Die-cast: Auto World 1971 Ford Torino GT

1:18 scale Torino GT oozes 1970s muscle, fastback styling …

Clint Eastwood loves his Gran Torino, both the car and the movie he made that revolved around one. But Torinos were mainstream, a lot of folks owned them in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s.

That’s because they were the midsize or intermediate Fords, good for families and modestly priced. Plus starting in 1968 they were fairly stylish, going with a fastback look that contrasted with some boxier GM and Chrysler products.

Like most cars of the time though, muscle was added to put a halo on the makers’ family cars and those cars were incorporated into stock car racing. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

Auto World doubles up on its honors here with a Wimbleton White 1971 Ford Torino GT marking the 50th anniversary of the car and the 30th anniversary of AW’s American Muscle series. This year AW calls all its 1971 die-cast car releases its Class of 71, cool for those of us in high school at that time.

This one is a spiffy version with the hideaway headlight option and a white to blue laser stripe down its side.

The History

Torino replaced the Fairlane in 1968 (although the Fairlane name remained on the cars until 1971). Yet by 1971 all intermediate Fords were Torinos, named after the Italian city of the same name, which also has strong ties to various automakers. Plus, by 1971 enough of the snazzy hardtop coupe fastbacks had been decked out with high-performance engines and options, for Torino to be considered a muscle car.

In fact, Torinos were being raced successfully in NASCAR from 1968 through 1970, winning the 1968 and 1969 NASCAR championships with David Pearson. But after Chrysler’s Plymouth and Dodge brands came out with their Daytona versions and Superbirds in late 1969 Ford’s dominance quickly evaporated and Ford officially dropped stock car racing in 1971. However, some Torino and the aero version Talladega cars were still run privately.

For production GT models Ford used the 428 cu.in. and 429 cu.in., 7.0-liter V8s known as Cobra-Jet engines to power up the Torino. That 429 is the engine depicted here, and of course sports the Shaker hood which came with the Ram Air system to boost horsepower to 370.

For the record 14 Torino models were offered, including convertibles, wagons, 4-doors and the modeled coupe. The GT was available with the SportsRoof (modeled here) and as a convertible.

For 1971 Torino had a divided front grille while the GT model’s divider was smaller and included its nameplate. The hideaway headlight option was also available which meant a smaller grille divider too. The Torino name lasted until the 1976 model year when Ford moved on to the less interesting LTD. Torino’s sister car was the Mercury Montego.

The Model

In profile the Torino always looked fast with its fastback SportRoof and the GT’s black louvered rear window covering aimed at directing airflow quickly over the roof and trunk which featured a modestly flipped up rear lip.

The paint scheme here is simple yet deep and rich looking, plus that white to blue stripe that tapers to the rear gives this Torino a crisp, almost icy sharp appearance. Further spiffing its looks is the chrome grille that covers the lights and includes that insignia at its midpoint to divide it. On the long Shaker hood is a black scoop to force air into its Ram Air system and feed the big V8. Two hood pins mark the hood’s front edge.

Flip up the hood and it easily stays in place to reveal the blue V8 with matching round air filter case and black air scoop that extends through the hood. AW includes a nicely detailed radiator, hoses and wiring, plus an Autolite battery, master brake cylinder and upper suspension connections. This car displays well hood up, or down.

Likewise the trunk opens to reveal a full-size spare tire. Remember those?

Full-size spare and wheel in the trunk.

Tires are treaded Goodyears with chrome Magnum 500 wheels, including the spare. And remember the undercarriage with dual exhausts is well detailed here too, something many 1:18 scale models ignore. Oh, and the front wheels are steerable for more interesting display poses.

I also like the red taillight bar, the chrome door handles and body-colored mirrors. The white license plate is marked for New Jersey, the “Garden State.”

Inside, the black seats have black and white tweed inserts, there’s a T-handle shifter on the console and the steering wheel is a proper 3-spoke number with logo on the hub. The black dash is well detailed with glove box release button and full wide speedometer behind that steering wheel, plus a few round gauges and of course there are metal-trimmed pedals below. Black floor mats appear to be rubber.

Sharp looking interior and dash here. Like the patterned seats!

Everything looks as it should here, and like its real-world counterpart the seam lines on the doors are less than perfect. But that’s 1971 for ya!     

Nice undercarriage detailing at this high-value price.

Vital Stats: 1971 Ford Torino GT

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AMM1256/06
MSRP: $116

Link: Autoworldstore.com

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Pathfinder adds third row seat, 20-inch tires, 2-tone paint …

Can mid-size SUVs get any bigger? Well, sure as buyers move away from minivans they find 5-passenger SUVs are too tiny for many of them. Marketing and design folks listen, so here’s another, the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder with a third row.

Pathfinder started out like Ford’s Explorer and Toyota’s 4Runner, to name a few mid-size utes that now, like full-size pickups, have grown large enough for a family of seven, or even eight, if several are wee ones to fill that third row.

Now Nissan would want me to tell you Pathfinder is actually a touch shorter than in 2020, the last previous model year, but it’s miniscule. They also would like me to tell you the third row has more legroom than many, and it does, but still, if second row folks are 6-foot or beyond the third row seats will be fairly snug.

That’s not a complaint, just a warning because I suspect many folks buy that third row as protection, an insurance policy if you will, for the rare occasion they need seating for more than four or five. Think transporting kids to a sports match or movie. Kids 12 and under will fit easily.

Like other SUVs that fancy themselves minivans the Pathfinder has beefed up its fender flares, flattened its hood, widened its stance and pumped it up with bigger tires (20-inchers on the tester). The effect, a muscular SUV look that fits the market and reflects Nissan’s truck, SUV and crossover styles.

But to give Pathfinder some distinction, Nissan now offers two-tone paint jobs, such as the tested top-level Platinum model with 4-wheel-drive. It was a brilliant Scarlet Ember (metallic red) with a Super Black Metallic roof. Sharp!

From a performance standpoint there’s a trusty 3.5-liter V6 under its flattened hood juicing it to the tune of 284 horsepower along with a torque rating of 259. That’s close to the top of the mid-size SUV heap, Kia’s newish Telluride packing 291 horses.

That’s pretty close and means the Pathfinder, with its easy-shifting 9-speed automatic, will do 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds, darn fine for a ute weighing roughly 4,500 lbs. according to Car and Driver. Gas mileage with the new tranny is respectable too at 21 mpg city and 26 highway according to the EPA. I got 21.5 mpg in a mix.

The Nissan also will tow up to 6,000 pounds too and now includes Trailer Sway Control as standard, a big plus for haulers.

Sadly the pre-production model I tested felt sort of numb on the road as far as handling, but that’s not unusual for mid- and large-utes. There are seven traction modes dialed in atop the console. They range from snow to mud/rut for off-roaders. Sport firmed up the steering some, but didn’t really make it seem any faster off the line or create sporty handling.

Ride is big truck jiggly, especially on raised bumps. Dips were less of a problem, but the bumps and lumps seemed to jar the interior more than I’d expected in a truck with a 114.2-inch wheelbase. An air suspension or more damping for the rear shocks might help.

Two-tone gray leather interior looks sharp and feels high-end too.

The good news is that inside the two-tone gray leather interior looks and feels luxurious and the cabin is darned quiet thanks to thicker acoustic glass. There’s just a bit of tire noise on certain pavements.

I liked Pathfinder’s interior styling with the two-tone gray seats, dash, and doors. The dash’s center stack is surrounded by black gloss trim as is half the console, the rest a satin chrome to avoid reflection by the shifter. Dash side air vents features a brushed metal look as do the door release handles and lower door trim. Door armrests are gloss black on top.

Doors and seats look stylish with quilted semi-aniline leather (Platinum trim) to soften their feel, but I felt the butt pocket itself was still a bit firm. Possible that will be improved on production models.

There are all the usual safety bits as 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 trim there’s a 10.8-inch head-up display that some feel aids driver safety. It all works and was easy to understand and use.

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

Goodies that are added in the Platinum model include heated and cooled front seats and steering wheel, plus heated rear seats, a big dual-pane sunroof and shade, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless phone charger, driver seat memory, power tilt/telescope steering wheel and memory, that head-up display and a rockin’ Bose sound system.

As mentioned at the outset, the Pathfinder is roomy and now is available with second row captain’s chairs, which the tester had. That limits seating to seven, 2-2-3. But if you go with a bench second row you could squeeze eight folks in. It’s also worth a mention that the second row captain’s chairs slide and tilt at the touch of a side button, or one on the seat back for third row folks to use. Because they slide and tilt in one motion it’s easy to crawl in back using the second row seat to steady yourself climbing aboard.

With the third row in place there’s 16.6 cubic feet of cargo room. That sounds like a lot, but it’s mostly vertical. A cooler will fit as will several bags of groceries. Fold the row three seats down the cargo area is 79.8 cubic feet, on par with most mid-size SUVs. Nissan also provides reasonable under floor storage space to hide valuables.

Pricing runs from $33,410 for a base S model to $36,200 for the SV, and $39,590 for the SL, probably the best buy. Adding 4WD adds $1,900 to each model.

The tested Platinum started at $49,240, including delivery, and with just a couple minor options hit $50,290. That’s also in the ballpark for top-level mid-size SUVs. The good news is that this is so near luxury that most of us would consider it full-on luxury.

Aspiring to a “luxury” brand means adding another $10,000 to $20,000 to the price tag.

FAST STATS: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Hits: Muscular styling, good power, 4WD, and a third row seat. Roomy vehicle that will tow, luxury look interior, big dual sunroof, heated/cooled seats and heated wheel up front, heated second row seats, power tilt/telescope wheel, Bose stereo, flat-bottom wheel, smart cruise, full load of safety equipment and seven traction modes.

Misses: Jiggly truck ride, vague steering and fairly tight third row seat.

Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.

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

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,481 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 197.7 in.

Cargo: 16.6-79.8 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,000 lbs.

MPG: 21/26

MPG: 21.5 (tested)

Base Price: $49,240 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $47,944*

Major Options:

Illuminated kick plates/welcome lighting, $750

Captain’s chair floor mats, $255

Test vehicle: $50,290

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com, Car and Driver

*= Kelley Blue Book Fair Market price

Photos: Mark Savage

Die-Cast: Johnny Lightning 1:64 Classic Gold ’21 release 2

Johnny Lightning 6-packs feature new ’96 Camaro casting …

Round2’s Johnny Lightning brand continues to impress with new castings and of course new color combos that make their JL Classic Gold series a winner among 1:64 die-cast collectors.

Its latest 2021 Release 2, as usual with A and B series 6-packs, is another collection of small gems for DC car collectors.  Each casting oozes realism, considering their size.

These 6-packs include the same six vehicles, but decked out in different color schemes. This batch features a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk, a 1984 Pontiac Firebird T/A, a new casting of the 1996 Firebird T/A WS6, a Jeep CJ-5, a 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata and a1976 Dodge Aspen R/T. Of the two releases I prefer the B version’s color schemes, not that the others are bad, so I’ll focus on those. But there are pictures of all versions here.

The Models

               Let’s start with the new casting, the ’96 Firebird in Bright White with a black top and dark red or cranberry interior. The original packed a Ram Air boosted 5.7-liter LT1 V8 that increased horsepower from 285 to 305. The WS6 also had not been offered since it was discontinued in 1991, so was a surprise re-launch for 1996 four years into the fourth generation Firebird’s run.

               For the record the WS6 was a performance package that made it a racy Bird, coming with a 6-speed manual tranny and delivering a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds and top speed of about 160 mph, not bad for 1996. Front and rear brakes were vented discs to slow this beast down.

               Of the 31,000 Firebirds sold in 1996 about 2,500 were WS6 models as the muscle car’s big numbers faded before Firebird was axed after 2002.

               Visually the Ram Air hood with pronounced nose hood scoops, rollaway headlights, big trunk-top encompassing spoiler and white five-spoke wheels shout that this Firebird is a hot rod, namely a WS6. The Michigan plate on the back says “Strike,” and the two round running lights on the nose add to its menacing look.

               If you’re a Firebird fan this 6-pack doubles your pleasure with a 1984 Firebird T/A. Yes, we all knew that was for Trans-Am, but T&A meant something else to us in 1984. This one is Autumn Maple Firemist, a dark metallic goldish red that looks great with the black roof and interior. There’s black lower body trim and black wheels to spiff it up too, plus the hood opens to reveal the all black engine compartment with air cleaner and radiator. The package notes that this Firebird was GM’s most aerodynamic car ever made, at the time.

               I’ve become more and more of a Jeep fan through the years and JL’s  Jeep CJ-5 version is spectacular, again, for the scale. First, it’s decked out in Sunshine Yellow and is the Golden Eagle version with a giant eagle on the hood and the name Golden Eagle on the sides of the hood. Pry up the hood and there’s a blue 304ci V8 with black air filter under the hood. Plus the windshield folds up and down and contains an acrylic windscreen, plus wipers cast into the window frame.

               The Jeep’s knobby tires are labeled BF Goodrich All-Terrains and a spare rides on a peg at the rear. Pop it on and off as you like. Sharp cast dash detailing, two shift levers for gears and off-roading and a big yellow roll bar with supports. Oh, and black plastic side steps here too. I’ve seen less detail on a 1:24 model!

               One of my favorites from JL is the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk (ha, Golden Eagle Jeep, now a Hawk from Studebaker). First, this Raymond Loewy design displays nearly perfect dimensions with a long hood with raised center bulge and a slightly shorter trunk to give it excellent proportions. And the tiny rear fins are reminiscent of so many 1950s

               The color is light Wedgewood Blue with a creamy white roof and white interior complete with a sharply cast rear window shelf and speaker. Window trim is silver as are the bumpers and grille, naturally. Tires are white sidewall and treaded with bright chrome wheels. The color here screams 1950s to me.

               JL keeps tweaking its fine 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata, now just known as the MX-5, but commonly STILL referred to as Miata. The MX stood for Mazda Experimental and the sports car has been a hot seller and halo car for the brand for 25+ years now.

               This one is a bright cheery Custom Amber Metallic with twin white racing stripes and black windshield and vent window trim. This is as crisp a casting as JL has made with fine seam work for hood trunk and doors, big side mirrors, a silver gas cap atop the driver’s side rear fender, well detailed head and taillights and black grille. There’s even a tiny single exhaust pipe. Even the butterscotch plastic interior is impressive with well-formed dual cowl dash, center stack, shifter and bucket seats.

               Wow, 1:64 castings don’t get any finer than this Miata.

               Lastly there’s the 1976 Dodge Aspen R/T, a steady seller for Chrysler over the years, first as Duster and Dart, then Volare and Aspen.

The Deep Sherwood Sunfire (dark metallic green) Aspen is nicely detailed with an opening hood and bright blue engine and black detailing under that hood. Windows are finely outlined in silver paint with wipers molded into the windshield’s base. There are the correct air vents at the hood’s rear and good looking nose and taillight detail, plus the stylish center trunk crease. A side stripe is light green.

               The gas cap is cast into the driver’s side rear quarter panel and there’s an R/T logo just before the rear wheel. Side markers are found on this and newer model cars too, plus an undercarriage featuring side pipes. Aspen’s interior is black and the tires labeled BF Goodrich Radial T/A, and treaded. Plus, there’s a trunk lid spoiler.

               A quick factoid from the hang card, which feature old ad and promo shots for all the various vehicles. Did you know that Volare and Aspen sold nearly a half-million units between them in 1976? Me either!

               Version A

               The Version A vehicles, as mentioned above, are the same castings, but in different color schemes.

               The Studebaker Golden Hawk is elegantly painted Woodsmoke Gray Poly with cream roof and fin trim giving it a more luxurious look than the blue model. Just 4,356 Golden Hawks were made in 1957 and for 1958 Packard had its own version of the Hawk as it was part of Studebaker at the time. That didn’t last long.

               The Firebirds in Version A are Silver Sand Gray for the ’84 model and Medium Cloisonne Poly (medium metallic blue) for the all-new 1996 casting. JL notes the new Firebird casting is exactly 1:64 scale, so could fit into its Auto World True 1:64 series too I suppose.

               Jeep’s CJ5 here is Mocha Brown Poly, a metallic golden brown with wheels to match and a tan interior that looks sharp. The Golden Eagle on the hood even looks a little less in your face than on the yellow Jeep.

               A Black Onyx Mazda Miata looks sporty too but the brownish tan interior seems a bit jarring visually to me. Still, it reflects what a lot of Miatas looked like over the years when more than 531,000 have been sold to make it the all-time best-selling sports car.

               Finally there’s the Aspen, here in Cinnamon Poly a reddish brown with orange and red racing stripe along the fenders and doors. The spoiler on the trunk lid looks sharp here too.

               Again, all fun, all sharply cast and well decorated, this is another fine 1:64 lineup from JL.

               Note too, if you missed it, there was a Classic Gold Release 1 earlier in 2021 feature a 1983 Lagonda, 2006 Hummer H1 Alpha, 1972 Ford Mustang Convertible, 1997 Dodge Viper GTS, 1980 Chevy Monza Spyder, and 1979 Chevy Malibu. Two versions of that release also are available, at least in some hobby stores and online sites.

Vital Stats: JL Classic Gold Release 2 A&B, 6-packs

Brand: Johnny Lightning
Scale: 1/64
Stock No.: JLCG025/06 A & B
MSRP: $51.99 per 6-pack

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Ford’s Maverick hybrid pickup earns top EPA city MPG rating

New hybrid rated 42 MPG city, 37 MPG combined …

A 2022 Ford Maverick at Road America, with Indy Lights racer on track.

Last week a bunch of us Midwest auto writers got to give the new 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid pickup a spin up at Road America, and trust me Ford is gonna sell a LOT of Mavericks, both ICE and hybrid powered.

Now the EPA has today rated the hybrid at 42 mpg in city driving, making the Maverick the most fuel-efficient hybrid pickup in the States. That’s huge for Ford and for cleaner air. Maverick is first of all a compact pickup, think of it along the lines of the old Ranger pickup, but with better drive, ride and now fuel technology.

I was impressed by how well the Maverick handled and weathered bumpy pavement, a given here in the Midwest. This feels more refined and yet is modestly priced so families can afford one. Base price is around $21,000, with delivery fees, for the 2.0-liter ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) EcoBoost model that went on sale in September. That engine has 250 horsepower and will tow 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.

The base model features a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo 4, the hybrid has a 2.5-liter I4 and hybrid system to boost gas mileage.

Maverick Hybrid pickups are to start hitting dealerships in December so will likely be getting to customers by January. The truck is rated 37 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Note that hybrids usually deliver better fuel economy in city driving when their electric motors do more of the work. Ford says EPA estimated driving range is 500 miles for the hybrid too.

The hybrid model packs 191 horsepower and will tow up to 2,000 pounds. It is powered by a 2.5-liter I4 and hybrid electric motors.

Both models are known as SuperCrews with full-size rear doors and seating for four or five.

#mama21rally

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

Smooth plug-in hybrid adds power, better fuel economy to SUV

Luxury and power are as ubiquitous as peanut butter and chocolate. BMW knows that and blends the two with just a smidge of social consciousness in its latest X5 mid-size SUV/crossover.

Its full name is X5 xDrive45e.

What that means is that the power now comes from a plug-in hybrid system that combines a mild 48-volt hybrid’s electric power with a silky 3.0-liter inline-6 with twin turbos. Power is 389 horsepower and it’s as smooth and seamless as any engine or hybrid system on the market.

Jamming the accelerator still delivers a velvety romp up to triple digit speeds, but now with the hybrid’s electric power you can toddle around town for 30 miles using only the electric power. Or you can toggle between Sport, Hybrid, Electric or Adaptive on the console and use or conserve your electric charge.

I switched to Sport as I was heading onto the freeway knowing I’d need that electric power when I got downtown, and let’s face it, if you’re going to be cutting your car’s emissions doing so in a more congested urban area makes the most sense.

The plug-in works like all others I’ve driven. Pull the plug and charger from the compartment under the hatch’s floor and plug into a standard 120-volt outlet in the garage. You get about one mile of charge per hour of plug-in time. So, overnight I ended up with 15 more miles. That means I can use no gas running to the grocery, Target or wherever in the neighborhood. Plug in again and the next day I’m likely at a full charge for a longer drive.

Combined with the gas power I got 28.3 mpg and this is rated from 20 mpg gas-only, up to 50 mpge on electric.

Typical plug-in hybrid outlet on the driver’s side.

Forget about the hybrid system, which is easy to do while driving, and the X5 remains one of the top mid-size luxury SUVs. It’s big and feels it at 5,646 pounds. But this is a BMW, so it handles well, turns into corners with a fair amount of precision and is easy to keep in its lane on the freeway.

Most surprising was the excellent ride, but then it does feature an air suspension system that once you’ve ridden on it you’ll wish it were on every SUV in the market. Trust me, I’ve had nice SUVs in the past, but few coddle like this one.

Watch Mark’s video review: X5 xDrive45e review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Of course that xDrive moniker means the BMW has AWD so is great in sleet, slush and snow. And the $650 M Sport brake package gives it excellent stopping power plus the calipers are a snazzy blue, which was a nice accent to the Arctic Gray Metallic ($550 extra) paint scheme. That’s dark gray with a hint of blue sparkle in it.

Boosting the X5’s looks is the M Sport package itself that adds $5,500 to the sticker, an already stout $66,395. For that you get all sorts of trim and appearance upgrades including Shadowline exterior trim, aluminum tetragon interior trim, high-gloss Shadowline roof rails, Vernasca leather seat trim, an M steering wheel and M Star-spoke bi-color wheels and an aero kit to smooth out airflow over the boxy body.

The other major add-on is the Executive Package, which from its name lets you know who may not be able to afford this. At $4,050 it adds a huge panoramic Sky Lounge sunroof and shade, rear manual side sunshades, 4-zone climate control, a head-up display, wireless phone charger, Harmon Kardon surround sound system with gesture control (not what you think!) a WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth and Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight. Those are fancy headlights, but sadly do not shoot out real (Austin Powers style) l-a-s-e-r-s.

By the way, gesture control means a driver can rotate a finger (not just that one) clockwise in front of the infotainment screen and it will turn up radio volume, or the other way to crank down the sound. While on the stereo, the big 12.3-inch touchscreen also includes eight radio memory buttons under the screen, getting back to old-school channel selection. Bingo!

Two-tone black and white leather looks sharp here.

The X5’s interior is, as you’d expect, a snazzy leather stronghold with white leather seats in the test vehicle, plus white lower trim on the doors and dash, the tops of which are black. That Vernasca leather is real leather but with a stamped artificial grain and artificial coatings that makes for easy cleaning.

There’s also a spectacular jewel-like metal trim (tetragon shaped and part of the M Sport package) that graces the dash and console, with a metal clad cubby door able to retract over much of the console to reveal the wireless charger and cup holders. Satin chrome trim also accents the leather-clad steering wheel and the door releases.

Love the jewel look of the satin chrome trim on the dash and center stack.

Seats are comfy, as they should be. But BMW enhances its power controls here with $750 multi-contour seats, meaning they have multiple lumbar and side bolster adjustments. Plus the lower seat cushion can be extended to aid long-legged drivers. Seat memory buttons are included too.

But here’s the thing. To add heated front and rear seats costs $350 extra and $250 more for the steering wheel and armrests to be heated. I’d expect heated seats and wheel to be standard at this high-end luxury pricing, and the armrests, well, whatever. You should probably be driving, not resting arms. Just sayin’! Oh, and no cooled seats here. Funny, most $50 grand vehicles offer those as standard now.

Another view of the snazzy stack. A lot of buttons here too!

As for safety equipment, the X5 includes what you’d expect, plus adds a Drivers Assist Pro package with extended traffic jam assistant and active driving assistant, semi-autonomous aids. I find these often are too intrusive and push the vehicle hard toward the lane’s center often when not wanted, as in a work zone with lanes that shift and also when other cars sag into your lane and you try to dodge them this pushes you back toward the other car. Couldn’t turn this one off altogether either.

Add to that a cruise control system that was much more complicated than others I’ve tested. Yikes, push a button and set a speed. That should do it, even on these smart cruise systems.

A few other points to ponder.

First, the X5 is not just beauty it’s also beast enough to tow 7,200 pounds, so trailering is very possible. Note you’ll pay $550 extra for the trailer hitch.

And cargo space is fine at 33.9 cubic feet behind the second row seat, or 71.2 cubic feet if that seat is folded flat. A release under the power hatch allows quick rear seat folding too. A third row seat is available on some X5 trim levels, but it appears that only offers room for small kids in row three. As is, this one will haul five adults comfortably.

Underneath the test ute added 21-inch M wheels with performance tires for $950. Certainly the tires aided grip, but to me these looked a bit outsized for the X5. That’s a personal taste thing as the 19-inchers that are standard would do just fine.

Finally, the test vehicle hit a Rockefeller-like $81,695 after adding 10 options. A base (if you can call it that) xDrive40i starts at about $60 grand and includes AWD and a fine 335-horse 3.0-liter I6 twin turbo.

Move up to the M50i version and the price jumps to $83,795, but you get a monster V8 pumping 523 horsepower and you can thumb your nose at the environment, and nearly everyone else as you rocket away from a stoplight.

FAST STATS: 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

Hits: Excellent power, ride, handling plus AWD and plug-in electric to aid emissions and mpg. Four drive choices, panoramic sunroof, heated wheel/armrest and front/rear seats, wide touchscreen, multiple seat adjustments, 8 stereo memory buttons.

Cool wheels and blue calipers!

Misses: Heated seats and wheel cost extra, no cooled seats, complicated cruise control ties into semi-autonomous driving system.

Made in: Spartanburg, S.C.

Engine: 3.0-liter twin turbo I6, 389 hp

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,646 lbs.

Wheelbase: 117.1 in.

Length: 194.3 in.

Cargo: 33.9-71.2 cu.ft.

Tow: 7,200 lbs.

MPG: 20/50 (w/electric)

MPG: 28.3 (tested)

Base Price: $66,395 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $62,315

Options:

Arctic Gray Metallic paint, $550

Drivers Assist Pro pkg. (extended traffic jam assistant, active driving assistant pro), $1,700

M Sport pkg. (See story), $5,500

Executive package (panoramic Sky Lounge LED roof, rear manual side sunshades, glass controls, 4-zone climate control, Icon adaptive LED w/Laserlight, head-up display, Harmon Kardon surround sound system, wireless charging, gesture control, WiFi hotspot, enhanced USB & Bluetooth), $4,050

21-inch M wheel with performance, $950

M Sport brakes w/blue calipers, $650

Trailer hitch, $550

Front/rear heated seats, $350

Heated front armrests/steering wheel, $250

Multi-contour seats, $750

Test vehicle: $81,695

Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4

Mid-size pickups are now bigger than full-size used to be ….

When is big only mid-size? Well, today, when in the truck world mid-size means big, just not huge, like a “full-size” pickup.

Case in point the mid-size Ford Ranger, which is actually two-plus inches longer and has a wheelbase 7 inches longer than a full-size F-150 pickup had 20 years ago. That’s how much trucks have grown.

Friends and neighbors laughed when I told them the Ranger was Ford’s mid-size, noting it LOOKS like a full-size pickup, or at least how it used to look. They were right.

It also didn’t help that this SuperCrew in mid-level XLT trim also piled on the Tremor package for $4,290. It’s an off-roading package for folks who put their $40+ grand romper through the mud bogs of the world. It also pushes a moderately priced pickup to (in this case) $44,430. That’s way more than my first house cost.

Now I don’t mean to pick on the Tremor, or the Ranger, as Ford is about to launch its new Maverick compact pickup to take the place of what used to be its compact Ranger (got that?) a few years back. Maverick will likely fit more budgets and at least look like a smaller pickup. Great!

But this one is tall and long at 210.8 inches compared with a 2001 F150 at 208 inches long. Ground clearance is 8.9 inches with this 4WD version and we might as well get the Tremor package listing out of the way as it loads up the truck for serious off-roading.

Tremor includes (and I’ll skip a few minor trim and floor liner upgrades) an off-road suspension with Fox (high-end) shocks, Continental General Grabber R-17 off-road tires (noisy on the highway), snazzy step-like running boards, electric locking differential, front differential, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates to avoid damage off road, a terrain management system, upfitter (Ford’s word) switches, and rear tow hook.

I took the truck to a mild off-roading area and it took the big dips and humps with ease and it’s easy to turn the dial on the console for four-wheeling. That little excursion also tweaked something in the cab’s rear, so a rattle ensued thereafter even on smooth pavement.

And while the off-roading suspension is tuned well for ditch banging, it’s mighty bouncy on city streets with railroad track crossings and dips or expansion joint spaces seeming to be the biggest bounce producers. Not real comfy for town driving, but stellar on smooth highways.

Watch Mark’s Ranger video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaBBdbsBHs4

Aiding that is its quick steering, for a large, er mid-size, pickup. The steering weight is dead-on and easy to handle while parking is simple because the truck turns into tight spaces so well. Ranger is an easy driver, just a rough rider.

Power?

There’s only one choice, but it’s solid. The 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbo I4 delivers an impressive 270 horsepower with a 310 torque rating. That makes Ranger quicker off the line than you might anticipate with a bigger truck. Gas mileage is only rated at 19 mpg city and highway with the Tremor edition, but I managed 20.8 and was a bit heavier on city driving. The computer insisted I was getting 23 mpg.

Power comes quickly and easily without too much engine noise, which seems improved since my last Ranger eval a few years ago. Its 10-speed automatic tranny is a smooth operator too.

Folks wanting this off-roader to also be a towing machine will be pleased that it can pull 7,500 pounds and has a payload of 1,860 pounds. That’s segment-leading and currently only Nissan’s Frontier offers more horsepower at 310.

I should remind you that this was the SuperCrew version, which means it has four full-size doors and a roomy rear seat that will easily hold two or three adults. With two they can use the fold-down armrest/cupholders.

The SuperCab is basically the old extended cab with little rear half doors that fold backward and small rear seats that are cramped for anything other than a short haul or miniature people. The benefit of the SuperCab is that it has a full 6-foot bed while the SuperCrew’s bed is just 5-feet. SO if you need to haul stuff it’s SuperCab. If you need to haul family then SuperCrew.

On the pricing front the SuperCrew costs about $2,000 more and 4WD adds roughly $4,000 to any configuration.

On to the interior.

First, Tremor adds spiffy step-like running boards that provide easy step-ups for front or rear passengers, but these are better than the old solid bars. They are wider and easier to step on, even when wet, plus open to let water and muck slide through. A smart and useful design.

The snazzy Velocity Blue (bright metallic blue) Ranger doesn’t go wild with interior design, pretty straightforward and usable. Oh, there are red and gray Tremor logos on the seat backs, but the rest is black leather with gray stitching on the seats and black cloth inserts in the doors.

Door release and air vents are a smoked chrome while the console is flat black as is the dash and door trim.

Info screen is large enough and simple to use.

The info screen is moderately sized but an easy touchscreen to use while the main instrument panel gauges were analog with turquoise needles that were incredibly easy to see. Radio volume and tune knobs are large and the climate controls simple to figure out. Everything was easy to use while driving, not distracting like digital touchpads, etc.

Atop the dash are six auxiliary switches that can be programmed to use with accessories such as big over-cab lights, a wench, etc. That’s part of the Tremor package.

Safety equipment is sound as the XLT trim adds Co-Pilot 360, Ford’s safety system with blind-spot warning, a trailer tow monitor, park sensors, the 8-inch screen and both WiFi hot spots and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Supposedly it adds lane-keep assist, but I didn’t see that on the tester and frankly was happy to not have it. It’s mostly an annoyance around town and obviously would need to be switched off when off-roading, like the parking sensors. I forgot to switch those off initially and crazy-making beeping ensued as I drove through tall grass.

A technology package for $995 added smart cruise control, a navigation system and forward sensing. Yes!

Seating is another Ranger strong point as these seats provide excellent lower back, kidney and hip support. Some sedans could use these seats. However, they were manual and the driver’s seat included a handle on the side to raise and lower it. The seats also are not heated.

This mid-level Ranger also fell short on a few other items I would expect at $40 grand plus, such as push-button start. Not here, Ranger uses the old switchblade-like key. Unfortunately the tester’s key blade stuck in the fob and had to be pried out each time it was used.

There also was no wireless phone charger, just plug-ins, and the tailgate flops down like a soccer player looking for a penalty. Most tailgates now have an easy-lower mechanism that slowly deploys so as not to smack you as they fold down. Smartly there was a spray-in bedliner for $495.

Spray-in bedliner protects the truck’s bed.

Pricing is all over the place for Ranger, starting at a low-ball $26,000 for the base XL SuperCab with RWD. This XLT with the SuperCrew and 4WD listed at $35,940, including delivery. After all the options, including $750 for Tremor graphics (pricey stickers) and a few other goodies, hit $44,430.

I know that seems high for a “mid-size” pickup if you haven’t shopped for one of late, but the full-size ones easily go for $50,000 to $70,000 today.

As it is, the Ranger is a good competitor for the top-selling Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and its cousin the GMC Canyon, plus the new Frontier and Honda Ridgeline.

Some would argue it also competes with Jeep’s Gladiator pickup, but I think that’s a whole different market, simply because it’s a Jeep!

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4

Hits: Good towing power, quick acceleration, easy handling, dial-in 4WD, and roomy enough for 4/5 people. Co-Pilot safety system, handy side steps, bedliner, 6 auxiliary dash switches, comfy supportive seats. Solid off-road ability.

Misses: Extremely bouncy ride, no heated seats, no push-button start, no easy-lower tailgate, no wireless charger. Only a 5-foot bed, tire noise on highway, tester had rattle in rear of cab, and switchblade key hard to open.

Made in: Wayne, Mich.

Engine: 2.3-liter turbo Ecoboost I4, 270 hp

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 4.650 lbs.*

Wheelbase: 126.8 in.

Length: 210.8 in.

Cargo bed: 5-foot

Tow: 7,500 lbs.

Payload: 1,860 lbs.

MPG: 19/19

MPG: 20.8 (tested)

Base Price: $35,940 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $34,550

Major Options:

Equipment group 301A (auto. day/night mirror, 110-volt power outlet, reverse sensing, leather shifter and steering wheel covers, sport appearance package), $1,670

Tremor off-road package (see story), $4,290

Technology package (adaptive cruise control, navigation, forward sensing), $995

Spray-in bedliner, $495

Tremor graphics, $750

Remote start, $195

SecuriCode keypad, $95

Test vehicle: $44,430

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com, *Car and Driver

Photos: Mark Savage

Die-cast: Auto World’s 1947 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible

A stylish 1:18 scale Series 62 with opening hood, trunk, doors …

Cadillac was near the top of the U.S. automotive world as far as a reputation for luxury coupled with performance prior to World War II.  Oh sure, there was Packard too, but the Series 62 Caddy was king of the heap.

And of course that meant a lead sled as these were all steel and assorted metal compounds at the time, with engine blocks that were so heavy they could have been battleship anchors.

But still there was style, and chrome was a big part of that. Auto World is practiced at the art of creating 1950s to 1970s muscle cars with all their chrome grilles and bumpers, but it had to turn it up a notch for this new 1947 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible. To use phrasing of the time you bought one to grandstand that you’ve got a lot of lettuce!

The History

Cadillac launched the Series 62 in 1940 as an entry-level Caddy, but production ended in 1942 as auto factories turned their efforts to war machines. In fact, by 1947, just after the war as Cadillac was converting back to car production, the automaker was only making 12 models in four different Series, roughly a quarter of the models it had made pre-war.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Series 62 was most popular as it had been fairly new when the war began and was entry-level for Caddy. The Series 62 reportedly made up 84% of Caddy’s sales in 1947 and Cadillac reported it had a 100,000 backlog of orders.

Series 62 models included a hardtop, convertible and 4-door sedan. More than 55,600 were sold, a record at the time. In 1947 a Series 62 4-door sedan went for $2,553, up from $2,359 in 1946. With strong demand came higher prices. Likewise today a ’47 convertible is coveted among collectors and can go for north of $100,000 depending on its restoration level.

AW models the 1947 Caddy with its Monobloc flathead 5.7-liter V8, which made 150 horsepower. The chrome fender guards and 5-bar grille were new styling cues for 1947 as GM tried to freshen its lineup that essentially reflected 1942 styling. Oh, and the hub caps were known as Sombrero wheel covers. Ah, marketing!

For the record, the third generation Series 62, like the second-gen model, was designed by GM’s now famous Harley Earl. It went into production as a 1949 model and featured GM’s new overhead-valve V8. The engine was a big deal at the time as it replaced the lower powered, heavier model. The new 5.4-liter V8 delivered 10 more horses at 160, yet weighed 200 lbs. less than the 1948 model. The 1949 model was Motor Trend’s first Car of the Year.

The Model

               Convertible die-cast cars are fun because they let you see the car’s full interior, plus they just look a little sleeker.

               AW delivers this one in Madeira Maroon, a dark maroon with creamy white convertible tonneau cover and interior door panels. While the Caddy looks like a beast with its egg-crate grille and chrome bullet-shaped bumper guards front and rear, the color makes it seem as elegant as it was at the time. Note though that the paint job easily shows fingerprints, so if you’re handling it gloves are a wise idea.

Enough chrome here for ya? Plus a big V8 under the massive hood.

               Chrome here, as it was in 1947, is nearly overpowering, but certainly adds a high bling level to the Series 62. The nose and tail are dripping with it via those bumpers, the grille, Caddy insignias and hood ornament. Plus this model includes a bold chrome trim line from the front wheel to mid-door at the end of the bulging fenders that wrap into the doors. Likewise there are chrome stone guards and trim on the rear fenders from in front of the rear wheel to just behind it.

               Clear textured headlights feature chrome bezels and the rear lights are a threesome on a vertical chrome bar. Wipers, windshield and door trim, a big extended side mirror and stubby antenna on the driver’s side fender also are chrome, as are the door handles and trunk release.

               For realism note that the hood, trunk and doors all open and the front wheels are poseable.

               Under that massive hood is the aqua block of GM’s 5.7-liter V8 at the time, plus wiring and other detailing, although to be honest the car looks more interesting with the hood lowered, likewise the trunk.

               Inside the seats are a matte red and include built-in armrests in back and chrome window cranks and door release levers up front on the doors. The dash is a busy place with massive grille work at its center, a row of buttons along the top, plus a speedometer and analog clock (no digital in 1947!). A few other gauges are easily seen along with controls under the passenger-side dash.

Details galore in the interior, from the window cranks to the gauges.

               The Series 62’s steering wheel matches that creamy interior trim, but with a three-spoke chrome hub and horn ring. Over the windshield is a built-in roof support and the chrome rearview mirror.

               Know too there is a detailed undercarriage with single exhaust system and solid axle rear suspension. If you pose this on a base with mirrored bottom a viewer can see some of that. Wheels also highlight those big Sombrero wheel covers and wide white-sidewall tires.

               I prefer 1950s through 1970s cars myself, but this is an elegant look back at post-war heavy metal and will accurately reflect those times in your collection, plus highlight the big jump forward in styling that the 1950s cars represent.  

Vital Stats: 1947 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible

Another look under the hood.

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AW273
MSRP: $123.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Die-cast: Auto World 1961 Pontiac Catalina Hardtop

1:18 scale Catalina a long, lean hot rod …

Ah, the Catalina. The name alone seemed exotic and somehow a bit sexy in the 1960s. But that was during a time when cars had names that stirred imaginations and were not just known by a collection of numbers or letters.

Pontiac was rife with great names during its long run, Bonneville, Firebird, Chieftain, Parisienne, Ventura, Silver Streak, Tempest, Star Chief, and Le Mans, to name a few.

Catalina was a big player and the name hung around for years. Now Auto World creates a 1961 version of the hardtop model and it’s up to AW’s usual fine standards.

The History

It wasn’t until 1959 that the Catalina was offered as its own standalone model, basically a low-cost starter Pontiac if you will. But it was restyled for 1961 and placed on an all-new frame known as the Torque Box. Sounds like it should be fast, right? That replaced the old X frame and one could argue this is when Pontiacs starting becoming lower, longer and wider. Remember the old advertising line, “wide-track Pontiacs?”

For 1961 Pontiac went with the lean long look that it stuck with for years, think Bonneville and Parisienne! The roofs also were squared off and the split grille returned and remained a styling cue for years. That included a somewhat pointed nose and hood. I always thought the split grille as cool as a BMW nose. But then I liked Edsels too.

Naturally speed was vital to car sales in the 1960s and Pontiac and Oldsmobile also were well regarded for their race results in the new burgeoning NASCAR series.

Catalina featured a number of V8 power plants, all based off its 389 cu.in. engine (modeled here) and linked to various transmissions, including manual ones with floor-mounted shifters. There was a four-barrel carb model creating 333 horsepower, plus a Tri-Power option with higher compression to make 348 horses, and another for drag racers with 363 horses. Near the end of 1961 a dealer-installed 421 cu.in. Super Duty V8 became available too.

               For the record these big boys rode on a 119-inch wheelbase and were 210 inches long. Think current SUVs. Six styles were offered, including a convertible and station wagon. AW models the 2-door hardtop, which looks a little sportier with no B-pillar.

               At auction today the average sale price of a ’61 Catalina is a little more than $39,000, but a perfect one, the auction sites say, could go for $99 grand.

The Model

               As with other AW 1:18 die-cast models the doors, hood and trunk open and the somewhat sparkly Richmond Gray is perfectly applied.

               One of the features that shines on all these 1950s and 1960s models is the chrome as the bumpers, window trim, wiper arms, radio antenna, door handles and the styling accent strip on the car are chrome. The nose and tail Pontiac emblems are well executed and Oldsmobile is spelled out on the rear panel below the 3-body trunk and between the snazzy red oval taillights with silver trim.

               Headlights are clear, but textured and the grille silver with black between the strakes for definition. Oh, and there are those little chrome winglets that extend vertically from the front fenders. Fun!

               Under that massive hood is a turquoise to baby blue V8 engine block and headers, three chrome carbs and plenty of black wiring and plumbing. The radiator cap and battery terminals are painted silver and there’s a caution label on the protrusion over the fan.

Good looking engine and under-hood detail here.

               Tires are treaded white sidewalls with no branding and at least one of the tires whitewalls was misprinted slightly. Matte chrome hubcaps feature a flat center cap with Pontiac Motor Division printed on it.

               Inside the interior here is a somewhat sparkling rusty red with white door trim panels and stripes across the seat backs, adding flamboyance to the big two-door’s interior. There’s also a cue-ball shifter on the center console, a chrome and red two-stalk steering wheel with chrome horn ring and three black pedals (including a clutch) on the floor. AW finished off the floor with a medium brown flocking to look like carpet and a rust-colored floor mat for the driver.

Giant cue ball shifter lets you know this Catalina is ready to rock!

               The dash is Grand Canyon wide and features a silver center portion with wide black and white speedometer, a radio and Catalina printed on the passenger-side dash. Buttons are silver and the door release levers and window knobs are chrome, plus the rear seat armrests include silver ashtrays.

That’s one wide dash with a lot of chrome!

               Catalina’s undercarriage is completely detailed too with fine drivetrain and suspension detailing including shocks. Plus there’s a matte silver twin exhaust system and mufflers along with steerable front wheels. Nice detail that even pricier composite models often skip entirely.

               All this and pricing still in the $115 range while the composites have grown to upwards of $200, or more if there’s a detailed engine. AW’s die-cast remains high value at an affordable price.

Like that Poncho license plate and the Pontiac name spread out on the tail.

               Just a final note that AW made a 1962 Catalina previously and it’s still available through the AW online store, autoworldstore.com.            

Vital Stats: 1961 Pontiac Catalina

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AM1254/06
MSRP: $115.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

2022 Hyundai Kona Ltd. AWD

New Kona ups the power, yet remains cute high-value crossover …

Roughly three years had passed since I last tested Hyundai’s small crossover, the Kona. I’d almost forgotten just how much fun it is.

That can’t be said for all the little crossovers, plus Kona offers AWD and remains friendly to your bank account.

For 2022 Kona’s chassis and rear suspension are strengthened, which helps ride, and the crossover grows by 1.6 inches while its exterior styling is freshened a bit. That’s sort of like giving the cutest kid in your class a new doo or cooler glasses. Kona was already a cute ute, offering a two-tone paint scheme like Mini. It comes in some fun colors too. My tester was a bright Teal Isle blue reminiscent of a toddler’s plastic wading pool.

This time I drove the top-level Limited with AWD, which ensured the Kona packed more power, not that its base 147-horse 2.0-liter I4 is a sissy. It’ll move in Sport mode.

SWEEEET! That’s what Kona is. It’s like eating dessert before dinner!

But this top-end model packs a 1.6-liter turbocharged I4 that delivers 195 horses with an identical torque rating. That’s 20 more horses than the 2021 model. The upshot? Kona sprints away from stoplights well in Normal drive mode (one of three), but turns into a party cart in Sport mode when the shift patterns emphasize low-end power.

Yet the engine, even with an AWD system to support, gets respectable gas mileage. The EPA rates this turbo at 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I got 27 mpg in about 80% city driving.

Aiding Kona’s pep is its 7-speed Ecoshift dual clutch transmission, which makes good use of the power, giving the Hyundai smooth yet zippy acceleration and a quality feel. Lower trim levels now use a CVT with the 2.0-liter engine.

Beyond the welcomed power boost, everything Kona had going for it three years ago remains.

Handling is quick and easy with little lean in turns. Parking is a breeze and slipping in and out of tight highway traffic feels like blasting around a slot car track. Traction is stout with the AWD and Goodyear R19 rubber underneath. Smaller tires are standard on lower trims. Note too that AWD is $1,500 extra on the SEL and higher trim levels.

With Kona you feel you control the car, not the other way round. It helps that its lane departure system can be disengaged with the press of a button too to stop an irritating chime. Yet the crossover still pushes some back toward the lane’s center due to that system. I’d prefer the driver be given full control via that on-off button.

Ride is decent for a short-wheelbase crossover, with that strengthened rear multi-link suspension doing a solid job of handling southeast Wisconsin’s crumbling roads and jarring expansion joints. In town and on railroad tracks you’ll feel those bumps, but they don’t pound the interior occupants as in some small vehicles.

Also, unlike some small crossovers, Kona manages to be high-value, but never feels cheap.

A simple elegance creates a highly functional and attractive interior.

The interior is fairly quiet for its size and price, so you can hear the fancy Harmon Kardon stereo that’s standard in this Limited model. There’s some wind noise, but road noise is well dampened.

Kona’s cockpit also is simply elegant while being highly functional.

The Limited comes with twin 10.25-inch screens, one a digital number for the instrument panel and the other rising out of the dash’s center for infotainment purposes. It’s a touchscreen and simple enough to use, plus features navigation so you don’t have to futz with hooking up your cell’s GPS.

There’s a wireless phone charger too in a cubby at the base of the center stack. It’s a bit touchy, so be sure the light there comes on to signal you’re actually charging the phone.

Kona’s dash matches the dark gray perforated leather seats and most trim is a flat or non-glare gray. That’s great on the console as it removes the threat of sun reflecting off a chrome surface. The trim extends to the door panels while a gloss black trim surrounds the info screen and the air vents at each end of the dash feature satin chrome, same as the door releases.

Apple Car Play and Android Auto also are standard.

Despite being an entry-level vehicle Hyundai doesn’t chintz on safety equipment. The SEL, Limited and N Line models come with a full safety suite. That includes front collision avoidance assist, lane keeping with lane follow, blind-spot collision avoidance assist, safe exit warning, downhill brake control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitor and driver attention warning. Similar features still cost extra in some vehicles, including a few luxury models. Sight lines also are good here with a very airy feeling cockpit.

Smart cruise control is standard on the Limited, as are heated front seats. Speaking of which, these seats are shaped to give reasonable side and hip support, but do feel a tad hard, so might be a little tough on a long trip, depending on your tooshie’s cushioning.

Rear seat headroom is fine and legroom not bad for average size adults. Taller folks may find legroom a bit tight, but Hyundai did manage to find an additional half-inch of rear legroom for 2022 models.

I make no secret of my love for hatchbacks and, well, crossovers are basically taller hatchbacks. This hatch is manual, to keep costs down, and includes a rear window wiper, a must for Wisconsin winters.

Hatchbacks rock, like rock candy!

Cargo space behind the split, fold-down rear seats is reasonable at 19.2 cubic feet. Remember that many mid-size and smaller sedans often only offer 14-16 cubic feet of trunk room. Fold the rear seats down and there’s 45.8 cubic feet of space, about enough to hold a college dorm room worth of stuff.

Pricing is impressive still for Kona. A base SE model starting at $22,175, including delivery. Again, that gets you the less powerful engine, but it can still be fun in Sport mode.

Move up to the SEL model, an attractively equipped mid-level offering and the price is $23,975. Remember you can add AWD for $1,500. The SEL improves tire size from 16 to 17 inches, adds heated outside mirrors, rear privacy glass, satellite radio, and the safety suite.

Those are the trio of headlights below the thin running light up top!

The tested Limited AWD with its leather seats and fully loaded equipment level starts at $31,175 with delivery. This only added $155 worth of carpeted floor mats to register a $31,330 final sticker.

Folks aiming for a sportier model now can choose an N Line, starting at $28,085. It includes the same turbo I4 as in the Limited, 18-inch wheels, an 8-way power driver’s seat, wireless phone charger, the bigger screen, automatic climate controls and heated sport seats.

But don’t confuse it with the Kona N, which debuts this fall and packs a crazy 276-horsepower engine, an 8-speed automatic, Pirelli 19-inch performance tires, a special corner carving differential, active sport exhaust and electronically controlled suspension. Pricing is yet to be announced.

What we do know is it’ll be a rocket and we also know all Hyundai models include a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Even the taillights are specially styled here.

And if that’s not enough to consider, consider this. There’s a Kona Electric starting at $34,000, a price cut from last year. It has a range of 258 miles and the equivalent of 201 horsepower from its electric motor. It has been Kelly Blue Book’s EV of the Year since 2018 when it was launched. That’s a strong recommendation.

OK, that’s the skinny on the new Kona. The original was fun and this one’s funner, uh, more fun!

FAST STATS: 2022 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD

Hits: Sharp looks, peppy engine, good handling, AWD, 3 drive modes, and quiet interior. Fine digital instrument panel, big info screen, smart cruise control, sunroof, wireless phone charger, hatch with wiper, heated seats, fancy stereo, good sight lines and you can turn off lane departure assist.

Misses: Seats are a tad hard and tall folks may wish for more rear legroom, although it has improved slightly.

Made in: Ulsan, South Korea

Engine: 1.6-liter turbo I4, 195 hp

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

Weight: 3,106 lbs.

Wheelbase: 102.4 in.

Length: 165.6 in.

Cargo: 19.2-45.8 cu.ft.

MPG: 27/32

MPG: 27.0 (tested)

Base Price: $31,175 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $29,544

Major Options: Carpeted floor mats, $155

Test vehicle: $31,330

Sources: Hyundai, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Die-cast: Auto World’s True 1:64 2020 Chevy Corvette and 1963 Chevy II Wagon

Mid-engine Vette and boxy 1963 Chevy II wagon are high-value DC

Two Chevys couldn’t be much more different than the mid-engine 2020 Corvette and the 1963 Chevy II Nova Wagon, but I love them both.

Different reasons of course, but here’s their appeal.

First, the new Corvette will be an icon for years, just like the original Vettes. Why? Because it shifts the engine to behind the driver and its looks are Ferrariesque, or maybe more McLarenesque. It’s swoopy but still with that pointed Corvette nose.

The Nova wagon? Well, as a kid my Uncle Mac and Aunt Vi each had a white Chevy II, before they became Novas. One was a sedan, one a convertible. I found them simple and useful, but somehow just a bit cute. They were the right size, back when compacts were compacts. So I’ve had an affinity for Chevy II models since about 1962.

For collectors, the good news is that Auto World allows us to enjoy both these models for next to nothing, just $7.99 a pop with its True 1:64 Sports Cars and Muscle Wagons series. Here’s my take, and these are both new castings from AW.

The Models

               This new C8 Corvette looks particularly sharp in white as the color accents its chiseled good looks from that piercing nose to its muscular flanks, plus a slightly flared rear spoiler. As with its front-engine 1:64 models, the mid-engine Vette’s rear deck easily pops open to reveal its V8. The nice part is that with a big rear window you can see the orange engine block whether the deck is raised or closed.

               Detail is what you’d expect at 1:64 scale, but the side trim under the deck is realistic in shape and includes the small trunk area just as in the real deal.

               I like that there are tiny molded-in mirrors at the A-pillars, the sculpted air vent openings behind the doors, accented with black paint, rear diffuser and chin spoiler, also both painted black, which sets them off on the white model. Head and taillights are painted, but properly shaped and there are two sets of dual exhausts protruding from the diffuser. The rear license is a Florida plate with C8 emblazoned on it, but you may need a magnifying glass to read it.

               Inside are red high-backed bucket racing seats and a black dash and steering wheel with enough definition on the dash top to look more realistic than you might expect at this scale. It’s not just a flat piece of plastic cut to fit.

               Wheels are a racy star five-spoke pattern in matte silver with rotors blended into the back of the wheels. Tires are treaded rubber. My only complaint is that one front wheel is misshapen so the sample doesn’t roll easily. That’s a problem if a kid is to play with it, but not for a collector putting it on display.

               The sample Azure Aqua Poly Chevy II Nova 400 Wagon has no wheel issues and rolls easily, plus it looks terrific in all its boxiness. Tires are rubber treaded whitewalls and the hub caps chrome for a little flash.

               Bumpers are a matte silver paint scheme and the same trims all the windows, the hood streak and of course the grille and wagon’s tailgate. The grille’s background also is painted black so the silver really pops. Headlights are painted white and the tiny stacked taillights are red over white.

               Side trim stripes are black and silver to just in line with the vent windows and then are silver all the way to the tail. There’s also a molded-in matte silver rocker panel. Door handles and the gas cap are accented in silver and there’s a Nova decal on the rear quarter panels and Chevrolet label on the tailgate.

               Under the hood, which easily poses in the open position, is an orange Chevy engine block with black round air filter. The rest of the underhood area is flat black plastic, including the radiator.

               Inside are blue-green seats to nearly match the body color, plus a dash with air duct work and a steering wheel.

               Both cars have undercarriage detailing too, although it’s more pronounced on the Nova wagon with its big driveshaft and suspension components, especially in back.

               Finally, there are blue and white license plates front and rear that read Nova 400 and may be Ohio plates, but even magnified that’s a tough read.

               Note too that the Vette also is available in black, although I think the white is better for distinguishing the body lines. While the Nova wagon also comes in Saddle Tan with an Ermine White roof.

               The History

In case you just woke up from a Van Winkle-type sleep you should be aware that Corvette no longer is a front-engine sports car.  The C8 moves the engine behind the driver and does away with the manual transmission, just offering an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Watch Mark’s review and video of the 1:1 Vette: 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe | Savage On Wheels.

The 6.2-liter V8 cranks 495 horsepower and will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds or less, say the car magazines. And all this for just $60 grand, as opposed to most supercars running in the $150,000-$300,000 range, or more. Corvette remains a hot rod that at least some of us might afford, if not loaded with options.

The Nova wagon on the other hand did not offer a V8 in the 1963 models, but did have a fine 3.8-liter 230 cu.in. inline 6 cylinder. A V8 was optional in 1964. Nova was the top of the Chevy II lineup that also included a convertible and hardtop along with the sedan and wagon. Nova replaced the Chevy II name in 1968.

Both are fine 1:64 die-cast cars on gorgeous and informative hang cards. AW just keeps making fun and unusual models in this small scale to keep augmenting car lovers’ die-cast collections.

New to Auto World are 1:64 scale decals much as you’d find in a plastic model kit.

Note: AW also has introduced decals for you to use to soup up and customize your favorite muscle cars, etc. The sheet has a little of everything from Johnny Lightning and Mobil decals to numbers and decals that say Rat Fink, Rad Rod, etc. Yes, Mooneyes, STP and Chevy are also here among many others. Just $9.99 and you could do up a bunch of your 1:64 collection.

Vital Stats: 2020 Corvette/1963 Chevy II Nova wagon

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/64
Stock No.: AW64312
MSRP: $7.99 each

Link: Autoworldstore.com

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