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How the Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Truck Is so Darn Cheap

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 23:30

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning caught our attention for two reasons: it is an electric full-size pickup, and it’s set to wear a starting price of $41,669 when it goes on sale in May 2022.

Weeks after the electric Lightning was unveiled to the public, people are still talking about it, thanks to its relatively affordable pricing and solid performance. In fact, the Lightning is set to take the title as the quickest F-150 model thanks to its estimated 4.4-second 0–60-mph time. Credit the truck’s two electric motors, which provide 563 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque. The Lightning’s well as its extended-range battery pack, meanwhile, offers an estimated driving range of 300 miles on a single charge.

How, then, did Ford manage to make the Lightning so affordable?

The F-150 Lightning’s Been a Long Time Coming

We were surprised to learn that Ford has long wanted to do an electric truck but needed a higher density battery than those it had available. “We could do passenger vehicles, not trucks,” Darren Palmer, Ford’s general manager for electric vehicles, said at the Reuters Car of the Future 2021 conference.

The Lightning relies on a pouch-style lithium-ion battery pack and the high-density cells use a nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode chemistry with particularly low cobalt loading. Ford shopped around before going with SK Innovation, which is building a new battery cell plant in Georgia. Ford is also developing and testing its own battery cells, with plans to manufacture the key components itself in the future.

It’s All About Scale

To reach its target starting price for the Lightning, Ford is leveraging the clout of the F-150—the best-selling truck for 44 years. The key to transforming a legacy business is to play to its strengths, Palmer said, which in Ford’s case is scale.

The Lightning has much in common with the regular F-150, including the overall dimensions of its cab and bed. It also uses the same seats and gearshift that folds out of the way to make room for a workspace between the seats. By keeping the Lightning’s cargo box dimension’s the same as other F-150s, Ford affords gas- and diesel-powered F-150 owners the opportunity to transfer their accessories and tools to the Lightning, should they choose to buy the electric truck.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Pro is an entry-level trim designed for commercial customers who replace about 15 percent of their fleet annually. Palmer said the same telematics from other F-150s carries over to the electric work truck.

Future Ford EVs Will Share Components

Ford plans to build new electric vehicle components (such as batteries, motors, control units, inverters, and chargers) to scale, and it will spread these items across a number of its upcoming electric vehicles. Even better for Ford is the fact the company is making many of these new components in-house.

Additional savings come courtesy of Ford’s decision to expand the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, which already makes other F-150 variants. The addition of a production line for the Lightning also allows Ford to tinker with the truck’s trim-specific features, such as its skateboard-like chassis and independent rear suspension. “We could modify the frame and still get a good price from suppliers,” Palmer said.

The post How the Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Truck Is so Darn Cheap appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

2022 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door First Look: Feeling Six-y

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 23:01

When the competition involves Porsche, Audi, and BMW, it is vital to fine-tune the mechanicals, upgrade tech features, and maintain a fresh appearance. Enter the 2022 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door, a luxury fastback that drives like an untamed sports car. While Mercedes is mum on details related to the V-8-powered 2022 GT63 and GT63 S 4-Door models, the brand is eager to share details about its six-cylinder 2022 GT43 and GT53 4-Doors, both of which maintain much the same styling as before. That said, the latter adds a new styling package option that gives the six-cylinder model a bit of flair from its V-8 stablemates.

The Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe went on sale in 2019 and rather quickly became a finalist at our 2020 Car of the Year competition. During our rigorous testing, we commended the four-door sports car for its driving dynamics and forward-thinking technology. Nonetheless, the model’s many positive attributes could not overcome its punishingly harsh ride quality. Mercedes took notice and updated the suspension with new hardware in 2020.

Now the three-pointed star is completely overhauling the GT 4-Door’s damping system for 2022. A pair of continuously variable pressure-limited valves, located outside the damper, afford more precise adjustments to the damping force for different driving conditions and drive modes. One valve controls the rebound damping, the other controls the compression damping. Both work independently of each other and react to changing road surfaces rapidly. This technology reportedly delivers increased ride comfort and sportier driving dynamics.

Additionally, a suspension control unit analyzes data from the wheel path sensors and the car’s accelerator to adjust the damping force at each wheel in a matter of milliseconds to better suit the driving situation. By widening the gap between minimum and maximum damping force characteristics, AMG’s development engineers claim to have significantly increased the scope of sportiness and comfort, providing greater flexibility in map design.

A new Manufaktur Exclusive Edition for the GT53 4-Door adds the V-8 GT 4-Door’s exterior styling package to the six-cylinder sedan. The kit also adds high-gloss chrome exterior bits, as well as 21-inch wheels painted silver with a high-gloss finish.

Meanwhile, a new Night package adds dark chrome vertical slats to the grille and blacks out the AMG badge, Mercedes three-pointed star, and model designation, including the lettering on the fenders. Customers can now combine the AMG appearance package with the Carbon Fiber package. There are three newly added exterior paint colors for the AMG GT 4-Door lineup: Spectral Blue Metallic, Spectral Blue Magno, and Cashmere White Magno, the latter two of which feature a matte finish. A broader choice of wheels includes optional 21-inch forged wheels. Additionally, buyers can, upon request, order red-painted calipers for six-cylinder GT 4-Doors.

The 2022 Mercedes-AMG GT43 and GT53 4-Doors further differentiate themselves from their 2021 counterparts courtesy of a new steering wheel design. The steering wheel has a sensor mat that detects if the driver has their hands on or off the wheel. If the sensor detects that the driver’s hands are not on the wheel for a certain amount of time, then a warning kicks on. Should the driver not respond to the warning and place their hands back on the wheel, the emergency brake assist will activate.

Other highlights of the new steering include haptic sensing in place of hard buttons, as well as reworked drive mode controls. For precise shifting, the paddle shifters are both repositioned and slightly bigger.

Inside, Mercedes expands the model’s upholstery options, while also adding an available anthracite trim that includes open-pore wood on the dashboard, door panels, and center console. The wood is further complemented by a silver surround. Mercedes also fits the 2022 GT53 with a three-across rear seat, as opposed to the previous two-position setup. As such, the big hatch is now capable of seating five individuals—as opposed to four—within its cabin.

Motivating both the 2022 GT43 and GT53 4-Doors is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with a mild-hybrid system. The former pumps out 362-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, while the latter model features the likes of an electric supercharger to produce a beefy 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, as is a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

Look for these refreshed, six-cylinder 2022 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door models to go on sale before the end of the year, with the GT43 stickering for approximately $91,000 and the GT53 going for an estimated $101,000.

The post 2022 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door First Look: Feeling Six-y appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Vin Diesel Announces “Fast and Furious” Saga Ending Soon

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 21:55

UPDATE 6/14/21: Actor Vin Diesel, star of the blockbuster “Fast and Furious” movie franchise, told The Associated Press in an interview this weekend that the series’ core storyline is being wrapped up by 2023 or 2024. There will only be two more movies in the main Fast universe following this month’s release of F9, the pandemic-delayed ninth installment of the Fast and Furious saga.

This isn’t the first time actor Vin Diesel has promised a conclusion is coming for the Fast and Furious; we published the original article, which follows below, back in September 2015. Nevertheless, his comments are noteworthy on the eve of F9’s June 25 premiere; plus, his timeline for the series conclusion is more specific than it was back then.

Critically, Diesel left open the possibility that spin-offs such as Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw will continue—and let’s face it, F&F-related movies are almost guaranteed to continue ad infinitum. However, the main characters in the long-running movie series will see their plot arcs buttoned up in Fast 10 and Fast 11, the final two movies in the series. As in 2015, Vin Diesel referred to the (now written, produced, and theater-ready) F9 movie as the first chapter in a sort of saga-ending trilogy. Read on below for the original remarks from six years ago:

If you haven’t had enough of the Fast and Furious movies, don’t worry. Vin Diesel just announced via Facebook that there will be three more movies added to the saga to end it for good. As of right now, there isn’t even a script for the eighth movie, but Diesel says he will soon announce the directors.

As the project is “too special a franchise,” Diesel has been careful of who will head up the last three movies. To quote his recent Facebook post, “My producing partner Neal would love for me to just sign off on a director…” He goes on to say, “Universal has been so good to me and so trusting of the vision… they have been like family… I promised the studio I would deliver one last trilogy to end the saga.”

The latest installment of the franchise grossed over $1 billion in just 17 days worldwide, which was two days quicker than what it took both “The Avengers” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” to reach that same amount. With big box office numbers like this, it’s no wonder the studio wants to capitalize on the franchise for as long as possible.

We don’t know when these movies will come out, but we’re curious what direction the final three films will take.

Source: Vin Diesel via Facebook

The post Vin Diesel Announces “Fast and Furious” Saga Ending Soon appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Subaru Outback’s Onyx Trim Finds Its Way to the 2022 Ascent

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 21:15

There’s a lot to like about the Subaru Ascent, the company’s large three-row SUV. It features a standard turbocharged engine that feels as peppy as many six-cylinder options, and includes the sort of interior amenities and safety scores families crave. For 2022, Subaru doesn’t mess with success, but it does add a new trim level—the Onyx.

As in the Outback, the $39,120 Ascent Onyx includes a bunch of dark-toned exterior trim—yet another example of a trend that seems to be sweeping mainstream brands—and a few other neat details, including blacked-out badging and 20-inch wheels. Inside, Subaru’s water-repellent fabric covers the seats.

The Onyx is based on the seven-passenger Premium trim, though it adds standard features including a reverse automatic braking system, hands-free power liftgate, heated steering wheel; and a proximity key with push-button start. There’s a single optional extra: a $2,200 package of features that includes a panoramic sunroof.

What the Onyx doesn’t offer over other Ascent trims is an upgraded engine. On the Outback, the Onyx is primarily notable as the cheapest way to get the upgraded 2.4-liter turbocharged engine. But in the Ascent, the turbo 2.4 is the only option, so the Onyx’s black exterior elements and water-repellent seats are the trim’s main selling points here.

The rest of the Ascent lineup continues unchanged. In fact, the 2022 Ascent even wears the same sticker price as 2021, with the eight-passenger base model starting at $33,420 and the flagship, seven-passenger Touring coming in at $46,570.

The post Subaru Outback’s Onyx Trim Finds Its Way to the 2022 Ascent appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

2022 Subaru Forester Gets Sharper Styling, Likely Wilderness Trim

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 20:15

It’s been just over three years since Subaru rolled out its current Forester SUV, and the auto industry’s update cycle dictates a new or revised model should arrive soon. Right on schedule, what we believe will be the U.S. market’s 2022 Subaru Forester has broken cover in Subaru’s home market of Japan.

Fresh Digs

As you can see from the embedded photos, the updated Forester receives a mild yet noticeable mid-cycle styling update. The headlights are squared up, with more angular LED running lamps, and the grille appears larger than before. Other than some minor changes to the taillight internals (reflector elements that match the headlights’ new shapes), the 2022 Forester’s rear end is untouched. New wheel designs and fresh detailing on the plastic rocker panel covers between those wheels are the only other notable deviations, along with a trio of new paint colors—one of which appears to already be available here in the U.S.

Subaru hasn’t done much, if anything, to the Forester’s roomy and headroom-lush interior. The Japanese-market Forester website describes how Subie’s latest iteration of its EyeSight suites active safety features is standard on every model; lately, Subaru has been expanding EyeSight as standard equipment throughout its lineup, and the Forester already gained the feature here in America. So, look for that to continue, only with the newer system, which promises more accurate sensor technology that affords the computer a more detailed look at the vehicle’s surroundings.

A New Engine? Probably Not

Currently, the Forester is available with a 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-four engine in the U.S. The previous-gen compact SUV was available with an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four, but that was nixed when the current-generation Forester appeared for 2019. We don’t anticipate the single-engine lineup will change here in America, even though the Japanese-market Forester is offered with a spiffy turbocharged 1.8-liter flat-four (as it was before this refresh). Ditto the JDM model’s baseline powertrain: a 2.0-liter flat-four with electric assist.

As before, every Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive. In Japan, the Forester also comes in a number of trim levels that more or less mimic those offered here, including a sporty-looking Sport, luxurious Advance (similar to our Touring), and, confusingly, a Touring trim that’s really more akin to our entry-level Premium trim.

There also is an off-road-themed X-Break model that looks primed to make the jump to America as the latest addition to the brand’s Wilderness trim, which recently debuted on the 2022 Outback. The Subaru Outback Wilderness gets a lifted suspension, knobby tires, and—critically present on the Forester X-Break—orange interior and exterior accents, as well as waterproof seats. When will we see the 2022 Subaru Forester in the U.S.? Likely soon, given how 2022 model Subaru vehicles are inching their way into the brand’s U.S. model line. This includes the aforementioned Outback, as well as the new BRZ sport coupe.

The post 2022 Subaru Forester Gets Sharper Styling, Likely Wilderness Trim appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 First Test: Don’t Call It Carroll

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 19:15

Ever since the Ford Mustang ditched its live rear axle, it’s seemed as if the Blue Oval was only interested in providing ultimate handling prowess on Shelby versions. Various “performance packs” and special editions never got it done, and you had to slide into a Shelby GT350 or GT500 to go around a corner properly. With the GT350 retired, however, the curse is broken. The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is a GT350 replacement in everything but engine and carbon-fiber wheels.

Poke around the Mach 1, and you’ll find it features a grab bag of GT350 and GT350R parts and ideas, along with some items from other Mustangs. The Recaro seats should look familiar, as should the gaping void where the rear seats would go (a $250 option) in any other Mustang. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are a welcome feature, as is the rear “s’wing”—that’s spoiler plus wing—from the GT500, both being part of a $3,750 Handling package fitted to our test car. Mach 1 planners even pinched the cue ball shift knob from the Bullitt to dress up the GT350’s vastly superior Tremec six-speed manual transmission.

Not present is the GT350’s wonderous 5.2-liter Voodoo flat-plane-crank V-8. That engine lived hard and died young, but some of its soul lives on in the Mach 1’s revised 5.0-liter cross-plane-crank V-8. Borrowing another trick from the Bullitt, the Mach 1 uses the Voodoo’s intake manifold to help wring out an extra 20 hp for output totals of 480 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. 

Twenty ponies don’t make much of a herd, so it’s unsurprising the Mach 1 is no quicker than a standard Mustang GT to 60 mph. Our best result was 4.2 seconds, with our test driver noting it was difficult to find the right launch rpm with the sticky Cup 2 tires. One piece of advice: Don’t bother with the launch control. Our guy was able to beat it by nearly half a second. Even still, it’s a tad slower than a GT350, which could do the deed in 4.0 seconds, and the GT350R, which could do it in 3.9.

It should be equally unsurprising the less powerful Mach 1 is slower through the quarter-mile trap, as well. Of course, 12.6 seconds at 113.1 mph isn’t a bad time slip, but the 526-hp GT350 did it in 12.3 seconds at 117.0 mph, and the lighter GT350R did it in 12.1 at 119.6.

Lightweight carbon-fiber wheels are also missing from the build sheet, but we really do love the look of the webbed metal pieces included in the Mach 1’s Handling package. No doubt they’re a far sight cheaper, too. Whatever the weight difference between them and the Shelby’s carbon rollers, it didn’t affect the Mach 1’s ability to stop from 60 mph: It needed only an extra foot compared to the upgraded 2019 GT350. And really, its 96-foot result is supercar territory—and a damned sight shorter than any other Mustang’s.

Like the Shelbys, though, the Mach 1’s real prowess is handling, especially equipped with the aforementioned Handling pack. Strap on the stickier tires (and aerodynamic improvements), and the Mach 1 will pull 1.05 average lateral g on the skidpad, a teensy bit more than an upgraded 2019 GT350 (1.04) and a bit less than a GT350R (1.09).

Send each around our figure-eight test, and the Mach 1’s power deficit will rear its head, if only a little. A 23.7-second lap at an average of 0.82 g is nearly as good as a 2019 GT350, which did it in 23.6 seconds at 0.83 g. It’s farther behind a lighter GT350R, though, which did it in 23.1 at 0.89. As for regular Mustangs, they can’t break out of the 24-second range.

So not only is it nearly as quick as the recent GT350, but it also drives like one on the test track. “A very racy experience,” road test editor Chris Walton reported, “with powerful and predictable brakes, excellent turn in, loads of grip, and a limited-slip differential that is freaking magic. At first, I thought I didn’t have traction control off because it was putting the power down so well, but then I jabbed the accelerator to see and kicked the rear out. Near perfect balance on the skidpad with just a whiff of understeer at well over 1.00 g. The engine sounds delicious, but it’s not what I would call snappy and responsive. One of the quickest, most confident Mustangs we’ve ever tested on the figure eight.”

As good as the Mach 1 was at the test track, it took a bit more courting on our favorite back road. One of the highlights of the GT350 and GT350R was the way you could immediately get comfortable with their handling characteristics. The Mach 1 doesn’t have that same easy charisma. It takes more experience to get tabs on how the car behaves. A Shelby feels familiar and confident within 100 feet on your favorite winding road. The Mach 1 doesn’t fully connect until you’re halfway through the drive. The car feels a bit nervous at first, a bit heavy and awkward, but once you learn to read its movements and reactions, you realize they’re false flags and you can push the car much harder than you initially think. With a full picture of its capabilities in your mental file, the Mach 1 becomes a GT350 with a lower redline. 

This car isn’t a Shelby, and Ford isn’t claiming it is. But it certainly is more than just a hodgepodge of GT, Shelby, and Bullitt parts. There’s the spirit of a Shelby in the Mach 1 that makes it more than a sum of its parts. We already miss the GT350 and GT350R, but the Mach 1 is a worthy replacement. And at just $53,915 to start, it’s a screaming deal compared to the $60,000-plus commanded by the last GT350s, too. If you can, you should pick one up—it’s a hell of a Mustang.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Specifications BASE PRICE $53,915 PRICE AS TESTED $64,860 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 5.0L/480-hp/420-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8 TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,829 lb (54/46%) WHEELBASE 107.1 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 188.5 x 75.4 x 54.3 in 0-60 MPH 4.2 sec QUARTER MILE 12.6 sec @ 113.1 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 96 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 1.05 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 23.7 sec @ 0.82 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 14/22/17 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 241/153 kWh/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.16 lb/mile

The post 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 First Test: Don’t Call It Carroll appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Maserati’s Next-Gen GranTurismo Is Gorgeous Even in Camouflage

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 18:01

The silent, smooth, uninterrupted torque delivery of an electric powertrain is exactly the sort of experience befitting a high-dollar, mega-luxe grand tourer. And it looks like Maserati agrees, if the the new GranTurismo is any indication. The next generation of the brand’s iconic 2+2 will feature the company’s first 100 percent electric powertrain, but that’s not all.

What you see here are official “spy photos” released by Maserati of its next GranTurismo, shot as it left the company’s “innovation lab” for the first time. While specific details remain sparse, Maserati has said that the next GranTurismo will feature the company’s first full battery electric powertrain (as teased in the video below). That seems like a good character fit to us.

However, if quickly flowing electrons aren’t your thing, it wouldn’t surprise us if a version of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo, 621 horsepower V-6 that features in the new MC20 also made its way into the new GranTurismo. There are even rumors that the new GT will feature a hybrid powertrain, too. The last generation GranTurismo was powered by a Ferrari-sourced 4.7-liter V-8 that made 454 horsepower and 384-lb-ft of torque, and it’s safe to say the next generation of the GranTurismo will well surpass those figures, regardless of what lies under the hood (or floor).

What we don’t have to pontificate about, however, is just how handsome the next GranTurimo will be. The pictures show that the new GT has maintained the previous generation’s proportions (with a lot of the 2014 Alfieri concept sprinkled in): a sweeping long hood, short deck and a 2+2 layout. But a bevy of MC20-inspired details—the headlights, in particular—reveal that the company’s new supercar will set the direction. We expect a thoroughly modern cabin to also take inspiration from the Mc20.

The last time we drove a GranTurismo we were swept up in its charm, despite more than a few cracks in the façade. We’re hoping this new-from-the-ground-up GranTurismo is a more complete package that befits (and perhaps reinvents) what it means to wear the Trident.

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Categories: Property

The EV Tech That Will Improve Range, Cost, and Environmental Impact

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 16:45

With most crystal balls indicating an impending mad dash toward widespread adoption of electric cars, the R&D community is working overtime to solve the thorny problems limiting the market penetration of plug-in vehicles to around 4 percent of global passenger vehicle sales: not enough range or raw materials, and too much mass and cost. Here are some key advances to watch for in battery, fuel cell, and electric motor technology.

Battery Tech

Today’s lithium-ion batteries mostly use lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide chemistry with a liquid or gel electrolyte. This stuff can freeze or catch fire, lithium “dendrite” spikes can form and cause a short circuit if the battery is charged too quickly, and cobalt is rare, expensive, and increasingly difficult to source ethically. Lithium iron phosphate chemistry eliminates cobalt and is less prone to overheating and explosion. Lithium manganese oxide also promises better temperature stability and safety. Replacing the graphite electrodes most batteries now use promises to boost energy density, and Tesla has hinted at a new electrode design employing silicon nanowires that could boost gravimetric energy density from today’s 254 Wh/kg to 400.

Solid-state batteries using ceramic or other solid electrolytes generally eliminate the fire risk, improve energy density, and permit ultra-fast recharging. QuantumScape’s design employs a simple current collector instead of an anode to save weight; prototypes are now delivering 400 Wh/kg, with 600 promised. Its ceramic separator promises to tolerate recharge rates roughly akin to the time you’d spend filling a gas tank. Solid Power is developing an iron-sulfur chemistry with Ford and BMW; the founder of defunct Sakti3 is working on solid-state batteries for Fisker. And we hear Samsung has a silver-carbon anode solid-state battery in the works.

Another important development is wireless battery management, which promises to replace heavy, costly copper wiring with faster Wi-Fi communication. All GM Ultium batteries will reportedly feature such a system. And on the materials availability front, we’re watching efforts to mine the Pacific Ocean’s Clarion-Clipperton zone, which is littered with loose potato-sized polymetallic nodules composed of 29.2 percent manganese, 1.3 percent nickel, 1.1 percent copper, and 0.2 percent cobalt. A virtual electric vehicle starter kit.

Fuel Cells

Most automotive fuel cells employ a proton-exchange membrane—they’re compact and light, and they operate at comfortable temperatures. But they need humidity (which poses water management and freezing challenges), and they require reasonably pure hydrogen. Production vehicles will use these systems for the foreseeable future. There are fuel cells that can directly extract hydrogen from methanol, but these produce CO2 and are now only used in industrial applications like forklifts. A third type is the flow battery, in which an electrolyte containing one or more dissolved electroactive elements flows through an electrochemical cell that reversibly converts chemical energy directly to electricity, depleting the electrolyte. The spent electrolyte must then be re-energized, either by plugging in and pumping it backward through the flow cell or by replacing it with fresh electrolyte and re-energizing the electrolyte offboard. Liechtenstein-based NanoFlowcell has developed a compact sports car called the Quantino powered by its flow cell but hasn’t announced a production partner. Of perhaps greater interest on the fuel cell front are technological approaches to generating, isolating, storing, and transporting hydrogen.

Electric Motor Tech

Abundant research is ongoing to improve the cost, weight, and efficiency of electric motors, too. China produces 95 percent of the rare earth materials in permanent magnets, but funding from the Defense Department’s REACT program (Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies) has produced three promising results: The University of Minnesota developed a strong and inexpensive iron-nitride magnet, the University of North Texas’ Ames Laboratory is exploring cerium as a more abundant neodymium replacement, and Argonne National Lab has an “exchange spring” magnet in the works, the science of which is utterly inscrutable to non-PhDs (happy Googling).

How magnets are arranged makes a big difference, as well. Most motors place them so their north-south poles radiate out from the axis of rotation with the gap between rotor and stator parallel to the axis. A new class of axial-flux motors, sometimes called “pancake motors,” arrange the poles parallel and the gap perpendicular to the rotation axis. This puts the magnets farther away from the axis of rotation, which increases their leverage (and therefore torque), and heat is easier to manage. The new McLaren Artura PHEV’s axial-flux motor is said to be 33 percent more power dense than the one used in the McLaren P1 hybrid hypercar.

Reluctance motors can do without permanent magnets or rotor windings altogether, and they deliver high power density at low cost, but are noisier and suffer “torque ripple” (a slight interruption in torque when transitioning between poles). But just as recent electronics advances have made synchronous reluctance motors easier to control, a power-pulsing concept from Tula Technologies promises to eliminate or hide this torque ripple, increasing this motor’s appeal for automotive applications.

Electric motors are so efficient that most do without a traditional transmission, but a better balance of launch torque and cruising-speed efficiency can be achieved with a second gear ratio roughly half that of the launch gear. Toronto-based supplier Inmotive’s bicycle-derailleur-inspired two-speed chain-drive concept requires no high-pressure lubrication or cooling, and it suffers no frictional losses from multiple gears maintaining continuous mesh. This can either stretch the range or shrink the battery by 7–15 percent. And Bosch has developed a continuously variable CVT4EV push-chain transmission offering ratio spreads of between 3.0 and 4.0, designed to provide sufficient torque from a smaller motor as speed varies.

What About Reuse/Recycling?

We were originally told tired EV batteries would get a second life of storing green energy or providing emergency backup power before being fully recycled. How’s that going so far?

Reuse: Nissan set up systems to assess and repackage its Leaf EV battery modules as replacement Leaf batteries, forklift batteries, and as the xStorage Home energy storage system. Similar home units reusing EV batteries are offered by U.K.-based Powervault, Sweden’s Box of Energy, and Australia’s Relectrify, but it’s hard to determine exactly the number or percentage of retiring EV batteries reused each year.

Recycling: When batteries are no longer usable, there are roughly 100 global companies that’ll recycle them, according to London-based Circular Energy Storage. Together they reportedly processed about half the roughly 200,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries retired worldwide in 2019. Most are in China and Korea, near where batteries are made; the recycling rate drops to more like 5 percent in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

Canadian firm Li-Cycle is constructing what promises to be North America’s biggest battery recycling center in Rochester, New York. It’s designed to process nearly 28,000 tons annually—about a third of the battery waste stream we’ll face in 2030. Li-Cycle claims its hydrometallurgical (leaching) process involves zero wastewater, minimal greenhouse gas emissions, and no landfill waste, and it recovers 95 percent of the lithium, nickel, and cobalt. This will make Li-Cycle a primary supplier of these metals and the U.S.’ only domestic source of cobalt.

Redwood Materials in Carson City, Nevada, founded by Tesla co-creator J.B. Straubel, uses a combination of pyrometallurgy (thermal extraction) and hydrometallurgy processes to recycle Gigafactory-reject cells today. This recovers between 95 and 98 percent of the nickel, cobalt, copper, aluminum, and graphite, and more than 80 percent of the lithium. Redwood has ambitions of also recycling general consumer electronics, and others are launching similar recycling efforts to recover rare earths and other precious elements used in EVs. One potential hitch: Cobalt is the money metal that really makes recycling pay, so those new battery chemistries mentioned above that eliminate cobalt could end up setting recycling efforts back.

The post The EV Tech That Will Improve Range, Cost, and Environmental Impact appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

The 4-1-1 on the Hottest 911s: Porsche 911 Turbo and 911 GT3 Compared

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 15:00

If you don’t consider yourself a Porschephile, the Porsche 911 model lineup can be maddeningly complex. The 992-generation 911 (which launched in 2019) consists of Carreras, Cabriolets, and Targas, S and 4S models, multiple versions of the 911 Turbo, and a 911 GT3—and there are more on the way. In the coming years, we’re expecting the lineup to grow with the addition of the 911 GT3 Touring, 911 GT2, and 911 GTS, among others. But as of today, if you want the ultimate high-performance 911, you’ve got two options: the 911 Turbo S and the new 911 GT3. They share a penchant for going fast and setting blistering lap times but take wildly different approaches to doing so. Here’s how the Porsche 911 Turbo S and Porsche 911 GT3 are similar and how they differ.

Porsche 911 Turbo S vs. 911 GT3: Curb Appeal

Although both the 911 Turbo S and 911 GT3 roll down the same production line, there are some clear visual differences that go beyond trim-exclusive wheels or colors. Up front, the 911 Turbo S looks a bit more like the 911 Carrera, thanks to a similar front air intake design (though the Turbo’s is larger and features three sections) and a frunk design that harkens back to the classic 930-generation 911 (1975 to 1989). Hiding beneath the Turbo S’ air intake is a retractable spoiler that deploys automatically above certain speeds or in Sport Plus mode. The 911 GT3’s nose is a bit different. Its hood, made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, features a distinctive snout that works with its unique front clip to increase downforce at high speeds.

Around back, the 911 GT3 features a manually adjustable swan-neck rear wing plus a decklid spoiler, a functional rear diffuser, and twin center-exiting exhausts. The 911 Turbo S has an automatically deploying rear spoiler integrated into the decklid as well as twin air intakes on its rear quarter panels and a quad-tipped exhaust.

Inside, the 911 Turbo S is among the most luxurious and tech-forward members of the 911 line, with upscale materials, an electronic shifter, and four seats. The race-ready 911 GT3 loses the rear seats and gets thinner window glass to save weight, while features such as its mechanically operated shifter (which shares its knob with the manual version) and its specific center stack show its track focus.

The 911 Turbo is also available in coupe or cabriolet form, whereas the GT3 is only sold as a coupe.

911 GT3 vs. 911 Turbo S: Under the Hood

This is where the 911 GT3 and Turbo S really start to diverge. Although both share a rear-mounted flat-six engine, there are some major differences in the character of the two.

The 911 Turbo is powered by a 3.7-liter twin-turbo flat-six that produces 572 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque in Turbo trim or 640 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque in Turbo S form. That power is sent through a PDK eight-speed dual-clutch automatic to a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. The 911 Turbo S is currently the second-quickest car we’ve ever tested, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 2.3 seconds.

The 911 GT3 skews old school in its drivetrain setup. It’s powered by a high-revving 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six that produces 502 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque. The exclusively rear-wheel-drive 911 GT3 gets a PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic to save weight versus the eight-speed unit in the Turbo S. A six-speed manual is available, as well. A PDK-equipped 911 GT3 we recently tested sprinted from 0-60 mph in just 2.7 seconds.

Both cars have four-wheel steering and massive brakes, but the 911 GT3 gets a unique, race-derived multilink front suspension and specific dampers designed to improve steering feel and turn-in agility.

911 Turbo S vs. 911 GT3: How Do They Drive?

With the caveat that we haven’t driven the two 911s back to back on the same road at the same time, both are unmistakably “Porsche” yet feel like entirely different cars.

The 911 Turbo S—and there’s no other way to put this—is stupid fast. With the Turbo S, Porsche has somehow created an internal combustion car that delivers its power with the ferocity and immediacy of an electric performance car like Tesla’s Model S or Porsches own Taycan. The 911 Turbo S launches so hard off the line that unsecured items will go flying backward in the cabin, and it feels as if you’ve somehow slowed the Earth’s rotation as you rocket forward.

The grip doesn’t let up in bends, either. Thanks to its torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, and massive brakes, the Turbo S can be chucked hard into a corner and the driver can get on the power early, allowing the Porsche to claw its way out of the corner at speeds far faster than should be possible. The 911 Turbo S never quite feels challenged out on the road, leaving it up to you to focus and improve your driving to wring the most out of the car.

By contrast, if we had to use one word to describe the 911 GT3, it would be “emotional.” Whereas the 911 Turbo S is sort of like a Westworld host—sentient but still somehow robotic—the GT3 is organic through and through. A 9,000-rpm redline (and a tach that reads to 10,000 rpm) will do that to you.

Big, naturally aspirated, and full of character, the 911 GT3’s engine feels like the swan song for internal combustion. Unlike many high-revving, naturally aspirated engines, it makes a solid wave of power right off idle and holds it all the way to redline. And because the engine isn’t breathing through turbos, it has a ferocious wail of a soundtrack with the sort of intrinsic quality usually reserved for big V-8s.

The unique front axle and suspension also makes a big difference. The GT3’s ride is firmer and a bit less forgiving, while its front end feels lighter and more agile—delivering its grip not through an extra driveshaft but purely through clever mechanical engineering. Put another way, if the 911 Turbo S claws its way through canyons, the 911 GT3 digs into corners like an ice skate biting into a turn.

How Much Does Each 911 Cost?

Usually, “less” car (as in fewer creature comforts in favor of more track performance) costs more in this space, but the 911 bucks that trend. Prices for the 911 GT3 start at $162,450—though it’s quite easy to option one up well over $200,000. The 911 Turbo’s base price is $175,650, with the more powerful Turbo S starting at $208,350 for 2022. The Turbos are available now; the GT3 will be released stateside this fall.

SPECIFICATIONS 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S BASE PRICE $162,450 $204,850 PRICE AS TESTED $197,770 $224,780 VEHICLE LAYOUT Rear-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe Rear-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 4.0L/502-hp/346-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve flat-6 3.7L/640-hp/590-lb-ft win-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6, alum block/heads TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto 8-speed twin-clutch auto CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,213 lb (40/60%) 3,628 lb WHEELBASE 96.7 in 96.5 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 180.0 x 72.9 x 50.4 in 178.6 x 74.9 x 50.9 in 0-60 MPH 2.7 sec 2.3 sec QUARTER MILE 10.8 sec @ 127.9 mph 10.3 sec @ 132.3 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 93 ft 97 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 1.15 g (avg) 1.10 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 22.3 sec @ 0.95 g (avg) 22.5 sec @ 0.96 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 15/20/17 (est) mpg 15/20/17 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 225/169 kWh/100 miles (est) 225/169 kWh/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.15 lb/mile (est) 1.15 lb/mile

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The Worst Part About the Ford Bronco Sport Is Its Name

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 14:00

Driving the new 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is an exercise in explaining what it is and, equally important, what it isn’t. The new Bronco Sport is many things—off-roadcapable, great to drive, and well designed—but what it isn’t is the Ford Bronco. I couldn’t drive anywhere in the Bronco Sport without hearing one of the following comments:

“Oh. That’s the new Ford Bronco? It’s smaller than I expected.”

“Bronco Sport? Like a Raptor?”

“Isn’t that supposed to be a convertible?”

The public aren’t the only people confused. Mainstream press—and even the occasional automotive media outlet—have at times mistaken the Bronco Sport for the “big” Bronco, using the former’s photos or specs to represent the latter. If the people who are paid to know these things get it wrong on occasion, how can the public be expected to keep things straight?

I don’t fault Ford for adapting the Bronco name to a family of vehicles—in fact, it’s a great business move—but in choosing the Bronco Sport name and launching the Bronco Sport first, Ford has set itself up for this headache.

What’s in a Name?

“Sport” has become an increasingly meaningless term in the auto industry. Tacked on as an afterthought to a name to mean “smaller” (in the case of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, and Nissan Rogue Sport) or as a trim level to mean “looks vaguely performance-oriented,” (Subaru Forester Sport) or “the cheap one” (Jeep Renegade Sport), “Sport” is a lazy way to name any new vehicle.

Ford seems to have known this. Back in 2019 when we first started reporting about the baby Bronco, the Blue Oval was bandying about two names: Bronco Scout and Bronco Adventurer. Of the two, Ford seemed to have really taken to the Bronco Scout name, even going so far as to file for trademark applications for both “Bronco Scout” and “Scout” for “land motor vehicles.” That’s likely where Ford ran into trouble. The Bronco-rivaling International Harvester Scout is long gone, but its corporate legacy lives on as part of Navistar International, which still owns the name for “land vehicles over 2,400 pounds,” including “pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.” (As an aside, Navistar International is itself partially owned by Traton SE, the Volkswagen Group’s truck and bus arm.)

With Bronco Scout off the table, Ford appears to have gotten cold feet on the name Bronco Adventurer, and instead of bringing back another name from its past (like Bronco II) or thinking up a new one, it rather lazily adopted the name Bronco Sport for the baby Bronco, thus ensuring the confusion of legions of customers.

The Broncos’ Odd Cadence

Usually when launching a new brand—sub or otherwise—you go with the halo product first. The Land Rover Range Rover sits atop a Range Rover lineup, which also includes the Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar, and Range Rover Evoque. Ford went the opposite with the Bronco due to plant availability, and the pandemic made things worse.

The new Bronco is to be built at the automaker’s Michigan Assembly Plant alongside the Ford Ranger. Although the Bronco and Ranger will eventually share a platform, the current Ranger rides on a unique platform as far as Ford’s North American operations are concerned. That means that to build the Bronco, Ford had to tool up the Michigan Assembly Plant from scratch, which takes time.

Built at the company’s Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant in Mexico, the Bronco Sport was always supposed to hit the streets first. Its C2 platform architecture is shared with the Ford Escape, which went into production in Hermosillo back in 2019. That makes the addition of a related model line relatively easy, but even so, Ford product planners likely didn’t anticipate a half year separating the on-sale dates for the baby and big Broncos.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed both vehicles’ launches, the baby Bronco to winter 2020 (from fall 2020) and the big Bronco to spring 2021 (from winter 2020). Compounding COVID, the worldwide chip shortage delayed things even further. The new Bronco is now set to hit dealer lots late this summer.

What Does This All Mean?

We reached out to Ford for comment on the Bronco Sport’s name and how it plans to combat public confusion over the two Broncos, but we have yet to hear back.

Despite general confusion surrounding the Bronco Sport’s position in the marketplace, ultimately, we suspect this will be a moot point. Few these days confuse a Discovery Sport for a Discovery. Once the Bronco finally goes on sale and starts becoming commonplace on streets across the country, we expect most Bronco Sport/Bronco confusion will quickly dissipate. In the meantime, though, Bronco Sport owners and Ford dealers ought to be prepared for lots of conversations that begin with, “Well, actually …”

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Unplugged Performance Reveals Insane Model S Plaid Pikes Peak Racer

Sat, 06/12/2021 - 23:56

On June 10, 2021, Elon Musk formally kicked off deliveries of the 1,020-hp Tesla Model S Plaid. Approximately two days later, on June 12, Unplugged Performance debuted its race-prepped Model S Plaid that’s set to compete at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (with our resident pro racing driver, Randy Pobst, behind the wheel). You might remember that at last year’s race Pobst had a little moment and unexpectedly flew the Unplugged Performance Model 3 off the course. In a feat of determination, the Unplugged Performance team rebuilt the car overnight, and Pobst placed second in the exhibition class—and in a car with only half its horsepower!

What Is It?

Unplugged Performance’s Plaid racecar uses the stock powertrain from the top-line Model S. The interior is almost completely stripped out. After ditching items such as the car’s airbags, a center console, and door panels, Unplugged Performance fit this tri-motor Tesla with a roll cage and a racing seat with six-point racing belts. The body is stock except for a huge front splitter and a gigantic adjustable rear wing. Likewise, the Plaid racer retains its factory air springs, however, it employs custom Unplugged Performance/Bilstein dampers and a three-way adjustable rear anti-roll bar. The car rides on Yokohama Advan slicks on custom forged aluminum wheels. The so-called Pikes Plaid retains its stock brake calipers but subs in Unplugged Performance/PFC rotors. Air jacks? Yes ma’am. This thing is a real race car. Before the car gets to Colorado, the company intends to fit its front end with a set of fully adjustable upper controls arms, adjustable rear camber arms, and high-performance brake pads.

Unplugged Performance pulled the covers off of its Pikes Plaid racer at the third annual Hypercar Invitational happening at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca. The company finished the vehicle at 3:00 am on June 11, loaded it on a trailer, and then drove it straight to the track. In other words, the first time the completed car was ever driven was when it rolled straight out of its garage at Laguna Seca and onto the track’s racing surface—just the way it should be. Pikes Plaid is in full shake-down mode for the next two days. Pobst was able to silently pass several Lamborghinis, Porsches, and McLarens, before shattering the splitter on his second lap of the day.

What Is Unplugged Performance?

Founded by Ben Schaffer in 2000 to customize Japanese cars (Ben was even an extra in The Fast and The Furious), Unplugged Performance moved into a building next to Tesla’s Hawthorne design studio in 2013—right next to SpaceX. Through that physical connection, Unplugged Performance began talking to Tesla about modifying automaker’s EVs for enthusiasts. After falling in love with EVs as performance cars, Unplugged performance quickly began building race cars, and in 2020 it brought a tuned Tesla Model 3 to Pikes Peak. The difference between last year’s Model 3 and this year’s Plaid?

“Power is the big one. This is more than four times the power we ended up racing last year. Unintentionally so,” Schaffer said. Obviously, the Model S is heavier than the Model 3, however, “the battery pack and the cooling systems are much better.”

Illustrating this point, Schaffer points out that as the state of charge decreased in the Model 3, “the power would go down in ratio to some degree.” The same does not hold true for the Unplugged Performance’s Pikes Plaid racer. At one point Pobst rolled into the pits at Laguna Seca with 34 percent charge remaining, only to announce the car feels as quick as it does with a full charge. “That’s a big difference.”

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Spec Check: 2022 Ford Maverick vs. 2021 Honda Ridgeline

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 20:25

Considering the compact 2022 Ford Maverick and midsize 2021 Honda Ridgeline pickup trucks are in two different classes, this breakdown of the specifications is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. What these Ford and Honda trucks share in common, however, are construction methods. Rather than traditional body-on-frame construction, the Maverick and Ridgeline both rest on car-like unibody bones. We already compared the Maverick to Hyundai’s Santa Cruz, and now it’s the Ridgeline’s turn to step into the ring.

Ford Maverick vs. Honda Ridgeline: Overall Utility

Let’s start with some basic figures. The Ford Maverick is 199.7 inches long and has a 121.1-inch wheelbase; its estimated curb weight is between 3,550 to 3,750 pounds. The Maverick’s versatile FlexBed is 4.5 feet long, although it expands to 6.0 feet with the tailgate down. In contrast, the Honda Ridgeline has an overall length of 210.2 inches and rests on a 125.2-inch wheelbase. We weighed a Ridgeline Sport with the available HPD kit at 4,444 pounds. Moreover, the Ridgeline’s bed measures around 5.0 feet in length, which expands to almost 7.0 feet with the tailgate down.

The Ridgeline offers 33.9 cubic feet of cargo space (not counting the 7.3 cubic feet in its lockable, under-bed storage box), whereas the Maverick sports 33.3 cubic feet. Passenger volume for the Maverick checks in at 100.3 cubic feet, while the Ridgeline offers a maximum of 109.7 cubic feet.

Ford Maverick vs. Honda Ridgeline: Performance and Efficiency

The Ridgeline relies on a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque for motivation. All-wheel-drive is standard, as is a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The Maverick, meanwhile, is available with two powertrains. The base gasoline-electric hybrid unit relies on a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a pair of electric motors to push 191-hp to the front wheels. A 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 is available, too. The more powerful option comes standard with front-wheel drive, however, all-wheel-drive is available.

Efficiency-wise, the Ridgeline sips fuel at a rate of 18 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg combined, per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA’s yet to release fuel economy figures for the Maverick, however, Ford estimates the compact pickup will return figures 40/33/37 mpg city/highway/combined when equipped with its hybrid powertrain. The automaker remains mum on fuel economy estimates for the turbocharged truck.

Ford Maverick vs. Honda Ridgeline: Towing and Payload Capacity

When equipped with the optional 4K Tow package, the Maverick can tow up to a maximum of 4,000 pounds. Payload capacity, meanwhile, stands at a maximum of 1,500 pounds. Avoid the tow package, and the little Ford tows a maximum of 2,000 pounds. The Ridgeline, meanwhile, offers maximum payload and towing capacities of 1,583 pounds and 5,000 pounds, respectively.

While front-drive Mavericks sport 8.3 inches of ground clearance, AWD models welcome an additional 0.3 inch of ground clearance for a total of 8.6 inches. Approach, breakover, and departure angles for the FWD Maverick are 20.6, 16.6, and 21.9 degrees for the front-drive Maverick, respectively. Adding AWD raises those figures to 21.6, 18.1, and 21.2 degrees. Honda’s Ridgeline offers 7.6 inches of ground clearance, while its approach, breakover, and departure angles come in at 20.4, 19.6, and 19.6 degrees. If off-roading is key to your unibody truck purchase, the Ford seems to be the better bet—at least on paper.

Ford Maverick vs. Honda Ridgeline: Pricing

The 2021 Honda Ridgeline starts at $37,665. Opt for the optional HPD appearance package and the entry-level Ridgeline Sport’s price rises by $2,800. Honda’s midsize pickup truck is available in three additional trim levels, too: RTL, RTL-E, and top-of-the-line Black Edition.

In Ford’s corner, the 2022 Ford Maverick XL will start at just $21,490 and is available in two higher variants: XLT and Lariat, both of which are available with an optional FX4 off-road package when equipped with AWD and the turbocharged engine. The trail-ready kit includes the likes of 17-inch wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires, additional underbody protection, and more.

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So, I Bought a 1994 Dodge Caravan With a Manual Transmission

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 19:00

As the hand struck who-knows o’clock, the online car shopping vortex sucked me in once again. For months I’d been on the hunt, motivated by whimsy as much as need. Instinctually I punched in my search parameters. Image? Has. Color? Green. Transmission? Manual. Price? A Camaro’s convertible top costs more.

By that point I was used to miscategorized ads, but this one said “five-speed manual” right up top. The photos confirmed it—a shifter wrapped in a rubber accordion boot stood proud on the floor. Calls were made, dollars were extracted, papers were signed. Next thing I knew, I was cruising home in my 1994 Dodge Caravan minivan.

This is no hoity-toity Grand Caravan, mind you—rather, it is shockingly basic. Five seats and a single sliding door is about all there is to it. It lacks a tape deck, power windows, or central locking. A tachometer is another peculiar omission since, yes indeed, the 2.5-liter I-4 sends its 100-odd horsepower to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.

See, this came from an era when a three-speed automatic was an upgrade. Most buyers chose it; the manual is quite rare. Also rare is this example’s condition: a one-owner California car with just more than 70,000 miles. A few blemishes aside, the tan cloth upholstery and emerald metallic paint present beautifully.

I adore this machine. I revel in its starkness. I care about it more than any car I’ve owned. You probably wonder why, and you probably wonder what’s wrong with me.

A part of me likes being a time capsule’s steward. The Caravan is in great shape, and it’s on me to keep it that way. I, like you perhaps, have memories borne from minivans like this. We hopped in and out of them at school, smashed our fingers closing their pop-out side windows, and eventually snuck them away for late-night shenanigans. This period piece resurfaces those moments. These days especially, remembering how things used to be feels so valuable. After a drive in one of MotorTrend’s test vehicles—be it a ripping run in a mid-engine roadster or lazy miles passed in an SUV equipped with advanced driver aids—it’s refreshing to get back in my Caravan. It’s an automotive palate cleanser whose meager performance and features make any new vehicle I drive feel like a futuristic supercar.

This is all especially pertinent to the minivans we just pitched against each other in a comparison test. I took my van out to meet the latest and greatest vans on the market—actually, every minivan on our market—and their equipment and capabilities would have been unthinkable when the ’94 Caravan and its competition were in showrooms. Lounging in the Carnival’s sublime second-row seats or pushing the Odyssey’s robust V-6 shows how far minivans have come. With its manual transmission and simplistic feature set, my Dodge is essentially a box on wheels built to carry people or things. Today’s minivans are so much more.

I get it if you don’t get it. The appeal is purely esoteric. But what my Caravan has—or rather, doesn’t—proves how, even as the segment dwindles, minivans are in their best form yet.

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The Ford Ranger SVT V-8 Prototype Tested: Smoke Machine With a Bed

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 18:00

On the occasion of the reveal of the 2022 Ford Maverick—the first truly compact pickup truck from the company since the old Ranger was discontinued in 2011—we took a look in our archives and noticed that the 1996 Ford Ranger SVT V-8 prototype is actually out-muscled by the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost version of the new Maverick. And the V-8, rear-drive Ranger SVT had a lot of trouble getting its tires to hook up, while we assume the all-wheel-drive EcoBoost-powered Maverick will have significantly less trouble.

Either way, it’s worth a look back at a fascinating compact muscle truck that never was, and to consider what the similarly-sized Maverick could bring to the table in terms of performance.

Read our original first test from August 1996 below:

Not everyone’s going to like the SVT Ranger V-8. But then, Ford isn’t building this truck for everyone. In fact, this one-off engineering prototype was only released to MotorTrend for this exclusive first test.

Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering group knows there’s way too much hair on this sport truck’s knuckles to please the multitude of main-street poseurs who’ve slipped into pickups and designer western wear. So even if Ford decides to fire this potent model down the assembly line, we’re expecting only about 5,000 a year to see the light of day.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; Ford Motor Co. hasn’t committed this truck to production yet. Created for Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), which is responsible for the 305-horsepower SVT Mustang Cobra and F-150 Lightning full-size pickup, this one-off has been undergoing review by high-level managers and engineers for possible production in the ’98 model year.

An elite internal group established in 1991, SVT has been commissioned to create factory-produced “driver’s cars and trucks” with a balance between engine and chassis, road holding and supple ride, and refinement and performance.

What we found during our demanding review was a well-sorted-out development mule with quick steering, a firm but reasonable ride, and chassis dynamics that reminded us distinctly of the past-generation Mustang GT. But its most unrefined and entertaining talent was the ability to whip 240 loud horses into action. Yeee-haaaaaa!

A close look at the ingredients baked into the bones of this bad-boy pick ’em-up truck reveals why we can’t wait to get one into our long-term test fleet. The foundation is an anvil-simple 4×2 Ranger. Ford engineering then raided the Mustang GT and Explorer parts bins to create an extremely lively and capable version of its compact pickup.

Inside, things are likewise simple. The instrumentation consists of standard Ranger fare: a speedo, a tachometer, and coolant-temp, oil-pressure, voltage, and fuel-level gauges. There’s a center console with dual cupholders and a shallow, covered storage bin. The seats are buckets with firm foam and “SVT” stitched into the fabric. SVT obviously spent its money on modifying the go-stuff and not on extra interior frills.

The base price on this red-hot hauler is likely to hover just below $20,000 with goodies like air conditioning, power steering, a sliding rear window, a premium sound system, and foglamps. Add in power options and a passenger-side airbag and you’re out the door for about $22,000. That isn’t cheap, but hey, it’s about four grand less than a nicely equipped Mustang Cobra, and you can’t carry a Jet Ski or a set of dirt bikes in the back of a pony car.

SVT’s styling philosophy is to skip the wild graphics and tack-on air scoops. As a result, this truck is a bit of a sleeper with only four clues to the beast within: the wide wheels and tires, a mildly lowered suspension, four-wheel discs, and two large stainless exhaust pipes poking through the rear roll pan.

The most radical, but not obvious, modification to the exterior sheetmetal is the grafted-on Explorer front end. While that might sound like a backyard tweak, it actually entailed some pretty serious bodywork and welding because the straight edge of the Explorer’s front fenders wouldn’t normally mate with the curvy leading edge of the Ranger’s doors.

Getting back to the altered exterior elements: The chrome five-spoke wheels were borrowed from a Mustang Cobra R. Debate continues within SVT over a flat-silver or chrome finish for the production truck. There’s no question the Ranger SVT has a big footprint. The front wheels are shod with 255/45ZR17 Goodyear Eagle GS-Cs. In the back, even wider 285/40ZR17s were fitted on the same 17×9.0-inch alloys.

Great rubber can make a big difference in the turning and stopping performance of any vehicle, but it can’t overcome poor weight balance. Remember, this is a pickup. They’re inherently tricky when it’s wet or icy and there’s no load in the bed, because most of the static weight (in this case, 2,204 of the 3,554 pounds) is concentrated over the front wheels. With an iron-block V-8 in a compact truck, the problem can be intensified. Despite this condition, the SVT Ranger posted a respectable best stop of 148 feet from 60 mph—thanks mostly to the four-wheel discs and the anti-lock electronics stolen from the Explorer.

SVT engineers gave us a taste of things to come with this Ranger’s prototype short- and long-arm suspension: The next-generation Ford compact truck will be fitted with a similar SLA system. Critical to the cab’s ride, this front suspension provides a reasonably smooth cruise given its core missions of steering accuracy and tight anti-roll control. Even with its high-rate springs and big roll bar, we never felt uncomfortable. And that’s saying something considering Michigan’s pothole-infested concrete road system.

The Ranger’s engine bay is filled with a 5.0-liter Cobra OHV V-8 pulled from a pre-’94 Mustang and equipped with an oil cooler, a fabricated aluminum radiator with a thick core, custom headers, and a hand-built stainless exhaust system with about as many special sections as Bill Gates’ tax return. Still, as tricky as that all may sound, we’ve seen much tighter engine-to-engine-bay fits. This truck experienced no cooling problems, even during track testing, and seemed to have completely reasonable service access. Given a modicum of self-restraint, a V-8 Ranger driver can eke out highway fuel economy in the high-20-mpg range. Around town, it should be mid-teens, or lower if you’re constantly squeezing the go-trigger.

The 5.0 is the engine that rebuilt the Mustang legend. Driving it in the Ranger illustrates why. Despite outstanding acceleration numbers, the 7.2-second scoot to 60 mph doesn’t even begin to tell the whole performance story. Just like any powerful, unloaded pickup, the Ranger has trouble hooking up with the pavement. And that’s fine if your mission is to fry Goodyears and leave a thousand miles worth of black rubber stripes at every intersection. But it also makes leaving the line an involved process. To get our best time, we had to launch with just 1,200 revs on the tach, and we still had too much spin.

Ford took a scientific approach to the wheelspin gremlin by installing a Zexel-Torsen torque-sensing differential—but it was easily overwhelmed. Of course, with a few well-positioned bags of gravel or peat moss in the bed to place some weight over the rear wheels, 0—60 times might have been closer to the mid-to-low sixes. This Ranger’s quarter-mile best of 15.1 seconds is quick enough to surprise Z28 drivers, but it’s the stout 94.1-mph trap speed that shows the midrange and top-end go-power of this none-too-aero pickup.

A rugged TR-3550 Tremec five-speed manual transmission was bolted behind the 5.0, ensuring that durability would be there for repeated “executive reviews.” Our experience is that these boxes are bulletproof. On the downside, the 5.0-liter’s rev limit and the top of the Tremec’s second gear occur just below 60 mph, requiring a shift to third that added a frustrating extra couple of tenths to our runs to 60.

If this little performer actually makes it to market for under $20,000, we think Ford might want to adjust its volume projections to more than 5,000 a year. The Ranger SVT is an absolute hoot to drive.

Tech Data: Ford Ranger SVT Prototype GENERAL/POWERTRAIN Body style 2-door, 2-passenger Vehicle configuration Front-engine, rear-drive Engine configuration V-8, OHV, 2 valves/cylinder Engine displacement, ci/cc 302/4942 Horsepower, hp @ rpm, SAE net 240 @ 4800 Torque, lb-ft @ rpm, SAE net 285 @ 4000 Transmission 5-speed manual Axle ratio 3.73:1 DIMENSIONS Wheelbase, in./mm 113.9/2893 Length, in./mm 196.3/4986 Base curb weight, lb 3554 Fuel capacity, gal. 17.0 Fuel economy, EPA city/hwy., mpg 17/25 (est.) CHASSIS Suspension, f/r Upper & lower control arms/live axle Steering Recirculating ball, power assist Brakes, f/r Vented discs/discs, ABS Wheels 17x 9.0, chromed aluminum alloy Tires, f/r Goodyear GS-C, 255/45ZR17//285/40ZR17 PERFORMANCE Acceleration, 0-60, sec 7.2 Quarter mile, sec/mph 15.1/94.1 Braking, 60-0, ft 148 PRICE Base price $19,950 (est.) Price as tested $22,250 (est.)

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2022 Ford Maverick vs. New and Old Ford Ranger: Spec and Size Check!

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 17:00

The 2022 Ford Maverick has everybody with a lick of interest in the pickup truck market sizing it up—literally. Its relatively diminutive size is as noteworthy as its low price and standard 40-mpg-city hybrid powertrain. But how much different in size it is to offerings from other brands is a key to understanding what, exactly the Maverick is. Too close to the current Ranger in major dimensions and it’d have some trouble standing apart. Luckily, there’s enough white space in between the two that the Maverick has its own unique niche to fill, as you’ll see in a second.

But what about the old Ranger? The last holdout among truly small body-on-frame pickups—Tacoma went midsize for 2005, the S-10 bowed out in favor of the larger Colorado for 2004, and the second-generation Frontier also grew for 2004—the compact Ranger held on until 2011.

Unlike, say, Nissan, Ford declined to tap its global, midsize Ranger as a replacement, instead gently pushing buyers into low-priced versions of its full-size (and more profitable) F-150 range. Now, ten years later and in a regulatory and consumer environment that is putting pressure on fleet emissions and economy, the compact truck is back. While it’s much, much different than the Ranger, it’s close enough in size to draw some interesting comparisons.

How Big Are The Maverick, Ranger, and Old Ranger?

At a hair under 200 inches long overall, the Maverick is slightly smaller than the longest old Ranger and a lot shorter than the newer one. But in other major dimensions, it floats in between the two. The old Ranger came in two wheelbases (single-cab versus extended SuperCab); the crew-cab-only Maverick slots neatly in between. And with the wheels pushed out further and the short bed, you can see that compared to the new Ranger, it has more wheelbase relative to its length. It also has a wider track than even the new Ranger, giving it a hunkered-down, car-like stance.

How Do They Compare on the Inside?

The Maverick is taller than the old Ranger, too, a hint at the much greater spaciousness in the cabin. That’s to be expected; the old Ranger was only available in single-cab or extended-cab SuperCab formats. A crew cab configuration—the sole way you can get a Maverick—wasn’t an option. But in terms of roominess, it’s comparable to the new Ranger, only lacking a bit in terms of front headroom.

Otherwise, it’s solidly on par—comparing SuperCrew Ranger to Maverick like-to-like, the Maverick has a rear legroom and rear headroom advantage. In total, the Maverick has 100.3 cubic feet of passenger volume to the 97.6 cubes of the Ranger SuperCrew. Remember, today’s Ranger also comes as an extended-cab SuperCab, with a stubbier rear seat area that isn’t terribly passenger-friendly.

How Much Room do They Have in the Beds?

The Maverick’s major trade-off to achieve a livable cabin with a relatively compact overall footprint is evident around back. The bed is small—just 54 inches in length, over 18 inches shorter than the 6-foot bed in the Ranger old and new. But volume is relatively healthy, closer to on par with the the old Ranger thanks to a taller bed (20.3 inches compared to just 16.5 inches). And the optional tubular bed extender, to some degree, negates the length advantage by lengthening the enclosed bed space to an effective 6 feet. Plus, the Flexbed’s tailgate has a half-down position, which also helps to haul larger items.

What About Payload?

In terms of sheer volume, the 2022 Maverick is on par with the compact Ranger, and its 1,500-pound payload rating is notably greater than the base 2011 Ranger—much closer to the highest-payload versions of the old Ranger (and, for that matter, many versions of the midsize pickups on the market today). Users that need to haul heavier but less bulky items—think bags of concrete rather than dirt bikes—might find this combination of characteristics desirable.

And Maximum Towing Numbers?

Where the Maverick falls a little short, and shows one limitation of its unibody construction, is in absolute towing numbers. When properly equipped, it’ll tow 4,000 pounds, but the old Ranger could tow 1,860 pounds more. And the larger, stouter Ranger can handle 7,500 pounds. That said, the Maverick’s base tow rating is greater than the old Ranger’s.

How Powerful and Efficient Are the Engines?

While the new Ranger, somewhat infamously, only offers a single powertrain—a turbo 2.3-liter that produces a stout 270 hp and 310 lb-ft—both the penultimate Ranger and the new Maverick offer some choices. The Maverick’s base powertrain, a hybrid-CVT combo, has no parallel, and is far and away the MPG champion, offering up to 40 mpg. But without estimated fuel economy for the more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost Mavericks, it’s tough to draw further conclusions about how it stacks up against its forbear and larger stablemate.

One thing seems clear: the turbocharged Maverick has a favorable power-to-weight ratio. In front-drive form, each horsepower has 14.3 pounds to haul; the 168-pound penalty for AWD reduces this to 14.9. But that compares well to the lightest new Ranger, the 2WD SuperCab, which nets out at 15.6 pounds per horsepower. Meanwhile, the base 2011 Ranger single cab 2WD, for reference, nets out at 21.2 lbs/HP, while the Maverick hybrid edges slightly ahead at 19.2 lbs/HP.

Especially in AWD form, the turbocharged Maverick should be sprightly. But it remains to be seen if torque steer rears its twisty head in the EcoBoost FWD.

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Next-Gen Audi RS3 Keeps Its 400-HP-Plus Five-Cylinder Engine

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 16:00

There’s good news and then there’s even better news. The first bit is that Audi, like many automotive manufacturers, has committed to a sustainable future. The expansion electrification of their lineup, with the all-electric E-Tron GT and Q4 E-Tron leading the way. The other piece of good news, the one we’re more excited about? Audi feels internal combustion engines aren’t going anywhere in the near future. To that end, Audi appeared to confirm a great engine for a fun car: A new-generation RS3 is coming and it will carry the brand’s iconic five-cylinder engine under its hood.

The news didn’t come in so much an out-and-out statement that these two things were coming as a hint from a photo in a recent release. In it, the new A3 family is pictured, with what appear to be the sporty RS models (both the sedan and the hatchback) parked in the foreground all camo’d up. (The decaf S3 hatchback and sedan have already broken cover, so the RS variants are the only new A3 models left to make their debut, hence why they’d be covered up.) There, plastered on the side of the camouflaged RS cars was a string of numbers that read “1-2-4-5-3.” It doesn’t take too much guessing or stretching of the imagination, if you’re an Audi fan, to figure out that those figures hint at the firing order of a five-cylinder engine.

Audi’s turbocharged 2.5-liter I-5 features in the current TT RS and the previous-generation RS3. In those applications, the engine made about 400 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. We expect power and torque outputs to see a slight bump (expect between 10 and 20 more horses) when the silk is pulled off the RS3s later this year. The extra grunt will accompany a host of other expected improvements, from a stiffer chassis, new suspension, and a more clever version of Audi’s Quattro AWD system.

Just like with the previous RS3, the four-door sedan will be the only version that makes it to the United States. Though Americans don’t buy hatchbacks anymore, plenty of sedans are still sold here every year, and that means the little four-door RS3 will live on for at least one more generation. Good news, indeed.

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Kaido House Has Mastered the Art of Custom Diecast Models

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 15:01

Diecast car collecting has been around for over five decades, but in recent years has seen a pretty significant upswing—and with it a wave of customizers that pride themselves in dissecting and personalizing these 1/64-scale specimens. Meet Jun Imai, an artist, diecast customizing wizard, dedicated car enthusiast with an admitted obsession with Japanese cars of yesteryear, and probably one of the reasons that cool Hot Wheels you snatched off the shelf at your local Target while whispering “yesss!” to yourself even exist.

His Kaido House brand has become a source for hardcore diecast collectors to drool over and, when the stars align, actually get their hands on a one-off, entirely scratch-built custom. But for those who can’t, Kaido House has expanded with a line of offerings that bring the Imai’s vision to the masses.

Seed Planted

Based on the sorcery Imai applies to these tiny diecast creations, it’s only natural to assume he’s been a collector since childhood and eventually started customizing. In actuality, it was the radio controlled (R/C) world that pulled him in. At 5 years old, while living in Japan, Imai’s parents gifted him a Tomy Skyline Silhouette R/C car that never left his side. Countless AA batteries later, at age 11, his first hobby-grade R/C car came into the picture and he and his friends were hooked.

His fascination would turn to full-blown obsession after he received a Tamiya Blackfoot for his birthday—a car that he still owns to this day. He recalls, “That experience of assembling the kit from start to finish, painstakingly painting the body, applying all of the stickers, then doing that first wide-open throttle pass down the street sounds extremely familiar to us in the 1:1 world. Once you get into the option parts in R/C, it’s game over.”

Scaled Down Stress Relief

The urge to modify and improve is the heart and soul of R/C car building, that we know, but how did that translate to diecast cars?

“I rediscovered diecast cars while at Art Center College of Design,” Imai told us. “I was out looking for some inspiration for a car design project and happened to come across the Hot Wheels section at a local drugstore in Pasadena. I found one of my favorite cars, a ’64 Lincoln Continental. It was white with a red interior. I’ve always wanted to build a black ’64 Continental bagged on whitewalls, so I disassembled the Hot Wheels car and made it the way I wanted it.”

“That set off a feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction in a way, and scratched that customizing itch I couldn’t get to at school,” Imai continued. “Before Art Center, I’d built a ’93 Toyota pickup with a 4Runner front clip and Boyds billet wheels, but didn’t enjoy it much at school. I found more diecast cars I liked—a Mercedes 190E, Pikes Peak Celica, ’69 Chevy C10, and started cutting them up and having fun. It was a great way to blow off some steam from the stress of design. It’s interesting to think that after college and brief periods in the car studios, I’d end up working for Hot Wheels.”

Imai’s 14-year experience with Hot Wheels began as a temp designer and later saw him move all the way up to Director of Product Design. Surrounded by the diecast creations he loved and actually helped bring to the public for so many years, why leave a good thing?

“Working my way up the ladder to Director at Mattel was a crowning achievement in my career. I took pride in leading a world class design team and contributed to the product that earned the status as the number-one-selling toy in the world. I felt that I had gained all the expertise I could in diecast design. For myself, a personal fulfillment was made, and it was time to move on from a career perspective. I decided to go into a completely different field and pursue technology. I was tapped on the shoulder to enter the world of A.I. to build something that had never been done before—an autonomous race car series. I joined Roborace in the summer of 2018 as Product Director, and it was mind blowing. I had the experience of a lifetime with the group and am forever grateful. In 2020 I was invited to join a growing EV startup, Canoo, as Program Director and decided to join them. I’ve been working on some incredible vehicle projects there.”

In terms of career moves presented on a resume, all of the above make perfect sense, but there’s much more to Jun Imai’s urge to create. His personal brand, Kaido House has served as an outlet of sorts for his artistic automotive energy to spill over into something with essentially no boundaries, as he’s calling all of the shots for both his die-cast endeavors and his ever-expanding stable of full-size cars (like the turbo KA-swapped Datsun 510 wagon build you see below).

“A space with no limits. Kaido House challenges the status quo. Why do what everyone else is doing? It’s all about that character. I strive to have Kaido House projects drip with distinctive flavor and I try to apply this concept in every car project I do, which is why many of my builds take on a sort of unexplainable look that makes it ‘Kaido House.’ Now, the brand has a growing fan base which I am truly grateful for, along with several top tier auto and consumer product partners who see where the brand is going.”

The effort has resulted in close ties to industry staples, like GReddy Performance Products, where I met with Imai for an in-person look at just a sample of his incredible array of customs, the likes of which would be shipped to their lucky owners shortly after our meeting.

One-off Comes at a Cost

Each of these hand-crafted collectibles, which start life as a 3D model, are truly one-of-a-kind. There have been times when Imai put together a small batch of one particular style for Kaido House and various partners during special events, for example, but other than those, you won’t find any clones being offered and that exclusivity—along with his well-known otherworldly attention to detail—is why these customs sell quickly after they’ve been revealed via the Kaido House website. Like any hard-to-obtain collectible, total exclusivity comes at a price. It’s not unusual for one of Imai’s latest diecast art pieces to fetch a four-figure price. Previously, a waiting list was set up and at one point carried over 100 eager, committed buyers. Not content with having fans at the bottom of the list wait for so long, the “post and sell” model was instituted and seems to work much better.

Despite having painstakingly pieced together over 300 customs over the last two years, customization has never become robotic; Imai seems to rely on his gut rather than a set process. “I used to approach customs methodically, but now it is purely random and by feel. I don’t take requests from individuals as this limits expression. I believe this is a very different approach as I do not offer customization as a service. It is rather a creative outlet for myself and my ideas. I view a diecast car as a blank canvas full of creative freedom. I can cut, grind, paint, and detail to whatever style I am feeling at that moment. Recently I have been experimenting with weathering and patina, and I call these works the DESTROY series. These are great fun as there is no planning, only full commitment with paints, brushes, and an airbrush. I often get lost in this process, in a good way. Doing decals and clearcoat in a pristine execution is an appreciated skill, but that can get boring. I much prefer to freestyle and build with no end target.”

Customs for Everyone

Of course, not everyone has the sort of scratch to score a Kaido House original, and that’s what makes Imai’s latest endeavor that much more interesting. He explains, “I’m proud to launch an all-new diecast product line with my partnership with Mini GT. Our first release, an all-new Pro Street Datsun 510, is taking the diecast world by storm with many firsts, such as the first to use alloy wheels on a mass produced 1:64 diecast car, and the unique finishes on the chassis. When you pop the hood of the Pro Street 510, you’ll see the exact same GReddy KA24DET that was built for my wagon, along with the distinctive livery that appeared on my wagon almost 10 years ago. And when was the last time you saw a Pro Street 510 in 1:64 diecast, slammed on Japanese four-spokes and a turbo-4? This is the Kaido House way.”

Essentially the next step in Imai’s diecast journey, the Datsun 510 project with Mini GT represents a piece of Kaido House creativity for everyone. “It’s a very different product than my [one-of-one] customs, but it definitely creates an opportunity for fans to own a distinctive product that’s a bit easier to add to their collections. It offers a premium, Kaido House designed and branded product at a very competitive price point and with a high level of content.”

Second Chance

The overwhelming response and number of pre-sales for the initial run of Datsun 510 Pro Street models with Mini GT went well beyond what Imai was anticipating. But not to worry, there’s another release on the horizon. “The second release will be announced soon and that one will be a drop no one should miss. You’ll all see why soon. Stay tuned on my IG’s, @kaidohouse and @kaidohousegarage (diecast specific) for more details on when they’ll drop and where you can get them. Also, stay up on and for all of the details as well.”




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Mazda’s Dealership Experience Is as Nice as Our 2020 CX-30

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 12:00

Our long-term 2020 Mazda CX-30 has been with us for 11 months now, and it has finally called for its first service. That’s less of a commentary on Mazda’s service intervals and more of a reflection of how close to home we’ve stayed in the lost year of 2020. Nevertheless, with our Mazda asking for its first trip to the dealer, we obliged and took care of a couple of recalls while we were at it.

Are Mazda Dealerships Nice?

Over the past few years, I’ve had long-termers from both mainstream automakers and luxury brands. With Mazda on a march upmarket into the luxury space, I was curious to see what the dealership experience was like—would it be more like a Jeep or Chevy? Or more like an Audi or Mercedes?

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Mazda dealership experience fell squarely on the luxury side of the spectrum. I showed up 15 minutes early for my appointment (made painlessly online without having to pick up the phone) and was quickly greeted, offered a bottle of water, and whisked into the well-appointed (and socially distanced) waiting room. Whereas mainstream automakers’ waiting rooms (and even some luxury ones) tend to be DMV-like (low rent and tucked into a corner and out of sight of prospective new customers), Mazda’s waiting room was in the center of the showroom, where it was surrounded by Mazda 3s, MX-5 Miatas, and CX-5s on lifts.

Whereas most dealerships leave you wondering when your car will be ready, the Mazda dealer kept me up to date on the status of the CX-30 via text.

What Does the CX-30’s First Service Entail?

Like most cars these days, the CX-30 analyzes your driving habits and will let you know on the instrument cluster when it’s ready for service. Regardless of how much or how little you drive, you can expect about 10,000 miles between each service interval. For its first service, the CX-30 requires an oil and filter change, as well as a tire rotation. Standard stuff.

2020 Mazda CX-30 Recalls

There were two open recalls on our CX-30 when we brought it in. The first concerned a condition where our Mazda’s Bose audio system could suddenly play loud static, which sounds like it’d be super annoying if it had ever happened to our SUV. The second had to do with the way the CX-30 brakes when using its adaptive cruise control. The update to the cruise control system is supposed to make the system feel more human. We’ll report back on whether we notice any changes in a future update.

How Much Did It Cost Us?

Despite the luxury-like experience at the dealer, it sure didn’t cost us that much. Our total bill was far shy of the $500 bills we’re used to seeing at Mercedes or Audi dealers. With both recalls performed under warranty, our CX-30’s first service costs us a grand total of $143.18.

Read More About Our Long-Term 2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD:

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2022 Kia Carnival vs. Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna: Minivan Luxury Liners

Fri, 06/11/2021 - 11:00

From the 1980s through the late ’90s, families and minivans went together like ketchup and French fries. That was certainly the case among my friends’ families, all of whom drove around Mexico City in white Ford Windstars. Our own green Windstar was easier to spot in our school’s pickup/drop-off line, but its sliding door, spacious interior, and carlike ride were no less perfect for our usual carpool of six. Prior to that van, we had a red Windstar and a white Chrysler Voyager, but those ended up being stolen. See, we told you minivans were popular.

But the rise of two-box crossovers and SUVs led to the stigmatization of minivans as an unfashionable mom-mobiles despite off-the-charts versatility and convenience. And just like that, these carefully packaged, thoughtfully designed vehicles were replaced by less practical and less adaptable three-row SUVs.

Today’s minivans go all out in terms of technology and features in an attempt to swing the pendulum back. We gathered the fanciest, top-trim versions of the entire segment—including the newest kid on the block, the Kia Carnival—plus three dads (Dr. Bob Cho, chief of staff at Shriners for Children Medical Center in Pasadena; MotorTrend head of editorial Ed Loh; and senior features editor Jonny Lieberman) and yours truly, a single 32-year-old with vast experience living with and driving such vehicles, to see which modern, luxury-leaning minivan reigns supreme.

Four Vans Enter, One Van Leaves

As mentioned, every minivan available in America was represented. First up was a 2021 Chrysler Pacifica S Limited AWD with black wheels and badging. Our Pacifica came loaded with Stow ’N Go second-row seats, dual rear screens, and the Stow ’N Vac onboard vacuum cleaner to keep things tidy. Its eye-watering price—$56,090—made it the most expensive of the group. (The Voyager is Chrysler’s lower-priced model, but it’s simply a decontented Pacifica by another name.)

Our 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite didn’t necessarily match some of the other vans’ wow features, but it’s a longtime top choice in the segment. One of its key tricks is CabinWatch, which displays a live camera feed of the rear seats on the infotainment screen so you can keep an eye on the kiddos at all times. At $49,390, our Odyssey included a (temporarily on hiatus) vacuum cleaner and a rear entertainment package.

The all-new (and new to America) 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona and arrives specifically to challenge perceptions. The boxy, SUV-like styling is intended to look mature and upscale—and, crucially, less vanlike—and in this high-level SX Prestige spec, its interior feels more Mercedes than minivan. The SX Prestige’s standard (and unavailable on other trims) second-row VIP recliners do a decent impression of first-class airplane seats, and its dual rear entertainment screens with Baby Shark branding make it a favorite of young kids. The $47,770 asked for the tip-top trim in our test gives it a serious leg up on value, too.

Finally, there’s the 2021 Toyota Sienna, which was overhauled this year as a hybrid-only entry. It’s rated for 36 mpg on the highway even with all-wheel drive, and the front seats flank a highly practical center console that both opens up the cabin and increases storage options. Our example was a Limited with a $54,138 price tag.

Comfort, Entertainment, and More

Besides the usual apps, the Carnival’s rear entertainment feels as up to date as the streaming stick in your house, and it offers Netflix, YouTube, and Twitch options, plus wireless device mirroring via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. We also like the handy power seat controls on the front passenger seat back, which make more room in a pinch (so long as the seat’s occupant is amenable). It lacks some of the clever storage solutions of some of the other vans—its center console doesn’t transform or fit a purse—but its cubbies and cupholders are all right where you expect and plentiful besides.

The Pacifica’s optional rear screens come with a Blu-ray player and have handy, easily accessible USB and HDMI ports. Even so, we’d skip the $2,495 package and put that money toward an in-vehicle Wi-Fi subscription and a couple of tablets. For those with the latest personal electronics, Pacifica offers USB-C outlets, as does the Sienna.

The Honda and Toyota have just one rear screen each, potentially problematic for multikid families even with their split-screen functions. The Odyssey’s has a couple of built-in games and such, but the Sienna’s only plays media connected to its HDMI port.

Given the luxury/empty-nest vibe of these pricey vans, we loved the Carnival SX Prestige’s VIP seats, which slide back, recline, and include fold-out ottomans, and which also move sideways to ease third-row access through a widened middle aisle. “They’re heated and ventilated and would be great for long trips with the family,” Cho observed after attempting to take a nap. They don’t move forward enough to allow adults third-row ingress, but any kid you’d stuff in the back can slither through the gap—or between the seats—no problem. If you’ll use the third row with frequency, though, lesser Carnivals offer normal captain’s chairs or a bench with a central section that can become a table.

Toyota’s second-row seats are similarly luxurious, albeit without power adjustment (good in terms of speed) or built-in footrests. “Tons of legroom in the second row,” Loh said. “Good seat comfort overall, and in the first row, too. Third-row access isn’t difficult once you figure out where the levers are. What’s missing is a ceiling-mounted camera to keep a close eye on kids. All the other minivans had one.”

The Pacifica’s second-row Stow ’N Go seats easily stash in floor cubbies to help you haul huge items—or make a limolike rear seat—but the trade-off is thin, less comfortable seat cushions and the inability to slide forward or aft. In addition, “the front seats are uncomfortable, with the upper back jutting out farther than the lower section,” Lieberman said.

The Odyssey has tons of legroom and headroom everywhere, and its cushy second-row seats can slide forward, back, and sideways. “Access to the third row is the easiest thanks to this flexibility,” Cho said. “Great for, say, grandparents who may have arthritic joints.”

The Chrysler has the best infotainment setup; its Uconnect system is intuitive, has crisp graphics, and supports wireless Apple CarPlay. The Carnival’s gorgeous, Mercedes-like pair of screens made jaws drop, and its software is only slightly less user-friendly than the Pacifica’s. Honda and Toyota have fallen behind in this game; neither infotainment setup is as advanced in terms of the screens, graphics, or user experience. And the Sienna’s backup camera suffers from extremely poor resolution. “The Chrysler’s feels 4K, but the Sienna’s feels VGA,” Loh said.

Which One Drives the Best?

Minivans aren’t known for being enjoyable to drive, but a responsive, predictable vehicle can instill confidence behind the wheel—important when you want to keep your brood safe. During our drive loops on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, we applauded the Pacifica for its pleasant driving experience. “Good steering, handling, and brakes were engineered into the Pacifica,” Lieberman said. “Hats off for that.” Cho described the driving experience as closer to a car than a van and noted the nimble and agile dynamics.

The Honda’s ride is a little more jittery than the Pacifica’s, but its engine and transmission form a formidable and smooth-working team—even though the Chrysler felt the quickest on the road, the Odyssey actually came out on top in our straight-line acceleration tests. Honda engineers also paid close attention to steering quality and linearity, which Loh described as “just about perfect.”

The Carnival’s smooth-riding suspension is on the soft side, imparting more body motion in corners than we’d generally prefer. Acceleration is adequate, but the transmission isn’t as quick to shift or select the proper gear as the Odyssey’s. Still, the Kia’s laid-back nature and more luxurious cabin combine for a relaxing, upscale experience.

Everyone agreed the Sienna’s brake pedal was numb and difficult to acclimate to, and that its engine is too noisy with even light pedal applications. Cho and Lieberman decried the Sienna’s disconnected feel and that its various chassis elements do their work in isolation, not harmony. Loh, however, lauded its 35-mpg combined EPA rating. “The powertrain is refined enough for those willing to suffer some noise for far superior fuel economy,” he said.

Which Is the Safest Minivan?

Even when they’re loaded up like our quartet, minivans are still family vehicles, so excellent safety technology and ratings are critical. The Honda and Toyota include suites of safety tech, as is the case across their respective lineups. Honda Sensing and Toyota Safety Sense include features such as automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. These items, as well as superior headlights and outstanding crash tests, helped the Odyssey and Sienna score the IIHS’ coveted 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award.

The Pacifica also offers myriad safety features, but unlike the Sienna and Odyssey, the 2021 Pacifica hasn’t been tested by the IIHS. The 2020 model received the 2019 Top Safety Pick award, but only those models with optional crash mitigation technology and specific headlights. On our drive, we disliked how some safety settings are buried deep in the infotainment menu, while others are controlled by physical buttons on the center stack.

The IIHS hasn’t tested the Carnival yet, as it’s only been out for a couple of months. However, its long list of standard safety features includes lane keep assist and automatic emergency braking. Adaptive cruise control and a blind-spot camera that shows the adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster are available in higher trims such as our SX Prestige. For its part, Kia anticipates a Top Safety Pick award.

OK, Which One Should I Buy?

Across its entire lineup, but especially in this four-van shootout, the Kia Carnival makes an extremely strong argument in terms of value. “It feels like the most expensive van in the test, but it’s actually the most affordable.” Loh said. The Odyssey and Sienna also make good cases for themselves with flexible storage and clever packaging, but in their top-spec trims, they simply feel dated and less modern and feature-rich. The Pacifica is a letdown in terms of value; it may drive the best among the bunch, but its disappointing interior materials don’t justify its price.

5-Year Cost of Ownership Breakdown 2021 Chrysler Pacifica S Limited AWD 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite 2022 Kia Carnival (SX Prestige)* 2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Hybrid AWD AVG STATE FEES $1,334 $1,260 $1,185 $1,335 DEPRECIATION $32,099 (57%) $23,794 (49%) $25,633 (56%) $26,137 (47%) FINANCING $5,633 $4,886 $4,541 $5,489 INSURANCE $7,409 $6,911 $7,394 $8,216 FUEL $8,554 $7,645 $8,498 $5,056 MAINTENANCE $2,651 $2,875 $2,605 $2,356 REPAIRS $873 $683 $186 $694 TOTAL 5-YEAR COST OF OWNERSHIP $58,553 $48,054 $50,043 $49,283 INTELLICHOICE Target Purchase Price $56,546 $49,031 $45,582 $55,094 *Kia Carnival information unavailable at this time; data is for 2021 Kia Sedona

“There are very few outright flaws in the Sienna,” Loh said, “and it has considerable engineering and efficiency advantages.” Still, the hybrid powertrain and smartly designed cabin weren’t enough to slot it above the other three vans. Its numb brake feel, loud powertrain, and dated technology sealed its fate.

The Pacifica came in third. Its high price and cost of ownership didn’t help, especially against the Kia’s superior style, quality, and technology, but the Chrysler’s versatility, connectivity, and dynamics helped it edge out the Toyota. “If AWD and cargo flexibility are important to you, this car is probably the winner,” Cho said.

The Odyssey scored second place. It does so many things right—its storage areas and cupholders are plentiful and easy to access, and its interior is roomy enough that you won’t hear complaints from kids, parents, or grandparents. “The Odyssey may not be as stylish as the Carnival,” Loh said, “or quite as nice to drive as the Pacifica, or have a whiz-bang hybrid system like the Sienna, but everything functions seamlessly.”

That puts the new Kia Carnival in the winner’s circle. Yes, the Carnival has its flaws, but it’s simply too good in too many areas to deny. It has most of the features you and passengers of all ages could want at a highly attractive price. Even after a couple weeks of schlepping around after this comparison test, the Kia was the van we—and most important, our family members—most wanted to be in.

Although one van clearly stands out among this fully loaded foursome, there’s little doubt today’s models are the best ever, and we’d be eager to repeat this test with lesser versions that sit more at the heart of the minivan market. French fries and ketchup remain a go-to combination, and here’s hoping families and vans become a classic combo once again.

4th Place: Toyota Sienna

Pros: Standard hybrid powertrain, EPA-rated 35 mpg combined with AWD, practical center console.

Cons: Engine noise, looks sportier than it is, dated-feeling infotainment system.

Verdict: Amazing fuel economy and good storage, but poor brake pedal feel and lack of family-friendly features relegate it to this spot.

3rd Place: Chrysler Pacifica

Pros: Good handling for the class, Stow ’N Go flexibility, high-res and easy-to-use infotainment system.

Cons: Lackluster interior material choices, the priciest, few showstopper features.

Verdict: The driver’s choice, but its eye-popping MSRP and segment-trailing materials mean this former segment leader has been passed by the competition.

2nd Place: Honda Odyssey

Pros: Quickest in the test, has hill-friendly shift paddles, best third-row access.

Cons: Outdated infotainment setup, front-drive only, third row somewhat difficult to raise and lower.

Verdict: A really good all-rounder, surpassed only by the greatness of our winner.

1st Place: Kia Carnival

Pros: Incredible value, long list of thoughtful features for the whole family, upscale styling.

Cons: VIP seats don’t move for people and cargo, no available hybrid or AWD, ride is a little too plush.

Verdict: Big value, tons of comfort, attractive looks, modern tech—the list goes on. The Carnival shakes up the segment.

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS 2021 Chrysler Pacifica S Limited AWD 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite 2022 Kia Carnival (SX Prestige) 2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Hybrid AWD DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD Front-engine, FWD Front-engine, FWD Front-engine, AWD ENGINE TYPE 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads I-4, alum block/head, plus rear permanent-magnet electric motor VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl SOHC, 4 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DISPLACEMENT 220.0 cu in/3,605 cc 211.8 cu in/3,471 cc 211.8 cu in/3,470 cc 151.8 cu in/2,478 cc COMPRESSION RATIO 11.3:1 11.5:1 12.3:1 14.0:1 POWER (SAE NET) 287 hp @ 6,400 rpm 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm 290 hp @ 6,400 rpm 189 hp @ 6,000 rpm (gas), 180 hp (elec), 245 hp (comb) TORQUE (SAE NET) 262 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm 262 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm (gas), 199 lb-ft (elec) REDLINE 6,400 rpm 6,800 rpm 6,750 rpm Not indicated WEIGHT TO POWER 17.2 lb/hp 16.2 lb/hp 16.4 lb/hp 19.5 lb/hp TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic 10-speed automatic 8-speed automatic Cont variable auto AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.73:1/1.79:1 3.61:1/1.87:1 3.51:1/2.27:1 NA SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar STEERING RATIO 15.7:1 14.4:1 14.2:1 14.3:1 TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.0 BRAKES, F; R 13.8-in vented disc; 13.4-in disc, ABS 12.6-in vented disc; 13.0-in disc, ABS 12.8-in vented disc; 12.8-in disc, ABS 12.9-in vented disc; 12.5-in vented disc, ABS WHEELS 7.5 x 20-in cast aluminum 7.5 x 19-in cast aluminum 7.5 x 19-in cast aluminum 7.5 x 18-in cast aluminum TIRES 245/50R20 102V Falken Ziex CT50 A/S (M+S) 235/55R19 101H Bridgestone Turanza EL440 (M+S) 235/55R19 101H Continental CrossContact RX (M+S) 235/60R18 102V Bridgestone Turanza LS100 (M+S) DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE 121.6 in 118.1 in 121.7 in 120.5 in TRACK, F/R 68.8/68.8 in 67.3/67.2 in 68.5/68.5 in 67.7/68.5 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 204.3 x 79.6 x 70.7 in 205.2 x 78.5 x 69.6 in 203.0 x 78.5 x 68.5 in 203.7 x 78.5 x 68.5 in TURNING CIRCLE 40.2 ft 39.6 ft 38.0 ft 38.3 ft CURB WEIGHT 4,935 lb 4,541 lb 4,759 lb 4,781 lb WEIGHT DIST, F/R 56/44% 55/45% 55/45% 53/47% TOWING CAPACITY 3,600 lb 3,500 lb 3,500 lb 3,500 lb SEATING CAPACITY 7 8 7 7 HEADROOM, F/M/R 38.4/38.0/38.7 in 38.7/39.2/38.3 in 39.7/37.6/36.5 in 40.1/39.3/37.4 in LEGROOM, F/M/R 41.1/39.0/36.5 in 40.9/40.9/38.1 in 41.1/40.5/35.6 in 40.3/39.9/38.7 in SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R 63.8/63.0/61.2 in 63.1/61.6/60.0 in 64.2/63.2/59.5 in 62.4/62.7/58.5 in CARGO VOLUME, BEH F/M/R 140.5/87.5/32.2 cu ft 140.7/91.0/38.6 cu ft —/86.9/40.2/cu ft 101.0/75.2/33.5 cu ft TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 2.5 sec 2.6 sec 2.7 sec 2.4 sec 0-40 4.0 3.7 4.0 3.8 0-50 5.6 5.2 5.5 5.5 0-60 7.8 6.7 7.5 7.6 0-70 10.3 8.7 9.7 10.1 0-80 13.3 11.1 12.1 13.0 0-90 17.2 13.8 15.4 16.6 PASSING, 45-65 MPH 4.2 3.3 3.9 4.1 QUARTER MILE 16.0 sec @ 87.1 mph 15.2 sec @ 94.5 mph 15.7 sec @ 90.7 mph 15.8 sec @ 87.8 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft 123 ft 118 ft 125 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.78 g (avg) 0.75 g (avg) 0.80 g (avg) 0.82 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.0 sec @ 0.58 g (avg) 29.1 sec @ 0.56 g (avg) 27.9 sec @ 0.60 g (avg) 28.2 sec @ 0.59 g (avg) TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,500 rpm 1,500 rpm 1,600 rpm NA rpm CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE $50,705 $48,995 $47,275 $51,635 PRICE AS TESTED $56,090 $49,390 $47,770 $54,138 AIRBAGS 8: Dual front, front side, f/m/r curtain, front knee 8: Dual front, front side, f/m/r curtain, front knee 6: Dual front, front side, f/m/r curtain 10: Dual front, front side, middle side, f/m/r curtain, driver knee, passenger thigh BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles 10 yrs/100,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles* ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/100,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles 2 yrs/unlimited miles FUEL CAPACITY 19.0 gal 19.5 gal 19.0 gal 18.0 gal + 1.9 kWh Ni-MH battery EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 17/25/20 mpg 19/28/22 mpg 19/26/22 mpg 35/36/35 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 198/135 kWh/100 miles 177/120 kWh/100 miles 177/130 kWh/100 miles 96/94 kWh/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.98 lb/mile 0.87 lb/mile 0.90 lb/mile 0.55 lb/mile RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular Unleaded regular Unleaded regular Unleaded regular *Hybrid system coverage extends to 8 yrs/100,000 miles, hybrid battery coverage to 10 yrs/150,000 miles

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Production-Limited 2022 Chevy Corvette Special Edition Celebrates IMSA Racing Success

Thu, 06/10/2021 - 23:55

Let’s just say the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R race cars did pretty well in the 2020 IMSA series, taking home the Manufacturer’s, Drivers’, and Team titles. To commemorate this, Chevy whipped up a special edition package for the 2022 Corvette Stingray: the 2022 Corvette Stingray IMSA GTLM Championship Edition, which debuted at Belle Isle in Detroit. It’s not quite the so-called “Stingray R” we thought the pace car at Road Atlanta hinted at, but it has a similar vibe and may be the final version of that idea. And certainly there are broad similarities.

What the 2022 Corvette Stingray IMSA GTLM Championship Edition’s name gives up in length, it makes up for in relative rarity. Just 1,000 of these specially-equipped C8s will be built, and both take after the race cars and exude a performance flavor.

The foundation for the Championship Edition is the Stingray 3LT Z51 in either Accelerate Yellow (to honor the No. 3 car) or Hypersonic Gray (the No. 4), to which the special edition adds a $6,595 bump. That upcharge nets buyers contrasting accent stripes—gray for the yellow car, and yellow for the gray—and a bevy of special touches. A Carbon Flash-painted high-wing spoiler, yellow brake calipers, black-finished “trident” wheels with “Jake” center caps, Carbon Flash-painted mirrors, black rockers, and splash guards are the main pieces. And don’t forget the large “C8.R” decal on the flank.

But there are also a number of other changes. Special numbered plaques record the build number, while a custom car cover done up with one of the C8.R liveries is standard. Yellow seat belts compliment the Strike Yellow and Sky Cool Gray cabin on both exterior colors.

Sadly, those in right-hand-drive markets won’t get any. This is the first Corvette to have a native RHD variant, so that’s some consolation at least. The order books for all 2022 Corvettes—which have some new paint colors and exterior feature options—open on July 1, and this includes the Championship Edition option. 2022 Corvette coupe prices start at $62,195, and convertibles at $69,695.

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