All posts by William West Hopper

An above average middle age guy providing automotive and lifestyle posts from Washington DC USA.

The Enviable Proper British Bloke – The Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6

Land Rover Classic
Classic Land Rover Prototype, Photo by Land Rover

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6

How does today’s refined Land Rover Discovery live up to the reputation of the great British trekker brand? One known for rugged adventure over all terrain in exotic places? The Land Rover brand has become synonymous with sophisticated luxury and has become an aspirational luxury car for many suburbanites, and it can tow and explore like the Royal leader it is.

Mom Envy

Land Rover Discovery parked in a suburban setting
Land Rover Discovery parked in a suburban setting

The first thing that I heard as I got into the 2018 Land Rover Discovery parked on my suburban Washington DC Street, was how envious the local Moms will be as this is the SUV to aspire too. Moms are one tough demographic to make happy, so the Disco has a tough job on its hands. I asked a local Mom who owns one to go for a spin with me. The first question was: “What model is this?”  My response was, “You drive one of these, and I hear this is the car that all the Mom’s in the ‘hood want.” “No, this one is much nicer than mine, Mine is very basic.” Indeed, they turned out to be very similar, just a year and a trim line apart.

A local Dad, the owner of a five-year-old Ford Explorer, commented on the similarities of touch feel and operation of this model to the upline classic American SUV. Finding out that much of the drive controls were similar showed me that though Ford’s ownership was a number of years past, the influence is still strong today, and in many ways timeless. Which is good for a brand that had the reputation of being in the shop more than it was on the road.

Land Rover Diesel Cap
Running the bad-boy diesel engine returned great fuel mileage.

Driving the Discovery around town as well as taking it on an extended highway trip shows this is one comfortable cruiser, even for its large size. Did I mention that this test model was powered by a turbo diesel engine?

 

 

Diesel Driver Envy

Land Rover Discovery at an Exxon Diesel Synergy Pump
Discovery returned 30 plus miles per gallon on diesel.

Almost as soon as I pulled into a country fueling station, and the first thing I heard when I got out to pump, “Is that a diesel?” from a bearded, big pickup driving local. “That is the quietest diesel I have ever heard.” Which generated a long discussion of what diesels he had owned. “I used to have that,” he said proudly, though with a sense of sadness in his voice as a Ford Power Stroke® pulled in behind us, loudly clattering away. I shared with him that the Land Rover was at one time owned by Ford. That made him smile, as he jumped back into his mud covered burly pickup.

Td6 Land Rover Diesel engine
The Td6 Land Rover Diesel engine

While here in the USA, diesel engines are thought to be for trucks and the oddball who wants one in a luxury car has only a few options. Land Rover has put this bad-boy of automotive engines to work in its line up including the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. The diesel-powered Discovery Td6 achieves 21 mpg city 26 highway with a combined 22.5 combined fuel economy for the powerful 254HP 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine.  And this diesel is tow-ready with the Rover® Tow Package, 7,716 lbs maximum permissible towing capacity.  class two hitch and all the connections

Pristine and Refined

Left Rear Side of Land Rover Discovery
The slab rear flanks of the Land Rover Discovery looked right for the size vehicle it is.

No doubt Land Rovers have seen their share of muck boots, Wellies, and fine leather, as this is the brand of choice for the equestrian crowd. And with the towing capacity of this diesel-powered Landy, it could easily have been towing a horse trailer to field trails, fox hunts, and horse shows. Though back at the stable any number of farm pickups would be keeping the barn’s field operation in motion.

 

 

What we liked

Land Rover Discovery Digital Dash
The digital dash of the Discovery was very informative, though the in-depth review was not easy while driving.

What is not to like about the elegance of Land Rover’s line of vehicles?  A British Icon that was granted a Royal Warrant in 1951 and has been providing rugged off-road capable vehicles since. Today the brand is part of Jaguar Land Rover with that added luxury, an air of elegance, on top of the proven Land Rover toughness, Rovers attract owners of an income level who are less concerned about the cost of ownership and more about the sense of luxurious style the brand offers.

Classic Landy’s as they are called from the original British Leyland era are quite collectible and still on the road due to their aluminum bodies and determined mechanics who keep them running. You even see models from the years they were thought to be mechanical nightmares because Land Rover owners love them so much, and do not want to part with one.

Overall Fit and Finish

Land Rover Discover Center Console
Lots of controllability with the Discovery, from ride height to all-wheel drive.

We were quite impressed with this vehicle. The fit and finish, as well as the quality of materials, are top notch. While we heard from other auto journalists that the slab rear loins of the vehicle were a bit chunky, it did not appear out of proportion to our eye, considering that it covered a large well-appointed interior that had a very good use of space.

We liked the design of both the exterior and interior and especially the feel of the dash material. And impressed with the thought that went into the storage areas and power outlets throughout the vehicle. Heated and cooled seats are available in the front, middle and the third row. Up front, seats with a massage function and 16-way adjustment are also available. Since this is a family vehicle, a total of four ISOFIX mounting points make it possible to fit child safety seats in the rearmost row.  And for those who do not require the added versatility of folding third-row seats, Discovery comes standard in a five-seat, 2-row configuration.

land rover discovery 3rd row seats up
With the 3rd row seats in place, there is not much cargo space in the discovery.

With three rows of seats, the second row slides forward and backward allowing access to the Discovery’s distinctive high roof and trademark stadium seating in the third row. This allows for even for 74.8” tall passengers to sit comfortably with visibility as well as leg and shoulder room.

 

Driveability of the vehicle

land rover 21 inch goodyear tire
The discovery rides on 21-inch good year tires

While this vehicle is roomy on the inside and large on the outside, 195.7 in. long, 87.4 in. wide (mirrors out) and 72.7 in. tall. The Discovery rides capably on large 21-inch tires. We found driveability and highway handling excellent, tracking well and holding the road, and very maneuverable with a tight 40.4-foot turning radius. Visibility is very good on the vehicle in tight spaces or out on the open road, with plenty of glass space, and the added modern safety feature of cameras and sensors.

A taut suspension is quite comfortable even on rough roads, and the Four-Corner Air Suspension adjustable advanced integral-link rear suspension system suspension makes it easy to get in and out of and provides adjustable ride height for on and off-road conditions.

land rover discovery cargo control panel
Control the 3rd-row seats as well as the rear air suspension with this controller in the Discovery.

Air suspension is designed to improve on-road ride quality and greater capability when off-roading. The automatic system is able to vary between two ride heights of +1.57 in. and +2.95 in. At speeds below 31mph the +2.95 in. the setting is available; for faster speeds on rutted dirt roads, between 31- 50mph the vehicle will operate at +1.57 in. A new Speed Lowering function cuts drag and enhanced fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height at cruising speeds above 65mph. Other functions include enhanced tuning to prevent the suspension from lowering in deep wading conditions, as well as preventing belly-out situations where the center of the vehicle rests on the ground.

Permanent four-wheel drive with standard locking center differential and Terrain Response™, optional locking rear differential provided traction no matter the weather or terrain.

Comfort

land rover discovery 3rd row seat view
Discovery’s 3rd-row seat sits higher than the first and second row.

Front seats were extremely comfortable, while the 2nd and 3rd were hard and plank-like.  The third row is not easy to crawl into, though with its raised stadium style seating once back there you have a commanding view of the cabin, being higher, over the rear axle than the 2nd or 1st row. This is the reason for the trademark Land Rover stepped up Roofline, giving 3rd-row passengers headroom. Both rear seating rows had access to power and to HVAC controls, as well as plenty of storage, and heated seats. Nice Touch!

What we found odd and irritating

land rover discovery display screen
The Landy’s very detailed and in-depth screens were sometimes hard to drill down to get the info you needed quickly.

The unintuitive controls, and very in-depth on-screen menus.  This is not a vehicle that you want to try and figure out what the different controls do while driving, as they can distracting as they are long and involved.  The start-stop button is large, just that it is hidden behind the right side of the steering wheel, and a smaller button that opens a cubby button behind the center dash is visible, we found ourselves opening that cubby when thinking it was the start-stop button.

 

land rover discovery sales sticker and key
We got great fuel mileage from the Discovery, better than the sticker stated.

The unpredictability of turning the engine off after putting the vehicle into park, sometimes, it would just decide on its owns to shut the engine off beyond just pushing the ignition start-stop button, and do it without rhyme or reason. Maybe it was because we had done something else that told the vehicle to shut down, never quite figured that out. Speaking of random, recognition of the key fob was intermittent. Sometimes the key would be behind a phone in a pocket, and by pulling would be enough for the car to recognize it. It could have needed a new fob battery.

Warranty

Land Rover logo in the Velar
Land Rover is known the world over

Land Rover Dealers have been focused on the brand through thick and thin, and through a number of corporate owners. Now Land Rover/Range Rover is owned by Tata along with Jaguar, a very focused group who are making the brand better with each vehicle they produce.

 

 

 

Let us not forget the Royal Land Rover

70 years of Land Rover
First designed in 1948 Land Rovers have been trekking the world for 70-years.

launched in 1948 and simply called Land Rover, the design for the original vehicle was started in 1947 by Maurice Wilks with early choices limited to various shades of light green colour as dictated by supplies of military surplus aircraft cockpit paint. Land Rover was granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI. Since then you often see the brand being used by Royalty the world over.

 

 

 

Overall

cargo space in the land rover discovery
With the 3-row down, there is plenty of room for cargo in the Land Rover Discovery.

The essence of the brand, you have to like what you drive, and driving a Land Rover has some cache to it, a brand that has contoured and explored the world. We found ourselves at home in the 2018 Land Rover Discovery. For $68K, you get a powerful and attractive vehicle that has a timeless design, and with the diesel powerplant, a great tow vehicle. Take it to the stable, off road, the concert hall, or to the school carpool line, sign us up, we will be glad to drive this one again.

Words and Images(except where noted) by William West Hopper.

Land Rover USA provided us the opportunity to test drive this vehicle for a week-long evaluation to produce this report. We were not compensated for this article.

 

 

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Today and Tomorrow: Mini’s Future Is Passionate Owners and a Strong Racing Heritage

Mini Electric Concept
Mini Electric Concept – photo from Mini PR

Mini, the brand that has been an icon of everything that is quintessentially and vibrantly British and youthful, is poised to celebrate 60 in 2019. And doing so by being plugged in to their passionate customers who love driving and winning races.

Mini quickly became the car of choice for rock stars, film personalities as well as royals an common folk alike when it was first introduced in 1959. The little cars caught they eye of racing legend John Cooper whose name has become synonymous with the brand. Who then took the brand on to win many races in the 1960’s. Today not much has changed,

What Makes a Mini?

MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.
MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.

At a recent meeting of automotive journalists in New York City, MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri shared the five essential elements of what makes a Mini.

Emotional: Mini is not a rational purchase, you buy a Mini for the fun of it.

Excitable: The mini makes people excited and has since it was first introduced as an answer to expensive fuel prices.

Fun to drive: Known for go kart-like handling, Khatri stated that the Countryman is no-doubt the best driving SUV on the market.

Personable: 70% of owners name their Mini and make them an important part of the family.

Customization: Even the banner on the outside of the UK factory says 1 in 800K. Mini has always offered customers a high level of customization for their cars.

Customer Loyalty

Mini Line upMini takes its owners and enthusiasts very seriously, involving them in events like Mini Takes The States, a two-week long driving adventure in the USA each year. This is a chance for members of the Mini Corporate Staff, parts of the racing team, and everyday owners of the vehicles get a chance to enjoy time driving the cars together, as well as getting feedback on new and experimental products.

Racing is Heritage

Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.
Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.

Mini has taken racing seriously since 1960 when John Cooper first raced one of their cars. Mini has both a Professional race team in the USA, LAP Motorsports as well as supporting owners of its cars  by sponsoring them to take it to the track at SCCA and other ametur events that often lead drivers into a full-time racing career. As Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport found out after taking delivery right off the dealership floor of a couple of JCWorks cars his team would drive to win. He stated “Mini’s street cars are race cars.”

Perocarpi shared that the best kept secret in the automotive sector is how good the JCWorks factory cars are. That in the short preparation time his race shop had to prepare a couple of Mini’s to get out on the track, he found out they needed little tuning, just roll cages.  Though on their first race, how officials made them remove the stock Brembo brakes from their JCWorks Mini and replace them with brakes from a Mini SE, and they still won the race. Not unlike the middle 1960’s when John Cooper’s Motorsports Team’s Mini was disqualified for having double filament light bulbs.

What’s Next?

Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric
Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric. (photo by Mini PR)

Electrification, while the rest of the industry was busy looking at hybrids back in the late 2000’s, Mini in 2009 leased an exclusive Mini-E edition of 500 Mini-E cars to the USA and 40 to the UK. Using that experience, Mini’s owner group, BMW, took this real-world experience and developed the 2012 BMW 1-Series Active-e and the I3 as well as BMW’s I8 super car.

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager with Mini shared that the Mini Countryman PHEV and BMW’s I8 shared similar powertrain components, just inverted, Mini’s PHEV Countryman has the 3-cyl in the front and the

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.
Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.

electric motors in the back, with the I8 has the ICE (internal combustion engine) in the back and electric motors in the front, both with AWD when needed.

Expect to see a third generation Mini SE EV, built on BMW’s electric architecture, in production and on sale in 2020.  And yes there already is a John Cooper Works GP Concept out there so expect to see the JCW Performance being powered by electricity as well.

 

 

Special Editions

 

Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018.
Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018. (photo from Mini PR)

Mini developed to be an urban brand does not take its heritage nor future technology for granted. You will find  that they will continue to build fun to drive vehicles after 60 years and plan to do so in the future. Plus Mini is still offering a manual transmission on their internal combustion powered products, a rarity in today’s automatic world.Mini has found special edition limited production vehicles to be part of its success. The latest, a Black Knight Edition, will be debuting at the 2018 LA Auto Show. A JCW 3-door hard top with- custom trim, handles and black color combination of which 150 examples will make it to the USA, arriving in first quarter 2019. An International Orange and Starlight Edition will join the Black Knight.

And they will never take their customers for granted, continuing with a successful enthusiast programs along with racecar driver training.

 

Words and Images (except where noted) by William West Hopper

 

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV The non-status symbol Hybrid – an Outstanding Electric Trekker

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the Outlander

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVMitsubishi’s Outlander – Came to market first as a sensible gasoline-powered small SUV Wagon, while pretty vanilla in styling and options, it offers no-nonsense utility with space for gear, cargo and most importantly for many families, the dogs. At the New York International Auto Show in 2016, they launched the PHEV version, which takes this vehicle to another level both as a battery electric hybrid and an all-wheel-drive off-roader.

Much hype has been made by hybrid and EV owners about owning and operating a green vehicle. Somehow, each of them, are single-handedly are saving the planet with their eco-driving habits. Even from the early days, over a decade ago, the hybrid mystic was big. Tax incentives for the purchase and even special commuter lane access, as well as reserved hybrid parking spots and more.

Mitsubishi Outlander 63 cubic Feet of Cargo
Mitsubishi Outlander features 63 + cubic Feet of Cargo

While that is great if you were in need of a 4-door sedan, but what if your life did not make that a practical vehicle for your lifestyle? What if you needed a cargo consuming wagon? Or if you are all about going off the beaten path and wanted to be more off the grid?

 

Until now that was something that was only done by gas or diesel-powered rigs, not hybrids or electrics. The Outlander provides that flexibility with all-wheel-drive, a 74 MPGe, and a 1500 lb towing capacity.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a very capable PHEV.

Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0 Ltr PHEV Engine
Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0 Ltr gasoline Engine on the PHEV

The Outlander features a highly efficient 2.0-liter gas engine and two high-performance electric motors, front and rear with Mitsubishi’s superior Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system. Mitsubishi has provided what has been missing in that equation, a passenger, cargo, and towing vehicle, with 4×4 off-road capability. Perfect for the eco- friendly hikers and campers.

 

Going beyond the Grid

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV features Level 1 & 2 plus DC Fast Charge Ports
Level 1 & 2 plus DC Fast Charge Ports only on the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Rolling in the Mitsubishi Outlander (we tested a GTS-AWD R version with a $42,185 price tag) PHEV an SUV station wagon with seating for five and space in the way back for 63.3 cubic feet of cargo, which could be, the dog, camping equipment, or what have you.  A hybrid EV that you push a switch to put it into four-wheel drive is something that will be great for those folks that want to adventure off into the wilderness, camping fishing, or hunting.  Connect it to a solar or wind charger while parked, and you have yourself a truly granola vehicle

Mitsubishi Charge Cable Not ReadyThe Outlander PHEV has full-time, twin-electric motors to provide quick and optimized torque distribution powering the 4WD system. The motors are mounted separately at the front and rear axles to deliver precise, responsive 4WD performance with the S-AWC system ensuring excellent driving stability and intuitive, linear handling.

Mitsubishi Outlander Plugin hybrid EVThree drive modes are available: EV (full electric mode), series hybrid (electric power with generator operation) and parallel hybrid (engine power and electric motor assistance). The PHEV system automatically selects the most efficient drive mode given the road conditions and other factors. The system also features a regenerative braking mode, where electricity is captured under braking.

The S-AWC system found on the Outlander PHEV is a specialized application of all-wheel drive from their performance car, the Lancer Evolution.  This Super All-Wheel Control is developed specifically for the Outlander PHEV’s unique twin electric motor configuration for maximum performance, efficiency, traction, and safety.

What we liked

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVOur test vehicle a 2018 Outlander PHEV a GTS-AWD model in R Trim styling, continues to be understated, while practicality and utility are out of this world. Driver comfort and ease of operation are first class.

Driver comfort

Expect a comfortable but taught ride while it may not be as cushy as other upscale vehicles with a $48K price tag, you feel connected to the road surface as you drive.  Outlander provides a command of the road from a well-designed cockpit. Good visibility which is aided by modern tech 360 cameras.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV CockpitComfortable seats covered in durable and attractive leather. Car upholstery takes a beating. The Outlanders will resist the elements and whatever your kids and pets will pelt it with.

Safety

Advanced safety and convenience features available on Outlander PHEV include multi-around view camera monitor, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection capability, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), and available smartphone integrations including Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™.

Passenger and cargo space

White Mitsubishi Outlander and Blue Subaru OutbackWhile this is not a large vehicle on the outside, interior room is plentiful, with 63 cubic feet of cargo room. It is a nifty little wagon that is a tad bigger than a Subaru Outback, and a tad smaller than a Toyota Rav4.

Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4

Power-Inside and Out

Charging both inside and out is well thought out.

Mitsubishi PHEV has two Charge ports for Level 1 & 2 and DC Fast Charging

Outside: You have options at the charger to power the high capacity 12kWh Li-Ion battery pack, as you can plug in the PHEV thorough one of two EV charge ports: for Level 1, 120V home charging, or level 2, 240v as you find at public chargers. What this PHEV has is what you often only find on dedicated EV’s, a DC fast charge port.

Power Outlets on the Mitsubishi Outlander

Inside: plenty of power ports including two 110v outlets with up to 1500 watts of power along with USB outlets make plugging in devices seamless, no matter where you are, or where the Outlander is in the world.

What we did not like – not very much not to like.

What stood out was the tininess sound as the door closed. The Outlander had more than a fair share of warning bells and buzzers. While the controls and displays were simple and easy to use they could be gathered together instead of them spread between the center stack and the center console. The steering felt a bit disconnected on occasion, which was Ok, as no doubt that it was part of the advanced safety system that comes standard on the Outlander.

As a whole, the Outlander provided quite a good experience for our week of driving it. We would say yes to any adventure, on or off road in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. This un-status brand makes going green the right thing to do.

Other Models from Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

While the Outlander comes in a smaller version the Outlander Sport, there is also an Eclipse Cross, as well as the standard gasoline-powered Outlander. Campers, hikers, have had little choice in taking a vehicle into the wilderness, as there was not truly a minimal eco-impact vehicle that was off-road capable.  Mitsubishi has provided what has been missing in the EV equation, a passenger and cargo hauler with 4×4 off-road capability for the eco- friendly off-road enthusiasts.

 

The Language of the Three Diamonds

Mitsubishi three diamondsA Mitsubishi? What’s that? Lost in the influx of imports, the brand came to the US more than three decades ago, with dependable, though boring sedans, for a while they partnered with a previous version of Chrysler Corporation and supplied sporty cars with a price point that attracted younger drivers.  With the age of SUV and Crossover love,

Mitsubishi Mirage G4
Mitsubishi Mirage G4

Mitsubishi has narrowed their USA offerings to a practical line of SUVs and small cars.

The company Mitsubishi goes back into the early 19th century as a shipping company. The name Mitsubishi (三菱) consists of two parts: “mitsu” meaning “three” and “hishi” (which becomes “bishi” under rendaku) meaning “water caltrop” (also called “water chestnut”), and hence “rhombus“, which is reflected in the company’s logo. It is also translated as “three diamonds”.

100K Mile / 10-year Warranty

Car companies do not warrant their vehicles for long periods of time if they don’t build them with longevity in mind. Mitsubishi has a 10-year 100K mile warranty that covers powertrain, PHEV Components, and the LiIon battery, some limitations do apply, as they always do. New vehicle warranty of 5 years 60K, anti-corrosion of 7 years and 5 years of roadside assistance are all included in the Outlander’s warranty.

Offers

As of this writing, you can get zero percent financing for 60 months, a $2k factory rebate, or  $289 per month lease for 36 months with $4,088 down.

And while Mitsubishi dealers are few and far between, with approximately 360 dealers in the USA. They are often part of larger multi-marque dealership organizations, finding that person in the dealership who speaks the Mitsubishi language, is not hard.

 

Mitsubishi provided us with this test vehicle through Drive Shop, a fleet management company. We received no compensation from them for this article, other than the opportunity to experience the Outlander for a week.

Words by William West Hopper. Images from the Mitsubishi Press Office as well as William West Hopper.

 

 

 

Why Is It Always A White Van?

The Toyota Sienna TRD at the Race Track in One Lap America in 2016
The Toyota Sienna TRD at the Race Track in One Lap America in 2016

Whenever there is a wacko nutjob on the loose they always seem to be associated with a white van.

Look at our current news cycle with the MAGNA Bomber, back when DC was plagued by the Beltway Sniper, what were they on the lookout for, you guessed it, a White Van. Though in that case, the vehicle was a blue full-size sedan, still everyone was saying “be on the lookout for a white van.”  If there is any talk of a child abductor or a terrifying clown with candy and thoughts of evil doings, the image includes the iconic white van.

Never is it a beat-up pickup or a ragged hatchback, not even a rattletrap SUV? Well maybe once in a California freeway chase with a Bronco, and it was white. The White Van is the vehicle that society assigns to any man who engages in an act against the people. We will not go into the fact that it is never a female, it is always a male and a white van.

White Chevrolet Astro Van AutocrossingAs the owner of a white van, two now in the past 26-years, this is not the image that we as white van drivers are after.  Who drives white vans? Normal everyday working people, plumber, carpenters, telco or cable folks, delivery drivers, who are the drivers of white vans.

 

At one time the van was the symbol of freedom, out on the open road, off to catch the waves, out to the wilderness with bikes, or off camping. Now, this vehicle casts an evil shadow on the thousands of people who own and drive one every day.

White RAM ProMaster City VanYes, there are plenty of us who are not mass-murders, loco extremists, or someone with terrorist thoughts.  Smile at the guy in the white van as you pass each other on the road, he is no doubt the one that is making our world a better place.

 

 

This is the opinion of William West Hopper – Images by William West Hopper

A Hyper Miler on the Highway, All Electric on the Streets – the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Comparing the Chrysler Town and Country to the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, size is just about the same.
Comparing the Chrysler Town and Country to the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, size is just about the same.

Check out the Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The once boxy Chrysler minivan (the company who originated this automotive segment three-plus decades ago,) is now producing a sleek passenger van that will change minds.

The 2018 Pacifica Hybrid in Limited Trim sure surprised us as we took out it on a recent thousand-plus-mile trip. What we found was an amazing road tripper. An excellent highway cruiser that is not intimidated by the semi-trucks, and had plenty of power to climb the twisty hills of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and to pass with ease.

“That is one HOT Mini Van,” said no one ever. While minivans may not be what people aspire to drive, they do offer convenience and capacity. The Pacifica is a keeper.

Hybrid | PHEV Power

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid has a 3.6L V-6 Pentastar engine using Atkinson Cycle technology for better fuel economy.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid has a 3.6L V-6 Pentastar engine using Atkinson Cycle technology for better fuel economy.

This vehicle can be used like the gasoline-powered vehicle many are used to, with the hybrid power stepping in to extend fuel economy. What surprised us was the PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle) technology. Plug the Pacifica in, be it at a Type Two Electric Vehicle Charger for a 2.5-hour recharge or into your home’s 110v grounded outlet for a longer charge time, about 14 hours. And drive 30-plus miles on all electric, which should cover most routine errand runs, or a one-way trip to work.

The extra step of plugging in is not hard, it just takes some forethought, to find an available Electric Vehicle Charger when you park. And of course to remember to plug the car into that charger, or the outlet at home.

Passenger Comfort

Chrysler's Pacifica rear seating area is roomy and comfortable.
Chrysler’s Pacifica rear seating area is roomy and comfortable.

The Chrysler Pacifica is designed with a focus on passenger comfort. From the heated and cooled front seats to the various interior lighting options. And what made me happy was the number of power outlets, some connected to the UVO system and others not, for the devices and electrical items brought into the van that need power.

Room for seven in three rows of seats,  does it get any better?   Why yes it does, as there is still cargo space even with all three rows of seats in use. Yes, let’s say it again, cargo space and not just a little bit, plenty of it. So you can take that road trip with the family and stuff that comes along, A feat which is hard to do in the smaller 3-row passenger vehicles at the same price that on the market today.

Fold down part of the 3rd row on the Chrysler Pacifica and have both cargo and passenger space.
Fold down part of the 3rd row on the Chrysler Pacifica and have both cargo and passenger space.
Power outlets are abundant in the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.
Power outlets are abundant in the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

Many vehicles come with 3 rows of seats, but few provide much if any room in the 2nd row, and the 3rd row. Or other creature comforts for those passengers. HVAC controls as well as plenty of USB plugins for those passengers. In the Limited Trim model, we had there was a two-screen rear seat entertainment option for the second-row passengers with separate HMDI and USB plugs, as well as wireless headphones, or a headphone jack and individual remote controls. Which means not everyone has to watch the same video or play the same game.

Legroom and Cargo Space

The third row in the Chrysler Pacifica is not an afterthought. Space, power, and legroom as well as HVAC vents.
The third row in the Chrysler Pacifica is not an afterthought. Space, power, and legroom as well as HVAC vents.

Legroom is plentiful with seat adjustability for the first and second-row seats.  In the hybrid, the 2nd-row seats can be removed and lifted out and stored out of the vehicle. (The Pacifica Hybrid does not have 2nd-row Stow and Go, as the batteries are carried where the seats would fold into.) Don’t take that as a negative, there is plenty of storage throughout the van, including a large drawer in the base of the front center console for the 2nd-row passengers, lots of crannies for storage, and best of all behind the 3rd row seats which are stow and go, there is space to carry cargo.

Storage compartments are all over, even a place by both front seats to stow a wet umbrella, including a little tray molded into the door sill to collect the water dripping off of it.

Doors All Around

Rear doors and the hatch on the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid are operated by the handle, the key fob, or by putting your foot under the vehicle (with the key in your pocket.)
Rear doors and the hatch on the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid are operated by the handle, the key fob, or by putting your foot under the vehicle (with the key in your pocket.)

From the side sliding doors on both sides and rear hatch, as well as the front doors, you can load people and cargo in and out of the van easily and at a comfortable height. Have your hands full? that is OK, put a foot under the vehicle and that door will open automatically (you do need to have the key in your pocket and know in just the right place.)

An All Seeing Van

Traveling on the highway the Chrysler Pacifica has adaptive cruise control, as well as blind spot warning, all based on the 360 degree camera.
Traveling on the highway the Chrysler Pacifica has adaptive cruise control, as well as blind spot warning, all based on the 360-degree camera.

From inside you can pop down the little rear seat monitor mirror to see what is happening in the back to the exterior cameras the van has to see the traffic around you.

The Pacifica has the optional 360-Degree surround camera that has a large camera in the base of the grill, one at the top of the windshield, and one under each exterior side mirror, as well as at the rear of the van (the backup camera) these operate individually or as a combined unit to help see all that is around the van. While you can only access the imagery on the screen in a parked or under 5 mph mode, this system combined with an onboard radar is the eyes of the vehicle, assisting the driver.

The cockpit of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is comfortable and well laid out.
The cockpit of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is comfortable and well laid out.

Adaptive Cruise Control is one of the best options on any highway cruiser. The driver sets the cruise control and enables it to look ahead to recognize if the vehicles are slowing down or pulling into the lane in front of you. It then adjusts your speed appropriately. With Full Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus the van also pays attention when you may not be, slowing the van down and stopping if need be.

This in addition to ParkSense®, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and lane departure warning, when turned on, let you know what might be around you and warns you. It lets you know when you are drifting out of your lane, if there is another vehicle in your blind spot, or if you are simply backing up if another vehicle is going to be in your path. Very helpful and an added level of safety one needs in this distracted world.

Parking, No Problem

Chrysler Pacifica HybridParkSense® helps you see what you can not when you are parking, are you getting too close to something, it will let you know with an audible warning as well as a visual on the center screen from the camera view.

You may not like parking, so just hit the button and the Pacifica’s Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist will take over for you and park the vehicle. You do have to be in it and provide assistance, but the cameras see and measure the distance and make all the decisions and steering moves for you. While this is the one feature we did not take advantage of, it can be a big help in tight spots. You tell the Pacifica you want it to find a parking spot, by pushing a button, then tell it which side to look by putting the turn signal on for that side, and the car finds a spot and asks you make the gear changes, brake and accelerator activations, but it steers itself into a parking spot using the onboard cameras.

Overall Thoughts

Chrysler's rear seat entertainment can be controlled by the front blu ray player controls.
Chrysler’s rear seat entertainment can be controlled by the front Blu ray player controls.

The Pacifica is beyond a daily grocery getter, beyond the family van. In a crowded passenger minivan market, there are options. If you want something fuel efficient, one that can run 30 miles on all electric, the Chrysler Pacifica is a great choice.

In either conventional or hybrid form this front-wheel-drive transversely mounted front engine van provides all of the passenger comfort and roadworthiness from a brand well known for luxury.

Plug in the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid for an extra 30 miles on electric power. Great for in-town trips, no gas needed.
Plug in the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid for an extra 30 miles on electric power. Great for in-town trips, no gas needed.

While the hybrid and PHEV technology is beyond amazing, and the usefulness of the space that the Pacifica offers makes it both a great long-distance runner and a city street cruiser.

That is just part of the story of the Chrysler Pacifica.  The rest of the story is you, your family. Visit a dealer and take a test drive. Compare it to other vehicles, including SUV and CUV offerings. If you need a vehicle to haul passengers and their stuff in comfort, with great fuel economy, this is a very strong contender at an under $50K price point.

Words and Photos by William West Hopper.

 

FCA and Chrysler were kind enough to provide us the use of the Pacifica for a week. We were asked to review it and share our experiences on social media, we were not compensated for posting, other than the use of the vehicle. We paid for our own fuel, tolls and other travel expenses.

 

What we learned at the New York Auto Show 2018 – Plenty Of Power, Sometimes Electric, Sometimes Fossil Fuel

P00132_1The 2018 New York Auto Show opened with a lot of energy surrounding releases of what Americans want: SUV’s, small and large, as well as vehicles with big performance engines, tried andHyundai's new Kona true sedans, and yes electric powertrains, from plugin to hybrid to hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Body styles took center stage, while powertrains continued to jostle for attention.

 

We also saw the revival of the hatchback, and no question the station wagon is going to be making a comeback. Both now, much sportier and better tailored than ever before.

A lot of the models that were released are freshened models, though a couple of close to market concepts went on display. Powertrains from two different mindsets seemed to be everywhere; electric and an increasingly higher horsepower SUV’s and muscle cars.

Highlight Vehicles

The hatchback twins from Toyota and Lexus, The Kia K900, Volkswagen’s Pickup Truck Concept, Maserati’s Levante Trofeo, and the Mazda Kai concept were all stars of the show.  Add to that a redesigned Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester and a very close to reality “Sport” version of the VW Atlas are just a few of what was on display in New York.

 

Hot Hatches

Hatchbacks, one of the most sensible vehicle designs is making a strong comeback and from Toyota, a brand that celebrated them for many years. Four-doors and a hatch make them easy to get into for both passengers and cargo. Toyota and upscale sibling Lexus brought the small hatchback into the spotlight, with the Toyota Corolla Hatchback and the Lexus UX. While you can see the family resemblance, each is very much a part of its own brand. Toyota has wisely included a 6-speed manual transmission in their offering, and Lexus has a hybrid version with their Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission  (CVT.)

 

Luxury Cars and SUV’s

 

Maserati Booth at NYIAS

Driver’s today expect luxury touches no matter the brand, and both Kia and Maserati have stepped forward. Kia with a redesigned K900 that has an understated exterior and updated interior design and Maserati with a fire-breathing full-size SUV with a screaming 590 hp 8-cylinder engine. Not to be left out the luxury high-performance Sedan is still a strong contender, with Audi’s new 444 horsepower RS5 Sportback letting everyone know that the five rings are ready to roll.

 

 

Small SUV’s

Nissan KicksVW Atlas Sport

The Subaru Forester, Nissan Kicks (shown above) and the Toyota RAV 4, took center stage, and rightfully so, these brands have a very loyal consumer following. Volkswagen sent the Atlas to the Gym and has returned with a buffer though tad smaller Sport version.

 

Staid Sedans

IMG_1484While four-door sedans are being left in the dust by the SUV in today’s market, Nissan has redone the Altima and put it in All-Wheel Drive mode and Kia has put some new energy into the Optima and has brought the K900 into modern style.

 

The SUV

Lincoln AviatorThe SUV of last few decades seems to be growing into larger 3-row seat size.  From the mundane to the ultra luxurious there are plenty of sizes and price points for the trusty family hauler. Be it the Ford EcoSport or a Land Rover Coupe, Lincoln Aviator to the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, there are plenty of sizes and price points for this trusty family hauler.

 

Pickup Trucks

America has always been a country of roughneck cowboys, and what once was thought as a work | Farm vehicle is now the mainstream family car. With four doors and numerous creature comforts the pickup truck is no longer bare-bones with rubber mats, Naugahyde seats, and if you were lucky, an Am Radio.  Even Volkswagen brought forth a Pickup Concept, that seems about ready for market. RAM, Ford, Chevy, and GMC, as well as Toyota and Nissan all, were displaying plenty of full-size pickups with more creature comforts than many cars. The mid-sized pickup is making a rebirth with the Ford Ranger, GM with the Colorado, and no doubt more will be coming.

Electric Vehicles

Electric once only thought of as a very specialty vehicle driven by the look-at-me self-possessed eco-conscious consumer. Indeed the EV Fad is now mainstream, almost every band has at least one model that is pure battery-powered electric

As EV’s continue to be major sellers in markets where the tax incentives and other green benefits perks are dwindling. The panache of the electric vehicle is starting to be overshadowed by the technology and daily benefits with Plug-In Hybrids and hydrogen-fueled vehicles starting to become more commonplace.   Nissan with the Leaf, the Tesla line up and most recently the Chevrolet Bolt is more mainstream and competing in the upmarket as well as the daily driver arena.

While there are several charging systems out there, and none are universal, Charge Point seems to be a big partner to these new vehicles, as well as pushing heavy in the home charger market.

Technology

There is no question that the New York International Auto Show is a collection of the latest and greatest automobiles, but it is also a place where technology meets the consumer. Nissan took center stage with its Pro-Pilot and Toyota has had XX for a while now.

Alexa?  With the prevalence of Amazon’s Alexa in homes, the Alexa voice assistant was very well apparent being touted along with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Now the same voice-activated artificial intelligence service comes to your vehicle. Google’s AI product Google Home and Apple’s Siri were remarkably absent from in-car virtual assistants. Just when Android Auto and Apple CarPlay seem to be becoming more prevalent is when that witty woman’s voice is now becoming apart of your driving experience. And what a great way to just talk to your car. Anyone remember the short-lived TV show of the 1960’s My Mother The Car? Of course, you don’t, the future was displayed in a Model A.

Built-in Hotspots are becoming commonplace as the vehicles become more interconnected with their driver’s.  Software that recognizes drivers by their phones upon entry is the next step in making vehicles more shareable.

What is in the future.

In the near term, hydrogen power and station wagons along with the continued expansion of models that powered by batteries will continue.

In the midterm look forward to seeing those odd 3-wheeled trike vehicles. A cross between a motorcycle and a 2-seater car. Several manufacturers and not motorcycle companies were displaying them.  Malcolm Bricklin, founder of Subaru of America, the Canadian made Bricklin sports car and importer of Yugo cars, shared with me his electric version is about 2-years out to come to market.

Upscale Luxury vehicles. Manufacturers are learning that the ultra-luxury high-performance supercars and SUV’s mean one thing, a stronger bottom line. Each of them is starting to add such profitable models to their line up.

Until Next Year

Or the Next Auto Show, whichever comes first.

20180328_134148

Words and photos by William West Hopper.

 

What is Happening at MBUSA

As originally posted on the Mercedes-Benz Club of America | Greater Washington Section July-August 2018 Quarterly News Round-Up 2018 vol. 3

MBUSA Goings On

What is happening with Mercedes-Benz USA these days? This question was raised after Mercedes-Benz, like Cadillac, was noticeably absent from the Washington Auto Show floor this year.
MBUSA continues to grow and bring new and updated models to market, continuing to meet sales goals even in a softening market. Now housed out of a new U.S.-headquarters, the company continues to be on the leading edge of technology.
 
Tobias Moers New York International Auto Show 2019 GWagen // Photo Credit: William West Hopper

Auto Shows and Tightened Budgets

With consumers increasingly buying by a click on the screen of a smartphone, tablet, or computer, the lure of the annual auto show is no longer enough to return for the big dollar investments that automakers put out. More focus is being placed on social media and direct consumer experience events and interactive marketing with wide-ranging appeal and contact. Have you noticed when you respond to an automotive marketing outreach, a dealer almost immediately contacts you? Getting consumers interested in products and putting them in touch with dealers as soon as possible has become the business model of choice.
Daimler and Mercedes-Benz have rethought the auto show model, along with other manufacturers who are also starting to step away from even the big shows like Detroit. At this year’s New York International Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz had a toned-down presence in comparison to years past. With plenty of vehicles on display, the pomp and circumstance were noticeably reduced. In speaking to MBUSA’s public relations department, the Washington, D.C. market continues to be a very important one for the brand, and the region’s buying power is an important one. It is expected they will return to the auto show, just not in the format we have seen in the past.
Dietmar Exler _ President and CEO of MBUSA and NAFTA __ Photo Credit_ William West Hopper

Models and both EV and ICE Powertrains

The German Government is investing in the electrification of all transport modes through incentives in R&D, procurement and charging infrastructure. Thus, German automakers have made electrification of vehicles a specific focus, be it hybrid, battery electric, or any combination of them along with the internal combustion engine (ICE). No matter the powertrain or the model, you will find equal amounts of attention paid to the technology that goes into them from the Smart EQ to the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury – an over the top SUV concept.

Do not think for a moment that Mercedes-Benz will retreat from high-performance vehicles. These days high horsepower internal combustion powered vehicles bring with them high profit. Thus, AMG and Maybach vehicles will still be a major market focus. This year alone we have already seen a new version of the G-Wagen for 2019, both a G-550 and a G-63AMG, as well as a lineup of E and C Class vehicles including the AMG E53 and C43 and 63. The AMG GT 63 S and others continue to show the commitment to daily driving vehicles as well as ones you will want to drive just for the enjoyment of the road.

 

MBUSA Atlanta Headquarters __ Photo courtesy of MBUSA Media

New American headquarters for MBUSA

MBUSA recently relocated from New Jersey to the suburban Atlanta, Georgia. Many speculated this was done to reduce costs and take advantage of tax incentives. While this was no doubt a factor, being closer to the American factory in Alabama, and recently opened Sprinter van production facility in South Carolina also had much to do with the decision. Another factor is their focus on research and development here in the USA – not only in California but now in Georgia with a soon-to-open Lab1886 location.
MBUSA is now housed in a steel and glass 200,000 square-foot building, located on a 12-acre campus. Housing more than 1,000 employees and is designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient. MBUSA has implemented initiatives as part of their commitment to sustainability, bike racks, twenty EV Charging stations as well as dedicated MARTA shuttle to help reduce traffic impact in an area that is already heavily congested.
Lab1886 Atlanta
Daimler will open the fourth Lab1886 in Atlanta this summer joining three existing locations in Beijing, Berlin, and Stuttgart. MBUSA feels that with Atlanta’s excellent colleges and universities offering highly skilled and motivated graduates, and that more and more innovative technology and digital companies make their home in Atlanta, it is a perfect match for Mercedes-Benz’s own incubator.
Mercedes-Benz is actively adapting to an ever-changing transportation market. Be it selling C-Classes, AMG’s, Sprinter and Metris vans, or with the growth Daimler’s Car2Go car-sharing platform that offers Smart and Mercedes-Benz vehicles on demand. Providing users with a car only and exactly when they need one. Expect to see Mercedes-Benz continue to work beyond traditional transportation.
Words & Images by William West Hopper
Past MBCA|GWS President,
MBCA Eastern Regional Director,
MBCA National Director and National Treasurer
For more Mercedes-Benz insight and images, follow William West Hopper on Twitter (@wwhopper) and Instagram (DCCarGuy)!