Tag Archives: road america

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

New hybrid rated 42 MPG city, 37 MPG combined …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#mama21rally

Why I despise EV’s but am big on electric propulsion

Born into a car family

I don’t have blood, pretty sure I have motor oil in my veins. It started before I was even born. My mom’s dad sold Pontiacs and Hudsons while my other grandpa was a Chevy guy. My dad worked for AMC/Chrysler for 27 years and I’ve been told that I was conceived in the back of a Nash. I love everything about cars, from how they are designed, manufactured, marketed and tested. I especially love high performance cars and have driven, the new Corvette, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Ram TRX, along with several Jaguars. It’s the sound, I love the sound, and the power when I step on the gas. I love the way they handle and have driven several of them at Road America.

Me all smiles after experiencing the Ram TRX

EV’s to me are a waste of time.

I will admit that most of them can out accelerate even the biggest and baddest V8 but outside of that see no upside. Ok tree huggers, jump in telling me how they save the planet with their zero o2 tailpipe emissions but you are forgetting one huge item, actually several. First, all the current EV’s are manufactured the same way ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles are. In a factory that uses tons of electricity to make the steel and or aluminum uses in the body, frame, and other areas, the plastic found in the interior, and carpeting. How about that glass. Forged in the same factory that supplies manufacturers of ICE vehicles. And let’s not forget about the batteries. Their carbon footprint for manufacturing is even larger and where do they go when they wear out?

Mustang Mach-E we reviewed earlier this year. Nice car but not a Mustang

Related Video: Come along with Mark as he reviews the Mustang Mach-E

So much for the manufacturing. Now let’s talk about tax revenue. With the exception of Teslas, owners receive a tax credit. Less revenue to run this country which almost always seems to be running out of money. Now since EV’s don’t fill up with gas, there’s lost tax revenue there that goes to many things like road construction and repairs. Boom, gone!

Now let’s talk about charging. It’s gotten a lot better. The longest range EV according to the EPA is the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus that will got you 263 miles before needing a charge. But here comes the downside and deal breaker for me. It requires 8.5 hours to get a full charge and that’s assuming you can plug into 220V. Sure, the standard argument is that you can do that overnight but what if you need to travel a longer distance? I hate waiting.

Tesla Model 3, Photo: Tesla

Let’s talk about them spontaneously bursting into flames. Have you read about the Chevy Bolt? Here’s a new term for you, thermal runaway. This happens when the battery overheats, over-pressurizes and boom! (I’ll talk about my experiences in a bit).This happened so much that GM was forced to recall all of them. Do EV’s catch fire more than ICE cars? There is no reliable data. What is a fact though is that because of all that energy in the battery they generate more heat and take longer to put out.

Remains of a Chevy Bolt. Photo: Electrek.com

My blogging partner, Mark, reminds me that EV’s are coming. More like the flavor of the month. With virtually no infrastructure for charging, they are decades from any mainstream acceptance. Here’s an example. Kwik Trip is a large midwestern gas station/convenience store operator and I go there a lot.

EV plug at Kwik Trip in Wisconsin

I found this example recently. Their charging station with the same 120 v plug you’d find in and outside plug at your home. Think of the charge time on that bad boy. Even with tax credits according to Pew Research about 231,000 all-electric vehicles were sold in 2020, down 3.2% from 2018. In each of the past three years, EV’s accounted for about 2% of the U.S. new-car market which is tiny. It would most likely be even smaller if it were not for government tax credits as incentives, some as high as $7,500.

I’m fine with hybrids and had a chance to drive two very different ones recently at the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) event at Road America.

First, there was the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe which I had a chance to take off road. The first thing I noticed, especially after just driving the Wrangler 392 with its rumble, was how quite it was. And it was never lacking for power when I needed it to climb a hill or get through some mud. FYI, it is the number one selling hybrid. What does that say for saving the planet and having a whole lot of fun doing it?

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe doing what it does best, get dirty.

The other vehicle was the Karma GS-6, a masterpiece of design. This car oozes cool both inside and out. The interior looks like it was designed for the 25th century. So futuristic looking but with a price tag of just over 100 grand, not for everybody.

Karma GS-6 looking like it would do well on the four-mile track.

Electric propulsion works well on a smaller scale

Here’s where I’m big on battery powered propulsion. One of my time, and money sucking hobbies, is radio controlled airplanes. This is the segment that has experienced a huge jump in technology the last couple of years. My first electric plane I was small Piper Cub, or something that resembled one, with a two-foot wingspan. It carried 6 nickel cadmium batteries slightly smaller than AAA’s. The battery took about an hour to charge and the plane flew for maybe five minutes. Charging the battery was sketchy at best. If you looked at them the wrong way, they would burn up. Sound familiar? The plane barely had enough power to get out of its own way.

Several of my LiPo batteries

Flash forward to today. Now we fly with Liquid Polimer batteries (LiPo’s) which hold tons more energy. I just sold my last gas-powered airplane and with the exception of my turbine jet am now an all-electric fleet. This wasn’t something that I had decided to do on a whim. It took a while so that I could have several planes utilizing similar batteries based on their size. While there are still electric planes that will have very short flight times, mine can fly on an average of five to eight minutes. That might sound like a short time but it’s maybe slightly shorter than gas powered planes. Care must be taken with the batteries just like the ones that go in the car because they can catch fire and have been known to burn up a car or entire garage.

EDF from my A-10.

Some of my planes are actually jets with electric ducted fans powering them. Sort of like a little turbine except with an electric motor. It takes 30 minutes to an hour to charge the batteries on one of the several chargers I have. All of the flying fields have power for me to charge the batteries. One even uses solar cells that charge storage batteries. Unlike the EV auto industry there are no tax breaks for guys like us for doing this. It is driven by demand only and doing really well. Each time I show up at the field I see new electric planes.

While converting planes from fuel to electric is popular I want to share an example of one of my planes that I built designed specifically for electric power. The Avro Vulcan was a cold-war era four-engine jet bomber the English flew. It was designed to defend England from a Russian nuclear attack. Go check out this video and turn up the volume to hear what’s called the Vulcan Howl. The Jet was so far ahead of its time.

Avro Vulcan in flight

My radio control model is a large one, 80 inch wingspan, the fuselage is 74 inches long and it weighs just 14 pounds. It’s powered by four electric ducted fans and requires four Li-Po batteries. Efficiency in the build was critical here and with a combination of balsa, ply, carbon fiber and foam it has a 14-1 thrust ratio.

A friend of mine an I both built Vulcan’s a few years ago and they are a blast to fly. We have had both of them up at the same time as you can see in this video.

My RC Avro Vulcan on display at EAA’s AirVenture

Will commercial aviation go all-electric? Not in mine or your lifetime. Right now they are just getting into that but on a very small scale. Commuter aircraft are a possiblity but that represents about 2% of all commercial flights.

And finally my point

A good friend of mine, Mike Dorna, who works at Briggs & Stratton here in Milwaukee forwarded and great article on this hole electric bruh ha ha. Mike’s dad was one of the engineers who developed an EV hybrid for the company while they were still just dreams. Jay Leno did a segment on it.

Briggs and Stratton Hybrid designed and built in Milwaukee. YouTube screen grab.

In the article by Tony Adams, who launched Engine + Powertrain Technology International brings up valid points that are often ignored by the media. He points out that gigafactories are being built but the eco-ramification of building them is being ignored. The exhaustion of cobalt and other rare earth materials with questionable supply chains are being overlooked. Then there’s the eco credentials of the batteries themselves is being disregarded and so are the weight and generally negative dynamic effects of heavily over-burdened cars.

Rather than trying to create a totally new system that will expend gobs of energy, how about alternative fuels like maybe hydrogen? It’s free and the most abundant chemical in the universe and we don’t even have to drill for it! Talk about zero emmissions, this is it and cars can be developed to run on it. Gas stations can dispense it just like they do gasoline now and it’s a much better alternative than electric.

They simply take energy and turn it into rotational movement – the difference is that in a normal electric car, this energy only comes from an on-board battery that needs to be charged up, while in a hydrogen car it comes from an on-board generator that uses hydrogen. A hydrogen car can be taken from empty to full in a few minutes at a fuel pump, like a petrol or diesel car – so in this way they’re better than electric cars, and it’s convenient.

Photo: Porsche

Porsche is testing a synthetic eFuel made out of CO2 and hydrogen and are produced using renewable energy. This creates a liquid that an engine will burn the same as if it was gasoline made from crude oil, but in theory, an eFuel can be produced in a climate-neutral manner. They expect to have its first small test batch, 34,340 gallons ready by 2022.

Ok, I’m done now. Watch carefully how the EV game is played out in Europe. The UK has set 2040 for a date where they are going to ban the sale of ICE cars. Good luck with that. Please somebody make sanity take over. This is nuts!

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD

Highlander gets bigger and better …

I’m not a bigger is better sort of guy. My parents used to tell me the best things come in small packages.

So I’m not one to automatically rave about Toyota’s new Highlander because it has grown dimensionally, about 2.5 inches of wheelbase and overall length. But if you’re a larger family looking for a super reliable mid-size sport-utility vehicle to haul seven or eight folks, that extra room is as welcome as a stimulus check. Continue reading 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster

Mercedes’ AMG GT C is a street legal racer …

Mercedes-Benz has been dominating Formula 1 racing for six years and it has a long history of dominant race cars dating back to the 1930s. Famous race drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, and now Lewis Hamilton have put Mercedes squarely in the public eye.

Winning is the name of Mercedes game and Mercedes has been slapping an exclamation point on that in its road cars since 1967 via AMG. That’s Mercedes high-performance division, a separate unit that virtually customizes certain Mercedes-Benz vehicles to near race standards. AMG was launched by Daimler, Mercedes’ parent. Continue reading 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4

Latest Wrangler Unlimited stirs ride, handling questions …  

A couple years back I drove the newly redesigned Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and was wowed by how much better it rode, and drove, than previous Wranglers.

For those who don’t worship Jeeps as God’s gift to off-roaders, the Wrangler (2-door) and Wrangler Unlimited (4-door) are Jeep lovers’ favorite Jeep. They look decidedly Jeepy, like updated World War II workhorses, but with today’s interior finery and much better fit and finish outside. Plus they aren’t all olive drab. My test unit was Firecracker Red, a bright red that looked great. Continue reading 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Veloster N a hot hatchback, but avoid snow …

With apologies to the late Dr. John, I was in the right place, but it must have been the wrong time. … I been in the right trip, but I must have used the wrong car.

The day after Hyundai’s Racing Red Veloster N arrived, it snowed. I know, it’s too early, but it snowed. It was exactly the wrong time to have this peppy high-value street racer, this boy (and girl) toy that is perfectly aimed at the bullseye that is the youth market. Continue reading 2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 BMW M2 Competition Coupe

BMW M2 a fast car on track, but tough on the tushie …

BMW is as synonymous with racing as Porsche and Ferrari, but also known for making road-worthy sedans and coupes that offer at least a modicum of civility and practicality.

As its 3 Series and 5 Series cars have continued to grow, both in size and price, BMW wisely stepped back toward its roots to create both a 1 and 2 Series. These are smaller and less pricey, comparatively, from its mainstream offerings. Continue reading 2019 BMW M2 Competition Coupe

MAMA 2019 Spring Rally: Car heaven for auto journalist

So many cars to choose from

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to do some off-roading

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

Related: Read about my first drive of the Gladiator.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s hard to say goodby

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

So long newspaper life, but wait, there’s more!

A few of my earliest Milwaukee Sentinel columns. Ignore that sketch of the young punk reviewer!

The times, and location of car columns, is a changin’ ….

There comes a time to say goodbye to parts of our lives.

Since 1984 my byline has appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel, and later the Journal Sentinel, first on feature stories, then business stories and since at least 1989 on a car review column, Savage on wheels. On Jan. 21 my last column appeared in the Sunday Cars section.

We had a lot of fun in those early Sentinel years. Just for grins I tested a military version of the Hummer during the Gulf War, drove the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, tested a watercraft on Lac La Belle, a Duck at the Wisconsin Dells, and drove a one-horse open sleigh at Old World Wisconsin. I even got to fulfill a childhood dream by taking a 3-day Skip Barber racing class at Road America, and while the Andretti clan didn’t have anything to worry about, I had a blast, and got faster each day.

By my estimate I’ve driven more than 1,500 cars and trucks for my reviews, although never a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Yet I did get to drive a Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Lotus, along with numerous Jaguars, Audis, Mercedes, Lexus, and Jeeps, even off road. Heck, some brands I tested in that stretch are long gone — Plymouth, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Scion, Suzuki. Looks like brands starting with P and S are doomed!

Don’t ask which car was my favorite, I can’t pick just one.

I left the paper 18+ years ago for a magazine career at Kalmbach Media and there was no reason the Journal Sentinel had to let me keep writing the column. But the editors did, and I’m eternally grateful.

So this is just an online thank you note to everyone who has supported me at the newspaper, and all my faithful readers for 30+ years who have been critiquing (mentally and via email) my reviews, my annual Zoomie awards, and stories from the Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee auto shows. It was a great ride. Thanks so much.

But wait, there’s more … While bidding goodbye to my newspaper home of 35 years, this is not goodbye for Savage on wheels. There’s still my website, AND, some good news will be coming shortly from another trusted Milwaukee media outlet that plans to carry my weekly car and truck reviews. So stay tuned!

 

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Beauty goes to the bone with Lexus LC 500h …lex2a

Beauty should be more than skin deep when a car crosses the $100 grand threshold and beauty goes clear to the bone with the Lexus LC 500h. This is the hybrid version of the luxury car maker’s grand tourer (GT).

I’d tested the V8 powered 2+2 screamer during the summer and was wowed by its looks, power, handling and interior design and comfort. All the good stuff remains. In fact, not much is different in this hybrid version, save the hybrid system itself and the fact it’s mated to a 3.5-liter V6. Continue reading 2018 Lexus LC 500h