Acura rolls out its 2016 ILX a bit early to update its look and shore up its underpinnings a mite too.
The entry-level Acura that runs on a Civic platform was nice before its remake, but a bit sloppy in turns. Still, for the price, it was a fine step up toward luxury compared with other compact sedans. Think Chevy Cruze for a size comparison.
The 2016 features a restyled grille and LED rear lights, but you’ll mainly notice its fancier headlights, what Acura calls Jewel Eye LED lights. These group five square LEDs that look a bit like my mom’s old engagement ring into each lens. That spiffs up the nose so you can tell the new model from its predecessors.
But more important in the long run is a stiffened chassis, better shocks and springs, thicker anti-roll bar in back and firmer suspension bushings all aimed at firming the car’s feel and ride. Mission accomplished. Read more
Dodge generally doesn’t try to blend in as a brand, favoring bolder styling than most competitors. That’s what some of us like about Dodge.
Dodge’s Durango though is a bit different in that it stands out from other large SUVs, especially with its wide full-body width taillights. Yet, in its own way, Durango blends in with Dodge’s own minivan styling. Several people asked me if this was a new Dodge minivan, when, to me at least, it seemed obvious the Durango is an SUV.
First, it looks bigger than a minivan, and to be honest, Dodge did its best to distinguish the bright red (Redline Pearl) SUV from anything on the road. The test ute was the R/T version, which means there’s a HEMI under the hood, and this also was the Blacktop edition. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Blacktop means the red ute has gloss black aluminum wheels, gloss black Durango badges and an equally gloss black grille and outside mirrors. All that glossy black costs just $295 extra and actually makes this big ol’ SUV look pretty darned sporty, like a ute with attitude!
Naturally putting Chrysler’s muscle-bound HEMI V8, all 5.7 liters worth, under the hood gives it some rumble power. The V8 cranks 360 horsepower and a monster 390 ft.-lbs. of torque. Tromp the gas pedal and Durango R/T gallops to life. That’s no small deal for a 5,531-lb. SUV with all-wheel-drive. But this one feels energetic right from the get-go. Read more
Lexus cars always look luxurious, rarely racy, until now. Lexus stylists have cranked up their angular mojo to create their first truly sporty looking sports coupe – the RC 350.
I’ve read or heard all sorts of jawing from other car writers that the RC isn’t racy enough, sits too high, has too big and bulgy of wheel wells, won’t break the sound barrier, etc. Let me tell you that’s hogwash – except the sound barrier thing.
First, the RC is exceptionally good looking with a rakish stance, sleek sloping windshield and roofline, extreme spindle grille that Lexus has made its trademark of late, and slim beautifully sculpted lights front and rear along with fins on the lower rear bodywork. Plus those twin exhausts sound pretty sweet. Yes, this baby would look fast in a car wash!
Speed, handling, ride and performance are all first rate.
One could argue that this isn’t as track worthy as an off-the-truck Porsche, but it’s a street racer of distinction. And by that I mean it’s plenty fast, sounds like it means business and handles like a high-end sports coupe. It’s not an $80 to $100 grand racer, it’s a $42,700 sports coupe and as tested with the F Sport package and other goodies, hits $54,815. That’s not cheap, but it’s not so pricy you’ve got to sell the house and kids.
Power is generous. A typically smooth Lexus 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing and direct and port injection gives the RC 350 its oomph. Officially it creates 306 horsepower and 277 ft.-lbs. of torque. Because the Lexus is refined, not a beast, its engineers provide it with Drive Mode Select, allowing the driver the option of Eco mode to save fuel (it drinks premium), Normal, or Sport. The later keeps rpm up as it holds lower gears longer to boost acceleration. Read more
I love Caddy’s and who doesn’t? They were famous for lots of chrome and the fins. The new ones are even cooler with all the performance built-in. I also love hot tubs. Wait, where is he going on this you’re thinking. Check out the video where two of my faves are combined. What fun!
Let’s face it, with a name like Gumpert it’s hard to take a car too seriously. You sort of suspect it will come with a box of chocolates.
But the Gumpert Apollo S deserves respect, it’s a rocket of a supercar and developed by the likes of an ex-Audi engineer who knows a thing or three about high-speed, low-drag sports cars.
Autoart deserves some credit too for creating a 1:18 version of a car with about as much name recognition as you or I would have if running for political office. Credit them too for painting the review car a brilliant metallic orange that will add a bit of fireworks to any collection. This Gumpert Apollo is a supersonic pumpkin on wheels.
Roland Gumpert had worked for Audi-VW before he and Roland Mayer started Gumpert Sportwagenmanufaktur in Altenburg, Germany. Along with Marco Vanetta they designed two scissor-doored prototypes that were introduced in 2005.
That same year the Apollo hit the racing circuits in Europe and scored a third at Hockenheim and by 2008 a hybrid version was racing at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring in Germany.
The Apollo, the makers say, is a street-legal mid-engined race car, a two-seater that tips the scales at just 2,400 lbs. It boasts three engine choices, all based off an Audi V8. These are bi-turbos that crank between 650 and 790 horsepower and deliver a top speed of nearly 225 mph. Those turbos give it great torque and acceleration times, doing 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.1 seconds.
The rear-drive supercar rides on a tubular chromoly frame with fiberglass or carbon fiber body, depending on what’s ordered. Naturally these are all hand built. The Apollo rides on a 110-inch wheelbase and is just 43.9 inches tall.
Yes, the Autoart model is beautiful because of its paint job alone, but there is considerable detail too.
Start with the parts count; that always gives you some indication of the quality. This one has 479 parts of which 211 are metal and 38 are photo-etched. Each model gets 131 free-hand sprays to give it a thick glossy coat too. This is well beyond toy quality finishes.
Autoart is generous with its black mesh grillwork and carbon fiber-look underpinnings below the easily removed nose section. Taking that portion off allows the collector to see three jewel-like headlights and orange hoses that collect air for the massive disc brakes, which are easily visible behind the racy black-spoked wheels with anodized blue center mounting nuts.
Raising the rear bonnet to see the engine requires loosening a couple screws and then propping up the body work with a special strut. Makes for a dramatic pose, plus you can see the plumbing and wiring. I like the carbon fiber look giant rear wing here too and the diffuser on the car’s rear lower lip.
There’s more of the black carbon fiber on the giant air scoop mounted on the roof and more black mesh grille work around the quad exhaust pipes and in air vents fore and aft of the scalloped area that cuts into the Apollo’s sides.
The Gumpert’s interior looks fine with the gullwing doors open, but close inspection shows a gray hard plastic dash and seats that look very much like plastic due to their smooth texture. But there’s a shifter and black racing seatbelts to give it a more finished appearance.
FAST Stats: Gumpert Apollo S (orange)
Stock No.: 71302
Minivans are wonderful for families, no other vehicle is more practical.
But in saying that, I know I’ve scared off at least a sizeable portion of my readers. Hear me out, Toyota’s Sienna is a fine people and cargo hauler and get this, it offers all-wheel-drive. It’s the only minivan that still does, so is perfect for wintery Wisconsin.
My test van was a handsome Sky Blue Pearl, a silvery blue, Sienna XLE Premium with AWD. It seats seven with captain’s chairs in the front and middle rows, and by that I mean the individual seats feature fold-down armrests. The split bench in back will seat three and folds neatly down into the van’s cavernous cargo area to create a flat floor.
Lower both seats, a manual operation here, and then fold the two center seats and you’ve got 150 cubic feet of cargo area, much larger than a pickup’s bed. Oh, and it’s enclosed so you can haul stuff even when it’s raining and snowing.
This model also features a power hatch, so with the push of a button on the key fob or dash, the hatch powers up, or down. Hatches, by the way, are great for protecting a person loading or unloading in bad weather.
Not sold yet?
OK, for young families there’s the benefit of power sliding side doors, on both sides. Got a load of stuff AND a couple of wee ones to strap into a car seat? Press the button as you approach and then let them crawl in by themselves. Now you can put down the diaper bag, groceries or other kid gear and step into the van to strap them in. Again, if it’s inclement you’re out of the muck. Also, it’s easier to latch a kid in a car seat when you’re not trying to reach over their squirming selves.
Need more to like? Read more
Automodello’s 1964 Marcos 1800
Unless you’re of the age where the name Marcos reminds you of a former Philippine strong man/president, you may be a bit puzzled by the Marcos automobile name.
But in the 1960s Marcos was a racer, one that looked somewhat Italian, but with a long nose more shaped like that of the famous Jaguar E-Type.
Certainly Automodello knows Marcos, and loves its cars’ looks. So the Illinois-based model maker has added a 1:43 lineup of 1964 Marcos sports coupes to its offerings of some of the most unusual classic cars available to us collectors. Like its other cars, these are cast in resin with photo-etched bright work.
Just out are red and royal blue models of the 1964 Marcos 1800 two-seater, both in limited quantities. In fact, Automodello is making only 499 of the red Marcos and just 64 of the Tribute Edition royal blue model. Its Tribute Editions are always exceedingly rare in quantity and these are hand-signed by Jem Marsh, who recently died.
Jem Marsh and Frank Costin (MarCos, get it?) teamed up in 1959 to build lightweight sports cars with wooden monocoque frames. Cost was low and performance high as they dropped Volvo P1800 4-cylinder engines into their 1964 Marcos 1800 that featured a fiberglass-reinforced plastic body.
Early models weren’t as sleek and exciting looking as the 1800, but by 1964 the duo had ironed out the bugs, including styling that made the 1800 stand out among sports coupes of the era. These had 4-speed gearboxes with MGB-sourced overdrive units and Triumph-sourced hood latches to allow the car’s front section to flip forward providing access to the engine compartment.
With 114 horsepower, an aerodynamic body and overall light weight, the Marcos would do 0-60 mph in about 9 seconds with a top speed of 115 mph. The cars also handled extremely well with tightly sprung suspensions, making it a favorite among racers, especially in England where they were built. The car company was successful through the early 1970s but after building a modern factory hit on a tough times, went out of business and then reformed. Ultimately Marcos ceased car production in 2007.
Automodello’s review models were both crisply executed with glossy paint jobs and fine detail that make these stand out from many 1:43 brands. For instance, the red model is left-hand drive with the photo-etched chrome windshield wipers posed to sweep right to left. The blue Tribute model is right-hand drive with the wipers posed the opposite way.
In addition the Tribute model features classy wire-spoke wheels as opposed to solid wheels on the red model.
In any case, detailing is strong with photo-etch chrome trim around all windows, the big lens-covered dual headlights, front and rear bumpers, a gas cap atop the trunk and latch below the Marcos nameplate on the trunk’s rear lip. Door handles are scoops in the doors’ edges and there’s a highlighted key hole on each door and Marcos logo on the hood.
The small running lights below the split front bumper (again, very much like the Jag E-Type) almost look to glow and the trio of taillights are well executed too.
Interiors are tan in the red model and black in the blue car, with the tan being more interesting because you can see more detail on the lighter color. The review model has a black 3-spoke wheel, shifter and dash face and you can see the instrumentation on that model. You also can see the silver door releases and assist handles in both models’ interiors.
You’ll notice there are no mirrors on either model. That’s not a mistake, it’s because mirrors were optional on the original cars.
Tires are treaded, but with no branding, and the single exhausts are black and well detailed. Both cars are mounted on black bases with the car’s name printed mid-base and the acrylic tops fit snugly and are cleanly molded. The red model reflects the car displayed in the 1964 Racing Car Show display and the blue model represents a model shown in 1964 sales brochures.
A black model with tan interior is planned too as an Homage Edition, with only 24 to be made. Talk about rare!
FAST Stats: 1964 Marcos 1800 red/royal blue
Stock No.: AM43-MAR-180-LS (red), AM43-MAR-180-TE (blue)
Back-to-back test drives of Ford’s Expedition and Lincoln’s Navigator proved both are extremely comfortable, luxurious large sport-utility trucks, but also highlighted the folly of marketing.
These were close to identical trucks, both loaded with technology and luxury touches, the Ford being the near top-end King Ranch edition. Only an Expedition Platinum exceeds it in price and goodies.
The Lincoln comes in but one trim, but starts about where the King Ranch edition stops for price. The prior week’s Expedition was $64 grand, and the Lincoln started at $65,055 with a $995 delivery fee, about $200 more than the Ford’s delivery fee. Both are made in the same Louisville, Ky., factory.
Here’s the folly, to me, of two brands offering the same vehicle under different name plates. Since the King Ranch and Platinum models cost as much as the entry-priced Lincoln there’s too much overlap, not enough differentiation. Once the Lincoln added a few options, such as a $995 sunroof, and $6,550 package that included larger tires and wheels (which the King Ranch had) and the fancy Lincoln Drive Control, it hit $73,895.
To me that’s almost $10 grand more, for the same truck, except the sunroof and Lincoln Drive Control. That feature uses sensors to allow the suspension, electric power steering and other vehicle dynamics to interact and create a comfortable ride. It also includes noise dampening, which helped keep the cabin quiet. But then the Expedition was no slouch in those areas either. Read more
More than 10 years have passed since I last reviewed a Ford Expedition, which tells you something about how little Ford’s biggest sport-utility truck changes.
Like the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe and GMC Yukon it competes with, the Expedition is a steady Eddie. It’s truck-based and remains much the same from model year to model year. Expedition and Expedition XL (14 inches longer, like Suburban compared with Tahoe/Yukon, are body-on-frame like many past sport-utes. But years ago Ford moved its other utes to car platforms and dropped the monster Excursion.
That leaves Expedition to tow the boats and trailers that outdoorsy folks need to haul. And this new version, which looks pretty similar to previous boxy models, will pull up to 9.200 lbs. That’s a gob lot.
Yet the 2015 model does have a freshened nose and tail to smooth its boxy looks a bit, and more important, Ford drops its 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 under the hood in place of the former 5.4-liter V8. The goal with the turbo-assisted V6 is to improve gas mileage, which the EPA rates at 15 mpg city and 20 highway. That’s still pretty low, as a Tahoe/Yukon is rated 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway with its 355-horse V8. I managed just 14.9 mpg in my Expedition test drive, which was about 60% city driving. I had gotten 18.7 mpg in a GMC Yukon last fall. Read more
Chevrolet was in the sales driver’s seat in the 1960s as it churned out hit after hit as we were all busy seeing the U.S.A. in our Chevrolet.
But even then its cars were growing in size and stature so quickly that by 1964 Chevy realized it needed a more moderate sized model to compete with Ford’s Fairlane. Chevelle was Chevy’s answer, and it too was a resounding success.
Not only was Chevelle more modest in dimensions, it handled better and when Chevy started souping it up, quickly became one of the earliest muscle cars.
The past few years Auto World has created a variety of Chevelles due to their popularity, but now goes back to the first generation, built for model years 1964-’68. Again, Auto World creates a well-detailed 1:18 scale model at an attractive price, making this offering especially appealing to a wide audience of muscle car fans.
The Model: Auto World’s review model is the Tuxedo Black convertible version of the 1967 Chevelle SS, honoring the 50th anniversary of the first 396 Chevy V8. Can it really be that long? Read more
BMW made its mark in the U.S. market years ago with the likes of the BMW 2002, a compact sporty handling car that could run circles, or ovals, or whatever shape you wanted, around most other cars. It was quick and lithe and fun to drive.
But as all cars, BMWs included, have grown in dimensions, especially weight and length, many Bimmer fans have bemoaned the Bavarian firm’s stray from the small coupe market. Some of us also wish there were still an “Ultimate Driving Machine” that a few more of us could afford.
Well, BMW nails, or should we say re-nails, the lithe fun sports coupe with its 2 Series. A base 228i with 240-horsepower and a manual transmission now comes in at $33,050 including delivery, so in line with an average car’s cost. I’d love to drive one in that trim. Yet this week I was granted an audience with the M235i xDrive, which takes the 2 Series to its raciest extreme. The M with xDrive drops a 320-horse twin-turbo I6 into the smallest BMW coupe with terrific results.
That twin-turbo pumps out a delicious 330 ft.lbs. of torque and turns the 2 Series into a street legal racer. Slap down the throttle and the M235i pushes you back in the seat and you hold on to the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel praying there are lot of winding roads just over the horizon. The car’s steering is moderately heavy, but extremely precise, exactly what you’d expect from a BMW. Yet the coupe doesn’t feel heavy, tipping the scales at just 3,695 lbs.
Ride is good, not as comfortable as the marvelous 428i that I drove last year, but then it rides on a 110.6-inch wheelbase compared with 105.9 inches in the 2 Series. Five inches goes a long way to smoothing rough roads. Still, as in the 4 Series, the M235i mates the superbly designed suspension with BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control system that adjusts the chassis and modulates the engine’s power curve too. Read more
Replicarz adds stunning 1:43 Unser Indy 500 winning Colts
By 1971 Al Unser was no longer just Bobby Unser’s younger brother, he was a 2-time Indianapolis 500 winner, while Bobby had won just once.
The decidedly quieter, more humble Al had wisely hooked up with Parnelli Jones’ team and had the dominant PJ Colt chassis and a Ford V8 engine behind him. That helped Al lead 190 of the 200 laps after winning the pole position as fastest qualifier in 1970. He would not only win Indy that and the following year, but the Indy Car National Championship in 1970.
Unser and the team also were lucky to have the colorful sponsorship of Johnny Lightning, a then new die-cast toy car maker that was challenging the likes of Hot Wheels and Matchbox. The result was a colorful bright blue racer with yellow lightning bolts in 1970 and a darker blue version with those same electric bolts for 1971. Every kid in America knew this car and its color scheme.
Now Replicarz reprises the car brilliantly in 1:43 scale with excellent attention to detail. This is part of Replicarz new 1:43 scale Indy Car series that already includes the 1947-49 Indy-winning Blue Crown Spark Plug specials that won Indy three years straight. Read more
As Millennials and Gen-Xers battle for jobs and income in a challenging work environment it seems natural that small cars and small sport-utility vehicle sales would blossom.
Affordability and a high degree of usability would seem to be just what the new car/ute buyer would crave. So it’s no surprise that a host of small utes are being launched this year, with Chevrolet decidedly in the hunt.
Chevy already had the Aveo and Sonic small cars, but for 2015 launches the Chevy Trax a small ute riding on a 100.6-inch wheelbase and extending a modest 168.4 inches. That’s just about four inches longer than the recently tested Nissan Juke and Trax has a 1-inch advantage in wheelbase.
Yet unlike Juke, the Trax makes a compelling argument for small utes or crossovers. It’s fun to drive with nimble handling and a pleasant ride. While obviously trim, with a modest rear overhang, it’s reasonably attractive in a fit-in-with-the-neighbors sort of way. Folks won’t laugh at you.
Here’s why! Consider this the facts on Trax.
Trax, which is sold as the Holden Trax in Australia and built by General Motors in South Korea, is useful, equipped well at a low price, is available with all-wheel-drive and delivers excellent fuel economy. Read more
When Kia first hit our shores, it was just another Asian import, but now the products they offer are through the roof cool. I have to admit that I have not been a fan of the Soul but it has grown on me. To spread the word, they are partnering with the NBA (National Baskeball Association). Read on here.