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2020 Lincoln Navigator Black Label vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: ’Gator or Bimmer?

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  6. 2020 Lincoln Navigator Black Label vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: ’Gator or Bimmer?

Lincoln meets the newest entrant to the luxury full-size three-row SUV.

See the Full Model Overview

After debuting at the 2017 New York International Auto Show, the fourth-generation Lincoln Navigator has done much to restore the Lincoln brand to its glory days. In the past three years, sales have significantly increased, market expansion in China is underway, and Lincoln recently introduced a two-tone Black Label Special Edition model. The Michigan-born (and Kentucky-built) three-row also earned first place on our best full-size luxury SUV rankings, beating the Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and newcomer BMW X7. So naturally, next on the order of business is a face-off with one of its competitors.

At first glance, this pairing may seem a bit strange, but let us explain. The BMW X7 is the newest kid on the block, and if it’s going to join the three-row luxury SUV club, it has to face a veteran like the Navigator. Until recently, BMW trailed Mercedes-Benz in the market for years. Similarly, the Navigator is yet to reach the sales records held by the Escalade. The underdog status of both the X7 and the Navigator makes it the perfect match.

Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Price Tags and Size

As tested, the Lincoln Navigator Black Label stickers for $98,850, and closely behind the BMW X7 xDrive40i checks out at $96,895. Although the difference between these two luxury SUVs is a mere $1,955, the X7 price includes $22,000 in options alone, whereas the Navigator Black Label comes fully loaded as standard and is priced accordingly. It’s worth noting that the base Navigator 4×4 is $18,700 less than the Black Label trim. In other words, Lincoln bundles everything together in one package, whereas BMW makes you buy options separately. Among the big-ticket items on the X7 are the Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($3,400), Dynamic Handling package ($3,850), and Executive package ($4,100), the latter of which adds an LED roof, gesture control, and heated/cooled cupholders, none of which the Navigator has.

Both SUVs seat seven passengers—unless you opt for the captain’s chairs in the X7, which replace the second-row bench seat and reduces seating to six. We should point out that the Black Label comes standard with captain’s chairs, and BMW charges $850 for them. There is no question which of these two luxe behemoths offers the most legroom and best third row; that would be the Navigator. While they share similar headroom in all three rows, the Black Label provides 43.9/41.1/42.3 inches of legroom (front/middle/rear) compared to the X7’s 39.8/37.6/33.3 inches. The fact that the 6.7-inch longer Lincoln offers a cumulative 16.6 inches more legroom speaks to the degree to which passenger space is prioritized in the Navigator. For those who enjoy spending time in remote environs with a camper trailer attached, the Navigator has a towing capacity of 8,300 pounds. The X7, on the other hand, can haul up to 7,500 pounds.

Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Fancy Interiors

“I forgot how nice the Navigator was,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “It’s one of those luxury vehicles where you open the door and immediately feel like you’ve stepped into a private luxury chalet. The interior design harkens back to a bygone era of automobiles (and homes), and despite modern necessities like screens, it really feels like Lincoln has forged its own path.”

The gorgeously appointed Black Label features the Chalet theme, which combines Alpine Venetian leather, wood trim, and chrome accents. As soon as you find a comfortable seating position in the 30-way adjustable driver’s seat, you can feel the value of your money. The premium interior accommodates all passengers aboard and resembles a mini penthouse on wheels. Heated captain’s chairs and a center console with multimedia controls in the second row are standard, though you can also choose the pass-through option.

There is so much to like about the ergonomically designed cabin. A floating center console provides several storage compartments for sunglasses, beverages, snacks, and small bags. The majority of folks will appreciate the clean dashboard layout and ease of access to climate, volume, and seat controls. Oh, and the user-friendly touchscreen infotainment and spectacular Revel Ultima sound system are sure to get the party started on a family road trip.

Now let’s talk about that near-flawless BMW X7 interior. Where to begin? Our tester arrived in the Coffee Extended Merino leather (one of several $2,450 upholstery upgrades). The massaging seats in the X7 are among the best we have ever experienced; they take care of you from the rump up to your shoulders. It is also neat how many massage styles are available, and the comprehensive ambient lighting is just fabulous.

Unlike the Navigator’s clutter-free cabin, the X7’s is a tad on the condensed side, and sections like the center console control panel feel busy. Despite that, the beautiful diamond-cut glass gear lever and sophisticated infotainment controller are welcome novelties. And like most advanced technology features in modern luxury vehicles, there is a learning curve to the touchscreen, which may challenge some and upset others. Also worth mentioning, third-row passengers get their own sunroof, climate zone, mood light, cupholders, and heated seats. Not a terrible place to be, and the kids will undoubtedly agree.

“I’m not a fan of BMW’s current interior design language, but there’s no denying the success of the X7,” Seabaugh said. “I love the quilted brown leather (complete with an interesting waveform pattern on the upper portion and spine of the seat) and the choice of walnut, satin metallic, and black trim to offset it; really looks great.”

In terms of advanced safety features, both the X7 and Navigator come generously equipped, with standard lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, parking assistance, and rear cross-traffic alert.  

Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: MT Testing

Under the hood, the four-wheel-drive Lincoln Navigator Black Label packs a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque on tap coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission. This combo helped the Navigator accomplish 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 95.8 mph. On our figure-eight skidpad test, a course that evaluates braking, acceleration, and cornering, a complete loop took 27.8 seconds at 0.62 average g.

On the Bimmer front, our test vehicle came equipped with the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six making 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic. (BMW offers a V-8 for an extra 25 grand in the X7 xDrive50i variant.) The X7 reached 60 mph from a standstill in 5.6 seconds and performed the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at 96.8 mph. Its run through the figure eight happened in 26.3 seconds at 0.67 average g.

Of the X7’s braking performance, road test editor Chris Walton noted: “Medium-firm pedal, modest dive, but the brakes are exceedingly strong, and the tires are grippy. Braking distances in order: 110, 112, 110, 112 feet.” The X7 braking results outperformed the Navigator, which came in at 131, 125, 127, 125 feet.

Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Driving Impressions

The Navigator drives enjoyably, considering it’s a massive body-on-frame SUV. However, it can give off a good rattling on rougher roads and controls itself better on smoother surfaces. That is likely because the coil springs and adjustable dampers on the Navigator struggle to manage the unsprung mass of the 22-inch wheels. On the other hand, the BMW air-spring/adjustable damper suspension handles the same-sized wheels better. Still, the standard adaptive suspension on the Navigator does a decent enough job. “Surprisingly capable handler,” Seabaugh said. “Body roll is fairly well-controlled, there’s plenty of grip, and steering is light but precise. This isn’t the barge you’d think it would be.”

If you take on a sharp turn too quickly, be prepared to stomp on those brakes, as it takes a great deal of braking input to slow down. When accelerating, the ‘Gator will surprise you and deliver quite the performance despite its size and three-ton curb weight. Shifting is smooth, and steering is impressively light. The ride quality and comfort can persuade you to pack your bags and take the family on an extended vacation in the majestic American Southwest.

How does the all-wheel-drive BMW X7 stack up? The softly padded and well-designed steering wheel feels perfect in your hands. In Sport mode, driving the X7 becomes more engaging, and on the throttle, it does not hesitate to climb up a curving road. And for those split-second moments when you need to bring a 5,530-pound SUV to a halt, the potent M Sport brakes (included in the Dynamic Handling package) have your back. Still, we wish for more astute damping. “The body control is just disappointing, especially for a BMW,” features editor Scott Evans said. “The body is always moving around, side to side, diagonally, front, and back.”

Indeed, the X7 has a less powerful engine than the Navigator; however, for how most consumers will drive it, 335 horsepower is adequate and should provide a fun driving experience, so long as just a single occupant is on board. The ZF-sourced automatic transmission shifts seamlessly, and although the 22-inch wheels can upset the ride quality, the air suspension with adaptive dampers handles rough patches quite well.

Lincoln Navigator Black Label Vs. BMW X7 xDrive40i: Which Is the Better Buy?

A full-size luxury SUV with a third row should accommodate every passenger aboard, from the driver to the teenager tucked away in the rear corner seat. If available legroom in the third row is limited to short passengers, it can be a deal-breaker. Safety equipment and warranties are also essential, especially for a vehicle used primarily to transport a family. Interior design, high-quality materials, advanced technology features, and cargo space are important in a luxury SUV and can easily push the window sticker north of $100,000.

The Lincoln Navigator Black Label comes with unlimited roadside assistance, a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, and exclusive service amenities such as a premium maintenance plan, remote service pickup and delivery, anytime car wash, and annual vehicle detailing. Customers can also earn points to use toward vehicle maintenance and more through the Lincoln Access Rewards program. The EPA-rated fuel economy for the Navigator Black Label is 16/21/18 mpg city/highway/combined.

In comparison, BMW X7 limits roadside assistance to four years, but with unlimited miles. It also falls short in the powertrain coverage by offering a lesser four-year/50,000-mile warranty, and there are no complimentary membership services.  The X7 does, however, offer slightly better fuel economy at an EPA-rated 20/25/22 mpg. Even though the 2020 BMW xDrive40i has a lot going for it, the 2020 Lincoln Navigator Black Label has more interior space, a better warranty, a higher towing limit, and exclusive membership privileges. And between these two full-size luxury SUVs, the Black Label gets our vote.

Looks good! More details?

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS 2020 BMW X7 xDrive40i 2020 Lincoln Navigator Black Label (4×4)
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD Front-engine, 4WD
ENGINE TYPE Turbocharged I-6, alum block/head Twin-turbo 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 182.6 cu in/2,998 cc 212.9 cu in/3,489 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.0:1 10.0:1
POWER (SAE NET) 335 hp @ 5,500 rpm 450 hp @ 5,500 rpm*
TORQUE (SAE NET) 330 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm 510 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm*
REDLINE 7,000 rpm 6,000 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 16.5 lb/hp 13.5 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic 10-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE/LOW RATIO 3.64:1/2.33:1/ — 3.73:1/2.39:1/2.64:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 18.7:1 20.5:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.3 3.8
BRAKES, F; R 15.6-in vented disc; 14.6-in vented disc, ABS 13.8-in vented disc; 13.8-in vented disc, ABS
WHEELS, F;R 9.5 x 22-in; 10.5 x 22-in, cast aluminum 9.0 x 22-in cast aluminum
TIRES, F;R 275/40R22 107Y; 315/35R22 111Y Pirelli P Zero (star) 285/45R22 114H Hankook DynaPro HT (M+S)
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 122.2 in 122.5 in
TRACK, F/R 66.3/67.1 in 67.6/67.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 203.3 x 78.7 x 71.1 in 210.0 x 78.8 x 76.3 in
GROUND CLEARANCE 8.7 in 9.6 in
APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE 23.1/20.5 deg 22.2/21.9 deg
TURNING CIRCLE, CURB-TO-CURB 42.8 ft 40.8 ft
CURB WEIGHT 5,530 lb 6,073 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 47/53% 50/50%
TOWING CAPACITY 7,500 lb 8,300 lb
SEATING CAPACITY 6 7
HEADROOM, F/M/R 41.9/39.9/36.6 in 41.8/40.0/37.3 in
LEGROOM, F/M/R 39.8/37.6/33.3 in 43.9/41.1/42.3 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R 60.0/58.1/47.9 in 65.2/65.1/64.2 in
CARGO VOLUME, BEH F/M/R 90.4/48.6/10.3 (est) cu ft 103.3/57.5/19.3 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 1.9 sec 2.0 sec
0-40 2.8 3.1
0-50 4.1 4.4
0-60 5.6 5.9
0-70 7.3 7.8
0-80 9.5 10.0
0-90 12.2 12.8
0-100 15.3  —
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.0 3.1
QUARTER MILE 14.2 sec @ 96.8 mph 14.5 sec @ 95.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 110 ft 125 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.86 g (avg) 0.77 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.3 sec @ 0.67 g (avg) 27.8 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,500 rpm 1,600 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $74,895 $98,430
PRICE AS TESTED $96,895 $98,850
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes Yes/Yes
AIRBAGS 10: Dual front, f/m side, f/m/r curtain, front knee 8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, rear outboard belts
BASIC WARRANTY 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 4 yrs/50,000 miles 6 yrs/70,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 4 yrs/Unlimited miles Unlimited
FUEL CAPACITY 21.9 gal 23.0 gal
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 20/25/22 mpg 16/21/18 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 169/135 kWh/100 miles 211/160 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.88 lb/mile 1.08 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded premium Unleaded regular
*Horsepower and torque values using 93-octane fuel

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2021 Toyota Highlander XLE vs. Highlander XSE: The Battle for the High Land

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  6. 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE vs. Highlander XSE: The Battle for the High Land

Is the XSE really that sporty? We drove both back-to-back.

Toyota Highlander Full Overview

The Toyota Highlander is known for being a reliable, good-looking three-row SUV, but among the list of adjectives used to describe it, sporty is not on our list. New for 2021 is the Highlander XSE, which swaps its elegant lines for a more dynamic appearance. With a unique grille, fascia, lower spoiler, wheels, and blackened details like the mirror caps and fake air vents, the XSE distinguishes itself from the rest of the Highlander lineup. But the XSE is more than a badge and an appearance package—Toyota engineers made changes under the skin to deliver a more connected driving experience. Among those trades are stiffer spring rates, a thicker anti-roll bar, and retuned shock absorbers, while the steering feel is more pronounced.

Earlier this year we tested a 2021 Highlander XSE but couldn’t notice any major differences between the regular three-row SUV and the new trim. To get a better perspective, we asked Toyota to lend us the XSE back along with an XLE—the most popular Highlander trim—for a back-to-back comparison.

How Sporty is Sporty?

Usually, we associate the word sporty with extra power and dynamic handling, but that’s not the case here. All Highlanders—regardless of the trim—are powered by a 295-hp, 263 lb-ft 3.5-liter V-6 mated to an eight-speed transmission. Our XSE and XLE both came with the optional all-wheel drive system, which can send up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear wheels. Besides the suspension and steering settings, the XSE comes with stickier tires and 20-inch wheels (instead of 18s).

Driving the Highlanders back-to-back exposed the difference we didn’t see earlier in the year. Compared to the XLE, the XSE’s steering felt a bit more weighted, but short of what we’d describe as sporty. The difference was like turning Sport mode on—the XSE felt more alert while the XLE seemed to be in comfort mode all the time. The response was a bit sharper and better balanced and provided a tad more feedback than the XLE. Still, it wasn’t a night and day difference, as the XSE’s steering is still tuned to on the comfort side of the spectrum.

The case is the same with the ride. On our test loop that mingles through curvy roads, broken pavement and highway portions, the Highlander XSE’s body felt a bit more controlled than the XLE. On the broken pavement, the XSE’s suspension felt like it was tuned to work in a one-and-done fashion versus trying to dissipate the vibrations in the cabin in a cushier way, like we felt in the XLE. On twisty roads, the XSE felt sharper, more controlled and a tad grippier—the latter mostly because of the Goodyear Eagle Touring tires compared to the XLE’s Michelin Premier LTX. Ride quality wasn’t impacted by the XSE’s bigger wheels.

At our track in Fontana, California, the pair felt pretty close to each other in our acceleration and handling tests. In the 0-60 mph run and the quarter mile, the XLE was 0.1 second faster, but on our braking test the XSE’s tires showed off, stopping in 116 ft compared to 122 ft for the XLE. “Similar feel to the XLE: Lots of front dive, softly sprung front suspension,” said associate road test editor Erick Ayapana after driving them back-to-back.

Things were minimally different on the skid pad as well, where road test editor Chris Walton managed to shave 0.2 second in the XSE for a time of 26.5-seconds at 0.65 g (the XLE took 26.7 seconds at 0.64 g). “Lots of body roll in the corners, and the steering seems heavy for heavy’s sake. The transmission wasn’t very intelligent on the skid pad, so I had to downshift manually,” said Walton on the XLE. His feelings were almost replicated in the XSE, noting the same foibles as in the XLE but less so. “There’s still quite a lot of dive and roll, but not as severe. The transmission behaves the same, and perhaps the tires are a little sportier, so it was easier to brake in the same spot consistently,” he added.

So, how sporty is sporty? The Highlander XSE falls short of what we’d call sporty or spirited. But like Walton said after driving the XSE on the skid pad, “this is how the regular Highlander should be.” The stiffer springs and weighted steering help it keep its body under control when driving aggressively, and still have that level of comfort that the three-row Toyota is known for.

Are the Interiors Different?

Similar to the exterior, the cabins are a bit different. The biggest change is the red leatherette in the XSE, which you can choose at no cost. (On a side note, the red leatherette only covers the first and second rows; the third row gets black seats.) If you prefer something more traditional, black leatherette seats are also standard, which is how our model came equipped. Faux carbon-fiber trim can be seen across the dashboard. The XLE, on the other hand, trades the red leatherette for a premium appeal, especially with the Harvest Beige interior, which combines beige and brown materials. And instead of getting the fake carbon-fiber, the XLE gets a shiny gray plastic.

The other minor difference inside is the design of the Multi-Terrain selector, which is controlled by a knob in the XSE instead of buttons like in the XLE. Both SUVs have the same three modes—Mud & Sand, Normal, and Rock & Dirt—only the way to select them is different.

Opting for the XLE allows you to choose between a seven- or eight-passenger interior at no cost; the XSE arrives with seven seats only.

Everything else is the same across the board. Both SUVs come with five USB ports (three in the front row, two in the second row) and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The XSE is available with navigation and a JBL premium audio system (a $1,680 option), while the XLE offers navigation and a premium audio option (no JBL speakers) for $1,040. Both systems sounded good; we didn’t notice any major difference between them.

Interior space is the same in both Highlanders, with the third row feeling cramped for adults. Recently, Toyota trademarked the “Grand Highlander” name, which means we might see a bigger three-row SUV soon, which could amplify interior space.

Which Highlander Should I Buy?

The XSE is positioned between the XLE and Limited grades, which means it starts at $42,680 while the XLE is priced at $41,085. All-wheel drive is an extra $1,950 for either model. Our XLE, which only added the navigation and audio package, crossed the checkout counter at $43,625. Our XSE added the JBL package and other accessories like the cargo cross bars on the roof, all-weather floor mats, and illuminated door sills (among others) that increased its price to $47,451.

In the end, it all comes down to the looks and practicality. If you think the Highlander’s design is boring, the XSE definitely brings more emotion. But if your budget is tighter, the XLE is a good option. The stiffer suspension and steering settings likely won’t affect your decision, as the experience behind the wheel is virtually the same when either Highlander is not pushed to its limits, something the vast majority of owners will stay away from.

If it were our money, we’d probably go with the XSE, as we prefer its handling on the road and its stickier tires. We’d rather have the XLE’s exterior design, but we’d get the red leatherette seats if we were buying the XSE. We can’t have the best of both worlds here, but we’re glad Toyota is giving customers more options to choose from.

Looks good! More details?

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE AWD
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD
ENGINE TYPE Atkinson-cycle 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 210.9 cu in/3,456 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.8:1
POWER (SAE NET) 295 hp @ 6,600 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 263 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
REDLINE 6,750 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 14.7 lb/hp 14.9 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.00:1/2.02:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 14.2:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.8
BRAKES, F; R 13.3-in vented disc; 13.3-in disc, ABS
WHEELS 8.0 x 18-in cast aluminum 8.0 x 20-in cast aluminum
TIRES 235/65R18 106V Michelin Premier LTX (M+S) 235/55R20 102V Goodyear Eagle Touring (M+S)
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 112.2 in
TRACK, F/R 65.3/65.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 194.9 x 76.0 x 68.1 in
GROUND CLEARANCE 8.0 in
APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE 17.9/23.0 deg
TURNING CIRCLE 37.4 ft
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,341 lb (56/44%) 4,394 lb (55/45%)
TOWING CAPACITY 5,000 lb
SEATING CAPACITY 7 6
HEADROOM, F/M/R 38.4/39.4/36.1 in
LEGROOM, F/M/R 40.4/41.0/27.7 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R 59.0/58.7/55.0 in
CARGO VOLUME, BEH F/M/R 84.3/48.4/16.0 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 2.4 sec 2.4 sec
0-40 3.8 3.9
0-50 5.2 5.4
0-60 6.8 6.9
0-70 9.2 9.4
0-80 11.6 12.0
0-90 14.3 14.6
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.5 3.6
QUARTER MILE 15.3 sec @ 92.8 mph 15.4 sec @ 92.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft 116 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.82 g (avg) 0.86 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.7 sec @ 0.64 g (avg) 26.5 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,500 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $42,860 $44,805
PRICE AS TESTED $43,900 $47,726
AIRBAGS 8: Dual front, front side, driver knee, front-pass thigh, f/m/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 2 yrs/25,000 miles
FUEL CAPACITY 17.9 gal
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 20/27/23 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 169/125 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.86 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular

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2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition First Test: Real Deal

2021-honda-civic-type-r-limited-edition-first-test:-real-deal
Honda Civic Type R Full Overview

When we first drove the 2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition, we reported that the seemingly small list of upgrades made a huge difference in how the car drove. Are the differences really big enough to quantify? We took the short-run special to the racetrack to find out, and the results speak for themselves.

Most of the Civic Type R LE’s upgrade list actually looks like an exclusion list. Reducing weight pays big dividends in acceleration, braking, and handling, and the Type R LE loses 50 pounds compared to a standard Type R. About half the weight loss comes from removing things like sound deadening material in the roof, rear hatch, dashboard, and front fenders, as well as dumping the rear wiper and the cargo cover. The rest comes from fitting a set of BBS forged aluminum wheels.

The only actual additions to the Type R LE are a set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and a new calibration for the active dampers to account for the weight loss and stickier rubber.

Fifty pounds’ worth of weight reduction on a car that normally weighs about 3,100 pounds isn’t much—literally a 1 percent reduction—so we weren’t surprised to see little difference in the instrumented test results. In fact, the Type R LE is actually slightly slower to 60 mph than the quickest Civic Type R we’ve tested, needing 5.3 seconds instead of 5.0. Although the Cup 2 tires didn’t launch as hard, the reduced weight, especially at the drive wheels, showed up in the quarter-mile result. The Type R Limited Edition needed 13.7 seconds, same as the “standard” Type R, but was traveling 1.9 mph quicker. More power went to accelerating the car, power that otherwise would’ve gone to spinning heavier wheels.

Going the other way, both the Civic Type R and the Type R LE needed a supercar-worthy 99 feet to stop from 60 mph.

As we expected, though, the real difference showed up in our handling tests. On the skidpad, the Cup 2 tires needed to be warmed up, but once they were, they provided an average of 1.04 g of lateral grip, up from a best of 1.01 g on the standard Type R. The extra grip translated directly to a faster lap time in the figure-eight test of 24.1 seconds at 0.81 average g, compared to 24.3 seconds at 0.79 average g for the regular car.

That’s a measurable improvement, sure, but it’s not huge. To really see if the Civic Type R Limited Edition delivers on its promises, we took it to the racetrack and called up our good buddy Randy Pobst. If the mods made a useful difference, he’d find it.

Find it he did. On a frigid Streets of Willow Springs racetrack that’d been rained on the night before (washing off all the helpful rubber from previous racers), Randy put down a 1:24.02 lap, nearly a full second quicker than a standard Type R tested on a much nicer day (1:25.07). Race teams would sell their souls to consistently take a second off their lap times.

Randy, ever the racer, wanted more. He cut his teeth racing front-wheel-drive cars, so he has some thoughts about how they ought to handle.

“That’s damn good for a front-drive,” he said, “but I’m not really a big fan of the handling because I can’t work the tail. Once the tires are warm, the tail doesn’t move, so it’s just levels of understeer. It has enough power to generate a real strong understeer, especially in second gear, and that just makes it want to go straight off the track. So I found I had to wait for a little bit, so I could take some steering out of it and accelerate that way.

“When the tires were cold, it oversteered a ton, and then when they got just a little bit of heat, there was beautiful balance. Once they got warmed up, it turned into more of an understeer and a typical front-drive experience of dealing with the front tires. Once they were all warm, I was really just controlling levels of understeer.”

This tracks with what we experienced driving the Type R and Type R Limited Edition back to back on the racetrack. The standard car is freer at the rear end and can be induced into a little bit of oversteer that helps point you out of the corner. The LE is just stuck, all the time. If Randy had his way, he’d add a bunch of negative camber at the front end to reduce the understeer and then dial in some toe out on the rear end to free it up. When you track your Type R LE, you can play with alignment to your heart’s content, just know that you’re starting with a car that’s already a second a lap quicker.

Don’t think you can just put stickier tires on your standard Type R and automatically get the same performance, either. We tried that with our long-term 2018 Civic Type R. On a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, that car did a 1:25.81 on Streets, and only 39 pounds lighter than the heaviest Type R we’ve ever weighed.

Here’s the big kicker, though: The Civic Type R LE isn’t actually 50 pounds lighter. According to our scales, it’s only 21 pounds lighter than the skinniest Type R we’ve weighed, the one that did the 1:25.07 lap.

Put all these instrumented results together, and a conclusion emerges. We already know losing weight and fitting sticky tires increases performance, but the Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition isn’t just about bolt-on (or off) parts. It’s a complete package, and it works. What’s more, as we described in our First Drive review of the car, it absolutely feels quicker and nimbler than the standard car. All you need to decide is whether lap times, yellow paint, and an even better driving experience from what’s already the best-driving front-drive car on the market is worth the $6,500 upcharge to you. A quality set of lightweight wheels and Cup 2 tires will cost nearly as much, and we’ve established there’s more to it than that. Decide quickly, though, because Honda only imported 600 of them.

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 Honda Civic Type R (Limited Edition)
BASE PRICE $44,990
PRICE AS TESTED $44,990
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE 2.0L/306-hp/295-lb-ft turbo  DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,075 lb (62/38%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 179.4 x 73.9 x 56.5 in
0-60 MPH 5.3 sec
QUARTER MILE 13.7 sec @ 107.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 99 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 1.04 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 24.1 sec @ 0.81 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 22/28/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 153/120 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.80 lb/mile

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Rivian Warranty Overpowers Tesla with More Years, More Miles

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  3. Rivian Warranty Overpowers Tesla with More Years, More Miles

Not all EV warranties are created equally, and in this case, Tesla is not king.

There is a peace of mind knowing that a vehicle is covered by a good warranty. It’s not like owners expect anything to go wrong, but modern vehicles and their thousands of associated bits ‘n pieces are bound to be too dang expensive to cover out-of-pocket. Plus, vehicle fixes are increasingly electrical and decreasingly mechanical. As more and more long-range electric vehicles see real-world use and abuse—including those from Tesla, Rivian, and Lordstown—the substance of those warranties may become increasingly important. And so far, Rivian is just barely winning the warranty wars.

Basic Warranty: Lordstown vs. Tesla vs. Rivian

Lordstown claims a three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty for its Endurance EV pickup, though warranty details seem scant at this point. Meanwhile, the New Vehicle Limited Warranty coverage for Tesla includes four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Rivian? The comprehensive warranty for Rivian tops that with a generous five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.

While Rivian’s basic warranty is impressive, the mileage still falls short of Nissan’s five-year/100,000-mile offering for the Leaf EV (just to drop in some perspective). Tesla has one warranty, a Supplemental Restraint System Limited Warranty that covers seat belts or air bag systems, that’s good for five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.

How About That All-Important Battery Warranty?

Lordstown’s battery warranty is eight years, with no mileage listed at this point. The battery and drive unit warranty for Tesla vehicles offers coverage for eight years (with a minimum of 70 percent retention of battery capacity) or 100,000 miles (Model 3 Standard Range); 120,000 miles (Model 3 Long Range, Performance; Model Y Long Range, Performance); or 150,000 miles (Model S, X). Rivian’s battery pack and drivetrain components warranty matches the eight-year and 70-percent battery capacity of Tesla, but ups the mileage to 175,000 for both its R1S SUV and R1T truck.

Additionally, all of these vehicles are or are expected to be covered against rust perforation, the fancy way of saying that a vehicle won’t prematurely return to the earth due to manufacturer defect or poor workmanship. Tesla’s Body Rust Limited Warranty covers 12 years and unlimited miles, while Rivian covers 8 years with unlimited miles. This information wasn’t available for Lordstown yet, so consider the rust advantage Tesla’s for now.

Does a warranty matter? No one wants to find out the hard way, but as the years go by and mileage increases, the likelihood increases. Rivian and Lordstown do not actually have vehicles on the road like Tesla does (but Rivian is much closer than Lordstown). With no claims, warranty coverage does not truly matter—yet.

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