Raptor Offers Thrills

By Derek Price

The breadth of the pickup truck market never stops surprising me.
There are stripped-down trucks for the job site. There are obscenely priced, leather-filled luxury trucks for looking classy and riding in comfort. There are heavy-duty trucks designed for towing and hauling.
But perhaps the king of them all — and certainly the most exciting pickup I’ve ever driven — is this one, the Ford F-150 Raptor.
There are plenty of exciting off-road trucks that do a spectacular job of traversing trails with their lifted suspensions, armored underbellies, four-wheel-traction-control wizardry and Kevlar tires. That’s not what the Raptor is about, though.
The Raptor is designed not just for off-roading, but doing so at stupid-fast speeds.
Other trucks crawl over rocks. This one obliterates them.
I just spend a week driving Ford’s desert-blasting masterpiece, and even though there are no changes for 2020, it remains the same jaw-dropper it’s always been.
The latest iteration of the Raptor is powered by an enigmatic engine: a V6 with just 3.5 liters of displacement. By ordinary truck standards, that’s small. By performance-truck standards, it’s shockingly tiny.

With a wider, higher stance than most trucks, the Ford F-150 Raptor looks like a beast. It also has beast-mode performance with the ability to do high-speed off-road driving.

A turbocharger provides enough boost, though, to push its output to 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. While part of me misses the older Raptors’ V8 grunt, the wailing sounds and impressive numbers make the current iteration even better than the old V8s.
Driving it is a hoot, even on city streets. It has enough power to roar away from stoplights like a muscle car, with an angry exhaust sound to match.
What sets the Raptor apart from every other pickup for sale today isn’t the power. It’s the suspension.
The Raptor uses Fox-brand racing shocks that make it perform, more or less, like the monster trucks that barrel through the Mexican desert every year in the Baja 1000. It feels almost magical to drive through a cow pasture at 60 mph, something that would be painful and damaging to most trucks, while the body seemingly floats on a cushion of air, isolated and almost serene.
In reality, it’s science, not magic, that makes it behave this way.
The racing-style shocks are built to transfer huge amounts of energy between the heavy truck and the rough terrain over which it blasts. They use intense gas pressure and continuously variable compression to help the pickup glide over otherwise inhospitable paths, along with sensors and electronic adjustment that helps it react to the changing terrain.
It looks the part, too, with a menacing face and wide stance. Other trucks try to mimic its bad-boy look, but the Raptor’s appearance is purposeful. Other than the wild graphic prints that are optional on the body, the visual features that make it look so mean and imposing are functional, not just decoration.
Its Recaro sport seats aren’t there for style. They pin you in place for Baja-style driving.
The same thing applies to its wheel arches, which are carved out to allow maximum space for the insane amount of motion its wheels can embark on over rough roads.
From both a style and engineering perspective, it’s a remarkable machine. No other factory-built truck does what a Raptor can do.

The Raptor’s purposeful interior matches its aggressive body, including an iconic mark on the steering wheel to help the driver judge angles and supportive Recaro sport seats to hold torsos in place.

What are the downsides?
For one, it’s kind of silly. No one needs to drive through deserts and fields at freeway speeds, which is the entire premise of the Raptor. It’s thoroughly illogical, which could also be an advantage depending on how you see the world.
And, no surprise for a 450-horsepower truck, fuel economy is terrible. It’s rated for 15 mpg on the city and 18 on the highway.
It’s also pricey, starting at $53,455 before you add any options. My Raptor SuperCrew tester rang up at nearly $75,000, or almost enough to buy three base-trim F-150s.
For people with the means and a sense of adventure, though, the Raptor remains the most thrilling factory-built pickup truck on the planet

At A Glance

What was tested? 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor Supercrew ($55,840). Options: Equipment group 802A ($9,365), exterior graphics package ($1,075), blue accent interior package ($2,395), tailgate step ($375), 17-inch wheels ($1,895), technology package ($1,695), second row heated seats ($125), spray-in bedliner ($595). Price as tested (including $1,595 destination charge): $74,955
Wheelbase: 146 in.
Length: 231.9 in.
Width: 96.8 in.
Height: 78.5 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter high output EcoBoost V6 (450 hp, 510 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 18 highway

Style: 10
Performance: 10
Price: 7
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
It’s an absolute thrill to drive. The same remarkable suspension that makes it glide over obstacles also makes it impressively supple for on-road driving.

Posted in Ford

An All-Around Winner

By Derek Price

Since it debuted 22 years ago, Honda has sold more than 5 million units of the CR-V crossover.
That makes it the most popular vehicle in America’s most popular category over the past two decades. And after driving the latest version, it’s easy to see why.
This is a CUV with no glaring downsides, including how it looks, how it drives and how it functions for family transportation. Even within the red-hot, highly competitive midsize crossover segment, you have to search far and wide to find vehicles that outdo it in specific areas.
The Mazda CX-5 is more fun to drive, by a sliver. The Toyota RAV4 looks more rugged and has a special package for off-roading, something the CR-V lacks.
But as a whole package, the CR-V is compelling for five reasons: fuel economy, interior packaging, handling, value and reputation.
My tester came equipped with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, which is now standard equipment after being an upgrade on lower trim levels last year.

A 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is now standard equipment, not an upgrade, on the popular Honda CR-V.

Not only does it offer much better acceleration than last year’s naturally aspirated base engine, but it also offers gas mileage that could be celebrated on Earth Day. Even with the extra traction and drag of all-wheel drive, my tester was rated at an impressive 27 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway.
As for the interior, Honda has long been one of the best magicians for making small vehicles feel and act bigger than they are. Every tiny pocket of space in the CR-V seems like it’s been carefully carved out to be as useful as it possibly can be.
It keeps getting better, too. One example is the new center console this year, which allows several options for configuring the storage space and moves the USB plugs to more convenient spots. The overall feel inside is one of thoughtful design, solid construction and generous spaciousness.
From the driver’s seat, there’s an added benefit: a responsive, quick feel.
The CR-V’s steering, brakes and suspension work in tandem to make you feel connected to the road, not isolated from it. And despite the rewarding sensations, it still seems as quiet — perhaps even quieter — compared to the last time I drove its Toyota nemesis, the RAV4.
Its mixture of fun in corners and comfort on the highway is unmatched at this price point.
Honda aims to deliver not just a quality product, but also a lot of equipment per dollar, a big reason it’s sold so briskly. That continues in 2020 with the addition of bigger, 19-inch wheels, wireless phone charging and a heating steering wheel on the Touring grades, more standard safety equipment on the lower grades and, the most important change, the standard turbo engine this year.
And if you believe in reputations, Honda has one of the best long-term track records for dependability in the world.

A new, configurable center console with more convenient USB plugs is among many smart storage spots inside the CR-V.

To get picky — as anyone buying a midsize crossover this year should be — there are two things I’d change on it.
One is the infotainment system. The CR-V doesn’t have Honda’s latest platform this year. It still works fine for what I use it for, primarily running my phone through Apple CarPlay, but the graphics and responsiveness aren’t the best I’ve seen from this brand, much less the whole market.
The other is its continuously variable transmission (CVT). In a vehicle that otherwise seems designed by people who care about the driving experience, a CVT saps some fun from what could be an even better, more responsive vehicle.
Pricing starts at $25,050 for the base LX, a $600 increase over last year but considerably less than the previous turbo upgrade would have cost.
The EX-L grade with leather seats, a power tailgate and other upgrades is priced at $30,050, while the Touring luxury grade costs $33,250.
A new CR-V Hybrid is also available this year starting at $27,750.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2020 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring ($34,750). Options: None. Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $35,845
Wheelbase: 104.7 in.
Length: 182.1 in.
Width: 73 in.
Height: 66.5 in.
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder (190 hp, 179 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Continuously variable
Fuel economy: 27 city, 32 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 8
Price: 9
Handling: 8
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
Snappy handling, good fuel economy and brilliant storage solutions in the cabin make it one of the strongest all-around crossovers for sale today.

Posted in Honda

Electric Benefit, Gasoline Range

By Derek Price

Tesla and Toyota generate the lion’s share of electric-car and hybrid headlines, but the vehicle I’m driving this week deserves more attention than it’s getting.
It’s the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which stands for Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle. It’s the best-selling vehicle of its type, Mitsubishi claims, citing IHS Markit vehicle registration data. Yet I don’t know too many people who’ve heard of it, and fewer still who have top-of-mind awareness about it when they imagine eco-friendly SUVs.
What’s it like to drive? Remarkably conventional.
Based on the standard Outlander, a rapidly aging Mitsubishi crossover that hasn’t been thoroughly updated in more than six years, the experience from the driver’s seat is as ho-hum as one could expect. Acceleration is slow; the ride is bouncy over bumps; and the cabin would be reasonably nice if the rest of the world hadn’t advanced since 2014.
It’s not bad, but it’s not a vehicle I’d buy for the driving experience alone.
The real reason the Outlander PHEV is intriguing, though, is about what it doesn’t do: burn any gas for the first 22 miles you drive it.
For many families’ school runs, grocery shopping trips and commutes, that’s enough to run on electric power all the time. You just keep it charged up overnight, and it runs off battery power just like dramatically more expensive Tesla SUVs — albeit with its dramatically shorter, 22-mile battery range.
Unlike Teslas, though, this Mitsubishi has a traditional gasoline engine that can extend its range comparably to a normal, gas-powered car. When the battery runs out, it just starts burning gas to keep you going.
I think plug-in hybrids like this make more sense than a pure electric car for most families, at least until battery capacity and charging times increase or the charging infrastructure gets closer to the ubiquity and convenience of gasoline in America.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has an electric range of 22 miles, plus a gasoline engine that gives it added driving range approximating a more traditional SUV.

With the Outlander PHEV, you get the benefit of electric power for short trips, which covers most people’s daily driving. But you don’t have to buy or rent a second gasoline-powered car for trips across wide-open states such as Texas or Wyoming.
It’s two vehicles for the price of one, with 90 percent of an electric car’s benefits and only 10 percent of the drawbacks.
And yes, there are drawbacks to the PHEV version of the Outlander.
Unlike the standard Outlander, you can’t get the PHEV with a third-row seat. Plus its small, 11.3-gallon gas tank means your overall range still remains slightly limited compared to most SUVs and crossovers.
Aside from those downsides, the PHEV gets a lot of the basics right. New standard safety features, including automatic high-beam headlights, lane departure warning and sensors that can detect and mitigate potential collisions, including those with pedestrians, are now included at no extra charge.

The Outlander PHEV adds more standard safety features for the 2020 model year, including lane departure warning.

A new 8-inch touchscreen display did a great job running Apple CarPlay on my tester, and — hallelujah — traditional, intuitive HVAC control knobs are back below the screen once again.
My GT-grade tester was fitted with the new premium interior package, which feels like a bargain at just $400 extra. It adds a quilted leather pattern to the interior that makes a big visual difference in an otherwise sparse cabin.
I also like Mitsubishi’s all-wheel-drive system, which comes standard on every Outlander PHEV. It offers excellent traction and control on wet or icy surfaces, plus some potential for off-road driving if needed.
Pricing for the Outlander PHEV starts at $36,295. Federal and state tax rebates may be available to drive that price even lower depending on your tax situation and where you live.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC ($41,495). Options: GT Premium interior package ($400), carpeted floor mats ($145), charging cable storage bag ($70). Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $43,205
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 184.8 in.
Width: 70.9 in.
Height: 67.3 in.
Powertrain: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine (117 hp, 137 lbs.-ft.) plus two 60-kilowatt electric motors
Transmission: Single-speed fixed reduction box
Fuel economy: 74 MPGe

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

Why buy it?
It can run on electric power for short trips or gasoline power for long ones. It’s a smart combination for many families.

Posted in Mitsubishi