The 2021 Toyota Tundra works hard to pull its weight in the full-size pickup class, but despite a muscular V-8 engine it falls behind the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150 in our rankings. It’s light on luxury, lower on towing and hauling ratings, and in gas mileage too.
We’d still buy one if we put durability and resale value at the top of the rankings, but nobody does full-size trucks better than Detroit.
For 2021, the few changes to the Tundra include new Nightshade and Trail Special Editions, which are mostly visual changes. The major versions—SR, SR5, Limited, TRD Pro, Platinum, and 1794 Edition trims—carry over with the same basic shapes that it’s worn since we had a President-Elect Obama. It’s gawkward (let’s make that word happen) and bulbous, and inside, the Tundra SR looks a little too thrifty.
Toyota pours its efforts instead into its throbby 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8, which passes out smooth, Lexus-style acceleration like flyers in Times Square. Its 6-speed automatic has the right gears for moderate speeds, but it needs a couple more gears at least to do better than its very low 15-mpg EPA combined peak. The Tundra can pull up to 10,200 pounds and can strap on 1,730 pounds of weight into its bed; it’s stuck with a part-time four-wheel-drive system, though, and its TRD Pro off-road model’s fine but it’s no Raptor or TRX.
The Tundra’s standard bench seats make six-passenger seating possible, but we’d upgrade without a second thought to power front seats and a wide center console. That way the Tundra can seat five, though the three in back get a very upright back rest that’s not so restful. Toyota sells the Tundra in three different bed lengths, but the nifty touches like in-tailgate steps, bed lighting, tie-downs, and in-bed storage found in rivals are absent here.
All Tundras get automatic emergency braking, but the IIHS’ low crash-test ratings are a concern. Tundras come with a basic 7.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, but more expensive Tundras don’t have the luxury options of rivals. The warranty’s average, too, though Tundra resale values regularly set a torrid truck pace. Stick with the value-minded Tundra SR5 and drive it forever; spendy Limited and 1794 Edition trucks look nicer, but don’t drive any better.
In the beginning, Lindsey Trett had no idea how many customers might want to have their vehicles picked up for service and dropped off when the work was completed.
What Trett and her colleagues at Walser Automotive Group in Edina, Minn., did know as the coronavirus began to spread across the country in March was that they had to offer that option if they wanted to drum up business for their service bays. There wasn’t much of it in those early days: Repair appointment volume cratered in March, dropping by up to 80 percent in the last two weeks of the month, across the dealership group’s 20-plus stores in Minnesota and Wichita, Kan.
Walser rolled out a suite of services under the banner of You, including service pickup and drop-off, at-home test drives and home vehicle delivery. The idea for the services had been in development since last year, CEO Andrew Walser said, and company leaders quickly mobilized to put them into place in response to the pandemic.
Trett, who manages Walser’s service business development center, said her team launched a basic pickup and drop-off program for service customers in late March and refined it over the following weeks as they learned what worked and what didn’t.
“Store by store, we just started to offer it on the phone to customers with basically limited to no information. We just had to go for it. It was fly by the seat of your pants,” Trett told Automotive News. “If we booked one, we emailed something down to the store. They’d go, ‘OK, we got someone; we’ll go pick it up,’ and that’s when we started to figure out some best practices. But at that point, you’re thinking, ‘How do I survive?’ ”
As interest grew, Trett said, service business development center employees developed a strategy that emphasized communication and simplicity. They built codes specific to pickup and drop-off within the group’s scheduling software and set parameters on distance. In Minnesota, it’s generally 15 miles, although jobs requiring less than an hour of labor are limited to 5 miles. Walser’s Wichita customers live farther away, Trett said, so the radius there is 100 miles.
The service requires additional cost to operate, but it provides value to customers and will continue to be offered for free, according to the group, which retailed 18,057 new vehicles and 24,124 used vehicles in 2019, ranking it No. 54 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S. The company did not quantify the additional expense but said it can be attributed to the need for more employees to run vehicles between homes and the service department.
Trett’s department worked with each store’s service department to structure the program to fit their individual needs. Trett’s team created a tracking system that produces reports each night on the day’s Walser To You activity. Her department sends follow-up emails for each pickup and drop-off to the service department, confirming the appointment.
All of the setup happened remotely, as service business development center employees began working from home in March — and with a smaller staff, Trett said. Roughly half of the positions on the 40-person team were eliminated, though those employees were eligible to move to other jobs in the group. Going forward, Trett said, her department will stay smaller because productivity has remained high.
From March 23 through the first half of August, Trett’s department had made more than 3,500 appointments under the Walser To You program, an average of 6.9 percent of total service appointments it set. That was up from about 5 percent through the first half of July.
For dealerships considering a similar program, Trett said, these concepts were important: Use existing software to avoid adding steps. Keep the process simple. Make sure everyone understands the goal and the reason behind the initiative. Create a system to accurately track and report results. And communicate often so employees in multiple departments are on the same page.
“It’s almost like we needed this to happen,” Trett said of the pandemic bringing the program to fruition. “We’ve been able to strip everything back and really look at the future in a different way.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the pivotal vehicle in McLaren Automotive’s transition to a 100 percent electrified portfolio, but the British exotic automaker’s future product plans are now coming into clearer focus.
Last week, McLaren released details of its newest vehicle architecture, which, in a different direction for the brand, has been specifically developed to accommodate hybrid powertrains. It’s still a central monocoque carbon-fiber tub, the key component that the automaker builds its supercars around. But McLaren’s previous two hybrids, the P1 and the Speedtail, have not been on dedicated hybrid platforms.
The upcoming vehicle, code-named P16, will feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain and have an electric range of roughly 19 miles, with a charge time of three to four hours, McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt told Automotive News last week. The electric motor sits between the engine and the gearbox, Flewitt said, but he declined to say which internal combustion engine will be included in the layout.
The hybrid will have a higher power output than McLaren’s entry Sports Series vehicles, but it will slot below the 720S from the brand’s midrange Super Series, he said.
“We would have started talking about the car at Goodwood, followed by a Pebble Beach launch, in terms of showing the car, and started selling in October,” Flewitt said. “But literally, everywhere closed down. We’ve got a development center just outside Barcelona in Spain, and we use some U.K. facilities, and they were all closed, so we couldn’t do any developments at all.”
McLaren’s factory paused production in late March and didn’t start again until June, with limited output of the Speedtail. The rest of the factory restarted in July, Flewitt said.
The new vehicle is now set to debut by year end, and North American deliveries will begin around May — more than six months after its original on-sale date.
Flewitt, who has driven the vehicle and called it “fabulous,” said a hybrid setup is the right link between internal combustion engines and electric vehicles.
“It brings significantly better emissions. You’ve still got all the driving dynamics of a supercar with the internal combustion engine,” he said. “You’ve got EV capability for those who want it. It’s a really great package in terms of getting what you need in terms of EV and emissions, but also giving you a proper supercar.”
As new models follow, a majority of McLaren’s launches will be hybrids, Flewitt said.
“Progressively, as we do new models, they’ll come off that new structure,” he said. “They’ll be hybridized.”
By 2025, McLaren’s whole lineup will be hybridized, Flewitt said. The brand’s first all-electric vehicle is further out, likely closer to 2030, Flewitt estimated. Even further out is McLaren’s probable shift to all EVs.
“As we look at what politicians around the world are saying, it looks like the first markets are talking about banning internal combustion engines from 2035,” Flewitt said. “So we’re making that a planning date that we will have the capability to be fully EV at that date.”
Flewitt said that as McLaren gets closer to 2035 and better understands what the market wants and governments require, it will be able to tune launches as it sees fit.
“I think the reality is, we’re going to migrate now from internal combustion to hybrid,” Flewitt said. “We’ll get to a point, probably towards the end of the decade, towards 2030, where we’ll start a migration from hybrid to EV. How long that takes is hard to say, but my guess is 2020 to 2030 will be about moving between internal combustion and hybrid, and 2030 to 2040 will be moving from hybrid to EV.”
We established in the introductory story that I don’t seem to drive a lot of Civics despite my job being to drive all the things, so the short-long-term 2020 Honda Civic Si and I are still getting acquainted. So far, so good.
Some of my colleagues have been down on this generation of Civic Si because it has a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine tuned up from everyday Civi spec, not a purpose-built, naturally aspirated, high-rpm screamer like past generations of Si. As much as I love a good naturally aspirated engine, this doesn’t bother me, mostly because I never formed an emotional attachment to those old Si models. Maybe it was lack of sufficient exposure, but I’m not mad about this engine.
Not that folks’ criticisms are nonsense. The engine is laggy, like they say, and the revs hang when you upshift. Neither of those things really bugs me, though. Driving normally, out running errands or whatever, there’s enough torque to scoot around in traffic just fine. You don’t need to rev it out, and it doesn’t feel slow. It feels like a Civic. The light switch action of the turbo happens around 3,000 rpm, and when I’m just puttering around town, I shift at 3,000, so I never notice it. If I want the power of the turbo for a bit of fun driving, it’s only a downshift away. The six-speed manual’s tightly spaced ratios make it easy as pie to keep the engine in whatever rev range you want, so you can keep the turbo on the boil at all times or leave it switched off. Just drive how you want it to respond.
The rev hang hasn’t been an issue in everyday driving, either. It’s hardly the worst rev hang I’ve experienced in a modern manual transmission car, for starters, because it’s a direct-injected engine. The Engineering Explained channel on YouTube has a great explainer video, but the short version is this: Modern cars have electronic throttle systems that are programmed to close the throttle valve more slowly than a mechanical system would in order to improve emissions. Automatic transmissions can easily mask this, but for manuals, it results in rev hang, where the engine speed (rpm) doesn’t drop as quickly as it would with a mechanical system. As a result, when you upshift a modern manual, you can easily release the clutch before the rpms have dropped enough due to the hang, causing the car to jerk as the transmission and engine speeds equalize via the slipping clutch.
Thing is, it’s easy enough to drive around. Knowing the engine is going to take longer than experience with mechanical throttles would suggest, I just shift slower. I change gear slower, and I release the clutch slower, both of which give the engine time to hang and then lose speed. It just takes a little slowing down to completely avoid the jerk, and when I’m just driving around town, I don’t need to be speed-shifting anyway. The real test, though, will be how easy it is to drive around when I get the Si out on my favorite mountain road, which I’ll do in the next update.
Regardless of what the throttle’s doing, the transmission itself is a gem. Sure, like all manuals, it’s a little stiff in the morning when the gear oil is cold, but it just presents as a little notchy. Once it’s warmed up, though, it’s perfect. Only two companies on the planet build manual transmissions this good: Honda and Porsche. The shifter isn’t just buttery smooth with delightfully short throws right from the factory; it slips into the next gear (up or down) perfectly every time, as if there’s some device in there helping position all the forks and gears and such for you so you never miss a shift. You just gently nudge it in the general direction of the gear you want, and it goes neatly into place. You never hunt for a gear, never get caught out between gears. Transmissions like this are why people like driving stick.
As with the powertrain, the chassis, too, can change its stripes at the push of a button labeled “Sport.” With standard two-mode adaptive dampers, the Si’s ride becomes noticeably firmer in Sport mode. Considering it starts out firm for a compact sedan, this mode ain’t messing around. It’s stiff, and it’s meant for performance driving. Naturally, it sharpens up the throttle response and plays with the steering assistance, as well. In many cases, I like to be able to adjust these parameters separately, say, to get better throttle response with comfort damping for driving around town. The Si is set up so nicely out of the box, though, that I don’t feel the need to trade ride comfort for throttle response and hit the Sport button every time I start the car.
I do need to wait a tick when I turn off the car, though. Likely for emissions reasons yet again, the Si needs a full 2 seconds after you hit the engine start/stop button and the dash goes dark and radio shuts off before the engine stops spinning. I like to shut my manual transmissions off in-gear with the clutch in so I won’t forget to do it after I turn the car off. In most manual transmission cars, the engine goes off when everything else does, and you can release the clutch immediately. Not the Si. If you don’t wait until you feel the engine stop vibrating and pop the clutch too soon, you’ll make the whole car jump. Not great for your clutch—or anything you may be parked close to.
Stiff ride or no, the sporty seats fitted to the Si are an excellent compromise between support and comfort. They have big bolsters that feel like they’ll do a good job when needed, but the padding is plenty soft, so they don’t get uncomfortable on longer drives.
What does get uncomfortable, though, is that aluminum-topped shift knob. Aluminum shift knobs look cool and feel good in your hand, but the metal is a hell of a heat conductor, and that’s bad news for your right hand. On a warm day, that little disc is approximately 8 million degrees, and on a seriously cold day, it’s minus 4 million degrees. Either way, it’s extremely uncomfortable to handle more than half the year. Thankfully, I learned this lesson a long time ago when I installed an aluminum shift knob on my own car, so I know to keep a rag in the car to throw over the shifter when I park it. Doesn’t guarantee the knob won’t be super hot or super cold, but it’ll protect your hand.
Now that we’ve gotten to know each other, it’s time to drive this car like it was meant to be driven. Performance impressions are on deck for the next update.
Read more about our long-term 2020 Honda Civic Si HPT Sedan:
We’ve been living with the 2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe for nearly half a year now, and the pint-sized sedan has been put through our daily routines and spontaneous adventures. While the 228i Gran Coupe was out on a road trip, I spent time with one of its platform siblings, the X1, to answer a frequently asked question today’s car shopper might have: What do you gain and give up by switching to an SUV?
BMW X1 or BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe: How Practical?
For a small sedan with a swoopy roofline, the BMW 228i Gran Coupe is practical for a single person or a couple. The 15.1-cubic-foot trunk easily accommodates a week’s worth of groceries and a couple medium-sized pieces of luggage. However, you need to fold the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat back for bulky items. An underfloor storage area and cargo floor that doubles as a divider provide extra flexibility. Unfortunately, the narrow trunk opening forces you to slide your belongings in, limiting what you can put back there.
Although the X1 gives up 2.5 inches in length to the 2 Series Gran Coupe, the SUV makes up for it in width and height. Both of those factors make the X1 better suited for hauling bulky items and for family vehicle duty. The added height behind the rear seats gives you the ability to stack cargo or carry more items upright when you have rear passengers. Like the 2 Series Gran Coupe, the X1 also has an underfloor storage area and trick cargo floor; however, the X1’s is deeper and fits more stuff. Dropping the standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat backs creates an expansive, squared-off area, perfect for runs to Ikea or Costco.
BMW X1 or BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe: The Driving Experience
Unsurprisingly, the 2 Series Gran Coupe and X1 drive differently despite sharing the UKL2 platform, which also underpins the X2 and larger Mini models. The 2 Series Gran Coupe holds an advantage with its low-slung stance; there’s less body roll, and turn-in feels more immediate. By comparison, the X1 leans more because of its high center of gravity, and it’s not as willing to turn into a corner as its sedan sibling. Where the X1 has an advantage is ride quality. Even with the M Sport suspension, the X1 dispatches road imperfections better than the 2 Series Gran Coupe, which crashes over every bump and pothole.
Neither vehicle gives you much excitement, even with AWD. Pushing the 2 Series Gran Coupe makes it unpredictable and hard to manage because of its excessive understeer followed by sudden midcorner oversteer. In the X1, on the other hand, you’re constantly managing body motions and trail-braking to avoid plowing into a corner. Numb steering on both vehicles also means you never know exactly what the front wheels are doing. In the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s sportiest setting, the weighting becomes particularly heavy while remaining cold and disconnected.
Both vehicles are powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four. Neither feels lacking; there’s always power on tap for passing and merging. The eight-speed automatic is also tuned well in the 228i, featuring smooth, snappy shifts, and rarely landing in the wrong gear. Sport mode sharpens the throttle response and enables the transmission to hold gears longer, keeping you in the engine’s sweet spot. In the X1, the same transmission is a little more relaxed in operation outside of Sport mode, hinting at its fuel economy-focused tuning.
BMW X1 or BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe: Safety
Surprisingly, BMW equipped the 2020 228i Gran Coupe generously with plenty of standard driver assistance features. Forward collision warning, front automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high-beams, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert are standard across the 2 Series Gran Coupe lineup.
The X1 also gets similar standard driver assistance features but lacks blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. You can’t even get them as optional extras on any X1, which could be a possible deal-breaker for safety-focused consumers. Adaptive cruise control is a standalone option on both the 2 Series Gran Coupe and the X1, but you’ll have to opt for the Premium package to get it.
Both cars also lack the advanced driver assistance features found in larger BMW models and some of their competitors. Technologies such as evasive steering assist, rear automatic emergency braking, traffic jam assist, and lane centering aren’t offered on the 2 Series Gran Coupe or X1.
BMW X1 or BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe: Is the New iDrive That Much Better?
For tech lovers, BMW’s iDrive 7.0 system in the 2 Series Gran Coupe is a must-have. The latest interface is user-friendly and packed with cool tech features such as a built-in Spotify app and over-the-air updates to keep the software current. A quick-responding touchscreen and menu layouts reminiscent of your smartphone further simplify the learning curve.
The X1’s older iDrive 6 interface uses an outdated tile layout with multiple submenus. This version isn’t as intuitive as iDrive 7; you have to dig through at least two layers just to change the satellite radio station and handle other simple tasks, and it takes time to learn. The graphics also look dated and aren’t as crisp as the latest version, which also benefits from a larger touchscreen (10.3 inches on iDrive 7 versus 8.8 inches on iDrive 6).
Neither the X1 nor the Gran Coupe drives like BMWs of yore, with each catering to a distinct audience. The 228i Gran Coupe is for the single person or couple who values a unique vehicle and doesn’t need something super spacious. Given its versatility, the X1 is aimed at the small family or active individual who wants a useful compact SUV with a desirable badge. The X1’s cushier ride should also make road trips pleasant for more than two people.
Read more about our long-term 2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe: