Koenigsegg Regera

Autoart creates a stellar 1:18 scale “practical” supercar …

Hard as it is to imagine, the 1500-horsepower Koenigsegg Regera is not meant for the racetrack.

No, Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg (bless you!) intends the Regera as a grand touring luxury sports car. PR from Christian von Koenigsegg, the car maker’s founder, says Regera is a more practical luxury car than its predecessor the Agera, or the new Jesko.

Somehow its looks and $1.89 milllion price tag do not send a practical message.

Autoart, who created four stellar Agera models, now turns its attention to the Targa-topped Regera, which it offers in three colors, White, Candy Red and Horizon Blue. While not cheap, the $300 price tag seems paltry compared with the nearly $2 mil original.

The History

Regera was introduced in 2016 and is still in production, but only 80 will ever be made, and all were pre-sold, so the Autoart versions are the most easily acquired.

Its name means to reign or rule and surely if you had the real thing it would rule any road it deigned to grace, and not just because of the price of entry, although that is sheik-worthy.

Regera touts a unique direct drive system in place of a tranny and links that with a plug-in hybrid system that combines a twin-turbo 5.0-liter V8 with three electric motors. Total output is 1,500 horsepower and 1,475 pound-feet of torque. The electric motors alone create 697 hp. Koenigsegg claims to have the most power-dense battery pack on the planet with an 800-volt liquid-cooled unit.

Naturally the Regera doesn’t weigh a lot, tipping the scales at just 3,500 lbs. and using 3D printed parts, carbon fiber, and Kevlar to ensure a feathery, but strong structure. Other goodies include active engine mounts, active rear and front wings, running lights known as constellation lights that resemble the night sky, and Regera rides on sticky Michelin Pilot Sport tires, 19-inch up front and 20-inch in back.

How fast is this practical luxury sports car?

Regera is the fastest car in the world from 0 to 249 mph, clipping it off in 31.49 seconds, which takes 1.8 seconds off its sister car, the Agera’s, previous record. Top speed is said to be limited to 251 mph.  Right, any faster would be silly, right?

The Model

               There is nothing silly about Autoart’s model , a gem from stem to stern with opening doors, hood and rear hatch, plus steerable wheels and a rear spoiler that can be deployed.

               The white model features a black center stripe of imitation carbon fiber that is trimmed in red. Its nose features a carbon fiber-look chin spoiler and the targa top is easily removed to expose the cockpit. That top has a clear panel inset to the black carbon fiber area too.

               Regera’s doors are fascinating, sliding outward first, then flipping up like scissor doors. Very clever and bravo to Autoart for mastering the mechanics. Side windows are fixed in the doors.

               The Regera’s black interior features black bucket seats with cloth shoulder harnesses that stay behind the seats, but you can see a photo-etched clasp near the seat’s base. The center console is nicely detailed as is the center stack with buttons clearly visible and the silver oval air ducts atop the stack and off to the sides of the dash. All are hooded as is the main instrument panel in front of the driver’s racy flat-bottom steering wheel.

               A giant single-armed wiper extends to cover the widespread wraparound windshield.

               Under the rear hatch is that big twin-turbo V8 with carbon fiber cover and battery packs and motors at the tail. With the hatch up you see sharp detailing of the rear suspension system too, with spring-over coils with copper canisters.

               Impressive too is the subtle Koenigsegg nameplate on the hatch’s rear lip.

               The thick treaded tires include the proper Michelin branding and sizing info (matte black on black) and there are huge drilled disc brakes behind the sporty black wheels. Red Koenigsegg-branded calipers complete the racy look, or should I say Practical?

Nice wheel, tire, and brake detail.

               What is practical are the two big black mirrors that are packed separately for the buyer to slip into holes drilled atop the doors. That was easy, and you’re given two extra in case you break or lose one.

               One other note, in case you think that front trunk (frunk) is useless, well the targa top will slide in there upside down for later use. Clever, both in real life and in this hyper-realistic model.

               Practical or racy Regera is one gorgeous car and Autoart creates one gorgeous model.

Vital Stats: Koenigsegg Regera

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 79027
MSRP: $300

Link: Autoartmodels.com

Car Spot: The much-maligned PT Cruiser

A car that could have been so much more …

Remember about 20 years ago when the car manufacturers were caught up in its nostalgia faze? That’s the period that gave us the new Mini Cooper, new VW Beetle, and Chrysler PT Cruiser. I know what you’re thinking. Either it was the coolest car or lamest car ever. That’s the way it rolled during its nine-year run from 2001-2010. But if you’re with the “lamest car ever” crowd I ask, how did it end up selling more than 1 million copies?

Clean PT Cruiser I spotted while on vacation in Fl

PT Cruiser was described as “segment busting” in the marketplace in its introduction where then Chrysler’s Dieter Zetsche (Remember: “Merger of Equals”) described it as a continuing example of the automaker’s innovation for new segments as well as “demonstrates that you can have head-turning style, practicality, and value all in one package.” The automotive press agreed. In 2001 Car and Driver named the PT Cruiser to its Ten Best list and the PT Cruiser also won the North American Car of the Year.

The interior packaging was noted for its high-roof, high h-point seating, and flexible cargo and passenger configurations—a multi-level cargo shelf as well as a fold, tumble, and removable rear seating. Chrysler designed the PT Cruiser to fit the NHTSA criteria for a light truck in order to bring the average fuel efficiency of the company’s truck fleet into compliance with CAFE standards. Engines included two four bangers, a six, turbo diesel, and turbo four. My mom had one of these and just loved it.

There were a bunch of updates and special editions available during the car’s, err truck’s, nine-year run. Among them, Classic edition, Limited edition, Touring edition, Couture edition, “Dream Cruiser”, “Street Cruiser”, “Pacific Coast Highway” edition”, and PT Cruiser GT. In fact, it was the ability to customize the PT Cruiser that made it so popular.

The non-GT Turbo (180 hp) edition models, introduced in 2004, were identified by a “2.4L Turbo” badge on the lower right-hand corner of the rear lift-gate like this one I found on a recent trip to Florida. The GT model, introduced in 2003, had a “2.4L Turbo High Output” badge on the right-hand corner of the lift-gate indicating the 215–230 hp engine version.

Car was originally going to be sold through Chrysler and Plymouth.

The car is a great example of a manufacturer simply forgetting about the car. Sales dropped off and the production run ended. But there is still a devout following for the car with owner groups all over the country. You can pick a GT up for under $3,000. Fun car for not a lot of money.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe

Lively M440i noses ahead of luxury coupe competition …

Back in the day (old dudes expression) BMW’s 2002 coupe wasn’t so grand, it was just light and lively and sold like schnitzel in Munich.

Now the German brand’s M440i xDrive is a Gran Coupe that is less light, but awfully lively with 382 horsepower compared with 99 in that original 1960s model. It’s everything a sporting driver could want in a compact Gran Coupe, and I’m sorry, but I like the nose. Then again I liked the Edsel’s nose, back in the day.

Sadly almost every review of BMW’s 4 Series hot rod dwells on its two large kidney-shaped grilles that dominate its beak. Journalists who may have praised the Pontiac Aztek’s dramatic looks or Chrysler’s PT Cruiser for its daring retro design are whining that this nose is “too much.”

They forget that nearly all of today’s luxury makes, and a growing number of others, now tout massive grilles, usually featuring a logo the size of a human head at their middle. Some look better than others.

I also recall both BMW using similar designs in the past and those being considered Iconic. Even Pontiac (remember Ponty?) often used similar styling on its noses, considered sporty, back in the day.

So let’s move beyond the nose. Besides, all the young guys I asked Loved the nose and instantly knew this M440i was a Bimmer. I’m pretty sure BMW’s marketing folks would consider that a success.

This sharp-looking fastback IS fast, nimble and delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride, all at a decidedly luxury price tag.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 BMW 440i which sort of looks like a Pontiac – YouTube

First, Gran Coupe’s silhouette oozes speed and sleekness as the rear window and roofline blends right into the short trunk lid. But it’s not just the trunk lid that opens. No, that entire structure, window and trunk open like a hatch. It’s massive, but works fine. Of course the rear seats split and fold in case long cargo needs transported.

Yet it’s unlikely that M440i buyers are primarily seeking cargo carriers.

No, the Gran Coupe is for ripping along highways and rural roads at speed, cornering like it’s a racer. That’s why there’s a twin-turbo 3.0-liter I6 beneath its long snout. As mentioned prior, the turbomeister cranks 382 horses and delivers 369 pound-feet of torque, yet does it so smoothly via the 8-speed automatic that you’ll barely notice when you hit 100+ on a freeway entry ramp. Don’t ask how I know.

Now if you’d care to save some coin and maybe get slightly better gas mileage, a 2.0-liter I4 that makes “just” 255 horses is available in the base BMW 430i, but it’s just rear-wheel-drive.

This M440i xDrive comes with all-wheel-drive, hence the xDrive moniker. That assures all the power is delivered to the appropriate wheels once roads becoming slippery. I’m looking at you Wisconsin.

It seems to me that through the years BMW has softened its ride and steering in most models, just enough to make them feel plush and luxurious on normal Midwest roads. However, the sporty nature is always there, as is the power. This M440i is all that.

Ride is comfortable in all modes (Comfort, Eco Pro, Adaptive), save for Sport. That firms the steering and ride. Steering tightening is welcome, but the firmer suspension setting makes the ride overly stiff. Stick with Comfort for normal driving, or Adaptive that supposedly chooses the appropriate gearing, steering input and ride quality that is called for at any instant.

In any case there is a sport suspension here with struts up front and a fine multi-link system in back – well-controlled, never punishing!

Inside the BMW remains sophisticated and well laid out. Seating is tan leather while the entire interior runs with a black over tan theme. So the dash and door tops are black, the tan trim below that, plus satin chrome trim on dash and doors with a bit of black wood on the passenger’s side dash. That wood is featured on the console’s top too, again with satin chrome trim.

Dash layout is simple and the infotainment screen is a 10.3-incher and easy to see and adjust. There are 8 radio preset buttons below the screen and a small volume control knob for the radio. There’s also a volume adjustment on the steering wheel hub.

Oddly the seats are manually adjusted with a couple handles on the seat’s side and a bar under the lower cushion. I’d expect power at this price. Seats are comfortable and supportive, as you’d expect in a performance-oriented coupe. They also are heated, but not cooled, again something I’d expect at this level.

BMW’s steering wheel is heated too, with a button nestled just below the center hub. However, this is a standard round wheel, where a sportier flat-bottomed wheel makes sense.

Good screen and climate controls make operation easy while driving.

There’s also a good-sized sunroof overhead and a wireless charger just below the center stack. An inside trunk release button is on the driver’s door.

Gas mileage was surprisingly good for a performance car. I got 25.5 mpg in about 60% highway driving, but with several heavy acceleration bursts (solely for test purposes). Sadly to get its full horsepower this twin-turbo prefers premium (93 octane). The EPA rates the car at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, which beats all the SUVs and most of the non-hybrid crossovers.

Stylish wheels and red brake calipers add some flare.

So what are the damages here?

Not so rough at the entry 430i level with the lower horsepower engine and RWD. The base is $46,195, while the tested M440i xDrive jumps to $59,195, including delivery.

But this one was a snazzy dark metallicSan Remo Green that added $550, plus there were six other options that jumped the M440i to $67,520. Most surprising was a $350 add-on for a Sensa-Tec dash, which translates to soft vinyl. Again, I would expect that to be standard.

A nice addition for $875 is the fine Harman Kardon surround sound audio system, much less costly than the $3,200 Volvo wanted for its Bowers & Wilkins system upgrade in the XC60 a few weeks ago. Ouch!

Other add-ons include a $2,400 cooling and high-performance tire package with an upgraded M sport suspension and performance tires, plus fancy double-spoke, bi-color alloy wheels, along with a parking assistance package for $700 that adds a surround view camera and parking sensors.

How’s this for a handsome, stylish door panel?

A driving assistance professional package adds front cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control with Stop & Go, active driving assistant pro, an evasion aid, active lane keeping assist with side collision avoidance, traffic jam assistant and extended traffic jam assistant, for $1,700. I suspect the smart cruise control is optional as BMW designs its cars for enthusiastic drivers who may not want that feature standard.

Finally, for $1,750 the premium package adds a head-up display, the heated front seats and steering wheel, ambient lighting and gesture control technology, which may make you think it won’t allow you to give other drivers hand gestures. Would that it could stop that. But it really allows a driver to make a sweeping motion to turn the radio’s volume up or down, decline a phone call or change a rear camera angle.

Without all the doodads an M440i xDrive could be had in the low $60,000 range and while that’s a luxury price tag, it’s a bargain for this amount of performance.

FAST STATS: 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe

Hits: Sharp fastback styling, super acceleration, sporty handling and good ride. Heated wheel and seats, multiple drive modes, wireless charger, sophisticated interior with big screen, sunroof, and supportive seats.

Misses: Prefers premium unleaded, price. Plus needs flat-bottom wheel, cooled seats and powered seats.

Made in: Dingolfing, Germany

Engine: 3.0-liter twin turbo I6, 382 hp/369 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,169 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.4 in.

Length: 188.5 in.

Cargo: 12.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/29

MPG: 25.5 (tested)

Base Price: $59,195 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $55,620

Options:

San Remo Green Metallic paint, $550

Cooling, high-performance tire package (M tech pkg, adaptive M suspension & tire mobility kit, P245/40R19 Front & P255/40R19 rear high-perf tires, M double-spoke bi-color style 861M alloy wheels), $2,400

Driving assistance professional package (front cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control w/Stop & Go, active driving  assistant pro, evasion aid, active lane keeping assist w/side collision avoidance, traffic jam assistant & extended traffic jam assistant), $1,700

Parking assistance package (surround view camera w/3D view, active park distance control & parking assistant plus), $700

Premium package (gesture control technology, HUD, ambient lighting, heated front seats & steering wheel), $1,750

SensaTec dashboard, $350

Harman Kardon surround sound, $875

Test vehicle: $67,520

Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Car Spot: Cadillac Allanté

A Caddy with an Italian accent

I was a huge fan of the Dallas tv series that ran for 14 seasons beginning in 1978. One of the reasons was to watch bad guy J. R. Ewing played by Larry Hagman, screw his arch neminsis Cliff Barnes, played by Ken Kercheval. I remember well the car J. R. drove through parts of the series, a Cadillac Allanté.

With Mercedes and Jaguar chipping into Caddy sales in the 80s they were looking for something that would combine European design with a well-known coachbuilder and the Allanté was going to be it. I’m going to throw in a little bit of Nash history here because the Allanté utilized a similar international production arrangment as Nash did with its Nash-Healey in the early 50s where the bodies were built in Italy and final assembly was in the US.

Allanté in for service I saw on a recent trip to Florida.

But here’s where things get goofy. After the Allanté body was produced by Pininfarina in Italy, were then loaded on a specially equipted Boeing 747, flown 4,600 miles, 56 bodies at a time, landed at Coleman Young International Airport in Detroit and then trucked the final three miles to Cadillac’s then new Hamtramck Assembly Plant. The marketing guys came up with a name for this crazyness, the “Allanté Air Bridge”.

The car went head to head with the Mercedes-Benz SL and Jaguar XJS, and initially featured a slightly modified variant of the 4.1 L V8 used across Cadillac’s model line and later upped to 4.5 L in 1989, and upgraded to the 4.6 L L37 Northstar in its final year, 1993. It rode on a shortened the front-drive Eldorado frame.

The car was loaded with tech, especially for the time period, such as a Delco-GM/Bose Symphony Sound System, the industry’s first power retractable AM/FM/Cellular Telephone antenna, and a complex lamp-out module that substituted an adjacent lamp for a burned-out bulb in the exterior lighting system until the dead one could be replaced were all standard. There was just one option, a cellular telephone, installed in a lockable center console. The base price was $54,700 twice that of a standard Eldorado.

The first modern-era two-passenger roadster to wear the Cadillac name since the Cadillac Series 355 roadster body style of the mid-1930s was really too expensive to produce and there weren’t just that many takers, 21,430. The last Allanté built was flown from Turin, Italy on July 2, 1993, and completed at Detroit-Hamtramck 14 days later. This, to me, is another example of a big fail by GM and its history is full of them.

With such low numbers, you’d think that the Allanté might be a good investment as a collector car but you’d be wrong. A check on Hemmings and I found examples for around 10 grand all the way up to 60 grand. Still like many other examples I’ve shared in my spots, this one has a very loyal following.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4

Going bigger with three rows to carry more crew, plus cargo …

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has been a stout and stylish off-road capable SUV with a strong niche in the marketplace, so it’s natural for Jeep to try and build on that with a longer version, the L.

Timing might not be in its favor with gas prices soaring at the moment, but a 3-row SUV that’s off-road capable, and loaded with luxury inside just might turn some heads away from the Chevy Tahoes, Ford Explorers, and Honda Pilots of the world. Time will tell.

But from a ride and comfort perspective the Grand Cherokee L, which debuted as a 2021 model, moves among the leaders in this SUV segment. Looks also set it apart, at least from a snout-view where there are the seven bars on the grille and a handsome nose that easily portrays a more sophisticated Jeep image.

Mine was a Silver Zynith ($395 extra) Summit Reserve 4×4 model with a black roof, the absolute top of the line. That means the price is waist-deep luxury level, but the interior certainly delivers on that with enough cowhide to worry any herd.

But let’s look at the dimensional and people-friendly basics.

First, the L is about a foot longer (11.4 inches) than the Grand Cherokee and provides much more cargo space under the hatch. Plus the third-row seat, while slightly elevated, delivers enough foot and legroom for an adult to ride in back. With its second row captain’s chairs though this version will only haul six.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L – YouTube

Getting to that rear row is easy enough too as the second row seats flip and slide forward, although unlatching them can be a little more difficult from the rear seat than when entering through the side door. Kids may want to exit between the captain’s chairs although there is a considerable second-row console there.

Easy access to the third-row seats, plus they power down from inside the hatch.

Also the third row can be powered down from inside the rear hatch and the second row seats also can be released from there for easy loading of long items. So functionally, this is a win for a family of six, or seven at lower levels where a second row bench is available.

Driving it?

Well, there are two engine choices, the tester coming with the more efficient 3.6-liter V6 that makes a strong 293 horsepower and creates 390 pound-feet of torque. A giant 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 357 horses and a torque rating of 390 also is available

Couple this V6 with five drive modes, Rock, Sand/Mud, Snow, Auto, and Sport, and it’s possible to take the Grand Cherokee L off road into some serious muck and over rocks, small trees, etc. Jeep says this will ford 24 inches of water for cryin’ out loud. Plus the L will tow up to 6,200 pounds, so hook up the camper or pontoon boat and head to the state park.

Happily the extended Grand Cherokee also rides well on and off-road. There’s not much jostling to passengers, even on our crumbling Wisconsin roads, which if you think about it sort of reflect the rocky nature of some off-road trails. The Quadra-Lift air suspension does a superior job of smoothing the ride.

But the steering does not feel as heavy, nor as precise as one might imagine, more of a big luxury SUV feel, which (along with its price) makes me wonder if many L buyers will really take these off-road. Still, keeping it in its lane on the highway is no chore, but cornering at speed you’ll notice some body lean as you would with other large SUVs.

Inside, the Summit Reserve oozes luxury from the get-go.

Luxury is the key inside with quilted leather and real walnut trim on doors and dash.

First, it’s quiet. Second the seats and doors are bathed in an orangish tan Palermo leather that was a bit too orange for my liking, and the family frankly found it garish. It feels high-quality soft and there’s a diamond stitch pattern on the seat edges and doors that insinuates luxury. Dash and door tops are black and Jeep uses real open-pore walnut trim on the dash and doors. That’s impressive and one-ups most of the luxury and near-luxury makes.

Naturally those seats are heated and cooled up front and the rears are heated too. The $3,000 Summit Reserve option package adds cooling to the second row seats, while also tacking on active noise control, a 950-watt amp, deluxe suede-like headliner, and 21-inch tires and special wheels.

Jeep’s seats provide good support and there’s a power lower leg extension to aid long-legged drivers. Second row seats are equally comfy and the third row a little stiffer, but still not bad. Second row manual sun shades and a wireless charger are a $245 add-on, but seem like they should be standard on a luxury ute.

Yes, that’s real wood on the dash and doors. American walnut to be precise.

Yet Jeep also tacks on a $1,795 delivery fee to pad the price as delivery is only coming from Detroit, not off-shore.

Other goodies on the Summit Reserve include a heated steering wheel and giant two-pane sunroof, one of the biggest I’ve seen.

Jeep continues with its easy-to-use infotainment system and big info screen. This is simple to tune and see. The Summit Reserve adds a 19-speaker McIntosh stereo system that sounds great too, but in a premium model you’d expect premium sound.

The McIntosh audio sounds great but reflects at night.

One downside to the McIntosh system though, there are round-topped speakers tucked into the dash’s front corners. Their shape and reflective surface means that in night driving where there are streetlights over the highway a weird circular reflection or flash occurs in the corners of the windshield as you drive. It can be distracting.

Yet on the safety front the Jeep Grand Cherokee L packs everything you’d expect or want, from smart cruise control and lane departure assist to blind-spot warning and cross-path detection. Parking sensors watch all around, including sides (some extra beeps), there’s a 360-camera, pedestrian and cyclist emergency braking systems, and parallel and perpendicular park assist.

The test Jeep added an Advanced ProTech Group IV for another $1,995. It includes a head-up display, night vision w/pedestrian/animal detection, rear-view auto-dimming digital mirror, and interior rear-facing camera to help watch out for rear seat shenanigans.

OK, so the rear end isn’t so stylish, but it has a power hatch.

No running board was added though, so step-in height remains rather high as this has 8.5 inches of ground clearance. For the record, black steps cost $875, chrome steps $975.

All told the test vehicle went from a base price of $61,455, including delivery, to $67,090 after options, putting it solidly in the luxury segment.

I like the slim, elegant look of the Grand Cherokee L’s nose.

Of course, there’s a base model, the Laredo, which is rear-wheel-drive, but that just seems wrong for a Jeep. It starts at $40,685, but adding 4WD increases that to $42,685. The trim levels climb from there to Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and the tested Summit Reserve, all of which include 4WD. Fully equipped the Summit Reserve can eclipse $70 grand.

So far there is no hybrid L model, while several competitors do offer a hybrid. One might expect Jeep to add one soon.

Note too that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models are two more new 3-row SUVs available from Jeep. They are bigger yet, being 10 inches longer overall with a three-inch longer wheelbase and are capable of towing an additional 3,800 pounds.

I reviewed the Wagoneer earlier this year, and will test the Grand Wagoneer soon!

FAST STATS: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4

One more shot of the ritzy walnut trim.

Hits: Roomy 3-rows, quiet luxury interior, good power and ride, plus off-road capable. Heated/cooled leather seats, walnut dash/door trim, heated steering wheel and second row seats, giant sunroof, wireless charger, big easy-to-use info screen, five drive modes, power extendable lower seat cushion for driver.

Misses: Feels big and heavy, especially when cornering, big step-in height, so-so gas mileage and no hybrid available yet. High price and the fancy McIntosh stereo speakers in the dash reflect overhead street lights in windshield.

Made in: Detroit, Mich.

Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 293 hp/260 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,524 lbs.

Wheelbase: 121/7 in.

Length: 204.9 in.

Cargo: 17.2, 46.9, 84.6 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,200 lbs.

MPG: 18/25

MPG: 20.3 (tested)

Base Price: $61,455 (includes delivery and AWD)

Invoice: $63,884

Major Options:

Silver Zynith paint, $395

Summit Reserve Group (21-inch painted aluminum wheels, R21 all-season tires, Palermo leather seats, 19-speaker high performance audio, active noise control system, 950-watt amplifier, cooled rear seats, deluxe headliner, Palermo leather door trim), $3,000

Advanced ProTech Group IV (head-up display, night vision w/pedestrian/animal detection, rear-view auto-dimming digital mirror, interior rear-facing camera), $1,995

Luxury Tech Group V (wireless charging pad, manual second row window shades), $245

Test vehicle: $67,090

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

1959 Cadillac Rat Fink hearse

Auto World Eldorado goes wild with Kustom Kartoon Kreation …

OK, I get it, Rat Fink is a cultural icon.

For some reason folks were drawn to the grotesque caricature of a rat with bulging bloodshot eyes ogling a 1950s hot rod or fondling a gear shift knob as he drooled in the bucket seat of a custom car. I didn’t get it.

But the 1950s and 1960s were strange times with a lot of drugs. I was just a kid.

Yet the Kustom Kulture movement got started on the West Coast as men home from World War II and the Korean War started jazzing up and customizing old 1930s car bodies and making fancy street rods, which just carried on into the 1960s.

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth started creating T-shirts with his crazy looking Rat Fink and selling them through Car Craft magazine with 1959 credited for the Fink slithering into the spotlight. So it’s appropriate in a way that Auto World’s funky new Rat Fink Hearse is a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. This 1:18 scale metal diecast model is an absolute eyeful that will immediately become the centerpiece of any large diecast car display.

The History

I’ve touched on the history a bit, but for the uninitiated let’s dig a little deeper. Sales of Roth’s “Weirdo shirts” blew up in late 1959 and others soon were hopping on the custom band wagon. His monsters in hot rod shirts not only took off, but Roth designed the Outlaw, a fiberglass custom rod and the Beatnik Bandit along with some dune buggies that made the movies and kept the momentum going as custom car magazines were happy to have a media star.

Rat Fink itself got so popular that Revell made a plastic kit of the creepy creature, along with some of the other Roth characters, such as Brother Rat Fink, Mr. Gasser and Drag Nut. The rest, as the trite saying goes, is history.

Roth for his part kept making funky cars and motorcycles, had a band, and participated in all sorts of custom car exhibits and shows for the rest of his life. He died in 2001.

The Model

               So what have we here? Well, Auto World has made a number of Cadillac and Chevy hearses and ambulances for collectors.  Those include 1:64 and 1:18 scale models of the 1959 and 1966 Cadillac, plus a 1957 Chevy ambulance and hearse in 1:64 scale.

               This ’59 Eldo is a dark metallic red (not your usual hearse color), with a blacked out windshield and printed dark green curtains lining the long vehicle’s side windows, looking to caricature drapes in old hearses and fitting neatly with the Rat Fink theme.

               Of course there are Rat Fink touches everywhere, but dominated by the monster Fink himself on the Caddy’s expansive roof. Here the Fink is a slimy green with a black R.F. shirt and top hat, appropriate for his undertaking duties here. Of course there are the hairy ears, bulging eyes and slim sharp pointy rat teeth too, and his warty feet and tail providing him support. A few flies circle his stinky head.

               The Rat Fink logo in black, looking like a devilish Mickey Mouse (that’s who Roth was supposedly pimping originally) graces the hood. Beneath the logo are the words “Rat Poison!” near the hood’s front edge. The Cadillac logo is silvered out so again cartoon-like.

               Right behind the headlights on the side panel are flying bloodshot eyeballs and the hearse’s sides feature red and silvery gray Rat Fink profile logos (again reflecting Mickey Mouse, but with teeth) in a pattern like wallpaper. Lime green accents scroll along the top of that side decoration and the green and gold (Green Bay Packer colors?) jagged letters along the side spell out Rat Fink. What else?

               The blacked out rear three-quarter windows and hearse hatch include a stylized white top hat in one, green and white Haulin’ Hearse in back and then white script of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in the other rear window. The black tail features red and white words reading “Rat Fink Rod.”

               From the car standpoint the hood, doors and rear hearse door open and the wheels are steerable.

               As with any ’59 Caddy there is chrome everywhere from the huge front grille and bumpers to the rear with its jet-like lower taillight trim to the rocket like tail fins and light surrounds. Head and taillights look realistic and the hearse features chrome mirrors, strakes on the hood, wipers and trim just under that blacked-out windshield. Side windows are trimmed in silver paint.

               The black dash is nicely detailed and the bench seat in front is black and lime green to complement the car’s exterior markings and those green drapes. There’s a divider window behind the front seat and an empty body-color cargo area where presumably a hideous Kustom Kreature would be creeping out of a Kustom Kasket in “real” life.

               Tires are wide white sidewalls with no branding and the undercarriage is detailed with twin exhausts.

               This one is just for fun, and certainly recreates the caricature-rich look of Rat Fink on a custom hearse of all things. It’s irreverent, silly, creepy and wacky, just like the original demands and a fitting tribute to Roth’s imagination.             

Vital Stats: 1959 Cadillac Rat Fink Hearse

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AW303
MSRP: $131.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Car Spot: Dodge Magnum

A superfast grocery getter …

Show of hands. How many reading this remember station wagons? Most likely it was your parents who purchased one to haul the family around on vacations. We had a 1967 AMC Rebel and went all over the country with it. I remember dad ordering it and opting for the 290 V8. This was the Gen-2 short-deck that produced a respectable 225 hp. That engine was the basis for AMC’s upcoming entry into Trans-Am and the muscle car era. But the words station wagon and muscle car were almost never mentioned in the same breath.

Magnum ad I found for sale on eBay

Fast forward to 2005 when the words came together in the form of the Dodge Magnum. Where, for under $38 grand you could get a people hauler that was capable of 0-60 in less than six seconds, when ordered as the RT version with its 345ci Hemi V8 producing 340 horsepower.

Dodge Magnum I spotted in for service at a shop in Florida when I was visiting

This was the handywork of soon to retire head of design Tom Gale and done before the “merger of equals” with Daimler in 1998. Don’t get me started on that because my dad was there during that fiasco.

Based on the Chrysler LX platform the Magnum RT used the Mercedes-Benz derived 5-speed automatic. It also had fog lights; a bright grille; leather seats, steering wheel, and shifter; and a six-speaker stereo along with four-wheel disc brakes and anti-locks were also part of the deal.

The car sold well and was well-received by the automotive press and in 2005 was one of Car and Driver’s Ten Best. There’s an AMC connection here because it was built in Brampton, Ontario, a plant that AMC had bought just before being purchased by Chrysler in 1987.

Like so many fun cars, this one has a sad ending.

On Nov. 1, 2007, Chrysler announced that, as part of its restructuring plans, the Dodge Magnum would be one of four models discontinued after the 2008 model year. In Chrysler’s words: “The Magnum, along with the PT Cruiser convertible, the Crossfire, and the Pacifica were not earning their keep”. Production ended on March 28, 2008.

I was at a media event just after this and was told by an insider that it was a retiring Chrysler executive who never liked the Magnum that convinced management to pull the plug. There were almost 170,000 of this iteration of the Magnum which is not a bad number when you consider vehicles that have sold less have stuck around a lot longer. Had this vehicle somehow found a fan in the company to save it for a bit longer, there’s almost no way it would still be alive in the current environment where SUVs have taken the place of the station wagon.

But the vehicle has created almost a cult following and you can pick up the RT’s more muscular brother, the SRT8, which had a bigger Hemi and could do 0-60 in just a touch over 5 seconds for under $25 grand.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

2022 Volvo XC60 B6 AWD R-Design

XC60 touts style inside and out, awesome ride …

Rare are the crossovers whose styling stands out enough to catch your eye on the highway or in daily stop-and-go traffic. Yet Volvo’s collection of XC models will do just that.

I’m no expert on style, but (with apologies to former Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart), I know it when I see it.

The tested XC60 B6 AWD R-Design, clad in Crystal White Metallic ($695 extra) seemed intent on raising property values in our neighborhood while resting in our driveway. This was not just another luxury crossover, all boxy and grinning an oversized goofy black-grilled smile.

No, the Swedish carmaker (now owned by China’s Geely Holding Group) still designs with a Scandinavian minimalism and sophistication that gives its vehicles a unique look, while continuing the auto world trend of placing a large logo on its vehicle’s nose. That’s OK, the headlights and grille look lean and taunt and the taillights’ sideways V-design immediately distinguishes the brand.

For the record, a couple years ago Volvo started calling its T-shaped headlight lenses Thor’s Hammer to create a skosh of marketing excitement. They do look sharp!

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Volvo XC60 – YouTube

XC60 is sort of a large compact crossover, one level up from the small XC40 and well shy of the XC90 that borders between mid-size and large.

That means XC60 rides on a 112.8-inch wheelbase that gives it outstanding ride quality, more along the lines of a larger crossover, yet is a compact 184.6-inches long, so easy to park and maneuver. Handling borders on sporty as little steering input is needed to switch lanes or zip into a tight parking space.

Power is smooth as silk and plentiful in this R-Design model, a mid-level trim. Standard is a supercharged and turbocharged I4 2.0-liter engine, coupled with a mild 48-volt hybrid system to take some electrical pressure off the powertrain. That’s good for 295 horses and a 310 torque rating, while delivering 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, says the EPA. I got 21.0 mpg in about 60% highway driving.

Volvo offers several other power choices though, including a base level 2.0-liter I4 that makes 247 horses and a peppier plug-in hybrid model with 400 horses and that provides 35 miles of all-electric power. But the plug-in will put you mighty close to spending $70 grand.

This R-Design with the gas-only engine and mild hybrid starts at $56,195, with delivery, so certainly a luxury level vehicle. Sadly this one went overboard on options and hit $65,990, so deep into the luxury market.

Certainly the XC60 is easy on the eyes and easy to drive with its silky powertrain, including an 8-speed automatic transmission. Braking is solid too with big vented disc brakes. Towing is possible too as this model is rated to pull 3,500 pounds.

Inside the XC60 continues Volvo’s high standard of style and functionality, this one featuring a light gray leather interior with white piping on the seats and lighter gray to white inserts in the upper seatbacks. The dash includes metal meshwork and the Bowers & Wilkins speaker covers are jeweled-look mesh too.

Volvo’s seats are powered and multi-adjustable, the lower cushion able to be extended, a help for drivers with long legs. Seats also are heated and cooled while being incredibly supportive, especially the seat backs. These are borderline racing seats as they wrap around the front seat folks so well.

Rear seats are heated too, as is the steering wheel, part of a $750 option package that adds headlight washers.

Rear seat gets heat controls, nice info screen up front!

Also added was the Advanced package for $2,050. It includes a head-up display, smart cruise control with driver assistance, a 360-degree camera, advanced air cleaner and 12-volt outlet in the cargo area. The hatch also is powered, but that adds $200, which seems odd these days as power hatches are pretty much standard on trim levels above the base models.

Volvo uses a vertical 10-inch touchscreen to direct infotainment data, such as radio station selection. While it’s easy to see and tap, there also are other features to be accessed by sliding the screen. I find that awkward while driving.

Also, the heated steering wheel and seats are controlled via that screen, but activated by tiny icons that are not the easiest to see and get at, again while driving. But it all looks great!

Overhead is a monster dual-pane sunroof and the test vehicle added an awesome B&W premium audio system, but it carries a big price tag at $3,200. I’ve purchased cars for less.

Other options include a 4-corner air suspension system at $1,800, a feature that certainly adds to the enviable ride comfort here. For another grand the tester added 21-inch 5-double-spoke black diamond alloy wheels. If you’re already at $60,000 and change, why not?

Safety equipment is as you’d expect on a luxury model, or most models at this point, from lane departure assist and other semi-autonomous features, to automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear park assist, etc.

One other note on the driving front, naturally there is the Stop/Start feature that all modern vehicles now include, aimed at saving miniscule amounts of fuel. But the Volvo also, for safety reasons, will not creep forward once your foot is removed from the brake pedal. Nearly all other vehicles do, and we all use that creep as a stoplight turns green.

Well, here you’ll need to be prepared to touch the accelerator to get any creep as you begin moving away from a stoplight or stop sign. Much like Stop/Start, it takes some getting used to, especially when backing out of a driveway or parking space. The first few times it’s possible you’ll over accelerate. Be forewarned!

I’d also expect a power tilt/telescope steering wheel in a luxury level crossover, along with a power rear hatch. Maybe for 2023!

Yet for beauty and driving comfort coupled with interior style and suppleness, the XC60 is a solid alternative to the European and Asian luxury makes. Few will beat its ride!

FAST STATS: 2022 Volvo XC60 B6 AWD R-Design

Hits: Good looker, excellent power, ride and handling. Big sunroof, heated wheel, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, comfy seats with adjustable side bolsters, big touchscreen, awesome stereo, a stylish luxury interior, plus a full bevy of safety equipment.

Thor’s hammer T-shaped headlights rock!

Misses: Touchscreen use (beyond main screen) is distracting to use while driving and no power tilt/telescope steering wheel here. Plus the power hatch costs extra and this drinks premium fuel.

Made in: Gothenburg, Sweden

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo, supercharged I4, 295 hp/310 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,378* lbs. (*Car and Driver)

Wheelbase: 112.8 in.

Length: 184.6 in.

Cargo: 22.4-63.6 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/27

MPG: 21.0 (tested)

Base Price: $56,195 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options: Climate package (headlamp washers, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel), $750

Advanced package (HUD, Pilot Assist including smart cruise control and driver assistance, 360-view camera, 12v outlet in cargo area, advanced air cleaner), $2.050

Crystal white metallic paint, $695

Power tailgate, $200

Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, $3,200

4-corner air suspension, $1,800

21-inch 5-double-spoke black diamond alloy wheels, $1,000

Test vehicle: $65,990

Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

Auto World launches its first Barbie Bel Air in 1:18 scale …

Turquoise and pink certainly team up to shout 1950s car fashion, but in this case they also scream Barbie dream car.

I’m no Barbie expert (no sisters), but I do know that the bosomy blonde doll has been partial to brightly colored cars through the years, from Corvettes to Campers. And although the iconic toy doll debuted in 1959, it took until 1988 before maker Mattel slipped her behind the wheel of a 1950s American classic, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible.

This was the original plastic Mattel Barbie Bel Air.

 Well, that classic was plastic, and not very detailed. Now comes an eye-popping die-cast metal version from Auto World, which makes dozens of 1950s-1970s muscle cars and other vintage automotive icons. The same quality and attention to detail as in its other cars and trucks is present in this Barbie special, being marketed under its Silver Screen Machines category as the “Coolest car in town!”

Indeed, Barbie has driven a lot of cars from an Austin Healey early on to Ferraris and the ’57 Chevy. All have been various shades of pink, with other bright colors mixed in. But mostly Barbie is seems a girly girl, so pink drives her world.

Auto World knows that, so it will offer two 1:18 Bel Air convertibles, the first out being a turquoise and chrome stunner with a Pepto pink interior. Trust me, this one will stand out in any die-cast collection. Later (as if this isn’t eye-melting enough) Auto World plans to release a bright pink version. I’d stick with turquoise, which was a popular Chevy color back in the day.

Here’s what you get.

The Model

               Like all Auto World die-cast models there is plenty of functionality here, with opening doors, hood and steerable front wheels. The trunk here is sealed.

               In addition to the stunning paint scheme, there’s enough chrome to create a worldwide chrome shortage. That’s a good thing, right?

               The massive front and rear bumpers are chrome, as are the head and taillight surrounds, the rocker panel trim, the side accent line trim and fins, plus door handles, wiper arms and windshield frame. Plus the two hood sights and vent window frames are chrome too.

               Hub caps are chrome with chrome center wheel nuts with red centers and tiny Chevy bowtie logos. I might have gone with pink centers, to go full-on Barbie here.

               Those big protruding bumper guards on the front that look like, well, you know. Those are black-tipped, as they would have been on an original ’57 Chevy.

               On the lower fin trim in back is Bel Air in copper script while just in front of the doors are the patented crossed Chevy flag logos with Fuel Injection printed beneath.

               Under the hood is the Chevy red engine block with silver air filter and fuel injection system, a black battery and radiator with black horn on the front left. Big hood hinges allow the hood to be easily posed in the up position.

               The Barbie car’s interior is what you’ll likely notice first, and if you’re a Barbie fan and collector this is what will light your fuse. The seats are bright pink with white (or is that pale pink) inserts with Barbie in cursive on the driver’s seat back. The pink tonneau includes a white silhouette of a pony-tailed young woman at its center and tiny painted silver snap heads all about the tonneau’s edge, ostensibly to keep the tonneau in place.

               Door handles and window cranks are chrome or painted silver and there’s a pink dash with chrome trim on its face, plus three nicely detailed instrument panel dials. A radio face graces that chrome dash trim and Barbie is again in script on the passenger’s side dash top. Overhead? Pink sun visors, of course. Heck, even the steering wheels is pink, with a chromed horn ring.

               As with other Auto World cars there’s a detailed undercarriage with dual exhausts.

               Finally, under the trunk’s golden chevron and Chevy script is the 1957 California license plate you may already expect. It reads … Barbie.

Final Word  

Could there be more Barbie cars in the future? Well, a quick look around the internet found there are others to choose from to be sure, including racer Collete Davis’ version of a Nissan Z car. Hmmmm!

How about this hot rod (Collete’s Z car) in 1:18 scale?

Vital Stats: 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AWSS135
MSRP: $131.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Car Spot: Bugatti Veyron

A car for those with very deep pockets

A car that costs more than most homes and will go almost 400 miles per hour will always turn heads, whether it’s driving by or just parked. How many times have you said that if you won the lottery, you’d buy a Bugatti Veyron?

This is a car so many car folks lust for.

So let’s say you hit it big and have the $2 million to plop down to drive one home, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe that’s part of the reason you see them parked so much like this one a friend spotted while on vacation in Florida.

So the usual items that come with buying a car are oil changes, brakes, shocks, tires, and other maintenance items that come up. The cost of owning this ride can make your eyes water. Let’s start with the most basic item, oil and fluid changes. Bugatti recommends all fluids have to be changed each year and that costs a hefty $25,000.

Why? The car has 16 drainplugs and they are not easy to get at. A highly trained mechanic will have to take out the rear wheels and brakes, as well as the lining on the rear fenders along with the one underneath the back of the car.

But wait, there’s more! It will cost $6,400 to replace each individual turbocharger and around $9,000 in labor to replace a pair. An air cooler is $9,000, there are two of them. You would get off easy on the camshaft adjusters at about $800 per piece, but since the engine has to be taken apart, the labor costs are a killer at around $21,000.

How about tires? The car will do 0-60 in under three seconds and you know you’re going to do that often to impress your friends. Bugatti advises all Veyron owners getting new tires once every couple of years and a fresh set costs $38,000. We didn’t pay that much when we purchased our 2017 Jeep Compass.

Well as long as you’re getting new tires, you might as well get new wheels, right? They have to be replaced every 10,000 miles and that will set you back $50,000.  I’m not a math whiz but, you’d be looking at around $100,000 in maintenance costs in just a couple of years of ownership. But then again, how can you put a cost on fun?

Check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

2022 Lexus NX 350 F Sport

Restyled NX puts emphasis on tech and sassy performance …

            Small, sassy and techy, that’s Lexus restyled NX 350, a compact crossover aimed directly at the better-off retiree or suburban family with no more than two kids.

            I suppose I think of NX being aimed at newly retired Boomers because of its luxury price tag that can hit $60,000. Seems a family with two pre-teens might not be able to swing that kinda car loan.

            But in any case, Lexus has massaged the NX’s styling, quieted it’s interior further, added a more solid driving feel and now offers four powertrains to fit various wallets and energy-consciousness levels.

Oh, and let’s get this up front, that darned Lexus touchpad on the console to control the infotainment screen is GONE. Praise be!

First the basics starting with trims and powertrains. NX is available in 12, that’s right, a dozen trim levels. The base NX 250 with a 203-horse 2.5-liter I4 is the only one without AWD standard, but it’s an option.

Starting with the NX 350h and 350 (no h), AWD is standard. The 350h is a hybrid coupling two electric motors with the 2.5-liter I4 to create 239 horsepower, adding a bit more oomph while improving gas mileage. This is the same system found in sister brand Toyota’s RAV4, and which has drawn raves from me and other auto pilots.

The NX 350 (stay with me here) touts a 2.4-liter turbo I4 that jumps power up to 275 horses and a torque rating of 317 lb.-ft. Turbos always cram more torque into a powerplant so it’ll accelerate quicker and that’s what the tested NX 350 F Sport that I tested was packing. Power off the line is considerable and gives the NX a sportier feel than one might expect from a Lexus. And while the cabin is relatively quiet, there is some engine chatter when tromping the accelerator.

More on performance in a second, but lastly there’s a plug-in hybrid model too, the NX 450h that creates 302 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of 6 seconds flat. That’s hustling for a crossover.

Its plug-in charge reportedly lasts about 36 miles and this upper-end model starts at $57,800 with delivery, and the F Sport model pushing that even higher. Note though that there’s a $7,500 tax credit on the plug-ins.

If you’ve stuck with me through all that, you deserve to hear more about the tested 350 F Sport.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Lexus NX350 F Sport – YouTube

It’s perky with quick giddyup due to that turbo, and the steering is fairly quick too, so an aggressive driver can push it into turns for a sport-oriented drive. The F Sport Handling feature on this model tunes the suspension for a sportier feel with front and rear shock performance dampers and adaptive variable suspension.

Tied to that are five drive modes from Eco to Sport+ which is the high-performance setting. That makes for a stiffer ride and handling, plus more aggressive acceleration via the 8-speed automatic.

Ride is well controlled in any case, but remains on the firmer side. Braking also is massive considering the vehicle’s size and weight. Lexus uses 12.9-inch vented discs up front and 12.5-inch vented rear discs. Stopping comes quickly.

A reminder that AWD is standard.

Outside, the NX 350 reminds me of the Mazda CX-5 and CX-30 crossovers with sizeable grilles and a beaklike nose where the hood extends out a tad over the grille. I like the look, although some folks consider the Lexus grille a bit much. I defend it as so many other makes have followed suit of late, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. The crossover’s tail is distinctive too with a light bar across the hatch.

Inside, the Redline (bright red) test NX featured stunning red and black perforated leather seats along with red leather on the doors and console. The dash top is black and there’s gloss black trim by the giant 14-inch screen and edges of the console.

That monster screen is certainly easy to see and without that annoying touch pad that adorned past Lexus consoles it’s a vast improvement, because it’s a touchscreen, and also can be controlled via the Intelligent Assistant. No, that’s not a family member that rides along, but the AI voice recognition system that responds to “Hey Lexus.” A warning here, you WILL say Alexa to it at least a couple times.

The touchscreen is not hard to use, but I’d like to see some real knobs and buttons, especially dedicated Home, Radio and Map buttons to get you quickly where you want to go. I say this, knowing my voice can tell the computer, but old habits die hard. Still, kudos to Lexus for finally replacing the touch pad.

Rest of the dash is fine and easy to see, plus there are good sightlines to the side as the NX allows some space between the side mirrors and A-pillars to improve visibility.

Seating is sport-oriented too with fabulous lower back and kidney support as the seats wrap around and caress the back and sides. Power seats of course, along with heated front seats (cooled is optional). A Cold Package ($250) adds a heated steering wheel along with heated wipers and deicer system plus a PTC heater for quicker heating.

There’s also an F Sport Luxury package for $2,200 that upgrades to that 14-inch screen for one that’s just short of 10 inches. The package also delivers that Hey Lexus system, ambient lighting, the cooled front seats, a special nav system and park assist, along with a power hatch activated by swinging your foot beneath the rear bumper.

Lexus goes with a big touchscreen, eliminating its annoying console touchpad.

Sunroof fans will love the panoramic moonroof that covers front and back seats. It costs $1,600 extra. A fine Mark Levinson premium audio system with 17 speakers (8.5 for each ear) is $1,020 extra too.

Four more options on the test NX pushed it from a $47,725 starting price (with delivery) to $55,325, which seems high for this size vehicle. But be assured NX is a high-tech tour de force.

For safety there’s the usual systems like rear cross-traffic, a 360-camera, blind-spot warning and lane departure. Lexus also adds road sign assist, smart cruise, intelligent high-beams, and curve speed management.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as is a safety connect system to call for help and Wi-Fi connect too.

The steering column is a power tilt/telescope model but it’s disappointing that Lexus still doesn’t add a flat-bottom steering wheel to its F Sport models. That makes no sense.

There is, however, a wireless charging system and push-button door releases. Those seem gimmicky, although they worked fine. For safety’s sake you also can pull them back like a normal lever to release the door. The push-button system seems like technology solving a non-existent problem.

Rear seats will fold flat manually to extend the cargo area, but that space is pretty generous as is, plus there’s hidden storage under the rear floor. Reportedly the hybrid versions have the same cargo space, meaning batteries don’t cut into the cargo area.

Gas mileage is OK. I got 22.2 mpg in about 70% highway driving and the EPA rates this at 22 mpg city and 28 highway. The real hurt is that premium fuel is recommended. Ouch!

But again, this is a small luxury crossover, so you’re expecting some premium costs. Note though that with some option restraint an NX 350 or 350h can be had for $41,700 to $45 grand or so. That’s the entry-level luxury range now.

FAST STATS: 2022 Lexus NX 350 F Sport

Hits: Distinctive styling, good power, nice handling, controlled ride and AWD. Stellar interior design, big touchscreen, massive sunroof, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated/cooled seats, super contoured seats, 5 drive modes, wireless charger, good sight lines.

Misses: Needs flat-bottom steering wheel, more knobs to simplify using touchscreen, and push-button door releases feel gimmicky. Also needs premium fuel, ouch! 

Made in: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo I4, 275 hp/317 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic, AWD

Weight: 4,035 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.9 in.

Length: 183.5 in.

Cargo: 22.7 – 46.9 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/28

MPG: 22.2 (tested)

Base Price: $47,725 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $44,695

Major Options:

Cold package (heated steering wheel, heated wiper/window deicer, PTC heater), $250

Triple beam headlamps w/washers, cornering lamps, $850

F Sport Luxury (14-inch touchscreen, Drive Connect w/Cloud navigation, Intelligent Assistant (Hey, Lexus), destination assist, ambient lighting, power rear hatch w/kick sensor, cooled front seats, intelligent park assist), $2,200

Mark Levinson premium audio w/17 speakers, $1,020

Panoramic moonroof, $1,600

Panoramic view monitor, lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert, $1,070

Towing package, $160

Smart phone convenience package, $450

Test vehicle: $55,325

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

1981 Mazda RX-7

Johnny Lightning creates a racy tribute with new Mazda RX-7 …

Mazda has been a favorite car maker of mine since I was fresh out of college and bought a GLC hatchback. Remember the Great Little Car?

Well, it wasn’t great, but it was good and low-priced, which fit a newly minted college graduate’s budget. Plus it was crazy reliable, with a manual choke, so it ALWAYS started.

Just as I was dipping my toes into the car market Mazda was expanding its lineup to include the racy Wankel rotary engine-powered RX-7. You might say it was Mazda’s prescription for speed, helping solidify its sporty image for years to come. Mazda even raced the RX-7, challenging Nissan’s 240Z.

This Johnny Lightning beauty at just 1:64 scale is a tribute to Mazda’s first racer, featuring its markings, but the body work of the 1981-‘85 RX-7s. It’s sharp and moves JL up another notch in fit and finish for the small die-cast market where it leads in realism, especially in the muscle car realm. This is muscle of a different sort though.

The History

Mazda introduced the RX-7 as a 1979 model, replacing the RX-3, which was decidedly less sporty looking. The Wankel rotary engine and the car’s low-slung long-hood design were the big news. The RX-7 was small and light enough to avoid some Japanese road taxes too, making it a popular model from an economic standpoint too. Plus the new engine packed more power.

Mazda, who had raced the RX-3, was quick to get the RX-7 into racing and in 1979 finished first and second in the GTU class at the Daytona 24 Hours, and were fifth and sixth overall, a pretty impressive start. Later in the year the Mazda also won the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium, although those cars had been tweaked and tuned by the Tom Walkinshaw (TWR) racing team.

In fact, RX-7s won the GTU championship in IMSA eight straight years, from 1980 to 1987, often taking the top two or three spots. Ultimately it won more IMSA races than any other car.

Those racers also had rear a rear spoiler and wide over fenders along with a chin spoiler. The Johnny Lightning car is based on the FB version of the RX-7, which came a bit after the original. This is a street version, which means they have no spoilers, but the 1981 FB models now had integrated plastic-covered bumpers, wide black rubber body side moldings, and wraparound taillights. Engine controls also were upgraded. 

The Model

               This new casting, which retails for just $12.99, uses the two-tone green markings over a creamy white that the original RX-7 sported in the Daytona endurance race. There are big black No. 7s enclosed in black circles on the hood and doors, plus Mazda is printed big on the nose and in a blue bar across the top of the windshield.

               On the rear hatch’s lid is a “Powered by Rotary” decal and there are Union 76 and Bridgestone logos on the rear quarter panels. Another Mazda decal is on the fenders just before the doors, and a circular orange NGK spark plugs decal on each door.

               The FB’s large black side moldings are here, just above the two-tone green stripes along the car’s lower edges.

               Details that make the car look particularly realistic even in this small scale are black door handles, dual black side mirrors with silver faces and black hinges on the rear windscreen, plus a large black wiper at its lower edge. The rollaway headlights are shut to give the car a racier and smoother look, plus the hood opens forward, as on the original.

               Under the hood is a black engine block, but it is flat as was the rotary in the RX-7s, just a blue air filter on top for a little color. The rest of the cast-in details are white under the hood, which does take a bit of effort to pry open the first time. I scratched a tiny bit of paint off, but then this is a race car, so what’s a little race wear? The hood fits beautifully when closed.

               Of course the undercarriage is cast in great detail, as on all JL and Auto World models. Plus the black radiator air intake panel under the nose is nicely detailed.

               But the final bit of fun here are the wheels, which are four twin-spokes each with the spokes being a copper-gold, similar to some models sold in the U.S. that featured gold-anodized wheels. Plus the tires are rubber on JL cars. Bravo!

               A quick note here to call out our Auto World friend, Chad Reid, as the graphic artist on this model, along with a new red Motorcraft Ranger parts truck. The truck uses a Motorcraft logo on each door with a two white and one black stripe down each side as accents. It looks sharp and you can imagine one of these pulling into your repair shop’s parking lot, circa 1983.

 Reid says he chose Motorcraft red for the truck as it seemed perfect for a parts truck, and he also drew on a old Nylint Ford Ranger’s markings for inspiration. Both the Motorcraft Ranger (also $12.99) and RX-7 are limited editions, with just 2,496 being made of each.

The Ranger is a pre-order with shipments expected soon, but the RX-7 is in stock now.              

Vital Stats: 1981 Mazda RX-7 (racer tribute)

Maker: Johnny Lightning
Scale: 1/64
Stock No.: SCM099
MSRP: $12.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Car Spot: Mopar madness

70’s classic muscle

The late 60s and early ’70s were great for car guys, and gals, because it was a great time to be into muscle cars. Every manufacturer had a solid foothold but I think Mopar did it best. Between its Dodge and Plymouth lines, you could really kick butt in any street race or at the drag strip. Mark and I went to a car show recently and found some cherry examples.

Based on Chrysler’s B body platform was the Dodge Super Bee. Originally produced from 68 to 71. This 69 1/2 is one of 51 Hemi Orange hardtops with the A12 package, four-speed manual, and bucket seats. The A12 option replaces the 383 4bbl with a 440 3-2bbl engine, including three 2bbl carburetors on top of an Edelbrock aluminum intake. A Hemi 4-speed transmission is standard with the 727 Hemi automatic being available as an option. The drive train upgrade also includes a 26-inch radiator with a 7-blade torque drive fan. Also included are the 9-3/4 Dana (410 gear ratio) rear end and four-wheel 11-inch drum brakes.

Right next to it was a 70 Super Bee. For the 1970 model, the Super Bee received a redesign and a new front end that consisted of a twin-looped front bumper that Dodge Public Relations referred to as “bumble bee wings”. 1970 was really the beginning of the end of the muscle car era as sales fell because of higher insurance rates for performance cars. Built at the St. Louis assembly plant, this came off the line loaded up with a 440 Hemi with three two-barrel carbs, bucket seats, 3.55 rear axle, Rallye Instruments, and more. The owner even has the original window sticker.

My favorite year for the Dodge Charger was 1970. This example was one of just 1,443 built with the four-speed as an RT. One item that you rarely see on one is a luggage rack.

The Dodge Aspen probably doesn’t come to mind when you mention Mopar Muscle but you could purchase one in 1977 that looked like this RT edition. The Aspen, along with its sibling Plymouth Volare replaced the Duster and Dart. This was a time when the manufacturers started to downsize reducing size and weight for improved fuel economy. Originally classified as compact cars, but were considered intermediate-sized cars by the end of their production run in 1980.

The R/T coupes were the performance trim levels. They came with E70x14 tires, “rallye” wheels, a grille blackout treatment, body striping, and identifying decals and medallions. A 360 V8 option was rated at a sad 170 hp. Not particularly quick in the quarter-mile, a Motor Trend test had them doing 17.4 seconds with a top speed of just 86 miles an hour. Yup, not fast and this was really the last shot at anything quick because their replacement was the K cars.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another car spot and have a great weekend.

2022 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD

8 people can ride in style in this upscale Calligraphy model …

Think stylish vehicles and you’d be wise these days to first turn your attention to Hyundai or Kia. The two South Korean carmakers have been breaking the staid auto world’s styling molds for several years now.

Case in point, the tested Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy, an 8-person SUV and family hauler that looks and feels way ritzier than it is. The grille, the lights, the interior, all are standout lookers and clothed in a Sierra Burgundy (think dark metallic red wine) the test SUV looked out of place in my 1950s subdivision. Even its color was trendsetting, or make that trend breaking.

In a world of gray, white and black vehicles (those are the three top-selling “colors” now) the dark red Palisade looked special. People pointed at it like I was hauling a Kardashian to the Oscars for crying out loud.

Really there’s not a lot new to talk about here. I praised the original 2020 Palisade after taking a trip to Louisville and back in it. Comfort, quiet, the snazzy interior and solid power from its 3.8-liter V6 all impressed. Now it gains a bevy of safety equipment as standard and this Calligraphy model is the top trim, so loaded with oodles of whiz-bangs that might be optional on other makes at this price.

So there are the looks, maybe too bold for some, but they can have their gray blend-in mobiles. I like the grille and snazzy lights front and rear. Happy with that V6 too as it delivers a strong 291 horses and smoothly via an 8-speed automatic with Shiftronic, which allows a driver to override the automatic with manual shifts, no clutch of course.

Handling is fairly quick too, making it extremely easy to control on the highway and ride is composed without being plush or floaty. A long wheelbase helps that.

AWD is $1,700 extra on all trim levels, but certainly makes sense in our sloppy Wisconsin climate.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD – YouTube

Note too there are five drive modes, Comfort, Eco, Sport, Snow and Smart, which is said to learn your driving style and adjust the shifts to fit your needs and wants. Sport does enliven the acceleration a bit and firms steering too. Yet Comfort was fine 95% of the time; I mostly engaged Sport when zipping onto a freeway.

Did a lot of freeway driving in this too, probably 70% which made the trip computer predict I was getting 20.2 mpg, while in reality it was 19.5. That’s in the Palisade’s wheelhouse of 19 mpg city and 24 highway for the AWD version. The front-drive model earns 26 mpg on the highway. That could be important as gas prices head to the stratosphere.

But for family hauling Palisade is certainly competitive with other large SUVs and minivans on the gas mileage front.

It also has an advantage on many because it will haul eight passengers if you opt for the center row bench seat, no extra charge. Go with the more comfy captain’s chairs and it’ll haul seven adults. That’s right, there’s plenty of legroom in the third row and the one-touch second row seats slide forward easily to let a grownup crawl aboard with minimal grunting and groaning. Second row seats can be positioned to create reasonable foot and legroom for both second and third-row occupants. Bonus!

The third row of seats has adequate room and the second and third row fold flat too.

Granted storage behind that third row is not spacious, but will hold eight bags of groceries. Smartly Hyundai offers power third-row and second-row fold downs via buttons inside the rear hatch. So if you’re loading a lot of goods it’s simple to press a couple buttons and lower the seats for cargo hauling.

This interior is stellar in nearly all ways, and certainly from a quietness and styling standpoint. The tester was decked out in light gray (nearly white) Nappa leather with a bit of quilting pattern on the seatbacks and a sophisticated light tan to gray fake wood trim on the doors and dash. The wood is in strips with satin chrome trim between each layer. Classy!

Overhead is a soft gray simulated suede headliner that helps soak up any excess noise that somehow manages to creep into the cockpit. Trim on the console is a satin chrome herringbone pattern while the dash’s top is black and overhead is a power sunroof up front and power sun shade over a larger stationary roof for the rear two rows of seats.

Standard here is a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and 360-degree backup camera along with wireless charger in the console and 10.25-inch infotainment screen that’s simple to use.

Fantastic dash design with large easy-to-use buttons and screen.

In fact, the Hyundai dash is so well designed it’s easy to figure out from the moment you sit in Palisade, no fumbling for knobs that aren’t there or hunting for vague icons that don’t let you know where to find the heat or radio. This is how interiors should function and Hyundai interior designers deserve a big pay increase.

Buttons are all large and logically laid out and the radio tuning is intuitive. No electrical engineering degree is required, a benefit for us less schooled, or old-school, drivers.

Need more? Well, the Calligraphy model comes with a snazzy Harmon Kardon stereo system including attractive satin chrome covered door speakers that look like a jeweler designed them. Sound is good and tuning is easy.

Beautiful design with wood grains atop the door and diamond-pattern leather too.

Flip a turn signal lever and cameras light up in round screens on the instrument panel, one for left turns, one for right, showing you the road and blind-spot behind you in that lane to avoid fender benders and curb scrapes.

Safety equipment is plentiful too, along with lane-keeping assist, forward collision avoidance, driver attention warning, smart cruise control and such, Hyundai adds blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, turn signals in the side mirrors and safe exit assist. This later item is becoming a norm now and alerts a person when a door is unlatched but oncoming traffic could be a danger. Still best to look over your shoulder, but this may help avoid losing a door when the driver or passenger is distracted. Cool too that the lane departure system can be turned off to avoid unwanted beeps as you dodge construction and pot holes.

Also standard on Calligraphy is a perforated leather wrap on the steering wheel, 20-inch wheels, puddle lamps and that fancy satin chrome trim. Standard on most models too is a power hatch, along with remote start and the excellent one-touch second row seats that quickly fold and slide forward for third-row entry.

For techies, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are here, along with USB ports for the first two rows of seats.

Seats are quite comfy in most regards in all rows. The third row has a bit of a raised floor so that puts your legs at a slightly elevated angle. My only complaint is the power driver’s seat, which has a long lower cushion, meaning it hits the back of short driver’s knees and could be tiring on a long drive. Before buying, check that out if you’re 5-6, or shorter.

Finally let’s revisit Palisade’s value Palisade. First, a well-equipped minivan will cost you $50,000 these days, give or take a grand. Some SUVs will start there and work their way up to $60 grand or more.

This top-level test vehicle started at $49,615, including delivery, and added just floor mats (which should be standard on all vehicles now) for $215 to end up at $49,830.

If you’re budget is more mainstream and your doodad desires are in check, consider the base SE model at $34,575 with delivery and front-wheel drive. But the engine and mechanicals are the same as Calligraphy. An SEL model at $36,925 adds the captain’s chairs instead of 8-person seating, heated seats, power driver’s seat, remote start and three zone climate controls, so may be the best value.

The $46,815 Limited moves upscale with twin sunroofs, Nappa leather, an HUD and 360-camera, power-down third row seats, wireless charger, heated second row seats and the bigger info screen. Remember, adding AWD is an option for all trims, but so far no hybrid model is available.

Snazzy taillights on the Palisade.

Remember too that Kia’s Telluride is a kissin’ cousin to the Palisade and offers stunning styling too. Other competitors include Ford’s Explorer, Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot, VW’s Atlas, and the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L (that means Long).

Palisade will haul any family in style in that $35,000 to $40,000 range, and if you can manage the Limited or Calligraphy it’s a luxury ride to be sure.

FAST STATS: 2022 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD

Hits: Sharp looking SUV, good power, ride and handling, plus AWD and 5 drive modes. Loaded with Harmon Kardon stereo, super center stack/console design, big screen, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, heated second row seats, turn-signal cameras, power hatch, useful third row seat, wireless charger, lane departure can be turned off.

Great looking headlight design too!

Misses: Driver’s lower seat cushion is long, hits back of short driver’s knees. No hybrid model yet.

Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea

Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 291hp/262 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/Shiftronic

Weight: 4,127 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 196.1 in.

Cargo: 18-86.4 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 19/24

MPG: 19.5 (tested)

Base Price: $49,615 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $47,319

Major Options: Carpeted floor mats, $215

Test vehicle: $49,830

Sources: Hyundai, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Car Spot: Classic Vette

It’s Spring (nearly) in Wisconsin

The snow melts, the birds start chirping, baseball begins, and classic cars come out of their long winter hibernation here in Wisconsin. Not that this third generation C3 Corvette would have to worry about rust but they don’t handle well in snow.

Patterned after the concept car, the Mako Shark, in 1968 it was the first of many Corvettes to be a pace car for the Indy 500. The 350-cu.in.  engine replaced the old 327 as the base engine in 1969, but power remained at 300 hp. 1969 was the only year for a C3 to optionally offer either a factory-installed side exhaust or a normal rear exit version with chrome tips. The all-aluminum ZL1 engine was also new for 1969. Listed at 430 hp but it was reported to produce 560 hp and propelled a ZL1 through the 1/4 mile in 10.89 seconds.

In 1968 there were 28,566 produced, a jump of about 5,000 from the previous C2. I couldn’t see what engine this example had but assuming it’s the base 327, Hagerty values one in good condition, which this one appeared to be, about $25,000. Not a bad price for vintage late ’60s early ’70s muscle.

Stop back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot to share and have a great weekend.

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn

VW’s Jetta a value-oriented icon that exudes the joy of car driving …

I feel a little sorry for younger drivers who have grown up riding in, and then driving, mostly trucks and SUVs. They simply won’t know how much fun it is to drive a car.

Cars are lighter, more nimble, and generally handle much better than trucks and SUVs. Often they look better too, especially hatchbacks.

And get this, they almost always get better fuel economy and cost less than their porky truck-based counterparts. With gasoline prices going gaga on us now, is it possible cars may again gain more attention?

All this is to say Volkswagen’s new Jetta GLI Autobahn is a hoot that’ll scoot.

VW’s longtime compact sedan comes in five trims, this GLI Autobahn being the top-level but with a price that may surprise, $32,990 for the automatic version, including delivery. The first four trims are even more economical, starting at $21,390 for the 6-speed manual-equipped S, which features a new 1.5-liter turbo I4 that makes 158 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Sport, SE and SEL models all feature that same engine, but the GLI Autobahn gets jiggy with a 2.0-liter turbo I4 that pumps out 228 horses and is rated at 258 for torque. That’ll get your attention when he slap the accelerator. You might even chirp the front-drive wheels. And get this, a manual tranny is available in all trims, the automatic adding just $800 to the sticker.

The Pure Gray ($395 extra) test car was an automatic (7-speed dual-clutch), but with five drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Custom) it was easy to transform it from a comfy city car to a rocket sled heading onto the freeway. Yes, Sport mode firms the steering and crams more power to the low-end so acceleration is, quite literally, a blast. Given the proper highway entry ramp and sparse traffic triple digits are easily reached. Don’t ask how I know!

Sport also turns that turbo into a growling beast with enough exhaust resonance to wake up even a sleeping pre-teen in the back seat. Yes, grandpa still knows how to have fun!

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the sporty 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn – YouTube

But hey, some $50,000 to $80,000 pickups and SUVs have power to jet along the freeway or down an entry ramp. However, they won’t handle like a compact sports sedan and that’s what the Jetta is, reminding me of the former BMW 2002 models, light, nimble and fun.

Jetta is light on its 18-inch black alloy wheels (part of a $595 Black Package), weighing in at just shy of 3,300 pounds. Steering is quick and responsive. This sedan corners well and makes dodging pot holes even seem fun.

Ride is firm but well controlled, so not as abrupt as one might suspect at this price and in a car with Teutonic ancestry. Ride comfort was better than many compact crossovers.

Braking is fine too with discs front (11.3-inch) and rear (10.7-inch), plus VW even paints the Autobahn’s calipers red to sexy them up. Oh, and there’s a red trim line on the blacked-out grille, and plus red stitching on the leather seats. Sharp!

This interior is fairly quiet too for the price and performance, the only rumble coming in that Sport mode, but that’s when you want it, right?

Black leather seats with that red trim give the interior a handsome, yet sporty feel and VW smartly opts for a flat-bottom steering wheel for added flair. A flat wheel helps with knee room normally too, but the Jetta’s steering column is quite thick and short drivers will find themselves tapping their right knee on it when exiting. Not a problem for taller drivers with the seat further back and legs out straighter.

Otherwise the cockpit is primo with soft dash and door surfaces and a large digital instrument panel now standard along with an 8-inch infotainment screen that’s simple to use and read. The radio includes a volume knob and there’s a volume slide on the steering wheel too.

The drive modes are activated via a button on the console and that console-mounted shifter, which includes a clutchless manual feature, is trimmed in red. Ach du lieber!

There’s a sunroof and manual shade overhead and VW’s seats are well-contoured for lower back and hip support. The driver’s seat is powered, but the passenger’s is manual. However, both are heated and cooled. A wireless charger under the center stack also is standard on this trim.

Standard too is smart cruise control and most of the safety features one now expects, rearview camera, cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, plus lane departure assist and warning.

Jetta Autobahn also touts remote start, illuminated door sills, a snazzy Beats 9-speaker audio system, automatic climate control, stainless steel pedals and three seat memory buttons for the driver.

Front and rear seat room is good for four adults, five folks will fit if one is smallish. And those rear seats split and fold, naturally. Yet the trunk is large at 14.1 cubic feet, so several good size suitcases will fit, no problem.

The manual version of the Jetta with the smaller engine nets 26 mpg city and 37 mpg highway says the EPA. Automatics these days are comparable. I got 26.6 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving during cold snowy weather, so I’d expect a bit better most times.

VW’s Autobahn trim comes so well equipped you may not need to add any options, but this one came in the special color (really, gray is special?) and the $595 Black Package added a black roof, tiny lip of a rear spoiler, black 18-inch alloy wheels and black mirror caps. It seems a reasonable price for a few exterior spiffs.

Total here was $33,980 and that screams bargain to me for the performance, features and comfort afforded here. Or you can buy a luxury sport sedan for $50 grand, or more.

FAST STATS: 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn

Hits: Peppy sedan (manual available) with sporty handling, but fine family car with roomy interior, sunroof, heated/cooled front seats, smart cruise and substantial safety features. Good mpg, well-controlled ride, supportive seats, wireless charger, flat-bottom steering wheel, and big trunk.

Misses: Tight knee space to steering column for short drivers.

Made in: Puebla, Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 228 horsepower/258 torque

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

Weight: 3,272 lbs.

Length: 186.9 in.

Wheelbase: 105.6 in.

Cargo: 14.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 26/37 (manual)

MPG:  26.6 (tested)

Base Price: $32,990 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Pure Gray paint, $395

Black package (black roof, spoiler, mirror caps, and 18-inch alloy wheels), $595

Test vehicle: $33,980

Sources: Volkswagen, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Car Spot: 2nd gen Z28 Camaro

Iconic pony car took on the Mustang

The late 60s and early 70s were great times in the auto industry because it was all about American muscle. Ford had just launched the Mustang to kick off the pony car era and Chevy followed up with its answer, the Camaro. It first went on sale on September 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year. It was code-named Panther but in keeping with Chevy starting the name of every vehicle with the letter C, named Camaro. Automotive press asked Chevrolet product managers, “what is a Camaro?” and were told it was “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustang.

The Z28 was created at launch by Camaro to make them a force in SCCA’s Trans-AM series and that time from 69-72 was really its golden era.

RELATED: Read Paul’s post about racing Trans-Am on a budget.

This is a 1970-ish Z28 that I spotted in a garage while helping my daughter move into her new apartment. She actually saw the car first.

This is a second-gen Camaro that was totally different than the one it replaced. It featured a new Z28 engine that was essentially the same as a Corvette LT-1. But because in Chevy world the Corvette has to be the big dog the engine was rated at ten less horsepower (360 vs. 370), while torque ratings were the same (380 lb-ft). This one looks like a project that is close to completion, still missing the turn signals, front bumperettes, rear bumper, and tail lights. Definitely ready to race though with the wide-body flairs, spoiler, four-speed, and roll bars. I think it might make a great autocross car.

A quick check on Hemmings found these cars to be affordable selling for the mid-40s. Too bad the Camaro goes away in 2024 and be replaced by a four-door electric car. I call them toasters. What a wasted opportunity. Check back next Friday for another car spot and have a great weekend.

RELATED: Read Paul’s argument on why this rush to electric cars is crazy.

2022 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo AWD

Turbo CX-5 a sporty compact crossover with a Soul (red) …

Mazda has a winner with its CX-5 compact crossover so it’s no surprise it hasn’t changed drastically in the three years since I’d tested it.

Wisely Mazda added its turbocharged version of the already peppy 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4 engine along the way and now makes AWD standard on all CX-5 models. Plus it smoothed out the nose and tail a bit and retuned the suspension a tad while also adding more supportive seats. All good things, although I liked the more beak-like nose of the previous model just fine.

Still, the CX-5 stands out in a market of lookalikes, plus the test crossover came in Mazda’s stunning Soul Red Crystal Metallic. That’s a bright metallic red that virtually has no peer for a brilliant red, and is well worth the $595 up-charge.

All that is to say the CX-5 Turbo is an exceptional looking and driving vehicle for the price. It leans heavily toward luxury with a quiet and soft leathery interior, it packs loads of comfort and safety equipment and it drives like a sports sedan, nearly.

For me the looks are enough to make me want a CX-5, but for most folks it likely comes down to price, power and standard equipment. The Mazda wins there too.

A base model starts at $27,125 including delivery, and remember, that’s with AWD. So for the entry price you get the looks and AWD. Standard engine is the non-turbo 2.5-liter with 187 horsepower, and hooked up with a fine 6-speed automatic with a Sport mode. It’ll scoot, but the CX-5 Turbo will scamper.

The boosted engine creates 227 horses on regular fuel and if you can afford premium petrol, well, it’ll pound out 256 horses, up 6 ponies from the previous model. Torque rating is 310 lb.-ft. and there’s zero lag as it kicks in when you tromp the accelerator, entering a highway at 70+ mph. Yes, it’ll push you back in the seat. The wild ones at Car and Driver magazine say this will do 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds and top out at 130 mph. That’s plenty quick!

See Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Mazda CX 5 2 5 Turbo AWD – YouTube

But gas mileage remains reasonable with a 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway rating from the EPA. I got 24.1 mpg in about 60% city driving and a more aggressive right foot than is probably necessary.

Handling is precise and sporty with this crossover is easy to push into tight turns and feel as stable as a lower center of gravity sedan. The AWD helps of course, but the balance in this Mazda is excellent.

Engineers worked to further smooth the ride, and it may be marginally better than previous models, but the sporty feel is still there, meaning it is firm. On the highway or reasonable road surfaces that’s great. On moon-crater Midwest streets there’s some bump and thump to passengers, yet always remaining well controlled, not abusive.

Braking is strong with vented front discs and solid rear discs. Plus Mazda’s MI-Drive allows the driver to toggle Normal, Sport, or Off-Road settings to increase low-end power and firm the steering in Sport. Off-Road helps distribute power to the most appropriate wheels, although I’d consider this a mild off-roader, such as gravel and dirt paths in a park.

Plenty of safety equipment standard here too, including smart cruise control, blind-spot monitor, lane keeping assist and warning, along with the 360-degree camera and cross-traffic alert. And a major plus, the lane departure can be turned off via a button on the lower left dash, meaning you don’t need to fight the system when in construction zones or dodging pot holes that require you to straddle a lane marker.

Besides the color the tester added only a navigation system for $450, including a color screen that is 10.3-inches wide, and standard on the CX-5. I like this info screen because it’s wide, but thin so it doesn’t stick up too far from the dash’s center and never seemed too reflective, a problem with some giant screens mounted on the center stack. I’m looking at you, Subaru.

Mazda continues to do a great job of making its interiors both quiet and luxurious feeling with a soft fabric on the dash and doors. No, it’s not leather, but feels high-end soft, which also must quiet the interior a bit. This one used black leather with red stitching on the seats to snazzy it up. There’s also chrome trim on the air vents and along the doors and dash beside fake carbon fiber trim. The console is trimmed in gloss black and the lower steering wheel hub is chrome.

The Turbo line also comes with a sunroof, heated steering wheel along with heated and cooled seats, plus dual climate controls, and a Bose stereo with 10 speakers. A wireless phone charger under the center stack is also standard.

Seats are improved too with increased lower back and hip support. Front seats are roomy, but the rear is cramped in the middle position so I’d call this a four-passenger crossover.

In back, the hatch is powered and there’s reasonable storage space, just not as much as some in this class. But those rear seats do fold down flat to create a larger carrying surface.

While I’m learning to use the Mazda radio and info screen system, which is controlled via a console control knob, I’m no fan. Give me a touchscreen or real radio knobs and buttons for easy use while driving. To fit the sporty nature of the CX-5 it needs a flat-bottom steering wheel too.

Pricing runs from that roughly $27 grand starting price up to $39,875 for the top-level Turbo Signature model, naturally featuring this turbo engine. There are six trims between the two, this Turbo model listing at $37,625, including delivery, and $38,670 as it was equipped. So it’s easy to choose a trim level with the power and features you’d want, and still sneak in below a $40,000 price tag, nearly the average cost of a new car/crossover these days.

This is a crowded vehicle segment with many strong competitors, but for looks and performance for the price the CX-5 leads the pack. Also start watching for the new CX-50, a similar model aimed more at the off-roading crowd.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo, AWD

Hits: Stylish lines, excellent turbo power, responsive handling, plus AWD standard. Gorgeous color, interior feels luxurious, wide screen, sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, dual climate controls, 360-camera, smart cruise and safety systems, Bose stereo, comfy supportive seats, power hatch, and wireless charger. High-value, yet fun drive.

Misses: Still not a fan of the console-controlled info screen, and ride is firm, but well-controlled. Could use flat-bottom steering wheel.

Made in: Hiroshima, Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4, turbo, 227 hp (256 hp, w/premium gas/310 torque)

Transmission: SkyActiv-drive 6-speed, automatic w/Sport mode

Weight: 3,809 lbs.

Wheelbase: 106.2 in.

Length: 179.1 in.

Cargo: 31-59.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/27

MPG: 24.1 (tested)

Base Price: $37,625 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $36,207

Options:

Soul Red Crystal paint, $595

Navigation system, $450

Test vehicle: $38,670

Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Diecast: Johnny Lightning 1:64 Muscle Cars & Showcase

Latest Lightning 6-packs loaded with color, detail …

The recent Muscle Cars release and a few older JLs in the new Auto World case.

I find it sort of amazing that muscle cars from the 1960s through the ‘80s remain so incredibly popular with collectors, both of 1:1 cars and those of us who love smaller diecast models, which are infinitely more affordable.

Johnny Lighting is well aware, which is why it has been cranking out 1:64 scale diecast cars and trucks for years, and its parent company Auto World the same, plus larger scale 1:18 muscle cars too.

The 2021 Muscle Cars release 3, version A.

One of Johnny Lightning’s mainstays has been its Muscle Cars and other themed 6-packs, made with A and B releases, each in authentic manufacturer colors. The current is Release 3 for 2021 (supply chain deliveries still catching up), featuring a 1968 Shelby GT-500 KR, 1965 Chevy Chevelle Wagon, 1986 Buick Grand National, 1977 Pontiac Firebird T/A, 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger 340, and 1970 Plymouth GTX.

The 2021 Muscle Cars release 3, version B.

All are sharply cast and feature the usual opening hoods with detailed engine bays, or at least as detailed as a 1:64 model likely needs to be. All the cars also feature rubber tires, some branded, a few simply blackwalls.

Let’s get right to the six models.

The Models

               This Shelby GT-500 is sweet, and in Calypso Coral (a bright orange) it’ll stand out in any collection. Johnny Lightning models the KR version of the 1968 Mustang/Shelby. That originally stood for King of the Road, which this certainly was with its Cobra Jet 428 V8, which was listed at 335 horses, but was said to be much closer to 400.

               At the time this was the most powerful Mustang and would do 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, impressive in the day.

JL tells us that the King of the Road phrase was being considered for trademarking by Chevrolet at the time, but clever Carroll Shelby quickly worked to secure the name and KR trademark before the slow-moving Chevy could get the job done. Shelby was always aggressive and knew how to get things done!

This model has a black engine bay with blue V8 block, a tan interior with good detailing molded into its face. Along the rocker panels is a white racing stripe with the GT-500 KR name included and Shelby is spelled out in silver on the nose and tail. Little details can add some spiff and here there are not only silver door handles, but two silver dots on the hood to represent hood pins, and Shelby’s coiled Cobra logo on the front quarter panels. The license proudly announces KR 428 to signify the GT’s engine and the tires are labeled Goodyear.

A fun addition to this set is the 1965 Chevelle Wagon, a rare beast in that it was only made for two years, 1964 and ’65. Making this one even more interesting is the Turtle Power logo on the doors, one that was used by Turtle Wax in the 1960s. Somehow it seems even more appropriate as the model comes in Turtle Wax Metallic Green.

Other highlights include the slight bulge in the wagon’s rear roof that somehow makes it look faster, silver Malibu script on the rear quarter panels, Chevy’s twin flag logos tucked between the front wheel wells and nose, a blue and red Chevy logo on the grille and Firestone-labeled tires. Wheels are chrome mags.

Under the hood the engine block is orange with a black air filter and the interior is black. Oh, and there’s a Turtle decal inside both rear side windows.

The Buick Grand National looks intimidating in a black paint job.

If black indicates Intimidator-style power on a 1980s muscle car, then the 1986 Buick Grand National may be your favorite among this six-pack. It’s boxy, big and black, with a gray and black interior featuring high-back seats.

In the day the 1986 model was the best-selling of the three-year run of Grand National’s, although a Regal had a Grand National package in 1982. More than 5,500 Grand Nationals were built in 1986, more than double the first two years of production, combined.

Improvements had been made for ’86 too, with its 3.8-liter V6 turbo gaining an intercooler and seeing its horsepower jump from 200 to 235, making it capable of doing 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds and a quarter mile on the dragstrip in 13.9 seconds. That made it the fastest production car in the U.S., beating Corvette, Camaro and Firebird, its GM stable mates. Car and Driver magazine tested the Buick and found it faster too than a Lamborghini Countach. Amazing!

               This one features the bulge at the rear of the hood with 3.8L Turbo logo, the Grand National logo on the front quarter panel just in front of the doors, another on the trunk sill and a license plate with GM on it. I particularly like the blacked out grille (as most vehicles now offer) but with its fine silver outline and the twin rectangle headlights framing it. Sharp!

The Pontiac Firebird and Buick Grand National both look racy!

               Pontiac, now long-gone, was a major player in the muscle car wars, its Firebird always fast and its roll in the 1977 movie, Smokey and the Bandit, with Burt Reynolds, assured its fame. That Firebird with its Screaming Eagle on the hood was black, while this ‘77 Pontiac Firebird T/A is a handsome Brentwood Brown Poly. I think of it as metallic bronze.

               This one features the “Bandit” package that cost 1,141 with the Hurst Hatches (T-top), while a $556 version omitted the hatches, but put that eagle on the hood. This eagle is black and gold, the wings wrapping around the hood’s power bulge that protrudes through the hood. Under it was a 200-horse V8.

               Other feature here include a tan interior with black steering wheel, Trans Am label on the nose, tail, and front quarter panels, a 77 Bird license, and gold-spoked wheels tucked inside BF Goodrich-labeled tires.

               Muscle came in all shapes and sizes, proven by the 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger 340, a restyle that year to give it a split grille in front and taillights embedded in the rear bumper (not a great idea). But the Dart had been muscled up over the years and while other models in the Chrysler-Plymouth lineup would outshine the Dart, this one was quick.

The little Dart Swinger packed a major punch in a lightweight platform.

               First, it started with the 340-cu.-in. V8 (thus the Swinger 340) that created an impressive 275 horsepower in a 3,170-pound car. And all this for just $2,808. Heck, that’s a modest option package price on today’s cars.

               Both hood and trunk were long and the rear window sloped to give the squarish car a somewhat fastback look. The bumble bee rear wraparound stripe remained from earlier versions, and while it looked best as a black stripe on a yellow car, this white version with blue stripe is sharp. Up front were dual fake hood scoops and the model includes silver Swinger script behind the doors and under the C-pillar.

A lot of Mopar power represented here with the Dart and GTX.

               Tires are unbranded here and wheels white with a modes chrome cap at their center. Windows are trimmed in silver as are the door handles and gas cap.

               Plymouth was known for its muscle and funky colors in the late 1960s and early 1970s. So it’s no surprise that Johnny Lightning created a Moulin Rouge (dark pink) 1970 Plymouth GTX for this set. Known as the Gentleman’s Muscle Car, the GTX got a new grille and taillights for 1970 and of course the Power Bulge hood returned with a single Air Grabber scoop on top.

A muscular V8 was under that GTX hood.

               A 440 Super Commando V8 with four-barrel carburetor was standard, generating 375 horsepower, while a 426 HEMI V8 was optional. It made 425 horsepower, major muscle.

               This pink beauty features the GTX’s clean lines, that snazzy hood and black racing stripes on the sides along with GTX decals just behind the fake rear brake air scoops. GTX is emblazoned on the grille and Plymouth is spelled out on the tail. Window trim is silver, as are door handles, wipers and like the Shelby, two dots on the hood to represent hood pins. There are 440 decals next to the Air Grabber scoop too, and tires are labeled as Goodyears.

Here’s the whole A version collection from the latest Johnny Lightning release.

               The B release

               This second set offers its own unique colors with a few other visual differences from the A release.

               The Shelby comes in Highland Green, one of the most popular Mustang colors and is simply a sharp looker, without being as flashy as the orange A version. While the Chevelle Wagon shows its lines much better in the Silver Pearl Poly Turtle Wax paint job than the dark green on the A model. I prefer the black Buick Grand National to this Rosewood Poly (copper) version in the B collection, as it seems to me most Grand Nationals were black, and certainly look more racy in that color.

               Version B’s Firebird is Cameo White and it accentuates the car’s lines better than the Brentwood Brown Poly in Version A. Again there’s the Screaming Eagle on the hood, and I like the black trim around the T-top openings.

               The biggest differences seem to be the Dart Swinger and Plymouth GTX in the B release. The Swinger is Light Blue Poly with a black stripe around the tail, but also a matte black roof and trim on the hood scoops that give this one a racier look. On the GTX the color is Burnt Orange Poly that is a fine copper finish like a shiny penny. But with white racing stripes on the sides, a matte black roof and matte black center portion of the hood, including the air scoop. It’s sharp!

               New Display Case

               Auto World now is offering a snazzy 3-in-1 Showcase that satisfies a number of display needs. First, it’ll hold a 1:24 scale model, so for plastic car builders it’ll protect one of their project cars, of which dust is the primary enemy.

But it also will hold three 1:43 scale cars or nine 1:64 scale vehicles, which is what I did with it immediately, using a few Johnny Lightning cars I had sitting on a dresser, plus the six that came the above reviewed six-pack. Naturally JL, Racing Champions Mint, Playing Mantis, Matchbox and Hot Wheels all will fit in the case.

Naturally the top is clear acrylic and rounded on the edges for a more sophisticated display. And instead of the top popping off for car placement it’s hinged, which makes for easier opening and makes the case less likely to be shaken and possibly damaging its contents. That can happen as sometimes a case’s tight-fitting top can jam on the bottoms and be hard to remove.

Here we see the removable 2-tier platform. Take it out and a 1:24 model fits!

The bottom here is black and there’s a removable 2-tier platform that would allow a 1:24 model to be placed flat on the bottom. I like the 3-tiered look with the platform in place though as now more cars can be positioned on three levels for easy viewing.

Excellent!

Vital Stats: Muscle Cars 6-packs

Maker: Auto World/Johnny Lightning
Scale: 1:64
Stock No.: JLMC027/06 A&B
MSRP: $51.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Vital Stats: 3-in1 Showcase

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1:24 to 1:64
Stock No.: AWDC004
MSRP: $19.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Car Spot: This Midget was a King

Billed as the World’s Most Exciting Small Car

Just after World War II ended the car business was booming. All those GI’s coming home wanting something new and/or cool to drive. Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt cashed in on that and created the King Midget in 1946. For a time, their company, Midget Motors Corporation was the sixth-largest auto manufacturer. The car was built until 1970. I spotted this at a recent car show in town.

The Model 3 was sold fully assembled, and advertised in magazines like Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated. It was powered by a rear-mounted, air-cooled, one-cylinder Wisconsin or Kohler engine making 9.2 or 12 horsepower mated to a two-speed automatic transmission. It has a fully independent suspension and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. It gets around 50 mpg and had a top speed of about the same. The 177-inch runabout rides on eight-inch wheels. The car ranged in price from just under $900 up to a bit over $1,000 during its 13-year run. If you’re looking to get into the old car hobby, this is a great entry point. According to NADA pricing, today’s low and high values are $4,300 to $13,000. This car reminds me of Corvairs and VW Beatles in that their smiles per gallon factor are huge.

RELATED POST: See my story about one of the last VW Beatle Convertibles.

Be sure to check back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot. Have a great weekend.

2022 Ford Maverick Lariat FWD

Ford returns to the compact pickup market with a hybrid …

Finally, finally, finally the nation’s leading truck maker has returned to the compact pickup market as Ford introduces the Maverick pickup.

Oldtimers will recall the original Ford Maverick as an inexpensive compact car that did not distinguish itself, but this Maverick is gonna be great in the marketplace, just like Ford’s previous Ranger. The old Ranger, not the new mid-size pickup of the same name, used to clog up every high school parking lot in both rural and urban America.

Know why? It was affordable and useful, and by golly, it was a TRUCK. And that’s what young male buyers yearn for as they imagine themselves becoming men, starting a work life and well, just expressing their macho dudeness as they crank their country rock tunes.

Maverick’s looks are less macho than all the bulky mid-size and full-size pickups that look prepared to trounce some demon in a Marvel action movie. Maverick is handsome and understated, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s also highly affordable throughout its three trim levels, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that.

The base front-drive XL starts at $21,490, including delivery. The mid-level XLT lists at $23,855 and the tested Lariat model begins at $26,985. OMG that’s cheap in today’s truck world. Add $3,305 to any model if you prefer 4-wheel-drive, which most folks do these days. However, you’ll also need to upgrade to Ford’s 2.0-liter turbo I4 engine ($1,085) in order to add 4WD.

Still, even this well-equipped Alto Blue Metallic (dark metallic blue that’s $390 extra) checked in at just $29,340. That after adding a sunroof ($795), Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 safety equipment ($540), a spray-in bedliner (a must at $495) and floor mats ($135). All models are crewcabs.

What may surprise as much as the price it that each of these trims comes standard with a hybrid powertrain. That’s right, Ford’s 2.5-liter I4 is paired with a hybrid system to make this compact pickup a sipper of gas around town. The EPA rates it at 42 mpg highway and 33 mpg city. I got 31.8 in a mix of driving in cold, icy, and snowy weather.

Watch Mark’s video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG2hTmpxMMk

Power is smooth and fairly quiet, but modest unless mashing the accelerator. Part of that can be attributed to its continuously variable transmission. If you need more power, that optional turbo I4, coupled with an 8-speed automatic, delivers 250 horses compared with the hybrid system’s 191 and scant 155 lb.-ft. of torque. Again, the hybrid is fine for normal driving conditions, the turbo is only needed if you plan to tow more.

That’s because the hybrid is rated to tow just 2,000 lbs. while properly equipped ($745 tow package) the turbo-powered Maverick will pull 4,000 lbs. Compare that with Hyundai’s new Santa Cruz, my Zoomie Vehicle of the Year, which can tow up to 5,000 lbs. Santa Cruz is Maverick’s main competition, being the only other compact pickup so far, although it is more stylish and tends toward the crossover end of the market for ride and roominess.

While AWD is extra, there are five drive modes adjusted via a knob on the console. Those include Eco, Normal, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul. Sport does boost acceleration some.

Handling is certainly fine with Maverick, which rides on the same chassis as the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, both of which also are nimble. Steering effort is mild and turn-in for corners fairly precise, making it an easy vehicle on the road and in parking lots.

Ride is another thing. While Maverick is unibody construction, not body-on-frame as are most other trucks, the suspension is pretty firm here. That leads to more bounce and jiggle on our winter-ravaged Midwest roads. Maverick is pleasant on the highway, but on crumbling roads passengers will be shaken, not just stirred.

Braking is good as Maverick packs four-wheel disc brakes.

For the record, Maverick’s bed is 4.5 feet deep and the test unit had a spray-in bedliner. The lift-in height is just 30 inches and the tailgate folds down quickly, no easy-drop, or multiple function version here as on fancier pickups. But this is right-sized to haul lumber, bushes and yard waste. Even a couple bikes will fit in back.

Inside is right-sized too for four, or maybe five folks, if at least one is a child. The rear seats are roomy and there’s oodles of storage space under the rear seat whose bottom cushion folds up.

The test truck’s interior was simple but attractive with brown and dark blue faux leather seats. That blue matches the truck’s exterior. I also like the copper trim on the dash, air vents and door armrests, which are abbreviated and quite easy to use in pulling a door shut. The console is wisely a matte blue and brown so no reflections there on sunny days.

Snazzy copper-colored door pulls add some spiff inside.

Controls and screens are fine, the main gauges easy to see and read and the 8-inch infotainment screen seems even smaller, but was easy to read. The Lariat also has dual climate controls and push-button start, but no navigation system. Note that in an effort to keep costs down the base level features a key start (remember those?) and cloth seats.

Seats themselves are comfy enough here, but the front edge seems to have just a tad too much foam, so puts extra pressure on the legs, just behind the knees, of short drivers. Luckily the driver’s seat is powered, while the passenger’s is not. Yet still the front edge could not be lowered enough for this short driver’s long-ride comfort.

Seats also are not heated, nor is the steering wheel, even at this Lariat level. No wireless phone charger is standard here either.

Good news though, the step-in height is like a sedan or small crossover, so no running board is needed.

On the safety front the Maverick includes a pre-collision assist system, rear-view camera, remote keyless entry and with the $540 Co-Pilot 360 adds blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping alert and aid, driver alert and a full-size spare tire.

For off-road heroes there’s also an FX4 package available for $800. That adds 17-inch all-terrain tires, an upgraded cooling system and high-capacity radiator, hill descent control, a 6.5-inch instrument cluster, a hitch, special aluminum wheels, skid plates and exposed front tow hooks Note that you must upgrade to the turbo engine before adding FX4, adding roughly another grand.

There’s storage room below the rear seat.

The base XL of course is a basic low-content truck to keep the price just above $20,000, but the XLT adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control, a locking tailgate and power mirrors. The tested Lariat includes the XLT’s features and adds the power driver’s seat, push-button start and 18-inch wheels.

One final plus, the hybrid-powered Maverick features an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty on that system, while the more powerful 2.0-liter turbo has a 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty.

If you want a pickup, but don’t Need a monster truck, or can’t Afford one, Maverick is a sweet new choice, finally.

FAST STATS: 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat FWD

Hits: Right-sized pickup with excellent handling and super MPG due to hybrid system. Comfy interior, low step-in height, lined bed, easy dash function, 5 drive modes, cool copper interior trim, dual climate controls, seats 4/5, power driver’s seat, and sunroof.

Misses: Just OK power, ride is bouncy at times, a bit too firm, front edge of seats is too high for short drivers’ legs, no heated seats or steering wheel, no wireless phone charger and no 4WD.

Made in: Hermosillo, Mexico

Engine: 2.5-liter I4 hybrid, 191 hp/155 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,674 lbs.

Wheelbase: 121.1 in.

Length: 199.7 in.

Payload: 1,500 lbs.

Tow: 2,000 lbs.

MPG: 42/33

MPG: 31.8 (tested)

Base Price: $26,985 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $26,475

Major Options:

Co-pilot 360, $540

Alto Blue paint, $390

Floor liner without carpet mats, $135

Power moon roof, $795

Spray-in bedliner, $495

Test vehicle: $29,340

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Diecast: 1956 Ford F-100 pickup

Auto World creates a simple, iconinc Ford pickup …

Ford’s pickup hasn’t always been the best-selling vehicle in North America, it just seems that way. But in the 1950s Ford redesigned its F-1 pickup and renamed it the F-100 (now the F-150), all in an effort to overtake Chevrolet.

By 1956 the second generation Ford pickup had been restyled several times in just four years, the grille, logo and windshield getting new touches each time, yet the ’56 model is iconic in its look and started driving Ford toward its pickup dominance.

Auto World marks that moment in time with the release of its 1:18 scale 1956 Ford F-100 Pickup in Diamond Blue, the factory color that so many pickups were bathed in before leaving one of the dozen factories, including one each in Canada and Brazil, that made them.

Again AW’s model delivers high value as the pickup features opening hood, doors and in this case, a tailgate that will drop flat if unhooked. Front wheels also are steerable.

The History

The ’56 Ford had a nose-heavy look created by its set-back front-axle, low profile and prominent front fenders. The grille was new for this year with the V8 emblem at its middle, the A-pillars were vertical now, and the snazzy Ford truck logo featuring a gear with a lightning bolt through it, the background being a red and black shield.

Ford also used a wraparound windshield this year and added an energy-absorbing steering wheel and double-grip door latches for safety. Inside, there also was a hooded instrument panel, much like cars were then offering.

A hooded instrument panel was new to trucks in 1956.

Pricing was $1,580 and the F-100 was offered with eight engine choices from a 100-horse base Straight-6 or Flathead V8 up to a powerful 300-horse Y-Block V8. That made this the most powerful Ford pickup to date. Of course that battle for best pulling power and hot rod performance continues with Ford’s Raptor models.

Ironically, despite the redesign, power, and safety improvements, sales still slumped in 1956, with Ford selling just 137,581 pickups. By comparison, Ford sold 363,032 F-150 pickups in 2021.

The Model

               Simplicity reigns in this nostalgic 1956 Ford pickup, even the soft light blue color feels homey and vintage.

               The opening doors are basically vertical rectangles, the A-pillar being straight-up and the silver-trimmed vent windows being tall rectangles inside a horizontal rectangle-shaped window. Fenders are big rounded metal coverings to keep all that mud and muck stirred up in the farm field from flipping up on the wide black running boards as the farmer or construction worker went about their daily duties.

The tailgate notches in place or will fold straight down.

               The bed in back is a simple box stuck inside those rear fenders with a black bed liner and a tailgate that notches in place. Pull up on that and it unhooks to lay flat down behind the vehicle, no hinges here, as there were none on a pickup in 1956.

               The nose features a white grille with the V8 logo and single round lights also housed in that white metal trim. The Ford truck logo is dead center on the raised hood’s center bulge and the bumpers, front and rear are straight flat metal bars that have been chromed. Fancy this ain’t!

               But I like the truck’s basic nature.

               Naturally that big hood will open via large hinges and beneath is the yellowish-orange V8 block with Ford-labeled headers and a round black air filter. There’s a radiator and a few other under-hood bits and pieces, plus molded in firewall and hood features that give this a simple air of realism. Probably could use some oil splattered about or mud under the hood to show it has been used, but maybe that model will be another version from AW.

               Wipers are chrome trimmed as are the big side mirrors, door handles and round dog dish style hub caps with Ford simply engraves across their center. Wheels are blue to match the truck’s body and there are thin whitewalls for the unbranded, but treaded tires.

               A chrome and red Ford F-100 logo sticks on the side of the hood for branding purposes and to add a little bling to a truck that was definitely for work, not play, as they are today.

               AW also delivers a nicely detailed underbody here with exhaust and suspension pieces, so something to see if you display in a mirror-bottom display case.

               But as with all other models from Auto World, this comes in a sharply decorated window-box container that could easily serve as your display box. There’s even a panel in the box bottom so you can see some of that undercarriage.

               Super paint quality on a real metal die-cast model that looks and feels authentic. Auto World’s latest home run, and this pre-production sample was perfect. You can pre-order now.              

Vital Stats: 1956 Ford F-100 Pickup

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AW290
MSRP: $115.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Car Spot: It set the bar for luxo SUV

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer is still grand

I’m a huge Jeep guy. I’ve driven and/or owned them for over 30 years. My love affair began when I was fresh out of school TV news reporter in Cedar Rapids, IA and I drove was a 1977 Cherokee Chief (SJ). The other TV stations only had passenger cars so if there was any snow on the ground or any reason to go off-road (sometimes I made them up) they were left behind. My love affair was solidified because my dad worked for American Motors who bought Jeep in 1970 and besides Hornets, Javelins, Matadors, and Gremlins, there were Jeeps in the driveway. The one I remember most was a Grand Wagoneer similar to the one pictured below.

Photo: Jeep

AMC decided to take the Grand Waggy (as it’s affectionately known by fans) and open an entirely new market, luxury SUV’s. So they took this aging platform that had been around since the 60s and loaded it up. It was introduced in 1984. Most examples were powered by AMC’s 360 V-8 and later 401 a 5.9-liter V-8 good for 140 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, power everything including the rear tailgate window, leather all around, and carpeting you could bury your toes in. The asking price for all of this was just under $19,000. Just think what that buys you now. Pretty much a tin can with wheels. Nobody in the market had anything like this and its sales were solid but all this fun came to an end after Chrysler purchased AMC in 1987 and discontinued the Grand Waggy in 1991.

This 1987 lives at the Automobile Gallery in Green Bay, WI, and is run by friend Darrel Burnett. It was purchased by founder William “Red” Lewis. It is beyond mint-like most of the cars Red bought and are displayed in the museum. There is not a spot of rust on it and the interior looks just like the day Red took delivery.

Today, even with the intro of the new Grand Wagoneer, it remains in a class of one and is being rediscovered by a new generation of fans. You can find these all over places like BaT ranging in prices from the mid-20s to 50 ish. Some are commanding crazy six-figure pricing at the auctions.

RELATED VIDEO: See my first impression of the new Grand Wagoneer.

I got the bug after seeing this example. I tried to buy it off Darrel but Darrell politely declined. He told me others have asked too. I started doing some research and found that by buying an affordable one you can later sell it without losing money.

RELATED POST: See the other classic Jeep at the museum.

Ah but found it’s probably not a good daily driver. It gets crappy gas mpg, around 10, and the carbureted engine is sometimes finicky. Because of that many are converted to fuel injection. Still, with all of its quirkiness, I want one of these badly. Dealbreaker is my wife who won’t drive a car without all the safety stuff they have on vehicles now.

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer may have demonstrated the extreme profitability of the luxo-truck concept, but with a few exceptions, it remains in a class of one. Unduplicated even decades later, it is now being rediscovered by a new generation of fans seeking a classic respite from the same/same people movers sitting on dealer lots across the country.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots. Have a great weekend.

2021 Ford Bronco

Bucking Bronco sure to give Jeep’s Wrangler off-road competition …

New Bronco is a sweet ride, but only if you’re going off-roading!

Ford’s new off-road worthy Bronco is loaded with impressive features, but it is a bucking Bronco to be sure.

For younger drivers the Bronco name may be new as there hasn’t been one for 25 years. But it was a major competitor to the Jeep CJ-5 and Toyota Land Cruiser in the 1960s and early ’70s when it was a rugged short-wheelbase Jeep-like vehicle. Then it grew to massive SUV proportions before being scrapped in 1996.

This new version is a true off-roader targeting Jeep’s Wrangler, and again with a short wheelbase. As a daily driver it’s a butt pounder and re-arranger of internal organs, but off-road, well, that’s where Bronco wants to be. For folks needing or wanting a daily driver know that there is a Bronco Sport that weighs 1,200 pounds less and rides on the Escape platform. It’s a delight and still reflects the Bronco styling, round headlights and all.

Really it’s sad that Ford’s misguided management of the 1990s dropped Bronco as it was a viable option to Jeep. Consider this the result of a 25-year marketing lesson.

The tested Iconic Silver 2-door Advanced model with Wildtrak package clears the ground by 8.4 inches and boasts a 2.7-liter EcoBoost turbo V6 creating 330 horses and a torque rating of 415. That makes this the top-end big Bronco and its price matches all that muscle, starting at $48,475, with delivery. Options brought it to $53,650.

Note that mine was a 2021 model, which came out late last year, the smaller, lighter Bronco Sport being first off the assembly lines. Prices are up $800 for 2022, the rear-drive base model listing now at $30,795, including delivery. There are five trim levels after the base, including Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands and this Wildtrak.

In short, the Bronco seems just as off-road worthy as a Jeep Wrangler, but is more powerful with more precise handling. It’s also way noisier on the road and with a bouncier ride than a Jeep.

Watch the video: Mark Savage reviews the new Ford Bronco Wildtrak – YouTube

This Bronco features Ford’s fine 10-speed automatic transmission that makes for smooth shifts, but a 7-speed manual also is available for those wanting to control their power applications when crawling over rocks and wading through muck.

There are eight drive modes here, which Ford labels GOAT, as in Goes Over Any Terrain. Settings are Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery (rain and snow), Sand, Mud/Ruts, Rock Crawl and Baja (for the desert).  Those last three settings are meant for serious off-roading, while the others may be used in more typical driving situations, such as at the beach, on wooded trails or when the weather turns Wisconsiny.

Turning that GOAT dial is easy to select any of these and there also are buttons there for just engaging the on-the-fly 4-wheel drive, automatic, high or low.

Other off-road goodies include Trail Control that is like cruise for off-roading, setting the crawl speed at a low level, plus something called Trail One Pedal Drive where the accelerator is both that and brake as it brakes the vehicle once you take your foot off the accelerator. Think of driving an electric golf cart or maybe a snowmobile where there’s engine braking once the accelerator is disengaged.

But the coolest feature, and most useful, is the Trail Turn Assist that’s engaged via a button on the dash. This cuts Bronco’s turning radius off-road, holding the inner turning wheel’s brake to pivot the Bronco quickly. Loved it and Jeep needs to figure this out post haste to add to its Wrangler. I used it several times in high brush off road and Bronco almost does a 90-degree turn to head the opposite direction, again, at low speed. Bravo!

To be honest, Bronco was way more fun off-road than on. Its squarish design means it functions like a brick passing through the air at highway speeds, plenty of wind noise around the roof and giant A-pillars. Also the doors have frameless windows so they wobble when being closed and add to the wind noise.

But worse, I think, was the banshee howl of the giant 35-inch off-road tires. I could barely talk to a passenger or hear the radio, which had to be cranked if rolling at more than 30 mph.

Those tires and the off-road favoring suspension also makes for a bouncy truck ride that makes a Wrangler feel tame as Jeep has worked for years to get its off-roader to behave better on road.

Power here is excellent though, the 330 horses beating Jeep’s 3.6-liter V6 by 45 horsepower and the turbo giving monster boost. Bronco crushes Jeep’s non-turbo torque rating by 156. That’s a ton! Bronco also will tow up to 3,500 pounds, as will a Wrangler.

Inside the water-resistant (and heated) seats were gray with camouflage black inserts, the doors trimmed in black and tan along with brushed metal inserts. All the grab handles are blue and black, the main ones being at the dash’s end, not on the A-pillars as so many are in SUVs and Jeeps. The A-pillar types seem easier to use, more intuitive and best when using the running boards to climb into a Bronco or Jeep.

Bronco wins the screen wars with a 12-incher in this Wildtrak edition. That’s part of the $3,590 Wildtrak equipment group that also includes a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera, wireless charger, Bang & Olufsen stereo upgrade, navigation system and smart cruise control, plus a variety of electronic add-ons.

Bronco wins the off-road screen wars for the moment with this 12-incher!

Everything functions well here. I’d just add a flat-bottom wheel to free up some knee room, especially important when off-roading. Auxiliary switches are overhead here and the off-road toggles for locking the front and rear dif and engaging Trail Turn Assist are conveniently atop the dash.

Safety is well covered, as you’d expect, with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 system, and the smart cruise in the Wildtrak package.

Bronco also offers, like Jeep, that the front roof panels are removable to create a more open-air driving experience. The doors also are removable, which is why the mirrors aren’t mounted on the door frames. Here’s the rub on the roof panels, at least in this model with roof rails. It’s easy to loosen the panels, but I couldn’t figure out how to slide them off as the roof rails prevented raising the panels more than an inch or so, trapping them.

I admit to not trying to work these things loose as the temp was in the teens, or lower, most of my test drive. But be forewarned that if you have roof rails ($365 extra here) roof panel removal will be difficult.

One thing Bronco doesn’t offer, that Jeep does? Well, the windshield will not fold down over the hood. Wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me.

Something the Bronco has that Jeep doesn’t? Trail sights, the black trim atop the front fenders. Look sort of like gun sights, but apparently could help you keep the Bronco aimed properly on a dusty or rocky trail.

Bronco seats are fairly tight, so if you’re a wide-bottom check these out for comfort before a purchase. Rear seat room also is limited in this 2-door model, and the rear seats fold down, but not exactly flat. If you need more cargo space go with the 4-door Bronco as it offers 50% more cargo room than the 2-door. Wasn’t easy to crawl into those rear seats either, but something kids might enjoy.

The tailgate opens out like a heavy door with that tire mounted in back!

Bronco’s rear hatch is like a Jeep’s as it opens like a door and is split so the window folds up once the tailgate is open. That gate is heavy too as the full-size spare, like a Jeep’s, hangs there.

Honestly I was surprised at Bronco’s gas mileage as this thing weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. I managed 18 mpg with 60% of my driving at 40 to 60 mph. The EPA rates Bronco at 18 mpg city and 20 highway, about the same as a Wrangler.

For the record the base Broncos feature a smaller, 2.3-liter turbo I4 engine that makes 300 hp and generates 325 lb.-ft. of torque and gets up to 22 mpg, highway. The lower trim levels also feature an 8-inch info screen instead of the 12-incher here.

Jeep has a serious competitor, finally, and again!

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door Advanced 4×4

Hits: Off-road ability matches rugged looks, Trail Turn Assist a gem, excellent turbo power, nimble handling, 8 drive modes. Big info screen, heated wheel and water-resistant seats, running boards, wireless charger, and doors and front roof panels are removable, like Jeep. A 7-speed manual available.

Gun sights? No, Trail Sights on the fenders!

Misses: Horribly noisy interior, bucking Bronco ride, roof rails block easy removal of roof panels, giant A-pillar, frameless door glass rattles when shut, windshield doesn’t fold down, split rear hatch opens like door and super heavy with big spare tire on it.

Made in: Taylor, Mich.

Engine: 2.7-liter EcoBoost turbo V6, 330 hp/415 torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 4,975 lbs.

Wheelbase: 100.4 in.

Length: 173.7 in.

Cargo: 22.4 – 52.3 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 18/20

MPG: 18.0 (tested)

Base Price: $48,475 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $47,603

Major Options:

Wildtrak equipment group 354A (360 camera, Sync4 w/voice recognition, AppLink, 911 Assist, 12-in. screen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, smart cruise, LED approach lights, navigation system w/live traffic & route guidance, front park sensors, B&O stereo w/10 speakers & subwoofer, LED mirror lights, evasive steering assist, heated steering wheel, wireless charger), $3,590

Cargo area protector, $120

Tube step power coated, $395

Towing capability, $595

Keyless entry keypad, $110

Roof rail w/crossbars in black, $365

Test vehicle: $53,650

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Diecast: Autoart Suzuki Jimny

Jimny (JB64) is a cute, well-detailed Jeep wanna-be …

Suzuki’s Jimny is a fun little runabout, and even cuter as a 1/18 scale diecast model from the hot shot designers at Autoart.

There’s no doubt this Jeep-like two-door sport-utility is useful and nimble. It has sold like Pocky sticks in its home market, Japan and has been a hit for Suzuki all around the world, with the exception of the United States where Suzuki stopped selling vehicles at the end of 2012.

But Suzuki’s low-cost small vehicles could well be considered something akin to the Beetle of Japan, economical and fun. And lest you think Suzuki is a small-time carmaker, well, it’s the fourth best-selling brand in Japan, behind the giants Toyota, Honda and Nissan, not bad company.

The History

Suzuki launched the Jimny in 1970, so it has had a long run and according to Wikipedia, Suzuki had sold 2.85 million of the little gems across 194 countries as of the fall of 2018. There’s an interesting history behind Jimny too.

It started as the HopeStar ON360. Say what?

Yes, it was originally designed by the Hope Motor Co., a small Japanese manufacturer that Suzuki bought in 1968. So, Suzuki re-introduced the vehicle as its LJ10 (Light Jeep) in 1970 with an air-cooled, two-stroke, two-cylinder engine. It had nowhere to go but up.

From there the engine grew and grew, becoming liquid-cooled as the vehicle began gaining popularity and was shipped off to Australia and then was Suzuki’s first vehicle sold in the U.S. market as a Samurai in 1986. Along the way the Jimny name became its moniker in Japan, and Jimny Sierra elsewhere.

Lest you think it incapable off-road, in 2007 a modified version set the high-altitude record for a 4-wheel-drive vehicle on a mountain at the Chile-Argentina border. It climbed to 21,942 feet, beating a Jeep Wrangler’s mark at the time.

This JB64 version is the fourth generation Jimny, launched in 2018 and the model reflects the styling of Japanese-market models, with no added plastic fender flares, whereas in other markets the black flares are much more pronounced. Jimny remains a body-on-frame vehicle, like a Jeep Wrangler and most of today’s trucks.

The engine is a turbo 3-cylinder that makes about 100 horsepower, rides on a short 88.6-inch wheelbase and weighs less than 2,300 pounds. So it may be appropriate to still consider it a Light Jeep, as it was originally.

The Model

               I’ve grown to love many boxy Jeep-like vehicles over the past 50 years of driving and testing new vehicles. So this Jimny strikes me as a fun, cheap Jeep wanna-be. It’ll certainly stand out in your collection and being an Autoart model you can be sure the design and build quality is high.

               Autoart offers several color combos, but the sample was an earthy Chiffon Ivory Metallic (shiny tan) with a black roof. It appears ready to wander off down a dirt road to bang some ditches.

               The doors fit nice and flat to the body, those wheel wells just showing a slight bulge and the front and rear bumpers are a sturdy black. The nose features running lights in the bumper, black mesh grille work there and in the upper grille featuring what looks like a Superman (Suzuki) logo at its center. Headlights, as with Jeeps and now Ford Broncos, are round, these adding an amber turn signal just above the light and toward each side’s fenders.

               Mirrors are black with white turn signal lamps embedded and the windows are all trimmed in gloss black with a couple black wipers extending from the cowling just behind the hood.

               A small black antenna extends from the rear driver’s side (right drive) roof and a big spare tire hangs on the tail, just as with a Jeep. The tailgate opens out like a door and includes a high-mount brake light atop its frame, black hinge covers and the words Suzuki and Jimny in silver low on the gate. The three-lens red and clear taillights sunk into the black rear bumper look sharp too. Below is a Jimny license plate too.

               Tires are all branded Bridgestone in black, so hard to read, but typical of the real vehicle. Wheels are sort of a matte silver/gray with black Suzuki-logoed caps.

               Naturally the hood, doors and hatch open on this Autoart model, with a nicely detailed engine compartment and fine metal hinges to hold that hood up for display. There’s a tiny hood rod there too, but don’t try to use it, it’s just for decoration.

Engine wiring and plumbing look appropriate with a sharp-looking battery including labels on top. There’s also a white washer-fluid reservoir, a steering master cylinder with white fluid container and other appropriate hoses and filters. The hood’s underside detailing is handsomely molded too.

               Not much to see inside the rear tailgate, except seatbacks and headrests, but the front cockpit looks realistically detailed, and with the wide-opening doors this interior is simple to see. Black interior here with bucket seats, a center console-mounted shift lever, 3-spoke steering wheel with Suzuki logo, and nicely detailed gauges across the dash, including a reflective screen in the dash’s center. Air vents are trimmed in silver.

               U.S. collectors have a rare opportunity with the Jimny to add a popular world vehicle to their collections, and it’s so darned cute they may want a couple in varying colors.

               For the record Autoart offers Jimnys in Pure White, Jungle Green, Bluish Black, Brisk Blue, Kinetic Yellow, most, except the white models, with black or body-colored. Also, the world market models, known as Jimny Sierras (JB74), are available in the same colors, but with the bulging black fender flares that give Jimny a slightly more muscular look.

               Either way this is a cute ute.        

Vital Stats: Suzuki Jimny

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 78500 (Chiffon Ivory Metallic/Black roof)

MSRP: $190

Link: Autoartmodels.com

2022 Kia Stinger GT-Line RWD

Power, handling, looks, Stinger as swanky as European makes …

Swanky European luxury sports sedans often crest $50,000, but they deliver the looks and performance that command a premium. Most also have earned a reputation for quickness and precision handling over decades of development.

So what happens when a newcomer sidles up behind the established leaders, looking a little younger, fresher and offering good measures of quickness and precision, yet at a more attractive price?

That’s what Kia has been about on a number of fronts, but its Stinger has been trying to put a charge into the luxury sports sedan market for a couple years now. Initial reactions were strong and for 2022 Kia upgrades its entry-level Stinger GT-Line with a big power boost. Gone is its 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, replaced with a 2.5 turbo I4 that creates … wait for it … 300 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s up 45 horsepower, an impressive boost.

Add to that a larger infotainment screen, more standard safety features, sharp LED head and taillights, new alloy wheels and snazzier gloss black and chrome interior trim. Oh, and standard too are rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate controls and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto hookups.

The GT-Line, a trim level now across Kia models, replaces the GT as the base rear-drive Stinger and it does so at the surprising price of $37,135 including delivery. AWD is available for another $2,200, keeping the grippy model a smidge under $40,000. Try to find a European brand of this size and speed that competes on price. Heck, most of those are still charging extra for most of their paint colors, including gray.

My attractive Ascot Green (dark metallic green) was a standard color, no extra charge, and the lines are straight out of Ingolstadt with an aggressive nose and fastback flair. In fact, some won’t like to hear this described as a sedan despite its four doors, because the trunk is really a hatch that includes the large rear window.

To me that’s a selling point as hatches are always easier to load and unload and the cargo space is generous here at 23.3 cubic feet. But it’s unlikely a sports sedan buyer is worrying much about what’ll fit under the boot.

Watch Mark’s video: 2022 Kia Stinger review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Let’s return to the power and performance.

The new engine is definitely more torquey and pushes the GT-Line to an excess of highway speeds in short order. Topspeed.com ran it through the timing lights and managed 5.2 seconds 0-60 mph and a top speed of 130 mph. Are a few competitors quicker? Well, yes, but how much will you pay for each tenth of a second?

And if you need more power and quicker acceleration the GT1 and GT2 models both feature a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 that cranks 368 hp and 376 ft.-lbs. of torque and boasts a top speed of 167 mph. Of course both versions cost a bit more too, more along the lines of European sports sedans.

Handling is sporty, but best in the Sport drive mode that really firms up the steering effort and adds a precision closer to the European makes, if not quite there. Comfort drive mode is fine for most circumstances, but there’s also Eco, Custom and Smart, the latter of which learns how you drive and how you ARE driving and adjusts the 8-speed automatic’s shift points to fit, along with other engine and suspension adjustments.

Ride is stiffer than in the previous Stinger I’d tested and can be rather bumpy at times on our pot-hole strewn Midwest roads. All those cement highway expansion joints also can get a little old.

Braking is solid and quick with discs front and rear, the front being ventilated, the rears solid. All of today’s major safety equipment is standard here too such as emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane keeping and smart cruise, plus a safe exit assist system to warn before you open a door into traffic. Note that some luxury makes still charge extra for blind-spot or rear cross-traffic detection.

Inside, Kia delivers another fine dash design. The test car featured a black leather interior with gray seat and dash stitching. Bezels on the gauges and air ducts are chrome with black gloss trim on the console and a flat black thick leather steering wheel and hub, the bottom spoke, door releases and dash buttons being a satin silver.

Kia goes with a big infotainment screen, 10.25 inches, a wireless phone charger and heated front seats, all standard. At least one of those will likely cost extra on a European make.

There’s also a sunroof overhead, but that’s part of a $2,300 sun and sound package that upgrades to a premium Harmon-Kardon audio system and a power front passenger’s seat. The driver’s seat is power, naturally, and both front seats were well shaped to provide back and hip support for if and when the driver decides to push the car toward its top-end performance.

I give Kia designers high marks for the dash’s simple layout and ease of use, from the touchscreen to the climate controls, no confusing symbols or odd button placement and all knobs easy to use.

On the not so great side is the loud annoying welcoming chime that goes off as you start the car and often when you turn the ignition off, along with a chime and dash warning to “check the rear seat.” It was there every time I checked!

Simplicity reins in the Stinger’s interior, adding to the upscale look and feel.

A few other things tweaked my sensibilities, including the drive mode knob on the console. I would prefer a toggle as it’s easier to tap forward for Sport and down for the other, lesser performance modes. I kept turning the knob the wrong way. Also, being a short dude I put the seat fairly far forward of the average size 6-footer and that made it tough to both reach the seatbelt over the driver’s shoulder, and then to latch it into the buckle that gets tucked down into the groove between the seat and console. Gloves made it nearly impossible.

Then there’s the typical complaint for any fastback model, or big SUV, a giant A-pillar and mirror combo that partially obstructs front to side views. I guess that’s why every vehicle now has so many sensors and the much needed 360-degree cameras.

Gas mileage in the GT-Line is good too, rated at 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway by the EPA. I got 25.3 mpg, not bad for cold weather driving with minor snow on side roads. Premium fuel is preferred, but not required.

Final tally here was just $39,715, about $4,000 less than its nearest competitor from Audi. Add in the AWD and the difference is about cut in half. But the Audi quickly becomes pricier with a few options and a BMW starts about $8 grand higher. Closest may be Nissan’s fine Maxima, also with a 300 hp engine, and front-wheel-drive so likely to handle better in snow than this rear-drive model, although I had no problems on slippery side streets.

Sharp looking headlight design here!

Need more power and fancier interior features? Consider the GT1 starting about $44,000 or the GT2 at about $51,000.

Rumors also say the Stinger may be fazed out in the next year or so with electric models coming that will be performance-oriented too. But they may not look, or sound (twin-turbo V6) this sweet!

FAST STATS: 2022 Kia Stinger GT-Line RWD

Hits: Sporty fastback looks, good power and handling, an excellent sports sedan pricing. Big info screen, sunroof, heated seats, wireless charging, good climate buttons/knobs, big trunk, comfy supportive seats, easy to read dash, good mpg.

Misses: Noisy welcoming chime, and chime telling driver to check the rear seat, plus bumpy ride, drive mode knob instead of toggle, hard to fasten and reach seatbelt for short drivers, big A-pillar/mirror view blockage.

Taillights are slim and trim for an elegant design.

Made in: Sohari, S. Korea

Engine: 2.5-liter turbo 4-cyl., 300 hp/311 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 3,792 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.4 in.

Length: 190.2 in.

Cargo: 23.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/32

MPG: 25.3 (tested)

Base Price: $37,135 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $35,510

Major Options:

Sun and sound package (Harmon-Kardon premium audio system, power front passenger’s seat, sunroof), $2,300

Cargo mat, $125

Carpeted floor mats, $155

Test vehicle: $39,715

Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Car Spotting: A wagon as big as a whale

It was the master of the road in its time

I don’t know about you but when I was a kid we always had two cars and one of them was a station wagon. One I remember was a 1967 AMC Rebel. Mom and dad loaded us all up and we went on epic trips, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the World’s Fair in New York, and tons of other places. Station wagons are pretty much ignored now. SUVs and minivans have taken their place.

I spotted a monster of a wagon the other day, this Buick Roadmaster. Manufactured from 1991 to 1996, everything about it was big. Its wheelbase was 115.9 inches, and its total length was 220 inches making it one of the largest vehicles ever built. As a frame of reference, the new Jeep Wagoneer’s wheelbase is larger yet at 123 inches, but total length is a bit shorter at 215.

To get that massive amount of steel moving it was powered by a Chevy 5.0-liter L03 V8. and since that wasn’t enough, it was replaced a year later with a 180 hp 5.7-liter small-block L05 V8. But that still wasn’t enough and in 1994 it received a modified dual-exhaust version of the advanced Corvette-derived 5.7-liter sequential point fuel-injection LT1 V8, increasing output to 260 hp. That’s the same engine used in the Impala SS, Chevrolet police interceptors, Cadillac Fleetwood, Corvette C4, Camaro Z-28, and Firebird Trans-AM.

You gotta love the vista roof and the fake wood paneling on this behemoth. Built on GM’s B-body, the last of these rolled off the Arlington, Texas, assembly line in December of 1996.

Be sure to check out my other car spots and check out my new ones published each Friday.

2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness

Wilderness trim moves Forester further off road …

I’m not sure it’s ever totally fair to test a vehicle in Wisconsin in January, but then we all DO have to drive here in winter and Subaru designs its cars for our climate with full-time AWD.

So I guess I shouldn’t feel too sorry for the new Forester Wilderness that I hustled around mucky streets for a week during one of our patented January cold spells, several nights plunging below zero. To be honest, the Forester mostly coped fine with the big chill, but the weather put a chill on its gas mileage.

First, let’s focus on the Wilderness trim level, a new moniker for Forester and the Wilderness name is creeping across the outdoorsy-inspired Subaru lineup. Its point, not surprisingly, is to make said Subaru more off-road worthy, while also spiffing up the interior and exterior to lure young buyers to the brand, in case all the dog-loving and national parks-loving promos aren’t enough.

The Wilderness logo easily distinguishes this model.

I get it, and this white test crossover was spiffy looking. First, Subaru has restyled the Forester’s nose so it looks more muscular to fit into the increasingly macho compact crossover market. Second, it offers a full half-inch more ground clearance than other Foresters at 9.2 inches, making it a better trail-slogging vehicle.

There’s plenty more, which we’ll discuss, but visually it’s the Wilderness badges on the front doors, tail, and floor mats plus the cool anodized copper trim that is gonna tickle your iris. There’s a little copper everywhere, inside and out, just enough to please, not overwhelm. The exterior features copper accents on the now stronger black roof rail supports and the Forester name is emblazoned in copper on the black rocker panels. Plenty of black trim along with cladding over the wheel wells and bumpers, and an anti-glare matte black hood decal too.

A lot of black cladding on the Wilderness nose, plus a matte insert atop the hood.

Inside, the steering wheel hub’s lower spoke is copper as is the gear shift knob and X-Mode dial. Subaru also trims its durable StarTex water-resistant seats, along with the dash and doors in copper stitching. Wilderness logos grace the front seat backs too. All cool!

That’s just for looks. Wilderness is pretty much a loaded Forester. On the performance side that includes R17 Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires for better grip in off-road slop, plus a beefed up X-Mode function with two settings for Snow and Dirt, or Mud and Deep Snow. Again, traction and trail performance step to the fore.

Copper trim on the wheel and shifter and X-Mode knob accent the interior.

Other goodies standard on Forester Wilderness include a 180-degree front view monitor, power tailgate, snazzy Harman Kardon stereo and 8-inch touchscreen that seems just the right size here while many screens have grown to overpower their interiors.

EyeSight, Subaru’s driver safety system with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, blind-spot warning and such is standard too, and Wilderness adds lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking. Nothing more need be added to all that.

Performance remains solid, which is why Forester is so popular among compact crossovers as it leans a little more heavily on its SUVness.

In addition to the dual-function X-Mode of course there’s full-time AWD that shifts power to the wheels currently with the most grip, no matter if on slippery side streets or mucky trails. It’s a comfort in winter driving as the car corners with more sure-footedness than many other crossovers, and mostly at a lower price.

Handling is light and nimble, making Forester a fun drive in town and parking lots, while also being easy to handle if off-roading. Ride is improved over earlier versions, but still a bit firm as are other small crossovers.

Power, while improving with each iteration, is still Forester’s weak spot. The 2.5-liter Boxer 4 cylinder delivers 182 horses with a torque rating of 176. That’s fine for cruising and low-speed off-roading. But accelerating to highway speeds, or when it’s colder than an iceberg in the Arctic, is labored and noisy. That’s a combo of the engine and an 8-speed CVT.

Braking is fine, but know that if you upgrade to the Premium or higher trim levels the front disc brakes are larger than in other models.

Inside, Forester is comfy with supportive seats, a fine dash layout and Wilderness gets snazzy brushed aluminum pedals.

Brushed aluminum pedals here, and another logo!

Standard here are two-level heated seats, that fine stereo and touchscreen, which are easy to understand and use, and a big sunroof, a win for outdoors-loving folks who want to let in extra sunlight.

The test Forester’s black seats and dash look good too with the copper trim and I liked the feel and durability of the fake leather seats.

What I missed was a heated steering wheel, which would have been nice on the sub-zero mornings and should be standard on a Wilderness. I also found it hard to adjust the climate control’s fan speed while wearing gloves.

But Forester’s interior is roomy with plenty of head and legroom front and rear, easy rear-seat access and good storage space under that power hatch. Interesting too that Forester now has a 51.3-inch cargo opening in back, the biggest in the segment, so wonderful for loading wide loads. Oh, and now there’s one-touch rear seat lowering from inside the hatch too.

Gas mileage normally has been good with Forester. I last got 25.9 mpg in a drive 3 years ago. But with the cold weather and the car groaning to gain power in the cold this time I managed just 19.6 mpg. Disappointing to be sure, especially since the EPA rates this at 25 mpg city and 28 highway.

I’m also disappointed that Subaru still doesn’t offer a hybrid model, which most competitors do. That would help mpg considerably, not to mention buoy Subaru’s mantra of helping and protecting the environment. Subaru is way late to the hybrid game, and I should note that I’ve owned two Subies, including a Forester and an Outback.

Pricing remains a Forester strong point though, with the base model starting at $26,320 with delivery, and remember that includes AWD. There are six trim levels with Touring being the top dog at $35,295. This Wilderness started at $33,945, with delivery, and only added an aluminum engine under guard for $220 to settle at $34,165. That’s well below the average new crossover price.

Forester is a nimble drive and better off-road than many compact crossovers, but it also butts heads with the likes of Toyota’s RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V, big sellers. Wilderness trim gives it an edge for snazzy looks though.

FAST STATS: 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness

Hits: Sporty looking inside and out in Wilderness trim, light and nimble handling, AWD, 2 off-road settings, comfy 2-level heated seats, good radio/info screen, nice stereo, big sunroof, EyeSight system standard, and power hatch.

Misses: Noisy acceleration, modest power, no heated steering wheel, no hybrid available, and poor mpg (mostly weather related).

Here’s a closer look at the copper gear shift lever and ring on the X-Mode knob on Forester’s console.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter Boxer 4, 182 hp/176 torque

Transmission: Lineartronic CVT 8-speed automatic

Weight: 3,620 lbs.

Length: 182.7 in.

Wheelbase: 104.9 in.

Cargo: 28.9 cu. ft. (74.2 cu.ft., rear seats down)

MPG: 25/28

MPG: 19.6 (tested)

Base Price: $33,945 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $31,863

Major Options:

Aluminum engine under guard, $220

Test vehicle: $34,165

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat (hybrid)

Ford’s hybrid F-150 SuperCrew is all the pickup a person can use …

Driving the new Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat was like déjà vu all over again.

Doesn’t happen often, but I got to test drive the new hybrid version of Ford’s most popular (in fact North America’s most popular) vehicle for a second time in roughly a year. And even more unusual, this was a pre-production model with few miles on it and decked out in Antimatter Blue Metallic, which is a dark (nearly black) paint scheme. I like the name!

Ford’s F-150 hybrid is simply smooth, quiet and packed with power. No reason any truck lover wouldn’t love this beast like an all-expense-paid night at a Monster Truck rally.

Oh, I guess some might not care for the electric hybrid motor’s whine at low speeds, but if you crank the Lariat’s muscle-bound, watt-crazy B&O (Bang & Olufsen) stereo with subwoofer you’ll never hear that whine over George Strait’s strains.

Like the previous tester, this F-150, already starting at $53,025 with delivery, was packed with options, 13 to be exact. That added $19,745 to the sticker. Total? Just (sarcasm) $72,770, or nearly exactly double the cost of my first house. But hey, it would tow!

You get everything but the barn here, and its more efficient and powerful than many of the other seven F-150 trim levels due to its hybrid system, which itself adds $3,300 to the tally. It’s worth it.

Standard in the Lariat is a powerful twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 gas engine that makes 325 horsepower. You can even still get a thirsty 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horses if gas burning, or buying, matters not to you. A slick 10-speed automatic comes standard with all powertrains.

The hybrid system conjoins a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 with a 35kw electric motor with batteries under the rear seat. It makes a whopping 430 horsepower and 570 lb.-ft. of torque all while delivering an EPA rated 24 miles per gallon, city or highway. Combined with a 30.6-gallon gas tank that creates an optimum 700-mile driving range, both downhill and with the wind.

While in warmer weather I’d managed an impressive 20.5 mpg, in zero to 30-degree temps I recorded just 17 mpg this time. Still, that’s what you’d normally expect in straight highway driving with gas-only power. This included plenty of city driving.

Bottom line, the new F-150 is a rocket despite its hefty 5,517 lbs. Power comes on quickly and when you punch it the twin-turbo V6 delivers boatloads of power to get up to highway speeds or out-power most anyone at a stoplight. That electric motor also helps boost low-end acceleration.

Handling is reasonable for a big pickup too, easy to keep in its lane and maneuver, except in a crowded parking lot. Then you’ll want to leave a little extra room, even though this one only had the smallest, 5.5-foot, bed. A 6.5- and 8-foot bed also are available.

Ride, well, it’s a mix because on straight reasonable smooth stretches this feels like a luxury sedan, smooth and exceedingly quiet inside. But once the pavement becomes cracked and uneven, well, it’s still a truck. Despite its independent double wishbone suspension up front with coil-over shocks and stamped lower control arm and rear leaf spring with solid axle this fortress becomes bouncy. Not harsh, but there’s rock and roll that actually shakes drivers and passengers from side to side at times.

Braking is fine and towing power is impressive at 12,700 pounds. That’s plenty buster!

Like the earlier test truck this he-man added the $750 Pro Power onboard 7.2kw generator in the bed so you can power up your tools, heck, even your house, if need be. A smaller generator is standard.

This is a boon for contractors and construction folks needing quick access to electricity on a job site. Just leave the truck running (Stop & Go will turn off the gas engine shortly) and plug in. The batteries in the truck do the rest through an inverter and generator.

As mentioned in the earlier review, this Pro Power unit provides enough juice to run much of your household electronics for 72 hours during a power outage. So the $750 is pretty inexpensive for backup generator power (ignoring the total cost of the truck).

Watch a video review: Ford F 150 Hybrid Review by Mark Savage – YouTube

So, there’s a lot of usefulness as you’d expect with a pickup, but being a SuperCrew there’s a full rear seat and the interior is luxury car level, helping explain the sticker price. Plus this one includes the Lariat package for $6,920 and including everything from heated and cooled front seats, and rear seats to a heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Leather is so deep it would make a herd of cattle jealous, with tan leather seats featuring black trim and a black dash with tan and brushed chrome trim. There’s even a little fake wood trim on the doors. Knobs, and there are plenty, are satin chrome while the steering wheel is a soft, thick black leather. Down low are power-adjustable pedals and the steering wheel is a power tilt/telescope job.

Grab handles stick out from everywhere, and should, for easy mounting of this high-rider. Thankfully there are 6-inch chrome trimmed running boards, ($225 extra) to help boost passengers up into the cockpit, a must.

The info screen and instrument panel are large (both 12 inches) and obviously easy to see and mostly to use, although programming favorite radio stations wasn’t a breeze. Still, all the gauges and knobs are macho big and within easy reach. A giant storage box/armrest divides the front seat and includes a flip-up work surface perfect for a computer, and $165 extra.

One might wonder how that works since there’s a large shift lever at the front of the console that would prevent the flip-up surface from lying flat. Ford solves this with a button to retract the shift lever. Clever, and this one was much quieter than in the earlier test truck.

Seating is comfortable and roomy front and rear with fairly flat seat bottoms and more contoured backs. Everything is powered and there are three memory buttons for the driver’s seat.

Here’s the gear shift knob in its powered down position.

Inside is a gas filler door release and automatic tailgate release. The power tailgate ($695 extra) is easy to fold down or up and there’s a pop-out ladder in the tailgate that helps a normal to small-size person climb aboard the bed. Even a handle that pops up to steady the climber’s ascent or descent. A spray-in bedliner is $595 extra, but you’ll want it.

Engaging the 4WD modes is simple too with a dial on the center stack, while overhead is a button to open the rear sliding window for a bit of air movement or limited access to the bed. Oddly no wireless charger on a $72 grand truck, that’s a $145 option. Hmmm!

A sunroof also is an add-on at $1,495.

Standard though is a bevy of fine safety equipment from lane-keeping assist to park sensors, blind-spot warning and emergency collision braking, plus a smart cruise control system. I should point out for trailer haulers the cool Pro Trailer system that uses a knob on the dash to help a driver back up to, and attach, a trailer.

There’s a fine running board to help us short folks mount this tall beast.

Co-Pilot 360, a semi-autonomous driving system to keep you centered in your lane is a $1,595 add on, plus a 360-degree camera that makes parking a LOT easier adds $765 to the sticker.

Other add-ons here included a trailer towing package for $1,995, onboard scale with smart hitch for $650, electronically controlled suspension damping for $695 and snazzy 20-inch chrome-like PVD wheels for $1,395.

One minor annoyance, like more and more vehicles, the Ford screams out a chime every time the ignition is turned off to warn you to LOOK in the rear seat (no extra charge). Did you leave a kid there? One supposes lawyers are afraid you might.

Cool that there’s a fold down step to help folks crawl up into the bed. That yellow dot is the handle that pops out to help steady the person climbing the tiny step!

This one is high-end luxury pricey, but don’t let that bother you if you need a full-size pickup. There are so many models and configurations that surely you can find an F-150 in your price range. The base regular-cab XL with 2-wheel-drive lists at about $30,000. While a Limited 4×4 hybrid model can hit about $80 grand.

Know that there are three cab style choices, three bed lengths, 5 powertrains (diesel is dropped for 2022), 7 trims and then the performance-oriented Raptor.

Any way you slice it, Ford remains the technology leader in pickups.

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat (Hybrid)

Hits: Roomy truck with quiet luxury interior, hybrid power and improved mpg, plus a built-in generator in the bed. Huge info screen and instrument gauges, heated wheel and heat/cool front seats, heated rear seats, power tailgate w/step, 360-degree camera, fold-out work area, running boards. Excellent towing power and acceleration, decent handling and good safety systems.

Numbers are big on the digital instrument panel!

Misses: Big truck bouncy ride, difficult parking in tight lots, an overabundance of buttons and knobs on dash. Rear seat warning sounds every time ignition turned off.

Made in: Dearborn, Mich.

Engine: 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, 325 hp

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,517 lbs.

Wheelbase: 145.4 in.

Length: 231.7 in.

Cargo bed: 52.8 cu.ft.

Tow: 12,700 lbs.

MPG: 24/24

MPG: 17.0 (tested)

Base Price: $53,025 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $49,689

Major Options:

3.5-liter V6 hybrid (430 hp/570 torque), $3,300

Lariat equipment group 502A, $6,920

Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, $1,595

Pro Power onboard 7.2kw generator, $750

Interior work surface, $165

Max trailer tow package, $1,995

Onboard scale w/smart hitch, $650

Power tailgate, $695

Continuously controlled damping, $695

20-inch chrome-like PVD wheels, $1,395

360-degree camera, $765

Bedliner, spray-in, $595

6-inch extended chrome accent running boards, $225

Test vehicle: $72,770

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport

Why should Jeep have all the nostalgic off-road fun? …

Jeep has been mining the retro vein of off-roading SUVs for decades, so why shouldn’t Toyota?

This Y-chromosome packed market imagines itself crushing boulders and slopping through mud that’s butt deep for fun on weekends. Never mind that the family might like a comfortable ride to the grocery store, or hockey practice.

Toyota knows its market and knows they’ve got a good thing going, so there’s no overwhelming need to vastly update its Land Cruiser and 4Runner models. The Cruiser is the full-size off-roader (2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition | Savage On Wheels) while the 4Runner is a mid-size muck marauder that hasn’t been remade in 12 years. Oh, there are refinements each model year, but under the skin is a model hasn’t changed much, nor needed too.

Standard still is Toyota’s solid but boat-anchor heavy 4.0-liter V6 with seemingly ancient 5-speed automatic. Most SUVs now feature 8- or 10-speed automatics aimed at saving fuel. Many also now have turbocharged engines to increase power and also cut fuel use.

Not to dwell on the negative, but the EPA rates the tested new 4Runner TRD Sport at 16 mpg city and 19 highway. Somehow I managed 18.8 mpg in about 70% highway driving. But let’s be honest, if you’re wanting an off-road capable truck gas mileage isn’t likely your main concern.

Things like ground clearance, which is 9+ inches here, are vital. So is 4WD and hill descent control. Both come on this TRD Sport and Toyota even ditches the big 4WD shifter lever on the console for a dial for high and low range. The hill descent button and another to adjust for off-road conditions are on the overhead control panel.

Watch Mark’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q4OO9c6OgE

But Toyota says this new TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Sport model is actually more tuned for on-road driving, which seems sort of counter-intuitive with that big air scoop on the hood, the unique 20-inch wheels and knobby tires and the Softex (leather like) seats that are easy to clean.

Yet the X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension is standard on the Sport model and its goal is to adjust quickly to road conditions and provide a more sporty and pleasant on-road ride. The ride here though remains trucky, and this IS a body-on-frame beast, with plenty of bounce and jiggle. Better rides usually come with unibody construction found in most crossovers and cars.

Handling is truck vague too, but fortunately the steering effort is light, which makes it easy to control on the highway. Power is strong as indicated by the V6. Horsepower is 270 and torque is 278. The 4Runner is rated to tow 5,000 pounds.

Despite the power though, the engine makes a good bit of noise under heavy acceleration and the truck’s overall feel is heavy as it grinds its way up to highway speeds. There’s noticeable tire hum at freeway speeds too, although better than in the Land Cruiser.

But I really like the simple interior and this one added automatic running boards to help us vertically challenged folks climb into the high-rider. There’s a button on the dash’s far left to turn that off, but unless you’re caking your 4Runner in mud you’ll likely want this feature engaged full-time.

Toyota added an 8-inch touchscreen a couple years ago and that is easy to use and see. Some SUVs now pack anywhere from 10- to 14-inch screens, the later bordering on overkill. An 8-incher is fine.

The Lunar Rock (light gray) test vehicle featured a black leather-like interior with textured black plastic dash trimmed in satin silver plastic. That trim needs upgrading to reflect the pricing here, but looks OK.

Everything is easy to see and use with big climate control knobs too, a 360-view backup camera, push-button start, plus solid safety features like blind-spot warning, smart cruise control, lane departure and automatic high beams.

Missing though are heated seats and a heated steering wheel, plus there was no sunroof at all, while most big and mid-size SUVs now tout panoramic roofs. A little disappointing too is the lack of a wireless phone charger and the lack of an automatic climate control system.

Quite the tower of power here for the console and center stack!

What you do get is comfy, supportive seats in a roomy interior with oodles of head and legroom in back along with generous cargo capacity that grows to a monster 88.7 cubic feet when the rear seats are lowered. This 4Runner added the snazzy sliding rear cargo deck ($350) that helps short folks, and others, retrieve cargo from deep in the hatch area. I like this feature, and one other, the power rear hatch window. There are buttons on the hatch’s face to lower it from outside if you just need to drop some cargo in the back. Another button is located on the console inside. Not many SUVs offer a power rear window.

There is, however, no power hatch here.

No power hatch on this retro off-roader!

The test vehicle added a bevy of small trim and interior upgrade options, plus a $1,585 premium audio package with that 8-inch screen and a navigation system, plus eight speakers and WiFi connectivity. Toyota’s Connected Services safety system is included too. That’s like OnStar in most other vehicles. If you have an accident or need help it’s just a button push away.

As the photos here attest, the TRD Sport also upgrades its exterior cladding with all the trim being body colored (gray) to give the exterior a unified look. Naturally the roof rack and window trim is black for a bit of an accent. There’s also a nose spoiler and TRD floor mats and TRD embroidered letters on the front seat headrests.

There IS a convenient pull-out tray to help shorties like me access their luggage!

Amazingly there now are eight 4Runner trim levels, so something for nearly any upscale budget.

A base SR5 model with 2-wheel-drive lists at $38,520 including delivery, but most folks likely will go for the 4WD model at $40,355 with delivery.

The TRD Sport is near that lower end, starting at $41,325 for 2WD and the tester at $43,200 with 4WD. With all its options this one reached $48,297.

But if you’ve got that kind of money to spend consider a Limited with 4WD for $50,100 or go all the way up to the TRD Pro (primarily aimed at off-roading) for $53,295.

For comparison’s sake you may want to check out the Jeep Cherokee or Wrangler Unlimited or maybe one of Ford’s new Bronco models, Ford’s Explorer or Honda’s Passport. If you prefer more on-road comfort there also is the Subaru Ascent or the more wagon-like Subaru Outback. For more luxury, but still with off-road capability consider Jeep’s Grand Cherokee, just to name a few.

The SUV market is so full of capable off-roaders that this market may be overstocked at the moment.

FAST STATS: 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport

Hits: Macho styling, big roomy SUV that’ll haul and tow and do serious off-roading. Strong engine, good safety equipment, power running boards, power rear window, big cargo area with pull-out tray, easy-to-use screen and 4WD engagement knob.

Misses: Poor fuel economy, feels heavy, vague steering, noisy engine and tires on highway. No heated seats or wheel. No sunroof, wireless charger or automatic climate controls.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 4.0-liter V6, 270 hp

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Weight: 4,750 lbs.

Wheelbase: 109.8 in.

Length: 191.3 in.

Cargo: 47-88.7 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 16/19

MPG: 18.8 (tested)

Base Price: $43,200 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $39,333

Major Options:

Premium audio, 8-inch touchscreen, dynamic nav, 8 speakers, Connected Services safety system, Wi-Fi connect, $1,585

Sliding rear cargo deck, $350

Automatic running boards, $1,500

Technology package, $1,310

Black exhaust tip, $100

Roof rack crossbars, $185

Cargo cover, $179

All-weather floor liners, $169

Cargo tray, $100

Door edge guards, $79

Test vehicle: $48,297

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Genesis GV70 3.5T Sport Prestige

A new ute that Bond, James Bond, could love …

If James Bond were to drive a crossover/SUV (and I pray he doesn’t … ever) I’m convinced it would be a Genesis GV70, just for its looks.

This compact luxury SUV’s looks ooze confidence, sexiness and swagger, very Bondish. They seem to say to all other SUV buyers, “You made a mistake.” And they may have.

Genesis is all about luxury, but high-value luxury where you get more than you pay for or expect to pay. Here in the top-level GV70 Sport Prestige, the styling is fresh, the power raw, the cockpit elegant. One might expect the driver to wear a crisp white shirt with monogrammed cufflinks, a cummerbund and tux, and definitely a Rolex watch.

This athletic SUV is based on the spunky Genesis G70 sedan’s stiff platform, a good place to start if one enjoys frisky handling. There are electronically controlled multi-link suspensions front and rear with something Genesis calls Road Preview. It sees what’s coming and in milliseconds adjusts for it. That helps handling as you sweep through aggressive turns, but also creates a firm sports sedan ride. Some might prefer a little more cushion, but oh my, this was a hoot on twisting rural roads.

A silky 8-speed automatic linked with a throbbing twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 harnesses power, but with a smoothness reserved exclusively for the upper classes. Gun this baby for a highway jaunt and the V6 tells you it’s about to kick some bootie while pounding out 375 horsepower. Torque rating? 391 pound-feet, thank you.

Boom, 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds says Car and Driver. Who am I to quibble?

Five drive modes are standard and include Sport and an insane Sport+ that makes the GV70 feel like a twitchy thoroughbred being loaded into a starting gate, all its muscles tensed, ready to spring. Sport was enough to make the Genesis feel like it was ready to slice through the turns at Road America.

View Mark’s video review: Goose approved Genesis GV70 reviewed by Mark Savage – YouTube

I could easily see triple digits in Sport+ in a quick shot down an entry ramp. AWD also is standard with power being rear-wheel biased, but with 50% possibly being shifted to the front in slick conditions.

But this is no pretend powerhouse, those 375 horses make themselves known vocally through two gigantic exhaust outlets molded into the lower rear bumper’s fascia. Cannon ready to fire on the enemy often were of a smaller caliber.

If you’re crazy enough to race your GV70 or take it for spins at the drag strip, launch control is available in Sport and Sport+ mode. Be aware top speed is said to be 150 mph. You think You can beat that?

Yet performance is exactly what the exterior insinuates.

The test SUV’s matte gray (Melbourne Gray) paint scheme, a $1,500 extra, adds a sophisticated image more than a flashy paint job might. This shows subtle elegance goes with the impressive performance. Know that the matte finish shows dirt readily though and one must be careful when washing such a paint scheme. Some commercial car washes won’t do.

Inside, Genesis stylists created a quiet interior with flashy looks. Seats are a mix of leather and suede, the dash a dark brown up top with red stitching and red leather trim on the lower dash and extending into the door panels. Trim is carbon fiber on the console with matte chrome knobs and door releases along with a bevy of dash buttons.

A monster 14.5-inch touchscreen sits mid-dash and the instrument cluster is an impressive 3D display, managed by beaming slightly different digital images to each of the driver’s eyes, creating the illusion of depth. As cool as this looks, I’m old enough to remember analog gauges that were 3D, because they had actual depth. Just sayin’!

Check out the size of that info screen atop the dash … 14.5 inches!

There’s also a sharp heads-up display along with heated and cooled seats up front and heated ones in back. The leather steering wheel also is heated with all those climate controls on a dash touchpad. Normally I’d prefer these controls on the console, but this was easy to see and was quick to function. Sadly the heated seat settings are not remembered once the ignition is turned off.

Genesis seats are well shaped and the driver’s seat highly adjustable, including side bolsters and a massaging feature. Put your hand near the massage button on the bottom cushion’s side and it lights up three settings for pelvic, lumbar and full-body stretching. This is a perfect example of Genesis delivering more than a buyer might expect at the list price. Such a feature is usually a pricey option on German and some Japanese makes.

Snazzy carbon fiber trim on the console here.

As much as I liked the seat’s support I did note the bottom cushion seemed a bit hard after an hour of seat time. Some say the rear seat legroom is a bit tight too for a luxury vehicle. It’s not generous, but four or five average sized adults will easily fit.

On the up side Genesis delivers oodles of cargo space behind that second row seat, a bit of storage under the floor, and a power hatch. Overhead is a panoramic sunroof, which is standard as is a wireless charger. That’s tucked inside a small covered container at the front of the console. It looks a bit like a cupholder, but is easy to use and lets the driver know if a device has been left in the charger once the ignition is turned off.

Two giant exhaust pipes in back and Genesis’ twin horizontal bar lights.

A full load of safety equipment comes on the GV70 including smart cruise control and all the usual automatic warning systems and braking features, plus semiautonomous driving aids.

One item that caused some concern was the rotating dial for shifting gears. It’s right behind a similar, but slightly larger, rotating dial used for info screen and radio station selection. I mistook the radio dial for the shifter several times, until I noticed the shifter has a more textured ring. It’s also lighted at night.

Gas mileage is nothing special, but when performance is a key SUV selling point, fuel economy usually suffers. I managed just 17.5 mpg in a fairly even mix of city and highway driving while the EPA rates the GV70 with the twin-turbo V6 at 19 mpg city and 25 highway.

For better mileage consider the lower level GV70 2.5T models that feature a 2.5-liter single turbo I4 that delivers 300 hp and 22 mpg city and 28 highway.

Those more efficient models also have the benefit of looking just as sexy and bold as this one, but start at just $42,045, including delivery. Again, all models feature AWD.

A base GV70 3.5T lists at $52,600 including delivery or you can move up to the Sport Advanced model at $57,600 or the tested Sport Prestige model that includes both the Advanced and Prestige trim packages. While the Sport lists at $53,645 with delivery, adding those two packages pushes it to $63,545. With its special color this one was $65,045.

Other makes are easily that, if not $10,000 or more higher.

Fancy wheels? Why yes they are!

Genesis also has the warranty advantage on most competitors with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and three years or 36,000 miles of free maintenance. Again, more than one might expect, even for a luxury make.

You can check out the attached stat box for all the goodies in those Advanced and Prestige packages, but if you want the full luxury feel, those likely are add-ons you’ll want.

One final note, the 21-inch alloy wheels on this GV70 were spectacular, garnering comments from folks at the gas station (had to stop a couple times) and friends who thought them a terrific final touch.

Even the door panels look both sporty and elegant.

FAST STATS: 2022 Genesis GV70 3.5T Sport

Hits: Stellar looks, excellent power, sporty handling, 5 drive modes, and AWD. Stylish, quiet interior, with heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, wireless charger, full load of safety equipment, massaging driver’s seat, carbon fiber trim, 3D instrument cluster, giant info screen and great warranty.

These are those 3D-style gauges, created via electronics, not actual depth!

Misses: Firm ride, somewhat hard driver’s seat bottom cushion, rear seat short of legroom, round shifter dial same shape as info screen adjustment dial and too close to it.

Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, 375 hp

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,584 lbs.*

Wheelbase: 113.2 in.

Length: 185.6 in.

Cargo: 28.9.-56.9 cu.ft.

Rear seat view, and separate climate controls.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 19/25

MPG: 17.5 (tested)

Base Price: $53,645 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $50,777

Major Options: Melbourne gray paint, $1,500

Sport Advanced package (Nappa leather seats w/sport pattern quilting, layered edge backlight trim, leatherette upper instrument panel and door panel trim, suede headliner, heated steering wheel, digital key, surround view mirror/blind-spot view monitor, remote smart parking assist, parking distance warning front/rear, parking collision avoidance assist, Lexicon premium audio w/16 speakers), $5,000

Sport Prestige package (21-inch sport alloy wheels, electronic limited slip differential, Nappa leather seats w/suede inserts, carbon fiber trim, 3-zone climate controls, heated second row seats, manual rear side sunshades, 12.3-inch 3D digital cluster, heads up display), $4,900

Test vehicle: $65,045

Sources: Genesis, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

*Car and Driver magazine

Crazy money shelled out at Mecum Kissimmee

A couple of AMC’s make the list

There was some serious cash thrown around at the recently completed Mecum auction in Kissimmee, FL. Around 3,500 cars crossed the block with some crazy money chucked up for cars like this 2016 Pigani Huayra selling for almost two million.

There were other million-plus cars but what a lot of people probably missed were the number of cars that were built in Kenosha and sold for insane numbers, orrrrrrrr, maybe not.

Let’s start with this 1974 Gremlin X with a 258 6, 3-speed manual, power steering, brakes, and air conditioning. A loaded Gremlin. What makes this special is that it only had 21 hundred miles on it. I’m thinking this might have sold for maybe 20 thou outside of an auction but at Kissimmee it sold for….wait for it….$30,800. That is NOT a typo. Nice return if the seller had bought it new because it would have stickered for $3,454.10.

Photo: Mecum

This next one brought back memories for me, a 1979 Spirit AMX with the 304 V8, and loaded up. I had a white one. This is a survivor with the original paint and interior. It had 8,368 miles and sold for $35,750!

Photo: Mecum

There was a beautifully done 1972 Mark Donahue Trans-Am Javelin tribute car which hammered at $35,200.

Photo: Mecum

Here was somewhat of a head-scratcher. This 1987 Eagle Limited wagon with 72,000 miles went home for $35,200. I would love to have one of these but like the Gremlin, you have to wonder if this would have hit that mark on an auction site. But hey, somebody wanted it bad. Good for them. There was another one that sold for a more reasonable $8,800.

Photo: Mecum

The highest price of any AMC selling at auction was this 1969 AMX with 390, 4-speed manual with Hurst shifter, factory Go Pack, and seldom seen side exhaust. This went home with a happy new owner for $84,700 which is more than I’ve seen 1970’s go for.

Photo: Mecum

Based on what happened this past weekend I think people have discovered our secret, AMC made some really fun and collectible cars.

2022 Toyota Sienna XSE AWD

Sienna still a fine people mover, now a hybrid with AWD …

Minivans come and minivans go, but do you feel you could love one? I think you could.

Toyota has been making its Sienna minivan for nearly 25 years and let’s be honest, it still looks like a minivan. That’s the rub for all minivans, they are utilitarian family movers, excelling at the job. Those two sliding side doors make it super easy to load kids into car seats. The third row allows a family to carry up to eight passengers. That huge cargo bay in back will lug a ton of boxes, suitcases, soccer equipment or Pack n Plays.

So why doesn’t everyone with a family of five or more own one?

Image!

Kia’s new Carnival (reviewed in August) tries to spiff that image up. But face it, short of adding wings and fireworks (not a great idea for a vehicle) a minivan is still a minivan. Toyota knows it is utility that sells its product, but image does play a role. No, Toyota isn’t adding wings to the 2022 Sienna, it’s going all-in on hybrid power and all-wheel-drive safety. Few minivans offer both, but some (Carnival) offer neither.

Toyota is banking on families wanting to help the environment, of being more socially conscious than, say, pickup buyers. So instead of offering a gas-only version and a hybrid, the Japanese firm, which builds its minivans in Indiana, only offers a 2.5-liter I4 hybrid power system with continuously variable transmission.

The result is an EPA gas mileage rating of 35 mpg city and 36 highway. I got 33.0 mpg in a fairly even mix. That’s impressive. I got just 22.6 mpg in the gas-only Carnival tested earlier.

So Sienna is roomy, has a dependable repair record and good resale value, plus the hybrid system provides smooth operation. The CVT’s shifts are fairly seamless and the interior is nearly as quiet as that of a luxury vehicle.

The downside to the 245-horsepower hybrid system is that there’s just 176 lb.-ft. of torque so acceleration is moderate. To gain more oomph you may crunch the accelerator like a Packers lineman stepping on a defender’s toes, but the moan and groan during heavy acceleration is annoying and really the power modest.

No, this is a cruiser with moderately vague steering but decent ride, although the tested XSE AWD model is supposedly sportier than other versions of the van. C’mon!

Toyota claims the suspension has been firmed a bit, but certainly not so much as to disturb the ride, and toggling to the Sport drive mode is senseless. Like the suspension, that mode firms the steering just a smidge, while acceleration seems mostly unaffected. Oh, and the XSE also adds 20-inch alloy wheels if that twerks your chain.

Certainly it’s good news to have AWD for coping with Wisconsin’s slippery environment. That’s a major plus helping the Sienna stand out, along with the hybrid system.

But honestly the interior and safety features are what may sell a minivan as much as its drivability. Here’s what this Ruby Flare Pearl red ($425 extra) Sienna has to offer.

Safety is a strong point with standard features including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning, plus automatic high beam headlights.

The tested XSE featured a dark and light gray interior, the seats being a mid-level gray leather-like Softex fabric with a rusty orange stitching to perk its look. That was on the seats and dash while there’s a gray ribbed top to the console, or flight deck. This thing is massive and wide open beneath, meaning a couple beach or diaper bags and/or beach balls could be stored there. Talk about family friendly.

Need a lot of coffee with all those kiddos climbing around and chattering in back? Well, that flight deck also includes four cup holders for the front seat game wardens. For the juice box crowd in rows two and three Toyota includes 14 more cup holders.