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  • Ford and Roush Performance team for the “Old Crow” Mustang GT to salute military veterans. 
  • “Old Crow” takes its inspiration from the P-51 Mustang which saw combat during World War II.
  • The special Mustang hits the auction block during the 2019 AirVenture show in Wisconsin this week.

A custom Mustang GT, inspired by a P-51 Mustang fighter flown by triple ace Col. Bud Anderson of the U.S. Army Air Force, is about to hit the road. Ford and Roush Performance are behind this special Mustang GT, nicknamed “Old Crow.” The special Mustang was built to mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. It’s just like Anderson’s P-51 Mustang (minus the six 50 cals): Good-looking, fast, and wonderfully overpowered.

One Crazy Ace

We better get this out of the way right now: Jack Roush is kinda nuts, especially when it comes to airplanes. He has had, what, two bad crashes, maybe three, as I recall. One of those should have killed him outright when he boomed into the middle of a lake, except one of the people living on the lake saw him and went out and rescued him. So, given Jack’s love of Fords, excessively powerful engines and planes (in that order), doing up a version of the latest Mustang, like a famous Mustang from World War II, makes complete sense.

Roush is also a longtime friend of Anderson’s.

The “Old Crow” Mustang GT Takes Flight

The one-of-a-kind Mustang (sadly, it will not even be a limited production model) will be auctioned at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s 2019 AirVenture show on Thursday July 25th in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. You do know about Oshkosh? Well, just in case you don’t, the one word answer is GO! You really have to check it out. It’s like Goodwood combined with Pebble Beach, combined with the vintage races at Laguna Seca, only for airplanes. They call it “The Gathering” and it’s the perfect venue for the “Old Crow” Mustang GT.

“This year’s design is especially fitting for the 75-year commemoration of D-Day and the special place we reserve for heroes like Col. Anderson and countless others who demonstrated unparalleled valor and sacrifice,” said Craig Metros, Ford Design Director. “It’s an annual highlight for many on the Ford design team to pay homage to our war heroes by creating a custom tribute vehicle to support the next generation of aviators.”

Auction proceeds benefit the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Aviation Foundation, which encourages younger and aspiring pilots.

The P-51 Mustang is a single seat, single engine fighter originally produced in 1940 by North American Aviation. The plane saw action in World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts.

“Old Crow” Mustang GT: Power & Performance Specs

The “Old Crow” Mustang GT features a custom paint scheme and badging, replicating Col. Anderson’s iconic P-51 Mustang fighter plane. A Roush custom grille with a P-51 Mustang badge graces the front; the words “Old Crow” are painted on the hood, and a nice Eighth Air Force emblem adorns the decklid panel. Like the P-51 it emulates, the “Old Crow” Mustang GT is all about power and performance, thanks to a Ford and Roush Performance TVS R2650 supercharger. This helps to squeeze 710 horsepower and 610 lb-ft. of torque from the 5.0-liter V8 engine. There’s also a cold air induction system and X pipe from Roush Performance, plus a custom active exhaust system from Ford Performance.

The chassis gets a going over (thankfully) with Ford’s MagneRide damping system. All of that considerable horsepower and torque gets to the ground through a set of custom, 20-inch Roush wheels and 275/35R Continental ExtremeContact sport tires. In keeping with its namesake, aerodynamics were at the top of the list. There are Roush rear fascia aerofoils, a Ford Performance front racing spoiler; a rear spoiler from the 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500, slick custom heat extractors on the hood, and blue rainbow-tinted exhaust tips that emulate the P-51’s exhaust.

On the inside, “Old Crow” is far from the Spartan war machine of 70 plus years ago. It’s fully customized with an aircraft-inspired interior, featuring military-themed green leather and canvas along with a red shifter and door handles. “P-51” adorns the passenger-side dashboard. “Old Crow” even includes a Sparco four-point harness, as well as the nice performance touch of the aluminum rear seat-delete.

Col. Bud Anderson.

In Person & How To Bid

The “Old Crow” Mustang GT will be on display during the AirVenture show from now until the 18th. AirVenture attracts more than 600,000 aviation enthusiasts (e.g. propeller-heads) to Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin every year. That’s more than Woodstock, more than The Indy 500. Like I said, it’s a big deal. Those who wish to bid on “Old Crow” can call 920-426-6573, or email: gathering@EAA.org.

Also, in case you don’t know who Col. Bud Anderson is; he shot down more than 16 planes in Europe during World War II, flew 116 combat missions, including a six-hour mission on D-Day, was never hit by enemy fire (not even once) nor was he ever forced to withdraw from an aerial engagement. This added up to more than 25 decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and Air Medal. Oh, and he was best friends with Chuck Yeager.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Right Stuff once described him as “the best pilot I ever saw.”

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Experimental Aircraft Association, Ford Motor Company, Roush Performance.

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96
Excellent
Overall Impression
Superb Performance.
Numerous safety features.
Lots of connectivity options.
Pros
Engine Power
Ride & Handling
Luxurious Interior
Cons
Tiny Rear Seat

The BMW 8 Series is back and it’s better than ever after a long hiatus from the 1990s. This luxury model gets plenty of performance, more power, and tons of new technology. This is a true driver’s car that offers superior on-road dynamics without sacrificing comfort, unlike many performance cars. With a zero to 60 time of 3.8 seconds, and the ability to drop the top in 15 seconds, the BMW M850i xDrive Convertible will satisfy driving enthusiasts.  

This week, we’ve been driving the new BMW M850i xDrive Convertible. 

BMW M850i xDrive Convertible: What’s New For 2019?

The BMW M850i xDrive is entirely new for the 2019 model year. It revives the 8 Series nameplate last seen in 1999. It comes in coupe and convertible body styles, depending on your preference. BMW focused on the strategic use of steel, aluminum, and magnesium throughout the body and suspension to help reduce the big car’s weight. The soft-top uses multiple layers of fabric to also reduce weight and keep unwanted road noise out. For extra style points, we recommend the optional M Carbon Exterior Package. It adds carbon fiber air intake bars, mirror caps, and a rear diffuser. 

Features & Options: The Laundry List 

The 2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible ($121,400) comes standard with 20-inch M wheels and adaptive LED/laser headlights; power-folding heated mirrors, a power trunk lid, soft-close doors, and automatic wipers; front and rear parking sensors, a sport exhaust, selectable drive modes; and finally, all-wheel steering and an automated parking system. Our convertible tester gave us a standard wind deflector and the optional neck warmers. A heads-up display and a 360-degree camera were also standard.  

Inside, there’s dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview and driver’s-side mirror, and a virtual instrument panel; heated and power-adjustable front seats with memory functions and ambient lighting. Standard tech treatments include Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay, run through a 10.25-inch touchscreen that displays navigation and the surround-view camera. Also on the tech front: a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless charging pad, and BMW Remote Services (emergency communications, remote controls, and concierge services).

Lastly, our M850i tester came with the upgraded Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system. Total MSRP including Destination: $131,395. By comparison, the 2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible starts at $122,395.  

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible.

Related: An in-depth look at the 2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe.

Features & Options: Safety & Security 

The number of driver assistance and other advanced safety systems is nearly endless. Standard features include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams. Our tester included the optional Driving Assistant Professional package. One highlight is the Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, effective up to 130 mph. That same package also includes Lane Keeping Assistant with Active Side Collision Protection. 

Another top safety feature is the rollover protection system, which initiates if the on-board electronics sense impending danger. Two high-strength aluminum rollover bars (behind the rear headrests) extend via a pyrotechnic charge. BMW says this forms a “survival space” for occupants in the event of a rollover.

The Comfort Seating Package includes a remote start, ventilated front seats, heated front seat armrests, and a heated steering wheel.

Interior Highlights: Nice In Front, Cramped In Back 

After opening the long doors, we had to stoop quite a bit to get in, but once seated, this performance car’s interior will leave you feeling like you never want to leave. There is a long reach just to buckle up, but the heated and ventilated leather seats are as comfortable as it gets. They didn’t leave us tired after a long commute to Denver from the mountains. The seats come in Merino Individual leather with a luxurious accent stitching, and it’s hard to argue with how comfortable they are. 

The front seats are 20-way-adjustable and the telescoping steering column offers plenty of travel for all drivers to find the perfect position. You will feel snug in the wrap-around cockpit without being confined, and there’s plenty of lateral space for your arms. Top up or down, this cabin is a pleasant place to spend time unless you are in the back seat. Rear-seat space is limited to just smaller cargo, or maybe an occasional ride for the kids. Just gaining access to the rear requires shimmying through a narrow passage and it’s not an easy task. And after you get out, you could need a chiropractor for a back adjustment.  

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible interior layout.

Interior Highlights: Plenty of Connectivity 

Unlike some luxury cars, the controls are fairly intuitive and easy-to-use, for younger generations that is. We tried the gesture controls for just the basic audio functions, but we aren’t tech savvy enough to use them. We had trouble even adjusting the radio volume. Over time, you can get used to them, and they may even become your preferred way to adjust the all the controls. Nevertheless, with this new 8 Series, connectivity is key. In-vehicle apps include news, weather, and an online search feature. BMW’s Navigation Professional system provides a multimedia system with 20 GB of memory and two USB ports. 

Related: 10 convertibles that will make your summer more enjoyable.

BMW M850i xDrive Convertible: Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The 2019 BMW M850i xDrive features a turbocharged, 4.4-liter V8 producing a healthy 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft. of torque. Two twin-scroll turbochargers with charge air cooling are positioned within the “V” of the cylinder banks. For the return of the 8 Series, BMW gave the engine’s vital systems, like the camshaft timing and fuel injectors, a complete overhaul. The V8 comes mated to an eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic, sending power to all four wheels.

EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 17/26 city/highway and 20 combined mpg. The transmission and navigation system work together through something BMW calls “intelligent networking” to aid fuel economy. Punch in a destination and the transmission adjusts its shift points for the best fuel economy based on the planned route.  

The 2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible features a turbocharged, 4.4-liter V8 producing a healthy 523 horsepower.

Driving Dynamics: Off The Charts 

At this price point we expected big things from this luxury performance car and we were not disappointed. We would even go farther and say the M850i exceeded our expectations after a week behind the wheel. We pushed a button on the console to lower the top, and drove up a curvy canyon road west of Denver one afternoon.

The M850i inspires confidence and it’s easy to drive in a manner worthy of its creator. From the commute down the mountain into Denver, to pushing the M850i hard to its upper limits around the curves, this performance car blows the top off the fun-to-drive meter. The V8’s throaty performance exhaust note just begs you to push it harder. And we did.  

Driving Dynamics: Impressive Performance 

On our daily commute through the mountains around Evergreen, the M850i felt sure-footed with its all-wheel drive platform. We dropped the gearbox into Sport and Sport+ modes and pushed around the tighter corners. In these modes, the ride gets stiffer but the Adaptive M suspension with its electronically-controlled dampers makes quick work of the corners. Despite the M850i Convertible being a bigger car, body roll was hardly noticeable.  

On the open highway we dialed it back to Comfort mode. The adaptive dampers soften to absorb bumps and ruts for a ride better than you’ll experience in most luxury sport coupes. BMW’s xDrive system being rear-biased is a strong selling point for us. On the open road and in situations where all-wheel drive is not necessary, the rear-drive bias makes the M850i Convertible feel like a true driver’s car. 

Shifts are smooth and quick in Comfort mode, and aggressive and strong in either of the Sport modes. In heavy city traffic, the performance rag top puts few demands on the driver. Also, we had more than a few people snapping their necks to look at this beautiful new 8 Series.

xDrive sends torque to the rear when all-wheel drive is not needed. This makes the 2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible feel like a true driver’s car.

Conclusion

The 2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible gets high marks in almost every area, except for back seat comfort which is no surprise. However, you will have this beauty sitting in your four-car garage next to your luxury SUV, and you will use that when you need to haul the family anyway. Ride quality is excellent and it comes with all the high-tech equipment to keep you engaged on a long drive. In the end, though, you will want this luxury coupe for its superb overall performance.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible Gallery 

Photos: BMW of North America, LLC.

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  • The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the first mid-engine Vette in history. 
  • With an LT2 Small Block V8, the new Stingray is the fastest entry-level Vette ever. 
  • Prior to its on-sale date, the performance car will embark on a cross-country tour. 

Yes, you did just feel that. That was the automotive world shifting on its axis. Chevy just dropped the Corvette for 2020, and normally an all-new Vette is a big deal, but this new Corvette, the C8, is a revolution that has been a long time coming. Nearly 60 years, as a matter of fact. In the late 50s, engineers figured out that, from a performance standpoint, the best place to put the engine is right in the middle. This eventually made its way into production sports cars and today, everyone from Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche, and even boutique makers like Koenigsegg know that if you’re going to go fast, you have to put the engine in the middle.

Everyone, that is, except for Chevrolet.

2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray: Finally, The Mid-Engine Vette

Up until a few days ago, the top of Chevy’s performance mountain, the Corvette, maintained a staunchly old school layout of front engine/rear drive. Many puzzled as to why this is, and even more criticized GM for sticking with this route. As good as the C7 is – and make no mistake, it is a very, very good car with world-topping performance – it was still behind the potential performance curve.

GM has been teasing us with a mid-engine Corvette since 1971. There have been design studies, show cars, production what-ifs, the lot. Some in silver, some in blue; there was even a triple rotor, Wankle-powered mid-engine Vette that was going to be produced “next year.” Or perhaps the year after that. For sure. But it never happened.

Some chalked this up to GM’s inherent corporate conservatism. I was one of them. For as good as the Corvette got, it was, for a long time, not a Serious Sports Car. There were too many compromises and they went on for far too long. For decades it was a car that looked fast, but was hamstrung by design compromises. GM’s time off the line with their flagship was second tier, sometimes even third tier when stacked against the competition.

“If GM was serious about performance,” said all the gearheads and railbirds, “they’d make it mid-engine.” And now, for whatever the reasons, GM has finally heard our pleas and taken the wraps off the eighth generation Corvette for 2020. If the numbers hold, GM will not be in the top tier of performance supercars, they will hold the top spot. The main factors concerning the mid-engine C8 are the engine, the transmission, where everything sits and, very happily, the price.

2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray, the first mid-engine Vette. Photo: Chevrolet.

Power & Performance: No Manual For The Next Generation

At the heart of the 2020 Stingray is Chevy’s next-gen, 6.2-liter Small Block LT2 V8. It’s naturally aspirated and will produce 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft. of torque. Healthy numbers, to be sure, and, indeed, the most horsepower and torque for any entry-level Corvette. Yet, that’s the bottom of the performance ladder. It goes up from there.

Next, the gearbox. The new LT2 plant is mated with Chevy’s first eight speed dual-clutch transmission. Yes, just like the ones you find in Ferraris and Porsches and, more importantly, race cars. There will be no manual option, except by means of steering wheel paddles. The transmission was designed in-house by GM and TREMEC and is unique to the 2020 Stingray. Chevy says the 2020 Corvette Stingray will hit 60 in less than three seconds with skidpad figures coming in over 1.0 Gs.

Photo: Chevrolet.

Less Is More

No, that does not exactly blow Ferrari et al. away, but the C8 is effectively tied for first, if not outright leading. But here’s the number that does obliterate the competition: $60,000. That is the starting price. It is about half what a Porsche 911 goes for. It is about 75 percent less than a Ferrari 488. Do the thought experiment: you have $60,000. Do you put a down payment on a Porsche or a Ferrari, or do you want an entire car? A car that can be serviced in any one of five thousand dealerships.

A car that, and I’ll guarantee this, will have a blazing hot heater and an ice cold AC system.

Say what you want about the Germans and the Italians; and the Japanese and the British and what they are capable of doing, but Chevy just did the same thing, And they did it for the price of a luxury crossover. Everyone else in the world might be able to keep up with, or beat the C8 Stingray on a strip or road course or on a mountain road (maybe); but I seriously, seriously doubt anyone in the world will beat it on price.

Photo: Chevrolet.

Corvette Visualizer

The 2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray goes into production at Bowling Green Assembly later this year. Additional pricing and packaging information will be available closer to launch. When it hits the market, the new Stingray will come in 12 exterior colors, six interior color themes and seat belt colors, and two optional stitching packages. If you simply cannot wait, a new digital tool, the Corvette Visualizer, lets you design your dream mid-engine Vette in vivid detail.

Nationwide Tour

The 2020 Corvette Stingray will embark on a cross-country dealership tour leading up to its on-sale date. Corvette specialists, along with the vehicle and numerous other displays, will stop at over 125 dealerships nationwide, as well as major consumer events.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray Gallery
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  • The Lotus Evija is the automaker’s first electric hypercar, and the first from Great Britain.
  • With aggressive performance targets, the Evija would be the most powerful production car.
  • Developed in concert with Williams Advanced Engineering, only 130 examples will be made. 

I recently covered the upcoming Lotus Evija in another article, but on so many levels, the car is so technically impressive that it requires a more detailed examination about the hows, whys, and wherefores; the inter-workings on how this beast of a car functions. The Lotus Evija (pronounced ‘E-vi-ya’) means first in existence or living one. Internally it is known as the Type 130. Fitting, since they’re only going to make 130 of them. They will also be eye-wateringly expensive at around two million a pop.

It will be worth it.

Lotus Evija: First At The Bat

A little while back, Lotus was bought by the Chinese company Geely. Geely makes everything: cars, trucks, buses, tractor-like things, industrial vehicles; like I said Geely makes everything. Many worried Lotus would end up being diluted to just a badge. So far, those worries seem far away. Under Geely’s stewardship, the storied Hethel company is producing the first all-electric British hypercar in the Evija.

Lotus is careful to use the term “first all-electric British hypercar.” Technically speaking, Rimac is out there in addition to a few other boutique builders that are making hyper EVs, but in any real serious sense, Lotus is the first manufacturer to jump into the hyper-performance EV end of things. Not Porsche. Not Ferrari. Lotus.

Lotus Evija. Photo: Group Lotus.

Exterior Design: Carbon Fiber & Ribbon Lights

To call the exterior of the Lotus Evija striking would be an understatement. From its chiselled and geometric nose to severely concave Kamm tail, the Evija is unmistakable. The bodywork is full carbon fiber, and everything looks low and taught. Massive Venturi tunnels glower under the rear of the car, hinting at huge downforce numbers and high-speed cornering velocities of equal merit.

The Evija is the first Lotus road car to ever feature a full carbon fiber chassis, molded as a single piece for strength, rigidity, and safety. The underside produces so much downforce that the integrated air diffuser starts under the B-pillars. Unfortunately, Lotus gives no exact figure, but all you have to do is use your eyes to know the grip this thing can produce must be extreme. Total weight of the monocoque tub is a mere 129 kg (284 lbs.) and all up weight is 1,680 kg (3,703 lbs.).

They even geeked out with the lighting. The Lotus Evija is the first production road car to feature laser lights for both main and high beams. Inside the lenses, unique “wing-like” elements form the daytime running lights and directional indicators. The modules are made by Osram. There are no tail lights, as such, just a red LED ribbon-style light with directional indicators.

The backup light is hidden in the “T” of Lotus just above the charging flap.

Lotus uses a design concept known as “porosity” to increase rear air flow. This counteracts low pressure behind the car to reduce drag. Furthermore, the Venturi effect inside the “tunnels” pull air through the rear wheel arch louvres. Photo: Group Lotus.

Aerodynamics & Power Output

The rear spoiler is a fully-active, aerodynamic piece which deploys from its flush resting position in the upper bodywork. An F1-style Drag Reduction System engages automatically in Track mode, although you can manually activate it in other modes. Traditional door mirrors are done away with to reduce drag, replaced by cameras in the front fenders that deploy when the car is unlocked. A roof camera provides a central view with all images displaying on three interior screens.

The Evija’s power output of 1,972 horsepower and 1,254 lb-ft. of torque make it the world’s most powerful production road car. Power is stored in the 2,000 kW lithium-ion battery pack mounted centrally behind the passenger compartment. Lotus gets style points for showing off the pack as it’s visible through the glass rear screen. This isn’t just for looks but gains, according to Lotus, in aerodynamics, weight distribution, occupant comfort, and handling. The location also makes it easier to service or for the installation of other battery packs. The battery management system was developed by Williams Advanced Engineering, the Williams Grand Prix team’s in-house skunkworks.

Photo: Group Lotus.

Powertrain Layout

Downstream from here, power is fed to an in-line, axial arrangement of two high-power density e-motors. The e-motors have silicon carbide inverters and epicyclic transmissions on each axle of the four-wheel drive powertrain. There are four very compact, very light, and very efficient single-speed, helical gear-ground planetary gearboxes (say that ten times fast!) to transfer power to each driveshaft. Each gearbox comes packaged with the e-motor and inverter as a single, cylindrical Electrical Drive Unit. Each e-motor puts out 500 ponies (there are four of them).

With a motor at each wheel, torque-vectoring becomes obvious. The system is fully automatic, self-adjusting, and can instantly distribute power to any combination of two, three or four wheels within the blink of an eye. Adding more power to individual wheels enables the radius of corners to be tighter, according to Lotus. In other words, the Evija should go, turn, and stop like a meth-addled kitten on wall-to-wall carpet. ESP stability control is there so you don’t stuff it into something big and solid.

An electro-hydraulic system delivers the goods in the steering department, a hallmark of every Lotus.

The Lotus Evija has five drive modes: Range, City, Tour, Sport, and Track. Photo: Group Lotus.

Ride & Handling: Proof In The Pudding

Speaking of Lotus hallmarks, the Evija is almost guaranteed to handle better than 99.9 percent of all other cars out there. Ask anybody who competes against a Lotus, and they will tell you just how well these things handle. The Evija looks no different. The suspension is Motorsport-inspired and features three adaptive spool-valve dampers (shocks) for each axle. Two are there as corner dampers and the third controls heave.

Dampers are manufactured by Multimatic, the same Multimatic that does up high-performance suspension tech for on-road, off-road, and Motorsport applications including Formula 1. The same Multimatic that partnered with Ford on the latest track-only GT.

The magnesium wheels clock in at 20 and 21 inches, front and rear respectively, and are shod with Pirelli Trofeo R tires. Braking comes by a forged aluminium AP Racing system with carbon ceramic discs, front and rear.

Charging Capacity

And all this tech is great and wonderful and promising, but the real cherry on top – the real “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment comes down to charging. The Evija’s battery can accept a massive 800 kW charge. That’s more than twice the current industry maximum. Using existing charging technology, like a 350 kW unit, the Evija’s charge time will be 12 minutes to 80 percent, and 18 minutes to 100 percent. Using Lotus’ 800 kW charger (which they haven’t unveiled yet) it will be possible to fully replenish the battery in just nine minutes.

The digital display above the F1-inspired steering wheel provides information on the battery and remaining range. The carbon fiber shell seats are hand-trimmed with a thick Alcantara finish. Photo: Group Lotus.

Pricing & Availability

Evija production will begin next year, which can’t come soon enough. But like I said, they are only making 130 of them. Have that checkbook at the ready, because a £250,000 deposit secures a production slot (that’s around $300,000). The list price will be £1.7m plus taxes or around 1.9 million USD. For that handsome sum, Lotus will let you configure your Evija exactly as you want, down to the smallest details.

And with a car like this, everything else is just details anyway.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Lotus Evija Gallery

Photos & Source: Group Lotus.

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  • The Lotus Evija is the automaker’s first electric hypercar, and the first from Great Britain.
  • With aggressive performance targets, the Evija would be the most powerful production car.
  • Developed in concert with Williams Advanced Engineering, only 130 examples will be made. 

If – and that is a very big if – Lotus is right about their numbers concerning their just-announced Evija electric hypercar, then Porsche can prepare to see their Taycan get blown so far off the track a bloodhound couldn’t find it. And forget about Tesla, the Lotus Evija could make them look like a bunch of pikers. Now, like I said, that’s a big if. And, to me, that’s one of the EV world’s biggest problems: this constant fudging about figures. It seems like every number on an EV spec sheet has an asterisk by it. That said, even if Lotus’ figures are off by a whopping 10 percent, the Evija will still be one of the best performing cars on the planet, let alone against the EV competition.

Lotus Evija: Power & Performance

The Evija’s four-wheel drive powertrain is slated to produce 2,000 PS or 1,972 horsepower, making it the most powerful production car in the world. Torque is 1,700 Nm (or 1,254 lb-ft.) with full torque vectoring (via four e-motors) for phenomenal handling. Power is produced by a 2,000 kW lithium-ion battery, mounted amidships. All up weight is 1,680 kg, around 3,700 lbs. Yes, that’s heavy for a Lotus, but light for an EV, especially with those power figures. And by these figures, the Lotus Evija has more power at each wheel than the total power of any other Lotus road car. Ever.

The performance figures add up to some impressive numbers: zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under three seconds; zero to 300 km/h (186 mph) in under nine seconds, and a top speed in excess of 200 mph. Put it this way: Count to three, you’re doing freeway speed; count to ten and you’re going faster than a fully-loaded 747 at takeoff. All this in about the time it takes a Camry Hybrid to hit 60.

Although we’re not through yet.

Flat-Out Power

Total range is 250 miles, and Lotus says power can be delivered over a sustained period of time. That’s a polite and British way of saying you won’t have to pussyfoot around at 32 mph most of the time to get that kind of mileage. Thanks to the car’s advanced aerodynamics and four-radiator cooling package for the battery, the Evija can be driven flat-out with no loss in power for at least seven minutes in Track mode.

Let’s put that into perspective. You can drive the Lotus Evija flat out for the amount of time it takes to lap the Nürburgring. In other words, the Evija will be the first EV that can compete directly with internal combustion cars over the same track. None of this BS 100 yard dashes and drag strip time trials.

The Lotus Evija has five drive modes: Range, City, Tour, Sport, and Track. An F1-style Drag Reduction System deploys automatically in Track mode. Photo: Group Lotus.

Charging Units

“But who cares if it’s going to take me all night to charge it.” you retort. My response is don’t worry. Lotus, it seems, saved the Evija’s most impressive figure for last: Thanks to the partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering (yes, the Grand Prix team), the battery can accept a massive 800 kW charge. That’s more than twice the current industry maximum. Using existing charging technology, like a 350 kW unit, the Evija’s charge time will be 12 minutes to 80 percent, and 18 minutes to 100 percent. Compare that to how long it takes to fill up a normal EV now.

But it just gets better from there with the Lotus Evija.

Using Lotus’ 800 kW charger (which they haven’t unveiled yet) it will be possible to fully replenish the battery in just nine minutes. In other words, you can get a full charge with the normal equipment faster than you can eat lunch. With the high-power factory juicer, you can fill up the “tank” of your Evija in less than a coffee break. Lotus says they are talking with suppliers on additional charging solutions for customers.

The digital display above the F1-inspired steering wheel provides information on the battery and remaining range. The carbon fiber shell seats are hand-trimmed with a thick Alcantara finish. Photo: Group Lotus.

Related: The Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 is the “Collector’s Piece.”

Pricing & Availability

The bad news, such as it is, comes down to the fact Lotus will produce only 130 Evijas, not coincidentally because this is Lotus’ 130th design, counting the Grand Prix and sports racers. So get in line now because the order books are open. Have that checkbook at the ready, because a £250,000 deposit secures a production slot (that’s around $300,000). The list price will be £1.7m plus taxes or around 1.9 million USD. For that handsome sum, Lotus will let you configure your Evija exactly as you want, down to the smallest details.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Evija is pronounced ‘E-vi-ya’ and means the first in existence or the living one. This carries on the Lotus tradition of naming cars that start with E – Elan, Elise, Esprit, Evora and so on.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Lotus Evija Gallery

Photos & Source: Group Lotus.

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The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack and Golf SportWagen will cease production at the end of the year. The automaker says continued demand for SUVs by American consumers influenced the decision. As of the first half of 2019, SUVs account for 47 percent of the industry’s sales, and more than 50 percent of VW’s sales. Within VW’s portfolio, the Atlas and Tiguan remain the strongest, with the highest year-over-year percentage growth among mainstream automotive brands in the first six months of 2019, according to the company.

New Market Strategy

VW is now directing their focus accordingly and will release three new SUVs over the next two years. The five-seat Atlas Cross Sport will arrive this year, while the electric ID. CROZZ will debut early next year. By 2021, a smaller SUV will slot beneath the Tiguan. Company leaders say VW’s latest EV platform will give them the flexibility to better adapt to a changing market.

“SUVs have definitely assumed the mantle of family haulers from the station wagons and minivans we remember from our childhoods,” explained Scott Keogh, President and CEO, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “But as we look towards the future, both our expanded SUV lineup and the upcoming ID. family of electric vehicles will bring the opportunity to combine the style and space people want in a variety of ways. As the ID. BUZZ concept demonstrates, the flexibility of our EV platform gives us the ability to revive body styles of the past, so anything is possible.”

VW Golf Alltrack. Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Related: On the road with the VW Alltrack.

2019 VW Golf Alltrack

Volkswagen will continue building the Alltrack at the Puebla, Mexico plant through December. For 2019, the Golf Alltrack comes with 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED Daytime Running Lights, and leatherette seating surfaces. Standard with all-wheel drive, the Alltrack’s 1.8-liter TSI engine produces 168 horsepower and 199 lb-ft. of torque. There are two transmission options: either a six-speed DSG automatic or a six-speed manual. For mild off-roading, the Alltrack offers 6.9 inches of ground clearance.

Safety features include Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert. Optional features are numerous and include 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, lane-keeping assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control among others. Pricing starts at $26,895 for the Alltrack S with a six-speed manual. By comparison, the Alltrack S with the automatic begins at $27,995.

2019 VW Golf SportWagen Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

2019 VW Golf SportWagen

The 2019 Golf SportWagen comes with 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED Daytime Running Lights, and cloth seats. Optional features include 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, foglights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, lane-keeping assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Front-wheel drive SportWagens feature a 1.4-liter TSI engine with 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque. By comparison, all-wheel drive models employ the Alltrack’s 1.8-liter engine.

On the transmission front, the 1.4-liter is paired with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic; the 1.8-liter is available with either the six-speed manual or the Alltrack’s six-speed DSG automatic.

Price-wise, the 2019 Golf SportWagen comes in just below the Alltrack. Front-wheel drive models with the manual transmission begin at $21,895, while the automatics start at $22,995. All-wheel drive models with the manual begin at $24,395 versus $25,495 for the automatics.

Destination charge for all Golf wagon models is $895.

Source: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

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Good news for people who live in the northern tier of states; or if you live somewhere with unpredictable weather that can turn bad real quick; or if you’re just a rally fan: the 2020 Subaru Outback is here. Like Subarus from times past, the 2020 Outback is loaded with safety and convenience features; is reliable as a Japanese car firm can make it and, best of all, has an all-wheel drive system to get you through bad weather, bad terrain, and bad conditions.

Here is a brief look at everything you need to know about the 2020 Subaru Outback.

How Much Does The 2020 Subaru Outback Cost?

For 2020, Subaru’s Outback starts around $27,000, going all the way up to just under $40,000 if you throw the option book at it. Yes, that does get quite high, but when you slather on all the goodies, it makes for a very reasonably-priced, fully-kitted out SUV, which is what an Outback wagon essentially is. Trim levels include Base, Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT.

How Is The 2020 Subaru Outback Equipped?

The 2020 Subaru Outback comes standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Active Torque Vectoring, Vehicle Dynamics Control, and X-MODE with Hill Descent Control. It also boasts 8.7 inches of ground clearance, a lot for what is essentially a wagon. That’s also a healthy amount when confronting things like ruts and snow drifts and such. All 2020 Subaru Outbacks feature EyeSight Driver Assist Technology with Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Centering Function. Roof rails with tie down points and crossbars are standard across the lineup.

On the inside, a tablet-style, 11.6-inch display runs all of your connectivity and multimedia, including the new Wi-Fi hotspot (an Outback first).

The best “new” news for 2020 is the return of a turbo engine to the Outback lineup. Standard on XT models, the 2.4-liter turbo Boxer engine delivers 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque. It’s paired with a Lineartronic CVT with eight-speed manual control via steering wheel paddle shifters.

2020 Subaru Outback. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Outback Base

The entry level Outback has a starting price of $26,645, a bump of only $300 from the 2019 model. Nice! Base trim gets you Subaru’s Starlink multimedia system with an upper seven-inch touchscreen for audio controls, and a lower seven-inch screen for climate controls and other systems. The Base trim includes AM/FM/HD Radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM, Travel Link, and Clari-Fi music restoration. Power on the base model comes from a new version of the 2.5-liter Boxer engine that puts out 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft. of torque.

Auto Start-Stop is also standard and helps you get an EPA-estimated 26/33 city/highway mpg.

Outback Premium

The next rung up is occupied by the Outback Premium and will set you back $28,895. The Premium adds the All-Weather Package of heated front seats and exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer. Premium Outbacks have LED fog lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10-way power driver’s seat (with power lumbar), leather-wrapped steering wheel, and silver or ivory stitching on the dash. The front windows are auto-up/auto-down; the cargo cover is single-touch lifting, and there are 2.1A USB ports in the rear center console.

The Outback Premium comes standard with an 11.6-inch touchscreen; Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth streaming are each standard on the premium trim as well. Like the Base, the Premium receives an AM/FM/HD stereo, SiriusXM, and Travel Link. An additional safety package includes Blind-Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Another package adds a power moonroof and navigation.

2020 Subaru Outback Touring interior layout. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Outback Limited

Above Premium is the Outback Limited, starting at $33,445. The Limited ups the ante with perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, gloss black and silver metallic interior trim, and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels. A 10-way power driver’s seat with two-position memory is standard, as is the eight-way power passenger seat and hands-free rear gate. Rear passengers receive both heated seats and air conditioner outlets.

The Limited trim also adds Reverse Automatic Braking and push-button start. An available package adds navigation, a power moonroof, heated steering wheel, and a distraction mitigation system.

Related: 2020 Subaru Legacy arrives with a new platform and updated tech.

Outback Touring

The Outback Touring tops out at $37,345 (without getting into add-on packages). Distinguished by chrome pillar trim and door handle inserts, the Touring also sports a satin chrome finish for the exterior mirrors, while the roof rails, tie-down points, and cross bars receive a special silver finish. The interior features Java Brown Nappa leather with tan stitching. Ventilated front seats, power moonroof, heated steering wheel, navigation, and the distraction mitigation system are all standard.

2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Onyx Edition XT

New for 2020, this is your flashy, show off option. The Onyx Edition XT has 18-inch alloy wheels, black-finish badging, and a gray two-tone interior. Many of the features listed above from the other models are standard on the Onyx Edition XT.

2020 Subaru Outback: Availability & Manufacturing

Other option packages are available that allow you to somewhat mix and match features, but the basic packages within the Outback models will have 99 percent of buyers covered. The 2020 Subaru Outback is manufactured at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) in Lafayette, Indiana. Expect them at Subaru dealers this fall.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Subaru of America, Inc.

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So, remember when Mercedes teased us with their plans to produce a super-duper, all-out, take-no-prisoners version of their Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO? Yeah, me too. And then they went and told us 90 percent of everything except how much it would cost? Yeah, me too on that one as well. Looks like Merc & AMG have finally coughed up the cost, and . . . you know, it’s not all that bad.

Well, relatively speaking it’s not all that bad.

What Is The Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO?

The Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO is not some ne plus ultra hypercar like a La Ferrari or a Porsche 918 or Aston Martin’s Valkyrie. That will come later. What’s here now is more of a Porsche GT3 fighter and, comparatively speaking, the price is not all that bad at 200 large! Or $199,650 to be precise. And like I said, right in the market range of hot Porsches, Ferrari V8s, and big bore Astons.

What do you get for the price of a starter condo in the burbs? More of some things and less of others.

Power & Performance

You get an AMG 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo plant that puts out a worthy 577 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque. The hand-built engine is mated to an AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT seven-speed transmission. Together with all the latest tweaks and tunes, this engine hauls you to 60 in 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 198. Other unique performance and design highlights include the AMG RIDE CONTROL coil-over suspension with manual damping adjustment. This allows you to more precisely tune the spring rates, rebound, and compression. Further fine-tuning is available via adjustment wheels on the shocks themselves to suit specific tracks or personal preference.

Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO under the hood. Photo: MBUSA.

Carbon Fiber Galore

The carbon fiber front splitter has aluminum supports and is bigger than before. Additional aerodynamic carbon fiber dive planes or “flics” are located on the front bumper. There are functional aerodynamic “gills” in the front fenders and a trick, adjustable carbon fiber front sway bar. All of these bits add up for better front-axle downforce, according to Mercedes-AMG.

The carbon fiber roof is newly redesigned and features a lower center section; there’s a matte carbon fiber crossbar and interior trim, carbon fiber side skirt inserts, and a carbon fiber rear diffuser. The new Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO comes with carbon ceramic brakes, carbon fiber side mirror housings, and a fixed rear spoiler in, surprise, carbon fiber. There’s more carbon fiber on this thing than in a crate of No. 2 pencils.

Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO in Selenite Grey Magno with Gloss Light Green stripes. Photo: MBUSA.

Styling & Interior Treatments

Styling cues include color-coordinated, race-inspired accent stripes found only on the Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO. If you choose the Selenite Grey Magno exterior you get Gloss Light Green stripes. All other exterior colors receive Matte Dark Grey stripes. If you’re not that flashy, the accent stripes can be omitted.

For the 2020 AMG GT in general, updates include a new diffuser insert, double-round tailpipe design, and signature LED headlights. Interior updates include the standard 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a larger 10.25-inch multimedia display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, while the steering wheel integrates touch control buttons for the instrument cluster and multimedia displays.

There’s a standard rear-view and front camera to help with parking.

Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO interior layout. Photo: MBUSA.

Pricing & Availability

Like I said above, pricing for the Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO starts at $199,650, but the real bad news is that Mercedes will only make 750 units globally. But, if you’ve got the mean green and can get in line, you’ll get a car that features an adjustable coil-over suspension, lightweight construction with carbon fiber components all over the place, and functional aerodynamic enhancements that return a Nürburgring time of 7.04.632 minutes. Which is fast.

If they are not all spoken for ahead of time, expect the Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO in dealers later this year.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO Gallery
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  • A new BMW concept shows how self-driving cars from the brand might look in time. 
  • With a turbocharged and hybrid powertrain, the Vision M Next hits 60 in three seconds.
  • For now, the Vision M Next is only a concept but it does make our imagination run wild.  

Admittedly, there are many delicious elements in the BMW Vision M Next concept. For one thing, just look at it! It’s a stylish reinterpretation of past and present BMW vehicles. To be more specific, it’s like the lovechild of a 1972 BMW E25 Turbo Concept and i8 PHEV. The wedge-like design is also a fitting ode to the E26 BMW M1. The ’70s and ’80s are back, and I’m loving it!

However, the one thing that really stands out in the Vision M Next is BMW’s ideas on autonomous driving.

The BMW Vision M Next is an autonomous car, yes. But it’s the type of autonomy where the controls can be overridden by the driver. In short, it’s a concept car worth waiting for and something traditional car lovers can sink their teeth into.

BMW Vision M Next: The Brand’s Future?

The German manufacturer says all future BMW vehicles will be built utilizing the D+ACES philosophy. This means Design, Autonomous Driving, Electrification, and Services are carefully blended to produce the ultimate driving machine of the future. “The BMW Vision M Next provides a glimpse into the future of sporty driving,” says Adrian Van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design. “It demonstrates how state-of-the-art technology can also make the experience of driving yourself purer and more emotionally engaging.”

It’s no secret things are shaking up at BMW HQ. The company is now struggling to cope with the onset of fully-electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Model X. And I find this unsettling considering BMW was among the first to sell an EV in the form of the i3 in 2013. It seems upper management underestimated the potential of full EVs, and they’re now playing catch up. Turning up last is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, you can use it your own advantage. And if the BMW Vision M Next is any indication, it’s safe to say gearheads, car lovers, and auto enthusiasts can look forward to a bright and enjoyable future.

BMW Vision M Next. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

The Good Kind of Hybrid Power

We already established the BMW Vision M Next is a looker. It has all the elements of a poster car: a retro-delectable, wedge-shaped silhouette, gullwing doors, ridiculous color schemes, and illuminated elements on the kidney grille. The blade-shaped triangular elements on the air intakes remind me of the snout of a Lamborghini Aventador. In short, the BMW Vision M Next is every inch a supercar. But what makes a car super in the purest sense of the word is vast reserves of power. In this regard, the BMW Vision M Next has you covered.

It’s actually a hybrid supercar, but it’s the good kind of hybrid power. The car has a turbo four-cylinder motor and an array of electric motors. BMW didn’t say how many, but with the capability to engage electric all-wheel drive or pure rear-wheel drive, we assume it has no less than two or three electric motors. All told, you have 600 horsepower at your disposal, good for a top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h).

And I mean, wow! I personally don’t like hybrids. I think they’re clunky, too complicated, and extremely dull on the road. But if a hybrid has 600 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds, I wouldn’t mind having one, most especially if it looks exactly like the BMW Vision M Next.

In the future, what if you have to pass by certain zero-emissions zones? No problem. The Vision M Next has an all-electric range of 62 miles (100 km), which frankly is not enough. However, 62 miles is mostly enough for quick city jaunts, so maybe this isn’t bad at all.

Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

EASE & BOOST Mode

Remember the part about the BMW Vision M Next being an autonomous car? You can engage full-autonomy in EASE mode. Meanwhile, if you want to drive it like how a BMW should be driven, BOOST mode is the way to go.

Easy, right? You can read the newspaper, upload a selfie, or chat with fellow passengers in EASE mode, all while traveling at speed. But if you want to drive, BOOST mode will place you at the helm. This all sounds amazing: being able to enjoy both autonomy and actual driving. I sincerely hope other car makers are looking to what BMW is doing in the Vision M Next. If manufacturers want full autonomy to become a reality, it’s important to give consumers an option on whether or not to drive. We want autonomous cars, but we want to choose when it should do so.

Related: BMW Group and Daimler AG partner on autonomous driving.

Boost Pod: The Beauty of Simplicity

The ultra-minimalist interior in the BMW Vision M Next is a triumph in modern design. The most striking feature is the accent line in the driver’s area. It runs forward from the seat over to the steering wheel. This represents the ideal line of sight as you drive, which speaks highly of BMW’s performance intent.

You’ll find hi-tech woven synthetic fibers, anodized titanium, and painted surfaces in the cabin. Surprisingly, leather is only found in the hand touch points of the steering wheel and door pull handles. The visible roof structure is crafted from recycled carbon fiber while the headliner has a tone-in-tone paint finish.

The highlight of the interior is the Boost Pod, which is BMW future-speak for the Speed Racer-inspired steering wheel and instrument console. Instead of traditional dials or large display screens, all the driving information is projected to an array of glass panels behind the steering wheel. It’s basically like a visor that projects information.

BMW Vision M Next interior layout. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Thrilling Soundtrack

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: electric cars are too quiet for their own good. But BMW – who happens to be late in the EV game – has come up with something brilliant. The BMW Vision M Next has its own musical soundtrack penned by no less than Hans Zimmer. The man won an Academy Award for Best Original Musical Score for the movie Lion King in 1995 and has composed music for more than 150 Hollywood films.

It’s safe to assume BMW hired the right man for the job.

Conventional EVs, like the BMW i3, have exterior speakers to alert pedestrians. This is good, but it does nothing to liven up the driving experience. With its own dedicated soundtrack, the BMW Vision M Next won’t end up sounding like a brash muscle car, but at least it won’t sound like an appliance either.

Welcome To The Future

And it’s time to come back to Earth. Sadly, the BMW Vision M Next is just a concept. Yet it shows BMW is moving in the right direction. With that being said, I propose a toast to other car makers taking notice of what the future of driving should really be about. Cheers to the future, lads!

Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.

BMW Vision M Next Gallery

Photos & Source: BMW of North America, LLC.

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  • Long live the stick! That’s the idea behind the Cars.com holiday, National Stick Shift Day.
  • To coincide, a survey gauging American opinion on the manual transmission was conducted.
  • More people than you initially might think can actually drive a car with a manual transmission. 
  • National Stick Shift Day gets at the deeper appreciation and connection we have with automobiles.

Back in the day – as in 1994 – my friends and I loved the arcade hit Daytona USA. The Sega-developed racing game placed you in a large, car-like structure complete with a Motorsport-style seat and steering wheel. It was the first 3D racing game of its kind. In terms of video game development and graphics, Daytona USA was ahead of its time. The Saturday afternoons at the local bowling alley melted away in spectacular fashion, thanks to the sublime visuals and sensational wrecks. You could chose from different views via the “VR” buttons; ones above the car or right inside the cockpit, for example.

And you could chose between an automatic or manual transmission.

Rolling Starts & Time Extensions

Of course, my friends and I would slam away on the four-speed stick located just below the screen and off-set to the right of the steering wheel. There was no “well, the advanced technology in the automatic makes it faster” . . . no, none of that. Top Daytona USA bragging rights went to the person who won the race with the manual shifter. Plain and simple. Such love and appreciation for the manual transmission is the inspiration behind National Stick Shift Day, this coming Tuesday, July 16th. Cars.com launched the holiday last year to celebrate the times we had to shift our own gears; or as some might call the good old days.

“We’re bummed by how they’re slowly vanishing from the market, especially here in the United States,” explained Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com Executive Editor. “We created National Stick Shift Day hoping to inspire other fans to come out in support of stick shifts and perhaps encourage others to learn how to drive and consider buying them.”

National Stick Shift Day is Tuesday, July 16th.

Survey Says

Ahead of National Stick Shift Day 2019, Cars.com conducted a survey of more than 1,000 consumers. Participants shared their thoughts on manual transmissions despite automatics being more common. Interesting enough, 78 percent can actually drive a manual, while 72 percent say it’s something everybody should learn. 48 percent said they would gladly learn if given the opportunity.

“At minimum, people who learn to drive stick have a feeling of accomplishment and they’re prepared in case they find themselves in a situation where they need to drive a stick, either in an emergency or when traveling abroad,” Wiesenfelder said. “We also believe a manual driver is a more engaged driver and, arguably, a better one.”

Cars.com then analyzed internal data to determine the top five most-purchased stick shifts on their website. Leading the way is the Subaru WRX, with the Honda Civic and Ford Mustang following closely; then the Civic Si and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Wiesenfelder says they were a little surprised to see the list shake out the way it did.

“Until we dug a little deeper and thought it through, and in short order things started to make more sense,” he continued. “The Subaru WRX as a whole doesn’t sell in volumes as high as the Civic, Mustang or others, but it is very much a performance-oriented model that appeals to enthusiasts, and those are the drivers who are drawn to manual transmissions nowadays.”

2019 Subaru WRX. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

No Love For The CVT

The Subaru WRX is available as an automatic, however it’s a continuously variable transmission. According to Cars.com, nearly 85 percent of WRX models are sold with the manual, the highest rate for any nameplate offering both transmission types. Wiesenfelder says this is because CVTs in any form, from any manufacturer, are the opposite of what driving enthusiasts want. Last year, Subaru overhauled the WRX’s six-speed manual with a new synchro design to enhance shifter feel and clutch take-up.

“Similarly, the Civic Si comes only as a stick shift, so it places high in the list of manuals despite its relatively low overall sales,” Wiesenfelder added. “People may think of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro first as sports cars, but these volume-sellers are also popular for cruising and come in convertible versions as well, which have historically leaned more toward automatic transmissions.”

By comparison, the top five most-viewed vehicles with a manual on Cars.com differed slightly from the five most-purchased. Of the most-viewed, the Ford Mustang led the list with the Camaro and Corvette following behind. Spots four and five belong to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Dodge Challenger.

2019 Ford Mustang interior layout. Photo: Ford Motor Company.

Manual Transmissions Versus Autonomous Transactions

Last year, Hagerty began hosting a series of town hall discussions on the importance of driving. Autonomous vehicles and their impact on society was one of Hagerty’s first such discussions. Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars and former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz served as panelists. At the same time, Hagerty commissioned a survey in response to the development of autonomous vehicles. The poll consisted of millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers.

“One of our goals will be to work with policymakers so that years or even decades from now when the bulk of cars are fully autonomous, the act of driving is protected,” explained McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, last year. “We also want to facilitate the discussion about what driving looks like in the future – now’s the time to have those conversations.”

Related: The disconnect between the industry and consumers with autonomous cars.

In that survey, 79 percent of all respondents from ALL generations are still passionate about driving. 81 percent said learning to drive is a rite of passage worth preserving. Still another 85 percent said driving is an important part of American culture; the same percentage said they want the option of driving a car themselves, autonomous or otherwise.

“Having covered self-driving tech for 20 years, I don’t think autonomy is going to overtake the market anytime soon,” Wiesenfelder said. “But if it ever does, I wouldn’t expect driving enthusiasts to hand over the keys quietly.”

“I believe going through driver’s training and getting your license is important for young adults. It not only teaches them a skill but also teaches them responsibility,” added Lauren Witt, a Detroit-based Automotive Product Specialist who works with automakers on their consumer ride-and-drive programs. “For most, it is their first step towards freedom and adulthood.”

In Hagerty’s survey, 81 percent said learning to drive is a rite of passage worth preserving.

Related: Younger generations are embracing classic cars.

Dad Knows Best

Indeed, automatic transmissions are superior today to manual ones in terms of performance and efficiency; more gears, wider ratios, and computer technology has made that possible – but it’s only part of the equation. National Stick Shift Day digs at something a little more – something even the best technology cannot replicate. In American culture, there is an ever-present image of a father teaching their children how to properly care for and drive a car. At the center is often a manual transmission, especially for those who grew up in a rural area.

In the Cars.com survey, 67 percent said they learned how to drive a manual transmission from their father.

“I counted down the days until I got my driver’s license; then when I was 17 my dad taught me how to drive a stick,” Witt said. “So for me, driving really was and is an experience and skill I love and take pride in. I’m excited to see what happens with autonomous vehicles, but they can’t replace the feel you get when actually driving a car.”

In American culture our elders often teach us about cars.

Grinding Gears & Killing The Engine

Wiesenfelder says don’t worry about this – it’s part of the process when leaning to drive a manual. “There’s really no way around it,” he adds, saying first-timers need to take it in stride. Understand even though gears may groan and the engine may stall, you probably won’t break anything. In other words, it’s not the end of the world. If you’re feeling shifty for National Stick Shift Day, watch Wiesenfelder’s video below. By the time you are done, you will be an old pro.

“Though we’re clearly advocates for manual gearboxes for many reasons, we’re journalists first and foremost, so we have to make clear that manual transmissions are seldom the consumer’s most fuel-efficient choice anymore,” he added. “If you’re buying a stick-shift car, it’s probably for your own enjoyment – or to lower its odds of being stolen by a millennial.”

Carl Anthony studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan. Before going back to school, he simultaneously held product development and experiential marketing roles in the automotive industry.

How to Drive a Manual Transmission — Cars.com - YouTube

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