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2017 Harley-Davidson Road King & Road King Special

2017 Harley-Davidson Road King & Road King Special

The Road King has long been an alternative for Harley-Davidson riders who want a tour-capable bike sans barn-door fairing. It keeps getting better in the 2017 model year with the new Milwaukee-Eight engine and a special trim package called — wait for it — the Road King Special. Updated looks and performance are the main selling points here, over and above the usual litany of reasons to consider the Road King, and the recent demise of Victory Motorcycles makes this ride even more important to H-D in the long run.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Road King and Road King Special.

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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven

Exploring the deserts of Nevada in Ram’s baddest truck

The Ram Power Wagon has been a modern fixture in the heavy duty truck segment since its rebirth in 2005. Like the Jeep Wrangler, the Power Wagon owes its beginnings to the fight against the Axis powers in WWII. See, the U.S. Government needed an all-terrain weapons carrier that was large enough to carry heavy supplies, yet small enough to traverse tight jungle trails and the winding roads of Europe. Today, the Power Wagon’s legacy lives on, though only in the civilian sector. It’s based on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty and comes backed with loads of hard-core hardware for pounding terrain into submission. Now for the 2017 Model year, Ram has given the Power Wagon a fresh look and some welcomed interior enhancements.

These changes reflect the times. Vehicles with outlandish graphics, black wheels, and sinister faces are popular with the car-buying public, so automakers are responding accordingly. Ram has seen impressive sales with its Rebel – an off-road appearance package that brings the Ram 1500 into the spotlight for extroverts who like a loud vehicle. Well, Ram has taken the Rebel’s features to the 2017 Power Wagon. The nostril-style grille, the powered-coated bumpers, black wheels, smoked headlights, and ostentatious badging are all present. Even the front seats are similar to the Ram 1500 Rebels. The cloth inserts feature a tire tread pattern that matches the OEM rubber. In the Power Wagon’s case, it’s Goodyear’s Wrangler DuraTrac tire.

Ram decided these changes were reason enough to hold a press launch event near Las Vegas, Nevada and was kind enough to fly me out. The bright lights of The Strip quickly fade into desolate desert not far from town, with sheer cliffs, slick rock ledges, and millions of acres of sand and sagebrush. The Valley of Fire State Park and its hidden trails outside Logandale, Nevada proved the perfect spot for testing the Power Wagon’s chops.

Continue for the full driven review of Ram’s 2017 Power Wagon.

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What Make a Ram Power Wagon?

What Make a Ram Power Wagon?

A deep look into the 2017 Ram Power Wagon’s mechanicals

This week we spent time behind the wheel of Ram’s slightly refreshed 2017 Power Wagon. The headlining changes include the Rebel-like front grille, black bumpers, new wheels and tires, side graphics, and the massive R-A-M logo on the tailgate. The interior also sports some new features, including tire tread patterns on the cloth seats and the Power Wagon logo along the side bolsters. But that’s about it. The mechanicals haven’t changed for 2017 – and that’s just fine.

The Power Wagon is based on Ram’s 2500 Heavy Duty pickup and uses most of the same underpinnings. Power comes from the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that makes 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. The venerable six-speed automatic manages the power, sending it to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions. When the road turns to dirt, the manually operated transfer case borrows power from the rear, sending it forward to the solid front axle. Yep, the Power Wagon is old school to the point of solid axles at both ends. But even the standard Ram 2500 can be had with those mechanical bits.

There’s long list of parts unique to this pickup. Some can’t even be had anywhere else in the industry, not counting the Jeep Wrangler, of course. So let’s dive in and see what the Power Wagon is all about.

Continue reading for more information.

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2017 Audi S5 Cabriolet

2017 Audi S5 Cabriolet

Compact luxury sportiness with unlimited headroom

The Audi S5 first appeared on the scene in 2007, initially dropping cover as a coupe alongside its more pedestrian sibling, the A5. Two years later, at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, Audi introduced the S5 Sportback, a five-door model promising greater practicality in a still-sporty package, plus the open-air S5 Cabriolet, both of which went on sale for the 2010 model year. A mid-cycle refresh arrived in 2013, including new technology, styling, and powertrain updates. Now, it’s time for a new generation to take the reins, and as such, Audi has unveiled the 2017 S5 Cabriolet, rounding out the new A5 lineup with a sportier soft-top iteration of the compact luxury two-door. The next gen brings with it slightly larger dimensions, tweaked styling, a sleek interior packed with gadgets, a more powerful turbo six-cylinder, an updated rear suspension, and new systems for safety and convenience.

Being the best in this segment takes style and attitude, mixing the fun of unlimited headroom with a decent punch when you press on the loud pedal. Keeping up with the technological Jonses is also critical, with competition from Europe and Japan vying to impress in the cabin as well. Does the new S5 have what it takes to compete?

Continue reading to learn more about the 2017 Audi S5 Cabriolet.

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2017 BMW 5 Series Touring Unveiled

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring Unveiled

Getting’ groceries and lookin’ good

BMW just revealed the 2017 5 Series Touring model, giving the recently debuted seventh-gen mid-size 5 Series line an extra dose of usability and practicality. The new model gets the same styling outside as the updated 5 Series sedan, plus new interior technology, the latest driver’s assists and safety features, and enhanced infotainment.

Four engine options are on the table at launch, all of which are turbocharged. On the gasoline front, there’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 252 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission and posting a 0-to-62 mph time of 6.5 seconds. There’s also a 3.0-liter six-cylinder and eight-speed auto combo, plus AWD, which lays down 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque for a 0-to-62 mph time of 5.1 seconds.

It you prefer oil burners, you can get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel with 190 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which mates to a six-speed manual transmission as standard (the eight-speed is optional), and gives a 0-to-62 mph time of 8 seconds. Finally, there’s a 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel with 265 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque, offered with either RWD or AWD, plus an eight-speed automatic. All that twist yields a 0-to-62 mph time of around 5.6 seconds with AWD grip added.

BMW says it’ll add further engine and drivetrain options, including both RWD and AWD models, throughout the year.

Additional aluminum was used to reduce overall weight, including in the side members and the tailgate, cutting up to 100 kg (220 pounds) compared to the outgoing model. The suspension incorporates a rear air ride system as standard, while Dynamic Damper Control, an Adaptive Drive system, Integral Active Steering, and M Sport suspension are all optional.

Outside, you’ll find active grille shutters in the nose, plus standard LED headlights.

In the cabin is a Wi-Fi hot spot, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, a color heads-up display, gesture control, voice control, and wireless phone charging. The seats also get eight massage programs, while the rear cargo space is up to 570 – 1,700 liters (20 – 60 cubic feet). Safety features include steering assist, lane keep assist, lane change assist, cross traffic warning, and wrong-way warning.

Look for the new 5 Series Touring in the metal at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show this coming March. Sales will commence in June. No word on whether or not BMW is planning on bringing this thing stateside, but odds are against it. And that’s a shame, because the U.S. could absolutely use more wagon hotness, don’tcha think?

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2017 Volvo S90 Inscription – Driven

2017 Volvo S90 Inscription – Driven

Luxury from the land of Sweden

Volvo has been around for 90 years and made some pretty impressive vehicles. I’d dare to say the S90 Inscription has eclipsed them all. Let me back up. Volvo’s new quest for dominance in the luxury segment has yielded two very impressive results – the second-generation XC90 SUV that debuted for the 2015 model year and the new-for-2017 S90 sedan. They both share a number on components, from the T5 and T6 four-cylinder engines to the chassis architecture. Best of all, they both share a similar design style that exudes a sense of reserved affluence.

I recently spent a week with the 2017 Volvo S90 fitted with the range-topping Inscription package and several high-end options. Though the S90 carries a base price in the mid $40,000 range, my tester felt like it cost double that, though somehow it didn’t. A rich interior is key in this positive deception, with padded leather, open pour wood accents, and aluminum trim pieces covering every inch of touchable space inside the cabin. What little plastic remains is high-quality and coated in a piano black finish.

Technology also abounds in this machine. An impressive infotainment system and digital gauge cluster further perpetuate the feeling of luxury and its merger with technology. The T6 powertrain is a marvel of modern internal-combustion engine design. And of course, a slew of active and passive safety systems continue proving Volvo remains a leader in vehicle safety.

So what’s it like to live with the S90? Keep reading for the full details.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

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2017 Acura TLX – Driven

2017 Acura TLX – Driven

Acura acts tough, but can’t shake its happy Honda heritage

The Acura TLX competes in a rather strong segment with players like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, not to mention relative newcomers like the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia. Needless to say, Acura has its work cut out. Curious to see how the TLX performs on familiar streets, I recently spent a week with a 2017 model fitted with the optional 3.5-liter V-6 and SH-AWD. This would technically be Acura’s hottest-performing TLX. So how’d it do?

Well, I’ll get to that. But first, some backstory.

The TLX hit the scene for the 2015 model year. It was designed to replace the compact TSX and slightly larger TL sedans. Acura essentially reorganized its sedan lineup, which now includes the compact, Civic-based ILX, the mid-size TLX, and the RLX luxury flagship. Not much has changed for the 2017 model year beyond a slight price increase. This means the car carries over with its standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, and front-wheel drive. Different option packages bring high-tech bits like active safety features and upgradeg leather seats to go the an ELS stereo system.

My tester, which came fully kitted out with the V-6, AWD, the Technology Package and Advance Package, represented the cream of the TLX crop. Its $45,740 price tag actually sits mid-pack in relation to its competition, with the Audi and Alfa Romeo coming in slightly lower, while the Mercedes and BMW can be optioned to cost more than $5,000 more than the my loaded TLX tester. What’s that mean for Acura? The TLX represents a relative bargain. And, thanks to its 290-horsepower engine and torque-vectoring AWD system with rear-wheel steering, the Acura provides plenty of fun when driven hard, with a sure-footed grip when tooling around town.

There’s more to the Acura TLX, so keep reading for the full driven review.

Continue reading for more information.

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2018 Subaru WRX STI

2018 Subaru WRX STI

Better stoppers and a quieter cabin top the list in this refresh

Forged in the fires of competition at the World Rally Championship, the Subaru WRX first appeared in 1992 bearing all the makings of a hoon-ready enthusiast’s wet dream. Packing a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, oodles of AWD grip, and a name that alludes to its competition origins (some say it stands for “World Rally Cross,” others say it’s “World Rally Experimental”), the WRX was an immediate hit, prompting the Six Star Brand to offer up an even hotter STI variant two years later. STI is the signature of Subaru Tecnica International, Subaru’s high-performance tuning arm, which translates as more power, more aggression, and more speed, and with four generations of hot rod Suby’s now on the books, the WRX STI deserves a refresh. Enter the 2018 model year, which gets tweaked exterior styling, a quieter, more comfortable cabin, sharper handling, and better brakes.

At its core, the 2018 Subaru WRX STI is more or less identical to the outgoing model. Even though Subaru released the new fifth-generation Impreza last year at the New York international Auto Show, the WRX and WRX STI variants remain stuck in the past, with fans anxiously awaiting the inevitable evolutionary changeover from the current fourth-gen model. Nevertheless, Subaru continues to sell its rally-bred superstar in droves, so you can’t really blame the automaker for taking its sweet time.

For now, the STI enters the 2018 model year with “performance, comfort, design and safety enhancements for a more rewarding driving experience.” Read on to learn what that means, and whether or not it’s enough of an update to warrant your performance dollar.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Subaru WRX STI.

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2016 Ford Focus RS

2016 Ford Focus RS

Ford introduced the first ever Focus RS in 2002, reviving the RS (Rallye Sport) badge after having popularized it before with rally homologation specials like the Escort RS 1600 or the Escort RS Cosworth. Despite looking like a road-going version of the WRC model, the car was FWD and offered a little over 200 horsepower. Almost seven years later, another generation of the Focus RS arrived with an even more pronounced rally look and a Volvo-sourced five-cylinder with 305 horsepower sent to the front wheels. While torque-steer was kept to a minimum via a standard LSD from Quaife and a MacPherson front suspension strut called RevoKnuckle, the car was still far from offering WRC-like performance for the road.

Ford wants to change all that with the recently unveiled, third-generation Focus RS, as the model will be offered with an innovative all-wheel-drive system. Set to be manufactured at the same German plant as its predecessors, this will also be the first RS model to be sold around the world, including the U.S. With a Mustang-sourced, 2.3-liter, EcoBoost engine that has been engineered to deliver in excess of 300 horsepower, the all-new Focus RS seems to really up the ante for Ford in the performance-hatch category.

Update 07/13/2013: The Ford Focus RS is finally arriving at U.S. dealerships and is priced at $36,605 including destination and delivery charges. Hit "play" to see who was the first U.S. lucky owner of the RS.

Continue reading to learn more about the new Ford Focus RS.

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2017 Acura MDX – Driven

2017 Acura MDX – Driven

A new face for Acura’s hot-selling MDX

The Acura MDX has been roaming streets since the turn of the new millennium. It has held fairly strong sales numbers, with 2014 being its best year with 65,603 examples finding homes. That makes sense, as the 2014 model year marked the first year of the current generation. But sales have slowly slipped, with Acura only moving 49,252 MDX models in the first 11 months of 2016. However, the three-row crossover has a new hope – a heavily refreshed face for the 2017 model year.

The new MDX loses the unloved “shield” or “beak,” as some called it, trading it in favor of a pentagonal grille with a massive Acura logo affixed front and center. It takes after the Acura Precision Concept. A revised rear fascia and chrome rocker panels further add a level of luxury not present before.

Matching the updated looks are a slew of updated safety systems. AcuraWatch is now standard on every MDX and includes Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Thanks to these new systems, along with the LED headlights that scored an “Acceptable” rating with the IIHS, the MDX made the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ list for 2017.

The underpinnings continue almost unchanged, however, including the 3.5-liter V-6, nine-speed automatic transmission, and Acura’s available Super Handling AWD system. That’s not a big deal, as the V-6 continues to offer excellent power and efficiency. The i-VTEC and direct-injection 3.5-liter makes 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque while achieving 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined on models equipped with SH-AWD.

To get a feel of the refreshed 2017 MDX, Acura sent me an example to test for a week. I used it as a daily driver – chauffeuring the kid to school, picking up groceries, and making runs across town. Here are my thoughts and impressions.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

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2018 Vanguard Roadster

2018 Vanguard Roadster

Straight out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard comes the newest threat to the U.S-based, concept-bike market; the “Roadster” by Vanguard Moto, Inc. This is the first of three planned models, with a “Racer” and “Cruiser” just over the horizon, and what I’m seeing so far is quite impressive. Not only is this a pure-D cool looking ride, it comes with a digital pedigree that is almost unique in the full-size smoker-bike category having been largely designed in the electronic medium through CAD and 3-D printing technology.

This is a big step for would-be bike manufacturers, because it allows for relatively rapid design and production with a small team of engineers and workers, perfect for startups and builders looking to keep a small footprint. Edward Jacobs, formerly of Confederate Cycle, is the chief engineer and designer for the company with Francois-Xavier Terny serving as CEO and supply/logistics support, and this dynamic duo has created something truly unique under the sun.

Continue reading for my look at the Vanguard Roadster.

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2018 BMW M550i xDrive

2018 BMW M550i xDrive

The 5 Series will get M Sport treatment for 2017!

BMW markets the 5 Series as the world’s most successful business sedan, and considering it’s been around since 1972, there’s some merit to that. For the 2017 model year, the 5 Series entered its seventh generation, bringing a new design inside and out, a mild weight decreases thanks to CFRP technology derived from that of the 7 Series, a drag coefficient of just 0.22 Cd, a new 10.25-inch iDrive display, and an updated HUD that covers 70 percent more “space” than that of the outgoing model. BMW has yet to release official output numbers, but a mild increase in performance across the range is expected. BMW hasn’t even opened the order books yet, but that hasn’t stopped it from announcing the first ever M Performance version of the 5 Series. Dubbed the M550 xDrive, it comes complete with a 4.4-liter V-8 that produces 456 horsepower to go with a rear-wheel biased AWD system and an M Performance Chassis.

So, the ink isn’t even dry on the drawing board, and Bimmer is already growing its lineup of 5 Series models. This M550i will be the first M Performance model to us an M-Performance-modified V-8 and can be equipped with a handful of driver assistant systems. On the competition front, the standard 5 Series competes against models like the Audi A6, Infiniti Q70, and even the Cadillac CTS. But, do any of these competitors have a model that can actually compete with the new M550i? Well, we won’t know for sure until we get to see the M550i in the metal, but we can certainly look at how they all compare on paper. With that said, let’s get to it and see all of what the M550i has to offer.

Continue reading to learn more about the BMW M550i xDrive.

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