The Friday Five:The Accomplished Acura, Revived Lightning, Rallying Electric Edition

Liz Kim | May 07, 2021

This week, we explain why rental car companies are buying used vehicles for fleets, why gas prices will rise this summer, and what a new J.D. Power study says is most important for electric vehicle smartphone apps.

We also covered the details of the new 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline and reviewed both the 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor and the refreshed 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe. If you’re shopping for a small SUV, you might want to check out our 2021 Hyundai Kona vs. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comparison. And if you think the new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is cool, we share five fun facts about the new truck.

The Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE) recently clarified its six levels of autonomous driving, so we’ve updated our explainer article to reflect those changes. It’s a good primer before reading all about the new Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot technology that’s coming soon to a highway near you – as soon as regulators approve it.

But that’s not everything that was happening in the automotive space.

2022 Acura MDX Named Top Safety Pick+ - Find the best Acura deals!

Looking for an upscale and athletic SUV that also boasts of 3-row seating, practicality, and safety? The redesigned 2022 Acura MDX might be right for you.

2022 Acura MDX A-Spec Red Front Quarter View

This week, the new 2022 MDX received a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That means it offers the highest level of protection for its occupants in the event of a collision and provides top-ranking crash avoidance systems and headlight performance to help you avoid a crash in the first place.

Michelin Exploring Use of Plastic Bottles to Make Tires

According to the Plastic Soup Foundation, a non-profit marine conservation organization, people worldwide consume nearly 600 billion plastic bottles every year. And they often end up in every part of the environment except for the recycling bin. 

Michelin wants to use about three billion of those to make car tires. The company announced that it has successfully developed an enzymatic process allowing the reuse of plastic bottles in the tire manufacturing process. The breakthrough will help Michelin achieve its goal of using 40% renewable or recycled materials by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Ford Might Revive Lightning Name for Electric F-150 - Find the best Ford deals!

Ford last used the “Lightning” name for street-performance versions of its F-150 pickup trucks in the 1990s. Reportedly, according to a leaked internal document, the name might return on the upcoming electric F-150. Which, frankly, would be awesome. 

As of late, Ford has taken old but not forgotten names and used them on new vehicles. The Bronco and Mustang Mach-E are good examples, and the automaker’s upcoming small pickup is named Maverick. This “something old, something new” approach, especially for electric vehicles, marries the familiar with new technologies.

We’ll know more closer to the F-150 electric’s launch next year. And as one of our favorite anthropomorphized Pixar characters says, “Ka-chow!”

2022 Ford E-Transit Price, Driving Range - Find the best Ford deals!

Delivery vans seem ready-made for the electric vehicle revolution, and Ford can claim the first full-size commercial electric van on the market with the 2022 E-Transit. 

A new registration site just opened on where customers can state their interest in the E-Transit, which has a starting price of $43,295. Registering your interest now will also provide you with the latest news and let you configure the van to fit your needs.

Ford bases the E-Transit on the standard Transit van, which is the best-selling commercial van in America. Ford says it will offer up to 126 miles of driving range on a full battery charge, easily meeting what its research shows is an average of 74 miles of daily driving for the typical commercial van.

Volkswagen ID.4 Completes Mexican Baja Rally - Find the best Volkswagen deals!

Remember all of the times Mom yelled at you for damaging that expensive Walkman (or iPod)? No wonder it’s easy to think that electric vehicles are delicate and will get ruined by dirt and moisture if you’re not careful about where you drive them. 

Welp, Volkswagen smashed such notions by racing its first long-range EV, the Volkswagen ID.4, in the NORRA Mexican 100 race in Baja California. 

“This was an exciting test of ID.4 technology because no other production-based EV had ever entered this event, let alone completed it,” said Scott Keogh, President and CEO of Volkswagen of America. “Congrats to our team for demonstrating that EVs can stand up to extreme environments, and showing how fun electric vehicles can be.”

Modified by Tanner Foust and Rhys Millen, the Volkswagen ID.4 bounced around on a beefy off-road suspension and featured a racing interior with a full roll cage. Additional changes ensured proper battery cooling and provided underbody protection, but the powertrain remained stock. A biofuel-powered generator in a chase vehicle recharged the ID.4 rally car along the route. 

Out of the 90 vehicles that started the 840-mile journey over the punishing terrain of the Mexican wilderness, the ID.4 was one of 64 that crossed the finish line. 

The automakers and trusted publications are the sources of information for this article. It was accurate on May 7, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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