the Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Associate Editor Byron Hurd. They start off with this week's big news, including the official unveiling of the U.S.-market Ford Ranger and Ranger Raptor, some new RWD options from Volvo, and the potential production status of the Hyundai N Vision 74 concept. They also cover the discontinuation of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the introduction of the latest RS model in Porsche's lineup, based on the 718 Spyder. From there, Byron talks about driving the new Alfa Romeo Tonale, and Greg digs into the new Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance. After that, Byron talks about his Wankel-based discovery during his tour of Alfa Romeo's factory museum outside Milan.

Send us your questions for the Mailbag and Spend My Money at:

"> the Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Associate Editor Byron Hurd. They start off with this week's big news, including the official unveiling of the U.S.-market Ford Ranger and Ranger Raptor, some new RWD options from Volvo, and the potential production status of the Hyundai N Vision 74 concept. They also cover the discontinuation of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the introduction of the latest RS model in Porsche's lineup, based on the 718 Spyder. From there, Byron talks about driving the new Alfa Romeo Tonale, and Greg digs into the new Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance. After that, Byron talks about his Wankel-based discovery during his tour of Alfa Romeo's factory museum outside Milan.

Send us your questions for the Mailbag and Spend My Money at:

"> the Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Associate Editor Byron Hurd. They start off with this week's big news, including the official unveiling of the U.S.-market Ford Ranger and Ranger Raptor, some new RWD options from Volvo, and the potential production status of the Hyundai N Vision 74 concept. They also cover the discontinuation of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the introduction of the latest RS model in Porsche's lineup, based on the 718 Spyder. From there, Byron talks about driving the new Alfa Romeo Tonale, and Greg digs into the new Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance. After that, Byron talks about his Wankel-based discovery during his tour of Alfa Romeo's factory museum outside Milan.

Send us your questions for the Mailbag and Spend My Money at:


In this episode of the Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Associate Editor Byron Hurd. They start off with this week's big news, including the official unveiling of the U.S.-market Ford Ranger and Ranger Raptor, some new RWD options from Volvo, and the potential production status of the Hyundai N Vision 74 concept. They also cover the discontinuation of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the introduction of the latest RS model in Porsche's lineup, based on the 718 Spyder. From there, Byron talks about driving the new Alfa Romeo Tonale, and Greg digs into the new Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance. After that, Byron talks about his Wankel-based discovery during his tour of Alfa Romeo's factory museum outside Milan.

Send us your questions for the Mailbag and Spend My Money at:



GREG MIGLIORE: Welcome back to "The Autoblog Podcast." I'm Greg Migliore. We have a great show for you this week. There's a new Ranger. More importantly perhaps, there's a new Ranger Raptor. We're going to talk about that with the man who wrote it up-- that's associate editor Byron Hurd-- plus, get to a bunch of other things, including the Hyundai N Vision 74 concept. Rumors are that may go to production. I happen to quite think that they should do that.

And a bunch of other news, some things coming and going, as well as what we've been driving. I spent some time in a very notable 5-liter V8. That's the IS 500, which, let me tell you, that was a lot, a lot of fun. And Byron has been driving a couple of Alfa Romeo's, most significantly the new Tonale. So let's jump right into it. Welcome aboard, Byron. How's it going?

BYRON HURD: Hey, pretty good. Fresh off a trip to Italy, which is always fun. The post trip crud that I came down with, maybe not so exciting. But I feel confident I'll be able to push all the way through this. So feeling all right.

GREG MIGLIORE: Sounds good. Like I was saying, allergies have been hitting me pretty hard. But I have three drinks for this podcast, a coffee, a tangerine LaCroix, and a very tall glass of water. So there will be a time limit here because you can't really have three drinks and talk forever, if you will. Yeah, three-drink Wednesday. That's not a bad way to do it. Last week was three-drink Wednesday. But they were three of the same kind. It was three gin and tonics. So but not for the podcast. This was after hours.


GREG MIGLIORE: So but yeah, people want to hear about the Ranger. You wrote this up. You went to a briefing. I have some thoughts. But you did serve the initial round of reporting. So some highlights, what do you think?

BYRON HURD: Well, I mean, there are really no surprises here. I mean, we knew that the global Raptor power numbers were going to be kind of on the soft side compared to what we'd get here. And I mean, it's really not a surprise that they didn't bust out and go above and beyond where the Raptor for Bronco power output is. So they're playing in kind of the same space.

But the Bronco still, as an icon, as Ford's calling them, gets a little more power. But still, 405 horses for a midsize truck isn't bad. And really, everything that we already liked about the Ranger, the size, the capability, really hasn't changed. The addition of Raptor is huge.

But just looking at the kind of core truck, if you still just wanted the kind of inexpensive, four-cylinder, all-wheel or four-wheel wheel drive, that formula hasn't really changed. The only option now that really changes anything going on with the base truck is the availability of that new kind of mid-range V6, which is interesting because midsize trucks really haven't been a place where you get a lot of engine options.

So apart from Gladiator, which was kind of throwing a wrench in convention, this is kind of nice. It's interesting to see this space that was probably considered dead maybe about a decade ago is really kind of taking off again. And granted, the trucks have gotten bigger, which has probably helped.

And especially with bigger trucks getting even more expensive, it's creating more space for things like the Ranger and GM's equivalents and the Gladiator, which has had really kind of better sales over the past couple of years than it deserved just because the pandemic was forcing people to buy whatever they could get. And that worked out well for Jeep. They got to sell a lot more pickups than they were planning on.

So good for them. But this is definitely an expanding and very interesting space. And the Ranger looks like it'll keep on doing what we already appreciate about it. And the Raptor is going to make it a lot more fun.


BYRON HURD: So what I'm really interested to see is which trims end up getting the V6-- the mid-range V6 is an option-- and how those end up pricing out because it's not going to be the most capable way to spec the truck. Like, if you want the max towing capability and the max payload, you actually want the four-cylinder engine because the weight of the V6 actually takes away from both.

But it's going to give you a little extra grunt. People who maybe want to tow things more frequently that are kind of heavy but not quite reaching the max but just appreciate the extra grunt that you get from the V6 probably going to want that. And honestly, just make the truck just a little bit more interesting and engaging to drive, too. Might get to see that in, like, a Tremor variant, something like that, where they actually put that power to good use. So it'll be interesting to see how this kind of develops over the next year.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah. You know, it's interesting because, when you look, we've sort of-- the actual Ranger itself globally debuted almost two years ago at this point. And even the Raptor came out. But what we're getting, as one would expect, is a bit more interesting than the rest of the world. So that's good. It's definitely a powerful version.

And the Raptor, I noticed this in your writing and looking at some of the-- like, just the pricing, I think it's a decent deal. Like, if you want that sort of Raptor vibe and the midsize truck is your segment, you can get a lot of power. It's cheaper than the Bronco Raptor and obviously the F-150 Raptor. So I think it's kind of the value way, if you will, to get into the Raptor nameplate.

BYRON HURD: Yeah. And really, I mean, if you're looking at other things kind of in that same price segment, you're looking at-- like, GM has the Colorado Canyon twins, which both have their kind of off-road, up-fit equivalents now. Those play nicely with, like, the Gladiator Rubicon and the Gladiator Mojave. But the Raptor is just so different from any of them because it's all about high speed and going over nasty terrain but at a high pace versus the crawling basically that you're going to be doing in a ZR2 or AT4X or a Gladiator Rubicon.

So it's interesting that we-- like we've got a bunch of choices and Ford is kind of deliberately choosing not to play in the exact same space as everybody else, which, I mean, that's kind of been F-150's thing. So it's not surprising that it's also a Ranger's thing.

But if you look at kind of the nittty-gritty capability, I mean, the Raptor still gets locking front and rear differentials, which is nice because that's good if you actually do want to go crawling. And it does have a two-speed transfer case. So you can do low-range crawling in a Ranger Raptor. There's nothing stopping you. It's just maybe not going to be the best tool for the job. But it'll be interesting to see how that exactly shakes out.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah, I think, you know, just from a cosmetic standpoint, I think they kind of brought it into this, the 2020s, if you will. And I think they needed to do that. The last truck, which I personally liked, I think I liked it a little bit more than the market and my fellow, like, peers ended up liking it. You know, the truck got old really quick, deservedly so because it was an old truck when it came here.

There is that sort of novelty of, hey, the Ranger's back. And, hey, here's Ford's take on the midsize segment. But it was-- you know, it had been sold overseas for years. So a lot of times, reviewers would get into it. And they're like, oh, wow, this is kind of an old truck. It looks and feels that way.

Which, again, I kind of like that. It me almost, like, of like a Land Cruiser or a 4Runner feel. And I think you could get away with it sort of in a truck, especially in the midsized truck segment. But there was no getting around it. It was kind of dated.

So I'll be very interested to see, like, how the interior actually looks and feels. You know, other than pictures, it's kind of tough to tell here. Did they say anything about the actual platform? I was just trying to read around. I wasn't quite able to extrapolate that. What's the story there?

BYRON HURD: So essentially, this is like a further evolution of what Bronco already did for the global Ranger platform. So this kind of incorporates what they've learned from both the-- I'm not going to say the original truck, but the older truck and everything they learned while doing Bronco.


BYRON HURD: So you get-- there's a reinforced frame. For the Raptor, especially, they took a bunch from Bronco Raptor, effectively just kind of ported it over. But I mean, in terms of it being like a fundamental reimagining of the way a pickup truck is built, the platform is-- the same basic architecture is still there.


BYRON HURD: And that's actually noteworthy in that a lot of trucks are now transitioning to platforms that might look for, like, electrification options and things like that, which Ford is doing that in Lightning up in the full-size space. And it's doing that to a degree with Maverick in its unibody space, for lack of a better term. But there's not a whole lot coming from them in terms of mid-size.

And we've heard before, like, rumors of a hybridized Bronco. So there's some hypothetical possibility there, especially because the transmissions that they're using in all of these cars are the same ones that are used in their rear-wheel drive hybrids. So theoretically, component-wise, they're in a position to do it. But we haven't heard anything along those lines quite yet.

And at this point, Ranger's probably too new for them to be ready to pivot on that. Ford's had some trouble with launches over the last few years, we'll say. You know.

GREG MIGLIORE: That's putting it mildly, man. That's putting it mildly.

BYRON HURD: Yeah, in all kindness, it's been tumultuous, right? So I think at this point, they would like to just get the launch of the truck out of the way. And then, if they've got anything up their sleeve, give it a little time to bake.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that. I think this is kind of like at a high level. This is going to be a very interesting year for products. And maybe I say that every year. But there's a lot of things I'm really interested in getting into that either just launched, just revealed, but the things that we're going to get probably significant seat time in this year, whether it's like the Prius making its way into the fleet, the Hyundai Ioniq 6.

This is right up there. I think this is going to be a really interesting take on the segment. It's very-- it's obviously very forward. And that's going to work. I tend to think this isn't going to draw a lot of new buyers into Ford. That's what the Maverick is for. And maybe that's what the Lightning is for. This is essentially like replacing something that is part of their strategy.

But I'll be curious to see what they do after this, too. Not to already put this thing out to pasture, but I mean, this is a very, like, of the moment, even of the last moment, such as it is, vehicle product. There's nothing groundbreaking here, so yeah.

But I'm really excited to drive it. Like I said, I like the old one. I liked it's kind of-- I almost liked the dated charm of it. Like, that kind of hit with me. So I'll be really interested to see what some of these upgrades do for it.

BYRON HURD: Well, and we've also got the Tacoma coming along here relatively soon. So pretty soon, virtually everything you can buy in this space is going to be new or pretty close to it because the GMs are already here or arriving. And Ford's arriving and with Toyota not far behind. I mean, that's it.

The only thing that's truly old by any measure is now Gladiator. And even that is only just a few years old. So and especially since it was a clean-sheet design, I mean, you really can't get much fresher than that. So it's going to be really interesting, especially if we start to see some electrical interplay in some of these. And we already know that Jeep has the capability to do 4xe on the Gladiator, if it wants to. So that's just a matter of, I think, when at this point, not if.

And I think everybody in this space is just kind of waiting to see who goes first. And we see that especially in with the, quote unquote, "domestics," the inclination to kind of hang back and then leapfrog after somebody kind of puts themselves out there for the first time. So it'll be interesting to see where they go with that in the midsized space. Excuse me. But it's going to be fun. And these are trucks that feel a little more accessible and attainable and are probably more size appropriate to the average truck owner for especially urban areas. And that's an area where everyone wants to play.

GREG MIGLIORE: It's going to be, I think, a very competitive year in the midsize truck segment. You know, we've already seen the Canyon and the Colorado, the latest versions of those. We know the next gen Tacoma is coming up. It's like it's 2014 all over again, if you will, as far as, like, people getting back into segment.

And for me, this is really the area, if I were looking to get a truck, I would probably look at this one. Frankly, the Maverick does enough for literally probably 60% to 70% of people who think they need a truck. Then, there's, like, the people who really do need the work truck. And for them, it's like the full size will do it. And then, you get this in-between area.

And to me, it's where maybe, like, the emotion meets the metrics. And this is just a little truckier than, like, a [INAUDIBLE] or then like a Maverick if you will. So you know we'll see. It's the-- I almost called it the Mustang. The Ranger has always had an emotional element to it.

So I'm excited to kind of see how those intangibles feel, you know, like that off-road pack that the current generation has, the FX4 just suspension. That's just-- it's fun. So it'll be interesting to see if they can-- and I think they will. I anticipate they will maintain that just kind of, like, fun, enthusiast truck vibe here.

So that's the Ranger. Check it out. We have a lot of pictures. There's some video. It's already up on the site, of course. Get in the comments. Let us know what you think.

So all right. Now, we're going to run through a few other news items here. Rear-wheel drive is back in the Volvo lineup. You know, it's been a while, I believe since the '90s since they've last had one. Yep, the '90s. So it's just a different kind of feel for them.

You know, I think it's-- they've been front-wheel drive, sometimes all-wheel drive. You just haven't thought of rear wheels being a calling card for Volvo. And it does give you a little bit of that performance vibe, which I think is cool. And I mean, we'll just-- again, another vehicle that I'm interested in trying. We'll see.

I mean, what do you think? Part of me doesn't think Volvo needs to do this. But given the electrification of running gear, they can. So they are. So I don't know. Do you think this is a difference maker? Or is this inside baseball?

BYRON HURD: I mean, I don't know about difference maker. But it is just kind of a nice illustration of the versatility you get from electrification at least. I mean, 10, 15 years ago, we'd say, oh, well, we're never going to get rear-wheel drive cars from this manufacturer again because once they switch to front wheel drive and started chasing efficiency, well, there was no incentive whatsoever for them to go back. And now that that doesn't really apply so much anymore, it's kind of nice to see that some automakers are actually trying to be flexible with what they offer.

And I don't know that it's necessarily a need for Volvo. I agree with you there. Like, they probably could have gone by without just as easily and just made everything front-wheel drive instead of rear. But I like that they didn't. So it's a yes vote for me, even if it's not necessarily something that the whole world might actually want.

GREG MIGLIORE: OK, so we're also getting news this week about the Mercedes CLS retiring, if you will, in 2023. And it marks sort of the end of an era, if you will, for kind of the swoopy, coupe-styled sedans. You know, they use the CLS. They began to use that a little more widely. But to me, this was almost like an A7, S7 fighter back when that was really, like, a calling card for Audi.

So I mean, for one thing, I will say this. I think Mercedes has too many models. They're frankly a little confusing unless you're a really hardcore Mercedes buyer or fan. This is one that they're probably-- they're covering the space with some of the AMGs and even some of the electrics, which are, like, kind of swoopy, coupe things. So I think it's entirely reasonable for them to nuke this one. But I mean, what do you think? Even though I do-- I've always liked the designs.

BYRON HURD: I kind of hate what this car did for the idea of a coupe. I think I'll forever resent it just on that basis alone. Whether it was good or bad, it honestly was more good than bad. But I just-- I'll forever hold it against it, this particular car, that we have to fight over the definition of a coupe and a sedan.

But it is. I mean, certainly, it was significant. It has been for the last 15 years of design, especially for luxury coupes. So its impact is undeniable. But I'm not particularly sad to see it go, personally.

GREG MIGLIORE: Others did the segment better, too. Like I said, Audi, for one. You know, again, they-- even Mercedes and their sort of, like, closing press statement, if you will, said that they could cover this segment with other things, you know, either slightly different price points. But you know, I can see why they're letting this thing go. Plus, sedans, you know, full stop, you don't need a lot of flavors of sedans right now. And Mercedes already has plenty of them at all different levels.


GREG MIGLIORE: All right, so let's talk about the Hyundai N Vision 74. Rumors earlier this week were that it was going to be produced. You look super excited. I think you're in favor.

BYRON HURD: Yes, I love this thing. Put it together. Call it the pony. Put it in a showroom. Let's get this thing going.


BYRON HURD: I'm super on board for this, 100%.

GREG MIGLIORE: All right, I love it. I mean, I literally feel the same way. I had a column idea for this week. I had something entirely different, something about, like, V8s or something. Wrote a few sentences. Then, I read Ronan Glon, who's one of our main news guys. He had the story. And I was like, you know what? I kind of want to riff on this. I wrote down, started writing. And 550 some words later, I had a column. So that's kind of where I landed.

I think they should do it, too. If you look at, like, the headline in my piece, I'm basically telling them, like, pony up. Do it. Like, and if they don't have the business case, I made one for them. Like, cut out all that hydrogen BS. You're not going to do that. You got the powertrain with the Ioniq 5 and 6.

And, oh, by the way, most people did not know the pony and it's amazing, like, Giugiaro back story exists. A lot of them do now. Suddenly, you've got this deep cut. Like, get in there, you know? It's like there's a lot of companies that should do sports cars that don't. Hey, Hyundai, you can right now. Go do it.

BYRON HURD: Yeah, 100% agreed. I love this. I mean, we spent probably just 20 minutes standing around this thing in LA even though it wasn't technically new by the time we got a chance to see it. And, you know, Hyundai actually had-- what was it-- the Ioniq 6 there to show us in LA. They're like, hey, look at this. We're like, nah, we're going to be over here with the Vision concept. Thank you and goodbye. And it's not even like the Ioniq 6 is boring. It's just that next to this thing, it's really hard to compete. It's a monster. I love it.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah. You know, I think at first, when we first-- like, the other thing is, like I said, is a lot of people don't know about the back story here. So when I first saw the Ioniq 5, I was like, well, all right. This is kind of weird. This is kind of weird even just, like, for Hyundai random design. But then, it's like, oh, wait. They've done this, you know? Like, you know, Giugiaro has done some designs with them.

Like, you know, I wrote this in my column. Not many people have worked with that design house. I mean, they have. So it's like you've kind of got this, like, great deep cut on the shelf. Go ahead and use it.

You know, we'll see. And I think they could go at a couple of different ways. Like, at first, I almost kind of phrased this like a sports car, Nissan Z, Supra, even like a pony car, you know, Detroit name kind of in there because, I mean, ostensibly, I think that's where Hyundai would probably naturally want to compete.

But you could look at it the other way and make it, like, something low volume and really high performance, high price, which at least that's kind of how the concept, the newer one, looks. So I think it'll be very interesting to see how this plays out. it may not be as imminent as, like, it seemed, if you will, you know? Like, I haven't received any invites to Pony Day, as, you know, one of the reports said.

But yeah, I just I think they should do this. I think it's a good move for them. And, you know, Hyundai Motor Co. has taken some risks. And each of the brands has gone after something. And I think this is-- I think this is a good one for Hyundai to kind of pursue.

BYRON HURD: Yeah, 100%. And I mean, we look at what Genesis has done with their compact, sporty platform. Like, there's potential there. I mean, that was the Genesis coupe at one time. So it's not like there's no precedent whatsoever for this, especially in, like, a two-plus-two kind of setup, which is really what this would have to be.

I mean, you don't necessarily see it in pictures. But in person, it is quite large because it is as big as that big-- the X concept that Genesis presented because they're the same effective platform. So the concept is big. And I mean, the production version doesn't have to be. But it certainly has the presence, if that's the direction they want to go with it.

GREG MIGLIORE: It seems like Hyundai has been dropping some kind of hints about this, too. Like, they-- the original 1974 concept, hence '74, was actually destroyed I think sometime in the '70s. And they're going to rebuild it with the design house. I think it's called GFG now, which is essentially Giugiaro. They're going to rebuild that. They put, like, an electric motor and one of the subsequent, like, pony cars, which is more of like a hatchback that ran in, like, the '70s up into, like, the early '90s. So they've been kind of acting like, hey, guys, kind of look over here. We might do something. So--


GREG MIGLIORE: You know, I don't know. I think, you know, let's hope there's some fire where there's certainly some smoke. And it's not a smoke screen, so yeah. All right, so here's some real-life stuff, if you will, the actual goods, no smokescreens. This is the Porsche. This is the 718 Spyder RS, pretty wild looking. You know, I tend to like these, you know, just this-- I like the 718. It's the thing that I think has always been very fun to drive.

I'm one of those people who's, like, kind of on the fence. Like, 911, 718 Boxster, Cayman, for me, it's a little tougher call than I think it is for some people. But yeah, this is just, like, the really sharp tip of the spear, if you will. 3.2 seconds to 60. Kind of wild looks. You get a watch with it. What do you think?

BYRON HURD: Yeah, I love this thing. I mean, they're super cool. Unfortunately, I mean, it's the kind of thing that's going to be gobbled up by collectors and never see the light of day because these things are just-- they're cars that are meant to be appreciated by people. And people never really get to see them, which is sad.

So I love what it is. I just mourn the days when special cars actually circulated instead of just living in people's Instagram galleries. So hopefully, we'll see a few of these actually on the street. I mean, personally, looking at the two 718s, for me, it would be the Cayman just because I would want the take-it-to-the-track-all-the-time kind of attitude of that. And I would gleefully do that if I could afford to drop a quarter million dollars on one of these things after markup. But I would certainly not be soured if I learned that either one of them is going to be in my driveway.

GREG MIGLIORE: It's almost 500 horsepower, 493, to be exact. It's like the GT4 goodies and a bunch of other stuff mixed in there to make this just a very intense 718. Almost 60 pounds lighter than just a typical Spyder convertible, if you will. Crazy huge wheels. It's a lot. It's a lot. Let me put it that way.

But, you know, it's pretty wild. And then, the watch itself I think is eight grand. So, you know, when I think of Porsche Design watches, I think of the one that Tom Cruise wore in "Top Gun," I think both "Top Guns." Different watch from this, obviously. But kind of a cool coronagraph, you know? I mean, if you're going to spend the money to get the car, you might as well get the watch, right?

BYRON HURD: Yeah, right? Well, that way, you can sell them both in, you know, 25 years and have a package deal.

GREG MIGLIORE: Exactly. All right, so let's talk about what we've been driving. You went to Italy. Why don't you go first? I didn't go to Italy with the car I was driving. So let's hear about what's up with Alfa.

BYRON HURD: So yeah, they had us over to Milan to drive the new Tonale. And it was really interesting. I was on the drive for the Dodge Hornet, which was in North Carolina, so a very different experience but very similar cars that, honestly, in terms of the actual routes we went to drive on, were very similar in the way they were laid out. Just the visuals were very different. We'll put it that way.

But it really is interesting to kind of forget the Hornet because that's going to be hard, I think, really more for us than for, like, general consumers to, like, set aside the Hornet when thinking about the Tonale because, really, the Hornet is not watered down all that much. The Tonale comes only in the Veloce trim [INAUDIBLE]. So you only get the plug-in hybrid. You don't have, like, a lower power output or anything like that. There's no ICE-engine-only version. It's just the plug-in.

So you get 285 horsepower, 347 pound feet of torque, you know, big, bulky system. It's a 4,200-ish-pound crossover. But it's a little small. So it's kind of heavy, a little bit on the smaller side for practicality. But it is actually genuinely fun to drive, which is a standout in the segment because, really, the competitors to it here are going to be, like, your Lexus NH 450+ hybrid, another plug-in, or the Lincoln Corsair.

And the Corsair, I mean, especially, you look at it. It's not meant to be, like, an enthusiast, corner-carving machine. It's a luxury car first. The plug-in, I'm sure, makes it real grunty. Like, it's got plenty of power off the line. But it's not a performance vehicle first. It is a hybrid. It is a luxury car. It is not pretending to be an enthusiast, fun vehicle.

The Lexus kind of leans that way because they have the F Sport package. So you get, like, the sharper handling and the adjustable steering. It's a little more kind of enthusiast oriented. But I would say the Lexus looks are a little polarizing. You have to kind of-- I'm not going to say a face only mother could love. But it's not traditionally pretty.

The Alfa, I think, just looks quite good. It drives quite nicely. And it's priced quite aggressively, if you're going to lease it, because that's the one way you can still take advantage of plug-in hybrids that are not built in the United States under the new Inflation Reduction Act rules.

So you can get $7,500 off this thing when you lease it, which starts at about $45. So now, you're talking about mid-high $30s. You're getting into a car with no options that's well under the average transaction price of a new car sold in the US. So there's that.

It's an Alfa Romeo. It's got 285 horsepower. It's quite surprisingly fun to throw around corners. It actually does play quite nicely. And Alfa really wants to sell them. So there's going to be-- I'm not going to come out and say, oh, they're going to do incentives.

But Alfa is going to push these hard. There's going to be streaming TV advertising and things like that, which we haven't seen on Alfa Romeo's in years. So the idea of them kind of pushing hard for a more mainstream market with this car that actually is kind of more mainstream oriented makes a lot more sense.

It's front-wheel drive based, not rear-wheel drive based. It's not meant to be a Stelvio competitor or alternative really. It's meant to appeal to people who might not necessarily choose Alfa Romeo because they're not exposed to it, because they're not enthusiasts, because they're not chasing performance figures. So that's who this car is meant for. But it has, like, just the kind of knock-on effect of introducing a relatively fun car to a segment that doesn't really have any.

So it's a lot of fun to drive. Yeah, the Hornet exists. And it's cheaper. But the looks, I think, favor of the Alfa because it was an Alfa first. And you can really tell. I mean, badge engineering kind of died in this country 10 to 15 years ago. And it's maybe back a little bit now.

We see it in trucks. But we don't usually see it in, like, compacts and crossovers the way we're doing with this one. Even GM does a really good job differentiating all their stuff. But if you look at a Hornet next to a Tonale, it is the same vehicle with some very minor tweaks, especially inside. It's literally just the top third of the dash you lift it off of the Dodge. You put the Italian version back on it, you're there.

The differentiation is definitely not significant. And I think that was really pull from FCA's division, the lingering FCAness underneath the Stellantis North America, where they needed a car. And they had the dealer network to say, hey, look, we're losing the Dodge Challenger. We're losing the Dodge Charger. Our two most affordable cars are gone. We have nothing. We need a car now. And Hornet filled that role perfectly. Compact crossover in a segment that wants them badly in a country that gobbles them up? Perfect.

And it came kind of at Alfa Romeo's expense. So they built this nice kind of elegant alternative to an enthusiast sedan. So we don't really do those at the cheap end anymore. And they're like, hey, here it is. And Dodge said, thanks, erased all the Alfa Romeo badges, and stuck theirs on it. And they were out the door.

So it works. It's kind of a disservice to Alfa. But it doesn't make the Tonale any worse. So if you're looking at this segment and you think, OK, I want a plug-in-- because you have for this to make a ton of sense. You want to plug-in. You want a luxury name. But you don't want kind of the more boring alternatives that are out there. It's right there. It's for you. It's cheap, comparably.

So it's a very compelling package. It is genuinely a lot of fun to drive. And it'll be interesting to see if this actually gets the kind of mainstream pickup that Alfa is hoping for because the Giulia Quadrifoglio crowd is not who this car is meant for. And they would rather get 15 people to buy Tonales than just one enthusiast alternative at this point because they need to grow their sales base.

Like, they need customers. And they just don't have them. And the pandemic was great for profitability across the entire industry. But Alfa was still doing incentives for most of it even when others didn't have to. So it's a weird space they're in. But if they can capitalize on it, it could be huge for them.

GREG MIGLIORE: It seems like a little bit of desperation here on everyone's part here, Dodge, Alfa Romeo, Stellantis. You know, in a vacuum-- again, here's yet another vehicle I'm excited to spend some more time in this year and drive. It sounds pretty good. I think, you know, the other side is like, well, there's a Dodge with a huge amount of it also rolling around, which is never good.

The argument to that is that, well, look pretty closely at your Lexus. And you can see a lot of Toyota in there. Same with Acura and Honda and, you know, some of the other luxury brands as well, especially more, like, the premium versus the mainstream, you know, that type of thing. So, you know, there's a couple of few different ways to look at it.

The other thing, too, is you could argue, outside of Metro Detroit, where people with the-- it's probably still the Chrysler discount-- would be actually cross-shopping Tonales and Hornets, you're not going to get, like, Alfa Romeo and Dodge customers overlapping. So they're never going to know the difference is another way to look at it. I don't know if that's a great-- that's kind of fatalistic. But, you know, they're probably never going to know how similar they are, in many ways.

But, you know, based on, like, what you said and just my own reading, I think there's a lot to like here. And, you know, Alfa has always been pretty good at design and making something that's going to make you turn your head and go, hey, what's that?

So this will be interesting. It is a pretty important vehicle for them, though. They need to get this right, get a little bit more volume, you know, at least get people to understand that, hey, they offer a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid at that. I don't think of Alfa when I think of plug-in hybrids. So that's something.

Yeah, I mean, this is going to be an interesting one. Let's put it that way. I think-- you know, and it's like you said, for Dodge, they're making out great here. Alfa, I can kind of see-- because the Dodge reveal and the Dodge drive were a couple of months ago. So now, it's kind of like, hey, here's the Alfa. And it's a little bit of a sense of deja vu.

BYRON HURD: Yeah, it's unfortunate for everybody really because the narrative would have made a lot more sense if the Alfa had already been introduced and made widely available in the US before the Dodge came along because then you could say, oh, well, there, I see the Alfa in the Dodge. But because the Dodge showed up first, it screws up the script because when you look at the inside of the Hornet, it looks very much like an Alfa. Like, it doesn't--

If you're used to Dodge's contemporary design, like, you don't get into a Durango, get out of it, and look at the Hornet, and go, oh, yeah, that's obviously from the same manufacturer. You know, like, everything in the domestic, quote unquote, "domestic" stuff is big and chunky and, like, you know, just knocked out of a piece of granite or something like that.

And all that Alfa influence in the Hornet makes it all very kind of thin and delicate. Like, it's that lithe European kind of feel to everything rather than the chunky, hard-worn American feel. So it's the Hornet that is out of place. It's not the Alfa. And it just kind of unfortunately bites Alfa instead of Dodge just by virtue of the way everything went down.

So like you said, it's just not a comparison that's going to be made outside of those who are in the know and actually want to bargain hunt effectively a Tonale because that's what you're doing by buying a Hornet. So, you know, it's also, like-- And it needs to be said, too. The Hornet is a great option if you don't want the plug-in. I mean, there's no reason to spring for the Alfa unless you absolutely want the plug-in. You'd be crazy to spend the extra money just to get the badge. So in that case, absolutely, the Hornet makes a ton of sense.

But once you get to the Hornet R/T, you actually start to kind of play in the same price range as an entry level Tonale. And the price spread on them is not significant. It starts at about $45 and caps off under $50. So it's not like there's a huge price difference from the bottom to the top of Tonale lineup. And the Hornet is knocking on the low end of Tonale at R/T pricing anyway.

So if you're talking PHEV, if you must have that, then it gets really interesting. If not, then just go with a Hornet and make your life easier. But that's for our audience. That's not so much for general audience, who probably isn't going to be shopping that way.

And if we really wanted to get weird, we could throw in the Jeep Compass, which is also on that same platform and the one that looks the most distinct of the three because it has, like, a completely Jeep interior and all that kind of stuff. So it's interesting because, if you actually sit back, the Compass now comes with a 200-horsepower version of the 2-liter turbo engine that comes in the Alfa and the Dodge. But it costs the same as the Hornet.

So that's kind of the premium look there, right? You get less performance. You get less engine. You get less of that. But you get the more upscale, quote unquote, "Jeep" kind of interior experience. So that's the premium angle kind of leaning in there.

So the Alfa kind of combines the best of both. You get all the performance you get in the Dodge. You get all of the upscaleness you get from the Jeep all in one package, if you buy into the idea of that kind of Jeep upscaleness actually being an appropriate upscaleness for Alfa because the quality of materials is probably about the same.

So it's a long way around to getting there. But it's a weird situation, especially the way everything-- the order in which everything was introduced and in which we were able to actually consume it has made a much muddier situation that there might otherwise be.

GREG MIGLIORE: Well, I mean, it's not actually all that uncommon, too. I mean, what about Acura RDX versus Honda CR-V, you know? I mean, that's just maybe a very obvious mainstream example. But it's, again, you know, there's many examples of that throughout the industry.

BYRON HURD: And Honda's a great example, too, because, when you go from Honda to Acura, styling wise, you're getting upgrades in material quality and stuff like that. But they tend to kind of lean in the same direction. So you kind of get a very similar aesthetic between the two of them. And with the Lexus, the NX versus the RAV4 that it's based on, the RAV4 Prime exists. So that's your Hornet R/T equivalent, effectively.

But then, you look over at the Lincoln. And you have the Escape underneath it. So I mean, really, all three of them do kind of the same thing, to some degree or another. It's just that with Dodge and Alfa, the whole situation is much blurrier because Dodge did so little to differentiate the car once it got its hands on it. So it's, you know, it's Dodge's fault, basically.

GREG MIGLIORE: Hornet bites Alfa. That's the headline, I guess, right? It does seem-- yeah. I mean, it's interesting. I think, you know, when you look back, like for a really deep cut, you know, the Giulietta ended up being the Dodge Dart. And, you know, different price points, smaller cars. They were cars-- but, you know, that's another example of Alfa and Dodge kind of fighting over the exact same car.

Although, that was also-- the Giulietta was the Giulietta. And Dodge basically ripped it off. And there was even some thought that they might even bring the Giulietta here for a minute, which I drove on here. It was a diesel powered by-- geez, whoever made the diesel engine at that point.

But that was sort of like one of the-- right before Volkswagen kind of went up in smoke with diesel, there was this, like, push that diesel is actually good for you. So I remember driving the Giulietta. And it was-- it's a really fun car to drive. It was better than the Dart. Let's put it that way.

All right, let's talk about the ISF. This is the IS F 500. I drove one last week. And I had a lot of fun. Headline here, the 5-liter V8, 472 horsepower. This had the F Sport, which made it just awesome. This is kind of stealthy. It was gray with black wheels. All the F Sport things like the scuff plates, the door plates, some of the upgraded interior things, like the lighting, and just power tilt, all that good stuff, too.

This one had 19-inch matte black forged wheels, which I thought just really made this thing look pretty awesome. Let's put it that way. And then, my big takeaway too was, like, man, you know, I'm obviously very excited, very interested about our electric future. But 5-liter V8 is still pretty-- it's a really good thing. Let me put it that way.

Like, there was no minute in the last week where I was like, man, I wish I'm driving a hybrid, you know? This was a lot of fun to drive this week. It sounded good. And also, sedan, rear-wheel drive based sedan, that'll work, you know? So I sense you wouldn't have minded having this car in your driveway either.

BYRON HURD: No, absolutely not. I was actually a huge fan of the IS F back when it was new. And I drove one of the ones. I think was around 2011 right after they made some suspension tweaks and made the limited slip rear differential standard, the Torsen, and took that to the track, and had an absolute blast with it.

I mean, it drove like a pony car. And it was the perfect kind of bluff to the E90 series M3 with their V8. And it just-- like, it was an absolute dream. And I get that the platform we have now is effectively just kind of the same thing that's been kind of slowly and continuously upgraded over the last 12 years or so. So it certainly can't be bad. I would absolutely love to drive that.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. For me, it's like Lexus hasn't really sort of said their end-of-life plans for V8s or for, like, sedans, or when they're going electric. It's like-- Toyota is definitely taking longer. Let's put it that way.

But another thought I had as I was just kind of rolling around town in this thing is, like, you know, if you've ever thought, hey, it's time to get in one of these, well, now is a good time to do it, you know? Like, if you're looking for a current-generation Charger, well, no, you have to do it right now this year.

For the IS 500, you know, it's a little more open ended. But it's still maybe not a bad time. These things aren't going to be around forever. And, you know, I mean, 17 city, 25 highway, that's not great. But it's OK. You can work with that. Let me put it that way. You could drive-- if you got a new one, you could drive it for 20 years. And, you know, as long as there's gas stations, you're going to be OK. So yeah, I mean, like I said, a V8 rear-wheel drive sedan with a lot of F Sport goodies, that was a lot of fun.

So all right, so let's shift things back here. We'll close out the show with your tour of the-- what is it called? Museo Storico or something? I'm Italian, and I'm butchering it. But this is the Alfa Romeo museum.

BYRON HURD: There is something at that museum for literally everybody. I was really surprised. So they have lots of cool things. They have some of the old racing prototypes, like the twin engine. So they have the ones that have the engine in the front and the back. And then the engines that ran only the right and left wheels, so you had to like throttle them independently and all this. It's just wild stuff there. But tons of regular production stuff, a couple of boats, airplanes, things like that.

The thing that really stuck out to me, though, being the kind of weird minutiae nerd that I am, is that they had, just kind of sitting casually on a shelf in, like, an archive section, an old Wankel engine just hanging out there. So it was a one rotor rotary engine. And so I immediately went to the curator and said, hey, what's up with that? And he kind of clued me in. So I wasn't aware that Alfa had a Wankel program. And they did. They licensed it from NSU in the '60s.

And so what Alfa was trying to do was basically make a rotary engine that had the same output as the piston engines that they were offering in the same cars while using the same transmissions and all the same gear ratios because they were flat broke. They had no money to spend on redesigning gearboxes to account for the rotary engine. So all the real advantages you get from rotary engine, like the high revs and the constant high velocity, you just wouldn't get because they were trying to match it to a gearbox design for a piston engine. So it's turning, like, 5,500 RPM instead of the 8,500 RPM you'd expect for peak power output for rotary.

And so they were able to make it work. They actually got the equivalent power out of the Wankel engines that they did from their piston engine. So that was great because it was smaller, lighter, more compact. Emissions were about to become a thing. Fuel economy was starting to matter with the instability of the world at that point.

So they thought they were on to it. But then, as it turned out, they couldn't make it reliable, which I'm sure no one's ever heard anyone say that about a rotary engine before. So the whole program just kind of got scrapped. The prototypes that they built were both crushed. They did keep the powertrain. So they still have literally, like, the engines, their housings and all that, still mated to the transmissions and the rest of the running gear. But the bodies that they put-- I believe was a 750 a 1300 or something like that, those are now long gone.

So it was kind of interesting to me to just see this engine sitting on a shelf and learn that there was an entire decade-long program to try to bring that to production that ended up just going right in the trash. And some of the things they tried were wild. They tried, like, cast-iron apex seals that were just eating the housings and all these different things just trying to make it work. And they never got there.

So it took Mazda's kind of, like, over-the-top dedication to the rotary engine to make it last as long as it did. And little projects like this kind of show that, while it made some sense on paper and they were actually able to produce an engine that they-- that's 75, 130 horsepower from a one or two-rotor engine only turning, you know, 4,500 RPM like a typical little 1.5-liter four cylinder. That's pretty good. The fact that you can't get, even by 1960s Italian standards, a reliable lifetime out of it says a lot. So interesting little piece of Alfa Romeo history that I learned on that trip.

GREG MIGLIORE: Man, this podcast, we should call it, like, Deep Cuts, you know? Like, almost every segment, we've referenced some rather dusty page of history. Yeah, man, that's cool. Also, I had no idea. Like, I like to think I'm a little bit of an automotive historian. But that was one that even I had no idea on. So that's-- I'm sure a lot of automakers are like that. They tried something. It didn't work. It didn't get very far. And then, it shows up 60 years later in the museum.


GREG MIGLIORE: So I'm curious. You're in Italy. What was the best thing you ate?

BYRON HURD: Oh, there was some gnocchi appetizer that they gave us, like, the night we arrived that they literally coming around with the bowl of it, telling people, like, hey, if you actually want more, we'll just keep feeding you this. You don't even have to take your main course, if you want. And people were actually taking them up on it.

It was just absolutely-- it was something that-- it was sausage and gnocchi. It was made in Sardinia or native to Sardinia. So it was really cool. And I was also drinking a beer that happened to be from Sardinia. So I was very on theme for my first meal in the country. And it turned out to be my favorite meal, too. But yeah, that was an absolute winner.

It's definitely-- you have to acclimate to olive oil really quickly over there. Or otherwise, you may experience a bit of distress, as I learned. But it's one of those things where it's like, you can like it all you want. But if you're not used to it all the time, it could get you moving pretty quickly, you know, especially for a quick trip. Pro tips, travel trips from Byron at Autoblog.

GREG MIGLIORE: All right, watch your olive oil consumption.


GREG MIGLIORE: It's very Italian. The oil may be burning, such as it is.


So you've got to be careful when you're over across the pond, I guess. Well, if you enjoy "The Autoblog Podcast," please give us five stars on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever you get the show. Send us your Spend My Money. That's Be safe out there. And we'll see you next week.


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