Can advances in traction aids and winter tires turn high-powered sports cars into year-round Snowbelt rides?
To those of us who endure Michigan winters, with their coatings of dirty slush and skies the color of raw aluminum, the harbingers of spring are keenly cataloged. In grade school, we were taught to be on the lookout for the return of that prodigal son of the avian world, the robin. To the frostbit and vitamin D deficient, the presence of the orange-breasted bird inspires hope that light and warmth will indeed return eventually.
Birds are nice and all. But, for us, the ultimate sign of spring is catching sight of the year’s first Corvette. Thirty years ago, nobody drove their Corvettes in the winter. Not in the upper Midwest, anyway. Nobody. No, winter was the season when you broke out the old Plymouth Volaré and mounted big gnarly snow tires on the rear (steering fidelity is a modern fascination).
But these days, well, most people still don’t drive their Corvettes in snowy-region winters. But some do. A few. We do. For more than a decade, technology has been chipping away at the reasons to hibernate your sports car. Anti-lock brakes begat traction control, which begat stability control, which made better use of available traction. Concurrently, development of non-knobby, non-studded winter tires (you’re not supposed to call them snow tires anymore, except that everyone in the Snowbelt still does) improved traction on snow and ice, increasing not just performance, but comfort.
For a large family, a king-size SUV like the 2019 Chevrolet Suburban might be the right vehicle for the job of taking that trip over the river and through the woods for some seasonal Thanksgiving eats. The Suburban seats up to nine in three rows and provides ample cargo space in the rear. Such king-size accommodations, though, don’t come cheaply, either in the purchase price or the cost of feeding this beast of burden. How much would it cost to fill one up for a trip to Grandma’s house this Thanksgiving?
Good news: It’d be a lot less than last week, per the national average for gas prices. The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said the average price of regular gas was $2.60 on Wednesday, down 8 cents from a week ago and 31 cents less than in early October, when pump prices began to drop.
So what does that look like coming out of your wallet? Here’s what it would cost to fill the Suburban’s 31-gallon tank based on prices posted early Wednesday by AAA:
At the national average for regular, filling the tank from empty would cost $80.60.
In California, where regular averaged $3.63, the bill would climb to $112.53. But if you think that’s a hike, try Hawaii: Regular averaged $3.82 a gallon there, making a Suburban fill-up more than $118.
In Texas, one of the biggest markets for the Suburban, regular was $2.30, and filling the tank would drop to $71.30.
Missouri, which led the nation as the cheapest average for regular fuel in the U.S. this week at $2.24 per gallon, would fill up your Suburban for just $69.44.
Gas prices have steadily declined for seven weeks in a row, lowering the cost of driving on the busy Thanksgiving weekend. Pump prices fell throughout the country the past week, and the biggest declines were in the Great Lakes and Great Plains areas. Regular fell 8 cents in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio, and 10 cents in Iowa. The average price of regular has dropped 29 cents over the past three weeks in Iowa.
The national average for premium gas was $3.19, down 6 cents from a week ago, and diesel fuel was $3.22, down 3 cents.
Even with the steady slide in pump prices, however, GasBuddy.com noted that they are still the highest since 2014 for Thanksgiving Day, a time when millions of Americans travel by car to visit family and friends. If you’re taking a Suburban along for the trip, you’ll have it comparatively easy for this year – but not as easy as the same time in years past.
The Silverado’s new turbo four will make you forget about the V6.
Silverado 4 cylinder engine:
Chevrolet’s new Silverado has a lot going for it. Sure, its design is polarizing, and the interior’s design and materials are kind of a letdown. But the fact of the matter is that the 2019 Silverado is lighter, more capable, more efficient and roomier than before.
Perhaps the biggest shock to hardcore truck fans, however, is the arrival of a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. Yes, a four-banger in a full-size pickup truck. This 2.7-liter I4 will soon serve as the base power plant on the Silverado’s LT and RST trims, replacing the 4.3-liter V6 that’ll now only be available on the entry-level Work Truck and Custom models.
Big block four
Relatively speaking, an inline-four with 2.7 liters of displacement is a whopper of an engine. But Chevy says this motor was developed from the ground up for truck applications, and produces a healthy 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. It certainly bests the 4.3-liter V6’s 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet, at any rate.
Not only is the I4 engine more muscular, it has a wider, daily-driving-friendly power-band, with peak torque available from 1,500 to 4,000 rpm. The V6, on the other hand, doesn’t hit its torque peak until 3,900 rpm.
The turbo four also stacks up favorably against competing base power plants. It packs a bigger wallop than the Ford F-150’s 3.3-liter V6 (290 horsepower and 265 pound-feet). And it also edges out the 310 horsepower and 269 pound-feet offered in the Ram 1500’s 3.6-liter mild-hybrid V6.
Towing and hauling capabilities aren’t too shabby, either. Depending on drive and cab configuration, the four-cylinder Silverado, along with an eight-speed automatic transmission, can pull up to 7,200 pounds with a max payload of 2,280 pounds.
Chevy’s plug-in hybrid charges faster and receives fresh tech.
If you’re scratching your head while looking at pictures of the 2019 Chevrolet Volt thinking, man, that looks an awful lot like last year’s car, you aren’t going crazy. While some mid-cycle refreshes are mostly limited to design tweaks, Chevy’s 2019 model year update instead focuses on making the Volt an even better plug-in hybrid.
Beneath the skin
Much as I would have liked to see a few visual changes, really, a design update wasn’t essential. The Volt certainly isn’t off-putting, with its Cruze-like front end and silver grille inserts giving it kind of a Transformers vibe.
Packed within the body is a carryover powertrain, comprised of a 1.5-liter I4 gas engine, 18.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack and electric motor, for a combined output of 149 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque. The EPA says the 2019 Volt has an all-electric driving range of 53 miles, which bests other PHEVs like the Hyundai Ioniq (29 miles), Kia Niro (26 miles) and Toyota Prius Prime (25 miles). Factor in the gas engine and the Chevy’s driving range grows to 420 miles.
A new 7.2-kW charger is among the more substantial 2019 model year changes, available as a $750 option on the base Volt LT model and standard on my Premier trim tester. It drops 240-volt charging times from 4.5 hours to 2.3. Those planning on powering up on a standard household wall outlet still have to strap in for a 13-hour wait.
For city commuting, the 53 miles of electric range seems very much in reach. The brake regen components replenish the battery along the way, causing electric range to drop slowly. Even more energy recuperation is possible using the on-demand regen steering wheel paddle, though it intervenes sharply enough to make passengers’ heads bob forward when activated. Pedaling around in Normal mode offers a pleasing mix of gallop off the line and thrust to whip past slower traffic, while not decimating battery charge.
What will make electrons disappear at an alarming rate? Sport mode, with its more hyperactive acceleration. Thankfully, a Hold mode can be used to maintain the battery charge on longer stretches of highway cruising, for example, letting the range-extender gas engine do the heavy lifting, saving electricity for your stop-and-go stuff.
Heading inside, the biggest news is the updated tech in the center stack with Chevy’s Infotainment 3 system housed in an 8-inch touchscreen. Graphics are crisp with intuitive menus and snappy response times. On my Premier tester, navigation is standard, as is an eight-speaker Bose audio system, Wi-Fi hotspot and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Premier’s wireless charge pad is also relocated from under the armrest to a more convenient location at the base of the center stack. Other charge points include two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet up front, while backseat passengers have a 12-volt outlet between the seats.
On the safety front, the backup camera is now a higher-definition unit and a new pedestrian alert system with external speakers emitting a subtle tone at low speeds are standard. Forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert are available as options.
The rest of the Volt’s cabin is unchanged, with a relaxed seating position, adequate room up front and decent legroom in back, though rear headroom leaves a lot to be desired. In the very back there’s a 10.6 cubic feet trunk that will handle weekly grocery trips, but folding down the rear seats enabled me to cram four packs of Owens Corning R-13 insulation into the hatchback.
Veterans can receive complimentary rides in Corvette around the race track.
The national corvette museum is doing something special for veterans.
With many federal and financial institutions closed today in observance of Veteran’s Day in the U.S., the National Corvette Museum is extending free admission to all American military veterans, police officers, firefighters, and their family members. Free admission is available during the entire month of November.
In addition to the free admission, the National Corvette Museum and accompanying Motorsports Park are recognizing veterans and wounded warriors with the 10th annual Vets ’n ‘Vettes event. Veterans are invited for complimentary rides around the track in Corvettes. The rides are available until 3 p.m. central time.
Along with the Vets ’n Vettes event, the National Corvette Museum Karplex will also be open all day. Price is $20 per session; however, the facility is honoring veterans who can receive a $2 discount.
All veterans have to do to enjoy the activities is show proof of service at the admissions counter. The National Corvette Museum is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky off I-65 at exit 28. The museum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. central time.