Shared from the 5/4/2019 The Denver Post eEdition

BMW’s X7 smooths climb to Fort, and Gladiator

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BMW’s new full-sized SUV, the X7 xDrive50i. (Bud Wells photo)

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The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4X4 in snowy setting at The Fort Restaurant. (Melissa Schulte photo)

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Will Cumby, left, auto tech grant recipient, with Jake Stark, shop foreman at Jaguar Land Rover Flatirons. (Colorado Automobile Dealers Association photos)

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An older GMC pickup was recent donation to the Clear the Air Foundation.

The prize at the end of my 70-mile drive on cold Tuesday morning was a turn in the driver’s seat of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup, parked on a hill at the Fort Restaurant, near Morrison.

My means of getting there was a prize in itself – the luxurious BMW X7 xDrive50i sport utility vehicle. In sport mode with twin-turbo V-8 power, the new Bimmer is charging fast toward the Mercedes-Benz GLS and Range Rover for full-size SUV supremacy.

The presentation at The Fort, though, drew cheers for the end of a long wait – the sturdy-looking Gladiator returns Jeep to the compact/midsize pickup wars after an absence of 27 years.

The Willow Springs area around The Fort is conducive to SUV/truck-testing, with its rolling, twisting, up-and-down roads. The surfaces today are paved; 25 years ago, before the fine homes were built, I measured capabilities of the 1990s’-era Jeep Wranglers on trails of dirt in this same area. The Gladiator, which will compete with the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Chevy Colorado, performed with a 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission; a 6-speed manual is available. Down the road a few months, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel will be offered.

I shifted to manual-mode for this uneven course, kept the gears low (2nd and 3rd), the revs high and avoided any grunting or groaning from the powertrain. A rear suspension similar to the Ram 1500’s, with coil springs all around, smoothed the ride. The fuel-mileage rating of 17/22 seems somewhat low; might the 2.0-liter turbo be offered?

Among special Gladiator features are a front-facing camera to bring to view the blind-spots on the trail blocked by the hood, fully removable rooftop and doors for convertible style, adjustable tiedowns in the 5-foot bed, and class-leading tow specifications up to 7,650 pounds.

With a dozen optional packages, including forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise with stop, the Gladiator’s price jumped from $43,545 to $60,300. The four-door Gladiator is 219 inches in overall length, 31 inches longer than the Wrangler Unlimited four-door.

The Jeep/Ram event at the Fort was hosted by Rocky Mountain Redline, and, in addition to the showing of the Gladiator, also had on display the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4X4 with 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged eTorque engine; the Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Mega Cab 4X4; Ram 3500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4; Ram 2500 Limited Mega Cab 4X4, and Ram 2500 Tradesman Crew Cab 4X4.

As for the BMW X7, simply pressure the accelerator in any manner, no matter how lightly, and feel a rush of power. Turbo lag, CVT whine, delayed gear engagement are all an occasional part of driving today; not so with the X7.

Hesitation isn’t a part of its 462-hp, 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 putting out 479 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

A diamond-cut, see-through, glass-trimmed shifter hands off to the driver the feel that this is one of the elite SUVs, anywhere.

Adding to the wonderful interior is the optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system, such entertainment not found in lesser-level sport utes. We are so well-entertained today; 50 years ago, BMW’s rival Mercedes drew worldwide attention by offering a factory-installed cassette player for the first time in an automobile. This Bowers & Wilkins feature is indication of the pleasant sound improvements in half a century.

Not only does the new BMW full-sizer match up with the big Mercedes, Range Rover and Audi in performance and appearance, but price, too – a sticker of $103,495. For $20 grand less, the BMW X7 xDrive40i can be had, powered by a 335-hp, inline-6-cylinder engine.

While fuel mileage estimate is a lowly 15-21 for the V-8, it is rated at 20-25 for the inline-6. My overall average with the X7 xDrive50i was 18.2. Regardless, the drive was a pleasure. So quiet and comfortable.

Clear the Air funds tools for auto techs Automotive clunkers are disappearing, never to pollute again, and all the while clearing the road for students seeking careers in automotive technology industries.

Removing polluting cars from the roads and providing funds for training and tools for young auto technicians are primary aims of the Clear the Air Foundation, founded in 2007 by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

Will Cumby, an apprentice automotive technician, has recently purchased tools through a $2,500 grant from the Clear the Air Foundation in conjunction with Snap-On Tools and matching funds from Jaguar Land Rover Flatirons, Broomfield, where Cumby will continue in his job.

Cumby, inspired by a high school automotive class and a stint at the U.S. Army’s Fort Carson to pursue a career in auto technology, relocated to Denver from Nashville and began working with the Flatirons dealership.

“Through scholarships like these, for which Will applied, we can help offset financial hurdles for auto tech students throughout Colorado, and for those starting employment,” said Mark Zeigler, who succeeded George Billings as director of the foundation last year.

In the program, older, high-polluting vehicles are donated by Colorado new-car dealers and citizens to the Clear the Air Foundation. The cars are delivered to auto recyclers, who pay fair market value to the foundation, destroy the engine blocks and part out all possible from the remainder of the cars.

The foundation has recycled more than 3,500 vehicles; money raised is used primarily for the scholarships.

Zeigler has provided a list of the 10 new car dealerships, headed by John Elway Chevrolet Broadway and Planet Honda, which have donated the most cars to the program. The top 10 and number of cars donated are:

John Elway Chevrolet Broadway, Denver, 299; Planet Honda , Golden, 292; Pueblo Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram, 164; Johnson Auto Plaza, Brighton, 147; Christopher’s Dodge World, Golden, 130; Private donations, 125; Suss Buick GMC, Aurora, 112; Dellenbach Motors, Fort Collins, 102; Bighorn Toyota, Glenwood Springs, 99; Planet Hyundai, Golden, 94; The Faricy Boys Chrysler Jeep, Colorado Springs, 94.

For more information, visit the Clear the Air Foundation.

– Contact Bud Wells at budwellscars@comcast.net.

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