Ford to reveal F-150 Lightning May 19 with livestreamed event …
DEARBORN, Mich. – Ford announced today it was launching an all-electric pickup, the F-150 Lightning. The new F-150 Lightning will be revealed May 19 at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn and livestreamed for millions to watch.
In a press release Ford said the F-150 Lightning “brings innovation, technologies and capabilities to the F-Series, America’s best-selling vehicle, combined with the power, payload and towing capability.”.
The reveal takes place at 9:30 p.m. EDT, May 19, from Ford World Headquarters and will be broadcast live with 30+ ways to watch across physical and digital destinations, including the Ford Facebook and YouTube channels, Twitter, key national publications as well as 18 locations such as Times Square in New York City and the Las Vegas Boulevard.
“Every so often, a new vehicle comes along that disrupts the status quo and changes the game … Model T, Mustang, Prius, Model 3. Now comes the F-150 Lightning,” Jim Farley, Ford President and CEO, said in a release. “America’s favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric. F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage; it’s even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates.”
Added Farley: “The truck of the future will be built with quality and a commitment to sustainability by Ford-UAW workers at the Ford Rouge Complex — the cathedral of American manufacturing and our most advanced plant.”
For the past century plus 20 or so years the auto market has seen fits and starts of revolution, but a whole lot of evolution.
Electric cars seem revolutionary now, just as hybrids were 20+ years ago. But when a carmaker has a winner, it often turns first to evolution to keep it selling like Minecraft games among pre-teens.
So it is with Nissan’s best-seller, the Rogue, a compact SUV or crossover, depending on who’s doing the defining. Look around at the next stoplight, or as you drive through your neighborhood. You’ll see a lot of Rogues.
That’s because Rogue has been a steady Eddie, an SUV that most families could afford and that delivered comfort, convenience, and reliability. It still does.
But for 2021 it has been upgraded, offering 11 more horsepower, much more cargo space, a skosh more rear seat room, a stiffer chassis, new rear suspension, upgraded seats and dash and a sharply restyled exterior. When you’re already prom queen all you probably need is a new bouquet. Rogue bought the florist.
Let’s start with the outer appearance because Rogue got a lot of compliments at the gas station and from friends and neighbors. The body was tweaked to be pleasantly boxy (muscular in today’s vernacular), but with a two-tone paint option (black roof) and a perfect amount of chrome accents this silvery gold (Champagne) test vehicle absolutely sparkled in the driveway.
Nissan has added chrome to the tallish V-Motion grille, some new HD headlights and turn signal lenses up front, along with black cladding over the wheels and down the sides’ rocker panels, again with chrome accents, and chrome side window trim. The look is much ritzier than the previous model!
Functionally Rogue now features a unibody chassis that is stiffer than before, making it easier to tune the suspension. Speaking of which, there’s now a multi-link rear unit that will help in any off-road excursions.
Aluminum doors and front fenders save some weight too and a revised automatic CVT helps improve fuel economy. The tested Premium AWD model (top of the line) is rated at 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I got 29.4 mpg in about 60% highway driving. Excellent for a gas-powered SUV.
It’s especially impressive considering Nissan eeked out a 10% horsepower gain to 181 horses from its stout 2.5-liter I4.
Plus you can select from five drive modes for slippery or off-road trundling. Automatic is the main setting, but there’s Sport to boost acceleration and firm steering effort, Eco to do the opposite and save fuel, plus Off-Road and Snow, the latter being a Wisconsin favorite. This model came with AWD to help full-time in sloppy conditions. That adds $1,400 to any trim level.
Power was good too, making a scramble onto the freeway simple and confident. Likewise the Rogue handles well, the chassis stiffening no doubt a factor there, so not much body lean even in high-speed sharp turns. Ride was ok, nothing special and felt firmer to me than my past test drives. That may relax a bit with a full load of passengers. I never had more than two aboard.
Safety is well considered here too with standard blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, a 360-degree camera, intelligent forward collision warning, intelligent lane intervention and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The ProPilot semi-autonomous safety system has been upgraded too. That includes smart cruise control and steering assist to keep you in your lane. Plus now Nissan tells us, it’ll slow you by braking one inside wheel if you enter a turn too quickly and will automatically slow the Rogue on a highway off-ramp. Remember, GPS knows exactly where you are!
Inside, the Rogue is as handsome and comfortable as any compact SUV, the Premium model featuring thick leather seating, and dash and door trim. This one was black over a butterscotch brown with that orange-tinted brown for the quilted seats and tastefully trimmed in black. There’s a bit of fake wood facing on the passenger’s side dash, textured black trim on the console with brown sides and repeated on the door armrests. Satin chrome trims the dash and air vents and door release panels. This looks classy!
Rogue’s dash is pretty special too with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver that is adjustable to show items most important to you. The Premium also includes a head-up display and a 9-inch infotainment screen that was extremely easy to see and use, including large volume and tuning knobs.
Below that screen are easily understood climate controls and two large temperature knobs for the dual system. Here’s where you’ll find the heated seat and steering wheel buttons too.
Nissan continues to offer a flat-bottomed steering wheel in Rogue, which makes entering and exiting just a tad easier for knees. Oh, and the five shift modes are managed simply via a knob on the console.
There’s also a couple plug-in outlets below the center stack, and a wireless phone charger. This one didn’t work, but I read that some early models did not get this feature as there was a shortage of some electronics due to Covid-related work slowdowns. Wireless charging will be on future Platinum models.
Seats are NASA-inspired Zero Gravity shaped, which means comfy with good hip and back support. Powered front seats include a driver’s adjustable lumbar support and two memory buttons on the door. Rear seats are more comfortable than most with oodles of head and legroom and the cushions are a soft comfortable leather that feels rather cushy. Ahhh!
In back the storage space has grown from 32 to 36.5 cu.ft., with the rear seats in place, and 74.1 cu.ft. with those split rear seats lowered. That’s up from 70, so a nice gain. Also, there is a split cargo floor with storage under the covers. The hatch is powered too and can be activated by waving your foot beneath the rear bumper, nice if your arms are loaded with groceries, boxes or kids.
Speaking of which, Nissan offers a small-child friendly feature that rocks, 90-degree opening rear doors. They open so wide a parent can easily strap a wee one in a child’s car seat. Plus, there are manual sun shade for the rear windows to keep bright light out of Baby’s eyes. Brilliant!
Pricing remains broad and value-oriented enough that families should be able to find a Rogue to meet their budget. A base front-drive S starts at $26,745, including delivery. The popular SV model goes for $28,435 and adds ProPilot Assist, 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8-way power driver’s seat and Nissan Connect.
Move up to the SL model and you get 19-inch wheels, a leather interior, panoramic sunroof, motion-activated hatch, tri-zone climate system, power passenger’s seat and memory function for the driver’s seat and steering wheel. List price is $33,095.
The tested Platinum model with virtually everything including AWD, lists at $37,925. This one added a two-tone paint job for $350, illuminated kick plates for $400, external ground lighting at $350, interior accent lighting for $350 and a frameless rearview mirror for $310. I could do without any of these add-ons, except maybe the paint scheme. Total was $39,685.
This is a crowded market with a lot of great choices from the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. But Rogue has put itself back near the top of the heap with its restyled, much-improved model.
FAST STATS: 2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD
Hits: Sharply restyled, stylish interior, good power and handling, plus AWD. OK ride, roomy cargo area, easy to see 12-inch digital instrument cluster, 9-inch info screen, heated front and rear seats and steering wheel, 5 drive modes, flat-bottom steering wheel, solid standard safety equipment and ProPilot upgraded.
Electric Mustang Mach-E a fine crossover, not a Mustang …
Marketing is an interesting and amusing craft and Ford’s marketers realize they really only have two ways to attract attention to their brand.
First is the F-150, the longtime best-selling vehicle in the U.S., and second is Mustang, its iconic muscle car that has been garnering admiration since 1965.
So, when Ford was about to launch its first full-electric crossover it needed a way to get reluctant potential buyers to at least consider the crossover. Calling it an Edge, Focus, or Probe, just wouldn’t give it the panache and garner the attention it deserved. Calling anything that’s not a pickup an F-150 could damage its top money maker.
So the Mustang Mach-E was born.
Essentially Mach-E is a fine mid-size crossover with a refined interior, massive 15.5-inch info screen replacing virtually all buttons and knobs, and enough seating and cargo room for a family of four, or five. If you’re in the market for a crossover, this deserves a look.
Ford designers worked hard to put a nose and tail on the Mach-E to give it a family resemblance to Mustang, think first cousin on you mom’s side, but with more girth. The three-bar taillights and the large Mustang pony logo on the nose and tail more than hint that this has Mustang DNA.
But the Mach-E is not a muscle car, but not due to a lack of power. No that feedbag is overflowing. The Mach-E is heavy and handles like a big SUV or crossover. There’s no throwing it into corners for precise apex clipping and hustling it out the other side like you’re Lewis Hamilton. Mach-E feels heavy and pushes into corners.
Likewise ride feels more like that of a big SUV than a sporty, nimble pony car. The shocks seem to dampen the major jolts, but you feel the road more here than in most crossovers and cars of any sort. It’s a firm ride that the family may not appreciate in town. Highways, which tend to be smoother, are fine and expansion joints don’t upset the ride.
Yet two things DO stand out.
First, the Mach-E is distinctive in its styling so you know it’s not a jelly bean Tesla Y or more traditional looking Jaguar I-PACE. Second, and to the Mustang point, it’s a rocket sled on wheels.
The tested Rapid Red ($400 extra) model was the Mach-E Premium AWD with an 88 kWh extended range battery, a $5,000 add-on that many folks will want for its potential range. In rear-drive mode Ford rates its range at 300 miles, with AWD that falls to 270 miles. A full charge on the test model was right about 260 miles.
The electric motors in this Premium model create 346 horsepower and will boost this 4,394-lb. crossover to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Quick!
Torque is amazing and instant in Unbridled mode, what probably would be called Sport or Sport+ in a non-pony branded crossover. Mach-e has three modes accessed via the Mustang icon atop the giant info screen. Whisper is for normal driving, Engage is a happy medium between Whisper and Unbridled. Acceleration is quick in all, but definitely upgraded in Engage and crazy fast in Unbridled. My wife was wowed, and she rarely comments on my test vehicles.
Unbridled also firms the steering to add a more muscular feel, but like a Sport mode on a gas-powered car, you use more energy more quickly in Unbridled, so likely won’t want to just cruise the neighborhood in this performance mode.
Note too there’s a Propulsion Sound toggle on the screen that adds some fake engine noise to the acceleration, most noticeable in Unbridled so that you viscerally feel like there’s more power, at least in your ears. Another toggle lets you shift between one-pedal control, meaning the accelerator either allows the Mach-E to coast like a gas-powered car once you release it, or there’s the natural electric motor and regenerative braking pull that slows the vehicle more quickly. Think of a golf cart once you release the accelerator, or a slot car that slows nearly immediately after the juice is off.
I liked the feel and got used to it quickly, soon mastering the let-up as I approached a stop sign so the Mach-E would glide to a full stop just at the sign. This later setting allows the batteries under the rear seat and cargo area to recharge partially as the vehicle slows, thereby extending range.
Driving became its own entertainment with the various modes, plus watching the small speedometer/range meter just above the steering column. Often the mileage range shrinks rather quickly compared with the percentage battery charge that remains.
Inside, the Mach-E goes all digital with that giant vertical screen that seems overwhelming at first, but you get used to it. Seeing a navigation map that large is particularly comforting, as is the 360-degree camera when you back up. Yes, there’s a beep as you back up to let folks know the quiet electric vehicle is coming.
Using the screen is pretty easy and finding radio stations, saving favorites, and turning up or down the climate control system where you slide a bar up or down with your finger. Likewise there’s heated seats and a heated wheel here. Everything, as mentioned before, is handled through the screen. Mine never jammed up, as some brands have in past vehicle tests.
The dash was a combo of black leather and tweed cloth, so very sophisticated looking while seats were black leather with gray stitching. A textured graphite gray insert spiffed up the dash face and a small amount of gloss black trimmed the console, which is mainly a dual-level storage tray and container. Gear shifts are handled via a round knob on the console and a wireless phone charger lies at the front of the cargo tray.
Overhead is a solid panoramic sunroof that does not open, nor is there any sun shade. But it is seriously tinted to avoid overheating in the summer sun. While I appreciate the big sunroof I’d rather see a smaller one along with a solar panel up top, akin to the Hyundai Sonata roof that helps charge that hybrid’s batteries.
Seats are mildly contoured but comfy and easy to slide in and out of, with front seats powered and the driver getting a power lumbar support. Three memory setting buttons are on the door panel.
Mach-E’s rear seat is roomy enough for three, but particularly comfy for two adults. The power hatch in back reveals a large cargo area, although the cargo floor is higher than many due to the batteries beneath. There is, however, a storage bin there for the mobile charging system that you plug in to replenish the batteries. And there’s a frunk, a front trunk that holds another 4.7 cu.ft. of goodies.
No surprise among the safety features. They’re all here thanks to Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 system with blind-spot warning and cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, reverse brake assist, evasive steering, pre-collision assist with emergency braking and more. There’s also that 360-degree camera system which helps because visibility is a bit limited with big A-, B-, and C-pillars.
Know too that Ford offers several Mustang Mach-E models now with an even racier GT model coming soon. The base Select trim starts at $43,995, including delivery. It has a lower powered battery and creates 260 horsepower while being rear-wheel drive. Its range is 230 miles and the AWD version’s range is just 211 miles.
The tested Premium starts at $50,800 and as driven was $56,200 with the extended range battery being the big cost option. Range is rated 300 miles for RWD models and 270 for AWD. My experience was more along the 260-mile range with AWD. Ford says the test model beats Tesla’s Model Y in range. I’ve not tested a Tesla.
On the practical side, if you are purchasing any electric vehicle, you’ll want to install a 240-volt outlet in your garage for quicker charging. The normal 120-volt outlet seems to add about 3-4 miles of range per hour of charge, while the 240-volt outlet reportedly will add 20 to 30 miles per hour of charge.
With a 50% charge I left the Mach-E plugged into my 120-volt outlet for 24 to 26 hours and got it to 100%. Be aware that more and more car dealers, stores, hotels and such are installing fast chargers that you can tap into for a charge (electric and monetary). I’d recommend the PlugShare app for your phone to alert you to spots to recharge, if on a trip. There are other such apps too. Note that sometime the charging station listed is not available when you arrive, or is out of order, as was one at a chain gas station near my house.
The Mustang Mach-E is a speedy crossover with good range and a comfortable and functional interior. This represents what most electric vehicles will be like eventually from the surviving automakers. Marketers name dropping aside, at least this one has some style.
FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD
Hits: Distinct styling, monster power (3 modes), good handling, plenty of cargo space, roomy for 5 adults. Giant tinted sunroof, 15.5-inch vertical info screen, heated front seats and steering wheel, plus wireless charger and usual cadre of safety features.
Misses: No sun shade, stiff ride, big A- B- and C-pillars limit view, could use a solar roof panel to boost battery charge.
’67 Yenko Camaro a sexy addition to any 1:18 collection …
To me the first couple generations of Chevy’s Camaro were the most stylish. I know part of that is because I have great memories of both my Uncle Wink’s 1968 and an early ‘70s Camaro that I drove while dating in high school.
Yet it was that ’68 that Wink used to teach me the finer points of driving a manual tranny. His SS was yellow with a black nose stripe, and could definitely lay rubber with the best of them. But I can fall for any similar model and Auto World celebrates 30 years of its American Muscle lineup with a 1:18 scale Tuxedo Black 1967 SS as decked out by customizing experts at Yenko Chevrolet.
This is another muscle car done well and oozing value for collectors of 1960s metal.
Yenko was a Canonsburg, Pa., Chevy dealer that gained a reputation for creating the ultimate muscle cars in the 1960s, along with Nickey Chevy in the Chicago area. When Yenko souped up a Camaro, Corvair, Nova, Chevelle, or Vega it was gonna rock, whether just for the owner’s fun, or on drag strips across America.
The first-gen Camaro debuted in fall of 1966 as a 1967 model and was available as a coupe, like this one, or convertible. Marketing folks made sure there was a Camaro for nearly every type buyer, offering 9 engines, seemingly topping out with the SS version’s 6.5.-liter, 396 cu.in. big-block V8 that made 375 horsepower. This was the SS version to pace the 1967 Indianapolis 500, won by A.J. Foyt. More than 34,000 SS models were made.
But there was a more powerful option, the 427 cu.in. V8 that you ordered through a dealer like Yenko via GM’s COPO (Central Office Production Order). This ultimate V8 produced a massive 450 horsepower.
All SS models had non-functional air inlets on the hood, special nose striping, and SS badging on the grille, front fenders, gas cap, and horn button. All are on this model, but more on that in a bit.
If that SS model wasn’t quite cool enough looking for you, there was an RS upgrade that could be added to the SS, including hidden headlights similar to those seen on a Corvette.
How hot are SS models now? A recent internet search shows a similar Camaro to this model going for between $350,000 and $400,000. Not bad for a car that cost a bit more than $4,000 new in 1967.
Camaros look fast in any paint scheme, but this glossy black with white nose stripe and thin twin accent stripe down the side looks especially racy, augmented by a red interior.
Let’s start under the hood where the 427 V8 is well decked out with proper wiring and black hoses along with a couple extra struts between the nose and the tops of wheel wells for stability during heavy acceleration. Headers are chrome, the engine block orange, the air cleaner chrome with a 427 label atop the cleaner along with Chevy’s crossed flags logo.
There’s steering fluid container and power steering unit in gold, a big ol’ generator, battery and a white fluids container. And as with other American Muscle line models, excellent scissor hinges hold up the hood so it’s easy to pose this in the raised position.
The hood here features the Yenko hood scoop with a 427 decal on each side.
As with other AW Camaros, the black mesh grille looks sharp and the headlights are silver with chrome rings, an SS 427 logo amid the grille and a chrome bumper below. Setting this one off from standard Camaros is the Yenko shield logo with Camaro in white below that and 427 spread below Camaro on each front fender.
There’s another Yenko logo on the rear panel below the trunk and a 427 logo on the rear face of the trunk’s spoiler. A silver script Chevrolet Camaro badge rests atop the trunk. Taillights are painted red and white with silver trim plus an SS logo on the center gas cap below the trunk lock.
Inside the trunk AW places a spare tire with chrome wheel. That lays atop a black and white checked vinyl trunk pad, something most cars had at the time.
Front and rear windows are trimmed in chrome with side windows’ overhead trim painted silver, but with chrome-trimmed vent windows and top door trim. Those vent windows would disappear in the 1968 models. Meanwhile, the rocker panels include a chrome strip and painted silver outlines the wheel wells, connecting into that side chrome.
Tires are treaded whitewalls, but with no branding. Wheels are chrome with small blue Chevy logos on the center caps. There also are chrome door handles, wipers and a front fender-mounted antenna.
Open either door, and you’ll find chrome kick plates with the Body by Fischer logo. There’s also a blue GM sticker inside each door. Inner door trim is red and silver with pleated door inserts and chrome window cranks. The red bucket front seats include red seatbelts featuring chrome buckles and attachments to secure them to the floor.
Camaro’s dash is red and features two low-slung round main gauges for the driver and a wood-look 3-spoke wheel. The spokes are chrome. Tight squeeze though between the wheel and seat. A driver would need to slide this seat back to turn that wheel, oh, and it actually steers the front wheels.
There’s also a wide black center console with cue-ball shifter and fairly detailed center stack. Looks like the glove box door can be lowered slightly too, seatbacks fold slightly forward, and radio speakers are visible under the rear window.
I like that AW always details its models’ undercarriage with full suspension system, differential, driveshaft, gas tank and twin exhausts. This adds realism where some pricier models go with a smooth undercarriage. Harrumph!
Auto World continues to produce finely detailed models at a reasonable price for its American Muscle series. Just can’t get enough of these ‘60s era Camaros!
Vital Stats: 1967 Yenko Chevy Camaro SS 427
Maker: Auto World Scale: 1/18 Stock No.: AMM1247 MSRP: $99.99
New Bronco Sport a just-right size, mild-cost off-roader …
Ford’s new Bronco Sport is going to be a winner for the blue oval folks, but it has a major challenge ahead of it: how to avoid grow too big or too luxurious.
In theory that’s what the new bigger Bronco will bring, whenever it finally is launched. But for now, the smaller Bronco Sport is a spunky hunk of off-roading fun with all the utilitarian touches it needs, plus enough modern safety equipment and comfort to make it a superb match for economy minded off-roaders.
There’s really nothing else like it, plus it carries the rugged off-roading looks reminiscent of a Land Rover. Think of it as a Brover!
I was fully prepared to think of this as just another small to mid-size crossover/SUV. I was wrong. It’s an eye-opener.
The Bronco Sport, a new vehicle and new name for 2021, that rides on the familiar Ford Escape platform. Ford could have so easily just made a restyled Escape. Bronco Sport is much more and is aimed at the Wrangler crowd, not the Jeep Compass that so many say it’s targeted for. Nope, Compass is more of a tall wagon/crossover with plenty of luxury, depending on the trim. Bronco Sport zeros in on weekend off-roaders, campers and bikers, who desire stylish weekday drives to work.
It’s priced mid-market so one can justify taking it into the muck and maybe scratching a fender, not like a Land Rover Defender that it mimics in styling. Nope, this one runs roughly $28,000 to $38,000, not Rover’s $70,000 and more.
I tested a Carbonized Gray Bronco Sport Badlands 4×4 edition that lists at $34,155 with delivery and including a couple options hit just $35,745, almost exactly the median price for a new sedan, but well under a middling SUV or crossover.
Styling is boxy with white Bronco and Bronco Sport badging front and rear. There’s a rear hatch with a window that will pop open for easy loading if you needn’t flip up the whole hatch. There’s rubberized flooring so that it’s easy to wash up the mud and slop of an off-road adventure. The cargo area in back is sturdy with a nubby rubber flooring and the rear seat backs that split and fold flat feature the same, so throw all the camping gear and trail bikes you want in there, or maybe a couple pups.
Oh, and the roof is notched like the former Nissan Xterra So you can actually stand up two mountain bikes in the cargo bay. That my friends is off-road, camping, hiking and biking friendly. Not many other vehicles offer this sort of outdoorsy friendliness and space, certainly not a Wrangler unless you move up to the Unlimited, which sort of requires similar unlimited funding.
Then there’s also under-seat storage in row two on the passenger’s side, along with zippered pouches on the front seat seatbacks for protecting your iPads, etc. In back there’s a cargo area light with switch, and oodles of hooks to hang your carabiners off of, or secure backpacks. Plenty of outlets and USB hookups here too, but sadly no wireless phone charger.
That’s just the accouterments for outdoorsy use.
Consider performance, which starts in the Badlands edition with a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4 that pumps 250 horsepower from its turbocharged unit. Torque is a strong 277 lb.-ft. So scrambling up to highway speeds is a cinch and there’s plenty of grunt for rock crawling and mud-slinging.
In fact, this Badlands edition raises it suspension a full inch from the 7.8-inch standard ground clearance and adds better shock dampers to cushion any off-road excursion. On the highway of course it’s fine with just a bit more tire noise from the 17-inch off-road tires. Special body-colored wheels added $795 to compliment the monochromatic look of the test truck.
Setting the Bronco Sport up for various off-road or slippery road excursions is easy too, with the GOAT dial on the console. GOAT? Goes Over Any Terrain!
Wing the dial clockwise and you go from Normal to Eco to Sport to Slippery. Naturally Eco lowers the power to save fuel while Sport tweaks the 8-speed automatic to hold lower gears longer for more off-the-line power. Slippery helps engage the 4-wheel-drive system for wet or icy roads. Another button allows you to lock the rear differential or another to simply engage 4WD.
But that’s not all, wing that GOAT dial counterclockwise and you can choose from Mud/Ruts, Sand, or Rock Crawl. I admit there were no big rocky areas for me to try the latter, but in a sloppy field the Mud/Ruts setting helped me power through swamp grass, tall cat tails and some soppy mud-clogged ruts and divots. It was a blast and never a thought of getting stuck!
There’s also Trail Control, basically a low-speed off-road cruise control you can set if doing prolonged off-roading. This allows you to cruise at low speeds and just steer!
Ride off-road is well-controlled, just like on-road and certainly more pleasant than many smaller utes and crossovers. Plus the Bronco Sport feels well planted, so on windy days it feels more stable in a crosswind. There’s some body lean in turns, but this Bronco doesn’t feel as tippy as some crossovers or taller SUVs.
Handling also is nimble and more responsive than a truck or SUV. I think it out Jeeps the Jeep Compass to be sure. This feels like an off-roader where you are in command.
Inside, well beyond all that rubber mentioned earlier, the dash and doors are gray with blue-gray accents in the seat backs and tiny blue specks in the cloth side bolsters to perk them up a touch. The dash is a soft textured material to soften the interior’s feel and give it a fresh look. Console and steering wheel hub have matte black trim and there’s a Bronco logo on that hub too, and also on the info screen at startup. Some black gloss trims the round shift knob on the console.
There’s a simple 8-inch info screen here, with some buttons beneath, and nicely sized climate control buttons and dials. Only one drawback inside, for me, and that’s the rear-seat alarm. The what? Some lawyers apparently thought folks so stupid as to not remember they have a kid in that rear car seat, so an alarm chimes each time the ignition is turned off, the info screen insisting, “Check Rear Seats for Occupant.” Oh my!
Otherwise, the sturdy cloth seats are moderately contoured on the bottom and more snug for the back cushion, plus the driver’s seat is powered, including a power lumbar. Front seats are heated too. Rear seats have decent leg and knee room and excellent headroom.
Cargo room is spacious at 32.5 cubic feet, growing to more than 65 cubic feet if you lower the rear seats for your bikes, etc. And, if need be, you can tow 2,000 lbs.
Safety gear? The Ford Co-Pilot 360 system is standard with blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, emergency braking and such. The test unit added Co-Pilot 360 Assist for $795. It includes smart cruise control, a lane-centering aid, traffic sign recognition, voice-activated navigation, a touchscreen with pinch to zoom, evasive steering assist and SiriusXM traffic and travel links.
This Badlands model is the first in the lineup with the horsier, yet efficient 2.0-liter turbo. A base model starting at $28,155, along with the Big Bend ($29,815) and Outer Banks ($33,815) models, feature just a 3-cylinder 1.3-liter turbo that makes 181 horses. That’s not bad, but I’d move up to the Badlands for smooth power and more off-road muscle.
Which leaves us at gas mileage, often a bugaboo of mine for crossovers and SUVs. But considering the Bronco Sport’s off-roading ability and rugged appearance, it still weighs in at just beyond 3,700 lbs. and the EPA rates it at 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. I managed 24.2 mpg including some off-road time.
Now, Ford must resist the urge to slather the Bronco Sport in leather, put fake wood trim inside with a crystal gear shift knob and then stretch it by 8-10 inches while adding hundreds of pounds of weight. Oh, and then put a bigger, less efficient engine in it, slapping a GT label on it and boosting the price.
Bronco Sport is a winner as is!
FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands 4×4
Hits: Off-road ability matches rugged looks, good power, ride, and nimble handling, plus notched roof allows for two mountain bikes. Heated seats, rubberized cargo area and rear seat backs, zippered back seat storage pockets and under-seat storage, many cargo hooks, rubber floor, and decent MPG.
Misses: No wireless phone charger, annoying alarm every time you turn off ignition warning “Check Rear Seat for Occupant.” Lawyer silliness!
Car makers competing in the entry-level market, meaning less than $25,000, are working harder and harder to get some notice as value doesn’t sell as well as BIG anything does.
We’re a nation that appreciates big, fast, and strong more than petite, nimble, and adequate, but inexpensive. So what’s an automaker to do? Well, start with a name folks might just remember, like Kicks.
That’s Nissan’s ploy to get you to look when its mini-crossover catches your eye, and it will. While Nissan’s former Juke model caught your eye because it was peculiar looking, the Kicks is downright cute. My tester was a pearly white with gloss black roof, and the two-tone treatment delivers the absolutely right visual appeal.
Kicks looks cute, fun and crossovery, so at least should be able to register a blip or two on value-oriented shoppers’ radar.
Good for Kicks because it’s a fine entry-level vehicle starting at $20,650 for the S model, including delivery. That’s a bargain, but the bargain pricing continues up to the SV ($22,450) and tested SR ($23,090) models too, so whichever you choose for your first car, or to get that teen to high school or college, is a winner.
All are similar, just the equipment level grows from S to SV to SR, and us oldsters who are spoiled by our current cars would want the SR for a few comfort features, but from a performance standpoint, any of the three trims will suit.
That’s because they all feature the same 1.6-liter I4 that creates 122 horsepower coupled with an Xtronic CVT automatic. Power is adequate and shifts are smooth. There’s a teensy-weensy button on the console-mounted shift handle to engage a Sport mode, but it’s a bit awkward to get at, especially if it were winter and you were wearing gloves. Many other makes put such a button on the console so it’s easier to see and tap.
If you have need for speed early on you’d want to engage this at a stoplight or just before merging onto the freeway. It boosts power by changing shift points electronically to increase low-end torque. It’s noticeable, but not a major boost.
The fun factor here, beyond the looks, is handling, which is quick and makes this a breeze to toss into tight turns or maneuver in a parking lot. The handling also makes it simple to dodge giant potholes and rough pavement patches.
That’s a benefit because like all small cars and crossover (usually wheelbases less than 105 inches) ride can be a bit jiggly. It’s never severe here and actually seems pretty good on railroad tracks and bigger bumps. On choppy roads though is where you’ll feel the road a bit more than you may wish. Buyers with younger backs may not notice so much as a 60-something.
Likely most folks also will notice a little more road noise here than in a higher priced vehicle, or even value-oriented sedans. The Hyundai Elantra I drove a few weeks back was quieter.
If you’re hoping to add all-wheel-drive to your Kicks, well, sorry. AWD is not an option on this crossover, but also isn’t on all mini-crossovers like the similar sized and powered Hyundai Venue. But Venue’s sister, the Kona crossover offers AWD and rides on a longer wheelbase (102.4 in.) than Venue (99.2 in.). So like Kicks, the Kona delivers a bit better ride.
Of course what all of these offer is efficient performance at a modest cash outlay.
I got 31.5 mpg with this Kicks in a mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates it at 31 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. I got 29 mpg in the Venue, which is rated 30 mpg city and 34 highway. Kona, by comparison, is rated 27 city and 33 highway, and I managed 33.1 mpg in a front-drive model.
Inside, the Kicks is roomy for four with oodles of headroom and still plenty of space behind the split rear seat for cargo, or even more if you fold the rear seats down.
The SV and SR upgrade to an 8-inch infotainment screen, which is simple to see and use, and this SR added an optional Premium package for $1,200 that included Prima-Tex seats that are a leatherette type surface. This package also includes two-level heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a security system, plus cargo cover. It’s well worth the price.
I liked Kicks interior which was black over gray with orange stitching in the seats and door panels that add a little kick (sorry) of color. Dash and door tops are hard black textured plastic as you’d expect, but the gray inserts in the doors are soft and leatherette covered. Trim is matte chrome on the doors, steering wheel and shifter. Door releases are chrome.
Black gloss trims the info screen and the console top also features the same gloss treatment. I liked the cup holders here too, which is odd to comment on I know. But they allow you to flip the holder so it will hold a deep or shallow cup. Clever.
Buttons and dials are easy to use for the single climate control system, plus there’s an electric park brake and below the dash is an inside fuel filler release. Push-button start is standard too as is a D-shaped steering wheel, creating additional knee room and giving the car a bit of flair.
Seats are well-shaped, but hard front and rear. That was fine while on short drives, but likely could be tiring on long trips. Good news for the driver, that seat has a pump handle on the side to raise and lower it, a boon to both tall and short drivers.
Other pluses include a good Bose sound system here, part of that premium package, plus sun visors with extenders. Many pricier cars don’t include those anymore. No idea why.
Standard too is Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, a blind-spot monitor, automatic high beams, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The SR also comes with a 360-degree camera, LED head and taillights, leather-wrapped wheel, painted roof rails, dark chrome accents, a small spoiler and smart cruise control that also vibrates the wheel is you wander near the center line.
In short, Kicks ranges from basically $20,000 to $23,000, depending on trim, plus options. The $1,200 premium package on this one left the SR at $24,290. Wow!
For comparisons consider the Venue or Kona mentioned earlier, or Kia’s cousins to those, the Soul and Seltos. One of my favorites, in fact my 2020 Zoomie Car of the Year, is Mazda’s more luxurious feeling and sporty CX-30, and then there’s Toyota’s fine C-HR, also available in a two-tone paint scheme.
Best news of all, there are so many $20,000-$25,000 crossover types available, plus a host of small high-value sedans that get equally good, if not better, gas mileage.
FAST STATS: 2021 Nissan Kicks SR
Hits: Cute two-tone mini crossover, quick handling, adequate acceleration and good gas mileage. Roomy interior for four, plus good cargo room, heated seats, heated D-shaped wheel, push-button start, visors have extenders, good info screen and Bose sound system. Sound safety items like blind-spot warning, emergency braking and 360-degree camera plus cross-traffic alert.
Misses: No AWD available, ride is a bit jiggly, but not severe, and there’s a fair amount of road noise at highway speeds. Also seats are hard, but well-shaped.
Think of an Italian supercar and likely you’ll conjure up images of a Ferrari or Lamborghini in all its red or yellow sleekness that translates into sexy, exotic, and fast.
But now there’s Pagani, another Italian make out of Modena (Ferrari’s birthplace), and its sleek mistresses of speed, Zonda and Huayra. I don’t think of a Pagani dominated by one color either, so it’s fine that the Autoart 1:18 scale sample is in a blue tricolor carbon fiber finish. It’s an eyeball blistering look that will leap out amid any die-cast collection.
First, you may want to know how to pronounce Huayra. Say waira!
The mid-engine supercar replaced the Zonda and packs a Mercedes-AMG 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 to propel it from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Horsepower is 720 coupe, 754 roadster. Torque is 738 lb.-ft. Top speed is 238 mph. So, faster than snot!
The car, designed by Argentinian Horacio Pagani who founded his namesake in 1992, debuted in 2012; the roadster launching in 2017. Weight is at a premium, just 2,822 lbs. overall for the roadster, about 150 lbs. less than the coupe. The 22-lb. exhaust system alone is specially made of titanium to reduce weight.
Cool features? Well there are four automatically operated flaps, two front and two rear to optimize aerodynamics, minimizing drag and maximizing downforce.
The front flaps also cut body roll in corners while the rear flaps also serve as air brakes. That becomes much more important at 200+ mph than on city streets or interstates.
The roadster features a removable roof panel, a redesigned engine cover, and most obvious, doors that open conventionally. The coupe features gull-wing doors. Also unique to the roadster is its carbon triax fiberglass body mixed with carbon fiber bands, again keeping the car as light as possible.
There’s a price to pay, if you are among the car’s 100 buyers, or can snag a used one. New, the Huayra went for about $1.1 million. That makes the $330 price for Autoart’s 1:18 model seems a super deal by comparison.
Already a top-tier die-cast car maker, Autoart’s models just keep getting better and better. This Pagani is gorgeous and as detailed as some models costing $500, or more. Another plus, Autoart creates more modern machines than most other high-end model makers who tend toward the classics.
This one is spectacular.
The body’s finish is perfect with the textured blue carbon fiber look meticulously reproduced. You can feel the slightly ribbed texture with a finger, and a bonus, you won’t leave a fingerprint as you might on a glossy finish.
The four nose and tail flaps, as mentioned above, can be posed up or down. There’s a Pagani medallion on the black hood insert just at the windshield’s base. One giant wiper appears to sweep the windshield.
Black carbon fiber-like trim wraps the windshield and bulkhead bulges behind the seats where the separate roof can lay on top. Similar black carbon fiber graces the chin spoiler, the aero skirt along the side that blends into the rocker panel before the rear tires and then much of the rear-end, including the huge diffuser.
That spreads out just below the four exhaust tips that exit together out the top tunnels that run from those headrest bulges back to the tail. Wow!
Up front are eight individual light lenses, grouped in twos, and horizontal light bars on the nose, just above the chin spoiler. The fine black mesh metal grille work on the nose is dainty and precise.
There are cooling vents on the front fenders over the wheel wells with distinctive chrome dividers and likewise Pagani-labeled chrome accents over the vents built into the doors, again just behind the front wheels.
Chrome Huayra script logos grace the rear quarter panels before the rear wheels and another is on the lower right of that black carbon fiber rear panel above the diffuser. Again, more delicate black wire mesh is on either side of the quad exhausts and another Pagani logo just below that. Rear taillights, all six of them, look realistic with matte chrome surrounds.
The entire rear deck features more curves than on stage at a beauty pageant with the tunnels leading to the exhaust displaying more mesh in the elongated oval vents. An arrow-tip clear plastic insert is just over that AMG V12 so you can see its black, silver and yellow goodness, even with the bonnet closed. Flip up the big rear deck and there’s a full suspension, springs, detailed engine, bracing, and such to entertain a viewer.
With that open a couple luggage compartments, one on each side, will open to reveal tan luggage pieces that match the car’s interior. Great detail and a bonus for folks who like to pose their models with all opening features fully revealed.
Doors open, naturally and with the roof off the interior view is unimpeded. Detail here is tremendous too. The interior is two-tone tan and black with oodles of silver or chrome accents. The doors have giant round chrome and black speaker/door release features that are a bit over the top, but then at a million bucks, you expect some of that.
Seats are racing types with major side bolsters, cloth shoulder belts and textured seat cushions.
This dash and steering column-mounted instrument panel looks like something from a starship, or at least an aircraft. The wheel is a tan and black flat-bottom racing style while the gauges on the column are mostly chrome and black and readable. Four round air vents protrude prominently from the dash and the center stack is fully detailed with screen and buttons, plus a red-balled control near the top that I must admit I have no idea what its function is.
A silver gear shift lever is between the front seats and you can see carbon fiber firewalls in the foot wells and under the dash, plus giant speakers with chrome surrounds. It’s all pretty spectacular and much more visually interesting if you leave off the roof that can be placed on top for a closed-top roadster.
If you’re into serious rubber, the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires are so-labeled and as wide as a hot dog eating champs’ butt. Nice tread pattern too.
Front wheels are steerable, with the steering wheel connected, so not just poseable. Wheels themselves are multi-spoked star designs in matte silver and behind those are monster drilled disc brakes with blue Pagani-branded calipers, the rears being somewhat different from the front calipers.
Details, details, details. That’s what Autoart is into big time and this Pagani epitomizes that attention. This is one of the most beautiful and fully detailed models I’ve ever reviewed. Winner!
Hybrid F-150 generates apocalypse-conquering power …
After 43 years as the best-selling vehicle in the United States I suppose nothing should surprise me about the latest Ford F-150.
Ford hasn’t stayed atop this highly competitive money-making bonanza of a market for U.S. carmakers because it coasts. Nope, it keeps re-inventing the envelope.
For 2021 Ford adds a hybrid powerplant to the F-150 and, get this, a generator in the tail that you could use to power your house during one of our apocalyptic 100-year floods, tornadoes, rains, etc. This monster of a truck is exactly what you’d want during the apocalypse. It should star in a blockbuster movie as it squishes zombies and 4-wheels over a crumbling world’s infrastructure.
Let’s get right to it.
I drove a Rapid Red F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat, a midlevel model that will seat five or six, depending on seat arrangements. Mine was a luxurious 5-seater with a giant console, but more on this interior in a bit.
Most important, this is the first hybrid pickup on the market and if Chevy and Ram are the least bit interested in gaining ground on Ford they’d better have one soon.
Standard in this model is the powerful twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 gas engine that makes 325 horsepower, or you could get a 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horses if gas burning, or buying, simply doesn’t matter to you.
The hybrid system, added here for $3,300 extra, conjoins a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 with a 35kw electric motor with batteries under the rear seat. It makes a whopping 430 horsepower and pounds 570 lb.-ft. of torque all while delivering an EPA rated 24 miles per gallon, city or highway. Combined with a 30.6-gallon gas tank that creates a 700-mile driving range.
Past experience tells me that even with a cyclonic tailwind you’d be lucky to hit 20 mpg on the highway with any gas-only powered pickup. With this one I averaged 20.5 mpg in a week’s drive, with plenty of city and highway miles. The trip computer said I was managing 22 mpg. Either is a vast improvement on pickup gas mileage.
A reminder here that Ford chopped hundreds of pounds from its last generation F-150 by using more aluminum in the body, so Ford has been working on making its full-size pickup more environmentally acceptable for some time.
From a driver’s standpoint the new F-150 is a rocket despite its hefty 5,517 lbs. Power comes on quickly and when you punch it the twin-turbo V6 delivers boatloads of power to get up to highway speeds or out-power most anyone at a stoplight. Handling is reasonable for a big pickup too, easy to keep in its lane and maneuver, except in a crowded parking lot. Then you’ll want to leave a little extra room, even though this one only had the smallest, 5.5-foot, bed. A 6.5- and 8-foot bed also are available.
Ride, well, it’s still a truck. Despite its independent double wishbone suspension up front with coil-over shocks and stamped lower control arm and rear leaf spring with solid axle it’s bouncy. Not harsh, but there’s rock and roll over severe streets and back roads. Although I must say the interior remains comfy and quiet, just some noticeable tire noise on certain pavements.
Ford now uses a fine 10-speed automatic transmission to give the truck a luxury feel while aiding its mileage. Mostly it’s wonderful, at least from third gear on up. Shifts from first to second and second to third can be a little abrupt at times, which you notice when cruising at low speeds on electric power around the neighborhood.
There’s much to praise for Ford’s luxury-level interior too, but first let’s look at its bed and that generator, which is tucked inside the driver’s side rear fender, with power access in the bed’s wall. Here you can plug into various outlets to access 7.2kw of power. This is just a $750 option for the Pro Power system, and would cost you more to get similar generation power from an independent unit. A smaller unit is standard.
Obviously this is a boon for contractors and construction folks needing quick access to electricity on a job site. Just leave the truck running (Stop & Go will turn off the gas engine shortly) and plug in. The batteries in the truck do the rest through the inverter and generator.
Just how much power is this? Well, I’m cheating a bit here, but found that Ezra Dyer of Car and Driver magazine tested the generator by running extension cords to his house and fired up virtually everything one would need to survive a big power outage. (Truck should sell well in Texas after this winter!) That means a couple fridges, TV, computer and plenty of lights. Ford assures us the power will last at least 72 hours. Wow, just wow!
Talk about a perfect truck to tow a camper. Just plug in wherever you stop and you’ve got lights, heat, etc. to help you smooth out your “roughing it” outing. Speaking of trailering, this hybrid model will tow a magnificent 12,700 pounds, so it’s still a hauler.
Inside, well, nothing is rough in here.
The red truck features a handsome chocolate brown over black interior with doors and dash being two-tone and the seats a perforated black leather with chocolate brown piping while the giant storage box between the front seats is brown with black edging. That box is massive, and here there was a flip-up work surface, just $165 extra.
Now, one might wonder how that works since there’s a large shift lever at the front of the console that would prevent the flip-up surface from lying flat. Ford solves this with a button to retract the shift lever. Clever, but it sounds like a coffee grinder during retraction. Hope they work on that for the next go-round, or put the shifter on the column, or make it a retractable knob like some other brands do.
Seating is comfortable and roomy front and rear with fairly flat seat bottoms and more contoured backs. Everything is powered and there are three memory buttons for the driver’s seat. Front seats are heated and cooled and the steering wheel is heated here, as are the outer rear seats.
This dash is an eyeful, mostly in a good way. The instrument panel in front of the driver, plus the infotainment screen are both 12-inchers, so easy to see and read. In fact, the digital speedometer is so big it took me the full week to get used to it, but you SURE CAN see it. Mostly the info screen is easy to see and use too, but the split screen does take a little study, so do that first before you engage the throttle.
One morning I had a little bugaboo when the screen froze trying to load the navigation system, saying it was in low-power mode. So I couldn’t use the screen until after I’d shut the truck off for several hours and it decided to return to full power mode. Hmmm!
Possible too that one could become overwhelmed by all the dash buttons. I counted 31, plus 1 toggle and 7 knobs. The buttons were a bit much, plus there are more to deal with on the info screen.
Overhead was a fine twin-panel sunroof that adds $1,495 to the sticker, one of 16 options here. I liked it though, and the standard Bang & Olufsen sound system was a winner too.
Certainly Ford offers a full complement of safety devices from lane-keeping assist to park sensors, blind-spot warning and emergency collision braking, plus a smart cruise control system. I should point out for trailer haulers the cool Pro Trailer system that uses a knob on the dash to help a driver back up to, and attach, a trailer.
Other goodies included a power tailgate ($695) that both powers up and down, plus there’s a fold-out step and handle in the gate. A spray-in bed liner ($595) was added, and there was a yardstick and meter measuring template molded into the tailgate, another benefit for those using this big people hauler as a work truck.
Luckily the F-150 added running boards for $225, otherwise those under 6-foot or so probably would need a stepladder to crawl aboard. Rubber floor mats added $200 and the 360-degree camera another $765. That’s needed for parking.
Other various packages including one for Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 and appearance packages added another roughly $10,000. Overall there were $20,000 in options on the Lariat, which starts at $52,675 including delivery. Total then was $70,960, a huge price that falls just short of what I paid for a house 25 years ago.
Don’t be scared off though, there are so many models and configurations that surely you can find an F-150 in your price range. The base regular-cab XL with 2-wheel-drive lists at about $29,000. While a Limited 4×4 hybrid model can nearly hit $80 grand.
Know that there are three cab style choices, three bed lengths, 6 powertrains (including hybrid and diesel), 6 trims and then the performance-oriented Raptor. But that’s for another review.
Ford remains the technology leader among pickups.
FAST STATS: 2021 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat (hybrid)
Hits: Roomy work truck with luxury interior, hybrid power and improved mpg, plus a built-in generator in the bed. Huge info screen and instrument gauges, large sunroof, heated wheel and heat/cool seats, power tailgate w/step, 360-degree camera, fold-out work area, running boards. Excellent towing power and acceleration, decent handling and Pro Trailer system to help when attaching a trailer.
Misses: Big truck bouncy ride, difficult parking in tight lots, odd fold-down gear shift lever sounds like coffee grinder, an overabundance of buttons and knobs on dash, info screen got stuck once and couldn’t be used.
Pacifica minivan nears perfection with quiet plug-in hybrid …
Chrysler has been in the minivan business longer than anyone else and it stands to reason that after 35+ years they’re nearing perfection.
It helps that Chrysler never stopped innovating and it still leads the way as the 2021 Pacifica is the only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market. And it makes a good impression, both for its sleek, refined looks and its quiet operation.
“I love how quiet your minivan is. It surprised me,” claimed the attendant at a Culver’s drive-up outdoor order stand. It didn’t earn me any extra cheese curds though.
Oh, the Pacifica is quiet for sure operating at low speeds on electricity generated by regenerative braking, plus it also will run for 30+ miles solely on electric if you charge it fully. That takes about 14 hours on a home’s 120-volt line, but I got a 70% charge in about 6 hours once. If you have a 240-volt line a full charge takes just two hours. Bingo!
On a full charge the Pacifica has roughly a 500-mile range combining electric charge and gas. The EPA says to expect 82 mpe with electric power mixed with gas and 30 mpg solely with gas. I think that may be a bit generous. I got 24 mpg with a mix of city and highway driving and one full charge, not bad for a nearly 5,000-lb. van.
Still, extending the driving range for a family hauler like this, cutting down the number of fill-up and potty breaks, has got to help extend a family’s vacation range. Plus when on electric power the van hums along like a silent missile, and even as it switches to the 3.6-liter V6 gas engine you’ll likely not notice. Transition is seamless.
Power overall is 260 horsepower with the hybrid system and it’s linked to a CVT automatic that works well to meld power flow.
In reality, the van is a super easy and smooth drive all around. There’s plenty of power for acceleration as electric power is instantaneous and steering is fairly light and breezy too. There’s a bit of play in the wheel, but no family is expecting sports sedan handling in their minivan. Nope, but Pacifica is easy to turn into a parking spot, or back out. Of course there’s a 3D rearview camera and parking sensors too.
Ride remains vanlike, not punishing, but bouncier than a car or crossover. You notice it most on uneven surfaces where the minivan can feel a bit roly-poly. But on the highway it’s a gem, a cruising mecca, a family room on wheels.
That was helped in this Hybrid Limited model because it’s loaded with goodies and this one even added a $2,495 option package with twin seatback video screens that plays Blu-Ray DVDs or pop up with a variety of video games. The 12-year-old grandson approved! What kid wouldn’t?
Mom and dad will love it too because there are wireless headphones to keep the parents from blowing their gourds the 10th time a wee one has watched a SpongeBob episode or a Disney film with a song that will NOT leave your head. I’m looking at you Little Mermaid!
This beautiful Maximum Steel Metallic (sparkly bluish pewter) delivered a luxury look and feel interior that might surprise a first-time minivan buyer. Seats were a saddle brown with mocha brown piping and the dash and doors were brown and black, a spiffy look. Trim is all satin chrome behind gauges along with air vents and door release handles. The console and surround of the big 8.4-inch touchscreen are trimmed in gloss black. Chrysler nails the look!
And if you need storage up front there’s a monster cubby between the seats with a black textured roll-top for easy access. Much nicer than a lid that must awkwardly be flipped up.
Seats are only modestly contoured, the backs being decent, but the bottom cushions are fairly flat. That can be good for long drives and certainly makes ingress and egress easy. Of course those power sliding rear doors help small folks load and unload quickly too, and yes, the hatch is powered.
This unit had captain’s chairs for the middle row, so would carry just seven, but a bench in the middle row would allow you to haul eight. The first two rows of seats also had folding armrests, although I feel it’s a bit intrusive on the driver’s seat during city driving, yet it’s OK as you cruise the highway.
Front seats are powered and also heated and cooled, while the steering wheel is heated. You access all that through the big touchscreen, not my favorite way to get at such often used buttons, but the touchpoints are large, as are all dash buttons and controls.
The radio system is simple to figure out and use while driving too, yet there are several levels of info you can find there. Best to do all that data mining while sitting at a stop light or in a parking spot.
Naturally there are plenty of safety devices, including blind-spot warning, lane departure, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go system, collision warning and emergency braking along with parking sensors.
As for interior amenities, well, there are side window sun shades for the second and third rows, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof with power sun shade, and a wireless phone charger in the front of the console, making it easy to access.
Behind the third row seat is a deep well for storage, or if you don’t need to use the split third row seats you can fold them down into that cargo floor to create a large flat storage space. The second row seats are Chrysler’s patented Stow ‘n Go design that fold down into the floor. Most vans still require you to remove the middle row manually if you need to use that space for cargo.
One interior bugaboo I hope Chrysler fixes soon, the fancy two-tone leather steering wheel with its satin chrome trim ring. It’s a pain in that it’s hot when the sun hits that metal, and it’s cold in winter, even when the heated steering wheel is engaged. Just lose the ring and all is well!
Like many vehicles now, there are so many trims in the Pacifica line that pricing should not put you off. Although the test van was near the top of the hybrid range, starting at $47,340, including delivery. Add the rear-seat entertainment package and this one hit $49,835. Obviously not affordable for every family.
But the hybrids range from the Touring at $41,490 up to the Red S model at $50,635, the latter featuring a bright red leather interior. Most folks going the hybrid route will likely want to step up to the Touring L model at $43,790 as it adds heated leather seats, a roof rack and third-row seat sun shades.
If hybrid models are outside your price range, consider the gas-only powered Pacifica, whose 3.6-liter V6 makes 287 horsepower. The Touring model there starts at $33,495, but again, moving up to the Touring L might be preferred for the added features. Also, note that Chrysler offers an AWD system now, so that’s enticing to those of us in frozen tundra territory. That van rides an inch higher than other Pacifica models.
Not wanting to insult anyone’s income level, but if even that entry-mark Pacifica still seems a bit beyond your means, know that Chrysler continues to offers a Voyager model with a lot less features, but a more approachable starting price of about $27,000.
While tall SUVs and crossovers continue to dominate the market it’s nice to know that families can still get the most practical and comfy of vehicles, a minivan, at everything from a budget-oriented model to ultimate luxury. And now a plug-in hybrid adds to its economy. Oh, and there’s still a federal tax rebate of $7,500 on the hybrid model. …. Drop the mic!
FAST STATS: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
Hits: Handsome, roomy for 7, good smooth power, improved mpg. Quick acceleration, big easy touchscreen and dash buttons, and a full bevy of safety equipment. Luxury feel interior with heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charger, power side doors and hatch and second/third row sun shades. Plus this had rear-seat video screens.
Misses: Bouncy van ride, a bit of wheel play, and steering wheel is hot and cold because of metal beauty trim strip that heats in sun, but is cold on icy mornings.
Made in: Windsor, Ont., Canada
Engine: 3.6 V6, hybrid, 260 hp
Transmission: CVT, automatic
Weight: 4,987 lbs.
Wheelbase: 121.6 in.
Length: 203.8 in.
Cargo: 140.5 cu.ft.
MPG: 82 gas/electric, 30 gas only
MPG: 24.0 (tested)
Base Price: $47,340 (includes delivery)
Preferred package 2EP (Uconnect theater group, FamCam interior camera, Blue-Ray DVD player, seatback video screens, headphone ports, USB video port, 115-volt power outlet, video remotes, wireless headphones, Keysense), $2,495
Bright Yenko Chevy, Psychedelic Seventies cars double the fun …
What’s more fun than one special limited edition Johnny Lightning 1:64 die-cast car? Two of course.
Auto World is now packaging two limited edition cars into Themed 2 Packs for its finely detailed Johnny Lightning brand. The latest offerings include Yenko Chevys and a colorful Psychedelic Seventies pack with a Dodge and Chevy decked out in patterns to remind us of the “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” era of flower power and wild color patterns you might see when dropping a little, uh, well, I’m not sure what. But these are colorful to be sure.
Both 2-packs go for $15.99 each, still a bargain price for such nicely detailed 1:64 cars. Plus they are not being pumped out by the millions like some mass market brands. These 2-packs are limited to 2,004 each.
Let’s start with the sharp, but more normal Yenko Chevy 2-pack. It includes a bright yellow 1970 Chevy Nova Yenko Deuce with black side stripes that wrap over the trunk lid and tout Yenko Duece on the rear quarter panels. The other car is a black over silvery blue 1967 Chevy Camaro Yenko with a black nose stripe.
The Psychedelic Seventies pack includes a 1969 Chevy Camaro SS in a wild Sunflower Yellow, orange and black pattern that sort of resembles a sunrise on the hood and a tattoo artist’s geometric stenciling on the trunk and sides. The roof is flat black. The other car is a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona mostly in dark metallic red, but with white hood inset trim and side striping, plus big white rear wing. From the doors back is a white-bordered insert that blends from the body color red to brown to yellow to bright yellow.
For the record all the JLs have opening hoods, detailed undercarriages, and treaded rubber tires to look more realistic than most brands, which feature hard-plastic tires. These are mostly for collectors, not kids with plastic race tracks!
I’m always happiest with the less customized paint schemes, so my favorite here is the yellow Yenko Nova and silver-blue Camaro Yenko.
What makes these fun, and realistic? The Nova is modeled after one of 10 Duece’s made in this color and is owned by Jamie Jarvis. Many JL models are reproductions of actual cars that have shown up on the various car show circuits over the last couple years. It has the easiest opening hood of any of these four models, so it can be raised fully to display the red engine block, silver air filter and black coolant hoses.
The Nova’s hood has two black stripes near the hood’s edges, with “LT/1” part of the stripes. “Deuce” is spelled out on the hood’s nose and the Nova name and the car’s reflective side markers spruce up the sides along with the obvious racing stripe mentioned earlier. Bumpers and grille are nicely detailed as are the lights and taillights. The interior is black, but not much to see inside, it being so dark.
What really grabbed me on this one was the finely detailed 5-spoke matte gray racing wheels wrapped in Firestone Wide Oval-labeled tires. Sharp!
The black over silvery blue ’67 Camaro’s hood is easily popped up, but doesn’t open far, so engine viewing is marginal. There’s a more noticeable gap at the rear of the hood too, which likely accounts for the small hood movement.
Still, its nose stripe is sharp and in profile this is one sexy beast with elegant thin pinstripes near the top of the car’s fender line, nose to tail. The hood is a Yenko specialty based on the SS design with raised bars to resemble headers and four black dots atop each of them.
There’s a spoiler on the tail an SS logo on the grille and a “427” sticker on the tail. Hub caps are chrome with five rounded rectangular holes and unbranded thin white sidewall tires. The interior is dark red and the door features a framed vent window.
If you’re a big Goldie Hawn or Jo Anne Worley fan you might imagine the Psychedelic Seventies 2-pack’s Camaro paint scheme painted on their legs or bellies as they dance during “Laugh-In”.
This is an eye-opener and beautifully executed, and modeled after the original that was owned by Mike Hulick who had the silver car repainted in this wild scheme. The Camaro, now owned by Jay Sliwa, is an SS, thus the two bar hood similar to the ’67 model in the Yenko pack. The hood opens a little higher on this one to reveal a silver engine block and black air filter.
Headlights are whited out here, with an SS logo on the black grille and mid-tail between the triple taillights. Wheels are chrome five-spokes with Firestone Polyglas GT-labeled tires. The interior is black and the rear window features three decals/stickers, two with peace signs over an American flag pattern backdrop.
Almost as striking is the Dodge Daytona, one of only 503 made and now known as the Disco Daytona. Remember disco, and Disco Duck?
This Daytona has a one-off paint scheme that the owner had applied due to a warranty program offered to make up for the car’s poor original paint job, orange in this case. Disco Daytona features the disco ombre paint scheme and you won’t find another one like it. The car is owned by Jeff and Brent Kultgen now and is easy to pick out in a crowd.
The car is logo-less, except for “Charger” printed on the rear roof pillars and a black license plate declaring “Charger.” There also are twin tailpipes exiting under its high-winged tail.
The gas cap on the driver’s side rear quarter panel and reversed air scoops over the front wheels add detail and there’s a bright orange engine and air filter under the car’s massive hood. Windows are trimmed in silver and there are proper vents here too. Wheels are chromed 6-spokes with redline tires, but no branding.
Larger scale models may add more engine and interior detail, but these 1:64s are gorgeous and high-value. Plus if you can display them on their hang cards they stay dust-free and look spectacular. This my friends is easy DC car collecting at its finest, and at a price any collector can afford.
Vital Stats: Johnny Lightning Themed 2-packs
Maker: Auto World Scale: 1/64 Stock No.: JLPK012 MSRP: $15.99 per 2-pack