Featured Reviews
Another rainbow shot serves as halo for Nautilus.

Nautilus, Corsair navigate Lincoln SUV pool

Lincoln's fleet of SUVs has added more compact models like the Nautilus and Corsair which have their own assets for combining sporty performance and luxury.

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The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat packs 702 supercharged horsepower into an SUV that is a throwback to the 1970s muscle cars.

Page, Durango SRT link 50 years of Mopar

The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat packs the wallop of 702 supercharged V8 power into a modern SUV form, successfully linking with 3,000 muscle cars from the era of 50 years ago.

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Tremors big and small shake up Ford rivals

What's new in Ford pickups? How about Tremor off-road models in giant F-250 and compact Ranger extremes?

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Rounded off where it used to be sharp-edged creases, the CT5 stands for refinement.

Cadillac refines CT5's look, tech

Cadillac made the sharp creases of its CT5 luxury sedan familiar, then it rounded off the edges and filled the 2021 Premium Luxury model with high-tech DOHC turbo V6 power.

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Pacifica Pinnacle recalls Dylan, Indy, road-trips

Pacifica is the name of Chrysler's latest don't-call-me-a-minivan, and the Pinnacle is the top-end Pacifica, capable of rekindling memories of road trips and even Bob Dylan's 80t

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The ID.4 is Volkswagen's new all-electric compact SUV, with power, range, technology, and affordably prices about $40,000.

VW gives ID.4 'Fair' Minnesota intro -- with corn dogs

The Golf ID.4 EV is a star of combining cancelled auto shows and state fairs with driveable electric cars -- and corn dogs.

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Looking back at winter's adventure with a K5 is a request for AWD.

Without AWD, Kia K5 survives winter wonderland

Kia redesigned its Optima midsize sedan for 2021, and renamed it the K5, and first impressions recall its adventures in a Duluth blizzard.

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Top-rung Ford F-150 adds hybrid power

If you wonder how Ford keeps its F-150 pickup at the top of all vehicle sales, just check out the new 2021 model with 3.5-liter V6 Hybrid power.

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Mercedes turned its AMG branch loose to creat the stylish, hot-performing E53.

Right tires go beyond all-wheel-drive security

All-wheel-drive is common on top models, such as the Mercedes AMG E53, but the choice of tires still makes a difference in severe winter storms.

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'T-Rex' devours competition -- including Raptor

The battle for pickup supremacy has seen the recent rise of the Ram, which adds to its status with a 2021 Raptor-fighting TRX, boasting 702 supercharged Hellcat horsepower.

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Nautilus, Corsair navigate Lincoln SUV pool

June 16, 2021 by · Comments Off on Nautilus, Corsair navigate Lincoln SUV pool
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Midsize Lincoln Nautilus could save buyer a pot of gold  over larger SUV.

By John Gilbert

Ford sets a strong pace with its industry-leading truck business, supporting the always-popular F-150 pickup with a fleet of SUVs that range from the gigantic Expedition to the Explorer and down to the Edge and Escape — plus the new Bronco — getting into the more compact vehicles. It is less noted that  Ford branches out into the luxury category through its Lincoln arm, which used to feature luxury cars before going into luxury SUVs.

The gigantic Navigator is king of the Lincoln line, and it has gotten corporate support to be more than an Expedition with Bling. Next down in the Lincoln lineup is the Aviator, which is a rekindled name from the recent past on a new vehicle that can steal customers from the Navigator by being more maneuverable in traffic. The focus today, you should pardon the expression, is further down the order to the Nautilus and the Corsair, the newest pair of stylish SUVs that deserve consideration by anyone seeking a new niche — a capable luxury SUV that combines sporty flair and agility with that luxury. The Nautilus and Corsair both check those boxes..

Both carry nautical themes, with the Nautilus taking its name from the Jules Verne classic, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” That was definitely appropriate when I spend a week with a Nautilus recently,  its paint was beautiful, called Flight Blue, instead of something such as Deep-Sea Blue, while Flight Blue might be more appropriate on Aviators. The conditions made up for that transgression, though, when the bright, sunny day in Duluth, Minn., took a sudden turn and hit the area with a sudden, surprise thunderstorm.

My wife, Joan, and I were wandering through Target trying to remember what we needed at the time, and when we came out, the sky in the East had swapped its beautiful blue for a sullen black cloud heading out over Lake Superior. It passed quickly enough so the setting sun could illuminate its underside and create a sensational double rainbow. which arched up as though providing a halo for the Nautilus.

Nautilus felt right at home revisiting Hwy. 61’s North Shore of Lake Superior.

White quilted leather seats match accents on steering wheel.

I couldn’t resist doing a quick-draw for my iPhone and firing off a few photos, one of which you can see here.  We hopped inside as the last drops fell, and we didn’t get any wetness on the pristine whie leathre bucket seats, which complemented the luxury feel of the white-leather-trimmed steering wheel..

The Corsair is decidedly smaller than the Nautilus, though no less luxurious inside. Well, maybe a little less luxurious, but still plush enough to be no less comfortable and full of creature features. It was a glistening, metallic Pristine White, with an interior featuring smooth Beyond Blue leather seats.

Family Lincoln grille fits well on compact Corsair, powered by 2.3-liter turbo four..

Classy blue leather seats adorn Corsair interior.

These two cars stand on their own, but for folks like me, who can’t resist digging beneath the sticker sheet, the Nautilus is based on the Explorer platform and powertrains, while the Corsair is lower, smaller and lighter, built on the same platform and drivetrain as the Escape, which also serves the new Bronco.

The Nautilus was powered by Ford’s potent 2.7-liter V6 with 335 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque. thanks to twin-turbochargers pumping air into the combustion chambers, with an 8-speed automatic. Its sticker was $68,295, which tells you how well equipped the Black Label model is, because its base price is $65,090, and the only options added on were enhanced active park assist, 360-degree camera, lane-centering in its adaptive cruise control, a cargo utility package, the roof rack with satin side rails, and the ultra-comfort 22-way power seats.

Lower and sleeker, the Lincoln Corsair has agility to go with its luxury.

The Corsair, on the other hand, jumped from a $45,090 base to $57,680 with the technology package, sport package, “perfect position” 24-way power leather seats, and adaptive suspension.It was powered by a very capable 295 horses and 310 foot-pounds of torque, from a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, also turbocharged. All the prescribed safety assets are included, as is a 14-speaker Revel audio system, plus stop-start and remote starting.

Regular readers of this column are well aware that I prefer more compact vehicles for their agility and fuel-efficiency benefits over gigantic vehicles with lots of power to move but a commensurate decrease in miles per gallon, and comparing these two earns my usual choice. The Nautilus 2.7 V6 could stretch out and get over 20 mpg, although it was in the 17-18 range in city driving. The Corsair routinely got up to mid-20s, although the EPA estimated 28 highway was a stretch.

The Nautilus is not too big, and in my mind has a clear advantages over, say, the Navigator,.  Bu tits edge in quickness fades against the smaller Corsair, which feels quicker and more agile in comparison. The Nautilus has a bit more plush comfort, although it is still firm enough on corners to feel sporty. Conversely, the more compact Corsair, while sportier, is still plenty compliant and comfortable.

Both vehicles had all-wheel drive, as well as 8-speed automatics, but features such as paddle shifters rdon’t seem as significant on the larger Nautilus. On the Corsair, paddles add a definite dash of sportiness, and in Duluth, they are very useful when you want to downshift while descending all those hills. You can probably add a couple years to your brake life by using the paddles to hold your speed under the pace that gravity could help hurtle you into the big lake if you didn’t watch it.

Rainbow serves as halo for Nautilus, which has 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6..

The seats in both vehicles have obviously received special attention from engineers, who have seen to it that being a Lincoln should mean more luxury and comfort than the equivalent version wearing Ford insignias. The seats design and structure definitely works to accomplish that objective.

Both the Nautilus and Corsair are major pluses for Lincoln, which has spent its lifetime trying to earn respect from its more popular Ford siblings. And the Nautilus and Corsair both have enough to offer to lure customers to visit the showroom, and a short test drive in either one might convince a prospective customer to go Lincoln.

Page, Durango SRT link 50 years of Mopar

June 10, 2021 by · Comments Off on Page, Durango SRT link 50 years of Mopar
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat packs 702 supercharged horsepower into an SUV that is a throwback to the 1970s muscle cars.

By John Gilbert
The timing was almost perfect, because I had just finished a test-drive week in a 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, which is both futuristic and retro, when I got contacted by Wes Eisenschenk, who compiles endless research on finding and writing about Lost Muscle Cars.

The “perfect” part of the timing was because the new Durango SRT comes loaded with all the latest developments that Dodge’s Mopar team, previously known as SRT — for Sports Racing Technology — including a supercharged 6.2-liter monster V8, with 702 Hemi horsepower, right out of the Hellcats, with all-wheel drive added for proper SUV potential. It looks the part of an all-out high-performance monster, and it joins current Charger and Challenger Hellcat models as the closest thing on the streets to a throwback to the 1969-72 era, when Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars were the terror of drag strips. Those included Minnesota Dragways and later Donnybrooke Speedway, which became Brainerd International Raceway.

One of the highlights of my time covering such race tracks for the Minneapolis Tribune was when I made a suggestion to the late Jerry Perkl, the imaginative and hyper-active proprietor of White Bear Dodge, which he turned into the motorsports pinnacle of Dodge dealers. I suggested that with the new “Plum Crazy” color of purple that graced the new Dodges, he should set up a hot-rod Charger for Alan Page, who had become a legendary part of the Vikings “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line for his amazingly quick starts that challenged the referee’s ability to detect whether he had vaulted offside.

Perkl swung into action immediately and got it done. For a proper race, Page needed an opponent, and, because I also covered North Stars hockey, I suggested young defenseman Barry Gibbs. So Perkl pulled his display specialty — a high-winged 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger — off the display and set it up for Gibbs for a Minnesota Dragways exhibition match race.

Alan Page talked to John Gilbert at the Mopars in the Park event in Stillwater. — Photo by Jack Gilbert.

Eisenschenk got Page to show up with replicas of those two cars, now privately owned, for an autograph session at the 37th annual “Mopars in the Park” event in mid-June at the Washington County Fairgrounds near Stillwater, Minnesota. In his research, he found a feature I had written in the Minneapolis Tribune archives, and when he finally traced me to Duluth, he was astounded that I had gotten a scoop on the story because I had suggested it in the first place. So he pleaded with me to come down to the event and appear along with Page and the cars. It didn’t take more than an invitation.

The only reason I referred to the idea of the big show being “almost” perfect, incidentally, is that the temperature hit an honest 102 degrees in Stillwater on that June 5 Saturday. It was so hot it also got up- near 100 in Northern Minnesota. The scorching heat was the only flaw in an incredible event. “Mopars in the Park” attracts owners of classic old Dodges and Plymouths, and this year’s event filled acres and acres filled with an estimated 3,000 Mopar hot rods, brightly painted and polished and almost all in the classic, 50-year-old perfection.

Alan Page climbed behind the wheel of the Charger replica of the car he drag-raced.

Wes had pulled off a coup by locating operational replicas of the original Plum Crazy Dodge Charger and the White Bear Dodge Daytona Charger with the giant rear wing. Perkl reettered the Charger to call it “Vikings Purple.”

Page came out and sat in that sizzling weather for a couple of hours, signing autographs and letting people take hundreds of pictures posing with him,  the former Vikings star who then became a Minnesota Supreme Court justice.

The similarity of those 1970-era Chargers and this new version of 21st Century Chargers and Challengers is that the newest Challengers look nearly identical to the vintage ones that never reached this kind of popularity 50 years ago, when competing with Mustangs, Camaros, Barracudas, Firebirds and Javelins in the ponycar marketing battles. But they do have the new high-tech powerplants with the same throaty rumble that might best be described as ground-shaking.

LED taillights run wall-to-wall across the rear of the Durango SRT Hellcat.

The sophistication of the Hellcat powertrain from the contemporary Chargers and Challengers being stuffed into the Durango SUV is a brilliant move by the fellows from Mopar, which builds the SRT engines, to bring alive a neat large SUV that was just crying out for a dose of hot-rod inspirtion.

The vehicle I had test-driven just before the event came in a special Destroyer Gray, with a wide dual-black stripe running over the roof and all the way down in the front and rear. That, and the other graphics set the SRT Hellcat version apart and above the garden-variety Durangos, which compete well enough with the countless other mid to large SUVs in versatility and utility, but the SRT treatment thrusts the Durango into its own category.

The upgrades to the SRT Hellcat version starts with the engine. It is a 6.2-liter Hemi V8, supercharged to reach 702 horsepower, and the 8-speed automatic is not only heavy-duty but it shifts with amazing smoothness. When you take off hard, you hear the roar of the engine, and then you hear the shift points even though you don’t feel anything as it shifts.

The black interior adds the proper sinister demeanor, and the front bucket seats with suede and leather grip you firmly in a comfortable cocoon. The heavy steering feel is welcome, and the paddle-shift levers are readily operable when you want to manually control your shifting, and if you use them, you must keep using the paddles until such time as you hold the right paddle on for a few seconds, which puts you back into automatic mode.

Padded, flat-bottomed steering wheel and multiple instrument settings greet the driver.

Leather and suede give bucket seats a form-fitting grip.

All imaginable luxury and safety features are included, and everything not included as standard for the $80,995 sticker are added in the option list that boosts the price up to $89,665. That would include blind-spot, lane-departure and adaptive cruise, with rear backup assist monitoring and front collision aid — as well as such classy touches as a suede leather headliner to make you not regret missing out on a sunroof.

Mingling with the vintage Mopars, I was surprised to find that Wes Eisenschenk had enlarged a reprint of my story in the Minneapolis Tribune that told all about the upcoming match race at Minnesota Dragways between Alan Page and Barry Gibbs. A highlight of the sweltering afternoon — thank heaven we were in a building — was my reacquainting with Page. He remembered that I had written about and arranged the details, although he probably didn’t remember that I had also written a few Vikings NFL sidebar stories when he played. Page, of course, looks fantastic and is probably lighter than he was in high school, let alone college or pro.

He also put to rest a story that had become legend, about how the publicity from my stories led the Vikings to demand that he stop drag-racing because of the inherent danger of racing.

“No,” said Page, “nobody from the Vikings ever told me I couldn’t race.”

Come to think of it, Page was so strong-willed, he had several standoffs with the Vikings, such as staying light and in healthy shape to be the quickest defensive lineman in the NFL, when they wanted him to bulk up. So if they had insisted he stop racing, it might have been impossible to pull off.

We had a great conversation about the current Vikings, and I told him I was still writing about all sports, as well as cars, for the Duluth Reader. We also had a good segment about my annoyance that after Case Keenum came off the bench to lead the Vikings to an 11-3 record, the Vikings decided he wasn’t good enough for them and went after Kirk Cousins. I said my feeling was that chemistry was vital to a successful team — much as the Vikings of Page’s time proved — and Keenum gave them the best chemistry they had for decades, with the exception of the Brett Favre years.

As a modern, loaded SUV, the Durango SRT appearance is pure throwback power-trip.

“He certainly had an exceptional season with them,” Page acknowledged, diplomatically.

I was thinking it was too bad I wasn’t still driving the SRT Hellcat Durango for that trip, and too bad it wasn’t Plum Crazy, because it would have been the perfect vehicle for Alan Page to drive home as his own.

Tremors big and small shake up Ford rivals

June 2, 2021 by · Comments Off on Tremors big and small shake up Ford rivals
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

The dark blue is almost black, but the off-road intentions of the F-250 Tremor are less subtle.

By John Gilbert
Everybody who drives any kind of vehicle is aware how incredible pickup truck popularity has become, Ford, the king of the pickup game, has now just about reached the most far-out extremes in building and planning off-road capable pickups. But it keeps adding more.

After I had driven just about every size and strength variety of pickups that Ford builds, including F-150, F-250, F-350, Ranger, and specialty models like the Raptor, I figured I had tried them all, and been impressed by nearly all. Then I got a new test drive, and it was the Ford F-250 Super Duty “Tremor” pickup. Or, more accurately, the “2021 F-250 SRW 4×4 Crew Cab Platinum 160-inch wheelbase Styleside Tremor” pickup.

That comes with Ford’s 7.3-liter fuel-injected V8 monster gasoline engine with a 10-speed automatic, and the Tremor monicker is emblazoned on the rear flanks just to designate the off-road trim and capability built within — a package that includes off-roading specialty items such as heavy-duty skid plates, a 10,000-pound gross vehicle weight package, chrome tow hooks, a 4.30 rear axle ratio, and the whole thing is raised enough so be perfect for an Olympic year, because you might need high-jumping skills to get in easily, even with the fixed running-board.

It is, basically, a heavy-duty variant on the theme of Ford’s vastly upgraded Raptor off-road F-150, but this one is only on the F-250 medium-sized Super Duty, with all its bolstered underpinnings. If it’s hard to imagine an F-250 version of a Raptor, it is less difficult after spending a few days with the Tremor.

Tremors, like earthquakes, come in all sizes, witness the Ranger Tremor.

The long and short of it is that Ford complements the F-250 monster with a Tremor version of its compact Ranger pickup, as well, and I got them back-to-back, just for comparison purposes.

If an actual tremor describes the earth trembling when an earthquake shakes the ground, the full force of a 7.3-liter V8 pulling a trailer or hauling a full load, or climbing rocks the size of mountains, certainly offers enough of a resemblance to justify the name.

On top of its powerful capabilities and upscale interior, the F-250 Tremor came in a stunning dark blue color, called “Antimatter Blue,” with black leather seats. And yes, it costs a bit — the test vehicle rose from $65,000 to $73,825 after all the options are tallied.

When the car distribution fellows came to pick up that F-250 Tremor, they replaced it in my driveway with another Ford pickup — a 2021 Ranger midsize pickup, one which also had the word “Tremor” emblazoned on its rear sides. Yes, Ford has expanded its specialty off-road truck fleet to include an oversized one, and also a compact one. The Ranger also was a SuperCrew model, and had a 5-foot box , and it was painted Velocity Blue — a lighter color than its big, F-250 brother. Tremors, of course, come in various degrees, so having them of different sizes makes sense.

Everything came equipped on the test Ranger, which stickered for $34,745 with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost (turbocharged) 4-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic, and it climbed $10,000, to $44,430, when you added the XLT series trim, the Tremor off-road package, remote start, the technology package, and the Tremor goodies and graphics.

Smooth leather seats and Ford interior quality adorns F-250 Tremor.

Long bed with Ford’s step-in tailgate make access easy.

If you need the heavy-duty capabilities, the F-250 is your answer, but if you want to go dashing off-road a bit, but mainly want to maneuver through traffic and park with ease in tight areas while also announcing to the world that you could veer off-road at any moment, the Ranger version is the perfect bookend at the compact end.

Interestingly, while I got 12.5 miles per gallon with the F-250 Tremor, I only managed to get up to 18.5 mpg with the lightweight Ranger model. I would like more from the F-250, but understand how thirsty the 7.3 V8 is, but I also expected more from the turbo 4 in the Ranger.

The reason those two trucks being introduced are almost ironic, of course, is that the big news from Ford in the May was that it will be coming out with an all-electric version of the F-150, which will have spectacular, and silent, power, and will give you all the towing and hauling capability you can imagine, and will also be strictly a plug-in, rechargeable vehicle, a full EV. It will even have a generator stashed and connected to the high-output battery pack that can take care of supplying all the demands your house might have in the event a power failure knocks out your electricity.

Tightly styled Ranger Tremor has normal pickup look.

Sprayed-in bed lining will handle Ranger Tremor hauling.

It seems that the hard-core pickup buyers might be the last and most reluctant to give up their gasoline engines, no matter how poor their fuel economy might be. But if Ford can pull off the switch to an electric F-150, we will be fascinated to watch the transition. And it will be anticlimactic to sit here and quibble about the fuel economy of a gigantic V8 or a turbo EcoBoost 4-cylinder if Ford is using them as an effective smoke screen while it sneaks out its silent EV version virtually behind our backs.

Me? I’m waiting to try out what is sure to be coming soon — an all-electric F-150 Raptor. With or without Tremor trim.

Cadillac refines CT5’s look, tech

June 2, 2021 by · Comments Off on Cadillac refines CT5’s look, tech
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

CAdillac’s CT5 “Premium Luxury” is all that with some high-tech elements as well.

By John Gilbert
In the face of ever-decreasing competition, Cadillac has a far easier time of accepting praise that the stylish 2021 Cadillac CT5 sedan is the best-looking American sedan. We’re talking sedans from American companies — General Motors, Ford, and the company formerly known as Chrysler.

The fleets of sedans from those companies is smaller than ever, and apparently getting smaller still in years to come, and even General Motors has cut back on the number of sedans from Chevrolet and Buick. Cadillac, meanwhile, if forging onward and upward with its CT4 and CT5 mainstays, which have been improved distinctly over the last two years.

With new technology under the hood and new smoothed shape with styling that is less erector-set, sharp-edge lines and more aero-Euro-classy, the CT5 I recently test-drove checks all the boxes for style and performance, especially because it comes in an assortment of flavors. The top performer is the CT5-V Series, while the test-vehicle I had was the CT5 “Premium Luxury” model, which leaves off a few of the high-performing suspension and big-wheel/tire combinations of the CT5-V, trading them for a little more compliant ride, and quite a few more luxury touches inside.

Rounded off where it used to be sharp-edged creases, the CT5 stands for refinement.

From the outside, the test CT5 stands out because of the curvaceous body panels, and also because the “Satin Steel Metallic” paint does an artistic job of capturing every passing ray of light and converting it into an almost-liquid appearance. In recent months, I’ve also reported on a 2020- CT5-V Series in a fantastic, dark Evergreen, and last year’s CT4 in Garnet Red. Let’s just say that Cadillac seems to be focused on putting some stunning paint schemes on its latest vehicles.

It’s a major compliment to note that at a glance, a lot of passers-by will guess that the CT5 must be German — probably a Mercedes, or maybe a BMW or Audi. But that’s only until you walk around to the front, leaving the neatly contoured side panels and the well-done rear. The front has the now-distinctive Cadillac grille’s trapezoidal shape, blended artfully into the LED headlight enclosures.

But just being considered “one of the boys” among the top German luxury sedans is high praise, and the Cadillac doesn’t disappoint once you climb inside.

Fine fit of luxury materials makes interior of CT5 meet luxury standards.

The firmly supportive leather bucket seats welcome you, and the 14-way adjustable settings mean you will be able to find however much comfort you can stand, and the steering wheel, loaded as it is with redundant controls for the audio system, climate, and racking over the on-board computer readouts, also has shift paddles affixed to the backside of the wheel so you can upshift or downshift the 10-speed transmission at the touch of a finger.

Push the starter button and fire-up the engine, and you might think the huge V8 has been quieted down a bit, but actually it is not a giant V8, but instead a plenty potent 3.0-liter V6, with dual overhead-camshafts and twin turbochargers to develop 360 horsepower, and pour it through the system to all four wheels.

CT5 proves a luxury car needn’t be ultra long to contain all necessary premium ingredients.

The suspension is never harsh — much less harsh than the CT5-V Series, for example — but it is firm enough to satisfy a performance-oriented driver while cornering hard or following some tight curves aggressively.

Interesting blend, Cadillac has developed for both the CT4 with its turbo-four-cylinder power, lighter weight and smaller overall size, and for the CT5, which can be had hot of mild, with the understanding that the hotter CT5-V Series is comfortable enough and the CT5 “Premium Luxury” model is a strong-enough performer.

Somebody has to get into the inner offices at Cadillac and ask them to perhaps define the difference between “Premium” and “Luxury,” because to me they mean the same, and more of the same. But the excess seems to work, and may help justify the quite moderate sticker price of $51,455. The base price is $40,795, and the added option list includes the vital pieces — the 3.0 V6, all-wheel drive, and the suite of safety stuff such as lane-departure warning, following distance, and lane-keep assist, which gently guides you back into your lane if you’ve seemed to wander.

The biggest different between the CT4 and CT5 is the extra length, which translates into considerably more rear head and leg room in the CT5, while the large trunk awaits enough luggage to serve the four occupants for lots of miles or days.

CT5’s extra length provides more spacious rear-seat comfort.

With the biggest upgrades coming in the 2020 model year, Cadillac could focus on tightening up the steering and handling and find a few more luxury gadgets to install. It will get up to the EPA highway maximum 26 miles per gallon without much difficulty. We drove the freeway from Duluth to the Twin Cities and returned in the same day, and the trip computer showed 25.5 miles per gallon.

Not bad for a large, luxury vehicle. All the time I was driving the CT5 I couldn’t help but think this 3.0 Twin Turbo V6 is undoubtedly the highest-tech engine ever put in a Cadillac, but remember, Cadillac has said all of its cars will be pure electric by 2025. Makes me wonder if Cadillac might sublet a few of these DOHC V6es to its close personal friends at Chevrolet.

Pacifica Pinnacle recalls Dylan, Indy, road-trips

May 27, 2021 by · Comments Off on Pacifica Pinnacle recalls Dylan, Indy, road-trips
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Pacifica has added a top-of-the-line Pinnacle, which conjures up visions of road trips past, present and future.

By John Gilbert

As we age, memories seem to either fade away or become more vivid with passing years. In those cases, something may have to ignite that recollection, and the 2021 Pacifica Pinnacle is a perfect example, in this last week of May, 2021. It brought back an assortment of memories of road trips I’ve made over a few decades and ties them all together conveniently.

The new Pinnacle model of the Pacifica is loaded with luxury features that would make it perfect for a long road trip with family or good friends, and, in fact, it might take a jet airliner to approach — but not surpass — the ingredients Chrysler has loaded into the flagship version of the Pacifica. But its everlasting assets remind me of all the decades since Chrysler invented the minivan craze with its Caravan and Voyager, which became the ultimate family haulers.

The refinement of different mininvan models contributed to numerous road trips for our family, and this particular week, my review will be branching off into reveries encompassing timely looks at the music of Bob Dylan, trips by van from Duluth to the Indianapolis 500 nearly four decades ago, and even pre-minivan road trips home from college to Duluth.

During many years covering the Indy 500 for the Minneapolis Tribune, I had pretty well perfected a variety of methods of making that trip, and in 1987, circumstances broke just right so my younger son, Jeff, and UMD men’s hockey coach Mike Sertich, and his son, John all came along on my annual jaunt. It might be impossible for four humans to have such a crazy time, filled with enough laughs to last a lifetime. We laughed all the way down and all the way back in the 1987 model of the Caravan, eating a few pounds of yogurt-covered raisins as we cruised down and back, and exchanging good-natured one-liners with pedestrians on the streets while we were in Indianapolis to observe sensational racing, and the amazing act of getting 400,000 race fans into and out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That race fits with the Pacifica review because while the 100th running of the Indy 500 is nowhere near the attraction it once was, it is this Sunday, May 30, 2021.

The newest Caravan back then had a 3.0 V6 supplied by Mitsubishi that made those vans run for up to and over 200,000 miles. A highlight was on race morning, police block off 16th Street, for several miles, turning all six lanes of two-way traffic into a well-regulated, one-way, six-lane conduit. There are no shortcuts and you can spend two or three hours in that nose-to-tail crawl. They do run a few motorcades of dignitaries into the place behind police escorts, however, and as one of them passed us, I seized a weird urge and pulled into a break in the flow, crossing the median to fit in behind the long line in what had been the oncoming lane. Amazingly, nobody saw us, and we fit right in, cruising along within the motorcade, passing an estimated 5,000 cars, and following right into the entrance. As we turned in, I simply gestured to my media pass on the windshield, and they waved us in, and once inside I turned left to head for the press parking area. We had reduced the three hours in congested traffic to about 10 minutes. Sertie talks about that adventure to this day. As well as my eclectic taste in music down and back.

Beautiful; Velvet Red paint houses roadworthy vehicle for trip to Indy 500, or 18-speaker audio to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday.

Among the refinements in the evolution of the Caravan as it morphed into the Pacifica is the potent 3.6 V6 and refined transmission and suspension.

Of course, my infatuation with all things automotive means my road-trip history precedes minivans, back to the 1960s when I had transfered from UMD to the University of Minnesota to study journalism, and I had obtained a 1956 Studebaker Power Hawk coupe I found on a Duluth car lot, which was both dependable and fun, if a bit rusty. Perfect for dashing from a campus apartment a block from Dinkytown to visit mom and friends and a special girlfriend back home in Duluth. I’d leave as early as possible after classes on Friday afternoon, returning to Minneapolis Sunday night.

That was about 1962 or ’63, before Interstate 35 connected the two cities, and about the time a singer-songwriter named Bob Dylan, a couple years older, was performing at places such as the Scholar, a coffeehouse less than two blocks from the house where four of us roomed. I grew up loving music, but, as it turned out, I found Dylan’s voice too whiney and raspy, although one of my roommates, a fellow named Ron Leskinen, was consumed by Dylan. I refused to go across the street with him to watch Dylan perform, and before I realized my shortsightedness, Dylan was gone, to New York and overwhelming fame as the greatest songwriter in U.S. history.

I learned my mistake and changed my life thanks to a road trip, when I agreed that when I drove Ron home to Duluth one weekend, I would go inside his house on 4th Street and Lake Avenue, and sit down and listen to the words of an entire Dylan record album — “The Freewheeling Bob Dylan.”

That was Dylan’s second album, and we listened to songs like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”  In Ron’s living room on that afternoon, Dylan’s words made their own road trip off the vinyl and directly into my consciousness, my brain, my heart and my soul. And they’ve never left.

Quilted leather seats and finely-fitted interior components plus AWD give Pinnacle luxury beyond $55,000 sticker.

Everyone is picking out their favorite Dylan song this week, but most of those selecting aren’t old enough to have ever even listened to his earliest half-dozen albums — which contain the most riveting and lucid wordscapes of all. That becomes relevant in this last week of May, 2021, because Dylan’s 80th birthday was celebrated worldwide on Monday, and to paraphrase one of Dylan’s earliest songs, “I never thought we could get very old.”

Some of Dylan’s early songs brought depth to the tough life on the Iron Range when he grew up in Hibbing. He chronicled a dream, about “riding on a train going west,” and falling asleep, dreaming about many of his first friends he’d never seen again. Another song issued a request that “If you’re traveling to the North Country fair, where the wind hits heavy on the borderline, remember me to one who lives there, for she once was a true love of mine.” And there I was, listening to those words while coming home and going away again, visiting my mom, then departing, leaving behind a true love among so many good friends who meant so much to me, and many of whom I’ve never seen again.

The irony is that as we sat in Ron’s house listening to those words, we were about six blocks from the hillside house where Bob Zimmerman’s parents lived when he was born, and where the family resided until moving to Hibbing when he was 6.

Everyone points to his top classics, like “The Times They Are A-Changing,” but my favorites were some of the less-known among his hundreds of songs, those which I recorded, first on 8-tracks and then cassettes, and then MP3s, for replaying on future road trips. Some of them are: “Girl of the North Country;” “Bob Dylan’s Dream;” “Just Like a Woman;” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue;” “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry;” plus two of his angriest, “Masters of War;” and “With God on Our Side.” All, or most, of his more recent ventures have produced great entries, such as “Tangled Up in Blue,” but nothing can dislodge those early classics from their Pinnacle, so to speak.

Another fellow we went to high school with at Duluth Central was Louie Kemp, who wound up becoming Bob Dylan’s closest friend. At an early high school reunion, Louie and I talked and after he learned how much I admired Dylan, Louie said, “Would you ever want to meet him?” I assured him I would, and he said, “Would you want to just meet him, or write about him?” I wanted to meet Dylan under any circumstances, but I wasn’t about to reject the idea of writing about him, and when I told Louie that, he said well then he couldn’t introduce me to him, for the sake of Dylan’s privacy. I’ve never forgotten that, but I’ve made due with recordings, and seeing him in concert various times, including at Bayfront Festival Park in 1999, when he made a rare and memorable trip to his birthplace to perform with Paul Simon in an unforgettable concert under a canopy of what was either fog or a low-handing cloud, at about Aerial Bridge height..

Those reminiscences vault to the surface this week while listening to Dylan tributes on satellite radio, and thinking about road trips we could make in the Pacifica Pinnacle, where we could hear all those songs on the 18-speaker-and-subwoofer Harman Kardon audio system. It would be perfect to fill its caramel-colored leather seats with six people and lure them away from the wi-fi streamable video screens on the backs of the front bucket headrests for some meaningful music on a trip to, say, Indianapolis.

Restyled rear of Pacifica Pinnacle shows full-width LED taillight halo.

This test-Pacifica has come a long way from the earliest Caravans and Voyagers that captured the hearts and budgets of American consumers, and have continued to hang onto a diminishing but valid segment of the market from the SUV-crazed buyers who settle for less efficiency and spend considerably more money for luxury SUVs.

The Pacifica Pinnacle comes loaded, meaning its base price of $53,390 goes up only to $54,885 with the addition of destination cost. That price includes all the creature comforts you might want, with the leather seats, video screens, and even a hideaway vacuum cleaner stashed in the rear wall, as well as all the safety features and stability devices. They include lane departure alert and warning, and the ability to detect and avoid anything in the way up front or behind. It also has Park Assist, which will give you a no-hands parallel or perpendicular parking job better than you can do yourself.

This Pinnacle’s 3.6-liter V6 has variable valve-timing, and will allow the Pacifica to cruise at the EPA estimated 25 miles per gallon highway, even with all-wheel drive. The 3.6 is operated by a slick rotating knob on the console, governing the 9-speed automatic transmission, aided by paddle shifters on the steering wheel to ease manual overriding. The Pacifica launches forcefully and with 20-inch all-season tires on alloy wheels, everything comes together in perfect harmony with the vehicle, engine and transmission.

Quilted leather seats will house six, and note the video screens and leather cushions on the rear buckets.

The Pinnacle came in Velvet Red Pearlcoat, which set off the contrasting caramel-color quilted leather seats with class. The second-row buckets, accessed through sliding side doors, are heated and cooled like the front seats, and they fold forward and slide to make it easier to get into the way-back, which has split folding backrests that fold down flat, or tumble backwards into the neatly designed storage bin at the extreme rear. You could put a week’s groceries or a lot of luggage into that low, scooped out rear compartment if the seats are upright.

The sliding side doors open and close with only the slightest touch. If that isn’t enough opening for you, the sunroof is comprised of three separate panels, offering a new definition of the term panoramic. Everything fits tightly and securely, making the Pacifica Pinnacle the perfect conveyance for a couple of generations to make a road trip together, Sheltered from the Storm while cruising in optimum comfort perhaps on Highway 61 Revisisted, and enjoying a session of meaningful, or whimsical, songwriting at its timeless best.

We could even bring a sack of yogurt-covered raisins.

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