New Luxury Contender

By Derek Price

Genesis, the upstart Korean luxury brand, launched with three cars designed to show the world it means serious business.
The G70, G80 and G90 put European and Japanese competitors on notice that Hyundai’s luxury ambitions were no joke. They’re serious contenders, not value players.
There was just one problem. Those first three vehicles all were four-door sedans, a segment of the market that has been shrinking at a time when consumers — especially the well-heeled consumers luxury brands battle over — are clamoring for bigger, more truck-like SUVs.
Finally, Genesis has released a product that could put it on the map in a more noticeable way with American buyers. And boy, it’s a good one.
The new GV80, Genesis’s first SUV, is one of the most impressive vehicles I’ve driven in years. It gets so many things so right, from the eye-catching lines of its body to the rich ambiance of its cabin filled with easy-to-use technology inside, that I think other vehicles will spend the next few years catching up to it.

The GV80 is Genesis’ first-ever SUV, and it sets the tone for where this upstart luxury brand is aiming.

It starts with a predictable staple in the luxury-car playbook: style it inside and out in a way that makes the owner feel special.
To my eyes, where most crossover SUVs look like bloated jellybeans, the GV80 looks more like a tailored suit. It seems tightly fitted and unique, especially in back, where horizontal lines and elongated taillights would look at home on an Italian exotic car.
I also love what Genesis did with the grille, which is monstrously big to keep up with today’s design trends but also not as garish as the contemporary BMW and Lexus schnozes. It evokes the spirit of a classic Bentley, right down to the winged logo on the hood.
If you think the outside is pretty, just wait until you step inside.
The GV80 has the nicest cabin materials and design of any SUV I’ve tested under $100,000. Some aspects of it — like the quilted leather seats, soft carpet and sculpted door panels — mimic the same look and feel that cost megabucks in a Rolls-Royce or Bentley.

Air vents are seamlessly integrated into the GV80’s beautifully designed dash.

The design is gorgeous, including natural feeling wood and cold-to-the-touch metal switchgear, but I think my favorite thing about it is the ventilation. All the vents are integrated cleanly into the dash as if they’re one piece, a very different and more visually refined approach than the awkward adjustable air nozzles found in most cars today.
Technology in the GV80 is abundant and easy to use, including a semi-autonomous driving mode that can change lanes when you command, a digital instrument cluster that looks three-dimensional, and a head-up display on the windshield that shows icons that represent the cars driving around you. It’s remarkable for its capability and simplicity.
The driving feel is no less impressive. With your choice of two turbocharged engines, acceleration feels effortless and responsive. Handling is surprisingly crisp and precise in turns considering how smooth it feels on the highway.
Given how enamored I was with my tester, you might expect it to be the most expensive vehicle in its class. But it’s not, not by a long shot.
Pricing starts at $48,900, and my test vehicle rang up under $65,000 with all the niceties, including the optional 375-horsepower engine.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Genesis GV80 AWD 3.5T Advanced ($59,150). Options: Premium paint ($400), advanced package ($5,200). Price as tested (including $1,025 destination charge): $65,775
Wheelbase: 116.3 in.
Length: 194.7 in.
Width: 77.8 in.
Height: 67.5 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 (375 hp, 391 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 18 city, 23 highway

Style: 10
Performance: 9
Price: 10
Handling: 9
Ride: 9
Comfort: 10
Quality: 9
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
It’s impressive in every way. Handsome styling, an incredibly plush cabin, easy-to-use technology, and a quiet and smooth highway ride make it a truly luxurious way to travel.

Posted in Genesis

Ranger Adds Tremor

By Derek Price

Ford continues to make its Tremor off-road package more widely available, including on the mid-size Ranger this year.
The Tremor package transforms the Ranger into an off-road beast, and it’s meant for people who otherwise might buy aftermarket lift kits and bigger tires to modify their trucks for higher ground clearance.
The advantage to buying it through the factory instead of the aftermarket is simple. All the off-road goodies come with the truck from the start, which is easier than installing yourself. It also qualifies for financing with the truck and comes with a factory warranty.
Is it worth the extra $4,290, though? It depends on how much you value that warranty and a well-engineered system.
The Tremor package is a serious upgrade for the Ranger. Compared to the standard 4×4 version, the Tremor is wider, has more ground clearance and suspension travel along with better angles for approach, departure and breaker — all key numbers for off-road enthusiasts.

Ford is making the Tremor off-road package available on the Ranger this year. A higher ride, more suspension travel and wider stance help with capability on the trails.

Ford calls it “the most off-road-ready factory-built Ranger ever offered in the U.S.,” and they’re right.
FOX dampers are at the heart of the Ranger Tremor, just as they are in its much more famous big brother, the F-150 Raptor. FOX 2.0 monotone dampers with reservoirs in back help keep the truck stable over rough terrain, along with tweaks to the front and rear suspension setup.
Beefy, 32-inch Continental General Grabber all-terrain tires do a good job finding traction on rough and muddy paths.
The Tremor includes some styling upgrades, too, including handsome Magnetic gray paint, hoop-style steps and “red nostril inserts,” as Ford calls them.
Inside, the Tremor gets black accents and special “Tremor” stitching on the back of the Miko suede seats.
It can tow up to 7,500 pounds, which Ford claims is best in class, and haul a maximum payload of 1,430 pounds in the bed.
My favorite thing about the Tremor package on the Ranger is how integrated it feels. It’s impressively quiet on the pavement, even at highway speeds, and doesn’t suffer from the bounciness or harshness that plague many modified off-road trucks. It adds lots of capability but doesn’t make you suffer for it.
Like most new vehicles, the Ranger makes driving-assistance features available to help reduce the driver’s workload. Lane keeping assist, blind-spot sensors and adaptive cruise control all help with safety and awareness, although they’re only available on the higher trims.

An 8-inch touchscreen can run SYNC 3 in the Ranger, a mid-size truck that can tow up to 7,500 pounds.

Overall, I like the Ranger’s right-size approach, especially as full-size trucks keep getting bigger. This is a truck that can still do serious work — towing 7,500 pounds is no small feat — but is easy to park and simple to maneuver in traffic.
A 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine is the only choice, but it’s a good one with 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on tap. A 10-speed automatic transmission makes precise, snappy shifts and does a good job finding and holding the right gear.
An 8-inch can run SYNC 3, Ford’s digital interface that continues to add features and get speedier with time. It also can run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to connect smartphones through the truck’s screen.
If I could improve one thing on it, that would be the interior. The cabin feels out of date and has more plastic than I like to see on any new vehicle, especially one priced uncomfortably close to $50,000 like my Tremor tester.
Pricing for the base Ranger XL starts around $25,000. Being a truck in 2021, though, prices can quickly rise as you add options and features.
The better-equipped XLT starts at $29,120, while the Lariat with leather seats, 18-inch wheels and push-button start is priced from $33,160.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Ford Ranger 4×4 SuperCrew ($38,795). Options: Equipment Group 501A ($2,005), Cyber Orange paint ($595), spray-in bedliner ($495), Tremor off-road package ($4,290), SecuriCode keypad ($95), paint protection ($345). Price as tested (including $1,195 destination charge): $47,815
Wheelbase: 126.8 in.
Length: 210.8 in.
Width: 85.8 in.
Height: 71.5 in.
Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged four cylinder (270 hp, 310 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19 city, 19 highway

Style: 6
Performance: 8
Price: 7
Handling: 5
Ride: 5
Comfort: 6
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
The Tremor package gives the Ranger more off-road capability and avoids the need for aftermarket upgrades. It’s remarkably refined for an off-road-focused truck.

Posted in Ford

Rapid Exclusivity

By Derek Price
As a psychological barrier, $100,000 seems like a dividing line between normal cars and ridiculous cars.
Yes, the value of $100,000 goes down every year and might only buy a small pile of plywood in 2021, but it’s also still unusual to find a car with a six-digit price. When a car passes that arbitrary threshold, my expectations get higher.
This week, I’m driving a car that Lexus has pushed into that rare territory, the RC F Fuji Speedway Edition.
For some perspective, the regular Lexus RC sports coupe starts around $42,000 with a 241-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine or roughly $45,000 with a 311-horse V6.
For $66,000, you can get the high-performance RC F with an unusual engine from an imported brand: a naturally aspirated V8 that makes a meaty 472 horsepower. It’s one of the most exciting cars Lexus makes — even more so than the beautiful but pricey LC — and shows how committed the company is to building serious performance cars that rival the best German products for sale today.
If that’s still not enough speed and exclusivity for you, the Fuji Speedway Edition fills the gap.
When you add an extra $30,000 onto the RC F’s price, you end up with what Lexus is asking for the Fuji, of which only 60 units will be built. It’s priced at $96,675, or a bit over $100,000 after you add the options included on my tester.

The Fuji Speedway Edition of the Lexus RC F adds a long list of carbon fiber, aerodynamic and braking upgrades to create an exclusive and pricey track car.

I like the fact that this car is a special edition that’s actually special. It’s extremely exclusive with limited production and upgrades that actually make it faster, not just for appearance.
Carbon ceramic brakes, a titanium exhaust and acres of exposed carbon fiber on the hood, roof and wing mounted on the trunk help to reduce weight and make it better for track days.
Lexus claims it can accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in 3.96 seconds.
Still, I find it hard to justify that price premium, at least as a value shopper. The Fuji seems to be more about exclusivity than simple bang-for-the-buck. It even comes with its own limited-production watch to drive home the point.

The RC F Fuji’s cabin is impressively quiet for such a hard-edged, lightweight, track-focused machine. Red leather and lots of red accents, including woven into the carbon fiber trim, make it look as racey as it drives.

The Fuji Speedway Edition looks and feels like the rare, special car it is, and not just from the carbon-fiber overload and special paint finishes on the body. It’s also spectacularly eye-catching on the inside with vivid red leather, red stitching, and even more red woven into the carbon fiber accents that are applied liberally throughout the cabin.
As for the performance, my initial gut reaction was “meh.” It’s extremely fast but it didn’t deliver the over-the-top, violent acceleration I hoped from a car that looks so flashy and costs so much.
The longer I drove it, though, the more I loved it. My initial antipathy turned into lust based on its handling, which is noticeably better and more engaging than the standard RC F. Straight-line acceleration isn’t what this car is about, yet that’s why my initial reaction was based around.
The carbon-ceramic brakes seem to never fade, no matter how hard you push them, including during my track time at Texas Motor Speedway’s infield road course. And the handling kept inspiring more confidence and more enjoyment as I spent more time with it — the mark of a perfect track-day car.
Better yet, it’s a perfect track-day car that doesn’t beat you up on the drive home. It’s sedate and surprisingly silent for long highway drives.

 At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Lexus RC F Fuji Speedway Edition ($97,100). Options: All-weather package ($130), triple-beam LED headlamps ($1,160), premium audio and navigation system ($2,725), intuitive parking assist ($500), carpet trunk mat ($120), alloy wheel locks ($85). Price as tested (including $1,025 destination charge): $102,845
Wheelbase: 107.5 in.
Length: 185.4 in.
Width: 72.6 in.
Height: 54.7 in.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 (472 hp, 395 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 16 city, 24 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 9
Price: 5
Handling: 9
Ride: 7
Comfort: 6
Quality: 10
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
It’s a truly special edition with limited production and track-focused upgrades. It starts with the impressive performance of the RC F and makes the braking and handling noticeably better.

Posted in Lexus