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2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In an era when some vehicle designers equate complexity with desirability, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 rolls onstage as an easygoing, friendly travel companion.

Almost everything about it feels familiar, as if you’ve already had a relationship. It has comfort and available luxury, but without a goofy shift lever or an infotainment system where annoying fiddling is required just to set favorite radio stations.

2019_mazda_cx-5-6Climb aboard. In the tested top-of-the-line Signature model, you sit in a comfortable, well-bolstered perforated leather seat, heated and ventilated. Through the steering wheel you view bright white-on-black easy-to-read analog instruments.

The shifter has a traditional PRND shift pattern, though there’s a sideways M setting for manual shifting of the six-speed automatic transmission. Nearby is a switch for the parking brake — up for park, down for driving — next to a toggle switch that engages the sport driving mode, which enhances throttle response. You don’t have to look to operate them. Same for the radio volume knob.

2019-mazda-cx-5-signature-04-intStraight ahead, in your line of vision, is the head-up display. It delivers information about speed, road signs and the adaptive cruise control, which is easily engaged with buttons on the steering wheel.

In the center, at the top of the dash, is the infotainment screen. Sure, it’s small, not gigantic like the one on the Tesla Model 3. But it’s right where you can see with a quick glance what’s going on. No peering at it for anxious seconds.

2019-mazda-cx-5-signature-09-detailFunctions are operated by a knob on the console, which is more complicated than a touch screen but doesn’t require as much focused attention to the screen. Simple console buttons change what’s displayed.

The word for this is ergonomics, the science that seeks to adapt working conditions to the worker. It also applies to making the driving experience intuitive and transparent. Good ergonomics, of course, is not exclusive to Mazda. But the CX-5 is a particularly fine example of thoughtful design.

Yet for all of its old-shoe friendliness, the CX-5 is a thoroughly modern Millie. It is a compact crossover sport utility vehicle competing in a class that includes the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, and Chevrolet Equinox.

Because of Mazda’s current effort to move its models upscale, the CX-5, particularly in its luxury-equipped Signature version, sells for a few thousands of dollars more than the top-line CR-V and RAV4 models.

The tested CX-5 Signature had a base price of $37,885 and, with a few options, had a bottom-line sticker of $39,030. But its equipment and features rivaled those of luxury crossovers like the Cadillac XT4 and Infiniti QX50, both of which are more expensive, well into the mid-$50,000 range.

2019_mazda_cx-5-1Mazda is not a huge player among manufacturers, not even in the compact crossover category. Yet as part of the current onrushing trend toward crossovers, the CX-5 is Mazda’s best seller in the U.S., totaling more sales than all of the company’s other models combined.

Aware of its lagging sales compared to its competitive set, Mazda has set out to distinguish the CX-5 in multiple ways that contribute to the driving experience. In that, performance enhances ergonomics.

There are five trim levels, starting with the Sport at $25,345. Others are the Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve and the tested Signature. Only the last two get Mazda’s new 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which makes 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The others use a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-banger with 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque.

cx9engine-201-1The turbo motor delivers enough grunt to accelerate the Signature model to 60 mph in slightly over six seconds — more than respectable in this era. Though it can be accomplished simply by punching the pedal to the floor, the Sport mode facilitates it by holding the shifts to higher revs. You can shift manually but only with the shift lever. There are no paddles on the steering wheel.

Handling is sedan-like with no apparent lean on curves. Straight-line driving requires few steering corrections and the CX-5 cruises quietly with a bit of engine noise only on acceleration. With the suspension system biased toward handling, the ride gets a bit choppy on rough roads.

There’s plenty of head and knee room for four persons, though the fifth center-rear position is impossibly cramped. The rear seatbacks are split in three and fold nearly flat to almost double the cargo space of 31 to 60 cubic feet.

2019-mazda-cx-5-signature-02-extSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 227 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 102/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,825 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/27/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,885.
  • Price as tested: $39,030.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2017-mazda-cx-5-grand-touring-5Photos (c) Mazda

2019 Nissan Maxima and Murano: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Even when you are fundamentally healthy like Nissan’s 2019 Maxima sedan and Murano crossover SUV, it never hurts to add some bling to enhance your appeal.

Usually it happens midway through a model run. In the automobile biz, they call it a refresh — changes that present a new face and personality to prospective customers.

2019 Nissan Maxima-7Both the sport- and luxury-oriented Maxima sedan and the Murano midsize crossover are marketed by Nissan as top-of-the line flagships. Though they do not compete in the luxury segment — that’s the job of the company’s Infiniti brand — the 2019 designs nudge them closer. They are intended to appeal to buyers who want luxury content without big price tags.

Of the two, the Maxima needs the most help. Reflecting the nation-wide trend among buyers toward crossovers and away from sedans, the Maxima’s sales have dropped precipitously in 2018. The Murano, on the other hand, is on a path to increase sales.

MikeDitzPhoto.com

The Maxima competes in the near-luxury, large car class, although like Toyota’s Avalon, it actually is classified by the government as a midsize car.

From a performance standpoint, the Maxima doesn’t need a thing. It is powered by a 300-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine with 261 lb-ft of torque delivered to the front wheels through Nissan’s Xtronic continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). The combination earns a city/highway/combined fuel economy of 20/30/24 mpg.

Some critics deride CVTs, which have no shift points, as noisy and sluggish. But Nissan arguably has more experience with them than any manufacturer and it shows on the Maxima. Throttle response is quick, smooth and powerful. Also, the Maxima handles curving roads like a sports sedan. Straight-line cruising is quiet and effortless with few steering corrections needed.

2019 Nissan Maxima-16The new appeal is mostly about appearances, especially on the tested top-line Maxima Platinum with the Reserve package, though there are safety enhancements as well. With a bottom-line sticker of $43,835, it was loaded with the full 2019 package of safety and luxury enhancements.

One is Nissan’s new rear door alert. The system notes if you open a rear door to stash a package — or a child — in the back seat. At the end of the trip, if you leave without re-opening the back door, it will sound the horn.

Other freshening included Nissan’s V-Motion styling, which sends body lines flowing from the distinctive grille up and over the body. LED headlights and taillights punctuate the styling and augment interior color schemes and accents. The taillights give the impression of width and streamlining.

2019 Nissan Maxima-13The Maxima’s Reserve package, with a $1,140 price tag, includes heated rear seats, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, “Rakuda tan” leather upholstery with diamond-quilted seating areas, two-tone leather covered steering wheel, charcoal headliner and pillars, and satin bronze interior trim.

Similarly, the Murano moves closer to luxury territory with new colors like its rusty-shiny “Sunset Drift Chromaflair.”  Along with the Maxima, it also incorporates the company’s Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking, rear braking, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-sport warning. One apparent shortcoming: there’s no mention of lane-departure assist.

2019 Nissan Murano_F1-10Though not as powerful as its sibling Maxima, the Murano contains enough oomph to avoid embarrassment in the stoplight sprints or on the freeways. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine makes 260 hp with 240 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the front wheels or all four wheels through the Xtronic CVT.

The version tested for this review was the mid-priced SV trim level with front-wheel drive. It had a base price of $35,485 and, with a modest list of options, checked in at $39,230. Add $1,600 if you want all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 20/28/23 mpg.

2019 Nissan Murano_F1-24Handling, of course, is not as crisp as the Maxima’s but the Murano acquits itself well, with little body roll, on twisting mountain roads. Its forte, however, is more attuned to quiet, straight-line cruising with the audio cranked up and the kids on their video games with earphones.

The SV trim eschews leather upholstery in favor of a sturdy embossed cloth, which to some people — including this critic — is more comfortable over a wide range of temperatures than leather. On the Murano, the cloth covers a supportive seat structure that takes the fatigue out of long-distance cruising.

A nearly flat floor should enhance comfort in the center-rear seating position. Unfortunately, the cushion is high and hard, and knee room is compromised by intrusion of the center console.

2019 Nissan Murano_F1-11Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Nissan Maxima Platinum Reserve four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 300 hp, 261 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Xtronic continuously-variable automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,676 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/30/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $42,335.
  • Price as tested: $43,835.

*   *   *

  • Model: 2019 Nissan Murano SV four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 260 hp, 240 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Xtronic continuously-variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 103/31 cubic feet. (65)
  • Weight: 3,837 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/28/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,485
  • Price as tested: $39,230.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Nissan Murano_F1-5Photos (c) Nissan

2019 Jaguar E-Pace and I-Pace: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You’re forgiven if you haven’t figured out the 2019 Jaguar E-Pace and its sibling, the I-Pace.

Contrary to initial knee-jerk reactions, the E-Pace is not electric, and the I-Pace is not the ghost of past BMW i cars. Nope, in this case the I-Pace is the 100% electric and the E-Pace is merely the little brother of the F-Pace.

jagepace18myfirsteditiononroaddynamic13071702
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

In a sense, they are the offspring of the F-Pace, in 2017 the first luxury crossover sport utility from the storied British sports car manufacturer. Now they are three. Next thing you know Jaguar will come out with a big three-row SUV.

Wait. That likely won’t happen because Jaguar is the conjoined fraternal twin of Britain’s Land Rover, which specializes in luxury SUVs. Both are now owned by Tata of India.

Jaguar could hardly have done differently. Truck-based SUVs and car-based crossovers have become so popular across the board that even Bentley and Rolls-Royce build them.

jaguaripace19mysyulongwhite138
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

With these crossovers, the affinity of Jaguar with Land Rover becomes more obvious. The center-screen infotainment systems in both the E-Pace and I-Pace are similar in befuddlement to those in Range Rovers and Land Rovers. Also, the nomenclature of HSE for certain models now is common to both the Land Rover and Jaguar brands.

Because the E-Pace was introduced as a 2018 model, the I-Pace electric is the new kid in the family. It also is the most interesting, exciting and expensive of the three, and the less expensive main competitor to Tesla’s Model X75D crossover.

Jaguar I-PACE Global Drive, Portugal, 2018
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The I-Pace’s power comes from two electric motors — one each for the front wheels and rear wheels, giving it automatic all-wheel drive. In easy cruising, it switches to rear drive for economy. The all-wheel drive is mainly important for foul weather than actual off-roading. There are numerous Land Rovers for customers interested in that sort of thing.

The two electric motors combined make 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Because electric motors deliver maximum torque instantly, the I-Pace rewards the driver with an exhilarating jump off the line, reaching 60 mph in slightly more than four seconds with its single-speed automatic transmission.

jipace19mystudioimage01031815
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Of course, doing that habitually will cripple the manufacturer’s claimed range of 234 miles and a city/highway/combined consumption of 80/72/76 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent. But it might be worth it for some hot-shoe owners.

The I-Pace uses regenerative braking to help keep the batteries topped up. It is so aggressive in slowing the vehicle that it should enable so-called one-pedal driving, as with the BMW i3. But it cuts out at about six mph, so the driver still must use the brake pedal to stop.

Handling is sharp and the steering responsive, abetted by an air suspension system and brake-induced torque vectoring. But the emphasis on handling compromises the ride on rough roads.

jipace19mystudioimage01031817
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Front seats are supportive but not plush and the outboard rear seats have plenty of head and knee room. The center-rear position is compromised by tight space, a hard cushion and big floor hump. Because of the sloped roof, there’s only 26 cubic feet for cargo, which expands to 51 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

A negative comfort note: There’s a full panoramic sunroof that does not open and does not have a sunshade. It darkens in bright light but on bright sunny days the glass gets so hot it radiates heat uncomfortably into the cabin and defeats the air conditioning in some areas.

With a bottom-line sticker of $88,840 on the test car, the I-Pace is uncommonly well equipped with state-of-the-art safety and convenience equipment.

jagepace18myonroaddynamic13071714
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

But if you don’t hanker to sample the electric future and still crave a Jaguar experience, there’s the E-Pace, which has a $53,845 price tag and a sportier personality. It is a subcompact crossover, 14 feet 5 inches long and a shade over 5 feet tall.

Surprisingly, despite a tight back seat, it offers nearly as much passenger and cargo space as the I-Pace — a total of 117 cubic feet versus 122 cubic feet.

jagepace18myinterior13071701
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

Power comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a configuration that is taking over the motoring world. In this installation,  it delivers 246 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque.

Well-equipped, the E-Pace has the entertaining handling expected of a Jaguar, though its aggressive and erratic lane-keeping assist  should be simply turned off.

Oh, and by the way, it bucks the luxury cliché of perforated cheesecloth in favor of an effective, opaque sunshade for the sunroof.

jagepace18myonroaddynamic13071713
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 246 hp, 269 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,225 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 1,653 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/27/13 mpg (premium fuel).
  • Base price, including destination charge: $53,845.
  • Price as tested: $53,845.

 

HyperFocal: 0
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

*    *   *

  • Model: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400HSE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Motors: Twin electric-powered; combined 394 hp, 512 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 96/26 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,790 pounds.
  • City/highway/combined fuel consumption: 80/72/76 MPGe.
  • Range: 234 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $81,495.
  • Price as tested: $88,840.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Jaguar I-PACE Global Drive, Portugal, 2018
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Q: When is an Eclipse not an Eclipse? A: When it’s a 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

Okay. It has nothing to do with the eclipse of the sun that plunged parts of the United States into total darkness on Aug. 21, 2017.

Nope. It’s about an all-new crossover sport utility vehicle from  Mitsubishi of Japan that reprises a name from the past but on a completely different vehicle.

2018 Eclipse Cross

The original Eclipse was a sports coupe and convertible marketed in four different versions over 22 years from 1990 to 2012. For some of that time, Mitsubishi had a relationship with Chrysler, and the Eclipse also was rebadged as the Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser.
Resurrecting the Eclipse name injects a dose of familiarity into a new vehicle that aims to take advantage of the stampede of buyers to crossovers — at the expense of traditional sedans and station wagons.

Some crossovers are little more than jacked-up hatchbacks with a bit of extra ground clearance and, in most cases, optional all-wheel drive. That’s not the case with the Eclipse Cross, which was designed from the get-go as a crossover with front- or all-wheel drive.

2018 Eclipse Cross

It is slightly smaller than popular compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, competing more directly against the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Buick Encore, Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Niro, Nissan Rogue Sport and Hyundai Kona.

As such, it is an affordable vehicle for singles, couples and small families who seek low-cost wheels with decent cargo space. It also is a tidy package for parking and negotiating urban traffic.

The Eclipse Cross is 14 feet 5 inches long with 95 cubic feet of space for passengers and 23 cubic feet for cargo behind the second-row seats. It has edgy styling, especially when viewed from the rear, which dictates a split tailgate window.

Though that restricts rear vision somewhat, the designers made up for it by installing rear headrests that slide up for passengers and down for a better view behind. The rear seats can be adjusted fore and aft to divvy space between passengers and cargo, and the backs fold nearly flat to expand the cargo area. The cargo floor, which is a tad high, hides a full-size temporary spare wheel and tire.

2018 Eclipse Cross

There are five trim levels, ranging from the front-drive ES at $24,900 to the SEL Touring at $31,390. The base price of the tested SE model with Mitsubishi’s S-AWC electronically controlled all-wheel drive  was $27,390. (The S-AWC, which stands for Super All-Wheel Control, has driver selectable adjustments for snow, gravel and automatic operation). With a few minor options, the tested price came to $27,715.

Power comes from a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 152 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT) with a manual-shift mode.

With such a small engine, expectations were not high. But the combination delivers a strong and sprightly surge off the line, making the Eclipse Cross feel faster than it actually is. Though many critics deride CVTs for a sensation that the transmission is slipping, this one has very little of that. The small crossover cruises happily at freeway-plus speeds, though city/highway/combined fuel economy is just 25/26/25 mpg — likely because the little engine has to work hard.

2018 Eclipse Cross

Inside, comfort is first rate. The SE model came with heated and  luxurious cloth seats that were relaxing and supportive, with prominent seatback bolsters to coddle the torso. Seat adjustments were manual but allowed fine tuning. Outboard seats in back are similarly accommodating and even the center-rear position, though less comfortable, is at least usable.

Equipment included blind-spot warning, lane departure assist and rear cross-traffic alert; heated and automatic folding outside mirrors;  dual-zone automatic climate control; pushbutton starting, electric parking brake, rain-sensing windshield wipers; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; fog lights, and HD and SXM satellite radio.

The center touchscreen controls were not intuitive and required close attention to operate, so would be distracting to a driver trying to make adjustments while underway. Better to get things set up before moving off. Though there were remote audio buttons on the steering wheel, there was no volume control knob.

Despite its minor faults and Mitsubishi’s relatively low profile in the U.S., the new Eclipse Cross deserves a look for anyone seeking an entertaining and inexpensive crossover.

2018 Eclipse Cross

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 152 hp, 184 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,550 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/26/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,390.
  • Price as tested: $27,715.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Eclipse Cross

Photos (c) Mitsubishi.

 

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Refinement appears to be the order of the day at the Jeep Division of Fiat Chrysler, adeptly achieved by the 2019 Cherokee Trailhawk Elite with its new look and on-road performance.

Sometimes it seems as if nearly every buyer wants to end up with a stylish sport utility — or a crossover version of one. But crossovers, built with unit bodies like automobiles, are mostly wannabes when it comes to venturing into the boondocks. They usually have all-wheel drive and decent ground clearance, but the capabilities end there.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Not so the Jeep Cherokee. Like every Jeep, it has solid off-road credentials, abetted by such enhancements as four-wheel drive with a low range and lockable rear differential, crawl speed capability, hill descent control and skid plates — all there to match up against rocks, snow, sand and mud.

At the same time, it’s a decent highway cruiser with a new 270-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 295 lb-ft of torque — useful both for difficult slow-motion off-road adventures and on-road acceleration off the line, which happens without that dreaded turbo lag.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

However, there is hesitation if you use the default engine stop-start system. Fortunately, the stop-start can be disabled by simply touching a button on the dash, which was the preference of this driver.

The engine sends its power to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. However, the system negates some of the satisfaction that comes with the absence of turbo lag. Though the Cherokee gets quickly off the line, punching the gas pedal underway to downshift into a passing gear usually results in an annoying lurch before the power comes on.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Though mechanical and road sounds are mostly muted during freeway cruising, plenty of engine noise intrudes during hard acceleration. The ride, as might be expected with a solidly sprung off-road capable vehicle, is choppy on all but the smoothest roads.

However, that suspension system stiffness, along with stable steering, paid off in capable handling with little body lean on curving roads as long as the Cherokee was not pushed too hard.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

With a curb weight of 4,260 lbs, including that off-road hardware, the tested Cherokee Trailhawk was anything but an economy vehicle. On the government’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption ratings, it managed just 20/26/22 mpg on premium gasoline.

The most noticeable styling change from the 2018 Cherokee is its front face. It has Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille but the low-down headlights have been relocated and combined with the daytime running lights, giving it more of a family resemblance to its bigger sibling, the Grand Cherokee.

173091_0050_Ds8et5sinrd3lvaomkev7m4d7n7Inside, the tested Cherokee Trailhawk Elite was fitted out as well as some luxury SUVs. Standard and optional equipment included collision alert with automatic braking, rear and parallel parking assist, blind-spot warning, cross traffic alerts, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, navigation system, memory setting for the power driver’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, panoramic glass sunroof and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Infotainment functions are displayed on FCA’s UConnect 8.4-inch center touch screen. The system has been praised by critics for its ease of use. However, there have been criticisms of the quality of the Cherokee’s audio for hands-free telephone calls.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Inside accommodations included multiple seat adjustments and a fat-rimmed steering wheel for a confident grip. Front seats were comfortable and supportive with big seatback bolsters to hold the torso in off-road rocking and pitching.

Comfort was similar in the outboard back seats, with okay head and knee room for average-sized adults. However, the center rear position was severely compromised by a hard cushion, big floor hump and the intrusion of the center console.

Rear seatbacks fold nearly flat for additional cargo space. The Cherokee Trailhawk has 102 cubic feet of space for passengers—about what you find in a midsize sedan—and 25 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat. A full-sized spare wheel and tire is stashed underneath the cargo floor.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite came with a starting price of $34,765, including the $1,445 destination charge. With options, the suggested delivered price was $41,245. Competitors include the Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, GMC Terrain Denali AWD and Jeep’s own Wrangler Unlimited four-door, which also has been considerably refined for on-road performance, making it a contender as a family wagon.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4X4 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 270 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and selectable four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 103/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,260 pounds.
  • Towing capability: Up to 4,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,765.
  • Price as tested: $41,245.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Photos (c) FCA North America.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

In any automotive era, the hot-rodders will eventually rise to the bait, as they have with the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition with its 6.2L Performance Package.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s post-World War II gear-heads stuffing V8 engines into 1930s Ford Model A coupes, or modern street racers hopping up old Honda Civic Si hatchbacks. Someone will always figure out a way to dredge artistry and performance out of pedestrian machinery.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

That’s expected, but the hop-up imperative has become institutionalized. The German luxury manufacturers — Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi — all have performance divisions to inject their already hot machines with ever more power.

Now, with the new Tahoe RST, Ford’s Raptor pickup truck and the mind-boggling Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the blastoff mindset has insinuated itself into the biggest of the big vehicles that were originally designed to simply tow, carry and haul lots of stuff on and off the road.

Which brings us to the Tahoe RST (rally sport truck), a monster SUV based on the Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck. It comes with a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine that delivers 460 lb-ft of torque through a new 10-speed automatic transmission. 

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

It has four driver-selectable drive modes: two-wheel drive for leisurely highway cruising, full-time all-wheel drive for nasty conditions, and locked four-wheel drive with high and low ranges for off-road forays. In short, there’s not much it cannot handle. Moreover, it can tow loads up to 8,100 pounds. 

Equipment also includes GM’s magnetic ride control, an active suspension setup that takes readings of road conditions and electronically adjusts the shock absorbers in milliseconds. It works in concert with gloss black 22-inch aluminum wheels.

Still, don’t expect a cushy ride. This fundamentally is a truck outfitted for performance despite its monster size, so the ride gets harsh and choppy except on pool-table smooth surfaces. If you’re a truck person, you’ll grin from ear to ear. If you have more of a comfortable sedan or crossover SUV orientation, it likely will produce a frown.

Chevrolet Unveils Tahoe RST

The biggest drawback — or enhancement, depending on your preference — of the Tahoe RST Edition is its sheer size. It stretches 17 feet in length and weighs 5,631 pounds. With that big V8 engine it doesn’t bow to anything — zero to 60 miles an hour arrives in less than six seconds — but don’t expect to toss it around like a sports sedan or performance-oriented crossover.

Nope. The RST works best when it is driven deliberately, in slow motion with well-planned moves. That way, with practice, its bulky dimensions come under control. Moreover, it is surprisingly docile in urban traffic given the power lurking under the hood. 

2015-Chevrolet-Tahoe-InteriorPowerFoldFlatSeats-004If you must demonstrate performance, it’s best to do it in a straight line. Punch the pedal at a stoplight and all those horses will pin you back in the seat. Choose either two-wheel drive or automatic all-wheel drive. Either way, the RST Edition gets off the line with little or no wheel spin. 

For all of its truck and performance credentials, the Tahoe RST Edition comes equipped as well as many luxury cars. There’s tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, heated and ventilated front seats, rolling WiFi, head-up display, wireless smart phone charging, and an eight-inch center screen for navigation and infotainment functions,   including Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a rear-seat entertainment system.

None of this, of course, comes cheap. The tested RST Edition had a starting price of $66,425. With the equipment mentioned, along with other options, the bottom-line sticker price came to $78,450—not a territory for many middle-class buyers.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ

However, if you are not captivated by the awesome performance, which by the way takes its toll in fuel economy, there are lesser Tahoe versions that would be more friendly to the family budget. The RST has a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 14/22/17 miles to the gallon.

The tester was a seven-passenger model with two captain’s chairs in the second row. Working with the power tailgate raised, a touch of a switch folds the rear seatbacks and the third-row seats to produce a flat load floor with nearly 98 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Seats in the first two rows deliver comfort and support. But the  third-row seats are impossible for anyone but small children, watermelons or backpacks. There’s little knee room and no help because the second-row seats do not adjust fore and aft.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Brembo brake package

Specifications

    • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition four-door sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 6.2-liter V8, 420 hp, 460 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: 10-speed automatic.
    • Overall length: 17 feet.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 122/15 cubic feet.
    • Weight: 5,631 pounds.
    • Towing capability: 8,100 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 14/22/17 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $66,425.
    • Price as tested: $78,450.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

Photos (c) General Motors.

2018 GMC Terrain AWD SLE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

GMC scheduled the introduction of its redesigned 2018 GMC Terrain to coincide with the momentous eclipse of the sun over the United States on Aug. 21, 2017.

The intro took place in Pittsburgh, Pa., so the Terrain did not experience totality. The moon’s coverage of the sun there was about 81%, according to the experts, and that seemed fitting because it’s a good grade that roughly matches the achievements of the new Terrain, especially in the top-line Denali version.

GMC, the truck division of General Motors, manufactures a full array of pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, vans and crossovers. It has been riding the current wave of customer infatuation with crossovers, which resemble but differ from SUVs because they are built like cars with unit bodies. True SUVs have body-on-frame construction like pickup trucks.

2018-GMC-Terrain-Denali-050This second-generation Terrain, a crossover SUV, is an upscale fraternal twin of the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. They share three new engines: a 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder; 252-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and a 137-hp, 1.6-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder.

However, the Terrain uses a nine-speed automatic transmission on its gasoline-engine models, where the Equinox has a six-speed automatic. Diesel engines on both cars connect to the wheels via the six-speed automatic.

The Terrain features a new system for shifting the automatic transmission, which GMC says was developed with an eye toward the future when cars will be able to drive autonomously. A set of switches are mounted on the dash. You pull out the ones for “drive” and “reverse,” and push in for other functions.

2018-GMC-Terrain-059Terrains are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Driven for this review were three versions: luxury-oriented Denali 2.0 AWD with a starting price of $40,245 and, with options, tested at $44,450; an SLT FWD diesel starting at $35,140 and tested at $39,545, and the focus here: SLE AWD with the 1.5-liter engine, starting at $30,545 and $33,210 as tested.

Of the three, the diesel is the fuel economy champ with an EPA certified city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 28/39/32 mpg. The 1.5-liter gets 24/28/26 and the 2.0-liter is rated at 21/26/23.

Though the Terrain’s all-new styling graces a vehicle that is slightly smaller than its predecessor, it is a roomy compact crossover with passenger room similar to that of a midsize sedan and a cargo area of 30 cubic feet, which is about double that of most midsize cars.

2018-GMC-Terrain-SLT-011It also is distinguished by an unusual design element: each trim level — SLE, SLT and Denali — has its own distinct grille, so astute neighbors can instantly detect your Terrain’s snob appeal.

The top-of-the-line Denali, which has standard and optional features intended to rival those of luxury vehicles, can be equipped with state-of-the-art safety features, including low-speed automatic braking, forward collision alert, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert. Especially appreciated is the notice to the driver to check the back seat after parking. It could save a child’s or pet’s life.

Another welcome innovation was teen-driving parental control, which can set speed limits and audio volume, as well as produce a report card on the teen’s behavior behind the wheel.

2018-GMC-Terrain-066The Denali also features such comfort items as leather upholstery, heated and ventilated eight-way power front seats with memory settings, automatic tailgate, automatic dual-zone climate control, Wi-Fi hotspot and a full-fledged infotainment system. Curiously for this luxury-oriented trim, the right front seat has manual adjustments and the right front window does not have express up and down.

If you’re willing to give up some of the luxury and convenience items, the all-wheel drive SLE version is a satisfying vehicle in its own right — and in this test had a price tag $11,240 lower than that of the Denali.

Its smaller 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque, delivered sprightly acceleration with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Its main drawback is that its towing capability is 1,500 pounds compared to the 3,500-lb rating with the 2.0-liter engine.

The SLE’s front seats are comfortable and supportive, upholstered in sturdy cloth that keeps the torso cool in summer and warm in winter. The ride is pleasant on all but the roughest surfaces, and the Terrain handles securely on curves as long as it is not pushed too hard.

Overall, it is a competitive offering in the burgeoning compact crossover class and a good alternative — depending on an individual’s tastes — to the excellent Chevrolet Equinox.

2018-GMC-Terrain-Denali-032Specifications

  • Model: 2018 GMC Terrain AWD SLE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 170 hp, 203 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 103/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,622 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/28/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $30,545.
  • Price as tested: $33,210.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018-GMC-Terrain-055
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Photos (c) GMC.

2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4×4: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Whatever else you might conclude about the 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4×4, it has mastered the spirit of the KISS Principle — a design precept that admonishes, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Though the new Compass is anything but stupid, its designers have done their best to keep it simple.

Because the tested Compass came in the off-road rated Trailhawk version, it has more versatility than its competitors, who lurk in a class of crossover sport utility vehicles parked between subcompacts like the Honda HR-V and compacts like the Toyota RAV4.

Its size is close to the new Subaru Crosstrek, which comes standard with all-wheel drive but without much of the off-road sophistication of the Compass Trailhawk.

2018 Jeep® Compass Trailhawk

The Trailhawk is three inches shorter than the Crosstrek but has more interior room — a total of 127 cubic feet to the Crosstrek’s 119. However, the Trailhawk also is more powerful, heavier by about 400 pounds, more expensive and less fuel efficient.

It’s all about orientation. The Crosstrek, though it has some off-road capability, focuses primarily on highway performance in foul weather. The Compass Trailhawk can handle that and also deal with rough stuff off the road — though not as capably as its garage-mates Jeep Wrangler and Unlimited.

Its all-wheel drive system has five all-terrain drive modes: auto, rock, snow, sand and mud, along with four-wheel drive low range, four-wheel drive lock, and hill-descent control.

2018 Jeep® Compass Limited

This is where it exhibits simplicity. All modes are controlled by buttons on the console that are legibly labeled and easy to operate. They complement the 8.4-inch touch screen in the middle of the dash, which also is a paragon of simplicity for controlling infotainment and navigation functions.

That contrasts with other vehicles, many of them in the luxury category, that are so obtuse in operation that they prompt angry tirades and an increase in blood pressure.

The Compass replaces its previous generation sibling and the Jeep Patriot, a similar crossover SUV. Fiat Chrysler discontinued the Patriot after 2016, although some leftovers are being sold as 2017 models.

2018 Jeep® Compass Limited

There are four Compass trim levels with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, three different transmissions and one engine: a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder that delivers 175 pound-feet of torque. The four trims are Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited, the last being the loaded luxury model.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on the Sport 4×2 and 4×4, and the Latitude 4×4. The Latitude 4×2 comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. Jeep’s nine-speed automatic transmission, with a manual-shift mode, is standard on Trailhawk and Limited, both of which come standard with all-wheel drive. The nine-speed also is an option on the Sport and Latitude 4×4 models.

2018 Jeep® Compass Trailhawk

Though not a scorcher on acceleration, there’s enough power for anything the Compass encounters. It handles decently on and off the road and delivers a compliant, somewhat choppy though quiet ride with some intrusion of engine and road noise.

The tested Trailhawk came with a starting price of $29,690 and, with options, topped out at $33,560, which is slightly below the average price of a new car now in the U.S. Equipment was extensive, including roll mitigation, front and rear tow hooks, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot warning, along with navigation, parking assist, satellite radio, remote starting and a power tailgate.

One handy item, especially for adventuresome backwoods boomers, was a full-size spare wheel and tire, though the wheel was plain steel and not handsome alloy like other four.

2018 Jeep® Compass Trailhawk

Receiving increasing attention are vehicles that roll away if the driver inadvertently turns off the engine while the automatic transmission still is in Drive. Some systems automatically shift into Park, but the Compass finesses the situation by refusing to let the engine shut down. An instrument message orders the driver to shift into Park.

Though the interior contained a number of plastic trim items, the seats were upholstered in a combination of sturdy cloth trimmed with leather. The front seats had well-bolstered seatbacks to hold the torso in cornering and off-roading.

The outboard back seats had plenty of head and knee room for average sized adults, and even the center-rear position, hampered by a floor hump, intrusion of the console and a cushion instead of a real seat, actually could accommodate a fifth passenger.

Overall, this new Compass is a bundle of compromises that delivers a potpourri of capabilities.

2018 Jeep® Compass Trailhawk

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4X4 crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:4-liter four-cylinder, 180 hp, 175 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and adjustable all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 100/27 cubic feet. (60)
  • Weight: 3,633 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,790.
  • Price as tested: $33,660.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Jeep® Compass Limited

Photos (c) Jeep.

 

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4MATIC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4MATIC forges a strong link in the longest chain of luxury sport utility vehicles in America.

In a move that was prescient but a gamble in 1997, the German manufacturer introduced the first luxury SUV, the 1998 ML320, at a surprisingly low price of $34,545.

Following the practice of the era, the ML320 was built like a truck, with the body mounted on a welded steel frame. As such, it had significant off-road chops but also delivered great highway handling from an independent suspension system and decent performance from a 215-hp, 3.2-liter V6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Moreover, it was American-made in a brand-new Mercedes plant in Alabama.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300

The ML320 was an immediate hit, with some customers waiting as long as eight months for delivery, and soon Japan’s Lexus countered with its RX, which was manufactured with a passenger-car unit body. That configuration now is called a crossover. Mercedes switched to a unit body for the second-generation ML-Class in 2005.

The company’s prescience paid off and it expanded its lineup as buyer interest remained steady, then soared for crossover SUVs in every price class, especially in recent years.

With two decades of experience, Mercedes now sells five models, starting with the subcompact GLA. It also has re-named others in the lineup to match their size classes. The tested compact GLC300 used to be called the GLK; the old midsize ML now is the GLE and the full-size GLS used to be the GL. Also in the lineup is the G-Class, based on a Mercedes military vehicle.

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As a compact, the 2018 GLC300 is a solid contender in its luxury category, available with almost every modern safety, driver involvement and infotainment feature. Many come as options, which inflated the base price of $42,975 to $62,795.

Power is delivered by a responsive 241-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 273 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by steering-wheel paddles sends the power to all four wheels. If you don’t need all-wheel drive, the GLC300 can be ordered with standard rear-wheel drive at a saving of $2,000.

The GLC300 is two inches longer and nearly 500 lbs heavier but with less interior room than the best-selling compact Honda CR-V, which has 106 cubic feet of passenger volume and 39 cubic feet for cargo. The GLC’s passenger volume is 98 cubic feet with 19 cubic feet for cargo.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300

The two-ton weight and an air suspension system translate into a hefty, planted and comfortable ride on the highway with good road feedback through the steering wheel. Likely the acceleration would be better if a few pounds were extracted but the GLC300 is no slouch, reaching 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, according to Mercedes’s specifications.

Some of that weight obviously has gone into insulation and other sound-deadening materials. This is a quiet highway cruiser with little intrusion of road, mechanical and wind noise.

There are five driver-selectable driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual, which adjust shift points and suspension settings to maximize fuel economy and move up from there to enhance performance.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300

Seats on the test car were upholstered in perforated leather, heated and cooled up front. There are three memory settings for the front seats and mirrors. Outboard back seats are similarly accommodating and even the center-rear position, hampered by a large floor hump, offers room and some comfort. The seatbacks fold flat with a finger pull on a switch.

There’s additional hidden space for small items under the cargo floor because the GLC300 now comes with run-flat tires. The under-floor space comes with a nice touch: two small bags that hold bright yellow vests to wear in an emergency.

A few criticisms are in order. Though there’s an easy-to-use fingertip shifter, if you turn off the engine and forget to put the transmission in Park, the GLC300 will roll forward or backward. Infotainment functions require learning and attention, and should not be attempted underway. The sunshade for the panoramic sunroof is flimsy and admits sunlight. Also, the window controls on the door would be more intuitive placed on the sides of the front seats.

Still, if you have interest and the money for luxury surroundings, state-of-the-art driving and safety features — all in a tidy package — the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 strongly hints at the self-driving technology of the future.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 241 horsepower, 273 pound-feet torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 98/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,001 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/28/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $42,975.
  • Price as tested: $62,795.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz.

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