I test-drove 52+ vehicles in 2021, a “mere bag of shells” compared to the over 300 models introduced into the American market. My tests took me to New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, and many points near and far on and off-road, on race tracks, through the woods and over snow.
I’d like to offer you, my loyal readers, five of the vehicles that made the biggest impression on me, and why.
I needed a cigarette after I drove this thing, and I don’t even smoke.
Though I spent a mere two days navigating the 2021 McLaren 720S Spider around the winding turns and twists of the mountains near and in Estes Park, Colorado, those two days left a deep and unique impression on my body, soul, and spirit. This is a car unlike any other, and it will wake you up and everyone else everywhere you go.
First, it’s gorgeous. Its rear is its best angle, with the hiked tail pipes, the sharply-angled hood and the general Batmobile flavor of implied speed, even when the vehicle is stationary.
Then is the belch from the engine and the exhaust occurring each time you accelerate and ease off the pedal, rather like the sound of a very large, dangerous creature exhaling a large volume of air. This gives the driver a feeling of being “there” with the ride and each push of the pedal. It’s just you, the McLaren, and the asphalt.
There are two stories here. One is a test of a 2021 Jeep Gladiator, and the second is the outfitting of that Gladiator by a company who specializes in customizing not only the Gladiator but a mess of other manly trucks – RMT Overland.
But first, the Jeep itself.
This was my first Gladiator, and a welcome one. I’ve been eyeballing this pickup since it was introduced last year, lusting after the ones I saw on the street and in parking lots and wanting to get behind the wheel, but I was bopping around the country most of last year and never got to it.
As soon as my test Gladiator Overland arrived, all shiny black like a model T and square like the vehicles of the 1930s, I knew we would get along, though I never did master the art of getting in and out of the vehicle gracefully.
To enter during the 10-day test, I used my right hand to grab the steering wheel and pull myself inside, landing bulls-eye in the driver’s seat, then straightening my 5’8 self out. To exit, I put my feet out the door, grabbed whatever was in reach with my right hand, launched and aimed my feet so they could take the same blow at the same time. It wasn’t a problem – I had fun with it.
When you’ve got a Ghost for just a few days, you’re inside it most of the time.
You do your coffee and bagel in the backseat, for example, at 7 AM. Your fine picnic tray prevents you from sullying your plush interior, though, so no cream cheese on the lambswool foot mats that are softer than 1,000 count bed sheets, and no crumbs on the plethora of leather and bespoke materials everywhere you look and touch.
You then roll where the wild wind takes you.
Even if you’ve been out all day – and you have – you bop back into the hotel to shower and change after 9 PM, and back out with you, you lucky boy.
My home base was in Tarrytown, N.Y. where I parked the Ghost around the back of the Sleepy Hollow Hotel and Conference Center. My brother cars in the lot were Odysseys, Rav4s, Cherokees and other mortal vehicles, yet the Ghost was safe from harm or even very much interest. That’s where the Ghost differs from, say, the Dawn, in which one is meant to be seen coming a mile away. I liked being under the radar, coming and going unobserved. Journalist, you know.
2021 Ford Bronco
Meet the new boss. Not the same as the old boss.
The new Bronco is a singular and delightful new machine as well as a clear and present rival to the Wrangler. It’s great-looking, it’s rugged, it’s toy-like (in a good way) and was thoroughly enjoyable over a recent week’s test. I’m a bit late to the party – the Bronco’s been bangin’ around all summer – but the wait was worth it.
The first thing I loved, natch, was its looks. It takes a lot to wake up this jaded auto journalist but I fell in love on sight and practically dove into the driver’s seat. From its mighty hood to the bulging flanks, big door handles, fat back tire and the “Lightning Blue Metallic” paint, the Bronco has an especially Tonka-sorta flavor, which the boy in me appreciated.
The Civic is a no-nonsense, no frills, no problem car. It’ll work perfectly for for anyone who needs reliable wheels, who wants to fit plenty of groceries, a suitcase or two, a guitar or some bags of dirt from Home Depot in the trunk. If you’ve got three pals to take somewhere, in they go, with plenty of room and comfort, EZ-PZ. I loved how basically good this car was – neither flashy nor embarassing, just a good sensible car. It’s also doing amazingly well with Millenials, Gen Z, first-time buyers and multi-cultural buyers, and proud we are of all of them. Trims are plentiful, though the Coupe is gone as of next year. It also offers multiple engine choices and either a CVT automatic or tight manual transmission.
The 2021 Honda Civic sedan starts at $21,250, plus a $955 destination charge. Prices rise from there as one moves up in trims, natch. Base models powered by the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine are peppy and responsive for their size. Over a week’s test, some of which involved trips of 100 miles there and back, I found seats comfy, visibility excellent and all controls easily findable. It’s simply amazing how some of the economy bars, like the Civic, have better thought-out center consoles than some cars costing upwards of $100,000. Opt for the Civic Type R and you get high-bolstered sport seats covered in a grippy red and black material resembling suede and with double-red stitching.
Your new car comes with forward-collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, road-departure mitigation, and automatic high beams – all standard. Mileage is somewhere around 38 MPH for my test model, city/highway combined.