Thursday, September 30, 2021



If you are thinking about buying a pickup truck but don’t want, or need, a full-size model, the Ford Ranger may be just vehicle for you.

Though it has grown a bit since its debut as a compact pickup nearly four decades ago, the Ranger is not so big that it is going to cause concerns as you encounter tight spaces but still is up to handling the light hauling that comes with those weekend do-it-yourself chores.

The 2021 Ford Ranger is the third in this generation since it was re-introduced to the U.S. market. Ford took the Ranger out of the U.S. after the 2011 model but kept selling it in markets throughout the rest of the world so it wasn’t like the company had to start all over with the 2019 model.

It continues to be offered in three trim levels starting with the base XL and continuing with the upgraded XLT and top-of-the-line Lariat. This review is based on the Lariat with the five-capacity Supercrew cab and Tremor off-road package that was added to the lineup this year.

Included in the Tremor package are Magnetic-painted alloy wheels, Magnetic-painted grille with black cross bars and red inserts, rear recovery hooks, hoop style steps to help you get in and out, and an upgraded suspension system.

That’s on the outside. On the inside the Tremor package adds a little more class with exclusive seats with suede inserts and distinctive Tremor stitching and accents throughout the comfortable, spacious cabin.

There’s also a plethora of standard features starting with the Ford Sync3 infotainment system. All Rangers get A/C and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Standard on the Lariat are an auto stop-start system (it can be turned off via a button the console, keyless entry and push-button start, heated front seats and dual climate control, leather-wrapped shift knob, lane-keeping, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, and an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

Headlamps and taillights are LED, and the five-foot box features a lockable tailgate. 

The Lariat’s 501A technology package includes navigation, a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, and adaptive cruise control and adds $2,005 to the starting $38,785 MSRP.

A turbocharged, 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine powers all Rangers. It is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and is offered in rear- or all-wheel drive configuration.

That Ecoboost engine is rated at  270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque that results in an impressive towing capacity of 7,500 pounds. Fuel efficiency is good as well with EPA ratings of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway, and 22 combined with all-wheel drive and using regular fuel.

It’s not a sporty performer, but is well up to the norm for its class. I never felt shortchanged in any respects when it came to throttle response.

With the Tremor package, Lariat Equipment Group 501A, and a couple of other options (Cyber Orange color, spray-on bedliner, trailer tow package, keyless entry keypad), the final bottom line came to $47,995 including the $1,195 destination and delivery charge.

If you don’t need the off-road capability offered in the Tremor package, that takes $4,290 off of that. 

What I liked about the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat:
Technology is plentiful and the Sync3 infotainment system is easy enough to use. The Ecoboost engine delivers good gas mileage and power, and the ride is firm but pretty comfortable, especially for a pickup truck. The bed liner is well worth the extra $495.

What I didn't like about the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat: The touchscreen can be difficult to see with its white background. Fortunately, setting the display in “night” mode remedies the issue, making the navigation map and other features easier to read. The cabin could use more places to put stuff, like a larger bin in the console.

Would I buy the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat? Yes. It has enough size to be a good worker yet is not too big, making maneuvering through tight quarters such as mall parking lots much easier than a full-size pickup. The Supercrew cabin isn’t fancy, but is functional and roomy.

Thursday, September 16, 2021



Putting aside the fact that it looks about as much like a Mustang as the late Ford C-Max Hybrid, the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E stands tall on its own as the company’s first all-electric vehicle.

It really doesn’t need whatever tenuous boost in prestige it might get from association with the company’s iconic Pony Car. The Mach-E, which strikes me as the name Ford could easily have labeled it, isn’t a coupe or convertible, doesn’t have the sweet tunes of even the 4-cylinder Mustang emerging from the exhaust pipes (of course, it doesn’t even have exhaust pipes to begin with), and it has two more doors than the Mustang.

It does share some styling cues, most notably the “pony” image up front and on the rear deck lid, and the swept roofline hints at the fastback profile while not intruding on rear headroom.

The 2021 Mustang Mach-E comes in six trim levels starting with the base Select and continuing with the Premium, California Route 1, First Edition, GT, and GT Performance Edition. This review is based on the First Edition trim, which already is sold out, by the way.

Rear-wheel or all-wheel drive is available, and range extends from 230 miles for the RWD Select all the way up to 305 miles for the RWD California Route 1. The Premium model comes with either a Standard Range (230 miles with RWD, 211 AWD) or Extended 
Range (300 RWD, 270 AWD) battery.

Ford estimates range for the First Edition and GT trims at 270 miles and the GT Performance at 260 miles.

Finally, an electric vehicle with reasonable ranges, though charging times do detract from that advantage.

One way in which the Mach-E earns its Mustang stripes is when it comes to performance. Select and Premium trims are rated at 266 horsepower with peak torque of 317 pound-feet with RWD and 428 lb.-ft. with AWD. The Extended Range setup on the Premium boosts those numbers to 290 RWD and 346 AWD. The First Edition model (AWD only) checks in at 346 hp, and California Route 1 (RWD only) at 290 hp.

GT and GT Performance models up those numbers to 480 horsepower and torque of 600 and 634 lb.-ft., respectively.

What those numbers mean is that you are not going to be lagging behind at the intersection when the light changes.
Zero-to-60 mph times, Ford says, range from 4.8 seconds to 6.1 for Select, Premium, First Edition,, and California Route 1 models and very quick 3.8 and 3.5 seconds for GT and GT Performance, respectively.

That should clear out any misconception that an all-electric vehicle can’t pack a punch.

The Mustang Mach-E also is a very functional vehicle. It is essentially a hatchback offering 29.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 59.7 cubic feet with those seats folded. There’s also a smaller area in the front  where the engine would usually be with 4.7 cubic feet of space.

Passengers don’t get cheated either. Legroom in back is 38.1 inches. Front riders get 43.5 inches.

The cabin is impressive with high quality materials giving it a premium feel. Seats have synthetic leather surfaces, and heated front seats are available.

Distinguishing features for the cabin include a panoramic fixed-glass roof and a huge touchscreen to operate features on Ford’s Sync4-A infotainment. You also use the screen for such functions as selecting the driving mode.

The instrument panel provides at a quick glance the driver with his driving range (both in miles and percentage of battery available), an image of any potential obstacles surrounding the vehicle, and the car’s speed in big, digital numbers.

When it comes to drive modes, Ford eschews traditional terms such as Comfort, Eco, and Sport with settings marked Whisper, Engage, and Unbridled. With such a smooth throttle response, I really didn’t notice a huge difference in any of the settings and ended up spending most of my time in Whisper (i.e., comfort). The single-speed transmission provides seamless, quick acceleration in any setting. Engage and Unbridled add some artificial sound effects.

There also is the one-pedal operation as often come with electric vehicles. Press the accelerator and you, well, accelerate. Ease off and and the car will brake, not coast, so it takes some getting used to avoid undesired full stops.

Other standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push-button start, navigation system, adaptive cruise control, frontal collision mitigation, blind-spot warning with rear-cross traffic alert, and lane-center system.

The 2021 Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895 (before destination and delivery charges), which translates to the mid-$30,000 range if you qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit.

MSRP for the Premium starts at $47,600, for the California Route 1 $50,400, and $59,900 for the GT. As noted earlier, the First Edition is sold out. 

What I liked about the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: This is the first all-electric/plugin hybrid exclusive car I have come across with an interior worthy of the price tag. It goes far enough on a full charge to alleviate the usual range anxiety for all-electric vehicles. It is quick no matter what driving mode you select. Cargo space is good.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: Charging times are slow. You definitely need a high voltage, in-home charging outlet because using a traditional household outlet takes forever. Fast-charging outlets at malls, businesses, or other locations are options, of course. Operation of the Sync4-A infotainment system takes some getting used to. Some functions (cancel navigation for one) are not where you might logically expect them to be.

Would I buy the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E? This is the first all-electric vehicle I have experienced that I would consider buying. It has excellent range and is fun to drive. You have the feeling of gliding along in a rather responsive vehicle.

Friday, September 10, 2021



When it comes to distinguishing a car as a sedan or a coupe, most people simply count the doors. Four doors, it’s a sedan. Two it’s a coupe.

But it wasn’t always that way. You go back far enough in history and you likely can find references to a “two-door sedan” and a “four-door coupe,” especially when watching old crime movies — and by that I mean from the 1940s and ’50s or earlier, not the Clint Eastwood era.

More often that not, the movies back then used those generic terms rather than specific brand names when it came to broadcasting BOLO (Be On the Look Out) bulletins for police to run down suspects.

But beginning in the 1960s it became the custom to identify a passenger car with two doors as a “coupe” and with four as a “sedan.”

Coupes also were slightly smaller and sportier looking than your typical family sedan, but the two doors made things simple, clear, clean cut. No need to eye-ball interior volume or check for missing B-pillars.

At least it was easy until the early 2000s when Mercedes-Benz muddied the waters by marking its new CLS Class as a “four-door” coupe.

And thus even though such authoritative automotive sources as declared "the four-door coupe category doesn't really exist,” that has not stopped Mercedes.

While it goes with two doors for its E Class and C Class coupes, the German automaker still refers to the CLS and CLA Class models as “coupes” despite their four doors. But it doesn’t stop there.

After a year’s production hiatus, the company has now brought back the GLE Coupe and given it — need you risk a guess here? — four doors. Which doesn’t exist, remember? It kind of makes you wonder how the Germans feel about unicorns.

The GLE Coupe s available in two forms, both getting AMG upgrades. The 2021 AMG GLE 63 S Coupe, which this review is based on, comes with a biturbo 4.0-liter V8 engine that revs up 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. The  6-cylinder version, the AMG GLE 53 S, is rated at 429 hp and 384 lb.ft. — a relative lightweight.

The V8’s power figures don’t do much for gas mileage (15 miles-per-gallon, 19 highway, and 16 combined, says the government) but they will scoot you from zero-to-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, according to Mercedes clockers.

In addition to the extra doors, the 2021 AMG GLE 63 S also has other features that distinguish it from your typical coupe, its size for one thing. It is 195.3 inches long with a wheel base of 115.6 inches and height of 67.6 inches. The 2021 AMG GLE 63 S has a curb weight of 5,633 pounds and rides on 22-inch wheels.

Storage capacity is 27.5 cubic feet behind the second-row seats and 63.2 with them folded. That’s pretty much SUV-like, which is appropriate since the “GLE” nomenclature follows the company’s protocol for its SUV fleet since “GL” replaced the “M-Class” designation.

Yes, of course, the GLE is available in SUV configuration, which is probably more common than the GLE Coupe. To me, the GLE 63 S Coupe is a hatchback.

As it moves into its second generation, the 2021 AMG GLE 63 S Coupe features a laundry list of AMG upgrades like a Speedshift 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, AMG Performance all-wheel drive, and AMG Active Ride Control.

Navigation is standard, and the 12.3-inch touchscreen display provides a nice, clear map for the driver to get a clean picture at a glance.

Infotainment functions are numerous, as one might expect, and the MBUX system operates off either the touchscreen or touchpad on the console, You scroll though the display much like on a laptop computer, which would seem to be instinctive for today’s computer-savvy user but can be a bit distractive when trying to keep your eyes on the road.
ECO, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ driving modes offer you choices to adjust to your driving mood at the time.

Among other standard features are Apple Carplay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and safety features like blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, and a clear surround-view camera system.

Those features and more are included in the $116,000 starting MSRP (not including $1,100 for destination and delivery). Options and packages that include AMG cross-spoke alloy wheels, a driver’s assistance package (active steering assist, active brake assist, and much more), and a comfort package (massage function for front seats) ran the final total of my test vehicle to $128,500.

I guess if you can pay that, you also have the right to call it a coupe!

What I liked about the 2021 Mercedes AMG GLE 63 S Coupe:
As with any AMG model, performance is the big thing. By “performance,” I mean get-up-and-go, certainly not fuel efficiency. The ride is comfortable and quiet, and the interior is very high class.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Mercedes AMG GLE 63 S Coupe: The Germans apparently are sold on the touchscreen/touchpad operation for the infotainment system, but it is very distracting to operate. Brushing the touchpad on the console can accidentally change a setting such as a radio station. You lose headroom in the back because of the slanted roofline.

Would I buy the 23021 Mercedes AMG GLE 63 S Coupe? It’s a really great performer and has a high class interior, but I just don’t like the way it looks. To me, styling-wise, it works much better as an SUV. If you are OK with the appearance, however have at it! 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021



With a history that dates back two decades, the Hyundai Santa Fe was the South Korean automaker's first venture into the SUV segment with the debut of the 2001 model. My oh my how it has grown up over the years.

The early Santa Fe was very capable vehicle but featured styling quirks that either turned on buyers or made them immediately head for the staid safety of a Toyota showroom. 

With the advent of the 2009 Santa Fe, Hyundai took the spunky little scrapper up in class with a redesign that gave it the look and feel of a luxury crossover SUV at a competitive price. The latest Santa Fe continues that trend, providing loads of creature comforts and conveniences in a classy cabin.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in four trim levels starting with the base SE and continuing with the SEL, Limited, and new top-of-the-line Calligraphy with a new XRT trim coming for 2022. The Calligraphy trim, which this review is based on, takes the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe just over the $40,000 threshold with a starting MSRP of $43,275 (including the $1,175 destination and delivery fee).

Mitigating that cost, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy comes with a long list of standard features that make adding expensive optional packages unnecessary.

Included among those features are heated and ventilated front seats, premium Nappa leather seating surfaces, dual auto climate control, power release second-seats, proximity key and push-button start, power lift gate, tilt-and-telescoping steering column with perforated leather steering wheel and paddle shifters, 10.25-inch navigation screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Harmon-Kardon premium sound system, Hyundai Blue Link services, heated steering wheel and second-row seats, 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, roof side rails, and an exclusive Calligraphy headliner.

Safety systems include forward collision avoidance, blind-spot and high beam assist, lane-keeping assist, driver alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-following assist, surround-view monitor, and adaptive cruise control.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy rides on 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels and features a premium accent front grille and privacy rear glass. LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights also are included.

While SE and SEL trims get a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (191 horsepower, 181 pound-feet of torque) mated to an 8-speed automatic, Limited and Calligraphy models come with a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-banger that puts out 277 horsepower and 311 pound-feet and paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic.

SE, SEL, and Limited trims are front-wheel drive with all-wheel optional. AWD is standard on the Calligraphy earning EPA ratings of 21 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 24 combined using regular fuel.

As mentioned earlier, there is no need for options so the only extra on my test vehicle was carpeted floor mats for $155. That brought the total to $43,430.  

What I liked about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy:
The Calligraphy offers a long list of standard features to justify the plus $40,000 price tag. The cabin has a premium feel about it, and operation of the numerous infotainment features is very intuitive.  The touchscreen is of a good size, and driving in Sport mode gives the turbo-4 a very satisfactory get-away punch. And it's not that thirsty when it comes to gas mileage. 

What I didn't like about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy: I found the ride a little bit too cushy for my taste. Getting in an out up front takes a bit of care as you can easily bump your head on the A pillar.

Would I buy the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy? Based on my experience with a Santa Fe purchased several years ago, I'd have to give this a definite yes. The upgrades over they years have given the Santa Fe more of a premium feel than earlier models, and the improvement is very welcome. Styling also is more mainstream (though not boring) than those earlier somewhat funky Santa Fes.