The Ranger Has Returned

2019_ranger_1.jpgIt was only a matter of time. When Ford left the mid-size pickup segment a few years ago, they were retiring an old platform in the Ranger and it was time for something different. Only Ford’s crystal ball did not reveal the newfound popularity of the “small” truck segment, led by the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins, along with the Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Tacoma.

I wrote about how I wanted to see a new Ranger way back in 2011…

2019 Ford RangerSo let’s ring in the New Year with some new sheet metal! The newly announced 2019 Ford Ranger follows current Ford styling DNA with Fusion-like headlights and large blue oval embedded in the grill. (It’s almost Edge-like, so you know it’s a Ford) Add to that a handsome character line and high wheel arches in profile and you have an attractively styled pickup to compete with the rest of the pack and complement the current F-150.

2019 Ford RangerI for one am excited about the return of Ranger since I owned one for about 12 years and put almost 200k miles on it. The new Ranger is quite a bit larger than my 1997 single cab with the same size engine? Yes, you read that right, my 1997 had a 2.3-liter four-cylinder, just like the 2019 Ranger! The major difference is the intercooled turbocharged EcoBoost engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. I had to live with just five forward gears that I had to shift myself! Can you imagine??

2019 Ford RangerExpect three trim levels at launch (XL, XLT, and Lariat) with different appearance packages on SuperCab and SuperCrew models (Chrome, Sport, and FX Off-Road).

2019 Ford RangerThe interior is another place where Ford has excelled. From the pics, it sure looks like it belongs in today’s world of mid-size pickups, including navigation and available Bang & Olufsen sound!

On the safety front, the most impressive new feature has got to be automatic emergency braking. Think about this…AEB was not even a thought back in 1997!

Pricing was not announced as we’ve got almost a whole year to wait on the production model.

Thanks for reading!

…See You Down The Road!


2019 Jeep Cherokee

‘Tis the season, as they say. No, not for gift giving or getting, for a slew of new vehicle introductions from all over the world.  It’s also the season for the auto show, which is where most manufacturers announce said new vehicles. But, contrary to this assumption, we received an email today announcing the 2019 Jeep Cherokee, which will be completely introduced at the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS)!

It’s kind of fun to teased like this. Maybe the auto makers are learning from the tech industry that any hype is good hype.

According to Jeep, the new Cherokee (it’s a mid-size SUV) “boasts a new, authentic design, along with even more fuel-efficient powertrain options.”

And that’s all folks…save for the below pics.

As you can see in the first one, the front fascia is all new and Jeep has forgone the strange eyelid lights in favor of a more traditional design. It’s a giant leap forward if you are not a fan of the old design!

2019 Jeep Cherokee Front

The rear, as seen in the second pic, has not changed much. The license plate is in a new spot and the rear valence is more tidy.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Rear

The profile has not changed much at all, though.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Profile

Alas, the interior is not much different either…but why mess with a good thing?173091_0050_Ds8et5sinrd3lvaomkev7m4d7n7We can’t wait to see what all the new goodies are for this new Jeep!

Thanks for reading!

…See You Down The Road!

Cadillac Escala Concept

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior_1Perusing through the news after a long weekend, trying to find the gumption to dive into beast-mode at work, I came across a story about a new concept from Cadillac that was shown out west for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It’s a sharp looking car with less of the sharp lines of previous Caddys and is definitely more streamlined.

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior-005What really caught my attention was the first thought that came to me as I was ogling…I mean viewing…the wonderful pics from the press launch.

…This thing screams Lincoln to me.

The Escala Concept introduces the next evolution of Cadillac des
The Escala Concept introduces the next evolution of Cadillac design.

There’s something about how the roofline meets the rear in the side view…or how the tail lights come together. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s there.

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior-002I first saw the Escala on and the headline read “Cadillac’s fantastic Escala concept is more New York than Detroit”. I think the author maybe meant to say “more Lincoln than Cadillac” but you be the judge.

Cadillac’s Escala concept previews craftsmanship and technical
Cadillac’s Escala concept previews craftsmanship and technical ideas in development for future models.

Watch the unveiling here:


Here’s the official press release in all it’s glory:

  • Concept showcases future design and technical systems in development
  • Flagship Sedan is a concept for a more expressive, expansive companion to the recently launched CT6
  • Dual-Theme interior includes Curved OLED displays, next-gen connectivity designs, ingenious details

The Escala Concept debuts in California tonight, introducing the next evolution of Cadillac design and previewing the craftsmanship and technology being developed for many future models. Following a series of private previews, Escala will be displayed this weekend at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Escala Concept previews the design and technical ideas driving the next phase of Cadillac’s ongoing expansion.

“Escala is a concept with two clear objectives,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Global Cadillac. “First, Escala is a statement of intent for the next iteration of the Cadillac design language, and also technical concepts in development for future Cadillac models. Secondly, Escala builds Cadillac’s aspirational character, signaling the brand’s return to the pinnacle of premium.”

Cadillac has released a new slate of models bristling with expressive design and exhilarating performance, driver’s cars taking Cadillac into a new chapter of its storied 114-year history.

“Escala is a concept car, but one based upon the unrelenting rise of our product substance,” de Nysschen said. “Depending on the development of market segment for large luxury sedans, Escala is a potential addition to our existing product plan.”

Escala — Spanish for “scale”— is a concept for a larger, more elite and expressive companion to the recently launched 2016 Cadillac CT6, the brand’s remarkable new range-topping prestige sedan. Escala is also the third in a series of concepts Cadillac has debuted at Pebble Beach in recent years, following the Ciel convertible (2011) and Elmiraj coupe (2013).

Escala is designed to be both a driver’s car and an indulgent flagship sedan. The large 4-door sedan features an expansive liftback design emphasizing the car’s considerable scale and versatility. At 210.5 inches in overall length, Escala is roughly 6 inches longer than today’s CT6.

Escala features a new and evolved face of Cadillac design that will begin appearing on production models soon. This includes a new expression of Cadillac’s vertical lighting, a brand signature since 1948. Organic light emitting diode (OLED) lighting elements are thinner and set deep within the fascia, creating a sinister look, day and night.

The concept’s details invite closer inspection, including a three-dimensional precision pattern in the grille design and 22-inch wheels with two layers of spokes.

“This concept shares how Cadillac will bring forward a new experience that is uniquely American, and unmistakably Cadillac,” says Andrew Smith, executive director of Cadillac Global Design. “Escala is an expressive symbol of reward and an exhilarating driving experience. On the interior, we pushed further. It’s about precision and ingenuity in craftsmanship, and the artistic integration of technology.”

Escala features a “dual personality” interior crafted with distinctly different zones: The front is about intensely focused modern technology, while the rear delivers relaxation.

“My brief to the designers was to create a car you desperately want to drive, and also one in which you want to be driven,” Smith said. “So rather than a single design, this interior consists of two themes. It was an opportunity for our designers to break the rules a little bit, exactly what Cadillac should do from time to time.”

An array of three curved OLED screens is a prominent feature in the front of the cabin. The very thin, curved displays are layered in front of the driver, with the back sides wrapped in hand-stitched leather embossed with the Cadillac script. The array of screens consolidate the traditional “cluster” of driving gauges with the “center stack” into one integrated unit.

Escala includes new designs for connectivity and control, providing a prototype for the user experience in development for future production models. The system features a central control module that enables the driver to execute tactile commands across the spectrum of connectivity functions, in addition to voice and gesture control technology. Inside the controller sits a new edition of Cadillac’s “flying Goddess” icon, a nod to the brand’s illustrious heritage.

Like all Cadillac models today, the interior is assembled using hand cut-and-sewn techniques. However, Escala presents several new and unique touches, blending overt luxury with covert technology. Escala makes broad use of hand-tailored fabric on the door trim and seating areas. Inspired by suiting material used by Cadillac’s partners in the fashion industry, the fabric provides a new level of hand-applied craftsmanship and color, unique in today’s auto interior landscape.

The Escala Concept utilizes Cadillac’s new RWD-centric large luxury car architecture, featuring one of the world’s most advanced body structures, which debuted on the new CT6. The mixed-material construction enables unprecedented agility and efficiency.

Escala uses a new 4.2-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine, a prototype of a new system in development for future Cadillac models. The advanced engine utilizes Active Fuel Management technology, enabling fuel-saving 4-cylinder operation.


Cadillac Escala Concept Basic Specifications

Model Escala Concept
Body Style 4-door expressive flagship sedan, with lift-back rear opening
Height 57.3 in / 1455 mm
Width 76.7 in / 1948 mm
Length 210.5 in / 5347 mm
Wheelbase 127.1 in / 3228
Engine 4.2-liter Twin Turbo V8

…See You Down The Road!

2016 Dodge Dart GT (non-turbo)

041316_0153_2016DodgeDa1.jpgThe original Dart was a stylish (for the time) car but it was killed off in the mid-70s. The irony is that in its first few years of life the Dart was a full-size sedan. Its 3rd year brought something interesting; they shrank it, making it into a compact car…something that is pretty unheard of today!

041316_0153_2016DodgeDa2.jpgI was pretty sad when I heard that FCA was killing off the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. They seemed like very well put together cars that were also stylish and fun to drive. But unfortunately, the car landscape is changing and with low gas prices all around people are buying more small or medium crossovers than passenger cars, not even taking pickups into consideration as the Ford F-150 is still the top selling vehicle in the US some 30+ years running. Another factor is ease of ingress/egress in today’s crossovers compared with small sedans and the amount of money car makers are putting into the small crossover realm.

2016 Dodge Dart
2016 Dodge Dart

The real shame is that FCA has that styling thing down pat. Good looks and sporting intentions abound in the lineup and the Dart is no slouch in either aspect. We got to drive a Dart in a closed-loop urban setting and were happily surprised with how well it handled and how nice the car actually is.

2016 Dodge Dart Limited
2016 Dodge Dart Limited

With plenty of power on tap from the start, we were able to get through city traffic with little effort and the suspension soaked up the bumps with ease.

Surprisingly quick and very comfortable. The interior is very nice and the instrument cluster is top-notch. Seriously, the design of these is crazy good.

2016 Dodge Dart GT
2016 Dodge Dart GT

Look to pick up one starting at $22095. Just hurry as the Dart is short on life these days.

2016 FIAT 500 Abarth


The FIAT 500 is a small car with a big heart. That shows in its interior accommodations, at least in the front seats, as well as its fun-to-drive ratio. Like most other automakers who are looking to appeal to more customers on all levels, FIAT now (since the 2015 model year) offers a six-speed automatic transmission on the performance-oriented Abarth model, making the car accessible to more people than just high performance seeking enthusiasts.


The trade off with having the automatic is a loss of 3 horsepower but a gain of 13 lb.-ft. of torque. What that means in the real world is that you’re really not going to feel a difference between the two versions. The nice thing is that the turbo should stay spooled up so that it should stay in the power band longer, giving the car more oomph (technical term).

2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio

For such a small car, the 500 Abarth handles rougher roads easily without a harsh ride. Also, the peppy engine makes getting around town fast and easy. Since I didn’t get a chance to take the 500 Abarth out on the open road I will not even speculate on how it handles on the interstate, except to say that small cars like this usually feel very skittish at highway speeds and with such a short wheelbase expect a lot of porpoising over road undulations and expansion joints.


For 2016, the high end Abarth gets FCA’s UConnect system 5.0 which sports a 5-inch touch screen radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and integrated voice command to control it all. Couple that with the available BeatsAudio 368-watt six-speaker/subwoofer and DSP system and you’ve got one great-sounding ride with tunes from coast to coast.

For 2016, the high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio

There’s also a bunch of high-tech safety features to keep you safe and on the road. Some of the more than 35 safety and security features include seven standard airbags (including full-length side-curtain air bags, standard seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags and even one for the driver’s knee) and an Abarth-tuned three-mode Electronic Stability Control.


The FIAT 500 Abarth starts just over $22,500 and goes up from there but you can easily keep it under $30k if you watch your options. Speaking of which, our test vehicle had a few options like that Aisin six-speed automatic transmission ($1350); premium leather-trimmed bucket seats ($1200); premium Italian stripe package by Mopar ($515); BeatsAudio ($700); and the comfort/convenience group ($975) and it was just under $28k! Drive the manual off the lot and you can see how much you’ll save ($1350) but you’ll also have so much more fun!

2017 FIAT 124 Spider

Soon there will be more to FIAT in North America than the 500. Recently announced at the LA Auto Show was the FIAT 124, a roadster based on the Mazda MX-5, but with the FIAT 1.4-liter MultiAir (read turbocharged) four cylinder putting out 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. The Mazda version has 155 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. out of a non-turbo 2.0-liter. That engine is the one found in the FIAT 500 Abarth and will likely turn the little car into a roadster rocket compared with the MX-5 due to the leap in torque. Here is the original 124 for comparison: And here is the new one: Why would someone take a Mazda MX-5 and slap some different sheetmetal on it to make it their own??? Especially someone as big and full of great cars like FIAT! Granted, it’s easier to bring a model to the US market that has already passed safety and emissions testing, and the MX-5 is perpetually lauded for its handling prowess, but this has the propensity to be either a boon for FIAT or a bust. That judgement will have to wait until that production vehicles make it here. We should all be grateful that the 124 can be had with either the wonderful six-speed manual or six-speed automatic found in the MX-5 So that’s the bad. The good is that the new 124 indeed looks like the original and this adaptation promises to be a wonderful performer and welcome addition to the FIAT portfolio in the US. On the safety front, the 124 has advanced features like adaptive front headlamps, blind-spot monitoring and a backup camera.

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X Front Falcon Doors

Tesla has done the unthinkable. They have taken their fast, very fast, Model S sedan and grafted an egg-shaped SUV body onto it and are calling it the Model X. Yes, they’ve been hyping the Model X for a few years now and had some production issues (most notable due to the design of the rear passenger doors) but the official unveiling and first delivery just happened.

Now that we have official specs let the nitpicking begin.

Tesla Model X Rear Wing

There are two models of the Model X slated so far; the 90D and P90D. With the 90D you get all wheel drive, and EPA estimated range of 257 miles, 4.8 seconds to 60 miles per hour and two 259 horsepower electric motors, one for each axle. The P90D (P for performance) gives you a 250 miles estimated range, 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds and one electric motor powering the front wheel with 259 horsepower and one electric motor powering the rear wheels rated at 503 horsepower! Your range may vary.

Tesla Model X Side

Now, about those rear passenger doors. Tesla is calling them Falcon Wing doors. In concept they are like gull wing doors in that they open upwards but that is where the conceptual likeness ends. Falcon Wing doors are hinged near the top of the window glass so that the doors open almost straight up and then out rather than simply opening out. this design facilitates quite a few interesting and awesome ideals; you can stand in the rear seat, it’s easier to get child seats into and out of the vehicle and the children along with them and you can open the doors with about a foot of room between the Model X and the nearest obstacle. And for you ninnies who will complain about low overhangs, there are sensors built in that will detect a low garage ceiling or other obstruction.

Tesla Model X Side 2

One thing that might be a deal-breaker for some people is the lack of folding rear seats. That second row, with either two or three seats, is rigid and not much has been shown yet as to how it works to get people into the far back seats. We do know that they do not fold for cargo purposes like the far back seats do. It will be interesting to see how this pans out once more people get their hands on these machines.

Tesla Model X Rear Tow Rack

Pricey? Yes. But these are not for the mainstream as we know it. No, these are for those on the bleeding edge, those who need to have the latest and greatest technology no matter the cost…and also for those looking for bragging rights. “I’ve got the new Tesla. What do you have?”

Here are some manufacturer’s specs for your reading pleasure:

-Falcon Wing rear doors with built in sensors, which automatically adjust to the optimal opening arc in confined spaces or small garages.
-Automatically deploying rear spoiler
-Maps and navigation with real time traffic updates
-Daytime running lights
-Power-folding and heated side mirrors
-Front trunk with room for luggage, strollers or two golf bags
-Full size rear cargo area for your gear
-Free long distance travel on Tesla’s expanding Supercharger network
8 year, infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty
-Automatic keyless entry, with automatically opening front doors
-GPS enabled Homelink
-Parking sensors, blind spot warning and side collision avoidance
-Automatic emergency braking to assist in avoiding collisions, even at highway speeds
-Seating for up to seven adults
-Four LATCH child seat attachments, two in each passenger row

P90D Performance All-Wheel Drive:
250 miles range (EPA est.)
3.8 seconds 0-60 mph
3.2 seconds with Ludicrous Speed Upgrade
259 hp front, 503 hp rear motor power
155 mph top speed

90D All-Wheel Drive:
257 miles range (EPA est.)
4.8 seconds 0-60 mph
259 hp front, 259 hp rear motor power
155 mph top speed

Stow everyone’s gear in Model X’s large front trunk, rear cargo area and under passenger seats. The front trunk is large enough to hold two golf bags and the rear cargo area can easily hold large items like bicycles, skis and snowboards. Hitch mounted accessory carriers hold additional gear. Model X is the first electric vehicle with a 5,000 pound towing capacity.

Model X has the largest all glass panoramic windshield in production, providing an unparalleled view of the stars and sky above. Optimized solar tinting and obstruction-free view creates unlimited visibility for the driver and all passengers.

Model X is able to achieve 250 miles of range in part because it is the most aerodynamic SUV in production. At 0.24, Model X’s drag coefficient is 20% lower than the next best SUV. In addition, an active spoiler deploys from the rear liftgate to optimize highway efficiency and stability.

Falcon Wing doors allow easy access to second and third row seats from even a tight parking space, while traditional SUV doors or Minivan sliding doors would not grant any access.
With only a foot of clearance on either side, Falcon Wing doors articulate smoothly up and out of the way, allowing passengers to enter from both front and rear directions. The side and overhead opening is so large that parents can buckle children in without ducking or straining and without bumping their child’s head on the roof.