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Die-cast: AutoWorld’s 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Plenty of muscle on display with Chevelle SS …1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Chevrolet’s 1967 Chevelle SS is a straightforward muscle car with equally straight, lean lines that reflect fine mid-‘60s styling.

AutoWorld has re-created a variety of Chevelles through the years, including a convertible version of the ’67 in 1/18 scale. Now comes the 1/24 scale model that easily fits into plastic modelers’ collections. Plus it takes up a little less shelf space than the larger scale.

High value is what this glossy tuxedo black die-cast model represents.1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

The History

Most car guys know Chevelles and GTOs of this era as well as they know their favorite baseball player’s career stats. First-gen Chevelles debuted in 1964 and by 1967 the mid-size Chevy was among the most popular cars in the bowtie brigade’s lineup. About 63,000 were built in 1967, and the SS was top-of-the-heap. Today an SS can go in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $60 grand at better vintage auto auctions.

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2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …2017 Kia Sportage

Kia has upgraded and enlarged its Sportage small sport-ute to keep it competitive with the likes of Subaru’s Forester, Honda’s CR-V, Ford’s Escape and Toyota’s RAV4.

This is an extremely competitive market with many good products, but Kia maintains its strong styling edge and then lengthens Sportage’s wheelbase from 103.9 inches to 105.1 to give it an even better ride than before. It’s right up there with the top small utes now for comfort.

I tested a beautiful “Burnished Copper” Sportage SX AWD, the top-level model. The color reminds me of my family’s handsome 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S that was decked out in “Aztec Gold.” Great to see some gold tones return to automotive color lineups.

2017 Kia SportageRide and power are Sportage’s strengths. While the longer wheelbase and re-tuned suspension give it a well-controlled ride with no harsh moments, the power is impressive. The SX model features a high-revving turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 with an impressive 241 horsepower and 260 ft.-lbs. of torque. Same engine is used in Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport.

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Don’t mess with a person who owns a Jeep

We were pinned in by a jerk

Wiki Commons

Wiki Commons

It happened one winter when we were in Downtown Milwaukee at an event. Parking is not easy there especially if you add in a recent snowfall. We were driving an ’87 Jeep Wagoneer (XJ) that I had bought from my dad similar to this one.  We snuggle into a spot on the street and go have fun. When we came back we saw another car had parked us in. The car was actually not in a spot and at the end of the block near the intersection. My wife tried first with no luck. It was my turn. I put our Jeep in 4wd and pushed the car out ahead of us and it just happened to roll into the intersection. Ooops.

Jeep people don’t mess a round

In a parking lot you wait your turn to move into a spot where a car is leaving. But then every once in a while some jerk decides they’re going to take that spot. We’ve all had that happen. Not sure any of you came to this creative solution.

Die-cast: BoS-Models’ 1960 Plymouth Valiant

BoS nails it with early Plymouth Valiant …DSCF0189

I’ll admit to a soft spot for early Plymouth Valiants, and I think it’s justified.

First, they were more stylish than other compacts of the day, and second, our family had a 1963 Valiant convertible with a push-button transmission. My mom learned to drive on that car and I spent a lot of years peeling my legs off the red vinyl seats in that car each summer.

BoS-Models now offers the bare bones early 1960 model, the first of its ilk, in 1/18 scale.

The History1960 Plymouth Valiant, Studebaker Lark, Chrysler 300, Ford Falcom

Chrysler Corp. came out with the Valiant in 1960 as its entry into the compact car market that was just taking off. Ford had the Falcon. In fact, Valiant was almost named Falcon, but Henry Ford II got permission from Chrysler to use the name, which it had previously used on a show car.

But Valiant was a much better engineered car than its competitors, plus has the long-nose and slightly finned styling that styling guru Virgil Exner had been delivering in earlier Chrysler models – think Chrysler 300. In fact, some say the Valiant nose is a mix of Chrysler 300 and Studebaker Lark grille. I always saw that resemblance.

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2016 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI SE

New Jetta reminds us of driving’s pure joy …2016 Volkswagen Jetta

Reminders are needed, from time to time, of the pure joy of driving, and Volkswagen’s Jetta is just the thing to pleasantly jog one’s memory.

The conservatively styled Jetta’s exterior has been slightly smoothed and refined for 2016, but its mechanical workings needed no tweaks. The Jetta feels much like the small nimble BMW’s of years past, before they became power hungry heavier brutes as they grew ever larger.

Jetta is a near perfect blend of compact family sedan and sports sedan and lucky for most of us, continues at a modest price compared to that of today’s SUV-laden market. But even at a slightly higher price tag the Jetta would be a bargain, if, and it’s a big if, today’s drivers knew what they were missing by driving crossovers and SUVs.2016 Volkswagen Jetta

In short, Jetta is quick with lively handling made all the more fun by VW’s fine 6-speed manual transmission. Call it sporty, call it a blast, but also call it practical because as a compact sedan it will easily seat four average sized adults and carry their luggage too with its generously sized trunk.

Another bonus, Jetta also delivers excellent fuel economy. I got 28.6 miles per gallon in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the car at 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

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2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line

VW’s CC a fine handling sedan with a stick! …2016 Volkswagen CC

Why Volkswagen doesn’t advertise its CC sedan is beyond me. This sporty family sedan has been on the market seven years and is nearly invisible in the marketplace. I’ve never seen a magazine or TV ad for it.

That’s particularly weird at this time when VW is looking for good news to wash the bad taste of diesel from its corporate mouth. The CC is a performance gem. I tested one, the R-Line model, on a roundtrip to Louisville, Ky., and the sedan was a delight on the highway, and around town.2016 Volkswagen CC

First, it looks good with a sleek profile and low rounded roofline that puts most other family sedans to shame from a styling perspective. The only drawbacks are somewhat limited headroom in back, although a 6-footer rode in the car and fit, but admitted he’d like a tad more air over his noggin. The other is a slim trunk opening, yet the CC has a deep trunk overall and yes, the rear seats split and fold down to create additional storage.

But it’s the CC’s performance that puts it cams and pistons ahead of most sedans. The CC is light, just 3,358 lbs., and its eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 generates a healthy 200 horsepower and slightly more torque. The result is a car that feels fast getting onto a freeway and nimble overall.

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2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Advance

New Acura RLX sport sedan does it all2016 Acura RLX …

I quickly feel in love with driving the new Acura RLX Hybrid, a sport sedan that does everything right from a performance standpoint.

One could argue that its looks are pedestrian, and they are mid-pack at best. But driving the RLX is like flying under the radar of our beloved highway patrol simply because it does NOT stand out visually. It simply kicks booty when it comes to manhandling the roads.

First, the Crystal Black RLX Sport Hybrid I tested was the top-end model with the Advance package and clicked the cost turnstiles at $66,870 including delivery. There were no options left to add.

The Advance package hybrid comes with the standard RLX engine, a strong 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing. To that it adds a hybrid system consisting of three electric motors, two working directly to power the rear wheels. That electric power extends gas mileage and boosts power by 67 horsepower for a total of 377 ponies.

In standard mode the car has generous power from a stop, but punch the Sport button on the console and the car is noticeably faster off the line, delivering a punch you might not expect from a car of such nonchalant looks. Sort of like discovering your class valedictorian also is a professional stunt double.

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Could you please roll down your window?

When is the last time you heard that?

basic vehicles, toyota trucks, toyota tundra, roll down windows, manual door locksIf you’re a boomer like me, you heard that around the time you were in high school, but hardly at all now because car/truck windows are powered. Well most of them anyway. One of my many gigs is doing the marketing for a local golf course The Preserve at Deer Creek. I also help out in the golf shop.

Recently on a morning I was opening and one of our grounds’ guys, Bill, came in to tell me he saw a customer’s Toyota Tundra with the driving lights were left on and the driver’s side window partially open. Rain was on the way. I told him what group that golfer might be in and he headed out on the golf course to find him. We are HUGE on customer love here! The customer gave Bill the keys and on his way to the truck grabbed me.

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2016 MINI Cooper Clubman

Bigger MINI makes Clubman more useful …2016 MINI Clubman

When does a MINI become so big that it’s not, well, mini?

There’s a fine line to be sure, but the new MINI Cooper Clubman seems to straddle it pretty well. Visually the Clubman is still cute with the round headlights and profile of a MINI, but there’s no doubt it’s longer and, to be honest, more useful than its predecessor.

The new Clubman is roughly 12 inches longer than the former model with a wheelbase that’s five inches longer. The upshot is more rear seat room, decent cargo space with the rear seats folded down, and a smoother ride. There are four doors too, making it easier for folks to slide into the rear seat. The former model had just one rear-open back side door, making seat access a bit clumsy.

Like before, the Clubman keeps its rear panel truck-style doors, which allows for easier loading and unloading. Plus it means wider loads will slide out easily.

All that increases usefulness.

2016 MINI Clubman

Clubman is a lot longer, but still carries the MINI profile.

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Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro

Audi’s Q7 ute lives up to its hype …2017 Audi Q7

I’d read some early reviews of the Audi Q7 full-size sport-utility and thought them suspiciously glowing, like a parent telling how great their kid’s violin concert had been.

Well, count me among the converted.

Big sport-utes are generally luxurious land barges that’ll pull a load and haul a load of people. Audi’s new 2017 Q7 will do all that, but in addition to power it delivers ride and handling.

The back story is that Audi didn’t make a 2016 model, skipping that model year because it intended this model to be an early 2017 release. It was planning a big upgrade, as in the use of a lot more aluminum in the body and overall structure, cutting 474 lbs. from the 2015 model. Audi also upgraded to a 5-link suspension front and rear and managed to lower the truck’s center of gravity by 1.7 inches. No small feat.

audi Q7bAll of that adds up to a more manageable ute, one that rides and handles much better than its predecessor.

Power still comes from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that creates a solid 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s sufficient to pull 7,700 lbs. of trailer too.

The V6 is linked to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and delivers enough power to the Quattro 4-wheel-drive system that in the Dynamic drive mode the Q7 actually feels quick. There are four other Drive Select modes, Winter, Automatic, Comfort and Individual. Each can impact the steering effort, acceleration and ride, but Dynamic is the most fun.

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2016 Audi TT 2.0T Quattro

Audi’s latest TT is slick, squatty, luxurious, sporty2016 Audi TT coupe

Sports cars seem an endangered species and nearly as hard to find as polite political discourse. So my recent landing of a new Audi TT coupe seemed quite a coup.

I hadn’t driven a TT for nine years. That’s how rare they are in the automotive test fleets. But this new third generation coupe was worth the near epochal wait.

The TT still features a slick rounded roofline and low-slung squatty appearance that made it so darned appealing when it first launched in 1998. Yet this one looks more modern, what with its LED headlights and more aggressive nose.

Looks make any sports car and the TT remains a head-turner.

2016 Audi TT coupeBut luxury performance at a reasonable price has been its hallmark and Audi doesn’t stray from that formula. A sports car, for the uninformed, isn’t a supercar. Sports cars are light and lively, the sort of car you can toss around corners and zip away from stoplights without squealing your tires and without a growling V8 sucking down another gallon of gas.

TT, for instance, features a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 that gets 220 horsepower and delivers 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Turbos are always heavy on torque, that’s the fun part, zipping away from a stop while the “sport” utes lumber along behind you.

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Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1967 Paxton (STP) Turbine

STP’s 1967 Indy 500 Turbine is a sure winner this time!

Replicarz 1967 Indy 500 Paxton Turbine Indianapolis 500 Parnelli Jones STP Andy Granatelli, Silent Sam

Replicarz nails the iconic STP turbine that Parnelli Jones nearly drove to victory in the 1967 Indy 500.

Say turbine car and Indianapolis 500 and most car lovers and race fans will picture the 1967 STP-sponsored day-glo red racer that Parnelli Jones darned near drove to victory that year.

It was nicknamed Silent Sam and the Whooshmobile for its turbine power that sounded like a jet whooshing by at 160+ mph while all the other Indy racers grumbled and roared with their internal combustion engines. The car set the racing world on edge, threatened the establishment and yet was a fan favorite.

While a plastic model was made of the car almost immediately at the time, Replicarz now is the first diecast car maker to deliver a high-quality detailed 1/18 scale version of the car Jones drove to within 4 laps of an Indy win. It took a while, but the wait was worth it. And the Indy icon appears just as the Indianapolis 500 is set to run its 100th race this May. Timing could hardly be better.

The History

The STP-Paxton turbine was the brainchild of designer Ken Wallis and Andy Granatelli, a former racer and then head of STP, a division of Studebaker Corp. Granatelli had championed the powerful Novi racer for years and always was looking for an advantage to help him win the Indy 500. Replicarz 1967 Indy 500 Paxton Turbine Silent Sam, Parnelli JonesThat led him to buy Ferguson Formula 4-wheel-drive to first team with the Novi engine and for 1967, Wallis’ turbine power, a Pratt & Whitney Canada ST6B-62 turbine. It ran in a space frame chassis with the turbine mounted on the left side of the chassis while the driver’s cockpit was alongside on the right.

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2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport RWD

Jaguar XF R-Sport has the looks and the handling …2016 Jaguar XF R-Sport

Jaguars look better than most other luxury cars, and that matters in a world and a time when all luxury cars offer similar features and performance.

The Jaguar tradition is one of lean looks and mighty power, plus excellent handling. This new XF sedan fits that bill and pumps new blood into the Jaguar lineage. There’s the muscular nose and curved haunches that still resemble, albeit less obviously, a pouncing cat.

Power is generous too, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 pumping out 340 horses and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. The spirited V6 pushes this rear-drive R-Sport edition to highway speeds quickly via a silky 8-speed automatic that you can let do its thing and not give shifts a thought, or you can flick the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

Such flicking will make the XF seem more spirited, but the automatic is so good you’ll likely let it do the job most of the time.

2016 Jaguar XF R-SportEven old muscle cars had plenty of power (although mostly horrible transmissions), so if handling is pedestrian the XF R-Sport would be just another sport luxury sedan. Ah, but handling is fine too, a fairly heavy feeling wheel, but one that is responsive and helps put some sport into the R-Sport. You can clip off a corner’s apex and accelerate hard out the other side and the Jaguar is purr-fectly (sorry) happy and stable.

The XF also features four dynamic driving modes, Sport, Normal, Eco and Winter. That last one will get a workout here most winters, especially with this being rear-wheel-drive. And Eco may save you a tiny bit of gas along with the annoying stop-start feature, that is easily turned off via a console button.

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2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

A happy surprise, new 2017 Elantra arrives early …2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Looks like 2017 is already here, at least at Hyundai.

My test car was a sparkling white 2017 Elantra Limited, the compact sedan that improves with each iteration. One thing that hasn’t changed is its stellar looks. Hyundai and its cousin Kia have been leading the styling charge for mainstream car buyers for several years now.

This new Elantra is another sharp looker with a bit of swept-back styling that looks more like a fastback than your typical compact sedan.

Another thing that doesn’t change (and this too is good), is excellent gas mileage. The Elantra is rated 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. I got 32.1 mpg in a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving.

Some might wonder if that’s because the new Elantra is made of cardboard and powered by a lawnmower engine. No, there’s lightweight high-tensile steel to keep the four-door at 2,811 lbs. and there’s a 2.0-liter I4 under the hood providing 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque.

2017 Hyundai Elantra LimitedCertainly that’s not monstrous power, but it is sufficient and with Hyundai’s smooth 6-speed automatic seems well suited to everyday driving. The previous Elantra I’d driven had a 1.8-liter I4 of similar power, but this one gave the car steadier pull from a stop. Plus Hyundai includes Drive Mode Select, a button that allows you to choose between Normal, Sport and Eco. You won’t need Eco to extend fuel mileage as I rarely used it and still got excellent mileage.

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2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

Restyled Toyota RAV4 gets even better …Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, crossover, hybrid

Toyota has restyled its popular RAV4 crossover to give it a sleeker more modern look while maintaining its solid underpinnings.

Like most Toyota offerings, RAV4 doesn’t change much from year to year, it simply remains a good reliable machine that does what you’d expect of a small crossover. The engine remains the same as it has for years, a 2.5-liter I4 with variable valve timing and dual-overhead cam layout.

Price keeps creeping up, but it’s still extremely competitive with its main competition, the likes of Honda’s CR-V, Subaru’s Forester and Ford’s Escape.

rav2Compared with the RAV4 I’d driven three years ago, the 2016 seemed more tightly built and despite the same powerplant, felt as if it had more oomph and the interior was made of nicer materials.

While the 176-horse engine is no race horse in standard or Eco mode (nothing is racy in Eco mode), the metallic black currant (dark red nearly maroon) crossover was lively in Sport mode. You punch a button to engage that, plus there are paddle shifters behind the wheel if you want to use those to impact shift points. But Sport mode holds the gears in the six-speed automatic longer than the normal mode and quickens acceleration. Good to use when entering a highway, for instance.

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2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Crewmax

Tundra TRD Pro a big honkin’ truck, with shortcomings …pickup, Tundra, F-150, Chevy, Silverado, Titan, Sierra, GMC

You’d think all big pickups are pretty much alike. First, their grilles are massive, their stance is tall and imposing, their engines are mostly V8s and they’ll all haul a honkin’ big load.

That’s true, but the devil is in the details and there are a lot of details because there are soooo many variations of every pickup.

Toyota’s Tundra TRD Pro Crewmax, this week’s test drive, is all of the above, but it falls short on some rather important details.

First, it won’t tow as much as some of the other pickups. It’s rated to pull 10,500 lbs., which is considerable, but the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra and Nissan Titan will pull 12,000 lbs., and Ford’s F-150 about 200 lbs. more than that.

Toyota Tundra, pickup Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Ford F-150Second, Tundra doesn’t even offer a diesel engine, while the Ram and Titan both do. Incidentally, the diesels also get much better fuel economy.

Third, Tundra’s fuel economy is poor. The test truck was rated 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. Compare that with the very similar GMC Sierra I tested recently, which was rated 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Ford’s top-selling F-150, which cut 700 lbs. by going to an aluminum body, is rated higher yet.

For the record, I got 18.4 mpg in an F-150 test last year, 15.9 mpg with the Sierra and just 14.9 mpg with the Tundra. Lest you think I was lead-footing it, or this was an aberration, I got just 14.6 mpg in my last Tundra Crewmax test drive.

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2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo

Kia Optima, a better mid-size sedan …  kia2

When I last tested a Kia Optima I thought it among the best mid-size sedans I’d driven, plus it got 39.5 miles per gallon. Wow! But that was a hybrid model.

Well, the refreshed 2016 Optima is even more impressive. My one major hesitation with the previous model, a passenger’s seat that sat low in the car and was not adjustable, has been fixed. And the tested LX Turbo model got 37 mpg with its 1.6-liter I4 turbo. Sweet!

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2016 Ford Escape SE 4WD

escape1

Dirty week of snow and slop added some grit and grim to the pretty red Escape, but it handled like a dream all week.

Ford’s Escape a looker and a handler …

Ford’s Escape is popular because it looks good, comes in a range of prices that meet a wide array of consumers’ needs, and is an extremely sporty handling crossover.

None of that changes for 2016.

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2016 Honda Civic EX

New Honda Civic adds style, remains no-nonsense sedan …civic2

Need good basic wheels? Make that better than basic, but at a no-nonsense price, a practical car that’s fun to drive with good ride and that will fit a family of four comfortably.

Honda’s new 2016 Civic sedan has you covered, and then some.

Civics, when first introduced in the States, were little boxes that brought to mind clown cars, or maybe the original Mini Cooper from the 1960s? Civics were cheap cars that ran forever and got good gas mileage. That fit a big niche in the early 1970s.

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Die-cast: Autoart Willys Jeep

Detailed Willys Jeep drives Autoart into new marketWilly three quarter

Jeep became an automotive icon as the soldier’s best friend during World War II. Now that the brand is owned by Fiat Chrysler, some may have forgotten it was originally primarily built by Willys-Overland.

Autoart’s 1/18 scale version is of that early Jeep along with a U.S. Army trailer with fuel drum and other accessories. But a model of only the Jeep also is available.

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Die-cast: LeMans-winning Ford GT40s

Ixo’s Ford GT40 models offer good detail, value in 1:43 scale

Ford’s GT40 is the most beautiful enclosed race car ever made, and one of the most successful too. That’s my design bias, but the GT40’s success can’t be argued.

Ixo's version of the 1967, '68, and '69 LeMans-winning Ford GT40s.

Ixo’s version of the 1967, ’68, and ’69 LeMans-winning Ford GT40s.

Funny thing, it was created to settle a score at the highest levels of the automotive world. In the early 1960s Henry Ford II was rebuked in efforts to buy Ferrari and declared war on the Italian sports car maker and race team. The GT40, originally with a Lola chassis and various Ford V8 engines, was his weapon. By 1964 the first GT40 was raced at the Nurburgring 1000km endurance race and then the 24 Hours of LeMans, where three were entered and one led. All failed to finish. Yet ultimately the GT40 would win four straight LeMans 24-hour endurance races from 1966 through 1969, a remarkable run that ended Ferrari’s reign as the LeMans champ. Ferarri has not won LeMans since.With the annual endurance race being run in late June, this is a good time to look at what the diecast world offers regarding the only successful U.S. manufacturer’s race efforts.

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Recent Articles

25
Jul

Die-cast: AutoWorld’s 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Plenty of muscle on display with Chevelle SS …1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Chevrolet’s 1967 Chevelle SS is a straightforward muscle car with equally straight, lean lines that reflect fine mid-‘60s styling.

AutoWorld has re-created a variety of Chevelles through the years, including a convertible version of the ’67 in 1/18 scale. Now comes the 1/24 scale model that easily fits into plastic modelers’ collections. Plus it takes up a little less shelf space than the larger scale.

High value is what this glossy tuxedo black die-cast model represents.1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

The History

Most car guys know Chevelles and GTOs of this era as well as they know their favorite baseball player’s career stats. First-gen Chevelles debuted in 1964 and by 1967 the mid-size Chevy was among the most popular cars in the bowtie brigade’s lineup. About 63,000 were built in 1967, and the SS was top-of-the-heap. Today an SS can go in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $60 grand at better vintage auto auctions. Read more

22
Jul

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …2017 Kia Sportage

Kia has upgraded and enlarged its Sportage small sport-ute to keep it competitive with the likes of Subaru’s Forester, Honda’s CR-V, Ford’s Escape and Toyota’s RAV4.

This is an extremely competitive market with many good products, but Kia maintains its strong styling edge and then lengthens Sportage’s wheelbase from 103.9 inches to 105.1 to give it an even better ride than before. It’s right up there with the top small utes now for comfort.

I tested a beautiful “Burnished Copper” Sportage SX AWD, the top-level model. The color reminds me of my family’s handsome 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S that was decked out in “Aztec Gold.” Great to see some gold tones return to automotive color lineups.

2017 Kia SportageRide and power are Sportage’s strengths. While the longer wheelbase and re-tuned suspension give it a well-controlled ride with no harsh moments, the power is impressive. The SX model features a high-revving turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 with an impressive 241 horsepower and 260 ft.-lbs. of torque. Same engine is used in Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport. Read more

20
Jul

Don’t mess with a person who owns a Jeep

We were pinned in by a jerk

Wiki Commons

Wiki Commons

It happened one winter when we were in Downtown Milwaukee at an event. Parking is not easy there especially if you add in a recent snowfall. We were driving an ’87 Jeep Wagoneer (XJ) that I had bought from my dad similar to this one.  We snuggle into a spot on the street and go have fun. When we came back we saw another car had parked us in. The car was actually not in a spot and at the end of the block near the intersection. My wife tried first with no luck. It was my turn. I put our Jeep in 4wd and pushed the car out ahead of us and it just happened to roll into the intersection. Ooops.

Jeep people don’t mess a round

In a parking lot you wait your turn to move into a spot where a car is leaving. But then every once in a while some jerk decides they’re going to take that spot. We’ve all had that happen. Not sure any of you came to this creative solution.

16
Jul

Die-cast: BoS-Models’ 1960 Plymouth Valiant

BoS nails it with early Plymouth Valiant …DSCF0189

I’ll admit to a soft spot for early Plymouth Valiants, and I think it’s justified.

First, they were more stylish than other compacts of the day, and second, our family had a 1963 Valiant convertible with a push-button transmission. My mom learned to drive on that car and I spent a lot of years peeling my legs off the red vinyl seats in that car each summer.

BoS-Models now offers the bare bones early 1960 model, the first of its ilk, in 1/18 scale.

The History1960 Plymouth Valiant, Studebaker Lark, Chrysler 300, Ford Falcom

Chrysler Corp. came out with the Valiant in 1960 as its entry into the compact car market that was just taking off. Ford had the Falcon. In fact, Valiant was almost named Falcon, but Henry Ford II got permission from Chrysler to use the name, which it had previously used on a show car.

But Valiant was a much better engineered car than its competitors, plus has the long-nose and slightly finned styling that styling guru Virgil Exner had been delivering in earlier Chrysler models – think Chrysler 300. In fact, some say the Valiant nose is a mix of Chrysler 300 and Studebaker Lark grille. I always saw that resemblance. Read more

1
Jul

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI SE

New Jetta reminds us of driving’s pure joy …2016 Volkswagen Jetta

Reminders are needed, from time to time, of the pure joy of driving, and Volkswagen’s Jetta is just the thing to pleasantly jog one’s memory.

The conservatively styled Jetta’s exterior has been slightly smoothed and refined for 2016, but its mechanical workings needed no tweaks. The Jetta feels much like the small nimble BMW’s of years past, before they became power hungry heavier brutes as they grew ever larger.

Jetta is a near perfect blend of compact family sedan and sports sedan and lucky for most of us, continues at a modest price compared to that of today’s SUV-laden market. But even at a slightly higher price tag the Jetta would be a bargain, if, and it’s a big if, today’s drivers knew what they were missing by driving crossovers and SUVs.2016 Volkswagen Jetta

In short, Jetta is quick with lively handling made all the more fun by VW’s fine 6-speed manual transmission. Call it sporty, call it a blast, but also call it practical because as a compact sedan it will easily seat four average sized adults and carry their luggage too with its generously sized trunk.

Another bonus, Jetta also delivers excellent fuel economy. I got 28.6 miles per gallon in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the car at 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Read more

24
Jun

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line

VW’s CC a fine handling sedan with a stick! …2016 Volkswagen CC

Why Volkswagen doesn’t advertise its CC sedan is beyond me. This sporty family sedan has been on the market seven years and is nearly invisible in the marketplace. I’ve never seen a magazine or TV ad for it.

That’s particularly weird at this time when VW is looking for good news to wash the bad taste of diesel from its corporate mouth. The CC is a performance gem. I tested one, the R-Line model, on a roundtrip to Louisville, Ky., and the sedan was a delight on the highway, and around town.2016 Volkswagen CC

First, it looks good with a sleek profile and low rounded roofline that puts most other family sedans to shame from a styling perspective. The only drawbacks are somewhat limited headroom in back, although a 6-footer rode in the car and fit, but admitted he’d like a tad more air over his noggin. The other is a slim trunk opening, yet the CC has a deep trunk overall and yes, the rear seats split and fold down to create additional storage.

But it’s the CC’s performance that puts it cams and pistons ahead of most sedans. The CC is light, just 3,358 lbs., and its eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 generates a healthy 200 horsepower and slightly more torque. The result is a car that feels fast getting onto a freeway and nimble overall. Read more

22
Jun

Take a track tour with a GP driver

And not the traditional way

Mark and I love slot car racing because it’s fun and you get to drive smaller versions of race cars you would never have a shot to drive. See my blog entry about it. How’d you like to see how Grand Prix racers see a track? No, not the traditional way where there’s a in-car camera. Here’s a fun video where Daniel Riccairdo takes you on a tour of the Canadian F1 track, the slot car version of it.

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17
Jun

2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Advance

New Acura RLX sport sedan does it all2016 Acura RLX …

I quickly feel in love with driving the new Acura RLX Hybrid, a sport sedan that does everything right from a performance standpoint.

One could argue that its looks are pedestrian, and they are mid-pack at best. But driving the RLX is like flying under the radar of our beloved highway patrol simply because it does NOT stand out visually. It simply kicks booty when it comes to manhandling the roads.

First, the Crystal Black RLX Sport Hybrid I tested was the top-end model with the Advance package and clicked the cost turnstiles at $66,870 including delivery. There were no options left to add.

The Advance package hybrid comes with the standard RLX engine, a strong 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing. To that it adds a hybrid system consisting of three electric motors, two working directly to power the rear wheels. That electric power extends gas mileage and boosts power by 67 horsepower for a total of 377 ponies.

In standard mode the car has generous power from a stop, but punch the Sport button on the console and the car is noticeably faster off the line, delivering a punch you might not expect from a car of such nonchalant looks. Sort of like discovering your class valedictorian also is a professional stunt double. Read more

13
Jun

Could you please roll down your window?

When is the last time you heard that?

basic vehicles, toyota trucks, toyota tundra, roll down windows, manual door locksIf you’re a boomer like me, you heard that around the time you were in high school, but hardly at all now because car/truck windows are powered. Well most of them anyway. One of my many gigs is doing the marketing for a local golf course The Preserve at Deer Creek. I also help out in the golf shop.

Recently on a morning I was opening and one of our grounds’ guys, Bill, came in to tell me he saw a customer’s Toyota Tundra with the driving lights were left on and the driver’s side window partially open. Rain was on the way. I told him what group that golfer might be in and he headed out on the golf course to find him. We are HUGE on customer love here! The customer gave Bill the keys and on his way to the truck grabbed me. Read more

10
Jun

2016 MINI Cooper Clubman

Bigger MINI makes Clubman more useful …2016 MINI Clubman

When does a MINI become so big that it’s not, well, mini?

There’s a fine line to be sure, but the new MINI Cooper Clubman seems to straddle it pretty well. Visually the Clubman is still cute with the round headlights and profile of a MINI, but there’s no doubt it’s longer and, to be honest, more useful than its predecessor.

The new Clubman is roughly 12 inches longer than the former model with a wheelbase that’s five inches longer. The upshot is more rear seat room, decent cargo space with the rear seats folded down, and a smoother ride. There are four doors too, making it easier for folks to slide into the rear seat. The former model had just one rear-open back side door, making seat access a bit clumsy.

Like before, the Clubman keeps its rear panel truck-style doors, which allows for easier loading and unloading. Plus it means wider loads will slide out easily.

All that increases usefulness.

2016 MINI Clubman

Clubman is a lot longer, but still carries the MINI profile.

Read more

4
Jun

Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro

Audi’s Q7 ute lives up to its hype …2017 Audi Q7

I’d read some early reviews of the Audi Q7 full-size sport-utility and thought them suspiciously glowing, like a parent telling how great their kid’s violin concert had been.

Well, count me among the converted.

Big sport-utes are generally luxurious land barges that’ll pull a load and haul a load of people. Audi’s new 2017 Q7 will do all that, but in addition to power it delivers ride and handling.

The back story is that Audi didn’t make a 2016 model, skipping that model year because it intended this model to be an early 2017 release. It was planning a big upgrade, as in the use of a lot more aluminum in the body and overall structure, cutting 474 lbs. from the 2015 model. Audi also upgraded to a 5-link suspension front and rear and managed to lower the truck’s center of gravity by 1.7 inches. No small feat.

audi Q7bAll of that adds up to a more manageable ute, one that rides and handles much better than its predecessor.

Power still comes from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that creates a solid 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s sufficient to pull 7,700 lbs. of trailer too.

The V6 is linked to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and delivers enough power to the Quattro 4-wheel-drive system that in the Dynamic drive mode the Q7 actually feels quick. There are four other Drive Select modes, Winter, Automatic, Comfort and Individual. Each can impact the steering effort, acceleration and ride, but Dynamic is the most fun. Read more

3
Jun

What kind of driver are you?

I think I’ve seen them all …

By Paul Daniel

… and went through them in a blog entry I did a while back on drivers that really annoy me. If you have been under a rock and never heard of Dude Perfect, these guys do some really funny stuff on YouTube. You name it and they’ve most likely tried some stunt like sinking a basketball from a Piper Cub. Really. In this video they team up with Dale Jr. See if you are, or know somebody, who might fit one of these stereotypes.

 

30
May

Die-cast: Automodello’s 1972-79 TVR Taimar

Automodello cranks out impressive collection of TVR Taimars …Taimar 1

Say TVR to any sports car fan and their eyes will light up as they think of the M Series of sports cars the British automaker cranked out from 1972 through 1979, sporty two-seaters with plenty of oomph.

TVR was founded after World War II by Trevor Wilkinson, but sold to Martin Lilley in 1965 and he turned his attention to creating the M Series that includes the hatchback Taimar that Automodello has so beautifully produced in resin in 1/43 scale.

This continues Automodello’s fine series of unique and small production run cars in a size that fits on anybody’s shelf or bookcase. This one will be offered in seven color schemes, while the similar TVR 3000M will come in three colors. All will be extremely limited runs, the most for the Taimar is 79 units in white with blue stripe and black interior. The review model is black with a red stripe, with only 19 being made. Just 19 models in each of the remaining five colors will be made. Talk about exclusive!TVR Taimar

The History

The 3000M started as a high-performance alternative to the 1600M and 2500M and debuted in October 1972, costing 2,278 pounds, a little more than it weighed, about 2,100 lbs. A tiny fixed fastback sports car powered by a V6, the M Series quickly gained popularity with racers. Read more »

27
May

2016 Audi TT 2.0T Quattro

Audi’s latest TT is slick, squatty, luxurious, sporty2016 Audi TT coupe

Sports cars seem an endangered species and nearly as hard to find as polite political discourse. So my recent landing of a new Audi TT coupe seemed quite a coup.

I hadn’t driven a TT for nine years. That’s how rare they are in the automotive test fleets. But this new third generation coupe was worth the near epochal wait.

The TT still features a slick rounded roofline and low-slung squatty appearance that made it so darned appealing when it first launched in 1998. Yet this one looks more modern, what with its LED headlights and more aggressive nose.

Looks make any sports car and the TT remains a head-turner.

2016 Audi TT coupeBut luxury performance at a reasonable price has been its hallmark and Audi doesn’t stray from that formula. A sports car, for the uninformed, isn’t a supercar. Sports cars are light and lively, the sort of car you can toss around corners and zip away from stoplights without squealing your tires and without a growling V8 sucking down another gallon of gas.

TT, for instance, features a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 that gets 220 horsepower and delivers 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Turbos are always heavy on torque, that’s the fun part, zipping away from a stop while the “sport” utes lumber along behind you. Read more

26
May

One supercar into production, one coming

It seems like it’s taken forever to get the new Acura NSX into production.

It just started in Honda’s Marysville, OH plant. When it gets to the dealerships, it will be priced at just over $150,000. Want to guess what the first one sold for and who bought it? Read on

Acura NSX

Photo: Honda

On my bucket list

A spin around the track in Nurburgring. Not really picky on what car I’d want to drive but it would have to be freaking fast. The 2017 Chevy Camero ZL1 would be a blast. Want to see it, not with me in it, flexing its 640-Horsepower muscle. Watch.

2017-chevrolet-camaro-zl1

Photo: GMAuthority.com

 

 

 

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