To sum up: the new Macan GTS and Lexus back with a twin-turbo V8
It appears that the Christmas holidays have officially set in around the automotive industry, leading to just a few gems of interest coming this week. Looking forward, there will be no news update next week thanks to the automotive manufacturers taking a small snooze over the Christmas break, but you will see the return of the performance car news from around the world in the new year. 2020 is looking like another big year for the development of EV's, hybrids and the last generations of pure ICE performance vehicles. We are expecting big things from Porsche with iterations of it's 992 generation 911, the next generation Golf R will likely make a big splash in the hyper-hatch world and McLaren will likely release another 1000 or so new models (surely they cannot keep up the pace of current releases). So from me, have a very Merry Christmas, enjoy the festivities and have a great new year. I have just one request. This year, rather than saying you'll lose ten pounds or find your inner self, scrap the nonsense and make your new years resolution to get out on a race track or buy the car of your dreams, you can lose that rubber ring next year.
Back in 2019, first up this week though is Porsche with it's announcement of the driver-focused facelifted Macan GTS, aiming to give more driver engagement and focus than it's lesser siblings and more powerful Turbo model. Land Rover meanwhile have taken ownership of the Bowler firm, specialists in taking Land Rover products and turning them into off-road racing machines, such as the Wildcat that Richard Hammond drove on old Top Gear, in previous years. Lexus have confirmed the LC coupe will be back at the Nurburgring 24 hours next year, though this time carrying a twin-turbo V8 engine that is destined for future production cars (how very un-Lexus). Finally, from Toyota, more information about the exciting homologation special Yaris GR.
The Drivers Macan
The biggest release this week comes direct out of Stuttgart, but no, unfortunately it's not a new GT3 911. Instead its the turn of the 2020 Macan to receive the GTS nameplate. The GTS badge has created some of journalists favourite driving Porsches in recent years, can the facelifted Macan stand up to the test? Porsche is promising this as the most driver-focused package in the mid-size SUV category, with the Audi SQ5 directly in the line of fire.
The 2020 GTS Macan will receive the new, slightly smaller, 2.9-litre V6 engine (as used in the Audi RS5 and Macan Turbo), down from 3.0-litres. In this instance there are slight power increases over the previous GTS model, resulting in 375bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds, no slouch then. The 2020 GTS will also receive an updated version of the PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission and new design tweaks as seen on the 2020 Macan Turbo.
Being a GTS model, the car comes festooned with bucket seats, 20-inch wheels, huge brakes (front and rear), a sports exhaust system and the all import Porsche Active Suspension Management system. The car's price sees a slight increase over that of the outgoing model, starting at just under £59,000 ($76,500) before options, order books are now open so get your name down for the what is coined as the best driving mid-size SUV currently on the market.
Land Rover and Bowler - A Match Made in Heaven?
Jaguar have announced a new company joining their SVO ranks this week and it's none other than off-road specialist Bowler. Founded in 1985, Bowler has been churning out extreme performance Land Rovers for over three decades, making it the perfect partner for Jaguars current Special Vehicle Operations unit (currently covering SV, classic and personalisation services).
The obvious conclusion to draw from this is that the company will be bringing to market some more extreme offerings of it's new Defender model, with the likelihood of other models to follow. Another interesting avenue, with Bowler's expertise and Jaguar's budgets, is that we may see them competing in off-road events in the coming years, I'm thinking JLR at the Dakar rally?
We can only hope that the Bowler name is not dissolved into trim pieces attached to a 'special run' Discovery, consisting of no more than colours and badges. Though Bowler will likely appear on special run models, we can only hope that the company is still allowed the freedom to make current and future Land Rovers into the off-road racers that we all enjoy, Richard will be particularly disappointed if the don't.
Lexus to Bring Twin Turbo V8 from the Track to the Road
Another performance offering from the Toyota stable? Following the hugely successful launch of the latest Supra, ongoing popularity of the GT86 and upcoming Yaris GR, Toyota have dropped another wad of excitement out into the market. Next years Lexus LC racer will come fitted with a twin-turbocharged V8 that will go on to appear in a new performance road car from the brand, crikey!
The likely outcome of this new powertrain would be a home in the current Lexus LC coupe, with the possibility of a range topping LC F model sporting the new powertrain, usurping the current top model LC500. A new turbocharged powertrain will likely launch the LC into a war with the current market-leading German brands; BMW, Audi and Mercedes, all of whom currently offer high performance turbocharged engines in M, RS and AMG models that Lexus is currently lacking.
An 'F' line model for the LC would likely see bigger bodywork, modified suspension and a more performance-inspired interior. While some work will definitely need to be done to take the GT cruiser and make it into a B-road bruiser, starting with the highly relaxed automatic gearbox. Whether Lexus can take on Bavaria's finest will be an interesting topic for discussion next year. Maybe Toyota meanwhile, could find a way to shoe horn that big new V8 into the Supra? Just an idea.
Toyota's Homologation Yaris in More Detail
To finish off this weeks news (and the year) is more details about the upcoming Yaris GR, being built in 2020 to homologate the companies next WRC Yaris. The car will be unveiled in full at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January, but there has been some more information revealed this week to get people excited for the new model, which, if the latest GRMN Yaris was anything to go by, will be an absolute stunner of a hot-hatchback.
The new car is built using an all carbon fibre structure, with aluminium panels bolted on. The use of these exotic materials brings the weight of the body in white down to just 263kg (38kg lighter than a standard 5 door Yaris), while also adding a huge amount of body stiffness. Meanwhile the roofline has had nearly 100mm chopped from the top and the engine brought further back. This all aids aerodynamics and weight balance, giving a lower centre of mass located more centrally gives better handling and manoeuvrability, something very important for rallying. Front and rear tracks will see an increase in width, along with a whole new suspension setup at the rear, the bodywork meanwhile, has been widened significantly to cover the new cars width.
There are no exact performance figures quoted for the engine, but Toyota is claiming that it's 3-cylinder 1.6-litre engine will outperform all engines at this capacity. This means we are likely to see power more than that of the 266bhp found in the 308 GTi, in a car significantly smaller and lighter. Gazoo racing (Toyota's performance arm) also claim that this will be the lightest 1.6-litre engine on the market, while the drivetrain is also lightened thanks to the use of clutch pack diffs at each end in place of a heavy centre differential. The cars four wheel drive system will allow for up to 100% of torque to reach either axle in extreme circumstances but will be alterable via driver modes in the car, while the only gearbox on offer is, thank the car gods, a proper six-speed manual 'box.
Pricing is yet to be announced but there is certainly enough interest spiralling around the internet to likely cover the minimum number of cars needed for rally homologation. As stated earlier, the car will be officially unveiled in January, with production cars expected to hit the road in the latter half of 2020. If initial drive reports are anything to go by, this little car will be a massive hit when order books open. I for one am excited to see how the little Yaris squares up against the current hyper-hatches, it may lack the outright grunt of an RS3 or A45 but it's lighter weight and engaging manual gearbox will make it a much more intensive driving experience than any of the current players.
That's all for this year guys. I'd like to thank everyone of you that have bumped, commented or just read this years news updates. I'll be back in the new year, so for now, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!!