BMW engine boosts Supra to new Toyota image

October 7, 2021 by · Comments Off on BMW engine boosts Supra to new Toyota image
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos, Uncategorized 

New tweaks upgrade fifth-generation Supra style for 2021, including less-obnoxious nose.

By John Gilbert

The idea that folks at Toyota are going through a “second childhood” takes root from the fact that the Japanese auto giant has hit the market with several sports coupes, convertibles and racy vehicles in the last few years. The upscale Lexus LC500 was the subject of my review here just a few weeks ago, as the 6-figure pinnacle of luxury-performance, and now, before October gets far enough along to threaten us with some foul weather, we’ve got to also check out the 2021 Toyota Supra and declare it the company’s bargain luxury-sports car.

Actually, the bargain sports car of the Toyota line is the unfortunately-named Toyota 86, an under-$30,000 sports car built jointly with Subaru, using Subaru engines, and almost identical to the Subaru BRZ.

The new Supra is a completely different story. If working a jont-venture with Subaru was a good idea for a low-slung sports car, then working the magic combination with BMW to come up with the Supra is even better, and a mid-$50,000 price point is a comparative bargain when you know you’ve got the same 3.0-liter inline 6 made by BMW for its new M4 sporty coupe.

The Supra is a grand old name in Toyota lore, starting as a stretched out luxury model of the Celica coupe three decades ago, and it persisted as a powerful sporty cruiser with a potent Toyota in-line 6 and all of the company’s advancing technology. Toyota even stretched the Supra out into a “2 plus 2” model with a jump-seat behind the two buckets.

Times change, and with its new upscale Lexus brand also needing vehicles, the Supra disappeared from the U.S. market just over 20 years ago. Toyota now is on a movement to shed its stodgy, conservative image, and after its Lexus sports cars and sportier leaning of Toyotas, the company brought back the Supra name on an exotic-looking new sports coupe as the fifth-generation Supra for 2020.

The look of the Supra didn’t dazzle men when it first came out for 2020. I knew it was something of a composite vehicle jointly created by Toyota and BMW, giving it legendary heritage from two international automotive legends. But it had this extra-prominent nose that I thought made it look, well…ugly.

Bright red Supra stood out as the Northern Minnesota leaves started changing color.

Anyhow, after a few slight revisions, a 2021 model of the Supra showed up for me to test drive, up and down the North Shore of Lake Superior in mid-September, just before the leaves were turning color, and it was a pure, bright red attention-grabber. So, too, were the grooves and scoops and contours that pretty well obscured the nose. The nose! What happened to the nose? The prominent beak was modified to the point its nose is no longer is objectionable, in my humble opinion, and you can judge for yourself from the accompanying photos.

Similar in size and intention to the LC55 Lexus, which cost somewhere north of six figures, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Supra was more like the mid-$52,000 range, which is definitely a bargain, by comparison.

Under the hood is a 3.0-liter inline 6, which could have been built by Toyota in the old days, but is built by BMW today, and certainly not a bad choice. Traditional sports car buyers will appreciate the rear-drive platform, although I could foresee all-wheel drive in the future.

This twin-turbocharged 6 delivers 382 horsepower and 368 foot-pounds of torque through an 8-speed transmission, directly to the rear wheels. The car handles with great precision, with a platform also from BMW’s engineers. You can play with the drive mode switch and get into sports settings that heighten the stiffness and the tightness of the steering and suspension, and turns the exhaust from mellow to raucous. Read more

2020 Sonata: Sexy look, comfort, and 47 mpg!

August 10, 2020 by · Comments Off on 2020 Sonata: Sexy look, comfort, and 47 mpg!
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos, Uncategorized 


Redesigned grille gives Sonata a low, seductive look, befitting its new technology.

By John Gilbert

As someone who has been test-driving and reporting on new vehicles for something like 50 years, I have established a few techniques to prove my own objectivity to myself. And there’s always room for new tricks, which I learned by driving the totally redesigned and seductive 2020 Hyundai Sonata.

The precise moment when Hyundai lifted the South Korean auto industry from mediocrity to elite status was when the 2011 Sonata was introduced. It had been a mediocre midsize car with a great warranty, but, inspired by a stinging rejection of its new engine by prospective partners Chrysler and Mitsubishi, Hyundai went back to a clean sheet and focused on building an all new 2.4-liter 4 cylinder.

The engine was to be housed in a dramatically restyled car, and both partners were surprised how quickly Hyundai built such an impressive engine from scratch. Both Chrysler and Mitsubishi still use variations of that 2.4 engine in some of their vehicles.. For its own Sonata, Hyundai engineers also designed an intricate but impressive direct fuel-injection system, and, while they were at it, designed and built a lighter and more efficient 6- speed automatic transmission.

The total package, from exterior design to engine, transmission and suspension, put the car and the company on an entirely new plateau, from which it has never looked back from that 2011 model year breakthrough. Since then, Hyundai has developed and improved its array of impressive SUVs, compacts and even luxury cars, transforming its new-found technology through its entire engine line.

But the Sonata remains the heart and soul of the company. Which brings us to the 2020 Sonata, a car that is another complete surprise.

As the world turns to SUVs, Hyundai seems to believe SUV buyers may turn back to sedans, once their SUV is parked in the driveway. And without question, the 2020 Sonata could turn a lot of heads and desires back to the sedan world.

The first time I saw one, it was from the rear corner and I thought it was a new Mercedes 5-door-coupe model. Then I walked around to the front and was surprised to see the stylized Hyundai “H” badge on the grille.

Smooth roofline makes Sonata stand out, even with the BIR Trans-Am as a backdrop.

It took a while, but we finally got to spend a week with a 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited a few weeks ago, and we enjoyed its looks and its agility and surprising power on the hills of Duluth, Minnesota. And when the idea hit us, we decided to drive the Sonata from Duluth over to Central Minnesota to watch the Trans-Am road race at Brainerd International Raceway, and drive back after the race. On that trip, the Sonata provoked a previously never-done move by me.

Often, when I think I haven’t given a car a fair test of highway driving, I’ll zero the odometer and get a fresh, highway-only calculation.

But the trip odometer on the Sonata had shown a figure I thought was absurdly high, so for the first time, I zeroed it to bring it back to reality. After all, it had the exceptional but small 1.6-liter Turbo engine, and the Sonata is a big, Accord-Camry-Mazda6-sized car to haul around. My mistake. After zeroing it, we drove east along Hwy. 210 and my wife, Joan, took a long turn behind the wheel. That let me relax in the passenger bucket and examine all the features of the redesigned dash, with its long, horizontal information screen in the middle of the dash. My newly reset trip-odometer now read: 46.7 miles per gallon!

I guess my earlier assumption was not just wrong, but I reset it twice to recalculate, and our highest figure attained was 47.1 mpg. Astonishing! That’s hybrid, or diesel, territory, and many of them can’t get that much.

Neat gauge-work transposes rear-facing video to replace either the tach, for left, or speedometer, for right turns,. Note the 44.1 mpg, too.

There were other neat things to notice. For one, the instrument cluster has a large tachometer on the left and an equally large speedometer on the right, and you can switch to all sorts of other information to be injected within them. But one surprise is something Hyundai borrowed from its exceptional Palisade SUV. When you hit the left turn signal, the tach is replaced by a rear-facing video of all there is to see behind you on your left; turn right and the speedometer disappears for a moment to show you any oncoming vehicles on your right. It’s also handy when you’re maneuvering in your own driveway, just to bolster the rear-view camera view that shows both what’s behind you and a 360-degree top-down video of all surroundings. Read more

Corsair joins Lincoln SUV realm

April 19, 2020 by · Comments Off on Corsair joins Lincoln SUV realm
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos, Uncategorized 

By John Gilbert
Two or three years ago, if Ford Motor Company eliminated its luxury Lincoln brand we might not have been surprised, because only the king-sized Navigator seemed to be successful for Lincoln, and it was basically a Ford Expedition with bling.

Classic grille lifts Corsair above midsize nborm of SUVs.

But in the space of one year, here we are evaluating — and praising — the third of three Lincoln SUVs all of which have carved out prominent places in the hierarchy of U.S. luxury sports-utility vehicles.

The new Navigator was deserving of high praise, and it was followed, barely a month ago, by a review of the entirely new Aviator, which I declared might be the best of U.S. luxury SUVs with its exceptional 3-row luxury as well as performance, tucked inside an extremely stylish exterior. And now, along comes the Corsair — Lincoln’s stylish example of what a compact, 2-row SUV can be, when a company puts its unrestricted mind to it.

Shaprely oin silhouette. the Corsair is a 2-row SUV with luxury and performance.

As someone who tries to be as objective as possible in evaluating any and all new vehicles, I had to admit the Navigator was bigger and heftier than I would choose, but its upscale luxury features made me realize why high-buck buyers would be drawn to it. The Aviator came wrapped in sheet metal that was attractively styled and the interior was loaded to the hilt with luxury pieces that made it expensive, but reasonably compact for a family that needed a 3-row SUV and still wanted something sporty and with surprising performance.

The Lincoln Corsair, on the other hand, fits like a glove my personal preferences for a compact SUV with adequate room for four or five and some baggage in its 2-row configuration, and it puts its tight and sleek styling to work in a sporty package that maneuvers easily, turns in a tight-circle u-turn, and will scat and run with the quickest of the compact SUVs. The competition is ferocious in the compact SUV realm, where Ford’s Escape is one of the standard bearers, and faces the likes of the Toyota RX4, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, BMW X3 and numerous others, from virtually every manufacturer.

Since everybody seems to want an SUV these days, it makes sense that the majority of buyers might want to keep it compact when choosing, hoping to get improved fuel economy and making it easier to lure some performance out of smaller powertrains. The Corsair meets both ends of that bargain, delivering nearly 30 miles per gallon and still delivering some starch when you hit the gas.

Turbocharging is responsible for the compromise, with both Corsair engines, Ford’s 2.0 and 2.3-liter 4-cylinders gaining power from the forced-air feed of the turbos. The test-vehicle I drove was the loaded model, with a 2.3-liter turbo delivering a potent 295 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque. That gives it about a one-second edge over the 2.0, with its 250 horses and 280 foot-pounds, in a 0-60 dash.

Back-up view switches to include 360-degree safety.

Taking a page out of Aviator’s book, the Corsair doesn’t have as flashy a dashboard design, but it does have similar bucket seats, with excellent support and 24-way power adjustability, with a curvaceous design that puts it up at the top of its class for comfort. The smooth leather seats have push-button heating and cooling ventilation, and add the therapeutic massage feature of its bigger siblings.

Lincolns have traditionally swiped the best features from Ford vehicles, and the Corsair wasn’t about to let the flashy new Escape get away with all its stuff, starting with its new and unique platform. The Corsair rides comfortably on the Escape chassis, which is firm in design which aids stability and sporty but safe handling. In its previous round of vehicles, Lincoln had the MKC sedan, which was nice, attractive, but was not an SUV.

The Corsair has the slightly taller stance and all-wheel drive, with all that high-end interior equipment and it is an SUV, retaining its flair for utility, even if compact and eye-catching.

One thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the shifter. Eliminating the console stalk to select gears gives occupants a bit more room, and Lincoln resists the temptation to go with the current and trendy norm of a rotating dial. Instead, on your first time inside and behind the wheel, you might spend a few minutes searching before you spot the location, just under the ledge of the center stack, where push buttons can activate reverse or drive or neutral to control the 8-speed automatic. Only problem, you can’t really see the buttons, so it helps if you know where they are.

On first try, you can play “find the shifter,” for the push-buttons under the center stack ledge.

If the front buckets are supremely comfortable, and encapsulate you as if in a cocoon, the rear seats will slide to add to the quite roomy comfort in the rear. And it helps all the seats that the sunroof is one of those full, panoramic roofs that seems to open the whole ceiling to the outside.

Both models of the Corsair offer all-wheel drive, with the more basic model starting at about $39,000 and the upgraded Reserve model starting at almost $46,000. My test vehicle came loaded up with nearly $15,000 in optional equipment and packages, reaching over $62,000, which maintains its $6,000-$8,000 price status above the base model.

Among all those upgrades are some serious luxury touches, such as LED lights for added brightness in every application. Headlights, taillights and foglights are all LEDs, and it even has what are called approach lights, which give you a little lighted grid on the ground outside the doors to make sure you realize you’re getting into the right vehicle.

I’ve always been an advocate of getting the smallest vehicle that is big enough, and the Corsair is the perfect example of what I was getting at. It will do everything larger SUVs will do, but with the added convenience of agility and maneuverability in traffic and congested driving.

As for the styling, the Corsair has a lot of cues from the larger Aviator, with that distinctive Lincoln grille fitted in between the headlight fixtures, and a side view featuring contour lines blending into the sheet metal on both sides, and large, stylish alloy wheels, with dual exhausts. A nice added touch on the rear is a horizontal taillight that runs the full width of the vehicle and makes a distinctive impression on anyone approaching from the rear, or coming upon a parked Corsair.

Note the dual exhaiusts and the full-width taillights.

Built to slide, the rear seats offer comfort and added fold-down storage flexibility.

Maybe most people choose more compact SUVs because they cost less, but if things keep going the direction of the Corsair, we might have to start paying more to get all that styling into a smaller package.

TC Auto Show to feature Truck Summit

November 16, 2019 by · Comments Off on TC Auto Show to feature Truck Summit
Filed under: Equinox, Weekly test drives, Features, Autos, Uncategorized 

Ford has reintroduced the Ranger midsize pickup, which will make the rounds of auto shows for 2020.

By John Gilbert
If you are able to attend any of the world’s major auto shows — such as Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, Japan, or the Big Four in the U.S., Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Detroit — the magnitude is amazing. But that doesn’t mean the smaller population centers are any less intense in their interest. And most of them aren’t that small.

That interest in Minnesota will ride a new idea, armed with an impressive economic impact study that shows the auto show may have a financial impact on the region of $19 million every year, with a nine-day run that makes its earnings greater than the Super Bowl or the Final Four.

If you don’t care about the huge congestion at the Big Four shows, you might be able to calm down and enjoy the Twin Cities show., which runs from March 7-15.

A young enthusiast was mesmerized watching drivers take on the Jeep off-road demonstration at the Twin Cities Show.

My fondest memory of the Twin Cities Auto Show came a few years ago, while taking a pre-opening run through the displays at the Minneapolis Convention Center. There was a Jeep display, where a huge hill had been formed and rides were given to show how steep an incline, and descent, the new Jeeps could handle, which was better than some state fair thrill rides. As I watched the demonstration, there in the foreground was a kid, exactly the kind of kid who might spend his spare time playing with a model truck in his backyard sandbox, and he stood there, transfixed as he gazed at the Jeep going up and over.

That was a couple years ago, and I should have realized then exactly why our country, and particularly our state, had started on a transition from cars to trucks.

It has happened, of course. And when the Twin Cities Auto Show opens March 7, 2020, the focus will be on its Truck Summit on March 6 to break down the reasons for the shift.

Chevrolet brings back the Blazer — old name, all-new SUV.

There are a lot of other significant vehicles that will fill the huge site, with particular emphasis on the emerging electric car phenomenon that could change the world’s auto industry. But there also will be dozens of trucks, from Ford, Ram, Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan, Honda for pickups and all the newest SUVs and crossovers being shown by virtually all manufacturers.

Sleek lines set off the all-new Lincoln Aviator, another old name redone.

We are fast closing in on the start of the U.S. major auto show season, which begins later with the Los Angeles show in late November, and continues with Chicago in February, New York in April, and Detroit in June. The Detroit date is the major departure, because it always has been in early January, but has shifted to summertime.

A lot of people in the auto industry are curious and anxious about that shift, moving the traditional mid-winter Detroit exposition to summer, and the anxiety is because a number of hard-core auto observers are concerned that the once-heralded major shows have faded in the intensity of interest by both auto makers and consumers. The question for us in Minnesota is, where does all that leave us, here in flyover land?

Read more


September 19, 2018 by · Comments Off on sportshort
Filed under: Uncategorized 

What happened last night in sports up north.

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