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Maricela and Adam Fry, husband and wife, own Big Country Restoration and Transport in West Sacramento. They own three massive dump trucks and have one of many contracts to help the cleanup of The Camp Fire in Paradise, California.

Not too long ago, I overheard a conversation in a Starbucks in Sacramento. The barista asked the woman in front of me what she does for a living. The response: “My husband and I own a dump truck.”

The Fry family of West Sacramento, California, owns Big Country Restoration and Transport and is helping clean up the devastation aftermath of the Paradise Fire last November.

I asked Maricela for her card and recently called her. The result: Adam Fry and his crew from Big Country Restoration and Transport in West Sacramento are part of the massive cleanup project from the devastating Paradise last November.

#94 Video podcast, Paradise Fire Clean up. - YouTube

Adam is our guest on this episode of The Weekly Drive Podcast. The fire started in Paradise on Nov. 9 2018 and was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.

It was also the deadliest wildfire in the United States since the Cloquet fire in 1918. The fire covered 153,336 acres. More than 18,000 buildings were destroyed and at least 85 people died.

Fry discusses with co-hosts James Raia and Bruce Aldrich what his crews are doing in the cleanup. He repeatedly states the top priority of the project is safety. He also discusses at length the stress the workers on hundreds of trucks have endured. He talks openly about companies on the project that have not adhered to rules.

Although it’s been about eight months since the fire, Paradise remains a disaster area. Fry notes phase 1 of the cleanup and restoration may be completed in October. He talks about animal remains his crews have discovered and how the aftermath of the tragedy remains raw and complicated.

Please join us for a fascinating episode.

The Weekly Driver Podcast encourages and appreciates feedback from our listeners. Please forward episode links to family, friends and colleagues. And you are welcome to repost links from the podcast to your social media accounts.

Support our podcast by shopping on Amazon.com.

Please send comments and suggestions for new episodes to James Raia via email: james@jamesraia.com.
All episodes of the podcast are archived on www.theweeklydriver.com/podcast

Every episode is also available on your preferred podcast platform:

Google Play
iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iheartradio

The post #21, West Sacramento dump truck company helps Paradise cleanup (video) appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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The Weekly Driver by James Raia, James Raia And Bruce Al.. - 3d ago

Not too long ago, I overheard a conversation in a Starbucks in Sacramento. The barista asked the woman in front of me what she does for a living. The response: “My husband and I own a dump truck.”

It turns out, the Frys, a husband-wife team, own Big Country Restoration and Transport in West Sacramento. They own three massive dump trucks and have one of many contracts to help the cleanup of The Camp Fire in Paradise, California.

Adam Fry and his crew from Big Country Restoration and Transport in West Sacramento are part of the massive cleanup project from the devastating Paradise Fire last November. Images courtesy of Adam Fry.

Adam Fry is our guest on this episode of The Weekly Drive Podcast. The fire started in Paradise on Nov. 9 2018 and was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.

It was also the deadliest wildfire in the United States since the Cloquet fire in 1918. The fire covered 153,336 acres. More than 18,000 buildings were destroyed and at least 85 people died.

Fry discusses with co-hosts James Raia and Bruce Aldrich what his crews are doing in the cleanup. He repeatedly states the top priority of the project is safety. He also discusses at length the stress the workers on hundreds of trucks have endured. He talks openly about companies on the project that have not adhered to rules.

Although it’s been about eight months since the fire, Paradise remains a disaster area. Fry notes phase 1 of the cleanup and restoration may be complete in October. He talks about animal remains his crews have discovered and how the aftermath of the tragedy remains raw and complicated.

Please join us for a fascinating episode.

The Weekly Driver Podcast encourages and appreciates feedback from our listeners. Please forward episode links to family, friends and colleagues. And you are welcome to repost links from the podcast to your social media accounts.

Support our podcast by shopping on Amazon.com.

Please send comments and suggestions for new episodes to James Raia via email: james@jamesraia.com.
All episodes of the podcast are archived on www.theweeklydriver.com/podcast

Every episode is also available on your preferred podcast platform:

Google Play
iTunes
Spotify
Stitcher
iheartradio

The post #94, West Sacramento truck company helps Paradise Fire cleanup appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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The original Honda Insight debuted as a 2000 model and received more mockery than respect. It was a far-from-perfect, two-door subcompact that looked like a mechanical peanut on wheels.

With its unique appearance, the Insight garnered more attention as an oddity than it did for its now-important legend. It was the first mass-produced hybrid available in the United States. It was ugly, simultaneously cool and it got whooped in sales a few months later when the Toyota Prius debuted.

The 2019 Honda Insight is now a four-door hybrid sedan.

Two decades later, Toyota still dominates the country’s alternative fuel vehicle sales. But Honda is still an innovation leader. Beginning with the 2019 edition, the Insight is now a midsize, four-door sedan. The hatchback configuration has been dispatched for a mainstream design. Honda’s innovation to boldly go beyond includes the hydrogen-propelled Clarity.

The original Insight was discontinued in 2006 but a new-look model returned in 2010. Honda hoped to infiltrate Prius sales offering the base model at less than $20,000 and as the country’s cheapest hybrid. Toyota still dominated.

Plenty of other hybrids are now available. Nearly every manufacturer offers an alternative fuel vehicle its lineup. But the new Insight joins a select group of hybrids that don’t look like science experiments.

Nothing’s better for a carmaker selling a hybrid than a compliment from an onlooker who didn’t know the vehicle was a hybrid. It’s another Insight strength. It’s far more attractive than either of its predecessors.

Available in LX, EX and Touring trims, the Insight is powered by a hybrid powertrain composed of a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. It provides power to an electric motor that drives the front wheels. Combined, there’s 151 horsepower, with a 1.1-kWh lithium-ion battery located under the rear seats.

Like all Hondas, the Insight has a strong standard features list, even the base LX. Automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, active noise cancellation, Bluetooth, a multi-angle rearview camera comprise worthy selection. A 5-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker audio system with a USB port and Pandora internet streaming radio are also included.

Standard advanced safety features include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, a traffic sign reader, and a driver attention monitor.

Keyless entry, a rear-seat center armrest, 60/40-split folding rear seats, an 8-inch touchscreen, HondaLink smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are upgrades on the EX trim. The upgrade also includes an additional USB port, eight-speaker audio system with satellite and HD radio and blind-spot camera system.

The reviewed Touring trim adds plenty: LED foglights, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, power-adjustable front seats and an auto-dimming rearview. Plus, there’s a universal garage door opener, a navigation system, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a 10-speaker premium audio system.

The Insight’s driving characteristics are classic Honda. It has a tight turning radius and a confident feel on the road. Braking is solid with no hesitation or mushy feeling like you’re pushing the pedal through the floorboard. Acceleration is satisfactory, and the Insight only has difficulty on steep inclines when the engine noticeably struggles and does so loudly.

When the Insight was introduced, Honda touted fuel efficiency in city driving as more than 60 miles per gallon. The EPA calculations have been amended through the years, with 2019 rating posted as 51 miles per gallon in city driving and 45 miles per gallon on the highway. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $28,090.

Nearly 20 years after Honda debuted its hybrid lineup, it’s still trying to deflate the success of Toyota’s family of alternative fuel vehicles. The new Insight may or may not emerge as a serious challenger. But there’s plenty to say for healthy competition.

Find Auto Insurance As Low As $63/mo – Search Quotes Now!

The post 2019 Honda Insight comes of age as handsome four-door hybrid appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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In this episode of AmericanTruck’s (AT) “The Haul” YouTube Video Series, host Justin 
Dugan selects his favorite top-5 parts for under $500 for 2009-2014 F150’s.

Including parts from AT’s most popular categories like Truck Lighting, F150 Lift Kits, Exterior Accessories+ more, Justin’s Top 5 focuses on functionality while sprinkling in a few F150 exterior styling mods for good measure.

Justin Dugan from American Trucks picks his top-5 parts for less than $500.

Parts featured in this video:

Barricade HD Bull Bar w/Skid Plate & 20-inch. Dual Row LED Light Bar, Textured Black, JLT, V3.0 Black Oil Separator Passenger Side, ReadyLIFT 2 in. Billet Aluminum Leveling Kit Anodized Black, Husky X Act Contour Front Floor Liners Black & TruShield Soft Rolling Bed Cover.

Top 5 F150 Mods Under $500 for 2009-2014 F150s - The Haul - YouTube

American Trucks is regarded as one of the best, most reliable online aftermarket retailers providing parts and accessories for F150, F250, Ranger, Silverado, Sierra, and RAM, Catering to the needs and demands of late model truck owners and enthusiasts, American Trucks provides the best parts with support from genuine truck experts.

Located just outside of Philadelphia, AmericanTrucks is dedicated to offering the truck
community with the highest quality of parts and customer service.

For more information, please visit https://www.americantrucks.com

The post Justin selects his top-5 parts under $500 for 2009-2014 F150’s appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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The Nissan Armada is a well-adjusted teenager. It’s positioned firmly in the mix of large sport utility vehicles that remain popular with their massive engines, family comfort, safety and putrid fuel efficiency.

The 2019 edition is the vehicle’s 16th year, and its technically and oddly named after a fleet of warships but used in the singular form. It’s also the third year of the Armada’s second generation after Nissan introduced the current model in 2017. Sales doubled.

The 2019 Nissan Armada is a huge, powerful SUV that guzzles gas. Image © James Raia/2019.

With an unyielding variety of SUVs entering the market as crossovers and other large SUVs improving, the Armada’s sales fell a few thousand last year. Yet there’s still a solid corps of buyers who don’t seem concerned about driving a vehicle that weighs about 7,500 pounds and averages 13 miles per gallon in city driving. Only the Rolls-Royce lineup is rated lower.

On the contrary, large SUVs buyers embrace their vehicles’ grandness. The Armada defines bigness. If hauling a neighborhood of kids bolstered down in car seats is the task, they’ll be transported in a luxurious tank. If a powerboat or trailer needs towing, the Armada can comfortably haul 8,500 pounds. Of course, its estimated 18 miles per gallon in freeway driving will likely suffer.

For a vehicle with an annual sale of only about 35,000 units, the Armada is available in a surprisingly large array of configurations. The reviewed Platinum 4-door trim has a 5.6-liter V8 with 390 horsepower, four-wheel drive and it advances with a 7-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is also available.

Features also include a 14-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, 8-inch infotainment touch screen, hands-free text-messaging assistance, keyless entry/ignition and parking sensors.

The Platinum trim is lavish with 20-inch alloy wheels, a powered tailgate, fog lights, puddle lights, self-dimming mirrors and rain-sensing wipers, heated steering wheel and a rear-seat entertainment system. The 360-degree camera system has a rearview mirror displaying the feed from the rear-facing camera.

With the current edition now three years old, Armada changes this year are minimal. Adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation are now standard on all trims. Rear Door Alert is also new. If a rear door is opened at the start of a trip but not when the trek stops, an alert sounds as if something or someone is still inside.

Despite its massive size, the Armada is also a gentle giant. Its engine noise and wind rush are minimal, and the overall drive is not too far removed from the serenity of a large luxury sedan. Bumps and other road imperfections are largely dismissed.

Despite overall small sales numbers a segment, large SUV competition is stiff, the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia all worthy. The Nissan Armada makes its case for leadership role with a healthy list of standard features.

Wood trim and overall seating, flooring and panel material are superior and the Armada seems larger than it is with the SUV’s substantial glass areas. The overall vision is also superior and seating in all three rows and with an eight-person occupancy further enhances the luxury ride.

Cargo space is strong, with 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row. With the second and third rows are folded down, 95.4 cubic feet of cargo space is revealed. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $62,690. With its many options, the Armada’s price escalates to $67,850.

The Armada is big and bold. Safety, security and comfort all shine. But there are two constant issues: frequent gas stations visits and a thin wallet.

The post 2019 Nissan Armada: powerful, safe, guzzles gas appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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The 2019 Hyundai Ioniq, the third model year of the South Korean liftback, is unique in the ever-evolving, alternative fuel segment. It’s the least expensive mainstream electric vehicle available in the United States, and it has the best fuel economy.

Cheap and economic don’t always equate to quality. But the five-door Ioniq provides another example of why skeptics of Hyundai and its close relative Kia should be forever enlightened. The manufacturers’ lineups have vastly improved in recent years.

The 2019 Hyundai Ioniq is a worthy, less expensive, competitor for the the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt. Image © James Raia/2019

Electric-only vehicle promoters are often quick to tout the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3. Both have more than 200-mile ranges and have faster acceleration than the Ioniq. The Nissan Leaf also has a better range.

But the Hyundai, with its varied engine options, smooth ride, extensive standard equipment, lower price and lifetime electric motor warranty, defines worthiness.

The Ioniq was the first automobile offered in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric variants. Good for Hyundai. But what was the carmaker thinking with the name? What’s an Ioniq? Is it a reference to the refreshing nature of tonic or a not-so-appealing colonic? Is it slang for ironic or a homage to the wonders of bionics?

Hyundai promotes the name as an amalgamation of the words “ion” and “unique.” It may catch on, but it’s not exactly catchy, curious or direct. Chevy Bolt works; Tesla piques interest. Even the Kia Soul has merit as a car name.

Lucky for consumers, the Ioniq’s overall performance, craftsmanship and styling are first rate. The plug-in hybrid features a 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder with 104 horsepower and a 44.5-kW Interior-Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor with 60 horsepower.

Eighty percent of the electric battery can be recharged with the included 120-volt charge cable in about 30 minutes. The cable is contained in a small zippered pack. Fuel economy for the Hybrid Blue model is as much as 57 miles per gallon in city driving and 59 miles per gallon on the highway. The fuel-economy equivalent for the electric-mode is 119 miles per gallon, and all three totals are industry bests.

Unlike other electric hybrids still presented with futuristic designs, the Ioniq has a smooth roofline and a flat rear. Rear visibility could be ideal with the large liftback windows. But the window is horizontally split, resulting in an annoyingly divided perspective.

The exterior styling is complemented by a clean, straight-forward interior design and appearance. The material quality is surprisingly upscale for a premium compact. The hybrid relies on a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Paddle shifters are included but don’t seem necessary.

While no competition for the power of a Tesla, the Ioniq has sufficient performance as a daily driver. Shifting is smooth and advancement over road imperfections or speed humps is handled with minimal turbulence. Rear-seat space is generous for the segment and comfort front and rear passengers.

Standard equipment also includes a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, hill-start assist and seven airbags. All controls are well-placed and user-friendly. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a wireless phone charging are part of the $2,975 Ultimate Package.

The Limited trim includes a power sunroof, high-beam assist and Blue Link connected car services, plus a healthy list of standard features from other trims. Heated front seats are standard in the Plug-in and Electric trims and are optional in the Hybrid. Limited models can be upgraded with an Infinity audio system, adaptive front headlights, driver’s memory seat and rear-seat vents.

“Electric when you want it. Hybrid when you need it” is tHyundai’s marketing mantra for the Ioniq. It’s logical enough. And while neither as sexy nor as performance-oriented or eye-catching as some rivals, the Ioniq offers a lot for a top-of-the-line price of $33,350. A $1,500 rebate is available from the California Clean Air Vehicle Project.

The final calculation places the Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid Limited within a few dollars of the average price of a 2019 model new car in the United States. It seems about right.

The post 2019 Hyundai Ioniq: odd name, worthy EV wheels appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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Among the epic rivalries in motorsports, Ford v. Ferrari and the 1966 contest between Carroll Shelby and Kevin Miles at Ford and Enzo Ferrari and his entourage at the 24 Hours of LeMans is unsurpassed.

Actors Matt Damon and Christian Bale weren’t born yet when the respective drivers and carmakers from Ford and Ferrari matched their driving skills and risk-taking desires in the famous French race.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale will star in the movie FORD v. Ferrari.

But the accomplished actors will portray the icons in the film FORD v. FERRARI. 20th Century Fox recently released the official trailer and poster for the pending film. It’s based on the story of Shelby, the visionary American car designer, and Miles, the fearless British-born driver.

They’re dispatched by Henry Ford II and the recently deceased Lee Iacocca with the mission of building the Ford GT40, a new racing car with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari.  Thus the name, FORD v. Ferrari. They also battle corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to make a revolutionary race car.

FORD v FERRARI | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX - YouTube

FORD v. FERRARI also stars Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Rupe, Remo Girone and Ray McKinnon.

The film, directed by James Mangold, a screenplay by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller and produced Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and James Mangold, began filming July 30, 2018 at different locations in California, New Orleans, Atlanta, Savannah, Statesboro and Le Mans, France. It will be released by The Walt Disney Studios on November 15 in theaters nationwide.

The pending film has numerous social media outlets:

OFFICIAL SITE: www.FORDvFERRARI.com
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/FORDvFERRARI
TWITTER: www.twitter.com/FORDvFERRARI
INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/FORDvFERRARI
HASHTAG: #FORDvFERRARI

The post Matt Damon, Christian Bale set for FORD v. FERRARI film appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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Kevin Mullan owns a 1987 E-One pumper first E-One pumper. It’s a fascinating vintage firetruck. And he’s made it further intriguing by converting it to a mobile pub.

Mullan, 38, of Toledo, Ohio, purchased the truck, had a walk-in cooler with 10 beer taps installed, and named the business-on-wheels Ladder 419 beer truck. The name is a nod to the city’s area code.

Kevin Mullan, owner of vintag firetruck converted into a mobile pub.

As co-hosts of The Weekly Driver Podcast, Bruce Aldrich and I are now bonafide members of the Mullan’s fan club. He’s our guest on Episode #92 of our weekly discussion of all things automotive.

The beer truck, which debuted in late June in Blissfield, Michigan, is unique. Its walk-in cooler was installed after the 1,500-gallon water tank was removed. There’s room for onboard C02 and a capacity for 15 kegs. Beer seems like the best choice. But the taps can be used for wine, soft drinks or coffee.

During the podcast, Mullan details his ownership trials, tribulations, alcohol licensing, experiences with the new business and the vast potential for his mobile beverage operation.
The firetruck, Mullan explains, was purchased at a surprisingly reasonable price in Leonidas Township in Michigan.

It looks, according to its new owner, like what might be expected — an old firetruck. Levers and hookups are still intact, as are the words “Emergency 911.”

Rental for Ladder 419 is $450 for four hours. Additional details are available on the company’s website, www.tapped419.com.

 

#92 video podcast, Fire Truck to Beer Truck - YouTube

The Weekly Driver encourages and appreciates feedback from our listeners and viewers. Please forward episode links to family, friends and colleagues. Please also consider reposting the links from the podcast episodes to your social media accounts.

Support our podcast by shopping on Amazon.com.

Please send comments and suggestions for new episodes to James Raia via email: james@jamesraia.com.

All episodes of the podcast are archived on www.theweeklydriver.com/podcast

Every episode is also available on your preferred podcast platform:

Google Play

iTunes

Spotify

Stitcher

The Weekly Driver Podcast is now also available on iHeart Radio.

SPONSOR THANKS

The Weekly Driver Podcast is presented by www.americanmuscle.com.

 

The post #20, Vintage firetruck gets new life as mobile party pub (video) appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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Lots of new vehicles look similar cruising down the highway. One family sedan is likely related to another. The flood of SUVs, with rare exception, could all be made by the same manufacturer.

Tesla and pending electric competition from Byton and Rivian are non-conformists. A Porsche Panamera stands out anywhere. Hummers stand alone in gaudiness. A few gimmick cars get attention.

 

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is a new, distinctive-looking truck.

And now there’s the industry’s first convertible truck, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator. It’s a midsize vehicle that resembles its sibling, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, but simultaneously looks nothing like its relative.

Beyond its signature spindle grille, an extended wheelbase and a five-foot cargo bed, the Gladiator is unlike any other mainstream vehicle. When it literally gets unhinged (the doors and top are removable), the now no-door, no-top truck is ready for a safari or any off-road adventure.

When a safari isn’t in the plans, the Gladiator has other surprises. The four-door, five-passenger truck is available in Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon. All trims are equipped with a 24-valve, 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, an eight-speed an automatic is optional. When appropriately equipped, the Gladiator can tow a class-leading 7,650 pounds, up from its standard 4,500-pound capacity.

All trims can also be fitted with a roll-up but durable tonneau cover. The tailgate opens when the cover is extended, exposing the protected bed and its spray-in bed liner. But if more open-air space is needed, the cover can quickly be unlatched and rolled to the back of the cabin and secured. The function is not too dissimilar from opening a large can of sardines on wheels.

Technology is also a strong point. The view Overland trim, one below the top-end includes 18-inch alloy wheels, body-color wheel arches, side steps, and tinted rear side and rear windows. Automatic headlights, LED ambient footwell lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the 7-inch infotainment system, USB ports for rear passengers and a 110-volt outlet in the center console are also included.

With its off-road leanings, the Gladiator isn’t polished and poised on the road. With its high clearance and big tires, the ride can be rough, a traditional Jeep personality trait. It’s a welcomed quality for some Jeep buyers, not so much for others.

Beyond its ruggedness, the Gladiator has supportive and roomy front and back seating. Considering its designation, the cabin is quiet. The interior also gets high marks for its attractive, straight-forward and intuitive infotainment design and function.

But not everything is right with the Gladiator. With all of its options packages, the new truck crosses the $50,000 plateau by a few thousand dollars ($54,145). The Gladiator also achieves disappointing gas mileage, 17 miles per gallon in city driving, 22 miles per gallon in the highway.

The Gladiator has a few other nifty features. In its minimalist state, the front windshield folds downs, further enhancing the truck’s versatility when jungle expeditions are in order. There are also front and rear tow hooks, 11.1 inches of ground clearance and ford 30 inches of water. The top-lever Rubicon trim has an optional front steel bumper, good for installing a winch Imagine all that fun.

Consider also: A portable, removable Bluetooth-connected, about the size of a car battery, rest behind the rear seat. It’s promoted with a several-hour time frame before recharging is required.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator could’ve have arrived at a better time. Trucks sales are doing well while other segments of the industry aren’t faring as well. The Gladiator has a polarizing look, and its uniqueness is refreshing. It’s a gimmick but it’s a well-conceived, sturdy addition to the sometimes staid industry.

The post 2020 Jeep Gladiator stands alone among truck malaise appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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A friend has commented for years that older Mercedes-Benz station wagons are contradictory automobiles. The stately sedans offered as utilitarian family vacation haulers? It isn’t right.

Some enthusiasts in more recent times have echoed similar thoughts about Bentley, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari (pending) offering sport utility vehicles. Why compromise the wondrous ways of cruising down the highway in a sedan of refined performance and overt plushness?

The 2019 Maserati Levante SUV showcases its Italian legacy but also falls short with its plastic components.

Like other top-line automakers, Mercedes-Benz never uses the word “station” in describing its wagons. But Maserati, a niche seller, has no issue calling the third-year Levante an SUV. The acronym translates into sales.

The ever-present family haulers come in econoboxes. And they’re offered as half-million-dollar creations with hand-selected wood trims and headliners adorned with filament lighting shaped like constellations. For better or worse, SUVs rule the marketplace.

Maserati joined the trend three model years ago when the Levante was unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show in March 2016. For 2019, the SUV is offered in additional trims and with updated infotainment and steering systems. Among four variants, a V8 engine is now also available with as much as 590 horsepower.

The standard Levante is plenty to handle. It’s equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 with 424 horsepower in the turbo-charged S Gransport trim. Like its stablemates, it’s propelled with an eight-speed automatic transmission and has all-wheel drive. Handling is superior, with cornering, maneuvering in traffic and braking all showcasing Maserati’s grand persona. Gas mileage is 15 miles per gallon in city driving, 21 miles per gallon on the freeway.

The Levante powers down the road with Maserati’s legendary growl. It’s handsome, with the SUV design more a high-standing, contoured wagon, rather than a traditionally styled SUV. The distinctive Maserati script and trident logo are as attractive as any manufacturer’s signature.

Acceleration is quick enough but there’s a sustained lag. It adds to a few other oddities that don’t match the carmaker’s long pedigree of panache and power. The upgraded interior features high-quality leather upholstery and a heated leather steering wheel, but there’s also a good supply of plastic. Switches and knobs aren’t well-designed and don’t exactly define luxury.

The Levante is named after the strong easterly winds of the western Mediterranean Sea and the southern coasts of France and Spain. Maserati embellished the definition in its marketing of the vehicle with the slogan: “Levante is a wind that blows across the Mediterranean, transforming from benign calm to gale force in an instant.”

It’s great imagery, but it doesn’t define Maserati’s youngest iteration. The expanded definition of Levante details the wind is often accompanied by local low clouds, fog, haze and sometimes light rain.

Maserati and other manufacturers place the push-button starter left and low under the steering wheel. It’s tradition, but inconvenient. The turn signal indicator rests behind the large left shifter paddle and is hard to reach. Discounting the ever-increasing hordes of drivers who never use turn indicators, what equipment is used most often, a turn signal or a paddle shifter? Which one should more readily available?

The Levante is at its best with what should be expected for a vehicle with a base price of just under $92,000. Adaptive Bi-Xenon headlamps and highway assist are included, but the soft door closing feature is $590. The Bowers & Wilkins sound system has few industry equals, and it should be superior for $1,990. The leather adornments cost $2,990. The 21-inch wheels add $2,200. The exterior Mica paint is another $925, the yellow brake calipers run $300.

The new Levante, as tested, is yours for $104,835. For the money, Maserati should leave the growl and take the plastic.

The post 2019 Maserati Levante growls Italian but luxury SUV misfires appeared first on The Weekly Driver.

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