All posts by Mark Savage

Mark Savage is a writer and editor. He wrote a car review column, Savage on Wheels, for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from 1989 through 2019 and was a business news reporter there for 16 years. He now writes car reviews for WUWM (NPR-Milwaukee) and for his own site. He also has served as editor and publisher of several hobby magazines and a snowmobile title, all the while writing about diecast cars and for various hobby magazines. He is an avid Indy 500 fan, attending races since 1962, and an IndyCar enthusiast, and Formula Ford race school graduate.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Boxy, gray, two-tone, 3-row Pathfinder a trend setter …

Sometimes when I write my reviews I feel like a broken record (remember those?) repeating the same info over and over.

Part of that is because trends develop fast in the car world and once one manufacturer does something for style, color, features, the others soon fall in line. Sometimes too I test a vehicle as a pre-production model, then get the standard production model a few months later.

That was the case with Nissan’s new 2022 Pathfinder. Plus it was a top-end Platinum 4WD version, same as I’d tested last fall.

For the most part, all was the same, save for a better driver’s seat butt pocket that was not as hard as last time. That or my tush has softened. Whatever!

Now I also see the trends that Pathfinder exhibits that I wasn’t as aware of previously.

First, two-tone SUVs and crossovers are now a thing, a good thing I might add. The trend is giving the roof a different paint scheme than the body. In this case, the roof was black and the body a destroyer gray. That’s another trend, blah gray paint like a battleship, jet fighter or a utility truck. Funny though, the trendy two-tone paint scheme costs $350 extra.

Boxy styling is back for SUVs too. It’s what carmakers call “muscular” and means wheel wells are more pronounced, hoods flatter and fenders squared. This counteracts the more streamlined styling with rounded edges of recent years, although I’d argue SUVs nearly all look pretty boxy, always have.

Another trend? To improve fuel economy and smooth shifts for a more luxurious feel, carmakers have moved to 8- to 10-speed automatic transmissions. Nissan’s is a 9-speed and silky smooth. That helps keep the 3.5-liter V6 calmed even as the 4,672-pound SUV runs up to highway speeds. So engine noise is modest and the cabin remains quiet, so as not to disturb the family’s social media experiences.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews to 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Edition – YouTube

Luxury interiors, often even in the $35,000-$40,000 price range (that’s about $10 grand short of the average vehicle price now) are trendy too. That means leather with various names taken from Italian fishing villages to California wine country counties. Nissan’s are semi-aniline leather and were a handsome medium brown with black trim on seats, doors and dash.

Luxury leather interior? Check!

This makes sense. I mean, where do you spend hours and hours? Inside your vehicle, naturally. So make it as comfy and lounge-like as possible.

The Pathfinder really looks posh with its quilted leather all around and brushed metal look trim on the outer air vents, door armrests faces and then piano gloss black trim around the various screens and as console trim. Downside to the gloss finish? It’s very reflective on sunny days.

The better news is that these seats are well formed and supportive and as hinted at before, the butt pockets are much softer than the pre-pro model, so fine for long drives with the fam aboard.

Third row seat is tight, but easily accessed.

That’s easier now too due to the trend of adding a third-row seat to every SUV beyond compact status. Nissan proudly states this third row has more legroom than some competitors, but let’s be realistic, nearly all third rows are meant for kids younger than 8. Leg and knee room is tight unless the second row seats are moved as far forward as possible.

More good news, these row two seats are one-touch, meaning punch a button on the back and the second row seats backs fold forward and the entire seat slides forward for easier access to row three. That’s appreciated.

Note the flat-bottom wheel, which Nissan and I love.

Also a trend, a bench seat is optional for row two, which would allow a family to haul eight, one more than a minivan. Practically speaking, most folks will opt for captain’s chairs in row two and limit seating to seven. That creates four very comfy seats, which is how many folks populate most vehicles, including midsize and large SUVs.

Other interior trends include dual-pane panoramic sunroofs and fancy stereos. Both are standard on the Platinum model, the stereo being a Bose premium model with dual subwoofers.

Nissan, wisely, is fond of flat-bottom steering wheels which are good at creating more room for a driver’s knees when exiting and also look sportier, a double win.

And many drive modes, here controlled on the console by a rotating dial, are as necessary as giant wheels and tires these days. Pathfinder touts seven drive modes from Mud/Rut and Snow, to Eco and Sport. Yes, Sport firms the steering effort some and mildly aids acceleration.

Supposedly the more muscular styling for Pathfinder (and others) insinuates it is more off-road rugged and certainly I splashed around some sloppy tall grass and muck in a field to assure the Nissan was up to it. It is, but as the SUVs approach the cost of a home it seems less and less likely owners will torture them in rough terrain.

I must admit the tested gray Pathfinder Platinum is not as costly as, say, the giant new Jeeps I recently tested, but still, at $50,665 the monthly payments are going to be substantial.

A base rear-drive S model lists at $34,855 and adding 4WD to any of the Pathfinder’s four trims adds $1,900. The popular SV trim rolls at about $37,500 and the SL at about $42 grand. This Platinum model started at $49,265, including delivery.

For the record I got 23.3 mpg in a 60/40 mix of highway to city driving and the EPA rates this model at 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. One hopes a hybrid version is in the works to help boost those numbers, although I must say filling the tank was not as shocking as with the previous week’s Jeep Grand Wagoneer that managed just 12.3 mpg. Pathfinder is way more family budget friendly.

Can you read the vehicle name OK?

Other pluses include the full bevy of safety equipment. Nissan wisely makes Safety Shield 360 standard on all models. That includes lane departure warning (vibrates the steering wheel and buzzes a bit), blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear emergency braking plus high-beam headlight assist.

Moving up to the SV trim adds ProPilot the adaptive cruise control and semi-autonomous driving aids, and by the Platinum level there’s also a 10.8-inch head-up display. Sadly that smart cruise system only works with the semi-autonomous system, so you can’t shut off the buzzing, vibrating lane warning system that can annoy during the lane dodging of construction season.

Standard too are a 9-inch infotainment screen (up from 8 in the two lower trims), a WiFi hotspot, 360-degree camera, that flat-bottom steering wheel, Nissan Connect Services via Sirius XM, wireless Apple Car Play, but not wireless Android Auto.

Goodies added in the Platinum model are heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel, plus heated rear seats, that dual-pane sunroof, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless phone charger, driver seat memory, power tilt/telescope steering wheel and memory, that the HUD.

I’m also a fan of the power hatch, under cargo floor storage and the fact Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 lbs., when properly equipped.

Not a fan though of the stiff ride in what should be a luxurious family SUV. I would never call this a severe ride, but it’s more than firm. All road imperfections are felt as the ute seems to not soak up the rises in the pavement, but deliver a bump to the rump.

Take a ride though to assess how the ride affects your derriere. If you’re after a large compact ute with luxury leanings inside the Pathfinder offers a roomy quiet interior and plenty of power and amenities.

Others to compare include Toyota’s Highlander, Kia’s Telluride, Hyundai’s Palisade (recently reviewed here), the Ford Explorer Timberline, and Subaru’s Ascent.

FAST STATS: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Hits: Roomy 3-row interior, stout power, 7 drive modes, flat-bottom steering wheel, solid standard safety equipment plus heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-pane sunroof. Big instrument display and easy-to-use info screen, storage under cargo floor, power hatch and tilt/telescope wheel, along with quiet, stylish interior.

Misses: Stiff ride, limited foot and knee room in third row, smart cruise engages semi-autonomous driving feature, which can’t be disengaged while in cruise mode.

Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 284 hp / 259 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,672 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 197.7 in.

Cargo: 16.6/45.0/80.5 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,000 lbs.

MPG: 20/25

MPG: 23.3 (tested)

Base Price: $49,265 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Carpeted floor mats, captain’s chairs, $255

Lighting package (illuminated kick plates, welcome lighting), $795

2-tone paint, $350

Test vehicle: $50,665

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

McLaren 600LT

Autoart creates a racy 1:18 scale Long Tail version …

McLaren knows a little something about supercars, and what it doesn’t know could be put inside an engineer’s pocket protector.

So when the British firm rejiggered its 570S supercar to create something a little less pricey and yet racetrack worthy it was no surprise the resulting 600LT (Long Tail) looked and drove like Spinal Tap turned up to 11. It’s wild!

Bathe that 600LT in a deep Volcano Red paint job and consider our jaws dropped!

That’s exactly what maestro 1:18 scale car maker Autoart did with the McLaren 600LT in one of its latest releases. Oh, and the trim is a beautiful imitation black carbon fiber. Blimey it’s beautiful!

The History

The track-bound Sports Series 600LT made its debut at England’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2018 and immediately snagged supercar intenders’ attention, both with its sleek lines and its impressive power-to-weight ratio.

While McLaren’s wild child Senna, based on the 720S, touts a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 making 789 horsepower, the 600LT is lighter so rattles off the same 0 to 60 mph run-up of 2.8 seconds. That’s with a smaller 3.8-liter turbo V8 coupled to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Horsepower is nearly 600 here (592 to be exact) and top speed is 204 mph. The 600LT does a quarter mile in just 10.4 seconds.

Heck, Bugattis with those credentials will run you $1 million plus, while the McLaren 600LT seems more entry-level at just $245,000.

In addition to that engine, the two-seater has cut 220 pounds from the girth of its kissin’ cousin, the 720S, while using its lightweight suspension and brake system. And the Long Tail? Well, it is 2 inches longer overall than a McLaren 570S.

The 600LT also features larger carbon fiber air intakes on the sides, a carbon fiber body and like all McLarens, a carbon fiber chassis. Inside is more carbon fiber, mainly the racing seats that customers first saw in the famous P1.

Disc brakes are carbon ceramic for racing and the tires are Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R models, with 19-inchers up front and 20-inchers in back.

Speaking of the rear, just a fixed spoiler here with diffuser below. No giant moveable rear wing that also serves as an air brake as in the Senna model.

In case you want the real deal, but plan to shop around. Consider a Ferrari 488 GTB or Lamborghini Huracan Performante.

The Model

               Us die-cast collectors are lucky to dodge the serious coin the motorized versions demand, yet Autoart’s model is as spectacular as any of the full-size supercars. And this one is as perfect in shape and paint job as any to date.

               This is no sealed body version either, the frunk and doors open and that black carbon fiber-look engine cover in back with its bulging exhaust ports comes off too. Beneath is a nicely detailed turbo V8 with hoses coming off the side and McLaren emblazoned on the engine’s cover, which also appears to be carbon fiber. You can see the chassis support system here too and the exhausts leading up to the top-side ports.

Oh, and the cover’s center portion appears to be a smoked or reinforced glass so you can see a bit of the engine through it, even when the cover is in place.

Like on the original car the carbon fiber rear wing is fixed and below that much of the tail is coated in that same black fiber all the way down to the diffuser and wrapping around the arrow-like rear lights.

Inside the frunk is a red fire extinguisher and the rest of it is lined with a felt-like material to match the original’s soft finish. The chin spoiler resembles carbon fiber, naturally and the front lights are full of what appear to be projector beams, at least five.

There’s a subtle McLaren logo on the frunk’s front edge and of course another chrome one embedded in the tail.

Black air intakes above each front wheel add more detail as do the black carbon fiber rocker panel ground effects skirts, which also tout 600LT labels.    

               Sexy black carbon fiber air vents and scoops run from the front wheel wells to just beyond the scissor doors and the roof also appears to be carbon fiber, and looks great.

               The broad windshield includes two big black wipers and there are giant black carbon fiber racing mirrors on either door’s front edge.

               Flip those scissor doors up and you get a good peak at the black racer’s interior, it’s high-backed, big-bolster racing seats, cloth shoulder belts with photo-etched clasps, a well-shaped dash with all the appropriate bulges and instrument cluster hood, and sharp dash and console instruments and displays. I like the silver-ringed air vents too. Those scissor doors have carbon fiber-look trim and mesh stereo speakers too.

               Down low the Pirelli P Zero tires are so labeled and wrap snuggly around black 10-spoke wheels with a McLaren swish at their center. Giant discs are visible behind the wheels as are red McLaren branded calipers.

Perhaps something here doesn’t meet your stylistic leanings or color palette?

Well, consider that Autoart also makes the 600LT available in Myan Orange, Fistral Blue, Sicilian Yellow, and Onyx Black all at the same $220.

Take your pick! 

Vital Stats: McLaren 600LT

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 76035 (Volcano Red)
MSRP: $220

Link: Autoartmodels.com

2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Obsidian 4×4

Grand is the key word in Jeep’s new full-size luxury SUV …

Jeep’s new Grand Wagoneer, its first GW since 1991 is simply too much, and that applies to price, screens, and luxury features.

Of course, that’s exactly the market Jeep is going after with the Grand, over-the-top high-end luxury.

So I’ll warn you right now, prepare to be amazed, both by what comes on this Grand Wagoneer Obsidian edition, and its sticker. We’ll start there because once you know it, that’s all you’re going to think about. It’s all people wanted to ask me about once they knew.

This model breaches the 6-digit mark.

That’s right, as equipped the test SUV listed at $109,025, including a $2,000 delivery fee, and it only ships here from Warren, Mich. OK, now that you have that $100+ grand figure firmly planted in your gray matter, I’ll try to explain at least the major add-ons and luxury features you get in the Obsidian model, the third of four trim levels.

First, know that obsidian (if you’re not a geologist) is a black glass-like rock formed by melting lava from a volcano. Here it signifies that both exterior and interior are blacked out in nearly every way imaginable, creating a giant blocky black behemoth look that conjures Darth Vader. Ironically light sabers are about the only option not offered.

Before going all Obsidian on us, a Grand Wagoneer first adds Jeep’s 6.4-liter HEMI V8 for power vs. the 5.7-liter V8 in the standard Wagoneer. That means you get 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque, up 79 horses and 51 lb.-ft. of torque from the smaller V8. It prefers premium petrol too, and naturally sucks fuel like a teenager crushing pizza at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I got just 12.5 miles per gallon in a fairly even mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates the GW at 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. I had managed 15.3 mpg with the earlier Wagoneer and its “little” V8.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the Grandest Wagoneer yet – YouTube

RELATED: See Paul’s car spot on the original Grand Wagoneer:
https://savageonwheels.com/2022/03/18/car-spot-it-set-the-bar-for-luxo-suv/

The other major performance upgrade is the addition of a Quadra-Lift air suspension system with semi-active damping and five ride-height settings controlled via a toggle on the massive console. This suspension also provides 3.6 inches of additional lift, so when you wish to go mudding with your $100 grand vehicle you’ll have 10 inches worth of ground clearance. Note too Jeep says this fords two feet of water, not surprising when you ride on 22-inch wheels.

A whole lotta leather in this richly appointed high-end interior!

Other upgrades include more supple leather, more screens, more chrome by the windows, real walnut interior trim and a black roof. But this being the Obsidian model much of that is pushed aside to black out the window trim and supplant the snazzy wood interior trim with a black vertically striped aluminum on the doors and dash and much of the console’s top. Piano black gloss trim atop the console too and the black (of course) soft leather seats feature gray stitching, as does the steering wheel’s leather cover and console’s leather sides. This looks sharp, but wood looks ritzier.

This also adds a 10-inch touchscreen in the passenger-side dash with a filter to avoid the driver being able to see it and get distracted. But a passenger can access the hundreds of functions hidden within the 12-inch touchscreen the driver Can see. Oh, and there’s a smaller one below that, which can be electrically folded back to reveal a wireless phone charger and numerous power outlets.

Two screens here, one for info and the other for massaging seats and other options.

All screens feature multiple functions and layers, too much to use easily while driving. I also couldn’t add favorite channels to the pre-sets, which was annoying. Another drawback that some other makes have conquered, is the touch points for heated seats and steering wheel all reset to off whenever the ignition is turned off, a concern when running errands and you’re in and out of the vehicle frequently.

Jeep proudly points out there are five screens here now with nearly 75 inches of screen width. This one also adds a rear-seat entertainment package for $1,995 that puts 10.1-inch screens on the back of the front seats for the row-two captain’s chair occupants to watch their favorite shows and movies. Amazon Fire TV is part of that package.

More screens in back, plus dual-panel panoramic sunroof.

In case one feels more entertainment is needed, the stereo in Obsidian is upgraded to a McIntosh premium audio system with 23 speakers. Overkill? Hard to argue with the symphony hall quality of the interior sound.

For penny pinchers the Obsidian package adds $5,000 to the overall price and includes all that black trim, inside and out, the fancy stereo, cooled second row seats, snazzy black accented 22-inch wheels, and a cooler between the seats inside the console. It was absolutely frigid, so nice for soft drinks, or sushi!

Roomy third-row seat in Grand Wagoneer.

Funny, the Diamond Black Crystal Pearl paint job is not part of the Obsidian package. That paint scheme costs $595.

Additional here was a $3,595 convenience group that includes an advanced security system (needed on a $100,000 vehicle), night vision to see people and animals, a rear seat camera monitor, semiautonomous driving system and intersection collision warning system. That “FamCam” is targeted at parents wanting to see what the rear seat occupants are doing, possibly a win on a long road trip. Also could discourage early teens from getting “too familiar” in the back seat.

A $995 heavy-duty trailering package that adds a bunch of trailering aids and heavy-duty engine cooling allows this model to tow up to 9,850 pounds of boat, camper or whatever.

Did we mention the cooler between the front seats?

Speaking of weight, the Grand Wagoneer Obsidian crosses the scales at a whopping 6,400 lbs. itself. Imagine gas mileage if a trailer were attached!

Mentioned the black leather interior a bit earlier, but I neglected to say the seats are nicely supportive and heated and cooled in the first two rows. But the front row also features massaging functions. Waterfall is my favorite massage pattern, but rock climb is good too. There are three others and three massage pressure levels for each too. Folks usually ooh and aah when they try these, but the message functions is mainly to stimulate a little blood flow to the extremities on a long drive. The message is not so relaxing as to make a driver drowsy. Controls for these are on the lower of the two center screens.

Seems I’ve barely touched on the driving characteristics, but they are the same as the Wagoneer reviewed a few months back. Power is strong and ride fairly smooth with a bit of a trucklike feel (this is based on the RAM pickup platform). But the revised independent rear suspension makes this comfy in most regards.

It’s big, but parking wasn’t a big issue and there’s a 360 camera to help too.

Handling? This is a big beast that holds the road well because it also has 4WD with five settings for mud, snow, etc. There is some body lean in tight turns and parking is a challenge just because of the truck’s size. Having said that, a longer L version is coming by this summer as a 2023 model, but the Grand Wagoneer is already roughly a foot longer than the Grand Cherokee L, Jeep’s other new 3-row ute.

Naturally this Jeep could go off road, ford streams and traverse deep snow, but let’s be realistic, at $100,000+ it likely won’t be put to such tests often.

Briefly, other things to know about the GW.

This one would seat 7 with captain’s chairs in row 2, plus a giant console with screen. If you order a bench seat for row 2, the vehicle could seat 8. A power hatch in back allows you to step under it and press power buttons to lower the third and second row seats.

Two screens for the driver and there’s a third screen right in front of the passenger.

Overhead is a giant two-panel sunroof, plus a smaller sunroof over the third row. There are power adjustable pedals below the dash and a power tilt/telescope steering wheel too.

In addition to the safety equipment in the option packages above, a full lineup of safety gear is here. And for ease of climbing aboard the Titanic, er, Grand Wagoneer, power retractable running boards fold down to aid short folks getting inside, then fold flush to the Jeep’s sides after doors are closed.

There’s more, but we’re pushing it now.

Part of the MORE is power fold-down running boards.

Just consider that a Series I GW starts at $90,440 with delivery, a Series II at $95,440 and this Obsidian at $101,845. A Series III pushes that to $104,845. For the record a less loaded base Wagoneer starts about $30,000 less, and well equipped can be had for about $15,000 less.

FAST STATS: 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Obsidian 4×4

Hits: Plush, huge Jeep with off-road capability, five drive modes, powerful V8 with major tow ability, will carry up to 8 passengers. Giant sunroof plus smaller one for row 3, power hatch, the usual safety equipment and 4WD. Quiet interior with oodles of upgraded leather, heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled second row seats. Power adjustable pedals and steering wheel, comfy seats, giant touchscreen.  PLUS console cooler, massaging front seats, air suspension, 23-speaker stereo, giant touchscreen, screen for front passenger, entertainment screens for second row seats, and power retractable running boards.

Misses: So luxurious it likely will never be taken seriously off-road. Screen and electronic controls, such as heated seats, all reset after ignition is off. Hard to engage seat climate buttons when wearing gloves, or not. All screens too many layers to use easily while driving, horrible fuel economy and simply too overly complex in general.

Made in: Warren, Mich.

Engine: 6.4-liter HEMI V8, 471 hp/455 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 6,400 lbs.

Wheelbase: 123 in.

Length: 214.7 in.

Cargo: 27.4-70.9-94.2 cu.ft.

Tow: 9,850 lbs.

MPG: 13/18

MPG: 12.5 (tested)

Base Price: $96,845 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $97,333

Posh second row captain’s chairs, screens and sunroofs.

Major Options:

Diamond black crystal pearl paint, $595

Rear-seat entertainment group (10.1-inch rear entertainment screens, Amazon Fire TV), $1,995

Custom preferred package 23T (Obsidian appearance package, cooled rear seats, cargo cover, tinted glass, piano black exterior accents, adjustable roof rail crossbars, McIntosh audio system w/23 speakers, front passenger screen, 22-inch tinted polished wheels w/black inserts, front console cooler, black interior accents), $5,000

Convenience group (advanced security alert, night vision w/pedestrian & animal detection, rear seat monitoring camera, intersection collision assist, active driving assist), $3,595

Heavy-duty trailer tow package (trailer brake control, trailer hitch line-up assist, trailer hitch zoom, removable rear tow hook, black tow hooks, heavy-duty cooling), $995

Test vehicle: $109,025

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

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

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

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

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

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