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Driving the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL

Driving the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL

From road to rocks, we sample the newest Wrangler

Much hoopla has been made over the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL. Enthusiasts around the world and the massive aftermarket scene have been hanging on every word written about the first new Wrangler in a decade – and for good reason. The JL represents the first reworking of the Wrangler since it exploded in popularity thanks to the addition of four doors with the 2007 Wrangler Unlimited JK. Everybody from the hard-core rock crawler to the average soccer mom wants to know how this new Wrangler drives.

Thankfully, the wait is over.

Jeep flew us out to Tucson, Arizona in early December for the Wrangler JL’s first U.S.-based media event. The southwestern territory offers an interesting mix of smooth, flat roads through valleys and bumpy, twisty roads through the rock-strewn hills north of town. And of course, off the pavement lies nothing but inhospitable terrain filled with cactuses, scorpions, venomous snakes, and rocks after rocks with more rocks piled on top. It was the perfect place to test the new Wrangler’s mettle.

Continue reading for our driving impressions.

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Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Powertop Top in Action

Watch the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Powertop Top in Action

Push a button and watch the sky appear

Jeeps have always been open-air vehicles, but with the proliferation of the hardtop option, getting a breeze inside has become a bit more challenging. Yeah, Jeep now has the revised three-piece Freedom Top option that’s easier to work, but it doesn’t compare to the absolute breeze of the new Sky One-Touch Powertop.

It’s basically a hard top with its center section cut open and sealed with a power-retractable canvas cover. A single button transforms the Wrangler Unlimited from weatherproof to completely open. The operation can happen up to 60 mph and takes about 18 seconds in both directions.

Better still, the side windows are now removable – something the standard Freedom Top doesn’t do. Simply twist two L-brackets at the top of each window, and the entire piece comes out. Both windows will store in the cargo area. With both the canvas top pulled back and the windows removed, the Sky top offers just about as much open-air freedom as a bare Wrangler. The rear glass is the only remaining hindrance to that. Remove the aluminum doors, drop the windshield, and boom – the Wrangler Unlimited is about as open as a typical owner would ever want. Jeep does say the Sky top isn’t designed to be removed, so those selecting that factory option are married to that choice.

Jeep hasn’t announced the price for the Sky One-Touch Powertop, but it will be an option on the Sahara and four-door Rubicon models.

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A Detailed Look At the 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Dashboard

A Detailed Look At the 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Dashboard

A new design is just the beginning

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL is finally here and its new interior is one of its best selling points. The seats are more comfortable, there is more storage room, the materials are all nicer, and the dash has way more functionality baked in. From the buttons on the steering wheel to the dual-zone climate controls, the JL’s dashboard makes for a much better user experience over the outgoing Wrangler JK.

We’re going to take a quick look at Jeep’s improvements to see exactly what has changed. Of course, the Wrangler JL still comes in several trim levels, so not every feature will be available on all models.

Continue reading for more information.

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The 2018 Jeep Wrangler's Three Infotainment Systems

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler’s Three Infotainment Systems

The Wrangler in-dash tech finally moves into the 21st century!

Perhaps the most obvious improvement to the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL is its new infotainment systems. Gone is the old and outdated radio and optional Uconnect 420N system found in the outgoing Wrangler JK. Now, the JL comes with three systems – all of which are far better and more user-friendly.

Regardless of the head unit, the Wrangler comes with eight speakers. An optional nine-speaker Alpine system with a subwoofer is available on the Sahara and Rubicon trims. The Wrangler Unlimited with the Alpine system now has its subwoofer located in the side panel of the cargo area, freeing up the floor space. The two-door Wrangler still has its sub in the floor. No worries, though, it’s weatherproof and has a strong metal grille protecting it from harm.

Continue reading for more on the Wrangler’s infotainment systems.

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What Separates the Rubicon from the Wrangler's Other Trims

What Separates the Rubicon from the Wrangler’s Other Trims

A guide to the mechanical and visual difference

The Rubicon model has become synonymous with the Jeep Wrangler for hard-core off-roading, despite its relatively recent introduction on the 2002 Wrangler TJ. The Rubicon trim has remained a part of Wrangler history since, including the jump to Jeep’s all-new 2018 Wrangler. The Rubi is now more capable than ever thanks to an improved suspension system, use of the 2018 Wrangler’s stronger frame, improved skid plates, and lower gearing thanks to the new transmissions choices.

But the Rubicon isn’t just about mechanical advantages. There are aesthetics advantages, too.

Most notably, the Wrangler Rubicon comes with steel rock sliders that protect the vulnerable rocker panels under the doors; there’s an available steel bumper that easily holds an electric winch; and new for 2018, the front fenders are taller so owners can run 35-inch tires without having to modify a thing. Let’s get into the details below.

Continue reading for more on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

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The 2018 Wrangler's Cargo Area is Ready For Anything

The 2018 Wrangler’s Cargo Area is Ready For Anything

More cargo volume and new tie-down bring added functionality

Jeep has added several new features to the 2018 Wrangler JL’s cargo to make it more functional. First, the cargo area is larger thanks to the JL’s 2.4-inch longer wheelbase. The Wrangler JL Unlimited’s cargo space now measured 31.7 cubic feet behind the second row and 72.4 cubic feet with the 60/40-split bench folded flat. That’s up from the Wrangler JK Unlimited’s 31.5 and 70.6 respective measurements. Though slight, the improvement still means more storage.

But Jeep isn’t expecting its customers to simply toss in their belongings. No, Jeep added the new Trail Rail system to help secure items in the back. It consists of two aluminum rails in the floor, and one mounted to the inside of the tailgate. Slidable tie downs help secure cargo, and we all know the aftermarket will devise tons of products that utilize these rails. Mopar already has several products available.

The system’s technical name is the Trail Rail Cargo Management Group, and it’s optional on the Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon. The Trail Rail system can even be had in the two-door Wrangler, as well.

Another interesting feature is the flat spot on the tailgate, just above the door striker and engraved data plate. It’s the perfect shape for holding a drink while parked. It’s a small but ingenious detail that Jeepers will be delighted to discover.

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2017 Honda Civic Type R – Driven

2017 Honda Civic Type R – Driven

Honda’s dual-purpose hot hatch

Performance vehicles are pushing the envelope beyond the imagination these days. Insane horsepower numbers and bleeding-edge technology contribute to ridiculous lap times and sub-four-second sprints to 60 mph. But more often than not, these all-out performance machines – think Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-Type, and Porsche Cayman – are too compromised for daily living and cost a significant chunk of change. But imagine combining the impressive performance of a two-seater coupe with the functionality of a five-door hatchback and a reasonable price. That’s exactly what that hot hatch segment does. And now for the 2017 model year, Honda has launched its all-new Civic Type R. What’s more, Honda is bringing it to America for the first time.

Based on the new 10th-generation Honda Civic, the new Type R adds power, a sophisticated suspension system, and functional aero to the family-friendly Civic hatchback. It’s like having cake and eating it, too. Now, the Civic Type R has some stiff competition. The 350-horsepower Ford Focus RS is the reigning performance king and the Volkswagen Golf R is the grown-up’s idea of a performance-minded hatchback. And if having a hatchback isn’t a priority but hitting the rally circuit is, there’s always the Subaru WRX STI. The Civic Type R sort of carves its own niche in the segment with an outlandish design, heavily bolstered front buckets, and the lowest starting price of the bunch, but mixes it with only 306 horsepower and the lack of all-wheel drive. To find out how the Civic Type R recipe tastes, Honda flew me to Washington State for time on a private racetrack and scenic drives near the Olympic National Forest. Here’s what I found.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

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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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We're Driving the 2017 Ram Power Wagon! What Do You Want To Know?

We’re Driving the 2017 Ram Power Wagon! What Do You Want To Know?

The biggest, meanest off-road pickup is refreshed for 2017, and we’re testing it

Come Wednesday afternoon, I should be looking at nothing but blue sky through the windshield of a Ram 2500 Power Wagon as I scale up rock walls in 4WD Low Range with both differentials locked and the front sway bar disconnected. Yep, I’m at a media event for the slightly refreshed 2017 Ram Power Wagon. Though Ram has me put me up in some swanky hotel along the Las Vegas strip, it’s the inhospitable Nevada deserts that are the real attraction.

The Ram Power Wagon isn’t exactly a new truck, per se. Rather, it now wears the updated grille borrowed from the Ram 1500 Rebel – that blacked out, macho face with the R-A-M logo spelled out in ultra bold lettering. It’s as if the truck as a perpetual five O’clock shadow, Chuck Norris style.

It’s the grille, graphics package, wheels, and Rebel-like interior that constitute the major changes for 2017. That doesn’t really matter though, as the truck’s bones are what it’s all about. The Power Wagon’s key features are its 12,000-pound Warn winch, electronically disconnecting front sway bar, electronic locking front and rear differentials, Articulink front suspension components, manual-shifting transfer case, and aggressive Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires.

And being based of the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty, it gets the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 with 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Power Wagon can even haul 1,510 pounds of cargo in the bed or tow 10,030 pounds of its trailer hitch, despite its off-road tuned suspension. Needless to say, this truck isn’t afraid of work or dirt.

So, that leads me here: what do you want to know about it? Leave your questions below and I’ll make sure to answer while spending the day with the truck. Also, be on the lookout on’s Facebook page for Live streams and photos.

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First Impressions: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

First Impressions: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

More truck than most will ever need

It’s easy to give Honda grief over the Ridgeline. “It’s not a real truck,” scoffers say. “You can’t tow with it or go off-road,” are common gripes. Well, thanks to the 2016 Truck Rodeo put on by the Texas Auto Writers Association, I had my first in-person encounter and drive experience with the Ridgeline. I can tell you the Ridgeline is very real – I touched it and drove it. It’s also not bad at tackling moderate off-road trails and it’s rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Of course, naysayers are talking the Honda’s unibody construction, four-wheel independent suspension, and FWD/AWD powertrain layout when berating the Ridgeline. Sure, the Ridgeline doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a body-on-frame pickup, but I’d wager it offers more functionality and capability than 80 percent of modern truck buyers actually need. F-150s, Ram 1500s, and Silverados are cool and all, but they do come with trade-offs like a harsh ride, lower fuel economy, and a size that doesn’t fit in many residential garages.

For those who actually need the capabilities of a full-size pickup, there’s really no substitute. But for those folks who like the idea of a pickup, occasionally pull a small trailer, or might go camping once a year, those full-size capabilities are not being utilized. The Ridgeline splits the difference between the full-size (and even mid-size) pickup category and the ever-popular crossover SUV.

I spent some time going over the 2017 Ridgeline at the Truck Rodeo – from its 3.5-liter V-6 to its lockable in-bed storage trunk. Keep reading for my first impressions.

Continue reading for more information.

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First Impressions: 2017 Ford Super Duty

First Impressions: 2017 Ford Super Duty

We drive Ford’s all-new Heavy Duty

The 2017 Super Duty is an important vehicle for Ford. It, along with the F-150, makes up Ford’s best-selling lineup – the F-Series. Two years after Ford introduced the all-new, aluminum-bodied F-150 for 2015, the 2017 model year sees a complete overhaul of the Super Duty truck. These changes pushed the Super Duty past the competition at the Texas Auto Writers Association’s 2016 Truck Rodeo where the truck won the top honor of the Truck of Texas. We participated in the Rodeo and had our first experience behind the wheel of Ford’s new heavy hauler.

Several Super Duty trims and weight classes were present, so we got a great sampling of the lineup. The range included an F-250 Crew Cab in Lariat trim up to an F-450 King Ranch. An F-350 Platinum, Ford’s range-topping trim level, was also present and competed in the Luxury Pickup segment. Sadly, that F-450 was only set up for demonstrating Ford’s extensive camera system.

Regardless of trim or class, the Super Duties were all powered by the revised 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbodiesel with the six-speed automatic transmission and were fitted with 4WD.

So what’s it like behind the wheel? Keep reading to find out.

Continue reading for more information.

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2016 McLaren 570S - Driven

2016 McLaren 570S - Driven

Wristwatches. That’s what I was thinking about while checking out the new McLaren 570S. And not for the usual traits – fine craftsmanship, mechanical precision, symbols of status – shared by timepieces and automobiles alike. Instead I was reminded of a choice I made when I was 14.

After going through a few lower-end watches, my teenage self determined it was time to invest in a quality timepiece. My finite resources left me facing a dilemma: Would I go for the upper end from a cheaper brand, or the bottom end from a higher-quality one? I settled on a Swiss-made quartz watch – the entry level from the best manufacturer I could afford – and I wore it proudly for many years, content that I had made the smart choice. Over two decades later, that watch spends more time in a drawer than on my wrist. Yet that’s what was ticking in my head as I slipped into the cockpit of Woking’s latest.

McLaren, you see, is about as exotic as automakers come. What the new Sports Series (of which the 570S coupe is part) represents is the prospect of getting in at the bottom end of a high-end lineup instead of the top end of a (relatively) more mainstream one. McLaren’s higher-end models – alongside which the Sports Series is being built at the McLaren Production Center – target rivals from Ferrari and Lamborghini. But the 562-horsepower output and $184,900 base price pit the new 570S one step downmarket against the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo – the very top of the line from less exotic marques. And that, arguably as much as anything else, is the novelty that the Little Mac brings to market.

Continue reading for the full story.

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