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C8 Corvette Has Big Shoes to Fill

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:09

All that matters this week is the C8 Corvette. On Thursday it will make its first appearance in front of the assembled press and immediately a bit torrent of electronic misinformation will follow. It will be tweeted, Facebooked, Reddit-itted, blogged, vlogged and barfed out as if a massive electromagnetic pulse was emanating from GM Public Relations. It's amazing how fast a press release can be badly rewritten by 300 or so media outlets. Yeah, C/D will have its coverage too; comprehensive, authoritative and in something approximating English.

Nothing lasts forever, but the Corvette has at least stuck around a very long time. Remember that it started in 1953 not as a calculated business decision, but as a show car built to goose interest in what was then the incredibly boring Chevrolet brand, though "brands" in the early 1950s weren't the grim, over-calculated, psychologically tested assault on consumers that they are now. That first Corvette was a slapped together not-that-hot rod; a cheap fiberglass body on Chevy's already archaic passenger car chassis.

That first Corvette wasn't an engineering tour de force like the contemporary Mercedes 300SL or the next step in a glorious sports car tradition like the Jaguar XK120. And it wasn't spindly and delicate like the MG TD or TF. It was closer in spirit to the chopped down street race cars being cobbled together by self-sufficient guys, many of them World War II veterans, playing around in garages to keep themselves busy after work. After all, back then a 17-inch, black-and-white GE television cost $289.95—the equivalent of $2781.60 in 2019—while car parts were cheap and creativity was free.

Of course the Corvette has evolved a lot over its first seven generations. But it was always something accessible. Most of its mechanical bits were always closely related to what Chevy was dumping into station wagons and pickup trucks; it was never priced to keep it exclusively in the hands of the wealthy; practically every local Chevy dealer had one on its showroom floor; and even today, used Corvettes are dirt cheap.

Old 1984 to 1996 C4s can be snatched up for under $4000 today. Often well under $4000 in the seedier corners of Craigslist. Go try and find any Porsche 911 anywhere near that cheap. Hell, try getting a good used Honda Civic that cheap.

The Corvette didn't earn its racing bona fides with massive factory teams. One of the greatest early Corvette campaigns was mounted out of Washburn Chevrolet here in my hometown of Santa Barbara, California, and Bob Bondurant made his bones driving cars like the one pictured atop this column. The C1 and C2 racers that ran for Washburn wore the number "614" because the showroom was located at 614 Chapala Street. On occasion you could go down to the dealer and see some of the same mechanics that did oil changes on dad's Biscayne wrenching on the race cars.

GM and Chevrolet have always built the Corvette, but it is how they've been used, abused, raced, modified and cherished by Americans that have woven it into American culture. It's Dirk Diggler's orange '77 growing ever more decrepit as he dissolves into debauchery and desperation in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights. It's John Greenwood's wide-body racers during the 1970s roaring through IMSA. It's cruising boulevards, running gymkhanas, getting groceries, and commuting in a two-seater that's not quite like anything else in the world. It's taking a sick dog to the vet in a 'Vette. These and 1.5 million other reasons are why the Corvette matters as a cultural touchstone.

Maybe all that will change with the new C8. Even knowing as little as I do now, this is obviously a radically different Corvette. Its engineering is more akin to what Ferrari and Lamborghini have been selling than it is to any previous Corvette. It's hard to imagine that more of its substance won't be less mechanical and more electronic. How many local Chevy dealers will build their own race team around it?

When the C8 makes its big splash this Thursday, interest in it will spike and for at least a few moments it will be the most interesting car in the world. But how long will that interest last? Will all the inevitable hybrid and super-duper versions that follow in the next few years be enough to keep the Corvette's place in the American soul? Does America's video-game and social media-obsessed soul still have room for a sports car?

This week is all about Corvette hype. But in a few months we start figuring out whether this new car has any relevance in this very different world. It's not 1953 anymore.

Watch the Aston Martin Valkyrie Make Its Dynamic Debut at the British Grand Prix

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:20
  • The Aston Martin Valkyrie made its first public dynamic debut at the British Grand Prix.
  • It was driven by Chris Goodwin, Aston Martin's head test driver, who did one lap around the Silverstone Circuit.
  • Up until now, the Valkyrie has only been tested using computer simulators.

The Aston Martin Valkyrie has been undergoing a rigorous testing regimen, but the development work has been done with advanced computer simulators, even though finalized prototypes have been built and shown at auto shows—we even got to try out the simulators for ourselves. But at the British Grand Prix race at the Silverstone circuit in England this past weekend, the Valkyrie made its dynamic debut ahead of the Formula 1 race, marking the first time it had been driven publicly.

The Valkyrie was piloted by Chris Goodwin, Aston Martin's head test driver. He called the day "exceptionally special," adding that while there is still a lot of development work yet to be done, "We can now begin to really push the physical testing process and realize the capabilities of what we have developed over the past months." He only completed one lap and wasn't close to being in full attack mode, but it was impressive to watch nonetheless. Aston Martin released a video, which we have embedded above, but sadly, it is heavily edited, and the sounds from the screaming V-12 and its accompanying hybrid system are partly obscured by some intense music. Aston CEO Andy Pamler tweeted a video of it driving past, though, which you can see below.

.@astonmartin @redbullracing #Valkyrie Dynamic debut @silverstone Its been a long road here and a long road to go. But art and science is worth the hard work pic.twitter.com/9rHiqQQLBz

— Dr. Andy Palmer (@AndyatAston) July 13, 2019

Aston Martin has been the title sponsor of the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team since the 2018 season. The Valkyrie is being developed in close partnership with Red Bull Racing and its Advanced Technologies division, with Red Bull's CTO Adrian Newey heavily assisting in the design. Newey said that it was an "emotional day" to see the Valkyrie running in person five years after he originally sat down to start design work on the car.

The Valkyrie at Silverstone was finished in a trippy blue-and-red Red Bull–themed livery that matched the testing livery of Red Bull's current RB15 Formula 1 car. Aston doesn't say whether racing liveries like this one will be available to customers, but we imagine that the 150 people who have plopped down more than $3 million will be able to order their Valkyrie in whatever color scheme they want.

This won't be the last time you'll see the Valkyrie on a track, either. We're sure that some Valkyrie owners will be taking their extreme hypercars to the track, especially because there will be a track-only AMR Pro version, but that's not what we're talking about. The Valkyrie has recently been announced for the WEC's 2020–2021 season, which will be using new "hypercar" rules. That means we'll see the Valkyrie compete at Le Mans in 2021. And that is awesome.

Why Lagondas Look So Weird

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 18:00

"It sounds like not a brilliant story, but David Brown bought Lagonda because he needed an engine," says Marek Reichman, the current chief creative officer and studio head for Aston Martin Lagonda.

The Lagonda brand is predicated on innovation, dating all the way back to the marque's founding, in 1906, by Wilbur Gunn, an amateur opera singer from central Ohio. (Lagonda was the Shawnee word for the settlement near his hometown of Springfield.) Gunn introduced novel features like the first fly-off hand brake and an upscale small car, the 11.1. But the company's greatest early success may have come in luring Bentley namesake and founder W.O. Bentley to join the brand in 1935. Bentley went on to design I-6 and V-12 engines for Lagonda.

It was a version of the straight-six motor that attracted the attention of David Brown, the savior of Aston Martin, when he bought the brand after World War II. "Lagonda was kind of defunct. It had stopped making cars, but it had this brilliant engine," says Reichman. "An engine that sounded, when wound out at 6500 rpm, like a Spitfire, like a Merlin, the way it sings." A version of this engine was put into early David Brown–era Aston Martins.

Now, in its newly revised form, Lagonda is taking the engine out of the equation entirely. The relaunched iteration of the venerable marque is as an ultra-luxury, battery-powered, autonomous-ready antipode to its British rivals. "Lagonda's unique pitch is to break up the duopoly in the space of Bentley and Rolls-Royce, which don't have a full battery-electric-vehicle proposition and are not likely to in the near term future," says Reichman. Bentley has recently announced plans to produce electric vehicles—perhaps 15 years from now.

The other unique pitch is to follow from Lagonda's tradition of weirdness in design. Inspired in no small part by the insane outlier nature of the William Towns–designed Lagonda sedan of the '70s and '80s—all shovel-nosed sneering prow, sharp rectilinear angles, and fantastic (if nonfunctional) interior electronics technology—the pair of new Lagonda concepts we've seen thus far—a sedan and an SUV—take full advantage of the liberation from convention offered by electric powertrains.

They push the wheels out to the corners; they shorten the hood (no engine) and stretch out the passenger compartment. They don't worry about the incorporation (or avoidance) in the interior of components like gas tanks, exhaust systems, or transmissions. They are designed, literally, from the ground up. A tessellation of batteries in the floor act like a stage on which to set a variety of vehicular fantasies.

"What is every luxury-car manufacturer looking to achieve for the cabin right now? A little like the first-class cabin on a jet or Concorde," Reichman says. "We place the batteries in the floor, and you give all that space to the occupants, which is why both the sedan and the SUV concept show a unique design language. And they hark back in a way to what Towns was doing in that they're very futuristic, very dynamic, very not of this earth. Lagonda carries over the proportional beauty that I always talk about in terms of the golden section and things like that. But the language, the clothing over that, is very unexpected. It's very atypical."

This weirdness—the thorny cutlines, the difficult door and window openings, the complex interconnecting volumes—is, in fact, extremely intentional when it comes to Lagonda. According to Reichman, it is meant to enunciate the brand's luxuriousness via what he calls "rarity." This is not only defined in terms of limited production numbers and prohibitive cost, but in terms of its esoteric obscurity, what the French refer to as, recherché: something that self-selects, that you must carefully seek out.

"It should not look like it's impossible to build. But you're fascinated by the way it's built," Reichman says, comparing these forms to a complicated high-end mechanical tourbillon watch. "Lagonda should have a lot of that [attribute]: How on earth did you make this?"

According to Reichman, this elusive, confounding exclusivity provides the brand with a great deal of freedom. Its electric/autonomous contemporary revival render it ahistorical and out of time, like some sort of interstellar traveler, yet the brand still has a deep heritage. The latter is of no real meaning to consumers, though, and Lagonda is being positioned as ultraluxurious in a time when brands like these are following consumers into every aspect of their lives—from vacation homes to furniture to clothing—so it is presented with a unique personality that transcends the automotive.

"Lagonda might be more about the hotel or the drone or the yacht, or as much as it is about the car that is ground transportation," Reichman says. But he guarantees us that more cars are coming, hinting that the lineup could perhaps use a big coupe and/or convertible next. "More vehicles," he says. "Absolutely."

We Talk with Peter Stevens about Being One of Britain's First Car Designers

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 13:00
Car and Driver: Is it true you were one of the first Brits to be formally trained as a car designer?

Peter Stevens: I was doing industrial design at the Royal College of Art, a four-year course. Ford came and said it wanted to sponsor two of us to do a master's degree in automotive design. We were the first in the U.K. It even paid £1200 a year.

So why didn't you spend your working life with Ford?

The deal with Ford was that we would go there afterward. I did bits and pieces, including a terrible facelift of the Capri that I hate. It taught me that I wasn't a Ford man, but also that there's a budget and a timeline for every project, which was the key to the rest of my career.

How did you get to Lotus?

I was working freelance and doing stuff with Tom Walkinshaw Racing. They used a clay-modeling studio near Lotus in Norfolk, and I got friendly with Colin Spooner, the engineering director for the Elan. When Colin Chapman died in 1982, Lotus just stopped. He was the company—nobody even knew how to turn the lights on in the boardroom because Chapman always got there first and the controls were hidden behind a panel. The whole thing atrophied and Spooner asked me to join them because they needed a project to get things moving again. That was the revised Excel.

How did you feel about redoing Giorgetto Giugiaro's landmark Esprit?

There wasn't much of the original left by the time I got to it. It had been through a series of facelifts already, and in my opinion, they got worse and worse.

Your résumé lists the Jaguar XJR-15. How did you fit that between Lotus and McLaren?

It was a squeeze! Tom Walkinshaw and I saw the Jaguar XJ220 at the British motor show in 1988. It had been done by "the Saturday Club," and it didn't look very good. Tom reckoned we could do something better and base it on the Le Mans car, the XJR-8. I'd resigned at Lotus but was working a notice period, so the clay model was driven across in the back of a van, and after finishing work, I'd go and work on it in secret.

How did you get to McLaren?

Gordon Murray got in touch and asked if I knew a designer for a road-car project he was starting. We had a couple of beers and he told me about it, and of course I said, "Yes, I do, and it's me."

Was the F1's three-seat layout already decided?

There was a huge discussion. Ron [Dennis] thought it should be a single-seater, and Gordon said, "You might not have any friends, but other people do." Of course, having three seats across would have made it huge, which is where the tucked-back packaging came from. During the first year, I didn't actually draw anything. I was bursting to, but we had to do aerodynamic stuff first. The middle bit, the passenger compartment, was easy, but the front and rear were the hard parts.

But you don't like the F1 GTR Longtail, do you?

No, I don't. It was no quicker than the short tail, and it would have been much easier to make the short tail more aerodynamic. The LT was dreadfully pitch sensitive because it had this stupid long nose with a flat underside. But I'd left by then, so I can't really complain.

Next you had a very brief stint as Lamborghini's head designer.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Mike Kimberley, who had been my boss at Lotus, became the managing director at Lambor­ghini and asked me to be the chief designer. The Diablo SV was done on my watch, but I quickly learned that the company was strikingly divided. It was what Ferrari used to be: trying to beat the guys down the corridor rather than rivals outside. I'd had enough after a year and a half, but they still owed me a huge amount of money. They paid me with shoeboxes full of 1000-lire notes.

You have taught car design for much of your career. How does that compare with doing it?

I enjoy sharing the knowledge, but also introducing students to the idea that they need discipline and a focus. It's not just drawing pretty cars. You have to be creat­ing something with a purpose.

What would you take a mulligan on?

I'd describe myself as somebody who never walks halfway across the road and then changes his mind to go back. That's a sure way of getting run over.

Do you regret being best remembered for supercars?

That's inevitable, the snazzy stuff. I worked with Mahindra and Mahindra in India. We did a little thing called a Gio, a rural utility vehicle, as simple and inexpensive as it could be. When I see a whole bunch of those in India, I think that it has changed many more lives than the McLaren F1. Every single thing you see is designed; it's just well or badly designed.

From the May 2019 issue

Why Some Backup Cameras Are Good and Some Are Bad

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 18:00

As of May 1, 2018, every car built for sale in the United States must have a backup camera according to NHTSA regulations. While the requirement mandates that each camera system meet certain criteria for durability, response time, field of view, and more, NHTSA hasn't set minimum guidelines for image quality. High-definition 1080p screens have been the stand­ard for smartphones and televisions for years, but they're rare in all but high-end cars, and the quality and feature availability of rearview systems varies widely.

"Automotive electronics are generally more conservative and progress slower than consumer electronics," says Kevin Lu, chief engineer of cameras for OEM supplier Magna Electronics. Magna builds backup cameras ­for cars and trucks across the price spectrum, from the Ford Edge to the Acura NSX.

Lu divides backup cameras into four levels: low, mid, high, and high plus. The lowest of the low-end cameras aren't even one megapixel—for reference, the iPhone XS and XR have 12-megapixel cameras—and generate analog video, a format so old, the FCC has required that all broadcast television stations stop using it and switch to digital. High-level cameras are common in luxury cars and can provide more-complex views such as the 360-degree bird's-eye view that allows the driver to get an overhead look at the car's position. High-definition 1080p hardware (equivalent to two megapixels) is a hallmark of high-plus-level cameras, which will come down the pipeline in greater numbers in the next few years.

Of course, NHTSA's backup-camera edict applies only to the U.S. The European Union doesn't have such a requirement, but there's a provisional agreement to make "reversing safety with camera or sensors" mandatory for 2022. Far East markets don't have one, either. For brands that post their biggest numbers abroad, it makes more sense to throw an affordable camera in their U.S.-market cars than dangle an expensive setup as a selling point on low-margin cars.

"Some OEMs provide low-end cameras on some base-level or even mid-level vehicles to just fulfill the mandate," Lu says. But with luxury cars and pickup trucks, advanced backup-camera features have become must-haves for buyers. Resolution doesn't necessarily get better, but the rearview systems become like Swiss Army knives in terms of their wide utility. Dynamic lines superimposed on the camera's image move with the steering wheel to guide the driver while backing up. Image sensors transmit video in high dynamic range, which both reduces glare from bright sunshine and improves image quality in low light. Some systems allow drivers to view the feed at any time, which is useful if you want to keep watch on a trailer, for instance. Coupled with ultrasonic or radar sensors, and sometimes through a smartcamera alone, the best systems sense objects and pedestrians behind the vehicle and warn the driver of their presence when the vehicle is in reverse.

Image-quality improvements and falling prices for backup cameras "ride the wave of smartphone-image advancement," Lu says. So new developments will trickle down and fix the muddled image quality of low-resolution entry-level hardware. Meanwhile, high-plus-level cameras will arrive on luxury models, bumping high-level cameras to the mid level, and so on down the line. But by then, we could be so accustomed to 4K resolution that 1080p screens simply won't cut it.

From the June 2019 issue

We're Having Yet Another John DeLorean Moment

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 18:00

On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors was one of several books that shaded my understanding of the auto industry just as I was starting my career as a Detroit-area newspaper journalist obsessed with cars. Published in 1979, the book was conceived as an "as told to" tell-all by John Z. DeLorean, who pulled out of the project with author J. Patrick Wright at the last minute, concerned that its content might dissuade potential investors in his new car company. Business Week reporter Wright published without DeLorean's endorsement or byline, instead subtitling it as "John Z. DeLorean's Look Inside the Automotive Giant."

DeLorean had parlayed his 17-year career at GM—including the creation of the original Pontiac GTO and, by extension, the entire 1960s muscle-car phenomenon, and a dramatic turnaround in sales at Chevrolet—into celebrity status unmatched by any auto exec of the era outside of, perhaps, Lee Iacocca. The book had been conceived in the heated hurt of his 1973 departure from GM in a "You can't fire me, I quit" scenario, when the opportunity to vent his frustrations may have been more appealing than it was years later when he'd moved on to creating his own car company. Even at the time, I was aware of the hypocrisy in this sudden change of heart. DeLorean wanted to be seen as a nonconformist maverick, but here he was bailing out on his own story in favor of a go-along-to-get-along reluctance to offend. He was really all about expedience in the pursuit of whatever egotistic dream he was chasing at the moment.

That he enjoyed some modicum of success is evident in that, 40 years on, America is having yet another John Z. DeLorean moment. Not since "Back to the Future Day" on October 21, 2015, have we been so steeped in DeLorean lore. That's because, after decades of people saying "There's a movie in that story" and several failed efforts to produce such a film, this summer delivers us two. In theaters now and also available streaming is an unconventional documentary, Framing John DeLorean, in which Alec Baldwin performs as DeLorean in several reenactments but spends at least as much screen time being himself talking about the challenges of playing John DeLorean.

As Ezra Dyer amply explained in his review of Framing, the film is "a documentary about this man, but also about how hard it is to make a documentary about this man." Which makes it a good setup for anyone planning to see the coming "dramedy" biopic feature called Driven, opening August 16, for which a trailer was released just in time for your flag-waving July 4 viewing pleasure (when the film was supposedly aimed for simultaneous theatrical and streaming releases on Aug. 3).

It doesn't take more than the first 30 seconds of a two-minute trailer to see that Driven promises to be nothing like a documentary. By the time I became a full-time automotive writer in 1986, the DeLorean story with its sordid cocaine-deal denouement had pretty much played out, although colleague Ed Lapham at Automotive News was still "following the money" related to the fraud and tax-evasion charges DeLorean beat at trial in 1985. Tens of millions in British government money had magically disappeared, purportedly diverted into the personal accounts of John Z. and Lotus founder Colin Chapman, who only beat the rap by the expedience of dying of a heart attack first.

Watching the Framing documentary, I spotted Lapham's byline under some of the headlines that advance the story. He also wrote a well-founded analysis for Car and Driver about the company's dim long-term prospects, which was published in the May 1981 issue, even before Don Sherman's first-drive report of the DeLorean DMC-12 in the July 1981 issue of Car and Driver focused on quality issues, primarily having to do with the gullwing doors. All of that preceded the arrest of the man himself in late 1982.

The customary Hollywood assertion that such films are "based on" a true story papers over many sins, but Driven is clearly grounded in the factually insupportable premise that DeLorean and the FBI informant who lured him into a big cocaine deal were tight buddies, next-door neighbors who drove around in Hoffman's GTO (a convenient imagining seen in the photo atop this story) and engaged in various wild adventures that moviemakers play up for laughs. In reality, the informant James Hoffman was only briefly a neighbor. As the Framing John DeLorean story makes clear, while their sons were friendly, DeLorean himself claimed to have only met his neighbor once, briefly, many years before Hoffman reappeared in his life dangling the lure of investors who might solve his car company's severe cash-flow problem.

It may well work as comic entertainment, but the veracity of the dramatic storyline appears to be flimsy indeed. Sadly, it is poised to create a public perception of DeLorean's story that is at least as far divorced from truth as was Francis Ford Coppola's version of the Preston Tucker story. You don't need to attend many Saturday morning Cars and Coffee events to find supposedly well-informed car people recounting elements of the Tucker legend as told by Coppola as historical fact. Reminder: Tucker: The Man and His Dream was billed as a comedy-drama, too, and it took many liberties.

We needn't pick either new DeLorean film apart frame by frame to make the point that, as is often the case, anyone in search of historic accuracy would do far better to devote some time to reading. C/D's own Alex Stoklosa did a good brief history in 2015, and there's a bit of deep-dive long-form journalism that appeared in the online magazine Epic in late 2018 that tells a fuller version. The world's fascination with the story has generated a continuing stream of books, and two fairly recent ones are told by insiders: 2013's The DeLorean Story by Nick Sutton, who worked at the DeLorean Motor Company for four years, was followed in 2015 by John Z., the Delorean and Me by Barrie Willis, who was DMC's director of purchasing and, after John Z.'s fall, served as the last CEO, overseeing the shutdown.

While Framing interviews sources who know the inside story, we still get the ahistorical assertion that, had DeLorean succeeded in creating a new car company, he'd have been the first to do so since Walter P. Chrysler in the late 1920s. This claim rests on the false premise that what he proposed to do was to challenge his former employer, General Motors, as a large-scale, full-line manufacturer. DeLorean's venture, instead, more closely paralleled the post–World War II creations of Porsche, Ferrari, and even his business partner, Lotus—all far newer than Chrysler. In his wildest dreams, DeLorean's company wouldn't have rivaled even Saab, another post-Chrysler creation, in sales volume.

I don't mean to be a stick-in-the-mud here. Or perhaps I do. That Hollywood mangles fact in favor of making colorful, laugh-a-minute stories is hardly a revelation. That Americans seem to learn much of what they think of as "history" while watching entertainments, though, makes it hard to commend these efforts. Framing John DeLorean, of course, hews much closer to the facts and makes the point that DeLorean hurt a lot of people, not least his family, but also many in Ireland where he'd built his factory. The filmmakers interview Sherman to illustrate that the car was neither one of history's great sports cars nor particularly well built. Baldwin's role seems more contrived to build box-office interest than out of any documentary necessity—the "reenactments" in which he appears are lackluster and brief.

At least Baldwin's makeup artists do a more credible, if at times caricature-like, job of recreating their subject's appearance than do those who worked on Driven, who seem to figure making lead actor Lee Pace vaguely resemble the real guy is good enough.

Heck, even their title is lazy, inviting confusion with two recent films: a 2018 biopic about film critic Pauline Kael and an early-2019 thriller about a cabdriver battling evil. If you trip across either of these other movies called Driven, they might make better use of your time. Or maybe I should just loosen up and laugh a little; it's not as if the Back to the Future franchise taught us anything about automotive truth and beauty.

20 Awesome Old-School 4x4s for Kicking Your Off-Road Game Up a Notch

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 11:03
1992–2006 AM General Hummer H1

The original Hummer was completely impractical on the street. Ridiculously wide and painfully slow, it handled about as well as a medium-duty dump truck. But for off-road excursions, the H1 had the hardware to perform. AM General engineered it for the military, so the Hummer’s drivetrain and four-wheel independent suspension provided an incredible 16 inches of ground clearance. And unlike other production four-wheel-drive vehicles, the Hummer could raise or lower air pressure in the tires right from the cab, which allowed this massive four-ton monster to float across deep sand and snow.

Hummer1992–2006 AM General Hummer H1

Military versions all used an underpowered 6.2-liter V-8, as did early civilian H1s. In 1996, H1s received stronger engines—either a 5.7-liter V-8, a normally aspirated 6.5-liter diesel, or a 6.5-liter turbo-diesel with 195 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque.

Hummer1992–2006 AM General Hummer H1

The H1 was available as a four-door convertible, hardtop wagon, cool Slantback wagon or a very rare pickup called the Recruit. But the best models were the 2006 Alphas. These used the much more potent 6.6-liter Duramax diesel with 520 lb-ft of torque backed by a five-speed Allison automatic transmission. This was basically the same powertrain you’d find in a heavy-duty pickup truck. AM General gave the Alpha larger brakes, a larger fuel tank for increased range, and outfitted the interior with much better materials. The downside of the Alpha was that it cost around $150,0000.

Hummer1992–2006 AM General Hummer H1

The Hummer H1 was one of the few vehicles here that can be astonishingly capable off-road just as the factory built it. And yet aftermarket retailers like Hummer Parts Club offer a wide range of racks, guards and gear to make them even more useful. Civilian Hummer H1s were rare and expensive vehicles when new. In the last few years of the vehicle’s life, they sold for exotic-car money. And this, along with the H1’s wild personality has made them collectible. The Alphas are of course the most desirable and valuable. But it’s hard to find any civilian models under $50,000.

Hummer1969–1991 Chevrolet Blazer

The original Chevy Blazer looks so chiseled and brawny that it seems completely natural parked next to a 1960s muscle car. But unlike the original Blazer's contemporary arch-rival, the Ford Bronco, the Chevy is based on a full-size pickup truck. Those dimensions were big back in the early 1960s, but today the early Blazers almost feel mid-size. The trucky roots means there are no weak spots in the drivetrain. The best ones use a big 350 cubic-inch V-8 bolted to either a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual with an incredibly low 6.55:1 first gear. And many use the nearly bulletproof cast-iron NP 205—a 4WD transfer case so strong it was used in crew-cab one-ton pickups with big-block V-8s until the 1990s.

Chevrolet1969–1991 Chevrolet Blazer

First-generation Blazers had fully removable fiberglass roofs, making them fun recreational vehicles in warm climates. And because they were basically short pickups, there’s room to pack lots of gear for an extended getaway.

Chevrolet1969–1991 Chevrolet Blazer

In 1973, GM moved the Blazer to the new square-body design—a look it kept for another 18 years. The wheelbase grew slightly, and engineers carved out a roomier, more modern interior, but the trucks still used a full convertible roof until it was shortened to cover just the rear passengers and the cargo hold in 1976. One of our favorite models is the exceedingly rare 1976–1977 Chalet model. It's a factory camper that slept up to four in pure 1970s style. Through the second- generation's lifespan GM shoved everything under the hood from an inline-six to an optional 400-cubic-inch V-8, even a 6.2-liter diesel V-8—an engine used in M1009 military Blazers.

Chevrolet1969–1991 Chevrolet Blazer

In the late 1980s, Blazers evolved with modern technology like fuel injection, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive and four-speed-overdrive automatics. Blazers have always been popular for outdoor recreation, and since they share platforms with GM’s full-size (and, later, mid-size) pickups, there's practically an endless supply of parts and knowledge to restore or build one up. Experts say its best to avoid the clunky, full-time 4WD system, optional from 1973 to 1980. Part-time conversion kits are available, but swapping the transfer case is the strongest, smartest option. Prices range widely, but early first-generation trucks command a premium. Prices are also creeping up for later Blazers. Low-mileage examples of the last ones from 1989–1991 are coveted by Blazer fans. GM Truck Center restores Chevy and GMC trucks of this era, including Blazers.

Chevrolet1973–1991 Chevrolet Suburban

The Suburban is the granddaddy of all SUVs—and the longest continuously running nameplate in the U.S. The first Suburbans (dating from 1936) were workhorses, but the square-body trucks from the 1970s through the early 1990s established the Suburban as a mainstream family vehicle. (These were the first Suburbans to gain four real doors.) Hunt down a Suburban with a bench seat in all three rows and you could carry nine people. These square Suburbans were sold in large numbers over their 19-year production run; most of them have a strong and reliable 350-cubic inch V-8 under the hood. Four-wheel-drive was a popular option and many early trucks used a three-speed automatic backed by a stout NP 205 transfer case. It’s a drivetrain that could put up with plenty of abuse. But like its platform-mate the Blazer, there were plenty of Suburbans that came with the relatively unloved full-time 4WD system.

Chevrolet1973–1991 Chevrolet Suburban

Strongest of the breed are the three-quarter-ton 20-series trucks (later known as 2500 series), using beefier transmissions, axles and a stiffer suspension to handle heavy trailers. Two-wheel-drive Suburbans were sold in large numbers for their towing capability. The venerable big-block 454-cubic-inch engine was only available in 2500-series Suburbans with rear-wheel-drive; these beasts could tow 10,000 pounds. Suburbans gained refinement in the late 1980s with the addition of four-speed overdrive automatics and electronic fuel injection arriving in 1987 and ABS landing on 1988 trucks.

Chevrolet1973–1991 Chevrolet Suburban

Owning a vintage Suburban brings so much versatility, it’s surprising that these trucks aren't more valuable. The earlier ones look particularly cool today with their dog-dish hubcaps and optional woodgrain side paneling. But most Suburbans (of every year) were used like beasts of burden, and few survive in nice condition. Later ones from the 1980s are more plentiful and retain most of the old-school style of the early ones. And every Suburban benefits from sharing a platform with the C/K pickups and the Blazer because parts are everywhere. Hagerty says a mid-1970s Suburban K20 has an average value of just under $10,000, with fully restored models bringing just under $30,000. The average value for a late 1980s Suburban 2500 with 4WD is $8300, with top trucks bringing just over $20,000.

Chevrolet1963–1991 Jeep Wagoneer

Legendary industrial designer Brooks Stevens penned the Jeep Wagoneer in the early 1960s; it became so popular that the truck remained in production virtually unchanged for nearly 30 years. It wasn't the first SUV, but the Wagoneer was more carlike, comfortable and plush than the competition. Most Wagoneers have four doors, although some two-door and even two-door panel models were built in the early years. During 1965–1969, the rare Super Wagoneer was the most luxurious vehicle Jeep produced. Passengers were treated to a leather interior, eight-track stereo, and a powerful 327-cubic-inch V-8 paired to a console-shifted automatic.

Jeep1963–1991 Jeep Wagoneer

The Wagoneer’s chassis used traditional live axles and leaf springs, but it sat lower than any other 4WD vehicle and rode more smoothly, too. Jeep even developed a short-lived (and very rare) independent front suspension (combined with 4WD) as an option decades ahead of anyone else. Early trucks had an overhead cam inline six-cylinder, but V-8s were most popular. Since the Jeep brand was owned by a variety of automakers (Willys/Kaiser, then AMC, then Chrysler), it got V-8s from Buick, AMC and Chrysler. In 1974, Jeep introduced its smart Quadra-Trac all-wheel-drive system that allowed the driver to avoid shifting in and out of 4WD when driving on varied surfaces. Wagoneer’s popularity peaked in 1978 when it sold for around $20,000—Cadillac money back then.

Jeep1963–1991 Jeep Wagoneer

In the 1980s, the Wagoneer became even more luxurious with woodgrain—everywhere. In terms of prestige, these Grand Wagoneers were rivaled only by the Range Rover Classic of the time.

Jeep1963–1991 Jeep Wagoneer

Older Wagoneers have become hard to find, probably because so many saw hard use as family haulers or by four-wheel-drive enthusiasts. Since they were in production so long, though, the supply of replacement and aftermarket upgrade parts runs deep. One draw of the original Wagoneer was its low-slung chassis, but serious off-road adventurers created a market for suspension lifts to allow the fitment of bigger tires.

Jeep1963–1991 Jeep Wagoneer

Hagerty says the average value for an '80s Wagoneer ranges from $11,700 to $13,500. But as is the case with most of these SUVs, the price really climbs for trucks in excellent condition. Wagoneer restoration has been popular for more than two decades. And Wagonmaster was restoring them before anyone really cared. Current listings run $50,000 and up . . . new Cadillac money, again.

Jeep1966–1977 Early Ford Bronco

By the mid-1960s, four-wheeling was a serious hobby and the Ford Bronco was designed for it. It was youthful and fun—just like the Mustang. And, like Ford's pony car, it was available with V-8 power, a rarity among small 4x4s. But the Bronco's real advance was in its front suspension. Ford's coil-sprung, solid-axle design was smooth-riding and more sophisticated than the competition. The refined and roomy cabin was more modern, too. Broncos were available as roadsters, half-cab pickups, and a wagon with a removable hardtop.

Ford1966–1977 Early Ford Bronco

And it just got better. In 1971, the mighty Dana 44 front axle became standard, paired with a Ford 9-inch rear axle. That same year, Ford introduced the coolest horse of them all—the Baja Bronco. Drawing inspiration from Bill Stroppe’s racing success campaigning these trucks in the Baja 500 and 1000, these trucks had fender flares to fit larger tires on slot mag wheels, dual shocks at each corner, a roll bar and quicker-ratio steering. The Baja models were also then the only way to get an automatic transmission and power steering, options that would come to all Broncos in 1973. The Baja inspired many enthusiasts to "cut and flare" their own Broncos in the 1970s and 1980s to fit larger tires. Today, those that appreciate the original fender design hunt for "uncut" Broncos.

Ford1966–1977 Early Ford Bronco

Broncos are generally easy to build for recreational four-wheeling adventure, thanks to legions of fans and some loyal aftermarket shops, like Tom's Bronco Parts specializing in the 1966–1977 version of the breed. Broncos, like all vehicles with removable roofs, were subject to rust. So beware of suspiciously cheap open top trucks—the doors and roof might have been too rusty to save.

Ford1966–1977 Early Ford Bronco

The early Ford Bronco has seen a big spike in prices over the past few years. Broncos have become so popular that turnkey, fully restored trucks are available. And like the Toyota FJ40, perhaps the most obsessively restored and modified early Broncos come from Icon. These Icon BR machines can drain more than $200,000 from your bank account. But the performance is breathtaking thanks to a modern V-8, five-speed manual transmission and sophisticated chassis upgrades.

Ford1999–2005 Ford Excursion

The Ford Excursion was controversial at the time of its launch. More than one group bashed the big guy for both its poor fuel economy and massive size. Time magazine even listed it as one of the worst vehicles of all time. That wasn't entirely correct. The Excursion excelled at a few very specific missions: It had a high payload rating and could carry up to eight people in comfort over terrain that would hobble lesser rigs. Based on the bones of Ford’s Super Duty pickup, the Excursion could tow up to 11,000 pounds. Without folding down any of its seats, the workhorse could swallow 48 cubic feet of cargo. Unlike GM’s Suburban of the time, the Excursion used a durable solid-axle leaf-sprung suspension on four-wheel-drive models. That means it can be easily modified to increase suspension travel, fit larger tires, and perform well on any trail it will fit on.

Getty Images1999–2005 Ford Excursion

The Excursion could be had with one of four powertrains. The two gasoline engines—a 255-hp 5.4-liter V-8 and 310-hp 6.8-liter V-10—both return fairly poor fuel economy and don't really move the Excursion with enough zest. The most capable and reliable engine is the 7.3-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel offered from 1999–2003 that packed 500 lb-ft of torque (or 525 lb-ft in 2001 and later models) way down at 1600 rpm. The last two years of the Excursion production replaced it with a more powerful 325-hp 6.0-liter diesel.

Randy Lorentzen - Car and Driver1999–2005 Ford Excursion

Scan the classifieds and its easy to find clean 7.3-liter 4WD Excursions selling for between $15,000 and $20,000 depending on mileage and condition. Those are high prices for an SUV that's more than a decade old. But with modern SUVs becoming smaller and more carlike, Excursions have the potential to increase in value.

Getty Images - Getty Images1999–2005 Ford Excursion

The Excursion’s pickup truck roots means that off-road parts and upgrades for the Super Duty will also work here. It’s not hard to find suspension systems to fit larger tires and boost ground clearance. Since the F-Series Super Duty has been America’s bestselling heavy-duty truck for decades, when stuff breaks, parts are easily found. There are quite a few tuners that make hot-rodded packages for 7.3-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8s. Gale Banks Engineering offers a Power Pack kit that will boost horsepower by a whopping 120 and torque by 256 lb-ft. So equipped, these nearly 8000-pound trucks are surprisingly quick.

Ford1971–1980 International Scout II

When a manufacturer of heavy equipment and agricultural tractors decides to build a recreational four-wheel-drive vehicle, no one expects a featherweight. International's Scout II was a heavy truck. At around 3500 pounds, it weighed more than either the Toyota FJ40 or the Jeep CJ-7 it competed against. The Scout II rode on a wheelbase 6.5 inches longer than the CJ and 10 inches longer than the FJs. The full-metal hardtop Scout was the best for packing away a weekend’s worth of stuff. But an even longer Scout was available called the Traveller, with a whopping 18-inch wheelbase stretch.

International1971–1980 International Scout II

The Scout II could be optioned with one of two big V-8s, in 304- and 345-cubic-inch displacements. International even offered a Nissan-sourced diesel engine beginning in 1976. That Nissan diesel (even in turbocharged form) was sluggish, but delivered an impressive 30 mpg on the highway. The 1974 and later models were strongest and drove best, thanks to the standard Dana 44 front and rear axles and power disc brakes.

International1971–1980 International Scout II

There were plenty of interesting special-edition Scouts, but the coolest has to be the Soft Safari (SSII) from 1977-1979. It had a full convertible top, an integrated roll bar and larger tires on white spoke wheels. The metal doors were replaced with partial openings made of fiberglass—so you could hop in and out of an SSII just as you could an open-top Jeep CJ.

International1971–1980 International Scout II

Owning one of these hardy machines gains you entrance into a tight group of helpful enthusiasts. Super Scout Specialists is a great resource for parts and information. International made tractors, 18-wheelers and full-size pickup trucks, so the Scout II was a small vehicle for this company. And some of the heavy-duty parts from its larger trucks work on the Scout. For example, the 392-cubic-inch V-8 from a pickup or Travelall SUV can be installed in a Scout.

International1971–1980 International Scout II

The International Scout II, like Toyota’s FJ and the early Ford Bronco, is grabbing the attention of collectors. Hagerty recently valued an average Scout II at around $14,000 and says top condition models go for over $20,000. The most collectible Scout is the SSII. Hagerty says an average SSII with the 345-cid V-8 is worth $17,300 and pristine models top $30,000.

International1984–2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ

The Cherokee XJ was the first all-new Jeep SUV in decades when it appeared in the early '80s. It had lightweight construction and a powerful inline six-cylinder engine, and it was the first Jeep to abandon body-on-frame construction for a unibody. Because it was a Jeep, engineers retained a solid-axle suspension with a new coil-spring four-link design up front and traditional leaf springs in the rear. This, combined with Jeep’s solid four-wheel drive systems, gave the Cherokee better performance off-road than any of its rivals.

Jeep1984–2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ

So good was this XJ's basic design that Jeep kept it in production for 18 years. Early versions used a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with just over 100 horsepower or a lame-duck 2.8-liter V-6 from GM that provided a minimal improvement in horsepower and torque. Beginning in 1987, Cherokees were available with two four-wheel drive systems; a part-time Command-Trac NP231 transfer case, and the NP242 system that had an all-wheel-drive function. Both had a more generous low-range ratio than earlier models. That same year, the mighty 4.0-liter straight-six arrived and continued through the end of the Cherokee’s life. This legendary powerplant was shared with the Wrangler and produced 190 hp starting in 1992.

Jeep1984–2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ

XJs are wonderful to drive in absolutely stock condition, ideal for exploring mild trails and handling twisty back-road pavement suprisingly well. For decades, Jeep enthusiasts have been modifying them to perform better on trails. Parts to get that job done are available from a vast number of Jeep specialists like Rubicon Express.

Jeep1984–2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ

Jeep made more than 2.8 million Cherokee XJs, so these great-driving little vehicles aren’t hard to find. There are plenty with fewer than 100,000 miles that sell for less than $10,000. The best ones are the last ones (1997–2001) with the 4.0-liter engine and more-refined interior. The final year Cherokee Classic models were treated like collectibles by some Jeep enthusiasts, so low mileage examples are likely to be pricey.

Jeep1976–1986 Jeep CJ-7

Jeep was feeling the heat from its rivals to offer a longer version of the classic Jeep CJ. So, in the late 1970s, engineers stretched the CJ's wheelbase by 10 inches to create the CJ-7. The CJ-7's longer, slightly wider chassis was now fully boxed; these improvements made it much more stable and better handling on the road and trail. Jeep fans could now, finally, load a CJ with both people and gear for a backcountry adventure.

Jeep1976–1986 Jeep CJ-7

The CJ-7 debuted with Jeep's then-new four-wheel drive system, called Quadra-Trac, and could be optioned with a 304-cid V-8 and a heavy-duty GM-built TH-400 automatic. The most desirable combination of early CJ-7 parts was the V-8 model backed by the heavy-duty T-18 four-speed manual. The CJ-7 was available as a softtop or with a fiberglass hardtop with metal doors—a first for the CJ. This combination provided a much quieter and more refined Jeep experience.

Jeep1976–1986 Jeep CJ-7

In 1982 the CJ-7 used a wider track for increased stability and finally offered a five-speed overdrive manual transmission as well as a new standard 105-hp four-cylinder engine. The V-8 was long gone at that point and most Jeeps left the factory with the largest engine—a 4.2-liter inline six with just 115 horsepower. None of these powertrain combinations made for a particularly quick machine.

Jeep1976–1986 Jeep CJ-7

The CJ-7 benefits from a wildly rabid fanbase of Jeep loyalists. And virtually any custom touch one could imagine exists for the CJ-7, from full engine and drivetrain swaps to completely new bodies made from aluminum or fiberglass. And parts houses like Omix-ADA sell just about everything you'd need to rebuild a CJ-7. Despite the legendary Jeep name and the enthusiasm for building these vehicles for trail use, CJ-7 values aren’t nearly as strong as those for Toyota FJs or early Ford Broncos. One of the rarest and most interesting CJ-7s, the V-8–powered Golden Eagle, has an average value of just over $8000 according to Hagerty. And the best "Concours" condition Eagle would bring just over $20,000. For the vast majority of CJ-7 fans, that’s very good news.

Jeep1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The original Jeep Grand Cherokee, similar to the first Ford Explorer that it trailed to market in the early 1990s, is a seminal vehicle. It is one of the SUVs that kick-started mainstream buyer interest SUVs (the GC still is on sale today, in much more modern form), moving the vehicle format beyond the proclivities of off-roaders and rural customers and into suburbia with (for the time) improved refinement and smooth, car-like style.

Jeep1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee

At first, the Grand Cherokee only came with Jeep's venerable 4.0-liter inline-six engine; later, a 5.2-liter V-8 joined the lineup, as well as a special high-output 5.9-liter V-8. The SUV rode on solid front and rear axles, and while two-wheel drive was standard, four-wheel-drive was available.

Jeep1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep positioned the Grand Cherokee from the outset as a luxury SUV, much like its Grand Wagoneer, only smaller and more modern. Pictured here is a range-topping Limited model from 1993, which included body-color bumper and door cladding, mesh-style wheels, and a leather-lined interior.

Jeep1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The best part about these early Jeep Grand Cherokees is that they're relatively easy to find and usually quite cheap. Late first-generation Grand Cherokee 5.9 models—those with the high-output, 245-hp V-8 option—that were sold between 1997 and 1998 are among the priciest and rarest on the used market. As with most Jeeps, there is significant aftermarket support for modifying these 4x4s, which beneath their suburban veneer were appropriately capable off-road even from the factory.

Jeep1993–1997 Land Rover Defender 90/110

The luxurious Range Rover (the big one) had been sold in the U.S. for six years before the company decided Americans should have a taste of a classic Land Rover, the Defender. They were rare and desirable back then, and still are. Land Rover only brought 500 over in 1993, every one painted white and priced at just under $40,000(!). Land Rover’s 180-hp 3.9-liter V-8 was paired to a five-speed manual. That's not a lot of power to push around a nearly 5000-pound truck, so they weren't quick, but they were incredibly capable on the trail and looked badass. These rugged Defenders rode on a 110-inch wheelbase (hence the name) and could seat nine passengers, so they were wonderful machines to take on a long-distance adventure in the dirt.

Land Rover1993–1997 Land Rover Defender 90/110

The stubbier Defender 90 was imported from 1994 to 1997 in far greater numbers. Early trucks were available only with a five-speed manual and had a softtop or a removable fiberglass hardtop. Later models gained an automatic transmission option and a full-metal hardtop similar to that on the Defender 110. Defender 90s sat tall and came from the factory with nearly 32-inch diameter all-terrain tires, so they were equipped to conquer rough off-road trails. The Defender felt old school when it launched here with an interior that looked like it belonged in the 1970s. And fuel economy was poor—15 mpg on the highway. So carrying a canister of extra fuel on a long trip to a remote location was a smart move.

Land Rover1993–1997 Land Rover Defender 90/110

A Defender 110 became a collectible the instant it was sold. Today, lower-mileage examples sell for more than $100,000. A few more than 4600 Defender 90s came to the U.S., so they're easier to find and don’t cost as much. One of the most rare and valuable is the $40,000 final edition D90 from 1997. Like the 110, though, the D90 has really appreciated in value. North American-spec D90s with low miles sell for well above their original sticker prices. As one expert says, if you find a Defender 90 for less than $30,000—jump on it. East Coast Rover specializes in complete restorations and build-ups.

David Dewhurst - Car and Driver1993–1997 Land Rover Defender 90/110

Although the Defender left the U.S. market in the 1990s, it was produced relatively unchanged until just recently. So, Defenders are well supported by a global network of parts warehouses. Rovers North carries a full line of replacement and upgrade parts for Defenders—including a complete chassis.

Land Rover1994–2004 Land Rover Discovery

The Land Rover Discovery debuted alongside the Defender 90 as the second and third Land Rover models to hit the U.S. shores in the 1990s. Meant to be a more-affordable luxury SUV to compete with vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the first Discovery used Land Rover's aluminum 3.9-liter V-8 backed by either a five-speed manual (rare) or a four-speed automatic. Discoverys sent stateside were plush vehicles; most had leather interiors, power seats and climate control. Discos were all five-passenger vehicles unless there was a "7" designation in the trim level, denoting two additional folding seats in the cargo hold. An optional fold-down step on the rear bumper helped those way-back passengers crawl into their seats via the trunk. Like all Rovers of the time, the Disco used strong solid axles suspended by long-travel coil springs. This suspension worked incredibly well off-road, clawing up trails that would challenge a Jeep Wrangler.

Aaron Kiley - Car and Driver1994–2004 Land Rover Discovery

Later Series II models (1999–2004) gained a more buttoned-down suspension for improved handling. In 2003 they received a larger 4.6-liter V-8 previously used in the Range Rover. Traction control and hill-descent control furthered the Disco's off-road prowess.

Aaron Kiley - Car and Driver1994–2004 Land Rover Discovery

Vintage Land Rovers have a reputation for poor quality and reliability. Part of the blame comes from the trouble-prone Series II Discovery models with finicky suspensions and engines. As such, the cleanest Series II HSE models in excellent condition will rarely top $15,000. Experts prefer the earlier Series I Discos for their superior reliability and simplicity, but they’re becoming hard to find. The most interesting early model is the limited-edition XD dipped in (AA) yellow paint, equipped with off-road racks and fitted special seat covers to protect the interior from a muddy adventure.

Discos have yet to be discovered (pun intended) by mainstream collectors. But there's a good deal of enthusiast support globally for these vehicles. Range Rovers, Defenders and Discoverys all share many drivetrain components. So its possible to build a Disco outfitted with a full complement of off-road gear. Rovers North is one of the leading firms in the U.S. to provide these parts.

Aaron Kiley - Car and Driver1970–1995 Range Rover

Land Rover has a history of producing heavy-duty four-wheel-drive vehicles dating back to 1948. But the Range Rover that debuted in 1970 was the company's most luxurious, and soon became the 4WD vehicle owned and enjoyed by the British upper class.

Land Rover1970–1995 Range Rover

It took 17 years for the vehicle to make its way to the U.S. And when it did, the Range Rover redefined what a luxury 4x4 should be. These incredible machines blended off-road capability with exclusivity like nothing else. They cost $30,000 when new—more than double the price tag of a contemporary full-size Chevy Blazer. The Range Rover's long-travel, solid axle, coil-spring suspension delivered eight inches of wheel travel up front and nearly a foot of wheel travel in the rear. That allowed Rovers to walk up and over uneven terrain better than anything in the late 1980s.

Land Rover1970–1995 Range Rover

The handsome bodywork was made from aluminum, but these were still heavy rigs, and the Rover’s aluminum 150-hp 3.5-liter V-8 didn't do enough to propel them.

Land Rover1970–1995 Range Rover

In 1989, the engine was enlarged to 3.9 liters and gained almost 30 horsepower. The Range Rover was available in many special editions throughout its nine-year run, but the 1991 Hunter edition was one of the best; it actually had less equipment and was geared for buyers who really wanted to go off-road. Those Hunters have proven to be some of the most reliable of the entire run. In 1993, the company offered traction control, an optional air suspension and a model with an eight-inch-longer wheelbase. The long wheelbase delivered almost 40 inches of rear-seat legroom and used an enlarged version of the V-8 (4.2-liters) with 200 hp.

Land Rover1970–1995 Range Rover

As wonderfully capable as classic Range Rovers are on the trail, they have a reputation for poor reliability. That has kept their values relatively low—for now. It's smartest to buy one that doesn’t need a lot of work. Although later models are the most coveted by some because of their larger engines and more luxurious interiors, the air suspension system is prone to failure, so owners tend to switch to steel coil springs—sometimes with a mild two-inch lift to clear larger tires. And Rovers North is a good place to source parts.

Range Rover values are creeping up slowly. It was possible just a few years ago to find excellent ones for less than $15,000. Today, some sellers ask $30,000 for restored, final-year LWB Rovers. These classics have seen a big bump in price recently in England. So prices could continue to rise here as well.

Land Rover1979–2016 Mercedes-Benz G-class

The Mercedes G-class, otherwise known as the G-wagen was first developed for military use back in 1979 and it has stayed surprisingly true to its roots. Mercedes-Benz's original design was only replaced in 2019 with an all-new model; for every pre-2019 model, under the slab-sided skin there’s a full-frame chassis with rugged solid axles suspended by coil springs—just like a Jeep Wrangler. The early ones are really the coolest with their tartan plaid seats, clattery diesels and roll-up windows; too bad they were never officially imported to the U.S. Today, you can import one yourself or find one someone already brought over.

Mercedes-Benz1979–2016 Mercedes-Benz G-class

The upright seating provides a good view over that flat hood. Developed by what is now Magna Steyr, these were virtually hand-built at the plant in Graz, Austria. Their vast off-road prowess stems from a four-wheel-drive system that offers a locking differential in each axle. There isn’t much that can stop a G-wagen with the right tires. Mercedes says even the newest models can ascend or descend slopes of 45 degrees. The G became more luxurious with age and has made staggering gains in performance. A 230 GE model from the early 1980s produced just 123 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine. The ridiculous AMG G65 offered near the end of the first generation decades later belted out 621 hp from its twin-turbo V-12.

Mercedes-Benz1979–2016 Mercedes-Benz G-class

The G-wagen wasn’t officially offered in the U.S. by Mercedes-Benz until 2002. But beginning in 1997, Europa International brought them in as grey-market vehicles. That company has an inventory of recently imported older G-wagens. The G500s that Mercedes-Benz sold here in the early 2000s still aren’t cheap. They trade hands for about $30,000 depending on mileage, and could be fun to ruggedize for off-road adventures.

Mercedes-Benz1979–2016 Mercedes-Benz G-class

Upgraded off-road parts are available from a handful of sites like Four by Four Club. Just add a suspension lift, winch bumper and a snorkel to help an everyday G-wagen shed its Beverly Hills image.

Mercedes-Benz1987–1995 Nissan Pathfinder

One look at today's soft-core Nissan Pathfinder crossover and it's almost impossible to see the lineage that dates back to the rugged original. The Pathfinder jumped into the crowded small SUV pool halfway through the 1986 model year and was instantly embraced by four-wheel-drive enthusiasts. That’s because Nissan engineered the Pathfinder to fit large 31x10.50-R-15 tires under its blistered fenders. So equipped, the Nissan could tackle trails better than most of its competition.

Nissan1987–1995 Nissan Pathfinder

Under the hood was a choice of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 145-hp 3.0-liter V-6—a detuned version of the engine found in the 300ZX. The Pathfinder’'s chassis was based on Nissan's "Hardbody" pickup truck. But for the Pathfinder, Nissan chose to abandon the rear leaf springs in favor of a supple and modern coil-sprung suspension. Up until that point, it was mostly luxury SUVs that used coil springs. And that choice put the Pathfinder well ahead of its rivals in terms of ride and handling, on- and off-road.

Nissan1987–1995 Nissan Pathfinder

The two-door model used a fixed steel roof, and designers gave it a cool triangular side window glass treatment. As a practical hauler, the Pathfinder could swallow a four foot-by-eight foot sheet of plywood. The insulated steel roof helped make this Nissan quieter and more refined than the Toyota 4Runner. In 1990, the V-6 got stronger (153 horsepower) and Nissan added a four-door version that cleverly hid the passenger door handles and used the same chassis. It proved so popular that Nissan dropped the two-door in 1991. The Pathfinder became more luxurious with age, adding a fancy LE grade and a new interior in 1994, just one year before it was replaced.

Nissan1987–1995 Nissan Pathfinder

The two-door Pathfinder was the most stylish, however. So the one to find would be the last one (1990) with the most horsepower. But the trouble with Pathfinders is simply finding them in any condition. Nissan sold nearly 80,000 of them in just the first two years. So it's odd that so few remain. This generation Pathfinder seems to have been used particularly hard. The good news is that they have remained cheap ($2000-$8000 depending on miles) and have proven to be hearty rigs. So these could be an excellent and trustworthy used 4WD vehicle for those on a limited budget. Aftermarket 4x4 parts for the Pathfinder and its pickup truck brethren (produced until 1998) can be found through Calmini, which offers suspension upgrades as well as drivetrain parts to make the original Pathfinder even more capable off-road.

John Preito - Getty Images1986–1995 Suzuki Samurai

One trouble with owning a vintage 4x4 is finding space to store it. But stashing a Samurai is easy, because these lovable little machines rode on an 80-inch wheelbase and were more than two feet shorter than today’s Honda Fit.

Suzuki1986–1995 Suzuki Samurai

At just over one ton at the curb, the Samurai was also the lightest body-on-frame four-wheel-drive vehicle with solid axles and leaf springs. Good thing Samurais were light, because with just 66 hp (and that only on fuel-injected examples from 1991 and later), acceleration was lethargic. At least that thrifty four-cylinder returned 25 mpg on the highway.

Suzuki1986–1995 Suzuki Samurai

Simplicity was a cornerstone of life with a Samurai. There were manual controls for everything—steering, transmission, hubs, windows and locks. That’s good, because there’s less stuff to break. Many Samurais didn't have air conditioning, which forced you to lower that convertible top and enjoy the great outdoors. For longer road trips, the models with full-metal hardtop and hard doors were the most comfortable. The Samurai shone when the roads turned to dirt. And on a fairly rigorous off-road route, Samurais were extremely capable and reliable backcountry partners.

Denver Post - Getty Images1986–1995 Suzuki Samurai

For many years, Samurais were among the cheapest to buy and cheapest to build up as project vehicles; it’s not hard to find Samurais with extensive modifications. Because 4WD enthusiasts have embraced these vehicles, there’s a deep catalog of hard-core parts ranging from suspension lifts to extra-low ratio gearsets in the transfer case and even engine swaps. There are quite a few companies that specialize in the Samurai and Low Range Offroad is one that offers a good selection of parts. The Samurai was still sold overseas long after it left our shores, so hard-to-find replacement parts can be tracked down. Samurais certainly aren't as cheap as they once were, but well-built examples in good condition can still be found selling for less than $10,000.

Suzuki1984–1989 Toyota 4Runner

Toyota's legendary FJ40 Land Cruiser left our shores in 1983. To help fill the void with a sportier, more modern two-door SUV, Toyota introduced the 4Runner. Like many SUVs of the day, this one was based on the humble and durable mechanicals of a pickup truck. The 4Runner was very much a short-wheelbase Toyota pickup with a removable fiberglass cap bolted onto the back. Inside, there was a rear seat, carpeting and a roll bar to help protect occupants. Functional, but not exactly luxurious.

Toyota1984–1989 Toyota 4Runner

Under the hood was Toyota's ridiculously reliable 22R four-cylinder engine, which gained fuel injection in 1985. The beauty of the 1984-1985 4Runners is the solid-axle, leaf-sprung suspension. Its simplicity and ruggedness made it easy to modify for exceptional four-wheeling performance. In 1986 Toyota introduced an independent front suspension, which helped the 4Runner drive like a modern SUV. For two years Toyota offered a turbocharged engine option. And it even had a digital dash, just like a Corvette. The best 4Runner for street driving and casual off-road adventure was the 1988–1989 model with the optional 150 hp 3.0-liter V-6. This engine boosted horsepower by 34 and torque by 40 lb-ft over the standard four-cylinder. The 4Runner has been in production for a remarkable 32 years over six generations. But it was this first one that gave off-road enthusiasts a tough, affordable SUV for adventure.

Toyota1984–1989 Toyota 4Runner

Those who were kids in the 1980s remember these trucks on the street and in the movie Back to the Future. This means Toyota pickups of this generation are becoming desirable. The 4Runner packed the same style in a package that allowed you to bring friends along in comfort. NADA Guides says that even the best 4Runner of this vintage shouldn’t exceed $20,000. But most are priced far lower and have significant mileage (150,000-200,000) on the odometer. Since the engines and drivetrains are so durable, even high-mileage 4Runners are worth looking at. The large following among 4WD enthusiasts fuels a tremendous aftermarket for parts and upgrades that can transform these trucks into virtually unbreakable extreme 4X4s. All-Pro Off-Road is a great resource for those who want to build a 4Runner into a Wrangler-eating off-road machine.

Toyota1960–1983 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40

The Land Cruiser FJ40 started out as Toyota's answer to the Willys MB—in essence, it was Japan's Jeep. Toyota really overbuilt the machine with heavy-duty parts; FJs weighed as much as quarter-ton more than a comparable Jeep CJ. Much of that beefiness resided in a stout drivetrain. Every FJ40 used a torque-rich inline-six and solid axles with leaf springs. A more powerful 4.2-liter 2F engine replaced the original 3.9-liter in 1975. Parts to repair this later engine are easier to find. However with only 135 horsepower, FJ40s still weren't quick. The late 1970s and early 1980s FJs are most desirable since they have four-speed manuals, disc brakes up front, and optional power steering and air conditioning. The FJ's vintage off-road vibe is unmistakably cool—even when left in completely stock form. Pull the top off, fold down the windshield and the FJ40 is a blast to drive.

Toyota1960–1983 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40

Among off-road warriors, the FJ40 has been popular since the 1970s, so there are many proven parts ready for an owner to upgrade and personalize an FJ. Chevy V-8 swaps are very common. Aftermarket company Advanced Adaptors offers a kit to do just that, and the FJ40’s drivetrain is so strong that it can live behind the muscle of that V-8.

Toyota1960–1983 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40

Land Cruisers aren't the bargains they once were. At the top of the pyramid for restored/built-up FJ40s is Icon, which offers essentially small batch, meticulously-rebuilt FJs that have been upgraded from stock to have V-8 engines, smooth-riding coil-spring suspensions and modern interior amenities. Ditto the FJ Company, one of whose products we tested (at about $200,000!) recently and loved. These drive as well as a modern 4WD vehicle and are priced deep into the six-figure range.

Toyota1960–1983 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40

Frenzied auction bidding has resulted in sales ranging from $40,000–$60,000, really pulling up the price of every FJ40. The classic car experts at Hagerty Insurance list the value of "Good" ones at around $33,000. Even those in "Fair" condition are bringing close to $13,000.

Toyota1981–1989 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60/62

The Toyota FJ60 and later 62 models helped the Land Cruiser transition to the more luxurious nameplate it became in the 1990s. These four-door wagons rode on a 107.5-inch wheelbase and could handle 98 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat folded. So they had the roominess to attract an adventurous family. But under that metal, the FJ60 was still a tough beast deserving of the Land Cruiser name, with a solid axle leaf-sprung suspension at each end. Power came from a modest but incredibly reliable 135-hp 4.2-liter inline-six paired to a four-speed manual. And the 60 was the last Land Cruiser offered with a manual transmission in the U.S.

Toyota1981–1989 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60/62

The later square-headlight FJ62 (1988–1990) was more luxurious without losing the utilitarian vibe. A new fuel-injected 4.0-liter six channeled 155 horsepower solely to a four-speed automatic. The 62 offered conveniences like power windows, door locks—and even a power radio antenna. Both of these dependable FJ models are great choices for enthusiasts who want to spend more time driving than fixing their vehicles.

Toyota1981–1989 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60/62

The FJ60/62 models were sold globally, so there are wild powertrain combinations we never saw stateside, including a direct-injected turbo-diesel. Some owners swap an H55 five-speed manual with overdrive from overseas models right into their North American trucks. Specter Off-Road has been supplying parts and advice for FJ owners since 1983. They offer plenty of restoration and upgrade parts to make these trucks excellent off-roaders.

Toyota1981–1989 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60/62

Values for the FJ60 and 62 haven't hit the peak prices seen for the classic FJ40. That's good for those of us who want to use, rather than collect, the machines. Hagerty says the average value of an FJ60 is around $13,000 with the best ones closing in on $25,000. Not cheap, but the reliability makes these a great deal. Solid as they are in stock form, FJ60s and 62s are transformed into real off-road beasts when TLC (the folks behind Icon) install modern GM V-8s with more than 400 horsepower. The company sound-deadens the entire vehicle, swaps in stronger drivetrain parts and can source unique Land Cruiser parts from around the world. These builds can run deep into the six-figure range.

Toyota1986–1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro

The Syncro version of VW's Vanagon is perhaps the world's most capable factory off-road van. The Vanagon's rear-engine configuration meant VW couldn't just grab any off-the-shelf 4WD hardware and slap it in. So, it developed a system with help from Austrian firm Steyr-Daimler-Puch that includes a viscous coupler to distribute torque, a “granny” low gear baked into the five-speed manual, and even an optional locking rear differential. These vans can tackle surprisingly difficult terrain, thanks to an increased ride height and ground clearance. Syncros are rare; only 5000 or so were imported to the U.S. over five years and that complicated 4WD system meant they weren’t cheap when new. In its final year, a Vanagon Syncro passenger van carried a base price just under $18,000. These vans made do with a mere 95 horsepower from their 2.1-liter water–cooled flat-four engines. And the capable Syncro drivetrain wasn’t just restricted to passenger vans: The Syncro Westfalia camper model opens up a whole new world for off-pavement exploring, thanks to their stoves, refrigerator units, and pop-up roof tents for sleeping.

Aaron Kiley - Car and Driver1986–1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro

Syncros have a loyal following among overland adventurers, and there's a huge support network globally. Technical information exists online to help identify and fix just about anything that could go wrong. Outside the U.S., Syncros were available with quite a few interesting specialty options, such as a locking front differential and larger brakes. There was even a crew-cab pickup truck variant. Many of these rare parts can be transplanted onto North American vans. Even in well-used condition, these vans can be expensive. Syncro passenger van models in good condition can be found for $10,000-15,000. But stepping up to a Westfalia camper more than doubles the price depending on condition.

Aaron Kiley - Car and Driver1986–1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro

Experts have identified the weak links on these vans and developed wide-ranging solutions to improve them in every way. Power-hungry Vanagon fans can spend more than $10,000 to swap in any number of Subaru engines, ranging from a normally aspirated 2.5-liter all the way up to a 3.3-liter flat-six. But that's just an engine swap. Specialty shop Go Westy offers upgrades so thorough, the price tags can push north of $70,000. But when they're done, these campers are suitable for global off-road expeditions.

Aaron Kiley - Car and Driver

Here Is the Mid-Engined Chevy Corvette C8's Steering Wheel

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 18:06
  • Chevrolet has released a photo of the upcoming C8 Corvette's steering wheel.
  • It shows an interesting squared-off shape and several buttons, one of which appears to be a drive mode selector with the letter Z on it.
  • The new mid-engined Corvette is scheduled to debut next week, July 18, and you can check out all of our past coverage here.

We've seen it in camo, we've seen its rear end, and we've seen glimpses of its interior. Now we're seeing an official photo from Chevrolet of the new C8 Corvette's steering wheel ahead of its debut next Thursday, July 18.

What can we glean from this interesting new tiller? Its shape, for one: Chevy claims that the squared-off shape, with both a flat bottom and a flat top, helps visibility and makes it more comfortable to hold. There is also a leather centering strip at the top. The storied Corvette logo is prominently displayed on the hub, of course. Paddle shifters are on hand for the one-choice-only dual-clutch automatic transmission expected for the C8; there will be no manual.

We counted 17 buttons in total on the two spokes and around the hub. The expected controls for cruise control, voice command, audio volume, and radio presets are there, but of particular interest is the mysterious silver button on the left spoke that appears to emblazoned with the letter Z. This might suggest some sort of drive-mode selection, although we'll have to wait until next week for more detailed information.

The letter Z, of course, has always held special meaning in the Corvette universe, being used for names such as the Z51 performance package and for high-performance models such as Z06 and ZR1.

French Cars Star on Blipshift T-Shirts, Only on Sale till July 14

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 17:26
  • Blipshift is offering three unique French-themed T-shirts for Bastille Day.
  • The shirts feature three Citroën classics: the 2CV, the SM, and the DS.
  • Pricing starts at $15 plus shipping, but hurry: the sale ends July 14 at midnight.

To celebrate Bastille Day this Sunday, France's annual celebration of the day revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, Blipshift is offering deals on three T-shirts, each featuring one of our favorite classic French cars. All three can be had for just $15 plus shipping, but you'll have to act fast as the sale ends on Sunday night.

The first shirt design shows a blue Citroën 2CV against a circular backdrop of Paris. You can even see the Eiffel Tower on the right. The "deux chevaux" was France's answer to Germany's VW Beetle; it sported an air-cooled horizontally-opposed two-cylinder engine that made just 9 horsepower when the car debuted in 1948. It remained in production–albeit with slightly more horsepower–until 1990.

Its production run may have been short–just 1970 to 1975–but the Citroën SM's oddball styling and innovative engineering makes it desirable. Fans of Burt Reynolds might remember the SM as the car his character uses to evade the police in the 1974 film The Longest Yard. Under the hood of this sultry coupe was a powerful V-6 engine supplied by Maserati. (The words on the shirt translate to "Be magnificent," by the way.)

And finally, we have the iconic Citroën DS, showing off its avant-garde styling in this blue, white, and black three-tone exterior color. This French favorite's legendary status led to the use of its name for a modern sub-brand for Citroën that might eventually make its way to the United States.

Everyone knows the French have impeccable taste, and these shirts prove the point. As for our desire for modern French cars on American roads, these shirts do little to quench our thirst: Citroën, Renault, Peugeot, we're waiting.

How We'd Spec It: The 2020 Toyota Supra in Top Form

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 16:55

The revived Toyota Supra is one of the most talked-about enthusiast vehicles of the past few years, attracting plenty of attention for its storied name, its BMW-sourced mechanicals, and its interesting styling. No one is arguing about its performance chops, though, as it put up impressive numbers in our testing, including a zero-to-60-mph run of 3.8 seconds and a grip threshold of 1.07g around the skidpad.

The Supra is now finally hitting dealerships, which means that Toyota has finally released the long-anticipated build-your-own tool on its website. We set out creating our ideal version of the new GR Supra, choosing trim levels, colors, and options carefully to maximize the sports car's value, aesthetics, and equipment.

Model We'd Choose
  • Supra Launch Edition ($56,180)

There's not too much choice involved in configuring a Supra, as there's only a single powertrain (for now) that consists of a 335-hp turbocharged inline-six and a six-speed automatic transmission. Three trim levels are offered, including 3.0, 3.0 Premium, and a special Launch Edition that includes the first 1500 cars. While the Launch Edition is the most expensive of these, we're charmed by its red mirror caps and red leather interior, and we figure that it has the potential to make up for its price upcharge when it becomes a collectible further down the road.

Options We'd Pick
  • Absolute Zero paint ($0)

We dressed our Supra in white because that's the official color of the Japanese Grand Prix (yes, we know it's a German BMW underneath, but it still wears a Toyota badge). The Absolute Zero paint also contrasts nicely with the red mirrors and red interior. Black and red are the only other hues offered on the Launch Edition, while other Supra models offer attractive color options including blue, yellow, and an extra-cost matte grey.

The only option package available is an $1195 Driver Assistance package that includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and parking sensors. We passed, because the Supra is a sports car that prioritizes driver engagement above all else.

Our total cost comes to $56,180, which is just about the largest sum you can pay for a new Supra.

Watch a 900-HP Audi Pikes Peak Car Run a 10-Second Quarter-Mile

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 16:33

This Audi Quattro was built from the ground up to be a Pikes Peak race car, complete with some serious downforce and a massively powerful engine. Turns out it also makes for one hell of a drag car.

Built by EPS Motorsport, this Quattro S1 uses the 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder motor from a modern TT RS. Thanks to forged internals, huge fuel injectors, nitrous injection, a Precision 6466 turbocharger, a Motec ECU, and a ton of other upgrades, it's capable of 891 horsepower and 670 lb-ft of torque. Power gets to all four wheels via a six-speed sequential gearbox. It was never meant to run quarter-mile events, but that didn't stop its owners from slapping on a set of drag radials and visiting Santa Pod Raceway in England to lay down some runs.

Despite those drag-inducing wings, the car manages to pull out a best quarter-mile time of 10.51 seconds at 136 mph. Considering it was set up for a vastly different kind of racing, we'd say that's pretty good.

Ford and Volkswagen Announce Multibillion-Dollar EV and Self-Driving-Car Tie-Up

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 12:00
  • Ford and Volkswagen announced they will will jointly invest in the autonomous-vehicle company Argo AI, growing the company's valuation to $7 billion, and each will integrate Argo's self-driving systems into their vehicles.
  • Ford will build an EV from VW's MEB platform for Europe which will reach customers in 2023.
  • Ford and VW will develop pickups and commercial vans together that will be sold globally starting in 2022.

The tie-up between Ford and Volkswagen is about to move far, far past the recently announced, run-of-the-mill collaboration on commercial vehicles and a mid-size pickup truck and into the future. Today, the two automakers announced a multibillion-dollar investment in the self-driving technology company Argo AI—from which both companies will benefit from autonomous driving know-how—and the sharing of an electric-vehicle platform.

Ford and Volkswagen expect their investments in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence and robotics company, to pay off in the form of autonomous-driving tech that each can share in their products. Their infusion of cash includes $1 billion from Volkswagen, plus the folding of VW's $1.6 billion Autonomous Intelligent Driving company into Argo (pending European anti-trust review). VW also will purchase $500 million in Argo shares from Ford over the next three years. Ford has already shoved $1 billion into Argo and will invest a further $600 million it previously committed to the tech firm. This gives Ford and VW a substantial ownership majority of Argo AI and grows Argo AI's valuation to $7 billion.

Separate from the Argo AI decision, Ford and Volkswagen have initiated an alliance for not only the previously announced commercial vehicles and pickup truck, but for electric vehicles. Ford will gain access to VW's upcoming MEB electric-vehicle architecture starting in 2023, a platform that underpins VW's I.D. Crozz (pictured above), which goes into production next year. Ford plans to eventually sell more than 600,000 electric vehicles in Europe using that component set over a six-year period. This vehicle will be designed in Ford's Cologne, Germany, facility and co-developed with VW; it will be joined later by a second Ford-badged, Europe-market EV. These two EVs will be distinct from the result of an already-in-motion project that Ford is referring to as a "Mustang inspired" electric crossover, which also will be sold in Europe.

At present, details on the timing of Argo AI's contributions to both car companies' self-driving features—i.e., if or when those self-driving features will become commercially available—is an open question, although both Ford and Volkswagen stand to realize significant cost savings in developing that tech by teaming up. Ford, at least on paper, seems to be getting quite a lot out of this arrangement relative to VW, which is giving up its self-driving sub-company plus nearly the same $1.6 billion in cash for Argo AI shares, and giving Ford an EV platform. But we'll see how the alliance develops going forward; Volkswagen insists that opening up its MEB electric-car platform to partners will help drive down costs—a noble goal, given how many EVs Volkswagen has vowed to try to sell globally by 2025.

And this doesn't mean that Ford and Volkswagen are now one and the same: Ford CEO Jim Hackett and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess emphasized that the tieup will not mean "cross-ownership," and Ford CEO Jim Hackett emphasized that the two companies will remain independent and "fiercely competitive in the marketplace."

Photos of the Next-Gen Acura MDX and TLX Have Leaked in the Weirdest Way

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 21:33
  • Renderings that could show the next-generation Acura MDX and TLX have popped up on the forum AcuraZine.com.
  • User "rdx.god" claims to have found the images by digging around in the RDX's infotainment software.
  • Both the next-gen TLX sedan and the MDX three-row SUV are expected to add Type S performance models with a turbocharged V-6 engine.

Now here's something we haven't seen before: The Acura RDX's infotainment system has apparently leaked the next-generation MDX and TLX long before their official reveals. The photos come from the AcuraZine forum, where one user claims to have found the renderings by digging around in the RDX's software. Files for the

Acura has yet to confirm that these photos show the real cars (we have reached out for comment), but they look completely plausible to us. The new MDX employs a similar front end as the smaller RDX, which was redesigned for 2019, while retaining a similar overall profile as the current MDX. The TLX's redesign looks to be a more exciting redux, with an athletic-looking profile, aggressive front-end styling, and an interesting kink at the trailing edge of the rear door.

There's no word on any mechanical details of the next-generation TLX or MDX, but Acura has confirmed that it plans to introduce performance-oriented Type S versions of future models. These will be powered by a turbocharged V-6 engine that should produce considerably more power than Acura's current 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 290 hp in both models.

We expect the new MDX to arrive first, likely going on sale late this year as a 2020 model. The TLX's redesign will be further off, likely to go on sale sometime next year as a 2021 model. For now, though, you can head to the original post on AcuraZine to see more photos of both cars, including interior renderings.

This Weird Humvee Is a Sideways-Driving Freak Machine

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 20:30

The Paris air show famously delivers exotic designs that very well may never see the light of day. After all, military contracts and hardware procurement is often full of delays and disappointments. But among the mounds of military hardware paraded at this year's show in late June, the Arquus Scarabée might just be one of the weirdest.

As a subdivision of Volvo, Arquus is in the business of armored military vehicles. Formerly named Renault Trucks Defense, Arquus's main business partner is the French military, and its latest creation is the Scarabée (which is French for "beetle").

At first glance, it's an already impressive truck. Smaller and lighter than the U.S. Humvee, it comes with a diesel (rated for 620 miles), an additional electric engine, a 12.7-mm machine-gun turret, a 30-mm anti-tank weapon, and an array of radar systems, and it can be air-dropped if needed.

But its "wow" feature is its wheel system. Of course, being a Humvee, the Scarabée comes with all-wheel drive. But unlike your friendly neighborhood Subaru, the Scarabée's wheels can turn independently of one another, allowing the Humvee to sort of scuttle sideways and in many other directions. You can see the vehicle in action below:

Of course, with this free range of movement, the Scarabée could also complete a 180-degree turn on a dime, allowing the wheels to independently turn in opposite directions. According to Popular Science, the vehicle could replace France's 730 light armored vehicles as early as 2025.

The New 992-Generation Porsche 911 Turbo Could Top 600 HP

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 12:00
  • The new 992-generation Porsche 911 Turbo is coming later this year, and here's what we know about it.
  • Like the current car, it will use a twin-turbocharged flat-six engine and should have more power than the current 540-hp Turbo and 580-hp Turbo S.
  • Look for the 2020 Porsche 911 Turbo to make its debut later this year with a starting price somewhere around $200,000.

Our next opportunity to check our watches against the reassuring, steady cadence of the 911 product cycle is coming. First come the Carrera coupes, then the cabrios, and then the 911 Turbos. Given that the ragtop just made its debut in March at the Geneva auto show, we won't have long to wait for the brawniest 992-edition 911.

The same aluminum-intensive underpinnings that sit beneath the 992 Carreras will be in play. The regular 911 has been turbocharged since the 2016 model year, but only this mack-daddy Turbo gets to use the capital T. Power will continue to come from a twin-turbocharged flat-six, which we believe will be an evolution of the current car's engine, and with the certainty of a power increase over the 540 and 580 horsepower, respectively, that today's 991.2 Turbo and Turbo S muster. All-wheel drive will be standard, as will Porsche's new eight-speed PDK transmission and a battery of dynamic aids, including rear-wheel steering.

The Turbo has held a place in enthusiasts' collective imagination since the original arrived in 1975. Its perform­ance has grown easier to exploit over the years, but that performance has also simply grown to the point where the Turbo can keep pace with pretty much anything costing up to twice its price. The GT-badged 911s might deliver purer thrills, but the Turbo and its slightly punchier S sister are the ones beating Ferraris at stoplights.

We'll see the car later this year. The outgoing Turbo starts at $163,050; the Turbo S, at $191,950. Expect increases from those numbers that will likely push the base price of the S to or through the $200,000 mark.

The Very Last Volkswagen Beetle Rolls off the Production Line

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 21:20
  • The final Volkswagen Beetle ever made, a Denim Blue coupe, was built today in Puebla, Mexico, and will go on display at VW's museum there.
  • In its place, Volkswagen de México's Puebla plant will produce a new North American crossover positioned below the Tiguan.
  • Volkswagen has sold more than 1.7 million of this third-generation Beetle, which was introduced as the New Beetle in 1998.

This is finally the end of the road for the long-serving Volkswagen Beetle as the very last third-generation model rolled off the production line in Mexico today, having sold more than 1.7 million copies worldwide since its debut in 1998.

But, as everyone knows, the Beetle dates back many decades earlier to a less than auspicious debut as the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, who wished for a "people's car" that could have the same societal influence on Germany that Henry Ford's Model T did in the States. The original Beetle, a.k.a. Type 1, survived long past its logical expiration date. Cheap, efficient, instantly recognizable, and yet somehow enigmatic, the original air-cooled Beetle transcended its initial purpose, and, like the classic Willys Jeep, the Fender Stratocaster, and the Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker, it evolved into a cultural icon despite, or possibly because of, its inherent drawbacks. It saw a couple of significant updates and numerous running changes along its 65-year run, but production of the Type 1 lasted until 2003, with the last model rolling off the line at the same Mexico plant where the third-gen modern Beetle ended its run today.

Although the air-cooled Beetle disappeared from the U.S. market in the late 1970s for a multitude of reasons, it seemed at the time that a new Beetle was inevitable; we just didn't think it would take until 1998 to get one. After several years of rumors and teasers, the New Beetle arrived just as an entire generation of buyers of growing affluence realized they were suffering from a debilitating case of nostalgia. Anxious to identify with the cultural touchstones of the past, they flocked to the New Beetle, which provided all the warm and fuzzy memories without triggering the nightmares inherent of its ancestor, a vehicle powered by a 40-hp 1.2-liter engine that could barely maintain 60 mph on an incline.

When it came, the New Beetle was dramatically improved in nearly every metric: ride; comfort; noise, vibration, and harshness; and reliability-well, for Volkswagen of the late '90s, anyhow-and modern conveniences such as air conditioning and an automatic transmission. But those who stuck around long enough to get past the cute factor discovered that for the period, the New Beetle was a pretty darn good car, too. Did anyone care that the water-cooled engine was in the front? Maybe, but progress has a cost, and if the car could be made safer and more practical to produce, only the most hard-core devotes seemed disappointed.

Not long after its launch, Volkswagen began utilizing the Beetle as a palette for experimentation, creating convertibles and a turbocharged version, numerous special editions including a Barbie Beetle, a Denim Edition, and the Beetle Dune, among many other special editions and one-off concepts. The last major redesign came with the 2012 model year, when VW attempted to add an air of masculinity to the design and dropped the "New" from its name, simply calling it the "Beetle." This also marks the point where the entire production of all third-gen Beetles was shifted to the Puebla facility, although the cars were shipped to 91 markets worldwide.

Although we're sad to see the Beetle-new, old, or otherwise-fade off into the golden-hued sunset, Volkswagen isn't finished mining its past for future product. Just two years ago Volkswagen confirmed the I.D. Buzz for production, signaling the next wave of forward-facing vehicles with a foot in the past. A modern interpretation of the classic Microbus, the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz electric vehicle is a high-tech tour de force, and it's scheduled to hit showrooms in 2022.

10 Best New Vehicles for Tackling the Apocalypse

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 19:25
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Event: Zombie Apocalypse
Strategy:
Clean the place up.

Look, you don't call something a "Gladiator" unless it has those sorts of ambitions. Consider the new Jeep pickup's standard equipment (in Rubicon guise): Fox shocks, skid plates, beefy Dana 44 axles, locking front and rear differentials, and rock rails. The Jeep is big but not too big, and its off-road capability and toughness are assets to leverage when you'll be mowing down the undead and clambering around off the grid trying to evade spawning sites-um, we mean, former population centers.

JeepJeep Gladiator Rubicon

You're probably asking, "But why choose the Gladiator pickup, when your stuff could be protected in the closed confines of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited?" Our easy answer? That the Gladiator represents the "On the offensive" option, both in name and layout. It's ready to fight, and its open pickup bed and removable roof panels make for excellent sharpshooter perches from which to fend off bands of groaning zombies. With the nation’s finest armaments left abandoned by the now-overrun military and useless to the undead, it wouldn’t be hard to utilize the Gladiator’s 1190-pound payload and stick a .50-caliber rotating machine gun in the bed.

JeepArmored Chevrolet Suburban HD

Event: State-Sanctioned Lockdown
Strategy: Sneak out in plain sight.

Pre-apocalyptic sorts of tensions take a while to play out into full-on lockdowns, so you've had time to equip your black Chevrolet Suburban HD (today available only to fleets, but you can get around that snafu, right?) with the requisite "secret service" treatment. That means lights, antennae, tinted windows, and the like.

ChevroletArmored Chevrolet Suburban HD

Shown here in government guise, the Suburban HD is the smart survivalist’s one-up on the swaths of doomsday planners clamoring for a bestickered squad car. No uniformed police or military will dare second-guess you when you glide through checkpoints with a one-handed confidence wave. You're above their pay grade, or at least appear to be, and so you're probably doing something important. Bonus effort: Talk three of your friends into snapping up armored Suburbans of their own to create a convincing convoy. If it all goes wrong, the Delta Force says the Suburban can take a hit or two.

Getty ImagesToyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Event: Enemy Invasion
Strategy:
Off the road and on the run.

The Toyota Tacoma is a little long in the tooth, you say? Could be. But you’re not going to be looking to impress the Joneses when the Russians are landing on both coasts. You're going to need something you can pack up, pack in, and take off in without even an errant concern over its reliability. The hardcore, off-road-ready TRD Pro version ensures you won't have a pang of unease over the Tacoma's capability, either.

ToyotaToyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Let's all hope World War III holds off until the 2020 model year-that's when the Tacoma TRD Pro adds an incredible (and appropriate) Army Green paint option. (Don't worry, you’ll be spray painting "Wolverines" before the enemy knew what hit them.) As a bonus, the TRD Pro model can be paired with a dependable six-speed manual transmission, which these days doubles as a better anti-theft system than the most state-of-the-art car alarm you can buy.

ToyotaMercedes-Benz G550

Event: Civil War
Strategy:
When your fellow citizens war, get yourself something civil.

It's a shame Mercedes-Benz has yet to resurrect the towering G550 4x4 Squared model in the redesigned G-class lineup. It'd be perfect for when the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Plus, a 4x4 Squared based on the new G-class sure would be sweet to show off to your soon-to-be-doomed fellow citizens. While you could always find one on the used market, new is always better; if that new-car smell is something you want to hang onto post-apocalypse, the regular G-wagen is worthy-if not quite as tall as the discontinued 4x4 Squared.

ToyotaMercedes-Benz G550

While everyone else dukes it out Mad Max–style for dwindling resources after a national meltdown of epic proportions, you're not ready to give up on those luxuries that make the difference between surviving, and surviving well. And if you conspicuously consumed before, why stop now that the world is burning? The G550 not only is a luxury box to rival the best, but it's an off-road billy goat and comes with a nice, high-mounted brush bar masking its front end from random, post-apocalyptic debris or mobs or zombies. The quicker, more powerful G63 model has a less heavy-duty brush bar, and it's mounted low on the bumper-we won’t get gruesome, but you can do the math there on its usefulness on the out-of-control crowds or zombies. So, use the $23,000 in savings you'll have left over from buying the G550 instead of the G63, and use it to pay for uparmoring and auxilliary lighting.

Mercedes-BenzAriel Nomad Tactical

Event: Enemy Attack
Strategy:
Go, go, go!

Offering absolutely no defensive protection, the Ariel Nomad should be your pick if your number one concern is the only concern: getting out of dodge, right f$#@ing now. It's essentially an Ariel Atom that's been over-engineered to move quickly through practically any terrain. Focus on that, not the fact that the buggy has barely enough room inside for a backpack.

Dean Smith - Car and DriverAriel Nomad Tactical

What the Nomad does have is a supercharged Honda K24 engine pumping out 300 horsepower, BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tires, an adjustable heavy-duty suspension, and a feathery 1750-pound weight. Picture this: You live in a dense downtown area and learn warheads are inbound. There isn’t much time. Forget your suvival strategy, rations, close friends and relatives-your only option is to beat the masses clogging the roads out of town. And so, sidewalks, alleys, stairs, trails, bike paths, and aqueducts become your paths to safety beyond the blast radius. The Nomad is the vehicle that will make it so in a hurry; trust us, we've practiced it.

Dean SmithMercedes-Benz Defense Unimog Crew Cab Troop Carrier

Event: A Handmaid's Hell
Strategy:
Women and children first.

What if Amazon's A Handmaid's Tale actually happens? There is no better way to save the women and children from some horrific dystopian reality that enslaves and reassigns them than with a new four-door Unimog Crew Cab from Mercedes-Benz's "Defense" line. You can build these rigs aimed at military service pretty much any way you want, but in this scenario we'd suggest upgrading to the armored troop carrier. It's assuredly better for when society is crumbling around you than the less-armored, cloth-sided troop carrier pictured here. Either way, there's room for everyone! Or at least you and your large family.

Mercedes-BenzMercedes-Benz Defense Unimog Crew Cab Troop Carrier

Sure, this massive Benz is not cheap, but can you really put a price on the survival of your nation as you know it? With eight forward and six reverse gears, the ability to ford water up to 50 inches deep, and portal axles for insane ground clearance, the Unimog isn't likely to encounter a situation that stumps it, apocalypse or not.

Mercedes-BenzOutside Van Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 Conversion

Event: Civil Unrest
Strategy:
Head for the woods and hole up.

Tensions are rising, the riots are happening a lot more often, the mail hasn’t been coming, and the power has been iffy at best. You can feel it in your bones: It’s only a matter of days before the entire country goes Tango Uniform. That's why you should consider an upfitted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter from Outside Van. Take the family on a fun overlanding trip today, and be super-prepared for an uncertain tomorrow.

Outside VanOutside Van Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 Conversion

If you are anything like us, you wisely opted for the 170-inch "Amp" Sprinter dualie model, with 200 watts of solar array up top, a queen-size bed, shower, rainwater collection, and induction cooktop. With factory all-wheel drive, a suspension lift kit, and some serious off-road rubber, you and your family are headed for the hills to sit this one out for as long as it takes for those riots to die down in the city.

Outside VanInkas Riot Control Vehicle

Event: Heavy Rioting
Strategy: Pacify the masses.

Put the kybosh on civil disobedience and you could be running a town or greaseball militia before you know it, and stability and protection is powerful social currency in post-apocalyptic times. So, why not pacify the masses on your way to your new station by using the 250-psi water cannons mounted atop Inkas' very aptly named Riot Control Vehicle will pretty much tone down any anxious crowd you could imagine.

InkasInkas Riot Control Vehicle

If the hordes get too fighty, don't worry: The Riot Control Vehicle can withstand multiple high-velocity rounds as well as shrapnel from explosions. If the blaze keeps burning, no worries there either-the RCV has a fire suppression system that protects the perimeter of the vehicle. And, yes, that is essentially a giant shovel mounted to the front. Your getaways (or breaches) should be pretty easy, no matter what's in your way.

InkasFord Transit Connect Cargo Van

Event: Global Currency Collapse
Strategy:
Barter system.

It's not difficult to imagine a scenario in which the same geniuses who brought you the mortgage crisis, credit crisis, and a few stock market collapses could botch the entire financial system, sending us all back to the stone age overnight. There would be roving gangs, sure, but for the most part people just want to survive-you included, we bet. So, get yourself a Ford Transit Connect cargo van. It's small, affordable, and useful even before the economy melts down.

FordFord Transit Connect Cargo Van

Imagine, you could barter your way across the nation like a dystopian version of Jon Favreau in Chef, cooking up food for the masses in exchange for raw ingredients, shelter, warmth, or fuel. If business is booming, you can tow a 2000-lb smoker behind you. You'll get far on a tank in this little-ish Ford van, which is EPA-estimated to get 27 mpg highway, and the efficiency of modern solar panels (of which many can fit on the Ford's boxy body) will help with extended stays well off the grid-or what's left of it.

FordRolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase

Event: Viral Outbreak
Strategy:
There is no hope-but there is booze in this Rolls.

Whatever you did in the normal world to afford the $500,000-plus Phantom Extended Wheelbase, we'll assume you'll be crafty enough to instantly do the math when the antibiotic-resistant super-virus outbreak hits. Even if you can get out of range for a few days, or even weeks, there is no beating a force of nature like this. Earth is done with us and is hitting "reset," and only the germs will survive. It's against this bleak, hopeless backdrop that we suggest the Rolls. Unlike some of the other vehicles on this list, it isn't going to beat the odds and carry you to a post-human earthly existence. No, it's here for those keen on measuring out their remaining days one drink at a time in comfort and style.

Rolls-RoyceRolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase

Outside, the airborne pathogen has people dropping like flies around the world. But in your Rolls-Royce, you've got deep-pile carpeting, a refrigerator with a decanter (drink up!), and your favorite commissioned artwork in the glass dashboard. Perhaps you'll cast a wistful glance at that art while decompressing in the back seat. Maybe you won't. But more importantly though, you've got silence. You can scarcely hear the screaming and decaying hordes around you as you sip on the Veuve from 1841 that you’ve been saving for just this day.

Rolls-Royce

Ford Cancels Plans for a Diesel-Powered Transit Connect Van in the U.S.

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 17:31
  • Ford will not sell a diesel version of the small Transit Connect van in the U.S. after all.
  • The company had announced a 1.5-liter turbodiesel engine option for the updated 2019 Transit Connect that was slated to arrive earlier this year, but now says it has canceled production of this powertrain for America.
  • The short-wheelbase, five-seat version of the Transit Connect passenger van has also been dropped.

Another diesel has bit the dust in America, this time the Ford Transit Connect small van. While Ford had previously announced the addition of a 1.5-liter turbodiesel engine for the 2019 model year, Ford spokesperson Elizabeth Kraft told C/D that production of the diesel has been canceled.

Ford cites a "lack of market demand" as its reasoning for dropping plans for the diesel, but we wonder if the EPA's increased scrutiny on all diesel engines in the U.S. could have also played a role in the company's decision to pull the plug. The Transit Connect diesel never received an official fuel-economy rating on the EPA's website, which only lists the gasoline 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter inline-four engines for both the 2019- and 2020-model-year Transit Connect.

Ford had initially claimed an EPA estimate of around 30 mpg highway for the diesel inline-four and said that this engine would arrive at dealerships in early 2019. The diesel inline-four was slated to make around 120 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque and pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Ford also says that it has dropped the five-seat, short-wheelbase version of the Transit Connect passenger van. The short-wheelbase model is still available as a cargo van, while the long-wheelbase continues on as both a cargo van and a passenger van with either six or seven seats. Pricing for the 2020 Transit Connect starts at $25,570 for the short-wheelbase cargo version and $28,315 for the passenger version.

The Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato Won't Have a Rear Window

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 17:12
  • Aston Martin has revealed the final design of the DBS GT Zagato, and it won't have a rear window.
  • In place of a rearview mirror is a screen that displays the view from a backup camera.
  • The car is based on the current DBS Superleggera and is part of the DBZ Centenary Collection.

Aston Martin gave us our first look at the upcoming DBS GT Zagato a few months ago in the form of three sketches, but the British brand has now released three full-fledged renderings that show the limited-run grand tourer in its unexaggerated final form-its digital final form, at least.

The three new renderings show the DBS GT alongside the already revealed DB4 GT Zagato, which completes the second half of the pairing that Aston has dubbed the DBZ Centenary Collection. Together, the two cars will cost just under $8 million, and just 19 of each will be made-and you can't buy them separately. While the DB4 is an exact replica of the original car from the 1960s, the DBS is a wholly modern car based on the existing DBS Superleggera.

From the front, the DBS GT immediately looks distinct from its "regular" DBS sibling thanks to the gaping maw of a grille. Said grille is made up of 108 carbon-fiber 3D pieces that are closed when the car is off, appearing flush with the body. But when the car starts up, the diamond-shape pieces "flutter into life," opening up to allow airflow to the V-12 engine. There's new triangular headlights and a big hood vent, too, and the front overhang and hood look longer.

From the side, the DBS GT has a prominent fin-like fender vent that's capped by gold trim, which echoes the gold trim on the wheels and the grille. The rear fenders have a sharp crease, and the C-pillar sharply kicks up to meet the roof. And it's the roof that's the DBS GT's real parlor trick and sets it apart from pretty much every other car on sale.

The double-bubble roof, a classic Zagato hallmark, is made from a single piece of carbon fiber that extends from the top of the windshield all the way back to the trunk. That means there's no rear window, not even a tiny sliver of one. Instead, a camera at the back of the car projects the rearward view onto a screen mounted where a typical rear-view mirror would be. According to Aston this setup has no compromises on practicality to the driver, and head of designer Marek Reichman says its one of the rare cases where form and function meet, with no concessions given to either side.

The rest of the rear end is a bit more typical, with a huge carbon-fiber diffuser housing quad exhaust tips, clear-lensed taillights with a fluted design like those on the Vanquish Zagatos, and a carbon-fiber panel that looks like it might have an active rear spoiler. And yes, there is still a trunk, although Aston doesn't say how large it is.

While the DB4 GTs are already being built and delivered, the DBS GTs won't enter production until next year. Expect to see the first one possibly make its debut in the metal at an auto show or event later this year.

The 2020 Mini Cooper SE Is the First Real Electric Mini

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 13:45
  • The 2020 Mini Cooper SE is Mini's first production electric car.
  • It has a 181-hp electric motor powering the front wheels and a range of up to 168 miles on the European cycle.
  • The SE will have multiple regenerative-braking modes, with one offering one-pedal driving.

We've known for a while that Mini's first real electric car, the Cooper SE, has been on its way, after first being previewed by a concept in 2017 and then when we drove it in prototype form earlier this year. The 2020 Mini Cooper SE has now been fully revealed in production form, and while it doesn't offer up any major surprises, it's a compelling package nonetheless.

The Cooper SE has a 32.6-kWh battery pack and a single electric motor that produces 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. The front-wheel-drive SE will hit 62 mph in a claimed 7.3 seconds, and its top speed is limited to 93 mph. In Europe, the SE will have a range of 146 to 168 miles, but U.S. EPA figures have yet to be announced. Not a lot of charging info has been released, either, but Mini says it can be charged at up to 50 kW, allowing for an 80 percent charge in 35 minutes using a DC fast charger.

Mini says the SE's center of gravity is 1.2 inches lower than that of a Cooper S and that it weighs 319 pounds more than a Cooper S Hardtop with an automatic transmission. The SE has different suspension tuning, a stability-control system designed to deal with the instantaneous torque from the electric motor, and four driving modes, including a Green+ mode designed for maximum efficiency that disables or limits features such as climate control. The SE is also the first BMW Group electric car with adjustable regenerative braking, and one of its modes offers one-pedal driving in which the car can be stopped solely by the regen.

Visually distinguishing the SE from regular Minis are a blocked-off front grille, unique badging, a different rear diffuser without any exhaust tips, and yellow accents on the grille, fender trim, and mirror caps. Base wheels are 16 inches, while the optional 17-inch wheels have a wacky asymmetrical design (seen in these photos) that Mini says is better for aerodynamics.

The interior gets a 5.5-inch digital gauge cluster that uses a new graphic design to show current speed, changing with the driving mode. It also displays charge level, range, navigation info, and other infotainment functions. When the car is charging, the cluster shows available range, the percent of charge, outside temperature, the time the car will be done charging, and other relevant info. The standard central touchscreen is a 6.5-inch unit with navigation, but an 8.8-inch screen is optional.

Every Cooper SE will have a dual-zone automatic climate-control system and a special heat-pump design that uses 75 percent less energy than a traditional electric heater. Using a smartphone app, SE owners can also heat or cool their car's interior to a specific temperature before getting in. Mini hasn't said a lot about other standard or optional features, but the SE will come in three different trim levels and a relatively limited range of colors.

The Cooper SE will go on sale in the U.S. in early 2020, with Mini saying it won't cost a huge premium over equivalent gas-powered Minis. After coming away impressed by our stint in a prototype, we're excited to get our hands on the new electric Mini.