Savage On Wheels

Mark Savage

My introduction to Land Rover was as a kid when Matchbox created a sharp dark green boxy version with brown plastic luggage atop its roof. Then there was Daktari, the TV show about a wild animal veterinarian running the African savanna in a Rover.

I still think of Land Rovers as those boxy utilitarian beasts that mostly British folks used to roam Africa’s plains in search of wild game. One hopes now it was mostly for photography purposes instead of butchery.

Mark Savage

Mix a love of hatchbacks with a need for AWD and you have the recipe Subaru has nearly perfected in its 2021 Crosstrek.

I’ve loved hatches for years and really, if you think on it, isn’t that what all crossovers are? But crossovers aren’t very slick looking as a class, so thank goodness for Subaru and the tall hatchback design of its revamped Crosstrek, tested in its top-level Limited trim.

Mark Savage

Tell someone you’re driving a 702-horsepower pickup and they look at you like you’ve grown horns from your noggin and said 29-cent gas is back.

But it’s true, the Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab packs a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8, the same used in both the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats. Rating is 702 horses and torque of 650 lb.-ft. with a reported 0-60 mph burst of 4.5 seconds, although some folks have tested it as low as 4.1 seconds. Top speed is said to be 118 mph.

Mark Savage

Since crossovers are king at the moment it’s understandable that Ford, or any vehicle maker, would want to grab every niche within that market, hence the Ford Edge ST.

While the ST would welcome family buyers, as do the other Edge models, this one takes aim at the performance-oriented buyer that’s not afraid to spend a little, or more, extra for said performance.

READ: 2020 Ford Expedition Max Platinum 4x4 Review

2020 BMW X7 M50i Review

Dec 13, 2020
Mark Savage

When the heck is a large $94,000 SUV with 456 horsepower not enough? German luxury vehicle maker BMW would answer, when it’s an X7 50i model. Thus the X7 M50i.

Those in the know of BMW lingo realize adding an M to any BMW nameplate means two things, more performance, and naturally, more money.

READ: 2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe Review

Mark Savage

You know that sound of running a vacuum and it sucking up a load of dirt, gravel and maybe some road salt in winter. Now imagine that sound rattling around in each wheel well of your car.

That’s the first impression of Subaru’s new WRX STI, the raciest of Subies. The lasting impression is of its racer like speed and handling.

READ: 2020 Toyota GR Supra Premium Review

Mark Savage

Have you ever driven an electric Go-Kart, maybe at an amusement park, in the Dells, or even an indoor karting track?

That’s what it’s like to drive the new electric MINI Cooper SE. Power is instantaneous and the car is a bullet off the line. It’s light and lively and a nimble handler that anyone would enjoy tossing around a small racetrack. In fact, it’s a rush to slam it around corners anywhere.

READ: 2019 Nissan Leaf SL Plus Review

Mark Savage

When was the last time you heard of a car costing less than it did three years ago?

I’m betting never, unless it was a 3-year-old used car.

Well, Volkswagen is making a big push again in the U.S. You’ve likely seen its ads for the new Atlas Cross Sport crossover. Yet VW hasn’t abandoned sedans like most U.S. car makers. And its restyled 2020 Passat is not only a crisply styled sedan, it’s less expensive than when I drove a comparable SEL three years ago.

Mark Savage

One reason the Lexus RX 350 continues to be a runaway best seller for Toyota’s upscale brand is its near perfection in defining what has become the luxury crossover market.

Oh, there’s longevity on its side to be sure. The 2020 model is the sixth generation for the mid-size crossover based on Toyota’s Highlander platform. But each year Lexus tweaks it a bit, like a plastic surgeon making nips and tucks on a successful movie star’s nose and chin.

Mark Savage

After weeks in high-powered muscle and sports cars it was refreshing to get back into an easy-driving sedan with simple controls and stellar gas mileage.

This, my friends, is the beauty of a Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid. Oh, it’s not exterior beauty as with the others. However, Toyota’s 2021 Corolla is pleasant enough looking.

No, this is simplicity and value delivered in a handsome package so you don’t feel like a geek driving an odd-shaped hybrid that garners road rage among those who prefer power over efficiency.

Mark Savage

There’s big, and then there’s Max. In this case Max is Ford’s new Expedition Max, as if the original Expedition weren’t large enough. Apparently, it was not.

The Max is nearly a full foot longer than the original’s 210 inches and this special Burgundy Velvet Metallic ($395) test SUV was the Platinum edition with 4-wheel-drive, the tippy top of Ford’s SUV lineup.

READ: 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD Review

Mark Savage

Now that we’re driving less, doing something like purchasing a muscle or luxury car you’ve always wanted probably isn’t a high priority. In addition to consumer trends, many auto plants are closed, or their chain supply has been greatly impacted. 

But that doesn’t mean that our automotive contributor Mark Savage doesn’t get to test drive and enjoy some high-powered muscle cars. He says as powerful vehicles increase in price, they are losing their muscle but keeping the speed.

Mark Savage

For years those of us who dreamed of owning a sports car envisioned a British MG TF in British Racing Green with a tan interior.

MG’s TF was the epitome of what a sports car should be, and look like – cute, stylish and nimble. It also was a British car, so electronics were suspect.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention power, because sports cars are not muscle cars, they are quick, nimble and fun to drive. They don’t throb at a stoplight like a stereo’s bass speaker about to explode. They purr and chortle.

Mark Savage

Voltaire said, "It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it."

Beauty, thy name is Lexus LC 500.

OK, the name isn’t beautiful, but Toyota’s luxury brand understands beauty and sure as heck knows how to affect us … mix beauty, power and luxury, then drop the top.

If you’ve seen the bodacious LC 500 coupe since its 2018 debut you know it’s a looker. Sleek lines, stylish corseted nose and sexy rear end. For 2021 Lexus creates a drop-top version that exudes even more beauty.

Mark Savage

Chevy’s new Corvette is kryptonite to the ever-growing bevy of Supercars.

For more than 65 years Chevrolet’s everyman’s dream car has put its throbbing V8 power in front of the driver, but with the eighth generation that all changes. Supercars beware!

Now the Vette’s 6.2-liter V8 moves behind the driver in a mid-engine arrangement that seems new and exciting even though supercar makers, plus Ford with its GT, have been milking this layout for years.

Mark Savage

Two questions: How much did you pay for your house? How much would you pay for a supercar, or near supercar?

The first may vary wildly depending on how long ago you bought your home, but if you’re thinking Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, or McLaren for the supercar, you’re likely imagining a price tag north of $1 million.

Relax, this new 2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible is much cheaper. But at $180,245 it’s nearly double what we paid for the 1950s Savage ranch (home) about 30 years ago, and the darned M8 doesn’t even have a bathroom.

Mark Savage

I’ve discovered the perfect cure for pandemic boredom.

Slip into the camel brown suede and black leather interior of a muscle-bound hot rod, known to the Mopar brethren as a Dodge Challenger. But not the low-end V6-powered SXT, although I’m sure it has its party favors too. But lavish in the luxurious cow-threatening interior of the R/T Scat Pack Widebody.

Mark Savage

Seemingly forever Cadillac was THE American luxury car, its image built on being big, luxurious, powerful, pricey, and stylish, often to a gaudy extreme!

All that changed when Japan’s luxury makes invaded and when coupled with growing sales of German luxury makes, Cadillac’s slice of the U.S. luxury pie became much smaller. But Caddy got its act together more quickly than Lincoln, the other big U.S. luxury make since Packard ceased to exist after the late 1950s. So for the past 20 year or so Caddy has been making solid and fairly stylish luxury vehicles.

Mark Savage

Some cars (or crossovers) just make you feel good. VW’s Beetle was one, the Mini Cooper another. It may be their looks, their ease of driving, their usefulness or simply their price.

Sometimes it’s all of that, which brings me to this week’s drive, the Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD. Again, that’s a lot to take in from a name standpoint, but simply put, this is a fine compact crossover that borders on cute. Mine was a retina-burning Starbright Yellow, which I initially nicknamed Electric Mustard, but Electric Dijon might be more accurate.

Mark Savage

I’d been looking forward to testing Nissan’s 2020 Frontier compact pickup since hearing about its upgrades at the Chicago Auto Show in February, just before the COVID lockdown.

READ: 2019 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4 Review

Mark Savage

Back in the day, less than 20 years ago, BMW was known for its 3 Series compact sport sedans and coupes. They were cute, taut, models that were meant to introduce enthusiast drivers to the Bavarian automaker’s wares.

The 3 Series was an entry-level sportster that with some budget stretching, maybe selling some of your favorite vinyl or the kid’s Cabbage Patch dolls (but not one of your kidneys), you could afford.

Mark Savage

Lincoln has been struggling for years like a one-armed barista fresh out of java. It’s no secret Lincoln has been looking for a new identity, a new look and hoping to regain its footing in the luxury car market.

Finally, it seems to have arrived, but not with cars, with sport-utility vehicles named Aviator and Corsair. I tested the Corsair earlier this year and found it a solid entry in the mid-size SUV market. Now comes the Aviator that soars to the upper reaches of SUV luxury, in looks, features and price.

Mark Savage

I’m not a bigger is better sort of guy. My parents used to tell me the best things come in small packages.

So I’m not one to automatically rave about Toyota’s new Highlander because it has grown dimensionally, about 2.5 inches of wheelbase and overall length. But if you’re a larger family looking for a super reliable mid-size sport-utility vehicle to haul seven or eight folks, that extra room is as welcome as a stimulus check.

It means more legroom in row two and a touch more in the always tight confines of row three and the cargo area.

Mark Savage

What vehicles catch folks’ attention these days? If you’re thinking big pickups or SUVs, you’d be way off base. That’s what folks buy, not what tickles their eyeballs.

Sporty wagons, now that’s a sensory surprise.

This week’s 2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country (that’s a lot of name) was as surprising to car watchers as a politician telling the truth. The Volvo is sleek, sexy and debonair. If James Bond drove a wagon, this is what he’d drive. The V60 looks as tailored as one of Bond’s tuxedoes.

Mark Savage

A few years back I declared hybrids the way to go until all-electrics gained more range and the infrastructure to remotely recharge electrics grew substantially. Nothing has changed my mind and if anything, the growth of quality hybrids makes my point all the stronger.

This week’s drive proves that point in electrons!

Only a few months back I tested Honda’s popular small SUV, the CR-V. It’s a top-seller and pretty much leads a closely contested market segment. I feel the hybrid version of its top-level Touring model should be its top-selling model.

Mark Savage

Determining if a vehicle is a hatchback or a crossover can sometimes cause consternation. Take the case of Lexus' small hatch/crossover, the UX.

That name provides no clue as to what this is, other than there’s an X in the name, so the vehicle designers probably considers it a crossover. Most of the time crossovers offer AWD or 4WD and again, the UX sort of splits the difference.

READ: 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL Review

Mark Savage

In some ways you’d think Nissan would own the large SUV market.

Its small Rogue is extremely popular as is its mid-size SUV, the Pathfinder. Consider too that Nissan’s large SUV boasts the most power in its class and is one of the lower priced big people haulers on the market.

READ: 2020 Ford Explorer ST AWD Review

But, when I mention the Nissan Armada, do you think of a top-tier large SUV?

Mark Savage

Subaru’s Outback is as close to a cult car for seniors as is it for middle-agers with a couple of teens still living at home. Its sales just continue to grow, resulting in one parked in nearly every other suburban driveway.

Spoiler alert: there’s a 2017 version in my driveway.

That said, Outback just keeps getting better, which may lead to trade-ins among some of its earlier devotees. The latest Outback Onyx Edition XT is the latest case in point.

Mark Savage

Mercedes-Benz has been dominating Formula 1 racing for six years and it has a long history of dominant race cars dating back to the 1930s. Famous race drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, and now Lewis Hamilton have put Mercedes squarely in the public eye.

Mark Savage

If I were to vote on my car of the year today, it would be the Mazda CX-30, a new larger subcompact crossover, up a step from Mazda’s current CX-3.

This new crossover in the fastest growing part of that market is easily the most stylish, most luxuriously finished and most fun to drive to date. It’s a thing of beauty and performance.

READ: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Review

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