Back then . . . ’98 Chev Blazer in snow

The 1998 Blazer rests near Tamarac Square. (Bud Wells photo/1997)

By Bud Wells

(About this time 25 years ago, just before Thanksgiving 1997, I drove a 1998 Chevrolet Blazer four-door in a heavy snowstorm. Following are excerpts from the review:)

When I picked up a ’98 Blazer on a Friday morning from Luby Chevrolet, it had begun to snow. The snow was soon measured in feet, rather than inches. Who could have guessed the severity with which the storm would sock us?

The Blazer’s long been (since going to the compact size in the ‘80s) a great-handling sport utility, and its snow capabilities have impressed me on a couple of occasions. This was its biggest test.

An electronic push-button makes it easy-shifting into and out of four-wheel-drive mode. Insta-Trac’s 4-Lo got us away from the house Saturday, through the 2 ½-foot-deep snow and into the middle of the street. 4-Hi got us through the 1 ½-foot-deep snow in the driving lane in the middle of the streets.

The push-button immediately puts the Blazer in and out of 4-Hi. For shifting into 4-Lo’s “crawl through the snow” mode, the vehicle must be stopped and in neutral.

Reduce by a foot or two the Blazer’s relatively wide (39 ½ feet) turning circle and it would be ideal for getting about the city in heavy snow. It has smooth power from the long-dependable Vortec 4300 V-6 engine (190 horsepower).

The Blazer was the upgraded LT model, with sticker price of $31,446. New power remote sideview mirrors with defogger are an LT feature, an electronically tuned AM/FM/CD system highlighted other options. The redesigned instrument panel has turned air-heat and sound controls15 degrees toward the driver for easier access.

The automatic transmission shift lever has been relocated to the steering column from the floor console, increasing footroom for front-seat occupants, though the hump from the transfer case still intrudes on foot space for the passenger. The vehicle has easy step-in height.

I averaged 12.8 miles per gallon in four days of deep-snow driving (EPA rating is 16-20). The  4.3-liter V-6 is the only engine available for the Blazer. The four-door specifications include 107-inch wheelbase, 183.3 length, 4,050-pound curb weight and 18-gallon fuel tank.

In picking up the new vehicle from Lisa Fleischman, I got a look at the finishing touches of a remodeling project at Luby Chevrolet on South Wadsworth Boulevard, where the business moved in the 1970s after operating in downtown Denver since 1920.

Blazer competes with Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner and Isuzu Rodeo.

3.0-liter Raptor enhances full-sized Ford Bronco

The Raptor edition of the 2022 Ford Bronco. (Bud Wells photos)

Ford casts a huge shadow with its new Bronco Raptor.

It’s big and wide. How wide? A fraction short of 86 inches; that’s 10 inches wider than a standard Bronco.

And it stands 6 ½ feet tall.

It rides on 37-inch tires ‑ 37X12.50R17LT B.F.Goodrich All-Terrains.

A competitor of the Bronco Raptor is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.

The Raptor is a ground-gainer for Ford in the newly revived Jeep/Bronco rivalry. A challenger to the Bronco Raptor is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, lifted 2 inches with upgraded shocks, topped off with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 squeezed under the hood.

The 5,730-pound Raptor is equipped with a 3.0-liter V-6, tied to a 10-speed automatic transmission, putting out 418 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque. Derived from Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost, it’s a V-6 twin-turbocharged, direct-injection engine created by increasing the 2.7’s cylinder bore from 83 millimeters to 85.3 and by lengthening piston stroke by 3 millimeters to 86.

Smoothness seems most dominant and satisfactory with the Ford 3.0-liter, particularly in midrange power, until a deep push into the throttle offers a surprisingly strong, quick response.

Atop the center console, convenient for the driver, is a terrain management system dial G.O.A.T. (goes over any type of terrain) which selects drive modes from Normal/Sport/TowHaul/Slippery/Offroad/Baja/ Rock Crawl. Magnesium paddle shifters add to the fun experience of manual-mode performance. Sport mode, for instance, increases pedal response and steering feel; Slippery lowers throttle response and optimizes shifting for the conditions.

The Raptor’s ground clearance of 13 inches and long-travel suspension lend it traction over passages in the back woods that may turn back competitors. Ford claims the vehicle is capable of fording stream depth up to 3 feet (don’t try this).

In addition to a relatively short, offroad climb and some in-town maneuvers, we drove to Sterling for a visit with sister Norma Wagner, recuperating from a fractured hip. A niece, Jana Lock, who drives a Ford Expedition, saw what we were driving, climbed into the driver’s seat, proclaimed it an immediate favorite.

That 200-mile highway drive and another 100 miles from roundtrip to Denver, brought fuel-mileage readings of 17-plus mpg. The slower times, offroad and about town, were in the 14 to 15-mpg range.

Mounted to a swing gate at the rear is a spare wheel/tire and brake light which extend into the back-glass area, hindering view directly behind. A 360-degree camera is handy, and when backing the rearview camera turns on automatically.

Its exterior finish in eruption green metallic with Raptor graphics makes the big vehicle stand out among others. Amber daytime running lights emphasize the large FORD lettering at the grille.

Raptor fender flares, equipment and graphics added $3,770 to the $68,500 base price of the 2022 Bronco four-door Advanced 4X4. Sticker total reached $78,090, with other options beadlock wheels, interior carbon fiber pack, orange seatbelts and keyless entry.

Chevy runs great with 70th-year Corvette

The sleekly styled 2023 Chevy Corvette Stingray Coupe. (Bud Wells)

In its 70th year, the Chevy Corvette defies the combination of aging, on the one hand, and the rush to electrics, at the other.

The opportunity to drive the 2023 Corvette Stingray Coupe 2LT reminded me of the excellent job of refinement Chevrolet has accomplished with the iconic sports car.

Note the long string of controls along the right side of driver space. (Chevrolet)

Sporting a Z51 performance package, the new Vette is beautifully sculpted with finely finished interior, is very quick, its roof panel can be removed, and, it is, perhaps, the most comfortable of this class of swift cars.

Roaring performance comes from a 495-horsepower/470-torque, 6.2-liter mid-engine V-8, mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. Power direction runs from the driver rearward to the engine, conveniently situated at the rear-drive axle.

Z51 firms up suspension, with Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport 20s at the rear, 19s in front. No need to angle into the driveway to avoid scraping bottom of air dam; push a button and the Vette’s front is lifted several inches for clearance.

Today’s super performance is a contrast with the very slow launch the Corvette experienced 70 years ago. I remember, for I was a high schooler when it was introduced in ’53. Production didn’t begin until June; that was kind of late for a ’53 model, and only 300 were built.

The following year, after production was moved from Flint, Mich., to St. Louis, only 3,600 ‘54s were built, and many sat unsold on dealer lots by year’s end. For all its racy looks, the Vette had little under the hood – a 150-horsepower, 6-cylinder engine and 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission.

Ford in 1955, with its new two-seater sports car, the Thunderbird, with sales of 16,000 nearly blew away the Corvette. But Ford was concerned with other models, such as the Edsel and a retractable hardtop, and let the T-Bird two-seater grow into a four-passenger auto, and, you know the rest of that story. There is no T-Bird today.

In the meantime, Chevy stayed the course, installing a V-8 in the Vette in ’55, adding a Stingray style a few years later, and was on its way to creating “the American sports car.”

I was one of 1,200 persons who filed in out of the rain at the old Russell Industrial Center in Detroit on the night of Jan. 13, 2013, for the unveiling of the new 2014 Corvette, and revival of the use of the Stingray name. It was the eve of the North American International Auto Show. Such a crowd, shoulder to shoulder much of the evening.

The 2023 Corvette drew attention in Johnstown parked at the home of Dale and Sandy Wells following a golf tourney earlier in the day. Among attendees, Steve Chmelka asked at the right time and enjoyed a ride, proclaiming it “a brilliant sports car and priced somewhat below most others.”

Absorbing $6,345 for the Z51 performance package and $2,260 for the front-lift adjustable height raised sticker price to $83,965 from a base of $69,200.

Among sidelights: Minda Carmann, a friend and former workmate of mine, and her parents-in-law Ken and Kathy Carmann liked the looks of the new Vette in a short session with Jan and me in Brighton; EPA estimate is 16/24, my overall average was 17.3; the Stingray won’t shift into gear until driver seat belt is engaged; the rear trunk area is large enough for a set of golf clubs, up-front in the frunk is room for a couple of travel bags.

Destination for Mercedes EQB350: old friends

Being recharged after drive of 136 miles is 2022 Mercedes EQB350 electric. (Bud Wells photos)

The 2022 Mercedes EQB350 all-electric SUV awaited me at 7:20 a.m. on an October Friday; I slipped into the pilot seat heading to Denver for breakfast with some old driver friends.

The EQB is a compact, smaller and much lesser-equipped than the full-sized EQS electric I reviewed in March.

Settled into the very firmly bolstered seatback, the EQB provided me the quiet ride expected in a luxury electric SUV. It is quick of steering and very responsive in performance. I left my house toward Colo. 60 and Platteville, then turned south on U.S. 85.

Almost instantly on feeding the address into the navigation system, it provided a mapped route and suggested I would be to my destination a couple minutes past 9.

That destination is the Original Pancake House – Cherry Hills out south on University Boulevard, Greenwood Village, where awaiting me were seven retired men who spent some years driving for the agencies which provide new cars and trucks for my automotive reviews in The Denver Post. They are Richard Husted, Lorren Ballard, Jim Boonstra, Pat Leonard, Ken Ruter, Roger VanStedum and Keith Warner. Also there as invitees were Melissa Schulte and Brooke Mutzbauer of Elk Grove Custom Homes.

A 70.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack when fully charged delivers a driving range of 229 miles for the EQB 4Matic. The drive of 136 miles to the restaurant and back to Greeley resulted in a 159-mile reduction from the battery.

Much of the excess miles drawn from the battery occurred during the return trip, in which the U.S. 85 miles from the early drive were replaced with 10-12 miles-per-hour faster speeds on the return on I-25 as far as the Loveland interchange. Speeds near 80 seem to deplete battery charge at a higher rate than below 70 mph. The battery is covered with a Mercedes warranty of 8 years/100,000-miles.

I boosted range in the Mercedes at a charger in the parking lot at a Village Inn at Greeley, adding about 125 miles in 30 minutes for a cost of $22.90, including a parking charge of $1.50.

A competitor of the Mercedes is the Volvo CX40 Recharge.

The 2-row, 5-passenger EQB, assembled in Kecskemet, Hungary, comes in at $60,100, just half the $122,000 sticker on the high-end EQS I reviewed in March. An optional third row is available on the EQB, but it becomes very tight in space.

An adjustable regenerative braking system is standard on the Mercedes. What is missing are lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, both are optional. Most luxury electrics and even cheaper models I’ve driven have been equipped with those two safety features.

The EQB350 is relatively heavy with curb weight of 4,718 pounds; overall length is 184.4 inches. Its front and rear electric motors combine for 288 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque. Driver can select among Comfort, Sport and Eco modes.

An interior highlight is the 64-color ambient lighting; also standard are panoramic roof, power liftgate and backup camera.

The EQB is rated at 98 city/93 highway in MPGe (miles-per-gallon of gasoline-equivalent, an EPA unit of measurement for the electric car’s energy-consumption level).

Cadillac Escalade V moves in among exotics

The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-series along the South Platte River near Atwood. (Bud Wells photo)

Leisure time on a beautiful October Sunday was aboard the swankiest American automotive product I’ve driven – the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-series.

Swanky and pricey; in fact, at $150,580 it is the highest-priced U.S.-based luxury model to come my way.

I’ve driven a dozen or more luxurious, exotic models priced between $150,000 and $400,000, but they’ve been from British, German and Italian car builders.

The most expensive U.S. products, prior to the Escalade V-series, have been a ’21 Cadillac Escalade with Super Cruise at $113,065; an ’18 Lincoln Navigator Black Label edition at $98,145; the ’22 Ford F150 Lightning Platinum Electric pickup at $94,004 and ‘21 Ram TRX pickup at $87,370.

In this transitional year – beginning phaseout of many internal-combustion-engined vehicles and introduction of all-electric smoothies – Ford races ahead with its Mustang Mach-E and F150 Lightning electrics, while Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep offer final-year specials on Hellcat-type and Hemi-power stars.

Cadillac is following the latter’s lead with phenomenal performance from a hand-built, supercharged 6.2-liter, 682-horsepower V-8 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive in the Escalade V. I remember the V-series of 10 or 12 years ago, among my favorites.

The supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 engine in the new Escalade V. (Cadillac)

This new one is of 653 lb.-ft. of torque. From the side, the Escalade casts a huge presence, not only from its overall length of 212 inches, but also its 6 ½-foot height and curb weight of 6,200 pounds. It rides on 22-inch wheels.

Our son Brent joined Jan and me in the drive to Sterling to visit my ailing sister, Norma, and others of the Wagner family. The big Escalade beast cruised the 210 miles there and back at 17 miles per gallon. Overall for the week, it posted 15.7 mpg; its EPA estimate is “gas-hog-labeled” 11-16. Cadillac claims the “V” will run 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds; the roar it creates from quad exhaust pipes is reminiscent of glory days of V-8s and muscle cars.

The ride is soothingly smooth, a benefit of the air ride adaptive suspension, which can be lowered 2 inches or raised an inch from normal. An interior feature is Cadillac’s Conversation Enhancement system, which utilizes some of strategically placed 36 speakers in regular conversation to amplify voice of person talking and transmit to persons in another row of the SUV. Turn it off for nap time. Some hands-free autonomous driving is permitted with Cadillac’s SuperCruise, which includes lane-keep assist.

Among interior highlights are zebra wood accents, semi-aniline leather on seats, power massage on front seats and heated steering wheel. Others are OnStar services,16.9-inch diagonal infotainment/navigation screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, head-up display, trizone automatic climate control and night vision.

The Escalade, built at Arlington, Texas, has been around since just before the turn of the century. When Ford Motor Co. introduced the Lincoln Navigator in 1998 it wasn’t but a year before Cadillac showed off its new Escalade. The Range Rover and Lexus LX were also full-size SUV competitors at that time.

Redesign lifts Honda HR-V against power lag

The 2023 Honda HR-V has been lengthened by 9 inches. (Bud Wells photos)

With 20 models competing full-throttle for attention in the subcompact SUV market, “it was essential that we upgrade now,” said an official of the Honda car company.

It is a statement supporting the launch of the 2023 HR-V All-Wheel-Drive EX-L model for Honda.

The HR-V, along with the CR-V, Accord and Civic, are top four sellers among 10 models in the Honda lineup.

The new HR-V is 9.4 inches longer and 2.6 wider than the ’22 model; that comes up only 2 inches short of the company’s compact-sized CR-V in length. From its new grille to the clearly defined rear window with spoiler, the HR-V is aesthetically pleasing.

Its outward visibility is good and added as standard safety items are automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control; it seems to be priced right at just over $30,000.

Any hopes for a swift move to the top of the subcompact SUV listings, though, will be slowed by the 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. It is smooth enough for around-town and cruising the highway, but when a need arises for a surge of power, it is matter of patience. It lacks in acceleration.

Kim Parker, Jan and I, enjoying a drive to Saguache in late July, headed east in early August to join Kurt, Tammy, Ryan and Erik Wells at their weekend retreat at Jeffrey Lake near Brady, Neb., after a brief stopover at Sterling with Dave and Norma Wagner.

I-76 east of Julesburg leads to I-80 near Ogallala, Neb., and from there to Brady and onward the highway is filled with large freight-carrying trucks maintaining speed limit of 75 miles per hour and passing right along with all the travelers in cars and pickups. To safely mix in with the heavy traffic, it is important to have at hand strong passing power in order to move in and out of the passing lane; this is where the HR-V lags. For the 500-mile trip, the HR-V averaged 28.2 miles per gallon (EPA estimate 25-30).

This was the Honda HR-V seven years ago.

The HR-V, which shares its enlarged platform with the Honda Civic, is equipped up front with nice leather seats, very comfortable, with decent legroom in the rear seat and good rear cargo space which held all our luggage.

The Honda had plenty of road noise, riding on Hankook Kinergy GT 215/60R17 tires. Its drive modes are normal, eco and snow. Handy are a wireless phone charger in the center console and tiny overhead capacitive light for each side of rear seating area ala airliner travel.

A $30,590 sticker price included a user-friendly 9-inch touchscreen with multiview rear camera, remote-start and dual-zone automatic climate control.  

Among the many competitors in the subcompact SUV category are Mazda CX30, Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul and Seltos, Buick Encore, Jeep Renegade and others.

AC glitch slowed testing of Audi e-tron

The Audi e-tron GT quattro is a sleek and powerful electric. (Bud Wells photos)

The all-electric automobiles, such rarity just a couple years ago, continue to roll in for review in much greater number.

The most recent to me in August, the 2022 Audi e-tron GT quattro, is the 10th fully electric I’ve driven thus far this year. Previously were the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Ford F-150 Lightning, Kia EV6 Wind, Volvo XC40 Recharge, BMW i4 M50 Gran Coupe, Mercedes EQS450, Ford Mustang Mach-e GT, Hyundai Kona EV and a short run in the Tesla Model Y.

Lack of a working air conditioner in the Audi e-tron, combined with daytime temperatures in the mid-90s,  limited full testing procedures. “The air conditioning system is not available due to malfunction,” was the message delivered from within the Audi.

In order to avoid need for AC in the e-tron, Jan and I early on a Sunday morning headed over Fort Collins way for an outdoor breakfast at The Back Porch, north on Lemay Avenue. For our return drive, temps had risen into the high-80s, though with side windows partially open and by engaging the ventilated front seatbacks we felt fairly comfortable.

We pulled back into the garage at 11:30 a.m., having driven 58 miles and used up 61 miles of range from the Audi battery pack. With 94 miles of range remaining, I plugged the e-tron’s charger into a 120 outlet in the garage.

Twenty-four hours later, before noon Monday, the plug-in had added 33 miles for a range available of 127 miles, a mild recovery, even for the 120 source. The Chevy Bolt EUV I drove the week previously added range with 120 at almost double that rate.

The sleekly built Audi e-tron GT is finished in tactical green metallic, a color maybe dismissed at first glance, though probably more favorable with familiarity to the electric sedan. Headroom in the rear seat is limited from the extreme slope of the roof. It has a small frunk (front-end trunk under hood).

The e-tron uses the same 93.4 kWh battery pack as does the Porsche Taycan, and dual electric motors (one for each axle) provide excellent all-wheel-drive service. The Audi’s driving range is 238 miles, considerably lower than the Mercedes-Benz EQS450 electric. Regenerative braking is much lighter than many other electrics.

Three drive modes are comfort, dynamic and efficiency, with electronic power steering very quick. After startup, a bit of noise sounds as though an engine is running. It’s not from the motor or any driving part of the e-tron, it is an Audi soundtrack providing simulated engine noise. I liked it, Jan thought it was kind of goofy. The Audi’s MPGe is 81 city, 83 highway.

The interior is luxurious, with well-bolstered Nappa leather seats, Bang & Olufsen sound and user-friendly infotainment setup.

The Audi’s pricey sticker of $118,740 includes $7,200 for a prestige package of adaptive cruise, active lane assist, Bang & Olufsen sound and head-up display; $6,000 for a performance package of rear-wheel steering, e-torque vectoring, 20-inch five-spoke design wheels and high-gloss black grille. Also added are the Nappa seats, remote park assist, Audi connect, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto.

Ford F-150 Lightning good electric pickup

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning electric finished in rapid red. (Bud Wells photo)

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning delivered more than I anticipated during the week it was in my possession.

It is very comfortable, easy to drive. The electric power generated great initial acceleration, and did it very smoothly, more so than a traditional V-8-powered pickup. It claims a 10,000-pound towing capacity.

Its 320-mile range was reassuring, and easily recharged. Four of us – Jan and me, Bill and Kathy Allen – were aboard for a drive into Denver from Greeley. After our return, the Lightning had covered 133.5 miles, and the range available had been depleted by only 122 miles.

The frunk (front-end trunk under the hood where the engine would have been in traditional truck) offers good storage space, easily accessed.

Interior of the Lightning Electric. (Ford)

A 15-inch touchscreen infotainment system is excellent, as is the BlueCruise hands-free driving assist.

The all-electric powertrain includes a 131-kWh battery pack and a pair of electric motors, one for driving each axle. The crew cab’s 5.5-foot bed houses a two-way charging system that can power an entire job site.

Due to unusually strong demand, the Lightning’s 2022 model was sold out earlier in 2022; orders for new model year will resume in late summer. And yet, we must mention a couple of drawbacks to all this.

The review model I drove is the high-end Platinum trim level, with the extended-range battery pack and sticker price of $94,004. An F-150 Lightning can be bought in the $45,000 to $60,000 range, but it is the standard version with range of only 230 miles, and its two electric motors combine for 452 horsepower, a lesser amount than the Platinum’s combined 580 horsepower.  

Regarding the extended-range power; sure, it is stout as can be and will haul or pull a load, 7,000 pounds, 8,000, 9,000 and more. A load to the farm or ranch, or nearby camping, not so noticeable. A long haul, though, and that 300-mile range, some say, may drop by half, maybe even more. And the lesser-powered standard-range trim has tow capacity of only 7,700 pounds.

The Lightning’s 48-foot turn circle seemed a bit wider than most traditional half-ton pickups and tended occasionally toward understeer.

Suspension is relatively soft for the Lightning, partly due to its utilization of a semi-trailing arm setup with progressive rate coil-over springs and a stabilizer bar. On their traditional gasoline and diesel-powered pickups, Ford, Chevy, GMC, Toyota and Nissan have used leaf springs for suspension of rear of their solid-axle pickups. Ram on its 1500 pickup suspends the live axle with five links and coil springs.

The Lightning Platinum is on a wheelbase of 145 inches, is 19 feet/3 inches in overall length, with curb weight of 6,350 pounds. Brake rotors are 14-inch in front and 13.8-inch at the rear. The truck’s GVWR is 8,250 pounds.

Beginning prices for the various Lightning trims are Pro $41,769; XLT $54,769; Lariat $69,269; XLT Extended Range $74,169; Lariat Extended Range $79,169; Platinum Extended Range $92,669.

Grand Cherokee adds 4-cyl.,/electric-boost

The redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee as a plug-in hybrid. (Bud Wells photo)

When the Wrangler, toughest Jeep of them all, was tested successfully last fall with the 4xe plug-in hybrid system, it became a must that the much-more-refined Grand Cherokee would soon get its turn.

The occurrence, for me, came with arrival of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe with a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine of 270 horsepower/295 lb.-ft. of torque with 8-speed automatic transmission. It is assisted by a belt-driven 44-hp motor and a 134-hp electric motor for combined horsepower of 375 and 470 torque. Electricity is stored in a 400-volt,17kWh lithium-ion battery pack which provides 25 miles of all-electric power. As long as there is charge in the battery pack, its 375/470 power rate exceeds that of the long-used 5.7-liter, Hemi V-8 internal-combustion engine.

The 25 miles of electric drive will, of course, lift the Jeep’s fuel mileage and can be controlled by switching among three modes – Hybrid, Electric and E-Save, which shuts off the electric use. And, yes, with a bit of forethought, a driver can use the mode-switches to attain relatively high mileage readings.

I saved 20 miles of the battery pack for a return drive in descent from the mountains; for 91 miles we averaged 37.9 miles per gallon. For 318 miles of varied roads and terrain during the week, the overall average was 27.3.

Transitioning from electric to hybrid can result in a rough shift. The Grand Cherokee rides on Goodyear Wrangler 265/60R18 tires.

The small battery pack can be charged overnight from a 120 outlet; with 220, it can be done in 2 hours.

As we drove into the little mountain village of Glen Haven and parked at the General Store, across the street sat two pristine-looking Chevy Corvettes (a 2007 and 2005). Right out front of the store were two couples at a picnic table enjoying the daily-baked cinnamon rolls of the business. Yes, the Vettes belonged to them; Daryl and Lorraine McCown, Tim and Ann Krall of Estes Park. They had read, the day previously, my column in The Post featuring the 2023 Corvette Z51 Coupe.

The dressed-up interior of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe. (Jeep)

The Grand Cherokee was redesigned this year, boasts a luxurious interior and continues to offer a compliant ride. The review model’s only exterior indicators are front tow hooks in “electric blue” and blue “4xe” badges.

From a base just over $65,000, Jeep ran the sticker price to$75,303 with these options among others: Uconnect 5 Nav with 10.1-inch touchscreen display, Nappa leather seats, wireless charging pad, back massager for front seats, passenger-seat memory, 2nd-row window shade, four-zone temperature control, head-up display, surround-view camera, offroad group and rear backup camera washer.

Pleasant audio delivery comes from the 19-speaker McIntosh MX950 Entertainment System, including a 10-inch subwoofer for added bass quality and three small speakers atop the dash.

‘23 Acura Integra returns with 6-speed manual

The sleekly styled Acura Integra is on sale in the U.S. (Bud Wells photo)

Clutches and manual transmissions have slipped away rapidly in recent years; surprising it was, then, that with the return of the Acura Integra to the U.S. for the first time since 2001, its buyers are offered a choice of a 6-speed manual tranny or CVT.

The 2023 Integra A-Spec w/Tech brought my way in late July is a replacement for the ILX in the Acura lineup. It is a sleek, four-door hatchback with coupe styling. Revival of the Acura Integra name comes after a 22-year absence; Integra was part of Acura from its introduction in 1986 through the 2001 model year.

A combination of a 200-horsepower, turbocharged 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine and the manual shifter adds quickness to the Integra, creating a fun drive with good-handling, particularly when dealing with road twists and turns. It has plenty of power to get up the hills of Colorado.

The sporty sedan also fares well in fuel-efficiency, with an EPA estimate of 26 miles per gallon in town, 36 on the highway for a combined 30. Premium fuel is recommended. My overall average was 31.8 mpg.

Pricing of the base model for the new Integra AWD is $31,895; the review model I drove had sticker price of $36,895, a relatively low price for a luxury entry-level.

Interior highlights are an easy-to-use 9-inch touchscreen infotainment center and a roomy 24.3 cubic-feet cargo area at the back.

Among driver-assistance safety features are adaptive cruise control, rearview camera, forward automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, head-up display.

The Integra is 3 or 4 inches longer in both wheelbase and overall length than the ILX, the model which it has replaced. The Integra rides on wheelbase of 107.7 inches, is 185.8 inches in overall length, 72 inches in width, 55.5 in height and its curb weight is 3,075 pounds.

The new Integra is built at Marysville, Ohio; also assembled there are Acura’s other models – the TLX sport sedan, the MDX and RDX sport-utility vehicles and the NSX Type S electric.