What Jeep needs to get right with the upcoming JL Wrangler, Part III: Drivetrain & Interior

Ross Ballot November 30, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured

Source: TruckTrend

Pitting the company versus the buyers: From turbodiesel to pickup, your semi-comprehensive and somewhat speculative guide on the upcoming JL Wrangler

[This is Part 3 of a multi-entry installment about the 2018+ Jeep Wrangler. Stay tuned for further breakdowns of what we want Jeep to do vs what Jeep will actually do.]

We’ve recently discussed the exterior and 4WD Hardware, so now it’s time to explore a two more aspects of the upcoming JL Wrangler. First we’ll delve into the Drivetrain, which should be receiving relatively major changes, and then we’ll assess the interior, which could go either the way of a minor progression or that of a major revamp. What does the future hold for the world’s most iconic 4×4? Read on to explore with me as we dive into the inner workings of what will make the JL tick, and see if you agree with our hopes and dreams.

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What Jeep needs to get right with the upcoming JL Wrangler, Part II: 4WD & Off-Road Hardware

Ross Ballot November 22, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured

A wild JL Wrangler mule appears, amid some off-road testing —– Source: JLWranglerForums

Pitting the company versus the buyers: From turbodiesel to pickup, your semi-comprehensive and somewhat speculative guide on the upcoming JL Wrangler

[This is Part 2 of a multi-entry installment about the 2018+ Jeep Wrangler. Stay tuned for further installments, and further breakdowns of what we want Jeep to do vs what Jeep will actually do.]

Part 2: 4WD & Off-Road Hardware

You know what must be a stressful job? Redesigning something as beloved as the Jeep Wrangler. I can’t imagine that being part of the team helping to prepare any other all-new vehicle is anything short of overwhelming, and, with so much riding on its success, it has to be a thousand times more so to be part of the crew working on Jeep’s four-wheel-drive convertible off-road legend. Even compared to the re-introduction of another treasured nameplate, a la Bronco (which we’re hoping Ford doesn’t screw up), contributing to a project with so much riding on the line must induce high-level stress. It’s one of the few vehicles that the general American public cares about, and one that everybody expects to live on forever. The Wrangler is, after all, an American icon.

As such, it’s absolutely crucial that Jeep gets the next generation of Wrangler right; not just to help the company meet sales projections, but to succeed with the buyers as well. Amidst an explosion in sales and no sign of slowing down, Jeep is at a crossroads: build a vehicle that will sell, or build a vehicle that’s true to the loyalists and hardcore off-roaders? In Part 1 we explored the JL’s exterior and what it will take to make it a success, so now let’s dive into the prospective upcoming Wrangler’s 4WD and off-road hardware/credentials, dissect what Jeep needs to do to please everybody, and hopefully paint a picture of a desirable future JL in which Jeep can hopefully please the consumers and the corporate heads alike. Now, if you will, jump with me…and don’t dream too much about a Rubicon pickup along the way.

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What does Jeep need to get right with the JL Wrangler? Part 1: Exterior

Ross Ballot November 15, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured

Source: JLWranglerforums.com

Pitting the company versus the buyers: From turbodiesel to pickup, your semi-comprehensive and somewhat speculative guide on the upcoming JL Wrangler

[This is Part 1 of a multi-entry installment about the 2018+ Jeep Wrangler. Stay tuned for further installments, and further breakdowns of what we want Jeep to do.vs what Jeep will actually do.]

Part 1: Exterior

Few vehicles are as iconic as the Jeep Wrangler. As such, it goes without saying that it’s absolutely crucial that FCA– and Jeep specifically– doesn’t botch the next iteration. Short of the 911, the venerable Jeep may have the most die-hard fan-base of any enthusiast-minded vehicle out there. With an all-new replacement for the JK on the horizon–and the potential for the Bronco to join the market as a competitor, the first to do battle with the Wrangler since the FJ went out of production — the stakes are higher than ever. Add in hopeful additions of a diesel engine and a pickup variant, and it’s no surprise that the upcoming JL Wrangler is making waves on the internet long before it even debuts.

Jeep and FCA are hoping for a sales hit, especially considering the JK’s unprecedented success, but what does Jeep need to get right for it to garner both mainstream approval and the attention and lust from fans of the brand and the model itself? Just as I did with the Bronco, let’s break things down bit by bit, comparing the Wrangler that Jeep wants to sell with the Wrangler we want Jeep to sell.

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Falling in love with Autocross


Autocross: An addicting, inexpensive, and extraordinarily fun way to learn car control and performance driving, all while driving the shit out of your car

Autocross had been on my radar for a long while, but for some reason or another I had never sought it out. And then one day after work I saw a wildly modified Miata, chatted up the owner, and, a few months later, found myself in a cone-laden parking lot at 8:15 AM, nerves high, as I waited to start my first AutoX event. I always thought of getting into the sport but never had the vehicle or inward desire to make it a priority and yet, once I finally gave it a shot, I was hooked from my the get-go. I’m not here to tell you to stop racing on a track if that’s your thing, but I am going to tell you that autocross is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things you can do in a vehicle; that it’s low-cost and low-risk only help it make a case for itself.

I was expecting autocross to be a hoot, but I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about performance driving, car control, and finding both one’s car’s and one’s own limits. It’s truly nothing short of addicting, and is something that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. What follows the account of my first autocross experience, and hopefully what will be enough to convince you to give it a shot for yourself.

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All Hail the RallyCat

Ross Ballot October 21, 2016 All Things Hoon

Source: Allpar

Over the last few years there has been a rising interest in rally and off-road modifications for otherwise street-only cars. It’s a trend that seems to only be gaining speed and attention. And now, we are graced with a 707 horsepower, rear-wheel-drive, six-speed manual Hellcat – with mud tires out back. I proclaim this one of the greatest automotive decisions ever. 

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The new Ford Bronco: What Ford wants to sell vs what enthusiasts want to see


Source: Road and Track

So, the Bronco is coming back. Finally. Or supposedly, at least. It’s been twenty long years since we last saw a Bronco for sale on U.S. soil, and the revival of one of the most iconic 4×4 nameplates should be a marketing force to be reckoned with at Ford. But the rebirth of the nameplate doesn’t necessarily mean that the 2018 (2019?) model will live up to its past glory. Whereas Ford is just hoping for a sales hit, us enthusiasts are hoping for something that’s actually a vehicle worthy of the Bronco name.

But what would Ford need to do in order for the new so-called Bronco to be a worthy successor? Read on to see if you agree with me.

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Photo Dump: The 34rd Historics Festival Sunday in the Park car show at Lime Rock Park

Ross Ballot September 23, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured


Sunday is a usually a less-than-ideal day to be hanging around Lime Rock Park. Not that it’s ever a bad day to be on LRP’s rolling, scenic grounds, but you’re S.O.L. if you’re visiting the ~1.5 mile track on a Sunday in hopes of seeing some racing. That won’t change anytime soon, seeing as there’s a group of locals from Salisbury and the surrounding towns who are fighting a “No Sunday Racing” battle for reasons that in some cases make no absolutely sense whatsoever, but it opens up Sundays for peace and quiet—relatively speaking, of course.

Instead Sundays are filled with other non-racing events, and one of the highlights comes during the weekend of the Historics Festival. It brings about another type of camaraderie and competition than does racing: a massive, track-filling, mind-bogglingly-diverse car show.

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Will the new Q60 be the best Infiniti coupe yet?

Ross Ballot September 23, 2016 All Things Hoon

The Q60’s bold exterior – lower and wider than predecessors – expresses a powerful elegance through its daring proportions and taut, muscular lines. Dynamic enhancements, including an all-new lightweight and sophisticated 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo engine, together with new adaptive steering and digital suspension systems, result in a premium sports coupe designed and engineered to perform.

It just so happens that as I’m putting the finishing touches on this piece, the real automotive journalists are on their way to drive (or have just finished driving) the all-new Infiniti Q60 for the first time. It’s a stunning car, the first dazzle of excitement coming from the Japanese automaker in recent memory aside from the Q50 Red Sport. But can the new Q60 deliver on the promise of the original G35 Coupe, and simultaneously give the company the excitement kick it needs? There hasn’t been an Infiniti this promising in years, but it’s looking like the Q60 has the formula figured out just right.

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Everybody was (mostly) right about the Mazda MX-5 Miata

Ross Ballot September 20, 2016 All Things Hoon


I hate to admit it, but for someone who loves movies I tend to lag a bit behind when it comes to watching “modern classics.” In many cases what most people have already seen can take me years to finally catch up on. This was the case with The Shawshank Redemption. As the film passed the birthday on which it would be allowed to legally drink alcohol it seemed that between my friends and pop culture, Shawshank was once again being hyped up so much and also being repeatedly so highly spoken of that I began to wonder not just if it was a good movie, but if everyone was playing into it being so for agreement’s sake. I couldn’t help but question if people were buying into the idea of it being a classic and drowning in each other’s praise, somehow making a good movie out to be a great movie.

The timing seemed to coincide with the boom in popularity of Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, and I found myself in a situation similar to that of my Shawshank curiosity: as the praise surrounding the Miata continued to build, more and more time passed that also saw me still yet to drive the much-loved, critically-acclaimed roadster. I began to worry that driving one could and might actually be an utter letdown, a car that over-sold on its promise as the pinnacle sports-roadster experience and that under-delivered on everything from dynamics to excitement to sheer driving fun. It turned out that my skepticism with Shawshank was not be unlike my skepticism with the Miata, and I’m happy to report that I could not have been more wrong on either front.

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Long-Term Introduction: 2017 Subaru WRX Limited 6MT

Ross Ballot September 14, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured


Dates: 7/13/16-9/13/16 —– Odometer: ~5300 miles

After months of playing the waiting game, it finally happened: the move from a house to an apartment was no longer looming but rather had actually come and gone. Furniture was transported, boxes were packed and unpacked, IKEA dressers were fought with, and much beer was consumed. What was only the second major move in my adult life was now complete and yet even with the moving-related stress having passed, something was looming in the back of my mind: one parking space, two cars. A lone section of painted lines sized for one car, but a Challenger and a VehiCROSS worth of vehicular capability and enjoyment to fit inside said literal and metaphorical box.

It was time to find a single replacement to “do it all,” something fun, exciting, and enjoyable yet also safe, practical, and reliable. A car that can induce smiles every day but that fares well commuting and that can handle the punishing New England winters with ease. Many vehicles were considered but one stood out: the Subaru WRX. I had done a test-drive for the hell of it (i.e., out of boredom) a few months back, before the move, and came away really impressed. Flash forward to post-move: after weeks of test-driving, price-shopping, and contemplating, the decision was made and the papers were signed. Enter my new car: a 2017 World Rally Blue WRX Limited 6MT.

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