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The Lamborghini Diablo Is the 1990s Supercar Legend Your Dreams Deserve

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Talk about big shoes to fill. As the Lamborghini Countach entered its twilight years in the late 1980s, the company had the onerous task of designing a car that exceeded the visual, aural, and dynamic sucker-punch provided by its iconic neck-snapping V-12 super-wedge. The new Lambo had to vaporize eyebrows and buckle knees at a thousand feet if it was to be labeled as anything other than a letdown.

Yeah, well, you can see where this is going. Despite a top speed of over 200 mph—only the second production car to do so—and being far easier to drive than its pappy, the Diablo is a bit of a middle-child. As far as the big Lambos go—of which there have been only five to date—the Diablo is relatively unloved.

We must stress that all of this slight negativity is best read through the lens of Lamborghini, and not the general public. Take a Diablo of any color or vintage out into public, and you risk a ticket for public disturbance with the amount of phones coaxed from pockets and pedestrians you stop dead in their tracks. Us? Oh, we’re big fans of the 1990s Bull. Let’s take a look as to why you should put more rispetto on the Diablo’s name.

Development for the Countach replacement began in 1985, first known internally as Project 132. Lamborghini heads Patrick and Jean Claude Mimran stipulated the new supercar should be capable of 196 mph, and the Italian brand commissioned legendary designer Marcello Gandini to pen Project 132’s slippery profile. Before development could truly get underway, the Mimrans sold Lamborghini and all its assets to Chrysler in 1987 for a piddling $25.2 million. Chrysler, in turn, invested much-needed funds into the nascent project that eventually brought it to completion.

Under the purview of Chrysler, Gandini’s original design was altered to be less angular, with final finishing done by Dodge Viper designer Tom Gale. The finished Diablo lived up to its name; power came from a 5.7-liter configuration of the longstanding Bizzarrini V-12, supplying 492 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. So, did the production Diablo meet the Mimran’s mandate of a 196 mph top speed? Please. On a long enough straight with a brave enough driver, the Diablo cruised to an easy 202 mph, taking just 4.5 seconds to hit 60 mph on the way there. All this in an era when the contemporary Mustang GT struggled to crack 6.0 seconds to 60 mph.

It was a much easier car to both live with and drive than its immediate predecessor, which isn’t saying much, especially with the Diablo’s dramatic improvement in interior ergonomics and space. Leather-lined and kitted-out, the Diablo sold like free beer during its first production year, only for sales to drop off dramatically soon after.

A new all-wheel-drive Diablo debuted in 1993 to improve general livability. The Diablo VT—or ‘Viscous Traction’—yoinked the four-wheel-drive system from the brutish LM002, allowing the front wheels to handle up to 40 percent of the available power when the system detected slippage. The VT carried 25 percent new componentry as part of the all-wheel-drive shift, including a new clutch, wider seats, brake cooling vents, electronically adjustable dampers, and power steering.

Also introduced in 1993 was the mighty Diablo SE30, so-named in commemoration of the automaker’s 30th anniversary. Power jumped to 523 hp thanks to an updated fuel system, new exhaust, and intake manifolds. The VT trim was not an option here in the pursuit of weight savings; even the VT’s new adjustable suspension was left on the workshop shelf in favor of electronically adjustable anti-roll bars. The diet continued with fixed Plexiglas windows on Euro-market cars, along with the omittance of A/C, power steering, and the sound system.

Visually, the Diablo SE30 tweaked just about every aspect of the exterior design, including both front and rear fascias, rear decklid, spoiler, and bumpers. The most striking difference was the light purple metallic paint, a color officially known as Lambo Thirty. Yes, really. If the above asceticism wasn’t enough, a rare Jota package was available for the SE30, boosting power to 595 hp and 471 lb-ft and adding a neat-o roof-scoop that rendered the rear-view mirror legitimately useless.

The inevitable roadster variant arrived in 1995, offered only in VT configuration, and incorporated some of the SE30’s aesthetic changes. The carbon fiber targa roof was (surprisingly) electronically actuated, and stowed above the rear decklid when the driver opted to get his daily dose of vitamin D. On the opposite side of the Diablo range, the new base-level Diablo SV debuted that same year. The SV package bumped power to 510 hp and added an adjustable rear spoiler and slightly larger rear brakes.

The 1999 model year saw Lamborghini’s new owner, Audi, levy a significant refresh onto the Diablo. Headlights were now fixed—yes, pulled from the contemporary Nissan 300ZX—and the base non-SV Diablo was eliminated, making the SV the entry point. The interior received the largest rework, with a new steering wheel, gauges, and surfaces, while output from the 5.7-liter V-12 jumped to 529 hp and 446 lb-ft.

With the Audi-designed Murcielago just over the horizon, the Diablo went out with a sizable bang. The 5.7-liter V-12 was enlarged to 6.0 liters for a special run of cars, starting with the incredibly track-focused 1999-2000 Diablo GT. Aside from oodles of functional aero and a set of nifty three-piece O.Z. wheels, the interior was stripped out with carbon-fiber trim, race seats, and a smaller diameter steering wheel. That new 6.0-liter screamed at 575 hp, and it sent all that grunt to the rear wheels through the same five-speed manual that’s stuck with the Diablo since day one. Only 80 were ever built, and most were sold overseas.

Less hardcore but no less exciting was the Diablo VT 6.0 and VT 6.0 SE produced between 2000 and 2001. Think of this as the middle ground between the regular VT and the GT, with an ever-so-slightly detuned version of the 6.0-liter, now rated at 549 hp for a top speed of a nice, clean 205 mph. Lambo plucked 40 of these VT 6.0s off the assembly floor for the SE, coating each in either metallic gold or bronze. SEs also got cool kit such as shorter gears, upgraded upholstery, “Lamborghini” script on the brake calipers, carbon-fiber trim, and a magnesium intake manifold.

Eleven years of Diablo production ended in 2001, making plenty of room for the stupendous and tremendously popular—for early 2000s Lamborghini, that is—Murcielago that arrived for the 2002 model year and set the standard for Audi’s Lamborghini going forward. As important as the Murcielago is for the marque, we love the Diablo—all 2,884 of them. We’ll take an early-build car, in black, with a red interior. Call us when it’s out front.

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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

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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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