Detroit Auto Show: VL and Bob Lutz debut Karmas with Corvette engines
Thanks to Bob Lutz, we now have the Destino — with absolutely no 'green' credentials.
Since his retirement from General Motors in 2010, Bob Lutz hasn't had time to rest. He's lent his design and marketing cred to a handful of companies, including Lotus. This year the 80-year-old backed two brand-new automakers at the same auto show, the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. And because this is the man who gave us the first Dodge Viper and V8-powered Pontiacs from Australia, the automakers in question are anything but normal.
Both companies are based in Detroit. Via Motors is converting GM trucks and vans to plug-in hybrids, primarily for commercial fleets. The other, VL, is retrofitting Fisker Karmas with Corvette engines. That has us seeing stars, so that's all we're talking about here.
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What is it? The Destino could unseat the Bentley Continental Flying Spur as the fastest production sedan in the world. As Tesla Motors did with the Lotus Elise, VL — which stands for Villarreal Lutz — is buying empty Karma sedans and remanufacturing them to warp speed. But instead of making this plug-in hybrid "greener," VL throws out the batteries, dumps in a 638-horsepower V8 engine from the Corvette ZR1 and tweaks the front end. GM and Fisker dealers should have no trouble servicing it.
What's hot? Everything. Gone are the Karma's trouble-prone batteries, along with 1,000 pounds of curb weight. According to President Gilbert Villarreal, the Destino was as simple as saying, "Hey, why don't we put in a supercharged engine and make [the Karma] a supercar?" Villarreal, who says he owns fighter jets, is cocksure the Destino will top 200 mph. VL left in the stock brakes and suspension — no fancy magnetic shocks here — but the Corvette's 6-speed manual transmission is a big bonus. Next to the Destino, a Porsche Panamera Turbo might as well be a lily pad.
What's not? At the bare minimum, VL says that it will manufacture 150 cars and that it hopes to sell 250 to 500 per year. So we may never see one in action. And like most startups, the rug could be yanked out at any time.
How much and when? The Destino starts at $180,000 for 550 horsepower, or about $190,000 with the ZR1 engine. Production is expected to start in six months. Two cars have already been sold.
MSN Autos' verdict: Gasoline still rules, and there's nothing sweeter than hearing it swish around in something this beautiful.
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