New platform for Mazda CX-90

If you need a traditionalist SUV with lots of room and a conventional layout, you’d be wise to add a stop at your local Mazda dealer to your shopping trip. Mazda is just rolling out its 2024 CX-90 premium SUVs, with three rows of seats, and riding on an all-new platform that packages a front engine with rear-drive bias into the CX-90. The Performance Oriented Platform, as it’s called, is a new base for present and future rear-drive vehicles at Mazda, whether they incorporate petroleum fuel, a hybrid powertrain or full EV operation.

While the CX-90’s hybrid driveline is based around the familiar Mazda 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, buyers who insist on traditional gasoline-fueled performance will not feel abandoned. The CX-90 can be specified with the e-Skyactiv G 3.3-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, which is rated by the manufacturer at 323 horsepower when premium fuel is used. This powertrain is equipped with a mild-hybrid driveline evolution that places an electric motor between the engind and transmission, offering both gas-burning go and a strong measure of efficiency. All CX-90 powertrains are mated to a new Mazda eight-speed automatic transmission. To accomodate the longitudinal electric-boosted powertrain, the transmission does away with the conventional torque converter.

Pole-to-pole Ariya EV go

I recently had a story published in Crankshaft magazine about how my pal, the NASCAR pioneer Johnny Allen, was part of a team that Lincoln-Mercury assembled to run a fleet of new 1965 Mercury Comets on a torture run from the tip of South America to frozen Alaska. Next month, once the weather improves a bit, Nissan plans to outdo this long-ago feat by taking a modified, off-road-ready version of its new Ariya EV on a run from the magnetic North Pole all the way to the South Pole, some 27,000 kilometers distant.

The pole-to-pole EV blast, which you can follow here as it happens, will use an Ariya upgraded and modified for the mission by project ally Arctic Trucks, which specializes in preparing commercials vehicles for duty in extreme winter climes. As part of the journey, Nissan will use a custom pull-along trailer incorporating a wind turbine and solar panels that will allow the Ariya to recharge in places where charging stations won’t exist for a long time. The Ariya itself is modified with fender flares, 39-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, and most importantly, an onboard espresso maker that will brew sustainable coffee. Nissan has been planning this trip for four years, almost as long as the Ariya has been conceptualized.

Less pounds for BMW M3 CS

In BMW parlance, “CS” stands for Competition Sport, the Bavarian firm’s designation for its line of limited-production models in the M series that combine blinding road performance with strong track-day capabilities. BMW is just now extending the concept to its M3 models, already the performance pinnacle of its beloved 3-series, with production getting underway next month. The BMW M3 CS, as it’s formally known, is lighter, stronger and faster than its M3 predecessor, which is quite a statement. The extensive use of composite materials in the M3 CS’ construction, for instance, drops its overall curb weight by 75 pounds.

The CS continues to offer BMW’s M xDrive, Its attributes include a twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine rated at 543 horsepower, linked as standard to xDrive and the standard eight-speed M Steptronic transmission. BMW is advertising a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds and a standard top speed of 188 MPH. Carbon ceramic brakes and track-oriented tires will be offered for the truly dedicated. M Carbon bucket seats will be standard up front. The MSRP for everything is $118,700 plus destination charges.

“Super” power for Escalade

Taking delivery of a new Cadillac Escalade is an event in and of itself. And now, you can do yourself one better with your new acquisition, thanks to Sealy, Texas-based hypercar tuner Hennessey Performance, which has a General Motors-approved supercharger upgrade now available: Not just for the Escalade, but also for large GM SUVs sharing the same platform ranging from the Chevrolet Tahoe to the GMC Yukon XL.

The Hennessey package takes the Escalade’s 6.2-liter V-8 and adds a 2,9-liter-capacity belt-driven supercharger, hardened chromemoly pushrods, a specific intake system, a high-flow intercooler and specific powertrain mapping to boost, literally, the GM V-8 from its standard 420 horsepower all the way to 650, which ought to help immensely with any high-speed on-ramp merge, just for openers. The supercharger kit lops nearly one full second off the Escalade’s 0-50 time, dropping it to around five seconds flat, and is backed by a full three-year, 36,000-mile warranty from GM. The conversion’s MSRP starts at $27,950.

GM invests in new V-8s

Yes, the latestt $918 million that it plans to spend includes an investment in EV production, largely through foundry work, but General Motors is indeed putting money where its internal-combustion mouth is by earmarking major funds for the development of its forthcoming sixth-generation small-block gasoline V-8. There is, you see, indeed life for powertrains that aren’t fully electrical, even in 2023.

The bulk of the money will go to Flint Engine Operations in Michigan, where the new engines will be assembled along with needed block, cylinder head and crankshaft machining. Flint will also continue to produce GM’s 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel for light-truck applications. Camshaft and connecting rod assembly for the new V-8 will take place at Bay City GPS in Michigan, with Defiance Operations in Ohio handling block casting and other needs, and Rochester Operations in New York tasked with developing intake manifolds and fuel rails. GM does plan an all-electric future but will clearly be relying on ICE power in the interim.

Mitsubishi marks 40 years

One of the anniversaries that the auto industry will mark in 2023 is the 40th year of Mitsubishi Motors North America as an independent brand, a status it attained after years of having its vehicles serve as captive imports of the company that was then known as Chrysler. The occasion calls for some special editions of Mitsubishi’s current flagship vehicle, the Outlander SUV. The Three Diamonds marque is offering a special edition from a luxury standpoint, plus a new plug-in hybrid variant.

The seven-passenger Outlander will be offered in a 40th Anniversary edition that will be immediately recognizable by its black-and-tan leather interior treatment, which extends to the Outlander’s headliner and roof pillars. It’s the same accommodations offered by the SEL Premium Package, with an accompanying black-and-bronze exterior paint treatment. The 40th Anniversary models, including the PHEV hybrid, will also offer all-wheel drive as standard equipment, with prices starting at a base of $39,995.

Corvette finally adds a hybrid

Look at it this way: It took 70 years for the Chevrolet Corvette to morph from a fiberglass-body boulevardier all the way into today’s mid-engine exotic despite years of experimentation. And relocating the powertrain to the middle of the car also freed up space for a modern battery pack. Just that quickly, and right in time for the Corvette’s 70th birthday, Chevrolet has announced that a hybrid Corvette, the E-Ray, will join the Corvette lineup for 2024, and will have the added distinction of being the first production Corvette equipped by the factory with all-wheel drive.

If you’ve tried shopping for one lately, you know the waiting list to order an eighth-generation Corvette can be a long one, with the Z06 variant not even officially introduced yet. The coming of the E-Ray may mitigate it somewhat, especially once buyers realize that the E-Ray will squirt from zero to 60 MPH in a claimed 2.5 seconds. The E-Ray will be the only production sports car on the market combining a naturally aspirated V-8 internal-combustion engine with a battery-assisted hybrid driveline. The E-Ray will go on sale later this year, with a base MSRP of $104,295.

Scoring a win for Speed Sport

One of my writing clients is Speed Sport, the oldest continuously publishing journal of motorsport history in North America, which can trace its roots to 1934 when the pioneering racing journalist Chris Economaki founded it as National Speed Sport News, originally a one-page report tacked on to the back of his daily newspaper in New Jersey. Today, Speed Sport is the digital destination for all sorts of motorsport news and history from across the continent. A lot of important people in motorsport make it part of their regular reading. That’s why it was so gratifying to represent the publication in the Pocono Raceway-sponsored Writers Contest that just concluded at the 50th annual convention of the Eastern Motorsport Press Association in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. And it was even better to come away with a win in the contest.

The winning entry was the story that I wrote for Speed Sport on the life of the late Phil Walters, a towering talent who walked away from the sport at the pinnacle of his international career after the spectator catastrophe at Le Mans in 1955 that left more than 80 dead. Walters was a kid from New York City who gravitated into the Midgets on both sides of World War II, where he raced under the pseudonym of Ted Tappett so his family wouldn’t learn what he was doing. He set records that still stand today before becoming a top-tier road racer and actually winning a verbal offer from Enzo Ferrari to join his firm’s Formula 1 team. But for fate, Walters could have been one of the all-time greats, especially from the United States. It was especially gratifying to win the cooperation of the Walters family in this project.

Five teams for Hyundai effort

Hyundai Motor North America has been on a roll in some of the lower echelons of production-based road racing, and plans to campaign five race cars in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, where it will pursue a fourth consecutive series championship in 2023. The race car involved is the Hyundai Elantra N TCR sedans, with four previous Hyundai champions among the driver lineup. The cars will be fielded by Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian and Delly Motorsports, with the driver contingent led by Robert Wickens, who is still recovering from devastating injuries sustained in and Indycar race at Pocono.

Bryan Herta Autosport will field one Elantra for returning back-to-back series champions Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis, with Wickens being newly teamed with Harry Gottsacker. Mason Fillipi and Mark Wilkins will also drive for Herta. The Hyundai teams will also contest the TC America series powered by Skip Barber Racing School in the SRO Motorsports America campaign, with those entries coming from the Ricca Motorsports stable.

A present for Shel’s 100th

In recognizing that Carroll Shelby, the father of the Cobra, would have turned 100 years old last week, we mused about how long it would take for the Shelby universe come up with a salute to the founder that’s all its own. Here’s the answer: Shelby American, now based in Las Vegas, has announced a very limited – to 100 copies – special edition of the 2023 Ford Mustang, naturally, that recognizes the founder’s birthday. The 2023 Carroll Shelby Centennial Edition Mustang is an exclusive tribute to the man, with specialty treatments to the interior, the chassis and of course, the powertrain.

At its heart is a supercharged Black Hat version of the 5.0-liter OHC V-8, mated to a Borla cat-back exhaust system, and rated at an estimated 750 horsepower. To provide the necessary grip, specific 20-inch lightweight alloy wheels and sticky performance radials are specified. Inside, you get a Shelby-spec interior leather package, Shelby door sill plates and bespoke floor mats, among other goodies. The whole package is wrapped in custom body adds, with a model-specific rear spoiler. Remember, only 100 are set to be produced, with the package price starting at $49,995. In addition to the car, we should add.