What You Should Fill Your Two Car Garage With

If you had such strong brand loyalty that you had to fill your two-car garage, what car combinations would they be? Here are mine. Tell me what you would fill your garage with!

  • BMW i8 and X5 M: For the moment, the closest thing to a spaceship you’ll get is the BMW i8. It has liberal use of carbon fiber, and it’s fast enough for most of us mortals. The X5 M is fast, luxurious, comfortable, and can haul a lot of people or random things you get. The funny thing is that the i8 gets better fuel economy than the X5 M, and the X5 M is almost as fast as the i8. Sounds like a good combination to me!
  • Cadillac CTS-V and Escalade: Cadillac aimed for the throat when they introduced  the CTS-V in 2004. That hasn’t changed one bit, and we should be grateful. The CTS-V uses a barely-detuned version of the Corvette Z06’s LT4 motor. If you need to haul a bunch of people in the lap of luxury, go for the Escalade. The Escalade radically changed the SUV game in 1999. This might be even better than the BMW combination.
  • Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Colorado Z71: The Corvette Z06 is the automotive equivalent of a fighter jet that an inexperienced pilot can dogfight in. The Z06 will hold it’s own against a flat-out racecar on a track, but you can daily drive it. However, you’d be better off daily driving the Colorado Z71. Get the Colorado with the Duramax diesel engine, and you’ll get great fuel economy and have more fun than with a gasoline-powered Colorado in the process.
  • Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and F-150: You’ll get the utmost in performance with the Mustang Shelby GT350. Road & Track named it their Performance Car of the Year. I can’t say the 2017 F-150 SVT Raptor is the perfect garage-mate for it because it hasn’t come out yet. You’ll have to make do with the F-150, which is a great truck in it’s own right. Plus, good luck carrying anything bigger than a shopping bag or briefcase in your Mustang.
  • Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Grand Cherokee SRT-8: Few unmodified cars can do as well off-road as a Jeep. However, when you build one towards the heavens to explore places few others have been, they tend to be horrific on the street. See, the solution to that is to have a Grand Cherokee SRT-8 for actual streets. If you’re only going to drive a Jeep on the streets, it might as well have 475 horsepower…
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and E63 AMG wagon: Mercedes has a giant killer on their hands with the spectacular AMG GT. We shall see if it will topple the giant that is the Porsche 911. Either way, the AMG GT is a fantastic driver’s car. In fact, Motor Trend named it their Best Driver’s Car. If you need more utility than a two-seat supercar can offer you, but still want to go fast, get the E63 AMG wagon. It’s slower than the AMG GT, but you can take the whole family with you.
  • Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Macan Turbo: Unless you go out and buy a legitimate race car, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS is the closest you’ll get. It’s street legal, so you can drive it to the track. It won’t be at all fun with potholes, speedbumps, and road imperfections, so fill out your garage with a Macan Turbo. If you squint hard enough, you could convince yourself it’s just a hatchback with really big wheels.
  • Tesla Model S P90D and Model X P90D: I’m sure that most of us would love to own a Tesla. The Model S was a groundbreaking car. The Model X is pretty damn cool as well. I’m still holding out for the Model 3, and would love to see a Tesla Roadster version 2.0, but this would be the perfect electric garage.
  • Volvo S60 Polestar and XC90 T8: I’ve always been a fan of Volvos. However, very few of their cars are truly exciting. However, the S60 Polestar is by far the sportiest car that Volvo has offered in a very long time. The XC90 rivals Range Rovers in terms of luxury, but at a much lower price. Go for the T8, and you’ll have a 400 horsepower hybrid to play around with. How can you not love that?
  • Mazda Miata and Miata Cup Racer: It’s just like with Jeeps. If you buy one to build it up to win races, you should have a stock one to drive around. With the ND generation (4th generation) of the Miata, you can get a stock Miata for daily driving, and a full-out race car. The Miata Cup Racer costs a tad more than $50,000, and a loaded stock Miata goes for around $30,000. While not everybody can afford both of these Miatas, it’s likely that nobody on this list could buy the combinations of cars I’ve listed.

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!

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 Best New Trucks for Working and Towing

Pickup trucks are some of the most popular vehicles in the U.S. But, they don’t come cheap. Fully optioned models can fetch prices well over $70,000. Not all consumers want a truck with more bells and whistles than a BMW. Here are my suggestions for the best trucks for working and hauling. If you’re in the market for a new work truck, or know somebody that does, this might be helpful for them!

  • Nissan Frontier: Midsize pickups are probably the best vehicles for deliveries in congested urban areas. The Nissan Frontier King Cab SV V6 4X2 should fit the bill for you. It has a payload of 1,471 pounds with a six speed manual and 1,449 pounds with a five-speed automatic. Let’s say you are a fleet owner in a big city like Los Angeles. The 22 pound decrease in payload will save more money in the long run. You won’t have to worry about burning up the clutch. You can tow up to 6,500 pounds with either transmission. The King Cab SV V6 4X2 configuration has the highest tow/haul capacity of any Nissan Frontier configuration.nissanfrontier
  • Toyota Tacoma: This is the main competitor to the Nissan Frontier. You can get a 2015 model for relatively little money, as the redesigned model is coming out next year. There are going to be massive incentives and discounts on this generation of the Tacoma. The models with the available, sturdy 4.0-liter V6. The PreRunner model with 2WD has a payload rating of 1,500 pounds and can tow 6,500 pounds. Stepping up to the Double Cab (crew cab) will retain the towing capacity, but payload drops to 1,305 pounds. It just boils down to whether you want a Toyota or a Nissan.toyotatacoma
  • Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon: The Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon used to be only good for work trucks. However, the redesigned Colorado and Canyon are incredibly refined trucks. Their ride has been compared to a car’s. An extended cab with 2WD, a four-cylinder engine, and a six-speed automatic is the most affordable model. That truck can haul 1,580 pounds and tow 3,500 pounds. Should you need to tow more, you can get the Z82 trailering package, which bumps the towing capacity up to 7,000 pounds, regardless of configuration. The highest payload rating for the V6 model is 1,560 pounds with the crew cab body, the short bed, and 2WD. The new 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine will arrive for the 2016 model year (fall of 2015). That model will tow 7,700 pounds with 2WD and 7,600 pounds with 4WD.chevroletcolorado gmccanyon
  • Nissan Titan: The outgoing generation of the Nissan Titan is old. It hasn’t had any updates since it’s release in 2004. That’s why Nissan is selling the new generation of the truck next year. In the meantime, this generation of Titan is a perfectly good work truck. The Titan King Cab S 4X2 has a maximum payload of 2,102 pounds and can tow up to 7,400 pounds. That’s more than enough for most people. The truth is, if you need to tow and haul more, step up to a heavy duty pickup. Should you need to tow more, the Titan King Cab SV can tow up to 9,500 pounds, but payload drops a little bit to 2,053 pounds. The Titan is outdated, and it shows. The interior looks like it’s from the 1990s, but the powertrain is punchy and the truck handles itself well for something it’s size.nissantitan
  • Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra: The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are true workhorses. Getting a Regular Cab model with the long bed will net you a very good work truck for not very much money. In addition, the 4.3-liter V6 that comes standard with these trucks makes 297 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. That’s more than some V8s! In fact, it produces the most torque of any V6 engine in any pickup truck! The Silverado and Sierra can haul 1,980 pounds and tow 5,900 pounds in this configuration. Should you need a V8, the 5.3-liter V8 is a very good choice. It increases the tow rating all the way up to 9,800 pounds without sacrificing any hauling capacity.chevroletsilverado gmcsierra
  • Toyota Tundra: Toyota has several Tundra models, but a 2WD regular cab with the long bed and the optional 5.7-liter V8 has the highest payload rating of 2,080 pounds. It can also tow 10,500 pounds. That’s what heavy-duty pickups were rated to tow five or six years ago! No matter how else you spec out this truck, this combination is the strongest.toyotatundra
  • Ram 1500: Long one of my favorite trucks, the Ram 1500 is a fine looking work truck. It’s got sharp, clean lines. It doesn’t look big and blocky like the current Ford F150. In it’s most basic configuration, it can haul 1,900 pounds of whatever you want in it’s long bed. If you get the available 3.55:1 rear end gear ratio, it can tow a whopping 7,280 pounds! Step up to the available 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to tow 10,650 pounds, but payload will drop slightly to 1,720 pounds. If fuel economy matters more than towing and hauling capacities, get the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. The small diesel engine delivers in spades. The maximum payload rating for the EcoDiesel engine and the 3.92:1 rear end gear ratio is 1,500 pounds, and it can tow 9,200 pounds. That’s still more than most people will ever use.ram1500
  • Ford F150: While the Ford F-Series Super Duty is one serious work truck, most people don’t need something that heavy duty. The new Ford F150 shows promise. The F150 XL Regular Cab with the long bed and the standard 3.5-liter V6 is an affordable lighter-duty work truck. It can haul 1,910 pounds and tow 7,600 pounds. If you need to step up a bit, the F150 comes with an optional 5.0-liter V8. With this engine, it can haul 3,300 pounds and tow 11,100 pounds. If you want to get turbochargers with your F150, get the F150 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. It can haul 3,270 pounds and tow an insane 12,200 pounds.fordf150
  • Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD/GMC Sierra 3500HD: These heavy-duty twins offer more bed/cab/engine transmission combinations than McDonald’s does with their happy meals. A 4WD 3500HD Regular Cab with the long bed, dual rear wheels, and the Duramax diesel V8 can tow 23,200 pounds from a fifth wheel hitch in the bed, or 16,000 pounds from a standard bumper receiver. It can also haul 5,817 pounds in the bed. If you don’t tow very often with a fifth wheel, but do tow a lot with the standard receiver, you should go with the aforementioned model, but with a Crew Cab. That model can tow 19,600 pounds with the standard receiver or a still-impressive 22,600 pounds from the fifth wheel. Payload for that model is rated at 5,205 pounds. If all you care about is hauling stuff in the bed, get a 2WD Regular Cab with the long bed, dual rear wheels and the 6.0-liter gasoline-powered V8. That model can haul 7,374 pounds and still tow 14,200 pounds with either hitch.chevroletsilveradohd gmcsierrahd
  • Ram 3500 Heavy Duty: The Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Regular Cab 2WD with dual rear wheels and the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel inline six cylinder engine can tow 30,000 pounds. Payload for that model is a respectable 6,580 pounds. The 2016 model (I’ve been talking about the 2015) can tow as much as 31,200 pounds. Going from the diesel engine to the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 will diminish towing capacity to 16,520 pounds. However, payload capacity goes all the way up to 7,390 pounds.ram3500
  • Ford F-Series Super Duty: If all you want to do is tow, go for the Ford F450, which delivers in spades. The monster comes in one configuration only: Crew Cab, long bed, dual rear wheels, 4WD and the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8. It can tow 19,000 pounds from the standard receiver and 31,200 pounds from the fifth wheel. It can also haul 5,450 pounds. For those who don’t care as much about towing, but hauling is more important, there is an F-Series Super Duty for you. The 2WD F350 Regular Cab with a long bed and dual rear wheels can haul 7,260 pounds. It doesn’t matter if you get the 6.2-liter gasoline-powered V8, or the Power Stroke if you want to tow – it will tow 12,500 pounds from a standard receiver.fordf450 fordf350

You know that automotive technology has advanced so far that you realize that when you throw around terms like “respectable” for trucks that can tow and haul massive amounts of whatever you want! Tell me your choice of truck, and if you have one of these trucks! If you’re in the market for a new work truck, I hope that this list helped you narrow it down somewhat!

 

How the Lamborghini V12 Has Evolved Over the Years

Lamborghini is perhaps best known for it’s screaming V12-powered supercars that seem to defy physics. Here’s how these screaming machines have evolved.

  • 1966 Lamborghini Miura: The first Lamborghini supercar was the Miura, which debuted in 1966 at the Geneva Motor Show. It was the first of the big Lamborghinis. Of course, the big ones are the ones that scare you just by unlocking them. That’s how you know a car is fast. The Miura made 350 horsepower, which was more than enough to move a car that weighed under 3,000 pounds.

    It's one of the most captivating designs of the 20th century, especially in red.
    It’s one of the most captivating designs of the 20th century, especially in red.
  • 1969 Lamborghini Miura S: It was basically a facelifted Miura with an extra 20 horsepower. Oh, and Miles Davis crashed one when he was high on cocaine. A man very revered in the racing world, James Glickenhaus, pulled the high and bloody Davis out of his totaled Lamborghini.

    Lamborghini really delivered with this one...
    Lamborghini really delivered with this one…
  • 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV: The final iteration of the Miura brought the power up to a then-absurd 385 horsepower, and lost the frilly eyelashes that previously surrounded the headlights. Lamborghini also came up with what was then a novel idea, splitting up the lubrication for the gearbox and transmission.

    This was the best iteration of the Miura. The most power, lightest weight, and all of the kinks were ironed out.
    This was the best iteration of the Miura. The most power, lightest weight, and all of the kinks were ironed out.
  • 1974 Lamborghini Countach: The curvaceous Miura was replaced by the blocky Countach, a car that looks like it was designed by a high school geometry student. It was a good car, but it was not without it’s flaws. Visibility was like looking out of a concrete bunker 50 feet below the ground. Another complaint was that the car was a much better pinup than it was a car. Just about every boy in the 1970s had a poster of a Lamborghini Countach hanging on his bedroom wall. The first version of the Countach had no massive wing and 370 horsepower.1974 Lamborghini Countach
  • 1978 Lamborghini Countach LP400S: The LP400S lost 20 horsepower, but it also got wider wheels. The 1974-1977 models had skinny little wheels and tires that had no grip to them. That famous gigantic rear wing was an option that looked super cool, but cost you 10 mph.1978 Lamborghini Countach LP400S
  • 1982 Lamborghini Countach LP500S: Just about the only change to the 1982 version of the Countach was the introduction of a 4.7-liter V12.1982 Lamborghini Countach LP500S
  • 1985 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV: This is my dream Countach. The engine was a 455-horsepower 5.2-liter V12. Interestingly enough, when Lamborghini switched from carburetors to fuel injection on the very same engine, horsepower dropped to a still-impressive 414 horsepower.

    It should be obvious why this is my dream Countach...
    It should be obvious why this is my dream Countach…
  • 1988 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition: It was mechanically identical to the LP5000 QV, but it had a body that Horacio Pagani (yes, that Horacio Pagani) redesigned. It was a love it or hate it design, and most people fell on the side of hate. I don’t know why. It’s still blocky, but it’s a good looking car.1988 Lamborghini Countach 25h Anniversary Edition
  • 1990 Lamborghini Diablo: Marcello Gandini started the design, and Chrysler’s Tom Gale finished it. It had a 5.7-liter V12 cranking out 492 horsepower. It’s top speed was a then-diabolical 202 mph, which exceeded the initial target by six mph. It didn’t come with power steering.

    I'm not sure I'd want to go 202 mph in a car with no power steering, especially with no electronic nannies to save me.
    I’m not sure I’d want to go 202 mph in a car with no power steering, especially with no electronic nannies to save me.
  • 1993 Lamborghini Diablo VT: The Diablo VT was the first AWD car from Lamborghini. It could send up to 25 percent of it’s power to the front wheels, which drastically helped it’s traction. It also had redesigned intakes to improve cooling, a new interior, and various cosmetic changes to differentiate it from the “base” Diablo.1993 Lamborghini Diablo VT
  • 1995 Lamborghini Diablo SV: The SV was supposed to be the most diabolical Diablo out there. Because of this, it had 510 horsepower and RWD. It was also the cheapest Diablo available, which really doesn’t make sense.

    Yes, those wheels are stock, and super cool!
    Yes, those wheels are stock, and super cool!
  • 1995 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster: It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a Lamborghini Diablo VT with an electric folding carbon fiber top. Power went up to 530 horsepower for 1998.1995 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster
  • 1999 Lamborghini Diablo: The 1999 model was the first year that the Diablo didn’t have pop-up headlights. Instead, the SV model, which was the base model, had the same headlights as the Nissan 300ZX. I’m not joking. It also got a new interior, ABS, and power was now at 530 horsepower. The Diablo VT got the same upgrades.1999 Lamborghini Diablo
  • 1999 Lamborghini Diablo GT: Talk about absurd. The Diablo GT was basically a race car for the road. It was stripped down, the bodywork was substantially different from other Diablos, and it had a new 6.0-liter V12 making 575 horsepower. It was incredibly fast.

    Looks can be deceiving. It might look somewhat similar to the 1995 SV model, but it is very different.
    Looks can be deceiving. It might look somewhat similar to the 1995 SV model, but it is very different.
  • 2000 Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0: The final iteration of the Diablo got a redesign that made it look much smoother, thanks to Audi’s purchase of the company. The more subdued design, coupled with the engine from the Diablo GT made it a much better car to drive and look at.2000 Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0
  • 2002 Lamborghini Murcielago: Yes, I know that it means “bat” in Spanish, but it is still a very intriguing car. Don’t let the name get to you. It was the first V12-powered Lamborghini to be designed and engineered in-house. It had 572 horsepower, and was only available with AWD. It also made extensive use of active aero and active cooling to keep the exterior of the car relatively clean-looking. It was also the first time that an automated manual transmission was offered in a Lamborghini. A roadster followed in 2004, with an overly complicated manual roof.2002 Lamborghini Murcielago
  • 2006 Lamborghini Murcielago LP640: The big Murcielago now made 632 horsepower from its 6.5-liter V12, and it had a slightly revised body. Carbon ceramic brakes were an option, just in case you really wanted to show how well your supercar could stop.Lamborghini Murcielago in/um Sant Agata_Bologna
  • 2008 Lamborghini Reventon: The Reventon was essentially a rebodied Murcielago LP640. It was inspired by fighter jets, and as such, had creases and angles galore. It had an interior like a fighter jet cockpit, which meant it was extremely cramped, but it had a unique TFT display, instead of analog gauges like the Murcielago. Lamborghini only built 21 coupes and 15 roadsters.2008 Lamborghini Reventon
  • 2009 Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SV: The fastest Murcielago ever to leave the Lamborghini factory doors was the LP670-4 SV. It had 661 horsepower, a heavily revised body, a stripped interior, and came standard with a massive wing. The wing limited it’s top speed to 209 mph. The optional smaller wing brings the speed up to 212 mph, but also provides less downforce. You could get it with either the clunky automated manual or a true six speed manual. I really want to have one with the big wing and the six speed. Help me find one!

    How can you not want something like this, especially when it reeks of awesome?
    How can you not want something like this, especially when it reeks of awesome?
  • 2012 Lamborghini Aventador: The Aventador picked up where the Reventon left off. It’s all creases and angles, and is one of the most intimidating-looking cars in the world. The 6.5-liter V12 pumps out 691 horsepower, and sends power to all four wheels through one of the worst transmissions ever. It can never replicate the same shift. You either get shoved back into your seat, or you get an imperceptible shift. For something that costs so much, it should have a good transmission. A roadster is also available.2012 Lamborghini Aventador
  • 2013 Lamborghini Veneno: Like the Reventon, the Veneno is another extreme styling exercise. Lamborghini really went all out this time in terms of design and price, as the car cost upwards of $4 million. There are four coupes (one is in the Lamborghini museum), and nine roadsters.

    The styling might be quirky, but the performance is not.
    The styling might be quirky, but the performance is not.
  • 2015 Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV: This might very well be the ultimate Aventador. It’s certainly the fastest. It proved itself by going around the legendary Nurburgring racetrack in 6:59. It’s just seconds off the Porsche 918 Spyder’s lap time of 6:57. The SV has 750 horsepower, AWD, heavily revised aerodynamics, and is 110 pounds lighter. And yes, Lamborghini has confirmed that they will make a roadster version of it.

    And there you have it. The latest in a long line of high-performance cars. This is the most diabolical, yet civilized of them all.
    And there you have it. The latest in a long line of high-performance cars. This is the most diabolical, yet civilized of them all.

Why You Should Buy a Classic Station Wagon

Most Americans over the age of 40 grew up waging hell in the backseat of a station wagon. Most of those station wagons were Buicks, Fords, Oldsmobiles, Chevys, and Mercurys. Some might have even been Pontiacs.  Here’s why they could turn into the next collector cars.  Those Americans who grew up turning the backseat into a war zone fondly remember them.  That same generation fondly remembers the Smokey and the Bandit Pontiac Firebirds (the one with the “screaming chicken” on the hood), so they buy them.  Station wagons from the 1970s and 1980s are now being bought more.  Prices are going up for these massive beasts.

The collector car market is going crazy right now.  People have more money to spend, and they want to enjoy an older car with their family.  They tend to buy cars that they remember fondly.  That’s why Chevy Blazers, “screaming chicken” Firebirds, and station wagons are starting to creep up in price.  Now is the time to buy them.

For all those people who say that station wagons are dorky and stupid, here’s a response:  station wagons have as much, if not more utility than most modern crossovers, and some SUVs, look better, and are far more fuel efficient.

Some station wagons are already highly sought-after collector cars.  They include the Chevrolet Nomad, antique woodies, and high-performance Pontiacs from the 1960s. However, there are still plenty of station wagons that can be enjoyed.  Here are some classic, and new wagons that you should consider buying.

  • 1991 Audi 200 20V Turbo Quattro Avant:  There is no point in going into the details of the 1986 60 Minutes debacle that came close to killing Audi.  There were some good cars that came out in the company’s darkest days, and one of them is the marvelous 1991 200 20V Turbo Quattro Avant.  This one-year-only package is incredibly rare.  Only 1,000 four-door sedans and about 200 station wagons got this package, and it was standard equipment on the two-door hatchback.  It’s a close cousin to the 1986 sedans that Audi used to dominate SCCA Trans-Am racing.  The twin-cam, 20-valve engine has five cylinders and goes through a five-speed manual to all four BBS wheels.  Maintenance is going to be a wee bit tricky, but enjoying this car won’t.
  • 1950-1991 Ford Country Squire:  This behemoth of a station wagon is what many Americans grew up in.  Early Country Squires are the expensive, sought-after woodies from the early 1950s.  Avoid them unless you have serious money and plans to upgrade just about everything on them.  However, starting in 1960, the Country Squire became the familiar family hauler.  They’ve covered millions of miles, millions of Americans remember them fondly, and they have starred in multiple movies.  They came with a Ford small-block V-8 (usually the 351 Windsor V-8 found in most Fords of the 1970s through the 1990s) and a mushy automatic transmission.  If you get a pre-1976 model in California, you can upgrade it to make the ultimate family hauler.  Just put in a modern Ford Coyote motor (the same engine as the Mustang), a Ford T-5 five-speed manual transmission, and some better suspension pieces and you’ll have the ultimate road trip/family hauler.  They are fairly reliable cars to begin with, and Ford made a lot of them, so finding one isn’t the challenge of the century like the Audi mentioned above.
  • Volvo V60 Polestar:  OK, who wouldn’t want a 345-horsepower station wagon that looks really cool?  Speak now or forever hold your peace.  While a mere 120 cars scheduled to come to the US over this summer isn’t a lot, it’s enough to make it a true collector car.  It’s a fast car, and Volvo has a rich history of deceptively fast station wagons.  It looks really cool with the big wheels, low-profile tires, blue paint, and it’s somewhat-bulbous styling.  Get one while you can, and enjoy it!  This is a car that’s meant to be driven, so drive the wheels off of it.
  • Saab 9-2X:  Why buy a re-badged Subaru WRX because GM said so?  Because it’s a more comfortable, tame early Subaru WRX.  For Saab faithful, it was too Subaru, even though it wasn’t nearly as blasphemous as the 9-7X “Trollbazer” which was just a Chevrolet Trailblazer with different wheels and badges.  For the rest of us automotive folks, it’s a more refined version of the spunky Subaru WRX.  Unlike the WRX, it doesn’t turn the wheels 90 degrees when you floor it.  Unlike other Saabs, you can get same-day service on it by simply going to a Subaru dealer.  It’s a far better car than the sales charts show.  Owners love it, and others snap them up.  They aren’t very big, and are more of a hatchback than a station wagon, but they are fun, reliable little cars that can really take a beating.  That’s something that most other Saabs can’t claim.
  • Morris Minor Traveller:  This cute little station wagon is based off of the popular Morris Minor.  Sir Alec Issigonis started his automotive success career with this car. The Morris Minor coupe and convertible debuted in 1948, and the Traveller station wagon followed suit in 1953.  It came to our shores through 1967. When other station wagons were ditching real wood for fiberglass and vinyl, the Traveller had real ash wood from the tailgate all the way to the B-pillars.  Not only does it look great, but it’s also the superstructure for the back half of the car.  That means you’ll have to sand and re-varnish periodically, but that’s going to be the extent of your automotive woes with this car.  Parts are cheap and easily sourced, and it’s an incredibly reliable car.  Not something you can say about most British cars.
  • Buick Roadmaster/Chevy Caprice:  Yes, they may have been the final gasp of GM’s RWD land barges, but who doesn’t want something that seats eight people, has a (slightly detuned) Corvette engine, and is gigantic?  These behemoths were the final iterations of the big American station wagons that so many Americans grew up in. They are still available and cheap for us to thrash around and haul kids around with.  You don’t need to do much to unlock the true potential of these engines – you just get the Corvette’s ECU, as the engines in these cars were the same as the Corvette’s LT1.
  • Cadillac CTS-V:  OK, most of us would LOVE to own a 556-horsepower station wagon that comes with a six-speed manual.  Look no further than the previous-generation Cadillac CTS-V wagon.  I know that this implies that there is another one coming, which we can only hope for, but this is probably the ultimate family burnout/drift/autocross/trackday/hoonmobile.  Period.  My friend Jonny Lieberman of Motor Trend had one as a long-term car for a year, and I’m still feeling the pangs of jealousy.  It has a detuned Corvette engine, but 556 horsepower is still plenty to rage through the quarter mile.  It would make the ultimate backup car for your local autocross/track day, and it would be a fun daily driver to boot.

I’m sure that many of my readers have some fun memories of being in station wagons as kids…let’s here them!

 

 

1991 Audi 200 Avant

 

1967 Ford Country SquireVolvo V60 PolestarSaab 9-2XMorris Minor Traveller1992 Buick Roadmaster WagonChevy Caprice WagonCadillac CTS-V Wagon Drifting

The Cars that Deserve a Stripped-Down Track Version

Some cars are just born to be demons on the track.  The track doesn’t necessarily need to be a road course – it could be off-road also.  These are the cars that deserve to be stripped down to the basics for maximum fun.

  • Audi TT:  The Audi TT has always been a decent sports car, but it’s always cried out for more power and aggression.  This is why it deserves to have the sound-deadening materials yanked out.  Audi being Audi will never do this, but who’s to say that some very smart person won’t?  In my humble opinion, I think it is perfectly sized for rallycross, which is like autocross in dirt or gravel.  It’s awesome.  Just add a vented hood, a spoiler, more power, beefy tires and suspension, and a rollcage, and you’re good to go.  Audi has a history of legendary rally cars, so it seems fitting to me to introduce it.
  • Chevrolet Corvette:  Yes, the new Corvette ZO6 is truly a monster at the track, but it also weighs more than it should.  I love supercharged engines, but they end up with heat soak after about 20 minutes, and then what?  If Chevy put the C7.R endurance race car’s engine in, it would weigh less and have as much power.  My idea of a ‘Vette track special would borrow heavily from the C7.R parts bin, and would utilize carbon fiber and titanium.  It wouldn’t be cheap, but it would beat just about anything this side of a race car.
  • Jeep Wrangler:  Jeep needs to build a pickup again.  Several aftermarket companies will sell you a kit to turn your Wrangler into a regular cab pickup.  It’s time for Jeep to do that…from the factory.  If Jeep put the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 under the hood, the Wrangler pickup could actually tow and haul.  Better yet, Jeep could put the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 under the hood.  Now, that would be something that would sell like crazy!  It would be big enough to haul dirtbikes, an ATV, firewood, camping gear, and other important off-road items.  If Jeep offered a toolbox where you could store stuff, that would be awesome.  I’m starting to get carried away with this now.  I’m going to let your imaginations continue your dream Jeep pickup.
  • Chevrolet SS:  The Chevy SS is Chevy’s big performance sedan.  It has the LS3 V-8 from the Camaro, and it comes with a stick!  It’s a stealth tire shredder, but it’s not very fast around corners.  If Chevy put the trick suspension and computer electrickery from the Camaro Z/28 or ZL1 in, talk about a real sleeper!  It really doesn’t need more power – it just needs less weight.
  • GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado:  The new Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon are great little trucks.  The Canyon just doesn’t stand out all that much from the Colorado.  Here’s my idea:  Make a street brawler version of the Colorado available only in 2WD (jam the 5.3-liter EcoTec V-8 from the Silverado in, along with the Corvette’s 8-speed automatic), and make an off-road monster version of the Canyon that would compete with the Jeep Wrangler and Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.  It would be about the same size as the Wrangler, yet have more utility.  It would also come with the V-8, but it would be the big Duramax diesel V-8 and Allison 6-speed automatic from the heavy-duty pickups.  It would be loud, and have the perfect gearing for bombing around the desert or rock crawling, thanks to the big tranny.  
  • Jaguar F-Type:  The Jaguar F-Type is already a holy drifting terror.  If you go onto YouTube and find hotlap videos of it, you’ll see what I mean.  It’s too much engine and not enough tire.  Jaguar should start a Formula Drift team with this car.  If they put on less-sticky tires, increased the steering angle, and put in super high gearing, they would have a drifting beast.  I would buy it.
  • Ford Mustang:  It’s the first mass-produced Mustang to come from the factory with independent rear suspension.  Recent reviews haven’t been exactly kind to it, however. They say that it’s chassis is still slightly hairy.  Well, let me tell you something, grumpy overworked people:  GET OVER IT!  This is one of the best Mustangs to come out of the factory doors in recent years.  If Ford irons out the suspension kinks, the Mustang will be a much better car.  I know, I’m harshly critical too, but the Mustang desperately needs to impress.  It’s already got plenty of power from it’s 302 cubic-inch V-8, which I might add, is the second most-popular crate engine sold in America.  I would take it out and put out Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which has twin turbos, but turbos do not a car make, Fast & Furious fanboys.  The reason I would choose this engine is that it is much lighter than the V-8, can easily be tuned to make as much, if not more power, and meets smog requirements with ease.  Oh, and I can mention that it has a race pedigree in endurance racing.

Those are the cars that I think really need a track makeover.  They are all amazing cars in their own right – you should own or drive at least one of them before you die.  Let me know what you think deserves to give other cars a beating on the track.

 

 

The Best All-Weather Cars for the Holiday Season Part 1

The holiday season is a time when many of us travel (sometimes by plane, sometimes by car – I highly recommend by car!) to see our families.  If you’re in the market for a new (or used) car to see your family in, here are my recommendations of 2014.  Some of these cars are new, and some of them are old.

  • 2014 Chevrolet Suburban:  Chevy’s biggest SUV offering has been redesigned for 2014.  It’s got handsome styling, more space, more efficient engines, and it’s just a very good choice if you need the space.  Just one engine/transmission choice is available – GM’s 5.3-liter EcoTec V-8 and the antiqued 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission.  The engine itself is a solid engine, but the transmission favors high gears for better fuel economy.  It’s got four (yes, four) USB ports up front alone, power-folding second AND third row seats, and enough legroom for tall people.  The Suburban can tow up to 8,500 pounds, which is probably more than most people will ever need.
  • 2014 Ford Expedition:  Ford’s gigantic competitor to the Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, and GMC Yukon/XL/Denali twins is a solid choice.  It’s got a torque-filled 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, lots of space for whatever you should find to throw into it, and good value.  However, nothing about it is cutting-edge.  The styling is essentially a warmed-over version of the ugly previous generation, and one can make a good point that it’s a styling regression.  The continuously variable dampers in the suspension likely gives amazing ride quality.  It can tow a lot – up to 9,000 pounds if properly equipped.  That should be enough to take the snowmobiles and off-road machines.
  • Tesla Model S P85D:  This is the real performance car for the family that you want to buy.  Forget the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4Matic.  The P85D’s benchmark was the McLaren F1.  Yes, the first supercar out of England that can still beat a Ferrari.  Twenty-two years ago, the McLaren F1’s 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds was out of this world.  Launching the F1 was an exercise in possible death.  The Model S is as well, but the only noise you’ll hear is your own screams.  While the P85D weighs a substantial 197 pounds more, it’s really not that burdened by the extra weight.  One could say that the P85D was the car that was a long time in the making.  The P85D gets to 60 in an astonishing 3.1 seconds.  The Model S will hold it’s ground through the 1/4 mile, where it’s lack of a second gear will show up.  Because of the extra motor in the front of the car, the Tesla Model S can now be AWD.  That’s a good thing for those of you in the snow belt.  You can laugh at your friends who have to keep their Hellcats inside all winter…and pick them up.

Which Modern Ponycar is the Best?

Modern ponycars have progressed a lot in the past 50 years.  While the Ford Mustang started the ponycar craze, the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger have caught up (and surpassed it) in many ways.  If you are looking for a new ponycar, I hope that this post will help you.

2015 Ford Mustang:  The 2015 Ford Mustang is pretty groundbreaking.  It’s the first Mustang to come from the factory with fully independent front AND rear suspension.  Most Mustangs that had IRS (independent rear suspension) were factory hot-rod specials (Mustang Cobra, SVO, etc.).  Not any more.  The 2015 Mustang comes right off of the assembly line with IRS in any iteration.  Previous generations of Mustang used an antiqued live rear axle circa 1964.  Going over a bump or around a curve was not for the faint of heart.  Axle hop is scary, especially if you happen to be going at a high rate of speed.  Motor Trend recently tested a 2015 Mustang GT, and found that it weighed a whopping 196 pounds heavier than the previous generation.  While this certainly isn’t Ford’s first foray into IRS with the Mustang, the rear end bobbling around while on the gas is not fun, and neither is massive understeer when the gas is let off.

However, that’s NOT how most Mustang drivers are going to drive their car.  IRS pays off big time when you’re cruising in any car.  The IRS is worlds better than a live axle when you’re cruising.  In previous generations of Mustang, one small bump was enough to make you think that the semi in the lane next to you would be the last thing that you’d see.  Think about how much you drive on the freeway.  It’s a lot, right?  Heavier is often better on the freeway.  Not for fuel economy, mind you, but for cruising.  You just feel more planted to the ground.

Powering the Mustang is Ford’s fabulous (and famous) 302 cubic inch V-8 (5.0 liters).  It’s lightweight, aluminum, and it’s got a lot of power.  It’s got 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, thank in no small part to the previous-generation Boss 302’s valves, springs, connecting rods, and crankshaft.  Part of what makes this engine so fun is the fact that it loves to rev.  It doesn’t rev high, but it revs better than a pushrod V-8 has any right to.  A big part of a muscle car is driving around with the windows down and listening to that sweet thundering bellow that these engines make.  Ford’s 302 sounds good…once you put an aftermarket exhaust system on it.  I’m going to hedge a safe bet that 2015 Mustang owners will go straight to the muffler shop right after the warranty runs out.  Putting that power to the ground is either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.  Go for the manual.  It automatically makes a car more fun to drive.  Trust me.  I drive a stick.

The base engine is a high-revving 3.7-liter V6 borrowed from the Interceptor Utility.  It’s a good engine, but my first choice is the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine.  It’s small, but it’s got a turbocharger on it.  I know that a turbocharger does not a car make, but it does in this case.  Here’s why you should get the Mustang EcoBoost:  Lower weight, better fuel economy, and 320 lb-ft of torque.  Getting the EcoBoost Mustang also shaves a massive 96 pounds off of the front of the car.  Listening to the EcoBoost Mustang is fun, thanks to an amplified exhaust note.  It’s got a series of growls and pops, and when you pop the hood, you hear whooshes and whistles from the twin-scroll turbocharger.

Stopping the porky Mustang is a set of big Brembo slotted disc brakes.  Brembo makes probably the best brakes in the world.  They never overheat or lose stopping distance.  The brakes on the Mustang are almost 15 inches tall, and they work great, stopping the overweight pony in just 107 feet.  By no means is the EcoBoost Mustang meant to be a replacement for the Mustang GT – the Mustang GT is a completely different car.  It’s just meant to be a fun alternative to it.  

2015 Chevrolet Camaro:  Ever since it made a big splash in the ponycar segment in 2010, the Camaro has been an entertaining car.  In SS form, it comes with a free-revving LS3 6.2-liter V-8 making 426 horsepower.  It’s got visibility akin to a ski mask, but the burbling, rumbling engine note is almost enough to forgive the visibility.  However, an engine does not a car make.  The SS without the 1LE package understeered my dear friend at Motor Trend, Jonny Lieberman, right off of the track at Willow Springs International Raceway.  That would be traumatizing for anybody.  Not Jonny!  He’s driven just about every current-generation Camaro, and the best he’s driven is the fire-breathing Z/28.  I’m still jealous.  For us mere mortals that don’t have $75,000 to spend on a Chevrolet Camaro, the SS 1LE is almost as good a driver’s car.  It’s simply unflappable.  You’re going to make a mistake before the car does, let’s put it that way.  Why is that?  Well, it’s got specatcular magneothermal shocks borrowed from the Corvette ZR1 and Camaro ZL1.  This is the Camaro to (almost) end all Camaros.  Jonny’s fallen in love with this car – for good reason.  It’s just one of those cars that begs you to go faster around the next corner.  I would kill for a Z/28 Camaro, but until then, my faithful readers will have to get me a SS 1LE.  

2015 Dodge Challenger:  The big news about the Challenger is the Hellcat.  For about $60,000, you can have THE most powerful factory muscle car ever.  It’s not as powerful as the current bunch of hypercars, nor is it as fast.  But, it’s far, far cheaper.  I mean, who doesn’t want 707 horsepower?  If you can’t afford the Hellcat, it’s all good.  You can get the Challenger Scat Pack.  You can get a car with 485 horsepower for under $40,000!  The problem with the Challenger is weight.  It’s simply not a small car.  It’s big, wide, loud, powerful, and it soaks up anything the road can throw at it with ease.  It’s also 400 pounds heavier than the Camaro 1LE.  You won’t notice the weight in a straight line because it’s got more horsepower than it’s rivals.  The Challenger isn’t something you want to take in tight, windy roads.  It’s just too big.  It is, however, the car that you would want to tour the country in.  The Hellcat is insanely loud – I’ve heard one at speed, and it sounds about as loud as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.  It’s that loud.  Dialing the Challenger back into the realm of sanity is the Challenger Scat Pack.  It’s got the 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 from the Challenger SRT8, and it just howls and revs to the heavens.  It sounds like a mini Hellcat, minus the blower whine.  Speaking of blower whine, the Hellcat got it just right.  The engine was so loud that they had to put an amplifying cooling chamber in the supercharger itself to make it be heard.  A job well done, Dodge.  The Challenger is the car you want to take on a road trip.  It’s big, comfortable, it can take two large coolers and luggage in the trunk, and it can take the kids, or two buddies easily in the back.  Driving this with the windows down is the only way to drive it.  You can just sit back and listen the the burbling, howling, crackling exhaust note that sounds right out of a vintage Trans Am race.  Want to know what the Hellcat sounds like?  It sounds like NASCAR, a Ferrari V8, a plane, and a Top Fuel dragster, with blower whine mixed in.  It’s a haunting, addictive melody.  It’s the car that you just want to cruise around in, revving the engine and doing burnouts and donuts in empty parking lots.

Overall, which car would I take?  That’s hard to say.  The Mustang EcoBoost is certainly a good choice, but you just can’t hear the engine itself very well.  The Camaro Z/28 is an excellent choice, too, but it’s a stripped-down track toy that’s not meant for daily driving (case in point:  air conditioning is an option).  The Camaro 1LE is good, too,  so I’d probably get the 1LE Camaro.  The Challenger?  Hellcat, Hellcat, Hellcat!  It’s just the very definition of muscle car.  It’s so powerful that when you’re going straight with ALL of the nannies on, it will still go completely sideways.  Think of another modern car that can do that.  I certainly can’t.

If I had to go with just one of these cars, I’d get the Hellcat.  It’s the very definition of affordable performance, and even a tuner car Mustang with 800 horsepower won’t be the same.  The most powerful Camaro offered is the 580-horsepower ZL1, which handily beats the 435-horse Mustang.  Just go with the Hellcat and let me know when you get it!  I’ll feature you, sing praises about the Hellcat (it shouldn’t be too hard), and never stop saying thank you.

P.S.  Ford made the Mustang Cobra Jet (a factory drag-strip only special) until August, but there are some to be found at various racing dealerships or classifieds.  I’ve even seen a few in Hemmings Motor News.

P.P.S.  Chevrolet makes the COPO Camaro (also a factory drag-strip special).  It’s got more engine choices than the Cobra Jet, and it looks pretty darn cool.

Chevrolet Corvette’s Valet Mode is Like a Russian Dashcam for Parking!

We’ve probably seen at least one of the hundreds of thousands Russian dashcam videos that have gone viral on YouTube of just HOW crazy Russian drivers are.  I’ve seen a fair share of them.  Chevrolet’s software designers must be Russian because of what was just introduced on the 2015 C7 Corvette Stingray.

While there are some great valets out there, there are others that like to “circle the city for parking.”  This can make sports car owners quite reluctant to hand the keys over.  A good number of sports cars offer a performance-reduction setting for just this situation, but Chevrolet is going the whole 9 yards, and including the 2015 Corvette’s Performance Data Recorder as a Valet Malfeasance Recorder.  Valets of the world, beware.

Do YOU really want a valet to go 147 mph in YOUR brand-new Corvette?  I didn’t think so either.  Most valets won’t ever get a car going that fast, especially in a crowded parking lot or city street.  But, never say never.

Should you turn on the unimaginatively named Corvette Valet Mode, and some good things happen to your baby.  Every interior storage area is locked, the infotainment system is disabled (that way you won’t sit down and get an earful of Snoop Dogg), and a 720p camera in the headliner (right in front of the rear view mirror) turns on.  That high-definition camera is paired with a microphone to record audio.  The car’s GPS receiver is turned on to provide vehicle telemetry and location, and 8 gigabytes of SD card storage can capture up to 200 minutes of driving – plenty of time for even the slowest of valets to “find a parking spot.”

That link is a YouTube video of the Corvette Valet Mode.

Should you want to see what happened after you handed the keys over to the valet, you can immediately review the “parking adventure” on the infotainment screen, or download it to your computer later.  An overlay shows speed, RPM, current gear, and g-force.  That’s pretty much the same thing you’ll get when you turn on the Performance Data Recorder.  What Corvette Valet Mode can’t do right now, however, is let you know if the car is being abused (i.e. burnouts, drifts, general hoonage) or let you stream the video remotely to your phone or tablet.  However, I think that the streaming part will come soon, as GM has a perfectly good OnStar system, and now has introduced 4G LTE connections.

What I think that the point really should be is this:  Corvette Valet Mode doesn’t reduce engine power – an odd oversight, AND a feature that would certainly alleviate more concerns about abuse than watching a video of your Corvette hitting a telephone pole at 40 mph.

Is Corvette Valet Mode useful?  Maybe.  Chevrolet is pitching this as a baby monitor for a cherished toy that you spent your hard-earned money on.  But it doesn’t alert you when your baby is crying, unlike an ACTUAL baby monitor.  It may give you some insights when you step outside of the hotel/casino/restaurant and find your Corvette smashed-up against a brick wall.

Who did this?

Or this?

 

Or this?

The Russians!