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Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series is powered by the most powerful AMG V8 ever

The car is designed for the track but is road-legal.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The new Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series is a lot. It has the most powerful AMG V8 series engine of all time. It also has the most elaborate aerodynamics, most intelligent materials mix, and the most distinctive driving dynamics according to its maker.

The Black Series has been known as the pinnacle of performance since 2006 when Mercedes-AMG introduced the branding. The models aren't designed to gather dust in garages or sit on display appreciating in value. They're meant to be driven. Fast. Though primarily built for track use, the models are road-approved.

Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series A large wing delivers impressive downforce.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The super sports car is track-ready out of the gate. Under the hood is a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine that's been handcrafted by AMG and delivers 720 horsepower. It has a flat-plane crankshaft and has active aerodynamics that have been honed using design from the AMG GT3 racing car.

V8s usually come in two different varieties. There are cross plane models that have the crankpins of the four pairs of cylinders sitting at 90-degree angles to each other. This is the way all previous AMG V8s have been designed. In a flat-plane crankshaft engine, all the crankpins are on the same plane with a 180-degree offset. This, and host of other modifications have caused Mercedes to give the engine a new internal code: M178 LS2.

The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The connection between the engine and transmission is made of carbon fiber and weighs just 30.6 pounds, making it 40 percent lighter than the same component in the traditional AMG GT. The driveshaft is also made of carbon fiber.

Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series The car is based on the more traditional AMG GT.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

In addition to the 720 horsepower, the engine generates 590 pound-feet of torque. The car redlines at 7200 rpm.

The new engine gets off the line and to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. It can get to 124 mph in less than nine seconds. Its top speed is 202 mph - something Mercedes says is, "only sensible on closed-off racetracks."

The car's Race Start function has increased starting revs. its transmission cooling functionality has been adapted to tougher requirements and transmission ratios have been modified.

To support engine functionality, the car features a large radiator air inlet, dark chrome vertical slats in the grille, and wheel arches that feed air into the central inlet.

The automaker adds, " Semicircular flics optimize the flow of air, which not only increases downforce at the front axle, but also improves brake cooling. The 'air curtains' control and direct the flow towards the wheels. Together with the flics in front of the wheels, these enhancements reduce the drag coefficient and increase downforce. The new design language therefore combines maximum cool-air efficiency with lower air resistance and an increased level of downforce at the front."

Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series Vents in the front and sides of the car help bring cool air in and push out hot air.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The car's carbon-fiber front splitter has two manually adjustable settings - Street and Race. Race is designed specifically for race track use. When in Race mode, the splitter moves to accelerate air flow to the underbody of the car creating a Venturi effect, increasing downforce.

A large wing, completes with carbon fiber supports, works in tandem to increase downforce even more. The wing has an adjustable top flap that can be retracted or extended using a button on the center console.

To increase aerodynamic flow, Mercedes has covered the underbody of the car with panels. With all these measures combined, the auto has a downforce level of over 882 pounds at 155 mph.

Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series The car has details in black on the exterior.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Additional body modifications from a typical AMG GT include extensive use of carbon fiber on the body (hood, hatch), use of lightweight aluminum in place of steel, and a lightweight laminated front windshield. Its standard ceramic high-performance compound brake system with black painted brake calipers and white lettering is also lightweight.

The double wishbone suspension allows for high cornering speeds. Mercedes has given the car motorsport spherical bearings on the upper and lower wishbones of the rear axle which do not allow toe-in and camber to change under high loads. Additionally, AMG Ride Control delivers technology-enhanced damping.

Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series The GT's long hood hides the impressive new power plant.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Available drive modes include: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus. Mercedes is quick to point out that, The system automatically recognizes the quality of the track surface, i.e. whether the car is being driven on a flat Grand Prix course like Hockenheim or a bumpy track like the Nürburgring North Loop. It then automatically adapts the level of electronic damping in 'Sport Plus'. To develop this logic, the Black Series was tailored to a wide range of different track types and the adaptation perfected."

The car rides on 19-inch wheels up front and 20s in the back. It's shoed with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R MO tires, which were customized for the Black Series car.

Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series Orage contrast stitching is a hallmark of the interior. Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has customized the interior of the car as well. It is upholstered in nappa leather that's combined with Dinnamica microfiber in black with orange contrast stitching. The doors have loop pulls instead of handles. Trim is in, what else, carbon fiber.

The car's fully digital instrument display measures 12.3 inches and is adjacent a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen. Drivers can choose their view of the instrument display: Classic, Sporty, or Supersport.

Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series Microfiber has been employed on the car's interior.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

An AMG Performance steering wheel is standard and outfitted in Dinnamica microfiber.

The AMG Interior Night Package is also included as standard equipment. In this package, the shift paddles, steering wheel spokes and seat insert in the AMG Performance seats are finished in high-gloss black, while the door sill panels are finished in black brushed stainless steel, further emphasizing the car's sportiness.

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The Toyota Tundra is due for a redo, but it still has a lot to like if you're not too picky.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Americans buy millions of trucks every year. Even in the midst of a pandemic, folks are still buying trucks. In 2019, between all the various full-size truck models from Ford, Ram, GM, Nissan, and Toyota, U.S. customers bought nearly 2.5 million pickups — and that doesn't include all the smaller midsize models, which add another 600,000 to the truck total.

Nearly all of those truck sales are dominated by the big three of Ford, RAM, and GM, but there's a not insignificant niche carved out by Toyota as well. The endlessly-popular Tacoma is the best-selling midsize truck, and the full-size Toyota Tundra has a loyal and dedicated following.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition On the outside, the truck looks strong and capable - it is.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

I know a few Tundra owners who love their trucks just as passionately as Ford and Chevy owners do. I've driven most of the pickups on the market, but I haven't spent much time behind the wheel of Toyota's big truck — and I was curious to see what Toyota was doing to compete.

My test unit was the premium, Western-themed "1794 Edition" that honors the founding of the JLC Ranch in San Antonio, Texas on which Toyota now has a truck assembly plant. Unsurprisingly, it's the same plant that built this truck. 1794 is basically Toyota's version of Ford's King Ranch, only with less-impressive brand awareness.

The model weighed in at $55,199, including option-boxes ticked for the TRD Off-Road Package ($155), running boards ($345), moonroof ($850), and a spray-on bedliner ($579). All in, it's certainly not a cheap truck, but it's not crazy expensive either. The big three all have ultra-luxe truck trims that can run well-north of $70,000, so this was a very reasonable top-line truck.

It's also not nearly as well-appointed as those other trucks, but it's certainly nice enough. Inside, there is "1794" embellishment on the floor mats and the center console, plus wood trim on the steering wheel, dash, and gear shift.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition There are nods to the 1794 Edition throughout the cabin.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's very roomy, and things are laid out logically — which is a good thing considering how old the Tundra is. The interior was last redesigned the better half of a decade ago, and this generation of the truck is nearly old enough to enter high school. So, it's a bit old, but aging gracefully which, perhaps, shows why Tundra owners like it so much. They know what they're going to get.

One thing they'll get is a lot of stops at the pump. The 5.7-liter V8 is extremely thirsty, scoring just 14 mpg combined city and highway, though the engine itself is buttery smooth and capable. Pushing 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, you won't have any complaints as long as fuel prices stay around two dollars per gallon. If prices shoot back up north of $4, it might be another story.

The exterior is pleasing enough, with a giant big chrome grille on the front and special 1794 badging on the doors. The Tundra has aged well and was particularly striking in the brilliant Voodoo Blue coloring that my tester sported.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition The cabin is straight out of the middle of the last decade.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The interior is solidly dated compared to the competition, but it's all functional enough. The 2020 edition of the Tundra gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is enough to get me to ignore the massive "Home/Apps/Audio" buttons that surround the screen.

With the competition launching enormous 12-inch-plus touchscreens, I don't think Toyota will be able to wait too much longer before reworking this interior. In the middle console are numerous cupholders and storage cubbies, surrounding an enormous phallic shifter. There's a massive center storage bin under the armrest, which will come in handy for those using their truck as an office.

The rear seats have tremendous amounts of legroom, and the seats fold up to allow for more interior storage, though I wish the rear floor was totally flat to make loading Costco water bottles a little easier.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition The rear seats fold up allowing for more versatile cargo space.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

In the back, there's a truck bed. It's for putting stuff in. There's nothing elaborate here with in-bed lighting or fancy tailgates like the GMC Sierra has. It's just a truck bed, with a tailgate, that you can fill with things.

That's perhaps the best way to describe the Toyota Tundra. It's a pickup that allows you to haul things around. No fuss, no muss, nothing crazy. It gets you and your stuff from here to there, while slurping down massive amounts of fuel.

It's a Toyota. You know what you're getting. Enjoy it.

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The Jeep Gladiator Farout pushes the boundaries of glad

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The new Jeep Gladiator Farout concept combines a passion for overlanding with the company's diesel engine. The model, originally intended to debut as part of this year's Moab Easter Jeep Safari (which was cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic) is a step further than the Jeep Wayout concept from the 2019 Jeep Safari event.

"Although we didn't get to celebrate in Moab this year with our latest round of concept vehicles, we're pleased to introduce the Jeep Farout concept today as a vehicle that blends Gladiator EcoDiesel's fuel efficiency with an area of features fans of overlanding will love," said Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA North America. "Building on the popularity of last year's Gladiator Wayout concept, and as overlanding continues to grow in popularity, this year's Farout concept is another opportunity to gather feedback from our passionate customer base."

Jeep Gladiator Farout The model has a large tent that sleeps four.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Farout concept is extreme, pushing the limits of how a Gladiator can be equipped. On top is a tent that measures 16-feet long by 7.5-feet tall. It can sleep up to four. At the back is a shell whose interior is wood-lined with soft ambient lighting, a refrigerator and stove, storage racks, built-in seats, and table space. The cab features dark smoke blue leather with orange stitching, and plaid flannel seat inserts.

At the heart of the model is Jeep's 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, which achieves 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. Engine start-stop technology is standard. Jeep recently added the engine to its Gladiator lineup for the 2021 model year. It is already available in the Wrangler.

The exterior of the model is painted "Earl" with chartreuse accents on the hood, rear tailgate tow hooks, springs, badging, and shocks.

Jeep has boosted the Gladiator with a two-inch lift kit, 17-inch matte charcoal rims, 37-inch mud-terrain tires, and a modified Gladiator Rubicon steel bumper equipped with a 12,000-pound Warn winch. There's also custom front and rear rock rails and Fox performance shocks.

The truck's integrated roof rack allows for additional hauling space should the need to bring home a souvenir arise.

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