Welcome to the Hooniverse News! As always, this is a weekly recap of the biggest stories in the automotive industry without the fluff or bull. This week: Gordon Murray Automotive debuts track-ready T.50s Niki Lauda, Ford adds King Ranch edition to the Explorer, Jeep announces launch edition 392 Wrangler pricing, new Lexus NX leaks, Ferrari announces plans for Le Mans Hypercar program, plus other stories from the week.
Gordon Murray Automotive T.50s Niki Lauda
Riding on a wave of enthusiasm from the stunning and groundbreaking T.50 debut from six months ago, Gordon Murray Automotive is upping the ante. Developed alongside the “standard” street car, the T.50s Niki Lauda is a track-only version that cuts the weight, adds power, and increases downforce. It sticks with the T.50’s theme of driver involvement over everything else, so by track car standards this one is fairly tame. Lap times take a backseat to the driving experience but it’s no slouch.
The Cosworth-designed 3.9-liter V12 is a different version of the one found in the street car. Power increases from 690 to 701 horsepower and redline increases slightly to 12,100 RPM. They say that its new roof-mounted high-performance RAM induction airbox allows power to be increased to 725 horsepower. At the other end of the internal combustion equation is a racing exhaust that should make it one of the best-sounding cars on the planet. Hopefully your local track doesn’t have noise restrictions. Because race car, the six-speed manual H-pattern is replaced with a bespoke Xtrac IGS (Instantaneous Gearshift) six-speed with paddles. As its name implies, it’s stupid fast. It’s also lightweight and compact and offers two different sets of gear ratios which can be installed at the driver’s command. Top speed on track will be between 170 mph and 210 mph depending on the ratios.
Even the chassis is a bit different from the standard T.50. A specially developed lightweight carbon fiber monocoque with a honeycomb aluminum core adds immense stiffness and strength. All exterior body panels are unique to the car and made from carbon fiber as well. Even the windows and screens use glazing that has been further reduced in weight from the road car. I don’t even know what that means but it sounds cool. The forged aluminum front and rear double wishbone suspension is carried over from the road car but uses T.50s-specific springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars. As part of the deal customers can get the car’s suspension and aerodynamics set up just for them. Everything is adjustable.
Speaking of aerodynamics, it’s insane on this car. Completely new aero produces up to 3,300 pounds of downforce which is a staggering 1,100 pounds more than you’d get from the also track-only McLaren Senna GTR. Ironically, Gordon Murray Automotive’s opening statement in the press release mentions how they didn’t want to create an “over-downforced spaceship” that you’d need to be an F1 driver to utilize. I guess when you’ve designed F1 cars your interpretation of over-downforced is quite a bit different than that of mere mortals.
Stopping power comes from Brembo carbon ceramic discs (same as the road car) with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers. It’s unclear how much, if any, the braking system is changed from the road car but they did add new ducting around each wheel to improve brake cooling. That goes a long way on a track day. There’s clearly no shortage in stopping power either with an incredible 3.5G of deceleration between the brakes and the aero. The T.50s sits on exceptionally light magnesium forged 18-inch wheels (weighing about 13 pounds each) with lightweight wheel hubs and center locking. Michelin slicks (or rain tires) are attached, measuring 250mm wide at the front and 300mm wide at the rear.
To answer the question many of you will have, the car is named after Niki Lauda to commemorate his famous win with the Murray-designed Brabham BT46B fan car in the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix. But also because Niki was just a legendary driver and a personal friend of Gordon Murray. 25 of these cars will be built and each will be individually named after one of Murray’s grand prix wins (as a car designer) starting with Kyalami 1974. Each of the cars will be named after the 24 subsequent wins in chronological order. Each car will come with a book about that race that it is named after with Murray’s view and memories of the victory. This is the kind of shit that only Gordon Murray can get away with.
The Gordon Murray Automotive T.50s Niki Lauda is the ultimate track car for those who value the experience over the numbers. Of course in capable hands it’ll still do great things, but it’s meant to amplify one’s love of driving. But only if that person has £3.1m ($4.3m) in Game Stonks to spare.
[Source: Gordon Murray Automotive]
Ford Explorer King Ranch
You read that right. The ultra luxurious, western-themed, leather-clad King Ranch spec is coming to the Explorer. Once reserved exclusively for the F-Series, the King Ranch is now on both of Ford’s most popular SUVs (it came to the Expedition a while ago) with all of the same benefits. The move comes on the 20th anniversary of Ford’s collaboration with the legendary south Texas cattle ranch of the same name.
Ford says that customer feedback and market insights have demanded a more refined interior for the Explorer. To which I say, which Explorer have they been driving? The last time I was in one the last thing I thought to myself was “man, I wish this thing had more dead animal carcasses in here”. Anyway, because we must consume all, the Explorer King Ranch aims to address those calls with mahogany-colored Mesa Del Rio leather. It covers the perforated front and second row seats, center console armrest, door trim rollovers, instrument panel, and steering wheel. The famous King Ranch Running W logo is applied throughout. Sapele wood inserts also provide for a natural, earthy feel throughout the cabin.
There are a handful of appearance updates as well to distinguish your Explorer from that of a peasant. A unique Stone Gray-painted mesh grille insert, 20″ aluminum wheels with a Running W center cap, liftgate scuff plate (those mall shopping bags can seriously damage paint), and quad chrome exhaust tips.
The Explorer King Ranch will start at $52,350 with AWD models commanding an extra $2,000. Deliveries commence this spring.
Infiniti teases QX60 with new specs
Infiniti has a big new debut coming soon and they’re eager to talk specs. The all-new 2022 Infiniti QX60 should debut in the coming weeks and we’ve been given some details to hold us over.
It’ll be powered by a familiar 3.5-liter V6 with 295 horsepower and paired with a brand new 9-speed automatic transmission. They say the new model will see a 20% increase in towing capacity which brings it up to 6,000 pounds on select models. That’s enough for a 22-foot Airstream or various weekend toys like motorcycles and personal watercraft. As shown in the press photos, they’ve been testing that tow rating to its limit in all sorts of conditions. Buyers are asking more and more out of their crossovers, so this one needs to be able to tow that much in all sorts of weather conditions and altitudes and do so comfortable. Infiniti says the QX60 will be the one to do it. So if you’re one of America’s millions of crossover buyers who likes to pretend you have a need for towing, you’ve got another attractive option coming soon.
392 Wrangler Launch Edition is wicked (expensive)
During V8 Week, the Wrangler 392 Launch Edition made waves by being wicked…ly expensive. The MSRP for this V8 Wrangler is $74,995 before all of the dealer markups that are sure to plague this thing. While this is specifically for the Launch Edition which comes loaded with just about everything Jeep could throw at it, that price is still insane.
As pointed out by MotorAuthority’s Joel Feder, that’s a few thousand more than what the significantly more powerful and bigger RAM 1500 TRX goes for (without markups). Both are built for extreme off roading, both have four doors, one has 230 more horsepower. Jeep’s V8-powered Wrangler uses a 6.4-liter (392-cubic-inch) HEMI with 470 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque compared to the TRX’s detuned Hellcat motor. Jalopnik points out that “base” model pricing for the 392 Wrangler should be closer to $60,000 though Jeep has not confirmed that. That would be a better price for sure, but that’s still several thousand more than the current-generation Ford F-150 Raptor which is also plenty capable of off-roading.
Even if you can get a standard 392 Wrangler in the 60s, would that still be worth it? Is a V8 in a Wrangler that important?
Lexus NX leaked
GUESS WHAT GUYS! The new Lexus NX got leaked! It’s the next-generation luxury compact crossover that appears to – g-guys, why are you scrolling away? You guys? …. Guys?
Ferrari announces a Le Mans Hypercar program
The biggest news of the week by far was Ferrari’s announcement of a return to Le Mans. As a handful of automakers continue to announce their intentions to partake in the next generation of prototype racing using either IMSA’s LMDh or WEC’s LMH class, one of the bigger names has just announced a new program. Ferrari is returning to prototype racing for the first time since the mighty 333SP seen above spitting enough fire to melt a bumper. The class they’ve chosen is WEC’s Le Mans Hypercar and their planned debut is 2023.
Very little is known about this program since it’s still very early, but their choice to join Hypercar rather than LMDh can be very telling. The single biggest difference between the two classes is that Hypercar allows a little more design freedom and for a bespoke chassis in particular. Toyota and Glickenhaus are using it to develop a street car and race car on the same platform, so presumably Ferrari would debut some new super road car alongside the race car. This enables parts sharing and a chance to charge influencers a shit ton of money for the street car. LMDh on the other hand is meant for a more budget-friendly program where manufacturers only need to develop an engine and front bodywork on top of a spec chassis and electric hybrid power unit. Clearly Ferrari is planning to use the savings from their soon-to-be restricted Formula 1 budget to fund the Hypercar program instead.
While this is extremely exciting news, I’m already skeptical both of Ferrari’s commitment and how long the Hypercar formula can be sustainable. LMDh’s budget-focused formula was already enough to allegedly prompt Aston Martin to cancel their Valkyrie Hypercar project (though in reality it’s probably just because they were broke and wanted to blow their budget on a crappy F1 team instead). LMP1 died because its cost was unsustainable. Hypercar is supposed to be significantly cheaper than LMP1, but is it cheap enough? LMDh has already captured Acura, Audi and Porsche and will see numerous other commitments soon. And if LMDh and LMH ever get to be on the same track, no way will the ACO allow LMDh to be faster and vice versa. Trusting the BOP to work between both classes worries me the most. But come 2023 we’ll at least have a full field again which is properly exciting.
[Source: Racer | Image © 2021 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
Other Coverage From the Week
It was a surprisingly busy week in the industry and my fellow Hoons were on top of it. In case you missed it:
- Land Rover is putting a V8 in the Defender
- Lexus is putting a V8 in the IS(!!!!)
is putting a V8 inintroduced the Carnival MPV
- Hyundai debuted the neat little Ioniq 5 EV
What’s your automotive news?
That’s all I’ve got for you this week, so now it’s your turn. If you saw anything, fixed something, broke everything, or otherwise did anything even remotely car related that you want to share with your fellow hoon, sound off in the comments.
Have a good weekend.