Five American Cars We Dig

American cars are some of our favorite machines for a variety of reasons. Here are five Yankee Doodle Dandy vehicles that have particularly pleased us of late.

2018 Ford Expedition

2018 Ford ExpeditionJOSH MAX

The all-new Expedition is gorgeously wide, long, heavy (6,000 pounds, though it’s a little less chubby than last year’s model due to aluminum and lightweight components) and fit for celebs, CEOs or Mike and Carol Brady in 1969, before the kids hit puberty. It’s a throwback to those heady pre-electric, pre-hybrid days of yore, when big was better and everyone automaker hadn’t yet gotten into the SUV game. Maybe that’s why we love the Expedition so much – it’s still here after attempted takedowns by every other automaker.

2018 Ford ExpeditionJOSH MAX

It’s a great ride for the big and tall – you can easily access the generous front or back seats via the motorized running boards. A mighty, 375-hp, 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission that’s pleasingly seamless. Just be careful, bub – you step on it and you move. Pull a trailer? No problem, either. The ride is smooth overall, though it can feel stiff here and there in the corners. Inside, with windows up, it’s quiet enough to have a normal conversation, Its one caveat is its difficulty to paralell park, but that’s to be expected – it just takes a little longer sometimes not only to perfectly position yourself 5 or so inches from the curb, but to figure out if your big ol’ booty’s gonna fit to begin with. Comfort level inside is sublime – you’ll feel like you’re sitting in an easy chair. It comes in three trims – the base XLT, the XLT 4WD and our tester, the Limited at $62,675. In sum, we loved this machine and hated to give it back.

2018 Dodge Challenger

2018 Dodge ChallengerJOSH MAX

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Our Challenger V6 tester was like playing an electric guitar without an amp – we got the flash, the shine, the cool, but no roar, growl, squeal or intoxicating aggression. We grew to love looking at it and being in it, though, because it’s not anything else but itself. Isn’t that the essence of being an American? “I am what I am, and if you don’t like it, sue.” It’s still a dynamite-lookin’ American muscle car that turns heads.

2018 Dodge ChallengerJOSH MAX

This $41,155 (loaded) Challenger hosts a 3.6L, V6 Power305 horsepower / 268 lb-ft plant with a smooth-as-silk 8-speed transmission. It weighs a healthy 4,108 pounds and gets around 27 MPG highway/city combined. Our “Mango” colored (that’s Dodge-speak for “Orange”) tester was large and lovely, reasonably comfortable, with generous seats and an interior that’s a cut above most of the stock, bland, cheap-feeling other American rides. It cuts corners better than it accelerates. The other good thing about it is its all-wheel drive, meaning you can get places in the snow without having to buy a second vehicle. It’s console nav-climate-sound system is exceptionally attractive, especially the color rear camera, though we wished we could have dimmed it or shut it off during night drives. This is a great choice for those who love style but aren’t so crazy about raw speed. And, hey, we can’t all be Demons.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

2018 Buick EnclaveJOSH MAX

We found the all-new for 2018 Enclave a suprisingly fun, not-bad-looking and worthy ride over a week’s test, even though it has just one engine to choose from, a 302 horsepower, 3.6 litre job with 260 lb-ft of torque. The luxe flavor of this $43,570 ride is well-repped, with ultra-comfy seats, ease of features and a commanding feel of the road when you’re behind the wheel, unlike the mushy feel of some vehicles of this sort.  A smart black crosshatch mesh arrangement replaces Buick’s ancient chrome vertical bars on the vehicle’s snout, positioned in the middle of a snappy five-sided grille with new, powerful fog lights topping off the look.

2018 Buick EnclaveJOSH MAX

Inside? It’s glorious, with an ebony and chestnut-festooned cockpit and a near-football field amount of space in the rear; it almost felt like an RV. Yet it avoids the square, minivannish effect that American automakers have suffered from for so long. Your second row has a step-through in the middle and a right seat that flips forward so you can better access the rear, even with a tyke’s car seat installed. If the third row isn’t needed for passengers, you can slide the second-row captain’s chairs forward or backward All Avenirs get adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, a lane keeping system, a 360-degree camera and 17 sensors. The drive, while uneventful, was nevertheless a total pleasure start to finish; you’re not looking for sheer ferocity. But in this case, that’s a good thing.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4X4

2018 Jeep WranglerJEEP

We’ve loved Jeeps ever since our Pops sat our four-year-old self on his lap in his vintage 1960 Willies Jeep and let us steer. The Wrangler remains the singular posterchild for get-er-done, can-do machines of its type – removable doors and top, a fold-it-down windshield, high stance, signature 7-slot grill, visible roll cage, feeble mileage (20-24 MPG) and more. $36,995, loaded $45,380. A dizzying plethora of trims and options are available for this year’s design; check out the website for details. A new powertrain is available this year, a 285-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission providing necessary but not overwhelming zip. You ride is a Wrangler ride, my friend – the vehicle’s meant for off-roading, and on road it’s as gloriously noisy and numb as any Wrangler ever was, and woe to you if your pavement has potholes or other imperfections; you’ll feel them in your sacroliliac, and forget about conversation with a partner. If you’re big or tall but especially big, you may find getting in and out as difficult as you would in a Corvette or other low-to-the-ground whip.

Inside, it’s all updated both in appearance and its modernity. Accent trims, digital screens and other nods to modernity are on display here, with “woodsy” sort of cues suited to the rough-and-ready flavor that makes the Wrangler so attractive to so many.

2018 Ford F-150 Diesel

2018 Ford F-150 DieselFORD

The first thing we noticed about this sweet F-150 diesel is its sheer quiet, as opposed to some chugga-chugga’s you get from some diesels. The second item of note is that there’s a diesel offered at all in a light-duty truck. Specifically, it’s a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 adapted from the plant Ford builds for Land Rover/Jaguar in Europe. Your 0-60 is a leisurely 8 seconds, but it is a truck, after all. At speed, you’re fine whether for cruising or passing. A twin-turbo gasoline V6 is offered for those who feel the need for a ton o’speed, but your mileage with the diesel trim is (almost) 30 MPG during some conditions, which is fairly phenonminal for a truck of this type. Off-road, there’s an optional 360-degree camera in place that’ll really assist you over rocky terrain, allowing you to see over crests of hills and anticipate objects you may wish to avoid.

We don’t own a boat nor anything else that might be towed, but Ford says the F-150’s forte is pulling stuff up to 11,400 pounds, and we believe them. There are seemingly as many options as there are grains in a handful of rice, so we’ll leave it up to you to pick your fave. The main reason we see for buying this truck is a basic like/love of diesel and how it connects you to a raw driving experience, but also because of the mileage of this particular vehicle.

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