Maverick, Tremor bridge Ford truck span

July 21, 2022 by · Comments Off on Maverick, Tremor bridge Ford truck span
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

At a glance, new Maverick doesn’t look like smallest Ford pickup.

By John Gilbert

All attempts to chronicle the truck war going on in the industry need to be agile just to keep up with the lively and extremely competitive vehicles being turned out in all shapes and sizes. The battle includes heavy-duty, standard full-size, compact, and niche vehicles that fill in the blanks.

As might be expected, Ram, Chevy, GMC, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and even newcomer Hyundai are in the battle, but when you evaluate fully, you have to start with Ford. The standard of the truck business remains the Ford F150, which, on its own, comes in assorted sizes and powertrains with two or four doors of assorted sizes. My favorite is the Raptor, built for heavy off-road domination, but today we get to check out the Tremor, which is a compromise model between the Raptor and the normal truck.

Tremor treatment is now available on F150, between the Raptor and the normal trucks.

I’ve written about the oversized F250 Tremor which seems capable of conquering just about any challenge, and also the compact Ranger, which comes in Tremor trim. Now we get a chance to try the Tremor application on the standard-issue F150 — the leading seller among all vehicles for somewhere north of 30 years.

But impressive as all that power is from the 3.5-liter twin-turbochaged V6, what in the name of $6-a-gallon gasoline is going on here?

Ford is taking all that into account, and while I’ve test-driven a couple of Ford’s new more-compact Maverick vehicles and come away thoroughly impressed, I’ve also driven the F150 with hybrid technology, and it is the best thing to happen to big pickups until we get to the all-electrics that are fast-approaching.

Though smaller, Mavreick bed means business for hauling with tall sides and simple tailgate.

The Maverick seems to be just as big as the midsize Ranger, but it isn’t. It’s considerably shorter, but it is wide enough to carry four or five occupants with plenty of room, and its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder turbo has plenty of punch to send the Maverick on its way — with good reason. This particular Maverick engine had the electric support from being a hybrid.

Ford has led the way among U.S. manufacturers in building some impressive hybrid powertrains, what the industry calls “mild” hybrids for the way the battery-operated electric motor both supplements the gas engine and allows it to deliver much-improved gas mileage and doses of extra power. The Maverick Hybrid does both of those things.

A couple days after the first Maverick was delivered out of the Chicago press fleet, we got one of our heavy snowfalls in the Duluth, Minnesota, area of the North Shore. I was less than thrilled that the Maverick, painted a beautiful dark blue called “Alto Blue Metallic” was 2-wheel-drive. The second Maverick I tested was bright red, and looked upper-level, although it was pretty basic. In the surge of truck buying in our society, I can understand getting a front-engine, rear-drive pickup down on the southwestern prairies, but if you’re sending a pickup truck to the North Shore of Lake Superior in mid-to-late winter, send 4-wheel drive or nothing.

Simple but efficient Maverick instruments show 26.8 miles per gallon.

The Maverick was front-wheel drive, which made it an interesting compromise. I picked my spots during the snowy week, and we made it through OK, but we weren’t hauling stuff in the bed, although we were spending inordinate time warming up the Maverick against some below-zero temperatures. The remote start gadget was greatly appreciated, although the lack of heated seats or heated steering wheel was less impressive, when it was 15 below zero. That was why we spent so much time warming up the Maverick.

Because of so much warm-up time, we didn’t approach the high mileage we anticipated, but later in the week, we did spend time driving and focusing on hybrid driving techniques — slowing down ahead of red lights, avoiding jack-rabbit starts, etc. — we did get it up to a computer-registered 30.8 miles per gallon over a 142-mile stretch. Any pickup truck that can do pickup duties and deliver 30 miles per gallon can make a big impact on the marketplace as gas prices continue to soar.

The Maverick Lariat 4×2 had a sticker price of $29,340 with the automatic continuously variable transmission and the 2.5-turbo-hybrid powertrain, which made a solid combination.

Maybe in the future, two-vehicle families who love their pickup trucks can compromise and get a hybrid Maverick-sized compact pickup, and still satisfy their power cravings by adding the big F150 Tremor to the stable.

Heavy steel running boards are part of the Tremor pakage.

This F150 came in stone gray metallic, which set off the bright orange graphics that were subtle and not overwhelming, but looked good with the color and the blacked-out wheels and grille. This thing had 4-wheel drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission to distribute the power from the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 to all four extremities.

The base price of the F150 Tremor is a reasonable $49,505, although it becomes increasingly less reasonable — unless you have to feed your appetite for various options — as you add the impressive features on the way to the test truck’s $70,095.

Snow didn’t matter with this thing, and its force and stability were much appreciated. The appeal of the option list included a trailer-towing package, lockable storage areas in the bed’s wheel wells, a power tailgate, a front-axle torsion differential, and a “Toughbed” Bedliner. The full crew cab, which Ford calls Super Cab, had enormous room, and flip-up storage under the rear seat, a feature the Maverick has picked up on.

The F150 Tremor also has a few Ford-first things, such as the tailgate, which is only now being copied by General Motors after Ford introduced it over a decade ago. The new truck adds a power operation to it. At the top of the tailgate, there is a form-fitted hand grip that means when you lower the tailgate you also unfold a secondary step that drops down, and next to the grip is a small knob that you pull out to reveal a heavy rail, which you can fold up until it clicks into place to give you a sturdy grip to aid in climbing up into the bed to make sure your stashed goodies are still secured. Climb down to go back to driving and you fold the stability pole down and slide it back into place, flip up the step, and use the power gadget to return the tailgate to its original position.

Another thing that makes the plush interior even more impressive to ride in is the B&O “Unleashed” 18-speaker audio system that fills the cab with sound from whatever device you choose to listen to. And, if you want to work while your wife spends an hour in Target, you can fold the gear shift lever flat into the console, then lift the console cover and fold it down to make a flat, desk-like surface. The rest of the console is for storing business sheafs or whatever you choose.

Large, cushioning tires ride on comparatively small alloy wheels, helping smooth the ride.

Our older son, Jack, rode with us a few times in the Tremor and commented on how remarkably smooth the ride was in the big Ford over winter-ravaged surfaces. We found Ford’s better idea was to not go to the 20 or 21-inch wheels popular on some trucks and SUVs, but instead to use smaller 16-inch alloy wheels with much larger and thicker tires, meaning that to attain the same circumference, you have less alloy and more inches of rubber between you and the potholes you’re lumbering over. The thicker rubber absorbs the impacts much better and makes you appreciate the level of comfort.

Not only that, but the Tremor also had electric seat-heaters and a steering wheel heater, which is worth plenty on those cold, winter mornings when autostart is a greater benefit with the supporting devices.

Polestar, e-tron, Ioniq 5, EV6 top TC Auto Show

May 19, 2022 by · Comments Off on Polestar, e-tron, Ioniq 5, EV6 top TC Auto Show
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Features, Autos 

Audi’s e-tron GT led a variety of EVs available to test at the Twin Cities Auto Show, at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds through May 22.

By John Gilbert

If you own a car of any type, or a truck or SUV, you might be wondering what all the conjecture is about the cultural and sociological shift to electric vehicles (EV). It might be a few years until you make up your mind about EVs — or you could head to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds through Sunday to catch the final days of the 49th Twin Cities Auto Show, which is being held in the great outdoors.

Once there, you can find your way to the Electric (Vehicle) Neighborhood, where various manufacturers will have their latest prize EVs gathered amid the various displays of all manner of new cars and trucks. But if you’re curious about electric cars, that is the place to get a close-up look, and a brief test drive, in an EV of your choosing. Or several of them.

At the show’s media preview, we got the close-up look, and a special opportunity to take a few spins in some specific EVs of my choosing.

The Polestar 2 is a mainstream EV from Volvo.

The first was one of the two most spectacular vehicles on the face of the earth — a Polestar 2. The second one was the Audi e-tron, my nomination for the most spectacular vehicle available. Both are sleek, ultra futuristic and luxurious, and both are pure electric vehicles (EV), which are the primary attraction at the 49th annual Twin Cities Auto Show.

They accelerated briskly, showing off their capabilities to go 0-60 in about 4 seconds, accompanied by the sound of …absolutely nothing. Of course, we were adhering to the strict limit of 20 mph on the nearly deserted fairgrounds streets. The Polestar 2 and the Audi e-tron clearly live up to all the publicity and promotion, and are reason enough to attend the show. They both are, however, over $100,000, so it might be wise to check them out with that in mind.

But many EVs are priced within the range of normal folks, and those vehicles, from Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, on up to Jaguar are there for perusal. Some start below $40,000, which, with the possibility of government aid, and the certainty of rising gasoline prices, make them more of a potential alternative sooner rather than later.

The thought occurred to me, as we made the drive from Duluth to attend the media preview last Friday for the Twin Cities Auto Show, that the show might be the only function that truly benefitted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A year ago, nobody was anxious to go out and mix it up with a crowd of people that could spread that horrible disease, which still threatens us with assorted variants. The only way to keep the show going last year was to move it outside.

Out of desperation, the new vehicles were put on display last year at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, and it worked so well the show’s organizers and dealerships decided to do it again this year, on purpose. The 49th annual runs through this weekend, ending Sunday, May 22nd.

Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 has a futuristic design to go with its advanced electric system.

There always have been good reasons to go to the show to evaluate future family vehicles where they can be compared to various others all in one location, but this year the show had gotten lucky with timing, because every car buyer is curious about the newest models, and particularly all the electric vehicles.

For example, we drove to the show in a new Chevrolet Equinox, an RS model, which is new for 2022, with trim and features. My older son Jack accompanied me, since he shoots photos and serves as my assistant for As I turned into the main entrance to the fairgrounds, and tried various streets searching for the media meeting place, called Electric Vehicle Neighborhood, I realized that as modern and up-to-date as the Equinox is, it, and all other conventional vehicles, seems old-fashioned next to the futuristic EVs being shown at the show.

The Twin Cities Auto Show has been an annual attraction in the Minneapolis Convention Center, and before that at the Minneapolis Auditorium, although weather can still resemble winter in the first week in March. We Minnesotans concede it can’t compares to the global caliber of the Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or New York auto shows, and those “big four” in the U.S. are small compared to the Frankfurt, Germany, show, or Geneva, or Paris, or Tokyo.

The Twin Cities show relies on local and regional dealers to bring their latest vehicles for display to help consumers compare various vehicles in one location. For that reason it was always worth attending.

First public viewing of 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander is at TC Show.

The media types gathered at the preview didn’t seem too eager to check out the EVs the way we were, and after a catered batch of sandwiches and caramel rolls, they took their soundbites and departed, while Jack and I headed back to the accumulated EVs, with room to drive, rather than ride, around the proscribed course with professional driving instructor.

Gary Eick sat in the passenger seat and offered expert guidance and explanation. The great thing about these instructors is they also teach auto racing enthusiasts how to drive race cars at Brainerd International Raceway. I was just starting my career as a journalist and car enthusiast at the Minneapolis Tribune when BIR was built as Donnybrooke Speedway, and the drivers remembered me from those days. They also knew I had been road-testing and writing about new vehicles in an unbroken streak that now has reached 50 years. And counting.

Gary Eick was our personal guide, sitting in the passenger seat and offering valuable instruction about the varied driving controls, and warning us about how easy it is to go faster than you realize when there’s no sound emitted from your stepping on the gas.

The Polestar is built by Volvo under that name, as its new EV arm, and while various Volvos are now electric powered — including the official “Car of the Show” Volvo XC-90 Recharge — the Polestar 2 is already the latest version all-electric concept of Volvo’s Polestar 1, which has two electric motors at the rear, and Volvo’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged gas engine to combine for 619 horsepower. But it costs $155,000, which means the company had to scale it back into the real world, and forward, at the same time.

The Polestar 2 has a comparatively reasonable sticker of around $50,000, with no gas engine, and your choice of single motor or dual motor. The single develops 231 horsepower and 243 foot-pounds of torque through front-wheel drive, and the two-motor puts out 408 horsepower and 487 foot-pounds of torque through all-wheel drive. Compared to the Polestar 1, which looks like an exotic sports car, the Polestar 2 is more of a streamlined luxury SUV shape for hauling people. Swiftly.

Next, we did a brief drive in the Audi e-tron. Audi makes various e-tron vehicles, but the most exotic are a pair of GT models — the GT and the RS GT. The RS e-tron T is the first vehicle brought into the U.S. by Audi Sport, the high-performance arm of the Ingolstadt, Germany, company. It has 637 horsepower and 612 foot-pounds of torque, and, of course, all-wheel drive. The look and luxury are unmatched, if you want a sports car that is really a 4-door sedan. Cost is out of sight at $139,900.

The Audi e-tron GT has “only” 522 horses and 472 foot-pounds of torque. It shares the same stunning body shape. Going down the scale, Audi also has the Sportback and a Q4 Sportback that are priced down into the low $40,000 range. The e-tron I drove was so luxurious and solid you almost forgot that the sound you hear is — nothing. All EVs share the silence of electric power operation.

The Jaguar i-Pace is a sleek electric SUV, and Ford had its Mustang Mach E, while Jeep had the Wrangler 4XE and Volkswagen had its ID.4 in the mix. Several sleek Mustang Mach-E models are available to test. Chevrolet has the Bolt, but it was kept back in the Chevrolet display. Mercedes and BMW also have EVs to show. Mitsubishi has its just-introduced Outlander on display in PHEV (Partial Hybrid Electric Vehicle) form. Virtually every booth has an array of hybrids, if not pure electrics, and some of those are exceptional.

The Kia EV6 is more of an SUV-shaped EV, parked behind its Ioniq 5 cousin from Hyundai.

I gravitated to the most mainstream of all EVs, the South Korean pair of Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. They share drivetrain technology, but look completely different, and the EV6 is about a foot longer, although the Ioniq 5 has about a 4-inch longer wheelbase. The Ioniq 5 looks more like some sort of futuristic transportation module next to the sleek Kia EV6 shape.

The EV6 has a choice of 167-horsepower rear-drive, or 320-horse AWD, while the Ioniq 5 power choices are 225-horse/258-foot-pounds rear drive, or AWD with 320 horsepower and 446 foot-pounds of torque.

The shape of the Ioniq 5 is completely different from the returning Ioniq (without the 5), and its melding and overlapping creases make it a masterpiece of artistic design. Such angular shaping has carried the Sonata and Elantra sedans to new heights, and I anticipate the Ioniq 5 will make that sort of impact on the EV market — especially starting out under $40,000 and reaching up to as high as $60,000, and with the advanced technology to provide nearly 300 miles of range, and a high-powered charge capability that will regain 85 percent capacity in about 20 minutes.

The auto show is arranged for the car booths and stands gathered near each other for ease in walking among them. Also, an array of fair food is being featured, so you can get your corn dogs or Sweet Martha’s Cookie fix right now, among other treats, and munch your way from display to display.

Adult tickets are $20, teenagers $5, and kids 10 or under free. Entry is through RAM Gate 16, and free parking is available in the Robin Lot, accessible via Hoyt Avenue off Snelling.

Even an electric-powered bicycle, masquerading as a motorcyle, is on display.

All sorts of sponsorship help makes the show a success, and when you open the front cover, you see a full-page ad to “Take on the world in style,” with a 2022 Chevrolet Equinox with all-new RS trim, from Heartland Chevy dealers. The one in the ad is red; ours for the week from the regional test fleet was glistening white.

As we headed for home, up Interstate 35, we enjoyed listening to the Twins and a couple of NHL Stanley Cup games on the satellite radio system, and our Equinox cruised effortlessly at 70 mph in smooth comfort. No, it wasn’t electric. Maybe next year, when my prediction is that the Twin Cities Auto Show will have made its outdoor, fresh-air presence a rite of spring that other auto shows will copy.

Mach-E fits inside Ford’s Mustang corral

May 15, 2022 by · Comments Off on Mach-E fits inside Ford’s Mustang corral
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Mustang Mach-E strikes stunning pose with a calm Lake Superior background.

By John Gilbert
Just when we had good reason to question whether Ford would maintain the lead it first established in hybrids and electric vehicles with the original Escape Hybrid in the new era of transitioning to electrification of mainstream vehicles, they bend their own rules to produce the Mustang Mach-E.

Ford, of course, said it was going to stop making all cars other than the Mustang, so we now comprehend what they meant: Any new vehicle can fall under the expansive Mustang canopy, even it it’s a 4-door, fairly-SUVish vehicle such as the new Mustang Mach-E, which has been in hot demand since its introduction.

The Mustang Mach-E is a pure, Ford-built, electric-powered vehicle (EV) that can perform with or better than virtually every other EV on the market, and it looks remarkably mainstream. Before we get hung up on automotive details, it was our luck to also drive the Mustang Mach-E from Duluth to Cloquet on the day of the new season’s grand opening of Gordy’s Hi-Hat, the indisputable best drive-in restaurant in the universe.

Shapely Mach-E hides fact it is a 4-door — or that it is pure electric — on season-opening day at Gordy’s Hi-Hat.

We may not be in total agreement with Ford, that not all of its “better ideas” are indeed better ideas, but the Mustang Mach-E is right up there among the best of the better ideas out of Dearborn in several decades.

The Mach-E doesn’t really resemble the conventional Mustang, which remains alive and well among Ford’s car productions. My guess is that Ford was caught in its own cross-hairs. The company had to squeeze the subcompact EcoSport in among its SUVs, and next up was the move to electric vehicles, so when Ford built a pure electric, from the ground up, and rather than give it its own identity Ford decided to call it a Mustang.

That led me to a few sarcastic remarks, suggesting Ford could continue to build the Taurus and the Fusion and the Escort, also, just call all of them models of the Mustang. We probably shouldn’t suggest such ideas.

At any rate, the Mustang Mach-E comes in one body style, a fastback 4-door compact sedan — except that Ford is insisting it be classified as an SUV. So be it, although from the look of it, it more resembles a 4-door sporty sedan. You can. however, get it in two versions — a straightforward rear-drive model with a 68-killowatt-hour battery powering an electric motor, or a “Premium AWD” model with 88-killowatt-hour battery and a second electric motor driving the front wheels, to make it all-wheel drive.

All operation of the Mach-E handled early-spring cold along Lake Superior’s North Shore.

My tester was a Rapid Red Metallic 4X Premium AWD model, and it came to me by trailer from the press fleet service in Chicago. At first glance, the closed-in grille catches your eye, because there really is no normal air intake in the closed grille. Fully charged, the vehicle showed a 270-mile range, and instruments on the gauge package keep you posted of remaining range, and what percentage of full-power you have remaining.

It is that “range anxiety” that causes potential buyers to be reluctant, because it certainly is not in the driving. The vehicle takes off swiftly, and silently, although you can switch a setting on the large center-dash panel screen to introduce a couple of piped-in sounds to alert pedestrians that something is coming, and perhaps because occupants of the Mach-E itself might feel uneasy at the eerie silence. Still guided by a dash of sarcasm, my suggestion is if you can pipe any sound through, let’s pick a Ferrari Formula 1 engine from 1989, or a Ducati road-racing motorcycle roar. Why not make the “noise” music to motor-sound fans?

The interior is roomy for four, or five, with comfortable front buckets, although rear-seat headroom is compromised a bit by the slope of the rear roofline, which drops off in fastback form. You engage drive by turning a rotary dial on the dash, and with only a one-speed transmission, you needn’t worry about any more shifting.

The power of the basic Mustang Mach-E is 290 horsepower and 317 foot-pounds of torque from the rear-drive electric motor, while the 4X Premium improves those impressive figures to deliver 324 horsepower and 428 foot-pounds of torque, with separate batteries driving the two electric motors, fore and aft. Power is smoothly delivered through the one-speed automatic, and you appreciate the silent force available at the tap of your toe. Steering is precise and adds to the feeling of overall safety.

The startling acceleration is best explained by realizing that with a gas engine, you rev the engine up as you move, with the RPMs building until you reach the torque peak at somewhere around 5,000 revs. With an electric motor, you are at maximum torque at zero RPMs. So when you take your foot off the brake pedal and hit the gas, the thing takes off as though shot out of a cannon.

Clean, businesslike interior and comfortable seating for four reveals interior comfort.

Nobody who has ever driven a pure electric car questions the performance, and we can understand how Ford is next bringing out its F150 EV pickup. Handling agility matches the acceleration, and the silent speed is impressive once you get used to hearing conversation and audio music in the otherwise silent cabin.

There are a couple of things we’d want to check on if we were considering a purchase. There are charging devices spreading rapidly through the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but the spread is a little slower away from the big metro areas. Duluth, for example, has a couple of sites with chargers, so you would probably want to buy a charging station to have a quick, high-power unit at your disposal. Otherwise, the smaller battery takes a long time to charge on normal household electricity, and the 4X Premium takes longer, so you’d find yourself plugging it in overnight.

We learned right about the time the car was delivered that a company called ChargePoint, which is building charging stations all around the country, has been accused of excessive charging — for money, not electricity — so Ford, Hyundai, and a couple of other companies have broken off their arrangements with ChargePoint. We were assured we could still use their chargers, however.

After paying only casual attention to the remaining range for a few days, we made our short trips, and enjoyed opening day at Gordy’s, celebrating with burgers, fish ’n’ chips, and a pineapple milk shake. We noticed the range was dwindling, so we hit the two charging locations in Duluth that I know of, and learned that it didn’t like either of my two credit cards. You have to have a specific ChargePoint card, which I don’t have, to get any electricity out of its plug-in hook up.

I contacted a Ford dealership in Two Harbors, and a salesman said they do have a charger, but he would have to ask his manager, who would call me back within the hour. Guaranteed. Two weeks later, I han’t gotten the call. We plugged into our garage household electrical outlet and left the Mustang Mach-E charging overnight, for a total of about 10 hours, and it said our new range would be 65 miles. Not much return, for the time spent, I thought.

I gave a call to NorthStar Ford, and a very accommodating service manager named Kaylee arranged for me to drive up and use their quick-charging unit. I did that, and we left the car there for four hours, until their Saturday 6 p.m. service closing time. When I returned, I was dismayed to see that it showed only “46” on the dash. Then I noticed that was percentage of charge recaptured, which was closer to 77 miles of range.

Gas-filler door opens to reveal charging receptacle in Mach-E, for 270 mile range.

We greatly appreciated the convenience and accommodating nature of Kaylee and her associates at NorthStar Ford, and we’re guessing that Ford will work out a better arrangement with some other aftermarket quick-charge company for its customers.

The number of EVs on the market are growing, virtually by the month. I’ve driven several, from Hyundai, Kia, BMW, Volkswagen, Tesla, and Volvo’s Polestar. Some are built onto existing platforms, some are on unique new platforms. The Mustang Mach-E was built all as one, on a new platform, and the tester listed at $56,200. There are government offers available to offset that initial cost, but it’s still not bad, when you consider never again having to pay for gasoline, which has been hanging around the $4 per gallon figure for now, but we don’t know for how long.

Mach-E got loaded up to leave us after a week.

The “better idea” from Ford works, at $56,200, even if it does not include the stop at Gordy’s. Come to think of it, as the Mustang Mach-E and other electric vehicles get more popular, Gordy’s might be wise to install a couple of rapid chargers. Low on electricity? Plug it in and order the fish ’n’ chips and a milkshake, and both you and your car could get charged up at the same time.,

Raptor easily blows through 14-inch snowstorm

April 4, 2022 by · Comments Off on Raptor easily blows through 14-inch snowstorm
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Ford Raptor gains capability every generation, eagerly conquering Minnesota blizzards.

By John Gilbert

Opinions mean everything when you’re evaluating vehicles,  and that’s OK, and long as those opinions are come by with honest objectivity. And, as long as you’re flexible enougb to change your opinion. You could say I prefer most cars to most trucks, and I prefer most blue paint jobs to most red, yellow or any other.

And then, at the height (depth?) of this winter’s heaviest cold and snow season in Duluth, Minnesota, I had the chance to test a new Ford Raptor pickup. The Raptor identity came on the full-size F150, and even though Ford is branching out with the popular stability and handling variations of the Raptor on other vehicles including the Ranger and the Bronco, this one was the newest versin of the vintage F150 full-sized vehicle.

Accumulated snow adds new chapter of prestige to Raptor usefulness.

It arrived on a nice, calm winter day to our home up the hill from the North Shore of Lake Superior, but it didn’t stay nice or calm for long. As the wind carrie the storm out over the Big Lake, then circled back to hit and rehit our area, we wound up with an overnight snowfall of 14 inches. Then the temperature dropped below zero, as if to torment us because the snow itself was pretty light and fluffy, and we weren’t destined to have it easy.

I hadn’t really had the chance to drive the Raptor the first day, but the chance — and some pretty convincing evidence on its behalf — came on Day 2, when the true benefit of a full-size pickup truck hit me right between the eyes.

The evidence started piling up, you should pardon the expression, when I first climbed up into the Code Orange Ford Raptor. The color alone made the Raptor graphics stand out, and the truck is tall enough to stand out above the deepening snow in our driveway.

But for once, I had a cavalier attitude about the snow. I just didn’t care, because I knew this F150 Raptor was raised, widened, and had beefed-up suspension to take on any task on or off road. Or in knee-deep snow.

Controls are simple, flat console cover flips forward to create a desk.

It was an easy step up, out of the  fluffy white snow and onto the fixed cast-aluminum running board, while vaulting hips-first into the very stark and very wide, interior of Ford’s hottest performance pickup. Looking ahead up my 100-yard driveway I could see the 3-foot high ridge of snow left by the county plow guy, I still didn’t care, although my adrenaline started to rise at the obvious challenge, as I pushed the right button to bring the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 roaring instantly to meaningful-sounding life.

Instantly, the image came to mind of the Raptor saying, “This? This is nothing!” as it snarled to life in the 10-below temperature. I gave it a minute while I checked out all the controls. Then I shifted to “D” and away we went, breaking our own new trail through the snow and whumping through the plow’s pile to blast onto our rural roadway. It’s hard to believe the Raptor began life as a Ford F-150 before getting the Raptor treatment of a widened platform and all sorts of beefed-up, oversized suspension, exhaust, engine, transmission, ground clearance and other alterations to make it better suited to conquer the worst off-road conditions.

In Duluth, Minnesota, the definition of bad conditions needn’t be just off-roading fun, because it can also mean treacherous driving to and on roadways because of large snowfalls that seem to be particularly common this winter of 2021-22.

The higher the snowpiles, the more you appreciate Raptor’s tall stance.

That’s why the revelation hit me. Yes, I like cars in most instances over the huge array of trucks and SUVs, but when you think about it, when five months of your year might face a dozen criticial wintry threats, having a truck makes a lot more sense than for city-dwellers who just “want” a truck. And if you’re getting a truck, you might want the industry’s standard killer truck for all purposes. And if that means you choose the Ford Raptor, then why not also get it in Code Orange, a bright, flashy paint scheme that is peppered with black decal styling items that indicate to all the world that your super truck is, indeed, a Raptor.

With specific running lights on the top edge of the big grille, with the huge letters “F-O-R-D” covering the full width, there’s no chance anybody will mistake what’s coming at them. Also, if somebody crashed into the Code Orange Raptor, they’d have to be trying to. No failure to see this beast approaching could be called accidental..

So many “locals” have big pickups that are justified by a tendency to tow a boat or snowmobile trailer up to the cabin, nobody questions the decision. Among all the adjustments possible is a mode switch to set at Normal, Sport, Baja and Quiet. If you suffer from an overdose of macho, going from sport to Baja focuses everything including the exhaust to declare your intentions, and if you have no macho tendencies, I guess you could select normal, but I’m not sure that anybody worth the $78,545 sticker price would click it into quiet.

Nobody who can read the giant “FORD” letters on the grille will mistake Raptor’s identity.

It is interesting that Ford chose to build a new platform and arm the newest version of the Raptor with enormous off-road tires and a specially-designed Fox Shock absorber system to help showcase the new five-link coil rear suspension and long rear coil springs to all help getting the bolstered power delivery from an estimated 450 horsepower and 510 foot-pounds of torque to the ground, whether it be street or rocky terrain.

Part of the improvements at every part of the Raptor has to be the challenge from the Ram TRX, a new rival to Raptor’s domain. But what is most impressive about the Raptor’s obvious off-road capabilities are that they don’t turn the Raptor into a heavy-duty pogo-stick on rough streets.

We found the seats very comfortable and supportive, but driving over weather-battered streets and construction zones never caused any harshness or discomfort, and we would have to say the new Raptor is over-built for normal trips to Target or the grocery store. Comfort, meanwhile, is everywhere for five occupants in the Super Crew 4×4 — the only version of the F-150 that can become a Raptor. Such features as a potent audio and a large information screen on the dash lead to the logical inclusion of all the connectivity and media features, as well as controls for the requisite camera views for parking and maneuvering aid.

For those who do work from their trucks, the Raptor has Ford’s trick console, with a fold-down shift lever, and a flip-over lid that turns into a desk, and reveals a deep, cavernous bin for hanging files to organize your next construction job. With all that, the Raptor is maneuverable and easy to handle, even in congestion where the wider body might seem a problem.

Rumors persist that Ford is already planning for increased challenges, starting with building a Raptor version of the Ranger, and next supplying the new Maverick compact truck with a Raptor model, as well as the new Bronco, which has a half-dozen different models, so why not a Bronco Raptor? But the F-150 Raptor may be about to add a V8 just in case Ram or anybody else tries to outdo the current Raptor’s power.

When not working or playing, Raptor is smooth family hauler to take you shopping.

Me? The 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 is more than adequate, and it works well with the 10-speed automatic, and all those trick suspension pieces that help lift the beast higher than its ground clearance can handle. That would be a lot, because it currently has 14 inches of front travel and 15 inches in the rear.

That’s plenty for conquering the biggest off-road challenge you might be able to locate.

And for sure, it makes a foot-deep snowfall or a waist-deep snowplow ridge no challenge at all.

Chicago Auto Show renews hope in EVs, cars

February 17, 2022 by · Comments Off on Chicago Auto Show renews hope in EVs, cars
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Features, Autos 

Kia’s new electric EV6 is shown prominently at the current Chicago Auto Show.

By John Gilbert

There may be a better site for a revival than McCormick Place in Chicago, but it’s hard to think of a bigger one, particularly if it’s a revival of the nation’s auto show culture, which is showing signs of returning to normalcy with the currently running Chicago Auto Show, which will continue through this weekend and ends on February 21.

Auto shows took a beating, as did everything in this country, if not the world, and the common conjecture was that we may have seen the last of the major gatherings of the newest vehicles from all over the world in one large facility. Manufacturers have continued to overcome parts shortages and shipping woes and have moved onward and upward to meet the demands of a new world order, and the Chicago show is an example of our future driving concepts might shape up.

Perhaps the most significant change in tendencies is to move onward and upward from our consuming passion for all things SUV, and perhaps take a serious look at electric-powered vehicles. In Minnesota, major dealership spokesmen have tried to throw cold water on suggestions that automobiles might be shifting away from internal combustion powertrain toward electric motor operation. When you look into those dealer claims, however, you find that all of them are making huge profits selling big trucks and SUVs, and would just as soon leave the status quo where it stands.

Ford’s hot-selling Bronco adds a widened and strengthened Raptor model to go anywhere.

But if you get the chance to visit the Chicago Auto Show — which happens to be the oldest and largest-attended of the major U.S. shows that also include Los Angeles, Detroit and New York — you will find large gatherings at virtually every stand as consumers try to get closer looks and more information about the futuristic-looking array of EVs.

But you’d better hurry. A quick flight or drive to Chicago for a weekend walk around at McCormick Place can be done in a day, but only through President’s day on Monday, then it will close up shop. As it is, we might call this year’s show “Chicago Auto Show Light,” because some manufacturers have stayed away, possibly worried that the COVID-19 pandemic could knock out another round of the auto show circuit.

All-electric cars dominate the South Exhibition Hall of McCormick Place, where along with looking closely at the vehicles on display, you might get in line for a short on-site run around the short cone-lined course laid out on the paved floor. The Kia EV6, the BMW iXM60 flagship, and various other EVs did more than just show off all angles of their vehicles.

BMW’s new flagship is the iXM60 — pure electric and loaded with swiftness and luxury.

Kia and its South Korean partner and benefactor Hyundai both displayed numerous hybrids and EVs. At the Kia display, you could examine the basic chassis, exposed with its full-width battery pack that fills the whole lower area of the floorpan between the axles. Hyundai, Kia’s South Korean partner, has the same drivetrain in its new 2022 Ioniq5 models. Their drivetrains have a range of between 270-300 miles, and will recharge a large percentage of it in 15-20 minutes.

Nearly every manufacturer has their latest electric vehicle on display, and some have cars on the mini-track to offer examples of what driving an electric car will be like, for those who haven’t had the experience yet of the swiftness and silence.

The show kicked off with media preview days on February 10-11, leading into the show, which runs through Monday, February 21. One of the luxuries is that you can get a room at the connecting McCormick Place Hyatt, which means you can walk from your room to the arena itself without going outside into what is predictably a cold, harsh and windy experience.

A number of prominent companies — Mercedes, Audi, Honda, Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac, Genesis, Porsche, Mazda, and Tesla, for example — were nowhere to be seen. Those who did put up displays were very limited in the presentations they offered. Curiously, several companies generously gave out the very neat little carrying bags into which you can stash dozens of press brochures you acquire on your rounds of a typical show, but Hyundai was the only one that offered an actual brochure to show off its many impressive new models.

Of course, the move to electric is arriving in a glancing blow from the popularity of hybrid powertrains, which run a little bit on electric and have gas engines to keep the power on while also recharging your battery pack, resulting in unusually high fuel economy.

The LG Chem battery pack fits low and wide between the axles of Kia’s EV6, delivers nearly 300 miles of range and can recharge swiftly during a lunch stop.

The term “range anxiety” refers to the worry that your electric car might run out of juice before you get to either your destination or home — or at least a charging station where you can replenish its batteries. An ever-increasing number of battery companies and electric utilities are expanding almost by the week to place more and more charging and high-speed charging stations up, all around the country.

Here is a brief rundown of the new cars on display at Chicago’s show:

The new Corvette Z06 — the first Corvette with an engine lacking pushrods! It has a high-tech dual-overhead-cam, 5.5-liter V8 with 870 horsepower in the mid-engine machine. It is right next to Ford’s display with its original GT40 LeMans race car on a stand adjacent to the newest, and reportedly final, new Ford GT that looks like the old one grown up, with its mid-engine powertrain.

Historically a pushrod stalwart, the 2023 Corvette Z-06 will get a high-tech, DOHC 5.5-liter V8 with 870 mid-engined horsepower.

Of course, both Chevy and Ford have their latest offerings, and both have pure-electric full-size pickups on hand. Other eye-catchers are Lexus, with expanded versions of its flashy LC500 coupe and convertible. But after that, and the assorted Volkswagen Golf R and Arteon, plus new compact SUV fleet that includes the Taos, Hyundai and Kia were among the few stressing cars.

The focus on trucks has not diminished, of course. Ram held a presentation for its special-service debut of the fire department first-responder red pickup; Chevy showed off its new Silverado, which now includes a new electric version; Toyota displayed its new Tundra and Tacoma, and large SUV 2023 Sequoia and had a meaningful presentation; GMC had a display mounted by a white Hummer EV, with a bed in back; Jeep showed off a variety of Grand Cherokees and the new Grand Wagoneer; Hyundai had its new Santa Cruz and Tucson; sKia its new Sportage’ and Ford, as usual, took the truck lead. Along with its array of F-150s, Ford showed its hybrid and its electric Lightning, and its hard-to-get Maverick with hybrid power. Its feature though was the difficult to get Bronco Sport in Raptor trim — bright orange, on a pretend rocky peak with its doors removed, presumably ready to take on Jeep’s best. Along with the widened and toughened Raptor Bronco Sport, Ford unveiled the new Bronco Everglade — a well-trimmed model with a winch in front, and the ability to drive through water 34.6 inches deep, probably in pursuit of alligators. Kia also presented a display with the new EV9, but that overlaps into our electric category.

The rush toward EV (electric vehicles) may not have taken over yet, but the momentum is building, and virtually every week you hear about new high-speed charging locations as they spread across the country. BMW, for example, is offering free charging for the first two years you own your BMW EV. We know Mercedes and Audi have a lot going on in EVs, so they were spotting BMW a stronghold by not appearing.

Better late than…Toyota jumps into EV class with the bZ4X concept car.

For pure EVs, the list shows: Volkswagen’s iD.4 and Golf e; Mustang had a couple Mustang Mach e models; the aforementioned Hyundai Ioniq5 and compact Kona EV, plus its all-new Tucson, rivaling Kia, which showed the EV6 and the Niro EVs amid several hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, and had a concept EV9 for those needing more room; Nissan displayed its new Ariya EV, Toyota had a Rhombus concept vehicle and its new bZ4X sporty car, and Subaru had a very impressive display featuring newly enlarged models and a new Solterra EV. Those are just some of the newest EVs ready to hit the market.

Hopefully, some of them will overcome the publicized resentment some dealers have shown toward Gov. Tim Walz, who had the wherewithal to adopt the California emission laws that will push for more more timely switchovers to electric power. In that case, more

The Hummer is reborn as a GMC pure-electric SUV with a pickup bed.

may come up to the Minneapolis show, which is basically a regional dealership presentation. Otherwise, you can hurry and get to Chicago in time to catch the final days of the Chicago Auto Show.

We’ll get to test most if not all of the newest models in upcoming weeks and months, but for now, pictures can be better than words.

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