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Die-cast: NEO’s 1948 Chevy Fleetline Aerosedan

1948 Chevy Fleetline Aerosedan a slick family sedan . . .1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

Cars that bridged the gap between pre-war America and post-World War II are an interesting lot, often dowdy and pedestrian of styling. Most consider the 1930s and 1950s as primo styling eras.

But Chevrolet’s hot-selling Fleetline series, starting in 1941 is an exception, particularly its sleek streamlined looking Aerosedan, a two-door family car with a fastback design that looks slick still today.

That’s the 1948 Chevrolet that NEO has produced in 1/43 scale, a somewhat sporty full-size car that GM began cranking out for the 1941 model year, just before converting its car plants to war machinery. And for the 1946-48 model years they cranked up the assembly lines again using the satisfying 1941 design.

 

The History1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

Look at a four-door Fleetline and you’ll quickly see why the two-door Aerosedan and its smooth curves was such a hit. Blah describes the former, but Chevy knew it had a winner with the Aerosedan. In 1948 it sold 211,861 of the cars vs. just 64,217 of the four-door. Of course the baby boom hadn’t quite caught on just yet either.

The car, which was a sub-series of Chevy’s Fleetmaster, featured a Chevy Blue Flame 216 cu.in., inline six engine that created 90 horsepower. That meant the car was no slouch. It could hit nearly 80 mph. The Fleetline rode on a 115-inch wheelbase, about three inches longer than the current Chevy Impala, and was 197 inches long, about four inches shorter than today’s Impala.

Bottom line, it was nothing fancy, but looked good, with good power and was reliable. If you’re a Chevy guy, it also wasn’t a Ford!1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

The Model

NEO’s resin bodied Aerosedan is beautifully shaped and perfectly reflects the smooth lines of the sedan, plus hood, trunk and door seams are all stellar. This tiny Chevy also includes all the chrome trim as seen on the original.

That includes three thin chrome styling strips flaring back from the front wheel well and along the rear fender to the taillights. Bumpers are chrome too and include dual raised guards front and rear. There’s a chrome Chevy hood ornament along with all window trim, including vents and the flat split windshield. Door handles, gas filler cap, headlight bezels, wipers, trunk release and grille are chrome.1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

I like the fine detail of the photo-etched Fleetline logos along the hood’s sides, the script name on the trunk and winged Chevy logo on the nose. Head and taillights are fine too and there’s a yellow Ohio license plate front and rear. Broad whitewall tires treaded tires with large chrome hubcaps put the car on the road. Those caps are the fancy Chevy models with painted red swooshes (sorry Nike, Chevy beat you) and Chevrolet in blue too. Cool!

Inside is a reddish brown dash and door trim that really sets off the gray bench seats in the interior. The dash top doesn’t look as metallic as it might, but the color is nicely mated to the car and the dash face looks authentic, including a giant clock in the glove box door. This was a wind-up clock that would run for a week on one full wind. The speedometer is similarly large and visible, of course the side windows are all up, which does slightly limit your taking a peek inside.1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

NEO creates a fine two-spoke cream steering wheel with horn ring, and the steering column and hub match that reddish brown dash color. Sharp!

A cool addition to the model would be a green translucent sun visor like so many of these have worn over the years to keep the sun from reflecting from what was a metal dash. Maybe on a future model!

The Model: 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

Maker: NEO

Scale: 1/43

Stock No.: 45830

MSRP: $99.95

Link: American-Excellence.com

2017 Ford Escape Titanium FWD

Ford refines its Escape crossover . . .2017 Ford Escape

For 2017 Ford has restyled its popular Escape inside and out, plus developed two new engines for the entry-level sport-utility, er crossover.

There’s no mistaking the Escape for something else as its profile remains much the same, but there’s a new hexagonal grille, LED trim headlights and revised tail-end styling. Overall the look is a bit more upscale, which is ironic because Escape remains very much a low-end to mainstream crossover for a family of four.

It’s roomy and comfortable and the new 1.5-liter I4 EcoBoost engine in the tested top-tier Titanium model is stellar. Pricing and gas mileage also are in Escape’s plus column.2017 Ford Escape

Let’s start with acceleration, which is excellent with the new turbo I4 that delivers 179 horsepower and a similar 177 torque rating. Escape is quick from a standing start and the fine 6-speed automatic shifts easily and smoothly.

The turbo is standard on the Titanium model, but the base S model starts with a 168-horse 2.5-liter I4 and an incredibly peppy 2.0-liter turbo I4 is available for $1,295 extra. It boasts 245 horses and a 275 torque rating. For most of us, the smaller turbo will do.

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Please tell me why there are so many bad drivers

I notice this more on my motorcycle

rustic roads, bad drivers, brake tappers, drivers who don't stop, I took my what most likely will have been my final ride of the season on my Hayabusa here in Wisconsin as it was 51 degrees. The weather folks forecast it all downhill from here. Actually riding this late has been a nice bonus because most years I put my bike away much earlier so I’ve been putting lots of miles the last couple of weeks and have been seeing some of the worst drivers.

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Love my Jeep but hate the winter

It’s really tough for me to even say the “W” word.

Jeep Wrangler, jeep wrangler unlimited, jeep with top down.

Photo: FCA

I go into full denial when this time of the year comes which I call the off-season. Off-season from going flying, rides on my Busa, and having the top down and doors off our 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

jeep wrangler unlimited, jeep wrangler unlimited soft top removal, jeep wrangler unlimited hard top installmentIt used to be a big pain in the ass to remove the soft top to make room for the hard top until I devised a sort of pulley system which now takes just about an hour to do as you’ll see in this video. Hold on a second fellow Jeepers, and those who are not yet, because I had some fun and sped it up so the whole process takes just over a minute. Enjoy.

Die-cast: TSM’s 1971 BRE Datsun 510

A special BRE Datsun driven by John Morton . . .1971 BRE Datsun 510

In the early 1970s Trans-Am racing was a big deal, even among the small sedan makers, like Datsun, which is what Nissan was known as in the U.S. at that time.

A lot of folks will think of the pony or muscle car racers, the Mustangs, Camaros and Cudas, but Alfa Romeo was big in the under 2.0-liter (U-2) class and Datsun dominated the class in 1971 and ’72 when it had become the Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge.

Cars were simply modified street cars, but Datsun put a lot of cash into the class sponsoring Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) headed by Pete Brock, a noted sports car designer. The red, white and blue BRE Datsun 510’s soon became synonymous with success. Now TSM Models comes out with a high-value 1/18 scale version, available through Replicarz.1971 BRE Datsun 510

The History

Brock’s small team of racers and mechanics won six of the 10 races in 1971 and driver John Morton was the Trans-Am 2.5 champion, although in somewhat odd fashion, not that Morton and the Datsun weren’t dominant in most races. He set many fast laps and was often on the pole.

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Die-cast: NEO 1956 Chrysler 300B

NEO creates a sharp Chrysler 300B1956 Chrysler 300B

My uncle had a late 1950s Chrysler 300, a creamy thing that took up his entire garage and sported giant fins. I thought it was wonderfully exotic.

But I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of earlier 300s, which were launched in 1955 as Letter Series cars, beginning with the 300C that was even raced on the NASCAR circuit. Its paint scheme proclaimed it the “world’s fastest stock car.”

NEO moves forward a year from that premier model to create the 1956 Chrysler 300B, yes they went backward in the lettering phase for one year before the ’57 300C appeared with its big yawning front grille. But back to the ’56, which NEO so beautifully produces in 1/43 scale and in a creamy white; this is a handsome car.1956 Chrysler 300B

 

The History

While the ’55 may be the most famous because it kicked off the Letter Series 300s, the 1956 300B seems more stately and elegant to me. Its fins are modest in size and blend well with the car’s profile while the taillights are remeniscent of upscale Lincolns of the day.

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2017 Honda Civic Touring Coupe

Civic Coupe is sleek, peppy, responsive, but …2017 Honda Civic Coupe

Honda’s new Civic Coupe has a sleek profile, peppy turbocharged engine and responsive handling, but it also has a few issues that reinforce it’s an entry-level car.

Through the years the Civic has grown up. It has gotten larger and now rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. It’s no longer an econobox. Civic also comes as a sedan, coupe and for 2017, a hatchback, with the coupe having the best overall styling.

Previously I’d driven the economical sedan with base 2.0-liter 158-horse I4. It’s underpowered, so the coupe was more fun to drive with its 1.5-liter I4 turbo that creates 174 horses. It was linked to Honda’s 6-speed CVT, which is adequate, but groans quite a bit under heavy acceleration.2017 Honda Civic Coupe

Power though is good and could only be improved with a 6-speed manual.

Handling is the car’s strong point though with quick steering that is responsive, making it fun to drive in town. Civic feels heavier than the car’s 2,888 lbs. would seem to indicate, but the Honda carves through corners well and there is no play in the wheel.

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Die-cast: Autoart Honda RA272 1965 Mexico GP winner

Autoart crafts delicate 1965 Honda F1 beauty …Autoart 1965 Honda RA272

In the glory days of Formula 1 racing new teams joined the ranks of the old standbys, Ferrari, BRM and Lotus to prove they too could build fast open-wheel racers with strong engines. For the fans it was exciting, not the least of which was because all the cars looked different and featured their country’s racing colors, not corporate sponsors.

Into this racing environment came Honda in 1964. The Japanese car maker had only been building road cars for four years and already was set to challenge the established F1 teams, plus it built its own chassis and engine. Few race teams did both at the time.Autoart 1965 Honda RA272

Autoart has created the Honda RA272, Honda’s second F1 racer as it competed in 1965, its first full season on the F1 trail, which was conducted mostly in Europe with European race teams. This 1/18 scale model of the car American Richie Ginther drove to Honda’s first F1 win is a delicate beauty befitting the simplicity of mid-1960s racers.

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2017 Audi A4 Premium

2017 Audi A4Audi’s new A4 is the epitome of fun driving …

Here’s a simple truth. It’s fun to drive a car that’s fun to drive.

That may seem silly, but let’s break it down.

First, cars have taken a back seat to trucks for years now as first SUVs and then crossovers replaced the family sedan as the vehicle of choice.

Second, fun often means power and that ebbs and wanes in popularity based on the price of oil.

Third, fun also means responsive handling and that frequently is achieved by engineers designing an overly stiff car that tortures your tushie.

So finding a fun car to drive is a rarity, yet Audi has absolutely nailed it with its new A4 sedan. I drove a crisp bright Ibis white Premium model that, contrary to its name, is the base A4. Mine was loaded with Premium Plus and Technology packages though, so more likely reflects a mid-level A4 in performance and feel.2017 Audi A4

Audi’s A4 is speedy, fun and sophisticated. It’s a joy to drive and ride in and has everything a driver could want, although once loaded it becomes pricey, like a BMW.

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Die-cast: Automodello’s 1954 Kaiser Darrin

Automodello creates stylish 1/24th Kaiser Darrin …Automodello Kaiser Darrin

There was a fine line between sports cars and two-seat boulevard cruisers as the 1950’s midpoint approached. The British were exporting tiny, nimble, two-seat sports cars in growing numbers to the United States.

This was the heyday of MG, Austin-Healey, and Triumph. Chevrolet, Ford and upstart Kaiser Motors were about to respond, with their Corvette, Thunderbird and Darrin, none exactly sports cars.

Kaiser’s Darrin was by far the most stylish, but was basically a one-year wonder. The others had staying power. Now Automodello has created its own 1/24 scale resin model of the daring Darrin that once was described as looking like it was trying to kiss someone with its puckered oval nose grille.Automodello Kaiser Darrin

The History

Howard “Dutch” Darrin had a long car styling resume, most recently with Packard, before Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer brought him onboard their new Kaiser-Frazer Corp. after World War II. Darrin went on to design a sports car on his own time and with his own funds, then presented it to Kaiser, looking for the company to produce the roadster.

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2017 Cadillac XT5 Premium AWD

Cadillac XT5 long on style, short on details …2017 Cadillac XT5

Cadillac has mastered the styling, now it needs to work on the details.

The new Cadillac XT5 crossover continues Cadillac’s sharp chiseled styling with tall taillights and noteworthy nose and headlight stylings. Its interior is luxurious and attractive in a way most German makes have yet to figure out because of their love for black leather.

But the XT5’s seats are way too snug in the hip and the ride too firm for our crumbling Wisconsin roads that are cracked by time, winter and a lack of willingness to pay for improving them. Additionally its CUE audio screen is improved, but still not the easiest to master while driving.

2017 Cadillac XT5The XT5, which replaces the SRX and rides on what should be a smoothing 112.5-inch wheelbase delivers a firm ride that turns too sharp and bumpy on cracked streets and highways.

Yet like other Cadillac’s and GM products, the XT5 delivers ample power with a new 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 with variable valve timing. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 271 ft.-lbs. of torque, so it’ll scoot when required to. That happens best when in Sport mode which holds gears longer in the 8-speed automatic. In normal mode acceleration is moderate.

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Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1939 Boyle Special, Indy 500 winner

New Replicarz 1939 Indy winner a treat …1939 Indianapolis 500 winner, Wilber Shaw, Maserati

Just prior to World War II it was rare to see European race cars competing at the Indianapolis 500. Winners usually drove Millers or a derivative thereof, with engines from Studebaker, Duesenberg or Miller, later Offenhauser.

There was one exception. Mike Boyle’s team had deep pockets (think Roger Penske today), and connections, so in 1939 it landed an Italian racer for its successful Hoosier driver, Wilbur Shaw. Shaw already had won Indy in 1937, but hooked up with Boyle, who headed a large Chicago union. It was a visible sign that money bought the best drivers, and equipment.

Replicarz now has created a gorgeous dark red, nearly maroon, Boyle Special, a Maserati  8CTF, to expand its Indy winning model lineup that includes both the larger 1/18 scale like this one, and 1/43 scale racers for those of us with limited display space.1939 Indianapolis 500 winner, Wilber Shaw, Maserati

The History

Shaw was a successful Champ car racer in the 1930s and hooked up with Boyle to drive a Maserati for an East Coast road race.

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2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

New Honda Ridgeline redefines pickups2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

Honda has reinvented the pickup and it’s a darn sight nicer than whatever you’ve driven before.

To be honest, it’s a suburban cowboy’s pickup, but that’s what so many pickups are used as anyway – kid haulers and the occasional run to a home improvement store or big-box garden center. This one is just being honest about it and making your ride simply oh, so, comfy.

The Ridgeline is not about who has the bigger engine, toughest body, greatest towing capacity, it’s about refinement in a crew cab pickup body with a big open bed for hauling. It’s also quite a bit more.

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black EditionMy test truck was the Black Edition, which (not surprisingly) is black, with black wheels and a black grille to give it a decidedly elegant, yet macho look. Think I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too! This is Honda’s top-of-the-line Ridgeline.

Like all Ridgelines it comes with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 that creates 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s just fine. Acceleration is good and steady from a stop and ultimately Honda says it’ll carry a 1,584-lb. payload, best in class. It’ll even tow 5,000 lbs., which is well shy of competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, but plenty for pulling a camper or boat or snowmobile trailer.

Ridgeline rides on Honda’s sturdy Global Light Truck platform with a 125.2-inch wheelbase that calms road imperfections. This feels smooth and controlled like Honda’s Pilot, a full-size SUV.

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2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWDMazda CX-3 flickable fun, but practical too

Small hatchbacks have always been fun to drive and practical too. So why shouldn’t a small crossover with a hatch be much the same?

Well, more and more tiny crossovers are being made and mostly they are pretty entertaining to drive. This week’s bright metallic blue (dynamic blue mica) Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD fits that bill.

Steering is light and lively with quick handling and downright perky acceleration when you toggle the Sport mode on the console. That pumps up the revs so the 146-horse 2.0-liter I4 has maximum torque, which also is 146. The Mazda zips away from stoplights with relative enthusiasm, but you’ll need to toggle back to the normal setting or it holds the engine’s revs way too long and eventually will suck down gas mileage.Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

But hey, toggling the Sport mode is almost as much fun as shifting a manual transmission – almost.

Add to that the practicality of all-wheel-drive to help steady the little crossover in winter slop, plus excellent fuel economy and you’ve got an attractive and cute ute, er crossover to take the place of any small sedan or hatchback.

The CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest crossover, just down a notch in size and wheelbase, from the CX-5. Both handle well.

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2017 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

2017 Toyota Camry hybridHigh-value Toyota Camry hybrid does it all, efficiently …

For 35 years Toyota has cranked out one Camry after another, often grabbing North America’s best-selling car title. That probably won’t be changing any time soon if the 2017 Camry hybrid is any indication.

Everything buyers like about a Camry is here, economy, value, comfort and good all-round driving dynamics. Styling is above average too and if you go toward the higher end of Camry’s lineup, you can get virtually every safety and tech feature available, no matter the brand.

Camry’s hybrid simply drives home the economy and value statement with more emphasis.

First, a base LE Camry hybrid starts at $27,655, including delivery. That’s well less than the average selling price of a car (roughly $35,000) these days. Move up to the SE and the price is just $28,860 and the tested XLE starts at $31,005 with delivery. Loaded, the test car was $34,710, still below that $35 grand figure.2017 Toyota Camry hybrid

I got 36.9 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving and sometimes with several folks aboard. The EPA rates the hybrid at 40 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Even with low-cost gas at the moment it’s nice to fill up at $11 for a week’s driving.

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

Fiat’s 124 a Miata remake long on style, better ride2017 Fiat 124 Spider

It has been a long, long time since an affordable convertible with Italian styling was available in the United States, but now we have Fiat’s 124 Spider.

Actually, we had it all along, or at least since 1989, in the form of a Mazda Miata. The new Fiat is mostly Miata, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ah, but there are differences.

For stylistas who prefer a long hood reflecting the styling of previous Fiat Spiders and other Italian sports cars, Fiat’s restyling of Miata’s body will be alluring. And it is. The Spider looks longer and leaner than the cute, but edgy Miata.

Yet there’s amore; I mean more.2017 Fiat 124 Spider

The 124’s headlights are round and taillights are rectangles, similar to the 1960s Spider, the ride is a tad smoother and well, plus there’s a bit more oomph under that long hood. Fiat uses one of its Multi-Air turbocharged 1.4-liter I4 engines to propel the roadster.

That’s not a huge upgrade in the pony department, moving from Mazda’s 155 horses generated by its 2.0-liter I4 to 160 in the Fiat. But the torque, the oomph if you will, is more substantial at 184 lb.-ft. with the turbo.

Dimensionally Fiat’s Spider is about 5 inches longer (most of it hood we suspect) and 100 pounds heavier. But what’s that among friends.

From a driving perspective the feel is nearly the same in a 124 Spider as in a Miata – simple fun. Handling is quick and light, the car feels you totally control it and can put it anywhere you want on the road. The roadster corners well on twisty roads and thanks to the turbo, it leaves a stoplight with a touch more zip than the Miata.

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Die-cast: NEO’s 1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop Coupe

1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop a two-tone beauty1957 Buick Roadmaster

Fins were fun and gave the 1950s cars both personality and a hint of aerodynamics that merged the streamlined models of the 1930s with the aerospace world of the 1960s to come.

Buick may not be the first brand you think of when it comes to ‘fin’ish styling, but in 1957 it was tastefully incorporating fins into its sleek designs. Witness the 1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop Coupe with is four ventiports and straight tailfins with round projected taillights hinting at being afterburners in those beautifully sculpted chrome rear light surrounds.

NEO does another fine job of re-creating the look of a 1950s chrome-laden model in 1/43 scale resin with the Roadmaster, and for a still modest $74.95. Some 1/43 models are now creeping over the $100 mark.1957 Buick Roadmaster

The History

All Buick hardtops were considered Riviera models in 1957 and 4-door sedans were eliminated. The clean, sexier look of the hardtop with no B-pillar was setting the styling and sales trends. Two-tone paint was being enhanced by chrome sweeps on the hardtop’s sides and around the windows.

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2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 hybrid = good mpg, sporty handling2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Funny, but I enjoyed driving the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid more than its gas-powered model that I had earlier this year.

This one seemed sportier, and that’s a contradiction to all things hybrid. Power seems a bit better, and is with a combined 194 horsepower for the hybrid vs. 176 for the gas-powered model. But handling seemed much more precise and sporty too.

RAV4 is a small ute/crossover and easy to park and steer. The wheel feels moderately light and the hybrid turns into corners well and is responsive. Wheel play is minor.

And while compared to the standard model it has more ponies to power it with the electric hybrid system working well via an electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), it’s not exactly quick. There’s still the electric whine when you let off the brake and a slow chug up to 15-20 mph. The harder you press the accelerator the crossover will respond though and get up to highway speeds fairly effortlessly. The down side is an engine that feels and sounds as if it’s working pretty hard.

2016 Toyota RAV4 HybridLike so many vehicles, there are drive mode selection buttons, here on the bottom of the center stack somewhat hidden behind the console-mounted gear shift knob. You can go Eco to save fuel or Sport for a bit more juice to the wheels. The bump up in power is minor, but every little bit helps sometimes.

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

NEO’s smaller scale ’49 Caddy nearly as nice as big 1/18

If you do something well, it often behooves you to repeat what you did. NEO knows that and creates a new 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe, this time in 1:24 scale.NEO 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe

As with its previous 1:18 scale version, this Club Coupe is a car with presence, class and substance, just a tad smaller. The real one also was a sales standout for Cadillac as the brand fought to re-establish itself after World War II.

This black resin beauty continues the detail NEO brought to its earlier model, but in the smaller scale so popular with plastic car model builders. Both Cadillacs are distributed by American-Excellence, which supplied our review model.

The History

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

Cadillac launched the Series 62 in 1940 as an entry-level Caddy, but production ended in 1942 as auto factories turned their efforts to war machines. The third generation Series 62 designed by GM’s noted Harley Earl went into production as a 1949 model, riding on a 126-inch wheelbase, measuring 214 inches long and touting GM’s new overhead-valve V8.

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

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

A.J. Foyt epitomizes the Indianapolis 500. He’s a legend and his cars embody that legendary status too, even those that didn’t carry him to one of his record four Indy wins in 35 tries.

Replicarz continues to expand its impressive 1/18 scale Indy 500 collection with Foyt’s pole-winning Coyote from 1974, back when all the racers looked a bit different as each driver, mechanic and car builder experimented with wings for downforce and radiator positioning for proper engine cooling.

Foyt’s Coyotes of the 1970s all had similar features, but for varied from year to year, the only constant being their glowing orange paint schemes and the Gilmore Racing sponsorship along with A.J.’s traditional No. 14.

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

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

The History

Foyt won the Indy pole in 1974 with a speed of 191 mph and had the speed to win on race day. He led 70 laps, second only to winner Johnny Rutherford, and controlled much of the first half of the race. He had just repassed Rutherford about 139 laps into the race when his Coyote started to smoke.

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Die-cast: NEO’s 1/64 Mack, IH trucks

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

Trucks are the big haulers we see every day, on the highway, behind the grocery, in the office parks. Usually they have a big ol’ trailer behind them full of goods that make the world go round.

So it’s only natural that they have fans, just like cars, racers and motorcycles.

Now NEO has the answer for truck collectors, beautifully detailed 1:64 scale tractor trailers of historically significant models. Our samples were a light blue 1960 Mack H-673ST and a 1963 International Harvester (IH) Fleetstar F-2000-D in red with a white beltline.

The History

These trucks were workhorses, the Mack’s chassis weighing 13,025 lbs. and featuring a 10-speed transmission to put its 205-horsepower turbo diesel to work. That may not sound like much, but the Thermodyne engine boasted a torque rating of 560 lb.-ft.NEO 1/64 scale Mack and International trucks

This was the cool cab-over design too that used a manually engaged hydraulic lift to tilt the cab forward to facilitate maintenance. Mack made 550 of this model from 1958-’62. They included a sleeping compartment behind the cab.

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2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …2017 Kia Sportage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The History

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

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2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Crewmax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3
Dec

Die-cast: NEO’s 1948 Chevy Fleetline Aerosedan

1948 Chevy Fleetline Aerosedan a slick family sedan . . .1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

Cars that bridged the gap between pre-war America and post-World War II are an interesting lot, often dowdy and pedestrian of styling. Most consider the 1930s and 1950s as primo styling eras.

But Chevrolet’s hot-selling Fleetline series, starting in 1941 is an exception, particularly its sleek streamlined looking Aerosedan, a two-door family car with a fastback design that looks slick still today.

That’s the 1948 Chevrolet that NEO has produced in 1/43 scale, a somewhat sporty full-size car that GM began cranking out for the 1941 model year, just before converting its car plants to war machinery. And for the 1946-48 model years they cranked up the assembly lines again using the satisfying 1941 design.

 

The History1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

Look at a four-door Fleetline and you’ll quickly see why the two-door Aerosedan and its smooth curves was such a hit. Blah describes the former, but Chevy knew it had a winner with the Aerosedan. In 1948 it sold 211,861 of the cars vs. just 64,217 of the four-door. Of course the baby boom hadn’t quite caught on just yet either.

The car, which was a sub-series of Chevy’s Fleetmaster, featured a Chevy Blue Flame 216 cu.in., inline six engine that created 90 horsepower. That meant the car was no slouch. It could hit nearly 80 mph. The Fleetline rode on a 115-inch wheelbase, about three inches longer than the current Chevy Impala, and was 197 inches long, about four inches shorter than today’s Impala.

Bottom line, it was nothing fancy, but looked good, with good power and was reliable. If you’re a Chevy guy, it also wasn’t a Ford!1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

The Model

NEO’s resin bodied Aerosedan is beautifully shaped and perfectly reflects the smooth lines of the sedan, plus hood, trunk and door seams are all stellar. This tiny Chevy also includes all the chrome trim as seen on the original.

That includes three thin chrome styling strips flaring back from the front wheel well and along the rear fender to the taillights. Bumpers are chrome too and include dual raised guards front and rear. There’s a chrome Chevy hood ornament along with all window trim, including vents and the flat split windshield. Door handles, gas filler cap, headlight bezels, wipers, trunk release and grille are chrome.1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

I like the fine detail of the photo-etched Fleetline logos along the hood’s sides, the script name on the trunk and winged Chevy logo on the nose. Head and taillights are fine too and there’s a yellow Ohio license plate front and rear. Broad whitewall tires treaded tires with large chrome hubcaps put the car on the road. Those caps are the fancy Chevy models with painted red swooshes (sorry Nike, Chevy beat you) and Chevrolet in blue too. Cool!

Inside is a reddish brown dash and door trim that really sets off the gray bench seats in the interior. The dash top doesn’t look as metallic as it might, but the color is nicely mated to the car and the dash face looks authentic, including a giant clock in the glove box door. This was a wind-up clock that would run for a week on one full wind. The speedometer is similarly large and visible, of course the side windows are all up, which does slightly limit your taking a peek inside.1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

NEO creates a fine two-spoke cream steering wheel with horn ring, and the steering column and hub match that reddish brown dash color. Sharp!

A cool addition to the model would be a green translucent sun visor like so many of these have worn over the years to keep the sun from reflecting from what was a metal dash. Maybe on a future model!

The Model: 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan

Maker: NEO

Scale: 1/43

Stock No.: 45830

MSRP: $99.95

Link: American-Excellence.com

2
Dec

2017 Ford Escape Titanium FWD

Ford refines its Escape crossover . . .2017 Ford Escape

For 2017 Ford has restyled its popular Escape inside and out, plus developed two new engines for the entry-level sport-utility, er crossover.

There’s no mistaking the Escape for something else as its profile remains much the same, but there’s a new hexagonal grille, LED trim headlights and revised tail-end styling. Overall the look is a bit more upscale, which is ironic because Escape remains very much a low-end to mainstream crossover for a family of four.

It’s roomy and comfortable and the new 1.5-liter I4 EcoBoost engine in the tested top-tier Titanium model is stellar. Pricing and gas mileage also are in Escape’s plus column.2017 Ford Escape

Let’s start with acceleration, which is excellent with the new turbo I4 that delivers 179 horsepower and a similar 177 torque rating. Escape is quick from a standing start and the fine 6-speed automatic shifts easily and smoothly.

The turbo is standard on the Titanium model, but the base S model starts with a 168-horse 2.5-liter I4 and an incredibly peppy 2.0-liter turbo I4 is available for $1,295 extra. It boasts 245 horses and a 275 torque rating. For most of us, the smaller turbo will do. Read more

30
Nov

Please tell me why there are so many bad drivers

I notice this more on my motorcycle

rustic roads, bad drivers, brake tappers, drivers who don't stop, I took my what most likely will have been my final ride of the season on my Hayabusa here in Wisconsin as it was 51 degrees. The weather folks forecast it all downhill from here. Actually riding this late has been a nice bonus because most years I put my bike away much earlier so I’ve been putting lots of miles the last couple of weeks and have been seeing some of the worst drivers. Read more

28
Nov

Love my Jeep but hate the winter

It’s really tough for me to even say the “W” word.

Jeep Wrangler, jeep wrangler unlimited, jeep with top down.

Photo: FCA

I go into full denial when this time of the year comes which I call the off-season. Off-season from going flying, rides on my Busa, and having the top down and doors off our 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

jeep wrangler unlimited, jeep wrangler unlimited soft top removal, jeep wrangler unlimited hard top installmentIt used to be a big pain in the ass to remove the soft top to make room for the hard top until I devised a sort of pulley system which now takes just about an hour to do as you’ll see in this video. Hold on a second fellow Jeepers, and those who are not yet, because I had some fun and sped it up so the whole process takes just over a minute. Enjoy.

27
Nov

Die-cast: TSM’s 1971 BRE Datsun 510

A special BRE Datsun driven by John Morton . . .1971 BRE Datsun 510

In the early 1970s Trans-Am racing was a big deal, even among the small sedan makers, like Datsun, which is what Nissan was known as in the U.S. at that time.

A lot of folks will think of the pony or muscle car racers, the Mustangs, Camaros and Cudas, but Alfa Romeo was big in the under 2.0-liter (U-2) class and Datsun dominated the class in 1971 and ’72 when it had become the Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge.

Cars were simply modified street cars, but Datsun put a lot of cash into the class sponsoring Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) headed by Pete Brock, a noted sports car designer. The red, white and blue BRE Datsun 510’s soon became synonymous with success. Now TSM Models comes out with a high-value 1/18 scale version, available through Replicarz.1971 BRE Datsun 510

The History

Brock’s small team of racers and mechanics won six of the 10 races in 1971 and driver John Morton was the Trans-Am 2.5 champion, although in somewhat odd fashion, not that Morton and the Datsun weren’t dominant in most races. He set many fast laps and was often on the pole. Read more

26
Nov

Die-cast: NEO 1956 Chrysler 300B

NEO creates a sharp Chrysler 300B1956 Chrysler 300B

My uncle had a late 1950s Chrysler 300, a creamy thing that took up his entire garage and sported giant fins. I thought it was wonderfully exotic.

But I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of earlier 300s, which were launched in 1955 as Letter Series cars, beginning with the 300C that was even raced on the NASCAR circuit. Its paint scheme proclaimed it the “world’s fastest stock car.”

NEO moves forward a year from that premier model to create the 1956 Chrysler 300B, yes they went backward in the lettering phase for one year before the ’57 300C appeared with its big yawning front grille. But back to the ’56, which NEO so beautifully produces in 1/43 scale and in a creamy white; this is a handsome car.1956 Chrysler 300B

 

The History

While the ’55 may be the most famous because it kicked off the Letter Series 300s, the 1956 300B seems more stately and elegant to me. Its fins are modest in size and blend well with the car’s profile while the taillights are remeniscent of upscale Lincolns of the day. Read more

25
Nov

2017 Honda Civic Touring Coupe

Civic Coupe is sleek, peppy, responsive, but …2017 Honda Civic Coupe

Honda’s new Civic Coupe has a sleek profile, peppy turbocharged engine and responsive handling, but it also has a few issues that reinforce it’s an entry-level car.

Through the years the Civic has grown up. It has gotten larger and now rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. It’s no longer an econobox. Civic also comes as a sedan, coupe and for 2017, a hatchback, with the coupe having the best overall styling.

Previously I’d driven the economical sedan with base 2.0-liter 158-horse I4. It’s underpowered, so the coupe was more fun to drive with its 1.5-liter I4 turbo that creates 174 horses. It was linked to Honda’s 6-speed CVT, which is adequate, but groans quite a bit under heavy acceleration.2017 Honda Civic Coupe

Power though is good and could only be improved with a 6-speed manual.

Handling is the car’s strong point though with quick steering that is responsive, making it fun to drive in town. Civic feels heavier than the car’s 2,888 lbs. would seem to indicate, but the Honda carves through corners well and there is no play in the wheel. Read more

22
Nov

Die-cast: Autoart Honda RA272 1965 Mexico GP winner

Autoart crafts delicate 1965 Honda F1 beauty …Autoart 1965 Honda RA272

In the glory days of Formula 1 racing new teams joined the ranks of the old standbys, Ferrari, BRM and Lotus to prove they too could build fast open-wheel racers with strong engines. For the fans it was exciting, not the least of which was because all the cars looked different and featured their country’s racing colors, not corporate sponsors.

Into this racing environment came Honda in 1964. The Japanese car maker had only been building road cars for four years and already was set to challenge the established F1 teams, plus it built its own chassis and engine. Few race teams did both at the time.Autoart 1965 Honda RA272

Autoart has created the Honda RA272, Honda’s second F1 racer as it competed in 1965, its first full season on the F1 trail, which was conducted mostly in Europe with European race teams. This 1/18 scale model of the car American Richie Ginther drove to Honda’s first F1 win is a delicate beauty befitting the simplicity of mid-1960s racers. Read more

18
Nov

2017 Audi A4 Premium

2017 Audi A4Audi’s new A4 is the epitome of fun driving …

Here’s a simple truth. It’s fun to drive a car that’s fun to drive.

That may seem silly, but let’s break it down.

First, cars have taken a back seat to trucks for years now as first SUVs and then crossovers replaced the family sedan as the vehicle of choice.

Second, fun often means power and that ebbs and wanes in popularity based on the price of oil.

Third, fun also means responsive handling and that frequently is achieved by engineers designing an overly stiff car that tortures your tushie.

So finding a fun car to drive is a rarity, yet Audi has absolutely nailed it with its new A4 sedan. I drove a crisp bright Ibis white Premium model that, contrary to its name, is the base A4. Mine was loaded with Premium Plus and Technology packages though, so more likely reflects a mid-level A4 in performance and feel.2017 Audi A4

Audi’s A4 is speedy, fun and sophisticated. It’s a joy to drive and ride in and has everything a driver could want, although once loaded it becomes pricey, like a BMW. Read more

16
Nov

Die-cast: Automodello’s 1954 Kaiser Darrin

Automodello creates stylish 1/24th Kaiser Darrin …Automodello Kaiser Darrin

There was a fine line between sports cars and two-seat boulevard cruisers as the 1950’s midpoint approached. The British were exporting tiny, nimble, two-seat sports cars in growing numbers to the United States.

This was the heyday of MG, Austin-Healey, and Triumph. Chevrolet, Ford and upstart Kaiser Motors were about to respond, with their Corvette, Thunderbird and Darrin, none exactly sports cars.

Kaiser’s Darrin was by far the most stylish, but was basically a one-year wonder. The others had staying power. Now Automodello has created its own 1/24 scale resin model of the daring Darrin that once was described as looking like it was trying to kiss someone with its puckered oval nose grille.Automodello Kaiser Darrin

The History

Howard “Dutch” Darrin had a long car styling resume, most recently with Packard, before Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer brought him onboard their new Kaiser-Frazer Corp. after World War II. Darrin went on to design a sports car on his own time and with his own funds, then presented it to Kaiser, looking for the company to produce the roadster. Read more

12
Nov

2017 Cadillac XT5 Premium AWD

Cadillac XT5 long on style, short on details …2017 Cadillac XT5

Cadillac has mastered the styling, now it needs to work on the details.

The new Cadillac XT5 crossover continues Cadillac’s sharp chiseled styling with tall taillights and noteworthy nose and headlight stylings. Its interior is luxurious and attractive in a way most German makes have yet to figure out because of their love for black leather.

But the XT5’s seats are way too snug in the hip and the ride too firm for our crumbling Wisconsin roads that are cracked by time, winter and a lack of willingness to pay for improving them. Additionally its CUE audio screen is improved, but still not the easiest to master while driving.

2017 Cadillac XT5The XT5, which replaces the SRX and rides on what should be a smoothing 112.5-inch wheelbase delivers a firm ride that turns too sharp and bumpy on cracked streets and highways.

Yet like other Cadillac’s and GM products, the XT5 delivers ample power with a new 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 with variable valve timing. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 271 ft.-lbs. of torque, so it’ll scoot when required to. That happens best when in Sport mode which holds gears longer in the 8-speed automatic. In normal mode acceleration is moderate. Read more

11
Nov

Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1939 Boyle Special, Indy 500 winner

New Replicarz 1939 Indy winner a treat …1939 Indianapolis 500 winner, Wilber Shaw, Maserati

Just prior to World War II it was rare to see European race cars competing at the Indianapolis 500. Winners usually drove Millers or a derivative thereof, with engines from Studebaker, Duesenberg or Miller, later Offenhauser.

There was one exception. Mike Boyle’s team had deep pockets (think Roger Penske today), and connections, so in 1939 it landed an Italian racer for its successful Hoosier driver, Wilbur Shaw. Shaw already had won Indy in 1937, but hooked up with Boyle, who headed a large Chicago union. It was a visible sign that money bought the best drivers, and equipment.

Replicarz now has created a gorgeous dark red, nearly maroon, Boyle Special, a Maserati  8CTF, to expand its Indy winning model lineup that includes both the larger 1/18 scale like this one, and 1/43 scale racers for those of us with limited display space.1939 Indianapolis 500 winner, Wilber Shaw, Maserati

The History

Shaw was a successful Champ car racer in the 1930s and hooked up with Boyle to drive a Maserati for an East Coast road race. Read more

5
Nov

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

New Honda Ridgeline redefines pickups2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

Honda has reinvented the pickup and it’s a darn sight nicer than whatever you’ve driven before.

To be honest, it’s a suburban cowboy’s pickup, but that’s what so many pickups are used as anyway – kid haulers and the occasional run to a home improvement store or big-box garden center. This one is just being honest about it and making your ride simply oh, so, comfy.

The Ridgeline is not about who has the bigger engine, toughest body, greatest towing capacity, it’s about refinement in a crew cab pickup body with a big open bed for hauling. It’s also quite a bit more.

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black EditionMy test truck was the Black Edition, which (not surprisingly) is black, with black wheels and a black grille to give it a decidedly elegant, yet macho look. Think I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too! This is Honda’s top-of-the-line Ridgeline.

Like all Ridgelines it comes with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 that creates 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s just fine. Acceleration is good and steady from a stop and ultimately Honda says it’ll carry a 1,584-lb. payload, best in class. It’ll even tow 5,000 lbs., which is well shy of competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, but plenty for pulling a camper or boat or snowmobile trailer.

Ridgeline rides on Honda’s sturdy Global Light Truck platform with a 125.2-inch wheelbase that calms road imperfections. This feels smooth and controlled like Honda’s Pilot, a full-size SUV. Read more

28
Oct

2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWDMazda CX-3 flickable fun, but practical too

Small hatchbacks have always been fun to drive and practical too. So why shouldn’t a small crossover with a hatch be much the same?

Well, more and more tiny crossovers are being made and mostly they are pretty entertaining to drive. This week’s bright metallic blue (dynamic blue mica) Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD fits that bill.

Steering is light and lively with quick handling and downright perky acceleration when you toggle the Sport mode on the console. That pumps up the revs so the 146-horse 2.0-liter I4 has maximum torque, which also is 146. The Mazda zips away from stoplights with relative enthusiasm, but you’ll need to toggle back to the normal setting or it holds the engine’s revs way too long and eventually will suck down gas mileage.Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

But hey, toggling the Sport mode is almost as much fun as shifting a manual transmission – almost.

Add to that the practicality of all-wheel-drive to help steady the little crossover in winter slop, plus excellent fuel economy and you’ve got an attractive and cute ute, er crossover to take the place of any small sedan or hatchback.

The CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest crossover, just down a notch in size and wheelbase, from the CX-5. Both handle well. Read more

20
Oct

2017 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

2017 Toyota Camry hybridHigh-value Toyota Camry hybrid does it all, efficiently …

For 35 years Toyota has cranked out one Camry after another, often grabbing North America’s best-selling car title. That probably won’t be changing any time soon if the 2017 Camry hybrid is any indication.

Everything buyers like about a Camry is here, economy, value, comfort and good all-round driving dynamics. Styling is above average too and if you go toward the higher end of Camry’s lineup, you can get virtually every safety and tech feature available, no matter the brand.

Camry’s hybrid simply drives home the economy and value statement with more emphasis.

First, a base LE Camry hybrid starts at $27,655, including delivery. That’s well less than the average selling price of a car (roughly $35,000) these days. Move up to the SE and the price is just $28,860 and the tested XLE starts at $31,005 with delivery. Loaded, the test car was $34,710, still below that $35 grand figure.2017 Toyota Camry hybrid

I got 36.9 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving and sometimes with several folks aboard. The EPA rates the hybrid at 40 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Even with low-cost gas at the moment it’s nice to fill up at $11 for a week’s driving. Read more

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