2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon: Highs & Lows
If ever there were a vehicle that could be described as “ionic,” the Jeep CJ/Wrangler would be it. It’s overall shape hasn’t changed much since the U.S. entered WWII in 1941, and neither has its off-road capability. The current version, the Wrangler JK, has been around a decade now, having debuted for the 2007 model year. By now you know Jeep is readying its replacement with the 2018 Wrangler JL – an SUV rumored to be far superior to the JK in nearly every way, both in on-road comfort and off-road ability. But before the last new JK rolls off its Ohio assembly line, I spent a week living with one of the most hard-core versions: the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock.
Now, if you’ve been living under a rock and have to ask yourself what makes a Rubicon Hard Rock, take the time to read my explanation. For the rest of us, we can explore the Wrangler’s highs and low – its loveable characteristics and loathsome traits. The Jeep certainly has both, and you’d better be fully aware of each should you purchase one, much like the 191,774 customers did in the U.S. in 2016 alone. Of course, these are just my opinions, so feel free to tell me yours in the comments below.
Continue reading for more information.
TopSpeed Heading to TAWA’s Auto Roundup
The Texas Auto Writers Association’s annual Springtime Auto Roundup is taking place this weekend, May 7 through 8, at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas. The famed Formula 1 racetrack will host journalists from across the country, including myself, for a weekend of vehicle evaluations. Categories range from full-size luxury sedans to performance coupes.
Back-to-back wheel time on the same road course allows journalists to experience each vehicle in a controlled environment, free from traffic and threats of speeding tickets. Each vehicle will be judged against criteria and compete against contenders in its category. Last year, 51 vehicles competed in 15 categories, with the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R taking top honors as the 2016 Car of Texas. The second most important category, the Family Car of Texas, was won by the 2016 Chrysler Pacifica.
We will be at COTA starting the morning of Sunday, May 7. Live video streaming on TopSpeed’s Facebook page will happen throughout the day, along with photos of the competition. Be sure to interact with us on Facebook, as we’ll be answering questions and doing vehicle walk-arounds. Festivities continue on Monday, May 8 and conclude with the awards ceremony taking place around 1:00 p.m. Central Time. So, follow our Facebook page and expect to see some high-dollar hardware hitting the track.
3M Trizact Kit Proves Stuff Does Buff Out
You know the old saying, “That’ll buff out.” It’s usually found in the comment section, said in jest when talking about caved in body panels or the smoldering shell of a crispy Italian exotic. Well the idiom can return to its roots of honest paint repair thanks to an easy, do-it-yourself kit found at most automotive parts shops and big-box retailers. It’s the Trizact Precision Scratch Kit from 3M.
It involves a three-step process that uses a household power drill and water to remove light scratches and paint imperfections. It’s designed to be simple enough to use for everyday people with little to no experience of paint repair.
Like most folks, my daily driver’s paint has seen better days. Small scuffs and scratches can be found on several body panels, making my 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer look like, well, a 12-year-old SUV. So you can imagine my excitement when 3M reached out about trying the new Trizact kit. I gladly let them send me a few samples. Here’s my experience using 3M’s newest system.
Continue reading for the full 3M Trizact review.
I am testing a set of winter tires from Cooper Tire to see how much benefit a driver in the snow belt will receive, and so far I have learned a lot. With lots of ice, slush and just plain freezing temps on clear roads, I have discovered why winter tires are a smart purchase. That said, I really can’t give a full review of these tires unless I get a chance to test them in real heavy winter conditions. As it happens, Cooper was holding a winter-tire testing event in Canada, and our tires were on the list of included products.
I asked if I could follow the team up to Canada to give the tires a good flogging on ice and snow, and they were more than happy to oblige. As a bonus I got a chance to test out a new all-season tire that is supposed to be nearly as good as winter rubber in the snow, I was able to test a more performance-oriented SUV winter tire, and I even learned how to drift a BMW on ice. If you remember the mayhem that happened the last time I got to be a tire tester, well, it happened again. This time we killed a Jeep though, not a Corvette.
Continue reading to find out more about the Cooper Tire Winter Tire Testing Program
With press cars rolling across my driveway each week for testing, my personal vehicle has found itself sitting neglected. There have been months on end when my trusty Chevrolet Trailblazer doesn’t move from its home under the carport. While it’s technically covered, its right rear flank is exposed to the elements – not to mention the endless Florida pollen that piles all over the maroon paint. I had often though about getting a car cover, but had never made the move.
Luckily Empire Covers contacted me about trying their Titan 5L car cover. Turns out, the Titan 5L is designed to be an all-weather, 100 percent waterproof cover that’s backed by a seven year warranty. It might be a bit overkill for my carport, but its rugged design would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about strong winds ripping it off.
The cover arrived a few days later via the big brown van. Inside the box was everything needed to attach the cover, along with a storage bag made of the same five-layer material as the cover. After treating the Trailblazer to a well-deserved wash and a few hours of drying, it was time to install.
Click ‘Continue Reading’ for the installation process
We’ve all been there. You get up to head to work, or your driving down the highway when suddenly your car dings and there is a lovely check-engine light on the dash. This is soon followed by a trip to a local parts store to have the code checked for free, followed by a lengthy discussion with some mechanic somewhere about the problem with your car. Unfortunately many shops, especially dealers, don’t want to take your word for it and demand to run the codes themselves, at a cost to you.
If you are a fan of doing things yourself, and you want to put an end to annoying scenarios like this, maybe you should check out this nifty little device from Lemur. It’s called the BlueDriver, and it’s a Bluetooth-enabled OBD-II scanner that pairs to your smartphone. Not only is it a tiny tool that is always connected to your car, it lets you show your diagnostic codes to any mechanic on the spot. No more arguing about what the code reader at the parts store said. We have seen tools like this before, but Lemur thinks theirs is one of the best.
I’ve been testing one for a few months now. I’ve had it in everything from my Volkswagen Golf to a Porsche 911, and I have a lot to say about this little thing.
Read on to learn more about the Lemur BlueDriver OBD-II reader.
A few weeks ago I asked if you should use winter tires on your car, even if you don’t see that much snow. Well I have since slapped a set of winter rubber from Cooper Tire on my daily driver and have spent a few weeks trekking through the gray, wet and slushy mess that is winter in East Tennessee. So far the tires have seen rain storms that turned to ice storms, snow in the Appalachian mountains, clear roads but with temperatures in the single digits, and even a few random warm days with temps near 60.
Overall in the last month or so, I have experienced three of the four seasons with my winter tires and I have lived to tell the tale. But more than that, I have learned a lot about what makes my tire choice a smart decision in this climate, and what makes it seem less intelligent.
Continue reading to learn more about the Cooper Tire WM-SA2
If you love cars, you are pretty well catered-for in the world of video games. With long-standing franchises like Need for Speed, Forza Motorsports, Grid, and Gran Turismo, and more coming every year, it is very easy to get your four-wheeled fix in a digital space. If you prefer the two-wheeled world of motorcycles though, you are left a little wanting. There are some great games out there, like the Moto GP series and Trials HD, but the pickings are much more slim. Well, gaming developer Milestone is looking to bolster the market a bit with the new game MXGP. MXGP is the officially licensed game for Motocross, and as such it features tracks and riders from the current championship series.
That means you get 60 riders, 60 bikes, and 14 different tracks.
What makes MXGP interesting is a focus on the special characteristics that make Motocross interesting and exciting. While car sims focus on tire physics, MXGP has a dirt physics system that sees the tracks get molded, altered and formed by the bikes, just as you would see in a real race. Couple this with a fun and advanced control scheme that takes driver balance into consideration, and you end up with a game that doesn’t really feel or play like anything else on the market.
Being different is not enough to make a game great though. I spent a few weeks digging through the various racing series, modes and features that MXGP has on offer to decide if its worth a buy, or if it’s little more than some fancy features wrapped around a boring game.
Read on to learn more about MXGP: The Official Motocross Video Game
Whether it is the freezing temperatures of winter, or simple forgetfulness regarding your parking lights, dead batteries can happen to all of us. The classic way to handle the issue with a helpful friend and pair of jumper cables, but recent years have seen a rise in “jumper boxes" or large battery packs that can jump start a car. The problem with these packs is that they are large, quite heavy and thanks to their battery technology, had a bad habit of going dead if they sat in the back of a car. Well, using new lithium technology like that found in the batteries of a Tesla Model S, the company Noco has created a new and more user-friendly way to jump start a dead car. While Noco sells many jumper boxes and battery chargers, their new GB30 Genius Boost is one of the newest and best products they make.
Recently Noco reached out to see if I would be interested in giving this multi-use device a test to see what I thought about it. The company claims you can jump just about anything from a Ford Fiesta to a Chevrolet Silverado, and I was eager to try it out. After a few months of playing with it, it has become one of the most useful items I own. It does much more than just jump start car. Find out what all the Genius Boost can do after the break, and learn why I love it. As a bonus, we have a whole collection of videos showing this cool product in use.
Continue reading to find out more about the Noco GB30 Genius Boost.
If you are a gamer and a car fan, there are literally dozens of games out there for your enjoyment. Just this year alone we have already tested Forza Motorsports 5, Forza Horizon 2, F1 2014, Grid Autosport, and The Crew. If you enjoy your motorized fun when it happens on two wheels, games that follow your passion are much more scarce. When I was offered the chance to review the latest installment of the Moto GP racing game, I couldn’t turn it down.
In reality, Moto GP is one of the most exciting forms of motorsport. Apart from potentially rally racing, I don’t think any other professional motorsport focuses on driver skill for success. The racing is fast, dangerous and incredibly technical. This will be my first experience with any motorcycle racing sim, and I am excited to see if MotoGP 14 can channel the excitement and suspense of bike racing in the same way that games like Forza channel the thrill of driving a car.
What I found was a game with some great features and few nagging issues, but did the good outweigh the bad? Read on to find out.
Read on to learn more about MotoGP 14
Winter tires seems to be a collection voodoo and marketing claims to most normal people in the world, but in the cold-weather compounds have been seeing a rise in popularity. With that increase in public awareness, there has been a large collection of myths and misunderstandings spread about them as well. I have met people think that winter tires only work in the snow, while others think that using them will hurt your fuel economy and NVH.
Living at the base of the Smokey Mountains, I find my car has to endure a wide collection of various weather scenarios in the winter, and I wanted to see if a good set of winter tires would have a positive effect in such a transitional area. Thanks to my proximity to the mountains, and the wild weather of Tennessee, there have already been weeks wear I was driving in sunny 60-degree weather on Monday, only to have snow falling on Wednesday.
With rubber compounds that are created to not only handle snow and ice, but to generally improve traction and drivability on clear roads when the weather drops, I felt like maybe I should give winter tires a chance to see how they affected my car. My Volkswagen Golf was in need of new tires anyways, so I felt this was the perfect opportunity. I gave the cool kids over at Cooper Tires a call to see if they had any suggestions for me, and they were kind enough to send me a new set of shoes for my VW.
Over the next several months I will be reporting back on my thoughts about how they feel, how they handle, and how they wear during a wild winter in TN. With ice storms, random snowfall, random warm swings and lots of rain in temps just above freezing, it’s the perfect chance to see if winter rubber really is a better option than a set of all-seasons.
Read on to learn more about our new tires, and why winter rubber is a good idea