I was cruising along a Catskills two-lane in a 2024 Volkswagen Atlas at a leisurely yet quick pace when I caught a flash of brown and white out of the corner of my eye. Conversation with my drive partner ceased and I instinctively got deep into the brakes as Bambi decided that she needed to cross the road right that second, traffic be damned.
I was a latecomer to the Jeep lifestyle. As the bumper sticker says, I didn’t understand the Jeep thing. I’d briefly driven a couple of older ratty and rattly CJs in my time as a service writer a decade or so ago, trying to pinpoint suspension issues for the techs who were too busy not torquing lug nuts to actually do diagnoses. But the whole thing was an issue, each old Jeep driving poorly on-road - the only terrain I’d ever encountered on purpose.
But then I bought one when our minivan grew old and my bride expressed a desire for more wind-in-the-hair motoring on her commute. Four doors and toplessness seem to be mutually exclusive outside the offroader realm, so to the Stellantis dealer we went. And then I began to see what everyone else already knew.
The 2024 Jeep Wrangler is refreshed, building upon the JL platform introduced in 2017 to much fanfare. Jeep sent journalists to southern Utah to experience the refreshed 2024 Jeep Wrangler in a variety of flavors in the terrain seemingly built for the Wrangler lifestyle. Is it still the one?
BMW has become a bit of a wild card. From confusing naming conventions to controversial styling decisions, the Bavarian automaker has become no stranger to various forms of ridicule lately, particularly from the enthusiast set. With a rich performance history on and off of the track, the company has amassed a fervent fanbase that’s somehow both stuck in the past and impatient for the future.
They cite classics like the E30 M3 and E39 M5 with rose-tinted nostalgia and wonder why BMW can’t capture lightning in a bottle again – while also adding the performance, technology, safety, and comfort that they’ve come to expect, of course. And never mind the fact that the BMW Group reported record-breaking sales numbers in the first quarter of this year while largely ignoring the peanut gallery.
Just like with the heavily updated Golf GTI, that’s cause for a sigh of relief.
Perhaps even more so, since the Jetta GLI doesn’t get the same high-falutin’ interior treatment. Thank God for keeping it old school.
For those of typical means, ultra-luxury automakers like Bentley exist in a vacuum. We see an M3’s worth of options on a Flying Spur and scoff at something so preposterous, so alien to our understanding of a dollar’s value.
It’s true enough that the law of diminishing returns tends to really kick in when MSRPs soar into six-figure territory and beyond: Is a Bugatti Chiron 50 times better than a C8 Corvette? Probably not. But years ago, when I was handed the keys to my first Bentley press car, I approached the prospect with a similar mindset and came away a changed man.
I didn’t choose the Rolls-Royce lifestyle, the Rolls-Royce lifestyle chose me.
A while back, I was just minding my own business when the brand’s PR team emailed me and asked if I’d come to a small, COVID-safe meeting at my local RR dealer to talk about the all-new Ghost. I figured it would be the standard thing we used to do pre-pandemic – show up for a bit, check out a new model, talk specs, and get some pics. Maybe I’d get a post out of it. If not, I’d learn useful info on background.
Color me surprised, then, when my local fleet soon emailed me, asking if I’d like a brief loan to sample the Ghost.
Yes, please, I said. Now, where’s that damn Grey Poupon?
Putting a Hellcat motor in every vehicle you sell, at this point, comes off as a bit lazy. We’ve become almost numb to cars in the Dodge lineup making 700 horsepower or more, so numb that we sometimes forget how insane 700 horsepower is in a family car. But the tactic works for Dodge, and each subsequent Hellcat I drive I find them more and more surprising. For the 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat, the same thing applies.
Ford Motor Company’s 2021 Model Year is full of new trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. The one hundred and seventeen-year-old company has a renewed focus on these profitable categories while no longer offering a sedan in North America. The Bronco, Bronco Sport, and Mustang Mach-E expand Ford’s vehicle portfolio while adding new segments for the brand. These are all very important products for the future of Ford Motor Company. However, none of those vehicles provide the company with the same level of revenue as the other new vehicle in the 2021 lineup; the 2021 Ford F-150.
It’s safe to say that the F-150 is Ford’s most important product. It has been the best-selling vehicle in America since 1977 and is in a segment where average transaction prices are near $50,000. In 2014, in order to create a more capable and more fuel-efficient truck, Ford moved the thirteenth-generation F-150 to an all-aluminum exterior. But between that release and today, the full-sized truck segment has become even more competitive. General Motors released an all-new Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 and FCA introduced a brand new RAM 1500.
I drove the racetrack-ready Hyundai RM19 prototype, and I didn’t crash it.
The day after the Los Angeles Auto Show, while most of the rest of the assembled automotive media was either at home or in an airplane heading that way, I was in a shuttle bus heading north from Westwood/Beverly Hills towards the desert. Awaiting me would be the RM19 high-performance version of the Hyundai Veloster N.
The bus was ferrying me to Hyundai’s Proving Grounds located in/near California City, California. In addition to driving the RM19, I’d autocross a production Veloster N against the clock – something I did on the launch last year, outside of Sacramento – and be offered the chance to ride right-seat with a pro driver on an autocross in a race-prepped Veloster N. I’d also get to off-road a Palisade SUV and take a Nexo fuel-cell crossover around the high-speed track.
I skipped the right-seat ride due to lack of time, and I have little to say about autocross or the off-road. Those were merely repeats of experiences I’ve had before. The story here is the RM19, which Hyundai claims is a preview of future N products.
That exact future isn’t yet clear.
Cinched into a five-point racing harness, with a head-and-neck support device attached to my helmet, I felt a bit of nerves as I awaited my turn to pilot the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 at full-tilt-boogie around a road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Without the benefit (or restriction, depending on your point of view) of a pro driver riding right-seat.
Just a tiny bit, anyway. I’m no Bark, but I have track experience. I’d just handled a similarly powerful Hellcat Dodge Charger at an arguably more difficult track with no drama just a few weeks prior. And unlike some of the folks who fill up the press-junket buffet line, I know my limits. If I’m slower than some buff-booker with an extensive resume of laps, so be it. I’m not going to drive off into the desert in service of my ego.
That last bit helped keep me calm while waiting for my turn, but there was also this bit of knowledge on hand to keep my heart rate down: If the Mustang’s on-road behavior was any indicator, this 760-horsepower muscle/pony car wouldn’t be half as intimidating to drive at speed as it looked. This snake would be a sweetheart.
During Ford’s product presentation, held just north of the famed Golden Gate bridge on a chilly Bay Area morning in September, one of the men who worked on the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package trotted out a not unexpected comparison.
He brought up the old LX trim available on Fox-body Mustangs of yore, and compared today’s four-cylinder Mustang to that model.
It’s not the world’s worst comparison, although the LX back then was available with the same renowned 5.0-liter (yes, I know that it’s really a 4.9) V8 that was under the hood of the GT. The LX’s claim to fame was that it was lighter, cheaper, and perhaps less expensive to insure, while still offering V8 power and a five-speed stick. That’s why your author bought a used ’89 example in the late 1990s.
As someone who owned that LX Fox body for five years, I sniggered a bit, since the Mustang parked in front of us had just half the cylinder count, but of course today’s turbocharged four-banger could smoke the V8 of yore. I understood where Ford was going with this, though – the EcoBoost Mustang High Performance Package is meant to be the value performance buy, and not just a rental-fleet darling or the car for Mustang shoppers who care more about show than go.
Of course, when I relayed this spiel to the ne’er do wells in the TTAC Slack channel, contributor Chris Tonn shot back “SVO”, typed out repeatedly, a la Nicholson’s manuscript in The Shining.
The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid faces the same problem as its gas-engined sibling: Styling.
That’s the bad news for Ford. The good news is that this particular hybrid doesn’t sacrifice too much of the gas Escape’s fun-to-drive factor in the search for better fuel economy.
Ford says it is eventually going to phase out most of its cars – save the Mustang – but the brand isn’t above basing a compact crossover on a car platform.
Yeah, it may be called a crossover, especially by people who draw paychecks from the Blue Oval, but the 2020 Ford Escape is based on the company’s European Focus platform.
Perhaps it’s a bit of a cynical approach, especially with a more rugged “baby Bronco” on the way. But if ride and handling are something you care about, even when shopping crossovers, the results may be pleasing to you.
Possibly more pleasing than the Escape’s styling, anyway.
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