For Alex Taylor it all started when Alex was just a few weeks old. The old story of “it’s in your blood” really applies here. Born and raised in Booneville, Arkansas, from the time Alex was just a few weeks old a majority of her time was spent at the shop. At the age of 15, Alex and her parents began to build her car. What started as a 12-second Camaro that Alex drove to high school each day and competed in HOT ROD’s Drag Week in 2013 began its transition into the eight-second “Badmaro”.
Perhaps more impressive than Alex’s racing history is her commitment to being a well-rounded driver. She is not only hands-on with every project, does her own tuning/maintenance and keeps all her fans and supporters updated via her social media and her YouTube Channel.
Scott Birdsall is a character. He is a business owner, builder, fabricator, race car driver, used car salesman, Dad, and many more things, but for the purpose of this piece we will start with Chuckles Garage. This is where Scott transitioned from the corporate world to chase the dream of building and creating hot rods, one of those famed builds is the classic “Gasser” affectionately known as “Strange Bird”. However Scott doesn’t just limit himself to Chuckles Garage he is also part owner of Resolute Motorsports who specialize in improving 911‘s from 1983 to 1989 for either the road, track or safari rally’s. Last but not least we can’t not touch on the fact Scott currently holds the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record for a diesel vehicle, beating previous record-holder, Uwe Nittel and his Mercedes Benz C300D 4MATIC, by just over 13 seconds in “Old Smokey”.
Now “Old Smokey” his beloved truck is hard to characterize, maybe the best way is to say it is an IMSA race car hiding under 1949 Ford truck sheet metal. It is however registered and legal to drive on public roads and with the squeeze of the loud pedal it obliterates a pair of rear tires at will. This is in part thanks to a massive wave of torque from the turbocharged Cummins engine that sits up front. Honestly the truck defies easy explanation, and therein lies its appeal. It is cool because it’s so functional in ways that it shouldn’t be. Most people wouldn’t build a race car out of a 1949 Ford F1 pickup, and for those who would, it is extremely doubtful they would go to the lengths Scott did. Originally, he didn’t build Old Smokey to set records at hill climb or top speed events; he actually bought it to fix it up and flip (hence the used car salesman).
Back to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and its 156 turns over the course of 12.42 miles. Scott has the current best diesel time of 11 minutes and 24.065 seconds, beating the diesel record set by Mercedes-Benz in 2016. His end goal is to get the record under 10 minutes in “Old Smokey”. I know he will do it because Scott already made the impossible happen in getting a 1949 Ford F1 up a mountain faster than anyone else, that number is just going to get lower as Scott gets better.
The Toyota 4Runner has been a certified adventure SUV since the original rolled out in 1984. With its core DNA as a body-on-frame, do-anything SUV fully intact, the 4Runner enters 2021 with a new Trail Special Edition. Whether the destination is a secluded trailhead, local boat ramp, or traffic-clogged school drop-off zone, the 4Runner gets its crew there with comfort, versatility, and proven Toyota reliability. Based on the SR5, the new 4Runner Trail Edition combines sharpened outdoors flavor and capability with rock-solid Toyota value. Toyota will build 4,000 4Runner Trail models for 2021, joined in the showroom by Tacoma and Tundra pickup Trail Editions. You could say the 2021 Toyota 4Runner is definitely not your typical crossover, instead a relic of a bygone era, however this classic style is undoubtedly a big part of the 4Runner’s appeal.
A first for the 4Runner lineup, all grades gain LED headlamps (low beams) as standard equipment for 2021. Available Trail exterior color choices include Army Green, Cement, Midnight Black, and Super White. The 4Runner Trail features black exterior badging, plus black seating with tan stitching. A sliding rear cargo tray makes it easier to load and unload gear, while a Yakima LoadWarrior rooftop cargo basket carries more of it. Black front and rear Toyota “4Runner” overlays add additional style and flair, and all-weather floor liners help catch the outdoor elements that come in on occupants’ feet. The 4Runner Trail Edition is the only way to get a very cool 40-quart cooler, custom-made for Toyota in the U.S.
The 4Runner’s 4.0-liter V-6 engine, 270 hp and 278 lb-ft (less horsepower than a Toyota Highlander) and dated 5-speed automatic transmission (5 fewer gears than a Ford Explorer or Chevy Tahoe) can team with either rear-, four-, or all-wheel drive. Entry-level SR5 models are rear-wheel drive, while all other trims except the tippity-top Limited model come with selectable, part-time four-wheel drive. Those models have a manually selectable two-speed transfer case with a low-range setting. Limited models have full-time all-wheel drive with a Torsen center differential that can apportion torque to the front or rear wheels as necessary, depending on road conditions and which wheels have traction.
When it comes to on road handling the less said the better the ride is neither smooth nor quiet and unfortunately every 2021 4Runner is rated at a lowly 16 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. Other competitors in this market have similar city ratings but do significantly better on the highway.
The interior of the 4Runner is not what you’d call state-of-the-art, but it does manage to comfortably fit everyone front and rear. Nevertheless, it’s all put together quite well, controls are logically placed and there’s certainly something to be said for a rugged off-road vehicle that has a rugged interior. Our test vehicle came fitted with the pull-out cargo deck. This is designed to make loading and unloading heavy items, up to 440 pounds easier. It can also double as a tailgate for seating. This also provides a flat load floor when the second-row seats are folded, but it does mean several inches of height are lost in the back. Even so, we do not think the inches lost factor as you still have an impressive amount of room behind the second row.
The cargo area floor is quite low for a truck-based SUV, while the space beyond is a big, boxy 47.2 cubic feet. Even when you add the novel slide-out cargo floor that reduces capacity, there’s still a gigantic amount of space. We know, we filled it up. Maximum cargo capacity with the back seat lowered is 89.7 cubic feet, which rivals many three-row crossovers (the Highlander has only 84.3), and surpasses the Jeep Grand Cherokee (68.3) and Honda Passport (77.9). There is also the 4Runner-trademark power rear window that allows you to secure long items like surfboards or lumber out the back while keeping the rest of the liftgate closed. It also allows for freer airflow in the cabin, and dogs typically love it as well (that big boxy area in general is dog friendly). Despite its rugged body-on-frame construction, every 4Runner’s towing capacity is only 5,000 pounds.
Every 4Runner features an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The interface includes a set of physical buttons as well as rotary volume and tuning knobs. The system, called Entune, comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration. Simple tasks like changing radio stations are generally easy to perform, but it’s not the quickest system nor most modern in appearance. That’s a Toyota-wide issue, though, rather than a 4Runner-specific one. A built-in navigation system and a 15-speaker JBL audio system are available upgrades.
The 2021 4Runner starts at $37,515, including destination, for the base SR5 with rear-wheel drive. The 4×4 SR5 model starts at $39,390. The new Trail Edition at $39,490 4×2 or $42,975 4×4. The TRD Off-Road $41,480. From there, the SR5 Premium at $40,725 4×2 or $45,575 4×4 and TRD Off-Road Premium $43,690 the Venture Special Edition $45,795. The Limited $46,570 4×2 or $48,605 4×4 and Nightshade $47,985 4×2 or $50,020 4×4 are more luxury-oriented versions of the 4Runner. Then there’s the TRD Pro $51,645.
Toyota provides two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance, which is a rarity in this class, while the coverage in other categories matches industry norms. This is a Limited warranty that covers three years or 36,000 miles and a Powertrain warranty that covers five years or 60,000 miles.
Toyota has modernized the 4Runner with an impressive amount of standard driver assists and infotainment features for 2021. But Toyota last redesigned the current-generation 4Runner back in 2010. On the one hand, that’s great as it has the same rugged truck-based chassis, capable suspension, ample clearances and bulletproof reliability that makes it a darling among off-roaders across the globe AND it keeps its residual values sky-high. However what it does mean is that if you want great fuel economy and a comfortable ride around town you have the wrong SUV. But if climbing mountains, fording rivers and crossing deserts is your calling then the 4Runner is one of the best choices for you.
Igor Polishchuk is the founder of CAtuned one of the most renowned BMW workshops in North America. However it was the early hands on experience he gained from working with his father on family owned cars that led to his love for cars.
A paying hobby flipping cars led to the acquisition of a space and then a garage which is what we know today as CAtuned. Igor started CAtuned in 2002, it all began with an admiration for square body cars like the BMW E30, and he is still inspired by the classics. From custom BMW and classic parts to full restoration services CAtuned does it all. However it is not just BMW’s as CAtuned Off-Road takes care of the 4×4 and Overlanding community from simple products to custom off-road rigs. Then of course we have Igor’s worldwide expansion of the CAtuned brand to Canada, Russia, Ukraine and Germany.
Through CAtuned Igor has been able to combine his passion to build unique vehicles and create a business known throughout the world for quality parts. However the best and probably most rewarding part of it all is that he is able to use his business to educate people while bringing customers dreams to reality.
The Volkswagen Atlas is the German brand’s foray into the three-row SUV class and it is built in Tennessee. The Atlas is one of the more practical three-row SUVs available. Thanks to a vast cabin, the Atlas is one of only a handful of vehicles in its segment that comfortably fits adults in the third row while retaining a usable amount of cargo capacity. The refreshed 2021 models are rolling out now, complete with prettier styling and additional features.
The face of the Atlas has been transformed with a more prominent grille bearing Volkswagen‘s new logo and more naturally integrated headlights. Its front and rear bumpers have also been reshaped and add 2.4 inches to the crossover’s overall length. The interior is virtually untouched compared with the 2020 model, but there are revised controls and a new steering wheel with a more substantial feel. A wireless charging pad located beneath the center stack is now available, too. The Atlas gets enhanced adaptive cruise control with the addition of stop-and-go capability, and we confirmed that the improved lane-assist camera does a great job of smoothly centering the vehicle in its lane. Traffic-sign recognition also joins the crossover’s roster of driver-assistance technology, which already included standard automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Rather than offer many distinct option packages, VW bundles features according to trim, which is why there are seven trims. The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas is powered by either a 2.0-liter turbo-four cylinder with 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque which feels very underpowered or a 3.6-liter V-6 rated at 276 hp and 266 lb-ft, which we tested in the Atlas Cross Sport and the one we would go with. However, a vehicle this heavy could use a lot more power under the hood, both engines are coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings for the four-cylinder 2021 Atlas are 21/24 mpg city/highway in FWD guise or 20/24 mpg with AWD. Models with the V-6 are less efficient at 17/23 mpg for FWD models or 16/22 mpg for AWD-equipped models.
The inside of the Atlas is not as handsome as the exterior. The hard plastics and trim pieces underwhelm compared to cabins in competitors such as the Mazda CX-9 and Kia Telluride. The base 2021 Volkswagen Atlas gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Higher trims are available with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, built-in navigation, a Fender audio system, and Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit system, which replaces the analog gauges with a configurable digital display. We however do appreciate the VW’s commitment to physical switchgear, with traditional knobs for volume, tuning, and climate control. Also, the cabin is well-insulated from outside noise. For tech savvy consumers the upgraded VW Car-Net service also offers a wealth of handy features that allow you to interact with your vehicle remotely via a smartphone app.
The driver’s seat has a wide range of motion that provides a seating position for all preferences. The VW’s second-row bench seat is comfortable and flexible, with folding seat backs and sliding bases that can be separately adjusted. It’s also easy to access the Atlas’s third row thanks to an intuitive folding mechanism that easily tilts and slides the second-row seat forward, which can also be done without removing a child seat. The third row is surprisingly spacious as long as you don’t try to cram more than two average-sized adults back there and provided that the second-row seats are positioned closer to the middle of their adjustable tracks. There’s plenty of room, but you don’t want to spend much time inside an Atlas, with all seats up, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas has 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding the third row increases capacity to 55.5 cubic feet. Dropping the second and third rows creates a cavernous 96.8-cubic-foot area that’s perfect for big, bulky items.
The Atlas is 16.5 feet long and the curb weight starts at 4,248 pounds, it is built on VW’s ubiquitous MQB platform and when properly equipped, the Atlas can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Volkswagen covers the Atlas with a limited four-year/50,000-mile warranty. The three-row 2021 Volkswagen Atlas starts at $31,555 and reaches $47,225 for the highest trim level. While we appreciate the competence of the Atlas, the best compliment we can give the biggest VW is that it is fine and there is nothing wrong with it, we do think however that the Atlas would be a good option for a family of five or six, due to its head and legroom in all three rows.
Tim Matthews is the Curator of the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed. This means he oversees all day to day activities of the museum as well as in helping acquire items for the collection, negotiates deals, coordinates deliveries and trips to pick up donated or purchased items, helps plan events and Cars and Coffee speakers and manages the rest of the Museum Staff plus so much more! Tim set time aside to talk to me about the museum and the HBO Documentary series The Lady and the Dale. If you are unfamiliar about the documentary, it delves into the life of Liz Carmichael and the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation.
The Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska, is a non-profit corporation founded in 1992 by “Speedy” Bill and Joyce Smith. The original museum was in a smaller building on Van Dorn street in Lincoln. The museum moved to its current location on the Speedway Motor‘s campus in 2001. This 150,000 sq. ft. museum was formed to present a continuous chronology of automotive Racing Engine and Speed Equipment development and to preserve, interpret, and display items significant in racing and automotive history. The collection results from the Smiths’ personal involvement in racing and hot rodding, and their lifelong passion for collecting and preserving racing and automotive history.
Leen Customs has created waves in the automotive community, and built a brand around his unique take on the collectible enamel pin. However you have probably never heard of the man behind Leen Customs. In our latest episode we had a chance to talk with Hansel Echeverria or as you might know him Mr Leen Customs.
Hansel Echeverria grew up in Los Angeles, working as a freelance artist. Graffiti was something he was fascinated with and that is where Hansel started his art career and earned the moniker Leen. However it wasn’t until he started attending design focused events and he noticed brands and artists made these very cool collectible pins. But there was never something that was about car culture, so he thought it might be a good idea to try and design some automotive-style pins and lo and behold Leen Customs was born.
The pins now number around 1,000 and are varied from Hollywood icons, hotrods, race cars to celebrated vehicles in the automotive community. The first one was a Subaru rally car because it was his favorite car at the time, and he has never looked back.
The Mazda6 offers elegant design and engaging handling. Mazda drapes the 6 with few straight lines and lots of sensuous curves. It feels quick and composed, even if the comfort- and economy-minded tires slightly dull the experience. Some competitors offer more efficient base engines, hybrid variants, more space, or superior technology, but Mazda’s midsize offering is a compelling alternative. Its design, driving experience, and premium interior all remind us what Mazda does well.
For 2021, the Mazda6 is offered in five trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve and Signature. The Grand Touring, Reserve and Signature trims offer a turbocharged engine.
Unlike most mid-size alternatives, the Mazda6 does not offer a hybrid option instead Mazda fits a 187-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 in the base Mazda6 sedans, and teams it with a 6-speed automatic. In the more premium models the addition of a turbo and the 227-hp (87 Octane) / 250-hp (93 Octane) and 310 pound-feet of torque Mazda6 lives up to its sporty promise better, with enough power in most situations. The significant increase in power and torque make for cut-above acceleration, with a dip in fuel economy. The torque helps in and around town, when the six-speed automatic quickly drops a gear to provide more motion when needed. Despite the front wheels doing all the work, there isn’t a hint of torque steer to be found. However it does feature some excess engine noise when it’s merging or for highway passing. The tires are never quite sure if they want to prioritize comfort or performance, a theme that makes itself apparent in the ride quality, as they produce more noise then need to.
The steering is heavy but direct and feels nice no matter the speed. The brakes are easy to modulate during the daily commute, and the sedan has no problem stopping in a hurry. Despite using cylinder deactivation, the 2.5-liter turbo I4 does not return the best fuel economy. The EPA rates the Mazda6 at 23 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg highway.
On the inside the design is sophisticated and uncrowded, incorporating high-quality materials that feel premium in this non-luxury segment. Front seats offer generous legroom, and the rears include adequate space, if not quite as much as the Honda Accord. Mazda‘s midsize sedan seats five with a good amount of legroom for the segment. The 6 offers 42.2/38.7 inches of legroom front/rear compared to 42.3/40.4 inches in the Honda Accord and 42.1/38.0 inches in the Toyota Camry. At 14.7 cubic feet, the cargo capacity is about even with that of the Camry (15.1 cubic feet) but can’t compare with the 16.7-cubic-foot Accord trunk. The rear seats do fold down, but for big cargo space, you’ll want to go for an SUV.
All Mazda6 models come standard with dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry. Regardless of trim, the Mazda6 is equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Wireless CarPlay is available on Grand Touring models and above. A six-speaker audio is standard, and an 11-speaker Bose premium system is available. Higher trims also include a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display and a windshield-projected head-up display. However I do wish the Mazda6 utilized the same technology as its smaller sibling, the Mazda3, while it isn’t terrible the infotainment system is just a little longer in the tooth compared to other brands.
In 2020, Mazda included its suite of driver-assist active safety technologies on all trims of the Mazda6. That means lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control are standard on all models. Another bonus is the Mazda6 is very safe, according to the NHTSA and the IIHS. This means a five-star overall rating, with a four-star rating for front-passenger and rollover protection. The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+, with a score of Good in every crash test, as well as a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test. Mazda’s industry-standard powertrain warranty is class competitive and no complimentary scheduled maintenance is offered, which puts the 6 at a disadvantage compared with the Toyota Camry, which provides two years of coverage.
Even though people are moving to crossovers en masse and sedan sales are falling, the midsize sedan segment remains the best it’s ever been. Whereas competitors such as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord have taken to bold exterior designs with plenty of exaggerated creases and folds, the 2021 Mazda6 keeps it simple. The Mazda6 feels a fancy step above most of its competition despite staying well below the $40,000 mark.
In this week’s episode we get the chance to talk to Myron Vernis. Myron has been described as having one of the most eccentric car collections in the world. These days people can track him down as Junkman356 and follow the latest from his garage in Ohio. However I think the best way to describe Myron is he is a dedicated automotive enthusiast with an eye for things that are a little outside of the norm. Nevertheless, he hasn’t retired from finding odd and unique cars Myron has a little more than a “handful” of cars and like any dedicated enthusiast is always looking for that next vehicle to find its way into his garage.
He has a wealth of knowledge on so many different types, manufactures and styles of cars. It was a real highlight to get the chance to talk to talk with Myron. Please make sure you take a listen, follow Myron on Instagram and just enjoy his dedication for automobiles.
The Lexus UX is the company’s first compact SUV and it genuinely brings something new to the table. The UX is an unusual subcompact luxury crossover, but, despite its hatchback-like proportions, it is an incredibly classy vehicle. Looking at the UX you notice cuts, creases and shiny details in its exterior design that really make it stand out. The UX is longer than any premium compact SUV rival, lower than most and in the middle of the pack in width. With a seating position lower than other SUVs, the UX feels more car-like to maneuver. Combine that with lightweight aluminum and composite panels and Lexus claims the UX has the lowest center of gravity in its class. Either way, there is a surprising agility to the car when maneuvering in and out of car parks and city streets. Unfortunately, its standard four-cylinder engine and available hybrid powertrain both have poky acceleration and produce coarse noises. Still, the 2021 UX has a host of standard features and a handsome interior that make it an interesting, albeit small, alternative to classmates such as the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class.
The Lexus UX is available with either a gas-powered or a hybrid powertrain paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). However, only the hybrid UX250h offers all-wheel drive; the regular UX200 is front-wheel drive. The latter uses a 169-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine which needed a lengthy 8.5 seconds to get to 60 mph– one of the slowest such times in the segment, and the engine sounded unrefined at high revs for a Lexus. Thankfully though both had great steering feel and quiet refinement endearing enough to help make up for their lack of quickness.
The F Sport version which we were able to test brings a sportier suspension, 18-inch wheels paired with the 225/50R15 run-flat tires. These tires are capable of running for 100miles at speeds of up to 50 MPH which is why the UX 200 does not come with a spare tire. The UX 200 didn’t bounce or bob, absorbing bumps with near-luxury indifference. The UX 200 F-Sport comes with ventilated 12-inch disc brakes in the front and 11.1-inch ventilated disc brakes in the rear. Electronically controlled Anti-Lock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution comes as standard which can automatically detect which tire has stopped rotating and distribute brakeforce to make sure it starts rotating again. The gas-only model is rated at 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
Inside, Lexus ensures that passengers know this is a luxury vehicle thanks to an attractive layout and fancy materials, this is probably the vehicle’s strongest feature. The front of the UX’s cabin is where Lexus plays one of its best cards. Smart and logical, the space feels generous and welcoming. The materials that make up the cabin are quality. Lexus is really highlighting its superior craftsmanship inside the cabin. It also boasts a bunch of standard features that includes dual-zone climate control and power-adjustable front seats. The experience can be elevated with options at an extra cost, such as heated and ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and snazzier materials.
The rear seat is quite snug for two people, while three is pushing it. Legroom can range from ok to non-existent if a tall person happens to be sitting upfront. Headroom is decent for most people, even with the optional sunroof. Cargo space is about average for the class with almost 22 cubic feet with the rear seats up. One other downside was a tall lift-over height does make it a little more challenging to load heavy items into the vehicle. Unfortunately, the cargo area behind those seats is even smaller on hybrid models.
Every UX has a loaded infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and four USB ports. The little Lexus also can be enhanced with numerous options that include a larger 10.3-inch center screen, built-in navigation, wireless charging, and an eight-speaker premium audio system.
The 2021 UX earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was named a Top Safety Pick. Every model is also equipped with standard driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Another plus is that Lexus provides a competitive limited warranty of four years or 50,000 miles and an extensive powertrain warranty of six years or 70,000 miles. The automaker also includes a short period of complimentary scheduled maintenance for one year or 10,000 miles.
The UX 200 makes a very compelling case for itself in the subcompact luxury crossover class. Being the entry-level car to the entire Lexus range, the UX 200 F-Sport certainly carries a very big stick. Loaded with top-of-the-line safety features and connectivity features that even most flagship cars lack, the car has all the characteristic bells and whistles that easily make it the most luxurious car in its class. However with sub-par engine performance, the Lexus just falls short of hitting its target as the ideal luxury CUV.
NoBraking is an international collective of creative individuals, who came together to celebrate their shared love for machines. Established in 2011, NoBraking was created to provide an online magazine for automotive enthusiasts.