Lotus Exige S exudes sportiness even in 1/18 scale
British sports cars used to rule the world’s road courses with the likes of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Austin Healey, Triumph, and Lotus slicing through corners to give their drivers a thrill. Speed wasn’t always so essential, but handling was key.
Lotus always has prided itself in creating lightweight, crisp handling cars. But today speed and power are more important than in the formative 1950s and ‘60s, and that’s what makes the Lotus Exige S a highly sought after sports car.
Now Autoart creates a beautiful one in 1/18 scale, the sample car being a bright yellow with black interior. However, the Exige S also is available in red or white; all retail for $130.
The mid-engine Exige, built in Hethel, England, has been around since 2000, with the first S model appearing in 2006. Exige is now in its third iteration, or Series 3, which is what Autoart’s model portrays. A Series 2 version also is available from Autoart.
I love Australian cars
Unfortunately after next month there will no longer be anymore built after Ford closes the doors on its plant following the lead from GM who shut down its Holden plants. At one time this was a booming market cranking out just over 400,000 vehicles in 2004 but it dwindled down to 175,000 in 2009. Why did all they pull out? Mostly political tax stuff that I’m not going to get into here.
A little history first
Holden manufacturing dates back to 1856. They were the first to introduce the “ute” and Australians ate it up. It became a huge market. It may have also inspired the El Camino and Ranchero built by Chevy and Ford in their U.S. Plants. See my blog entry, history of the El Camino and Australian “utes”. The Holdens, in my opinion, are the fastest and best looking cars produced in Australia. In 1925, Ford Australia’s first products were, of course, Model Ts assembled from knock-down kits. Ford is best known in Australia for the Falcon, not the same as the one produced here in the U.S. Chrysler also played in the Australian market but only stuck around for a much shorter time.
Lexus RC looks, drives like a sexy beast
Not much in the car world is better than a sexy sports car, except maybe one that offers four engine choices and a wide span of prices so more folks can afford said sexy beast.
Lexus happily does just that with its RC sports coupe, which offers two versions of its 3.5-liter V6, plus a rockin’ 467-horsepower V8-powered F model for the serious racer wanna-bes or guys overcompensating for something.
The tested base RC 200t lists at $39,995 while the V8 version starts at about $64,000.
I tested the RC 350 more than a year ago and found it powerful, stylish, nimble and well, pretty much a hoot to drive. The 200t is less of the same.
Still stylish with its distinctive spindle grille and edgy overall looks, the RC 200t features a good looking interior too and all the handling and fun of the 350, but with less power and one major stumbling block, an annoying hesitation for that power to kick in when you first tromp the gas pedal.
Here’s the deal.
Noble M600 supercar looks good in 1/43 scale
The Noble M600 may be the fastest car you’ve never heard of, and no wonder in the U.S. market because it’s not readily available here.
Nope, Noble is a British supercar made outside Leiscester, England, where it sells for 200,000 pounds. How much that translates into U.S. dollars after the Brexit vote may require a phone call to your local banker .
But Automodello’s new 1/43 scale version is a modest, considering the original’s price tag, $119.95. And we shouldn’t be surprised that Automodello takes on the Noble for a model as it has been mining models of some of the lesser known makes and rare vintage cars and racers that other die-cast and resin model maker have steered clear of. For the record, this is Automodello’s first model of a currently produced car and away from its vintage lineup.
Noble Automotive was founded in 1999 by Lee Noble who wanted to build his own high-performance mid-engine, rear-drive car. What many of us call a driver’s car.
NEO delivers a humdinger of a Woodie … wagon that is!
World War II was coming fast and the 1941 model year cars would be the last sold to civilians before the U.S. car factories were switched over to assembling airplanes, tanks and other war machines.
So the 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe Station Wagon was special in more than just name, it was a reliable people hauler and a spiffy one at that. Chevrolet made roughly a million cars for 1941 and the Special Deluxe was the cream of its wagon crop and made in limited quantities.
Now it’s among NEO’s newest batch of top-flight resin models featuring vintage U.S. autos, several of which we’ve reviewed here. The latest is a black and wood 1941Chevy wagon, the prototypical Woodie of mid-century cars. This one featured white ash and mahogany body work, something that’s a bit hard to fathom for us living in a plastic and composites world today.
The 1941 Chevys were the first Chevys without running boards and also featured headlights built directly into their fenders, increasing their stylishness.
The Deluxe was Chevy’s main trim line from this year until 1952 when the 210 model debuted. The 1941 model had a new grille and updated suspension and rode on a 116-inch wheelbase that was 3 inches longer than the 1940 model, aiding the car’s ride. Power came from Chevy’s “Blue Flame” inline 6 engine that delivered 85 horsepower.
New Prius Four looks better, drives better too …
Prius’s nerdy look is gone, so if you were one of those kids, like me, who had the mechanical pencil and pocket protector in high school, well, you’d best reconsider buying the hybrid.
Toyota has jazzed up the Prius in looks and performance. The bright “hypersonic” red ($395 extra) test car nearly glowed in the parking lot, plus it looks more trim and sporty than past models. Like other Toyotas the nose uses creases for styling that bring it to a noticeable point and the taillights feature sharp angles previously saved for sports cars. The profile is more that of a sporty hatchback now.
So if you’re looking for a hybrid that gets great gas mileage, and don’t mind looking a little trendy, instead of nerdy, the Prius Four Touring could light your fuse.
The newest Prius isn’t bulbous and chubby looking like past models, but it’s still a gas mileage champ. I got a fantastic 57.6 mpg, while the EPA rates this model at 54 mpg city and 50 mpg highway. I spent more time in town and driving in the 40-45 mph range.
Toyota RAV4 hybrid = good mpg, sporty handling
Funny, but I enjoyed driving the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid more than its gas-powered model that I had earlier this year.
This one seemed sportier, and that’s a contradiction to all things hybrid. Power seems a bit better, and is with a combined 194 horsepower for the hybrid vs. 176 for the gas-powered model. But handling seemed much more precise and sporty too.
RAV4 is a small ute/crossover and easy to park and steer. The wheel feels moderately light and the hybrid turns into corners well and is responsive. Wheel play is minor.
And while compared to the standard model it has more ponies to power it with the electric hybrid system working well via an electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), it’s not exactly quick. There’s still the electric whine when you let off the brake and a slow chug up to 15-20 mph. The harder you press the accelerator the crossover will respond though and get up to highway speeds fairly effortlessly. The down side is an engine that feels and sounds as if it’s working pretty hard.
Like so many vehicles, there are drive mode selection buttons, here on the bottom of the center stack somewhat hidden behind the console-mounted gear shift knob. You can go Eco to save fuel or Sport for a bit more juice to the wheels. The bump up in power is minor, but every little bit helps sometimes.
Volvo’s new XC60 sporty, powerful
Hey, this newfound idea of putting some sport into small sport-utility vehicles, or crossovers, is getting to be a trend.
Now Volvo joins the sportster market with its 2017 XC60, a compact ute crossover that handles like a sports sedan and kicks some booty with 302 horsepower. And get this, that boost of power hits quickly, no long lag as so many turbo I4s exhibit, even when they’re trying to be sporty.
First, the XC60 is crisply styled so it looks elegant, with tall Volvo taillights to distinguish its looks. But the combo supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 gets your attention in a hurry. Linked up with an 8-speed automatic, it gives the Volvo instant power when you want it. I admit it was a happy surprise.
But equally surprising was how well the XC60 handled. I know this has 20-inch tires, but I fully expected some squish in the steering wheel feel and typical lazy crossover handling.
No siree! The Volvo delivers good feedback via the power-assisted rack and pinion steering and with a precise feel and handling. Put the XC60 into a turn at speed and there’s no ute-like lean. Cornering is like a sport sedan and feels much the same on winding roads.
NEO’s smaller scale ’49 Caddy nearly as nice as big 1/18
If you do something well, it often behooves you to repeat what you did. NEO knows that and creates a new 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe, this time in 1:24 scale.
As with its previous 1:18 scale version, this Club Coupe is a car with presence, class and substance, just a tad smaller. The real one also was a sales standout for Cadillac as the brand fought to re-establish itself after World War II.
This black resin beauty continues the detail NEO brought to its earlier model, but in the smaller scale so popular with plastic car model builders. Both Cadillacs are distributed by American-Excellence, which supplied our review model.
In case you missed our Scale Auto DC review of that model, here’s a refresher.
Cadillac launched the Series 62 in 1940 as an entry-level Caddy, but production ended in 1942 as auto factories turned their efforts to war machines. The third generation Series 62 designed by GM’s noted Harley Earl went into production as a 1949 model, riding on a 126-inch wheelbase, measuring 214 inches long and touting GM’s new overhead-valve V8.
Replicarz’s latest Foyt Coyote a winner, except at Indy …
A.J. Foyt epitomizes the Indianapolis 500. He’s a legend and his cars embody that legendary status too, even those that didn’t carry him to one of his record four Indy wins in 35 tries.
Replicarz continues to expand its impressive 1/18 scale Indy 500 collection with Foyt’s pole-winning Coyote from 1974, back when all the racers looked a bit different as each driver, mechanic and car builder experimented with wings for downforce and radiator positioning for proper engine cooling.
Foyt’s Coyotes of the 1970s all had similar features, but for varied from year to year, the only constant being their glowing orange paint schemes and the Gilmore Racing sponsorship along with A.J.’s traditional No. 14.
Front view of the 1974 Indianapolis 500 pole car emphasizes its wide nose.
Foyt won the Indy pole in 1974 with a speed of 191 mph and had the speed to win on race day. He led 70 laps, second only to winner Johnny Rutherford, and controlled much of the first half of the race. He had just repassed Rutherford about 139 laps into the race when his Coyote started to smoke.
Lamborghini Huracan a 1/18-scale hottie
Ferraris are fine, but Lamborghinis have been pressing the styling envelope more during the past 20 years or so. The new Huracan, Spanish for hurricane, continues the Italian car maker’s design dominance.
Long, low and sleek with little slits of headlights and taillights and an engine just behind the supercar’s two bucket seats give the Huracan both an elegant and bullet-like appearance.
Autoart nails it again with this, a composite-bodied model of the Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 in a stunning orange pearl paint scheme. This thing will nearly glow on your display shelf.
The Huracan replaces Lamborghini’s popular and swoopy Gallardo model, the Huracan hitting the streets in late 2014.
Lexus restyles, upgrades its RX 450h
The Lexus RX series has been ruling the luxury mid-size crossover roost for nearly two decades and there’s no reason to think the new RX will sully that record run.
Lexus and its mainstream counterpart Toyota wised up and started restyling its vehicles and giving them some personality the last couple years. The outcome is an RX with dramatic chiseled looks, wrap-around lights and a grille that couldn’t get any more in-your-face aggressive. The taillights protrude so much you can use them as armrests if you’re standing outside the vehicle in a parking lot. Plus the C-pillar is blacked out to create a sportier profile.
I like the look and I like the luxury feel the RX exudes, starting with its quiet roomy interior down to the tested 450h hybrid model’s quiet, confident power source.
A base RX 350 with front drive and an 8-speed automatic features a powerful 3.5-liter V6 that creates 295 horsepower, up from the previous model’s 270 horses. The tested swantky dark metallic blue (Nightfall Mica) was an RX 450 h F Sport that combines a slightly detuned 3.5-liter V6 with an electric hybrid system to create 308 hp. Both models drink regular 87 octane unleaded, so no special need when you cruise into a service station.
NEO’s tiny Mack, IH trucks offer big detail
Trucks are the big haulers we see every day, on the highway, behind the grocery, in the office parks. Usually they have a big ol’ trailer behind them full of goods that make the world go round.
So it’s only natural that they have fans, just like cars, racers and motorcycles.
Now NEO has the answer for truck collectors, beautifully detailed 1:64 scale tractor trailers of historically significant models. Our samples were a light blue 1960 Mack H-673ST and a 1963 International Harvester (IH) Fleetstar F-2000-D in red with a white beltline.
These trucks were workhorses, the Mack’s chassis weighing 13,025 lbs. and featuring a 10-speed transmission to put its 205-horsepower turbo diesel to work. That may not sound like much, but the Thermodyne engine boasted a torque rating of 560 lb.-ft.
This was the cool cab-over design too that used a manually engaged hydraulic lift to tilt the cab forward to facilitate maintenance. Mack made 550 of this model from 1958-’62. They included a sleeping compartment behind the cab.
New Santa Fe seats 7, looks better, roomier
Hyundai developed its Santa Fe into two vehicles a couple of years ago, the Sport which has a midsize 106-inch wheelbase and the straight-up Santa Fe that’ll seat seven with its longer 110.2-inch wheelbase and more interior room.
The 2017 Santa Fe looks even better than its predecessor and now adds more features to make it even more attractive and a strong competitor with the likes of Honda’s popular Pilot. But it has the misfortune of also going up against the brand new Mazda CX-9 reviewed last week and the new segment leader.
That’s not to say the tested big Santa Fe is a slouch in any way.
Its power is first-rate with a 3.3-liter V6 that creates 290 horsepower with 252 lb.-ft. of torque. The Hyundai also offers drive select mode to emphasize power or economy. In Normal mode the Santa Fe has good power that is well used by its six-speed automatic. There is some lag to the acceleration, but the crossover gets up to highway speeds easily.
Naturally Eco saves gas, but Sport delivers the most oomph when it comes to acceleration. In Sport mode the Santa Fe feels much livelier than most large crossovers.
2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
The luxury crossovers, the Mercedes, Lexus, BMWs may have a hard time convincing some of their buyers that Mazda’s new CX-9 isn’t a better value.
At $45,215 the Signature AWD model I tested is within an eyelash of offering the same goodies those luxury brands tout, while also offering more style. Oh, and that price, while not cheap, is far less than you’d pay for most luxury makes.
Meanwhile, the restyled Mazda CX-9 exceeds the overall driving experience of such mainline competitors as the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer.
Here’s the deal, the Mazda uses its Skyactiv technology to create an efficient crossover, while also using enough sound deadening to make this the quietest large crossover I’ve driven. Add to that a big luxury style grille, pronounced nose and tapered roofline and even in profile the CX-9 looks like it’s moving. The look is distinctive, not cookie-cutter.
The inside is as nice as any luxury vehicle, both in looks, feel and finish. In fact, this Signature model, the top-level CX-9 features real rosewood trim around the console and on door control pads along with brushed aluminum (not plastic) trim. Classy!
Without performance, all of that would mostly be for naught, but Mazda always puts performance atop its delivery list.
Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …
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.
Ride 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.
BoS nails it with early Plymouth Valiant …
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.
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.
New Jetta reminds us of driving’s pure joy …
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.
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.
New Acura RLX sport sedan does it all …
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.
Bigger MINI makes Clubman more useful …
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.
Clubman is a lot longer, but still carries the MINI profile.
Audi’s Q7 ute lives up to its hype …
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.
All 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.
Audi’s latest TT is slick, squatty, luxurious, sporty
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.
But 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.
STP’s 1967 Indy 500 Turbine is a sure winner this time!
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 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. That 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.
A happy surprise, new 2017 Elantra arrives early …
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.
Certainly 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.
Tundra TRD Pro a big honkin’ truck, with shortcomings …
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.
Second, 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.
Kia Optima, a better mid-size sedan …
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!