Category Archives: SUV/Truck Reviews

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Boxy, gray, two-tone, 3-row Pathfinder a trend setter …

Sometimes when I write my reviews I feel like a broken record (remember those?) repeating the same info over and over.

Part of that is because trends develop fast in the car world and once one manufacturer does something for style, color, features, the others soon fall in line. Sometimes too I test a vehicle as a pre-production model, then get the standard production model a few months later.

That was the case with Nissan’s new 2022 Pathfinder. Plus it was a top-end Platinum 4WD version, same as I’d tested last fall.

For the most part, all was the same, save for a better driver’s seat butt pocket that was not as hard as last time. That or my tush has softened. Whatever!

Now I also see the trends that Pathfinder exhibits that I wasn’t as aware of previously.

First, two-tone SUVs and crossovers are now a thing, a good thing I might add. The trend is giving the roof a different paint scheme than the body. In this case, the roof was black and the body a destroyer gray. That’s another trend, blah gray paint like a battleship, jet fighter or a utility truck. Funny though, the trendy two-tone paint scheme costs $350 extra.

Boxy styling is back for SUVs too. It’s what carmakers call “muscular” and means wheel wells are more pronounced, hoods flatter and fenders squared. This counteracts the more streamlined styling with rounded edges of recent years, although I’d argue SUVs nearly all look pretty boxy, always have.

Another trend? To improve fuel economy and smooth shifts for a more luxurious feel, carmakers have moved to 8- to 10-speed automatic transmissions. Nissan’s is a 9-speed and silky smooth. That helps keep the 3.5-liter V6 calmed even as the 4,672-pound SUV runs up to highway speeds. So engine noise is modest and the cabin remains quiet, so as not to disturb the family’s social media experiences.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews to 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Edition – YouTube

Luxury interiors, often even in the $35,000-$40,000 price range (that’s about $10 grand short of the average vehicle price now) are trendy too. That means leather with various names taken from Italian fishing villages to California wine country counties. Nissan’s are semi-aniline leather and were a handsome medium brown with black trim on seats, doors and dash.

Luxury leather interior? Check!

This makes sense. I mean, where do you spend hours and hours? Inside your vehicle, naturally. So make it as comfy and lounge-like as possible.

The Pathfinder really looks posh with its quilted leather all around and brushed metal look trim on the outer air vents, door armrests faces and then piano gloss black trim around the various screens and as console trim. Downside to the gloss finish? It’s very reflective on sunny days.

The better news is that these seats are well formed and supportive and as hinted at before, the butt pockets are much softer than the pre-pro model, so fine for long drives with the fam aboard.

Third row seat is tight, but easily accessed.

That’s easier now too due to the trend of adding a third-row seat to every SUV beyond compact status. Nissan proudly states this third row has more legroom than some competitors, but let’s be realistic, nearly all third rows are meant for kids younger than 8. Leg and knee room is tight unless the second row seats are moved as far forward as possible.

More good news, these row two seats are one-touch, meaning punch a button on the back and the second row seats backs fold forward and the entire seat slides forward for easier access to row three. That’s appreciated.

Note the flat-bottom wheel, which Nissan and I love.

Also a trend, a bench seat is optional for row two, which would allow a family to haul eight, one more than a minivan. Practically speaking, most folks will opt for captain’s chairs in row two and limit seating to seven. That creates four very comfy seats, which is how many folks populate most vehicles, including midsize and large SUVs.

Other interior trends include dual-pane panoramic sunroofs and fancy stereos. Both are standard on the Platinum model, the stereo being a Bose premium model with dual subwoofers.

Nissan, wisely, is fond of flat-bottom steering wheels which are good at creating more room for a driver’s knees when exiting and also look sportier, a double win.

And many drive modes, here controlled on the console by a rotating dial, are as necessary as giant wheels and tires these days. Pathfinder touts seven drive modes from Mud/Rut and Snow, to Eco and Sport. Yes, Sport firms the steering effort some and mildly aids acceleration.

Supposedly the more muscular styling for Pathfinder (and others) insinuates it is more off-road rugged and certainly I splashed around some sloppy tall grass and muck in a field to assure the Nissan was up to it. It is, but as the SUVs approach the cost of a home it seems less and less likely owners will torture them in rough terrain.

I must admit the tested gray Pathfinder Platinum is not as costly as, say, the giant new Jeeps I recently tested, but still, at $50,665 the monthly payments are going to be substantial.

A base rear-drive S model lists at $34,855 and adding 4WD to any of the Pathfinder’s four trims adds $1,900. The popular SV trim rolls at about $37,500 and the SL at about $42 grand. This Platinum model started at $49,265, including delivery.

For the record I got 23.3 mpg in a 60/40 mix of highway to city driving and the EPA rates this model at 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. One hopes a hybrid version is in the works to help boost those numbers, although I must say filling the tank was not as shocking as with the previous week’s Jeep Grand Wagoneer that managed just 12.3 mpg. Pathfinder is way more family budget friendly.

Can you read the vehicle name OK?

Other pluses include the full bevy of safety equipment. Nissan wisely makes Safety Shield 360 standard on all models. That includes lane departure warning (vibrates the steering wheel and buzzes a bit), blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear emergency braking plus high-beam headlight assist.

Moving up to the SV trim adds ProPilot the adaptive cruise control and semi-autonomous driving aids, and by the Platinum level there’s also a 10.8-inch head-up display. Sadly that smart cruise system only works with the semi-autonomous system, so you can’t shut off the buzzing, vibrating lane warning system that can annoy during the lane dodging of construction season.

Standard too are a 9-inch infotainment screen (up from 8 in the two lower trims), a WiFi hotspot, 360-degree camera, that flat-bottom steering wheel, Nissan Connect Services via Sirius XM, wireless Apple Car Play, but not wireless Android Auto.

Goodies added in the Platinum model are heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel, plus heated rear seats, that dual-pane sunroof, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless phone charger, driver seat memory, power tilt/telescope steering wheel and memory, that the HUD.

I’m also a fan of the power hatch, under cargo floor storage and the fact Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 lbs., when properly equipped.

Not a fan though of the stiff ride in what should be a luxurious family SUV. I would never call this a severe ride, but it’s more than firm. All road imperfections are felt as the ute seems to not soak up the rises in the pavement, but deliver a bump to the rump.

Take a ride though to assess how the ride affects your derriere. If you’re after a large compact ute with luxury leanings inside the Pathfinder offers a roomy quiet interior and plenty of power and amenities.

Others to compare include Toyota’s Highlander, Kia’s Telluride, Hyundai’s Palisade (recently reviewed here), the Ford Explorer Timberline, and Subaru’s Ascent.

FAST STATS: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Hits: Roomy 3-row interior, stout power, 7 drive modes, flat-bottom steering wheel, solid standard safety equipment plus heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-pane sunroof. Big instrument display and easy-to-use info screen, storage under cargo floor, power hatch and tilt/telescope wheel, along with quiet, stylish interior.

Misses: Stiff ride, limited foot and knee room in third row, smart cruise engages semi-autonomous driving feature, which can’t be disengaged while in cruise mode.

Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 284 hp / 259 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,672 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 197.7 in.

Cargo: 16.6/45.0/80.5 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,000 lbs.

MPG: 20/25

MPG: 23.3 (tested)

Base Price: $49,265 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Carpeted floor mats, captain’s chairs, $255

Lighting package (illuminated kick plates, welcome lighting), $795

2-tone paint, $350

Test vehicle: $50,665

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Obsidian 4×4

Grand is the key word in Jeep’s new full-size luxury SUV …

Jeep’s new Grand Wagoneer, its first GW since 1991 is simply too much, and that applies to price, screens, and luxury features.

Of course, that’s exactly the market Jeep is going after with the Grand, over-the-top high-end luxury.

So I’ll warn you right now, prepare to be amazed, both by what comes on this Grand Wagoneer Obsidian edition, and its sticker. We’ll start there because once you know it, that’s all you’re going to think about. It’s all people wanted to ask me about once they knew.

This model breaches the 6-digit mark.

That’s right, as equipped the test SUV listed at $109,025, including a $2,000 delivery fee, and it only ships here from Warren, Mich. OK, now that you have that $100+ grand figure firmly planted in your gray matter, I’ll try to explain at least the major add-ons and luxury features you get in the Obsidian model, the third of four trim levels.

First, know that obsidian (if you’re not a geologist) is a black glass-like rock formed by melting lava from a volcano. Here it signifies that both exterior and interior are blacked out in nearly every way imaginable, creating a giant blocky black behemoth look that conjures Darth Vader. Ironically light sabers are about the only option not offered.

Before going all Obsidian on us, a Grand Wagoneer first adds Jeep’s 6.4-liter HEMI V8 for power vs. the 5.7-liter V8 in the standard Wagoneer. That means you get 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque, up 79 horses and 51 lb.-ft. of torque from the smaller V8. It prefers premium petrol too, and naturally sucks fuel like a teenager crushing pizza at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I got just 12.5 miles per gallon in a fairly even mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates the GW at 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. I had managed 15.3 mpg with the earlier Wagoneer and its “little” V8.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the Grandest Wagoneer yet – YouTube

RELATED: See Paul’s car spot on the original Grand Wagoneer:
https://savageonwheels.com/2022/03/18/car-spot-it-set-the-bar-for-luxo-suv/

The other major performance upgrade is the addition of a Quadra-Lift air suspension system with semi-active damping and five ride-height settings controlled via a toggle on the massive console. This suspension also provides 3.6 inches of additional lift, so when you wish to go mudding with your $100 grand vehicle you’ll have 10 inches worth of ground clearance. Note too Jeep says this fords two feet of water, not surprising when you ride on 22-inch wheels.

A whole lotta leather in this richly appointed high-end interior!

Other upgrades include more supple leather, more screens, more chrome by the windows, real walnut interior trim and a black roof. But this being the Obsidian model much of that is pushed aside to black out the window trim and supplant the snazzy wood interior trim with a black vertically striped aluminum on the doors and dash and much of the console’s top. Piano black gloss trim atop the console too and the black (of course) soft leather seats feature gray stitching, as does the steering wheel’s leather cover and console’s leather sides. This looks sharp, but wood looks ritzier.

This also adds a 10-inch touchscreen in the passenger-side dash with a filter to avoid the driver being able to see it and get distracted. But a passenger can access the hundreds of functions hidden within the 12-inch touchscreen the driver Can see. Oh, and there’s a smaller one below that, which can be electrically folded back to reveal a wireless phone charger and numerous power outlets.

Two screens here, one for info and the other for massaging seats and other options.

All screens feature multiple functions and layers, too much to use easily while driving. I also couldn’t add favorite channels to the pre-sets, which was annoying. Another drawback that some other makes have conquered, is the touch points for heated seats and steering wheel all reset to off whenever the ignition is turned off, a concern when running errands and you’re in and out of the vehicle frequently.

Jeep proudly points out there are five screens here now with nearly 75 inches of screen width. This one also adds a rear-seat entertainment package for $1,995 that puts 10.1-inch screens on the back of the front seats for the row-two captain’s chair occupants to watch their favorite shows and movies. Amazon Fire TV is part of that package.

More screens in back, plus dual-panel panoramic sunroof.

In case one feels more entertainment is needed, the stereo in Obsidian is upgraded to a McIntosh premium audio system with 23 speakers. Overkill? Hard to argue with the symphony hall quality of the interior sound.

For penny pinchers the Obsidian package adds $5,000 to the overall price and includes all that black trim, inside and out, the fancy stereo, cooled second row seats, snazzy black accented 22-inch wheels, and a cooler between the seats inside the console. It was absolutely frigid, so nice for soft drinks, or sushi!

Roomy third-row seat in Grand Wagoneer.

Funny, the Diamond Black Crystal Pearl paint job is not part of the Obsidian package. That paint scheme costs $595.

Additional here was a $3,595 convenience group that includes an advanced security system (needed on a $100,000 vehicle), night vision to see people and animals, a rear seat camera monitor, semiautonomous driving system and intersection collision warning system. That “FamCam” is targeted at parents wanting to see what the rear seat occupants are doing, possibly a win on a long road trip. Also could discourage early teens from getting “too familiar” in the back seat.

A $995 heavy-duty trailering package that adds a bunch of trailering aids and heavy-duty engine cooling allows this model to tow up to 9,850 pounds of boat, camper or whatever.

Did we mention the cooler between the front seats?

Speaking of weight, the Grand Wagoneer Obsidian crosses the scales at a whopping 6,400 lbs. itself. Imagine gas mileage if a trailer were attached!

Mentioned the black leather interior a bit earlier, but I neglected to say the seats are nicely supportive and heated and cooled in the first two rows. But the front row also features massaging functions. Waterfall is my favorite massage pattern, but rock climb is good too. There are three others and three massage pressure levels for each too. Folks usually ooh and aah when they try these, but the message functions is mainly to stimulate a little blood flow to the extremities on a long drive. The message is not so relaxing as to make a driver drowsy. Controls for these are on the lower of the two center screens.

Seems I’ve barely touched on the driving characteristics, but they are the same as the Wagoneer reviewed a few months back. Power is strong and ride fairly smooth with a bit of a trucklike feel (this is based on the RAM pickup platform). But the revised independent rear suspension makes this comfy in most regards.

It’s big, but parking wasn’t a big issue and there’s a 360 camera to help too.

Handling? This is a big beast that holds the road well because it also has 4WD with five settings for mud, snow, etc. There is some body lean in tight turns and parking is a challenge just because of the truck’s size. Having said that, a longer L version is coming by this summer as a 2023 model, but the Grand Wagoneer is already roughly a foot longer than the Grand Cherokee L, Jeep’s other new 3-row ute.

Naturally this Jeep could go off road, ford streams and traverse deep snow, but let’s be realistic, at $100,000+ it likely won’t be put to such tests often.

Briefly, other things to know about the GW.

This one would seat 7 with captain’s chairs in row 2, plus a giant console with screen. If you order a bench seat for row 2, the vehicle could seat 8. A power hatch in back allows you to step under it and press power buttons to lower the third and second row seats.

Two screens for the driver and there’s a third screen right in front of the passenger.

Overhead is a giant two-panel sunroof, plus a smaller sunroof over the third row. There are power adjustable pedals below the dash and a power tilt/telescope steering wheel too.

In addition to the safety equipment in the option packages above, a full lineup of safety gear is here. And for ease of climbing aboard the Titanic, er, Grand Wagoneer, power retractable running boards fold down to aid short folks getting inside, then fold flush to the Jeep’s sides after doors are closed.

There’s more, but we’re pushing it now.

Part of the MORE is power fold-down running boards.

Just consider that a Series I GW starts at $90,440 with delivery, a Series II at $95,440 and this Obsidian at $101,845. A Series III pushes that to $104,845. For the record a less loaded base Wagoneer starts about $30,000 less, and well equipped can be had for about $15,000 less.

FAST STATS: 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Obsidian 4×4

Hits: Plush, huge Jeep with off-road capability, five drive modes, powerful V8 with major tow ability, will carry up to 8 passengers. Giant sunroof plus smaller one for row 3, power hatch, the usual safety equipment and 4WD. Quiet interior with oodles of upgraded leather, heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled second row seats. Power adjustable pedals and steering wheel, comfy seats, giant touchscreen.  PLUS console cooler, massaging front seats, air suspension, 23-speaker stereo, giant touchscreen, screen for front passenger, entertainment screens for second row seats, and power retractable running boards.

Misses: So luxurious it likely will never be taken seriously off-road. Screen and electronic controls, such as heated seats, all reset after ignition is off. Hard to engage seat climate buttons when wearing gloves, or not. All screens too many layers to use easily while driving, horrible fuel economy and simply too overly complex in general.

Made in: Warren, Mich.

Engine: 6.4-liter HEMI V8, 471 hp/455 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 6,400 lbs.

Wheelbase: 123 in.

Length: 214.7 in.

Cargo: 27.4-70.9-94.2 cu.ft.

Tow: 9,850 lbs.

MPG: 13/18

MPG: 12.5 (tested)

Base Price: $96,845 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $97,333

Posh second row captain’s chairs, screens and sunroofs.

Major Options:

Diamond black crystal pearl paint, $595

Rear-seat entertainment group (10.1-inch rear entertainment screens, Amazon Fire TV), $1,995

Custom preferred package 23T (Obsidian appearance package, cooled rear seats, cargo cover, tinted glass, piano black exterior accents, adjustable roof rail crossbars, McIntosh audio system w/23 speakers, front passenger screen, 22-inch tinted polished wheels w/black inserts, front console cooler, black interior accents), $5,000

Convenience group (advanced security alert, night vision w/pedestrian & animal detection, rear seat monitoring camera, intersection collision assist, active driving assist), $3,595

Heavy-duty trailer tow package (trailer brake control, trailer hitch line-up assist, trailer hitch zoom, removable rear tow hook, black tow hooks, heavy-duty cooling), $995

Test vehicle: $109,025

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4

Going bigger with three rows to carry more crew, plus cargo …

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has been a stout and stylish off-road capable SUV with a strong niche in the marketplace, so it’s natural for Jeep to try and build on that with a longer version, the L.

Timing might not be in its favor with gas prices soaring at the moment, but a 3-row SUV that’s off-road capable, and loaded with luxury inside just might turn some heads away from the Chevy Tahoes, Ford Explorers, and Honda Pilots of the world. Time will tell.

But from a ride and comfort perspective the Grand Cherokee L, which debuted as a 2021 model, moves among the leaders in this SUV segment. Looks also set it apart, at least from a snout-view where there are the seven bars on the grille and a handsome nose that easily portrays a more sophisticated Jeep image.

Mine was a Silver Zynith ($395 extra) Summit Reserve 4×4 model with a black roof, the absolute top of the line. That means the price is waist-deep luxury level, but the interior certainly delivers on that with enough cowhide to worry any herd.

But let’s look at the dimensional and people-friendly basics.

First, the L is about a foot longer (11.4 inches) than the Grand Cherokee and provides much more cargo space under the hatch. Plus the third-row seat, while slightly elevated, delivers enough foot and legroom for an adult to ride in back. With its second row captain’s chairs though this version will only haul six.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L – YouTube

Getting to that rear row is easy enough too as the second row seats flip and slide forward, although unlatching them can be a little more difficult from the rear seat than when entering through the side door. Kids may want to exit between the captain’s chairs although there is a considerable second-row console there.

Easy access to the third-row seats, plus they power down from inside the hatch.

Also the third row can be powered down from inside the rear hatch and the second row seats also can be released from there for easy loading of long items. So functionally, this is a win for a family of six, or seven at lower levels where a second row bench is available.

Driving it?

Well, there are two engine choices, the tester coming with the more efficient 3.6-liter V6 that makes a strong 293 horsepower and creates 390 pound-feet of torque. A giant 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 357 horses and a torque rating of 390 also is available

Couple this V6 with five drive modes, Rock, Sand/Mud, Snow, Auto, and Sport, and it’s possible to take the Grand Cherokee L off road into some serious muck and over rocks, small trees, etc. Jeep says this will ford 24 inches of water for cryin’ out loud. Plus the L will tow up to 6,200 pounds, so hook up the camper or pontoon boat and head to the state park.

Happily the extended Grand Cherokee also rides well on and off-road. There’s not much jostling to passengers, even on our crumbling Wisconsin roads, which if you think about it sort of reflect the rocky nature of some off-road trails. The Quadra-Lift air suspension does a superior job of smoothing the ride.

But the steering does not feel as heavy, nor as precise as one might imagine, more of a big luxury SUV feel, which (along with its price) makes me wonder if many L buyers will really take these off-road. Still, keeping it in its lane on the highway is no chore, but cornering at speed you’ll notice some body lean as you would with other large SUVs.

Inside, the Summit Reserve oozes luxury from the get-go.

Luxury is the key inside with quilted leather and real walnut trim on doors and dash.

First, it’s quiet. Second the seats and doors are bathed in an orangish tan Palermo leather that was a bit too orange for my liking, and the family frankly found it garish. It feels high-quality soft and there’s a diamond stitch pattern on the seat edges and doors that insinuates luxury. Dash and door tops are black and Jeep uses real open-pore walnut trim on the dash and doors. That’s impressive and one-ups most of the luxury and near-luxury makes.

Naturally those seats are heated and cooled up front and the rears are heated too. The $3,000 Summit Reserve option package adds cooling to the second row seats, while also tacking on active noise control, a 950-watt amp, deluxe suede-like headliner, and 21-inch tires and special wheels.

Jeep’s seats provide good support and there’s a power lower leg extension to aid long-legged drivers. Second row seats are equally comfy and the third row a little stiffer, but still not bad. Second row manual sun shades and a wireless charger are a $245 add-on, but seem like they should be standard on a luxury ute.

Yes, that’s real wood on the dash and doors. American walnut to be precise.

Yet Jeep also tacks on a $1,795 delivery fee to pad the price as delivery is only coming from Detroit, not off-shore.

Other goodies on the Summit Reserve include a heated steering wheel and giant two-pane sunroof, one of the biggest I’ve seen.

Jeep continues with its easy-to-use infotainment system and big info screen. This is simple to tune and see. The Summit Reserve adds a 19-speaker McIntosh stereo system that sounds great too, but in a premium model you’d expect premium sound.

The McIntosh audio sounds great but reflects at night.

One downside to the McIntosh system though, there are round-topped speakers tucked into the dash’s front corners. Their shape and reflective surface means that in night driving where there are streetlights over the highway a weird circular reflection or flash occurs in the corners of the windshield as you drive. It can be distracting.

Yet on the safety front the Jeep Grand Cherokee L packs everything you’d expect or want, from smart cruise control and lane departure assist to blind-spot warning and cross-path detection. Parking sensors watch all around, including sides (some extra beeps), there’s a 360-camera, pedestrian and cyclist emergency braking systems, and parallel and perpendicular park assist.

The test Jeep added an Advanced ProTech Group IV for another $1,995. It includes a head-up display, night vision w/pedestrian/animal detection, rear-view auto-dimming digital mirror, and interior rear-facing camera to help watch out for rear seat shenanigans.

OK, so the rear end isn’t so stylish, but it has a power hatch.

No running board was added though, so step-in height remains rather high as this has 8.5 inches of ground clearance. For the record, black steps cost $875, chrome steps $975.

All told the test vehicle went from a base price of $61,455, including delivery, to $67,090 after options, putting it solidly in the luxury segment.

I like the slim, elegant look of the Grand Cherokee L’s nose.

Of course, there’s a base model, the Laredo, which is rear-wheel-drive, but that just seems wrong for a Jeep. It starts at $40,685, but adding 4WD increases that to $42,685. The trim levels climb from there to Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and the tested Summit Reserve, all of which include 4WD. Fully equipped the Summit Reserve can eclipse $70 grand.

So far there is no hybrid L model, while several competitors do offer a hybrid. One might expect Jeep to add one soon.

Note too that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models are two more new 3-row SUVs available from Jeep. They are bigger yet, being 10 inches longer overall with a three-inch longer wheelbase and are capable of towing an additional 3,800 pounds.

I reviewed the Wagoneer earlier this year, and will test the Grand Wagoneer soon!

FAST STATS: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4

One more shot of the ritzy walnut trim.

Hits: Roomy 3-rows, quiet luxury interior, good power and ride, plus off-road capable. Heated/cooled leather seats, walnut dash/door trim, heated steering wheel and second row seats, giant sunroof, wireless charger, big easy-to-use info screen, five drive modes, power extendable lower seat cushion for driver.

Misses: Feels big and heavy, especially when cornering, big step-in height, so-so gas mileage and no hybrid available yet. High price and the fancy McIntosh stereo speakers in the dash reflect overhead street lights in windshield.

Made in: Detroit, Mich.

Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 293 hp/260 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,524 lbs.

Wheelbase: 121/7 in.

Length: 204.9 in.

Cargo: 17.2, 46.9, 84.6 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,200 lbs.

MPG: 18/25

MPG: 20.3 (tested)

Base Price: $61,455 (includes delivery and AWD)

Invoice: $63,884

Major Options:

Silver Zynith paint, $395

Summit Reserve Group (21-inch painted aluminum wheels, R21 all-season tires, Palermo leather seats, 19-speaker high performance audio, active noise control system, 950-watt amplifier, cooled rear seats, deluxe headliner, Palermo leather door trim), $3,000

Advanced ProTech Group IV (head-up display, night vision w/pedestrian/animal detection, rear-view auto-dimming digital mirror, interior rear-facing camera), $1,995

Luxury Tech Group V (wireless charging pad, manual second row window shades), $245

Test vehicle: $67,090

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD

8 people can ride in style in this upscale Calligraphy model …

Think stylish vehicles and you’d be wise these days to first turn your attention to Hyundai or Kia. The two South Korean carmakers have been breaking the staid auto world’s styling molds for several years now.

Case in point, the tested Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy, an 8-person SUV and family hauler that looks and feels way ritzier than it is. The grille, the lights, the interior, all are standout lookers and clothed in a Sierra Burgundy (think dark metallic red wine) the test SUV looked out of place in my 1950s subdivision. Even its color was trendsetting, or make that trend breaking.

In a world of gray, white and black vehicles (those are the three top-selling “colors” now) the dark red Palisade looked special. People pointed at it like I was hauling a Kardashian to the Oscars for crying out loud.

Really there’s not a lot new to talk about here. I praised the original 2020 Palisade after taking a trip to Louisville and back in it. Comfort, quiet, the snazzy interior and solid power from its 3.8-liter V6 all impressed. Now it gains a bevy of safety equipment as standard and this Calligraphy model is the top trim, so loaded with oodles of whiz-bangs that might be optional on other makes at this price.

So there are the looks, maybe too bold for some, but they can have their gray blend-in mobiles. I like the grille and snazzy lights front and rear. Happy with that V6 too as it delivers a strong 291 horses and smoothly via an 8-speed automatic with Shiftronic, which allows a driver to override the automatic with manual shifts, no clutch of course.

Handling is fairly quick too, making it extremely easy to control on the highway and ride is composed without being plush or floaty. A long wheelbase helps that.

AWD is $1,700 extra on all trim levels, but certainly makes sense in our sloppy Wisconsin climate.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD – YouTube

Note too there are five drive modes, Comfort, Eco, Sport, Snow and Smart, which is said to learn your driving style and adjust the shifts to fit your needs and wants. Sport does enliven the acceleration a bit and firms steering too. Yet Comfort was fine 95% of the time; I mostly engaged Sport when zipping onto a freeway.

Did a lot of freeway driving in this too, probably 70% which made the trip computer predict I was getting 20.2 mpg, while in reality it was 19.5. That’s in the Palisade’s wheelhouse of 19 mpg city and 24 highway for the AWD version. The front-drive model earns 26 mpg on the highway. That could be important as gas prices head to the stratosphere.

But for family hauling Palisade is certainly competitive with other large SUVs and minivans on the gas mileage front.

It also has an advantage on many because it will haul eight passengers if you opt for the center row bench seat, no extra charge. Go with the more comfy captain’s chairs and it’ll haul seven adults. That’s right, there’s plenty of legroom in the third row and the one-touch second row seats slide forward easily to let a grownup crawl aboard with minimal grunting and groaning. Second row seats can be positioned to create reasonable foot and legroom for both second and third-row occupants. Bonus!

The third row of seats has adequate room and the second and third row fold flat too.

Granted storage behind that third row is not spacious, but will hold eight bags of groceries. Smartly Hyundai offers power third-row and second-row fold downs via buttons inside the rear hatch. So if you’re loading a lot of goods it’s simple to press a couple buttons and lower the seats for cargo hauling.

This interior is stellar in nearly all ways, and certainly from a quietness and styling standpoint. The tester was decked out in light gray (nearly white) Nappa leather with a bit of quilting pattern on the seatbacks and a sophisticated light tan to gray fake wood trim on the doors and dash. The wood is in strips with satin chrome trim between each layer. Classy!

Overhead is a soft gray simulated suede headliner that helps soak up any excess noise that somehow manages to creep into the cockpit. Trim on the console is a satin chrome herringbone pattern while the dash’s top is black and overhead is a power sunroof up front and power sun shade over a larger stationary roof for the rear two rows of seats.

Standard here is a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and 360-degree backup camera along with wireless charger in the console and 10.25-inch infotainment screen that’s simple to use.

Fantastic dash design with large easy-to-use buttons and screen.

In fact, the Hyundai dash is so well designed it’s easy to figure out from the moment you sit in Palisade, no fumbling for knobs that aren’t there or hunting for vague icons that don’t let you know where to find the heat or radio. This is how interiors should function and Hyundai interior designers deserve a big pay increase.

Buttons are all large and logically laid out and the radio tuning is intuitive. No electrical engineering degree is required, a benefit for us less schooled, or old-school, drivers.

Need more? Well, the Calligraphy model comes with a snazzy Harmon Kardon stereo system including attractive satin chrome covered door speakers that look like a jeweler designed them. Sound is good and tuning is easy.

Beautiful design with wood grains atop the door and diamond-pattern leather too.

Flip a turn signal lever and cameras light up in round screens on the instrument panel, one for left turns, one for right, showing you the road and blind-spot behind you in that lane to avoid fender benders and curb scrapes.

Safety equipment is plentiful too, along with lane-keeping assist, forward collision avoidance, driver attention warning, smart cruise control and such, Hyundai adds blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, turn signals in the side mirrors and safe exit assist. This later item is becoming a norm now and alerts a person when a door is unlatched but oncoming traffic could be a danger. Still best to look over your shoulder, but this may help avoid losing a door when the driver or passenger is distracted. Cool too that the lane departure system can be turned off to avoid unwanted beeps as you dodge construction and pot holes.

Also standard on Calligraphy is a perforated leather wrap on the steering wheel, 20-inch wheels, puddle lamps and that fancy satin chrome trim. Standard on most models too is a power hatch, along with remote start and the excellent one-touch second row seats that quickly fold and slide forward for third-row entry.

For techies, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are here, along with USB ports for the first two rows of seats.

Seats are quite comfy in most regards in all rows. The third row has a bit of a raised floor so that puts your legs at a slightly elevated angle. My only complaint is the power driver’s seat, which has a long lower cushion, meaning it hits the back of short driver’s knees and could be tiring on a long drive. Before buying, check that out if you’re 5-6, or shorter.

Finally let’s revisit Palisade’s value Palisade. First, a well-equipped minivan will cost you $50,000 these days, give or take a grand. Some SUVs will start there and work their way up to $60 grand or more.

This top-level test vehicle started at $49,615, including delivery, and added just floor mats (which should be standard on all vehicles now) for $215 to end up at $49,830.

If you’re budget is more mainstream and your doodad desires are in check, consider the base SE model at $34,575 with delivery and front-wheel drive. But the engine and mechanicals are the same as Calligraphy. An SEL model at $36,925 adds the captain’s chairs instead of 8-person seating, heated seats, power driver’s seat, remote start and three zone climate controls, so may be the best value.

The $46,815 Limited moves upscale with twin sunroofs, Nappa leather, an HUD and 360-camera, power-down third row seats, wireless charger, heated second row seats and the bigger info screen. Remember, adding AWD is an option for all trims, but so far no hybrid model is available.

Snazzy taillights on the Palisade.

Remember too that Kia’s Telluride is a kissin’ cousin to the Palisade and offers stunning styling too. Other competitors include Ford’s Explorer, Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot, VW’s Atlas, and the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L (that means Long).

Palisade will haul any family in style in that $35,000 to $40,000 range, and if you can manage the Limited or Calligraphy it’s a luxury ride to be sure.

FAST STATS: 2022 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD

Hits: Sharp looking SUV, good power, ride and handling, plus AWD and 5 drive modes. Loaded with Harmon Kardon stereo, super center stack/console design, big screen, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, heated second row seats, turn-signal cameras, power hatch, useful third row seat, wireless charger, lane departure can be turned off.

Great looking headlight design too!

Misses: Driver’s lower seat cushion is long, hits back of short driver’s knees. No hybrid model yet.

Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea

Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 291hp/262 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/Shiftronic

Weight: 4,127 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 196.1 in.

Cargo: 18-86.4 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 19/24

MPG: 19.5 (tested)

Base Price: $49,615 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $47,319

Major Options: Carpeted floor mats, $215

Test vehicle: $49,830

Sources: Hyundai, 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 Bronco

Bucking Bronco sure to give Jeep’s Wrangler off-road competition …

New Bronco is a sweet ride, but only if you’re going off-roading!

Ford’s new off-road worthy Bronco is loaded with impressive features, but it is a bucking Bronco to be sure.

For younger drivers the Bronco name may be new as there hasn’t been one for 25 years. But it was a major competitor to the Jeep CJ-5 and Toyota Land Cruiser in the 1960s and early ’70s when it was a rugged short-wheelbase Jeep-like vehicle. Then it grew to massive SUV proportions before being scrapped in 1996.

This new version is a true off-roader targeting Jeep’s Wrangler, and again with a short wheelbase. As a daily driver it’s a butt pounder and re-arranger of internal organs, but off-road, well, that’s where Bronco wants to be. For folks needing or wanting a daily driver know that there is a Bronco Sport that weighs 1,200 pounds less and rides on the Escape platform. It’s a delight and still reflects the Bronco styling, round headlights and all.

Really it’s sad that Ford’s misguided management of the 1990s dropped Bronco as it was a viable option to Jeep. Consider this the result of a 25-year marketing lesson.

The tested Iconic Silver 2-door Advanced model with Wildtrak package clears the ground by 8.4 inches and boasts a 2.7-liter EcoBoost turbo V6 creating 330 horses and a torque rating of 415. That makes this the top-end big Bronco and its price matches all that muscle, starting at $48,475, with delivery. Options brought it to $53,650.

Note that mine was a 2021 model, which came out late last year, the smaller, lighter Bronco Sport being first off the assembly lines. Prices are up $800 for 2022, the rear-drive base model listing now at $30,795, including delivery. There are five trim levels after the base, including Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands and this Wildtrak.

In short, the Bronco seems just as off-road worthy as a Jeep Wrangler, but is more powerful with more precise handling. It’s also way noisier on the road and with a bouncier ride than a Jeep.

Watch the video: Mark Savage reviews the new Ford Bronco Wildtrak – YouTube

This Bronco features Ford’s fine 10-speed automatic transmission that makes for smooth shifts, but a 7-speed manual also is available for those wanting to control their power applications when crawling over rocks and wading through muck.

There are eight drive modes here, which Ford labels GOAT, as in Goes Over Any Terrain. Settings are Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery (rain and snow), Sand, Mud/Ruts, Rock Crawl and Baja (for the desert).  Those last three settings are meant for serious off-roading, while the others may be used in more typical driving situations, such as at the beach, on wooded trails or when the weather turns Wisconsiny.

Turning that GOAT dial is easy to select any of these and there also are buttons there for just engaging the on-the-fly 4-wheel drive, automatic, high or low.

Other off-road goodies include Trail Control that is like cruise for off-roading, setting the crawl speed at a low level, plus something called Trail One Pedal Drive where the accelerator is both that and brake as it brakes the vehicle once you take your foot off the accelerator. Think of driving an electric golf cart or maybe a snowmobile where there’s engine braking once the accelerator is disengaged.

But the coolest feature, and most useful, is the Trail Turn Assist that’s engaged via a button on the dash. This cuts Bronco’s turning radius off-road, holding the inner turning wheel’s brake to pivot the Bronco quickly. Loved it and Jeep needs to figure this out post haste to add to its Wrangler. I used it several times in high brush off road and Bronco almost does a 90-degree turn to head the opposite direction, again, at low speed. Bravo!

To be honest, Bronco was way more fun off-road than on. Its squarish design means it functions like a brick passing through the air at highway speeds, plenty of wind noise around the roof and giant A-pillars. Also the doors have frameless windows so they wobble when being closed and add to the wind noise.

But worse, I think, was the banshee howl of the giant 35-inch off-road tires. I could barely talk to a passenger or hear the radio, which had to be cranked if rolling at more than 30 mph.

Those tires and the off-road favoring suspension also makes for a bouncy truck ride that makes a Wrangler feel tame as Jeep has worked for years to get its off-roader to behave better on road.

Power here is excellent though, the 330 horses beating Jeep’s 3.6-liter V6 by 45 horsepower and the turbo giving monster boost. Bronco crushes Jeep’s non-turbo torque rating by 156. That’s a ton! Bronco also will tow up to 3,500 pounds, as will a Wrangler.

Inside the water-resistant (and heated) seats were gray with camouflage black inserts, the doors trimmed in black and tan along with brushed metal inserts. All the grab handles are blue and black, the main ones being at the dash’s end, not on the A-pillars as so many are in SUVs and Jeeps. The A-pillar types seem easier to use, more intuitive and best when using the running boards to climb into a Bronco or Jeep.

Bronco wins the screen wars with a 12-incher in this Wildtrak edition. That’s part of the $3,590 Wildtrak equipment group that also includes a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera, wireless charger, Bang & Olufsen stereo upgrade, navigation system and smart cruise control, plus a variety of electronic add-ons.

Bronco wins the off-road screen wars for the moment with this 12-incher!

Everything functions well here. I’d just add a flat-bottom wheel to free up some knee room, especially important when off-roading. Auxiliary switches are overhead here and the off-road toggles for locking the front and rear dif and engaging Trail Turn Assist are conveniently atop the dash.

Safety is well covered, as you’d expect, with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 system, and the smart cruise in the Wildtrak package.

Bronco also offers, like Jeep, that the front roof panels are removable to create a more open-air driving experience. The doors also are removable, which is why the mirrors aren’t mounted on the door frames. Here’s the rub on the roof panels, at least in this model with roof rails. It’s easy to loosen the panels, but I couldn’t figure out how to slide them off as the roof rails prevented raising the panels more than an inch or so, trapping them.

I admit to not trying to work these things loose as the temp was in the teens, or lower, most of my test drive. But be forewarned that if you have roof rails ($365 extra here) roof panel removal will be difficult.

One thing Bronco doesn’t offer, that Jeep does? Well, the windshield will not fold down over the hood. Wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me.

Something the Bronco has that Jeep doesn’t? Trail sights, the black trim atop the front fenders. Look sort of like gun sights, but apparently could help you keep the Bronco aimed properly on a dusty or rocky trail.

Bronco seats are fairly tight, so if you’re a wide-bottom check these out for comfort before a purchase. Rear seat room also is limited in this 2-door model, and the rear seats fold down, but not exactly flat. If you need more cargo space go with the 4-door Bronco as it offers 50% more cargo room than the 2-door. Wasn’t easy to crawl into those rear seats either, but something kids might enjoy.

The tailgate opens out like a heavy door with that tire mounted in back!

Bronco’s rear hatch is like a Jeep’s as it opens like a door and is split so the window folds up once the tailgate is open. That gate is heavy too as the full-size spare, like a Jeep’s, hangs there.

Honestly I was surprised at Bronco’s gas mileage as this thing weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. I managed 18 mpg with 60% of my driving at 40 to 60 mph. The EPA rates Bronco at 18 mpg city and 20 highway, about the same as a Wrangler.

For the record the base Broncos feature a smaller, 2.3-liter turbo I4 engine that makes 300 hp and generates 325 lb.-ft. of torque and gets up to 22 mpg, highway. The lower trim levels also feature an 8-inch info screen instead of the 12-incher here.

Jeep has a serious competitor, finally, and again!

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door Advanced 4×4

Hits: Off-road ability matches rugged looks, Trail Turn Assist a gem, excellent turbo power, nimble handling, 8 drive modes. Big info screen, heated wheel and water-resistant seats, running boards, wireless charger, and doors and front roof panels are removable, like Jeep. A 7-speed manual available.

Gun sights? No, Trail Sights on the fenders!

Misses: Horribly noisy interior, bucking Bronco ride, roof rails block easy removal of roof panels, giant A-pillar, frameless door glass rattles when shut, windshield doesn’t fold down, split rear hatch opens like door and super heavy with big spare tire on it.

Made in: Taylor, Mich.

Engine: 2.7-liter EcoBoost turbo V6, 330 hp/415 torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 4,975 lbs.

Wheelbase: 100.4 in.

Length: 173.7 in.

Cargo: 22.4 – 52.3 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 18/20

MPG: 18.0 (tested)

Base Price: $48,475 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $47,603

Major Options:

Wildtrak equipment group 354A (360 camera, Sync4 w/voice recognition, AppLink, 911 Assist, 12-in. screen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, smart cruise, LED approach lights, navigation system w/live traffic & route guidance, front park sensors, B&O stereo w/10 speakers & subwoofer, LED mirror lights, evasive steering assist, heated steering wheel, wireless charger), $3,590

Cargo area protector, $120

Tube step power coated, $395

Towing capability, $595

Keyless entry keypad, $110

Roof rail w/crossbars in black, $365

Test vehicle: $53,650

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II

Giant Wagoneer moves Jeep WAY upscale …

Jeep’s massive new Wagoneer is its latest attempt at a halo vehicle, an upscale mount to lure hoity toity suburbanites looking for their third or fourth SUV to put in their 4-stall garage. Makes sense, profits are huge at this end of the market, just ask ALL the manufacturers.

But there were so many glitches and oddities that disturbed me with Jeep’s new Wagoneer (its last version sold in 1991) that I’m sure to be branded a Jeep heretic, a non-believer, a crabby old timer who probably didn’t suck down enough prune juice at breakfast.

I’m sorry if that’s what you think. I like many Jeeps and Wagoneer has many selling points. But it also has too many things that don’t make sense.

Incredibly Jeep also thinks so highly of its Wagoneer and, heaven help us, the even more upscale Grand Wagoneer, that it forgot to label this one a Jeep. That’s right, the only places you’ll find the Jeep brand name is inside the headlight fixtures and on the lower portion of the windshield.

That said, the Wagoneer name is spread across the hood and rear hatch, so it appears Jeep is making Wagoneer their upscale brand, like Lexus is to Toyota, Acura is to Honda, etc.

This latest rolling land fortress puts up impressive numbers though.

First, it is 214.7 inches long, rides on a 123-inch wheelbase, 22-inch tires, and weighs more than 5,900 pounds. That translates into a full-size SUV capable of hauling eight people, or just seven if one opts for captain’s chairs in row two instead of a bench. Unlike many 3-row SUVs though, there is ample room in row three for adults, while still leaving decent cargo room behind that third row.

This bad boy is Big with a capital B, front to rear and side to side.

On the power front Jeep opts for its 392-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8, no sissified turbo V6 for this man handler. It’s got plenty of grunt and will tow up to 10.000 pounds.

I hesitate to say this, but you CAN get more power with the Grand Wagoneer that packs a throbbing 471-horse 6.4-liter V8. Of course you’ll pay more and as the Wagoneer earns just a 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway rating from the EPA, imagine your fuel bill for the Grand now that we’re beyond $4 a gallon. I paid $68 for a ¾ tankful in a week’s drive (before gas prices skyrocketed), which came to 15.3 mpg vs. 16 on the trip computer. About half was highway driving.

Watch the video: Mark reviews the new super-big Jeep Wagoneer – YouTube

Ok, so gas mileage is my first bugaboo, and the low number comes despite Wagoneer having an eTorque 48-volt mild hybrid system with cylinder deactivation and variable cam timing to improve gas mileage. Seems a regular hybrid system would be called for in such a big beast, but so far that’s not offered.

Off-road ability is good. Wagoneer will ford 2 feet of water, but it’s not Trail-Rated, at least yet. There are five traction settings adjusted by a toggle on the console. Those include Auto, which is the default, Sport (in a Jeep?), Sand/Mud, Rock, and Snow.

Here’s my bugaboo though. We had snow during my test drive and I drove 20+ miles in that setting, which provided good grip. But after a stop for several hours I came back out and engaged Wagoneer’s Snow mode again (the Jeep resets automatically to Auto each time the ignition is turned off) and after 5 minutes the system flashed a dash light warning that 4WD was disabled and it remained that way for the rest of my 20-mile drive. Hmmm! Disabled just as I needed it. Not helpful. For the record, the next day after the car had rested overnight the system worked fine. Glitch?

Add this glitch to that. Same night, and while the heat settings were all in the 70-degree range, and the dual system set to Auto, after 10 minutes there was no heat. After futzing with the info screen for several minutes to adjust where the heat was to come from – vents, and turning the fan all the way up, just five settings, I finally got heat to move. A few minutes later I shifted it back to Auto, but still no fan action. Next day, it was fine. Hmmm, glitch No. 2!

No Jeep labeling back here, this is just a Wagoneer … a new luxury brand?

Let’s move on to looks. I like the Wagoneer’s nose as it features the usual 7-slot Jeep grille, but from the side and rear the Wagoneer looks like a block of steel that was cut into a rectangle and put on wheels. Yawn!

For those who like bling and who appreciate their, and Jeep’s American heritage, designers place small chrome US flags on both front doors next to the Wagoneer logo. I had one veteran question the taste of using the flag on a non-military vehicle. You be the judge.

Here’s that U.S. flag emblem, another Wagoneer badge, plus a much-needed running board.

Inside there’s no arguing the comfort and room. This feels like your great uncle’s leather-chair filled den on wheels. Head and legroom are generous throughout, that square roofline helping give tall folks oodles of noggin space. Seats are well formed and comfy and both the front and second row seats are heated, as is the steering wheel. Bravo! Front seats also are cooled.

No denying this is a leathery luxury interior, with all the fixins!

Sadly, like most new vehicles that are controlled through a giant touchscreen, and buttons surrounding said screen, the heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel and those for the passenger, along with whatever drive mode you’ve selected, all need to be reset after every engine shutdown. First-world problem to be sure, but in my 5-year-old Subaru, and in many cars with manual seat-heat buttons they stay on the setting you place them in so when you turn the vehicle back on they do NOT need to be reset. In an $83 grand truck (yes, that’s the price) I’d expect the electronics to be smart enough to remember previous settings.

Big touchscreen? Oh yeah! Virtually all functions, even heated seats, go through it.

Not aiming this rant solely at the Wagoneer, but at many high-end info screen controlled vehicles. Also it’s hard to turn these heated items on if you are wearing gloves, the most likely time you’ll need to turn them on.

One final rant, or two, on the electronics, the seats sometimes turn themselves off, assuming you’ve warmed. However, in sub-zero temps seats are Not always so warm after 10-15 minutes. Likewise defrosters should never turn themselves off. Those of us in northern climes need these on all winter, no defaults to off please. Oh, and the five-pane instrument panel screen is way too much info and way too hard to adjust to the way a driver may like it. Interior designers need to know that folks live in cold climates and need buttons to work when a person is wearing gloves and that most of us don’t have time to program our basic instrument panel like we’re working on a 25-inch monitor.

On the plus side there is plenty more though. That screen is huge, there’s a giant sunroof overhead and a second smaller one with manual shade over the third row. The stereo is a 950-watt McIntosh with 19 speakers and 3D surround system, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard.  Inside this black leather-lined, fake gray wood-trimmed interior is quiet as your uncle’s den too. Wind and tire noise are minimal.

There’s a third-row seat with plenty of room.

The hatch is powered and sometimes opens when you just walk by it, and there are even power adjusted pedals to help us shorties get the accelerator to where we like it. A power tilt/telescope steering wheel is standard too as is all the electronic safety equipment we’ve come to expect, like emergency braking, a 360-degree camera, blind-spot warning, smart cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Oh, on that, the Wagoneer also chimed at me to “Put Hands On Wheel,” but they already were, just a smidge above the 10 and 2 positions. Hmmm, glitch No. 3!

There is a wireless phone charger here, along with manual side window sun shades for the second row, plus the second row seats slide forward to create more third-row passenger room or cargo space. Wagoneer has 8 USB ports standard, or 11 if you buy the rear-seat entertainment package for $2,195.

Need cargo space, not seat space? Fold row three down flat. Bingo!

That leads us to cost, and again, Wagoneer is intended for the upper echelon buyer. This Series II model starts at $72,995 including $2,000 for delivery (Wow!) and $3,000 for 4-wheel drive. Jeep added $9,930 is options, but didn’t specified for what in its pricing info.

Total was $82,925, country club membership not included. A rear-drive Series I model (not available at this posting) is to start at $59,995 including delivery. A Series III model with air suspension, HUD and Quadra-Trac II AWD lists at $78,995.

That’s not out of line with the likes of GMC’s Yukon Denali, Lincoln’s Navigator or Cadillac’s Escalade. All are mammoth and so luxurious that it’s unlikely any will ever go off-roading. But isn’t that what a Jeep is for?

FAST STATS: 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4×4

Hits: A Jeep on steroids, off-road capability, five drive modes, solid V8 power with huge tow ability, will carry up to 8 passengers. Giant sunroof plus smaller one for row 3, power hatch, the usual safety equipment and 4WD, naturally. Super quiet interior with oodles of leather, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated second row seats. Power adjustable pedals and steering wheel, comfy seats, giant touchscreen. 

Big console and row two folks get controls too!

Misses: Huge and so luxurious it likely will never go off-road. Screen and electronic controls, such as heated seats, all reset after ignition is off. Bummer! AWD function disabled itself during a snowstorm, apparently a mistimed glitch. Hard to engage seat climate buttons when wearing gloves and they turn themselves off when they shouldn’t. 5-panel electronic instrument screen way too complex to use while driving, overly complex in general.

Made in: Warren, Mich.

Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8, 392 hp/404 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,960 lbs.

Wheelbase: 123 in.

Length: 214.7 in.

Cargo: 27.4-70.8-116.7 cu.ft.

Even the tow hooks are giant!

Tow: 10,000 lbs.

MPG: 15/20

MPG: 15.3 (tested)/16.0 (computer)

Base Price: $72,995 (includes delivery and AWD)

Invoice: $71,875

Major Options:

Not fully listed by Jeep, but total $9,930

Test vehicle: $82,925

Sources: Jeep, 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 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury AWD

No big fins, but Caddy recaptures luxury in an SUV …

Luxury, and the perception of luxury, dictate price in the auto world, always have.

But today the statistical differences between vehicles within a segment often are miniscule, a half inch here, five horsepower there. Exterior or interior styling, and the vehicle’s brand perception are the differentiators. The decision to buy often comes down to these.

Is Cadillac still America’s most luxurious brand, or do you prefer an Acura, Lexus or one of the European makes, for which you generally will pay a premium?

Cadillac certainly would argue that it’s the No. 1 luxury brand made in the U.S., although Tesla could argue that point as it’s now No. 3 overall behind BMW and Lexus. Yet if you think traditional American brands, well Cadillac is still light years ahead of Lincoln in sales.

SUVs of course are the growing segment and that’s where this week’s XT6 falls. It’s a handsome, elegant mid-size SUV, and bigger than Caddy’s XT5.

XT6 is based on the GMC Acadia platform and premiered in 2020. On looks, inside and out, the Cadillac is a winner. Performance and luxury feel also should put it on any luxury 3-row SUV buyer’s must-drive list. Both XT models are sharply styled, particularly those vertical running lights up front and (it’s amazing to say this) its understated Cadillac crest-shaped grille.

The test ute was a sophisticated Rosewood Metallic, a sparkly red-tinted copper color ($625 extra) that was blessedly not gray, silver, or white, as are nearly all other SUVs on the market. The interior also featured an equally stylish, tasteful two-tone tan and black cockpit with semi-aniline leather seats topped by Cadillac crests atop their back cushions. The dash was tan over black with a glossy fake wood trim, silver Bose door speaker covers, and chrome trim around the dash and doors’ wood.

Cadillac’s center info screen is an 8-incher, somewhat smaller than those in many of its competitors, but easy to see. My only serious interior complaint is the glossy nature of that wood trim which morphs into a glare monster on sunny days. Matte finishes rock, so tone it down!

Like the similar Acura MDX tested last year everything functionally is exactly what you’d expect, sufficient for a luxury vehicle, but not standoutish.

Power churns from a 3.6-liter V6 that is not turbocharged. It cranks 310 horsepower so is strong enough to pull 4,000 pounds of trailer and motorized boy toys. MDX, by the way, pulls 5,000 pounds.

Ride is well cushioned with MacPherson struts up front and a five-link independent rear suspension. Here’s where Cadillac excels compared with many competitors who feel even their mid- to full-size SUVs must be sporty, right down to a rump-thumping stiff ride. Instead, Cadillac smooths the ride, isolating the passengers from even serious bumps and thumps. Bravo!

Handling is respectable and steering feedback a bit better than I’d expect in this size SUV. The XT6 was simple to control on the freeway and an easy ute to park.

The tested Premium Luxury model (mid-level of three trims) also sported AWD, which is easily accessed via a large button on the console. That drive mode includes Sport, Touring and Off-Road. Traction was good in moderate snow and the Sport setting automatically put the vehicle in AWD to best hook up the power to the pavement.

I used Sport only when needing a quick burst of speed. It helped smooth the acceleration and add more low-end torque, so a driver may prefer to use it, but the ute defaults to Touring. In Touring and AWD there was a bit of acceleration lag, a bit odd because this is a naturally aspirated V6, not a turbo, where lags are more likely.

Some might say that’s a disadvantage in that gas mileage is rated 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Turbos usually achieve better. I got just 17.5 mpg, but admittedly we had a few sub-zero mornings during my test.

One might also expect a hybrid model to be available with enhanced mileage figures, but so far Cadillac doesn’t offer a hybrid XT6. There is a 9-speed automatic tranny though and that, in theory, aids fuel economy. It certainly shifts smoothly.

Safety equipment is as expected, including automatic braking with pedestrian recognition, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot warning. But other items are optional, somewhat surprising at this price.

For instance it takes a $2,350 technology package to add a HUD (head-up display), park assist with automatic braking, HD surround view and recorder, plus rear pedestrian alert and a rear camera mirror (hot trend) with washer.

Another $1,300 driver assist package adds reverse automatic braking, enhanced automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, now becoming standard across the industry. The package also adds the super annoying automatic seatbelt tightening feature. This over-snugs the belt just as you put the car in Drive, then loosens it. Useless!

A cool night vision option is $2,000, but obviously not needed. I did find it entertaining as it lights up on the dash when it sees a person or animal way ahead of you at night. During these dark winter days that could be especially helpful.

Cadillac’s interior offers everything one would expect in a luxury SUV from all that leather on the seats, steering wheel and horn cap ($5,000 platinum package) to the suede headliner.

Standard are heated front seats, wireless phone charger, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, OnStar, remote start, tri-zone climate controls, power hatch, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof and rain-sensing wipers.

A $750 comfort and air quality package adds heated rear seats, cooled front seats and an air ionizer. One minor annoyance here, the touchpad used to activate front seat heat or cooling, along with climate directional controls. The pad’s surface flexes just enough that it doesn’t always engage the first time it’s pressed, especially if the user is wearing gloves. The nearby temperature toggles are fine though.

The CUE system (Cadillac User Experience) also is upgraded to include a 14-speaker Bose Performance audio system, for $1,000. I mostly hear no difference, other than wattage, from most such systems, but this one really separated instruments’ sound during songs so that they sounded as if they were coming from various areas of the car. That was cool!

Note too this was a 6-passenger model ($800 extra) with captain’s chairs in the second row. A second row bench is standard and would allow the XT6 to carry seven. Room is generous in the third row, as the second row seats will slide forward. But the floor is raised in row three so knees ride a little higher than in row two. All seats are comfy, both soft due to the leather surfaces, and well-formed for hip support support. Cadillac also provides power buttons inside the power hatch to lower the third row seats, and buttons inside the second row doors to lower third row headrests and seats.

Good room in the third-row seat and it’s easy to get back here, or fold seats down.

Naturally the interior is extremely quiet.

XT6 also excels at cargo space, if either the third row, or second and third are lowered. The space is massive. With the third row in place there’s just room for a row of grocery bags behind the seat.

Two more add-ons to mention, one for $800 upgrades the headlight system, including curb spotlights that shine to the side when the turn signals are activated, plus lighted door handles, which are classy.

Optional too is a retractable cargo cover that adds $150 to the bottom line. You’re kidding right?

Attractive styling and door trim in the XT6.

Speaking of which, the starting price for the Premium Luxury’s bottom line is $56,040, including delivery. That’s less than most of the European competitors, but more than the MDX. And with its long list of options the tester hit $70,965. My first house cost half that much.

An entry-level Luxury model with 2.0-liter turbo I4 with 237 horsepower starts at $49,740. Adding AWD pushes it up $2,000.

A top-level XT6 Sport, which comes with AWD, red Brembo brake calipers, a torque vectoring differential, adaptive suspension and quicker steering, lists at $59,415.

Competitors beyond those listed include the likes of the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 at the higher price end, although the Caddy offers a better warranty. Or consider the Genesis GV80, Volvo XC90 or Lincoln Aviator nearer to the Caddy’s price range.

So many choices!

FAST STATS: 2022 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury AWD

Hits: Handsome 3-row SUV, good power, well-cushioned ride and AWD. Quiet luxury interior, 4 drive modes, heated wheel, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, wireless charger, HUD, comfy seats, oodles of storage (rear seats down).

Snazzy taillights and trim in back.

Misses: MediocreMPG and no hybrid available, dash’s fake wood extremely reflective, hesitant acceleration except in Sport mode, touch pad for seat heat and some climate controls flexes so doesn’t always engage first touch. 

Made in: Spring Hill, Tenn.

Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 310 hp/271 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,700 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.7 in.

Length: 198.8 in.

Cargo: 12.6/43.1/78.7 cu.ft.

Tow: 4,000 lbs.

MPG: 18/25

MPG: 17.5 (tested)

Base Price: $56,040 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $53,440

Major Options:

Platinum package (semi-aniline leather seats, Modena leather-wrapped wheel, leather horn pad, suede headliner, premium floor mats, real-time damping suspension), $5,000

Technology package (HD surround vision, automatic parking assist w/braking, 8-inch color gauge cluster, HUD, rear pedestrian alert, surround vision recorder, rear camera mirror w/washer), $2,350

Night vision, $2,000

Driver assist package (auto seatbelt tightening, reverse automatic braking, enhanced automatic braking, adaptive cruise control), $1,300

Cadillac User Experience w/navigation, Bose Performance audio 14-speaker system, $1,000

6-passenger seating, $800

Premium headlamp system w/lighted door handles, $800

Comfort and air quality package (heated rear seats, air ionizer, cooled front seats), $750

Special paint, $625

Security cargo shade, $150

Test vehicle: $70,965

Sources: Cadillac, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport

Why should Jeep have all the nostalgic off-road fun? …

Jeep has been mining the retro vein of off-roading SUVs for decades, so why shouldn’t Toyota?

This Y-chromosome packed market imagines itself crushing boulders and slopping through mud that’s butt deep for fun on weekends. Never mind that the family might like a comfortable ride to the grocery store, or hockey practice.

Toyota knows its market and knows they’ve got a good thing going, so there’s no overwhelming need to vastly update its Land Cruiser and 4Runner models. The Cruiser is the full-size off-roader (2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition | Savage On Wheels) while the 4Runner is a mid-size muck marauder that hasn’t been remade in 12 years. Oh, there are refinements each model year, but under the skin is a model hasn’t changed much, nor needed too.

Standard still is Toyota’s solid but boat-anchor heavy 4.0-liter V6 with seemingly ancient 5-speed automatic. Most SUVs now feature 8- or 10-speed automatics aimed at saving fuel. Many also now have turbocharged engines to increase power and also cut fuel use.

Not to dwell on the negative, but the EPA rates the tested new 4Runner TRD Sport at 16 mpg city and 19 highway. Somehow I managed 18.8 mpg in about 70% highway driving. But let’s be honest, if you’re wanting an off-road capable truck gas mileage isn’t likely your main concern.

Things like ground clearance, which is 9+ inches here, are vital. So is 4WD and hill descent control. Both come on this TRD Sport and Toyota even ditches the big 4WD shifter lever on the console for a dial for high and low range. The hill descent button and another to adjust for off-road conditions are on the overhead control panel.

Watch Mark’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q4OO9c6OgE

But Toyota says this new TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Sport model is actually more tuned for on-road driving, which seems sort of counter-intuitive with that big air scoop on the hood, the unique 20-inch wheels and knobby tires and the Softex (leather like) seats that are easy to clean.

Yet the X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension is standard on the Sport model and its goal is to adjust quickly to road conditions and provide a more sporty and pleasant on-road ride. The ride here though remains trucky, and this IS a body-on-frame beast, with plenty of bounce and jiggle. Better rides usually come with unibody construction found in most crossovers and cars.

Handling is truck vague too, but fortunately the steering effort is light, which makes it easy to control on the highway. Power is strong as indicated by the V6. Horsepower is 270 and torque is 278. The 4Runner is rated to tow 5,000 pounds.

Despite the power though, the engine makes a good bit of noise under heavy acceleration and the truck’s overall feel is heavy as it grinds its way up to highway speeds. There’s noticeable tire hum at freeway speeds too, although better than in the Land Cruiser.

But I really like the simple interior and this one added automatic running boards to help us vertically challenged folks climb into the high-rider. There’s a button on the dash’s far left to turn that off, but unless you’re caking your 4Runner in mud you’ll likely want this feature engaged full-time.

Toyota added an 8-inch touchscreen a couple years ago and that is easy to use and see. Some SUVs now pack anywhere from 10- to 14-inch screens, the later bordering on overkill. An 8-incher is fine.

The Lunar Rock (light gray) test vehicle featured a black leather-like interior with textured black plastic dash trimmed in satin silver plastic. That trim needs upgrading to reflect the pricing here, but looks OK.

Everything is easy to see and use with big climate control knobs too, a 360-view backup camera, push-button start, plus solid safety features like blind-spot warning, smart cruise control, lane departure and automatic high beams.

Missing though are heated seats and a heated steering wheel, plus there was no sunroof at all, while most big and mid-size SUVs now tout panoramic roofs. A little disappointing too is the lack of a wireless phone charger and the lack of an automatic climate control system.

Quite the tower of power here for the console and center stack!

What you do get is comfy, supportive seats in a roomy interior with oodles of head and legroom in back along with generous cargo capacity that grows to a monster 88.7 cubic feet when the rear seats are lowered. This 4Runner added the snazzy sliding rear cargo deck ($350) that helps short folks, and others, retrieve cargo from deep in the hatch area. I like this feature, and one other, the power rear hatch window. There are buttons on the hatch’s face to lower it from outside if you just need to drop some cargo in the back. Another button is located on the console inside. Not many SUVs offer a power rear window.

There is, however, no power hatch here.

No power hatch on this retro off-roader!

The test vehicle added a bevy of small trim and interior upgrade options, plus a $1,585 premium audio package with that 8-inch screen and a navigation system, plus eight speakers and WiFi connectivity. Toyota’s Connected Services safety system is included too. That’s like OnStar in most other vehicles. If you have an accident or need help it’s just a button push away.

As the photos here attest, the TRD Sport also upgrades its exterior cladding with all the trim being body colored (gray) to give the exterior a unified look. Naturally the roof rack and window trim is black for a bit of an accent. There’s also a nose spoiler and TRD floor mats and TRD embroidered letters on the front seat headrests.

There IS a convenient pull-out tray to help shorties like me access their luggage!

Amazingly there now are eight 4Runner trim levels, so something for nearly any upscale budget.

A base SR5 model with 2-wheel-drive lists at $38,520 including delivery, but most folks likely will go for the 4WD model at $40,355 with delivery.

The TRD Sport is near that lower end, starting at $41,325 for 2WD and the tester at $43,200 with 4WD. With all its options this one reached $48,297.

But if you’ve got that kind of money to spend consider a Limited with 4WD for $50,100 or go all the way up to the TRD Pro (primarily aimed at off-roading) for $53,295.

For comparison’s sake you may want to check out the Jeep Cherokee or Wrangler Unlimited or maybe one of Ford’s new Bronco models, Ford’s Explorer or Honda’s Passport. If you prefer more on-road comfort there also is the Subaru Ascent or the more wagon-like Subaru Outback. For more luxury, but still with off-road capability consider Jeep’s Grand Cherokee, just to name a few.

The SUV market is so full of capable off-roaders that this market may be overstocked at the moment.

FAST STATS: 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport

Hits: Macho styling, big roomy SUV that’ll haul and tow and do serious off-roading. Strong engine, good safety equipment, power running boards, power rear window, big cargo area with pull-out tray, easy-to-use screen and 4WD engagement knob.

Misses: Poor fuel economy, feels heavy, vague steering, noisy engine and tires on highway. No heated seats or wheel. No sunroof, wireless charger or automatic climate controls.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 4.0-liter V6, 270 hp

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Weight: 4,750 lbs.

Wheelbase: 109.8 in.

Length: 191.3 in.

Cargo: 47-88.7 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 16/19

MPG: 18.8 (tested)

Base Price: $43,200 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $39,333

Major Options:

Premium audio, 8-inch touchscreen, dynamic nav, 8 speakers, Connected Services safety system, Wi-Fi connect, $1,585

Sliding rear cargo deck, $350

Automatic running boards, $1,500

Technology package, $1,310

Black exhaust tip, $100

Roof rack crossbars, $185

Cargo cover, $179

All-weather floor liners, $169

Cargo tray, $100

Door edge guards, $79

Test vehicle: $48,297

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage