Besides getting the lowdown on the engine in Gordon Murray’s new supercar straight from the man himself, we’ve learned that Jeep is launching a couple plug-in hybrids and Roger Penske and Acura are parting ways. Here’s what’s happening in the car world:
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“For a team to make a protest is quite normal. Of course, it is always better to make a protest at the beginning of the weekend instead of afterwards. But in case of doubt, you always have to protest. Then, it is about the interpretation of the regulations. The teams that have interpreted it the best have benefited the most, but it is very important to know where the limit is.”
—FIA president Jean Todt commenting on the Renault F1 team protesting the Racing Point team’s cars, alleging they are a bit too much like Mercedes’ mighty F1 cars. Todt says the practice of copying other teams has been in Formula 1 for decades and that there isn’t a team in the paddock that hasn’t lifted something from a rival. Renault meanwhile says it will protest Racing Point’s cars every race if necessary. Good stuff!
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
If anyone other than Gordon Murray tried to produce a new and improved version of the McLaren F1 they’d be rightly mocked. The original still tops the list of superlative supercars nearly three decades after it was launched and values have risen to the unobtainium level of an eight-figure buy-in. Yet after Autoweek spoke to Murray about the forthcoming T.50 it’s hard not to believe it really is going to be the second coming, with a circa-$3 million price tag that looks pretty reasonable compared to a ratty F1.
We’ll have to wait until next month for images and all the technical details—with highlights including a 2,160-pound weight, 48-volt active aerodynamics and a central driving position flanked by two passenger seats. But Murray was happy to talk to Autoweek in detail about the new car’s astonishing V12 engine. Our man in Europe, Mike Duff, spoke to Murray. Duff filed the following:
Murray gave famous British motorsport company Cosworth what seemed like an impossible brief. The new motor had to make the same power as the Paul Rosche-designed “S70/2” 6.0-liter BMW V12 from the F1 but be substantially lighter and capable of revving to a motorcycle-like 12,000 rpm. Cosworth hit every target: The engine makes 650 hp, reaches its limiter at 12,100 rpm (thanks to gear-driven valve gear and using titanium for valves and conrods) and weighs just 392 pounds, 132 pounds less than the S70. It’s tiny, too—displacing just 3.9 liters and with the center of its crank just 3.3 inches above its sump.
Cosworth told Murray it could create one engine map capable of meeting all of his targets, but he has insisted on two. “Not everyone is going to want 12,000 rpm every day,” Murray tells us, “not if they are taking the kids to school or popping down to the shops. So I’ve asked for one mode that runs out at ‘Ferrari revs’—9,500 rpm—and shuffles the torque downwards. … It makes 71% of its maximum (332 lb-ft) at 2,500 rpm, a number I find difficult to believe.”
The engine’s response was equally important to Murray, the McLaren’s ability to add revs being one of its most impressive characteristics. “I said they had to do better than the F1, which was about 10,000 revs a second in neutral,” he says. “I got an email back in February last year saying, ‘We think we’ve bettered your target on response: 28,400 revs a second!’ Even after all my years in the industry I struggled to get my head around that one.”
That means it will be able to rev from idle to redline in just one-third of a second—a similar response rate to a naturally aspirated V10 Formula 1 engine.
Yet Murray fears the T.50’s engine—and the larger capacity and slightly less revvy V12 Cosworth is making for the Aston Martin Valkyrie—will mark the end of an era. “Cosworth are so far ahead of Ferrari and other people on internal combustion now, but that’s because everyone is concentrating on hybrids and EVs,” he tells us.
If this is the high watermark of road-going internal combustion, we figure it’s not a bad place to end.
CAR NEWS AND NOTES
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Jeep’s plug-in hybrid versions of the Renegade and Compass SUVs, just launched in Europe, are dubbed Renegade 4xe and Compass 4xe. The two models kick off Jeep’s electrification effort, first announced awhile ago. It’s going to eventually include Wrangler. The Compass and Renegade are the first out the door, though, and go on sale in Europe in just a few weeks, followed by the Middle East, likely landing here later this year or early next. The plug-in system pairs a 1.3-liter gasoline engine and a six-speed automatic with electric motors positioned in the rear axles, skipping a mechanical connection between the two axles entirely; so they rely on an 11.4-kWh battery and two electric motors generating electricity when needed, one up front and one powering the rear axle. The system can run 31 miles on electric power (in the WLTP cycle) and generates 190 or 200 hp depending on trim.
If you thought there was no possible way old Land Rover Defenders could possibly get more expensive to buy now that ’90s Defenders are freely importable, one company has found a way. U.K.-based Land Rover specialist Twisted plans to offer a small batch of the 1990s-style Land Rover Defenders stateside, but with a twist: They’re electric. Sound appropriately twisted? Twisted’s is called the NAS-E. The company bought dozens of the last Defenders produced in the U.K., where production ended a couple of years ago, and is plugging an electric drivetrain into the beasts, using a single electric motor powering the SUV’s existing 4×4 innards. The NAS-E has two states of tune: 214 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque or 320 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. The most impressive figure, we suspect, could be the 0-60 launch time—old gas-engined Defenders were not exactly rockets off the line. Prices range between $185,000 and $210,000. Gulp.
This came as a bit of a surprise: Acura Motorsports says it has come to a mutual agreement with Team Penske to end its partnership after this IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. The championship-winning program originated in 2017 and Acura debuted its new car at the start of the 2018 season. Acura Team Penske scored its first Daytona Prototype International win at Mid-Ohio that year and won the manufacturers’, team and drivers’ titles in 2019. Team Penske president Tim Cindric wouldn’t say if the team planned to search for a new partner or even stay in IMSA beyond 2020.
If you plan to attend this year’s Indianapolis 500 Aug. 23, bring your face mask. Speedway officials announced that due to COVID-19 every spectator must wear a mask. And speaking of spectators, the number of fans expected in attendance has been cut in. Instead of 50% capacity, Speedway officials are preparing for a crowd in the neighborhood of 25%. That would mean roughly 60,000 fans are now expected for the 104th running.
WHAT WE’RE DRIVING
West Coast Editor Mark Vaughn has been enjoying the California sun riding two Ducati Scramblers, the dirt-happy Desert Sled and a street-smart and stylish 1100 Sport Pro. Ducati’s Scrambler first came out in 1962, back when Ducatis were just good, if stylish, transportation, before they became world-dominating superbikes. Back then you could get a Ducati Scrambler with as few as 50 cc, or as many as 450. Find out what Vaughn thought of the two Italian legends.
Robin Warner has been checking out the new 2021 Toyota Venza and its 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, making a combined 219 hp. The name Venza returns after last being on the market in 2015. This time around it looks a bit more like a traditional SUV and is only available as a hybrid. As a result the manufacturer estimated fuel economy comes to 40 mpg city, 37 highway, 39 combined. Not bad!
MOSTLY ODDS, SOME ENDS
Surely you know the UAZ 469, the Eastern European and Asian staple for 50 some years that, among countless movies and TV shows, appeared in the James Bond film Goldeneye. Remember the ones in the late ’70s that looked like first-generation Ford Broncos? You don’t? Let us refresh your memory and give you the backstory.
On this episode of the Autoweek Podcast, Wes Raynal joins Wesley Wren and Jake Lingeman to talk about the Ford Mustang Mach-E 1400 prototype, the high-horsepower machine recently debuted as Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s latest tire-slaying drift machine. They also discuss electric pickup trucks. Later in the show, Mike Pryson talks with Autoweek’s NHRA reporter Susan Wade about that problems the series faces such as scheduling issues and stars absent from events. Closing the show, Wren and Pryson tackle the Hungarian Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton’s early season dominance. Tune in here, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever podcasts are played.
As always we’re on the case this weekend, monitoring and reporting on automakers’ and sanctioning bodies’ latest happenings. We’ll continually update the site of course—you’ll know what’s happening when we do. Check back often!
Thanks for reading Autoweek and please stay safe.