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Ogle Suzuki’s Jimny 4×4—Because It’s Not Coming to the U.S. and That’s All You Can Do

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 9:41pm

You’re forgiven for not knowing exactly what the Suzuki Jimny is—or for calling it the “Jimmy,” which was a GMC SUV in the ‘90s. The little 4×4 isn’t sold here in the U.S., which is really too bad because it’s the small, affordable, elemental SUV that’s been missing from American dealerships since Jeep’s Wrangler went huge, Hyundai and Kia grew up and started building crossovers, and Suzuki left the U.S. market entirely. With off-roaders roaring back, however, it’s worth taking a few moments to drool over the Jimny.

The Suzuki’s spec sheet describes a delightfully sparse yet rugged little vehicle. You can have your Jimny any way you want as long as it’s with two doors, a fixed roof, and four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. A 101-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder can be paired with either a four-speed automatic (throwback!) or a proper five-speed manual. You can probably guess which transmission does a better job extracting maximum performance, if that’s the right word, from that tiny engine. Just like a Wrangler, the Suzuki rides on coil-sprung solid axles front and rear. Dripping wet, a fully optioned Jimny weighs about 2500 pounds (the lightest version tips the scales, barely, at 2400 pounds). And from its snub nose to its externally mounted spare tire in back, it measures just under 12 feet long.

In today’s world, where vehicles increasingly isolate drivers and passengers from the road and the surrounding world, the starkly elemental Jimny is a throwback in modern clothing. The Interior is simple, though, yes, it offers a touchscreen, and the exterior is highlighted by big round headlights, bumpers, and lots of flat sheetmetal. (In fact, if its styling looks a little familiar, it’s because the second-generation Jimny from the ‘80s was sold here as the Samurai.) It’s so right, we previously wrote a pleading story for Ford, begging it to take notes from the Jimny for its upcoming Bronco and Bronco Sport SUVs. From what we know about the bigger Ford Bronco, it likely towers over the spindly Suzuki. But we can all hope the smaller, lighter Bronco Sport takes a few cues from the Jimny, can’t we? Just look for yourself in the gallery below:

The post Ogle Suzuki’s Jimny 4×4—Because It’s Not Coming to the U.S. and That’s All You Can Do appeared first on MotorTrend.

GMC Shot a Freaking Sofa (and Lots of Other Stuff) at Its Carbon-Fiber Pickup Bed

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 6:30pm

Carbon fiber is strong and lightweight, making it a favored component in race cars and exotic road vehicles, and GMC is out to prove the material’s worth to the masses. GMC, you see, recently introduced the carbon-fiber CarbonPro bed for its mainstream Sierra full-size pickup, and the brand is using a new commercial to show off the truck bed’s strength. After all, it seems any time a pickup-truck manufacturer introduces a new material for its beds that isn’t steel—like when Ford’s aluminum-bodied F-150 debuted—it feels the need to advertise how stout that material is.

To that end, the 30-second spot (below) airing during the NFL playoff games consists almost entirely of various projectiles being flung at the GMC CarbonPro bed, including a high-speed watermelon, brick, TV, and even a sofa! So, should your pickup-truck needs involve trips through weather systems dropping and/or hurling those items and other detritus, GMC’s got your bed covered. 

Actually, we’re only half-joking about the weather system part. Before producing the ad, GMC went to Miami, Florida to witness how hurricane-force winds turn everyday objects into deadly projectiles. The brand then sent a bare CarbonPro bed, as well as the beds of its competition (presumably those of a Ram 1500 and Ford F-150), to Los Angeles, California to test how each box fares in collisions with potential projectiles from a hurricane by hurling such projectiles at it at simulated hurricane speeds.

Needless to say, the CarbonPro takes everything like a champ. A brick breaks into a thousand pieces, a watermelon unceremoniously explodes, and the couch bounces off the bed like a child on a trampoline. It’s quite a show, and we’re sure the ad will convince a few consumers to spring for the exotic bed. And just as Ford’s aluminum bed inspired General Motors to run ads showing it to be weak and puncturable—take it with a grain of salt, GM is a competitor, after all—GMC’s ad could spur Ford or Ram to exploit any CarbonPro weakness real or imagined for TV commercials of their own.

The CarbonPro Edition guise is limited to Sierra 1500 Crew Cab AT4 and Denali models with the short box, which sticker for $61,905 and $71,450, respectively. That’s a far cry from the base Sierra’s $31,195 price. Then again, what other truck’s bed offers a built-in juice business? Fling enough watermelons into the CarbonPro Edition’s bed and you might just find yourself with enough sellable juice to make up for its high cost of entry. 

The post GMC Shot a Freaking Sofa (and Lots of Other Stuff) at Its Carbon-Fiber Pickup Bed appeared first on MotorTrend.

500,000 Teslas Being Investigated Over Unintended Acceleration Claims

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 4:22pm

The U.S. government is looking into claims that certain Tesla vehicles suffer a defect that can cause sudden unintended acceleration. According to a petition filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there have been 110 crashes and 52 injuries linked to the issue. Keep in mind that unintended acceleration is a buzzword both because the idea that a car might accelerate on its own, without input from the driver, is scary and because other automakers such as Toyota and Audi have in the past been tangled up with similar accusations.

This latest NHTSA petition cites 127 consumer complaints involving 123 unique Tesla vehicles. Around 500,000 vehicles are affected by the inquiry, including 2012–2019 Tesla Model S sedans, 2016–2019 Tesla Model X SUVs, and 2018–2019 Tesla Model 3 sedans.

One complaint references an alleged incident from November 2018 in which a Model X accelerated on its own while making a U-turn, even though the driver claims to have been pressing the brakes. The electric SUV apparently hit a parked vehicle and left the owner with bruises as a result. Another complaint from a Model S owner alleges the car accelerated unintentionally while pulling into a parking spot in 2013, causing it to hit a light post.

Tesla has not yet responded to our request for comment on the matter. But this situation on its face seems to closely mimic Toyota’s relatively recent unintended acceleration scandal from 2010, when the automaker recalled millions of vehicles. Now, as then, things might not be so black-and-white. A NASA probe into Toyota found no evidence that an electronics malfunction caused unintended accelerations in the automaker’s products. But government agencies identified other problems, namely sticky accelerator pedals and a design flaw allowing pedals to be trapped by floor mats. And in our own testing on the matter, we determined that even if an electronic glitch were to befall a Toyota or any other contemporary vehicle that led to unintended throttle applications, modern braking systems are strong enough to overpower the engine and bring the car to a safe stop.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens in Tesla’s case. For now, NHTSA will review the findings and decide whether or not to open a formal defect investigation.

Source: NHTSA, Associated Press

The post 500,000 Teslas Being Investigated Over Unintended Acceleration Claims appeared first on MotorTrend.

Watch Out, NASA, Forget SpaceX—Lexus Is Designing Vehicles for the Moon

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 2:40pm

It seems Lexus’s design department has grown a little bored with designing vehicles for Earth. The company recently released a series of design sketches for a distraction of sorts for its in-house artists: Lunar rovers and various spacecraft. And this isn’t the first time Toyota or one of its divisions has let their minds wander to the cosmos.

Now, Lexus designers didn’t just sit down one day, pass around some hallucinogenic drugs, and then pick up their pens. At least, they didn’t do so on their own. All of these spacy concepts were born from the Lunar Design Project, a collaboration between Lexus and Toyota’s European design studio intended to “imagine human life on the moon” and pose questions such as “How shall we live [on the moon]? What will it look like? What will we wear? What will we drive?”

So, yeah, none of these concept drawings will probably ever come to life—let alone be sent to the freakin’ moon. Still, we wanted to show them off anyway, for they’re a fascinating peek into Lexus designers’ freakiest imaginations. Who knows, maybe the next IS will look something like what’s in these sketches. There’s just no way to be sure how far Lexus is willing to go—after all, it clearly seems to be shooting for the moon here. So, move over Tesla sending a Roadster to space in a SpaceX rocket, and skip past imagination-free NASA, because these Lexus space vehicles are takin’ over beyond our atmosphere:

Zero Gravity Motorcycle

Lexus has taken its signature design language and modified it for zero (or at least low) gravity. This Tron-esque light cycle–looking thing is supposedly designed to take Lexus’s “spindle” form to space and help eager explorers easily (and, perhaps, stylishly?) glide over the rutted surface of the moon. Think of it as a moped for space that has a top speed of 300 mph. That’s pretty cool. Hey Lexus, why not just make one for Earth?

Bouncing Moon Roller

If bikes really aren’t your thing, maybe, um, balls are! Lexus calls its Bouncing Moon Roller a ball protected by a flexible graphene nanotube–based bubble, and says it is for traversing the surface of the moon without being disturbed by its lumps and bumps. What’s more, if you’re not feeling much like rolling to your destination, the bubble can apparently bounce on command to hop anywhere you please.

Lexus Lunar Cruiser

Not unlike the iconic Land Cruiser SUV that Toyota sells—and has underpinned several equivalent Lexus models over the years—the Lunar Cruiser is a multipurpose vehicle. As its name implies, however, its scope goes beyond the Land Cruiser’s. The Lunar Cruiser is for use on land and in the sky—on the moon. The wheels function normally while the LC is on the ground, but they can pivot 90 degrees to vertical and morph into fans that help the cruiser fly like a drone. What Lexus apparently forgot is that moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, and there is no sky, so there is no flying to do, unless you use thrusters.

Lexus Lunar Mission

The Lunar Mission concept is Lexus’s answer to the space shuttle, and it is designed to be someone’s first experience with lunar travel. The design brief for the Lunar Mission says, and we’re not joking about this: “The design integrates a liquid side body, which can reflect the universe while flying toward the moon.” Even though we haven’t the first (or second, or third) idea what that means, it sounds like a much more interesting way to get to the moon than one of those pedestrian-looking rocket ships we have today.

Lexus Moon Racer

Designed to effortlessly race across the moon’s surface, the Lexus Moon Racer looks like a cross between a Lamborghini Egoista (remember that bad boy?) and Tesla’s new ATV. Lexus says you can use the vehicle to jump, climb, and race your way to any part of the moon, as long as you’re cool with doing it all by yourself. That’s right, much like that wild Lambo concept of old, the Moon Racer can support only one occupant.

Lexus Lunar

Unlike the Moon Racer, this six-wheeled behemoth is designed with serious practicality in mind. Where that concept seats just one, the Lunar (yeah, we keep thinking there’s more to the name than just “Lunar,” but that’s what Lexus is calling it) is designed to be so large it could mobilize an entire moon village. In fact, the top half of the rig is a living area, and part of it can actually detach from the wheels and actually sustain a new lunar colony. Human space imperialism aside, the Lunar also happens to be the closest thing to a space tank we’ve seen yet, and it looks very rad.

Lexus Cosmos

This carrot-shaped wonder is the future of space luxury, according to Lexus, anyway. It’s designed as a fancy way to take in spacial scenery while keeping you suspended in zero gravity at the same time—although on that point any container will do when you’re suspended in zero gravity, be it a long clear suppository like the Cosmos or a plastic bag or a dumpster. With the cockpit at the back, the Cosmo is supposed to effortlessly shuttle you from the lunar surface to outer space and back again. Oh, and it’s made entirely of glass, so don’t even think about throwing any rocks!

The post Watch Out, NASA, Forget SpaceX—Lexus Is Designing Vehicles for the Moon appeared first on MotorTrend.

2020 Jeep Gladiator North Edition Is Ready to Tackle Winter

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 12:08pm

Jeep is introducing a host of North Edition models to take the sting out of the coldest months of the year. Offered across the entire lineup, from the Compass to the Gladiator, North Edition models aren’t much different than regular Jeeps, but they bundle together a few helpful features for driving in ice and snow and keeping the cabin warm in the winter.

North Edition models come standard with four- or all-wheel drive, complemented by all-season or all-terrain tires for tackling wintry conditions. And just in case you get stuck out in the elements, there are tow hooks and a Jeep Trail Rated kit with tow strap, D-rings, carabiner, gloves, and a safety kit. Heated seats, a heated steering wheel, remote engine start, power heated mirrors, an 8.4-inch touchscreen with SiriusXM Travel Link Weather, and all-weather floor mats round out the list of notable standard features.

Pictured here is the 2020 Jeep Gladiator North Edition, based on the mid-range Overland trim. Prices for this model start at a cool $47,215. Here are prices for the entire North Edition range:

2020 Jeep Cherokee (Latitude): $31,250
2020 Jeep Compass (Sport): $29,295
2020 Jeep Gladiator (Overland): $47,215
2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Laredo): $40,285
2020 Jeep Renegade (Sport): $28,165
2020 Jeep Wrangler (Sahara): $45,960

All of Jeep’s 2020 North Edition models are now on sale, except for the Renegade North Edition, which weirdly arrives in March, just as winter is fading into spring.

The post 2020 Jeep Gladiator North Edition Is Ready to Tackle Winter appeared first on MotorTrend.

Four-Cylinder Toyota Supra Coming to Europe; Is the U.S. Next?

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 10:20am

The Toyota Supra is as synonymous with the inline six-cylinder engine as Seth Rogen is to marijuana. Or is it? While the 2020 GR Supra is sold exclusively with a 335-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six in the United States, the two-door sports car also offers a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four under its hood in Japan—and come March, Europe.

That’s right, Toyota is expanding sales of the four-cylinder Supra beyond the motherland, and it’s likely only a matter of time until the BMW-sourced four-cylinder engine makes its way to our shores, as well. After all, the model is already certified for sale in California by the state’s Air Resources Board.

Should Toyota pull the trigger and send the four-cylinder Supra stateside, expect it to follow the blueprint of the recently announced European model, which forgoes the Japanese car’s entry-level 195-hp tune for its available 255-hp setup. The company claims the more powerful four-cylinder helps the Supra sprint to 62 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds, or 0.9 second slower than its 4.3-second zero-to-62-mph claim for the six-cylinder model. Of course, the six-pot car is actually quicker than that; we hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds in our testing.

What the four-cylinder engine lacks in outright thrust, it makes up for with a lower curb weight, as the smaller engine shaves 220 pounds of fat from the coupe and, in turn, blesses it with near-perfect, 50/50 weight distribution. Alas, like the six-cylinder Supra, the four-cylinder engine pairs exclusively to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Yes, purists will scoff at the very idea of a Supra with anything but a six-cylinder engine. But if Aston Martin and Lamborghini can sell SUVs, then surely Toyota can push a four-cylinder Supra in the states—especially if it cuts a few grand from the six-cylinder model’s $50,945 base price.

The post Four-Cylinder Toyota Supra Coming to Europe; Is the U.S. Next? appeared first on MotorTrend.

Just a Reminder That the 1975–1980 Oldsmobile Starfire Was a Thing

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 8:00am

For some, the so-called Malaise era, loosely defined as the automotive period between 1973 and 1983, was an irredeemably dark time in American automotive history. As a result, few cars from the time are celebrated and many have even been forgotten—though, to be fair, not a great number those vehicles survive today. But as we lurch toward the 1970s’ golden anniversary, we think it’s high time unsung classics from the era were treated with a little more respect (or at least a little less disdain). Let’s begin with this, the Oldsmobile Starfire.

Prepare yourself, here is everything you never knew you wanted to know about the 1975–1980 Starfire.

Reviving the Starfire name, which was last used on a 1960s two-door Oldsmobile, the malaise-y Oldsmobile was a badge-engineered version of the Chevrolet Monza. Unlike the Monza, which was offered in a number of different body styles, the Starfire was sold exclusively as a two-door, 2+2 hatchback. The Starfire received a unique grille and Oldsmobile badges, but otherwise it was practically identical to the Monza. So, if you’ve never heard of it (like this author) but think it looks vaguely familiar, that’s probably why.

The example pictured here (which is for sale on Facebook Marketplace) is an even more obscure Starfire Mirage—which, according to Google, was never officially a thing. At least, not an official General Motors thing. Instead, the Chevy Monza offered a Mirage body kit available as a dealer-installed option, but it’s unclear if Oldsmobile ever offered the same thing for the Starfire. Apparently, some dealerships did, as the seller (who’s the second owner) says his car was originally purchased from Gil Lieber Buick-Oldsmobile in Ashtabula, Ohio, with the Monza’s Mirage body kit installed, plus the sweet Harvest Gold graphics. Again, given that the Oldsmobile shared its bodywork with the Chevy Monza, it hardly bends credulity to imagine that the Mirage package made its way onto some Starfires back in the day.

The Starfire in these photos also features the optional 305-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) V-8, available from 1977 to 1979. Though it’s now infamous for its power-choking emissions equipment, the 305 V-8 likely was a decent upgrade over the base “Iron Duke” four-cylinder and 3.8-liter V-6 that was also available. Oldsmobile even offered a five-speed manual transmission on the Starfire from 1976 to 1979, though this example comes with a four-speed manual. We’re willing to look past that minor shortcoming for its glorious red-on-red-on-red interior.

Another cool Starfire that was officially offered by Oldsmobile? The 1978 Firenza package, which included a special “rallye” suspension, unique front valance, rear spoiler, fender flares, sport wheels, and special two-tone paint and graphics. Apart from a Monza IMSA race car, the Starfire Firenza might be the coolest-looking H-Body hatch ever made.

If you’ve made it this far, we hope we’ve instilled in you a newfound appreciation for this lesser-known artifact from GM’s badge-engineering past. We’d love to see more of them get the same love this two-owner survivor has received.

The post Just a Reminder That the 1975–1980 Oldsmobile Starfire Was a Thing appeared first on MotorTrend.

Peek Inside Football Star Ronde Barber’s Garage Full of Corvettes

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 4:00am

Quick Stats: Ronde Barber, Analyst for Fox NFL, Super Bowl champion
Daily Driver: 2017 Ram 2500 (Ronde’s rating: 8 plus on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Tampa to Pennsylvania
Car he learned to drive in: Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
First car bought: 1997 Toyota 4Runner

Fox analyst and Super Bowl champion and defensive back Ronde Barber likes Corvettes so much, he doesn’t have just one. He has four, ranging from a 1966 to a 2014. Barber has a large enough garage to fit all his vehicles, which include a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and his daily driver, a 2017 Ram 2500.

“It’s a monster. It’s only an 8 because it sucks a lot of gas,” he says with a laugh when I asked him to rate his Ram pickup. “But it’s fun. Big. I’m above everybody. It carries everything that I need. I put golf clubs in the side cubby, all my daughter’s lacrosse stuff. It’s very functional for what I do. It’s perfect for what I need.”

Barber grew up in southwest Virginia, where almost everyone he knew had a pickup. This is his third pickup truck from Ram. “I had the 1500 before that one, and then I upgraded to the big boy a couple years ago because I wanted something different, but function helps. It’s choice, like having something bigger than everybody else.”

The truck is also styled the way he likes. “It’s got the extra cab room in the back, so the back seat is as roomy as any car I’ve ever had. and that back seat lays completely down. You can put a bed in there, really,” he says. “That’s convenient when hauling dogs or if I’m going to take it across the state for any reason. If I’m driving anyplace, it’s very utilitarian.”

2003 Corvette

Rating: 9

Barber’s love of Corvettes started in 2003, when he bought his mom one for her 50th birthday. “I bought her the 2003 50th anniversary Corvette. Hers is white. I bought one for myself, which was yellow. That was my first 2003 Corvette,” he says.

“For me at the time, it was 10. I’d never had a sports car before. I’d had a bunch of utility vehicles, so it was fun,” Barber says of the convertible, which he says he’d now rate a 9. “It was low to the ground, it was fast, I customized it a little bit to my liking. Corvettes are simple inside. There’s not a lot going on electronically.”

1966 Corvette

Rating: 10

“In 2010 my wife bought me a cherry red 1966 that my neighbor had restored to its original state. It’s pretty cool. The only knock on it is that the A/C doesn’t work and it’s hot in Florida,” Barber says, laughing. “Other than that, it’s a pretty cool car. It takes some love and attention to get that thing going, but it’s really worth it.”

This Corvette gets a perfect 10 from Barber, who says it’s a beautiful car. He drives it very sparingly; it sits up on its rack in the garage and only gets out a couple times a year. “Great look, color’s perfect, seats are all restored to original, got the same manufactured tires, but I put on aftermarket tires because I wanted to save the originals we had. When I think of Corvettes, I think of that model: the C2. It’s such a really good-looking car.”

1978 Corvette

Rating: 9

After he got the 1966 Corvette, Barber bought this, his third Corvette, from a neighbor of his brother–in-law, who was the only owner. This silver car is the 25th anniversary model and had less than 5,000 miles on it.

“When I grew up, if you saw a Corvette, you saw this one, the one with the big wide body in the back, the dolphin hood where it goes up and slopes down in the front with the big, wide wheelbase in the front as well and the narrow waist,” he says. “It’s a good-looking car.”

Barber says this Corvette reminds him of his youth. “It’s the most fun one to drive because it’s not as difficult to work a manual as the ’66,” he says. “They’re all manuals except for the 2003.”

He says this is the Corvette he takes when he’s feeling like he wants a rugged car. “You’re really working the vehicle, so it’s the one that I keep down. The 2003 is up, the ’66 is up, the ’78 is down where I can get at it,” he says.

Barber rates this car a 9 because it’s a little temperamental. “It’s got those classic flip-up lights, the ones that get stuck. Half the time, one of them will be up,” he says, laughing. “Just on stylistics, it’s a beautiful car.”

2014 Corvette Stingray

Rating: 10

Barber also keeps this Corvette down on the garage floor where he can easily access it. When he retired from the NFL, the Stingray was a retirement gift from two coaches and a couple of buddies.

“I was going to buy it myself. My neighbor across the street used to work for a dealership, so I ordered it from him, and my wife told [my coaches]. Those guys said, ‘We’re not going to let him pay for it,’” he says, with a laugh. “So they ended up paying for it. It was a good gift. This one’s a treat.”

Barber loves this Stingray. “When it came out, it was hot again,” he says. “This is an ass-kicker. It’s a seven-speed manual, white with red interior. It has that new Corvette look to it that I think everybody now can relate to this vehicle looking like. I didn’t have to put any aftermarket stuff on it. And it’s easily my favorite one to drive, just because of how well it handles.”

He bought it to mark the end of his career. “Since I already had three Corvettes, it seemed like the perfect gift for myself. And for no other reason than I was at the age, I had some disposable income and why not spend it on cars that I see as assets? I had just built a garage for the other cars, so this would give me a spot to put all four of my Corvettes. It was perfect,” he says.

Barber likes that Corvettes are affordable sports cars. “They’re available to the everyman, and that’s how I identify those cars. They’re not Ferraris, Lotuses, or whatever was most popular back when I was younger. They’re one of the American muscle cars,” he says. “I relate to that because it reminds me of my youth. It reminds me of cars that people in my hometown would have driven, not the big, expensive ones that you find in big cities. I grew up in a small town, and this speaks to me more than some of the more expensive cars that are out there.”

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Rating: 8

“The best thing about it is that it’s big but drivable. To me, it doesn’t feel any different to my pickup truck. It’s probably the same length, maybe a foot different,” Barber says. “It’s functional. We drive it over to the East Coast to Florida all the time, take it over to the Breakers in Palm Beach, and park it in the parking lot.”

For many years, Barber traveled to South Carolina for a family trip with several other families, and the Sprinter was perfect for that seven-hour drive. “We have a pod that we have on the back. We could put our luggage in [that and] have all that space in the middle to carry five to seven people,” he says.

But for Barber, the Sprinter’s best functionality is for transportation to his daughter’s lacrosse tournaments. “On the weekend, she’d have five or six games and I had a refuge. I had DirecTV; the back seat lays out into a bed. It’s got four captain’s chairs, including the driver’s seat. It’s a nice, easy vehicle. It’s got a fridge, it’s got its own generator, microwave. It used to have a stove, but we took that out—we just didn’t need that,” he says with a laugh.

Barber has never had an issue with the Sprinter. “Every now and then, something’ll go wrong with the breaker, because it’s a house, it’s for the same type of functionality as a domicile, so you’ll have issues with the breakers,” he says. “You could easily live in there.”

Car he learned to drive in

Barber learned to drive in Washington, D.C., as well as Roanoke, Virginia, where he grew up.

“My first time driving a car was with my uncle Rick. That was on a mid ’80s Hyundai Excel, and it was a stick shift. I learned to drive on stick shift. I can’t tell you how many times I stalled that thing out trying to learn. The funny part about that is when I turned 16, when I got my license, he gifted that car to me for my junior year and that was our car in high school. And before I went to college, the car had died,” Barber says, laughing.

He and his twin brother, Tiki, learned to drive at Tysons Corner Center, where his uncle took them. “We were like, ‘Hey, teach us how to drive it.’ He takes us to the mall parking lot when no one’s there to see if you can get the clutch and the gas to marry up and get the thing to go forward,” he says. “Those are my best memories learning how to drive, and obviously I learned with my mom back in Roanoke.”

When Barber and his brother got their learner’s permits, their mom let them drive to church on Sunday. “One of us got to drive to, the other one got to drive from church,” Barber says, laughing. “Those are invaluable experiences, learning how to get to and from places. My mom worked, single parent, so she had to take us everywhere.”

The Barber twins would also go to their grandmother’s house on the eastern shore of Virginia, where they were first inspired to drive. “She had this old, beat-up pickup truck in the backyard. You can imagine her on a couple acres, private driveway. It was an old blue pickup sitting in the backyard, and we’d always end up playing in that thing, trying to get it to start,” he says, laughing. “But we never drove it—we didn’t know how. Those are funny memories.”

It wasn’t all that easy to learn on the manual Hyundai, either. “It was definitely a time on task thing, repetition. It definitely took me a long time to figure out how to drive stick, and I probably wasn’t good at it until I had a buddy in high school who had a stick shift and he’d let me drive his car. He’d let me practice in his car. ‘Hey, we’re going out, you want to drive?’ I figured out how to work the clutch, and he’d give me pointers,” he says.

Barber had looked forward to driving as soon as he could. “When you get to high school where I grew up, you never want to take the school bus. Only the uncool kids took the school bus,” he says, laughing.

He couldn’t drive until his junior year, but during his sophomore year a friend in his apartment complex whose brother was a senior took the twins to school. “That next year before we had a car, we were like, ‘How are we going to get to school?’ he says with a laugh. “We’re not getting on a bus after not taking the bus our entire sophomore year.”

The brothers felt their only solution was to get up extra early and drive their mom to work in her Cutlass Supreme, which was 20 minutes in the opposite direction from their school.

“Just so we can have the car. And then, go back and pick her up from work after practice,” Barber says, laughing. “It’s so bad. It’s part of my vanity. At the time, the worst thing in the world would have been taking the bus to school, so we went out of our way to make sure we had a car for the day. She worked at the Girl Scouts of America for 30 years, so we’d drive her. Thank God she never had emergencies while we had the car.”

In college, Barber’s mom got him and his brother a Hyundai Sonata that the two had for their second and third years in college. “On the way home—it was in the spring—there was a rainstorm, and we wrecked it. Tiki was driving, the car started to hydroplane on the wet road. It ran up onto a bank and we completely destroyed the axle,” he says.

The insurance company totaled the Sonata, and with that money, the brothers bought a Camaro for their last year at the University of Virginia.

First car bought

The first car Barber bought for himself was a 1997 Toyota 4Runner. It was right before he got drafted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He had they Toyota for three years, then upgraded to a Lexus. “It was more of a necessity, because we needed to get rid of the Camaro, because we were going our separate ways,” he says of himself and his brother. “We’d shared a car our entire life, for four years. I [needed] something that could carry my stuff from Charlottesville, Virginia, down to Florida, and the 4Runner fit the bill.”

The 4Runner also made sense financially. “I didn’t know how much money I was going to have. I didn’t know how long my career was going to last. It was a sensible decision at the time. It fit into my price range,” he says.

The 4Runner helped him make the trip to his new home in Tampa. “I made that trip three times. I drove down, I drove back up, and I drove back down for good. I had to drive down for a mini camp after I was drafted, so I was down here for a couple of weeks during the summer, and I drove home back to Charlottesville, signed out of my lease, and packed everything that I had the second time and took off, moved down here for good. It’s a long drive,” he says with a laugh.

The Toyota was a reliable car, and it ran its course, he says, before he decided to get a Lexus. “I never had a problem with it,” he says. “I only had it for three years. I took it down to Miami a couple times.”

Favorite road trip

Barber has taken his fair share of road trips. “Growing up, we had a ton of them, but they were always usually the same, because we’d drive from Roanoke, Virginia, all the way to the eastern shore of Virginia,” Barber says. “We did that every holiday, every time we had a summer break or winter break. That’s a four-and-a-half-hour drive. It’s an indelible memory. It almost became routine.”

Last summer, even though he has a Sprinter, Barber rented an RV and drove from Tampa to North Carolina and Maryland, looking at colleges with his daughter. “That was a pretty fun trip,” he says. “We were rebuilding the floors, so we had two dogs that needed to get out of the house, so we planned that trip around the floors being redone, and the RV was the only way that we were comfortable enough transporting the dogs through that trip. It was a good trip.”

They stayed in hotels as well as some RV resorts. “On the way home, we stopped at this RV park in Myrtle Beach that was right on the water. It was fantastic. We probably should have stayed a couple of days; we only stayed one day. It was seamless. I had rented an RV before and had some problems with it, but this one was pretty smooth. RV ownership is not an easy thing,” he says, laughing.

NFL on Fox Sports

The Super Bowl champ and five-time Pro Bowler joined Fox seven years ago, when he retired from the NFL. During the off season, Barber is also on the board of a local golf tournament that’s a PGA event.

Barber appreciates the chance to serve on the golf tournament’s board because, as he says, “My off season, the good and bad thing about just doing football, is you’re 17 weeks on and then you’re 30 weeks off.”

As for his job at Fox, Barber says, “It’s a great company to work for. It gave me an opportunity to do what I’m doing, which is call games, be an analyst at games right after I finished playing. So I jumped right in after I retired, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

READ MORE CELEBRITY DRIVES HERE:

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1964 Porsche 901 vs. 1986 Porsche 959: Who’s Your Daddy?

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 4:00am

October 22, 1964 proved to be a fateful day. The 53rd, 54th, and 55th Porsche 911s were built that day, only they weren’t called 911s. See, a year earlier at the 50th Paris Motor Show the Porsche 901 had debuted. Reaction was mixed. So big! So fat! It’s true—much of the assembled press bemoaned how much larger and heavier the 901 was compared to the 356 it would replace. Sound familiar? I’m sure some car scribes dug it, though. One critic that landed firmly on the “non” side was Peugeot, and not because of the physical car. Peugeot sold X0X cars—the 403, for example—and let Porsche know that in several key markets (like France) Peugeot controlled that naming convention. The 901 moniker would violate that. Rather than get the lawyers involved, Ferry Porsche (eventually) made the decision to simply change the name, and voilà! The Neunelfer, das 911, the sports car all others want to be when they grow up, was born. Production began in September of 1964, and just over eighty 901s were built before the name was changed.

Everything that made a Porsche 911 a 911, and what continues to do so to this day, was there. Amazingly, I should add, it was all just there. The sloping profile, the large headlights, the biggish rear seat (big for a 2+2, at any rate), the rear-mounted boxer six-cylinder engine with a transaxle in front of it, the five gauges—all that essential stuff was baked right into the 901 and can still be found there today. Much more the progenitor than any sort of missing link, the 901 is analogue to the Gmünd 356s, the first 50 or so Porsches ever built at the workshop in Gmünd, Austria, before the company moved to Zuffenhausen. Both the 901s and the Gmünd cars are a bit older, a bit more interesting, but “same same,” as my two-year-old is fond of saying. Back to the 901 specifically, I find it amazing that 55 years later, all that DNA is still there. Pity, though, about the 992’s digital gauges …

Much, much, much—that’s three instances of “much”—more amazing is that just over 20 years later, Porsche released the 959. Let’s go with flabbergasting. Work on Gruppe B, as the 959 was first known, began in 1983, less than two decades after the 901, or the Ür 911, if you will. Going from 901 to 959 in that time frame is, technologically speaking, akin to going from a WWI-era biplane fighter to the F-16. Whereas the 901/911 was air-cooled, rear-wheel drive, naturally aspirated, and good for 130 hp, the 959 sports water-cooled heads (with air-cooled pistons), is all-wheel drive, has two sequentially arranged turbochargers, and spat out 450 hp way back when Porsches were manufactured in Westdeutschland. Think about it: Porsche released the 992 in 2019, and the Carrera 4S is water-cooled, AWD, twin-turbo, and produces—wait for it—450 hp. It took the 911 over 30 years to catch up to the 959, and the base car still hasn’t! And has the 992 caught up? Its top speed is 191 mph. The 959 could go 197 mph. Oh, and the 959 Sport could hit 211 mph. Remember, the state-of-the-art, mega-billion-dollar F-35 Lightning II can hit 1,200 mph. The F-16 Fighting Falcon, first flown in 1974, can go 1,500 mph.

Comparing these two cars, the 901 to the 959, is perhaps pointless. It’s like describing the difference between an elephant and an ant. Possible to do, but why bother? Or perhaps I’m just not a deft enough auto scribe to pull it off. Could be. Could also be that the two are so wildly, strikingly, fundamentally different, there’s just not a point. Still, I can tell you how each Porsche drives as I was treated (emphasis on treat) to two days with ’em both, on the road and Sonoma Raceway. Here goes.

The 901 feels old. Perhaps “classic” is a kinder way to put it, but let’s be adults. The red 901 drives like an old car with good steering. But the dog-leg shifter is vague, the power isn’t powerful, and although the steering feel is both admirable and better than anything else from 1964, the rack is slow, the suspension is clumsy, and the tires don’t offer much in the way of grip. As a museum piece, the 901 is nearly without peer. As a driver’s car? Did I mention I spent two days in a 959?

The 959 entered production in 1987. I was 12 years old and had been mesmerized by the joy of car magazines for a few years at that point. One thing I was sure of, the Shelby Cobra 427 was the quickest car ever because it could hit 60 mph in 4 seconds flat. All the buff books said so, and that number made sense because the Ol’ Shel stuffed a monster motor into a little tiny car. It’s not rocket science, it’s muscle car science. Big engine, little car, that’s the magic formula. Then this odd-looking 911 showed up, and using every high-tech trick known to Porsche, ran to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. My little world was rocked, my little mind was blown. What about all the Detroit-centric mantras I’d been fed? Are these Germans telling me there is a replacement for displacement? Basically, yes. Books, literal books, have been written about the jaw-droppingly advanced paradigm-overturningness of the 959 (I recommend Porsche 959: Birth of a Legend by Jürgen Lewandowski). The Porsche wasn’t the cutting edge; it was the very concept of knife sharpening.

Where to even start? The most powerful 930, aka the 911 Turbo, had a 3.3-liter turbocharged flat-six that made 325 hp and 319 lb-ft of torque when fitted with the optional, Europe-only Werksleistungssteigerung kit. The most powerful 930 we ever got in the U.S. made 296 hp and 304 lb-ft of torque. The 959 made 450 hp and 370 lb-ft. Remember, back in the day, the 930 routinely beat up on Ferraris and Lambos. It was a supercar of the first order. The 959 humbled it, as well as every other car.

The list of what makes the 959 so special is real long, but highlights include: water-cooled heads; sequential turbocharging; a variable front-to-rear all-wheel-drive system; computer-controlled damping; aluminum, Kevlar, and Nomex body construction; driver-adjustable suspension height (though Citroën did offer that one back in 1955); tire pressure monitoring; hollow magnesium wheels; a 0.31 drag coefficient; the effective elimination of lift (important for the fastest production car the world had ever seen)—the list goes on and on. Just know that Porsche sold the 959 for $225,000 and lost about $275,000 on each one. They cost about a million bucks today.

And now, finally, after 15 years of doing this professionally, and 30-plus years of longing and dreaming, I get to drive a 959! Right here is the point where I implore you stop reading the nonsense coming from my fingertips and instead watch the nonsense pouring from my lips. I think I actually teared up in the video. Shameful? Totally, but it’s not often that Ahab gets his white whale. On camera, too. The silver/gray car I drove is actually a 1986 pre-production beaut—one of 18 examples of the 959 kept by the Porsche Museum. Did I mention the grayscale cloth seats? Technically, this is a 959 Komfort, as it has the adjustable ride height and more, well, comfort.

Below 4,500 rpm the 959 drives like a normal car. There was actually an early Lexus quality to the experience. The interior parts felt like they belonged to the 1980s but were of high quality. At normal speeds, doing normal things, the only indication you’d have you’re driving a million-dollar museum car was a soft yet audible whoosh from an unseen blow-off valve. I found it calming. Plus below first gear on the shift lever is a gear called “G” that stands for Gelände, German for terrain. You might be familiar with the term from Geländewagen, the actual name of Mercedes’ G-Wagen. On the 959, G is a super-low first gear meant for off-roading. Remember, the 959 was initially designed as a Group B rally car. Back to driving.

Keep the throttle down, and a magical handshake occurs between the two turbos, more like the passing of a baton from a marathoner to a sprinter. For you see, just shy of 5,000 rpm the big turbo takes over from the little guy—and it’s glorious. First thing you need to know is that the sequential turbocharging doesn’t hit like a grenade. Instead imagine that you’re moving along at a good clip on a roller-coaster that then suddenly slopes straight down. The acceleration is fierce, even by today’s ridiculous standards (the Urus hits 60 mph in 3.0 seconds). Flooring the 959 is worth the price of admission.

The only thing tricky about doing so is that once the second turbo fires, the engine speed climbs dramatically and it’s on you to manually shift that gear. I imagine it’s just the example I drove, but power-shifting into third didn’t always go so smooth. Notchy H-pattern. Redline is 7,000 rpm, so you have just 2,500 rpm or so to enjoy the big boost. But as it turns out, that’s plenty of time if you’re paying attention. Handling is remarkable for a 30-plus-year-old car, though it’s obvious that the 959 is the forefather of the Turbo, not the GT3. Competent without being edge-of-your-seat thrilling. It’s a bit dull, honestly, until turbo No. 2 comes alive. Then it’s just power and grip and smiles. Full disclosure: There was something wrong with one of the right front double dampers (there are two at each corner) that showed up in fairly extreme situations, like rounding Sonoma Raceway’s Turn 2, a 90-degree uphill right-hander basically under full power. Some sort of creaking, crabbing shudder that I’m sure is an easy, mega-expensive fix. Despite that, what a chassis, what a machine, what a thing!

Earlier I said comparing the 901 to the 959 was nearly impossible. As is my wont, I’m changing my mind. They are similar in their influence on the Porsche brand and the legacy each model left. The 901 begat the 911, the million-plus-units-sold sports car that still charms the world. Remember, the engine’s in the wrong place, it’s just a Volkswagen, and as of 1981 it was going out of production. When Porsche made the (correct and brilliant) decision to give the 11 a stay of execution, it also decided that letting its cars die on the vine wasn’t the way forward. Massive and radical technological innovation would not only win races and thrill customers but would ensure jobs for the workers at Zuffenhausen for decades to come. Despite being a loss leader, the 959 program’s commitment to engineering the near impossible is why the current car is so damn bloody good. We should think of the 901, then, as the grandfather of the modern 911, its ancestor. Meaning the 959 is the current car’s daddy. Yeah, that’s it.

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Rare 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 “Little Red” Is Back and Nearly Unrecognizable

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 5:52pm

Two years ago, this gleaming Candy Apple–red, one-off 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 EXP prototype dubbed “Little Red” was wasting away in a Texas field like an abandoned cow carcass. It has since been totally restored by its rescuer, Craig Jackson, who swooped in and bought the rare Shelby GT500 coupe in 2018 when it was decidedly less gleaming and far more decrepit than it is today.

Little Red is one of the most sought-after classic Mustangs—and before March of 2018, most Ford followers believed it had been lost to time, the elements, or both. When new, the prototype was the only GT500 coupe ever built—other Shelby Mustangs of the era were all fastbacks—and it was packed with experimental equipment and development parts. As it turns out, this extremely important chapter in Mustang lore was sitting out in (sort of) plain sight in the plain middle of nowhere in Texas. That’s where Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett-Jackson auctions, entered the Mustang’s story.

Craig sniffed the GT500 out and purchased it before immediately pledging to bring the car back from the dead. And bring it back he did: Little Red now looks to be in showroom condition. Before restoration work began, the suspension had collapsed, most of the front end was missing, and what remained of the bodywork was sun-bleached and rusting. Today, the renewed GT500 sports a lovely shade of candy apple red paint and a black vinyl roof. Little Red was originally powered by a supercharged, big-block V-8, and though there’s no official word on the restored car’s powertrain, we’re going to assume whatever is under that hood is closely related to the original spec.

The completed Little Red project was shown for the first time on January 16 and was accompanied by the “Green Hornet,” another color-identified legendary GT500 prototype GT500. Both cars are currently on display at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale Arizona. The auction is already on and ends this Sunday, so if you’re interested in checking out what’s headed to the auction block, you’ve got no time to waste, but we’d make the trip not to buy anything, but to ogle this bright-red piece of Mustang and Shelby history.

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2020 Audi A4 Allroad Shows The Brand’s Wagon Game Remains Strong

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 5:36pm

With the 591-hp Audi RS6 Avant and A6 Allroad station wagons finally set to reintroduce midsize Audi wagon greatness to the U.S. market this summer, you may be thinking a return for the smaller A4 Avant can’t be far behind. Though Audi hasn’t ruled out bringing back the regular-grade A4 Avant here, it at least sends over that model’s taller, pseudo-crossover sibling, the A4 Allroad. It’s basically an A4 Avant with Subaru Outback–style plastic body cladding and a taller ride height. Oh, and like the A4 sedan and A5 lineup, it’s been updated for 2020.

As is the case with the A4 sedan, the Allroad’s drivetrain carries over from last year unchanged. You still get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and standard quattro all-wheel drive. The headlights are a different story—like the A4 sedan, the Allroad gains a set of full-LED headlights as standard. As before, the lifted wagon is set apart from its A4 and A5 mechanical siblings by matte-gray plastic body cladding on the fenders and bumpers, along with a unique “Q-design” hexagonal-mesh grille.

Allroad models additionally come standard with an adaptive suspension that offers just under 1.4 inches more ground clearance than the A4 sedan provides. There also is a standard panoramic sunroof. For 2020, Audi ups the Allroad’s equipment game further, adding in the same new MMI touch infotainment system and its 10.1-inch screen that it gifted to the latest A4 and A5. The display is an instant focal point in the Allroad’s updated interior, and Audi says the unit operates up to 10 times faster than the previous iteration (which was operated via several physical buttons and a control knob) and allows for higher-resolution graphics. Audi’s second-generation Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is available, too, along with a full-color head-up display.

The 2020 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro starts at $45,595, an $1,100 drop from 2019 model-year pricing. It probably goes without saying that year-over-year price drops for improved vehicles these days is unusual in the best way possible. Step up to the ’20 Allroad Premium Plus, and you’ll pay $48,695; leap to the top-of-the-line Prestige trim, and Audi will request $54,645 from you. We’d pay more than that for Audi to send us the non-Allroad A4 Avant wagon. Whether that will happen remains to be seen, but if the enhanced Allroad is anything like the pre-refresh version, it’s not a bad consolation prize.

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New Buick EV Crossover Might Just Preview Chevrolet’s Upcoming Bolt SUV

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 1:53pm

It’s no secret that Buick is big in China, which is why it makes sense that General Motors is attempting to bolster the tri-shield brand’s electric vehicle portfolio in that country. (Which, it should be pointing out, is rapidly pivoting toward championing EVs and other emissions-reducing vehicles.) And Buick, it turns out, has an EV in the works. Thanks to images obtained by the Chinese publication Autohome from China’s Ministry of Industry and Transportation Technology, we now know what the electric Buick will look like.

Dubbed the Velite 7, the compact electric crossover appears to be little more than a Chevrolet Bolt with Buick-specific body panels. But closer inspection reveals that this is more likely a Buick-badged variant of the upcoming Bolt EUV electric crossover SUV.

Look past the Velite 7’s attractive face and redesigned body panels, and it becomes clear that very few—if any—exterior pieces come from the current Bolt. For instance, the Velite 7 ditches the electric Chevy’s small front quarter windows ahead of the front driver and passenger door windows. Additionally, the Buick’s windshield wipers are oriented completely differently from those of the Chevrolet. The Velite 7, then, is more than simply a current Chevrolet Bolt with Buick design cues. It also looks taller than a Bolt, more crossover-ish.

Assuming the Velite 7 previews the Bolt EUV, then it’s safe to say the upcoming bow-tie-badged electric crossover will look far more handsome than its run-of-the-mill, somewhat homely Bolt sibling. (It’s easy to imagine some of the Velite 7’s details, such as its barbed headlights and taillights, being traded for squarer, more Chevrolet-styled pieces.) While Autohome reports the Buick will use an approximately 175-hp electric motor for motivation, we expect the Bolt EUV to rely on an electric motor that makes at least as much power as the 200-hp unit in the Bolt. Likewise, it wouldn’t surprise us if the EUV shares its battery pack with the standard Bolt. The 66-kilowatt-hour pack provides the 2020 Bolt with an estimated driving range of 259 miles per charge, according to the EPA’s test cycle. 

Only time will tell if the Buick Velite 7 ultimately previews the upcoming Bolt EUV. Regardless, we anticipate Chevrolet’s Bolt to sprout a crossover sibling in the near future, and while it could look like anything, we do hope it looks more like the Velite 7 than the current Bolt.

Photo source: Autohome.com.cn

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The 2020 Audi A5 and S5 Family Receives Mild Botox Injections

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 12:34pm

Audi has refreshed the A4 sedan’s swoopier (and better looking) A5 siblings for 2020. The A5 family’s changes for 2020 closely mirror those applied to the A4 and amount to incremental improvements for the two-door coupe and Cabriolet, as well as the four-door A5 Sportback and the hotter S variants of all three.

Mechanically, there won’t be anything new. The A5 models’ turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines still make 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque and come paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The S5 coupe, Cabriolet, and Sportback retain the same 349-hp turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6 (making 369 lb-ft of torque) as before. That leaves the bulk of the changes to the cosmetic realm.

Up front, the A5 and S5 get flatter and wider honeycomb grilles, in addition to reshaped front bumpers to convey a greater sense of sportiness. Sure. Audi also says the wide-face changes link the 5s to the relentlessly boxy original Audi Quattro, but we’re not sure we’re seeing the connection. Both the headlights and taillights have been revamped to bring the A5 and S5 in line with the rest of the Audi’s lineup.

Inside, the new A5 and S5 get a new 10.1-inch display with Audi’s latest iteration of its MMI, MIB 3—just like their A4 siblings. Audi says the new system is up to ten times faster than the previous one. It’s also a touchscreen! Audi was one of the last automakers to hold out and insist on physical controls for its infotainment (using buttons and a rotating click knob controller), but it’s finally joined the rest of the automotive world and embraced touch.

The two-door A5 coupe and four-door Sportback hatchback models now cost the same, $43,895, despite the latter’s extra pair of doors. (The Sportback used to cost $1,300 more than the coupe, a worthy tradeoff for its extra practicality and similarly seductive looks.) The A5 convertible demands an extra $7,000, bringing it to $50,895. For 2020, both the more powerful S5 Coupe and Sportback have a base price of $52,895, $500 less than in 2019. Stepping up to the S5 Cabriolet will cost an eye-watering extra $8,300, but the droptop’s base price was cut by a whopping $3,000 relative to last year.

Zoom out, and you’ll notice that the dominant story line here is how Audi added value to its A5 and S5 range without increasing the cars’ prices. Audi says the 2020 models are already on their way to dealerships, so interested parties should keep their eyes peeled.

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Tesla Cybertruck—Did Top Gear Do It First?

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 7:00am

Head to the MotorTrend App and check out Season 14, Episode 2 of Top Gear to see if the guys should be credited with the Tesla Cybertruck design! Sign up to the MotorTrend App while the deal of the year is still going on!

Looking at the design of the polarizing marketing sensation/flop that is the Tesla Cybertruck and cross-referencing it with the memes of the interwebs, you’ll discover a common consensus: a toddler designed it. That’s not to say the designers are uneducated, drool-sipping thumb-hands because they certainly are not. However, the Blade Runner revival in the real world is far less cool than in the movie. Elon Musk may have OK’d this triangular cookie form in 2019, but the Top Gear trio actually perfected this style of car design long ago.

Back in season 14, episode 2 of Top Gear , Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May built their own electric car using second-hand parts from very opposite vehicles. The complete chassis was donated from a TVR sports car while the powertrain was plucked from an electric milk delivery truck. Hammond and May, respectively, handled the first two tasks while Jeremy was in charge of the design. After emerging from his “mood room” of creative inspirations, the masterpiece was revealed. Let’s just say that it was the car’s imperfection that made it perfect. The aluminum, plywood, warehouse storage joiners, and fence hinges all paired with not a single curve in the design—beating Tesla to the angular punch a decade ago.

May had elected to use only two batteries to save weight. It was a sacrifice that proved too great because the car lacked speed of any kind. It was so bad to drive on the roads that after getting stranded, which caused a traffic jam of epic proportions in Oxford, they didn’t put a terrible amount of effort to save it from rolling off a hill and crashing into a tree. It was back to the drawing board at the Top Gear Technology Center, where they amended their shortcomings and prepared the car for rigorous safety testing that all cars sold in the U.K. must pass.

Amazingly, it passed all of the tests with flying colors (*wink*wink*) and they somehow didn’t die in the process. We won’t spoil the whole story here, so go watch the episode on the MotorTrend App to see if their creation wins a drag race against a slew of other alternately powered vehicles. Who do you think did it better, Top Gear or Tesla? Let us know: shoot an email to HOTROD@HotRod.com.

Featured photo design: Ryan Lugo
Cybertruck photos: Courtesy of Tesla

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Are Jeep Wranglers Safe? We Look at the Test Results

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 4:00am

The Jeep Wrangler is unmistakably cool, but is it safe in an accident? It does things no other SUV can do, but does that make a difference in whether or not it’s safe? We took a look at all the available safety information to give you an answer.

All new vehicles must comply with mountains of safety regulations before they can be put on sale, but that doesn’t mean all vehicles are equally safe. Different designs and different types of safety equipment make big differences. An all-new Wrangler was introduced in 2018 and featured massive improvements in safety, fuel efficiency, and technology, as compared to the old JK model—so massive that we named the JL-generation Wrangler our 2019 SUV of the Year. But even with the many improvements made to the JL, are Jeep Wranglers safe? While it may be the strongest, safest Wrangler ever, it still received mixed ratings. Its older-style chassis and short list of advanced safety features bring it below average ratings from multiple testing agencies.

Jeep Wrangler Safety Ratings

We should note, however, that not all agencies have tested the latest Wrangler yet, and even those that have tested it haven’t necessarily completed every test in their arsenal. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has subjected the Wrangler to only two of its four tests. As a result, NHTSA does not give the Wrangler an overall safety rating, just individual test ratings.

NHTSA subjected the Wrangler to a standard front impact test, where the vehicle runs straight into a flat wall. In that test, the Wrangler was awarded four out of five stars for both the driver and the front seat passenger. This is a good rating, though many SUVs today receive five stars for a front impact. NHTSA has not yet subjected the Wrangler to any side impact testing.

NHTSA’s non-governmental counterpart, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), has not tested the new Wrangler in any way yet. When it does, it will give us additional detail because IIHS performs some of the same tests as NHTSA and some of its own design. Especially useful among those special tests are the small and moderate front overlap tests, which examine what happens when you hit something with just the corner of your car instead of dead-center head-on, which can actually be worse.

Jeep Wrangler European Safety Ratings

That’s not a lot to go on, but we can look abroad for more clues. Jeep also sells the Wrangler in Europe, where it’s been subjected to nearly the full battery of Euro NCAP crash tests. Euro NCAP tested both full-frontal and partial offset front crashes and gave the Wrangler a combined score of 50 percent. This reflected a full-frontal score of 5.7 out of 8 possible points, a partial overlap score of 3.9 out of 8 points, and a side impact score of 8 out of 16 points (a side-impact pole test, which simulates sliding into a tree or telephone pole, was not performed).

While the Euro NCAP crash scores are a little lower than NHTSA’s 4-star score, it’s important to separate them from Euro NCAP’s overall score of 1 star out of 5. This is because the Euro NCAP overall score includes pedestrian impacts tests (how badly a person would be hurt if you ran into them with your car), child crash test scores, and tests of some advanced safety technologies. In particular, the Wrangler received zero points for Automatic Emergency Braking because the feature was not offered in Europe at the time of the test, but it is today and has been available on U.S.-model Wranglers since 2018.

Jeep Wrangler Safety Equipment

As with all vehicles, only certain advanced safety equipment is standard. On the Jeep Wrangler, that includes front and side airbags for both the driver and front seat passenger, anti-lock braking, traction control, and stability control with software designed to reduce the chance of a rollover. Also standard: a rearview camera, LATCH points for mounting car seats in the rear outboard seats, tire pressure monitoring (low or blown tires increase the chances of an accident), seat belt alerts for the front seats, and an SOS button above the rearview mirror that will connect you with an agent who can send help to your location.

Are Jeep Wranglers safe in a rollover event with all of that equipment? While no agency has tested the Wrangler’s roof strength yet, NHTSA did test its resistance to rolling over and gave it a rating of 3 stars out of 5. Though the Wrangler did not tip over in the test, NHTSA found a 26.7-percent chance of rollover, higher than a typical SUV.

Other safety technologies are offered as parts of various packages. These include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, and rear cross-path detection (which warns about vehicles about to drive behind you as you’re backing up). These packages come at an additional cost and are available on all trims and models except the base “Sport” trim level.

This list is notably shorter than other SUVs on the market, many of which offer more airbags (especially for the rear seats), lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance, pedestrian and animal detection with alerts and automatic emergency braking, and front parking sensors. Lacking these features will count in some part against the Wrangler’s overall scores when it is fully evaluated by different testing agencies.

Jeep Wrangler Crash Safety

So how safe are Jeep Wranglers? From the data available, we can say the Jeep Wrangler is safe in a crash, but not as safe as other SUVs. Some of this is due to the Wrangler’s unique design and construction, which are specialized for extreme off-roading. We cannot make a full report on the Wrangler’s safety until more testing has been completed (which is at the discretion of the testing agencies), but we can say the Jeep Wrangler is not unsafe in a crash and is unlikely to rollover in normal driving situations.

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2020 Mazda CX-30 vs. 2020 Hyundai Kona: Which One Should You Buy?

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 4:00am

Automakers crank out subcompact crossovers by the bushel, but you can’t accuse them of copying each other. Proof: the Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona. Although similar in price and size, each offers distinct performance and attributes that successfully position it against the other. There are plenty of reasons to choose one over the other—here are five for each.

Get the Mazda CX-30 for…

A luxurious ambiance: Belying its price point, the CX-30 does an excellent impression of a luxury car. The interior is gorgeous, covered in premium soft-touch materials; there’s hardly a brittle plastic surface to be found. It’s comfortable with a compliant ride that insulates harshness without feeling floaty. Ergonomics are a focus, given the supportive seats and intuitive placement of controls. Even at highway speeds, it’s devoid of wind noise. In comparison, the Kona’s cabin is bland and basic with plenty of tire roar making its way inside.

Better infotainment: The Kona’s touchscreen may initially be more intuitive, but it doesn’t take long to figure out the CX-30’s infotainment controller knob. Once you do, the Mazda’s system is superior. Menus are logically arranged and offer more options to set the car up how you want. Integration with popular smartphones is likewise natural after the dial’s short learning curve. All the while the screen is nicer to look at with brighter colors and higher resolution. And, unlike our long-term Kona Ultimate’s 8.0-inch screen positioned atop the center stack, the CX-30’s dashboard-mounted 8.8-inch screen falls naturally in your line of sight, helping you keep your eyes on the road.

Adaptive cruise control: Merge onto the highway, set the CX-30’s speed, and take your feet off the pedals—full-speed adaptive cruise control accelerates and brakes for you. It makes sitting in traffic so much easier. Adaptive cruise is standard across the entire CX-30 lineup. Yes, the Kona has it, too, but only on the range-topping Ultimate trim.

Sharper handling: The CX-30’s steering is amazingly sensitive. There’s practically no numbness in the wheel; minute inputs change the direction you’re moving. It provides a sense of connection and control, supported by suspension that deftly prevents body roll. Meanwhile, the Kona’s tiller has a dead spot on-center, and it requires more commitment to change where the front wheels are pointing. Resultantly it doesn’t feel as responsive as the Mazda.

Superior style: Style is, admittedly, subjective. And we, admittedly, think the Kona looks kinda funky cool. But it’s nowhere near as attractive as the CX-30. The Mazda’s elegant flowing body panels are balanced by just enough sharp creases to give it a slightly aggressive presence. The CX-30 looks bold and distinctive without resorting to polarizing novelty like the Kona does.

Get the Hyundai Kona for…

Quicker acceleration: On paper, the Kona Ultimate’s 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque doesn’t seem so different from the CX-30’s 186 hp and 186 lb-ft. From behind the wheel, though, the Hyundai feels far quicker. Its turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4 provides torque low in the rev range to give ample thrust. The quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission helps with that. Although the CX-30 doesn’t feel underpowered, its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine’s delivery is comparatively relaxed. Results from the test track don’t lie: We measured our Kona Ultimate’s 0–60 mph acceleration at 6.6 seconds, ahead of the all-wheel-drive CX-30’s 7.8-second run.

Lane keep assist: On freeway stretches, the Kona helps its driver with lane keep assist. Standard across the range, it feels like there’s an extra hand on the wheel, maintaining a central position in the lane. Around sweeping bends, it’s almost as if the car is steering for you. The Kona’s lane keep assist takes some effort out of highway driving. It’s standard on the CX-30, too, but Mazda’s calibration is subtle to the point of being undetectable unless you drift out of the lane.

Better off-road ability: Look, no one’s pretending that either of these little crossovers is ready for rock crawling. But let’s say your favorite hiking trail is at the end of a rutted gravel road, or you wake up some mornings to ice on the ground. When equipped with all-wheel drive, the Kona feels more confident off-pavement. Its suspension has decent articulation, and the all-wheel-drive lock button helps ensure confident traction. The CX-30 can be had with Off-Road Traction Assist mode, but simple dirt dips and undulations quickly overwhelm its composure.

Improved visibility: You’ll like looking at the CX-30’s interior more than looking out of it. As nicely appointed as it is, outside visibility isn’t good. A high beltline and sizable D-pillar combine to make it difficult to see what’s going on around you, especially when looking over your shoulder to change lanes. The Kona’s D-pillar isn’t as bulky, and its larger window openings make it easier to monitor traffic around you.

Hotter seats: On those frigid mornings, seat heaters are a car’s most important asset. Fortunately the Kona’s three-level butt warmers heat right up, and in their highest setting feel plenty toasty. Whatever your preference, they get hotter, faster, than the CX-30’s. Whereas seat heaters are included on all but the base-level Kona, they only come on the two highest CX-30 trims.

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Might This New-Concept Rotary Range Extender Fly?

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 4:00am

Turbine cars seemed inevitable in 1963, when 50 Chrysler Turbine demonstrators hit the streets. Low parts count, reduced maintenance, and absolute smoothness were the selling points, but by 1979 efficiency and emissions woes scuppered the automotive turbine.

Now, micro-turbine range extenders like those in Jaguar’s C-X75 and Mitsubishi’s MI-Tech concepts are beginning to hit the road. What’s more, there’s a new patent-pending rotary-engine concept that promises to combine turbine- and piston-engine advantages for even greater efficiency and lower emissions.

In a traditional turbine, burning fuel isn’t contained and forced to act on a crankshaft. Rather, expanding gases blow against fan blades to rotate a shaft, and excess air provides cooling.

However, Astron Aerospace’s new trademarked Omega One rotary engine contains the combustion like in piston engines, improving torque and simplifying emissions control while retaining turbine advantages like air cooling, low parts count, compact size, and smooth operation. The Omega is primarily meant for aviation, but an EV range extender application is being codeveloped. It incorporates various Technologue “greatest hits” ideas, including June 2006’s split-cycle concept of conducting compression and combustion in separate spaces, and homogeneous-charge compression ignition (HCCI).

Imagine a smooth gear featuring a single, wide tooth rotating against another perfectly smooth gear incorporating one notch to fit the first gear’s tooth. These rotate in a housing machined to fit tight (0.001-0.005-inch clearance) to the surface of the notched gear and to the outer edge of that single tooth. Side plates complete each enclosure with similar operating clearance to the rotors. The tooth is not expected to need seals, dramatically reducing friction.

 

In one gear pair, the tooth separates the intake and compression volumes; in the other, combustion and exhaust. The compression one is about a third larger, which allows it to “supercharge” the combustion chamber via a small air storage tank that sits between these rotor pairs. Blow-off valves regulate intake pressure (180 to 320 psi is the expected range).

Intake air enters the combustion chamber when a port in a rotating plate in the compression tank aligns with a hole in the rotor side plate, positioned where the combustion tooth emerges from its notch to begin another rotation. As compressed air enters this large and unrestricted port, fuel is supplied by port and/or direct injectors that provide stratified charge (rich near the plug) at lower rpm or homogeneous charge at higher rpm. Spark-assisted HCCI is possible up to 10,000 rpm.

Once combusted, the expanding gases push the back side of that tooth most of the way around its circular path, providing loads of time to extract work from the fuel. Then the exhaust leaves through an open port near where the tooth re-enters its notch, pushed by the front side of the tooth on its next pass. This port can be ducted to a turbo and/or a catalyst.

In the computer, this 14 x 15 x 23-inch engine whirrs out 600 hp at 15,000 rpm and 1,000 lb-ft, achieving 80 percent thermal efficiency(!). Cooling air from a turbinelike fan blows through the large, hollow shafts supporting the rotor pairs and past the finned outer housing. Only these shafts’ bearings are lubricated, so the combustion chamber is never exposed to lubricant. And the HCCI flash combustion plus low combustion chamber surface area should lower engine-out NOx sufficiently to eliminate the three-way catalyst, which doesn’t work with excess air. There will be excess air, especially under low-load conditions in “skip-fire” mode, when the engine doesn’t fire every revolution.

These are Astron’s claims. But enough smart people (including some at Los Alamos Laboratory) saw sufficient merit in the concept to fully fund the venture in a matter of days.

Now comes the hard part: building and operating a proof-of-concept engine. I’m concerned about the lack of seals and lubrication of the rotors operating at relatively close tolerances, and I worry that parts exposed to varying amounts of heat will expand at different rates, causing interference. Exotic materials and tight tolerances can be budgeted into a pricey aviation engine, but can this be made to work on an automotive range extender budget? Color me intrigued and optimistic about the aviation engine’s future, a bit more skeptical of its automotive prospects.

More on the Astron EV Range Extender
  • The combustion chamber size is about 250cc, though the expansion chamber is vastly larger (akin to a 12-inch piston stroke).
  • Like a turbine, it can run on a variety of fuels, and it always runs unthrottled.
  • Pumping energy is very low with this design. Because the engine runs unthrottled, there’s no air-pumping work against a vacuum at low loads; the lubrication needs are modest because only the main shaft bearings are lubricated, and air-cooling means there’s no coolant to pump.
  • Ignition pulses in this rotary result in minimal vibration, so skip-fire mode (in which at 10,000 to 15,000 rpm it might only fire every 500 revolutions under low load) is not noticeable the way cylinder deactivation is in a piston engine. And routing the surplus air pressure back into the intake during such operation reduces compression work.
  • The pressurized air enters the combustion chamber at near sonic speeds, which helps atomize and thoroughly mix port-injected fuel at higher engine speeds.
  • The number of parts is roughly equal to that of a one-cylinder lawnmower engine.
  • Scalable: The Astron Omega can be shrunk, expanded, or compounded by adding more rotor pairs, and there’s a taller “three rotor” design, wherein a larger main rotor gets two teeth instead of one with smaller upper and lower discs, each having a single notch timed to receive the two teeth, meaning two combustion and exhaust events can happen during each revolution. Astron’s computers suggest a 250-pound three-rotor aviation version like this might produce 4,500 hp.
  • Astron officials reckon that such flexibility of size and output mean that this literally revolutionary new engine might conceivably replace nearly any current powertrain. They also suggest it might serve as primary motivation (rather than just electricity generation), and that in such fitments its linear power delivery and broader rev range might even negate the need for a transmission. I’m more skeptical of this assertion given the 18,000-rpm speed range and the fact that all the power is at the top end (the opposite of an electric machine), in light of the fact that the 60,000-rpm Chrysler Turbine still relied on a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.
  • To reduce manufacturing costs of this close-tolerance engine, Astron envisions employing wire-cut electrical-discharge machining (WEDM—also known as spark eroding), wherein an incredibly thin electrically charged brass wire erodes metal electrically. This strikes me as a slow, low-volume manufacturing solution. Cost: Astron CEO Matthew Riley estimates the automotive range extender could be produced for about $1,000.
A Bit More About the Aviation Version
  • The rotating masses are made of titanium, versus aluminum in the automotive engine.
  • The bearings are ceramic versus conventional Babbitt bearings (and ceramic might coat some other parts, as well).
  • Peak speed is 40,000 rpm, versus 18,000 for the automotive one.
  • Power and torque are much higher, and the cost is more like $50,000 per engine, which Riley notes is a comparative bargain in the personal aviation engine market (assuming that price estimate holds after the Omega completes the extensive reliability/durability/maintenance-scheduling testing required for aviation certification).
  • A big advantage to this design over the traditional turbine is its ability to filter the intake air, which makes the Omega engine vastly more tolerant of sandstorms and less vulnerable to bird strikes.
Read more stories from Frank Markus here:

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2020 Honda Civic Si Sedan First Test: I Almost Love It

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 4:00am

We’re big fans of the Honda Civic; there’s no use trying to hide that. Even competing against sparkly new redesigns of the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 in a recent compact sedan comparison, the three-year-old Civic came out on top. We also thoroughly enjoyed our year-long loan with a Civic Type R, which stole first place in a hardcore hatchback comparo against a Subaru WRX STI Type RA, Volkswagen Golf R, and Ford Focus RS. There’s still plenty of room for a Civic Si.

Before Honda decided we Americans were finally worthy of the almighty Type R, the Si was the hottest Civic we had. Now it represents an enticing middle ground between the turbocharged standard Civic and the razor-sharp Type R, and a financially attainable one at just $25,930.

What’s not to like? The 2020 Civic Si is quick, practical, cohesive, and accessible, but it has one significant flaw that might keep me out of the driver’s seat.

Si Sweetheart

First, I need to touch on all there is to love about this sweet little sport sedan. There are a few changes for the 2020 model year that improve on an already likeable platform.

New LED headlights and foglights, both from the Civic Type R, look premium and illuminate the road better than the old projectors. The revised infotainment setup from last year’s update features a physical volume knob and physical fan speed buttons; much appreciated for easy adjustment on the move. There’s a 6 percent shorter final drive ratio that Honda says improves acceleration feel (more on that in a moment) and standard Honda Sensing active safety features that are disappointingly absent in other compact sport sedans like the Jetta GLI.

Beyond those new features, tacking Si onto the end of your Civic order brings serious hardware improvements to the standard Civic. The 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 205 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque (up 31 hp and 30 lb-ft over the Civic Touring), there’s a limited-slip differential between the front wheels, and two-mode adjustable suspension. Huge side bolsters on the front seats will hug you almost as much as those in the Type R, and the Si is exclusively offered with three pedals and a stick.

Despite the shorter final drive ratio, the 2020 Civic Si is no quicker than the 2019 example we tested earlier this year. This new car hit 60 in 6.8 seconds—0.2 slower than last year’s car—though it completed the quarter mile in the same 15.1 seconds at a slightly higher trap speed.

The Si actually has shockingly similar straight-line acceleration numbers to the Civic Touring, which does a 6.8-second 0–60 sprint and a 15.2-second quarter mile, but the real benefits are on the figure eight. Thanks to grippier summer tires and the front differential getting more power to the ground, a figure-eight lap in the 2020 Civic Si takes only 25.4 seconds. It’s over a second faster around that course than the standard car.

Even with stability control that isn’t fully defeatable and steering that doesn’t communicate midcorner bumps as well as we’d like, the Si is a blast in the corners.

Away from the track, the effects of the limited-slip diff are still apparent. The car will only ever understeer if you provoke it. I could feel this differential shuffling power between the front wheels to deliver peak traction as I was exiting sharper turns, much more so than I did with the diff in the hot Jetta. As soon as the front wheels are pointed toward the apex, mashing the throttle will tug the little Civic out of the corner and get you pointed toward the next. There were even a few cases where I found myself exiting a corner quicker than I expected, though I noticed no difference in acceleration feel with the revised final drive.

Differentiation from the standard car is always obvious behind the wheel of the Si. The short-throw shifter’s petite shift knob fits well in the hand, and shifts feel mechanical and direct. This is as satisfying a transmission as you’ll find. I adore these seats, too—I found myself holding the steering wheel less tightly than I normally might because the seats were holding me in place and I wasn’t relying on the wheel for stability.

The standard setting for the adjustable suspension felt to me like it had just enough body movement to feel compliant and give a sense of weight transfer. There’s a fluidity in this chassis that reminded me of our Alfa Romeo Giulia long-termer. I didn’t find much use for the stiffer setting, nor the associated Sport mode that pipes more of the admittedly decent synthetic engine sound into the cabin and lights the gauge cluster in red.

Although it’s appreciated on a car at this price, Honda’s adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking systems don’t feel as polished and foolproof as those from Volvo, Tesla, or Cadillac. The adaptive cruise required more intervention than most, but Honda gets extra points from us for making it work with a manual transmission and including it as standard. (Take that, Porsche!)

(Si)nus Infection

What I don’t love about the Civic Si is a little issue called rev hang. It’s something that has plagued the turbocharged Si since its debut, and it truly bums me out.

When I say rev hang, what I mean is that when you let off the throttle, it takes a long time for the engine speed to drop. Doesn’t seem like something to make a fuss about, but make a fuss I will.

A lot of the joy of driving a car with a manual transmission, for me at least, is rev-matching. Gear ratios match engine speed (revs) with the speed at which the car rolls along the ground. When you change gears, up or down, it’s important when you let the clutch back in that the engine speed matches the new gear for smooth driving and limiting wear on the drivetrain.

Upshifting smoothly in the Civic Si is an exercise in frustration. The revs drop so slowly that if you were to wait for the engine speed to match the next gear, you’ll spend at least a second with each shift. It’s an unfortunate characteristic that mars the greatness of the transmission and results in uncomfortable shunts of forward movement as the clutch engagement forces the engine down to speed. Not only is it difficult to drive smoothly, it made me feel like an irresponsible car owner putting unnecessary strain on the driveline.

It’s especially disheartening after my recent weekend in the naturally aspirated, rev-happy, VTEC screamer that is the 1999 Civic Si.

In this new car, road test editor Chris Walton felt only a partial connection between the gas pedal and the engine, and I think I know why. As much as we enthusiasts want a throttle that snaps open and snaps shut for immediate engine response, more gradual transitions are what result in better fuel economy. (I’ll acquiesce that the 2020 Si returns an impressive 26/36 mpg city/highway.)

It feels to me like the Civic Si has some lag in its drivetrain—not turbo lag, but throttle lag. It takes a moment, even at higher rpms, to feel any response from this engine when your foot comes on or off the throttle. Normally, vicious rev hang can be corrected with a lighter flywheel, but a little forum digging reveals that this throttle lag and the resultant rev hang, are in fact software issues, not hardware issues. That means it’s a problem that can be mostly solved with an aftermarket tune, but it’s still incredibly frustrating.

Imperfect, Still Great

So the 2020 Civic Si is a zippy, satisfying, affordable compact sport sedan with a significant flaw. Does that mean you shouldn’t consider one? Absolutely not. The rev hang is something to keep in mind on a test drive, but it won’t bother everyone the way it bothers me, and if it’s the one thing between you and a Civic Si, budget an extra couple hundred dollars and fix it with a tune.

This is a car whose benefits way outshine its few drawbacks. It’s one of the best inexpensive performance machines on the market.

2020 Honda Civic Si (Sedan) BASE PRICE $26,130 PRICE AS TESTED $26,130 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan ENGINE 1.5L/205-hp/192-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 2,899 lb (61/39%) WHEELBASE 106.3 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 182.8 x 70.8 x 55.5 in 0-60 MPH 6.8 sec QUARTER MILE 15.1 sec @ 93.9 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 106 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.95 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.7 sec @ 0.69 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 26/36/30 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 130/94 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.65 lb/mile

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2020 Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman GTS 4.0: Same Great GTS, More Filled (With Cylinders)

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 6:01pm

The 2020 Porsche 718 GTS 4.0 is here, and its engine beats to the pounding of  six cylinders, not four as in regular 718 Cayman coupes and Boxster roadsters, including the four-cylinder GTS.  The “4.0” in its name represents the six-cylinder engine’s displacement and is a dead giveaway that this is the same engine that makes the hotter Cayman GT4 and the 718 Boxster Spyder so special.

The GTS specification, available across the Porsche lineup, typically describes a bundle involving extra power over the S trim, along with sportier chassis and exhaust upgrades and unique trim. Stirring in that magic 4.0 engine, however, is clearly an escalation of Porsche’s GTS game, making the already enticing trim level more desireable than ever—at least on the 718 Boxster and Cayman versions.

The flat-six engine is slightly detuned relative to the ones found in the screamin’ Cayman GT4 and 718 Boxster Spyder. The 718 GTS 4.0’s engine still makes 394 horsepower, 29 more than the four-cylinder 718 GTS that Porsche will keep selling. We doubt many people will miss the 20 ponies lost in the flat-six’s transfer from the GT4 and Boxster Spyder to this GTS, and besides, peak torque is unchanged from the 309 lb-ft you get in those models, as well as the four-pot GTS. What really matters here is that the GTS 4.0’s horsepower peak arrives at the tippy-top of the rev range, right near the siren-song 7,800-rpm redline.

But the good news doesn’t stop with the engine. Oh no. The GTS 4.0 will come exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox—likely the same super-notchy-yet-direct-feeling unit found in the Cayman GT4. (The dual-clutch automatic transmission offered on lesser GTSs is off the menu!) Let’s hope they’ve sorted out the gearing, which we felt was too tall for peak accelerative performance. We also couldn’t care less about the standard cylinder deactivation system, which can shut off one bank of cylinders when engine loads are low for the sake of efficiency. Given how that is boring, and the stick-shift and going fast aren’t boring, we’ll state the obvious: Shifting the flat-six for yourself while whipping down a back road basking in the engine’s soundtrack is the entire point of this GTS. Porsche says the 4.0 will hit 60 mph from a standstill in 4.3 seconds and trundle along to a top speed of 182 mph.

The usual GTS go-fast elements are included on the 4.0, of course: Porsche Active Suspension Management with a 0.8-inch drop in ride height, electronic Porsche Torque Vectoring, and a mechanical limited-slip differential are standard. Porsche also includes a sports exhaust system and Sport Chrono, as well as an upgraded Porsche Track Precision App. A 20-inch wheel is bolted to each corner, with the fronts wearing 235/35 tires and the rears wrapped in 265/35 rubber. The brakes have been beefed up, too, and the front rotors measure 13.8 inches (up from 13 on the standard GTS model) and the rear brakes are upgraded to 13-inch rotors. Carbon ceramics are, as you’d expect, still an (expensive) option. Aesthetically, the GTS 4.0 wears a black lip spoiler, the same Sport Design front fascia as the normal GTS, and a redesigned rear bumper (to accommodate the exhaust) in black. The front running lamp lenses are tinted, as are the taillights. The interior is clad with Alcantara and sporty, well-bolstered seats should keep you locked in place during hard driving.

We’re just happy Porsche found another use for that sonorous 4.0-liter flat-six, especially as it has expanded the availability of turbocharged engines throughout its lineup. We hope they keep new applications coming. There is no word yet on the 718 GTS 4.0s’ prices, but expect them to ring in under the GT4’s $100,550 price tag. Somewhere around $90,000 sounds right, as that slots it nicely between the GT4 and the turbo-four GTS models. Dealerships will be taking orders as early as this summer of this year.

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Toyota Yaris-Based Crossover Coming to Feed The SUV-Hungry Masses

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

Like Tupac, we appreciate a good tease; even if it makes us sound a little sleazy. Toyota knows we clearly don’t want it if it’s easy, which must be why the brand is teasing its upcoming subcompact crossover with the above sketch.

The currently nameless model will rest on Toyota’s Global Architecture-B (or GA-B) platform when production begins at the company’s Onnaing, France plant, which also builds the GA-B-based Toyota Yaris (i.e. not our Mazda2-based Yaris), before the middle of the decade. 

Although the new crossover may seem as though it’s little more than a Yaris on stilts, Matt Harrison, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Europe, stated in a press release that the vehicle is in fact “not just a Yaris with body cladding and raised suspension.” Alas, Harrison failed to go into what actually separates the company’s upcoming crossover from its hatchback sibling.

Given that the European Yaris isn’t sold in the United States, we’re hesitant to believe this new Yaris-based crossover will make its way to our shores. Then again, Americans are notoriously crossover-hungry, and Toyota may decide this high-riding hatch is the perfect way to whet the appetites of North American consumers. Plus, Toyota already announced it plans to build a new crossover at its new Alabama plant that’s part of a joint venture with Mazda. That crossover may very well be a variant of this French-built subcompact model.

Alternatively, the Alabama crossover could be the production version of the FT-4X concept that Toyota unveiled at the 2017 New York auto show. Unlike the unnamed crossover teased for Europe, the boxy FT-4X sits on the larger GA-C platform that also underpins the likes of the Corolla and C-HR. 

Whether the U.S. market receives this Yaris-based crossover, a production version of the FT-4X, or both, remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s possible the Toyota crossover that rolls off the line in Alabama will wear the nameplate 4Active, as the company recently applied to trademark the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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