Saturday Road Test – 2019 Ram – Off Roading And Hauling in Luxury

2019 Ram 1500 Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4

First drive of a 4×4 For Your Crew
By Ron Amadon

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Climb on board the big black truck, settle into the embroidered leather trimmed seats, hear the subdued growl of the fired up 5.7-liter V8, gaze around the luxury appointments and you are almost ready to join millions of Americans and “go truckin.”

But first, let’s get some music. The Ram truck people had already programmed the 19-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system to the only satellite channel one could want in this instance. Yet, I laughed out loud when I saw it was “Willie Nelson’s Outlaw” channel.

Perfect!

The pickup had robust pick up from the big Hemi inspired V8. The stats:

A 5.7 liter rated at 395 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 410 lb-ft of torque @ 3,950 rpm with an eight-speed automatic controlled by a rotary dial.
Ram recommends mid-grade 89 octane for maximum performance but it will run on 87 octane. It is EPA rated at 15 mpg city, 21 highway and 17 combined.

And this truck was ready to go off road in search of real four legged Longhorns.

There was over 8 inches of ground clearance, numerous skid plates to guard the vulnerable parts, hill descent control, heavy duty shocks, all terrain tires, locking rear axle, and even off road decals not to overlook the tow hooks.

So if Aunt Lisa’s summer cottage is out in the boonies, this truck will get you there for your family’s summer vacation. There is a reason the Ram performed admirably in a recent mid-west “Mudfest.”

Yet equipped with the optional Air Suspension, the ride over the concrete test road with a side of potholes was superb, with only the slightest thump over the expansion strips.

Wind noise was not a factor.

Now about that interior.

There is real “Red Barn” wood inside, both the front and rear seats are heated with dual zone automatic heating and air conditioning keeping the interior comfortable. Unexpected was the leather and wood trimmed steering wheel.

The 12-inch touchscreen has split-screen capability or full-screen single application operation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are accepted.
Operation of that big screen was, thankfully, fairly intuitive. It was surrounded by buttons for ventilation control, and below were knobs for the audio system. Thank you FCA for that!

Some terrific sounds emanated from the 900 watt surround sound amplifier and 10 inch subwoofer with active noise cancellation.

The center arm rest opens to reveal a dozen different storage combinations and it will hide from prying eyes a 15-inch laptop. There were five USB ports on the center console, three up front and two in back.

Safety wise, the test truck came with Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, and Blind-spot Monitoring among other items.

Got a trailer? It will tow up to 12,750 pounds with a maximum load in the truck bed of 2,300 pounds and take it from me that is a lot of mulch. The truck bed has four adjustable tie down hooks.

For 2019, the Ram is 225 pounds lighter than the model it replaced with increased use of aluminum to form the hood and tailgate.

With $11,591 worth of options, the test truck carried an MSRP of $66,935 including $1,649 for delivery.

At the unveiling of Fiat Chrysler’s five year plan, officials said their goal is for the Ram to replace the Chevrolet Silverado’s long standing claim as the nation’s second best-selling truck behind the Ford F-150.

While the first drive was short, it would be fair to say the Ram will be a strong contender.

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Auto News for June 8 – One Automaker Just Turned 70!

Porsche 70
There is a big birthday in the auto world today – Porsche turns 70! It was seven decades ago when the first vehicle to bear the Porsche name, the 356 “N0.1” roadster received its street certification. To mark the event many dealers are inviting owners of some of the older models to drop by and display their wheels and chat with other owners.

The anniversary year comes to a close in late September with the largest Porsche gathering in the world, Rennsport Reunion VI, at the legendary WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California. Vintage and contemporary Porsche race cars, their drivers, and Porsche engineers are the stars of this event, which drew nearly 60,000 people when it was last held in 2015.

Ferry Porsche, son of Ferdinand Porsche, designed and built the original 356 in 1948 to create something new for the time: A sports car combining superb driving dynamics and performance with efficient everyday usability. Early motorsport successes inspired the company to continually develop the 356, as well as other legendary sports cars like the 550 Spyder and 904 GTS.

The 911 was first introduced in 1963 and became the quintessential sports car for everyday driving.

Today the lineup includes the 718, Panamera, Cayenne and Macan. The next step in the evolution of Porsche as a sports car company comes next year with the all-electric Mission E.

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Kia has gone all-electric. At a motor show in Korea, the automaker unveiled the Niro EV with a claimed range of 236 miles when equipped with the 64-kilowatt-hour battery. Those who opt for the smaller 39.2 kWh battery get a range of 149 miles.
The EV will arrive in Korean showrooms later this year with global distribution to begin sometime after that.

We will go truck’n this weekend following a first drive of a fully optioned Ram truck. It will go off road, haul big trailers and coddle its occupants. Watch for the Saturday Road Test – right here.

Volvo announced it will not have a display at the 2019 Geneva auto show adding it will “continue its move away from traditional auto industry events to focus on bespoke activities to introduce its new cars, technologies and service to media and consumers.”

“The ongoing change in the car industry is creating new audiences for Volvo Cars and new ways of bringing products to the market,” said Björn Annwall, senior vice president of strategy, brand and retail at Volvo Cars. “Automatic attendance at traditional industry events is no longer viable – we must tailor our communications based on how the options complement our messaging, timing and the nature of the technology we are presenting.”

Freedom Motors USA Silverado

Freedom Motors is now offering a line of full size pickups and SUV’s that are wheelchair accessible. The lifts are available on five passenger trucks and 7 passenger SUV’s and have a 750 pound capacity “specially designed to withstand extreme temperatures, and is built to last with an industrial grade stainless steel floor and side skirt,” the company said.
The lifts open up the great outdoors to thousands.

 

Auto News for June 6 – New BMW X5, Musk on Model 3, Cadillac on Self Driving

 

 Good grief! Has it been 20 years since BMW launched the X5 model? Well this morning it presented the 4th generation of the “Sports Activity Vehicle” with two turbo engines.

  A 335 horsepower, 3.0-liter, 6 and a 456 horsepower 4.4-liter 8, with both married to an eight speed Steptronic transmission. The new eight’s peak torque of 479 lb-ft is available over a broad rev range from 1,500 to 4,750 rpm, while its maximum output of 456 hp is on tap between 5,250 and 6,000 rpm. This results in a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.6 seconds.

 A new optional Off-Road Package with air suspension and a new rear locking differential will be offered.

 BMW’s “Live Cockpit Profession” features a couple of 12.3-inch displays. Audio buffs should probably go for the optional Bowers & Wilkins system with 20 speakers (!) and 1,500 watt output.

  A navigation map and BMW ConnectedDrive services can be accessed from the rear seats.

 Pricing will be announced closer to the on sale date in November.

 Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it is “quite likely” the company will meet its goal of manufacturing 5,000 Model 3 cars a week. The statement moved Tesla stock higher in pre-market action. Speaking at the company’s annual meeting, Musk said the target should be reached by the end of this month. Musk also asserted the company will be cash flow positive in the third and fourth quarter.

 Cadillac announced that the “world’s first true hands-free driver assistance” feature known as “Super Cruise” will be available on all models beginning in the year 2020.

  After 2020, Super Cruise will make its introduction in other General Motors brands.

 Here is what GM had to say about the system:

 “The Super Cruise driver assistance feature is made possible by precision LiDAR map data, high precision GPS, a state-of-the-art driver attention system and a network of camera and radar sensors. It requires an active OnStar service plan with emergency services to function. Customers can drive hands-free on more than 130,000 miles of limited-access freeways in the U.S. and Canada. The driver attention system helps to keep drivers engaged and detects when drivers need to pay more attention to the road. Even while using Super Cruise, drivers must always pay attention and not use a handheld device.”

 

 

 

 

Auto News for June 5 – Gas prices lower, Winny goes boating

 For the first time since Mid-March the national average gas price has gone down. AAA said the average price is now $2.95 a gallon a decline of two cents over the past week.

“Nearly 80 percent of Americans say the price of gasoline is too high at $3 per gallon. So it’s welcome news for motorists to see gas price averages decrease in 33 states on the week,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA gas price expert. “Crude oil prices are falling, but it likely won’t be enough to drop gas prices more significantly this summer.”

 The wife and kids have long wanted an RV. The hubby of the house has desired a top quality boat since he was a teenager. Now you can fulfill those desires from the same company.  

 Winnebago has acquired Chris-Craft, the legendary boat builder that dates back to 1874.

 Terms of the deal were not released.

 It expands Winnie’s reach in the outdoor lifestyle market beyond RV’s and trailers, and gives it “a strong base on which to build an additional revenue platform over time,” the company said.

 Chris-Craft has been owned by a London based company, Stellican, since 2001.

 Experienced race car drivers and others who know the course say it was the track and not the driver that led to the crash of the Corvette ZR1 pace car at the Detroit Grand Prix over the weekend.

 The driver, was GM Executive Mark Reuss.

 In a Facebook statement, and quoted in the Detroit News, Reuss said he “let down my friends, my family, Indycar, our city and my company. Sorry does not describe it. I want to thank our engineers for providing me the safety I know is the best in the world.” Reuss and his passenger were not injured.

 Drivers said the track surface changes where the crash took place and there is a small elevation as well that caused even some of the IndyCars to spin out during practice.

 Raybestos and a partner have restored a 1953 Chevrolet pickup that will now hit the road for a tour of North America.

 Schwartz Performance installed its bolt-in “G-Machine” chassis system as well as an off-the-shelf performance disc brake upgrade package, using Raybestos components and disc brake pads. In addition, over 20 suppliers partnered to help restore and modify the pickup.

 Once the tour is complete, the truck will be awarded to an automotive professional at the Aftermarket Products Expo in Las Vegas in October.

 If you want to see how it was restored go to:

 http://www.raybestosbuild.com

 In China this morning Audi introduced a new Q8 that is slightly lower, shorter, and wider than the Q7 and seats five.

 The new Q will take on rivals such as the BMW X6 and the Mercedes GLE coupe in a segment that some call the Coupe-like Crossover.

 Two screens dominate the familiar Audi interior, a 10.1 inch display for controlling the infotainment and navigation systems, and an 8.6 inch display below that for heating and air conditioning as well as convenience functions and text input

 Audi’s virtual cockpit features a 12.3 inch screen in front of the driver and there is also a head up display.

 Individual user profiles allow as many as 400 preferred settings to be stored for multiple drivers.

 All drive systems will feature a mild hybrid technology.  

 The 48-volt primary electrical system incorporates two technology modules: a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter. During braking, it can recover up to 12 kW of power and feed it back into the battery.

 Two diesel engines will be initially offered overseas, but don’t look for them here.

 A safe assumption is the Q8 offered here would have the same engines as the Q7. That would be a 2.0-liter turbo four with 252 horsepower or a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with a more robust 333 horsepower.

 Both come with an 8-speed automatic.

The Q8 will launch in Europe in the third quarter of this year. U.S. launch dates were not announced.

 

 

 

Auto News for June 4

FCASign3
The Fiat, Dodge and Chrysler brands will survive the five year plan laid out by CEO Sergio Marchionne until they require a substantial investment to upgrade them, according to the Detroit Free Press.

This as the company’s plan focuses on Jeep, Ram truck, Alfa and Maserati brands where FCA sees the greatest chance for profitability. Headed for the history books one day are the older brands such as the Dodge Journey and Durango, the paper said, adding the outlook for the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger is not bright.

2018 Dodge Charger in B5 Blue

In the end, it comes down to that great old song: “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away …”

At the Detroit Grand Prix, a $120,000 Corvette ZR1 that was the pace car slammed head on into a concrete wall. And the driver was Mark Reuss, GM’s Executive Vice President of Global Product. Neither Reuss nor a passenger were injured but the start of the race was delayed for a half hour. Veterans of the track said the crash occurred on a tricky part of the course.

Volvo and Subaru have reported sharp sales gains in May while Mitsubishi said it was the best May in 11 years. Jaguar Land Rover reported its best May sales ever, but Mercedes said demand rose only 0.3 percent.

Kia rose 1.6 percent while Hyundai was up ten percent. Porsche reported its fifth consecutive month of record sales this year lead by the 718 Boxster and Cayman.

Overall, several industry watchers said the month came out better than expected.

 

 

Saturday Road Test – VW Tiguan

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2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T SE

Not Too Big, Not Too Small

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Some of my friends down south might look at the new Tiguan and say, “It’s all grow’d up!”

And they would be right. It is 185.1 inches long now up from 174 inches in the old model and rides on a wheelbase that has been stretched 10.6 inches. That tops the length of the Toyota RAV4 by five inches and four inches in wheelbase.

Of course that opens up more cargo space, up to 58 percent more than the previous model, VW claims. A total of 65.7 cubic feet with the second and third row seats folded. Third row seats did you say? More on that coming up.

There are four trim levels available, S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium. Customers can choose between front wheel drive and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive. All models are matched to an 8-speed automatic.

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Obviously, the equipment level improves with each move upward but the power plant remains the same.

A 2.0-liter turbocharged four with 184 horsepower @ 4,400 rpm and 221 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm. The EPA estimates 22 mpg in the city, 27 highway for a combined 24 mpg on regular unleaded.

In slower speed driving here in suburbia, the Tiguan power train had excellent pickup, but press down hard above about 50 mph and speed picks up more slowly. Yet acceleration times are in line with others in this segment.

The test Tiguan handled road imperfections rather nicely and handling was what most owners would expect in this type of vehicle.

Noise levels were generally subdued except when you put the wood to the accelerator. Wind noise was not an issue at interstate speeds.

The third row seats are available as an option on most all models, for an extra $500. They are easy to access thanks to the sliding second row, but they simply do not offer enough room unless your offspring are quite small. Best fold them down for use “some day” or save the $500.

The SE trim wears 17-inch “Tulsa” wheels and features a chrome exterior package to compliment a welcome and very modern exterior design to my eye.

Tiguan SE and SEL models feature heated leatherette seating surfaces along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Tiguan SEL and SEL Premium models are equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen display. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both welcome.

The driver’s seat was 10 ways adjustable with lumbar support with a 6 way manual alteration for the front seat passenger including height adjustment.

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There was abundant space for adults in the first and second rows. The “Composition Media” system offered AM/FM/satellite in the touchscreen, a CD player, 2 USB inputs, all routed through a crisp six speaker system.

Also on board was Automatic Climate Control with second row air vents.

The power liftgate was a nice touch but the button to lower it was not on the liftgate but mounted on the left side of the cargo area. Nighttime lighting of the cargo space left much to be desired.

Other notes:

The Habanero Orange metallic paint was a $295 extra.

The available towing hitch can be used to pull up to 1,500 pounds when properly equipped.

VW offers a 6-year 72,000 mile limited warranty.

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In today’s market the test Tiguan represented a good buy. With delivery it bottom lined at $29,275.

That included a Rear View Camera, Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, and if all goes amuck, a Crash Response System.

So there is good value for the dollar here, especially if you want to haul cargo in a very stylish set of wheels. VW has a Tiguan in its lineup that will match your needs and bank account.

Check it out!

Factoid.

Base prices for the Tiguan: S model, $24,595, SE $26,750, SEL $31,090, and Premium $36,250.

 

 

Auto News for June 1 – FCA’s bets on the future & May industry sales on the rise.

The Ram Truck brand unveiled a limited edition of its all-new 2

If you are selling tons of Ram trucks and Jeeps it should come as no surprise the two brands top future expansion plans in Fiat Chrysler’s five year strategy announced this morning in Italy.

The Jeep brand will be more robustly pushed globally with a goal of gaining a 20 per cent share of the sport utility market. Look for 10 hybrid and four full electric Jeeps by the year 2022.

Officials said Ram will introduce a mid-size truck down the road. The return of the Dakota? Officials said their goal for Ram is to escape its third place standing in sales behind Ford and Chevrolet by expanding its full size truck offerings into new areas.

Renewed emphasis will also be placed on the Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands worldwide. Maserati will get a new SUV and sports car while Alfa expands with 2 new SUV’s, GTV sports car and an 8C.

Thus far, there has been no information regarding the future of the Chrysler and Dodge brands at today’s presentation. The rumor mill said FCA is considering two things – ending U.S. sales of Fiats and terminating the slow selling Chrysler brand.

CEO Sergio Marchionne surprised the gathering by wearing a tie with his trademark sweater at least for part of the day. He hates ties.

This is likely to be his last major plan presentation ahead of his expected retirement at the end of the year. The CEO said FCA will be cash flow positive by the end of this month, a long standing goal of his.

FCA will establish a financial services arm to provide U.S. customers with more options to finance vehicle purchases.

If all that wasn’t enough, auto makers are releasing their May sales reports today.

Ford posted 0.7 percent sales increase with lower fleet sales but higher retail results. Demand for the F-150 pickup rose 11 percent, same for the Mustang. Sales were also strong for the Lincoln Navigator and the Ford Expedition.

2018 Ford Super Duty F-250 Lariat

“The generational shift from passenger cars to SUVs continues with industry retail passenger cars sales estimated to be down 10 percent, while SUV sales are up 13 percent,” Ford said bolstering its recent decision to curtail the manufacture of most of its cars.

Fiat Chrysler said May was its best month for retail sales since July 2005 with a gain of 11 percent compared to May of 2017.

As has been the case in recent months, Jeep and Ram trucks were the company’s top sellers with Jeep sales up 29 percent last month.

Chrysler sales fell 18 percent, Dodge was up 4 percent, and Fiat sales fell 46 percent.

GM now only reports sales results on a quarterly basis. We will hear from them next month.

Kelley Blue Book reported the estimated average transaction price for light vehicles was $35,635 in May 2018. New-vehicle prices increased by $1,187 (up 3.4 percent) from May 2017. KBB said pickup trucks played a big role in the increase.

Mazda sales rose 15.1 percent with the Mazda 6 leading the charge and the CX-5 posting its best ever May sales.

Over at Toyota, sales dipped 1.3 percent even though Toyota and Lexus posted their best-ever light truck sales in May. But demand declined for the Camry, RAV4, Avalon, and Camry.