Category Archives: hybrid

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe

Electric hybrid adds cost, but boosts fuel efficiency, smooths power …

When Jeep launched the Grand Cherokee 30 years ago it was among the first luxury sport-utility vehicles on the market that still was affordable (not a Rover) and capable of off-roading.

Jeep continues to make its Grand Cherokee as off-road worthy as anything, including its more rugged looking Wrangler, but the price now peaks at Range Rover levels.

Yet kudos to Jeep for adding hybrid power to its latest Grand Cherokee even though that’s what nudges the price up. This plug-in hybrid, the 4xe, is exactly what makes sense as the go-between from gas to electric power.

Here’s the deal.

On this mid-size SUV Jeep couples a hybrid system with a small 2.0-liter turbo I4 so that an overnight charge on a normal home 120V power line nets 25 to 27 miles of electrical juice. That means that an average user who drives to and from work, or to run necessary daily errands, can run on electricity most of the time. By the way, the power is awesome smooth in the Jeep and when was the last time someone called a Jeep smooth?

In a 230-mile week of driving I evenly split my electric vs. gas powered driving, recharging with the driver’s side front quarter panel plug-in, each evening.

That meant each morning I had a 100% charge and most days I didn’t need more than that. Two trips to the other side of town during the week meant half of each trip was on the juice, while the other half was gas-powered. The results? My combined average was 37.1 mpg, while gas alone (sadly Premium is recommended) averaged just 18.2 mpg, showing the difference hybrid electric power can make. The vehicle also senses when 4WD is not needed and turns it off when not needed.

Cool too that Jeep allows the driver to select (via dash buttons) hybrid power, electric only, or save-E, which mostly runs the Grand Cherokee on gas, saving the electric charge for when you most need it, say in town, or when slopping around field or forest.

See Mark’s video: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Yes, there are still plenty of off-roading choices here, five to be exact. A console toggle allows the driver to select Rock, Sand/Mud, Snow, Auto, or Sport drive modes. Sport seems silly to me on an SUV and here it firms up the steering something fierce, not pleasant at all.

The others will engage the proper 4-wheeling system for the circumstances and if you’re rock-crawling becomes a habit there’s a button to unhook the front sway bar to create more wheel articulation. Note too, the Grand Cherokee has a maximum ground clearance of 10.9 inches, which is a lot. Plus, another toggle on the console allows the driver to hike up the haunches and lift the Jeep to its maximum height, or lower it for easy exits. This Jeep also will ford two feet of water safely.

There’s ample power here as the turbo I4 and hybrid electric motor provide a combined 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque so there’s a tow rating of 6,000 pounds. All is smooth and silky when electric is the power source, but when the Jeep switches to the gas engine, which is seamless, well, the little turbo groans considerably as it seems to be trying to bench press the vehicle’s full 5,500 lbs. Acceleration can be noisy with the tiny turbo.

Folks wanting constant smooth power application probably should opt for one of the gas-only powered Grand Cherokees that feature a V6 or V8. You’ll also save money up front, but more on that in a sec.

A blue tow hook, 4xe logo and jeep logo add color to the tail.

Handling is typical of a mid-size SUV, easy steering with modest feedback and a little body lean in tight turns. It’s all quite controllable and easy to maintain within a lane. Of course there’s all the usual safety equipment such as lane departure, blind-spot warning and parking sensors.

Ride is mostly good too, especially on the highway, but as with most trucks/utes gets jiggly on bumpy city streets as pot holes and expansion joints create some rock and roll, but then it’s a Jeep, right?

That’s not to say it isn’t luxurious. The Diamond Black Crystal Pearl ($395 extra) test SUV looked upscale, the ride is mostly well controlled, and the interior leathery.

Check out the blue tow hooks, hood stripe and blue-outlined Jeep logo here.

I like the little blue styling cues on the exterior, to subtly insinuate this is a hybrid. Apparently bright green and blue do that these days on hybrids and electrics. This one slapped blue trim on all the Jeep logos, the front and rear tow hooks, the rear hatch’s Trailhawk logo and a blue Trailhawk adhesive stripe on the hood, which also featured a flat black hood sticker.

Inside, the Grand Cherokee looks fresh and modern, a big step up from its predecessor.

More blue trim inside with the seat piping and stitching on the console.

Enough black leather here to frighten any herd of cattle, but with a tasteful blue (again) stitching to spruce it up. Seat edges were leather but the main seat surfaces a suede material. Classy.

Shiny black fake wood trim accents the dash and doors and is trimmed in satin chrome. The look is keen, but the reflection off that and the gloss black console surface can be blinding on sunny days now that we’ve passed the equinox and the sun rides at lower angles.

Seats are powered plus heated and cooled in front, with the outer rear seats also heated. I found the butt pockets rather snug in the front seats, but the rears (seats that is) were better. The steering wheel also is heated. One odd problem I found when trying to buckle up each trip, and that’s the seatbelt is hard to pull between the seat and door, a bit of a tight squeeze.

No problem with the digital equipment here though, a big center info screen and digital driver instrument panel. Some numbers on the driver display were a bit small, but the info screen was great and easy to use, plus includes adjacent volume and tuning knobs for the radio, a fine Alpine sound system in the Trailhawk. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard too.

A few things you won’t find on the Trailhawk were surprising though. There’s no sunroof, no wireless phone charger and no running boards. At this top-end pricing I’d expect all three. In the Jeep’s defense, there are oodles of plug-ins available for charging.

There was no passenger-side info screen in the test vehicle, but that’s ok, it’s an option as on Jeep’s Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

The digital instrument panel gives you a lot of info, but numbers are small.

Tire noise is considerable with the beefy R18 All-Terrain tires, which would be good for off-roading, but hum like an annoying tone-deaf 5-year-old who loves Disney tunes, even at low speeds.

In back is a power hatch hiding a load of cargo space, so a family of five can vacation, camp, haul, etc. while taking along all the sundries needed for comfort. Second-row seats split and fold flat and the SUV’s plug-in charger can be stowed neatly in a bag under the cargo floor.

Did I mention this is pricey?

Yes, and that was a bit of a shock (sorry) for this hybrid electric model. A base 2023 model (now at dealers) lists at $60,260, while a Trailhawk version starts at $65,455. Move up to an Overland and it’s $69,225, a Summit goes for $72,990, and the premium of premiums, the Summit Reserve starts at $77,470. All prices including delivery. For the record, a $7,500 tax credit may apply to the hybrid models, but check it before you buy.

There’s a lot of space under that power hatch, but only two rows of seats.

The tested 2022 model listed at $64,280 and only added the special color to hit $64,675. By the way, white is the only paint color that doesn’t cost extra on the Grand Cherokee, although other colors are mostly $395, so not a huge add-on.

While I’m all in on plug-in hybrids until our electric infrastructure grows considerably, I should point out that Jeep really charges for the privilege. For instance, a base V6 powered Grand Cherokee, the Laredo, lists at $40,120, but of course has fewer standard features and no 4WD.

Move up to the equivalent Trailhawk gas-only model and the sticker is $56,030. Between are Altitude and Limited models in the mid-$40,000 range.

So choose wisely, especially if your budget already is being stretched. The good news for all 4xe plug-in hybrids, you’ll pay less to power them weekly, and they run as smooth as a luxury sedan, just taller and with way bigger tires!

FAST STATS: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe

Hits: Off-road capability, five drive modes, plug-in hybrid boosted gas mileage, and good looks. Roomy luxury interior, power hatch, heated/cooled front seats, heated outer rear seats, heated steering wheel, Alpine stereo, good safety equipment. Sway bar disconnect for off-roading and good ground clearance with toggle to raise truck.

Misses: Pricey, tire noise, groany underpowered gas engine, no sunroof, no running boards, no wireless charger, reflective trim, ride can get jiggly, tight seat butt pockets and front seat belts hard to pull through between door and seat.

Made in: Detroit, Mich.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, plug-in hybrid, 375 hp/470 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,521 lbs.

Wheelbase: 116.7 in.

Length: 193.5 in.

Cargo: 37.7-70.8 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,000 lbs.

MPG: 23/combo gas/electric

Fuel: Premium recommended

Electric range: 25 mph

MPG: 18.2 gas/37.1 combined (tested)

Base Price: $64,280 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $62,667

Major Options:

Diamond black crystal pearl paint, $395

Test vehicle: $64,675

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Jeep

2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone CrewMax

Tip-top Tundra a giant luxury pickup with a touch of hybrid help …

By definition Toyota can’t top its latest Tundra, dubbed the Capstone CrewMax, and it certainly would be difficult.

First, Tundra Capstone simply can’t get any bigger like all full-size pickups. If it does it’ll likely require a commercial license and its own song about being part of a convoy.

This is basically a match for Ford’s market-leading F-150 hybrid as the Capstone also is a hybrid and touts nearly the same dimensions, meaning a 145.7-inch wheelbase and 233.6 inches in length. The Ford is just a smidgen shorter.

By comparison the Ford is lighter and more efficient, but the Tundra packs more power from its new iForce Max powertrain that adds a hybrid electric system featuring nickel-metal hydride batteries (most now use lithium-ion) to both boost power and improve gas mileage.

The hybrid system links seamlessly with a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 to create an impressive 437 horsepower and a massive 583 pound-feet of torque. It’ll chirp the rear drive wheels if you so desire and hitting highway speeds is no problemo. That makes towing easy too as the four-wheel-drive Capstone is rated to pull 11,450 pounds.

As impressive as the Tundra figure sounds the hybrid F-150 will tow 12,700 pounds with its 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 325 horsepower. Numbers can be deceiving.

Odd too that it took Toyota this long to add a hybrid system to Tundra as it pioneered hybrids in its Prius more than 20 years ago. But maybe no one saw the need until now. Ford also just added the hybrid model for 2021.

Both trucks feature a 10-speed automatic transmission and shifts are smooth as is acceleration here. While gas-only Tundras are rated at 18 and 24 mpg, this hybrid has an EPA rating of 19 mpg city and 22 highway, so slightly better around town. I made a roundtrip to Chicago area and the Tundra’s trip computer touted 21 mpg. After that and some city driving it dropped to 20.4 and my $80+ fill-up figures indicated 19.8 mpg. Note too that this has a 32.2-gallon tank, so $125 might fill it if nearly empty.

Pull a trailer and take out a second mortgage.

Watch Mark’s video: 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone CrewMax Hybrid by Mark Savage – YouTube

Still, you’d be hard-pressed to not be comfy in the Capstone or enjoy the drive.

Handling is easy and you’d rarely need the lane-keeping electronics to keep the big beast betwixt the highway’s lines. Cruising a highway is relatively quiet and a pleasure, plus you feel like you’re tall enough to challenge even the dump trucks that barrel past you on the right at 20 over the speed limit. Don’t!

Ride though becomes choppy and bouncy as in most pickups once you head onto side streets and country roads with crumbling asphalt edges and tar strip seams. While Toyota upgraded the rear suspension here to coil springs from a live rear axle there were still abrupt jolts that jostled passengers and surprised my derriere.

There’s even an adaptive variable air suspension with load-leveling here, costing $1,045 extra. That might help with the trailering, but not normal drives on bumpy Midwest roads. Oh, and I set the drive mode to Comfort for most of the drive to help soften things up, to little avail.

Normal, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Custom are the other modes and basically tighten up the steering and change shift points in the sportier settings. Sport modes in a pickup? Seems a bit much in a luxury liner like this, but one needs to justify the pricing I suppose.

Tundra’s interior certainly helps on that front, looking and feeling as upscale as anything you’d find in a Lexus. It’s quiet too, except when you’re mashing the gas pedal.

A lot of leather and luxury inside the Capstone edition.

The test truck featured a black over white leather dash and black and white leather seats, giving the Capstone an ambiance worthy of its name. Plus Toyota trims the doors, dash and wide console with dark stained walnut and trims the door armrests with brushed aluminum. Air vents are a near matching silver plastic and the door pulls also are brushed aluminum. The console shifter is surrounded by gloss black plastic.

All the interior comfort and electronics you’d expect from a top trim level are here, an expansive 14-inch info screen, attractive color digital instrument screen, a 360-degree camera that’s absolutely needed for proper parking within a parking lot’s lines.

That’s a big info screen, but there are bigger ones yet. Nice wood trim look here too!

Seats are not only semi-aniline leather but powered with a lower driver’s cushion featuring a power extension to help make tall drivers’ legs happy. Front and rear seats also are both heated and cooled and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated. Seating is roomy enough for five adults with oodles of head and legroom.

The big info screen is simple to use and there are a ton of toggles and buttons (a bit overwhelming) below it for climate controls and those heated/cooled seats, Trailering aids are there too, including one that allows a driver to program in his or her trailer so the truck remembers its height for easier hook-ups.

Airy cockpit with a panoramic sunroof, roomy rear seat!

Overhead is a panoramic sunroof and sun shade. The rear side windows feature their own manual sunshades and there’s an SOS button overhead along with a button to power down the truck’s center rear window panel, nice if hauling something long that needs to extend into the cab.

That bed, if you care to dirty it, features a black liner, along with over-cab and side bed-mounted lights. Adjustable tie-downs are available too and when you fold down the easy-lower tailgate a step magically extends from beneath the driver’s side rear fender to aid in bed mounting. Even more magical, it retracts automatically once the tailgate has been raised again.

Cleverly a step folds out as the tailgate is lowered, making it easy to climb aboard.

Speaking of magical whiz-bangs, the running boards are powered to fold down once a door is opened and power back up once all doors are closed. Jeep’s Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer and Lincoln’s Navigator have similar systems. My concern is that if per chance this power system fails there’s a huge step-up into the vehicle in which a step-ladder might be called for.

Less whiz-bangy is the 4-wheel-drive system, engaged via a sliding lever on the console. Just 2WD, and 4WD high and low here. There’s no automatic 4WD mode that will engage whenever the truck could benefit from it. This is manually engaged while most 4WD trucks now have an automatic AWD mode.

On the brighter side, Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5 is standard on Tundra meaning all the usual safety equipment is here including smart cruise control, blind-spot warning, parking and lane warnings, along with automatic braking, and a lot more.

Manual rear window sunshades are standard on Capstone.

One final functional aside. Toyota continues to use a gas cap on the fuel filler. While not unusual, Ford and others now offer capless fillers and it’s surprising that Toyota hasn’t simplified their system for consumers yet.

This test Tundra’s exterior was a beautiful sparkling pearl white, called Wind Chill Pearl, certainly fitting for Wisconsin, and a color similar to one popular on Lexus sedans. The pearl color costs $425 extra and oozes luxury.

That was just one of three options here, the main one being the air suspension, so the Tundra’s price didn’t climb much from its $75,225 start, including delivery. That’s right the Capstone is a high-end luxury truck so settled at $76,760. A lease or a 6-year purchase might be called for at that price, but it’s not out of line with the F-150 hybrid. My Ford test truck last year hit nearly $71,000 and while nice, the Capstone’s interior is superior.

No mistaking what this truck’s name is.

The Tundra hybrid comes in five trims, the base Limited (remember when this was the top level?) with 2-wheel drive lists at $54,695 and features a 5.5-foot bed, like the Capstone edition. Moving up to the 4WD Limited with a 6.5-foot bed boosts entry to $58,025. You can also find Platinum and 1794 editions and the TRD Pro, which caters to the off-roading crowd with thick wallets.

Your call Mr. Gates. If you can afford a luxury pickup, the Capstone is, well, atop the Toyota offerings and competitive with the market leader.

FAST STATS: 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone CrewMax (Hybrid)

Snazzy headlight styling on Tundra.

Hits: Massive truck with big interior, slightly better gas mileage with hybrid, excellent power with quiet luxury interior. Huge info screen and fine digital instrument panel, heated wheel and heat/cool front and rear seats, 360-degree camera, power running boards and automatic fold down tailgate step. Excellent towing power and acceleration, decent handling and good safety systems.

Misses: Bouncy truck ride, a lot of buttons in the cockpit, still has gas cap and if the power running boards ever fail you’ll need a stepladder to climb in.

Made in: San Antonio, Texas

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6/hybrid, 437 hp/583 torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,710 lbs.

Wheelbase: 145.7 in.

Length: 233.6 in.

Cargo bed: 5 ½-foot

Tow: 11,450 lbs.

MPG: 19/22

MPG: 19.8 (tested)

Base Price: $75,225 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $70,357

Major Options:

Special paint color, $425

Adaptive variable suspension, load-leveling rear air suspension, $1,045

Ball mount, $50

Test vehicle: $76,760

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Toyota Tundra

#Tundra Capstone

#Toyota

2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

Camry Hybrid may just be the perfect family sedan …

This may surprise you, but it’s exceedingly rare that I long for a test car that has been returned, but this week even I was surprised at my disappointment when of all things a 2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid left the Savage abode.

You might suspect I’d have saved my tears for a Nissan Z, a Genesis GV60, or a new Corvette. Those too can tug at the tear ducts.

Several people even poo-pooed my fortunes for having to test the “dullest” car in America, but I quickly corrected them. Maybe they were thinking of the Prius.

There are reasons why Toyota’s Camry has been the top-selling sedan in the US market for roughly 20 years. It’s becoming the Ford F-150 of sedans via its longevity atop the market.

Camry is a champ and rocks on so many fronts I’ll try to be brief in my summary, but there’s a lot to unpack.

Start with looks, something I bet you’d never suspect I’d say. But a couple years back Toyota chose wisely and drank from the better styling cup. Ever since the once blah Camry has turned edgier with a sleek, beautiful nose that makes its Lexus luxury brand look downright gaudy. The headlights are slim and wonderfully blended with the grille and hood. The profile is slim and elegant, and the tail, well, just fine.

Bathe the handsome, sophisticated Camry in Supersonic Red (just $425 extra) and the sedan becomes Lady Gaga in a sequined gown.

Love engine choices? For internal combustion (gas) engine lovers there are two choices, including a powerful V6, but for families on a budget and with even a smidgen of social consciousness the Camry Hybrid is a rock star.

Camry’s 2.5-liter I4 combined with Toyota’s proven (20+ years) hybrid system nets a 44 mpg rating city and 47 mpg highway from the EPA, yet still delivers 208 horsepower. And get this, in about 80% highway driving I got a stellar 48.2 mpg. For more than 450 miles of driving I spent $25. Your weekly commute gas budget just giggled.

“Parental unit, can we stop for frozen custard on the way home from soccer practice?”

“Yes, my children.”

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid – YouTube

But if this were an econobox that was cramped and had no digital doodads or safety gear … Well, it’s not.

Camry is a mid-size sedan but rides on a 111.2-inch wheelbase to give it an excellent ride, coupled with good, easy, well-controlled handling. Comfort reigns, but is never grandma’s plastic-covered living room dowdy.

The power from the hybrid system that gets its electric charge from regenerative braking is quickly delivered, but acceleration is smooth, mild, but steady. An electronically adjusted CVT (continuously variable transmission) is partially responsible for that and for the excellent MPG.

There’s a Sport mode on the console to kick up the acceleration some, and is handy for highway entry. Still, this will not resemble a sport sedan’s quickness. Normal and Eco mode also are available. Normal is what you’ll stick with 90% of the time.

Finally, a good-sized touchscreen with buttons all around and is easy to use.

Interior comfort is guaranteed too with the XLE being Camry’s luxury-leaning trim level that provides 8-way power leather seats with the front ones being heated. Seats are mildly contoured so pleasant on a long drive and there is plenty of room in back for three adults. XLE also upgrades the standard 8-inch info screen to 9 inches.

But it’s the design of the touchscreen that impresses beyond its size. Instead of a silly knob on the console or a mix of onscreen and dash buttons, there are 8 key buttons around the screen (4 to a side) clearly labeled Home, Menu, Audio, Map, Seek, Track, Phone and Apps. Smartly there also are volume and tuning knobs.

All this makes the info screen and JBL sound system (standard on XLE) a breeze to engage while driving. Take that you tech-for-tech’s-sake luxury brands.

Camry delivers a good-looking interior with everything logically located.

Another plus, Camry’s interior is sharp looking in addition to being functional.

This bright red car’s leather was a cream color and the seats perforated for better airflow from its heated and cooled seats. Heat is standard while the cooling is part of a $1,430 package that includes a 10-inch color HUD, panoramic view monitor, front/rear parking assist with automatic braking.

Elegant streamlined designed, even in the door panels.

The dash and door tops are black to create a two-tone interior, pretty common these days among the sharper vehicles. Trim is a graphite gray around the air vents and other dash trim, plus the armrest trim by the power window controls and the console’s top. There is a bit of gloss black trim on the stack, but not enough to create reflection woes.

Overhead is a sunroof ($860 extra) and for a modest $150 the leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, a Wisconsin necessity.

Standard features include a wireless phone charger under the center stack, smart cruise control and a bevy of other safety equipment, all part of Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5. That includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, a lane departure system with steering assist, automatic high beams, lane tracing assist and road sign assist.

Toyota also allows a driver to override the lane departure system, so if you’re in a congested and construction-heavy city or highway driving situation you can punch a button and not have the system beeping or trying to keep you centered in your lane. Bravo. Having this choice often is a safety concern these days.

Assuming you have five adults on board, which again IS possible here without amputations or forcing anyone into a socially embarrassing position, there’s oodles of trunk space for luggage. At 15.1 cubic feet the deep trunk will hold luggage for the entire crew, even several sets of golf clubs.

The only thing I missed, the only negative here, is large map pockets in the doors. These were tiny and tight to get at, so of limited use.

Pricing is amazing, a bargain throughout the lineup and should push more dollar-conscious buyers toward a sedan and away from mid-size crossovers and gas gulping SUVs.

The base Camry Hybrid, the LE, starts at $29,105 including delivery. There are five trim levels with the XLE being mid-level luxury at $34,065 including delivery. The sportier XSE is just about $500 more. The SE and SE Nightshade (featuring blacks and dark blues) also are available in the hybrid model.

Adding 11 options pushed the test car to $40,232, still an average new car price, so certainly one could be had mid-$30k range. No AWD feature is available, same as its main competitor, Honda’s Accord.

Gas-powered Camrys are available in that same price range, topping out with the TRD model featuring the 308-horse V6.

Stylish lights and nose help keep Camry atop the sedan market.

But for families on a budget, yet not wanting to look like it, the Camry Hybrid in any form is a bargain to buy, and operate, but with a luxury look, feel and all the digital goodies one actually needs.

Camry remains king of the sedans.

FAST STATS: 2023 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

Hits: Sharp styling, great mpg, excellent ride, good handling, decent power in comfy family sedan. Good rear seat and trunk room, sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, super info screen and buttons, wireless charger, smart cruise control and on/off lane departure, plus 3 drive modes, JBL sound system, comfy power seats. Bargain pricing!

Misses: Small door map pockets

Made in: Georgetown, Ky.

Engine: 2.5-liter I4 hybrid, 208 hp/163 torque

Transmission: ECVT automatic

Weight: 3,565 lbs.

Wheelbase: 111.2 in.

Length: 192.1 in.

Cargo: 15.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 44/47

MPG: 48.2 (tested)

Base Price: $34,065 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $31,358

Major Options:

Driver assist pkg. (10-inch color HUD, panoramic view monitor, front/rear parking assist w/auto braking, multi-stage cooled front seats), $1,430

Heated steering wheel, $150

Adaptive headlights, $615

Nav pkg. (premium audio, 9-inch touchscreen w/nav, 9 JBL speaker w/subwoofer & amplifier, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay compatible, satellite radio for 3 months), $1,760

Power sunroof, $860

Supersonic Red paint, $425

Trunk LED bulb, $25

Mud guards, $129

Illuminated door sills, $345

Door edge guards, $129

Carpet floor mats/cargo mat, $299

Test vehicle: $40,232

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Toyota

#Toyota Camry hybrid

2021 Ford Escape Titanium PHEV FWD

Plug-in hybrid saves oodles of gas, I spent less than $5 in a week …

If Ford’s plug-in hybrid Escape was any more middle of the road it would have a white stripe painted down its centerline.

Escape is a fine family of four crossover with sufficient power, easy handling and good passenger and cargo room inside. It’s pleasant looking. In fact, its nose resembles a much pricier and sportier Porsche Macan, so maybe you can fool a few neighbors.

Considering the average price of a new vehicle now is pressing $46,000 it’s nice to know a family could still escape in this Ford for $26,800, including delivery, at its base front-drive level. That packs just a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that still makes a healthy 180 horsepower.

Naturally there are varying trims and options for that gas-only powered model, plus a standard hybrid where battery power is added via regenerative braking, but the tested plug-in hybrid model starts at a still family friendly $35,185 in SE trim, and $37,920 in the preferred SEL trim.

The test crossover was the top-level Titanium model starting at $40,130 but it crept up to $43,025 with its fancy Rapid Red Metallic paint ($395) and a Titanium preferred package, including a dual-pane sunroof, wireless charging and fancy floor mats, for $2,500.

Even at that, the test Escape is below the going rate for new wheels in our supply-chain challenged world.

Yet there’s one feature that sets this Escape apart in this middlers paradise, its plug-in charging system. While standard hybrid technology has been around for a couple decades now, the plug-in system is more a past 5-year phenomenon. With a plug-in, a cord with pistol grip plug connects to an outlet in the Escape’s front left fender (looks like a fuel door) and then connects to any outlet, 120- or 240-volt that is available, usually in your garage.

At 120 volts it takes roughly 8-10 hours for a full charge that nets the Escape about 35 miles of electric charge. If you have a partial charge already, it can take just 2 to 4 hours for a full charge. If you have a 240-volt charger (like you would for a dryer) a charge takes about half as long.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2021 Ford Escape Titanium PHEV FWD – YouTube

This is perfect for folks commuting less than 30 miles daily roundtrip to work or running errands. In my week’s drive I never fully used the battery charge, so ended up needing only 0.8 gallons of gas, or just short of $4. Imagine that for a week’s driving of roughly 200 miles.

My calculations put my fuel economy at 208.1 mpge and 41.75 mpg for the gas only. The key here is running on the electric charge as much as possible. I have no cost figures for my evening charges for the crossover’s battery, but one suspects it would be several dollars as opposed to $20-30 for equivalent gas. Reducing emissions, naturally, is the big-picture advantage.

A side note here. The Escape offers four battery use driving methods via a button on the console. One is for electric driving only, another is Automatic so chooses gas or electric as the power system computer deems appropriate, another allows you to run on gas while you maintain whatever battery charge you have. This makes sense to save the battery power for city stop-and-go driving where the electric is most efficient. The final setting allows the engine and regenerative braking to help boost battery life, although I didn’t find it helped much more than the Automatic setting.

All this is a long way of saying the plug-in system works well and is easy, provided you have a garage or indoor place to plug in regularly. It makes daily driving much more economical, especially with today’s higher gas prices.

For the record, the hybrid system works in conjunction with a 2.5-liter I4 engine and makes up to 221 horsepower while the standard hybrid system packs 200 horsepower. The transmission is a CVT, so smooth, but not peppy.

Acceleration is pretty mild, but due to the electric power it comes instantly so pulling away from a stoplight feels quicker than one might expect in a compact crossover.

Handling is fairly light and easy, so parking and lane maintenance are a breeze and cornering is good, especially at city speeds. Ride is decent too, not smooth, but not too abrupt on sharp city ruts and expansion joints.

Note too that the gas-powered and standard hybrid Escapes are available with AWD, but the plug-in is only a front-drive model.

The bright metallic red test crossover was attractive and featured a two-tone black and tan leatherette interior, the seats being tan with black trim and the dash and doors black. Ford opts for an inexpensive looking fake light wood look metal trim on the dash and doors that does not seem appropriate for a top trim level.

Attractive two-tone interior gives the Escape a handsome look inside.

Ford’s instrument panel and infotainment screen are easy to see, read, and use, although the infotainment screen is smaller than most these days. Still, functionality is good and all dash and steering wheel hub controls are simple.

This one also includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, plus power seats. However, the seat cushions are all relatively flat so provide very little hip and back support. That’s fine in town, but on a long drive could become tiring.

Nothing special here, but the screen, buttons and knobs are easy to see and use.

The giant sunroof overhead is nice, as is the wireless charging, both part of the Titanium option package.

Front and rear seats are roomy for four adults and there is plenty of cargo room under the power rear hatch. However, below the floor here there was a big gaping hole that housed a battery and should have had a spare tire, but none was there and the finish of that cargo hold under the floor looked straight out of the 1960s with no padding. This could be a one-off test car situation, but give a look at any Escape you are intending to buy to make sure this is not an issue.

This was rather odd, no spare tire and not much finishing under the cargo floor.

Standard safety equipment is well represented here with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 system standard, including pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning and smart cruise control.

There’s also another safety device no doubt demanded by corporate lawyers, and this is becoming a major annoyance in more and more vehicles. It’s what I call the “Don’t Forget the Kid” warning for the rear seat. It beeps at you once the ignition is off and warns on the info screen, “Check Rear Seat for Occupant.”  You can press the OK button on the steering wheel hub to stop the beeping, but still, this is unnecessary for most drivers who have children.

Still, I suppose that’s family friendly, even if the beeping sends mom or dad into a frenzy as they try to get out of the car and into the mall, grocery store, or wherever, with a kid in tow.

Here’s a closer look at the main dash controls.

In general, fewer beeps and alarms in cars today would be a welcome change. Light up the warning on the screen if necessary to avoid lawsuits, but stop with the noise pollution.

Overall though the Escape is a middler’s dream, an inexpensive vehicle that can haul a family of four in relative comfort while also getting great fuel economy. Competitors include Toyota’s RAV4 Prime, the new Hyundai Tucson, and the Subaru Crosstrek. All come with AWD.

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Escape Titanium PHEV FWD

Hits: Plug-in hybrid provides 35 miles of electric charge, comfy family crossover with easy handling, simple dash controls and fabulous mileage if fully charged. Heated seats and wheel, good safety equipment, 4 choices of battery power use, wireless charger, dual sunroofs, power hatch and fair ride.

Misses: Plug-in only available with front-wheel drive, annoying alarm every time you turn off ignition warning “Check Rear Seat for Occupant,” poor finish and no spare tire under cargo floor, seats are flat with little support.

Made in: Louisville, Ky.

Engine: 2.5-liter I4 hybrid, 221 hp

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,870 lbs.

Wheelbase: 106.7 in.

Length: 180.5 in.

Cargo: 34-61 cu.ft.

Tow: 1,500 lbs.

MPG: 105 (gas-electric), 40 (gas)

MPGe: 208.1 (tested), 41.75 mpg (gas only)

Base Price: $40,130 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $38,863

Major Options:

Rapid Red Metallic paint, $395

Titanium premium pkg. (floor mats, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging), $2,500

Test vehicle: $43,025

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Volvo XC60 B6 AWD R-Design

XC60 touts style inside and out, awesome ride …

Rare are the crossovers whose styling stands out enough to catch your eye on the highway or in daily stop-and-go traffic. Yet Volvo’s collection of XC models will do just that.

I’m no expert on style, but (with apologies to former Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart), I know it when I see it.

The tested XC60 B6 AWD R-Design, clad in Crystal White Metallic ($695 extra) seemed intent on raising property values in our neighborhood while resting in our driveway. This was not just another luxury crossover, all boxy and grinning an oversized goofy black-grilled smile.

No, the Swedish carmaker (now owned by China’s Geely Holding Group) still designs with a Scandinavian minimalism and sophistication that gives its vehicles a unique look, while continuing the auto world trend of placing a large logo on its vehicle’s nose. That’s OK, the headlights and grille look lean and taunt and the taillights’ sideways V-design immediately distinguishes the brand.

For the record, a couple years ago Volvo started calling its T-shaped headlight lenses Thor’s Hammer to create a skosh of marketing excitement. They do look sharp!

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Volvo XC60 – YouTube

XC60 is sort of a large compact crossover, one level up from the small XC40 and well shy of the XC90 that borders between mid-size and large.

That means XC60 rides on a 112.8-inch wheelbase that gives it outstanding ride quality, more along the lines of a larger crossover, yet is a compact 184.6-inches long, so easy to park and maneuver. Handling borders on sporty as little steering input is needed to switch lanes or zip into a tight parking space.

Power is smooth as silk and plentiful in this R-Design model, a mid-level trim. Standard is a supercharged and turbocharged I4 2.0-liter engine, coupled with a mild 48-volt hybrid system to take some electrical pressure off the powertrain. That’s good for 295 horses and a 310 torque rating, while delivering 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, says the EPA. I got 21.0 mpg in about 60% highway driving.

Volvo offers several other power choices though, including a base level 2.0-liter I4 that makes 247 horses and a peppier plug-in hybrid model with 400 horses and that provides 35 miles of all-electric power. But the plug-in will put you mighty close to spending $70 grand.

This R-Design with the gas-only engine and mild hybrid starts at $56,195, with delivery, so certainly a luxury level vehicle. Sadly this one went overboard on options and hit $65,990, so deep into the luxury market.

Certainly the XC60 is easy on the eyes and easy to drive with its silky powertrain, including an 8-speed automatic transmission. Braking is solid too with big vented disc brakes. Towing is possible too as this model is rated to pull 3,500 pounds.

Inside the XC60 continues Volvo’s high standard of style and functionality, this one featuring a light gray leather interior with white piping on the seats and lighter gray to white inserts in the upper seatbacks. The dash includes metal meshwork and the Bowers & Wilkins speaker covers are jeweled-look mesh too.

Volvo’s seats are powered and multi-adjustable, the lower cushion able to be extended, a help for drivers with long legs. Seats also are heated and cooled while being incredibly supportive, especially the seat backs. These are borderline racing seats as they wrap around the front seat folks so well.

Rear seats are heated too, as is the steering wheel, part of a $750 option package that adds headlight washers.

Rear seat gets heat controls, nice info screen up front!

Also added was the Advanced package for $2,050. It includes a head-up display, smart cruise control with driver assistance, a 360-degree camera, advanced air cleaner and 12-volt outlet in the cargo area. The hatch also is powered, but that adds $200, which seems odd these days as power hatches are pretty much standard on trim levels above the base models.

Volvo uses a vertical 10-inch touchscreen to direct infotainment data, such as radio station selection. While it’s easy to see and tap, there also are other features to be accessed by sliding the screen. I find that awkward while driving.

Also, the heated steering wheel and seats are controlled via that screen, but activated by tiny icons that are not the easiest to see and get at, again while driving. But it all looks great!

Overhead is a monster dual-pane sunroof and the test vehicle added an awesome B&W premium audio system, but it carries a big price tag at $3,200. I’ve purchased cars for less.

Other options include a 4-corner air suspension system at $1,800, a feature that certainly adds to the enviable ride comfort here. For another grand the tester added 21-inch 5-double-spoke black diamond alloy wheels. If you’re already at $60,000 and change, why not?

Safety equipment is as you’d expect on a luxury model, or most models at this point, from lane departure assist and other semi-autonomous features, to automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear park assist, etc.

One other note on the driving front, naturally there is the Stop/Start feature that all modern vehicles now include, aimed at saving miniscule amounts of fuel. But the Volvo also, for safety reasons, will not creep forward once your foot is removed from the brake pedal. Nearly all other vehicles do, and we all use that creep as a stoplight turns green.

Well, here you’ll need to be prepared to touch the accelerator to get any creep as you begin moving away from a stoplight or stop sign. Much like Stop/Start, it takes some getting used to, especially when backing out of a driveway or parking space. The first few times it’s possible you’ll over accelerate. Be forewarned!

I’d also expect a power tilt/telescope steering wheel in a luxury level crossover, along with a power rear hatch. Maybe for 2023!

Yet for beauty and driving comfort coupled with interior style and suppleness, the XC60 is a solid alternative to the European and Asian luxury makes. Few will beat its ride!

FAST STATS: 2022 Volvo XC60 B6 AWD R-Design

Hits: Good looker, excellent power, ride and handling. Big sunroof, heated wheel, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, comfy seats with adjustable side bolsters, big touchscreen, awesome stereo, a stylish luxury interior, plus a full bevy of safety equipment.

Thor’s hammer T-shaped headlights rock!

Misses: Touchscreen use (beyond main screen) is distracting to use while driving and no power tilt/telescope steering wheel here. Plus the power hatch costs extra and this drinks premium fuel.

Made in: Gothenburg, Sweden

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo, supercharged I4, 295 hp/310 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,378* lbs. (*Car and Driver)

Wheelbase: 112.8 in.

Length: 184.6 in.

Cargo: 22.4-63.6 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/27

MPG: 21.0 (tested)

Base Price: $56,195 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options: Climate package (headlamp washers, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel), $750

Advanced package (HUD, Pilot Assist including smart cruise control and driver assistance, 360-view camera, 12v outlet in cargo area, advanced air cleaner), $2.050

Crystal white metallic paint, $695

Power tailgate, $200

Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, $3,200

4-corner air suspension, $1,800

21-inch 5-double-spoke black diamond alloy wheels, $1,000

Test vehicle: $65,990

Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Ford Maverick Lariat FWD

Ford returns to the compact pickup market with a hybrid …

Finally, finally, finally the nation’s leading truck maker has returned to the compact pickup market as Ford introduces the Maverick pickup.

Oldtimers will recall the original Ford Maverick as an inexpensive compact car that did not distinguish itself, but this Maverick is gonna be great in the marketplace, just like Ford’s previous Ranger. The old Ranger, not the new mid-size pickup of the same name, used to clog up every high school parking lot in both rural and urban America.

Know why? It was affordable and useful, and by golly, it was a TRUCK. And that’s what young male buyers yearn for as they imagine themselves becoming men, starting a work life and well, just expressing their macho dudeness as they crank their country rock tunes.

Maverick’s looks are less macho than all the bulky mid-size and full-size pickups that look prepared to trounce some demon in a Marvel action movie. Maverick is handsome and understated, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s also highly affordable throughout its three trim levels, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that.

The base front-drive XL starts at $21,490, including delivery. The mid-level XLT lists at $23,855 and the tested Lariat model begins at $26,985. OMG that’s cheap in today’s truck world. Add $3,305 to any model if you prefer 4-wheel-drive, which most folks do these days. However, you’ll also need to upgrade to Ford’s 2.0-liter turbo I4 engine ($1,085) in order to add 4WD.

Still, even this well-equipped Alto Blue Metallic (dark metallic blue that’s $390 extra) checked in at just $29,340. That after adding a sunroof ($795), Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 safety equipment ($540), a spray-in bedliner (a must at $495) and floor mats ($135). All models are crewcabs.

What may surprise as much as the price it that each of these trims comes standard with a hybrid powertrain. That’s right, Ford’s 2.5-liter I4 is paired with a hybrid system to make this compact pickup a sipper of gas around town. The EPA rates it at 42 mpg highway and 33 mpg city. I got 31.8 in a mix of driving in cold, icy, and snowy weather.

Watch Mark’s video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG2hTmpxMMk

Power is smooth and fairly quiet, but modest unless mashing the accelerator. Part of that can be attributed to its continuously variable transmission. If you need more power, that optional turbo I4, coupled with an 8-speed automatic, delivers 250 horses compared with the hybrid system’s 191 and scant 155 lb.-ft. of torque. Again, the hybrid is fine for normal driving conditions, the turbo is only needed if you plan to tow more.

That’s because the hybrid is rated to tow just 2,000 lbs. while properly equipped ($745 tow package) the turbo-powered Maverick will pull 4,000 lbs. Compare that with Hyundai’s new Santa Cruz, my Zoomie Vehicle of the Year, which can tow up to 5,000 lbs. Santa Cruz is Maverick’s main competition, being the only other compact pickup so far, although it is more stylish and tends toward the crossover end of the market for ride and roominess.

While AWD is extra, there are five drive modes adjusted via a knob on the console. Those include Eco, Normal, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul. Sport does boost acceleration some.

Handling is certainly fine with Maverick, which rides on the same chassis as the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, both of which also are nimble. Steering effort is mild and turn-in for corners fairly precise, making it an easy vehicle on the road and in parking lots.

Ride is another thing. While Maverick is unibody construction, not body-on-frame as are most other trucks, the suspension is pretty firm here. That leads to more bounce and jiggle on our winter-ravaged Midwest roads. Maverick is pleasant on the highway, but on crumbling roads passengers will be shaken, not just stirred.

Braking is good as Maverick packs four-wheel disc brakes.

For the record, Maverick’s bed is 4.5 feet deep and the test unit had a spray-in bedliner. The lift-in height is just 30 inches and the tailgate folds down quickly, no easy-drop, or multiple function version here as on fancier pickups. But this is right-sized to haul lumber, bushes and yard waste. Even a couple bikes will fit in back.

Inside is right-sized too for four, or maybe five folks, if at least one is a child. The rear seats are roomy and there’s oodles of storage space under the rear seat whose bottom cushion folds up.

The test truck’s interior was simple but attractive with brown and dark blue faux leather seats. That blue matches the truck’s exterior. I also like the copper trim on the dash, air vents and door armrests, which are abbreviated and quite easy to use in pulling a door shut. The console is wisely a matte blue and brown so no reflections there on sunny days.

Snazzy copper-colored door pulls add some spiff inside.

Controls and screens are fine, the main gauges easy to see and read and the 8-inch infotainment screen seems even smaller, but was easy to read. The Lariat also has dual climate controls and push-button start, but no navigation system. Note that in an effort to keep costs down the base level features a key start (remember those?) and cloth seats.

Seats themselves are comfy enough here, but the front edge seems to have just a tad too much foam, so puts extra pressure on the legs, just behind the knees, of short drivers. Luckily the driver’s seat is powered, while the passenger’s is not. Yet still the front edge could not be lowered enough for this short driver’s long-ride comfort.

Seats also are not heated, nor is the steering wheel, even at this Lariat level. No wireless phone charger is standard here either.

Good news though, the step-in height is like a sedan or small crossover, so no running board is needed.

On the safety front the Maverick includes a pre-collision assist system, rear-view camera, remote keyless entry and with the $540 Co-Pilot 360 adds blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping alert and aid, driver alert and a full-size spare tire.

For off-road heroes there’s also an FX4 package available for $800. That adds 17-inch all-terrain tires, an upgraded cooling system and high-capacity radiator, hill descent control, a 6.5-inch instrument cluster, a hitch, special aluminum wheels, skid plates and exposed front tow hooks Note that you must upgrade to the turbo engine before adding FX4, adding roughly another grand.

There’s storage room below the rear seat.

The base XL of course is a basic low-content truck to keep the price just above $20,000, but the XLT adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control, a locking tailgate and power mirrors. The tested Lariat includes the XLT’s features and adds the power driver’s seat, push-button start and 18-inch wheels.

One final plus, the hybrid-powered Maverick features an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty on that system, while the more powerful 2.0-liter turbo has a 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty.

If you want a pickup, but don’t Need a monster truck, or can’t Afford one, Maverick is a sweet new choice, finally.

FAST STATS: 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat FWD

Hits: Right-sized pickup with excellent handling and super MPG due to hybrid system. Comfy interior, low step-in height, lined bed, easy dash function, 5 drive modes, cool copper interior trim, dual climate controls, seats 4/5, power driver’s seat, and sunroof.

Misses: Just OK power, ride is bouncy at times, a bit too firm, front edge of seats is too high for short drivers’ legs, no heated seats or steering wheel, no wireless phone charger and no 4WD.

Made in: Hermosillo, Mexico

Engine: 2.5-liter I4 hybrid, 191 hp/155 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,674 lbs.

Wheelbase: 121.1 in.

Length: 199.7 in.

Payload: 1,500 lbs.

Tow: 2,000 lbs.

MPG: 42/33

MPG: 31.8 (tested)

Base Price: $26,985 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $26,475

Major Options:

Co-pilot 360, $540

Alto Blue paint, $390

Floor liner without carpet mats, $135

Power moon roof, $795

Spray-in bedliner, $495

Test vehicle: $29,340

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat (hybrid)

Ford’s hybrid F-150 SuperCrew is all the pickup a person can use …

Driving the new Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat was like déjà vu all over again.

Doesn’t happen often, but I got to test drive the new hybrid version of Ford’s most popular (in fact North America’s most popular) vehicle for a second time in roughly a year. And even more unusual, this was a pre-production model with few miles on it and decked out in Antimatter Blue Metallic, which is a dark (nearly black) paint scheme. I like the name!

Ford’s F-150 hybrid is simply smooth, quiet and packed with power. No reason any truck lover wouldn’t love this beast like an all-expense-paid night at a Monster Truck rally.

Oh, I guess some might not care for the electric hybrid motor’s whine at low speeds, but if you crank the Lariat’s muscle-bound, watt-crazy B&O (Bang & Olufsen) stereo with subwoofer you’ll never hear that whine over George Strait’s strains.

Like the previous tester, this F-150, already starting at $53,025 with delivery, was packed with options, 13 to be exact. That added $19,745 to the sticker. Total? Just (sarcasm) $72,770, or nearly exactly double the cost of my first house. But hey, it would tow!

You get everything but the barn here, and its more efficient and powerful than many of the other seven F-150 trim levels due to its hybrid system, which itself adds $3,300 to the tally. It’s worth it.

Standard in the Lariat is a powerful twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 gas engine that makes 325 horsepower. You can even still get a thirsty 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horses if gas burning, or buying, matters not to you. A slick 10-speed automatic comes standard with all powertrains.

The hybrid system conjoins a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 with a 35kw electric motor with batteries under the rear seat. It makes a whopping 430 horsepower and 570 lb.-ft. of torque all while delivering an EPA rated 24 miles per gallon, city or highway. Combined with a 30.6-gallon gas tank that creates an optimum 700-mile driving range, both downhill and with the wind.

While in warmer weather I’d managed an impressive 20.5 mpg, in zero to 30-degree temps I recorded just 17 mpg this time. Still, that’s what you’d normally expect in straight highway driving with gas-only power. This included plenty of city driving.

Bottom line, the new F-150 is a rocket despite its hefty 5,517 lbs. Power comes on quickly and when you punch it the twin-turbo V6 delivers boatloads of power to get up to highway speeds or out-power most anyone at a stoplight. That electric motor also helps boost low-end acceleration.

Handling is reasonable for a big pickup too, easy to keep in its lane and maneuver, except in a crowded parking lot. Then you’ll want to leave a little extra room, even though this one only had the smallest, 5.5-foot, bed. A 6.5- and 8-foot bed also are available.

Ride, well, it’s a mix because on straight reasonable smooth stretches this feels like a luxury sedan, smooth and exceedingly quiet inside. But once the pavement becomes cracked and uneven, well, it’s still a truck. Despite its independent double wishbone suspension up front with coil-over shocks and stamped lower control arm and rear leaf spring with solid axle this fortress becomes bouncy. Not harsh, but there’s rock and roll that actually shakes drivers and passengers from side to side at times.

Braking is fine and towing power is impressive at 12,700 pounds. That’s plenty buster!

Like the earlier test truck this he-man added the $750 Pro Power onboard 7.2kw generator in the bed so you can power up your tools, heck, even your house, if need be. A smaller generator is standard.

This is a boon for contractors and construction folks needing quick access to electricity on a job site. Just leave the truck running (Stop & Go will turn off the gas engine shortly) and plug in. The batteries in the truck do the rest through an inverter and generator.

As mentioned in the earlier review, this Pro Power unit provides enough juice to run much of your household electronics for 72 hours during a power outage. So the $750 is pretty inexpensive for backup generator power (ignoring the total cost of the truck).

Watch a video review: Ford F 150 Hybrid Review by Mark Savage – YouTube

So, there’s a lot of usefulness as you’d expect with a pickup, but being a SuperCrew there’s a full rear seat and the interior is luxury car level, helping explain the sticker price. Plus this one includes the Lariat package for $6,920 and including everything from heated and cooled front seats, and rear seats to a heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Leather is so deep it would make a herd of cattle jealous, with tan leather seats featuring black trim and a black dash with tan and brushed chrome trim. There’s even a little fake wood trim on the doors. Knobs, and there are plenty, are satin chrome while the steering wheel is a soft, thick black leather. Down low are power-adjustable pedals and the steering wheel is a power tilt/telescope job.

Grab handles stick out from everywhere, and should, for easy mounting of this high-rider. Thankfully there are 6-inch chrome trimmed running boards, ($225 extra) to help boost passengers up into the cockpit, a must.

The info screen and instrument panel are large (both 12 inches) and obviously easy to see and mostly to use, although programming favorite radio stations wasn’t a breeze. Still, all the gauges and knobs are macho big and within easy reach. A giant storage box/armrest divides the front seat and includes a flip-up work surface perfect for a computer, and $165 extra.

One might wonder how that works since there’s a large shift lever at the front of the console that would prevent the flip-up surface from lying flat. Ford solves this with a button to retract the shift lever. Clever, and this one was much quieter than in the earlier test truck.

Seating is comfortable and roomy front and rear with fairly flat seat bottoms and more contoured backs. Everything is powered and there are three memory buttons for the driver’s seat.

Here’s the gear shift knob in its powered down position.

Inside is a gas filler door release and automatic tailgate release. The power tailgate ($695 extra) is easy to fold down or up and there’s a pop-out ladder in the tailgate that helps a normal to small-size person climb aboard the bed. Even a handle that pops up to steady the climber’s ascent or descent. A spray-in bedliner is $595 extra, but you’ll want it.

Engaging the 4WD modes is simple too with a dial on the center stack, while overhead is a button to open the rear sliding window for a bit of air movement or limited access to the bed. Oddly no wireless charger on a $72 grand truck, that’s a $145 option. Hmmm!

A sunroof also is an add-on at $1,495.

Standard though is a bevy of fine safety equipment from lane-keeping assist to park sensors, blind-spot warning and emergency collision braking, plus a smart cruise control system. I should point out for trailer haulers the cool Pro Trailer system that uses a knob on the dash to help a driver back up to, and attach, a trailer.

There’s a fine running board to help us short folks mount this tall beast.

Co-Pilot 360, a semi-autonomous driving system to keep you centered in your lane is a $1,595 add on, plus a 360-degree camera that makes parking a LOT easier adds $765 to the sticker.

Other add-ons here included a trailer towing package for $1,995, onboard scale with smart hitch for $650, electronically controlled suspension damping for $695 and snazzy 20-inch chrome-like PVD wheels for $1,395.

One minor annoyance, like more and more vehicles, the Ford screams out a chime every time the ignition is turned off to warn you to LOOK in the rear seat (no extra charge). Did you leave a kid there? One supposes lawyers are afraid you might.

Cool that there’s a fold down step to help folks crawl up into the bed. That yellow dot is the handle that pops out to help steady the person climbing the tiny step!

This one is high-end luxury pricey, but don’t let that bother you if you need a full-size pickup. There are so many models and configurations that surely you can find an F-150 in your price range. The base regular-cab XL with 2-wheel-drive lists at about $30,000. While a Limited 4×4 hybrid model can hit about $80 grand.

Know that there are three cab style choices, three bed lengths, 5 powertrains (diesel is dropped for 2022), 7 trims and then the performance-oriented Raptor.

Any way you slice it, Ford remains the technology leader in pickups.

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat (Hybrid)

Hits: Roomy truck with quiet luxury interior, hybrid power and improved mpg, plus a built-in generator in the bed. Huge info screen and instrument gauges, heated wheel and heat/cool front seats, heated rear seats, power tailgate w/step, 360-degree camera, fold-out work area, running boards. Excellent towing power and acceleration, decent handling and good safety systems.

Numbers are big on the digital instrument panel!

Misses: Big truck bouncy ride, difficult parking in tight lots, an overabundance of buttons and knobs on dash. Rear seat warning sounds every time ignition turned off.

Made in: Dearborn, Mich.

Engine: 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, 325 hp

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,517 lbs.

Wheelbase: 145.4 in.

Length: 231.7 in.

Cargo bed: 52.8 cu.ft.

Tow: 12,700 lbs.

MPG: 24/24

MPG: 17.0 (tested)

Base Price: $53,025 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $49,689

Major Options:

3.5-liter V6 hybrid (430 hp/570 torque), $3,300

Lariat equipment group 502A, $6,920

Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, $1,595

Pro Power onboard 7.2kw generator, $750

Interior work surface, $165

Max trailer tow package, $1,995

Onboard scale w/smart hitch, $650

Power tailgate, $695

Continuously controlled damping, $695

20-inch chrome-like PVD wheels, $1,395

360-degree camera, $765

Bedliner, spray-in, $595

6-inch extended chrome accent running boards, $225

Test vehicle: $72,770

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Toyota Prius XLE AWD

Hybrid power, interior comfort and awesome MPG = winner!

Hard as it may be to believe, Toyota’s ground-breaking hybrid, the Prius, has been around for 25 years. It’s the top-seller and an excellent choice, still.

A few years ago Toyota wisely improved the Prius styling to round it more and give it a hint of fastback styling while lessening the fuddy-duddy looks of the original.

I could still go for even sleeker looks, but it’s a superior family hatchback now with exceptional gas mileage and even AWD on two of its four trim levels. Mine was an XLE model in a sparkling Supersonic Red that made it stand out in the gloom of gray January days. That color is $425 extra, but worth the upgrade.

The LE and XLE trims both offer AWD, which this one included, and it was timely in that we had a couple moderate snowfalls during my test week. Traction was improved to be sure, but there was still a bit of slippage on my icy drive and area side streets. Still, in Wisconsin the AWD makes sense, even when adding about $1,400 to the bottom line.

Modern looks for the Prius and Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wawautosa!

A base front-drive L Eco model starts at $25,520 with delivery fee, a modest cost for a hybrid that’s rated at more than 50 mpg. The LE lists at $26,730 with delivery, and the AWD model at $28,130. That LE trim adds blind-spot warning, parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert.

But XLE is what the majority of buyers prefer because it adds SofTex fake leather seats that are heated up front as is the steering wheel. A wireless phone charger is standard too along with 17-inch alloy wheels to add a spiff factor.

Pricing for FWD is $29,740 and the AWD tester lists at $30,750. With just a few options this one nudged just a touch over $32,000. That’s way below the $36,000 average price for a new car, and again, that’s with a solid offering of safety equipment along with heated seats and steering. Bravo!

Watch Mark’s wacky video review …. Mark is a cheerleader for the 2022 Prius – YouTube

Oddly AWD isn’t available on the top-level Limited model, which adds a fancy JBL audio system, a big 11.6-inch info screen, adaptive front lights with a leveling feature and both navigation and a color head-up display. I should note that the test car’s $800 tech package included the HUD plus adaptive front lighting and auto-leveling lights. So this was close to the Limited in equipment level, minus the big screen and hot-shot stereo.

A high-tech, yet simple dash with dual screens makes Prius easy to drive.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, Prius oozes value and usefulness for the average family of four. That’s because its interior is big enough and comfy enough to host four folks while offering a huge 27.4 cubic foot cargo space for trips.

And performance is as fine as many compact crossovers, especially since this has AWD.

Nothing much has changed of late with Toyota’s industry-leading hybrid system, but it doesn’t need to.

The regenerative-braking powered electric system that charges batteries to augment the 1.8-liter I4 gas engine is seamless and efficient. The EPA rates it at 51 mpg highway and 47 highway and the front drive model is slightly better. I managed 41.6 but in snowy single-digit weather. By comparison, I hit an amazing 65.6 mpg with the identical Corolla hybrid power system in warmer weather about a year ago, and 47.2 mpg in a plug-in hybrid Hyundai Ioniq. That Ioniq is rated higher by the EPA, but it doesn’t offer AWD and you must plug it in to get the most from its hybrid system. A full charge delivers about 30-miles of pure electric range.

The tail has been improved, but it’s still a bit of an acquired taste. Cool lights though!

Here the 121-horsepower is modest, of course, but is delivered smoothly via an electronically controlled CVT. At low speeds the electric power is delivered with a slight whine, but the cockpit is extremely quiet. Pressing the accelerator hard for instant power delivers a noticeable moan from that little I4 engine, yet by 40 mph when the Prius is cruising, it quiets right back down.

Three power modes allow you to save more fuel in Eco mode, while Normal is what I used most. Pressing the dash button for Sport mode is something best used when accelerating onto a highway or to escape giant SUVs and pickups while changing lanes in town. It boosts low-end acceleration to a much preferred level, but naturally uses more fuel.

Handling is quick and easy, much more responsive than trucks and SUVs and even many compact or larger crossovers. I won’t call it fun, but it was refreshing to be able to quickly adjust lane position and dive into a highway curve’s apex. Cars are simply more entertaining to drive than high-riders and the center of gravity in the Prius is nice and low.

Ride is good too, but there is the occasional solid thump from deeply creviced Wisconsin roads. One note though, the tires here deliver more road noise on non-asphalt pavement, so that’s a bit annoying on bridges and long stretches of concrete, especially at highway speeds.

Braking is linear, plus I should note there’s a B setting for the transmission. What’s that? It adds more regenerative braking when the car is coasting, thereby replenishing the batteries more quickly. It’s not a huge difference in drag when coasting, so makes sense to use in town for more efficient charging. Note though that the adaptive cruise control will not engage at freeway speeds if the tranny is in the B mode.

The tiny shift lever here deserves a mention. It extends from the lower part of the center stack. It’s so easy to use and much preferred to push-button systems or those activated via a knob on the console. More intuitive, but small enough not to intrude on the flat wireless charging area on the console, just below the shifter.

Do you say tiny shift lever? Yes I did, and it’s petit, but simple to use.

The rest of the dash is simple and easy to see and use. The main instrument panel continues to be center-dash mounted yet large enough for the driver to read without straining his or her eye muscles. The info screen is just seven inches, but a touchscreen that’s simple to use. Small volume and tuning knobs are available too while the climate control is toggle operated. A dual climate system isn’t offered though, a concern for warm- or cold-blooded significant others.

Seats are manually adjusted, but wonderfully supportive for a value-oriented car. These were light gray with black back cushion trim and the dash was similarly two-tone. The XLE model uses SofTex fake leather for its seating surfaces and the feel is darn near leathery, plus easy to clean and maintain, so let the kids eat that ice cream cone in the rear seat!

There’s a certain modern elegance to the Prius interior, that feels high-tech!

Standard too are Android Auto and Apple Car Play hookups. A navigation system is not part of the XLE’s features, but is on the Limited.

Safety Sense 2.0 is standard though and includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, the smart cruise control, lane departure assist, automatic high beams, lane tracing assist and road sign assist, which means you’ll always know what the speed limit is when you’re exceeding it.

I’m still not a fan of the Prius split rear window, but at least there is a wiper on the top pane. That clears about two-thirds of the window while the lower pane allows more tail-gating lights to invade the cockpit. Wish it was at least tinted to lessen the glare.

The taillights are sharp, but there’s still the see-through panel next to them that serves as a lower rear windshield and allows tailgaters lights to annoy a driver.

Prius mainly competes with its Corolla cousin and Hyundai’s Ioniq in the hybrid car category, but there are many small hybrid crossovers. Prime among them are the Kia Niro, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, but more arrive at dealerships every month. For instance Hyundai now is offering a Tucson hybrid that we hope to test drive soon.

One final note, Toyota has introduced its Nightshade Special Edition, which it offers on many of its other models. That is a special appearance package basically with the car being all black, white or silver while adding 17-inch alloy wheels. If you select an AWD model, the wheels are 15-inchers.

25 years of constant improvement create a super-efficient Prius at a modest price.

Prius, still the hybrid leader after 25 years. Impressive!

Fast Stats: 2022 Toyota Prius XLE AWD

Hits: Smooth acceleration, stellar MPG, easy handling, AWD, decent Sport Mode power, comfy sedan for four. Good standard safety features, fine info screen that’s easy to use, heated seats and steering wheel, smart cruise, tiny shift lever, comfy seats, wireless charger.

Misses: Road noise on non-asphalt roads, noisy engine under heavy acceleration, funky split rear windows, mild acceleration when not in Sport mode.

Here’s a closeup of the main info screen, which functions simply, which is a plus compared to some luxury makes!

Made in: Aichi, Japan

Engine: 1.8-liter I4, hybrid, 121 hp

Transmission: ECVT automatic

Weight: 3,075 lbs.

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Length: 180 in.

Cargo: 27.4 cu.ft.

MPG: 51/47

MPG: 41.6 (tested)

Base Price: $30,570 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $28,528

Major Options: Special paint, $425

Carpeted floor/cargo mats, $259

Advanced technology package (color head-up display, adaptive front lighting, auto-leveling lights), $800

Test vehicle: $32,084

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX

Hybrid Sorento a family hauler with a smaller carbon footprint …

Families looking for economy, but needing people-hauling ability, and whose social consciousness nags them about cutting their carbon footprint, should be dancing a conga line toward Kia dealers for a Sorento Hybrid.

This family hauler was redesigned for 2021, along with its cousin, Hyundai’s Santa Fe, both reviewed earlier. Now comes the Sorento hybrid that gets roughly 10 mpg better than the internal combustion engine (ICE) model, yet isn’t a budget buster.

A base ICE-powered model lists about $31,000 while a hybrid starts about $34,000.

Performance? Not much difference between the two in everyday driving.

Acceleration is good, maybe a bit more accelerator effort in the hybrid, but even with a 6-speed automatic in place of the 8-speed dual-clutch with the ICE version, shifts are smooth. Plus the electric often powers Sorento up to 20+ mph so it’s quiet. (There’s a mild beep outside to warn pedestrians when you back up.) The ICE and electric power switchovers are seamless.

Handling is solid too, as in the ICE model with reasonable corner turn-in and not much body lean, if any. I mean the batteries seem to give this a lower center of gravity to feel even more solid on the highway than the previous versions, not that that was needed. Plus the weight seems to quiet the ride on city streets so they are only a bit jiggly. Highways feel like you’re riding on satin.

Kia’s hybrid system mates electric battery-powered motors with a small 1.6-liter turbocharged I4. Combined the systems deliver 227 horsepower compared with 281 horses from the 2.5-liter turbo I4 in the upscale gas version, or 191 horses in a base ICE model. Yet it is torque that pushes or pulls a vehicle up to speed. Torque here is rated a more than respectable 258 lbs.-ft. vs. 311 with the more powerful gas engine.

Any of these will get Sorento up to highway speeds with ease, just the hybrid or larger ICE will do it with more authority. Note there are just three drive modes with the hybrid as opposed to five in ICE models. This one has Eco (the default), Sport, and Smart, which purportedly learns your preferred driving style and mimics it.

Eco was fine in town. I switched to Sport only when on the freeway as it delivers more acceleration and firms the steering for less highway lane fade.

A big plus, in addition to lower emissions, all that Eco driving saves fuel. The hybrid’s electric power comes from capturing power during deceleration and via regenerative braking. I got 37.6 mpg while the trip computer was an enthusiastic 41.6. Still, that compared with 25.7 mpg in the ICE model tested in summer. EPA estimates are 39 mpg city and 35 highway.

Quick calculations show an average driver at that rate would save $444 a year on fuel. There’s no electric cost as this isn’t a plug-in hybrid. That’s coming shortly though. Note that if you drive more than the average 12,000 miles a year you’ll save even more.

All that is so practical, and Sorento is all of that.

Yet as I’ve said before this Kia is handsome with a good-looking nose featuring a hexagonal grille pattern while the tail features snazzy two-bar vertical LED taillights, one shy of looking an awful lot like Mustang’s taillights. Similar to the fancy upscale X-Line Sorento driven earlier, this EX trim model includes a satin chrome accent on the C-pillar, plus the same around windows and a decorative chrome doodad overlapping the front fender and doors. Snazzy!

All Sorentos are nearly identical in size too and come standard with three rows of seats, plus offer optional captain’s chairs in the second row, a segment exclusive. Santa Fe models don’t offer the third row.

So Sorento seats six or seven. The tester opted for the captain’s seats in row two, so would seat six. I like that this opens up some foot room for third row occupants and gives them another path out of the SUV/crossover.

Also Kia has designed a push button atop the second row seats, next to the headrests, and another at the seat’s base. Press these and the row two seats fold and slide forward, making for easy exits from row three. A little friendly persuasion of row two occupants to slide their seats forward a bit also aids leg and foot room in back. Still row three is best for pre-teens as the third row seats are low-riders (close to the floor) so a person’s knees ride up near the chest.

Being a family hauler dictates that safety is of utmost importance. No worries here.

Sorento packs plenty of safety systems. Standard are adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, forward collision avoidance and assist with cycle recognition, rear cross-traffic avoidance, lane-keeping, safe-exit assist, and parking sensors. Better yet, the lane-keeping can be turned off to avoid odd steering patterns in town when there’s construction and debris to dodge.

Inside the test vehicle is attractive and well arranged. First, the dash and doors include a sort of quilted metal look to give the EX a bit of a jeweled appearance. Other trim on air ducts and the instrument pod and door releases is satin chrome while around the screen and by the gauges is a gloss black trim with matte black and silver on the console to avoid reflections.

Handsome door styling and snazzy quilted metal trim.

Seats are a light gray perforated leather-like material, plus are heated. The driver’s seat is powered, but the passenger’s seat is manual and both are mildly contoured. I find the bottom cushion a bit hard, but comfy enough for city driving. The dash is black as are the tops of doors and trim. 

Mid-dash is a 10-inch screen that’s easy to see and simple to use. Buttons and knobs are well arranged and labeled. I also like the dual level air vents that adjust to aim air where you need it. Visuals are nice too.

Overhead is a panoramic sunroof with power shade, an SOS system and a power hatch in back. Below the center stack is a wireless phone charger that’s easy to use, better than the Santa Fe’s arrangement. Just remember your phone when you get out of the vehicle. I forgot mine several times. Some vehicles warn you if a phone is in the charger. Not here.

The EX trim is not the top of the line, so it is missing a few things that come on fully loaded vehicles, such as a navigation system and AWD. In Wisconsin the later is most important. It runs $1,800 to $2,300 extra, depending on the Sorento’s trim level. That’s a bit unusual. AWD often is a standard option price, about $2,000.

Note that the hybrid model only is recommended for towing 2,000 lbs., the same as the lower horse ICE model. And unlike the ICE models that are made in Georgia, the hybrids are assembled in South Korea.

Pricing, which was touched on earlier, is attractive for such a well-equipped and designed SUV/crossover. Base price for the tested EX model is $37,760, including delivery. With just the snazzy bright metallic red paint as a $445 option, this one settled at $38,205. Add AWD and you’re at about $40,000.

A base hybrid starts about $34,000 and a plug-in hybrid Sorento will list about $41,000. Like most plug-ins, it’s expected to have about a 32-mile fully charged electric range.

The taillights remind me of those on Mustangs, you?

Gas-powered (ICE) models run from $30,500 up to $44,000 if well equipped.

Choices abound with Sorento, from trim levels to power plants. If cutting pollution is high on your list along with family safety and comfort this hybrid is a desirable choice.

FAST STATS: 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX

Hits: Handsome redesign, good handling, ride, fine power, but exceptional MPG. Panoramic sunroof, third row seats, power hatch, 10-inch screen, clear button arrangement, nice visuals on instrument cluster, heated front seats, large cargo area if rear seat down, roomy interior, wireless charger, and stout safety device lineup.

Misses: No navigation system at this trim level and AWD is optional.

Made in: Hwasung, So. Korea

Engine: 1.6-liter turbo I4 GDI hybrid, 227 hp/258 torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,979 lbs.

Wheelbase: 110.6 in.

Length: 189.4 in.

Cargo: 12.6, 38.5, 75.5 cu.ft.

Tow: 2,000 lbs.

MPG: 39/35

MPG: 37.6 (tested)

Base Price: $37,760 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $38,545

Major Option: Runway red paint, $445

Test vehicle: $38,205

Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Ford’s Maverick hybrid pickup earns top EPA city MPG rating

New hybrid rated 42 MPG city, 37 MPG combined …

A 2022 Ford Maverick at Road America, with Indy Lights racer on track.

Last week a bunch of us Midwest auto writers got to give the new 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid pickup a spin up at Road America, and trust me Ford is gonna sell a LOT of Mavericks, both ICE and hybrid powered.

Now the EPA has today rated the hybrid at 42 mpg in city driving, making the Maverick the most fuel-efficient hybrid pickup in the States. That’s huge for Ford and for cleaner air. Maverick is first of all a compact pickup, think of it along the lines of the old Ranger pickup, but with better drive, ride and now fuel technology.

I was impressed by how well the Maverick handled and weathered bumpy pavement, a given here in the Midwest. This feels more refined and yet is modestly priced so families can afford one. Base price is around $21,000, with delivery fees, for the 2.0-liter ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) EcoBoost model that went on sale in September. That engine has 250 horsepower and will tow 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.

The base model features a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo 4, the hybrid has a 2.5-liter I4 and hybrid system to boost gas mileage.

Maverick Hybrid pickups are to start hitting dealerships in December so will likely be getting to customers by January. The truck is rated 37 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Note that hybrids usually deliver better fuel economy in city driving when their electric motors do more of the work. Ford says EPA estimated driving range is 500 miles for the hybrid too.

The hybrid model packs 191 horsepower and will tow up to 2,000 pounds. It is powered by a 2.5-liter I4 and hybrid electric motors.

Both models are known as SuperCrews with full-size rear doors and seating for four or five.

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