2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT

Outback Onyx Edition just another winning Subie wagon …

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

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

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster

Mercedes’ AMG GT C is a street legal racer …

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

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

2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium

Mazda’s sporty new CX-30 crossover a top choice …

If I were to vote on my car of the year today, it would be the Mazda CX-30, a new larger subcompact crossover, up a step from Mazda’s current CX-3.

This new crossover in the fastest growing part of that market is easily the most stylish, most luxuriously finished and most fun to drive to date. It’s a thing of beauty and performance. Continue reading 2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium

Die-cast: Autoart’s 2017 Dodge Viper GTS-R ACR

Striking Viper GTS-R ACR is a ‘super’ car, in scale …

I consider myself lucky that as part of my gig of driving and reviewing new cars for newspapers and websites I’ve crushed the gas pedal on several Dodge Vipers, but not the Viper GTS-R ACR. That’s the racy version that put the cap on the Viper run from 1991 to 2017, not all inclusive.

That’s right, whether you remember or not, Viper took a few years off as sales lagged and insurance companies questioned their wisdom of covering these rocket sleds being driven on public roads.

I can tell you the various V10 engines that Dodge packed under Viper’s long muscular hood were all among the most powerful cars I’ve ever driven, some new Hellcats being the most recent exceptions. The Viper was a beast! Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart’s 2017 Dodge Viper GTS-R ACR

2020 Lexus GX460

Lexus GX460 a bit of a throwback, but that’s OK …

A few years back we drove an old Toyota RAV4 loaner while our car was in the shop. The RAV had no power windows, just cranks, and a radio with six buttons, no screen. It felt refreshing and fun to drive.

So why not a little mild throwback design on cars and their features?

Lexus, of all folks, has kept its mid-size SUV, the GX460, cousin to the Toyota 4Runner, about the same for 10 years, which means it lacks a few frills that today’s SUVs have. Yet, at its heart it’s a beauteous beast that is fit to go off-roading like a Jeep or Land Rover, but feels as luxurious inside as the finest luxury sedan. Maybe Lexus is on to something. Continue reading 2020 Lexus GX460

Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1966 Indy 500 Lola T90/Jackie Stewart

Replicarz fields another famous Indy 500 racer …

For me, a kid who grew up in Indianapolis watching Lotus and Lola redefine what an IndyCar is during the mid-1960s, these were the most beautiful race cars ever.

Loved Indy’s roadsters, but 1966 was just the second year a rear-engine racer won the Indianapolis 500 and it was England’s Graham Hill at the wheel. The British Invasion was more than just the Beatles! Continue reading Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1966 Indy 500 Lola T90/Jackie Stewart

2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited Hybrid

New Sonata Hybrid with solar roof panels leads mileage parade …

OK, OK, OK, I oohed and aahed so much over the gas-powered 2020 Hyundai Sonata you might ask, how could I be any more enthusiastic for the hybrid version?

Well, you asked!

First, the Sonata Hybrid is still its same beautiful self as the gas-only model. Same dynamic profile, grille, nose, and taillights that ooze personality, a rarity among family sedans. Hyundai did not feel compelled to put blue or green eco markings on the car, or give it some odd styling tweaks to make it scream hybrid. There’s simply the word “hybrid” on its tail. Continue reading 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited Hybrid

Die-cast: Johnny Lightning Chevy assortment

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

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

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

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

2020 Toyota Camry TRD

TRD makes Toyota’s Camry racy …

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

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

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

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL

Hyundai new Venue a primo entry-level vehicle …

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

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

Die-cast: BoS’s Vector M12

Vector M12 a rare beast, but BoS nails it …

If you’ve never heard of a Vector M12, or Vector, or maybe remember hearing of Vector but suspected it was long gone, well, you’re sort of right. Let’s just say Vector, like many supercar manufacturers through the years, has had an interesting history.

But god love ‘em, BoS (Best of Show Models) took on the project of creating a 1/18 scale Vector M12 from the late 1990s. And honestly, it’s a stunner! Think longer Lamborghini! This is one of 300 models of this limited edition Vector in a handsome gold. A red version also is available. Both are sealed body models.

First some muddled history. Here goes. Continue reading Die-cast: BoS’s Vector M12

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SEL S-AWC

New Eclipse Cross boosts Mitsubishi lineup …

First a quick history lesson on Mitsubishi for new and younger buyers. The Japanese car maker, most famous for making the nimble Zero aircraft during World War II, used to have a small, but fairly full vehicle lineup.

But tough times and a shrinking, aging lineup hurt Mitsubishi in the early 2000s. Its biggest claim to fame and popularity was its sporty Eclipse, but then even that went away as Mitsubishi began to claw back into the market by offering small SUVs. Last year it sold 121,000 vehicles a 2.5% gain over 2018 and its third year of 100,000+ sales and seventh year of growth. Continue reading 2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SEL S-AWC

Die-cast: Auto World’s 1969 Dodge Charger R/T

1969 Charger R/T  cool in Light Blue Poly …

As a teenager in 1969 I was enthralled with muscle cars for their speed, their rumbling V8s, and their looks. My family was Mopar crazy and so that made me a prime candidate to love Dodge’s Charger. But really, I was more into the Challenger and Plymouth’s Barracuda.

Once the Superbird came out, that was a winner too, in more ways than one. Continue reading Die-cast: Auto World’s 1969 Dodge Charger R/T

2020 Toyota GR Supra Premium

New Supra delivers: Oh What a Feeling …

Seems collectively we’ve forgotten that it’s fun to drive a car, a sports car in particular. Instead the driving nation thrives on the high-riding muscle of big pickups and SUVs that 25 years ago might have been considered farm implements, or candidates for a Monster Truck rally.

But growing up in Indianapolis, where traditionally there’s a big race in May, I got hooked early on fast, nimble cars. Toyota, while making plenty of off-road haulers, used to also offer up finesse and styling. Think all the way back to its original sports car, the 2000GT, a swanky needle nose fastback introduced in 1967. Continue reading 2020 Toyota GR Supra Premium

2020 Mazda3 AWD Premium

Stylish Mazda3 AWD, a car for drivers who love to drive …

Some people still enjoy driving a car, its feel, its handling, its sharp engagement of power, yet their bank accounts don’t allow for a BMW.

What to do?

Mazda has an answer, its Mazda3 in either sedan or hatchback mode. Both are driving dandies. This week’s drive was aboard a dark metallic gray ($300 extra) Mazda3 Premium sedan, its top of the line trim. Making it even better, this one added all-wheel-drive, something only Subaru’s Impreza offers in this price range and market segment. This car was made for Wisconsin.

First, the Mazda3 is a sharp looking compact sedan with a handsomely styled nose and a fabulous looking, and quiet, interior that speaks of luxury, not economy. And, if you want sporty handling to pair up with sporty looks, this is one of the few primo choices that regular folks can afford.

Mazda starts by making its formerly optional 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4 engine standard across the Mazda3 lineup (sedan and hatch). It is both fuel efficient and peppy, generating 186 horsepower with a torque rating to match. Not only that, it drinks regular unleaded and expels minimal emissions. The engine is no rocket, but when you engage the electronic Sport drive mode via the console toggle, it leaps to action, zipping the Mazda3 to highway speeds with vigor.

In Normal mode the sedan hesitates a bit upon acceleration, but still has good power, just seems less energetic. Gas mileage doesn’t suffer. I managed 28.0 mile per gallon in about a 50/50 mix of city and highway while the EPA rates this at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, again on regular gas.

Much of that you can attribute to Mazda using a fine 6-speed automatic transmission to engage the power. No CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) here. Sometimes those can be a bit lackadaisical as they aim to save fuel instead of instilling excitement. Note though that the automatic is all that’s available in the sedan and just one Mazda3 model, the Premium trim hatchback, offers a manual.

So while the Mazda3 will scoot pretty well, it’s more sports car peppy than muscle car macho. What it does well is create a joyful, fun feel for the road due to its fine handling. The Mazda3 turns into sharp corners with authority and purpose. There’s good feedback to the wheel that is appropriately firm, but not heavy. That translates to an entertaining, athletic drive.

Ride continues to improve from generation to generation in the Mazda3 and this longer 107.3-inch wheelbase helps create a well-controlled ride. However, Mazda returned to a torsion bar rear suspension (think previous-gen Mustang), away from a multi-link. I’ve enjoyed driving many a car with torsion-bar suspension, but this feels just a bit choppy on our distressed Midwest roads. Ride is never uncomfortable, but you’ll definitely know when you square up on a pothole.

Remember too this model added all-wheel-drive, so traction is improved in wet, sloppy weather, a norm much of the year for Wisconsin drivers.

Cream and black leather interior makes this a stylish entry-level sport sedan that many folks can afford.

As much fun as the Mazda3 is to drive, you’ll feel like you’ve slipped into at least an entry-level luxury sports sedan inside the Premium edition.

This sparkly gray tester featured a cream and black leather interior. The dash, doors and seats are all coated in leather, the seats being perforated (yes, and heated). The appearance is stylish and eye-catching. Trim is thin chrome on the dash and doors with satin chrome trim on the black leather wheel’s hub. The console’s face is black gloss with more black leather trim along its sides.

There’s a fine Bose sound system here and its chrome speaker covers on the doors add a bit of a jeweled looked to the interior. Fit, finish and quality inside look much improved from earlier models and the cockpit is much quieter too.

I like Mazda’s dash layout as it’s clean and easy to understand, and the infotainment screen is a sizeable 8.8 inches, plus is nicely tucked into the dash top’s center. That’s a styling improvement from earlier models.

Sadly (and I know I’ve said this before), Mazda doesn’t use a touchscreen, instead sticking with a big knob on the console to control the infotainment system. This is similar to the likes of BMW and Audi, not a good thing. This system isn’t intuitive. Just changing the channel is tough, and forget about setting or deleting favorites. Radios need to be simple enough to tune with a button punch while driving.

That somewhat spoils this otherwise fine interior for me.

Otherwise, the Premium model is a winner, coming with a full list of safety features, such as blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and assist, smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, adaptive front lighting and driver attention monitor. The latter is touchy, occasionally setting off a series of beeps and flashing a steering wheel image on the center instrument panel screen.

Nicely designed doors and release lever, plus the radio’s speaker cover looks sharp.

I also found the lane control to be overly strong, really turning the wheel hard away from a centerline to the point of being insistent. Sometimes, it must be noted, there is something that you’re avoiding on the road and you need to quickly adjust the wheel yourself to avoid that pothole, hubcap, mystery item, etc.

Overhead there also is a panoramic sunroof, and the car includes heated seats, a power driver’s seat with two memory settings, visors with extenders, paddle shifters behind the wheel, push-button start and a head-up display. Dual climate control also comes on the Premium model.

Seating is comfortable in front with mild contouring, and note that the heated seats get really warm, so the lowest setting is most used after a couple minutes of bun warming.

Legroom is particularly cramped in back, especially when a taller passenger or driver is up front, necessitating the front seat be pushed well back. Think of this as a back seat for kids primarily.

The rear seats split and fold flat to boost cargo room, which is a reasonable 13.2 cubic feet before seats are lowered. Releases in the trunk allow a driver to put the seats down without opening a rear door too.

Also, it should be noted the sedan is about eight inches longer than the hatchback to create expanded rear seat and cargo room.

There are a couple other concerns though. First, the Mazda3 automatically applies the park brake every time the car is turned off, or put into Park. That might make sense if this had a manual transmission, but it does not. This means the driver must press a brake release button every time the car is started, just to get it rolling. Can’t say how many times I put the car in Reverse only to have it strain against the parking brake as I tried to back from a parking space. It’s a small thing, but annoying daily.

Second, the A-pillars are rather large, somewhat blocking front side views at intersections, and while I was happy to have a wireless charging station ($275 extra), this one is in the storage box/armrest between the front seats. So to access it you must raise the armrest, which is awkward it you need to access the phone while driving. It’s also easy to forget the phone in the box.

Enough whining, the happy news beyond how this drives, is pricing. This upscale Premium version with AWD started at $28,820, including delivery. AWD is about $1,400 extra on a Mazda3 sedan. With just a few minor options the test car ended up at $30,645, a bargain at today’s prices.

Yet a base model with 16-inch wheels and tires, cloth interior, etc. starts at $22,420 for the sedan and $24,520 for the hatchback, considered a premium model of sorts. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard on all Mazda3s.

Good looking taillights give the car a more upscale look.

Select and Preferred trim levels come with 18-inch wheels and tires and leatherette interiors plus dual-zone climate controls. Preferred adds the power driver’s seat and memory features, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, heated seats and XM radio.

Premium gives you the bigger alloy wheels, adaptive lighting, fancy leather interior materials, the head-up display, sunroof and paddle shifters.

Even at the top-end of its trims the Mazda3 is a delight to drive, offering better styling inside and out than many of its competitors.

FAST STATS: 2020 Mazda3 AWD Premium

Hits: Sharp looker and sporty handling, peppy acceleration in Sport mode, controlled ride, plus AWD and good gas mileage. Quiet, luxury interior at value pricing, heated seats, large screen, panoramic sunroof, wireless charger and full complement of safety equipment.

Misses: Park brake sets automatically every time the ignition is turned off and is annoying to disengage each time you start the car, awkward rotary knob to adjust infotainment screen, large A-pillar restricts view, wireless charger location not convenient.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4, 186 horsepower

Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/manual mode

Weight: 3,248 lbs.

Length: 183.5 in.

Wheelbase: 107.3 in.

Cargo: 13.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/33

MPG: 28.0 (tested)

Base Price: $28,820 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $27,624

Major Options:

Cargo mat, $100

Illuminated door sill trim, $425

Machine gray paint, $300

Frameless auto-dim mirror, $275

Navigation SD card, $450

Wireless charging pad, $275

Test vehicle: $30,645

Sources: Mazda, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

 

 

Die-cast: CMF’s Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe

Ferrari Scaglietti Coupe a sexy dart …

The Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe is a sexy dart of a sports car with a distinctively long nose that may have brought automotive overcompensation to a new level in 1953.

Now CMF, a new die-cast firm to me, delivers a beautifully sculpted and executed resin version of this rare sports car to the 1/18 scale market. CMF comes to us from Germany and, like most die-cast and resin car models, is made in China. Each of its models (mostly high-end and exotics) is created in limited runs of 300 cars, each hand-numbered. In the U.S. market the brand is sold by American-Excellence, which sent us our sample. Continue reading Die-cast: CMF’s Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe

A priceless Corvair

More valuable to this family than any other car

63 corvair, 1963 chevy corvair, corvair, corvair monza, corvair convertibleBy Paul Daniel

I love going car spotting but sometimes the cars come to me like this 1963 Corvair. One of the fun things I do during the summer is work at Ironwood Golf Course, about five minutes from my house. One day I show up to work at a really big golf outing and what’s parked right out front? This 1962 Corvair Monza Continue reading A priceless Corvair

Die-cast: Replicarz 1972 Javelin Trans Am

AMC Javelin a winner in Donohue or Follmer trim …

Muscle car lovers appreciate the AMC Javelin because American Motors Corp. was much like The Little Engine That Could, and to beat all the Javelin was handsomely styled too.

Once AMC decided to take it racing in the Trans Am series in 1970, the company gained even more respect from racers as it was instantly competitive with the Mustangs and Camaros of the day. Continue reading Die-cast: Replicarz 1972 Javelin Trans Am

2020 Range Rover Sport HSE

Rover Sport packs panache, power …

There’s no denying a certain panache in the Land Rover name and a certain pride a Rover driver feels in its ability to crunch through the Serengeti brush and ford rushing hippo-infested streams as it takes you deep into the rugged, wild outback.

Yet Rover is no rough and tumble Jeep, it’s evolved into a luxury brand fit for the dinner-jacket and ascot crowd and proudly wears a hefty price at which one should expect all the finery a car maker can pack into a leather-slathered interior. Continue reading 2020 Range Rover Sport HSE

Die-cast: Autoart 2017 Ford GT

Ford GT, old or new, beautiful in any form …

Even before the recent Ford vs. Ferrari publicity machine rolled through our collective conscience car guys and gals knew all about the original Ford GT40, and at least a bit about its more modern Ford GT spinoff.

While the first was a butt-kicking racer that ruled Le Mans for four years, the latter is a beautiful street-legal remake that only the wealthy can afford. Now Autoart does something about that with its 1/18 scale rendering of the 2017 Ford GT in various paint schemes. Our review car was a snazzy black number with orange racing stripes and interior trim (my high school colors). Cool! Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart 2017 Ford GT

Die-cast: Auto World’s 1967 Shelby GT350

Rare Shelby GT350 originally meant for Hertz …

What car lover doesn’t long to own a Hertz-intended Shelby GT350, a rare black fastback Mustang from its 1960s hey days?

Most of us would part with some serious coin for one of these black beauties in any size and now Auto World delivers a stout one in 1/18 scale as part of its American Muscle series that reproduces cars honored at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals events.

Like others in this series it’s a high-value die-cast metal model with opening hood and doors and a finely detailed interior. Continue reading Die-cast: Auto World’s 1967 Shelby GT350

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