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three-row suvs

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Before Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was re-named Stellantis, it developed a virus of its own in the Dodge Division that now has infected the 2021 Dodge Durango.

It’s called the Hellcat, a monstrous 6.2-liter supercharged engine that, in the new Durango SRT Hellcat, delivers 710 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch this 5,335-pound three-row sport utility vehicle to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Just to make sure, the all-wheel drive Durango Hellcat comes with a sophisticated launch control system that keeps the tires hooked to the pavement, eliminating wheel spin. Punch the launch control button, floor the throttle and feel your eyeballs thrust into their sockets.

At the same time, your eardrums are assaulted by the engine’s racket, which blasts mostly out of the tailpipes, to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking the engine is somehow mounted below the third-row seat.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

This is the main drawback to the Durango Hellcat. Though you can feather foot and motor relatively quietly at speeds up to about 62 mph, it has to be on a smooth, level surface. Any time you need to add power for any reason — a modest uphill incline, passing another car — the blast of engine noise from the tailpipes reverberates throughout the cabin. As exciting as it can be, there’s also a fatigue factor on a long drive.

Of course, it’s music to the ears of smug enthusiasts who enjoy knowing that they can take on almost anything on the road and power past whatever.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

On a test drive, the thought occurred that if the famed 1893 painting, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, had been about a 21st century vehicle, the open mouth would have been the grille of the Durango Hellcat.

Though infecting any vehicle with the Hellcat virus — the Dodge Charger and Challenger come to mind — transforms it into a hellish performer, the Durango Hellcat also has a softer, practical side. No surprise, it can  tow up to 8,700 pounds, be it a boat or a house trailer. 

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

If set up like the tester here, it can carry six people, with four in comfort. The front seats are wide and accommodating, with huge bolsters to hug the torso in aggressive driving on twisting roads. Second-row captain’s chairs are similar, with gobs of headroom and enough knee room for most people.

Even the third row can accommodate a couple of medium-sized adults, though they’d best be moderately athletic types without too many years on the clock because of the calisthenics required to get back there. The second-row seats do not adjust fore and aft but there’s plenty of headroom in the third row and just enough knee room as long as you’re not Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

A clever addition is a console between the second-row seats that contains cup holders and storage. It opens from both the front and back so third-row passengers can access the USB port and the 12-volt power source.

On the road, the Durango Hellcat is a welcome companion. Instruments and controls will be familiar to almost anyone who has driven a 21st century vehicle, and the Stellantis (nee FCA) infotainment system is among the best and most intuitive anywhere.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Even with the almost scary power under the hood, the Durango Hellcat has capable handling and communicative steering feedback, and a relatively tight turning radius. It can easily chase some smaller and more sporting vehicles on curving mountain roads.

At some point, however, there are downsides to discuss. For all of its attributes, this sucker is a relentless guzzler — no surprise given the heft and Hercules personality. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 12/17/13 mpg — shades of the 1960s and 1970s. Most owners will get less. 

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

With General Motors coming out with an electric Hummer, maybe we should wait for a rechargeable Durango Hellcat and save some of that fossil fuel for campfires on our winterized planet.

Then there’s the out-of-pocket moolah to get one. The tested Durango SRT Hellcat arrived with a price tag of $82,490, including the destination charge, which everyone has to pay. By the time options were added, including a rear-seat entertainment system to keep the kids from freaking out during stoplight drag races, the bottom line sticker came to a whopping $92,690.

Problem is, there’s currently no vaccination for a dearth of disposable income.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 6.2-liter V8, supercharged; 710 hp, 640 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 142/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,335 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 8,700 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 12/17/13 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $82,490.
  • Price as tested: $92,690.

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

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Photos (c) Stellantis

2021 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Spend some time in Volvo’s XC90, specifically the T8 E-AWD Inscription hybrid, and you will realize that the Swedish manufacturer deserves a pedestal in the pantheon of high-performance luxury brands.

It was not always so. Back in the day — mid 20th century — Volvo earned an enviable reputation as a middle-class brand that delivered reliable everyday transportation with industrial strength. It was said that the station wagons were built on truck chassis — believable because Volvo originally was a manufacturer of buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles as well as automobiles.

The company even had the chutzpah to embrace rear-wheel drive in a snow-ridden Scandinavian country. Its indigenous competitor, Saab, had front-wheel drive and early-on even used two-cycle engines, which were easier to start in subzero temperatures because the oil was mixed with the gasoline.

Sadly, Saab is no more but Volvo thrives, partly on the strength of its reputation for safety and quality engineering. The two most enduring innovations were the inventions of the three-point seat belt in 1959 and the rear-facing child seat in 1964. 

Volvo had financial troubles as well, first being taken over by the Ford Motor Co., which at the time also acquired Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover of Great Britain. 

In 2010, Ford sold its premium brands to concentrate on its core products, mainly pickup trucks, and Volvo wound up as part of China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. Fortunately, the new owner elected to let Volvo be Volvo, so the designers and engineers concentrated on the future, including a pledge in the last decade to build increasing numbers of environmentally friendly electrified cars.

Cue the tested 2021 XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle, which epitomizes the definition of electrified. However, it is not pure electric. Those are available from various manufacturers, but the world and the industry are in transition and right now hybrids continue as the best choice.

That’s because they combine traditional gasoline- or diesel-fueled engines with electric motors to enhance fuel economy and suppress the production of greenhouse gases that threaten the environment.  

The 2021 Volvo XC90 E-AWD takes it a step farther. It is a plug-in hybrid, an expensive technology that provides only short ranges of electric-only motoring, in this case about 18 miles. But for someone in an urban area who takes few trips, it’s enough to minimize stops at the local service station.

Fuel economy in hybrid mode is 55 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Using only the gasoline engine, it drops to 27 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended.

The XC90 E-AWD’s front wheels are powered by a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 313 horsepower. It is augmented by an 87-hp electric motor that drives the rear wheels. Combined, they deliver 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque, enough to slingshot the 2.5-ton XC90 to 60 mph in under five seconds.

For the most part, a standard hybrid like a Toyota Prius works as well as a plug-in hybrid like this Volvo. But it’s another mile marker on the way to widespread electrification and self-driving automobiles.

Likely because of the short electric-only range, any number of XC90 E-AWD owners will simply skip the plug-in part and treat their machines as if they were standard hybrids. However they do it, they will experience one of the finest crossover SUVs on the market. 

Exceptional performance tops the list. As noted, it’s fast, with communicative steering and good handling, as well as a quiet, fatigue-free ride over long distances, abetted by an optional air suspension system.

It’s also among the most luxurious passenger vehicles available anywhere, with a posh interior of blended high-quality natural materials and some of the most supportive leather-covered seats you’ll find anywhere. On the test car, there were six of them, with the front- and second-row chairs the most comfortable. The difficult-to-access third-row seats are cramped for all but smaller adults and children.

Of course, none of this comes cheap. The tested XC90 E-AWD had a base price of $68,495 and, with a load of options, the bottom-line sticker came to $86,990, including the destination charge.

Negatives include sun visors that do not adequately block sun from the sides and a flimsy perforated shade for the sunroof.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline, supercharged and turbocharged, 313 hp; electric motor, 87 hp; combined 400 hp, 472 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic (front-wheels); single-speed direct drive (rear wheels); all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 3 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 131/11 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,140 pounds.
  • EPA combined miles per gallon fuel consumption: gasoline/electric, 55 mpg; gasoline-only, 27 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Electric-only range: 18 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $68,495.

Price as tested: $86,990.

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

XC90 Plug-In Hybrid Inscription T8 in Birch Light Metallic

Photos (c) Volvo

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It looks like Volkswagen slipped some of its Cross Sport into the family lunker, the 2021 Atlas crossover sport utility vehicle.

That’s the initial reaction to the tested Atlas SE R-Line model with the Technology package, mainly a reference to the steering feel and handling of this cavernous three-row hauler that stretches nearly 17 feet long.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

It’s the biggest Volkswagen to ever entice American buyers and is a solid choice for families that might be put off by minivans. It welcomes seven passengers with headroom that can accommodate someone in an Abraham Lincoln top hat. Even the third-row denizens are not disrespected.

However, the Atlas has formidable competition: Subaru Ascent, Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Kia Telluride, Buick Enclave, Hyundai Palisade, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander. The Mazda CX-9 also has three rows but is smaller.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

The Atlas made its debut as 2018 model, designed specifically for the U.S. market and built in Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. VW followed with the Atlas Sport, a smaller five-passenger version with two rows of seats and a generous cargo area of 40 cubic feet.

It’s only about five inches shorter than the three-row Atlas but focuses on attributes of responsive handling and a decent, mostly fatigue-free ride. It has 112 cubic feet of space for passengers and 40 cubic feet for cargo behind the second row.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

Contrast that with the tested three-row 2021 Atlas, which has 154 cubic feet of space for its seven passengers and 21 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row. Flop the third-row seatbacks flat and the cargo area expands to 56 cubic feet.

Unlike some other three-row SUVs, the Atlas has cleverly designed second-row seats that flip and slide forward, opening an entry area to the third row that can be negotiated even by someone with clodhopper-sized feet. Just duck and step in — it’s easy if you’re an agile teenager. Oldsters should stick to the forward seats.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

However, to get enough knee room back there you have to slide the second row to a midpoint that divvies the space between the rows. It’s not particularly easy to wrestle the big and heavy seats, and you have to make sure they’re locked in place lest they noisily crash forward and back as you drive and brake.

The Atlas is an easygoing handler with relatively light steering and responsive moves even on twisting two-lane roads, though you have to be cognizant of its size and not push too hard. It cruises quietly with just enough engine and mechanical noise to let you know there’s something powerful under the hood.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

That something is a 276-hp V6 engine that develops 266 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, delivered to all four wheels on the tester via an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts surreptitiously. Six-cylinder engines are famously smooth and shudder-free, and the Atlas’s is no exception.

The Atlas uses the Volkswagen Drive/Sport shifter. In Drive, it has leisurely moves off the line, though you can override it with a determined punch on the loud pedal. Tap the shift lever back a notch and the Sport mode is engaged, which keeps the engine at higher revs before the transmission shifts. Another tap of the shifter takes you back to Drive.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

There are four selectable drive modes, mostly for nasty conditions or off-roading: Snow, Normal, Off-road and Off-road Custom. Given its size, however, the Atlas is not the sort of machine you’d pick for any serious off-road adventures.

Better to treat it as a minivan alternative for motoring trips and family vacations. It’s an easy-going long-distance cruiser with a composed ride that soaks up bumps and ruts. There are four comfortable seats and three not so much but acceptable: the center second-row seat and the two third-row seats. On the tester, the seats were upholstered in perforated leatherette and the front seats resembled sport seats with substantial bolstering to hold the torso in place.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

With the R-Line trim and the Technology package, the tested Atlas came fully loaded with modern safety and convenience equipment, and no extra-cost options. Items: adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, blind-spot monitor, Bluetooth and power rear lift gate.

Its base price, including the destination charge, was a reasonable $42,615, which also was the bottom-line sticker price.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE w/Technology R-Line four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6, direct fuel injection; 276 horsepower, 266 pound-feet torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.    
  • Overall length: 16 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 154/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,612 pounds. 
  • Payload: 1,080 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds (5,000 pounds with towing package and braked trailer).
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/22/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $42,615.
  • Price as tested: $42,615.

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

2021 Volkswagen Atlas SE R-Line

Photos (c) Volkswagen

Drive After Drive in the 2020 Acura MDX

by Jason Fogelson

I have a friend whose sister Amy recently bought her fourth Acura MDX in a row. She owned a first-generation (2001 – 2006); a second-generation (2007 – 2013); and a third-generation (2014 – present) MDX, and just upgraded to a 2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec – just like the one that I spent a week test-driving recently. Amy is a medical professional in California, so she’s quite busy with serious business right now. But she did take the time to tell me what she loved about MDX, and why she’s stuck with the model over the past two decades.

Her family had always been luxury car buyers – her dad favored Mercedes-Benz vehicles, while her mom was a Jaguar driver. Her brother (my friend) has rarely been without a Porsche 911. When Amy started a family, she wanted to get a three-row SUV to accommodate her children. While she was accustomed to luxury vehicles, she didn’t want to fall into the European pattern that the rest of her family had followed, and stumbled across the MDX. She appreciated the build quality, the V6 engine, the standard all-wheel drive and the roomy interior of the MDX, and claims that each generation has built on the original’s promise. 

I’ve driven each generation of MDX, and I have to agree with Amy. And the latest iteration of the third generation is even better. 

Though MDX is bigger and roomier than before, it is also lighter and more powerful – which means that it performs and handles better. First- and second-generation MDX models weighed in at about 4,600 lbs, while the 2020 MDX AWD A-Spec (list price $54,900) comes in between 4239 – 4264 (depending on equipment). Its naturally aspirated (non-turbo) gasoline 3.5-liter V6 engine pumps out 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission, and is rated to achieve 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined. 

The A-Spec package ($3,500) is a 2020 first for MDX. It includes A-Spec styling, sport seats with Alcantara inserts and contrast stitching, sport pedals, ventilated seats, 20-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, and LED fog lights. Selecting the A-Spec package automatically includes the Technology package ($5,000), a comprehensive group of upgrades including navigation with voice recognition, AcuraLink Communication System, Acura ELS Studio Premium Audio System with 10 speakers, HD Radio, Blind Spot Information, remote engine start, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, LED puddle lights, rear cross-traffic monitor, and front and rear parking sensors. Add $400 for the premium exterior color (Apex Blue Pearl, worth every penny) and $995 for Destination and Handling, and the as-tested price for my 2020 MDX AWD A-Spec came out to $56,295. That’s substantially more than the average transaction price for a car in the United States right now, which hovers around $35,000, but actually a competitive price measured against other three-row luxury SUVs on the market right now, like the Lexus RX-L, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, BMW X5, Infiniti QX60, Audi Q7, Cadillac XT6 and Volvo XC90. MDX is also available in a front-wheel drive variant starting at $44,500, using the same V6 engine as the AWD version, and as an MDX Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive starting at $53,000, using a 3.0-liter V6 and three electric motors.

Driving the MDX, I really appreciated the comfortable, yet sporty and nimble ride. The nine-speed automatic transmission is seamless, and does a great job of downshifting multiple gears when needed. The Integrated Dynamics System allowed me to easily select Comfort, Normal or Sport mode, shaping throttle response, shift mapping, AWD settings, steering response and Active Sound Control (noise cancelling) all at once for the desired effect. I wish I could have tested an MDX with the new Active Damper System, but that’s part of the Advance Package, not A-Spec. I always enjoy driving an Acura with SH-AWD (Super Handing All-Wheel Drive), which includes torque vectoring. Torque vectoring sharpens turn-in by directing power to the outside wheels in a turn, and Acura’s system is one of the best in its class.

Each MDX includes AcuraWatch active safety features. On A-Spec, the list includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Forward Collison Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist System. For long drives on the (now wide-open) freeways, this combination of features and functions takes you part of the way toward autonomous driving. Set the cruise, keep your hands on the wheel, and AcuraWatch will help keep you between the lines. It makes a nice drive very relaxing. 

I know that my friend’s sister Amy appreciates all the relaxation she can get right now, and I hope that her new 2020 Acura MDX is helping. 

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

Photos (c) Acura

2020 Lexus GX460 Luxury: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Although it is beginning to show its age, the 2020 Lexus GX460 has managed to stay relevant and even desirable among midsize premium sport utility vehicles.

The GX460 comes from the luxury brand of Toyota, with all the expectations of quality and durability that entails. But unlike most other new SUVs in its class, it is an older design that harks back to the days when most SUVs were built like pickup trucks, with body-on-frame construction.

Front 3q Left Snow

Though Lexus also produces crossover SUVs, which have unit-body construction like conventional sedans, it has stuck with the truck-like architecture for both of its top-line models: the GX460 and the LX570.

With that, it is out of sync with the avalanche of crossover SUVs in every price class that are taking over the market in the United States. Yet the LX460 is not alone. There still are quite a few truck-based SUVs struggling against the crossover onslaught.

The basic design has roots in the depths of the Great Depression when manufacturers started building tall station wagon-style vehicles dubbed Carryalls or Suburbans. Chevrolet’s Suburban made its debut 85 years ago, in 1935.

Front 3q Right

Modern SUVs came along in the latter part of the 20th century with vehicles like the Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer, and what became the most popular of its genre, the Ford Explorer, which made its debut in 1990 and soon became a best seller. Over the years, it alternated between a truck-based SUV and a unit body crossover and also provided the basis for the Lincoln Navigator.

The first clue that the Lexus GX460 is no longer a fully realized modern SUV comes when you give the turn signal lever a brief click, expecting the three flashes of the lights to indicate a lane change — a longstanding feature on European cars and now nearly universal. There’s no response. You have to click the lever all the way and then turn it off after you change lanes.

Dashboard

Then there’s the lane departure warning, another safety feature especially aimed at inattentive driving. However, the GX460’s system does not include an assist feature to steer the wandering vehicle back in its lane.

Then there’s the so-called “refrigerator door.” Instead of the ubiquitous tail gate that opens overhead, the GX460 has a side-swinging door—not unlike the original Honda CR-V in the 1990s — that opens on the left side. Anyone loading cargo on the street has to stand in traffic. You could also argue that the 4.6-liter V8 engine with 301 hp and 329 lb-ft torque is also something of a relic in an age of powerful, turbocharged, small displacement engines. But there’s nothing like the Lexus V8’s surging, silky power, delivered to all four wheels through an unobtrusive six-speed automatic transmission.

Second Row

On or off the road, the GX460 is never out of breath or lacks power for the task at hand. It is a comfortable, serene highway cruiser with capable handling on curving roads, as well as one of the few vehicles of its size with a reputation for capability to negotiate serious off-road terrain.

Despite the fact that the Lexus GX460 last had a complete redesign a decade ago, it has kept up on safety equipment, off-road capability and luxury amenities. There are three rows of seats. On the tested GX40, there were captain’s chairs in the second row for a total of six-passenger seating. Mostly, owners likely will leave the tiny third-row seats folded flat to expand the stingy cargo space of 12 cubic feet. But to use the seats you must remove a big, clumsy cargo cover shade and re-install it.

Cabin Cutaway

With the third row folded, there’s 47 cubic feet of space and, if you also fold the second row, a total of 65 cubic feet.

No surprise, the 2020 GX460 has most of the equipment and features any customer would expect of a modern luxury SUV with a base price of $65,290, including the destination charge. And, as equipped for this review, an as-tested price of $71,240.

There’s automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert; automatic headlight high beams; radar adaptive cruise control; headlight washers; LED lighting for headlights, fog lights, running lights and brake lights, intuitive parking assist, auto-leveling rear air suspension and trailer sway control.

On the amenities list, there’s plenty of posh luxury items that include power everything, perforated, heated and cooled leather upholstery, and a rear entertainment system, among others.

Rear 3q Left

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lexus GX460 Luxury four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 4.6-liter V8; 301 hp, 329 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with full-time four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • Height: 6 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 129/12 cubic feet. (47, 65)
  • Weight: 5,260 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/19/16 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $65,290.
  • Price as tested: $71,240.

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

Rear 3q RightPhotos (c) Lexus

Palisade: The New Three-Row SUV from Hyundai

by Jason Fogelson

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is an all-new three-row SUV, replacing the Santa Fe XL with a bigger, more powerful, more luxurious SUV. The new name is intended to connote strength, stability and style in a very competitive segment of the marketplace.

Profile Left Sunset

Built in South Korea for the North American market, the Palisade rides on a new platform, and is longer, wider and taller by about three inches in each dimension than the Santa Fe XL that it replaces, and rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase (four inches longer than Santa Fe XL). It uses a bigger, more powerful V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission, adding two speeds to Santa Fe XL’s capability. Palisade’s interior is more spacious, including 4.5 additional cubic feet behind the third row and an additional inch of third-row legroom. Hyundai has simplified its packaging for Palisade, with a well-equipped base SE model and loaded Limited model bracketing a more configurable mid-trim SEL model, designed to address both value and aspirational buying trends.

Front 3q Right

My top-of-the-line Limited model test vehicle came a dual sunroof, heated and ventilated captain’s seats in the second row (no bench option), premium Nappa leather seating surfaces, a 630-watt Harmon Kardon premium audio system with 12 speakers, QuantumLogic Surround and Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology, a 12.3-inch full digital display instrument cluster, a head-up display, surround-view monitor, blind-view monitor, and ambient lighting – all standard equipment on the Limited trim level, in addition to the arm-length list of other standard features and the Hyundai SmartSense safety suite. This sucker was loaded – and all of the features, except for an optional ($160) set of carpeted floor mats.

Profile Left

Palisade soaks up miles with ease, remaining composed over rough surfaces and cruising nicely when the roads get twisty. Selectable driving modes include Smart, Normal, Sport, and Snow, adjusting front and rear torque distribution, throttle and shift patterns at the turn of a center-console mounted knob. A heavy foot on the gas pedal induces some thrashy noises from the V6, which is otherwise quiet and smooth. Handling is smooth and composed, and Palisade exuded competence in all situations it faced. It’s really a pleasure to drive, and would make a great family road trip vehicle.

Engine

All Palisade models come with a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 3.8-liter V6 engine with gasoline direct injection and four valves per cylinder with variable valve timing. Running on the Atkinson Cycle, the V6 puts out 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission with front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive puts the power to the ground. Front-wheel drive examples of Palisade are rated to achieve 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined, while my all-wheel drive model was rated to achieve 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined.

Dash

Palisade is available in three trim levels: SE (starting at $31,550 with FWD, $33,250 with AWD); SEL (starting at $33,500 with FWD, $35,200 with AWD); and Limited (starting at $44,700, $46,400 with AWD). Add $1,045 to each for freight charges. A $2,200 Convenience Package and a $2,400 Performance Package can be added to SEL models, along with some standalone options. My test vehicle was a 2020 Palisade Limited AWD with a list price of $46,400, and an as-tested sticker price of $47,605.

Second RowThe three-row crossover SUV category is very well-stocked right now, including fresh entries like the Ford Explorer, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, and Toyota Highlander. The Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave are also worth consideration. And don’t forget the Kia Telluride, which shares a platform (but no sheet metal) with the Palisade.

Third Row

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is an elegant, competent, mid-size three-row crossover SUV that is a worthy successor to the Santa Fe XL. If you’re in the market for a new family vehicle, add the Palisade to your list for consideration.

Cargo

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

Rear 3q Left

Photos (c) Hyundai

Gaining Elevation in the 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD

by Jason Fogelson

The last time Kia launched a midsize three-row SUV, the 2009 Kia Borrego, the company’s timing couldn’t have been less fortunate. Arriving in late 2008, the body-on-frame Borrego was available with a V8 engine. With base prices from $26,245 to $37,995, the Borrego was a well-equipped, attractive SUV, designed to compete with the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner and other popular SUVs. And it flopped. While Kia was launching the Borrego, fuel prices were spiking, reaching over $5 per gallon in some parts of the country. The US banking system was headed toward collapse, taking the auto industry with it and leading to bailouts and a prolonged recession. “Right SUV, wrong time” was the refrain in Borrego reviews, and the big SUV disappeared from Kia lineup after just one year.

A decade-plus later, and Kia’s ready to try the mid-size three-row SUV class again. This time, it’s the 2020 Kia Telluride, and the timing is much better – and the vehicle is very different.

2020 TellurideEven the name gives a hint toward Kia’s status in the automotive industry and toward its aspirations for the new vehicle. “Borrego” was inspired by the Anza-Borrego Desert, a region in Southern California near San Diego, best-known for the ecological disaster area, Salton Sea, which sits at an elevation of 15 feet above sea level. Telluride is a playground for the rich and famous in Colorado, perched at a lofty 8,750 feet above sea level.

Beyond their shared seating capacity and SUV category, Telluride and Borrego share few common characteristics. Where Borrego rode on a body-on-frame platform with a rear-wheel drive/four-wheel drive powertrain, Telluride is a unibody (frameless) crossover SUV with a front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive powertrain. Borrego came with a choice of 3.6-liter V6 or 4.6-liter V8 engines and 6-speed automatic transmissions, and was rated to achieve 17 – 18 mpg combined. Telluride uses a 3.8-liter gasoline direct injection engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and gets EPA fuel economy ratings of 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined (FWD), 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined (AWD). Borrego’s V6 produced 276 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, while Telluride’s V6 is tuned to put out 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Borrego weighed in at 4,248 – 4,621 lbs (depending on configuration), while Telluride weighs between 4,112 lbs and 4,482 lbs.

Enough with the Borrego comparisons.

2020 TellurideI spent a week driving a 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD, a top-of-the-line model that carried a base price of $43,490. My test vehicle had additional installed equipment, including Snow White Pearl Paint ($395), SX Prestige Package ($2,000 for Head-Up Display, 110-volt inverter, Nappa leather seat trim, premium cloth headliner and sun visors, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and rain sensing front windshield wipers), carpeted floor mats ($210), carpeted cargo mat with seat back protection ($115), interior lighting ($450), a tow hitch ($395) plus freight and handling ($1,045) for an as-tested price of $48,100.

Telluride is a good-looking SUV with great presence, and an outstanding face. It has a big SUV attitude, and an air of premium elegance. Black 20-inch alloy wheels give an aggressive, sporty look. Inside, the SX trim level Telluride approaches luxury levels of fit and finish, and a great array of standard technology and convenience features. Each row of seating is comfortable and surrounded by smart storage.

2020 TellurideDriving the Telluride is a pleasure equal to admiring its design. It handles well, and accelerates briskly for a vehicle its size. It is not a rocket ship like some of the premium SUVs, but it never wants for power in normal (sane) operation. The smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission keeps Telluride in its power band without allowing the V6 to get thrashy or noisy.

There have been big changes in the midsize SUV landscape since 2009, and a whole new set of competitors has emerged. The Ford Explorer has moved from body-on-frame to crossover, and is newly revised for 2020. Nissan Pathfinder made the same move, though it is due for a makeover soon. The Honda Pilot remains a stiff competitor, along with GM’s trio of Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia. The Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent are new midsize three-row SUVs worth considering, and Kia’s cousin Hyundai has produced the Palisade on the same platform as Telluride. Of the old body-on-frame competition, only the Toyota 4Runner remains in the game as a class of one, and it too has lost its V8 option.

2020 TellurideUnless outside forces like spiking gas prices or another economic crisis intervene, the 2020 Kia Telluride is likely to succeed in the marketplace in ways that its ill-fated predecessor never did. It is hitting dealerships at a time when the three-row crossover SUV is more popular than ever, a hot market segment with an appetite for well-equipped, stylish family SUVs. And Telluride is a very good option.

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

2020 TelluridePhotos (c) Kia

2020 Lexus RX 450hL AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though they don’t rack up huge sales numbers, luxury crossover utility vehicles like the 2020 Lexus RX450hL operate in a highly profitable, and therefore competitive, place in the market.

In that territory, the Lexus RX continues as the best-selling nameplate. The addition of the 450hL, a midsize gasoline/electric hybrid with six- or seven-passenger seating, should help maintain that distinction.

2020_Lexus_RX450hL_02_B419CCEE05FD93C1324D9F072A2231E3087A74001Lexus, the luxury division of Japan’s Toyota, also is the best-selling brand among luxury manufacturers that sell SUVs and crossovers.

In 2019, the Lexus nameplates — UX, NX, RX, GX and LX — had total sales of 217,139 in the United States. Mercedes-Benz of Germany had a slightly larger total of 218,148 but two of its eight nameplates — the Sprinter and Metris vans — are commercial vehicles that together had 41,635 of those sales. For counting purposes, luxury crossovers and SUVs are classified as trucks.

The Lexus RX came on the market back in 1998, right after Mercedes-Benz introduced what was widely regarded as the first luxury SUV, the ML320. But the RX was a crossover, built with a unit body like a car, while the original ML320 was designed like a truck with body on frame construction. It has since converted to a crossover design.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_03_8EBCB13234463AD450880174D2F5FDEBA45450DC1The 2020 RX450hL’s forte is silent running in plush comfort, with a suspension system that absorbs nasty road surfaces while still delivering decent handling, though it’s not the sort of vehicle you’d want to enter in an autocross.

It comes with a host of standard and optional equipment to testify to its luxury status, including such items as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with parking assist, rear cross-traffic braking, an informative head-up display that shows the compass, tri-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming and heated outside mirrors, motorized glass sunroof, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power hands-free tailgate, SXM satellite radio and Mark Levinson premium audio.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_06_2B21FFCA34432D4CE1D52CBFB37344C9A67EF2E71An annoyance is the fussy console-mounted touchpad that controls infotainment and other functions on the center screen. It requires focused attention and should not be used while under way.

The RX450hL doesn’t come cheap, though it is less expensive than some of its luxury crossover competitors. Base price of the tester, including the destination charge of $1,025, was $57,485. With options, the bottom line suggested delivered price came to $65,340.

The hybrid system consists of a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine connected to two electric motors — one for the front wheels and the other for the rear wheels. On the tested all-wheel drive model, the system’s 308 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, gets to all four-wheels through Toyota’s gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_13_5086ED6AAE7EDB539987485C444F6D26FAAB40B11There are no shift points. You sense rather than feel that the engine seamlessly controls rpms to provide maximum power and efficiency. Even using the steering wheel paddles to drive in manual mode, which mimics a six-speed automatic transmission, there’s almost no sensation of shifting.

To broaden the RX’s appeal, Lexus introduced the L model in 2019 but stretched it by four inches over the five-passenger version to make space for a third row of seats. The L can accommodate six with captain’s chairs in the second row or seven with a second-row bench seat.

But it’s a squeeze, and even more so in the hybrid 450hL hybrid version. Where the gasoline-engine RX350L has 121 cubic feet of passenger space and 19 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row, the hybrid RX450hL has 114 cubic feet for passengers and just 8 cubic feet for cargo.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_16_0BC25A96F8C13A59D5201AD12FB94E9F10BC0F451The culprit is the hybrid battery pack, which resides underneath the second row of seats. That raises the floor, which stretches into the cargo area. (A compact spare wheel and tire are stashed outside). Even with about eight inches of second-row seat travel, it’s not enough to adjust passable knee room for passengers in the second and third rows.

On the tested six-passenger RX450hL, the two second row captain’s chairs delivered luxurious space and comfort when pushed all the way back. But that virtually eliminated knee room for anyone in the third row.

So it’s best to simply touch the power button to fold the third row and keep it tucked away, which expands the cargo area to 24 cubic feet. But the seats still are available for emergency transportation of backpacks, watermelons or the family dogs.

2020_Lexus_RX450hL_012_A0E1C49D26B5F0BCCB1666042FC5BC14A865885D1Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lexus RX 450hL AWD Lux hybrid four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motors: 3.5-liter V6 gasoline with two electric motors; combined 308 hp, 247 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 114/8 cubic feet. (23, 34)
  • Weight: 4,905 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 29/28/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $57,485.
  • Price as tested: $65,340.

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

Lexus_RX_450hL_01jpg_25CC5457FD664F12CABA89FF8F8AC3BC60E51A6BPhotos (c) Lexus

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its 2020 XT6 crossover and the upcoming  refreshed XT5, Cadillac fields its first-string four corners offense against competitors in the sport utility tournament.

The big difference is that this offense does not seek to stall or  dribble in place. It’s more of a full-court press against Lincoln, Acura, BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Audi and Volvo.

Cadillac SUV familyPair the XT6 and XT5 with the compact XT4 crossover and the silk-gloved brute Escalade, with its truck-like body-on-frame construction, and General Motors’ luxury division has a lineup that can compete across the premium SUV spectrum.

The XT6 slots in below the giant Escalade. Like its bigger sibling, it comes with three rows of seats and either seven- or eight-passenger seating, depending on whether the buyer wants a second-row bench seat or separate captain’s chairs.

Though it is three inches shorter than the 17-foot long Escalade, the XT6 has generous interior space of 153 cubic feet, with 140 for passengers and 13 for cargo behind the third row. The Escalade has 178 cubic feet of interior room, divided 163 for passengers and 15 for cargo.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

A touch of a button drops the XT6’s powered third-row seatback to deliver 43 cubic feet for cargo. Fold the second row, which also provides access for third-row passengers, and the cargo space expands to 79 cubic feet.

The XT6’s standard configuration is front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available, where the Escalade starts with rear-wheel drive like the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and adds four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

With its car-like unit body construction, the XT6 has a stiff structure that contributes to secure handling. As a luxury vehicle, it also must deliver a quiet and comfortable ride. To that end, the Cadillac engineers incorporated 15 different insulating enhancements, including hush panels in the side doors and noise absorbent shock towers.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

However, no road-going vehicle is completely silent—not even electric cars — especially traveling pockmarked U.S. highways. The XT6 manages quite well though some wind and tire noise work their way into the cabin.

Power comes from a robust 310-hp V6 engine with 271 lb-ft of torque. It quietly works its power through a nine-speed Hydra-Matic (remember that?) transmission. The combination is enough to propel the XT6 to 60 mph in a guesstimated less than seven seconds.

Cadillac offers two XT6 trim levels: Premium Luxury and Sport. The names are descriptive. The more expensive (by $2,400) Sport is  oriented toward driving dynamics with quicker steering, continuous active suspension damping and aggressive transmission shift points at higher rpms.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

The Sport also gets a more, to be sure, sporting interior featuring trim that looks like woven carbon fiber, while the Premium Luxury version gets beautiful genuine wood enhancements.

Not unlike its European counterparts, the XT6 makes its reputation on the options side of the window sticker. Both the Sport and Premium Luxury models offer Platinum option packages ($3,700 or $4,900 respectively) with upgraded perforated leather upholstery for all seats; leather-wrapped instrument panel, door trim and console; microfiber suede headliner, and premium carpeted floor mats.

It doesn’t end there. The $58,090 all-wheel drive Sport model, the focus of this review, carried $14,950 worth of options, including such items as $2,000 for night vision and $2,350 for enhanced visibility (a rear camera lens washer among other things), that brought the sticker to $73,040.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

A similarly equipped Premium luxury version came with a base price of $56,690 and, when tricked out with a long list of options, checked in at $70,890.

Both models had full safety equipment, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, following distance indicator, front and rear park assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

An innovative feature hides the rear camera, with a washer for inclement weather, underneath the spoiler at the top of the hands-free power tailgate. The rear windshield wiper also is located there, protected from snow and ice.

The Cadillac XT6 Sport is defined by darker accents and more aggressive, performance-inspired details, including available 21-inch wheels.

Among the luxury accouterments are a panoramic “ultraview” glass sunroof, tri-zone climate control, 21-inch alloy wheels, powered and heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an air ionizer and particulate filter, wireless smart phone charging and color head-up display.

In the first half of 2019, sales of Cadillac’s crossovers and the Escalade SUV totaled 56,827. But the XT6 was barely a blip. With the 2020 model, Cadillac’s aggressive four corners offense has the potential to close the gap with other luxury nameplates.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 310 hp, 271 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 140/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,690 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 4,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,090.
  • Price as tested: $73,040.

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

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Photos (c) Cadillac

 

 

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