Sidecar racer unique, weird, unsuccessful, but a cool die-cast model …
The mid-1960s were a wild and revolutionary time for race car design and technology at the Indianapolis 500, the predominant race in the world at the time.
The era saw roadsters with their engines in the front replaced by racers, such as Lotuses, with engines in the rear. There were a variety of engines from Offenhausers to Fords to Chevys, plus some jet turbines that darned near won, twice.
Then there was the sidecar roadster created by master mechanic and designer, Smokey Yunick, who had already taken on the stock car world at Daytona and entered several cars over the years at Indianapolis, including a 1962 roadster with a giant wing over the hood and driven by 1960 winner Jim Rathmann.
But by 1964, a pivotal and also disastrous year for Indy due to its worst and most terrifying crash that killed two drivers, Smokey had created what was commonly known as the sidecar racer, his Offset Roadster with sidecar. It carried his usual gold and black color scheme, and now Replicarz is creating it in 1/18 scale resin for us diecast collectors.
New Hybrid Accord comfy family sedan with top-notch mpg …
Honda’s Accord is a car that’s hard not to like. It’s comfortable, handles well and provides a first rate ride. There’s room for four or five adults and the trunk is sufficiently large. Sexy it ain’t.
Now add a hybrid power system and well, for many, yawning will ensue.
Honda though has tweaked its 2017 Accord to cut a few pounds, add a little overall length, which aids trunk space, and given it a 16-horsepower boost. Refinement defines the Accord, which has been around now for 40 years. Accord never has been about sexy, it has been about service. Owners get their money’s worth in fuel and design efficiency.
The new Accord hybrid punches up its pony power by 16, now at 212 horses, but still with a modest 129 ft.-lbs. of torque. The tested dark red Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine along with a hybrid electric system. Power is applied smoothly via the electronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), and the car is exceedingly quiet, inside and out.
But while the Accord cruises like a champ, it’s still fairly slow away from a stoplight and takes a while to wind up to highway speeds. There’s an Econ button to further slow the shifts to save fuel, but I left the test car in normal mode just for the small boost of power it provided. That said, there IS a Sport button on the console that actually gives the Accord more power away from a stop. You’ll want it engaged, a lot!
Rare 7-Liter Hardtop beautiful in 1/24 scale …
As a kid I saw a lot of Ford Galaxies around the neighborhood and some of my northern Indiana relatives who farmed had them and weren’t afraid to run them out in a cornfield if necessary.
But rarer was the Galaxie 500 7-Liter Hardtop, a luxury model that wasn’t afraid to lay a little rubber at a stoplight. That’s the cast resin model Automodello reproduces in popular 1/24 scale and paints up in a variety of historically accurate colors.
While the Galaxie 500 debuted in 1965 it was the 1966 model that boasted a new 7-liter V8. This was Ford’s already powerful 390 V8 but enlarged to 428 cu.in. to create a real torque monster. Unlike the earlier 390 model this one could accommodate all the luxury options Ford packed onto its Galaxie 500 models to push them from standard family cars to luxury models.
So in addition to performance type power, the 1966 models had power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning. The 7-liter also could be coupled with an automatic transmission, something the earlier Ford 427 V8 designed for NASCAR use, could not.
The new 7-liter model came only in hardtop and convertible models and sold well, about 11,000 units being made that year. By comparison, just 38 models were equipped with the horsier 427 V8 that year.
New VW Passat hits for the cycle …
It may be a bit early in the calendar year to talk about hitting for the cycle, but the 2017 Volkswagen Passat does just that.
Rare is the mid-size car that delivers healthy power, refined handling and ride along with a quiet interior. Often a sedan with respectable power is noisy inside, or rides like a buckboard.
But the Passat is a pleasant blend that retains its sporty characteristics while delivering the “dreaded” practicality of room for five adults and their luggage, while also being a delight to drive and competitively priced. Its one drawback through the years (the car was redesigned for the 2016), has been reliability. The old model had issues. Time will tell if that monkey is off VW’s back for Passat, which is made in Tennessee.
From a driving standpoint I haven’t driven a more pleasurable mid-size car in ages. First, this pretty “Fortana Red” test car was the SEL Premium model with VW’s romping V6, a 3.6-liter number that creates a kickin’ 280 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled with a 6-speed automatic the power comes on in a hurry and gives the front-drive Passat major power.
Better yet, that power is smooth, not a burst as with the standard engine, a 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 170 horses. You’ll drink more gas with the V6, 20/28 mpg vs. 23/34 mpg for the I4. But I still got 23 mpg in a mix of driving that leaned more toward city speeds.
Cool new cars and fun stuff to do
Going to the Chicago Auto Show is one of our favorite trips of the year because we always have a great time. This year was no different. We captured some of it in the two videos below. If you’ve been thinking about going, and we recommend it, get a long little doggie, because it runs through February 20th.
New Nissan Pathfinder more civilized, comfy …
My Navy son had a Nissan Pathfinder years ago and it was a true sport-utility truck, built on a truck chassis and able to go off-roading with the other utes of the day.
Pathfinder has been around now for 30 years, but those trucklike days are gone as more utes convert to crossover vehicles built on car platforms. That’s what the 2017 Pathfinder rides on. That makes for a more comfortable ride and more civilized vehicle.
The tested gold Pathfinder Platinum was the top-shelf model though, with a 4-wheel-drive system. Still, at nearly $45 grand I’m not sure I’d slop it through much mud and muck. That’s OK though, because precious few buyers ever took SUVs off-road, which has led us to the ever expanding crossover market. It makes sense to give drivers a vehicle more suited to 99.99% of their driving.
Pathfinder’s new styling looks less boxy and trucky. It rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase and feels as refined as any of its competitors, such models as Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot or Hyundai’s Santa Fe. The interior is quiet and lathered in leather.
But it’s the Pathfinder’s power that’ll get your attention once you sit inside the roomy interior that will seat seven because of its third-row seat.
’33 Cadillac Fleetwood long on style …
There have been some fine luxury cars made in the United States, exemplary machines that set the auto world on its proverbial ear. Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Duesenberg, Auburn and Cadillac come to mind.
Only Cadillac is left, but that’s because GM kept it alive through the Great Depression when it was churning out some fantastic cars and engines in a weak market. One model sums up the strong Cadillac effort of that era, its V-16 powered Fleetwood All-Weather Phaeton.
Oh baby, this was a monster with a 149-inch wheelbase. That would make the current Cadillac Escalade SUV look like a mid-size vehicle as the Fleetwood base was 33 inches longer than an Escalade. Now NEO has created this elegant drop-top in 1/24 scale resin, and it’s a deep red beauty.
The Fleetwood’s V-16 was new in 1930 and surprised the automotive world that thought the V-12 was the way to go. Caddy created an overhead valve 452 cu.in. V-16 that created 185 horsepower. It was linked it to a 3-speed synchromesh transmission, another Cadillac invention. Cadillac kept pushing too, following in 1931 with a similar new V-12.
The massive car also featured four-wheel power-assisted brakes, a leaf spring for the front and rear suspension with a solid front axle and live rear axle.
New Q60 emphasizes performance, but ride suffers …
Driving similar cars back to back puts both into perspective, an unfortunate turn for the sporty Infiniti Q60.
I’d driven the Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe with 4Matic, its all-wheel-drive system, the week before I slipped behind the wheel of the new Q60, which replaces the fine G37 in Infiniti’s lineup.
The Benz and Infiniti are nearly identical in profile, length and wheelbase. But the Infiniti’s ride, no matter the Drive Mode, was inferior, and by that I mean harsh. The Infiniti felt like I was driving on square tires from time to time when the road surfaces turned crumbly. If you live in a southern clime, or California, where smooth blacktop is prevalent, this wouldn’t be an issue. In the Midwest it’s an issue.
Like the Mercedes, the Infiniti is strong on power and handling. This is a luxury sport coupe with the emphasis on sport, so it actually feels sportier than the Benz. It packs more punch with its 3.0-liter V6 with twin turbos. It’ll crank 300 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. It feels powerful from the get-go and will zip away from a stoplight with help from its 7-speed automatic that allows for rev-matching manual downshifts. The Infiniti is fun from a performance aspect.
Handling likewise is fairly firm in all modes and precise so the driver feels in total control. There’s even an all-wheel-drive system on the Premium model I drove, or you can go with the standard rear-drive. This AWD system did not seem to keep the car from spinning its wheels under heavy power on wet pavement as well as the C300 though.
Spellcheck went crazy with this
Lots of red lines below my copy when I wrote this blog entry about the Open Rekord. It kept wanting to change it to “Record”. You know me and odd ball cars. I was actually running through eBay looking at promo models when I came across a Record, oops, Rekord. More about the promo model in a minute but first I needed to find our more about the real deal since I’d never heard of the car. This car was no one-hit wonder as there were approximately ten million sold between 1953 and 1986. It was produced by GM’s Opel brand and was the second best-selling brand in Europe behind the Volkswagen Beetle. Check out the spot but brush up on your German.
1957 T-bird wonderful in white! …
Early Thunderbirds were a lovely blend of two-seater styling and boulevard cruiser with dandy hooded headlights and tiny jet-like fins on the tail.
This was Ford’s effort to Americanize the sports car market that the British car makers had created after World War II, and it worked. Thunderbirds were around for a long time, although sadly they morphed into giant near luxury hardtops eventually.
Thankfully Auto World sticks with the two-seat 1957 Thunderbird for its new 1/18 scale diecast for the recently ended holiday season. This is Auto World’s third Holiday Muscle Edition vehicle and is done appropriately in snowy white.
Thunderbirds, or T-birds to most of us, debuted in 1955 and the last one was made in 2005, 11 iterations in all. The last, was a retro model reflecting the styling and two-seat configuration of the original. It did not approach the success of the original.
Mercedes’ sporty C300 coupe a smoothie …
Mercedes-Benz is on a roll. Not only has its Formula 1 racing team dominated for three straight years, now its street cars are back on top of their game.
A couple years ago I sort of fell for the C300 sedan and now, in the dead of winter I get to drive the C300 coupe with 4Matic, Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system. Glad I had the extra grip as we had snow and slush and sloppy roads during the test.
This model features slimming sporty coupe lines that make it stand out among today’s usual humdrum car designs. And while it leans heavily toward sport, the luxury and pleasantness of the sedan are ever present.
The C coupe rides on the same smoothing 111.8-inch wheelbase and weighs a bit more than the sedan at 3,770 lbs. The car feels deliciously well balanced.
As in the sedan Mercedes delivers a scrumptious blend of sporty power, the eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that kicks out 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.
Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to be sporty. Cornering is smooth and as precise as you want it to be courtesy of Mercedes’ Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+.
It will take some deep, deep pockets
Photo: Bruce Makowsky / BAM Luxury Development
Photo: Bruce Makowsky / BAM Luxury Development
This 38,000-square-foot mansion is located in Bel Air, California. It has 12 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms, three kitchens, six bars, a massage room, a fitness center, two wine and champagne cellars, and a 40-person home theater. One of my favorites is the 85-foot infinity pool complete with its own 20-foot TV on a hydraulic lift. I can just imagine the pool parties I would have when the Green Bay Packers play. Sadly not anymore this season.
What’s in it for the car guy?
Well I’ll tell you. It comes with a $30 million car collection parked right in the home. When’s the last time your wife let you park your collector car in the house? Included in the collection are cars we can only dream about like a faster than snot Pagani Huayra, a Rolls-Royce, a Bugatti, and a vintage Allard. OK, the cost. Are you sitting down? $250 Million. That’s $250,000,000. Lots of zeros. Let me know when one of you guys buy it and Mark and I will be your two newest best friends. Read more and be sure to watch the videos.
I’m a pretty happy AMC fan this morning!
Photo: Gooding & Company
That’s because last night at the Gooding & Company auction in Scottsdale, AZ this AMX 3 sold for $891,000 setting a new world record price for an American Motors creation. More than other cars in the auction like a 1935 Auburn 851 SC Boattail Speedster which sold for $693,000 but not as high as the top seller, a 1925 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix hammering for $3,300,000.
Truck, trailer and ‘Mr. 500’ make racy display …
Collectors who like to create scenes for displaying their models will be thrilled by three new items from Replicarz, a 1968 Chevy C10 pickup and tandem race trailer, plus a figure of Andy Granatelli. All are sold separately, so you can create your own diorama to fit your display needs.
Best of all, these are all in STP trim, which means the shocking Day-Glo Orange that STP used on so many of its sponsored racers in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, Replicarz has created at least four Indy Cars that fit the trailer and time period. There’s the new Paxton STP Turbine model, Mario Andretti’s 1969 Indy 500 winner along with the 1973 Eagles of winner Gordon Johncock and his teammate, Swede Savage.
Unlike today when race teams haul their cars and other equipment to racetracks across the country in giant semi-trailers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the 1960s and 1970s, many teams still used a pickup and trailer. Some even stuck with station wagons and trailers until about 1980.
The Chevrolet C10 pickup was standard fare and would easily pull a tandem trailer and car from say, Indianapolis to Milwaukee, Wis., or Trenton, N.J. you could pile your tools and extra parts in the truck bed and put spare tires on the trailer’s front rack and be on your way.
Kia’s Cadenza delivers luxury economically …
Back when I was kid in the 1960s and ‘70s a large luxury sedan meant a Buick, Lincoln, or certainly a Cadillac.
Today, nearly every car maker has a large luxury model, some on the sporty side, but more favoring the luxury end, emphasizing smoothness and quietness. As us Boomers age, both sound pretty good. But we’ve been smitten with SUVs and crossovers, so the big sedan market has languished, shrunk like cotton elephant bell jeans that went through the wash too many times.
Into this market Kia re-introduces its Cadenza, a large luxury sedan that falls between its even larger K900 and its popular mid-size Optima. Competitors include the likes of Chevy’s Impala, Toyota’s Avalon, Ford’s Taurus and Dodge’s Charger, one that definitely falls more in the sport sedan category.
I praised the first gen Cadenza for nearly everything but its ride. Consumers met it with a yawn. The revamped 2017 model should receive cheers from Boomers who like soft leather seats, a supple ride, excellent power and all the electronics we’ve grown to expect in a car, especially one starting north of $40 grand.
Before that figure scares you off, consider the base Premium model (see what they did there with naming?) starts at a reasonable $32,890 and the Technology model at $39,890. Both include delivery and both have all the same mechanicals as the tested top-level Limited, which lists at $45,290 with only a pittance of options even available beyond that.
Autoart creates a stellar Corvette C7 Z06 …
Vettes are cool even if their current buyers are skewing gray and retired.
Still, you gotta have a little coin to own a new Vette, especially the Z06 model, one of the racier versions. A new one will cost you $79,500, so that’s why Autoart’s 1/18 scale version seems so reasonable at $160. Plus this one won’t run up your insurance payment of deplete your monthly fuel allowance!
Autoart now has several color choices in the newest Chevrolet Corvette, the C7, in Z06 trim. Our test model was a brilliant medium metallic blue. Some might call it electric blue.
We all know the story. Chevy launched Corvette, a two-seat sports car in 1953. It was underpowered and not a big hit initially. But as its power grew, and its refinement with it, the Vette became a go-to car for club racers across North America and then serious racers who put what are now high-horse beasts, through their paces at the 24 Hours of LeMans in France.
Now in its seventh generation, the C7 is as refined, yet racy as any street-legal sports car out there, and a darn sight less pricey than many. The C7 debuted as a 2014 model and rumors persist that the next version will be mid-engine powered, but the C7 already abandoned Corvette’s roll-away headlights.
Toyota Corolla still running strong 50 years on …
Like Energizer’s bunny, Toyota’s Corolla just keeps on running through the generations and has succeeded like no other car model. It’s now 50-year run has resulted in more than 40 million Corollas being sold, most of any model.
That’s more than the VW Beetle, the other long-term, low-cost people’s car. Corolla really owns that title now. Everyone has either owned one, or had a kid that owned one, or an aunt, uncle, step-child or, well, a family member that has owned one.
Full disclosure, our family bought a new Corolla in 1983 when we had a 2-year-old and a second child on the way. It was reliable (we wisely decided against a Chrysler K car and Renault Alliance), economical, came with a stick-shift to help us save fuel and had a big enough trunk to hold a highchair and loads of diapers for trips to the grandparents.
Today’s new Corolla furthers that high value statement while remaining highly reliable and actually a bit more stylish than in years past. Toyota has put some effort into styling the last few years and so the 2017 Corolla is more than just an econobox. It looks good and drives well while remaining affordable and economical to run.
Let’s start with price. That’s what most of us think of as relating to value.
A base Corolla L starts at $19,365 and the tested top-level XSE lists at $22,680, plus $865 delivery. A few other brands have similarly priced models that drive a bit sportier, but Corolla comes with most everything a buyer would want, plus is laden with the latest safety equipment.
Olds’ Cutlass 442 was a beautiful beast …
One of the cars I learned to drive on was our family’s 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S – no power steering and a big throbbing V8 under its long hood. The car was a beast, but beautiful dressed in its Aztec Gold paint scheme.
For that matter, the Cutlass was one of the best-looking muscle cars of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, pacing the Indianapolis 500 three times between 1970 and ’74. (Remember the Hurst Shifter girl? You know you do!)
So when Auto World announced it would reproduce the 1968 442 W-30 model it made a lot of sense. Thank goodness they did their 1/18 scale die-cast model in a beautiful deep gold, known officially at the time as Cinnamon Bronze, with white 442 accent stripe and white interior. Sharp!
For 1968 the 442 was its own model, but it had begun back in 1964 as a $285 option package on both the F-85 and Cutlass models. Originally it was listed as the 4-4-2 package because it referred to adding a four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission and dual exhausts. Clever!
It was a response to crafty Pontiac pumping the performance of its LeMans model, a cousin to the intermediate-sized Olds F-85. Pontiac dubbed it the GTO, and the rest is history.
CMC creates a breathtaking Mercedes racer transport …
OMG, the detail here is incredible, breathtaking. Put this in a case, atop a desk, in any room and it’ll be the center of all conversations. Put one of CMC’s 1930s Mercedes race cars on it and, well, folks will be speechless.
CMC is known for nailing the details in all of its vintage racers, European cars and now, trucks. This Mercedes-Benz LKW L0 2750 is phenomenal, and particularly attractive because it ties in to a number of Mercedes racers CMC already has produced. This is the Mercedes transport that carried its dominant Silver Arrows racers, the W25, W125, W154 and W165, to and from European racetracks in the 1930s.
Like the rest of CMC’s lineup, the truck is 1/18 scale and features 2,365 parts, of which CMC says 1,991 are metal. I believe it as there are even metal rivets holding wooden planks in the truck bed in place. Not surprisingly, this hand-made transport carries a lofty price of $764, so it’s not for everyone. But we all wish we could own one.
Suffice it to say this 2.75-ton truck was around for a lot of Mercedes‘ early racing history, which is why CMC recreated it. These were specially built rigid steel-framed trucks to carry the racers and had a low floor with sides and tail that flipped down for easier loading, and viewing. Thin metal ramps were attached to the tail to aid loading.
Pilot wannabes will like button-happy Lexus LX 570 …
If you’ve always dreamed of being an airline pilot, but never got the training, you should try landing the new Lexus LX 570.
Lexus has created a cockpit fit for a pilot wanna-be with buttons galore. About the only thing missing is an altimeter.
Here’s a quick count of what you’ll get for nearly $100 grand. The center stack has 15 buttons plus four temperature control buttons, and two knobs for the radio. The console features 11 buttons, two toggles, and two knobs, plus a small park brake lever.
Need more? Oh there’s more. The power adjusted tilt/telescope steering wheel’s hub has 10 buttons, plus a 4-way directional pad and there’s a cruise control stalk behind the wheel. There are another 8 buttons on the dash’s face, plus the start button. Ironically the foot-wide screen atop the dash is not a touchscreen, but controlled by Lexus’s awkward and touchy mouse pad on the console.
If ever there were an argument for an autonomous car, this would be the starting point.
Once you’ve mastered the maze of buttons, toggles and screen controls you’ll find the LX570 is the luxury version of Toyota’s Land Cruiser, a big beast of an SUV with serious off-roading capability. It has a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and is a full 199.4 inches long. The Lexus weighs in at a stout 6,000 lbs., but will tow 7,000.
Replicarz goes big with its 1/18 scale PJ Colt …
One of my favorite race cars, and that of many other youngsters in the 1970s was the PJ Colt that Al Unser drove to back-to-back Indianapolis 500 wins in 1970 and ’71.
It was colorful and with its lightning bolts on the nose and tail the car looked fast and, well, cool!
Replicarz knows that and created beautiful versions of both the 1970 and ’71 cars in 1/43 scale a couple years back. Now it turns its considerable attention to the more detailed 1/18 scale model of the original 1970 racer. This takes the detailing on the Colt to a much finer level and creates a stunning desktop display car.
Al Unser teamed up with former racer Parnelli Jones’ race team for 1970, driving its Ford V8-powered PJ Colt chassis to win the national driving title and the Indy 500 that year. Sponsorship, and the beautiful car livery, came courtesy of sponsor Johnny Lightning, a toy die-cast car maker (Topper Toys) competing with the likes of Matchbox and Mattel’s Hot Wheels brands.
Unser won 10 races in 1970, none bigger than Indy. This was the first of Unser’s record four Indy 500 wins and put him on a path to racing fame, along with brother Bobby. Al was the fastest qualifier in 1970 and led 190 of the race’s 200 laps. You can’t get much more dominant than that.
My truck, your car, even up
At first glance it would be a no-brainer who the winner would be, right? The car. Unless of course you are Volvo with what they call the fastest truck in the world, put against their World Touring Car Championship Volvo S60 Polestar TC1 in both a drag race and a single-lap dash on a road course.
Volvo’s S90 a near perfect blend of sport, luxury …
There are many truly wonderful mid-size, luxury, sport sedans, both heavy on the sport and heavy on the luxury. Few blend the two as well as the new Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription.
The S90 may be the best driving car I’ve tested this past year.
There’s irony though, because the Volvo, like an increasing number of luxury sport sedans is loaded down with a gaggle of electronic goodies aimed at nearly driving the car for you. It’s no secret that autonomous cars are just around the corner and the Volvo proves that.
Each year our vehicles have more safety and driving aids and the S90 has plenty.
But first let’s consider how much fun the Volvo is to drive.
The S90 rides on a 115.8-inch wheelbase and features a double wishbone suspension front and rear. The result is a smooth yet athletic ride that makes the car feel one with the road, but not so glued to it that every crease and bump disturbs its occupants. The Volvo had one of the best rides I’ve experienced this year.
Even more amazing is the power. A hot little 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 is under its long lean hood. Oh, and it’s also supercharged. That pumps the power to 316 horses with a torque rating of 295 ft.-lbs. The car leaps to life in Comfort driving mode and yet (wait for it) there is a Dynamic mode that turns the S90 decidedly racy. The lower gears are held longer, and there are plenty of those with an 8-speed Geartronic automatic standard on all models.
Hybrid Rogue pulls up a bit short
I’m always thankful to get an early crack at a new vehicle to market, and that’s what I had with an early release 2017 Nissan Rogue SL hybrid.
Nissan has revamped the popular Rogue for 2017 with a new gloss black V-Motion grille, wider headlights and restyled taillights to freshen its look. Inside there’s a D-shaped steering wheel and now a hybrid model to put Nissan solidly in the hybrid market.
Rogue along with Altima are Nissan’s top-selling vehicles and Rogue has been a fine gas-powered model for years with its 2.5-liter I4 creating 170 horses and earning a reasonable 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg highway.
The hybrid model, which had not even had its price set when I drove it, features a 141-horse 2.0-liter I4 coupled with a 30 kW electric motor to create 176 horsepower. Nissan says its hybrid system will turn off the gasoline engine and run in electric mode even while on the highway if you keep accelerator pressure constant. With a slight increase of pressure the gas engine kicks back in.
An Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) is linked to the hybrid system aiming to further increase gas mileage. Preliminary EPA numbers put the hybrid Rogue at 31 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, right in line with a primary competitor, the Toyota RAV4 hybrid, which I drove earlier this year.
By comparison, I got 32.9 mpg in the Toyota and 27.5 mpg in the Nissan, albeit the Rogue was driven in much colder weather.
Still, here’s the main difference I found. The RAV4 feels peppy and eager to go, especially in its Sport mode, while the Rogue felt lackluster upon acceleration, even using its Sport mode. Never mind both have and Eco mode, as that further weakens acceleration to the point of stirring road rage from drivers behind you at you leave a stoplight.
Sure you love your car but do others?
It’s called the Customer Love Index (CLI) and was created by Strategic Vision. It measures the amount of love that buyers feel toward their new vehicle. To calculate CLI, Strategic Vision looks at five measurements to calculate CLI: Total Quality Impact, Total Value Index, Vehicle Emotional Delivery, Overall Feelings and Advocacy. It compiles data Over 120 different aspects of the ownership experience are compiled and on a scale that ranges from 1 (I Hate It) to 7 (I Love It) with 4 (Satisfactory) at the middle of the scale. Here are the 2016 winners.
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee touts power, toughness and luxury …
What could be more patriotic than a Jeep? And the brand, now part of Fiat-Chrysler, is celebrating 75 years of Jeepdom, although the test model wasn’t specially adorned.
This was a dark metallic gray Grand Cherokee Limited with 4-wheel-drive, starting at a relatively sane $39,895 and ending up at a luxurious $47,930 after adding one hefty $4,200 option package and three others that were more fiscally conservative.
Jeep lovers love the fact that many models can be taken for serious off-roading. While Wranglers are the primary off-roaders, Jeep is happy to tell you that Grand Cherokees can be too.
The Limited could as it came with a 4-wheel-drive system with five traction settings, sand, snow, mud, rocks and automatic. Guess which one gets used the most?
This is all handled by a neat dial on the console so it’s easy to dial up the traction your Jeep currently needs. In automatic it was fine on damp Wisconsin roads.
There’s plenty of power too. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and a healthy 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The Grand Cherokee will move and a Sport button will amp up the power by holding lower gears longer while also firming the steering effort considerably. Entering a highway the Sport setting is the way to go.
As with many cars now, the Jeep has an automatic stop/start feature that turns the engine off at stoplights and other times where it otherwise might idle. This saves a bit of gas, but this one is particularly rough. However, you can turn the feature off for smoother operation. Speaking of which, the 8-speed automatic tranny standard on the Grand Cherokee is exactly that, smooth.
A special BRE Datsun driven by John Morton . . .
In the early 1970s Trans-Am racing was a big deal, even among the small sedan makers, like Datsun, which is what Nissan was known as in the U.S. at that time.
A lot of folks will think of the pony or muscle car racers, the Mustangs, Camaros and Cudas, but Alfa Romeo was big in the under 2.0-liter (U-2) class and Datsun dominated the class in 1971 and ’72 when it had become the Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge.
Cars were simply modified street cars, but Datsun put a lot of cash into the class sponsoring Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) headed by Pete Brock, a noted sports car designer. The red, white and blue BRE Datsun 510’s soon became synonymous with success. Now TSM Models comes out with a high-value 1/18 scale version, available through Replicarz.
Brock’s small team of racers and mechanics won six of the 10 races in 1971 and driver John Morton was the Trans-Am 2.5 champion, although in somewhat odd fashion, not that Morton and the Datsun weren’t dominant in most races. He set many fast laps and was often on the pole.
Civic Coupe is sleek, peppy, responsive, but …
Honda’s new Civic Coupe has a sleek profile, peppy turbocharged engine and responsive handling, but it also has a few issues that reinforce it’s an entry-level car.
Through the years the Civic has grown up. It has gotten larger and now rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. It’s no longer an econobox. Civic also comes as a sedan, coupe and for 2017, a hatchback, with the coupe having the best overall styling.
Previously I’d driven the economical sedan with base 2.0-liter 158-horse I4. It’s underpowered, so the coupe was more fun to drive with its 1.5-liter I4 turbo that creates 174 horses. It was linked to Honda’s 6-speed CVT, which is adequate, but groans quite a bit under heavy acceleration.
Power though is good and could only be improved with a 6-speed manual.
Handling is the car’s strong point though with quick steering that is responsive, making it fun to drive in town. Civic feels heavier than the car’s 2,888 lbs. would seem to indicate, but the Honda carves through corners well and there is no play in the wheel.
Autoart crafts delicate 1965 Honda F1 beauty …
In the glory days of Formula 1 racing new teams joined the ranks of the old standbys, Ferrari, BRM and Lotus to prove they too could build fast open-wheel racers with strong engines. For the fans it was exciting, not the least of which was because all the cars looked different and featured their country’s racing colors, not corporate sponsors.
Into this racing environment came Honda in 1964. The Japanese car maker had only been building road cars for four years and already was set to challenge the established F1 teams, plus it built its own chassis and engine. Few race teams did both at the time.
Autoart has created the Honda RA272, Honda’s second F1 racer as it competed in 1965, its first full season on the F1 trail, which was conducted mostly in Europe with European race teams. This 1/18 scale model of the car American Richie Ginther drove to Honda’s first F1 win is a delicate beauty befitting the simplicity of mid-1960s racers.
Cadillac XT5 long on style, short on details …
Cadillac has mastered the styling, now it needs to work on the details.
The new Cadillac XT5 crossover continues Cadillac’s sharp chiseled styling with tall taillights and noteworthy nose and headlight stylings. Its interior is luxurious and attractive in a way most German makes have yet to figure out because of their love for black leather.
But the XT5’s seats are way too snug in the hip and the ride too firm for our crumbling Wisconsin roads that are cracked by time, winter and a lack of willingness to pay for improving them. Additionally its CUE audio screen is improved, but still not the easiest to master while driving.
The XT5, which replaces the SRX and rides on what should be a smoothing 112.5-inch wheelbase delivers a firm ride that turns too sharp and bumpy on cracked streets and highways.
Yet like other Cadillac’s and GM products, the XT5 delivers ample power with a new 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 with variable valve timing. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 271 ft.-lbs. of torque, so it’ll scoot when required to. That happens best when in Sport mode which holds gears longer in the 8-speed automatic. In normal mode acceleration is moderate.
New Honda Ridgeline redefines pickups
Honda has reinvented the pickup and it’s a darn sight nicer than whatever you’ve driven before.
To be honest, it’s a suburban cowboy’s pickup, but that’s what so many pickups are used as anyway – kid haulers and the occasional run to a home improvement store or big-box garden center. This one is just being honest about it and making your ride simply oh, so, comfy.
The Ridgeline is not about who has the bigger engine, toughest body, greatest towing capacity, it’s about refinement in a crew cab pickup body with a big open bed for hauling. It’s also quite a bit more.
My test truck was the Black Edition, which (not surprisingly) is black, with black wheels and a black grille to give it a decidedly elegant, yet macho look. Think I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too! This is Honda’s top-of-the-line Ridgeline.
Like all Ridgelines it comes with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 that creates 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s just fine. Acceleration is good and steady from a stop and ultimately Honda says it’ll carry a 1,584-lb. payload, best in class. It’ll even tow 5,000 lbs., which is well shy of competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, but plenty for pulling a camper or boat or snowmobile trailer.
Ridgeline rides on Honda’s sturdy Global Light Truck platform with a 125.2-inch wheelbase that calms road imperfections. This feels smooth and controlled like Honda’s Pilot, a full-size SUV.
Mazda CX-3 flickable fun, but practical too
Small hatchbacks have always been fun to drive and practical too. So why shouldn’t a small crossover with a hatch be much the same?
Well, more and more tiny crossovers are being made and mostly they are pretty entertaining to drive. This week’s bright metallic blue (dynamic blue mica) Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD fits that bill.
Steering is light and lively with quick handling and downright perky acceleration when you toggle the Sport mode on the console. That pumps up the revs so the 146-horse 2.0-liter I4 has maximum torque, which also is 146. The Mazda zips away from stoplights with relative enthusiasm, but you’ll need to toggle back to the normal setting or it holds the engine’s revs way too long and eventually will suck down gas mileage.
But hey, toggling the Sport mode is almost as much fun as shifting a manual transmission – almost.
Add to that the practicality of all-wheel-drive to help steady the little crossover in winter slop, plus excellent fuel economy and you’ve got an attractive and cute ute, er crossover to take the place of any small sedan or hatchback.
The CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest crossover, just down a notch in size and wheelbase, from the CX-5. Both handle well.
1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop a two-tone beauty
Fins were fun and gave the 1950s cars both personality and a hint of aerodynamics that merged the streamlined models of the 1930s with the aerospace world of the 1960s to come.
Buick may not be the first brand you think of when it comes to ‘fin’ish styling, but in 1957 it was tastefully incorporating fins into its sleek designs. Witness the 1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop Coupe with is four ventiports and straight tailfins with round projected taillights hinting at being afterburners in those beautifully sculpted chrome rear light surrounds.
NEO does another fine job of re-creating the look of a 1950s chrome-laden model in 1/43 scale resin with the Roadmaster, and for a still modest $74.95. Some 1/43 models are now creeping over the $100 mark.
All Buick hardtops were considered Riviera models in 1957 and 4-door sedans were eliminated. The clean, sexier look of the hardtop with no B-pillar was setting the styling and sales trends. Two-tone paint was being enhanced by chrome sweeps on the hardtop’s sides and around the windows.
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.