All posts in “Motoring”

Volvo May Be Making Its Most Radical Shift Yet

Volvo has a change coming this decade. And it may be even more of a shock than converting to 100% electric powertrains by 2030. Volvo has used minimalist alphanumeric nomenclature for its cars throughout its existence. The big radical shift came in the 1990s when Volvo switched from three-digit (Volvo 240) to the current letter plus two-digit (S60, V90) labeling.

According to Autocar, however, Volvo is plotting a “new beginning” for its conversion to EVs with “emotional” names. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson told them the successor to the XC90 would have a “name, like a child” and the practice would continue moving forward.

“We’re talking about a totally new architecture, a new-generation of born-electric, all-electric cars with central computing,” Samuelsson told Autocar. “It’s good and clear to mark that this is a new beginning, and that’s why we’re not going to have numbers and letters, an engineering type of name. We’re going to give them a name as you give a newborn child a name.”

Volvo is moving counter to the prevailing trend. Manufacturers that use model names like Volkswagen with the ID.4, Hyundai with the Ioniq 5 and Kia with the EV6 have all gone alphanumeric for EVs to highlight the engineering involved. And BMW and Mercedes have incorporated their new EVs within their existing nomenclature.

However, Volvo’s departure from tradition may prove fitting. Volvo is a flashier, more luxurious brand than it once was, and it’s poised to move even further upmarket. And they are going to be focused on selling vehicles in new markets like China. Cadillac, attempting a similar trick with its own EV conversion, is moving vehicles back to model names too. Escalade sounds a bit more premium than XT8.

Of course, even if the decision to switch to model names is correct, you still have to come up with good ones, which is a potential pitfall that alphanumeric nomenclature eliminates.

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One of Our Favorite Off-Road Camper Vans Now Comes in Ford Transit Form

The Ford Transit, were you unaware, just so happens to be America’s best-selling van. It now comes in all-wheel drive, which also means it’s now more capable — and Alabama-based camper van builder Storyteller Overland, builder of the Sprinter 4×4-based Beast Mode, is taking advantage of that. They’re now offering a Transit-based version of their entry-level Mode van, called the Mode LT.

The Mode LT uses a Transit with a 148-inch wheelbase and Ford’s 3.5-liter turbocharged Ecoboost V6, which puts out 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Storyteller Overland describes the Mode LT as a capable enough off-roader; the AWD Transit, they say, is not for “rock crawling or hyper-aggressive off-roading.” Still, it is capable enough for “leading you up to Tahoe for a weekend ski getaway or carrying you and your crew down a backcountry gravel road for a night of boondocking under the stars.”

storyteller overland

Storyteller Overland

The company does not have pictures of the Mode LT interior yet. However, it will sleep three passengers. Features like the Groove Lounge and the hidden interior Halo Shower system will carry over from the Mercedes version; the Mode LT will also offer a portable cassette toilet, a microwave, a refrigerator/freezer, a portable induction cooktop. Exterior amenities include a roof rack, a side mount ladder, a powered awning with dimmable LEDs and 90 watts of solar panels (which can be expanded to 600 watts).

Pricing for the Storyteller Overland Mode LT starts at $153,748, making it about $4,000 cheaper than their Classic Mode 4×4 with a Sprinter. Another advantage is that because the Mode LT is a Ford Transit, it has access to Ford’s massive dealer network for servicing. Buyers can place orders at a Storyteller Overland dealer. The company says Mode LT vans will begin shipping in late 2021.

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This 4×4 Camper Van Can Be Your Off-Road Sanctuary

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be past, but camper van popularity shows no signs of slowing. To that end, it’s little surprise to see that American company Thor Motor Coach — a sibling brand of Airstream — has just launched a new van called the Sanctuary, a 4×4 camper van based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. It’s a super-comfortable-looking camper, one that looks supremely capable of leaving the pavement (and the stresses of modern life) behind.

The base van for the Sanctuary is a 4×4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van with a 144-inch wheelbase. It boasts the larger Mercedes engine option, a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6, which puts out 188 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, which should be enough oomph for off-roading. The Sanctuary also has a 3,500-pound towing capacity.

Thor Motor Coach offers two floor plans for the Sanctuary. The 19P has a fold-out sleeping area larger than a king-size bed, seating capacity for five and a storage compartment. The 19L has a smaller fixed bed in the rear, seats four with two jump seats on the side and doesn’t have a storage compartment. Both plans provide a wet bath and shower and a kitchenette with a dual-burner gas stove and a fridge/microwave.

cars

Courtesy

cars

Courtesy

The Sanctuary exterior comes standard with some cool add-ons from Thule, including a power awning with integrated LED lighting, a ladder and roof rack system and a rear door-mounted bike rack. It also has a sewer hose, if you want to go full Cousin Eddie. The Sanctuary can even serve as your mobile office — if you don’t want to leave the grid — with built-in WiFi and a digital TV antenna.

As you would expect with a great camper van, the Thor Motor Coach Sanctuary doesn’t come cheap. Pricing starts at $148,680 for the 19P floorplan and $151,060 for the 19L floorplan. The sweet-looking off-road tires, alas, do not come standard; they’re a $1,744 option.

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Indian’s Frisky New Chief Dark Horse Is One Wild Retro / Modern Mashup

What is it?

The Indian Chief Dark Horse is one of the highlights of the brand’s sweeping nod to the 100th anniversary of the original Indian Chief, which made its debut in 1921. There are three new Dark Horse base models — the Chief, Chief Bobber and Super Chief — with this particular bike being the premium edition of the Chief.

Is it new?

Relatively. The full Dark Horse lineup began shipping to dealerships this spring.

What makes it special?

As the headline suggests, the most striking thing about this motorcycle is its blend of old and new — an aspect that is quite intentional on Indian’s part. “One of the common threads of inspiration throughout the new Chiefs was reach back, pull forward,” explains Ola Stenegard, Indian’s director of industrial design. “Everything you want, but don’t wanna see! That old school, keep it simple vibe, but also the modern tech we all take for granted today.”

2022 chief dark horse motorcycle navigation screen

Indian Motorcycle

Nowhere is this approach more evident than in a feature sitting right under your nose, between the handlebars: an elegant 4.0-inch wide touchscreen that resembles the sort of analog gauge you’ll find on many a decades-old bike. This doohickey supplies so much more than your speed, RPM and remaining fuel, though; it provides access to turn-by-turn directions, bike diagnostics and ride modes, while allowing you to take calls and switch up your music when paired with Bluetooth earbuds or a helmet-based headset.

“It’s all packed up in a housing no bigger than a traditional analog speedo,” notes Stenegard. “And when the bike is parked, you just see a clean blacked-out screen.”

Additional modern touches include standard ABS, cruise control and three ride modes: sport, standard and tour. But you’d never guess any of that by glancing at the bike. Simple, sleek lines and smoky hues blend with a muscular V-twin engine and burly pipes to more strongly call to mind, say, the Indian Scout Bobber Sixty I dubbed a “caveman motorcycle” more than an Indian Chieftain Limited decked out with all the trimmings.

How does it ride?

In a word: powerfully. From the moment I fired up the 1,890-cc Thunderstroke 116 twin-cylinder engine, I could feel the bike’s beating heart, a raging beast itching to tackle the open road. As ferocious as the bike is, however, it’s not unapproachable. A low seat height (26 inches) and a manageable weight (670 pounds wet) made it a snap for me to maneuver through tight city traffic and get out ahead of the pack.

two people riding on a 2022 chief dark horse motorcycle

Indian Motorcycle

I used the bike during the Meals on Wheels-style food deliveries I do in Brooklyn every Saturday morning — a solid test due to the combo of toting a huge backpack and navigating often-sketchy, potholed streets. Despite its semi-beastly size, I had no trouble scooting down narrow roads, parking in tricky spots and navigating bumpy terrain — the 5.2 inches of travel on the front forks were more than up to that particular challenge.

The highway really is where the Dark Horse thrives, however. I rode it from Manhattan down to the Jersey shore to watch the Euro final with some friends, and I was blown away by the ease with which I could move up and down through its six speeds — and, when the situation called for it, approach triple-digit velocity with a pretty effortless twist of the throttle. The trip is about 50 miles, and I’m pretty sure I set a personal record on the way down, arriving in less than hour.

Equally important, I had a hell of a fun time doing it. The drag handlebars, scooped seat and mid-mount foot controls create a rider-friendly geometry, allowing me to almost become one with the bike as I ripped down the Garden State Parkway. Would a windshield be nice? Maybe. But you can’t claim to favor old-school styled bikes without cherishing the rush of wind on your exposed face.

two people standing by their 2022 chief dark horse motorcycles

Indian Motorcycle

“To be part of the team that was tasked with creating the 100th anniversary models of the new Chiefs was an absolute blast as well as a very humbling experience,” reflects Stenegard. “You could almost feel the founders of the brand watch over our shoulders, making sure we did it right.”

‘Nuff said. Well, almost.

Anything else stand out?

While I have loved rumbling around on the Dark Horse, I would be remiss not to share a few caveats. None are dealbreakers, but they are worth mentioning.

As much as I dig the touchscreen, it’s not perfect. The turn-by-turn directions feature is super cool, but it could not locate my buddy’s place in Jersey. Only after trying a few nearby businesses was I able to hit on one it could find (thank you, Nicholas Creamery). It was also a frustrating challenge to get the bike, my phone and my earbuds to all sync up properly. I often found myself just leaving the bike out of the loop in order to listen to music while riding.

2022 chief dark horse motorcycles with riders

Indian Motorcycle

The exhaust pipes are badass. But like all pipes, they get hot. And the positioning of this particular set has proven problematic — because it’s July in New York City, I’ve been riding this thing in shorts and I’ve singed the inside of my right calf multiple times on them, just maneuvering into parking spots. It ain’t pretty.

Lastly, the only way to bring a friend along for the ride on this exact bike is to accessorize with a $200 Passenger Pillion and $180 Passenger Pegs. (Yes, you could opt for a Super Chief, which comes standard with a passenger seats — and also saddlebags, a windshield and floorboards, making it quite a different bike.)

To be fair, this final criticism is something of a compliment. This bike is so damn fun — it’s just a shame to not be able to share a bundle of thrills a century in the making.

What’s it cost?

The base price is $16,999 for the Black Smoke colorway. It rises to $17,499 for the Alumina Jade Smoke and Stealth Gray hues.

2022 Indian Chief Dark Horse

2022 chief dark horse motorcycle

Indian Motorcycle

Base Price: $16,999

Powertrain: 1,890 cc Thunderstroke 116 twin-cylinder engine; six-speed transmission

Horsepower: 79 (approx.)

Torque: 120 foot-pounds

Fuel Capacity: four gallons

Weight (Empty Tank/Full of Fuel): 647 lbs/670 lbs

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One of the Best Cars on Sale Today May Be Killed Off Next Year

Whether you call it a sedan or a sporty fastback, the Kia Stinger has been a tremendous critical success. The high-performance Stinger GT model may be among the best value propositions out there, delivering Porsche Panamera-esque looks and performance for about half the price (or, in other words, a cut-rate Giulia Quadrifoglio). The Stinger was among the three finalists for North American Car of the Year in 2018, and we’ve heard it came exceedingly close to winning it.

But critical success has not translated into actual success, so the Stinger may not make it to a second generation. Korean Car Blog cites anonymous sources that claim Kia has sent out its production schedule to South Korean plants for 2022…and that schedule has Stinger production ending after Q2 2022.

It would be hard to quibble with Kia if it decided to terminate the Stinger, given the poor sales. Stinger numbers were up just 2% in the U.S. through June to 6,498 units…during a time when the Telluride rose 79% and the Seltos increased by 129%. Kia sold nearly eight times as many models of the new K5 that slots under the Stinger.

kia stinger

Kia

Why hasn’t America warmed to the Kia Stinger the way it has to the Telluride? Sedans are a different market than SUVs. Crossover buyers don’t exhibit the same brand fixation as other segments. They will flock to a less premium marque like Kia, Hyundai, or VW if it’s offering a strong value proposition in the $40–$50K range.

But that same grey area market that’s so lucrative with crossovers does not appear to exist for sedans. Affordable versions have a clear market, but buyers going past $40,000 really want a premium Audi, Lexus or BMW badge. There aren’t many people looking to spend closer to $50,000 on a Kia sedan — even an awesome one.

The only manufacturer trying a similar premium midsize sedan gambit is Volkswagen with the Arteon. It has a similar story: reviewers love its luxury value; buyers want no part of paying almost $50,000 for a VW sedan.

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The Best Cars You Can Buy for a Bitcoin Today

The price of a bitcoin is a fickle thing. It rises and falls like the tides…at least, if the sea were controlled not by the steady tug of the moon’s gravity but by the mysterious invisible (or at least translucent) hand of a free market made up largely of tech-savvy investor-nerds and anti-establishment libertarians.

While the decentralized blockchain-based currency started out small more than a decade ago, when its first known transaction was using 10,000 of them to buy a pair of Papa John’s pizzas, it then rose past $1,000 in 2013, fell back below that in 2014, climbed past its old high of $1,242 in early 2017 before shooting up to nearly $20,000 by the end of the year, fell back down below $3,300 roughly 12 months after that, rocketed back up in 2019 and early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic’s initial market shock brought the value down again, then began a climb back to a new high of $19,850 by the end of November.

Then it took off like a rocket, climbing to $60,000 over the next five months or so, largely on the back of Elon Musk‘s decision to allow Tesla to accept bitcoin as a form of payment. Come May 2021, though, bitcoin dropped like a stone again, falling to around $30,000 as Musk retracted his decision and announced Tesla would sell off its bitcoin holdings around the same time the Chinese government announced it would crack down on cryptocurrencies.

Musk has since retracted his retraction and declared Tesla will take bitcoin again once there’s proof the currency is being ethically mined (in other words, that clean electricity is being used to run the computers doing the energy-intensive work of making new bitcoins), but so far, the price hasn’t rebounded all that much. As of this story’s writing, a bitcoin is worth just a hair under $32,000.

Now, admittedly, if you bought a bunch of bitcoin back when they were a few dollars apiece, that price would still be more than enough to allow you into the ranks of the Lamborghini bitcoin crew. But for the purposes of this story, we’re simply looking at what sort of cool metal you could buy if you had but a single bitcoin to sell. As the price of a bitcoin changes, we’ll update this story accordingly — but for now, here in the summer of 2021, here’s what sorts of cars you could buy for roughly the $32,000 a bitcoin is worth.

The Chevy Colorado Trail Boss Is Back, As a More Affordable ZR2

After several years without using the name on its compact pickup, Chevrolet has announced that it is reviving the Trail Boss name for the Chevy Colorado. But this time it will be a little bit different: Trail Boss will be the more affordable off-road package, designed for those who want a bit of the rugged flare without leveling up to the full-bore Colorado ZR2. And it will be installed on LT and Z71 trim Colorados at the dealer, not the factory.

What does the Trail Boss package include? It starts with a one-inch suspension lift, and also removes the front air dam and swaps in skid plates. You also get some ZR2-like appearance features, like black wheels and red tow hooks. In other words, the Colorado Trail Boss is more or less the Chevrolet equivalent of the GMC Canyon AT4.

The package will cost an additional $2,995 when added to LT Colorados, which start at $35,595; it’ll run $2,895 when added to the higher Z71 trim, which begins at $39,195. Both versions will provide a significant discount over the ZR2, which starts at $45,395. If you don’t really require the special long-travel dampers the ZR2 provides, the Trail Boss could be a compelling option.

Chevy incorporating the Trail Boss into the Colorado lineup is a no-brainer, as off-roading features are popular with volume buyers. It makes going one rung above the work truck feel a bit more special. We’ve seen very similar affordable off-roading plays from other truck manufacturers like Ram’s new Backcountry trim for the 1500 and Toyota’s Trail Edition Tacoma.

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Ford Goes Full ‘Sex Panther’ With New Mustang Mach-E Cologne

Ford now makes a fragrance. Not Tom Ford, mind you — the Ford Motor Company.

The Ford of Europe division — which, for the record, is based in Cologne, Germany — revealed a fragrance it’s calling “Mach Eau at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The scent, a collaboration with fragrance consultancy Olfiction, is meant to channel the “evocative smells of petrol cars” to soften the transition to the all-electric Mustang Mach E.

According to Ford, the scent of gasoline is more popular than wine or cheese. And we’re told gasoline and exhaust notes are working their way into other fragrances. But Ford assures us the fragrance does not just smell like gasoline.

The full description sounds more than a bit Sex Panther-ish: “Mach-Eau is designed to please the nose of any wearer; a high-end fragrance that fuses smoky accords, aspects of rubber and even an ‘animal’ element to give a nod to the Mustang heritage.”

developed with leading fragrance experts, mach eau evokes traditional automotive scents

Christopher Ison

Now, we’re not fragrance experts here at the Motoring Desk. So we consulted our colleagues over at the Gear Patrol Style desk to get their thoughts.

“They say ‘animal element’ like four times,” said assistant editor Evan Malachosky. “I get it. But what is it? Everything else is pretty standard: blue ginger, lavender, geranium, sandalwood. Benzaldehyde is less common, obviously because it derives from the car world and no one wants to smell like almond confection, which I’m guessing it smells like.”

We really wanted to tell you not to mach the scent until you try it….but, alas, it appears that you won’t be able to try it. Ford does not plan to emulate Bentley by retailing a line of fragrances. But if overwhelming numbers of Mustang Mach E GT customers demand access to it, who knows?

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The Jeep Gladiator and Wrangler Now Offer Super-Tough Glass Found in Smartphones

You’ve probably heard of Gorilla Glass — but you might not know what, exactly, it is. For the record, Gorilla Glass is a chemically strengthened glass manufactured by Corning that is lightweight, almost scratchproof and damage-resistant — properties which have made it the screen material of choice for many smartphone manufacturers. Of course, those properties would make it a good fit for windscreens, as well; hence why Jeep Performance Parts has just announced it will use Gorilla Glass in replacement windshields for new JL Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator models.

The replacement windshields from JPP, which were already available for previous-generation JK Wranglers, use a thin layer of Gorilla Glass as the inner ply paired with an outer ply that is 52% thicker than the standard Wrangler and Gladiator windshield. This results in a windshield that is still lightweight, but far more resistant to impacts than the typical Jeep windshield.

JPP designed the windshields to function like the stock windshields. Later this summer, buyers will be able to select windshields that work with the forward-facing camera, camera surround heater and embedded antenna add-ons. The JPP windshields also include the Jeep brand Easter Eggs found on the standard one if losing those was a concern.

Pricing for the JPP windshields with Gorilla Glass, which are backed by a two-year warranty, will range from $793 to $932, depending on the option compatibility required. That’s a bit of a hike over the Gorilla Glass windshields for the JK Wrangler, which cost $645. Still, the JPP windshields could be a compelling option for off-roaders who are likely to encounter rocks and other miscellaneous debris that could damage the windshield. (And, hey, you never know when that fluke hail storm is going to strike.)

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Ram’s New Truck Is Tailor-Made for Affordable Off-Road Fun

Truck buyers love both off-road capability and having rigs that look badass. But having both in earnest can get pricey, whether you’re climbing up the trim levels or modifying the truck yourself on the aftermarket. But not always. Ram has just announced a new offering for 1500 buyers who want an off-road-ready truck straight from the dealer and don’t want to level up to the Rebel trim or a full-on TRX. It’s called the Backcountry Edition, and it will be available for the 2022 model year.

The 1500 Backcountry Edition will be based on the Ram 1500‘s Big Horn and Lone Star trims — one level up from the base Tradesman models. It will add a lot of functionality: the package includes the 4×4 off-road Group with tow hooks, skid plates, an electronic locking rear differential, off-road shocks, hill descent control and all-terrain tires. It also adds the Bed Utility Group with adjustable tie-downs, a bed extender, deployable bed step, bed lighting and a spray-in bed liner. All that should be enough for most Ram buyers who plan to head off the beaten path.

2022 ram 1500 backcountry front 34

Stellantis

Ram is also giving the 1500 Backcountry Edition some unique appearance features. There’s ample black detailing, including black tu-tone paint, 18-inch black wheels, black badging, black exhaust tips, black headlamp bezels, black mirrors and black running boards. It also throws in a body-color grille surround and a body-color tonneau cover, for contrast.

The Backcountry edition, as noted, will be reasonably priced, starting at $40,085 (not including the mandatory $1,695 destination charge) — which is downright cheap by full-size truck standards and a bit less than the comparable Toyota Tundra Trail edition. Ram says the trucks will arrive sometime during Q3 of 2021.

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Volvo May Have Just Killed Off Their Best Car in America

We knew Volvo would be trimming back its sedan and wagon lineup in favor of SUVs, but that process seems to be starting for the 2022 model year. According to Motor Trend, Volvo is cancelling the V90 wagon in the United States after this year. (The lifted and cladded V90 Cross Country version will remain for U.S. buyers.)

In theory, this decision stinks. The V90 is great. You can make a strong argument for it being Volvo’s best car. The V90 is as premium as Volvo’s other vehicles. It’s more spacious than the Volvo sedans or the V60 wagon, which would be hard-pressed for actual family duty. You can fit a V90 with all-wheel drive. It gets 30-plus mpg on the highway. It may be the ultimate luxury alternative to joining the SUV masses.

The trouble in practice? No one — and I mean almost literally no one — buys a Volvo V90. Volvo had already stopped sending the standard V90 to dealers in America; you had to special order one if you wanted one, and just 153 people did so over the first half of 2021. Volvo sold more than twice as many XC90s this June as they have sold V90s over the wagon’s entire four-year run.

The Volvo V90 probably won’t be the last sedan or wagon to depart within the next few years. The V90 Cross Country, which is also one of our favorites, sells better. But Volvo still only sold 338 of them through the first half of 2021. The XC60 and XC90 in June sold more than the entire sedan and wagon lineup for the entire year. We wouldn’t be surprised if the non-SUV lineup dwindles to just the S60 and the V60 Cross Country. And it would be hard to fault Volvo for doing that (or buyers for choosing Volvo’s equally outstanding SUVs).

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VW Just Revealed Another Sexy Wagon We Can’t Have in America

VW, to a certain extent, has been bifurcating its global product lineup. While Europe gets some seriously cool cars, Americans have been relegated to the vehicles our market is craving — the Atlas, a sportier-looking Atlas, an Atlas sedan and an Atlas in miniature. Now Volkswagen just announced its latest piece of forbidden fruit that won’t be coming Stateside for at least 25 years, the new Golf R Estate (er, wagon, to us Yanks).

The Golf R Estate is basically a Mk8 Golf R with more room in the boot. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four puts out about 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. It can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 4.9 seconds and hit a top speed of 168 mph with the optional R Performance Pack.

volkswagen golf r

Ingo Barenschee

vw golf r interior

Ingo Barenschee

Like the Golf R hatch Americans will get later this year, the Golf R Estate will have a fancy version of VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive with R Performance Torque Vectoring. It will also have the Drift Mode and Special Nürburgring Mode. Unlike the Golf R hatch, the wagon won’t offer a manual transmission. It can only be fitted with VW’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Why won’t Volkswagen bring the Golf R Estate to America? Well, the price point is a major clue. The Golf R Estate starts at €51,585, which is a little north of $61,000 at the present exchange rate. If we factor out Europe’s VAT tax, that still comes out to around $50,000.

VW wasn’t able to sell large numbers of reasonably priced wagons in America. And while car journalists would adore it, the tens, possibly hundreds of American enthusiasts actually looking to pay more than $50,000 for a VW-branded wagon would not justify the expense of bringing it over. However, we’re still hopeful that VW will take a crack in America with the production version of this electric wagon.

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Jeep May Have Canceled the Hellcat-Powered Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is one of the most fun, flagrantly absurd SUVs on the market. It’s your bog-standard family Grand Cherokee, except track-tuned, packing 707 horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 Hellcat engine — and built ready to rival Porsches. The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. (It’s also at or near the least fuel-efficient vehicle on the road, earning just 11 mpg in city driving.)

But if you’ve been hoping to buy a Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, you may need to act fast. MoparInsiders is reporting that the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, as constituted, won’t return for the new WL generation. Per the report, Jeep had planned to have a Hellcat-powered Trackhawk version of the WL — but killed it as part of the brand’s (necessary) pivot toward electrification and better fuel economy.

MoparInsiders says there may still be a high-performance Trackhawk version, but it would likely be based on the new GME-T6 inline-six plug-in hybrid engine that Stellantis will be using as a replacement for its muscle car V8s. The top-spec of that engine layout is estimated to be around 525 horsepower. According to the report, that will be one of two PHEV options Jeep adds to the Grand Cherokee lineup; the SUV will also get the 375-hp 2.0-liter inline-four PHEV from the Wrangler 4xe.

Jeep axing the Hellcat engine Grand Cherokee is not too surprising. The electrified future is coming fast in the automotive world. Some of our favorite cars — many of them traditionally running on fuel-swilling V8s — will need to make major changes in the next few years to adapt. And at brands like Dodge, Ram and Jeep, which have done little to prep the way for electrification and EVs, those changes will feel particularly abrupt.

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BMW Launched Its Last Old-School Driver’s Car, but With a Big Catch

The BMW 2 Series — descended from the iconic 2002 model — has been the enthusiasts’ BMW offering of late, perhaps the purest “ultimate driving machine” experience at BMW’s most affordable price point. The 2 Series Coupe returns as an all-new model for 2022, and with markedly more power on offer. It may even be the last of the old-school gas-powered BMWs before the lineup electrifies.

But it will not have one key element of that old-school experience, however. BMW is cutting the six-speed manual from the 2 Series for 2022.

BMW will begin by offering two versions of the 2 Series here in the United States. The base 230i will be rear-wheel drive and get a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four putting out 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The M240i xDrive will get a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system and a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The 230i xDrive and RWD M240i will arrive later. (If those outputs sound familiar, it may be because they are the same two engines used for the Toyota Supra.)

bmw 2 series

www.daniel-kraus.com

bmw 2 series

www.daniel-kraus.com

Like the Supra, BMW will offer both cars with an eight-speed automatic. BMW is keen to point out the cars will have shift paddles, launch control and an optional Sprint function that lowers to the lowest usable gear when you hold the left paddle. However, the transmission will also do decidedly non-purist things, incorporating route topography and traffic for optimal shifting. Like BMW did with the 3 Series, it’s still expected that the new M2 Coupe will have a stick shift option.

bmw 2 series

daniel kraus

bmw 2 series

daniel kraus

As for styling, BMW says the 2 Series Coupe’s “striking and athletic new exterior design is the first thing that everyone will notice.” It’s hard to quibble with that statement. BMW made the car longer by 4.2 inches, wider by 2.8 inches and lower by an inch than its predecessor. The design emphasizes the new dimensions with a “turbine style” horizontally-oriented kidney grille — which we might term mustache style — and more space between the A-pillar and front wheel arches. That extra space appears to have come from the rear of the car, which looks stubby and off-kilter.

Starting MSRP for the 2 Series Coupe will be $36,350 for the 230i version and $48,550 for the M240i xDrive. BMW says they will hit the American market in November 2021.

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The McLaren 765LT Is a Fighter Jet on Wheels

To test the limits of the 765LT requires taking it to a place where you’re unconstrained by pesky things like, say, speed limits and oncoming traffic. (To be fair, that’s really the case with any McLaren — or other modern supercar — but it goes double for the 765LT.) So, I took it northward from New York City to the top-left corner of Connecticut, where historic Lime Rock Park lies.

Sadly, historic Lime Rock Park’s 1.9-mile track was filled with historic race cars the day I went, and while they said they’d be happy to let me on the course with them, the prospect of accidentally demolishing a vintage car and its driver with the weapons-grade Macca felt like too big a chance to take. (Also, I forgot my helmet.) Luckily, however, the kind folks at FCP Euro were more than happy to give me exclusive access to their recently acquired autocross course that fills much of Lime Rock’s infield.

Autocross, in a way, is a particularly trying test for a car like the 765LT, because it largely neutralizes the supercar’s power advantage, instead forcing more attention on the handling and balance. I ran most of the course in second gear, occasionally short-shifting into third just to see how the engine behaved at lower revs.

The 765LT probably would have rather been on a bigger track, but it proved a well-balanced delight on the autocross, with an immediacy of turn-in and reaction that was just as delightful at parking-lot-fun speeds as it was on the occasional high-speed on-ramp blasts I managed to sneak in. Like the 720S, this Macca boasts the Proactive Chassis Control II Suspension that does without traditional anti-roll bars, instead using interlinked hydraulics to keep the car preternaturally level and balanced even when being hustled. And while the idea of a sports car at this level going without a limited-slip differential seems baffling in principle, McLaren’s brake-based open differential alternative — which slows the inside wheel with the brake caliper instead of speeding up the outside wheel via LSD — works damn well in principle. Bottom line, not only is the 765LT quick — it’s fun.

7 New Cars You Won’t Believe People Bought in 2021

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

You may not remember the Mercedes B-Class. It’s a wonky-looking subcompact hatchback; Merc only sold the electric version in the U.S. It was discontinued back in 2017, in part, no doubt, because it only offered 87 miles of range. Still, someone has bought one in 2021 — equaling the number Mercedes sold in 2020.

The Ford Bronco’s Impact on America Can’t Be Overstated

ford bronco badge 2021

On the evening of June 17, 1994, a white Ford Bronco became the world’s most famous SUV. A gun-toting O.J. Simpson had slipped into the back of friend Al Cowling’s 1993 Bronco, and the former football great — charged in the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman four nights earlier— led Los Angeles police on an extensively televised two-hour chase before surrendering at his Brentwood manion. “The Juice” and the Bronco were forever linked. But only the Bronco got put away for 25 years.

Ford cancelled the two-door Bronco in 1996, replacing it with the enormous Expedition. Now, in 2021, the Bronco is returning, rehabilitated for modern tastes and (fingers crossed) post-pandemic adventure — and its arrival has become a watershed moment in automotive culture. Sometimes during the Bronco’s oft-delayed rebirth, it seemed as though an audience even larger than the 90 million who watched O.J.’s attempted end-run around justice on live television were following every nail-biting moment.

1966 ford bronco
1966 Ford Bronco Dunes Duster Concept Car

Ford

But why, exactly? Take a trip down any street, from Brentwood to Boston, to spot the first clue: a sea of Toyota RAV4s and Honda CR-Vs, Subaru Foresters and Ford Escapes. In pricier nabes, you’ll lose count of the Audi Q5s, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Classes and BMW X3s. There’s nothing wrong with these SUVs, and a lot right, as the RAV4’s roughly 400,000 annual sales attest. (Set aside pickup trucks, including Ford’s dominating F-Series, and the RAV4 is America’s best-selling automotive model of any type). But the SUV has morphed, in stages, from adventurous outlier — including the heart-meltingly-cool Bronco Roadster of 1966, sold with no roof or doors in standard guise — to bloated environmental and safety scourge; to today’s symbol of tranquilized suburban conformity. In 2021, a minivan is a more provocative driveway statement than a crossover. Americans never like to see themselves as conformists, even if the New Balance shoe fits — so some of them, desperate for an image upgrade and a car with a pulse, will do just about anything to avoid re-upping a $269-a-month lease on a CR-V.

Genuine, truck-based SUVs that the industry spent decades running away from are back in a big way.

As a result, we’ve reached an inflection point, suffused with full-circle irony: the genuine, truck-based SUVs that the industry spent decades running away from are back in a big way, and just in time for a post-Covid where hiking, camping and other close-to-home adventures seem more enticing than an all-inclusive Caribbean getaway. The more authentic their image and backstory, the better. The Jeep Wrangler, the descendant of the military Jeep that started it all — sorry, Ford, Land Rover, Toyota et. al. — has never been more popular, its sales nearly tripled from 2005. The Land Rover Defender, the ultimate forbidden fruit of American 4×4 fans, is doing its own British Invasion and selling like mad. General Motors is rushing its GMC Hummer to market in electric form, simultaneously milking the Hummer’s bad-boy Terminator image and recasting it as an eco-warrior. Even mainstream models, from the latest RAV4 to the award-winning Kia Telluride, are ditching soapbox crossover shapes for the boxier lines and burlier attitudes of old-school SUVs.

But the Hummer’s inaugural First Edition will start from $106,000, putting it out-of-reach for most mainstream buyers. A decently equipped Defender shoots past $60,000, and above $100,000 in upcoming supercharged V-8 form. A 2021 Bronco, meanwhile — with its killer design that plays up the elemental charm of the pint-sized original with none of its farm-implement compromises — starts just below $30,000. No wonder people are going crazy for it.

ford bronco

Ford

ford bronco ii
1984 Bronco II

Ford

For all the rose-colored nostalgia (and soaring prices for vintage models), the truth is that the Bronco wasn’t especially popular in its time — and not at all path-breaking. In its best sales year of 1974, the first-gen Bronco sold from 1966 to 1977 found 25,824 buyers, compared with about 43,000 sales for the better-equipped Jeep CJ. The Bronco didn’t even offer a radio or air conditioning until 1978. Yet a Bronco legend began taking dusty shape in the deserts of North America in those early years, with Parnelli Jones and Bill Stroppe winning the Baja 1000 in 1971 and 1972 in a modified Bronco race truck.

Ford fared best in sales with the “Big Bronco,” an upsized SUV based on the F-Series pickup that proved a stalwart through four generations between 1978 and 1996. The Big Broncos, including ruggedly handsome two-door models, were serious SUVs, a favorite of workin’ men, off-road enthusiasts and customizers of varying skills. These Broncos delivered a few cultural highlights, including serving as open-air Popemobile for John Paul’s American tour in 1979. The Bronco became a serviceable TV and movie chariot, often for lawmen or outlaws, from CHiPs and Lost to Terminator 2 and No Country for Old Men. But even those Broncos’ sales were consistently dwarfed by the Chevrolet Blazer’s, and the fuel-thirsty Ford grew increasingly out-of-step with the times.

“We need the new Bronco the way a moose needs a hat rack,” Car and Driver opined — in 1980, no less. “The new wave of small, efficient four-by-fours makes this better 4WD idea for the Eighties look like something exhumed from the La Brea tar pits.”

2021 ford bronco
“The 2021 Ford Bronco takes it’s rugged off-road design cues from the first-generation Bronco, the iconic 4×4 that inspired generations of fans.”

Ford

Let’s be real: all the yabber about the Bronco’s “iconic” status is more marketing fluff than reality; at the very least, it centers solely on the first-gen model and our increasingly romanticized vision of its primitive-SUV era. Take it from someone who grew up in Jeep CJs and Wagoneers, International Harvester Scouts and TravelAlls and a camp mate’s first-gen Bronco: yes, there was and is something cool about the early SUVs, with their rudimentary beauty, mechanical purity and lack of pretense. But most people today — even people who like 4x4s — wouldn’t want to spend an hour in these often-unreliable, fitfully heated, metal-lined tanks.

Collectors and nostalgists aside, SUV fans should be thankful they live in 2021 — and for the 25-year hiatus that’s led to the sixth-gen Bronco. This new model looks beastly enough, but it’s an entirely different beast. It’s roomier, friendlier and more-approachable, suffused with modern comforts, tech and versatile on-road performance. This Bronco loves to get down and dirty, but cleans up nicely for dinner. And today’s SUV buyers wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Important Gear You Need for an Off-Road Camping Adventure

As the age-old maxim says, “it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey.” If that’s true, and if you’re a gearhead, there’s no more satisfying way to journey than via expedition-ready rig. And as manufacturers continue to offer up more and more off-road-ready vehicles straight from the factory, the call of the off-road trip grows louder, and adventure arrives more easily.

If you’re ready to answer the call, there are a few things you should put on your shopping list. Aside from your basic camping gear, essential survival tools and standard vehicle maintenance essentials, you’ll also want to make sure you have an array of gear that will keep you high and dry (in a good way) and your truck or SUV from getting stranded. The list quickly becomes expensive, but it’s better to invest now than be stuck later.

This basic guide to gear isn’t comprehensive, of course. Part of the fun of the hobby is the continuous refinement of one’s kit: adding new gadgets and piece of equipment; swapping out entry-level gear for items designed for more experienced users as you gain confidence; finding better, higher-quality versions of supplies than you started out with. Still, the products here and the categories below should serve as an excellent starting point, giving you a chance to dip your toe (or heck, even your whole foot) into the off-road camping pool.

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Ford’s ‘Rattler’ Trademark Suggests Another Off-Roader Is Coming

Car buyers love off-road trims, even on already rugged vehicles like the Subaru Outback that don’t necessarily need one — and that trend shows no sign of changing anytime soon. The latest evidence: Ford just filed for a trademark that suggests another cool, capable vehicle (or version of a vehicle) could arrive soon.

As CarBuzz recently spotted, the Blue Oval wants to trademark the term ‘Rattler‘ for use in, as the filing puts it, “motor vehicles, namely automobiles, pick-up trucks, electric vehicles, sport utility vehicles, off-road vehicles and their structural parts.”

The natural question is what — if anything — Ford would use Rattler for. A trademark filing could mean very little, like when Ford re-upped the trademark on ‘Excursion.’ Or it could mean a lot, like when Ford trademarked Maverick, and it ended up being a whole new truck. (Ford did not clarify the matter when asked about it by Motor1.)

Ford does have a high-performance, desert-running Bronco on the way, and a vicious and versatile snake capable of traversing all manner of Southwestern terrains and traveling through water would be a fitting name. That said, recent speculation suggests Ford will be sticking with Bronco Raptor for that model. Rattler could also be a spectacular name for the Bronco pickup reportedly in the works.

Rattler could fit for the monstrous, V8-powered, 700-plus horsepower F-150 Raptor preparing to do battle with the Ram TRX next year. Though Ford is already referring to that truck as the Raptor R. Rattler could also be something smaller, like a badass new trim for the Maverick.

Whatever Ford ultimately opts to do with Rattler, we can say one thing with absolute certainty: it won’t have as cool a logo as the one put forward by Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler, who is now free to profit from his likeness like every other college athlete.

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The Best Motorcycles for Navigating City Streets

Well, hello there! Consider this list your introductory guide to commuter motorcycles. No, it’s not an official type of motorcycle per se, but it’s worth looking at; after all, if you’re zipping into, out of and around an urban environment, a motorcycle is just about the best way to get from A to B.

The motorcycles we discuss here vary in size, style and price, but they all have one thing in common: they’re all perfect for dealing with busy streets, angry traffic and tight spaces.

What Makes a Great City Motorcycle?

Surviving the forces that make up city traffic on a motorcycle requires patience, quick reflexes and steel nerves — and it’s crucial that the motorcycle can keep up. A compact, slender bike is a good place to start. Dodging potholes and traffic and shooting for narrow gaps between cars is the norm when cruising down a crowded street; a good city motorcycle needs to be lightweight and flickable, two qualities delivered well by smaller bikes.

Power is important, but only if it’s usable. There’s no use having chart-topping power and torque if you have to be flirt with the redline to see it. The motorcycles that work best on city streets have accessible power when you’re pulling away from a stoplight or puttering around at low speeds.

When dipping and diving and weaving your way through town, your attention needs to be on the road ahead, not how uncomfortable you are — so good ergonomics are key. That’s not just about the seating position; though it’s important that you’re not stuffing yourself onto the bike, riding comfort also comes from a good suspension setup. A super-stiff suspension that relays every rut, rock and crack can not only be bone-shatteringly uncomfortable, but can lead to a nervous, twitchy and unsettled bike.

It’s a tall order to build a bike that’s versatile enough to handle city streets and still have the capabilities to hop on the highway. But when manufacturers nail the formula, they create motorcycles that can be an incredible asset for fighting back the daily grind.

The Best Motorcycles for City Riding

Ducati Monster

ducati monster best commuter motorcycle

Ducati

If your tastes in motorcycles lends itself toward something Italian, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bike for urban riding than the Ducati Monster. 111 horsepower and 69 lb-ft are more than enough to blast through traffic, while an improved steering angle of 36º cuts the steering diameter down to 17.5 feet for added maneuverability. The new bike even weighs in 40 pounds lighter than the previous Monster, making handling it at low speeds (i.e. in heavy traffic) easier, to boot.

Price: $11,895+

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Triumph Bonneville T100

triumph bonneville best commuter motorcycles

Triumph

Our very own Steve Mazzucchi has been riding a Bonneville around New York City for some time, so he’s able to vouch firsthand for its capability as a city bike. The combination of reasonable seat height and the placement of the pegs right under your feet give it great ergonomics and visibility, he says. The latest models add ABS and heated handgrips for added livability, without losing the classic looks. “The fact you can pretend to be Steve McQueen racing away from Nazis is just a bonus, really,” Mazzucchi adds.

Price: $11,000+

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Zero Motorcycles SR/F


With their instantaneous torque and lack of a clutch or gears, electric motorcycles are practically tailor-made for city riding. (Also, unlike internal-combustion machines, they get better mileage around town than on the highway.) Zero’s SR/F one of our most notable vehicles to go on sale in 2019 — goes 161 miles on a charge in the city (or 200, with the optional Power Tank) and recharges in as little as an hour, yet still rips off a 0-60 mph run of well under three seconds. It’ll top out at 124 mph, too…should you find a city street that allows it.

Price: $21,495+

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Honda CB300R


Hope you like matte blue, because that’s the only color Honda’s delightful little bike that lands between a naked standard and a sportbike comes in for 2020. (We do, for what it’s worth.) But if not, a can of Krylon is all that’ll be between you and one of the most delightful city motorcycles out there. Its compact size means even its small motor provides plenty of pep for around-town riding, while features like ABS and a 31.5-inch riding position make it friendlier for around-riding. Plus: it’s cheap, and it’s a Honda, so you know it’s built well.

Price: $4,949+

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Kawasaki Z650 ABS

kawasaki best commuter motorcycles

Kawasaki

In the middleweight naked category, the bikes are so closely matched, any scrutiny requires a microscope. But the Kawasaki is one of the more affordable options compared to its Japanese rivals, and edges out the competition on styling. The Z650 really shines in mid-range power, though, delivering it right where you need it for passing traffic.

Price: $7,489+

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