2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk: Because We Can!

Photo credit @stevenphamphoto

I’m on the wrong side of history. Or at least the way history is trending. Vehicles are getting larger and larger.  Look at 2019 where it’s estimated that 70% of new vehicle sales outside of trucks will be SUVs and CUVs.  Me?  As I get older I like smaller and lighter vehicles.  As I write this I’ve been back to back in a GMC Yukon and a Chevy Silverado 1500. Both are a pain in the ass to drive in city traffic.  They’ve just become too large.

Yet it’s SUVs and CUVs that the consumer wants. So OEMs are pushing them out as fast they come off the line.  From the OEM’s point of view, more certainly equals better.  CUVs and SUVs don’t have as tight of emission regulations nor fuel economy standards.  On top of this, they can actually make money on these, unlike traditional passenger cars, for the most part.

Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackhawkI swear a lot in this one…

In the last four or five years, not only do we have a plethora of CUVs and SUVs but now we have performance versions as well.  Ford is even going so far as to call the Edge ST a “hot hatch” and an “adult sports car”. Land Rover and Jag have the SVR models. Lamborghini now offers the Urus. Porsche has a Turbo Cayenne and its Macan. Mercedes-Benz apply AMG badges to everything.  Clearly, nothing says performance like a 5,000+ pound vehicle with 20 to 22-inch wheels!

Then we have FCA.  It has one of the most popular SUVs on the market in the Grand Cherokee. It also has one of the most badass motors made today. Nothing says success like excess!

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Quick Spin: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Did you know that there are currently nineteen different plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on sale in the U.S. right now?  Me neither.  In fact, if you asked me to name more than five I couldn’t.  The Volt, Prius Prime, Pacifica, Hyundai Ioniq and the subject for this Quick Spin, the Mitsubishi Outlander.

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Part 2: ARX At Circuit Of The Americas With Subaru

In part one of the story about the trip to COTA for the ARX season finale with Subaru, I focused on the series and the preverbal “10,000-foot view”. In part two we will dive in and have a closer look at the team and the cars.

First though, two fun facts. 

Number one: Lance Smith, who is the owner of Vermont Sports Cars, the team that runs the factory Subaru effort as “Subaru Rally Team USA”, rode in the first Audi Quattro race car to come to the U.S., when it was delivered to be raced by John Buffum.

Fun fact number two: said legendary rally driver John Buffum is now the team manager for the Subaru Rally team.

For those of you who do not know the exploits of John Buffum in the glory days of Group B, Google and YouTube are your friends.

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This is American Rallycross [Part 1]

The inaugural American Rallycross (ARX) series swung into Austin for its season finale. It was at the Circuit of the Americas where the stage was set for roaring, sliding, soaring action.

Rallycross, in its various forms, has been an intriguing series for a while now. Having grown up in the glory years of Group B, I’ve always loved the pure car control, occasional seemingly lack of control, and drivers pushing it to the limit with grip at a premium.

This modern ARX racing series is no different.

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We venture to Rugged Ridge country to see what’s in store for the JL Wrangler

Eric Trytko October 2, 2018 Featured, Jeep Reviews

Last year I had the opportunity to travel down to the Atlanta area to have a tour of the Omix-ADA (Rugged Ridge) facilities. It included a tour of their 200,000+ square foot warehouse and museum, along with having the opportunity to drive a selection of the museum vehicles in the Industrial park in which they’re located. We also got to romp around in JK Jeep Wranglers modified with various Rugged Ridge parts.

A Return To Rugged Ridge

Invited back once again this year, I was interested to see how quickly they were ramping up to produce parts for the new JL Wrangler and the forthcoming JT truck.

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2018 Audi Q5: Right Tool For The Right Job

Automakers love luxury crossovers. For many manufacturers, a platform is shared across one or more brands so the costs can be spread out. Add to the reduced unit costs, the price premium the consumer is willing to pay for a “premium” brand and you start printing money hand over fist. Or, you print enough money to subsidize your electric and hybrid cars being mandated across the globe.

Since we are going to be talking about the Audi Q5 here, let’s look at this as an example. The underpinnings of the Q5, the MLBevo Platform, are used on the following:

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2018 Volkswagen Golf R: The Best Premium Hot Hatch You Can Buy In North America?

You would think that a car like the Volkswagen Golf R (which, TL;DR I liked a lot), would lend itself to an easy review.  But it does not.  In fact, this is something like the sixth go at crafting something I’m willing to let see the light of day.

The reason for this is the fact that in the premium hot hatch market there are some great choices; Golf R, Ford Focus RS, and the Honda Civic Type R. It’s not that one car is better than the other, it really boils down to what fit’s your personality best.

Hear me out.

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First Drive 2019 Volkswagen Jetta: Mainstream American Family Sedan

When Volkswagen moved the Jetta down market with the sixth generation model, specifically designed and built for the North American market, there were more than a few enthusiasts who were disappointed as previous Jetta’s especially in GLI trim, gave you a bit of that BMW M driving experience at half the cost. The thing is, the move down market greatly increased sales, and at the end of the day, that is what a car company needs to do.

Now comes the all-new 2019 Jetta built on the MQB platform, though still specifically tailored for the North American market. Not that long ago the compact sedan segment was one of the main battlegrounds for all volume manufactures. Now with the market moving to CUV’s and SUV’s while the segment is still important, it’s not quite as critical, but that doesn’t mean OEM’s can slack off on quality, content, and pricing.

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We have questions for Jamal Hameedi Of Ford Performance

You might’ve noticed that Ford announced a few things during the Detroit Auto Show last week.  For most of you who frequent this site, it’s highly likely that the Bullitt Mustang was the highlight. Seeing the original movie car in totally unrestored condition was pretty choice.  The Ranger was expected and we will see that on the road in about 9-12 months as they finish changing over the Wayne Assembly plant from Focus to Ranger and then the future Bronco.  Speaking of the Bronc, it will be shown at the Detroit show next year and then go into production for 2020.  Amongst all of that awesome there was that somewhat of a head-scratcher in the Edge ST.

The Edge is a fine crossover but why do an ST version?  In case you haven’t noticed, crossovers greatly outsell sedans and hatchback. To dive into this and a few other items regarding Ford and the Detroit Auto Show, we sat down with Jamal Hameedi to have a bit of a chat.

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First Drive: Smart Electric Cabriolet
A funny thing happened on the way to my preconceptions

2018 smart Electric Cabrio

First and foremost, if you live outside a major metroplex or a resort area this car probably won’t work for you. If you do, then the Smart Electric may be something you need to look at. Hear me out.

Smart brought us to San Diego to have a go with the 2018 Smart Electric Cabrio. To explore the car, we had to explore the city by way of a scavenger hunt. Being San Diego, the weather was board of tourism perfect. That means 80ºF and sunshine all day. No roof required.

We were given three hours to dash in and around the city to find 19 different spots. Then we had to shoot photos in some of these and check in at others. Most people had a second person with them, I did not, so thankfully all the spots were programmed into the nav which made things much easier. As a side note, I finished third, even having missed one spot because I was running short on time.

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