Mercedes tweener convertible spied, Dallara’s track dancer, Lego cooks up a Technic Raptor F-150

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Welcome to The Manifold, our fresh daily digest of news and what’s happening in the car world.

Is Mercedes cooking up a tweener CLE-Class convertible?

Intake: Spy photographers captured a heavily-camouflaged convertible testing alongside a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet in Sweden and in Germany near the Nürburgring. The mule appears similar in size to the E-Class it’s benchmarking against, but there are rumors that Mercedes is planning to consolidate the C-Class and E-Class convertibles into a single model, dubbed CLE-Class. We can’t see much from the heavily camo’d droptop, but it does look like the headlights will be smaller than those of the E-Class, and the rest of the front end appears tighter as well, similar to what we see on the new S-Class.

Exhaust: Convertibles just don’t sell like they used to, as the death of the SLC  (and Audi TT) indicated. We may instead be looking at a complexity-reducing measure for the brand that still manages to keep Benz competitive in the droptop segment with the 4 Series and A4. Expect to see this model break cover officially in mid- to late-2022 as a 2023 model-year vehicle. 

Dallara’s EXP is a super-light circuit-breaker

Dallara EXP
Dallara

Intake: Dallara’s road-going Stradale received the track treatment. The extreme-yet-still-streetable machine is now available in circuit-spec with extra power, extra downforce, and slick Pirelli tires for extra grip. The car’s four-cylinder Ford turbo motor now puts out 499 hp, a full 100 hp more than the road car. The aerodynamics are enhanced to produce up to 2750 pounds of downforce compared to the Stradale’s 1881, while the race rubber means the EXP can pull 2.7 g in the corners. With the Stradale costing over $190,000 before taxes, the EXP is expected to go for closer to $275,000. Existing Stradale owners will be able to convert their cars to EXP spec as well.

Exhaust: The EXP is said to be faster than a GT3 racer, so if you want to dominate your local track day you probably can’t go much quicker for the money. The Stradale isn’t road-legal in the U.S.A., though, so American enthusiasts don’t really have a choice between street and track.

Ford Raptor gets the Lego Technic treatment

Intake: Ford’s top off-road F-150 will soon be available in a 1379-piece Lego Technic set that’s set to start shipping October 1. The color looks like a decent match for Ford’s Code Orange and the detailed set is a pretty faithful, if blocky, representation of the pickup as it’s got the flares, grille, and even the coil-spring rear suspension of the 2021 Raptor. You can pre-order now for $100.

Exhaust: This set looks like a must-have for Raptor owners and fans, but if we were in the market for this set—which we are—we’d appreciate a choice of colors. Come on Lego, we know you’ve got red, blue, white, and gray bricks to fill in most of the Raptor’s available palette!

4000 hours and over $400,000 goes into this E-Type Unleashed

E-Type UK Unleashed-2
E-Type UK

Intake: British Jaguar specialist E-Type UK has set free a 405-hp V-12 version of the Series 3 XKE called the Unleashed. The bored-out engine has a capacity of 6.1 liters and a ceramic-coated 12-branch exhaust, plus E-Type UK’s own side-draft electronic fuel injection to unleash the power. A five-speed manual transmission sends drive to the rear wheels, of course. Fully adjustable suspension and four-piston disc brakes are installed, along with a new power-steering system to update the car’s handling and stopping capabilities. E-Type UK has “subtly finessed” the car’s exterior with custom chrome bumpers, 16-inch wire wheels, new badging, and LED headlamps. The cabin is hand-trimmed in leather with restomod touches including heated seats, air conditioning, electric windows, Bluetooth connectivity, and push-button start. Prices start at just under $450,000, and you’ll need to supply a donor car.

Exhaust: The Series 3 is probably the least-loved E-Type, even with its V-12, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the Unleashed will capture collectors’ imaginations in the same way as Eagle‘s creation has.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Elantra N in 12 days

Intake: It takes a hair-trigger touch to the space bar, but hidden in the above video at the 12-second is the sneakiest sneak peek of Hyundai’s promised Elantra N. Most of the video is dedicated to a dramatic pen outline of the Nürburgring, backed with some spicy engine sounds. The key bit of data is the date: July 14, when we expect to see the Elantra revealed in full N-spec splendor.

Exhaust: Hyundai has already earned our respect by building edgy, tech-laden, affordable sedans, SUVs, and hatches for the masses. By enthusiastically investing in accessible, well-engineered performance models, the Korean brand is also earning our admiration. The Elantra N promises much of the Veloster N’s snort in a four-door package.

Watch the Hummer EV Pickup hurl itself down a runway 

Intake: Those willing and able to make the payments on the $112,595 Edition 1 of the long-awaited Hummer EV can boast, among other Capital-Letter Special Features, a launch mode that juices the three electric motors for a ~3.0-second run to 60 mph. Now, we’re finally seeing this “Watts to Freedom” trick in action, thanks to the above video.

Exhaust: Anyone who thinks straight-line drama is only captured by sound are missing the point here: the utter ridiculousness of this 9000-pound vehicle shoving a choice finger at the playbook of ICE performance. We’ll bet that Watts to Freedom earns its (rather juvenile) acronym.

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