Rally and gymkhana icon Ken Block dead at 55

Rally and gymkhana icon Ken Block dead at 55

Ghymkana hero and rally driver Ken Block died on Monday living life the only way he knew how—having fun.

Block’s crew at Hoonigan confirmed via Instagram he died in a snowmobile accent on Jan. 2. Block was 55 years old and is survived by his wife and three children. TMZ reported that the Wasatch County, Utah, sheriff’s office said the accident happened at about 2 p.m. when the snowmobile upended and landed on top of Block. He was reportedly pronounced dead on the scene.

“Ken was a visionary, a pioneer and an icon. And most importantly, a father and husband,” Hoonigan posted.

Hoonigan confirms Ken Block's death on Instagram

Hoonigan confirms Ken Block’s death on Instagram

Co-founder of DC shoes, Block took to professional driving while working as a marketing executive for his company. He attended Team O’Neil rally school at the age of 36 and became enamored with the sport. Block started racing full time in 2005.

Block created his first gymkhana video in 2008 and it immediately went viral. His latest gymkhana escapades saw him behind the wheel of the custom-built electric Audi S1 E-Tron Quattro Hoonitron for “Electrikhana.”

The Audi S1 E-Tron Quattro Hoonitron was built specifically for Block, who signed in on with Audi in 2021 to help develop electric cars for the German automaker. Block said he was a major Audi fan, but the partnership with the Four Rings was made possible by Block’s exclusive relationship with Ford coming to an end. Before teaming up with Audi, Block returned to rallying with Subaru, which is the brand that got him started with his motorsports career.

Block’s company, Hoonigan, has grown into a small empire. It merged with Wheel Pros in 2021.

While he grew up skateboarding, snowboarding, and riding dirt bikes, Block told Motor Authority in 2016 he quit riding dirt bikes because he “had this cool race car career.” He had plenty of injuries from riding dirt bikes and he was afraid to get injured. He still snowboarded a lot.

Block taught his 14-year-old daughter how to drive. She then immediately began to follow in her father’s footsteps and raced her father’s Hoonicorn against a Hemi-powered Corvette drag car. Ken Block called the car frightening with up to 1,400 hp.

Acura Integra: Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023 finalist

Acura Integra: Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023 finalist

Can the return of an iconic nameplate usher in a new Motor Authority Best Car To Buy winner? It may, in the form of the $31,895 Acura Integra.

The Integra has a history for inexpensive thrills that dates back to the mid-1980s. It peaked with the 1992 GS-R model, which made the cut for our 100 Cars That Matter series. But Acura ditched the name when it moved to the RSX , and left a big chunk of its history behind.

With the new Integra, Acura has axed the tired ILX from its lineup though it’s retained the entry-level formula of improving upon the bones of the Honda Civic.

The Integra starts with a solid platform based on the 2022 Honda Civic Si, and fixes most of our gripes with the Honda in the upgrade process. The package adds up to an Integra that recaptures the glory of days past, according to Senior Editor Kirk Bell.

2023 Acura Integra

2023 Acura Integra

Every Integra is powered by a 1.5-liter turbo-4 rated at 200 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. While base and A-Spec models send power to the front wheels via a CVT with seven simulated gear ratios, enthusiasts will want the top A-Spec with Technology Package model for $36,895 because it unlocks the 6-speed manual transmission option. That manual is a winner, with short, clean, precise throws and solid engagement. Bell called the transmission “far too fun” to pass up.

Small enhancements to the Integra over its Honda sibling add up to make a big difference: the Integra’s chassis is 5% stiffer, and it has larger 27-mm hollow front and 17.5-mm solid rear stabilizer bars (18 mm on the A-Spec model).

2023 Acura Integra

2023 Acura Integra

The single largest upgrade over the Civic Si, and the one that cures the sporty Civic’s biggest flaw, is the set of adaptive dampers Acura installs with the Technology Package. They settle the suspension on the highway. While the ride is still soft, body motions are controlled.

With an ultra-quick 11.52:1 ratio (base models are even quicker at 11.33:1), the Integra’s steering delivers deft responses. It doesn’t feel too quick and the Integra is never darty on the freeway.

2023 Acura Integra

2023 Acura Integra

Inside, there’s seating for five, but really only four will fit comfortably. The sport front bucket seats are well-bolstered and supportive, but the rear seat bottom is low and the fast roofline cuts into rear headroom. The standard 7.0-inch touchscreen feels a bit small, but the A-Spec with Technology Package model gains a 9.0-inch touchscreen that features the Civic’s easy-to-use tile-based interface and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The hatchback body style provides 24.3 cubic feet of space, and the rear seats fold nearly flat to expand the cargo area.

The Acura Integra isn’t perfect. The manual transmission should be an option across the board. At 200 hp, it also wants for power on backroads. Another 50 to 75 hp would do the trick. It’s also about as powerful as the RSX Type S from 21 years ago, which says something about a lack of progress. A forthcoming 2024 Integra Type S should address that neatly. 

Will the Integra’s charming manual transmission, well-sorted suspension, and quick steering be enough for it to win over two hot hatches, an outrageous SUV, a luxury EV, and a sport sedan? Check back on Jan. 4 when we reveal the winner, along with the champs from our sister sites, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports.

Review: 2022 Ford Explorer Timberline fires back at Jeep and Subaru

Review: 2022 Ford Explorer Timberline fires back at Jeep and Subaru

Ford’s had enough of adventure-seeking families in the market for a crossover SUV heading to Jeep and Subaru showrooms.

At least, that’s the impression the 2022 Ford Explorer Timberline gives. With more ground clearance, a smattering of off-road-oriented hardware, an upgraded suspension, and all-terrain tires, Ford’s created the most off-road capable Explorer yet. But while it should be enough to sway some from a Subaru Outback, it falls short of stealing Jeep’s lunch.

Capability on a diet

Like the Subaru Outback, the Explorer Timberline goes light on the off-road capability compared to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Let’s just call it Capability Light, the 95-calorie capability.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

Every Explorer Timberline has a 2.3-liter turbo-4 rated at 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque under its hood mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. While that’s more power than any Subaru Outback and it’s adequate in the Explorer, the 4xe plug-in hybrid powertrain in the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will leave this Ford in the dust.

In day-to-day driving the Explorer’s turbo-4 is the definition of fine, but it starts to run out of steam in highway passing maneuvers. I don’t question the Timberline’s maximum tow rating of 5,300 pounds, but I do suspect it will struggle to tow confidently at highway speeds. That’s a test for another time. Senior Editor Robert Duffer also noted lumpy first-to-second and second-to-third gear shifts, though I didn’t have the same experience.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

Where the Timberline takes a right turn down a gravel road from other Explorers is its suspension and running bits. Ford swapped in a set of heavy-duty shocks (which were yanked from the Explorer Police Interceptor’s parts bin), upgraded the stabilizer bars, and installed off-road springs with more rebound up front to reduce jarring off-road movements. Company engineers also went with taller 265/65R18 Bridgestone Dueler All-Terrain tires, and added skid plates below the engine, transmission, and rear-end. They also recalibrated the steering to mesh with the suspension changes.

The result is the best-riding Explorer money can buy. On broken Midwest pavement the Timberline soaks up road imperfections and keeps them in the background. Body motions are well controlled, and with a slightly wider track than the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, the Timberline feels a bit more stable going down the highway.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

The approach angle improves over the standard Explorer from 20.1 to 23.5 degrees, while departure angle rises from 22.0 to 23.7 degrees. But with 8.7 inches of ground clearance (up 0.8 inch over a standard Explorer), the Timberline comes up short, literally, next to the Subaru Outback Wilderness with its 9.6 inches of ground clearance. And the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will go much deeper into the wilderness with its disconnecting front sway bar and 10.9 inches of ground clearance when raised up on its air suspension. The Jeep also has a 2-speed transfer case to let the SUV crawl over rocks and through streams. The Explorer? It’s living a lie with a 4WD badge slapped on its tailgate despite the fact it lacks a 2-speed transfer case with low-range gearing for low-speed torque and control in the toughest off-road situations. It goes about its business with an all-wheel drive system that sends power to the wheels with traction. The Ford’s best feature is its Torsen limited-slip rear differential to help keep wheel spin in check during slippery situations.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

But, like the Jeep, the Explorer’s ace in the hole, which the Outback lacks, is a terrain management system. The system has Normal, Trail, Deep Snow/Sand, Slippery, Sport, Tow/Haul, and Eco driving modes. While my off-roading excursion in the Explorer Timberline consisted only of a gravel farm road, I’ve had extensive experience with Ford’s Terrain Management System as it’s featured in everything from Raptors and Broncos to the Expedition. It’s one of the best systems in the business and truly tailors the powertrain and traction/stability control for the conditions at hand, though it’s telling that it lacks Rock Crawl and Mud/Ruts modes on the Explorer Timberline.

The bottom line is the Explorer Timberline will provide the off-roading capability most buyers need better than other versions of Ford’s mid-size three-row SUV. However, it will hit the end of the trail when confronted by the technical, low-speed stuff that the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk can handle.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

Playing undercover undercover cop

With blacked out headlights and taillights, chunky all-terrain tires, 18-inch black-painted aluminum wheels, and grille-mounted LED fog lights, the Explorer Timberline looks like an undercover cop car. The orange Timberline badges and tow hooks reveal it’s a Timberline, but they take more than a quick glance to spot.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

The grille-mounted LED fog lights strips on either side of the Ford badge actually perform more like driving lights. They do a terrific job of lighting up the road, but the beams are focused down the center of the road in between the headlights rather than spreading to the sides of the road. They also can’t be used with the high beams, though they can be used in conjunction with the round factory fog lights mounted lower in the bumper, which is an odd choice. The top-mounted fog lights are engaged by an AUX button on the headlight control dial. An orange light indicates they are active and has an aftermarket look.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

Inside, the Timberline is standard Explorer fare, including the analog gauge cluster with a 6.5-inch information display and 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The standard satin silver colored trim with Timberline-specific graining Ford called Stone Mesh is nice to look at and touch, but it’s the green interior with orange stitching that is so hot with ’90s vibes that tugs at my childhood heart strings. While the green interior looked fantastic with my tester’s Forged Green paint, it’s unclear how it would look with one of the other available colors.

Those green seats are soft, supportive, and road-trip worthy. The first two rows are extremely comfortable, and the seats are wider than those found in the Grand Cherokee. But the third row is a bit small for adults. It’s acceptable for quick trips around town, but no one past grade-school age will want to spend real time back there. The Outback has no third row and neither does the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.

At $47,450 as tested (though the base price has since been raised to $51,475), the Timberline falls in the middle of the Explorer lineup between the Limited and the sportier, more powerful ST. It’s also about $11,000 more than a Subaru Outback Wilderness and $14,000 less than a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.

The Explorer Timberline sits between the Jeep and Subaru in price. It can’t match the Jeep’s off-road capability, but is roughly equivalent to the Subaru as long as 8.7 inches of ground clearance meets your needs. Depending on the off-road adventure capability you desire, the Explorer Timberline might pencil out to be the right fit. You certainly can’t get a green interior in a Subaru or Jeep, and neither of those have three-rows of seats. So, how far do you really need to go off-road and with how many people?

Ford provided a green-on-green Explorer Timberline for this review, but your author supplied the Minnesota backdrop

Nissan Z SUV, Nio ES8, Cadillac Goddess: The Week In Reverse

Nissan showed a student-built Z SUV, Nio revealed its redesigned ES8, and Cadillac confirmed the return of its Goddess logo. It’s the Week in Reverse, right here at Motor Authority.

In what was a quiet week, Nissan showed a one-off design blending elements from the latest Z sports car with the second-generation Murano SUV. The odd concoction was a project of students at the Nissan Automobile Technical College in Japan.

Chinese EV brand Nio revealed two vehicles. One was a coupe-like SUV called the EC7, and whose arrival means Nio’s lineup now has seven distinct vehicles. The other was a redesign of the ES8, Nio’s first mainstream vehicle. Both vehicles feature a battery that can be swapped in seconds at a Nio battery station.

Cadillac will soon revive its Goddess logo, which the automaker used for hood ornaments on various vehicles built from 1930 to 1956 and briefly on the 1959 Eldorado Brougham. This time the logo will appear on several trim pieces in the Celestiq flagship EV.

Volkswagen announced it will use the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show in January to present its next electric vehicle. The vehicle is expected to be a mid-size sedan previewed earlier this year by the ID.Aero concept car. Prototypes for the sedan, which may be called an ID.6 or ID.7, have previously been spotted testing.

Gemballa may have built its reputation on wild upgrades for a range of Porsche vehicles, but the company is now working on its own supercar. The car is promised for launch in 2024 with more than 800 hp, and this week we saw a new teaser sketch of the exterior.

One of these 7 cars will be named Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023

One of these 7 cars will be named Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023

As the move to electrification continues, some automakers are leaping toward the future while others are looking to the past for one last final hurrah. These trends are clearly evident in this year’s crop of finalists for Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023.

Last year marked a first for our award. A clean-sheet-design electric pickup truck from a startup automaker came out on top as the Rivian R1T earned Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2022 honors. The Lucid Air, also an electric vehicle and also from a startup, was the runner-up.

After driving nearly 30 new or significantly updated luxury and performance cars, trucks, and SUVs, we whittled down the list of 2023 nominees to just seven contenders. We fought to get there, and fought more to determine the winner.

We’ll announce the winner on Jan. 4, 2023, along with the winners from our sister sites, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports.

Until then, these are the seven finalists for Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023.

2023 Acura Integra

2023 Acura Integra

Acura Integra

The Acura Integra proudly returned in 2022. Previewed a year ahead of the hatch’s return in prototype form, the compact hatch delivered on its promise of recapturing the magic of the glory days. Based on the Civic Si’s bones, the Integra takes things a step further with the availability of adaptive dampers, a better sound system, and of course, a hatchback body style. It’s a shame the manual transmission is quarantined to the top-spec model.

2022 Audi RS 3

2022 Audi RS 3

Audi RS 3

The Audi RS 3 returned with turbo-5 power and track capability. The RS 3’s mission is to delight the driver and stir the soul, and it feels right at home on a racetrack. The all-wheel-drive system has become more sophisticated and essentially offers a drift mode thanks to a trick rear differential with torque vectoring capability. The tires are staggered, oddly with the larger rubber up front. It’s legitimately quick, too, with a 0-60 mph sprint of 3.6 seconds. Sure, there’s a bit of turbo lag, but it’s part of the car’s character. But at more than $60,000 in most configurations, it’s expensive in a timeline of fast and fun cars for less money.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

Cadillac Lyriq

The Cadillac Lyriq aligns the automaker with its battery-powered future. It could also mark the turning point that proves GM’s luxury division is finally ready to chart its own path. Rather than chasing the Germans, the Lyriq sets out on it own with jaw-dropping style, a parts-bin free interior that’s Cadillac-specific, and exemplary ride and handling. While the initial price of $62,990 has come and gone—it’ll cost more than $70,000 if ordered now—it still feels like a value. This is the first mass-market application of the Ultium platform, and it bodes well for future GM EVs.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor

Ford Bronco Raptor

The Ford Bronco Raptor made it to the final round because it’s one of the most outrageous and outrageously fun vehicles money can buy. It’s a street-legal Tonka truck with crazy specs, including 418 hp, 13.0 inches of ground clearance, 13.0 inches of front and 14.0 inches of rear suspension travel, and 37-inch all-terrain tires. It also costs less than the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, though that beast has two more cylinders and 57 more hp.

2023 Honda Civic Type R at Sonoma Raceway

2023 Honda Civic Type R at Sonoma Raceway

Honda Civic Type R

Could we have a repeat winner on our hands? The Honda Civic Type R was named Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018 when the last-generation model arrived. Now the new Type R is here, and it grows up but remains fun. The latest iteration of the legendary hot hatch checks in with 315 hp, better cooling, and a revised gearbox. Sure, it still has the big wing, but it’s larger, smarter, and faster than before. It’s already set a front-wheel-drive lap record at Suzuka. Priced at $43,990, it’s not the bargain it once was and our final two contenders cost less.

2022 Hyundai Kona N

2022 Hyundai Kona N

Hyundai Kona N

The Hyundai Veloster N is dead and we mourn its loss after it almost won our Best Car To Buy award in 2020, but now we get the $35,995 Hyundai Kona N. The slightly lifted hot hatch bursts onto the scene with the the same rowdy turbo-4 and front-wheel-drive layout but a bit more practicality. The Kona N goes beyond hot hatch to wild child with its loud pops and crackles and sharp dynamics. But its higher seating position is a detriment to track and canyon driving, and the ride is harsh.

2023 Toyota GR Corolla Morizo Edition

2023 Toyota GR Corolla Morizo Edition

Toyota GR Corolla

Who thought we’d ever see the day when Toyota returned the Corolla to its 1980s hot hatch heyday? The GR Corolla does that, and way more. Toyota’s Gazoo Racing department installed a 300-hp turbo-3, a 6-speed manual, and a trick all-wheel-drive system to make the Corolla fun. The feisty hot hatch starts at $36,995, but the version enthusiasts want runs just over $40,000 thanks to optional front and rear limited-slip differentials. That’s an expensive Corolla, and it’s still budget-grade inside, but it has the willpower to back up its attitude and price.

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 43, next VW ID EV: Today’s Car News

A redesigned Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is headed to showrooms soon, and it will once again spawn high-performance AMG variants. Our latest spy shots reveal a prototype for AMG’s new GLC 43, which will come with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 pumping out over 400 hp.

Volkswagen will use the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show in January to present its next electric vehicle. The vehicle is expected to be a mid-size sedan previewed earlier this year by the ID.Aero concept car.

Porsche’s rugged 911 Dakar may be limited in production, but the automaker is open to adding more vehicles like it to the 911 range. Porsche’s chief has said he’s open to making rugged 911s a new model range within the 911 family, similar to the current GT and heritage ranges.

You’ll find these stories and more in today’s car news, right here at Motor Authority.

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 43 spy shots and video

VW’s next ID EV to debut at 2023 CES

Porsche 911 Dakar may lead to more rugged 911s

Automakers to discontinue these cars in 2023

Volvo will limit software subscriptions to major upgrades

Study: PHEVs aren’t plugged in as often as regulators assume

Porsche’s PDK transmission goes back to 1980s race cars

2023 Porsche Macan review

Cadillac Goddess returns for a new era

Tesla ups its discount on Model 3 and Model Y to $7,500