Car & Driver
Remember 2008? Of course you do; it was memorably awful. The economy was in meltdown, banks collapsed, home values dive bombed and the few consumers whose confidence wasn't shaken were those whose confidence was shattered. And into this maelstrom of economic suck and insecurity, Dodge launched the enormous Challenger two-door coupe (above). It was the wrong car at the wrong time.
Except that it wasn't. With a bare few evolutionary changes, the Challenger is improbably now in its 12th year of production and during the 2018 model year it sold better than ever before. It's still a pure retro play; all archaic engineering and spit-into-the-wind muscle marketing. An enormous carbon-slurping coupe at a time when the market is supposed to be headed toward hybrid transportation modules and electric crossovers. Seemingly, this all makes no sense.
"While we may not have invested in an entirely new platform," explains Steve Beahm, "we have done a nice job investing in the platform we have." Beahm's title alone fills up a third of the Internet-Head of Passenger Car Brands, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, and Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) – FCA North America. He rattles off the highlights: "We launched in model year 2008 as an SRT8. Behind that, we came out in 2015 with the Hellcat. Then after that we came out with the Scat Pack. That was in '16. Then in '17 we actually did all-wheel drive. In '18 we had the Demon. And in '19 we had the Red Eye. There were other things that were sprinkled in among that, but the reality is we continue to provide investment after investment into the Challenger to keep it relevant. To keep it available for people across all price classes. We try to keep it where it fits everyone."
All the variations on the Challenger have done a great job of goosing interest on a car whose sell-by date passed a decade ago. But the ongoing success of the car should be understood in context. And that context is probably a better indicator of where the car market is now and where it's headed in the near-future than any fantasies about the imminence of autonomous driving and the sure death of internal combustion.
Part of that context is keeping in mind that the Challenger's success is relative. Dodge dealers sold 66,716 copies of the coupe last year compared to the 75,842 Mustangs Ford sold, and the 50,963 Camaros that Chevrolet moved. What's impressive there is that the Challenger is available only as a hard-roofed coupe while the Ford and Chevy are also offered as convertibles. And both the Camaro and Mustang are much newer designs.
Also in context is that 66,716 is an F-150 production rounding error for Ford. It is, however, still a lot of big coupes with doors long enough to be used as medieval trebuchet arms. The market has atomized and while there are still overwhelming players like the full-size pickups out there, most vehicles are filling niches. And niches, the Challenger demonstrates, can be very profitable over a long period.
"We still sell more (base V6) SXTs," says Beahm. "High performance represents about 27-percent of our sales. We consider high performance to be Scat Pack and above." Putting aside offers and discounts for a moment, the SXT starts at $29,340 including a near-extortionate $1495 destination fee. The Scat Pack starts at $40,490, the Hellcat begins at $62,190, and the Hellcat Red Eye is way up at $73,190. That's an astonishing $43,850 spread from the least expensive Challenger up to the geosynchronous pricing of the 797-horsepower Red Eye.
FCA isn't going to share how much profit is any particular Challenger, but there can't be much in the SXT and there has to be a lot in a Red Eye. Let's guesstimate that there's $1000 of profit in every SXT and at least $5000 in Scat Pack cars and perhaps $20,000 in a Red Eye. If 27-percent of Challenger sales are Scat Pack or better-that's more than 18,000 cars-it almost doesn't matter if there's a dime's worth of combined net profit in all the SXTs.
Much of the Challenger's enduring appeal comes from the fact that when someone comes in to look at a Hellcat, if that customer can't afford it, they can drive away in an SXT on a $199 a month lease, or carry the credit rating to finance a GT or R/T. But when the customer can afford that Hellcat, the profits rain down. "Someone does come in looking for that Scat Pack or Hellcat, maybe they can't afford it price-wise, they still walk out in a great looking car that has 300-horsepower instead of 717 or 485," Beahm says.
The sheer breadth of the Challenger range means there's one for practically anyone who wants one. And why do they want one? Because, and this is a subjective assumption, first is that the Challenger is an utterly gorgeous and timeless design. Its hood is almost pornographically long, the roof is low, and the tail raises up with the lurid provocation of a baboon's butt. In a world where most cars are designed around aerodynamic efficiency and economic optimization, the Challenger is a glorious barn door with separate round headlights, a blunt nose and indulgent design details.
While the current Challenger was designed to evoke memories of the original 1970 Challenger, the newer one is actually better looking. And 12 years in, it still looks fresh.
Beyond that, what matters to us here at Car and Driver doesn't seem to matter much to the buyers. Camaros and Mustangs are nimble and effective on a race track. The big Dodge, on the other hand, uses a cut-down version of Chrysler's LX platform which, in turn, can trace some of its basic engineering back to Mercedes sedans back when DaimlerChrysler was still a thing. It's not built for racetrack use; it's a plush-riding big car. It's great at chasing horizons, not championships.
That it's big means the rear seat is sort of useful, the trunk is useful-ish, and that it's an easy car to get in and out of. The Challenger won't win many comparo titles here at C/D, but few of its buyers will ever care.
Cars, those things that aren't trucks, SUVs or crossovers, are an endangered species. But it's the Dodge Challenger, old soldier that it is, that indicates what the future of cars may be. There will be keenly priced versions at the low-end and monster-profit variants at the high end with the middle muddle of the ranges almost disappearing. They'll have to be high-style and make unapologetically emotional appeals with attributes such as nostalgia or provocative sensuality to attract buyers. And they will need a certain timeless quality so that they can last in production a long time and rack up sales years after the tooling has been fully amortized. They won't sell in huge numbers, but they'll rock in market niches where the numbers pencil out profitably. Profitably even after hacking up the $77 million in fuel economy penalties FCA paid during 2018.
In a few years, more or less, Dodge will face the tough task of replacing the Challenger. Following up a car that many buyers still consider perfect looking has to be done with another perfect looking car. Beahm is confident that Dodge is up to the task. I give it a 60/40 shot.
The Challenger may look like the past, but it's the future.
The rise of electric vehicles has already revolutionized the auto sector and set the stage for an infrastructural sea change as car chargers pop up around the United States. Here's another industry that will be deeply affected by electric vehicles: firefighting.
America's firefighters are already adapting to the challenges of climate change and crumbling infrastructure. Electric cars represent a serious design break from car engines of the past, and their big battery packs represent a fire danger if those packs are punctured during an accident. A few serious fires after electric vehicles accidents have become big news.
Fighting an electric-car fire is a new kind of skill that requires a new kind of thinking. Brock Archer covers the topic thoroughly in this helpful video:
With an electric-car fire, you need water. That might sound obvious, but in many cases, modern fire departments use foam or dry chemicals that are better than old-fashioned H20 at suppressing fire. While dry chemicals are great at putting down ordinary electrical fires, they may be ineffective with a fire stemming from a car's lithium-ion battery.
Water is the best approach to a lithium-ion battery fire. But that doesn't mean you should imitate a sprinkler and attempt to douse the whole fire by moving back and forth. Rather, Archer says, you want to keep a direct and focused stream on the battery until it relents. Also, don't touch the high-voltage components or open up the battery. They're the most likely parts of the battery to absorb heat.
While fires are one thing, some electric cars are no match for a portable DVD player.
- The new 2019 Ford Ranger mid-size pickup is off to a slow sales start, with just 15,169 trucks sold through April 2019.
- Many other mid-size pickups, even including the ancient Nissan Frontier, are far outselling Ford's new entry so far this year.
- Ford recorded the first Ranger sales in January 2019.
Through April of 2019, Ford has moved only 15,169 units of its new 2019 Ranger pickup, beating only the GMC Canyon (9374 sales) and Honda's unibody Ridgeline (9606 sales) in the mid-size pickup segment. The decidedly not-new Chevrolet Colorado has racked up 45,149 sales so far this year, while the segment continues to be dominated by the popular (and also not-new) Toyota Tacoma, 78,558 of which have found new homes so far in 2019. Even Nissan's ancient Frontier notched 24,479 sales in that same time period. For context, the current generation of Nissan's pickup has been around since George W. Bush's presidency.
We're not sure what the Ranger's sales lethargy can be chalked up to. The Ranger has been available since January, so it's not like it got a late start on the year. It's priced competitively with the newer stuff in the segment, starting at around $25,000 (the Frontier is a budget play that starts at $20,135). We've reached out to Ford for comment, to see whether there is some sort of manufacturing bottleneck constricting vehicles reaching dealerships, or if demand for its resurrected Ranger is somewhat cool.
Accord to Automotive News, the automaker only expected to move 1200 Rangers in January, its first month on sale, which hardly clears up the picture. Sure, Ford needed to add overtime shifts at the Ranger's assembly plant to handily exceed that meager sales target, but given how hot the mid-size truck market is these days, those sales expectations seem weirdly low.
Are you ready to talk trucks? You'd better be, because we're about to tell you how our truck beats their truck six ways to Sunday. Buckle your seatbelt and put on your cowboy hat-we're going for a ride straight up the side of Mount Everest. Our truck can do that. Their truck? It's stuck on a curb in the Talbots parking lot. Goo goo, gah gah, does somebody need a binkie?
Our trucks are the most luxurious and also the most basic. They're designed for work and also leisure. They have the brightest headlights and the loudest horns nine and a half years running. Need to hose out the interior? Go for it. Then dry it with a flamethrower. Our truck can handle it. Our truck can handle a heavier payload than a Falcon Heavy rocket. It's faster, too.
Need options? We've got options. Twelve cabs, 14 engines, and 50 trim levels. Like a snowflake, no two are alike. Unlike a snowflake, our trucks don't melt. Believe us, we tried. We dropped our truck into a volcano. Sorry, Mount Vesuvi-lost: Truck 1, volcano 0. Boom.
Remember when that other truck came out with that innovative thing and we totally made fun of it for a few years? Yeah, now we have something pretty similar on our trucks. Get over it, buddy. We're not afraid of change, as long as it happens at the pace of crocodile evolution. Trust us, you don't want that new flying truck made of carbon nanotubes. Our trucks are made of brass and rawhide and they stay on the ground, where the work happens. If you want a fancy truck with computers in it, put on your pocket protector and drive over to your mommy's house for a glass of warm milk, chief. We've been building trucks since Ben Franklin was a toddler and we don't put much stock in passing fads, so you can keep your electric starters and pneumatic tires.
Our trucks have been ranked the most reliable, most indestructible, most inscrutable trucks 89 years running. Every truck we've ever built still exists, because matter can be neither created nor destroyed.
Some companies push the envelope. We are the envelope, a big padded mailer made of NASA-grade iron. Clang!
Your truck has dual rear wheels? That's cute. Our truck has dual wheels, too. On the front. Out back? Seven wheels.
Imagine our truck on a construction site with a crane dropping a bunch of I-beams into the bed. Are you the worker with a hard hat holding the cable and sort of guiding the I-beams into the bed, which seems dangerous? Or are you the site foreman standing off to the side, wearing a button-down shirt and safety goggles and crossing your arms, impatient yet satisfied? Either way, you'd love to have this truck. Even the crane operator is probably looking down at this truck and thinking: "Boy, I wish I were driving that truck instead of working these crane controls. And is there a bathroom up here or do I have to climb down every time or . . ." Sorry, bucko. You should have asked that question before you took the job.
Our truck can tow more than a black hole. Have you seen our new tailgate? It folds down. It folds up. It goes sort of up and over the side and pivots around, if you can picture that. It splits in two and does your taxes. Best of all, it's standard on the Titanium Platinum Double-Y Ranch Lasso Uranium Cowboy Tungsten trim.
Here at our truck company, we know your work doesn't always happen where the roads go, so we've got the only truck to offer a forestry disc mulcher for the front bumper. Look out, trees: truck coming through! Also, look out, everyone. It's hard to see where you're going with that disc mulcher out there.
Our truck has more torque. There's our truck, and then there's everybody else's-literally, because our truck cannot simultaneously be another truck. This ain't Schrödinger's cat, pal! You need a ladder to climb into our truck, and that's just the two-wheel-drive version. We're legally required to tell you that our truck has to stop at weigh stations and you're going to need to hire someone with a smaller truck to drive ahead of you and warn everybody. About what? You'll find out.
Our warranty is the best in the business. Which business? Bananas. But that's not the point. The point is, our off-road model has a snorkel. Here's a montage of it driving on rocks. Yeah, maybe our ad agency doesn't know what a snorkel does. Here's another montage of all our old trucks still out there getting the job done. Why are those people driving beat-up old trucks? Because they're so reliable. And also our new trucks are superexpensive. Like, yikes. Lucky for you, right now we've got a limited-time offer on the Regional Value Edition in your area, which has stripes on it that evoke your part of the country. That one's $28,000 off for qualified buyers, meaning recent graduates of the Culinary Institute of America named Cornelius trading in a SsangYong Musso.
Everyone else can buckle up for our 144-month loan, the longest-lasting payment in the business for 95 fortnights running. Don't worry: By the time you pay that off, your truck will just be getting broken in. Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Seger!
From the April 2019 issue
- The plug-in-hybrid Prius Prime gets some interior upgrades that make it more livable.
- Substantive styling updates and driving range are both missing, unfortunately.
- Toyota claims the plug-in is good for an EPA-estimated 56 mpg combined in its battery-depleted state, still better than the competition.
Toyota's Prius Prime is not a thrilling car by any means, so it is perhaps appropriate that its upgrades for the 2020 model year won't give you goosebumps. Those perched on the edges of their seats waiting for Toyota to gift the plug-in-hybrid version of the Prius a sun-visor extender, black interior trim in place of white trim, standard Apple CarPlay and SiriusXM radio, two-count 'em, two-rear-seat USB ports, plus a middle seat for the rear (bringing total passenger capacity to five) can take a breath now: The 2020 Toyota Prius Prime now has all of that good stuff.
What the 2020 Toyota Prius Prime doesn't get is any styling updates (like the regular Prius did last year) or more electric-only driving range, a slight bugaboo considering the more generous battery capacities of other, slightly pricier plug-in hybrids. The Prime still makes do with only a 25-mile range when running solely on electricity; when the battery's charge drops below a certain level at the end of that run, the Prime reverts to a typical gas-electric hybrid state.
On the upside, the Prime is hugely efficient even when operating as a hybrid: Toyota claims the plug-in is good for an EPA-estimated 56 mpg combined in its battery-depleted state, far better than its competitors when their batteries run out. Those keen on taking advantage of plug-ins' electric-only capabilities should check out alternatives such as the Hyundai Ioniq (29 miles of EV-only range, 54 mpg combined), soon-to-be-discontinued Chevrolet Volt (53 miles of EV-only range, 42 mpg combined), or Honda Clarity (48 miles of EV-only range, 42 mpg combined). Only the Ioniq is cheaper than the Prime, however; the Honda and Chevrolet start at $34,320 and $34,395.
- The 2020 Chevrolet Camaro lineup gets a few changes, including a new affordable V-8 model called the Camaro LT1 V-8 and revised front-end styling for the SS.
- The V-6 model now offers a 10-speed automatic transmission as an option, replacing the previous eight-speed.
- The updated Camaro, which also offers new colors and a few new features, goes on sale this fall.
After a controversial refresh for 2019, Chevrolet has revised the Camaro SS's front-end styling for 2020, repositioning the bowtie emblem and making the bumper insert body-color. But that's not even the most exciting of the changes Chevrolet is introducing for 2020: a new affordable model called the LT1 offers the burly 6.2-liter V-8 engine, previously offered only in the SS, at a lower price point.
The Camaro LT1 starts at $35,990, a $2005 drop compared to the current 2019 Camaro's cheapest V-8 model, the 1SS which starts at $37,995. It also just undercuts the cheapest V-8–powered Ford Mustang, the $36,450 GT. The Camaro LT1 is essentially the same as the Camaro's 1LT trim level, but with the 455-hp V-8 stuck under the hood. It also gets LT1 fender badges, the vented hood from the SS, and black bowtie emblems. A lesser wheel-and-tire package, with 20-inch wheels wrapped in all-season tires that are the same size all around, ensures that the LT1 won't upset the performance hierarchy, as the SS still reigns supreme with its more aggressive, staggered-width summer tires.
V-6 Camaros benefit from a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the old eight-speed (a six-speed manual remains standard). The base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder sticks with the standard six-speed manual or the optional eight-speed automatic, while V-8 models offer the six-speed manual or the 10-speed automatic.
Other changes for the 2020 Camaro include a new Rally Green exterior color and several rejiggered features and options. To list a few examples, the Recaro seats that used to be exclusive to the 1LE performance package are now available on the LT model, the rear spoiler that used to be only on the RS package can now be had on the LS and LT, and red seat belts can now be optioned on all trim levels.
Chevrolet hasn't yet announced pricing for the full 2020 Camaro, but we expect to hear more over the next few months before it goes on sale this fall.
UPDATE 5/2/19: In addition to the hybrid and plug-in versions announced earlier, the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq Electric is getting a significant update, with a bigger battery pack that Hyundai promises will increase driving range. The new 38.3-kWh battery replaces the old 28.0-kWh unit and, on the European WLTP range cycle, offers 182 miles of range. While we don't know U.S. range estimates at this point, the new battery is sure to improve compared to the current Ioniq Electric's 124-mile EPA-rated range. More details on the U.S. version of the Ioniq are forthcoming.
The Hyundai Ioniq has only been on sale for a couple of years, but the Korean brand already is refreshing the hatchback, offered in hybrid, plug-in-hybrid, and electric versions, with a handful of new features. While we only have details on the Europe-spec models so far, most if not all of the changes should make their way to our shores later this year.
On the outside, there's a new grille with angular inserts in place of the old car's razor-blade-like pattern, which to us makes the Ioniq actually look less like a hybrid (the electric model, pictured below, keeps its blocked-off grille design). The optional LED head- and taillights are more angular in design, too, and Hyundai says they make the Ioniq stand out more at night, "enhancing not only aesthetics but also safety." Sure! New wheel designs, slightly redone bumper covers, and a few new colors round out the exterior changes.
The dashboard has also been redesigned with a more horizontal theme. The HVAC controls reside on a new gloss-black panel, with the control layout looking more simplified than the outgoing car. There is now an optional tablet-style 10.3-inch infotainment screen that juts vertically out of the dash, replacing the current 8.0-inch unit that is integrated into the dash. Hyundai has yet to release photos of the new Ioniq without the new, big screen, but the rest of the updated design should remain the same.
The new Ioniq has a Green-Zone Drive Mode (GDM) function, which will automatically switch the hybrid's powertrain into full EV mode when it's used in certain areas-for example, European city centers that ban (or tax) gasoline-powered cars. The Ioniq also gets improved adjustable regenerative braking and one-pedal driving capability from the Kona Electric. Hyundai says that the Ioniq now has active-safety features including lane-keeping assist and automated emergency braking as standard, and we wouldn't be surprised to see the systems made standard in the United States as well.
When it does arrive later this year in the United States, we expect the 2020 Ioniq hybrid to stay close to the 2019 model’s $23,285 base price.
- Nissan is dropping the roadster version of the 370Z from its sports-car lineup in the United States, starting with the 2020 model year.
- The 370Z coupe continues on for 2020, offering standard, NISMO, and 50th Anniversary models.
- We still have no idea what's going on with a next-generation Z, although rumors persist that a new version of the sports car is forthcoming at some point in the future.
The Nissan 370Z is ditching its softtop variant in the U.S. market. Nissan has confirmed that the sports car will be offered only as a coupe starting with the 2020 model year. Since it is a more expensive, heavier, and less fun-to-drive version of the Z, we can't exactly say we'll miss the 370Z roadster.
For its final, 2019 model year, the roadster starts at $42,815, a heady $11,830 more than the 2019 370Z coupe's starting price. The final nail in the convertible's coffin, at least for us, is that it was only available with a seven-speed automatic transmission (the coupe comes standard with a six-speed manual). A Nissan spokesperson told C/D that the roadster will continue to be sold in Canada.
The Z hardtop models that remain for 2020 include the standard 370Z, the slightly more powerful 370Z NISMO, and the 50th Anniversary Edition, which comes with a heritage-inspired appearance package. The 2020 coupe starts at $30,985, while the 50th Anniversary package adds $2600 and the NISMO starts at $46,685.
If you, like so many other enthusiasts, are impatient for a new generation of the Z, we're sorry that we don't have more information to offer. Most recently, we heard from Nissan global design chief Alfonso Albaisa, who mentioned that a replacement for the Z exists but did not elaborate. Since the current Z first arrived more than 10 years ago, there's been nary an official peep from Nissan about what's happening with the next Z. We hope to see at least a concept car foretelling the future of the Z within the next year or so, but we won't hold our breath.
- Available with four, six, or eight cylinders in gasoline, gas-electric hybrid, or diesel versions, the 2020 Range Rover delivers 254 to 557 horsepower.
- Choose among 12 trims with prices from $92,195 to $210,795.
- The nearly $300,000 SV coupe, which would have been the most lavish and fastest Range ever, is canceled.
Jaguar Land Rover's new turbo inline-six engine has settled into the queen of all super-luxe trucks, the Range Rover. For 2020, the big Rangie brings its first U.S. gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, renames all of its 12 trims, and grants the serenity and status that only an air-riding British four-by-four with Queen Elizabeth's approval can provide.
First order of business: The two supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engines in the base (340 hp) and HSE (380 hp) trims have retired. In their place is a 3.0-liter I-6 with a turbocharger and an electric supercharger, a belt-driven motor-generator that replaces the alternator, a 0.2-kWh lithium-ion battery, and a 48-volt subsystem running all this new electrical hardware. Power, torque, and fuel economy should all improve with this hybrid setup, although EPA estimates are not yet out. The base P360 makes 355 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque for $92,195, a $1400 increase over the 2019 model. In the HSE P400, this engine does 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft for $97,445, which is a $1200 increase. It also upgrades the wheels, leather, and adds driver-assist features including 360-degree cameras and blind-spot monitoring.
The biggest news is the HSE P400e, which is a plug-in hybrid marrying a turbo 2.0-liter inline-four with a 114-hp electric motor mounted to the transmission and a 13.1-kWh battery. At 398 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque, that tiny engine bests the diesel's figures and promises up to 31 miles of zero-emission driving. We expect the real-world mileage to drop considerably, though the price is firm: $97,245. That makes the PHEV an attractive alternative to the regular hybrids even without figuring in the expected federal tax credit of $6295. But unlike those P360 and P400 hybrids, the P400e can be ordered in top Autobiography trim. Formerly reserved for the V-8 models, this trim goes hog wild with tech and the most lavish two-tone interiors available. At $131,595, this is no doubt the fanciest plug-in SUV on sale today.
But despite its Bernie Sanders street cred, the plug-in hybrid will be hard pressed to top the diesel's 29-mpg highway rating (or the astonishing 26 mpg we averaged in our 40,000-mile test). Land Rover is still committing to thrifty, torquey diesels while the Germans retreat. Renamed from Td6 to D260, the turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 returns with 254 horsepower and 443 lb-ft. On price and efficiency, the D260 is the pick of the litter at $92,995 ($200 more than 2019). The more lushly equipped HSE starts at $98,245. Both require a small refill of DEF at each oil change, but no nightly recharging is needed.
Finally, and most important, the Rovers with the 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 will carry on (as will their customers glancing over all those newer, cheaper trims). No longer called Supercharged, the HSE P525 is sort of a deal at its $107,245 starting price. It won't be by the time you spec an SVAutobiography Long Wheelbase, which ups the power from 518 to 557 horsepower and treats four adults to a 29-speaker stereo louder than Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, among gobs of over-the-top features that would make a Bentley Bentayga wilt. That's for $210,795, almost fully loaded. Four more reasonable V-8 trims, all of which seat five, start between $111,245 for the HSE P525 Long Wheelbase to $179,795 for the SVAutobiography Dynamic.
We won't get into the dozens upon dozens of configurations available to each Rover-or the potential to pay the equivalent of a new Honda Civic for a two-tone paint finish. Otherwise, the trim changes are slight. For 2020, Land Rover has replaced Loire Blue with Portofino Blue and Corris Gray with Eiger Grey. A new 22-inch black wheel is available, too. Every Range Rover comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and off-road goodies including full-time four-wheel drive, two-speed transfer case, and a height-adjustable air suspension that enable it to wade through nearly three feet of water-and that includes the plug-in hybrid.
Terry Griffin was there, in the corners, on pit lane, up close in press conferences during most of Ayrton Senna's mercurial Formula 1 career.
A rarity among his colleagues, the Californian, one of a few American photographers assigned to shoot Grand Prix racing in the 1980s and 1990s, had a front-row seat to witness Senna's devastating mastery of the sport. Starting in 1986, two years after the Brazilian's debut, Griffin began documenting Senna's career in F1, and he continued through his final season in 1994.
On the 25th anniversary of his death, at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Griffin spoke with Road & Track about his life in and around Senna in F1. Speaking from his auto repair shop in Berkeley, Griffin provides a fresh look at Senna through the lens and from his conversations with a driver he came to idolize, back before Senna ascended to mythic stature.
"What happened was Piquet and Mansell pretty much dominated that race, but [Senna] was running after them and driving harder and getting more twitchy in every corner that I was watching," Griffin says in his first tale, recalling Montreal 1986, the first F1 race he shot.
"As he came by me, I was like, man, this guy's giving it the beans! Almost like what you see with [Max] Verstappen now. Right on the ragged edge of control, and I was like, 'Man, this guy is really chasing them down.' "
Wielding the Lotus 98T, powered by Renault's eruptive 1.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, Senna made use of nearly 1000 horsepower until the inevitable happened. Thanks to poor reliability, Griffin got to meet Senna during his first weekend as a Grand Prix photographer.
"He blew up somewhere about 150 yards from me, and I was standing right by a marshal station where there was an opening in the fence, and he pulled that thing right in next to me," he continues, eyes wide at the memory of a chance encounter with F1's next superstar.
"He got out of the car, immediately jumped up, and went to the back of the car and was looking at it. I walked over, started looking, myself being a mechanic, I said, 'You know, wow, it looks like there's lots of stuff coming out of the breather [tube]; it's either the rings or probably burned a piston, right?' And he says, 'Yeah, you think so?' "
"And we sat there and we talked and he asked me how I knew. I told him I was a mechanic. He was very nice to me. I didn't know him at all."
The first of Senna's three F1 world championships would be earned in 1988. At the time of their first encounter, the young Brazilian owned three wins-a far cry from the 41 he'd amass by the end of his career. Even though the bulk of his successes were destined for the future, Senna left Griffin with no doubt about where he stood among F1's established kings while observing from intimate vantage points.
"You don't see the real fine points . . . not unless you're by the side of the track," he says, describing the optics of watching Senna perform through zoom lenses. "When you look at it on TV, you don't hear the [throttle] pickup point. You know you don't see where he brakes deeper, and all those things that add up to tenths every lap on his teammate. When you're standing by the side of the circuit, you could see that, and you pick up on it and go, 'Whoa, God, this guy's that 1 percent apart,' which means [in a] Grand Prix of 200 miles, he's like a mile and a half ahead.
"And that's what it turned out to be in later years. I got to understand that he was a master of car control and of his trade, sort of like Jimi Hendrix was with the guitar. He was above everybody else."
Griffin also revealed the perils of being so close to Senna's Lotus 98T-Renault in qualifying at the Detroit Grand Prix that he could reach out and touch the blur of John Player Special black and gold.
"That was the first time that I had been directly head on with a car probably 30 feet from me at speed," he says of the rocket-propelled grenade. "And during qualifying they did all kinds of stuff. That's where I met Wayne Bennett. Wayne Bennett was working with Tyrrell at that point and he was working on the Renault motors, and I was walking back behind the garages at that point, and I saw him taking the [turbocharger] wastegates off the car for qualifying.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, what are you doing?' He says, 'This is a one-lap motor.' And I said, 'Really? You don't even know how much boost you have in that?' Wayne told me, 'Nope, we don't know. We just guess.'
"The other thing that they were doing was [Lotus F1 designer] Peter Wright came up with the idea of actually [turning] the Dzus fasteners just an eighth of a turn, so they were looser at the back of the diffuser. As you went along, and you went over a couple of bumps, it would dislodge in the back and it would flex down and literally ride the ground like a [ground effects] skirt car.
"So that was a cheat that they got away with because they were down on power to the Honda. At that point, I was standing there with a whole bunch of flaggers, looking for a missile coming at you."
In only his second weekend as an F1 shooter, Griffin was reminded of his mortality, courtesy of Senna.
"You could see and hear them coming into the chicane because they weren't quiet in those days, and they came into the left-hander and then had to snap the car in midcorner to make it work. He was probably about 30 to 40 miles an hour faster than anybody else.
"It was crazy how visual it was. I was standing there taking pictures and all of a sudden I realized-as Senna came through the corner-that everybody around me dropped to the ground . . . everybody except me. I was standing right behind a pole, so that I had a little bit more safety, but if he would have hit that wall it would have taken me out and I was like, 'Oh my God, this guy is amazing!' Car control. I saw him do it one more time right in front of me like that later in his career."
It wasn't long before he got to know the sound of an approaching Senna.
Either looking elsewhere in the corner, or with his eye stuck into the back of a camera, Griffin began picking up the Brazilian's unique audio signature while using the throttle that stood out as a soundtrack of his own.
"You don't see that on television. Places like Suzuka and its hairpin. It's an incredibly hard corner to do without traction control; it's canted to the right and off camber. You're coming from 180 mph through that kink under the bridge, then getting up on the brakes and the car is trying to lift up the left front wheel. So you're trying to keep from locking that up and then you're trying to come out of that corner without oversteering like crazy.
"You could actually close your eyes and hear Senna coming because he would feather the throttle, whop, whop, whop, whop, whop, whop, whop, whop, right as he came out of that corner. We figured out just by counting from one point to the next, that he was easily almost a second faster through that hairpin section than anybody else because of the way he throttled the car."
Enjoy the rest of the conversation with Terry Griffin below:
This story originally appeared on Road & Track.
UPDATE 5/1/2019: Kia released pricing for the 2019 Niro EV, which is sold only to residents in 12 states (more details below). The EX is $39,495-a full 10 grand above a base Niro Plug-in Hybrid-and comes one way without any options. The EX Premium starts at $44,995. That makes the Niro EV $1500 more expensive than the mechanically identical 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric which claims another 19 miles of range.
For Kia, the Niro is the specialty green model, as Prius is at Toyota-or its Ioniq sibling is to Hyundai. The Niro already is available as a hybrid and as a plug-in hybrid; now comes the electric version, the Kia Niro EV, to complete the triumvirate.
Although the Niro is a kin to the Ioniq, the EV model's battery and electric motor are more robust-they're closely related to the hardware found in the newer Hyundai Kona Electric. The electric motor spins out 201 horsepower-exactly matching that of the Kona Electric-along with 291 lb-ft of torque. The 64.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the floor also mirrors that in the Kona and offers an EPA-estimated range of 239 miles (the Kona claims 258).
The Niro comes standard with a CCS DC fast-charging setup, which can refill the battery to 80 percent in 75 minutes; just 30 minutes adds approximately 100 miles of range. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charger, it takes roughly 9.5 hours to refill a depleted battery.
Kia lets the driver choose among four levels of regenerative braking via a steering-wheel-mounted paddle, including a brake-and-hold feature that allows the paddle to bring the car to a full stop. Additionally, a Smart Regen system can adjust the level of brake regeneration automatically in reaction to a vehicle ahead slowing down.
The Niro EV can be distinguished from the other Niro models by its revised front fascia with a closed-off grille, lower air intake with blue accents, and "arrowhead" graphic in the LED daytime running lights. Blue accents also appear on the rear bumper, and the 17-inch wheels are a special aerodynamic design.
The Niro EV comes in two trim levels, EX and EX Premium. The EX is $39,495 without any options. It comes with nearly every driver assist, including adaptive cruise control, forward emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and a driver attention monitor. The EX Premium, at $44,995, adds heated and cooled front leather seats with power adjustment for the driver, an upgraded eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, Harman/Kardon stereo, moonroof, wireless phone charging, and LED taillights. The EX Premium Launch Edition package ($1000) includes LED headlights, heated steering wheel, garage door opener, front and rear parking sensors, and a cargo cover for $45,995 all-in.
Residents in only 12 states can purchase the Niro EV (California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington). Kia has no plans to offer the car nationwide.
This story originally published on November 28, 2018.
They said he was some sort of royalty. I felt compelled to believe them. He was a Continental sophisticate. And I was effectively born in a cornfield and raised in the east-side suburbs of Detroit. The closest contact I had with royalty was when my friend mounted a crown air freshener to the parcel shelf of his Cavalier Z24. I might have gone to high school with kids carrying the last names of Reuther and Ford, but that was an entirely different variety of royalty. They wore the same kind of shoes that I did.
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo did not wear the type of shoes I wore and, unless he's currently lounging in a pair of salt-stained Saucony Jazz sneakers, he still doesn't. Look at his name: Its length suggests a high birth in the way that a two-digit house address implies a nice neighborhood. I was allowed into his aura when he was the head of Ferrari. Because of course he was the head of Ferrari. He was suave without a drop of douchiness. He was refined and mannered but not effete. You got the sense that he cared deeply about the fabric from which his clothes were tailored. His hair was long and wavy, implying a certain raffishness. Most men his age wearing such a coiffure look as if they're trolling for inconveniently young women. I don't think Montezemolo was, but had he been, I bet he excelled at it. He certainly excelled at making Ferrari a championship-winning Formula 1 team in the '70s and then again in the aughts. His Ferrari was high tech and Old World. It was exclusive even while the prancing horse logo appeared on everything from Lego kits to diaper bags.
He was forced out of the top job at Ferrari in 2014 by the late Sergio Marchionne, who, despite a fantastic sense of humor and an oddly charming refusal to hide his chain smoking, was schlubby in his ash-flecked sweaters. His voice was deep and his words were blunt. He sounded like Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Montezemolo, Marchionne told him that "no one is indispensable." It's a statement nearly as true as it is cold.
I think Montezemolo would have found a smoother way to insert the knife had he done the stabbing. Here's why.
In 2008, I drew the plum assignment of flying to Sicily to drive Ferrari's first retractable-hardtop California. Yes, the one with the massive rump of a Venus figurine and the diagonally stacked tailpipes of a Lexus IS F. One might have thought California would have been a fine choice to stage the first media drive of this car. But, as it turned out, Sicily was perfect.
This was not because of the thick fog that shrouded the hilltop road we traversed at less than 20 mph. And I was not personally a fan of the rat-bastard wasp that, unprovoked, stung the back of my neck with sufficient force for me to blurt, "F*@k!" interrupting a tour guide's history lesson about sea salt and windmills.
Over lunch, the journalist seated next to me said, "Psst." (By the way, who actually says "psst" instead of "hey" or "Dan"?) I looked over and followed his gaze down to the floor where his briefcase sat open. Inside was a chunk of a carbon-ceramic brake rotor, probably five inches in length with ragged edges where it had become violently disassociated with the rest of the disc. He'd scavenged it from the site where one of the Californias had smacked into, then dragged its left side along, a stone wall, comprehensively trashing every panel on that side of the car, blowing the airbags, and shattering at least one brake rotor. Let us stop to consider two things here: 1) How did someone manage to thwack a wall on his side of the car on a relatively straight stretch of road? And 2) how creepy is it to collect crash souvenirs?
He pointed out the journalist responsible, not that he needed to. The perpetrator's sickly pallor and distant stare pegged him as the crasher. We regarded him as we would radioactive waste-a physical reality, but one you don't want to live near.
That evening, we gathered at a seafood restaurant by the water that Ferrari had rented. Somehow, the number of diners had grown threefold compared with dinners of earlier evenings. Once the wine lubrication had begun, Montezemolo stood up to welcome the group. He introduced Ferrari's test drivers and executives who'd flown in to attend. He extolled the virtues of the Sicilian food we were about to enjoy. He thanked us for coming, though I suspect it was his way of pointing out that we should probably thank him, just not in person because he is very busy. We were among friends, he said. Then he said (and I am paraphrasing here), "But tonight, we have a new friend." He motioned for the perpetrator to stand. "My new friend, come here." The perp slinked, red-faced, across the room like a dog who had just soiled the rug. "Friend, I must thank you. This is a very new car. There are not many of them. So there are not many parts for them. But today, you made sure that we have many spare parts. So, thank you." Montezemolo might be a blue-eye from an aristocratic Piedmont clan, but that night, he was all Sicilian. I miss him. But he was not my friend.
From the April 2019 issue
- Japan's new emperor will ride in a one-off convertible Toyota Century at his coronation parade in October.
- The previous emperor used a vintage Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible at his coronation.
- The royal family already has four custom Century limos, such as the one pictured above.
Japan's new head of state, Emperor Naruhito, officially took the throne today, but at his coronation parade in October he's getting something that's arguably even better. In news first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the new emperor will ride in a new one-off Toyota Century convertible limo during the parade.
The limo will be based on the third-generation Century, which made its debut at the 2017 Tokyo auto show. The new Century marked only the third major redesign of the car in 50 years, and the first since the second-gen model came out in 1997. The new Century uses a hybrid powertrain with a 5.0-liter V-8 and two electric motors, a big shift from the previous Century's 5.0-liter V-12. It's the most luxurious model Toyota offers with a starting price of nearly $200,000, and it has only ever been sold in Japan and to select clientele.
The Japanese royal family has used four massive, highly modified Century limos since 2006-the photo of one at the top of this story is from today, after Naruhito ascended the throne. There's no word as to whether the existing Empress limos, which are based on the previous-gen Century, will be replaced-they themselves replaced Nissan Prince Royal limos that were 40 years old. Emperor Akihito, who abdicated the throne in favor of his son, Naruhito, used a classic Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible (pictured above) at his own coronation in 1990. That Corniche was also used in 1993 at Naruhito's wedding.
While Toyota has released no photos of Naruhito's new Century and the car most likely won't be seen until October, we know a little bit of what to expect thanks to a Japanese government document found by Roadshow that outlines restrictions for a royal vehicle. It must be based on a production car that is available in Japan, be larger in size than other vehicles that will be traveling with it, have high levels of safety and environmental friendliness, and be usable daily, not just one time in a parade. It also has to have a certain size of rear seat, and the emperor and empress need to be visible when riding in the car. The Japanese government says that the only car that met all the requirements was the Century.
Buying a pre-owned car is always subject to an element of uncertainty, with hidden maladies that could potentially cost you thousands. Hence, the popularity of a Certified Pre-Owned program: For consumers, it bridges the gap between the quality performance of a brand new car and the affordability of something pre-owned.
When it comes to pre-owned, Mercedes-Benz employs one of the most diligent programs on the market. That's to say that not every Mercedes is selected for its CPO program: Cars older than six years, have over 75,000 miles, contain sketchy history reports, or feature obvious collision damage are automatically disqualified.
The cars that do make it undergo 165 points of inspection, ranging from advanced safety systems to axle and suspension wear to the condition of the massage seats. Its technicians have been trained from the factory, using rare and specialized equipment to diagnose the sort of things an average mechanic might oversee. There’s even a standard unlimited mileage warranty for up to five years.
Here are some of the most important things your local auto maintenance shop might miss-and why you should consider going through a reputable automaker, like Mercedes-Benz.1. Damage Verification
Body shops oftentimes hide a car's damage through falsified reports or botched repair jobs that can knock temperamental things like doors and hatches out of alignment. With the Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned Program, technicians measure the panel gaps down to millimeters to check for evenness and consistency, in conjunction with factory tolerances.
Damage verification even goes through a paint check, with a paint depth meter that can point out issues with gloss level, hue error, cloudiness, clear coat contamination, and touch-ups from bodywork repair, which is another in-depth way to gauge for damage.2. Engine Oils
You can determine a lot from the state of engine oil: the color, consistency, shininess, and viscosity can tell you if there are metal particles in the oil, which might indicate serious internal engine damage, or if there are any coolant leaks or blocked passages.
A CPO inspection also dives into axle and transfer case oils, which are vital to keeping a car's dynamic components running smoothly. Here, only factory-recommended oils are used when performing oil changes, matching precisely what the car was designed for.3. Electrical Details
Most modern luxury cars contain many little motors, servos, and wiring components that ensure proper function of automatic seatbelt extenders, folding mirrors, voice controls and navigation-even sunshades, panoramic roofs, and massaging seats.
Technicians performing a CPO check scrutinize every electrical component in detail, hunting down little issues where they pop up and replacing components whenever necessary. These inspections also cover driver assistance aids like Active Lane Keeping Assist and PRE-SAFE®️ PLUS, popular options on most modern Mercedes like the GLC.4. Driveshaft Couplings
Undercarriage components like draft shafts, couplings, flex discs, and supports bear the brunt of automotive abuse. Blasted by rain and dirt, transmitting power at all times, and collecting road grime, the unsung heroes of the dirty bits can wear out and make a car feel like it’s far older and rougher than it is.
It may not be likely that a driveshaft will wear out in a car’s lifetime, but weakened bushings can increase play-and-affect power delivery and smoothness. What’s more, these parts can be difficult to get to, and there are a lot of components packed in very tight quarters. Ignore it, and costs can rack up with intensive repairs.5. Self-Leveling Suspension
The Mercedes-Benz self-leveling suspension is a marvel in itself: through a combination of electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic technology, it's designed to keep the rear of a vehicle level with the front at all times. Self-leveling suspension also compensates for the weight in the back of a station wagon or SUV, and further improves handling during high-speed cornering.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that valves leak, pumps fail, shocks wear out, and sensors corrode-a high-tech system requires upkeep. One of the CPO program’s key steps is inspecting the system thoroughly, which includes checking for good pressure, fixing leaks whenever necessary, and replacing hydraulic components. All to ensure that your next wagon or SUV’s ride will befit the dampening and handling characteristics of a luxury car.
Deceptively simple little engine mounts are components that nobody notices until they break. And even then, they're tucked so far down under the engine that they're one of the last things people know to check for. After all, they have a big task: holding your engine in place under all of those twisting forces and loads under acceleration.
Some carmakers employ active or fluid-filled engine mounts to better absorb vibrations, and when these complex-wear items go, you’ll feel it through the steering column and every time you drive. Replacing them is not a task for the faint of heart.7. Body Structure
A thorough check-up of the body structure includes door jambs and frames, the bumper struts to see if there’s been any impact, pillars, strut towers, engine subframes, and other vulnerable places where unibody frames can deform from structural damage. That seems easy in comparison, right? But it goes beyond that.
Full vehicle history and service records are paramount to an inspection like this. With any pre-owned car, any impact or damage needs to be brought to the light. Mercedes-Benz provides a Carfax vehicle report, so you know everything the car has lived through before you start driving.8. Brakes
Far beyond your simple brake job, a CPO inspection of a car’s full braking system covers the electronic parking brake found on most new cars today, as well as anti-lock braking systems, which contain their own myriad complexities.
There are brake lines that can expand, affecting brake feel, and hardwired steel fittings that can corrode and leak, which is a serious safety issue. There’s advanced automatic braking technology that can alert drivers to forward-facing obstacles, and can tense up the brake pedal if necessary-going far beyond a pad and rotor job.9. Noise, Vibration, and Harshness
Finally, there’s the test drive. Anyone can go on a test drive, but every car will drive differently, owing to the vagrancies of age and mileage and just how many times a used car was put away wet.
Mercedes' factory-trained CPO technicians are more familiar with these vehicles and will know what's amiss and what is right due to their training experience. A first-time entrant into the Mercedes family might think that this is normal, but there are a lot of subtleties in undue vibrations, wind and road noise, play in the steering wheel, and harsh suspension crashing that can be missed or mistakenly assumed to be normal features.10. Fluid Checks
After the test drive, it’s important to check whether the car is making a mess on the garage floor. Leaks are bad, as one can imagine, but so are depleted levels, which might indicate burning oil or slow leaks while in motion. There’s a visual inspection for leaks around and underneath the car, and then there’s measuring fluid levels before and after the test drive, for that added level of precision. These comprehensive checks offer peace of mind that your car won't run into any trouble down the line.
- The Aston Martin Vantage AMR has a standard seven-speed manual transmission that was first used in the old V12 Vantage S.
- Only 200 AMRs will be built, but the manual will become an option on the regular Vantage next year.
- The AMR is 209 pounds lighter than the standard Vantage and gets unique design cues.
Last week, we told you that a new AMR version of the Aston Martin Vantage will have a manual transmission and that it will be "coming soon." Well, it turns out that "soon" is already here. Aston has revealed the Vantage AMR, and as we suspected, it uses a seven-speed manual transmission with a dogleg-style first gear.
The transmission was developed by Graziano and was first used in the V12 Vantage S from a few years ago. The racing-inspired dogleg setup means second through seventh gears are in a traditional H pattern, but first gear is down and to the left while reverse is up and to the left, the opposite of a traditional manual gearbox. It has what Aston calls Amshift, which is a rev-matching system that also allows for full-throttle upshifts; the system can be turned on or off. In addition to the gearbox, the AMR also gets a limited-slip differential that was developed by Aston's racing team.
The AMR is said to weigh 209 pounds less than a regular Vantage thanks to the removal of the automatic transmission and the fitment of carbon-ceramic brakes as standard. Weight distribution is a perfect 50/50 split, and Aston's quoted dry weight is 3305 pounds. (An automatic 2019 Vantage we tested weighed in at 3726 pounds.) While power from the V-8 is unchanged at 503 horses, torque has gone down from 505 lb-ft to 461 lb-ft (both peaking at 2000 rpm). Aston's quoted zero-to-60-mph time for the AMR is slower than the regular Vantage's, too, at 3.9 seconds for the AMR versus 3.5 for the standard car. Top speed remains 195 mph.
In addition to the manual transmission and its accompanying leather-wrapped shifter, the AMR gets a handful of cosmetic enhancements. New 20-inch forged aluminum wheels look like those on the Rapide AMR, and the brake calipers are painted to match other trim pieces in Lime Green, which is the AMR signature color. The design of the carbon-fiber side vents is new, and the hood gets a pair of new carbon-fiber vents. The AMR also features a bunch of standard kit that's optional on regular Vantages, including a sport exhaust system with quad pipes, sport bucket seats, and lots of dark interior and exterior trim.
Only 200 AMRs will be built, with the first 141 coming in China Grey, Onyx Black, Sabiro Blue, or White Stone paint with a choice of four interior schemes-Aston calls the specs "designer specifications." The AMR will start at $183,081, or $30,000 more than the standard Vantage. The final 59 cars in the AMR's run are dubbed Vantage 59; these will feature a special color and option combination (shown in these photos) that celebrates Aston's 1959 Le Mans win, similar to the recently revealed DBS 59. Those 59 cars will cost $208,081 to start.
If you're not one of the lucky 200 people that will receive a Vantage AMR-and given how quickly models like this sell out, you probably aren't-don't fret. Aston says that the regular Vantage will gain the AMR's manual transmission as an option beginning in the first quarter of 2020, once all the AMRs have been sold. There's no word as to whether the manual will be a no-cost option, an extra-cost option, or actually cheaper than the automatic.
In speaking about the AMR's conception and the new manual option, Aston CEO Andy Palmer says he has always promised that Aston would offer a manual in its lineup-it's something that customers were asking for. The Vantage thus honors that promise and "sets [Aston] apart from [its] competitors in continuing to offer a three-pedal option," according to Palmer. As for that competition, the Porsche 911 is the only other car that can be had with a manual. "In a world of autonomous robo-taxis, Aston Martin will continue to advance the art and science of performance driving," Palmer says, adding that the Vantage AMR is "a thoroughly modern sports car that rewards effort and focus from the driver, the antidote to driving a computer game." At Car and Driver, we're all about saving the manuals, so Palmer's statement is music to our ears.
If your idea of a Cadillac is a plush-riding luxobarge, then the XTS is the Cadillac for you-although you really should hurry, since the XTS is being discontinued soon. With a 304-hp V-6, a six-speed automatic, and front- or all-wheel drive, it’s perfect for the senior citizen in us all-or for real senior citizens. The V-Sport has a 410-hp twin-turbocharged V-6 and all-wheel drive, but even this sportier trim is not much fun to drive. The CUE infotainment system is improved (the bar was low, given the original setup’s woes), and the interior is upscale enough, with nice materials and a big back seat-the better to be driven in, yes?Cadillac14. Cadillac XTS
In Italian, “Quattroporte” means “four doors,” but you don’t need to speak the language to appreciate this Maserati’s dramatic flair. Two twin-turbo engines are offered-a 424-hp 3.0-liter V-6 and a 523-hp 3.8-liter V-8. An eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard; all-wheel drive is offered with the V-6. Inside the sumptuous, leather-lined cabin is an 8.4-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking are optional.Maserati13. Maserati Quattroporte
If you're not looking too closely, Lincoln’s Continental appears to be an impressive sedan. It is handsome, large, and offers some fun color combinations and oodles of chrome trim inside. It’s a modern take on the classic American luxury barge, after all. Closer inspection, however, reveals the Continental’s plebeian roots: Switchgear borrowed from far lesser Ford-branded products, unrefined ride and handling motions, and inefficient V-6 engines.Lincoln12. Lincoln Continental
Sleek styling and high-tech features help the CT6 shed the Cadillac clichés in an attempt to best its European rivals. A 265-hp turbo 2.0-liter inline-four drives the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission; a 335-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and a 404-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 pair with all-wheel drive and the eight-speed. A plug-in hybrid boasts up to 31 miles of electric-only range. Onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi is standard, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. High-end options include a 34-speaker stereo and adaptive cruise control. Like several other large General Motors car models, the CT6 is slated to die in 2019, although it was given a stay of execution until the middle of the year.Cadillac11. Cadillac CT6
As the only Brit in a segment ruled by Germans, the Jaguar XJ has a lot on its shoulders-a weight it bears remarkably well. The interior is appropriately swanky for the XJ’s place at the top of the Jaguar lineup, with quality materials and luxe styling. A supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 340 horsepower comes standard; a 470-hp V-8 is available. We still have some niggles with build quality and the infotainment system, but even so, the XJ is a lovely ride. The racy XJR575 is reviewed separately and appears elsewhere on this list.Car and Driver10. Jaguar XJ
Redesigned for 2018, the Lexus LS sets itself apart with adventurous and chiseled styling inside and out, which contrasts sharply with its insulated and muted driving demeanor. A new twin-turbo 3.4-liter V-6 makes 416 horsepower and powers the rear or all four wheels through a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic, or there’s an available hybrid that uses a V-6 and two electric motors; a V-8 is no longer offered. We don’t like the infotainment system’s fussy touchpad, but the LS is priced significantly lower than a Mercedes-Benz S-class.Lexus9. Lexus LS
Unchanged for 2019, the BMW 7-Series will see changes soon: A refresh for 2020 has the full-size Bimmer sedan adopting a toothy new grille design. (We’re not being hyperbolic-BMW actually claims the new kidney grilles are 40 percent larger than before.) Beyond its face, the 7-series will receive enhancements to its optional V-8 engine, as well as to its plug-in hybrid powertrain; there are expanded tech offerings, too, including a semi-autonomous driving function for certain highway scenarios.BMW8. BMW 7-series
Premium performance and ultra-luxury converge in the Jaguar XJR575. This big cat packs an equally big growl with its 575-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8; an eight-speed automatic directs power to the rear wheels. Intended to trade blows with the best biggies from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-AMG, the lightweight Jag has a long wheelbase and sports an uprated suspension and enhanced brake components. Exclusive aero add-ons decorate the exterior, and diamond-quilted seating adorns the opulent interior.Car and Driver7. Jaguar XJR575
You might not have realized it, but Kia has been building and selling a full-size luxury sedan for several years now. In fact, the K900 is now in its second generation, having just been redesigned for 2019. This grand, rear-wheel-drive sedan (all-wheel drive is optional) comes with a 365-hp twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 and a primary focus on comfort, not sportiness.Kia6. Kia K900
Clean Swedish style sets the Volvo S90 apart in the luxury sedan arena. (That, and the S90’s available station-wagon siblings, the V90 and tougher-looking V90 Cross Country.) Beneath the Volvo’s beautiful skin lies some advanced safety technology-as one expects from the brand that is nearly synonymous with safety. The interior is similarly gorgeous and well-appointed, while buyers can choose from between three powertrains ranging from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder to that same blown and turbo’d four mated to a plug-in hybrid setup.Volvo5. Volvo S90
With elegant styling and a first-class cabin, the G90 is the Genesis brand’s first attempt at a luxury sedan. (It replaces, effectively, the Hyundai-badged Equus, which predated the Genesis brand’s formation.) Few options are offered, as nearly every conceivable feature is standard. Highlights include a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, adaptive dampers, a head-up display, automated emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. Two engines are offered-a 365-hp twin-turbo 3.3-liter V-6 and a 420-hp 5.0-liter V-8-both with an eight-speed automatic and rear- or all-wheel drive.Genesis4. Genesis G90
The A8 is the king of Audi’s luxury sedans, packed with tech including autonomous-driving features and luxury options-such as a foot warmer for rear-seat passengers. A 335-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 is standard, and includes a 48-volt electrical system supporting an electric motor that assists at low speeds and serves as a heavy-duty starter motor. (The 48-volt system allows for lengthy engine-off periods when, say, stopped at lights or in traffic, with no effect on the A/C or accessory systems.) All-wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic, and an air-spring suspension are standard. An optional system scans the road for imperfections and adapts the suspension to absorb them. A 449-hp plug-in hybrid with inductive (wireless!) charging arrives in 2019.Audi3. Audi A8
These Teutonic chariots mix sumptuous luxury with earthshaking power. Hinting at their potency with huge air intakes, big wheels, and quad tailpipes, the lineup-available as a sedan as well as a coupe and a cabriolet-starts with the 603-hp twin-turbo V-8 and nine-speed automatic in the all-wheel-drive S63 and tops out with the 621-hp twin-turbo V-12 in the S65 that sends a whopping 738 lb-ft to the rear wheels only. The cabins are awash in leather, carbon fiber, and all the technological and comfort-driven trappings of a modern Mercedes.Mercedes-AMG2. Mercedes-AMG S63 / S65
The Mercedes-Benz S-class has always been synonymous with luxury, and it continues that proud tradition. Sedan models are powered by either a 362-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 (S450) or a 463-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 (S560, although more power is available in the AMG-branded versions that appear elsewhere in this roundup). Rear-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic are standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Coupe and convertible models get the V-8. In keeping with the car’s flagship status, the S-class can be loaded to the gills with technology, including active body control and enhanced autonomous-driving functions.Mercedes-Benz1. Mercedes-Benz S-class
- WWE wrestling star, movie actor, and big-time car nut John Cena appears slated to join the cast of Fast & Furious 9, which is scheduled to hit theaters in 2020.
- The star of the long-running movie franchise, Vin Diesel, put the rumor mill into high gear with an Instagram video in which he refers to the Fast & Furious films and then pans the camera over to Cena, who smiles and winks at the camera.
- Cena reportedly would replace Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, who will star in a spinoff titled Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
If you're a Fast & Furious fan-and if you love cars, crazy sideways driving, tire smoke, and insane automotive stunts, it's hard not to be-then you definitely got the message that the franchise's star, Vin Diesel, was sending in a recent Instagram video post. In case Diesel's delivery was too cryptic for you, we'll decode it. The next movie in the never-ending series of tire-squealing sequels, Fast & Furious 9, will have a new hunk of a co-star in the driver's seat when it comes out next year: John Cena.
Cena gained fame in WWE professional wrestling, wining and losing several so-called championships. In the past several years he has pursued a new career in the entertainment business, performing voice-overs for animated TV characters and acting on TV and in movies such as Daddy's Home with Will Ferrell.
In the car world, Cena made news several months ago by getting into a legal feud with the Ford Motor Company over the premature resale of a new Ford GT that he had purchased. (Owners had to agree not to sell the car for at least two years, but Cena attempted to flip his within just a few months. The parties settled for an unspecified amount that went to charity.)
Fast & Furious 9 is scheduled to come out in May 2020, according to the Internet Movie Database.
- Short of all new, the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport receives a heavy cosmetic rework.
- Mitsubishi's latest front-end design combines with fresh taillights to substantially update the Outlander Sport's look.
- The revised Mitsubishi goes on sale in the U.S. later in 2019.
UPDATE 4/30/19: We had the opportunity to see the refreshed Outlander Sport at Mitsubishi's R&D facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and we learned a few new details about the compact crossover. The story has been updated with the new info.
Mitsubishi's Outlander Sport has been on sale here in the United States since 2011 and elsewhere a year beyond that, meaning it's about time for an all-new design. But that's not the case. Instead, for the 2020 model year, the Outlander Sport is receiving minor changes, amounting to not much more than a new face and a 1.0-inch-larger touchscreen for its dashboard. Mitsubishi debuted its popular small SUV at the 2019 Geneva auto show. That's in Switzerland, which, you'll note, isn't the United States. The Outlander Sport is sold all over the world as the ASX, hence the desire for a global audience and the "ASX" license-plate covers in these photos-the U.S.-spec Outlander Sport will look identical.
The subcompact SUV trades its stale, dated-looking wide-eye headlights and yawning grille for fresh styling inspiration taken from the recently introduced Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. In fact, Mitsubishi cherry-picked the rakish Eclipse's better-looking pieces-slim headlights, wide-set fog lamps and turn-signal elements, and a nifty skid plate-while tabling that model's vaguely Pontiac Aztek–like elements and weird roofline. Fewer changes were made to the SUV's rear, which keeps essentially the same taillights-albeit now with full-LED lighting as standard-and the bumper has been butched up with a skid-plate flourish.
Surely the Outlander Sport's cosmetic transition toward the Eclipse Cross was easy, since it and the Eclipse Cross share some structure. We presume it also would have been easy to port over the sweet 152-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four engine from the Eclipse. But sadly, Mitsubishi has not made any changes to the Sport's engine lineup. It's available with either a 148-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a 168-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, both paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Mitsubishi says that take rates for the base engine's manual transmission option were less than two percent, so it has been dropped. All-wheel drive remains optional.
Mitsubishi has kept the Outlander Sport's interior nearly the same as before, with the most notable upgrade being a switch from a 7.0-inch touchscreen to an 8.0-inch unit. There is better detailing throughout the interior, mostly a flash of chrome here and some more piano-black trim there; Mitsubishi makes a point to mention the contrasting silver trim on the switchgear. There are three new paint colors, and Mitsubishi points out that the automated emergency braking system from last year's model is available here, too.
Given that this is Mitsubishi's best-selling model in the U.S. market, we wish it had been given a more expansive update. But there's no denying that, cumulatively, the 2020 Outlander Sport's styling tweaks give off a strong impression of newness. Combine that with the current model's appealing pricing and equipment, and Mitsubishi seems poised to squeeze a lot more lemonade from this lemon than you might expect. We'll report back on the Outlander Sport in full once we drive the 2020 model, which will go on sale in the U.S. in the fall of 2019.
- Land Rover has released a bunch of new photos of the upcoming 2020 Defender SUV to celebrate World Land Rover Day.
- April 30 marks the anniversary of the first Land Rover's debut in 1948.
- The new Defender has already covered almost 750,000 testing miles ahead of its debut later this year.
Every year, World Land Rover Day is celebrated on April 30, commemorating the first Land Rover's debut at the Amsterdam auto show on April 30, 1948. To go along with the celebrations, Land Rover has released a bunch of new images of camouflaged 2020 Defender prototypes undergoing testing all over the world and has given updates on the upcoming SUV's rigorous testing regime.
As part of the testing, Land Rover is putting a new Defender through its paces at the Borana Conservancy in Kenya as part of the brand's 15-year partnership with Tusk Trust, a British charity for wildlife conservation. A special prototype with a Tusk-themed camo pattern will go through "a series of real-world trials" at the 35,000-acre nature reserve, including towing heavy loads and carrying cargo across "unforgiving terrain." That prototype, shown below, is our best look yet at the new Defender, featuring a tight camo wrap but no fake body panels like those found on all the other Defenders you see in these images. We can see a rounded hood and roof, smooth shoulders with a crisp character line, and some additional details not visible on other prototypes.
In addition to the Tusk testing announcement and new photos of the Defender in different locales, Land Rover has given new details about the testing that Defender prototypes have been going through all across the world. Land Rover says the Defender has been driven nearly 750,000 miles in real-world testing so far and that, by the time it debuts, the SUV will have "passed more than 45,000 individual tests." It has been subjected to conditions from sub-40-degree cold in the Arctic to 122-degree heat in the desert, and it has been tested at altitudes of 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains. Land Rover also says the Defender has gone through development on sand dunes in Dubai, rocky trails in Moab, muddy roads in the U.K., and at the Nürburgring racetrack in Germany-yes, seriously.
In contrast to the Defender's globe-circling testing program, all of the design and development work has been done out of Land Rover's Gaydon facilities in England. Land Rover says that the Defender will be built at a new plant in Nitra, Slovakia, and we previously learned that it would be revealed at some point in 2019 before going on sale in the United States in 2020. Beyond knowing that it will ride on a unibody platform and come with either two or four doors, we don't have many concrete details on the new Defender, but Land Rover says it will be "the toughest and most capable Land Rover vehicle ever made." As it should be.
You have a stack of brochures and car magazines, and you're burning up the internet as you search for a new ride. You're surprised at how high new-vehicle prices have crept in only a couple of years. Further research reveals that after a few years of depreciation, lightly used vehicles sold privately offer far more reasonable prices. But those vehicles come without a warranty-or only the remainder of the factory warranty, which is usually a short period and not many miles. Buy one of those vehicles privately, and you risk getting bit by somebody else's problems, unless you're handy with a trouble-code scanner and a toolbox.
There's another safer but still affordable path: certified pre-owned, better known by the initialism CPO.
A growing number of shoppers are selecting CPO vehicles. Almost every brand (even exotic-car manufacturer Bugatti) offers a CPO warranty program these days. CPO programs have many advantages, but how each provides protection to the buyer and what is included vary widely. Here are the advantages to purchasing a CPO vehicle and the details to consider before buying your next car or truck.Advantage #1: A CPO Vehicle Costs Much Less
The primary benefit of going the CPO route is that you're purchasing a solid two- or three-year-old car, SUV, or truck that has already depreciated significantly. Some CPO vehicles are even available with a low-interest lease, similar to a new car's. A two-year-old CPO vehicle is typically 25 percent less expensive than a brand-new version of the identical vehicle. And four-year-old CPO vehicles can be marked down by as much as 40 percent.Advantage #2: You Get a Manufacturer Warranty
Like new cars, CPO vehicles come with a manufacturer-backed warranty. Most automakers offer a combination of a limited powertrain warranty and a bumper-to-bumper warranty. These vary significantly when it comes to deductibles, coverage length, and which components or systems are covered. Typical deductibles are $50 to $100. Some CPO powertrain warranties last up to 100,000 miles. If you suspect you might sell the vehicle before the warranty expiration, check if there's a new-owner transfer fee. (BMW has a $200 charge.) Read the policy's fine print, and be aware that some so-called certified vehicles aren't true CPO deals, in that they carry only a dealer's warranty, not the carmaker's. That usually limits where the vehicle can be fixed. And if the dealership closes, the dealer warranty is useless. Stay away from those.Advantage #3: CPO Vehicles Undergo a Thorough Inspection
Vehicles that qualify for sale in CPO programs are typically several years old and have raked up relatively few miles-odometers showing 36,000 miles or lower are not uncommon. Their health is further confirmed by a vehicle-history report that also includes the vehicle's VIN code and title status. Another critical factor in any CPO purchase is the required comprehensive inspection by a factory-trained mechanic. (Make sure to get a copy of it for your records.) Most of these inspections review more than 120 items, and at least one maker (Audi) checks 300 before putting a CPO vehicle up for sale. Any issues that are found are repaired.Advantage #4: Roadside Assistance
Although buying a CPO vehicle should significantly reduce the chance of a breakdown, some CPO policies (like those at FCA, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus) also offer 24-hour roadside assistance that includes towing, jump-starts, and even lock-out help. General Motors provides two free maintenance visits in its CPO Scheduled Maintenance program. (It's important to ask if these benefits are free or if they can be added for an extra charge.) Some manufacturers even offer financial assistance if a trip away from home is interrupted. Hyundai will reimburse owners up to $100 per day and up to $500 per occurrence if a breakdown happens more than 150 miles from home. Other makers offer car-rental allowances of up to $175 per breakdown.Advantage #5: Free Trial Subscriptions
Several CPO deals come with free trials of special services. Even mainstream brands, such as Honda, Ford, Hyundai, and FCA, include three months of SiriusXM satellite radio. GM's CPO program also offers an XM radio trial and tosses in three free months of its handy OnStar Guidance plan for turn-by-turn navigation.
One last benefit to look for in a CPO contract is the option to swap out if you and the new vehicle don't get along. Some CPO policies say you can come back within a limited time or mileage and trade for something else from the brand. GM gives buyers three days or 150 miles to figure out whether the CPO car or truck they bought is really the one they want or if they made a mistake.
Keep in mind that a CPO vehicle carries a price premium over the same non-CPO model; there's a cost to getting an extended factory warranty and a carefully inspected used vehicle. And there often aren't as many models to choose from, since fewer vehicles can pass the rigorous inspection and mileage requirements to qualify for a CPO program-though the selection is still usually quite good. But the cost savings, peace of mind, and benefits you get in a CPO program can make buying a certified pre-owned vehicle a compelling value when compared with a brand-new one. A CPO deal is well worth considering.