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Updated: 3 hours 7 min ago

Hyundai Gives Palisade, Nexo, Prophecy the N Treatment for April 1st

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 7:30pm

Who’s ready for a Hyundai Palisade N edition? Or a hydrogen-powered Nexo N SUV, or a Prophecy N EV in baby blue paint with a little sporty red flair? We do! The Ns look pretty awesome, and are of course, the latest April Fool’s Day jest from our friends at Hyundai. And you thought the holiday was canceled this year? Wrong.

The Korean brand said on its Instagram feed that it is looking toward the future and it hopes these fake N models will make us smile, and they do. Like other manufacturers, Hyundai has seen its sales fall by 43% in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 disruptions but it still managed to sell 17,089 Palisades so far this year.

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We’re using this April Fools to look towards the future. Do you think #Prophecy N could be the one to lead us into green performance? – Just as we hope these fake N models make you smile, we hope everyone can get through this #SafeAtHome. . . . . #HyundaiN #FeeltheFeeling #AprilFools #Nthusiast #supercar #conceptcar #cardesign #carlovers

A post shared by Hyundai N (@hyundai_n_worldwide) on Apr 1, 2020 at 5:00am PDT

Out of the batch, the Prophecy N stunner looks the coolest as a potential future Porsche Taycan fighter. The Prophecy Concept was revealed online last month along with the 2021 Elantra and Elantra Hybrid.

Veloster N fans online seem to be in love with them all, and claim “if you build it… I will buy it!” We know there are Kona and Sonata N variants in the works, so who knows? Maybe Hyundai will listen. And we’ll definitely need another N after our long-term Four Seasons Veloster N goes back this summer.

We just don’t think the world is ready for a Hyundai Venue N just yet.

The post Hyundai Gives Palisade, Nexo, Prophecy the N Treatment for April 1st appeared first on MotorTrend.

A 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1? It’s Happening, Just Don’t Confuse It With Mach-E

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 6:55pm

The Ford Mustang range already offers a lot of variety, from the EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder to the V-8-powered GT to the supercar-rivaling GT500. Heck, if you count the upcoming Mach-E as a member of the Mustang lineup (as Ford’s marketing department would like you to) there’s an all-electric SUV model, too. Ever on the lookout to expand the Mustang’s appeal and leverage its heritage to do so, Ford has curiously been sitting on one hot Mustang for two decades: The Mustang Mach 1. No longer—it appears as though the Blue Oval is finally ready to dust off and reuse that Mach 1 badge.

How do we know? Enthusiast forum Mach-E Club recently posted leaked dealer VIN decoder guides for both the Mustang Mach-E and the 2021 Ford Mustang coupe. While the Mach-E document offered very little new information, the Mustang coupe’s guide contained a big surprise: A Mach 1 trim level for the 2021 model year. Sadly, that’s all the details we have at the moment, as the document doesn’t give specifics on drivetrain, features, or price. But we can certainly speculate about the Mach 1’s long-rumored comeback.

The most popular theory is the Mach 1 will replace the limited-production Bullitt in the lineup. That model (pictured above), was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt. It is a special version of the GT with unique trim and 480 horsepower (20 more than a standard GT) thanks to a special intake manifold derived from the GT350’s.

But, like all Mustang Bullitt special editions before it, the most recent iteration is subject to a licensing deal with Warner Brothers, the studio that owns the rights to Bullitt. That deal likely ends after the 2020 model year, and if Ford wanted to keep the basic formula of the Mustang Bullitt alive it could simply rebrand it to a name it owns, like Mach 1. There’s even historical precedent for such a move. The first Bullitt special edition in 2001 was replaced by a limited-production Mach 1 for 2003, though that car got a different, more potent engine with twin-cam heads borrowed from the SVT Cobra.

Even if that is what Ford is planning, we still don’t know what it will look like or if it will get any other upgrades. Barring any massive screw-ups in that department, we’re looking forward to the Mach 1’s return, not least because letting such a recognizable and cool-sounding nameplate go to waste was so uncharacteristic of Ford. The automaker could have probably picked a better time to launch the Mach 1, however—consider how confusing it might be to consumers to have both a Ford Mustang Mach 1 and a Ford Mustang Mach-E in the lineup. These are two very different vehicles ostensibly sharing the marketing glow of the Mustang lineage. Then again, GM made the questionable decision of naming two of its cars Volt and Bolt . . .

The post A 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1? It’s Happening, Just Don’t Confuse It With Mach-E appeared first on MotorTrend.

Herbie From Hell: This Hemi-Powered Beetle Is an Ed Roth Sketch Come to Life

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 6:30pm

Justin “Gus” Johnson of Lucky Gunner Garage in Conway, New Hampshire wanted to chop an old car, but he also really wanted to challenge himself in doing so. That is why he picked a Volkswagen Beetle for his “chopping” project. As Johnson wrote on the Lucky Gunner Garage website, Beetles “are one of the most difficult vehicles to chop.” The project was supposed to be a “cheap and quick budget build,” but soon morphed into something more: A wild rat rod that looks pulled from the pages of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s sketchpad. 

Yes, this 1976 Beetle forgoes its original rear-mounted, air-cooled four-cylinder engine for a burly front-mounted 5.7-liter “Hemi” V-8 from a 2012 Dodge Charger

“The engine’s pretty stock,” the car’s current owner, Brandin Greenwell of Hillsboro, Missouri, told MotorTrend. Thanks to a custom intake, headers, and exhaust, the burly bent-eight makes approximately 400 hp—about 30 horses more than stock—and pushes its power to the rear wheels by way of a five-speed automatic transmission. That’s plenty of power for a car that weighs less than 2,500 pounds.

Greenwell, who runs Frank Leta Auto Outlet in Bridgeton, Missouri, bought the Beetle off of Johnson after watching the project come together via Johnson’s social media feed. “I kept trying to buy it off him,” Greenwell said, “and finally it got to the point where he [was willing to sell it].”

Despite its low-slung looks, the Bug is said to ride comfortably, with Greenwell noting that he regularly “drive[s] it to work.” Nevertheless, he copped to losing a few engine covers on his drives. “I finally bolted this one down,” he shared.

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Stopped by VW

A post shared by Brandin Greenwell(hemi Bug) (@branding314) on Mar 1, 2020 at 9:49am PST

Save for a fresh coat of Audi Nardo Grey paint (“I felt like the [original] satin black [paint] almost left it unfinished looking”), Greenwell’s largely avoided making any alterations to Johnson’s vision. That means the car retains its hand-built frame with four-wheel-independent suspension, adjustable coil-overs at each corner, wide 18-inch wheels and tires, a set of 14-inch rotors behind each wheel, and an interior replete with bead-rolled 20-gauge steel throughout.

While Greenwell gets a kick out of driving and showing off his mean-looking Volkswagen to friends and strangers alike, his biggest joy comes from the delight the front-engined Bug brings to his one-and-a-half-year-old son, Emmett, who “loves going for rides and playing in dad’s cars.”

Although Greenwell’s no stranger to buying and selling custom cars (he regaled us with tales of prior vehicles he’s owned, such as a supercharged Chevrolet Chevelle and an LS3-powered 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air), he has no plans of getting rid of his current toy anytime soon. “I’ll probably keep it for a while,” he admitted. That means if you want a Hemi-powered Beetle of your own, you’ll have to go about building one yourself—or start bothering Gus Johnson to build one for you.

The post Herbie From Hell: This Hemi-Powered Beetle Is an Ed Roth Sketch Come to Life appeared first on MotorTrend.

Buy Tiger King Joe Exotic’s Favorite Hat from This Oklahoma Car Dealership

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 5:15pm

Hey, all you cats and kittens out there, we have urgent, important news. Surely, you’ve all seen or started watching Tiger King, the Netflix documentary series that covers Joe Exotic, a rural zoo owner/big cat breeder and incredibly strange person, and his feud with Carole Baskin, the self-righteous and crusading head of Big Cat Rescue. She, too, is quite odd, with the unexplained disappearance of her second husband in her past.

There’s really nothing else to say about the show besides noting that it largely takes place in Oklahoma and Florida, involves plenty of adventurous lifestyles, meth, and questionable ownership and use of tigers. We’re here for one of the show’s few (okay, only) tangible links to the automotive world: Joe Exotic’s seemingly favorite hat.

If you watch Tiger King, you might notice that Joe wears a black baseball cap throughout most of his onscreen appearancesIt has some red piping on the brim and the front reads “SW Seth Wadley Automotive Group.” Sounds like a dealership group, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Seth Wadley Automotive Group located just outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. We assume that’s where Joe Exotic purchased his vehicles over the years (he buys several for the men in his life—again, just watch the show), but we have no idea why he wears the hat so often. But now you can wear it, too, because Seth Wadley is selling identical caps to the public for $50 a pop.

At the time of this writing, the black version of the “Tiger King” cap—the one just like Joe’s—is sold out. Off-color versions in red and pink are available for $20; tan is $30, and the dealer is running a buy one, get one free special on all Tiger King–related items. (The four hats, plus more, non-Tiger-King-related apparel, are available here.) This is genius on the dealer’s part, not least because this upcoming Halloween, Tiger King–themed costumes are sure to be hot, while car sales might not be given the current shutdown climate. And what better way to get your name out there than to have it inextricably linked to a TV series about two big-cat-owning people, one of whom is at the center of a rumored murder while the second ultimately goes to prison for attempting to murder the other one?

The post Buy Tiger King Joe Exotic’s Favorite Hat from This Oklahoma Car Dealership appeared first on MotorTrend.

Some Wonderful Nut Turned a Learjet Into a Limousine—and You Can Buy It

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 4:16pm

Nothing says “you’ve made it” quite like pulling up in your own private jet. But a close second could be this private jet that’s been converted into a 42-foot-long road-going limousine. Appropriately named the Limo-Jet, this one-off custom creation features a 17,000-watt audio system, an infinity mirror floor, and seating for 18—and it’s coming up for auction at Mecum’s Indianapolis sale.

 

The Limo-Jet began making headlines in 2018, when it was finally completed after a 12-year build process. Though some limos are hastily slapped together Frankenstein jobs, the photos reveal a great deal of thought and craftsmanship went into the making of the Limo-Jet. A steel tube frame chassis supports the aluminum fuselage of a real Learjet aircraft, and rides on a sophisticated pushrod suspension. The whole thing is powered by a rear-mounted 8.1-liter Chevrolet Vortec V-8.

To match the scale of the massive vehicle, a set of custom six-spoke 28-inch Diablo wheels was chosen, painted black with Dark Candy Red accents to match the exterior color. The nacelles that would normally hold the Learjet’s two turbofan engines instead house a pair of gigantic speakers, which can blast jet engine sound effects while cruising down the boulevard. At the tail section there are more speakers that flip down and retract flush with the body.

Inside you’ll find all the amenities you expect from a limousine, including luxurious diamond-stitched leather bench seats, multi-color ambient lighting, a 42-inch plasma TV, and a “refreshment center.” Up front in the cockpit is a single bucket seat for the driver/pilot, along with plenty of candy red toggle switches and four camera screens. According to the listing, the Limo-Jet is street legal. Whether it’s practical to drive on the street given its immense 42-foot length, 8-foot width, and 11.6-foot height is another matter. But it does come with its own trailer and Chevy Silverado 2500HD pickup so you can tow it to events.

Considering the years of R&D and reported 40,000 man hours put into it, why is the Limo-Jet now for sale just two years after completion? We’ve reached out to the owners, Jetsetter Inc., to find out and will update this post when we hear back. But whatever the reason, here’s your chance to buy a one-of-a-kind jet-shaped limo—likely for a fraction of what it cost to develop and build.

Mecum’s Indy 2020 sale was originally set to take place May 12-17, but that has since been pushed back to June 23-28.

 

The post Some Wonderful Nut Turned a Learjet Into a Limousine—and You Can Buy It appeared first on MotorTrend.

Volvo Valet Remotely Handles Your Vehicle Maintenance for You While You Stay Home

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 2:28pm

Volvo has launched a convenient—and timely, given the moment’s stay-at-home situation—service to help customers with their vehicle maintenance needs. Volvo Valet, as it’s called, allows owners to schedule a service appointment on their phone, after which point a Volvo service employee will come to their home and pick up the car. They’ll even drop off a loaner to drive while the vehicle is in the shop. Later in the year, the concierge service will expand to include lease returns, vehicle purchases (so, taking delivery), and even test drives.

The Volvo Valet app works much like a ride-hailing app from Uber or Lyft. Before the pickup, the customer will see the employee’s location and their arrival time on the app. Volvo will take pictures of the car and the loaner vehicle at the point of handoff, and once the vehicle arrives at the dealer for servicing, the owner will receive a notification. When the work is complete, Volvo will drop the car back off at your home and pick up the loaner. Simple.

It doesn’t matter if your vehicle is old or new, either. Volvo vehicles of all ages are eligible for the service, in an echo of other Volvo owner benefits that include free towing to a Volvo dealership within a 25-mile radius for the life of the car, and a lifetime warranty for replacement parts and labor. This suite of any-age vehicle servicing aids helps set the Volvo program stand out from similar concierge maintenance schemes offered by Genesis and Lincoln. Still, Volvo Valet is only available through participating retail stores, and until an online functionality is added this spring, customers should contact their local service department to check if it’s taking part in the program.

Later in 2020, Volvo Valet will expand to include new services. Volvo will deliver your newly purchased or leased car to you, and will even give you a car to test drive overnight. Again, these are similar to existing programs at other luxury automakers—and with recent global events limiting person-to-person contact, all are starting to look prescient.

While it may seem like the service is a quick response to the outbreak, it has actually been in the works for quite some time. Volvo has been testing the service in a pilot program for the last several months to make sure it was ready for primetime. Preparation for a concierge delivery service began as far back as 2017, when the automaker purchased the intellectual property to Luxe, a premium valet and concierge service. Without specifically addressing today’s health crisis, Volvo says the concierge delivery program handles the cars with the same care and cleaning processes as Volvo retailers.

We’ve had pleasant experiences with Volvo’s dealership service in the past, so we have nothing but high hopes for the new program. Hopefully, it will reduce a little bit of our collective stress as we push through these difficult times.

The post Volvo Valet Remotely Handles Your Vehicle Maintenance for You While You Stay Home appeared first on MotorTrend.

VW Atlas Basecamp Pack Makes the Big Seven-Seater More Rugged

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 9:24am

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas recently got a refresh that brought both better looks and some small interior upgrades, and the swoopier, five-seat Atlas Cross Sport was added to its model lineup. But VW has now added what it’s calling the Basecamp pack of accessories to its family hauler to make it more capable off-road. Even though the Atlas is far from our our first choice to take up a hard-core trail like the Rubicon, we’ll never say no to a little extra capability.

Originally slated to be unveiled at the now rescheduled New York International Auto Show, the Basecamp pack isn’t an extensive overhaul of the Atlas’s mechanicals. Instead it adds small touches like new, tougher door sills and side skirts; a two-tone bumper guard; fender flares to protect the body sides; and a satin silver rear valance that surrounds the exhaust tips. While all those upgrades sound cosmetic, they do at least offer additional protection against stones, dirt, and grime.

The most functional part of the package, however, are the wheels and tires. Volkswagen partnered with Fifteen52 to build an exclusive set of 17-inch Traverse MX wheels paired with a set of 245/70R17 all-terrain tires. The wheels will be available in either frosted graphite or radiant silver. Overall, the add-ons make the Atlas look ready to tackle something off the beaten path.

Volkswagen said the Basecamp options will be rolled out to dealers by spring of 2020, but adds that the goodies aren’t compatible with R-line-trimmed models. As of this writing, there’s no word on if the Basecamp line of accessories will be made available for the Cross Sport.

The post VW Atlas Basecamp Pack Makes the Big Seven-Seater More Rugged appeared first on MotorTrend.

Chevrolet Blazer vs. Chevrolet Traverse: What’s the Difference?

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 4:00am

We’ve tested the Chevrolet Blazer extensively since it was released in 2019. At our SUV of the Year competition, the RS trim impressed us with good road manners and a high-quality interior, but we were disappointed that those traits didn’t extend to the base offering. More recently, we had another go in the Blazer RS, and instead of comparing it to the competition, we thought it best to look within Chevrolet’s own extensive lineup of SUVs to see how it stacks up against the larger but similarly priced 2019 Chevrolet Traverse Premier FWD (front-wheel drive).

The Blazer and Traverse are not direct competitors, and as such, this isn’t a classic MotorTrend comparison test. We typically try to match cars up within their segments. That’s why the Ford Mustang gets matched up with the Chevrolet Camaro, not the Alfa Romeo Giulia. But Chevy recently ditched sedans in the United States, meaning that, like Ford, it’s going to be filling our streets with SUVs of all shapes and sizes for the foreseeable future. As such, you might want to know which sub-$50,000 Bow Tie–badged SUV is right for you.

The Traverse is a pair of Chuck Taylors—easy to live with and use every day but clearly not the best choice for any kind of exercise. By the end, your feet will be calloused, and you’ll sure wish you would have strapped on something more suitable. The Blazer, on the other hand, is a more purpose-built pair of trainers. It’ll easily help you tackle that 5k and won’t leave you rubbing your soles at the end of the day, but its uses are more limited as a result.

Even though they are different, they share one very important commonality: price. The Traverse Premier I tested in January rang in at $47,990. The Blazer RS Chevy gave us totaled $48,170. The Blazer RS is the second-priciest trim you can buy, and this car was optioned up from its base price of $44,595. That means less than $500 separates these two very different vehicles. But which one is best for you? Well, that all depends on how much running you do.

Chevrolet Blazer vs. Traverse: Which has a nicer interior?

The Traverse can get more expensive with different option packs and trim levels, and if your price cap is the nice and round $50,000 figure, then this is very nearly the most Traverse you’re going to get for the money. The same is true for the Blazer. Its price can be pushed north of $50,000, but not by much.

Despite their closeness in price, their interiors are markedly different. Most important, the Traverse has three rows and seating for up to eight (seven in higher trims like this Premier thanks to a pair of captain’s occupying the second row); the Blazer, however, has only two rows and seating for five. The inside of the Traverse is decidedly previous-gen Chevy. Its interior is loaded up with rough plastics, and the climate controls are nothing if not difficult to fathom. The physical controls for everything in the Traverse are all too small for a car with so much interior space to work with, and that’s because entire center stack is shared with smaller cars like the Malibu.

The Blazer, on the other hand, is a properly modern place to sit. The massive Camaro-style air vents stare at you as you drive around, but the climate controls in the Blazer are much easier to get the hang of. They’re laid out in a straight line instead of being bunched up, and that makes it much easier to operate the system without looking down at it. Also, even though controlling the temperature of the air via the vents themselves isn’t necessarily the best way to do it, the trim ring that acts as the temperature control knob is so massive it’s hard to miss.

The gauge clusters in both the Blazer and the Traverse feature customizable displays, but the gauges in the Blazer are sportier and more purposeful. The steering wheel also looks much newer in the Blazer, with a more angular four-spoke design as opposed to the fanned out four-spoke look of the one in the Traverse.

Traverse vs. Blazer: How do they drive?

Those steering wheels control surprisingly dynamic machines on the road. In this case, they’re both powered by 3.6-liter V-6 engines mated to nine-speed automatic transmissions. The Blazer makes 308 hp to the Traverse’s 310, and the Blazer also has a teeny advantage when it comes to torque, edging out the Traverse’s 266 lb-ft with 270 of its own. A front-wheel drive Traverse weighs in at 4,346 pounds—heavier with all-wheel drive. An all-wheel-drive Blazer is just a little bit lighter that its bigger counterpart as 4,274 pounds.

On the road, however, the difference feels like it’s much more than 72 pounds. The Blazer is much easier to control than the Traverse, and that’s all down to the lower weight and the smaller size. Behind the wheel, you feel as though the car will do whatever you tell it to. It’s both more responsive and easier to drive at speed—like on the highway or, dare I say it, on a twisty road you’d take sports cars on. It must be said, however, that even though it’s endowed with sporty looks and a tough demeanor, the Blazer RS is not a car in which you grow horns and drive too quickly when you’re behind the wheel.

The Traverse is a less willing partner on the road, but it’s not entirely unathletic. It has good body control for an SUV of its size. It’s both stable and relatively comfortable at highway speeds, and its ride, while flat and stable, is not punishing. Even though the trim we recently tested only had FWD, it was surprisingly capable for a machine of its size. And size might be the deciding factor between these two SUVs.

Blazer vs. Traverse: What are the differences in size?

The Blazer is a true crossover, and it will only seat five no matter what model you get. The Traverse, on the other hand, can seat up to eight—though higher trims come with captain’s chairs in the second row, for a total of seven seats. The Traverse can also hold significantly more cargo than the Blazer thanks to how much longer it is. With the third row folded down, the Traverse has 98.2 cubic feet of cargo room for you to play with.

The Blazer is smaller, but its cargo bay still has 64.2 cubic feet of space to fill. Its cargo area isn’t exactly tiny, either. It still outclasses other two-row crossovers when it comes to cargo room, including the BMW X3 (62.7), the Jeep Cherokee (54.7), and even the Lexus RX (56.3). There’s more than enough room for suitcases, backpacks, and plenty of sports gear.

Blazer or Traverse—which one should you buy?

So which one is best for you? Well, if you’ve got $50,000 to spend on an SUV and want something from Chevrolet, it mostly depends on how big your family is and how you drive. The size of the average American family is 3.14 people, so if there are five or fewer of you or you enjoy sporty driving, the Blazer is right for you. It’s compact enough to be easy to park, competent on any road, and completely suitable for a family of average size. It’s also handsome enough to lure single people who want something a little more charismatic than a hatchback.

That said, if your family is more than five, the choice is obvious. The Traverse can swallow more people at the expense of being less fun to drive and having a less intuitive instrument panel. Luckily, both are competent crossovers, and there isn’t too much to fault in the case of either one.

2020 Chevrolet Blazer AWD RS 2020 Chevrolet Traverse Premiere FWD DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD Front-engine, FWD ENGINE TYPE 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DISPLACEMENT 222.7 cu in/3,649 cc 222.7 cu in/3,649 cc COMPRESSION RATIO 11.5:1 11.5:1 POWER (SAE NET) 308 hp @ 6,700 rpm* 310 hp @ 6,800 rpm* TORQUE (SAE NET) 270 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm* 266 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm* REDLINE 6,750 rpm 6,750 rpm WEIGHT TO POWER 13.9 lb/hp 14.0 lb/hp TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic 9-speed automatic AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.49:1/2.16:1 3.49:1/2.16:1 SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar STEERING RATIO 15.1:1 17.3:1 TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.8 3.3 BRAKES, F; R 12.6-in vented disc; 12.4-in vented disc, ABS 12.6-in vented disc; 12.4-in vented disc, ABS WHEELS 8.0 x 20-in cast aluminum 8.0 x 20-in cast aluminum TIRES 235/55R20 102H (M+S) Michelin Premier LXT 255/55R20 107H (M+S) Continental Cross Contact LX20 DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE 112.7 in 120.9 in TRACK, F/R 66.1/66.0 in 67.3/67.0 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 191.4 x 76.7 x 67.0 in 204.3 x 78.6 x 70.7 in GROUND CLEARANCE 7.6 in 7.5 in APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE 14.0/24.1 deg 13.3/21.3 deg TURNING CIRCLE 38.7 ft 39.0 ft CURB WEIGHT 4,274 lb 4,346 lb WEIGHT DIST, F/R 59/41% 58/42% TOWING CAPACITY 4,500 lb 5,000 lb SEATING CAPACITY 5 7 HEADROOM, F/M/R 39.8/38.6/— in 41.3/40.0/38.2 in LEGROOM, F/M/R 41.0/39.6/— in 41.0/38.4/33.5 in SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R 59.1/58.6/— in 62.1/62.2/57.5 in CARGO VOLUME, BEH F/M/R 64.2/30.5/— cu ft 98.2/58.1/23.0 cu ft TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 2.3 sec 2.4 sec 0-40 3.4 3.5 0-50 4.5 4.7 0-60 6.1 6.4 0-70 7.9 8.1 0-80 10.0 10.4 0-90 12.9 13.0 0-100 — 16.7 PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.0 3.2 QUARTER MILE 14.7 sec @ 95.5 mph 14.8 sec @ 94.9 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 126 ft 116 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.83 g (avg) 0.81 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 sec @ 0.65 g (avg) 27.2 sec @ 0.64 g (avg) TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,600 rpm 1,750 rpm CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE $44,595 $46,995 PRICE AS TESTED $48,170 $47,990 STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes Yes/Yes AIRBAGS 7: Dual front, front side, f/m/r curtain, driver knee 7: Dual front, front side, front center, f/m/r curtain BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/60,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles FUEL CAPACITY 21.7 gal 19.4 gal EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 18/25/21 mpg 18/27/21 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles 187/125 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.94 lb/mile 0.92 lb/mile RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular Unleaded regular *SAE Certified

The post Chevrolet Blazer vs. Chevrolet Traverse: What’s the Difference? appeared first on MotorTrend.

Why the 2020 Land Rover Defender Is Great Off-Road

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 4:00am

The 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 being exceptional off-road shouldn’t be a surprise, but it kind of is. Going against decades of conventional wisdom, the new Defender eschews body-on-frame construction, live axles, and, in its most capable spec, even steel springs. So how was the Defender 110 able to tackle the challenge of overlanding in Namibia’s barren and sparsely populated Kunene region? Read on as we break down the pieces of the puzzle that help make the new Land Rover Defender 110 so capable off-road.

Tidy dimensions

We’d be doing Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern a huge disservice if we didn’t first acknowledge the hard work he, his design team, and the engineering team did in ensuring the new Defender both looked like a Defender and was also capable of being driven like one. Say what you will about its styling, but there’s no denying it affords the Defender impressive capabilities off-road. The Defender 110 sports a 38-degree approach, 29-degree break-over, and 40-degree departure angle—the latter two angles beat the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon’s 20- and 37-degree breakover and departure angles, respectively. (Wranglers do win on approach-angle at 44-degrees.)

The Defender also boasts an impressive 11 inches of ground clearance and 35.4 inches of wading depth with its air suspension in its highest setting. Its completely flat underside is also well-protected and doesn’t put any of the drivetrain at risk of getting hung up on obstacles.

Four-Wheel Drive

Land Rover’s permanent four-wheel drive system is the heart of the Defender. Like the Discovery, Range Rover, and Range Rover Sport, the Defender sports a full-time four-wheel drive system that blends the best of an all-wheel drive system with the capability of a four-wheel drive system. Whether on road or off of it, the Defender’s four-wheel drive system is constantly vectoring torque back to front and side to side, balancing performance, efficiency, and traction. Should you need it off-road, shifting the transfer case into four-low and utilizing its 2.91:1 ratio will help with extreme obstacles.

Automatic-locking differentials

I’m usually the first to hate on automatic-locking differentials. Our old long-term Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Duramax had an auto-locking rear, and I found it slow to actually lock up under moderate off-road obstacles, making the actual act of off-roading harder than it needed to be. So, I was a bit skeptical of the Defender’s auto-locking center and rear-differentials when hitting the trails in Namibia. Turns out there was no reason for such skepticism; the Defender’s two diffs are capable of acting as both limited-slip and locking-differentials, and they frequently (and more importantly, quickly) lock and unlock while driving. They actually lock and unlock so quickly that you end up using them far more than you would with manual lockers, which could be a minor inconvenience to toggle on and off.

The Defender is missing a locking front differential and instead relies on a brake-based electronic “differential” that automatically grabs the brake of a spinning wheel to force power to the wheel with traction. The system works quickly and effectively, but I wouldn’t mind a real mechanical differential for added peace of mind.

Air Suspension

Air suspensions are usually huge no-nos for off-roading—despite the fact Land Rover has been using them for years. The issue is simple: At maximum travel (which is necessary for maximum ground clearance) the air bag becomes stiff and unwieldy, making impacts harsh, slowing you down, and increasing the odds that something goes wrong.

Where the Defender’s optional air suspension differs from prior systems is that it uses multiple stages in its long-travel air suspension. This means that even at max off-road height there’s still plenty of travel and impact absorption left in the suspension. The four corners of the air suspension are also cross-linked. This means that when one corner of the air suspension has fully compressed, it pushes the air to the opposite side of the truck, pushing the wheel down and back on the ground like a live axle vehicle would, thereby increasing traction.

Terrain Management system

And lastly, tying everything together is Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system. While it has dedicated modes for different surfaces such as sand or rocks, its “Auto” setting is arguably the best. The system samples the Defender’s surroundings up to 500 times a second, constantly—but also subtly—changing throttle response, steering, stability control, and the four-wheel drive, differential, and air suspension settings as you go down either the road or the trail.

For more on the 2020 Land Rover Defender, check out our:

The post Why the 2020 Land Rover Defender Is Great Off-Road appeared first on MotorTrend.

Every Removable-Hardtop SUV of the Last 60 Years

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 4:00am

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler and the soon-to-arrive 2021 Ford Bronco are the only SUVs with removable hard tops these days, but the market was once full of them. Some of these tops were more removable in theory, requiring lots of tools, patience, muscle power, and possibly new weather strips to remove and reinstall (and just imagine doing it in the pre-YouTube era), but their sales brochures promised sunshine and fresh air while romping up a dusty trail. Here’s a list of all the factory removable hardtop SUVs sold in the U.S. that we could think of. Please let us know if we missed your favorite.

1961–1980 International Scout

International Harvester’s answer to the Jeep CJ was the 100-inch-wheelbase Scout 80. The early ones featured fold-down windshields and a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive, and they were also available as a pickup or a wagon with either a soft top or rigid “Traveltop.” This hard top spanned from the windshield header back. In 1966, the Scout 800 Sportop model got a sloped rear window and continental tire kit. All Scout II hardtop models (1971–1980) featured a sportier slanted rear end treatment.

1965–1996 Ford Bronco

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Ford’s answer to the Jeep and Scout arrived looking a lot like the Scout, with a fold-down windshield and a choice of pickup, wagon, or doorless roadster configurations, riding on a 92.0-inch wheelbase that split the difference between the CJ-5 (81.0 inches) and the Scout. All featured four-wheel drive. The full pickup and wagon tops must have been reasonably easy to remove because one sees early Broncos photographed topless much more often than the second-gen full-size Broncos. These 1978 and later models featured a fixed roof and B-pillars, with a removable section over the rear seat and cargo area, though from 1991 to ’96 the instructions for top removal were deleted from the manual and bolts were changed to a torx tamperproof design requiring special tools in hopes of discouraging top removal for safety reasons.

1966–1973 Jeepster Commando

As the more civilized Scout and Bronco gained popularity relative to the CJ, Jeep revived the Jeepster name on a 101.0-inch-wheelbase model that aped those newcomers by offering roadster, convertible, pickup, and wagon body styles—the latter two got one-piece metal removable hard tops. The windshield did not fold down, but four-wheel drive was standard (unlike the earlier 1948–1950 Willys-Overland Jeepster, which was rear-drive only).

1969–1991 Chevrolet Blazer/GMC Jimmy

Always based on shortened full-size pickup truck architecture, these early-gen Blazers started off with full windshield-back hard tops. They were cumbersome, but once off they provided full convertible sunshine and wind through 1974. Starting in 1975, only the section aft of the B-pillars came off, increasing commonality with the pickups while improving weather-sealing and reducing wind noise. The 1969 models all got four-wheel drive with a live-axle front suspension. A rear-drive option arrived for 1970 with an independent front suspension. No Blazer since the 1992 GMT400 generation has offered a removable top.

1974–1980 Dodge Ramcharger/Plymouth Trail Duster

Based on a new-for-72 Dodge Ram pickup minus 9 inches of wheelbase, the Ramcharger and Trail Duster also started out with full windshield-back hard tops, but only the early 1974 models got frameless door glass. The rest used the pickup truck doors. Billed as basic utility vehicles, the standard vehicle included no roof and only a driver’s seat. A dealer-installed fabric top or a metal hard top with flip-up rear window were options, as were front passenger and rear bench seats. Sadly, the second-gen model built from 1981 to 1993 (’96 in Mexico) went to a fixed roof. Fun fact: There was a third-gen Ramcharger built in Mexico based on the big-rig-nosed Ram pickup for 1999–2001, but its top didn’t come off, either.

1976–2006 Jeep CJ7/CJ8 Scrambler/(YJ/TJ) Wrangler

Somehow it took three model years between the demise of the C104 Commando for Jeep to offer a removable plastic hard top on the longer-wheelbase CJ7. The later CJ8 Scrambler pickup also featured a removable hard top, as did the YJ- and TJ-generation (square and round headlamp) Wranglers. All were one-piece affairs, typically attached with six bolts along the sides and two over-center clips at the windshield. And the tops and doors are largely interchangeable between generations, though some require minor alterations to door strikers, windshield header channels, and the like.

1984–1989 Toyota 4Runner

The first Japanese attempt to mimic the topless pickup truck-cum-SUV formula was Toyota’s Hilux-based (they were just called Pickup here) 4Runner SUV. As on the Big Three’s big two-door utes, the 4Runner used pickup doors and a fixed roof over the front seat, with a removable section behind. Toyota’s was fiberglass and initially only came in black or white, with color matching arriving later for some blue, red, and gold vehicles. Also like the yanks: Four-wheel-drive models started out with a live axle in front, switching to independent in 1986. This also freed up room for an optional V-6 engine in 1988. Fun fact: 1984–1986 models were mostly imported without a rear seat, qualifying them for Chicken Tax evasion.

1994–1995 Land Rover Defender 90

After selling 500 Defender 110s in the U.S. during 1993, Land Rover switched to the shorter 90 model for 1994–1995 fitted with a 3.9-liter V-8 and a manual transmission. Billed as an upscale alternative to the Wrangler, the early ones all came with soft tops and roll cages, though a very rare factory fiberglass removable hard top eventually became available, as did the full metal hardtop wagon variant.

1998–2006 Land Rover Freelander

The original “baby Land Rover” was mostly sold with four-door closed bodywork in the U.S., but Land Rover offered a two-door model that featured a removable section over the rear passenger heads and cargo area. Removal only required undoing two over-center latches at the front and two more at the rear. (Models with luggage bars required their removal via two torx head bolts on either side.)

2007–2020 Jeep (JK/JL) Wrangler/Unlimited

With the advent of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, both the JK and JL generation Wranglers offered two hard tops, each of which features two independently removable Freedom Top panels above the front seats, greatly simplifying the task of introducing wind to the top of your head. Tops and doors do not interchange between these generations, but top removal has grown considerably easier with this latest JL generation. New Wranglers come equipped with the tool needed and stowage for each of the bolts that secure the top, but it still takes two to wrangle the top off and into its storage location.

What About …
  • 1973–1975 Volkswagen 181 (Thing): Wikipedia says a fiberglass hard top was available as an option, but having never seen one in the flesh, we suspect the ones we’re finding on Google are aftermarket jobs.
  • 1986–1995 Suzuki Samurai: A soft-top version was offered, and several aftermarket companies sold removable hard tops, but at least in this country there does not seem to have been a factory offering.
  • 1989–2005 Suzuki Sidekick/Vitara, Geo/Chevrolet Tracker: Here again, the aftermarket offered the option of a snug, cozy hard top, but the factory doesn’t appear to have offered a hard top.
  • 1995–2000 Toyota RAV4: The two-door versions of the original RAV4 design could be had with a fixed roof or a folding soft top, and here again the aftermarket handled the removable hard top.

The post Every Removable-Hardtop SUV of the Last 60 Years appeared first on MotorTrend.

7 Classic 4×4 Models That Deserve a Comeback

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 7:00pm

The Land Rover Defender and the Ford Bronco having been reanimated for release into the American automotive population (plus the ongoing popularity of the Jeep Wrangler) serves as proof that public interest in capable 4x4s hasn’t been dampened by the swarm of pavement-oriented crossovers that currently dominate automotive sales charts. To mark this off-road reawakening, we decided to put together our own list of 4×4 nameplates that deserve a similar resurrection in the States. These venerable classics have been left out in the cold for far too long, and are primed for a comeback of their own on both street and trail. Which would you bring back first?

Isuzu Trooper

It could be argued that the Isuzu Trooper has already had its nine lives, given that over its first two generations it was rebadged as an Acura (SLX), Subaru (Bighorn), Chevrolet (uh, Trooper), Opel (Monterey), Honda (Horizon), Holden (Jackaroo/Monterey), and of course SsangYong (Korando Family).

But what’s one more go ’round between friends? Especially given that the ’80s/’90s Trooper was one of the most solid SUVs of its era, delivering low-range four-wheel drive, a choice between four- and six-cylinder power, and both two-door and four-door body styles. It was Japan’s affordable Swiss Army knife sport-utility, which explains in part why it was such a popular choice for automakers seeking a pinch hitter for their own showrooms.

Isuzu’s out of the American passenger vehicle market today, but given the Trooper’s penchant for cross-pollination there’s no reason it couldn’t reemerge under any number of brands today. In fact, combined with rustic upright styling, it would be a perfect foil for import badges seeking a competitor to the Bronco.

Dodge Ramcharger

The Ramcharger name was found on a number of different models in Dodge’s history, but the most compelling and longest-lived was the SUV offered between 1974 and 1993 (limited production  carried on in Mexico for a few more years). The Ramcharger—and its Plymouth twin, the Trailduster—was a direct answer to the success of the Chevrolet Blazer, meaning it, too, was based on the brand’s full-size pickup chassis and offered a removable fiberglass shell over the rear riders. The two-door truck was found exclusively with V-8 power, and while it lost its convertible cred in the ’80s, the Ramcharger is sought after today due to its lower production numbers compared to the Chevy and its later full-size Bronco contemporaries.

Dodge currently lacks a four-seat SUV (with the Durango featuring three rows of accommodations), and it certainly doesn’t have anything like a sporty two-door 4×4 in its lineup. Launching a more street-friendly version of the Ramcharger based on the Wrangler platform would attract more than a little attention from the crowd.

International Harvester Scout

The Scout and the Scout II were prototypical SUVs from Fort Wayne, Indiana, that helped set the tone for much of what was to come later from Detroit. Early models provided a strong focus on balancing utility with price, but by the end of the ’60s the Scout had evolved into a reasonably powerful, V-8–powered trail rig with a fold-flat windshield and a removable top of its own.

The Scout II would debut for a 10-year run in 1970 and add a modest amount of refinement to the original concept, improving engine choices while maintaining the truck’s classic styling. It was even available in a ‘Soft Safari’ model that featured a full fabric top with fiberglass half-doors in a bid to compete against the open-air Jeeps and Broncos of the time.

Although the Scout offered a driving experience that could occasionally be defined as agricultural, its off-road acumen was never questioned, nor was its strong durability. With aftermarket outfitters like Icon increasingly making an impact on the SUV scene, the Scout would seem to present an alluring opportunity to do something different in the six-figure restomod space.

Jeep Wagoneer

The Jeep Wagoneer and its various offshoots such as the Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer played a huge role in introducing America to the idea of a family vehicle that could also tackle whatever obstacles Mother Nature might throw in its way. Designed in the early ’60s but in production all the way to the beginning of the ’90s, the Wagoneer—especially the later Grand Wagoneer model—broke new ground in terms of proving markets truly did exist for luxury SUVs.

If you’ve been craving Grand Wagoneer 2.0 you’re in luck, because Jeep is developing a modern version of this hauler for the 2022 model year. Intended to serve as a three-row rig capable of legitimate off-roading, it seems certain that the upcoming Wagoneer will carry forward the past version’s impressive capability and comfort, if not the wood paneling available off and throughout its history.

Suzuki Samurai

Nowadays 4x4s have to be big, brutish, and buff to attract attention, but there was once a time when the pint-sized Suzuki Samurai was doing big business in a small package. Although still available today in other markets as the Jimny, the Samurai’s American glory days were from the 1986 to 1995, when it would enjoy status some years as the bestselling convertible in the country.

Ignoring the Suzuki’s propensity to roll over when driven without care (thanks to its ultrashort wheelbase), there was a lot to like about the Samurai. With a small footprint it could access trails verboten to larger trucks, and its affordable price made it popular with DIY outfitters seeking to customize on a budget.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the Jimny would be a runaway success were it offered once again in the United States. After nuking its U.S. sales nearly a decade ago, however, Suzuki would have to get creative in partnering up with an existing brand.

Isuzu Rodeo

The Isuzu Rodeo is another well-traveled 4×4 platform that did service for Acura, Chevrolet, Honda, and Opel from 1989 to 2005. The Rodeo was the name given to the four-door model (MU Wizard in Japan), with the two-door (just plain MU) also offered in America under the Amigo and later Rodeo Sport nameplates.

Like the Trooper, the Rodeo was a body-on-frame, traditional 4×4 motivated by a similar mix of frugal four-cylinder motors and torquey V-6s. Unlike the Trooper, the soft-top model was fairly popular and enjoyed a longer run in dealerships as a result. It was among the last Japanese SUVs to offer once-ubiquitous legitimate off-road capability before most such vehicles were replaced by cute utes and crossovers.

“Rodeo” is just too good of a name not to use on a modern 4×4, but like the Trooper, there would have to be some corporate synergy to resurrect the moniker. We’d point to Toyota as a likely candidate, given its propensity for partnering up with third-party constructors, but it’s unlikely it would challenge the popularity of the 4Runner with an in-house rival.

AMC Eagle

In any eerie presaging of what the passenger vehicle market would eventually look like, the AMC Eagle—whether in coupe, sedan, or wagon body styles—provided early-’80s freethinkers with the 4×4 not-quite-a-truck-or-SUV conveyance they had long been looking for. Absolutely everything about the Eagle, save perhaps its wood veneer body panels, was ahead of its time. Not only could it dispatch moderate off-road trails with ease, it was the first four-wheel-drive car to be sold in the United States, beating Audi and Subaru to the punch in a package they would each come to imitate.

With the age of crossovers upon us, it’s so very clear that the Eagle’s moment to shine has finally arrived. Is the world ready for a Chrysler Eagle Hybrid Utility Wagon? Only FCA’s brand strategists know for sure.

The post 7 Classic 4×4 Models That Deserve a Comeback appeared first on MotorTrend.

Tesla Keeps Delivering Cars, Albeit With Proper Social Distancing Techniques

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 5:59pm

Ordinarily, delivering new cars to happy owners (or getting them fixed later if something goes wrong) is ordinary, business-as-usual stuff in the car business. It’s a system that’s been smoothed out by decades of practice: Go to a dealership, sign papers, get your car. Or take it back and have a plastic number put on its roof, then relax in a waiting room as the mechanics figure out what’s wrong before handing you an invoice and a right-as-rain ride. But how does this work in our new world of social distancing? Tesla has some new ideas—in addition to its regular programming of anti-establishment ideas on dealerships and service.

Even though Tesla paused manufacturing on March 23rd, it still has cars it already built that are still headed for their new owners. So, mindful of the nation’s newfound spatial caution, Tesla has gotten clever with its distribution of new models. Say you’re anxiously waiting for your new Model Y (Tesla’s new compact electric SUV), which saw initial deliveries officially kick off about a week ago. Based on sales experience gleaned in China in last month, while that country was still in the grips of lockdowns and public restrictions, Tesla developed two new-vehicle pick-up options: Express Delivery and Direct Drop, for American customers on edge about touching or being around other people.

Tesla Express Delivery (Less Touchy)

The first new car end-of-sale method, dubbed “Express Delivery,” leverages Tesla’s smartphone app as well as each new car’s onboard data connection to avoid handling or transferring any car keys—or nearly anything else but the car and some paperwork between the company and its new owner.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you needn’t travel. Customers using Express Delivery must still show up at a Tesla Delivery Center, where they check in for a scheduled appointment. It works like this: Using the app’s location tracking, you go directly to your new car to inspect it. All required documents are inside, prepared ahead of time and with highlights pointing out what to sign and where. Customers can also access tutorial videos on the main touchscreen (they were recently introduced alongside Tesla Theatre last year) and brush up on their car’s key functions. When you’re done signing everything and are ready to hit the road, an advisor will collect the documents for review while a technician adds a temporary tag and license plate.

The whole process requires minimal human interaction and is reasonably efficient, although we’d recommend that anyone concerned about touching paperwork or a new car that others might have been in before them just bring some sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer with them to give everything a once-over for peace of mind. In any event, the process also sounds much improved over previous Tesla sales closures. This author once accompanied a friend to pick up a Model 3, and although we arrived for our pick-up appointment on time, we wasted a lot of time waiting for an advisor to become available, the paperwork to be done, and the car to be readied and transported from an off-site location. Express Delivery, as a baseline, ensures the Tesla center has the car ready before customer arrives.

Tesla Direct Drop (Way Less Touchy)

Better yet, there’s a completely touchless delivery option called Tesla Direct Drop. Prior to delivery, you complete the paperwork digitally, e-sign everything and handle payment, download the Tesla app, and then pick a drop-off location for your new ride. (You can, for example, choose your home or your workplace—although these days, it’s more likely to be your home.) Tesla then drops the car off there. Using the Tesla app, the new owner unlocks the car and enjoys it, however they must send any remaining physical paperwork (left inside the car) back within 24 hours in a pre-paid shipping envelope. The whole process involves no physical human interaction, although the car might have a Tesla rep in it right before you take possession, so the same wipe-down suggestions apply to anyone nervous in our current climate. Right now, this delivery option is available in California, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

So, two grades of less-contact-filled vehicle delivery are great—but what about servicing and repairs? In addition to service centers, Tesla also has its famous fleet of mobile Tesla Rangers that travel to the car’s location in service vehicles equipped with tools and parts, or with a trailer to cart it off to faraway service centers. To minimize contact with the Rangers, Tesla is asking owners to request maintenance or a repair via its app; the automaker will determine whether it’s a job for the Rangers, and if so, confirm the car’s location and set things in motion. Owners are then asked to make their cars available at a safe, accessible location (their driveways, for example). The Ranger will request via a text or call to have the vehicle remotely unlocked upon their arrival. Finally, your payment, if required, is done through the app or by phone and the Ranger wipes down everything that’s been touched, locks the car, and sends you a message confirming the work. Cool, clever, and contact-averse—just what the times call for.

The post Tesla Keeps Delivering Cars, Albeit With Proper Social Distancing Techniques appeared first on MotorTrend.

Archive Drive: Our Original Ford F-150 Lightning Long-Term Wrap!

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 4:45pm

Lightning struck the performance scene in 1993 when an intimidating, lowered, 5.8-liter/240-horsepower F-150 pickup rolled out of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) shop and onto the street. Hot on the heels of assembling the ’93 Mustang Cobra, SVT applied the Cobra’s parts-sharing approach to build 10,000 limited-edition trucks with the looks and performance to earn a bad-boy reputation.

Ford’s speed gurus started with a basic F-150 (half-ton) shortbed pickup equipped with the XLT package. As they did with the Cobra, the engineers at SVT built their own version of a production engine: A 5.8-liter V-8 was improved with a pair of GT-40 aluminum cylinder heads, originally developed for competition. An aggressive cam profile was used to take advantage of the increased valve and port sizes. Airflow was optimized through a tuned aluminum intake manifold, larger-than-stock throttle body, tubular headers, and dual exhaust system. High-silicon aluminum pistons with lighter rings were fitted in the Windsor small-block to reduce internal friction. The engine computer was reprogrammed to take advantage of these modifications, providing crisp throttle response without affecting emissions.

Knowing that the truck would be driven hard by performance enthusiasts, SVT tweaked the E40D electronic four-speed automatic transmission to remain durable under the stress of the additional torque. The power is delivered down a 4.0-inch-diameter aluminum driveshaft to a limited-slip differential with low 4.10:1 gears. Under full throttle, upshifts come crisply at 5000 rpm. Due to its extra 49 cubic inches, the Lightning V-8 produces five horsepower and 55 pound-feet of torque more than the ’93 SVT Cobra.

As soon as we heard that this special truck was in the pipeline, we were on the phone with Ford. Our first test pitted the Lightning against the Chevrolet 454 SS in our June ’93 issue. The two muscle trucks proved to be closely matched, with identical 0-60-mph times and 60-0 braking distances (7.2 seconds and 143 feet). The Lightning managed to edge out the 454 SS in the quarter mile (15.6 seconds/87.4 mph versus 15.8/84.7), skidpad (0.84 g versus 0.78), and slalom (62.2 mph versus 60.7). Because of its better fuel economy and lower base price, we gave the nod to the Lightning.

A few months later, we welcomed a bright-red Lightning into our long-term test fleet. Building on a $19,023 base price for the 4×2 F-150 Styleside pickup, the Lightning package added an extra $2,846. Order number 509A included the high-performance 5.8-liter engine, SVT-tuned suspension, limited-slip differential, bucket seats, center console, front air dam with foglamps, four-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo, power windows and locks, air conditioning, electronic speed control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. We also ordered a sliding rear window, electric side mirrors, and a tubular rear bumper for an additional $432. Just in case, we included the towing package. The total came to $22,600, about $1,800 more than the Mustang Cobra we tested in our June ’93 issue, but the difference in sticker price would be nullified by the lower insurance premiums for the Lightning. And besides, we also like fast pickups.

As a member of our long-term fleet, the Lightning drew a loyal group of supporters. Even non-truck enthusiasts are drawn to the modern, monochrome appearance highlighted with black window and bumper trim. Lowered by 1.0 inch up front and 2.5 inches in the rear, the Lightning has an aggressive stance, bolstered by large 17×8.0-inch cast-aluminum wheels shod with 275/60HR17 Firestone Firehawk GTA tires. While these changes enhance the sinister look, their primary goal is to improve handling.

A blast down a deserted, curvaceous road reveals the Lightning’s handling prowess, which contradicts its 4,313 pounds and formidable size. Monroe Formula GP gas-pressurized shocks and a 1.0-inch diameter anti-roll bar working with a 4×4-spec Pitman arm and unique radius arm up front, and leaf springs with a single half leaf in the rear, provide a road-hugging ride when matched with the low center of gravity and large tire contact patches. The sport-coupe handling, surprising in such a large vehicle, has the driver searching for open roads where the Lightning really can be pushed. Our survey respondents flagged handling as the most liked attribute of the truck, with overall performance grabbing a close second.

Despite the numerous other modifications, the brakes remained stock F-150 fare, with 11.7-inch front discs and 11.0-inch rear ABS-equipped drums. The measured stopping distance of 143 feet came within a foot of the conventional 5.8-liter F-150 XLT. Aside from this spec and its EPA mileage ratings, the Lightning blew the tailgate off its more pedestrian stablemate in every other measure of performance.

Overall, the interior is standard F-150, with an all-business dash, easy-to-read gauges, and switches within the driver’s reach. The leather-wrapped steering wheel offers not only extra grip and beautification, but also a measure of isolation from steering-column vibration. An extra 12-volt power plug is convenient for radar detectors-essential equipment for this ticket magnet. The most notable interior element of the Lightning package is the pair of cloth bucket seats with adjustable lumbar and thigh supports. The rugged, soft-burlap-bag-like upholstered seats are embroidered with a striking Lightning logo. Between the seats of our test vehicle was a large center console complete with a pair of cupholders. Several staffers would have preferred a bench seat to increase seating capacity to three, likely in response to the number of people asking for rides in the red rocket. For ’94, Ford began offering a well-bolstered bench seat that features a fold-down center console-the perfect compromise.

Many surveyed owners desired more room; more than 10 percent wanted that room to come in the form of a Super Cab, probably figuring that if the smaller Ranger Splash can have an extended cab, why can’t the Lightning? Most Motor Trend testers found that the interior, supplemented by the numerous storage nooks and useable cargo space behind the seats, suited our lifestyles just fine.

Most owners bought the Lightning to haul something other than cargo, so SVT compromised the maximum payload and trailer weight to improve handling. Cargo capacity was cut in half from the F-150 XLT 5.8L, from 1485 to 745 pounds. The Lightning’s 5000-pound towing capacity, however, falls only 600 pounds shy of the F-150’s standard maximum. Properly equipped, an F-150 can pull up to 12,000 pounds; in contrast, the work-limited Lightning could rightfully be thought of as a Mustang with a cargo bed.

Fans of this muscle truck found it to be a fun-loving daily companion, and our logbook notes recorded an undying passion for the Lightning even after months of driving. Owners mirrored these sentiments: “The Lightning has lived up to all of my expectations. After two years of ownership, I still find myself making excuses just to get out and drive it,” wrote a man from Missouri. Many others supported the high ratings for this vehicle with similar words of praise, such as “There isn’t a better truck available.”

Our only complaint, as succinctly worded by an MT staff member, was that the Lightning “slurps fuel like a whale eats plankton.” Fuel economy measured in gallons per yard is forgivable for a purpose-built performance vehicle that does its job so well, but it still has drivers digging deep in their pockets. Dual fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 35 gallons, however, stretch out intervals between gas stops enough so that it doesn’t feel as if the Lightning spends more time at the filling station than on the road.

Performance enthusiasts are drawn to the Lightning, as illustrated by the number of surveyed owners who brought their hot-rodding ways to the truck. Over 80 percent of these owners bolted on aftermarket go-fast components in an effort to make a good thing even better. The most popular mod, adding a K&N air filter, is also the easiest. From there, trucks were improved with bed covers, Borla exhaust systems, high-performance computer chips, running boards, bug deflectors, and stereo upgrades. A significant percentage of the Lightning legion tested their modifications at the dragstrip, especially those whose modifications included engine work, aftermarket ignitions, headers, and other serious upgrades.

Whether stock or modified, the limited-production Lightning offers an exclusive American muscle experience. Its custom looks, agile feel, burbling V-8 sound, and real-world performance offer a privileged ownership experience for those with gas in their veins and a heavy right foot. Sadly, ’95 marks the last year for the Lightning as the Ford truck-production facilities switch over to building the new F-Series. Termed a success with high owner satisfaction and strong corporate image boosting, the Lightning concept may be applied to the new-generation trucks in the not-too-distant future. A more-refined suspension, modular engine, and added safety features would be worth the wait. We’d like to put our request in now for a ’97 Lightning V-10.

PRICE Base price $19,023 Price as tested $22,600 GENERAL/POWERTRAIN Body style 2-door, 2-passenger Vehicle configuration Front engine, rear drive Airbag None Engine configuration V-8, OHV, 2 valves/cylinder Engine displacement, ci/cc 352/5766 Horsepower, hp @ rpm, SAE net 240 @ 4200 Torque, lb-ft @ rpm, SAE net 340 @ 3200 Transmission 4-speed auto. Axle ratio 4.10:1 DIMENSIONS Wheelbase, in./mm 116.8/2967 Length, in./mm 201.8/5125 Height, in./mm 68.9/1750 Ground clearance, in./mm 8.2/208 Curb weight, lb 4313 Weight distribution, f/r, % 56/44 Fuel capacity, gal 34.7 Fuel economy, EPA, city/hwy., mpg 12/17 CHASSIS Suspension, f/r Twin I-beam/ live axle Steering Recirculating ball, power assist Brakes, f/r Vented discs/drums, ABS rear Wheels 17 x 8.0, cast aluminum Tires 275/60HR17 Firestone Firehawk GTA DEALER RATINGS Excellent Good Average Fair Poor Sales practices 44.8% 44.8% 6.9% 3.4% 0.0% Service practices 66.7 18.5 11.1 3.7 0.0 VITAL STATISTICS Average driver, sex/age group Male/40-59 Average purchase price $18,913 Average total mileage 17,182 Average fuel economy, mpg 13.3 PERFORMANCE Acceleration, 0-60, sec 7.2 Quarter mile, sec/mph 15.6/87.4 Braking, 60-0, ft 143 Lateral acceleration, g 0.84 Slalom, mph 62.2 MAINTENANCE Total mileage 10,116 Test mileage 9846 Fuel consumed, gal. 750.9 Fuel cost $956.57 Average mpg 13.1 Additional oil cost None Total maintenance $77.19 Problem areas None Total operating cost $1033.76 Operating cost/mile 10.5 STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES Mechanical problems None 55.2% Types of mechanical problems Paint 13.8% Cruise control 10.3 Alignment 6.8 Specific complaints Gas mileage 17.2% Ride quality 17.2 Power 13.8 Interior room 13.8 Legroom 10.3 Specific likes Handling 58.6% Performance 55.2 Style 41.4 Power 37.9 Engine 17.2 What changes would you like? More power 13.8% Super Cab 10.3 More color choices 6.9 Better seat comfort 6.9 More legroom 6.9 Survey sample group was limited in size due to low
vehicle production volume. PURCHASE CONSIDERATIONS What influenced you to consider a Lightning? Performance 100% Looks/style 93.1 Handling 93.1 American made 79.3 Car magazine report 65.5 Price 37.9 I would buy another Ford vehicle 100% I would recommend the Lightning to others 100 PERFORMANCE/CREATURE COMFORTS Excellent Good Average Fair Poor Performance rating 65.5% 34.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% Fun to drive 93.1 6.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 Acceleration 69.0 20.7 10.3 0.0 0.0 Braking 48.3 34.5 17.2 0.0 0.0 Handling 79.3 20.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 Overall comfort 34.5 48.3 17.2 0.0 0.0 Overall quality 37.9 48.3 6.9 6.9 0.0

This article was originally published October 2, 1995.

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Obscure SUVs and 4x4s You Definitely Didn’t Know About

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 3:11pm

What’s so strange about SUVs, you might wonder? They represent the most mainstream vehicle genre right now, but SUVs have decades of history and were decidedly outside of the mainstream for much of that time. Even within the now common vehicle format, there were plenty of strange offshoots. Think you’ve seen them all? Not a chance, so we dredged up some of our absolute favorite oddball sport-utility vehicles, many older and less-remembered today but still awfully niche when they were new.

There is a bit of something for everyone, from aftermarket conversions that had important implications for future vehicles like the Toyota 4Runner to evolutionary dead ends, branches of the SUV family tree that died out. For some, that’s a shame, for others probably a good thing. But most of these weirdo SUVs just had the bad luck to launch during a recession or without proper marketing, falling flat in a competitive marketplace and thus slipping into obscurity.

Some should be remembered. Perhaps some should be forgotten. You decide.

Matra-Simca Rancho

 

While never available in North America, the Matra-Simca Rancho is too bizarre (and too awesome) not to share. Despite its rough-and-tumble looks, the Rancho was what we’d now consider to be a lifestyle vehicle, front-wheel drive only and with limited ground clearance, based on an equally obscure (to Americans) car platform from Simca. It was developed by Chrysler’s European operations, an alphabet soup of strange companies all short on cash. A 4×4 model was considered, but there wasn’t enough budget to develop it. If they had, it might have helped save the entire enterprise. Remember, Subaru was busy producing and building a reputation around its early car-based 4x4s. Pairing the Rancho’s proto-Outback looks with AWD could have been the magic bullet. The Rancho was produced from 1977 to 1984—from 1980 to 1984 it was known as the Talbot-Matra Rancho—and examples are rare now thanks to rust and abuse.

Toyota Trekker by Winnebago

The Toyota 4Runner wouldn’t exist if this particular aftermarket conversion of the company’s pickup truck hadn’t happened. Seriously. While SUVs with removable tops had existed for a long, long time before the Trekker was born (think International Harvester Scout 80, Chevrolet K5 Blazer, and the early Ford Broncos, among others), Toyota was being cautious and allowed the aftermarket to dip a toe in first. Winnebago built the Trekker, a well-finished capped truck that was well-received by the public and press. The positive reaction gave Toyota the green light to develop the in-house 4Runner, based on the next-generation pickup and wearing a more elaborate fiberglass shell. The rest is history: The 4Runner lost its fiberglass top in the next generation, but continues to this day to be a popular offroad-capable (fixed-roof) SUV.

Monteverdi Safari

After decades out of production, the International Harvester Scout is already rather obscure. The 1977 to 1982 Monteverdi Safari is even more so. It was a coachbuilt Swiss SUV based on the Scout from a company that mainly built grand tourers, sporty-looking luxury cars built for high-speed travel. In fact, the most well-known Monteverdi model was called the High Speed 375. But unlike today, luxurious SUVs were rare in Europe. The company took the chassis and most of the running gear from the Scout and hid it under angular, somewhat handsome bodywork by the Italian firm Fissore. A 440 Chrysler V-8 was an option. Rare, expensive, and terribly thirsty for fuel, it did not give the Range Rover a run for its money. Now possible to import from Europe, they occasionally turn up for sale, along with the similar Sahara (which didn’t have a custom body).

Lada Niva

The Lada Niva is an off-road icon from a place you might initially think unlikely: Russia. But that country’s vast expanses, primitive roads, and attraction to simple and robust vehicles was actually the perfect place to develop something like the Niva. There’s no direct analog in America, so think of it a bit like a 1970s-era Subaru Crosstrek, except with a real four-wheel-drive system. The rear sits on a live axle, and it sports a transfer case with low and high range, just like in a Jeep Wrangler. Designed to be more civilized than the tractor-like competition of its time, the Niva was affordable enough for regular people in rural areas, and the formula proved so successful that the trucklet was even sold in Canada from the 1980s until 1998. That means bringing one into the U.S. doesn’t even involve a cross-oceanic journey, if you’re lucky. A poor dealer network and an (undeserved) reputation as a disposable car mean few Nivas originally sold in Canada survive. The Niva is still in production in Russia, one of the longest-running models in history.

Volkswagen Iltis

 

OK, so this wasn’t ever sold directly to the public, but surplus Volkswagen Iltises (Ilti?) are available in Canada, and this strange all-wheel drive military vehicle is incredibly important in the history of a famous rally car and a whole range of road cars. First, Canada: Bombardier bought the license to build the Iltis from Volkswagen, and produced a few thousand for local and foreign military use. After its replacement was announced, many were surplused, and so they occasionally pop up on classifieds sites. As for its historical importance, the all-wheel-drive system the Iltis used led directly to the famous Quattro system and namesake race car, and therefore the entire Audi family of AWD vehicles owes its existence to this vehicle. Small diesel of gas engines were offered, but forget about hard doors or a top. This capable but homely little SUV can go places the famous VW Thing can only dream about.

Saleen XP8 Ford Explorer

You probably know about the GMC Syclone and Typhoon twins, General Motors’ absolutely bonkers factory performance variants of the S-15 and S-15 Jimmy. While Ford had the excellent full-size SVT Lightning pickup, the smaller Ranger and ultra-common Explorer SUV never got an SVT treatment from the factory. Steve Saleen stepped in and built the Explorer XP8, wearing revised bodywork that looked a lot like his contemporary modified Mustangs. The XP8 was supercharged, lowered, and generally beefed up for performance duty. We tested one back in the day, and it improved upon the normal Explorer significantly—although the bar was pretty low. It did 0.76 G on our skidpad, and the blown 5.0 gained about 80 horsepower overall. It wasn’t a factory build, but it was among the most obscure Explorers ever.

Daihatsu Rocky 

 

Owned by Toyota, Daihatsu is mainly a small-car specialist. The Rocky was a capable small SUV, similar to but more robust than the popular Suzuki Samurai, built to a level of quality comparable to mainline Toyotas. It also had a name that was easily confused with Hyundai, at the time struggling with a reputation for poor quality, and a recession that deeply cut into sales. The Rocky, and Daihatsu itself, disappeared from our shores in 1992. It’s a shame, because the Rocky was a legit off-roader and had lift-off panels over the front and rear passenger compartments. A manual was the only transmission, and 4WD was standard. Daihatsu sold about 50,000 cars in total, and the Rocky and its Charade subcompact stablemate sometimes pop up for sale.

Isuzu Trooper RS 

The obscure Isuzu SUV you probably know about is the VehiCROSS, which was absolutely bonkers when new—an alternate-universe four-wheeler with alien DNA. The Trooper RS is probably rarer and definitely less well-known—a three-door version of the somewhat popular second-generation Trooper you’ve definitely seen before. The RS had a short wheelbase (91.7 inches versus the four-door’s 108.7 inches) and a body style that was rapidly falling out of favor with buyers. (Remember the Mazda Navajo? Or the Ford Explorer Sport? Exactly.) Sold for just a couple model years, it’s both rare and not very special, making it the ultimate obscure SUV for anyone other than the most diehard Isuzu fanatic. Even rarer is its previous-gen RS cousin, imported only in 1989 in even more limited numbers.

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2021 Chevy Trailblazer’s Trailblazing Engines Don’t Deliver Trailblazing Fuel Economy

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 2:01pm

The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer hits the not-compact, not-subcompact crossover scene this year with a stylish design and an impressively low starting price of $19,995. But its most buzzworthy aspect is the all-three-cylinder engine lineup. We haven’t tested the segment-splitting small SUV yet, so we don’t know how those modern, tiny engines will perform on the road. But we did expect the three-cylinder engines to deliver better fuel economy than the figures just released by the EPA.

Why? We figured the Trailblazer’s smaller-than-usual three-cylinder engines—four-cylinders are still typical in most new small cars, with a few exceptions such as Mini’s Hardtop—might net a fuel-economy benefit relative to its rivals. That isn’t the case. The Trailblazer’s entry-level 1.2-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine makes 137 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, comes paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and is only available with front-wheel drive. It is EPA-estimated to deliver 28 mpg in the city, 31 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined—okay numbers that are matched or exceeded by some one-size-up, four-cylinder compact SUVs such as the more powerful Honda CR-V and even Chevy’s own Equinox.

If you want more power and better efficiency, pick the optional 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. It delivers 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, and also comes paired with a CVT and front-drive. In that configuration, the Trailblazer is EPA-estimated to return 29 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. The bigger engine also unlocks the Trailblazer’s all-wheel drive option, which swaps the CVT for a nine-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, AWD knocks the Trailblazer’s fuel economy down two pegs, to less than the entry-level, front-drive 1.2-liter model, or 26 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined.

Amongst its direct competitors, the Trailblazer’s best fuel economy ratings are similar to those of the 2021 Kia Seltos (29 city/34 highway/31 combined mpg) and slightly better than other ‘tweeners sized between the subcompact and compact classes. Those include the  And the sleek and stylish 2020 Mazda CX-30, which tops out at 25 city/33 highway/28 combined mpg, as well as the 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport (25/32/28 mpg) and the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek (27/33/30 mpg, in non-hybrid guise).

Chevrolet’s small crossovers seem to offer increasingly better fuel economy the larger they get (or at least they don’t get worse), which seems backwards. The Trailblazer’s fuel economy only barely exceeds that of the one-size-smaller Trax, which is fully subcompact and comes with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and theoretically should be the smallest and lightest of the bunch, and therefore the most efficient. Meanwhile, the one-size-larger Equinox (a compact) offers more or less the same fuel economy as the Trailblazer, despite being bigger and more powerful. In short, we expected better from the Trailblazer’s unconventional three-cylinder engine lineup—although for its class, it delivers entirely conventional fuel economy.

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The Coolest 25-Year-Old Cars You Can Legally Import in 2020

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 12:07pm

There is more than one way to import foreign-market cars into America that weren’t originally crash tested, emissions certified, or otherwise legal to use on the road here in the U.S. when new. If you command a Bill Gates-esque bank account and want a Porsche 959, you could theoretically buy two of the rare sports cars and pay to get one road certified by crash testing the other. In short, bring money, or bring something into the country under show-and-display rules—meaning you can’t really street-register your car. If you’re like everyone else and actually want to drive your prized import, the easiest way is to wait until the car you’ve had your eye on turns 25 years old.

A long wait? Depends on the car you’re interested in, but trust us, there is plenty of worthy metal out there just itching for a boat ride to the ol’ U-S-of-A. Whether it’s a sweet version of one of your favorite cars that its maker never sent to America, or an oddball that had no business in the States in the first place, there are tons of choices for the would-be importer. Luckily, for 2020, the selection of newly 25-year-old vehicles is strong. From sports cars to tiny Japanese-market Kei cars, we’ve gathered ten of the coolest cars from 1995 that you can finally import to the United States:

R33 Nissan GT-R

The R33 Nissan GT-R is a legend and probably is the most widely recognizable car on this list. It also probably is the most desirable, so, naturally, we placed it first. The R33 represents a massive step up from the R32 that came before it, thanks to its upgraded rear-wheel steering, more clever all-wheel-drive system, and longer wheelbase for enhanced high-speed stability. These big coupes also have aged gracefully, and don’t look nearly as old and ’90s as other performance machines of that decade.

BMW Alpina B8 4.8

Alpina is a well-respected BMW tuning firm, having been around since 1965, giving BMWs incredible visual and performance upgrades for decades. For the past few years, its B7 has made it stateside. The B7 is a worked-over BMW 7-series sedan that would make a natural M7—if BMW built an M version of the big 7-series, which it doesn’t. Anyway, the B8 4.6 represents Alpina’s must-import vehicle of 1995. Based on the E36-generation 3-series, the B8 4.6 included the usual array of Alpina’s awesome geometric graphics and signature thin-spoke wheels—along with a 4.6-liter V-8 engine crammed under its hood. Casual observers of the E36 3-series may recall that the largest engine BMW offered in the compact car at the time was an inline-six, a 3.0-liter unit used by the M3.  The big V-8 put out 329 horsepower and came hooked to a six-speed manual transmission, making it easily among the wildest 3-series of the ’90s.

Alfa Romeo 146

The United States wasn’t able to experience the best Alfa Romeo had to offer between 1995 and 2017, when the brand made its official comeback in this market with the Giulia and Giulia Quadrifoglio sport sedans. Back in ’95, when Alfa left the American car market, it had been reduced to selling only the Spider roadster and the 164 sedan. The smaller 146 sedan wasn’t sold here originally, and while not exactly legendary, it is cute, quirky, and definitely now 25 years old. Alfa offered the 146 with a variety of engines, but the one to get is the most powerful available, a 2.0-liter “twin spark” four-cylinder exclusive to the sporty Ti trim levels.

Mitsubishi Evo III

Mitsubishi euthanized the final descendant of its mighty rally machines, the Lancer Evolution X, in 2015 and announced there won’t be any future for the high-performance Evo models. That means anyone looking to relive the glory days of Mitsu’s battle with Subaru’s Impreza WRX on and off the WRC circuit will have to reach into the past to score any Evo. While you’re lookin’ backwards, might we suggest the Evo III? That’s right—skip past the Evo VIII that was the first to officially make it to American Mitsubishi dealerships, and go for the III that’s finally old enough to be imported here. The Evo III was an enhanced version of the Evo II, benefiting from slicker aero, better engine cooling, a bigger turbo, and more horsepower (270) and torque (228 lb-ft) than the previous car. That’s plenty, even by today’s standards.

Honda Integra Type R

True fans of the Acura Integra know just how good the Type R variant was, and its legend seemingly grows in relation to its age. But, before the Acura model arrived in the U.S. for 1997, the Honda (not Acura!) Integra Type R went on sale in Japan in 1995. Want to out-rare those Acura versions, which are now highly coveted by American Honda enthusiasts? Grab this newly importable first-year Honda version, which came with a screaming 1.8-liter inline-four that made 197 horsepower and 8,000 rpm, along with some Japanese Domestic Market (JDM)–exclusive styling and engine enhancements.

Nissan Rasheen

You’ve probably never heard of the Nissan Rasheen, a small boxy wagon-ish thing that looks like the result of a cross-breeding experiment involving a Volvo, Jeep Cherokee, and perhaps a LaForza SUV. Thanks to its micro scale—the Rasheen is tiny!—and derpy appearance, the Nissan is cute and likeable. Nissan fitted the Sunny-based Rasheen with all-wheel drive and offered a number of engine options, and one might look less pedestrian with some styling modifications and perhaps some itty bitty off-road tires.

Mitsubishi Pajero Mini

Wait, isn’t the Pajero a burly SUV? Yes, but this is the Mini version. The Pajero Mini is a proper Kei car, named for the micro “Kei”-car class in Japan that affords owners lower vehicle taxes and has limitations on engine size and overall dimensions. Whether you think it looks like a squashed version of the Mitsubishi Galant from the time mixed with a retro Outlander, or a shrunken Pajero, it’s adorable. Because Kei cars are exclusive to Japan, pretty much, bringing one to the States is an easy way to stand out at your local Cars and Coffee gathering. No kidding—everyone has seen a Lamborghini, but how many Mitsubishi Pajero Minis have you seen? Exactly. Plus, imagine what sort of trails this could fit on that even a Jeep Wrangler couldn’t!

MG F

Think of the MG F as the British take on Toyota’s MR2 mid-engine sports car. The MG F, like the MR2, is a small mid-engine convertible (okay, the MR2 was more of a targa, but you get it). Apparently, the MG’s design was inspired by the Ferrari 250 LM. Beyond the F’s round headlights, consider that mark missed. But, hey, the MG F was still one of Britain’s last remaining affordable sports cars when it was launched and through its end of production in 2002.

Audi A8 Yes, we know this is an S8—imagine it with fewer “S” logos and you get the idea.

The Audi A8 didn’t make its way to the United States until 1997, but it first came out in 1995. That means that if you want one of the first A8s ever made, you can scour the internet to try and find a German-market model to import. In his initial review for Top Gear (episodes are available on MotorTrend On Demand!), host Jeremy Clarkson called it one of the most comfortable cars he’s ever driven—better than the contemporary BMW 7-series and Mercedes S-Class sedans. That is quite a compliment for Audi’s first real attempt at a full-sized luxury machine aimed at the luxury segment’s big guns.

Toyota Mega Cruiser

Rounding out this list of desirable foreign-market metal is this decidedly American-seeming thing, the Toyota Mega Cruiser. Think of this as Japan’s answer to the Hummer. It was big, designed primarily for military use, and you’ll definitely want to get out of one’s way if you see it behind you on the freeway. The Mega Cruise is also mega cool, and you can finally make your Hummer-driving neighbor jealous that you have something that’s just as big, but more exotic and exclusive in every way. Plus, hey, gas is cheap for the moment, so go nuts.

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Hybrid SUV Battle: 2020 Toyota RAV4 XSE vs. 2020 Honda CR-V Touring

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 4:00am

Go ahead, splurge. Treat yourself to the best compact SUV in the showroom—just don’t let the hybrid badge surprise you. If that h-word provokes associations of stodgy, slow, compromise-mobiles, consider this: The 2020 Honda CR-V and 2020 Toyota RAV4 offer engine upgrades that deliver more responsiveness and efficiency than almost any SUV under $40,000. Oh, and you’ll retain the interior space you expect while traveling more than 100 miles longer between fuel stops. When it comes to having your cake and eating it, too, the hybrids of these segment-dominating rivals provide satisfying and guilt-free motoring. At the higher end of the segment, though, which is the best hybrid SUV—the CR-V Touring or the RAV4 XSE?

Which Hybrid SUV Is More Efficient? Are They Expensive?

The Toyota and Ford’s new Escape Hybrid win the race for data-obsessed buyers, with an excellent 40 mpg combined city/highway rating. But you’re reading MotorTrend, which means you understand there’s more to the picture than simply superb efficiency. It’s a good place to start, though, and the all-wheel-drive (AWD) Honda falls a tiny bit behind the others, with an EPA-rated 40/35 mpg to the AWD Toyota’s 41/38 mpg and the Ford’s 43–44/37 mpg (front-wheel drive and AWD). Our real-world results with the Toyota and Honda reflected the former’s advantage.

The Honda has a standard mechanical AWD system like the non-hybrid model. The Toyota, however, uses an electric motor at the rear axle instead of the conventional AWD system of other RAV4s.

Even if you’re only an environmentalist when Greenpeace volunteers are at the door, how would you like three extra days of commuting without stopping for gas? With the CR-V, upgrading from an AWD model to the AWD hybrid means 126 extra miles of range if you drive about as efficiently as the EPA’s estimates. The RAV4 hybrid extends driving range 145 to 174 miles, depending on the trim. One note—as of this writing, Toyota was working through an issue affecting an unknown number of 2019 and 2020 RAV4 Hybrids, in which a variation in the shape of the fuel tank may be impacting the car’s ability to get a full fill-up.

Enthusiasts of good deals can get behind these hybrids, too. Honda only charges $1,200 above the AWD non-hybrid trim, and Toyota has cut its hybrid premium to only $1,000 above AWD non-hybrid variants. That’s compelling. Depending on how and where you drive, paying off those premiums over the course of a five-year loan should be a cinch.

How They Drive … and a 2001 Prius

“Remarkably fun” was how testing director Kim Reynolds described the RAV4 XSE hybrid after he drove it at the limit on our figure-eight course, which evaluates braking, cornering, accelerating, and the transitions in between. Our RAV4 Hybrid tester hit 60 mph in just 7.1 seconds, beating the CR-V Hybrid’s 7.5 seconds, almost a full second quicker than our 2019 RAV4 XLE AWD long-termer, and about 6 seconds swifter than the original Prius. Not bad for a hybrid SUV only 1 mpg off that trailblazing hybrid sedan.

At a more relaxed pace, the RAV4 XSE Hybrid’s dynamics are solid but not quite as entertaining. “The steering on the Toyota feels more artificial and has less feedback,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said after driving the Honda and Toyota. It’s more than just the steering, though.

The sport-tuned RAV4 XSE is less compliant than the CR-V, yet the Honda still feels fun for a sensible crossover. Reynolds preferred the RAV4’s dynamics on the track but spoke to what we discovered on the street: The Honda feels nimbler during casual driving. The CR-V also hands the RAV4 the title for quickest compact SUV hybrid in exchange for slightly more comfortable suspension and transmission tuning. There’s no right or wrong here; it’s more a matter of taste. If you want the ultimate in suspension compliance, go with the CR-V Touring Hybrid. But if the responsive Honda can’t quite match your lead-footed driving style, try the even more responsive and quicker RAV4 XSE.

Braking Performance and a Transmission Curiosity

So you’re thinking of going with the CR-V because a 0.4-second difference to 60 mph doesn’t faze you. OK, but before you end a CR-V Hybrid test drive, listen for the Honda’s motorboating transmission by applying moderate to maximum throttle. That occasional intrusion is the biggest reason the Insight wasn’t our 2019 Car of the Year, and for some it will sour an otherwise excellent driving experience. With my stop-and-eventually-go commute, I’d gladly accept the unconventional way the transmission lets the engine swell toward its power peak as a trade-off for smoothness.

Both SUVs have five-star safety scores from the NHTSA and are IIHS 2020 Top Safety Picks. The main difference: The Honda’s headlights are rated better (on average), but the Toyota’s LATCH setup is rated easier to use.

The CR-V regains its footing with fantastic brake feel, at least in everyday driving. In MotorTrend’s 60–0 mph panic stop testing , road test editor Chris Walton was surprised by the “huge delay between pedal pressing and actually slowing,” despite a 115-foot stop that beat the Toyota’s 120-foot performance. What delighted us on the street, however, was braking feel that felt more like a non-hybrid than almost any hybrid available today. The Toyota’s brakes feel almost normal to the end of the pedal’s travel, but the Honda is so good, some might not even realize it’s a hybrid. Cortina also appreciated the CR-V’s braking-regen paddle shifters.

“They almost work for one-pedal driving,” he said.

Interior Innovation: Toyota and Honda Magic

Inside, the Honda and Toyota are almost perfect foils. The Toyota exudes an outdoorsy charm, even in sporty XSE trim. Like a rugged backpack worn by someone who went hiking once, the Toyota is cool even when you know harder-core alternatives exist. The grippy material behind the front door pulls and on the enormous HVAC knobs speak to that spirit, as does the line-pattern on the bottom of the cupholders and even on the footpad of the driver’s floormat. Then there’s the way the geometric pattern in the headlights matches the pattern on the door sill trim. Taken at this level of interior detail or from 50 feet, the RAV4’s design will inspire pride from owners who notice. Pro tip: Even if you rarely use the RAV4 Hybrid’s Eco and Sport drive modes, think of the controller as a soothing fidget toy. When you’re waiting for someone, rotate the grippy material of that drive mode disc to see the light change from green to blue to red. Neat.

The Honda takes a more middle-of-the-road approach. The SUV’s woodlike trim isn’t as convincing as what you’ll find in the Accord, but it still speaks to the CR-V’s more mainstream-luxury approach. Where the RAV4 XSE has blue accents on the dash and in the seats, the CR-V Hybrid’s biggest interior change compared to the non-hybrid model is the lack of a gear stalk. In its place, this Honda has gear buttons that are intuitive once you get used to them. Oddly, the gear stalk of our RAV4 XSE tester required a bit more effort to push from drive to park than we’d like.

On the practical side of things, the SUVs excel in different ways. The CR-V Hybrid’s cargo load floor may be slightly lower than the Toyota’s, but the Honda only offers 33.2 cubic feet of cargo space to the Toyota’s 37.6. Both cargo areas are spacious, but it’s worth noting you won’t lose any cubes shifting from non-hybrid to hybrid in the Toyota—a hybrid SUV that also manages to make room for a spare tire. With the Honda, non-hybrids provide an extra 6.0 cubic feet.

If you buy on a day when your left brain is calling the shots, we’d still recommend the Honda. Because although the CR-V lacks the RAV4’s cargo space advantage, it blows the Toyota out of the water in most practical details in front of the cargo area. Honda’s mastered the details—maybe that’s one reason this generation CR-V won a non-hybrid Big Test comparison and was our 2018 SUV of the Year. It’s everything from the way the rear doors open almost 90 degrees to the way the front seat tracks aren’t as intrusive for backseat passengers as in the Toyota. It’s the way the drivetrain hump is that much less noticeable, making it easier for outboard passengers to stretch their legs toward the center. Up front, it’s the way the supremely usable, flexible center console makes the cabin feel airier. Even the steering wheel’s volume and track-forward controls are in a smarter place on the Honda.

Still, the CR-V’s far from perfect. Cortina missed having a tuning knob, and the CR-V’s infotainment screen feels like a sad, 7.0-inch homage to what used to be acceptable at this price point. Most CR-V competitors offer screens that are a bit larger and, crucially, mounted higher on the dash for optimal visibility. Expect the next-gen CR-V to adopt this layout—you know, just like the 2020 Accord already does.

Which Hybrid SUV Is Best?

This is a close one. These two sales leaders demonstrate that no one needs to accept a compact hybrid SUV with an absurdly high cargo area load floor anymore. And at least with the Honda and Toyota, MotorTrend testing confirms that poky acceleration is a thing of the past. Go ahead and roll your eyes; the real winner here is you. Both rivals are worth driving even as they strive to be the best hybrid SUV in different ways.

The Toyota actually offers more value and tech on lower trim levels than the Honda, which charges a greater premium for a power liftgate, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. When it comes to our $37,070 CR-V Touring and $38,557 RAV4 XSE hybrid testers, though, we couldn’t ignore that gaping price difference. At the more expensive end of the segment, the Toyota doesn’t have $1,500 more excellence (or equipment) than the Honda. Also, Toyota, how about adding a power passenger seat on some 2021 or 2022 RAV4s?

Now a few years removed from its SUV of the Year win, the Honda can’t hide a couple of warts in hybrid form. But if we had just under $40,000 for a hybrid SUV, we’ll take the CR-V.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring AWD 2020 Toyota RAV4 XSE Hybrid AWD DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD Front-engine, AWD ENGINE TYPE I-4, alum block/head, plus AC permanent-magnet electric motor I-4, alum block/head, plus AC permanent-magnet electric motors VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DISPLACEMENT 121.6 cu in/1,993 cc 151.7 cu in/2,487 cc COMPRESSION RATIO 13.5:1 14.0:1 POWER (SAE NET) 143 hp @ 6,200 rpm (gas), 181 hp (elec); 212 hp (comb) 176 hp @ 5,700 rpm (gas), 118/54 hp (f/r elec); 219 hp (comb) TORQUE (SAE NET) 129 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm (gas), 232 lb-ft (elec) 163 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm (gas), 149/89 lb-ft (f/r elec) REDLINE NA NA WEIGHT TO POWER 17.5 lb/hp 21.4 lb/hp TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto Cont variable auto AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.89/NA:1 3.61:1/NA:1 SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar STEERING RATIO 12.3:1 14.3:1 TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.3 2.7 BRAKES, F; R 12.6-in vented disc; 12.2-in disc, ABS 12.0-in vented disc; 11.1-in disc, ABS WHEELS 7.5 x 19-in cast aluminum 7.0 x 18-in cast aluminum TIRES 235/55R19 101H (M+S) Continental CrossContact LX Sport 225/60R18 100H (M+S) Michelin Primacy A/S DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE 104.7 in 105.9 in TRACK, F/R 62.9/63.5 in 63.0/63.7 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 182.1 x 73.0 x 66.5 in 180.9 x 73.0 x 67.0 in GROUND CLEARANCE 8.2 in 8.1 in APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE 18.9/26.0 deg 19.0/21.0 deg TURNING CIRCLE 37.4 ft 36.1 ft CURB WEIGHT 3,720 lb 3,770 lb WEIGHT DIST, F/R 58/42% 56/44% TOWING CAPACITY Not recommended 1,750 lb SEATING CAPACITY 5 5 HEADROOM, F/R 38.0/39.1 in 37.7/37.7 in LEGROOM, F/R 41.3/40.4 in 41.0/39.5 in SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 57.9/55.6 in 57.8/56.4 in CARGO VOLUME BEH F/R 68.7/33.2 cu ft 69.8/37.6cu ft TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 2.9 sec 2.3 sec 0-40 4.1 3.6 0-50 5.6 5.2 0-60 7.5 7.1 0-70 10.0 9.3 0-80 13.4 12.0 0-90 — 15.3 PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.9 3.7 QUARTER MILE 16.0 sec @ 86.3 mph 15.4 sec @ 90.1 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 115 ft 120 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.81 g (avg) 0.80 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.0 sec @ 0.60 g (avg) 27.6 sec @ 0.63 g (avg) TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH NA NA CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE $37,070 $35,420 PRICE AS TESTED $37,070 $38,557 STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes Yes/Yes AIRBAGS 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain 8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, driver knee, front passenger thigh BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles (8 yrs/100,000 miles hybrid comp) 5 yrs/60,000 miles (8 yrs/100,000 miles hybrid components) ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 3 yrs/36,000 miles 2 yrs/25,000 miles FUEL CAPACITY 14.0 gal + 1.4 kW-hrs Li-Ion battery 14.5 gal + 1.6 kW-hrs Ni-MH battery EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 40/35/38 mpg 41/38/40 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 84/96 kW-hrs/100 miles 82/89 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.52 lb/mile 0.49 lb/mile RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular Unleaded regular

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Buckin’ Bronco: 1966 Ford Bronco V-8 Test Drive

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 4:00am

In this From the Archives feature, we take a look back at our test drive of the V-8-powered 1966 Ford Bronco from the September 1966 edition of Motor Trend. Author Don MacDonald got ahold of a “Sports Utility” version of the ’66 Bronco and did some serious buckin’ in the then-new Ford truck, with photographer Pat Brollier documenting the action. 

FORD’S BRONCO with its standard 6-cylinder engine is quite capable of unseating an unstrapped rider in somewhat less than the standard rodeo time of eight seconds. But now with an optional 200-hp, 289-cubic-inch V-8, it packs the violence of a Brahman bull.

Ground clearance, though rated nominal 6.6 inches with standard tires, becomes phenomenal with 8.15 tires.

The 1966 Ford Bronco we had was one of several V-8s entered in the recent 4-wheel-drive Grand Prix held in Santa Ana riverbed near Riverside, Calif. They all were beaten by a less muscular 6-cylinder Bronco primarily because 200 hp feeding a 4:57 ratio limited-slip differential is somewhat akin to whipping water in a Waring blender. On the street one tends to stay under 50 mph even in “high” to insure returning with an engine still glued together. Off highway, however, and forgetting about the bruising business of racing for Top Eliminator in a Jeep rodeo, this Bronco is stopped by nothing short of the immovable.

Our version was what is called “Sports Utility,” differing from the “Roadster” in that it had a steel cab and full doors. For further utility the “Wagon” form may be ordered with a seat and steel covering for rear passengers, and a vinyl soft top is alternately available. One of our wives unkindly compared our sports package to a “squashed up dump truck,” but these sentiments were not shared by the amazing number of Jeep, Toyota, Land Cruiser, etc. owners who, spotting the parked Bronco, stopped short for an impromptu inspection. The elan of this off-road clan is impressive, making us regret having to finally admit that we weren’t really a member, that we had to return the vehicle to its owner that Friday.

You sit high but comfortably in the Bronco, with an outstanding feature being the ready accessibility of the transfer-case control. We do feel, though, that somebody at the gear factories of each of the 4wd makers should do something to make the transfer case as civilized to shift about in as are the current light truck transmissions used. The dash is a utilitarian one, and thus quite pleasing in appearance, and the heater is obviously designed for topless operation in Alaska. The rugged mats and pedal covers should take nearly as much abuse as uncovered steel, and are less slippery.

The highway ride is choppy due to the short wheelbase, but is reasonably well cushioned by the front-coil springing. No brake or steering boost is needed or even offered, although a steering damper could well be applied if off-road use is frequent. Turning diameter is 33.6 feet, a figure claimed to be less than any other vehicle in Bronco’s class. The chassis design deserves credit; it provides an acceptable degree of creature comfort without any sacrifice in ruggedness. Our pictures prove better than words that the Bronco underpinnings are for all practical purposes indestructible.

Owner or mechanic could understandably be frightened by his first glimpse of the massive V-8 stuffed into a compartment originally designed to house a 170-cubic-inch 6. However, closer inspection reveals quite convenient accessibility to frequently serviced items. The distributor is topside at the front, only the left-rear spark plug is obstructed in any way, and that oft-buried item, the filler for the brake master cylinder, is as easy to reach as the oil intake. Lubrication and oil change intervals are Ford’s standard 6 months or 6000 miles, whichever comes first under normal operating conditions.

MONO-BEAM FRONT SUSPENSION WITH COILS AT EACH WHEEL IS USED. REAR SPRINGS ARE PROGRESSIVE-TYPE ELLIPTICS. TRACK IS 57.4 INCHES.

Gasoline consumption for the V-8 can range anywhere from 15 mpg for easy highway driving to a low of 7 mpg experienced during our rough cross country picture taking. Considering the low gearing of our test unit, this is not bad at all. A standard fuel capacity of 14 gallons is the highest in its class, and so is the warranty of 24,000 miles or 24 months. Another plus factor, of course, is Ford’s network of 6400 dealerships across the country.

Optional equipment includes power take-off, a winch, heavy-duty axles and a wide assortment of dress-up accessories. Either Warn or Dana free-running front hubs are available. Stowage area is 56 inches wide and 55 inches long.

48 MOTOR TREND/ SEPTEMBER 1966

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2021 McLaren Elva Prototype Ride: Does the No-Windshield Thing Work?

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 4:00am

The Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ is the fastest road car in the world, boasting a top speed of over 300 mph. Lotus claims its forthcoming all-electric Evija will have 1,972 horsepower, making it the most powerful road car ever built. And the Czinger 21C, said to be able to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a fraction under 1.9 seconds, promises to be the quickest-accelerating hybrid road car in history.

One-upping your well-heeled buddies is getting tougher by the day. Spending $1.7 million on an 804-hp mid-engine roadster that doesn’t have a windshield? That’ll get them talking.

Enter the 2021 McLaren Elva. I’m sitting in the passenger seat, on a blustery winter day in the south of England, taking in triple-digit speeds with a McLaren test driver.

We’ve already given you a brief overview of this car, the newest—and perhaps most controversial—car in McLaren’s Ultimate Series lineup, just 249 of which will be built. But now we’ve ridden in an early prototype and can answer the question you all want to ask: Yes, the F1-inspired aero technology McLaren says will isolate the Elva’s occupants in an invisible “bubble of calm” from 30 mph to 70 mph seems to work.

How? Air entering the large intake at the front of the Elva is directed through a series of vanes and turned through 130 degrees, exiting at high speed through a large vent on the front deck. The force of that airflow, combined with the effect of a Gurney flap that deploys at the leading edge of the vent at 30 mph, creates an invisible wall of air that pushes the air streaming over the Elva’s front deck up and over the heads of occupants. An organic windshield, if you will.

McLaren says you’ll be able to drive the Elva at normal road speeds without wearing a full-face crash helmet. And a ride with test driver Kenny Bräck at Dunsfold, home of the Top Gear test track, on a cold and blustery winter’s day (with and without a prototype Gurney flap fixed in place), confirmed McLaren’s Active Air Management System (AAMS) dramatically slows the air flowing through the cockpit.

You might not need a full-face helmet under 70 mph, but wearing glasses or goggles is still a good idea—the complex system of turning vanes buried in the Elva’s bodywork, tuned using the same techniques that direct airflow with millimetric precision on a McLaren F1 racer, is not much good against gravel flung off the tires of other vehicles.

Codenamed P26, the Elva is explicitly designed to deliver a visceral driving experience, according to McLaren’s head of global product management, Ian Digman. And, he says, its mission statement complements those of both its McLaren Ultimate Series stablemates, the Senna and the Speedtail.

“The Senna is raw, stripped-out, focused, with incredible downforce. It’s purely about delivering that ultimate lap time,” Digman says. “The Speedtail uses pioneering hybrid technology to deliver more than 1,000 horsepower and incredible straight-line speed in absolute refinement.” And the Elva? It’s a car that doesn’t need a racetrack and doesn’t need a destination. “The sole purpose of it is for the pleasure of driving. It is a car that connects you back with the elements.”

Named after the customer versions of McLaren sports racers built by British sports car manufacturer Elva during the 1960s, today’s Elva is built from a tried and true selection of McLaren hardware.

The carbon-fiber tub is based on that developed for the 720S and evolved for the Senna, as are the suspension and powertrain.The all-new carbon-fiber open-top bodywork is the most voluptuous yet seen on a McLaren road car, with deeply sculpted bodysides, generous hips over the rear wheels, and softly curved streamlining humps behind the seats. It’s sensual, but functional, too—the profile of the bodyside helps manage airflow past the front wheels and guide air into intakes ahead of the rear wheels. The pronounced front fender peaks help you place the car accurately on the road.

With no A-pillars, no curved windshield, and no arching roofline, the Elva has less of a cab-forward stance than other McLarens. The front and rear graphics are unique, too. The slimline headlights frame a large under-bumper air intake and are shrouded by a signature line that hints at the gaping eye sockets of a 720S. The rear end is dominated by a mesh fascia that allows maximum heat evacuation from the engine compartment, along with an intricate assortment of diffusers.

Like other McLarens, the Elva is equipped with an active rear wing. In addition to acting as an airbrake under heavy braking, the wing also automatically compensates for changes to front axle lift when the AAMS Gurney flap deploys, to maintain the car’s aerodynamic balance.

The liminality of the cockpit—neither “interior” nor “cabin” accurately describes where the occupants sit—is one of the most intriguing aspects of the Elva. The outside surface of the car washes over the dash and doors, then plunges down between seats, blurring the ambiguous line between inside and out. The instrument panel—a nonfunctional 3-D-printed form on this early-build prototype—is in a binnacle that houses the digital instruments and puts the powertrain and handling setting controllers within fingertip reach of the driver.

Higher than usual sills—to further improve rigidity and side impact resistance—mean the doors are shallow, which also makes them lighter. You step up and over the sills and stand on the floor before you snuggle down into seats whose squabs have been shortened. On production Elvas the instrument binnacle and steering wheel will also retract out of the way to help make entry and egress easier for the driver.

With no windshield and no roof, the Elva is most definitely not a sports car for a rainy day, but the seats are trimmed in a breathable material than McLaren says is water resistant. Same, too, with the audio system’s speakers, which will be mounted behind the occupants’ heads. It might be open to the elements, but the production Elva will also come with a fully functioning HVAC system. The open cockpit means the HVAC vents have been relocated near the floor to ensure warm or cool air flows past the occupants.

The lack of a windshield makes rollover protection more difficult, but pyrotechnically activated 12-inch-long pylons hidden in the humps are instantly deployed in the event of a crash. (They were fixed in the crash position on our prototype.) McLaren says the Elva can be legally sold in the U.S. without a windshield, even though in some states it cannot be driven on the road without one. A specifically designed windshield will be available as a no-cost option; with it, the AAMS system is deleted.

At the heart of the Elva is an 804-hp version of McLaren’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. That’s 15 hp more than the engine produces in the Senna, courtesy of a different air intake system and a different exhaust system. Torque remains the same—590 lb-ft—as in the Senna, and the seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission features the same ratios as McLaren’s million-dollar track rat.

The brakes—15.4-in carbon-ceramic rotors all round—are also lifted from the Senna, and the suspension has the same architecture, through spring, damper, and anti-roll-bar rates are all unique, tuned to work with the Elva’s lighter curb weight. Steering has been tuned to deliver extra response from the lightly loaded front axle.

McLaren is not releasing details yet, but Digman confirms the Elva will weigh less than the 3,011-pound Senna. More power and less weight means the topless McLaren will be a stormer—quicker in a straight line than even the Senna. Claimed 0–60 mph time is less than 3.0 seconds (the Senna posted a 2.9-second time in our testing), with 124 mph coming up in 6.7 seconds. No word on top speed, but you can be confident it will be fast enough to peel your cheeks off if you’re not wearing the full-face helmet McLaren recommends at speeds above 70 mph.

Like all McLarens, the Elva runs smaller-section tires than most comparable supercars—245/35 ZR19 at the front and 305/30 ZR 20 at the rear. “That ties to the intention of the car,” McLaren director of engineering design Dan Parry-Jones says. “It should be quite playful, quite lively, quite agile. The Elva is not about ultimate grip, it’s about having the most fun, engaging experience.”

After a couple of laps around Dunsfold alongside McLaren test driver Gareth Howell—Gurney flap off and helmets on—that included a mix of fast and slow corners and a couple of bursts to 100 mph, the Elva certainly feels playful, lively, and agile from the passenger seat. And the view is utterly extraordinary; you’re right there, in widescreen CinemaScope, the tarmac rushing at you as 804 hp slingshots you to the next apex.

The McLaren Senna truly is a race car you can drive on the road. Based on our brief ride, the McLaren Elva is going to make you feel like you’re driving a race car on the road—even when driving it at speeds that won’t get you arrested.

The post 2021 McLaren Elva Prototype Ride: Does the No-Windshield Thing Work? appeared first on MotorTrend.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Interior Review

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 4:00am

I’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel of MotorTrend’s long-term Jeep Wrangler. It’s my daily driver—taking me to the office each and every day and then out exploring the backwoods of California on the weekends. When I’m not driving “my” Wrangler, I’m driving test cars, which yes, sometimes just so happen to be Wranglers, too. After spending some time in a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel for a recent review, I thought I’d spend some addressing the ins and outs of the Jeep Wrangler’s interior.

What’s the Jeep Wrangler’s interior Like?

Before the latest JL Wrangler, the interiors on Jeep’s legendary off-roader were relatively uninspired places, usually filled with parts very obviously borrowed from the rest of the vehicles in the Jeep lineup. Things have changed drastically since the new Wrangler debuted in 2018. The basic design of the cabin harkens back to the original civilian Jeeps, with a near-flat, upright dash; big, rubberized knobs; metal trim with exposed screws; big, meaty transmission and transfer case shifters in the center; and, because of modern necessity, two screens—one serves as a driver information center in the instrument cluster, and the other handles your infotainment needs.

Jeep has done a great job differentiating the cabins of the different basic Wrangler trim levels, with the dash on each getting a unique color treatment. Sport and Sport S models get gray, Sahara models get either silver or black leather depending on whether you opt for cloth or leather seats, and Rubicon models get a satin red dash treatment. We do wish Rubicon models had additional color options for their dashboards; the red looks good against the red hood of our long-term Wrangler, but it looked like it belonged in a McDonald’s Play Place when contrasted to the Hellayella hood of our 2020 Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel tester.

How Comfortable is the Wrangler’s interior?

The Wrangler, much in the way a McLaren Senna is optimized for the racetrack above all else, is a dedicated off-roading machine. It’s solid front and rear axles, heavy off-road tires, and rock-oriented suspension are designed for off-road capability, not on-road comfort. Keeping that in mind, the Wrangler is pretty comfortable for what it is. The seats are all mounted high, giving occupants both front and back a commanding view of the road, and the cushioning itself is supportive, even on long drives. Head-, leg-, and knee room are all good for this 6-foot tall adult, both up front and in back. Foot room in back—and up front should you opt for a manual transmission—is a bit pinched, and shoulder room is tighter than you’d expect because of the Wrangler’s narrow cabin.

Which Wrangler Top Is Best?

With truthfully little differentiating each Wrangler trim’s cabin, the biggest choice you’re going to have to make is which of the three (well, four, technically) tops to get: the standard soft top, the optional premium Sunrider soft top (a $595–$795 option, depending on what color you pick), the optional three-piece removable hard top ($1,195 for black, $2,195 if you want it to match your paint), or the optional “Sky One Touch Power Top,” which for $3,995 combines a large, powered cloth section with a hard top that has removable rear quarter windows.

I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of convertibles, but the Wrangler’s Sunrider top is pretty good. (We haven’t gotten our hands on the standard soft top yet.) It doesn’t flap much at highway speed, and it’s pretty easy to drop the top and put it back up. It does unfortunately impede on trunk access, as you need to pull out the rear panel to access the upper portion of the trunk and then reinstall it when you’re done.

The three-piece hard top was the top I chose for our long-termer. The two roof panels over the front seats are quickly and easily removed with the pull of four latches each (no more endless twisting of a knob like in the previous generation), and the panels store in a dedicated bag in the Jeep’s trunk. The rest of the roof is easy to remove in about 10 minutes or so with simple hand tools that Jeep includes with every Wrangler. If interior noise and thermal management is especially important to you, an extra $595 on top of the price of the hard top nets you a headliner, helping make the cabin quieter on the road, cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter.

The Sky top is the best of both worlds. The large cloth section retracts at the push of a button, even while at speed, providing you with an authentic, open-air driving experience. The removable rear windows are really neat, too. They pop out with four latches each and can be stored in the trunk. Although they were rattle-prone on our tester, I wish they were an option on the hard top, too, but I could see how that would start to make the top overly complicated.

Of the three tops, the Sky top would tempt me, but its $3,995 price and excessive rattles would probably scare me off in the end. I’d also ultimately skip the soft top (again), too—the slightly louder cabin (when compared to the hard top) and added difficulty in accessing the cargo area would encourage me to spend the extra $1,195 for the hard top.

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