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How Subaru developed the 862-hp WRX STI for Gymkhana 11

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Subaru Launch Control: Road to Gymkhana

When Ken Block handed over the steering wheel of his Gymkhana video series to Travis Pastrana last year, that meant the return of Subaru, which was featured in the first two Gymkhana videos before Block switched to Ford.

Subaru ended up building a WRX STI specifically for Gymkhana 2020, and that process is documented in “Road to Gymkhana” a two-part special of the “Launch Control” video series, which normally features Subaru’s stateside motorsports exploits.

The first episode covers the build process and planning for the video shoot, plus the first day of shooting in Pastrana’s hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. There were plenty of obstacles along the way, from coronavirus lockdowns to trouble on set.

The second episode covers the remaining three days of the shoot, with some behind-the-scenes looks at Gymkhana 2020’s major stunts, including a high-speed jump and tandem donuts.

 

Subaru Launch Control: Road to Gymkhana

Pastrana is a Subaru USA rally driver, so it was expected that he would use a WRX STI for Gymkhana 2020. But the car he drove in the video is no ordinary STI, or even one of the rally cars Pastrana has flung through forests from Oregon to Missouri.

Subaru and partner Vermont SportsCar started with a stock WRX STI body shell, adding a roll cage but otherwise keeping weight to a minimum. Subaru previously said the complete car weighs 2,623 pounds—over 800 pounds lighter than a stock STI. A 2.3-liter turbocharged boxer-4 engine produces 862 hp, giving the Gymkhana STI a power-to-weight ratio of three pounds per hp.

The engorged carbon-fiber bodywork provides real aerodynamic benefits, as validated in wind-tunnel testing, according to Subaru. Engineers faced the unusual challenge of generating downforce for high-speed grip, while also making the car stable while airborne. One of the solutions was an adjustable flap on the rear wing, which allowed Pastrana to adjust the car’s attitude in midair during jumps, according to Subaru.

“Launch Control: Road to Gymkhana” is available now on both YouTube and Amazon Prime. The current season also includes five episodes focusing on the 2020 American Rally Association season, where Subaru scored two wins and seven podiums. An extended cut of Gymkhana 2020 is also expected to be released later this year.

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Ring Brothers 1968 Mercury Cougar combines old school style with modern running gear

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Ring Brothers 1968 Mercury Cougar

Wisconsin-based hot rod builders Ring Brothers are known for their resto mods. Mike and Jim Ring specialize in taking old cars and revitalizing them with modern components. Their latest project is a 1968 Mercury Cougar.

The badge may say “Cougar,” but there’s a Coyote under the hood, as in Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8. It produces 460 hp, and drives the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission from a Ford F-150 Raptor.

The car got a frame-off restoration, with new floor pans and a new transmission tunnel, as well as a new front bumper, grille, and badging. A performance suspension by DSE was installed, as were modern brakes. The Cougar rides on HRE Series C1 C103 forged three-piece alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport tires.

 

Ring Brothers 1968 Mercury Cougar

While some of Ring Brother’s past builds have had flashy paintwork and heavily modified sheetmetal, the Cougar looks largely stock. The main giveaways are the aforementioned forged wheels on the outside, the F-150 shifter on the inside.

Launched in 1967 as a companion to the Ford Mustang, the Cougar never escaped the Ford’s shadow. The Cougar eventually shifted to a platform shared with the Ford Thunderbird, becoming larger and more luxurious in the process, and was then reimagined again as a compact front-wheel-drive coupe. That final generation ended production in 2002, and the Mercury brand followed it into oblivion a few years later.

“We had never done a Cougar before, so this was a fun build,” Mike Ring said in a statement. “I love working with new shapes and coming up with new ideas. Ring Brothers would normally unveil a newly completed car at the annual SEMA aftermarket show in Las Vegas, but that wasn’t possible due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mike Ring said he hopes the car can be shown to the public soon.

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Most US buyers of the Porsche 911 GT3 are opting for the manual

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2022 Porsche 911 GT3

While car enthusiasts are quick to profess their love for manual transmissions, sales figures often disappoint. That’s not the case with the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3, as the majority of U.S. buyers are opting for a three-pedal setup, reports Bloomberg.

Globally, the take rate for the manual transmission is 30%, but in the U.S. its 70%, Porsche spokesperson Luke Vandezande told Bloomberg. That’s much higher than the overall 911 lineup’s 20% to 25% take rate for the manual transmission.

The GT3 comes standard with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is the quicker option, allowing for 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds and a Nürburgring lap time of 6:59.927. But the optional 6-speed manual is more aligned with the character of the car.

2022 Porsche 911 GT3

Instead of chasing the most impressive numbers, the GT3 emphasizes the driving experience. That’s why it sticks with a naturally aspirated engine and rear-wheel drive, even though turbocharged engines and all-wheel drive are common across the 911 lineup. The GT3 relies on downforce and weight reduction (curb weight is 3,152 pounds, Porsche says) to go fast, while preserving the purity of the driving experience.

Buyers seem to understand that. More importantly, they are willing to put their money where their mouths are. Recall that Porsche launched the previous 911-generation GT3 without a manual, only to bring it back in 2017 due to demand from fans.

The 2022 911 GT3 arrives in dealerships this fall, with a price to be announced closer to that date. Also in the works is a more hardcore GT3 RS, and a GT3 Touring without the standard car’s massive rear wing.

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2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is an impressive 3-row SUV priced from $38,690

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2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Jeep will go from no three-row SUVs to offering two in very short order. The new 2021 Grand Cherokee L starts sales this summer followed by the Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer as a 2022 model in the fall. The move fills a gigantic gap in Jeep’s lineup as 75% of mid-size SUV sales are of the three-row variety and the two-row Grand Cherokee wasn’t going to earn enough market share.

There will still be a two-row Grand Cherokee, but for families the Grand Cherokee L is the way to go. Both vehicles will bring a new unibody platform, as well as a seven-slot grille that’s canted slightly forward and really stands out, even in this flooded SUV market.

The Grand Cherokee L will be offered in four trim levels—Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit—and pricing will start at $38,690 for a rear-wheel-drive configuration and $40,690 if you want all-wheel drive. Both figures include destination.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Gas only for now

The two engine options at launch are familiar. The base engine will be the 290-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 found up and down the FCA lineup. The optional choice will be the Hemi 5.7-liter V-8, here making 357 hp. It will be offered on all trims except the Laredo. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Jeep hinted at a hybrid powertrain for the Grand Cherokee L as soon as next year, but it’ll be all gas for at least the first model year.

Four-wheel drive will come standard across each of the four trim levels, but Jeep will offer three 4×4 systems: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II. The most robust Quadra-Drive II system will be optional in Overland and standard in Summit models. It’s the system you want for serious off-roading, with its 2-speed active transfer case and rear electronic limited-slip differential. Each of the 4WD systems comes with front-axle disconnect that makes the Grand Cherokee L rear-wheel drive most of the time, which should help fuel economy slightly.

Overland and Summit models will also feature a Quadra-lift air suspension with five height settings. The standard ground clearance in normal mode is 8.3 inches, which drops to 6.5 inches when the vehicle is parked for easier cargo loading and ingress/egress. The highest off-road setting boosts ground clearance all the way up to 10.9 inches and gives the Grand Cherokee L approach, departure, and breakover angles of 30.1, 23.6, 22.6 degrees, respectively. These figures trail those of the current Grand Cherokee (36.1, 27.1, 22.8 degrees) when equipped with air suspension despite the two-row SUV’s slightly shorter 10.8-inch ride height.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

My, what a Ram interior you have

Jeep’s counterparts over at Ram had a “come to Jesus” moment a few years ago, with the Ram 1500’s surprisingly opulent interior turning a corner for that brand. Jeep’s next two vehicles, the Grand Wagoneer and Grand Cherokee L, appear to be flexing the same kind of luxury.

The Grand Cherokee L doesn’t have four screens like we saw in the Grand Wagoneer concept, but the two that it does have are sizable. A 10.1-inch digital gauge cluster is standard. It’s flanked by an 8.4-inch standard touchscreen in the center stack that is upgradable to a 10.1-inch touchscreen (optional on Limited and Overland, standard on Summit). Powering both screens is the Android-based UConnect 5, which comes with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and the capability for over-the-air updates. Twelve USB-A and USB-C ports also come standard, which is overkill, but it will keep all of the family’s devices topped off on road trips. A color 10-inch head-up display and a top-down camera that shows the back seats will also be offered.

All trim levels will come with standard second-row captain’s chairs, which have tilt-and-slide capabilities and 7 inches of seat travel. An optional bench seat will bump seating capacity to seven. The Grand Cherokee L will offer some second-row amenities not often seen in this class, with heated and ventilated seats, and four-zone automatic temperature control with personalized fan-level settings.

If there is one interior concern, it is the third-row’s space, or lack thereof. Third-row leg room only measures 30.3 inches, which won’t be enough to fit adult passengers comfortably. For some added context, the Ford Explorer has a small third-row for this class and it has 32.2 inches of leg room. It’s possible that the amount of travel the second row offers could alleviate some the space crunch, but it doesn’t look promising at first glance.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Thank goodness, safety is finally standard

A sticking point with Jeep and, frankly, FCA vehicles on the whole has been a lack of standard safety features. The Grand Cherokee L appears to be the first step in fixing this issue. It will come with a long list of standard safety features, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and rear parking sensors.

Jeep will also offer a digital rearview mirror, a night vision forward camera, a surround-view camera system, and parking assist. Jeep also plans to introduce a Level 2 autonomous hands-free highway driving system on the Grand Cherokee L, but it won’t arrive until the 2022 model year. We asked if vehicles sold before then would be able to upgrade to that system either via an OTA update or at a dealership, but Jeep declined to provide further information.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

And now we play the waiting game

Early returns for the Grand Cherokee L are promising, it passes the eye test, offers advanced technology, and has the off-road chops (on paper at least) to be a true Jeep. As for how it drives, we’ll have to wait and see.

For more on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, read the in-depth reviews at The Car Connection.

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