The much anticipated, much rumored, long awaited Jeep pickup truck has arrived. And it’s one of a kind as it’s available with a convertible top that no other truck maker offers. And keeping with Jeep heritage, the doors also come off and the windshield folds, just like traditional Jeep Wrangler’s.
The last year Jeep offered a pickup was back in 1992. But a Jeep pickup goes back to when it was offered from 1947-1965. After that it became an FC-150/170 (1957-1965); Jeep Gladiator/J-Series (1963-1987); CJ-Scrambler (1981-1985) and finally, the Jeep Comanche (1986-1992).
The midsize 2020 Gladiator comes with some impressive numbers. According to Jeep, it has a best-in-class tow rating of 7,650 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,600 pounds. And that’s just for starters.
Gladiator comes in four trim models; Sport, Sport S, Overland and rugged Rubicon. As of this writing, there’s probably no other midsize pickup that can go where the Rubicon model can go with its locking front/rear differentials, sway bar disconnect and an approach angle of 43.4 degrees and a departure angle of 26.0 degrees on the Rubicon version. Chevy’s Bison comes close, but can’t match the Gladiator for its off-road prowess.
Although it’s fairly new to the market, Jeep has racked up nearly 7,200 in U.S. sales for the second quarter. I’ve been seeing a lot of them on the road of late and in fact a good number of them have already been tricked out with custom oversize wheels and tires, light bars, side steps, winches and more.
The similarities between the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited SUV and Gladiator are very close, especially in the cabin. Round air duct vents are identical as is the display, HVAC controls, 4WD shifters, burly steering wheel, gauge cluster and more.
The main difference is in size. Gladiator is 31 inches longer and wider by 19.4 inches. And it can ford up to 31 inches of water enabled by a generous 10.25 inches of ground clearance (11 on the Rubicon).
Step-in into the cabin is a 25-inch stretch, but there are grab handles above the wide opening doors for easier ingress.
All seats have weather resistant covers that are heavily padded for rough road absorption and supportive to hug the torso during off-road jolts and bumps.
Back seats have gobs of headroom and adequate legroom. They too are equally as padded, split and flip up against the bulkhead to expose a storage bin beneath them. The rear seats, however, are set a bit upright which doesn’t make for comfy long distance riding.
Of the four trim models, we were privileged to test the nicely equipped Sport model. With it came an optional 7-inch touchscreen (5-inch is standard) with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and a variety of other apps and rearview camera.
The Sport had the Command Trac part-time 4WD with the usual 2H, 4H, 4L gearing that included a locking rear (Rubicon has locking front/rear diffs plus a disconnecting sway bar), heavy duty Dana front/rear axles, fuel tank skid plate, transfer case skid plate shield, electronic trailer sway control, stability control, electronic roll mitigation and more.
Each model comes in one bed length that measures 60 inches deep, 57 wide and 17 high. Liftover into the bed is a not too high 35 inches and the tailgate can be positioned to allow carrying 4x8 sheets of plywood.
As there is only one bed length, there’s also one engine choice, that is until the 3.0L, EcoDiesel V6 is offered sometime in 2020. When it’s available, it reportedly will generate 260-hp and a whopping 442 lb/ft of torque,
Until then, the standard powerplant is a 3.6L, V6 with 285-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 17 city, 22-highway mpg with start/stop engine technology and an 8-speed automatic transmission. The combination was independently tested at 7.2 seconds for a 0-60 sprint. There’s certainly no want for power.
Ride and handling wise, Gladiator has a tendency to wander over the road with virtually little road feel. It’s a bouncy ride on knobby, deep lugged, Bridgestone AT 17-inch tires. But this is no different than a Wrangler or Wrangler Unlimited in fact Gladiator rides a bit better because of its longer, wider dimensions. Load the bed with mulch or an ATV and it’ll ride even better. On convertible models, you’ll certainly grab eyes in summer with the top down and doors off.
Gladiator’s only drawback so far is its price. With a certain amount of options, it’s priced above most of the competition from Chevy’s Colorado, Ford Ranger and some Toyota Tacoma models. The Sport test truck carried a base price of an affordable $33,545. But add the Customer Preferred Package ($3,200) with a long list of goodies such as power tailgate, aluminum wheels, power heated mirrors, tinted windows, automatic headlamps and more; 7-inch Radio Group ($995) comprises the display, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, A/C, Sirius radio and more; Convenience Group ($395) for a universal garage door opener; Cold Weather Package ($995) consisting of heated front seats/steering wheel, remote start; Max Tow Package ($995) with the A/T tires, HD front/rear axles, 4.10 rear, receiver hitch, trailer hitch zoom, HD cooling and more; Jeep Active Safety Group ($995) with Park Sense Rear Park Assist, blind spot/rear cross traffic detection; Adaptive cruise with forward collision warning that includes stop ($795) plus full speed forward collision warning, advanced brake assist; Auxiliary Switch Control that is programmable ($295), 700-amp battery, tonneau cover; All Weather Slush Mats ($150); 8-speed automatic trans with skid plate, Tip start ($2,000); Alpine audio ($1,295); Wireless Bluetooth speaker ($295); Premium Sunrider soft top ($595) and delivery ($1,495), takes the bottom line to $48,535. It’d be nice to be able to pick and choose but Jeep bundles everything, which drives up the cost.
Gladiator comes with a 5 year, 60K powertrain warranty and 3/36K basic limited warranty.
If you’re looking for a pickup that excels all others, check out the Gladiator. You’ll be glad you did.
Volvo’s 2020 XC40 is one of three crossover SUVs the car maker sells. All of them have a strong following among those who know of Volvo’s inherent structural rigidity and numerous safety items, many of which were a first in the industry. In fact, Volvo was the first back in 1959 to have front seat, three-point safety belts as standard; 1978 child safety booster cushions; and 1994 side impact bags that’s among a total of 13 firsts.
As for the XC40, it’s the smallest, less expensive crossover in Volvo’s line that includes the XC60 and XC90 crossovers. We were privileged to test the T5, AWD R-Design that is a sporty version with a host of standard safety features, convenience items and sporty trim touches.
The XC40 is offered in T4, which is FWD with a less powerful engine, and T5 that is AWD with a more powerful engine. The 40 is also offered in Momentum, R-Design and top-shelf Inscription trim versions.
The R-Design we had came standard with Nappa leather and Nubuck upholstery, sport pedals, black roof, shift paddles, heated wiper blades, panoramic sunroof, sport chassis, 20-inch wheels and a long list of other added niceties.
XC40 takes on a sporty, angular look with a sexy flair. It goes up against a host of competitors from BMW, Lexus, Benz, Audi and a few lesser makes.
The interior in the test car was an eye-grabber, or maybe, eye-opener. Grey, perforated, heated front seats with sueded inserts, contrasted sharply with orange carpeting in the test car. An interesting, eclectic combination. The next item is the 12.3-inch display that serves a multitude of operations aside from a rearview camera that offers wide and close-up views. It comes with Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and you can pinch, drag, swipe and minimize the screen just like an iPad and some laptops. Plus, send/retrieve text messages, move apps around on the screen, watch operational video’s and get this, you can even write on the screen. To do all this requires a serious read of the owners’ manual while in the car to practice and familiarize the displays varied capabilities. On it, HVAC controls are also selected and include a man-form display for selecting air flow.
XC40s 8-speed automatic transmission is controlled by a stubby shifter that has a separate button for “Park” gear. And there are three selectable drive modes of Comfort, Dynamic (sportier driving), Eco and Off-Road.
An all digital gauge cluster has a 4-inch driver information display between the gauges that also shows a nav map. Volvo thought of everything, including a smartphone charger/holder on the forward console and a trash bin in front of it.
Front seats are comfy and very supportive with contrasting white stitching on all seams. Rear seats are similarly comfy for two adults or three youngsters.
Back in the cargo area, and with the seats upright, the area measures 36 inches deep, 40 wide and 30 high. Between the seats there’s a pass-through for skis or long items. Flip the seatbacks and cargo depth extends to 69 inches. There’s also a 27x37.5x3 inch deep underfloor bin to stow small items out of sight.
Power wise, the sporty T5 gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that produces 248-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to the 8-speed auto trans, the T5 was independently 0-60 timed at 6.2 seconds and was a real performer. Not bad considering its 3,823-pound curb weight. So equipped, the 2.0L earned EPA mileage estimates of 22 city, 30-highway mpg. For better economy, there’s an XC40-Electric version soon to be available at Volvo dealers.
Handling wise, XC40 is nimble, light on its feet, easy to park and fun to drive with its shorter length. With the T5’s sporty suspension, the crossover is planted in sharp, tight turns with negligible body lean. Ride quality too is admirable. And it’s a quiet rider.
With a substantial list of standard features, safety items and add-ons, the XC40’s Park Assist Pilot option provides both parallel and perpendicular parking by taking over the steering operations while the driver handles the gearbox and controls speed.
Then there’s Pilot Assist that helps the driver with steering, distance and speed control from slow-moving traffic to highway driving. The system makes driving safer and more relaxed in stop-and-go traffic by adding steering assistance along with Adaptive Cruise Control.
These add to the standard safety features such as blind spot monitoring; cross traffic alert with Autobrake Collision Avoidance by City Safety that detects vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist and large animal sensing; run-off road protection/mitigation; lane keeping assist and oncoming lane mitigation; electronic stability control and many more.
The XC40 comes with a 48 month/60K mile limited warranty coverage and 144-month corrosion protection plus on-call Roadside Assistance.
For years, Volvo cars were always the safest cars on the road. These features just add to the vehicles’ safety and attractiveness.
Since Volvo didn’t have a Monroney (sticker price) for the test car, the listed prices for the T5 range from $42,304 to $43,590 nicely loaded. And they’re worth every dollar.
Debuting last year, Lexus’ top selling RX 350 midsize-luxury SUV was stretched a bit to make room for a third row. Up to that point, families who needed more seating were out of luck for this attractive seller. But Lexus solved that by introducing their RX 350L.
I must admit my wife owns an RX 350 and loves it. The best car we ever owned. But I promise to remain impartial in this review.
The RX 350L comes standard with FWD with AWD being an option and a given for those living in the Snowbelt. Aside from its extended length and third row, the 350L doesn’t differ much from the 350. It still possesses a luxurious, quiet interior and a smooth ride, all standard traits for Lexus vehicles.
Perhaps one difference is that with the third row, there’s somewhat less cargo space then the 350 as the extended space is now occupied by the third row. Otherwise, it remains a leading seller in its class.
RX 350L comes with a 3.5-liter V6 290-hp and 267 lb/ft of torque. When coupled to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission, EPA rates it at 18 city, 25-highway mpg. So powered, it moves the 4,597-pound AWD SUV with a linear application of torque. Since the 350L is somewhat heavier than the standard 350, the slightly slower performance is noticeable. As is, Lexus says it’s been timed at 8.1 seconds for a 0-60 sprint.
The system offers Eco, Normal and Sport modes, the latter injects quicker shifts points at a higher rpm for sportier performance.
As for the AWD, a Lock Mode switch sends a larger amount of power to all wheels such as when the vehicle gets stuck in deep snow, or to the wheel that needs it most. The system shuts off when the vehicle exceeds 25 mph.
Power aside, RX’s posh interior is ultra comfy. Perched atop the dash and grabbing the eyes is a 12.3-inch horizontal display with voice recognition that’s included when opting for the optional Navigation package ($3,225). In rearview camera mode, the screen offers overhead, normal and wide-angle views. The display functions are selected by a controller on the console. It’s a sensitive system that should be used while the vehicle is stopped as it takes the eyes off the road. Perhaps a touchscreen would be a bit safer. The system includes Lexus Enform App Suite (a subscription is needed and connects a smartphone to your apps etc.) and lots more. HVAC controls are easy to use with your selections appearing on the display.
Heated/cooled front seats are soft, supportive and have an under thigh extension that is nice to have on long trips.
The second row, which in the test car were captain’s chairs (a bench is also offered), were nicely padded, heated and slid fore/aft 12 inches to allow easy access into the third row after a low 21-inch step-in. Third row bench seat is mainly for youngsters as leg and headroom are limited.
A power liftgate opens into a somewhat smaller cargo space than RX 350. Behind the third row, it’s rated at 7.5 cubic feet, that more meaningfully measures 21 inches deep, 45 wide and 27 high. There’s also a narrow bin on the floor behind those seats for small item storage. Flip the 3rd row seatbacks and cargo capacity expands to 23 cubic feet for 42 inches of cargo depth. Fold them and there’s 77 inches of loading depth.
Despite its added weight, the RX 350L has sure-footed handling as it stays planted in sharp turns and twisty roadways. But its heft can be felt in city driving, like when dodging runaway shopping carts. Ride wise, it’s smooth and quiet.
Of course, luxury accommodations and quality build come at a price. The AWD RX 350L began life with a base price of $49,176, but seriously escalated as technology options are pricey. For example, these were the options on the test car:
Blind Spot Monitoring with Parking Assist w/Auto Braking, panoramic view monitor, folding mirrors ($1,865); Cold Weather package ($200); color Head Up Display ($500); touch free power rear door ($200); heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats ($1,080); triple beam headlamps w/washers ($1,515); 12.3-inch nav system w/Mark Levinson premium audio, Lexus Enform infotainment ($3,225); Premium Package includes leather trim seats and more ($810); wood/leather heated steering wheel ($450); all weather cargo liner/mats ($279); 3M paint protection film ($429); key glove ($10) and delivery of $1,025 brought the bottom line to $60,858. If you can do without some of these niceties, that 60K can be whittled down somewhat. But competition wise, the 350L is still in the same ball park price.
To its credit, the RX 350L earned good crash safety scores from the governments 5-star safety rating. It received an overall score of four stars; four for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front rear seat side crash and for for rollover.
RX 350L is a proven, top performer for those requiring a third row seat as it’s a class best that will always garner a high resale value.
With the midsize pickup truck market heating up, Ford figured they’d better get back into the fray with their once popular Ranger pickup.
Last appearing in the 2011 model year, the Ranger up to that point had the midsize market pretty well sewn up as it was a best seller with most of its competition coming from Toyota’s Tacoma.
Since Ford’s F-150 full-size pickup has been doing so well for so many years, Ford didn’t need a midsize. But the tide has changed, and so has Ford’s thinking.
Back in ’99, I owned a Ford Explorer 2-door Sport which was a derivative of the Ranger without the cargo bed. In fact, Ford expanded on the Explorer by adding a small bed that they called the Explorer Sport Trac, and one I wished I had traded my Sport for.
But the 2019 Ranger is all new. Rumor has it that Ford may even release a Raptor version, a spin-off of their F-150 Raptor that’s built for serious off-roading. However, there is an FX4 Ranger Off-Road package ($1,295) that can perform almost the same tasks.
Ranger is offered in XL, XLT and Lariat that we tested. It’s additionally offered in SuperCab with rear-hinged doors and 6-foot bed and SuperCrew with conventional 4-doors and 5-foot bed that was tested.
There are two items that make Ranger a stand out. For one, it’s offered with a 2.3-liter, EcoBoost turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that puts out 270-hp and an impressive 310 lb/ft of torque. When coupled to the standard 10-speed automatic transmission and 4WD (it’s also available in 2WD), Ranger carries a tow rating of a whopping 7,500 pounds and a class-leading payload capacity of 1,860 pounds. Add to that attractive EPA mileage estimates of 20 city, 24-highway mpg (which is helped somewhat by start/stop engine technology) and Ranger’s economy isn’t bad for a 4,441-pound truck.
So powered, the little four has gutsy acceleration, especially in Sport mode, and exudes gobs of trailer towing power.
Ranger’s 4WD system consists of traditional 2High, 4High and 4Low gearing. There’s also a Terrain Mode button in the center of the rotary 4WD switch that includes four terrain modes of Mud/Ruts, Sand, Normal and Grass/Gravel/Snow.
For added traction ability, a dash switch locks the rear axle. A beneficial feature not offered on the Ranger of yesteryear
As for the cabin, a 23-inch step-in treats you to a leather interior with front seats that are supportive but a tad on the firm side. An 8-inch Sync 3 touchscreen offers a host of apps including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, rearview camera and Travel Link with weather, Wi-Fi hotspot and more.
HVAC controls are flush push buttons and easy to use in fact the A/C switch also comes with a Max A/C mode, a feature I haven’t seen on a test vehicle in a long time. It’s nice to have for faster cooling on a hot day.
The back seat is somewhat upright, but the seats are comfy for two adults and decent leg room provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. The one-piece seat folds up against the bulkhead for large item storage and beneath are twin bins for small item storage. Surprised Ford didn’t make it a 60/40 or 50/50 seat so at least one passenger can be seated while allowing some cargo to be carried on the folded-up side of the floor.
Ranger Lariat came with a host of safety features like auto braking, adaptive cruise, lane keeping assist, pre-collision assist, cross traffic alert, forward sensing system, satellite radio and more. All desired safety features.
Ride wise on 6-lug, Hankook 17-inch tires is a trite stiff, but quiet, despite the tires’ 8.5-inch width that combined with 8.9 inches of ground clearance, will give good traction in deep snow and off-road obstacles. It is a bit bouncy on imperfect roads. And with electric power steering, steering is on the mushy side with negligible road feel. However, Ranger parks easily with its curb-curb turning radius of 41.99 feet.
Ranger’s handling tracks straight and true on straight roads and exhibits some slight bounding in tight corners, perhaps because of its large, off-road tires. It exhibits a planted feeling.
The only suggestion we can make is that the console sides could use some padding for us knee resters.
Ranger is priced right up there with its competition. The nicely loaded Lariat SuperCrew carried a base price of $38,385. To that was added the Equipment Group 501A package ($1,795) that includes Sync 3 infotainment, technology package and remote start; the LT A/T OWL tires ($175); sprayed-in bedliner ($495); tray style floor liner ($135); trailer tow package ($495); keyless key pad ($95 a Ford original and handy); Sport appearance package ($895); the FX4 Off-Road package w/locking rear ($1,295) and a delivery of $1,195. That took the bottom line to $44,960. This puts it in close range of a lower trim F-150 full-size.
For those who don’t need a full-size pickup, Ranger deserves a look at a revised and improved former top-seller.
Introduced in 2018, Toyota’s C-HR (which stands for Coupe High-Rider) subcompact crossover, slots in under their top selling RAV4 SUV. It goes up against Honda’s HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Kia Soul and a few others, but mainly the HR-V.
This 2019 model front-driver has edgy, muscular styling lines that give a sexy exterior appearance. One might even say it forces a smile because of its eclectic looks. In fact, with its sloping roof, tapered rear door design and high-mounted horizontal rear door handles, the four-door takes on the look of a racy coupe. But it has one drawback. C-HR, unfortunately, is only available in FWD not AWD that is essential here in the Snowbelt.
Appearance aside, C-HR has a roomy interior, exceptional handling, is loaded with standard safety features and is fairly economical to run. It’s offered in LE (new), XLE and Limited (that replaced the former XLE Premium) trim levels. We tested the top-line Limited that’s been enhanced with Apple CarPlay, optional factory navigation system and leather seating.
All trim levels come standard with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder that produces 144-hp and 139 lb/ft of torque. The inline four sends power to the wheels via a CVT transmission that garners EPA mileage estimates of 27 city, 31-highway mpg. So powered, the little four has linear acceleration from a standing stop and when merging onto rush hour freeway traffic. Under half and full throttle, the engine is on the noisy side. Performance increases and exhaust tone differs a bit when selecting Sport mode (from Eco) that essentially makes the CVT feel somewhat like a traditional automatic trans.
It could, however, be more energetic if the 2.0L was fitted with a turbo, especially when considering its 3,300-pound curb weight. Once underway though, there’s sufficient grunt for passing power and uphill jaunts with two aboard.
Handing wise and with its short 171.2-inch length, C-HR is nimble and easy to park with its 17.1 foot turning diameter. Toss it in sharp turns and it exhibits sporty traits. Its ride on 18-inch Dunlop tires is smooth and relatively quiet. It resembles a compact rather than a subcompact car.
Slipping into the cockpit, you’re treated to a fashionable interior sporting supportive front seats and glossy plastic trim that doesn’t look cheap or cheesy. An 8-inch (new) touchscreen with voice control looks like an iPad as it protrudes from the top of the vertical stack. It displays standard audio while aha, iHeart radio and more comes through Toyota’s limited Entune optional infotainment system. New too is that the rearview camera displays on it and is much better than the 2018s that displayed in a part of the rearview mirror.
HVAC controls are easy to use with flush buttons and digital temperature settings. A smaller 4.2-inch display between the gauges serves a myriad of driver information.
A low 17-inch step-in into the two rider back seat finds tight head and leg room, the latter more so if the front seats are racked well rearward. Tall riders need to do a head duck when entering/exiting the C-HR as the sloping roof and curved door tops mandate this.
Back in the trunk or cargo area, there’s 19 cubic feet of space or 36.4 when flipping the 60/40 rear seatbacks. Perhaps more meaningful, and with the rear seats upright, the trunk area measures 30 inches deep, 39 wide and 28 high. Flip the seats and depth extends to 62.5 inches for a full five feet. As such, cargo room is fairly spacious for a small car. Beneath the cargo floor is a space saver tire that is surrounded by foam bins wherein small items can be stowed.
Another nice feature is the doors will lock/unlock when approaching close to the car with the keyfob on you. The outside mirrors also automatically fold in/out at the same time.
To get all the desired bells, whistles and safety gear, buyers have to opt for the Limited trim model. The standard list, however, is long. It includes Toyota’s Safety Sense pre collision system with pedestrian alert, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring and more.
On the options side, Entune infotainment with the factory navigation, HD radio, Wi-Fi hotspot and more adds $1,040 to the base price of $26,000. To that add $500 for two-tone paint (black roof), paint protection film $395, all-weather floor mats ($149) and the bottom line reflects $29,129. Not bad, but consider that some of the competition offers AWD for the same price.
To its credit, C-HR received a top five-star government frontal crash rating, four for rollover and a “good” rating from the IIHS.
C-HR is fun to drive and is a real eye-grabber. It just needs AWD.
Chevrolet’s hot-selling Colorado midsize pickup went one up on the competition when they debuted their Colorado Bison ZR2 4WD pickup. This brawny pickup is not your ordinary midsize in that it’s intended for serious off-roads - if that’s your need to traverse or place to play. It differs from the standard Colorado as it comes with front and rear locking differentials for added traction that adds to its already capable 4WD off-road chops.
But that’s not all. Chevy partnered with aftermarket 4x4 builder American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) based in Missoula, Montana, who designed and built five hot-stamped boron skid plates to protect the oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case and front/rear differentials. They add the ultimate protection with less weight than steel or aluminum, and are less prone to gouging according to Chevy.
The Bison also differs from the regular Colorado in that it’s 3.5 inches wider and stands two inches taller shod with Goodyear Wrangler knobby and wide 265/65R17 (31-inch high) tires for 8.9 inches of higher ground clearance. Its suspension too is enhanced with Multimatic Dynamic shocks for greater wheel travel and Bison sports larger wheel flares. Plus, it’s jazzed up with AEV exterior badging, floor mats and embossed headrests.
Bison is offered in Extended Cab with 6’2” box and Crew Cab that we tested with a 5’2” box.
As for powertrains, two are available. Tested was the 3.6-liter V6 with 308-hp and 275 lb/ft of torque, and a 2.8-liter I-4 diesel with 186-hp and a whopping 369 lb/ft of torque. The 3.6L comes standard with an 8-speed automatic transmission while the 2.8L diesel gets a 6-speed auto.
With the 3.6L, it was independently tested at 7.0 seconds for 0-60, which isn’t too shabby for a pickup with a curb weight of 4,745 pounds and a GVWR of 6,000 pounds. The combination of engine and trans carries an EPA estimated 16 city, 18-highway mpg fuel economy rating. Far from miserly, but consider what it does, where it can go and tow (5,000 lbs.) What’s nice about it, and despite its’ off-road capability, it’s a comfy daily driver, albeit with a bit of tire hum with its large, deep treaded tires.
Incidentally, for you serious off-roaders, an OEM snorkel, for dusty roads and deep water, can be attached, but Chevy may be offering one as well.
Those traits, along with a stiffer suspension gives Bison a taut, but controllable ride with positive handling.
Bison’s interior is upscale with leather, heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel and an 8-inch touchscreen with a host of apps including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto that serves the rearview camera, satellite radio and has 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity. And, a convenient wireless smartphone charger is situated in front of the console box. The touchscreen also serves the Hitch Guidance System that helps the driver align the receiver hitch to a trailer.
Like Chevy’s full-size Silverado 4WD pickups, Bison’s 4WD system consists of 2H, Auto, 4H and 4L gearing. The Auto mode is especially nice on rainy days or when light snow covers the roadways.
As we tested the Crew Cab, step-in was 25 inches or 20.5 to the rock rails on either side. The rear seatbacks flip down on the bottoms for flat storage and they split and fold up against the bulkhead exposing a handy full-width bin for small items and a larger inside storage area.
On Bison’s exterior, the front bumper is winch-ready and attaches to tubular wrap-around bumpers to protect the trucks’ sides and bumpers when negotiating tight, brushy and rocky trails. Chevy also included a tailgate that can be locked/unlocked via the key fob.
With an extremely long list of standard convenience items and safety items that includes a trailer brake controller, Bison’s base price comes in at $42,900. Add to that the ZR2 Bison Package ($5,750) and delivery ($1,095) and the bottom line reflected $46,745.
Colorado ZR2 Bison comes with a 3 year/36K mile bumper-bumper warranty and 5/60K powertrain coverage. Plus, the first oil change, tire rotation and multi-point inspection is included.
If you’re into off-roading be it for rock hopping, outback camping, fishing or hunting, but also need a sensible daily driver, check out Chevy’s Bison. It’s one especially capable and striking hauler.
Mazda has been turning out some exciting crossovers and sedans, all of which have athletic handling, hushed ride and impressive fuel economy, all at reasonable prices. And their 2019 Mazda3 compact sedan in hatchback version, was no exception.
While todays car buyers are favoring crossovers, SUVs and trucks, sedans still have a place and will continue to, especially when equipped with AWD.
The Mazda3 has undergone refinements and upgrades including a torsion beam suspension instead of a multilink. And most significantly, the Mazda3 can now be had with AWD. A real plus for any sedan.
New too is a standard infotainment system with 8.8-inch display that melds nicely within the dash top.
Offered in Base, Preferred and Premium, we were privileged to test the Premium FWD hatchback that came with leather seating and associated trim.
Mazda3 has an upscale cabin with a wireless phone charging pad that’s embedded in the console box, supportive and comfy seats and the huge display that is controlled by a rotary controller on the console.
The infotainment system provides Mazda Connect with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satellite radio with Travel Link that gives weather forecasts, weather map, local fuel prices, sports scores and other apps. It’s not wise though to use the system while driving as it requires eyes-off-the-road for the various selections. HVAC controls are easy to view and operate.
Back seat comfort is good, but only for two adults as a high driveline center hump doesn’t allow comfortable leg room. But three youngsters can be accommodated. And because of a sloping roofline, tall folks need a head duck during ingress/egress.
The cargo area with the rear seatbacks upright is rated at 13.2 cubic feet. Perhaps more meaningful, it measures 33 inches deep, 39 wide and 29 high. Flip the rear seatbacks and cargo depth increases to 63 inches, enough for two medium size golf bags or two large rollie bags and a couple small duffel’s. Beneath the cargo floor is a space saver tire where some small items can be stowed around it and out of sight.
Power wise, Mazda3 gets it’s zoom from a 2.5-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder that puts out a matching 186-hp and 186 lb/ft of torque. While a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission is offered, the test car came with the 6-speed manual. It would seem only true car driving enthusiasts would opt for this. Combined with a light pressure clutch and a smooth shifter, the result is exhilarating acceleration from a standing stop and when passing. EPA gave the combination fuel economy estimates of 25 city, 35-highway mpg with start/stop fuel saving technology. Fairly impressive numbers for a 3,022-pound hatchback.
As for ride and handling, the new suspension gives a stout but not uncomfortable ride on 18-inch tires. And it parks easily with a tight 37.50-foot turning radius. Handling is exceptional and quite sporty, more so than others in its class. The suspension is compliant and well-controlled in sharp turns. It exudes confident traits with most road imperfections and tar strips being nicely absorbed.
Mazda3 comes standard with an exceptionally long list of standard items and safety features that includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, smart brake support, driver attention alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, radar cruise control, rain sensing wipers and many more. The only extra cost options were for a cargo mat ($90); illuminated door sills ($425); snowflake white paint ($200); frameless auto dim mirror ($275); navigation on SD card ($450); and wireless charging pad ($275). The sunroof, HUD windshield display and more are included in the Premium Package.
For all this, the base price started at an affordable $27,500 and bumped up to $30,135 with delivery.
Mazda3 comes with a 60 month/60K powertrain, 36 month/36K bumper-bumper and 24-hour roadside assistance coverage. And lest we forget, Mazda3 received IIHS's top safety crash scores.
If you’re in the market for a sedan or hatchback, Mazda3 deserves serious consideration.
Redesigned for 2019, Toyota’s fifth generation RAV4 is the top selling small AWD SUV in the country.
Aside from its stylish yet macho looks, the RAV offers a new engine with 27 more horsepower, is 1.2 inches longer, yet has a lighter curb weight for improved fuel economy. It also provides the latest in safety technology and infotainment niceties.
Offered in LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure and Limited, we were privileged to test the Adventure that sports a slightly more rugged, off-road look with its flared fenders, 1.9-inch higher undercarriage clearance and 19-inch tires, compared to the other trim versions.
We fell in love with the Adventure for many reasons, but mainly its eye-catching paint job. It came adorned with a Lunar Rock body color and white roof paint scheme. A greyish color that is so appropriate for a capable off-roader.
But RAV’s stylish looks is not only on its exterior, but Adventures’ interior is equally as eclectic. With light grey and white trim with orange accents together with supportive and comfy perforated leather seats that carry the orange stitching theme, they really set off the cockpit giving it a bright and sexy appearance. It’s truly an adventure when slipping behind the steering wheel.
With an iPad type, 8-inch touchscreen that perches atop the dash, it has a split-screen capability and serves the usual compliment of rearview camera, App-Connect with Apple CarPlay, Entune infotainment, JBL audio, and current/3/6/12-day forecasts, plus a weather map.
Below it are easy to operate HVAC controls and a bin beneath them resides a convenient wireless smartphone charger.
RAV4 Adventure has a special AWD system that can send torque to either front, rear, left or right wheels. It has four modes of Mud/Sand, Rock/Dirt, Snow and Downhill. When selecting any of these modes, a pictorial displays within the speedometer that also serves as a driver information display. The only gear missing is a Lock gear that is handy when getting stuck in deep snow or mud. There are also three driving modes of Eco, Normal and Sport, the latter livens performance somewhat.
This brings us to the powertrain. RAV has but one. A 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder that puts out 203-hp and 183 lb/ft of torque. It couples to an 8-speed automatic transmission that earned EPA mileage estimates of 25 city, 33-highway mpg. Most of RAV’s competitors employ a CVT to attain similar mileage estimates. But thankfully Toyota maintained a traditional trans that helps the RAV to tow an impressive 3,500 pounds. Only thing missing are paddle shifters to downshift when traversing downhill’s, instead of riding the brakes.
So powered, RAV exudes a linear application of power. Under half and full throttle, the engine is a bit on the noisy side. But on highways, RAV offers an exceptionally quiet ride. We did notice the accelerator pedal is touchy and requires acclimating to its sensitivity for smoother starts from a dead stop.
Handling wise, RAV4 is balanced with nary any body lean in sharp turns. Its suspension nicely absorbs most road imperfections and only major bumps and protruding tar strips reverberate into the cabin. Otherwise it rides smoothly on Toyo 19-inch tires. RAV parks easily as well, with a tight 37.5 turning radius. It’s nimble and fun to drive.
For back seat riders, a comfortable 19-inch step-in allows an easy slip-in thanks to wide opening doors. RAVs back seat is exceptionally comfy for two adults or three tweens. All are treated to decent leg room and spacious headroom.
Back in the cargo area, where the liftgate can be opened by a wave of the foot beneath the rear bumper, it has a low 27.5-inch liftover. Within it, there’s a generous amount of cargo space, the largest in its class. It offers 37.5 cubic feet with the rear seats upright, which translates into it being 40 inches deep, 44 wide and 32 high. Flip the seatbacks and cargo depth expands to 70 inches, almost a full six feet. Beneath the cargo floor a few small items can be stowed around the spare tire and out of sight.
Standard on the Adventure model is Toyota’s Sense Suite 2.0 that contains pre-collision with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist and more.
The Adventure started at a base price of $32,900 but escalated with a few much desired options that included: Adventure Grade Weather Package ($1,185) with heated seats/steering wheel, rain sensing and de-icing wipers; power moonroof ($850); Adventure Technology Package ($1,265) with rear cross traffic braking, wireless phone charger, digital display rearview mirror and more; Entune Infotainment System ($1,620) with satellite radio, JBL audio, 8-inch touchscreen (a 7-inch is standard) with voice recognition and many more. The two-tone paint job (white roof) adds $500 and cargo/floor mats tack on $269 along with delivery ($1,045) takes the bottom line to $39,634.
It’s a premium price for a premium crossover that is probably the best RAV4 to date. And its sales numbers reflect it. I want one.
Kia hit it out of the park with their 2020 Telluride three-row midsize SUV. It’s spacious and stylish with gobs of interior space.
Offered in FWD and AWD, and in LX, S, EX and SX, we were privileged to test the latter with AWD.
Telluride’s exterior has a bold, brash and macho look with its stacked headlight assemblies that wrap around the fenders and running lights that set them off in a halo glow effect. This is all set off with brushed aluminum trim. Even the upside down “L” shaped LED taillights are enhanced with an aluminum roll pan for a rugged off-road capable look. With 178.2 cubic feet of interior volume, Telluride has an enormous amount of passenger/cargo space of most midsize SUV/crossovers.
As a newcomer on the scene, I’ve already seen several on the roads. Shortly after their debut, I encountered a lady with children at a local grocery chain who was loading groceries in the cargo area of a spanking new Telluride. This was an opportune time to pick her brain on her selection and why not a Kia Sorento or competitive SUV. She said with three children they needed the seating capacity with space left over for groceries and baby stroller. Plus, she liked the styling and its size gave her a safe feeling.
As for seating, Telluride can be outfitted with seating for seven with second row captain’s chairs or eight with a bench seat. The third row is mainly for children or short legged adults. Kia included a child/package notification warning if either remain in the back seat when exiting the vehicle. More carmakers are beginning to include this, but it’s disturbing that a parent can’t remember their beloved children are with them.
After a low 19-inch step-in, you’re treated to a fashionable cockpit with perforated, heated/cooled Nappa leather seats with the fronts offering good lateral and extended under thigh support. Your eyes will then go to the large 10-inch, split touchscreen that offers Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, rearview, front view and surround view camera, plus a host of other apps. When engaging the left turn signal, the area displays on the driver information screen between the gauge set.
With easy to operate HVAC controls, a massive console below houses a smartphone charger and a conventional shifter for the 8-speed automatic transmission. There’s five driving modes of Sport (for extra spunk), Smart, Eco, Normal and Snow, with the latter having AWD Lock for when the going gets tough (stuck). Some competitors don’t offer this valuable feature.
Insofar as off-roading is concerned, Telluride has 8-inches of undercarriage clearance to tackle mild off-roads and moderate snow depths.
Telluride’s optional heated/cooled second row seats offer substantial leg room and head room. Press a button on the side of the seats and they power forward for easy access to the third row seat. They can also power fold by pressing two buttons in the cargo area. Third row seats flip by pulling a two nylon straps.
Aside from a dual sunroof, tall side windows give Tellurides’ interior an airy, roomy feeling.
The spacious cargo area with the third row seats upright, provides 21 cubic feet of cargo room that measures 20 inches deep, 47 wide and 31.5 high. Flip them and there’s 46 cubic feet. Flip the second row and you’ll get 87.0 cubic feet for 82 inches of cargo loading depth. Beneath the cargo floor is a full width, 7.5-inch deep bin to stow small items out of sight. Liftover height is 30 inches or knee height for tall folks, plus a hands-free power liftgate.
Operationally, Telluride offers but one engine choice. A 3.8-liter V6 generates 291-hp and 262 lb/ft of torque. When coupled with the 8-speed auto trans, it earned EPA mileage estimates of 19 city, 24-highway mpg with a tow rating of 5,000 pounds. Not bad for 4,482-pound SUV that has good low and top end acceleration. Economy is helped somewhat by start/stop engine technology that is probably one of the best on the market in that it is literally indiscernible when re-starting the engine, or, shutting down.
This leads to a quiet all around ride with hushed tones in town and on interstates. And it rides smoothly on 20-inch Michelin all-season tires.
Handling wise, and despite its height and weight, there’s negligible body lean in sharp tight turns. Parking is relatively easy with a 19.4 curb-curb turning radius. It’s a big vehicle that doesn’t drive/handle big.
Safety wise, Telluride comes standard with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision avoidance, highway driving assist (semi-autonomous Level 2 driving) system, lane keeping assist and many more too numerous to list.
Carrying a base price of $43,490, this escalated to $47,310 with the SX Prestige Package ($2,000) that included another long list of niceties, carpeted floor mats ($210), carpeted cargo mat ($115), interior lighting ($450) and delivery ($1,045) that gives Telluride everything today’s car buyers desire.
Impressive as well, Telluride comes with a 10 year/100K mile powertrain warranty; 5/60K basic warranty; and 5/60K roadside assistance warranty.
Telluride can be everything to everybody who needs all-weather capability, spaciousness, sumptuous comfy interior, the latest in technology and a generous warranty. And, it has a cool name that depicts visions of the beautiful Colorado mountainsides.
Acura’s all-new RDX SUV/crossover has become almost as popular sales wise as its big brother the MDX. This third generation compact luxury SUV, that has loads of competition. But it has traits some of the others may lack. And that’s Acura parent Honda’s renowned reliability and value. In fact, try finding a used one on dealer lots.
RDX is offered in front or AWD and in base, Technology, A-Spec and Advance trim levels. We tested the latter top-tier SH-AWD (Super Handling) with its superior grip and handling characteristics and an impressive 8.2 inches of undercarriage clearance for relatively deep snow traction.
The major enhancement for the RDX is its new powertrain. A 2.0L, VTEC turbo 4-cylinder with 272-hp and 280 ft/lb of torque, replaces the former V6 that generated 279-hp and 252 lb/ft of torque. A minor horsepower drop but a significant torque increase. The turbo four sends power to the wheels via a new 10-speed automatic transmission that earns EPA mileage estimates of 21 city, 27-highway mpg with start/stop technology. So equipped, RDX carries a tow rating of 1,500 pounds, enough for a utility trailer or small boat.
The transmission differs from what most folks are used to. Acura’s 10-speed, with paddle shifters, uses push buttons for the Park position, a button marked “P” must be depressed, a D for drive and R for reverse. It takes some getting used to especially if you’re coming off a traditional steering column or console mounted shifter.
The higher torque presence is significant as there’s gobs of low end power with only a snippet of turbo lag. It has been independently 0-60 tested at 7.0 seconds, not too bad for an SUV with a curb weight of a hefty 4,019 pounds.
Performance wise, there’s certainly no want for power. And driver’s can gain more spunk as the RDX offers Sport and Sport Plus modes. There’s also Snow and Comfort modes that complete Acura’s four mode Integrated Dynamics System.
The new RDX has several new safety features one of which is their AcuraWatch Safety System that combines lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and road-departure mitigation that applies a visual alert, applies steering torque back into the lane and generates rapid vibrations in the steering wheel to stay between the road lines.
Another neat feature is Acura’s Walk Away Door Lock. It automatically locks the car as you walk away so there’s no question if the car was locked.
Aside from its sporty aggressive exterior, its interior is similarly styled with panoramic sunroof, heated perforated leather seats (the fronts are cooled as well), a 10.2-inch iPad-look display atop the dash that gives a multi-view of three different angles including a surround view. The touchpad is super-sensitive (a touchscreen would be better) and controls all display functions. HVAC controls are easy to use but a good read of the owners’ manual is still a necessity, as it should be.
There’s also a nifty compartment beneath the console to stow a ladies’ purse, winter gloves or other items.
Aside from a host of apps and satellite radio, Apple CarPlay is offered plus navigation, rearview camera and more.
Front seats are nicely supportive and soft. They hug the torso ever so nicely. Back in the rear seats, that have a low 19-inch step in, they’re sofa soft with ample head and decent leg room and can comfortably seat three adults with RDX’s flat floor.
In the cargo area, liftover is a convenient 29.5 inches that offers one of the largest areas in its class. With the rear seatbacks upright, there’s 29.5 cubic feet that measures 36 inches deep, 42.5 wide and 30.25 high. Flip the seatbacks and capacity increases to 58.9 cubic feet for 69 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor is a spacious 30x16 inch, 7.5-inch deep bin for stowing small and medium size items out of sight.
As for ride, shod with Continental 19-inch tires RDX rides quietly and smoothly and handles with confidence. Its suspension absorbs bumps and tar strips that doesn’t reverberate into the cabin. The SH-AWD keeps the SUV planted in sharp turns especially as it applies torque to achieve excellent balance. It also parks easily in tight spots (has a tight 38.9 inches turn radius).
In Comfort mode, steering feel is light and preferred on interstates. For more aggressive situations, Sport and Sport Plus tightens things up and maintains a taut and assuring feel. The only feature we’d like to see on the RDX is an AWD lock mode for when the going gets bogged in deep snow.
Since the RDX test car was not for sale, the sticker had no price. So with an extremely long list of standard features and functions, the Advance has been dealer listed for $46,495 but could depending upon other options, could slot in at around $50K. The only option showing on the Monroney was $400 for a premium exterior color.
The RDX also comes with a 6/60K powertrain warranty, 4/50K limited vehicle warranty. But that’s not all.
RDX received a top 5-star Overall Vehicle Score in government crash testing, and earned a Top Safety Pick from the Institute for Highway Safety plus a Good rating in crashworthiness tests. Motor Trend listed it as one of the safest luxury SUVs for 2019.