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A new BMW concept shows how self-driving cars from the brand might look in time.
With a turbocharged and hybrid powertrain, the Vision M Next hits 60 in three seconds.
For now, the Vision M Next is only a concept but it does make our imagination run wild.
Admittedly, there are many delicious elements in the BMW Vision M Next concept. For one thing, just look at it! It’s a stylish reinterpretation of past and present BMW vehicles. To be more specific, it’s like the lovechild of a 1972 BMW E25 Turbo Concept and i8 PHEV. The wedge-like design is also a fitting ode to the E26 BMW M1. The ’70s and ’80s are back, and I’m loving it!
However, the one thing that really stands out in the Vision M Next is BMW’s ideas on autonomous driving.
The BMW Vision M Next is an autonomous car, yes. But it’s the type of autonomy where the controls can be overridden by the driver. In short, it’s a concept car worth waiting for and something traditional car lovers can sink their teeth into.
BMW Vision M Next: The Brand’s Future?
The German manufacturer says all future BMW vehicles will be built utilizing the D+ACES philosophy. This means Design, Autonomous Driving, Electrification, and Services are carefully blended to produce the ultimate driving machine of the future. “The BMW Vision M Next provides a glimpse into the future of sporty driving,” says Adrian Van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design. “It demonstrates how state-of-the-art technology can also make the experience of driving yourself purer and more emotionally engaging.”
It’s no secret things are shaking up at BMW HQ. The company is now struggling to cope with the onset of fully-electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Model X. And I find this unsettling considering BMW was among the first to sell an EV in the form of the i3 in 2013. It seems upper management underestimated the potential of full EVs, and they’re now playing catch up. Turning up last is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, you can use it your own advantage. And if the BMW Vision M Next is any indication, it’s safe to say gearheads, car lovers, and auto enthusiasts can look forward to a bright and enjoyable future.
BMW Vision M Next. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.
The Good Kind of Hybrid Power
We already established the BMW Vision M Next is a looker. It has all the elements of a poster car: a retro-delectable, wedge-shaped silhouette, gullwing doors, ridiculous color schemes, and illuminated elements on the kidney grille. The blade-shaped triangular elements on the air intakes remind me of the snout of a Lamborghini Aventador. In short, the BMW Vision M Next is every inch a supercar. But what makes a car super in the purest sense of the word is vast reserves of power. In this regard, the BMW Vision M Next has you covered.
It’s actually a hybrid supercar, but it’s the good kind of hybrid power. The car has a turbo four-cylinder motor and an array of electric motors. BMW didn’t say how many, but with the capability to engage electric all-wheel drive or pure rear-wheel drive, we assume it has no less than two or three electric motors. All told, you have 600 horsepower at your disposal, good for a top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h).
And I mean, wow! I personally don’t like hybrids. I think they’re clunky, too complicated, and extremely dull on the road. But if a hybrid has 600 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds, I wouldn’t mind having one, most especially if it looks exactly like the BMW Vision M Next.
In the future, what if you have to pass by certain zero-emissions zones? No problem. The Vision M Next has an all-electric range of 62 miles (100 km), which frankly is not enough. However, 62 miles is mostly enough for quick city jaunts, so maybe this isn’t bad at all.
Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.
EASE & BOOST Mode
Remember the part about the BMW Vision M Next being an autonomous car? You can engage full-autonomy in EASE mode. Meanwhile, if you want to drive it like how a BMW should be driven, BOOST mode is the way to go.
Easy, right? You can read the newspaper, upload a selfie, or chat with fellow passengers in EASE mode, all while traveling at speed. But if you want to drive, BOOST mode will place you at the helm. This all sounds amazing: being able to enjoy both autonomy and actual driving. I sincerely hope other car makers are looking to what BMW is doing in the Vision M Next. If manufacturers want full autonomy to become a reality, it’s important to give consumers an option on whether or not to drive. We want autonomous cars, but we want to choose when it should do so.
The ultra-minimalist interior in the BMW Vision M Next is a triumph in modern design. The most striking feature is the accent line in the driver’s area. It runs forward from the seat over to the steering wheel. This represents the ideal line of sight as you drive, which speaks highly of BMW’s performance intent.
You’ll find hi-tech woven synthetic fibers, anodized titanium, and painted surfaces in the cabin. Surprisingly, leather is only found in the hand touch points of the steering wheel and door pull handles. The visible roof structure is crafted from recycled carbon fiber while the headliner has a tone-in-tone paint finish.
The highlight of the interior is the Boost Pod, which is BMW future-speak for the Speed Racer-inspired steering wheel and instrument console. Instead of traditional dials or large display screens, all the driving information is projected to an array of glass panels behind the steering wheel. It’s basically like a visor that projects information.
BMW Vision M Next interior layout. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: electric cars are too quiet for their own good. But BMW – who happens to be late in the EV game – has come up with something brilliant. The BMW Vision M Next has its own musical soundtrack penned by no less than Hans Zimmer. The man won an Academy Award for Best Original Musical Score for the movie Lion King in 1995 and has composed music for more than 150 Hollywood films.
It’s safe to assume BMW hired the right man for the job.
Conventional EVs, like the BMW i3, have exterior speakers to alert pedestrians. This is good, but it does nothing to liven up the driving experience. With its own dedicated soundtrack, the BMW Vision M Next won’t end up sounding like a brash muscle car, but at least it won’t sound like an appliance either.
Welcome To The Future
And it’s time to come back to Earth. Sadly, the BMW Vision M Next is just a concept. Yet it shows BMW is moving in the right direction. With that being said, I propose a toast to other car makers taking notice of what the future of driving should really be about. Cheers to the future, lads!
Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.
Long live the stick! That’s the idea behind the Cars.com holiday, National Stick Shift Day.
To coincide, a survey gauging American opinion on the manual transmission was conducted.
More people than you initially might think can actually drive a car with a manual transmission.
National Stick Shift Day gets at the deeper appreciation and connection we have with automobiles.
Back in the day – as in 1994 – my friends and I loved the arcade hit Daytona USA. The Sega-developed racing game placed you in a large, car-like structure complete with a Motorsport-style seat and steering wheel. It was the first 3D racing game of its kind. In terms of video game development and graphics, Daytona USA was ahead of its time. The Saturday afternoons at the local bowling alley melted away in spectacular fashion, thanks to the sublime visuals and sensational wrecks. You could chose from different views via the “VR” buttons; ones above the car or right inside the cockpit, for example.
And you could chose between an automatic or manual transmission.
Rolling Starts & Time Extensions
Of course, my friends and I would slam away on the four-speed stick located just below the screen and off-set to the right of the steering wheel. There was no “well, the advanced technology in the automatic makes it faster” . . . no, none of that. Top Daytona USA bragging rights went to the person who won the race with the manual shifter. Plain and simple. Such love and appreciation for the manual transmission is the inspiration behind National Stick Shift Day, this coming Tuesday, July 16th. Cars.com launched the holiday last year to celebrate the times we had to shift our own gears; or as some might call the good old days.
“We’re bummed by how they’re slowly vanishing from the market, especially here in the United States,” explained Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com Executive Editor. “We created National Stick Shift Day hoping to inspire other fans to come out in support of stick shifts and perhaps encourage others to learn how to drive and consider buying them.”
National Stick Shift Day is Tuesday, July 16th.
Ahead of National Stick Shift Day 2019, Cars.com conducted a survey of more than 1,000 consumers. Participants shared their thoughts on manual transmissions despite automatics being more common. Interesting enough, 78 percent can actually drive a manual, while 72 percent say it’s something everybody should learn. 48 percent said they would gladly learn if given the opportunity.
“At minimum, people who learn to drive stick have a feeling of accomplishment and they’re prepared in case they find themselves in a situation where they need to drive a stick, either in an emergency or when traveling abroad,” Wiesenfelder said. “We also believe a manual driver is a more engaged driver and, arguably, a better one.”
Cars.com then analyzed internal data to determine the top five most-purchased stick shifts on their website. Leading the way is the Subaru WRX, with the Honda Civic and Ford Mustang following closely; then the Civic Si and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Wiesenfelder says they were a little surprised to see the list shake out the way it did.
“Until we dug a little deeper and thought it through, and in short order things started to make more sense,” he continued. “The Subaru WRX as a whole doesn’t sell in volumes as high as the Civic, Mustang or others, but it is very much a performance-oriented model that appeals to enthusiasts, and those are the drivers who are drawn to manual transmissions nowadays.”
2019 Subaru WRX. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.
No Love For The CVT
The Subaru WRX is available as an automatic, however it’s a continuously variable transmission. According to Cars.com, nearly 85 percent of WRX models are sold with the manual, the highest rate for any nameplate offering both transmission types. Wiesenfelder says this is because CVTs in any form, from any manufacturer, are the opposite of what driving enthusiasts want. Last year, Subaru overhauled the WRX’s six-speed manual with a new synchro design to enhance shifter feel and clutch take-up.
“Similarly, the Civic Si comes only as a stick shift, so it places high in the list of manuals despite its relatively low overall sales,” Wiesenfelder added. “People may think of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro first as sports cars, but these volume-sellers are also popular for cruising and come in convertible versions as well, which have historically leaned more toward automatic transmissions.”
By comparison, the top five most-viewed vehicles with a manual on Cars.com differed slightly from the five most-purchased. Of the most-viewed, the Ford Mustang led the list with the Camaro and Corvette following behind. Spots four and five belong to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Dodge Challenger.
2019 Ford Mustang interior layout. Photo: Ford Motor Company.
Manual Transmissions Versus Autonomous Transactions
Last year, Hagerty began hosting a series of town hall discussions on the importance of driving. Autonomous vehicles and their impact on society was one of Hagerty’s first such discussions. Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars and former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz served as panelists. At the same time, Hagerty commissioned a survey in response to the development of autonomous vehicles. The poll consisted of millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers.
“One of our goals will be to work with policymakers so that years or even decades from now when the bulk of cars are fully autonomous, the act of driving is protected,” explained McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, last year. “We also want to facilitate the discussion about what driving looks like in the future – now’s the time to have those conversations.”
In that survey, 79 percent of all respondents from ALL generations are still passionate about driving. 81 percent said learning to drive is a rite of passage worth preserving. Still another 85 percent said driving is an important part of American culture; the same percentage said they want the option of driving a car themselves, autonomous or otherwise.
“Having covered self-driving tech for 20 years, I don’t think autonomy is going to overtake the market anytime soon,” Wiesenfelder said. “But if it ever does, I wouldn’t expect driving enthusiasts to hand over the keys quietly.”
“I believe going through driver’s training and getting your license is important for young adults. It not only teaches them a skill but also teaches them responsibility,” added Lauren Witt, a Detroit-based Automotive Product Specialist who works with automakers on their consumer ride-and-drive programs. “For most, it is their first step towards freedom and adulthood.”
In Hagerty’s survey, 81 percent said learning to drive is a rite of passage worth preserving.
Indeed, automatic transmissions are superior today to manual ones in terms of performance and efficiency; more gears, wider ratios, and computer technology has made that possible – but it’s only part of the equation. National Stick Shift Day digs at something a little more – something even the best technology cannot replicate. In American culture, there is an ever-present image of a father teaching their children how to properly care for and drive a car. At the center is often a manual transmission, especially for those who grew up in a rural area.
In the Cars.com survey, 67 percent said they learned how to drive a manual transmission from their father.
“I counted down the days until I got my driver’s license; then when I was 17 my dad taught me how to drive a stick,” Witt said. “So for me, driving really was and is an experience and skill I love and take pride in. I’m excited to see what happens with autonomous vehicles, but they can’t replace the feel you get when actually driving a car.”
In American culture our elders often teach us about cars.
Grinding Gears & Killing The Engine
Wiesenfelder says don’t worry about this – it’s part of the process when leaning to drive a manual. “There’s really no way around it,” he adds, saying first-timers need to take it in stride. Understand even though gears may groan and the engine may stall, you probably won’t break anything. In other words, it’s not the end of the world. If you’re feeling shifty for National Stick Shift Day, watch Wiesenfelder’s video below. By the time you are done, you will be an old pro.
“Though we’re clearly advocates for manual gearboxes for many reasons, we’re journalists first and foremost, so we have to make clear that manual transmissions are seldom the consumer’s most fuel-efficient choice anymore,” he added. “If you’re buying a stick-shift car, it’s probably for your own enjoyment – or to lower its odds of being stolen by a millennial.”
Carl Anthony studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan. Before going back to school, he simultaneously held product development and experiential marketing roles in the automotive industry.
How to Drive a Manual Transmission — Cars.com - YouTube
Given already to the Dodge Challenger, the Charger now receives the brand’s Widebody treatments.
More than just looks, the Charger Widebody boasts of number of performance and tech upgrades.
Pricing has not been announced for the new muscle cars, although the order books open this fall.
You can’t say Mopar is inconsistent. Essentially the philosophy of Dodge in the modern era – any time post-1960 or so – is simple: What’s the biggest, highest horsepower engine we got? Put it in everything! Whatever vehicles the company is producing, said engines will eventually make it into everything. For example, the Dodge Durango SRT. With the bigger engines, come bigger cars, like the Challenger’s Widebody treatments two years ago. And now here we are with the 2020 Dodge Charger getting a Widebody upgrade of its own.
Here Is The. Point.
Thus spoke Zarathustra: “Designed and Engineered to Push the Boundaries of What a Four-door Family Sedan Can Be, the New 2020 Dodge Charger … ” Yeah, blah, blah, blah, here’s the deal: Supercharged, 6.2 Hemi Hellcat V8, 707 horsepower, 650 lb-ft. of torque. Sure, sure, you can argue “But the BMW M5 this!” or “The AMG that!” or whatever you want, but I’ll see you at the end of The Strip, Klaus. No, not by a country mile is the Dodge Charger as refined, or as good all-around, as those built by Germans (and a good slice of Japanese or the British), but to FCA’s way of thinking, that’s kind of beside the point.
The Point here was one they figured out back when Brian Jones was leaving The Stones. The Point is quarter mile performance is everything. Acceleration. Torque. Tire-smoking, explosive, head-snapping, retina-detaching acceleration. So we’re not going to talk about nav systems and infotainment packages and leather dye colors. That stuff is beside The Point.
2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. Photo: FCA US LLC.
2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody
The Widebody package is standard on Charger SRT Hellcat and available for the Charger Scat Pack. If you get the Widebody, which you should, the fender flares add 3.5 inches of width. Dodge says this makes for “an even more aggressive, planted stance.” Gee, ya think? At any rate, thanks to the humongoid flares, you have lots of room for the wider, 20 by 11-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli 305/35ZR20 tires. Sure, you might think that’s kind of overkill, but I direct your attention back to that torque figure of 650 lb-ft.
Also, those big wheels give you plenty of room for stuff like the Brembo two-piece front brake rotors (15.4 inches) with six-piston calipers. Stopping distance is now four feet shorter (107 feet) from 60 to 0 mph (and you’re going to need that, let’s face it). The 6.2 supercharged Hemi and TorqueFlite 8HP90 eight-speed automatic send the Hellcat Widebody to a top speed of 196 mph. 60 mph comes up in just 3.6 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 10.96 seconds. In case you are interested, the new Charger Hellcat Widebody pulls .96 g on the skidpad.
Naturally the Widebody’s suspension gets special tuning all around. Front spring rates increase to provide a jump in stiffness of 32 percent, versus the existing Charger Hellcat. Larger sway bars enter the picture, expanding from 32 mm to 34 mm in front and from 19 mm to 22 mm out back. An SRT-tuned, Bilstein three-mode adaptive suspension and a new electric power steering system are also on deck.
Hellcat Widebody Performance Tech
On top of all this, there are four race-inspired tech goodies standard for 2020. Race Cooldown keeps cooling the supercharger/charge air cooler after the engine is shut off so things don’t overcook. Line Lock, an old school personal favorite, engages only the front brakes so you can do burnouts. Launch Control handles tire slip for more consistent straight-line acceleration. (To me, this is cheating, but that’s another story.) And then Launch Assist, via the wheel speed sensors, modifies torque (in milliseconds) to prevent driveline-damaging wheel hop during launch.
2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody. Photo: FCA US LLC.
Now with the 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody – which might be your best choice in a performance versus cost equation – you get the 6.4 392 Hemi, which puts out 485 horsepower. The engine is mated to a TorqueFlite 8HP70 eight-speed automatic. All the aforementioned suspension bits and performance-enhancing mistresses; including Launch Control, Launch Assist, and Line Lock – all of it is still there with the Scat Pack Widebody.
Versus the “normal” Scat Pack, the Widebody stops three feet shorter. Acceleration improves too, with the Widebody Scat Pack hitting 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 111 mph, and a .98 g lateral grip figure on the skidpad. The Widebody Scat Pack also runs 1.3 seconds faster on a 2.1-mile road course, equal to eight car lengths per lap.
Standard wheels are these 20 by 11-inch, split-five spoke deals with a low-gloss granite finish. Optional are the 20-inchers in Carbon Black. Pirelli 305/35ZR20 all-season performance tires are standard; three-season tires are optional.
Photo: FCA US LLC.
Ordering & Availability
So look, you’ve got a family, you need a sedan, you might (might!) want to consider the Charger. With the Widebody Scat Pack. Or the Hellcat if you are a greased-stained gearhead with only a partial amount of sanity like myself. The order books for the Widebody Chargers open this fall, with deliveries expected early next year.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.
With the summer travel season in full swing, have your car checked for safety recalls.
The Takata airbag recall continues to affect vehicle owners across the United States.
Free resources are available for you to view any and all safety recalls on your car.
When was the last time you checked your vehicle for safety recalls? If you can’t remember, now is a good time, especially with the summer travel season in full swing. A recent AAA Travel survey finds nearly 100 million Americans – four in 10 U.S. adults – are planning a family vacation this year. With regard to summer road trips specifically, 68 percent of all travelers say they will embark on a summer getaway. If you are planning a trip, we want to help keep you safe. Taking care of any outstanding recalls – especially airbag recalls – before you embark is always a good idea.
Even if you are not hitting the road this summer, it’s still a good idea to check. Here is what you need to know.
What Are “Open” Safety Recalls?
A recall originates when a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a certain vehicular component poses a safety risk or fails to meet minimum standards. “Open” is in reference to an incomplete or outstanding recall. By law, automakers must address these recalls by replacing the part for free. The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as something that should protect the public against the unreasonable risk of accidents (i.e. death or injury) due to the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle.
More than 53 million vehicles – approximately one in five – have open safety recalls.
Automakers send letters to original vehicle owners within 60 days notifying them of the defect and how to get it fixed. However, the National Safety Council says the recall repair rate is just 44 percent for vehicles five to 10 years old. Within that time frame, an owner may have moved, or sold or traded the vehicle in question. As a result, current owners may not be aware of such recalls; still others know but perceive it as unimportant.
For these reasons, NHTSA recommends updating your vehicle registration and mailing address, and taking the necessary actions regarding safety recalls.
According to the National Safety Council, 42 million vehicles have unaddressed airbag recalls.
Airbags Among The Highest Number of Recalls
Of the 53 million vehicles with open recalls, a staggering 42 million have unaddressed issues pertaining to Takata airbags. If these airbags deploy, occupants are at risk of injury or death from metal fragments acting as projectiles. According to NHTSA and as detailed by Consumer Reports, the Takata airbags in question use an ammonium nitrate-based propellant absent a drying agent. Heat and humidity over time can cause these airbags to improperly inflate and explode upon deployment; thus spaying metal fragments into the cabin.
Based on NHTSA’s findings, there have been at least 24 deaths and 300 injuries globally.
Vehicles manufactured by BMW, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota are among those affected. Last year, Consumer Reports noted that U.S. lawmakers were frustrated by the lack of progress with regard to the issue. Officials expect another round of Takata airbag recalls, which may span the next couple years. NHTSA describes the Takata airbag recall as the largest and most complex in U.S. history.
Nationally, the recall campaign encompasses tens of millions of vehicles from 19 manufacturers, and over 200 models and model years; although some vehicles are more susceptible than others.
What You Can Do To Stay Safe
Have your mechanic or service advisor check when you take your car in for routine service. They can look for open recalls while you are there and possibly even fix them the same day. Get in a habit of checking for safety recalls each time you get your oil changed.
NHTSA’s Safercar.gov website and corresponding mobile apps allow you to look up recalls by VIN number. The mobile apps will send recall alerts as they happen; or you can sign up to receive e-mail updates regarding recall notices. The National Safety Council’s Check To Protect program is another valuable resource for vehicle owners. Supported by automakers, safety advocates, and industry leaders, CheckToProtect.org is free and instantly checks for open safety and airbag recalls.
Sources: Airbag Recall, Consumer Reports, National Safety Council, NHTSA.
Spend more time enjoying your vacation and less time worrying about it.
Free for a limited time this summer, our comprehensive guide will help.
The summer road trip is a quintessential part of American culture. Be it a family vacation or romantic getaway, we have been seeking the other side of the horizon since the time of the Model T. With longer days and warmer temps, there are plenty of places to go and things to see across this great country.
A recent AAA Travel survey finds nearly 100 million Americans – four in 10 U.S. adults – are planning a family vacation this year. With regard to summer road trips specifically, two-thirds of all travelers (68 percent) say they will embark on a summer getaway.
If only it wasn’t so stressful to plan and pack everything.
Simple But Comprehensive
Detroit auto journalist and Automoblog.net Managing Editor Carl Anthony brings you and your family this brief but comprehensive guide. Anthony, an advocate for responsible driving, worked with top safety experts in the field, from state law enforcement agencies to national organizations. As a former dealership service manager, Anthony understands the importance of readying your car for the miles ahead, especially in the hot summer sun.
Preparing For Your Summer Road Trip: The Ultimate Guide consists of three essential parts: getting your vehicle ready, what to pack, and how to stay safe while driving. You and your family will have a comprehensive checklist to take your mechanic before you leave; know what to put in your emergency kit, including something we too often overlook; and the best times of the week to drive. Anthony also provides safe driving tips and advice on how to prevent your car from being stolen on your trip. Each section is summarized at the end with easy-to-remember bullet points.
Valuable Insights & Data
Featured experts include representatives from the California Highway Patrol, National Safety Council, REAL Volkswagen Parts, The Law Offices of Siegfried & Jensen, and YourMechanic. Supplemental data is either provided by or sourced from AAA, Avvo, Esurance, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Insurance Crime Bureau, and the National Sleep Foundation.
Preparing For Your Summer Road Trip: The Ultimate Guide is available in Kindle format for only $0.99 on Amazon. However, for a limited time, the guide is available for a free download! Just fill out the form below and we’ll send you the eBook for free!
When you don’t exactly need a Raptor but still want to be a total boss off-road.
Perhaps a Super Duty with a Tremor Off-Road Package will fancy your tastes?
From 35-inch tires to custom drive modes, this new Super Duty is the real deal.
Is this a case of Ford splitting the difference? This being the Tremor Off-Road Package for the 2020 Ford Super Duty. And splitting the difference means, perhaps, that rather than having to buy a big, fire-breathing Raptor or nothing at all, you could get an F-Series Super Duty for 2020 and add on a whole bunch of sweet off-road bits. Sounds like a plan. Hence the Tremor Off-Road Package, a serious hardware and tech upgrade for those who want to take their big new Ford Super Duty off the beaten path.
Bigger Shocks + Bigger Tires = Happy People
Now, a while back, Ford made this big off-road special called the Raptor. People loved it. And by people, I mean ink-stained wretches like myself. That crowd wants to play in the mud and dirt with their 4X4 toys, but there are some who like to customize things further. Why? Because they’re a fickle lot and like to pick and choose, a la cart, what gear goes into their rigs, rather than getting the whole deal from the factory.
And FoMoCo also realizes this goes the other way. What if you’re a truck person most of the time and an off-roader some of the time. Doesn’t make sense to have some near-Baja 1000 special if you only hit the out yonder once every so often. Or, as Todd Eckert, Ford Truck Group Marketing Manager put it; “A growing number of Super Duty customers use their trucks for more than work. They’re fishing, camping and towing boats on weekends, and they go off-road, so we designed this truck specifically for them.” What that translates to is, in short, more ground clearance, bigger shocks, bigger tires, and more off-road capability.
Ford says it’s the most capable off-road Super Duty ever, but they would say that.
2020 Ford Super Duty with the Tremor Off-Road Package. Photo: Ford Motor Company.
What Is The Tremor Off-Road Package?
The Tremor Off-Road Package has nothing to do with the rather charming monster movie with Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward (sadly); but it does have everything to do with actually working in off-road situations. For a start, you lose none of the Super Duty’s towing or payload ratings. The package is available for XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum F-250 and F-350 Super Duty, with either the 7.3-liter gas V8 or 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel. The Tremor Off-Road Package can be added to any 4×4 single-rear-wheel, crew cab Super Duty truck with a 6.75-foot box. If you want it for the F-250 models, you have to get the high-capacity trailer towing package. But you were going to get that anyway so no biggie.
The first thing you’ll notice are big, 35-inch-diameter Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires. These would be the largest diameter tires available on a heavy-duty pickup, which Ford demurely refers to as “aggressive.” The wheels are also 18-inch, black matte-finish numbers. Along with the boss meats and rims you get a two-inch front-end lift and a shorter air dam for a total of 10.8 inches of ground clearance. Have to deal with streams? How about water fording of 33 inches? Add to that the best approach and departure angles of any Super Duty ever: 31.65 and 24.51 degrees, respectively.
The “progressive-rate” springs balance the towing performance while controlling body motion on rutted, bolder-infested trails. Ford dropped the spring rate on the rear stabilizer bar for less giggling of your head over those rutted, bolder-infested trails. Shocks are custom, 1.7-inch piston twin-tube dampers, which is impressive as a factory part. They have, of course, substantial oil volume for lower internal temperatures.
“Tremor balances what customers demand in terms of work with what they need in the great outdoors,” said Todd Eckert, Ford Truck Group Marketing Manager. Photo: Ford Motor Company.
The rear diff is a full-locker with electronic shift-on-the-fly ability. Up front you’ll find a new Dana limited-slip differential. There’s an optional torque-steering package for the front axle that can sense a loss of traction and use the brakes to send power to the wheel with traction. Additional hardware goodies include running boards that tuck up next to the body, so as not to get torn completely off by that humongous rock you just cleared.
There are five drive modes in the 2020 Super Duty with the Tremor package: Normal for around-town use, Tow/Haul for better performance when towing, Eco for enhanced fuel economy, Slippery for icy conditions, and Deep Snow/Sand for low-traction situations. Unique to the Tremor is a rock-crawl mode for 4×4 low situations. It’s enabled by the standard TorqShift 10-speed automatic transmission, so it’s a snap to use.
The Tremor Off-Road Package comes with skid plates for extra protection. Photo: Ford Motor Company.
Come Crawling Back
Trucks with the 7.3-liter gas engine have a 53:1 crawl ratio while those with the 6.7-liter diesel have a 44:1 ratio. And, for the first time ever, there’s Trail Control for the Super Duty. This feature, pulled from the F-150 Raptor and Ranger, functions in any mode like cruise control, but for off-road driving. If you still get stuck, then I don’t know what to tell ya son.
The Tremor Off-Road Package will be available when the 2020 Super Duty launches later this year. No word yet on price.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.
Bentley, one of Great Britain’s legendary luxury car makers, will be revealing their first fully-electric concept vehicle this week. Couple this with the news that a Chinese company are talking up a new lithium-ion battery that could recharge a sports car to 80 percent in just over four minutes, and you would be forgiven thinking all was well on the EV and hybrid front.
Not so; at least not in the UK.
The Cliff Edge
This is a popular term for those who think British people will fling themselves to oblivion like lemmings if this country leaves the European Union (Yes folks, it’s Brexit time again) without a ‘deal.’ Of course, this is arrant nonsense; it’s a trading pact for pity’s sake. Well, as of 25 July, GB is going to have a new Prime Minister who is likely to be considerably more bullish than his failed predecessor. Thus, we still have no clue if the UK will leave the Union on 31 October, which is the latest deadline. In other words, the situation is no clearer. And if it isn’t all a big mess now, it’ll certainly do until the real mess gets here.
Maybe Not So Bad
In the meantime, there has been some changing of hearts. An old dinosaur of a politician who has been vehemently against leaving the EU has now suggested ‘that it might not be so bad.’ Further, a Jaguar planning manager has stated that we could have home advantage over rivals if tariffs on cars built outside the UK are introduced in a hard Brexit. He said, “If there is a tariff situation, we will be ahead with our British-built cars such as the XE saloon making them cheaper than rivals – and securing British manufacturing.”
Maybe not so clear cut after all.
The Jaguar Land Rover group have also confirmed the company is investing hundreds of millions of pounds to build a range of electric vehicles at its Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham, England. Initially the plant will produce an electric version of their flagship model, the XJ. Would they invest if they thought Brexit would be so economically bad, which has been the company’s stance until now?
So, cliff edge or not. It’s unclear, frankly.
UK-focused electric vehicle production is the next step in Jaguar Land Rover’s electrification strategy. The company says the forthcoming investments at their Castle Bromwich facility will safeguard thousands of jobs. Photo: Jaguar Land Rover.
What’s not so unclear is the fact that UK new car registrations declined for a fourth consecutive month in June, with year-on-year demand falling by almost five percent. Added to this ongoing confusion over low emission zones and diesel, the removal of key ultra-low emission vehicle incentives and an overall decline in buyer confidence, especially as it relates to hybrid vehicles, which previously have been subject to government-sponsored buyer incentives.
Sales of diesel-powered vehicles have continued to plummet and also, significantly, plug-in hybrids which contributed to the recent downward trend, falling by a massive 50 percent. Self-charging hybrids also fell although by a considerably smaller margin. Battery electric vehicle (EV) sales were one of the few bright spots in an otherwise sluggish UK car market.
This poor hybrid performance tipped the overall alternatively-fueled vehicle sector into negative growth for the first time since April 2017, thus undermining efforts to reduce vehicle emissions. What we are left with is a very confused picture, and it is likely all down to the perceived effects of a ‘cliff edge’ style exit from the European Union.
None of this makes any sense to this writer. Why in all that’s holy would anyone jeopardise economic robustness for political expediency? People’s working lives are at stake here and nobody seems to have a clue what to do.
Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite
Will automated cars take away the thrill and joy of driving?
What will happen to those who enjoy driving on their own?
Automoblog columnist Tony Borroz with a perspective.
Recently, I read and reviewed a very well done book on the future of automated cars and driving. While banging through the review, I had to examine my own thoughts on automation and what it means for me as a car enthuiast. Unsurprisingly, I’m not a big fan, but not completely opposed to it either. It’s just that, by and large, self-driving cars seem like an answer to a question that I (and many other gearheads) never asked.
Who Enjoys Driving Anyway?
90 percent of my beef with self-driving cars comes down to one instance. Some years back, I saw a press conference with some Google execs about their then-new autonomous car program. One of them, Brin or someone, I don’t recall who, said, “Seriously: Who actually enjoys driving a car?” And that, right there, is our problem specifically, and the greater “problem” that tech brings to the table with all of its disruptive “solutions.”
Tech’s biggest failing, circa 2019, is how they think they are solving problems; but they never grok to the fact they don’t fully understand a given problem. Take that quote: “Seriously: Who actually enjoys driving a car?” Obviously that was uttered by someone who didn’t enjoy driving a car. Ergo, since he didn’t enjoy it, why would anyone else? Well thanks for coming to my rescue, but I was doing just fine and, more to the point, I didn’t ask you to rescue me.
Here is my analogy as to why this is both philosophically and logically the wrong path to go down.
Imagine a tech guy – smart, rich, overworked, thinks he’s a Divine gift to the world – is finally forced to take a vacation after solid months of programming from his office in Mountain View or Redmond or Boston. For some reason, he goes to Hawaii. Someone takes him out to The North Shore and shows him what surfing is.
The picked a good day. Sunset is huge, Waimea might go off and Pipeline is firing, 16 to 18 feet and glassy. A wave comes up, a guy catches it, makes the drop, snaps it off the lip, comes back down for another bottom turn and boom!, hooks a rail and wipes out. He’s standing there, zinc sunscreen on his nose, Teva sandals with socks, every inch the haole nerd.
“Do they always fall like that?” asks the tech guy.
“Most of the time, yeah. It ain’t easy brah!” says the local taking him around.
Tech bro nerd guy then has a brainstorming session.
Catching Waves Via Smartphone
A year later, he comes back to The North Shore. This time with his new start-up in tow. They rent the Volcom House (money is no object). They have a roll-out party to end all parties. Kalua pork, three-finger poi, Kim Taylor Reece is taking pictures, they even get Jake Shimabukuro to play (because money is no object to tech bros). And then the big moment arrives: the big unveiling.
He pulls the covers back and shows off his new invention: The fully automatic surfboard!
He goes into his pitch. “Our new surfboard, the SrfRyder, is the world’s first fully-automated surfboard! With miniaturized water jet engines and ring gyroscope stabilization, catching and riding waves is just a tap on your smartphone away. Never again will you just miss a wave. Never again will you fall, mid-ride. You will be able to catch any wave you see and you will be able to ride any wave you catch. Using our Waterman smartphone app . . . blah blah blah . . .”
Last year, Hagerty began hosting a series of town hall discussions on the importance of driving. Autonomous vehicles and their impact on society was one of the first discussions, with Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars and former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz as panelists.
Granted, this is just a story and an analogy. This would never happen. You know why this would never happen? Because if a machine is doing it for you, you are not surfing. And the whole point of surfing is not about traveling from the line up into the beach while standing up, no. The point of surfing is to surf. To catch a wave yourself and then ride it as you see fit, and to the best of your abilities. If a machine does it for you, you’re not a surfer, you’re merely floating. You’re not actually riding those waves.
Same with automated cars. You’re going but you’re not actually engaged in the joys and thrills of driving.
In Defense of Driving
And sure, one day there might be some tech bro standing on a beach, seeing a guy just getting worked after losing it at Pipe, and the tech bro might say to himself, “Seriously: Who actually enjoys surfing?” And that’s fine. He’s entitled to his opinion. But woe unto him if he ever were to make something like an automated surfboard. It completely misses the point of what a surfboard is.
And for some of us, driving is that way. I have no problem using a self-driving car the same way I have no problem with taking a cab or a bus. Just don’t force me to.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.
What exactly is a sports car? Not that long ago, within my lifetime, that was an easy question to answer. Now things become much more hazy. We no longer have just sports cars because now we have to add “supercars” into that discussion; and, as of late, “hypercars” are all over the automotive world. A gorgeous book by John Lamm, Supercar Revolution, traces the history of when sports cars became supercars, then became hypercars. In essence, it chronicles the battle for performance supremacy among these high-dollar machines.
Supercar Revolution: The Fastest Cars of All Time
This is all Lamborghini’s fault. Being the young upstart company they were, back in 1967, engineering conservatism was not in their vocabulary. It was clear from a performance standpoint a mid-engine car was the way to go. Yet a decade or so since John Cooper and Jack Brabham drove that point home, the high-end sports car world was still replete with big, front engine, rear-wheel drive choices.
The Lamborghini Miura blew that notion into a cocked hat. While Ferrari’s Daytona (really called the 365 GTB/4) was the king of the mountain, the Miura was a clean sheet of paper; new idea from new minds. It was also, arguably, the first supercar. It is with this event, starting with the old chestnut retelling of Enzo and Ferruccio’s fight about how to build sports cars, that our book in question – Supercar Revolution: The Fastest Cars of All Time, written by John Lamm – starts.
Supercar Revolution: The Fastest Cars of All Time, page 10: Lamborghini Miura & Ferrari Daytona. Photo: John Lamm.
On The Prowl
Lambo’s shot across the bow of Ferrari, and any other traditionally-oriented car maker of the time, sent us on the path to where we find ourselves today: staring down the barrel of something as strange and beautiful and terrible as a La Ferrari or a Porsche 918 or a McLaren P1. These are not sports cars. These are not even supercars (book title notwithstanding). No, these are hypercars. Cars of such technological aspiration and execution; such physics-bending performance that it is almost insane they sell them to anyone with a licence and a good check.
But here they are, out on the street; our streets, rolling among us; looking side-to-side, waiting, waiting for that next gap in traffic, that next open stretch of road, that next green light.
And this is a point Supercar Revolution drives home, page after page, and photo after photo. While we’re on the subject: Dig these shots man! The photos within the 240 page book are gorgeous art shots of two types. Either they are in-studio photos set against a black limbo background; or they’re outdoor, in situ shots of staggeringly-beautiful cars poised on race tracks, or parked just so out in front of villas of olde, or gardens verdant, or race tracks beckoning. You’ve seen Top Gear, right? The BBC program is known (primarily) for two things: doing foolishly-entertaining stuff with cars, and two – really good photography. Supercar Revolution is like the second, only in still form.
The horrible expectation is that with both the subject matter and the glorious photography, evidenced by the cover’s fantastic, rain-dappled three-quarter shot of a La Ferrari, this would be a coffee table book. A book that looks great, but has all the written flair of a vacuum cleaner manual. But no! This is not the case! Supercar Revolution is rather wonderfully-written by Lamm, a longtime notable car scribe and photographer. He is an alumnus of Road & Track and Motor Trend, and has created other nicely-done books and special pieces found hither and yon.
Supercar Revolution: The Fastest Cars of All Time, page 137: McLaren F1. Photo: John Lamm.
Indeed the R&T connection runs deep throughout Supercar Revolution. Not only does Lamm get his two cents in about high performance cars of the last 50 years, but he talks with a bunch of well-known gearheads, fellow writers, drivers, and outright racers. Jay Leno gives his opinion here and there, pipe-hitting champions like Phil Hill and Paul Frère are mentioned; René Dreyfus gets a shot. He even gives space to Jerry Wiegert, that half-huckster/hudry-gurdy man that gave (or said he was going to give) the world the Vector Aeromotive W2.
Pride of The Coffee Table
It’s a really good book, in both words and pictures, and the downsides are pretty minimal. One is how the cars covered get more frequent as time gets closer to our present day – but that just reflects how there are more super and hyper cars available now. Consider Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin; and boutique makers like Pagani, Bugatti, Saleen, and Ultima. The other miss is, apart from that gorgeous cover, the La Ferrari is not within the book itself. Sort of like writing a book about mountains and failing to mention Mount Everest.
But really, overall, Supercar Revolution is a great book. It will look good on your shelf or “left out” on your coffee table.
John Lamm is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer who covers sports and racing cars for Road & Track. After attending a road race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, he decided to become an automotive journalist and began his career with Motor Trend magazine in Los Angeles. In 1975, he moved to Road & Track, where he remains editor-at-large to this day. Lamm has won the International Motor Press Association’s Ken Purdy Award and the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award.
Lexus isn’t your boring luxury car company any longer. Things have changed in a big way the past few years, and Toyota’s luxury division is now on par with the German brands when it comes to performance cars. This was the goal when Akio Toyoda took over, and he’s given the brand a new identity. This new identity is apparent in Lexus’ product line today, including the 2019 Lexus RC F.
This week, we checked out the latest version of the RC F and we were not disappointed.
2019 Lexus RC F: What’s New?
There aren’t many changes for 2019, but the RC does get a limited 10th Anniversary Edition package. Highlights include Matte Nebula Gray paint, blue Brembo brake calipers, black 19-inch BBS forged wheels, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Only 240 vehicles in the United States received the package.
Features & Options: Tech & Safety
Our 2019 Lexus RC F Sport tester ($64,650) came standard with LED headlights, automatic high beams, auto-dimming mirrors, and adjustable drive modes. The Lexus Display Audio interface pairs with a seven-inch screen and knob controller for the infotainment and climate settings. The RC F is standard with Scout GPS Link, a USB port, and a 10-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, and a CD player. Other features include power-adjustable front seats with memory settings, simulated leather upholstery, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and a rearview camera.
Safety tech includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane keeping assist (Lexus Safety System+ package). Lexus Enform Safety Connect is complimentary for the first 10 years of ownership and gives you access to response centers during an emergency. Automatic collision notification, an emergency assist button, and a stolen vehicle locator gave us the most peace of mind.
2019 Lexus RC F.
Features & Options: Safety & Style
This RC F tester included the Premium package ($3,240), adding blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, automatic wipers, auto-dimming side mirrors, parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, and carbon-fiber interior trim. There’s also the Performance package ($5,500) with a torque-vectoring rear differential, carbon-fiber roof, and a speed-activated, carbon-fiber rear spoiler.
The navigation system ($2,725) came with the Remote Touch interface (a 10.3-inch screen and touchpad controller), two USB ports, voice controls, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and six-CD/DVD changer. Upgraded LED headlights, leather upholstery, 19-inch hand-polished BBS 20-spoke alloy wheels, and orange Brembo brake calipers were among the stand-alone options.
Total MSRP including destination: $80,900. By comparison, the 2019 Lexus RC F starts at $47,860.
The RC F cabin is practical yet contemporary with unique, sharp curves and angles that match the sport coupe’s exterior design. A protruding curved dash reminds us of the sporty front end that you either love or hate. The F Spec Sport front seats hugged us tight, working especially well during our more spirited driving through mountain corners. The leather seats with the optional Premium package are ventilated for extra comfort. We used them liberally as temperatures reached near 90 degrees in Denver this week.
What we don’t like is the Lexus knob controller on the tech interface. It’s still too difficult just changing the radio channel. Once we did find the right station, the optional Mark Levinson premium sound system is excellent, providing clear audio that doesn’t distort with volume. We cranked the 835-watt, 17-speaker system up and kept the noisy world outside while we jammed.
Those using the RC F for their daily commute will appreciate the numerous predictive traffic data features offered through the navigation system. Likewise, the Lexus Enform App Suite eases those longer commutes, allowing access to popular apps like iHeartRadio, Slacker, and Yelp. However, the RC F isn’t the car for you if you need to haul adults regularly. The backseat is small and useful really just for storage but could accommodate two small children.
A sweet-sounding, 5.0-liter V8 that pumps out an impressive 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft. of torque powers the 2019 Lexus RC F. The naturally-aspirated engine uses a combination of direct injection and port fuel injectors to achieve a 12.3:1 compression ratio. The V8 is mated to an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift gearbox with paddle shifters for those wanting to shift manually.
The fuel mileage for the RC F is an EPA-estimated 16/25 city/highway and 19 combined mpg. You can probably achieve that if you keep your foot out of it.
Driving Dynamics: A Word of Caution
You will want the 2019 Lexus RC F if you enjoy driving fast! Once you step on the gas, all 467 horses come to life. On the high-performance meter, it pegs! You need to be careful; the RC F is explosive and can get you in trouble quickly, especially on wet or slick surfaces. The summer performance tires are meant for just that, summer. This is not a car for those who live in colder climates!
Driving Dynamics: Sweet, Sweet Sounds
The RC F was developed at places like Fuji Speedway in Japan and the legendary Nürburgring in Germany. We could tell as we swept through the mountain corners near Denver this week. The RC F’s torque-vectoring differential changes left-right torque distribution within 1/1000th of a second, based on the throttle, braking, yaw rate, and longitudinal and lateral G-forces. Combine that with the Linear Adaptive Variable Suspension and SPORT S+ mode, and you have one of the most fun sports cars on the market today.
But the best part? When we stomped on the gas, the sound generator that pipes engine noise into the cabin filled our ears with an amazing exhaust note. When we needed to stop, the Brembo brakes halted us just as quickly as we took off.
The RC F’s torque-vectoring differential changes left-right torque distribution within 1/1000th of a second.
Conclusion: A Worthy Competitor
The 2019 Lexus RC F is able to challenge the best luxury performance coupes in the world. It makes a statement that Lexus can bring serious performance to the game. Lexus also has strong quality and reliability ratings, something the competitors don’t always have.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy