More Power

Members Only: These cars are in the 1,000-horsepower club

Photo courtesy of Hennessey

When it comes to power in a road-going automobile, how much horsepower is too much? Some might say there is no such thing as too much, and it seems like a growing number of car companies would agree. Even as car shoppers the world over seek more fuel-efficient rides (and automakers work diligently to deliver those fuel-thrifty cars), automakers have debuted at least a dozen new sports cars that boast more than 1000 horsepower.

One thousand.

The powertrains required to generate that kind of output range from large V8s to fully-electric systems. What follows are the current crop and upcoming range of road-legal machines that make up the 1000-Horsepower Club. Note that several tuning companies will upgrade vehicles to this level of power. However, the vehicles listed here all come with at least 1000 horsepower direct from the manufacturer.

Bugatti Chiron 110 ANS

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Horsepower: 1,500

Bugatti is celebrating its 110th anniversary, and to commemorate this milestone the legendary brand is introducing a special edition Bugatti Chiron Sport — the "110 ans Bugatti." Finished in a two-tone color scheme with exposed Steel Blue carbon fiber and matte Steel Blue, the Bugatti Chiron Sport "110 ans Bugatti" pays tribute to France with exterior and interior elements utilizing the French Tricolor — the three colors of blue, white and red found in the French flag. On the exterior, the mirror caps, underside of the deployable rear spoiler and "110 ans Bugatti" logos all feature the blue, white and red, while many interior elements also incorporate the French Tricolor.

Underneath the matte Steel Blue and Steel Blue Carbon engine cover of the Bugatti Chiron Sport "110 ans Bugatti" lurks the awesome 8.0-liter W16 engine with quad turbochargers producing 1500 horsepower and 1180 lb-ft of torque, with all that power delivered through a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. According to Bugatti performance figures, the Chiron Sport "110 ans Bugatti" will accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 2.4 seconds, reach 124 mph in 6.1 seconds, and 186 mph in 13.1 seconds. Maximum speed is 261 mph.

The production run of this Bugatti Chiron Sport "110 ans Bugatti" will be limited to a mere 20 cars.

ARCFOX GT

Photo by AutoNXT

Horsepower: 1600

Don't feel bad if you've never heard of ARCFOX — most people haven't. But the Chinese car company certainly made a splash at this year's Geneva Motor Show where it debuted the production version of its exotic all-electric GT sports car with versions for the street and track. With a lightweight carbon fiber body, plenty of downforce from the active rear spoiler and all-wheel drive with a torque-vectoring system, handling should be outstanding — and perhaps downright devastating.

ARCFOX showcased both the GT and GT Race Edition at the Geneva Motor Show, the latter of which boasts six electric motors — two at the front, four at the rear — for a total output of 1600 horsepower. The "standard" GT gets by with four motors and a lesser output of 1000 horsepower. ARCFOX claims that either model will reach 62 mph in a bit over 2.5 seconds with maximum lateral acceleration of 1.5gs.

ARCFOX is a division of Beijing Automotive Industry Company, and the GT was designed, tested and will be produced at BAIC's R&D center in Spain.

Aston Martin Valhalla

Photo courtesy of Aston Martin

Horsepower: 1100+ (estimate)

Just as deliveries are beginning for the extreme Aston Martin Valkyrie, the British marque took the wraps off the Valkyrie's successor at this year's Geneva Motor Show. Initially called the AM-RB 003 — the RB represents Red Bull's involvement in the project — this new model has now been given a proper 'V' name – Valhalla. The Valhalla features all the performance expected of a hypercar but with slightly more practicality. The center console has been widened to provide more space between driver and passenger, and there is even some luggage space behind the seats.

Although there's no denying that Valhalla is one sexy-looking machine, the shape and design are primarily driven by aerodynamics. In true exotic fashion, the Valhalla employs next-generation aircraft morphing technology that can create a variable airfoil across the entire rear wing for improved downforce. Full details about Valhalla's powertrain have not been released beyond the fact that motivation will come from an all-new Aston Martin turbocharged V6 hybrid engine. Given that the Valkyrie boasts more than 1100 horsepower, educated musings suggest that engine power for Valhalla will be in a similar realm.

Only 500 Valhallas will be sold when the new model becomes available in 2021.

Hennessey Venom F5

Photo courtesy of Hennessey

Horsepower: 1817

The Hennessey name has long been associated with making cars — and trucks — go faster. Throughout its history, the American tuner has upped the performance on an array of vehicles ranging from sports cars to SUVs. Now Hennessey Motor Sports is building its own vehicle from the ground up called the Venom F5 – successor to the 270-mph Venom GT. The F5 features a new chassis and a carbon fiber body shaped to have the least possible drag. With active aero components, the F5's coefficient of drag is a mere 0.33 — a very slippery car. Although aerodynamics is important, so is weight savings. The lightweight chassis and carbon fiber body help the F5 tip the scales at 2,950 lbs.

With the goal of making this one of the fastest cars in the world, the F5 will be powered by a newly developed 6.6-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that generates an astronomical 1817 horsepower and 1193 lb-ft of torque. "We exceeded our target horsepower number. Actually, we blew our target number out of the water by delivering over 1,800 horsepower," said company founder and CEO John Hennessey. "The F5 engine has a very broad power band with over 1000 lb-ft of torque available from 2000 to 8000 rpm. Give it the full throttle and it's the most furious engine that we have ever built. Thus, we gave our F5 engine a special name: "Fury," Hennessey noted. Some outrageous Venom stats: The F5 is expected to reach 186 mph (300 km/h) in less than 10 seconds. Hennessey also claims this new hypercar should sprint to 249 mph (400 km/h) and back to a standstill in under 30 seconds. Most importantly, Hennessey hopes the F5 will reach the ultimate goal of exceeding 300 mph.

Only 24 Venom F5s will be built, half of which will be sold in America. The price is currently set at $1.6 million, with deliveries commencing later this year or early next year.

Koenigsegg Jesko

Photo courtesy of Koenigsegg

Horsepower: 1600

This Swedish supercar company chose the 2019 Geneva Motor Show to introduce the successor the powerful Agera RS. The all-new Jesko — named for the founder's father — is a car suited for both street and track. The Jesko's carbon-fiber monocoque chassis is slightly longer and taller than the Agera, which provides a roomier cabin. Styling is clearly Koenigsegg; however, the massive rear spoiler is what instantly draws the eye. At high speed the Jesko generates more than 2,200 pounds of downforce for excellent grip and handling.

Powering the Jesko is a redesigned 5.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that produces 1280 horses on standard gasoline, and when fueled by E85 biofuel, the output rating jumps to an incredible 1600 horsepower. This energy gets directed through an all-new 9-speed "Light Speed Transmission" that was designed in-house and allows for practically instant gear changes from any gear to any gear. Koenigsegg also announced that there will be a sibling to the Jesko — the Jesko 300. With less downforce and more streamlined aerodynamics, the Jesko 300 is named for the goal of breaking the elusive 300-mph mark.

Only 125 Jeskos will be sold, and at the time of the reveal more than 80 had been reserved.

Bugatti Centodieci

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Horsepower: 1600

Continuing the celebration of its 110th anniversary, this French supercar company with an Italian name, which happens to be owned by the Volkswagen Group, unveiled the very exclusive Centodieci — a car designed as a tribute to a previous Bugatti supercar, the EB110. As expected, the Centodieci is based on Bugatti's current extreme supercar, the Chiron. That said, designers and engineers had significant hurdles to overcome beyond simply swapping out Chiron body panels to create the Centodieci. The Chiron's complex design incorporates bodywork as an integral part of the car's aerodynamics and cooling, as well as its high speed.

While the original EB 110 was powered by a V12, the Centodieci features Bugatti's incredible 8.0-liter W16 engine that produces almost three times the power of that original V12 — 1600 horsepower. The sprint to 62 mph occurs in a lightning-like 2.4 seconds, 124 mph goes by in 6.1 seconds and in a bit over 13 seconds this Bugatti will be accelerating past 186 mph. Top speed is electronically limited to 236 mph. "It's not just the top speed that makes a hyper sports car. With the Centodieci, we once again demonstrate that design, quality and performance are just as important," said Bugatti President Stephan Winkelmann. Engineers were able to reduce the weight of the Centodieci compared to the Chiron, which permits even better performance and handling.

Bugatti will build only 10 of the Centodieci, with the price starting at €8 million (US$8.9 million). Don't bother reaching for that checkbook — all 10 have been sold.

Hispano-Suiza Carmen

Photo courtesy of Hispano-Suiza

Horsepower: 1005

One hundred and fifteen years ago, Damián Mateu and Marc Birkigt founded a car company in Barcelona called Hispano-Suiza. Until the mid-1940s the company turned out more than 12,000 luxury automobiles. After what would be considered a rather lengthy hiatus, the company is back with an all-new model that debuted at this year's Geneva Motor Show. Named for Carmen Mateu — the granddaughter of the company's founder and mother of the current president — the Carmen is a fully-electric luxury hypercar. Styling is heavily influenced by early Hispano-Suiza models, particularly the 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6C Dubonnet Xenia, of which only one was ever produced.

While the Carmen may look to the past for style, the powertrain is definitely gazing into the future. Working with QEV Technologies, Hispano Suiza has outfitted the Carmen with two electric motors — one on each rear wheel — that combine to generate just over 1000 horsepower. Power is controlled via a sophisticated torque-vectoring system, allowing the Carmen to rocket to 62 mph in less than 3 seconds. The 80-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack should provide range of around 250 miles.

Only 19 Carmens will be built — at a price set at €1.5 million. Deliveries are expected to start in June 2020.

​Aston Martin Valkyrie

Photo courtesy of Aston Martin

Horsepower: 1160

This British marque is well known for building luxurious high-performance sports cars, but a few years ago the company announced it was introducing its first hypercar. The mid-engine Valkyrie was designed to bring Formula One performance to a street-legal car, making full use of Red Bull Racing's experience and technology on the circuit. The entire vehicle is comprised of carbon fiber — in fact, there is not one steel component in the Valkyrie. With extreme aerodynamics and lightweight construction, handling will be unlike just about any other road car.

Aston Martin recently released the details of the Valkyrie's powertrain and it is quite impressive. With a naturally-aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine teamed with a battery-electric system, total output is 1160 horsepower at a screaming 10500 rpm with 664 lb-ft of torque peaking at 6000 rpm. Performance specs haven't been released; however, the Valkyrie should sprint to 60 mph in under 3 seconds easily, with a top speed certain to exceed 200 mph.

Only 150 Valkyries will be built, and all have been spoken for. First deliveries are scheduled to take place later this year.

Mercedes-AMG Project ONE

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Horsepower: 1000+

A few years ago Mercedes-AMG celebrated the brand's 50th anniversary with the introduction of the Project ONE show car. This sexy 2-seat coupe borrows from Mercedes' extensive Formula One experience and is basically a street-legal race car. When most car companies refer to bringing their racing technology and experience to the street, it usually isn't as literal as what Mercedes-AMG has done. The Project ONE utilizes a full-fledged Formula One hybrid drive system consisting of a hybrid turbocharged combustion engine that employs four electric motors.

Power comes from the same engine found in a Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One race car — a 1.6-liter direct-injection V6 that uses an electrically-assisted turbocharger. The electric motor can drive the compressor turbine up to 100,000 rpm in the right situation. The V6 can rev up to 11,000 rpm, and an additional electric motor pairs with the V6 and features a direct link to the driveshaft. As if this were not enough, two electric motors fitted to the front axle provide acceleration and braking at each wheel for better stability and all-wheel-drive control. This very complex system of electric motors, gas engine and turbocharger comes together to produce more than 1000 horsepower. Eschewing the industry-standard zero-to-60 mph stat, Mercedes-AMG is only reporting that this extreme supercar will reach 124 mph (200 km/h) in less than 6 seconds. Top speed is reported at 217 mph.

When Mercedes began showing the car two years ago, the company planned a production run of 275 models. The world waits to see if this will happen.

​Pininfarina Batista

Photo courtesy of Pininfarina

Horsepower: 1900

The Pininfarina name has adorned some of the most beautiful cars ever built, but rather than being the design house for another car company, this time Pininfarina is building its own car. Named for Battista 'Pinin' Farina, who founded the Carrozzeria Pininfarina coachbuilding company in 1930, the new Battista is an all-electric hyper GT car with a stunning carbon fiber body and carbon fiber monocoque chassis. Although the design is completely Pininfarina, the fully-electric powertrain comes from the Croatian car company Rimac.

The Battista gets four electric motors — one at each wheel — for a combined output of 1900 horsepower and almost 1700 lb-ft of torque. This results in astounding acceleration — 62 mph is achieved in 1.9 seconds. With a 120 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack, the Battista can travel about 280 miles on a single charge.

Deliveries of the Pininfarina Battista will start in 2020 with only 150 expected to be made available. When it arrives, the Pininfarina Battista will be the most powerful street-legal car ever designed and built in Italy.

​Rimac C Two

Photo courtesy of Rimac

Horsepower: 1914

One of the most extreme cars in this list — which is a high rung to reach — is the Rimac C Two. The second model from Croatia-based Rimac, the C Two is billed as the most powerful electric hypercar in the world. The C Two is powered by four electric motors — one at each wheel — for a combined output of 1914 horsepower. Almost 1700 lb-ft of torque is generated instantly for acceleration that would leave just about any other car in its dust. The sprint to 60 mph takes 1.85 seconds and it passes 186 mph in 11.8 seconds. Top speed is listed as 256 mph, and Rimac claims the C Two will have a range of 550 km (about 342 miles) with its 120 kWh battery capacity.

The C Two was designed and engineered in house by Rimac and features one of the world's largest single-piece carbon-fiber monocoques. The batteries and powertrain are integrated into the monocoque for greater torsional stiffness. Double-wishbone suspension with electronically-controlled dampers provides a smooth and comfortable ride, while the electric motors at each wheel work together for impressive dynamic control.

The C Two is expected to go into production for 2020. Only 150 will be built, but it will be certified for sale globally — including in the U.S.

​Bugatti Divo

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Horsepower: 1500

When it comes to the ultimate extreme sports car on the planet, most auto aficionados will think of the Bugatti Chiron. With enormous power and a top speed north of 260 mph, this car resides at a different level than practically any other. However, Bugatti felt it could make a special version that would not only be more exclusive but also offer better handling and performance. Thus the Bugatti Divo, which made its world debut last summer in Pebble Beach. Design changes that differentiate Divo from Chiron are primarily functional — all with the goal of improving agility and performance.

The newly-designed wider front spoiler on the Divo provides higher downforce as well as more airflow, which improves overall cooling. The roof of the Divo has been shaped to direct air into the engine to help manage operating temperatures. Bugatti engineers have also adjusted the steering and suspension for more direct response and sportier driving. While power and acceleration figures remain the same as the Chiron, the Divo is able to lap the Nardo handling circuit a full 8 seconds faster than the Chiron.

Koenigsegg Regera

Photo courtesy of Koenigsegg

Horsepower: 1500+

Introduced a few years ago at the Geneva Motor Show, the Regera is considered the flagship of the Koenigsegg lineup, combining a high level of luxury with the extreme performance expected from this Swedish car company. Inside the sleek sports car, lucky occupants will find memory-foam power seats, a 9-inch display screen, Wi-Fi connectivity, Apple CarPlay and ambient lighting. The roof is removable and can be stowed under the front hood. Although passengers will enjoy the comfortable interior, this car is really all about extreme performance.

Powering this supercar is a 5.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine teamed with two electric motors via a unique direct-drive system. With more than 700 horsepower from the electric motors alone, combined output is reported to exceed 1500 horsepower with 1475 lb-ft of torque. Weighing in at 3,500 pounds, the Regera will reach 60 mph in 2.7 seconds and — even more impressive — almost 250 mph in less than 20 seconds. According to the carmaker, the direct-drive transmission delivers extreme performance while offering an impressively smooth driving experience. It is also possible to drive the Regera in complete silence in EV mode.

Lotus Evija

Photo courtesy of Lotus

Horsepower: 2000

Lotus Cars established its retail reputation building lightweight, high-performance sports cars equally at home on both track and street. In that vein, Lotus has taken the wraps off its all-new flagship sports car — the Evija, pronounced ih-VIE-uh. Not only is Evija the first hypercar from Lotus, it's also the brand's first fully-electric vehicle. One look at this new Evija and it's clear the car is something special. The first Lotus built on a full carbon fiber chassis, the Evija sits low and wide with a sleek silhouette that introduces a new design language for the marque. Deeply sculpted from all angles, the Evija seems to have air ducts flowing through all parts of the body. The rear view is unique with large Venturi tunnel outlets surrounded by LED ribbon-style brake lights.

Aside from the standout design, the Evija sets itself apart from other hypercars with a fully-electric powertrain. Four Electrical Drive Units consist of an ultralight, single-speed, helical gear ground planetary gearbox tied to a high-power electric motor. Mounted at each wheel, these units have a power target of around 500 horses each — giving the Evija an estimated 2000 horsepower and 1254 lb-ft of torque. With each motor able to be operated independently, the Evija has full-time all-wheel drive as well as torque vectoring, which should provide exceptional handling and agility. The Evija's acceleration should be quite dramatic — the jump to 62 mph will take less than 3 seconds with a top speed in excess of 200 mph. Perhaps even more impressive, Lotus predicts the Evija will accelerate from 62 mph to 124 mph in less than 3 seconds, and 124 to 186 in another 4 seconds.

Lotus plans to create, a mere 130 copies of the Evija, and production is expected to begin in 2020 at a price of £1.7 million (approx. USD$2 million) each.

​McLaren Speedtail

Photo courtesy of McLaren

Horsepower: 1035+ (estimate)

Many would argue that the McLaren F1 is one of the most significant sports cars ever built, breaking a 10-year-old record in 1998 to become the world's fastest production car by clocking a maximum speed of 240.14 mph. The British carmaker subsequently created some thrilling sports cars, but nothing could really be considered a proper successor to that iconic F1 until now: enter the McLaren Speedtail. Referred to as a "Hyper-GT," the Speedtail will be the fastest production McLaren ever, with an expected top speed of 250 mph. The Speedtail is constructed around a carbon-fiber McLaren Monocage and makes extensive use of lightweight materials throughout. This includes a body made entirely from carbon fiber, aluminum active suspension and carbon-ceramic brakes — all contributing to a low vehicle weight of 3,153 pounds.

Full details of the Speedtail's powertrain have not been released, although its gas-electric hybrid system will generate at least 1035 horsepower. McLaren expects the Speedtail to be capable of reaching 186 mph in 12.8 seconds. In homage to the iconic F1, the new Speedtail possesses some striking similarities. Only 106 F1s were built, so McLaren will be limiting the production of the Speedtail to the same 106 models — all of which have been reserved. Most noticeable is the seating — when it debuted the F1 was pioneering in many ways, but it stood out for having the driver sitting in the center of the cockpit, flanked by two passenger seats set farther back. This same seat configuration has been carried over to the new Speedtail.

The McLaren Speedtail will have a starting price of £1.75 million (US$2.25 million). Deliveries of this new extreme-performance supercar are expected to start in early 2020.

Zenvo TSR-S

Photo courtesy of Zenvo

Horsepower: 1177

If exclusivity and extreme performance are required, the Zenvo TSR-S may be the perfect solution. This Danish car company plans to build only five of these high-performance cars annually, so the odds of seeing another (or even one) on the road are rather slim. "Like all our cars, the Zenvo TSR-S is 100 percent Danish-designed and hand-built in an extremely limited number," said Zenvo Marketing Director Peter van Rooy. "Each car is fully customizable and built to order, tailored to the precise specifications of the discerning client," van Rooy noted.

This sleek exotic is powered by a twin-supercharged 5.8-liter V8 engine that produces 1177 horsepower and 811 lb-ft of torque. The run to 62 mph comes up in 2.8 seconds, and twice that speed in 6.8 seconds. One of the craziest features on the TSR-S is the Zentripetal Wing. This rear spoiler has two rotational axes that allow it to act as an air brake or cornering stabilizer. When the TSR-S corners, the wing rotates relative to the car's longitudinal axis. This theoretically generates an inward force together with conventional downforce, boosting inner tire grip and cornering stability.

​Bugatti La Voiture Noire

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Horsepower: 1500

Bugatti created a handcrafted, one-off hyper sports car, La Voiture Noire, and unveiled it to attending media on opening day of the 2019 Geneva Motor Show press preview. Produced for a Bugatti enthusiast, La Voiture Noire is a stunning, sleek grand touring coupe with sculpted bodywork in black carbon fiber — a modern sports car that pays tribute to the legendary Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic developed by Ettore Bugatti's son, Jean.

Under the hood of the Bugatti La Voiture Noire resides the same engine that powers the Bugatti Chiron Sport: an 8.0-liter W16 with quad turbochargers producing 1500 horsepower and 1180 lb-ft of torque. "For Bugatti, 'La Voiture Noire' is more than just a reminiscence of the Atlantic," said Bugatti President Stephan Winkelmann. "We are paying tribute to a long tradition, to France and to the creative work of Jean Bugatti. At the same time, we are transferring extraordinary technology, aesthetics and extreme luxury to a new age."

According to Bugatti, a car collector purchased La Voiture Noire for 11 million Euros — approximately 12.4 million dollars — making it the world's most expensive new car.

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Plug it in to get 42 miles of all-electric range.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

At last year's LA Auto Show, Toyota debuted the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in variant of the best-selling SUV in the U.S. Now that the model is about to go on sale, the Japan-based automaker has revealed how much it will cost.

The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) will have a starting MSRP of $38,100. Toyota will offer the model in just two grades: SE and XSE. Those two trim levels denote the SUV's underlying sporty drive characteristics according to traditional Toyota nomenclature.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Hyrbid New Toyota RAV4 plug-in is the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime. Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

While most PHEVs are designed to sacrifice power for range, the RAV4 doesn't. Its power plant is able to achieve 302 horsepower and can get to 60 mph off the line in 5.7 seconds. Toyota says that time makes the RAV4 Prime the quickest four-door model in their lineup.

The RAV4 Prime has 42 miles of all-electric range. Americans travel, on average, about 30 miles per day to run errands around town so theoretically whomever owns the SUV would be able to do all their errands without using a drop of gasoline. This range also gives the SUV the distinction of having the highest all-electric range of any plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) SUV on the market.

Toyota estimates that the SUV will achieve 94 MPGe combined. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, which is also a PHEV, gets 90 MPGe. The 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV gets 42 MPGe and the 2020 Volvo XC60 PHEV gets 57 MPGe. Each model listed comes standard with all-wheel drive.

All Toyota RAV4 models come equipped with standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SE

The SE trim level has a unique front grille and lower front spoiler. Piano black exterior accents are featured throughout the body. The SUV rides one 18-inch painted and machined alloy wheels.

Its standard equipment list is fitting for its price point and includes heated front seats, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, a 7-inch multi-information display in front of the driver, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert technology, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob with red stitching, power hatchback, 8-inch infotainment touch screen, Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

The car also comes standard with a 3-kilowatt-hour on-board charger.

The available Weather & Moonroof Package (+$1,665 upgrade) features a number of upgrades including a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, and rain-sensing windshield wipers with de-icer function.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE starts at $41,425 and builds on what is offered in the SE model. It's available with a two-tone paint scheme that pairs a black roof with select colors, including the Supersonic Red paint that joins the RAV4 lineup for the first time.

Toyota's list of features for the RAV4 Prime XSE includes 19-inch two-tone alloy wheels, vertical LED accent lights, paddle shifters, a moonroof, SofTex seats, wireless charging, ambient interior lighting, automatic dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink universal transceiver, and a 9-inch infotainment touch screen.

Toyota is also offering the model with a Premium Audio package that includes dynamic navigation and a JBL speaker system.

Available options for the XSE grade include:

  • Weather Package (+$815)
    • Heated Steering Wheel
    • Heated Rear Outboard Seats
    • Rain Sensing Wipers w/Wiper De-Icer
  • Weather and Audio Package (+$2,435)
    • Weather package plus:
      • JBL Premium Audio
      • Dynamic Navigation with 3 year trial
      • Destination Assist with 1 year trial
  • Weather with Audio and Premium Package (+$5,760)
    • Weather and Audio package plus:
      • AC (6.6kW) Enhanced Charger
      • Digital Rearview Mirror
      • 120V/1500W AC power outlet in cargo area
      • Panoramic Moonroof
      • Kick-Type Power Back Door
      • SofTex®-trimmed seats with sporty red accents and stitching
      • Bird's Eye View Camera
      • 4-way power adjustable front passenger seat with seatback pocket
      • Smart Key System on all doors
      • Perforated Heated & Ventilated Front Seats
      • Parking Assist with Automatic Braking
      • Adaptive Front Headlight System
      • Head-Up Display

Prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) excluding the delivery, processing and handling (DPH) fee of $1,120. The DPH fee for vehicles distributed by Southeast Toyota (SET) and Gulf States Toyota (GST) may vary. RAV4 Prime customers also may qualify for an $7,500 federal tax credit. Individual states have additional incentives that can be either be applied at time of purchase or via a rebate program, depending on the state. Individual state incentive information can be found at https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/state.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid goes on sale this summer.

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This 1973 Volkswagen Thing has spent a great deal of its life in Wisconsin but is only allowed out when the sun shines.

Photo by Harvey Briggs

In the spring of 1971, Larry Nutson, then a young product planner for Volkswagen of America, walked into the meeting. He wasn't sure what to expect, but he certainly didn't suspect a Thing.

Director of Market and Product planning, Dr. Henry Braner had just returned from a vacation in Acapulco and was enamored with the VW Safaris he saw at the resorts and on the beaches. Dr. Braner was convinced Southern California's surfers and other adventurous individuals, who were drawn to the VW powered, Meyers Manx dune buggies of the era, would see the charm of what is officially called the Type 181, but became known in The States as the VW Thing.

1973 Volkswagen Thing The exterior of the model looks primed for wood paneling.Photo by Harvey Briggs

"I was fairly new at the company and couldn't have picked a better first project," said Nutson.

As part of the homologation team, Nutson was responsible for making sure the soon-to-be imported vehicle met not just the desires of the potential owners, but also the regulatory requirements in place at the time. That meant swapping out the taillights and turn signals with those from the contemporary Beetle, adding windshield wipers, and an approved steering column and steering wheel among other things. Emissions weren't an issue, because the Type 181 would use the currently approved Beetle engine and four-speed manual transmission. But it was pretty clear it wouldn't meet crash worthiness standards for passenger vehicles at the time.

Then someone had the brilliant idea to classify it as a "multi-purpose vehicle" like a Jeep. To do that they had to improve its off-road worthiness, so a 4.125:1 transaxle, 100-mm axles, heavy-duty CV joints, and knobbier tires were added to the mix.

At an approval meeting for the Thing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), regulators expressed doubt about the vehicle's all-terrain capabilities since only the rear wheels were driven. Nutson, together with VW's lawyers by his side, remembers firing back, "Who says an off-road vehicle has to have four-wheel drive?" Without a good answer, NHTSA agreed with VW and the Thing was released to U.S. dealers in August of 1972 as a 1973 model.

1973 Volkswagen Thing Many do a double-take when they see a Thing coming down the road wondering what it is.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Interestingly, the Thing might not have happened at all had NATO completed a project they started about a decade earlier to create a "European Jeep". Pooling their resources, the NATO countries including Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and France were trying to design and build a light-duty patrol vehicle that could be used by various armies throughout the continent. The project stalled in the mid-'60s, so the West German Army turned to Volkswagen to quickly fill the void. In 1968 the 181 was commissioned into service. Eventually VW provided over 50,000 Type 181s to NATO from 1968 – 1983.

The fast-track nature of the project meant the Type 181 was quickly assembled out of parts from a variety of existing Volkswagen vehicles, taking its inspiration from the Kübelwagen (Bucket Car) used by the German military in World War II. The foundation of the Type 181 was the floor pan from a Karmann Ghia convertible with added reinforcement for off-road use. This gave it the interior proportions necessary to hold four people and the strength to support the wide-open top. Early 181s had a rear-swing axel suspension was from from the T1 Type 2 Transporter van, and the manual transmission and iconic air-cooled, flat-four engine came from the Type 1 Beetle.

It wasn't long before the Type 181 (and it's right-hand drive twin the Type 182) were adapted for civilian use and in 1971 sales began in continental Europe as the Kurierwagen and the Safari in Mexico, where drivers were looking for something a little more rugged than their beloved Beetles. Originally produced in Wolfsburg, VW added capacity in Puebla, Mexico to fill demand for the Americas – making the Thing the first vehicle ever imported from Mexico to the United States.

1973 Volkswagen Thing Though small, the car is spacious.Photo by Harvey Briggs

The Thing was as basic as basic gets. It was only available in three colors, Blizzard White, Sunshine Yellow, and Pumpkin Orange. It featured bolt-on fenders, doors that were interchangeable from front to rear, side curtains instead of windows, and a soft top designed to keep the rain out. Smart owners always kept a towel handy to dry up the inevitable leaks.

It didn't really matter, however, because most people saw it as a vehicle to be driven in the sunshine. This ethos was also reflected in the original heating system for the Thing.

Mounted just in front of the driver under the Thing's hood was a gasoline heater produced by Eberspächer. Working independently of the engine, this heater had its own small tank you filled and then fired up when you wanted to warm up the cabin. It mustn't have been a very popular feature, because in 1974 the system was replaced by the fresh-air heater used in the Super Beetle.

The 1974 model year also saw the introduction of a new color, Avocado Green, and the Acapulco Edition, with it's special blue and white paint scheme, striped seats, and a Surrey top. In 1975, its final full year on sale in the United States, you could add air conditioning, a radio and even a winch to your Thing.

1973 Volkswagen Thing The Thing keeps its engine in the back.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Comfort wasn't the Thing's strong suit. Neither was performance. Powered by a 46-horsepower, 1,584 cc engine, and only available with a four-speed manual transmission, 0-60 mph times were better measured by calendar than stopwatch. The top speed of 68 miles per hour meant it was freeway capable, but owners tended to eschew the interstates whenever possible.

Drum brakes at all four wheels provided adequate stopping power. And even though the swing axle had been replaced by Porsche double-jointed rear axles with the independent trailing arm rear suspension from the Beetle, handling wasn't its strong suit either.

So if comfort, performance, and handling were all – let's be generous and say – marginal, what was the point of the Thing? In order to find out, I used the magic of social media to contact several owners and even found a young woman who was brave enough to let me drive her unrestored 1973 Thing for a first-hand demonstration of its charm.

1973 Volkswagen Thing This vintage model wears its 1973 Volkswagen license plate frame with pride.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Jason Fogelson purchased his 1974 Thing in the early 1980s when he was working at Michael's Volkswagen in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Canoga Park, California as a salesman to earn money to pay for college. His love affair with the model began one day when Edd Byrns (Kookie in "77 Sunset Strip") drove onto the lot in a blue and white Acapulco Thing to look for a new car. He had a Siberian husky in the passenger seat and from that moment on Jason knew he had to own one.

A few months later, a customer came in to buy a new car and wanted to trade in his orange Thing. The dealership didn't want it so Fogelson arranged to buy it from him for $2,000. He cleaned it up and thoroughly enjoyed driving it around town for the summer.

But when school started in the fall, he quickly discovered the Thing was a lousy car to serve for his 20-mile commute each way. The heater was terrible, the top leaked, it couldn't keep up with traffic, and it was so loud he couldn't hear the transistor radio he brought with him to listen to the morning news. "I couldn't get rid of it fast enough," Fogelson said, but then followed up, "And if I could find another one today, I'd buy it in a heartbeat."

1973 Volkswagen Thing The Thing rides on 14-inch wheels.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Jeff Zurschmeide, an AutomotiveMap writer and known quirky, old car enthusiast – his current collection includes a classic MINI, a dune buggy, and a 1955 M38A1 Jeep – bought his 1973 Thing in the late 1980s for $1,500 when he was living in Santa Cruz. "The car played a pivotal role in my life," said Zurschmeide, "I took the woman who was to become my wife on our first date in the Thing. I stuck my copy of Endless Summer in the tape deck, pulled off the doors, flipped down the windshield and we cruised through town. She loved it, so I knew the relationship had a chance."

When the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in 1989, Zurschmeide discovered the utility and capability of the Thing. "It's a creditable off-road vehicle. I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains very close to the epicenter of the quake. You'd drive along and there would be places where streams had changed course through a road or the ground had just sheared away and there was a six-inch step you had to climb up. The Thing just went everywhere."

Like Fogelson, he ended the interview by saying, "If an opportunity came up to get one in good shape for a good price, I would own another thing in a cold second."

Wanting to see and drive a Thing before writing this article, I had arranged to meet Wisconsinite Jennifer Mandich at the parking lot for our local baseball team, on a brisk but clear Wednesday morning.

1973 Volkswagen Thing The interior of the model is rather spartan.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Her 1973 Thing still wears its original and slightly faded orange paint. Her brother bought the car in Arizona and brought it to Wisconsin when he returned home. She'd been eyeing it for a few years while it sat in his garage undriven, and eventually convinced him to sell it to her. She drives the car only on sunny days and rarely puts up the top or takes the side curtains out from where they're stored, under the hood. The car itself is a survivor, with a few scratches, pits in the paint, and dents, but no rust thanks to her care.

The top has been replaced – something that almost all Things have in common – and the engine was rebuilt a few years ago. The interior is spartan, with the metal dashboard and simple seats with no headrest nor any side support. Legroom was adequate for my 6'3" frame, and as I started the car, all my VW memories came rushing back.

I've owned two Beetles, a Karmann Ghia, and a Type 3 Wagon, so everything about the Thing was familiar – the light clutch, the slightly rubbery shift feel, and the unassisted steering. There's a reason so many people of my generation learned to drive stick shifts in VWs, they are simple and forgiving with long clutch travel and an engine that's slow to stall. I took a quick spin around the empty parking lot to get a feel for the Thing and was completely unsurprised by any of its driving characteristics. And yet it was different from any VW I've driven in the way people reacted to it. It's a car that makes people smile, whether they're in the driver's seat, passenger seats, or on the sidewalk watching one trundle past.

1973 Volkswagen Thing This Thing, like so many others, has had its roof replaced.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Like my time behind the wheel, the Thing's availability in America was too short. 1975 saw the introduction of new safety regulations that made it illegal to sell regardless of its classification. In the three years it was on sale in the United States, 25,794 Things were sold. Many are still on the road today and they come up for sale regularly on sites like BringATrailer.com where prices range from a low of $6,300 to a high of $36,250 with most selling between $15,000 and $20,000 over the past three years.

If you're looking for an affordable classic that's loud, slow, uncomfortable and will make you grin from ear to ear every time you get behind the wheel, the VW Thing might just be your thing.

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