Monthly Archives: December 2016

Rubicon Recon Edition for Fun

As four-wheel drives have taken a turn for the luxurious, the Jeep Wranglerstands tall as a capable, old fashioned off-roader. The regular Rubicon will already go anywhere, but some hardcore enthusiasts want more than just regular – they want to know no road, rock or rut will be able to stop them. The new Wrangler Rubicon Recon aims to cater for these people.

Most of the major changes come under the skin of the Recon, where Jeep has spent its time taking a tough underbody and making it properly bombproof. The front axle has been upgraded with strengthened tubes and heavy-duty end forgings, while the differentials at both ends have been covered with cast heavy-duty covers. Gone are the standard rock rails and in their place is a shorter set, designed to leave room for the gigantic off-road tires.

Although it’s fitted with the same part-time four-wheel drive as the regular Rubicon, the Recon runs with a 4.10 ratio on both axles, while Tru-Lok locking differentials are standard as well. Fitted with the six-speed manual gearbox, the car has a crawl ratio of 73.1:1 for easy rock-crawling.

As is standard for its special editions, Jeep has given the Recon Edition some unique exterior touches and a fresh interior trim. The car sits on a half-inch lift kit, and the new 17-inch aluminum wheels are wrapped in 32-inch BF Goodrich rubber. Gone is the standard front bumper, and in its place is a winch-ready unit with removable end caps. There are also exposed red tow hooks, just in case the off-road upgrades can’t keep you from getting stuck. While these touches will be obvious to those who frequent the Jeep Easter Safari, they’re unlikely to make the Recon an instantly recognizable hit among the masses.

Inside, the Recon is fitted with leather seats, an eight-speaker audio system, black leather seats and contrast stitching. Red accents on the doors, seatbelts and door pockets, are also standard, but keen off-roaders will be more interested in the new electronic gauge cluster which can be customized to give information about coolant temperatures, speed or individual tire pressures – all of which are useful when you’re crawling over rocks, deep in the wilderness. Less useful is the dashboard plaque, which gives a brief rundown of the upgrades fitted to the car.

The Insignia into a slick SUV fighter

Just a week after BMW unveiled a new 5 Series Touring, Opel has turned the Insignia Grand Sport into a slick four-wheel drive fighter. The Insignia Sports Tourer might be blessed with the same good looks and luxurious interior as the sedan launched last year, but there’s even more space for kids, pets and luggage down back. Could it convince you to join the wagon club?

As is the case with the sedan, Opel has trimmed back the fat for a fitter, more engaging Sports Tourer. Depending on trim, the new car is up to 200 kg (441 lb) lighter than its predecessor, which will benefit everything from handling to efficiency. In spite of the impressive weight reduction, the wagon has actually grown in every direction, and now has an extra 100 liters (3.5 cubic feet) of luggage space with the rear seats folded.

Luggage isn’t the only thing with more space, as passengers have also been treated to a more capacious rear seat. There’s an extra 25 mm (0.98 in) of shoulder room, 27 mm (1.06 in) more hip room and 31 mm (1.22 in) more headroom back there, and the optional panoramic sunroof should help make it feel lighter and more spacious as well. Up front, the driver benefits from a new cockpit design that ditches the outgoing button-heavy center console for a clean new layout. The console is tilted towards the hot seat too, just like it is in an old BMW.

Also featured is the GKN Twinster all-wheel drive system from the Ford Focus RS, which is fitted as standard to all Sport Tourers. Although it’s able to send all of the torque to one individual wheel, just like it can in the Focus RS, Opel hasn’t mentioned whether a Drift Mode will be available on the faster VXR Insignia – but the setup’s bag of torque-vectoring, power-shuffling tricks bode well nonetheless.

Corvettes cabin into new AeroWagen

Callaway Cars previewed its AeroWagen Corvette shooting brake way back in 2013 before the C7 Corvette had even hit the market. It took a little longer to launch than originally planned, but now the AeroWagen is here and ready to give Corvette drivers a bit of extra luggage space.

When we published a look at the AeroWagen sneak preview, sentiments were somewhat polarized but leaned more toward “put it in my driveway now,” with only a hint of “not a chance in hell” sprinkled in. Most commenters seemed to dig its combination of sportiness and added practicality. And now those folks that dig it enough finally have the chance to own it.

While the AeroWagen’s stretched cabin is a dramatic visual departure, Callaway’s package is fairly simple. It doesn’t make any changes to the chassis or interior and even keeps the targa roof intact and operational.

The package is a part-for-part replacement for the original equipment rear hatch and relies on the same hinge, latch and seal hardware. The tempered safety rear window glass includes defogging hardware, and since the kit is essentially plug and play, the owner can choose to reinstall the standard factory hatch should the shooting brake life not work out so well.

Needless to say, the conversion doesn’t put any additional seats under that heightened rear cabin. Callaway says the frame and running gear hinder that possibility, so it’s a two-seater with extra cargo space in back.

The AeroWagen package is available for the full range of Corvette coupes, everything from your stock C7 to Callaway’s own offerings, which include the 627-hp SC627 Stingray and Grand Sport models and the 757-hp SC757 Z06.

Callaway is still working out what the AeroWagen package means in terms of specific numbers: amount of additional cargo space, performance, etc. It does mention that there’ll be a small expected drop in drag, but it has not specifically quantified that yet, either.

The Citroen C Aircross Concept

Citroen has found its feet again in recent years, returning to its roots with comfy, quirky cars for people who think a bit differently. Along with the funky C4 Cactus, the C3 hatch runs with a unique look, and we’re not even going to start talking about the brand’s range of minivans. If the C-Aircross Concept is anything to go by, that range will soon be growing to include a (handsome) compact four-wheel drive.

There are a lot of words you could use to describe the current Citroen design language (depending on who you are, they’ll range from interesting to ugly), but the focus on circular detailing and contrast colors means those words certainly don’t include tough. The C-Aircross aims to change that, with its pumped-up ride height and plastic cladding. Although it’s only 4.15 meters (13.6 ft) long, 1.74 meters (5.7 ft) wide and 1.63 meters (5.3 ft) tall, the designers have done a good job of making the car look big and imposing, while the 18-inch wheels add a touch of flair.

As well as being a bit more butch than your average compact four-wheel drive, the concept is also a bit smarter. Citroen has a long history of experimenting with aero in its concepts and the C-Aircross is no different, with a set of clever “air breather” vents built into the front flanks helping reduce drag in tandem with the rear diffuser.

Like any good Citroen, the C-Aircross Concept also puts a real focus on comfort, with seats modelled on a comfortable, springy sofa. Finished in quilted leather, they look like the automotive equivalent of a hug from grandma – unlike the medieval torture devices fitted to most concept cars. Also unique among concept cars is the focus on making the cabin light and airy, with tall side windows and a full-length panoramic glazed roof. According to the design team, this makes the cabin feel more spacious and improves the wellbeing of everyone inside.