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2017 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription

Volvo’s new XC60 sporty, powerful2017 Volvo XC60

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.2017 Volvo XC60

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Die-cast: 1974 Coyote, Indy 500 pole car, A.J. Foyt

Replicarz’s latest Foyt Coyote a winner, except at Indy …1974 Indianapolis 500 pole car, Coyote, A.J. Foyt

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.

1974 Indianapolis 500 pole car, Coyote, A.J. Foyt

Front view of the 1974 Indianapolis 500 pole car emphasizes its wide nose.

The History

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.

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Die-cast: Autoart’s Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4

Lamborghini Huracan a 1/18-scale hottielambo3

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.Lamborghini Huracan

The History

The Huracan replaces Lamborghini’s popular and swoopy Gallardo model, the Huracan hitting the streets in late 2014.

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2016 Lexus RX 450h

Lexus restyles, upgrades its RX 450hlexus5

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.2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport

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.

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Die-cast: NEO’s 1/64 Mack, IH trucks

NEO’s tiny Mack, IH trucks offer big detailNEO 1/64 scale Mack and International trucks

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.

The History

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.NEO 1/64 scale Mack and International trucks

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.

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2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

New Santa Fe seats 7, looks better, roomier2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

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.

2017 Hyundai Santa FeIts 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.

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2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD2016 Mazda CX-9

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.mazda cx9b

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.

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2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …2017 Kia Sportage

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

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

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

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

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Die-cast: BoS-Models’ 1960 Plymouth Valiant

BoS nails it with early Plymouth Valiant …DSCF0189

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI SE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Advance

New Acura RLX sport sedan does it all2016 Acura RLX …

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 MINI Cooper Clubman

Bigger MINI makes Clubman more useful …2016 MINI Clubman

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

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

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

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

All that increases usefulness.

2016 MINI Clubman

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

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Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro

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

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

Well, count me among the converted.

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Audi TT 2.0T Quattro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The History

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

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2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Crewmax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo

Kia Optima, a better mid-size sedan …  kia2

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

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

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2016 Honda Civic EX

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

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

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

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

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26
Aug

2017 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription

Volvo’s new XC60 sporty, powerful2017 Volvo XC60

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.2017 Volvo XC60

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23
Aug

Die-cast: NEO’s 1/24 scale 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe

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.NEO 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe

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.

The History

In case you missed our Scale Auto DC review of that model, here’s a refresher.NEO 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe

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. Read more »

19
Aug

Die-cast: 1974 Coyote, Indy 500 pole car, A.J. Foyt

Replicarz’s latest Foyt Coyote a winner, except at Indy …1974 Indianapolis 500 pole car, Coyote, A.J. Foyt

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.

1974 Indianapolis 500 pole car, Coyote, A.J. Foyt

Front view of the 1974 Indianapolis 500 pole car emphasizes its wide nose.

The History

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. Read more

14
Aug

Die-cast: Autoart’s Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4

Lamborghini Huracan a 1/18-scale hottielambo3

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.Lamborghini Huracan

The History

The Huracan replaces Lamborghini’s popular and swoopy Gallardo model, the Huracan hitting the streets in late 2014. Read more

12
Aug

2016 Lexus RX 450h

Lexus restyles, upgrades its RX 450hlexus5

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.2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport

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. Read more

11
Aug

Die-cast: NEO’s 1/64 Mack, IH trucks

NEO’s tiny Mack, IH trucks offer big detailNEO 1/64 scale Mack and International trucks

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.

The History

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.NEO 1/64 scale Mack and International trucks

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. Read more

5
Aug

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

New Santa Fe seats 7, looks better, roomier2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

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.

2017 Hyundai Santa FeIts 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. Read more

3
Aug

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD2016 Mazda CX-9

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.mazda cx9b

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. Read more

29
Jul

I’m a gear head and propeller head

The biggest roar of engines you will ever hear!

eaa airventure 2016, eaa, oshkosh wi, airplanes, jets, And one of the few places you will hear them is where I was this week, AirVenture 2016 in Oshkosh, WI. I’m sure I’m not alone where I say that I get excited hearing a car like a new Corvette jump on the throttle as it comes out of a turn. Well take that feeling and multiply it by, let’s say 10! And if you think a Hellcat Charger at 700 hp is a lot, multiply that by about four and you have the horsepower of many of the engines in the warbirds up here, even more for the jets. In case you’re not familiar with the event it is the largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts in the world, held every year in Oshkosh, and hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). The event, which began on July 24th and runs through July 31st, spans the entire spectrum of aviation. It attracts 10,000 airplanes and more than 500,000 aviation enthusiasts from all over the world. If you haven’t I would highly encourage you to come to this event just once. It is a hoot. Read more »

25
Jul

Die-cast: AutoWorld’s 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

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

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

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

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

The History

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

22
Jul

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …2017 Kia Sportage

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

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

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

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

20
Jul

Don’t mess with a person who owns a Jeep

We were pinned in by a jerk

Wiki Commons

Wiki Commons

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

Jeep people don’t mess a round

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

16
Jul

Die-cast: BoS-Models’ 1960 Plymouth Valiant

BoS nails it with early Plymouth Valiant …DSCF0189

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

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

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

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

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

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

1
Jul

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI SE

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

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

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

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

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

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

24
Jun

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line

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

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

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

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

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

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