Cadillac has always been known as the luxury sedan car-maker. But that has changed of late since they introduced their line of crossover-SUVs.
Their latest addition is the XT6, a three row, 7 passenger, crossover that falls size wise between their two-row XT5 and full-size Escalade SUV. We previously reviewed Cadillac’s compact XT4 compact crossover that is a downsized version of the XT5.
The XT6 is positioned for families of four or more who need a bit more interior space than that of the XT5, but don’t want a full-size Escalade be it for its maneuverability, fuel economy or price.
XT6 is offered in two trim models: Premium Luxury and Sport AWD. The latter has sportier handling and performance characteristics. It also has a Sport Control active twin-clutch AWD system.
We were privileged to test the Premium Luxury AWD with its striking design lines, shield type grille and eye grabbing vertical front LED running lights. Its back end too is classy with large rectangular tailpipe extensions, splashes of chrome trim and inverted L-shaped taillights.
Slipping into the XT6 cockpit with the keyfob on you, the doors automatically unlock. You’re then treated an eclectic interior with an 8-inch display that’s inlaid into a swopping dash with wood grain trim that melds perfectly into the gauge cluster.
HVAC controls are easy to read and use. Certain functions such as air direction, display on the screen that also serves audio, navigation, rearview/surround camera (that has a nifty spray nozzle to clean it of snow or dirt), Apple CarPlay/Android Auto apps, Wi-Fi 4G hotspot connectivity, OnStar, satellite radio and a host more systems and features. Included too is a next gen 15-watt wireless charging system.
Sumptuously padded and heated/cooled leather front seats make for a comfy cockpit. But that’s not all. Optional, is a Rear Camera Mirror that offers a digital display that removes objects that obstruct a typical rear mirror view, such as passengers, headrests or the vehicle structure itself.
There’s also an available interior air ionizer and Night Vision system that provides the driver with an infrared night vision view of the area beyond the headlamps be it a person, animal or other road obstructions, and alerts (the driver’s seat bottom vibrates plus a visual warning) and gives the driver more time to react.
Much of the commands for the 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with voice recognition, are inputted from a rotary controller on the console, while other screen functions are selected on the touchscreen. The controller has an intuitive jog function that is a first for Cadillac. It’s designed to compliment hard buttons and steering wheel controls for easier screen navigation. It allows the user to tilt the knob, which is similar to a joystick, to navigate between items on the touchscreen. There’s also a park assist option.
Step-in is a low 19 inches and second row seats (captain’s chairs are optional) that have generous leg and headroom. The seats slide and tilt forward to make third row access easier. Third row seats are mainly for youngsters or short legged adults.
Back in the cargo area that has a hands-free liftgate, and with the third row seats upright, there’s 12.6 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 16 inches deep, 44 wide and 30 high. Press two buttons and they flip forward for 43.1 cubic feet that gives 46.5 inches of loading depth. Press another two and the second row flips down for 78.7 cubic feet of space that offers 80 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor is a handy, full width, 6.5-inch deep storage bin. Lift over into the cargo bay is an easy 31 inches.
XT6 gets its grunt from a proven 3.6-liter V6 that is used in several other GM vehicles. It puts out 310-hp and 271-lb/ft of torque. When coupled to a 9-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters), it garners EPA mileage estimates of 17 city, 24-highway mpg with auto start/stop engine technology that essentially turns the 3.6L into a four-cylinder. So equipped XT6 has a tow rating of 4,000 pounds, enough for a utility, small boat or ATV trailer.
A point about the transmission shifter is that it’s a likeness to BMW’s iDrive head. Pushing a switch at the top of the shifter engages Park mode.
With XT6’s 4,645-pound curb weight, acceleration is linear in fashion. Its heft can be felt when passing 18-wheelers, but there’s no want for power no matter the driving situation.
Shod with 20-inch Michelin tires, XT6 rides smoothly and quietly, like a Cadillac should.
For a somewhat large vehicle, the XT6 is relatively nimble and has a decent 39.1 foot turning radius, making it easy to park. It takes sharp turns with only a trace of body lean, and when encountering them, stays planted.
XT6 has four driver selectable drive modes of Tour, AWD, Sport and Off-Road. Now you might wonder what the latter does since it’s AWD equipped that sends power to all four wheels. The Off-Road mode modifies accelerator pedal response, AWD torque distribution, TCS, ABS and ESC operation. In that mode, XT6 can only handle mild off-roads because of its low 6.65-inch ground clearance.
XT6’s base price of $54,695 comes with an exceptionally long list of features and safety functions such as front and rear park assist, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane keep assist/departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert w/side blind zone alert, front pedestrian braking and much more.
On the options side, the Enhanced Vis and Tech package ($2,350) adds the rear camera washer, HD surround vision/recorder, Head Up Display and about six more. Twenty-inch polished wheels adds $2,095; driver assist package ($1,300) includes enhanced automatic braking, reverse automatic braking and more. Tag on another $1,000 for Cadillac User Experience that adds Nav, 8-inch display, Bose audio, Teen Driver and more. For $750 the XT6 gets heated rear seats, ionizer, vented seats and more. With a delivery of $995, XT6 bottom lines at $63,810. That’s in the ball park with comparable Euro and Japanese competitors.
XT6 also comes with 4 year/50K bumper-bumper and 6/70K powertrain warranties that includes roadside assistance with transportation plus the first maintenance visit is free.
As said, Cadillac is no longer just a luxury sedan company. Their XT6 is a classy and striking looking crossover that must be driven to be appreciated.
There’s a reason BMW calls their vehicles “The Ultimate Driving Machines.” It’s because they are. And their X7 xDrive50i is one prime example.
This three-row is the crème de la crème of SUVs, that’s if you don’t consider the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, which shares the same nomenclature of the X7.
X7 is a combination of AWD SUV, ultra-luxury sedan, family hauler and sports car. It continues the BMW design theme with its dual kidney grille and shares overall design with BMWs long-standing X5 SUV, but it’s 9.1 inches longer to accommodate the third row. It is the largest vehicle in BMWs stable.
X7 is offered with three engine choices. There’s a 3.0L turbocharged inline-6 rated at 335-hp and 330 lb/ft of torque with EPA mileage estimates of 20/25 mpg; the tested 4.4L, twin turbo V8 with 456-hp and 479 lb/ft of torque and EPA’s of 15 city, 21-highway mpg; and a super-potent 4.4L twin turbo with a whopping 523-hp and 553 lb/ft of torque for EPA’s of 15/21 mpg.
All engines couple to a quick shifting 8-speed automatic transmission that has separate switches for Sport, Comfort and Eco modes. Sport mode provides higher shift points for more spirited driving.
With the 4.4L we tested, it was independently 0-60 tested at 5.2 seconds. Upon pressing the ignition button, the 4.4L V8 lights up and puts out a velvety hum that is Rolex watch perfection. Goose the accelerator and the ovoid tailpipes bark a sweet garble. With paddle shifters, X7 can turn this 5,285-pound SUV into a burly sports car with shift-for-yourself shift points if you so desire. BMW makes the finest engines that beckon to be driven Autobahn style. Oh, and if walking away from the X7 with the engine running, the engine will automatically shut off.
After a 20-inch step in into the luxurious cockpit, you’re treated to a host of extraordinary extravagance for an SUV, a visual that could be in a Gulfstream 650 jet. Your eyes will quickly notice the crystal glass shifter knob then be grabbed by the dual 12.3-inch displays, one for the infotainment system, the other serving the all digital display and opulent wood trim. Rest assured, there’s so many features and functions on the displays that they require a good long study of the owners’ manual. So forgive me if I miss something as we only had the X7 for a week.
We can’t say enough about X7s heated/cooled front seats. They’re supportive with great extended under thigh support for an exceptionally comfy ride. There’s even heated armrests.
X7s 12-3-inch display serves BMWs infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a Bowers & Wilkins audio, rearview camera, nav and a host of other apps (including a weather app) and several features like Auto Park, Adaptive Driving Control and much more. And it does so via a console mounted rotary controller.
HVAC controls are an array of buttons in the middle of the dash with selections displayed on the LCD. They are easy to use without taking the eyes off the road once acclimating to their position on the vertical stack. And at the base of the stack is a wireless phone charger, a most appreciated feature.
Optional second row bucket seats are comfy and power slide forward for easy third row access. At the rear of the console are HVAC controls for second row passengers which also sends heat and A/C to third row riders.
As for the third row, most are mainly for youngsters. Not X7s. They’re surprisingly spacious for two adults with decent leg and head room and easy ingress/egress.
Back in the cargo area and with the third row upright, it’s rated at 11.5 cubic feet that measures 18 inches deep, 43 wide and 32 high. Flip them and capacity expands to 48.6 cubic feet for 48 inches of loading depth.
Unlike a lot of competitive SUVs who’s second row seats fold flat, X7s just tilt forward a bit.
Beneath the aft cargo floor is a 5-inch deep storage bin for small items. And if carrying a heavy load, a switch on the console controls the air suspension system to raise (and lower) the body to level it.
Then there’s the split tailgate. It’s good for stowing small packages over the lower gate, or carrying extra long items that can hang out over the lower gate with the top portion open. Can’t very well do that with a single liftgate. With both sections open, there’s 15.5 inches of gate panel that must be stretched over to stow items in the cargo bay.
The ride on big 21-inch Bridgestone run-flat tires is smooth and quiet with X7s independent suspension and air springs keeping the SUV planted in sharp turns. Press the Sport mode button and the X7 gets even more lively with a tightened suspension that gives sporty handling characteristics. You can throw the X7 into curves and it stays planted and points true. Turn the steering wheel an inch and the nose points 20 degrees either way.
Now all this luxury and fine engineering doesn’t come without a fine price. The standard feature list is exhaustive but options are pricey. For example, starting at a base price of $92,600, the following takes that number to three figures. The test car added a cold weather package ($1,200); dynamic handling package ($4,750); M Sport package ($3,550); premium package ($1,550); executive package ($2,100), display key ($300); second row captain’s chairs ($600); leather dashboard ($1,200); Bowers-Wilkins audio ($3,400) and delivery ($995) that took the bottom line to $112,245. A premium price for a premium AWD, third row SUV. There is however, a lesser priced version in the AWD xDrive40i, albeit without some of the extras just listed.
Now this price includes an array of standard safety gear like blind spot detection, lane departure warning, park distance control, extended traffic jam assistant, active driving assistance pro and many, many more.
If you can afford the very best, X7 is the very best.
Subaru’s Outback has to be the most popular midsize SUV on local roads. In this its sixth generation, the 2020 Outback’s popularity comes from its excellent traction abilities, its conservative styling, reasonable price, and now, a host of high-tech and safety features that are not found on some higher-priced competitors.
Outback’s are offered in base, Premium (tested), Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT. An Outback for every budget and pleasure.
We were privileged to test the Premium trim version that came with comfy cloth seats and an 11.6-inch touchscreen with a host of features, functions and apps.
The heated front seats, in particular, are exceptionally supportive and despite being cloth with leather edges, they take on the look of leather at a distance. Subaru interior designers did a great job selecting these.
Then there’s the new large touchscreen with its Starlink infotainment system serving the audio, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, driving statistics, Navigation, HVAC systems, and more. The only feature missing is a wireless phone charger on the Premium trim.
As for the HVAC system, most functions operate primarily from the touchscreen as do the heated seat controls. That takes some getting used to and momentarily takes the eyes off the road for selections.
Subaru’s have always been known as great cars in snow, especially with Outback’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance. We owned a ’98 Outback back then and I recall that after a 12-inch snowfall, I drove up an inclined street behind our house while a neighbor lady stood on her pavement with snow shovel in hand as she watched my Outback easily ascend the grade of the unplowed street to our driveway. She shook her head in disbelief as to the Suby’s deep snow ability. In spring, she bought an Outback.
Subaru’s Active Torque-Split AWD system continuously adjusts to driving conditions by sending power from the wheels that slip to the wheels that don’t. In essence providing power to all four wheels simultaneously. Outback’s X-Mode system can be activated (via the touchscreen) for tough traction conditions such as deep snow, mud and dirt. It also operates Hill Descent Control.
Outback’s’ comfy rear seat has generous leg and headroom for two adults or three youngsters, offering easy ingress/egress thanks to wide opening doors and a low 19-inch step-in. And unlike many four-door’s, there’s thoughtful assist handles above each door.
Back in the spacious cargo area, and with the back seats upright, there’s 32.5 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 42.5 inches deep, 45 wide and 29.5 wide. Flip the rear seatbacks by pulling two handles in the sidewall and it opens up 75.7 cubic feet of storage that offers 74 inches of cargo loading depth. And for small item storage, the underfloor has a foam bin into which small items can be stowed. And lift over into the cargo area, is a mere 27.5 inches.
Outback gets its grunt from one of two new engines. The one in the test car was a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder Boxer engine putting out 182-hp and 176 lb/ft of torque. It couples to a new 8-step continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters. Together, it earned mileage estimates of 26 city, 33-highway mpg with auto start/stop engine technology. The combination is tow rated for 2,700 pounds.
Performance wise, full pedal acceleration comes on in linear fashion with sufficient highway passing power at any speed.
The other choice depending on model, is a 260-hp turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder that replaces a previous 3.6L, 6-cylinder. Judging from the numbers, the turbo four makes more power and better fuel economy provided you don’t have a heavy foot that requires the turbo to kick in.
While the 2020 Outback is larger than the one we owned, it handles nicely with its suspension taming road imperfections and maintaining good stability in sharp turns and twisty roads. It parks easily with a relatively tight turning radius of 36.1 feet.
It’s also a quiet rider at highway speeds. The Boxer’s traditional hum is slightly noticed at slow speeds, but undetectable at highway speeds.
Outback comes equipped with blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist. But Subaru added other technology with its EyeSight system of driver aids that includes reverse automatic braking, steering responsive headlamps and a unique DriverFocus system that employs facial-recognition that can spot driver drowsiness, fatigue, distraction and will also adjust the drivers seat for the particular driver it recognizes. When the system detects one of the aforementioned conditions, a beep sounds off and a notice displays on the driver information screen on the gauge cluster.
There are also two other items worth mentioning and one is Automatic Vehicle Hold. This will hold the vehicle in place while sitting at lengthy stop lights. Simply apply the brake pedal while having the feature activated on the touchscreen, then release the pedal. It disconnects upon stepping on the accelerator.
The other feature is Pin Code Vehicle Access. If you unintentionally leave the keyfob in the car and lock the doors, to open them, merely enter a 5-digit PIN code using the tailgate release pad near the license plate. Ford has had a similar four-digit system on selected driver’s doors for some time. I had it on a ’98 Explorer SUV I once owned and it is a nice feature if forgetting the fob (keys) inside.
Starting at a base price of $28,895, the nicely equipped Outback Premium had $2,995 worth of extra cost options that included a moonroof and navigation. With delivery of $1,010, Outback bottom-lined at $32,900 which is about the average price of a new vehicle these days.
Last years Outback received IIHS’s top safety ratings and although the 2020 hasn’t as yet been tested, it surely will retain that rating.
Since it’s a proven SUV, you can’t go wrong with an Outback or Subaru’s Forester, a somewhat smaller SUV with comparable capabilities.
If heavy duty towing, construction duties, snowplowing or off-roading are some tasks on your truck shopping menu, you need to check out GMC’s new Sierra 2500 4WD AT4 Crew Cab pickup.
Offered in Sierra, SLE, SLT, AT4 (tested) and top-shelf Denali trim models, and in long and short bed, Sierra 2500 gets its grunt from two powertrain choices. There’s a 6.6L, 401-hp and 464 lb/ft of torque V8 that couples to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a 6.6L, turbodiesel V8 with 445-hp and a whopping 910 lb/ft of torque that couples to a 10-speed Allison automatic transmission.
We tested the latter in the AT4 Crew Cab and it certainly has mucho grunt. It was independently 0-60 tested at 19.9 seconds when towing an 18,000-pound trailer. Sierra HD is tow rated for 20,000 pounds with a conventional hitch. Mighty impressive. And it does its work ever so quietly. Diesel rattle is non-existent at cruise speed, and otherwise, with an open window. The diesel powertrain also comes with an Integrated Engine Exhaust Brake (“Jake Brake” where engine backpressure is used to control downhill speed thereby saving the brakes). It also has auto start/stop engine technology.
If you have a lengthy camper, horse or heavy equipment trailer to tow, there’s a gooseneck fifth-wheel option where the cargo bed has factory stamped bed holes with caps for the fifth wheel cradle. It’s tow rated for 35,500 pounds.
When towing, Sierra offers its ProGrade Towing Package that uses up to 15 camera views to see the bed, trailer hitch, trailer sides, trailer rear end, transparent view to see through the trailer, even inside the trailer as the remote camera can be positioned anywhere on the truck/trailer. And with the myGMC mobile app, the iN-Command system can monitor and control a number of features remotely. This is truly a high-tech heavy-duty pickup. Offered too is trailer sway control, hill start assist and hill descent control and more.
There’s so much to say and so many neat features about the Sierra, we’ll start with the off-road oriented AT4 we had the pleasure to test.
Sierra AT4 is off-road outfitted with a 2-inch suspension lift and Rancho shocks, 4WD with two-speed transfer case and traction-select off-road mode, automatic locking rear differential, skid plates, front mounted red recovery hooks, and 19-inch tires (20s are optional).
Sierra’s most interesting feature is its unique 6-position Multi-Pro tailgate that is standard on the AT4. GMC’s TV ads, that you must have seen by now, show its various positions and it goes five up on Ford’s tailgate with its pull-out tailgate step and pull-up assist bar. The only concern with the MultiPro is if the truck is backed into something or another truck (like a tractor trailer cab) rear-ends it, as it could be a costly repair or replacement.
Upon a low 17-inch step into the cabin from the powered running boards, you’re treated to living room comforts. Dark grey perforated and heated leather seats with Kalahari tan inserts and stitching make a rough terrain ride, softer.
An 8-inch touchscreen with voice control offers the gamut of audio, rearview camera with five selectable views, 4G Wi-Fi connectivity, OnStar, apps and much more. Its operation requires a serious study of the owners manual because it has numerous features and functions to long to list here.
AT4’s 4WD system consists of Auto, 4H, 4L and 2WD gearing positions, plus it shares the dash with selectable driving modes of Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The latter sensitizes the accelerator pedal for finer control of torque to the wheels on grass, gravel, dirt and snow covered roads.
HVAC controls are large and easy to use with some functions addressable on the display. Sierra’s console offers a wireless phone charger and an array of auxiliary switches have separate purposes including a trailer brake controller. There’s also a segment first Rear Camera Mirror that has a dual function by bypassing obstructions, passengers or cargo with the ability to tilt and zoom the view. Phew!
Sierra’s heated back seat is similarly comfortable as the fronts for three adults or four youngsters. Behind the outboard portions of the seat are hidden storage bins for small item storage. Flip the split folding seats up against the bulkhead and there’s a full-length storage tray underneath for additional small items.
Handling wise, as a big truck is has big truck driving dynamics with variable steering assist that helps keep the 2500 centered and easier to park and maneuver.
Ride quality on 8-lug wheels shod with 20-inch Goodyear tires that have a 9-inch width, is uncannily smooth for a three-quarter ton truck. Load up the cargo bed and it rides even better.
Sierra AT4 Crew Cab does not come cheap. And options are pricey. The test truck started out with a base price of $57,700 but rose sharply after $18,610 of options. The list includes the Duramax Diesel ($9,890); AT4 package ($4,215); Driver Alert Package II ($645) and included forward collision warning, lane departure warning, auto emergency braking, intellibeam headlights, following distance indicator, safety alert seat (vibrates when a dangerous situation is sensed); Gooseneck/5th wheel package ($545) and Onyx black paint ($195) plus delivery $1,595 took the bottom line to $77,155. If having a business of some kind, perhaps the Sierra can be a tax deduction.
Sierra AT4 Crew comes with a 3 year, 36K bumper-bumper, 5/100K, powertrain that includes roadside assistance, courtesy transportation and free first maintenance visit warranties.
The Sierra AT4 is not your typical three-quarter ton pickup, as it possesses the latest technology and features never before offered on a truck. It’s quite an impressive hauler.
Mention Buick to some folks and they probably think large sedans. That’s no longer true. For example, Buick’s Elantra midsize 3-row AWD crossover takes Buick far away from that image. Elantra offers a host of luxury and technical features, plus spaciousness and utility that easily competes with the glut of todays crossover/SUVs, and does so at a reasonable price.
As a GM product, cross manufacturing also produces the Chevy Traverse that’s built on the same platform and shares the same engine as the 7-passenger Enclave, but the similarities end there. Enclave is more luxurious with a smoother ride than the Traverse. Of course is also costs a bit more.
Enclave is offered in Preferred, Essence, Premium and top-shelf Avenir. Preferred comes standard with FWD while the other trim models are offered in FWD and AWD.
We tested the Essence AWD that had a mere 20-inch step in. It came with leather seating and an 8-inch touchscreen and Buick’s infotainment system with internet connection of up to seven devices, OnStar, voice control, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot capability, navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto through a phone connection, a host of apps and rearview camera with surround view. There’s also a back massage feature offered as is a rear camera mirror wherein the rearview mirror doubles to expand the rear field of vision void of heads and headrests, says Buick. Front seats had heating/cooling and the steering wheel was heated, all desired features.
HVAC controls are two-fold. There are easy to use dash mounted switches for basic functions while air direction, A/C and front heat/cool control are selected on the display.
Enclave’s gauge set has a sizable driver information display between the speedo and tach. It also displays a reminder if the back seats have a person or package on them when the engine is shut down, and if a door is open when the engine is started.
While there are no faults with the above, there is the questionable BMW-iDrive-like 9-speed automatic transmission shifter. One new Enclave owner gave Enclave 5-stars but said the only negative was the “idiot stick, a reference to the shifter.” The owner indicated simple push buttons would have been better, perhaps referring to finding Reverse gear. To do so, driver’s must first push a switch on the side of the shifter then move it forward then left, making it a three step procedure to find Reverse. For Park, a push on the top of the shifter must be pressed. There were, however, paddle shifters to shift for yourself once underway.
To engage AWD, there’s a switch on a pod to the left of the display. Upon doing so, an indication displays on the gauge cluster.
Second row seats are comfy offering gobs of leg and head room. They have Buicks’ SmartSlide function that easily slides the passenger seat forward for easy third row access, and does so with an empty child seat installed.
Back in the cargo area, and behind the third row seat there’s 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 23 inches deep, 45 wide and 30.5 wide. Flip the third row and space increases to 58 cubes for 53 inches of depth. Flip second row as well and it opens up 97.6 cubic feet for 86 inches of cargo loading depth.
There’s also a 9.5-inch deep, 3.1 cubic foot, underfloor bin for small item storage. And for loading, a low 30-inch liftover when the hands-free liftgate is opened. There’s also a night light that illuminates the cargo area when the gate is opened.
Enclave gets it power from a 3.6-liter V6 with 310-hp and 266 lb/ft of torque. It sends power to the drive wheels through the standard 9-speed automatic transmission. Combined, it earned EPA mileage ratings of 17 city, 25-highway mpg with start/stop engine technology. It’s also rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Moving Enclave’s 4,568-pound curb weight is essentially a linear application of power. It’s spirited with ample passing power on interstates.
Enclave offers a quiet, smooth ride on 20-inch Continental tires. With its multi-link rear suspension, it nicely absorbs pock-marked roads and tar strips. And with a turning radius of 39 feet, Enclave parks easily for a midsize crossover.
Safety features included as standard were rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert with side blind zone alert.
Starting at a base price of $44,000, extra cost options included a Sport Touring Edition package ($1,695) containing mostly cosmetic trim features; dual moonroof ($1,400); Quicksilver metallic paint ($495); floor liner package ($395); plus delivery ($1,195) took the bottom line to $49,180.
To its credit, Enclave scored big on government 5-star safety ratings. It earned five stars for an overall score; five for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover.
Enclave also comes with a 3 year, 36K mile bumper-bumper; 5/60K powertrain warranties; roadside assistance and courtesy transportation and free first maintenance visit.
Buick is no longer a banker’s car brand. It has come into its own with upscale, impressive offerings including the handsome and family oriented Enclave.
Having sold a record 703,023 Ram trucks in 2019, the truck maker has debuted some new additions to its pickup line.
The first is their multifunction tailgate that opens in split 60/40 swing-out fashion, in addition to traditional dampened drop-down mode for its 1500 half-ton line.
While Honda’s Ridgeline pickup has a swing-out and drop-down tailgate, Ram’s twin swing-out doors are unique in that they allow easy bed access, makes curbside loading easier, makes loading bulky items easier, allows easier washout, and does not require a trailer and hitch be removed before loading/unloading the cargo bed. It has four configurations of open flat, open left door only, open right door only and open both doors, all of which swing open 88 degrees. It also comes with a 2,000-lb load rating.
New too is a reimagined center console that has 12 different storage configurations. Plus, the second row seats now recline up to eight degrees for better long trip comfort. Since the seat bottoms fold up against the bulkhead, it opens up 151 liters of interior storage capacity or nearly 100 percent more than the closest competition, says Ram.
Powertrain wise, the Ram 1500 features a new eTorque mild hybrid system on the Pentastar V6 and HEMI V8 engine. The eTorque mild hybrid system replaces the traditional alternator on the engine with a belt-driven motor generator unit that performs several functions. The motor generator unit works with a 48-volt battery pack to enable quick and seamless start/stop function, short-duration torque addition to the engine crankshaft in certain driving situations and brake energy regeneration, which improves responsiveness and efficiency.
With the engine running, Ram says the eTorque’s motor generator unit feeds 48-volt current to a 430 watt-hour lithium-ion Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC)-Graphite battery. The small-suitcase-sized, air-cooled battery pack mounts to the rear wall inside the Ram 1500’s cabin.
In addition to spinning the engine for restarts, the eTorque unit also recaptures energy during deceleration and braking to feed charge to the battery pack.
Returning in more powerful form, the 2020 Ram 1500 can be had with a new 3.0L, EcoDiesel V6 that generates a whopping 480 lb/ft of torque and 260-hp for an impressive tow rating of 12,560 pounds.
Aside from these, Ram has received awards from several car buff magazines and sites. Most point out Ram’s interior with its 12-inch touchscreen with voice control that offers everything but the kitchen sink as they say. In addition to Wi-Fi hotspot capability, it offers five exterior camera views of forward, rearward with surround view, front with surround view, forward wide angle and trailer hitch view.
Another unique feature of the Ram is its rotary electronic automatic transmission shifter positioned next to the 4WD selector. If coming off a console or steering column gearshift, it takes some getting used to.
There’s more, but we should mention that Ram 1500 comes in Classic, Tradesman HFE, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn and Limited that was tested.
Whatever trim model selected, it also comes in Quad Cab with three-quarter size rear doors that can seat up to six passengers, or, Crew Cab that has four full-size doors.
Back inside the cabin, that has a low 9.5-inch step-in to the powered running boards, the cockpit is comfy and the visual effects are jet-like. Included is the huge 12-inch touchscreen and array of function switches that includes air suspension, power adjustable pedals, trailer controller plus a huge console box that can easily accommodate a six-pack of canned beverages – and then some. There’s also dual glove boxes.
Back in the rear seat, that can hold three adults with class-leading legroom and ample head room, they fold up against the bulkhead and when doing so, there’s a full-length storage bin underneath. And hidden beneath the rear floor mats are a pair of 8.5-inch deep storage bins, another neat feature Ram engineers used dead space for as they did for the RamBox’s in the rear fender wells. Bet competitors wished they had thought of those useful features.
The test truck was powered by a 5.7L, HEMI V6 with eTorque. Coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the combination generated a total of 395-hp and 410 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 17 city, 22-highway mpg. There’s certainly no want for power. Floor the accelerator and the roar from under the hood and tailpipes gives goose bumps. There’s no mistaking a HEMI.
Ride wise on 22-inch, 9.5-inch wide Goodyear tires, the Limited rode better than some luxury cars. That can be attributed to its coil spring suspension. Load the bed with mulch or topsoil, and it rides even smoother. And it does do ever so quietly.
Loaded with a long list of standard safety features and amenities, the options list reads as follows:
Diamond Black Crystal paint ($100); body-color bumper group ($195); advanced safety group ($1,695) that includes adaptive cruise w/stop-go, advanced brake assist, full speed forward collision warning, lane keep assist, parallel and perpendicular park assist w/stop, surround view camera; tri-fold tonneau cover ($550); 3.92 rear axle ($95); 5.7L eTorque HEMI V8 ($2,645); panoramic sunroof ($1,495); deployable bed step ($195); Multifunction Tailgate ($995); 33-gallon fuel tank ($445); 22-inch polished wheels and all season tires ($2,095); trailer brake controller ($295) and delivery brought the base price of $56,990 to $69,485. Forego some of these goodies and it brings the bottom line down somewhat.
To its credit, Ram was a 2019 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and was named 2020 Green Truck of the Year by Green Car Journal. And the government’s 5-Star safety rating awarded Ram five stars for driver and four for passenger frontal crash; five stars for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover. All impressive safety ratings.
Acura’s MDX SUV is the carmakers top selling vehicle, and the #1 selling 3-row luxury SUV to date. A testament to that is that our daughter and daughter-in-law both own 2019 MDXs.
Offered in base, Technology, A-Spec, Advance and AWD Sport Hybrid, the latter retains all of MDX’s premiere traits with hybrid technology for increased fuel economy, but with a sporty touch.
For 2020, the AWD Acura MDX Sport Hybrid combines a 3.0-liter, i-VTEC V6 engine with three electric motors, one driving the front wheels and two driving the rears. The combination of gasoline and electric has a total output of 321-hp and 289 lb/ft of torque sending power to the wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. EPA rates the hybrid at 26 city, 27-highway mpg.
With 7.3 inches of ground clearance, the AWD MDX Hybrid can handle some appreciable snow. It also comes with AWD Lock in the event the MDX should get stuck. So equipped, MDX has a weight distribution of 57/43.
Performance wise, the three-row Sport Hybrid has selectable Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus driving modes. In Normal, the MDX accelerates with a linear explosion of power. Switch to Sport or Sport Plus, and you’ll experience push-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration from a standing stop. Passing 18 wheelers on an interstate is a mere push on the accelerator pedal. MDX’s heft (4,486 pounds) however, can be felt under strong acceleration.
Incidentally, the hybrid battery gets recharged in part via regenerative braking. Under hybrid power, the tachometer understandably drops to zero.
MDX rides heavenly and quietly on Continental 20-inch tires. It vehicle remains planted in sharp turns and during quick maneuvers thanks to Acura’s Active Damper System. MDX exudes a secure feeling no matter the road surface. Turn the steering wheel an inch in either direction and the SUVs nose points 20 degrees accordingly. It’s quick and positive and parks easily with a 38.4 turning diameter.
MDX Sport Hybrid’s interior can be configured for seven with a second row bench seat or six with second row (heated) captain’s chairs separated by a massive console. We tested the latter with the third row mainly for youngsters. Third row access isn’t bad as the second rows slide and tilt well forward.
MDX Sport Hybrid is outfitted with running boards for a 12.5-inch step-in into the cabin. They’re really not needed as step-in without them is a mere 19 inches. But they do help small kids and seniors for easier ingress/egress.
Perforated leather, heated/cooled front seats are sofa soft and supportive. The grey leather in the tester sported contrasting white stitching and piping that gave the seats a sporty, classy look.
But the foremost eye-catcher are the twin 7-inch displays. The top one displays navigation with voice recognition and rearview camera with three views that is operated via a large controller (mouse) on the vertical stack. The lower screen serves the HVAC, apps, audio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Pandora and Acura-Link infotainment system.
Atop the console is a space saving push button electronic transmission shifter. If coming off a stick shifter on the console, or column, it may take a bit of getting used to. But it’s simple and gears connect instantly. In fact, it’s fun to use.
There are dual controls for the HVAC system such as airflow and heated/cooled seats. Cabin temperature selection too employs a dash toggle switch for driver and passenger but can also be selected on the screen. The only item missing from this nicely endowed SUV is a wireless phone charger. Presume Acura engineers ran out of space for one.
Back in the cargo area and with the third row upright, there’s 15 cubic feet of space that measures 20 inches deep, 45.5 wide and 29 high. Flip them and space increases to 38.4 cubic feet for 47 inches of depth. Flip the second row captain’s chairs and capacity expands to 68.4 cubic feet for 80 inches of loading depth.
Beneath the rearmost cargo floor is a 6.5-inch deep, full-width storage bin. It’s a convenient place to stow small or medium size items out of sight. And a low 30-inch lift-over eases cargo loading.
As for safety items, MDX Sport Hybrid is loaded with the latest technology that includes vehicle stability assist, blind spot alert, collision mitigation braking, lane/road departure/forward collision warnings and lane keep assist that when engaged, automatically steers the car back between the roadway lines.
The MDX Sport Hybrid comes with an extremely long list of standard items with the only extra cost being a delivery charge of $995. As such, the MDX began life with a base price of $59,650, and bottom-lined at $60,645.
For overall safety, MDX received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top safety pick, and NHTSA awarded it a full 5-star overall safety rating. Both impressive awards.
This most capable luxury SUV comes with a 5 year/70K mile powertrain warranty, plus a 4/50K limited vehicle warranty.
Acura’s MDX in conventional or hybrid form, can be considered the benchmark of comparable three-row luxury SUVs.
You’ve probably seen quite a few Kia Soul’s on the roads because this boxy subcompact crossover offers a host of attractive features, including a most affordable price.
In this its third generation, the Soul first debuted in 2009. Since then, it’s been a sales success. And it’s come a long way with a total remake that now (for 2020) includes a huge 10.25-inch touchscreen for a myriad of apps including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Its exterior design has changed somewhat. The new model has more distinct, rounded lines and adds a sporty GT Line, rugged X-Line and Soul EV all electric. Soul is also offered in LX, S, EX and classy EX Designer trim levels.
Soul makes for a nifty second car, commuter car, retiree or empty nester and college kids car. It’s thrifty and very affordable.
Soul’s tall side windows give the interior an airy atmosphere that allows excellent outward visibility. Plus, it adds to a spacious interior.
In fact, a former neighbor owned an earlier model and when they’d go on vacation to the shore, I couldn’t help but notice they managed to fill the cargo area with two sand chairs, several luggage and food bags, even a small charcoal grille.
We tested the X-Line with its aggressive looking grille, black plastic side body cladding, unique wheels and taillight assembly that appears to encircle the entire hatch door. It came with two-tone cloth interior, 7-inch touch screen, comfy seating and safety features such as blind spot collision warning, rear cross traffic warning, lane change assist, tire pressure monitoring and more.
Soul’s HVAC controls are not fancy, just three large knobs that don’t require taking eyes off the road to operate. It’s a KISS (Keep It Simple) arrangement, which is still the best.
Back seat space is generous as is leg room, even with the fronts well rearward. And the rears sit a bit higher than the fronts allowing rear seat passengers a good forward view. Head room will please tall folks, but rear doors could open a tad wider for us folks with wide girths.
With the rear seatbacks upright, cargo space is rated at 24.2 cubic feet that measures 24 inches deep, 42 wide and 36 high. Flip them and capacity increases to 61.3 cubic feet for 56 inches of cargo loading depth. There is an optional dual floor offered that at its lowest position, provides for extra cargo space, or, higher for a flat load floor that meets the folded rear seatbacks.
As Kia offers three engine choices (depending on trim) for the Soul, our X-Line came with a 2.0L, inline 4-cylinder that’s rated at 161-hp and 150 lb/ft of torque. With Kia’s Intelligent Variable Transmission and start/stop engine technology, EPA rates the combo at 27 city, 33-highway mpg. From a standing stop, Soul offers a linear application of power with two adults aboard. To liven performance, driver selectable Sport mode adds 1,000 engine rpm’s that changes shift points and tightens things up.
For those desiring more zip, the Soul GT Line offers a 1.6L, turbocharged 4-cylinder rated for 201-hp and 195 lb/ft of torque.
When the Soul EV all-electric arrives at dealers, Kia says is it will have a 243-mile range.
Soul X-Line is shod with Hankook 18-inch tires that made for a pleasurable, albeit slight taut ride. With its short wheelbase, Soul parks easily and exhibits nary any body lean in sharp turns. Despite its size, Soul remains planted. While the engine is somewhat noisy on the outside, it’s surprisingly quiet inside.
Now here’s the impressive news. With a long list of standard features and safety items, the base price of $21,480 increased only slightly after adding Snow White Pearl Paint ($345) and carpeted floor mats ($130). With a delivery of $995, the Soul X-Line bottom-lined at $22,960. Probably one of the few affordable cars on the market today.
For those seeking economy and some utility at a fair price, Soul deserves a serious look. The only way it could get better is if it were offered in AWD.
It’s a long known fact that Volvo makes safe cars. In fact, they were the first to offer enhanced safety features. And their new V60-T6 AWD is no exception.
The V60-T6 represents the AWD version while their V6-T5 is their FWD model. The T6 differentiates itself from its brother car the XC-60 Cross Country, that has a higher stance, higher undercarriage clearance and a higher price.
The V60 is based on the carmakers’ S60 sedan and is offered in Momentum, R-Design and Momentum versions.
We had the privilege of testing the top-line Momentum that has nice conservative styling lines with its Iron Man grille, split headlights and eye-grabbing reverse “L” shaped taillights that cannot be mistaken for any other car.
Slip into the cockpit and your eyes are taken by the huge 12.3-inch Sensus infotainment display with voice commands that can be swiped like a tablet, some laptops or smartphone.
After settling into the sumptuous, perforated Nappa leather seats with generous under thigh support, you’ll think you’re sitting in your favorite Lazy-Boy. You could easily take a nap in them especially when engaging the front seats massaging function and power adjustable side bolsters.
Then your eyes will drift to the fashionable driftwood trim adorning the dash.
When attempting to start the car for the first time, you’ll notice there’s no push button or key hole for the ignition. Instead, there’s a very unique spring-loaded knob on the console that twists to ignite the fire under the hood. Below it, is a Mode switch for Eco, Comfort and Dynamic (sport) modes. They can also be selected on the screen.
The display offers a myriad of information and to the best of my recollection, Volvo was the first car-maker to use man-form symbols on the display for airflow within the climate control system. That, plus a host of apps (22 to be correct including Spotify, Pandora, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto) are offered and a rearview camera with surround and close-up zoom modes are included. The screen also serves to display positioning during the Park-Assist mode.
But it’s a system that requires sitting in the car and studying the owners’ manual. It is, however, a system that takes the eyes off the road for certain operations. The only item missing in the test car was a wireless phone charger.
Ingress/egress into the back seat, after a low 16-inch step-in, is not as easy as a higher stance SUV like the XC60. The seats are Euro firm and can accommodate two adults or three youngsters. A high transaxle hump deters a third adult passenger.
Back in the cargo area that offers 23.2 cubic feet with the rear seats upright that measures 39 inches deep, 41 wide and 26 high. Push two buttons in the cargo area and the 60/40 seats fold to expand storage capacity to 51 cubic feet for 70 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor resides the spare tire where some small items can be stuffed in areas around the tire.
V60 gets it’s grunt from a 2.0L, turbocharged 4-cylinder that generates an impressive 316-hp and 285 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 21 city, 31-highway mpg with start-stop engine technology and 8-speed automatic transmission. The combination provided exhilarating acceleration from a standing stop and during passing maneuvers. V60 was 0-60 tested by Volvo in 5.5 seconds which is not too shabby for a 4,202-pound wagon. And it’s a quiet jaunt.
With electric-assist steering, V60 has good road manners and good road feel. Plus, it parks easily with a 38.4 foot turning radius. The Four C Active Chassis nicely soaks up road bumps and tar strips with ease making for a smooth and balanced ride. Select Dynamic mode and performance increases while the suspension tightens thereby adding sportier sensations. V60 provides the best of both worlds of luxury and sport depending on driver selections.
With an undercarriage clearance of 5.4 inches that is lower than the XC60, it’s not conducive to mild off-roads or deep snow.
Now comes the bad news. Volvo’s option list is very expensive. Options like Inscription Package will add $6,000 to the reasonable base price of $43,400. The package adds a host of much wanted safety and luxury items such as blind spot/cross traffic alert, navigation, 12.3-inch display, leather and many more. Then there’s the luxury seat package ($2,200); Advanced Package ($2,500) that includes surround view camera, HUD, headlight washers, Pilot Assist; heated front and rear seats and more ($750); metallic paint ($645); Four C Active Chassis ($1,000); Bowers-Wilkins audio ($32,00); 19-inch alloy wheels ($800) and delivery ($995), brought the bottom line to $61,490. Not a bad price compared to some of the competition. If you can do without a couple options, the price can shrink somewhat.
All in all, the V60 T6 is an all-weather family wagon with safety attributes second to none.
In this hot market for family size crossovers and SUVs, Hyundai was not to be left out. Their new Palisade midsize three row SUV enters the market as an instant winner, judging from the number of them already seen on the roads.
Palisade is all new in Hyundai’s stable of crossover/SUVs and it goes up against formidable competition from Ford’s Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and probably a few others, not to mention Kia’s Telluride which shares a platform and drivetrain with the Palisade.
While the Telluride is more on the rugged side, Palisade is on the luxurious side and boasts a very long list of standard and optional features that make it an all encompassing SUV.
Offered in base SE, SEL and top line Limited that we tested, it’s also available in FWD and AWD, the latter of which is definitely needed here in the Snowbelt (at an option price of $1,700).
Palisade’s interior is one of quality materials and loaded with every conceivable safety and luxury item today’s SUV buyer wants. There’s a 10.25-inch display that not only features such desired apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but has a rearview camera that gives multiple and selectable views including a surround view; a 10.23-inch instrument cluster with Heads-Up-Display; dual sunroofs; a console box that can hold a one-gallon jug plus a purse bin beneath it; LED running and taillights; sueded headliner; smartphone charger; Nappa leather seating; left and right side view cams and lots, lots more. In fact, the only option on the Limited was for floor mats ($160).
Heated/cooled front seats are heavily padded, nicely bolstered and sofa soft. The Nappa leather seams have contrasting stitching that feature tufted top inserts.
Second row seats offer gobs of leg and headroom and feature one-touch sliding fore/aft after pressing two release buttons. The rear of the console has second row HVAC controls while the third row seats offer power folding/reclining, a feature not available on the Kia version.
Cargo space is voluminous as well. There’s 18.0 cubic feet behind the upright third row that measures 20 inches deep, 47 wide and 31.5 high. Flip them and space increases to 45.8 cubic feet for 49.5 inches of depth. Flip them and overall capacity expands to 86.4 cubic feet for 82 inches of cargo depth.
Beneath the cargo floor is an 8-inch deep bin for small item storage, and for cargo loading, lift over height is a mere 29.5 inches.
Instrumentation and HVAC controls are all easy to use. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifter is a push button affair and if coming off a traditional floor or column shifter, it takes a bit of getting used to. It’s flanked by a rotary mode switch that offers six selectable modes of Sport, Smart, Comfort, Eco, Snow and Lock. The latter delivers 50/50 of torque evenly between all four wheels and maintains this up to 25 mph. It’s especially helpful if getting stuck in mud, on a sandy beach or deep snow.
Driving wise, the large SUV remains planted in tight turns with only a tad of body lean. For its size, Palisade has a surprisingly tight 38.7 foot turning diameter.
Ride quality is exceptionally good and particularly quiet on Bridgestone 20-inch tires. It’s a vehicle you’d want to take on a trip to Disney in Orlando when you don’t want the hassle of flying. And when traveling between states where you could hit inclement weather, Palisade can handle it all.
Palisade is offered with but one engine. A 3.8-liter V6 generates 291-hp and 262 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 19 city, 24-highway mpg. With a curb weight of 4,284 pounds, the powertrain has a tow rating of 5,000 pounds but this heft can be felt when traversing steep hills and during highway passing maneuvers, particularly with four adults aboard.
With all this luxury and convenience, it all comes at a price. But not a bad price. As previously mentioned, the only option was for carpeted floor mats. Otherwise, the Palisade Limited came standard with the gamut of safety features such as forward collision avoidance with pedestrian alert, lane keeping assist, blind spot collision avoidance, rear cross traffic assist, smart cruise control, Blue Link connected services and many more. For all this in an AWD three row SUV, Palisade carried a base price of $46,400. Add the floor mats and $1,045 delivery and the bottom line reflected $47,605. Not bad for this much content in an SUV.
If that’s a bit out of your budget range, the base SE has a base of $32,595 or you can step up a bit to the SEL.
Palisade becomes especially attractive when considering a much smaller, two row, Chevrolet Blazer RS we previously tested, had a bottom-line of $50,765 after a base of $42,500.
But that’s not all. Chevy, for instance, can’t compete with Hyundai’s generous 5 year/50,000 new vehicle, 10/100K powertrain, 7/Unlimited anti-perforation and 5/Unlimited Roadside warranties.
Hyundai’s Palisade is one of the most compelling SUVs on the market. It deserves a look.