Cheapest mid-engine Ferrari drops top, Ram considers Tundra TRD Pro rival, Mini returns to ’Ring

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Ferrari’s cheapest mid-engine droptop has six cylinders, not eight

Intake: After a few teases, Ferrari has unveiled the convertible version of its V-6 hybrid supercar, the 296. As is now tradition, the retractable hardtop (or GTS, in Maranello-speak) take on Ferrari’s mid-engined masterpiece is almost indistinguishable from the coupe (GTB). Look closely and you can see that the rear deck has been subtly redesigned with reshaped buttresses and a more noticeable step between the rear of the roof and the “aero bridge” roof spoiler. The roof takes just 14 seconds to open or close and can be operated at speeds of up to 28 mph. Ingeniously, the top splits into two parts that fold away over the front of the engine, “thus maintaining the engine bay’s thermal dissipation characteristics and the balance of the overall design.” The powertrain is unchanged: A mid-mounted three-liter V-6 producing 663 hp complemented by a rear-mounted electric motor which adds 166 hp for a total of 829. Though saddled with an extra 144 pounds, the GTS is able to match the GTB’s pace from 0 to 62 mph (2.9 seconds) and its 205-mph top speed. Also à la GTB, an Asseto Fiorano package will be offered, boasting adjustable Multimatic dampers, carbon aero tweaks, weight savings, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2R tires.

Exhaust: With order books for the F8 Tributo officially closed as of this March, the 296 GTS is your most accessible avenue to open-air, mid-engine Ferrari ownership. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Ferrari appears to have aced the formula once more: The droptop looks every bit as ravishing as the hardtop and packs the same astonishing performance. The only penalty will come with the price, which will weigh in rather more than the $323,000 Maranello demands for a GTB.

Is Ram one-upping the Tundra TRD-Pro?

Intake: At SEMA 2019, Ram trucks unveiled the Ram 1500 Rebel OTG (Off The Grid), a version of its half-ton pickup kitted out for serious campers with an appetite for off-roading. Now, based on imagery filed with the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it looks like that overlanding concept is one step closer to reality. First discovered by Car and Driver, the images depict a Ram 1500 Rebel—the pickup family’s most dirt-ready trim short of the Hellcat-powered TRX—equipped with a snorkel, a new front bumper full of additional lighting, an integrated winch, tow hooks, and new underbody protection. Out back, the drawings show a rear bumper that appears fitted for integrated rear lighting. It also sports tow-hooks on either corner. The Ram 1500 OTG concept used Stellantis’ 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, but there’s no telling whether that powertrain would also be found here; if this patent does make it to production, it may house Ram’s 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, or perhaps even Stellantis’ recently announced 3.0-liter twin-turbo Hurricane straight-six.

Exhaust: With the outdoorsy hype train showing no signs of slowing, we’re not surprised to see Stellantis leverage another brand to polish its off-road kudos. This patent is missing the original OTG concept’s bed rack, rooftop tent, and on-board cooler but overlanding customers often source those from the aftermarket, not the vehicle manufacturer. We are surprised to see a snorkel; but if Ford can design its first factory-spec snorkel for the Bronco Everglades, there’s no reason Ram couldn’t do the same for a pickup. If American Expedition Vehicle’s Ram 2500 HD–based Prospector is just too large, and the TRX garish, Ram might have you in mind with this patent. 

Mercedes’ electric SUV is all about ICE: In-Car Entertainment

Intake: Mercedes’ first dedicated electric SUV is packed full of in-car entertainment features to keep up to seven passengers amused. Sitting on the same architecture as the EQS luxury sedan, the SUV is almost 12 inches taller, which makes the cabin even more spacious, and allows for a third row of seats. A Dolby Atmos system provides full 360-degree surround sound, while the cabin is also dominated by an array of screens. Up front the MBUX Hyperscreen can be optioned, which gives the passenger his or her own 12.3-inch OLED display to watch “dynamic content” on the move. Rear passengers also get sizeable screens to help pass the time between recharges. The longest range version is claimed to be capable of covering up to 410 miles on a full battery. Driver entertainment, meanwhile, will come from the most powerful 580 4MATIC which sends 544 hp to both axles via a pair of permanently excited synchronous electric motors. The lower-powered 450 version offers 360 hp in rear or all-wheel drive configurations. Mercedes says that with both axles driven, and adjustable air suspension the EQS SUV can tackle “light terrain with ease.” Rear-wheel steering makes tight manoeuvres easier and there’s an option to increase the rear-steer from 4.5 degrees to ten degrees for additional agility.

The styling is a little more conventional than the EQS and EQE sedans, largely by virtue of the car’s stature, but it does share its siblings’ approach to aerodynamics, with attention paid to window seals, wheel design and the underbody, to make it amorphously smooth. You can judge whether it’s a success or not. Prices and detailed specification will be available nearer the launch.

Exhaust: Mercedes already has a seven-seat electric SUV in the form of the EQB, which will arrive stateside soon. However, that car is based on a traditional combustion-engined platform which has been electrified. The new EQS SUV will elevate performance, range–and price–significantly.

After 10-year hiatus, Mini returns to Nürburgring competition

Intake: Mini is a brand that has racing in its DNA, and that comes thanks to John Cooper. He was the privateer with the vision that the minuscule BMC Mini had potential as a race car. Now the high performance version of the modern MINI wear his name, including one primed to race the Nürburgring 24 hour on May 26-29. The car features a smattering of tasty upgrades from the air jack system from pit stops to the massive adjustable rear wing.

Exhaust: This is a privateer effort done by Bulldog Racing that has come together in just seven months. Bulldog Racing is a reference to the “bulldog stance” description that was given to early Mini Coopers, since they had the wheels pushed as far to the corners of their chassis as possible, much like a bulldog’s elbow-out attitude. The car doesn’t look like a truly radical race machine, but if the JCW pedigree comes through, this pocket-sized rocket will do BMW Mini proud.

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