Subaru’s AWD Crosstrek compact crossover has become the car-maker’s hot seller over its Outback brethren. Perhaps it’s because it sports sporty, chiseled styling, is the right size and is all weather capable.
For fuel economy minded folks, Subaru took this hottie the next step by introducing it as a plug-in hybrid.
Crosstrek Hybrid is Subaru’s first plug-in. And it’s one of the few hybrids with AWD and superior undercarriage clearance of 8.7 inches (which is higher than many SUVs and even some trucks) for mild off-roading and modest to deep snow depths.
This hybridized AWD Crosstrek differs significantly from its gasoline brother in that it employs Suby’s all-new StarDrive system that utilizes two electric motors. The system is coined MG1 and functions as an electric generator and charger for the 8.8-kWh battery and serves as the starter for the 2.0-liter Boxer 4-cylinder engine. Supplementing that, is what Suby coins MG2 (Motor Generator 2) which gives the 2.0L its 137-hp or 148 when combined with the electric motor. Coupled to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the hybrid has been independently 0-60 timed at 8.3 seconds, a full second quicker than the standard Crosstrek. The combination earns EPA mileage estimates of 35 mpg gas engine alone, or 90 MPGe with electric power. It has a total range of 480 miles and an EV range of 17 miles at speeds of up to 65 mph. The gasoline engine also shuts down during long idle periods to help conserve fuel.
Interestingly, there’s a Save/Hold/Chrg switch on the console that when engaged, uses the gas engine alone to save battery torque.
There’s also an X-Mode with Hill Descent Control that’s intended to take control on steep, slippery, downward, ice-covered roads. Press the button and just steer as the system does the rest.
Crosstrek Hybrids’ onboard charger will recharge the battery in approximately five hours on a 120-volt outlet or two hours on a 240-volt outlet. A charging cable plugs into a fender receptacle and is stored in a nylon pack. The battery also gets a charge from regenerative braking. On the CVT shifter is a “B” position that increases this braking action in an effort to extend battery power and range.
So powered, Crosstrek Hybrid doesn’t possess neck-snapping acceleration. However, Sport mode does invigorate throttle response somewhat. Acceleration is more of a linear application of power. When using full throttle, the CVT seems to maintain the same gear, seemingly never shifting out and similar to a golf cart. Some CVT computerized shift points in certain cars simulate a traditional transmission.
A buddy owns a new Subaru Outback and rode in the Crosstrek with me and commented on how loud the engine was both at idle and during acceleration. He said his Outback 4-cylinder is considerably quieter. Coincidentally, in electric mode a high-pitch whine, similar to a jet engine, is heard.
A highpoint for the Crosstrek Hybrid is that if you keep the battery charged, you may never have to buy gasoline again.
Crosstrek not only has a sporty exterior, its interior is exceptionally sporty and eye-catching. After an easy 19-inch step in that is essentially a nice slide-in affair, the leather seats in the test car were adorned with grey and white panels with perforated inserts, and set off with blue stitching on all seams. An eclectic color combo. The heated front seats have pleasurable lateral support, are soft and comfy over long hauls.
An 8-inch display offers the usual compliment of audio, rearview camera, apps including Subaru’s Starlink that integrates Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice recognition, Pandora, Travel Link with Weather and more.
There’s also a 4.2-inch color driver information display nestled between the gauge cluster.
Our only beef with the Crosstrek is that a small item bin on the forward console in front of the shifter could have better been used for a wireless phone charger.
The rear seats are similarly comfy but 6-footers may need a slight head duck getting in/out as the roofline has a racy slant. Two adults can be accommodated in them with decent leg room provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward.
Back in the cargo area, loading involves a high 33-inch lift over due to the battery pack stowed beneath the floor. With rear seats upright, there’s 16 cubic feet of space that measures 28 inches deep, 40.5 wide and 23 high, the latter reflects a three-inch decrease compared to the standard Crosstrek.
Flip the 60/40 seatbacks and cargo space increases to 21 cubic feet for 60 inches of cargo loading depth. When flipping the seats, there’s a six inch drop from the floor to the flipped seatbacks, again, due to the underfloor battery pack.
Shod with Falkan 18-inch tires, Crosstrek rode smoothly with just the right amount of tautness. Handling was adept and it parked easily with a tight 35.4 turning circle. There was a slight bit of lean in sharp turns taken at speed, but Crosstrek held tight.
Feature wise, Crosstrek came standard with the gamut of safety items such as blind spot detection, lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, Subaru’s EyeSight with adaptive cruise, automatic pre-collision braking, pedestrian alert, lane keeping assist, reverse automatic braking and more. The only extra cost options were for the power moonroof, heated steering wheel, nav and Harmon-Kardon audio. That took the base price of $34,995 to $38,470 with a $975 delivery charge.
Safety wise, Crosstrek garnered a “Superior” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for frontal crash, when equipped with the EyeSight feature.
With hybrid’s coming on strong, so much so that even Indy cars will employ the technology for their 2022 season, Subaru’s Crosstrek Hybrid is destined to be the benchmark for its comparable AWD competitors.
Ford’s F-150 pickup truck has been the top selling half-ton for what seems like an eternity (42 years). It has been the benchmark for competitive truck makers. And today the competition is getting tougher with Ram nipping at F-150’s heels and Chevy’s Silverado following suit. But F-150 is able to maintain its top selling position.
The 2019 F-150 is offered in 2WD and 4WD and in Regular Cab, SuperCab and SuperCrew body configurations. And in 5.5, 6.5 and 8.5-foot bed lengths
We tested the SuperCrew four-door, XLT trim model. Also available are XL, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited trim levels and Raptor, the latter being the customized off-road equipped F-150. Phew! The choices are many.
In fact, Ford just gave a sneak preview of an all-electric version that appears will compete against egotist Elon Musks’ proposed Tesla electric pickup. The F-150E is expected to debut by 2022.
If you think the model selection is exhaustive, the F-150 has six engine choices. Starting with the 3.3L, V6 with 290-hp and 265 lb/ft of torque; 2.7L, twin turbo V6 with 325-hp and 400 lb/ft of torque; 3.0L turbodiesel V6 with 250-hp and 440 lb/ft of torque; 3.5L, twin-turbo V6 with 375-hp and 470 lb/ft of torque; 5.0L V8 with 395-hp and 400 lb/ft of torque and a 3.5L, twin turbo V6 in the Raptor and Limited with 450-hp and whopping 510 lb/ft of torque. Again, Phew!
We tested the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 that when coupled to the standard 10-speed automatic transmission, earned EPA mileage estimates of 19 city, 24-highway mpg. So equipped, it’s tow rated for up to 8,500 pounds. The little 2.7 has as much torque as the 5.0L V8 with better fuel economy thanks in part to start/stop technology that can be turned off. So unless you need more towing capacity, the 2.7 can handle most normal towing needs. Incidentally, it was independently 0-60 mph tested at 6.3 seconds.
As a SuperCrew model, this land yacht offers gobs of interior space as well as bed space. We particularly think Ford has the best tailgate idea with a step that pulls out from the tailgate and an assist handle that does the same. It’s the best design on the market although GMC is touting their new Multi-Pro Tailgate that is similar, but offers a few more variations. Only problem with it, is if it gets rear-ended or the driver backs into something, we surmise it’s going to be an expensive repair, or pricey replacement.
When opening any door on the XLT, running boards power out for a mere 11-inch step-in. Without them, step-in is a 24-inch stretch.
Once in, you’re treated to an expanse of space that makes for a comfy ride on nicely padded and heated leather seats. Power adjustable pedals too are nice for short legged drivers.
Elsewhere, a robust trans shifter is complimented by chunky HVAC controls to make your selection easy, even with gloved hands. Selections can also be made on the 8-inch touchscreen.
Speaking of which, the display offers Wi-Fi connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, surround view camera with tailgate view, weather app through Travel Link, and Sync 3 infotainment system that can read your text messages while you drive.
A huge front console box can hold a six-pack of soda, small laptop and for any extra’s, it’s supplemented with large door bins that can hold lots of small items.
F-150’s fine 4WD system consists of 2H, 4Auto, 4H and 4L with rear wheel lock-up. As this was the FX4 version that has a ground clearance of 9.4 inches. So equipped, the F-150 can get you into the outback, deep snow, mucky mud and slippery sand. It’s an able off-roader with rugged heavy-duty shocks and a front undercarriage skid plate that protects the vitals of the truck.
Split folding backseats are also comfy for three large adults with plenty of leg, head and elbow room. These seats even have inflatable seat belts with the 302A option package. The split folding seat bottoms flip up against the bulkhead for a spacious flat cargo floor. And beneath them is a full-length bin for small item storage.
Two other features we especially like are the parking assist feature and the Towing Assist System if you have to tow, park a trailer or back a boat onto a launch ramp. By using the touchscreen and control knob to make right/left corrections, the system takes control of the steering and brakes to make the chore easier. This is particularly useful for folks who don’t frequently tow.
Ride quality on Hankook 20-inch tires that are mounted on six lug wheels, is smooth and quiet, and even smoother with a load of mulch or pavers in the bed.
As for handling, and despite its size, F-150 takes sharp turns without drama. The large, wide tires grip all road surfaces with tenacity. The combination provides sure footed handling and a cushioned ride. Only deep, unseen highway pock marks disturb the rear axle somewhat.
Price wise, this top-shelf best seller doesn’t come cheap. If the base price of $42,915 were the bottom line, Ford couldn’t make enough of them. But that’s not the case. An extremely long list of standard safety items such as forward collision warning and emergency braking, plus options, add to the pain. We start with the 2.7L EcoBoost engine ($995); trailer tow monitoring ($590); twin panel sunroof ($1,495); voice activated navigation ($795); trailer tow package ($995); FX4 Off-Road package ($905); LED side mirror spotlights ($175); tailgate step ($375); trailer brake controller ($275); XLT power equipment group ($725); and delivery ($1,595) that combined with several XLT discounts, brought the bottom line to $54,845.
Actually, we’ve tested other trucks that creep into the $60K and higher range. So the XLT F-150 isn’t too bad. If you can do without some of the above, the price can be shaved a bit.
To its credit, F-150 earned the governments top overall safety rating of a full five stars; five each for driver/passenger frontal crash; five each for front/rear seat side crash and four for rollover. Very impressive scores that some others, including luxury cars/trucks, don’t get.
F-150 also comes with a 3/36K bumper-bumper warranty; 5/60K powertrain; 5/Unlimited paint adhesion, 5/unlimited corrosion and 5/60K roadside assistance coverage.
Chevrolet’s 2019 resurrected Blazer is one sexy looking SUV whose front end and LED running lights resemble a hot Camaro coupe. Blazers’ racy styling appears suited for a NASCAR track.
The Blazer name goes back to the 60s when it was a 2-door, then 4-door 4WD SUV. At that time, the big three in its class were the Ford Bronco II and original Jeep Cherokee.
Today’s midsize Blazer is a racy work of art with its chiseled styling lines and squint running lights with the actual headlights located midway down on either side of the grille. It slots between Chevy’s Equinox and three-row Traverse crossovers.
During our test week, Blazer grabbed a lot of eyes, be it at filling stations or restaurants we visited. In fact, one waitress went outside on break, saw it, took several phone photos of it and came in and told me she loved it and was going to buy one just like the Nightfall Gray Metallic of the test car.
Blazer is offered in FWD and AWD and in base L, Blazer LT, RS we tested, and top tier Premier. Of the group, the RS is the sportier version with its blacked-out grille, trim and glossy black wheels.
Blazer is offered with two engine choices. A 2.5-liter inline 4 producing 193-hp and 188 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 22 city, 27-highway mpg with FWD. The other, is a potent 3.6-liter, V6 with 308-hp and 270 lb/ft of torque with EPA’s of 18/25 with GM’s twin-clutch AWD, and 20/26 with FWD. These numbers are helped somewhat by start/stop technology that cannot be shut off, a capability on many competitive models. Both engines couple with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The V6, however, is only offered with AWD models, and is optional on the LT trim model.
The V6 was independently 0-60 tested at 6.6 seconds, which is impressive for a heavy (4,246 pounds) AWD SUV. It can also tow up to 4,500 pounds. But if you don’t need towing capability, the inline 4 may be a better choice.
Full throttle acceleration with the V6 is a push-you-back-in-the-seat affair. Passing 18-wheelers on an interstate is a breeze.
Blazer RS’s interior is also racy. Gray leather seats had contrasting stitching on all seams and steering wheel. The comfy, perforated leather seats also had the red trim theme peeking through the tiny aeration holes to allow the cooling feature to cool the torso.
Major HVAC controls are selected on the 8-inch touchscreen with minor functions like air direction, A/C and defrosters, controlled by tiny buttons below the display. At the bottom of the stack, is a convenient wireless smartphone charger.
And get this. If using the Remote Start feature in winter, the heated front seats will turn on automatically. And if encountering an obstacle in front of the vehicle, the drivers’ seat bottom vibrates as a warning. Then there’s the round red air outlets that appear to come directly from the Camaro.
The 8-inch touchscreen/infotainment display with voice recognition, serves not only the audio, apps, Wi-Fi 4G connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, but the rearview camera offers five different views including Surround (360 degree) and Trailer Hitch to make backing up to a trailer and your ball hitch, easier.
Blazers’ AWD system consists of 2WD, AWD, Sport, Tow and Off-Road modes. All selectable by a rotary console switch. In Off-Road mode, the system modifies accelerator pedal response, directs AWD torque to all four wheels, affects the Traction Control System and the StabiliTrak/ESC system for improved traction. Despite this, and with a low (for an SUV) 7.4 inches of undercarriage clearance, Blazer is not ideally suited for rugged offroads. It’s more for modest snow depths, icy roads, rain slicked roads, shallow mud and sand.
Step-in into the back seats, (that slide and recline) is a low 19-inches. However, very tall folks need to do a head duck because of the sloping roofline. The seats can comfortably accommodate two adults with decent leg room, or three tweens.
In the cargo area, the RS trim version had a nifty adjustable cargo management system consisting of a set of aluminum bars that slide fore and aft to hold grocery bags close to the powered tailgate, or farther inward to hold larger items. Plastic grocery bag handles can be tied to the rails to avoid spillage.
With the rear seats upright, there’s 30.5 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 39-5 inches deep, 44.5 wide and 29 high. Flip the seatbacks and space increases to 64.2 cubes for 69 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor are two 5.5-inch deep bins on either side of the space saver tire for small item storage. Liftover is an easy 29.5 inches.
As for ride on Continental 21-inch tires, it’s smooth with the suspension soaking up major bumps, tar strips and roadway pock marks. The ride is generally quiet with some wind noise at highway speeds.
Steering effort is a tad on the taut side, but considering Blazer’s heft, it remains completely manageable. There’s nary any body lean in sharp, tight turns and Blazer exhibits a planted feeling.
Now for the bad news. With an extremely long list of standard items such as rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert with side blind alert and numerous more, Blazer carried a base price of $42,500. That would be competitive in its class. But, after adding the Enhanced Convenience Driver’s Confidence II package ($3,575) that included another long list of niceties plus forward collision alert, forward automatic braking, lane keep assist/land departure warning, front pedestrian braking and the safety alert seat. Most of these are commonly part of the competition’s base price. Added to that, a Sun and Wheel Package ($2,495) that includes a panoramic sunroof, 21-inch Gloss Black Wheels together with delivery ($1,195), upped Blazer’s bottom line to a whopping $50,765. That’s a premium to pay for a midsize SUV. This price falls into the luxury market of Lexus, BMW, Benz and comparable competitors.
Despite this, Blazer RS is a compelling SUV that comes with a 3/36K bumper-bumper and 5/60K Powertrain warranty. Roadside assistance and courtesy transportation is also included.
If you can do without a host of trim items of the RS model, the Blazer LT may be a more affordable choice.
While BMW’s redesigned 2019 X4 is neither a crossover nor an SUV, it’s more of a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV). Meaning it has the cargo capacity of a crossover with 8 inches of undercarriage clearance, but it lacks the multi-gear 4WD of a true SUV. Instead, it greatly favors a sports sedan in performance and handling. Hence to us, it’s an SAV. An exciting and compelling SAV.
The second generation X4, that’s positioned between BMWs X3 and X5 SUVs, can be had in two forms. As an xDrive30i and M40i that was tested.
The 30i comes powered by a 2.0-liter, inline turbo 4-cylinder with 248-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 22 city, 29-highway mpg. The more potent M40i gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder that produces a whopping 355-hp and 365 lb/ft of torque for EPA’s of 20 city, 27-highway mpg with start-stop technology. Both engines get coupled to a slick shifting 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
As expected from a BMW, especially the M version, hot acceleration gives a push-you-back-in-the-seat G-force sensation. Under full throttle and in Sport and Sport Plus mode, the engine achieves a full 7,000 rpm redline before it upshifts. In this mode, it adjusts shift points and when letting off the throttle the trapezoidal exhausts give off a delicious pop-pop, rumble, rumble backfire. Music to the ears.
In Sport Plus mode, the chassis gets a stiffer adjustment and the steering gets tauter for better control. Actually, X4 also offers Eco, Pro and Comfort modes. In Pro mode, the driver can select individual settings for best consumption and optimized tuning.
So powered, X4 has been independently 0-60 tested at 4.6 seconds. A quick jaunt, don’t you think?
And get this, leave the car with the engine running and keyfob in
your pocket, and the engine will automatically shut off. A good theft prevention measure.
The X4 M40i came with Dynamic Stability Control that offers Brake Drying, Brake Stand-By, Brake Fade Compensation and Start-Off Assistant (launch control). Yes, the M40i can be run on a track where it’s probably better suited than for off-road driving. To say the X4 M40i is a performance machine, is understated. It’s exhilarating and exciting.
But performance is not X4’s only trait. Step-in into its posh cabin is a mere 19 inches. Once you slip into and the ultra supportive leather seats with extended under thigh support and upholstered in Aluminum-Rhombicle material, you get a feeling of exquisite luxury and an array of the very best technology has to offer. Be forewarned, an intent study of the owners’ manual is a necessity as the X4 has a lot of features you have to get a handle on, particularly the tricky infotainment system.
The 10.25-inch, split-screen display that looks like an elongated iPad but with Wi-Fi hotspot capability, frontal and rear view cameras and a host of operations that have to be acclimated to. HVAC controls are easy to use but the transmission shifter needs some acclimation as well.
Back seats are Euro firm for three youngsters or two adults, provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. Ingress/egress into the backs could be easier if the doors would open a tad wider. And 6-foot plus folks need a bit of a head duck as the roofline slopes sharply.
The cargo area opens either with a fob or swiping a foot beneath the rear bumper if your hands are full of grocery bags. With the rear seats upright, there’s 18.5 cubic feet of space that measures 40 inches deep, 40 wide and 28 high. Flip the 60/40s and capacity increases to 50.5 cubic feet for 64 inches of cargo loading depth. The cargo area itself has sliding tie-downs and beneath the trunk floor is a felt lined bin for small item storage.
Now for ride and handling. Hey, it’s a BMW so expect and receive the best.
The ride and handling is on the taut side, especially in Sport and Sport Plus modes and that’s because the system tightens the suspension, steering effort and changes throttle control for spirited driving. Shod with Bridgestone 20-inch run-flat tires that are nine inches wide, the X4 gives a planted feel as if you can’t do anything wrong when throwing it into sharp turns and curvy roads. And you can’t help but notice the blue colored brake calipers of the M Sport brakes peeking from behind the slotted cast wheels.
X4 M40i is definitely a drivers’ car, er…. SAV. It’s also a handsome hunk of steel.
Price wise, you’re looking at a base of $60,450 and that’s with an extremely long list of features, functions and creature comfort items.
Safety items included like lane departure, blind spot detection that’s part of the Driver Assistance Package ($800). A Premium Package ($1,600) adds heated front seats/steering wheel, head up display and gesture control; Executive Package ($2,850) includes parking assist, digital cluster, active park distance control, rearview/surround view camera; 20-inch M wheels ($950); wireless charger ($400); Harmon Kardon surround sound ($875); and a delivery of $995 brings the tab to $69,170. With that you get 4/50K new vehicle warranty, 12/unlimited rust protection and 4/unlimited roadside assistance coverage.
Yes, it’s a lot of money, but the X4 M40i is a lot of car. It’s an impressive compromise between a performance sedan and SAV that goes way beyond the norm in its class.
In this its second model year, Nissan’s Kicks is a kick to drive. Like the Nissan Juke it replaced, Kicks is a stylish subcompact crossover that has the looks of one, but unfortunately, doesn’t offer AWD as an option to make it a true crossover/SUV.
Kicks is offered in S, SV and SR trim levels, the latter which was tested. Our royal blue painted test car was topped with a white roof that Nissan refers to as a “floating roof” and comes as a $200 Premium paint scheme. Overall, the look is chic and sporty.
The SR came standard with LED headlights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, remote start, fog lights, heated front seats and much more.
Kicks caters to college students, working singles and couples who want an inexpensive and economical four-door that has some utility for their active lifestyles. Its front end carries the entire product line design theme and could pass for a downsized Nissan Rogue, one of the car makers top sellers right now.
This 5-passenger has a roomy and airy interior. The grey, heated, leather front seats in the test car had orange contrasting stitching and a flat-bottomed steering wheel for a sporty look. They offered some lateral support and were on the semi-soft side. And on the sides of their headrests, embedded Bose speakers give the impression of surround sound.
A 7-inch touchscreen is standard and comes with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity that is needed for navigation and selected apps. It also offers voice control for phone and audio controls and hands-free text messaging assistant. In addition, it includes a rearview camera with birds’ eye view as well as a front view camera also with the bird view.
Kicks’ gauge set is inset nicely to avoid glare and has a driver’s information gauge in between. The only item missing is a wireless smartphone charger that could have taken up residence in a bin at the bottom of the vertical stack.
Back seat leg room isn’t bad for two average size adults. Headroom is generous and the back seats are nicely padded and can fit three tweens in comfort. Step-in is a mere 16 inches.
Back in the cargo area that has a low 27-inch liftover, and with the rear seats upright, there’s 25.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity that measures 36 inches deep, 39.5 wide and 34 high. Flip the 60/40 seatbacks and cargo capacity expands to 32.3 cubic feet for 65 inches of cargo loading depth. Beneath the cargo floor is a hard foam insert that holds the jack and jack tools. There’s really no space around it to stow small items unless the items are flat and small.
Kicks has but one engine choice and it’s a 1.6-liter, inline 4-cylinder that puts out a meager 122-hp and 114 lb/ft of torque. It’s matched with a CVT transmission that combined with the 1.6L earned EPA mileage estimates of an impressive 31 city, 36-highway mpg. So powered, acceleration builds gradually as it has to move Kick’s 2,639-pound curb weight. It has been independently 0-60 tested at 10.2 seconds.
With its short wheelbase, Kicks is nimble and easy to park as it has a tight turning radius. As said, it’s fun to drive especially on twisty roads where its suspension keeps it on an even keel.
Ride quality on Firestone 17-inch tires is smooth on smooth roads but a bit bumpy on pock-marked roads and when encountering pronounced highway tar strips where it can be somewhat jittery.
With an extremely long list of standard safety items and convenience features, Kicks SR carried a base price of $20,870. After adding the premium paint job, carpeted floor and cargo mats ($215) and SR Premium Package ($1,000) that added the Bose audio with eight speakers, Prima-Tex appointed seats, heated front seats and security system, Kicks bottom-lined at $23,330. An affordable price for a four-seater that provides excellent fuel economy.
As a daily commuter, a second car or primary sedan with some utility, Kicks is a compelling crossover that caters to anyone looking for an affordable, economical, attractive and sporty means of transportation.
There must be a reason federal and state government law enforcement agencies buy a lot of Chevy Tahoe SUVs - black Tahoe’s in particular. Perhaps it’s because they’re a proven SUV with loads of comfortable interior space, ample power and they’ve been on the market for many years.
Tahoe is a perennial favorite for those who need a full-size, versatile, 4WD SUV. And buyers can graduate from it to Chevy’s even larger Suburban SUV if they need more capacity.
Built on a truck-based frame, compliments of Chevy’s Silverado pickup, Tahoe is heavy duty and properly equipped can tow up to 8,600 pounds (2WD) and 8,100 pounds with 4WD. Enough for large boats, utility trailers, even a two-horse trailer plus. And it comes standard with a trailer brake controller.
Tahoe is offered 2WD and 4WD and in LS, LT and Premier trim models, the latter of which was tested. There is also a Midnight Edition and Z71 Off-Road Special Edition models. The Z71 gets an off-road tuned suspension, off-road tires, skid plates, off-road tubular assist steps, fog lamps, tow hooks, sill plates, 3.42 rear axle, 2-speed transfer case, hill descent control and much more. It’s the consummate off-roader if you need to get into the outback.
The three-rowTahoe is unique in that it can be configured to seat up to nine with a front bench seat, or seven in the Premier that is configured with captain’s chairs in the second row and a 60/40 bench in the third row.
Tahoe can be ordered with a choice of two powertrains: a 5.3-liter, V8 putting out 355-hp and 383 lb/ft of torque (15/21mpg w/4WD) when mated to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. And the tested, 6.2-liter V8 with 420-hp and 460 lb/ft of torque. This couples to a 10-speed automatic transmission for EPA mileage estimates of 14 city, 22-highway mpg (4WD). And this is with GM’s Active Fuel Management system that shuts down four cylinders during cruise speeds.
Given the Tahoe Premier’s curb weight of 5,632 pounds, the 6.2L is the ideal choice if you’re going to do any serious towing.
So powered, the 6.2L had loads of grunt from a standing stop and during passing maneuvers. There’s certainly no want for power, especially with four people aboard.
Step-in into the cabin is a 23-inch stretch, but only 13 with the powered retractable running boards when any door is opened/closed. From there you’re treated to luxury accommodations with adjustable pedals and heavily padded heated/cooled, perforated leather seats. The cabin offers an expanse of spaciousness.
Press the keyless ignition switch and an 8-inch touchscreen comes to life offering a host of features such as voice recognition, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot capability, weather apps, texting, navigation, audio and rearview camera systems.
Tahoe’s HVAC system is easy to operate with large controls that can be operated with gloved hands. And the gauge cluster offers a driver’s information display with associated instrumentation offering real pressure gauges with actual numbers instead of a facsimile as on most crossover/SUVs today.
We especially liked the 4WD system that offers the typical 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low gearing, but has an Auto mode wherein the AWD system kicks in when wheel slippage occurs. Nice to have on wet roads.
Atop the padded console box is a recessed wireless smartphone charger, a convenience that coincides with added high-tech safety features and warnings such as lane keep assist, lane change alert, blind side alert, rear cross traffic alert and forward collision alert that not only gives a visual warning, but the drivers’ seat bottom buzzes/vibrates as an added warning when a collision is sensed.
Second row captain’s chairs are comfy and heated. They power forward for easier third row ingress/egress.
Open the powered liftgate and you’ll notice a feature that has disappeared on most SUVs. The tailgate window opens separately from the liftgate. An appreciable feature when having to carry lengthy items that won’t fit inside the cabin.
Within the cargo area is a cargo organizer that comes with the Premier package. It’s an according type, multi-pocket organizer for paperwork, even a few plastic grocery bags.
The cargo area, with the seats upright, offers only 15.3 cubic feet of storage space. It measures 13.5 inches deep, 49.5 wide and 29.75 high. But press two buttons and the third row automatically flips forward opening up 30 inches of cargo depth for 51.7 cubic feet. Flip the second row and depth increases to 94.7 cubic feet for 79 inches of loading depth, a full 6.5 feet.
For small item storage, there’s a 3-inch deep bin beneath the rearmost cargo floor.
With standard Magnetic Ride Control and huge 22-inch Bridgestone tires shod on 6-bolt rims, Tahoe rides smoothly and quietly. Admittedly, it’s not a breeze to park in tight spots. But it makes up for this with its inherent safe, secure feeling. Handling wise, it hugs the road with tenacity and tight, sharp turns must be negotiated with care as it’s a big vehicle and not a sports car.
As a large SUV, it also has a large price. The base price started at $65,600 and that’s with an extremely long list of standard features and luxury items. The only extra cost option was for the Premier Plus Edition package ($11,675) that included the 6.2L V8. With delivery, the Tahoe bottom-lined at $70,070.
Considering what some of the comparable Euro and Asian competitors offer, Tahoe’s price is on par with them with the advantage that it can actually go off-road and is not a cosmetic SUV in name. That, plus it has appreciable tow capacity.
If needing a three-row, true SUV, Tahoe deserves consideration. Another plus is that Chevy has more country-wide dealer networks than the competition in case service is quickly needed.
Honda’s Pilot has been the company’s perpetual good seller and is known to be the benchmark for midsize crossovers. And for 2019, Pilot was upgraded with an improved 9-speed automatic transmission, standard advanced safety features, revised infotainment system and a hands-free liftgate that requires a swish of a foot beneath the rear bumper.
The three row Pilot is a versatile crossover boasting a roomy interior, excellent ride and increased fuel economy for its class.
Pilot is offered in FWD and AWD and in five trim levels of LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and tested Elite.
Pilot can be had with seating for eight or seven, the latter is standard on Elite and optional on Touring. The one seat difference is that captain’s chairs replace a bench seat that is standard on the other trim levels.
As the top-shelf model, the Elite trim comes standard with leather seating, dual sunroofs, 20-inch wheels and an 8-inch touchscreen as opposed to a 5-incher on lesser models, to name a few.
The Elite came loaded with a host of safety and convenience features. One of which is Honda’s Sensing System that automatically applies the brakes when sensing an imminent collision. It also has lane keeping assist and active cruise control.
Then there’s Cabin Control and CabinTalk. The former lets passengers and driver change climate controls and audio selections with a smartphone app. The latter allows the driver to talk to their children through their wireless headphones when they’re watching the standard Blue-Ray DVD rear entertainment system.
Approaching the Pilot with the vehicle’s keyfob on you and the doors will unlock automatically from 5-feet away. And they’ll automatically lock when walking away.
With a comfortable 20-inch step-in and over a 7-inch sill, Elites’ interior is upscale. Your eyes will be drawn to the automatic transmission shifter on the console. It’s a push button affair with park gear requiring a push of the P switch and for reverse, the R button requires it be pulled backward. It takes a little getting used to. Standard paddle shifters allow some shifting for yourself that is handy to down-shift on downhill’s, instead of riding the brakes.
Perforated leather seating is soft and comfy and that includes the third row that is mainly for kids as leg room is tight.
An 8-inch touchscreen with voice controls, serves the audio, apps, navigation (with pinch/zoom feature), rearview camera with four different views, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and Wi-Fi hotspot capability but only with AT&T service. There’s also a large 6-inch rectangular gauge display that serves an all digital speedometer and driver information screen. Honda also thoughtfully included a wireless smartphone charger at the bottom of the vertical stack.
Pilots’ AWD system uses active center and rear differentials that send torque/traction to the wheels that is needed the most. The selectable system offers Snow, Sand and Mud modes. With an undercarriage clearance of 7.3 inches, Pilot can handle mild off-road terrain and modest snow depths.
Access to the third row seat is rather easy as the second row captain’s seats power forward but must be manually slid backward.
The cargo area with the third row seats upright is rated at 16.0 cubic feet. It measures 20 inches deep, 48 wide and 31.25 high. Flip them and the second row seats and cargo capacity expands to 82.1 cubic, offering 80 inches of cargo loading depth. That’s a whopping 6.6 feet.
All Pilot’s are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 280-hp and 262 lb./ft. of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 19 city, 26-highway mpg. This is helped somewhat with auto start/stop that shuts down the engine at idle. As such, it carries an impressive tow rating of 5,000 pounds (3,500 with FWD) and has sufficient gusto that has been independently 0-60 tested at 7 seconds. Not bad considering it’s a heavy crossover/SUV weighing 4,319 pounds.
Ride wise on Continental 20-inch tires is smooth and quiet. It handles quite nimbly with a relatively tight turning radius of 39.4 feet. That makes it a breeze to park in tight spots. With its inherent stability control, Pilot hugs sharp turns with confidence.
With an extremely long and extensive list of the most desired features and safety items, the Pilot Elite had no extra cost items. It was priced at $48,020 with delivery and a full tank of fuel. That’s about the competitive price of comparable crossovers, only Pilot offers a bit more, for less.
Our son previously owned a Pilot, but traded up to an Acura MDX, Honda’s luxury brand, as it was a natural progression for more luxury, while remaining true to Honda’s heritage of quality construction.
It was only a matter of time before Cadillac entered the hot small luxury crossover/SUV market. And their new 2019 XT4 is a real looker. Plus, it’s surprisingly affordable for a Caddy, but that depends on the model.
Offered in Luxury, Premium Luxury and Sport trim levels, all models can be had in FWD or AWD with the latter adding $2,500 to the base price. We were privileged to test the Premium Luxury and came away quite impressed.
XT4’s size can best be described as falling between subcompact and compact. It slots beneath Cadillac’s XT5 in size and price and has a striking design that follows the styling scheme of the XT5, only it’s a bit sexier.
With a low 18-inch step-in, XT4’s interior gives a sense of airy spaciousness and its lavishly decorated with sumptuously padded seats, the fronts of which can be ordered with a massage feature. The drivers’ bucket seat bottom also vibrates when sensing danger while backing or other dangerous conditions.
An 8-inch display nestles nicely into the dash and is controlled by a console mounted rotary controller. In front of the console box is a wireless smartphone charger that can accommodate even the larger phones.
The display offers the usual compliment of navigation, apps, audio and rearview camera that gives an overhead, side and front overhead views. It includes Wi-Fi connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions. There’s also an adjustable Heads-Up-Display on the driver’s side windshield showing vehicle speed in addition to the digital readout on the gauge set.
The 9-speed automatic transmission shifter has a Park button at its top that must be depressed to select that gear. XT4 is not the only one to use that gear scheme and it makes you wonder why not just shift into a P position, as has been the mode for past years on many vehicles. In addition, a set of buttons on either side of the shifter must be depressed to engage Drive and Reverse gears. Seems like technology overkill.
In addition, XT4 offers three modes of Tour, AWD (if so equipped) and Sport which tightens things up and stretches shift points.
In the back seat, ingress/egress is good thanks to wide opening doors. Leg room is spacious for two 6-footers provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. The seats themselves are nicely padded, comfy and overlooking them was the optional ($1,550) panoramic sunroof measuring 42x29 inches so back seat riders can enjoy a sky view.
Behind the seats is a spacious cargo area that’s rated at 22.5 cubic feet with the 60/40 rear seatback’s upright. That translates into a more meaningful 33.5 inches deep, 43 wide and 27.5 high. Flip them, and capacity expands to 48.9 cubic feet for 63 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor is a space saver tire around which small items can be stowed out of sight. Cargo lift over is an easy 30 inches.
XT4 gets its grunt from a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder producing 237-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 22 city, 29-highway mpg. That gets some help from an auto start/stop feature that can be disabled. Combined with the 9-speed automatic transmission, XT4 has a 3,500 tow rating.
So powered, the 2.0L moves this 3,876-pound crossover with spirited acceleration from a standing stop. It actually has some push-you-back-in-the-seat Gs. One drawback, however, is that the little four is noisy at idle, which is not typical for a Cadillac.
When shutting off the ignition, a warning notice appears on the driver’s information display signaling the driver to check the back seat for occupants be it a baby in a child seat or even the family pooch. There’s a push for all carmakers to add this safety feature to all their vehicles.
Ride wise on optional ($1,100) Continental 20-inch tires (18s are standard), is exceptionally good for its class of short wheelbase vehicles, as it smooth’s imperfect roadways.
Handling too is adept as XT4’s suspension keeps the vehicle on an even keel and it parks easily with its tight 38-foot turning radius.
With the Luxury trim model carrying a base price of around $35,790, Cadillac makes a lot of standard features on many cars, optional. That quickly drives the base price of all trim levels. And they are pricey. Aside from the two options mentioned, here’s a sampling:
The AWD Premium Luxury started with a base of $41,795, but after adding the Cadillac User Experience ($1,500) that adds nav, real time traffic, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, surround sound and more; Enhanced Visibility Package ($1,500) with dual, heated outside power folding mirrors, auto dimming mirror, rear camera mirror with washer, automatic parking assist w/braking, surround vision; Driver Assist Package ($1,100) with adaptive cruise, forward/reverse braking; Comfort/Convenience Package ($1,050) with massage and ventilated front seats, hands free liftgate; Cold Weather Package ($850) gives heated front seats and rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel; Driver Awareness ($770) provides forward collision warning, front pedestrian braking, following distance indicator, lane keep assist/lane departure warning; Shadow Metallic Paint ($625); Trailering Equipment ($300) includes HD cooling system and trailer hitch, and after all this, delivery added $995 for a grand total of $54,785. See what we mean? The options add up.
All in all, the XT4 is a refreshingly new Cadillac for those who are Caddy owners who want to downsize from a sedan or from an XT5. Others may want to migrate to an American made icon that is an exceptional eye-grabber.
Lexus has filled their three SUV/crossover line with a subcompact that is stylish, economical and affordable. In fact, their new UX 200 is the least expensive Lexus model, making it the perfect choice for an entry level way to drive a premier luxury crossover.
The 2019 UX 200 is a five passenger crossover that’s offered in base, Luxury and F Sport, the latter of which was tested. It’s unquestionably a sexy looking crossover with concept car styling. Its sculpted, sharp, chiseled lines resemble its big brothers the RX and NX.
Now I must admit, my wife drives an RX 350 and loves it. I can unequivocally say it’s the best car we ever owned. We’ve never had a mechanical or noise issue in 10 years of ownership. It still rides and handles like it came off the dealer’s lot. Despite this, I promise to remain impartial in this review.
Upon a mere 17-inch step-in into the cockpit, you’re treated to luxury accommodations. Nicely supportive and perforated leather seats sported a two-color combination that complimented the Atomic Silver exterior paint. A 10.3-inch wide display uses a console mounted touchpad for app selection that includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Wi-Fi, Amazon Alexa, App Suite 2.0, and it displays rearview camera and audio functions. It also gives out maintenance alerts.
The touchpad is very touch sensitive and should not be used while driving as it requires eyes-off-the-road concentration.
What will also catch the eyes is a single, center-mounted gauge set with a digital speedometer that’s encircled by the tachometer and flanked by water/fuel gauges and on one side and a digital compass with current road names on the other.
Unique too is a console box wherein the double-hinged top opens from both sides. A nice convenience for driver and passenger.
Sprouting from the dash top are two rotary switches. On the right, the switch offers Sport, Normal and Eco modes. On the left, it allows turning off the traction control.
With Lexus’ Safety System 2.0, it adds safety features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise, pedestrian detection, daytime bicyclist detection, stolen vehicle locator and many more.
The back seat is rated for three but that pertains to youngsters and tweens. For adults, two are more appropriate as leg room is tight, especially if the fronts are racked well rearward. Headroom though is sufficient for all but six foot-plus folks.
With the 60/40 rear seatbacks upright, there’s 17.1 cubic feet of cargo space that more meaningfully measures 32.5 inches deep, 40.5 wide and 27 high. Flip them and cargo space expands to 21.7 cubic feet for 62 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor is a two section hard foam tray with bins for small item storage. Beneath it is the spare tire.
UX 200 gets it grunt from 2.0-liter, inline 4-cylinder that generates 169-hp and 152 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 29 city, 37-highway mpg with a CVT automatic transmission (with paddle shifters) that uses a normal first gear before it converts over to CVT gearing. According to Lexus, the combination has been tested at 8.9 seconds for 0-60 mph.
There’s also a hybrid version (UX 250h) using the same 2.0L 4-cylinder but adds a pair of electric motor generators for a combined 181-hp. It has a reported 0-60 time of 8.6 seconds and mileage estimates of 41 city, 38-highway mpg.
Now it must be pointed out that the gasoline only powered UX comes with FWD, whereas the hybrid version can be had with AWD. The latter, unfortunately, is not available with the gasoline only model. That is the only demerit we can give the UX.
So tested, the the 2.0L has sufficient power and is a bit more responsive in Sport mode compared to Normal or Eco modes. There’s a linear application of power that allows safe merging onto high speed traffic lanes. What it gives up in performance, it makes up for in economy.
Handling wise, there’s virtually negligible lean in sharp turns taken at speed. UX parks easily thanks to its tight turning radius of 17.1 feet. It’s actually a hoot to drive as it can be tossed in the turns with complete confidence. Steering feel builds rapidly and is precise.
Shod with 18-inch Bridgestone tires, ride quality is good and only severely pock-marked roads and tall tar strips reverberate into the cabin. This can be attributed to the F Sport’s sport-tuned suspension. Likewise, road and tire noise are a bit noticeable at cruise speed.
Overall, the UX 200 is a formidable subcompact that carries Lexus’s fine craftsmanship and quality.
As hybrid technology has progressed from cars to SUVs, Mitsubishi was not to be left out. Their top selling Outlander has entered the plug-in field with their PHEV SUV that has a lot of competition.
Mitsubishi’s five-passenger Outlander SUV plug-in hybrid is offered in SEL and tested GT trim levels. The latter comes with a host of amenities including a sunroof, automatic LED headlights, heated seats/steering wheel, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the outside mirrors fold in when locking the doors - to name a few. It also offers the latest safety technology with forward collision warning w/pedestrian detection, automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
Outlander PHEV gets its grunt from a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder with a 60-kilowatt electric motor powering the front wheels and another 60-kilowatt motor for the rear wheels. The gas only engine is rated at 117-hp and 137 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 25 combined city/highway mpg. Combined with a single-speed drive mode switchable reduction gear box with paddle shifters, the combination garners EPA fuel economy ratings of 74 MPGe for combined city/highway (for 100 miles). Outlander can run on electric power alone for up to 22 miles and it takes about eight hours to charge the battery via a 120-volt outlet. Using 240-volts, 3.5 hours and a fast charger in 25 minutes. The hybrid SUV also comes with a battery heater for cold weather.
The systems charging cable resides in the vehicles’ cargo underfloor (as does the starter battery). So powered, Outlander PHEV has a tow rating of up to 1,500 pounds.
Outlander is one of the better off-road capable compact hybrid SUVs in that it can mimic a locked differential with its twin-motor lock mode that splits power 50/50 between the front and rear wheels. And it has an appreciable 7.3-inch undercarriage clearance.
Acceleration from a standing stop is relatively quick. But after that, it’s a linear application of power. It has been independently timed at 9.8 seconds for 0-60 mph, not a head-snapper considering its hefty 4,178-pound curb weight.
The PHEV has a battery saver switch that when engaged can save remaining battery power. Mitsubishi says it can then be used while driving in residential areas or to reduce electric power consumption. There’s also an EV switch that allows driving the vehicle without starting the engine to maintain full electric power. One feature that took some getting used to, was the “P” (Park) button that must be pushed next to the trans shifter, instead of just shifting into park gear.
Step-in into the roomy cabin is a mere 18 inches and then over an 8-inch threshold. Once in, you’re treated to glossy plastic trim that looks like carbon fiber. A nice touch that gives an upscale look to the interiors’ overall décor.
Sporting a 7-inch touchscreen, apps and navigation are controlled by a smartphone connected through either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. In reverse gearing, a surround split screen view is offered.
HVAC controls are easy to use without having to study the owners’ manual. The gauge cluster has a driver’s information display that shows not only the fuel gauge, but a battery gauge showing how much battery power remains. Across from the speedometer and in place of a tachometer, an Eco gauge displays Charge, Eco and Power settings. It’s an aid in driving if maintaining economical driving habits.
Leather, heated front seats are Euro firm, but nicely supportive. The back seats are similar with ample leg room but marginal headroom for tall adults. Ingress/egress could be a bit better if the rear doors would open wider.
With the 60/40 rear seatbacks upright, Outlander’s cargo area is rated at 30.4 cubic feet that measures 38.5 inches deep, 38.5 wide and 28 high. Flip the seatbacks and capacity increases to 78 cubic feet for 72 inches of cargo loading depth. One point here, the rear seat bottoms must be pulled forward against the front seatbacks before flipping down the seatbacks. Most competitive SUV rear seats, flip flat in a single step.
Beneath the cargo floor is a bin for small item storage plus it holds the charging cable, tire inflator kit and starter battery.
Driving wise, the hybrid system transitions from electric to gas seamlessly. The ride on 18-inch Bridgestone tires is smooth on good roads but a bit bumpy over pock-marked roads and tar strips. Steering effort is light and a tad mushy with marginal road feel. Parking is easy with a relatively tight turning radius of 35.6 feet, and the ride is quiet.
With an extremely long list of most wanted standard features and an array of safety items, the only extra costs were for Pearl White paint ($295), carpeted floor mats ($135) and delivery ($995). These took the base price of $41,495 to $42,920. Now this is somewhat pricey in comparison to some of the competition, but it’s offset by generous warranties of fully transferable 5-year/60K new vehicle coverage (many competitors don’t offer a transferable nicety; 10/100K powertrain; 10/100K PHEV components and main drive battery; 7/100K corrosion and 5/Unlimited roadside assistance, all important considerations because of its hybrid technology.
With all the competition in its class, Outlander PHEV deserves consideration as it’s a viable family vehicle that’s economical for city driving, is an able off-roader and offers spacious interior and cargo area dimensions.