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During an event to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Lexus gave us a brief glimpse of the technologies and strategies it has in the pipeline, including its plans for hybrids. Below, we’ve boiled it down to the must-know tidbits.

  • A Level II autonomous driving system, called Automated Highway Teammate, is coming in 2020. The system is designed to work “from [highway] entrance to exit” and is likely to include an automated lane-change and/or passing feature. Such a system has already undergone extensive testing on thoroughly mapped Japanese expressways.
  • All Lexus models will offer some sort of electrified powertrain, meaning they will have EV, hybrid, plug-in-hybrid, or fuel cell options, with powertrain choices tailored to individual markets.

  • Lexus is working on advances in vehicle connectivity—for example, having cars communicate with a centralized data center for real-time traffic information.
  • Lexus will continue to develop its hybrid technology, and not just as an eco-solution; it is looking to provide a more dynamic experience through electrification.
  • Other technologies Lexus is exploring include in-wheel motors for electrified vehicles, a steer-by-wire system, and the “E-Axle.” Though it wouldn’t give us details of the latter, it was described to us as an axle optimized to work with electric power, and which will be compatible with both in-wheel and centrally mounted electric motors.
Lexus LC 500 interior
  • Lexus will show a new concept car at the 2019 Tokyo auto show, which will show the coming evolution of Lexus interiors. Among the changes we can expect are an increase in contrast and expanded use of premium materials. We interpret this as a move away from the interiors of the RX and NX, and one toward those of the LS and LC.
  • Lexus is prepared to implement vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V), but is waiting to see how the technology develops with other automakers.
  • V-8 engines will survive for now, but may fall victim to future regulation. Though turbochargers are part of Lexus’s strategy (witness the twin-turbo V-6 in the flagship LS500), Lexus feels that hybrid drivetrains are a strong candidate to take over the role as their preferred performance powertrain.

For more details on these and other initiatives, we’ll have to wait until the Tokyo Motor Show in October, where Lexus will reveal even more.

The post Lexus: Hybrids Could Become Preferred Performance Powertrain appeared first on MotorTrend.

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The 2021 Ford Bronco will share underpinnings with the next-gen Ranger, but having one midsize pickup truck offering apparently isn’t good enough for Ford. Our Friends at Automobile just learned that the Blue Oval is planning to launch a pickup version of the Bronco to compete with the Jeep Gladiator.

Our colleagues’ intel comes from AutoForecast Solutions, which says the Bronco pickup is scheduled to begin production in July 2024, a few years after the launch of the 2021 Bronco SUV. That could coincide with the Bronco’s midcycle refresh. Beyond that, not much is known about the upcoming Bronco pickup. Like the Gladiator, expect the truck variant of the Bronco to be off-road-focused with more ground clearance and suspension travel compared to the Ranger. Also expect a crew cab body style like the Gladiator. We think the Bronco SUV will be offered in both two-and four-door configurations, but at any rate those doors will be removable.

One of the Bronco’s engine options is said to be an EcoBoost 2.3-liter turbo-four similar to the one found in the current Ranger. In that application, the engine makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque and pairs exclusively to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The Bronco will also offer a hybrid drivetrain, though no details on that option are known.

Head over to Automobile for more details and to see their exclusive rendering of the Ford Bronco pickup!

The post Watch Out, Gladiator! There’s a Ford Bronco Pickup Truck in the Works appeared first on MotorTrend.

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The 2020 mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette C8 will be officially unveiled on Thursday, but if you’ve been following along then you’ve already seen a leaked photo of the rear end, the car’s new crossed-flags logo, and an official image of the steering wheel. Now comes confirmation that when the cover is pulled off the car in Orange County, California, it’ll be called Stingray.

“The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette will debut as a Stingray July 18, 2019. Did you know the second-generation Corvette debuted as a Sting Ray in 1963?” Chevrolet touts on its media site. “This nameplate ran until 1976”—now as one word on the C3, we’ll note—”and was then revived for 2014 to introduce the seventh-generation Corvette. Chevrolet is proud to announce the Stingray name will live on.”

Read More
This Is the Mid-Engine Corvette’s Steering Wheel
Photo of C8 Corvette’s Rear End Leaked
What’s Up with C8 Corvette Development Issues?

The new logo can be seen above, and a black Stingray badge and a few treatments of the Corvette name that will be used for the C8 can be found in the gallery below. Full details on the mid-engine Corvette are still forthcoming, but based on what we’ve seen so far, this new Stingray should easily be worthy of the name. Be sure to check back at 5:15 p.m. Pacific and 8:15 p.m. Eastern on Thursday to finally see the long-anticipated, all-new C8 mid-engine Corvette.

The post Mid-Engine Corvette C8 Will Keep the Stingray Name appeared first on MotorTrend.

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We had the chance to catch up with Nissan North America’s new boss, Jose Valls, at the season finale race of the Formula E electric vehicle racing series in Brooklyn, New York. After confirming it was Valls’ first Formula E race and discussing his Argentinian heritage and passion for racing in general, we got down to the elephants in the room.

How would you describe the current state of the leadership at the very top of Nissan Motor Company?

JV: Well, I know more or less what everybody knows, what came out of the shareholders meeting [at the end of June 2019]—a lot of questions. The situation with Mr. Ghosn back in November 2018 created a big eruption in the company, after 20 years of leadership under one person. It was really unexpected. I would say not only for Nissan, but the [Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi] Alliance in general, it was a big shock. After that, the company is trying to reorganize, to take advantage of the situation to reorganize, put stronger governance in place and so on.

I’m a member of the Global Executive Committee, so I was in the shareholder meeting, and there was a lot of tension. Performance at this point, in the first half of 2019, is not coming as expected. Some of the reason is all the adjustments we’re putting in the U.S. [operation], moving from quality of sales, more into the brand, trying to move away from the hard-sell piece, big incentives, fleet, and so on. All of that is kind of transformational and will not happen overnight.

Nissan North America CEO Jose Valls

Of course, some people are looking for short-term results, but it’s a process. We have a really robust strategy in moving and preparing for all the new cars that are coming. More than 70 percent of the total lineup will change. Many things are coming, new technologies, Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology. It will be a transformational lineup.

We’re preparing the ground, the brand, our go-to-market strategy, in this direction. But again, when we talk about short term there is always a bit of anxiety to see short-term results. The leaders in Japan, they’re supporting the leadership in North America, supporting our strategy and are being patient. But of course, they have a lot of pressures, from the external side, coming from the analysts and shareholders.

What does short term mean?

JV: Short term means they want to see results in 2019, to show very strong change in direction. We are starting to change the whole product lineup next year, so they want to see high improvement in sales —but we still have the same portfolio. The portfolio will start changing big time next year, but that is the situation we are facing. Of course, people don’t want to get into details, but this is not a detail. A whole new Rogue is coming, a whole new Sentra is coming, a whole new platform is coming, new Titan, new Frontier. So many, many new products coming in the next two or three years.

No Juke for the U.S.?

JV: When we had Juke in the past, we didn’t have Kicks. I would say Kicks is a different proposal. Juke is more turbo engine, meant for Europe. Kicks is, size-wise, pretty similar, but has more [interior] space, new technology, and I don’t think we have space for Juke and Kicks. In the Americas, not only North America/U.S., everybody wants more Kicks. It’s a big volume [seller], and it has been quite successful for us so far. I know we have more than 20 percent segment share at this point. Our dealers are happy, we are happy, and this is just the beginning for everybody and Kicks. Having Juke, Kicks, Rogue Sport, Rogue—just too crowded.

Really? Seems like most OEMs are trying to flood the market with SUVs.

JV: Well, in my case I prefer to have less complexity and very strong core models. I think it’s much more efficient than populating a car lineup with different models and versions and different nameplates. The customer gets lost, and it’s very difficult to manage such complexity. That’s basically one of my strategies.

What is the time frame for the coming vehicles?

JV: It is starting next year, I would say about second quarter, next year we are starting to move and [the new models] will come for about two years. We can include Altima in the process, so it was actually three years, from late ’18 when we launched Altima. Before the end of the year, we’re launching Versa, and then all of this coming in the next two years.

So would you characterize this as a turnaround—a big turnaround, a medium-size turnaround? Nissan is famous for turnarounds.

JV: It’s an evolution of our portfolio. I wouldn’t characterize it as a turnaround or a product turnaround, but an evolution of our Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) portfolio. NIM is the new strategy for the company—it’s bringing the technology piece and innovative products that are affordable to all. It’s not just NIM technology for very high-end products; it’s affordable for all, starting from our entry versions and nameplates. And this is coming down the pipe—it’s a Nissan promise—innovation for all. Starting now. Every single launch will have a very strong foundation of Nissan Intelligent Mobility. And that could be seen as a turnaround, but it’s really just delivering on our brand promise.

And that’s a global strategy?

JV: Yes. The turnaround really has more to do with our go-to-market strategy. You know, we’re a brand that really offers great value for the money on our cars. We are not a ‘deal’ brand, you know, so the turnaround is moving our marketing approach into our value proposal and the strength of our brand: Japanese heritage, performance—at the same time all the Nissan Intelligent Mobility proposal.

It’s got a lot to do with electrification, a lot to do with e-power, EVs, that’s why we have to be very strong in electric vehicles. Whether it’s a Leaf with 40 kilowatts, 60 kilowatts, or what is coming down the pipe. I will not get into the details, but you will be amazed at what is coming. We will have some interesting vehicles coming soon. I will say the jewel in the crown of this product refresh—it’s more than a refresh, I would call it a turnaround—is coming at the end, and is an amazing EV. I don’t want to mention any more, but you will be amazed. I just saw the vehicle, the mock-up [concept]. It looks very good.

You heard it here first. Hot on the heels of the new Altima and Versa, Nissan North America will update its lineup with new Rogue, Sentra, Titan, and long-awaited Frontier models. Expect to see an “amazing” EV as the topper. Given that we did this interview at a Formula E race and that Chairman Valls did not comment on Nissan’s two flagship performance cars, GT-R and 370Z, both long overdue for overhauls, might some sort of electrifying Z or GT-R be in the offing? Stay tuned.

The post New Frontier, Titan, Rogue, and Sentra! Nissan’s Future Product Plans appeared first on MotorTrend.

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Lincoln redesigned the Navigator a few years ago, giving it an improved ride, stunning exterior, and an interior that’s nothing short of opulent. As it stands now, the older Escalade just isn’t as refined as the Navigator, but Cadillac will have the chance to catch up when it introduces the next-generation SUV next year.

So what should we expect? The Escalade will likely share front end design cues with other new Cadillacs such as the CT5, CT6, XT4, and XT6. That should mean slender headlights and a similar shield-like grille shape, although the grille will be much larger than on other Cadillacs. Also, don’t expect the three-row SUV to give up its boxy figure. The square-shaped rear should look more sculpted than the old model, and it will likely continue to adopt vertical taillights. Check out these exclusive renderings for a better idea of how we think Cadillac’s next-gen flagship SUV will look.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade will stay true to its body-on-frame heritage, so expect it to share hardware and other components with the forthcoming Tahoe and Yukon. It will benefit from improvements in refinement, performance, and quality being injected into GM’s next-gen pickup and full-size SUV architecture. The Escalade will receive an independent rear suspension and air springs for improved ride quality. And by ditching the live axle, GM can lower the floor at the rear, allowing for more space in the third row. No Escalade EXT pickup is in the works.

Stricter fuel regulations may have automakers worried around the world, but the V-8 lives on. Cadillac is likely to stick with the 6.2-liter V-8 that currently makes 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. It’s also likely the Escalade will add a V-badged variant packing a supercharged V-8 that delivers north of 600 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque (the unit in the outgoing CTS-V makes 640 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque). Both engines will be paired with the 10-speed automatic co-developed by GM and Ford.

Of course, expect major interior improvements to keep the SUV worthy of the Escalade name. If it wants to compete with Navigator, it should get a bigger touchscreen than the current 8.0-inch unit and lose the clunky steering column-mounted gear selector. The Escalade won’t have Super Cruise next year at launch, but it should come eventually. Super Cruise begins to roll out to future vehicles in 2020, and in most cases, it will be added in the second or third model year.

The post 2021 Cadillac Escalade: Here’s What We Think it Will Look Like appeared first on MotorTrend.

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Lincoln has embraced fashion trends and announced a Monochromatic package for the 2020 Navigator. Available only on the Navigator Reserve, the Monochromatic package is available in three colors: Pristine White, Ceramic Pearl, and Infinite Black.

Chic new colors aren’t the only updates to expect on the 2020 Lincoln Navigator, because the SUV now comes standard with the Phone as a Key feature that first debuted on the smaller 2020 Aviator. Power running boards, heated and ventilated front seats, and a wireless charging pad are now standard, too.

Perhaps the most significant addition to the 2020 Navigator’s standard equipment list is the Lincoln Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assistance technologies. It includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert that also covers the trailer you’re towing, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and a rearview camera with its own dedicated washer system.

Not only does the Navigator boast an opulent interior, but it also performs well on the road. In our First Test, we praised its exceptionally quiet manners, solid handling, and quick acceleration, as well as the ample legroom it provides for passengers in the third row. The Navigator was fully redesigned for the 2018 model year.

Looking to buy a 2020 Lincoln Navigator with the Monochromatic package? You’ll have to wait a bit because the SUV won’t be in dealerships until November.

Source: Lincoln

The post 2020 Lincoln Navigator Gets Cool Monochromatic Package, New Tech appeared first on MotorTrend.

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With the new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette making its debut, we’re revisiting this cool story from May 2013 about NASA astronaut Alan Bean’s custom and now classic Corvette. Enjoy!

“I never had a dream as good as what I was living when I was an astronaut.” Alan L. Bean, Navy captain, test pilot, and, as part of Apollo 12, the fourth man to walk on the lunar surface, is taking a break from painting in his Houston, Texas, art studio. (An accomplished artist, he’s created Apollo-themed canvases since retiring from NASA.) Now 80, the former moonman is reminiscing about a life lived so large — the monumental machines, the galactic adventure, the Cold War stakes, the superhero adulation — that the rest of us can’t picture an equally epic existence without first hearing, “You want butter on your popcorn?”

Then Bean turns to the custom-painted, gold-and-black Corvette he drove while preparing to become a moonwalker. “In 1969, I was 37. When you’re 37, driving around in a Corvette, and you’ve got the hormones going that you do at 37, well, it was great! It was fun! What could be better than being 37, training all day to fly to the moon, and then when you get off work you jump in your Corvette and drive it around Cocoa Beach — with all the perks that come with that — and then you repeat it the next day! It was great! It was ideal!”

Gentlemen, let’s just get this depressing truth out of the way: For the male of the human species, life reached apogee for those lucky few rocket-riding, Corvette-driving, moon-venturing NASA astronauts in the space-smitten Go-Go that was 1960s America. Theirs was a perfect storm of timing (the dawn of space-capable engineering), almost unlimited government funding (beat those Russkies!), a Holy Grail forged by a martyred president (JFK’s “before this decade is out”), delicious extras (free Corvettes were just the beginning), and star-struck coverage from three TV networks and Life magazine (ticker-tape parade, anyone?). In contrast, what’s a boy of today supposed to want to be when he grows up? Chief Executive Launderer for an investments firm? Winner of the Tour de France without really that many steroids? Pass the hemlock, please.

Alan Bean wasn’t a Corvette man when he joined NASA’s third astronaut group in 1963. “I couldn’t afford to be a car aficionado,” he says. “I was an airplane aficionado. All I did was concentrate on flying planes for the Navy.” But Corvette fever was hard to fight off. Like such Original Seven astros as Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, and Gordo Cooper, Bean qualified for that most prized of star-voyager perquisites: access to a new Chevy every year for the princely sum of $1. (The deal had been arranged by local Florida dealer and former Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann) “So naturally I got Corvettes,” Bean says. “I had red ones, black ones. Every year they’d take our orders and give us new cars.”

When NASA assigned Bean to his first space flight, Apollo 12, the second lunar landing, he and his crewmates got creative. Theirs was an all-Navy crew: Pete Conrad (mission commander and Bean’s former test-pilot instructor), Dick Gordon (command module pilot), and Bean (lunar module pilot). When it came time to choose their new ’69 Corvettes, Bean remembers, “We said, ‘Let’s get ’em all the same!'” The trio played around with a few ideas, ultimately settling on gold with black trim. “I don’t know why, being Navy guys, we didn’t pick blue and gold,” Bean says. “But we were busy with Apollo 12, so we didn’t have time to think about it too much.”

It was renowned industrial and automotive designer Alex Tremulis, the stylist behind the iconic Tucker Torpedo, who devised the black “wings” paint scheme covering the rear buttresses of the cars, which the astronauts quickly approved. The three identical Riverside Gold sport coupes arrived at Rathmann’s dealership: 390-hp, 427 Turbo-Jet V-8, four-speed wide-range transmission, PosiTraction 3.08 rear axle, air-conditioning, black vinyl interior, special wheel covers. It’s believed Rathmann had the black wings painted on, but, says Bean, “We looked at ’em and they didn’t look any good.” No problem, Rathmann replied. Leave the cars with me. “So we went back to work,” Bean recalls. “And Rathmann put a little quarter-inch white stripe between the black and the gold. Then it looked OK.”

Three of a kind for a three-man Navy crew. But the Apollo 12 astronauts were, after all, highly successful, highly competitive test pilots. Individuals. “We wanted each Corvette to have a small touch of uniqueness,” Bean says. “A little difference between our cars. Now, everything in our spacecraft was color-coded. Pete’s food had a little red Velcro tab on it. His towels had little red marks on ’em. Dick Gordon’s things were white. Mine were blue. So we put a little rectangular plaque in front of the door on the fender: three squares of red, white, and blue, all the same. On Pete’s car he had in the red square “CDR,” for commander. Dick’s in the white square had “CMP,” for command module pilot. And over on mine was “LMP” in the blue for lunar module pilot. That’s the only difference between the cars, that coding similar to what we had in the spacecraft.”

Numerous photos from 1969 show the Apollo 12 crew posed with (or sometimes sitting on) their gleaming, matching AstroVettes grinning like Cub Scouts with a nudie magazine. And why wouldn’t they? Not only did they have the coolest cars around, they were going to the moon! “I look back on it and think how lucky I was,” Bean says. “I see those pictures of us with our Corvettes, so happy, and it just brings back a lot of really good memories.”

In the 40-plus years since the Apollo 12 crew returned their “leased” Corvettes, Conrad’s and Gordon’s have disappeared. (Gordon now lives in Arizona; Conrad died after a motorcycle accident in 1999.) Perhaps the cars were squirreled away and lie hidden in some European or Asian collector’s storehouse. More likely, they were crushed or otherwise discarded, more detritus for the towering, forgotten rubble pile from the glory days of America’s space program.

But Alan Bean’s Corvette, as you can clearly see, survived — thanks to a keen-eyed space and car enthusiast from Austin, Texas, named Danny Reed. Having seen the car in the December 5, 1969, issue of Life, Reed did a double take when, in 1971, he spotted those familiar black wings on a gold Corvette in a GMAC lot right in his home town of Austin. “GMAC, not knowing what they had, had been instructed to sell the car under a closed-bid system,” Reed remembers. “I submitted a bid, but lost. Then, six weeks later, GMAC called. The winning buyer hadn’t come up with the cash. Did I still want the car? I ended up buying Alan Bean’s AstroVette for all I could afford, $3230 — just $30 more than the third-place bidder.” (The original winning bidder, obviously knowing what the car was, had offered $13,000.)

Reed kept the car as-is for his first decades of ownership, but by the late 1990s set about restoring it — not a frame-off job, but a thorough reconditioning that updated the AstroVette to better-than-new condition while maintaining as much originality as possible. To do the work, Reed hired Ray Repczynski, owner of Corvettes by Ray in Houston and one of the earliest members of the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS). “No one in the country knows more about Corvettes than Ray,” Reed, now 70, says proudly. Clearly, Reed and Repczynski did their homework — and their handiwork — right. The AstroVette won a Top Flight award (with more than 97 points) at the 2002 NCRS National Meet, and in 2003 won the coveted Duntov Award of Excellence at the NCRS Nationals. In 2008, Reed’s car also won the NCRS American Heritage Award “for the preservation of a historically significant piece of Corvette history” at the NCRS Nationals, making it the only Corvette in history to win both Duntov and Heritage awards. To date, Reed’s immaculate AstroVette shows only 35,000 miles on its odo.

It’s curious that, of all the Corvettes loaned to the astronauts through Chevy’s special lease program, only the Apollo 12 crew’s were special-ordered. And only their three cars were registered in the lessee’s name. The original tank sticker on Reed’s car says: “Courtesy car delivered to Alan L. Bean.” In a collector-car world where forgeries are all too common and documentation is everything, that single piece of paper is Riverside Gold.Thanks to Reed, Alan Bean has since been reunited with his AstroVette on several occasions. “He keeps the car real nice,” Bean says of Reed. “Better than when I owned it.” Mindful of its place in American space history, Reed has also let the AstroVette be displayed at NASA events, at the National Corvette Museum for the 2001 celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first man in space, and at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center museum. “I just want it to stay in the U.S.,” Reed says. “I’m very fortunate to own the car. Every morning before I go to work, like a monk I touch the antenna. Still gives me chills.”

Even with America’s manned space program currently stuck in low gear — space shuttle retired, no NASA rocket launches, all U.S. astronauts now reaching the International Space Station (ISS) via Russia using Soyuz spacecraft — Johnson Space Center in Houston remains perhaps the Greatest Candy Store for Men. Just approaching the sprawling site’s heavily patrolled security gates sets the heart aflutter: radar dishes, a shuttle mockup on a stick, vintage rockets sprouting from a “garden” display, the knowledge that much of the coolest stuff in America’s space history happened right in there.

Today, thanks in large measure to Reed and his golden AstroVette, the doors of JSC swing wide open for us. Here is Building 9, the gargantuan hangar where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin practiced their pioneering moonwalk and where, today, huge mockups of the ISS stand ready for training. Here is the Virtual Reality Laboratory, where astronauts don special image-producing video helmets and motion-sensing gloves to practice “spacewalking” around an incredibly lifelike, 3-D computer simulation of the ISS. Nearby is the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, a 6.2-million-gallon swimming pool filled with mockups of the ISS so that fully suited astronauts, working underwater, can simulate “weightless” spacewalks. And here is the most hallowed ground of all: the original Apollo Mission Control Center, now a National Historic Monument. It was in this windowless room, sitting at these ancient government desks, eyes fixed on these very cathode-ray screens and winking banks of push buttons, that the young mission controllers and their leaders — among them legendary flight director Gene Kranz — first heard the words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” It was in here that they heard the terrifying but calmly relayed words from Apollo 13: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Mission Control is quiet now; you can almost smell the sweat and the stale cigarettes. The keyed-up voices still seem to echo in the silence. Our crew moves about the room with barely a word, five grown men with tears in their eyes.

Just seeing the AstroVette back at JSC lifts the soul. Can-do America is alive again. The NASA employees of today are equally smitten. Everywhere we take the car, appreciative crowds form, cameras appear; smiles and poses with the Corvette follow. “You gonna launch that thing?!” laughs a contractor as he passes by in his truck. In front of Building 9, we steal a prime slice of asphalt: “Astronaut Parking Only.” No one complains.

Then Reed offers to let me drive his prized beauty. Me, who as a wide-eyed boy of 9 stayed up late to watch Armstrong and Aldrin walk on the moon on our awful 19-inch black-and-white Zenith. Me, who followed every Gemini and Apollo mission through Life and National Geographic and Walter Cronkite live on CBS. Me, who built lunar-module and Saturn V models as a boy, and who, then and since, has devoured every book on the space program I could find. Now I am going to drive the very Corvette owned by an idol, one of only 12 moonwalkers ever, NASA astronaut Alan Bean.

I slip into the low, crescent-moon seat. The wheel is large and amazingly thin, spindly even. I inhale deeply, hoping possibly to suck in a few grains of lunar dust. The V-8 lights off on the first spin of the starter, a whump and then a strong idle. Passing cars slow; their drivers stare at the beautiful machine. I slot the long-throw shifter into first and ease off the clutch. The Corvette hiccups. It wants a firmer hand. I add throttle, shift into what I’m sure is second, let off the clutch — and for a split-second hear the sickening sound of grinding gears. “Geezus, Arthur! Get a grip!” I fix the shift, pulling the lever back even further, then the AstroVette rolls ahead just fine. Outside, the buildings of Johnson Space Center roll past. For just a moment, it’s 1969 again and I am one of them, a grinning space jockey at the wheel of his glistening Apollo chariot, all of Houston, all the world — hell, all of space — in my steely grasp.

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Compact cars are a diverse group, ranging from sporty and fun to comfortable and practical. Some entries even offer hatchback and wagon variants for consumers wanting maximum space in a small package. The 2020 Toyota Corolla and 2019 Mazda3 are the newest entries in an important (but dwindling) segment–we got our hands on both in sedan guise to see how well they stack up.

The Heart and Bones

Both the 2019 Mazda3 and 2020 Toyota Corolla ride on new architectures that are stiffer and more rigid than their predecessors. In a stunning turn of events, they traded rear suspensions; the Mazda3 now has a torsion beam, and the Corolla sports a multilink setup. In SE and XSE flavors, the Corolla also comes with wider tires than the Mazda3, further hinting at a sportier direction for Toyota’s venerable compact car.

The 2019 Mazda3 comes exclusively with a 2.5-liter I-4 with 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque paired to a six-speed automatic. In addition to the carryover 1.8-liter I-4, Toyota offers a 2.0-liter unit with 169 hp and 151 lb-ft coupled to a CVT, like in our XSE tester. The Mazda3’s extra power comes at the cost of fuel economy, though; it’s EPA-rated at 27/36 mpg city/highway, trailing the Corolla’s 31/38 mpg. Both cars are available with a six-speed manual, but only on the Mazda3 Premium hatchback and Corolla SE.

Now that we’ve gone over what’s under the skin, let’s hit the road.

On the Daily Grind

When subjected to the rigors of the daily commute and ever-changing road conditions, the 2019 Mazda3 and 2020 Toyota Corolla show their true colors. With its multilink rear suspension, the Corolla handily dispatches road imperfections and doesn’t get upset unless you go over something sizable. The Mazda3 does the opposite. “It doesn’t really absorb the bumps like it used to,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. “There’s a bit more roll, and a few times I felt like the rear end was dancing a bit on the twisty roads whenever I ran into a small bump.” On the worst streets in Los Angeles, the Mazda3’s suspension crashes violently, sending a nasty jolt into the cabin and causing a loud bang upon contact.

The Toyota Corolla’s handling has improved significantly; it takes corners confidently and has good high-speed stability. Light and balanced steering makes maneuvering the Corolla through tight spaces a cinch. In comparison, the Mazda3’s steering is stiff and accurate, which is great on the highway but tiresome in gridlock. Although the Mazda3 possesses better body control than the Corolla, it behaves like a comfort-oriented sedan; it understeers excessively, plows into corners when you ask it to hustle, and lacks the liveliness of its predecessors. Shockingly, the Mazda3’s brakes didn’t inspire confidence. “The pedal feel is so off that I almost had an ‘oh s***’ moment while trying to brake downhill,” Cortina said. “You really have to press the pedal hard to stop.”

Although the Mazda3 has more power than the Corolla, it’s let down by a poorly calibrated transmission. “What’s going on with this six-speed tranny?” Cortina asked. “It feels very jerky at low speeds, especially when starting from a stop.” Shift times are also behind competitors, even in Sport mode when the gearbox responds quicker. Cortina also criticized the 2.5-liter I-4 for feeling like the 155-hp 2.0-liter unit from his previous-generation Mazda3.

In the Corolla, Toyota’s 2.0-liter I-4 pairs well with the CVT, which makes good use of the available power. “The engine and transmission offered in higher trims makes such a huge difference,” senior production editor Zach Gale said. “The CVT is responsive in the city and on the highway. I’m really impressed.” Downsides? It’s loud at full throttle, and some may notice the transitions between the physical first gear and the belt and pulleys.

Living Space

In addition to a comfortable drive, compact sedans must have usable interior and be a nice place to spend time during your commute. Squishy surfaces everywhere, a two-tone color scheme, and tactile buttons give the 2019 Mazda3’s cabin a premium ambience. The Toyota Corolla feels nice, too—if you’re sitting up front. Once you move to the back, the cost cutting becomes evident. “The door cards aren’t bad, with..

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My face hurts from smiling. My ears are ringing. My shoulders sore. Behind me, 2,358 horses tick cool in the mountain air. Grocery getter. Mall crawler. Chelsea tractor. Family hauler. These four Skittle-colored SUVs shouldn’t exist. They’re too big, too heavy, too powerful. Yet these stupid things—the 2020 Bentley Bentayga Speed, 2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR, 2019 Lamborghini Urus, and 2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo—are among the best-driving SUVs on the road and among the most fun vehicles I’ve driven this year, period. And one of them is going to earn its way into the crucible that is Best Driver’s Car.

Combined, these four trucklets have 2,360 lb-ft of torque, and each puts its power down through an eight-speed automatic and a grippy all-wheel-drive system. Each offers levels of performance that would have easily put them in the running for top spot at Best Driver’s Car as recently as 2011, when the Ferrari 458 Italia won. The performance capability of these four is silly. Stupid—in all the best ways—even.

But one certainly has to be the silliest, stupidest, most fun super SUV on the road.

With our annual Best Driver’s Car competition fast approaching and a hard cap on the amount of performance cars we could bring, we decided to have another play-in game to determine which SUV most deserved a ticket to one of the most grueling performance car tests in the world. Last year the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio earned entry to BDC after a similar play-in comparison, and it stunned us when it finished an impressive eighth place—beating heavy hitters like the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and the Ford Mustang GT PP2. This year, the Bentayga, F-Pace, Urus, and Cayenne are each getting their shot at disrupting the field.

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Seventy years is a long time. Few vehicles can date their lineage back that far. Fewer still can trace back anything more than a few signature design cues. Then there’s Jeep and the iconic Wrangler, which can draw a direct line in the sand of Omaha Beach back to World War II military vehicles and the civilian SUVs they inspired.

Pulling a 1945 Willys-Overland CJ-2A from FCA’s heritage collection and lining it up against a 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is a humbling experience for the homage the current JL pays to its past.

As MotorTrend celebrates its 70th anniversary, we take you on a bit of a walkaround of two Jeeps, both built in Toledo but 73 years apart. We hope you’re as pleasantly surprised by this tale of morphing as we are.

Quick history recap: The original jeeps were designed for military use only. “Jeep” was a nickname then, derived either from slurring the GP reference to its “General Purpose” vehicle moniker or from Eugene the Jeep, the mystical creature from the Popeye cartoon strip. Government specs called for a 1,200-pound, three-passenger vehicle with an 80-inch wheelbase that a burly sergeant could drag out of the mud. It had to have 45 horsepower, and the windshield had to fold flat so it could fit in a shipping crate sideways, with room for the four tires.

The specs were derived by government officials, not auto engineers, for a vehicle to replace motorcycles and army mules, explains Brandt Rosenbusch, FCA’s Historical Services manager. Of 135 companies approached, Willys and Bantam responded. In the end, neither met the unrealistic weight requirements, and Willys ended up making a version of the Bantam concept, having the wherewithal for high-volume production and a 60-hp Go Devil four-cylinder engine.

The first 1,500 MA (Model A) early builds had rounder fenders and a more tapered hood. The revised MB became the standard military jeep. During the war Willys built 358,000 MBs. When they ran out of capacity, Ford had a contract to build 250,000 more, calling theirs the GPW.

“Willys designers nailed it,” Rosenbusch says. Line up every generation of CJ and Wrangler, and there is no doubt they are related. You can see the progress while staying true to their roots.

There was civilian lust for jeeps even back then. After the war, surplus military jeeps were sold off to the public, while Willys modified the MB into the first civilian Jeep—hence the name CJ—for farmers, ranchers, hunters, even meter maids. The automaker added a tailgate, a side-mounted spare tire, and an optional canvas top. The grille changed from nine slots to seven. Over the years the number of slots ranged from 0 to 22. In 1996 Jeep made the historic seven-slot grille its trademark.

The first CJ-2A, also known as the Universal Jeep because it could do anything, rolled off the line in Toledo on July 17, 1945. This museum piece is No. 33, resplendent in Harvest Tan with Sunset Red wheels, one of only two color choices at the time. The Jeep name is stamped in cursive letters into the base of the passenger seat, a real rarity; since then, the name Jeep, which..

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