Automotive

Ford Ranger Raptor: A gentle beast

Power that comes with comfort

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When I began learning how to drive, I practiced with a bulky, under-powered pickup truck. Needless to say, it wasn’t a joyride. However, the added difficulty made driving smaller and simpler cars a breeze down the road, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

If I were to replicate that experience today, it would be near impossible. Not only are pickup trucks more advanced and comfortable than ever, they are also comparable to premium sedans and SUVs. Case in point: Ford’s newest Ranger Raptor is a gentle beast.

My unit came in Arctic White; other options are red, black, gray, and blue

There’s nothing subtle about the Raptor. Its towering build and robust front have an imposing presence no matter where it’s taken. Ford claims it’s the first factory-ready, high-speed off-road performance truck. In other words, you can go straight from the dealership to the mountains if you’re itching for action.

For comparison, the Raptor is 150mm wider and 50mm taller than the regular Ranger. This leads to a ground clearance of 283mm and a water wading capacity of 850mm. Combined with the 33-inch all-terrain tires and 2.5-inch Fox racing shocks, you don’t have to do much customization to make this machine battle-ready.

The massive FORD logo is part of the Raptor’s DNA

While all these make for a powerful ride, what’s even more impressive is how the Raptor babies its driver and passengers. Never have I felt this comfy in a truck before. Prior to this, I drove an Everest which I’d confidently consider on par with the Raptor’s ease of use — that says a lot.

In addition, Ford’s SYNC system is in place for music playback from any phone, navigation, and simple voice commands. If you need more functionality, you may connect your smartphone through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Every other feature is reachable through the vast number of buttons on the steering wheel.

The 8-inch touchscreen is at the center of all your controls

The red mark at the top of the steering wheels acts as a guide when you’re busy driving

With 213PS from the 2.0-liter bi-turbo diesel engine, accompanied by 500Nm of torque and a 10-speed automatic transmission, Ford isn’t kidding when they call this a “super truck.”

I had several days to put this machine to the test, and keeping it on safe asphalt wouldn’t do it justice, so my team took it to off-road trails fit for, well, a Raptor.

BFGoodrich’s all-terrain tires are equipped on every unit

We crossed rivers, handled 35-degree inclines and declines, and sped up whenever we could. Unsurprisingly, nothing fazed the Raptor. It always felt like it had more power to deliver, asking me to challenge it even more. It was certainly tempting, especially since the truck made me feel so safe throughout the drive.

Itching to see the Ranger Raptor in action? We have a video:

On top of the standard 2WD and 4WD modes, the Raptor offers six presets that can be activated depending on your needs. There’s normal mode, sport mode for improved steering response and acceleration, Baja mode for high-speed off-road driving, grass/gravel/snow mode for slippery terrains, mud/sand mode for better handling, and rock mode for increased control over unpredictable rocks.

Engaging any of the performance modes takes only a few button presses

At the same time, the Raptor is such a smooth ride on city streets. I logged in hundreds of kilometers on it, and there wasn’t a single stretch that I wished I was inside another car. Sure, parking wasn’t a breeze in this thing — although it does come with a handy rear camera assist — but its imposing height and bright LED headlamps kept the Raptor visible from any distance.

If I were to nitpick, my only gripes would be the finicky Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones and lack of compartments around the cockpit. These, however, are common issues with most vehicles I’ve had the pleasure of driving.

More than anything, the Raptor is simply a stunner. I had never felt this confident going from point A to point B, and looking good while doing so. Every stop along the way deserved its own photo shoot.

My team can definitely attest to that.

 

Apps

Waze gets a new look!

It was long overdue and it’s finally here

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If you frequently take the roads and use Waze as your driving companion, you may have gotten used to how it look — no matter how dated it seemed. That’s changing now as the app is getting an all new look.

The company says the brand refresh “reinforces inclusivity and connection into every journey on the road.” Whatever that means, the revamped Waze app now follows a more flat design and with more expressive cartoony mood indicators.

The new visual language based on roads and maps which will also be seen in multiple places, including the Waze website, emails, and social channels.

“This brand refresh encapsulates that unique Waze experience visually, with a new grid format based on our map, new Moods to capture the infinite array of emotions we all feel while driving and a lively color palette that celebrates the joy that we always try to bring to the road, and the magic of our community and the way we work together for better,” said Waze Head of Creative Jake Shaw.

What do you think? Do you like this new look or do you prefer the old one?

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Automotive

Nissan is making their electric cars better with all-wheel drive

Called the e-4ORCE

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When electric and hybrid vehicles started becoming popular, hardcore automobile enthusiasts steered clear for two main reasons: the lack of EV infrastructure and lack of power in early electric vehicles. Though the former remains a persistent problem today, modern carmakers are doing their best to create better and better powertrains in electric vehicles.

Nissan, for example, is developing a new system for its electric cars in the future. As you might know, Nissan’s contribution to the world of electric travel is the Nissan Leaf. With the upcoming technology that they call “e-4ORCE,” Nissan aims to pack more power into their electric packages. It’s all about improving the driving experience.

Now, you might be wondering about the weird name. Besides being a quirky twist on “force,” the name pertains to the technology’s new all-wheel drive. Previously, the Nissan Leaf subsisted on front-wheel drive.

More technically, e-4ORCE jams in a second electric motor, giving more boost and control to the system’s power. It improves acceleration and braking more efficiently. Handling also gets a bump, allowing drivers to control their vehicle exactly as they want it to do.

Despite the improvements in power, e-4ORCE also works on driver and passenger comfort. Driving is stabler and smoother. In turn, this improves driver confidence regardless of the road conditions.

Nissan first demonstrated this upcoming technology at last year’s CES 2019 using a custom Nissan Leaf e+. In the future, the carmaker hopes to add this technology to more mass-market electric vehicles.

SEE ALSO: Why Nissan’s new infotainment system looks better than others

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Apps

Digital keys lets you unlock your car with an iPhone

No more keys that’ll scratch your phone

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Apple wants to replace physical keys with an iPhone and the brand has announced a new feature at WWDC 2020 to make this possible. Digital keys are stored on your iPhone and can be used to unlock the car with just a single tap. Furthermore, you can share the key with your friends and family via iMessage.

Emily Schubert, Apple senior manager of car experience engineering, demonstrated how a driver can tap the door handle with their iPhone to unlock the sedan. To start the car, just keep the iPhone on the car’s charging pad and you’re good to go.

The technology leverages NFC (Near Field Communication) to interact with the car. The Wallet app is a safe haven for your keys and this is the same app where your Apple Card, as well as other tickets, are stored.

On the automobile side, BMW will be the first marque to introduce it to drivers. The digital key functionality shall feature first in the 2021 BMW 5 series this July. Apple said more cars that work with the system will come to the market next year. For electric cars, the tech giant is also working on its mapping application to show nearby charging points.

While Tesla owners will not be surprised by this announcement, it can bring a monumental change for many since it relies on existing technology and can support cars that are already on the road.

Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, said the tech giant is working on a standard with industry groups to realize a secure, “real” keyless experience by next year.

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