Dodge’s Direct Connection parts, 3 Lotus machines bid farewell, Toyota’s carbon-clad Supra

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Stellantis

Editor’s note: On account of the holidays, there will be no Manifold tomorrow, December 24, or Monday, December 27. If you’re in need of some longer reads this weekend while the chestnuts roast over the open fire (do people still do that?), make sure you’re signed up for our email newsletters.

Direct Connection kicks off the Dodge Performance mania with slew of new parts

Intake: Early last month, Dodge announced that it was bringing back Direct Connection, a line of factory-backed parts and requisite dealer and technical support network to offer anything and everything for those in search of lower elapsed times (E.T.) at the drag strip. Yesterday, Direct Connection announced its first salvo of parts. There are new “tuner” and “stage” kits that can boost your Challenger Hellcat Redeye or normal Hellcat up to 885 horsepower and 750-plus hp, respectively. Beyond just the Hellcat versions though, Direct Connection offers 14 new performance kits for various specs of the production Challenger, and 13 race-ready kits (plus four graphics packages) for the quarter-mile-munching Challenger  Drag Pak. There’s a whole new Direct Connection parts catalog—if you’re curious, here’s the link—which includes pricing, popular performance “recipes,” and information on all things Dodge Performance. Dodge says parts ordering and the opening of the Dodge Power Brokers dealer network is slated to come online late in the first quarter of next year.

Exhaust: Previously, any Dodge performance parts were best sought out under the Mopar Performance catalog umbrella. With the Launch of Direct Connection, Dodge says that all Dodge-specific performance parts will migrate there. (No worries, Jeep owners—your lime green grab handles are still safe and sound in the Mopar catalog.) As the next step in Dodge’s “Never Lift” campaign, which is essentially a roadmap for the two remaining years of gas-powered muscle before the brand turns its attention to electric power, the full-scale launch of Direct Connection sounds pretty epic—and wonderfully Dodge.

Lotus bids farewell to the Elise, Exige and Evora

Lotus end of an era
Lotus / Andy Perkins

Intake: The final Lotus Elise, Exige, and Evora have left the factory as the production lines at Hethel switch over to the new Emira. Between them, these three models represent more than half of the total number of Lotus cars built in the company’s 73-year history. The Elise was launched in 1996 and in the 25 years that followed, 35,124 cars were produced. The final example, pictured above, is a yellow Sport 240. Some 10,497 Exiges were assembled in the model’s 21-year lifespan, and the last off the line is a Cup 430 in Heritage Racing Green. The 6,117th and final Evora made is dark metallic grey GT430. Also sharing the same clever Elise and Exige chassis were the 340R, Europa, 2-Eleven, and 3-Eleven, which brought the total number of vehicles built on the lightweight bonded aluminum architecture to 56,618. In its place is a new Project LEVA which will underpin the pin the brand’s electrified future.

Exhaust: Richard Rackham, Head of Vehicle Concepts sums up the importance of Elise and its derivatives, saying, “The impact of these three cars has been spectacular over the years, technically, structurally and dynamically. But all technologies and innovations move on and, if you had asked me of my proudest moment four years ago, I would have, without hesitation, said the Elise chassis. However, this has been usurped by our new Project LEVA architecture for our new range of electric sports cars, starting with the Type 135 in a few years’ time. This is now the zenith of Lotus architectures as it has moved the technology game so much further. There is a lot to look forward to.”

Toyota’s A91-CF Supra is the most exclusive—and most expensive—Mk. V Supra yet

Intake: For the 2022 model year, Toyota is releasing a limited-run, carbon-fiber-clad Supra, dubbed the A91-Carbon Fiber (CF) edition. This 600-unit Supra adds a host of handmade carbon fiber aero bits, including the front splitter, front canards, side rockers, a rear duckbill spoiler, and rear lower canards. More than just some neat stick-ons, Toyota says the carbon bits improve downforce and stability at speed. Unique matte-black 19-inch wheels round out the exterior visual cues. You can have your A91-CF slathered in one of three paint choices: a matte gray Phantom, Absolute Zero White, or Nitro Yellow. Inside, the A91-CF boasts an Alcantara and leather trimmed cabin with contrasting red and black stitching as well as some nifty carbon-fiber trim pieces. All 600 units will be sold exclusively in North America, each with an MSRP of $64,305 including destination fee.

Exhaust: BMW Z4-shaped elephant in the room notwithstanding, the Supra nameplate still carries plenty of weight in the sports car world. What’s more, plenty of younger enthusiasts for whom the legendary 2JZ-powered Mk. IV Supra will forever be unobtanium seem to be genuinely excited about the modern Mk. V machine. Still, we would have liked to see a power bump included as part of this special edition package (Toyota currently squeezes 382 ponies from the 3.0-liter BMW straight-six ), to say nothing of meaningful chassis tweaks.

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee L three-row gains more screens, more paint for 2022

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L 22MY updates front passenger screen
Stellantis

Intake: Jeep just announced the 2022 model year updates for its newcomer to the three-row crossover space, aptly-named the Grand Cherokee L. The big news is the addition of three new screens for higher-trim vehicles. A new 10.25-inch front passenger screen—the only one in its class—will allow whoever is riding shotgun to input destinations into the car’s navigation screen, change the radio, or load up their favorite TV show through Amazon Fire TV. Limited, Overland, and Summit models also have access to optional matching 10.1-inch entertainment screens for the second row as well. Jeep says both screen options will go online late in the 2022 model year. On the outside, three new exterior shades—Ember, Hydro Blue, and Midnight Sky—join the color palette. All three are available on the Overland and up, while Ember and Midnight Sky can be optioned on the Limited models as well. Jeep says orders are open for the 2022 Grand Cherokee L, as well as the 2022 two-row Grand Cherokee.

Exhaust: One of our biggest criticisms of the Grand Cherokee L when it launched was the lack of interesting exterior colors, and the 2022 model year update brings some much-appreciated variety to what was otherwise largely a monochromatic affair. We’re not surprised to see the passenger screen—something that debuted on the behemoth Grand Wagoneer—make its way onto Jeep’s unibody three-row offering as well. If you’re not already seeing them on the roads near you, these updates should make the Grand Cherokee L all that much more appealing.

Porsche’s Atlanta Experience Center breaks ground on second track and new upgrades for 2023

Intake: Construction is underway at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The American Porsche arm recently decided to expand on its current track footprint and supporting infrastructure. The new circuit will be available to run either independently (1.3 miles) or paired up with the original for an overall distance of 2.3 miles. Incoming curves and corners draw an inspiration from a handful of motorsports locales and aim to replicate the beloved dynamics of the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, the Carousel at Nürburgring-Nordschleife, and the Tail of the Dragon. Specific skill areas are on the way as well, designed for pushing traction and handling to the limit. Other campus arrivals on the docket include a factory restoration facility and parking deck. Construction is projected to take most if not all of 2022; the new track aims to be open and operational by the first quarter of 2023.

Exhaust: The wildly popular Atlanta Experience center has been due for a refresh since opening its doors in 2015. With the location hosting 6,000 visitors a month in pre-pandemic conditions, now is as good a time as any to knock out some worthy upgrades and increase the facility’s capacity.

Honda’s all-new Civic Type R prototype will debut in Tokyo mid-January

Next-Gen Honda Civic Type R at Suzuka
Honda

Intake: Big H fans, mark your calendars. A camouflaged version of the über-Civic will be on display at the Tokyo Auto Salon from January 14–16. Alongside the next-gen Type R’s hello-world moment, there will be a behind-the-scenes video chronicling the car’s development from the perspective of the Honda engineers responsible for bringing the Type R to life. While details are sparse, we’d bet the Type R will once again offer a six-speed manual transmission as the primary gearbox choice, but we may see some form of automatic ‘box as an option. Honda says the new Type R will be “the best performing Type R ever,” so expect a bump in power from the current car’s 306-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It’s rumored that the next Type R may be a hybrid, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Exhaust: The existing camouflaged photos depict a much more subdued exterior, with less anime-esque wings and vents. For our tastes, we think a little more grown-up Type R is a good thing. As we discovered on a summer romp through country backroads in the current-generation Type R, this little Honda is bursting with personality and spirit. If indeed the new one is a better performer, expect an already great thing to get even better.

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