Tuesday
Apr092013

Ford Announces New 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition

Normally we don't re-post press releases, there are plenty of other sites out there that pass of news and coverage as just pushing out press releases.  That said the Ford Raptor is one of our favorite vehicles that we've ever tested, so excuse us if we do it this one time.

 

Ford’s F-150 SVT Raptor, the ultimate high-performance off-road pickup truck, has a new Special Edition package customers can order that adds more unique touches to the hot-selling pickup.

 

Ford today reveals the 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition, which adds unique new touches to Raptor’s existing Luxury Package, including a Ruby Red Metallic exterior color and box-side graphics. Interior upgrades include Brick Red seat bolsters with black inserts and cloth honeycomb highlights, console top finish panel, and center stack and door panel appliqué accents. Raptor Special Edition is also available in Tuxedo Black Metallic.

 

The 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition goes on sale this fall.

“Raptor owners are looking for a high-performing, uncompromising off-road pickup truck with the features and luxuries found in today’s premium trucks,” said Doug Scott, Ford truck group marketing manager. “Since its launch in 2009, we’ve continually moved Raptor forward in capability and design, and the 2014 Special Edition is the best Raptor yet.”

Raptor has found an enviable niche in full-size pickups. SVT Raptor sales are up 14 percent in 2013, with five out of the past six months seeing record sales. More than 13,000 Raptors were sold in 2012.

SVT Raptor prowess and power

Since launching as a 2010 model, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor has set the benchmark for low- and high-speed off-road performance through aggressive all-terrain tires, industry-exclusive internal triple-bypass FOX Racing Shox dampers, skid plates and standard Hill Descent Control.

A Raptor development imperative has been continuous improvement, so Ford expanded Raptor’s footprint for 2011 with a four-door SuperCrew model joining the two-door SuperCab original.

For 2012 Ford began offering a grille-mounted camera to improve driver visibility when climbing over rocks or other obstacles. The 2012 addition of a Torsen® limited-slip differential to Raptor’s 4WD system enables the truck to balance traction between both front wheels.

For 2013 industry-exclusive beadlock-capable wheels were added to help increase grip in low-traction conditions, along with high-intensity discharge headlamps for improved visibility. SYNC® with MyFord Touch® was also made available for added connectivity.

SVT Raptor is available exclusively with a 6.2-liter V8 engine producing best-in-class 411 horsepower and 434 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to an electronic six-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode and SelectShift Automatic® functionality. The 4WD system features electronic shift-on-the-fly capability for the transfer case.

The front axle features a Torsen® differential with 4.10 to 1 gearing. The rear axle is also 4.10 to 1, with an electronic-locking differential.

Wednesday
Mar272013

Wednesday's Words: Thoughts on the "New" Lincoln

 

Lincoln is at the beginning of rebooting it’s brand, and with that the opportunity to position itself to stand out among all the other “premium” car brands.


It would appear that Lincoln is positioning itself to compete against brands like Volvo, Lexus, Acura, and Audi.  We think, to quote Don Adams, the original Maxwell Smart, they are missing it by that much.


“Premium Luxury” is the new black, everyone is doing it.  To stand out in that very crowded demographic, you have to do something different, and what Lincoln is bringing to market isn’t different enough.


Rather than compete against such a crowded field, we believe that Lincoln needs to look further up market, to take on former Premier Auto Group members Jaguar and Land Rover, the reasons are several.  


Number one, there is less to compete against. When there are few competitiors to draw your attention away, it’s much easier to be the point of focus.


Number two, pricing separation.  As it sits right now, Lincoln will continue to have the issue it has had for a number of years, and that is, it’s just a gussied up Ford.  Look at the Ford Fusion in Titanium trim, out the door it’s going to sell for between $34,000 and $36,000.  The new Lincoln MKZ starts at $37,000 and can go out the door, similarly equipped to the Fusion for about $42,000.  That’s not much of a premium.  The same goes across the board when you look at Edge vs. MKX, Taurus vs MKS and Flex vs. MKT.


While there is now more of a difference in both interior and exterior design, it doesn’t take much of a discerning eye to tell they share a common platform.


Number three, in moving further up market, you have much more pricing power and hence profitability, with the added benefit of having the ability to bring unique looks to both the exterior and interior of the vehicles.  The ability to use much higher quality materials in a more top shelf brand also would help distinguish it from it’s parent brand.


Lastly, in reaching to a higher demographic, Lincoln would have the opportunity to truly be an aspirational brand, rather than just another “premium luxury” brand.  They could redefine what an “American Luxury Brand” is.  Rather than some cliche’ from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, American Luxury doesn’t have to be “boulevard smooth” nor does it have to be the the latest in consumer electronics, rather than “custom” it should be “bespoke”  Most anyone can have “custom” few can have “bespoke”.


Lincoln should not get carried away with “gimmick” interiors that are all about the latest in technology.  As we are beginning to see, most interiors that but a focus on the latest in consumer electronics of the moment, are (a) 9-24 months behind the curve to begin with, and (b) don’t age well, both from looks and from function.  Classic and timeless should be the focus when it comes to interiors at Lincoln.  Simplicity is it’s own luxury.


If Lincoln is to be successful in it’s reboot, it will have to be something different than it’s competitors.  Pretty advertising is great for getting people in the door, but the product must, not match expectations, but far exceed them.  In rebooting the brand, Lincoln HAS the opportunity to place itself where it wants, as they try to start with a clean sheet, the question is, are they positioning themselves for success, or just to get lost in the crowd once again.


Monday
Mar252013

Reviewed: 2013 Lexus GS Hybrid

We've had the opportiunity to drive a few different versions of the new Lexus GS.  The hybrid version is different, but still very good.  Have a look at our review.

Friday
Mar222013

Support MPGomatic's Kickstarter Project "Ain't Fuelin'!"

Dan Gray from MPGomatic.com has been a friend of the site for some time, and he's got a Kickstarter project that we think is fantastic!  He wants to take a 10 year old car, and show you not only how to keep it running in tip top shape, but how to get better gas mileage with simple upgrades!

We like the project so much we have pleged money to the project and created a support video for him which you can see below.  If you'd like to help Dan achive his goal of raising $7,777 by April April 5th you can donate here.

Wednesday
Mar132013

First Look: 2013 Toyota RAV4

The RAV4 is a keystone in Toyota’s lineup. Through three generations, it has been the entry level crossover vehicle for over one million families.  In the last 10 years the small crossover segment has grown from virtually nothing to almost 20% of the new car market.  Because it is a segment filled with many first time car owners, or the first new car people have purchased, it’s also a critical segment for building long term customer loyalty.

The acceleration in development in this segment has been very brisk and what looked new and fresh just two or three years ago, looks cheep and outdated today.  In to this Toyota brings its fourth generation RAV4, looking to cement its place among the volume sales leaders in the segment.

Toyota says that they have sold 1.7 million RAV4’s since the model came to market in 1994 and that 80% of them are still on the road today.  The compact SUV market has gone from just a few models in the early 90’s to now 45 different models today.

In many ways what Toyota is doing with the trim levels of the new RAV4, harkens back to the days of the mid 80’s when, there would be two or three trim levels and few options to choose from.  The fourth generation RAV4 comes in three trim levels, LE, XLE and Limited..  Toyota’s philosophy was to bring trim levels to a spec where each model offers 90-95% of the options that customers tend to order.  This philosophy gives RAV4 customers more bang for their buck when they go to purchase. For 2014, all RAV4 models will come with a 6.1” touch display as well as a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity and projector beam headlights with auto off.

As you move up trim specs you will get ENTUNE with Navigation, 17” alloy wheels, (18” alloys are exclusive to the Limited model), power moon roof and dual zone climate control.  Cloth is the material of choice for LE and XLE, with Soft-Tex being offered on the Limited models.  Toyota describe Soft-Tex as, “leather, without the cost”.  There are soft touch materials through the cabin in all trim levels, and some hard plastic materials in high touch point areas for controls like the window switches, and the gear shift.

The RAV4 comes standard as front wheel drive, with All Wheel Drive being an option.  Toyota also note that 65% of RAV4 purchasers will choose the AWD option.  New in the AWD models is active torque control, which works to put the power where it’s most needed, and aids in sharpening handling on dry pavement.  Sensors in the system will direct power to the wheels to aid in turn-in for corners giving the RAV4 a sporty feeling when driven on twisty roads.  It is still possible to lock the differentials in AWD mode for off road driving, or in snow or muddy terrains, and Toyota has now made this a maintenance-free system as well.

Also aiding in handling, the RAV4 is 1.2 inches lower than the out going model, though it still maintains a healthy 6.3 inches of ground clearance.

A big change for the new RAV4 is the elimination of the V6 as an option.  Across the range there will be one engine choice, a 2.5 -iter four-cylinder producing 176 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 172 ft/lb of torque at 4,100 RPM. While the peak power is higher in the engine range, Toyota is bringing the RAV4 into the modern age by dropping the previous models four-speed automatic gearbox for a standard for the class six-speed unit.  With more gears spaced closer together, the RAV4 looses little in acceleration to the previous V6, yet sees considerably gains in fuel economy.

The 0-60 sprint takes 8.9 seconds and the EPA rating for the RAV4 is 24 city, 31 highway and 26 combined for front drive models, and 22/29/25 for AWD models.

Pricing for the 2013 RAV4 starts at $23,300 for the front-drive LE model, $24,290 for the XLE and $27,010 for the Limited, the AWD option adds a $1,400 premium.  Toyota estimates that 45-50% of buyers will choose the XLE model, which will come with a moon roof, dual zone climate control and sports seats.  There will be the option of Navigation with Entune for $1.030. 

One of the trademarks of the RAV4 has been the spare tire carrier out back, and the swing open door to the rear cargo area.  With the 2013 model, both of those are now gone.  The spare tire is housed below the cargo floor and the rear hatch opens traditionally, and now with power assist and the ability to set an opening height for those that are short of stature or in areas with low overhead ceiling height.  Not only does this aid in functionality, it also in rearward visibility.

Special attention was focused on making the cabin of the 2013 RAV4 much quieter.  Acoustical glass was used for the windshield, and extra sound deadening materials were placed throughout the cabin.  Driven back to back with the outgoing model there is a noticeable difference in wind and road noise that protrudes into the cabins of the two RAV4 generations.

While the new RAV4 lacks the fore and aft adjustments for the rear seats that the outgoing model had, the rear seat of the 2013 RAV4 has more leg room over the outgoing model, and the rear seats do recline for added passenger comfort.  With the rear seats up, the cargo area has 38.4 square feet of cargo room and with the seats folded down it increases to 73.4.

The dashboard and the driver’s cockpit now look modern in the new RAV4.  The use of soft touch materials and French stitching bring a new level of refinement.  Going back and forth between the old and new RAV4’s lets you see just how much of a leap forward the new car is.  Toyota is using what they call a “color block concept” in the interior, and it gives a strong bold look to the interior that refrains from being over the top.

Out on the road the new RAV4 is miles above the outgoing model in every way.  The ride, handling, comfort, and NVH levels are noticeably better right off the bat.  The new RAV4 has electric power steering for the first time. What buyers of RAV4 will notice is that below 10 miles an hour the steering is effortless, yet, picks up weight and feel as speed increases to give good feedback and confidence when going down the road.

Previous owners of the RAV4 will take note of is that there is no longer an option of third row seating.  Toyota’s research deemed, that customers looking for seven passenger accommodations would be better served by stepping up to the larger Highlander.  In making the RAV4 a five-passenger only configuration, they felt they could maximize space efficiency, passenger comfort and legroom.

With the 2013 model, the RAV4 is now competitive in its market segment.  Some of its competitors may offer more space, and/or more power, however, it comes at price that is often times far north of the RAV4’s.  What the RAV4 brings to the market is a solid product with exceptional value that stays true to what made it so popular, yet now, is competitive with its modern interior, amenities and numerous convenience features that buyers today expect.