Let’s face it, you’d better have a pretty strong, competent vehicle if you’re going to give one of its models the TRD moniker.
We all know what that sounds like, but in Toyota’s case it means Toyota tough, as in Toyota Racing Development. And that’s why the new 4Runner proudly touts TRD in its name and on its haunches.
The test truck was the mid-level TRD Off-Road Premium edition with four-wheel drive and a sparkling Barcelona Red Metallic paint job. It also features a tough-looking exterior with distinctive nose and a hood air scoop that not all models have, not to mention few of its competitors.
4Runner is a big ute, rolling on a 109.8-inch wheelbase it’s a sizeable 191.3 inches long and weighs a hefty 4,750 lbs. So move over mid-size crossovers and SUV pretenders, 4Runner is ready to go rock-climbing, and the TRD version thumbs its nose at rough terrain. Read more
Jaguar has its first sport-utility truck, the F-Pace and it’s already its best-selling vehicle. That tells you a lot.
First, it tells you that tradition and heritage take a back seat to the overwhelming popularity of sport-utes and crossovers. Second, it tells you Jaguar buyers were ready for a Jag truck. And third, it tells you that the F-Pace must be pretty good at satisfying that itch.
Jaguar smartly delivers three engine choices in its new ute. The same 3.0-liter supercharged V6 as in last week’s Jaguar XE sedan will likely be the main choice of buyers. It cranks a healthy 340 horsepower with 332 lb.-ft. of torque, but drinks premium fuel and gets just 18 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway.
The dark metallic gray test truck went the other way, packing an Ingenium 2.0-liter I4 turbo diesel under the F-Pace’s muscular hood that even includes a mild hood bulge. The diesel features 180 horsepower and a grunt-rich 318 lb.-ft. of torque.
Fuel mileage is impressive. The diesel is rated 26 mpg city and 33 highway. I got 27.7 mpg in driving that was heavier on city driving this time. There also is a stop-start feature here to save fuel, but it can be turned off, which makes sense from a smoothness of operation standpoint once the truck’s engine is warmed. Read more
If you’ve always dreamed of being an airline pilot, but never got the training, you should try landing the new Lexus LX 570.
Lexus has created a cockpit fit for a pilot wanna-be with buttons galore. About the only thing missing is an altimeter.
Here’s a quick count of what you’ll get for nearly $100 grand. The center stack has 15 buttons plus four temperature control buttons, and two knobs for the radio. The console features 11 buttons, two toggles, and two knobs, plus a small park brake lever.
Need more? Oh there’s more. The power adjusted tilt/telescope steering wheel’s hub has 10 buttons, plus a 4-way directional pad and there’s a cruise control stalk behind the wheel. There are another 8 buttons on the dash’s face, plus the start button. Ironically the foot-wide screen atop the dash is not a touchscreen, but controlled by Lexus’s awkward and touchy mouse pad on the console.
Once you’ve mastered the maze of buttons, toggles and screen controls you’ll find the LX570 is the luxury version of Toyota’s Land Cruiser, a big beast of an SUV with serious off-roading capability. It has a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and is a full 199.4 inches long. The Lexus weighs in at a stout 6,000 lbs., but will tow 7,000. Read more
What could be more patriotic than a Jeep? And the brand, now part of Fiat-Chrysler, is celebrating 75 years of Jeepdom, although the test model wasn’t specially adorned.
This was a dark metallic gray Grand Cherokee Limited with 4-wheel-drive, starting at a relatively sane $39,895 and ending up at a luxurious $47,930 after adding one hefty $4,200 option package and three others that were more fiscally conservative.
Jeep lovers love the fact that many models can be taken for serious off-roading. While Wranglers are the primary off-roaders, Jeep is happy to tell you that Grand Cherokees can be too.
This is all handled by a neat dial on the console so it’s easy to dial up the traction your Jeep currently needs. In automatic it was fine on damp Wisconsin roads.
There’s plenty of power too. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and a healthy 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The Grand Cherokee will move and a Sport button will amp up the power by holding lower gears longer while also firming the steering effort considerably. Entering a highway the Sport setting is the way to go.
As with many cars now, the Jeep has an automatic stop/start feature that turns the engine off at stoplights and other times where it otherwise might idle. This saves a bit of gas, but this one is particularly rough. However, you can turn the feature off for smoother operation. Speaking of which, the 8-speed automatic tranny standard on the Grand Cherokee is exactly that, smooth. Read more
Honda has reinvented the pickup and it’s a darn sight nicer than whatever you’ve driven before.
To be honest, it’s a suburban cowboy’s pickup, but that’s what so many pickups are used as anyway – kid haulers and the occasional run to a home improvement store or big-box garden center. This one is just being honest about it and making your ride simply oh, so, comfy.
The Ridgeline is not about who has the bigger engine, toughest body, greatest towing capacity, it’s about refinement in a crew cab pickup body with a big open bed for hauling. It’s also quite a bit more.
My test truck was the Black Edition, which (not surprisingly) is black, with black wheels and a black grille to give it a decidedly elegant, yet macho look. Think I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too! This is Honda’s top-of-the-line Ridgeline.
Like all Ridgelines it comes with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 that creates 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s just fine. Acceleration is good and steady from a stop and ultimately Honda says it’ll carry a 1,584-lb. payload, best in class. It’ll even tow 5,000 lbs., which is well shy of competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, but plenty for pulling a camper or boat or snowmobile trailer.
Ridgeline rides on Honda’s sturdy Global Light Truck platform with a 125.2-inch wheelbase that calms road imperfections. This feels smooth and controlled like Honda’s Pilot, a full-size SUV. Read more
I’d read some early reviews of the Audi Q7 full-size sport-utility and thought them suspiciously glowing, like a parent telling how great their kid’s violin concert had been.
Well, count me among the converted.
Big sport-utes are generally luxurious land barges that’ll pull a load and haul a load of people. Audi’s new 2017 Q7 will do all that, but in addition to power it delivers ride and handling.
The back story is that Audi didn’t make a 2016 model, skipping that model year because it intended this model to be an early 2017 release. It was planning a big upgrade, as in the use of a lot more aluminum in the body and overall structure, cutting 474 lbs. from the 2015 model. Audi also upgraded to a 5-link suspension front and rear and managed to lower the truck’s center of gravity by 1.7 inches. No small feat.
Power still comes from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that creates a solid 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s sufficient to pull 7,700 lbs. of trailer too.
The V6 is linked to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and delivers enough power to the Quattro 4-wheel-drive system that in the Dynamic drive mode the Q7 actually feels quick. There are four other Drive Select modes, Winter, Automatic, Comfort and Individual. Each can impact the steering effort, acceleration and ride, but Dynamic is the most fun. Read more
You’d think all big pickups are pretty much alike. First, their grilles are massive, their stance is tall and imposing, their engines are mostly V8s and they’ll all haul a honkin’ big load.
That’s true, but the devil is in the details and there are a lot of details because there are soooo many variations of every pickup.
Toyota’s Tundra TRD Pro Crewmax, this week’s test drive, is all of the above, but it falls short on some rather important details.
First, it won’t tow as much as some of the other pickups. It’s rated to pull 10,500 lbs., which is considerable, but the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra and Nissan Titan will pull 12,000 lbs., and Ford’s F-150 about 200 lbs. more than that.
Third, Tundra’s fuel economy is poor. The test truck was rated 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. Compare that with the very similar GMC Sierra I tested recently, which was rated 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Ford’s top-selling F-150, which cut 700 lbs. by going to an aluminum body, is rated higher yet.
For the record, I got 18.4 mpg in an F-150 test last year, 15.9 mpg with the Sierra and just 14.9 mpg with the Tundra. Lest you think I was lead-footing it, or this was an aberration, I got just 14.6 mpg in my last Tundra Crewmax test drive. Read more
No matter the TV truck commercials, be they for Chevy, or its cousin GMC, if you have a bear chasing you you’ll pick ANY big ol’ pickup you can haul your tushie into and away from the beast.
Ah, but there’s the joke, any quarter-ton pickup you buy will be strong and powerful. However, will it be as luxurious and roomy as a fine luxury sedan? That’s what a lot of truck buyers want these days as trucks have become the family wagon. That’s why the top-end of the truck market continues to expand. Take the tested GMC Sierra Crew Cab SLT.
Several drives in Kia’s handsome Sorento crossover during the past couple years still has me searching hard for its faults. There aren’t many.
Most test drives leave me wanting a little more, or less, of something, but Sorento just keeps impressing. Read more
The Lexus RX350 has set the tone for mid-size luxury SUVs, now mostly crossovers, for about 20 years and with the 2016 model being totally restyled inside and out, I was expecting more of the same.
That is, I expected to be wowed by the segment leader’s new duds, spangles and spurs. Its sleek lines, low roofline and distinctive wide monster grille give a look that sets it apart in this station-wagony-ute segment. I liked it and colleagues commented on its spiffy looks.
But, at $56 grand and change, I expected more from the metallic black (Obsidian) test model, an F Sport model, which means you get real leather seats, AWD, paddle shifters, variable suspension settings and big ol’ 20-inch wheels.
All RX350s come with the same silky 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing and are linked to an 8-speed automatic. Only the hybrid models, RX450h, feature a different power plant. That’s a V6 combined with hybrid electric power to create 308 horses and boost fuel mileage from a moderate 19 mpg city and 26 highway in the test model to 28 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Read more
Trucks are macho, always have been. But as our society becomes more confrontational and in-your-face attitudes more commonplace it’s only natural truck styling sheet metal follows suit.
Today’s Toyota Tacoma will go toe-to-toe with any pickup in the attitudinal Olympics. Its fenders bulge like a body builder’s abs and its hood bulges like pecs gone wild. Muscular doesn’t begin to describe it.
That’s to be expected from the new, restyled 2016 Tacoma, the leading mid-size pickup in the U.S. market, the pickup that has been kicking sand in the faces of its competition for years. Market reports say Tacoma owns more than half of the truck sales in its segment.
And now, as if it weren’t already dominant enough, Tacoma is marking its territory with increased horsepower, better gas mileage and a quieter interior. Take that Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Never mind that a few of those will tow more or still get better gas mileage, Tacoma is ready to rumble.
Let’s start with power, as that’s what most pickup owners are looking for, whether to tow, haul or simply impress their buddies and significant others.
Tacoma features a 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that uses the Atkinson cycle, technology that burns fuel more efficiently than a standard V6. Several Mazda engines use the Atkinson design. Tacoma’s torque is 265 foot-pounds and tow capacity is 6,400 lbs. Read more
Subaru’s Forester remains one of my favorite small SUVs because of its handling, spunky power, smooth CVT, quiet interior and sure-footed AWD capability.
That doesn’t even get at its other attributes, like reasonable starting price, good gas mileage, comfortable interior, top-notch safety rating and its overall usefulness.
The Forester was redesigned for 2014 and just keeps getting better with little tweaks. The handsome metallic (Venetian) red test model was the mid-level Limited that includes leather seats, an automatic climate control system, and power hatch.
Like its stablemates (there are four trims, plus the XT models that include a gutsier 2.0-liter turbocharged engine), the Limited delivers good interior space with wide comfortable seats and one of the quieter small SUV interiors.
The 2.5-liter boxer (horizontally-opposed) 4-cylinder engine is strong, delivering 170 horsepower and 174 ft.-lbs. of torque. While some small SUVs and crossovers may offer more pony power, few feel as spunky as this Subaru engine. Touch the gas pedal and the Forester jumps away from stoplights. In fact, it takes a couple days to get the feel of the pedal. You can startle yourself a bit the first few times you accelerate. Read more
The Honda Pilot has been a reliable big box of a sport-utility vehicle for years, nothing fancy, but usual Honda quality and solid build.
For 2016 the Pilot is restyled and rounded to give it a smoother more refined look, one that might be confused with Buick’s Enclave. In fact, several folks asked me during my drive if this was a new Buick. Honda’s sales results will tell them if such confusion helps or hurts, but overall the look is an improvement.
That’s what you see on the surface, what’s inside and what’s changed makes the new Pilot more attractive both visually and functionally for large families needing space for their brood.
Overall the Pilot is 3.5 inches longer and rides on a 111-inch wheelbase that’s nearly two inches longer than the previous model. Pilot also has dropped 300 lbs.
The result is a roomier interior with a third-row seat that isn’t as cramped, plus a vehicle with improved ride quality and handling ability. You wouldn’t call Pilot nimble, but the weight loss is noticeable and the steering has been tuned to feel more responsive giving the Pilot better road feel. Not much play in this wheel anymore.
Ride generally is fine, but still can be stiff over sharp road bumps of which we have plenty in southeast Wisconsin. I enjoyed my highway drives across town and the interior is extremely quiet. Read more
The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States virtually forever and there’s a reason for that, it’s a darned nice truck.
Now that it has an aluminum body and notwithstanding the funny Chevy commercials poking fun at it, it’s even better. It’s lighter and more fuel efficient and at least from all outward appearances, just as strong and reliable as in the past.
Chevy can tweak Ford all it wants, but over the past several years Ford has come up with a series of new Ecoboost engines that are high horse, high torque and more fuel efficient. Now it lightens its pickups by roughly 700 lbs. by developing high-strength aluminum for the bodies. Hmm, sounds to me like a leader protecting its lead!
Let’s make no bones about it, the bright blue (blue flame metallic) test truck, a 4×4 SuperCrew was still plenty heavy, tipping the scales according to Ford and other automotive test sites, at nearly 4,700 lbs. But that’s about 900 lbs. lighter than a Toyota Tundra I tested earlier this year and a several hundred pounds lighter than a similar Chevy Silverado.
That does help fuel economy, which I realize is of minor importance to some folks now that gasoline has dropped back below $3 a gallon. But it’s a money saver over the life of the truck, and, one could argue, better for us all.
The test truck was rated 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, which may not sound great, but is an improvement over most trucks and better than the 14/18 mpg that the previous F-150 I’d driven was rated. This time I got 18.4 mpg in about 60% city driving and 40% highway. Read more