Monday, October 30, 2023



For quite some time now I have taken a both-hands-on-the-wheel approach when it comes to driving. I have more confidence when my hands are in the 3 o’clock-9-o’clock positions in most conditions, taking advantage of convenient nodules some models have on steering wheels to help me place my thumbs on the wheel.

It used to be the 2-10 position was recommended, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made the change because the 2-10 position can be dangerous in vehicles with smaller steering wheels and equipped with air bags. NHTSA actually recommends positions between 7 and 8 o’clock for your left hand and 4 and 5 for your right, but I like to move them up a little on the wheel.

With this in mind, I have been reluctant to see what “hands-free” driving is all about, though it is a feature often highlighted in car and truck ads you see on TV these days. The only time I ever thought about taking my hands off the wheel was if I was in a race car headed for an unavoidable crash into a race track wall, which is a situation I never will be in.

But I decided I should check out the hands-free mode on the Ford F-150 Lightning I was cruising in on Florida’s Turnpike recently. The turnpike is one of the divided highways that Ford’s “Blue Cruise” marks for operation. Interstate highways are other common hands-free zones across the U.S.

My reaction?

It’s a bit nerve-wracking at 70 mph.  No, allow me to amend that. A lot nerve-wracking.

Of course, unlike in TV commercials I have seen promoting the hands-free experience I did not clap my hands in rhythmic cadence but kept them lightly on the steering wheel.

That is recommended anyway for safety purposes and it became immediately clear why when I was confronted by several traffic barrels indicating a lane closure. I simply re-affirmed my grip on the steering wheel and smoothly guided the Ford F-150 Lightning into the adjacent lane.

Then I turned off the system and took over responsibility myself. Hands-free driving may seem cool, but I’m not ready for it yet.

I covered the basics for the Ford F-150 Lightning in a review posted a year ago but in simple terms it is an all-electric version of Ford’s best-selling full-sized F-Series pickup. Ford was not the first to come out with an EV pickup but it had the advantage of already having the best-selling model on the market when it did.

The Ford F-150 Lightning was popular at its introduction but with the news that Tesla was going to bring its Cybertruck EV to market later this year sales took a sharp drop. Ford confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that it was cutting a production shift of 700 workers for the F-150 Lightning at its Dearborn plant.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning isn’t all that much different from the debut 2022 model though driving range with the standard battery getting a slight bump up to 240 miles.

New Platinum Black and Flash editions are being added for 2024. This brief updade, however, is based on the original Lightning. Flash models get the extended ranger battery pack (320 miles) that boosts horsepower and torque to 580 hp and 775 pound-feet, respectively, resulting in a zero-to-60 mph clocking of 3.2 seconds.

The Lightning is sold only with a Crew Cab with a 5.5-foot bed that has a handy retractable step-up for easy access.

MSRP for the new 2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Black trim approaches six figures but only 2,000 are scheduled for production, according to reports. The Flash model starts at just under $70,000. Base Pro models start at just over $50,000.

What I liked about the Ford F-150 Lightning: Running boards are standard on a the Platinum trim to ease access to the spacious, comfortable cabin. Throttle response is immediate, making the Lightning ever quicker that the F-150 Raptor R. Trunk space in the front is handy for smaller cargo loads. 

What I didn’t like about the Ford F-150 Lightning:
There’s a fairly steep learning curve with the numerous tech features. It can be distracting to work your way through the various modes to get to the function you need. I did not experience this personally but range is considerably reduced when towing.

Would I buy the Ford F-150 Lightning? All you want from a Ford F-150 comes in an all-electric drivetrain that does have the usual drawbacks when it comes to charging times and towing. Anyone having to do long-distance towing on a regular basis are advised to go with the usual gas-powered pickup.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023



Still slightly smaller than its sibling Silverado, the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado has grown some since its introduction as a compact pickup for the 2004 model year.

A midsize truck now, the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado is more of a work horse than those of earlier generations and is a good option for the budget conscious who need more capability than a compact offers but can’t afford, or want, a bulky full-size pickup.

Fully redesigned, the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado comes in five trim levels but only one engine and cabin offering. The V6 and diesel powertrains available in earlier Colorado models have been discontinued and a 2.7-liter turbo charged 4-cylinder is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with five selectable drive modes.

Depending on the trim level, tow-haul, off-road, terrain (for off-road rock crawling), and Baja (for high-speed desert running).complement the normal setting.

The only cabin choice is a 4-door crew cab that fits five passengers comfortably. With the standard short (5-foot) bed, the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 that served as my test model measures 212.7 inches long and 76.4 inches wide (excluding mirrors), which is about 5.6 inches longer and 8.7 inches wider than the first Colorado model that replaced the compact Chevy S-10 around two decades ago.

At 73.8 inches in height, the 2023 Chevy Colorado is about half-a-foot taller than the debut model.

Dimensions for other trims — the base WT (or Work Truck), LT, Trail Boss, and ZR1 — vary slightly by less than an inch from the ZR2.

ZR2 models also get a power boost up from the 4-banger engine to 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque while other trims make do with 237 hp and either 259 or 390 lb.-ft.

Designers gave major upgrades to the the cabin for the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR with a new center console and a new 11.2-inch touchscreen for infotainment features standing out. Legroom is a generous 45.2 inches up front but a tighter 38.3 inches in the second row.

Standard convenience features include an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, and push-button start.

Notable exterior features include rocker panel protection, a spray-on bedliner, heated exterior mirrors, LED headlamps and fog lights, red recovery hooks, and a trailering equipment package (max towing capacity is a healthy 7,700 pounds).

Safety features include Chevy’s Safety Assist, system, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and front pedestrian and bicyclist warning.

All that is included in the starting MSRP of $46,800.

Extras like a ZR2 Convenience Package, driver seat memory settings, heated steering wheel, perforated leather seats, ventilated front seats, blind-spot zone steering assist, rear cross traffic braking, wireless charging, sunroof, HD surround vision, and adaptive cruise control ran the final total on my test 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 to $52,130 including the $1,495 destination and delivery charge.

The ZR1 starts at just over $41,000. Other trims are priced in the $30,000 range.

What I liked about the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2:
The ride is comfortable, and the upgraded turbo-4 in the ZR2 trim packs good punch. Infotainment functions are numerous and operate off a user-friendly touchscreen. HD surround vision is a nice feature when you are in crowded parking lots.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: A running board would be a great help for shorter passengers to get in and out. Not many options are offered if you want to customize your pickup.

Would I buy the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2? I’m not a truck guy,  but the Colorado is a good alternative for Chevy fans if a Silverado is outside your budget. If you are seeking a compact pickup, however, the Colorado has grown out of that market.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023



If you are leaning to joining in the trend to electrified vehicles for your next purchase but are holding back because of an acute case of range anxiety, a plug-in model may be the cure you are looking for..

Technically classified as PHEVs, options like the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in provides an all-electric driving experience over a limited range (30 miles according to the EPA) with a gasoline engine kicking in after that to extend that distance to 440 miles.

The South Korean automaker introduced the Plug-in version of the Santa Fe lineup last year to pair up with the standard gas-electric Hybrid version introduced the year before and the long-standing gas-only models that date back to 2001.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV comes in two trim levels.  Both the SEL trim and the Limited, which this review is based on, feature an electric motor and a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gasoline that combined produce 261 horsepower, which is a jump of 35 hp over the 226 for the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe HEV.

Torque for the Plug-in is 224 pound-feet, a jump of 29 lb.-ft. over the HEV drivetrain. By itself, the turbo-4 is rated at 178 hp and 195 lb.ft.

EPA ratings for the Plug-in are 76 MPGe when the gas engine and electric motor are operating in tandem and 33 miles-per-gallon in gasoline-only mode.

Hyundai has blessed the 2023 Santa Fe Plug-in with a fairly long list of features that on the SEL included a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, an electric parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, blind-spot warning, forward collision assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection, hillstart assist, push-button start, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, hands-free power liftgate, 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual automatic climate control, Smart (adaptive) cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and more.

The upgraded Limited trim gets a parking collision assist system with reverse parking collision avoidance, leather-trimmed seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, an 8-way power front passenger seat, panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, and a Harman Kardan premium audio system, and a surround-view monitor.

New standard features added for 2023 on Santa Fe Limited models are Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist that takes some of the stress out of long trips, 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation, and dynamic voice recognition.

Such features and a nicely designed, comfortable interior give the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV Limited a premium feel. There is little to quibble about when it comes to its interior.

Starting MSRP for the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited is $48,005 included freight charges of $1,335. That’s a jump from the $44,205 for the Santa Fe Hybrid Limited.

The SEL trim for the 2023 Huyundai Santa Fe Plugin starts at $43,745 including destination and delivery.

What I liked about the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited:
It has a classy exterior and a roomy, well-appointed interior with lots of user-friendly tech features. With only two rows of seating, the rear cargo area is very accommodating. The ride is quiet and comfortable. Legroom in the second row is a generous 39.5 inches. All-wheel drive is a plus.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited:
It would be nice if the plug-in offered a bit more in way of electric only driving range, say in the range of approaching 40 miles instead of the current 30. I would prefer a standard shift knob over the push-button selector on the console.

Would I buy the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited? If you have a convenient place to plug it in for overnight and your daily commutes are fairly short, the 2023 Santa Fe PHEV is a great buy. Stretching your budget for the Limited trim over the SEL pays benefits.