On its face, the Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line, this week’s drive, is modest in size and price on the ever-expanding luxury scale. This edgy small crossover rides on but a 104.7-inch wheelbase, compact like the Acura RDX or Volvo XC40, both luxury makes, or, like the recently tested Subaru Crosstrek or Hyundai’s Tucson, not luxury makes.
Base price for a front-drive NX 300 with 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 gas engine is a reasonable $38,535, remembering that $40 grand is the average cost for a new vehicle these day. NX is available in six trims, some with AWD and some hybrids. The tested top level 300h F Sport Black Line, checks in at $47,835, including delivery. Continue reading 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line→
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→
Rover Defender goes mostly back to its off-road roots …
My introduction to Land Rover was as a kid when Matchbox created a sharp dark green boxy version with brown plastic luggage atop its roof. Then there was Daktari, the TV show about a wild animal veterinarian running the African savanna in a Rover.
I still think of Land Rovers as those boxy utilitarian beasts that mostly British folks used to roam Africa’s plains in search of wild game. One hopes now it was mostly for photography purposes instead of butchery.
Indeed, off-road prowess is Land Rover’s claim to fame, much like Jeep’s reputation was built on its ruggedness and ability to go anywhere, crushing rocks, sloshing through mud and swamp, swooshing around sand dunes and fording rivers. Then came luxury! Continue reading 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 First Edition→
Mix a love of hatchbacks with a need for AWD and you have the recipe Subaru has nearly perfected in its 2021 Crosstrek.
I’ve loved hatches for years and really, if you think on it, isn’t that what all crossovers are? But crossovers aren’t very slick looking as a class, so thank goodness for Subaru and the tall hatchback design of its revamped Crosstrek, tested in its top-level Limited trim.
The first thing, beyond its sporty looks, that everyone should want to talk about for 2021 is its new engine that gives it 30 more horsepower. A little oomph is always welcome. The engine itself isn’t new, already powering Subaru’s Forester crossover, but it’s new to Crosstrek, now standard in its Sport and Limited trim levels. Continue reading 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Ltd.→
Tell someone you’re driving a 702-horsepower pickup and they look at you like you’ve grown horns from your noggin and said 29-cent gas is back.
But it’s true, the Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab packs a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8, the same used in both the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats. Rating is 702 horses and torque of 650 lb.-ft. with a reported 0-60 mph burst of 4.5 seconds, although some folks have tested it as low as 4.1 seconds. Top speed is said to be 118 mph.
You may be saying to yourself, that’s a racer, not a pickup and you’d be right, except the TRX is street legal, if you can afford one.
Subie’s small Baja pickup looks great in 1/18 scale …
Leading sometimes is a lonely game. Just ask Subaru.
Its Baja, a 4-door compact pickup based on a car platform was one of the first of its kind and can easily be seen in today’s multitude of such pickups. But it was not a sales success, selling just 30,000 units in three years.
But Baja was a leader, make no mistake about that, and DNA Collectibles loves oddball and original designs so has created a sharp 1/18 scale resin die-cast Baja that certainly is a looker.
Baja sprung from the ST-X concept vehicle with its more radical off-roading look, as if it were to run in the Baja 1000 cross-country race. Tamed down, but still sporty looking, Subaru made the Baja from 2002 to 2006 in its Lafayette, Ind., plant. Bajas were based on the popular Legacy/Outback platform and marketed as 2003 through 2006 models.
Baja followed the 2-door Brat that Subaru sold successfully from 1978 to 1994. Brat too was a compact pickup with some styling flair. But as we all know, Americans prefer more room for all their stuff. So Baja with its four doors, second row seat and handsomely lined pickup bed and functional roof rack seemed to fit that bill.
It featured Subaru’s trusted 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder engine with a turbo version coming in year two. Plus Baja was made more useful for hauling with its Switchback system where the second row seat folded down and a panel behind it opened to the bed, allowing for longer items to be carried. To add more strength to the bed there also were two chrome handles or supports that extended from the roof to the bed’s sides. Knowing we love all things sporty, Subaru marketed those handles as “Sports Bars,” which now has a totally separate meaning.
The pickup also had four tie-downs, two bed lights, roof rails and crossbars, and a snazzy system that allowed the license plate holder to fold perpendicular to the tailgate so it could be seen if the truck was driving with the tailgate lowered. Clever!
DNA’s model replicates the original bicolor launch version which was bright yellow with silver stone metallic lower body cladding, all beautifully painted.
Other standout features include the black roof rails and small sunroof just in front of the rack’s forward bar. A tiny black antenna sits next to the rails and is in a retracted position. All windows appear slightly tinted and edged in black.
In front is a chrome-trimmed grille opening with photo-etched metal and black backing and the Subaru logo at the grille’s center. Headlights are wonderfully rendered showing four different lenses and lights while below the bumper are two giant running lights with slight grille work covering the lenses for protection.
Baja’s tail features a well detailed flat black lined cargo bed, the two chrome Sport Bars and dual overhead cargo lamp. Taillights are sharply detailed too and the license area is nicely shaped indicating it indeed could have been repositioned when the tailgate was down. Would be cool if the model allowed that tailgate to drop, or the doors to open.
Subaru, Baja and AWD labels are here in photo-etched form too.
Underneath you see the Baja labeled rear wheel mud flaps and a chrome muffler and tailpipe that look a little too shiny for my taste. I think a matte silver finish would have looked more realistic.
Tires are black sidewall and treaded, but with no branding and the wheels are matte gray five-spokers with large plain discs behind them with calipers.
Inside, well, that’s not extremely easy to see because all the windows are posed in the up position. Seats and dash are bicolor gray and black, which looks sporty and is best viewed through the windshield and from overhead. There you’ll see the gated shifter on the console, the gray and black steering wheel and gauge faces on the instrument cluster and the dash’s stack.
Hard to see much else, but DNA says there are seat belts and radio buttons there too. I wish the side windows at least could have been clear or the driver’s window removed so the interior could be viewed more easily.
As is though the Baja looks great and would stand out in any model display. And it now comes in a fully windowed box that would make it easy to display as purchased.
Coming up, DNA has just added the Volvo P1800 in red and a Saab 9-4x. It’s just starting to take pre-orders for its Saab 9-5 NG Aero.
Vital Stats: Subaru Baja
Maker: DNA Collectibles Scale: 1/18 Stock No.: DNA000050 MSRP: $139.99
Back in the day, less than 20 years ago, BMW was known for its 3 Series compact sport sedans and coupes. They were cute, taut, models that were meant to introduce enthusiast drivers to the Bavarian automaker’s wares.
The 3 Series was an entry-level sportster that with some budget stretching, maybe selling some of your favorite vinyl or the kid’s Cabbage Patch dolls (but not one of your kidneys), you could afford.
Things change and cars always grow. So now the 3 Series is less compact and less affordable. But not to fret, BMW now has the 2 Series, which is what the 3 Series was as recently as the mid-2000s. The 2 is compact, riding on a 105.1-inch wheelbase, is just 178.5 inches long and starts at a modest (for BMW) $36,295 for the coupe. Continue reading 2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe→
A few years back I declared hybrids the way to go until all-electrics gained more range and the infrastructure to remotely recharge electrics grew substantially. Nothing has changed my mind and if anything the growth of quality hybrids makes my point all the stronger.
This week’s drive proves that point in electrons!
Only a few months back I tested Honda’s popular small SUV, the CR-V. It’s a top-seller and pretty much leads a closely contested market segment. I feel the hybrid version of its top-level Touring model should be its top-selling model.