Tuesday, October 23, 2018

2019 Ford Ranger Production Kicks Off In Michigan

  • 2019 Ford Ranger Production is underway in Michigan.
  • Ford says the new Ranger has segment-leading performance. 
  • A special configuration tool for pre-ordering is open on Ford’s website. 
  • Pricing begins at $25,395 MSRP. 

2019 Ford Ranger production is underway at Michigan Assembly, following a special ceremony with the plant’s 3,000 employees. After an eight year absence, the Ranger returns for the 2019 model year. Ford has invested $850 million into Michigan Assembly for both the Ranger and Bronco, the latter set for production in 2020.

“The revitalization of the Michigan Assembly Plant and renewed production of the Ford Ranger is another exciting chapter in our state’s comeback story,” said Governor Rick Snyder. “This is also an opportunity to look toward its promising future with production of the all-new Ford Bronco on the horizon.”

“Ford truck fans demanded a midsize pickup that’s ‘Built Ford Tough,’ and we’re delivering with our all-new Ranger that’s specially designed and engineered for American truck customers,” added Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of Global Operations. “At the same time, we’re revitalizing our Michigan Assembly Plant and securing good-paying jobs for our hourly employees here in the U.S.”

Ford’s Michigan Assembly is a 369-acre plant in Wayne, Michigan. Station wagons were the first vehicles to roll off the line when the plant opened in 1957. Then in 1966, a 30-year run of Bronco production began. As of October 22nd, 2019 Ford Ranger production is underway. Photo: Ford Motor Company.

New Family

Ford is transforming their product lineup, building their truck, SUV, and commercial vehicle momentum. Earlier this year, Michigan Assembly ended Focus production, taking the necessary retooling measures in anticipation for the Ranger’s launch. The 2019 Ranger is the first in a series of all-new vehicles as Ford looks to replace over 75 percent of their North American portfolio by 2020.

“We have been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Michigan Assembly Plant Manager Erik Williams. “The Ranger is back home in the U.S., and our employees at Michigan Assembly Plant are thrilled to be able to build it for our customers.”


The 2019 Ranger is the first in a series of all-new vehicles as Ford looks to replace over 75 percent of their North American portfolio by 2020.
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Power & Performance

The 2019 Ford Ranger’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost features direct fuel injection, a twin-scroll turbocharger, a forged-steel crankshaft (and con rods), and chain-driven dual overhead cams. It’s paired to a 10-speed automatic.

Ford says the new Ranger will offer driver-assist and connectivity features, as well as best-in-class payload, gas towing, and gas torque. An available FX4 Off-Road Package includes Terrain Management and Trail Control systems to increase performance during adverse or rough driving conditions.

2019 Ford Ranger on display at the North American International Auto Show, Cobo Center, Detroit, Michigan.

The 2019 Ford Ranger will feature new tech for easier towing.

Availability

In May, Ford revealed the intense and rigorous testing the 2019 Ranger was enduring prior to production. Ford is currently taking orders on their website. Customers who order before January 2nd will receive their new Ranger by July 2nd 2019.

“UAW-Ford members take pride in relaunching the all-new Ranger right here in Michigan,” said UAW-Ford Vice President Rory Gamble. “Our UAW brothers and sisters take great care in the quality and craftsmanship customers will discover when they experience the relaunch of this iconic nameplate.”

“I thank our partners at Ford for investing in Michigan and contributing to the Motor City’s legacy as the automotive capital of the world,” Snyder added.

The Automoblog Staff contributed to this report. 

Photos & Source: Ford Motor Company.



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Saturday, October 20, 2018

2018 Audi R8 Competition Package: Engage Gusto, Destroy Subtlety

  • Audi says this version is the most performance-oriented R8 yet.
  • Numerous Audi Sport performance parts come factory-installed.
  • Don’t expect to see very many of them as production will be slim. 

Audi didn’t make this version of the R8 any prettier, I’m afraid, but they did make it hotter. It’s lighter, more track-focused and, if you are one of those “performance before all other things” kind of gearhead, then the 2018 Audi R8 V10 plus Coupe Competition is the version you want.

Audi’s cars, it’s sad to say, start out as almost beautiful, but, slowly, over the generations, they get uglier and uglier. When the R8 hit, it wasn’t exactly a Ferrari challenger, but it was pretty darn good, and had tons of on-road Presence. It looked the business. It looked different from the other high end sports cars out there. Every angle seemed to add up.

But now … sigh … we get this. Fussy. Over thought out. Too many rude angles and creases. It’s not bad, it’s not ugly, but the R8 is heading down a design road it shouldn’t.

All that said, this thing can really haul the mail.

Long Words, Low Weight

Officially, it’s called the 2018 Audi R8 V10 plus Coupe Competition package. Yes, that is a mouthful, but Germans have a penchant for long words (Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften, for example) (that means “insurance companies providing legal protection”)(no, really). So let us just refer to this bad boy as the “Competition Package” shall we?

The Competition Package, first, shaves some unneeded pounds here and there.

For example, titanium backing plates for the carbon ceramic brake pads cut 2.2 lbs., which helps unsprung weight. The wheels are similar to the R8 GT4 race car, and even though they’re a whopping 20 inches in diameter, carve off another 26.4 lbs. Tally it up, and the Competition Package shaves around 40 lbs. versus the “normal” R8.

2018 Audi R8 V10 plus Coupe Competition Package. Photo: Audi of America, Inc.


This thing can really haul the mail.
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Celebrity Treatment

Audi then had a go at the aero workings for the Competition Package. The latest aero kit (full carbon fiber, of course) not only looks aggressive, but offers noticeable increases in downforce. At around 150 km/h (that’s 93.2 mph for you ‘Muricans out there), the downforce is doubled compared to an R8 V10 plus Coupe (see, long names!). At that speed, you’re garnering to 52 kg (114.6 lbs.) of downforce.

Which is like having Ariana Grande along for the ride, but without the screeching vocals and auto-tuning sins.

When the Competition Package hits its vMax – 315 km/h or 196 mph –  the new aero package is producing 100 kg (220.5 lbs.) more downforce than before, for a total of 250 kg (551.2 lbs). Which is like having Shaquille O’Neal and me stuffed into the passenger seat! All this increased downforce and aero tuning, sadly, has the disadvantage of raising drag coefficient from a previous Cd of 0.36, now up to 0.42.

The carbon fiber aero kit includes the fixed rear wing, side sills, front spoiler and front flics, and the rear diffuser.


It’s like having Ariana Grande along for the ride, but without the screeching vocals and auto-tuning sins.
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Perfect Ten

Audi will only be making ten versions of the Competition Package, with all 10 units being identical and “pre-configured” with the same features. The exterior is painted Suzuka Gray (sort of an off-white). The chairs are black racing shell seats with red contrast stitching. Leather is everywhere, with a full leather package including the upper and lower dash, doors, and side panels.

Tunes are provided by a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 13 speakers and 550 watts of amplifier power. All ten versions will come with the aformentioned performance brake pads and titanium backing plates.

Pricing & Availability

This R8 Competition Package is scheduled to arrive next month. And it will run you … $237,350! Or, you know, what granny and gramps spent on their retirement home in Palm Springs.

Worth it? That’s really up to you, although, despite the look, I do have a fondness for the R8.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2018 Audi R8 Competition Package Gallery

Photos & Source: Audi of America, Inc.



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2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman Review: Simple But Effective

The 2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman is a truck for the business owner who needs a workhorse. The Crew Cab 4×4 gets down and dirty by performing the toughest jobs on the site. With the Tradesman, you can carry the crew and lots of extra equipment. The 2019 model gets a redesign with upgrades making it even more effective as a work truck.

And even though it’s made for work, it’s not totally devoid of conveniences or creature comforts. This was a nice surprise as we spent the week driving the 2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman. 

What’s New For 2019

The 2019 Ram 1500 is entirely new and redesigned, losing some significant weight in the process. Ram says the new truck is nearly 225 lbs. lighter than its predecessor, despite adding higher grades of steel to its frame. Max towing and payload also increase. Properly equipped, the Tradesman can tow 12,750 lbs. with a payload exceeding 2,000 lbs. 


With the Tradesman, you can carry the crew and lots of extra equipment.
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Features & Options

The Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 ($37,995) comes standard with 18-inch steel wheels, vinyl flooring and upholstery, and the Uconnect infotainment system with a five-inch touchscreen display. Other creature comforts include automatic headlights, a locking tailgate, heated side mirrors, push-button ignition, cruise control, a 40/20/40-split folding bench seat, air conditioning, and a rearview camera.

Connectivity features include Bluetooth capability, rear-seat USB charge ports, and a six-speaker audio system with dual USB inputs and an auxiliary audio jack.

The Tradesman can be upgraded with options that include a Class IV hitch receiver package ($645) with trailer brake controls, an electronic locking rear differential, towing mirrors, chrome exterior trim, a spray-in bedliner, cloth upholstery, a folding rear seat, and satellite radio.

Total MSRP including destination: $44,275. By comparison, the 2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman starts at $33,340. 

A class III trailer hitch, 160-amp alternator, 3.21 rear axle ratio, and 730-amp battery are standard on the 2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman.

Interior Highlights

The cab feels big and is a pleasing place to spend your work day. We used the generous amount of tilt-and-telescoping adjustment range to find the perfect driving position. There’s plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room in all seating positions. Overall, the inside is intelligently-designed for the business owner always on the go. We liked the center console with a large flat surface for a laptop or clipboard, perfect for writing estimates or keeping inventory.

The center stack is close enough too, putting all the controls within easy reach. The buttons and knobs are logically positioned for easy operation, just as you’d expect. Push-button start and an electric parking brake are standard even on the entry-level Tradesman.

The amount of side glass and the design of the dash makes for good visibility, despite the truck’s size. The redesigned crew cab offers more rear legroom than anything else in the class by a long shot. Stepping in the back reveals even more room for employees. When you need to give them a ride, they won’t feel cramped. The rear bench folds up easily, opening up a large cargo area for tools and equipment.

The 2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman is available in two cab styles and two bed lengths: Quad Cab with a 6 ft., 4 in. bed, Crew Cab with a short bed (5 ft., 7 in.) or Crew Cab with an optional 6 ft., 4 in. bed.


The redesigned crew cab offers more rear legroom than anything else in the class by a long shot.
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Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

Standard on the Tradesman is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 producing 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. There’s a selector knob on the dash with 2WD, 4WD -Auto, 4-High, and 4-Low settings. 

Fuel mileage estimates come in at 19/24 city/highway and 21 combined for the Pentastar V6. Those looking for more power for their Tradesman can upgrade to the 5.7-liter Hemi V8.

Driving Dynamics

We were impressed with the power of the V6, especially with its eTorque feature. It’s a mild hybrid engine assist technology, and it’s new on Ram trucks for 2019. Not a hybrid technology in the traditional sense, eTorque stores electricity in a lithium battery and helps the automatic stop-start system work smoothly.

It also provides a bit of extra power from a stop and gives a boost on the highway. With the Pentastar V6, up to 90 lb-ft. of additional torque can be sent to the wheels. 

The Ram’s weight loss helps when pulling up a steep hill at altitude. We had no trouble passing slower traffic as we pushed hard up I-70, heading west into the high country. The large power exterior trailer tow mirrors made it easy to see small cars on the highway. We even had an early fall snow in Colorado this week. We shifted into 4-High on the fly and the big truck powered through the white stuff without loosing grip. 


We had no trouble passing slower traffic as we pushed hard up I-70, heading west.
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Conclusion

The workhorse 2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman makes minimal concessions to luxury and offers all the things you need to get the job done. If you spend lots of time driving and going from site-to site, it’s a comfortable place to spend your work day.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman Gallery

2019 Ram 1500 Official Site.

Photos: FCA US LLC.



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Friday, October 19, 2018

2019 BMW X7: The Beast From The East

  • The 2019 BMW X7 is many things. Small is not one of them. 
  • BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicle offers two engines and an endless list of optional features.
  • The new X7 will be the fifth model produced at BMW’s Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina. 

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! And since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!”

Yeah, I cribbed that one, and yeah, the new 2019 BMW X7 is b-i-g big. Do we really need this Ahab? Our roads will be better because of this? What do you think?

Get the harpoon.

Bigger Is Best

Yup, it’s big. How big? 17 feet long, six and a half feet wide, and standing a tick under six feet tall. Surprisingly, the weight is “only” 5,600 lbs. I say only because I was expecting something that looks like a vanadium steel ingot on wheels to tip the scales in the five-digit range. So yeah, coming in at 2.25 Miatas is a victory.

Do we need this? Of course we do. We are, after all, Americans. We like ’em big and roomy, built like and sized like a Sherman tank with the survivability to match. And boy, does the 2019 BMW X7 deliver on that.

Three rows of seats for the passengers in the back (i.e. The Kids) offer up acres of roominess. Expansive surfaces abound, large trim pieces are everywhere, and other surfaces are framed with electroplated accents, including the instrument panel and center console. You got this much canvas to play with, might as well paint on all of it Jackson.

The center console is where everything lives. Literally everything: iDrive Controller, gear selector, climate settings, Driving Experience Control switches, and the settings for the air suspension and optional off-road modes. There’s enough room in that console alone to nail a golden Guinea with space left over.

2019 BMW X7 interior layout. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.


You got this much canvas to play with, might as well paint on all of it Jackson.
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Packing Punches

Okay, you ask, so this panzer of a family truck is nice inside, but it’s a BMW, what about power? Becalm yourselves, for the X7 comes with a choice of two engines: A 4.4-liter V8, found in the X7 xDrive50i, and a high-revving 3.0-liter inline six-banger, found in the X7 xDrive40i. Both gasoline mills feature TwinPower Turbo technology, High Precision Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve timing, and Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing. Each system is exclusive to BMW.

The V8 cranks out 479 lb-ft. of torque and 456 horsepower, good enough for a zero to 60 mph time of 5.2 seconds. The sixer has 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft. of torque on tap, adding up to a zero to 60 mph of 5.8 seconds. Yeah, you won’t be out dragging a new Corvette with this guy, but those are pretty good times for something this size.

Both BMW X7 engines come mated to an improved version of the company’s eight-speed Steptronic transmission. The transmission has wider ratios and new electronics to increase overall efficiency.

Newly-designed heat plates in the X7’s 4.4-liter V8 enhance thermal shielding for the crankcase and cylinder heads. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Want a faster BMW? Here’s what we would pick to leave others in the dust.

Driveline & Suspension Tech

The xDrive all-wheel drive system is rear-biased for those “occasions when the driver adopts a more sporting style of driving,” which is pretty funny to contemplate. There is an optional, electronically-controlled rear M Sport diff if you really want to get “sporty.” Somehow, and for some reason, BMW has thrown an electric motor into this optional rear differential. It allows as much as 1,106 lb-ft. of drive torque to be redirected from wheels with less grip to the ones with more.

I’m sure it works like the business, but heaven help your bank account if it comes apart.

The 2019 BMW X7 comes standard with Dynamic Damper Control with two-axle air suspension. Other options in the chassis department include the Dynamic Handling Package, Integral Active Steering, and M Sport Brakes. The available Active Comfort Drive with road preview works with the air suspension and an active roll-stabilization system. Along with camera sensors that preview the road ahead, the system proactively makes suspension adjustments.

Jet Black, Dark Graphite, and Phytonic Blue will be available as exterior colors in April. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Want something smaller? The new X5 is coming and the X4 is already available.

Positive Vibes

Otherwise, the list of optional tech, connectivity, and safety equipment reads like a 550 page treatise on the ins and outs of whale oil production. But, get this: BMW says the Panorama Sky Lounge LED Roof generates a “very special and exclusive aura when darkness falls, with LED light spreading evenly across the glass surfaces to illuminate more than 15,000 graphic patterns and generate a display reminiscent of a starlit sky.”

I bet this will be real popular in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, and anywhere else where pot is legal. And there’s a Harman Kardon system that would make Owsley Stanley blush.

Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.


Tell Mr. Brownstone, the Gold Dust Woman, and the White Rabbit we will be here … staring out the sunroof.
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Worth It?

The megillah that is the 2019 BMW X7 is an air of Teutonic prerogative and condescension. That means they’ll probably sell by the boat-load, even with pricing starting at $74,895 for the X7 xDrive40i. By comparison, the X7 xDrive50i begins at $93,595. Expect the new X7 in March.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2019 BMW X7 Gallery

Photos & Source: BMW of North America, LLC.



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2019 Toyota 4Runner Nightshade: All About Dat Traction

  • The 2019 Toyota 4Runner receives a new Nightshade Special Edition trim. 
  • Fox Internal Bypass Shocks are available for the 4Runner along with terrain control features. 
  • Toyota calls the 4Runner a “Sherpa among SUVs.” Sherpa? Really? Sure, why not. You do you Toyota. 

There’s a new Toyota 4Runner out, and I suppose that’s a good thing, but it also makes me ask: Why build new ones, don’t the originals last forever? I live in rural farm country, and the biggest slice of the vehicle ownership pie out here breaks down into two vehicles: full-sized pickups (F-150s, Rams, and such) and Toyota 4Runners.

4Runners are everywhere, and why not? They have room, they have versatility, they can be seriously modified (if you want to get into off-roading) and they last forever, near as I can tell. So what gives? What does the 2019 Toyota 4Runner have to offer us, in the off-road and durability department?

Night Moves

For starters, there’s a new Nightshade Special Edition available, and the cool stuff is actually performance oriented. The TRD Pro package gets you a Fox Suspension (cool!), roof rack, and JBL Premium Audio for that “west coast sound.” TRD Off-Road and Off-Road Premium Grades get you even more capability with a 270 horsepower V6 and a hefty 5,000-lb. towing capacity. That’s more than enough for a trailer and your fave weekend track toy.

The 2019 Toyota 4Runner is still a truck, with a body-on-frame construction. So yeah, it will twist and flex, but in all the right ways for off-roading.

Buyers get their choice of 2WD, part-time 4WD with a two-speed transfer case, or, in the Limited models, a full-time multi-mode 4WD with a two-speed transfer case and a locking center diff. All of the 4×4 models offer 9.6 inches of ground clearance. Sweet!

2019 Toyota 4Runner Nightshade Special Edition. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.


It will twist and flex, but in all the right ways for off-roading.
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Badges & Markings

All 4Runners come with projector beam headlights and LED rear combination lamps. SR5 and TRD models have 17-inch alloy wheels in three designs: six-spoke, seven-spoke or matte black. The TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium are separated from the pack by color-keyed bumpers and overfenders, hood scoops, and silver-painted front and rear bumper accents. “TRD Off-Road” badges adorn the C-pillars.

The top-kick Limited is the only 4Runner you can get with a chrome-plated grille insert and exterior trim. And, more importantly for some, 20-inch machine-finished wheels and boss P245/60R20 tires.

The 20-inch wheels are black, natch. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Back Is The New Black

Now, this whole Nightshade Special Edition deal. Sigh, here we go. “Black is the name of the game for the new Nightshade Special Edition,” says Toyota, taking themselves far too seriously. The Nightshade Special Edition is based on the Limited grade, but offers black accents all throughout the vehicle. The front and rear bumpers, outer mirrors, door handles, window moldings, rockers panels, roof rails – even the exhaust tip.

On the inside, there’s black trim on the steering wheel, center cluster and console panels, shift knob and shifter panel, and inner door grips. However, for some reason, the Nightshade comes in more than black: Magnetic Gray Metallic and Blizzard Pearl, for example. Kinda defeats the whole “black is the name of the game” thing, don’tcha think?

2019 Toyota 4Runner interior layout. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Traction Jackson!

All of the 4WD 4Runners are powered by a 270 horsepower 4.0-liter V6 with 278 lb-ft. of torque. Toyota’s VVT-i variable valve timing deal is on-board too. A five-speed ECT-i automatic transmission with sequential shift mode is there for gear selection. There are a bunch of chassis goodies that actually seem useful too. For example, Hill-Start Assist Control for steep inclines, and Downhill Assist Control for the exact opposite.

TRD Off-Road, Off-Road Premium, and TRD Pro models add an electronic-locking rear differential and Toyota’s Crawl Control. Think of it as a factory rock crawler setting, and you’ll get the point. CRAWL (as Toyota calls it) adjusts engine speed and braking so the 4Runner keeps moving forward or backward in one of five driver-selectable low-speed settings. Trick!

Ultimately, CRAWL allows the driver to focus on steering without having to modulate the throttle or brake pedal. Toyota calls this “The Added Attraction of Added Traction” which I am totally stealing.

The 2019 Toyota 4Runner Nightshade Edition is easily recognizable by its distinctive front end. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.


Toyota calls this The Added Attraction of Added Traction, which I am totally stealing.
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Suspension Tech

Suspension-wise the 4Runner TRD Off-Road models have a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System available for extended wheel travel at slow speeds. The TRD Pro kicks it up a notch, with 2.5-inch Fox Internal Bypass Shocks with precise compression damping in both high-speed and low-speed situations.

The front Foxes are paired with TRD-tuned coil springs and an additional inch of lift; the rear 2.5-inch Fox shocks have remote reservoirs.

Toyota also points to the “Cross Linked Relative Absorber System” or X-REAS suspension. This system automatically adjusts the damping force of the shocks when driving on rough roads or through corners. A center control absorber cross-links the shock absorbers on opposite corners of the vehicle, reducing pitch and yaw by offsetting opposing inputs.

Pricing

According to Kelly Blue Book, the 2019 Toyota 4Runner Limited starts at $43,225 with the Nightshade theme starting at $44,965. Destination charge is $1,045.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.



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AIM VASSER SULLIVAN to Field Two Lexus RC F GT3 Race Cars in IMSA’s GTD Class in 2019

Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada (October 16, 2018) -. AIM VASSER SULLIVAN (AVS) is a newly formed motorsports entity that includes AIM Autosport, a championship-winning organization, partnering with IndyCar winning team owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan to campaign two Lexus RC F GT3 race cars in the GT Daytona (GTD) class of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship beginning in 2019.

Vasser and Sullivan were allied and partners from 2011-2016 with KVSH Racing in the IndyCar Series. During that time they won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and went on to win five more IndyCar races over a three-year period (2014-2016). In 2018, they formed a partnership with Dale Coyne to establish Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan to compete in the IndyCar Series with driver Sebastien Bourdais. In its first year, the team earned multiple podiums including winning the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and finishing seventh in the 2018 championship standings.

AIM Autosport has won races and championships in every level of motorsports they have competed in with customer racing programs dating back to the 1990s, including the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GTD championship.

“Having the opportunity to campaign two mighty Lexus RC F GT3 cars in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship in partnership with Jimmy and Sulli is fantastic,” said AIM VASSER SULLIVAN co-owner Andrew Bordin. “To compete for wins and Championships in this ultra-competitive class requires excellence in all aspects of racing and we now have all of the right pieces in place.”

AIM VASSER SULLIVAN will operate from the current AIM facilities in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada and a newly established US-based race facility located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Sulli and I are excited and looking forward to entering a new chapter in our racing careers,” said AIM VASSER SULLIVAN co-owner Jimmy Vasser. “I have driven sportscars before, but my career was pretty much limited to the 24 Hours of Daytona, including a ‘class’ win in 1992 and second overall in 2008. The AIM VASSER SULLIVAN TEAM, with the support of Lexus and our sponsors, has the tools to get the job done and we are looking forward to this new challenge.”

The RC F GT3, which is based upon the production Lexus RC F high performance coup, initially debuted in IMSA competition at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona. In its first two IMSA WeatherTech seasons, Lexus earned five pole positions, two race wins and finished third in the 2018 GTD Manufacturer point standings.

“We believe AIM VASSER SULLIVAN is a great fit for our organization as we continue to evolve our race program,” said David Christ, group vice president and general manager, Lexus division. “Lexus F is a brand infused with motorsports technology and the high performance capabilities of the RC F GT3 on the race track has proven Lexus as more than just a luxury automaker.”

“It’s been exciting for Lexus to get back into sports car racing with the RC F GT3,” said Mark Egger, motorsports manager, Lexus division. “We’ve been able to build our fan base through on-track performance and by engaging with consumers at our Lexus Racing Experience activation, and look forward to continuing that growth in our new partnership with AIM VASSER SULLIVAN.”

The team will announce its 2019 driver line ups in the coming weeks.



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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Letter From The UK: When Speed Isn’t Everything

  • With so much to do in a given day, we often drive with purpose instead of for pleasure. 
  • Maybe it’s time to take a road trip? A slow drive with someone special to just enjoy the scenery? 
  • Geoff Maxted packs up a modest Ford Galaxy with his wife for a journey into the UK’s rich history.  

Great Britain is a country of contrasts. From blue remembered hills to golden shores; the dangerous, rocky coasts to rugged open moorland, there is so much to explore on a relatively small island and, crucially, almost all of it is accessible by road. From Lands End in the South to Cape Wrath at the Northernmost point, the car is an essential tool for getting about.

This begs the question:

Which Car?

You see, for most of my time I am yearning tragically for high-performance experiences I will probably never have. Recently I have written about the new Porsche Speedster and the Aston Martin Valkyrie, for example. Both hugely desirable, neither are at all suitable for exploration along the broken minor roads and tracks of the UK. Furthermore, at the opposite end of the scale, a full-blown four-wheel drive mud-munching behemoth is also totally pointless.

A good all-rounder, that’s the answer.

The Journey

On this trip via the north coast of the Counties of Somerset and Devonshire and taking in the low, bucolic Quantock Hills, our ultimate destination was Exmoor National Park. It was the two of us for just a few days but to make allowances for the amount of luggage my beloved Lady requires (“You can never have too many accessories”) the chosen vehicle was Ford’s capacious Galaxy.

In this country, cars of this type are known as MPV’s (multi-purpose vehicles) and very useful they are. Ideal for moving small items of furniture as much as families, vehicles like the Galaxy make the ideal touring machine. Not quick but full of purpose, the Ford did all we required of it without pausing for breath.

Photo: DriveWrite Automotive.


It was the two of us for just a few days but to make allowances for the amount of luggage my beloved Lady requires, the chosen vehicle was @Ford’s capacious Galaxy.
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The Car

Our Galaxy came with a 2.0L diesel engine; just the right powerplant for this trip. Thrifty, yet producing 148bhp, this engine took everything in its stride thanks to a chunky 350Nm of torque.

To be honest, this car is getting a bit long in the tooth now and must soon be in line for replacement. The slow demise has already started as some catalogued colours, including the splendid “Deep Impact” blue you see before you, have been de-listed.

In typical Ford style, the dashboard was adequate with all the usual technology, but doesn’t come near the luxury of, say, an Audi. This is however reflected in the price of £30,000, which in this country makes this motor a real bargain. With seven seats available (at the expense of trunk space) this people carrier is both comfortable and reliable.

We recorded over 50 miles for the precious gallon in mixed driving. Yet, when the occasion demanded, the car was entirely up for a bit of spirited overtaking. You can take the man out of the performance car but you cannot take the performance car out of the man. You can quote me on that.

Photo: DriveWrite Automotive.


You can take the man out of the performance car but you cannot take the performance car out of the man.
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The Terrain

Approaching our first destination, the small coastal village of Lynmouth, involved first tackling Porlock Hill. From the East side the hill starts with a sharp u-bend at an inclination of 25 percent, requiring diligent use of low gears. The road up the hill sometimes narrows dangerously to one car’s width while passing through tiny hamlets. It varies from really steep to OMG!

Historically, that is to say in the last century, it was often the case that passengers had to alight and assist the engine with a hefty push. This is why a strong diesel with a decent amount of torque was called into action. Even today, our tiny modern blown engines could struggle, especially in the hands of a novice.

Okay, it’s not like driving up the side of some mighty eminence but it’s enough.

It is worth it too. The views of the coast and of the expanse of Exmoor are superb from the top of Porlock Hill. Or rather they would be if it wasn’t for persistent low-rolling clouds obscuring the view. At some points, it becomes so dense that you can’t see the dozy sheep wandering about in the road until the last second.

Photo: DriveWrite Automotive.

The Funicular

Finally though, the sun broke through as we descended down into the steep gorge where, at the confluence of the East Lyn and West Lyn rivers, we arrived at Lynmouth. This charming little coastal village twins with the village of Lynton way up on the other side of the gorge.

You can walk or drive up but the true tourist takes the Funicular railway, the highest and the steepest totally water-powered railway in the world. Going strong since 1890, it’s the easiest way up but the faint-hearted should not look down.

The Village On Exmoor

The main purpose of our trip was to visit the small Church in the village of Oare, deep in the heart of the Doone Valley and the setting for R.D. Blackmore’s famous novel Lorna Doone. Born in Oxfordshire, Blackmore’s origins were from a local family. He later returned to the area to research the novel, writing it in 1867. The real-life Doune (original spelling) brothers were a band of brigands who terrorised travellers on this remote part of Exmoor.

Blackmore’s grandfather was Rector of Oare church, which in the novel is used as the setting for the marriage between Lorna Doone and John Ridd, the hero of the story.

Sadly, I am unable to offer images as, again, the mists descended. We viewed the area as if through a thick veil. Look it up; this area is very beautiful. On top of the moors, however, the views were spectacular. I only managed to bog the Galaxy down once, forcing me to risk a steep downhill reverse to a sheep track via which we finally escaped.

Maybe a 4×4 would have been useful after all?


I only managed to bog the Galaxy down once, forcing me to risk a steep downhill reverse to a sheep track via which we finally escaped.
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Sunday Driving

The fact is we can’t go fast all the time. Sometimes driving for purpose should be replaced by driving for leisure, especially with someone special by our side. Speed isn’t everything. The Ford Galaxy took us where we, and all of our luggage, wanted to go.

Slowing down means that even from the driving seat we can see more of our world. Sometimes it really is okay to stop and stare.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite



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