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Dodge almost made an off-road version of the Caravan

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Dodge Caravan off-road concept (via Michael Santoro)

SUVs have decimated minivan sales in part because of their rugged appearance and the promise of off-road capability, but what if you could imbue a minivan with those same qualities? It almost happened with the Dodge Caravan in the 1990s.

First spotted by The Drive, this Dodge Caravan off-road concept was penned by Michael Santoro, who had just finished working on the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus “cloud car” sedans at the time. Santoro would go on to work for doomed supercar maker Vector, and help hatch the Jeep Easter egg, but in the mid 1990s he was a minivan specialist.

“One of the best parts about being in a studio that designs the best selling vehicle a company makes is, there is always interest from upper management in spin-offs and line extensions,” Santoro said of the off-road minivan’s genesis on his personal website.

 

Dodge Caravan off-road concept (via Michael Santoro)

Tasked with creating a new Caravan variant “without spending any money,” Santoro added grille bars, side steps, a light bar, a roof rack, and blacked-out B-pillars. The design progressed far enough for a prototype to be built and shown to dealers.

While Dodge dealers loved the concept, Jeep dealers didn’t. They were afraid a production version of the off-road minivan would cannibalize sales, Santoro said.

Regardless, the prototype was “a step away” from debuting at the Chicago Auto Show, but “the plug was pulled at the last moment,” Santoro said. Adding off-road styling cues has helped boost the sales of other types of vehicles—just look at the Subaru Outback and Audi Allroad wagons—but could it have worked with a minivan? It seems we’ll never know.

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Shelby F-250 Super Baja is the Super Duty Raptor America wants

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2021 Ford Shelby F-250 Super Baja

Ford doesn’t make an F-250 Raptor, leaving an opening for the aftermarket. Shelby American already sells upgraded Ford F-150 pickups, but now the company is launching an F-250 Super Duty with enhanced off-road capability.

The 2021 Ford Shelby F-250 Super Baja gets a new suspension from Fox, giving it an increased ride height and better off-road handling, Shelby said in a press release. The truck also gets 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels—including two spares mounted on a rack in the bed. Those are bigger tires than the factory F-250 Tremor model, which rolls on 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac rubber.

Other exterior alterations include a ram-air hood, powder-coated steel front and rear bumpers, fender flares, power side steps with rock sliders and lights, powder-coated exhaust tips, and extra LED lighting all around.

2021 Ford Shelby F-250 Super Baja

The interior sports leather seat covers, carbon-fiber trim, stainless steel gauges, and a serialized dashboard plaque.

Shelby didn’t mention any powertrain modifications. The Super Baja uses the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8, which produces 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque from the factory. That tremendous amount of torque is sent to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Production is limited to 250 units, with a base price of $125,805, including the cost of a 2021 Ford F-150 Lariat Ultimate 4×4 donor vehicle. Shelby provides its own 3-year/36,000-mile vehicle warranty, and its modifications don’t affect the factory powertrain warranty. If the Shelby F-250 isn’t to your liking, Roush offers its own suspension and styling upgrades, and there’s also a limited-edition Harley-Davidson F-250.

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Ferrari headed to Le Mans Hypercar class in 2023

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Ferrari at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans

In the early 1960s, Ferrari dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans, before being shut down by Ford and its GT40. Ferrari gradually withdrew from sports-car racing, shifting focus to Formula One, but now it’s back.

The automaker announced Wednesday that it will join the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class in 2023, marking a return to the legendary French endurance race as a factory team.

LMH is the new top class in the WEC, replacing the LMP1 hybrid prototypes that have ruled the roost since the 2012 season. The main difference is that LMH cars are loosely based on production models, albeit low-volume hypercars, hence the name. While a mystery test mule tipped to be a LaFerrari successor has been spotted in Maranello, it’s unclear if this will be the road-going counterpart to Ferrari’s LMH racer.

Ferrari said it just kicked off development of its LMH contender “in recent weeks,” and won’t announce further details of the car, or the driver lineup, until a later date.

Ferrari at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans

The automaker last competed in the top tier of FIA sports-car racing in 1973, when the series was known as the World Sports Car Championship. Its last overall Le Mans victory came in 1965, but Ferrari has been represented by various privateer teams running in the lower-level GT classes. AF Corse scored a GTE Pro class win at Le Mans in 2019, and Ferrari won the WEC GT manufacturer’s championship in 2017.

The first race for LMH cars will be the 2021 WEC season opener at Portimao April 4. Toyota, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, and Germany’s ByKolles will field cars in the first season, while Peugeot is expected to join in 2022.

Aston Martin was originally expected to join the LMH class with a race-ready version of the Valkyrie, but the automaker put those plans on hold following the announcement of the LMDh class for the United States-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will replace the current DPi prototype class for the 2023 season.

Meanwhile, Porsche plans to return to Le Mans with an LMDh entry, a move made possible because the class rules are being developed in concert with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), which sanctions the race. That means we’ll see Porsche and Ferrari battling for victory at Le Mans in just a few years. The top series of endurance racing will once again be a spectacle.

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Battery-electric crossover in the works

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2022 Genesis GV70

Genesis is close to revealing its first battery-electric vehicle, a compact crossover code-named the JW and possibly destined to be called a “GV60” or “eGV60.”

However, this is just one of several electric vehicles the Korean brand has in the pipeline. Also out testing is an electric version of the G80, and now an electric version of the recently revealed GV70 has been spotted.

The GV70 is a small crossover that arrives at dealerships later this year as a 2022 model. It will go up against vehicles like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, while its electric variant will take on the likes of the Tesla Model Y, Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-Tron.

We know the prototype is for an electric version of the GV70 because of the missing exhaust tips and the sealed-off grille. Trademark filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office discovered in January suggest the electric GV70 could be badged an “eGV70.”

2022 Genesis GV70

2022 Genesis GV70

2022 Genesis GV70

It isn’t clear what platform will underpin the vehicle. The likely bet is a modified version of the regular GV70’s platform. Known as M3, the aluminum-intensive platform is exclusive to Genesis and is also found in the G80 and GV80.

As for its upcoming JW electric crossover, Genesis will use Hyundai Motor Group’s E-GMP dedicated EV platform. The vehicle is a twin to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 revealed on Tuesday, and Kia is working on a similar model due for a reveal in March.

Recent reports out of Korea claim the electric GV70 will enter production in December. Those reports also point to an electric GV80 being developed.

Should the electric GV70 be approved for the United States, we’ll likely see it arrive in 2022 as a 2023 model. As mentioned above, the regular GV70 arrives later this year. Two powertrains have been confirmed: a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 and 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6. They will deliver 300 and 375 hp, respectively.

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