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2014 Lexus GX460 Luxury

Robust GX460 boasts V8, 4-wheel-drive, luxurious interior

lex2SUVs have become as commonplace as spring potholes, and large luxury SUVs, at least by appearance, fill a sizeable spot in this pricey segment.

This week’s Lexus “tungsten pearl,” silver, GX460 Luxury, certainly fits the bill. This is the top-level luxury version of Toyota’s 4Runner, not the biggest, baddest big-boy ute, but robust to say the least.

Start with the mechanical muscle under its hood, a 4.6-liter V8 with variable valve timing and 301 horsepower. That’s plenty of grunt to push the full-time 4-wheel-drive ute’s 5,179 lbs. up to highway speeds. Naturally linked with a 6-speed automatic tranny the power is delivered smoothly and effectively so getting up to full gallop is easy. All three GX460 models come with the same powertrain.

Steering effort is moderate, so not as heavy as one might predict when you see its girth and know its heft. Actually the GX460 handles well, with little lean in high-speed turns and it’s easy to fit into a grocery parking lot space. In fact, its turning radius is a moderate 38.1 feet, about the same as some compact utes.

While this is a body on frame truck, which sometimes means a bouncier truck ride, Lexus tames even our current asphalt moonscape with the GX460. Coil springs and gas shocks up front and rear air springs and gas shocks absorb anything that comes their way. The ride is well controlled and luxurious and sound deadening material keeps the interior extremely quiet.Lex1

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Outlander Sport SE AWC = smooth looks, ride

mitsu1Maybe I’m becoming more tolerant as I age, but I liked the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport better than I had the first time I drove it three years ago.

What I liked was its looks, a smooth sophisticated body, and its smooth well controlled ride, something one comes to appreciate in Spring-thaw Wisconsin when the frost heaves rise like moguls, and the washed out potholes resemble fox holes.

The Outlander Sport’s MacPherson struts up front and fine multi-link rear suspension give it a comfortable ride, never jolting, as I maneuvered around the road enragers that pretended to be pavement.

Sport is a compact sport-ute or crossover, a full 14.6 inches shorter than the Outlander, while riding on the same chassis and sharing Outlander’s 105.1-inch wheelbase. Sport’s shortcoming though remains its weak 2.0-liter 148-horse 4-cylinder engine that’s linked up with a lackluster CVT (continuously variable transmission). Acceleration remains less than exhilarating, actually slow and pokey. Torque is disappointing when you get on the gas pedal say, getting onto the freeway. There is no low-end oomph and the vehicle’s acceleration fades and fumbles between 25 and 35 mph.

Sadly, when you do demand some power, the CVT and engine moan and groan louder than a teenager being asked to clean his bedroom. I’d prefer the larger Outlander’s 168-horse 2.4-liter I4 engine.

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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.

Read more

2014 Land Rover LR4 HSE

Land Rover’s LR4 designed to hit the trail … off trail

Off-roading is the LR4's forte.

Off-roading is the LR4′s forte.

Outside of the panache that driving a Land Rover delivers, due to their relative rarity among the sea of sport-utility trucks that cover our roads, the main reason to buy one is to go off-roading.

You say you don’t plan to go off-road with your $50+ grand truck? Well, you may want to reconsider if you like the looks and price of a Land Rover, formerly a British firm that now is owned, along with Jaguar, by Tata Motors of India.

The tested dark gray (Corliss grey, Rover calls it) LR4 is the mid-level Rover ute that starts at $49,995 in its base form. But this was the mid-level HSE model, so lists for $54,220 and comes loaded with goodies galore, plus its highly developed 4-wheel-drive system that lets you crawl over boulders if you care to dash about the outback.

Standard on all LR4s is a system that allows you to dial in four personalized 4-wheeling options, the standard one working best on pavement, naturally. You also can go for snow, sand, mud or rocks (and they mean serious ones, not gravel). This is easily accomplished by pressing one of the 30 buttons on the center stack and console. There also are five knobs there too for climate and radio controls, so a bit of overkill.

Read more

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 AWD Crewcab SLT

Luxurious GMC Sierra the Cadillac of pickups
sierra1GMC is the Cadillac of pickups, juicing up the chrome levels on the exterior and adding a bit more finery to the interior, compared to its kissin’ cousin, the Chevrolet Silverado.

Make no mistake, both trucks can be equipped and decked out much like any fine luxury sedan, but GMC’s Sierra has always held sway with more glitz and glamour, such as it is on pickups. So the new 2014 pickup touts a mighty chrome grille that challenges the likes of the Ram pickup in size and look-at-me swagger.

Likewise the Sierra is quiet and comfy inside and the tested Crew Cab SLT, just one level down from the line-topping Denali, ladles on plenty of luxury touches, starting with a comfy leather interior and then adding perks like a heated steering wheel ($400) that comes packaged with a power sliding rear window that opens in back by the pickup’s bed.

This is the long-bed model with a 6 ½-foot bed as opposed to the shorter 5 ¾-foot bed. There are footholds in the rear bumper too so you can step up to load the bed, if you’re using the pickup like the truck it is. Since this is the 4-wheel-drive model, the difference is about $400, the tested dark metallic gray truck starting at $43,610. Luxury doesn’t come cheap.sierra2

In fact this one adds heated and cooled front seats for $650, the leather seats for $325 and three other packages with such items as front and rear park assist, a lane departure warning system, forward collision alert and vibrating safety alert seat, plus an 8-inch color touch screen with navigation system. In total the options here add up to $5,440, but a value discount cuts $1,000 off the price.

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2014 Ford Escape SE

2014 Ford Escape SE FWD
Ford’s Escape is a pleasant compact sport-ute with quick handling and edgy stylish looks.2013 Ford Escape Exterior Side

The tested metallic blue SE is the mid-level model, with the S being the base and the Titanium being the high-end model that I’d previously tested.

Starting price is $25,550 for the SE and it features one of Ford’s efficient EcoBoost engines, a 1.6-liter that’s turbocharged and has direct injection to give it 178 horses and a torque rating of 184. That’s a jump up from the base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that’s in the base S model and generates 168 horses and a torque rating of 170.

This engine is fairly strong, offering mild acceleration through the 6-speed automatic with SelectShift that allows you to manually shift the gears if you want. Yet because it has a turbo, if you slap the accelerator to get onto a highway the tranny downshifts and the turbo kicks in to boost it to highway speeds relatively quickly. There’s some engine noise, naturally, but it’s short-lived.

Gas mileage is modest. I got 22.1 mpg in cold and somewhat snowy weather, while the EPA rates this model at 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I got just 20.5 mpg with the horsier 2.0-liter turbo in the Titanium model previously.

What sets the Escape apart is its quick handling that makes this small ute fun to drive and an easy lane changer on the highway. Parking lot maneuvering is good too, although its turning radius is a full 4 feet more than a Subaru Forester, another worthy small SUV.

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Accord Hybrid quietly delivers improved gas mileage

Honda’s Accord has grown to be a larger sedan, but remains a smooth, quiet comfortable family car that will haul five adults while remaining a good family value. NOW, it adds a hybrid power system.honda1

The tested silver Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine that creates 141 horses along with a hybrid electric system that combines with the gas engine to create 196 horsepower. So the power is there, but so is the gas mileage, and isn’t that why you go with a hybrid power system?

The hybrid Accord is rated 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Ironically I seemed to get better gas mileage on the highway than in the city. The trip computer mileage rating dropped every time I tooled along city streets with their lengthy stoplights, especially along Blue Mound Road. Overall the car put me at 37.1 mpg and I recorded 35.2 mpg for the week, with roughly 350 miles on 10 gallons of gas, including a highway drive to Chicago where the computer put me at 40 mpg overall. I might have been disappointed by the gas mileage, but nearly every day I had the car the air temperature was below zero to start the day.

But is there sufficient power to get away from a stoplight or change lanes in a hurry if you so desire?

Yes, but on any incline, no matter how slight, and when you need real power to slip in and out of lanes on the highway or when pulling away from a stop, the car’s engine growls and sounds labored. The electronic-CVT (continuously variable transmission) seems to hesitate before building any torque. In fact, the hybrid system’s torque rating is a paltry 122. In gas-powered cars the torque rating is usually near, or better than its horsepower ranking. But acceleration through it all is adequate.

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Die-cast: Autoart F1 Porsche 804

Autoart’s rare F1 Porsche ‘simply’ beautiful

How rare is Autoart’s new silver F1 Porsche 804?porsche1

Well, consider that you probably didn’t know that Porsche ever raced Formula 1, and won. Consider too that only four of these cars were ever made.

Thanks to Autoart, that number is now growing, of course these are 1:18 scale diecast, so not quite as fast, or as dangerous as the originals.

A little background
In the early 1960s, the racing world, led by Formula 1 in Europe, was transitioning from front-engine to rear-engine cars. Porsche joined Ferrari, Lotus and others in developing new chassis and engines to show off their design capabilities.

Porsche was only in it for a short time, with moderate success in 1961 with its 718 and 787 models. But in 1962 Porsche created the slim 804 racer that won Porsche its one and only F1 race, the French Grand Prix at Rouen. American Dan Gurney drove the car, beating Tony Maggs’ Cooper by a lap. Gurney also won the non-points Solitude Grand Prix shortly thereafter.

porsche 4This is Autoart’s version of that racer’s sister car, as driven by Joakin (Jo) Bonnier at Germany’s Nurburgring later that summer. The Gurney car also is available from Autoart, and both models also are available with driver figures.

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4×4

New Cherokee brings modern look, but same off-road capability

Some folks had their doubts about Chrysler and Jeep when Italian carmaker Fiat assumed control of them a few years back. Now Fiat owns them outright and the new product parade can’t have been more impressive.

jeep1Latest on the list is the new Jeep Cherokee. It’s an old name, but that’s all that’s old here. Thankfully the looks are all new with thin lights front and rear and a modern interpretation of Jeep’s 7 portal grille. Jeep loyalists that think all Jeeps should still look like World War II Willys will just have to get over it. Besides, the Jeep Luddites still have the Wrangler to take rock crushing.

Yet because most folks Don’t drive their SUVs over cliffs and through mud bogs, the new Cherokee is a welcome replacement for the top-heavy, gas-sucking Liberty. Cherokee is refined in looks and execution. It’s a fine on-road vehicle that oh, by the way, still could be taken off road and slopped around a bit.

First let’s look at the new mechanicals that help make this Jeep, which is based on the Dodge Dart platform, such a step up from Liberty.

Atop the efficiency list is the combination of its 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark I4 engine that creates 184 horsepower, and the segment’s first 9-speed automatic transmission. That’s right, 9 speeds. Most vehicles now use a 6-speed automatic, but Fiat puts a ZF-developed 9-speed into Cherokee. The upshot is not only decent power, but smooth fuel-efficient application of that to the road. The only hiccup I experienced was occasionally on a cold start when the car would hesitate in first and second gear and bog just a bit. All was fine once the SUV warmed.

How efficient is this combo?

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2014 Hyundai Equus Signature

Equus has it all, nearly literally

More than a year ago I told you that the only major drawback to the full-size Hyundai Equus luxury sedan was its Hyundai badge.equus1

I’m sticking by that, but if anything, the Equus has gotten better and that means other luxury makes might want to rethink their pricing. Because Equus is a superbly quiet, comfortable and powerful luxury sedan, but priced to grab market share. Hmmm, think I’ve seen this strategy before, from the Japanese makes, and now both Hyundai and Kia.

Get this, the tested dark metallic brown Hyundai Equus Signature that I tested lists at $61 grand with a $920 delivery charge. Now before you go passing out from the price tag, consider that a Lexus LS460, which is similarly sized, but not quite as well equipped, lists at $71,990. My grade school math tells me this is almost exactly $10,000 less.

For that amount, I could live with a lesser logo on the hood or trunk. Want to go full monty on this? OK, a top-level Equus Ultimate lists at $68,000, still less than the Lexus. And let’s not get into the German luxury makes that even a Lexus beats on price.

Value is certainly a big selling point, as it has been with Hyundai for years. But if the car doesn’t perform, isn’t as quiet and luxurious feeling, well, then a lower price doesn’t cut it.

Ah, but Equus is, as I said in my earlier review, large, loaded and luxuriously quiet.

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2014 Mazda3i 4-door Grand Touring

Mazda3 delivers good looks, modest price, driving flairmazda1
The new Mazda3 is better looking than its predecessor, gets better gas mileage and still delivers driving flair, a fair accomplishment for a modestly priced family sports sedan.

First, Mazda reshaped its former gaping smiling nose with this more Audi-like big grille and swept its profile lines back enough to make the tested 4-door sedan look almost as good as the hatchback version. This is a low, lean, lithe sedan at just shy of 2,800 lbs. in this brilliant “soul red” test car.

Like other automakers, Mazda also has grown its formerly subcompact to compact dimensions, with a 106.3-inch wheelbase and 180.3-inch long body. The result, a car that handles four adults easily and offers a fair sized, 12.4-cubic foot trunk.

That’s the practical side, then there’s the fun stuff, like how the car performs (although still highly efficient) and all the tech features that you get.

Mazda uses what it calls Skyactiv technology to provide a high-revving, high-performing four-cylinder engine that also remains surprisingly fuel stingy. The base car, and the tested Grand Touring, top trim level for the base i models, features a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G I4 that creates 155 horsepower. That’s tops, says Kelly Blue Book, for base models in this segment. Next in line are the Mitsubishi Lancer and Kia Forte at 148 horses.

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Recent Articles

19
Apr

2014 Lexus GX460 Luxury

Robust GX460 boasts V8, 4-wheel-drive, luxurious interior

lex2SUVs have become as commonplace as spring potholes, and large luxury SUVs, at least by appearance, fill a sizeable spot in this pricey segment.

This week’s Lexus “tungsten pearl,” silver, GX460 Luxury, certainly fits the bill. This is the top-level luxury version of Toyota’s 4Runner, not the biggest, baddest big-boy ute, but robust to say the least.

Start with the mechanical muscle under its hood, a 4.6-liter V8 with variable valve timing and 301 horsepower. That’s plenty of grunt to push the full-time 4-wheel-drive ute’s 5,179 lbs. up to highway speeds. Naturally linked with a 6-speed automatic tranny the power is delivered smoothly and effectively so getting up to full gallop is easy. All three GX460 models come with the same powertrain.

Steering effort is moderate, so not as heavy as one might predict when you see its girth and know its heft. Actually the GX460 handles well, with little lean in high-speed turns and it’s easy to fit into a grocery parking lot space. In fact, its turning radius is a moderate 38.1 feet, about the same as some compact utes.

While this is a body on frame truck, which sometimes means a bouncier truck ride, Lexus tames even our current asphalt moonscape with the GX460. Coil springs and gas shocks up front and rear air springs and gas shocks absorb anything that comes their way. The ride is well controlled and luxurious and sound deadening material keeps the interior extremely quiet.Lex1

Read more

18
Apr

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Outlander Sport SE AWC = smooth looks, ride

mitsu1Maybe I’m becoming more tolerant as I age, but I liked the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport better than I had the first time I drove it three years ago.

What I liked was its looks, a smooth sophisticated body, and its smooth well controlled ride, something one comes to appreciate in Spring-thaw Wisconsin when the frost heaves rise like moguls, and the washed out potholes resemble fox holes.

The Outlander Sport’s MacPherson struts up front and fine multi-link rear suspension give it a comfortable ride, never jolting, as I maneuvered around the road enragers that pretended to be pavement.

Sport is a compact sport-ute or crossover, a full 14.6 inches shorter than the Outlander, while riding on the same chassis and sharing Outlander’s 105.1-inch wheelbase. Sport’s shortcoming though remains its weak 2.0-liter 148-horse 4-cylinder engine that’s linked up with a lackluster CVT (continuously variable transmission). Acceleration remains less than exhilarating, actually slow and pokey. Torque is disappointing when you get on the gas pedal say, getting onto the freeway. There is no low-end oomph and the vehicle’s acceleration fades and fumbles between 25 and 35 mph.

Sadly, when you do demand some power, the CVT and engine moan and groan louder than a teenager being asked to clean his bedroom. I’d prefer the larger Outlander’s 168-horse 2.4-liter I4 engine.

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15
Apr

Braking News: 2015 Corvette Z06 convertible

The New York Auto Show News

2015_vette_convWhat’s better than the Corvette Z06 coupe? Answer: A Convertible. The New York Auto Show promises to be a busy one for reveals. It’s not as simple as just wacking the top off. Loosing the roof structure means added support will be needed. Chevy found the solution. The coolest new car just got cooler.

Remember the Vettes that got chewed up in a sinkhole?

The Corvette Museum finally grabbed the last one. Not good, not good at all.final_vette_sinkhole_savageonwheels

 

9
Apr

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.

Read more

9
Apr

2014 Land Rover LR4 HSE

Land Rover’s LR4 designed to hit the trail … off trail

Off-roading is the LR4's forte.

Off-roading is the LR4′s forte.

Outside of the panache that driving a Land Rover delivers, due to their relative rarity among the sea of sport-utility trucks that cover our roads, the main reason to buy one is to go off-roading.

You say you don’t plan to go off-road with your $50+ grand truck? Well, you may want to reconsider if you like the looks and price of a Land Rover, formerly a British firm that now is owned, along with Jaguar, by Tata Motors of India.

The tested dark gray (Corliss grey, Rover calls it) LR4 is the mid-level Rover ute that starts at $49,995 in its base form. But this was the mid-level HSE model, so lists for $54,220 and comes loaded with goodies galore, plus its highly developed 4-wheel-drive system that lets you crawl over boulders if you care to dash about the outback.

Standard on all LR4s is a system that allows you to dial in four personalized 4-wheeling options, the standard one working best on pavement, naturally. You also can go for snow, sand, mud or rocks (and they mean serious ones, not gravel). This is easily accomplished by pressing one of the 30 buttons on the center stack and console. There also are five knobs there too for climate and radio controls, so a bit of overkill.

Read more

8
Apr

Braking News: Dodge to reveal Charger and Challenger

Dodge’s two muscle cars were long overdue for facelifts

2015 dodge charger, new dodge charger, dodge charger, new york auto show.The question now is what that will look like. The 2015 Dodge Challenger and the 2015 Dodge Charger, both of which will be revealed Thursday, April 17 at the New York Auto Show, just ahead of the Dodge brand’s 100th anniversary this summer. Read more in their release here including how to watch the reveal live. No pictures though except oh, will you look at this one! They will have a ways to go to beat Subaru’s reveal at the Chicago Auto Show.Looks pretty cool. I’ve also seen a couple of images with the Charger in a two-door version. Now you’re talking. Next stop NASCAR. Not.

What will the Challenger look like?

2015 dodge challenger, new dodge challenger, new york auto showIf you thought they were funnin’ us with the Charger teaser image, check out the Challenger image. Instrument cluster looks cool. They are telling me you will notice the difference from the 2014. What about the SRT Barracuda? At one point it was going to replace the Challenger. Car and Driver has a concept that looks cool but like the new Jeep Cherokee, the hardcore hate it. Read down into the comments. I kind of agree that it has to look something like the original. Can’t wait for the reveal.

 

 

4
Apr

Chasing Classic Cars: Two of a kind

Double Barn Find

Barn_finds_barn find_aston_martin_silverstone_auctions_classic carsIt’s fine admit it! Every time you go for a ride or a drive in rural areas, you pay special attention to barns or other buildings out in the middle of no where looking for that rare car you’ve always been wanting. So what if you opened the door and found not one but two identical cars? I’d be doing the happy dance! Add to that they are affordable and Aston Martins. That’s exactly what happened recently. If you want them, pack your bags because they are going to action. Here’s the rest of the story.

29
Mar

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 AWD Crewcab SLT

Luxurious GMC Sierra the Cadillac of pickups
sierra1GMC is the Cadillac of pickups, juicing up the chrome levels on the exterior and adding a bit more finery to the interior, compared to its kissin’ cousin, the Chevrolet Silverado.

Make no mistake, both trucks can be equipped and decked out much like any fine luxury sedan, but GMC’s Sierra has always held sway with more glitz and glamour, such as it is on pickups. So the new 2014 pickup touts a mighty chrome grille that challenges the likes of the Ram pickup in size and look-at-me swagger.

Likewise the Sierra is quiet and comfy inside and the tested Crew Cab SLT, just one level down from the line-topping Denali, ladles on plenty of luxury touches, starting with a comfy leather interior and then adding perks like a heated steering wheel ($400) that comes packaged with a power sliding rear window that opens in back by the pickup’s bed.

This is the long-bed model with a 6 ½-foot bed as opposed to the shorter 5 ¾-foot bed. There are footholds in the rear bumper too so you can step up to load the bed, if you’re using the pickup like the truck it is. Since this is the 4-wheel-drive model, the difference is about $400, the tested dark metallic gray truck starting at $43,610. Luxury doesn’t come cheap.sierra2

In fact this one adds heated and cooled front seats for $650, the leather seats for $325 and three other packages with such items as front and rear park assist, a lane departure warning system, forward collision alert and vibrating safety alert seat, plus an 8-inch color touch screen with navigation system. In total the options here add up to $5,440, but a value discount cuts $1,000 off the price.

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28
Mar

Chasing Classic Cars: The Delorian

A car made famous by a movie

Back to the future, delorian, john delorian, chasing classic carsI love scifi movies and can’t seem to get enough of them which is why I’m writing this blog entry. One of my favorites is Back to the Future. The first film was the highest-grossing film of 1985 and became an international phenomenon, leading to the second and third films, which were back-to-back film productions, released in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Beside Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd also staring was the car, a Delorian. If you happen to see one on the road now I bet the first the first thing you’ll think about is one of the movies. I knew a guy who had a couple of these and acted like a match maker for sellers and buyers. I’m sure he would be interested in this find.

25
Mar

Braking News: Ford recreates Mustang history

The 2015 Mustang is “Da Bomb”

Ford-mustang, mustang, 2015 ford mustang, 50th anniversary of the mustang, mustang 50th anniversary

Photo: Ford

I think that saying must be about as old as the Ford Mustang. It turns out that 50 years ago when they introduced it to the public, looking for a publicity stunt Ford put a Mustang convertible on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, really! Now they are going to recreate the same buzz and this time with all the social media, it should get a lot of impressions. One was me today when I saw this story in AutoWeek. Amazing. Can’t wait to see how they get it back down. Wacky stunt!

25
Mar

Die-cast: Autoart 1:43 Lamborghini Miura

Autoart brings big model detail to small-scale Lamborghinimiura1

We’ve become accustomed to highly detailed 1:18 and 1:24-scale models, but fine detail and working parts at 1:43 scale is much rarer, until now.

Autoart’s finely sculpted Signature Series moves to 1:43 scale with a beautiful Lamborghini Miura. Previously Autoart had reserved the Signature Series for its 1:18 models.

The Miura though, at just 4 inches long, is chock full of details befitting a larger scale model. In fact, Autoart tells us that 468 parts go into the Miura and most are metal.

Not only do the hood and engine covers open, but so do the doors and trunk. Seams, fit and finish are astonishing for the scale.

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24
Mar

2014 Ford Escape SE

2014 Ford Escape SE FWD
Ford’s Escape is a pleasant compact sport-ute with quick handling and edgy stylish looks.2013 Ford Escape Exterior Side

The tested metallic blue SE is the mid-level model, with the S being the base and the Titanium being the high-end model that I’d previously tested.

Starting price is $25,550 for the SE and it features one of Ford’s efficient EcoBoost engines, a 1.6-liter that’s turbocharged and has direct injection to give it 178 horses and a torque rating of 184. That’s a jump up from the base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that’s in the base S model and generates 168 horses and a torque rating of 170.

This engine is fairly strong, offering mild acceleration through the 6-speed automatic with SelectShift that allows you to manually shift the gears if you want. Yet because it has a turbo, if you slap the accelerator to get onto a highway the tranny downshifts and the turbo kicks in to boost it to highway speeds relatively quickly. There’s some engine noise, naturally, but it’s short-lived.

Gas mileage is modest. I got 22.1 mpg in cold and somewhat snowy weather, while the EPA rates this model at 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I got just 20.5 mpg with the horsier 2.0-liter turbo in the Titanium model previously.

What sets the Escape apart is its quick handling that makes this small ute fun to drive and an easy lane changer on the highway. Parking lot maneuvering is good too, although its turning radius is a full 4 feet more than a Subaru Forester, another worthy small SUV. Read more

22
Mar

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Accord Hybrid quietly delivers improved gas mileage

Honda’s Accord has grown to be a larger sedan, but remains a smooth, quiet comfortable family car that will haul five adults while remaining a good family value. NOW, it adds a hybrid power system.honda1

The tested silver Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine that creates 141 horses along with a hybrid electric system that combines with the gas engine to create 196 horsepower. So the power is there, but so is the gas mileage, and isn’t that why you go with a hybrid power system?

The hybrid Accord is rated 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Ironically I seemed to get better gas mileage on the highway than in the city. The trip computer mileage rating dropped every time I tooled along city streets with their lengthy stoplights, especially along Blue Mound Road. Overall the car put me at 37.1 mpg and I recorded 35.2 mpg for the week, with roughly 350 miles on 10 gallons of gas, including a highway drive to Chicago where the computer put me at 40 mpg overall. I might have been disappointed by the gas mileage, but nearly every day I had the car the air temperature was below zero to start the day.

But is there sufficient power to get away from a stoplight or change lanes in a hurry if you so desire?

Yes, but on any incline, no matter how slight, and when you need real power to slip in and out of lanes on the highway or when pulling away from a stop, the car’s engine growls and sounds labored. The electronic-CVT (continuously variable transmission) seems to hesitate before building any torque. In fact, the hybrid system’s torque rating is a paltry 122. In gas-powered cars the torque rating is usually near, or better than its horsepower ranking. But acceleration through it all is adequate. Read more

22
Mar

Die-cast: Autoart F1 Porsche 804

Autoart’s rare F1 Porsche ‘simply’ beautiful

How rare is Autoart’s new silver F1 Porsche 804?porsche1

Well, consider that you probably didn’t know that Porsche ever raced Formula 1, and won. Consider too that only four of these cars were ever made.

Thanks to Autoart, that number is now growing, of course these are 1:18 scale diecast, so not quite as fast, or as dangerous as the originals.

A little background
In the early 1960s, the racing world, led by Formula 1 in Europe, was transitioning from front-engine to rear-engine cars. Porsche joined Ferrari, Lotus and others in developing new chassis and engines to show off their design capabilities.

Porsche was only in it for a short time, with moderate success in 1961 with its 718 and 787 models. But in 1962 Porsche created the slim 804 racer that won Porsche its one and only F1 race, the French Grand Prix at Rouen. American Dan Gurney drove the car, beating Tony Maggs’ Cooper by a lap. Gurney also won the non-points Solitude Grand Prix shortly thereafter.

porsche 4This is Autoart’s version of that racer’s sister car, as driven by Joakin (Jo) Bonnier at Germany’s Nurburgring later that summer. The Gurney car also is available from Autoart, and both models also are available with driver figures. Read more

18
Mar

2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4×4

New Cherokee brings modern look, but same off-road capability

Some folks had their doubts about Chrysler and Jeep when Italian carmaker Fiat assumed control of them a few years back. Now Fiat owns them outright and the new product parade can’t have been more impressive.

jeep1Latest on the list is the new Jeep Cherokee. It’s an old name, but that’s all that’s old here. Thankfully the looks are all new with thin lights front and rear and a modern interpretation of Jeep’s 7 portal grille. Jeep loyalists that think all Jeeps should still look like World War II Willys will just have to get over it. Besides, the Jeep Luddites still have the Wrangler to take rock crushing.

Yet because most folks Don’t drive their SUVs over cliffs and through mud bogs, the new Cherokee is a welcome replacement for the top-heavy, gas-sucking Liberty. Cherokee is refined in looks and execution. It’s a fine on-road vehicle that oh, by the way, still could be taken off road and slopped around a bit.

First let’s look at the new mechanicals that help make this Jeep, which is based on the Dodge Dart platform, such a step up from Liberty.

Atop the efficiency list is the combination of its 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark I4 engine that creates 184 horsepower, and the segment’s first 9-speed automatic transmission. That’s right, 9 speeds. Most vehicles now use a 6-speed automatic, but Fiat puts a ZF-developed 9-speed into Cherokee. The upshot is not only decent power, but smooth fuel-efficient application of that to the road. The only hiccup I experienced was occasionally on a cold start when the car would hesitate in first and second gear and bog just a bit. All was fine once the SUV warmed.

How efficient is this combo? Read more

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