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    2022 Maserati MC20 Steps out of the Shadows

    Not many automakers have the audacity to take on Ferrari. But when your name is Maserati and you’re looking to crown your lineup with a new 621-hp mid-engine supercar, you’re not going to let a former partner—no matter how storied—stand in the way. The MC20 is the first mid-engine Maserati developed and produced in-house since the Bora and Merak in the early ’70s. The coupe driven here comes first; an electric version and a convertible follow in a year or so.In 1997, Maserati and Ferrari came together under Fiat, a move that curbed Maserati’s supercar ambitions. They split in 2005, and while Maserati still uses Ferrari engines in various models as part of a long-running supply deal, corporate strategy in Modena now calls for complete engineering independence from Maranello. The two-seater MC20 effectively resets the Italian carmaker, which says it will use key parts of its mechanical package—including the new V-6 engine—in upcoming models as part of a broader rejuvenation of the brand. In addition to being the top Maserati model, the MC20 will also bring the company back to racing. Dallara, an Italian race-car manufacturer, collaborated with Maserati on developing the MC20.

    The basis for the new car is a carbon-fiber tub, with aluminum substructures supporting the suspension and engine. The body is predominantly carbon fiber. Designed to accept both gasoline and electric powertrains, the MC20 is just over two inches longer than a Ferrari F8 Tributo. The gas MC20 should weigh about 3600 pounds in road spec.The engine, known as Nettuno (Italian for Neptune), is fitted with dry-sump lubrication and patented prechamber ignition technology cribbed from Formula 1. The twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 boasts 621 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. The eight-speed dual-clutch transaxle supplied by Tremec features a limited-slip differential as standard; an electronically controlled diff is optional.

    Following the latest fashion, the MC20’s steering wheel appears to have more switchgear than its dashboard.
    Maserati

    A broad powerband allows the MC20 to chug along below 4000 rpm in GT mode, where a heady torque curve provides easy thrust. But in Sport mode it’ll happily chase the 8000-rpm redline in shorter gears. The prechamber ignition system seems to foster outstanding throttle response and great versatility across the rev range. The power delivery is linear, and as with the best engines, the harder you work it, the more determined it becomes. Sound rushes into the cabin without synthetic enhancement. The speed of the upshifts is excellent, whether on part throttle or under full load, but the dual-clutch gearbox doesn’t always live up to the V-6’s greatness, with an occasional clunky downshift.We’re expecting the MC20 to sprint to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds thanks in large part to launch control. Maserati says the top speed is 202 mph, and the engine’s heroics, combined with huge levels of traction, ensure the acceleration doesn’t let up until the speedometer needle is well into triple digits.

    The mighty V-6 makes 207.6 horsepower per liter.
    Maserati

    And the MC20 turns in to corners beautifully. The carbon-fiber structure provides a rigid base, and there is a finely honed feel to the chassis, which mates adaptive dampers to a control-arm setup in front and a multilink suspension in back. The ride is good—almost daily-driver good—provided the dampers are in their soft mode. The weighting of the electrically assisted steering is light. But it’s also quick (2.2 turns lock to lock) and precise, allowing you to place the MC20 confidently at corner entry. It is a car most drivers could drive hard without real trepidation. Turn the stability control off and you can harmlessly send the rear sideways. The point of breakaway is well communicated, allowing you to unsettle the tail and then hold big slides on the throttle. Strong brakes are part of the deal. Optional 15.4-inch front and 14.2-inch rear carbon-ceramic rotors are grabbed by six- and four-piston Brembo calipers, respectively. The brakes like to have some heat in them before they bite with proper intent, but when they do, they generate breathtaking stopping power.Priced at an estimated $213,000, the MC20 takes aim at some heavy-hitting mid-engine rivals. Maserati hopes for annual sales to reach 1500, split between the roadgoing car we drove and the upcoming racing version. North American deliveries are expected later this year. The MC20 makes us wonder about all the supercars Maserati didn’t build when it was in the shadow of the prancing horse. Now that it’s unfettered by team orders, Maserati is poised to show what it can do.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Maserati MC20Vehicle Type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
    PRICE
    Base (C/D est): $213,000
    ENGINE
    twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 183 in3, 2992 cm3Power: 621 hp @ 7500 rpmTorque: 538 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
    Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 106.3 inLength: 183.8 inWidth: 77.4 inHeight: 48.1 inCurb Weight (C/D est): 3600 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 2.8 sec100 mph: 5.9 sec1/4-Mile: 10.5 secTop Speed: 202 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
    Combined/City/Highway: 17/15/20 mpg

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    2022 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition: A Sharper Edge

    Many road cars have been created around often tenuous connections to motorsports, their uniqueness frequently running no deeper than stickers and graphics. On the surface, the new Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition, with its carefully trademarked logos and an optional stem-to-stern racing stripe, fits this mold. But dive deeper and there’s actual substance to this updated Vantage, including a handful of mechanical changes that meaningfully sharpen its driving experience.

    We drove the car in England and got to experience it on both the road and racetrack, the latter being the dinky 1.1-mile Stowe circuit at Silverstone that Aston uses for high-speed testing. The Vantage F1 Edition was developed alongside the company’s full-blown Vantage safety car that is helping to maintain order at Formula 1 events this year. The roadgoing version sports a similarly broad rear wing and, in another Formula 1 connection, is available in the same shade of green used by the company’s racing team. It has also gained a new front-end treatment, with horizontal strakes filling what was previously the black void of the standard car’s grille, as well as new 21-inch wheels. Commemorative plaques aside, the interior is largely unchanged, but the Vantage F1 gains motorsport-inspired black and gray microfiber trim with bright-yellow accents.

    Aston Martin

    For F1 duty, Aston boosted the regular Vantage’s Mercedes-AMG–sourced twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 from 503 horsepower to 527 (torque remains at 505 pound-feet). The increased output isn’t that noticeable, but the revised car’s stronger character is. Its active exhaust note is loud and rorty even in its quieter mode and close to antisocial when fully uncorked, replete with fusillades of pops and bangs every time you let off the accelerator. Revised software also quickens the shift times for the standard eight-speed automatic transmission, reducing the amount of torque the engine cuts on upshifts and with a smarter algorithm to help hasten downshifts under hard deceleration. It still doesn’t have quite the quickness of a dual-clutch ‘box, but it definitely feels snappy for a torque-converter automatic.While physical suspension changes are limited, the car’s dynamic character has been substantially altered. The F1 Edition’s rear springs are 10 percent stiffer; its adaptive dampers have been revised to improve rebound damping; and the front suspension has been tweaked, tightened, and adjusted for more negative wheel camber. Software changes also come to the electronic limited-slip rear differential, which on the regular Vantage can make the car feel edgy when pushed moderately hard by sending significant amounts of torque to the outside rear wheel. The F1 Edition exhibits far less of this exuberant behavior, feeling more planted under big cornering loads and with impressive traction from its Pirelli P Zero tires.

    Aston Martin

    Despite its big wheels, the F1 Edition rides with impressive compliance over rough surfaces. Running in the dampers’ softest Sport setting (there also are firmer Sport Plus and Track modes) over poorly maintained British asphalt revealed no subjective increase in harshness compared to the standard car. Broader refinement remains a weak spot, with the Vantage’s cabin seemingly amplifying the harmonics of both tire roar and exhaust drone when cruising at higher speeds. The gloomy interior and button-strewn lower dashboard also are feeling increasingly off the ergonomic pace set by this car’s newer rivals. The 8.0-inch central display’s lack of touch sensitivity is another mild frustration.But in terms of sports-car athleticism, the F1 Edition seemed quite happy to play on the Silverstone circuit. Grip remained strong even under the higher loads allowed by the track, despite its tires being deliberately more oriented for road use. The Vantage turns hard and accurately, resisting understeer even on Stowe’s tighter corners. But it’s the behavior of the car’s rear end that really amuses, especially the progressive (and sometimes lurid) way its tail can be persuaded to step out under power. Few cars are this easy to steer with the throttle or as friendly when driven beyond the limit. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes on our test car also coped with the greater thermal loads of track driving without complaint, biting hard and tirelessly lap after lap.

    Aston Martin

    Stowe’s lack of high-speed corners denied us the chance to experience the claimed benefits provided by a new front splitter, dive planes, diffuser, and rear wing of the F1 Edition’s new aerodynamic package. Aston says that the updates can generate up to 330 pounds of downforce at the rear and 110 pounds at the front, improvements of around 200 percent over the standard car. We will say that it certainly felt planted and stable when cruising at rapid highway speeds. One clear downside of the F1’s big wing is limited rearward visibility, as it obscures a broad swath of the view through the rear window.While Aston is already working on a heavily revised version of the current Vantage, which we expect to see for 2023, the F1 Edition feels like a moderate facelift in itself. Both coupe and roadster models will be offered, with the coupe carrying a $23,000 upcharge over the regular Vantage coupe’s $142,086 starting price. Aston isn’t really touting it as a limited-edition model, and we won’t be surprised if a significant percentage of Vantage buyers opt for the F1 treatment, although we’re sure some would prefer to have theirs without the stickers and Formula 1 branding.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2022 Aston Martin Vantage F1Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe or convertible
    PRICE
    Coupe, $165,086; Roadster, $173,086
    ENGINE
    twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 243 in3, 3982 cm3Power: 527 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque: 505 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
    Transmission: 8-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 106.5 inLength: 176.8 inWidth: 76.5 inHeight: 50.2 inPassenger Volume: 47 ft3Trunk Volume: 7–10 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 3750–3850 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 3.3–3.4 sec100 mph: 7.6–7.7 sec1/4-Mile: 11.5–11.6 secTop Speed: 190–195 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
    Combined/City/Highway: 20/18/24 mpg

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    2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 Resets the Flagship

    It might have been the moment we were choosing between the Mobilizing massage or the Classic massage, but we missed a turn. A new S-class brings with it a ton of new tech, and we were so busy playing with all of it that we ignored the navigation system directing us to the Jersey Turnpike and the George Washington Bridge. The new route took us through the Holland Tunnel, landing us in Tribeca. After driving the length of Manhattan, through the Bronx, and into Westchester County, we arrived in Connecticut to rejoin the prescribed drive route.Along our improvised route, we passed multimillion-dollar lofts, high-rent apartment buildings, and suburban estates with lawns that must take weeks to mow. The S-class is exactly the kind of automobile you expect to see purring along these roads. Act like you belong, the adage goes. Mercedes’s latest version of its flagship sedan makes you feel like you do.

    Mercedes-Benz

    There will undoubtedly be AMG-tuned versions, but at launch U.S. shoppers will choose between a 429-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 in the S500 and the S580’s 496-hp twin-turbo V-8, both equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Under foot, the 496-hp V-8 seemed a bit sluggish at first, but then we hit the Dynamic button on the large central display. The darn thing was set to Eco mode, which attenuates your most immature wants with gas-saving reluctance. We skipped over the other options and went straight to Sport Plus, which lowers the body height 0.7 inch, increases steering effort, alters shift points, spruces up the engine response with a shorter throttle, and engages a less intrusive stability-control program. A 48-volt electric motor eliminates delivery delay of those abundant horses, contributing as much as 184 pound-feet of torque to the 516-pound-foot peak as well as 21 extra horsepower for short bursts. We liked Sport Plus, and the change revealed the sports sedan hiding in the sedate cruiser. Like the last two generations of the S-class, the bolsters get into the act by inflating and deflating to counteract cornering forces, a reassuring “I got you” from the car if you choose to engage the dynamic seat mode.

    Mercedes-Benz

    On less exciting roads, we took advantage of the car’s semi-autonomous driving function. By letting the S-class deal with the exigencies of traffic, we were able to fully explore the differences between 10 massage experiences, the cloud-soft headrests, and the optional 30-speaker Burmester audio system’s 1750 watts, including the in-seat resonators that deliver the bass to your backside. Our vehicle had swashbuckling red leather upholstery set against piano-black trim, but we were instantly drawn to the 12.8-inch OLED central touchscreen display and the 12.3-inch customizable screen in front of the driver. Calling up the navigation screen on the smaller display brings a convincing 3D image of the car moving through space. It works in concert with the huge head-up display that overlays turns and directions onto the reality that exists outside the windshield. It’s one of the best navigation systems we’ve ever used and gives plenty of good reasons to choose the Benz system over navigation apps run through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

    Mercedes-Benz

    Passengers get their own toys, too. The optional Executive Line package fits the back seat with two 11.6-inch touchscreens, infotainment system controls, and ventilated, heated, and outboard massaging seats that recline to 43.5 degrees. Even the headrests are heated. Since a reclining rear-seat occupant may submarine (slide under the lap belt) in a collision, the Executive Line seats come with an airbag at the base of the bottom cushion that deploys to align their torso with the lap belt. There’s an inch more legroom back there, too, thanks to the 126.6-inch wheelbase, which is 2.0 inches longer than before.If the new S-class styling strikes you as too anonymous, know that the drag coefficient is a low 0.22. If you want an even more striking look, there’s an AMG Line option that adds more visual panache via 21-inch AMG wheels and more aggressive-looking exterior trim.

    Mercedes-Benz

    If the standard 19-inch wheels don’t look as good as the larger AMG wheels, at least the smaller wheels improve the car’s turning radius. Fitted with the optional rear-axle steering, one of our favorite new-to-S-class features, the 19- and 20-inch wheels allow for up to a 10-degree steering angle at the rear axle, which makes it easier to park by reducing the turning circle to a tight 35.8 feet, 4.6 feet fewer than before. Opting for the 21-inch wheels limits the rear-axle turning radius to 4.5 degrees and yields a 39.0-foot turning-circle diameter. With all four wheels steering, the big sedan enjoys new levels of maneuverability. We cut through Manhattan traffic with the deftness of a bike messenger. At speeds of more than 37 mph, the rear wheels begin to turn in phase with the front wheels instead of the opposite direction, which increases stability by virtually increasing the car’s already long wheelbase.We made all the turns on the way home, but we did get stuck in some nasty traffic. Normally, this would turn us inside out with paroxysms of frustration. Fortunately, we were in a high-tech mobile living room with features and technology designed to make us as comfortable as possible. All of life should be this easy. While the tech can distract you enough to miss a turn, it will also take care of the worst parts of driving.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 4MaticVehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 4- or 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
    PRICE
    S580 4Matic, $117,350
    ENGINE
    twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injectionDisplacement: 243 in3, 3982 cm3Power: 496 hp @ 5500 rpmTorque: 516 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
    Transmission: 9-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 126.6 inLength: 208.2 inWidth: 76.9 inHeight: 59.2 inPassenger Volume: 120 ft3Trunk Volume: 13 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 4900 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 4.0 sec100 mph: 10.1 sec1/4-Mile: 12.5 secTop Speed: 130 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
    Combined/City/Highway: 26/28/23 mpg

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    The Everrati Signature Takes On the Air-Cooled Porsche 911 Electric

    Poll the owners of 964-generation Porsche 911s about how they would improve their cars and answers would likely include fewer oil leaks on their driveways and HVAC systems able to add actual heat or chill. We suspect very few would choose to rip out their car’s air-cooled flat-six engine and replace it with a pair of electric motors.But this is exactly what a new United Kingdom-based startup called Everrati is offering to do in return for the small matter of about $360,000 plus a donor 964 (1989 through 1993 911 models). The conversion is designed to be reversible, although it seems unlikely anyone spending so much money would ever do so. The upshot is a car that promises to be as quick as the mighty Turbo 3.6 was while weighing less than the contemporary Carrera 2. Everrati claims a weight of 3090 pounds.

    Let’s leave the contentious question of why until later because the what is certainly impressive. The Signature is considerably more than just a powerplant transplant; it’s been rebuilt to a standard that doesn’t feel far removed from one of Singer’s pieces of rolling rear-engined art. Everrati’s demonstrator uses a Turbo-style wide body, but it will also perform conversions on lesser 964s. There are some modern details but not too many—LED headlights being the most obvious. The paint finish is impressively crisp, and fat Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires sit on period-appropriate aluminum alloys. It even has exhaust tailpipes, but we’ll get to those later.
    While the 964’s core structure hasn’t suffered radical change, the demonstrator’s doors, roof, hood, and duckbill spoiler are made of carbon fiber to help save weight. Fitting the electrical powertrain wasn’t easy. Many (if not most) cars from the 1980s would be easier to convert, given the packaging constraints of the Porsche’s tight-fitting engine. In the demonstrator, two Tesla-sourced AC induction motors drive the rear axle, which is fitted with a limited-slip differential, through a common input shaft. (Everrati plans to switch customer cars to a pair of compact modular permanent-magnet synchronous motors from Integral Powertrain from the same family that will power the Lotus Evija.) The space remaining in the rear wasn’t sufficient to accommodate an appropriately sized battery, so there are two packs—the larger one in the back with a smaller one in front of the passenger compartment. These run at 400 volts, have a usable capacity of 50.0 kWh, and are connected by a cable that passes through the former transmission tunnel. (There is still room up front for a small frunk.)
    Unusually for an aftermarket EV conversion, the Signature supports fast charging through a port located under its vestigial fuel-filler cap. This can support DC fast charging up to 80 kW, allowing the battery to be taken from 20 percent to 80 percent in about 45 minutes. Everrati doesn’t quote an official range yet, but it says the car has managed more than 150 miles between charges in real-world conditions.The Signature’s cabin has been retrimmed to a high standard that corresponds to its external finish and features Porsche’s own touchscreen infotainment system for older cars. From the driver’s seat, the obvious change is with the repurposed analog instruments, with the tachometer turned to a flow/charge meter and the supplemental dials now reporting on battery voltage and charge plus the temperatures of packs and motors.Turning the key in an elderly Porsche and being rewarded by the sound of silence is far from an unusual experience, the difference with the Everrati being that it can still move away without the busy clatter of an air-cooled flat-six. The experience of a near-noiseless 964 is a deeply incongruous one, something that barely diminishes after an hour in the car. There are other small aural distractions: The 12-volt pumps for the hydraulic power steering and vacuum brake booster can be heard when the car is stationary, road and suspension noise are more obvious when moving, and the rear-mounted motors produce a distant accelerative hum under harder use. That’s where the difference between this 964 and an original is clearest.
    Even the sportiest sports cars suffer from relative performance deflation over the span of three decades—the basic Carrera of this generation made just 247 horsepower—but the Everrati feels impressively muscular by 2021 standards. The company claims it will be able to go from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds, which is what we figured for the 964 Turbo in 1994, and performance would likely be similar until at least 100 mph. Beyond that, the Everrati’s acceleration diminishes quickly. Top speed is governed to around 130 mph. There is a very slight delay in the Signature’s throttle response, but apart from that, acceleration feels both seamless and relentless. The lack of gearchanges is routine for an EV, but it feels especially strange in a 911. Combined with the absence of any engine note, this made it hard to gauge velocity by ear and meant the figures on the speedometer often seemed surprisingly high.
    The Everrati’s left pedal operates pads on discs in the normal fashion, but the motors also give powerful regenerative retardation when the accelerator is lifted. There isn’t a coast function. The regen is more than strong enough to regulate speed in everyday driving, but it isn’t a true one-pedal system, as there is no way for the car to automatically apply its friction brakes (which use Porsche’s period ABS logic) without line pressure from the driver’s foot. So, it needs positive braking to be brought to a complete halt or to be held on a hill.Traction felt impressive. The demonstrator is still using Tesla’s control algorithm to prevent slip, and the combined torque output of the two motors has also been limited to no more than 368 pound-feet. Even under full bore starts on dry asphalt, there was no obvious sense of the system intervening, although there was the unmistakable sensation of power output diminishing after repeated bursts of hard acceleration. (That’s very much a Tesla habit, to be fair.) Full capability returned once the powertrain had the chance to cool.
    Beyond the lack of combustion noise and the elimination of spark-plug and oil-change bills, the Signature’s driving experience is significantly different from a normal 964. Steering remains full of feedback—the decision to stick with hydraulic power assistance rather than use an electrically assisted rack is entirely justified—and front-end bite felt impressive. The ride is pliant and composed, too, with the demonstrator using adaptive dampers from aftermarket supplier Tractive. But the responses at the rear felt wrong when compared to our memories of the original 964, the Everrati exhibiting only a limited part of the ass-led cornering sensation that comes standard in an air-cooled 911. While the Signature’s static weight distribution is deliberately close to the donor car, with only 40 percent of the mass on the front axle. (We measured 41 percent on the front axle of a 964 Carrera 4.) The weight of motors and battery pack are further inboard than the engine and transmission of a regular 964, and that placement may contribute to less on-throttle understeer and a reduced ability to influence the cornering line through small changes in accelerator position. The result is a car that behaves more like a Cayman than an old-fashioned 911, lacking the thrown-hammer sensation that has both thrilled and occasionally terrified fans of the air-cooled car. To Porsche’s credit, the 964 solved most of the lift-throttle scaries of the 911. For those craving an original driving experience, this isn’t it.
    It’s a point made by the continued presence of the exhaust. The Everrati boasts an exterior sound system that can produce appropriately Porsche-like noises through a speaker that will use the vestigial tailpipes as resonators. This demonstrator car wasn’t able to do anything more than synthesize a (convincing) idle, but the company promises the full version will be able to replicate the full rev range under different load conditions. (It even might be able to substitute the flat-six noise for something else, like a big-cube V-8.) The company is also working on a virtual gearbox, which it says will use a manual lever to deliver different maps to replicate the torque characteristics of the original engine. All of which seems a complex and expensive alternative to sticking with a combustion version. Even Europe isn’t proposing an outright ban on hydrocarbon-fueled classics. There’s something undeniably cool about the idea of an electric Porsche 911, but the reality is noticeably short on soul. Everrati’s car is a hugely impressive piece of engineering and also a hugely expensive one. Spending all that money will bring you a car that looks like a 964 and maybe even sounds like one, but it will deliver a driving experience that also feels like a simulation of the real thing. It’s proof of how much of the classic 911’s appeal comes from both its old-fashioned air-cooled engine and its archaic location. Frankly, we’d take the oil stains.

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    2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Remains True to Form

    Jeep faced a fair amount of pressure to not screw up the 2021 Grand Cherokee L, the long-wheelbase, three-row debut model of its new fifth-generation mid-size SUV. (A shorter, more traditional two-row version will bow this fall.) Since its introduction for 1993, the Grand Cherokee has evolved into an SUV icon, an American Land Rover of sorts, flush with refinement and impressive off-road and towing credentials. Despite the outgoing two-row-only model having been on the market for a decade, updates have kept it feeling rather modern, and its brand-leading 209,000 sales last year weren’t far off the much newer three-row Ford Explorer’s. Maintaining that heritage and sales momentum is no trivial task. But based on our initial drives in several different configurations, Jeep seems to have hit the right marks with the new L.

    With the bulk of today’s mid-size SUVs offering six- or seven-seat layouts, an upsized Grand Cherokee is hardly surprising. For the L, Jeep kept its width about the same as the previous model’s yet added 15.1 inches in length (now 204.9) and 7.0 inches to its wheelbase (121.7). Available with either second-row captain’s chairs or a 60/40 split-folding three-seat bench, depending on the model, the result is comfortable, six-footer-friendly accommodations front to rear. The middle row’s straightforward tilt-and-slide mechanism affords easy access to the L’s rearmost quarters, where there are generous levels of leg- and headroom for two adults. A solid 17 cubic feet of cargo room lies behind the L’s third row; fold it flat and that space grows to 47 cubes, or 11 more than in the outgoing Grand Cherokee. Although some competitors are more capacious still, Jeep will gladly direct you to its new full-size Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer if you need even more space and a seven-slot grille.
    Speaking of which, the slight forward cant of the new Grand Cherokee’s snout is a nod to the Wagoneers of old. Accented by LED lighting all around, the L projects a handsome, appropriately stocky look that is immediately recognizable as a Grand Cherokee. We will say that the stretched proportions of this long-wheelbase model are exaggerated when sitting on the standard 18-inch wheels, but that visual imbalance is lessened with the optional 20- or 21-inchers. In any case, the design always looks much more cohesive than Jeep’s last attempt at a three-row SUV, the gangly Commander.Jeep says that the Grand Cherokee L’s body helps make it significantly stiffer than its predecessor. The brand also claims this allowed it to keep curb weights roughly the same despite the L’s growth spurt. This is a good thing, as the fourth-gen Grand Cherokee was always a pretty heavy—albeit solid-feeling—thing, with acceleration that’s more deliberate than spirited, at least in non-SRT-tuned versions. Given that the available powertrains—293-hp 3.6-liter V-6 or 357-hp 5.7-liter V-8 lashed to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission—carry over, the 4550-to-5300-pound L feels much the same getting underway.
    As before, the V-8’s strong 390 pound-feet of torque make it our pick over the comparatively high-strung V-6, which only produces 260 pound-feet of twist and must rely more heavily on the smart programming of the eight-speed for meaningful progress. The V-8’s deeper exhaust rumble and easier-going power delivery are simply a better match for the Grand Cherokee’s upscale demeanor. Figure on a 60-mph time of just under seven seconds with the V-6. Knock a half second off that with the V-8. The larger engine also unlocks the L’s 7200-pound towing capacity, up from the V-6’s still-stout 6200 pounds. Unfortunately, the Grand Cherokee’s wide-ranging capability comes at a cost to fuel economy, with the EPA issuing the L combined estimates of 21 mpg for V-6 models and just 17 mpg for the V-8. The fourth-gen Grand Cherokee diesel earned an EPA combined score of 24 mpg, but that 3.0-liter V-6 was dropped for 2020 and doesn’t return here.Underpinning the Grand Cherokee L are front and rear multilink suspensions. Air springs paired with adaptive dampers are optional. Competent and secure is the theme on the road, with a firm brake pedal, linear and nicely weighted steering, and decent body control. Regardless of the suspension setup, grip limits are relatively low, and the base wheels and thick-sidewall tires noticeably limit steering precision. But general control and ride comfort are good over everything but Michigan’s worst pavement, even on the 21-inch rollers. While the latest Grand Cherokee never feels as athletic as an Acura MDX or Mazda CX-9, the L maintains a sorted composure that will be familiar to drivers of the outgoing model.
    Despite the L’s increased dimensions and overall refinement, its off-road prowess also will be familiar to the Jeep faithful. This is the next most capable Jeep after the Wrangler and Gladiator, with three available all- or four-wheel-drive systems, each of which add $2000 to the cost of a standard rear-drive model. These include the single-speed Quadra-Trac I setup, Quadra-Trac II with a two-speed transfer case, and the top Quadra-Drive II system with low range and an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. To unlock the latter, you’ll have to spring for an Overland or Summit model, but only the Trail-Rated Overland can be further enhanced with the $1095 Off-Road Group and its underbody skid plates and 18-inch all-terrain tires. Air springs are standard on those two trims as well and can increase ground clearance from a nominal 8.3 inches to a lofty 10.9 inches. They also can drop the body nearly two inches for easier access when parked. In addition to Auto and Sport on-road drive modes, the Grand Cherokee L’s center-console selector dial also features Rock, Sand/Mud, and Snow settings. Over the tight, undulating trails that Jeep arranged for our drive, the Overland’s setup thoroughly impressed, its front-facing camera aiding us over blind crests and its 24.0-inch fording depth making moderate water crossings a nonissue. A greater rear overhang limits the new model’s maximum departure angle to 23.6 degrees versus 27.1 for the shorter gen-four Grand Cherokee, yet its angles of approach (30.1 degrees) and breakover (22.6 degrees) are about the same. Confronted with an imposingly steep, boulder-strewn hillside that Jeep said was designed to simulate a section of the Rubicon Trail, the big L clambered up it with ease, seemingly unbothered when its suspension articulated and left a wheel hanging a couple feet in the air. To be fair, there was some undercarriage scraping and a few scratches were added to our rig’s rocker panels. But it’s clear the Grand Cherokee L has what it takes to conquer far more than the landscaping at your local strip mall.
    That capability is even more impressive when you consider the finery of the L’s cabin, particularly in the higher trim levels. The latest Ram pickups have illustrated the Stellantis commitment to interior quality and design, and the new Grand Cherokee continues that trend with luxurious touches such as available 16-way massaging front seats with quilted stitching, nicely integrated open-pore wood trim, and an optional 19-speaker McIntosh audio upgrade. There’s a pleasant balance to the shapes across this Jeep’s dashboard, and its ergonomics are excellent. A 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster is standard, and the base 8.4-inch center touchscreen can be upgraded to a 10.1-inch unit, both of which run the latest responsive and highly customizable Uconnect 5 infotainment suite. On the active-safety front, almost every advanced driver aid on the market is standard, with only a head-up display, a night-vision camera, and few minor add-ons limited to options on certain models. Jeep will add even more tech later this year with an enhanced driver monitoring and assistance system that will expand the Grand Cherokee L’s hands-free cruising ability. That addition likely won’t drastically alter its broad price range, which begins with the $38,690 rear-drive Laredo model and can top $70,000 for a fully optioned Summit Reserve. Also coming this fall will be a 4xe plug-in hybrid model. And we’ll be shocked if Jeep doesn’t eventually revive the harder-core Trailhawk and fire-breathing SRT models, although probably only for the upcoming two-row version. But even in its more accommodating three-row form, the L model upholds the polished, ultra-capable reputation that the Grand Cherokee has cultivated over the years.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee LVehicle Type: front-engine; rear-, rear/4-, or rear/all-wheel-drive; 6- or 7-passenger; 4-door wagon
    PRICE
    Base: Laredo, $38,690; Altitude, $41,890; Limited, $45,690; Overland, $54,690; Summit, $58,690
    ENGINES
    DOHC 24-valve 3.6-liter V-6, 293 hp, 260 lb-ft; pushrod 16-valve 5.7-liter V-8, 357 hp, 390 lb-ft
    TRANSMISSION
    8-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 121.7 inLength: 204.9 inWidth: 76.7 inHeight: 71.5 inPassenger Volume: 131 ft3Cargo Volume: 17 ft3Curb Weight (C/D est): 4550–5300 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 6.4–6.7 sec1/4-Mile: 15.0–15.5 secTop Speed: 120 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/City/Highway: 17–21/14–19/22–26 mpg

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    Prototype Drive: 2022 Porsche Macan GTS Powers Up

    Porsche has drawn a lot of attention lately for its electric-vehicle efforts, namely for the Taycan sedan that’s currently on sale, but also for the upcoming electric version of its Macan small SUV. Just recently, we spied development mules of the upcoming Macan EV in Germany, indicating that it appears to be on track for an introduction in 2023. But what about the rest of the Macan lineup? Proof that the company hasn’t neglected the gas-engine models came recently when we traveled to Stuttgart to drive a prototype version of the facelifted 2022 Macan, which will be the current model’s seventh year of production.

    For most automakers, seven years would represent a vehicle’s full generation and signal that it’s high time to introduce a successor. Porsche, however, has once again reworked the existing, 10Best-winning Macan—the last was for the 2019 model year—updating it with a freshened styling, a revised interior, and a series of tweaks to its conventional powertrains. The number of models within the lineup also has been reduced. When sales begin in the United States later this summer, there will be three models: Macan, Macan S, and Macan GTS. The Macan Turbo has been dropped from the lineup, replaced in part by the upgraded GTS.
    The latest Macan’s exterior changes are rather mild. Up front, there are new bumpers across the range, and the accent panels on the lower part of the doors have gained a new texture. At the rear, there is a new bumper with a more prominent diffuser. There is also a revised range of wheels, including the 21-inch RS-design units on the GTS prototype we drove. The changes to the interior are similarly modest, although they do make for a more pleasant driving environment. We weren’t allowed to photograph any of it in detail, but there’s a shortened gear selector, a new multifunction steering wheel, a new digital instrument cluster, and an updated center touchscreen. The Macan GTS adds a GT sports steering wheel from the 911 along with sport seats and various Alcantara trim pieces.The new GTS will provide similar performance to the outgoing Turbo. Under the GTS’s hood is the Turbo’s twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6—rated for 434 horses and 406 pound-feet of torque—and should propel the SUV to 60 mph in a similar 3.5 seconds. The 375-hp version of the 2.9-liter that previously powered the GTS now calls the Macan S home. In the base model, the 2.0-liter turbo-four’s output is bumped up to 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet, gains of 13 and 22, respectively.
    The prototype GTS certainly benefits from the Turbo’s heart transplant with greater low-end grunt and a stronger pull through its midrange, although it remains willing to spin to its 6800-rpm redline. Those who considered the Macan Turbo a little lacking in drama will definitely prefer the new GTS and its raspier exhaust note, which can easily be toned down for subdued cruising. This broad flexibility is bolstered by the continued fitment of Porsche’s responsive and almost clairvoyant seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. But what really sets the GTS apart is its handling, which feels sharper and more composed than before. Few, if any, SUVs stand out for their dynamic qualities, but this one definitely does. Porsche has done a lot of detailed work here, including revisions to the adaptive dampers and air springs, which are 10 percent stiffer in front and 15 percent firmer at the rear. The prototype we drove also was fitted with sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa summer tires, sized 265/40R-21 up front and 295/35R-21 in back.
    On the road, the GTS’s crisp steering feels nicely weighted and probably more involving than you’ll find in any other SUV. Aided by standard all-wheel drive and an optional torque-vectoring rear axle, our prototype exhibited exceptional poise and agility in corners, as well as large amounts of grip. As before, ride quality is adequately compliant in the suspension’s default Comfort mode but quite firm in Sport—almost too firm over poorly maintained surfaces. Still, there’s excellent wheel control over bumps, and the ride never feels unbearably harsh.There’s a welcome familiarity to the revised Macan, but you can also sense the improvements. There’s a more purposeful look to the exterior, and the detailed interior changes give a more contemporary feel if no more stretch-out space, which we’ve always described as intimate.
    It’s the Macan GTS’s driving experience that will win over prospective buyers more than anything else. Yes, this was a prototype and our drive time was limited to mostly traveling in a convoy with Porsche’s development team. But it was quickly obvious that the GTS continues to deliver a level of driver engagement that you won’t get in a BMW X3 M or a Mercedes-AMG GLC63. Expect pricing for the updated GTS to fall somewhere between the 2021 model’s $73,450 entry point and that of the $85,950 Turbo. While Porsche’s updates haven’t resulted in a revolutionary driving experience, they should be more than sufficient to keep the Macan GTS a highly compelling performance SUV until an electric version shakes up the lineup.

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    Tested: 2022 Honda Civic Grows Up

    The outgoing 10th-generation Honda Civic left a mark. Nimble, engaging, affordable, and efficient, that Civic had everything an entry-level car shopper could want. For those looking beyond entry level and toward performance, the Civic’s performance-minded siblings, the Civic Si and Type R offered even more excellence for not much more money. Now a new generation is here, and it has all of the things that made us love the last one, wrapped in a package that is a departure from its polarizing predecessor.When we say the new car has all of the things that we loved about the last one, we mean that (almost) literally. Although the 2022 Civic is entering its 11th generation, the machinery is largely carried over from the 2021 model. Base versions are still powered by a 158-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but the optional turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine (tested here) gains 6 horsepower and 15 more pound-feet of torque compared to the last Civic, for a total of 180 hp and 177 pound-feet. [image id=’f23713e1-9907-4cc9-9b33-e0d9552544e4′ mediaId=’c5ff49f6-0132-4554-9877-cb81bb5a9f3f’ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’6×4′][/image][pullquote align=’center’]HIGHS: Massively improved exterior design, upscale interior, reasonably priced.[/pullquote][editoriallinks id=’2d532099-1e43-4c70-8e5d-10020ab81270′ align=’left’][/editoriallinks]Both engines still come bolted to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Manual buyers are out of luck and will have to look to the performance-oriented models in the wings. The CVT and engines receive light changes to boost efficiency and minimize vibration. The fuel economy gains vary by trim level. The EPA estimates the 2.0-liter engine’s efficiency will improve by 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway in the base LX trim—that’s 31 mpg city and 40 mpg highway for the new car. The 1.5-liter turbo engine has bumped up its EPA rating by 1 mpg in the city in both the EX and Touring trims for 33 and 31 mpg, respectively.Our test of a 2022 Civic Touring suggests that those efficiency tweaks may have affected acceleration. With the turbo engine, the new Civic needs 7.5 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph and 15.8 seconds to cross the quarter-mile mark. We wrung out plenty of previous-gen Civics with the 1.5-liter turbo and a CVT, and they were all in the neighborhood of a 6.8-second sprint to 60 and a 15.2-second quarter-mile. The new car carries 130 more pounds, possibly gained in the interest of greater structural rigidity, but we’d expect that sort of weight gain to add just a tenth to 60-mph acceleration times. [image id=’72de15cf-2842-446e-a903-2e047b1fdf09′ mediaId=’145db565-3ad9-4a22-84d3-d0396b333405′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image][pullquote align=’center’]LOWS: Unexpectedly slower than before, the pulse-pounding models aren’t out yet, best content reserved for top trim.[/pullquote]Honda assures us that its internal tests showed only a 0.1- or 0.2-second gap between the old car and the new one, but our test car was slower in nearly every metric. Its rolling-start 5-to-60-mph figure slipped by 0.6 second, and while it matched the previous-generation car’s 4.0-second 30–50-mph passing time, the 50–70-mph time was worse by 0.2 second. We’re working on testing a second Civic, so we’ll have to see if our low-mile test car is an outlier or representative of the new model. Given the mechanical similarities between the generations, the rest of the new Civic’s numbers line up almost exactly with the old car’s. A respectable skidpad grip result of 0.83 g on the Touring’s 18-inch all-season tires is no surprise, given that we already knew the Civic had stable and secure handling. The braking distance from 70 mph has shrunk by 4 feet to 174 feet in the 2022 model. The steering is just as light and accurate as it was in the previous-generation Civic. The basics of Honda’s entry-level sedan haven’t changed, and aside from slower-than-expected acceleration from our test car, we don’t mind.[image id=’a07f0a2b-30e1-46f3-af43-343a5255ca9b’ mediaId=’3f79ecca-c857-4e85-8616-ec42193104f4′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’6×4′][/image]But that’s all prologue to what has changed about the Civic. Its looks have been totally overhauled, inside and out. Gone are the various cutlines and fake vents, replaced by a design that borrows heavily from the Accord and appears more premium and mature than the previous Civic.Inside, the new Civic is comfortable and well thought out. A 1.4-inch longer wheelbase goes primarily toward the comfort of rear-seat passengers. Front seats are wider in the shoulders to fit bigger people more comfortably, and after several hours in them we emerged happy. The center console area is covered with a textured and attractive material instead of the currently trendy piano-black trim that looks great until it’s covered in fingerprints. At 70 mph, the new car registered 69 decibels, a significant 2 decibels below its predecessor.[image id=’2917a34e-2ef4-4042-9059-c2adad004e4e’ mediaId=’d2829d2b-3f90-4739-8eed-805f43cbe28e’ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]Some of the best features are reserved for top Touring models like our test car. The Touring has an easy-to-use 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a convenient ledge to rest your hand on while engaging with the screen. All models get a real and easy-to-use volume knob. There’s a Bose-branded audio system—a first for a Civic—plus a wireless charging pad.More mature and upscale than its predecessor and much of its competition, Honda is largely holding the line on pricing. Base LX models will start at $22,695, which is $450 more than in 2021. The Touring trim costs $29,295, the same as the outgoing model. Perhaps the best news of all is that our favorite Civics are still awaiting the 11th-generation treatment. The Civic hatchback, which will be available with a manual transmission, is due to be revealed next week, and we’re expecting performance-oriented Si and Type R models in the months ahead. If those models look as good as this one does, we’ll all be in for a treat.[vehicle type=’specpanel’ vehicle-body-style=” vehicle-make=” vehicle-model=” vehicle-model-category=” vehicle-submodel=” vehicle-year=”][/vehicle]

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    2022 Lexus IS500 Brings Back the V-8

    About a decade ago, compact sports sedans offered naturally aspirated V-8s that absolutely ripped. Before everyone went turbo, the E90 BMW M3, the B7 Audi RS4, and the W204 Mercedes C63 AMG crammed in sweet-sounding V-8s to create experiences that we still remember fondly today. Now that we’re feeling sufficiently nostalgic for those four-door screamers, we’ll get to the point that Lexus apparently shares our passion for those cars, because the new 2022 IS500 is essentially a return of Lexus’s V-8 compact sedan, the IS F.There are no turbos under the IS500’s hood. What is under there is closely related to the IS F’s 5.0-liter V-8 from a decade ago. The engine—shared with the RC F—now produces 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque, or 56 more horsepower and 24 more pound-feet than its spiritual predecessor. In a turbocharged world, the V-8’s horsepower and especially its torque numbers aren’t at the level of the M or AMG models’, so Lexus is setting expectations by positioning the IS500 as an F Sport Performance model rather than a full-blown IS F.

    What does that mean for the IS500’s driving experience? We can’t quite say yet, but we did recently get the chance to ride in the passenger’s seat of the IS500 prototype at an event at Eagles Canyon Raceway in Texas, near Toyota’s headquarters in Plano. Professional race-car driver Townsend Bell was behind the wheel.Keep in mind that the IS500 prototype we rode in wasn’t exactly the same car that you’ll be able to buy at Lexus dealerships later this year. Wrapped in an obnoxious neon-yellow and black livery, this car was specially prepped for the IS500’s debut at Sebring International Raceway earlier this year. It wore an aftermarket exhaust, 20-inch wheels, and grippier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires compared to the stock car, which will have 19-inch wheels and the same Bridgestone Potenza S001L summer tires as the IS350 F Sport with the handling package.This means that our impression of the IS500’s handling isn’t exactly representative, but we weren’t behind the wheel anyway. We can tell you that the 5.0-liter V-8 engine is a lovely addition to the latest IS and brings back a lot of those tingly V-8 memories. We’re familiar with the glorious sound of this Lexus V-8 by now, and it makes itself known in the IS500. Although the prototype’s aftermarket exhaust surely enhanced the auditory experience, we’d still rather listen to this characterful engine run up to its 7300-rpm redline than a BMW M3’s twin-turbo inline-six.
    Unlike the V-6-powered IS350 F Sport we drove that day on the test track, the V-8 has the grunt to shove you into the back of your seat, and the eight-speed automatic transmission upshifts and downshifts quickly. Lexus claims that the IS500 is 143 pounds heavier than a rear-wheel-drive IS350, and we assume that most of that weight is in the nose. Like the IS F that came before it, a noticeable hood bulge is the clearest sign that this is packing something special under there.Thanks to the ability to completely deactivate stability control, the IS500 will play as much as you like—as Bell demonstrated by easily swinging the tail out wide for a satisfying drift. It also features the same torque-vectoring rear differential that’s optional on the IS350 F Sport. But this car is not meant to be a track monster, and we felt plenty of compliance in the suspension tuning, with more body roll than you’d find in an M3 Competition or a C63, for instance.We’re enticed by the overall package that the IS500 promises to deliver, and we hope that the price is attractive enough to further increase its enthusiast appeal. Lexus has strongly hinted that it will be positioned closer to the M340i and AMG C43s of the world, meaning it could bring back a V-8 to the low-$60,000 range. If so, this could become the hidden gem of the sports-sedan world. Now all that’s left is for Lexus to let us in the driver’s seat.

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