Tough, Comfortable Roustabout – The 2018 Ford F150 Pickup Truck.

20171017_151349Why would anyone drive a Pickup Truck? Why NOT? Nothing says power like being behind the wheel of a pickup truck. Nothing says tough guy, like cruising in a four-wheel drive pickup truck! The absolute utility of being able to haul stuff and people at the same time is a game changer.

We took a week in the 2018 Ford F-150, America’s best-selling pickup.  Get scruffy or all dolled up this Pickup is ready to roll for all occasions.

Ford F150 Raptor PickupThe F-150 Lariat, a mid-line trim level pickup is not the basic work truck, nor is it the high-horsepower sport monster that is the Ford Raptor. The four-door Super Crew Cab provides plenty of room for five full-size adults, with bucket seats in the front and seating for three in the rear with 60/40 fold-up second-row seats provide seating and or cargo space in the rear of the cabin.

Inside the cab

20171017_163727Interior space is more than you might expect, from the storage bin in the center console between the front seats big enough to stow a lunch box or laptop. Door-mounted map pockets or fold up one side of the rear seat to use the area underneath to hide things away. The 10-way power heated and cooled leather-trimmed driver and passenger seats are wide enough for the burliest of guys and soft enough to cuddle the gals. Adjustable pedals with memory help the driver no matter how long their legs might be.

20170518_115637Nothing about the interior of the F150 says spartan work truck. With soft touch plastics surrounding the cabin, a plush carpet and leather trim give the truck a luxury feel. Easy to read gauges, both digital and analog with switches and controls at easy reach make piloting this rig a piece of pie. It is the little things like a heated leather steering wheel and heated and cooled seats, both welcome when the weather turns.

 

Onboard Tech – We really liked

Everyone wants tech what they drive today. The 8-inch center stack touch screen provides access to the Sync Connect system which integrates easily whatever mobile device you bring on board. Our test truck was equipped with the $1395 Technology Package, which included the 360-degree camera with a split-view display showing all around the truck. Video resolution is clear. This linked into Ford’s Active Park Assist, which self-parks this big truck an inch or two from the curb. As well as Ford’s Lane-Keeping System, letting you know if you were straying from the lane you are driving in.

20171023_140005An all-new Bang & Oleson PLAY™ Premium Audio System by HARMAN is available. SYNC® Connect. B&O long a leader in sound systems backed by Harman’s engineering for automotive premium audio systems provides a concert hall experience in a pickup truck. Thes voice-activated system lets you talk instead of fiddle with knobs.

Automotive security systems are nothing new, Ford’s perimeter security system an advanced security package impressed us. Not only if someone tried to open the doors but once armed the truck as a whole was secure, even with windows open, so if someone were to reach in and grab, the truck responded.

Remote Start from the key fob has always seemed to be just a gimmick, but it is helpful when you want the heat or air conditioning on when you get into the truck.

Today we bring with us more than just our cell phone. So having power outlets including a 110/400w outlet powered by an inverter are great to have inside the truck.

Lighting both inside and out

 

20171023_133615Fog lamps and Side mirror mounted spotlights illuminate what you may want to see on or beside the road. While ambient lighting inside the truck provides a warm glow when you want.  LED cargo lighting in the bed of the pickup is a big help when loading cargo in the dark.

In all this F-150 4X4 provides all the towing and hauling capacity you could want.  One of the options was trailer sway control along with ClassIV hitch and smart trailer tow connector dynamic hitch assist.

Think of how you will use a pickup, which helps you choose a bed length. Ford offers 5.5, 6.5, and 8 feet on the F-150. Ours was the shorter of the three with 52.8 cubic feet of cargo space. 8-foot bed – when you need to bring home those roses from the garden store. Having the spray in bed liner (as opposed to a drop in liner) is a nice and clean addition that protects the bed’s paint.

You know you want a Pickup Truck

20171017_171722There are a number of trim levels you can choose in an F150: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch,® Platinum, Limited, and the muscle truck, Raptor. Our Lariat test truck was equipped with enough luxury and eco-boost power for every day or long hall driving.

Show Me The Money

F150 Prices start at $27,705 and go on from there. Our truck stickered out at just around $50K.  With a variety of incentives from Ford and groups you may belong to, such as Costco or a buying service connected to an association, insuarnce company or financial institution, you can get a great deal on a heck of a pickup truck.

 

Words and images by William West Hopper

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Jaguar Electrifies – From the Racetrack to the Road.

NYC Formula E Race CourseFormula E Racing completes the 2018 eleven-city tour on July 14 & 15 by returning to Brooklyn’s Red Hook, for the second year, running on a purpose-built closed 14-turn, 2.373 Km long street course. The Panasonic Jaguar Race team will go into the New York Race in fifth place, with drivers Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr. at the wheel of a Jaguar I-Type 2 race car.

 

Jaguar Formula E Drivers Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr.
Jaguar Formula E Drivers Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr.

Formula Racing, thought of more as an international event, racing in cities like Monaco, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, has found its way to the USA once again. Racing has always been a way automakers test vehicles and components to build better street vehicles as well as promoting the brands. Over the past four years, Formula E Racing has helped promote and develop the technology used in the modern-day world of electric vehicles by brands like Jaguar, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and others.

 

Jaguar IType3
Jaguar IType3

While Jaguar has historically been involved in auto racing, they returned to racing in October 2016 by being the first premium manufacturer to join ABB FIA Formula E  series with an I-Type 1 racecar and have plans already confirmed for an I-Type 3 car for next year’s series.

 

Panasonic Jaguar Racecar
Panasonic Jaguar I Type 2 Racecar

This year’s I-Type 2 electric racecar has a 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 140 mph. powered by a 200 kWh McLaren built battery, and charged by a sustainable glyercine fuel source. The car produces 270 bhp in qualifying mode and runs at 180 kWh producing 240 bhp in an energy saving race mode. The I-Type 2 racecar has a completely new powertrain, including motor, inverter, gearbox, cooling system and brake by wire, replacing last season’s mechanical brake system. In all 219 components have been changed from the original I-Type 1 car.  While the batteries are charged prior to running the race, the driver adjusts the brake pads from within the car to get the best regenerative braking power available.

Formula E Racing

Jaguar IType 2Formula E is the world’s first electric street racing series powered by renewable energy with a focus on developing electric vehicle powertrains. To control costs, all of the race cars share common components including the carbon fiber chassis and battery. The team and manufacturers can customize their own powertrain, which includes the motor, transmission, inverter, rear suspension, and software to maximize speed and endurance.

Jaguar FIA StandingsElectric vehicles are as fast on the track as they are in the planning and development stage. FIA Formula E cars are proposed, prepared, tested and qualified in a short five-month period prior to the opening of each season. With one-day races, they get just 2 to 3 practice sessions to qualify for each race.

 

How Different?

Jaguar Race to InovateFormula E is disrupting the boundaries of motorsports with a focus on technology, innovation, and sustainability, as well as spectator entertainment. Environmentally friendly and clean electric vehicles show how sustainable transportation can be the key to lowering air pollution in urban centers and lessening global emissions. The series is committed to reducing the carbon footprint with improved efficiencies by powering the races by 100% renewable energy by next season.

 

Electric Production Racing Car – The Jaguar I-Pace eTROPHY Street E-Racecars

Jaguar EV Race CarWhen the Jaguar I-PACE, a fully electric four-door hatchback,  goes on sale later this year, the brand will be the first to have both a Formula E race team and a road going production EV available to consumers. Both the Jaguar I-PACE and the current I-TYPE 2 Formula E racecar use shared technologies. Similarities include the use of high-efficiency permanent magnet electric motors and pouch battery cell technology for maximum powertrain performance.

Jaguar IPace ETROPHYWhile the actual FIA Formula E Grand Prix Race takes up only a portion of the four-day stop in each city, an eTROPHY Street E-Race series is being initiated with next year’s 5th season starting in December of 2018. Jaguar is participating with 20 identically set up I-Pace racecars designed, engineered and built by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations.

Jaguar IPace Interior
Jaguar IPace Interior

The I-Pace eTROPHY is an all-wheel drive with front and rear synchronous motors for a total of maximum peak power output of 400PS 700Nm torque. With a lightweight interior with an FIA approved spec safety cage, seat, and harness. As well as a modified racing chassis to increase stiffness, aerodynamic enhancements, and chassis adjustability to ensure closer racing. Using the same 90kWhr lithium-ion battery found in the production I-Pace, dedicated motorsport software and controls system developed by Jaguar Racing for Formula E to provide sophisticated energy, power, and regen strategy control.

 

Jaguar's Race Director James S Barkley
Jaguar’s Race Director James S Barkley

Jaguar’s Team Director, James Barkley, shared details the brand’s “Race to Innovate,” how the Formula E experience creates tangible R&D benefits for the electrification of future Jaguar and Land Rover road cars. How the new all-electric I-Pace has benefited from the real world of Formula E series racing.

 

 

“We are developing the next generation of EV technology on the race track. This is why we race,” said James Barclay, Panasonic Jaguar Racing Team Director. “Formula E racing provides an ideal performance test bed for EV technology in a punishing, high-performance environment. It is incredibly exciting for the team to be a part of this revolutionary engineering exchange. We’re looking forward to finishing off our second season in New York City next month, a year which has seen us go from strength to strength.”

IPaceEtrophyracecarTwenty I-Pace eTROPHY will be available for a complete Ride and Drive package from Jaguar at a retail cost of £200,000 + VAT per car and eligible for three years. Not including the FIA eTROPHY fee of £450,00 + VAT entry fee per annum, providing entry into ten international race weekends as the main support Championship to ABB FIA Formula E. Drivers are required to have a minimum of an international C Circuit Race License and be categorized as bronze, silver or gold FIA Driver. Teams will compete for race by race prize money for top ten competitors and an end of season prize for three entrants and top three drivers.

 

Words by William West Hopper, Images by Jaguar Media and William West Hopper

Jaguar E Racecar rear

Rolling in Luxury, Style and Utility – 2019 RAM 1500 Pickup Truck

2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Longhorn
2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Longhorn

With a choice of Full-size Pickups on the market today, all providing plenty of utility, they are a far cry from the job-site work vehicles they originally intended for.  Once, a basic hood, cab and cargo box configuration, today’s pickups are well styled and luxuriously appointed, fuel efficient and filled with technology. Some even have become high-horsepower sport trucks.

 

What makes the 2019 RAM 1500 stand out is the level of luxury, technology, and styling.  RAM’s long history for hard working rugged pickups under the Dodge and Power Wagon name, the brand is known more for its brawn than beauty. A quarter of a century ago, when RAM was just a model designation within the Dodge lineup, they did something no other pick up had done. They made the exterior more muscular in appearance with a big-rig front hood and fender style.  For 2019, RAM has again stepped ahead, producing a pickup that is stylishly well appointed, inside and out, even in its lowest work truck trim.

 

Models

2019 RAM 1500 Rebel
2019 RAM 1500 Rebel

No matter what model: Tradesman; Big Horn; Long Horn, Laramie; Rebel; Laramie Long Horn; or Limited, each has added touches of luxury and technology. The iconic RAM articulated fenders are now smoothed and more rectangular as the brand defines what a pick up can be. Add to that a well-appointed interior, large 12-inch infotainment touch screen, and plenty of storage, a hallmark of its FCA heritage. The rotary dial gear shifter, pushbutton start is just some that you notice right away. The design of the interior with comfortable seats will reward you for short or long trips.

QuadCab or Crew Cab

2019 RAM Rear Quad Cab SeatWhile the original single cab pickup is still available in the Tradesman, a work truck model with just a front seat. Most buyers are using pickups like a family car and want more car-like amenities. And why not? Full-size car comfort and seating for five, a cargo bed for carrying cargo and towing capacity makes the pickup quite versitle. While both have full-size rear seats, the Crew Cab has a shorter cab with smaller rear doors. While the Quad Cab offers four full-size doors that open into an enormous amount of interior space.

 

Powertrain Choices

2019 RAM InteriorThe gasoline powerplants have been given plenty of refinements, including gains in fuel economy as well as power. Technology like eTorque, a mild hybrid system, in the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and optional in the HEMI® V-8. The eTorque combines a belt driven motor generator with a 48-volt battery pack enabling quick and seamless start/stop function and short duration torque addition to the crankshaft in certain driving conditions. An advanced cylinder cutoff system on the 5.7-liter HEMI keeps fuel consumption down while still providing the power of a V-8 when needed. At this writing a diesel option has not been announced.

New generations of the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission provide improved efficiency. Frame-mounted active vibration dampers and active noise cancellation provide a quieter cabin making engine vibrations practically nonexistent.

You still have the option of 2-wheel drive (rear drive wheels) and 4-wheel drive.

 

Technology

2019 Ram 1500 8" Center Display
2019 Ram 1500 8″ Center Display

RAM uses advanced technology throughout the vehicle with more powerful engine control computers and mechanicals. What drivers and passengers interact with is what will sell this vehicle.

RAM 1500’s HUGE 12” tablet like center display is an option, though the smaller 8.4-inch and 5-inch displays are nothing to dismiss. The Uconnect® System provides a direct link between handheld devices and the truck. So be it just the entertainment controls, or expanded navigation and data, you are connected to the world around you.

2019 Ram 1500 rear power outlets
2019 Ram 1500 rear power outlets

Ram understands that in today’s connected world everyone brings a device with them, and sometimes more.  The need to recharge has not been ignored. Four advanced USB ports (regular and micro USB, two up front and two in the rear,) as well as 12v outlet and a inverter to power 110v outlet inside and there is an option for it in the rear RamBox®.

 

Build

20180517_144017

With fuel economy always importnat, building lighter vehicles has led some manufacturers to focus on lightweight materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, and plastic. RAM, on the other hand, has taken to using 98 percent high-strength steel which improves durability and helps with weight reduction.

 

Cargo

2019 Ram 1500 – RamBox
2019 Ram 1500 – RamBox

The RAM will move most anything you ask it to. Payload means not only hauling but towing. RAM’s maximum payload has increased to 2,300 pounds, and maximum trailer tow to 12,750 pounds. The pickup bed in the Ram 1500 has a maximum cargo bed volume of 61.5 cubic feet, with dimensions perfectly sized to hold 4×8 sheets of plywood, even with the RamBox® option.

Available RamBox® cargo management system, is a no-brainer, using the wasted space on the flanks of the cargo bed with two lockable (available with remote access via the key fob) storage bins. Use them as a cooler, they have drains. Use them for storing tools, they can be lit with optional LED lighting and have a 115-volt power outlet (for plugging in chargers and more.)

 

Pricing

2019 RAM 1500 KeyStarting at $31,695 a new 2019 RAM 1500 can easily top out pushing seventy grand. The good thing is that you can pick and choose trim levels and options. With a number of factory incentives and deals from buying services, you may have access to.

While RAM dealers are giving tremendous savings on the outgoing 2018 RAM models, the 2019 Ram is well worth serious consideration due to the amount of engineering that has gone into improving it over the previous generation.

 

 

Words and images by William West Hopper

The Hamsters were Running with the Ducks – A thousand miles in a Kia Soul Turbo

2017 Kia Soul in Wild OrangeThis past month we had a thousand-mile journey and the team at Kia offered us a Wild Orange 2017 Soul Turbo for the trek. Thinking about great fuel economy and rising gasoline prices, it was a natural yes. Second thoughts were a light little breadbox rolling on the crazy interstates, this might not be the best idea.

 

 

 

Kia Soul Rear SeatTurns out that the Soul Turbo was a great road trip car, very capable on the highway, nimble in traffic and on the back roads, good on fuel, with plenty of space for luggage and people. As the trip turned out, it was mostly driving during inclement weather, rain, and fog. And the Kia Soul handled it, all in stride. The hampsters and the ducks got friendly on this trip.

 

History of the Kia Soul

Rolling bread boxes with the first generation XB from Scion and the 2017 Kia Soul.
Rolling bread boxes with the first generation XB from Scion and the 2017 Kia Soul.

The Kia Soul appeared on the market a decade ago, when small all activity vehicles were the rage. Spending time with the car, you can see how the Soul’s concept vehicle was inspired by a wild boar wearing a backpack. The New York Times reported, “the boar’s attitude of strength and capability was the image.” Today the Soul is the only rolling breadbox left as mundane crossovers have taken over the market share.

Kia Soul Rear Entry
Getting in and out of the Kia Soul was easy with plenty of room.

The Soul, designed to appeal to hip urban youth has also found a niche with the gray hairs who want a vehicle with easy entry and not a high price. Looking for something to carry the dogs, gifts for the grandchildren, and all that goes with life after kids have fled the nest. During our time with the Soul we had to agree as it had space for our stuff, and still room for people and a comfortable ride.

 

Kia Soul Saftey

While we did not test all of the Soul’s safety features, we did experience the anti-lock brakes on a wet interstate. They engaged, our heart skipped a beat, and we stopped safely.

Kia Soul Dash
Kia Soul Turbo steering wheel has color-coordinated stitching and easy access controls.

In 2009 the Kia Soul quickly earned a maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. With the dual front advanced and side curtain airbags, as well as the electronic stability control and vehicle stability management systems, this feels like a safe small car.  That safety rating places Kia Soul among the safest B-segment family cars in the world.

 

 

Marketing Strategy – Hamsters Drive the Soul

Kia Soul HamsterWe identify with the chubby Hamsters and are thrilled to see them every chance we get. After the Soul’s release, Kia USA launched commercials in a campaign titled “A new way to roll” featuring city streets with animated hamsters on stationary hamster wheels. The commercials have attracted popularity on video-sharing sites and were awarded “Automotive Ad of the Year” at the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards. he most recent commercial was for the Turbo model, featuring the Motörhead song “Ace of Spades“.

Our Experience

Having always liked the out of the box, boxiness of the Soul, it is great to see that it is easily customizable with options and Kia offers the Soul in bright colors which have appealed to folks in this white, silver, and black painted automotive world we live in.

Kia Soul Steering WheelThis Wild Orange Soul was also economical averaging around 30 mpg on the trip. Holding the road in the inclement weather and was easy to slip in and out of traffic with plenty of power from the 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection 4-cylinder gasoline engine.

Interior space is well laid out, not expansive, but we did slip in a six-foot-long piece of art on canvas then later loaded it with supplies for our felines. The Soul did well even with the added weight in the rear.

Room to carry in the Kia Soul
Room to carry in the Kia Soul

A long drive was made comfortable by the firm and well-fitting leather and cloth seats. Easy access to the controls and view of the dash and displays made driving the Soul a fun experience. While it tended to be a bit choppy at lower speeds due to the 7-speed dual clutch transmission, which from what I understand is actively shifting gears. But at higher than in-town traffic speeds that did not pose an issue. And was actually quite smooth and somewhat quiet.

 

 

 

UVO, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Sirus XM and lots of USB ports

Modern cars seem to be short on USB ports to charge and connect phones and devices to the in-car technology. The Soul had two USB’s easily accessible and lit up at night, as well as an audio input jack and two 12-volt power outlets which seem to me to be so old school, back to when cars had cigarette lighters.

The Kia’s UVO eServices Infotainment System and associated smartphone app seemed to me to be more hype than help, while it is nice, I never found it very useful. Though a friend driving a Niro found it to be very interactive on that vehicle.

Not being a fan of Android Auto, as I feel it takes control of my phone, or maybe I am not an experienced enough user of it, this time it did not bother me as much as in other cars. On the other hand, it is nice to see that the car is equipped to handle whatever technology that is brought into it.

Kia Soul Backup displays on a 7-inch screen
Kia Soul Backup displays on a 7-inch screen

The 7″ touchscreen with rearview camera and the audio system worked great. The backup camera gave a clear large view of what was behind the vehicle even in bad weather. Sound quality out of the audio system was good, though not concert quality. This Soul was not equipped with navigation, though it would have been nice to turn off the display screen, as it had very little to display other than the Sattelite radio station information.

Dollars and Sense

20180514_130420The 2017 model we drove had a sticker price of $23,620 including freight, but not tax, tags, and dealer add-ons. Mileage was just under 30 mpg during a week of brisk highway driving, twisty side roads, and crowded city streets. Lower trim levels of the non-turbo Soul start at $16,200, though, with the extras that this model had, the price is reasonable. And with an auto club or buying service discounts, dealer incentives no doubt you can grab a great deal on a Kia. Like all Kia’s, this one carries one of the best warranties out there.

Driving Near and Far

Kia Soul has a distinctive and effective tail light cluster.
Kia Soul has a distinctive and effective tail light cluster.

The Soul Turbo was a great all-around car, small enough for parking in town, large enough to carry things and not be uncomfortable on the highway at speed with other traffic. The Soul Turbo had enough power to keep up with traffic and move out when needed. Interior space and comfort were plentiful and appointments while not luxurious, were modern and functional.

The Soul is a decade old design now, and with a refresh in the works, it will be interesting to see the next iteration. As with other Kia models, we have driven, we give this car a thumbs up.

William West Hopper with the Kia Soul Turbo

Words and Images by William West Hopper