2021 Kia K5 EX

New Kia K5 a sedan with looks, performance, value …

I’m not sure what else a buyer could want from a stylish family sedan beyond what Kia’s K5 offers, unless they wanted to pay much more.

I know, I know, mention value in a car review and the reader yawns and wants to click on an extended warranty ad. Stop right there. Don’t do it!

Kia’s K5 replaces its attractive Optima sedan and is a sedan par excellence, in appearance, performance and price.

First, give it a serious look. Continue reading 2021 Kia K5 EX

2020 Land Rover Defender 110 First Edition

Rover Defender goes mostly back to its off-road roots …

My introduction to Land Rover was as a kid when Matchbox created a sharp dark green boxy version with brown plastic luggage atop its roof. Then there was Daktari, the TV show about a wild animal veterinarian running the African savanna in a Rover.

I still think of Land Rovers as those boxy utilitarian beasts that mostly British folks used to roam Africa’s plains in search of wild game. One hopes now it was mostly for photography purposes instead of butchery.

Indeed, off-road prowess is Land Rover’s claim to fame, much like Jeep’s reputation was built on its ruggedness and ability to go anywhere, crushing rocks, sloshing through mud and swamp, swooshing around sand dunes and fording rivers. Then came luxury! Continue reading 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 First Edition

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Ltd.

Crosstrek merges hatchback styling, crossover utility …

Mix a love of hatchbacks with a need for AWD and you have the recipe Subaru has nearly perfected in its 2021 Crosstrek.

I’ve loved hatches for years and really, if you think on it, isn’t that what all crossovers are? But crossovers aren’t very slick looking as a class, so thank goodness for Subaru and the tall hatchback design of its revamped Crosstrek, tested in its top-level Limited trim.

The first thing, beyond its sporty looks, that everyone should want to talk about for 2021 is its new engine that gives it 30 more horsepower. A little oomph is always welcome. The engine itself isn’t new, already powering Subaru’s Forester crossover, but it’s new to Crosstrek, now standard in its Sport and Limited trim levels. Continue reading 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Ltd.

Back to a time when American motors built cars worldwide

The Concord with a side of rice and beans

 

France, Germany, Iran, New Zealand, South Africa, and England all at one time manufactured Jeeps, Javelins, Americans, Hornets and more through partnerships put together by AMC’s E-VP, International Operations Roy D. Chapin Jr. One of those unique partnerships was set up about 2,000 south of the company’s major assembly operation, Kenosha, WI, in Mexico with Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos, S.A.

For 40 years, this government-controlled company imported and produced automobiles and light trucks under license from Willys, AMC, Eagle, Jeep, Chrysler, Renault and designed their own vehicles based on AMC platforms.

Photo: Wiki Commons

One of the more interesting cars they designed and produced was the VAM Lerma, a cross between the Concord and Spirit. It was available as a three-door or a five-door hatchback, something not available on AMC cars built in Kenosha. It was named after Lerma, a city in Mexico where VAM produced engines. This wasn’t just a warmed-over Concord, it featured a different interior and the only element carried over from AMC was the instrument panel. It was focused on the top-end market in Mexico and never exported. While I couldn’t find sales numbers specific to the Lerma, it was a top 10 seller and at one time held a 9% market share.  But when Renault bought into AMC in the mid-eighties they had no interest in building AMC cars in Mexico and the partnership ended.

The Lerma lives on

It’s a 1/43 diecast model of the Lerma manufactured by IXO Models in Hong Kong. Besides this, they make all kinds of hard-to-find cars, motorcycles, and trucks based mostly on non-u.s models.

This one has a ton of miles on it. While it was manufactured in Hong Kong, I bought it off eBay and it came from Spain. That’s a lot more miles than you would see on the real deal. While I knew about VAM because of my dad working at AMC, I had never seen a model until I was poking around on Facebook and found a group of VAM enthusiasts.

The detail on this one that I acquired has amazing details. While the doors, hood, and hatch don’t open, there is a full interior. Exterior details include a hood ornament, simulated glass headlights, windshield wipers, side view mirrors, even the scripted name of the car on the back. I don’t normally collect cars this small because they lack the details of their larger counterparts but would consider any of their cars.

I have never seen a Mexican made AMC car for sale. I would imagine they would be priced similar to their Kenosha-made cousins although with no snow should be in pretty good shape. There is a very active group of fans who continue to be fans of the brand and are very active on Facebook. How’s your Spanish?

Photo: VAM AMC RAMBLER ZACATECAS
Photo: VAM AMC RAMBLER ZACATECAS

 

 

2021 RAM TRX Crew Cab 4×4

Devilish T-RX ready to crush Ford Raptor sales …

Tell someone you’re driving a 702-horsepower pickup and they look at you like you’ve grown horns from your noggin and said 29-cent gas is back.

But it’s true, the Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab packs a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8, the same used in both the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats. Rating is 702 horses and torque of 650 lb.-ft. with a reported 0-60 mph burst of 4.5 seconds, although some folks have tested it as low as 4.1 seconds. Top speed is said to be 118 mph.

You may be saying to yourself, that’s a racer, not a pickup and you’d be right, except the TRX is street legal, if you can afford one.

This is a Muscle Truck, much as in years past we’ve had Muscle Cars, and still do, thankfully. Continue reading 2021 RAM TRX Crew Cab 4×4

2020 Ford Edge ST AWD

Edge ST’s twin-turbo adds a major power bump …

Since crossovers are king at the moment it’s understandable that Ford, or any vehicle maker, would want to grab every niche within that market, hence the Ford Edge ST.

While the ST would welcome family buyers, as do the other Edge models, this one takes aim at the performance-oriented buyer that’s not afraid to spend a little, or more, extra for said performance.

So, while an entry-level front-wheel-drive Edge buyer may be happy to be economical and spend just $32,195 (MSRP with delivery), an ST buyer may be willing to part with $44,510 (MSRP with delivery) to even upwards of $50 grand. Continue reading 2020 Ford Edge ST AWD

2020 BMW X7 M50i

Muscular X7 M50i ups the SUV performance ante …

When the heck is a large $94,000 SUV with 456 horsepower not enough? German luxury vehicle maker BMW would answer, when it’s an X7 50i model. Thus the X7 M50i.

Those in the know of BMW lingo realize adding an M to any BMW nameplate means two things, more performance, and naturally, more money.

New for 2020 the M50i ups the ante for both. It touts the same 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 as the 50i, but bumps up the horsepower to a wowing 523 with an equally wow-worthy 553 torque rating. Price jumps to $100,595 for this monster out of BMW’s Spartanburg, S.C., plant. Continue reading 2020 BMW X7 M50i

2020 Subaru WRX STI

WRX STI is fast, furious and noisy as …

You know that sound of running a vacuum and it sucking up a load of dirt, gravel and maybe some road salt in winter. Now imagine that sound rattling around in each wheel well of your car.

That’s the first impression of Subaru’s new WRX STI, the raciest of Subies. The lasting impression is of its racer like speed and handling. Continue reading 2020 Subaru WRX STI

2020 MINI Cooper SE Iconic Hardtop 2-door

Who can’t love this face?

Electric MINI packs power, cuteness into a, well, mini package …

Have you ever driven an electric Go-Kart, maybe at an amusement park, in the Dells, or even an indoor karting track?

That’s what it’s like to drive the new electric MINI Cooper SE. Power is instantaneous and the car is a bullet off the line. It’s light and lively and a nimble handler that anyone would enjoy tossing around a small racetrack. In fact, it’s a rush to slam it around corners anywhere.

On the fun factor scale the electric MINI, signified with the E in the SE nomenclature, is a solid 10.

Cute? You betcha! Continue reading 2020 MINI Cooper SE Iconic Hardtop 2-door

2020 Volkswagen Passat SEL

Crisply styled Passat a high-value sedan …

When was the last time you heard of a car costing less than it did three years ago?

I’m betting never, unless it was a 3-year-old used car.

Well, Volkswagen is making a big push again in the U.S. You’ve likely seen its ads for the new Atlas Cross Sport crossover. Yet VW hasn’t abandoned sedans like most U.S. car makers. And its restyled 2020 Passat is not only a crisply styled sedan, it’s less expensive than when I drove a comparable SEL three years ago. Continue reading 2020 Volkswagen Passat SEL

Die-cast: Auto World’s True 1:64 Hemmings 6-packs

New Challenger Hellcat casting stars in latest AW releases …

Like many car guys and gals I’ve been reading Hemmings automotive mags for years and love many of the covers!

So Auto World’s latest True 1:64 releases is a dead-on bull’s-eye for collectors as AW reproduces some of the cool cover cars from Hemmings’ Classic Car, Muscle Machines and Motor News. One of my favorites was the September 2019 Muscle Machines featuring a purple 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye and a vintage 1970 Challenger R/T.

Bingo, both cars are a part of the Release 4 A Series. Cool too because the 797-horsepower 2019 Challenger is a new casting while the 1970 features a new hood casting. More on those in a second. Continue reading Die-cast: Auto World’s True 1:64 Hemmings 6-packs

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe

Chevy’s mid-engine Vette thumbs its nose at the Supercars

The nose still screams Corvette!
The old and new, a Piper Cub rests behind the 2020 mid-engine Vette at Hartford’s municipal airport.

Chevy’s new Corvette is kryptonite to the ever-growing bevy of Supercars.

For more than 65 years Chevrolet’s everyman’s dream car has put its throbbing V8 power in front of the driver, but with the eighth generation that all changes. Supercars beware!

Now the Vette’s 6.2-liter V8 moves behind the driver in a mid-engine arrangement that seems new and exciting even though supercar makers, plus Ford with its GT, have been milking this layout for years.

While new and exciting looking there’s a familiarity too with the new Corvette. Stand in front and you’ll see the family resemblance, the pointed nose, the long headlights, the rounded front wheel wells. There’s even a tall flat rear shoulder that exudes Corvette styling. Continue reading 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe

Die-cast: DNA’s Subaru Baja

Subie’s small Baja pickup looks great in 1/18 scale …

Leading sometimes is a lonely game. Just ask Subaru.

Its Baja, a 4-door compact pickup based on a car platform was one of the first of its kind and can easily be seen in today’s multitude of such pickups. But it was not a sales success, selling just 30,000 units in three years.

But Baja was a leader, make no mistake about that, and DNA Collectibles loves oddball and original designs so has created a sharp 1/18 scale resin die-cast Baja that certainly is a looker.

The History

Baja sprung from the ST-X concept vehicle with its more radical off-roading look, as if it were to run in the Baja 1000 cross-country race. Tamed down, but still sporty looking, Subaru made the Baja from 2002 to 2006 in its Lafayette, Ind., plant. Bajas were based on the popular Legacy/Outback platform and marketed as 2003 through 2006 models.

Baja followed the 2-door Brat that Subaru sold successfully from 1978 to 1994. Brat too was a compact pickup with some styling flair. But as we all know, Americans prefer more room for all their stuff. So Baja with its four doors, second row seat and handsomely lined pickup bed and functional roof rack seemed to fit that bill.

It featured Subaru’s trusted 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder engine with a turbo version coming in year two. Plus Baja was made more useful for hauling with its Switchback system where the second row seat folded down and a panel behind it opened to the bed, allowing for longer items to be carried. To add more strength to the bed there also were two chrome handles or supports that extended from the roof to the bed’s sides. Knowing we love all things sporty, Subaru marketed those handles as “Sports Bars,” which now has a totally separate meaning.

The pickup also had four tie-downs, two bed lights, roof rails and crossbars, and a snazzy system that allowed the license plate holder to fold perpendicular to the tailgate so it could be seen if the truck was driving with the tailgate lowered. Clever!

The Model

DNA’s model replicates the original bicolor launch version which was bright yellow with silver stone metallic lower body cladding, all beautifully painted.

Other standout features include the black roof rails and small sunroof just in front of the rack’s forward bar. A tiny black antenna sits next to the rails and is in a retracted position. All windows appear slightly tinted and edged in black.

In front is a chrome-trimmed grille opening with photo-etched metal and black backing and the Subaru logo at the grille’s center. Headlights are wonderfully rendered showing four different lenses and lights while below the bumper are two giant running lights with slight grille work covering the lenses for protection.

Baja’s tail features a well detailed flat black lined cargo bed, the two chrome Sport Bars and dual overhead cargo lamp. Taillights are sharply detailed too and the license area is nicely shaped indicating it indeed could have been repositioned when the tailgate was down. Would be cool if the model allowed that tailgate to drop, or the doors to open.

Subaru, Baja and AWD labels are here in photo-etched form too.

Underneath you see the Baja labeled rear wheel mud flaps and a chrome muffler and tailpipe that look a little too shiny for my taste. I think a matte silver finish would have looked more realistic.

Tires are black sidewall and treaded, but with no branding and the wheels are matte gray five-spokers with large plain discs behind them with calipers.

Inside, well, that’s not extremely easy to see because all the windows are posed in the up position. Seats and dash are bicolor gray and black, which looks sporty and is best viewed through the windshield and from overhead. There you’ll see the gated shifter on the console, the gray and black steering wheel and gauge faces on the instrument cluster and the dash’s stack.

Hard to see much else, but DNA says there are seat belts and radio buttons there too. I wish the side windows at least could have been clear or the driver’s window removed so the interior could be viewed more easily.

As is though the Baja looks great and would stand out in any model display. And it now comes in a fully windowed box that would make it easy to display as purchased.

DNA puts the Baja in a great windowed box, so you could easily display it just as it comes!

Coming up, DNA has just added the Volvo P1800 in red and a Saab 9-4x. It’s just starting to take pre-orders for its Saab 9-5 NG Aero.

Vital Stats: Subaru Baja

Maker: DNA Collectibles
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: DNA000050
MSRP: $139.99

Link: DNAcollectibles.com

 

Die-cast: Autoart Honda Civic Type R

Autoart’s Civic Type R looks ready to rip in 1/18 scale … 

All this bad boy needs is a number and a sponsor and the Civic R looks ready to race!

When I was a youngster and Honda Civics were new to the U.S. market, they were cute, nimble econoboxes that got great gas mileage and weren’t very expensive.

Times change.

Now Civic has grown to be as large as an Accord used to be, but remain Honda’s main entry in the compact car market. Plus, now there’s a Type R in the U.S., as of 2017, that takes the sporty Civic to its logical, or maybe illogical performance extreme. The 2020 Honda Civic Type R is one hot hatchback, and Autoart does a fine job of bringing it to the 1/18 scale die-cast market. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart Honda Civic Type R

2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD

Aviator puts Lincoln solidly back in the game … 

Lincoln has been struggling for years like a one-armed barista fresh out of java. It’s no secret Lincoln has been looking for a new identity, a new look and hoping to regain its footing in the luxury car market.

Finally, it seems to have arrived, but not with cars, with sport-utility vehicles named Aviator and Corsair. I tested the Corsair earlier this year and found it a solid entry in the mid-size SUV market. Now comes the Aviator that soars to the upper reaches of SUV luxury, in looks, features and price.

Outside, Aviator is a blend of sophistication and sleek lines without the gaudy chrome explosion of earlier models, especially its cars. Think Town Car and old-time Continental. Continue reading 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD

2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT

Outback Onyx Edition just another winning Subie wagon …

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

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

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL

Hyundai new Venue a primo entry-level vehicle …

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

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

History: Kissel Motor Car Company

Kissel’s Gold Bug speedster stirred celebrity sales …

Forgive yourself if you’ve never heard of the Kissel Motor Car Company, originally known as KisselKar, with the curious moto of “Every Inch a Car.”

Sorry for the hand reflection, it was a SUNNY day. Or is that the ghost of Louis Kissel?

Founded by Louis Kissel and his sons back in 1906 when cars were still a new-fangled means of conveyance, Kissel cars lasted until 1930 when the Depression sunk it in a sea of red ink. The firm made more than 27,000 vehicles in its 25-year run.

While its factory in Hartford, Wis., about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, was out in the sticks, its cars were known to the elites of society from coast to coast. Most notable was the Gold Bug, a speedster with good power and a spiffy Chrome Yellow paint job that became its iconic color calling card. Continue reading History: Kissel Motor Car Company

Die-cast: DNA Collectibles Volvo Concept Coupe

Finally a model of the Volvo Coupe that became Polestar 1 …

For much of its modern history Volvo has been the maker of boxy utilitarian vehicles known for their safety. Sexy was as foreign to its styling department as polkas are to Shakira.

But even a dowdy car company like Volvo can change and by 2013 it had committed to more elegant, and some might say, moderately sexy design. Hence the Volvo Concept Coupe, one of three show cars that set Volvo’s styling tone for the future.

DNA Collectibles loves stylish cars, and quirky cars that other die-cast manufacturers have avoided. You might say style is in the company’s DNA. (Groan!) Continue reading Die-cast: DNA Collectibles Volvo Concept Coupe

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