The 2019 Shelby GT500, say multiple sources, was cancelled by Ford CEO Jim Hackett on at least one occasion for not fitting into Ford Motor Company’s new “green” and “digitally engaged” self-identity. This decision, had it stood, might have caused problems for Chevrolet’s upcoming mid-engine Corvette C8, which reportedly shares the internals of the GT500’s Tremec-sourced seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox; packaging them in a new transaxle case. Shift times under 100 milliseconds are claimed, and power is sent to the rear wheels via a carbon fiber driveshaft. Given the GT500’s low production numbers (approximately 4,000 are planned) and high output (rumored to be just under 730 hp), a manual transmission will not be offered.
Though the GT350 and GT500 share the same 5.2-liter “Voodoo” V8 block, a number of changes have been made to handle the GT500’s output. Coolant channels were added, the gaskets and seals upgraded, and longer bolts secure the modified cylinder heads to the block. These changes will be carried over to the 2020 GT350, which will still rev to 8,250 rpm, thanks to its flat-plane crank, an item missing from the GT500’s bill of materials. The addition of a 2.6-liter, 12-psi. boost Eaton supercharger between the cylinder banks eliminates the need for high-rpm running to produce gobs of power and supports the switch to a cross-plane crankshaft on the GT500.
Ford Explorer ST and Hybrid
The Edge ST was the first of the Brave New World ST performance crossovers from Ford that eventually will crowd out the dwindling number of performance cars from the automaker. It is joined by an Explorer ST in 2020, powered by a 400 hp/415 lb.-ft. 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Each Explorer ST comes equipped with standard all-wheel drive and selectable traction control and is good for a top speed of 143 mph should the kids be running late for soccer practice. The only other Explorer that comes standard with the 3.0-liter EcoBoost is the Platinum, though its output is significantly lower. In this guise, the boosted V6 pumps out the same 365 hp as the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 it replaces, but adds 30 more lb.-ft. of torque for a grand total of 380.
The new Explorer, which shares its modular rear-drive platform with the Lincoln Navigator and next-generation Mustang, comes standard with a 300 hp/310 lb.-ft. 2.3-liter EcoBoost four borrowed from the Mustang, and a hybrid powertrain that combines a 3.3-liter naturally aspirated V6 with an electric motor packaged between the engine and 10-speed transmission. It’s topped off by a liquid-cooled battery pack beneath the front passenger seat. The hybrid will be the standard drivetrain for the Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility, which also will offer the 3.0-liter EcoBoost from the Explorer ST and a non-hybridized 3.3-liter V6 currently not offered on the civilian model.
Lexus RC F Track Edition
The performance theme continued over at Lexus, which added the RC F Track Edition to its stable for 2020. The Track Edition has exactly the same powertrain as the less flamboyant RC F: a naturally aspirated, quad-cam 5.0-liter V8 with five more horsepower (at 427 hp) and six more lb.-ft. of torque (now 395) than last year. The increase comes via a revised (a.k.a., less restrictive) routing of the intake trunking, and by lowering the trigger point for opening the secondary intake from 3,600 to 2,800 rpm. The other major driveline change is fitting a higher final drive ratio (3.13 vs. 2.93) to improve standing-start response. The eight-speed automatic transmission carries over unchanged, and an electronic launch control system has been added.
Subaru STI S209
Subaru’s Impreza couldn’t let the Lexus RC F Track Edition steal its thunder. In addition to the requisite front splitter/canards and rear wing, the special-edition STI S209 takes the 2.5-liter EJ25 motor used in North America as its base to create an engine that will make the 2.0-liter WRX STI sold in the rest of the world blush.
The flat-four engine features lighter and stronger forged connecting rods and pistons, An HKS-sourced turbocharger with a six-percent larger turbine and eight-percent larger compressor, upgraded fuel injectors and fuel pump, a charge-air intercooler, and a free-flow air intake system. With 18 psi of boost, the S209’s engine produces 341 hp, and torque is estimated to be 315 lb.-ft., though final figures will have to wait until closer to the S209’s launch date.
Unlike just about every other modern performance car, the S209 comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, with no automatic transmission on offer. However, buyers will find a pair of paddles behind the steering wheel the same as those found on Impreza’s with the paddle-shift optioned automatic. Instead of shifting gears, the paddles activate the intercooler’s water spray system. This provides about two seconds of spray per pull and adds approximately five horsepower by further cooling the intake charge.
While you are probably familiar with origami, the classic art of paper folding that results in things like birds that flap their wings when you pull the tail, or plot devices in one of the Blade Runner films.
The little car that could still can. And this time as a car that not only gets great fuel economy, but which has ride and handling that makes it more than an econo-box (and its styling is anything but boxy).
Dan Nicholson is vice president of General Motors Global Propulsion Systems, the organization that had been “GM Powertrain” for 24 years.