All posts in “Motoring”

This Electric Truck & Tent Camping Duo Is Our New Obsession

When we think of electric trucks these days, we tend to think of mighty, hulking brutes with big bodies to contain their burly batteries: the Ford F-150 Lightning, the GMC Hummer EV, the Rivian R1T. But as many a true overland enthusiast can tell you, when you’re on the trail, sometimes size can be a liability. Tight turns and narrow gaps are often unavoidable, and when they confront you, you’ll want your off-roader as teeny as possible.

Or, in other words, you’ll want something like Alpha Motor Inc.’s pint-sized AMC Wolf. And now, to further increase its droolability quotient with overlanders, Alpha Motor is teaming up with outdoor gear maker Heimplanet to create one of the coolest truck-and-tent combos we’ve ever seen.

The Wolf + Cloudbreak combination starts with the compact AMC Wolf+ pickup. At 203 inches long, it’s smaller than a Ford Ranger and just slightly larger than a Ford Maverick, yet it packs room for four people and a 65-inch truck bed. Front- or all-wheel-drive are available, along with a range of 250-275 miles.

Once you park, however, that’s when the Cloudbreak comes into play. It pops up into a commodious space that stretches over the truck’s bed, enabling you to access it for storage, sleeping or whatever else. (We presume the production version will offer some sort of additional waterproofing for that area.) On the other end, there’s what amounts to a covered patio that offers additional fresh air.

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How much will this all run you? Well, that’s still to be determined. AMC reportedly says the base version of the Wolf runs around $36,000, but seeing as how they haven’t delivered any yet, it’s all theoretical until they start reaching the streets. Still, we’re hoping this is one piece of vaporware that manages to materialize.


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You Can Still Buy a Brand-New, Old-School Toyota Land Cruiser. Just Not in America

After production of the iconic FJ40 concluded, Toyota branched the Land Cruiser lineage into two directions. The U.S. market stuck with the four-door FJ60 wagon, which evolved into the J200 luxury yacht on sale today, but the 70 Series — the more-direct replacement for the FJ40 — never made it to the States. As such, it is perhaps the juiciest forbidden fruit for American Land Cruiser enthusiasts — at least, until we learn whether the new 300 Series version of the Land Cruiser will come to the United States.

The 70 Series has all the off-road capability of the Land Cruiser, and none of the excess and luxury features found in the American model. The truck is legendarily durable. Indeed, the design is so good, the 70 Series has been in continuous production since 1984 without being overhauled.

It doesn’t appear in places like the U.S. and Europe due to emissions standards, but you can still buy a 70 Series in much of the rest of the world. Toyota sells both SUV and pickup versions of the 70 Series in the United Arab Emirates, starting at the equivalent of $38,600. (Dubai residents can also still buy another enthusiast favorite, the FJ Cruiser, which Toyota discontinued in the U.S. in 2014.)

Australia, however, is the Land Cruiser’s biggest market. In addition to the more modern variants, you can still buy three different model variations of the 70 Series there: two two-box SUVs and a flatbed pickup truck.

Africa remains a popular destination for the Land Cruiser 70 Series, too. The nation of Gambia, for instance, offers a similar array of models to Australia. South Africa still sells pickup versions of the 79 series based on the 70 Series, including last year’s Namib edition. And you can still buy a Land Cruiser 70 Series in South American countries, like Venezuela.

While it’s a shame the J70 Cruiser never came to America, Toyota had its reasons for that. The most obvious is that Toyota already sold a spartan, incredibly durable, smaller SUV in the U.S. It’s called the 4Runner.


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Airstream’s Newest Camper Van Is Made for Outdoor Adventures

By now, we shouldn’t have to tell you that camper vans are all the rage here in 2021. Between the lingering COVID-19-sourced tensions of wanting to be away from other potentially virus-laden humans, the flexibility of work locations and the impressive amount of features that vanmakers can jam into a build today, there are more reasons than ever to set out into the wild (or at least the mild) in a van you can sleep in.

While smaller independent builders like Ready.Set.Van and Boho Campers may dominate the Instagram feeds full of #vanlife, for many folks, the idea of buying a vehicle from a more-established well-known brand holds more appeal. That’s why Winnebago competes here; that’s why Mercedes-Benz recently launched its own camper van; and that’s why Airstream is now adding to its camper van lineup with a new variant aimed at more outdoorsy, adventurous buyers. Meet the Airstream Interstate 24X.

The Airstream Interstate 24X is one big camper van

Airstream’s camper vans (which they prefer to call “touring coaches,” even though that sounds more like something Thomas the Tank Engine would pull around England) aren’t just all based on Mercedes-Benz vans; they’re based on big Mercedes-Benz vans. At more than 24 feet long and 10 feet tall, driving the Interstate 24X is closer to piloting a U-Haul than a Toyota Sienna.

Still, that’s true of Airstream’s other Interstate 24 models, as well. What sets the 24X apart, primarily, are its features that optimize it for outdoor adventure: standard four-wheel-drive; all-terrain wheels and tires; a heavy-duty power system that packs twin 100-amp-hour deep cycle lithium batteries, a 2-kW power inverter and 400 watts of solar panels; front, side and rear off-road LED lights; and, of course, body cladding.

This Airstream packs a spacious interior

That size means there’s ample space to fit all sorts of amenities in there that many a camper van wouldn’t be able to. The aft half of the van is dominated by a pair of long couches, somewhat like the side-mounted seats in an old Land Rover — except each of these can comfortably fit three people, and they’re much sturdier to boot.

Flexible sleeping arrangements on offer

So where, exactly, do you sleep in this Airstream? Simple: the benches fold out to create a large bed encompassing most of the rear and offering ample space to spread out. (In fact, Airstream is all too happy to point out that it offers the largest sleeping space of any Class B motorhome.)

Or, if you don’t need quite so much sleeping space, you can also choose to only deploy part of the bed, creating a small bed spanning the width of the rig. Or, of course, you can turn each of the benches into a twin bed.

Flexibility for adventures is the name of the game

One advantage the high-roof Sprinter has over most vans used for camping builds: plenty of headroom. And room for other things, too: much like an airliner, the Interstate 24x offers ample overhead storage space to make the most of the cabin’s cubic footage.

To make sure owners have plenty of places to securely store their gear when on the road, the Interstate 24X boasts an airline-style L-track storage system with attachment points found on the floor, walls and ceiling alike. And since even getting away from the world now often means still needing to stay digitally connected to it, the Interstate 24x comes with a 5G-ready cellular antenna pre-installed, as well as four separate places to mount the on-board table, in case you get sick of the view from your “home” office.

Most camper vans can only dream of a bathroom like this

For many buyers, though, the biggest reason to choose the Interstate 24X will likely be this right here: a complete wet bath, with shower, sink and flushing toilet. An 11-gallon black water tank even means you can go days without needing to worry about draining your waste…although we highly suggest abiding by the old axiom “if it’s yellow, let it mellow.”

Whip up some (college-spec) meals anywhere on Earth

If you still remember how to assemble a great meal using a small stovetop and a microwave from your dorm room days, the Interstate’s kitchen offers everything you need to play Vanlife Bobby Flay.

The freshwater tank boasts 23 gallons of H20 for whatever purposes you might need. If it gets too hot inside from all your cooking, there’s a 13,500-BTU air conditioner to cool things off again, as well.

You’ll see the Interstate 24X on the roads very soon

Airstream says examples of the Interstate 24X will be reaching dealers in the next few weeks, but if you’re already sold, you can start placing your order now. The starting price: $213,850.


Want a Camper Van? Here Are the Brands to Know

Europeans and Aussies get many of the best camper vans. But there are still some great options you can buy in the United States.


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Audi Just Gave Us Our Best Look Yet at the New RS 3

Audi’s fanciest vehicles tend to receive the lion’s share of the attention these days, but don’t forget about the cars that lie near the base of the lineup. The A3 may be the entry-level Audi sedan, but it’s also possibly the best-looking one. And while we’ve had the sportier S3 model debut, we’re still waiting for the successor to the sportiest RS 3 version to come out.

As of June 10th, Audi has not unveiled it…yet. But they have offered a drawn-out tease for it.

The Audi media site currently features a discussion about future hybrid and electric Audi Sport models with managing director Sebastian Grams and head of sales and marketing Rolf Michl. The lead image, however, is much more exciting for those of us concerned with more conventional RS models: it shows the two of them posing with sedan and sportback versions of the RS 3 in fairly light camouflage. The “1-2-4-5-3” represents the cylinder firing order of Audi’s iconic 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, which puts out 394 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque in the Audi TT RS.

If the lead image weren’t enough of a hint, the last couple minutes of the video is the two of them admiring the two RS 3s, running their hands over the two cars and muttering to each other about them in German.

AutoExpress initially reported a September 2021 reveal for the RS 3, but the latest reports say the car will debut this summer. Their report also expects the engine to be tuned up to around 420 hp. Deliveries are expected to start early 2022, though it may take a bit longer to reach America. And, as many Americans view premium hatchback as an oxymoron, it’s likely that the U.S. market will only get the sedan.

While the RS 3 should hew to tradition for this generation, the electric conversion is coming to Audi Sport. Per the Audi discussion, more than half the lineup will be hybrid or electric by 2024, and up to 80 percent of it will be by 2026.


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The Sedan Is Dying, But There’s Never Been a Better Time to Buy One

Crossovers have conquered the car market. Sedans, once America’s default car, have become quaint and outmoded, like guitar rock or baggy cargo shorts. Manufacturers hide their body style with sloping rooflines; PR releases shun the dreaded S-word. Heck, Ford stopped producing sedans entirely to focus on vehicles like the new Maverick. Even many car enthusiasts will try to sell you on a hatchback or wagon before a sedan.

There’s no doubt the sedan segment is diminishing as people chase more flexibility and cargo space to suit their purportedly active lifestyles. But, a bit paradoxically, there has never been a better time to buy a sedan than right now.

Sedans, you see, are better-performing, more practical and more versatile than they have ever been. They provide the best value on the market. They are at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution. And, yes, you can still find some robust and sporty options with a manual transmission.

Sedans are better and more versatile than ever

American automakers aren’t abandoning sedans because there’s no market for them. They are leaving because the competition is fierce. Toyota and Honda own the compact (Corolla, Civic) and midsize (Camry, Accord) segments. Hyundai, with the NACTOY car of the year Elantra and equally excellent Sonata, is chasing them down. Winning there would require more effort from Ford than it would be worth.

As with full-size trucks, competition breeds excellence. Those aforementioned sedans have all been overhauled during the past few years. And they sell well because they give buyers whatever they want. The base models are affordable, reliable and reasonably well-appointed. You can get legitimately sporty versions with punchy 250-300 horsepower engines. You can get super-efficient hybrids earning around 50 mpg. Toyota will give you all-wheel drive on a Camry, or even tart up a garish boy-racer version for you.

And, perhaps in response to the SUV competition, these sedans have gotten spacious. Front seats offer space to stretch out, while rear seats easily accommodate little ones in car seats. Trunks fit golf clubs and luggage. These sedans can be more practical for everyday life than the small crossovers replacing them.

2021 hyundai elantra car
2021 Hyundai Elantra


Luxury sedans can provide incredible value

If you’re willing to buy used — which is better for the environment — a luxury sedan is the best way to get into a premium marque for less. And you can be confident it will be in good shape; ne’er-do-wells who would thrash a lease car probably aren’t buying an Audi A6.

An study looked at which cars depreciate the most over the first three years, the length of a standard car lease. Eight of the top 10 were sedans. Seven were from upmarket manufacturers. The strongest value play in the automotive world may be swooping into that Mercedes, BMW or Volvo sedan after the depreciation hits.

If you don’t care about brands but just want bargain price luxury, check out the Genesis G80 sedan. Hyundai’s luxury arm produces some of the most elegant cars on the road. But its reputation has not quite caught up with how outstanding their cars are. Even in these times of bonkers used car prices, you can still score a low-mileage 2018 G80 for less than $30,000.

2020 a3 audi sedan
2020 Audi A3


Sedans are at the forefront of EV performance

The automotive world is going electric, and spearheading that shift are sleek, sexy four-door sedans. Tesla set the tone for the EV marketplace with two standout sedans, the Model 3 and the Model S. Porsche’s revolutionary new electric sports car, the Taycan, is a four-door sedan. Mercedes is leading off its EV onslaught with the EQS, a swoopy flagship equivalent to its iconic S-Class.

The best performing EV on the market will soon be the absurd Lucid Air Dream Edition, a 1,000-plus horsepower, 500-plus mile range, exceptionally luxurious and comfortable sedan. Fret not; the crossovers and pickup truck EVs will catch up eventually. But they aren’t there yet.

tesla model 3 red car
Tesla Model 3


Sedans are keeping the manual transmission alive

The manual transmission is on life support, and sedans have not been immune from the attrition. Audi, once a manual transmission stalwart, no longer offers them. The Honda Civic sedan and the Accord lost their stick shifts in their current generations, which hurts. But the pool of sedans on offer still offers some compelling, manually rowed options.

BMW kept the manual transmission alive on the all-new M3. It’s not the fastest M3, but we suspect many drivers will sacrifice a few ticks of lap time for the driving engagement. Cadillac chose to include stickshifts with the new CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing super sedans. The latter will let you row your own while playing with its gargantuan 668 horsepower.

Need a sporty but more affordable option? There are sedans for you, too. Volkswagen’s Jetta GLI can be optioned with a manual. Honda’s sportier Civic Si should be back soon as a sedan and may only come with a manual. The new Subaru WRX is likely to offer a manual too.

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GM Will Remove a Very Annoying Feature from Trucks and SUVs, But Only for a Little While

Most modern cars and trucks are equipped with auto-stop/start technology. The principle behind the system is simple: it shuts off the engine when you’d otherwise be idling and wasting gas during stop-and-go driving . In practice, though, it’s a feature many drivers don’t like. Restarts can feel abrupt or jerky; the momentary delay can make quick action in traffic difficult; and the engine cutting out can sound alarming to older drivers used to less reliable cars. Many cars (for now) come also come with a switch to disable the system, but even so, that requires remembering to press an extra button every time you start the car.

But if you don’t like auto stop/start and you’re in the market for a new General Motors full-size truck or SUV, now may be the time to buy. GM has been making sacrifices to keep truck/SUV production going during the global microchip shortage. The company has already removed cylinder deactivation tech from certain vehicles; now, GM has announced it will be removing auto stop/start from certain trucks and SUVs .

The change will affect 2021 vehicles fitted with either the 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V8 and 10-speed automatic transmission built after June 7, 2021. Those vehicles would be the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV and some editions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

GM is all-in on the shift to electric vehicles pledging its intent for its consumer fleet to go completely electric by 2035. So don’t expect them to explicitly advertise that, while Ford focuses on more efficient gas engines, hybrids and electric trucks, GM still builds V8 trucks and will now be selling them without an annoying fuel-saving feature. But buyers may take notice.


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Ford May Be Benchmarking the Jeep Gladiator Mojave for a Bronco Pickup

If you’re looking for the most badass version of a midsize pickup truck on sale today, it’d be easy to make a case for the Jeep Gladiator Mojave. After all, it’s a Gladiator Rubicon modified for desert racing with Fox internal bypass shocks, front hydraulic jounce bumpers, reinforced axles and an extra inch of lift. Plus, it was the first vehicle to earn Jeep’s new “Desert Rated” badge, which is ever harder to score than their “Trail Rated” one.

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That said, if you’re more of a Ford truck fan, you might want to get excited, too. Ford Authority recently obtained photos of a Gladiator Mojave entering Ford’s truck facility. With manufacturer plates, we can safely presume that’s not a Ford engineer’s daily driver. Instead, it seems likely that Ford is the testing the Gladiator Mojave to benchmark it against some future product — perhaps a Baja-ready off-roader smaller than an F-150 Raptor.

Indeed, it’s easy to suspect this Gladiator Mojave sighting could be more evidence that Ford is working on a new Bronco pickup. After all, Ford has stressed that Bronco will be a family of vehicle; we already know that will include an upcoming Bronco Raptor and, most likely, an all-electric rugged SUV on a new Ford EV platform. But there have also been reports that Ford is targeting 2024 for a pickup truck version of the Bronco. Benchmarking the apex Gladiator would be a sensible move for such a project; remember, Ford did the same with the Wrangler when building the current Bronco SUV.

Looking a bit closer on the timeline, Ford also has a new version of the Gladiator’s direct competitor, the mid-size Ranger pickup, that’s supposed to launch next year as a 2023 vehicle. There has been scuttlebutt about Ford giving enthusiasts the V6 and Raptor capability and branding they have been craving, potentially using the 2.7-liter V6 from the Bronco that puts out 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.

One thing’s for certain, though. Whatever Ford ultimately uses this Gladiator Mojave to help it build…we’re definitely looking forward to driving it.


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The Ford Maverick Is a Whole New Kind of Pickup Truck

ford maverick 2022 compact pickup truck


A couple of years back, when Ford announced that it would be effectively giving up on traditional cars in America (apart, of course, from the Mustang), there were plenty of people who thought Ford was giving up, period. After all, cars like the Focus, Fusion and Taurus might not have roamed the plains in the mighty numbers they once did, but they were hardly going extinct; why forsake all those buyers who prioritize fuel economy and affordability over ride height?

Of course, as the old saying goes, when God closes a door, he opens a window — and the axiom also applies to automotive product planning. With Ford’s sedans having followed its minivans and station wagons into American retirement, the carmaker saw something of, as they put it, “a white space” in the market.

““We wanted to [show up in the affordable product space] in a way that Ford uniquely could,” Jim Baumbick, Ford’s vice-president of global product planning and strategy told us. “We’ve had fits and starts in [the car] product spaces, but our fundamental strategy is to lean into our strengths.”

And as the F-150 has shown, if there’s one thing Ford does well, it’s build trucks.

So, the brand set about creating a new type of entry-level vehicle — something that could leverage Ford’s truck-and-SUV skills but also appeal to buyers who previously hadn’t shopped for pickups. Something with the price point and fuel efficiency of a compact car, but also with the flexibility that only comes with a truck bed. (“Think of all the things you can do in a truck that you would have to struggle, or can’t do, in a sedan,” as Baumbeck put it — or simply ask one of the millions of pickup truck owners in the United States today.)

And so, Ford created the Maverick.

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The 2022 Ford Maverick is a 40-mpg hybrid

And that’s not an optional engine; that’s the base version. The Ford Maverick comes standard with a 2.5-liter inline-four hybrid powertrain, delivering 191 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. Ford predicts that should be good for around 37 miles per gallon in the combined cycle; drive in the city alone, and that should climb to around 40 mpg.

At launch, the hybrid engine only comes paired with front-wheel-drive, and the only gearbox that links engine to wheels is an electronic CVT. If you really want all-wheel-drive and the hybrid, though, it might be added down the line; as Baumbick put it, “we’ll be looking at the opportunity down the road to expand the offering.”

Need more power? There’s an engine for that too

If you’re like many of us, however, you probably want your truck to have four driven wheels, not two. Or maybe you just want a little more power out of your ride. Or maybe both. In either case, Ford has something for that, as well: an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that makes 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. It’s connected to either the front wheels or all four via an eight-speed automatic.

It’s no Focus RS, but the Maverick shouldn’t drive too much like a truck

The Maverick uses the same C2 platform as the Bronco Sport — which is to say, the same platform as the Escape and the no-longer-sold-domestically fourth-generation Focus. That means it joins the Honda Ridgeline and the forthcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz among the thin-but-growing ranks of unibody pickup trucks — as opposed to the burlier body-on-frame chassis used by the rest of the pickup world.

What’s that mean for buyers? Well, we won’t know until we drive it, but we expect the Maverick should drive much like the Bronco Sport, albeit with the added high-speed stability that comes with a longer wheelbase. Every Maverick comes in crew-cab short bed configuration, as well, so they’ll all boast the same wheelbase length.

Advanced driving aids and safety features can be yours, of course

Every Maverick, from the basic XL model that starts under $20K before destination through the mid-level XLT to the fully loaded Lariat, comes packing automatic car- and pedestrian-detecting emergency braking, automatic headlights and automatic high beams. Five drive modes — normal, Eco, Sport, Tow/Haul and Slippery — also come standard.

Tick the right boxes, and you can also add stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane centering, blind-spot warning sonar, hill descent control and other such active safety features. Opt for the FX4 off-road package on the AWD versions, and you get all-terrain tires, an upgraded cooling system, skid plates, a tow hitch and exposed tow hooks, among other upgrades.

This little truck can handle 1,500 pounds of payload

Granted, that includes the interior capacity and the weights of all your passengers. Still, even if you manage to cram a quintet of 200-pound adults inside, that means you still have roughly 500 pounds of leftover capacity to lug whatever you can toss into the bed. (And, thanks to a lower bed height than other trucks, it’s easier for everyone to put stuff back there or dig it out.)

The Maverick can tow up to two tons, depending on model

Every Maverick is capable of lugging around 2,000 pounds on a trailer hitch, according to Ford. However, if you want maximum towing potential, you’ll want to level up to the 2.0-liter engine, as that’s the only way to level up to the 4,000-lb towing capability.

The FlexBed is what Ford calls a “maker space”

Stripping away the marketing jargon, that means Ford wants owners to customize their Mavericks’ beds however they want. Six tie-downs mean it’s easy to secure objects inside if the 4.5-foot-long bed doesn’t have enough space with the tailgate closed (or also if you simply don’t want your items bouncing around).

Hack the bed as needed

Ford even went so far as to make it easier for owners to rig up their own bed storage and usage solutions by designing the FlexBed to use 2x4s and 2x6s as vertical and horizontal dividers. Plus, it comes pre-wired with two 12-volt, 20-amp electrical hookups, making it easy to rig up cargo bay lighting or other powered devices that can run off the truck. (If you’d rather have Ford handle that sort of thing, though, you can also spec the Maverick with 110-volt AC power outlets and LED lights in the bed from the factory.) And if you’re hard-up for ideas on how how to make your Maverick your own, there’s a QR code in the bed that provides suggestions.

There’s storage in there, too

Unlike, say, the Ridgeline or Santa Cruz, the Maverick doesn’t have a trunk in the bed — and unlike the F-150 Lightning, it needs the space in front for the gas engine. Still, the FlexBed even includes storage cubbies in the sides, giving owners a bit of hideaway space back there.

Tech and convenience are central to the Maverick interior

These days, even affordable rides need to pack plenty of modern tech into their interiors. The Maverick may be a new entry-level model for the Ford family, but it still comes standard with an eight-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, on-board wifi capability and a pair of USB ports, on top of the usual suite of features that were optional on cars not long ago but now come standard pretty much everywhere (keyless entry, power locks and windows, automatic climate controletc.)

Depending on trim level, the Maverick comes with either cloth or ActiveX leatherette upholstery. Either way, though, Ford made sure to use interesting contrasts and dashes of accent color beyond the traditional gray/beige/black combos traditional found in many a car.

A wireless charger is available, as well as up to four USB ports. And if you’re the type of person who considers their car their primary stereo, you might want to level up to the Lariat just for the optional Bang & Olufsen-sourced eight-speaker stereo.

Ford made sure to pack the Maverick’s interior full of places for gear

If there’s one advantage cars and SUVs have over pickup trucks when it comes to storage, it’s that they have covered, inaccessible places to store cargo. To help compensate for that deficiency, Ford made sure the Maverick offers lockable storage under the second row of seats, giving owners a place to store many of the knick-knacks that usually roll around their trunks.

Likewise, the doors have been designed with pockets tailor-made to hold large water bottles in an upright position — or, if you prefer, to let tablets lay flat on their side without falling out when you hit your first cloverleaf.

The Maverick starts at $19,995

When the Maverick goes on sale this fall, it’ll do so with a starting price of $19,995 before destination, making it the most affordable vehicle in the company’s lineup (and, presumably, putting another nail in the coffin of the little-loved EcoSport that currently holds that role). That’s more affordable than a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, if only by a little — and, as Ford is all too happy to point out, neither of those cars will get 40 mpg in the city, let do any of the truck-specific things the Maverick can do. We have a sneaking suspicion that Ford is gonna sell a lot of these.


The Best Cars to Buy in 2021

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The Jeep Wrangler 392 Is Absurd, But That’s Kind of the Point

jeep wrangler 392 red maroon 2021

Will Sabel Courtney

After many, many years wandering in a desert of powertrain choices, Jeep Wrangler buyers in 2021 have found themselves in the land of milk and honey. There’s the venerable naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 and its rather anemic 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which still finds some buyers who want the cheapest Wrangler possible (or, in few numbers, insist on a manual gearbox); there’s the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, whose marquee numbers largely mirror the V6’s but which delivers its torque much lower in the rev range, making it feel peppier; there’s a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 for those who love their torque so much, they want it as commonplace and easy to access as possible; there’s the new plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe, which finally gives the Jeep the power to be a reasonably potent vehicle on the highway while also enabling up to 25 miles of emissions-free driving.

Then…there’s the Jeep Wrangler 392.

As the nomenclature would lead Mopar fans to believe, the distinguishing feature of this Wrangler is the presence of a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 beneath its bow — the same 470-horsepower, 470-lb-ft salute to America found in the likes of the Dodge Charger Scat Pack, Jeep Grand Wagoneer and Ram 2500 Power Wagon. It is, far and away, the most powerful stock Wrangler to ever roll out of Toledo. It is, also, completely illogical.

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This is how the Wrangler 392 is meant to be used

While the Wrangler comes in (checks 13 trims and counting as of this story’s publication, there’s only one way to order a 392-powered one: as a four-door Rubicon. That is to say, with the full-fledged array of off-road options and features available on the Wrangler from the factory, from an electronic sway bar disconnect to locking front and rear differentials. It also features a standard two-inch lift kit versus others Rubicons, as well.

One feature you won’t find on the 392 that comes on lesser Rubicons, however: the 4:1 low range Rock-Trac four-wheel-drive system. V8 Wranglers all use the 2.72:1 low range Selec-Trac setup instead…but let’s face it, with 470 torques on command, you likely won’t miss the lower low range.

This is how the Wrangler 392 will actually be used

As with most off-roaders, though, you can fully expect the vast majority of V8-powered 2021 Wranglers to spend most of their lives on pavement. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned before, off-roading isn’t really a power-intensive activity; low range and short gearing are what matter most, as they can multiply even a small engine’s torque to remarkable levels so long as you stick to the low speeds mostly used in off-road adventures.

Luckily, the 392 excels at urban living — at least, by Wrangler standards. All that power means merging, passing, bobbing and weaving into, around and through traffic require no forethought; just point and squirt, and let the honey of a V8 do the rest. The 392 is the only Wrangler with a full-time four-wheel-drive system (i.e. one without a two-wheel-drive mode), so you never need to worry about not being able to make the most of the power, either.

It’s still just as livable as any four-door 2021 Wrangler

Which is to say, much better than Wranglers of old, but not quite as nice as most modern SUVs. The 392 comes with the standard three-piece hard top that Jeep calls the Freedom Top, with pop-out panels above the front seats for easy al fresco motoring (and, of course, the ability to remove the giant aft piece as well to go fully topless). Even with the top up, there’s a fair amount of road noise, especially since the off-road tires make quite the racket on pavement and the boxy body has to continuously slap air aside at speed. On the plus side, however, the lack of sheetmetal and sound insulation means the Wrangler 392 offers its occupants a better experience when it comes to appreciating the roar of the 6.4-liter V8 at full whack.

The interior is largely well laid-out, with easy-to-find (and waterproof) buttons and knobs for most controls and the easy-to-master infotainment system. The seats are fine enough for the daily commute, but not exactly ideal for road trips — especially if you’re long-limbed, at which point you’ll find the driver’s legroom not only constrained by a lack of distance to the pedals, but also by the connector for the door electronics, which juts out into your calf.

The Wrangler 392 is, ultimately, a toy — and that’s okay

All that might make it sound like the 392 could be the ideal Wrangler for many folks, but there’s one factor holding it back from that: the price. The four-door Wrangler starts at $33,570, the Wrangler Rubicon begins at $44,216 and the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe — which, remember, makes just as much torque as this V8 version — starts at $53,190.

The Wrangler Rubicon 392? It starts at $74,995.

In other words, you could buy two nicely-equipped Wranglers for the price of this one. Or a regular Wrangler Rubicon and a Honda Accord Sport. Or a fully-loaded, brand-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4×4…or a Ram 1500 TRX…or a Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye.

Is the 392 worth that much, objectively speaking? Is it worth nearly $22,000 more than the Rubicon 4xe? No way. But this is not a car meant to be judged in objective terms. It’s a plaything, a toy, a car meant to provide thrills and chills first and everyday transportation second. It’s much like, say, a Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0: cramming a bigger engine into a fun open-top ride to make it more appealing to a demographic. You don’t have to spend this much to have most of the fun…but if you can swing it, why not?

2021 Jeep Wrangler 392

Base Price: $74,995

Powertrain: 6.4-liter V8, eight-speed automatic, full-time four-wheel-drive

Horsepower: 470

Torque: 470

EPA Fuel Economy: Don’t worry ’bout it, eh?

Seats: 5


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Car camping makes getting away easy as pie. These items make it even tastier.


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This Tiny RV Is a Whole New Type of Awesome Camper Van

Living in America certainly comes with plenty of perks, but one thing we often wind up missing out on here in the land of Rock Flag and Eagle: the widest array of camper vans. Europeans have a much deeper history of living that #vanlife, so unsurprisingly, the options available to them run much broader than here in the U.S.

Luckily, as more and more Americans discover the joys of camper van and travel trailer life, that’s starting to change. Case in point: the Wingamm Oasi 540, which not too long ago would have been exactly the sort of cool van we’d be forced to drool over from afar, but now is pulling an Eddie Murphy and coming to America.

Thank the good folks at Stellantis, in part, as their decision to bring the Fiat Ducato van to the U.S. as the Ram Promaster means the builds based on Fiats abroad can effectively be copy-pasted onto NHTSA-approved chassis here. The Oasi 540 stretches just 17 feet six inches long — shorter than some pickup trucks — but clever packaging means it manages to cram a remarkable amount of comfort and living room into its square footage.

tiny rv camper van


tiny rv camper van


For starters, there’s an honest-to-God standalone bathroom, complete with shower, sink and toilet. (Granted, it’s a wet bath, so you’ll be showering next to (or even while sitting on) the john.) The dining area places a couch around a removable table, but by swiveling the cab seats around, you can squeeze four or five people around it for meals. The kitchen packs not only a stainless steel sink and ample cabinets, but a two-burner stove and a 3.8-cubic-foot fridge. There’s even a decent amount of closet and other storage space.

Where then, you might wonder, do you sleep? Well, crane your neck upwards (metaphorically, don’t actually doing it while reading this or you won’t find out) and you’ll see the double bed that retracts into the ceiling when not in use. Come bedtime, the memory foam mattress on wooden slats drops down – but thanks to a skylight above it, you’ll be able to wake up with the sun so you don’t miss a minute of the day.

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The Oasi 540 will reach American shores this fall, if all goes according to plan, with larger models expected to follow. Considering both the amount of capability packed into this van and Wingamm’s bold claims about their campers’s build quality, we’re excited to check it out for ourselves.


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These 10 Used Cars Have All Exploded in Value

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Own one of these cars? You won’t find a better time to give it a new owner.

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Buy an Electric Car…Yet

A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today for more stories like this one, plus receive a $15 gift card to the Gear Patrol Store.

If you’re anywhere along the car-buying spectrum right now, you’ve probably asked yourself a question your forebears never had to contend with: Should I get an electric car?

After all, saying goodbye to gas is more in vogue than ever. Elon Musk has become one of the world’s richest people based on market expectations that Tesla represents the future of transportation. And governments around the globe have announced plans to ban the sale of fossil fuel cars before today’s infants start driver’s ed, with good reason. EVs have many advantages over internal-combustion-engined vehicles: you can refuel them at home; they require less maintenance; their torque-laden motors make them feel zippier; and, of course, they don’t produce harmful emissions.

Here’s the thing, though: you shouldn’t buy an electric car. Not yet.

The Audi E-Tron GT takes on power from a charger.


This isn’t to say today’s EVs suck. Far from it. From Tesla to Taycan, many of the electric vehicles you can buy right now are among the most cutting-edge passenger vehicles ever sold, capable of doing everything from almost driving themselves to delivering acceleration that could make Neil Armstrong puke.

And though you might know the term “range anxiety” as a reason to be apprehensive about electric cars, it’s not the issue it’s made out to be. Today’s EVs can usually cover at least 200 miles on a charge; that may not be the equal of fossil fuel cars, but it’s still more than enough to handle 99 percent of the average person’s needs.

What remains a deal breaker in 2021, however, is another hang-up: a paucity of charging options. While there are around 168,000 gas stations in the United States, there are only around 47,000 public electric vehicle chargers in the U.S. and Canada combined. Less than 6,000 of those are fast chargers capable of substantially recharging a vehicle in under an hour — and more than 1,000 of those only work with Teslas.

The vast majority of chargers are Level 2 units, which can fully recharge an EV over five to 12 hours. That makes them ideal for recharging at home overnight or at the office, where cars sit stationary for hours, but not so great in the areas many of them are actually located: places like shopping malls and grocery stores, where people are in and out. Add it all up, and America’s EV infrastructure still has a long way to go before it can come close to matching gas stations.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E.


The other primary obstacle: the number of electric vehicle options is still limited compared with internal-combustion options, and they’re relatively pricey for what you get. As of this story’s publication, there are only 19 true EVs in U.S. showrooms. Want a pickup truck, like millions of Americans buy every year? A giant SUV, a convertible or a station wagon? Tough luck. And even if you’re shopping in a category that is fairly well-represented, like all-wheel-drive crossovers — the EV equivalent of a $29,000 Honda CR-V — you’re looking at shelling out more than $45,000.

Thankfully, the next few years should see both of these stumbling blocks fall away. On the charging front, the Biden administration aims to make EVs far more appealing through an onslaught of investment, including plans to add 500,000 charging stations across America. That would not only make electric-car ownership easier for road-tripping suburbanites, but also open up the door to EVs for city dwellers, who often don’t have the luxury of a dedicated parking/charging space at home.

The Volkswagen ID.4.


And by 2024, the market will be flooded with a broad array of EVs, as nearly every car company that sells in America dives into the space. Given the fast pace of EV development and the ramping up of battery tech and production, those cars will likely pack more power and range than many of the EVs you can buy today — quite possibly with smaller price tags.

But if you’re locked into a lease or loan you signed in 2021, you’ll be left watching from the sidelines, grumbling under your breath every time one of those new electric Cadillacs, Fords or Mercedes-Benz EQs glides by.

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BMW’s Future in America Has Been Revealed

These days, the new hip thing to do in the automotive world is go electric. Everyone’s doing it, from sports car companies like Porsche and Lamborghini to truck-and-SUV mainstays like Ford and GMC — and BMW is no exception. After all, Tesla has already proven just how deep and wide the market is for high-end electric sedans and SUVs, and with Bimmer’s traditional arch-rivals of Mercedes-Benz and Audi planning EV onslaughts of their own, the Bavarian Motor Werks has little choice but to respond in kind.

We’ve know for a while now what the tip of BMW’s electric spear would be: the iX crossover and the i4 sedan. We’ve seen them teased almost endlessly for some time, but now, BMW has finally given us all the details about the two electric vehicles’ arrival in America, complete with pricing, range and all those juicy high-tech features. Here’s what we know.

The BMW i4 will come in a tasty M-tweaked form…

Standing at the top of the i4 lineup at launch will be the 2022 BMW i4 M50 — which, as the name suggests, will be the higher-performance version of the new EV. With an electric motor distributing power to each axle, the dual-motor M50 will whip up 536 horsepower and 586 lb-ft — more than the new M3 and M4. (Also, BMW made a point to reveal that the new i4 comes with launch control, so those M-car buyers might want to watch out if they roll up to the line next to this EV.)

And while it may not be a full-fledged M car the way those models are, it is still a BMW, so it certainly shouldn’t embarrass itself in the turns. The battery pack that lies beneath the occupants is low and flat — just 4.3 inches tall — thus bringing down the center of gravity. Plus, with a starting price of $66,895, the i4 M50 undercuts the M3 by several thousand dollars.

…as well as a more sedate version

For those who don’t need to accelerate away from traffic lights as though they’ve been fired off an aircraft carrier catapult, there’s the base model, the 2022 BMW i4 eDrive 40. It makes do with just one electric motor, mounted on the rear axle and producing 335 horsepower. The price starts at $56,395.

Either way, the i4 should deliver good range

Both versions of the i4 use the same battery pack, which offers 81.5 kWh of usable storage (versus 84 kWh of overall space). Not surprisingly, then, given the greater demand on said pack by the M50’s dual motors, the hotter versions offers less range than the eDrive40. BMW estimates the i4 M50 will travel around 245 miles on a charge, whereas the i4 eDrive40 should cover around 300 miles before running out of juice.

Charging times should be short, as well

The new i4 can take on electrons at up to 200 kW, faster than most electric cars you can buy in America as of June 2021. (It’s also more than most EV fast chargers can put out, at least for now, but that’s a short-term problem.) Find a plug that puts out power at that current, and it can tack on 90 miles of range in just 10 minutes.

For those times you need to charge at home — which, let’s face it, will likely be where you do most of your charging — the i4 can also slurp up AC power at an impressive 11 kW, enabling it to go from depleted to 100 percent power in eight hours.

The i4’s interior looks fairly familiar

Inside, the biggest difference between the i4 and, say, the similarly sized 3 Series is the presence of the new BMW Curved Display, which seems to merge the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and 14.9-inch infotainment display into one sweeping arc of screens. (Don’t worry about the screens being washed out by the light from the large standard sunroof; they’re non-reflective.) A new version of iDrive is designed to make it easier to interface with the car using both the touchscreen and voice commands.

The BMW iX goes wild with style

Sedans, though, are so outré these days; people want crossovers. To satisfy those hordes, BMW’s new EV lineup will also launch with the iX — and as you might guess from the name, it’s meant to be a more definitive vision of Bimmer’s future than the somewhat-conservative-by-comparison i4.

In other words…yeah, it looks weird. BMW has leaned fully into its newest design language with the iX, resulting in a crossover with an overinflated version of the 4 Series face, a rear C/D-pillar area that’s vaguely reminiscent of the i3 and a rear that looks as bemused as most people will be when they see the car for the first time.

The iX xDrive50 should be plenty quick, though

The new crossover will launch in American in the form of the 2022 BMW iX xDrive50. As the name suggests, it boasts all-wheel-drive via dual electric motors, with a total output of 516 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. The 0-60-mph dash takes a claimed 4.6 seconds, though like most electric cars, the instantaneous torque delivery means it’ll likely feel quicker. (And if that’s not enough for you, an iX M60 model packing more than 600 ponies is coming eventually.)

Like with the i4, the iX can charge at rates of up to 200 kW on a fast charger or 11 kW on AC power. However, its battery is substantially larger, with a usable capacity of 106 kWh and a total capacity of 111.5 kWh, so it takes a little longer to charge on a Level 2 hookup; expect 0-100 percent in about 11 hours on the 11 kW charger. (10 minutes of Level 3 charging should still add around 90 miles of range, however.) Base price: $84,195.

This Bimmer is packed with tech

As the new flagship of the BMW i line, the iX boasts a bounty of new tech features. That hog nose grille? Not only does it house the sensors for many of the active safety and semi-autonomous driving features, but it even can heal itself if scratched. The body shell is largely composed of carbon fiber and thermoplastics, to reduce mass. And like the i4, its climate control system uses an advanced heat pump setup, so you don’t have to worry (as much) about the heater scavenging too much power in cold weather.

The iX interior is unlike other BMWs

The inside of this crossover is almost as wild-looking as its exterior, too. Like the i4, there’s a curved instrument panel / infotainment display on the dashboard, but here, the vehicle and its iDrive 8 system are paired with 5G connectivity, enabling users to turn the car into a rolling hot spot with blazing Internet speeds (assuming, of course, you can find super-fast 5G).

The iX will also be the first BMW to use the Digital Key Plus tech developed with Apple, which uses ultra-wideband technology to pair and sync the car with the iPhone’s U1 chip (the same tech that makes AirTags work so well). Once your iPhone is paired with the car, you don’t need to lug around a conventional key anymore; the iX will unlock automatically as you approach and let you drive off without even taking your phone from your pocket.

The iX and i4 will hit American streets early next year

BMW says both the iX crossover and the i4 sedan should arrive in the United States in the first quarter of 2022.


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The Toyota Tacoma Is Turning Into an Even Cooler Off-Roader for 2022

toyota tacoma


The Toyota Tacoma is one of our favorite off-road vehicles. Earlier this year, the brand teased two new adventure-ready trims for the 2022 model year; now, however, we can actually tell you about them.

To be fair, the “new” trims are actually significant updates to previous ones: the top-of-the-line TRD Pro that’s made for crazy off-roading; and the Trail edition, a more affordable off-road-ready option with some neat features for overlanding.

Both new Tacoma trucks go on sale in the fall of 2021. Toyota has not yet revealed pricing on either yet, but here’s everything else you need to know about the upcoming changes.

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What’s new for the 2022 Tacoma TRD Pro

The TRD Pro is the most off-road-capable Tacoma (at least, before you hit the aftermarket). For the new model year, Toyota gives the TRD Pro a bigger 1.5 in front suspension lift and an 0.5 in rear suspension lift. The changes increase the Tacoma TRD Pro’s approach, breakover and departure angles to 36.4°, 26.6° and 24.7°, respectively. They’re also adding new TRD forged upper control arms that allow for additional suspension travel.

Toyota will give the TRD Pro new 16-inch black wheels. The coveted TRD Pro badging on the rear quarter panel will be eliminated, sadly, in favor of TRD Pro stamping. And for those looking for a bit more pizzazz, Toyota will offer a new TRD Pro-exclusive Electric Lime paint color.

What’s new for the 2022 Tacoma Trail Edition

The Tacoma Trail Edition is built off the more affordable SR5 trim, but it adds some cool features seemingly made for overlanding, like lockable bed storage and a 120-volt power outlet in the rear. The Trail Edition now brings a 1.1-inch front and 0.5-inch rear suspension lift, a standard rear locking differential and the skid plate from the TRD Off-Road trim.

There are also some aesthetic tweaks for added distinction (and distinction from the TRD Pro). The Trail Edition Tacoma will feature bronze “Toyota” wheels and corresponding bronze lettering on the grille. The Trail Edition also now has a color-keyed rear bumper and “Lunar Rock” as a paint color option.

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The Mazda CX-30’s Turbo Engine Makes a Great Crossover More Entertaining

When my wife first spotted the Mazda CX-30 Turbo, she asked whether we had had it already. Her confusion was understandable; Mazda incorporates the same exquisite Kodo design language throughout its lineup, particularly on SUVs I had driven before like the CX-5 and the CX-9 (both even wore the same Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint). The CX-30 brings that same style and luxury feel to the sprightly subcompact crossover segment — and, for 2021, Mazda even added the same turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four engine those cars use, as well.

Why is the Mazda CX-30 Turbo special?

The Mazda CX-30 was a hit with reviewers (us included) from the get-go. It feels like a premium car, if not quite a luxury one; plus, it has design-award-level looks (if you don’t stare too hard at the nearly Isuzu VehiCross-level cladding). It mostly carries over most of the driving dynamics from the excellent Mazda 3 with a bit (and we mean just a bit) more practicality. It’s hard to find a better all-around subcompact crossover.

The one thing the CX-30 always lacked was oomph. The CX-30 Turbo provides that missing element, leveling the subcompact crossover up to 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque with the turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four. The car straddling the line between mass-market and luxury crossover now straddles the line between crossover and performance car.

How does the Mazda CX-30 Turbo drive?

The CX-30 Turbo sounds better on paper than it is in practice. It’s without question quicker when you punch it — Car and Driver testing shaved nearly two seconds off the 0-60 mph time — and it has substantially more in the can when you want to pass on the highway. The steering and handling remain a cut above the typical subcompact crossover, as well.

Still, it’s not particularly sporty. The added power highlights the limitations of Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission, and while it performed fine hurtled it down some curvy backroads, it wasn’t particularly zesty or fun. I cut short a vigorous drive to get back and catch up on some work — something that would never happen in, say, a Miata.

What’s the Mazda CX-30 Turbo like inside?

Like the rest of the Mazda lineup, the CX-30 Turbo feels more expensive than many competitors. Mazda does a better job emulating the look of a luxury cockpit at a reasonable price than any other manufacturer.

But when you get a family involved, the CX-30 is tiny. My wife and I had to sit basically up against the dash to accommodate our two kids in car seats. Plus, Mazda’s infotainment setup can be flagrantly annoying to navigate.

How much does the Mazda CX-30 Turbo cost?

The Mazda CX-30 Turbo starts at $30,050; my Premium Plus w/AWD test car came out to $35,995. The price point is a tricky one. The performance justifies the CX-30 Turbo costing more than, say, a Kia Seltos. And it is a strong value play compared to luxury sub-compact crossovers.

Then again…anyone who’s actually in a Mazda dealership to look at this car in person will notice you can buy a loaded-up CX-5 that offers pretty much everything you like about the CX-3o (including the engine) with more space for almost the same price.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Powertrain: turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four; 6-speed automatic; AWD

Horsepower: 227 (250 hp with 93 octane)

Torque: 310 lb-ft (320 lb-ft with 93 octane)

EPA Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Seats: 5, albeit tightly


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The 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo Makes One of Our Favorite SUVs Even Faster

The Mazda CX-30 Turbo is the new and hotter version of Mazda’s CX-30 subcompact crossover. Spotting the CX-30 in the driveway, my wife asked whether we had had it already. Her confusion was understandable. Mazda incorporates the same Kodo design language (and Soul Crystal Red Metallic paint) throughout its lineup. Bringing impressive style and luxury, the CX-30 feels like a CX-5 or CX-9 I drove in miniature. And now, new for 2021, the CX-30 can be fitted with the same turbocharged 2.5-liter four-pot from those crossovers, putting out a bonkers 310 lb-ft of torque.

Why is the Mazda CX-30 Turbo special?

The Mazda CX-30 was a hit with reviewers, us included. It’s premium-feeling. It has design-award quality looks (if you don’t stare too hard at the nearly Isuzu Vehicross-level cladding). It mainly carries over most of the driving dynamics from the excellent Mazda 3 with a bit (and we mean just a bit) more practicality. It’s hard to find a better all-around subcompact crossover under $30,000.

The one thing the CX-30 lacked at launch was some oomph from the engine. The CX-30 Turbo provides that missing element, leveling the subcompact crossover up to 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (or 250 hp and 320 lb-ft if you plunk down for premium) with the turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four.

How does the Mazda CX-30 Turbo drive?

The CX-30 Turbo sounds glorious on paper. But raised expectations will engender disappointment. It’s quicker when you punch it — Car and Driver clocked it at 5.8 seconds from 0-60 mph, 1.8 seconds faster than the base CX-30 — and it has much more to offer passing slowpokes on the highway. The steering and handling remain a cut above the typical subcompact crossover.

The trouble with the CX-30 Turbo is it’s more refined than it is sporty. And the added power highlights the limitations of Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission. It performed ablely when I hurtled it down some curvy backroads. It just wasn’t particularly zesty or amusing. To be honest, I cut my vigorous drive route short to head home and work.

What is the Mazda CX-30 Turbo interior like?

Like the rest of the Mazda lineup, the CX-30 Turbo just feels more premium than mass-market competitors. Mazda emulates the look of a luxury cockpit for less better than any other manufacturer. But when you get a family involved, the CX-30 cabin feels oppressively tiny. My wife and I had to sit basically up against the dash to accommodate our two kids in car seats (thankfully her parents live a very short drive away).

How much does the Mazda CX-30 Turbo cost?

So the Mazda CX-30 Turbo starts at $30,050. My media-spec Premium Plus AWD version priced out to $35,995. That price point is where things start to get ticky for the CX-30. It seems odd to plow that much money into a crossover and opt for power over more space or a more premium brand name.

And even if you’re all in on Kodo design, why not step up to a Mazda CX-5 for a few thousand more? You get the same look, the same turbo engine and a lot more room.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four; 6-speed automatic; AWD

Horsepower: 227 (250 hp with 93 octane)

Torque: 310 lb-ft (320 lb-ft with 93 octane)

EPA Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Seats: 5, compactly


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Ford’s Most Popular SUV, the Explorer, Is Adding an Electric Version

Ford recently revealed the F-150 Lightning, the brand’s new all-electric version of its iconic F-150 pickup. But Ford’s EV plans go well beyond that. At a financial presentation, Ford revealed that it wants to make 40 percent of its vehicle sales EVs by 2030. And the company made two key announcements that will bring them a long way toward meeting that target.

First, Ford confirmed that it is building an electric Explorer. The three-row midsize family SUV is Ford’s most important non-F-Series vehicle; it outsold the Ranger, Bronco Sport and Mustang combined in the first quarter this year. An Explorer EV should be a similar play to the F-150 Lightning: sell EVs by just making the Ford cars people are already buying in electric form.

An Explorer EV, depending on the timing, could be a huge win for Ford. Three-row midsize family SUVs are trendy because they are practical for families. The only EV option similar to that is the Rivian R1S, which will be a more expensive vehicle. The other options in that segment are mostly powered by dated, inefficient V6s. The market is waiting for an EV that can also be a spacious family car.

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Ford noted that it is developing modular EV platforms. One will be compatible with rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive applications. Suggested applications include a “rugged SUV” (which looks a great deal like an electric Bronco), a smaller pickup truck and a cargo van. Another will be a full-size truck EV architecture that could underpin a future electric F-150. (The current F-150 Lightning, for what it’s worth, is a modified version of the combustion F-150.)


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Is VW Bringing a Badass Adventure Truck to America After All?

A little while back, Volkswagen teased us with the mud-terrain-ready Tarok pickup concept. Shortly thereafter, the company’s COO dropped a large bucket of cold water on VW building a production version in the next few years. But now, there may be a glimmer of hope that a VW pickup could arrive Stateside: CarBuzz found that VW just filed a trademark application for “Amarok” in the United States. The Amarok is, of course, the pickup truck that Volkswagen sells in non-American markets.

Could VW bring the Amarok to the United States?

You could make a case that VW should bring the Amarok to America. Volkswagen has been transitioning its American lineup away from hatchbacks and wagons toward cars that Americans still buy; in recent years, the company has come out with the three-row Atlas, made the Tiguan larger and more upscale and launched the subcompact Taos crossover. And what is the one vehicle Americans love more than crossovers? Trucks.

And theoretically, at least, it should be easier to get the second-generation Amarok to America if VW was so inclined. Designing it to meet American standards from the get-go would be easier than retrofitting a truck that didn’t. Besides, the Amarok will also use Ford’s new Ranger platform, which means Ford could even build it for VW in America, like it will be globally, to avoid the chicken tax on foreign trucks.

Why VW might not bring the Amarok to the United States

Of course, there’s a compelling case for VW not to bring the Amarok to the U.S. as well. Crossover buyers aren’t brand-loyal, which leaves room for upstarts like the Kia Telluride. But truck buyers may be the most brand-loyal customers in the industry — and the Toyota Tacoma has an ironclad grip on the midsize truck segment. Even impressive efforts from Ford, Chevy and Jeep have not been able to prise away market share. (Plus, we suspect Ford had some sort of stipulation in the Ranger platform contract that VW could not just turn up with the Amarok and start cranking out direct competition for FoMoCo’s pickup.)

There may be room down-market for VW to come out with an affordable, active-lifestyle, segment-straddling crossover truck on the MEB platform along the lines of the Hyundai Santa Cruz. But the Amarok is very much a full-fledged truck. And more of an upscale and fancy one at that.

It’s possible VW could do a Passat-type thing, where “Amarok” means something completely different in North America and Europe. However, if VW were coming out with a take on the Baja, it would seem simpler to name it something different, like the Tarok. Or, of course, the recent trademark filing could always be routine diligence on VW’s part to prevent someone else building an Amarok pickup.


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The 50 Most Iconic Motorcycles of All Time

Motorcycles are iconic machines. They are equal parts simple and complex, mechanical interpretations of form meeting function — with attitude to spare. Whether it’s chrome glimmering in the sun, the artful engineering behind a single-sided swingarm or their ability to outrun just about anything, motorcycles are more than just simple transportation; they strangle attention. Ride one down the street and watch as babies point and smile mid-whimper, dogs chase joyfully, angsty teens fight the curling in the corners of their mouths, old biker types in leather nod with supreme comprehension.

Still, some motorcycles make more of a splash than others. There are countless combinations of weapons-grade speed, sex, beauty, design and freedom found between two tires. But these fifty-one, specifically, are the icons hand-picked by Gear Patrol as our favorite bikes of all time.


Basic and Better for It

Harley-Davidson XR750

Essentially a parts-bin special slapped together to meet changing AMA dirt-track rules, the XR750 is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. After years of domination, Harley’s racing department were forced to completely rethink their efforts for the 1970 season.

So in less than a year, they did — and in doing so created the winningest race bike in the history of the AMA. Thankfully, homologation rules stipulated that 200 race-ready road-goers be made available to the public; thus, a legend was born. A man with the odd name of “Evel” only added to the allure of the XR750 when he made it his bike of choice.


Honda CB750

In 1969, Honda introduced the masses to the transverse-mounted, inline-four cylinder engine. Credited as being one of the first true “superbikes,” the CB750 was the game-changing result of Soichiro Honda’s obsession with cracking the American market.

Delivering incredible bang for the buck, the CB750 could smoothly and comfortably top 120 mph, thanks to its race proven inline-four layout. Front-mounted disc brakes were another mainstream first that revolutionized the motorcycle market. An electric start, a kill switch, the use of an overhead camshaft and easy maintenance were the icing on the cake.


Honda CB77


Photo: Petrolicious

The CB77, or Superhawk, was the sportbike starting point for Honda. The 305cc parallel twin powering the CB77 could freely rev to nine grand and easily send riders over “the ton” (a.k.a. 100 mph). It was the Honda’s reliability, however, that established and cemented the Japanese manufacturer’s reputation in the Western world. The frame was crafted out of tubular steel rather than pressed, with the motor doubling duty as a stressed member, thereby shedding precious pounds and making the CB77 incredibly flickable.

Also, fun fact: the Honda Superhawk was the ride of preference for Robert Pirsig during his philosophical journey documented in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.


Honda Super Cub

The Honda Super Cub is the most popular selling motorcycle in the world. More than five decades in production will do that; so will a bulletproof single-cylinder engine and a low cost of ownership. Found everywhere throughout Asia, Africa and South America and available in multiple iterations, the Super Cub has been compared to the Ford Model-T and Volkswagen Beetle for its influence on motorized transportation.

The Cub won’t be disappearing anytime soon. To help celebrate its 50th anniversary back in 2008, Honda churned out its 60 millionth unit, and sales haven’t slowed; the 100 millionth Super Cub rolled off the line in 2017.


Kawasaki Triple

The Kawasaki Triples cranked out during the disco era were renowned for their incredible power-to-weight ratio. Sub-13.0 second quarter-mile runs could be hammered out within two blocks of the showroom floor. That was, provided they were in a straight line and riders could keep the front wheel on the ground; the torquey, free-revving three-cylinder engine was notorious for wanting to run up on one. Poor handling plagued them from word go, even when the front wheel was touching tarmac, and they would go on to become dubbed the “Widowmaker” of the 1970s.

Despite this, or maybe because of it, Kawasaki Triples are sought out to this day, commanding hefty premiums when you can find them.


Kawasaki Z1

Known internally as project “T103” and “New York Steak,” the Z1 was Kawasaki’s bigger, faster answer to Honda’s CB750. In fact, when Honda revealed their iconic CB in 1968, Kawasaki scrapped their almost ready for prime-time 750cc effort and declared a power war on the superbike world.

When it finally hit the showroom floor in 1973, the big Kwack 903cc was the most powerful Japanese four-pot ever produced. Its 82-hp output was enough to propel the 550-pound superbike to 130 mph and take home the coveted “Machine of the Year” award from The Motorcycle News for four consecutive years. The Z1 would also rack up numerous wins at the track; a close partnership with Yoshimura tuning and a gentleman by the name of Paul Smart in the saddle made them the team to beat in the mid-seventies.


Triumph Bonneville

Icons cannot die. Production of Triumph motorcycles has ceased three times, and yet the Bonneville thrives. Whether it’s an early Triumph Engineering effort, a Norton Villiers Triton, a Devon Bonnie or a new model from Hinckley, the Bonneville oozes cool from every angle. Marlon Brando, James Dean and (of course) Steve McQueen have all swung legs over this plucky Brit, escalating a status originally earned at the track. Its parallel-twin engine has grown from 650cc to 865cc and carburetors have given way to injection, but its silhouette remains as constant as our desire to be seen riding one.


Café Racers

Vintage Speed Machines

BSA Gold Star Clubman

The Gold Star was a pin awarded to riders able to lap the Brooklands circuit at an average speed north of 100 mph. In 1937 Wal Handley came out of retirement, hopped on a BSA, recorded a lap speed of 107.5 mph, and the BSA Gold Star was born.

To back the new nomenclature now emblazoned on their tanks, BSA rededicated their efforts — and dominated the Clubman TT up until it ended in 1956. The 500cc single-cylinder Gold Star was hand assembled and sold with factory test results alerting owners to the horsepower they would sidle. Later models could even be optioned with a first gear capable of hitting 60 before shifting was necessary. This led the factory catalogues to indicate that this bike was a racer first and foremost and not suitable for road use. (Thankfully, this would only made them more popular.)

Ducati 900SS

Hungry to nibble at the Japanese-dominated supersport market of the ’70s, Ducati developed the 864cc “square case” powered 900 Superlight. Resembling the formidable 750 SS that Paul Smart rode to victory in Imola, the bigger Desmodromic L-twin was an immediate success. Ducatisti regard the 1978 model as the most desirable iteration, with its redesigned shifter (now on the left side of the bike) and its classic spoked wheels. The ‘78 model would also win the prestigious Isle of Man TT before bowing out gracefully at the top of its class.


Ducati PS1000LE

Built to commemorate Paul Smart’s first place finish in Imola on his 1972 Ducati 750SS, the Ducati PS1000LE is the prettiest possible way to pay anyone respect. Built around their Sport Classic series, the Paul Smart model took Pierre Terblanche’s design to a new level. The bubble-shield front fairing, wire spoked wheels and green trellis frame create a classic juxtaposition with the ultra modern Ohlins suspension and beefy Pirelli tires. Available in limited numbers, and only for a single year, the PS1000LE may prove to be one of the most collectible Ducatis ever made.


Moto Guzzi Le Mans

Powered by a low-tech lump mated to a car-type transmission, the shaft-driven Moto Guzzi Le Mans often felt like two different animals. Lethargic and twitchy at low revs, the bike had serious frame twisting when riders got on the throttle — making corner exists a dicey affair. On the right road though, with your knees being sucked into the carbs at full bore, this Latin lovely transforms into something sublime. Matte black plumbing took the place of chrome and complemented the sculpted tank and low-lying windscreen to give the Guzzi its trademark cafe racer stance that is often imitated on lesser bikes today.


Norton Commando

So successful were the Norton Commando race bikes that the term “unapproachable Norton” was coined in pit row. Interestingly, though, what made the Nortons so tough on the track was how approachable they actually were.

Taking what Triumph had started with the Speed Twin, Norton employed a former Rolls-Royce engineer to develop a package for the larger 750cc Norton parallel-twin. The revolutionary use of rubber mounting for the mechanicals meant that the vibrations inherent with high strung twins at speed was all but eliminated. Riders could now push harder for much longer stints. It also meant riders would often go for broke; early Nortons were famous for leaking a bit of oil here and there, but we’re pretty sure they were just sweating horsepower.


1950 Norton Manx

Norton motorcycles and the Isle of Man TT go together like strawberries and Devonshire cream. Having competed in every Tourist Trophy race since its inception (1907), Norton made the race their raison d’etre. In 1950, the team was working with an antiquated and underpowered package — the engine was a variation on a 25-year-old design. The “Featherbed” frame featured a fully welded duplex frame and pivoted rear fork suspension setup, instantly reducing weight and exponentially improving handling.

Add to that some minor tweaks to find an extra 8 hp (for 36 hp in total), and it was no longer just about winning for Norton; it was about dominating. They secured five of the top six finishes.



Old-School Style

1923 BMW R32

After the war, German aircraft manufacturing was grounded and BMW found themselves in search of purpose. Five years before they would begin building Ultimate Driving Machines, Bayerische Motoren Werke would build motorcycles. In 1923, engineer Max Friz designed what would go on to epitomize BMW Motorrad: the R32.

Powered by a boxer-twin engine, the horizontally opposed heads were ideally located in the airstream to increase cooling. This combined with the use of a drive shaft all but eliminated the common motorcycling issues associated with putting power to the pavement. This drivetrain arrangement would be used exclusively at BMW until its first chain drive effort in 1993, and is still prominent today on all of its boxer bikes.


BMW R60/2


Photo: Motonit

On the market for 13 years, the R60 was BMW’s go-anywhere, do-anything tourer of the 1960s. Originally designed for sidecar duty, the combination of a punchy flat twin and an Earle’s fork design made it an incredibly capable bike both on- and off-road. So formidable was the R60 that rider Danny Liska took his beautiful black beast for a 95,000 mile ride from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America. Then he decided to pave the way for Boorman and McGregor and made the trek from Northern Europe to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa — without a support team, satellite phone, GPS or foreign fixers.


Brough Superior SS100

So exacting was the individual tailoring of each Brough Superior SS100 that they gained explicit permission to be dubbed the “Rolls-Royce of motorcycles”. A marvel of craftsmanship and engineering, each SS100 was guaranteed to hit 100 mph — no great feat by today’s standards, but this was in 1924. By 1928, the Brough Superior SS100 would hit 130 mph in the standing kilometer with George Brough in the saddle. T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, owned three Brough Superiors in his life — and famously died due to head injuries sustained when swerving to avoid two young cyclists. Lawrence’s death would eventually lead to the requisite use of crash helmets for motorcyclists.


FN Four

Like most European marques, FN began life as a munitions manufacturer before turning to two wheels. Unlike the single and two-pot efforts of their contemporaries, FN would introduce the world to the first bike powered by an inline-four cylinder engine. At its debut in 1905, the 362cc FN Four offered a riding experience unmatched by its fewer-pistoned brethren: where single cylinders and twins of all contrivances were rough and buzzy at speed, FN’s inline-four was smooth and almost vibrationless.

This easy operation lead to immediate growth in popularity, size and horsepower. Strangely, this engine arrangement did not translate to wins at the track for the Belgian innovators, despite its unparalleled success there today.


1940 Indian Chief

Crafted for the first time with a sprung frame, the ‘40 Indian Chief perked ears by easily outperforming Milwaukee’s finest with regard to ride and handling. It was, however the debut of Indian’s trademark fenders that really set tongues wagging. More than simple slices of steel, the flowing skirted fenders found on the Chief gave the bike an immediate stance and presence that was — no, is — undeniably gorgeous. Now, 60-plus years after the last true Chief rolled off the line, a new breed has hit the road — and they’re not half bad, either.


Royal Enfield Bullet

The Royal Enfield Bullet currently enjoys the world’s longest production run with 83 years under its fenders. That alone warrants iconic recognition. The first Bullet was fired in the land of tea and crumpets in 1931 and featured an overhead valve, single-cylinder 350cc motor that soon found itself enlisted for the British Army and Royal Air Force. The simple design and surefooted performance that earned the Bullet’s stripes at war also made it a mainstay for civilian duties. Production has since moved offshore to India, but the Bullet remains virtually unchanged: “Made like a gun, goes like a bullet.”


1937 Triumph Speed Twin

Edward Turner’s Triumph Speed Twin could be one of the most influential motorcycles ever designed. The 500cc parallel-twin packed more power into a package that was lighter and narrower than the current crop of single-cylinder thumpers. Within a decade, a version of this engine could be found in every competitor’s model. The gold pinstriping and Amaranth red paint of the original made the mechanicals shine while the fuel tank design set a standard that remains today. The bike that ensured Triumph’s survival after World War II would eventually evolve into their other icon on our list, the Bonneville.


Vincent Black Shadow


Photo: Moto USA

Hunter S. Thompson once remarked that “if you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die.” The 50-degree V-twin was completely baked in black enamel and produced enough grunt to carry riders to 125 mph — in an era where the 100-mph benchmark was barely attainable.

The Vincent employed extensive amounts of aluminum throughout, and its motor hung from the cross-bar, acting as a stressed member. This kept weight down to 450 pounds, which meant the Vincent Black Shadow would balance a see-saw with contemporary 500cc singles. Innovative front forks, a four-speed transmission and finned brakes at both front and rear rounded out a package widely regarded as the world’s first superbike.



In It for the Long Haul

Confederate R131 Fighter

The designers at Confederate Motorcycles don’t mess around. Straddling the line between kinetic sculptures and mechanized, apocalyptic “horses”, their bikes are what Satan would ride. Case in point: the Confederate R131 Fighter. In-house milled aircraft-grade 6061 aluminum abounds, along with carbon fiber wheels and a carbon/ceramic/aluminum matrix compound for the brakes to hammer home that function dictates form. A thumping 2.1-liter V-twin is used to push a mere 460 pounds in the Fighter, meaning it will undoubtedly pack a punch. With an extremely limited production run and pricing at just over $100,000, we may want to start being nicer to the devil.


Harley-Davidson ElectraGlide

Most easily identified by the “Batwing” fork-mounted fairing adopted in 1969, the Harley-Davidson ElectraGlide has long been the domestic machine of choice for riders wanting to inhale interstates. Big, brash and boasting comfort for two, Milwaukee’s big-twin has always put rider comfort first, while packing enough luggage space to ensure riders need not dress like they so often do.

Now, 50-plus years, four engines and countless miles later, the Electra Glide has become Harley’s first tourer to feature twin liquid cooling, electronically-linked brakes with ABS and a touch-screen infotainment system. Born to be wild, indeed.


Harley-Davidson Sportster

The Sportster is the best selling bike branded with the Bar and Shield, and has been on the market since 1957. Originally intended for flat-track racing, the fast and nimble Sporty found favor with riders seeking speed over the comforts usually afforded by Milwaukee’s finest. Harley-Davidson has smartly done very little with the Sportster recipe.

Power has always come in the form of a 45-degree V-Twin which was, until 2004, rigidly mounted to deliver its signature responsive ride. With a factory-forged variant to suit almost every style (five different versions are currently available) and Harley’s typically limitless catalogue of bolt-ons, the success of the Sportster should keep thundering on.


2002 Harley-Davidson VRSCA (V Rod)

Harley-Davidson’s decision to buck 99 years of tradition and turn to liquid-cooled technology for the V-Rod was met with mixed reviews. Some embraced the forward thinking and extra grunt that rad’s afforded while others scowled and kept on keepin’ on. In our eyes, the V-Rod looks like a muscle-bound thug in a sharkskin suit, and it has the power to back it up.

The Revolution engine was developed in conjunction with Porsche (another traditionally air-cooled aficionado) to develop a whopping 115 horsepower. Sadly, it still polarizes the public and never enjoyed the success it deserved. Haters gonna hate.


Harley-Davidson WL

Harley-Davidson is synonymous with the V-Twin engine. Knuckleheads, Panheads and Shovelheads: all of them are early iterations of the Motor Company’s continued dedication to the ubiquitous 45-degree power plant. But it was their Flathead-powered WL bike that cemented the Bar and Shield’s cultural status, both at home and abroad.

As Harley’s contribution to World War II, the WL saw some 90,000 bikes enlisted for American field duty alone. Canadians, Brits, South Africans and even Russian soldiers would come to know and love the WL; many wanted to take them home after their tour. This onslaught of freshly discharged Hogs is responsible for the massive expansion in motorcycle culture that America (and the rest of world) would continuously embrace and revere for the next 75 years. Thanks, Harley.


Honda Gold Wing

You may not believe that the Honda Gold Wing started life without fairings or saddlebags, but it did. Since its spartan beginnings, however, the Gold Wing has gone on to become one of the most luxuriously appointed and recognizable bikes in the world. Integrated GPS, heated seats (front and rear), airbags and even a reverse gear can be optioned to create the ultimate in on-road comfort. Powered by a 1.8-liter flat-six and tipping the scales at just under 1,000 pounds, the big Honda is surprisingly agile and swallows interstates like Joey Chestnut does hotdogs. Over one million Gold Wings were assembled during its thirty-year run in Marysville, Ohio before production moved back to Japan in 2012.


Honda Rune

The Honda Rune is an example of that rare occasion when accountants aren’t invited to a product development meeting. At 69 inches between contact patches, the Rune was huge — and in the Candy Black Cherry color scheme, beautiful too. From a distance it could even be confused with Dodge’s ludicrous Viper-powered Tomahawk concept.

Most impressive was the innovative trailing bottom-link front suspension. A first for a bike of the Rune’s size, it translated to road feel like that of a sport bike, prompting riders to make the most of the 1.8-liter boxer-six engine thrumming beneath them.


Honda Shadow VT1100

Visions of a low-slung gunfighter seat, retro styling and torquey V-twin usually set tongues wagging about Milwaukee. The Honda Shadow VT1100 may have aped the Wide Glide’s good looks, but its shaft drive and off-key exhaust note are a dead giveaway to its true origins. Honda’s engineers worked long and hard to make sure the top of the Shadow family heap would give reason for pause amongst potential Harley buyers — and in the process created a cult following of their very own.


Yamaha Vmax

The intake plenums on the Yamaha V-Max are large enough to suck back small mammals. They have to be to feed the fury of the 1.2-liter V-four engine that powers this brute. The V-Max garnered nearly instant praise following its release in 1985, taking home Bike of the Year honors for its custom cruiser looks and lightning fast acceleration. Cornering has always been a bit of an achilles heel for the V-Max, but nobody seemed to care; the road always opens up eventually.


Adventure Motorcycles

Go Anywhere


The BMW R1200GS was designed to handle any terrain. Long travel suspension, wide, flat foot-pegs and an upright seating position mated to BMW’s punchy boxer twin combine to create the ultimate getaway tool — this is the swiss army knife of bikes. It’s also the Motorad division’s best seller. Ewan and Charlie may have helped Beemer move some extra metal, but BMW’s GS bikes have long been a favorite for riders of paths less traveled. This potential alone makes it a bucket-list bike for most of us around the office, and its take-no-prisoners looks don’t hurt either.


Honda Africa Twin

Originally billed as an homage to their Paris-Dakar-winning NXR-750, the Honda Africa Twin (XRV750) was more than a simple tribute. The long-travel suspension, integrated hand guards and beefy skid plates were enough to make average riders consider the run, and the bike’s 750cc V-twin was a proven performer.

Both off-road and on, the Africa twin was incredibly capable and extremely comfortable. A tall and slender windscreen shields riders from sandstorms and interstate debris alike, and a wide flat seat offered numerous positions to slide into for optimal balance. Aluminum grab-rails served double duty as luggage racks when ditching it all for a couple of weeks; a Dakar-esque trip computer ensured you didn’t get too far off the reservation.


KTM 950 Adventure

Austrians are an exacting bunch. 10 years of research and development were devoted to the KTM 950 Adventure. Before their dual-sport was given the final green light, it had already been tortured in Tunisia and had brought home a win at the Rallye des Pharaons. Its long suspension travel, featherweight frame and angular bodywork beg to play in the dirt. The 75-degree V-twin packed enough twist and shout (72 lb-ft, 102 hp) to make mountains into molehills and devour everything in between. It’s not unheard of for KTM 950 Adventure riders to log over 100,000 miles in all types of terrain.


Sport Bikes

Riding Nirvana

2007 Aprilia SXV

While the concept of a supermoto-type motorcycle has existed in the minds and garages of off-roaders forever, the Aprilia SXV is credited as the bike that brought it all home. Essentially a dirt-bike with street shoes, the SXV introduced the masses to the wonderfully sideways world of supermoto. It’s dirt-track racing on asphalt, and it’s beautiful: corners drifted with an inside heel clipping the apex rather than a knee, all while bars are twisted to full opposite lock. On the road, the powerful and light Aprilia is well-mannered and easy to ride, further fostering its following of enthusiasts and commuters alike.


Ducati Monster

Not content to solely cause drooling with their fully faired offerings, Ducati decided to get naked with the Monster. Originally intended as an effort to give Bar and Shield buyers a different destination for deposits, Ducati inadvertently created a whole new segment.

The Monster’s most recognizable assets have remained constant and in full view since their debut; the exposed slender trellis frame, aggressive yet welcoming stance and European allure all combine to deliver a complete package that anyone would be pleased to call his own.


Gilera CX

Approach the Gilera CX from its right side, and you’d swear it was floating on solid, spun-steel wheels; that was very much the point. Drag coefficiency is often denoted using C / X, and Federico Martini’s inspired work when penning this Gilera is its mechanical interpretation.

Everything about the CX’s styling evokes speed. The long, flat nose leading the slippery bodywork, the single-sided rear swingarm and that ingenious Paioli front suspension system along with tapered mirrors finish the job. A 125cc two-stroke engine hides behind the plastics and revs freely to 12,000 rpm while your chin rests on top of the alien-looking 45mm suspension cap and you whoosh to over 100 mph. Ciao bella!


1987 Honda CBR600F

Better known in North America as the Hurricane, the CBR600F was Honda’s first sportbike to come wrapped in full plastics. Powered by an 85-hp inline-four, this new breed of sportbike was instrumental in developing the worldwide “crotch-rocket” market. Able to rev freely to 11,000 rpm and peak at 140 mph with riders comfortably tucked behind its tiny windscreen, the Honda CBR600F was essentially a racer for the everyman.

An immediate sales success, the CBR600F evolved over the years to deliver increased gobs of power from the same 600cc displacement. Honda’s keen awareness of rider ergonomics in their fully-faired sport bikes is what set them apart with the original Hurricane, and it remains a constant corporate philosophy to this day.


Honda VFR750

Long before Tamburini penned the divine Ducati 916 Honda had already integrated a race-proven single-sided swingarm design for street riders to admire. The 1990 Honda VFR750, or Interceptor as it was known, was the third generation of Honda’s V-four sportbikes and is responsible for delivering an ideal balance of aggression and comfort. A direct descendant of the RC30 racer and powered by the engine of its replacement, the RC45, Honda’s Interceptor was extremely fast and flickable when carving corners. Its relaxed ergonomics made it an easy machine to live with in more subdued settings, making it pretty damned close to perfect.


Kawasaki EX500 (Ninja)

Crotch-rocket looks and gutsy performance in an inexpensive, rider-friendly package: this is the Kawasaki EX500. An easy choice for new riders and veterans alike, the entry level Ninja even spawned its own racing class that still clips apexes today. The 498cc parallel-twin developed a broad and usable powerband to propel the bikini-faired Ninja into a market of its own. Comfortable ergonomics, a wide, flat seat and amazing fuel economy meant long days on the road were a relatively painless affair; it even had a six-speed transmission.


Suzuki RG500

In the mid-80s, motorcycle development was spurred by a power struggle spilling over from the track. The Suzuki RG500 “Gamma” featured a two-stroke, twin-crank, square-four powerplant that epitomized the insanity hitting public streets. Smoking and crackling along, the 500cc Suzi had 94 hp on tap — and, since every stroke was a power-stroke, could spin its tire through four gears. The Gamma also carved corners with aplomb, using a POSI-DAMP suspension system up front to smooth out nose dives under braking and encourage late-brake lean in. The two-stroke engine has all but belched its last smokey breathe, but for a time in the mid-80s, Suzuki was cranking out one to be reckoned with.



Riding Insanity

Bimota Tesi 3D

Looking for something completely different? The Bimota Tesi 3D foregoes forks in favor of a hub-centric front-end and puts its mechanicals on full display. Calling its looks utterly maniacal is an understatement. On paper, keeping braking and steering services separated by the Tesi’s tele-levers makes perfect sense, but the change in intuitive control often means the Bimota can be a beast to handle for inexperienced riders. We tend to like things that stand out in a crowd, and the fact that the Tesi sports Ducati’s sonorous V-twin only makes things better.


Britten V1000

It’s not often that a completely custom garage-built bike can fare well at the track. The Britten V1000, the vision of Kiwi craftsman John Britten, is one of the few that has. Not only did the V1000 take two podiums in the Battle of Twins at Daytona, it would manage to put together an impressive resume of wins and numerous world speed records throughout the early ‘90s. 10 lucky people were able to lay claim to a Britten V1000 of their own — and, sadly, subsequently resigned them to mere museum duty. Such a pity.


Buell RS 1200

Buells were the brainchildren of Harley-Davidson engineer Erik Buell — all-American sportbikes that employed new and never-before-seen technologies and were powered by the parts-bins of Milwaukee’s Motor Company. The Buell RS1200 was a half-faired, short-wheel-based version of Buell’s first bike, the Battletwin. Now featuring Harley’s new 1200cc Sportster motor, the RS1200 cradled the power plant in its custom trellis frame, complete with rubber mounting. An underslung exhaust system (a staple of Buell bikes) and a hidden steering damper kept the center of gravity low — and delivered less head movement than a dutiful dad at a BTS concert.


Cagiva C593


Photo: Petrolicious

The 500cc Big Bang V4 found behind the veil of flame-red plastics in the Cagiva C593 could produce 175 hp and screamed to a 12,500 rpm redline. So powerful was this Grand Prix racer that Cagiva was forced to search out riders who could control the beast.

Four-time champ Eddie Lawson was tapped first. Lawson notched a win in Hungary in 1992, proving the Cagiva had what it takes, but it was his feedback to engineers that proved most valuable. 1993 saw Lawson take a backseat to John Kocinski, a wild and desperate rider just looking for a contract. Kocinski would deliver two consecutive fourth place finishes to start the season before taking the checkered flag at Laguna Seca.

The wins didn’t continue though. The bike was just too powerful and twitchy. Cagiva almost went bankrupt in pursuit of Grand Prix fame, but in the process showed the world what an obsessed Italian was capable of — utter madness.


Ducati 916

Seeking improved aerodynamics and faster tire swaps in the pits, Massimo Tamburini unwittingly penned a squinty-eyed racer with an underseat exhaust and single-sided swingarm that exuded sex — the Ducati 916. Powered by a Desmodromic L-twin engine, this new Duc was down on power compared to the Japanese inlines, but its omnipresent torque made corner exits its bitches and left everyone behind to admire a beautiful back-end.

Not only did the Ducati 916 capture four of five World Superbike Championships in the late ‘90s, it also beat out Pamela Anderson for poster space on many a teenage wall. The Ducati 916 was also featured in The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. Bellissima!


Ducati Desmosedici RR

If you’ve ever dreamed of being the next Nicky Hayden, the Ducati Desmosedici RR is the bike for you. Only 1,500 models of this street-legal version of Ducati’s 2006 MotoGP entrant were produced. The all-new 200 hp, 90-degree “double-L twin” V-4 engine would scream through its vertical exits in the rear tail all the way to its 10,500 rpm redline and 194-mph top speed. Componentry was top-notch all around, with Ohlins, Brembo and Marchesini put to the task of keeping riders alive — and justifying the $72,500 sticker price.

The Desmosedici RR is often regarded as the ultimate Ducati experience, a mechanically and aesthetically faithful reproduction of a genuine MotoGP racer. It even came with sponsorship stickers, were you so inclined.


Suzuki Hayabusa

Translated, Hayabusa is Japanese for “peregrine falcon” — a bird of prey that tops 200 mph to snag a snack. Launched in 1999, the Suzuki Hayabusa did its namesake justice. Depending on whom you believe, the enormous dual-overhead cam, 1300cc inline-four churned out upwards of 170 hp. That was enough to launch the 500-pound ‘Busa across the ¼ mile mark in single digits and demolish the old top speed record, hitting 186 mph.

So fast and powerful was the Hayabusa that a “gentleman’s agreement” was coerced by the Western World to impede others from laying waste to future benchmarks and lives. And while its aerodynamically sculpted bodywork didn’t win over everyone, it certainly works for us.


Suzuki TL1000R

Designed to compete in the World Superbike Championship, the Suzuki TL1000R is often regarded as “the Duc Hunter.” Taking aim squarely at Ducati’s 916, Suzuki quickly turned R&D dollars into a fire-breathing V-Twin powered homologation special. The fully-faired “R” model featured a similar trellis-frame to the Duc but housed a 135 hp, 996cc engine renowned for its low-end torque and top-end horsepower. Although the GSX-R would take its place at the track, the TL engine lives on today.


Kawasaki Ninja H2

When Kawasaki Motor Co. worked with Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ aerospace and turbine divisions, what resulted was one of the fastest, most powerful production motorcycles ever built. Sporting a 998cc inline-four-cylinder and the first supercharger on a production motorcycle, the H2 makes up to 210 horsepower and hits 60 mph in 2.6 seconds. To commemorate the partnership, the River Mark logo, a badge reserved only for Kawasaki’s most historically important motorcycles, adorns the H2 along with angular and aerodynamic bodywork.


2009 Yamaha R1

Unless you were at the track and delving into its stratospheric rev-range, a race-bred liter-bike could feel tough to ride and even underpowered. To put downsides to bed, Yamaha introduced the world to its cross-plane crankshaft fired four-pot in 2009. Delivering the torque of a twin and the power of a free-revving four, Yamaha’s new R1 used an uneven firing sequence to package two engines in one. Add to that a three-way customizable throttle map, thanks to drive-by-wire technology, and the 2009 R1 could be tailored to suit rider styles and changing conditions with the flick of a switch — making it a true go-anywhere, pass-everything dream machine.


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Ford’s New High-Powered Bronco Could Have a Very Familiar Name

Ford hasn’t even managed to get the new 2021 Bronco to dealers yet, but we already know that the carmaker is working on a more high-performance, even-more-badass off-road-capable version of it — after all, Ford released its own photo of this super-Bronco testing last September. Now, according to multiple recent reports, the new SUV’s name will be quite familiar to Ford customers.

There had been speculation the killer Bronco would get the moniker “Warthog,” which may have been an internal code name. (Ford did file a trademark application for it, however.) But Ford Authority recently reported that the company was looking for a more familiar name….and Motor 1 cites a source saying that that familiar name may be an obvious one: the Bronco Raptor.

Ford choosing “Bronco Raptor” for this hi-po off-roader feels like a no-brainer. “Warthog” sounds cool to me, a man in his 30s who spent an inordinate amount of time with his college friends playing capture the flag with Warthogs on the Blood Gulch level of “Halo.” But that feels like a very particular reference (admittedly, that might enthuse Ford engineers). Broadly, it has little resonance. Ford buyers already know what Raptor signifies. Why create another term to mean the same thing?

And, of course, auto execs also love a good sub-brand. If Raptor spreads across the F-150, Ranger and Bronco lineups, it could then also be used to branch out into performance and style accessories for the non-Raptor versions.

What will the Bronco Raptor look like? An engine upgrade should be the biggest difference, though don’t expect a V8. Reports from last summer had Ford considering their twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6. That powerplant puts out 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque as a combustion engine in the Ford Explorer ST and a staggering 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque in the Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring. Since Ford is now competing with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 and the hybrid Wrangler 4xe, it could make sense to offer both combustion and hybrid options. We’ll have to wait and see.


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