The News for July 28th, 2023


Welcome to the Hooniverse News! As always, this is a weekly recap of the biggest stories in the automotive industry without the fluff or bull. This week: Ford introduces track-only version of the Dark Horse and its own spec racing series, Mopar has the final say with special edition Charger and Challenger, Chevrolet might not be killing the Bolt EV for good, Toyota will debut the US-bound Land Cruiser on August 1st, plus an update on the future of this column.

Ford Mustang Dark Horse R

Just as the 2024 (S650) Ford Mustangs enter production and the press fleets around the country, Ford has dropped another new model to highlight the Mustang’s racing pedigree. Except this time it’s not a street car with some added track day potential, it’s a full on street car turned race car. The Mustang Dark Horse R is a track-only turnkey race car built on the promising new Mustang Dark Horse. No one’s been able to review one yet as of writing, but the Dark Horse promises to be a thoroughbred sportscar and the fastest way to buy an S650 Mustang for the foreseeable future. The Dark Horse R, which was hinted at during the world debut of the new Mustang, takes all those leaps in performance and offers it as a true factory-built race car.

The Dark Horse R is built for the most demanding track enthusiasts and they’ve even created a spec racing series for it. An IMSA-sanctioned Mustang Challenge spec racing series will give the Dark Horse R and its buyers a place to run the cars as they were intended. It’s not quite a GT4-level machine, which was recently debuted just before the Spa 24 Hours, and it’s certainly nowhere near the same level as the GT3. But it’s a race car that has as much in common with the road car as possible. That includes its 4th-generation 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with “500+” horsepower, Tremec 3160 manual transmission, Torsen LSD with a 3.73 final drive ratio, similar aero, and Brembo brakes. The body is even built on the same Flat Rock Assembly Plant as all the other Mustangs.

The necessary racing upgrades include all sorts of expanded cooling solutions for the engine oil, transmission, and differential, plus a Borla racing exhaust system and a Ford Performance oil pan. It also gains tow hooks, reinforced jacking points, underbody tie down hoops, an FIA-approved Recaro racing seat, Sparco quick-release steering wheel, fire suppression system, safety nets, MoTec system exhaust data display and logging, and a fuel cell.

The single-make Mustang Challenge series starts in 2024. They’re planning 10-12 races in conjunction with a mix of 5 or 6 North American sports car race weekends. The exact schedule is yet to be determined, but I’d imagine it would follow some of the bigger IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races or at least visit many of the same tracks, albeit on different weekends. As for the Dark Horse R itself, that will set you back $145,000.

[Source: Ford]

Mopar ’23 Dodge Challenger and Charger

The Dodge Charger and Challenger as we’ve known them for the last decade plus are in the final year of production. The highly-publicized Last Call models have offered ways to get your order in at the last minute and get a very special car in return, but now Mopar is offering a way of their own. The Mopar ’23 Charger and Challenger are modest appearance packages offered only on the R/T Scat Pack Widebody models and limited to just 440 units – 200 each for the US and 20 each for Canada. It may not be as exciting as one of the more wild Last Call models, but they’re also far more reasonably priced at just $3,995 (before the mandatory “Dealer is a Dickhead” tax).

For that money you get a Pitch Black Clear Coat paint job with unique matte-black graphics and Mopar Blue tracer stripes along the hood, roof, and decklid. That same blue is applied to the grille badge, brake calipers, and valve stem caps. The interior is all black and adds a serialized Mopar instrument panel badge, the upgraded Alpine audio system, carbon fiber interior accents, and a suede headliner. There’s also an abundance of Mopar logos throughout the cabin. Buyers also receive a personalized metal certificate of authenticity with the serialized vehicle build number so that it’s easier for the police to identify after the car gets stolen.

Of all the Chargers and Challengers built in the final year of Dodge’s long-running era of Hemi-powered monstrosities, it’s fitting that Mopar gets the final say.

[Source: Dodge]

Chevy Bolt will live on after all

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV

It’s rare that GM reverses a bad decision, but that might be what just happened in regards to the Chevy Bolt. Earlier this year, at a time when all the industry could talk about was how to deliver affordable EVs that people actually want, Chevrolet announced they were ending production of their most affordable EV that people actually wanted (at least as it related to other GM EVs, it was still the best-selling one by a huge margin). This poor decision may have been overshadowed by their decision to ditch Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, systems that buyers overwhelmingly support, and build their own. But the backlash was instant and widespread.

Now they’ve announced that they were actually just ending production of the Bolt in its current form and that it would return as something new. They should’ve maybe led with that. We can expect it to be built on the same sort of GM Ultium battery tech as with all their recent EV debuts, such as the Equinox EV and the Silverado EV. What remains to be seen is whether it will continue to live on as the entry-level EV for the entire brand and thus one of the only actually affordable EVs in the entire industry, or if they’ll try and squeeze more money out of it by upscaling something that didn’t need to be upscaled. In fact, they offered basically no information about the new Bolt. So all of what you just read is pretty much pure speculation. Such is the life of trying to make sense of GM corporate decisions.

[Source: Chevrolet]

Toyota will debut the new Land Cruiser on August 1st

Toyota’s decision to pull the Land Cruiser from the US market a few years back, right as off-road-capable crossovers and SUVs were getting more popular than ever before, was always a bit puzzling. But the return of the Land Cruiser, at least in some form, is imminent. It just may not be exactly as what was expected, based on the handful of teaser images we’ve received along with confirmation of an August 1st debut.

Whereas the 300-Series Land Cruiser that the rest of the world got was a massive and rather luxurious SUV built on the bones of its predecessor, this new one appears to share more in common with the newly revealed (and smaller) Lexus GX. Now, overseas the Lexus GX has been sold as a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, so this isn’t quite the same as taking a beloved name and slapping it something that has absolutely nothing in common with its predecessors *glares at Mustang Mach-E*. And in this case, the Lexus LX600 basically is a 300-Series Land Cruiser but fancier, so we’re not fully missing out. But it does represent an interesting new take on where the Land Cruiser fits in within the US market. It’s no longer the big kid on the block, but it’s still compelling. Presumably bigger than the 4Runner, same platform as the very capable GX but less luxurious and thus a good bit cheaper, and still not a sales threat to the Lexus LX600. And as boxy SUVs with off-road capabilities (or at least looks) are the new hot thing, this is poised to potentially become a huge sales success for Toyota.

Personal Update

hooniverse news whats your naws

Some of you may have been wondering why I haven’t posted anything in the last several weeks. Or maybe you’re just now noticing my absence, which is fair too. There’s no drama or any kind of emergency behind my absence. If I ever hang up my keyboard for good or get retired to a pasture upstate, I’ll tell you what’s going on. That isn’t what’s happening now, but I do want to share some thoughts. And as is usual for me, I’ve used too many words.

Truth is, I just needed a break. I’ve been covering the auto industry every week since 2010. For the longest time I’d only skip a week for a holiday or if I was out of town and just didn’t have a chance to write. Within the past year or so, skipping has become a lot more common. Or if I don’t skip it, I’d just try and fill the time slot with a short post where the whole point was to open up a discussion with you, the readers we have left. I hated doing that too much because it felt like a lazy stopgap to a bigger problem… and that’s me getting tired.

When I started this weekly news thing, I was eager to try and absorb as much news as possible from the entire auto industry. I kept it up for several years because I was truly interested in what I was covering. Cars were getting more creative, prettier, and more exciting. I got to cover the auto industry in what may have been its last golden age for quite some time. On numerous occasions, I had to decide what stories to cut from the news because there was just too much for one person to cover. Now I feel relieved when I finally get something – anything – to cover that I give a damn about. This week, it was that Dark Horse R. Next week it’ll probably be that new Land Cruiser. After that? I have no idea. The industry has turned from bold and exciting new ideas at the forefront to almost nothing but crossovers and EVs that hardly anyone can afford. That’s not to say there’s no innovation anymore, it’s just that it’s not the kind of stuff I grew up dreaming about. It’s not the stuff I want to spend hours writing about every week.

When I have a day job that’s more demanding than ever, I can’t bring myself to continue to grind through a news article every week when I rarely enjoy doing it anymore. Therefore, the Hooniverse News might change going forward. And if it does, I don’t know exactly how yet. I want to keep the weekly news recap alive after so long, but I also know it’ll be hard to keep it up when so many of today’s stories disinterest me. If I just can’t take it anymore, I’ll drop the weekly bit in favor of single stories throughout the week whenever something interesting happens. This might mean a handful of stories a week or nothing for a month. It just depends.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me. And thanks for sticking with Hooniverse.

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