Build your own GT race car

While many of us were glomming on to what exists of college football, production-based racing cars were taking the green on the world’s most challenging natural-terrain road course, the Nordschleife, the original up-and-down circuit through the Eifel Mountains of Germany with three digits’ worth of actual curves. My pal Vic Elford, who’s tasted victory on this historic track, might liken it to New York City: If you can make it there as a driver, or as a racing sports car, you can make it anywhere. That sentiment drove Aston Martin to enter the ADAC Total Nurburgring 24 Hours with its Vantage GT8R, entered by its GT-class racing partner, Garage 59, and competing in the SP8T category. It didn’t win – BMW took the event, interrupted by a 9 1/2-hour rain delay, for its first victory in the round-the-clock ‘Ring race since 2010 – but don’t let that prevent you from considering Aston Martin’s offer.

The GT8R will be produced in a run of 50 customer cars, priced at 225,000 pounds Sterling, or a little more than $287,000 in our currency. In addition to the Nurburgring race, the GT8R is also eligible for the GT Cup in the United Kingdom, Super Takiyu in Japan, the New Zealand Endurance Championship and best of all, the SCCA Trans-Am Series on our shores. It’s compliant with the current SP8T class maximum of 549 horsepower and minimum of 1,450 kilograms curb weight. But get this: If the price is a little daunting, and you happen to already own a Vantage GT4, Aston Martin can sell you a conversion kit to bring your car up to racing spec. Performance-wise, the GT8R is slotted between the GT3 and GT4 Vantages.

Volvo’s future, by any name

Let’s see if we got all this right. Volvo, the car, was split off from the Swedish icon’s truck and bus lines back when it was acquired by Ford. It’s since been sold for cash to Geely of China. Since then, Volvo has made several memorable performance models under the tuner trademark Polestar, a la Alpina or AMG in Germany. Only now, it’s become a full-fledged make of car, while the former Polestar performance function, including Volvo’s works competition effort, is now called Cyan Racing, which is offering a limited number of reimagined, really trick Volvo P1800s. We think this is all correct, even if it’s hard to keep straight. What’s perhaps more important is that Polestar is about to enter the U.S. market as a freestanding brand, offering electric vehicles, having recently rolled out its first offering.

The Polestar 2, as it’s called, was the subject of a media ride-and-drive in four U.S. cities. Its lines declare that it’s a kind-of-crossover. Right now, it’s only going to be offered in one trim level, the one that debuted in the launch. It’s all-wheel drive, with twin motors producing the equivalent of 408 horsepower, and a fast-charging capability of up to 150 kW. In keeping with Volvo’s long history of safety engineering, the Polestar 2 offers the industry’s first use of inner-side airbags. The car will also feature as standard equipment a fully integrated Android Auto suite, and will replace virtually all the small controls on the dash with a single floating 11.15-inch touchscreen. Although Polestar is proud of the standard vegan interior, one of the few options is leather upholstery at $4,000. Base price, sans the $5,000 Performance Pack that combines Brembo brakes and Ohlins shock absorbers, is $59,900.

Look nasty in a Sonata N Line

We previewed the Kia K5 and its looming ramp-to-ramp jump during the Emmys. Across the hall at its South Korean sibling, Hyundai is busting its own moves to grab the attention of people who like to strut a bit while driving affordable cars. We learned this week that Hyundai is going bold with its Sonata sedan, which was completely redone for 2019, by introducing the Sonata N Line, the midsize sedan’s entry in Hyundai’s performance – and appearance – range of models that’s collectively called the N Brand, and which incorporates specific entrants from the Elantra and Veloster ranges, as well.

First impression are that this is nicely aggressive without being over the top like some of the things we’ve seen coming out of Japan lately. With dual character creases running down both sides, the Sonata is upgraded to N Line parameters by adding the line-defining cascading grille treatment, an N Line front fascia with multiple air intakes, side skirts and 19-inch wheels whose spoke pattern is somewhat reminiscent of the second-generation Taurus SHO that Ford produced, with Yamaha power, in the mid-1990s. The Sonata N Line also adds a black-surface lower rear bumper and four exhaust outlets faired into a rear diffuser. And just so you know it’s not all for show, a Sonata SEL can already be had with 245-series Pirelli P-Zero rubber and an available 1.6-liter turbocharged four with 180 horsepower, linked to an eight-speed manual transaxle.

A “tail” about productivity

Look, we’ve done it too, rhapsodizing about people who plunk down very big cash – priced a full-size pickup lately? – for an option-laden truck that they use for commuting or swinging by the hair salon, rarely carrying anything but air in the cargo bed. Yeah, it’s a stereotype, but it also has had considerable grounding in fact. A lot of us use our trucks as cars, or toys. And a lot of us still traditionally use them for work, which is why it’s so gratifying to know that automakers are building impressive job-site utility into their new-generation haulers. To that chorus, we add the vocals of Chevrolet, whose 2021 Silverado 1500 will newly offer a Multi-Flex Tailgate with six selectable functions early next calendar year.

Borrowed from GMC’s successful tailgate option, the Multi-Flex panel is essentially a tailgate within a tailgate, with both sections powered through the owner’s key fob or pushbuttons mounted on the outside of the truck. The system has a weight capacity of 375 pounds. When paired with the optional Silverado Durabed, the truck can be outfitted with LED lighting, an onboard 120-volt outlet and an even dozen cargo tie-downs. Even with its base engine, a 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-four, the 2021 Silverado will still boast a trailering capacity of 9,600 pounds, with the optional 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel boosting that capability by an additional 1,900 pounds. Production of the new Silverado commences this month.

VW debuts, prices ID.4 EV

We promised it and it’s finally happened: You can now aim your browser at the Volkswagen website and make a reservation to buy the ID.4, Wolfsburg’s first long-range, fully electric vehicle for the United States market. That means we now also know what the price is going to be: The ID.4’s MSRP will begin at $39,995, which does not count the $7,500 federal tax credit for which the vehicle is eligible under law. Just like the Beetle, the ID.4 will be driven by an electric motor powering, and located between, the rear wheels, the motor producing the equivalent of 201 horsepower and delivering an estimated 250 miles per charge. A higher-priced AWD variant will be introduced later. Initial production will take place at Volkswagen’s plant in Zwickau, Saxony, Germany, before assembly is shifted to Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2022.

The new Volts-wagen – sorry, couldn’t resist – is based on Wolfsburg’s EV-specific MEB platform, which incorporates a 12-module battery pack mounted beneath the underbody to lower the ID.4’s center of gravity. Each vehicle will be sold with three years’ worth of fast-charging access via Electrify American; the ID.4 is equipped with inverters that allow it to be fast-charged using either AC or DC current. An 11 kW onboard charger can replenish the battery pack at the rate of 31 miles’ worth per hour, with a full charge using home electricity taking about 7.5 hours. Using a DC fast-charging station capable of up to 125 kW, the ID.4 can go from 5 percent charged to 80 percent in 38 minutes. Underneath, the EV utilizes struts up front with lower control arms and coils, plus coils and multiple links at the rear. Interestingly for a vehicle of this price, the ID.4 has disc brakes in front and drums out back – with regenerative braking from the electric driveline, rear discs become somewhat superfluous.

Raising funds with a wide grin

In two nights, the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, a must visit for anyone who likes cars, will hold its annual fundraiser amid unavoidably diminished attendance due to the ongoing pandemic. Therefore, it’s a major happening, and it just got considerably bigger. Superformance LLC, which markets replicas of a whole array of landmark enthusiast automobiles, has donated one of its MKII “Slab Side” sports car replicas for the non-profit museum to auction off. This car is a direct copy of one of the most storied Shelby Cobras extant, CSX2000, a 289 Cobra that was personally owned and driven by the late Carroll Shelby. Despite having a modern powertrain, anchored by a Ford small-block V-8 rated at 388 horsepower, the MKII is true to the original Cobras built nearby by Shelby American in Venice, California. It rides on chromed wire wheels, uses Wilwood four-piston disc brakes, has bodywork finished in Guardsman Blue, and dimensionally matches the original 289 Cobras as Shelby created it. The MKII even wears an AC Cars badge on its nose, recalling the Cobra’s creation from the AC Ace sports car built in the United Kingdom.

Like most events at the Petersen since it closed in March, the gala and fundraiser will take place online. The MKII is a Shelby-licensed continuation car produced as a rolling chassis by Superformance, founded in 1996 by Jim Price and Lance Stander. The cars are produced under an agreement with its owner, Hi-Tech Automotive, at Hi-Tech’s assembly plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The firm produces 400 copies of the MKII Slab Side annually, sold through a global network of 20 dealerships to buyers who furnish their own powertrain components. Other cars replicated under license by Superformance include the 427 Cobra, Cobra Daytona Coupe and Corvette Grand Sport. Superformance is also the distributor for Caterham Cars, which produces its own very popular replica of the iconic Lotus Seven. If this kind of fundraising appeals to you, too, check out the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa, which will raffle off a 2021 Corvette C8 Z51 during next year’s Knoxville Nationals.

Kia K5’s prime-time strut

Assuming you find this somehow consequential, the Emmy Awards are on TV tonight; we’ll leave it to you to discover the telecast’s time and network. The 72nd annual exercise in self-validation will include some incidences of product placement involving the 2021 Kia K5 sedan, including, believe it or not, a ballyhooed ramp-to-ramp jump. That would seem to be appropriate, given the fact that the awards ceremony is dedicated to the medium that’s brought us The A-Team, T.J. Hooker and countless other performances where this type of stunt is commonplace.

Forgive the yawn and suffocating boredom over the awards fest. The more relevant news is the car itself, the highest-performance midsize sedan that Kia has yet offered. New for 2021, the K5 is obviously inspired thematically by the Kia Stinger sport sedan, and rides on the new N3 platform. While it’s only recently begun reaching the showrooms, the K5 (any car that shares its name with an Altoona Works-built Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotive is a winner in our book) will be offered in four trim levels, including a pulse-punching GT version, with both available all-wheel-drive, a full lineup of turbocharged engine choices, and eight-speed transaxles in both automatic and manual configurations. Replacing the outgoing Optima sedan, which enjoyed an impressive decade-long run in this market, the Georgia-built K5 grows in wheelbase, overall length and overall width, parameters that can translate into a roomier passenger cabin. Enjoy the show.

Small-size VW SUV is coming

Want some proof that after 30 years (dating, admittedly arbitrarily, to the birth of the Ford Explorer in 1990), the world of the SUV has made a complete revolution of reality? Consider that it was once plain old passenger cars that came in every conceivable size. The SUV market has finally, fully caught up to that concept, as these rigs now come in every proportion from gargantuan (Chevrolet Suburban, Nissan Armada) to miniscule (Chevrolet Trax, Hyundai Kona). At the lower end of the size scale is the crowded array of compact SUVs, a pool from which you can pluck the Subaru Forester, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V, among numerous other players. Volkswagen wants to elbow into this dance, too, and is planning to announce a new compact in about month, slotted below the existing Tiguan. What, you ask, does Tiguan stand for? It’s a German noun that roughly translates to “iguana.” You know, Puerto Vallarta, Liz and Dick and all that.

The teaser photo discloses what Volkswagen has chosen to reveal so far, namely its name, which will be Taos, after the small city in New Mexico. As Volkswagen helpfully notes, Taos is also the hometown of John Muir, the engineer-turned-author who penned the serendipitous volume How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step procedures for the Compleat Idiot in 1969, a hallowed tome for Beetle enthusiasts. Taos was also the hometown of the Dennis Weaver character in the rotating 1970s TV mystery McCloud, a New Mexico marshal improbably transplanted to the concrete canyons of Manhattan. Didn’t resonate with yours truly, whose preferred Dennis Weaver performances include the grossly underrated 1980 antiwar TV movie Amber Waves and of course, his role in Steven Spielburg’s first film, Duel. The Taos will flip Volkswagen from its other SUV rollout this year, the three-row seating Atlas.

Triumph and a title for Toyota

Even without the half million or so souls who ordinarily troop to the Sarthe circuit each June, the rescheduled 24 Hours of Le Mans ended this morning when Toyota made it a threepeat in winning the world’s most fabled endurance race for sports cars. Toyota Gazoo Racing swept two of the top three spots in what was the final Le Mans appearance for the all-wheel0-drive TS050 Hybrid running in the LMP1 class. The winning number 8 Toyota was shared by the team of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, who logged more than 5,000 kilometers en route to the victory. Sébastien and Kazuki scored their third straight win in the process, joining only seven other drivers who have won three races in consecutive years, a heritage that dates back to when the 24 Hours first ran in 1923.

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The Le Mans win had an important side benefit: It allowed the Toyota team to amass enough points in the FIA World Endurance Championship to lock down the series’ season team championship for the third time (2014 and 2018-2019), ending up with an unbeatable 57-point margin over Swiss-based Rebellion Racing, which managed to split the podium with one of its Oreca Rebellion R-13s running in LMP1. The Le Mans pole winner, Toyota Gazoo’s number 7 car, suffered exhaust issues during the race but recovered, the lineup of Indianapolis 500 veteran Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López charging in the final hour to place third overall. The WEC drivers title will go down to the series’ final round in Bahrain, set for November 14th.

Hummer EV due next month

Don’t you just love this kind of stuff? Hummer, in its revived guise as a sub-brand of GMC (think LaSalle and Cadillac, Marquette and Buick, or Erskine and Studebaker, only this is anything but a price-positioning gambit), is getting ready to roll out its first – only – all-electric pickup truck and has been periodically issuing forth a series of teasers on what the vehicle will be all about. This latest entry sets the formal Hummer EV rollout for October 20th, while also providing a hint of some performance capabilities. The Hummer EV will come with both four-wheel steering and what’s being called Crab Mode, a feature that will allow the rig to move diagonally, guided by all four wheels.

That helps to explain why this Great Leap Sideways has the little guy in the corner of the photo as a prop. The Hummer EV, which will have the equivalent of 1,000 horsepower and a 0-60 time of three seconds flat, can move in a crablike fashion. Which brings us to crabs, a highly enjoyable dining experience, even if getting them in the shell can amount to a messy eating experience that involves a heap of spiced, steamed crustaceans, a mallet, a flat knife for prying the shell, newspaper spread over a butcher-block table, and a big roll of paper towels. Plus, for many of us, a bib. My favorite place is Phillips Seafood in the inner harbor of Baltimore, followed closely by the legendary Sambo’s Tavern along the water off Route 9 in Leipsic, Delaware. Haven’t gotten to sample the crab scene in Florida yet due to the pandemic.