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NASCAR Next Gen race car debuts, brings the sport into the 21st century

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Chevrolet NASCAR Next Gen Camaro ZL1 race car

The top NASCAR Cup Series has just taken a massive leap out of the dark ages.

On Wednesday, the NASCAR Next Gen race car debuted as a clean-sheet rethink of what the stock car is. The structure, design, suspension, materials, wheels, and transmission are all new.

The clean-sheet design has a lower greenhouse, a shortened decklid, and a wider track, though the current car’s 110-inch wheelbase carries over. NASCAR gave automakers the latitude to stylize the greenhouse to look like the production cars upon which these race cars are based, be it the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, or Toyota Camry.

“From an engineering standpoint, this is a seismic shift. It’s a completely new car that brings with it a lot of opportunity from a technical standpoint,” said Eric Warren, Chevrolet director of NASCAR Programs.

Chevrolet NASCAR Next Gen Camaro ZL1 race car

Up front, the side air intakes are now functional and they, along with the front center intake, now feed the engine as well as the brakes. There’s no longer an intake at the cowl near the base of the windshield, which feeds the engine on the current car. NASCAR has also mandated a symmetrical design of the composite body, which will remove the current aero advantage achieved by using different shapes for the left and right sides of the current cars. NASCAR says that will put the emphasis back on the car’s setup and driver’s skill.

Another important visual change is the new center-locking 18×12-inch forged aluminum wheels that will be wrapped in Goodyear Eagle rubber. The current car runs on 15-inch wheels. The larger wheels with smaller tire sidewalls will dramatically change the handling of the Next Gen car, but Toyota TRD Racing Development’s team noted that automakers really wanted the larger wheels to help make the style appear closer to production cars.

The larger wheels allow NASCAR to require larger brakes with 15-inch rotors and 6-piston monoblock calipers up front and 14-inch rotors and 4-piston monobloc calipers in the rear.

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

What can’t be seen is the modular structure. While the current car’s steel tube chassis carries over, the Next Gen car features a modular construction (like a modern production car) with bolt-on front and rear subframes that should make repairs after a crash easier and less expensive. The underside of the car features a full carbon-fiber undertray with a stepped center splitter and a new rear diffuser, which is all modular and can be replaced in the event of a crash.

New independent front and rear suspensions use a double-wishbone configuration, billet aluminum control arms, and adjustable coil-over shock absorbers. The previous car had a 2-link live rear axle. The steering system is now a modern rack and pinion design instead of recirculating ball.

President of TRD Toyota Racing Development David Wilson told Motor Authority, “The significance of the Next Gen for Toyota TRD would be difficult to explain given that over the course of a year, or year-over-year, the car raced will see more change than the NASCAR race car has seen in over the last 50 years.”

The 358 cubic-inch naturally aspirated V-8 carries over with 670 hp or 550 hp depending on the track. The engine continues with fuel injection, a dry sump oiling system, and split-side exit exhaust. The transmission, however, is new. It’s a 5-speed sequential transaxle with a gearshift but not a clutch. The setup will still require drivers to remove one hand from the steering wheel and match revs to shift.

NASCAR Next Gen race car

NASCAR Next Gen race car

New rules state that each team can have a maximum of seven cars rather than the unlimited number previously allowed. Wilson noted that additional cost savings will arise from the car being standardized as teams will no longer need large fabrication operations. “There’s nothing stock about a stock car,” executive engineer for TRD Toyota Racing Development Andy Graves joked, but there are now about 30 suppliers that teams can buying parts from, and those parts can’t be modified or touched once bought.

While the driver seat and roof flaps are carried over, the Next Gen car has improved safety gear. Additional roll bars have been designed along with form-fitted foam inserts between the chassis and nose and tail like what is found in production cars. The driver seat has been moved closer to the center of the car to move drivers away from the source of impacts.

NASCAR didn’t go into specifics but noted the Next Gen car has been upgraded to allow for in-car cameras in every vehicle so fans can see more real-time data.

While development of the Next Gen race car was completed in February, it won’t make its racing debut until the start of the 2022 season in February at the Daytona International Speedway.

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Electric Volvo XC90 successor to be revealed in 2022 with lidar and advanced driver-assist tech

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Sensor suite for electric Volvo XC90 successor

An all-electric successor to the Volvo XC90 will be revealed in 2022, the automaker confirmed Thursday.  In addition to an electric powertrain, Volvo’s next flagship SUV will feature new sensors and computers, enabling more advanced driver-assistance technology.

The XC90 successor will get Luminar lidar and a higher-performance computer using the Nvidia Drive Orin chip as standard equipment, a Volvo press release said. Volvo previously confirmed plans to integrate roof-mounted lidar sensors from Luminar, which the automaker has been funding since 2018.

Lidar, which is similar to radar but uses light waves instead of radio waves to detect objects, is considered by most automakers and tech companies to be crucial to self-driving cars. Most prototype self-driving cars currently testing on public roads use lidar as part of a trifecta of sensors, along with radar and cameras.

Information from lidar and other sensors will be managed by the new Nvidia chip. The XC90 successor will also get backups for key functions like steering and braking, making it “hardware ready for safe unsupervised autonomous driving once available,” Volvo said.

 

Sensor suite for electric Volvo XC90 successor

The hardware will work with new software developed in-house to enable a feature called Highway Pilot, which will allow for “autonomous driving” on highways, Volvo said. However, it will only be activated “when verified safe and legally allowed for individual geographic locations and conditions.”

That sounds similar to Audi’s Traffic Jam Pilot feature, designed to enable highway driving with minimal human involvement. Audi began adding lidar sensors to some models a few years ago in anticipation of the rollout of Traffic Jam Pilot, but canceled the feature due to regulatory and liability concerns.

Volvo believes its driver-assist tech will get smarter over time, thanks in part to over-the-air software updates. Systems will gradually become more capable, making them able to intervene in more situations, according to Volvo.

New Volvo XC90’s modular SPA platform

New Volvo XC90’s modular SPA platform

The XC90 successor will be based on Volvo’s new SPA2 architecture, which replaces the SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform that underpins the current-generation XC90 and several other Volvo models. The platform will use different central floors for EVs versus gas-powered vehicles. Volvo is also expected to launch an SUV coupe version, possibly called XC100 Recharge.

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2021 Hennessey Mammoth 1000 is a 1,000-plus-hp Ram 1500 TRX, and it’s ready to hit the plains

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2021 Hennessey Mammoth 1000 TRX

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a vehicle that’s hardly lacking in performance, but that’s never stopped the folks at Hennessey Performance Engineering from turning up the volume.

Hennessey in January announced a turnkey version that sees the super truck’s output dialed to a staggering 1,012 horsepower and 969 pound-feet of torque, and on Wednesday the first 20 examples were shown off at the company’s plant in Sealy, Texas.

With so much oomph, Hennessey estimates its modified 1500 TRX, aptly named the Mammoth 1000 TRX, will rocket to 60 mph from rest in 3.2 seconds and pass the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at over 120 mph. Remember, this is a full-size, off-road-rated truck we’re talking about.

In comparison, the stock 1500 TRX comes with 702 hp and 650 lb and, according to Ram, will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds. Sure that is potent, but Ford is working on a new V-8-powered F-150 Raptor R for 2022 that’s rumored to come with the 760-hp supercharged V-8 of the Mustang Shelby GT500. In other words, any 1500 TRX owner planning to visit the drag strip may want to consider some of Hennessey’s upgrades.

For the Mammoth 1000 TRX, the list of upgrades include a custom 2.65-liter supercharger for the Hellcat 6.2-liter V-8, plus pulley upgrades, a high-flow intake, stainless-steel headers, high-flow exhaust piping (including the catalytic converter), and recalibrated engine management. The 1500 TRX’s 8-speed automatic and four-wheel-drive system also form part of the package.

Also included in the standard package is Hennessey’s Stage 1 off-road package. This adds, among other items, a custom front bumper with LED lights, custom 20-inch wheels with 35-inch off-road tires, a lift kit and a front suspension leveling kit. For serious off-roaders, there’s a Stage 2 package that adds all of the goodies of the Stage 1 package along with 37-inch off-road tires and electronic fold-out steps.

2021 Hennessey Mammoth 1000 TRX

Naturally, the vehicle is also tested on the dyno to make sure its delivering the promised power reliably and consistently. A 2-year/24,000-mile limited warranty is included.

Pricing for the Mammoth 1000 TRX starts at $135,350, and Hennessey plans to build just 200 of them for 2021. More than half of the build slots have already been claimed. Orders can be placed through Hennessey or at select Ram dealers.

Hennessey is also offering up an SUV conversion with third-row seats. This model is limited to 20 units, each priced from $375,000. All prices mentioned include the $71,890 cost of the donor 1500 TRX.

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Ferrari 296 GTB revealed with 818 hp from a V-6 hybrid powertrain

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Ferrari 296 GTB

Talk of a modern Ferrari powered by a V-6 dates back more than a decade, but the Italian automaker finally unveiled one on Thursday in the form of the new 296 GTB.

The latest entry follows in a long line of mid-engine cars from Ferrari, and brings to the table a plug-in hybrid powertrain comprising a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 with a wide 120-degree “vee” angle as the internal-combustion component. The wide angle helps create a lower center of gravity while providing adequate space for the turbos to be mounted above.

The V-6 revs to 8,500 rpm and is mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, and sandwiched between these two units is a single electric motor. The engine generates 654 hp on its own while the electric motor adds 164 hp to bring the total to 818 hp. Peak torque is 545 lb-ft and drive is the rear wheels only.

Ferrari 296 GTB

The setup is different to the one in the SF90 Stradale which has a V-8 instead of a V-6, along with two additional electric motors at the front axle. However, the 296, like the SF90, can also drive on electric power alone. A small 7.45-kilowatt-hour battery makes an electric range of about 15 miles possible.

Such a setup is similar to the one in the rival McLaren Artura, though in the Artura, you’re only looking at 671 hp and 531 lb-ft of torque, which means the Ferrari is probably quite a bit quicker. Claimed performance specs include 0-62 mph acceleration in 2.9 seconds, a top speed of over 205 mph, and a Fiorano lap time of 1:21. That makes it quicker than even the 488 Pista.

With the lower cylinder count, Ferrari has managed to reduce the wheelbase compared to mid-engine V-8 models by about 50 millimeters. The engine is also naturally lighter, with Ferrari quoting a dry weight of about 3,240 pounds.

Ferrari 296 GTB

Ferrari 296 GTB

For buyers looking to reduce weight further, there’s the Assetto Fiorano package which saves about 33 pounds thanks to lighter door panels, carbon fiber pieces, and a Lexan rear windscreen. It also adds adjustable Multimatic shocks, additional aero elements, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires.

The interior follows a similar theme to the SF90, right down to the controls for the transmission which resemble the gated manual design of classic Ferraris. Greeting the driver is a digital instrument cluster while the passenger gets their own speed display.

The 296 GTB, the name coming from the specific 2,992-cc displacement and 6-cylinder configuration of the V-6, as well as Ferrari’s Gran Turismo Berlinetta designation, serves as the replacement for the F8 Tributo in the Prancing Horse’s lineup, as opposed to a new entry-level mid-engine car as had been rumored. This means it will likely be priced similar to the F8 which starts at about $277,000.

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