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2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

Subaru upgrades Legacy to take on Camry, Accord, Fusion legacy

Subaru strengthens its position in the mid-size market with an even more appealing Legacy sedan, but it retains a major advantage, all-wheel drive.

While past Legacy models may have felt a little bargain basement in their interiors, the new Legacy eradicates any hint of that and takes full dead-on aim at the segment leaders, Toyota’s Camry, Honda’s Accord and Ford’s Fusion.

What Legacy lacks in styling it makes up in quality feel, good interior design and performance. My Venetian Red Pearl (metallic red) test car was the top-end 3.6R Limited. Outside of an option or two, Legacy doesn’t get any better than this.

First, that number means it comes with Subaru’s strong 3.6-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine that generates 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. The boxer, which is a flat engine that can be placed lower in the chassis for better balance, delivers heady power for getting on the freeway. Not sure about a boxer? Well, Porsche engines are of similar design!

Now linked with Subaru’s excellent Lineartronic (Subaru’s name) CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the power is delivered smoothly, but with good low-end torque to get this luxurious sedan moving from a standing stop. Many CVTs lack low-end oomph, but that’s not a problem with Subaru’s LCVT.

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Jeep Power

That four letter word that starts with an “S” came early.

jeep wrangler unlimited, jeep, south bend IN, 4wdI can’t even mention the word and I live in Wisconsin. How about those folks in Buffalo who have been buried with feet of snow? I drive a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited so this video caught my eye. South Bend, IN. always get lots of snow because of Lake Michigan. Take for example this morning. Even the trucks got stuck and in this case a Jeep was there to help out. Go Jeep!!!

Chasing Classic Cars: Not your father’s Pacer

The Racer Pacer

amc pacer, american motors, cab-forward designI had never heard of this before my dad gave me a book to read “The Cars of American Motors”, by Marc Cranswick, McFarland Publishing. The “this” were not the Pacers that rolled off the assembly line in Kenosha, WI. I had one, just like this, a 1975 with a 258. My buddies and I tailgate with this at Milwaukee Brewer games and made a trip to Cleveland in it to visit a friend going to John Carroll University. Side note: Bob Hope was the commencement speaker. What fun. Named it the Astrodome or Astro for short. Later I sold it to my buddy who went to school in Cleveland after he graduated. Sorry Joe but it was good when I had it. The AMC Pacer was built between 1975 and 1980 and was the first modern mass-produced, U.S. automobile design using the cab forward concept. AMC marketed it as “the first wide small car.” Later in the production run a 304 V8 was an option.

Enter Carl Green Enterprises (CGE) who took the Pacers which came with the 304 and dropped in AMC’s 401 along with some other mods. Swapping out engines was no big deal because the blocks were the same size. Here is where the magic started. Green loved the Pacer because its design was a breath of fresh air

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Die-cast: Automodello 1966 Fitch Sprint

Automodello creates John Fitch’s souped up Corvairsprint1

John Fitch is NOT a household name. But he was an incredible person.

Fitch not only was a leading American sports car racer in the 1950s, racing at LeMans six times and finishing third once, winning big name events such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and 1955 Mille Miglia in Italy, but he was an inventor. Fitch, who lived to be nearly 100, held patents on a variety of safety devices, much of it to do with racing. He was a car guy, through and through.

In the 1960s he fell in love with Chevrolet’s Corvair as a possible sports car to be raced. He had already been the first manager of Chevy’s Corvette racing team. So Fitch put his design and racing experience into a series of customized Corvairs that became known as Fitch Sprints.

sprintAutomodello, the maker of fine resin models of unusual and rare cars, now rolls out its own 1:43 version of the 1966 Sprint, and it’s as sharp as Fitch was creative.

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Braking News: Motor Trend magazine’s 2015 Car of the Year

Winner announced this morning on Fox

motor trend According to Motor Trend this is the vehicle that best represents exceptional value, superiority in its class and most significant development on the 2015 new car scene. In all there were 42 contenders and as you can see from this image you might be scratching your head like me when MT picked the 2015 Volkswagen Golf as the winner. Really? The winner is chosen in the following criteria: 

Advancement in Design
Quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S 4-Door

New VW Golf looks old, feels newgolf2

There’s a saying about everything old being new again, and the reworked 2015 Volkswagen Golf is a sterling example.

The Golf and Rabbit hatchbacks have been sold by VW since 1974, this latest iteration being the seventh generation. Toyota’s Corolla is one of the few competitors to be around longer, it launching in 1966.

Still, the essence, the useful four-door hatchback that’s fun to drive remains the same for Golf. And while its lines have been tweaked a bit and the car stretched by 2.1 inches, you’ll have no trouble picking out of a crowd. Golf looks like a Golf, for better or worse.

That’s a matter of taste, but from a performance standpoint, the Golf is easily one of the more fun compacts on the road. Handling and ride are as good as, or better, than most of its competitors, and it has a lot of worthy competitors, such as the Mazda3, which also is a delight.

Golf is just flat out fun to drive. Its steering is light and easy, helped by the car’s modest 2,963 lbs., about 79 lbs. lighter than the previous Golf. The car also is responsive so you can toss this hatch into a corner at speed and feel good about it.

There is precious little body roll and Golf’s front-drive layout helps it track well through a corner, while the electrically assisted steering is speed variable, so firms as you hit the highway. Naturally we’re not racing these, but you feel sporty in the Golf and more importantly on Wisconsin’s deteriorating roads, the car handles and rides well over bumps. This is what surprised me most.

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Die-Cast: Automodello 1:43 1963 Studebaker Avanti

Automodello’s Avanti offers sharp detail in resin

Eyeballed my first Studebaker Avanti at my first Indianapolis 500 in 1962. The car was just about to be produced and was the “ceremonial” pace car for that year’s race, won by Roger Ward. A Studebaker Lark convertible was the “official” pace car.avanti

This car looked futuristic, and still looks contemporary. Its fastback styling, edgy nose and tail and sporty dimensions made it a head turner. If only Studebaker hadn’t gone bankrupt just a few years later. But now collectors can get their own 1:43 scale resin version from Automodello, which continues to turn out some of the more rare and unusual classic cars, and in a variety of scales.

The History:

Studebaker needed what is now known as a Halo Car, one that exudes creativity and set the tone for the company. Chevy had its Corvette, and Ford its Thunderbird at the time. Avanti was Studebaker’s sports coupe, designed by a crew led by famed designer Raymond Loewy. Supposedly they had 40 days to crank out the concept and thus Avanti was born.

But Studebaker was desperate. After about 110 years in business, first as a wagon maker and after the early 1900s a car and truck maker, its sales were sagging. It had merged with Packard in the mid-1950s, but that didn’t help much and by 1962 the South Bend, Ind.-based company needed a big shot in the arm, or showroom.

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Die-cast: Autoart Jaguar XKR-S

Even in 1:18 scale Jaguar XKR-S is sleek, sexyjag3

When Ford first owned Jaguar, the storied maker of racy touring coupes and sedans, the British car maker was in a serious slump.

Then along came Ian Callum and designs returned to near classic proportions, one being the sleek and sexy XKR-S coupe. By the way, Callum also styled the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish, and you’ll note the noses look similar to the Jag, or is it the other way round?

In either case, Autoart brings the XKR-S to life in Italian Racing Red and 1:18 scale, with strong detail inside and out. Pricing also is reasonable for such detail and a 1:18 model with opening hood, doors and trunk, at just below $150.

The History

savageonwheels, care reviews big and small, diecast cars, new cars, car reviews, new trucks, new truck reviews, promotional model cars, promo model cars The XKR-S was introduced in 2005 and production didn’t end until this past summer. Folks liked its looks right away with an oval grille that reminded many of the 1961 E-Type. They also liked its power and refinement. The XKR-S touts a 550-horse supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with a 0-60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds and top speed of 186 mph. That’s faster than any of us need to run a car, but I can vouch for 110 mph coming up quickly as I got to test drive an XKS-R at Road America. Check out the video link here.

 

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2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

C300 helps Mercedes moves back toward top

            Mercedes-Benz has rejoined the top-tier of luxury automakers after a decade, or more, of struggling with design and execution while other luxo-makes were raising the bar.MB2

Nearly two years ago I praised the GLK350, a small luxury ute that hit on all cylinders for luxury, equipment and performance. Now Mercedes goes deep again with its C300 sedan, one of its bread and butter offerings, a compact to mid-size sedan along the dimensions of a Lexus IS or, for us less monied folks, a Mazda6.

The C Class rides on a smoothing 111.8-inch wheelbase and weighs a middling 3,583 lbs. The car feels delicious.

How so? It’s a scrumptious blend of sporty power, an eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.

Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to lend the car a sporty edge. Cornering is smooth with minimal body lean and as precise as you want it to be.

MB5That’s courtesy of the test car’s Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+. Moving up from Eco, each setting adds a few hundred engine revs and slightly firms the steering and ride. Eco naturally provides lackadaisical acceleration and a soft steering effort, but Comfort is close to right on for city driving. The C300 still has good power and handling is forgiving.

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Die-cast: TSM 1:43 1967 Chevrolet Impala Coupe

TSM nails Chevrolet Impala with crisply executed body

Growing up in Indianapolis our neighbors across the street bought a new Chevy every two years, and yes, there was a bit of “bowtie” envy on our side of the street.impala

We had a green 1955 Chevy 210, a plain Jane Chevy. The neighbors always had Impalas, including a white 1967 with its sloping rear window that blended beautifully into the long trunk, sort of a fastback look. The car had excellent lines, especially for a big car, but in subsequent years Chevy ruined its looks.

A lot of other folks liked the Impala Coupe’s looks at the time, and now TSM mines that market with its crisply executed Impala Coupe, this one in “Marina Blue,” a medium metallic blue, and 1:43 scale, so a perfect fit for your display shelf.

The History

Chevy redesigned its long lean Impala for 1967 to enhance what was then called Coke-bottle styling. I never saw it that way, but there was a certain streamlining to the sport coupe’s profile, something that made it more than just another big car, and not as boxy as the Fords of the era.

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2015 GMC Yukon 4WD SLT

GMC Yukon continues to go BIG!

            If you’re the type of driver that feels bigger is better you’d better hustle off to a GMC dealer and declare your love for the 2015 GMC Yukon.yukon1

This is a heavyweight that’ll pull at least 8,200 lbs., has room for 6 or 7 adults, rides high and commands the road like little else, except its bigger brother, the Yukon XL. Note that Chevrolet has its own versions of both, with Chevy’s Tahoe being a twin to Yukon, while the Suburban is comparable to the Yukon XL.

            Let’s be perfectly clear, you don’t need a Yukon, unless you tow a big boat, large trailer or happen to have a big-boned large family. But you may want one if even a bit of the aforementioned is true and you intend to tow something heavy.

Start with its dimensions. The tested Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase and is 203.9 inches long. The XL expands the wheelbase to 130 inches and grows 21 inches in length. That’s a lot more cargo room. The XL also is the one you want if you need to carry 9 adults. There’s more legroom in the third row seats.

But legroom and headroom are decent in the second and third rows even in the Yukon. The downside with Yukon is that there’s precious little cargo room behind row three. In fact, grocery bags are about it, unless you strap some cargo to the roof.

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For the car guy who has everything

It’s official my and Mark’s slot car tracks are crap

Slot mods tracks, slot car tracks, slot cars, neiman marcus, neiman marcus christmas gift bookWhen I worked with Mark at Kalmbach Publishing he and a couple of other guys there got me into slot car racing. They gave me one crappy car and I was hooked. What car guy wouldn’t be? I was sucked in and started buying more cars off eBay. Most of the other guys I raced with had tracks and of course I had to build one. Mine is a much smaller replica of Road America, a track Mark and I both love and have driven on multiple times. I was happy with it until I saw this track pictured on the left.

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2015 Lexus IS350

Lexus IS350 a BWM 3 Series fighter heavy on luxurylexus3

Star Trek groupies may already believe in mind melds, but BMW and Lexus engineers and designers have convinced me it’s a real phenomenon.

Their convincing argument is their creation of two like models that if more identical would be sold in the same showroom. Lexus calls theirs the IS350, while BMW sticks with 335i.

It’s no surprise really, BMW’s 3 Series rear-drive sport sedan has for decades been the holy of holies for auto enthusiasts and many magazines that cater to their Bimmer fetish. Lexus got the idea to fight the 3 Series about 10 years back, launching the IS series in 2005 as it looked to induct younger buyers into the Lexus family.

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Die-cast: Norev 1970 Porsche 917K

Norev creates colorful 1:18 Porsche 917K racer

Racing fans, especially those dialed into the LeMans scene of the 1970s know Porsche 917s were king of the hill, or racetrack, as the case may be.

Cool paint scheme!

Cool paint scheme!

These Germanic wonders created massive horsepower and their sleek lines and body work created massive downforce. They were the unchallenged endurance racers of the time.

Norev, a French die-cast model maker, introduces a new 1:18-scale collection of 917s that raced at LeMans in France, along with other noted circuits worldwide. The review car was the blue and green Martini & Rossi Racing Team’s No. 35, driven by Gerard Larrousse and Gijs Van Lennep in the 6-hour endurance race at the famous Watkins Glen circuit in 1970.

The History

The 917K was the highly successful short-tail version of the 917, winning the 24 Hours of LeMans in both 1970 and 1971. The long-tail models originally introduced by Porsche in 1969 were highly unstable. The short tail Kurzheck version, which is where the K comes from, ran away with the sports car championships for both years.

In 1971 a 917K was clocked at a top speed of 243 mph at LeMans and was the presumed victor, even before the race was run. The Martini team was a popular and successful entrant for years and this model is of Martini’s “psychedelic” livery that featured a wild blue and bright green paint scheme that excited fans and journalists, even though it was not, ultimately, a winner.

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2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible

Jag’s F-Type V8 roars to new heightsjag1

Jaguar still carries some mystique from its racing days of the 1950s and ‘60s, but it has been devoid of a two-seat sports car for ages.

While many of its newer sedans have been sexy beasts, they have not satisfied that hot rod Jaguar need for a Porsche 911 fighter … until now. The F-Type convertible’s debut delivers the most enticing roadster design since Jaguar’s E-Type wowed auto enthusiasts in the 1960s.

This model has a long nose, big engine and svelte tail too, along with a price tag to match your expectations once you’ve spied an F-Type. This week’s test car was the ultimate S V8 version with a starting price at a simple $92,000. Add an $895 delivery fee and that should about do it, well, almost.

The gorgeous Italian Racing Red (medium metallic red and $1,500 extra) test racer, er car, added a bevy of goodies packages to push this rear-drive beauty to $103,820. Pricey, but easily not the priciest sports car around.

Beyond its stellar looks, and they are stellar, the Jag delivers first-rate performance delivered with the best exhaust tone of any car I’ve driven in at least five years. Plus the Performance Pack that adds $2,950 to the bottom line includes Selective Active Exhaust that allows you to improve its sound with the touch of a console button.

jag3The Jag’s deep throaty V8 bellow coupled with its crackling exhaust note when you gun the engine and then let off suddenly is a thing of audible beauty. People look. People are envious. People wish they were you.

OK, so maybe that’s childish of me, or any buyer, to enjoy. But it IS enjoyable, as is virtually every other bit of the F-Type’s performance.

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2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

Optima Hybrid a looker with spunk, yes a hybrid with spunk!

Let’s put this right out there, I like Kia’s Optima.IMG_0981

Optima is one of the best looking mid-size cars on the market, looks like a luxury sedan and rides and feels like an entry-level luxury sedan. It also is well equipped for its price, making it a high value front drive car that will carry five comfortably.

What pushed me well toward the “love it” end of my rating spectrum is the tested blue-gray’s hybrid system. Many hybrids are still lackluster when it comes to acceleration and refinement. Kia’s Optima Hybrid EX not only looks great it performs well.

I tested this for a week that included about a 500-mile round trip to Miami County, Ind., and several days of the usual area city driving. I could have gotten by with just one gas fill-up in that period as I averaged 39.5 mpg, basically confirming the EPA estimates. On the highway the trip computer boasted 41 mpg and range was listed at more than 600 miles.

That alone makes Optima a fine highway cruiser, but riding on a 110-inch wheelbase (2 inches shorter than last week’s Ford Fusion) Optima offers a pleasant ride with just a bit of rump bumping on severe bumps. You feel well insulated in the Kia, which features a luxury-quality quiet interior.

IMG_0983But performance is equally smooth and comfortable. Acceleration is decent in full Eco mode where the electric motor portion of the hybrid powerplant does most of the work. However, you can flick off the Eco mode with a touch of your right thumb and the gas engine does more work to give you better than average acceleration. This may be preferred when you’re in serious city traffic where acceleration may be needed to avoid a jam.

While a gas-powered Optima features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a stout 192 horsepower, the hybrid system with the same sized gas engine plus electric assist ups that to 206 horses and 154 lb.-ft. of torque, a bit less than the gas-driven version, but still reasonable.

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2014 MINI Cooper S Hardtop

New MINI Hardtop maximizes motoring fun

 MINI has a deceptively simple message for its potential buyers, Let’s Motor!IMG_0864

Yet it delivers exactly that, simple motoring fun.

A new, larger MINI was reintroduced in 2002 by BMW, the former Mini was a British make. Now, a dozen model years later, its third and again larger (about 5 inches nose to tail) iteration, continues to be a cute boxy hardtop that is a blast to drive. This is especially true of the tested Volcanic Orange S version with a new 2.0-liter twin-turbo 4-cylinder engine.

That smooth running BMW-designed powerplant belts out 189 horsepower and features a torque rating of 207. It kicks you in the seat of the pants, especially when the car is set to Sport mode. The S model offers three driving settings, Eco that reduces power and saves fuel (MINI-malizing they call it), Mid (perfectly fine for nearly all driving) and Sport (booster rocket power).

You simply turn a ring on the base of the shift lever housing and once it hits Sport you know it. Power is instantaneous. The MINI zips forward like a race horse set free from a starting gate. Sport also firms up the suspension, which might be needed on the race track, but only further intensifies the rump thumping you already get in the MINI on the street. Despite the 2014 model’s wheelbase growing 1.1 inches, the ride is no smoother and the shock damping feels almost non-existent in the Sport setting.

IMG_0866The Mid setting eases shock stiffness some, as it does the horsepower and torque. But MINI still hustles away from stoplights quickly and power is near instant with the twin-turbo booster set at the Mid, default, level. Go Eco and you’ll feel the car ease away from a stop, but power is substantially reduced. This may work well in jammed city driving where you just crawl from stoplight to stoplight.

Handling is go-kart like responsive all the time, but extraordinarily quick in Sport mode. That’s what makes MINI so much fun, especially around town. You can flick the car into a tight curve or corner and zip out the other side like you’re an F1 racer on a quick practice lap. Steering is immediate and easy.

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5 cars that will never be classics…

…and guys should never be seen driving in.

Levi's edition gremlin, amc gremlin, iconic small carsBefore I reveal what they are, I want to get a couple of things out there. I love cars, some that get great mileage, some of them are small, and some of them are unusual designs. This comes from a guy who drove a Gremlin and a Pacer which by the way are no longer manufactured. However, a Gremlin X with a 304 and Levi’s interior is a popular collector car since they are difficult to find in good shape. I’ve seen some for sale in the $20,000 range. I know you’re probably thinking, a guy who lives in a glass house….. you will for sure once I get rolling on the list so here goes.

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Die-cast: CMC 1938 Alfa 8C 2900B Speciale Touring Coupe

Art Deco Alfa Romeo 8C delivers museum-quality look, details 

Everything opens and everything is replicated in great detail on the CMC model.

Everything opens and everything is replicated in great detail on the CMC model.

The automotive Art Deco era, where sleek streamlined profiles and styling flare were at their peak left us an astounding number of quirky, yet beautiful cars.

European makers were at the forefront of such styling in the 1930s with the likes of Bugatti, Delahey and Alfa Romeo wowing the wealthy aristocracy of the day. One such beauty was the Alfa Romeo 8C, a sports coupe that seemed hell bent on performance.

Now CMC brings its prestigious moniker and die-cast model skills to the Alfa 8C 2900B Speciale Touring Coupe. It’s a recipe for a deliciously lavish 1:18 scale model.

History:

Vittorio Jano was famous for his engines at Alfa Romeo before Enzo Ferarri lured him away to help create powerplants for the red racers that made Ferraris into an icon. But in the 1920s Jano created his first straight-eight cylinder engine for Alfa Romeo and then the P3 single-seater that was a constant winner in Formula 1 during the 1930s.

alfa1Yet in the 1930s racing was only a part of the Alfa story. The Italian car maker was cranking out beautiful road cars too, their bodies being built by the finest coachbuilders of the day and featuring radical sweeping designs. The 2900B Special Touring Coupe is but one.

The 2900 was designed first and foremost to compete in the Mille Miglia, the most important road race in Italy, winning in 1936 and ’37. In all Alfa won four Mille Miglia. But by the end of the decade the 2900 was also a fine coupe and roadster with a sexy body created by couch builder Carrozzeria Touring.

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2014 Range Rover Supercharged (LWB)

LR1Big Rover a tough powerful beast, and pricey too

Land Rover has pounded out rough-terrain handling trucks for years. Think of safaris and you think of Land Rovers, usually with a tire mounted on the hood and a rhino charging after it.

Today’s Land Rovers and Range Rovers are just as capable in the bush, but civilized enough to lug the queen around her estate, if need be. The tested Aintree (a town in England) Green Range Rover Supercharged LWB (long-wheelbase) is exceedingly long on the luxury, while still designed to dominate any terrain you throw at it, mud, slush, rocks and streams.

You might be surprised to find out that the tested Rover’s starting price is $105,300, plus an $895 delivery fee, which compared to the base price seems a bargain. Amazingly at six digits the Rover did not come with any running boards or power step-up and nary a third-row seat. Yet there were options that pushed this luxury land yacht to $122,900.

What’s an option once you hit $106 grand or so? Many apparently.

The lovely test ute added a vision assist pack that included a surround-view camera that allows you to view the truck’s perimeter. Cool! It also included automatic high-beam headlights and adaptive Xenon lights, plus a blind spot monitor with a closing vehicle sensing & reverse traffic detection system. That alerts you if you’re about to ram a stopped or suddenly slowed vehicle and also see out the back. Many luxury cars and trucks now have similar systems. The package also featured configurable mood lighting (Shagadelic baby!) and a leather steering wheel (again, something most $30 grand vehicles have, or offer). Price tag? A modest $1,760.

But there was so much more.

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Die-cast: Automodello 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III

linc2

What says Continental more than the fake tire sculpted into the trunk lid?

Resin Continental Mark III a rare offering

Rarity plays a big role in full-size vintage auto prices.

This is true too for diecast models, which is what makes Automodello’s new 1:24 Lincoln Continental Mark III a hit, even at its strong $299 asking price. This is a car for baby boomers who favor the classics over muscle cars. (I know that’s heresy.)

This is rare in that I’ve never seen a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III in cast resin and in 1:24 scale. On that front Automodello has created a stunningly accurate and beautiful body with crisp accent and trim lines that reflect the Continental’s long, lean elegance.

The History:

The Mark III was a Lee Iacocca idea that legend has it came from his desire to see a Thunderbird of the day equipped with a big Rolls Royce grille. That pretty well sums up the Mark III’s appearance.

linc

The giant grille is reminiscent of that used by Rolls Royce.

But it was 300 lbs. heavier than the T-bird, yet packed 365 horsepower coming from a new 460 cu.in. V8. That engine was created to help Lincoln challenge Cadillac’s Eldorado, along with the likes of Oldsmobile’s Toronado and Buick’s Riviera.

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2015 Chrysler 200C AWD

Fiat gives Chrysler a fine mid-size car with new 200C

The 200C (left) and 200S feature sophisticated styling and one might argue, a bit of Italian flair.

The 200C (left) and 200S feature sophisticated styling and one might argue, a bit of Italian flair.

The former Chrysler 200 was so long in the tooth you may have wanted to nickname it Snagglepuss.

It was updated a couple years back by Fiat, after it snaggled Chrysler away from bankruptcy and the U.S. government. Mostly, that change in ownership has done nothing but help Chrysler’s various lineups, and the new Chrysler 200 again confirms that.

The midsize sedan, which rides on the Jeep Cherokee platform (see my interview with the lead engineer done at the Chicago Auto Show) so is available with all-wheel-drive, carries the rounded styling first seen on the sporty Dodge Dart. This is a handsome sedan with swept back rear quarter to give it both a modern and sporty profile. The tested C model with AWD tops the 200 lineup and its $30,195 starting price reflects that. This isn’t your great aunt’s old Chrysler 200 winter beater car.

The 200 comes in basic LX trim with a list price of $22,695 and in that form is front-wheel drive with a competent 184-horse MultiAir 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. A mid-level S model is available in all- and front-drive as is this upscale C model.

This C stands out due to its more powerful 3.6-liter V6 that features variable valve timing and delivers 295 horses and a torque rating of 262. Tires also grow to 18 inches and the interior is decked out with leather trimmed heated seats and a load of bells and whistles. The vivid blue pearl (bright metallic blue) test car ladled on three option packages to doll itself up and hit a rather optimistic $34,675, including a $795 delivery charge.

The 200 looks attractive from the rear too.

The 200 looks attractive from the rear too.

The car itself feels more modern and refined that past 200 models. The engine is strong and will get to highway speeds easily, even with four people aboard. This is a fine highway cruiser for the family and the giant 16-cubic-foot trunk will accommodate a load of luggage.

While the car feels strong, it doesn’t really jump from a stop as you might expect. It feels heavy despite a moderate 3,473 lbs. Its 9-speed (that’s right!) automatic transmission is designed to save gas, but not to put the car on a speedy trajectory, especially in city driving. The car is rated 18 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. I averaged a fine 24.2 mpg in about 75% highway driving and with up to four aboard.

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Die-cast: AutoArt Mustang GT show car

Small scale Mustang GT ponies up the value, detailMustang GT

Ford’s Mustang turns 50 this year and you’d likely have to be dead not to know that by now.

A new 2015 model is being previewed at all the major car shows now and the mainstream media has been agog over 50 years of Mustang since at least January.

But if not for the 2005 revision of the famous pony car, Mustang might not have been around for its 50th Anniversary. Back in 2004 a new Mustang GT show car toured the country’s auto shows to re-launch, in a way, the Mustang brand, whose sales had slipped. Just two years earlier Chevrolet had pulled the plug on its Camaro, long Mustang’s chief competitor. It returned to Chevy’s lineup in 2010, at least in part to the Mustang’s resurgence.

So when you look at the 2005 Mustang, you see the fastback styling of the iconic late 1960s models, the GT, Mach 1 and Boss. This was the re-design that re-established Mustang in the market and led to stellar models up through the present.

mustang GT1Autoart delivers this somewhat historic Mustang now in a high-value 1:43 scale version painted a “red fire,” sparkling metallic red, with black window trim. It’s modestly priced at just $35.90 MSRP. That’s a bargain in today’s diecast market.

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible

 

Muscular Stingray convertible opens up more ways to have funvette3

I had to laugh at the timing. After a beautiful spring week, a “velocity yellow” Corvette Stingray convertible showed up for a test drive as snow was flying and the temperature had dropped to the mid-30s, ah Spring in Wisconsin.

But by the weekend, the sun and 60+ degrees had returned, allowing me to drop the yellow screamer’s black cloth top, at least for a while. It only takes 20 seconds to power the top down, and you don’t even have to loosen any latches at the roofline.

auto reviews, 2014 chevy corvette convertible, Vette convertibleI’d driven the new seventh generation Corvette coupe last fall, but just briefly. This time I was allowed a week in the bullet-like street racer with its long pointed nose and menacing Star Wars looking tail with four tailpipes bunched together and burbling away happily. Folks always notice a Vette, and slathered in near neon yellow, this one screamed for attention. I was hoping our state troopers would prove color blind.

Funny thing, everyone wants a ride when you are testing a Vette. I had new friends at the office, gas station, custard stand, you name it. And why not?

The 2014 Vette is not only a looker, it’s a racer, a muscular heart-throb of a car with a massive 6.2-liter direct-injected V8 that features variable valve timing and boasts 29 mpg EPA rating on the highway. And this with 450 horses no less. I’m betting it would get darned close to that if a driver could resist tromping its gas pedal so hard. But avoiding that is like eating just one potato chip, a challenge.

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Die-cast: CMC 1938 Bugatti 57SC Corsica

 

CMC’s Bugatti Corsica a work of artbug1

Bugatti has always been a brand for the upper echelon buyers, folks who want the best, the most beautiful and who value quality and uniqueness as much as performance.

No wonder that CMC has chosen a 1938 Bugatti as its latest 1:18-scale work of art.

In 1938 Bugatti created one of its most rare cars, the Bugatti 57 SC Corsica Roadster. The 57 SC chassis and engine was all Bugatti, but its flowing body was a combined effort designed by Jean Bugatti along with Eric Giles. Giles was designing the car for his brother, British Col. G.M. Giles, later chairman of the Bugatti Owners Club. This was back in the day when the wealthy could basically design their own coachwork to be installed exclusively on a manufacturer’s chassis.

cmc-ProduktfotoCoachbuilder Corsica, of North London, constructed the car’s sensuous body with its large sweeping pontoon fenders and long lean arrow-like hood. Alligator, then a popular luxury hide, was used for the interior.
Now owned by Californian John Mozart, the car won Best of Show at the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours. There’s no denying this is a beautiful car, well restored.

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Recent Articles

21
Nov

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

Subaru upgrades Legacy to take on Camry, Accord, Fusion legacy

Subaru strengthens its position in the mid-size market with an even more appealing Legacy sedan, but it retains a major advantage, all-wheel drive.

While past Legacy models may have felt a little bargain basement in their interiors, the new Legacy eradicates any hint of that and takes full dead-on aim at the segment leaders, Toyota’s Camry, Honda’s Accord and Ford’s Fusion.

What Legacy lacks in styling it makes up in quality feel, good interior design and performance. My Venetian Red Pearl (metallic red) test car was the top-end 3.6R Limited. Outside of an option or two, Legacy doesn’t get any better than this.

First, that number means it comes with Subaru’s strong 3.6-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine that generates 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. The boxer, which is a flat engine that can be placed lower in the chassis for better balance, delivers heady power for getting on the freeway. Not sure about a boxer? Well, Porsche engines are of similar design!

Now linked with Subaru’s excellent Lineartronic (Subaru’s name) CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the power is delivered smoothly, but with good low-end torque to get this luxurious sedan moving from a standing stop. Many CVTs lack low-end oomph, but that’s not a problem with Subaru’s LCVT. Read more

20
Nov

Jeep Power

That four letter word that starts with an “S” came early.

jeep wrangler unlimited, jeep, south bend IN, 4wdI can’t even mention the word and I live in Wisconsin. How about those folks in Buffalo who have been buried with feet of snow? I drive a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited so this video caught my eye. South Bend, IN. always get lots of snow because of Lake Michigan. Take for example this morning. Even the trucks got stuck and in this case a Jeep was there to help out. Go Jeep!!!

19
Nov

Chasing Classic Cars: Not your father’s Pacer

The Racer Pacer

amc pacer, american motors, cab-forward designI had never heard of this before my dad gave me a book to read “The Cars of American Motors”, by Marc Cranswick, McFarland Publishing. The “this” were not the Pacers that rolled off the assembly line in Kenosha, WI. I had one, just like this, a 1975 with a 258. My buddies and I tailgate with this at Milwaukee Brewer games and made a trip to Cleveland in it to visit a friend going to John Carroll University. Side note: Bob Hope was the commencement speaker. What fun. Named it the Astrodome or Astro for short. Later I sold it to my buddy who went to school in Cleveland after he graduated. Sorry Joe but it was good when I had it. The AMC Pacer was built between 1975 and 1980 and was the first modern mass-produced, U.S. automobile design using the cab forward concept. AMC marketed it as “the first wide small car.” Later in the production run a 304 V8 was an option.

Enter Carl Green Enterprises (CGE) who took the Pacers which came with the 304 and dropped in AMC’s 401 along with some other mods. Swapping out engines was no big deal because the blocks were the same size. Here is where the magic started. Green loved the Pacer because its design was a breath of fresh air Read more

18
Nov

Chasing Classic Cars: The Ultimate Garage

Jay Leno’s Collection

I love Jay Leno for a couple of reasons, he’s funny, and a car guy. Huge car guy! Has almost 300 cars and motorcycles in his collection, and every car is liscensed and street-legal. What I wouldn’t give for a tour. I asked to give away a tour as part of a promotion I was planning for a magazine I was doing the marketing for and NBC said no:) Bummer.

His 25 coolest

Leno's-chrysler-turbine

NBC/Universal

leno's-yenko-corvair

NBC/Universal

It would be tough for me to pick his 25 coolest since they are all cool. Yahoo Auto gave it a crack. Here are my “faves of the faves”, the Chrysler turbine and Yenko Corvair.

 

 

14
Nov

Die-cast: Automodello 1966 Fitch Sprint

Automodello creates John Fitch’s souped up Corvairsprint1

John Fitch is NOT a household name. But he was an incredible person.

Fitch not only was a leading American sports car racer in the 1950s, racing at LeMans six times and finishing third once, winning big name events such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and 1955 Mille Miglia in Italy, but he was an inventor. Fitch, who lived to be nearly 100, held patents on a variety of safety devices, much of it to do with racing. He was a car guy, through and through.

In the 1960s he fell in love with Chevrolet’s Corvair as a possible sports car to be raced. He had already been the first manager of Chevy’s Corvette racing team. So Fitch put his design and racing experience into a series of customized Corvairs that became known as Fitch Sprints.

sprintAutomodello, the maker of fine resin models of unusual and rare cars, now rolls out its own 1:43 version of the 1966 Sprint, and it’s as sharp as Fitch was creative. Read more

13
Nov

Braking News: Motor Trend magazine’s 2015 Car of the Year

Winner announced this morning on Fox

motor trend According to Motor Trend this is the vehicle that best represents exceptional value, superiority in its class and most significant development on the 2015 new car scene. In all there were 42 contenders and as you can see from this image you might be scratching your head like me when MT picked the 2015 Volkswagen Golf as the winner. Really? The winner is chosen in the following criteria: 

Advancement in Design
Quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.

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11
Nov

On November 7th, 1965 he went 576 MPH

I can go faster

Guys were essentially taking large jet engines and build a car around it to break speed records in the mid 60′s. Art Arfons was one of the big names with his Green Monster which at one time was the world’s fastest car. His competition came from Craig Breedlove. This was pretty cool stuff and each driver was out to top the other.

The Rube Goldberg of land speed record cars

Art Arfons Green Monster, world speed records, Craig Breedlove, Bonneville Salt flatsArfons was the ultimate gear head shade-tree mechanic from Akron, Ohio who started building drag racers so powerful they got him banned from sanctioned events mainly powered by jet engines he scrounged the U.S. Air Force considered worthless. Listen to his secret.

Born on February 3, 1926, he started with his Green Monster dragsters powered by piston and jet engines. Feeling the need for more speed, more speed, he took it up a notch with his turbine-powered speed cars. He held the world land speed record holder three times from 1964 to 1965. It was on November 7th, 1965 that went 576 mph and never as able to beat it. He was announced as a 2008 inductee in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame three days after his death.

The first person in history to reach 400, 500, and 600 mph

AMX, Art Arfons Green Monster, world speed records, Craig Breedlove, Bonneville Salt flatsI remember Craig Breedlove even better. Beyond the records he set on the Bonneville salt flats, he also set records for American Motors. Hired in 1968 to prepare AMC’s pony and high-performance cars, Javelin and AMX, for speed and endurance records which he set. From my collection, this is one of the ads AMC ran to promote the records.

Back to the jets

Breedlove’s competition came from not only Art but his brother Walt. Breedlove’s response was more engine power upping the record to 468.72 mph and then to 526.28 mph making him the first man to exceed 500 mph. 

Art Arfons Green Monster, world speed records, Craig Breedlove, Bonneville Salt flatsBlueflame, Art Arfons Green Monster, world speed records, Craig Breedlove, Bonneville Salt flatsI remember this pass because one of Breedlove’s drogue parachute‘s shroud lines parted, and Spirit of America ran on for five miles before just missing a telephone pole and coming to rest in a lake. This record stood all of twelve days before Green Monster broke it, recording a two-run average of 536.71 mph. Back and forth they went. Arfons did is 576 run then Breedlove responded with 600.601 mph. Now let’s throw in Gary Gabelich‘s Blue Flame (top right). In 1970 he broke Breedlove’s record running 630.388 mph. After that things shifted Art Arfons Green Monster, world speed records, Craig Breedlove, Bonneville Salt flatsinto low gear for Breedlove. He took a break to sell houses and then returned in 1996 with Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV (right) pumping out 22,650 British Thrust SSC, craig breedlove, spirit of america, art arfons, green moster, land speed records.pounds of thrust but crashed on his first run at about 675 mph. Wow! Enter the British ThrustSSC  which then went over 700 mph. Breedlove made one more attempt after repairing his car and thinking it could do 800 but the best he could go was 676 mph and that was pretty much all she wrote. There were some attempts by other drivers after that but nothing like what happened during this period.

8
Nov

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S 4-Door

New VW Golf looks old, feels newgolf2

There’s a saying about everything old being new again, and the reworked 2015 Volkswagen Golf is a sterling example.

The Golf and Rabbit hatchbacks have been sold by VW since 1974, this latest iteration being the seventh generation. Toyota’s Corolla is one of the few competitors to be around longer, it launching in 1966.

Still, the essence, the useful four-door hatchback that’s fun to drive remains the same for Golf. And while its lines have been tweaked a bit and the car stretched by 2.1 inches, you’ll have no trouble picking out of a crowd. Golf looks like a Golf, for better or worse.

That’s a matter of taste, but from a performance standpoint, the Golf is easily one of the more fun compacts on the road. Handling and ride are as good as, or better, than most of its competitors, and it has a lot of worthy competitors, such as the Mazda3, which also is a delight.

Golf is just flat out fun to drive. Its steering is light and easy, helped by the car’s modest 2,963 lbs., about 79 lbs. lighter than the previous Golf. The car also is responsive so you can toss this hatch into a corner at speed and feel good about it.

There is precious little body roll and Golf’s front-drive layout helps it track well through a corner, while the electrically assisted steering is speed variable, so firms as you hit the highway. Naturally we’re not racing these, but you feel sporty in the Golf and more importantly on Wisconsin’s deteriorating roads, the car handles and rides well over bumps. This is what surprised me most. Read more

8
Nov

Die-Cast: Automodello 1:43 1963 Studebaker Avanti

Automodello’s Avanti offers sharp detail in resin

Eyeballed my first Studebaker Avanti at my first Indianapolis 500 in 1962. The car was just about to be produced and was the “ceremonial” pace car for that year’s race, won by Roger Ward. A Studebaker Lark convertible was the “official” pace car.avanti

This car looked futuristic, and still looks contemporary. Its fastback styling, edgy nose and tail and sporty dimensions made it a head turner. If only Studebaker hadn’t gone bankrupt just a few years later. But now collectors can get their own 1:43 scale resin version from Automodello, which continues to turn out some of the more rare and unusual classic cars, and in a variety of scales.

The History:

Studebaker needed what is now known as a Halo Car, one that exudes creativity and set the tone for the company. Chevy had its Corvette, and Ford its Thunderbird at the time. Avanti was Studebaker’s sports coupe, designed by a crew led by famed designer Raymond Loewy. Supposedly they had 40 days to crank out the concept and thus Avanti was born.

But Studebaker was desperate. After about 110 years in business, first as a wagon maker and after the early 1900s a car and truck maker, its sales were sagging. It had merged with Packard in the mid-1950s, but that didn’t help much and by 1962 the South Bend, Ind.-based company needed a big shot in the arm, or showroom. Read more

7
Nov

Die-cast: Autoart Jaguar XKR-S

Even in 1:18 scale Jaguar XKR-S is sleek, sexyjag3

When Ford first owned Jaguar, the storied maker of racy touring coupes and sedans, the British car maker was in a serious slump.

Then along came Ian Callum and designs returned to near classic proportions, one being the sleek and sexy XKR-S coupe. By the way, Callum also styled the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish, and you’ll note the noses look similar to the Jag, or is it the other way round?

In either case, Autoart brings the XKR-S to life in Italian Racing Red and 1:18 scale, with strong detail inside and out. Pricing also is reasonable for such detail and a 1:18 model with opening hood, doors and trunk, at just below $150.

The History

savageonwheels, care reviews big and small, diecast cars, new cars, car reviews, new trucks, new truck reviews, promotional model cars, promo model cars The XKR-S was introduced in 2005 and production didn’t end until this past summer. Folks liked its looks right away with an oval grille that reminded many of the 1961 E-Type. They also liked its power and refinement. The XKR-S touts a 550-horse supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with a 0-60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds and top speed of 186 mph. That’s faster than any of us need to run a car, but I can vouch for 110 mph coming up quickly as I got to test drive an XKS-R at Road America. Check out the video link here.

 

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6
Nov

The need for speed

It’s not just the auto manufactures

nic case, world's fastest r/c carRadio controlled guys are into it too. Already know that the radio controlled jets will do about 225. What do you think the fastest car is? 100? Not even close. After several attempts, remote-control car enthusiast Nic Case has finally built an electric-powered car that passed 200 mph, possibly setting a new land speed record for R/C cars. Not talking scale but actual speed here, meaning Case’s R/C car, nicknamed the Bullet, will be able to put many life-sized high-performance cars to shame. Check out the video.

1
Nov

2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

C300 helps Mercedes moves back toward top

            Mercedes-Benz has rejoined the top-tier of luxury automakers after a decade, or more, of struggling with design and execution while other luxo-makes were raising the bar.MB2

Nearly two years ago I praised the GLK350, a small luxury ute that hit on all cylinders for luxury, equipment and performance. Now Mercedes goes deep again with its C300 sedan, one of its bread and butter offerings, a compact to mid-size sedan along the dimensions of a Lexus IS or, for us less monied folks, a Mazda6.

The C Class rides on a smoothing 111.8-inch wheelbase and weighs a middling 3,583 lbs. The car feels delicious.

How so? It’s a scrumptious blend of sporty power, an eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.

Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to lend the car a sporty edge. Cornering is smooth with minimal body lean and as precise as you want it to be.

MB5That’s courtesy of the test car’s Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+. Moving up from Eco, each setting adds a few hundred engine revs and slightly firms the steering and ride. Eco naturally provides lackadaisical acceleration and a soft steering effort, but Comfort is close to right on for city driving. The C300 still has good power and handling is forgiving. Read more

29
Oct

Die-cast: TSM 1:43 1967 Chevrolet Impala Coupe

TSM nails Chevrolet Impala with crisply executed body

Growing up in Indianapolis our neighbors across the street bought a new Chevy every two years, and yes, there was a bit of “bowtie” envy on our side of the street.impala

We had a green 1955 Chevy 210, a plain Jane Chevy. The neighbors always had Impalas, including a white 1967 with its sloping rear window that blended beautifully into the long trunk, sort of a fastback look. The car had excellent lines, especially for a big car, but in subsequent years Chevy ruined its looks.

A lot of other folks liked the Impala Coupe’s looks at the time, and now TSM mines that market with its crisply executed Impala Coupe, this one in “Marina Blue,” a medium metallic blue, and 1:43 scale, so a perfect fit for your display shelf.

The History

Chevy redesigned its long lean Impala for 1967 to enhance what was then called Coke-bottle styling. I never saw it that way, but there was a certain streamlining to the sport coupe’s profile, something that made it more than just another big car, and not as boxy as the Fords of the era. Read more

25
Oct

You will never see this following you.

Unless of course you live in Dubai

Lotus Evora, lotus ambulance, dubiaThink of the last time you heard sirens and pulled over (You did pull over?) for an ambulance to pass you. Looked like any other ambulance, right? Truck based, big and boxy. But if you traveled to Dubai, you would see this Lotus Evora with lights and sirens on. Heck, I’d try to follow it but would need a really fast car.

25
Oct

2015 GMC Yukon 4WD SLT

GMC Yukon continues to go BIG!

            If you’re the type of driver that feels bigger is better you’d better hustle off to a GMC dealer and declare your love for the 2015 GMC Yukon.yukon1

This is a heavyweight that’ll pull at least 8,200 lbs., has room for 6 or 7 adults, rides high and commands the road like little else, except its bigger brother, the Yukon XL. Note that Chevrolet has its own versions of both, with Chevy’s Tahoe being a twin to Yukon, while the Suburban is comparable to the Yukon XL.

            Let’s be perfectly clear, you don’t need a Yukon, unless you tow a big boat, large trailer or happen to have a big-boned large family. But you may want one if even a bit of the aforementioned is true and you intend to tow something heavy.

Start with its dimensions. The tested Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase and is 203.9 inches long. The XL expands the wheelbase to 130 inches and grows 21 inches in length. That’s a lot more cargo room. The XL also is the one you want if you need to carry 9 adults. There’s more legroom in the third row seats.

But legroom and headroom are decent in the second and third rows even in the Yukon. The downside with Yukon is that there’s precious little cargo room behind row three. In fact, grocery bags are about it, unless you strap some cargo to the roof. Read more

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