The Best Cars for This Holiday Season

Yes, this is a holiday tradition for me. I love picking out cars that are perfect for this holiday season. I know that none of you will run out to the dealer and order one as soon as you’ve finished reading this post, but I can keep wishing, right?

  • Ford Focus RS: If you want a hot ticket into the performance car world, this is it. It’s got AWD sending somewhere around 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through a six speed manual transmission, this car is definitely going to be eating Corvettes and Honda sportbikes all day long in the canyons and some race tracks. It’s going to be one fun ride. Car & Driver was lucky enough to take a ride in one, and I’ll be a tad bit jealous at them for a while. They said it’s an experience few cars can replicate.

    It looks like a legitimate rally car without all of the stickers, doesn’t it? The fans will be right behind you, don’t worry about that!
  • Chevrolet Colorado: Any version of the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado is going to be one of the best trucks on the market. It won the 2016 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award. I should also mention it won the 2015 Truck of the Year award as well. The engine that I would recommend is the 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine. It gets 26 mpg combined, according to Motor Trend’s “Real MPG” testing procedures. That’s almost as good as my Mazda 3! According to the Real MPG program, a Colorado with any of the available engines (a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a fantastic 3.6-liter V6) will have class-leading mpg. That’s really saying something. If you go for the Duramax, it will tow 7,600 pounds, and will get better mileage than any other Colorado engine. Oh, and it will be much smoother and rewarding to drive. The Colorado, and it’s GMC twin, the Canyon, both received a “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Chevrolet designed the Colorado to be a daily driver for any kind of driver, so it should come as no surprise that it drives like a fullsize sedan with a light rear end. If I was going to recommend any one truck, this would be it.

    It looks really sharp, doesn’t it? This is the Trail Boss model, which adds knobby tires, a lightbar, and skid plates.
  • Volvo XC90: Some of my older readers will remember and love the Volvos of the 1970s and 1980s. They were big tanks of cars, designed with utility rather than sexiness, yet they were so exquisitely built that people bought them over a Mercedes-Benz. Something as simple as the XC90’s key shouldn’t be worth mentioning, yet this one is wonderful. It is made of the same Nappa leather that covers it’s three comfortable rows of seats. Volvo is a really small player in the U.S. Toyota made nearly three times as many Priuses as Volvo sold cars. BMW sells seven cars for each one that Volvo sells in the U.S. You might be surprised to hear that the only engine that you can get with the 2016 XC90 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Before you get up in arms about that, just know that it cranks out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. How does it do that? A gigantic turbocharger and a small supercharger that steps in when the turbo is spooling up. It gets 22 mpg combined, according to the EPA. It’s far quieter than the also-new Honda Pilot, which has a screaming V6 that will scare the deer off the road. AWD is standard. Right now, the only powertrain upgrade is to the T8 model, which Volvo claims to be the first seven-seat plug-in hybrid. It makes 313 horsepower from the same engine, but has an electric motor powering the rear wheels, bringing total power output to 400 horsepower. It has some seriously long gearing (80 mph in 3rd gear). Yeah, Volvo is still going after hauling families over hauling some butt. The XC90 has a gigantic touchscreen that Motor Trend called “almost Tesla-like.” A Volvo wouldn’t be a Volvo if it didn’t have more safety features than a crash cart in a hospital. All seven seat belts have pyrotechnic pretensioners, and the front seat frames have energy absorbers to cushion vertical forces during impact. It has a bunch of really great features, but I’m going to skip over most of them. One final safety feature worth mentioning is that the XC90 will automatically activate the brakes if the driver attempts to make a left turn into oncoming traffic. You’re on your own if you somehow make a right turn into oncoming traffic, though. Just like the Tesla Model S was a pivotal car for electric cars in 2013, the Volvo XC90 is a game changer, a moonshot for SUVs.

    I don’t care what people say about it – I think it looks really nice for something it’s size.
  • Subaru WRX: This list wouldn’t be complete without a Subaru on it. Of course I chose the WRX. While Subaru doesn’t make it as a hatchback anymore, which is a true shame, it doesn’t make the WRX any less spectacular. It’s got that wonderful Subaru boxer engine growling howl, and is probably the perfect all-weather car. It can handle it’s own on just about any surface. Good luck keeping up with one with summer tires on a racetrack, or one with winter tires in inclement weather. It’s a stylish jack-of-all-trades.

    It doesn’t look like much, but I can tell you it looks mighty intimidating with that gaping hood scoop and wailing four-cylinder.
  • Audi A3: It starts off at nearly $31,000, so the opening bid itself is a good proposition to buy one. It’s a good-looking car by all means, but it doesn’t advance Audi’s design at all. The car gets more fun to drive as you add on the speed. It just gets really expensive, so keep that in mind when you pile on the options.

    See what I mean? It looks nice, but it’s no huge design advancement for Audi.

That’s it for this list. I know it’s shorter than ones in years past, but I think these are all solid choices. You can’t go wrong with any of them. I wish you all a wonderful, safe and happy holiday season. As always, I will be taking a week off about next week, but I’ll update you on Friday about that, don’t worry!

What to Buy Car People This Holiday Season

You have a car person in your family. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s that cool cousin who just got a classic car. It can even be a friend. Whomever it may be, these are the gifts to buy them.

  • Blipshift T-Shirts: I’ve always loved the Blipshift designs. They are humorous, and all around awesome. In the world of car-themed t-shirts, nobody does it better than Blipshift. Their shirts are affordable and cool. The catch is that they are all limited editions. Once that shirt sells out, that design is gone forever (or at least for a few years, when they’ll do an extremely limited run). Plus, they always have amazing deals around this time. A perfect excuse to buy one (or six). But don’t take my word for it. Visit them at blipshift.com
  • HeritageRacing Motorsports Calendar: Lots of races happen throughout the year. If you like going to some (but not all), it can be difficult to keep up with them. That won’t be a problem for this calendar! It has the entire racing schedule for 13 racing series. An added bonus is the retro racing artwork. You can buy it at https://www.etsy.com/listing/245716201/2016-racing-calendar?ref=shop_home_active_1
  • Valentine One Radar Detector: When you have a lead right foot, it can be very hard to stay under or at the speed limit. I know. I’m one of those people. Get a Valentine One radar detector for that member of your family. Buy one at http://www.valentine1.com/
  • One More Than 10: Singer and the Porsche 911: Air-cooled Porsche 911’s are the new classic car fad. If you, or someone in your family is a Porsche 911 fan, chances are they are a huge fan of Singer’s restomodded (restored and modified) classic 911’s. Even if you can’t afford to buy them a classic 911, you can at least keep them temporarily happy with reading the story of Singer on their coffee table. Just make sure to get a copy for me. http://www.stanceandspeed.com/automotive-books/one-more-than-10-singer-and-the-porsche-911
  • Side Glances: Anybody who has read “Road & Track” in the past, oh, 10 years or so, will recognize the name Peter Egan. Any fan of Road & Track, or anybody who’s a fan of amazing writing will never stop thanking you for this gift. It’s more than 300 pages of Peter Egan’s incredible columns on literally every aspect of the automotive industry. He shares 48 of his columns, all of which are bound to teach you something new, or make you become incredibly fond of British cars (I am, thanks to him). These columns cover his time at Road & Track between 2002-2006. Again, you can get me a copy at http://www.roadandtrackshop.com/road-and-track-books/!/peter-egan-side-glances
  • Die Cast Cars: Die cast cars of any make and model are a great addition to a desk, a diorama, a bookshelf or your garage. Even if you just buy one, it will be a nice addition to that collection we all have. These die casts are high-quality, and worth a boy. http://www.roadandtrackshop.com/road-and-track-die-cast
  • Forza 6: Even if cars are your life passion, you will likely never be able to drive a hypercar around a world-famous racetrack. Most people will only be able to somewhat replicate that experience by playing a world-class racing game like Forza 6. If the person you’re buying Forza 6 for doesn’t have an XBox One, you can buy the two in a bundle at http://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/consoles/1tb-forza-6
  • Motoring Art: Every car enthusiast worth the oil running through their veins needs some automotive art gracing their garage or living room. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better than Guy Allen’s motoring art. It’s truly beautiful. http://guyallen.co.uk/motoring-art
  • Cutaways: David Kimble is a well-known automotive artist. If you’ve ever seen a cutaway of a car, chances are, he drew it. His illustrations are incredibly intricate. In Cutaways, he shows you the secrets, techniques and procedures he uses to create his masterpieces. Definitely a good gift for that family member who loves the technical aspects of cars. http://www.roadandtrackshop.com/road-and-track-books/!/rt-david-kimble-cutaways
  • Team O’Neil Rally School: It doesn’t matter how talented of a driver you, or anyone you know is. You can never have enough training driving a car. If you’ve ever seen videos of how fast rally cars go, and the superhuman reflexes of the drivers, you’ve probably wondered if you could do that too. Yes, you can, thanks to Team O’Neil Rally School. https://teamoneil.com/rally-school/

That’s all folks!

What to Do When You Wreck a Racecar

Not the best shot, but it was one of the few that didn’t include fire or tire smoke.

Racing a car or a motorcycle, while fun, is never quite safe. If you do it long enough, you will surely find yourself taking a vacation off the pavement. Before you end up hitting a tire wall or get your roof sanded off when you flip, you should know what to do in the event of a crash. This also applies to if you’re driving around in your daily life.

Stop the car as quickly as you can! If you’re in a drag car, pull the parachute or floor the brakes if you don’t have a chute. If you’re in a road course car, floor the brakes. If you know that you can’t save it, you might as well crash as slowly as possible. Brace your head against the head rest. Pull your thumbs away from the steering wheel so if it kicks back at you when you land or stop, you won’t have reshaped your knuckles.

As the dust settles, take a deep breath. Can you still breathe? If you can, awesome! Figure out where you landed, but you should figure out if you are on fire first. Normally, the safest place to be is in the car, unless you are on fire. Then you want to get the hell out of your car. If you aren’t on fire, you still have some choices. If the car is still moving, or able to move, try and get it off the track, or to a corner stand where a corner worker can help you out. If the car can’t move, cut the fuel and power, and wave your arms around so safety personnel know you’re alive. If you decide to drive the car off the track, make sure you don’t dump fluids all over the track. Watch your gauges, check your mirrors for smoke and other cars, and if you have a sneaking suspicion that something is going to leak or drag, just wait for the safety crew to come to you. Stay off the racing line or dragstrip groove if you can.

Off the track, things can be just as hard. You might have had a bad crash, but thankfully not bad enough to send you to the hospital. Somehow, the track crew was able to extricate your car from the catch fence or tire wall. Watch them if you can, so they don’t cause further damage. That sounds silly, I know, but it will be easier on you if you can rebuild the car. People don’t come to racetracks expecting to crash. Most tracks will allow owners to store the car for up to a week if need be. While all tracks are different, that’s usually what you can expect. For the most part, the track will cover the cost of repairing the broken tire wall or whatever you hit. Yes, it can be rough, but gather any in-car video or data and go home. The big decisions will come the next morning.

Expect to be sore the next day. Many people have more than just money poured into their race car. Damaging or totaling a car can feel like losing a dear friend or a family member. I know this because I still dearly miss my minivan. Just know that beating yourself up won’t fix the dents. Get out into the garage or driveway and take stock. If it’s just body damage, you can get back onto the track in a couple of weeks. If you damaged the chassis or suspension, you might want to look into a new car. Suspension can get replaced, but it can cause massive problems with the chassis. Depending on the value of your car and the frequency of your racing, check out racing insurance before you have to do a full rebuild.

Many racers say that the best way to get over a crash is to win the next race. It will remind you just how much fun it is to race. Just get out on the track and have fun.

The Best Sleepers Sold in America in the Past 25 Years

Many people like to own cars that are beautiful and naturally garner attention. They drive cars like Aston Martins and Jaguars. There are also a lot of people who can’t afford cars like those, but still want their cars to grab attention, so they drive cars like Subaru WRX STI’s and Ford Mustangs. Those cars are loud and proud of it. They grab attention through their noise. It just comes down to a matter of personal choice, and that’s fine.

Many people really like having a car that has great performance, but doesn’t attract throngs of people and law enforcement. Their cars of choice are seemingly Plain Jane cars on the outside, but that doesn’t mean that their performance capabilities are any less than something like an STI.

Here, in no particular order, are the absolute best sleepers that have been sold here in the past 25 years.

  • GMC Syclone/Typhoon: Some of my readers grew up in the 1990s. It was a technological revolution, and also a time of rebellion and shattering societal norms. GMC’s decision to build the Typhoon and Syclone was probably one of their best. 280 horsepower isn’t very much horsepower for a truck, but all the way back in 1991, it meant 60 mph in five seconds. That’s right on pace with a modern Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang. Thank the 350 lb-ft of torque and the AWD system for that. Most people won’t know what they are looking at. They will see an old truck or SUV that is pretty darn small. That punk in the Honda Civic next to them will have no idea that it will blow his doors off at the stoplight. Trust me, you’ll have to have a bona-fide performance car to beat a Syclone or Typhoon in a drag race. Plus, they are very reliable – Jay Leno daily drove one for years without any problems.

    One of the most legendary trucks, let alone sleepers, of all time. It looks so innocent!
  • Mercedes-Benz S600: Even people who know nothing about cars know about the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. They know it’s expensive and luxurious, but nothing past that, really. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice the W220 (chassis generation, just like people know generations of the Ford Mustang as the Foxbody, the SN 95, the S197 and S550) anymore. It still looks dapper, but at this point, it’s generic enough that it flies under the radar with ease. Only us car people will know what they are looking at. Any S600 is going to be quick, but the 2003 update made it something fearsome. The 5.5-liter twin-turbo V12 snarled out 493 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. It’s the banker’s hot rod, just like the Hudson Hornet was in the 1950s. Oh, and if you put a straight piped exhaust on the S600, it sounds like a Formula 1 car.

    While it still looks nice, the average person would brush it off as just another Mercedes-Benz. However, any Mercedes with these wheels will blow the doors off of just about anything.
  • Mercury Marauder: Ford’s Panther platform always had potential for performance, but Ford was always interested in selling Crown Victorias, Grand Marquis and Town Cars to retirees, limo companies, law enforcement agencies and taxi companies that they left most of the performance potential untapped to enterprising tuners. That all changed in 2003. The Mercury Marauder was a souped-up Grand Marquis that had a lot of parts borrowed from the Crown Victoria P71 (Police Interceptor Package). It also borrowed some go-fast goodies from the Mustang. Very few people could tell the difference between a Grand Marquis and a Marauder, but under the generic sheetmetal, the Marauder was something to be feared. It had a 302 horsepower V8 and a heavily improved suspension. It didn’t drive like a Grand Marquis or a Crown Victoria. The entire point of the car was to show the world “Why not?”

    Doesn’t look like much, does it?
  • Volvo V70 R: Station wagons haven’t been the preferred method of kid schlepping in many years, which is a true shame. Even when they were popular, they weren’t cool. Any station wagon that has a Volvo badge on it is going to be recognized as safe, but nobody ever drives a Volvo aggressively. Now, chuck all of what I have just said out of the window. Never think or speak of it again. The Volvo V70 R had an inline five cylinder engine that cranked out 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque that went to the wheels via a Haldex AWD system. It hit 60 mph in under six seconds, which made it ideal for the dad who wanted a Mazda Miata with room for his wife and their kids and dog.
  • Saab 9-2X Aero: While the Subaru WRX is a great car in it’s own right, it’s the exact opposite of a sleeper. It’s loud and it attracts more attention than the cute girl in high school. If you liked how the WRX drove, but wanted something more toned down, look no further than the Saab 9-2X Aero. It used to be that there was no option like the Saab 9-2X Aero. Then some brilliant mind at GM decided that they needed to dive into the compact luxury car market. The result was the Saab 9-2X Aero. It was based off of the WRX, but the interior was much more premium, the car wasn’t nearly as loud, the looks were toned down, but at heart, it’s still a Subaru WRX.

    It’s just a luxurious Subaru WRX. It’s really compact, which is great if you live in a city.
  • Mazdaspeed 6: In the midsize sedan segment, many cars will put you straight to sleep. The Mazda 6 has never been one of those cars, and as such, is always my first suggestion for a family sedan. Even though it’s fun to drive, it’s still nothing special at the end of the day. However, Mazda decided to throw practicality and sensibility out the window. They handed a Mazda 6 over to the brilliant minds over at Mazdaspeed, and let them work their magic. The result was a 270 horsepower, turbocharged, AWD sedan with a six speed manual. Pure brilliance. It could hit 60 mph in under 5.5 seconds, yet looked like an average Mazda 6 to the untrained eye. And yes mom, it still has all the practicality of a family sedan. It just happens to be far faster than any other family sedan.

    It looks like just another family sedan. However, anybody who has read this post knows what’s up with this car.
  • Chevrolet Cobalt SS: The Chevrolet Cavalier was a truly terrible car. While it’s replacement, the Cobalt, was a vast improvement, it wasn’t a good car by any stretch of the imagination. It was an inexpensive car that catered to those who needed a brand-new economy car despite the fact that a three-year-old Toyota Corolla was a much better car. It sold well. Chevrolet somehow managed to redeem the Cobalt. The Cobalt SS was probably one of the greatest pocket rockets to ever race around. It was unexpectedly fast, and incredibly adept on any race course or autocross course. A 205 horsepower version came out first, but the real gem was the 260 horsepower turbocharged version. Even with a gigantic rear wing, nobody expects a Chevrolet Cobalt to be that fast. One way to make it even more of a sleeper is to remove the wing and put on non-SS Cobalt wheels. Talk about a sleeper of epic proportions!

    It looks like just another Chevrolet Cobalt, but with big wheels. Acceleration is best achieved by flat-footing it (where you keep the gas pedal planted, and shift without lifting).
  • Ford Taurus SHO: While the original Ford Taurus was a great car, the original Taurus SHO (Super High ) is a legend in the performance sedan world. The current generation does not look at all like a performance car. It’s a comfortable cruiser and a good police car, but it looks like nothing special. Part of what makes the current SHO such a sleeper is that the automotive press basically wrote it off when it was introduced. Even in the SHO trim, it’s meant for being an effortless cruiser, not a canyon carver. This doesn’t mean that you should try and do a stoplight drag race with one. An SHO can hit 60 mph in just over five seconds to 60 mph.

    If you’re a fan of fullsize sedans and the word stonking fast, look into getting a Ford Taurus SHO.
  • Chevrolet SS: Even though this is a list of sleepers sold in America over the past 25 years, the Chevrolet SS truly deserves to be on the list of all-time sleepers. How many cars can claim the accomplishment of having basically nobody know they exist? While some reviewers would consider it a flaw that the SS blends in with all of the boring cars, it’s actually a good thing. 99% of the people you pass in the SS will think it’s a Malibu, if they even notice it at all. They are wrong because it has a 415-horsepower Corvette engine, a six-speed manual and a magnetic suspension sourced from the Corvette. It’s the car that’s so anonymous that no cop will pull you over.

    Really looks like nothing, doesn’t it? Here’s to hoping that the FBI has good taste in cars and starts using these!

The Best $40,000 SUVs You Can Buy

Until about 2012, one could easily delineate between a luxury SUV and a mainstream SUV. It’s different now. Big players in the luxury SUV market (BMW and Mercedes-Benz) have started to move some vehicles down market in the hopes of snagging sales that would typically go to a mainstream manufacturer. Mainstream heavy hitters like Kia, Hyundai, Honda and Mazda are moving up market in the hopes of wooing buyers from the luxury brands. Let’s say you want an SUV but have a budget of $40,000. This can get you a lot of car. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a luxury SUV or a mainstream SUV. There are many good SUVs to choose from. Here are my picks.

  • Mercedes-Benz GLA250/GLA250 4Matic: While it might look like a hatchback with a body lift, it’s really more than that. Some of us might remember the Mercedes C230 crapback of the early 2000s that was about the same price. Man, was that thing awful! The GLA250 starts at $32,225, and the GLA250 4Matic (AWD) starts at $34,225. That’s a lot of wiggle room for options. You can get the Multimedia and/or Premium packages, both of which give you such goodies as navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system, a rearview camera and heated front seats. That’s a pretty good deal. Throw in the fact that it’s a sporty little crossover, and you’ve got a good deal. You’ve got a mini crossover that is posh and carries the Mercedes-Benz cache. 
  • Audi Q3: The Q3 is another mini crossover, but it’s a very good one. It starts at $34,625 with FWD, and starts at $36,725 with AWD. A good deal for a Q3 would be a FWD Q3 Premium Plus, which starts at $34,625. You get such goodies as HID headlights with LED accents, a panoramic glass roof, leather seats and upholstery, heated front seats and keyless entry/start, all of which are standard. At this point, you can still easily add the Technology and Sport packages without cracking the $40,000 mark. If you need AWD, add on $2,500.
  • BMW X1 sDrive 28i/X1 xDrive28i: The BMW X1 is the cheapest BMW sold in America. It starts off at $32,195 for the sDrive28i and $33,995 for the xDrive28i. It’s a bargain BMW. The result is that you can get a lot of options for less than $40,000, especially with the RWD sDrive28i. You can even get the Sport Line, Technology, Lighting and Driver Assistance packages without cracking $40,000.
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport: Even though the Land Rover Discovery Sport SE starts off at a hefty $38,065, it comes with a lot of bang for the buck. Maybe it won’t break down a ton. It comes standard with a nifty AWD system, an 8-inch infotainment screen, a 5-inch TFT screen for the driver, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera with backup sensors, four (yes, four) USB ports, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control. Throw in navigation ($800) and Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl smartphone apps ($430), you’ll have a sticker price of $39,745.
  • Lexus NX 200t: The NX 200t starts off at $35,405 with FWD, and $36,805 with AWD. It’s a really well-priced crossover for the money. However, you can’t get very many options, because just about everything is bundled into some sort of package. The best deal for the NX 200t would be an AWD NX 200t with the Navigation Package, which includes Lexus’s Enform apps, and it will even stay below $40,000.
  • Lincoln MKC: This is Lincoln’s newest entry into the luxury world. For the past five years or so, they’ve been blundering around the woods with a bag over their heads. None of their cars have been successful lately, and that’s a problem for them. They hope to change that with the MKC. It starts off at $33,995 for FWD models and $36,490 with AWD. It has a lot of standard features including an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, two USB ports, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s even more wiggle room with FWD MKCs, and for a touch under $39,000, you get navigation, a panoramic sunroof, leather and a hands-free liftgate.
  • Lincoln MKX: Yeah, I know. Two Lincolns in a row. Yowza. The MKX is larger than the MKC, but it’s still a good buy, even if it costs $39,025. You won’t have any wiggle room with this one, but that’s OK. You get the Ford/Lincoln SYNC infotainment system, a rearview camera, a 10-speaker high-quality audio system and keyless entry/start. Just because you go for the base model doesn’t mean that you will be sorely lacking in power. The standard engine in the MKX is a 3.7-liter V6 that is expected to crank out 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine that’s in the base-model Ford Mustang.
  • Acura RDX: Acura has long been a heavy hitter in the bargain-basement fun-to-drive luxury segment. Even though the RDX has gone up in price, it’s still an incredibly good buy. It comes standard with LED headlights, a premium ELS sound system, a power liftgate, a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity, all for just $36,190 with FWD models. AWD models are a tad more at $37,690. Even getting the Technology Package will keep the price below $40,000 in FWD models. If you buy an AWD model, you can get the AcuraWatch safety features. The problem is that you can only get one or the other, as getting both packages will crack the $40,000 mark regardless of whether you have FWD or AWD.
  • Volvo XC60 T5 E-Drive/XC60 T5 AWD: Volvo has long been known for their bang for the buck. Their best-selling crossover comes standard with many great features such as City Safety automatic emergency braking, a 7-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth connectivity and 18-inch alloy wheels. The FWD T5 E-Drive starts off at $37,395, while the AWD T5 AWD starts off at $38,895. The XC60 is right at the same price as many other comparable luxury crossovers. You won’t be able to get many options in the XC60, unfortunately, as many options are bundled into expensive packages that will send the sticker price well over $50,000.
  • Volvo XC70 T5 E-Drive/XC70 T5 AWD: The Volvo XC70 was one of the first crossover wagons to go on sale. Since then, it’s been a staple in the Volvo lineup. It starts off at $38,095 for the T5 E-Drive and $39,595 for the T5 AWD. It doesn’t come with a ton of standard or optional features. It’s also not the best-seller in Volvo’s lineup, as it’s showing it’s age. Volvo has tried to spice it up with a recent refresh and new powertrain options, but buyers would rather buy an SUV than an aging wagon.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great value. It starts off at a cheap $30,990 for RWD models and $32,990 for 4WD models. It offers a great combination of luxury and proven off-road capability. It comes standard with Fiat Chrysler’s amazing UConnect infotainment system, keyless entry/start and a 7-inch TFT display. Because it starts at such a low price, you can buy gadgets and goodies, or step up to higher trim levels. If you want navigation or the optional turbodiesel engine, be prepared to fork out more than $40,000. The navigation system doesn’t come with a package. You have to step up a couple of trim levels. Oh, and it’s built like a gigantic LEGO set. You can easily swap in better suspension, wheels, and just about anything you could think of.
  • Jeep Renegade: The Jeep Renegade is the replacement for the awful Compass and Patriot. It starts off at $18,990 and goes all the way up to $26,990. While it might be the cheapest new Jeep, it’s also in Wards Auto’s 10 Best Interiors for 2015. A fully loaded Renegade won’t even come close to $40,000, which is a good incentive for value-oriented buyers. It offers class-above equipment, a very nice interior and the Trailhawk models have decent offroad capability.
  • Buick Enclave: It’s certainly not the newest three-row crossover on the market, but it’s a very good one, despite having been introduced all the way back in 2008. You can get it in base model form for $39,975. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system, a rearview camera, remote start and a power liftgate. I’m speaking from experience when I say you should seriously consider it. It’s quick, quiet, and incredibly comfortable for every passenger. It has a lot of space, and gets decent fuel economy for something so large.
  • Buick Encore: Despite being tiny in size, the Encore is a pioneer in the subcompact luxury crossover market. It was also the first of its kind in the segment. It starts off at an incredibly affordable $24,990, and even fully loaded falls far short of the $40,000 mark. It’s got a quiet interior for the segment. It’s a good choice for large city dwellers who need a car, but need it to have space but be small.
  • Ford Edge: Even though it doesn’t have that luxury cache to it, the Ford Edge offers plenty of luxurious amenities. Even if you don’t want to spend more than $40,000, you can get an Edge Titanium with AWD and gadgets such as SYNC with MyFord Touch, navigation and a Sony audio system. You could also get a sparsely-optioned Edge Sport with it’s twin turbo V6 and navigation if you want more power.
  • Ford Explorer: You don’t need to get the Ford Explorer Limited to be well-equipped in one. While the Explorer starts off at $31,645 for FWD models and $33,645 for AWD XL models, your best bet is the $34,345 XLT, which has many more standard features than the XL. Getting the XLT nets you rear parking sensors, keyless entry/start and a 10-way power driver’s seat. You can also get navigation, SYNC with MyFord Touch, remote start, a nine-speaker audio system and heated front seats without coming close to $40,000.
  • Nissan Murano: The 2016 Nissan Murano has a design that certainly isn’t for everybody. It’s aggressive and daring. You can make it even more daring with vibrant paint colors. Even though it looks upscale, you don’t need to go for the range-topping Platinum model to have a well-equipped Murano. The base model Murano starts off at $30,445 with FWD and $32,045 with AWD. Both the SV and SL models offer plenty of conveniences and gadgets including navigation, NissanConnect apps, remote start and two USB ports. While an AWD Murano SV will set you back $39,435, you get a lot of good stuff with it. You get all of the standard SV features, plus Nissan’s Around View camera feature, a premium Bose audio system, leather upholstery and seats and adjustable ambient lighting. That sounds like a good buy to the adventurous, but value-oriented buyer.
  • Nissan Pathfinder: It’s no longer the rugged offroader that it used to be. It’s now more of a mall-roader. It starts off at $30,515 for FWD models and $32,205 for AWD models. The SL trim is the best out of the vast range of models, due to its standard remote start, a power liftgate and leather seats and upholstery. However, other tech goodies will be out of reach, due to the fact that they are stuck in expensive packages.
  • Hyundai Tuscon: The 2016 Tuscon is completely redesigned. In every trim, especially the Limited model, the Tuscon offers value, class-above features and a dizzying array of electronic wizardry in one incredibly stylish package. Regardless of drivetrain choice, the Tuscon Limited doesn’t even come close to $40,000. If you check each and every option box, you will have everything from a 4.2-inch TFT display to navigation to such safety features as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Hyundai has long been known to pack immense value into their SUVs. The Santa Fe Sport is no exception. It starts off at $25,845. Regardless of whether you get it with FWD or AWD, or different engines, it’s still a very good buy. You can check just about every option box and still not be close to $40,000. For anywhere from $30,000-38,000, the Santa Fe Sport will give you an Infinity Logic 7 audio system, navigation, a panoramic sunroof and a hands-free power liftgate. That sounds like a lot of value for not very much money to me.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe: The Santa Fe is just the three-row version of the Santa Fe Sport. It remains a very compelling buy in its segment. It starts off at $31,295. It comes with a host of standard features including blind spot warning, keyless entry/start and a hands-free power liftgate. Those come with the $36,545 GLS model. However, you can’t get navigation with the GLS, as that comes with the expensive Ultimate Package, which crakcs $40,000.
  • Toyota Highlander: The wildly popular Toyota Highlander is a good buy. It starts off at $30,650. The $37,870 FWD XLE and $38,935 AWD XLE models are the best buys. The XLEs come with the Entune infotainment system, which includes navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen, keyless entry/start and heated front seats thrown in for good measure. Throw in the legendary Toyota reliability and you’ve got yourself one helluva good deal.
  • Kia Sorento: Kia and Hyundai both are well-known for their value injections in every vehicle. The Sorento is the sister to the Santa Fe. The Sorento starts off at a reasonable $25,795. You can get a nicely optioned Sorento EX with either FWD or AWD, or a V6 or turbocharged four cylinder. The standard features on the EX are many, so I’ll just list a few. You get a nifty 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, a 7-inch TFT screen, an Infinity Logic 7 high-quality audio system, keyless entry/start and leather seats and upholstery.
  • Honda Pilot: The newly-released 2016 Honda Pilot looks promising to me. It’s got more space than before, better looks than before, and has more features than any other Honda SUV. It starts off at an affordable $30,875 to boot. For the best bang for the buck, go with the EX-L trim with navigation, as you will get the LaneWatch system, Honda Link with an 8-inch main screen and a power liftgate for just a tad under $40,000, even with AWD. That sounds like a good deal to me. 
  • Mazda CX-3: Talk about something that really punches far above it’s weight! It starts off at an incredibly affordable $20,840, but even fully loaded, won’t go past $30,000. The best one to get is the range-topping Grand Touring model. It has a beautiful interior filled with white/black leather/suede upholstery, an amazing infotainment system and a delightful Bose audio system. Throw in some fun driving dynamics for good measure, and you have a winner.
  • Mazda CX-5: The Mazda CX-5 is basically the sports car of the compact SUV segment. It brings goodies that were previously unobtainable to the average person into reach. These goodies include a neat infotainment system and LED headlights. A base model CX-5 starts off at $22,675. While a fully-loaded one won’t come close to $40,000, a $33,655 compact crossover is a bit pricey. But, you will get such safety aids as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Many of the CX-5’s competitors don’t even offer these gadgets. Don’t get the smaller 155 horsepower 2.0-liter four cylinder (it’s a great engine), rather, go for the more powerful 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four cylinder. The smaller engine doesn’t have much of a noticeable fuel economy advantage over the bigger engine.

Those are the best SUVs and crossovers you can buy for under $40,000. They are all great choices, depending on what you are looking for. Of course, I highly recommend you test drive at least some of them before you settle on one!

I apologize for the extreme delay in posting. I’m just crawling out of the pit that is midterms.

The Bentley Continental GT3-R is the Car that Embodies the Bentley Spirit

The Bentley brothers envisioned a grand touring car that had all of the bells and whistles, yet could pack a walloping punch against any other car on the road. The 2015 Bentley Continental GT3-R checks each and every one of those boxes. Here’s why:

The car is big, luxurious, powerful, and faster than a car it’s size should be. It’s a bit like watching a Clydesdale winning the Kentucky Derby. It’s big and ungainly, but it gets the job done quickly. It’s insanely loud. It will shame most cars on just about any paved road. It’s also incredibly comfortable.

The car is so loud that Motor Trend got in trouble at two race tracks when they tested it. Yes, two race tracks. In a Bentley. But the exhaust note is addictive.

The Bentley brothers envisioned a car that could cover vast amounts of land at high speeds, but keeping the occupants in the lap of luxury. The Continental GT3-R is the perfect embodiment of that vision.

It’s a very large car, but the way it drives, you wouldn’t think it would. I’m going to drop a video that Motor Trend did on it a while back for you.

The Best Supercars of the 1990s!

The 1990s was the time when performance cars really started to get that oomph back. The supercars of that era still have jaw-dropping performance, and their designs are some of the most beautiful to ever howl and thunder their way down our roads.

They had no environmental restrictions, and they were the pure intent of the designer and engineers. These are the ones I view as the best.

  • 1993 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport: The predecessor to the legendary Bugatti Veyron, the EB110 Super Sport was capable of 216 mph, which is still a blistering speed. Yet, it had a comfortable and luxurious interior. Oh, and it had a quad-turbo V12.
  • 1998 Dodge Viper: Dodge’s Viper was a formidable car to begin with. However, it didn’t really compete with any of the European supercars. That changed pretty quickly when Dodge shoehorned a massive 8.0-liter V10 under the hood. It made 450 horsepower and topped out at 180 mph. It wasn’t as fast as the EB110 Super Sport, but it was much faster on a race track or winding road.
  • 1995 Ferrari F50: The F50 was slower than the legendary F40. It was the successor to the F40 and the predecessor to the Enzo. However, it was still incredibly fast and rare, with only 349 built.
  • 1990 Jaguar XJR-15: This was the world’s first completely carbon-fiber car. Jaguar only built 53 examples of this car. It had a 450 horsepower V12.
  • 1992 Jaguar XJ220: This Jaguar was one wild child. It had a 540 horsepower twin-turbo V6. It was the fastest car in the world in 1992, topping out at 212 mph. The McLaren F1 beat it in 1993.
  • 1993 Lamborghini Diablo VT: The Diablo VT could reach speeds over 200 mph. It was the first AWD halo Lamborghini. It’s also a car that many people have as their screen savers!
  • 1996 Lotus Esprit V8: The Esprit V8 was in that weird space between high-end sports car and supercar. It had a twin-turbo V8 that made 350 horsepower. It put the power to the ground via a five-speed manual. It was also the first all-aluminum Lotus design. Oh, and you can look like James Bond (providing the car runs)!
  • 1999 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR: This was more race car than street car. It made 604 horsepower out of a V12. Does it look expensive to you? It should. The Guinness Book of World Records pegged it as the most expensive car in the world in 1999, at a cool $1,547,620.
  • 1993 McLaren F1: The world’s only three seat supercar, the McLaren F1. It made 627 horsepower out of a BMW V12. It was the fastest car in the world from 1993-2005. It’s top speed is a crazy 240.1 mph. The car that beat it was the Bugatti Veyron, which just so happened to beat it’s own record a few years ago.
  • 1997 Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion: “Strassenversion” means “street version” in German. This Porsche made 537 horsepower from a 3.2-liter twin turbo flat six cylinder engine. There are about 25 that exist worldwide. Do the math. You’ll likely never see one. You’ve also probably never heard of it.

Well, those are what I think are the best supercars of the 1990s. Tell me what you think!

I’m having technical difficulties with WordPress and photos. I will resolve the problem as soon as I can, but you are going to be without pictures until then.

The Horrible Car TV Formula

I can easily say that I’m a very car-obsessed 17-year-old. I’m usually found drooling over pictures of cars I can only dream of affording or watching video reviews of said cars. Like most of my peers, I find fart jokes quite refreshing, pun intended. I’m in that demographic that networks really desire when they launch a new automotive show. Why is it, then, that I’d rather sit down and watch NCIS?

The phrase that really describes the ability to capture something truly unique is “lightning in a bottle.” It also means that the person who captures that magic has no idea how to do it again.

This is the inherent problem with network executives. They could take chances and introduce new genres, take chances that pop up out of the blue, but no. They know that we as a public are creatures of habit that will binge-watch something that barely hits a few pleasure centers.

If you remember “Survivor,” then you know what I’m talking about. The network executives went out on a limb. It turned out to be a smashing success.

Want to know why TMZ exists? Watch an episode of “My 600-lb Life.” But seriously, don’t. The ability to derive pleasure from others’ misfortune is the sole reason that we turn on the TV and watch stupid shows like that. Shows like “WorldStarHipHop” make money rain like tequila in a Mexican bar.

The horrible part about all of this is that it’s migrated to car shows. Oh, joy of joys. If you have ever watched an episode of the Discovery channel smash hit “Fast N Loud,” you’re a glutton for punishment. You’ll notice several things first and foremost:

  • To introduce each and every character that portrays a one-dimensional stereotype.
  • Manufacture as much drama as possible.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, this is a synopsis of EVERY episode:

  • Richard Rawlings, the owner of Gas Monkey Garage, gets a tip about some car worth $25,000 that’s been sitting in a field for the past 20 years. He goes to check out the car.
  • Quickly cut to an interview with Rawlings in the studio, where he recalls what he’s doing in real time just so we can’t possibly get confused.
  • Rawlings arrives at the property where the car is. Makes a fuss about the price of said car. Buys the car for $1,500 plus Gas Monkey Garage t-shirts and Gas Monkey Garage tequila (yeah!).
  • Cut again to Rawlings in the studio, where he recalls what we’ve just seen in case we got confused.
  • Some filthy rich college buddy of Richard’s makes an arbitrary $500,000 bet to make said $1,500 car a clone of the car that was in a movie in which all of the actors are dead of drugs, alcohol, old age, or some combination of those.
  • Richard has 24 hours to build the car, and that includes delivering it to the middle of nowhere Australia along with American moonshine.
  • Cut to Rawlings in the studio recapping that.
  • Richard gathers the crew and gives a pep talk about how he will sell his body to science if this build isn’t on budget and on time. THEY MUST NOT SCREW UP!
  • Parts don’t fit, one of the mechanics quits, the car won’t start, everyone at the shop takes the day off for no apparent reason, all of the above.
  • 10 minute commercial break.
  • Five minute commercial break sponsored by Dodge!
  • Remember all of that drama in the third act of the show? Forget it. The car is done, the crew has practiced a skit, but there are no actors, just Gas Monkey Garage employees.
  • Richard meets with rich college buddy. They both get immeasurably drunk, yet Rawlings is still all there.
  • Richard receives the $500,000 in cash. The car is visibly rough and thrown together to anybody who knows anything about cars. Rawlings does a burnout because burnouts equal equality. They celebrate at Gas Monkey Bar and Grill, brought to you by Dodge!
  • Cut to interview with Rawlings in the studio, recalling what we’ve just seen in real time in case we get confused.
  • Repeat for next episode.

“Mobsteel” is an unabashed clone of “Gas Monkey Garage.” It’s relegated to the Velocity network, which tries it’s worst to make the joy of car ownership as exciting as getting an endoscopy.

It prides itself on the “scripted reality first” bandwagon by introducing each and every character first. This feat takes a monumental 13 minutes. That’s right. No car work is mentioned for the first 13 minutes of a 45 minute show! Yeah, that makes perfect sense, right?

Allow me to tell you what’s in those first 13 minutes: the company’s hierarchy. It’s comprised of the wide-eyed owner, his stern wife who deals with the finances, the mechanics who all have one specific task to do, and the customers who have the appeal of a rotting eggplant.

The sole reason that shows like this exist is that they appeal to people who think that custom cars are just another toy for the wealthy. However, the truth is, you don’t need a big budget to make a cool custom car. You can build one for under $15,000 if you are a careful Craigslist and eBay bidder and buyer.

Those same people would also experience a guilty thrill watching the shop literally and metaphorically crash and burn for missing a deadline or producing a sub-par car. They stick around to the end of the show because that’s when the big suspenseful reveal happens.

I will freely admit that those shows do have entertainment value for those who know nothing about cars, it comes at the cost of the often very, uh, interesting vehicle choices that these shops build. Instead, we get great slow motion shots of the mechanics grinding down metal stock for no reason. Oh goodie!

NBCSN, the parent company of Velocity, said that nearly one million folks tuned into the first episode of Mobsteel. It’s certainly a ringing endorsement for this formula, even if it does fall short of “Survivor” and “Glee.”

Why is it then, that I feel like there’s no appeal for automotive enthusiasts on these shows? How can we solve this problem? I can answer the second question easily: go onto YouTube and look up “Roadkill” and “Hot Rod Garage.” They are both entertaining, and are meant to fill that gap. They do that well.

How do I answer the first question? The shows that truly cater to automotive enthusiasts are far and few between, and many are discontinued. “Top Gear” worked solely because of the chemistry between the hosts. NOT the chemistry between the hosts and producers, as evidenced by Jeremy Clarkson’s insane attack on an elderly producer over a hamburger. Yes, a hamburger. It held a special place in my heart because it maintained an emphasis on the love of cars. The cars chosen in each episode told a necessary story, and were just as legendary as their drivers. That’s what Mobsteel and Gas Monkey Garage are sorely lacking.

I’ll hedge a bet that other car nuts like myself echo this sentiment. The shows – the really GOOD shows – are far and few between. They show the love and passion for the automobile, not the love and passion for money like Gas Monkey Garage.

What is the reason that “Wheeler Dealers” is so popular then? It’s only got a modicum of success, but it’s got a massive repeat viewership rate. I really don’t know why. Edd China is about as exciting as that third grade teacher you liked and then met 20 years later.

“Jay Leno’s Garage” is made on a very small budget relative to it’s network counterparts. The show was a YouTube special for several years. Leno recently landed it a spot on CNBC. I’ll update you on that another time. Despite his relatively small budget, Leno pulls in far more viewers than Gas Monkey Garage and Mobsteel.

Shows like Jay Leno’s Garage focus on the love and passion for the automobile, and the smoke and mirrors treated as such. Leno regularly has Hollywood stars as guests on his show, but it’s always eminently clear that they are automotive enthusiasts. In all of the years that I’ve watched his show, I can’t ever remember an episode where there was somebody completely oblivious to the car featured. There are no deadlines, no constant fighting, no manufactured drama or controversy, even though I’d love to see a slap fight between Jay Leno and Richard Rawlings.

Marty and Moog from “Mighty Car Mods” are YouTube giants. Wanna know why? Because they do DIY content and automotive builds with a million-strong audience. It’s organically grown. Any drama you see is because somebody done and screwed up.

We, as generations of automotive enthusiasts, owe it to ourselves to support the indie shows. The entertaining, somewhat educational shows. They open up new automotive experiences and viewpoints to us, but more importantly, they give us more of the automotive content we want, more of the time. How can you not like that?

Otherwise, we’ll all be watching Richard Rawlings screaming at a mechanic of his for no apparent reason other than to get more viewers. Oh, and we’ll all be wearing Gas Monkey Garage t-shirts.

Why Racing is So Dangerous

Racing is inherently dangerous. It always has been. Deaths happen. The racing community is sad for a while, but they move on after a year or so.

The tragic death of Justin Wilson, a driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series, shook the racing community. Justin used social media religiously, and many of his fans felt like family.

Social media creates an artifice of closeness. People feel like they are part of the lives of that particular driver. This makes it harder for some people to process the death of someone they felt close to. Fatalities are still very common in the racing world. It’s sad, but it’s true.

Justin Wilson was an incredibly kind, good-hearted person who deserved only the best things in life. However, every race car driver makes a deal with the devil. That deal is that you can get killed, but you’ll die doing what you love. Racing might be safer now than it was five years ago, but it’s still incredibly risky.

The recent deaths of Jules Bianchi, a young French Formula 1 driver, and Justin Wilson, the caring, charismatic British IndyCar driver, have left me wondering if the danger that served as motorsports’ earliest appeal has run its course. Do we, as an automotive enthusiast community, have the gall to handle even more deaths?

Race car drivers in the 1950s through 1970s were modern day gladiators. Part of the reason that people flocked to the races was because of the danger element. The living legends of that era are the ones that survived. Surviving might be a greater accomplishment than any of the wins or championships that they hold. People don’t seem to accept the risks of their sport like they used to. A football player in the 1950s knew that he was going to have a traumatic injury because of the lack of safety equipment.

When Dan Wheldon died in 2011, people walked around the paddock like zombies. People seem to forget that these cars are 200-plus mph death traps that can kill you at any time. People just don’t seem to comprehend it. These cars have become so safe that people have become desensitized to death, and for older race fans (baby boomer age), it’s just part of the racing routine.

Many race car drivers in the 1950s through 1970s didn’t start a family because they didn’t want to leave behind a widow or young children. If you made it to 30 as an IndyCar driver back then, it’s the equivalent of being a front-line soldier who’s been there for 20 years. It doesn’t make what happened to Justin or Jules any less painful, but I think what has happened is that the sport has become so safe that people forget how far the sport has come.

It boils down to this: the marriage of speed, humans, physics, and competition will always produce tragedies. It doesn’t matter what motorsport you compete in. It happens in every sport. Some are just very well publicized. The percentages of deaths in various motorsports may have decreased dramatically since the 1950s through 1970s, but we can’t ignore the fact that death is a foreboding cloud that follows each and every driver. It’s never accepted nor welcomed, but it’s never outside the realm of possibilities.

It’s quite possible that the worst cliche in the world is that a driver died doing something they loved. Duh. If they didn’t love it, they would be doing something else. Nobody holds a gun to their head and tells them to go drive a race car. It doesn’t work that way. They’d much rather die in bed with the spouse of their dreams, not hit a wall at 200 mph or get hit by a flying piece of debris. These drivers don’t have desk jobs.

Being a race car driver is one of the most dangerous jobs one can ask for. Yet, these drivers are at peace with the danger. If they are comfortable with it, then we should too. There’s a racer’s mentality: Racers race, then they mourn.

Yes, we all mourn the losses of Justin and Jules, and I especially mourn the tremendous losses to their families. Jules was just 25, and Justin was 37. Justin left behind a young family. That’s the thing every married racer fears: leaving behind a family.

We would be kidding ourselves if we think that motorsports will ever be 100 percent safe. It has the capability to, but it’s just like being a soldier: you willingly accept the risks associated with your job. You don’t need to fear the reaper if you become a race car driver. Just keep it in the back of your mind.

The Essential 4X4’s You Need to Own!

I could fill this list with military surplus vehicles…quite easily. Or, I could fill it with cool old dirt bikes and ATVs. However, I think these are the best 4X4’s to own before you die. They have that free range spirit, but they make your neck snap when they go by.

  • 1966-1977 Ford Bronco: I could have easily made a list of 4X4’s just in the vintage short wheelbase category. Chevy Blazers are amazing. International Scouts are awesome. Toyota Land Cruisers are a must-have. I think that the Bronco gets the nod. It has front coil suspension, optional V8, and sturdy axles. Plus, it has a lot of aftermarket support, and it is truly a great off-roader. 1966fordbroncooffroad
  • 1981-1998 Suzuki Samurai: If you are afraid to dent your early Ford Bronco, which would devastate the resale value of it, then you should get a Suzuki Samurai. Granted, some of us might not be able to fit behind the wheel of one, but if you can, you owe it to yourself to bash it. They are very inexpensive, incredibly easy to modify, and far more capable than you would think. Plus, they provide many smiles per gallon. 1981suzukisamuraioffroad
  • Deuce and a Half: No, this isn’t one and a half 1932 Fords. Rather, it’s a 2 1/2 ton military transport truck. It’s overbuilt and completely underpowered. It can also handle whatever you throw at it. The M35 Deuce and a Half is so big that it won’t fit in your driveway in the city!m35deuceandahalfoffroad
  • 12-Valve Dodge Ram: While modern diesel pickup trucks have a lot of power, and are relatively quiet, they don’t have the simplistic clatter of old diesels. The engine that started the modern diesel revolution is the Cummins 6BT. You can more than triple the power output without having to take the valve cover off! While the transmissions don’t like the sudden jump in power output, the rest of the drivetrain is stout.12valvecummins6btoffroad
  • Mercedes-Benz Unimog: The Mercedes-Benz Unimog is one of the most capable vehicles ever to head out on any trail. Why? Because it has portal axles, which move the centerline of the axlehousing higher, and have reduction boxes at both ends for even more ground clearance. Plus, they come with crawl ratios that make Toyota pickups cringe with jealousy. Another neat feature is the factory selectable locking differentials.2014mercedesbenzunimogoffroad
  • Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80: It seems that overland travel is the hot new thing nowadays. Even though it appears that it’s just accessories bolted to your vehicle and going camping, that’s not quite it. A good expedition vehicle is comfortable enough for you to drive all day, and capable enough to get over any obstacle that comes your way. The coil suspension, ladder frame and solid axles make the Land Cruiser FZJ80 my choice. Like just about every Toyota off-roader, this rig is seriously overbuilt.1995toyotalandcruiserfzj80offroad
  • Ford F-150 SVT Raptor: Most of us who want a truck would probably like it to be brand new. There’s something to be said about a truck that you can finance at the dealer, is covered under warranty, and can still hit most trails. The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is probably the best vehicle for dirt-roading, and some light trail crawling. It’s a truly incredible truck. It’s got a powerful V8, Fox bypass shocks, and 35-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. There’s a thriving aftermarket for these trucks. It’s also docile enough to drive around town. It’ll be tricky in parking lots, as it’s almost as wide as a dually, but you can still park in an average parking spot. Backup cameras do wonders. 2011fordf150svtraptoroffroad
  • Chevy K1500: Any Stepside pickup from the 1970s is cool. Chevy takes the cake, and eats it too, thanks to the legendary small-block V8, beefy transmission options, and the ability to bolt in K3500 parts. Just do me a favor, and avoid modern paint jobs and big wheels. chevyk10offroad
  • Any Rock Buggy: I still haven’t driven a legitimate rock buggy, but I really want to! Many of these rock buggies are well-engineered vehicles that are years in the making. They can go over any terrain with ease.rockbuggyoffroad
  • Baja Bug: While these little VW Beetles aren’t 4WD, they have cheap thrills. They rival the Suzuki Samurai in the smiles-per-gallon department. Despite the obvious lack of power to the Ford Raptor, they can keep up with Ford’s best in the desert. Plus, they are a fraction of the price. If you want more power, you can easily bolt on a turbocharger, fuel injection, or simply do a stroke kit. bajabugoffroad
  • Land Rover Defender 110: This is proof that the grass is always greener on the other side. Make it diesel with an air of luxury, and a storied history,and we only want it more. This is why I would choose the long-wheelbase Land Rover Defender gets my nod over the Toyota Land Cruiser as a desirable import. It’s got a lot of space in it, great fuel economy, and the legendary British electrical reliability. To address that problem, you can go onto Ebay and buy a new electrical harness that simply bolts in. landroverdefender110offroad
  • Jeep CJ: If you can only get one of the vehicles on this list, get a flatfender Jeep! In fact, you should buy as many as you can. That way, you can build them in every way possible. They are truly the blank canvas of the 4WD world. You can fully restore one, make it a rockcrawler, a sand drag racer, an ice racer, a hot rod, a road racer, or a rat rod. There are never too many ways to build one. Just be careful when you build one, as there are as many ways to build one wrong as there are to build one right!1951jeepcj3aoffroad

That sums up my list of dream off-roaders. I think I should start a Kickstarter to buy all of my dream cars! What do you think Zayzee?