It’s a Real Jeep: Our 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Impressions

2015 Jeep Renegade

Since 1941, Jeep has been the name brand for getting off the beaten path. The Ford Explorer may have taken the automotive glory in Spielberg’s first “Jurassic Park,” but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that all the gas-powered vehicles on the island were good, old-fashioned Jeep Wranglers. If that’s not proof enough of a rig’s ruggedness, I don’t know what is.

The problem with the Wrangler, however, is that while it’s fantastic off road, it has never really excelled on road. Outside of the grande-size Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneers, Jeep has never really made a vehicle that was capable both in the mud and on the asphalt. Fast forward to 2015 and cue the all-new Jeep Renegade.

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What’s Your Favorite Utilitarian Car?

1966_Ford_F-100

There was a time when people bought cars for a specific reason. Sometimes it was for simple transportation, sometimes it was for moving stuff, and sometimes it was for traveling to remote locations.

Cars were built specifically for a purpose. People didn’t drive the Ford F-100 to the theater, they took the Buick Regal into town and left the Ford on the ranch for hauling hay.

Today’s cars have become multi-purpose vehicles and serve as family haulers, date night chariots, moving trucks, and off-road adventurers all rolled into one attractive wrapping.

Does anyone else miss the days of simple, utilitarian vehicles? Keep reading for a few examples of the best utilitarian vehicles ever available in the United States.

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The 2016 Camaro Goes Cross-Country

2016 Chevrolet Camaro

Now through Nov. 14, depending on where you live, you might just cross paths with the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro. Teams of journalists are driving some cross-country in a promotion called the Find New Roads Trip.

Chevrolet is bringing the Camaro East, West, North, and South across the United States to consumer events where you can get up close and personal with the exciting new coupe as well as the Chevrolet Malibu and Chevrolet Cruze. The Camaro is going to cover 48 states in 25 days.

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Mazda RX-Vision: Reality or Illusion?

Mazda RX-Vision concept

What happens when a Mazda RX-8 falls into a cotton candy machine?

You’ve seen how those machines stretch and pull the candy until it finally wraps itself around the cardboard stick. The new Mazda RX-Vision concept, pictured above, is the car-equivalent to stretched cotton candy.

And it’s gorgeous.

How did this wonder of automotive design happen? Will it actually come into existence? Will regular people like you and me be able to buy one? And most of all, if it does happen, how will it be powered?

The answer to that last question is perhaps even more exciting than the sleek shape you see in the photo before you.

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The Best Used Luxury Car You Can Buy

2005 Volkswagen Phaeton

Do you remember the Volkswagen Phaeton?

This is the car that proved very few people in the U.S. were interested in a $75,000 Volkswagen. The Phaeton was introduced for the 2004 model year and was gone by 2006…so for two short years, American auto buyers had the chance to buy the nicest, most expensive Volkswagen ever sold.

An Audi-sourced 4.2-liter V8 was the *small* entry-level motor, while a massive 6.0-liter W12 was the up-level choice. Both engines were, and still are, magnificent.

The Phaeton was built in the same plant that created the Bentley Continental and Flying Spur. From the inside, one might never guess he or she is in a Volkswagen. From the outside, no one would ever think the Phaeton is anything more than a larger version of the Passat.

That’s where the Phaeton failed. Now, a good 10 years later, it’s time to look at the Phaeton again.

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Electric Cars That Don’t Look Like Electric Cars

2014_bmw-i3

“Why do electric cars have to look like that?” she asked.

My wife referenced a parked BMW i3, a vehicle that certainly qualifies as eye-catching if not attractive.

I answered her question with some pre-programmed babble that included a perceived need by automakers to make their EVs stand out from the crowd, and a desire by EV owners to tell the world what they are driving.

Electric vehicles like the i3, i8, and Nissan Leaf are designed to invoke immediate recognition, but I questioned the logic as I spoke.

Why DO electric cars look like that? If we want them to be incorporated into the mainstream, they need to look like mainstream cars. Tesla understands that, but will other automakers evolve their EVs to suit the tastes of a mass audience?

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Toyota Goes Back to the Future for New Concept

2016-Toyota-Tacoma-Back-to-the-Future-front

I realize that everyone is probably worn out on the whole Back to the Future thing. This, though, merits a mention because it’s arguably a major reason why a popular truck became so successful.

The infamous day when Marty McFly and Doc Brown flew into 2015 and wreaked havoc on the past happened last week. Bloggers and Facebookers everywhere spent the day bemoaning the lack of hoverboards, while actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd made the rounds on the talk show circuit.

One of my fondest memories from the trilogy was Marty’s black 1985 Toyota 4×4 truck, which led to my eventual purchase of a similar truck. Last week Toyota announced a modern take on the classic truck, but does is it hold up to the original?

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Defining the Driver’s Car: Our Experience at IMPA’s Test Days

While many auto journalists will tell you they’re just trying to scratch a living out of whatever they can, it’s an undisputed fact that the job has some definite perks. Although we can’t live the life of the rich and famous every day, we do occasionally get invited to drive the cars we cover. For a couple of beautiful days in October, Monticello Motor Club—one of the most exclusive and impressive automotive country clubs in America—opens its doors for the International Motor Press Association‘s (IMPA) Test Days, where schlubs like us get asked to drive some of the best new cars in the world on both a technical race track and the back roads of the Catskill Mountains.

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Bye-Bye, Viper! Thanks for the Adventures

2016 Dodge Viper SRT GTS in competition blue

I can’t say I’ll miss the Viper.

About 15 years ago a friend of mine had a 1994 version that we enjoyed flinging along twisty back roads. The car was fun, and we got lots of attention (and third-degree calf burns from the ill-placed exhaust). The Viper was perfect for young adults in the late 1990s, but it doesn’t have a place now.

FCA has realized that fact, too, and come 2017, the venerable Viper will end production. There is no replacement car in the works.

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Before You Buy Your Teen a Safe Car, Invest in Safe Driving Skills

Ford Teen Driving

We’re in the midst of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs through Oct. 24. That gives us a great reason to point out the variety of opportunities available for your teens to get into an advanced driver-safety program thanks to companies like Kia, Ford, and BMW.

John F. Paul, a AAA spokesman in New England, says these programs can be invaluable for young teen drivers. And don’t worry. Just like teaching martial arts doesn’t make a teen a fighter, advanced safety driving schools don’t make young drivers over-confident in their abilities. As Paul points out, kids are less likely to drive recklessly after taking one of these courses.

Startling statistics demonstrate why these courses are so important. According to Paul, 50 percent of teen drivers will be involved in some kind of accident within their first 6 months of driving.

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