2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

Caddy’s CT4 sedan a value leader …

Seemingly forever Cadillac was THE American luxury car, its image built on being big, luxurious, powerful, pricey, and stylish, often to a gaudy extreme!

All that changed when Japan’s luxury makes invaded and when coupled with growing sales of German luxury makes, Cadillac’s slice of the U.S. luxury pie became much smaller. But Caddy got its act together more quickly than Lincoln, the other big U.S. luxury make since Packard ceased to exist after the late 1950s. So for the past 20 year or so Caddy has been making solid and fairly stylish luxury vehicles. Continue reading 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

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

 

2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD

Seltos Turbo a bright spot among crossovers …

Some cars (or crossovers) just make you feel good. VW’s Beetle was one, the Mini Cooper another. It may be their looks, their ease of driving, their usefulness or simply their price.

Sometimes it’s all of that, which brings me to this week’s drive, the Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD. Again, that’s a lot to take in from a name standpoint, but simply put, this is a fine compact crossover that borders on cute. Mine was a retina-burning Starbright Yellow, which I initially nicknamed Electric Mustard, but Electric Dijon may be more accurate.

This is not a vehicle that would be hard to find in a parking lot. It stands out like a scorching yellow dot in a black and white minimalist’s painting. It’s Shakira at an Amish picnic! Continue reading 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD

2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

New engine improves Nissan’s compact pickup …

I’d been looking forward to testing Nissan’s 2020 Frontier compact pickup since hearing about its upgrades at the Chicago Auto Show in February, just before the Covid lockdown.

A Zoom update this spring further stoked my curiosity. I much prefer compact pickups to the big boys and Frontier has always been a strong competitor in what now is really a mid-size market. Yet due to Covid shutting assembly plants and some timing issues Nissan’s 2020 model just arrived and is going on sale, about when you’d expect a 2021.

No problem. It was worth the wait.

How so? Continue reading 2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

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 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe

Compact 228i gives BMW a true entry-level model … 

Back in the day, less than 20 years ago, BMW was known for its 3 Series compact sport sedans and coupes. They were cute, taut, models that were meant to introduce enthusiast drivers to the Bavarian automaker’s wares.

The 3 Series was an entry-level sportster that with some budget stretching, maybe selling some of your favorite vinyl or the kid’s Cabbage Patch dolls (but not one of your kidneys), you could afford.

Things change and cars always grow. So now the 3 Series is less compact and less affordable. But not to fret, BMW now has the 2 Series, which is what the 3 Series was as recently as the mid-2000s. The 2 is compact, riding on a 105.1-inch wheelbase, is just 178.5 inches long and starts at a modest (for BMW) $36,295 for the coupe. Continue reading 2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe

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 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

Debonair V60 Cross Country a sensory surprise … 

What vehicles catch folks’ attention these days? If you’re thinking big pickups or SUVs you’d be way off base. That’s what folks buy, not what tickles their eyeballs.

Sporty wagons, now that’s a sensory surprise. Continue reading 2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring

CR-V proves hybrid power the way to go  … 

A few years back I declared hybrids the way to go until all-electrics gained more range and the infrastructure to remotely recharge electrics grew substantially. Nothing has changed my mind and if anything the growth of quality hybrids makes my point all the stronger.

This week’s drive proves that point in electrons!

Only a few months back I tested Honda’s popular small SUV, the CR-V. It’s a top-seller and pretty much leads a closely contested market segment. I feel the hybrid version of its top-level Touring model should be its top-selling model.

Here’s why. Continue reading 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring

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 Toyota Camry TRD

TRD makes Toyota’s Camry racy …

Toyota’s Camry has won three NASCAR championships and a fair number of “stock car” races to get there, but be honest, do you think of a Camry as racy?

Camry mostly conjures the image of a practical family sedan. But that could change, and all because of Toyota’s 2020 Camry TRD. For those not versed in car jargon, TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development. That’s the Toyota division that concentrates on making racing equipment for its vehicles, and race cars for various series.

It’s also affectionately pronounced Turd! Not quite the same ring as Chrysler’s Mopar. Continue reading 2020 Toyota Camry TRD

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

Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1990 Indy 500 winner (Luyendyk)

Luyendyk’s 1/43 scale Domino’s Lola a winner … 

Back in the 1980s when I was covering the Indianapolis 500 for the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper Arie Luyendyk was our hometown racer.

How’s that? Arie is Dutch.

But the likeable Indycar driver was sponsored by Provimi Veal, a Wisconsin company with a Dutch owner, so Arie was our guy. He was eager to talk to the media and it wasn’t long before he knew the Wisconsin reporters by sight. So it wasn’t a surprise when Arie and his wife gave us reporters stuck in race day traffic a friendly wave as he zipped into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his motorbike. Continue reading Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1990 Indy 500 winner (Luyendyk)

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD

Highlander gets bigger and better …

I’m not a bigger is better sort of guy. My parents used to tell me the best things come in small packages.

So I’m not one to automatically rave about Toyota’s new Highlander because it has grown dimensionally, about 2.5 inches of wheelbase and overall length. But if you’re a larger family looking for a super reliable mid-size sport-utility vehicle to haul seven or eight folks, that extra room is as welcome as a stimulus check. Continue reading 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD

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