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Jeep Teases Wrangler or Gladiator Sporting “392” Badge, Hinting at 6.4-Liter Hemi V-8 Power

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 12:08pm

The news lately has been wall-to-wall 2021 Ford Bronco, and that’s quite understandable. It’s going to be one of the most noteworthy new SUVs in recent memory. But while the Bronco’s been away, the Jeep Wrangler has been holding down the fort for open-air off-road-oriented SUVs. It helps that the Jeep already has a stacked powertrain options list, which includes a turbo-diesel V-6, a torque-rich turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and a traditional gas V-6 that makes 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and pairs with an available six-speed manual gearbox. What the Wrangler hasn’t offered is a V-8 under its hood, which makes this teaser image shared by Jeep to its Facebook page even more compelling.

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Sure, we’ve driven Wranglers converted by AEV with FCA’s 6.4-liter “Hemi” V-8, but the Italian-American company’s never built a Hemi-powered Wrangler of its own for public consumption. This teaser image, however, indicates this may change. And as the “392” badge on the hood indicates, the V-8 Wrangler will employ the higher-zoot version of the Hemi engine that’s found in various FCA products, such as the Dodge Challenger, Charger, and Durango. It makes in the neighborhood of 475-485 hp depending on the specific application.

Is this a Wrangler or a Gladiator? We’re not sure since the vehicles are so similar fore of the B-pillar. But we do know that Jeep North America boss Tim Kuniskis has said that the V-8 can fit in both vehicles but would impede crash safety. Perhaps the company’s found a workaround that’s cost-effective, or it just decided to spend the money to give the Wrangler/Gladiator an edge over the upcoming Bronco. It’s also possible that this 392-powered Jeep is merely another concept, like the 6.4-liter Sandstorm we saw a few years back. While we hope it’s the former, it’s probably best not to get your hopes up until Jeep tells us more about what this cryptic image means.

The post Jeep Teases Wrangler or Gladiator Sporting “392” Badge, Hinting at 6.4-Liter Hemi V-8 Power appeared first on MotorTrend.

Here Is the Ford F-150 Raptor SUV That Ford Never Built

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 7:25pm

Custom shops often take, shall we say, artistic liberties when building unique cars, and the results aren’t always good (for evidence, take a gander at some of the show cars from the SEMA aftermarket bonanza). This custom Ford Everest is a welcome exception, however, and gives us an idea what a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup could have looked like as an SUV—had Ford decided to build one itself.

First off, what’s a Ford Everest? Sold in markets outside the U.S., the Everest is a midsize body-on-frame SUV based on the same T6 truck platform as the global Ford Ranger pickup. The SUV has three rows, offering seating for up to seven passengers. Because it overlaps with the U.S.-market Ford Explorer, the Everest wasn’t brought over when the Ranger returned to our shores. However, as you’re probably well aware of by now, that slot is being taken up in the U.S. market by a different SUV based on the next-gen Ranger: The new Ford Bronco.

Given the difference in dimensions between the midsize Everest and the F-150 full-size truck, you wouldn’t think it an ideal swap partner for the F-150 Raptor. Most critical, would the Raptor front end even mate well to the smaller SUV’s narrower bones? It would appear as though Thai custom shop TTN Hypersport sorted all of that out. Based on the images and video posted by TTN, the marriage of the Everest SUV and the Raptor pickup just . . . works. To match the grafted-on Raptor front end’s wider fenders, the Everest gets custom rear fender flares, which extend across the rear quarter panels, doors, and bumper. But the widening doesn’t stop there. A secondary black plastic fender flare protrudes from the body at all four corners, helping to cover the multi-piece deep-dish wheels that give the truck its bulldog stance.

Very few details on the build have been posted since it was revealed, but the clacking heard in videos suggests a diesel engine resides underhood. The Everest offers a number of diesel options overseas, but we’re hoping the tuner swapped in the foreign-market Ranger Raptor’s 210-hp, 369-lb-ft 2.0-liter turbodiesel and 10-speed auto to cash the hardcore check the exterior promises. But regardless of its powertrain, this custom is a success in our eyes. Sadly, we’re guessing it would be prohibitively expensive to get TTN Hypersport to build you one and ship it stateside (if it’s possible at all). But if the 2021 Ford Bronco lives up to the hype, we’d consider that a pretty good consolation prize. And, yes, it’ll have a Raptor variant.

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The post Here Is the Ford F-150 Raptor SUV That Ford Never Built appeared first on MotorTrend.

Swede Emotion: The Koenigsegg Regera Takes the Spotlight in Action-Packed Video

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 6:00pm

Christian von Koenigsegg is clearly in need of a new creative outlet. The founder of the hypercar company that bears his name is seemingly so bored that he’s turned to making films about his cars. No doubt, Koenigsegg makes some stellar automobiles. But what we aren’t too sure of is Koenigsegg’s film-making chops. Still, with so many films on hiatus these days, we’re thankful for any kind of entertainment. Especially the type where super sports cars are burning a little rubber.

The entire mini-film hinges on the idea that someone would want to steal the last Regera ever made—a car Koenigsegg the man seems quite protective of. Fearing the worst, the head of the company hides the final Regera away at what is a clearly fake military base and hires some preposterously lazy henchmen to keep would-be-thieves away. This goes about as well as expected, and the outcome is pretty obvious once the head guard dons his Koenigsegg branded Beats headphones, which we didn’t know were a thing until now.

Aside from the fact the 10-minute-long video gives off serious 1970s adult movie vibes, it’s fun to watch and features a decent amount of action. There’s a Regera tearing it up around what we assume is Koenigsegg’s test track and a Volvo that flies over a barricade in a fiery explosion. This is clearly a celebration of Swedish engineering excellence—and Koenigsegg flavored energy drinks (watch the video, you’ll understand).

All that said, we appreciate the good people at Koenigsegg just trying to have a little fun with their downtime. Plus, we now know just how easy it is to steal a multi-million dollar Koenigsegg. Not that we’d ever condone such an action.

The post Swede Emotion: The Koenigsegg Regera Takes the Spotlight in Action-Packed Video appeared first on MotorTrend.

How Roadkill Happened, and Why It’s Must-See TV

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 2:53pm

“I’m Freiburger. That’s Finnegan. This is the show where we play with cars and you point and laugh.” And with that, David Freiburger launched Roadkill. Eight years and more than 100 episodes later, Roadkill is still going strong. In fact, it’s one of the most successful and widely watched automotive TV and video series ever, arguably second only to the BBC’s lavishly funded and expensively produced Top Gear. And we did it all ourselves.

I know. I was there.

When Google threw us some money in 2011 to help make YouTube more than just a platform for shaky lo-fi user-generated videos about laughing babies and dancing cats, I decided the MotorTrend Channel would be like a proper automotive TV channel, something I’d dreamed about doing for decades.

Related: Sign up to the MotorTrend App today for $2 to stream 100+ episodes of Roadkill, Roadkill Garage, Roadkill’s Junkyard Gold, Engine Masters and Faster With Finnegan. Plus, enjoy  8,000+ episodes of more hit car shows!

It would have TV-length, TV-style shows covering everything from new vehicles to hot rods to four-wheel drives to motorcycles. Some shows would be weekly, some monthly, but to keep the channel relevant and interesting, a fresh show would be uploaded every day, five days a week.

I came up with a complete slate of programs, outlining the show formats, who the on-screen personalities should be (no pretty-boy TV talking heads reading scripts, but staffers who’d actually know what they were talking about), and what the shows would be called. Ignition. Head 2 Head. Hot Rod Garage. Dirt Every Day. On Two Wheels. The Downshift. Wide Open Throttle. Epic Drives. And, of course… Roadkill.

How Roadkill Got its Name

Google David Freiburger today and you get the descriptor “TV personality”. But back in 2011 he was editor-in-chief of Hot Rod magazine, the title founded by Robert E. Petersen in 1948 and the success of which would lead to Petersen launching MotorTrend magazine the following year.

When it came to Hot Rod-branded or themed shows for the new channel, I naturally asked David, a man who’s forgotten more about hot rods, drag racing, and classic American iron than the rest of us will ever know, for ideas. A build show of some type—a video version of the ‘how-to’ features that had been part and parcel of Hot Rod the magazine for decades—seemed a no-brainer. But I wanted a show that took the automotive counterculture out of the shop and put it out on the road.

I’d been intrigued with the videos David had done for a short-lived media venture of his own a couple of years earlier. It featured grungy, dirt-bag vehicles and was powered by a genuine sense of fun.

“Maybe you do a show something like that,” I said to David as I leaned in the doorway of his office one evening. He was intrigued, interested. I could see the creative wheels starting to turn. I glanced around his office and saw a copy of the brand-new special edition Hot Rod magazine on rat rods, fresh from the printer. The title? Roadkill. “And that’s what we should call it,” I said, pointing at the cover.

David said the show wouldn’t be about rat rods. “Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Roadkill is a brilliant name. We can make it mean whatever we want it to mean. And the logo is perfect just as it is.”

If You Haven’t Watched Roadkill Yet, Here’s Why You Should

It’s fun. It’s real. It’s men behaving badly with cars. And in among the mayhem you’ll almost always learn something. Take episode 108, where Freiburger gives you chapter and verse on the Dodge D100 pickup, and how not all D100s are the same. It got me thinking the right D100 could make a cooler classic truck than a Ford or Chevy from the same era.

Sure, some of the scenarios are far-fetched. But who wouldn’t want to see a Prius squashed by a tank (episode 17), cars catapulted off a 300-foot cliff in Alaska (episode 83) or a 2013 Dodge Dart dropped 1,320-feet from a helicopter onto a map drawn on a dry lake bed to celebrate the 100th episode? The latter was a wonderfully over-the-top homage to the opening scene of the first ever Roadkill episode in which a blindfolded Finnegan threw a dart at a map of the U.S. to see where they would have to buy a car and drive it back to L.A. without spending more than $1,500.

The Dart did the vertical quarter mile in 10.4 seconds, by the way.

When the boys are trying to make some old junker run with little more than gaffer tape and zip-ties, they’re really doing it. When stuff goes wrong, it goes wrong. Check out the time they tried to drive a Ranchero to Alaska (episode 2) or off-road a Chevy Monte Carlo lowrider (episode 39).

Frankenstein creations like the Vette Kart (episode 35), the rat-rod Jeep (episode 15) and Nascarlo (episode 46) are all their own work. I remember that time they tried to supercharge a Chevy Monza Spider (episode 16) with five—count ’em —leaf blowers.

You hear a lot about unscripted drama and reality TV these days. But when MotorTrend entered into a joint venture with Discovery Communications, the experienced TV execs who came and kicked the tires on our home-grown shows were stunned to learn Roadkill is basically all automotive improv. Even UK’s Top Gear, for all the fun and the banter, has relied on heavily scripted set pieces since the Clarkson, May, and Hammond days. Roadkill is car guys talking car stuff, live, as it happens.

And that, for me is what makes Roadkill must-see TV.

The post How Roadkill Happened, and Why It’s Must-See TV appeared first on MotorTrend.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel Now Available to Order

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 2:01pm

Jeep said it would introduce a diesel-powered version of the Gladiator this year, and despite the world’s state of affairs, the automaker is keeping its word. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator diesel will hit dealerships in the third quarter of the year, and Jeep is now taking orders.

As previously reported, the truck’s turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V-6 makes 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. This mill pairs to an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s calibrated for low RPM shifts. The Gladiator diesel will compete with the Chevrolet Colorado diesel, which pumps out 186 hp and 369 lb-ft. Jeep has yet to announce official fuel economy numbers, but to beat the Chevy, it would have to deliver more than 23 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

All 2021 Jeep Gladiator diesel models feature a 3.73 rear axle ratio. Sport, Overland, and Rubicon diesels get Dana 44 front and heavy-duty axles. While Rubicons come standard with a transfer case with a 4:0:1 low-range gear ratio, Sport and Overland models get a part-time transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio.

We have high hopes for the Jeep Gladiator diesel, given our experience with the same engine in the Wrangler diesel. We praised the model’s slick eight-speed as well as its smooth and quick acceleration. Torque comes early in the powerband, eliminating turbo lag. One thing we didn’t like about the Wrangler diesel: its $6,000 price premium over the standard V-6.

Jeep hasn’t announced prices for the Gladiator diesel yet. But we’re bracing ourselves for it to be quite a bit more expensive than the gas model, which started at $35,040 for the 2020 model year. Stay tuned for pricing information and additional specs closer to the truck’s release date.

The post 2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel Now Available to Order appeared first on MotorTrend.

The Lincoln Corsair, Nautilus, and Aviator Catch Mono for 2020 and 2021

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 12:10pm

Lincoln brings the stylish Monochromatic package to its smaller Corsair, Nautilus, and Aviator crossover and SUV models for 2021—2020, in the Nautilus’s case—after originally introducing the kit on its flagship Navigator. As its name implies, the Mono package gives these American luxury vehicles a noir-appropriate look courtesy of black-painted wheels and body-color-painted exterior trim pieces, including the side mirror housings. 

The color these exterior items can take on, however, is limited. Lincoln offers the Monochromatic package with only a handful of paint options. For example, the 2021 Corsair and Aviator models are available in black, white, and gray, while Lincoln restricts the Monochromatic package–equipped 2020 Nautilus to black. (The previously introduced Navigator’s Monochromatic package, meanwhile, offers either black or white paint.) 

Sadly, the Monochromatic package adds nothing to these models’ lists of standard and available comfort and convenience features. Nor does the package offer any dynamic upgrades. Lincoln remains mum on pricing for now, too. That said, we struggle to see the justification in spending anything more than a couple of hundred dollars on this style enhancing (or detracting, depending on your opinion) package. 

Nevertheless, if you’ve always wanted to cosplay as a modern-day detective in a noir film, then you’ll likely want to check off the option box for the Monochromatic package on a Lincoln Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator, or Navigator.

The post The Lincoln Corsair, Nautilus, and Aviator Catch Mono for 2020 and 2021 appeared first on MotorTrend.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek First Look: More Power + Sport Trim Level

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 10:40am

We’ve reported for some time the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek small SUV would receive a bigger, more powerful optional engine. That is now official thanks to Subaru’s confirmation of the 2021 Crosstrek’s Sport model that uses the same 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder seen in the current Forester.

In addition to the Sport—which slots above the base and Premium—the top-of-the-line Limited trim level will also get the 2.5, which makes 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers are 30 hp and 31 lb-ft more than churned up by the base 2.0-liter boxer that will still serve in the base and Premium Crosstrek models. The standard manual transmission will stick around for 2021, too, albeit only in the 2.0-liter cars. Opt for the 2.5-liter four and you’re stuck with Subaru’s CVT automatic.

According to the EPA, the two engines will return very similar fuel-economy numbers in Subaru’s compact SUV. The standard engine is rated for 28 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined when mated to a CVT or 22/29/25 mpg with the stick. The 2.5-liter model nearly matches the smaller engine’s CVT numbers, though, netting 27/34/29 figures—not bad considering the larger displacement and higher power output.

The new 2021 Sport will be the only Crosstrek to feature a dual-function X-mode, which optimizes the all-wheel-drive system for various terrains via a center-console knob that can be set to Normal, Sand/Mud, or Snow/Ice modes. It also includes Sport-exclusive yellow stitching on the steering wheel, shift boot, and leatherette upholstery.

Other Crosstrek models with the CVT option also get X-mode to assist on slippery surfaces, but it’s the version activated via a single button press and which doesn’t allow you to select a specific terrain. They also receive hill-descent control and Subaru’s SI-Drive that changes the throttle mapping characteristics between its default and Sport modes. All CVT cars also get shift paddles that allow you to run through eight preset gear ratios, which is helpful on a steep descent or during passing maneuvers.

Aesthetically, the updated Subaru Crosstrek received new front fascias on all versions, new and unique grilles across the range, and fresh 17- and 18-inch wheel designs. Two new paints come aboard, as well: Plasma Yellow Pearl and Horizon Blue Pearl replace Sunshine Orange and Quartz Blue.

Subaru has made safety technology a priority of late, and it has added more driver-assist features to the Crosstrek for 2021. CVT-equipped Crosstreks now get Subie’s EyeSight driver-assist tech as standard, which for’21 adds adaptive cruise control and automatic lane-centering to its repertoire. Pre-collision braking, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, and auto-stop start are again part of the EyeSight feature set.

In other technology news, all 2021 Crosstreks will include Subaru StarLink infotainment as standard. It comes with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as well as a 6.5-inch touchscreen. On the Limited model, that can be upgraded to an 8.0-inch display via a package that also brings Harman Kardon audio and a power sunroof. The latter item can also be ordered on all models except the base.

Despite these changes, the 2021 Crosstrek’s $23,295 starting price marks a mere $140 change over last year’s model. Look for Subaru’s updated Crosstrek to hit dealers later this summer.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Trim Pricing
  • Base, six-speed manual: $23,295
  • Base, CVT: $24,645
  • Premium, six-speed manual: $24,345
  • Premium, CVT: $25,695
  • Sport, CVT: $27,545
  • Limited, CVT: $29,045

Update: This story now includes official pricing information.

The post 2021 Subaru Crosstrek First Look: More Power + Sport Trim Level appeared first on MotorTrend.

Hyundai Introduces Manual Transmission Without a Clutch Pedal—Is It Really a Stick Shift?

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 10:23am

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why driving a car with a manual transmission is so much fun. Is it the control you feel selecting your own gears, that visceral connection formed between human and machine? Is it the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing more work than 90 percent of other drivers on the road? Is it the challenge of gently feathering the clutch with your left foot and modulating the throttle as you creep uphill in bumper-to-bumper traffic with your right, knowing one slip-up could stall your engine and invite ridicule and embarrassment? For the enthusiast, maybe—but for non-enthusiasts wary of the work involved, that last scenario is perhaps most triggering. And Hyundai knows it.

The folks at Hyundai Motor India have come up with a solution to the clutch-pedal problem facing hesitant would-be manual-transmission drivers: Removing the clutch pedal. Hyundai’s India branch recently announced that the Venue subcompact SUV there will launch there with an available intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT), a system that uses a conventional six-speed manual shifter and transmission that just so happens to lack a third pedal for the clutch.

To change gears, grab the shift lever and slot it into the desired gear position as you normally would, except with Hyundai’s system, that’s all you need to do. The iMT uses an “intention sensor,” which detects and predicts when you’re going to shift. That sends a signal to the transmission control unit, which in turn primes a hydraulic actuator for engaging and disengaging the clutch. The six-speed iMT is offered with the 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that’s available in India. The iMT will also be an option on the Indian-market Kia Sonet.

This isn’t the first two-pedal manual transmission. Porsche toyed with the idea in the late 1960s, calling its system “Sportomatic.” Like the iMT, the Sportomatic had a traditional shifter but only four forward gears. The clutch was vacuum-actuated (a microswitch on the shift lever initiated the clutching action), and a torque converter was used in place of a flywheel to keep the engine from stalling when the car was stopped. Volkswagen offered a similar system in the Beetle and Karmann Ghia called Automatic Stickshift, or “Autostick.” Surprisingly, Sportomatic lasted until 1980, but it was never a popular option on the 911 and remains a value-killer among collectors. The key takeaway is this: even though Porsche continued to tinker with automated manuals, it never revisited the Sportomatic’s clutchless stick shift concept.

So why, then, is Hyundai treading a similarly weird path? In a release, the automaker says the iMT will retain the “joy of driving” without the hassle of constantly pressing the clutch pedal in traffic. Having commuted with manual cars for years, we can say clutch foot fatigue is real, but it comes with the territory. Without it, and all the nuances of operating a clutch pedal, are you really driving a manual? We’re skeptical but open to finding out for ourselves. Unfortunately, that would probably require a trip to India as a Hyundai rep tells us there are currently no plans to bring the iMT to the U.S.-market Venue.

The post Hyundai Introduces Manual Transmission Without a Clutch Pedal—Is It Really a Stick Shift? appeared first on MotorTrend.

Genesis G70 Long-Term Update: And on the Seventh Day, He Drifted

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 4:00am

(Editor’s Note: Normally, editor-in-chief Mark Rechtin’s long-term update would appear in this space. However, after Jethro Bovingdon, star of the Top Gear America series coming soon to the MotorTrend app, made off with our 2019 Genesis G70 for a couple weeks, we conscripted him to write this month’s installment.)

When I was given the keys to the Genesis G70 3.3T for a recent Top Gear America filming stint, I was extremely excited. We don’t get Genesis the marque in the U.K. or Europe (though there are plans to launch in 2020), and I always think they look great zipping around California. I’m also a big fan of the characterful and hilariously oversteery Kia Stinger. Surely a smaller, lighter, and more agile Stinger with a higher-quality interior would be something pretty special?

My week with the G70 took in plenty of freeways, a blast up into the Angeles Forest area for filming, and a few laps of Streets of Willow. Sorry about the slightly noisy brakes, I’m sure they’ll settle down. Probably.

For the most part the G70 lived up to expectations. It’s quick, nicely balanced, and genuinely entertaining. Most of all, there’s an honesty and intuitive feel to the chassis, which I like. It feels like a sport sedan that wants to be a sport sedan, whereas the German competition seem so keen to be luxurious and tech-heavy that the dynamism is hidden away for only the truly committed to discover. It’s funny how manufacturers with such a rich history seem less sure of their identity than a relative upstart like Genesis.

Which isn’t to say the G70 is perfect. I like the slightly gruff, gutsy 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, but the eight-speed automatic gearbox is pretty annoying. It’s never silken or invisible when you’re simply going with the flow in traffic, and when you ask for precise, punchy shifts in Sport mode and start exercising the gearshift paddles, it pretty much ignores your requests. It’ll change up whenever it damn well chooses, OK?

Other gripes: For me the interior is still some way off something from Audi or BMW, despite so many cues clearly borrowed from the latter. It feels a little lightweight and brittle. On the other hand, perhaps that plays into the sense that this is a sport sedan that harks back a couple of generations. Its sensibilities are rooted in handling, steering accuracy, and body control rather than endless driver aids and connectivity (though the Apple CarPlay starts up instantly and is about a million times easier to access than in a BMW).

Up on Angeles Forest Highway the G70 felt pretty tidy. It’s not blessed with an abundance of grip, and the Michelins squeal and screech in protest. But despite the aural drama, the Genesis is calm and collected. There’s very little understeer, and although the G70 likes to slide at the rear, it does so with almost slow-motion progression. It’s just the sort of balance I like, but I can imagine it would feel a little too loose for some.

I’d like to say the traction control system tidies it all up without fuss, but it’s a mark of the car’s inherent rightness that I turned off all the electronics as soon as the road started to twist and turn ahead. The only chip in the armor is that big bumps really unsettle the car when the chassis is loaded. Body control generally is just a little on the soft side.

On track the G70 is a hoot. The brakes really protest after just a couple of laps, but the Genesis slides with real grace. The gearbox remains a weak link, and the G70 won’t trouble any lap records, but there’s just something fundamentally right about the chassis underneath this thing.

I can’t help thinking there’s a great M3 rival lurking within the G70, if only they’d uncork it. Doesn’t the G90 come with a 5.0-liter V-8 with 420 hp? Wonder if those clever Genesis people could retune that engine for top-end power rather than lazy torque, cram it into a G70, and really go to town on tying down the chassis. Now that’s a car I’d like to borrow the next time I’m in town…

Read More About Our Long-Term 2019 Genesis G70:

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2020 Polaris Slingshot R First Drive

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 4:00am

Everything about the Polaris Slingshot invites a reaction. What it is, what it looks like, who buys one, and how they accessorize it all produce hot takes made for a Twitter world. It’s fitting, then, that I finally found the words to describe my feelings about the Slingshot on Twitter.

Author, journalist, and photographer Linda Tirado shared a piece of advice. She was talking about something much more important than a car review, but the great thing about wisdom is you can apply it to all sorts of situations. “Know who you want to be and then you never have to decide how to live,” she wrote. That’s the Slingshot. It defies categorization except unto itself. It knows exactly what it wants to be. Where some look at it and find confusion, driving it clarifies. It exists solely for people who want a Slingshot, specifically. There are a lot of them.

We didn’t review one when it first came out in 2015 because we didn’t know what to make of it, either. It’s not a car, but it’s not a motorcycle, either. It’s sort of a street-legal side-by-side or UTV, but with three wheels. Legally in most states it’s considered an “autocycle,” an old-timey categorization for bicycles with engines and mopeds that weren’t really bicycles or motorcycles. My colleagues in the press who did drive it told me it was neat, a good first effort, but needed work. It was quick, they said, but not too quick. The brakes were soft and spongey. The steering was slow. The materials felt cheap, and the controls were clunky. Polaris listened.

The 2020 Slingshot is what we’d call a major refresh if it were a car. The old GM-sourced 2.4-liter inline-four was never an inspiring or memorable engine when it was in a Chevy, and it wasn’t doing the Slingshot any special favors, so it’s been replaced by a Polaris-designed and built 2.0-liter I-4. It revs higher and makes peak power at redline rather than falling on its face at high rpm like the old engine. Plus, it makes more power: 178 hp in the standard SL trim and 203 hp in this top-end R trim, up from 173 before. It does make less torque, 120 and 144 lb-ft, respectively, but it doesn’t matter that much in a vehicle with a claimed curb weight under 1,700 pounds.

Polaris says it’ll do zero to 60 in as little as 4.9 seconds now, sixth-tenths of a second quicker than before. That would also make it a tenth quicker than a Honda Civic Type R. That’s downright quick, and it feels even faster on board. Losing the roof, the windscreen, and the doors will do that. Jeeps feel faster when you take the doors off, too. It’s science.

The even bigger story is the new Autodrive five-speed automated manual gearbox, aka an automatic transmission. Polaris figured out real quick it was leaving a ton of sales on the table with only a five-speed manual, and that’s been corrected. You can still get the manual on this R model, but I guarantee you the vast majority of Slingshots sold from now on will be automatics. Most people can’t drive stick and aren’t going to learn.

Don’t let the automated manual thing put you off, either. I know, usually those suck. They shift slow and give you whiplash every time they change gears. This is the best automated manual I’ve driven, and that list includes Lamborghinis and Aston Martins. You still feel those gear changes, but it just gives you a little head bob. It still shifts slowly by modern automatic standards, but not slowly enough to really complain about. It’s geared for performance with a single overdrive ratio, so you’ll be turning 3,000 rpm at 65 mph, where cars these days are turning 1,800, but it means it pulls harder in higher gears as a result.

Bombing around town couldn’t be easier. Just push the D button and go. There’s a small hesitation when you set off as the clutch engages, and pushing the gas harder just means it’ll drop the clutch and chirp the rear tire. It’ll also roll backward at a stop if you’re on a hill because it won’t engage the clutch until you hit the gas, so watch out for that.

It even has a Sport mode. They call it Slingshot mode, and it works pretty well. Press the big red button on the steering wheel, and the transmission will hold gears out to redline regularly and downshift more aggressively. It’s no Porsche PDK, but it’s a hell of a first effort. It could use a little work, particularly in long, sweeping corners, where it gets confused. The computer sees the steady throttle and speed and assumes you backed off, so it upshifts. When you get to the end of the curve and deeper in the throttle, it panics and drops a gear hard.

That could be a recipe for disaster with only one rear tire to handle the lateral g’s and the shock from the powertrain, but it isn’t. Revisions to the suspension have planted the Slingshot on the pavement. The staggered 18-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels with their 225-width front and massive 305-width rear Kenda tires on the R model hang on tight even when you’re really thrashing this thing on a mountain road. Yeah, I had to Google Kenda, too. It’s a Taiwanese company that custom-makes this tire for Polaris. You can only get it at Polaris dealers.

Past reviews found the Slingshot would understeer slightly in hairpins and kick the tail out if you goosed the throttle. Not anymore. I whipped this thing as hard as I could on a mountain road, and it wouldn’t let go. At most, the rear end shifted slightly if I absolutely threw it into a corner. With the automatic transmission it wouldn’t overpower the rear wheel (I tried), though I’m sure a clutch kick or just a bad shift with the manual would do it.

I might’ve gotten it to misbehave had I been more confident in the brakes. They seem to fall in with the 30 percent of parts carried over from before, and they need more bite if you’re going to drive it hard. People love customizing these things, and I’d start with a more aggressive pad compound. They’re fine tooling around town, if a bit spongey. When you stand on them, though, they just don’t have the bite. Brake early. The good news is they don’t really fade noticeably, either, so they don’t get any worse.

Polaris fixed the steering. Lots of people complained it was just too slow for sporty driving; 3.5 turns lock to lock is like putting Camry steering on a Miata. Now, it’s just 2.5 turns lock to lock and feels much sportier for it. The electric assist is nicely weighted and even gives you a little feedback through the thin-rimmed steering wheel.

That steering wheel is now festooned with buttons controlling the in-house Ride Command infotainment system and cruise control. Right out of the box, it’s got a 7.0-inch touchscreen and a 100-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo that’s more than loud enough to be heard through a helmet. Please be courteous and turn it down when you’re driving in traffic or neighborhoods. Don’t be that guy. There’s a pair of USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity, and you can even get navigation. Polaris has remounted the screen vertically so it doesn’t get washed out by glare as easily and updated the processor so it works as quickly as any system in a car.

While they were at it, the Polaris team reworked the rest of the interior, too. There are cupholders now and a spot to put your phone, plus storage under the armrest. The commodious glove box remains, as do the lockable storage compartments behind the seats, which are just big enough for a backpack, picnic basket, or a helmet each. The seats themselves have big, fat bolsters to keep you in place, though the seat was rather wide on me, so I slid from bolster to bolster. The seat bottom cushions are also a little short. I’m told the materials are better this time around, but they look to me like what you’d get on a side-by-side or UTV, so they must’ve really been something before. The seat belts are still mounted in the middle of the vehicle, so you’ll be reaching in the wrong spot out of habit for a while until you force that into your brain.

It’s a good thing those seats are squishy, because this R model rides like a sports car. It’s not harsh or teeth chattering, but it is stiff, and you’re going to feel every bump. The adjustable Bilstein shocks previously available are gone for 2020, so you just have to deal.

It may ride like a sports car, but it doesn’t really sound like one. Granted, that old GM engine didn’t sound good, either, but it sounded like a car. This Polaris engine sounds like, well, a Polaris engine. If you’ve ever driven one of their powersports toys, you know it, even if it’s bigger and has more cylinders than any other Polaris has built. The exhaust being tucked up behind the front right wheel still eats into the passenger’s legroom. With basically no body work to block it, the engine is a bit loud by car standards. A helmet blocks some of it out.

We should talk about helmets because it’s a sticky situation. Polaris has single-handedly revived “autocycle” as a classification of three-wheeled, street-legal vehicles that are neither bicycles nor motorcycles. Why go to the trouble? Because thanks to Polaris’ lobbying, 48 states now recognize autocycles as street-legal vehicles that can be driven with a standard driver’s license (rather than a motorcycle license) but don’t have to meet the crash and emissions regulations of a car. (The federal government considers them motorcycles for regulatory purposes, but legislation has been introduced in Congress to change that.)

This means if you live anywhere but New York or Massachusetts, you can do what I did: step over the side, buckle the center-mounted seat belt (after searching for it in the usual place), and hit the road. Whether you have to wear a helmet like I did depends entirely on your state’s law, and they’re all over the place. Many require helmets the same as riding a motorcycle, but several specifically exempt autocycles either entirely or with conditions.

Even if it isn’t the law where you live, I’d recommend you wear one. The standard windscreen does a remarkably good job of directing air up and over the seats even at highway speeds, but it won’t stop rocks and larger bugs. I’ve taken both to the helmet while riding motorcycles and have been glad for the protection. You may want to invest in a Bluetooth helmet communication system, though, so you can talk to your passenger while moving.

I get why you wouldn’t if you didn’t have to, though. You only really feel the wind on the top of your head, so it’s not unlike driving a convertible in terms of hair restyling. It’s a much more visceral and exposed feeling than driving a drop-top, though. Getting rid of the doors will do that. Windscreen or not (and I’m going to keep calling it that, not because I’m British but because it ain’t a shield), it feels like driving a side-by-side or UTV capable of 125 mph. On the street. In traffic. On the interstate. Next to big rigs.

Yes, you can drive the Slingshot on the freeway. I doubt many people do. It’s loud, it’s windy, and you can’t help but feel vulnerable with a skeletal frame and a pair of roll hoops your only impact protection. People who buy Slingshots don’t want a motorcycle, because they don’t know how to ride one, because theydon’t feel comfortable (read: safe) on one, or because of a physical limitation. They want the open-air experience, though. They want the outsider image. And man, do other people pay attention to this thing. It got far more looks and questions than the Ferrari I tested two days later.

Here’s the thing, though. You’ve seen me mention the Mazda Miata in this review already. It’s just about the most fun per dollar you can buy when it comes to cars. It’s also $27,525 to start and tops out in the mid-30s. It comes with things like air bags, heating and A/C, a trunk, doors, and a roof in case it rains. (Polaris will sell you a bolt-on roof) The 2020 Slingshot starts at $26,499, and this R model starts at $30,999. That’s a lot of scratch for a third vehicle, a toy you only drive on the weekend and maybe the odd summer night. Then again, the folks who buy these love throwing thousands of dollars of accessories and modifications at them.

Put it all together, and it’s a narrow demographic. You wouldn’t think there would be a lot of people with the money to spend 30 grand on a weekend toy who want the open-air experience and rebel image of a motorcycle but can’t ride and don’t want to learn and like the sense of security from seats and seat belts. Joke’s on you. Polaris has sold somewhere north of 40,000 of these things already, and that’s with a manual transmission. You think you see them everywhere now? Wait until people find out you can get ’em with an automatic. And this ain’t the only three-wheeler on the market. There’s the Harley trike, the Morgan 3-Wheeler, the Campagna T-Rex, Vanderhall Venice, Can-Am Spyder, and more. The 2020 Polaris Slingshot may not be for you, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not for anyone. And for the people it’s for, it’s better than ever.

2020 Polaris Slingshot R BASE PRICE $30,999 LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 0-door autocycle ENGINE 2.0L/203-hp/144-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 5-speed auto-clutch manual CURB WEIGHT 1,700 lb (MT est) WHEELBASE 105.0 in L x W x H 149.6 x 77.9 x 51.9 in 0-60 MPH 5.4 sec (mfr est) EPA FUEL ECON 35/45/39 mpg (MT est) ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 96/75 kW-hrs/100 miles (est) CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.50 lb/mile (est) ON SALE Currently

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Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. RAV4 Hybrid: 5 Reasons to Splurge on the Prime and 5 More to Get the Hybrid

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 4:00am

Until now, the Hybrid was our clear favorite in the popular Toyota RAV4 lineup. Not only is it much more fuel efficient than the regular RAV4, it also offers a smoother ride. Now Toyota is rolling out another compelling entry: a plug-in hybrid RAV4. Dubbed the RAV4 Prime, this model has clear advantages and disadvantages compared with the RAV4 Hybrid. So which one should you buy?

5 Reasons to Buy the Toyota RAV4 Prime

1. You want to travel far distances on electric power alone.

Maybe you have a short commute to work and you want to get to and from the office without using a drop of gasoline. If that’s the case, the RAV4 Prime fits the bill. Toyota estimates the plug-in hybrid can travel 42 miles on pure electric power. Total driving range is projected to be 600 miles when the gas engine kicks in.

2. You want the most high-end features available.

There are a few features available on the RAV4 Prime that you can’t get on the RAV4 Hybrid. If you opt for the Premium package on the top XSE trim, you receive a 10-inch color head-up display. Other upgrades exclusive to Prime include 19-inch wheels and a 9.0-inch touchscreen, both standard on the XSE. The biggest wheels you can get on a RAV4 Hybrid are 18-inchers, and the biggest touchscreen measures 8.0 inches.

3. You want complete freedom to use the carpool lane.

Some states allow drivers of plug-in hybrid vehicles—but not traditional hybrids—to use the carpool lane regardless of the number of occupants. If that’s the case in your state, you may end up saving a lot of time in traffic by choosing the RAV4 Prime.

4. Fuel economy is priority #1.

The RAV4 Hybrid is very efficient, achieving 41/38/40 mpg city/highway/combined. But the RAV4 Prime takes it up a notch with rating of 94 mpge (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent). This metric represents the number of miles a vehicle can travel using a quantity of alternative fuel with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline and takes into account the distance the vehicle is able to drive on electric power only before any gasoline is burned.

5. You want to tow more.

If you’ll rest more comfortably knowing you can tow more, you may want to consider the plug-in. The RAV4 Prime can tow up to 2,500 pounds, compared to 1,750 pounds for the RAV4 Hybrid.

5 Reasons to Buy the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

1. You don’t have access to an EV charger.

The ability to drive on pure electricity is a major selling point for the RAV4 Prime, but you can’t really enjoy this benefit unless you have reliable access to an EV charger. If your home or workplace has an EV charger, or maybe if you live extremely close to a public station, you’re in the clear. But if not, why pay extra for a feature you’ll rarely use?

2. You want to maximize cargo space.

Granted, both models have a spacious cargo area, but the RAV4 Hybrid offers slightly more room for your gear. It boasts 37.6 cubic feet behind the second row, compared to 33.5 cubic feet in the RAV4 Prime. With the second row folded, the RAV4 Hybrid has 69.8 cubic feet of space instead of 63.2 cubic feet.

3. You want more color choices.

The RAV4 Hybrid offers 13 exterior color options, compared to 11 for the RAV4 Prime. Colors that are missing from the Prime lineup include a bluish-greenish-gray hue called Lunar Rock, and a bright blue called Blue Flame. RAV4 Prime comes in an exclusive Supersonic Red color, but RAV4 Hybrid offers a similar color called Ruby Flare Pearl. Among the color options available on both models are two-tone paint jobs that feature a black roof.

RAV4 Hybrid buyers will enjoy more interior color choices, too. Gray, black, and tan seats are available, and depending on which you choose, you can get blue or brown stitching. All RAV4 Prime models come with black seats and red stitching.

4. You’d like to spend less at the dealership.

At the end of the day, most people have a budget for their new vehicle. Prices for the RAV4 Hybrid range from $29,470 for the base LE trim to $38,000 for the Limited. You’ll spend quite a bit more for the base RAV4 Prime SE, which starts at $39,220 and is admittedly well contented. The top XSE trim is even more expensive at $42,545. Keep in mind that the RAV4 Prime is expected to be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and other state credits, but these are post-purchase incentives.

5. You prefer to live plug-free.

There’s something to be said for keeping things simple. The RAV4 Hybrid can travel 580 miles on a tank of gas that takes minutes to fill up, and you won’t feel the pressure to plug in. The RAV4 Prime takes 12 hours to charge with the standard 120V home charging cable; you have to upgrade your equipment for faster charging.

Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 Prime:
• Can travel 42 miles on electricity alone
• Exclusive high-end features
• Solo carpool lane access in some states
• Better fuel economy
• More towing capability

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid:
• Don’t need to buy or live near an EV charger
• More cargo space
• More color choices
• Lower starting price
• Simpler and faster to refuel

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Stolen Toyota Being Chased By Police Crashes Into Stolen Buick, Everyone Arrested

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 8:30pm

Say you’re out and about in your Buick Regal. It’s stolen, but why let that stop you from taking a little morning post-July-4th cruise? You’re also under the influence of intoxicants—a separate very bad, no-good idea. Suddenly, out of nowhere, your rolling cocktail of felonies comes to a screeching halt when a Toyota Land Cruiser slams into your pilfered Buick. Ruh-roh. If this sounds implausible, well, truth is stranger than fiction—and this story, which is true, is only just warming up.

You see, according to the Newberg-Dundee police department out of Oregon, the Toyota Land Cruiser that collided with the stolen Buick was also stolen. The Toyota also was fleeing police at the time, who had attempted to stop the Land Cruiser shortly after it was reported stolen and spotted driving through town. They say crime doesn’t solve itself, but in this case, sort of?

https://t.co/X32d4MVTlI – Driver of Stolen Vehicle Collides with Driver of a Separate and Unrelated Stolen Vehicle (Photo)

— Newberg-Dundee Police Department (@NewbergDundeePD) July 6, 2020

Randy Lee Cooper, 27-year-old resident of Portland, Oregon, was arrested at the scene for his theft of the Toyota Land Cruiser and the ensuing police chase. His crimes, per the Newberg-Dundee police, include “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, attempting to elude police, assault-3, reckless driving, and other related crimes.” What, no credit for helping solve the three-week-old car-theft case involving the Buick Regal? Apparently not. Kristin Nicole Begue, 25-year-old resident of Newberg, was booked on charges of DUI and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

We couldn’t summarize the whole shebang any better than the Newberg-Dundee police in its lead-off for the press release for it all: “Here’s a new one for you to start the week.” We should add, of course, that you should not steal cars, drink and drive, do both, or do both and hit other car thieves (or anyone else).

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Cancel Culture Comes For Ferrari’s 250 GTO Trademark

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 7:33pm

Fun fact: You can trademark a shape. Ferrari did so in 2008 for its then-44-year-old 250 GTO sports car. And, now, Ferrari lost that trademark in a dispute with Ares Design, a custom-car shop located right down the street in Modena, Italy. The decision could pave the way for outside companies to build and sell GTO lookalikes.

Ares, which wanted to build its own take on the rare 250 GTO, took Ferrari to the mat in the European Union Intellectual Protection Office’s Cancellation Division, arguing that the company filed its original trademark in bad faith—essentially, to block efforts at recreation models. It also noted that Ferrari had not used the GTO mark in at least five years, which under EU intellectual property law makes it eligible for cancellation. As Ares stated in its cancellation filing, “with regard to the goods listed [the 250 GTO design], the EUTM was in use in a similar form only for a few years, namely in the 1960s. It is similar to Ferrari’s 250 GTO model, which was created in 1962, with a relatively small production run of 36 cars.”

Ferrari responded with this:

“The 250 GTO model is a sports car produced from 1962 until 1964 only in 39 units, all still existing, and that it is recognised as one of the most glorious and iconic Ferrari cars ever created. Although no longer in production, the 250 GTO is still in great demand. The car and corresponding EUTM have become a symbol of Italian style in the world, making it a way of living and a status symbol.”

The iconic Italian automaker, which is known to fiercely defend and control its brand image, added that it believes opening up the 250 GTO’s design to outside use would devalue real, original 250 GTOs by adding supply to a hotbed of demand. As Ferrari puts it: “Further, the EUTM proprietor argues that Ferrari’s 250 GTO is destined to a very restricted market of collectors, celebrities and super-rich who can afford to spend millions of Euros to buy such an extra-expensive luxury car. This means that, at least as Class 12 is concerned, it will be sufficient to show very few sales of the products, of their spare parts, or of the related activities of maintenance, repair and restoration, to fulfill the use requirement.”

Ferrari’s request for rejection of Ares’ cancellation request was, itself, rejected, although only partially. The European Union Intellectual Property Office awarded Ares a partial victory, releasing the 250 GTO design for “Class 12” use, the designation for vehicles and their assorted components, as well as for “Class 25” (clothing and related merchandise) and “Class 28” (“Games and playthings, except toy vehicles and scale-model vehicles”) uses. Ferrari maintains the 250 GTO trademark for scale models and toys.

The decision in Ares’ favor hinged on the Intellectual Property Office’s Article 58(1)(a), which states trademarks that go effectively unused for a period of five years or more can be revoked. At the heart of this statute is the concept of “genuine use,” which means for a non-textual trademark such as Ferrari’s for the 250 GTO the company needs to actually build and sell a car shaped like it. Ferrari’s insistence that the shape is part of the company’s mystique didn’t sway the European Union’s IP Office, apparently.

So, consider the door open to outside outfits crafting 250 GTO likenesses of their own, much like how Superfast sells Shelby Cobra lookalikes. Just one thing: If Ferrari has its way, none of those companies will be able to use the “250 GTO” name. Days before receiving the EUIPO’s cancellation decision for its 250 GTO non-text trademark, Ferrari filed paperwork to trademark the 250 GTO name, covering automobiles, video games, sunglasses, toys, and more. That name trademark application entered the “opposition period” that lasts until October 2020, after which Ferrari can be awarded the trademark for “Ferrari 250 GTO.” Take that, copy cats!

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Lamborghini Discusses Its Post-Sián Roadster Electrification Plans

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 6:00pm

The Lamborghini Sián Roadster, like its hardtop predecessor, is the sort of Lamborghini that the company describes as coming out of its “laboratory of the future”—experimenting with electrification techniques to figure out how to move the company into its next era of performance. We know some of the broad strokes of this plan, especially that the next Aventador will be a hybrid. But Lamborghini continues to drop hints about the specifics of its plans.

Why electrification at all? For one, emissions and noise regulations are forcing the change. That’s nothing new and shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s clear that Lamborghini probably would not electrify its cars if regulations didn’t require it. But the company is making the most of the situation, working closely with MIT to optimize the relevant technologies, and as the Sián shows, making sure that electrification actually enhances the vehicle itself, as opposed to merely allowing it to comply with regulations. But battery-electric vehicles are a long way off for the company, as the technology is simply not able to meet the company’s real-world performance targets without massive leaps in energy storage tech. In short, it’s something to muse on, as with the Terzo Millennio, but not build anytime soon.

 

As Giovanni Perosino, Lamborghini’s chief commercial officer, told us in a recent roundtable interview, the transition to electrically-enhanced gasoline engines might be less monumental to Lamborghini’s customers than it is to us, the wonks who hang on every detail. According to Perosino, the most important thing is to “have a clear brand purpose” and to communicate that Lamborghini has a forward-looking vision, while also dabbling in new and exciting technologies. As long as Lamborghini surfs on that wave of innovation and exhilaration, the specifics—such as the sounds a Lamborghini makes—are less important.

Don’t take that to mean that everything’s on the table. Maurizio Reggiani, the brand’s chief technical officer, made it clear in the past—and re-emphasized in our discussion—that the V-12 is a central pillar to Lamborghini’s mystique. Asked whether the V-12 had a future, Reggiani was clear that cylinder count is important to the brand’s customers. On the subject of displacement, Reggiani dodged a bit. Reading between the lines, we can assume that Lamborghini would rather downsize the V-12 than drop its top-of-the-line performance cars’ cylinder counts (if one or the other is required).

What about the Sián’s fascinating supercapacitor tech? It allows for “symmetrical” charging and discharging functionality. In other words, you can dump energy into it and extract it at roughly the same rate, something no conventional hybrid battery does. It appeals to Reggiani, too, because being small and light, the tech is easy to package within the car as well. It’s clear from our conversation the supercapacitor isn’t a one-off item earmarked strictly for the Sián. That said, Reggiani made it known that we won’t see it find a home in the brand’s forthcoming Aventador replacement.

Instead, the upcoming model will utilize conventional battery technology. It’s a conservative move because unlike the Sián, Aventador owners tend to use their cars frequently, putting significant (for a hypercar) mileage on the mid-engined machines each year. By going the more conservative route of a conventional battery pack, Lamborghini’s top-of-the-line mass-produced (well, in hypercar terms) model will offer broader electric operation. In layman’s terms, a traditional battery pack does a better job of helping the company meet regulatory requirements than a low-capacity supercapacitor can.

After all, the Sián’s supercapacitor can only store 0.18 kWh of electricity. That’s enough juice to moderate the car’s single-clutch automated transmission’s, uh, brutal shift characteristics and enhance acceleration, but not enough to provide the model with any significant EV-only operation. But the next Aventador will adopt a dual-clutch gearbox, mitigating the need to use all that energy to smooth out shifts.

Thinking about the next Aventador is thrilling, but the Urus is a truly important vehicle for Lamborghini in the here and now. It seems we’ve heard about the potential for a plug-in hybrid version of the company’s crossover SUV for ages now, and Reggiani acknowledged the company is still “examining” it. It seems the Italian brand wants to make sure the system actually enhances the driving experience of the Urus—simply reducing emissions and providing some EV-only range isn’t enough.

Additionally, a sibling for the Urus is not in the cards. This news meshes with previous statements by the brand, with Perosino underlining that he’s against such a move. If anything, the company would love to add another performance car to its model line. We’ve heard statements like this before, and we view this as a generalized wish by the CCO rather than confirmation that another Lamborghini model line is in the works.

One thing is clear, though: Lamborghini’s future is electrified. How Sant’Agata will carry out this transformation remains a bit of a mystery. Nevertheless, we’re slowly filling in the blanks.

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Back in Black Series: Mercedes-AMG GT Black Will Be a 700-HP-Plus Track Monster

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 4:44pm

Some AMGs have a dark side—literally. They’re called Black Series, and they’re typically hardcore, track-prepped zeniths of a given AMG model line, although “typical” perhaps isn’t the correct word to use. Black Series are atypical, in that they are quite rare; in recent years, only the SLS AMG, SL65, and C63 coupe (and less recently, the CLK-based AMG before that) have been given the Black Series treatment in the U.S. So, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a new Black Series, but the wait for a new one is now over: Meet the AMG GT Black, king of the AMG GT range.

Mercedes-AMG has dropped an official teaser for the GT Black that reveals the entire car. In the video, we get a good look the AMG-issue “Panamerica”-style vertical-slat grill—which has swelled to massive proportion for this application and is no doubt inspired by the AMG GT3 race car’s mug. There also is a truly enormous rear wing. Look out, Lamborghini SCV12, the supercars-with-shelving-units-on-their-decks race is heating up.

The Black Series wears extra venting, ducting, and other aero trickery that, while surely clever and functional, looks a bit, well, aftermarket. Maybe it’s that funky silver on top of gloss black paint job. No matter, Black Series are supposed to represent the wildest thinking to come out of Affalterbach, so why not have a look to match?

Rumor has it the 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8 in the AMG GT Black Series will make more than 700 horsepower, which would make it the most powerful production AMG to ever hit the streets. We’re only speculating here, but we think AMG will have pulled out every engineering trick in the book—like lighter, stronger engine internals, more turbocharger boost, and a freer-flowing exhaust—to reach that incredible power output.

Hey, if McLaren and Ferrari can make similarly sized turbocharged V-8s that make more than 700 horsepower, Mercedes-AMG certainly can, too. We’d expect nothing less of the newest AMG Black Series, which should be the most extreme of the relatively small family of Black Series it soon will join.

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New Toyota Corolla Cross Looks Like the Illegitimate Child of a RAV4 and a Corolla

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 3:10pm

Toyota is capitalizing on the growing popularity of crossovers by expanding the global Corolla lineup to include such a model. Meet the Corolla Cross, which Toyota unveiled in Thailand. While the automaker remains mum on the model’s future in the U.S., we see great potential for the Corolla Cross on our shores.

In terms of size, the small crossover slots between the subcompact C-HR and the compact RAV4. Oddly enough, it bears little resemblance to the rest of the Corolla family. With sharp headlights and more rounded proportions than the RAV4, the design is pleasing, albeit conventional.

Like the RAV4, the Corolla Cross is designed with practicality in mind. The automaker promises large door openings for easy entry and exit, an elevated driving position, and a spacious interior. Toyota is aiming for class-leading luggage space in the Thai market. Comfort and convenience features include a 9.0-inch touchscreen, a power moonroof, rear USB outlets, LED headlights and taillights, a foot-activated liftgate, and more.

The Corolla Cross offers two powertrain options in Thailand. The first is a 1.8-liter engine that produces approximately 138 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque. A four-cylinder gasoline-electric hybrid unit, meanwhile, makes approximately 120 hp. Front-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission come standard with both powertrains.

Given how much American customers love crossovers, we think the Corolla Cross would make an excellent addition to Toyota’s U.S. lineup. But there’s no way of knowing whether it’s headed our way. Toyota USA wrote in a statement that, “The Corolla Cross revealed in Thailand . . . is an exciting new Toyota product that will be available in select markets around the world. At this time, no decisions or announcements have been made with regard to this vehicle coming to the U.S.”

The Corolla Cross debuts just a few months after Toyota introduced the more boldly designed Yaris Cross crossover SUV. That model, sadly, is not coming to our market. Let’s hope the Corolla Cross has a different fate, as it could serve as a nice alternative to the quirky, but somewhat flawed, C-HR. We imagine it’ll also sell like hotcakes.

Toyota Corolla Cross Toyota RAV4 Honda HR-V Length (in.) 175.6 180.9 170.4 Width (in.) 71.9 73 69.8 Height (in.) 63.8 67 63.2 Curb weight (lbs.) 2,921 3,370 2,906 Hybrid curb weight (lbs.) 3,053 3,710 n/a

*Chart compares the Thai-market Corolla Cross to the U.S.-market RAV4 and HR-V

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Legendary TOM’S Castrol Toyota Supra Found Under Tarp, Fans To Fund Restoration

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 12:00pm

There’s something romantic about barn finds. Just the idea that there are cars hidden away just waiting to be rediscovered and returned to the road, rust spots and all, is enough to captivate automotive enthusiasts around the world. In the United States, a typical barn find might include a stash of classic American cars. But elsewhere, the vehicles people lock up and hoard are often quite different.

This 1998 Toyota Supra race car, recently discovered in Japan, is a perfect example. You see, this isn’t just any Supra race car. (If you’ve played any of the Gran Turismo video games, you should recognize the car’s livery right away.) This here is a TOM’S Castrol Supra that raced in the Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC). According to TOM’S Racing, the car was found in a warehouse in the Chugoku region of Japan. Presumably, it’s been stored there since the last time it raced, as the body still has scratches and other damage sustained on track. Its magnificent green and red Castrol graphics, however, are still clearly visible.

 

Though it doesn’t look that bad in these photos, the barn-find Supra race car is apparently in rough shape. For one, there’s no engine under the hood, though TOM’S suggests the engine was found with the car. Second, many of its parts are rusted from years of neglect. TOM’S Racing hopes to restore the car to track-worthy condition, but it’s asking the internet for help. The Japanese race team set up a crowdfunding project to raise money for the restoration. Their goal? A cool ¥50,000,000, or about $466,000 at current exchange rates.

In recognition of your contribution, TOM’S will engrave your name somewhere on the car. Exactly where depends on how generous you’re feeling. For example, ¥5,000 (about $47) will reserve you a “special site” on the car, which you’ll likely have to share with anyone else who donates at that level. For ¥3,000,000 (roughly $28,000), you get your name engraved on a special safety plaque on the driver’s seat, along with race passes for the entire 2021 Super GT (the successor to JGTC) season and access to the TOM’S Racing hospitality suite. You’d also get to rent a car from the TOM’S garage for a day on the track. Even with all those extra benefits thrown in, that’s a steep price. But for a TOM’S Supra super-fan, it just might be worth it.

A TOM’S Castrol Toyota Supra won both the JGTC GT500 class drivers’ championship and team championship in 1997, but the TOM’S Supra was less successful the following year. This particular Supra’s provenance hasn’t been revealed yet, but the fact that TOM’S Racing has decided to restore it so soon after its discovery could mean it’s an important car. The team will post video updates on its progress to YouTube, and donors will receive exclusive regular updates on the project through the crowdfunding site.

We’re not ready to plunk down any money just yet, but we’ll certainly be following to see how this restoration turns out. At the very least, the find makes us want to dust off our PlayStation 2 and pull the TOM’S Supra out the garage for a spin around Fuji Speedway.

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Does the Dodge Brand Have a Future?

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 10:00am

The Dodge brand is a bit of a conundrum, and it doesn’t help that for 2021 it has been reduced to three vehicles: Two aging muscle cars and a large three-row SUV. (The Grand Caravan minivan kinda-sorta lives on—or at least keeps getting stays of execution, but is slated to die.) As FCA heads into a merger with PSA Group, creating the fourth-largest automaker in the world made, the chances of the new entity culling brands from its extensive portfolio seem rather high.  It ultimately begs the question: Will Dodge survive in the long-term? Or even the medium-term?

We talked to Tim Kuniskis, who oversees Dodge as part of his role as head of passenger cars for FCA North America, about the future of the American mark. While Dodge is adding ever more trims and high-output variations to its Challenger, Charger, and Durango model lines, it’s also sending two of its nameplates to the great scrap heap in the sky. Here, we’ve gathered what Kuniskis cites as Dodge’s redeeming qualities and business state moving forward:

Goodbye Dodge Journey and Grand Caravan

Gone for the 2021 model year are the Dodge Journey crossover and the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. For the three years, Kuniskis stated the models don’t fit Dodge’s DNA, but sales remained strong and the two people movers managed to avoid the chopping block. Until now, that is. “We’re at the point where we drew a line in the sand and said, ‘this is it, this is the last year, we’re not going to do them anymore,’” Kuniskis shared, adding that neither the pandemic nor the merger pushed the decision.

Still, Kuniskis sees a role for Dodge after the merger of FCA and PSA is complete, and he noted the beauty of a “house of brands” is that it affords each to have its own unique and separate identity in the marketplace. In short, no individual brand needs to try to be all things to all customers.

Hellcat Won’t Meet Future Regulations in the Durango

The brand chief also knows his muscle cars are subject to criticism for being old and for having what some see as ridiculous power. We’re not sure who thinks there is a such thing as too much horsepower, especially democratized at relatively affordable price points, but hey. Dodge adding a Hellcat engine to its Durango family SUV is more red meat for the critics. But Kuniskis knows Dodge customers appreciate the brand’s one-upmanship mentality. The brand, and FCA, practically lives and breathes on the saying “Hellcat all of the things,” which circulates in some enthusiast circles—leading even designer Ralph Gilles to sketch a Hellcatted Chrysler Pacifica minivan in what wasn’t clearly a joke.

Even if it is only temporary, as is the case with the Durango Hellcat, which will be offered only for the 2021 model year due to the engine being unable to meet tougher regulations coming for the 2022 model year, power is integral to Dodge’s image. Luckily, it isn’t the Hellcat engine per se, that can’t meet regulations—but the combination of the powerplant and the Durango’s platform. In other words, the supercharged Hemi is still good to go in the Challenger and Charger for the 2022 model year (and the foreseeable future). Whew!

Five years after its introduction in the Challenger Hellcat, the high-horsepower engine is showing no signs of slowing down. It has in that time found its way into a total of almost 40,000 Dodge vehicles. In fact, the engine assembly plant can barely keep up with demand. “There’s no way we could have called that. We have scrambled many times to increase capacity,” Kuniskis said.

Dodge Won’t Go Quietly

“At some point, something will have to change, there’s no question,” Kuniskis confessed. “I’m not going quietly into that new reality. The requirements get more stringent every single year and, at some point, we gotta do something.” Still, the brand’s head wouldn’t share if a next-generation Charger or Challenger, both of which currently ride on a platform that dates back to 2005, are in the works. Nor would Kuniskis elaborate when asked if there are additional future models planned for Dodge.

Nevertheless, the brand will—in time—embrace electrification and the performance potential that electric motors can provide. Dodge does not need to fully shift to battery electric vehicles, Kuniskis said, as gasoline-electric hybrids provide the torque, power, and visceral driving experience befitting the brand’s DNA. Good thing, too, because clearly, Dodge is relying on that high-octane DNA to justify its existence.

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Meet the “Boss,” the Original Ford Bronco Raptor from 1969

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 7:35pm

Googling things sometimes turns up more than just search results. Take Wes Eisenschenk’s discovery of a long lost, incredibly rare 1969 Ford Bronco prototype, which came up after he plugged the rig’s serial number into Google in 2016. As he puts it: “There it was, the missing 1969 Ford Boss Bronco prototype, in an expired eBay listing.” The internet had dredged up what amounts to a 40 years too early Ford Bronco Raptor ideated at the peak of the muscle-car era.

What Is a Boss Bronco?

A Boss Bronco? Yes, Ford built a prototype high-performance Boss Bronco 4×4 in 1969 at its legendary clandestine enterprise Kar-Kraft. The burly SUV featured a blueprinted 1969 Mustang Shelby GT 350 engine, a Hi-Po C4 automatic transmission, and 4.11 limited-slip gears front and rear, among other truly muscular details. Somehow, the one-of-one Boss Bronco survived under the radar for more than 40 years in fantastic original condition.

Wes, who uncovered the Boss Bronco, is an editor at CarTech, the publisher behind the book, Kar-Kraft: Race Cars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Special Vehicles Activity Program,” by Charlie Henry. Research for this book dredged up the VIN for the Boss Bronco prototype, which was built to prove the concept of a production high-performance Bronco for then-Ford president Bunkie Knudsen, who with his cohort from General Motors, Larry Shinoda, was largely responsible for Ford’s original Boss Mustang program of 1969–1971.

In production trim, the Bronco’s largest engine in 1969 was a 302. Kar-Kraft installed a warmed-over 351 Windsor. It wasn’t a full Boss V-8, but a performance motor from the 1969 Shelby GT 350.

The original team at Kar-Kraft started with a specially equipped 1969 Bronco Sport, sent to them directly from the Ford assembly line. It was equipped with a 302 V-8, 4.11 gears, a limited-slip diff, and—likely as no coincidence—it was finished in a rare-for-the-year coat of Empire paint—a shade of yellow that was known to be Knudsen’s favorite color. After all, nothing is sacred when looking to have a prototype approved by the Boss’s boss!

To make sure this project—originally referred to as simply the “Special Bronco” in internal documents—was everything a high-performance Bronco should be, Kar-Kraft called in Bill Stroppe to oversee the build. Stroppe, who was running Ford’s off-road racing team, certainly had more than enough experience to know what it would take to build a righteous Bronco. After all, he’d fielded a team of the things to Baja off-road victories for Ford.

The Boss Bronco parked outside Ford Styling in 1969. The Bronco had been repainted years ago, and current owner Colin Comer used this photo when re-applying the hockey-stick stripe and Boss Bronco decals to calculate their correct dimensions.

Among the modifications chosen by the Kar-Kraft team and Stroppe for the Special Bronco (which was soon re-named the Boss Bronco, ostensibly to tie it in with Ford’s existing line of Boss cars), was additional horsepower. Out went the 302 V-8 and in came a 1969 GT 350 210-S-code 351 four-barrel Windsor motor, although the one provided for the Boss Bronco by Ford was also balanced and blueprinted, much as the allegedly “bone stock” engines used for magazine road test cars were said to be back in the day. The V-8 exhaled through a true dual exhaust with glasspack mufflers. Backing up this warmed-over 351 Windsor was a custom Kar-Kraft-fabricated adapter that allowed a Hi-Po C4 automatic transmission to be fitted; it would be the first automatic transmission Ford put in a Bronco.

Stroppe dual shocks were installed at all four corners to help keep the big 15-inch chrome wheels and 10-15LT Gates Commando tires on the ground when the going got rough. Inside, a Stroppe padded steering wheel, Stroppe roll bar, and a Mustang shifter for the C4 were installed, along with custom upholstered panels and aluminum trim to finish the inside of the rear quarter-panels and tailgate for a more upscale look. The rear wheel wells were cut—sorry, first-gen Bronco fans!—and Stroppe fender flares installed for the needed tire clearance, a Cougar Eliminator hood scoop bolted on, and finally, the Boss Mustang-style black hockey-stick stripes with “BOSS BRONCO” lettering were applied.

The finished package was quite impressive. It clearly not only looked the part but performed it, too. Again, the format was not dissimilar to the Ford F-150 Raptor of today—as well as the expected Raptor-fied Bronco model, which will join the revived Bronco lineup sometime soon.

. . . And Why Aren’t There More of Them?

Lee Iacocca famously fired Knudsen before a production Boss Bronco could get off the ground and live up to its promise. Afterward, inventory sheets show Kar-Kraft was supposed to crush the one and only Boss Bronco prototype. Somehow, it escaped. Exactly how is still unknown, but experts suspect it was simply sold to an employee when Kar-Kraft was liquidated in late 1970.

No matter how the Bronco made it into the wild, Wes was the extremely lucky soul who found the Boss Bronco decades later. The muscle truck had sold outside of eBay (remember, the listing had expired by the time Wes happened upon it), so Wes searched and found the ultimate buyer, a man in Washington State, who agreed to sell the Bronco for a nice profit. Wes then posted a picture of the rare prototype on an internet forum looking for further info on it. That’s when Colin Comer saw it.

Colin owns Colin’s Classic Automobiles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is also a diehard Ford and Shelby authority and collector and has authored numerous books on the subject. He and Wes had worked together at another publishing company, which is how they became friends.

“As soon as I saw Wes’ post on the Boss Bronco, I immediately emailed him and said I had to have it,” Colin said. “Being a huge Ford muscle guy, as well as a long-time early Bronco owner, how could I not? I had no idea the Boss Bronco had survived. To me, it is one of the ultimate early Broncos. Plus the Kar-Kraft and Stroppe connection is just so cool. I didn’t get much sleep until I convinced my buddy Wes to sell it to me! Once we arrived at a deal, I had to sell my Holman-Moody-built 1969 Bronco to help fund the Boss, but I have no regrets.”

Colin was clearly ecstatic to find himself the owner of a significant Ford prototype built at Kar-Kraft.

“The truck was painted once but otherwise untouched. There is zero rust anywhere, which is very rare for an early Bronco. It still has all of its original finishes underneath. It has the original Kar-Kraft-installed Mustang shifter for the C4 automatic and the fabricated transmission adaptor they made, and still had the original engine with its original 210-S tag. Everything down to the original carburetor and original prototype dual exhaust is still on the truck. It shows 60,000 miles and 47 years of use, but it is—amazingly—all there. And that’s what matters.”

Colin compared original Ford photos of the truck from Kar-Kraft to find the SUV’s original hockey-stick stripe dimensions had been changed slightly during its repaint, and the Boss Bronco decals were long gone. Most likely, Kar-Kraft pulled those off before selling the truck to disguise its prototype status.

Colin calculated the original stripe dimensions using the 1969 factory photos and by finding remnants of the originals in the door jambs, then re-sprayed the stripes correctly. He then had a new set of Boss Bronco decals made to return the truck to its original prototype appearance. The Boss Bronco, now out of hiding, sees frequent use by Colin, who has already added a few thousand miles to its odometer. He believes it’s a shame the Boss Bronco never made it to production, as it “would have been a big hit” in 1969, “much like the Ford Raptor is today.”

1969 Ford Boss Bronco Specifications
  • Owned by: Colin Comer
  • Engine: 290-hp 351-ci 210-S Windsor V-8
  • Transmission: C4 3-speed automatic
  • Axles: Dana 30 front, Ford 9-inch rear with 4.11 gears and limited-slip
  • Interior: White vinyl bucket seat
  • Wheels: 15×10 custom
  • Tires: 32×11.50R15LT BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
  • Special parts: Shelby GT 350 210-S engine; C4 transmission with Mustang shifter; special paint, stripes, and decals; Stroppe roll bar, dual shocks, and fender flares; Cougar Eliminator hood scoop; custom wheels

This story originally appeared in Hot Rod in March 2018.

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The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line Looks Freaking Good in New Teaser

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 6:00pm

Hyundai is set to replace the previous Elantra Sport with the new Elantra N Line, and now we finally have an idea of what the sporty sedan will look like. Although we’ll have to wait until Hyundai releases the final product, these teaser images hint at a much more aggressive-looking Elantra model.

At its front, the Hyundai Elantra N Line boasts a modified grille design with subtle badging. The biggest change, though, is the bold new air intakes. The side profile, meanwhile, is accented by special window accents, door mirrors, and side skirts painted gloss black. In the rear, you’ll find a set of twin exhaust pipes—a feature that’s unique to the model. Finishing off the look are 18-inch alloy wheels covering a set of beefier brakes.

We still don’t know how much power the Elantra N Line will make, or even which engine will sit under its hood. But it very well may use the same turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder from the old Elantra Sport. Expect output to rise slightly relative to the Sport’s 201 horses.

Unfortunately, the N Line probably won’t pack a manual transmission. Instead, the sedan will likely route power to the front wheels by way of the prior Sport’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission or the 2021 Veloster N’s new eight-speed unit.

Hyundai has yet to announce the N Line’s cost of entry, but the South Korean brand should keep the price reasonably low. (Hyundai claims the Elantra N Line will “provide an attractive entry point for the N brand.”) In the United States, the brand already offers an engaging N Line version of the Elantra GT hatchback. For true high-performance upgrades, buyers will want to upgrade to one of Hyundai’s all-out N models. Alas, at the moment the U.S. only gets the Veloster N, however, we Yanks may receive a Kona N sometime down the line.

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