Steve Braithwaite of Kalamazoo, Michigan, built this Big Banana Car out of a Ford F-150 pickup for reasons clear mainly to him. He was pulled over by a state trooper at 7:30 a.m. recently as he headed out for a long road trip to Texas.
Not surprisingly, Braithwaite was not speeding in the bananamobile, but possibly the cop wanted to make sure it was street legal, as local newspaper MLive suggested.
Braithwaite told the paper his license came back—with a $20 bill wrapped around it. At that point Braithwaite did what his license plate says and "SPLIT."
There are cars designed to attract attention, and then there's the Big Banana Car. Steve Braithwaite, originally from the U.K. and now living in Michigan, started out with a 1993 Ford F-150 4x4 and, with the help of the Mutant Brothers fabrication studio, has turned it into this rolling replica of a giant banana. In it, he tours around the United States, giving rides to kids and appearing at fairs and the like.
Steve Braithwaite via Instagram
It's just the American Dream turned slightly sideways—a less commercial variant on the time-honored Wienermobile. What's interesting is that a state trooper gave it the seal of approval in the form of a $20 bill. MLive reported today that Braithwaite, heading out on another 1400-mile road trip to Texas, was stopped early Sunday morning by a curious state trooper on U.S. 223 near Adrian, Michigan. After he shared a few colorful stories of his cross-country drives, and the cop no doubt ran his plate (which reads: SPLIT) and found no problems, he gave Braithwaite back his license wrapped in a $20 bill and sent him on his way.
Braithwaite told C/D that the Banana Car has a 1994-vintage 302-cubic-inch Mustang engine. On his most recent trip, he calculated his fuel economy at 13.3 mpg, "but I think the sign board on the back caused a lot of drag"; he usually gets closer to 15 mpg. He told us that the Banana Car "has reached a top speed of 85 mph (although the speedo only goes up to 85 so it might have been more)." According to the Mutant Brothers' website, the conversion took about two years and cost $25,000, with some of the elements used being reinforced steel bars, chicken wire, and sculpted polyurethane foam covered in fiberglass.
Braithwaite proudly notes that the Banana Car, at almost 23 feet in length, made it into Guinness World Records as "the longest custom banana car in the world (however, because it's the only banana car in the world, it's also the world's shortest)."
That $20 bill may have come in handy, because by the time Braithwaite reached Bowling Green, Ohio, 150 miles down the road, he needed to "completely" rebuild his carburetor, MLive reported. But the man himself told us he intends to donate that money to charity.
If you're looking for a small crossover, and especially if you'll have a family in tow, the 2020 Honda CR-V should be considered a must-drive. Though not especially characterful and certainly not the most rugged sort, the CR-V nevertheless impresses by being impeccably well-rounded. Name a practical attribute, and it almost certainly does it as well or better than its competitors. Space, fuel economy, performance, safety, quality and value are all prime reasons to consider it, while one can't ignore Honda's sterling reputation for reliability. For 2020, the CR-V also gains a new hybrid powertrain, with a mix of fuel economy and performance that could make it the smartest pick of an already smart bunch.
What's new with CR-V for 2020?
The CR-V gets its first major update since being completely redesigned for 2017. The base LX trim level now comes standard with the 1.5-liter turbo engine previously standard on every other trim – the previous base 2.4-liter is no more. Other powertrain news comes from the new 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, which will arrive later in the model year.
The base LX also now receives standard accident avoidance tech, while on the opposite end of the trim level spectrum, the Touring gains a heated steering wheel and wireless smartphone charging. Every CR-V also gets revised styling, including a blacked out grille and dark-tinted taillights. Inside, the center console has been redesigned to offer even more flexible storage.
What's the CR-V's interior and in-car technology like?
The CR-V provides a tasteful, if a tad dull, design aesthetic backed up with above-average materials and build construction for this segment. If you're a previous CR-V owner, you'll note that this most recent version features a higher-quality and more premium environment than past models. If you aren't, you'll still find it to have one of the nicest cabins in terms of quality, and also one of the most functional, as it boasts a number of clever storage solutions in the center console.
In the EX trim, the CR-V comes standard with an abundance of tech for a reasonable price that makes the base LX trim a bit of a moot point. You get three USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a variety of other smartphone integration apps and a six-speaker sound system. Controlling them is a seven-inch touchscreen, which isn't the CR-V's strongest element due to iffy responses, lack of physical menu buttons, and an occasionally confusing menu structure. Honda's newer interface found in the Odyssey and Accord corrects these issues. Rival systems, particularly the Subaru Forester's, offer comparable features with a more user-friendly interface.
How big is the CR-V?
The 2020 CR-V is one of the larger "compact SUVs," at least on the inside, as Honda typically does a better job than most of maximizing every bit of interior space possible. Although its overall exterior length and width are average for the segment, its passenger and cargo space are better than nearly every competitor. The 60/40-split reclining back seat provides genuine space and comfort for even large adults, while a rear-facing car seat should be able to fit in the middle position — even with taller passengers up front. Honda also provides LATCH anchors in all three seating positions. Headroom is abundant regardless of the seating position or the presence of the available sunroof.
Behind that back seat is a large and versatile cargo area (37.6 to 39.2 cubic feet) with one of the lowest, most easily loaded cargo floors in the segment. That's good news if you'll be lifting a big, heavy stroller, or the dog needs to jump aboard. Folding the back seat down using the two remote pulls in the cargo area reveals 75.8 cubic feet of maximum capacity. That's better than most midsize SUVs like the Ford Edge and better than nearly all its fellow compact SUVs. Only Subaru Foresters without a sunroof are a smidgen bigger.
What's the CR-V's performance and fuel economy?
Every 2020 Honda CR-V comes standard with a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a continuously variable transmission and standard front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional. Acceleration and fuel economy are among the best in the segment. EPA estimates are 28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined with FWD, and 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined with AWD.
The new CR-V Hybrid will come with the same excellent gasoline-electric powertrain found in the Honda Accord Hybrid. It consists of two electric motors and a 2.0-liter inline-four that together produce 212 horsepower, making the Hybrid the most-powerful CR-V. EPA fuel economy estimates were not available at the time of this writing, but Honda said to anticipate a 50% improvement over the regular CR-V city estimate. That would mean 42 mpg, which is comparable to the RAV4 Hybrid.
What's the CR-V like to drive?
Today's CR-V drives with greater refinement and sophistication than past versions. It's more comfortable, there's less wind and road noise, and the turbo engine's low-end power results in quieter, less strained noises when driven around town. These observations largely apply in relation to most competitors as well, and indeed, the CR-V is one of the best compact crossovers to drive.
In general, that's because the CR-V is well-rounded. Its steering is nicely weighted and imparts sufficient confidence, but doesn't make parking a chore. Its handling certainly isn't the most responsive or road hugging in the segment, but it inspires confidence while not taking away from the comfortable ride. As for the engine, that low-end power from the turbocharged engine makes the CR-V feel like a strong performer at more mundane, around-town speeds. Open it up and it starts to run out of steam, and you'll notice some droning from the CVT.
Meanwhile, if the new CR-V Hybrid drives anything like the Accord Hybrid, it could easily become the CR-V of choice.
Our first drive of the current Honda CR-V generation, including more in-depth information about its design and engineering. Though updated for 2020, our impressions remain broadly the same.
What features are available and what's the CR-V's price?
Pricing for the 2020 Honda CR-V starts at $26,145, including the $1,095 destination charge, for the two-wheel-drive LX base model. All-wheel drive is a $1,500 option on every trim.
Base feature content got a significant boost for 2020 due to accident avoidance tech becoming standard across the board (see Safety section below), and the base LX is well-equipped with the basics. That said, for a relatively small premium of $2,510, the EX trim adds a wealth of worthwhile equipment: automatic headlights, fog lights, proximity entry and push-button start, rear tinted glass, a sunroof, a cargo cover, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, two rear USB ports, a six-speaker sound system and a 7-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (The base infotainment system is pretty much a radio faceplate with a large display.)
Every 2020 CR-V comes standard with the "Honda Sensing" suite of accident avoidance tech that includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, and a driver inattention monitor. Adaptive cruise control is also included, and is actually a superior system to the one found in Honda's Passport and Pilot.
The CR-V received the best-possible five-star crash rating from the government for overall, frontal and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible scores for crash protection and prevention. Its headlights were given scores different scores depending on trim level. The Touring's LED lights got an Acceptable score, while the EX and EX-L got a Marginal.
A rear-wheel-drive version of the Audi R8 supercar is now a permanent part of the lineup.
Audi initially launched this configuration as the RWS special edition. Only 999 units of that model were built.
The company won't confirm the R8 RWD for the U.S. market yet, but we think it will be sold here eventually.
In 2017, Audi launched the R8 RWS, a rear-wheel-drive version of the company's flagship supercar. Other than that model, the R8 had only been sold in production form as an all-wheel-drive vehicle. The RWS was a limited production model—just 999 were built, and only 320 of them came to the U.S. Apparently it was such a hit that Audi is now making the rear-wheel-drive R8 a standard part of the car's lineup.
Like the RWS, the 2020 Audi R8 RWD is basically identical to the normal car, except there's no driveshaft or differential sending power to the front wheels. As such, the RWD model is 143 pounds lighter than the Quattro version, coming in at a claimed 3516 pounds. Behind the driver sits the same naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V-10 engine, making 532 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. It sends power to a mechanical limited-slip differential out back through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Audi quotes a 0-62 mph time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph.
For the first time, Audi will also offer the R8 Spyder in rear-wheel-drive guise. It's 121 pounds lighter than the all-wheel-drive droptop, and gets all the same looks and that spectacular powertrain. It can get to 62 mph in a claimed 3.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 197 mph.
An Audi spokesperson told C/D the R8 RWD has yet to be confirmed for America, but considering U.S.-cycle mpg ratings for the car are listed in the press release and the RWS was sold here, we're confident it'll make its way stateside. When it'll get here and how much it'll cost has yet to be determined.
Jeep is resurrecting the military-themed Freedom special edition for the 2020 Wrangler, and we now have details and pricing for the package, which joins two other limited-edition models, the Willys and the Black and Tan models. The special edition follows the just-announced Ram pickup Built to Serve models, which also honor the armed forces.
The Wrangler Freedom is based on the one-up-from-base Sport S trim level and is offered in two-door and four-door body styles. Special graphics include a large star on the hood, American flags on the front fenders, and "Oscar Mike" (military shorthand for "on the move") on the tailgate and stitched into the seatbacks. Among the included feature content is a premium Sunrider soft top, 17-inch wheels with a gray finish, cloth seats with leather accents and silver contrast stitching, and an aluminum data plate inside the tailgate that references the original Jeep's military history.
Priced at $34,190 for the two-door and $37,690 for the four-door (plus the $1,495 destination charge), the Freedom represents a $2,695 upcharge over the Wrangler Sport S. But you know what they say: Freedom isn't free.
The ManufacturerCar and Driver
A Daimler spokesperson tweeted that Daimler CEO Ola Källenius plans to build an all-electric G-Class.
We can expect that the electric G-Class will be called the EQG.
If this is true, the EQG will most likely go to production no sooner than 2022.
Daimler CEO Ola Källenius said that Mercedes-Benz plans to build an electric G-Class, according to a tweet from Sascha Pallenberg, head of digital transformation at Mercedes, that was first posted on Motor Authority.
It’s most likely that we’ll see a plug-in-hybrid G-Wagen before we see an all-electric version. But when the electric version arrives, likely sometime around 2022, we can expect that it’ll be called the EQG. After all, Mercedes’ current electric SUV is called the EQC, and we've seen spy photos of the electric S-Class that's likely to be called EQS. In January, design chief Gorden Wagener told C/D that the EQC was "just the start. You will see some really progressive, cool designs."
If Mercedes puts an electric version of its iconic SUV into production, it won't exactly be the first of its kind. Austrian company Kreiel replaced the G-Class’ internal-combustion engine with a battery and an electric motor and sold it to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
We know that our colleagues at Road & Track are just like us: it's ingrained in us to love and appreciate cars and everything they have to offer, and that only gets better when we can share and pass along the enjoyment to others. We'd like to think it's in that spirit that the people at R&T have just announced that they're offering a way to introduce kids to cars with the R&T Crew.
Road & Track
It's a subscription-based club in which, every other month, members will receive a special-edition magazine written for kids and a box filled with things to do, use, and wear, all of which should help build the next generation of enthusiasts.
The boxes are intended for kids aged six to 13, and the kids' magazine, according to R&T editor-in-chief Travis Okulski, will have games, interviews, and "kid-friendly car stuff." The cost of a subscription is $40 per box. For a $15 savings, subscribers can pay $225 for the full year.
Or, it's possible to subscribe just to the (bimonthly) kids' magazine for $25 per year. Are we wrong to think that it'd be worth subscribing just to get our hands on that magazine? But then, we're partial to car magazines around here.
The seventh member of Volkswagen's ID. family is here in rendered form, and it's called the ID. Space Vizzion. The naming convention leads us to believe the ID. Space Vizzion is a riff on the ID. Vizzion sedanVW debuted at this year's Geneva Motor Show, and the design leads us to describe this new concept as a wagon. VW's press release refers to the Space Vizzion once as the "wagon of tomorrow," yet also claims twice that the concept "defines a totally new, fully electric car segment." We'll suppose VW is making a pioneering claim on the electric wagon segment, which hasn't been broached by any OEM yet.
The wagon form factor, if that's what we're dealing with, would pay dividends in range. If the wagon employs the same MEB-based drivetrain as the sedan, that will provide 302 horsepower from two motors, a 101-hp unit in front and a 201-hp unit in back. At Geneva, VW declared the ID. Vizzion sedan concept would run 413 miles (665 km) on a charge on the WLTP cycle. The ID. Space Vizzion is billed has having a 366.6-mile range (590 km) on the WLTP cycle, or 300 miles on our EPA cycle. Compare that to the real-deal crossover ID. Crozz, which has been mooted to get just 311 miles (500 km) on the WLTP cycle.
The preliminary range figures for the ID. Space Vizzion would shade the range numbers for all the cargo-focused offerings from any other legacy OEM if they translated to production right now; the Audi E-Tron and Jaguar I-Pace hover around 200 miles. Volkswagen says aero optimization via openings in the wagon's front fascia and roof, not to mention the lower overall profile, are responsible for the potential mileage figures.
Digital goodies and an artificial leather called AppleSkin highlight the interior. That leather gets its name from the inclusion of "residual matter from apple juice production."
The automaker has promised a production version will be released in late 2021, and different variants will be sold in the North American, European, and Chinese markets. The ID. Vizzion sedan was predicted to make production between 2020 and 2022. Even with the long-distance driving reach, these two additions to the EV lineup strike us as strange gambles in a world still mad about crossovers. By the time they arrive, we expect there will be at least a few crossovers that can go close to or beyond 300 miles on a charge. The question is whether EV buyers will consider offerings in two dying segments merely because they're battery powered.
We don't know what kind of surprises the ID. Space Vizzion is packing, so these are all just musings for now. We'll know more when the concept debuts at an event on November 19, the evening before press days commence at the LA Auto Show.
LAS VEGAS — Car shows across the planet are struggling, as automakers look for fresh ways to reach the buying public. But out in Las Vegas at the SEMA show (SEMA stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association, in case you didn't know), things have seemingly never been better. This year's show has 2,400 exhibiting companies with 3,000 products on display, filling five halls. Off-road, performance, racing, hot-rods, coolness, weirdness — there's something different around every corner.
The show ends Friday, so unless you're about to hop a plane, you might just miss it. But here, in the comfort of your own home or cubicle, are the highlights — 45 cars that got our attention, with links to our coverage. So sit back, crack a Zima and SEMA it up:
Avert your eyes, purists. California-based designer Chip Foose traveled to the 2019 SEMA show to unveil a resto-modded 1974 Jaguar E-Type built at the request of a customer. With a custom design and an American heart, the roadster took over 2½ years to make.
Finished in Green Sand, the E-Type was in seemingly good condition when it took up residence in Foose's shop in April 2017; it looks strikingly similar to a 48,000-mile example sold by RM Sothebys in January 2017. Many would drive it as-is, but its anonymous owner had something completely different in mind. Foose and his team modified nearly every part of the convertible's body. Builders punched out a scoop in the hood, extended the rocker panels, made the trunk lid about five inches longer, and gave the rear end a more tapered look accented by flush lights and quad exhaust tips.
Even seemingly minor details were hugely important for the enthusiast who commissioned this build. While E-Type headlight bezels are readily available online, the ones on the SEMA car are hand-shaped from brass. Custom-built wheels put a modern spin on the E's original wire knock-offs.
The interior looks period-correct thanks to leather upholstery, analog gauges, and a wood-rimmed steering wheel, but the list of changes is longer than the E-Type's hood. Jaguar's emblematic drop-top had a rather busy-looking dashboard topped with a padded cap and peppered with a galaxy of buttons, knobs, and switches. Foose's build adopts a cleaner, simpler design with gauges arranged in a cluster behind the steering wheel, and a chrome strip that runs across the entire dashboard. His team installed new carpet and bucket seats after concealing a modern sound system. To us, the new-look interior has more of a 1950s vibe than the original E-Type's.
The changes are more than skin-deep. Tilting the hood forward reveals a Chevrolet-sourced, 6.2-liter V8 engine tuned to 525 horsepower replaces the 272-horsepower, 5.3-liter V12 this Jag came with when it was new. It shifts through a four-speed automatic transmission. Upgraded brakes and a redesigned suspension help keep the additional power in check, though performance numbers aren't available. It hopefully still has its original toolkit, as a factory-made reproduction costs nearly $1,000.
There's no word on who commissioned this E-Type, but keep an eye out for it the next time you go to cars and coffee. The V8 exhales through a custom exhaust, so you might hear it before seeing it.