GLS450's power-adjustable second-row seats and power headrests are there because the Maybach version will have them. A power headrest isn't new, but it's a feature that's usually missing from the front seats of wildly expensive vehicles, such as the Bentley Bentayga. The X7 also has power-adjustable second-row seats but not headrests, and it has the ability to control them from the driver's seat.

      Michael SimariCar and Driver

      Both have power-folding second-row seats. On the GLS, however, only the passenger-side seat is electrified, and the button must be held down the entire time it's returning to its original position. Both the BMW and Mercedes setups are slow to fold. The fold-and-slide options on mainstream SUVs—for example, the Honda Pilot's excellent one-touch operation—are quicker and more useful, although none of them has a power-return function.

      In terms of pure space, the GLS is the clear winner, with far more second- and third-row room. Even sliding the second-row seats all the way forward leaves sufficient space for six-foot-five occupants, whereas the X7's second row needs to be moved back to find comfort for the 99th percentile. The GLS's third row has far more head- and legroom and can better accommodate adult humans.

      Michael SimariCar and Driver

      We found the GLS's front seats slightly more comfortable and also more embracing than the X7's. But we preferred the appearance of the BMW's leather to the elephant-skin-look graining on the GLS. And we still love BMW's double-hinged seatbacks that allow for a separate adjustment of the backrest at shoulder height—part of the $750 Multi-Contour Seats option. The GLS does have one party trick that the X7 lacks. The Benz has a new automatic seat setting based on the driver's height that does a pretty good job of choosing the right position, but it's wholly unnecessary unless you just started driving.

      A quick glance into the cargo areas makes the GLS appear to be able to carry a lot more than the X7. But in our cargo test of carry-on-suitcase-size boxes, the GLS accommodated four behind its rearmost row, just one more than the X7. Both have one-touch power-folding capability for their third rows, although the BMW goes one step further with dedicated controls for enabling maximum passenger or maximum cargo configurations with a single press of a button.

      Michael SimariCar and Driver

      Even without its expensive active suspension, our GLS would've still cost nearly $5000 more than our X7, and yet the BMW had more features and content. Present on the BMW but missing on the Mercedes—although all of these things are on the Benz's options list—was third-row climate control and heated seats, soft-close doors, and heated front armrests. Both of these utes have a long list of infotainment features and Apple CarPlay compatibility, but the GLS scores an additional mark for also featuring Android Auto. That said, we find BMW's iDrive setup and its console scrolling wheel easier to navigate than Mercedes's touchpad-based MBUX system.

      The Bottom Line

      We're trying our best to resist the "you decide" cliché, but picking a winner in this case really depends on the buyer's priorities. The X7 drives slightly better when not in its default Comfort mode, it's quieter, has the more refined inline-six, and gets notably better fuel economy. However, if it's space you're looking for, the GLS dominates with larger second and third rows, and substantially more cargo space. But you pay for the Benz's accommodations with worse fuel economy, and you'll also pay more to get the same level of features. That the X7 is less expensive and better to drive while still offering loads of practicality heretofore unseen in the BMW lineup is enough to earn it our vote over the GLS in this initial matchup.

      Specifications

      Specifications

      2019 BMW X7 xDrive40i

      VEHICLE TYPE
      front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon

      PRICE AS TESTED
      $85,445 (base price: $74,895)

      ENGINE TYPE
      turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
      Displacement
      183 cu in, 2998 cc
      Power
      335 hp @ 6500 rpm
      Torque
      330 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm

      TRANSMISSION
      8-speed automatic

      CHASSIS
      Suspension (F/R): multilink/multilink
      Brakes (F/R): 15.6-in vented disc/14.6-in vented disc
      Tires: Bridgestone Alenza Sport A/S RFT, 285/45R-21 113H M+S ★

      DIMENSIONS
      Wheelbase: 122.2 in
      Length: 203.3 in
      Width: 78.7 in
      Height: 71.1 in
      Passenger volume: 142 cu ft
      Cargo volume: 12 cu ft
      Curb weight: 5337 lb

      C/D
      TEST RESULTS
      Rollout, 1 ft: 0.3 sec
      60 mph: 5.4 sec
      100 mph: 14.3 sec
      120 mph: 22.5 sec
      Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.2 sec
      Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.3 sec
      Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.0 sec
      ¼-mile: 14.0 sec @ 99 mph
      Top speed (governor limited): 129 mph
      Braking, 70–0 mph: 184 ft
      Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.81 g

      C/D
      FUEL ECONOMY
      Observed: 20 mpg
      75-mph highway driving: 28 mpg
      Highway range: 610 miles

      EPA FUEL ECONOMY
      Combined/city/highway: 22/20/25 mpg

      2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic

      VEHICLE TYPE
      front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 6-passenger, 4-door wagon

      PRICE AS TESTED
      $96,835 (base price: $76,195)

      ENGINE TYPE
      turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
      Displacement
      183 cu in, 3000 cc
      Power
      362 hp @ 6100 rpm
      Torque
      369 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

      TRANSMISSION
      9-speed automatic

      CHASSIS
      Suspension (F/R): control arms/multilink
      Brakes (F/R): 14.8-in vented, cross-drilled disc/13.6-in vented disc
      Tires: Pirelli P Zero PZ4 PNCS, F: 275/45R-21 107Y MO-S R: 315/40R-21 111Y MO-S

      DIMENSIONS
      Wheelbase: 123.4 in
      Length: 205.0 in
      Width: 77.0 in
      Height: 71.8 in
      Cargo volume: 17 cu ft
      Curb weight: 5594 lb

      C/D
      TEST RESULTS
      Rollout, 1 ft: 0.3 sec
      60 mph: 5.5 sec
      100 mph: 14.4 sec
      120 mph: 22.6 sec
      Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.2 sec
      Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.4 sec
      Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.5 sec
      ¼-mile: 14.1 sec @ 99 mph
      Top speed (governor limited): 129 mph
      Braking, 70–0 mph: 154 ft
      Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.92 g

      C/D
      FUEL ECONOMY
      Observed: 17 mpg
      75-mph highway driving: 24 mpg
      Highway range: 570 miles

      EPA FUEL ECONOMY
      Combined/city/highway: 21/19/23 mpg

      Men guard a vehicle as it arrives at the home where former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is staying in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday. / AP

      BEIRUT — The family of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn played no role in his escape from Japan, Ghosn said in a statement on Thursday, days after his abrupt arrival in Beirut from Tokyo, where he faces trial for alleged financial misconduct.

      "There has been speculation in the media that my wife Carole, and other members of my family played a role in my departure from Japan. All such speculation is inaccurate and false," said the statement.

      "I alone arranged for my departure. My family had no role whatsoever."

      Sources close to Ghosn said he was prompted to flee after a recent court session in which he learned that the second of two trials would be delayed until April 2021.

      "They [prosecutors] said they needed another whole year to prepare for it. ... He was distressed about not being able to see or speak to his wife," one of the sources close to Ghosn said.

      A request to see or speak to his wife over Christmas was also denied, the sources added, part of strict conditions set on his bail.

      The sources said Ghosn had grown distressed that authorities were pressuring his family to draw a confession from him after his daughter and son were questioned by Japanese prosecutors in the United States in early December.