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1932 Cadillac V16 Sport Phaeton

Auto World’s 1932 Cadillac V16 Sport Phaeton

I’m no authority on pre-war classic cars, but most car crazies like me recognize the Cadillac V16 or Sixteen as it was often called.

This was Cadillac’s most powerful and expensive car to date when introduced at the New York Auto Show in January of 1930. Talk about bad timing, the Depression had just begun.

Yet the wealthy and famous still had cash and more than 2,000 V-16 models were ordered in the first six months of production with 2,500 selling that first year. That was an amazing number and even more so in that just 4,076 of the cars were ever made during an 11-year run from 1930 to 1940 when GM stopped production as it ramped up for World War II military production.

Auto World expands its 1:18 scale classic car lineup with a new dark green 1932 Cadillac V16 Sport Phaeton and it’s an eye-pleaser.

The History

Just 300 of the 1932 models were made as sales began to rapidly fade. Cadillac made only 50 V-16 models a couple of years in the late 1930s.

Originally the bodies were made mostly by Fleetwood Metal Body, but by 1932 Fischer Body had taken over that function for the Harley J. Earl-designed Cadillacs. Earl would later become GM’s design chief and was known for his use of concept cars to introduce radical designs including tail fins. He also was involved in design of the original Corvette.

All orders were custom for the V16 and research says 70 styling codes were used during the car’s production life. The Sport Phaeton was one of those and its styling was sportier as it employed a longer hood and lower roofline, here with a tan top over the green body. Fenders also were more curved and the headlamp shells were streamlined too.

The Phaeton also used a second windshield just in front of the rear seats to distinguish it, this version being the fold-down style known as a dual-cowl design.

For the record, V16s were made in 2- and 4-door convertibles, 2-door coupes and 4-door sedans, town cars and even limousines. Power came from a narrow 45-degree V16 creating what now seems a paltry 165 horsepower, but reportedly the cars could hit at least 116 mph, incredibly fast at the time. Power was smooth from the V16 and said to run so quietly they were hard to hear.

These were massive cars, unsurprisingly, riding on 149 to 154-inch wheelbases, so a couple feet longer than today’s giant pickups and SUVs. Lead sleds too. They weighed between 5,300 and 6,600 pounds.

One 1930 Town Brougham model was listed at $9,200 new. That would be about $149,000 in today’s dollars, probably a bit much for the Depression era and before any silicon chip boom.

The Model

               A beautiful car beautifully reproduced with real rubber tires and a sharp-looking tan plastic roof that looks like canvas and easily snaps off to pose as a convertible.

Big folding hood, long V16 engine under the cowl.

               The body shape and functionality are excellent as always, with both front doors opening and the dual sided hood folding up independently. Under the hood the massive V16 fills the engine bay and features silver headers and exhaust pipes, plus V-shaped chrome bracing to stiffen the car’s front end. There’s also a fan behind the radiator, the front of which is chromed with a handsome V16 logo on its face.

Sharp heron hood ornament on the ’32 Caddy.

Atop the radiator is a chrome Cadillac heron hood ornament to class up the Caddy. That heron was swapped for a goddess style ornament the following year.

               Up front is a banded chrome bumper with two running lights atop that, then the streamlined sealed beam chrome headlights and horns atop the gently rounded front fenders. Turn signal lamps, also chromed rest atop each fender.

A large trunk rests on the luggage rack in back, while two silver exhausts exit below.

               Out back are dual slim but wide chrome exhausts, the chrome banded bumper and chrome trunk holder along with chrome taillights and a chrome trunk handle. A green trunk rests atop the chrome stand.

               A silver trim line runs from the nose around the top of the tail and then around to the other side’s nose and there are chrome door handles and windshield trim, on both shields. I like that the side vent windows move so you can pose them in or out and these too are trimmed in silver paint.

A long engine block and headers are visible beneath the hood.

               Need more flash? Well, there are tall white sidewall tires tucked into the fenders on each side, plus a chrome ring holding them each in place while chrome mirrors are molded into their tops.

               Along each side are black running boards trimmed in silver paint.

               Tires are wide white-sidewalls, treated but not branded and they wrap around spiffy chrome wire wheels with a red V16 logo at the center of each hub. Likewise, the spares showcase the same wire wheels.

Like the V16 logo on the steering wheel hub, while the dash is simply presented.

               AW creates black textured seats to reflect a leathery look in both passenger compartments while the front door trim features the same look, plus chrome door releases.

               The dash is simple with seven round gauges printed on its black face, plus a series of buttons arranged vertically mid-dash. Pedals are far beneath the dash and a tall chrome shift lever rises to next of the gloss black steering wheel, which also features that red Caddy V16 logo.

Adjustable wing windows add a nice touch of detail.

               The undercarriage is complete too with black chassis, suspension parts and differential, plus dual silver exhaust systems.

               Cars were both simpler mechanically, yet more ornate in the 1930s, Depression or not. This 1:18 model is a sterling representation of that chrome-laden era and the elegance of its luxury cars.        

Vital Stats: 1932 Cadillac V16 Sport Phaeton

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AW314
MSRP: $119.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

#Cadillac

#Auto World

2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

Camry Hybrid may just be the perfect family sedan …

This may surprise you, but it’s exceedingly rare that I long for a test car that has been returned, but this week even I was surprised at my disappointment when of all things a 2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid left the Savage abode.

You might suspect I’d have saved my tears for a Nissan Z, a Genesis GV60, or a new Corvette. Those too can tug at the tear ducts.

Several people even poo-pooed my fortunes for having to test the “dullest” car in America, but I quickly corrected them. Maybe they were thinking of the Prius.

There are reasons why Toyota’s Camry has been the top-selling sedan in the US market for roughly 20 years. It’s becoming the Ford F-150 of sedans via its longevity atop the market.

Camry is a champ and rocks on so many fronts I’ll try to be brief in my summary, but there’s a lot to unpack.

Start with looks, something I bet you’d never suspect I’d say. But a couple years back Toyota chose wisely and drank from the better styling cup. Ever since the once blah Camry has turned edgier with a sleek, beautiful nose that makes its Lexus luxury brand look downright gaudy. The headlights are slim and wonderfully blended with the grille and hood. The profile is slim and elegant, and the tail, well, just fine.

Bathe the handsome, sophisticated Camry in Supersonic Red (just $425 extra) and the sedan becomes Lady Gaga in a sequined gown.

Love engine choices? For internal combustion (gas) engine lovers there are two choices, including a powerful V6, but for families on a budget and with even a smidgen of social consciousness the Camry Hybrid is a rock star.

Camry’s 2.5-liter I4 combined with Toyota’s proven (20+ years) hybrid system nets a 44 mpg rating city and 47 mpg highway from the EPA, yet still delivers 208 horsepower. And get this, in about 80% highway driving I got a stellar 48.2 mpg. For more than 450 miles of driving I spent $25. Your weekly commute gas budget just giggled.

“Parental unit, can we stop for frozen custard on the way home from soccer practice?”

“Yes, my children.”

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid – YouTube

But if this were an econobox that was cramped and had no digital doodads or safety gear … Well, it’s not.

Camry is a mid-size sedan but rides on a 111.2-inch wheelbase to give it an excellent ride, coupled with good, easy, well-controlled handling. Comfort reigns, but is never grandma’s plastic-covered living room dowdy.

The power from the hybrid system that gets its electric charge from regenerative braking is quickly delivered, but acceleration is smooth, mild, but steady. An electronically adjusted CVT (continuously variable transmission) is partially responsible for that and for the excellent MPG.

There’s a Sport mode on the console to kick up the acceleration some, and is handy for highway entry. Still, this will not resemble a sport sedan’s quickness. Normal and Eco mode also are available. Normal is what you’ll stick with 90% of the time.

Finally, a good-sized touchscreen with buttons all around and is easy to use.

Interior comfort is guaranteed too with the XLE being Camry’s luxury-leaning trim level that provides 8-way power leather seats with the front ones being heated. Seats are mildly contoured so pleasant on a long drive and there is plenty of room in back for three adults. XLE also upgrades the standard 8-inch info screen to 9 inches.

But it’s the design of the touchscreen that impresses beyond its size. Instead of a silly knob on the console or a mix of onscreen and dash buttons, there are 8 key buttons around the screen (4 to a side) clearly labeled Home, Menu, Audio, Map, Seek, Track, Phone and Apps. Smartly there also are volume and tuning knobs.

All this makes the info screen and JBL sound system (standard on XLE) a breeze to engage while driving. Take that you tech-for-tech’s-sake luxury brands.

Camry delivers a good-looking interior with everything logically located.

Another plus, Camry’s interior is sharp looking in addition to being functional.

This bright red car’s leather was a cream color and the seats perforated for better airflow from its heated and cooled seats. Heat is standard while the cooling is part of a $1,430 package that includes a 10-inch color HUD, panoramic view monitor, front/rear parking assist with automatic braking.

Elegant streamlined designed, even in the door panels.

The dash and door tops are black to create a two-tone interior, pretty common these days among the sharper vehicles. Trim is a graphite gray around the air vents and other dash trim, plus the armrest trim by the power window controls and the console’s top. There is a bit of gloss black trim on the stack, but not enough to create reflection woes.

Overhead is a sunroof ($860 extra) and for a modest $150 the leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, a Wisconsin necessity.

Standard features include a wireless phone charger under the center stack, smart cruise control and a bevy of other safety equipment, all part of Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5. That includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, a lane departure system with steering assist, automatic high beams, lane tracing assist and road sign assist.

Toyota also allows a driver to override the lane departure system, so if you’re in a congested and construction-heavy city or highway driving situation you can punch a button and not have the system beeping or trying to keep you centered in your lane. Bravo. Having this choice often is a safety concern these days.

Assuming you have five adults on board, which again IS possible here without amputations or forcing anyone into a socially embarrassing position, there’s oodles of trunk space for luggage. At 15.1 cubic feet the deep trunk will hold luggage for the entire crew, even several sets of golf clubs.

The only thing I missed, the only negative here, is large map pockets in the doors. These were tiny and tight to get at, so of limited use.

Pricing is amazing, a bargain throughout the lineup and should push more dollar-conscious buyers toward a sedan and away from mid-size crossovers and gas gulping SUVs.

The base Camry Hybrid, the LE, starts at $29,105 including delivery. There are five trim levels with the XLE being mid-level luxury at $34,065 including delivery. The sportier XSE is just about $500 more. The SE and SE Nightshade (featuring blacks and dark blues) also are available in the hybrid model.

Adding 11 options pushed the test car to $40,232, still an average new car price, so certainly one could be had mid-$30k range. No AWD feature is available, same as its main competitor, Honda’s Accord.

Gas-powered Camrys are available in that same price range, topping out with the TRD model featuring the 308-horse V6.

Stylish lights and nose help keep Camry atop the sedan market.

But for families on a budget, yet not wanting to look like it, the Camry Hybrid in any form is a bargain to buy, and operate, but with a luxury look, feel and all the digital goodies one actually needs.

Camry remains king of the sedans.

FAST STATS: 2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

Hits: Sharp styling, great mpg, excellent ride, good handling, decent power in comfy family sedan. Good rear seat and trunk room, sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, super info screen and buttons, wireless charger, smart cruise control and on/off lane departure, plus 3 drive modes, JBL sound system, comfy power seats. Bargain pricing!

Misses: Small door map pockets

Made in: Georgetown, Ky.

Engine: 2.5-liter I4 hybrid, 208 hp/163 torque

Transmission: ECVT automatic

Weight: 3,565 lbs.

Wheelbase: 111.2 in.

Length: 192.1 in.

Cargo: 15.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 44/47

MPG: 48.2 (tested)

Base Price: $34,065 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $31,358

Major Options:

Driver assist pkg. (10-inch color HUD, panoramic view monitor, front/rear parking assist w/auto braking, multi-stage cooled front seats), $1,430

Heated steering wheel, $150

Adaptive headlights, $615

Nav pkg. (premium audio, 9-inch touchscreen w/nav, 9 JBL speaker w/subwoofer & amplifier, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay compatible, satellite radio for 3 months), $1,760

Power sunroof, $860

Supersonic Red paint, $425

Trunk LED bulb, $25

Mud guards, $129

Illuminated door sills, $345

Door edge guards, $129

Carpet floor mats/cargo mat, $299

Test vehicle: $40,232

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Toyota

#Toyota Camry hybrid

2023 Nissan Z Performance

Z (it’s only Z now) nails modern, yet retro, looks and power …

Not many car lines go all the way to Z.

But Nissan has been going all the way since 1969 when it launched the Datsun 240Z its long-hooded sports car for the rest of us. I thought of it as a mini-Corvette at the time and, well, I still do.

In fact, Nissan’s relaunched 2023 version, now just called Z, has a nose that reflects both past and present Corvettes with its sleek pointy snout. Yet the new model has been smoothed and the hatch roofline slimmed to give the care a sleeker look. The Z also has been powered up with a 400-horse twin-turbo V6 and given a spiffy new digital-laden interior to bring it in line with today’s usual electronic wizardry.

My pre-production test car (dealers are to get theirs soon) was a stunning Seiran Blue Metallic with black roof, that two-tone paint scheme adding $1,295 to the sticker. But if ever I’d pay extra for paint, this may do it. Folks looked, some gave a thumbs up, others came out of their houses to see it up close at the curb. No doubt Nissan nailed the modern, yet retro, styling.

No pretense of this being a family car or carrying more than two as there are just two seats here and a long cargo area under a glassy hatch, but still just minor cargo space. Again, there will just be two of you with a suitcase each and Z accommodates that. Golfers may have to make other arrangements and forgo a hand cart.

Styling aside, and that’s hard to even say, the tested Z Performance was a well-controlled rocket with those 400 rear-wheel-driving horses pushing this up and down highway entry ramps like it was heading out of the pits at Road America. Heck, it just might!

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2023 Z Car – YouTube

Unlike almost any other sports car the Z comes standard with a 6-speed manual, otherwise known as a standard transmission or stick shift. Younger drivers may not be aware, but this is the way many vehicles used to arrive, an automatic tranny costing extra. Ironically, today’s automatics (a 9-speed is optional) now get better fuel economy than the manuals, but that’s another issue.

The stick is fun and easy to slide between the gears, although the throws are longer than I had anticipated. Mazda’s Miata still has the shortest throws I’ve encountered, but this works nicely and the clutch is moderately weighted so not a leg cramper in stop-and-go traffic. My one initial concern was how hard I had to push the shifter down to slide it far right for reverse. I got used to it.

Also need to mention that there’s a SynchroRev Match system here to blip the engine and match its revs to the gear you’ve selected. So as you downshift into a corner that sweet burp of the engine lets your passenger know you’re a legit road racer. Thanks techies!

Nissan’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine is stout and smooth. It feels strong as you slip through the gears and can easily lead to tire squawks. This had low-pro performance 19-inch tires that gripped the road like crazy until we had an early fall monsoon. Shifting early to maintain traction was needed in the wet. All-season tires would help, but then you lose performance and, well, Performance is this model’s last name.

Handling as insinuated above was sports car fun, meaning responsive. Wheel feel is moderate and this steering wheel is wrapped in leather, as is the shift knob. The Nissan Z is well-balanced with neutral handling. I’ve heard some say it’s too easy to swing its tail, but until it rained I was having no issues.

Ride is firm as you’d expect in a car of just 100-inch wheelbase. Plus the Performance model adds a sportier tuned suspension, so if like me you prefer a bit softer ride (I’m 60+) then the standard Z may be a more comforting choice, plus it will save you some dough.

Z’s brakes also deserve a mention here. The Performance trim gets enhanced brakes with red calipers with Nissan labeling. Front and rear discs are vented 14 and 13.8 inchers, so stopping distance and quickness is awesome. I suspect the standard brakes aren’t too shabby either.

Inside Nissan designers have created a very comfy, livable interior that would allow for long highway jaunts.

The digital dash is clean and the 9-inch touchscreen (8-inch is standard) is big enough but not overpowering, plus simple to use. I had no issues and the Bose sound system is solid too.

Interior styling and the comfy seats likely will dazzle most riders though.

First, this one featured blue leather seats and blue dash and door trim under a soft black dash top. Door inserts are suede trimmed in leather and the seats feature a suede center section that’s perforated.

Console and dash are basically a matte black so no nasty sun reflections here, something other car makers could learn from. That console is trimmed in blue leather to add visual pop too.

Retro gauges, but more useful ones would be a help!

Atop the dash for a retro look are three gauges that might matter if you were racing as they tell Boost, Turbo Speedm and Volts. I’d challenge most folks to know what voltage their car should be showing on a gauge (about 14 here) and as long as I can feel the turbo boost I’m not sure I need a number placed on it. So while I appreciate the retro look, I’d say substitute more useful info such as a fuel gauge or clock.

Nissan’s performance seats are beautifully sculpted and fitted to encircle the driver and passenger so they don’t slide about, or even move, when the car is rocketing around tight rural highway twisties, or during a track day. Shorter folks may find these a bit too confining, but I loved the seats, which are partially powered. That’s right, there are two power buttons on the inside edge (toward the console) of the seat. These control fore and aft movement and the seat back’s angle. Takes a bit to get used to the location, but I did within a week.

The power seat controls are on the inside seat edge.

On the left side are manual controls to adjust the seat bottom’s angle and a height adjustment for the rear of the seat bottom. I’d like it to go just a tad higher, but I’m just 5-5. Nissan heats the seats too.

The Z’s steering wheel is a manual tilt/telescope model, but round and not heated. I’d prefer a flat-bottom wheel in any sports car and especially to create more knee room when one is shifting a manual and also when exiting. I found too that unless I could open the door to its maximum sweep I had trouble getting my right foot clear of its edge when getting out.

A couple other issues to consider inside. First, the cup holders are so far back on the console they are difficult to use, although easier for long-legged drivers who may position the seat all the way back. The storage box there also is way behind the elbow, but then again, this is a two-seater and space is limited, especially with a manual shift lever on the console.

There also is no wireless phone charger in the tray under the center stack, just a nice spot to lay your phone. And while I know this is a sports car with a throaty growl, road noise, especially on cement, can make listening to the radio a bit of a chore.

That hatch opens wide, but the cargo bay is mighty shallow.

I did like the three climate control dials, all of which can be set to automatic for fan speed, temperature and the directional. Nice!

Safety features are solid here too with smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitor.

Fuel economy is nothing special, but you’re buying this for power, not efficiency. The EPA rates Nissan’s Z at 18 mpg city and 24 highway for the manual version and I got 22.8 mpg in a mix of city and highway. And yes, this drinks premium fuel.

Note that the automatic is rated better at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

Big disc brakes with red calipers confirm this is a sports car!

Pricing?

The base level Nissan Z is an absolute bargain for power, looks and handling, starting at $41,015, including delivery. So think of it as 400 hp for $40k. There are two more levels though, and these push the envelope a bit, exceeding $50k.

The tested Performance model starts at $51,015 with delivery and ended up at $53,210 adding just the snazzy paint job, illuminated kick plates ($500), and floor mats ($400). The top level Proto Spec lists at $54,015.

Z epitomizes modern fastback style sports car and is an automotive icon. At its base price it’s extremely attractive. Move up to the higher versions and you’re in the Audi TT and BMW Z4 range. So at that level you may just want to consider a Kia Stinger or Ford Mustang and get a rear seat to boot!

FAST STATS: 2023 Nissan Z Performance

Hits: Stylish 2-seater, excellent power, balanced neutral handling, good brakes, slick stick shift. Excellent seat comfort, heated seats, automatic climate control dials, good info screen size and function and good level of safety devices.

Misses: Firm ride, considerable road noise at highway speeds, tough exit when door isn’t 100% opened, awkward cup holder placement, no heated steering wheel, no flat-bottom wheel, long shift throws, no wireless charger, little cargo room and premium fuel preferred.

Snazzy door handle styling on the Z!

Made in: Japan

Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, 400 hp/350 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 3,507 lbs.

Wheelbase: 100.4 in.

Length: 172.4 in.

Cargo: 7.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 18/24

MPG: 22.8 (tested)

Base Price: $51,015 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Illuminated kick plates, $500

Two-tone paint, $1,295

Floor mats, $400

Test vehicle: $53,210

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Nissan Z

#Z car

#Nissan

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible

Say Yes to Auto World’s latest, a ’57 Chevy from “Dr. No” …

Evil usually is depicted in black, and Dr. No was no exception. The James Bond villain’s car which was intended to carry Bond to his certain death was a black 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, although with a spiffy red and silver interior.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen, Bond prevailed!

Hard as it is to imagine, 60 years have passed since “Dr. No”, the first Bond thriller, hit the movie theaters and Sean Connery would forever be James Bond. Now Auto World marks the anniversary with a handsome 1:18 scale model replicating the first cool car that Bond wheeled in the lengthy cinematic series.

This swanky black ’57 Chevy with its entertainingly decorated box featuring a “Dr. No” movie poster comes just a few months after AW turned out a much perkier Barbie version of the Bel Air convertible. That one was baby blue with pink interior and a twin that was just the opposite, pink with blue interior.

This one may fit less shockingly into your 1950s car collection of which more than a few are likely AW releases from the past as the firm specializes in 1950s-1970s muscle cars along with other vintage automotive icons. The same quality and attention to detail is here and this version, like the Barbie edition, is being marketed under AW’s Silver Screen Machines category.

Here’s what you get.

The Model

               There is plenty of functionality with opening doors, hood and steerable front wheels, while the trunk is sealed. Like other AW models, the undercarriage is nicely detailed (including dual exhausts), so posing it on a mirrored base would make sense.

               As you’d expect with a 1957 car there’s enough chrome to make a medieval knight envious. That starts with the massive front and rear bumpers, plus the head and taillight surrounds, rocker panel trim, the side accent line trim and fins, plus door handles, wiper arms and windshield frame. Even the two hood sights are chromed, as are the vent window frames.

               Hub caps are chrome with chrome center wheel nuts featuring red centers and tiny Chevy bowtie logos. Then there are those giant protruding bumper guards on the front that look like, well, you know. These are black-tipped (that’s tip my friends), as they were on the original ’57 Chevys.

               Both the hood and trunk feature copper-colored chevrons (a long-time Chevy emblem) and the Bel-Air script on the fins’ side trim also is copper. While the top of the fins are chromed, naturally.

The front fenders display three copper bars as trim and just in front of the doors are the patented Chevy crossed-flags logos with the term, Fuel Injection, printed beneath.

               Pop open the hood and there’s the red Chevy engine block with silver air filter and fuel injection system, a black battery and radiator with black horn on the front left. Big hood hinges allow the car’s hood to be easily posed in the raised position.

               The red and silver seats in the interior look nice too, not glossy, but more like a matte vinyl, which matches some 1950s Chevy seating. These include two red buttons on the silver background of each seat back. Likewise the tonneau cover is a matching matte red with silver snap heads neatly arranged around the edges.

               Chevy’s dash top is red with red-ringed instrument panel gauges and a chromed trim across its face and surrounding the radio and its dials. The dash and red steering wheel definitely look like plastic. Too bad they aren’t the same matte finish as the seats. Naturally the wheel’s center horn ring is chrome.          

               The model’s door handles and window cranks are chrome and Bel Air appears in script on the passenger’s side dash facing. Sun visors are a matte silver to match the color of the seat centers.

               Tires are wide white sidewalls and treaded, but not branded. A generic black license plate rides on the trunk face. It reads CC over J 7715. Not sure what that means, but it may be what the movie’s car featured back in 1962. Hard to remember that much detail that far back, even for us Boomers.

               This model is a double win for Bond fans and ’57 Chevy aficionados!

Vital Stats: 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible, “Dr. No” version

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AWSS134
MSRP: $149.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

#57 Chevy

#James Bond

#Dr. No

#Auto World

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

V8 makes luxurious Defender crazy fast, but for off-roading? …

If vehicles were to be judged strictly on how well they drive then Land Rover’s two-door Defender 90 V8 would be a champ, both on and off road.

You see, Defender is a short-wheelbase British designed Jeep, historically, and the entry step into Land Rover’s now ritzy luxury lineup of larger SUVs. Defender is meant to be taken off road, to bound over boulders, to slop in mud, to ford streams (it’ll wade in up to 35.4 inches of bubbling brook).

Yet it’s not a Jeep, it’s a luxury SUV all its own and this version packs an ego-pleasing 518-horsepower V8. That’s better for highway hot-rodding than off-roading, and the ride and handling here deliver a luxury feel that you won’t find in any Jeep Wrangler, even the 4-door Unlimited.

No, the Defender 90 V8 is a luxury two-door with all the fixins and a price tag of $105,550 that seems to discourage off-roading and the dents, scrapes and mud that come with it.

Still, it’s a land-based cruise missile with a top speed of 149 mph and a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.4 to 4.9 seconds, says Car and Driver magazine. Land Rover’s 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly and the pistol-grip shifter delivers a jet pilot’s control mindset.

Handling is light and easy and cornering a pleasure. Parking this big beauty is a breeze.

Top heavy? Sure, a little bit, but with 22-inch Continental tires underneath you feel pretty sure-footed and the air suspension soaks up the city street cracks and crevices with ease, mostly. That’s saying something for an SUV with just a 101.9-inch wheelbase. Normally something this short is akin to riding on a skateboard, sitting down.

See Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 – YouTube

Check out Paul’s Car Spot on a vintage Rover too!

Around town Defender delivers a decidedly luxury ride, feel and handling. Put it off into the weeds and gravel and it’ll perform nicely too. Sadly Rover thinks everything should be controlled through its 11.4-inch touchscreen, which is plenty big and easy to see. Oh, but that size screen costs $140 extra. Really? Even bigger screens are standard on $40k vehicles.

And let’s admit this right here, touchscreens are fine for adjusting the radio and such, mostly while sitting at a traffic light or in your driveway, but when driving, a dedicated button often is the wiser choice. So to go several layers deep into the screen and try to find the one of 16 icons that takes you to 4WD, etc. Well, that’s not easy and can be frustrating. Decide on any off-road settings before you roll.

That touchscreen though is just the beginning of some questionable styling and functional attributes inside the Land Rover.

My tester was a deep color-shifting black, or Santorini Black, as Rover calls it. The interior was equally black, just not as shiny. Seats though were cloth with suede-like inserts, which were plenty comfy and power adjustable. But I’d expect soft high-end leather standard at the $100k price, plus wouldn’t leather be easier to clean if I did go off-roading and flipped some mud inside? I mean there are thick rubber floor mats all around so you won’t sludge up carpets.

The pistol-grip shifter, nice as it is to shift, is on the center stack, but juts out to block an easy reach to the climate control dials, which by the way include the heated and cooled seat functions. Those also can be found through the info screen.

Extending from the center stack back to between the front seats is a giant semi-open bin, cup holders and cooler/storage box just under the armrest. Nice again that the box cools so you could carry two cans of soda there on a trip, but that big bin under the stack is not real useful as the industrial looking supports all around it make it hard to retrieve anything dropped down in the bin. 

Door trim still features the bolt-on Rover look.

That leads to the oversized lid on the cooler/storage box that partially covers the wireless charging tray just in front of that box. Easy to slide the phone in for charging, but to retrieve it you’ll need to open the box’s lid. Awkward!

Likewise it’s awkward to climb in the Rover and especially so for rear seat riders. First problem, this is a two-door. Second problem it’s a huge step up (11.5 inches of ground clearance) to get inside, but there are plenty of grab handles on the dash and ceiling. Third, for the rear seat, which is fairly roomy, a person must press a button once to power the front seat forward, then flip a stiff lever atop the seat to flip the seatback forward. Once settled in back it’s easiest for your passenger-side front seat occupant to press, and hold, a power seat button to return the seat ever so slowly to its original setting. Again, really? I’ve been in $20k econo-coupes with one-lever manual seat access to the rear seat.

There’s a latch and two power buttons on the seat’s side.

Note too that if the rear seat is occupied there is precious little cargo room behind the seat, maybe one upright suitcase or several grocery bags. The rear seats do fold down to boost storage. But in practical terms the Defender is a two-person vehicle, while five could tolerate short hops around town.

One final clunker is that rear door in place of a hatch. I know Jeep-like vehicles have this feature and it does fit in well with the snazzy retro styling, including the mammoth 22-inch tire on the rear door. But that makes that door heavy and, again, awkward for loading in certain circumstances. Having the tire handy on the rear door though will be convenient when you blow a tire on a rocky outcropping when off-roading in your luxury ute.

Naturally there are good points too, like the styling, which received several compliments during my drive, and the side skylight windows just under the rear roofline.

Folks like the skylights above the large rear windows.

A panoramic sunroof is standard too and the seats are both heated and cooled, and incredibly comfortable. I like the radio volume roller on the steering wheel hub and the wheel itself is wrapped in the coziest suede covering I’ve experienced in a vehicle. I’d pay extra for that on any vehicle, along with the heated wheel, which is standard here.

The sound system is stellar too, a premium Meridian surround system with 700 watts of power. Boom!

Precious little storage behind the rear seat and the heavy rear door opens wide.

Gas mileage is mild to say the least, but then you had to have the V8, right? The EPA rates this at 15 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. I managed 16.9 mpg in a week’s mixed driving. Premium petrol is preferred, naturally. A 3.0-liter inline 6 mild hybrid also is available by the way.

Again, the starting price is $105,550 and with three small options this one drains an IRA account for $106,710. But honestly, I’m not sure anything should be optional at the starting price here for a small SUV, no matter how off-road worthy.

That said, there are eight trim levels for the Defender 90, and the base starts at $57,700 with delivery, so avoiding the higher trims and the V8 will put this into a whole other price category. And for folks wanting a more useful, but equally ornamental, version there’s the Defender 110 with a 17-inch longer wheelbase and four doors, so a family could properly use it.

The square taillights look great, but that monster spare tire weighs down the door.

That would compete well with Jeep’s new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

As it is, this one competes with the likes of the Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited (4 doors), and Grand Cherokee. Other possible capable off-roaders with luxury leanings include Toyota’s 4Runner or even its Highlander and of course Ford’s new Bronco, although its ride is not nearly so nice as the Rover’s. Most of these start in the upper-$40,000 range.

If you simply must spend more than $100 grand on a luxury off-road worthy SUV there’s also the Mercedes-Benz G Class, or G-Wagon as most folks call it. That starts about $141,000 and is even boxier. The Rover certainly wins that matchup on the styling front.

Fast Stats: 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

Hits: Thrilling power, snazzy retro looks, off-roading ability in spades, easy handling, nice ride for short wheelbase. Panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled seats, radio volume roller on wheel, Meridian sound system, heated suede-wrapped steering wheel, easy to park and a lot of grab handles.

Misses: Rear hatch opens out like door, tire on door makes it heavy, gear shift lever in way of climate controls, difficult multi-layer touchscreen, awkward access to off-road settings and clunky access to rear seats. Big step-up height, wireless charger partially blocked by big armrest/storage box lid and little cargo room.

The V8 really fills the engine compartment here.

Made in: Nitra, Slovakia

Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 518 hp/461 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,334 lbs.

Wheelbase: 101.9 in.

Length: 180.4 in.

Cargo: 14-34 cu.ft.

Tow: 8,200 lbs.

MPG: 15/19

MPG: 16.9 (tested)

Base Price: $105,550 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $92,718

Major Options:

WiFi-enabled w/limited data plan, $360

Premium interior protection w/storage pack, $660

11.4-inch touchscreen, $140

Test vehicle: $106,710

Sources: Land Rover, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Car Spot: Chevy Corvair Greenbrier

One of America’s 1st minivans?

Chevy had big plans for the Corvair when it debuted in 1960. The lineup included everything needed to sell a lot of vehicles. Besides the cars which came as a sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon, there were also several trucks like the Greenbrier, which were added in 1961, the subject of this week’s car spot, er truck spot.

I spotted this example at a recent air and car show event I was at in Oconto, WI

Like the passenger cars, Chevy followed in VW’s footsteps, ie the Transporter, placing the driver controls ahead of the front axle providing impressive cargo and passenger carrying space within a compact car footprint. The Greenbrier wasn’t alone in the marketplace competing against Ford’s Falcon based forward-control Econoline and Dodge’s similarly Valiant-affiliated A100 van which arrived in 1964.

Related Story: Read about a priceless Corvair

The Greenbrier found its niche as a camper-van. The low floor gave 1.5 inches more inside height than the 10-inch-taller Econoline, and the side doors were taller and wider. Field & Stream magazine loved it, and in a review wrote: “My test vehicle remained rigid and rattle-free over the worst roads.”

That’s a lot for what was a big, open box stuffed with all manner of aftermarket plywood furnishings including a kitchen sink. What the media wasn’t high on was the vehicle’s 80-hp engine, but in 1964 it received a bore and stroke increase that boosted displacement from 145 cubic inches to 164.

This is where the engine breathed.

Base output increased 15 hp to 95, with the still naturally aspirated but higher compression Turbo-Air engine producing 110 hp, nearly double the output of VW’s by then upgraded 1500 engine (52 hp), and comfortably ahead of the Econoline’s 105. Car and Driver‘s Barry Brown went so far as to build himself a sleeper performance van: “I am satisfied as I have never been with any other automobile — it is a business tool, family car, and sports car all at the same time.” Wow, that’s saying a lot.

While total Corvair sales totaled almost two million the van didn’t prove as popular as the cars and sold around 50,000 units. It was a hit out of the gate selling 15,806 it’s first year and just 1,528 its last year, 1965. Like the passenger versions it’s very affordable. I found many listed in great shape for around 10 grand.

Love the decal on the window, Nader Vader.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots with a little bit of history and have a great weekend.

2023 BMW 840i xDrive Gran Coupe

Swoopy Gran Coupe a luxury rocket for the 5% crowd …

There are cars Bill Gates and Warren Buffett can afford and then there are cars that any CEO or hedge fund trader might slip lovingly into their 3-car garage.

That’s the 1% vs. 5% rule in the car world, and it’s the difference between owning a Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari or Rolls and, say, a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus.

Luxury, as with other car segments, has its nuances. So while you and moi may see this week’s nearly $100 grand BMW 840i xDrive Gran Coupe (the rich and hoity call it a coo-pay), as a high-end luxury fastback sedan, the one-percenters would consider it an entry-level daily driver.

If only!

Let’s begin with looks. The 2023 BMW 840i Gran Coupe is a dart of a car, a sleek fastback that oozes sex appeal. Look at those curves, the sweep of the roof, the smoothness of its lines, the lean nose-heavy silhouette. This one was bathed in a chameleon-like Sepia Metallic paint job that looked everything from light purple to gray with gold highlights. Fantastic, but then so is the $5,500 price for the jeweled appearance.

Yet if you, or your monied significant other, were in “need” of a slinky luxury sedan you’ll find few others that drive this well or look this tempting. That’s especially true as the sedan and coupe markets continue to shrink as trucks and their progeny overrun the auto market. A few contenders might be the Audi S7, Mercedes AMG GT, Lexus LC, and Porsche Panamera.

BMW is noted for its handling and the 840i with xDrive, its AWD system, is another gem, slicing through corners at speed and slipping into parking spots at a crawl. Steering wheel feedback is reactive and precise, plus there are four drive modes to firm ride and handling while altering shift points.

The fine twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder (a standard BMW powerplant) is stout and sturdy. It’s also plenty fast for highway jaunts, pumping 335 horsepower and doing 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds. It’s capable of a top speed of 155 mph. You need faster?

OK then, go for the 850i with its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 that packs 523 hp or jump up to the Alpina B8 model with 612 horses. Of course you’ll pay more for both. Just cash in some stock options or make another clever online trade.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2023 BMW 840i Gran Coupe – YouTube

But this 840i is fast, fun and comfy as is, its 8-speed automatic shifting so smoothly it’s like a ghost transmission. While the grip from its 20-inch performance tires and that AWD make the BMW 8 Series a fine all-season car. Braking is primo too with monster four-wheel vented M-series discs. There’s also Cornering Brake Control to appropriately brake each wheel in turns to enhance cornering precision.

Naturally ride is firm, but mostly comfy even in the firmed up Sport mode. No spine tingling here.

Now, while the base Gran Coupe starts at $86,000 including delivery and this xDrive model lists at $88,895, there are plenty of add-ons to improve its already luxurious interior.

That starts with a $2,000 ivory white Merino leather seating package. For the uninformed (maybe you didn’t hand pick the leather your vehicle features) Merino leather is all natural, no funky dyes or dirt-fighting oils added and it’s as soft as a baby’s behind. The price you pay for patina is that Merino wears and soils more readily than treated leathers.

Still, a purplish car with white leather interior is pretty swank.

The dash is well laid out and appointed, now featuring a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen mounted high in the dash’s center. There’s still a rotary knob on the console to adjust it too, but most functions are easily found via the easier touchscreen functions.

Enhancing that are 8 pre-set radio buttons below the screen for easily storing your favorite channels.

A head-up display (HUD) is standard too and BMW’s digital dash simple to see and read. The test car added a fancy crystal shifter knob, a $650 option, and the start button is on the console, next to the shifter.

The baby-soft leather seats are powered, naturally, and feature buttons to adjust the lumbar four ways and a lever beneath the seat allows the lower cushion to be extended, an aid for long-legged drivers and passengers. Front seat heat is standard as is a heated steering wheel and the arm rests, a nice touch. Oddly rear seat heat costs another $650, but should be standard at this price.

The dash top is black leather with the lower portion white to match the seats while an aluminum trim enlivens the door styling and wraps into the air vent surrounds at the dash’s far corners. There’s also aluminum trim on the console surrounding the shifter and the textured surface there and on the door that covers a cubby beneath the center stack.

Yes, there’s a wireless charger there too, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, as is a Harmon Kardon premium stereo. BMW’s Gran Coupe also includess 4-zone climate controls.

Overhead are two sunroofs, with the rear roof’s controls being on the rear seat armrests, as are power side window shades and a rear window sun shade.

A power trunk release pops the trunk and opens to a spacious cargo area. This is rated at 15.5 cubic feet, which is bigger than most sedan trunks. Think golf club caddy!

Negatives? Not many beyond price.

The powerful turbo engine prefers premium fuel and I feel all sporty cars should come with a flat-bottom steering wheel to visually signal their racy leanings. There also is the unpredictable gesture control function for the radio that sometimes works, sometimes not.

Fuel mileage is decent for this size car and the power delivered. I got 22.2 mpg while the car is rated 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for the AWD model.

Visually BMW says there’s a lighted grille here, although as a driver you’d never know. Plus this one added M Shadowline lighting for $650, and bi-color double spoke wheels for $1,300. A minor add-on is the $100 Driving Assistance package that adds active blind spot detection, park distance control and assistant, plus a 3-D surround view camera. Worth the $100 as all the other safety equipment you’d expect is standard.

They say the grille is lighted, but it’s hard to tell in the daylight.

With options, the test 840i xDrive Gran coupe comes in at $99,745. Going with one of several standard colors can save you $4,000 to $5,500 though.

A two-door coupe (a less roomy rear seat, plus just two doors) is also available and a convertible model in both the 840i and 850i models. A base coupe is $84,000, and convertible $95,000

For comparison, an 850i Gran Coupe starts at $101,000, and the 850i convertible at $110,000. Moving up to that ego-pleasing superfast Alpina jumps the price to $141,000.

OK, what’ll it be Mr. Gates, one of each?

Fancy wheels, big brake rotors!

FAST STATS: 2023 BMW 840i xDrive Gran Coupe

Hits: Sleek fastback looks, interesting color and snazzy interior. Strong power, excellent handling and grip thanks to AWD. Heated seats and wheel, wireless charger, big easy-to-use screen, 4 drive modes, 8 pre-set radio buttons, comfy seats, dual sunroofs, and excellent trunk space.

Misses: Prefers premium fuel, no flat-bottom wheel, unpredictable gesture control for radio. 

Made in: Dingolfing, Germany

Sporty styling for the door panels and trim!

Engine: 3.0-liter twin turbo I6, 335 hp/368 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,180 lbs.

Wheelbase: 119 in.

Length: 200.3 in.

Cargo: 15.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/27

MPG: 22.2 (tested)

Base Price: $88,895 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $83,240

Options:

Sepia Metallic paint, $5,500

Ivory white full Merino leather, $2,000

Driving assistance pkg. (parking assistant plus, active blind spot detection, active partk distance control, surround view w/3D), $100

M Sport professional pkg. (M Shadowline lights), $650

Comfort seating pkg. (heated front/rear seats), $650

20-inch M double-spoke bi-color wheels, $1,300

Glass controls (shifter), $650

Test vehicle: $99,745

Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Toyota Century, 2018 Limo

AutoArt’s 1:18 beauty is the epitome of Japanese luxury …

To most of us, me included, we think of Toyota car badges like Camry, Corolla and Celica, but Century? Welcome to the luxury limo world, one few of us live in and in the States, the luxo-liner Century is virtually invisible.

But in Japan the car is a symbol of wealth and prestige, what many consider the Rolls-Royce of Japanese cars.

That’s fine, and probably deserved since even Toyota’s Lexus brand garners attention for its near perfect build quality. But with Century it’s not the average Joe or Asahi being chauffeured about. It’s the big money execs and famous folks being driven to their exclusive homes or hotels curtained off in the rear seat.

Despite few of us in the States hearing about it, Century was launched in 1967 as the premier Toyota and happened to coincide with Toyota Industries founder Sakichi Toyoda’s 100 birthday. Get it? Century!

Now AutoArt has gone and created a 2018 Century in 1:18 scale in multiple dignified colors, two offering the limo with curtains hanging in the rear windows. Cool!

The History

A bit of history beyond Century’s origins in 1967, it was the first rear-drive, front-engine Japanese car with a mass-produced V8 and later a V12.

The stately first generation lasted 30 years until the second gen launched in 1997. That was replaced by the third in 2018 and still carries the styling cues of a Lincoln, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and a touch of Rolls. This third gen is the one AutoArt has so deliciously delivered.

Century started on Toyota’s Crown platform, debuting with an aluminum alloy block 2.6-liter V8 generating just 150 horsepower. Remember this was 1967. By 1973 it had a 3.4-liter V8 and in 1992 that was upgraded to a 4.0-liter model. A 2-foot longer limo version arrived in 1989.

The second gen upgraded to Japan’s first V12 making 276 horsepower for the home market and 295 horses for exported models. Along the way automatic climate controls were first used in Century, then reclining rear seats with a massaging feature and power footrest. All those back seat wonders now are available in the large Lexus LS sedan.

Soft-closing doors is another feature first found in Century. These are offered in a variety of high-end sedans now where the doors electronically pull themselves shut once partially closed by the occupants. In back there also is an 11-inch screen and wood trim everywhere, plus the car comes with a noise cancellation system, double-glazed windows, and four mufflers. It’s quiet inside!

This third gen has all that and a more powerful 5.0-liter V8 with hybrid system to boost gas mileage from what had been 24 to 32 mpg. Power jumps to 425 horses and is put to the pavement via an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) for smoothness and efficiency.

The lacy curtains are embedded in the glass, so will stay pristine over time.

Century now rides on a massive 122-inch wheelbase, is 210 inches long, weighs about 5,200 pounds, rides on a revised air suspension and is bathed in seven layers of paint. To assure luxury build quality Toyota assembles (much by hand) just 50 a month.

Oh, and you’d need about $180,000 to buy one, if they were sold in the US. They are not.

 The Model

What strikes you about this Seika Radiant Silver Metallic model is the chrome, from the finely presented narrow vertical bars in the grille to the trim around windows and front and rear bumpers, including lower cladding along the rocker panels. All align perfectly to carry the chrome theme nose to tail.

Not only great door detail, but a superb dash and console too.

But the interior if fabulous. Open up all four doors and the rock star interior features lacy gray curtains in the rear side windows and back windshield. On the real car these are crocheted lace and they reflect that look here, but are wisely embedded in the clear plastic windows so as not to soil over time or be damaged by handling.

The curtains are partially open so I suppose the celebrity, or his or her handler, will have to shut them for privacy.

Beyond the curtains, the right-hand-drive Century features wood-look trim atop the doors, door armrests, seatbacks and dash. It’s a bit shiny, but still impressive.

Wood trim and realistic console and screen make the rear seat special here!

All the detailing looks realistic in here too from the big rear seat console with glass-like touchscreen and big screen behind and between the front seats, even a couple of air ducts above that screen. The dash is loaded with buttons, knobs, a big info screen, and detailed digital driver’s screen. Even the gearshift knob is sufficiently thick and includes appropriate markings for each gear in the gate. The black steering wheel has a thick three-spoke hub.

Seats are gray and resembled leather, which is optional on the car. Wool seats are standard as they are quieter to sit in, and get out of, than leather, so preferred in Japan. No rude noises allowed!

AutoArt includes shoulder harnesses with photo-etched metal clasps and mold in the appropriate power adjustment buttons on the side of each seat’s lower cushion.

Flip up the hood and like most of today’s cars, the Century’s V8 and hybrid system are covered with a gray/silver plastic shroud with the remainder of the under-hood area covered in black plastic, so no fluid bottles, dipsticks, etc. are visible. Pretty boring, but realistic.

Note, the hood is released via a tiny black lever under the car’s nose, otherwise latches in place.

Naturally the hood, trunk lid and all four doors open, plus those front wheels are steerable, actually turning the steering wheel.

Other exterior features include realistic taillights and jewel-like headlights with each lamp featuring twin rectangular settings with twin bulbs in each lamp. There also are horizontal bar-shaped turn signals embedded in the front bumper.

Atop the hood is a fine gothic style C emblem that represents the Century name while centered in the grille and on the trunk’s face between the taillights is the gold phoenix logo, the traditional Fushichō badge that has its origins in Sinospheric mythology. Hey, that’s what I read. On the real car it takes an artist six weeks to hand engrave these. Wow!

That Century gothic C is also in badges on the C-pillars with the term Hybrid below. I tried magnifying these to see the word. I can tell it’s there, but hard to read. Hope your eyes are better than mine.

The phoenix is on the wheel cover, but tires are unbranded.

Tires are treaded, but not branded and the sharp sunburst style wheel covers are chromed and feature the phoenix logo inside the center ring.

All these features come at a price, but then this is a luxury limo, with an MSRP of $250.

Silver not your thing? The Century also is available in black with curtains, or black or white without. C’mon, you gotta have the curtains.

There’s also a sportier (sort of) GRMN model, the abbreviation standing for Gazoo Racing (Toyota’s long-time team) Meister of Nürburgring, costing $10 less and a black version for the US market, although still right-hand drive, for $230.

The Century’s headlights are beautifully reproduced.

Vital DC Stats: Toyota Century (w/curtains)

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 78770
MSRP: $250

Link: Autoartmodels.com

#Toyota

Car Spot: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

One of the fastest SUVs on the planet

OK, I’ll admit, I’m partial to this week’s car spot because I’m a Jeep guy and love going fast. A 6.4-liter V-8 pumps out 475 horsepower while a roudy exhaust note tells you that it’s an SRT. So what Jeep did was take a standard Grand Cherokee, plop in a bigger engine, give it more aggressive bodywork, a sport-tuned suspension, and upgraded brakes.

This bad boy was parked right next to one of its older brothers.

Car and Driver ripped one to 60 mph in only 4.4 seconds, just 0.2 second slower than a Dodge Challenger T/A 392. While its smaller relative was quicker in other acceleration tests, the Jeep matched the coupe’s hearty exhaust note and responsive throttle around town.

The SRT can haul more than just ass, 7,700 pounds of fun can be pulled behind. While the SRT excels in straight-line speed, it also corners surprisingly well given its size. Its powerful Brembo brakes also helped it stop from 70 mph in 168 feet, which equaled it’s more powerful brother, the Trackhawk which I drove up at Road America and it’s a total blast but came with a 100K price tag.

RELATED Video: Hop in and go for a ride with me in the Wrangler 392 Unlimited.

This Jeeps market remains strong. MSRP for the 2021 was $72,000. While Jeep did manufacture the WK edition a short time into the new model year, I don’t believe the SRT option was available. They are holding their value too. Expect to pay north of $50,000 for one in good condition. Get while the getting is good because with all this nonsense about V-8’s being bad for the environment, vehicles like this are going the the way of the dodo bird. So sad. Too bad too that the SRT brand is no more.

Note the spoiler on the back window. This guy is serious.

This Jeep checks all the boxes for me. It’s a Jeep, looks cool, has a big V8, makes a lot of noise, and can go off-roading! What more is there?

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots along with some history behind it. Have a great weekend.

2022 Subaru WRX Premium

WRX better in a rally than on a road, but it rocks …

After we had been driving for two blocks my wife, a devout Subaru owner, asked rather emphatically, “WHO would ever buy this car?”

The car in question was a flashy metallic Solar Orange Subaru WRX Premium, the rally racer style compact sedan with a ride so rough that nine out of 10 dentists recommend it to patients with loose fillings.

It doesn’t help that we live in a 1950s subdivision with asphalt streets featuring cracks and crevices widened and sunk by 60+ years of Wisconsin winters. Even still, on better roads it only takes a manhole cover’s slight indentation or the dreaded expansion joints on cement streets to jolt the family jewels or crack that dozen eggs freshly purchased at the farmer’s market.

All this in spite of, or possibly because, Subaru engineers firmed up the chassis and suspension on this fifth-generation WRX to improve cornering and (supposedly) ride. To that end they mounted the rear anti-roll bar directly to the chassis, upgraded shock dampers and stiffened the torsional rigidity of the chassis by 28%.

That’s all excellent news for rally racers who take their WRX to rutted dirt-road racing contests every weekend, but for city driving, not so much.

There’s at least one other practical point that may not make this a top choice for the average family’s next sedan. That’s noise.

Again, for the boy or girl racer who thrives on the throb and rumble of a boosted boxer 4-cylinder, the Subie’s new 2.4-liter twin-scroll turbo engine is a positive. It creates 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque that feels like a rocket booster is strapped to this compact sedan based on Subaru’s Impreza platform.

For the rest of us the guttural growl, especially while the car is stationary or at modest city speeds, is deafening when the windows are lowered, and radio sound swamping with windows up. Once cruising at highway speeds the blat calms enough to allow radio listening, but still it’s best to crank that baby up.

That said, I told my wife that the WRX is aimed at young folks (mostly) who desire speed, speed and speed, yet at an affordable price.

In that case, the Premium model is a winner, starting at just $32,600, including delivery. For that you get a handsome neck-stretching sedan that easily carries four adults, has a decent-sized trunk for suitcases, boogie boards (fold down the split back seats), and AWD for any off-roading you feel appropriate.

Ride we know is an issue, but handling is fantastic with dual-pinion electric power steering that provides great road feel and more vital, a quicker response. That’s what you need for racing, or just driving fun, preferably on a smooth road.

This version also features a 6-speed manual transmission that adds to its friskiness. Throws are fairly long though, so think about paying $427 extra for an STi short-throw shifter. If you’re lazy, or getting older like me, you may want to opt for the 8-speed automatic that adds about $2,500 to the Premium model’s bottom line, but varies by trim level.

Speaking of which, there are four WRX trims, the base WRX that starts at $30,100 or $31,950 with the automatic, the tested Premium for $32,600 or $34,650 automatic, the Limited at $36,990 or $39,240 automatic, and the new GT, which is AWD and packs a drive mode selector, the automatic tranny, and Recaro seats. It lists at $42,890.

Recaro seats are snug to hold driver and passenger tight.

Recaro seats are wonderful for racing and look great too, so maybe going GT is worth it. But the seats in the Premium model are pretty stout already.

The interior here was black cloth with red stitching for a sporty look. But the seats were so well formed with sterling hip and back support that I wish we had the same in our family’s Outback. These are manually adjusted, but don’t look down your nose at that. Naturally it saves weight by foregoing electrics, but a pump handle easily dials in the optimal seat height and the rest is just fore and aft and seat back angle adjusted via levers. Simple!

Front seats also are heated and the interior is roomy enough for four adults, while the trunk will hold their bags.

The info screen is mammoth!

Subaru goes with a matte black dash while the trim across the dash, around the screen and shift knob, is a satin chrome. Both restrict glare and reflection. Fake carbon fiber trim on the doors looks realistic and I wouldn’t mind seeing that spread across the dash to sexy this up a bit.

Mid-dash from virtually top to bottom is Subaru’s 11.6-inch Starlink tablet-like info touchscreen. It certainly looks impressive, but I have two concerns. First, it’s tough to adjust the radio while driving and second that large screen can reflect big time when the sun gets at it. Sad that Subaru has done so well on all the other dash and interior trim to limit glare, and then there’s this.

Another view of the screen and shifter!

Otherwise I like the interior, with its aluminum alloy clad pedals, plus a racy D-shaped steering wheel. That allows for more knee room when entering and exiting, plus looks sporty. Some pricier makes that tout performance still don’t use this racier-styled wheel. Weird!

A slew of safety devices are available, but most only come standard with the automatic transmission-equipped models. That includes smart cruise, forward collision warning and emergency braking, lane centering and such. Blind-spot is standard starting on Limited models.

So beyond the AWD and great handling the main safety feature is excellent sight lines and visibility. Like all Subarus, there is an open sightline between the A-pillar and side mirrors. The majority of car makes don’t offer this design feature, creating a large blind spot.

Angular styling for the lights add character!

A couple other items notable by their absence, a wireless phone charger (in a car aimed at young people) and no sunroof. Ditto! The leather wrapping on the steering wheel, if it is leather, seems too slick to me. For a performance car I’d expect a wheel with more grip.

Finally, a few notes about the exterior, beyond the eye-catching metallic orange paint job.

First, there are black plastic front and rear diffusers and wheel well trim. The plastic has a bit of a pattern to its surface, so not just glossy or matte black plastic. There also is black cladding along the rocker panels that could be considered ground effects and on the trunk lid a subtle body-colored spoiler.

Many previous WRX models have gone with garishly tall wings on the trunk lid. This tiny lip-like spoiler looks much more presentable to adults. However, there is an optional $540 spoiler that is larger if your ego requires that.

That’s one wide air scoop in the WRX’s hood.

But there IS already a 25-inch wide air scoop on the hood that screams 1970s muscle car. For most of us, that would probably suffice.

All this leads us to the mundane mention of fuel economy. Performance always has its price, but it’s not too steep here. The EPA rates the WRX at 19 mpg city and 26 highway. I got 24.2 mpg in about an even mix. Be forewarned that this Subie prefers premium fuel though.

With just a couple minor options the test car hit $32,894. That’s not much in today’s market for anything with AWD, a hood scoop and thunderous thrust.

Party on!

FAST STATS: 2022 Subaru WRX Premium

Hits: Powerful punch in a compact rally car, excellent handling and traction with standard AWD. Super comfy supportive seats, heated seats, low-profile spoiler, D-shaped steering wheel, hood scoop, big info screen, fake carbon fiber trim.

Misses: Rough, Rough ride, noisy interior, no wireless charging, no sunroof, long-throw shifter, limited standard safety equipment, steering wheel too slick, and big touchscreen both reflects and is not easy to adjust the radio while driving. Prefers premium fuel.

Made in: Japan

Four exhausts create a little ruckus upon acceleration!

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder boxer, 271 hp /258 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 3,320 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.2 in.

Length: 183.8 in.

Cargo: 12.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 19/26

MPG: 24.2 (tested)

Base Price: $32,600 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $30,712

Major Options:

Floor liners, $132

Side rail plates, $162

Test vehicle: $32,894

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage