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What does ABS mean on a car? Understanding anti-lock braking system


There are a lot of opaque initialisms associated with cars that can be confusing when you see them on a spec sheet or a badge right on the vehicle. One such example is ABS, which has nothing to do with a gym rat’s six-pack. ABS stands for anti-lock brake system or anti-lock braking system. It describes an automatic feature that senses when a wheel is about to lock up and then reduces brake pressure at that wheel briefly to prevent it. You may have noticed the ABS light flashing or lighting up solid on your dashboard, which can mean a few different things.

How ABS works

Before ABS, new drivers were taught to “pump the brakes” in situations where the wheels are likely to lock up, such as when driving on a wet or icy road. A wheel will lock up when the tire mounted to it exceeds its available grip under braking. This can send the vehicle into a skid. To prevent that undesirable outcome, drivers were taught to pulse brake pressure, giving the tires a chance to regain traction before attempting to slow the vehicle again.

Anti-lock brakes made that pumping a thing of the past. Using sensors at the wheels, the control electronics can sense when a lockup is imminent and very briefly release the pressure to the system, usually only to the specific wheel in question. This manifests in a quick pulsating noise and some vibration in the brake pedal. Although these can be unsettling sensations, it’s important for drivers of an ABS-equipped vehicle to know that they should keep their foot planted on the stop pedal, allowing the system to handle the pumping. ABS can pump the brakes more quickly and precisely than any human.

It’s a good idea for new drivers to experience this feedback in a safe environment; an empty, rain-soaked parking lot is a good option. Just get up to speed and then press firmly on the brake pedal until the car comes to a full stop. Hopefully when the system comes on in a real emergency the driver will trust it to do its job instead of backing off of the pedal.

What does it mean when the ABS light appears on my dashboard?

When ABS is active, the indicator light on your dashboard will flash quickly to let you know it’s working. If you see the ABS light constantly illuminated, however, it’s a signal that something’s wrong. Depending on the problem and the vehicle, this could mean that ABS is not working or is working at reduced capacity. Potential causes include problems with the wheel sensors, an issue with the electro-hydraulic ABS pump, or something amiss within the ABS control module.

If you see this light on your dash, it’s time to pull out your owner’s manual to see what to do. In most cases, you’ll want to drive the vehicle as if ABS isn’t functioning – which means leaving extra space between your car and the one ahead to account for longer stoping distances and manually pumping the brakes any time you sense a lockup – and get the car to a mechanic to address and rectify the problem.

ABS used to be a novelty

Automotive anti-lock brakes were first offered on the 1966 Jensen FF, followed closely by systems offered by Ford (Sure-Track in 1969) and General Motors (Track Master in 1971). All of those early systems acted only on the rear wheels; the first car to offer four-wheel ABS was the 1971 Chrysler Imperial with the Sure Brake system. Although it’s often credited with pioneering anti-lock braking systems, Mercedes-Benz didn’t roll out its version until the 1978 S-Class. The Mercedes system was the first to use digital control, however.

When anti-lock braking systems first showed up on the market, manufacturers often put a small badge on the car (usually on a front fender or somewhere on the rear) to tell folks that it was equipped with this new safety system. As the technology became more prevalent, such telltales went away.

The feature began proliferating throughout the market in the 1980s, and by the ’90s it was at least available on most models. The U.S. government mandated the inclusion of ABS along with electronic stability control in 2012 as part of FMVSS 126. Any vehicle produced to be sold in the U.S. from September of that year required the system be included as standard equipment.

Today, anti-lock brakes are becoming commonplace on motorcycles, and many safety advocates are pushing for the system to be mandated on two-wheelers. Automatic emergency braking, a safety system that relies one ABS to slow a vehicle in the event of an impending collision, will be required on vehicles produced for U.S. sale from September 2029.



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Check out the classics that the Bugatti Tourbillon traces its roots to


MOLSHEIM, France — Bugatti unveiled the new, 1,800-horsepower Tourbillon at its historic headquarters in Molsheim, France. While the Chiron’s successor was the uncontested star of the show, the brand displayed an impressive selection of classics to give attendees a glimpse into every facet of its past. The roster included grand prix-winning race cars, ultra-luxurious sedans, elegant coupes, and even a small, city-friendly electric car.

Enthusiasts tend to associate the Bugatti name with hypercars, but there’s more to the brand than four-digit horsepower figures and speed records. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the company made one of the most luxurious cars in the world: the Type 41, which is also known as the Royale. It stretched 252 inches from bumper to bumper in its longest configuration (several body styles were available) and its wheelbase measured nearly 170 inches; I’ve owned cars that were shorter than that. Power came from a 12.8-liter straight-eight engine.

Pictured in our gallery above, the example Bugatti displayed at the Tourbillon unveiling features 24-inch wheels, the famous “Dancing Elephant” hood ornament, and a closed rear cabin with windows made of reinforced glass. The front compartment is always open, and the rear passengers could talk to the driver using an intercom system called a Motor Dictograph. The behemoth of an engine made about 300 horsepower at 1,800 rpm, which was enough to unlock a top speed of about 124 mph — that was a supercar-worthy figure a century ago.

Bugatti has explored the more family-friendly side of its heritage on several occasions over the past few decades, though none of its projects have reached production. In the 1990s, when the brand was owned by Romano Artioli and based in Italy, it experimented with a Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed super-sedan called EB112 and powered by a 6.0-liter V12. In 1999, after joining the Volkswagen Group, Bugatti showed a four-door, W18-powered concept called EB218. Ten years later, the 16C Galibier made its debut as a potential follow-up to the Veyron.

Racing has been part of Bugatti’s DNA for over 100 years; it has won major events like the Targa Florio and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Four vintage race cars illustrated this part of its heritage at the unveiling, including a surprisingly futuristic model from 1923 called Type 23 and nicknamed Tank. Take a look at its bodywork and you’ll immediately understand why. In an era when open-wheel cars dominated the racing scene, the Tank featured a streamlined body that consisted mostly of flat metal panels held together with rivets. It could reach over 110 mph thanks to a 90-horsepower 1.8-liter straight-eight. It wasn’t as successful as Bugatti hoped, but it illustrated an approach to design that was innovative, daring, and unusual. Its successor, the Type 35, became the company’s most successful race car by a significant margin.

Bugatti also displayed more modern cars including the EB110, the Centodieci, the Mistral, and the one-of-a-kind Chiron Profilée that sold for over $10 million at an auction in February 2023. But while most of Bugatti’s past and present models put a big focus on performance, there’s one exception to the rule: the Type 56 that I drove in 2018. It’s electric, it has a tiller instead of a steering wheel, and it maxes out at 20 mph.



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Best used trucks to buy in 2024


American car buyers have an almost unbelievable affinity for pickup trucks of all shapes and sizes. For just about as long as pretty much anyone reading this can likely remember, the best-selling vehicles overall in the United States have been trucks, led for 42 years by the Ford F-Series (it’s been the best-selling truck for 47 consecutive years), closely followed by competitors like the Chevrolet Silverado, Ram and GMC Sierra lineups. This being the case, it certainly won’t come as a surprise to see that the best-selling used vehicles in America are also trucks. But which used trucks are the best used trucks to buy in 2024?

iSeeCars, an online resource that bills itself as “a data-driven car search and research company” analyzed over 9.2 million used car sales from the past five model years (that would start in 2018 and end in 2022). After compiling all the numbers, the researchers calculated each vehicle model’s share of used car sales. You can see the list of the best-selling used pickup trucks down below, but before we get to that, let’s highlight some of the used truck buys in America.

Best used trucks to buy in 2024

 

Best used truck under $10,000: 2005-2011 Dodge and Ram Dakota

Dodge Dakota for sale

The Dodge Dakota, which in its final few years was known as the Ram Dakota, with its standard 3.7-liter V6 won’t win any drag races — the optional V8s offered more power, naturally — but a decent Dakota offers the ability to haul and tow for just about the lowest price point in America.

Best full-size truck under $10,000: 2008-2012 Nissan Titan

Nissan Titan for sale

If you need a larger truck than the Dodge Dakota or need to tow heavy loads, your best bet may be an older Nissan Titan with its 5.6-liter V8 engine.

Best used truck under $15,000: Any Toyota Tacoma (but check for rust)

Toyota Tacoma for sale

The Toyota Tacoma is known for reliability and durability. High resale value is another, as well as a cramped interior and below-average comfort, even for a truck. Still, Toyota’s compact Tacoma is likely to offer more years of trouble-free service than anything else in this price range. Expect to see a lot of Tacomas with comparatively high mileage.

Best used full-size truck under $15,000: 2013 or newer Ram 1500

Ram 1500 for sale

Look for a 2013 or newer Ram, and consider choosing the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 8-speed automatic combo over the V8 and six-speed auto. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is generally a reliable engine, but it’s thirsty and this budget doesn’t allow for a truck new enough to snag the desirable V8/8-speed automatic combination.

Best used pickup truck under $20,000: 2014-2018 Chevrolet Silverado

Chevrolet Silverado for sale

The Chevy Silverado is slightly more affordable than its competitor from Ford, which went to a lightweight aluminum body for the 2015 model year. GM’s V8 engine options are all very solid and have well-earned reputations for durability. The Toyota Tundra is also a solid choice, but it’s not easy to find nice options in this price range.

Best used pickup truck under $25,000: 2015-2019 Ford F-150

Ford F-150 for sale

Look for a 2015 or later Ford F-150 to take advantage of the lighter weight and great capability offered by the aluminum-intensive construction Ford switched to starting that year. Budget buyers should look for an XLT model, and Ford’s base V6 and optional 5.0-liter V8 engines are both solid choices. In fact, the F-150 with the V8 engine offers impressive payload and towing capabilities that match what heavy duty buyers were looking for just a decade or so previously.

Best used compact pickup truck under $25,000: 2016-2019 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma for sale

A redesign of the Toyota Tacoma for the 2016 model year brought about welcome changes to the best-selling compact truck, but it’s still less refined and less comfortable than most of its competition.

Best car-like used pickup truck under $25,000: 2017-2019 Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline for sale

The Honda Ridgeline’s car-like ride and handling come courtesy of a car-like unibody design. It can’t tow like a proper full-size pickup truck, but it’s more efficient and more comfortable for daily use.

 

Best-selling used trucks over the past five years

  1. Ford F-150: 21.9% of all used truck sales
  2. Chevrolet Silverado: 17.7% of all used truck sales
  3. Ram 1500: 14.0% of all used truck sales
  4. Toyota Tacoma: 9.1% of all used truck sales
  5. GMC Sierra: 8.1% of all used truck sales

No real surprises there. The Ford F-Series is the best-selling new nameplate, and the light-duty Ford F-150 is the best-selling used vehicle overall. Ford’s popular truck takes top honors as the best-selling used vehicle in 34 out of the 50 states in America. In second spot is the Chevy Silverado (below left), which, for what it’s worth, is the best-seller in the state of Iowa.

It is interesting to note that the Ram 1500 (below right) actually fell behind the Chevrolet Equinox crossover on the overall chart that includes all vehicle types. Chevy’s compact crossover barely edged out the fullsize Ram truck for third-place when all vehicle styles were included, but the numbers were so close between the ‘ute and the pickup that they both claimed roughly 2.1% of the overall market.

“Trucks have been so dominant in the U.S. market for so long that it’s strange to see the Ram lose its top-three ranking, even to an SUV as popular as the Chevrolet Equinox,” said Karl Brauer, iSeeCars Executive Analyst, who goes on to offer a reasonable explanation. “This shift reflects the jump in gas prices during 2023, which led many consumers to move away from large trucks and SUVs and into smaller, more fuel-efficient models.”

The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling midsize pickup truck in America, easily outselling its larger sibling, the Toyota Tundra (a truck that doesn’t even crack the top 20 overall). As well as the Tacoma sells, however, it is outsold on the used market by well-known nameplates like the Toyota Camry, RAV4 and Corolla, Honda Civic and CR-V, Ford Explorer and Escape, and the Nissan Rogue and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

In fifth spot on the used trucks list and 17th overall, the GMC Sierra is almost identical to the Chevrolet Silverado underneath its skin, with similar powertrains and interior technology. Combining the sales of the Silverado and Sierra would put General Motors in the top light-duty used truck position by manufacturer, ahead of Ford.

Trucks that don’t appear on the list include fullsize models like the aforementioned Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan, as well as mid-size nameplates like the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator and Nissan Frontier. The resurgence of the compact truck market, which currently consists of the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz, means we could see some smaller trucks crack their way onto the list in the coming years.



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What is the most expensive car in the world?


Highlighting one single vehicle as the most expensive car in the world isn’t as straightforward as you might think. To get a solid answer, we’re going to have to break the question into a couple of parts. First, we’ll discuss the most expensive new car in the world, and second, the most expensive collector car in the world. And by the end of the article, you’ll be armed with the information you’re looking for: What is the most expensive car in the world?

Before we get into the stratospheric numbers, let’s take a step back and put things in perspective. For the last year or so, the average transaction price for a new car has hovered right around $48,000. That’s almost 10 grand more than new cars cost in 2019, before the pandemic. What will that buy you today? Well, you can get a midrange Ford F-150, a Kia Telluride, or a Ford Mustang GT with a few options. Not bad when you consider that these choices are among the best in their respective classes.

At the very bottom of the spectrum is the Nissan Versa, which is available brand new for well under $20,000. Sure, there are a few anomalies such as the Changli Nemica (it’s kinda a car, though not exactly street legal here in America) that can be ordered from Alibaba for about $1,000 to start, but there are a bunch of hidden costs, including shipping.

Most expensive car in 2024: Rolls-Royce Droptail

Price: $30 million

Outside of the classic car market, the most expensive new vehicle in the world is the Rolls-Royce Droptail. So far, three Droptail models have been built, one called the Arcadia Droptail, one in ruby tones called La Rose Noire Droptail and one called the Amethyst Droptail. The latest example, the Arcadia, is painted in a white shade that is infused with aluminum and glass particles for a pearl-like effect that adds depth. Past that, the overall design of all three Droptails remains largely unchanged with an upright grille, thin rear lights, and a rounded back end.

Like other extremely luxurious and expensive nautical-themed cars from Rolls-Royce — see the 2017 Sweptail and the 2021 Boat Tail — the Droptail is a very rare machine. There’s a solid chance the lone remaining version will cost even more than the $30 million-plus cost of the La Rose Noire.

For those keeping track, the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, which was previously the most expensive car in the world at $28 million, was the first model to emerge from the company’s Coachbuild department that caters to the profanely wealthy. Case in point, the first Boat Tail commission is for a pearl magnate. To put the price in perspective, The Boat Tail’s asking price was equivalent to 1,797 Nissan Sentras.

Other notable cars that cost more than a million dollars in 2024:

  1. McLaren Elva: $1.7 million
  2. Hennessey Venom GT: $1.8 million
  3. Bentley Bacalar: $1.9 million
  4. SSC Tuatara: $2.0 million
  5. Pininfarina Battista: $2.2 Million
  6. Lotus Evija: $2.3 million
  7. Rimac Nevera: $2.4 Million
  8. Lamborghini Sian: $3.7 million
  9. Bugatti Bolide: $4.3 million
  10. Pagani Codalunga: $7.4 million

The most expensive car sold at auction: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300

Price: $142 million

Let’s start at the top, with the most expensive car ever sold at auction. The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe Prototype sold for $142 million in 2022. RM Sotheby’s sold it on behalf of Mercedes-Benz at a private auction held at the carmaker’s museum in Stuttgart, Germany. It’s one of two prototypes made, with the other remaining in Mercedes’ keeping. The new owner remains unnamed for the moment, but we do know what Mercedes did with some of the money. Some funds went to establish a scholarship for students in the environmental science and decarbonization fields.

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What is the fastest car in the world in 2024?


It wasn’t that long ago that the notion of reaching 200 miles per hour in a car, on a road, seemed basically impossible. As you likely know by now, that time has passed. And once that threshold was crossed, the automotive world immediately began eying the next triple-digit benchmark: 300 miles per hour. It may have taken a little while, but the 300-mph line has been crossed, and some cars have moved well past that seemingly insane speed number. While some of these speeds have been achieved in simulations (including the fastest car listed below), there’s little doubt that a driver with nerves of steel and a heavy right foot could indeed push several automobiles up to 300 miles per hour and beyond.

Interestingly, it’s not just one car or automaker in the 300-mph club, as a handful of models have earned a place (sometimes claimed but not yet demonstrated) on the leaderboard.

The fastest car in the world is: Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut (330 MPH)

Fastest car in the world 2023

That title goes to the Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut, which recorded a staggering 330 mph top speed earlier in 2023. The car’s twin-turbocharged 5.0-liter V8 lays down 1,600 horsepower and 1,106 pound-feet of torque, which plays a significant role in delivering that speed, but Koenigsegg’s engineers have given the car a lot more than mind-blowing power.

The Jesko Absolut has a super-slippery 0.278 drag coefficient and a nine-speed transmission that shifts so quickly it’s almost imperceptible. Koenigsegg calls it a Light Speed Transmission (LST), saying its shifts happen at almost light speed. While that might be a slight exaggeration, the gearbox is impressive, bringing several wet multi-disc clutches and a super lightweight construction.

As Koenigsegg says, “the Jesko Absolut is destined to achieve higher, more extraordinary speeds than any Koenigsegg or any other fully homologated car before it.”

How expensive is the Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut?

If you were reading that and wondering how much the fastest car in the world costs, the price tag is just another dizzying number on the Jesko Absolut’s spec sheet. All 125 Absolut cars offered sold out at a price of almost $3 million. Of course, being able to afford the Koenigsegg is just the first step in realizing its full potential. There are very few places on the map that can support a 300-plus-mph speed run, and the locations that do are not conveniently located. That said, it’s likely that many people who shelled out the cash for a Jesko Absolut will be happy with the bragging rights instead of using the speed.

So, the Jesko Absolut holds the speed crown and does so with more than a few miles per hour to spare, but the other cars in the 300-mph club are nearly as impressive.

Other cars that drive faster than 300 mph

BUGATTI Bolide 300 mph

The Bugatti Bolide sees 1,847 horsepower and 1,365 pound-feet of torque from a quad-turbo 8.0-liter W16. Its top speed lands at 311 mph, and its styling is just as wild and exaggerated.

However, unlike the Koenigsegg, the Bugatti is a track-only affair. Though it shares an engine and some of its underlying structure with the road-legal Chiron, Bugatti opted to keep the Bolide limited to track duty. While that’s a bummer, especially at the roughly $4.4 million price tag, not having to build a car to meet road car regulations gave Bugatti the freedom to create a brutal car with speed that defies logic. The Bolide is also far more exclusive than the Koenigsegg, as Bugatti produced just 40 of the extreme cars.

The car’s suspension is far stiffer than the Chiron’s, and the car rides on Michelin slicks. It utilizes a revised carbon monocoque and is built using an array of 3D-printed parts. Without the need to worry about curbs, speed bumps, and pedestrians, Bugatti could go wild with aerodynamics and bodywork, resulting in a car that looks like it could cut you.

What goes into creating a car that can go faster than 300 mph?

The Jesko Absolut and Bolide make reaching 300-plus mph sound easy, which you’d expect for their multiple-seven-digit price tags, but there’s a lot that goes into hitting their mind-blowing top speeds. Beyond the fact that it takes miles of glassy-smooth tarmac, the cars have to be exceptionally aerodynamic and be able to consume gobs of air, and fuel consumption at those speeds is immense. Engineers have to shape a car that easily slices through the air while also creating tremendous downforce to keep it on the ground.

Adding thousands of pounds of downforce stresses almost every part of the car, especially the suspension and tires. The dampers have to be able to support the temporarily heavier car while also keeping the tires in contact with the tarmac. At 300 mph, even subtle imperfections in the road surface come faster and much harder, so the car has to be able to cope.

Tires take a particularly brutal beating during the top-speed runs, as their sidewalls get compressed with all the downforce. They’re also subjected to extreme temperatures due to the friction that comes from rubber clawing against the pavement at 300 mph. At that speed, the tires rotate thousands of times per minute, so they must also be sturdy enough to hold their shape through the harsh rotational forces. Finally, high speeds do funny things with the weights of vehicle components, such as the tire pressure monitoring sensors, which can weigh several times their normal amount when rotating at 300 mph and cause wheel imbalances and other issues.

What about the previously fastest cars from Ferrari and Porsche?

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

While we’re now talking about cars reaching speeds in excess of 300 mph, the first car to cross 200 mph did so more than 50 years ago. The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona hit 200 mph in March 1970 at Talladega in Alabama. That’s right, the first car to 200 wasn’t wearing an Italian name on its nose, though many of the most well-known cars in the 200 club do. That said, the Charger Daytona, like the Bugatti Bolide today, was not street-legal, and the first road-going car to hit the benchmark was a Ferrari.

Several years after the Dodge’s record-setting run, the Ferrari F40 (below left) reached 200 mph as the first production car with the record. Its twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V8 cranked out 471 horsepower when new, giving it a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 201 mph. Interestingly, the most impressive Porsche at the time, the 959 (below right), fell just short of the F40’s speed, reaching “just” 197 mph.

Electric power could change everything

As the automotive world moves toward full electrification, there are questions about EVs’ top speed and battery power, but there are at least five models on sale today with a 200-plus mph top speed. The slick Lucid Air Sapphire offers a 200-mph top speed and a 0-60 time of under 2 seconds. It tied the Tesla Model S Plaid’s top speed but did 0-60 quicker, as the Tesla takes 2.1 seconds to do the deed. The Lotus Evija also promises a 200-mph top speed, but the top two cars are helping move the EV performance needle close to the extreme numbers seen from today’s fastest gas cars. The Pininfarina Battista offers a 217-mph top speed and a crazy 1.8-second 0-60 time, and at the tippy-top of the performance hill is the Rimac Nevera, which offers a 258-mph top speed and a 1.9-second 0-60 mph time.

The 5 fastest cars in the world in 2024

  • Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut: 330 MPH (Claimed)
  • Bugatti Bolide: 311 MPH (Claimed)
  • Bugatti Chiron Super Sport: 305 MPH
  • Hennessey Venom F5: 300 MPH (Claimed)
  • SSC Tuatara: 283 MPH



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The Autoblog 20: The most significant new cars of the past two decades


In case you hadn’t heard, Autoblog turns 20 this month. A lot has happened over the past two decades, from the crossover boom to the rise of hybrids and even the first widespread adoption of battery-electric cars. Hyundai and Kia have both exploded into the mainstream, and despite the slow march toward bigger and clumsier cars, we saw the resurgence of American muscle and the pony car supremacy wars. Cars are cleaner than ever before, yet absurdly quick. The future may not be perfect, but if you look at the past, where we’re going is incredibly promising. 

So that’s exactly what we did — took a look at the past.

We were tasked with nominating cars that had a significant impact on the automotive scene over the past 20 years, whether by virtue of success, failure or something else entirely. The list proved extensive, and was shortened to 45 final nominees. We were then told to chose our individual top 10 and rank them, from which we culled the list to 20. Some of our choices are technically a couple of years older than Autoblog itself, but we felt their inclusion was warranted based either on an impact that wouldn’t become apparent until later, or because they’ve had a profound influence on the industry since the turn of the 21st century. Without further ado, here are our picks. 

20 — 2009 Nissan GT-R

The R35 Nissan GT-R’s story has been one of defiance from the get-go. It was crowned the final boss of mainstream performance cars before such a concept even existed and was cast as the rowdy, upstart villain before it even went on sale. And now, 15 years into its run, it has lived long enough to see itself become the hero. Where it was once panned for its too-digital and unengaged driving experience, it’s now among the most analog offerings in the high-performance market. It came in defying the world; it’ll go out defying its own reputation. 

 

19 — 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid

The Maverick was a big throw of the dice for Ford. Not only was the Blue Oval pitching a new, small, unibody pickup truck, but it did so on the heels of cancelling virtually all of its affordable offerings. On top of that, pickup builders told us for years that smaller models weren’t worth exploring because their customers would always buy as much truck as possible; why leave those profits on the table? Yet, this baby cargo hauler has more DNA in common with a Focus than with an F-150, and shoppers don’t seem to care one bit. Even the front-wheel-drive-only Hybrid model — briefly the least-expensive variant offered — has been so popular that Ford has been unable to meet customer demand since release. Perhaps its full significance is yet to be seen, but early signs point to it featuring prominently the next time we do this little exercise in 10 years. 

 

18 — 2009 Hyundai Genesis

Some of the cars on this list were segment-defining automobiles, while others defied contention and created their own niches, but there aren’t many automobiles one can point to and say, “That was the genesis of an entire brand.” In this case, well, that’s about as literal as it gets. The Genesis lineup now includes eight distinct models, including the descendants of the Genesis and Genesis Coupe themselves, the G80 and G70. Sadly, the latter is unlikely to survive to see another generation. 

 

17 — 2003 Honda Pilot

Remember the world before three-row crossovers? Back when everybody crammed themselves into Explorers and Trailblazers or settled for a minivan? That’s the marketplace that greeted the Pilot back when it debuted (yes it was a year before we launched, but its significance built thereafter). Although it literally wasn’t alone as a three-row crossover, it was the one that established the blueprint of size, layout and family-friendly character that basically every three-row family crossover uses today. In the beginning, there was a Pilot. 

 

2017 Chevy Bolt EV

16 — 2017 Chevy Bolt

The Nissan Leaf may have been the first modern mass-market BEV, but the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV was the first mass-market EV to really do it right. Principally, it was all about the range. While other EVs could barely squeak past the 100-mile mark, the Bolt crested 250. Game changer? You bet. It was also practical and surprisingly fun to drive. The design and body style probably held it back in the marketplace (a mid-cycle update and the introduction of the EUV changed that), but there’s no denying how significant the Bolt was when introduced and to this day.

 

15 — 2008 Dodge Challenger

It says a lot that the Chrysler LX platform (technically LC here) shows up twice on this list. The Challenger proved that a big, snarly muscle car could still sell in a world where conspicuous consumption is falling under increasingly intense scrutiny. From Hemis to Hellcats, Redeyes and Demons, there was a Challenger for every power-hungry customer on the road — one of your authors included. That it has survived, barely changed, for most of the past 20 years and has arguably become even more relevant for enthusiasts also speaks volumes. 

 

14 — 2003 Nissan Murano

If you’re under the age of, say, 30, this one probably won’t make much sense to you. For those of us who had our fingers on the pulse of the market in the very early aughts, the 2003 Nissan Murano was wild. Nothing looked like it — everything was boxy and/or completely anonymous. These days, everything looks like it. Nissan has made many mistakes over the past two decades, but forecasting styling trends was not one of them. And we can’t put this one out there without acknowledging the Infiniti FX, which despite not being mechanically related to the Murano, sported an equally futureproof design.  

 

13 — 2005 Bugatti Veyron

If there was one car that the whole world was talking about right at the start of Autoblog, it was the Bugatti Veyron. It was the superlative automobile: a price tag over $1 million; 1,000 horsepower; a 250-mph top speed; 16 cylinders; 4 turbochargers. This was a car defined by numbers. It was so far beyond any supercar made before it, and it became the benchmark for at least a decade. It set the mold for what a supercar needed to be: a monument of monstrous machinery.

 

12 — 2010 Ford SVT Raptor

Being able to catch big air and come down safely in a completely stock production truck or SUV wasn’t exactly a thing before the Ford F-150 Raptor. Off-roaders were plentiful, but the Raptor with its Trophy Truck-esque, air-defying antics was an alien vehicle when it launched (literally) in 2010. Today, the Raptor name is synonymous with epic off-road capability, and the Raptor R continues to set hilarious standards for others of its ilk. Ram followed years later with the TRX. GM’s put forth its own challengers with the ZR2 line, and the Raptor’s in-your-face styling can be seen throughout the industry. It’s a trailblazer of excess and just plain silly fun, and it’s a type of vehicle we don’t see dying out any time soon.

 

11 — 2011 Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf was the first mass-market EV, and it was a big deal. As one would expect, skepticism surrounded it, and range anxiety was real. It may not have been for everyone, but it was the first step on what has become an industry-wide, even cultural, journey. A bit over a decade on, and we’re still in uncertain terrain when it comes to electrification — the Leaf was like the Sputnik launch, and now we’re shooting for the moon.

 

10 — 2013 Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ

Remember Scion? Toyota’s “youth” brand seemed more popular with baby boomers than anybody else, but we still got some pretty sweet machinery out of the deal. Today’s Toyota GR86 is yesterday’s Scion FR-S, while the BRZ is, well, still the BRZ. Those who grew up with these on the market may not appreciate their significance, but considering just how un-sporty Toyota showrooms were circa 2010, these cars represented a critical inflection point for the brand. Subaru certainly benefited, but one glance at Toyota’s lineup today reveals just how much the FR-S influenced the company’s enthusiast offerings. It’s the only piece of Scion that survives in America today.

 

9 — 2010 Hyundai Sonata/Kia Optima

In 2009, Korean cars were sensible, decently made and delivered tremendous value, but were seemingly styled for the witness protection program. Then the 2010 Hyundai Sonata landed, followed by the 2010 Kia Optima. They were literal game changers, kicking off an onslaught of products that were not only new and greatly improved, but were designed in a way that car buyers really noticed. They weren’t alone: We asked a Toyota designer once if there was a rival car introduced that made his team stop and re-evaluate what they were doing. His answer was quick: the 2010 Hyundai Sonata. Midsize family sedans could no longer be anonymous, boring boxes, and with rare exception, they never were again. While recalls cost Hyundai and Kia quite a bit of goodwill, both cars made undeniable impressions on American buyers and positioned the brands for further upmarket expansion.

 

8 — 2020 Chevrolet Corvette

Rumors of a mid-engine Corvette go back decades longer than Autoblog has existed, and yet it never happened. Until it finally did. And when a multi-generation American automotive icon undergoes such a radical transformation, it sure seems significant to us. Despite its radically different layout, though, at its heart was still a good, old-fashioned American V8. It was just behind the driver now. We’re not sure how significant the mid-engine Corvette will ultimately be in terms of influencing the overall automotive industry as other selections on this list did, but in terms of historical significance and the sheer quantity of enthusiast interest there was when the C8 finally dawned, this was an easy pick. 

 

7 — 2005 Chrysler 300

The Chrysler 300 was a seminal car that went against the grain. When the rest of the industry moved to smaller vehicles with better fuel efficiency — or doubled-down on SUVs — Chrysler dropped a V8 onto a rear-wheel-drive Mercedes chassis and said to hell with all of that. Twenty years later, the 300 remains a high-water mark for American sedans. Its styling is timeless and demonstrated that Chrysler could build an aspirational car. For Chrysler to recapture some of its early 2000s mojo, it needs to look no further than the 300.

 

6 — 2004 Toyota Prius

If you asked a non car person “What was the first hybrid car?” they’d almost certainly say this, the 2004 Toyota Prius. Of course, it wasn’t; it wasn’t even the first Prius. But this was the car that made “Prius” and “hybrid” synonymous with each other as well as household names. Celebrities and other wealthy folks drove them just to make an eco statement, much as they would when inevitably moving on to Teslas thereafter. It’s not hyperbole to say the Prius was a cultural phenomena, but by making hybrids both fashionable and acceptable from an automotive standpoint, it opened the door to electrification. It did so by not only because exponentially more efficient than other cars, but it was a funky in an agreeable way that clearly announced your greenness, while also being surprisingly practical. It wasn’t a dorky eco science project like its predecessor or the Honda Insight. There were those on our staff that argued vehemently for this to be higher on the list. 

 

5 — 2005 Ford Mustang

To understand the 2005 Mustang, look at the years prior. Camaro? Dead. Challenger/Charger? Long dead. For decades, Mustangs had carried a few design cues from the first generation but had no cohesive style — stick a pony badge on a coupe and call it a Mustang. At their nadir, some Mustangs were putting out 88 and 91 horsepower; the second generation was based on the Pinto. But the S-197 Mustang envisioned by Sid Ramnarace, Hau Thai-Tang and J Mays was a clean-sheet redesign, revolutionary and retro. (Chief designer Mays also had a hand in the VW New Beetle and retro baby Thunderbird.) The 2005 Mustang reminded boomers of the car they first fell in love with. It was the automotive equivalent of a romantic gesture. It also really helped that the Mustang GT V8 offered 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. Soon, the retro Camaro and Challenger came along, and many formidable Mustangs would follow. Pony cars, muscle cars were back.

 

4 — 2003 Porsche Cayenne

The Boxster may have saved Porsche in the late 1990s, but it’s the Cayenne that’s turned the company into the profit machine it is today (and allowed it to make increasingly amazing performance machines that almost certainly wouldn’t have been possible without that war chest). Purists stuck up their noses in 2003 when the Cayenne launched, but we wouldn’t be surprised if those same naysayers are driving around in performance-focused SUVs now. Of course, they have the Cayenne to thank for kick-starting the trend. Mercedes-AMG, BMW M and Audi Sport SUVs run wild across America now and have ever since those OEMs saw how successful the Cayenne was. Porsche’s effect is still being felt today, as the most reluctant sports car and supercar brands continue to introduce high-performance SUVs – even Ferrari is joining the crowd with the Purosangue.

 

3 — Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

You will note that are two Wranglers shown here: the TJ and JK generations. We had some internal debate on this one as both generations were responsible for introducing the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, a more daily drivable version of America’s iconic off-roader that we’d argue was the genesis of today’s rampant trend of daily drivable off-roaders. We ultimately just said “to hell with it” and put both. The original TJ Unlimited didn’t have rear doors; it was still a two-door Wrangler but with a stretched wheelbase and therefore more back seat room. The idea for a more versatile and even family-friendly Wrangler was there, even though the concept wasn’t fully realized until the four-door JK Unlimited launched for 2007. After that, there was no going back, as Unlimited sales quickly outpaced two-doors while Wrangler sales in general started a consistent, meteoric rise. More importantly, it established a trend that continues today. With rumors swirling of the two-door Wrangler’s days being numbered, it seems wild that just two generations ago, the four-door didn’t exist at all

 

2 — 2011 Chevrolet Volt

Was it a plug-in hybrid? A range-extended EV? Was it a government-backed boondoggle or a genuine effort to advance powertrain technology? Whatever you want to call it, the “Government Motors” Volt was developed under serious duress. These days, a PHEV customer can afford to be a bit picky, but back in 2011, Chevy was blazing a trail. We recognized it at the time, too, as the Volt was a BIG story when it launched. Cars this fundamentally different don’t come along too often. Of course, it wasn’t a runaway sales success and GM never seemed that committed to making the Volt nor its powertrain concept successful, but with the industry and GM in particular shifting back toward hybrid tech, its legacy seems bound to be even more relevant in the coming years. 

 

1 – 2012 Tesla Model S

We’ve had a lot to say about Tesla, and much of it has been critical, but here’s a reality check for you. Of the 45 vehicles nominated, only one received votes from every member of the staff, and not only that, received the maximum possible from every single one of us. 80 points — a perfect score — to the Bolt’s 38. We don’t often agree on much around here, but in this case, no deliberation was necessary. It was the Model S by an absolute landslide. 

Quite simply, what car introduced in the past 20 years has done more to change the automotive industry and even the world? The Model S was not the first electric car, nor even the first Tesla, but it was what made Tesla more than just another pet project of a rich guy with more dollars than sense (although it’s totally still that). It was a real car and a wildly impressive one at that, despite the warts. More importantly, it made electric cars cool … as opposed to the exact opposite of cool considering what had come before. Making them cool and desirable to be seen in by well-heeled and fashion-forward buyers made getting one more than just an eco statement, which was vital to making electric cars viable. Without the existence and success of the Model S, there would be no Tesla today … or at least as we know it. Ergo, we wouldn’t have a car company that has fundamentally and radically changed the automotive industry. We wouldn’t have the current level of electric vehicle adoption nor the prospect of even more in the coming years, in this country and others. Say what you will about Elon Musk and the dubious empire he oversees — and believe us, we’ve said plenty — but without the Model S, the automotive world in which we live would not exist.

Honorable mentions

As noted above, our “short” list included 45 cars, meaning more than half weren’t represented in the list above, including quite a few that received votes. We feel it would be a disservice to leave them out entirely, so here’s a few of those that didn’t survive the cull. It’s a testament to how many impactful new cars have debuted over the past two decades that some of these didn’t merit more than an honorable mention. We suppose that’s a good problem to have, but it’s likely little consolation for fans of some of these rides. Were your picks done dirty? Let us know in the comments. 

  • 2003 Cadillac CTS
  • 2010 Chevy Camaro

These two breakout nameplates for GM performance were nominated but neither made the cut. The C5 Corvette Z06 was deemed juuuuust too old to qualify. Yes, it’s hair-splitting. C’est la vie.

Worth noting that this beast’s electrical successor was not even nominated. 

The thud heard (almost) ’round the world. Volkswagen managed to keep the Phaeton alive in Europe, but its highfalutin’ American aspirations died with this boondoggle. 

Ask us again in 20 years. 

After the Cayenne, Porsche’s first sedan just wasn’t anywhere near as groundbreaking. 

The S550 Mustang was a huge quality-of-life upgrade and much of its fundamental engineering still underpins the pony cars leaving Ford’s Flat Rock facility today. 

Other unibody trucks would eventually join it (see the Maverick above), but it took guts to launch the Ridgeline in a market where body-on-frame Ford Rangers could still be had for pennies by comparison. 

A pioneer in unconventional suspension design, but a bit too niche. 

  • 2013 McLaren P1
  • 2013 Ferrari La Ferrari
  • 2013 Porsche 918

This trio of hyper-hybrids set the tone for a new era of electrification in high performance. 

Ford’s return to the 4×4 space made a massive splash, but this is another one that needs time to marinate. 

Arguably, Kia’s first true breakout success. The Soul walked so Telluride could run. 

  • 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, 2022 F-150 Lightning

Both of Ford’s electrified half-tons were nominated, but neither has really had a chance to leave its mark. 



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2017-2020 Fiat 124 Spider: Future Classic


The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider held the promise of melding two automotive cultures: the romance of the Italians and the focused finesse of the Japanese.

In simple terms, the Fiata, as it came to be called by aficionados, was in fact part Fiat, part Mazda, and all character. Unfortunately, the Miata MX-5 ND ruled the roost in this limited market. Mainstream consumers by this time were already convinced that the future was the SUV; a little two-seater with a stick shift and a rumbling ride wasn’t on too many wish lists.

Of course, the Miata, constantly updated through the years, survives today. The Fiata closed up shop in 2020 after only four years. Fiat’s questionable reputation for reliability and build quality throughout the previous decades in America didn’t help to push the sporty Spider up the sales charts.

Why is the Fiat 124 Spider a future classic?

The affordable roadster (which is not to be confused with the original Fiat Spider that launched in the 1960s) landed on US shores in three trim levels: Classica, Lusso and the performance-oriented Abarth, with starting prices that ranged from $25,990 to $28,195.

It was built alongside the Miata at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan. Comparisons of the two cars were expected, and voluminous: The Fiat used the same chassis, many of the same interior parts and even the same key fob as the Mazda. But the Spider had different tuning for its steering and suspension, and a different engine under the hood. Of course, both were convertibles.

Weight was an issue. The Spider’s 1.4-liter, turbocharged inline-four was good for 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, but that made it 130 pounds heavier than its Japanese near-twin.

Then there was turbo lag. One review said that the Fiata Classica’s best launch from 0 to 60 mph required 6.5 seconds, not as quick as the 5.8-second start recorded in a Miata Club.

Fiat engineers were able to tame the roll of the Miata, but in doing so robbed the 124 of one of its more enviable traits: its tossability. The Fiat’s manual tranny received high marks, the automatic not so much.

Wind noise with the Fiat’s soft top down was horrible, which was sad because the 124 was otherwise superb in highway driving. It had a more compliant suspension that the MX-5, and more sound-deadening padding. Nonetheless, tall/big people weren’t particularly happy in either car’s interiors; “cramped” was a polite way to describe head and shoulder room.

Speaking of highway driving, an Autoblog review raved about the sounds of the top trim level Abarth, calling it “the only 124 available with the special Record Monza exhaust, and it makes the Fiat growl and snarl like only Italian cars can.”

Standard safety features on the 2017 Fiat included antilock disc brakes, side airbags and stability and traction control. A rearview camera was available on all trims, while a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors could be ordered on the Lusso and Abarth via the Safety and Comfort package.

The 124’s interior has a touch of baked-in Euro class, with soft-touch plastics, simple climate controls and a Mazda-sourced touchscreen. Fiat also claimed its model had a bigger trunk, but “bigger” in this case is something of an exaggeration: it measured 4.9 cubic feet compared to the Mazda’s 4.6.

What is the ideal example of the Fiat 124 Spider?

The 124 Abarth was billed by Fiat as the performance model. That boast was mitigated somewhat in 2019 when the Abarth’s 164-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four specs gave way to the Miata’s 181-hp 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine.

Nonetheless, the Abarth served up 184 pound-feet of torque compared to the Miata’s 151 lb-ft. More importantly, the Abarth made its power down low, feeling punchier in the lower rpms.

And the Abarth did add some real benefits on top of the lesser trims of the 124, including a rear limited-slip differential, upgraded shocks and sharper tuning for the steering and suspension (and the grittier exhaust note mentioned above).

At the end of the day, the not-too-steep $3,000 price bump above the Classica made a slightly more convincing argument for choosing the Abarth, plus consider the gunmetal matte hood and scorpion Abarth badges fore and aft.

Be sure to check out our used vehicle listings; they can be helpful for finding a good deal. You can narrow the options down by a radius around your ZIP code, and be sure to pay attention to the deal rating on each listing to see how a vehicle compares with others in a similar area.

Are there any good alternatives to the Fiat 124 Spider?

Used Spiders can be pricey. A white automatic one-owner Abarth from 2017 with 33,000 miles prices at $23,000 at the time this was written; other 124 Spiders are listed at about $20,000.

The alternatives were (and, in terms of the MX-5, still are) limited. The Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 come to mind as far as affordability, and they’re somewhat more refined in terms of ride and amenities.

The Audi TT and Mini Cooper Roadster make sense for those looking to match the fun quotients of the Fiata for a higher price, and both have German roots.



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‘Fallout’ TV show’s most interesting car hides in the background of episode 1


Update: Reporter for Hagerty confirms the actual car was used. The text has been updated to reflect this.

Amazon MGM Studios aired the first season of its new TV show “Fallout.” It’s based on the long-running video game series that takes place in an alternative universe based on 1950s ideas of futurism, with it all leading up to all-out thermonuclear war and the aftermath. So to fit the look, any scenes that take place before the nuclear war feature ’50s dress, political ideology, and, of course, automobiles. Most of the cars in the show are actual production vehicles from the time period. One of the main characters, Cooper Howard, drives a gorgeous yellow Kaiser Darrin, and there’s even a scene that showcases the car’s super cool sliding pocket doors. A Messerschmitt tandem bubble car also makes an appearance (and there are lookalikes that you can find in the game). But the most interesting and unique car shows up in the first episode, and amazingly, it’s hidden in the background of various shots.

It doesn’t take long to spot it, as it appears in the first few minutes of the show. These scenes start at a birthday party just before the bombs drop, and it’s most visible in the shot at top when Howard takes off on horseback with his daughter in search of safety. They race past a big bright red roadster of some sort, with gleaming side-exit exhaust and a rear fin reminiscent of some period race cars. That vehicle isn’t made specifically for the show. It’s the Plymouth XNR concept from 1960, and apparently it’s the real deal, as discovered by a reporter for Hagerty.

The actual 1960 Plymouth XNR concept has a heaping helping of hypnotizing history. It was designed by Virgil Exner (hence the XNR name), who worked at Pontiac, Studebaker, and most famously, Chrysler Corporation. He started at Chrysler with concept cars, and the first production cars credited to him were the “Forward Look” models that included the original C-300 that would eventually inspire the 2005 Chrysler 300

The styling is seriously wild. As we mentioned, it has asymmetric cues from race cars of the time, but amplified with the hood scoop that leads into a long rising cowl. The exhaust only comes out on the driver side, and then the rear has a sort of chrome star tying the rear fin in with the pseudo bumper. The radical looking fenders also appeared on the original 1960 Valiant, which was quickly placed under the Plymouth brand, with Dodge getting its own version called Lancer. The XNR even uses the Valiant’s chassis according to Motor Trend (which has an excellent, detailed look at the car from the sadly defunct Motor Trend Classic magazine).

On top of the wild looks from designer royalty, the XNR was actually a fully functional car. It had a 170-cubic-inch (or about 2.8L in metric displacement) 250-horsepower inline-six with a three-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. And while it looks as though it only has a driver seat, there is a passenger seat hidden under a removable body panel. It also featured independent front suspension with torsion springs and a live rear axle with leaf springs. Those rear leaf springs were even tidily fit to the curve of the rear body (or probably more likely, the body fit to the springs)

When Chrysler was done with the car, it began a wild journey, first going to Italy and Carrozzeria Ghia, the company that built the body. It eventually went to multiple other owners, including at one point the Shah of Iran. It was eventually found by Karim Edde, who discovered it in Lebanon in the ’80s and had to move it about to keep it safe as civil war broke out. It was then restored by RM Restorations, part of what’s now the RM Sotheby’s auction house, in the late 2000s. Following its restoration, it was shown at Pebble Beach in 2011 where it won the Gran Turismo award, which meant it was added as a drivable car in the video game series including the latest “Gran Turismo 7.” It’s actually quite fun to drive, especially with the high-revving engine. The game shows redline as being just shy of 8,000 rpm.

And that brings us to today, where the car has appeared in “Fallout.” When we first wrote this, we tried to get some info about whether the car involved was the actual XNR, or a replica made by by Gotham Garage, the custom car shop featured in Netflix’s “Car Masters: Rust to Riches.” That replica is now at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, and the PR contact for the museum confirmed the replica wasn’t used. HotCars reported that Gotham Garage was looking at building another replica a while back, which added another possible car to the mix. We also reached out to Amazon for details but never got a reply. But a friend and reporter for Hagerty found a contact that could confirm the actual car was used.

So now, on top of an already fascinating existence, the XNR gets to add TV star to its resume. Pretty sweet if you ask us.



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