Overall Score: 35 (out of 100)
Emergency Handling: 12
Noise level: Off the charts
Height: 71 inches
Weight: 239 pounds
Resting Heart Rate: 68 bpm
Pros: A totally unique experience
Cons: Noise, handling, reliability
Consumers have always been deeply divided about the Trump: They either love it or they hate it. And it's not hard to understand why: In a market saturated with so many models that look, sound, and drive alike, the Trump sticks out like a Volkswagen Thing on a lot full of Kia Sedonas.
From the outside, the 2018 Trump lacks appeal: It comes in standard blue and red, with orange highlights and short fingers. The necktie is oddly long, the rear seat broad and spongy — yet the blond headliner comes across as over-designed. For the amount of money that went into it, the lack of refinement and grace notes is a surprise. Despite all that, the Trump has enough rough charisma to whip one crowd we saw recently into a fever.
Driving and Handling
On the highway, the Trump's performance is much the same as it is around town: loud, clumsy, and frequently disconcerting. Handling is extremely awkward; the Trump is prone to swerve suddenly to the left or right, and at times even our professional drivers were unable to control it. This certainly makes the Trump brand exciting — something many people are drawn to — but it can become tiresome quickly.
Over smooth pavement, the Trump can be temperamental; over uneven ground it behaves even worse, reacting volcanically to the slightest bump in the road, and it has been known to throw passengers out of its cabinet at unexpected moments. Braking is erratic; at times the Trump will screech to a sudden stop all by itself, while at other times it is impossible to stop even when heading for the edge of a cliff.
Acceleration is another matter: The 2018 model, like earlier versions, can go from zero to 60 in under two seconds — shockingly fast for such a heavy vehicle. The FlexFuel system can run on both normal fare and fast food (although it will not accept ethanol blends). Despite claims of having the strongest powertrain in its class, however, our Trump felt underpowered and lacking in traction when we took it around D.C.
The Trump's internal controls are baffling. While others we have seen can be awkward or confusing, they still possess an internal logic decipherable with the help of an operator's manual. The Trump, though, not only comes without a manual — something devoted Trump aficionados consider a point of pride rather than a drawback — it seems to have been designed by a malicious trickster: Nothing about it is intuitive, and the voice commands do not work at all. On the plus side, its buttons are very easy to push, and the system response is both quick and predictable.
Despite its promises of new enhancements like a "big, beautiful wall," Trump Inc. has yet to deliver major innovations in advanced safety features. The standard Trump has several significant blind spots, and its crash-avoidance system is so poor it ought to be called a crash-pursuit system; it almost seems to seek out dramatic collisions.
In the same way that boiling water and ice water average out to lukewarm, consumer response to the Trump has been deceptively average (or somewhat below average). People who have bought the Trump swear by it, despite — and often because of — its many idiosyncracies. Others wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.
Trump Inc. has promised at least two more years of production. What happens in 2020 will be anyone's guess.
This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.