Twenty-five years ago, it was the panoramic convex mirror (a ‘fisheye’ mirror) attracting attention in the 1998 Ford Windstar minivan.
Today, it is a feature called FamCam, a black disc in the headliner of the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica that contains cameras for viewing each seat in the rear of the van.
It was and is all about “keeping an eye on the kids” in the second and third row of seats.
The disc, positioned overhead between the second and third row of seats, will show an overall image of the rear seats, and a zoom option will focus on any one of the individual seats, including even a rear-facing child seat. The images are viewed on the infotainment screen in the front dash of the minivan. Infrared camera views are provided in nighttime driving.
The Ford convex mirror from the late ‘90s dropped down out of the overhead console to give the driver virtually complete view of the inside of the minivan. It gave a wide-angle reflection of everyone, from the front-seat passenger to those in the second and third rows. It covered from side-to-side, top-to-bottom.
The Ford Windstar was produced from 1995 to 2003. In calendar year 2000, the Windstar sold 222,298 minivans, second only to the Dodge Grand Caravan, which sold 285,739.
The FamCam interior camera in the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica is part of an optional Uconnect Theater Family Group, which for an added $3,295 also includes 19 Harman Kardon speakers with subwoofer, power-folding third-row seat, integrated vacuum, seatback video screens and Blu-Ray DVD player.
The Honda Odyssey and Kia Carnival also have optional rear-seat viewers; Honda’s is called Cabin Watch and Kia’s is Passenger View.
With its relatively new Timberline trim, the 2023 Ford Expedition is a strong competitor against the Jeep Wagoneer, Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada among full-size, four-wheel-drive SUVs.
The big body-on-frame Expedition is reinforced with offroad chops from Timberline, including tuned suspension and shocks, increased ground clearance, shorter approach and departure angles, two-speed transfer case, steel skid plates, electronic limited-slip differential, tow hooks and all-terrain tires.
The eight-passenger sport ute casts a large presence, standing 6½ -feet high, 210 inches in overall length and curb weight of 5,625 pounds. Available also is the Expedition Max, a foot longer in length and wheelbase of 131 inches, compared with the Expedition standard of 122.5.
“Plenty big enough,” I say of the standard Exped, during my review. A high-output, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine delivers 440 horsepower/510 lb.-ft. torque, with 10-speed automatic transmission.
Handling of the Expedition, not surprisingly, is like most big, heavy SUVs, a bit of understeer at times. Lane centering is controlled very smoothly, with little wander. Ride comfort is soft, right up there with the Tahoe and Yukon. The Expedition can tow up to 9,300 pounds.
Open the driver door, step up onto the platform running board, sit down in the pilot’s seat and instantly focus on the huge, 15.5-inch, vertically positioned infotainment screen. The LCD screen is part of a special package of options which boosts the price past $80,000 from a base of $71,400. Included are panoramic vista roof, the running boards, trizone electronic temp control, Bang & Olufsen premium sound, remote start, heavy-duty radiator, second-row heated seats and third-row power-fold seats.
Bill and Kathy Allen joined Jan and me for a drive to Sterling, where we visited with Dave and Norma Wagner, Rick and Jana Lock. Even with the 200-mile roundtrip highway run, the Expedition was disappointing in overall fuel mileage – 15.6 mpg. Its EPA estimate is 15/19. The SUV rides on Goodyear Wrangler 265/70R18 tires.
Sticker price reached $83,505 for the Expedition Timberline. Less expensive trim levels are XL, XLT and Limited; higher trims are the King Ranch and Platinum. XL pricing begins around $57,000 to $58,000. The Expedition is produced at a Ford plant in Kentucky.
The Expedition has been around for more than 25 years. When it showed up in the fall of 1996 as a ’97 model, we spent a vacation week driving it to Durango and back. That one was 6 inches shorter in overall length than today’s model. It was equipped with a 4.6-liter V-8 engine with tow capacity of 6,100 pounds, compared to today’s 9,300 tow capacity with the EcoBoost V-6.
The fourth-generation 2023 Honda Pilot showed up larger in size and noticeably improved upfront with a newly designed, more upright grille, departing from the long-used horizontal-bars-type. Its exterior structure is somewhat boxy, like a Kia Telluride or Nissan Pathfinder.
Looking a bit more rugged in TrailSport trim, the new Pilot is 200.2 inches in overall length, almost 4 inches longer than the ’22 version, and its wheelbase has increased by 2 ½ inches.
Smoothness of shifts has improved with a 10-speed automatic transmission replacing last year’s 9-speed; the 3.5-liter V-6 engine develops 285 horsepower, 5 more than a year ago.
The Pilot review model is front-wheel-drive based and is equipped with all-wheel-drive capability.
Even helped by a 100-mile round-trip drive to Thornton, the Pilot managed only 19.7 miles per gallon overall in the week of my possession. Its EPA estimate is 18 city/23 highway/20 average.
The Thornton run was to the home of Dan and Jamie Johnson last Saturday for celebration of the 97th birthday for my longtime friend, Richard Johnson. Dick and I worked together on the city desk at The Denver Post in the early 1970s (the latter days of columnist Red Fenwick). Johnson in later years became a features writer for the paper’s Empire Magazine.
The Pilot isn’t intended as an offroad competitor of Wranglers and Broncos, though with the new Trailsport trim its suspension has been lifted an inch, it has steel skid plates and Continental 265/60R18 all-terrain tires. Max tow capacity for Pilot AWD models is 5,000 pounds.
The dressed-up interior features a 9-inch color touchscreen with surround-view camera, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/phone charger, heated steering wheel. By touching CabinTalk icon on the home screen, front-seat driver or passenger are able to speak to rear-cabin occupants through audio-system speakers or headphones.
From the added length of the new Pilot comes roominess and more comfort in the second- and third-row seats. The third row has more shoulder room and legroom than that in the Toyota Highlander. Push a button and second row seatback leans and entire captain’s chair slides forward to allow ease of entry into the third-row seating. Cargo space behind the third row amounts to 18.6 cubic feet and 48.5 feet with the seats folded.
Sticker price on the ’23 Pilot AWD TrailSport is $50,150. Cheaper trim levels are Sport and EX-L; more pricey than the TrailSport are the Touring and Elite.
Honda, after rebadging the Isuzu Rodeo as a Honda Passport from 1993 to 2002, fully joined the midsize SUV competition in 2003 with its first Pilot. Originally produced in Alliston, Ontario, it has since 2007 been built in Lincoln, Ala. This year’s Pilot is a foot longer than the original 20 years ago.
Add 23-inch wheels and an extraordinarily long rear spoiler to the muscularly redesigned 2023 Range Rover Sport and its imposing presence raises the question: Has the Sport moved into the full-sized Range Rover’s territory, sizewise?
A glance at the spec sheets for the two dispels the urge to park them side-by-side; the big daddy Range Rover still rules. The Sport, at almost 195 inches in overall length, is a foot shorter and 300 pounds lighter.
Underhood in the ’23 Range Rover Sport SE Dynamic, which I drove in March 2023, is a 3.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged inline-6-cylinder of 395 horsepower/406 lb.-ft. torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Stronger V-8 power is still available in the Range Rover Sport, along with a couple hybrid options; next year is expected to bring an all-electric Sport to the lineup.
Performance is satisfactory from the word “go,” when the supercharger boosts early, then the turbo takes over at midrange. Tied to the AWD setup are selectable terrain choices, with the V-6 power lending smoothness. My overall fuel mileage average was 23.2; the Sport’s EPA estimate is 18/26 mpg.
The well-balanced Range Rover Sport, with air suspension, offers a comfortable ride, highlighted with an interior of plush Windsor leather, power reclining heated rear seats and Meridian sound. The five-passenger interior is attractive, except for the cheap-looking upper panels on the doors, durable but cheap.
The Range Rover Sport reached $100,085 in sticker price with the addition of the wheels, head-up display, heated washer jets, heated steering and pixel LED headlights. Included as standard items are panoramic roof, power sunblind, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Amazon Alexa integration, rain-sensing wipers and safety aids adaptive cruise with steering assist, emergency braking, lane-keep assist and traffic-sign recognition.
The Range Rover Sport is built in Solihull, United Kingdom. Among competitors in the luxury midsize SUV field are Mercedes GLE-class, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Genesis GV80, Lincoln Aviator, Volvo XC90, Lexus RX350 and others.
Bud: I’m a loyal reader of your Saturday feature in The Denver Post; regarding one-pedal driving as you mentioned in your review of the Nissan Leaf. I hear lots of reviewers talk of one-pedal driving with electric cars, but, I wonder, how does the person behind in traffic know when you’re braking? If you’re not pushing the brake pedal to slow down or stop, your brake lights won’t let the cars behind you know that you’re about to slow down. This seems like a serious safety concern. Thanks. – George B.
Well, George, when using one-pedal driving, the brake lights will function as if the driver is using the traditional hydraulic brakes. The brake lights illuminate when the accelerator pedal is released, making drivers behind the car aware that it is slowing down.
As I stepped into the 2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition, I scraped an ankle on the high-riding front-seat floor track; I instantly recalled the same occurrence a year ago when entering the Ford Maverick pickup.
The Bronco and Maverick share the same basic platform, and, kicking aside my initial step-ins, they’re two of my favorite models of the past year. Both attracted good shares of attention at the 2023 Denver Auto Show. As I walked through the show floor on a Tuesday night and the next morning, I noticed the Bronco corner of the Ford display was busy with viewer traffic.
The Ford Maverick was announced as winner of the Truck of the Year for the second year in a row by the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. The midsize Mav beat out four full-size competitors – the Toyota Tundra, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Ram 1500.
Other winners are the Nissan Z as Car of the Year, the Mazda CX-50 as SUV of the Year and the Kia EV6 electric as E-Vehicle of the Year.
I drove the Nissan Z, which edged the Acura Integra for car-of-year honors, on a day last May from the Boulderado Hotel into Boulder Canyon toward Nederland with twists and turns and downshift-inducing rises in the narrow roadway.
The turbocharged Mazda CX-50 edged the Hyundai Palisade and Cadillac Escalade for the SUV award, and in presenting the Kia EV6 electric with the E-vehicle award, Matt Pilgrim of RMAP said, “The Kia EV6 proves that EVs can be stylish, have a roomy interior, be reasonably affordable, and deliver a level of performance that can rival today’s top sports cars.”
Among other car-show highlights:
The Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited 4X4 was powered by a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine with 8-speed automatic transmission and attractive exterior of yellowstone metallic (price tag $46,400). . . . . Jannelle Grigsby was here from Santa Monica, Calif., to be introduced as Nissan regional PR manager for the western half of the U.S., succeeding Steve Parrett, who will now serve the eastern half of the U.S. and Texas. . . . .Kelley Enright, Central Region communications manager for Stellantis, flew here from Chicago to show off the new Dodge Hornet, which is derived from the Alfa Romeo Tonale in Italy. . . . .
Toyota staged a half-hour press conference to reveal expected highlights of the 2024 Grand Highlander, a three-row midsize SUV, but gave no hint of when it will show, or at what price.
I was readying the coffee, with cinnamon rolls on the table, as I awaited arrival of five old friends at my home in Greeley on a Friday morning.
The five are among dozens of drivers who through the years have delivered new cars to me from Automotive Media Solutions and Drive Shop for reviewing, something I’ve done off and on for 45 years.
Responding to my buzzing cell phone, I heard one of them, “We’re turning the corner toward your home, look out your kitchen window.”
I was surprised, for it wasn’t five men in one car, it was the five guys in five cars – all classics.
The five old autos and the driver of each:
1946 Hudson Commodore 6 driven over by Mel Bacon of Brighton. Bacon has a collection of 19 classic cars, including these five and several Kaiser/Frazer models.
1949 Packard Custom 8 driven by Dick Husted of Littleton.
1957 Cadillac Sedan deVille driven by Lorren Ballard of Roxborough Park.
1963 Ford Galaxie convertible driven by Norm Fryer of Arvada.
1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk driven by Jim Rudolph of Littleton.
The automobile beauties were pulled over and parked in a line along the curb in front of my home as I walked down the driveway to greet them. A neighbor, Wayne, from across the street walked over for a close inspection of the parade.
The weather was nice, relatively warm (a rarity this spring); numerous people walked by and stopped to admire the cars, as they were parked out front for more than an hour. Several persons driving by stopped and took photos.
The old models, deserving lots of TLC, were driven only 40 miles per hour from their facility in Brighton to Greeley; the drivers got waves and thumbs’-up signals and an occasional honk of a horn while being passed by other motorists.
Jan was having tea that morning with our daughter Kathy Allen, though she returned home in time to greet the guys and capture the accompanying photo of the six of us.
I then enjoyed a short drive in the Packard with Jan in the front passenger seat, Bacon and Husted in the backseat. I’d forgotten, but to start a ’49 Packard, the driver must push the accelerator to the floorboard – the starter button was positioned at floor level beneath the pedal. I quickly remembered the effort it took to turn that big, heavy sedan without power steering.
The five guys have been drivers for Automotive Media Solutions, owned and operated by Paul Shippey.
The 2023 Dodge Hornet has been flitting all about Denver and northern Colorado in this cold week of early spring; it didn’t sit still till it reached the Colorado Convention Center in preparation for the 2023 Denver Auto Show.
The Hornet, an all-new compact crossover, was listed as one of top attractions as the car show returned to the convention center for the first time since 2020.
The Dodge Hornet GT Plus is powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 9-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid version, called the Hornet R/T, is expected to go on sale this summer. The gas-powered and hybrid models are the first small product for Dodge dealers since the Dart sport sedan showed up for a relatively short run 10 years ago.
The Hornet is being built alongside the Alfa Romeo Tonale in a Stellantis factory in Naples, Italy.
While the Alfa will compete against luxury competitors Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA, the Hornet considers its prime challengers are Mazda CX-30, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.
Prospective Dodge buyers apparently aren’t bothered by the Italian build site, as a company spokesman explained that more than 14,000 orders were received in less than 24 hours after the Hornet’s reveal.
The Hornet is a sporty handler, and gets improved performance from a Sport button on the steering wheel which lends an instant boost of 25 horsepower for 15 seconds. Its 2.0-liter Hurricane engine develops 268 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque.
Front-end enhancements include a “mail-slot”-style grille in the front fascia and integrated heat extractors in the hood. Stiffness-stressed suspension increased handling capability and four-piston Brembo brakes add safety control. EPA fuel-mileage estimates are 21/29.
Inside, Harmon Kardon sound is excellent, and the little Hornet has a real horn, to be heard above the normal street noise.
From a base price around $36,500, the tab climbs to $40,215 with black-finish touches for the “cue-ball” white exterior, active driving assist, intelligent speed assist, surround-view camera and drowsy-driver detection.
Dodge resurrected the Hornet model name, having acquired rights to the name from the Chrysler Corp. purchase of American Motors Corp. in 1987.
I well-remember the original Hornet as a Hudson in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. The Hudson company built cars in Detroit from 1909 to 1954, when it merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors.
A steady increase in roominess over the years has lifted Nissan’s sleek midsize sedan, the Altima, into a competitive position for 2023 with the segment-leading Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Japan-based Nissan depends on a combination of the Altima and the Rogue compact crossover for almost half of its sales in the U.S. I drove the new Nissan Altima SR four-door into northeastern Colorado.
Also in my possession recently was the 2023 version of the Leaf SV Plus, a front-drive, all-electric, compact hatchback sedan.
On its shiny side, the Leaf has a newly styled grille, a great-looking 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheel design (if you buy the SV Plus model) and offers a smooth ride.
The other side of the Leaf are the range providers. The Leaf SV Plus is equipped with a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery and 160 kW electric motor for EPA estimated range of 212 miles; The Leaf S has only a 40 kWh battery and 110 kW electric motor for estimated range of 149 miles.
The Leaf, which has been around since 2011, has not been a big seller; it’s those relatively low range estimates that have lessened the sales potential.
Leaf pricing starts around $30,000 for the S and $35,000 for the SV Plus (sticker price on the review model brought to me is $36,985). The Leaf last year was 12th-best-selling fully electric vehicle in the U.S.
Back to the internal-combustion-engine-powered Altima, which I drove with Bill and Kathy Allen and Jan aboard, out east on U.S. 34 (and I-76) to Sterling. In visiting with sister Norma and Dave Wagner, Jan Lock and Rick Wagner, we were told Sterling now has a public charging station for electric cars and that work has begun on location for a Starbucks store, reinforcing status for Sterling as the trade center for northeastern Colorado.
Underhood in the new Altima is a 2.0-liter, variable-compression turbocharged 4-cylinder engine of 236 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque. The turbo boost diminished somewhat the normal drone of the continuously variable transmission (CVT), with paddleshifters also in the mix.
Overall performance was very satisfactory; the Altima averaged 32.4 miles per gallon for the 210-mile drive. Its EPA estimate is 25/34. Aided by the boost, there was no apparent lag in passing power on I-76. Ride comfort was compromised by sport suspension for better handling.
Overall lengths of the top-three-selling midsize sedans indicate how closely aligned they are – Honda Accord 195.7 inches, Nissan Altima 192.9 and Toyota Camry 192.7. In its early years of existence, the Altima was shorter at 185 inches. The Accord’s added length contributed to its edge in trunk space at 16.7 cubic feet to 15.4 for the Altima and 15.1 for the Camry.
ProPilot Assist, engaged by a blue button on the steering wheel, keeps the Altima in the center of its driving lane with minimal input from the driver, maintains a preset distance from the car ahead even in slowdowns and accelerations. The ProPilot was first installed in a Nissan product in 2018. Other safety items are automatic emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert and around-view monitor.
The Altima’s appearance became more distinctive this year with new front fascia styling which on the SR trim includes a special “black chrome” grille finish and, inside, a dual-stitch interior fabric design and expanded center-console storage. Rear-seat legroom is a plus.
The ’23 Altima, assembled in Canton, Miss., carries sticker price of $36,440, including 12.3-inch color touchscreen display with navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Bose audio, leather sport seats, power moonroof, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, traffic sign recognition.
Low-end pricing begins around $27,000; all-wheel drive is available on certain models. Besides Camry and Accord, other midsize competitors for the Altima are the Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Legacy, Chevy Malibu, Kia K5 and Volkswagen Passat.
Production is ending this year for the Nissan Maxima, which competed against the Toyota Avalon in the full-size sedan market.
Wow! Two weeks after I revealed the newest Toyota color – solar octane (bright orange) – on the Tacoma pickup, the same hue showed up on the all-new 2023 Sequoia SUV delivered to me.
The blazing new color surprises me on the big, tough, Sequoia, but forget that flash for there are bigger, more important changes of far more consequence.
The ’23 model is the first real makeover of the Sequoia in 15 years or so, sending the new one into the modern automotive mix.
It’s now a hybrid. The only way you can buy it is as a hybrid. It’s gas and electric beneath the hood.
Its V-8 power is the past, it’s been replaced; the future is today with a twin-turbo V-6 engine and an electric motor generator housed between the V-6 and its 10-speed automatic transmission.
Instant response with excellent acceleration is delivered by the powertrain’s combined output of 437 horsepower and 583 lb.-ft. of torque. All this and a jump in EPA-rated fuel economy to 19 city/22 highway from the former 12-16.
The Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro Hybrid showed up in time to venture out into a storm as far as the Kersey area before blowing snow drove us back home.
Complementing the Sequoia’s tough-looking exterior is a comfortable interior with well-bolstered, leather front seats, large flat infotainment screen, switch for selecting 2 Hi drive, 4 Hi or 4 Lo, lots of cubby holes and bins for storing small items.
Toyota has replaced last year’s independent rear suspension with solid rear axles. The ’23 model is 3 inches longer in overall length to 208 inches, though it still rides on the same 122-inch wheelbase.
The Sequoia’s catback exhaust still emits a satisfying rumble and burbling sound out the rear pipes.
Built in San Antonio, the 2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro Hybrid lists sticker price at $80,291. Among features are multi-terrain selection, crawl control, Fox shocks, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, cast-aluminum running boards, auto-leveling LED headlights, aluminum skid plate, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, heated and ventilated front seats, power liftgate with flip-up glass and TRD roofrack.
Among other makes offering full-size, three-row SUVs with seating for eight are the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, the new Jeep Wagoneer and Nissan Armada.
Okay, friends, this one’s for all of you who have suggested I drive a car of much-lesser expense on occasion.
It’s a popular compact four-door sedan, a gas/electric hybrid with expanded horsepower.
And, if the hybrid feature isn’t enough especially for us Coloradans, its maker has added all-wheel drive, which is put to good use in this snowy winter of 2022-‘23. All this for $30,000.
It’s the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE AWD; it illustrates sleekness from its sharply sloped nose all the way back to a short-overhang rear deck.
While the car was parked for a photo at Glenmere Lake in Greeley, neighborhood resident Joan Adams walked alongside it, stopped and commented on how well she liked the exterior color. What color is it, she asked. Well, manufacturers go to great lengths to distinguish their particular choice of hue, such as “solar octane,” “midnight lake blue,” “diffused sky.”
I, too, liked the color and had already checked out its definitive name – “dark gray,” I told her. She’s driven Toyotas through the years, including a 1986 pickup for 352,000 miles, and seemed quite impressed with the Corolla hybrid.
Horsepower has been boosted from 121 to 138 for the Corolla’s power sources, a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and two electric motors. The second motor is rear-mounted to power the rear wheels when needed in response to front-wheel slippage.
Teamed with a continuously variable transmission, the hybrid power still is on the light side, though the transition between front-drive and AWD is seamless. By engaging Sport drive mode, the Corolla accelerates much more responsively than when in Eco or Normal mode. The tradeoff in use of Sport is a decline in fuel mileage.
EPA estimate for the Corolla hybrid is 47 miles per gallon in city, 41 on highway and 44 combined. My overall average after use of all three modes was 40.4 mpg. It rides on Dunlop 225/40R18 tires.
The review model had no power seat, even for the driver, and no heated seats. The interior, boasting good back-seat legroom but somewhat tight in headroom, is fairly plain-looking, with durable sport fabric-trimmed seats. Trunk space is wide, though fairly shallow and amounts to only 13.1 cubic feet.
The Corolla is 182.5 inches in overall length on a wheelbase of only 106.3 inches. Its narrow track is barely wider than 60 inches. Curb weight is 2,850 pounds. It is built at Aichi, Japan.
Pricing begins around $28,000 for the Corolla SE with all-wheel drive and hybrid power; the addition of JBL premium audio, power outside mirrors and blind-spot monitor, boosted sticker price to $30,518. Other trim levels are the cheaper LE and more expensive XLE.
For 2023, all Corolla hybrid models are equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 precollision system, lane-departure steering assist, proactive driving assist and deceleration assist. Hybrid-related items are covered with an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty and the hybrid battery with 10-year/150,000-mile warranty.