Category Archives: SUV/Truck Reviews

2019 RAM 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 Long Box

Heavy-duty RAM a cowboy Cadillac beyond words …

No words, no matter how many, can adequately describe RAM’s heavy-duty 3500 pickup, but I’ll try.

Check in the dictionary under Cowboy Cadillac and I’m pretty sure you’ll see an image of my fancy metallic walnut brown test truck. This was the RAM 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab with 4-wheel-drive and a long bed, just one notch down from RAM’s top-level Limited. Continue reading 2019 RAM 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 Long Box

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MAMA 2019 Spring Rally: Car heaven for auto journalist

So many cars to choose from

Mark and I love this event. We get to hang out at our favorite race track, Road America, that’s practically in our backyards. For two days, May 22-23, we attended The Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) annual Spring Rally.

We joined about 100 other automotive journalists from all over the country driving the latests from the automotive manufacturers on the track, on the streets of Elkhart Lake, off-road and even some autocross. The manufacturers tell us they love this event because of the quality time they get to spend with all of us and receive lots of feedback on their vehicles. So, what to hop in first? Hop in and go for a ride.

There were some other fun cars that we took for a spin that we did not capture on tape like the Ford Mustang GT 350 that had the best growl of any of the cars. The color kind of reminds me of the Mustang that Parnelli Jones drove in the Trans-Am series during the late 60’s.

Dodge had two of their Challengers, the Redeye and this Hellcat Scat Pack. The Redeye was pulled from the track because of the slick conditions that morning so we hopped in the Scat Pack. I’ve driven one before but not at Road America. The 485 hp Hemi did not disappoint and even though they did their best to keep our speeds down at Kettle Bottoms I was able to get the Challenger up to 127 mph.

We closed out the afternoon both with an opportunity to drive this brand new Acura NSX. If the other cars we drove were cuts of meat, this was the prime rib. So smooth to drive. We both decided to start saving up to buy one but at $199,000, it’s going to be a while.

By far the best paint job of any vehicle at Road America. It takes the factory 5 days to paint this Acura TLX PMC edition. It was almost like you could put your hand in, it was so deep.

Time to do some off-roading

Mark and I split up in Thursday morning with him going to do so auto cross on Road America’s go kart track while I headed for some good muddy fun at the off road course. There, I got my second chance to drive the new Jeep Gladiator.

Related: Read about my first drive of the Gladiator.

This Rubicon edition was the most capable of the test vehicles in its class, which included the Chevy Bison and Ford Ranger. While the course wasn’t as large as the one I drove on in California, it had a good mix of mud ruts and hills. It’s not just me that has this love fest going on with the Gladiator, my fellow automotive journalists liked it as well as it was one of three nominated for MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year. There was also a Gladiator Overland Edition (MSRP* Starting at $40,395) went for a spin in enjoying the twisty roads around Elkhart Lake along with the sunny day topless. Good windy fun especially remembering how Wednesday morning was so damp and cold.

Next I grabbed the Gladiator’s little brother, the Renegade, to get dirty. I have been really sceptical of this Jeep since it’s based on the Fiat 500 L which has a choppy ride and interior that looks like it assembled with a bunch of cheap plastics found in a dumpster. Not so with the Renegade. This Trailhawk edition came with the 177 hp, 1.3L turbo mated to a nine-speed automatic. Other features included, all-speed traction control, electronic stability control, Select-Terrain System with rock mode, and 17 inch wheels among other goodies. With the Trailhawk package, a running ground clearance of 8.7 inches, approach angle of 30.5 degrees, break over angle of 25.7 degrees, and departure angle of 34.3 degrees, it’s clearly the most off-road capable against its competitive set which includes the Mazda CX3, Chevy Tracy, its cousin the 500L, Honda HRV, and Kia Soul. It’s optional My Sky Power Retractable/Removable Panels added $1,595 to the $27,290 base.

The beast of the group, and by far muddiest, at the event was the Ram Power Wagon. There was no mud hole or hill that challenged this bad boy. I even had a couple off opportunities to goose it and heard its 6.4L, 410 hp Hemi growl.

While the Ford Raptor is built for speed, the Power Wagon is built for rock crawling. Its approach, departure, and breakover angles are big, 33.6, 26.2, and 23.5 degrees. It has 14.3 inches of ground clearance and can ford up to 30 inches of water. Oh, in case you were to get stuck, it comes with a Warn winch that can pull 12,000 lbs, almost a third more than the truck weighs. If you’re into rock crawling, at $53,015, it’s a good deal.

Mark and I both had a chance to take the Kia Telluride out for a spin. I was impressed with Kia’s biggest SUV yet. It reminded me of my 2017 Dodge Durango but I think the interior in the Telluride is nicer. Its 291 hp V6 was very responsive, it had a really quiet ride, and the latest tech. Pricing ranges from $31,690 all the way up to $43,490. If you’re in the market for an SUV, the Telluride is for sure a consideration.

It’s hard to say goodby

So Mark and I were done for the day but took one last look at some of the cars that were in the paddock area taking a break from the racing event going on Thursday. We saw this Corvette that looked as if someone had lobbed paintballs at it. I kind of liked it. Then there was this cherry Mustang, and finally the official car of Road America, the Corvette in Elkhart Lake blue.

2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

Well-rounded Honda Pilot a stellar SUV …2019 Honda Pilot

Not that long ago Honda’s Pilot was a boxy ol’ thing that frankly was as stylish as a shoe box jacked up on 20-inch wheels.

But like its chief rival, Toyota, Honda seems to have suddenly gotten the word that blah styling doesn’t help you stand out in a crowded market. Brilliant! Continue reading 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

First Drive: Jeep Gladiator

Gladiator is more than just a Wrangler with a bed

That would have been the easy thing for Jeep to do, just slap a pickup bed on the back of a Wrangler Unlimited and it would have been out years ago. But that’s not the way, thankfully, they decided to move. While the two Jeeps look the same, there is a lot new on the Gladiator. Its frame is an additional 31 inches longer while the wheelbase is 19.4 inches longer. The longer wheelbase and the bed’s positioning center aft of the rear axle centerline enables for better weight distribution and a more comfortable and composed ride when carrying cargo.

Continue reading First Drive: Jeep Gladiator

2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 4WD Double Cab

Tacoma TRD Pro the ultimate Bro Truck …2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD

A 20-something friend assures me Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro is a Bro Truck, or what us older guys would have called a boy toy. I know that has other connotations, but you get my drift.

This Voodoo Blue TRD model, complete with 4-wheel-drive and in double cab layout is aimed directly at young guys with some coin in their pocket and a need to prove their manhood. It’s menacing looking, but shiny enough to get other folks attention. And that TRD, which stands for Toyota Racing Development, indicates it’s a mean dude that will kick butt off-road. One assumes that machismo also rubs off on its owner. Continue reading 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 4WD Double Cab

2019 RAM 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4×4

RAM redefines the growing posh pickup market …2019 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab

Imagine the poshest luxury sedan interior, then imagine it in a pickup, and not just any pickup, but a big ol’ crew cab pickup.

The 2019 RAM, made by Fiat Chrysler and formerly known as a Dodge Ram, is a luxury pickup along the lines of a Cadillac or Lexus luxury sedan. It’s the fanciest pickup I’ve ever driven, and I’ve driven quite a few. Continue reading 2019 RAM 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4×4

2019 Subaru Forester Limited

New Forester offers better ride, power, value …2019 Subaru Forester Limited

Full disclosure, a few years ago our family owned the previous generation Subaru Forester. It was light and lively, but its ride was a bit stiff for us Boomers.

Subaru’s 2019 Forester solves that, plus moves Subaru into the automotive mainstream by offering a heated steering wheel. Bingo! Continue reading 2019 Subaru Forester Limited