During the last months, I have worked with over 30 vehicles from 18 different brands. That was an insane number of vehicles to have worked with in just six months…
Hold on…I actually drove a few more.
What? A few more vehicles? Was I out of my gourd?
You can say that, but please let me qualify this.
The vehicles I want to go over were mentioned in passing on some articles – or, not at all. These represent vehicles that I drove for a very short stint at some event or another. Yet, they yield some headline because of their significance. Or, because you asked me privately whether I have driven it or not.
Before I ramble on with this explanation, I will cut to the chase. Let me mention three vehicles that are worthy to be spoken about – and we’ll go from there.
Agreed? Good! Let’s dive in…
2021 FORD MUSTANG MACH-E: This is the most talked about and most controversial vehicle among these three. Ford wanted to take the next step in battery-electric vehicles, but figured they needed a hook. That hook came in the form of brand equity using the iconic Mustang name and badge.
The controversy is simple: This is not a Mustang in the traditional sense. It had a coupe-like profile, but it also has four doors and a hatchback that opens down to the bumper. There is nothing Mustang-esque inside the cabin. No retro-modern dashboard, but a prancing horse on the steering wheel.
However, it is a very good electric vehicle. It can accommodate up to five people inside, carry their goods in both the hatch and the “frunk.” Unbridled mode is Ford’s way to wake up the soul even in its most basic EV configuration. It drives very well, but not exactly in a Mustang way.
Let me leave the brand equity piece out by saying that if you are looking for a good EV from a legacy automaker to take home today, put this on your shopping list.
2021 JEEP WRANGLER UNLIMITED RUBICON 4XE: The idea of an electrified Jeep is part-reality and part-head scratching. The Jeep enthusiast would scoff at the notion of plugging in their Trail Rated Jeep. On the other hand, this has become part of the push by Stellantis to electrify everything.
For the Wrangler, it takes a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine. Add an electric motor that draws from a battery, that is rechargeable from a plug-in ahead of the driver’s seat. Stellantis states that it could drive up to 370 miles combined from a fully charged battery and a full tank of gasoline. That also includes 21 miles solely on battery energy.
In theory, that sounds like a good jump ahead of the brand strategy to electrify everything across the Jeep lineup. In practice, it was simply the most disappointing Wrangler I have ever driven. Where was the instant torque you are supposed to get from a plug-in hybrid? Hell, where was the enjoyment of driving one?
Rarely am I harsh on a vehicle, but my expectations may have been too high for this plug-in Wrangler. Then again, they will state that the future of Stellantis in embodied in this vehicle. That is perhaps something we’ll have to accept going forward.
2021 LEXUS RC F: One of my favorite vehicles of all time, revisited. It was part of a stop on the Lexus Driving Experience tour that stopped at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Similar to the BMW event I attended a month afterward, Lexus invited you to do a street drive and two autocross courses. The first one was under the guidance of the Lexus Performance Driving School – lead by Formula One and IndyCar veteran Roberto Guerrero.
It prompted me to revisit the RC F on this tight autocross course. This was my first time driving the uprated 472-horsepower version and its updated headlamps and other sundry items. To me, it was not about finding out whether five horsepower is enough to raise the profile of this great sports performance coupe. It was to reacquaint myself with a trusted steed.
My hot take is simple: It did not disappoint me.
Once you have driven one, then you understand its characteristics and capabilities. You understand how to point-and-shoot between the cones through the turns. You also know when to work the RC F’s throttle at certain points.
That is the beauty of this car. That is why I miss it so much.
DISCLAIMER: All vehicles in this article were provided by their respective manufacturers.
All photos by Randy Stern