Wednesday, August 25, 2021

2020 SHELBY GT350R


We are way past the midpoint of the year, football season is rapidly approaching, and any day now Christmas decorations are going to be showing up at Walmart, yet my review subject for today is a vehicle from 2020, the Ford Mustang GT350R.

Two reasons for that.

No. 1 is that the 2020 Shelby GT350R version of the versatile Ford Mustang is one of the most respected performance coupes ever and worth this late look.

No. 2 is that despite its iconic Muscle Car status, there is no 2021 version. Sadly, Ford has discontinued production of the Shelby GT350 and GT350R supposedly to put more emphasis on its bigger brother, the Shelby GT500. So it’s review the 2020 GT350R now or forget about it, and nobody should forget about the 2020 Shelby GT350R.

Make that three reasons. The 2020 Shelby GT350R also was the vehicle that recently showed up in my driveway!

With a lineage that goes back to the mid-1960s when Ford turned to the legendary Carroll Shelby to boost performance of its wildly popular Mustang, the Shelby GT350 has an interesting though somewhat spotty production history.

They quit making the original Shelby Mustangs after 1969, though leftovers from that year carried 1970 badging. Ford and Shelby didn’t get back together until over 35 years later when their collaboration produced the 2007 Shelby GT and Shelby GT500. The GT350 came a few years later but was around only for 2011 and 2012, before going only on a brief hiatus. The GT350 and GT350R returned as a 2016 models.

The Shelby GT350R, which this review is based on, is the race-specced version of the GT350. Among other refinements, the GT350R gets 19-inch carbon-fiber wheels and the suspension is stiffer to accommodate track demands.

The carbon-fiber wheels give the GT350R about a 60-pound weight advantage over the GT350’s aluminum wheels, about half of the 130-pound overall difference between the two. The GT350R weighs in at 3,662 pounds, the GT350 at 3,760, according to specs available at The site also reports a zero-to-60 mph clocking of 3.9 seconds for the GT350R to 4.1 for the GT350.

The nice thing is that Shelby GT350R is as comfortable on city streets and expressways as it is in competition. It is a kick to drive even if you don’t take it out the track.

Both the Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R get a 5.2-liter V8 engine that is tuned for 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. That power gets to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual, the only transmission offered.

EPA figures, if you care, are 14 miles-per-gallon of 91 octane fuel in the city, 21 highway, and 16 combined, though in my brief sojourn of both city and highway driving the computer showed by best at a ticker under 16 mpg, which earns it a $1,300 gas guzzler tax.

The Shelby GT350R is remarkably civilized when it comes to creature comforts.

Standard equipment includes a synthetic Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, dual zone electronic climate control (there are also buttons to adjust the blower and temperature), suede Recaro sport front seats, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, keyless entry with push-button start, Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system, projection headlamps, a quad-tip dual exhaust that will blow your ears off, dual vanity mirrors, and a carbon fiber rear spoiler. 
Design touches include a cobra image in the steering wheel hub, a bow to Shelby’s classic Cobra heritage.

With the backseats out, passenger capacity is listed as only two, though that space probably could accommodate a rider in a pinch, even if a bit uncomfortable. The cabin’s rear space also can be used as extra stowage, though at 13.5 cubic feet the trunk is fairly spacious as well for a coupe.

Starting MSRP for the 2020 Shelby GT350R was listed at $59,140. Options that included packages for voice activated navigation, a 12-speaker sound system, and blind-spot cross-traffic alert ran the total for my test GT350R to $78,990 with the $1,195 destination and delivery included.

A cursory check at showed prices to still be running closed to that, which is evidence even more of the Shelby GT350R’s enduring appeal and popularity. You’re not just buying transportation. You’re purchasing a legend.

What I liked about the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R:
The performance, obviously, is the biggest thing the GT350R has going for it, but it’s not the only thing. Unlike some models built for the track, it is equally at home on city streets. It’s not quiet — far from it — but it has a comfortable, sure-footed ride. The Recaro sport seats give good support (though my usual companion found the passenger side a bit restrictive). The Sync3 system for infotainment functions is user-friendly, and the 8-inch touchscreen is a good size. 

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R: Not surprisingly it is very thirsty for every day commutes. But you are going to make your co-workers extremely envious when you show up with this!

Would I buy the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R? My budget won’t allow for a car like this that really needs to be taken out on the track to be appreciated. But if yours does, by all means it should be at the top of your list.

Thursday, August 12, 2021





After loading up the initial version with a pretty long list of standard features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking, Hyundai took its subcompact Venue SUV up another notch for 2021.

The engine for all trims — SE, SEL, and Denim — remains a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder (121 horsepower, 113 pound-feet of torque), but the 6-speed manual transmission that was standard on the base SE has been junked and all trims now come with what the South Koreans call an “Intelligent” (i.e., Continuously) Variable Transmission.

There are simulated stops that allow you to manually select gear ratios, which you accomplished via the shift leaver on the console.

It’s not a particularly athletic setup, though driving in Sport mode adds some life. EPA fuel economy figures are a solid 30 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway and 31 combined — good for the class.

The modest performance numbers make the Venue ideal for younger, inexperienced drivers though they may be looking for something with a little more in the way of distinctive styling touches. It does have spiffy wheels!

The 2021 Hyundai Venue SEL got most of the attention for upgrades. Contents in 2020’s optional Convenience Package are now standard, and the SEL, like the Denim, rides on new 17-inch alloy wheels that feature a distinctive spoke design. The SE gets 15-inch alloy wheels for 2021 versus last year’s 15-inch steel wheels.

The SEL Convenience Package offered for 2020 included a sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. That’s all included for 2021 in the starting MSRP of $20,975 (including destination and delivery).

Other standard features on the SEL trim include roof rails, projector headlights that adjust when cornering, a 6-speaker audio system, automatic climate control, 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, leather covered steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth hands-free phone with voice recognition, and an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment functions.

An optional Premium Package adds $2,350 to the bottom line, but includes several features that really take the SEL to a new level. Among the upgrades are heated front seats and side-view mirror; LED headlights, fog lights, and taillights; proximity key with push-button start, Sirius-XM satellite radio, and Hyundai’s Blue Link services.

The Premium Package and carpeted floor mats ran the total for my test vehicle to $23,480, a competitive number for the class. The base Venue SE starts at $19,425 including destination and delivery and the top-of-the-line Venue Denim starts at $23,225. 

All things considered the SEL with the Premium Package is the preferred way to go.

What I liked about the 2021 Hyundai Venue SEL:
It is packed with lots of easy-to-use technological features, including standard safety systems like blind-spot warning and lane-keeping assist. Rear cross-traffic alert and collision warning also are standard. Seats are comfortable. The 8-inch touchscreen for the available navigation system is clear and easy to operate. There are knobs to adjust the climate control as well as surf the radio dial.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Hyundai Venue SEL: I’m not a big fan of CVTs (ContinuouslyVariable Transmissions), though running the Venue in Sport mode helps liven up the performance. Unfortunately, the 6-speed manual transmission is no longer available. Adaptive cruise control is not offered on the Venue. Rear legroom can get tight depending on where the front-seat riders set their seats.

Would I buy the 2021 Hyundai Venue SEL? Yes. There’s a lot of bang for the buck here. It’s ideal for empty-nesters who spend a lot of item in urban environments as well as young, inexperienced teen drivers. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

2021 BMW X5 xDRIVE45e


The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e represents the company’s second go at a plugin hybrid-powered SUV and offers up more power and a longer range for all-electric mod than its predecessor, the xDrive40e that debuted for 2016.

But that isn’t to say you are going to be going for long, quiet cruises and snubbing gas stations for the rest of your life. The key phrase here is “longer range,” not “long range.”

The older X5 xDrive40e has an all-electric range of about 14 miles. The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e bumps that up to about 31 miles, give or take on your driving style.

The Germans claim that is enough range to cover most daily commutes. If you grew up in a small town as I did where two miles in about any direction would put you in the middle of a cornfield or watermelon patch, that most certainly is true.

But after seeing typical traffic jams during rush hours where I currently live, the 31-mile limit may be pushing it.

Not that that will created any particular problems on getting to work or back home that night. When the battery is down, the gasoline engine simply takes over the rest of the way.

The 3.0-liter inline-6 engine is a beast with a horsepower boost to 389 (81 more than its predecessor) and torque increase to 443 pound-feet, a whopping 111 more than in the older xDrive40e.

That results in a zero-to-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds and towing capacity of 7,200 pounds, according to the company’s figures. BMW also claims an increase in top speed from 75 mph to 84 mph when driving in electric only range.

Both models come with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. As indicated by the xDrive designation, it is all-wheel drive.

Fuel economy figures for the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e are 50 mpge but only 20 mpg when the power runs out and you’re driving in electric mode. Obviously, you’re going to want to keep it fully charged, but that may not be possible on a long family vacation trip so be prepared for multiple fuel stops. The gasoline powered BMW X5 xDrive40i with its turbo-6 gets 22 mpg combined.

BMW says the the X5 xDrive45e can be set in three drive modes, but that is actually more like five. Sport mode can be adjusted to Standard or configured to your taste, and Hybrid, the default setting at startup, can be tuned to Standard or Eco Pro.

The other setting is Electric (for all-electric driving when the battery is charged),  and there is also a button for Adaptive, which as the label might suggest adapts to particular driving situations.

Inside, the cabin is impeccable with numerous technological features that can take a bit of learning but are not as complicated as in past BMW models.

Standard features include 19-inch V-Spoke alloy wheels with all-season run-flat tires, power adjustable steering column with Sport leather steering wheel, two 12.3-inch digital displays with iDrive7, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a one-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, keyless entry and push-button start (annoyingly, the button is on the console, not the face of the dash), rearview camera, panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, front and rear heated seats,  LED head and fog lights, Harmon Kardon surround sound, and park distance control.

Safety features like blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning are included in the starting MSRP of $66,395 (including destination and delivery).

Extras like an M Sport package and Executive Package (4-zone climate control, head-up display, gesture control, and wireless charging with wifi hotspot) and 21-inch wheels) ran the final bottom line to $81,695 for my test vehicle.

What I liked about the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e:
The interior is very high class, and the technology, while not the most intuitive to operate, is plentiful. Performance also is impressive, and the ride is quiet and smooth. The size hits a sweet spot for me — not too big, but big enough to meet the core mission of an SUV. Or, as BMW likes to call the X5, a Sports Activity Vehicle.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e: The charging cord is a bit short, and you might have issues getting hooked up at home for recharging if you don’t have a dedicated charting outlet. If you don’t keep the battery charged, the turbo-6 is on the thirsty side when driving in gasoline-only mode.

Would I buy the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e? Probably not but for admittedly selfish reasons. I’m not a big fan of plugins to begin with, and if I I hook up with one, I would like a bit more range than the X5 xDrive45e delivers. If  you don’t have recharging issues, however, and are serious about a luxury plugin SUV, the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e needs to be on your list. The starting MSRP isn’t cheap but competitive for what you get.