There are pickup trucks then there are super pickup trucks. And by that I don’t mean Super Duty type trucks. No, Ram has the distinction of having the only super half-ton pickup on the market.
Why is it super? Well, because it not only has the capability of a rugged bona fide 4WD off-road hauler and towing machine, but Ram powered it with their hot and potent 707-hp Hellcat supercharged HEMI V8 with 650 lb/ft of torque for a 0-60 acceleration time of a quick 4.5 seconds. Impressive for a 6,350-pound truck. That same engine also resides in Dodge’s Challenger and Charger muscle sedans and new Dodge Durango SUV.
The Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4 is hell on wheels. It’s exciting to drive, and does it ever grab eyes with its bold front end, functional hood air scoop, higher stance and wide oversize tires.
The best part comes when pressing the TRX’s keyless ignition on a cold morning. The engine/exhaust combination deliciously shocks the senses and even shook my house. And the whine of the supercharger when cranked up is music to a gear-heads’ ears. It offers head snapping acceleration and even has a launch control mode to increase its sure-footed quickness. So too are the 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission shifts. It’s doubtful a power shift with a manual transmission could be quicker. Shift points under hard acceleration are merely a tone change, and not felt. They’re that quick, and positive.
Of course, all this high-performance has its price. The powertrain garnered EPA mileage ratings of 10 city, 14-highway mpg. Now you didn’t really expect miserly mileage for all this exciting performance, did you?
But the powertrain isn’t the only difference the TRX possesses over regular 1500 Ram 4WD pickups. Ride height was jacked up two inches for 11.8 inches of ground clearance and has 13 inches of wheel travel over all fours enabling the TRX to climb over brush, rocks, through deep snow and mucky mud. It can also ford up to 32 inches of water. A true outdoorsman’s truck. Along with that it has 30.2 degrees of approach, 21.9 breakover and 23.5 departure angles all of which allow acute off-roading. And to protect the underbody during serious and nasty off-road jaunts, Ram TRX comes with five skid plates.
With this higher stance comes a higher step-in of 18 inches to the step rails or a giant step of 27 inches directly into the cabin. Once in you’re treated to all the comforts and technologies and then some of a luxury sedan including real carbon fiber trim. Ram’s huge 12.1-inch touchscreen that has a drag and drop feature, is an iPad of sorts with its array of operating information, controls plus Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity. It offers five outside views including overhead and hitch views. And below the screen is a wireless phone charger.
A flat-bottomed heated steering wheel with paddle shifters adds extra sportiness to the cockpit as do the front perforated heated/cooled leather bucket seats with sueded inserts that also adorn the console box top. Atop the box is an engraved metal emblem showing Vin number, engine description, horsepower and twin-screw supercharger boost.
Selectable via the touchscreen are Snow, Tow, Sport, Baja, Rock, Mud/Sand, Custom and Normal driving modes. This is in addition to Ram’s 4WD system of 4WD Auto, 4WD High, 4WD Low and Axle Lock, the latter adds extra traction by locking the rear wheels to get out of a stuck situation.
We especially liked the power adjustable pedals that accommodate short, medium and long-legged drivers.
A color driver information display nestles between the speedometer and tachometer that shows selected modes, features, functions and alerts. A full cockpit of the latest technology that combined with Ram’s capabilities garnered it Four Wheeler Magazine’s Four Wheeler of the Year and the third consecutive year for Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year honors.
Ram TRX’s heated/cooled seats can seat three adults with gobs of leg and headroom. They fold up against the bulkhead and expose a full-length bin beneath them to stow small items. But the really nifty bins are hidden under the floor mat at the outer edges of the rear floor. They’re 8 inches deep and can stow items like ammunition if you’re a hunter, camera gear or other smallish items.
Ram’s dampened/lightened tailgate, that has a tall 30-inch liftover, can be released via a dash switch, keyfob or gate handle. The cargo bed itself has four adjustable tie-downs and the test truck came with an optional spare tire secured atop it. One though is standard and is lodged beneath the bed. There’s also a rear bumper pull-out side step to assist ingress into the bed.
With heavy-duty shocks and 5-coil rear suspension, TRX rode surprisingly smooth and gripped the road with tenacity shod with huge 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires. It’s big, heavy so sharp turns exhibit virtually no body lean - but how could it with all this rock hopping stability.
Now all this extraordinary super truck comes with a super price. It carried a base price of $69,995 with an abbreviated list of standard features including full-speed collision warning, ParkView rear back up camera, front/rear performance shocks, Uconnect infotainment and many more safety systems. In reverse and when sensing an object or an accident is imminent, the brakes automatically employ. It’s a shocking when it happens and when it’s not expected which occurred while backing onto my driveway and the system sensed a snow pile five yards to the rear.
On the options side, and there are many and many not on the test truck. For example, the paint job adds $200, Customer Package 29Y ($1,095) includes a long amenity list; then there’s the Trailer Tow Group ($195); Advanced Safety Group ($995) is worthy as it includes pedestrian/cyclist emergency braking, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist); Bed Utility Group ($845); lower two-tone paint ($250); Carbon Fiber package ($1,295); TRX Level II Equipment Group ($7,920 is the most expensive that has a lengthy list of must-haves plus lots of nicety items); rear mounted tire carrier ($995 that unless you’re doing Baja, it’s not needed). Add delivery ($1,695) and the hot TRX takes you to $87,670. Yes, it’s a lot of money but the competition that have models breaking the $100K mark.
Have you heard the latest country song entitled “I love my truck?” It certainly applies to the TRX. It’s one awesome half-ton pickup and if you can swing it, get one before they’re all gone which happened to Dodge’s hot Hellcat-powered Durango AWD SUV. And Dodge is not making more.
This is one truck I hated to return to Ram as it has everything and then some.
Incidentally, Ram TRX comes with a 5 year/60K powertrain and 3/36K basic warranties.
In this its 5th generation, Chevrolet's 2021 Tahoe SUV has a new look, increased interior space and greater towing capacity
Chevrolet’s Tahoe has been a formidable full-size SUV long before most others entered the market. It’s the somewhat smaller version of its brother the Chevy Suburban, a voluminous people and cargo hauler. Both of which are the choice of transportation for the Secret Service and other federal agencies.
Tahoe satisfies the needs of those who want appreciable cargo room, a spacious interior and the power to tow sizable trailers and boats. And it’s appreciably new for 2021.
In this its fifth generation, Tahoe now sports a more bolder look, class-leading cargo space, an air suspension, magnetic ride control, upgraded technology/safety features, and a 10-inch touchscreen. It can be configured to accommodate up to nine passengers with a bench front and second row seats, although most folks will opt for the seven-seat configuration with captain’s chairs front and second row. And it can be had in LS, LT, RST, Z71, Premier and High-Country trim. We were privileged to test the Z71 Off-Road model.
The biggest news is that Tahoe now sports an independent rear suspension for an improved ride, plus an optional diesel engine.
Upon a 13.5-inch step-in into the cabin using the running boards, or 24 inches directly in, Tahoe’s interior would appear to be from a luxury sedan with comfy, nicely supportive heated/cooled front seats and the latest amenities. All controls are laid out in a pleasing agronomical array and HVAC controls are large and easy to use even with gloved hands. Below them is a large wireless cell phone charger pad that doubles as a small bin.
The first interior feature to catch your eyes is that there’s no console or column mounted transmission lever. In its place are vertically mounted R, N and D marked pull switches, while P (park) and Low gear are push switches. They may take a little getting used to, but they’re quick and convenient and make for a clean unobstructed appearance.
Tahoe’s 10.2-inch touchscreen with infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, GM’s OnStar, navigation, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity and rearview camera with a close-up view. Nifty too is the rearview camera mirror that turns the mirror into a wide-angle monitor.
On the left side of the dash are the 4WD switches and I like that Chevy has an Auto mode in addition to the 2WD, 4High, 4Low gearing. Below them is the optional Air Ride Adaptive Suspension rotary switch that raises/lowers the body providing an increase in ground clearance of from eight to 10 inches. The latter is helpful when going off-road, leveling a heavy load and towing a heavy trailer/hitch that puts weight on the rear end.
The gauge cluster has real temperature pressure gauges along with a driver information display that shows drive modes of Normal, Sport, Off-Road and Tow/Haul.
Heated second row seats are comfy and slide well forward for ingress/egress into the third-row seats that can actually accommodate two adults as legroom there has increased 10 inches since Tahoe’s length was increased by 6.8 inches. The backs of the front seats had optional video screens to keep the kids happy on long trips.
Tahoe has a remote opening tailgate window, a nicety that has seem to have disappeared on most SUVs. The feature comes in handy when carrying long items that can extend out through the window opening.
Back in the class leading cargo area, that has a 33-inch liftover, there’s 25.5 cubic feet with the third-row seats up measuring 21 inches deep, 48 wide and 33 high. Power fold the third and capacity increases to 72.6 cubic feet for 56 inches of loading depth. Fold the second row and there’s 122.9 cubic feet for 84 inches of depth. Both rows fold upon pushing four individual switches on the cargo wall. There’s also a two-inch deep bin beneath the cargo floor for small item storage.
With the new independent rear suspension, Tahoe rides even better than it did especially with the optional magnetic ride control. It’s an SUV that has riding characteristics similar to a sedan on Goodyear Wrangler 20-inch tires. And the ride is quiet, smooth and comforting on long trips.
Handling is impressive for a large SUV that has a 39.7 foot turning diameter. There’s a little body lean in sharp turns taken at too high a speed. But its 5,561-pound curb weigh maintains a planted stance. A limited-slip differential is standard and provides an extra traction on off-road, in mucky mud or deep snow.
Tahoe’s powerplants include the tested 5.3-liter V8 producing 355-hp and 383 lb/ft of torque; 6.2-liter V8 with 420-hp and 460 lb/ft of torque and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline six with 277-hp and 460 lb/ft of torque. The 5.3 with 10-speed automatic transmission earned EPA mileage estimates of 16 city, 20-highway mpg. So powered, it carries a tow rating of 7,700 pounds and a max payload of 1,746. The 5.3L in the test truck moved this 5,561-pound human/cargo hauler with ease and with power to spare.
To own this abundantly equipped and improved Tahoe, it’ll cost because a lot of the features are extra cost. Our Z71 bottom-lined at $68,940 after a base price of $59,200. Options drive up the price, unfortunately a lot of them are packed within two separate packages. For example, the Z71 package costs $5,735 and includes the air suspension, hitch guidance w/hitch view, enhanced cooling radiator, trailer brake controller, heated seats/wheel and an extremely long list of other goodies.
Then there’s the rear media and nav package ($2,400) that adds the infotainment screen, rear seat media system and more.
Its too bad buyers can’t pick and choose individual features rather than having them packed into one expensive package. Many safety features though are standard such as automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, following distance indication and more.
Tahoe comes with a 3 year/36K bumper-bumper, 5/60K powertrain, roadside assistance, first free maintenance visit and courtesy transportation.
If you need interior space, cargo room and towing capability, Tahoe may be for you.
Chevrolet's 2021 Silverado Crew Cab with diesel powertrain is a potent stump puller with exceptional trailering abilities
Chevrolets’ Silverado half-ton pickup offers several new additions and enhancements for 2021.
The first most significant is the Multi-Flex tailgate that first debuted on GMC Sierra pickups. Although the Silverado LTZ 4WD Crew Cab truck tested didn’t have it, we experienced it on a previous Sierra test truck that was reviewed in 2020. The tailgate offers six different positions with an easy, full-length step for a natural stride onto the truck bed.
The other major addition is Chevy’s Enhanced Trailering feature. It offers Trailer Length Indicator, Jack Knife Alert, Cargo Bed View enhancement, Rear Trailer View with guidelines and Trailer-Angle Indicator plus Rear Side View enhancement (a nifty feature that gives a split view of the trailers’ angle, of the left and right sides of the truck and compatible trailer, and does so in forward and reverse for better visibility. It’s available with several cameras, that show what’s behind a trailer, even what’s inside to check on cargo. There’s also an invisible-type view that see’s right through the trailer. Amazing technology.
Silverado LTZ is offered in Regular Cab, Double Cab and tested Crew Cab, along with short and long bed lengths, several trim packages plus a new off-road Trail Boss version. And they’re available with seven different powertrains.
Silverado can be powered by a choice of 2.7L Turbo I-4, 3.0L inline six Turbo Diesel, 4.3L V6, 5.3L V8, 5.3L V8 DPM, 6.2L V8 DPM.
Our LTZ trim test truck came with the impressive 3.0L Turbo Diesel that generates 277-hp and a stump pulling 460 lb/ft of torque, the same torque rating as the 6.2L V8. When coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission, the 3.0L garnered EPA mileage estimates of 22 city and 26-highway mpg with start/stop engine technology.
If you have towing needs (or attaching a snow plow), this potent diesel has a trailering capacity of 9,100 pounds with 4WD, and 9,500 pounds with 2WD. And despite the associated diesel rattle from the engine bay, Chevy deadened it ever so nicely inside the cabin.
And speaking of the cabin, a 20.5-inch step onto the step rails puts you into the luxury sedan-like interior. Perforated leather front seats are heated/cooled and sensibly supportive.
The gear shifter for the Silverado’s 10-speed automatic transmission is on the steering wheel column instead of console so the latter can make better use of other features such as a wireless phone charger.
Silverado’s’ vertical stack in nicely arranged with an 8-inch touchscreen for audio, voice recognition, apps, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, a rearview camera with four different views including an overhead 360 degree and trailer hitch view. That, plus HVAC controls are large and can be operated with gloved hands. But selections can also be made on the touchscreen.
4WD controls are push buttons for Auto, 2WD, 4-High and 4-Low. Above them is a trailer assist dial. Standard as well is an auto locking rear differential, good to have if getting stuck in mud or deep snow.
The back seat is heated and can easily accommodate three large adults as leg, head and shoulder room are graciously abundant. Flip up the seat bottoms and underneath there’s a full-length, 5-inch deep bin to stow items out of sight. There’s also a pair of nifty hidden compartments behind the outboard seat backs to hide small items.
The remote controlled (or manual) tailgate release lowers/raises the dampened and light gate. With it lowered, load height is 35 inches.
There are steps embedded into the outer corner edges of the rear bumper for stepping up to load, retrieve or secure items in the bed, instead of having to lower the gate.
Silverado LTZ diesel offers good ride quality on Goodyear Wrangler 20-inch tires. The independent suspension system, with coil over twin-tube shocks, provides taut handling with nary any body lean in sharp turns. Steering is a bit heavy but the weight of the diesel powerplant is understandable. The heavy vehicle carries a GVWR of 7,000 pounds.
The Silverado LTZ Crew Cab came standard with a host of important safety features that includes rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert with side blind alert, front and rear park assist and tire pressure monitoring. Included too was the trailering package with hitch guidance, trailer brake controller, advanced trailering system, satellite radio and much more.
On the extra cost side, the Technology Package ($2,070) adds the multiple-view camera system, head-up display and 8-inch touchscreen.
The Safety Package II ($1,095) includes forward collision alert, lane keep assist w/lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise, auto high beam and safety alert seat (drivers’ seat bottom buzzes when sensing an imminent accident).
Then there’s Silverado’s LTZ Convenience Package II ($1,070) providing a pair of 8-inch video screens behind the front seatbacks, voice recognition, the aforementioned apps, premium navigation, Bose audio and wireless charging.
The 3.0L diesel engine tacks on another $995 with the Z71 Off-Road Package ($850) adding the twin tube shocks, skid plates, hill descent control, HD air filter, Autotrac two-speed transfer case, all-terrain tires and more.
A spray-on bed liner fetches $545, Cherry Red Tintcoat another $495 with delivery taking the base price of $52,400 to $61,115. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but the nicely loaded Silverado diesel is a lot of truck. It received a four out of five-star overall government safety rating; four for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover.
This impressive half-ton is covered by a 3 year/36K bumper-bumper warranty; 5/100K powertrain including roadside assistance and courtesy transportation; and free first maintenance visit.
If trailering is in your needs, even utilizing a fifth wheel, the Silverado with the 3.0L diesel powertrain is likely unbeatable for price or fuel economy.
Mercedes; 2021 GLA250 4Matic SUV combines quality build, utility and comfort, all at a reasonable price
If you’ve always wanted a Mercedes Benz for their fine Germany quality and build, but they were a bit out of your budget, Benz has an answer.
Their revised second generation GLA 250 AWD SUV is a most affordable and attractive Benz. Plus, it combines, comfort, utility and all-weather traction abilities. It also exudes a sporty look and is very maneuverable as the model is about a half-inch shorter and 1.2 inches wider than the former GLA. It also boasts more headroom as the roof was lifted almost 4 inches, providing ample headroom for even tall folks.
The GLA 250 is offered in FWD and AWD (4Matic), the latter a necessity here in the Snowbelt. Mercedes’ 4Matic worked flawlessly in the recent snow storm we had during my weeklong test in this enjoyable SUV. However, with 5.3 inches of ground clearance, the GLA 250 is mainly suited for mild off-roads.
GLA 250’s interior is gorgeous. Dark grey heated/cooled nicely supportive leather front seats in the test car were accented with orange stitching and enhanced with soft sueded seat inserts.
What really catches the eyes is the twin 10.25-inch digital displays that appear as one long 24.5-inch display as it includes the gauge cluster. A nifty design Mercedes engineers were able to integrate. The display includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity among other apps, features and functions.
Then there’s the racy flat-bottomed steering wheel that adds even more sportiness in addition to faux carbon fiber trim on dash and doors. It’s an eclectic work of art.
Upon my first time slipping into the posh interior and pushing the keyless ignition button, I then hunted for the 8-speed automatic transmission’s gear shift. Wow, what a surprise. It’s contained in a stalk on the right side of the steering wheel where windshield wiper stalks would commonly be. In the 60s, that stalk would be for both manual and automatic transmission shifters, like the manual shift ’62 Plymouth in my high school driving-training car.
In place of a typical console mounted shifter, a controller takes its place that selects various display functions. It’s surrounded by auxiliary control switches, one of which offers driver selectable modes of Individual, Sport, Comfort and Eco. Selected modes display on the screen as does audio, rear and front view cameras, apps, infotainment and more, along with voice control. As such, an intense study of the owners’ manual is required for the many functions and amenities the GLA offers. Mercedes also included a wireless phone charger.
A mere 18-inch step-in into the rear seats offers a generous amount of headroom and appreciable legroom for two adults or three youngsters. A flat and low-profile transaxle hump allows a youngster space for their feet.
With the front seats upright, the 15.4 cubic foot cargo area measures 31 inches deep, 42 wide and 29.5 high. Flip the rear seatbacks and capacity expands to 50.5 cubic feet (formerly 43.6 in earlier models) that offers 61 inches of cargo loading depth. Lift over into the cargo area is a low 27 inches.
Shod with Dunlop 19-inch all-weather tires combined with a coil spring damping suspension provides a solid and comfy ride. Handling exudes a sporty feel that allows quick defensive driving maneuvers and it parks easily in a tight 38.8 foot turning radius.
Power wise, the CLA 250 had a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder nestled under the hood. It generates 221-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of an impressive 24 city, 33-highway mpg. Standing stop acceleration is robust while highway passing power is more linear. It’s been independently 0-60 timed at 6.6 seconds. The engine, like many 4-cylinder’s, is a bit noisy outside the car, but quiet when inside.
GLA is also offered in 35 and 45 model versions. The GLA 35 has a more potent engine offering 302-hp while the GLA 45’s AMG powerplant produces 382-hp.
The only qualms we had with the CLA 250 was it didn’t have an engine start/stop switch nor heated steering wheel.
Price wise and with a very long list of standard features, it carried a base price of $38,230. But options are pricey and included such niceties as multi-function leather covered steering wheel ($360); panoramic sunroof ($1,500); adjustable damping suspension ($990); Sirius radio ($460); heated front seats ($500); 64 color interior ambient lighting ($310); wireless phone charger ($200); USB adapter cable ($25); Multimedia Media package w/navigation ($1,295); Night package color scheme ($400); AMG body style package ($2,240); Premium package w/10.25-inch display, power folding outside mirrors, KEYLESS Go package ($1,750) plus delivery ($1,050), took the bottom line to $49,310. A number of the above features are standard in many SUVs, but are most likely embedded in the base price. If you can do without some of these goodies, the bottom line can be shaved somewhat.
Overall, the CLA 250 4Matic is an outstanding SUV in a highly competitive market. But it’s a Benz, so how could you go wrong?
Toyota’s 2021 Venza is an all newly designed midsize AWD crossover that is an attractive competitor in this segment.
You may recall that the original Venza, that was discontinued in 2015, resembled a station wagon. It was 189 inches long on a 109-inch wheelbase. The ’21 Venza, in comparison, is slightly shorter at 187 inches on a 106-inch wheelbase. This makes the new Venza more maneuverable with a sporty, suave look. It’s now slotted between Toyota’s larger, 3-row Highlander and the hot selling, two-row RAV4. In actuality, Venza combines the best of both SUVs.
Aside from its slightly smaller size, the 2021 Venza differs drastically from its 2015 model as that model had a V6 powertrain. The 2021 has a hybrid powertrain that combines a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine coupled to three electric motors for 219 combined net horsepower. Mated to a CVT transmission, Venza carries EPA mileage ratings of 40 city, 37-highway mpg. And the transition from electric to gasoline power and back is seamless and goes unnoticed.
This pairing gives instant acceleration and for a curb weight of 3,913-pounds, Venza has impressive performance for merging into high-speed traffic lanes and when passing 18-wheelers.
The system provides selectable EV, Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes. Sport mode gives livelier acceleration and changes steering feel for when driving on twisty, curvy roads. Eco provides moderate throttle characteristics plus controls operation of A/C and heating systems. EV mode runs on battery power for a limited number of miles and is used mainly in and around neighborhoods or developments. Normal offers a balance of fuel economy, quietness and sensible performance.
Venza’s AWD system is mainly FWD until more traction is needed and then AWD kicks in on slippery, snowy roads.
With a ground clearance of 7.8 inches, Venza is not really off-road capable, but merely suitable for modest snow depths. Subaru’s Outback and Jeep’s Cherokee, for example, offer 0.9 more, for 8.7 inches.
Venza is offered in LE, XLE and Limited we were privileged to test.
Venza has a sporty and attractive interior with a two-tier dash along with heated/cooled and perforated Soft-Tex front seats that are nicely bolstered and comfy.
Venza’s vertical stack resembles an archway that leads the eyes to the 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen on the Limited model. It offers a tri-view showing climate, audio and navigation, or, individual functions. Of particular note is that the rearview camera has a 360-degree birds-eye view with curb view, frontal view plus a rotating perimeter scan around the Venza that’s really nifty. Kids and grown-ups alike will certainly enjoy watching this feature (the wonders of technology). It also serves a host of niceties like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity and more.
HVAC controls are touch sensitive on a flat dash panel. They’re easy to view and use and selections can also be displayed on the touchscreen.
Below them is a thoughtful wireless phone charger and in front, the robust CVT automatic transmission shifter.
The hooded gauge cluster includes a 7-inch driver information display for operating functions, alerts and a host of other informative features. In place of a tachometer, Venza has a hybrid gauge showing Chg, Eco and Pwr settings. It’s intended as an aid to drive economically, if keeping the needle in Eco range.
Upon a low 19-inch step-in into comfy the rear seats that can accommodate two adults or three youngsters, leg room is spacious provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. And with a low transaxle hump, middle seated kids have decent leg room.
Back in the cargo area, that has a 32-inch liftover, there’s 28.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seatbacks upright. The area measures 39 inches deep, 41 wide and 28 high. Flip the seatbacks and space expands to 54.9 cubic feet for 69 inches of cargo loading depth.
The cargo underfloor holds the spare tire around which and within it, some small items can be stowed.
Toyota offers an optional Star Gaze fixed panoramic glass roof ($1,400) in lieu of a sunroof and was installed on our test car.
Venza came standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 pre-collision safety system that includes pedestrian detection, lane departure alert w/steering assist, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control and road sign assist.
Included as well was Toyota’s Star Safety System that adds enhanced stability control, brake assist and Smart Stop technology among several traction and safety systems.
Aside from the Star Gaze roof, the only option on the test car was for the Advanced Technology Package ($725) that included a heads-up-display, hybrid system indicators and rain sensing wipers plus digital rearview mirror. Those niceties took the base price of $39,800 to $43,100 with delivery.
To its credit, Venza received a full five stars in the government’s overall safety ratings; four for driver frontal crash, five for passenger; five each for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover.
Venza is covered by a 3 year/36K comprehensive warranty; 5/60K powertrain; 10/150K hybrid battery; 8/100K hybrid system; 5/unlimited corrosion protection and 2/25K complimentary maintenance plan with purchase or lease; plus 24/7 roadside assistance.
Venza certainly deserves consideration if you’re torn between a RAV4 or Highlander. It’s a compelling compromise with a lot of Lexus attributes.
Leave it to Audi to make SUV’s that satisfy a number of desirable features, functions along with solid German build. Audi’s Quattro (AWD) SUV line-up in particular includes the Q3, Q5, Q7 and Q8, the latter is the top, most luxurious trim model.
We were privileged to test the next to the top Q7, a three-row, seven passenger SUV that is loaded with the ultimate in high-tech features including an eye-grabbing Virtual Cockpit with high-resolution twin digital displays and digital gauge cluster. But that’s not all. How about an Adaptive Air Suspension and all wheel steering to go along with the Quattro AWD. To say the Q7 was fully loaded, is an understatement.
Q7 is offered in five variations. The Q7 45 TSFI Premium and premium Plus come standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder with 248-hp and 273 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 19/25 mpg when coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The Q7 55 TSFI is offered in trim levels of Premium, Premium Plus and tested Prestige. The latter is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 generating 335-hp and 369 lb/ft of torque through an 8-speed auto trans with start/stop engine technology.
Upon slipping into the Q7’s luxurious cockpit, your eyes immediately go to the pair of large digital displays on the vertical stack. An upper 10.1-inch touchscreen offers hand writing and voice recognition that serves a myriad of tasks including Bose audio, rearview/sideview/360 view cameras, 4G LTE Wi-Fi through connect PRIME connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto plus Google Earth 3D navigation and many more. Not on the touchscreen is a Heads-Up-Display showing speed and posted speed limits.
Below it is an 8.6-inch touchscreen for HVAC controls. The touch images are large and easy to use. Our only gripe here is that to turn on the heated steering wheel you have to first select Home, Vehicle and Climate icons, then the heated seat icon. A pressure switch on the steering wheel would be easier and quicker.
A wireless phone charger is embedded within the console box however, it doesn’t allow appreciable small item storage.
Q7s’ console houses a stubby transmission shifter with a “P” switch for park. That could take some getting used to especially if coming off a traditional console mounted shifter that gets pushed fully ahead for Park gear. Included too are paddle shifters.
There are selectable driving modes of Offroad, Allroad, Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic through Audi’s drive select system.
Leather front seats are heated/cooled (they get hot quickly) and are sumptuously padded with sensible lateral support. They complement the tri-zone automatic climate control.
The digital gauge cluster is amazing. Audi managed to combine a host of features, functions, warnings and alerts (including a vehicle exit warning of oncoming traffic) plus the usual speedometer, tachometer and normal operating gauges within it.
A mere 18-inch step-in into the comfy heated second row seats allow a third passenger as the transaxle hump is relatively low and flat on top for a foot rest. They then flip fold forward to access the third row of seats that are mainly for youngsters. Both second and third row seatbacks power down and up via two sets of switches, one below the “B” pillar in back of the second row and a set in the cargo area.
With the third row upright, there’s 14.2 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 19 inches deep, 46 wide and 29.5 wide. Flip them and space increases to 35.7 cubic feet for 44.5 inches of depth. Fold all two rows and cargo space expands to 69.6 cubic feet for 76 inches of loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor is a bin that houses the Bose amplifier and a tire inflator pump with no extra space for small item storage.
With the Adaptive Air Suspension, ride height can be raised 2.4 inches for mild off-roading or deep snow, or lowered an inch for more aerodynamic highway driving.
And speaking of driving, shod with tall 21-inch all-season Continental run-flat tires that put down a 9.5-inch wide footprint for sure-footing in snow and inclement weather, Q7 rode ever so quietly, smoothly and felt more like a full-size rather than a midsize SUV. It handled superbly and exhibited no body lean in sharp turns taken at speed. Turn the steering wheel a mere inch either way and the nose pointed 10 degrees respectfully. With the all-wheel steering, parking is a breeze in the tightest parking places.
Power wise, the 3.0L V6 in the Q7 exhibited robust power and torque that felt more like a V8 under the hood despite its 5,071-pound curb weight. Coupled to the 8-speed auto transmission, Audi says this beautiful boat can do 0-60 in a respectable 5.7 seconds. And with start/stop engine technology, Q7 earned EPA mileage ratings of 17 city and 21-highway mpg.
Q7 received a full five stars for the governments front/rear seat side crash ratings and four for rollover.
With an extremely long list of standard features and safety items plus a panoramic sunroof, the Prestige Package ($10,400) included 14 items the most significant air suspension and multi-view camera systems, power soft closing doors and more.
Other options included: Black Optic package ($1,750); Orca Black metallic paint ($595); cold weather package (750); towing package ($750) plus delivery ($995), took the base price of $60,800 to $76,040. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but it’s a lot of AWD SUV.
While the midsize SUV market is vast, the Audi Q7 is an exception that goes above and beyond the competition.
Q7 comes with a 4 year/50K mile limited warranty; 12-year corrosion protection and 4 years of roadside assistance coverage.
Mazda's 2021 CX-5 AWD compact crossover combines utility with sporty handling while boasting top safety scores
It’s been Car & Driver Magazine’s 10Best cars again in 2020, and has been for the fourth year in a row. It also had its best sales month in December with almost 18,000 sold. What we’re talking about is Mazda’s CX-5 AWD compact crossover.
The CX-5 is midway in Mazda’s line of fine crossovers that includes the smallest CX-30, CX-3 then CX-5 followed by the larger CX-7 and largest CX-9. All attractive five doors.
Mazda’s CX-5 combines spirited performance, sporty handling with the utility of an SUV. It’s offered in base Sport, CX-5 Touring, Touring Preferred SV, Grand Touring, Signature (that we tested) and new for ’21, Carbon Edition that has special color schemes inside and out.
As the top-shelf model, our Signature came standard with Nappa leather trimmed heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, moonroof, 10.25-inch display plus a very long list of safety features that includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and Smart City Brake Support that senses an imminent accident and sounds an alarm. If the driver doesn’t react, the system will automatically apply the brakes and will do so up to 50 mph. And it includes pedestrian detection as well.
As for the display, it gets most of its commands from a console mounted rotary controller. Offered as well is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto plus Travel Link with embedded weather map/forecast, sports scores and fuel prices, navigation, rearview camera with 360 birds’ eye, frontal, close-up, wide angle and side views, plus, Bose audio with satellite radio. All-encompassing amenities.
CX-5’s interior is classy and comfy. All operating controls, including HVAC, are easy to view and simple to use.
Surprised though that Mazda didn’t use the large bin on the forward portion of the console for a wireless phone charger. But they did include hardwire phone receptacles.
A toggle switch on the console selects Normal and Sport modes, with the latter increasing rpm shift points on the 6-speed automatic transmission for more spirited acceleration and overall performance. Mazda is to be applauded here for not using a CVT trans in this dandy compact crossover.
The gauge cluster features a large speedometer with embedded driver information display for alerts and various operating functions. Included too is a Head-Up-Display on the windshield showing vehicle speed, posted speed limits and stop signs/signals.
After a mere 18.5-inch step-in into the cockpit, you’re treated to heated/cooled perforated leather seats that are comfy soft with sensible lateral support. Back seats are equally as comfy however leg room is adequate for two adults and that’s provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. Head room is ample with assist handles over all four doors.
CX-5’s cargo area has a low 25-inch lift over for easy loading and is rated at 30.9 cubic feet that measures 37.5 inches deep, 44 wide and 31 high. Pull two tabs on the cargo wall and the 40/20/40 split seats flip forward to expand cargo capacity to 59.6 cubic feet for 66 inches of cargo loading depth. Beneath the cargo floor is a space spare tire, car jack and tools, but little room to stow small items.
CX-5 gets its spunk from a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that generates 227-hp and an impressive 310 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to the quick shifting 6-speed automatic trans, the combination garnered EPA mileage ratings of 22 city, 27-highway mpg. As said, Sport mode livens performance even more.
With Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus, the system performs torque reductions along with brake pressure that maintains enhanced cornering ability similar to a sports car. Unlike many competitive crossovers, the CX-5 can he tossed in the turns and remains planted. And with its responsive electric power steering, CX-5 parks easily within a small footprint.
Mazda’s i-Activ AWD combined with off-road assist, provides added traction in nominal snow depths. Because of a low undercarriage clearance, CX-5 is suited mainly for mild off-roads.
Shod with Toyo 19-inch tires, CX-5 rides like a much larger crossover. It’s smooth and exceptionally quiet.
CX-5 comes with all of the aforementioned safety features plus tire pressure monitoring and stop-go radar cruise control.
With an extremely long list of standard features, the CX-5 Signature carried a base price of $37,408 with the only options being metallic gray paint ($495) and bumper guard ($125) plus delivery, that took the bottom line to $39,125.
To its credit, CX-5 was awarded a full five-star government overall safety rating; five for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover. All impressive safety scores for an exceptional crossover.
Like all Mazda crossovers, CX-5 comes with a 60 month/60K mileage powertrain and 36/36K bumper-bumper warranties plus 24-hour roadside assistance.
With the exception of not having a wireless phone charger, our only gripe is with the keyfob that has door and hatch switches on it edge, not on the face. It requires some finger manipulating to find the correct side, especially in the dark. Most new cars have the switches on the face of the fob. Otherwise, CX-5 is one compelling crossover.
Lexus, a top luxury brand for quality and customer satisfaction, entered the subcompact luxury hybrid crossover market with their UX 250h hybrid. Its main selling points are its impressive fuel economy, top safety ratings, eye-grabbing design and upscale interior along with the latest technological features.
UX 250h is offered in base, F Sport and Luxury trim versions.
We were privileged to test the F Sport which as its name implies, has a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, partial AWD, sporty trim features and active noise control.
The UX 250h is situated within a crowded subcompact field, however, few are hybrid and considered luxury. The closest are Honda’s CR-V Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid, but both are larger vehicles and can’t be fairly compared.
Like all Lexus vehicles, UX’s interior is exceptionally classy with a 10.3-inch multimedia display, supportive, comfy, perforated leather seats. The console houses the CVT transmission shifter that is flanked by a track pad that has double tap, pinch and flicking operation. But it’s distracting and not really safe to use while driving as it’s super sensitive that requires undivided attention for selections - which takes the eyes off the road. Seems a touchscreen or a rotary controller would be better and safer.
The bright and sharp 10.3-inch dash-top dual display serves a host of functions including climate and audio selections plus rearview camera, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Enform Suite apps with Wi-Fi connect capability and some voice control. All of which can be displayed simultaneously with entertainment selections that includes satellite radio.
The hybrid’s HVAC controls are keyboard type switches that are easy to view and use. And below them are push button switches for the heated/cooled seats and heated steering wheel.
Speaking of the heated/cooled front seats, they are supportive and sporty with contrasting stitching on all seams plus matching color inlays.
On the vertical stack and below the display is a wireless phone charger and get this, a CD player. Lexus is one of the few carmakers still offering one.
A single digital instrument gauge displays speed, transmission gear, driving modes of Eco, Charge and Power. Plus, it serves as a driver information display with a host of notices and alerts.
Attached to the gauge display is the drive mode selector switch that sprouts from the right side of the gauge display. The turret-type rotary switch offers selectable Sport, Normal and Eco driving modes. Eco controls the operation of the A/C and heating system and is the most economical driving mode. Sport livens performance somewhat as it maintains shift points a bit longer and UX’s steering becomes more sensitive for spirited driving. There’s also a separate EV switch that allows short drives on electric only.
One commendable safety feature is that the drivers’ seat bottom buzzes to alert the driver of an impending accident or obstruction. For example, when backing into something or approaching a vehicle in front at too high rate of speed and other situations.
Included too is Lexus’ Safety System 2.0 featuring pre-collision system w/pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing alert/lane departure with steering assist, intelligent high beam headlights (brightens/dims automatically) and road sign assist.
Another nice feature, particularly if it’s raining hard, is the doors unlock when approaching the car with the keyfob in a pocket or purse.
With its short wheelbase, UX’s back seat leg space is understandably tight, especially so if the fronts are racked well rearward. Ingress/egress though is easy thanks to wide opening rear doors and a low 16.25-inch step-in.
The cargo area is rated at 17.1 cubic feet that measures 30 inches deep, 40 wide and 22 high. With the hybrid battery stowed underneath, the cargo floor is higher than on a non-hybrid UX, and as such, has a bit less cubic feet. That also puts load height at an easy 30 inches. Flip the 60/40 rear seatbacks and cargo depth expands to 61 inches.
UX 250h Sport is powered by a 2.0-liter, inline 4-cylinder plus a 24-kW battery for a total of 181 horsepower. Coupled to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the combination gets impressive EPA mileage estimates of 41 city, 38-highway mpg. Acceleration from a standing stop and during highway passing maneuvers is linear. There’s only a slight increase in performance when selecting Sport mode. The UX 250h is not a speedster, just an economical and classy crossover.
Shod with Bridgestone 18-inch tires, the UX 250h is a quiet and smooth rider even with the sport suspension. Only major road imperfections resonate into the cabin. It handles nicely with nary any lean in sharp turns, is nimble and parks easily with a tight turning radius thanks to its compact size.
The UX 250h began life at $36,350. But escalated after adding the wireless charger ($75); windshield deicer ($100); F Sport Luxury Package ($2,890) that includes rain sensing wipers, heated/cooled sport seats, moonroof and more; head-up display ($500); navigation system w/10.3-inch display, dynamic voice display, 8-speaker premium audio, Lexus Enform, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and more; premium paint ($595); heated F Sport steering wheel w/paddle shifters ($150); carpeted cargo mat ($110); key gloves ($25); 3M paint protection film ($430) and delivery ($1,025), took the bottom line to $44,450. If you can live without some of these niceties, this price can be shaved somewhat.
To its credit, the UX 250h received the government’s top five-star overall safety rating; four each for driver/passenger frontal crash; five each for front/rear seat side crash and four for rollover. All impressive safety scores for a compelling and classy compact crossover.
With only a few sunny, warm, fall days ahead, this would be a great time to wash and wax your car, crossover, SUV, van or truck.
Sure you can take your vehicle to a detailer and pay a couple hundred bucks. But doing it yourself it gets you more intimate with your investment and an opportunity to discover any nicks, dents or paint chips from stones that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Car detailing may seem like a simple task that anyone with the right tools can do. However, this DIY job is more than just scrubbing and buffing products onto your ride. Did you know there’s actually a proper way of cleaning and polishing your priced possession? In fact, if you don’t do this task correctly, you may end up damaging your vehicle’s paint. To help you take care of your vehicle without incurring any costly damage, the folks at Mothers, the popular vehicle detailing products company, offers these most common car detailing mistakes that should be avoided. They are as follows:
1. Using too much wax.
Applying too much wax on your car won’t make it shine like a diamond. The excess wax will only be wiped off once you start buffing your vehicle’s surface, so save yourself time, effort, and money by skipping this useless detailing habit. Two rounds of thorough waxing are usually enough to bring back the your ride’s luster.
2. Removing stuck dirt using dry cloth.
Forgot to clean a spot of dirt over your vehicle’s surface? Don’t make the mistake of scrubbing it off using a dry cloth! Doing this only rubs dirt onto the paint and causes its surface to get scratched.
3. Applying products right on the car’s surface.
Pouring wax, polishing compound, or other liquid chemicals directly on your car’s surface not only prevents you from controlling the amount of product that you’ll use but also causes uneven streaks on the paint. Put a sufficient amount of product on a sponge or a soft towel instead.
4. Washing the wheels last.
The wheels and tires are the dirtiest parts of your vehicle. You may end up splattering dirt and mud on the clean body panels of your ride if you wash the wheels last.
5. Using the wrong type of cleaning agent.
Dishwashing liquids and laundry detergents are some of the most common alternative to car shampoo. They’re definitely effective when it comes to getting rid of dirt and grime. However, you have to keep in mind that these products contain harsh chemicals that can remove the wax and sealer on your vehicle’s surface, leaving its paint vulnerable to harsh elements.
In case you haven’t kept up with the latest and hottest detailing products, the newest comes from Mothers and their CMX Ceramic Spray Coating. This coating is an affordable, user-friendly, ultra-durable super-hydrophobic protection formula, says Mothers. Merely spray it on a cloth or applicator and apply it to your vehicle’s surface, then wipe it off. It’s a Silicon Dioxide and Titanium Dioxide blend that provides long-term protection from the elements and provides relentless water beading. The blend offers ceramic glass-like liquidy-glossy appearance. And it, says Mothers, can be used as a stand-alone product or as a booster over your existing sealant or ceramic coating.
I bought a spray bottle of Mothers CMX Ceramic Spray Coating at a local auto parts store and after washing my wife’s car and my truck, applied it as recommended. It provided a deep glossy shine that heightened the color and finish.
So, before the snow flies, now’s the most opportune time to get your vehicle ready for the winter. It’s a form of winterizing your vehicle’s body.
While this column is intended for crossovers, SUVs and trucks, those who already own one of these may want to add some excitement in their life. And that comes compliments of Chevy’s first mid-engine Corvette Stingray roadster.
Before its debut it was the most talked about, speculated, anticipated, debated car. And now it’s here.
After a week behind the wheel there is only two words to describe it – “totally awesome” - and then some.
In this its 8th generation, there was speculation as to weather die-hard Vette fans would accept the mid-engine design, a big departure from Corvettes’ front engine powerhouses over its 67-year inception. Well, once they drive one, they won’t want to go back to front engine models as the new Stingray is far superior handling wise. The mid-engine puts added weight over the rear wheels that gives improved balance, added traction that allows the Vette to do 0-60 in less than three seconds with the Z51 package. It also handles severe road twisties with ease. Throw it into a tight turn and it sticks with no body lean or dipping. It remains planted no matter the sharpness of the bend. Turn the steering wheel an inch either way and the nose points 20 degree’s accordingly. It’s that quick and precise. And it doesn’t take racing skills to handle this superb handling.
There’s no question the new Stingray has super car design with its sculpted, muscular lines, rear fender air intakes and quad exhaust pipes. Its canopy forward design was tailored, says Chevy, after F22 and F35 fighter jets. It’s so sleek and slippery that it looks like it’s moving 60 mph standing still.
At first sight, Stingray could be mistaken for an Italian super car with the likes of a Ferrari, Lambo or McLaren. And a couple neighbors who saw it, thought it was.
Stingray is offered in base 1LT, 2LT, 3LT and a convertible with power folding top. We tested the LT2 that comes with removable targa-type roof panels. It’s a true American sports car.
So let’s slip into this super car and onto its Recaro type seats that are offered in GT1, GT2 and Competition Sport. At first you’ll notice the door handles are hidden underneath door sculpted overhangs – for lack of a better name. The next sight that grabs the eyes is the almost square steering wheel with paddle shifters. Then you’ll notice there’s no shift handle. Nope. Merely push buttons for the extra quick shifting 8-speed, dual clutch automatic transmission. Under full throttle this trans changes gears faster than possible with a manual trans and power shift (for non-drag racers, that’s shifting without leaving off the throttle). An added benefit is there’s no worry in blowing the clutch – or engine by over-revving in a missed shift.
Then there’s the 8-inch iPad type display that serves a host of functions including the rearview camera, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bose audio, Amazon Alexa, Spotify, Glympse, Wi-Fi Hotspot connectivity, infotainment system, climate selections and a myriad of special informational gauges. New owners need to sit in the car with the owners manual and study it profusely for there’s a lot to learn about this iconic two-seater that happened to earn Motor Trends Car of the Year award.
Other interior design locations are the HVAC controls that are uniquely mounted along a narrow strip between the Recaro type seats. And a large 12-inch long all digital instrument cluster emphasizes the tach as it displays either vehicle speed or gear position centered within it, depended on the driving mode selected. It also displays a G-force gauge and 0-60 times among a host of others. It’s all driver focused as is the 8-inch vertical stack display.
On the console and next to the trans shifter is a rotary controller with wrist pad that selects most display functions including driving modes of Weather, Tour, Sport and Track modes. There are also two auxiliary modes of My Mode (for driver configurable settings) and Z mode that is activated by a “Z” button on the steering wheel that allows adjusting the engine and trans settings. Stingrays’ exhaust tone also changes as Tour mode has a relatively tamer sound while Sport has a throatier sound as engine rpm’s increase by 500.
And get this. There’s a Performance Data Recorder that employs a high-def camera to record race track circuit times and in auto-record mode, serves as a dash cam every time the engine is running. This is a feature all vehicles should offer.
Pop the hood and there’s a deep bin measuring 22x23x17 inches for stowing an airline spec rollie bag or two small duffel bags. There’s another 12.6 cubic foot bin measuring 53x14.5x12 inches in the rear behind the engine that serves two purposes. Chevy says a golf bag can be stowed there or the roof panels that have holders to secure it.
It’s here upon opening the hatch, that the 6.2-liter, dual overhead cam V8 exhibits a beautiful sight cradled in its body mounts.
It generates 495-hp and 470 lb/ft of torque. When coupled to the 8-speed dual-clutch auto trans, it earns EPA mileage estimates of 15 city, 27-highway mpg. Chevy says gears 2 through 6 keeps engine rpm near its power peak while 7 through 8 are for long distance cruising.
This powertrain in a 3,366-pound fiberglass body produces goose bumps and wide smiles when flooring the accelerator from a standing stop. Especially so when engaging line-lock for push-you-back-in-the-seat, explosive, catapulting acceleration. The rumble from the V8 behind the seats is exhilarating to say the least.
Despite its terrific performance, Stingray can still be a daily driver except in snow or freezing rain. It’s questionable whether snow tires would help.
Stingray rides on 20-inch Michelin tires in the rear that are 12 inches wide, and 19 inchers in the front that are 8 inches wide. So shod and with a coil spring suspension, the ride is firm but comfortable. Need more softness? Opt for the magnetic ride control ($1,895) feature.
Speaking of options, there are a host of them that can drive up the amazing and unbelievable base price of $58, 690 for the LT2 that was tested. To that price was added the Z51 performance package ($5,000) that includes performance brakes, performance exhaust, performance suspension, performance rear axle ratio, limited slip differential, Z51 rear spoiler, HD cooling system, high-performance run flat tires; Bright Red brake calipers ($595); carbon flash metallic painted outside mirrors; along with delivery ($1,095) that took the bottom line to $85,690. Still a compelling price that is much less than others such as Porsches, Lambo’s, McLarens and especially Ferrari’s. In comparison, Stingray is a bargain.
From the time I was in the Army at Fort Knox in ‘66 and took a used Vette at a Chevy dealer for a ride (knowing I couldn’t afford one on PFC pay), until today, the Stingray has always been my favorite car. The only drawback to the test car, was that I had to give it back.