All posts in “Cars”

Is This Land Rover Defender Camper the Ultimate Overlander?

If you’re reading this, odds are good you don’t need an introduction to the Land Rover Defender. It’s one of the most iconic off-road vehicles in history, having conquered landscapes and hearts across the planet for decades with its squared-off style and terrain-tackling powers. Just because it’s archetypal doesn’t mean it’s beyond improvement, though, and plenty of people have tried to improve on it in the years since it arrived. Some companies, like ECD Automotive Design and Himalaya, have taken the tact of restomodding classic Defenders. Other companies, like Poland’s Land Serwis, use old-school tooling to build brand-new versions to this day. Even Land Rover itself is taking a stab at it, resurrecting the nameplate as an all-new unibody model (one whose success remains to be determined).

Camperhus Conversions of Great Britain has a slightly different idea, though: Instead of trying to make it drive better or look better, the company is turning the famous four-wheel-drive into a camper.

The basic idea isn’t all that different from the concept pioneered by the likes of the Volkswagen Westphalia decades ago: take a boxy passenger vehicle, rip out everything inside behind the front seats and replace it with an Ant-Man-sized version of the basics of a home, then add a pop-up roof to free up some added space. For the case of the Land Rover Camper, as Camperhus calls it, the company starts with a long-wheelbase Defender 110 — shorter Defender 90 models don’t have the space for a full-size bed — and outfits it with a sink, refrigerator, stove, and a roughly-full-size bed that folds out when it’s time to sleep. Water tanks come in 9.5- and 10.5-gallon capacities, while there’s a space for a midsized cooking and heating gas bottle, as well. And while the pop-top isn’t large enough for adults to lie down up there — it’s primarily there to give users space to stand upright in back — it’s possible to fit sleeping arrangements for kids there.

The UK-based company says the basic conversion costs around £11,950 ($15,228); however, you can pump that higher, depending on whether you want to optional features to make it more comfortable, like televisions, toilets and added storage, or more capable, like wheels and tires, snorkels and off-road lights. (Feel free to drool over the possibilities on Camperhus’s Facebook page, which is littered with pics of past builds.)

Of course, you’ll have to BYO Defender, but finding one in England shouldn’t be too hard. Sneaking one over to the United States might take a little more work; so long as you base your conversion around a Landie made in 1994 or earlier, however, the government’s classic vehicle import rules mean you should be able to overlander across America in one-of-a-kind style without too much trouble.

2019 VW Arteon First Drive Review: A 4-Door Flagship Worthy Of the Term

While many carmakers are kicking conventional four-door passenger cars to the curb like yesterday’s garbage in favor of SUVs, see some brands are staying the sedan course. Count Volkswagen among them; as the company notes, conventional cars still comprise 25 percent of the U.S. market, to the tune of a not-insignificant 4.25 million sedans sold in 2018. Intent on capturing that sedan-loving subset of the public’s attention, VW dug deep for its new flagship, the Arteon.  The car is technically a replacement for the CC, which never quite rose to the challenge of being a true range-topper due to middling performance and marginally interesting looks. The Arteon, on the other hand…

The Good: First and foremost, the Arteon’s fastback design is top-notch; it earns a place among the best-looking four-door coupes on the market, perhaps even bettering its corporate sibling, the highly-regarded Audi A7. It also has nimble handling, and an engine powerful enough to move it off the line briskly. And the complement of standard and optional technology features, along with an intuitive infotainment system, give the car mainstream appeal.

Who It’s For: The Arteon is a stylish ride, available in a bold range of colors—most notably, a striking yellow hue. It’s not a fuddy-duddy Passat or an anonymous Jetta; rather, the Arteon is a grown-up car for drivers who care about what they’re seen in, and what appeals to them both aesthetically and practically. 

Watch Out For: Rather disappointing—by which I mean, generally nonexistent—engine sounds. There’s a hint of strain under hard acceleration, but certainly nothing close to a growl. Other times, you can barely tell there’s anything happening under the hood. Of course, it’s not that surprising, as 2019 is the era of ultra-quiet EVs and bank vault-silent luxury cars; still, it’s nice to have some auditory affirmation that your car is excited by the curves.

Alternatives: The Kia Stinger GT is brought up often as a direct competitor to the Arteon, and it has the advantage of a second, more powerful engine option and pricing that undercuts the VW. The Acura TLX also has similar specs, as well as a second engine option. The Infiniti Q50 and the Nissan Maxima are also in the mix. None, though, have quite the visual panache of the Arteon, especially in its chic R-Line trim.

Review: The best flagship models possess two largely undefinable qualities: presence and aura. The former emerges from the vehicle’s stature and dimensions: tall cars don’t usually have a strong presence; low, wide ones generally do. Aura, that je ne sais quoi that renders some cars above the rest, is harder to pin down. A car with a good aura has to look a bit distinct from its underlings. The ultra-premium Volkswagen Phaeton of yore—sold here from just 2004 to 2006—had both qualities. The CC did not. The Arteon? Thankfully, it does.

The new VW has a confident posture and excellent proportions, including standard 18-inch wheels (upgradable to 19- or 20-inchers) and multiple deftly-cut character lines and creases along the flanks and hood. Coupled with the sleek LED lighting and abundant chrome, it presents a strong look from the outside. The R-Line trim throws in a host of black detailing that looks particularly good when paired with the bold Kurkuma Yellow Metallic paint.

The interior feels cohesive and comfortable, with both front and rear passengers enjoying plenty of room and support. The Arteon’s wheelbase stretches five inches longer the CC’s, with most of that room given to the rear-seat passengers. (It’s also only two inches longer than the CC, so the front and rear overhangs are shorter—a staple of aggressive vehicle design.) The dashboard has a narrow, horizontal aesthetic, and all the controls are readily accessible and smartly located. The infotainment system is also well-organized and appealingly designed; it can detect your fingers’ proximity and reveal strips of touchscreen controls, thus keeping the display uncluttered when not being actively used. 

On a drive around Santa Barbara, California, the Arteon proved its flagship qualities are more than skin deep. The engine lets the driver power cleanly out of turns, while the car’s version of the VW Group’s MQB chassis keeps the ride poised and balanced. The car isn’t really a sport sedan; it’s not meant to be caned through canyon roads, but even so, it handles them with admirable composure. The adaptive suspension’s 15 settings help keep things under control, while the all-wheel-drive ably applies power as needed to enhance cornering and maintain traction. It will soak up most of what you can throw it, but it reaches its limits well ahead of the likes of a BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class—as one would reasonably expect, given the price difference.

The available technology also places the Arteon in solid standing amongst similarly-priced four-doors. The 700-watt Dynaudio sound system has 12 speakers and enough juice to comfortably and clearly play above wind and road noise. The infotainment system includes a customizable digital cockpit; that said, it offers limited distinctions between drive modes and display options, which can become frustrating. (For instance, you can display the map on the instrument cluster, but not the main display at the same time.) The Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces, though, are easy to engage and work seamlessly.

The tech extends to driver aids as well: The park assist functionality will assess parking spots to determine if there’s enough room then steer in as you control the brake and throttle, and the increasingly familiar gamut of adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and overhead-view cameras, among other features, are available as well. Owners can also opt for VW’s Car-Net security and service app suite for remote access, vehicle monitoring, and remote-start functionality via smartphone.

Verdict: The Arteon is a sporty ride that doesn’t quite qualify as a sport sedan—but its other qualities more than make up for that. It has an edgy roster of colors that help it stand out more than any other VW at the moment; technology and features sure to endear it to owners; and a design that feels like it will age well, an achievement not many cars can claim. Overall, the Arteon is more than worthy of the term flagship.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon Specs

Base Price: $35,845
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four; eight-speed automatic; front- or all-wheel-drive
Power: 268 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,655 pounds (FWD), 3,854 pounds (AWD)
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city / 31 mpg highway (FWD), 20/27 (AWD)

Volkswagen provided this product for review.

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This New Sports Car Just Became the Best Car for Road Trips

Much like the dating pool, the sports car world has room for all different shapes, sizes and types to fit different tastes. For every person who lusts after a stripped-down, racecourse-ready speed machine, there’s somebody else whose hearts is set aflutter by an open-topped canyon carver or a sleek, luxurious ride designed to cross continents in record time.

So with a portfolio already filled with track attackers like the Senna and the 570S Spider, British sports car manufacturer McLaren is turning towards the grand touring segment for its latest debut. Meet: the all-new McLaren GT. (Yes, that’s the whole name.)

What makes the McLaren GT so good for those long trips that define the gran turismo class? Well, like the best of the type, it balances comfort with performance with impeccable grace. For starters, the two-seat interior has been designed to keep its occupants cosseted on long journeys. Cushy heated seats designed specifically for the GT’s mission come clad in standard Nappa leather, with softer leather or Alcantara faux suede available as options. (Cashmere will become an interior trim option later this year, in a move certain to please George Costanza.)

A digital instrument panel with aircraft-inspired displays serves up all the relevant driving data, while a revised smartphone-inspired infotainment screen between driver and passenger handles most secondary controls. Knurled and machined aluminum controls sit ready for your fingertips’ touch all around the interior, including the drive mode selector knobs and the shift paddles behind the wheel. If you take pride in your road trip mixes, opt for the optional 12-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo; likewise, if you like to let the sun shine in, check the box for the electrochromic glass roof, which can switch from opaque to translucent with the pulse of a current.

A great road trip car needs to offer plenty of room for your gear, of course — and it’s here that the McLaren GT excels in unexpected ways. The cargo bay behind the cockpit is large enough to fit a sets of golf clubs or two sets of skis. And between that area and the frunk in the nose, the car offers a total cargo capacity of 20.1 cubic feet — 3.4 cubic feet more than the commodious Honda Accord.

And thanks to a maximum approach angle of 13 degrees and a maximum ground clearance of 5.1 inches (both with the on-board vehicle lifter engaged), the GT is a veritable overlander compared to most mid-engined cars on the market, hopping over potholes and speed bumps with the greatest of ease.

But GTs aren’t just about excelling on long trips; they’re about excelling on long trips at very high speed. To that end, the new McLaren comes with its own version of the twin-turbo V-8 shared amongst the carmaker’s whole lineup — in this case, a unit tuned to make 612 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, all of which travels to the 21-inch rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Sure, that’s less than in the likes of the lighter 720S supercar, but that doesn’t mean the new Macca will be anything resembling slow; the company claims a 3.1-second 0-60 mph time, with the 0-124 mph dash being dispatched in nine seconds flat. Top speed is 203 miles per hour, which would be fast enough to knock out the 2,813.7-mile Cannonball Run route across America in just under 14 hours if you could magically keep the gas tank full the whole way without stopping.

To keep things buttoned up in the corners, the McLaren GT uses a new version of Proactive Damping Control, the nigh-miraculous active anti-roll control setup that replaces traditional anti-roll bars with hydraulic dampers that adjust to counter body flop without delivering a tooth-shattering ride for an ideal balance of grip and comfort. McLaren says the latest version of its advanced suspension system can react in just two milliseconds. (For comparison: A .45-caliber bullet travels a mere 20 inches in that length of time.) And unlike most new cars nowadays, the McLaren GT still uses hydraulically-assisted power steering, often noted for its greater feedback versus more-efficient electrically-boosted systems.

Want one? Well, so do we, but there are two pieces of bad news we have to deliver regarding that. First off, the new McLaren GT starts at $210,000…which isn’t actually that bonkers, given the prices of competitors like the Bentley Continental GT and the Ferrari GTC4 LussoT. The second one hurts a little more, though, especially if you’ve been reading this story and dreaming of hitting the road for this year’s summer road trip in this Macca: While order books are open now, units won’t reach driveways until almost the end of the year. Guess there’s always next summer.

Here’s How You Make One of the Best Sports Cars of the 1990s Even Better

When it was new, the Ferrari F355 was heralded as one of the greatest sports cars of the era. Reviews at the time raved about the new mid-engined V-8 from the Prancing Horse, calling it “the perfect sports car,” “one of the best cars to ever come out of Maranello,” and “a quantum leap” over of its predecessor, the 348.

How, then, do you improve on the pinnacle of ‘90s sports car performance without losing the spirit of the original? Well, racing driver Jeff Segal — a class winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona — reckons he’s built the answer. Meet the F355 Modificata.

Video: On the Track with the Ferrari F355 “Modificata”

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The descriptor “Modificata”comes from the official designation Ferrari stamps on the cars it tweaks in-house. To Segal, it seemed like a fitting name for his passion project-turned-restomod-outfit. But why enter into the expensive, difficult world of restoring and upgrading vintage cars in the first place?

“For me, the idea was born out of frustration,” Segal said. He admitted he was inspired by cars like Singer Vehicle Design’s customized Porsches and the new Lancia Stratos: “I look at what these boutique firms are doing and I think it’s amazing, they’re focusing on driving dynamics and the experience instead of outright speed. It’s incredible, but it’s also an incredible amount of money.”

Segal wanted to follow suit with his car, to improve it without losing the identity that made it special in the first place. But he didn’t just want to rip off the idea of what Singer does; he’s adamant he’s not trying to compete with outfits like that.


“That level of attention is doable, it’s just a question of time and money,” he said. “If you look at a Singer, they are spectacular. I have the highest level of respect for what they do. I have spent hours looking at one and every nut and bolt on that car is art. There’s not a single part on that car which hasn’t been thought about, talked about, done and done again to try and make it better [and] cooler, but there’s a reason those cars are north of a million dollars. I think it puts that car out of reach for the average wealthy car enthusiast…we’re trying to find a sweet spot.”

The ethos behind the F355 Modificata is to be a better driver’s car in every regard. “From the handling to the sound, to the shifting, to even the aesthetics, all of it,” Segal said. “It’s not rocket science, but trying to put together the best package that leaves the driver smiling is really the goal.”

But how do you make the “perfect sports car” better? Well, as good as the F355 was brand-new, there’s no ignoring the hefty maintenance costs as a) almost any work under the hood requires an engine-out service and b) it’s a Ferrari. (For example, the exhaust manifold can cost north of $20,000 to fix…and mechanics reportedly say it has a 100-percent failure rate.)

But according to Segal, that’s what made the F355 an easy canvas to go to work on, in a way. “[The F355] was a great car in its day, but it’s obsolete in a lot of ways, so there are a lot of ways this car can be made better,” he said. “And we’ve done most of them.”




As a way to hedge against catastrophic failures, Segal bolted in modern, more robust replacements for items like the headers, gaskets and radiators, then reset the cam timing and balanced the throttle bodies in the name of reliability and long-term durability.

To make sure this Ferrari would be his ideal sports car, Segal made plenty of tweaks like adding European marker lights and replacing the bodywork between the taillights with metal mesh to aid cooling like the F40–to swapping new suspension and modern, high-performance brakes. And to be sure there’s no mistaking the Modificata for a stock F355, he swapped in a new exhaust: a powder-coated, free-breathing set of straight pipes that make his car louder than the ‘90s Challenge race car Ferrari built.

Once you open the door and slide into the renovated cockpit, any doubts that Segal isn’t taking this seriously fade away. The dash cloth isn’t just the same stuff found in the F40; it comes from the same shop Ferrari uses when they restore the legendary supercar. He also used the exact same steering wheel as the fabled ’80s supercar, and even and upholstered the carbon fiber race seats in the same material the F40 uses.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, though. Taking the car out on track at Monticello Motor Club, I was able to see just how well all the work came together. Mid-engined Ferraris are known for their balance and poise, but they’re still intimidating.  Yet the first car that came to mind after throwing the Modificata around Monticello was, believe it or not, the Mazda MX-5. Segal has the car so well-balanced, the suspension so well-tuned, a relative novice like myself felt just as comfortable throwing it into turns and throttling out of them as I would have in a Miata.



Yet If you’re looking for lower lap times or quicker sprints, you’re in the wrong place. As good as it is around a track, Segal said that’s not meant to be the 355 Modificata’s natural habitat.

“It’s not a race car, it’s not even a track car,” he said. “But I think there are ways we can make the car better and more competent in terms of its handling without taking away the ride quality. Right now, you can drive it on the highway and it’s fine.”

Above all else, he said he wants to make cars like the F355 more visceral. “Faster is fine, but it’s more about delivering a better experience start to finish.”

And the process of creating a better experience isn’t about to wrap up just because Segal’s ready to let journalists drive his baby. “Somebody asked me how I knew when the car was ‘done.’ The car isn’t done. The car is never done,” he said. “We’re always looking for more.”

If you’re interested in restomodding your own ’90s Ferrari, Jeff Segal can be reached with inquiries through the official Modificata Instagram: @_modificata_
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The Next VW GTI Will Be “Cool As Hell”

The Volkswagen GTI has earned a place near the top of our favorite affordable sporty cars several times over. In part, that’s because the selection is fairly limited; unlike in Europe, hot hatches and the like aren’t all that common. But it’s also because the sporty two-box VW punches well above its weight on many levels: not just performance, but build quality, usability, and the ever-important, hard-to-define quality Volkswagen itself made famous under the term farfegnugen — driving pleasure.

Of course, all that’s only known about the current and former generations of the iconic hatch. An all-new generation of Golf is nearing its big reveal, and with it will come a new GTI — one being born into a new era at Volkswagen, where the carmarker is in the midst of being transformed by its monumental push to electrification in the wake of Dieselgate and in the face of ever-stricter regulations across much of the world. It’s only natural to ask: Will the GTI be left behind?

Well, fear not, worried Waterfest attendees. According to VW’s US boss, the GTI is sticking around, and the next one will be “cool as hell.”

Those three reassuring words uttered by VW of America CEO Scott Keogh come from a recent wide-ranging recent interview with Automobile. “We will be launching the Golf Eight, which will be the next-gen and it will have a GTI, so we’re 100 percent on board [with that model],” Keogh told the publication. “But right now the GTI is going to stay GTI. And the [eighth-gen version of that] will come, and it’s going to be as cool as hell.”

It’s good news for many reasons — not the least of which being the rumors that Volkswagen is planning on axing the regular (I.e. non-GTI and Golf R) versions of the Golf from American showrooms, which Keogh’s “100 percent on board” comment seems to negate. (It wouldn’t be that big a surprise if they did, thought, considering the carmaker sells roughly twice as many GTIs as regular Golfs here.) But it also is proof that the carmaker isn’t giving up on its traditional mission of serving up fun, inexpensive vehicles…which hopefully bodes well for our chances of getting a small Vee-Dub pickup truck here in the US.

That said, keeping things status quo wouldn’t seem to fit the definition of “cool as hell,” so it seems safe to assume the next-gen GTI will score a few updates that’ll keep it fresh and fun. The platform will still be based on a version of the super-flexible MQB architecture found under most of Volkswagen’s current front-wheel-drive-based models, but it’ll likely be lighter and stronger than the version used in the current Golf. An EV powertrain doesn’t seem likely — gas-free performance will be the prerogative of VW’s new ID family of cars — so expect a turbo inline-four to stick around under the hood. That said, Car and Driver claims it’ll likely add 48-volt mild hybrid capabilities, which can improve fuel economy and, as we found out during our test of Mercedes-AMG’s 53 models, smooth out the power delivery of a turbocharged engine. Fingers crossed for the continued choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed dual clutch automatic currently found on the model, as well as the sweet plaid seats that have become a GTI trademark.

The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf is expected to make its debut before the end of the 2019 calendar year, though we in the US will likely have to wait until the following year to snap one up.

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1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS from Classic Car Studio

You can’t escape the past. Or perhaps you don’t want to. Such is the case with this brutally sinister 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS from Classic Car Studio. A customer who wrecked his brand new Chevelle…

2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Review: Don’t Let Its Age Keep You Away

Let’s face it: The second-generation Toyota Tundra isn’t exactly fresh. It went on sale in 2007, then was refreshed in 2014. Five years on from that update, though, there’s still plenty to like about the Tundra, particularly in TRD Pro form. After being dropped from the lineup in 2018, the Tundra TRD Pro is back for 2019—and, thanks to a few improvements, better than ever.

The Good: Legendary Toyota dependability means high resale value. The Crew Max cab offers spacious rear seating and lots of cargo storage. The 5.7-liter V-8 pulls strong, and sounds fantastic funnelled through the TRD Pro cat-back exhaust. It’s surprisingly maneuverable in urban environments, and offers a smooth ride on the highway thanks to re-tuned Fox racing shocks and thickly-sidewalled tires.

Who It’s For: Anyone who wants a new pickup truck that’s simply trying to be a great pickup truck, not a luxury car with a bed: outdoor enthusiasts and action sports types who need their truck to keep up with them every step of the way, or those who often find themselves in wide-open spaces where the impulse to see what’s down a trail or over a hill frequently strikes.

Watch Out For: A 38-gallon fuel tank and a thirsty V-8 make for rough visits to the fuel pump. The EPA estimates fuel economy to be 15 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway, but succumb to the lovely burble that comes from the exhaust when you punch the skinny pedal, and those numbers can quickly drop.

Alternatives: Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew FX4 Off-Road Package ($51,235), Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab ($49,895), Nissan Titan Crew Cab Pro 4X ($48,505).

Review: “Wow, that’s really blue,” was a phrase I heard often while spending time with the 2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. Toyota’s “VooDoo Blue” is an eye-catching color that wouldn’t look out of place on a pro athlete’s signature pair of shoes—and given the size of the Tundra in Crew Max form, there’s a whole lot of surface area covered in bright blue paint. Still, it made the Tundra pop; among glistening snow-covered mountains and the muted tones of the high desert, the paint made the truck stand out delightfully. (Alternative paint choices are limited to Super White and Midnight Black Metallic; get the blue.)

The Tundra’s design still looks fresh, even after five years since its last facelift. It’s muscular, but unlike many other full-size trucks, doesn’t look like it’s trying too hard. That said, Toyota needs to more than a different grille and some stickers to distinguish the TRD Pro from other Tundra models; a more aggressive body kit would go a long way to making the TRD Pro feel more special.

The truck is plenty capable off-road, thanks to the new Fox racing shocks and TRD springs. The previous generation used TRD-tuned Bilstein shocks, which were fine—but the new setup for the Tundra brings an additional 1.5 inches of suspension travel to the front and two inches to the rear, paired with 2.5-inch reservoirs to hold the additional oil needed under demanding conditions. The suspension’s resulting ability to mitigate unpleasant choppiness over desert washboard roads in the desert was impressive.

Inside, things are more mundane. Toyota has done very little to keep the interior of the Tundra up-to-date; TRD Pro-specific touches like logos on the seats, red stitching, a special shift knob, and red stitching are welcome, but to be expected in a special version. In the highly-competitive pickup truck marketplace, buyers expect brands to go a step beyond—and Toyota has yet to grasp this concept. The Tacoma, 4Runner, and Tundra all still manage to sell well thanks to their untouchable reputations for reliability and long-term value, but one day that’s not going to be enough.

To Toyota’s credit, what the Tundra TRD Pro lacks in optional creature comforts, it makes up for in standard safety equipment like pre-collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, adaptive radar cruise control, and lane departure warning. For many buyers—those that are already faithful to Toyota products, or in the market for a truck that prioritizes safety and reliability—that’s a fine trade-off. However, you have to wonder how much longer Toyota can get by with this strategy on all its most notable four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Still, I very much enjoyed my time with the Tundra TRD Pro, as did my friends who rode in the cavernous rear seat. It may be an aging platform, but it remains a solid one—one that was clearly well-thought-out from the start.

Verdict: If you want a truck primarily to get off the grid and handle other traditional “truck stuff,” the Tundra TRD Pro is a great choice. If you want a modern-feeling truck with luxury features galore, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. The Tundra is far from spartan; it has everything you need. These days, though, most people expect pickups to come packed with extra features and largely-unnecessary add-ons. Rather than saying the Tundra is showing its age, perhaps it’s more appropriate to say it’s sticking to its purpose.

2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Crew Max Specs

Base Price: $49,475
Powertrain: 5.7-liter V-8, six-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 381
Torque: 401 pound-feet
Fuel Economy: 15 city, 19 highway

Toyota provided this product for review.

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2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 / CLS53 First Drive Review: Smooth and Sporty, All At Once

The Mercedes-AMG E53 and CLS53 are the first of a new line of performance vehicles from the German carmaker, slotting between the V-8-powered “AMG 63” models and the Benz-badged “450” vehicles. Each car uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with a mild hybrid system that generates 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, paired with a nine-speed AMG-tuned automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. Currently, there are three AMG E53 styles—sedan, convertible, and coupe—and an AMG CLS53 four-door coupe. A Mercedes-AMG GT53 four-door sports car is en route.

The Good: The new inline-sixes deliver fluid power, with the torque peak arriving at conveniently low engine speeds. The handling is unflappable, the steering precise, and the shifts smooth and quick. The cabin materials are every bit as luxurious as you’d expect for a Mercedes.

Who They Are For: Luxury car buyers who want a more upscale, sportier, and more aggressively-styled vehicle than the average Mercedes, but have no plans to shred tires or dust Porsche 911s on the way to work.

Watch Out For:  The infotainment system can be moderately annoying. Also, if you really want to quibble, the driving dynamics might be too good for this sort of sports-luxury car.

Alternatives: BMW M550i xDrive ($74,450)Audi S7 ($81,200), Porsche Panamera ($86,300).

Review: Driving a Mercedes, one could argue. should feel like driving the future. Even after years on the road, it should still feel like a modern car; the engineering ought to be a step or three ahead of other manufacturers. If you accept that’s what a car with the three-pointed star should be, then the carmaker nailed it with the E53 and CLS53, which serve as a peek into the company’s vision of an electrified future.

Mercedes-AMG’s mantra for the 53-series cars is “intelligence replaces displacement.” A 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six engine pairs with a 48-volt mild hybrid system, producing a total of 429 hp and 384 lb-ft. The upshot for the driver: immediate, on-demand torque. 53-series cars hit peak torque at just 1800 rpm. As the carmaker pointed out to journalists, the cars are more powerful and quicker than the famous AMG Hammer of the Eighties, with an engine packing half the displacement.

Performance cars can often feel like grappling with a bear: Keeping them in line is a skill one must master, and not doing so can lead to adverse consequences. The 53s, in contrast, feel like floating around a ballroom with a gifted dance partner. These cars love hard driving. The power comes on instantly. They corner with precision. They stay glued to the road, even on borderline-flooded mountain tarmac. The nine-speed AMG Speedshift transmission is crisp and intuitive. Lag is nonexistent; there are no telltale signs you’re driving a turbo or a hybrid.

With five available driving modes (including a customizable one you can tune to your fancy), you can turn the aggression up or down a notch as needed. The car can just be your refined, sober cruiser with a quiet exhaust note. But the driving modes are all well balanced; Comfort is still capable, and Sport Plus won’t send you limping to the massage table.

Those hankering for a fire-breathing performance beast will leave disappointed with the 53 Series, but the power output is right in the Goldilocks spot for fun on real-world roads. Indeed, just about the only critique with the 53-series driving experience is, it may be too perfect. The experience isn’t particularly visceral; the bear comes pre-tamed.  And as with people and pets, it’s often a car’s flaws, failings, and imperfections that provide character and make it memorable.

The design of the E53 and CLS53 projects power, but in a subtle way; they don’t exactly resemble the Batmobile. They fit with current luxury car trends, with decisive lines and rakish roofs designed to show off how potent and aerodynamic the car is. Distinctive features include a twin-blade grille, a so-called A-wing bumper, black mirrors on the doors, a body-color spoiler lip, dual round exhaust tips, and an option for 20-inch “53” aerodynamic wheels. Interestingly enough, the E53 has twin “power domes” on the hood; the CLS53, quite similar-looking otherwise, does not.

Inside, the main features are the dual 12.3-inch displays for the infotainment and instrument panel, and the round, turbine-esque air vents. The materials are appropriately nice, as you’d expect; With an array of woods, brushed metals, and carbon fiber trim options, several different types of leather, multiple steering wheel choices, and an option for colorful seatbelts, Mercedes-AMG lets the buyer choose their own adventure when speccing out the car.

I did have a few minor troubles. The gauge display behind the wheel could be hard to read while driving from certain angles, and the touchpad for the Comand infotainment system felt less natural than a touchscreen to my fingers. Presumably, time and experience would diminish those issues) And when I attempted to use Apple CarPlay, the Mercedes informed me I needed to stop the car to set it up; upon pulling over, though, the car still didn’t see my device as an iPhone, despite multiple attempts to connect it.

As with any modern German luxury car, the E53 and CLS53 can quickly get pricey if you go nuts on the options. The E53 sedan I tested had a base price of $72,550; as tested, however, it cost $98,310. Fortunately, much of the markup came from frivolous inessentials. If you can do without features like Nappa leather with red stitching ($2990) or the Designo black microsuede headliner ($1660), it’s easier to keep the cost in check.

Verdict:

The Mercedes-AMG E53 and CLS53 are all about quality. Sure, you can find more raw performance in this price range; what you won’t find is this combination of precision, refinement, and power that make it so good for everyday driving. They’re potent, unflappable, and exude quality. There are few nits to pick, and those that are there are trifling; the 53s are about as close to a perfect daily driver as you can get. If these cars herald tomorrow, Mercedes-AMG’s “electrified future” looks bright.

Models:
2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 Sedan: $72,550 (base MSRP), $98,310 (as tested)
2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe: $73,700 (base MSRP), $97,645 (as tested)
2019 Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet: $80,350 (base MSRP)
2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS53 Coupe: $79,900 (base MSRP), $86,275 (as tested)

Mercedes-AMG E53 / CLS53 Specs:
Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with electric motor and electric auxiliary compressor, nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 429 hp
Torque: 384 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 4.3 sec (E53 Coupe)
Top Speed: 130mph

Mercedes-Benz provided this product for review.

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19 Of the Greatest Cars For Sale Under $50,000

The number of different cars on sale today can seem mind-numbingly high. Not helping matters: companies like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which are trying to fill up even the smallest gaps in the market with their pricey wares.

That said, the average consumer isn’t shopping for an SUV from Bentley or a family hatchback from Ferrari, either. After all, the average MSRP for a car hovers around $37,577 these days—and there are plenty of good cars out there for that money.

For the purposes of this article, we at Gear Patrol raised our price ceiling to add a little flexibility (and, of course, to add in some of the wonderful cars just above that median price), and pulled together the best cars on sale today for less than $50,000. Believe us: No matter what style you’re shopping for, you can’t go wrong with any choice on this list.

Compact Cars

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Best Hot Hatch:  We may suffer from slim pickings in the US when it comes to hatchbacks, but at least one of the few options we do have ranks highly. This legend from Volkswagen has been the benchmark for hot hatches since it first rolled off the assembly line in 1976, and the current VW GTI has been ranked highly the world over. A taut suspension and bountiful low-end torque from the lively 2.0-liter turbo engine translate to performance figures that punch well above the GTI’s weight.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 228
Torque: 258 pound-feet
Drive: Front-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds

Toyota Corolla

The new Corolla Hatchback marks a pivotal moment in Toyota’s push to ditch its reputation as a builder of bland econo-cars. The new Corolla hatchback is one of the best handling front-wheel-drive compacts on the market; it’s wildly fun to pitch around any corner. But, instead of marketing the hatch as an enthusiast’s car and scaring off average Joes, Toyota simply promoted the refreshed hatch as it’s done in the past and let the masses who would’ve bought the car anyway discover what a well-tuned chassis feels like. The Corolla’s approachability, affordability, and mid-corner poise will likely have it remembered much the way we look back on the BMW 2002 or Datsun 510.

Engine: 2.0-Liter Inline-Four
Horsepower: 168
Torque: 151 lb-ft
Drive: Front-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 7.4 seconds

Audi S3

Since the S4 has put on some weight over the years, the S3 now takes up the mantle of the compact sports sedan in Audi’s lineup. With 288 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, the S3 provides just enough performance to deliver an incredible amount of fun, while staying out of trouble on the open road.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 288
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 4.6 seconds

Midsized Sedans

Lexus IS 350 F Sport

Lexus, believe it or not, does indeed offer a sporty sedan worthy of being mentioned in the same conversation as the Germans. The radical styling works well for it, separating it from the other cookie-cutter luxury four-doors. But it takes more than styling to compete in one of the most contested segments in the market; luckily, the interior’s interesting design makes the cockpit a pleasant place to be, and the entertaining, naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 makes it a great place to stay.

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 311
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds

Audi A4

The Audi A4 went untouched for several years, but it came back in a big way in 2016 when the new model arrived. Though the new model received only subtle aesthetic tweaks, Audi made huge changes underneath the skin, adding crash avoidance and driver assistance systems also seen on the likes of the top-of-the-line Q7 SUV.  After years of living as a glorified Volkswagen Passat, the current generation of the A4 has moved delightfully up-market.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 250
Torque: 310 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds

Mazda6 Signature

25-Best-Cars-2016-Gear-Patrol-Mazda6

In the past few years, Mazda has really come into its own in the design department. It’s no coincidence that there are several Mazdas on our list: For the price, they’re some of the best-handling cars on the road. The Mazda6 offers sharp, flowing design draped over an entertaining chassis, all for a base price below $25,000. However, if you want to really experience the brand’s recent move upmarket, the range-topping Signature trim spoils you with turbocharged power and a luxurious interior you’d never see coming from Mazda for just over $35,000.

Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 184
Torque: 185 lb-ft
Drive: Front-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds

Station Wagons

Subaru Outback

The Outback built its reputation on utility, value, and versatility—and the current Outback follows through with that in spades. In a world where SUVs and crossovers run rampant, the Outback has stood strong as a reliable family vehicle with a healthy dose of off-road performance. There’s a new Outback due out for 2020, but until that hits dealership floors, the 2019 Outback is one of the best bang-for-your-buck wagons on the market.

Engine: 2.5-liter flat-four/3.6-liter flat-six
Horsepower: 175/256
Torque: 174/247 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 9.4/6.8 seconds

Audi A4 Allroad

Audi made a name for itself tackling dirt roads thanks to its quattro AWD system, and the A4 Allroad brings that legendary ability to the average family in need of a little extra ground clearance. The A4 Allroad’s impressive cargo space and off-road ability lends itself beautifully to those who would rather gather around a campfire under the stars than a flat-screen TV in the living room.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 248
Torque: 273 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 5.9 seconds

Coupes

Lexus RC 300 F Sport RWD

The RC’s design offers a sportier take on the same looks as the IS, while still catering to customers who want that Lexus luxury. The exterior is by far the best expression of Lexus’s edgy design language, and the interior is awash with rich materials like Playa upholstery, aluminum pedals, and deep bucket seats. The RC 300 F Sport drives incredibly well thanks to its adaptive suspension and available Variable Gear Ratio Steering, which, despite being on the heavier side, gives the driver impressive feedback.

Engine: 2.0-liter inline-four
Horsepower: 241
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 7.3 seconds

BMW M240i

Since the BMW M2 casts a very large shadow, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the M240i, but it would be a mistake to dismiss it altogether. The M2’s price point puts it out of reach for this list, but the M240i isn’t exactly a letdown; it offers more approachable performance, thanks to a beefier torque curve, as well as a more forgiving suspension for everyday driving on roads that aren’t racetrack-smooth.

Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder
Horsepower: 335
Torque: 369 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds

Convertibles

Mazda Miata RF

Ignore the Miata’s incredibly low price for a second and focus on its performance: There’s nothing in its weight class that can compare. And you’d have to go pretty far upmarket to find anything that delivers the experience and excitement that the new Miata does. The RF’s retractable, targa-style roof only adds to the newest Miata’s good looks. Now factor in the MSRP, and the argument to buy anything else pretty much dissolves.

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower: 155
Torque: 148 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 5.8 seconds

BMW 230i Convertible

Now that the 3 and 4 Series have moved upmarket, the 2 Series has become BMW’s prime player in the attainable sports car bracket. The convertible version earned a place on this list by being a pretty drop-top than can still handle a curve. The 2 Series convertible eschews a retractable hardtop, going with a soft top in order to save weight and space. The classic convertible looks are a nice bonus.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 248
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive
0-60: 5.6 seconds

SUVs and Crossovers

Mercedes-Benz GLA250

Mercedes-Benz has an uncanny ability to make every one of its cars luxurious, no matter the price. The GLA-Class is a prime example of that. At $33,950, you’ll find a high-quality interior and design language that possesses the air of a car that costs $15,000 more.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 208
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60: 7.2 seconds

Mazda CX-5 Signature

As much as we praise Mazda for the handling baked into its sedans and sports cars, equal praise must be given for the mid-corner poise the brand imbues into the CX-5. It’s not often an SUV is applauded for its handling, but somehow Mazda has transferred its signature sportiness to its high-riding vehicles. And as part of Mazda’s recent push to move upmarket, the Signature trim elevates the CX-5’s interior to match a class of SUV well above its $36,890 price tag.

Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 250
Torque: 310 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60: 7.7 seconds

Trucks

Ford F-150

Ford obviously doesn’t need to change its formula for full-sized trucks—the F-Series is the most successful vehicle in America. Still, the company continuously makes the F-150 better almost each year anyway. Two state-of-the-art turbocharged EcoBoost engines—including a 2.7-liter V-6 and a 3.5-liter V-6—are available as powertrains, maximizing both power and fuel economy. And the move towards using advanced materials like the truck’s aluminum body may pave the way for generations of pickup trucks to come.

Engine: 3.3-liter V-6 / 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 / 5.0-liter V-8 / 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 290 / 325 / 395 / 450
Torque: 265 lb-ft /400 lb-ft / 400 lb-ft / 510 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive / Four-Wheel-Drive
0-60: 5.9 seconds (2.7-liter EcoBoost, RWD)

Ford Ranger

Ford did more than re-enter the mid-size truck segment when it brought back the Ford Ranger for 2019; it made a statement of intent. The Ranger is aggressively going after the adventure lifestyle and overlanding crowds. The latest iteration of the mid-sized truck brings a compact silhouette that’s perfect for tight mountain trails on the way to campsites, and a laundry list of camping-focused accessories from Yakima, such as bed racks and rooftop tents.

Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 270
Torque: 310 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive / 4-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 6.8 seconds

Sports Cars

Subaru WRX STI

The Subaru WRX STI is a little long in the tooth, but it’s hardly showing its age. As one of the few compact sport sedans out there with AWD—the pricier Audi RS 3 and Golf R are the only real competition—its affordability factor makes it a hit with enthusiasts year after year. What the newest WRX STI lacks in power versus newer competitors, it makes up for with refined, incredibly precise handling and direct, communicative steering.

Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four
Horsepower: 310
Torque: 290 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60: 4.7 seconds

Audi TT

Audi is synonymous with good handling—and cars like the TT are a shining example why. With its low-slung architecture and all four wheels pushed to the corners of the car, the TT feels like a go-kart through corners. It’s just a shame Audi might be axing it in the near future.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 228
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Drive: All-Wheel-Drive
0-60: 5.2 seconds
Top Speed: 130 mph

Ford Mustang GT

Ford ditched the old muscle car stereotypes years ago, when it started to pour more energy into the Mustang’s cornering abilities—and the company hasn’t looked back since. For 2018, Ford redesigned the Mustang’s looks a little, but rather than settling for a superficial mid-cycle refresh, the Blue Oval bumped the power up as well, giving the GT’s V-8 460 horsepower. The classic American pony car is now a certified modern sports car…and it’s a hell of a bargain at a starting price of $35,355.

Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 460
Torque: 420 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-Wheel-Drive
0-60: 4.0 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph

The Internal Combustion Engine, Explained

The modern combustion engine is a technological marvel, a mechanical miracle that requires little knowledge of its workings in order to use. Unless you’re a car geek, you probably don’t think all that much about your car’s engine.

Until something goes wrong under the hood, of course. When things go bad, the issues and causes can befuddle many drivers, for whom terms like “piston” and “crankcase” are obscure nomenclature, and “boxer” brings to mind Muhammed Ali, not Ferdinand Porsche.

So in order to provide a little clarity about what’s going on under the hood, we at Gear Patrol have pulled together a quick primer on how a combustion engine works and a rundown of the various types of combustion engines available in mainstream consumer automobiles.

Terms to Know

Carburetor: A device that mixes air and fuel in the proper ratio for combustion. The system is mechanical, not electronic like modern fuel injection or direct injection engines; as such, it’s less efficient.
Crankcase: Part of the engine block that houses the crankshaft. Usually made from a one or two pieces of aluminum or cast iron.
Crankshaft: The engine component connected to the pistons that provides rotational motion when combustion occurs.
Cylinder: The portion of the engine block that houses the piston and connecting rod, and the location where combustion occurs.
Direct Injection: A method by which gasoline is pressurized and injected into the cylinder’s combustion chamber. Unlike fuel injection, where gas is injected into the cylinder’s intake port.
Harmonic Balancer: Also known as a dampener, a circular device made of rubber and metal attached to the front of the crankshaft to absorb vibrations and reduce crankshaft wear. It reduces engine harmonics that occur when multiple cylinders move along the crankshaft.
Piston: A component housed within the cylinder walls and secured by piston rings. It moves up and down during the four-stroke combustion process, providing force when exploding fuel and air moves it.
Rev Matching: Technology in manual transmission cars that utilize sensors on the clutch pedal, gear shift, and transmission, sending signals to the electronic control unit that tell it to rev the engine automatically if revolutions per minute fall too low. Rev matching also occurs during the downshift, bringing rpms higher to match the lower gear. This reduces wear on the engine and smooths the shifting process.
Torsional Vibration: Vibration that occurs due to rotating shafts within a car.

The Combustion Engine

Once you get past the protective plastic engine cover found on most new cars, the vehicle’s heart is laid bare: an engine surrounded by a radiator, fluid reservoirs, airbox, and battery. Regardless of how complicated engines can be—thanks in part to features like direct injection, rev matching, etc.—most vehicles make use of what’s known as a four-stroke combustion cycle to convert fuel into kinetic energy. In a nutshell, your engine 1. draws air and fuel in, 2. compresses it, 3. ignites it, pushing the pistons down and generating the mechanical force that moves the car, and 4. expels the air to make room for the next round of the cycle.

Though the actual process is significantly more complicated, the four stages can basically be summed up as such:

Intake stroke: Air and fuel are drawn into the cylinder as the piston moves downward.
Compression Stroke: The air brought into the engine and the fuel are compressed when the cylinder moves into the upstroke position.
Combustion Stroke: A spark from the sparkplug ignites the air/fuel mixture, creating pressure. The expanding mixture pushes the piston downward.
Exhaust Stroke: The resulting gas mixture created by the ignition and expansion is expelled from the cylinder as waste.

Engine output varies greatly, depending on the number of cylinders, the configuration of the engine, and technologies like turbocharging and supercharging. Horsepower isn’t just about adding cylinders or displacement; in fact, many of today’s high-performance four-cylinder engines can easily match or exceed the outputs of their six-cylinder brethren. These days, it’s also a game of technology; mate a smaller gasoline engine with an electric motor, and you have a recipe for added acceleration. Case in point: the BMW i8, which combines a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder with an electric motor for a total of 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.

Engine Types

Modern combustion engines have come a long way since 1876, when German-born Nicolaus Otto built the first four-stroke internal combustion engine. Today, automotive engineers perform regular miracles by extracting maximum horsepower and efficiency from the design. And although hybrid and electric powertrains are on the rise, for now, combustion engines—inline/straight, V-type, and boxer/flat, using gasoline or diesel fuel‚ own the road.

Inline/Straight Engines

In an “inline” or “straight” engine, the cylinders are arranged in a straight line. The overwhelming majority of four-cylinder cars on the road are “inline-four” engines, so the industry generally refers to them as “four cylinders.” Inline four-cylinder engines tend to be found in economy cars, since they are less expensive to build and easier to maintain—the cylinders line up along a single crankshaft that drives the pistons.

The inline/straight six-cylinder engine is inherently balanced, due to the fact that there are no secondary harmonics generated by pairs of pistons moving at odd angles or on a different axis from one another, resulting in much less vibration than straight four-cylinder engines. Currently, only BMW and Mercedes-Benz make inline/straight six-cylinder engines for their passenger cars—and they have a stellar reputation for smoothness and balance.

V-Type Engines

“V-6” and “V-8” are so embedded into the American vocabulary, some people may not know engines come in any other format. V-type engines typically have two rows of cylinders set at a 90-degree angle to each other—hence the “V” formation—with each row bearing half the number of total cylinders. As a result, V-type engines are shorter and take up less room than straight ones, enabling carmakers to decrease the size of the engine compartment and increase crumple zones and passenger space. It’s also easier to set them lower in the vehicle, benefiting handling.

If you fancy yourself a motorsport fan, you have an appreciation for V-type engines, due to their frequent use in race cars. The rigid construction and robust materials used in V-type engines allow it to take on high stresses. This also allows for low torsional vibration forces, providing for smooth delivery during gearshifts and high rpms.

Boxer/Flat Engine

The term “boxer” engine comes from the layout of pistons that lay horizontally toward one another, similar to two opposing boxers touching gloves at the outset of a bout. The pistons in a boxer/flat engine form two banks—one on each side of a single crankshaft.

The boxer engine does more than sound intimidating; it allows for a lower center of gravity than inline/straight and V-type engines, improving handling. (There’s a reason Porsche uses the boxer engine in their 911, 718 Boxster, and 718 Cayman sports cars.) Boxer engines, however, tend to be bulkier and more awkwardly-shaped, making them difficult to fit in a front-mounted engine compartment. (Subaru—the only other carmaker currently using a boxer engine—manages to do so quite successfully, however.)

Diesel Engines

Get rid of the old notion of smoke spewing out of raucous 18-wheelers; modern, clean-burning diesel engines found in passenger cars are far less gross. The combustion that occurs in a diesel engine doesn’t require a spark; rather, high-energy diesel fuel ignites due to the high compression of the pistons: air is compressed, heating it to very high temperatures; the fuel is injected, and the mixture ignites. While diesel engines come in various numbers of cylinders, they differ from their gas counterparts specifically because they use compression rather than a spark to ignite the compressed fuel/air mixture. But it’s more than just how combustion occurs that sets these powerplants apart: By virtue of the fact that higher pressures are required for combustion, a diesel engine has to be built like a tank to withstand the abuse. As a result, they tend to last longer than standard internal combustion engines.

Diesel engines are also more efficienct—they extract more energy from their fuel than gasoline. And finally, diesel engines provide one benefit many enthusiasts love: more torque at lower engine speeds, which makes them feel zippier off the line.

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16 of the Best Used Cars in 2019

CarGurus just announced its yearly list of the Best Used Cars. To even be considered, CarGurus evaluates each car based on user reviews, professional reviews, popularity, availability, and projected value appreciation or depreciation over 12 years. And as the number of segments in the car market grows, so does the number of categories in the CarGurus list — this year, there’s a total of 16 winners.

According to CarGurus Senior Editor Matt Smith, “CarGurus knows that research is the bedrock of a great car-buying experience and we hope that our third annual Best Used Car Awards help today’s car shoppers in that process.” Buying a new car is a daunting undertaking, whether it’s your first or fifth, there’s always something new to be learned about the whole process. From deciding what kind of car you actually want, based on what you need, to then picking which make and model to go with — the ordeal can quickly go from exciting to nerve-racking in no time at all.

And that’s not even considering used cars, where vehicle history and maintenance become factors, and future reliability becomes a bigger concern. But that’s why CarGurus creates this list each year — to make the process just a little bit easier, by presenting the best of the best.

Subcompact Sedan/Hatchback

2015-2018 Honda Fit

Compact Sedan/Hatchback

2014-2018 Mazda MAZDA3

Midsize Sedan

2013-2017 Honda Accord

Full-Size Sedan

2011-2018 Dodge Charger

Station Wagon

2015-2018 Subaru Outback

Small Crossover/SUV

2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler

Midsize Crossover/SUV

2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Full-Size Crossover/SUV

2011-2018 Ford Explorer

Minivan

2011-2017 Honda Odyssey

Midsize Pickup Truck

2005-2015 Toyota Tacoma

Full-size Pickup Truck

2015-2018 Ford F-150

Luxury Compact Sedan

2013-2017 Lexus IS

Luxury Midsize Sedan

2013-2018 Lexus ES

Luxury Small Crossover/SUV

2015-2018 Lexus NX

Luxury Midsize Crossover/SUV

2014-2018 Volvo XC90

Sports Car

2008-2018 Dodge Challenger

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

2019 Jeep Compass Review: The Cheap, Unsung Hero of the Lineup

The Jeep Compass is a four-door compact crossover that slots between the subcompact Renegade and the larger Cherokee in the off-road-centric brand’s SUV lineup. The Compass overlaps with both cars in price, but that internal competition hasn’t hurt the Compass; it experienced a bigger jump in year-over-year sales in 2018 than the new Jeep Wrangler.

The Good: The Compass offers sharp looks inside and out, with ample personalization options across seven different trim and sub-trim levels. Crucially, it does so at a reasonable price point. It’s not the most off-road-ready Jeep, but it’s still a Jeep, making it more rugged than much of the compact SUV competition.

Who It’s For: Empty nesters, young adults, and teenagers. These buyers want the Jeep brand, don’t want to pay a lot per month for it, and aren’t concerned with needing a lot of space.

Watch Out For: The ride quality, even by Jeep standards, could use some refinement. The transmission shifts slowly, the engine is loud, the suspension is tight, and the brakes are grabby. And the sleek looks compromise space in the rear.

Alternatives: Jeep offers the Cherokee ($25,490) and Renegade ($18,750); comparable vehicles from other manufacturers with similar capabilities and price range to the Compass include the Subaru Crosstrek ($21,895), the Hyundai Tucson ($20,950), and the Mazda CX-5 ($24,350).

Review: Not long ago, the Jeep Compass was the definition of an anonymous SUV. Like the Commander or the Patriot, you heard the name from time to time, but without badging, it would have been near impossible to distinguish it from any Jeep model besides the Wrangler.

The second generation has seen a sales renaissance. The compact sport-ute more than doubled its year-over-year sales in 2018, breaking into the top 25 best-selling U.S. vehicles, and expanding its share of Jeep sales from 10 percent to 17.5.

Why did the Compass become so popular, so suddenly? Well, perhaps most importantly, it now looks great. The second-gen Compass became more muscular and less boxy, excising every trace of the ungainly Dodge Caliber design that once plagued it. The Compass is not as cutesy than the Renegade, with strong hints of Grand Cherokee and even a wee bit of Land Rover in the optional contrasting black roofline. With seven different trims, you can customize a Compass down to the color of the tow hooks. The interior feels clean and premium (manually adjusted seats on my tester excepted).

Besides looking great, the Compass is cheap, with a base price of just $21,095. Most buyers will choose four-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission, pushing the base model into the still-reasonable $23,000s. Even a fully-loaded High Altitude trim tops out just below $35,000. Incentives can make that price even cheaper; a current deal in my area offers a four-year lease on a Limited trim for $189 per month.

Driving an Upland-trim Compass around for a week, however, revealed why car reviewers haven’t been as keen on this Jeep as the buying public has. The Compass is not terrible for a daily driver: the steering is decently calibrated; the 2.4-liter inline-four’s 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet felt adequate; and the Compass’s grip and height can handle winter weather and some mild off-pavement motoring.

But the finer points of the driving experience will leave you disappointed. The brakes are too touchy for smooth stopping. The throttle is grabby, too; even a tentative touch on the gas pedal throws you back into your seat and makes the engine sound like you’re redlining a small Fiat. The “Upland suspension” on my tester felt too tight. The nine-speed automatic transmission shifts painfully slow; the six-speed manual available on the Sport and Latitude trims may be the way to go.

The Compass also sacrifices practicality to its nods to current trends. The sloping roofline looks sporty, but it impinges on the cabin; I’m 5’11”, and my head just about grazed the roof in the rear seat. I had trouble navigating my toddler through the narrow sliver of space between his car seat and the roof. The narrow rear window and chunky pillars obstruct visibility—a problem that’s compounded when seats are occupied. (That said, the Compass offers more cargo space than the bigger Jeep Cherokee.)

Tech-wise, Uconnect may be the best of the automakers’ proprietary infotainment systems; it’s intuitive, it’s responsive, and it’s easy to use while operating the vehicle. The seven-inch display in my Upland trim felt crowded, but I’m not sure the 8.4-inch would be worth the $1,000-plus upgrade. My only real annoyance was the seat heaters turning on full blast when the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees and having to navigate a menu to turn them off. (Shouldn’t that work the other way around?)

As noted, the Compass isn’t a Wrangler. But, “attractive, small, a bit impractical, and cheap” was the Wrangler formula long ago, before Jeep converted that car to an upmarket vehicle. These days, the Compass fits that role.

Verdict: The Compass offers Jeep looks and capability at a bargain price point, making it a better overall package than the Renegade or the Cherokee. It’s easy to see why customers are flocking toward it, even if the on-road character underwhelms. Families could get more space, better handling, and greater efficiency elsewhere in the compact SUV market…but they wouldn’t be getting a Jeep.

2019 Jeep Compass Upland 4×4 Specs

Price: $21,845 (base MSRP); $29,175 (as tested)
Powertrain: 2.4-liter inline four; nine-speed automatic; four-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 180
Torque: 175 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway

Jeep provided this product for review.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

These Are the Easiest Ways to Get More Horsepower Out of Your Car

Legend has it motorsports were invented the moment the second car rolled onto the streets. No matter when automobile racing started, though, mechanics and engineers have been on the hunt for more power ever since, trying to one-up the competition—or just get a stronger hit of speed.

While big manufacturers have the resources to support massive R&D teams who tear apart engines in search of more horsepower, the average Joe Six-Cylinder working out of his garage does not. For folks like that—presumably including you, dear reader—less labor-intensive, more affordable methods of squeezing become the most attractive.

To help in your pursuit of power, we at Gear Patrol have pulled together some of the easiest ways to get more horses out of your car…if, you know, you don’t have a team of engineers at your disposal.

Engine Control Unit (ECU) Flash

“Chipping,” or flashing the engine control unit of your car, is akin to teaching its brain new tricks. Of all the ways to eke out a few more horses, this might be the most affordable—and easiest to perform. Most ECU flashes reprogram the car’s onboard computer by altering the fuel-air mixture ratio to a more aggressive setting; since most original ECU settings are programmed for efficiency and sit well below the car’s stress threshold, an ECU flash can unlock a decent amount of power with little effort.

Good: SCT Performance X4 $399
Better: AEM EMS-4 Universal $575
Best: APR Stage 1 $600

Cold Air Intake

Cold air intake systems simply replace a car’s stock air filter and intake. Engines need to breathe just like people do; the idea behind a cold air intake is that it increases the flow of air going into the engine, and doesn’t regulate the temperature the way some OEM intakes would. (The colder the air, the denser it is—and therefore, you get more air feeding the combustion process.)

Good: Spectre Performance $155
Better: K&N Performance $260+
Best: Takeda Cold Air Intake $432+

Exhaust

Swapping exhaust systems is a little more involved—especially depending on how much of the exhaust you’re replacing. It can be a simple as removing the muffler at the back; more involved in the form of replacing the piping rearward from the catalytic converter (known as a cat-back system); or doing the whole shebang and replacing the everything from the headers to the exhaust tips. Some might think replacing an exhaust system only amps up the engine sound, but a complete upgrade also unlocks power by letting the engine empty burned fuel and gases quicker and more cleanly.

Good: MagnaFlow $540+
Better: Remus $714
Best: Akrapovic $3,350+

Supercharger

The search for horsepower becomes more complicated when you start dealing with forced induction systems (superchargers and turbochargers), but the mods are still manageable in a home garage. The most common superchargers use a belt system, in which a belt connects the engine’s crankshaft to the impellers of the supercharger, spinning them and compressing air that’s then fed air into the engine. (Remember, the more dense the air, the more power you can make.) With that direct connection, the supercharger’s power delivery is relatively constant, no matter the engine speed. However, the air heats up when it’s compressed; if you’re going the supercharger route, an extra radiator or intercooler is recommended.

Good: Whipple Supercharger $2,700+
Better: Edelbrock $3,718+
Best: Roush $8,250

Turbocharger

Turbochargers, like superchargers, are a form of forced induction; unlike superchargers, however, turbos use a compressor powered by a turbine which is spun by gases flowing out of the engine. The lack of direct connection to the crankshaft can lead to a delay in power as the compressor builds up speed—this is known as “turbo lag”—but overall, turbos are more efficient than superchargers, as they’re powered by a waste product instead of sucking power off the engine.

Good: Borg Warner $723+
Better: Garrett $1,456+
Best: Dinan $1,767+
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR Review: The Saber-Toothed Cat of Sporty SUVs

This year could very well go down in history as the year of the legitimization of the super-sporty SUV. The new Lamborghini Urus is enough to make the case for that on its own—but others from Porsche, Mercedes-AMG, and BMW abound as well, bringing such high-powered enablers as active anti-sway bars and hyper-responsive suspension systems to the crossover game.

Now, Jaguar is entering the fray with the SVO—that’s Special Vehicle Operations—version of its F-Pace. It doesn’t deploy many fancy performance parlor tricks, but it uses a lot of engineering finesse and know-how to reign in this SUV’s top-heavy mass and make it a legitimate performance vehicle…one that can also make Ikea runs.

The Good: Significant grunt from the supercharged V-8 makes this an unquestionably fun SUV. Its sleek aerodynamic treatment, including functional hood vents and side ports, work to keep temperatures in check and improve aerodynamics. That means plenty of power and grip under hard driving. It’s got ultra-growly acoustics, of the sort not seen on a Jaguar seen since the F-Type roadster popped onto the scene with its crackling, popping exhaust note. The F-Pace SVR isn’t quite that over-the-top, but it’ll still grab people’s attention.

Who It’s For: Anyone who wants a morning blast of giddyup on the way to work. The F-Pace delivers both the commanding view of an automotive high-rise along with the firm cosseting of a true performance vehicle. In other words, it feels like a fantastic place to be—and conquer the world from. So the meek shall not apply. (Nor should the particularly eco-conscious, as the supercharged V-8 delivers a scant 18 miles per gallon combined.)

Watch Out For: The F-Pace’s occasionally awkward design touches—though “quirky” is a more generous interpretation. Example: the window controls, which are used frequently, sit high up on the door sill out of natural reach—while the seat memory controls, used only rarely, are right at your fingertips on the armrest. 

Alternatives: The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S would be a good start, followed by the BMW X5 M. Both offer similar power and performance numbers, but for tens of thousands more than the Jag’s $80,000 price tag. Also, consider the basic Porsche Cayenne, which isn’t as fast or powerful, but is still fun—and comes in more than $10,000 less than the F-Pace SVR.

Review: Southern France, I found, has some of the best roads in the world. Of course, this is entirely personal preference; some drivers love abundant hairpin turns in mountain twisties, others are all about 12-mile-long desert straights. I prefer long stretches of gently swaying racing lines and sweeping arcs—speed over acceleration, with a reasonable expectation of being able to push the steering to the limits at ridiculous speeds as you dive into the occasional bend. But by any objective measure, the pavement of the French countryside just north of the Riviera is enthralling, adequately challenging anyone with an itchy right foot. So testing the F-Pace along the countryside near Nice and Saint Tropez yielded much in the way of perspective—and visceral thrill.

The thing that struck me first about the F-Pace SVR was actually the seats. They’re tight, firm, and remarkably thin, compared with the bulky thrones most luxury vehicles arrive with. Once my drive partner and I set off on our test drive, I suddenly found myself fixated on the F-Pace SVR’s headrest, noting how remarkably thin it was, and how that must have major benefits for rear-seat room and overall cabin airiness. I’m sure my drive partner was freaked out by my fixation on his headrest, but I couldn’t help it. I’d never seen one so slim. (Turns out, of course, that Jaguar is well aware of the benefits; the slimline performance seats are standard on the SVR SUV.)

It’s only once the person in the driver’s seat starts to engage with the Jag that things really spring to life. Pushing the SVR through its paces proved that the tweaks are far more than skin deep: The chassis enjoys new tuning with better damping and spring rates, while the aero package adds lower, sharper sides and a rear spoiler. An assortment of functional vents enhance brake and engine cooling and zap pressure from inside the wheel well, cutting drag and helping contribute to the downforce generated elsewhere.

When powering up a mountain road, the electronic active rear differential combines with the rejiggered responsiveness of the chassis and the engine’s mighty power to deliver sublimely persistent acceleration, with no interruption to the power flow or hiccup in its targeted application. The big Jag simply kept pushing, taking whatever the mountain could throw at it in stride.

Ultimately, that’s the real value of the F-Pace SVR’s improvements—the way SVO adjusts the tuning and calibration to created a highly advanced performance package. You see it in the steering, in the lightened brakes and wheel systems and the adaptive sport suspension designed to work with them, and the promptness of the eight-speed automatic transmission’s shifts. It’s not a dual-clutch affair—that’s the current gold standard for performance cars—but it worked exceptionally well in this vehicle, and never left me wanting for something faster or more punchy. There are plenty of aggressive, ’roided-up SUVs out there, but one that can give you such smooth yet forceful performance without breaking traction or the bank is a valuable machine indeed. 

Verdict: Jaguar’s performance-oriented SVO division has been kicking in earnest since 2014, developing hard-charging variants of the cars like the F-Type and the wicked XE-based Project 8. If those machines got our attention, then the F-Pace SVR held it, mile after mile. It’s a fun, aggressive, hyper-responsive trouble magnet of a crossover, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR Specs

PRICE: $79,990
POWERTRAIN: 5.0-liter supercharged V-8, eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
POWER: 550 horsepower, 502 pound-feet of torque
0-60 MPH: 4.1 seconds
TOP SPEED: 176 mph

Jaguar hosted us and provided this product for review.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Most Beautiful Engine Bays of All Time

Enzo Ferrari once said, “I don’t sell cars; I sell engines. The cars I throw in for free since something has to hold the engines in.” There’s no doubt Ferrari put his heart and soul into making beautiful cars to hold those engines—but then again, he did need something worthy to frame the masterpiece under the hood.

Generally, if a car’s engine — as well as the bay it sits in — is beautiful, the rest of the car’s design follows suit. And since most of a car’s moving parts are under the hood, there are nigh-infinite possibilities for masterful design work. That’s why it’s a shame to see most modern manufacturers cover up the engine with cheap plastics and crowd the engine bay with machine-stamped, mass-produced parts; it conceals the magic beneath. As you’ll see below, many of our favorite engine bays mechanical works of art of all time date back to before that trend was common — but we still found a few newer cars with gorgeous guts beneath their hoods.

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

Making a case for redheads since 1957.
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa is one of the most beautiful, exotic cars in the history of the automobile. Each curve can steal your gaze for longer than you ever though sheet metal could — and that’s just the outside. However, the true masterpiece, as Enzo Ferrari would say, is under the hood. The deep black compartment frames the bright red cam covers that give the car its name — “Testa Rossa” translates to “redhead.”

1991 Bugatti EB110

Seeing the throttle bodies at work is like watching a tiny ballet on the valve covers.
The Veyron did a magnificent job of bringing the Bugatti name back into the headlines — but where that car is an engineering marvel, its EB110 predecessor was impressive in its own right. It’s not very often you get to see exposed throttle bodies on top of a V-12.

1932 Maybach Zeppelin DS8 Sport Cabriolet

Even the engine was given a luxurious amount of space.
Maybach built its name on being the ultimate distillation of luxury, delivering incredible comfort, performance, and design. If you think that stops when you lift the side-hinged hood, you’re wrong.

1992 McLaren F1

Even the most opulent cars in the world aren't lined with gold.
There are ultra-luxury cars with rare metals and wildly expensive materials throughout their interiors, but only the McLaren F1 put gold in its engine bay to help with heat soak so it could hit its 243-mph top speed.

2001 Alfa Romeo 156 GTA

Bravo to Alfa Romeo for leaving that beautiful chrome waterfall exposed.
Not only is the Alfa Romeo GTA V-6 one of the best sounding engines of all time, but the polished works of art that are its intakes also make it one of the most beautiful. It’s not often you get an engine that sounds like honey to the ears and is just as sweet to the eyes.

1966 Lamborghini Miura

A transverse V12 sprouting Velocity stacks? It would have been a sin not to include the Miura's V12.
When you lift the hood of the Lamborghini Miura, the engine appears to be floating between the wheels and the firewall — and half the beauty comes from knowing that it all comes together to make one of the most legendary supercar experiences of all time. The transverse-mounted V-12 helped dictate the Italian supercar’s design, but the visceral nature of the engine itself gave the car its sound and spirit.

2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead “Waterspeed” Edition

As far as modern engine bays go, Rolls Royce does not disappoint.
The problem with most modern engine bays: Manufacturers insist on throwing heaps of plastic over them to hide the fact the rest of the engine is unsightly. The 2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead “Waterspeed” Edition, on the other hand, displays bright sapphire intakes swimming in a deep sea of uniformly-packaged black metal.

1961 Jaguar E-Type

We're very happy to hear Jaguar is making a move back to straight-six engines. (Photo: Hemmings)
Enzo Ferrari himslef once claimed the E-Type was the most beautiful car ever made. Knowing his affinity for engines, he probably included what was under the Jaguar’s long clamshell hood as well.

Porsche 911 Reimagined by Singer

There's not much room creativity in the back of a standard 911, but give Singer some quilted leather and they'll work wonders.
Singer is known for poring over every detail and not taking any short cuts, including in the (incredibly cramped) Porsche 911 engine bay. There’s not much room for creativity in the back of a standard 911, but give Singer some quilted leather, and they’ll work wonders.

1967 Ferrari 312 F1

Whether this qualifies as an engine bay is debatable -- but as a work of art there's no question.
Whether this qualifies as an engine bay is debatable — but as a work of art, there’s no question. The Ferrari 312’s powder-coated center-mounted equal-length exhaust pipes are a thing of absolute beauty.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Even with a 4.7-liter V8, there's still enough room to fall in on either side.
The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air might be one of the more mechanically-simple engine bays on the list (there’s practically enough room to  fall in next to the engine), but there’s something about the simple industrial style of the space that deserves praise.

1930 Cadillac V16 Convertible

Can you believe this is a (very distant) relative of the ETC? [WHAT'S ETC?]
Cadillac is fighting to resurrect the world-beating standard it once held, but it’s unlikely to ever reach the heights it was at when the V16 Convertible was rolling around the streets of America. It wasn’t efficient and it didn’t produce all that much power, but the sheer excessiveness of the V16 puts it in the same breath as the Bugatti Veyron.

Jaguar CX-75

If you have a pair of mid-mounted turbines, you have to make sure they're properly illuminated for everyone to see.
This Jaguar will likely remain a concept forever, which is a shame. Even as we move into a futuristic world of all-electric cars and fully autonomous driving, the well-lit turbines under the CX-75’s hood still look ahead of our time.

2011 Pagani Zonda R

Suspension, chassis, engine -- all are bolted together like one mechanical nervous system of high-strung performance.
The beauty of the Pagani Zonda R is the mechanical system of the suspension, chassis, and engine, all bolted together to create a structural web of metals and carbon fiber. Well, that and the sonorous tune that bursts forth from it.

2001 Spyker C8

Almost everything on the C8 is designed to perfection. That includes the details you can't always see.
If there was such a thing as a “designer car,” the Spyker C8 would qualify. Every detail inside and out is beautifully overdone and over-the-top, but somehow, tastefully so — like a modern suit that borders on high fashion.

Other Gorgeous Details

Automotive-Features-Gear-Patrol-Lead-Featured

Engine bays aren’t the only beautiful little details we love. Look over our favorite finishing touches (superficial and functional). Read the Story

The New Toyota Supra Has Another Surprise for Us

Back in January, Toyota revealed the new Supra at the North American International Auto Show. The initial plan had Americans exclusively receiving the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six version, with a base-model four-cylinder version would also bound for Japan. Now, it appears Toyota may have plans to bring the base-model turbo-four Supra to the US, as well.

On Monday, Automobile Magazine revealed it had uncovered California Air Resources Board certification documentation for BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine. The list included the array of BMW models that use that engine…and one Toyota: the new Supra. (The new Supra and Z4 were co-developed by BMW and Toyota as a cost-saving measure.)

In Japan,Toyota sells two different tunes of the four-cylinder Supra: a 194-hp, 236-lb-ft base version (which shares an engine with the Z4 sDrive 20i) and a 255-hp, 295-lb-ft version (shared with the Z4 sDrive 30i). A 194-hp Supra would make little sense, as it would overlap with the extant Toyota 86; expect the 255-hp version here. 

Why is this important? Affordability. A four-cylinder Supra would presumably cost less than the six-cylinder, which starts north of $50,000. That would open the car to a range of buyers who might opt for a Subaru WRX STI or a Ford Mustang EcoBoost. The 2.0-liter should also, in theory, be more fuel-efficient than the 3.0-liter, though the six-cylinder Supra scored impressively in EPA testing with a 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway rating. (Also, the cheaper four-cylinder would make it a better candidate for anyone planning an engine swap; every dollar not spent on the existing powertrain is another dollar to spend on that 2JZ.)

Hoping for a manual? Keep on hoping, for now. The document lists an eight-speed automatic transmission as the only option for the 2.0-liter Supra. However, BMW has been known to pair that engine with a stick on some models, so it’s conceivable a manual Supra could materialize if there’s enough demand for it. 

New Land Rover Defender Pictures Reveal a Curvy-Faced Off-Roader

There are, no doubt, thousands upon thousands of Land Rover enthusiasts scattered across the world clamoring with baited breath for any crumb of news about the all-new 2020 Defender—folks who set Google News alerts for “2020 Land Rover Defender,” contribute to forums dedicated to boxy British off-roaders, and order vanity plates like “4WDKING” for their classic, doted-upon Defenders.

Presumably, these are also the same sort of people who knew April 30th was also known as “World Land Rover Day,” a fact that had escaped us until now. But to mark that occasion—and throw a bone to the ravenous fans out there—Land Rover has released a new batch of images of the 2020 Defender, including one that gives us our best look yet at the next generation of JLR’s burliest, boxiest vehicle.

Well, “boxiest” is somewhat of a relative term. While the Defenders pictured still wear camouflage, one example—a prototype soon headed to Kenya’s Borana Conservancy to help the Tusk Trust, a British wildlife conservation non-profit, with its work—is clad in less cloaking material than the others—a skin-tight wrap instead of a three-dimensional disguise.

It’s that Tusk Trust Defender that gives us a look at the new model’s lines—and unexpected curves. While the shape after of the A-pillar looks every bit as square as expected from a Defender, the front fascia looks much more rounded than earlier images had led us to believe. Indeed, the curved headlights and rounded hood and chin bring to mind nothing so much as the original Land Rover Freelander.

Land Rover also took advantage of its self-titled holiday to reveal that, so far, the 2020 Defender development fleet has covered almost 750,000 miles during testing at locations across the planet, including vehicle dynamics development work at Germany’s famed Nurburgring Nordschleife, rock-crawling in Moab, Utah (where Jeep sends its own experimental off-roaders for work and play), winter driving work in Sweden, and city driving tests here in Gear Patrol‘s own hometown of New York.

As we mentioned earlier this month, the 2020 Land Rover Defender is expected to debut in September. Will it be a disappointment, or live up to all our expectations? Guess we’ll find out in a few months.

The Complete BMW Motorcycle Buying Guide: Every Model, Explained

BMW automobiles have long set themselves apart in the crowded luxury marketplace by being driver-oriented machines, offering a dynamic experience behind the wheel while maintaining a high degree of refinement. Products from BMW Motorrad are no different, bringing equal amounts of sportiness, capability and luxury to the table.

But just as BMW’s cars have adapted to changing times, so too have BMW’s motorcycles. Constant innovation, with a focus on safety and accessibility, have made their efforts to mint new riders among the most successful in the industry. Entry-level single-cylinder bikes and scooters seek to bring the joy of riding to urban mobility. Adventure and heritage motorcycles equipped with the brand’s signature boxer engine are instantly recognizable, thanks to the horizontally opposed cylinders—and even those Beemers that don’t bear such obvious marks can still be clearly identified, as all of them wear the iconic blue-and-white roundel on the gas tank.

BMW Motorrad History

BMW stands for “Bavarian Motor Works” (or Bayerische Motoren Werke, in German) and while the company is best-known for its cars, its motorcycle engine manufacturing predates their first automobile by nine years. BMW AG was founded in Munich in 1916 and produced airplane engines during World War I; in 1921, it began building motorcycle engines for other manufacturers before building their first bike, the R32, in 1923. (That R32 was the foundation of BMW motorcycles for decades; its shaft drive was in use until 1994.)

Following World War II, the company was given permission to start building motorcycles again in Western Germany in 1947; however, it had to start from scratch, as all its surviving blueprints and plans were at the facility in Eastern Germany under Soviet control. Following a trademark lawsuit in 1952, motorcycles produced at the Eisenach plant in East Germany wore a red-and-white roundel bearing the name EMW (Eisenacher Motoren Werke)to distance them from BMW. (If you think those bikes are highly sought-after collector’s items these days, you’d be correct.)

How BMW Names its Motorcycles

As is the case with its cars, BMW Motorrad uses an alphanumeric naming system for their motorcycles. The first part of the name is a letter, which corresponds to an engine type; currently, the BMW Motorrad lineup has six engine types that vary from scooters names start with a C (parallel twin-cylinder engines attached to a constantly variable clutch) to sport bikes like the $78,000 HP4 Race (high-performance four-stroke four-cylinder). Between those extremes, you have bikes starting with the letter S (four-cylinder sport motor), R (opposed twin-cylinder), G (single cylinder), F (parallel twin-cylinder), and K (three or more cylinders).

The second part of the name is comprised of numbers, which represent the size of the engine’s displacement in cubic centimeters….except when it’s actually just a random series of numbers instead, which does happen.  Currently, models with the numbers 310, 400, 650, 750, 850, 1000, 1200, 1250, and 1600 fill up the lineup.

Lastly comes the letter or letters following the numbers—the part of the name that explains the purpose of the bike: A (for Adventure, sometimes spelled out), S (sometimes Sport or Strasse, the German word for street), G (from the German word Gelande, which means terrain), GT (sport touring), RR (road racing), RT (road touring), L (luxury), T (touring), GTL (luxury sport touring), B (bagger), R (road), X (extreme), and GSA (grand sport adventure, sometimes spelled out) all see use in 2019.

BMW Motorrad Terminology

BMW Motorrad: Pronounced “Moto-rad” (meaning “motorcycle” in German), this has been BMW AG’s motorcycle division since 1923.

Beemer/Beamer: Traditionally, “Bimmer” is the nickname for BMW cars, while “Beemer” or “Beamer” applies to the motorcycles. Why? Well, the etymology comes from the post-WWII era. BMW was competing with British bike company BSA, whose bikes were nicknamed “Beesers.” The “Beemer” nickname was attached to the BMW bikes in an effort to keep it from seeming like the staunch German brand.

Flat Twin: BMW’s iconic engine layout of choice, with two horizontally opposed cylinders mounted across the frame.

Airhead:  The flat twin engine with two valves per cylinder produced from 1969 to 1995 that is cooled by air.

Oilhead: Partial oil cooling, which came to the flat twin boxer in 1995, when the cylinders gained two valves for a total of four.

Precision Cooling: A glycol/water coolant mixture is sent to the hottest part of the engine around the combustion chamber. This accounts for 35% of engine cooling; air and oil account for the other 65 percent. Precision water cooling arrived on the GS line of bikes in 2013.

GS: The literal translation of Gelände/Straße is “Off-road/Road,” but GS is also used interchangeably to mean Gelände Sport. The first BMW GS produced was the R80/GS in 1980 and continues through today;  the line is easily identified by the long travel suspension and upright riding position, and bikes are often optioned with long distance touring accessories.

Shaft Drive: The final drive system of choice for BMW since the R32 arrived in 1923, consisting of a shaft that connects a gear inside the gearbox to another gear inside a hub on the rear wheel.

Urban Mobility (Scooters)

BMW Motorrad’s Urban Mobility segment consists of three scooters: two gas-powered models and a fully-electric model. The fuel burners are the C650 GT ($10,995) and C400 X ($6,795); the former is capable of covering long distances easily in addition to being a premium two-wheeled city street slayer, while the latter is a modern mid-size commuter with built-in smartphone connectivity. The single cylinder in the 400 X delivers 34 hp and 67 mpg, while the twin cylinder of the 650 GT offers 60 hp, 51 mpg, and a 112-mph maximum speed.

The fully electric C evolution ($13,995) has a powerful little electric motor with 48 hp and 53 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-30 time of 2.8 seconds. It’s quick, futuristic looking and has a 99-mile range.

Models:
• C400X – $6,795
• C650GT – $10,995
• C evolution – $13,995

Engines:
• 350cc single
• 647cc inline twin
• 133v air-cooled lithium-ion high voltage battery

Adventure

When BMW introduced the R80 G/S in 1980, it kicked off a whole new segment—one that has risen to new heights of popularity in the past few years, as smaller, more approachable adventure bikes have hit the market. So it stands to reason that the company that started it all would be producing the bikes to beat.(Car nerds, you can think of BMW’s “GS” motorcycles as the 3 Series of Motorrad.)

They range from the very accessible, fun-to-ride single cylinder G 310 GS ($5,795) up to the iconic R 1250 GS Adventure ($19,945), which can be found conquering continents with its 136-hp four-stroke flat twin. In between these two ends of the spectrum lie a number of great rides, including the F750 G S($10,395) with standard stability control and ABS, and the new F850 GS Adventure ($14,295) with a new 90-hp parallel twin cylinder engine and a smoother, more easily-operated clutch to reduce fatigue in tricky situations. Also noteworthy is the S 1000 XR ($16,895) which combines a 165-hp inline four-cylinder engine and sport bike riding dynamics with GS ergonomics and styling. There are countless ways to set up these bikes, but regardless of how you spec it, a GS is ready to eat up a ton of miles.

Models:
• G 310 GS – $5,795
• F 750 GS – $10,395
• F 850 GS – $13,195
• F 850 GS Adventure –$14,295
• S 1000 XR – $16,895
• R 1200 GS – $16,895
• R 1250 GS – $17,695
• R 1250 GS Adventure – $19,945

Engines:
• 313cc single
• 853cc parallel twin
• 853cc inline twin
• 999cc inline four
• 1,170cc stroke flat twin

Heritage

It was only a matter of time before stripped-down retro themed bikes had their moment. When BMW launched the R NineT in 2013, it was that moment. Here was an air-cooled boxer BMW with classic lines, but with optional heated grips and a factory warranty.

Since the launch, the R NineT family has expanded to five distinct models, ranging from the stripped-down, ready-for-customization R NineT Pure ($9,995) to the original R NineT ($15,495). There’s an R NineT Racer ($13,545), which boasts a sexy throwback front cowl and one of the most aggressive seating positions on the market. Then there’s the homage to the R80 G/S, the R NineT Urban G/S ($12,995); finally, there’s the R NineT Scrambler ($12,995) which brings knobby tires, a brown leather seat, and high-mounted dual exhaust. All five bikes use the same air/oil cooled twin cylinder boxer engine making 110 hp 86 lb-ft of torque. Oh and regardless of whether you go for the stock exhaust or optional Akropovic setup, they all sound phenomenal.

Models:
• R nineT Pure – $9,995
• R nineT Scrambler – $12,995
• R nineT Urban G/S – $12,995
• R nineT Racer – $12,545
• R nineT – $15,495

Engines:
• 1,170cc flat twin

Roadster

The Roadster segment is comprised of just two bikes, but the G 310 R ($4,750) and S 1000 R ($13,995) are hardly afterthoughts. The former represents an incredible value-for-money proposition, while the latter is a 165-hp beast with a standard titanium exhaust. The G 310 R is the more urban-oriented of the single-cylinder entry-level bikes, has already attracted a wide-ranging audience from new riders to custom builders. With a low center of gravity that’s been shifted towards the front wheel by rotating the cylinder head 180 degrees (thus giving the whole cylinder a rearward tilt) and a fully-fueled weight shy of 350 lbs, it offers an engaging riding experience that novices and veterans can both enjoy.

The S 1000 R, on the other hand, is just shy of being a full-blown sport bike. It’s an enthralling, stripped-down piece of machinery that somehow remains comfortable enough for commuting. It notably comes standard with Gear Shift Assist Pro, which lets you skip the hassle of engaging the clutch when ratcheting off shifts at full tilt.

Models:

• G 310 R – $4,750
• S 1000 R – $13,995

Engines:

• 313cc single-cylinder
• 999cc inline-four

Touring

This is the other big segment for BMW, next to their Adventure bikes. BMW touring bikes can be found covering large swaths of land around the globe—and if you swing through notable riding zones like the Tail Of The Dragon, you’re guaranteed to spot a few well-to-do folks cruising in comfort on them. It’s kind of outrageous that the K 1600 B ($20,095) even exists; after all, when you think of BMW motorcycles, you don’t think of baggers. But there it is: six cylinders all in a row, a low-slung silhouette, taillights you can’t ignore, and an incredible amount of road presence.

The R 1250 RT ($18,645) boasts a new twin-cylinder boxer making 136 hp and 105 lb-ft, and makes use of a new variable camshaft control system dubbed “BMW ShiftCam” that gives access to more torque across the powerband by using variable valve timing. On a big bike like this, that’s exactly what riders are looking for: ease of riding, comfort, and doing the long rides in style. None do it better than especially the K 1600 GTL ($25,995) which has dual adaptive xenon headlights and an electrically-adjustable windscreen. (Yes, you read that right.) Other than the HP4 Race, it’s BMW’s most expensive motorcycle—but read the build sheet and you’ll understand why.

Models:
• K 1600 B – $20,095
• K 1600 Grand America – $25,595
• K 1600 GTL – $25,995
• K 1600 GT – $22,995
• R 1250 RT – $18,645
• R 1200 RT- $18,395

Engines:
• 1,170cc boxer twin
• 1,649cc inlin- six

Sport

For a brand that’s had so much success in racing and is generally associated with “sportiness” by consumers, oddly enough, sport bikes aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of BMW Motorrad. Perhaps it’s because the Adventure and Touring bikes dominate in their respective categories and all those Italian sport bikes just scream “FAST”—but make no mistake, BMW builds seriously capable sport bikes.

A new S 1000 RR ($16,995) is on the way; the release date is still unconfirmed, but when it arrives, it’s going to shake things up in the sportbike scene faster, lighter, and nuttier than the current S 1000 RR ($15,995). The inline four-cylinder engine is now making 205 hp at 13,000 rpm, and redline doesn’t arrive until 14,600 rpm. With the optional M Package selected, weight is reduced by an extra 7.7 lbs to bring the bike down to 427 lbs.

Should you want to take your track day to the ultimate level, there’s the HP4 Race ($78,000) with carbon-fiber frame and wheels. Here the inline four-cylinder makes 215 hp, while the curb weight rings up at 322 lbs. It’s their ultimate handmade two-wheeler, and BMW’s building just 750 of them, so plan accordingly—and act fast.

Models:
• HP4 Race – $78,000
• S 1000 RR – $16,995

Engines:

• 999cc Inline Four