New Model News

Sorry Starbucks, Ford wants the F-150 to be your new third place

The redesigned Ford F-150 features a host of amenities.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Remember the last time you went to the bathroom without a kid yelling for you? Days are spent balancing homeschooling, your normal workload, making meals, and cleaning as much as you possibly can. Add in summer camps, the usual roster of activities, grocery shopping, and there's barely enough time for some alone time.

The new, 14th-generation 2021 Ford F-150 is designed to accommodate not just a construction worker's lifestyle, but also the daily routine of a family. The truck is full of fresh ideas for making the F-150 your new third place, and there's even a place where you can hook up an espresso machine.

As part of the F-150s redesign, Ford listened to current and previous F-Series generation owners. They said that they're spending more time in their vehicles completing tasks other than driving. Sitting to talk on the phone, working on their laptop, killing time between practice sessions, grabbing a meal on the go. These are all part of the daily routine of many truck owners.

How can the F-150 help them enhance their lives? Become a part of it rather than just a passive piece of the puzzle? The design team set to work and came up with some thoughtful solutions.

Here's a few of the best innovations.

Relax in style with Max Recline Seats.

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford boasts that these class-exclusive seats fold nearly 180-degrees flat. That's enough that you can get comfortable enough for a snooze, stay hidden out of the eyesight of kids trying to figure out if you're in the truck hiding from them on a conference call, or transporting something like a ladder inside the cabin.

There's basically a mud room under the back seat.

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Available lockable, fold-flat, dividable storage container extends the width of the interior under the rear seats. Ford says that it's great for long items like hunting gear, fishing rods, or blueprints. Parents will like that you can throw wet towels, muddy shoes, groceries, or dog toys in there with plenty of room to spare.

It's espresso machine-enabled.

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

No need to worry about making campfire coffee ever again. The available Pro Power Onboard generator in its most powerful form (there's three levels) gives owners access to enough power to supply juice to 28 refrigerators, charge a bed full of electric dirt bikes, or power your espresso machine for the morning and your blender for the afternoon. If your kids need their bounce house blown up or you want to bring a fan to your tailgate, you'll be able to do so.

There's a complementary work station.

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For when you do need to work, the truck's center console turns into a work station that provides a flat surface for your laptop. There's room on either side too so your phone, files, or notepad can be close at hand.

Listen to your own music, wirelessly.

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Coffee shop music can permeate the cabin thanks to the trucks' SYNC 4 infotainment system. If the sounds of a classical version of a Phish song aren't to your liking, you can listen to your favorite SiriusXM station, click over to a Pandora station, sync your smartphone's music catalog, hear what's being broadcast on your favorite iHeartRadio station, or access your Amazon Music library. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect wirelessly for even more convenience.

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The 2022 Kia Carnival was designed to look more like an SUV than a minivan.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

When is a minivan not a minivan? When Kia's marketing department decides its not. Apparently. The 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona minivan in the company's lineup and instead of being called a minivan, Kia has decided that it's a 'multi-purpose vehicle' or MPV for short.

Kia says that the new Carnival stakes a claim on the "unoccupied space between SUV and family hauler". It's not the first model in that territory. The Ford Carousel may be considered the first modern model to occupy the space, but it was just a prototype.

The Carnival was designed at Kia's California design studio. It's bold and boxy rather than sleek and function-forward, like the bodies of the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Toyota Sienna. The Odyssey and Pacifica were both refreshed for the 2021 model year while the Sienna was redesigned.

2022 Kia Carnival: Exterior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia carries over many of the design elements of the Telluride, Sorento, and Seltos into the new Carnival. It has the company's new tiger nose grille and integrated LED headlights. At its sides are substantial wheel catches while two-tone mirrors and and cutlines run the length of the vehicle. At the rear, geometric trail lamps, a rear skid plate garnish, and reflectors are positioned to make the vehicle look like an SUV. The model rides on 17- and 19-inch wheels, which are available in gloss black.

The Carnival is a three-row van that seats seven or eight, depending on the buyer's preference. The vehicle uniquely features Side-Flex seating in its eight-passenger variant that allows for multiple configurations. Kia describes it as including "a sliding second row center seat which, when in the forward-most position, allows the front passenger easy access the baby or child riding in it. This seat also converts into a functional table."

Heated and ventilated second row 'VIP Lounge Seating' with power controls, wing-out headrests, and leg extensions is available for seven-passengers Carnivals.

2022 Kia Carnival: Interior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia will offer the model in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX< and SX-Prestige.

Kia has given the U.S.-bound version of the Carnival a 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers best-in-class 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain is completed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and provides 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.

The van's dimensions offer best-in-class passenger room (168.2 cubic feet) and best-in-class cargo room (145.1 cubic feet behind the front row in LX, EX, and SX grades). Removable second-row seats and fold-in-floor third-row seats help the model achieve its best-in-class cargo room (second row seats not removable in SX-Prestige) title.

Kia will offer the model in three interior color schemes.

The list of standard features includes hands-free opening power sliding doors with Smart Key, and 8-inch infotainment touch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2022 Kia Carnival: Details

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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A hands-free power lift gate with auto close, Smart Key with one-button open/close functionality for rear sliding doors and liftgate, passenger voice recognition (allows second row occupants to control numerous in-vehicle functions through voice commands by pushing a button mounted on the ceiling), the Passenger Talk intercom system, Rear Passenger View in-cabin camera, dual-screen entertainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android screen mirroring, wireless smartphone charging, navigation, full digital instrument cluster, multi-Bluetooth, up to nine USB ports, a Bose premium audio system, and UVO link telematics are available.

The long list of standard advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on the Carnival includes: forward collision warning with collision avoidance assist, blind spot monitoring with collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic warning with collision avoidance assist, rear park assist, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, automatic high beam headlights, and driver attention monitor.

Buyers can add to the safety technology in the Carnival to include the new 'Kia Drive Wise' ADAS, which includes: Blind-Spot View Monitor, a technology that projects live video view of adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster and activated via the turn signal; speed limit adjustment; navigation-based adaptive cruise control; park assist; and surround-view monitor.

It's the first vehicle Kia is selling in the U.S. with the company's new logo displayed on it. It will go on sale in the second quarter of 2021. Pricing is expected to be made public in the coming months.

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The Chevrolet Trailblazer was added back to the Chevy lineup for 2021 but it's not the same style as the old TrailBlazer - not even close.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

When the new Trailblazer was announced, there was a collective groan from auto industry enthusiasts. They wanted a beefy off-roading that was possibly going to rival the Ford Bronco or Jeep Wrangler. What they got was a cute, little subcompact crossover.

There's no question as to why Chevy makes the modern Trailblazer. The subcompact and compact SUV segments are hot right now. Really hot. They needed something to fill the sales space between the Trax and the Equinox. Why they chose the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer's name is another story for another day.

This particular Trailblazer comes with the buyer's choice of two engines - a turbocharged 1.2-liter or a turbocharged 1.3-liter. Both are attached to a continuously variable transmission but neither is what you'd call exhilarating. As tested, the larger engine provides just enough horsepower to not be miserable to drive.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer The Trailblazer is advertised as being right-priced but options add to the total quick. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Though it feels stable on the ground, the Trailblazer seems to be trying to walk the line between engaging and comfortable to drive. It doesn't work. The Trailblazer is the right size and has the correct center of gravity to want to be thrown through the twisties but its loose steering leads to uninspired handling so that's a no-go.

The suspension, on the other hand, is jittery and stiff rather than supple. Like Vanilla Ice said, "If there's a pot hole, yo I'll find it." Between the road, engine, and transmission noise that is passed on to the passengers and the reverberations from every crack and crevice, prove that Trailblazer's mechanics are more of a failure than anything else.

When it comes to the interior, the Trailblazer earns its praise. Its seats are relatively comfortable though adults won't want to sit in the rear ones for long. The car appears to be well-made with good fit and finish. It has higher than average cargo space.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer For ease, the Trailblazer's front seat also folds flat. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The model has gotten the good bits from the General Motors infotainment and climate control parts bin. It has a 7-inch infotainment touch screen with an 8-inch available. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, keyless entry, and a rearview camera are also standard.

The car's safety tech includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. Those are all pretty standard for the class.

Test test unit 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer sent for review was an Activ grade model (yes, there's no "e" at the end of "Activ" and no, we don't know why). That's just one fo the five trim levels the Trailblazer is offered in for 2021, it's first model year in existence with the new crossover body style. Chevy checked the all-wheel drive option box on the model, which added $1,500 to this particular model's base $24,245 price tag. Another $3,300 in extras later and the test unit's cost came in at $31,225.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer has a well-appointed interior. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

That's not cheap. You can get a mid-grade Nissan Rogue, a fully equipped Buick Encore GX, base model Ford Bronco 2-Door, or a mid-grade Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for the same money, and have enough extra to take your family on a road trip for a long weekend away from home.

The problem is, unlike the Encore GX, Bronco 2-Door, and Sonata Hybrid, the Chevrolet Trailblazer just isn't compelling. There's plenty of other options in the class that do nearly everything the Trailblazer is capable of doing, but better.

The Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos come with a better warranty. Mazda's CX-30 delivers an enthusiastic and dynamic drive. The Encore GX is better appointed. There's also the new Volkswagen Taos, which was developed specifically for the U.S. market and a number of all-electric options that are out now and coming soon.

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