Ford’s first e-crate sells out, VW Bus’ electric reboot nears reality, NASCAR crowns new Cup king
Ford’s $3900 Eluminator e-crate motor is already sold out
Intake: Well, that was fast. After making its debut under the hood of a sweet 1976 F-100 last week at SEMA, Ford’s Eluminator e-crate motor is already sold out, according to the automaker. “Demand has exceeded expectations,” says Emma Bergg, of Ford’s Electric Vehicle Communications team. If you missed the first wave of $3900, 281-hp motors, stay tuned—Bergg also said that although the units are now out of stock, interested customers should sign up to be notified when orders open once again.
Exhaust: For some, the idea of an electric crate motor is about as exhilarating as the dash to the grocery store for more milk. But to a large portion of the car community, the prospect of e-crate motors simply means that their favorite silhouettes and classics have the chance for a longer life. While we don’t know how many Eluminators were in stock when the project was announced, selling out in less than a week is a noteworthy achievement that shows the industry’s appetite for well-executed, accessible e-crate motors.
Maserati’s next-gen Gran Turismo is almost here, combustion engine and all
Intake: Maserati is once again making progress on its September, 2o2o promise to launch 13 new vehicles over the next four years. The trident brand is taking a measured approach to electrification, allowing combustion- and electric-powered models to co-exist in its upcoming lineup. Whether supercar, SUV, or GT, internal-combustion variants will arrive first, with each model’s electric counterpart debuting the following year. The slinky grand tourer spied in the video above is the gas-swilling first round of the next-gen Gran Turismo. (The electric version is purportedly scheduled for 2022, with triple motors anchoring a 800V platform capable of 300kW rapid charging.) While overall silhouette and athletic curves are familiar from previous Gran Turismos, several styling changes are apparent. The headlight shape is evolving to a more vertical orientation, and the taillights, while still framing a chrome bar on the decklid, appear to have slimmed considerably—though some details remain hidden beneath the Maserati-branded camo.
Exhaust: The change in headlight shape from horizontal to vertical is the opposite route that Jaguar took when facelifting the handsome F-Type coupe. It also matches the design language from the svelte, mid-engine MC20, whose EV version is also due in 2022. So far these changes look promising—especially the quad exhaust tips, which you can expect to sing a six-cylinder, Maserati-written aria.
Mercedes makes in-car payment a reality
Intake: Digital wallets aren’t exactly radical—unless said wallet lives inside your vehicle. And that’s what Mercedes-Benz and Visa created with a new partnership that allows in-car payment for, well, presumably any product or service you can conjure up on a Mercedes-Benz “MBUX” dashboard screen. The system operates via fingerprint confirmation and is currently being tested in the U.K. and Germany, with customer availability scheduled for spring of 2022. Its availability in other markets is TBD.
Exhaust: It’s a little ironic that the M-B/Visa mashup happened a full 25 years after the F 200 Imagination concept foretold a future with in-car hotel reservations and virtual banking capabilities. While technology creep is sometimes concerning, this should come as no surprise, since smartphones have made this technology available to the masses since Apple’s App Store opened up in 2008.
Your most realistic peek yet at the Microbus’ electric reboot
Intake: After several teases, hints, and spy shots, the production version of the all-electric VW minivan, dubbed the ID.Buzz, was shown in the most detail yet during a launch video for the ID.5 sedan. The funky graphics cover some design details, but there’s plenty to ogle, like the texture of the front grille, the sliding door, and the two-tone wheels.
Exhaust: If the currently available ID.4 SUV is any indication, VW’s reborn bus should have 240 to 260 miles of range. Even though we haven’t seen inside the ID.Buzz yet, our hopes are high; Volkswagen’s interior designers have an excellent track record of practical, spacious, and human-centered cabins, and you can expect them to make excellent use of this van’s blocky proportions.
Kyle Larson crowned king of NASCAR’s Cup Series
Intake: NASCAR’s Cup Series has a new champion. Sunday, 29-year-old Kyle Larson crossed the finish line first at Phoenix International Raceway, a mere .398 seconds in front of fellow championship-hopeful Martin Truex Jr., claiming his first title and tenth win of his dominant season. 2021 marked the first season back in the Cup Series for the Elk Grove, California driver, after being released by Chip Ganassi in 2020 for using a racial slur during an iRacing event.
For the second consecutive year a first-time champ has been crowned from the Hendrick Motorsports stable. Under NASCAR’s playoff format, only four drivers were eligible to win the championship entering Phoenix–Kyle Larson, teammate and reigning champ Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin. In typical championship-finale fashion, the cream rose to the top, with all four drivers placed within the top five. The race rounded out NASCAR’s championship weekend in the Arizona desert after crowning Camping World Truck Series champ Ben Rhodes on Friday and Xfinity Series champ Daniel Hemric on Saturday.
Exhaust: The comeback is complete. After his release in April 2020, at times it seemed as though Larson’s career at NASCAR’s apex was over. After numerous apologies, self-removal from the public spotlight, and an extensive slate of philanthropic work, Larson had scrubbed his image enough for motorsports magnate Rick Hendrick to take a chance on the young driving phenom in October 2020. The new relationship produced a fairytale season, with Larson hoisting the championship trophy and achieving a double-digit win total (a feat that hasn’t been duplicated since Jimmie Johnson’s 2007 title season). In terms of dominance, this is likely just the beginning for the duo; Larson, who wins in everything he races—late models, sprint cars, stock cars—now has top-tier equipment and a contract with Hendrick’s team through 2023.
The race at Phoenix also marked the end of NASCAR’s sixth-gen Cup car, a platform utilized by the series since 2013. Next year, the Cup Series will utilize a drastically different “Next Gen” car, featuring single-lug wheels, an independent rear suspension, and a sequential five-speed transaxle. New car, new tracks, new drivers, and new reigning champs across all three premier divisions—see you in Daytona!
Over a third of Cadillac dealers say no to EV shift, take buyout
Intake: When Cadillac announced its ambitious plan to be an all-electric brand by 2030, it offered each of its dealers a choice: jump on the electric Caddy train (including necessary dealership modifications), or accept a buyout and give up the franchise. After the November 30, 2020, decision deadline passed, at least 150 (or 17 percent of) Cadillac dealers in North America indicated they’d prefer cold, hard cash than the all-electric gamble. It was an unexpected response to Cadillac’s grand plans. Nearly twelve months later, Automotive News reports that over 300 Caddy dealers have decided to take the cash and close up shop.
Exhaust: One-third of a network sounds mighty condemning, but the 315 or so dealers that closed shop accounted for only 10 percent of total brand sales. Are the closures a no-confidence vote, or an overdue fat-trimming? Even with the reduction, Cadillac will have roughly twice the dealerships of BMW, Mercedes, or Audi, though it can claim only a fraction of each German marque’s vehicle sales. No one has a crystal ball here, but it’s clear that change is afoot.