Cars We Think Could Take on an Entirely New Personality
We often daydream what it would be like if automakers threw caution to the wind and made track, rally, or higher-performance versions of practical models or even cars that are already somewhat sporty. It’s this kind of thinking that’s made possible the BMW M4 GTS, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the Bentley Continental GT3-R, and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R. What if more automakers took such a gamble? Here are a few vehicles that could serve as track or high-performance versions of standard models.
Toyota Sienna R-Tuned
This is the vehicle that first got us thinking about the high-performance track-ready edition. During the 2015 SEMA show, Toyota debuted the Sienna R-Tuned, which is essentially a Toyota Sienna with a stripped-out interior, a limited-slip differential, a lowered suspension, and staggered 18-inch Enkei RPF1 wheels wrapped in DOT-R rubber. Those are technically street-legal tires, but just barely. It’s a Sienna that’s seriously good on a racetrack, and allegedly faster than the last-generation Chevrolet Camaro SS with an automatic around the Streets of Willow racetrack. The R-Tuned is purportedly a design exercise intended to inspire Toyota employees to think more about the driving experience, which is a goal we think is worth working toward.
Rally-Ready Subaru WRX STI
Sure the Subaru WRX STI is ready for a rally, but we’re thinking really rally ready. A stripped interior, a sequential transmission, strengthened suspension components, a little more ground clearance, skid plates: the works. We got a ride in a WRX STI NR4 last year, but, in the U.S., that car isn’t street legal, and cost just over $150,000 USD.
Chevrolet Cruze SS
The world has gone without a sporty compact from General Motors for far too long. The Cobalt SS left a hole in our hearts that could only be filled by a Cruze with lots more power. Our recent First Drive of the redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Cruze asked the question: “Is this the Camaro of Compacts?” We figure it could be, but it’s going to need far more power, the option of a slick six-speed manual, and a limited-slip differential before people will get excited about the car.
Ram 1500 Hellcat
Remember back when Dodge was crazy enough to stuff the Viper’s V-10 into a Ram 1500? We’re thinking the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 would sound pretty good between the fenders of a Ram 1500 again. With a Hellcat-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee on the way, why not bless the Ram 1500 with astounding tire-melting powers as well? Sport and muscle trucks need to make a comeback.
When people talk about the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and Ferrari LaFerrari the words “sport” and “hybrid” don’t seem mutually exclusive, but the idea seems laughable when hybrids such as the Prius and Volt are discussed. Why not bring sporty hybrid technology to four- and five-seat mainstream hybrids? Volkswagen sells something along these lines in Europe: the GTE, which is a plug-in hybrid take on the GTI, and Honda Performance Development offered a supercharger for the CR-Z. Let’s see more of that, but from Japanese and American automakers as well. Ford Focus Sport Hybrid? Toyota Prius TRD? That’s more like it.
Chevrolet Silverado SS
The Chevrolet Silverado needs a true performance model again, such as the Silverado SS and 454 SS that carried the performance banner in the past. Chevrolet could take the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 from the Cadillac CTS-V and Corvette Z06 and fit it in a standard-cab short-bed Silverado, which is the typical sport truck configuration. You could still use it as a practical truck when you need to move large objects, but the rest of the time you’ll enjoy the spectacular output of GM’s LT4 in a snarling pickup.
Subaru BRZ STI
The Subaru BRZ needs a high-performance model like journalists need coffee. The chassis is practically begging for a turbocharger, and Subaru‘s own WRX is powered by a 268-hp turbo-four. The automaker is taking a different approach by focusing on finesse and handling and, although we enjoy a canyon carver, the lure of an additional 68 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque is too much for the lead foot in us.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Evolution
Given Mitsubishi‘s new focus on crossovers, an Outlander Sport Evolution (or even Ralliart) might make sense. With the recent news about the automaker’s fuel economy testing procedures overseas, Mitsu needs a win and a new Evo or Ralliart could be just the thing, we say. Take the Outlander Sport, firm up the suspension, add proper sports seats in the front, offer a dual-clutch automatic, a slightly more powerful turbocharged engine than the CUV’s current two options, and send power to all four wheels. You know, like the Lancer Evolution Mitsubishi has discontinued.
BMW X6 (Off-Road)
We haven’t forgotten about the X6 M shown here; we’re talking about an off-road prepped BMW X6. Sure, the BMW X6 is a wonder of engineering, able to vanquish many sports cars on the tarmac, but what about off-road? We’re thinking a long-travel suspension, huge tires, fender flares, and a look inspired by rally cars would be a good start. Could the X6 be a good starting place for Dakar-style rally competitors? With the right components, perhaps.
Chevrolet Spark EV
Despite the peppiness of some electric cars, we think a sporty model could go a long way to increase interest in the segment (we’ll see how well the Model 3 and Bolt perform on the road). Imagine if the 2016 Nissan Leaf offered a variant with a tuned suspension and grippier tires, possibly badged as the Leaf SR.