2020 MINI Cooper SE Iconic Hardtop 2-door

Who can’t love this face?

Electric MINI packs power, cuteness into a, well, mini package …

Have you ever driven an electric Go-Kart, maybe at an amusement park, in the Dells, or even an indoor karting track?

That’s what it’s like to drive the new electric MINI Cooper SE. Power is instantaneous and the car is a bullet off the line. It’s light and lively and a nimble handler that anyone would enjoy tossing around a small racetrack. In fact, it’s a rush to slam it around corners anywhere.

On the fun factor scale the electric MINI, signified with the E in the SE nomenclature, is a solid 10.

Cute? You betcha! Continue reading 2020 MINI Cooper SE Iconic Hardtop 2-door

2020 Volkswagen Passat SEL

Crisply styled Passat a high-value sedan …

When was the last time you heard of a car costing less than it did three years ago?

I’m betting never, unless it was a 3-year-old used car.

Well, Volkswagen is making a big push again in the U.S. You’ve likely seen its ads for the new Atlas Cross Sport crossover. Yet VW hasn’t abandoned sedans like most U.S. car makers. And its restyled 2020 Passat is not only a crisply styled sedan, it’s less expensive than when I drove a comparable SEL three years ago. Continue reading 2020 Volkswagen Passat SEL

2020 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport

Lexus RX 350  defines the luxury crossover market …

One reason the Lexus RX 350 continues to be a runaway best seller for Toyota’s upscale brand is its near perfection in defining what has become the luxury crossover market.

Oh, there’s longevity on its side to be sure. The 2020 model is the sixth generation for the mid-size crossover based on Toyota’s Highlander platform. But each year Lexus tweaks it a bit, like a plastic surgeon making nips and tucks on a successful movie star’s nose and chin. Continue reading 2020 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport

Die-cast: Autoart 2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1

Camaro ZL1 offers stunning looks, excellent detail …

Seems like just yesterday it was 1971 and I was about to turn 16 and snag my driver’s license. My Uncle Wink, a car nut like me, was happy to help me learn to drive a stick, and believe it or not, he taught me on his rocket-fast 1968 Camaro, a pale yellow with the black nose stripe. I’ve loved Camaros ever since.

We spent many evenings in the gravel, yep, gravel parking lot of Butler University’s Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Drop the clutch. Spin the tires. Throw some gravel. Uncle Wink would look a bit concerned, but ultimately laugh. I eventually got it right.

Now Autoart gets it very right with its latest 1/18 version of the newest rocket-like Camaro ZL1 and this time in a much brighter yellow than my uncle’s car. You can’t ignore this retina scorcher, and Autoart also rolls out a jazzy red, and bright blue model, along with more sedate white and black editions. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart 2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1

2021 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

Corolla Hybrid simply fine, delivers stellar MPG … 

After weeks in high-powered muscle and sports cars it was refreshing to get back into an easy-driving sedan with simple controls and stellar gas mileage.

This, my friends, is the beauty of a Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid. Oh, it’s not exterior beauty as with the others. However, Toyota’s 2021 Corolla is pleasant enough looking.

No, this is simplicity and value delivered in a handsome package so you don’t feel like a geek driving an odd-shaped hybrid that garners road rage among those who prefer power over efficiency. Continue reading 2021 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2020 Ford Expedition Max Platinum 4×4

Expedition Max redefines big luxury truck …

There’s big, and then there’s Max. In this case Max is Ford’s new Expedition Max, as if the original Expedition weren’t large enough. Apparently it was not.

The Max is nearly a full foot longer than the original’s 210 inches and this special Burgundy Velvet Metallic ($395) test SUV was the Platinum edition with 4-wheel-drive, the tippy top of Ford’s SUV lineup.

And let’s get this out of the way right up front, it’s priced like the Platinum edition it is, starting at $81,505 with delivery and checking in at $84,065 as equipped. That’s way up there and competes well with its cousin, the Lincoln Navigator, which with 4WD lists at $76,185. Note too that Navigator’s twin-turbo V6 creates 450 horsepower, while the tested Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 delivers a healthy 400 hp. Continue reading 2020 Ford Expedition Max Platinum 4×4

2020 Mazda MX-5 GT RF

Mazda MX-5 GT RF is a massively fun Miata …

For years those of us who dreamed of owning a sports car envisioned a British MG TF in British Racing Green with a tan interior.

MG’s TF was the epitome of what a sports car should be, and look like – cute, stylish and nimble. It also was a British car, so electronics were suspect.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention power, because sports cars are not muscle cars, they are quick, nimble and fun to drive. They don’t throb at a stoplight like a stereo’s bass speaker about to explode. They purr and chortle. Continue reading 2020 Mazda MX-5 GT RF

Die-cast: Auto World’s True 1:64 Hemmings 6-packs

New Challenger Hellcat casting stars in latest AW releases …

Like many car guys and gals I’ve been reading Hemmings automotive mags for years and love many of the covers!

So Auto World’s latest True 1:64 releases is a dead-on bull’s-eye for collectors as AW reproduces some of the cool cover cars from Hemmings’ Classic Car, Muscle Machines and Motor News. One of my favorites was the September 2019 Muscle Machines featuring a purple 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye and a vintage 1970 Challenger R/T.

Bingo, both cars are a part of the Release 4 A Series. Cool too because the 797-horsepower 2019 Challenger is a new casting while the 1970 features a new hood casting. More on those in a second. Continue reading Die-cast: Auto World’s True 1:64 Hemmings 6-packs

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible

Lexus LC 500 drop-top redefines beauty … 

It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it. – Voltaire

Beauty, thy name is Lexus LC 500.

OK, the name isn’t beautiful, but Toyota’s luxury brand understands beauty and sure as heck knows how to affect us … mix beauty, power and luxury, then drop the top.

If you’ve seen the bodacious LC 500 coupe since its 2018 debut you know it’s a looker. Sleek lines, stylish corseted nose and sexy rear end. For 2021 Lexus creates a drop-top version that exudes even more beauty. Continue reading 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe

Chevy’s mid-engine Vette thumbs its nose at the Supercars

The nose still screams Corvette!
The old and new, a Piper Cub rests behind the 2020 mid-engine Vette at Hartford’s municipal airport.

Chevy’s new Corvette is kryptonite to the ever-growing bevy of Supercars.

For more than 65 years Chevrolet’s everyman’s dream car has put its throbbing V8 power in front of the driver, but with the eighth generation that all changes. Supercars beware!

Now the Vette’s 6.2-liter V8 moves behind the driver in a mid-engine arrangement that seems new and exciting even though supercar makers, plus Ford with its GT, have been milking this layout for years.

While new and exciting looking there’s a familiarity too with the new Corvette. Stand in front and you’ll see the family resemblance, the pointed nose, the long headlights, the rounded front wheel wells. There’s even a tall flat rear shoulder that exudes Corvette styling. Continue reading 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe

Die-cast: Autoworld 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster

Auto World steps back in time to create a real Duesy …

Growing up in Indianapolis, the early auto world’s hub and home to the Indy 500, I was aware that the Duesenberg name was a big deal.

Even though the company that brothers Augie and Fred Duesenberg had built to fame had already been gone for 20 years or so, the make remained famous in Indiana. As a youngster I saw Duesenbergs at local car shows and I was well aware Duesenberg racers had won the 1922, ’24, ’25 and ’27 Indy 500s.

But long-term it was the luxury and performance of the Duesy road cars that stuck with folks. These were the legitimate supercars of their day, and none more so than the SSJ Speedster that Auto World has turned its considerable skills to reproducing in a high-value 1/18-scale offering. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoworld 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster

2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible

M8 drop-top an elegant refined rocket, near supercar … 

Two questions: How much did you pay for your house? How much would you pay for a supercar, or near supercar?

The first may vary wildly depending on how long ago you bought your home, but if you’re thinking Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, or McLaren for the supercar, you’re likely imagining a price tag north of $1 million.

Relax, this new 2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible is much cheaper. But at $180,245 it’s nearly double what we paid for the 1950s Savage ranch (home) about 30 years ago, and the darned M8 doesn’t even have a bathroom. Continue reading 2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible

2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

Hellraisin Challenger cures a lot of ills … 

I’ve discovered the perfect cure for pandemic boredom.

Slip into the camel brown suede and black leather interior of a muscle-bound hot rod, known to the Mopar brethren as a Dodge Challenger. But not the low-end V6-powered SXT, although I’m sure it has its party favors too. But lavish in the luxurious cow-threatening interior of the R/T Scat Pack Widebody.

Yes, the more names and initials Dodge adds to its retro muscle car, the faster it goes and the cooler it looks, just ask any post-pubescent guy. My heartthrob for the week was a Hellraisin (metallic dark purple, get it?) Widebody loaded with all the options one could want, and still not have to sell the house, maybe. Continue reading 2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

Die-cast: DNA’s Subaru Baja

Subie’s small Baja pickup looks great in 1/18 scale …

Leading sometimes is a lonely game. Just ask Subaru.

Its Baja, a 4-door compact pickup based on a car platform was one of the first of its kind and can easily be seen in today’s multitude of such pickups. But it was not a sales success, selling just 30,000 units in three years.

But Baja was a leader, make no mistake about that, and DNA Collectibles loves oddball and original designs so has created a sharp 1/18 scale resin die-cast Baja that certainly is a looker.

The History

Baja sprung from the ST-X concept vehicle with its more radical off-roading look, as if it were to run in the Baja 1000 cross-country race. Tamed down, but still sporty looking, Subaru made the Baja from 2002 to 2006 in its Lafayette, Ind., plant. Bajas were based on the popular Legacy/Outback platform and marketed as 2003 through 2006 models.

Baja followed the 2-door Brat that Subaru sold successfully from 1978 to 1994. Brat too was a compact pickup with some styling flair. But as we all know, Americans prefer more room for all their stuff. So Baja with its four doors, second row seat and handsomely lined pickup bed and functional roof rack seemed to fit that bill.

It featured Subaru’s trusted 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder engine with a turbo version coming in year two. Plus Baja was made more useful for hauling with its Switchback system where the second row seat folded down and a panel behind it opened to the bed, allowing for longer items to be carried. To add more strength to the bed there also were two chrome handles or supports that extended from the roof to the bed’s sides. Knowing we love all things sporty, Subaru marketed those handles as “Sports Bars,” which now has a totally separate meaning.

The pickup also had four tie-downs, two bed lights, roof rails and crossbars, and a snazzy system that allowed the license plate holder to fold perpendicular to the tailgate so it could be seen if the truck was driving with the tailgate lowered. Clever!

The Model

DNA’s model replicates the original bicolor launch version which was bright yellow with silver stone metallic lower body cladding, all beautifully painted.

Other standout features include the black roof rails and small sunroof just in front of the rack’s forward bar. A tiny black antenna sits next to the rails and is in a retracted position. All windows appear slightly tinted and edged in black.

In front is a chrome-trimmed grille opening with photo-etched metal and black backing and the Subaru logo at the grille’s center. Headlights are wonderfully rendered showing four different lenses and lights while below the bumper are two giant running lights with slight grille work covering the lenses for protection.

Baja’s tail features a well detailed flat black lined cargo bed, the two chrome Sport Bars and dual overhead cargo lamp. Taillights are sharply detailed too and the license area is nicely shaped indicating it indeed could have been repositioned when the tailgate was down. Would be cool if the model allowed that tailgate to drop, or the doors to open.

Subaru, Baja and AWD labels are here in photo-etched form too.

Underneath you see the Baja labeled rear wheel mud flaps and a chrome muffler and tailpipe that look a little too shiny for my taste. I think a matte silver finish would have looked more realistic.

Tires are black sidewall and treaded, but with no branding and the wheels are matte gray five-spokers with large plain discs behind them with calipers.

Inside, well, that’s not extremely easy to see because all the windows are posed in the up position. Seats and dash are bicolor gray and black, which looks sporty and is best viewed through the windshield and from overhead. There you’ll see the gated shifter on the console, the gray and black steering wheel and gauge faces on the instrument cluster and the dash’s stack.

Hard to see much else, but DNA says there are seat belts and radio buttons there too. I wish the side windows at least could have been clear or the driver’s window removed so the interior could be viewed more easily.

As is though the Baja looks great and would stand out in any model display. And it now comes in a fully windowed box that would make it easy to display as purchased.

DNA puts the Baja in a great windowed box, so you could easily display it just as it comes!

Coming up, DNA has just added the Volvo P1800 in red and a Saab 9-4x. It’s just starting to take pre-orders for its Saab 9-5 NG Aero.

Vital Stats: Subaru Baja

Maker: DNA Collectibles
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: DNA000050
MSRP: $139.99

Link: DNAcollectibles.com

 

Die-cast: Autoart Honda Civic Type R

Autoart’s Civic Type R looks ready to rip in 1/18 scale … 

All this bad boy needs is a number and a sponsor and the Civic R looks ready to race!

When I was a youngster and Honda Civics were new to the U.S. market, they were cute, nimble econoboxes that got great gas mileage and weren’t very expensive.

Times change.

Now Civic has grown to be as large as an Accord used to be, but remain Honda’s main entry in the compact car market. Plus, now there’s a Type R in the U.S., as of 2017, that takes the sporty Civic to its logical, or maybe illogical performance extreme. The 2020 Honda Civic Type R is one hot hatchback, and Autoart does a fine job of bringing it to the 1/18 scale die-cast market. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart Honda Civic Type R

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD

Aviator puts Lincoln solidly back in the game … 

Lincoln has been struggling for years like a one-armed barista fresh out of java. It’s no secret Lincoln has been looking for a new identity, a new look and hoping to regain its footing in the luxury car market.

Finally, it seems to have arrived, but not with cars, with sport-utility vehicles named Aviator and Corsair. I tested the Corsair earlier this year and found it a solid entry in the mid-size SUV market. Now comes the Aviator that soars to the upper reaches of SUV luxury, in looks, features and price.

Outside, Aviator is a blend of sophistication and sleek lines without the gaudy chrome explosion of earlier models, especially its cars. Think Town Car and old-time Continental. Continue reading 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD

Die-cast: Autoart’s 2019 Mercedes AMG GT3

Mercedes AMG GT3 in 1/18 scale; be still my beating heart … 

Mercedes-Benz and motorsports have a long partnership, mostly stellar, with oodles of success. Take Team Mercedes’ six straight Formula 1 titles as the most recent mark of excellence.

Yet its sports cars have been champions too through the years, a prime example was Sterling Moss’s win of Italy’s famous Mille Miglia in 1955 in a record time that will never be broken. OK, they don’t run the race anymore for safety reasons, but still! Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart’s 2019 Mercedes AMG GT3

2020 Mustang leaves Mopar guys snake bit

The Shelby guys have thought of everything with the racy 2020 Mustang GT 500 …

Two new hot rod Tangs!

By Paul Daniel and Mark Savage

PAUL: I sort of backed into loving Mopar stuff after Chrysler bought American Motors Corp. in the late 1980s. I’ve always been the kind of person who has a soft spot for the underdog. I’ve driven all the Challengers, with the exception of the Red Eye, and enjoy the driving experience they provide. In fact, if I could go out and buy a high-performance pony car I’d go buy one. That was until I drove the 2020 Mustang GT 500. Continue reading 2020 Mustang leaves Mopar guys snake bit

2020 Lexus UX 250h Luxury

Whatever it is, little Lexus hybrid is a cute mileage champ …

Determining if a vehicle is a hatchback or a crossover can sometimes cause consternation. Take the case of Lexus small hatch/crossover, the UX.

That name provides no clue as to what this is, other than there’s an X in the name, so the vehicle designers probably considers it a crossover. Most of the time crossovers offer AWD or 4WD and again, the UX sort of splits the difference. Continue reading 2020 Lexus UX 250h Luxury

2020 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD

Armada a big boat full of performance, luxury … 

In some ways you’d think Nissan would own the large SUV market.

Its small Rogue is extremely popular as is its mid-size SUV, the Pathfinder. Consider too that Nissan’s large SUV boasts the most power in its class and is one of the lower priced big people haulers on the market.

But, when I mention the Nissan Armada, do you think of a top-tier large SUV? Continue reading 2020 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD

2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT

Outback Onyx Edition just another winning Subie wagon …

Subaru’s Outback is as close to a cult car for seniors as is it for middle-agers with a couple of teens still living at home. Its sales just continue to grow, resulting in one parked in nearly every other suburban driveway.

Spoiler alert, there’s a 2017 version in my driveway. Continue reading 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster

Mercedes’ AMG GT C is a street legal racer …

Mercedes-Benz has been dominating Formula 1 racing for six years and it has a long history of dominant race cars dating back to the 1930s. Famous race drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, and now Lewis Hamilton have put Mercedes squarely in the public eye.

Winning is the name of Mercedes game and Mercedes has been slapping an exclamation point on that in its road cars since 1967 via AMG. That’s Mercedes high-performance division, a separate unit that virtually customizes certain Mercedes-Benz vehicles to near race standards. AMG was launched by Daimler, Mercedes’ parent. Continue reading 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster

Die-cast: Johnny Lightning Chevy assortment

JL’s latest Chevy storage tin assortment offers unique models …

You may be a Ford guy or a MOPAR maniac, but there’s no denying that Chevrolet is, and has been, the top-selling domestic brand for decades.

And while Johnny Lightning is an equal-opportunity die-cast car maker, it makes sense for the maker of 1/64 scale cars and trucks to go heavy on Chevy (and its kissin’ cousin GMC) once in a while. Indeed JL does just that with its latest releases of the 1987 Chevy Monte Carlo SS, 1972 Chevy Vega Panel Express and GMC’s muscular 1992 Typhoon.

There are two versions, A and B, so you could snag two of each, but in different colors, or just collect the A or B models. Plus these latest releases are part of its series that include a cool storage tin with a picture of the model on each side and the Lightning logo on the top and each end too. Continue reading Die-cast: Johnny Lightning Chevy assortment

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL

Hyundai new Venue a primo entry-level vehicle …

If you’re belly-aching about the costs of new cars you obviously haven’t driven a Hyundai Venue.

This all new crossover from Hyundai is as good as it gets for entry-level vehicles, the kind recent college grads and others just working their way into our economy can afford. But this is not a cheap econobox, a base car that you’d feel embarrassed to drive. No way! Continue reading 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL

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