We don't hear from boutique automotive manufacturer Venturi very often, but when we do, it's always interesting news. The creator of the world's first production electric sports car revealed an updated version of its 2010 America electric dune buggy at this year's Paris Motor Show. The new concept car combines the high performance and handling of a sports car with the ever-fun design of a sand-hungry dune buggy.
The first update to the America that draws the eye in is the new blue paint scheme that shines much brighter than the dark colors of 2010. When the eye sets to reading, the thing that really separates the 2014 concept from its predecessor is the beefed up twin-motor powertrain driving the rear wheels. That electric drive puts out 407 hp (303 kW) and 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) of torque, which is a sizable increase over the 2010 America's 300 hp (224 kW) and 280 lb-ft (380 Nm).
The America is capable of a 4.5-second 0-62 mph (100 km/h) run and a 137-mph (220 km/h) top speed. When you're not looking to get anywhere near those numbers, you can dial things down from SuperSport mode to Sport and Cruising modes. Cruising mode uses the reserves of the 53-kWh lithium ion polymer battery most sparingly, offering up to 155 miles (250 km) of driving range.
The America is built atop a tub chassis made from carbon, Kevlar and aluminum honeycomb. That chassis sits higher than on the original America, increasing its ground clearance. Save for the blue paint, wheels and half doors, the concept looks much the same as it did in 2010. While one could argue that the aging styling could have used a bit more freshening up four years in the future, the car still wrestles the eyes away from its surroundings, even when those surroundings are other brand-new, glistening cars and leggy French models.
Venturi hasn't said whether this revival job means a future beyond auto shows for the America buggy, but we won't hold our breath. If there's a category that screams "show car only," it's an all-electric dune buggy. Still, Venturi builds some niche vehicles, and dune buggy icon Bruce Meyers seems to believe in the potential of an all-electric model, so maybe there's hope.
The America wasn't the only instance of déjà vu at Venturi's booth. News of the first America's debut in 2010 was preceded weeks earlier by an electric world speed record. The same is true this year with Venturi and its partners at Ohio State University setting another world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in August.
Venturi went to Bonneville believing the 3,000-hp (2,237 kW) Buckeye Bullet 3 could best the VBB-2.5's 307.7-mph (495 km/h) absolute electric speed record from 2010. However, flooded salt and revised courses put the kibosh on its plans for an absolute record attempt. It didn't walk away from Utah empty-handed, however, setting a 212.6 mph (342.17 km/h) world record in the over 3.5 tonne class. In Paris, the FIA presented Venturi with a trophy acknowledging its certified record. The VBB-3 team plans to go for a record-smashing speed of 600 km/h (373 mph) in Bonneville next year.
Venturi used the Paris show to celebrate its 30th birthday and had a few other interesting models on display. Take the full tour in our photo gallery.
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