As Nissan’s top-tier luxury brand, their Infiniti line has debuted a compact luxury crossover that offers a delicious compromise between an SUV, and a fastback 4-door sedan.
The Infiniti 2022 QX55 is based on the hot selling QX50 SUV that looks like your typical SUV. Since the QX55’s length, width, wheelbase and powertrain are the same, they differ in that the QX55 takes on a coupe-like look with its sloping roofline and cab-forward design. It’s also a bit lighter than the QX50.
This crossover retains the Infiniti heritage design with signature human-eye look headlights and digital piano key taillights that has 45 LEDs in each taillight.
QX55 is offered in Luxe, Essential and Sensory trim levels. We were privileged to test the Essential model that came with leather upholstery, brushed aluminum interior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors and much, much more.
This strikingly handsome all-wheel drive crossover looks like it’s moving 55 mpg while it’s parked. Its interior is equally as handsome with dual color leather, dual displays top 8-inch one is for navigation, drive modes, front and rearview cameras, while the lower 7-inch touchscreen is for climate control, audio, operational controls, weather, gas prices and more. Included is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity.
Infiniti engineers used laminated side glass along with active noise cancellation to give the QX55 a hush quiet interior.
After a low 18-inch step-in into the cockpit, you’re treated to comfy, heavily padded, sensibly supportive, heated/cooled front seats with extended under thigh support. The dual displays will grab the eyes giving the sensation you’re in a corporate jet.
A stubby gear selector uses a separate “P” switch for park gear while drive and reverse are traditional in operation. It’s flanked by a toggle drive mode switch for Standard, Eco, Sport and Personal modes and a rotary controller for the 8-inch nav screen.
The instrument cluster is analog and includes a driver information display for functions, features and alerts. Missing from the cockpit is a wireless phone charger but there are receptacles for wired charging.
Rear seat ingress/egress is easy thanks to wide opening doors and the comfy seats slide and recline for two adults or three youngsters as the transaxle hump is low. Infiniti says there is 38.7 inches of rear legroom.
Back in the trunk, which has a power liftgate and is really considered the cargo area, a low 29-inch lift-over into it eases loading of heavy items. It’s relatively spacious at 26.9 cubic feet behind the back seat and measures 38 inches deep, 39 wide and 28 high with the rear seats upright. Flip them and loading depth extends to 72 inches, a full six feet for extra-long items. There’s a 6.5-inch bin beneath the cargo floor to stow small items out of sight.
Power wise, QX55 gets its grunt from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder that generates 268-hp and 280 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of an impressive 22 city, 28-highway mpg. Coupled to a continuously variable transmission, QX55 had gobs of power and quick acceleration. In Sport mode, rpm’s increase by 500 and the sound emanating from the exhaust tips is sports car-like. There’s certainly no want for power.
As for ride quality, it’s smooth on tall all-season run-flat Bridgestone 20-inch tires that are nine inches in width for added grip in snow and slick conditions. The only feature missing here is an AWD lock for getting started in deep or slippery snow.
Handling is sporty and parking is easy with QXs tight turning radius. For extra sportiness, steering can be tightened a bit when selecting Dynamic-Plus mode.
With a long list of standard features such as rain-sensing wipers. Power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, forward collision warning, forward emergency braking w/pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, around view monitor and more, the only extra cost option was the ProAssist package ($800) that added adaptive front lighting, intelligent cruise control/distance control assist, blind spot intervention and lane departure prevention. For all this and more, QX55 AWD began life at $51,600 and bottom-lined at $53,425 with delivery.
QX55 AWD underwent a partial government 5-star safety rating and came away with a full five stars for driver frontal crash and four for front passenger.
If you’re in the market for a sporty car with SUV capabilities, check out the QX55. It’s destined to be a top seller next to Infiniti’s QX50.
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SUV just got grander with the addition of a third-row seat. But that’s now all. It’s a bit larger, more luxurious, has upgraded technology and offers a plug-in hybrid 4xe version.
For years, the Grand Cherokee has been the benchmark for 4WD SUVs which grew out of the smaller Cherokee 4WD SUV. Today, it’s offered in Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve L versions, with the latter representing the longer length and third row seat.
We tested the L model and it was luxuriously outfitted with quilted, cooled/heated Palermo leather front seats with a massage function, along with splashes of faux wood trim on dash and doors.
Perched on the vertical stack is a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen that offers 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity and serves the gamut of audio, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto connectivity, Jeep Connect, satellite radio, some voice control and more.
After a low 18.4-inch step-in into the cockpit you’ll notice the absence of a gear selector. Jeep engineers replaced it with a rotary shifter like that offered in Ram pickup trucks.
Flanking the selector are toggle switches for the 4WD system that offers Auto, Sand/Mud, Snow and Sport driving modes. On the opposite side is the toggle for the air suspension system that can lift the body from 8.4 to 11.3 inches for added ground clearance. This helps when going off-road, for deep snow, 20 inches of water and it can automatically or manually adjust for tongue weight when attaching a trailer to the receiver hitch. The system also automatically adjusts the suspension for driving on-road smoothness.
Comfy second row seats are also heated/cooled and slide forward seven inches to make ingress/egress into the third row easier for three youngsters. With seating for seven, second row seats offer generous leg and head room.
Back in the cargo area that has a 30-inch lift-over and hands-free lift-gate, and with the third-row seats upright, there’s 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 21 inches deep, 45 wide and 30.5 high. Press two buttons and the third-row power folds for 46.9 cubic feet for 51 inches of load depth. Flip the second row and it opens up 84.6 cubic feet for a whopping 84 inches (7 feet) of cargo loading depth. Beneath the cargo floor is a 5-inch deep bin for small item storage.
Aside from the 4xe hybrid version, there are two gasoline engine choices. Standard that we tested was a 3.6-liter, V6 putting out 293-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque. This is a proven powerplant that is used is other Stellantis (sure miss the name Chrysler) vehicles. Coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission, EPA rates the combination at 18 city, 25-highway estimated mpg. So equipped, the Grand Cherokee has a tow rating of up to 6,200 pounds. Acceleration was robust and actually felt like a small V8 under the hood despite its hefty 5,065 curb weight.
Optional is a 5.7L V8 with 357-hp and 390 lb/ft of torque for EPA estimates of 14 city, 22-highway mpg. Using the same transmission, it carries a tow rating of 7,200 pounds. If you have a sizable boat, large camper or utility trailer to tow, this may be the better engine choice.
Driving wise, the Grand Cherokee feels large but doesn’t handle as such. Shod with Continental 21-inch all-season tires, this full-size SUV rides smoothly and quietly on coil springs front and rear. The test car came with parallel and perpendicular park assist (parks itself).
Grand Cherokee’s are available with a choice of 4WD systems. The test vehicle came with Jeep’s proven Quadra-Trac 4WD that offer sure-footed traction in any weather. It also came with Jeep’s Select Terrain system. It’s doubtful many owners would take this beauty off-road, but it’s nice to know the capability is there.
Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve L came with a host of the latest technological safety features that included Active Driving Assist that steers for you but you must keep the hands on the wheel, adaptive cruise control with Stop-Go system, full speed forward collision warning plus, surround view camera, blind spot and cross path detection, side distance warning, intersection collision assist system, pedestrian/cyclist emergency braking, drowsy driver detection, tire pressure monitoring and more. An exhaustive and most complete list to say the least.
Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve L 4X4 carried a base price of $59,660. Options included Red Pear paint ($395), Summit Reserve Group ($3,000) that included Palermo leather seating, high-performance audio, active noise control system; 950 watt amplifier, 19-inch aluminum wheels and more; Advanced ProTech Group ($1,995); Head Up Display, Night Vision w/pedestrian and animal detection, interior rear-facing camera; Luxury Tech Group ($245) with wireless charging pad and 2nd row shades plus delivery ($1,795) brought the bottom line up to $67,090.
That’s about on par with other 4WD SUVs and below that of say the Range Rover, BMW/Mercedes comparables.
Grand Cherokee’s come with a 5 year, 60K powertrain warranty and to its credit, there are more local Jeep dealers for service as compared to the aforementioned competitors.
Added to this, the Grand Cherokee L was among Forbes Wheels Best 7-passenger SUV for 2022. It also won a Best Full-Size Award from Good Housekeeping’s Best Family Car competition.
If you want a Trail Rated SUV even though you won’t use it as such, Jeep’s proven Grand Cherokee does that and more.
If you’re an outdoors person or couple that likes to hike, fish, hunt, cross-country ski, kayak secluded waters and travel the untraveled, there are a host of SUVs and crossovers on the market that may satisfy your tastes. But Subaru has a compromisingly new offering in their Forester Wilderness that, as its name implies, can get you over and through nasty off-roads for your outdoor pursuits, while offering the comfy driving pleasures of sedan-like on-road.
This compact AWD SUV is the downsized version of its popular brother the AWD Subaru Outback. The Forester Wilderness falls midway in the model’s line-up that runs from base, Premium, Sport, Limited and top-line Touring.
Wilderness differs in several ways from those in that it has a higher ground clearance of 9.2 inches versus 8.7 of the others. This height comes in handy on severe off-roads, deep snow, mud and water. It’s also offers better clearance than a Ford Bronco, Jeep Cherokee and almost as high as a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro pickup’s 9.4 inches.
With that lift comes an approach angle of 23.5 degrees, a departure angle of 25.4 degrees and a breakover angle of 21.0 degrees. All allow better off-road maneuverability.
But a lifted ride height is not the entire story. Wilderness is outfitted with 8-inch wide, Yokohama 17-inch deep-lugged all-terrain tires, body cladding to protect the sides and an interior with long-wearing washable seats. It also is sprung with longer coil springs along with dampers were retuned for rugged trekking. All intended for adventuresome ventures.
Subaru also improved the roof rail system for a higher load capacity of 220 pounds and a static load limit of 800 pounds for those who want to put a tent on top.
And speaking of seats, and after an 18-inch step-in into the cockpit, the heated fronts are covered with Star-Tex, a waterproof material that is washable and has sensible lateral support, meaning not overly confining when wearing heavy outer garments.
Wilderness’ interior is eclectic with gold trim on the steering wheel, gear selector and AWD X-Mode selector. In contrast, the pedals are brushed aluminum. They all grab the eyes as does a pair of displays. An 8.7-inch infotainment screen serves a multitude of functions as does the smaller 6-inch information display atop the dash. The larger display has a learning curve for audio, apps, navigation and rearview camera with 180-degree front view. It also offers Subaru’s STARLINK connected services with smartphone integration that offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity with voice control.
The 6-inch display also serves a host of functions and features and operating information. A study of the owners’ manual while sitting in the car is a must-do. On the other hand, HVAC controls though are large and easy to use even with gloved hands.
The gold trimmed gear selector with paddle shifters, controls the eight ratio continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has been re-tuned compared to the standard CVTs in other Foresters. Actually, it comes from the Outback with modifications to handle better performance both on and off-road.
Sharing the console is the gold emblazoned X-Mode 4WD system rotary switch for Snow/Dirt, Deep Snow/Mud and Normal modes. These modes can be selected while driving at speeds less than 12 mph, and will deactivate over 25 mph. An audible warning sounds if attempting to activate at a faster speed.
The analog gauge cluster includes a driver information display between the speedo and tach and it too displays mode selections, functions and alerts.
Wilderness’s back seat is comfy for two with adequate seating for two adults with generous headroom. Wide opening doors allow easy ingress and egress.
Back in the cargo area, that has a low 28-inch lift-over, it offers up to 26.9 cubic feet of space with the rear seats upright. The area measures 35 inches deep, 50.5 wide and 31.5 high. Flip the seatbacks and space expands to 69.1 cubic feet for 70 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor is a hard foam bin that covers a full-size spare tire. Small items can be stowed within the shallow bin.
Forester Wilderness gets its grunt from a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that generates 182-hp and 176 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 25 city, 28-highway mpg with auto start/stop engine technology. Coupled to the enhanced CVT transmission, the combination offers a tow rating of up to 3,000 pounds. So powered, acceleration was robust. Kick down from 40 mph pushes the torso into the seat. The engine under heavy throttle is a bit noisy, but its relatively quiet at around town driving.
Handling on-road is smooth and stays planted in turns and is very nimble to park with a tight turning radius. The knobby tires, however, do make some noise at highway speeds.
On off-roads, harsh terrain is nicely absorbed by Wilderness’s beefy suspension and again, the Suby feels safely secure and more like a larger SUV.
Standard safety features include reverse automatic braking, blind spot detection with lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring and more.
As a most complete SUV, Forester Wilderness is modestly base-priced at $30,820. Add the options package ($1,850), engine skid plate ($220) and delivery ($1,125) and the bottom line reflects an affordable (in these days) $36,015. This is a lot of dual-use vehicle for the money.
Added to this, Forester earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top safety pick for 2022. This marks the 16th year Forester has received this award. And Kelly Blue Book named Forester the most trusted and best performance brand in 2022.
Forester Wilderness has my vote. Since I owned a ’98 Outback, I can attest to Subaru reliability, all-weather traction and economical fuel economy.
The compact Lexus UX250h hybrid crossover is the least expensive Lexus all-wheel drive vehicle. Despite its price, it retains Lexus’ quality reputation. And as a hybrid, it’s an economical ride that’s offered in base, F Sport and Luxury. We tested the latter.
Lexus UX250h is the brand’s smallest and most affordable AWD vehicle with the exception being the Lexus UX 200 that is a bit less expensive. But the 200 doesn’t have the hybrids fuel economy even though it uses essentially the same 4-cylinder engine and CVT transmission.
Despite its size, the UX250h’s interior is spacious and very upscale, the latter a common trait among Lexus vehicles. After a low 16-inch step-in, you’re treated to soft, supportive, heated/cooled comfy front seats with quilted upper side bolters.
An optional 10.25-inch infotainment screen in the review vehicle was nicely snugged into the top of the dash. It serves the audio, rearview camera with extra wide view, Enform apps, navigation, some voice controls, Apple CarPlay and climate selections. Most of these are controlled by a sensitive trackpad on the console. Some applications like climate selections, if not using the piano-type keyboard switches on the vertical stack, require clicking on Misc. then selecting climate that requires taking the eyes off the road. But for the most part, the HVAC switches will suffice. Other controls are within infotainment menus that have to be searched out through multiple clicks. Below the HVAC controls is a wireless phone charger.
A burly gear selector for the CVT transmission is flanked by the trackpad, audio controls and an EV mode switch that allows electric driving for approximately 0.6 of a mile using only the hybrid battery and front/rear electric motors. The owners’ manual says this limited electric power is used to drive on residential areas in early morning, late night hours, or in an indoor parking lot.
The digital gauge cluster includes a driver information display for features, functions and alerts. On the outside of the hooded cluster are a pair of rotary stalks. On the right side is the drive mode switch for Sport, Normal and Eco modes. On the left side is a traction control switch.
UX250h’s back seat offers limited leg room for two adults but could seat three youngsters. If the front seats are racked well rearward, leg room becomes non-existent. The seats themselves are soft and comfy and the back doors open wide for easy ingress/egress.
Cargo space within the hatch and with the rear seatbacks upright is rated at 21.7 cubic feet that measures 29.5 inches deep, 40.5 wide and 22 high. Flip them and cargo loading depth expands to 61 inches. And beneath the cargo floor is a shallow bin for small item storage.
Powertrain wise, UX250h uses a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder plus two electric motors (front and rear) for a total system output of 181-hp. Coupled to the standard CVT transmission, EPA rates the car at 41 city, 38 highway mpg.
With a curb weight of 3,605 pounds, full pedal acceleration from a standing stop is linear. Sport mode alters shift points somewhat and increases engine rpms a bit.
Ride wise on Bridgestone 18-inch run-flat tires is smooth and relatively quiet. UX250h handles nicely with some body roll in sharp turns taken at an aggressive pace. It parks easily with its short wheelbase as it has a turn radius of a tight 34.2 feet.
Since the transport company who delivered the vehicle didn’t provide a Monroney (window sticker), I can only presume the Luxury trim model was loaded with all the available and latest safety features such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist (keeps the vehicle between the roadway lines), blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and more. And it may have also included the optional Premium/Luxury packages. As such, the UX250h carries a listed base price of $36,825. Of course, if adding certain optional packages, this price will increase.
UX250h comes with a 4 year/50K mile basic warranty, 6/70K drivetrain, 6/Unlimited rust prevention and 4/Unlimited roadside assistance.
If you’ve always wanted a Lexus for its reliability, quality build and luxury comfort, while desiring miserly fuel economy, check out the UX250h from the company who knows hybrid technology better than most.
Toyota’s RAV4 is the best-selling compact SUV in the world. And now in its 5th generation, the RAV is available in several versions from on road, off-road, hybrid and plug-in.
It’s also offered in LE, XLE Premium, XSE, Limited, Adventure and TRD Off-Road trim levels, the latter of which we tested.
The 2022 RAV4 TRD Off-Road differs from the some of the other versions as it has a slightly higher ground clearance of 8.6 inches, sports a front skid plate for approach/departure angles of 19/21 degrees respectively, is equipped with an off-road-type suspension, it comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels that are shod with 18-inch, eight-inch wide, all-terrain Falken tires, and much more.
RAV4’s TRD Off-Road (OR) exterior takes on an aggressive look with sculpted lines and cladding around each wheel well, plus sporty dual exhaust tips.
RAV OR’s interior is equally as stylish while maintaining a rugged theme with red stitching on all seam edges and red trim around the cup holders and wireless phone charger. We especially liked the large interior door handles. Best on the market.
An 8-inch dual touchscreen sits midway down on the dash that takes on an iPad look serving the usual compliment of audio, climate selections, apps, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Wi-Fi connectivity, rearview camera with overhead, close-up and revolving views around the vehicle - to mention a few.
Substantial HVAC controls are easy to view and use and below them is the wireless phone charger along with the robust transmission gear selector for RAVs 8-speed automatic trans. It’s augmented with paddle shifters. Our only complaint here is that the interior fan speed could be faster at its highest setting.
At the base of the vertical stack and console top are the driving mode switches offering Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow. As those are push button switches, off-road modes of Mud/Sand, Rock/Dirt are selected by a rotary switch. It’s a nice, logical arrangement for ease of operation that takes the guesswork out of the appropriate mode to use. Back in the old days we only had a choice of 2High, 4High and 4Low gearing.
The gauge cluster is both digital and analog type that includes a driver information display for functions, features, modes and alerts.
RAV’s heated front seats are nicely padded and supportive to soften jarring off-road jaunts. Ditto for the rear seats that have a low 19-inch step-in with decent leg room and ample headroom. And they can actually seat three abreast as the transaxle hump is low and flat.
Back in the cargo area, that has a low 27-inch lift over, and with the rear seatbacks upright, there’s 37.5 cubic feet of space that measures 39 inches deep, 44 wide and 32 high. Flip the seatbacks and space expands to 69.8 cubic feet for 69 inches of cargo loading depth. And beneath the cargo floor is a space saver tire around which some small items can be stowed out of sight.
Power wise, the OR gets its grunt from a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder that generates an impressive 203-hp and 184 lb/ft of torque that when coupled to the 8-speed trans, receives EPA mileage estimates of 25 city, 32-highway mpg. There’s certainly no want for power as the 2.5-liter offers good acceleration from a standing stop to highway passing maneuvers. The engine is a bit noisy under heavy throttle, but it doesn’t strain.
So powered, and with OR’s AWD system, the RAV garners a maximum tow capacity of 3,500 pounds and a GVWR of 4,705 pounds that includes the Adventure model as well. Other RAVs are tow rated for 1,500 pounds.
Ride wise, RAV4 OD’s off-road suspension is somewhat stiffer as compared to other RAV models. But it’s to be expected for an off-road capable vehicle that remains planted in sharp turns with its 3,655 pounds curb weight.
Most impressive are RAV4’s government five-star safety ratings. The RAV earned a full five overall stars, four for driver frontal crash, five for passenger; five stars for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover.
RAV’s come with a 3 year/36K comprehensive warranty, 5/60K powertrain, 5/Unlimited corrosion protection and new car buyers receive ToyotaCare complimentary maintenance plan.
Above all, there’s Toyota’s great reputation for reliability. If I had to buy another SUV, the RAV4 would be a major consideration.
Hyundai’s 2022 Kona AWD subcompact crossover has arrived with a freshened look inside and out, improved safety features and added power.
For 2019 and 2020, Hyundai’s Kona received Kelly Blue Book’s Best Buy Awards and the 2022 version should get the same coveted award as it just got better.
Kona is offered in SE, SEL, N Line, Limited (tested) and N versions, the latter is the sporty model with 276-hp. There’s also an EV model if you’re so inclined to go green.
The 2022 Kona has been stretched 1.6 inches for added back seat leg room and a tad more cargo room. Interior accommodations are upscale with a touch of sportiness including perforated leather trimmed seats, a 10.25-inch digital instrument gauge cluster, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with voice recognition, Blue Link, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satellite radio, plus many more as standard. And as with all new Hyundai’s, the Harmon Kardon audio system offers an alternative to music with “Sounds of Nature,” a replication of such sounds as a rainy day, waves breaking on a shore, a crackling fireplace and others.
Also included is Hyundai’s Digital Key that allows smartphones to be used to remotely lock/unlock the doors, start the engine, even sharing the key with family members.
In addition, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist applies the brakes to help prevent an accident if encountering another vehicle near your blind spots when the attempting to change lanes.
Added too was Highway Driver Assist that not only keeps the Kona between the roadway lines, but does so at a specific following distance and even makes necessary speed adjustments to posted speed limits.
Kona has all these and other high-tech safety features that many greater priced competitors don’t yet offer.
The Climate system consists of HVAC controls that are large and easy to use and selections can be displayed on the touchscreen. It’s pleasing to see that Hyundai maintained hard switch HVAC controls as oppose to digital-only screen controls like far too many new cars and trucks now have. Although that can also be used. Switches, once learned their positioning, don’t take the eyes off the road like screen touches do.
Kona offers a wireless phone charger that shares the console with the 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission gear selector along with a mode switch and AWD lock switch. The latter comes in handy if getting stuck in snow or mud.
The mode switch offers Normal, Smart and Sport modes. Sport increases engine rpms by 500, holds transmission shift points longer and adjusts steering effort for more spirited performance.
With a low 16.5-inch step-in, the back seat is comfy for two adults. Leg room is adequate if the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. Head room though is ample.
Back in the cargo area, and with the 60/40 split-folding seats upright, there’s 19.2 cubic feet of space measuring 28 inches deep, 42 wide and 28.5 high. Flip the seatbacks and space increases to 45.8 cubic feet for 57 inches of cargo loading depth.
Kona is offered with a choice of three engines depending on the model choice. A 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder with 147-hp and 132 lb/ft of torque comes with the SE and SEL trim models; the tested 1.6-liter, turbocharged inline 4 with 195-hp and 195 lb/ft of torque goes into Kona N Line and Limited; and a potent 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with 276-hp and 289 lb/ft of torque that powers the N. The latter couples to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters and a limited slip differential.
As tested, the 1.6L was peppy but required more accelerator pedal it seemed until selecting Sport mode when acceleration was quicker with less pedal as peak torque starts at a low 1,500 rpm and continues through to 4,500 rpm. EPA rates this powertrain at 27 city, 32-highway mpg.
Ride and handling are impressive. Shod with 18-inch Goodyear tires, Kona rode quietly and its suspension soaked up most road imperfections. Handling was sporty as Kona can be tossed in the turns as it remains stable throughout a maneuver. And it was exceptionally easy to park in tight spots.
Kona comes loaded with a long list of standard safety features. In addition to what has been mentioned, Kona Limited came with forward collision avoidance, lane keeping/following assist, blind spot collision avoidance, rear cross traffic alert, safe exit warning (if opening a door and traffic is oncoming, an alert comes on), downhill brake control, hill start assist, driver attention warning (warns to keep a hand on the wheel in lane keeping assist mode and an attentive warning when at a stoplight and a vehicle ahead pulls out and you’re not paying attention), and more.
For all these, Kona Limited AWD starts at $29,950 plus a delivery of $1,185.
Kona received top government safety ratings of a full five stars for an overall score; five for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front/rear seats side crash; and four for rollover.
Of course, Kona also comes with the best warranty in the business. There’s a 5 year/60K new vehicle warranty; 10/100K powertrain; 7/Unlimited anti-perforation; 3/36K complimentary maintenance; and 5/Unlimited roadside assistance.
With all these you can’t go wrong with a Hyundai Kona AWD as it would make an ideal all-weather commuter car, a college student car or a second car if you have a pickup truck or larger SUV.
The Lexus RX 350 midsize SUV/crossover has been the company’s top seller and long running best-selling luxury vehicle in the U.S. And that’s saying something since it competes with entries from Acura, Audi, BMW, Mercedes and the latest Genesis GV80.
Lexus RX 350 AWD SUV exudes luxury, unmistakable styling with its chiseled lines and superb comfort in an all-weather vehicle. And they hold their value.
Offered in FWD, AWD, in hybrid form as an RX 450h, and a stretched RX 350L version for seven passenger seating with a third-row seat. There’s also the Black Line Edition and the tested F Sport for those who want more sportiness and performance in a luxury SUV.
The F Sport is outfitted with special 20-inch F Sport wheels, black outer mirrors, F Sport (heated) steering wheel, F Sport exterior and steering wheel badging, F Sport Meter and F Sport front and rear performance dampers. F Sport also has an adaptive variable suspension that automatically changes settings in milliseconds depending on driving and road conditions. Included too are running boards that aren’t really needed.
These combine with a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 295-hp and 267 lb/ft of torque for a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds. Along with an 8-speed automatic transmission, EPA rates the combo at 19 city, 26-highway mpg. Acceleration is quick both from a standing stop to highway passing maneuvers. Under hard acceleration, shift points come at higher rpms. So equipped, F Sport turns an SUV into a performance SUV for those who want a spirited driving experience. The exhaust tips add to the pleasure, as they exude a sweet rumble under hard acceleration.
After a low 20-inch step-in into the cockpit, you’re treated to perforated, heated/cooled front seats that hug the torso ever so supportively. Suede covered pillars and ceiling liner add extra warmth and class to the interior while brushed aluminum pedals add a sporty touch.
Centered on the dash is a 12.3-inch infotainment display with voice control serving a high-end Mark Levinson audio, rearview cameras, climate, features and functions. The rearview camera system includes close-up, 360-degree revolving and frontal views. The latter automatically comes on as an alert when a pedestrian or object appears in front of the RX. Offered too is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Alexa plus Wi-Fi connectivity.
HVAC controls are arranged in an array that make them easy to view and use and above them is a CD player. Remember those? Kudo’s to Lexus for including it. All climate selections are displayed on the screen.
The console houses the transmission gear shift that’s complimented with paddle shifters. Next to it is a wireless phone charger and below it a touchpad for display selections. The pad is very sensitive to the touch and does take the eyes off the road so it should only be used when the RX is stopped.
Occupying the console is a mode switch for Eco, Normal, Custom, Sport S and S-Plus modes, the latter duo increases engine rpms by 500. There’s also an AWD Lock switch that sends torque to the front and rear wheels when extra traction is needed.
Instrumentation consists of a large single digital gauge that combines a speedometer and tachometer and includes a driver information display for alerts, functions and mode selections.
The heated steering wheel has a Lane Assist switch that when activated, provides steering assist to keep the RX safely between the highway lines.
Rear seats are sofa soft and accommodating for two adults or three tweens with wide opening doors for easy ingress/egress. Leg room is adequate provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. Head room though is ample.
Back in the cargo area that has a 31-inch lift-over, and with the rear seatbacks upright, there’s 16 cubic feet of space that measures 38 inched deep, 45 wide and 28 high. Flip them and capacity expands to 32.6 cubic feet for 72 inches (a full six feet) of cargo loading depth. A 6-inch deep bin beneath the cargo floor allows stowing small items out of sight.
Shod with Bridgestone 20-inch tires, RX 350 rides with Lexus’ inherent quietness and smoothness. Its suspension soaks up highway tar strips and road imperfections without notice in the cabin.
Standard safety features include Lexus’ Safety System 2.0 with pre-collision, lane departure alert w/steering assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rain sensing wipers and more.
The options list is lengthy and pricey. Starting at a base price of $52,600, extras include wireless charger ($200), cold weather package ($200), color heads-up display ($600), triple beam LED headlights/washers, auto leveling ($1,675), panoramic sunroof and roof rails ($500), Navigation package includes the Mark Levinson audio, 12.3-inch touchscreen, 4G and more ($3,365), power rear door w/kick sensor ($150), panoramic view monitor w/intuitive parking assist, rear cross traffic braking ($1,365), cargo mat ($140), cargo net ($75), running boards ($650), all-weather floor mats, cargo tray ($290), and delivery ($1,075) took the bottom line to $62,885.
My wife drives a 2008 AWD RX 350 and it doesn’t have three-quarters of these options. Yet it’s the best vehicle we ever owned and serves us problem free. If you can live without a lot of the aforementioned amenities, the RX 350 is still quite an all-weather car.
RX 350 also performed well in the governments 5-star safety ratings. It earned four overall stars; three for driver frontal crash, four for passenger; five for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover.
While not everyone wants or needs an SUV or crossover, even though the new ones offer three row seating for a family of four or more, there is a tried and true alternative, and it’s offered with AWD.
That’s exactly what Toyota offers with their Sienna AWD minivan. And as an added benefit, Sienna is now offered in hybrid form with very impressive fuel economy for a 4,725-pound vehicle.
Sienna is offered in LE, XLE, XSE AWD, Limited AWD, Woodland Edition and tested top-tier Platinum AWD.
So designed, the Sienna AWD has a certain SUV flair with its massive grille and sloping roofline.
Sienna’s interior can offer seating for eight or seven if opting for captain’s chairs in the second row. The cockpit comes with sumptuous heated/cooled leather seats, a large jet-like console with 9-inch infotainment display serving the satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Wi-Fi connectivity, climate selections and rearview camera with overhead revolving perimeter scan. Beneath the console is a handy 14x19-inch shelf to stow a purse or other small items.
A burly gear shift controls the CVT transmission and it’s flanked by a mode switch for Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes. There’s also an EV switch to propel the Sienna on electric power only for short distances. When selecting modes, they display on the 9-inch screen and in different color combinations. There’s also an Acoustic Vehicle alerting system to notify nearby pedestrians of an approaching hybrid vehicle.
Heated second row captain’s chairs come with a Long-Slide feature that has 25 inches of travel. They can slide backward to touch the third-row seat if more leg room is needed for extra tall passengers. And slide forward for third row access.
Sienna’s side doors slide fore/aft remotely as does the rear hatch gate that can also be opened by a wave of a foot beneath the rear bumper.
Back in the cargo area, there’s an 11-inch deep bin for grocery bags or gear and where the third-row seat folds down into it. With the third-row seats up there’s 33.5 cubic feet of cargo space, 75.2 with them folded and 101.0 with the second row flipped. It, like the entire interior, is hugely spacious and can hold a mountain bike with the front wheel removed and stacked atop the bike.
As for the powertrain, Sienna AWD Platinum comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that couples to a single electric motor for FWD versions and two motors for the AWD models with one of the motors powering the rear axle. The engine is boosted via a nickel metal hydride battery pack that comes with a 10-year, 150K mile warranty. Combined with the gasoline engine, there’s 245-hp total system output that earns EPA mileage estimates of 35 city, 36-highway mpg with the CVT transmission. So powered, Sienna has a tow capacity of up to 3,500 pounds.
Driving wise, Sienna hugs the road ever so compliantly and despite its bulk, parks rather easily with a 38.3 turning radius. It rides smoothly and quietly on 18-inch Bridgestone tires.
Sienna comes standard with a host of safety features such as Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist (keeps the van between the road lines), lane tracing assist, blind spot monitoring and more.
Optional items include rear seat entertainment system ($1,415); 11.8-inch video display and wireless headphones; 1500w inverter ($300); digital rearview mirror w/Homelink ($200); carpeted floor mats ($220); and delivery ($1,175) that took the base price of $50,460 to a bottom line of $53,770.
All hybrid components are covered by an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty in addition to the standard coverage.
Minivans remain the vehicle of choice for a large family and with Sienna’s AWD capability, it’s a compelling choice for year-round, inclement weather transportation.
Hyundai SUVs have become very popular, especially with their generous warranties, and they’re all winners. But there was something missing. A pickup truck.
Well a pickup has arrived with the launch of Hyundai’s compact Santa Cruz pickup that’s base on a stretched and wider version of their top selling Tucson SUV.
Santa Cruz combines a 4-door compact SUV with a pickup truck bed. Hyundai likes to call it a “Sport Adventure Vehicle.” It’s similar to the old mini-bed Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was essentially a 4-door Explorer with a true 4WD system, and in some cases, the Subaru Baja that never became a big seller. Then there’s the Honda’s AWD Ridgeline with shortened bed that’s inches shy of a full-size pickup.
Santa Cruz is offered in FWD and AWD and with two engine choices. The base engine is a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder putting out 191-hp and 181 lb/ft of torque. When coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission, EPA rates it at 21 city, 27-highway mpg with AWD. We tested the higher output 2.5-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder with 281-hp and 311 lb/ft of torque. EPA gave it mileage estimates of 19/27 mpg with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The combination is tow rated for up to 5,000 pounds with trailer brakes This engine is only available with AWD that’s needed here in the Snowbelt.
Santa Cruz’s exterior styling with unit-body design gives the pickup a seamless, solid look. Its bold grille has Tucson-type running lights and a skid plate under the front fascia that entertains an acute approach angle of 17.5 degrees while it helps protect the trucks’ undercarriage vitals when off-roading.
The composite bed is four feet long with the aft portion housing a 7-inch deep under-bed and a non-locking bin that has a drain plug so it can be used to stow (and drain) ice to keep drinks cold. If the tailgate is locked, the under-bed bin cannot be opened. The tailgate has to be opened to open the bin.
The test truck came with a lockable composite tonneau cover along with four tie-down cleats on the bed rails. There are also detents molded into the bedsides for two-tier loading. Lift over onto the open tailgate (that opens remotely via the keyfob) is a low 31.5 inches.
Upon a 20-inch step-in into the cockpit, Santa Cruz’s interior resembles that what’s found in the Santa Fe and Palisade SUVs. The center stack houses a 10.25-inch touchscreen that serves the audio, navigation, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and, when tired of music, “Sounds of Nature” are replicated outdoor sounds like Calm Sea Waves, Warm Fireplace, Rainy Day, Open Air Café and others to soothe you.
Flush HVAC controls are aligned on a touchscreen with selections displayed on the large touchscreen along with other functions and features.
Heated/cooled leatherette front seats are abundantly padded with sensible lumbar support.
A (heated) steering wheel mounted mode switch offers Normal, Smart, Snow and Sport modes. The latter increases engine rpm’s a bit and upshifts are delayed somewhat. All modes are displayed within the 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster. Residing there as well is a steer assist switch that maintains the Santa Cruz between the highway lines provided at least one hand is lightly on the wheel. Otherwise an instrument cluster alert comes on.
On the console is an AWD Lock switch for when the going gets tough, or stuck in snow or mud. Santa Cruz has a ground clearance of 8.6 inches to get it through modest snow depths and over some off-road hazards.
Santa Cruz’s back seat is comfy for two adults but legroom is on the tight side, especially if the fronts are racked well rearward. Headroom is ample and there are assist handles over all four doors. The rear seat bottoms flip up against the bulkhead exposing a hidden full-length 7-inch deep bin for small item storage.
As for ride, it resembles that in Hyundai’s fine SUVs, albeit with a cargo box. It’s smooth with no jiggly feeling and it parks easily thanks to its size and maneuverability. And the 2.5L turbo feels like a V6 under the hood when pressing hard on the accelerator.
The 2022 Santa Cruz came with one extra cost option and that being carpeted floor mats ($195). Otherwise the standard list is exhaustive and includes such most needed safety features like forward collision avoidance assist, lane keeping/following assist, driver attention warning, blind spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic collision avoidance assist, safe exit warning, remote engine start and many more.
For all that plus satellite radio, Bose audio and Blue Link connected services, Santa Fe bottom lined at $41,100 with a $1,185 delivery charge.
Added to this you get Hyundai’s generous warranty of 5 year/60K new vehicle warranty, 10/100K powertrain, 7/Unlimited perforation, 3/36K complimentary maintenance and 5/Unlimited roadside assistance. Unbeatable coverage.
For those who take jaunts in the great outdoors and do some semi-rugged off-roading, or merely hauling mulch and garden supplies, the Santa Cruz can take you there and tow some toys like a 14-foot boat or ATV. It’s multifaceted and it’s fun to drive.
For the past 15 years, Toyota’s Tacoma has been the top selling midsize pickup in the country. Reason being, it offers Toyota’s fine build, high resale value, it’s offered in several configurations and it’s the right size for those who don’t need a full-size pickup.
Tacoma is offered in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited and TRD Pro that we were privileged to test. New to these are a Trail Special Edition and Nightshade Special Edition models, with the latter getting a 5,000 limited production run.
Tacoma is also offered in Access Cab with half-size rear hinged doors and seating for four with a pair of jump seats. The tested Double Cab, with standard size doors, has a full-width bench seat offering seating for a total of five.
Upon a tall 23-inch step-in into the cockpit, Tacoma’s interior is sporty and rugged looking with cushy leather trimmed and heated front seats that have contrasting red stitching. Atop the dash is an 8-inch touchscreen complete with Entune apps, Wi-Fi connect, multi-view rearview camera, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
On the vertical stack, HVAC controls are large and easy to use even with gloved hands. Next to them is the rotary 4WD selector for 2WD, 4Hi and 4 Lo on-demand, part-time gearing. Adding to Tacoma TRD Pro’s off-road prowess is a locking rear differential with Multi-Terrain select along with Crawl Control and Hill Start Assist.
Housed neared the bottom of the stack is a wireless phone charger and in front, the 6-speed automatic transmission gear selector.
A 4.2-inch vertical driver information display nestled between the analog tach and speedometer, offers a digital speedometer along with auxiliary operating information and alerts.
Tacoma’s back seat is roomy for two adults or three youngsters. Leg room for adults is spacious, provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. The rear seat seatback flips forward exposing a shelf for small item storage.
Back in Tacoma’s composite bed, it includes four sliding tie-down cleats along the bed rails to secure loads. With the tailgate lowered, there’s a 32-inch lift height.
With the TRD Pro model, it gets beefy 2.5-inch Fox shocks and skid plate to protect the trucks’ vitals. Shod with Goodyear, 8-inch wide, 265/70R16 tires, Tacoma has a firm, but not punishing ride. Handling is planted in tight turns and has a 40.8-foot turn diameter. This is a bona fide work and off-road truck with a 9.4-inch ground clearance to handle nasty off-roads and deep snow depths.
Power wise, Tacoma’s are offered with two powertrain choices. The 2.4-liter inline 4 produces 159-hp and 180 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 19 city, 22-highway mpg with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Tacoma’s can also be had with a 6-speed manual trans, a rarity among midsize pickups. Our TRD Pro came standard a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 278-hp and 265 lb/ft of torque for EPA estimates of 18 city, 22-highway mpg with the 6-speed automatic trans. This allows a towing capacity of up to 6,400 pounds. It carries a GVWR of 5,600 pounds and a GCW of 11,360 pounds.
Tacoma TRD Pro was loaded with a host of safety features such as Toyota’s Safety Sense P Pre-Collision system w/pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, blind spot monitor w/rear cross traffic alert, Safety and Remote Connect w/one-year trial, and more.
Niceties include JBL audio, Sirius XM satellite radio, LED headlights, Smart Key system, tow receiver hitch, Rigid Industries fog lights and more.
For all this and no extra cost options, Tacoma TRD Pro carried a bottom line of $47,955 with delivery.
Impressive for a midsize pickup is that Tacoma garnered four overall stars in the governments five-star safety rating. It also received four stars for driver/passenger frontal crash, four for front seat side crash, five stars for rear seat side crash and four for rollover.
With competition from Chevy’s Colorado, GMCs Canyon, Jeep Gladiator, Ford’s Ranger and new Maverick, Tacoma is a proven performer and destined to remain a top seller in its class.