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No Time to Die Isn’t the Only Bond Film With Sweet Rides

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 21:10

James Bond is the quintessential spy. The orphan turned assassin likes to work alone, but frequently shares the silver screen with some pretty hot sheetmetal. The first trailer for No Time To Die dropped on Wednesday, and it gave us our first glimpse at the 25th Bond film in the storied franchise. The new teaser shows a retired Bond being pulled back into service by an old friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright).

The trailer is packed with action. Motorcycle chases, an Aston Martin DB5 with miniguns in the headlamps, and a Land Rover being chased by a helicopter all feature in this first teaser. This is the fifth and likely final James Bond film Daniel Craig will headline, and we decided to put together a list of the cars that have starred alongside the most recent incarnation of the legendary British spy. Check out the trailer below and read on for a look at almost all the James Bond cars Craig has piloted through the years.

Casino Royale

The first installment of the Craig-led Bond film era features a 2006 Aston Martin DBS that is eventually rolled at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedford, England. Toward the end of the film, Bond is thrown into the back of a Jaguar XJ8 of the same vintage. The bad guys always drive Jags.

Quantum Of Solace

The second Bond film to feature Craig has the most “eclectic” assortment of cars on its roster. After Bond almost completely destroys his black DBS in the opening minutes of the film, the cars take a turn for the less exciting. Bond ends up driving a retro Land Rover and a black Ford Edge—powered by hydrogen—throughout the film. Quantum of Solace does feature a 1970s Volkswagen Beetle, though!

Skyfall

Skyfall doesn’t feature many vehicles, but M (Judy Dench) and Bond take a long road trip to the orphanage where Bond was raised in an Aston Martin DB5. In their last stand against Silva (Javier Bardem), the DB5 is sadly destroyed. But I guess that’s Q’s problem, not ours.

Spectre

Spectre featured a host of sweet sheetmetal. Bond pilots an Aston Martin DB10 concept—into the Tiber River in Rome—while being pursued by Hinx (Dave Bautista) in a Jaguar CX-75 supercar. Sadly, neither of the two cars ever made it to production, but it’s a chase we’re happy to have seen played out on the big screen. The previous generation Land Rover Defender also makes an appearance in a snowy action sequence in which Bond chases a de-winged propeller plane down a mountain.

No Time To Die

The newest installment in the Bond franchise isn’t set to be released until April of next year, but a few sweet cars have already been revealed in the initial teaser trailer. The new Land Rover Defender, which made an appearance at the L.A. Auto Show, an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, and an ’80s Aston Martin V-8 Vantage that Bond will be piloting through London can be seen in the trailer.

The post No Time to Die Isn’t the Only Bond Film With Sweet Rides appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Subaru Forester Competitors: How Other Small SUVs Stack Up

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 18:00

What’s the best small SUV on the market right now? We have our opinion, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Consumers have differing priorities when it comes to fuel economy, cargo space, design, and other buying factors. Although not a sales leader, the Subaru Forester is a solid contender in this space, especially after its recent redesign. Find out how this underdog SUV stacks up to the segment leaders in this Subaru Forester competitor comparison.

The Competition

First of all, who are the Subaru Forester’s competitors? In this comparison, we’ll look at a diverse range of rivals, including the Jeep Cherokee, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4, and Nissan Rogue. Along with the Forester, these models are the best-selling compact SUVs on the market. Other rivals include the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Performance

We’ll address this right away—the Forester is not the most thrilling SUV when it comes to performance. Although it packs a sufficient 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque from its 2.5-liter flat-four engine, it’s a little slow to accelerate off the line. In the 0-60-mph run, the quickest Forester we’ve tested came in at 8.3 seconds, which is on par with a Toyota RAV4 (8.2 seconds) and Ford Escape (8.4 seconds). It’s behind the zippy Honda CR-V (7.6 seconds), but ahead of the Chevrolet Equinox (8.7 seconds).

Some rivals offer engines that are more powerful, making them much quicker. The Cherokee, for instance, offers a 270-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine that propels the SUV to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, and the CX-5’s optional turbo engine delivers 227 hp to hit the mark in 6.4 seconds. But to keep things even, let’s look at how the Forester stacks up with similarly powered rivals we’ve tested:

Subaru Forester Competitors: 0-60 MPH Performance

CR-V: 7.6 seconds
CX-5: 8.3 seconds
Escape: 8.4 seconds
Equinox: 8.7 seconds
Forester: 8.3 seconds
RAV4: 8.2 seconds
Rogue: 9.5 seconds

Handling and ride quality are just as important to many buyers as acceleration. In past reviews, we’ve noted the Forester is easy to maneuver, and as you can see from the numbers below, it performs well in our figure eight handling test. But subjectively, the steering feels a little disconnected. If you’re looking for a canyon carver, the Mazda CX-5 is often considered the most agile crossover in the segment, with satisfying steering. The CR-V also impresses.

Subaru Forester Competitors: Figure Eight Performance

Cherokee: 27.1 seconds at 0.62 g (avg)
CR-V: 27.5 seconds at 0.61 g (avg)
CX-5: 27.8 seconds at 0.59 g (avg)
Escape: 28.2 seconds at 0.62 g (avg)
Equinox: 28.1 seconds at 0.59 g (avg)
Forester: 27.3 seconds at 0.63 g (avg)
RAV4: 28.9 seconds at 0.57 g (avg)
Rogue: 28.0 seconds at 0.59 g (avg)

Subaru Forester Competitors: Engines

Cherokee: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 | 270 hp and 295 lb-ft
CR-V: 1.5-liter turbocharged I-4 |190 hp and 179 lb-ft
CX-5: 2.5-liter I-4 | 187 hp and 186 lb-ft
Escape: 1.5-liter turbocharged I-3 | 181 hp and 190 lb-ft
Equinox: 1.5-liter turbocharged I-4 | 170 hp and 204 lb-ft
Forester: 2.5-liter flat-four | 182 hp and 176 lb-ft
RAV4: 2.5-liter I-4 | 203 hp and 184 lb-ft
Rogue: 2.5-liter I-4 | 170 hp and 175 lb-ft

Expect a smooth, pleasant ride inside the Forester. In our 2019 SUV of the Year testing, in which the Forester was a finalist, we noted, “Subaru did an excellent job keeping road and wind noise out of the cabin and providing a relatively magic-carpet ride for its class.” The crossover earned similar praise in our First Test, where we noted, “Its ride quality rivals that of more expensive vehicles wearing premium badges.” That said, the CR-V exhibits an exceptional ride quality, and we think it offers the best combination of ride, handling, and power in its segment.

Design

Functional. That may be the best way to describe the design of the Forester. It’s not a bad-looking SUV, but it doesn’t feature the soft, fluid lines of competitors like the CX-5, Equinox, and Escape. Instead, the Forester looks like a big box, a design that reaps plenty of benefits. Its upright greenhouse makes for exceptional visibility out the front windshield, and there’s gobs of headroom, too. The Forester’s shape helps it maximize interior space, but more on that later.

Even the RAV4 looks flashier, with angular headlights and a wide grille. Meanwhile, the Cherokee adopts iconic Jeep design cues that make it immediately recognizable on the road. The Forester blends in the background with few creases or interesting shapes on the sheetmetal. LED headlights come standard, adding a bit of modernity to the Subaru crossover.

The Forester won’t turn any heads, but there is a way to jazz it up. Opt for the Forester Sport, which features orange accents and badging.

Safety

The Forester comes with plenty of standard safety features. Every model features EyeSight, which bundles together adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, and lane keep assist. Blind spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert is optional.

Automatic emergency braking is standard on most entries in the segment, including the Forester, CR-V, CX-5, Equinox, Escape, RAV4, and Rogue. However, it’s an optional feature on the Cherokee; you can get it on higher-trim models.

The 2019 Forester was named a Top Safety Pick+, the highest award available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 2019 CX-5 and RAV4 also earned the distinction. The 2020 Escape, 2019 CR-V, and 2019 Cherokee won the lesser Top Safety Pick designation, missing out on the top award because of their headlight ratings. The 2019-20 Rogue also lost out due to its headlight rating and “Acceptable” score in the passenger-side small overlap test.

Chevrolet’s Equinox received no award from IIHS. Although it earns top scores in all crash tests, its headlights earned a “Marginal” rating, below the “Acceptable” level required for the Top Safety Pick award.

Passenger Space

The Subaru Forester offers plenty of legroom for three adults to sit comfortably in the back row, and it’s easy to get in and out because the rear doors open wider than you might expect. But if you look at the numbers, many other competitors offer more rear legroom.

However, the Forester offers a greater amount of total passenger space than most rivals. The base model is particularly spacious with 111.9 cubic feet, while other trims offer 107.8 cubic feet. Either way, it beats all its competitors in this metric, except for the Cherokee, which offers 128 cubic feet.

Subaru Forester Competitors: Passenger Volume (cubic feet)

Cherokee: 128
CR-V: 105.9
CX-5: 103.6
Escape: 104
Equinox: 103.2
Forester: 111.9
RAV4: 98.9
Rogue: 105.8

Subaru Forester Competitors: Rear Legroom (inches)

Cherokee: 40.3
CR-V: 40.4
CX-5: 39.6
Escape: 40.7
Equinox: 39.9
Forester: 39.4
RAV4: 37.8
Rogue: 37.9

Cargo Space

The Forester compares favorably to other small SUVs when it comes to cargo space. By the numbers, it has the most available total cargo space of its competitors. If you keep the second row up, however, it doesn’t offer quite as much cargo room as competitors like the CR-V, RAV4, and Rogue. Unsurprisingly, Subaru designed the cargo bay with practicality in mind. The Forester’s liftgate opens wide for easy loading and unloading.

Subaru Forester Competitors: Cargo Space (cubic feet) (behind second row/second row folded)

Cherokee: 25.8/54.7
CR-V: 39.2/75.8
CX-5: 30.9/59.6
Escape: 37.5/65.4
Equinox: 29.9/63.9
Forester: 35.4/76.1
RAV4: 37.6/69.8
Rogue: 39.3/70.0

Off-Road Capability

Equipped with standard AWD, the Forester easily tackles gravel, sand, and unpaved surfaces. It has a generous 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and its approach, departure, and breakover angles are better than many of its competitors. However, we’ve found that the overly gentle engine can hinder its off-road abilities. In our SUV of the Year testing, we got stuck following a hard stop on a slushy-silt slope.

The RAV4 performs better off the beaten path than many crossovers, especially in beefier trims like the Adventure and TRD Off-Road. But the Jeep Cherokee is the true king of tough terrain. Although the Toyota performed impressively in our off-road comparison test, the Cherokee tackled a massive rock staircase, boggy waterways, and other tasks with particular aplomb. The Cherokee should top your list if you’re looking for an off-road small SUV.

 

Towing

If you want to maximize towing on your compact crossover, the Forester will not be your top choice. Neither will the CR-V or Rogue. The Cherokee wins this category, offering a max towing capacity of 4,500 pounds with the 3.2-liter V-6. Toyota is offering an impressive 3,500 pounds of towing on the RAV4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road, while the Equinox offers the same capability with the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine.

Subaru Forester Competitors: Towing

Cherokee: 2,000 pounds | 4,500 pounds with 3.2L V-6
CR-V: 1,500 pounds
CX-5: 2,000 pounds
Escape: 2,000 pounds | 3,500 pounds on 2.0L models
Equinox: 1,500 pounds | 3,500 pounds on 2.0L models
Forester: 1,500 pounds
RAV4: 1,500 pounds | 3,500 pounds on Adventure, TRD Off-Road
Rogue: 1,102 pounds

Reliability

J.D. Power issues an Initial Quality Study every year. Not only does it measures a vehicle’s quality at 90 days of ownership, it is also considered an indicator of long-term reliability. For 2019, the Chevrolet Equinox took the cake by recording the fewest problems per 100 vehicles. The Escape also earned high marks, along with the CR-V and Rogue. The Forester and RAV4, however, were among the worst performers. Check out the full rankings here.

MPG

Keep in mind the Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive unlike its competitors. When you compare the Forester with AWD versions of the competition, it does very well. Delivering 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving, it’s on par with the AWD CR-V. However, the RAV4 nets 30 mpg on the AWD LE trim. If you’d rather maximize fuel economy with a front-drive crossover, take a look at the CR-V, Escape, and RAV4.

Subaru Forester Competitors: Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined mpg)

Cherokee: 23/31/26 (2.0L FWD) | 21/29/24 (2.0L AWD) | 22/31/25 (2.4L FWD) | 21/29/24 (2.4L AWD) | 20/29/23 (3.2L FWD) | 19/27/22 (3.2L AWD)

CR-V: 28/34/30 (1.5L FWD) | 27/32/29 (1.5L AWD)

CX-5: 25/31/28 (2.5L FWD) | 24/30/26 (2.5L AWD) | 23/28/25 (2.5L Turbo FWD) | 22/27/24 (2.5L Turbo AWD)

Escape: 27/33/30 (1.5L FWD) | 26/31/28 (1.5L AWD) | 23/31/26 (2.0L AWD)

Equinox: 26/31/28 (1.5L FWD) | 25/30/27 (1.5L AWD) | 22/29/25 (2.0L FWD) | 22/28/24 (2.0L AWD)

Forester: 26/33/29 (AWD)

RAV4: 28/35/30 (FWD) | 27/34/30 (AWD LE)

Rogue: 26/33/29 (FWD) | 25/32/27 (AWD)

*hybrids and diesels are excluded in this comparison

 

Interior Comfort

In addition to boasting plenty of headroom, the Forester greets occupants with a pleasant mix of high-quality materials. Likewise, the RAV4 benefits from an uncluttered interior design, but its cabin feels narrower than that of the Forester and CR-V, and it has less headroom than we’d like. We’ve also lamented the space inside the Cherokee, including its lack of storage cubbies near the driver. Look for generous storage space in the center console area on the extremely well-packaged CR-V.

The Equinox and Rogue are also spacious, although lower trims have a rental car feel with cheaper plastics. The CX-5 goes for a premium feel inside the cabin, particularly with the Signature model that gets real wood trim. The Escape has a simplistic design, unfortunately accompanied by some cheap-feeling materials on recent pre-production models we tested.

Infotainment and Cabin Technology

Don’t forget to play around with the infotainment system when you’re checking out a new vehicle at the dealership. Because this is an area not all small SUVs have mastered. Fortunately, the Forester’s central touchscreen features large, easy-to-read icons and responds quickly to touch commands. A 6.5-inch screen is standard, and an 8-inch unit is available. The Forester has one of the sharpest infotainment systems in its class; it may even be the best.

Another responsive infotainment system can be found on the Cherokee, which has an optional 8.4-inch screen. The Equinox gets an easy-to-use 7-inch screen, or optional 8 inch screen, with a logical arrangement of buttons underneath. The Rogue, however, has an awkward array of buttons positioned by the driver’s left knee. The RAV4’s infotainment system feels a bit underwhelming compared to others, featuring less impressive graphics and taking a while to respond.

The CR-V’s touchscreen is pretty easy to use, too, although we’ve found the gear shift kind of clunky to operate. The Escape features a rotary shifter, but the feature that really makes it stand out in its class is the available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

Price

The 2020 Subaru Forester starts at $25,505. The starting price is lower than most competitors, despite offering AWD as standard equipment. Even top-trim testers are a good value. In our recent compact SUV comparison, we praised the 2019 Subaru Forester Limited for offering an outstanding value and beating rivals in IntelliChoice’s five-year cost of ownership analysis.

Subaru Forester Competitors: Price

2020 Cherokee: $27,235
2020 CR-V: $26,145
2020 CX-5: $26,135
2020 Escape: $26,080
2020 Equinox: $24,995
2020 Forester: $25,505
2020 Rogue: $26,395
2020 RAV4: $26,970

Warranty

Here’s one area where the competitors are equal. All of the crossovers in this list come with a basic warranty of 3 years/36,000 miles as well as a powertrain warranty of 5 years/60,000 miles.

Subaru Forester Competitors

The post Subaru Forester Competitors: How Other Small SUVs Stack Up appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar Review: Less Than the Sum of Its Parts

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 09:00

Making a normal car sporty isn’t simply a matter of more. Adding a pile of parts and a gob of power doesn’t guarantee improvement. The approach must be thoughtful, balanced, and holistic, even if that means doing less than what’s possible.

It’s established that the Volvo XC60 is a very nice midsize crossover. Superb styling, a lovely interior, and solid practicality make it great to live with every day. Volvo intends the range-topping Polestar specification to be the enthusiast’s choice. Starting with the plug-in hybrid T8 powertrain, Polestar increases output, enhances the chassis and rolling stock, and revisits styling for a sporty demeanor. Each separate element seems like an upgrade supporting the XC60 Polestar’s performance intents. It’s how they all come together that leaves driving aficionados wanting more.

The disparities start to arise as soon as the golden seatbelts are buckled. Like in the standard XC60’s interior, snazzy stitched leather and textured metal abound. The biggest difference is the seats, which are supportive and trimmed in grippy faux suede. But padding is thin and stiff, leading testing director Kim Reynolds to say, “Front seat bottom side bolsters are made of plywood, I think.” Although seat heating can be toggled between three levels, cooling is unavailable. Sporty as they are, the seats feel at odds with the upscale ambiance.

Check out an in-depth review of the Volvo XC60’s interior here.

Twisting the ignition knob brings the “Twin Engine” hybrid powertrain silently to life, so called because of its two distinct power sources. The front wheels are turned by a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter I-4, while an electric motor drives the rears—there’s no mechanical connection between the two. Combined system output is a stout 415 hp and 495 lb-ft of torque, more power than the Audi SQ5’s 354 hp, and more torque than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s 443 lb-ft. But how that power is delivered is hard to comprehend.

The car defaults to hybrid drive, with initial zoom provided by the electric motor. Then the gas engine decides to join in, but only after it shuffles through the transmission’s eight speeds and the twin chargers start spinning out boost. This being a front-wheel-drive platform, there’s a fair amount of torque steer to wrestle—no central differential to distribute power here. Still, the electric motor provides enough shove that power feels mostly balanced between the two ends.

Given the electric motor’s flat, responsive delivery and the gas engine’s laggy feel, “linear” is not a word that describes the XC60 Polestar’s throttle responses. Unpredictable, too, are the paddle shifters, which in our time with the car, responded instantly to some commands and never to others. These reactions yield a 5.1-second 0–60 mph run, not especially quick for the segment, behind the Porsche Macan S’ 4.6-second time and the BMW X3M’s 4.0-second launch.

It’s easy enough to mute those foibles, though. Roll the drive mode dial, and the XC60 Polestar will run on rear-wheel electric power as much as possible. Unlike some hybrids’ all-electric settings, which force extreme chastity upon the driver’s foot, the XC60 Polestar allows reasonably deep pedal application before the gas engine kicks in to help. It’s terrific for quiet, relaxed driving, or any situation when efficiency is prioritized over sportiness.

The XC60 Polestar plug-in hybrid’s electric-only range is 17 miles, before the gas engine helps out for a few hundred more miles.

No matter the mode, the big Akebono brakes are great. With gilded calipers gleaming behind optional 22-inch wheels, the stoppers feel, according to road test editor Chris Walton, “extra firm” with “super-short pedal travel,” although he noted a delay between pedal pressure and actual braking. Unlike some hybrids that have a noticeable transition between regenerative and friction braking, the XC60 Polestar’s pedal feels linear.

That said, there’s room for stronger regenerative braking. Even in its maximum setting, it’s nowhere close to allowing one-pedal driving. Regardless, 60–0 stopping distances were short and consistent, varying just 3 feet after a 106-foot best. That’s a foot ahead of the Porsche Macan S, and a foot behind the carbon-ceramic rotor-equipped Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe.

Among the XC60 Polestar’s sporty aims, handling is a high point. Beyond a smidge of numbness on-center, steering is quick and accurate, with nice heft. The chassis allows the car to be confidently tossed through corners, feeling stiff enough to provide a connected sensation, but never to the point of being uncomfortable. Through a figure-eight test measuring 25.5 seconds at 0.72 g, Reynolds noted “nice grip for its configuration,” with some understeer on entry and mild drifts available on exit.

This handling prowess comes with a huge caveat, however. During its transformation to Polestar trim, the XC60 gained trick Öhlins manually adjustable suspension dampers at all four corners. Each offers 22 clicks of adjustment; turning the adjustment knobs clockwise firms responses, counterclockwise softens them. The dampers’ operation is brilliant. At one extreme the ride is nearly devoid of body roll; at the other it’s plush despite the car’s massive wheels. With so much adjustment the driver can dial in their exact preference, and single clicks are noticeable from behind the wheel.

It’s the process of making those adjustments that ruins the dampers’ presence in the first place. To adjust the front pair, the driver must open the hood and twist knobs at either side of the anti-roll bar. Adjusting the rears requires reaching into each wheelwell above the tire, pulling off a dust cover, and twiddling the dial. Compounding the annoyance is that adjustment clicks sometimes aren’t obvious, so the driver isn’t sure if settings are matched—side-to-side and end-to-end variations are possible. Only once that’s done and everything’s closed up can driving resume. In many comparable vehicles, damping can be altered on the fly, from within the car, depending on the situation. Given the time-consuming and hand-dirtying procedure in the XC60 Polestar, only the most committed drivers will use this feature. The rest will ignore it entirely.

The pervasive discombobulation doesn’t make the XC60 Polestar a bad crossover. It’s still attractive, given the stylish sheetmetal and big wheels. It’s still comfortable, if requiring some manual labor to get there. It’s still quick and efficient, thanks to its multifaceted hybrid drivetrain. But it’s hard to prefer over any other XC60 trim as a daily driver, and much less so over sporty crossover competitors. These other options are more holistic and thoughtful in their execution. It seems, then, that the XC60 Polestar is less than the sum of its parts.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar BASE PRICE $70,495 PRICE AS TESTED $71,940 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV ENGINE 2.0L/328-hp/317-lb-ft turbo + s’charged DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 46-hp/110-lb-ft front, 87-hp/177-lb-ft rear elec motor; 415 hp/494 lb-ft comb TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,730 lb (54/46%) WHEELBASE 112.8 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 184.6 x 74.9 x 64.9 in 0-60 MPH 5.1 sec QUARTER MILE 13.6 sec @ 100.5 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 106 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.92 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.5 sec @ 0.72 g (avg) EPA COMB FUEL ECON 27 (57 MPGe) mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 125 (59)kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.72 (0.34) lb/mile

The post 2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar Review: Less Than the Sum of Its Parts appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

BMW X2 as Support SUV: What We Learned From Thousands of Miles on the Road

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 09:00

The X2 has been a reliable road warrior lately, serving a vital role as errand runner and support runabout at our annual Car, Truck, and SUV of the Year productions. It has spent thousands of miles running up and down the desert highways, back roads, and, at times, dirt roads of California and Arizona.

During our weeklong SUV of the Year testing, the staff used the X2 to shuttle equipment, supplies, and personnel back and forth from Los Angeles to California City, and many of these open highway runs showed that the X2’s eight-speed can easily deliver over 400 miles of range, proving that its four-cylinder can be very thrifty at highway speeds.

At our Car of the Year program, the X2 provided logistical support during the endless photo shoots and began most days hauling large bags of cooler ice to our test facility in Mojave, California. At lunch we took advantage of the large rear cargo tub and stuffed it with boxed sandwiches from the local Tehachapi deli then doled out hoagies and chips to our hard-working crew. Most days ended by using the little BMW to collect test track cones from our figure-eight course on the proving ground’s asphalt lake.

There were huge temperature swings during Car of the Year, with daytime highs rising to 95 degrees and nighttime temps dropping to 40 degrees. The oscillating temps posed a significant challenge for X2’s HVAC system, which frequently made the cabin temperature too cold or too hot but rarely settled at the temperature that had been selected. Later, a staffer experienced a similar behavior on a 67-degree day in Los Angeles when the HVAC system couldn’t maintain a steady cabin temperature when set at 74 degrees.

Added to the support crew for Truck of the Year, the X2 shuttled our production assistants as they followed our contender trucks to photo locations down various dirt roads near the eclectic Arizona outposts of Oatman and Bullhead City. The front-wheel-drive X2 always maintained grip, but there were lots of harsh impacts that quickly reminded drivers of this hatch’s stiff ride. We experienced a similar choppy, harsh ride when driving on the paved yet rustic Route 66 in the nearby mountains. Many of the road’s imperfections reverberated through the chassis and steering wheel, as did too much road noise. On the highway, though, it’s hard to ignore how eager the 2.0-liter turbo-four was to rev hard as it merged the X2 onto Arizona’s 75 mph highways, making it a cinch not to get squeezed by all the tractor trailers traversing Northern Arizona.

These long highway trips also allowed for ample testing of the X2’s cruise control. Impressively, the system holds its selected cruise control speed on steep downhill grades like the large one found east of Ludlow, California, heading toward Needles.

Read more about our long-term 2018 BMW X2:

The post BMW X2 as Support SUV: What We Learned From Thousands of Miles on the Road appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Track Test: The Ultimate Mustang

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 09:00

Since its introduction in 2015, the current-generation Mustang has moved Ford’s nameplate upmarket in terms of performance—culminating in the latest, greatest 2020 Shelby GT500. In MotorTrend testing, we’ve found that the S550 platform has evolved from mere pony car to comparing favorably with premium GT offerings from foreign nameplates.

However, we’ve also learned that, on the racetrack, most current Mustangs still fall a little short—excepting the rev-happy, finely balanced Shelby GT350 that finished second in our recent Best Driver’s Car competition.

Enter the biggest, baddest Mustang ever, with a newly supercharged heart. The just-released GT500 comes with great expectations, because the numbers on paper grab attention. So does the price. Ford offers both the standard version, and the Carbon Fiber Track Pack, a hefty $18,500 option.

How do they measure up? We went to VIRginia International Raceway to grab the reins and yell, “Giddyup!”

Boy howdy, does the GT500 ever run for the roses. Ford claims 625 lb-ft of torque and a muscular 760 hp, and every one made itself known as the Mustang devoured the long back straight at VIR, touching 170 mph, lap after lap. No power fade here, like some other American blown V-8’s making similar numbers (ahem, Corvette C7 ZR1).

The Ford engineers expressed pride in their control of temperatures, both in the intake manifold and throughout the driveline. The GT500 is another one of the new breed of supercars (yes, even a Mustang now deserves that moniker) that actually make the straightaways a thrill, even to a well-versed warhorse like me.

It’s still the Coyote-based 5.2-liter V-8, supercharger mounted up top, but interestingly, back to the cross-plane crank down below. This is a welcome return, due to my own concerns about vibration from the GT350 version at extended high revs. It belts out a stirring bellow, or calms to quiet as a mouse, with just a switch of the electronic valves in the dual exhaust, allowing you to decide whether or not to wake the neighbors.

What did pro racer Randy Pobst think of the new C8 Corvette on the track? Find out here.

All that thrust goes through a new Tremec dual-clutch seven-speed that exhibited fine behavior on the street, as well as flat out. Manual shifting during a hot lap is just a distraction, and the GT500’s auto mode rivals Porsche’s PDK (yes, really) and does everything I would do, anyway. It even had the savvy to hold a higher gear in places, rather than constantly throw out raucous downshifts. On straights, there’s a rewarding “over-torque” feature that gives a little extra shove on each shift, like a manual power-shift. Yet, in corners, I felt the Tremec smooth those out. Impressive. The track program is really dialed in. Again, justified pride from the Ford guys.

The shifter is a twist knob, however, like many garden-variety Fords, and I personally hated it. Not sporty! If we cannot have a manual, Ford, at least let us grab a stocky retro lever and slap this super-pony into drive.

This massive thrust twists a trick carbon-fiber driveshaft into a Torsen gear-type limited slip—a good choice for a front-engined chassis, because it doesn’t lock up much off power. This helps get the GT500 pointed into the turn, and it’s also a non-wear item, unlike the clutch-type diffs.

The powertrain is the same on both models, controlled by four driving modes: Normal, Sport, Track, and Drag, which further includes a line-lock for tire warming and crowd-wowing burnouts, plus launch control for you quarter-milers. And that launch control has an always-on mode for street driving, so you don’t have to fiddle with buttons at a green light. I enjoyed that in downtown Raleigh. It’s hard to find fault with this dual-clutch in all modes, except that I cannot speak for Drag mode.

Stopping this rig were perhaps the largest rotors (16.5 inches) and Brembo calipers I’ve yet to experience. Over 4,200 pounds and 760 ponies demand them. While the big Shelby could dive deep, deep into the tight corners with which VIR shuts down its long straights, it was here I could find my only real complaint: a bit of a long brake pedal, which was a little disconcerting for me at 170 mph. No fade, but some squish. They even bled the brakes for me, yet both test cars felt spongy. This was surprising because I recall complaining that the GT350’s brakes were too strong, requiring only a big toe. Perfect would be somewhere in between.

On to the suspension, the street GT500 first. Mounted with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S street tires and alignment, this Shelby did a terrific job of turning that monstrous power into forward acceleration. The power dominates the driving experience, and demands a slow squeeze on the throttle, which had a very linear delivery in Track mode, a proper e-throttle strategy.

At full gallop, the balance was a pleasure if the driver remained very responsible with the great power under that right foot. Responsive and stable. The MagneRide shock system soaked up the curbs and bumps, but floated a bit under the loads of pro speeds. Happily, though, when the PS4S tires did break loose, it was mostly a gradual, even enjoyable experience.

More on the new GT500:

I was so pleased with what this “base” GT500 could accomplish on non-race performance tires. Just don’t slam the gas down, as it’s a beast. Several times, I rolled smoothly into what I felt must be full power, only to find there was yet loads more. Yikes! But you just have to love it. Even so, the standard model was steady and well behaved when hot-lapped at top speed—if a little soft in damping.

“Just you wait for the Carbon version,” the engineers said, with knowing smirks. R-compound Sport Cup 2s. Lower and firmer springs/bars/shocks. Wing and aero. Carbon wheels, and more.

Leaving pit lane, I felt the thrill of anticipation, knowing how good that incredible chest-compressing urge would feel, combined with all the track-prep in this version of the big-boy Shelby. Pretty much, prayers answered. The float was gone and grip was way up, especially evident at the front (they had added negative camber, too).

The GT500 has that magic combination of steering response at the limit: the ability to tighten its line while loaded laterally in the middle of the corner, without losing grip at the back. The controllability that results is a pleasure that satisfies, all in spite of a considerable weight of 4,220 pounds. The ultimate Mustang wears its size well, with the strength and agility of an all-pro linebacker. This size means there is a lot of weight transfer in transitions, and the Carbon Fiber Track package version felt much more controlled than the standard model on track.

Lead chassis dynamics engineer Steve Thompson was also responsible for the GT350 that took a very honorable second place at Best Driver’s Car. His shocking trackside revelation: The GT500 has less damping, not more.

Of course, there’s stronger support from the springs and bars. I also expect the far lighter and very beautiful carbon wheels are part of the reason why the GT500 is such a track carver, too. The tremendous reduction in unsprung rotating mass they provide actually reduces the suspension forces that the shocks control and makes everything the GT500 does quicker and easier. This is also, no doubt, part of why this Shelby can match the brake points of much slower and lighter cars.

And this track version had real aero. The wing is straight from Ford’s GT4 race car, and the hood has a giant vent to send radiator air over the roof, not under the floor, where it causes lift. For track work, there’s a rain tray to remove, which normally shields the engine from the wet. These features do real work—they aren’t just decorative—and pay off the most in maneuvers like the awesome 140 mph-plus Climbing Esses at VIR.

Is the CFTP worth the bucks? If you plan to track your Shelby, absolutely yes. We saw about a 5-second decrease in lap times, with the same horsepower, which is huge. Does the standard version work? Also absolutely yes. These GT500s both move well from street to race course. The Carbon package just offers better everything.

The incredible performance capability of these two new Shelbys moves the Mustang into the supercar realm, it pleases me to claim. They will not disappoint. In fact, they both provide such thrills that they are a good value even at these prices, driving with confidence-inspiring and consistent speed that is rare to find at any price.

The post 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Track Test: The Ultimate Mustang appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

First Drive: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe Feels All Too Familiar

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 23:01

Another week, another Mercedes-AMG. The launch of a new AMG-badged Mercedes was once a rare event, eagerly awaited by enthusiasts. But now, with the global Mercedes-AMG franchise comprising a staggering 63 vehicles, it’s fast becoming routine. And, as the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic+ Coupe (whew!) shows, just a bit formulaic.

The GLE 53 Coupe is a go-fast Mercedes SUV by the numbers. Under the skin is the AMG-massaged version of Daimler’s 3.0-liter mild hybrid twin-turbo inline-six, along with AMG’s Speedshift TCT nine-speed automatic transmission, AMG’s Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, and the optional AMG active anti-roll system. It’s all familiar AMG hardware in a mildly face-lifted wrapper dominated by the toothy grimace of the new AMG family grille. Other cosmetic changes include standard LED headlights, and new slimline taillights, along with a redesigned front apron, flares on the wheel openings, and a new rear fascia underpinned by the obligatory four cannon-sized exhausts.

 

Inside, the GLE 53 Coupe gets the redesigned interior from the 2020 GLE and GLS, featuring the giant standalone pod for the two 12.3-inch high-definition screens—one a configurable instrument display, the other a touchscreen for the MBUX infotainment interface. AMG touches include the flat-bottomed Performance steering wheel and aluminum gearshift paddles, AMG-specific graphics on the dash, and AMG functions in the MBUX menu that display track data and performance telemetry. Again, it’s all stuff we’ve seen before on cars like the current AMG E-Class and the AMG GT 4-Door.

We liked the new engine in the AMG GT 53 4-Door we tested earlier this year and putting it under the hood of a big, heavy SUV hasn’t dimmed its appeal. With 429 hp at 6,100 rpm and 384 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 rpm to 5,800 rpm—augmented for short periods by 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque from the compact e-motor mounted between the engine and the transmission—it punches the GLE 53 Coupe from 0-60 mph in a claimed 5.2 seconds with a delicious straight-six snarl. Top speed is limited to 130 mph, unless you order the optional summer tires, in which case the limit is raised to 155 mph.

The e-motor, dubbed EQ Boost, contributes to that performance in more ways than one. It acts as a starter-generator for the 48V electrical system that, among other things, powers a small electric turbocharger that produces boost until the larger exhaust gas-driven turbocharger gets up to speed, improving low-end throttle response and refinement, and helping create that impressively broad swathe of torque for the nine-speed transmission to get its teeth into. Even with the throttle mapping in the least aggressive settings—in Comfort or Slippery modes, for example—the GLE 53 Coupe’s powertrain feels remarkably alert.

 

In addition to Comfort and Slippery, GLE 53 Coupe drivers can choose from five other drive programs, including the familiar Sport, Sport+, and Individual modes complemented by two off-road-specific settings: Trail and Sand. AMG’s own vehicle dynamics protocols—Basic, Advanced and Pro—are integrated into each, influencing the control strategies of the electronic stability control or the 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive systems. The spectrum ranges from extremely stable to highly dynamic, the latter Mercedes-AMG engineer speak for power oversteer. In the Trail and Sand modes, when the ESC is deactivated, drivers can choose between get-me-though and yee-hah! settings, aka Traction and Slide.

The different modes also change damper rates and ride height, courtesy of the AMG-tweaked air suspension. Selecting Sport or Sport+ modes stiffens the ride and lowers the ride height by 0.6 inch. In Comfort mode, the GLE 53 Coupe automatically snuggles 0.6 inch closer to the tarmac from a speed of 75 mph to reduce aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption and improve stability. For mild off-road work, the ride height can be raised by up to 2.2 inches at speeds up to 43 mph.

With so much familiar hardware from the AMG parts bin working together, it’s probably only natural the GLE 53 Coupe doesn’t really surprise in any way. From the velvety brutishness of the power delivery to the elephantine tap-dancing of the chassis along tight and twisting roads, it’s exactly what you expect of a modern AMG-badged SUV. It felt big, powerful, and heavy on our test route, a point-and-squirt performance machine that rewarded smooth throttle and steering inputs and a firm foot on the brakes.

Our tester rolled on the standard 21-inch wheels (22s are an option) fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Winter tires, 275/45 at the front and broad 315/40 on the rear axle, because of the snowy conditions at our overnight stop in Hochgurgl, a ski resort 7,000 feet up in the western Austrian Alps. It was also fitted with the optional active anti-roll system, which kept it admirably flat through corners. Ride quality in Comfort mode is acceptable, though you feel those big heavy wheels pattering at times. Sport and Sport+ modes tighten up the vertical body motions, but at the expense of secondary ride quality. Choppy U.S. freeways wouldn’t be a pleasant experience.

Like it or not, big SUV ‘coupes’ are a thing these days, aimed at those willing to sacrifice some load-lugging capability and rearward visibility in the pursuit of a sporty aesthetic. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe, which gets a U.S. release date of next spring and will be priced at about $75,000, is designed to put some muscle behind that aesthetic. The problem is the softly rendered GLE Coupe sheetmetal looks more zaftig than zingy, especially around its ample hind quarters, despite the AMG costume jewelry. And, crucially, it’s slower than the 434-hp, V-6-powered Porsche Cayenne S Coupe, which not only looks sportier but also steers better, and has better brake feel and a more alert and composed chassis.

It’s hard to find a reason for the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic+ Coupe’s existence, other than the fact that Daimler seems determined to offer an AMG version of every Mercedes-Benz it builds. Whether it makes sense or not.

The post First Drive: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe Feels All Too Familiar appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Electric Ford F-150 (And More?) Secrets Detailed in Patent

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 22:45

Despite Ford’s openness that it’s working on an electric F-150 pickup truck, this potential segment-shaker has many secrets yet to be revealed. Now, though, thanks to patent filings shared on macheclub.com, we gain insights on how batteries in the F-150 EV might be arranged in a new and novel way.

The patent describes a method of integrating batteries into a body-on-frame platform. It’s similar to a skateboard chassis that’s become common for all-electric vehicles, in which batteries are mounted low in the floor. In Ford’s application, crossmembers are mounted between the left and right frame rails. Those crossmembers provide distinct battery housings, and are additionally supported by a metal plate. This is noteworthy for a few reasons. 

Whereas in many EV chassis the battery pack is a single, large unit placed centrally between the axles, the crossmember approach allows the batteries to be placed in separate areas of the frame. In the abstract, Ford says a “plurality of power storage modules are disposed within a plurality of compartments,” which could have benefits for weight distribution, manufacturing simplicity, and NVH reduction.

Additionally, the conventional approach of placing a single, heavy battery pack in the floor can cause shear stresses on a vehicle structure. In Ford’s patent, the crossmembers do more than simply house the batteries—they provide reinforcement to the frame rails, helping make the structure stronger. The patent reads, “Each crossmember is welded to the left frame rail, and the right frame rail, and the plate. The plate is welded to the left and right frame rails.” This subsequently allows the frame rails (made of steel or aluminum) to be thinner and lighter.

The number of battery-containing crossmembers is defined by the length of the frame rails. This implies that longer trucks could have more power and range on tap. Is Ford already thinking about applying this approach to heavy-duty-sized pickups?

Ford indicates that a single motor could be mounted to the frame “forward or rearward of the power storage units,” but the potential addition of a second drive motor opposite the first is mentioned numerous times. Also described is an arrangement for powering each wheel individually, using its own motor.

Interesting about this whole thing is how it’s similar and different from what’s been displayed by Rivian, the electric vehicle startup in which Ford invested $500 million. Rivian’s skateboard chassis is also body-on-frame, but uses a more conventional large single battery pack, not the divided crossmember construction method described here. However, Rivian has stated that its vehicles will be available with individual motors for each wheel.

Perhaps there’s intellectual property sharing going on between the brands, and anything could change by the time their respective electric trucks reach production. Doubtless they’re locked in a release date race with the Tesla Cybertruck. Suffice to say, whatever Ford does with the electric F-150 will make it unlike any truck to ever wear the Blue Oval.

The post Electric Ford F-150 (And More?) Secrets Detailed in Patent appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

The End of Driving: The Promise and Pitfalls of Autonomous Cars

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 18:30

Sometime recently—it was likely the first week of October, 2019—a Chrysler Pacifica minivan slowed on a street somewhere in Phoenix to stop and picked up a passenger who’d requested a ride. Unlike a normal car with an Uber or Lyft sticker on it, nobody was behind this one’s wheel to greet them. Just an empty seat. And as it drove away, the passenger could watch the wheel twirl on its own as it entered traffic.

In that moment, Waymo’s tentative commencement of driverless rides for its Early Rider participants quietly bisected American’s personal transportation into two species of automobile: human-driven ones and driverless robotaxis.

You have to flip back 126 years to find anything comparable. Several years ago, I spent an afternoon in a in Springfield, Massachusetts, library scanning through microfiche to find the local newspaper’s account of a one-cylinder Duryea creeping through the city’s streets on September 20, 1893. This was the first account of an automobile on an American public road (until that moment, everything was literally horse-powered). Ironically, Springfield was the nation’s buggy whip capital at the time, and not a single one of its citizens would have predicted how upside-down their world would be in less than 20 years.

What the End of Driving Will Look Like

However there’s no shortage of research projecting the rise of the autonomous car. A few months ago, I attended the Autonomous Vehicle Sensors Conference (my vacation!) where Dimitrios Damianos of Yole Développement (Yole) (a market research and strategy consulting outfit) presented this interesting slide that predicts how they think things will unfold:

See the brown bars (Level 0)? That’s old-fashioned, no-gizmo driving the way Instructor Doug taught you when you were 16. It’s disappearing. And being replaced by increasingly capable automated assistance (adaptive cruise control and lane centering). By the late 2020s we’ll finally see Level 4 (fully automated but geography- or conditions-constrained), and in roughly 15 years, the emergence of Level 5 (the Full robocar Monty, able to go anywhere with no steering wheel).

“Ah,” you ask, “didn’t he just say that the Waymo Pacifica—a Level 4—had just started operation?” The delayed emergence of Levels 4 and 5 in Yole’s graph pertains only to privately owned ones. For robotaxis, which Yole distinguishes from Level 4 and 5 robotic cars, it’s a whole different story.

More from MotorTrend on autonomous cars and the future of driving:

Oddly, though, there’s an unlikely voice in support of hanging on to at least some steering wheels—Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik. As he told CNN Business: “I imagine people will still drive cars, but we’ll see an incredible array of really interesting cars. Day-to-day commuting will include self-driving cars, which we hope will make our roads safer and give people back their time.”

Waymo Heat Than I Like

What does 119 degrees feel like? Like opening the oven door to get your DiGiorno pizza and the heat roils out and blast-roasts your face. Bad for the eyebrows but useful for stress-testing vehicle senor suites and cooling systems, which is why I drove out to Death Valley to spend a hot afternoon with Waymo engineers.

What was Waymo learning? If I told you, Google’s package-delivery Wing drones will swoop down like flying monkeys and Toto me away. But maybe I can get away with describing three of the problems they were studying. (Still, I’ll be walking under an open umbrella for a while to be on the safe side.)

Problem One: cool thinking. Waymo’s silicon gray matter is located under the cargo floor (mounted, I noticed, by some lovely production castings), where it generates quite a lot of heat. Actually, autonomy’s energy-intensive computing is regarded as a good match for EVs because of the intrinsic electrical power that’s available. The downside is that it sucks serious range out of their precious batteries and produces problematic heat—so much of it that they require their own liquid cooling system. In Waymo’s case, it isn’t being radiated directly to the air but instead, transferred to the Jaguar I-Pace test vehicle’s standard cooling system, and ultimately, to its existing radiator via a heat exchanger (with two pumps for redundancy as failure literally isn’t an option). Does the I-Pace’s existing cooling system have enough extra capacity to handle this? That’s what they wanted to know.

Problem Two: lidar aerodynamics. You don’t think of those two words having anything to do with each other. But the characteristic spinning lidar on the roofs of Waymo vehicles is hollow and fitted with internal blades to elegantly draw air through its center for cooling. At a certain speed, though, the air passing over the roof piles up with enough static pressure against the lidar’s base to partially block the cooling air’s path. How serious is this in extreme, desert temperatures? They wanted to know that, too.

Problem Three: brake heat. Waymo’s fender-mounted cameras and lidar units are situated above the Jaguar I-Pace’s wheelwells. While the car is stopped at a red light, rising brake heat can degrade the cameras’ image quality. And for the object recognition software to best identify its surroundings, it needs to perceive everything at the highest possible definition. How badly does brake heat blur the sensors? In Death Valley, Waymo even built a plywood enclosure around the car to block any breeze while recording the data.

Notably, the Waymo team’s next stop was another data-gathering week in stop-and-go Las Vegas traffic (where Lyft and its autonomous-tech partner, Aptiv, have already tallied 55,000 safety-driver trips). Waymo’s testing in severe conditions—it was also in Florida rain storms a few months ago and Detroit blizzards earlier this year—suggests it could be aiming well beyond the simpleton, super-mapped, easily navigated geo-zones often talked about.

I’m going to unfold that umbrella now.

Peak Car

Notice that vehicle sales on Yole’s graph don’t climb forever. By about 2043 it peaks and starts to decline. Why?

A reality that we all tend to repress is that cars are typically used about 4 percent of the time, then sit, doing nothing but depreciate, for the other 96. So tech-intensive, hyper-expensive, privately owned Level 4 cars make for dizzyingly bad economics; they’ll emerge only as their cost subsides. But robotaxis like Waymo’s, will be tireless, all-day, all-night trip-making busybodies (with no gig-drivers) turning the economic calculation upside down. With little downtime between paid rides, fully automated taxis—and the people or companies buying them—can quickly make up the cost individual buyers can’t.

Eventually, there will be enough of them displacing private car rides (many multiples of their slim-looking sales numbers) to cause total sales of vehicle to start declining, marking the moment of Peak Car. Where the total sales numbers will settle in the Level 4/5 era is anybody’s guess, as is the exact ownership model.

By the way, an interesting consequence of this frantic use rate is that vehicles will wear out a lot quicker. Most guesses put it at about five years, which radically changes the durability necessary for all the components that aren’t wearing out so soon—for instance, things like rust resistance or UV degradation.

Mark Fields Wasn’t Wrong, After All

Three years ago, I sweated through a hot, blue-sky Palo Alto afternoon as Ford’s then-president, Mark Fields, made a ribbon-cutting speech at its just-expanded Research and Innovation Campus:

“The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago.” He then declared that Ford would skip Level 3 autonomy because of its tricky driver/car handoffs and leapfrog straight to Level 4 by 2021. We all wrote that down.

Now we’re in the final weeks of 2019, three-fifths of the way to 2021. And the best that privately owned autonomy can show for itself is Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot and Smart Summon (both distressing Consumer Reports) and Cadillac’s Super Cruise (a terrific system that’s restricted to a single lane of traffic).

Autonomy’s infamous “corner cases” are indeed trickier than we thought, and back in 2016, legacy auto execs were prone to aping Musk-speak to hopefully boost their tech image and stock multiple into Tesla territory. So now we’re back to the Level 2 to 3 then 4 and 5 incrementalism where it all started. But oddly enough, Mark Fields’ prediction of Level 4 by 2021 wasn’t laughably premature, after all. In fact, it was more than a year too late. It was just that the car he was talking about was a Waymo Chrysler Pacifica robotaxi, not a privately owned Ford.

The post The End of Driving: The Promise and Pitfalls of Autonomous Cars appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Tested: This 1969 Toyota Corolla Has a Lexus V-8-Sized Secret

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 16:45

What is this thing?

I ask myself this as I deliberately drive the speed limit in an immaculate 1969 Toyota Corolla up Interstate 15 toward Victorville, California. From the outside, this looks to be a perfectly restored vintage Corolla. But a closer look reveals so much more.

The first clue are the wide fender flares that give it a more muscular look. Toyota connoisseurs with eagle eyes will then notice that this Corolla is a bit wider and longer than when it rolled out of the factory. Peering inside, its push-start button, Lexus infotainment system, and sporty seats are by no means from the year of Woodstock.

Then, from under the vintage sheetmetal, comes the deep, throaty note of a V-8 engine and the swift shifting of a modern eight-speed automatic. This car has definite head-turning appeal.

So, what is this thing?

Its official name is the 1969 Toyota Corolla IS F V-8. The more complicated answer is that it’s a restored first-generation Corolla with a 2010 Lexus IS F powertrain and chassis.

That alone should arch your eyebrows. But it’s the story behind it that truly matters.

Racer and tuner Ryan Millen, whose brother Rhys is known for being a top competitor in drifting, built this piece of art for Javier Quirós, a well-known Costa Rican businessman whose father, Xavier Quirós Oreamuno, started Toyota’s fourth-oldest distributor in the world. That’s where the back story starts.

Xavier started his business importing American Motors and Toyota cars into Costa Rica. Back in the 70s, Costa Ricans enjoyed racing around a soccer stadium, but Toyota cars were always left in the dust. Having access to both automakers, Xavier had the brilliant idea of putting a Rambler American Scrambler V-8 in a 1967 Corolla. The engine swap didn’t help Toyota at all, and after the car was retired Javier bought it and drove it every day on the streets of San José when he attended college.

“It was the worst!” Javier told MotorTrend. “The cabin smelled like fumes all the time, and it was really uncomfortable to drive.” After three years, the car was sold.

Over the past few years, a nostalgic Javier had been looking to retrieve his father’s car from the junkyard of history.

Unsuccessful in his quest, Javier decided to create his own version—this time with Millen’s help, and with a different approach. Millen didn’t want to re-create the exact same vehicle, given its high costs and hard-to-get-parts. Quirós also wanted the car to be as reliable and as easy to fix as possible. And because the Lexus IS F came with a reliable V-8, Millen proposed to have a 1969 Corolla body married to a 2010 IS F chassis and powertrain. What started as a dream for both quickly became a 12-month project for Millen.

The result is this one-of-one 1969 Toyota Corolla with a 5.0-liter engine that sends an eye-popping 416 hp and 371 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Even today, a modern-era, top-spec Corolla doesn’t make even close to half that kind of power.

But in order to accomplish his goal, Millen had to cut the Corolla’s body in half and add about 11 inches of width and 3 inches in length; the donor Lexus’ wheelbase was shortened by 14 inches. That, of course, presented many challenges as Millen hand-built the fenders and front fascia, and fabricated the trunk and hood out of fiberglass. The front and rear windshields came from a pickup truck, and Millen sourced other parts from all over the world—the grille came from Japan, the emblems from Spain.

The Corolla made its way from Quirós to Millen’s shop in Huntington Beach, California, while the IS F’s chassis and powertrain were bought elsewhere in California after the car was totaled in a traffic accident.

“I’ve built plenty of race cars in my life, but those are way easier to build than this,” Millen said during an interview with MotorTrend. The hardest part, according to him, was getting the proportions correct. He recalled having a thorough plan and thinking ahead before making his next move. “It’s pretty wild when you have the idea of what you want to do, and then actually doing it.”

Millen developed the car with the goal of making this Corolla a comfortable but sporty cruiser. Quirós is known for driving his dozen-plus car collection on a daily basis, and this special Toyota will not be the exception.

The adjustable spring rates were tightened for our testing at Auto Club Speedway, but Millen assures us that once the car is shipped to Costa Rica, it will be less stiff to drive. Although the powertrain was left intact, Millen added Borla mufflers and redid everything—starting from the collector under the differential, given the shortening of the chassis.

The Corolla was properly customized to Quirós’ liking. The lack of chrome is evident because the owner prefers body-colored panels. Even Toyota’s big boss and Quirós’ close friend, Akio Toyoda himself, had some input with the car—he suggested the Corolla be finished in a different tone of green. After a handful of color reviews, Quirós and Millen chose the Olive Green exterior paint.

So how does Millen’s baby handle under MotorTrend testing? “It corners with happy drift and exits corners at whatever power oversteer angle you wish,” testing director Kim Reynolds said. “Very communicative and obviously good power.”

Road test editor Chris Walton was pleased with the way the engine behaved: “Once underway, the engine really comes alive and roars. Upshifts were very smooth and slowish by today’s standards. In the end, the acceleration was right on top of an IS F. Fun!”

The lack of ABS, however, made the Corolla a bit difficult to control when entering the corners, causing the rear to fishtail a little bit. “It’s OK to deal with that in an open parking lot, but on a narrow road it could get dicey,”  Reynolds said.

Millen assures us the car will have full ABS before the car is shipped to its owner in Central America. But when I got a chance to get behind the wheel on the freeway, I was extra cautious with my speed, lest I have to give more than moderate brake pedal pressure. Its 5.0-liter engine responds well to all throttle inputs, and I was particularly impressed by the deep growl of the IS F engine in this application. Press on the throttle, and its profound sound will turn heads around you. Even when going up the demandingly steep Cajon Pass, the Corolla was happy to pass the lines of struggling 18-wheelers and delivery vans.

But besides its handling, what impressed me the most was the bizarre juxtaposition between the interior and exterior. Although the exterior is vintage and well restored, the interior feels modern and contemporary. Its sporty bolstered seats, infotainment screen, shifter, and instrument panel came from the Lexus IS F.

As such, it felt peculiar to drive, especially as you’re grabbing onto an Alcantara-upholstered steering wheel while looking out and seeing the old-school sideview mirrors mounted on the hood.

This unique approach is what distinguishes this Corolla. What Millen was able to do, and with such attention to detail, is impressive.

Besides getting tested by MotorTrend, the Corolla has already seen some action. The car was shown at Toyota’s dealer meeting earlier this year, and before it makes its way to Central America, it will be driven from Southern California to Dallas, where it will be driven by Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales at Toyota North America. Asked whether the car will be on display at the enormous Toyota Campus in Plano, Quirós said he hadn’t thought about it, but it might be a good place to reside while he waits for the export permits.

So, you might ask, what does it cost to have Ryan Millen transform an old Corolla into a modern-era, tire-melting, supercar-abusing, drag-strip demon? A cool quarter-million bucks. Quirós and Millen are not done yet. They’re starting to work on a new project that involves a 1967 Corolla two-door, similar to this one. If this Corolla IS F serves as an example, you can bet the next one will be just as good or even better. Get out your checkbooks.

1969 Toyota Corolla IS F V-8 BASE PRICE $10,000 PRICE AS TESTED $250,000 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 5.0L/416-hp/371-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8 TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,351 lb (54/46%) WHEELBASE 93.0 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 156.0 x 72.0 x 54.0 in 0-60 MPH 4.3 sec QUARTER MILE 12.6 sec @ 112.1 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 151 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.93 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.8 sec @ 0.73 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 16/23/18 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 211/147 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.05 lb/mile

The post Tested: This 1969 Toyota Corolla Has a Lexus V-8-Sized Secret appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Keeping the C8 Corvette a Chevy Comes at a Price, and GM CEO Mary Barra Is OK With That

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 13:00

It’s not enough that the new mid-engine C8 Corvette had to be a driving and engineering accomplishment; it had to do so at a price that befits the Chevrolet brand.

MotorTrend first reported in August that the car’s impressive $59,995 starting price is only good for the first year, and unless it goes up by $20,000, Chevrolet will continue to lose money on low-trim cars, a senior GM source tells us.

The base price will increase for the 2021 model year. But don’t expect a $20,000 jump. When you wear the Bow Tie, there are expectations of affordability.

We asked Mary Barra, the chairman and CEO of General Motors, if a low starting price can be maintained or if the price is likely to jump, especially if demand is strong.

“It’ll depend on how people content it,” Barra said in an exclusive interview with MotorTrend. The C8 Stingray Z51 3LT we tested for Car of the Year stickered at $88,305.

“What I think is really important is Chevrolet is a home for Corvette and Chevrolet is American, and it’s value, it’s ingenuity,” Barra said. “I think all of that is captured.” Corvette, despite being an iconic sports car, “represents all that Chevrolet means, and part of that is, I think, that it is obtainable. So I think we will work really hard to make sure that we always live true to the Chevrolet brand, which is American, it’s value, it’s ingenuity.”

Did the team debate keeping the front-engine C7 as the affordable entry Corvette and add the C8 as a more premium model?

No, Barra said. “I think as we looked at it, we stepped back, and I think Tadge [Juechter, Corvette chief engineer] probably said it best when he said we had really taken the C7, that architecture style, as far as we could go without going to mid-engine. So it was time, and it was a huge investment, but it was something we really believed in. We believed it was important for the Chevrolet brand, for the Corvette franchise itself.

What about making Corvette its own brand or a subbrand like Ford is doing with Mustang?

“I think you have to be really careful because you have to understand what makes the brand the brand,” Barra told us. “So I’m not going to say never, but I think if General Motors were to ever do anything, we would assess it very, very carefully.

“Corvette means something so special to so many people,” Barra continued. It must be managed carefully because it is so important to its long-term success that it lives up to the name.

In the meantime, Barra is anxious to get the new C8 Corvette, MotorTrend’s 2020 Car of the Year, onto dealer lots. The launch was delayed by a few months because of a protracted strike while GM was negotiating a new four-year labor agreement with the UAW.

“I really think that the Corvette pulls together and represents what the product development and marketing teams are capable of, truly understanding the customer and creating a leading vehicle that’s still affordable,” Barra said. “I can’t wait until they’re in customer hands.”

The post Keeping the C8 Corvette a Chevy Comes at a Price, and GM CEO Mary Barra Is OK With That appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

What Is SH-AWD? A Breakdown of the Least Understood Acura Acronym

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 12:00

What if all-wheel drive could not only improve traction but also enhance dynamic performance? That’s the goal of Acura’s SH-AWD system. What does SH-AWD mean? It’s an acronym for Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. By actively distributing power front to rear and side to side, SH-AWD makes driving on slick surfaces easier and powering through corners more fun.

So what is SH-AWD? Acura has two variations of the system: one for its gas-powered cars, and one for its electrically enhanced hybrids. Both use hardware and software to send power to the wheels that need it most, continually altering distribution depending on the situation. The result is more confidence and control from behind the wheel.

SH-AWD made its debut on the 2004 RL and has gone through multiple iterations since. The current fourth-generation system was integrated into the 2019 RDX, and it’s lighter, faster, and more robust than before. But what is the difference between SH-AWD and AWD? Keep reading to find out.

How SH-AWD Works

Because the majority of SH-AWD Acuras are based on front-engine, front-wheel-drive platforms, power is initially and primarily directed through the transaxle to the front wheels—up to 90 percent when cruising straight at steady speeds. However, a driveshaft also routes power to a rear differential, on its way to the rear wheels.

Within that differential are various gear sets and clutch packs that control the amount of torque the rear wheels receive. Under hard acceleration, sensors detect rearward weight transfer and alter clutch engagement to direct up to 45 percent of power to the rear wheels. This reduces wheelspin and enhances traction for better acceleration.

The differential also controls power balance between the rear wheels—that is to say, it vectors torque. In cornering, 100 percent of the power sent to the rear axle can be directed to the rear outside wheel, helping to push the vehicle forward. The result is an inward yaw moment that gives the feeling of rotation through a corner. This reduces the need for steering input, minimizes under- or oversteer, and allows power to be applied sooner. That’s where SH-AWD gets its so-called “Super Handling” characteristics.

How Hybrid SH-AWD Works

SH-AWD functions differently in Acura hybrids like the MDX and RLX; there’s no mechanical connection between the engine and the rear axle. Instead, each rear wheel is powered by an electric motor. These produce power independently and variably, in effect replacing the differential and clutches found in the mechanical SH-AWD setup. Again, sensors determine how much power is sent to either rear wheel, which still function to push the vehicle forward through a corner with inward yaw.

For the NSX supercar, hybrid SH-AWD works a bit differently—kind of like the standard hybrid system but flipped around and made better. In the NSX, two electric motors power the front wheels, with no mechanical connection to the mid-mounted engine. Augmenting that V-6, however, is a third electric motor that improves its responses and fills in torque as its twin turbochargers spool up. That power is sent through a rear transaxle and differential to the rear wheels. The NSX’s front electric motors pull the car forward while the rear differential distributes the engine’s torque between the rear wheels, providing that “Super Handling” sensation.

Future Acura Cars

Acura is fully committed to SH-AWD and considers it key to enhancing performance across its product range. SH-AWD will boost driving dynamics in Acura’s future products, too—it’s rumored that whatever may come from the Acura Type S concept will feature a version of the system. For now, SH-AWD helps when roads are wet or slippery, or when there’s a string of corners to power through. 

For more on how SH-AWD is different from other systems, check out this official deep dive video from Acura.

The post What Is SH-AWD? A Breakdown of the Least Understood Acura Acronym appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

The Tesla Cybertruck Has Functionality Problems

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 09:00

Everyone has thoughts on the way Tesla’s radical Cybertruck looks, but design is purely subjective (and everyone’s already dunked on the Cybertruck anyway), so I’m going to focus instead on functionality, where I have real concerns.

First, outward visibility. The rear window is tiny and most of the time it’ll be completely covered by a roll-up door that apparently makes a huge aerodynamic (read: range) difference. Tesla’s solution is a rear camera. I’ve tried those on many vehicles, and most are awful. Rarely are the resolution, the angle, or the field of vision anything like a normal mirror, and there’s usually little to no way to adjust them. What’s more, they play a trick on your eye, forcing you to reorient your point of view from inside the vehicle to a camera mounted on the back of it, then back again. Beyond that, the big sail panels on the bed and pinched rear door windows will create massive over-the-shoulder blind spots, full stop.

Those sail panels are my real gripe. This thing has Gen-I Ridgeline syndrome. The sail panels are impossible to reach over, so getting anything in or out of the bed means climbing in the back and walking up to the front—and forget about stepping on the tire and climbing over. Whether tools or toys, that’s a massive pain in the ass. Tesla says the sail panels are a key part of the truck’s strength, but other unibody trucks both past and present have gotten along fine without them, casting doubt on that rationale.

Those panels also means there will be far fewer accessories for work or play because you can’t mount them to the bed rails. Outfitters are no doubt thinking about accessories for the Cybertruck, but a lot of them are low-volume companies that aren’t going to spend big on prototyping and developing parts until there are enough Cybertrucks sold to make a solid business case.

You can pretty much forget about the commercial market, though, and that’s a bad idea. A huge portion of truck sales are to fleets and working professionals like contractors, plumbers, welders, and more. Not being able to mount lumber racks to the bed rails is bad enough, but making the bed an integral part of the body means it can’t be removed and replaced with boxes, a flatbed, or other equipment. Strict emissions regulations and high fuel costs in Tesla’s home market of California could make the Cybertruck attractive to a lot of people who use their trucks for work, but not in its present configuration.

On the plus side, the bed does create a nice, rectangular box with no intrusive wheelwell humps. The bed floor, though, will need reworking before it goes into production. Look at the bed of any pickup truck made in the last half century, and you’ll see the floor is wavy, not smooth like the Cybertruck’s. It’s great that you can lay a sheet of plywood or sheetrock flat in the bed of a Cybertruck, but have you ever tried to pick one up when it’s lying flat on a smooth concrete floor? Those little grooves milled into the Cybertruck’s bed floor won’t offer any help getting your fingers under anything heavy, and between the sail panels and the lack of wheelwell humps, there’s no way to go at it except from the tailgate.

All of this doesn’t even address the fact the truck, as currently designed, runs afoul of many federal vehicle regulations. Even if it’s heavy enough to get Class 3 certification (10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, not great for EV range) and dodge some crash test rules, it’ll still need door mirrors and a complete rework of the taillights. Notice how every other pickup truck (and even work vans) mounts its tail lights to the bed, not the tailgate? That’s not a trend, that’s a law. Tesla’s solution in adding a second set of lights that’s visible when the tailgate is open is clever, but it’s still illegal (this is why the barn doors on the back of a Mini Clubman have cutouts for the fixed taillights).

On all accounts, this fails Truck 101. It matters because the vast majority of truck buyers in the F-150 segment almost never tow and rarely do any serious off-roading. Hauling is the one thing they actually use their trucks for semi-regularly (besides commuting), and the Cybertruck fails that basic need.

In short, you can tell this truck was designed by people who’ve never made one before and only worried about the towing and performance numbers and not the actual use cases. Yes, the Cybertruck is quicker and can tow and haul more than an F-150 on paper, but when it comes time to do truck stuff, you’re still better off with the Ford.

More on the Tesla Cybertruck electric pickup:

The post The Tesla Cybertruck Has Functionality Problems appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Hyundai Kona vs. Fiat 500X: Urban Subcompact SUV Battle

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 09:00

Subcompact SUVs are the modern iterations of city runabouts. Although a number of affordable models offer raised seating positions and prioritize practicality, others stand out with sportiness and distinctive design. Enter the 2019 Fiat 500X and 2019 Hyundai Kona, two subcompact SUVs with power and presence. Both vehicles promise consumers tidy dimensions and snub traditional-sedan styling, but only one has the substance to back up its cheekiness.

Transcontinental Contenders

Fiat originally introduced the 500X as a 2016 model; it’s the older of the two vehicles here but has had a recent refresh. The old 1.4- and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines have been replaced by a new 1.3-liter turbocharged unit that makes 177 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, and all-wheel drive is now standard on all trims. Other changes include reshaped headlights, taillights with body-colored trim embedded inside the light housing, and circle-shaped LED daytime running lights.

The Hyundai Kona is one of the latest entries in the subcompact SUV segment. Built on a new platform, the Kona is available in gas and all-electric versions, the former available with a choice of two four-cylinder engines including our example’s 1.6-liter with 175 hp and 195 lb-ft. Unlike the Fiat, the Hyundai is available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations with the latter sporting a multilink rear suspension instead of a torsion beam.

The 2020 Fiat 500X adds a new Sport model with body-colored side moldings and dark exterior accents, as well as Sport-specific interior accents. The 2020 500X also offers a black-roof option on all models. On the Road

Once you get past the turbo lag, the 2019 Fiat 500X feels powerful. However, the nine-speed automatic’s slow responses can be infuriating. Mat the accelerator, and it takes too long for it to kick down. Sport mode minimizes the transmission’s hesitation, but it still stumbles if you ask too much of it. The Hyundai Kona accelerates more eagerly because it exhibits less turbo lag. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic responds and shifts quicker than the Fiat’s nine-speed but lacks the smoothness of a traditional torque-converter-equipped transmission and gets clunky at low speeds. In Sport mode, the gearbox holds gears longer but won’t downshift as you slow down for a turn.

Although neither subcompact SUV rides like a luxury car, you’ll want to be in the Kona over poorly maintained roads. Over big bumps, the 500X feels like the vehicle tiptoes as it gets tossed around, and it jitters and vibrates excessively over  little ruts. There’s also no trade-off when it comes to handling. Between the slow steering, poor body control, and secure but uninspiring handling, the 500X becomes a handful when you need to make quick moves. The steering’s tendency to snap back on center at speeds above 30 mph also adds a feeling of instability when you’re making an emergency maneuver.

The Kona’s suspension may also be stiff, but the Hyundai absorbs road imperfections better. You’ll still feel everything, you just won’t get beat up and tossed around. It also handles better because of its superior body control, and its quicker, more accurate steering that complements its superior chassis tuning. The Kona’s all-wheel-drive system also does more than add traction in bad weather or when accelerating from a stop; it can send power to the rear wheels to help it power out of corners. Both SUVs, however, suffer from plenty of road and wind noise on the highway.

Livability

The 500X’s interior looks chic, but its build quality lets it down. The door cards and dash are oddly textured, and the buttons and knobs feel flimsy when you use them, not something you expect from a $35,075 subcompact SUV (models that cost around $30,000 have a similar interior and, at that price, the interior quality could be deemed acceptable). In comparison, the 2019 Hyundai Kona’s dash and door panels are also hard plastics but feel more substantial, and its controls operate with a satisfying level of tactility.

The Fiat 500X and Hyundai Kona both have limited interior space. Both have tight rear seats that can only accommodate passengers for short drives due to the lack of head- and legroom. Cargo capacity is equally unimpressive. The 500X’s rear window angle cuts into the trunk, limiting capacity with the rear seats up. There’s a bit more space in the Kona, but there are better options if maximum cargo space is your top priority.

Both the 2019 Fiat 500X and 2019 Hyundai Kona have user-friendly infotainment systems with responsive touchscreens. The latter also has physical shortcut buttons for improved usability. FCA’s Uconnect interface uses a smaller 7.0-inch touchscreen in the 500X, which is one inch smaller than the optional 8.0-inch unit in the Hyundai Kona. The Fiat’s cartoonish map graphics contribute to its dated feel. The Hyundai gets extra points with its available eight-speaker Infinity audio system, which is crisp and clear compared to the muddled Beats unit in the Fiat.

Both SUVs are available with active driver assistance technologies. However, the Hyundai Kona comes out on top for offering them on all trims. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning are standard across the board. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the SEL grade and higher, while pedestrian detection is only available on the range-topping Ultimate trim. On the 500X, collision prevention tech is optional on the Trekking and Trekking Plus trims as part of the Driver Assistance and Advanced Driver Assistance option groups.

The way the safety technologies work make the Hyundai Kona a stronger proposition. Its lane keeping assist gently nudges you back with when you get too close to the dividing line or cross into another lane. The system even keeps you centered despite the car’s lack of adaptive cruise control (standard on the 2020 Kona Ultimate). Drift toward another lane in the 500X, and it jerks you back in then ping-pongs you between the lines. Furthermore, its adaptive cruise control system only works above 20 mph and applies excessive braking when the vehicle ahead slows or stops.

So Which is the Better Subcompact SUV?

If you need a vehicle that’s stylish, powerful, and easy to drive, the Fiat 500X and Hyundai Kona fit the bill. However, one of them gives you more substance behind the bold design. With its blend of great road manners, responsive engine, value, and user-friendly tech, the Hyundai Kona gives you more for your buck along with its looks and attitude.

Second Place: 2019 Fiat 500X AWD Trekking Plus

Bubbly looks and a punchy engine are let down by sloppy road manners, a lazy transmission, and—at least on our tester—inconsistent build quality.

First Place: 2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD Ultimate

With better suspension tuning, the Kona’s turbocharged power and great tech come with a value-oriented price tag.

The 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate now includes adaptive cruise control, while the SEL Plus now gets a 4.2-inch color instrument cluster display, wireless device charging, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink. 2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD (Ultimate) 2019 Fiat 500X AWD (Trekking Plus) BASE PRICE $29,880 $30,690 PRICE AS TESTED $30,005 $35,075 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV ENGINE 1.6L/175-hp/195-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 1.3L/177-hp/210-lb-ft turbo SOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto 9-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,206 lb (60/40%) 3,396 lb (60/40%) WHEELBASE 102.4 in 101.2 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 164.0 x 70.9 x 61.0 in 167.2 x 72.3 x 63.7 in 0-60 MPH 6.6 sec 8.3 sec QUARTER MILE 15.2 sec @ 90.5 mph 16.4 sec @ 85.2 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 119 ft 120 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.88 g (avg) 0.77 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.6 sec @ 0.66 g (avg) 28.5 sec @ 0.58 g (avg) REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 25.3/36.3/29.2 mpg N/A EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 26/29/27 mpg 24/30/26 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 130/116 kW-hrs/100 miles 140/112 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.71 lb/mile 0.74 lb/mile

The post Hyundai Kona vs. Fiat 500X: Urban Subcompact SUV Battle appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

Volvo On Call Review: We Try Volvo’s Connected Car App on our S60 Sedan

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 09:00

As technology becomes more accessible for everyone, new smartphone apps—like Volvo On Call—let us connect even closer with our vehicles. Although the app is free for the first six months, users have to pay $250 for an additional 18 months. I tried it out for a few months in my 2019 Volvo S60. Here are a few things I like and dislike.

A/C Controls and Remote Start

Even when you’re thousands of miles away from your Volvo, you can turn on the A/C or start the engine through the app. With Volvo On Call, you can set up to eight timers for temperature controls, so if you plan to leave your house every morning at 7 a.m., for example, your Volvo can be at your desired interior temperature every morning. I’ve found this feature to be pretty convenient, particularly during the hot summer months. Although you can’t set timers for remote start, you can start the engine remotely up to 15 minutes before you get in; this helps keep the cabin nice and cool (or warm) when you’re about to get going.

Lock or Unlock Doors

This might seem like a normal feature, but it also allows Amazon drivers to access the trunk to drop off your packages. With in-car deliveries, you can use your Volvo as your delivery address, and using a Volvo digital key the delivery car can open your trunk to deliver the package. Although I have not used this feature in the past, I plan on using it before our S60 goes back next summer.

Location

Through Volvo On Call, you can see your car’s location while it’s parked. And in case you forget to lock your car, the app will let you know via a push notification that your Volvo is unlocked.  You can also see other important things like the temperature inside your car and the fuel levels.

Maintenance

Just as we were approaching 10,000 miles, the check engine light came on. What was weird about it is that neither the infotainment system nor Volvo On Call said anything about it. Volvo On Call has a Maintenance tab, and even when the check engine light was on, the app was saying that everything was looking good. A quick visit to the dealer revealed that the S60 needed a replacement of the evaporation pipes, and the dealer replaced them in about two hours at no cost.

Read more about our long-term Volvo S60 T6 Momentum:

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Categories: Property

Hennessey C8 Corvette Twin-Turbo Promises 1,200 Horsepower

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 21:50

The mid-engine Corvette has caused quite a bit of fanfare over the last several months. Almost immediately after the new ‘Vette won MotorTrend’s coveted Car of the Year award, reports surfaced that a 900-hp ZR1 will eventually reprise its role as top dog of the ‘Vette range. But what if you don’t want to wait, and 900 hp simply isn’t enough (because you’re insane)? Well, have no fear, John Hennessey is here.

The Texas tuner recently announced that he and his team will offer up to 1,200 hp via a specially designed twin-turbo system in addition to upgrading the internals of the LT2 V-8 with forged aluminum pistons and forged steel connecting rods. When I spoke with Hennessy at the C8 reveal in July, he mentioned that, though he was excited to get to work on the new C8, he was worried that Chevy might intentionally prevent tuners like him from making big changes to the engine. Based on the limited info in the release, the Texas-based tuning firm is likely still working out the details on its C8 offering, but it sounds like Hennessey’s initial concerns about the mid-engine Corvette’s tunability have been put to rest.

Hennessey Performance Engineering will also upgrade the Tremec eight-speed DCT and will offer a series of other upgrades to make the C8 Corvette a little racier on the outside. The company plans on offering a carbon-fiber aero kit that includes a huge rear wing, a new front splitter, and airdam—we also see a roof scoop we hope to see on customer cars. Bigger Brembo brakes, new wheel and tire packages, and Penske suspension mods will also be made available to help tame all that extra grunt. A lightweight, stainless-steel exhaust will also be available upon request.

No word on pricing yet, but we’re pretty sure it won’t be cheap. To give you some idea, back when the C7 Corvette was new, Hennessey offered its 1,000-hp supercharged HPE1000 package for nearly $68,000, not including the price of a C7 Stingray.

 

The post Hennessey C8 Corvette Twin-Turbo Promises 1,200 Horsepower appeared first on MotorTrend.

Categories: Property

REVEALED! Meet the Hosts of Top Gear America

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 15:00

After an exhaustive search, we’re proud to announce the hosts of Top Gear America, coming exclusively to the MotorTrend app in spring 2020: Dax Shepard, Rob Corddry, and Jethro Bovingdon. Or, as they tell it: two comedians, a guy who’s actually British … and the Stig.

“If we’re ever given a script, I promise the viewers that I’m going to light it on fire and throw it away,” Corddry said. “So you can count on me for that, at least. I really think that the strength of this show is going to be an honest interplay between the three of us.”

Corddry, like Shepard and Bovingdon, is both a lifelong car enthusiast and big Top Gear fan.

“I feel like that’s the one prerequisite the host should have,” Shepard said. “Cars are my full-time hobby. It’s the only reason I act: to acquire money to buy s–t that you put gas in.”

Bovingdon, who doesn’t own a ranch to fill with 17 different vehicles and trailers like Shepard does, is all about the driving.

Look for Top Gear America starting in spring 2020 on the MotorTrend App. For now, subscribe now to get the deal of the year.

“I love cars, I love driving cars, and I love doing stupid stuff in cars,” Bovingdon said, “and if we get to do all of those things, I don’t see how it can’t be fun and fun to watch, really.”

Bovingdon is well known among MotorTrend subscribers as the cohost of Head 2 Head, where he’s pitted some of the greatest sports cars, trucks, and SUVs in the world against each other. Off camera, he’s been found on the pages and websites of MotorTrend, Automobile, CAR, and evo. In between all that, he occasionally finds time to win his class at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring endurance race and set lap records around the world.

“One of my first cars was an E36 BMW M3 GT,” he said. “I’d read it had done an 8:23 lap or something, and I foolishly—having never been to the Nürburgring—was like, ‘Well, we can probably get that down to eight minutes.’ I spent two years trying to make it do that. The first attempt, I think I did an 8:12, and then every time I went back after that, it broke. One time, it got stuck in fourth gear and I had to drive it back from western Germany to my home in Northamptonshire, north of London.”

Shepard, known for shows like Parenthood, Bless This Mess, and the movie CHiPS, is no stranger to a racetrack, either.

“Road America is my favorite track,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. The fact that you could hit a deer out on the back straightaway is always thrilling. I think that track is spectacular. There’s so much going on.

“I also really like Road Atlanta,” he continued. “It’s certainly a fun track, too. I got to race in that Lamborghini Super Trofeo series at Lime Rock, and the last turn into the straightaway, the downhill right-hander is a very precarious turn. It’s surreal. You’re all in or you’re all out. And then Fontana, which is basically you’re racing in a parking lot and then the huge bank oval, which is an incredible feeling, as well. And then of course Laguna (Seca), which is basically if you live in California, the track. That’s the track I probably am on the most frequently.”

With two racers on the show, you can bet there will be rivalry between them whenever they get behind the wheel.

“I think there’ll be a lot of competition between Jethro and I, in a loving way,” Shepard said, “Obviously, he’ll win, and sometimes I’ll win, and it’ll be devastating when I lose, and I think that’ll be fun for everyone to watch. Jethro’s definitely got the seat-time advantage on me, and I’ve not driven any of these cars. I’ve never driven a McLaren or half the (cars) that he’s driven.”

Whatever contests Jethro, Dax, or the producers cook up, you can be sure Corddry will be stirring the pot.

“It’s not going to be my role to talk about the technical (stuff),” Corddry said, also working blue, “as much as it’s going to be to just go, ‘Ooh,’ and ‘Aah,’ and then pit Jethro and Dax against each other, because I want to watch those nerds fight it out.”

Corddry is far more than the setup man, though. He knows his cars. Long before he was driving exotics on HBO’s Ballers and traveling through time in a hot tub, the four-time Emmy Award winner cut his teeth on a ’75 Ford Pinto Wagon with no floorboards. These days, it’s a Porsche 911 Carrera S.

“Early on, in my experiences with cars at a young age,” he said, “I made a choice to not get all bogged down in the details. And just get psyched about cars, in general. Yeah, I know what the different sizes of engines are and I understand why, but I don’t bug myself with that.

“I told them, when they called me, you know, I was a big fan of Top Gear, the original,” he continued, “and I said, ‘Look, I’m none of those guys. I’m an enthusiast. I’m, if anything else, the audience.’ But I’m not gonna say no to something like this. I’m just gonna fool them for as long as I can. And then they’re finally going to be like, ‘Wait a minute, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Let’s get some boring dude in here.’”

Even if he’s not a walking automotive encyclopedia, Corddry won’t be boring.

“They gonna want me to wrestle the Stig?” he asked. “I’ll wrestle the Stig. I’ll Greco-Roman wrestle the Stig.”

Stream Top Gear America starting in spring 2020 on the MotorTrend App. In the meantime, subscribe now to get the deal of the year HERE.

The post REVEALED! Meet the Hosts of Top Gear America appeared first on MotorTrend.

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Exclusive Interview With The Stig: Talking to the Fastest Racer on Top Gear America

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 15:00

Forget any American cousin you may have seen, the Stig has landed in California to film the MotorTrend exclusive series Top Gear America alongside hosts Dax Shepard, Rob Corddry, and Jethro Bovingdon (meet the hosts here).

We cornered the reclusive racing driver and TV personality during a promotional photo shoot in hopes of gaining some insights on the new hosts and the new show. We know the Stig is a driver of huge talent, but few words, so we hoped bringing a brand-new Ford Shelby Mustang GT500, a mid-engine C8 Corvette, and a McLaren 720S into the studio would help open things up. Instead, we found the Stig staring inquisitively at a lamp.

MotorTrend: Welcome back to the office! Don’t worry about the mess from last time. It’s all been taken care of.

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: I hope the A/C is on high enough in here. I know it’s a bit warmer than you’re used to outside. Does it ever get a little warm under all that gear?

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: I see you’ve had a chance to meet the hosts. Are you excited to be working with them?

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: You’re no stranger to working with celebrities, of course, what with all the stars in the reasonably priced cars.

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: Jethro is from the U.K., as well, and quite a driver himself. Have you two worked together previously?

The Stig: …

(Editor’s note: At this point, the Stig abruptly wandered off in the direction of the Corvette.)

Look for Top Gear America starting in spring 2020 on the MotorTrend App. For now, subscribe now to get the deal of the year.

MotorTrend: What do you think of them putting the engine in the back?

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: Do you support carmakers breaking decades of tradition if it makes a car better?

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: You know, both that Mustang Shelby GT500 and the McLaren Senna over there have more than 700 horsepower. If you could only pick one, which do you drive?

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: You’ve driven some incredibly powerful and incredibly quick cars in your career. Is there one that stands out?

The Stig: …

(Editor’s note: The Stig again wandered away, this time toward the rear of Dax Shepard’s 1967 Lincoln Continental. That’s where we caught up.)

MotorTrend: You almost exclusively drive new cars on Top Gear, but are you a fan of the classics?

The Stig: …

MotorTrend: How do you feel about modifying classic cars with new engines and things?

The Stig: …

(Editor’s note: The Stig turned and walked out the door. We assumed this meant the interview was over.)

Stream Top Gear America starting in spring 2020 on the MotorTrend App. In the meantime, subscribe now to get the deal of the year HERE.

The post Exclusive Interview With The Stig: Talking to the Fastest Racer on Top Gear America appeared first on MotorTrend.

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2020 Hyundai Sonata 1.6T vs. 2020 Nissan Altima 2.0 VCT: A Tale of Two Techie Turbos

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 09:00

Engine design is even harder than 21st century democracy because it requires even more compromise. Every design parameter “knob” that engineers can turn affects an engine’s power, fuel efficiency, and emissions, and clever solutions to hack long-established trade-offs between them generally compromise cost, durability, and refinement. Nissan’s recent hack is to vary the compression ratio, and now Hyundai is introducing the world’s first variable valve-duration camshaft. These two very different approaches seek a similar effect: enable strong turbo boost for performance without inducing knock (which demands a lower compression ratio), while enhancing low-load fuel efficiency by expanding the combustion gases as much as possible (expansion ratio is the piston-going-down mirror image of compression ratio).

Nissan’s 2.0-liter VC-Turbo four-cylinder engine uses an elaborate linkage system to alter the piston stroke (and displacement, slightly), thereby providing a turbo-friendly 8.0:1 compression ratio when needed, and a fuel-sipping 14.0:1 expansion ratio while loafing along. Hyundai’s CVVD concept is perhaps even more elaborate (at least from a parts-count perspective—see our companion feature to this tech comparison) and manages to vary the length of time the intake valves stay open, so the effective compression ratio (compression that happens after the intake valve closes) can be way less than the expansion ratio.

Hyundai doesn’t use the low effective compression ratio for power, though. Here the power mode is to open and shut the valves quickly with negligible exhaust-valve overlap, trapping and compressing as much intake charge as possible and taking full advantage of the fixed mechanical compression/expansion ratio of 10.5:1 (the cooling effect of direct injection helps reduce knock). It’s under light loads that the intake valves stay open until the piston is well on its way back up. The crankshaft does less work pushing the piston up with the intake valve open, but the combustion gases keep pushing on the piston all the way down so efficiency improves.

There is, of course, a lot more to this new 1,598cc Smartstream engine than its fancy cam drive. The bore shrinks and the stroke extends relative to the outgoing 1,591cc turbo (from 77.0 x 85.4mm to 75.6 x 89.0mm)—providing those combustion gases a notable 3.6mm of additional room to expand. The fuel injection pressure increases from 250 to 350 bar (roughly 3,600 to 5,100 psi), to be sure enough fuel can be injected and atomized after the late intake-valve closing. Redesigned intake runners generate more charge-air tumble to ensure thorough mixing. And because adding stroke inherently adds friction, as does the new CVVD system, extensive friction-reduction measures were taken throughout the engine: smaller journal bearing diameters and polymer coated bearings, lightened pistons, a lower-friction cam chain drive, and new roller-swing-arm valve actuators. Overall engine friction is said to be down 34 percent. Integrating the exhaust manifold into the cylinder head reduces heat lost to the exhaust, while the smaller bore and a new integrated heat management system help reduce heat lost to the cooling system for improved thermal efficiency.

The 1.6-liter TGDI Smartstream engine is rated to produce 180 hp at 6,000 rpm and 195 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm, up from 178 hp at 5,500 rpm and identical torque on the outgoing 1.6T. That’s just a 1.1 percent boost in peak horsepower, but Hyundai claims that over the engine’s entire operating range, performance is improved by 4 percent while brake-specific fuel consumption over the entire operating range of the engine improves by 5 percent relative to its predecessor. Sadly, the EPA didn’t find that 5 percent bump on its test cycle—the 2020 Sonata 1.6T earns a 28/37/31 mpg EPA city/highway/combined rating; the outgoing model was rated 27/36/31.

We’ve heard the cost came in at about $200 per engine. If so, it likely represents a huge discount over what we infer Nissan/Infiniti spends on VC-Turbo. At the time the system was released, Nissan engineers claimed they spent about half the going rate for reducing a single gram/km of CO2 emissions (which they pegged at $70 to $80). In switching from a V-6 to the VC-T engine, both the Infiniti Q50 and the Nissan Altima saved 22.5 g/km on the EPA cycle, so that puts their system at $800.

So how do the two engines drive? The VC-T engine only comes mated to continuously variable transmissions, and that’s an unhappy marriage. There’s always too much variability happening at any one time, resulting in nonlinear, unpredictable acceleration under most driving conditions short of foot-to-floor drag-racing. At wide-open throttle, it goes like stink, delivering on its V-6-performance promise. The rest of the time, in the vehicles we’ve sampled, we’ve struggled to find the four-cylinder fuel economy. We long-term-tested an Infiniti QX50 SUV with a VC-T engine, and in our Equa Real MPG real-world fuel-economy testing it underperformed the EPA’s 24/30/26-mpg city/highway/combined results by 14 percent in the city and 7 percent combined. Worse, though, was our 23,000-mile average of 20.8 mpg—fully 25 percent below the EPA combined rating, and about what we’d expect from a V-6.

In our drives in two high-end Sonatas equipped with the Smartstream 1.6T engine and a conventional eight-speed automatic, the valve-duration variability seems utterly unnoticeable, and drivability is quite pleasant. This is a much smaller engine in a similarly Altima-sized car, so it’s towing about 4.5 more pounds per horsepower than the Nissan Altima engine is, so it’s no surprise that the Sonata trails the Altima to 60 mph by about 2 seconds (8.2 versus 6.1 seconds). We have yet to fact-check the Sonata’s EPA ratings with testing of our own, but the EPA reckons it’ll best the Altima VC-T’s 25/34/29 mpg rating by 2 mpg in each category. (Note that among small turbo family sedans, the Sonata ranks admirably close to the Honda Accord 1.5-liter turbo’s 29/35/31 rating, though that car’s 10-speed automatic and lower curb weight give it a 0.6-second advantage in 0-60 mph.)

We look forward to our first chance to fully test the performance and fuel economy of Hyundai’s new CVVD system—and to test its drivability and durability in a long-term car.

The post 2020 Hyundai Sonata 1.6T vs. 2020 Nissan Altima 2.0 VCT: A Tale of Two Techie Turbos appeared first on MotorTrend.

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How does Hyundai’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) System Really Work?

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 09:00

Caution: Nerds-only zone! If you just want to know what Hyundai’s CVVD system can do and how it drives, see our companion story comparing the tech to Nissan’s VCT system. Keep reading for more on how this advanced tech works.

Altering the length of time that a valve stays open is way trickier than changing when it begins its open-and-close cycle or how much it lifts. To achieve variable duration, Hyundai has basically had to toss out the conventional one- or two-piece machined or hydroformed camshaft and replace it with a hella-complicated multi-piece gizmo that may make your head hurt to try to comprehend.

First, the shaft that the timing chain drives (via a familiar variable-timing phaser, by the way) is now a smooth cylinder with four holes drilled across it. Into those holes go four little pins that slot into and drive four round steel discs that also include a separate perpendicular pin that ultimately drives the cam lobes. These discs rotate in elaborate needle roller bearings on a device that allows them to move a few millimeters inboard and outboard across the top of the engine, perpendicular to the camshaft axis.

When the movable discs and all their pins are positioned concentric with the camshaft, the cam lobes behave like a normal machined camshaft would, opening the valves for the length of time dictated by their machined profile. The magic happens when you move these discs inboard or outboard. Doing so changes the location of the little perpendicular pins that drive the cam lobes, which has the effect of either speeding up or slowing down the cam lobes as their noses swing around to open and close the valves.

Two separate carriers operate the valves for two cylinders each, and each carrier moves two eccentric discs from side to side using a mechanism of worm-drive gears. It takes 0.4 to 0.5 second to fully transition from one extreme to the other. Note that Hyundai only adds this system to the intake valves. It could also be added to the exhaust valves, but the only potential benefits of doing so would be emissions reduction, and this wasn’t deemed a priority worthy of the expense at this time.

The parts count to add this feature seems staggering, as does the added manufacturing complexity. It also adds about 5 kg (11 pounds). Managing the friction and lubricating all these sliding parts also seems a herculean task, but the engineers swear on a stack of service manuals that the engine has cleared all of Hyundai’s durability hurdles with flying colors running standard 0W20 oil.

We suspect that part of the argument in favor of green-lighting this complicated project included an element of Korean pride—a desire to lead the industry in a new technology. We sincerely hope it works and delivers on its performance and fuel economy promises in the real world—especially now that the EPA figures indicate the new Sonata with this engine gets slightly lower fuel economy than its 1.6T predecessor.

The post How does Hyundai’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) System Really Work? appeared first on MotorTrend.

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Will Infiniti Build the 563-HP Project Black S?

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 01:27

There’s no doubt Infiniti has seen better days. The brand is struggling with sales in the U.S., it recently pulled out of Europe and other key markets, and it just cancelled the QX30. It also moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to Japan but has shifted its focus to China and the U.S., where it plans to launch five new vehicles in the next three years.

At the Paris Motor Show last year, Infiniti revealed its updated Project Black S, a Q60 coupe prototype that brings its Formula 1 hybrid technology to a road car. The Project Black S delivers 563 hp from its 3.0-liter twin-turbo hybrid engine, with a 0-60 mph estimate of 4.0 seconds, according to Infiniti. The car was developed to test the waters and see how well it would fit the market. The automaker recently finished the research phase and is now analyzing the results.

Speaking with MotorTrend at the recent L.A. Auto Show, Jeff Pope, Infiniti’s group vice president of the Americas, said he sees a place for the Black S in the U.S. as a special low-volume model. With a limited number of units available, the car would deliver good performance for those who want something special. “I think there’s absolutely space, as a specialty vehicle in a small volume, that’s more of a brand recognition type of model. It’d be great to have a nameplate, being one of 400, 500 or however much volume that would be. That’s where I would see the execution of that car. It would be a statement vehicle for us,” he said.

And although performance crossovers are on the rise, Pope doesn’t see the F1 technology making it into one of Infiniti’s SUVs. At least not right now. “I would leave that to the technical people to understand where it could go in the future,” he said. “Right now, I still think what we need to understand is, you can’t just take the F1 technology and throw it into a vehicle. It doesn’t work that way. But I think if we can get down the road with this, it’ll give us insights into what future technologies we can actually use in our vehicles. I think that’s an exciting question.”

Although the Project Black S is not one of the five new cars coming in the next three years, Pope briefly touched on upcoming electrified vehicles for Infiniti, which include battery-electric and gasoline-powered extended-range electric cars. Pope wants the latter to hit 500 miles of range thanks to a gas engine that serves solely as a generator, and given that the vehicle will not suffer any cold-weather range disruptions, he believes it will appeal to more people. “When you start getting over 400 or close to 500 miles of range, now you’re talking about something that consumers can get their head around because they get the performance and they get the range,” he said.

As Infiniti continues celebrating its 30th anniversary, some big challenges remain ahead. Still, Pope is excited for the future of the brand. “There’s nothing that’s going to be like what we’re going to bring to market, and that’s who we were as a brand when we launched,” he said. “That’s what I want us to be again, and that excites me. It gives me and my team a chance to be part of a story that just falls in line with Infiniti’s history; that’s exciting.” Here’s hoping Infiniti’s next 30 years are bright.

The post Will Infiniti Build the 563-HP Project Black S? appeared first on MotorTrend.

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