Saturday Road Test – F-150 Meets Paw Paw!



                      Ford F-150 4×4 Supercrew

                    “Almost Heaven, West Virginia…”          

By Ron Amadon

PAW PAW, WVA. – Okay, the idea was to find out how this “Ingot Silver” big and heavy 4×4 stood up to the “mountain mama” hills of West Virginia with just a V6.

 To wit, the 3.5 EcoBoost V6 with 375 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm with 470 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm. Did this truck really need a V8?

 And would the new 10-speed transmission have heart failure with all the steep ups and downs that characterize a favorite route out of the getaway town of Berkeley Springs.  

 Well, the V6 never broke sweat conquering the hills, and the ten speed was such a smooth operator that the frequent shifts were really not noticeable.

 “Nice truck,” said the man parked next to me at the Paw Paw combination gas station, deli, restaurant, grocery store, and THE command center for neighborhood gossip. Situated deep in a valley, internet connectivity and social media are just a rumor.

 A local flyer available at the checkout advertised “affordable bankruptcies.” I thought, “How could that be?”

 Thankfully there were places to test the 4×4 that gave the truck a chance to get coated with some good West Virginia mud, so that it blended rather nicely with the other vehicles out and about. The F-150 climbed some muddy and potholed grades with ease, forded a couple of small streams, and chugged along with ease over what once was a railroad right of way.

 During a very full day behind the wheel, the nation’s best-selling vehicle for the past 39 years was as comfortable as sitting in your favorite easy chair at home.

 Back out on I-70, the F-150 cruised along at 70-75 in a quiet, relaxed manner as it engaged the low, low 10th gear.

 The leather wrapped seats were heated and cooled, and the spacious rear seats were also heated. There was plenty of room back there for adults, or the seats folded down for added cargo space. Further, Ford included their inflatable second row seatbelts that will provide additional protection for a passenger’s chest in the event of a crash.

 Even up Maryland’s South Mountain, the six and the ten speed were quick with the power to pass weighed down semis, and not so weighed down Smart Cars.

 Basic controls were all within reach, the 8” touchscreen was easy to figure out, and the audio system had real knobs for volume control and tuning. Thank You Ford!

 All right, I will fess up. I enjoyed the Bluegrass channel on satellite for my Paw Paw journey, but what else ya gonna listen to over here?

 Gas mileage. Now that is probably something you are wondering about. The EPA rates the test truck at 17 city, 23 highway for a combined 20 mpg. After a week of any kind of driving you can imagine I came in at 18.6 mpg. I only filled up once thanks to the huge 35 gallon tank.

 Suffice to say this truck will haul big loads and lug large trailers. Ford offers a huge variety of combinations to match anyone’s towing and hauling needs.

 In fact that is the case right across the board with a miles long list of options that allow you to tailor the pickup to match your slightest whim.

 With the Lariat Sport Appearance Package, spray in bedliner, Adaptive Cruise Control, a welcome tailgate step, park assist and a technology package, among other things, the test truck carried an MSRP of $59,600.

 At the end of the week long test period, I was truly sorry to see the F-150 go away. It did everything I wanted it to do with ease and comfort. I confidently predict that the F-150 will continue as the nation’s best seller well into the future.


 A note about the town. It is home to 500 or so souls, and is not named for an early Indian tribe as you may have guessed. Instead, the name comes from a wild fruit which grows in abundance throughout the region, according to Wikipedia. CSX freight trains wiz through town virtually unnoticed by most.  




Auto News for April 7 – Old & New At NYC Auto Show

 Honda used YouTube to reveal the new Si coupe and sedan that will go on sale next month at a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range. The first turbocharged Si has 205 horsepower that kicks in 1,300 rpm lower in the rev range. Also increased peak torque of 192 lb-ft, a gain of 18, produced 2,300 rpm earlier and sustained over 70 percent of the rev range. Better yet, customers can select a 6-speed short-throw manual transmission. Coupe and sedan models will be offered.

 Available for the first time in the U.S., the Audi RS-3 sedan will make its North American debut at the New York Auto show next week. It comes with a five-cylinder engine that produces 400 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque mated to a seven speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. Audi quotes a 0-60 of just 3.9 seconds. It is the first compact Audi sedan to wear the RS Badge with all-wheel drive standard. A limited number of 2017 RS 3 models will be produced and the first to arrive here will feature carbon fiber inlays, Audi virtual cockpit with MMI Navigation plus, Bang & Olufsen Sound System, 19-inch, five-arm-blade design wheels with titanium finish, red brake calipers and the RS sport exhaust system with black tips. Look for an MSRP of $54,900. Wonder if these two were chasing each other down the same road!!!!


 Also in the Big Apple, will be a celebration of New York State’s automobile heritage with a special exhibition curated by the Saratoga Automobile Museum.  Listed below are just some of the vehicles — made or raced in New York — that will be on display at this year’s Show: 

1909 Alco-6 Racer (raced)

1923 Franklin Series 10B Sedan (made)

1947 Playboy Prototype (made)

1950 Allard J2 (raced)

1956 Midget Racer (raced)

New York State was once home to over 100 different automobile manufacturers. Some early New York made cars became famous for quality, reliability and endurance. Buffalo produced the Thomas Flyer, which in 1908 attracted worldwide attention by winning the New York to Paris race and in 1911 by placing second at the Indianapolis 500. 

 Former GM CEO Rick Wagoner is joining the board of directors at ChargePoint, one of the nation’s largest electric-vehicle charging networks.

 And former FBI Director Robert Mueller III is expected to be named by a judge to oversee disbursement of nearly $1 billion restitution in the Takata air bag case. Mueller also had a role in settlement of the VW diesel emissions matter.

 And that is not over yet. Honda is voluntarily recalling about 37,000 model year 2003 Accord 2-door models to inspect passenger front airbag inflators. Honda said it is possible that, after sale and prior to the May 2016 recall of Takata passenger front airbag inflators, replacement airbag modules containing Takata inflators may have been installed in some vehicles as part of non-recall repairs. No inflator ruptures have been reported involving replacement airbag modules. If the Takata inflators are found they will be replaced for free at your dealer’s shop. It said owners of the 2-door, 4 cylinder coupes should check with their dealer to schedule an inspection.

 Hyundai and Kia are recalling 1.3 million vehicles due to a defect in the Theta 2 engine that could cause it to stall out due to possible metal debris in the crankshafts, Automotive News reported. Being recalled are models with the 2-liter turbo and 2.4-liter gas direct injection engines manufactured before August of 2013. The recall, just announced this morning, must be approved by U.S. officials. Look for further details later.



Auto News for April 6 – Performance Thursday!


 Audi said its 2018 R8 V10 + will be the first in its lineup to feature laser light technology. It will be a blue light active at speeds of 40 mph or above when conditions permit and supplement the LED high beam and “greatly” enhance visibility for the driver, Audi said.

 The R8 V10 + will start at $194,400 minus transportation.

 On April 12 at the New York Auto Show, the winner of the World Car of the Year awards will be announced. For the first time, three crossovers monopolize all Top 3 sports for the overall World Car of the Year award. Here are the finalists:

 2017 World Car of the Year: Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Pace, and VW Tiguan

 2017 World Luxury Car: BMW 5 Series, Mercedes- Benz E-Class and the Volvo S90 / V90

 2017 World Performance Car: Audi R8 Spyder, McLaren 570S, and Porsche Boxster / Cayman

 2017 World Green Car: Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model X, and Toyota Prius Prime

 2017 World Urban Car: BMW i3, Citroen C3, and Suzuki Ignis.

 2017 World Car Design of the Year: Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes Benz S-Class Cabriolet, and Toyota C-HR

 The World Urban Car is a new category this year. Journalist from 23 countries do the voting.

 Chevrolet is adding a performance package to its full size SUV lineup this fall to be called the Tahoe RST and the Suburban RST, or Rally Street Truck. You will be able to identify one by the lack of chrome but what might really catch the attention of potential buyers is the availability of the 6.2 liter, 420 horsepower, 460 lb-ft of torque engine in the Tahoe RST. It will be attached to Chevy’s new 10 speed automatic. A performance package includes Magnetic Ride Control suspension calibrated for a performance vehicle.

 Not to be outdone, Jeep will announce a high performance version of the Grand Cherokee at the NYC show. It will boast the 700 horsepower Hellcat V8. Acceleration should be brisk.


Auto News for April 5 – New Buick Regal

 Buick has released pictures and details of its 2018 Regal Sportback with available all-wheel drive, and a 2.0-liter turbo four with 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive models will come with an eight speed automatic with front wheel drive Sportbacks getting a nine speed. Buick says there is more overall cargo space then the Audi A5 Sportback and the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe with 60.7 cubic feet behind the first row. Rear seats can be had either in a 40/20/40 or 60/40 combination. It is said to be 200 pounds lighter than the earlier model. Four trim levels will be offered with pricing to be announced closer to the on-sale date in the fourth quarter of this year. Buicks’ new offering is based on the Opel Insignia that made its world debut at the Geneva show last month. A station wagon model will be called the TourX.

 The highest paid CEO among the Detroit three? GM’s Marry Barra with total compensation of $22.6 million last year. That is roughly $6 less than the previous year due to stock options.

 Can a 3.5-liter V6 adequately power a full size 4×4 pickup over West Virginia’s mountains? The answer comes in Saturday’s Road Test column. Don’t miss it.

 Michael Winkler, the CEO of Bentley’s operations in the U.S. will step down on June 1. Automotive News said he will be replaced by Audi of America’s COO Mark Del Rosso.

 It will be 2026 to 2031 before the typical driver will able to acquire a fully autonomous vehicle, according to Ken Washington, Ford’s Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering. He told the SAE International Congress that ride service operations will get an almost fully autonomous ride in 2021.

 Did you know that in April of 1901 New York was the first state to require license plates on motor vehicles?







Auto News for April 4 – March Sales Weak

 Sales Head South – Car Sales Lag

 Consumers continued their love affair with trucks, crossovers and SUV’s last month, but cars, you know those four door former darlings, generally did little but eat up space on dealer lots.

 Overall sales fell 1.6 percent in March, the third monthly decline in a row. as car sales tanked to the tune of 11 percent. But industry execs were quick to point out that sales of trucks, SUV’s, and Crossover rose nearly 5.2 percent.

 What all this means is if you walked into most dealerships and inquired about buying a car they might kiss your toes and kick in a free cup of coffee.

 Ford sales were off 7.2 percent overall, Fiat Chrysler saw a 4.6 percent fall, while GM posted a 1.5 percent increase.

 Here the theme continued. Ford sold a lot of F-150 pickups but car sales slumped 24.2 percent. At GM, Cadillac, Impala and Malibu demand was down but truck heavy GMC saw a 12 percent sales gain.

 A bit different story at FCA, where Jeep sales were off but Dodge sales rose just shy of 10 percent. Ram trucks remained in demand, up 6 percent.


 Toyota down 2.1 percent

 Nissan up 3.2 percent

 VW up 2.6 percent

 Hyundai down 8 percent

 Mazda up 4.9 percent

 Porsche up 3.6 percent

 Subaru up 11.3 percent

 Volvo down 21.9 percent

 It is a certainty that many auto makers will have to step up incentives still further as car sales continue to lag. It is worth noting that Subaru posted record March sales and its 64th consecutive month-over-month sales gain led by the Outback, Forester and WRX. So somebody is selling cars.

 The New York Times reports that Tesla has now moved past Ford for second place in terms of stock market value. Ford dropped to third position among investors and the Times said Tesla is now within striking distance of Number One GM.

 Mercedes parent company, Daimler is joining forces with Bosch to “advance the development of fully automated and driverless driving.” They have signed a development agreement to bring fully automated driving to urban roads by the beginning of the next decade. The two firms said, “The car comes to the driver.”

 The “Fast Lane Truck” has given the 2017 Ram 3500 its Gold Hitch award for the heavy-duty segment. The 6.7-liter Cummins diesel-powered Ram 3500 Heavy Duty took top honors for outstanding pulling power, braking, fuel economy, comfort and handling under extreme towing conditions.






Auto News for April 3 – Tesla’s Record & a Mini That Cooks!

 Welcome back baseball. This is Auto News because your author is a baseball fan and lots of people drive to the park! Plus it is a welcome sign of spring even if some fields had to be shoveled out.

 Tesla delivered just over 25,000 vehicles in the first quarter, and that is a record. That breaks down to 11,550 Model X and 13,450 Model S vehicles approximately. Tesla now turns its attention to the lower priced Model 3. Production will begin in July if current schedules hold.

 Up early this morning was Honda. It reported total March sales of 137,227 vehicles, down a fraction from one year earlier. Honda itself sold 1.8 percent more vehicles, but Acura sales fell 21.2 percent to drag down the total. Hot sellers were the Honda CR-V and the smaller HR-V.

 On average, consumers paid $34,342 for their new ride last month, a gain of $587 from March 2016. Compared to February, prices paid fell 0.4 percent, according to Kelly Blue Book.  “While numbers for automakers are mostly flat to slightly positive, there are signs of weakness in some popular vehicle segments. Perhaps most notably, the full-size truck segment is down 2 percent year-over-year, a rare occurrence for this category, which has seen large price improvements over the last few years. Also, transaction prices for subcompact SUVs, one of last year’s hottest segments, are down 3 percent as demand for the small utility vehicles appears to be leveling off,” said Tim Fleming, a KBB analyst.

 Fiat Chrysler will begin full production of the Pacifica Hybrid on April 7th with shipping to dealers starting on April 17. “We are taking great care to ensure that the Pacifica Hybrid comes off the line with the highest quality possible. We will only introduce a vehicle when we are fully satisfied the vehicle meets or exceeds customer expectations,” FCA said.

 Called “America’s First-Ever Hybrid Minivan” it is said to have a range of 33 miles in full electric mode, and a driving range of 566 miles. The lithium-ion battery can be fully charged in two hours with the available 24-volt charger.

 You probably have heard about the John Cooper Works Mini, but soon buyers of the convertible model will be able to add a John Cooker package. As you can see in the picture this turns the little car into a mobile street vendor. With a solid oak food sales and preparation surface along with an induction cooker with hood. Getting into the business will cost you $1,959 for the Cooker package. I read through the entire press release, and saw no mention that this is kind of a left over April Fool’s joke. Nope. This is for real.  


Saturday Road Test – Toyota Yaris iA – Economical Fun



                         Toyota Yaris iA

                    An Unexpected Discovery

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Can one still find an economical, well equipped, fun-to-drive compact car at a more than affordable price? Say well under $20K?

 Yes! It is called the Toyota Yaris iA and that might stand for interesting ancestors.

 The family tree works like this. iA is a carry-over from the Scion brand that has been discontinued. Yaris is a moniker for another Toyota small car, but it is a distant cousin.

 What we really have here is a sedan version of the updated Mazda 2, a model that is no longer available in the U.S. Mazda makes the iA for Toyota and once you step inside you will see familiar Mazda touches such as the versatile 7-inch screen and the center console mounted controls that are instantly recognizable as right out the Mazda parts bin.

 Because Mazda builds cars that are entertaining, hence the “driving matters” slogan, this smartly styled sedan made running errands in suburbia quite enjoyable.  

 A Mazda 1.5-liter four with 106 Hp @ 6,000 rpm and 103 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm is the one and only power plant.

 MPG comes to 30 in the city, 39 highway and 34 combined. I registered a very nice 36.3 mpg. Regular unleaded, of course.

 Buyers have a choice of a 6-speed automatic that might be the proper selection if you spend a great deal of time in traffic jams. If you don’t, let me recommend the 6-speed delightful stick shift.

 That old measurement, 0-60 is in the high eight second range, yet not unusual for an economy sedan. The 1.5-liter four did like to rev egged on by the stick and once you get up to interstate speed, the noise level abates to a level not expected in this price range.

 How? Well the sixth cruising gear kept rpms low, but encounter a long, steep hill, and you will be quickly and easily downshifting to gears five or four.

 Here is the nicest feature of the interior. All controls are easily reachable and a cinch to decipher.

 The front seats were comfortable with more than adequate room all around. Two demerits for the lack of a center console arm rest, and cup holders that Mrs. Auto Evaluator thought were too far to the rear.

 Entering the back seats took a bit of athleticism with   knee and leg room at a premium if a six foot tall human occupied the front seat. Fold those 60/40 split seats down, and there was an abundant 13.5 cubic feet of storage. Leave them up, and there is still a fairly deep storage area with a lid to discourage potential thieves.

 Neat features included keyless entry, halogen headlamps, power outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators, AC, rear view backup camera, power windows and locks, audio controls on the steering wheel, and a standard low speed pre-collision safety system. You would pay more for many of these items in Yaris iA competitors.

 With zero options and $865 for transportation added in, the test Yaris carried a more than reasonable MSRP of $16,815.

 By the way, don’t go looking for the options table. Other than the dealer installed navi there are none. Everything that is offered is standard and that’s not a bad way to sell cars, especially economy sedans.

 Despite the modest power, the iA was fun on curve infested back roads with quick steering, a rev happy four and that lovely manual shift.

 In fact, it set me to wondering. If Toyota were to drop a little turbo on that four, perhaps some beefier tires, and a light rework of the suspension, then knock out the rear seats, and add a sporty convertible body would you not the have the MR2?

 (Goodness, I miss that car!)


Tire Size 185/60R16

Wheelbase 101.2 inches

Overall Length 171.7 inches

Overall Width 66.7 inches

Overall Height 58.5 inches

Tread Width (Front/Rear) (inches) 58.9/ 58.5

Wheel Size 16-IN / 5.5J Alloy

Wheel Type and Material Alloy

Ground Clearance 5.5 inches