Category Archives: Auto Reviews

Tremor trim added to Ford Maverick

The 2023 Ford Maverick, with unibody construction and turbocharged engine. (Bud Wells photos)

Consumers undoubtedly will be shopping for an electric version of the Maverick pickup several years down the road from now, as Ford apparently is waiting only for an expected decline in battery prices before adding the electrified model to the Mav.

The Ford Maverick, which went on sale in late 2021 for the ’22 model year, is one of the hottest small pickups available.

In fourth-quarter results reported in January 2023, the Maverick with 22,568 sales outperformed the Chevy Colorado (20,602), Nissan Frontier (19,830) and Jeep Gladiator (17,587) for runnerup position behind the longtime popular Toyota Tacoma among compact pickups.

If Mavericks eventually roll off the assembly line packing electric power, they will complement Ford’s lengthy dominance in full-size pickup sales from its F-150 and F-150 Lightning Electric models.

My first test of the little Maverick was in May ‘22 in its unibodied, front-wheel-drive, gas/electric hybrid version, based on the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport. It delivered an average of 37.2 miles per gallon from its 191-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, an electric motor and continuously variable automatic transmission.

Coming my way early this year was the 2023 Maverick with turbocharged gas-only engine, all-wheel drive and the new Tremor Offroad Package, including 1-inch lift for added ground clearance, enhanced front and rear suspension and towing capacity increased from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds with the turbo and AWD, but without the Tremor package.

The Ford Ranger, slightly larger than Maverick, is a body-on-frame truck.

The turboed 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, generating 250 horsepower/277 lb.-ft. of torque, and its EPA estimate is 22/29 miles per gallon. The Tremor finish lends the Maverick a tougher look, with strong stance. Its bed is only 4 feet, 6 inches in length. The Mav showed solid traction in the snow, with little slippage.

The Maverick is more carlike in ride and handling than, say, the little-bit-bigger Ford Ranger, a body-on-frame pickup. “This is the product for people who never thought they wanted a truck,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Farley Jr., of the Maverick.

The ’23 Ford Maverick, in Lariat Tremor AWD trim level, carries base price of $29,440; the Tremor option, plus bedliner spray-in and Ford Co-Pilot 360 with adaptive cruise, lane-keeping and blind-spot alert, boosted sticker tab to $37,485. This is almost $10,000 pricier than the front-drive Mav I drove last year.

A very close competitor to the Maverick is the new Hyundai Santa Cruz, also of unibody construction, 4 inches shorter than the overall length of the Maverick, and with a small bed slightly shorter than the Mav’s. Volkswagen also is expected to produce an all-electric small pickup in the near future.

Ford officials have hinted that preceding the arrival of an electric Maverick will be a PHEV (plug-in electric hybrid) version.

Land Rover adds smoothness to Defender 130

The new Land Rover Defender 130 features a squared-off rear end. (Bud Wells)

The new, lengthened 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition was my drive one day in late January – 50 miles to Denver, then out west almost to Golden for a “visit” with Dr. Tom Pott, dentist. On my return route home, though the feeling in half my face was at ebb, my thought process was near peak in respect for the onroad capability and handling of the Defender.

Land Rover planners, owing their existence to offroading, nevertheless ditched body-on-frame construction in favor of unibody for the revived Defender 130, added fully independent/height-adjustable air suspension for down-the-road, smooth comfort.

With strong acceleration, only a very occasional lag is felt in the performance of the 395-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-6-cylinder engine with an electric supercharger and a 48-volt hybrid boost. The Land Rover’s 5,900-pound curb weight takes a toll on fuel mileage – 19.8, EPA estimate is 17/21. Also available are 4-cylinder and V-8 engines.

Shifts from the German-built ZF 8-speed automatic transmission are near-imperceptible; the Rover’s all-wheel-drive system kept us moving, as it switched back-and-forth from rear-wheel to four-wheel control through deep snow in the streets all over town. A heated steering wheel was welcomed on 0-degree mornings.

The Defender’s long body, 211.7 inches (same as Cadillac Escalade), sports a tough, sturdy-looking front end. Along the sides, the C pillars at window level are covered with what look almost like white, rectangular stick-ons. A squared-off rear end and large spare wheel cover do little for aesthetics. The body sits high, with optional 22-inch wheels, and has no step rails or running boards. It has 11.5 inches of ground clearance.

The roomy, well-designed, 8-passenger interior for the new Defender. (Land Rover)

The 8-passenger interior is roomy and comfortable for all three rows of seating, with Windsor leather and panoramic roof. In full use, all those headrests and the spare-tire cover hinder vision out the rear windows. The Meridian sound system and an 11.4-inch infotainment screen are user-friendly.

Accessing the 130’s Terrain Response system, like I told two years ago in reviewing the ’21 Defender, requires touching a button on the center stack, pushing in the driver-side heat-temperature control knob and dialing in the preferred setting among normal, snow, mud, rock crawl, etc. It offers a mode for traversing deep water in roadways or small streams.  

We all know Land Rovers are of English heritage, have been for 75 years; don’t spread it around, but this one is built in Nitra, Slovakia. Global expansion is the explanation.

Sticker price for the ’23 Defender 130 reached $92,725 with the 22-inch optional wheels at an added $2,000, a package which boosted tow capacity to 8,200 pounds for $1,850 and heated windshield/washer jets/steering wheel for $1,500.

Land Rover, along with Jaguar, is owned by Tata of India. Its LR lineup includes Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar, Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover Defender, Land Rover Discovery and Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Mountains, in-city snow test ‘23 BMW M340i

The 2023 BMW M340i xDrive at Lake Estes. (Bud Wells photos)

An 8-inch snowfall Wednesday morning, Jan. 18, set the course between my house and Starbucks for the 2023 BMW M340i four-door sedan and me, and with xDrive all-wheel control and Bridgestone Turanza all-season touring tires the low-slung Bimmer’s grip was as good as I expected.

Streets in my neighborhood had not yet been plowed and the BMW churned through the deep pile with minimal hindrance.

The BMW sedan, in the snow, completes drive-through for coffee.

The snow test was a bonus, for Jan and I had made a 135-mile run on Friday of last week through some mountain canyons – finessing the curves in these areas are where the BMW builds its rep for handling.

I’ve driven lots of BMWs. Lots of Mercedes, too.

Both of the German premium car builders are still producing wonderful sedans. When BMW sent the 2023 M340i xDrive here, I mentioned that it is a competitor of the Mercedes-Benz C class 4Matic AMG.

“Of those two brands, which do you suppose you’ve driven most,” I was asked. “Does anyone keep track,” he continued.

“I do,” I said, “I keep track.” Over the past 45 years, even with a few diversions from the driving duties, I’ve tested 108 BMWs and 103 Mercedes. That’s not as many as the number of Fords and Chevys that have come my way, but it is more than the Hondas and Subarus.

What an enjoyable drive it was aboard the Bimmer M340, over to Loveland, on up U.S. 34 as far as Drake, then the back road through Glen Haven to Estes Park, slipping onto U.S. 34 as far as the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and back to Estes, down the canyon and home.

I’ve made this drive many times, and let me say of the BMW M340, its cornering capabilities may be the best of anything I’ve piloted to Estes. My first-ever run up the canyon was in my 1948 Ford V-8 two-door sedan in the summer prior to my senior year in high school many years ago.

Complementing the longtime sportiness of the 3 series in recent years is noticeably more comfort and softness.

The review model was equipped with BMW’s famed 3.0-liter, twin-turbo, inline-6-cylinder of 382  horsepower; tied to its 8-speed automatic transmission is a 48-volt mild hybrid system of added horsepower for a boost in passing power and added acceleration. An M sport package delivers adaptive suspension, steering and differential.

The M340 is 185.7 inches in overall length, with wheelbase of 112.2 inches. At 17 cubic feet, its trunk space is larger than that of the Mercedes C300 sedan.

The mountain drive in the M340 recorded fuel mileage of 27.8 miles per gallon, right in the middle of the EPA estimate of 23 city and 32 highway.

The BMW’s sticker price of $67,160 included Harman Kardon surround sound, dynamic cruise, heated steering wheel and mocha vernesca leather.

New CR-V Hybrid arrives amid Honda sales slide

A gas engine, two electric motors power the 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid. (Bud Wells)

Honda’s bread-and-butter car, the 2023 CR-V compact crossover, showed up in early January 3 inches longer in overall length, a bit wider with stiffer suspension, an all-new gas/electric hybrid powertrain, a roomier cargo area and a boost in rear styling with vertical LED taillights.

The CR-V, now in its sixth generation, is Honda’s best-seller, ahead of Accord and Civic sedans and HR-V and Pilot SUVs.

American Honda, builder of Honda and Acura automobiles, is headquartered in Torrance, Calif., for the Japanese company. I’ve commended Honda before on its predilection toward quality products, and this week couldn’t help noticing some positive statements concerning a ton of adversity over the past two or three years.

Of all the major auto manufacturers, Honda took one of the biggest hits in sales from chip shortages, interest rates, etc., in the past year, a decline of 33 percent. Lack of inventory has hurt all car builders. The decline for Honda continued into last month (December 2022) when car sales were down almost 4 percent and trucks dipped almost 15 percent from the same month a year ago. The headline on the company’s year-end sales report, though, was “American Honda posts positive finish to tough sales year as increased supply helps meet strong demand.”

“It’s all about supply issues,” said Mamadou Diallo, vice president of auto sales for American Honda Motor Co., “and when we have the inventory to meet strong customer demand, our sales will continue to rebound.”

With the CR-V’s curb weight at just under 4,000 pounds, fairly smooth performance is delivered by the new 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine and dual-electric-motor hybrid setup with 204 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmission is of continuously-variable design. Drive modes are Normal, Sport, Eco and Snow.

By engaging the “B” position from Drive on the transmission selector, with paddle shifters in effect, a light amount of regenerative braking is felt. It helps slow down the CR-V in deceleration. This is added reliance to the electrical side of the powertrain.

In one 50-mile highway drive, with the B mode used for about half the miles, we topped out at an average of 34.7 miles per gallon. The CR-V Hybrid’s EPA estimate is 40 in town, 34 highway and 37 combined.

Standard on the CR-V Sport Touring model I drove is an update to Honda’s Real Time AWD system, which is quieter than past models and is capable of sending up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, improving traction in slippery conditions.

The lane departure system, when engaged, provides well-centered guidance down the highway. Also included in Honda Safety Sensing are adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking and traffic-jam assist.

Priced at $39,845, the CR-V Hybrid provides a comfortable interior with leather, a 9-inch color touchscreen, Bose premium audio, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, Bluetooth. The CR-V interior warms very quickly on a cold, winter morning, helped by remote start and heated steering wheel.

GMC Hummer electric 9,065 pounds/1,000 hp

The new Hummer retains the ruggedness of the original models. (Bud Wells photo)

Christmas Week 2022, my word what a busy time with bitter cold and deep snow; travel duties, though, were handled with ease by the Hummer EV Pickup, General Motors’ blockbuster entry among the rush of electric vehicles.

Its curb weight is more than 9,000 pounds and three electric motors develop almost 1,000 horsepower.

The GMC Hummer is extra wide at 86.67 inches. (Bud Wells)

It is 86.7 inches wide, 7 inches wider than a full-size GMC Sierra pickup. Wheelbase is 135.6 inches and overall length 216.8. Its small box is 5 feet in length.

Sitting in the driveway of son Dale and Sandy Wells’ home in Johnstown on Christmas afternoon, the Hummer’s size drew comments from many of the 50 family members gathered for our annual dinner.

A day earlier, Christmas Eve morning, my old traditional greeting of “Merry Christmas” was tossed from the open window of the Hummer in a “drive about town” in Greeley.

Turned back by black ice in a Toyota Sequoia Hybrid the week before in our attempt to visit relatives in Sterling, the journey was completed in full length on Monday, the day following Christmas. while driving the 2022 GMC Hummer.

Son Brent joined Jan and me for the drive and we visited with Norma and Dave Wagner, Jana Lock and Pat Ogley while there.

Preparing for the drive, I spent an hour Monday morning at a ChargePoint station at Village Inn at Greeley Centerpoint, sharing space in the four-station area with one other electric, an older BMW i3. Replenishing the Ultium battery pack of 210 kWh capacity to almost full raised the estimated range of miles to 300. The charge for lifting the energy level from 60 percent to about 92 percent was $45.57, including $7.73 for a parking fee. Thus, in this instance, the almost-$38 cost for the electric charge was more costly than it would have been to similarly replenish fuel for a gasoline-powered Hummer. The drive to Sterling and back covered 210 miles, while the battery pack was reduced from an estimated 297 miles to 47 for an estimated use of 250 miles.

As part of the Hummer’s Super Cruise, the lane-changing and lane guidance features are among the best of any I’ve driven and tested. The system consistently maintains center-lane position for the Hummer, and in self-driving mode will signal, then initiate a move into the next lane for passing or accommodating heavy traffic along the lanes.

The original Hummer was marketed beginning in the 1990s. (General  Motors)

This longtime gig of mine, driving and reviewing new cars and trucks, began 45 years ago, Christmas Eve 1977. I left the Denver Post newsroom at 15th and California about 4 p.m., Jan picked me up and drove out north to Griffith Chrysler Plymouth in Northglenn, where I was handed the keys to a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba.

All these years later, we’re transitioning as hundreds of variations of electric cars and trucks are heading our way, very swiftly, very quietly, even against fears and warnings of some analysts that electric-car charging may overload the power grid.

General Motors appears to have engineered a superb set of advancements for the Hummer electric.

The Hummer is pricey; sticker price on the review model I am driving is $110,295. It is built at the Detroit-Hamtramck factory. On sale in limited production, the GMC product is special, for in its newness it rivals the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup, the Mercedes-Benz EQS450 Electric, the BMW i4 M50, the Audi e-tron GT and others.

The Hummer’s estimated tow rating is 7,500 pounds, with an estimated payload of approximately 1,300 pounds.

We tested Hummer’s “crab walk” mode, in which the rear wheels can turn as much as 10 degrees and will mimic the angle of the front wheels to assist a diagonal move in parking or offroad; it almost seems as though it is “scooting” over.

A big chunk of space in Hummer EV bed is taken by spare wheel and tire. (Hummer)

It is equipped with air ride adaptive suspension, trailering package, 13.4-inch color touchscreen, navigation, Bose premium sound, remote start, heated steering wheel, spray-in bedliner, multipro tailgate, transparent sky panels and enhanced automatic parking assist.

One-third of the space in the small pickup bed is dominated by the upright spare wheel and tire, which can be removed to create more cargo room.

’22 Outlander rolls on for Mitsubishi

Half of Mitsubishi sales in 2022 have been the Outlander. (Bud Wells photos)

I’d not driven a Mitsubishi product since its new Eclipse Cross crossover a couple years ago, so it was high time for another when the 2022 Outlander SEL showed up in my driveway on a July 2022 morning. .

The new Outlander, which shares a platform with the Nissan Rogue, is refreshing with rounded hood front/grille, a boxlike stack of headlights beneath thin turn signal lamps and a wider, more muscular stance.

The Outlander is one of few compact crossovers with three rows of seats; this year’s structure is a bit wider and taller, still the third row is very tight, enough space only for small children. With the third row in place, cargo space at far back is only 11.7 cubic feet, though that expands to 33.5 feet with seats folded.

As per its alliance with Nissan, Mitsubishi borrowed the Rogue’s 188-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine, tied to a continuously variable transmission with a somewhat traditional automatic feel from its simulated gear shifts. It is of all-wheel-drive configuration.

The interior is jazzed up with orange trim and stitching against the nearly all-black finish and offers Bose premium sound.

A $2,700 SEL Touring package of heated steering wheel, synthetic leather door insert with quilting, head-up display and panoramic sunroof boosted sticker price of the Outlander to $37,995.

At one time, Mitsubishi products from Japan were a major player in U.S. automobile business. At the turn of the century, Mitsubishi sold 315,000 cars and trucks in the U.S. in one year. Remember the Galant and Montero Sport?

Today, sales have dropped by 69 percent since the year 2000. Through the end of June this year, Mitsubishi’s shrinking dealer base has sold 48,272 cars and trucks. Half of those sales were the new Outlander. Only other Mitsu models are the Mirage car, Eclipse Cross and Outlander Sport crossovers.

Despite the precipitous fall in sales, Mitsubishi is not at the bottom of the sales totals. It still outsold Lincoln, Jaguar, Land Rover, Infiniti and Porsche. Mitsubishi even sold slightly more than Buick, 48,272 to 48,075 – 197 units.

The Outlander handles fairly well, with quick steering. The overall performance seems somewhat underpowered, particularly when passing on the highway, as the Outlander is a couple-hundred pounds heavier than the Rogue. Normal mode is an improvement over the very mild Eco setting; there are terrain sets also for tarmac, gravel, snow and mud. The 3,600-pounder rides on Bridgestone 20-inchers.

In a fairly even split of city/highway miles, the Outlander averaged 26.8 miles per gallon; its EPA estimate is 24/30.

Sales in the U.S. of Mitsubishi models through the first six months of this year are 24,429 for the Outlander, 9,535 for Mirage, 8,596 for Outlander Sport and 5,712 for Eclipse Cross.

Expected during the winter is a 2023 Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid.

Lyriq electric draws crowd to Elway Cadillac

The gleaming Lyriq all-electric SUV in showroom of John Elway Cadillac. (Jan Wells photos)

As snow fell outside the showroom windows, John Elway Cadillac staged a somewhat picturesque unveiling on a November Thursday evening with a huge crowd of customers and curious onlookers. With the new car covered from sight as the men and women streamed in, it was a look-back to when dealers took the wraps off the newest models on a special fall night.

This new product breaks tradition, though. It is Cadillac’s entry into the burgeoning world of all-electric automobiles – the 2023 Lyriq SUV. The sharply styled luxury sport ute was well-received by those in the Elway showroom. It will be offered in all-wheel and rear-wheel-drive configuration.

Partners Todd Maul, left, and John Elway following unveiling of the Cadillac Lyriq.

The occasion for showing the newest electric was the grand reopening of the remodeled dealership on East Parkway Drive near Park Meadows in Lone Tree.

“We are the No. 1 Cadillac dealer in the state of Colorado,” said Todd Maul, managing partner for the John Elway Dealership Group. Yes, Elway, the aging “quarterback,” was there with Maul, greeting all and very patiently posing for photos with any who asked.

Thanks to the weight of the liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 102kWh battery pack, the Cadillac Lyriq scales in at 5,600 pounds or more. It is 196.7 inches in overall length on a wheelbase of 121.8 inches. A single motor, 340 horsepower, drives the rear wheels. In AWD form, a second motor powers the front wheels, with combined 500 horsepower.

Cadillac claims the Lyriq, in rear-wheel form, will deliver a range of 312 miles between charges. Impressive inside the model is a 33-inch display screen spanning most of the dashboard.

Tim Jackson, president/CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, was among those welcomed to the gathering by Maul.

It was good to run into Ron Goodman, sales manager at Elway Cadillac, and his wife, Rosie. My acquaintance with Goodman goes back a number of years when he was operating Goodman Buick GMC on South Broadway. Goodman drives a Cadillac CT4 sedan and Rosie an XT4 SUV.

I enjoyed visiting with Nancy McDonald, an account executive with Fox31, who told me her late father, Ernie, never missed reading a car column of mine. We also talked of the top quality of U.S. full-size pickups; her favorite is the GMC Sierra.

Michele Apodaca, publisher of Quality Connections South Metro magazines, reminded me that she, too, was involved in Denver newspapering some years back and her desk was very close to mine.

With Jan as my passenger, I drove to the event in a turbocharged 2023 Mazda CX-5 compact SUV crossover. The return drive was on I-25 through the heart of Denver in falling snow, wet roads and all lanes filled with heavy traffic. The CX-5 handled well. It is popular and accounts for more than half the number of new Mazdas sold in the U.S.

‘23 Tacoma’s new look is “solar octane”

The 2023 Toyota Tacoma with solar octane finish stands out in dry field and light sky. (Bud Wells photos)

Sporting Toyota’s newest color of solar octane, a vivid and bright orange, the 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro pickup carried us out north on a late November afternoon, then off to the east through some dryland ranch country before returning home.

The next morning was snow time (5 inches deep), lending better test of the Tacoma’s TRD Pro setup of 4-wheel drive/traction control/electronic locking differential and 9.4-inch ground clearance. We had no trouble handling the winter blast; Tacoma is one of the best 4X4 systems among compact pickups.

Among major competitors for the Tacoma are the Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon, Chevrolet Colorado and Ford Ranger. The Tacoma is the best-seller.

In line inside the A&W at Eaton for a bit of lunch at the start of our drive up northeast, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman wearing a Colorado School of Mines sweatshirt. Dave Scriven, president of Western States Mining Consultants of Casper, Wyo., was on his way home from Golden, where on Saturday he watched the Mines’ Orediggers outlast Minnesota State, 48-45, in the NCAA Division II football second round.

Scriven, who played football for Mines in the late 1960s and received his degree in 1970, was driving a Ford F250 turbodiesel. He seemed very knowledgeable of the automotive field and we were in agreement that the F250 among full-size pickup trucks and the Tacoma among compacts were standouts.

A resounding point of dissent, though, came from him when I ventured an opinion that, with the rush of electric cars and trucks to the U.S. market, those traditional internal-combustion-engine-powered autos will share a 50/50 split in sales with the new electrics for some time.

Scriven doubts that will develop; “We (the U.S.) don’t have enough electricity to support such a transition of electrics,” he said. I enjoyed the exchange and wished Scriven and his Mines gridders “best of luck down the road.”

As for the ’23 Tacoma review model I was driving, it is equipped with TRD-tuned Fox internal bypass shocks, front skid plates and front and rear suspension lift. It is extremely capable offroad, though it lacks instant low-gear rpm performance from either its base 159-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine or its optional 278-hp, V-6. Its 6-speed automatic transmission seems dated, also. A 6-speed manual tranny is available with the high-end TRD Pro trim. The review model, with the V-6, averaged 18.6 miles per gallon overall (EPA estimate is 18-22).

The Toyota Tacoma of 20 years ago.

Toyota’s sticker price on the Tacoma TRD Pro climbed to $51,229 with the offroad enhancements, dynamic radar cruise and lane-departure alert, leather-trimmed heated front seats and premium audio touchscreen with subwoofer and amplifier. Lesser-equipped Tacoma 4X4’s begin in the low $30,000s. The Tacoma was built in Guanajuato, Mexico.

While townspeople will “ooh” and “ahh” over the bright orange color, it might be best to park it far from the duck blind on those cold winter mornings for hunting.

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.