In Depth: Exploring the 2017 Ford Explorer

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The Ford Explorer is a formidable three-row crossover—on paper. Unfortunately, subpar build quality, awkward interior packaging, and a thirsty standard V-6 engine fail to live up to the expectations set by its reputation, popularity, or specification sheet. The arrival of Sync 3 blesses most 2017 Explorers with one of the segment’s better infotainment systems, and cargo space behind the third-row seat is voluminous. Ultimately, though, the Explorer sits firmly in the middle of the increasingly crowded three-row crossover pack. READ MORE ››

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2017 Ford Explorer – In-Depth Review

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2017 GMC Acadia V-6 FWD Tested: Makes More Sense without the Denali Badge

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The association between GMC and its highfalutin Denali sub-brand is stronger than ever, with every model in the lineup currently offering a leather-clad, chrome-heavy top trim level with a price tag to match. We tested a new, fully loaded GMC Acadia Denali that rang in at nearly $53,000, which is beyond the starting price of luxury-brand crossovers such as the Volvo XC90 and the Audi Q7. READ MORE ››

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2017 GMC Acadia V-6 FWD – Instrumented Test

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Max-Miles Murci: We Drive a 250,000-Mile Lamborghini!

2004 Lamborghini Murcielago

Supercar owners tend to heed the adage of Indiana Jones when it comes to their precious exotics: “It’s not the years, honey—it’s the mileage.” Hence the paradox that the very cars that are designed exclusively for the pleasure of driving tend to be the ones that get driven the least, instead being locked away in climate-controlled garages lest an excess of miles reduce their value. READ MORE ››

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Long-Range Bull: Driving a 250,000-Mile Lamborghini Murcielago – Feature

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Waymo Recruiting Hundreds of Volunteers to Ride in Self-Driving Minivans

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Eight years into its effort to make self-driving cars a reality, executives from Waymo say they’re shifting their focus from the technology itself and turning more attention toward the needs of people who will use the vehicles. The company, an independent subsidiary spun out from Google’s self-driving-car project, has announced that it’s adding 500 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to its autonomous fleet.

That represents a massive increase from the 100 Pacificas that Waymo outfitted with its self-driving systems last year. Many of the new vehicles will head to Phoenix, Arizona, where the company has created an Early Rider program that allows members of the public to use self-driving cars in their daily routines in exchange for giving feedback on the vehicles. The program quietly launched over the past two months, Waymo revealed.

“We’ll learn things like where people want to go in a self-driving car, how they communicate with our vehicles, and what information and controls they want to see inside,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik. “Our early riders will play an important role in shaping the way we bring self-driving technology into the world.”

One of the first families chosen to participate in Waymo's Early Rider program poses with one of the company's Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.

One of the first families chosen to participate in Waymo’s Early Rider program poses with one of the company’s Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.

Waymo says it is seeking “hundreds” of people from a variety of backgrounds to use the vehicles in Phoenix and its suburbs. Residents interested in participating can apply to be part of the program on the company’s website. The application hints at the broad spectrum of users Waymo hopes to attract, from enthusiastic adopters of new technology to people in households where someone has a medical condition that prevents driving.

Three families have already been enrolled in Early Rider. Their reasons for wanting to use the self-driving vehicles range from helping shuttle multiple kids to school to relaxing en route to their destinations to logistical support for opposite-direction commutes.

“Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere.” – John Krafcik, Waymo

“Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco,” Krafcik wote in a blog post on Medium.

Riders use the vehicles much as one might call a ride-hailing service, summoning the vehicles via an app that Waymo developed internally, according to a company spokesperson.

Among companies pursuing self-driving technology, only Volvo has launched a similar effort, recruiting as many as 100 households in and around Gothenburg, Sweden, to use XC90 SUVs equipped with autonomous technology in their everyday travels in geofenced areas. Recruiting for this program, called Drive Me, is underway now, and participants are expected to hit the road later this year.

It’s unclear how quickly Waymo intends to ramp up its Early Rider testing. The first 100 Pacificas, ordered last spring, arrived in December 2016. After receiving the minivans from Chrysler, Waymo needs to outfit them with its technology, which includes a suite of sensors built in-house and attached to the minivan in a decidedly non-integrated way. The sensor-housing goiters on the front fenders, grilles, and roofs of the Pacificas must make Fiat Chrysler Automobiles design chief Ralph Gilles cringe.

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The fleet expansion nevertheless bodes well for FCA, which has not invested in autonomous technology the way some other automakers have but instead has staked its future mobility fortunes on partnerships like the one with Waymo. In a statement, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “The collaboration between FCA and Waymo has been advantageous for both companies as we continue to work together to fully understand the steps needed to bring self-driving vehicles to market.”

The Pacifica’s electrical, powertrain, chassis, and structural systems are all modified to accommodate Waymo’s self-driving technology. A group of engineers from both companies, located together in southeast Michigan, collaborated to develop the vehicles. The self-driving vehicles have been tested at FCA’s proving grounds in both Chelsea, Michigan, and Yucca, Arizona.

Not all 500 of the minivans are destined for Phoenix, although Waymo is not yet saying exactly how many will be used there or revealing the destination for the remaining Pacificas. The  project represents a big win for Arizona, which has aggressively courted pilot projects using self-driving vehicles. When California revoked the registrations of Uber’s autonomous vehicles following a public standoff in December, the company relocated some of its testing to Arizona. Ford and General Motors’ Cruise Automation both test in Arizona, as does Local Motors, a company that, among other things, is producing autonomous shuttles.

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Life at C/D Can Be Weird, Like That Time I Was Pulled Over in a RHD Wagon with a 48-Inch Machine Gun in the Back

Life at C/D Can Be Weird, Like That Time I Was Pulled Over in a RHD Wagon with a 48-Inch Machine Gun in the Back

When I joined C/D, I had no idea how many peculiar situations it would foist upon me. Here’s one: I wrote a story about a $105,000 SVI Raptor [August 1996]—not the Ford truck but a Chevrolet Suburban with a 420-hp supercharged 454-cubic-inch V-8. READ MORE ››

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2017 Honda Pilot in Depth: The SUV That Doesn’t Think It’s One

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If you need a minivan but don’t want the stigma associated with it, the spacious Honda Pilot is the next best thing. Admittedly, it looks more minivan-esque than many of its SUV rivals, but unlike most vans, the Pilot offers all-wheel drive along with its configurable interior. Its standard V-6 engine is a strong performer, although the optional nine-speed transmission shifts jerkily. Plenty of safety and entertainment features make the Honda Pilot one of the most tech-savvy SUVs in its class. READ MORE ››

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2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO Tested: On the Shoulders of Giants

2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO

Nissan loyalists know that “NISMO” is a portmanteau for “Nissan Motorsports,” while to everyone else it is very nearly mean­ing­less. And the brand is almost as empty of product as the word is of meaning. It’s a little extra snowcap on the towering mountain of power that is the GT-R. It’s wheels and a wing on the 370Z. It’s some extra weird on top of the pile of weird that is the Juke. But alas, in the Sentra, NISMO starts to assume real significance. READ MORE ››

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