All posts by William West Hopper

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

The Toyota Camry, All New for 2018

Docile, Domesticated, Dependable, Durable, and Now for 2018, Dynamite!

What would improve, the ever-popular Camry? Currently, the most American made vehicle on sale in the USA. An every day plain-jane sedan that has sold over ten-million vehicles since it was introduced in 1983.  Styling!  Toyota has made the 2018 edition sportier. Actually, it is all-new for 2018, from the ground up.  Let’s take a look!

The hand painted roof is only available on Camry's upper X trim models, notice the lower stance and swooping lines.
The hand painted roof is only available on Camry’s upper X trim models, notice the lower stance and swooping lines.

This new model will not alienate previous owners who have been devoted to Toyota’s four-Door Sedan for years. Buyers of sports sedans will now be taking a second look at this model as a viable competitor in the market place. Toyota’s reputation for reliability, safety and more are now embraced in this new model.


Designed from the ground up, the dull staid image has been left in the dust! With an all-new platform and powertrain, still that dependable, long lasting, and safe Camry. Now, some might even say it has become sexy. Where the 2018 Camry grabs attention is in the flowing lines. Inspired by the design of a catamaran, known for skimming across the water’s surface with strong bold outriggers, and a very light and airy body. Now you will be able to tell the difference from the SE and LE models by defined front-end styling cues.

2018 Camry interior is very cockpit inspired. Focused on the driver.
2018 Camry interior is very cockpit inspired. Focused on the driver.

The Camry’s sweeping lines flow from outside into the passenger cabin.  A wraparound cockpit for the driver and front passenger bring controls within easy reach of the driver, and with the upper trim level offers a head’s up display (which wearing polarized sunglasses is a tad hard to see) keeping the driver’s eyes on the road. The front passenger will feel snug in the wraparound interior design. Visually it may be a bit confining, though there is plenty of space.

For rear passengers, no gymnastics are needed to get into the rear seats, as in some sports sedans. The rear bench seat fits two comfortably and 3 snugly. While the trunk is spacious, it’s rectangular trunk lid opening may take some negotiating with bulky items. Even the Camry Logo has been redesigned – individual letters stamped across the center of the trunk lid.

The rear of the 2018 Toyota Camry is different as well. Only the Logo remains the same.
The rear of the 2018 Toyota Camry is different as well. Only the Logo remains the same.

Engineering – TNGA Platform

Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) is a re-engineering of the whole vehicle, not just one part. Resulting in a new and improved driving dynamics for the 2018 Camry. Which was very apparent behind the wheel. This chassis has 3-times more welds giving it a stiffer more in control feel. A double wishbone rear suspension still provides a comfortable ride. While wider and with a lower center of gravity, the Camry has tighter handling due to this new platform as the weight is evenly distributed over the four tires. This results in better overall performance. “The new Camry is an extremely balanced machine with much more excitement.”

Toyota New Global Architecture is what the 2018 Camry is all about.
Toyota New Global Architecture is what the 2018 Camry is all about.

Three Power Trains

Three new drivetrains, a 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder gasoline engine, and a new second-generation hybrid powerplant mated to a new Eight-Speed automatic transmission are what drive the 2018 Camry.

2018_Toyota_Camry_LE_Hybrid_03_291A080C9D9BCA2A2D7D8EE7A412740433B7FB8BWhile the 2.5 4-cylinder is fine, we found the 3.5 six provides a better powerband for our driving style. At the time we drove the new Camry the hybrid was not in the press fleet. With MPG numbers reported to be over 50 mpg this will be the one to test drive. The car handles like it on rails, having the hybrid system repositioned in the engine bay and battery moved out of the trunk and under the car will definitely provide a more evenly balanced feel of driving.


The Direct Shift 8 Speed Transmission offers plenty of gears to operate in at all speeds and load parameters, we found it to be smooth and best of all, a gear shift lever positioned where one would expect it, in the center of the console. Some classic styling touches just seem right.

Camry Safety

New light designs are just a part of the 2018 Camry. Lights were one of the first safety features on cars.Safety TSSP – is a suite of safety sysems including pre-collision system and if the vehicle is equipped with an electric parking brake can take the car down to zero. Combine that with the other dynamic safety systems (Saftey systems are standard in all models of Camry models for 2018.) And like the 2017 model, no doubt the all new Camry will also have a Five Star Overall Saftey Rating.


Camry Trim Levels

Making the trim levels distinguishable from each other was part of the redesign. Now there will be no mistaking the SE and L grade models.  It is details like the quad tip exhaust, a dual exhaust with four tips and other details you will notice.

  • L Model –  Will be the most base entry-level – very budget friendly.
  • LE Model – You will see a large chunk of Camry models outfitted in this high tech trim level.
  • XLE – The top of the line luxury model with all the technology that is available and special options will be available.
  • XLE V6 – Total luxury with the power of the V6 engine.
  • SE – Sport Trim – Toyota expects this to be a volume leader.
  • XSE – Full sport with full tech!
  • XSE V6 – Adding the V-6 powerplant to the top of the line sport model, even a hand painted black roof will be available in this trim.
Cockpit focused controls for the driver in the 2018 Toyota Camry.
Cockpit focused controls for the driver in the 2018 Toyota Camry.

Camry’s interior is driver-centric focused with the center console stack wrapping around the driver and the passenger. Controls turned toward the driver giving it a cockpit feel.


New Camry Colors

While we are used to seeing a lot of the basic colors, silver, white, black, there are three new colors coming to the 2018 Camry; Windshield Pearl, Brownstone, Galactic Aqua Mica.

A Two Tone Roof is now showing up in different manufacturers lines, as well as in the Toyota  C-HR.  Camry will offer the hand-painted black roof on three different colors of the XSE model completing the aggressive look in sports sedans along with black painted window trim and side mirrors. You can order the two-tone roof when you order your XSE in Blue Streak Mettalic, Celestiral Silver, and Wind Chill Pearl.The Camry has an all new center console.


The redesigned 2018 Toyota is now available at dealers nationwide. This model is the most American Made vehicle sold in the USA today. Produced at the Georgetown Kentucky plant for the American market.


Words by William West Hopper
Photos by William West Hopper & Toyota Motor Company’s media site.
For more information on Toyota go to



Audi leads the pack with fun to drive Compact SUV’s

The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.
The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.

Audi of America hosted a number of regional automotive journalists at their headquarters in Herndon Virginia where we heard from their President Scott Keogh about the current market and Audi’s focus on technologically forward vehicles. While EV’s were not in the mix, CSUV’s and Sportbacks were, as they are the current trend in the market.

Mr. Scott Keogh presented the market performance of the the Audi Brand in 2017.
Mr. Scott Keogh presented the market performance of the Audi Brand in 2017.

Mr. Keogh spoke of how well the Q line of vehicles is doing all across the USA, from Boston to Dallas, from DC to San Francisco. Relating that the owner demographic is one of the youngest in the industry. And that is directly related to not only the vehicles providing up-to-date technology such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto as much as for the well designed and efficient vehicles, as well as the Audi dealer network that supports the Audi brand.

The Audi SQ5 provides comfort for the driver and passengers.
The Audi SQ5 provides comfort for the driver and passengers.

We have always liked the styling of Audi’s even back in the day when the brand was barely on the US roads. While today ‘s Audi’s are great looking, what impressed us is the driver and passenger comfort, due to the thought behind the ergonomics of the interior. The dash layout and control placement, the comfort of the seats, and not just the high-end S-line seats, the base Q5 seats were just as comfortable.

Audi has one of the most visually attractive dash screens providing vivid graphics.
Audi has one of the most visually attractive dash screens providing vivid graphics.


Driveability of the Audi vehicles was excellent in both the turbocharged 4-cylinder and the 6-cylinder powered models. Handling was tight, accurate and with excellent ride comfort in both the CSUV and A5 Sportback models. While a CSUV is not a sports car, these Audi’s provide a sporty experience behind the wheel with plenty of luxury. The only down side was that the S-Line exhaust was a bit noisy, especially for a long drive. Though a throaty exhaust seems to be what buyers of the up market performance trim vehicles are expecting.

Our overall experience with the A5 Sportback and both the SQ5 and the Q5 Compact Sport Utility Vehicles was excellent. A year ago Queer4Cars spent time in the full-size Audi Q7 and our opinion of the brand has only increased after spending time in these additional models.

Speaking of Audi experiences, we will be driving an Audi A5 on a week-long test drive in September driving from Washington DC to Cooperstown NY, on to the 911 Memorial in Manhattan, and back to DC.  Stay tuned for that update.

Until Then, Enjoy the Adventure!


Words by William West Hopper, images courtesy of Audi Newsroom and William West Hopper.



Will The Hyundai Ioniq Become Iconic?

Hyundai Ioniq provides exceptional efficiency
Hyundai Ioniq provides exceptional efficiency

More than a decade ago hybrid drivetrains were an automotive novelty since then they have become a staple in all market segments from economy cars to trucks. Their novelty became a necessity with rising gasoline prices and tax breaks, end the elimination of HOV, and toll road exemptions. Now, these vehicles have gone beyond the “look at me, I beat the commuter crowd system” status symbol, as almost every manufacturer has a hybrid version.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric Powertrain
Hyundai Ioniq Electric Powertrain

Electric Vehicles once an urban staple a century ago, are following suit. Today with more technology, range and initial out of pocket costs, they too are no longer just cult vehicles out of the financial grasp of the everyday driver, they are becoming common in driveways across the USA.



Hyundai Ioniq features a traditional shape in all power-train model variants.
Hyundai Ioniq features a traditional shape in all power-train model variants.

Hyundai has brought to market the efficient and fun to drive Ioniq, challenging Toyota’s Prius at all levels from the economy and ride to build quality and cost. Ioniq comes in three powertrains; hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric, all on the same hatchback platform that drivers find familiar.




Clean looking, earth sensitive materials used in the Hyundai Ioniq have an authentic feel.
Clean looking, earth sensitive materials used in the Hyundai Ioniq have an authentic feel.

What makes Ioniq different from the other hybrids on the market, beyond its economical operation? It is designed and built with less reliance on oil-based materials. With the use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive interior materials, door covers are made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone producing a softer, more natural feel. Headliner and carpet have been developed using sustainable sugar cane and paints with renewable ingredients extracted from soybean oil are used to achieve lustrous metallic colors on key components.

Hyundai Ioniq hybrid has a very traditional instrument and dash layout.
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid has a very traditional instrument and dash layout. With easy access to modern technology.

All the while advanced technology is as much a part of the Ioniq driving experience through enhanced state-of-the-art connectivity features like Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto® and Blue Link®, as well as wireless charging for smartphones. Ioniq also offers the very latest in advanced safety, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, for high levels of both active and passive vehicle safety. Even the HVAC runs efficiently to use as little energy to heat and cool the vehicles.


Wireless charging for mobile devices is becoming as important as power outlets.
Wireless charging for mobile devices is becoming as important as power outlets.

Not only can you choose the color, but also your choice of drivetrain. High mileage hybrid, high range electric for around town or a bit of both for trips further afield.






Ioniq Hybrid

20170622_130931Prices run from $22,200 for the base blue to $27,500 for the top-line Limited. Hyundai’s proprietary hybrid specific drivetrain has been engineered for this vehicle and gets 55+ MPG. Hybrid system architecture with a Kapa 1.6 GDI 4-cylinder engine, 32KW Permanent Magnetic Electic motor, and six-speed hybrid dual clutch transmission. The front of the Ioniq Hybrid is characterized by the Bi-Xenon HID headlights surrounded by C-shaped LED positioning lamps. Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and vertical C-shaped LED daytime running lights further convey purity of design. The hybrid rolls on either 15 or 17-inch Eco-Spoke alloy wheels.

20170622_123756Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid (Available 4th quarter2017)

While pricing has not been announced, this is the combination of plug-in electric for urban use and true hybrid for long distance driving, this is labeled for 27 miles in full EV mode with gasoline mpg to be announced. In addition to general exterior design details, the Plug-in Hybrid also integrates a charging portal into the left front fender for the lithium-ion polymer battery. Specially-designed 16-inch alloy wheels further differentiate the Plug-in Hybrid model.


20170622_123739Ioniq Electric

Pricing starts at $29,500 for the base and $32,500 for the limited, depending on the state, there may be tax incentives that lower that cost. Powered by an 88 kw permanent magnetic electric motor, a 28 kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery and a gear drive.  And is labeled as 135 MPGe with real world expectations of going 124 miles on a full charge. The Electric model also features HID Xenon Headlamps with Dynamic Bending Light (DBL) and LED tail lamps with a unique pattern and identity for the rear view, as well as unique 16-inch eco-spoke alloy wheels.

Inoiq Unlimited PlusIoniq Unlimited+

An electric vehicle subscription program for the Los Angeles California residents called “Ioniq Unlimited+” offers a carefree means to drive with a fixed payment that includes unlimited mileage, electric charging reimbursement, scheduled maintenance and vehicle wear items.

20170622_134815Hyundai Assurance

Hyundai offers an industry-exclusive Lifetime Hybrid Battery Warranty with Hybrid Blue Drive Systems. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by the Hyundai Assurance program, which includes the 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable new vehicle limited warranty, Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and five years of complimentary Roadside Assistance. Hyundai Blue Link Connected Care provides owners of Hyundai models equipped with the Blue Link telematics system with proactive safety and car care services complimentary for one year with enrollment. These services include Automatic Collision Notification, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Vehicle Diagnostic Alert, Monthly Vehicle Health Report and in-vehicle service scheduling.

For more details on Hyundai Assurance, please visit

Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 830 dealerships nationwide.

To learn how to pronounce Hyundai, please visit Hyundai’s blog: 

Hyundai is an official sponsor of the NFL


Hyundai, an official sponsor of the NFL.
Hyundai, an official sponsor of the NFL.

Summer Calls for a Topless Supercar, McLaren 570S Spider to the Rescue.

McLaren 570S Spider top down on the open road.
McLaren 570S Spider top down on the open road.

The new McLaren 570S Spider combines the exceptional dynamics and the refinement of the 570S Coupé with the extra exhilaration of open-air motoring.  Hand-assembled in the United Kingdom, the 570S Spider is the most attainable McLaren Spider ever.


McLaren 570S Spider Retractable TopThe carbon-fiber, mid-engine, two-seat, rear-wheel drive 570S Spider is the third body style in McLaren’s Sports Series. McLaren’s integrated, two-piece retractable hardtop that when lowered delivers an even more immersive and exhilarating driving experience for the 570S Spider.


Supercar Performance
The 570S Spider is a luxury sports convertible with supercar acceleration from standstill to 100km/h (62mph) in 3.2 seconds and to 200km/h (124mph) in just 9.6 seconds. The combination of lightweight carbon fiber construction and an incredibly potent 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged McLaren V8 engine, means that the 570S Spider has an impressive power-to-weight ratio and is more powerful and lighter than the competition.

McLaren 570S Spider transmission selector and launch control.
McLaren 570S Spider transmission selector and launch control.

McLaren’s twin-turbocharged M838TE engine positioned mid-chassis produces 570PS at 7,400rpm and torque of 600Nm between 5,000rpm and 6,500rpm.  In combination with a rapid yet smooth seven-speed seamless-shift gearbox featuring Launch Control technology.  Top speed is 328km/h (204mph) with the roof in place – identical to the 570S Coupé – and even with the roof lowered.

Exceptional Body Control
McLaren employs racecar-style, double-wishbone suspension all-round, with steel springs, twin-valve adaptive dampers and anti-roll bars calibrated to the same exacting specification as the 570S Coupé.  Body control is exceptional and the overall drive incredibly pure and rewarding, while retaining impressive comfort. Accessing the Active Dynamics Panel adds another level of personal choice, allowing the driver to choose from Normal, Sport or Track modes, for progressively softer or firmer suspension.  This versatility ensures that the Spider is as at ease in everyday use as it is on a race track.


McLaren 570S Spider
McLaren 570S Spider

Electro-hydraulically assisted power steering, Carbon-ceramic brakes, and Pirelli P ZERO™ CORSA tires are standard, while the latest chassis software both enhances the driving experience and increases safety.  Developed originally for Formula 1™, Brake Steer aids cornering and reduces understeer by subtly applying braking force to the inside rear wheel as the driver turns into a corner.   Performance Traction Control calibrated by McLaren provides precise control in extreme situations, while the ESC (Electronic Stability Control) system includes a ‘Dynamic’ mode with reduced intervention and increased ‘driftability’, allowing drivers to enjoy the 570S Spider’s dynamic potential with confidence.



McLaren's entry Level Supercar the 570S Spider A Cabriolet
McLaren’s entry Level Supercar the 570S Spider A Cabriolet

Topless Style, Elegant as the Coupe’
Electrically operated from the driver’s seat using one simple control, the roof folds effortlessly to stow beneath a beautifully crafted tonneau cover that rises automatically to accommodate the lowered panels and returns to its closed position with the assistance of soft-close technology.   The roof can be opened or closed in just 15 seconds, at vehicle speeds of up to 40km/h (25mph


McLaren 570S Spider Technical Specifications

Engine configuration M838TE engine, 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8, 3,799cc
Drivetrain layout Longitudinal mid-engined, RWD
Power PS (bhp/kW @ rpm 570 (562/419) @ 7,500
Torque Nm (lbs ft) @ rpm 600 (443) @ 5,000-6,500
Transmission 7-Speed seamless-shift gearbox (SSG)
Suspension Independent adaptive dampers, dual wishbones with Normal, Sport and Track modes
Steering Electro-hydraulic; power-assisted
Brakes Carbon Ceramic Discs (F: 394mm R: 380mm) with aluminium brake calipers (6-piston front; 4-piston rear)
Wheels (inches) Front: 8J x 19; Rear: 10J x 20
Tyres F: 225/35 R19   R: 285/35 R20
Length, mm (inches) 4,530 (178.3)
Wheelbase, mm (inches) 2,670 (105)
Height, mm (inches) 1,202 (47.3)
Width, with mirrors, mm (inches) 2,095 (82.5)
Width, mirrors folded, mm (inches) 2,045 (80.5)
Width, without mirrors, mm (inches) 1,930 (76)
Track (to contact patch centre), mm (inches) Front: 1,673 (65.9); Rear: 1,618 (63.7) 
Lightest dry weight, kg (lbs) 1,359 (2,895)
DIN Kerb weight, kg (lbs) [fluids + 90% fuel] 1,498 (3,302.5)
Luggage capacity (litres) Front: 150 l; Tonneau: 52 l

Performance Data

0 -60mph 3.1 seconds
0-100 km/h (0-62mph) 3.2 seconds
0-200 km/h (0-124mph) 9.6 seconds
0-400 m / ¼ mile 11.0 seconds
Maximum speed (roof raised/roof lowered) 328 km/h (204 mph)/ 315 km/h (196 mph)
200 – 0 km/h (124mph – 0) braking 5.3 seconds/130 metres
100 – 0 km/h (62mph – 0) braking 3.2 seconds/32 metres


Customizing the McLaren

McLaren 570S Spider's cockpit is clean focusing the driver on driving.
McLaren 570S Spider’s cockpit is clean focusing the driver on driving.

Customers can choose from standard six-way-adjustable or optional eight-way adjustable electric memory seats, with luxurious Nappa leather or performance-oriented Alcantara® trim available at additional cost. Lightweight carbon-fiber-shelled sports seats, the same as those fitted to the McLaren P1™, can also be specified.

Three new exterior colors celebrate the Spider’s introduction, with Curacao Blue, Vega Blue, and Sicilian Yellow joining the existing Sports Series palette and giving Spider customers a choice of 20 colors in total.  The new hues dramatically showcase the complex forms of the aluminum bodywork and unique-in-class dihedral doors, particularly when combined with added visual impact with an optional Dark Palladium grey contrast finish on the roof, windscreen pillars and rear buttresses.

An all-new, 10-spoke lightweight forged alloy wheel design (19-inch front, 20-inch rear) has been crafted as an option for the new 570S Spider. For further differentiation, a new brake caliper color, Liquid Black, is also available.


Summer 2017 Availablity
The new McLaren 570S Spider will make its public debut on 29th June at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, West Sussex, UK. The 570S is available to order now from more than 80 McLaren retailers worldwide, and the first cars are scheduled to be delivered to customers in August. Each 570S Spider is hand-assembled at the McLaren Production Centre in Woking, England.


McLaren 570S Spider, a two-seater supercar.
McLaren 570S Spider, a two-seater supercar.

About McLaren Automotive:
McLaren Automotive is a British manufacturer of luxury, high-performance sports, and supercars, located in Woking, Surrey. For the past 30 years, McLaren has pioneered the use of carbon fiber in vehicle production,

and since introducing a carbon chassis into racing and road cars with the 1981 McLaren MP4/1 and 1993 McLaren F1 respectively, McLaren has not built a car without a carbon fiber chassis.

McLaren Automotive Partners             
To support the development, engineering, and manufacture of its range of innovative and highly acclaimed sports cars, McLaren Automotive has partnered with world leading companies to provide specialist expertise and technology including, AkzoNobel, Kenwood, Pirelli, Richard Mille and SAP.

Visit for more details.

McLaren's entry level 570S Spider.
McLaren’s entry level 570S Spider.

This post has been generated from the McLaren Press Release using their photographs.

Side Notes:

  • All the high-performance dynamic attributes and refinement of 570S Coupé with the added exhilaration of open-air driving
  • Third body style in McLaren’s Sports Series product family, alongside Coupé and GT
  • World debut at Goodwood Festival of Speed, UK, June 29 – July 2, 2017
  • Retractable hardtop using technology is proven in McLaren 650S and 675LT Spiders
  • Just 46kg weight premium over 570S Coupé and structural rigidity unchanged
  • Roof takes just 15 seconds to open or close, at vehicle speeds of up to 40km/h (25mph)
  • Electrically operated, glazed rear window/wind deflector
  • Unique-in-class combination of carbon fiber construction, mid-engined drivetrain layout, and McLaren dihedral doors
  • Extended rear spoiler is 12mm higher than Coupé’s to compensate change in body shape
  • 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged McLaren V8 engine with seven-speed, seamless-shift gearbox produces a class-leading 570PS and 600Nm
  • Acceleration from 0-100km/h (0-62mph) in 3.2 seconds and 328km/h (204mph) top speed are identical to 570S Coupé. Top speed with roof down is 315km/h (196mph)
  • First 400 Spiders built will be launch edition models, following success of 720S launch edition
  • Available to order now, priced from £164,750 (UK)

    Take to the open road with the McLaren 570S Spider, orders being taken Summer 2017.
    Take to the open road with the McLaren 570S Spider, orders being taken Summer 2017.

Powerful Full-Size Pickups, Perfect for Father’s Day

With Father’s Day coming up there is nothing like talking about something that guys appreciate, a good pickup truck. Attending a recent Automotive Media multi-line drive event, it was the full-sized pickups that got my attention. Diesel powered full-size pickups from GM and RAM as well as a gas powered Ford F-150 in studly Raptor trim, each was very different to drive, and for a different lifestyle.

While each had pretty much the same footprint, dual cab, standard bed, it really is the options and the lux touches that make today’s trucks so mainstream. No longer are these just for the man who makes his living working with his hands who needs a truck as a tool for hauling. Today these trucks are ready for the loading dock or to the porte-cochere, hauling towing, or going out to show off.


The bed is really the heart of a Pickup Truck as it is for hauling things. GMC's Sierra Denali shown.While pickups were once only a tool for hauling and towing and wearing muddy boots and scruffy clothes is fine, now you might have to shower & shave when driving some of these trucks.  Like the driver, these pickups also hang up the work gloves and clean up for date night.



20170518_113520Dodge RAM Big Horn Crew Cab 4X4 a hands down favorite of mine, because it is exactly what a pickup is supposed to be, a hard working truck. This one was well trimmed out for passenger comfort, and not overly dressed up. If you jumped in in mudy boots, dirty jeans and a perspiration soaked shirt, you will feel at home, and the power 40/20/40 leather sport bench seat will welcome those clean chinos and a sporty polo shirt for a non-work drive.

The RAM 2500 with the Crew Cab is truly a massive behemoth, With the extended cab and full size bed it is big and long making it not the most maneuverable in tight quarters.  Powered by a 6.7-liter I6 Cummins® Turbo Diesel Engine with a 6-Speed Automatic and full 4-wheel drive. No question this truck will get the job done, just like a rugged working man would, with a price tag as tested of just under $66K.

The RAM's key is what you have known and used since Pickup Trucks came on the scene.
The RAM’s key is what you have known and used since pickup trucks came on the scene.

The Big Horn Package is $1800 option combined with the $2795 Night Special Edition includes both functional and attractive accessories. 20 x 8 inch Black painted wheels replace the Big Horn’s Polished Aluminum Wheels, Anti-Spin Differential Rear Axle, Fog Lamps, Remote Start power 10-waydriver seat and a lot more niceties that will quickly become necessities the more you use them.

Luxury Group added $1045 to the bottom line with added lights, some LED and a color 7-inch Multi-View Driver Info Display. The Off-Road Package brings forth a Transfer Case Skid Plate, Bilstein® shocks tow hooks, spray-in bed liner and hill decent control which proves this vehicle is already set up as a towing rig.

While work may be the focus, as brute power are this truck’s strength. But there are plenty of niceties that make it fine for going out on Saturday Night.


GMC Sierra has a BIG Grill showing who is in charge of the Job Site!
GMC Sierra has a BIG Grill showing who is in charge of the Job Site!

GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD Diesel, Full size and dressed up for both work and play.  While not as flashy in sheet metal as the Ram or the Ford, it has well-tailored lines that hide the massive brute strength, like a guy in a well fitting suit. The Sierra’s muscles are all there under the nicely pressed shirt, with work gloves tucked neatly in the pants pocket. No need here to be a showoff!

The quite capable Sierra is the right mix of comfort and luxury as well. Ready when needed, to get down and dirty. At a price tag just shy of $70K no question it has a few more fancy touches, though you can take some of those off, why would you do that?

Powered by an HD Duramax 6.6-liter diesel providing the highest horsepower in the segment. The Sierra comes across as capable and well-mannered as they come. Loaded this one has everything from the leather seats and 8” color touch screen with IntelliLink.  Onstar with built in Wifi to make the rolling field office fully functional. A wireless charging spot for the phone (not all devices are compatible) and built-in gooseneck hitch capability shows us that GM is thinking like the offshore competition. Twenty-inch wheels (pretty fancy ones) and a corner step rear bumper along with capless fuel filler are just some of the features that make the GMC stand out.


Ford F150 Raptor, lots of bulges in all the right places
Ford F150 Raptor, lots of bulges in all the right places

Ford F-150 Raptor – While the others developed their bulk from working hard, this dude is the really good looking guy in the tight muscle shirt that catches everyone’s eye on a Saturday Night out at the bar. The Raptor had all the right bulges, in all the right places, though when it came to laying pipe this is more of a show truck than a work truck.

Ford F150 Raptor has plenty of switch gear for the gadget obsessed
Ford F150 Raptor has plenty of switch gear for the gadget obsessed

Mostly because it was running the 3.5 Liter Ecoboost gasoline engine, and the others were running oil burners. This test vehicle was very pretty to look at and lots of fun to fondle, with all of its buttons and switches! Just not sure I how comfortable I would be putting this truck out in a muddy job site, the other trucks might call him a prissy-truck. While he has the muscle, he got it in the gym, not sweating it out on the job site.


Ford F150 has very bold strong clean lines inside and out!The Raptor is very much the other side to pickup truck ownership that is not designed for work, it is designed as a show truck, one that you would not want to take out in the field and load it with scrap iron, but rather take it out of the garage for a Friday Night on the town or to the

Cruise-in. The Raptor is the perfect example of how the Pickup Truck has evolved in America, and how Americans are flocking to pickups not just for doing the tough jobs, but to be a part of an American lifestyle that drives pickups for shopping trips to the big box store. Hey, no matter what, the Raptor can park in my driveway anytime!

Three very different Pickups, for three very different lifestyles.  All can haul and tow, all can carry passengers, all look good, it just depends on what you want out of your Pickup. Me, I like all three, and once you have owned a pickup, it is hard not to own one! Or at least crave owning one!

2018 Volkswagen Atlas, Large & Practical

2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL VR6 AWD in Reflex Silver/Black leather interior for $48,490.
2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL VR6 AWD in Reflex Silver/Black leather interior for $48,490.

American drivers like spacious SUV’s to carry passengers and cargo. And with Minivans losing ground to the SUV with 3-row seating, we think that VW has a hit here with the new 2018 Atlas.

The Atlas is larger than their previous offering, though not a humungous sized SUV. On the inside, you will think it is, space is everywhere, from the rear seating to the cargo area, even the center console storage is large.  What makes this SUV different than others may not be the looks, we think it looks like then other boxy SUV’s on the market. The difference is that it is pure VW, clean and functional, with all the safety and tech, and none of the fluff.

2018 VW Atlas with all controls where you expect them to be.
2018 VW Atlas with all controls where you expect them to be.

Built in VW’s state of the art Chattanooga Tennessee production facility this is not a luxury cruiser. Instead, it is what VW is known for, solid practical, well-designed automobiles. When we say not a luxury vehicle, don’t worry, it still has all the touches that will not have you think you are riding in a simple tin can. Ride comfort and handling are very good. The VR6 model we drove had plenty of power for what most families will put this car through.

Exterior Design is clean and unadorned, while a traditional an almost dull rectangular box, the lines, and proportions are very visually pleasing. Rolling on 18” wheels, this is not a flashy “Look at ME” ride. But the wow factor is how well thought out it is to carry passengers and or cargo.


VW Atlas features Fender Audio as well as clean simple interior design.
VW Atlas features Fender Audio as well as clean simple interior design.

Interior Design is clean and modern, not frilly, but well finished and comfortable with good ergonomics for both the driver and all 3 rows of passengers. What will sell this vehicle is the passenger comfort in the second-row and the easily accessible cargo space. Rear seats easily fold forward for access to the 3rd row or fold down for cargo hauling. With both the 2nd and 3rd row folded down, there is more than enough hauling space for the trips to the warehouse store.

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Slipping into the driver’s seat is easy, no stepping up contorting to get in, or slithering down. Everything is within reach and where you would expect it to be, and what you expect it to be. Switches and controls are within reach, easy to find, and use.  A gear shift (eight-speed automatic only) in the center console, and stalk for the windshield wipers, no confusing what these controls do. Two screens, one for entertainment in the center that also provides in-depth vehicle information, and another one dead center between the speedometer and tachometer providing a variety of information as well as the GPS display. Seats have plenty of support and controls exactly where you would think they would be, at the side of the seat. The center console is a bit busy with the info screen, HVAC controls, and then gear shift and mode selectors as well as an electric parking brake and other switches, but that did not bother us. Visibility is good with the rear mirrors properly adjusted and using the assistance options.

The VW Atlas Dash has two well placed screens and easy to reach controls.
The VW Atlas Dash has two well-placed screens and easy to reach controls.

The Atlas is either FWD or AWD powered by a 2-liter turbocharged or a direct injection 3.6 VR6 engine with five distinct trim levels. Base price starting at $30,500 for the turbo four, $31,900 for the FWD VR6, and $33,700 for the AWD VR6. Options can raise the sticker to around $50K. VW has included a 6 year, 72K mile bumper to bumper warranty on the 2018 Atlas, the best SUV warranty in America, and it is transferrable.

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If you are looking for a modern family sized vehicle, this is one worth checking out.

Milestone for the MINI Brand in the USA

Mini S, the fun little car.
Mini S, the fun little car.

It was 15 years ago this March (2002 to 2017) that MINI USA brought the iconic British pocket rocket to the United States as a modern car. Be it the memories of the iconic little car from the 1960’s, the images of them in great movies, or the fact that MINI is now a separate brand under BMW, this car has once again captured the hearts of Americans selling more than 725K of them since 2002.

Originally, a hardtop 2-door the MINI line has grown to include four unique models, MINI Convertible, MINI Clubman and MINI Countryman, as well as a fast racing John Cooper Works edition for the street, have become well known all across the country.  MINI’s premium performance, daring design, and fun-to-drive dynamics have been hallmarks that put the fun back into the daily commute.

Mini owners gather often for driving events
Mini owners often gather for driving events

When not living in the work-a-day world MINI owners celebrate their passion for the cars through their brand exclusive enthusiasts club. This fiercely loyal owner base celebrates regularly going out on weekend drives as well as extended driving adventures. Where ever there are good driving roads, you see Mini’s in packs enjoying the open road.

MINI was ranked #1 in Sales Satisfaction by J.D. Power & Associates 6 times. The brand was also recognized as one of the Top 100 Global Brands by Interbrand, and Strategic Vision named MINI as the Most Loved Mass-Market Brand in their 2016 survey.

Mini enthusiasts love doing things as a group.
Mini enthusiasts love doing things as a group.

MINI enthusiasts are strong supporters and as customers of the brand have created demand for these little cars. With that level of demand the MINI dealer network has grown from 66 dealers in 2002 to 127 dealers in 2017 across 39 states.

To mark this special anniversary, MINI USA created a brief video compilation celebrating 15 years and counting!

Words by William West Hopper
Images courtesy of MINI USA