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2021 Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat (hybrid)

Ford’s hybrid F-150 SuperCrew is all the pickup a person can use …

Driving the new Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat was like déjà vu all over again.

Doesn’t happen often, but I got to test drive the new hybrid version of Ford’s most popular (in fact North America’s most popular) vehicle for a second time in roughly a year. And even more unusual, this was a pre-production model with few miles on it and decked out in Antimatter Blue Metallic, which is a dark (nearly black) paint scheme. I like the name!

Ford’s F-150 hybrid is simply smooth, quiet and packed with power. No reason any truck lover wouldn’t love this beast like an all-expense-paid night at a Monster Truck rally.

Oh, I guess some might not care for the electric hybrid motor’s whine at low speeds, but if you crank the Lariat’s muscle-bound, watt-crazy B&O (Bang & Olufsen) stereo with subwoofer you’ll never hear that whine over George Strait’s strains.

Like the previous tester, this F-150, already starting at $53,025 with delivery, was packed with options, 13 to be exact. That added $19,745 to the sticker. Total? Just (sarcasm) $72,770, or nearly exactly double the cost of my first house. But hey, it would tow!

You get everything but the barn here, and its more efficient and powerful than many of the other seven F-150 trim levels due to its hybrid system, which itself adds $3,300 to the tally. It’s worth it.

Standard in the Lariat is a powerful twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 gas engine that makes 325 horsepower. You can even still get a thirsty 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horses if gas burning, or buying, matters not to you. A slick 10-speed automatic comes standard with all powertrains.

The hybrid system 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 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 an optimum 700-mile driving range, both downhill and with the wind.

While in warmer weather I’d managed an impressive 20.5 mpg, in zero to 30-degree temps I recorded just 17 mpg this time. Still, that’s what you’d normally expect in straight highway driving with gas-only power. This included plenty of city driving.

Bottom line, 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. That electric motor also helps boost low-end acceleration.

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 a mix because on straight reasonable smooth stretches this feels like a luxury sedan, smooth and exceedingly quiet inside. But once the pavement becomes cracked and uneven, 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 this fortress becomes bouncy. Not harsh, but there’s rock and roll that actually shakes drivers and passengers from side to side at times.

Braking is fine and towing power is impressive at 12,700 pounds. That’s plenty buster!

Like the earlier test truck this he-man added the $750 Pro Power onboard 7.2kw generator in the bed so you can power up your tools, heck, even your house, if need be. A smaller generator is standard.

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 an inverter and generator.

As mentioned in the earlier review, this Pro Power unit provides enough juice to run much of your household electronics for 72 hours during a power outage. So the $750 is pretty inexpensive for backup generator power (ignoring the total cost of the truck).

Watch a video review: Ford F 150 Hybrid Review by Mark Savage – YouTube

So, there’s a lot of usefulness as you’d expect with a pickup, but being a SuperCrew there’s a full rear seat and the interior is luxury car level, helping explain the sticker price. Plus this one includes the Lariat package for $6,920 and including everything from heated and cooled front seats, and rear seats to a heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Leather is so deep it would make a herd of cattle jealous, with tan leather seats featuring black trim and a black dash with tan and brushed chrome trim. There’s even a little fake wood trim on the doors. Knobs, and there are plenty, are satin chrome while the steering wheel is a soft, thick black leather. Down low are power-adjustable pedals and the steering wheel is a power tilt/telescope job.

Grab handles stick out from everywhere, and should, for easy mounting of this high-rider. Thankfully there are 6-inch chrome trimmed running boards, ($225 extra) to help boost passengers up into the cockpit, a must.

The info screen and instrument panel are large (both 12 inches) and obviously easy to see and mostly to use, although programming favorite radio stations wasn’t a breeze. Still, all the gauges and knobs are macho big and within easy reach. A giant storage box/armrest divides the front seat and includes a flip-up work surface perfect for a computer, and $165 extra.

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, and this one was much quieter than in the earlier test truck.

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.

Here’s the gear shift knob in its powered down position.

Inside is a gas filler door release and automatic tailgate release. The power tailgate ($695 extra) is easy to fold down or up and there’s a pop-out ladder in the tailgate that helps a normal to small-size person climb aboard the bed. Even a handle that pops up to steady the climber’s ascent or descent. A spray-in bedliner is $595 extra, but you’ll want it.

Engaging the 4WD modes is simple too with a dial on the center stack, while overhead is a button to open the rear sliding window for a bit of air movement or limited access to the bed. Oddly no wireless charger on a $72 grand truck, that’s a $145 option. Hmmm!

A sunroof also is an add-on at $1,495.

Standard though is a bevy of fine safety equipment 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.

There’s a fine running board to help us short folks mount this tall beast.

Co-Pilot 360, a semi-autonomous driving system to keep you centered in your lane is a $1,595 add on, plus a 360-degree camera that makes parking a LOT easier adds $765 to the sticker.

Other add-ons here included a trailer towing package for $1,995, onboard scale with smart hitch for $650, electronically controlled suspension damping for $695 and snazzy 20-inch chrome-like PVD wheels for $1,395.

One minor annoyance, like more and more vehicles, the Ford screams out a chime every time the ignition is turned off to warn you to LOOK in the rear seat (no extra charge). Did you leave a kid there? One supposes lawyers are afraid you might.

Cool that there’s a fold down step to help folks crawl up into the bed. That yellow dot is the handle that pops out to help steady the person climbing the tiny step!

This one is high-end luxury pricey, but don’t let that bother you if you need a full-size pickup. 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 $30,000. While a Limited 4×4 hybrid model can hit about $80 grand.

Know that there are three cab style choices, three bed lengths, 5 powertrains (diesel is dropped for 2022), 7 trims and then the performance-oriented Raptor.

Any way you slice it, Ford remains the technology leader in pickups.

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat (Hybrid)

Hits: Roomy truck with quiet luxury interior, hybrid power and improved mpg, plus a built-in generator in the bed. Huge info screen and instrument gauges, heated wheel and heat/cool front seats, heated rear seats, power tailgate w/step, 360-degree camera, fold-out work area, running boards. Excellent towing power and acceleration, decent handling and good safety systems.

Numbers are big on the digital instrument panel!

Misses: Big truck bouncy ride, difficult parking in tight lots, an overabundance of buttons and knobs on dash. Rear seat warning sounds every time ignition turned off.

Made in: Dearborn, Mich.

Engine: 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, 325 hp

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,517 lbs.

Wheelbase: 145.4 in.

Length: 231.7 in.

Cargo bed: 52.8 cu.ft.

Tow: 12,700 lbs.

MPG: 24/24

MPG: 17.0 (tested)

Base Price: $53,025 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $49,689

Major Options:

3.5-liter V6 hybrid (430 hp/570 torque), $3,300

Lariat equipment group 502A, $6,920

Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, $1,595

Pro Power onboard 7.2kw generator, $750

Interior work surface, $165

Max trailer tow package, $1,995

Onboard scale w/smart hitch, $650

Power tailgate, $695

Continuously controlled damping, $695

20-inch chrome-like PVD wheels, $1,395

360-degree camera, $765

Bedliner, spray-in, $595

6-inch extended chrome accent running boards, $225

Test vehicle: $72,770

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo, Premium Plus, AWD

Already a winner, new turbo elevates CX-30 to top tier …

Earlier this year I named Mazda’s slick new small crossover, the CX-30, as my Zoomie 2021 Car of the Year. Little did I know then that it was gonna get better.

The original was sporty looking, featured responsive handling, a quiet near luxury interior and had good power. Now the power is outstanding.

Mazda, as it did with its sporty Mazda3 recently, has added a kicky turbo to its already solid 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G 4-cylinder. The result is a hoot a power rating between 227 and 250 horsepower. That’s up from 168 horses in the original CX-30.

Why, you ask, is there such a range of horsepower for this spiffy turbo?

Because if you’re cheap like me you can fill up with 87-octane fuel and still feel pretty peppy with the turbo delivering 227 horses, or spend a little more for 91 octane (or higher) premium gas and the horsepower jumps to 250. All this in a 3,472-lb. crossover on a short 104.5-inch wheelbase.

Yowza!

Acceleration is crazy quick with the CX-30 easily pressing triple digits down a highway entry ramp. Car and Driver magazine says the petite crossover will snap off 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and top speed is said to be 128 mph. Coupled with the all-wheel-drive system that’s standard on all turbo-equipped CX-30s and you’ve got the grip to use that power to your advantage, even if the road is a tad wet.

See Mark’s video review: https://youtu.be/daMiHWGAp6w

Note too there’s a Sport drive mode toggle on the console that will give the CX-30 more oomph as needed. It was much appreciated as I zipped away from bulky traffic jams at stoplights. Click it and leap away from the heavy metal beasts with bigger engines, then click it off and cruise. Sport mode helps Mazda’s six-speed automatic that’s designed for fuel economy to put the emphasis on low-end power for as long as you need it.

Likewise the Mazda handles well, not exactly sports car nimble, but quite responsive and easy to zip through tight corners and whip into cramped parking spaces in the city. No body lean or sway even on super windy days, which were plentiful during this drive.

Ride is much more sophisticated in the CX-30 than other short-wheelbase crossovers. Firm? Yes, the ride is, but so well controlled that you’ll feel you’re in a longer-wheelbase crossover costing much more. Sound deadening is awesome too, a quiet interior here insinuates luxury not found in the price tag.

This interior also helps Mazda establish itself as the maker of finer, near luxury, machines, not just another mainstream car maker trying to only compete with the Toyotas,  Hondas, and Nissans of the world.

Like the previous CX-30 I’d tested, this one had a gorgeous leather interior, creamy white seats and brown over black dash with soft brown door armrests and insert trim. That brown on the dash wraps into the door trim creating an especially snazzy look. Trim on the dash and door handles is satin chrome and Mazda includes a leather wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel. Just wish the wheel was a racier flat-bottomed number.

High-quality interior puts this Mazda well above its competitors.

Those seats are well shaped and the surface feels soft and smooth, again more of a luxury feel than you’ll find in most mid-range crossovers. For the record, the entry level has cloth seats, the next level up gets leatherette and the Premium and Premium plus real leather.

Front seats are powered and have two memory settings for the driver’s seat and a power lumbar too. Front seats also have three-level heat and the steering wheel is heated in the tested Premium Plus model.

Head and legroom are good up front and moderate in back. If a driver or front seat passenger is tall then the foot and legroom becomes tight in back. Cargo room is generous behind the split fold-down rear seats and the hatch is powered.

Dash layout is clean and attractive with an 8.8-inch infotainment screen that’s tucked into an indent atop the dash’s center. I like it being high, but some riders said they’d prefer a lower position. Personal choice I’m sure!

Standard are dual climate controls, a sunroof and a handy 360-degree backup camera.

Safety systems are all standard too, including front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and braking, blind-spot warning, lane departure and smart cruise control. The beeping from the blind-spot warning can be a bit startling the first couple times it goes off, but less so after you know what it’s warning you about.

Other goodies include a fine 12-speaker Bose stereo system, plus Android Auto and Apple Car Play. No wireless charger though. That’s still a $275 option. Outside mirrors also are heated, the wipers are rain-sensing, and front lights are adaptive.

I’d like to call this a perfect vehicle, but that’s not possible, ever. The automatic parking brake is irritating as it sets itself every time the ignition is turned off. No other tested vehicle does this. So each time you start to back up that brake engages to hold you back. You can either press the console’s button, or accelerate harder (not sure that’s wise) and it’ll overpower the brake and it will disengage.

Then there’s the central control knob on the console to adjust the info screen’s radio and navigation systems, etc. Once you play with it a while (several days) you’ll figure out how to get to the station list and change channels, but it’s not easy to do while driving. Saving favorites? The same. I beg Mazda to copy one of the easier systems found in most vehicles now.

But there’s so much else to love here. Sorry Subaru!

CX-30’s styling is leading edge, it’s noteworthy, it’s spectacular. The beak of the hood gives this crossover a nose to remember. Reminds me of the racy beak on 1960s and 1970s Eagle Indycar racers. The slits for headlights are equally appealing and the taillights also make a styling statement.

But all that aside, the Soul Red Metallic paint job is so stunning that it alone could sell someone on the CX-30. Soul Red is absolutely the best current paint color on any car on the market. Everyone commented on it. People asked about it at the gas station and in the driveway. It’ll cost you $595 extra, but is absolutely worth it.

Gas mileage dips a bit on the turbo, and I admit to abusing the Power mode button and having more fun than I likely am entitled. I still got 26.6 mpg as opposed to 31.7, which was amazing, on the original CX-30 with its more moderate power. The EPA estimates this model will get 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Best of all you won’t be paying a fortune for fun. The base turbo model starts at $30,050 and remember that includes AWD. A Premium model that would satisfy most of us goes for $32,450 and the tested Premium Plus lists at $35,000 including delivery. Non-turbo models with front-wheel-drive start at about $23,000, with AWD adding $1,400 to the price.

With its awesome red paint job and a few minor options the test crossover was $35,995, a bit less than the average price of a new car these days. Bravo!

CX-30 is a no-brainer if you’re in the small crossover market. It’s beautiful while also being a high-value hoot of a drive. Could it be the car of the year for two years in a row?

FAST STATS: 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo, Premium Plus, AWD

Hits: Excellent turbo power, responsive handling, plus AWD. Sporty looks, leatherette interior feels luxurious, big screen, sunroof, heated steering wheel and front seats, 360-camera, smart cruise and safety systems, Bose stereo, comfy supportive front seats, power hatch. High value, fun drive.

Sexy beak and eyes!

Misses: Not a fan of the console-controlled info screen, and ride is firm, but well-controlled. The park brake sets itself every time the ignition is turned off, so annoying to disengage each time you drive the car. Wireless charging (optional) and flat-bottom steering wheel would be nice.

Made in: Salamanca, Mexico

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4, turbo, 227-250 hp

Transmission: SkyActiv-drive 6-speed, automatic w/Sport mode

Weight: 3,472 lbs.

Wheelbase: 104.5 in.

Length: 173 in.

Cargo: 20.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/30

MPG: 26.6 (tested)

Base Price: $35,000 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Options:

Soul Red Crystal paint, $595

Cargo cover, $150

All-weather floor mats, $125

Rear bumper guards, stainless, $125

Test vehicle: $35,995

Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SEL

New VW Atlas is a 3-row Easy Rider …

Some vehicles stand out by not standing out. They are what I call Easy Riders, or maybe more appropriately Easy Drivers.

Such is Volkswagen’s restyled Atlas, the German firm’s mid-size crossover and one of its best-selling models in the U.S. market. VW restyled its nose and tail to give it more character. The grille is more pronounced and the body’s character lines make it look a bit more muscular with bulges high over the wheel wells.

The new look is more noteworthy than its original blandness, but still not something that will catch your attention at the drive-up window while you await your burger and fries. Continue reading 2021 Volkswagen Atlas SEL

2019 Ford Edge ST AWD

ST is a family hauler with a sporty ‘Edge’

Ford revamped the nose and tail styling of its successful Edge crossover for 2019 and at the top end, gave it more power and a better tranny.

I’d driven a new Edge Titanium last winter and it, along with the lower level SE and SEL, are aimed squarely at the family market. But this bright metallic blue ST edition had a decidedly sportier edge (sorry) to it. Continue reading 2019 Ford Edge ST AWD