By on October 10, 2017

2017-ford-f-350-super-duty-platinum

After introducing the Super Duty in 1998, Ford kept making upgrades to the same basic cab and frame all the way up to 2016. Multiple refreshes across three generations could not hide the fact that this truck rode on old bones, making the 2017 model year redesign a welcome change.

We had a chance test out the new design by borrowing a 2017 F-350 Platinum for a recent trip to West Virginia, which appropriately featured a Miata on trailer behind us. While our race car and trailer combo only made up a fraction of the maximum towing capacity of the diesel-powered behemoth, it gave us an appreciation of having a little extra room while towing.

Our schedule said we had to be on track at Summit Point for a drivers meeting at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, so we tried to pack as much as possible before the Super Duty arrived in order to hit the road quickly. When the truck arrived on Friday afternoon we ran over to the U-Haul store to pick up a trailer. Hooking up was a breeze — even in the tight confines of the back lot — as the backup camera, along with the birds eye view, quickly got us lined up with the trailer and on our way to load the race car. (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2017

[2017 Ford F-150 King Ranch, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

It’s better than a 1937 Nash Lafayette, though fuel economy — in real world driving — seems to be slightly less, if I’m to believe the results of the Mobilgas Economy Run.

I’m referring to my great-grandfather’s 1937 (or ’38) Lafayette, a fixture of my mother’s otherwise carless childhood in postwar Baby Boom Alberta. What brought up this unlikely comparison, you ask? What could a technology-laden 2017 Ford F-150 King Ranch pickup possibly have in common with a six-cylinder Depression-era sedan?

Running boards. In my mother’s earliest memories, the running boards of her granddad’s car were fixed, spanning the distance between two fenders dulled by Prairie dust and providing easy access to the spartan cabin of a long-lived touring car. In the Ford’s case, they’re electrically operated, lowering into place upon the opening of any of the pickup’s doors, then receding out of sight below the rockers, propelled by engineering ingenuity and cash.

It’s an option I’ve always found ridiculous, especially in a climate where road salt is a depressing reality. I like a fixed board. Nothing fancy. However, to my mom, who I chauffeured to a Mother’s Day meal in the King Ranch, that feature alone was enough to make her consider pulling a bank job to meet the truck’s MSRP.

With this particular truck, payload capacity and off-road prowess is an afterthought. (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

2017 Chevy Colorado ZR2

In the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise, we’re introduced to the vicious raptors — a breed of dinosaurs who tear, smash, and maul their way through the storyline (and more than a few characters). By the time we see them in the most recent installment of the series, Chris Pratt has managed to tame them to a certain degree, creating creatures that obey a few commands but will still rip his face off if given the opportunity.

Chevrolet had a 2017 F-150 Raptor on hand at its launch of the Colorado ZR2. Hammering its loud pedal, the beast ripped across the hot Colorado asphalt, its psychotic twin-turbo exhaust note sounding like Marilyn Manson screaming obscenities into a vacuum cleaner hose. Backing off to 7/10ths, it struck me that the Raptor and ZR2 bear more than a passing resemblance to those fictional silver-screen scoundrels.

(Read More…)

By on May 1, 2017

2017 GMC Canyon SLE Diesel - Image: © Timothy Cain

You want a pickup truck.

You want a small pickup truck.

Unfortunately, such a thing no longer exists, at least not north of the Rio Grande. You’ve migrated your desire to the “midsize” sector, a class in which the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, and two General Motors candidates offer a quintet of possibilities.

Yet a major issue crops up when you begin comparison shopping and discover three full-size issues standing in the way: strong incentives on full-size pickups, full-size truck fuel efficiency comparable to midsize trucks, and full-size capability and interior volume far exceeding that of midsize pickups.

No wonder 85 percent of pickup buyers opt for a full-size truck. Still, 2016 was the best year ever for the Toyota Tacoma and the best year since 2001 for the Nissan Frontier. 2017 is on track to be the Honda Ridgeline’s best year since 2007. The Tacoma has a legendary reputation for toughness. The Frontier is the small-truck traditionalist’s pickup of choice. The Ridgeline is unusual in almost every way.

What unique attribute does GM’s duo manifest? This 2017 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab 4×4 has diesel. Diesel fuel in a diesel engine with diesel towing capacity, diesel fuel economy, and a diesel sound owners of decade-old Jetta TDIs will love. (Read More…)

By on March 24, 2017

2017 Ford Raptor, Image: © 2017 Garrett Martin

In the coming years, we will begin driving riding around in the quiet electric embrace of autonomous convenience. We will look back on the 20-teens as a golden age when the last ounces of performance were wrung out of the internal combustion engine and automakers created cars for every conceivable market niche. New and presently unknown products will one day surprise and delight. But let’s stick with the present, which is a special time for auto enthusiasts.

Consider that the 5,600-pound 2017 Raptor is as fast to 60 miles per hour as the 2007 Mustang GT. Forced induction or not, the Raptor labors under a one-ton weight disadvantage, an unknown coefficient of drag penalty, and a 30-percent displacement deficiency versus the original pony car. A decade ago there was not a single stock vehicle available at any price capable of bounding through the desert at freeway speed that was also able to head back to civilization to pick up the kids from school.

Not convinced? In November, Ford raced a Raptor in the Baja 1000 Stock Full class. It got a roll cage, fuel cell, and a few other tweaks. Of almost 250 entries, the Raptor was among 142 rigs that finished the race. And after taking the checkered flag, it returned under its own power to Ford’s Arizona Proving Grounds 400 miles to the north.

The superlatives associated with Raptor are legion. What’s not to like?

(Read More…)

By on February 9, 2017

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been on a bit of a mental streak lately.

Rip the seats out of a Hellcat to create the Demon? Sure!

Drop a V8 engine the size of a grand piano into a Durango and perform all-wheel drive burnouts? Why not?

The level of brash, automotive lunacy on offer from Auburn Hills is appalling. I think it’s great.

It’s no surprise, then, Ram chose to amp up the capability and in-your-face style of its Power Wagon when it came time for a refresh. Big tires, bold grilles, and billboard-sized badges; customers in the market for a Power Wagon are not generally a bunch of wallflowers.

(Read More…)

By on January 24, 2017

2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Imagine a world full of hefty, four-seat, eight-cylinder muscle cars. Then, appearing out of thin air, the Mazda MX-5 Miata arrives. You can draw parallels. The end goals are similar. But these are strikingly different machines.

Or consider a world in which buyers in search of family friendly SUVs are limited to Chevrolet Suburbans and Ford Expedition ELs. But after decades of dominance, in walks a totally different kind of answer: the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Like the first-generation Honda Ridgeline that bowed more than a decade ago, the all-new second-generation Ridgeline is a pickup truck. There’s a cab and a bed. It can tow and it can haul.

Yet the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is dramatically different from other pickup trucks, and not only in terms of construction. For better or worse, Honda’s truck is a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish. As a result, comparisons with other pickup trucks are, if not unfair, rendered largely invalid.
(Read More…)

By on August 2, 2016

2017 Nissan Armada at Nissan Adventure Drive in Carmel, California, Image: © 2016 Josh Burns/Off-road.com

Wherever roads fade to tracks, bridges give way to fords, and addresses become coordinates, an intense internecine war is under way. Since the Land Cruiser and Patrol were born in 1951, Nissan and Toyota have battled over which automaker produces the best large, go-anywhere, do-anything SUV. It’s a competition that has spawned battle wagons of ever increasing size, off-road capability, passenger comfort, and refinement.

Unfortunately, American consumers have been sidelined.

Sure, Toyota will sell you a Land Cruiser, but the average Toyota store sells fewer than three Land Cruisers a year. It’s the Tundra-derived Sequoia that leads Toyota’s full-size SUV campaign in North America. Likewise, Nissan began offering the Titan-based Armada in 2004. Although the Nissan has consistently outsold its Indiana-built rival, it has long been a battle for third and fourth place.

Nissan is now taking aim at loftier objectives.

(Read More…)

By on June 3, 2016

Ford Ranger 3.2L TDCI Wildtrak exterior beauty shot, Image: Radek Beneš/The Truth About Cars

Over the last two or three decades, the American full-size pickup truck has morphed into something thoroughly and completely different. What was once utilitarian and practical is now imposing, luxurious.

Is it possible that the truest successor of the original F-Series is currently sold in Europe with a five-cylinder diesel engine?

I tested the new Ford Ranger to find out.

(Read More…)

By on April 5, 2016

2016 GMC Yukon, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

“My advice for aspiring writers is go to New York. And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests.”

— Walter Kirn 

I quote Mr. Kirn to begin this review not only because his novel, Up In The Air, may as well be an unauthorized Bark M. biography, but because he’s right. Writers need to go to New York. More specifically, autowriters need to go to the New York International Auto Show. Detroit is the biggest. Geneva gets all the supercars. But to see and be seen? To network with fellow writers? To get your finger on the pulse of what’s shaking in the car biz?

There’s only one show that matters, and that’s New York.

(Read More…)

By on March 10, 2016

2016 Nissan Titan XD (9 of 37)

Ask people in the know which full-size pickup is arguably the worst new purchase you can make today and you’ll receive a resounding answer: the Titan.

Nissan’s foray into full-size pickups was a breath of fresh air when it debuted for the 2004 model year. But like all merchandise that sits stagnant on retail shelves, it quickly went out of style, became unrefined in comparison to ever-improving competitors, and could only be had with a thirsty V8 during the doldrums of the Great Recession.

It’s this languishing at the low end of the totem pole that must have cajoled Nissan engineers to seriously analyze its truck strategy going forward. Surely, if Nissan was to compete in the pickup game, it would need to update its model at the same pace as everyone else — or, the very least, at the same pace as Toyota. That’s an expensive undertaking considering an all-new model’s development is now priced well into the billions of dollars. And it’s a risky bet to invest that much cash in a segment known for ownership loyalty and domestic domination.

So, Nissan had an idea: hit ’em where they ain’t, and steal a seasoned truck guy to push the new-“class” pickup.

(Read More…)

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