Category Archives: SUV/Truck Reviews

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC

Nissan partnership helps upgrade Outlander, fuel sales …

Pardon Mitsubishi if it feels like strutting a bit, chest out, chin up, wide grin.

You see, the Japanese automaker is on a roll, recording its eighth straight year of upwardly mobile sales in the giant U.S. market and its fourth in a row of 100,000+ sales. That’s still tiny by comparison with, well, just about any other make. But it’s still party time for a company with just four vehicles in its U.S. lineup.

Mitsubishi sells well around the world, but it has struggled over the past 20 years in the U.S. market until this recent uptick. Its products all have improved substantially in that period as the parent company has hooked up with Nissan to share platforms and hardware.

That brings us to the extremely attractive, new, and slightly larger 2022 Outlander SEL that will soon be Mitsubishi’s No. 1 seller. It rides on the Nissan Rogue chassis and features its powertrain. Rogue, by the way, is Nissan’s sales leader.

Using the Rogue as a platform for success while going ooh-la-la on the nose styling featuring giant three-tier headlights below slim modern slit headlights is bound to push Outlander far forward in the sales sector. Folks notice this one and the nose is a primary reason although the profile is smoothed and modern and the tail as handsome as SUV tails ever are.

Looks certainly can’t hurt, ask a Kardashian. But solid mechanicals and useful family transport are what will fuel word-of-mouth consumer cred. The Outlander has all that.

Its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine supplies ample power to the 3,681-pound SUV. Acceleration is smooth and satisfying for entering a highway, the automatic CVT doing a nice job of imitating a direct-shift model with 8 pre-programmed steps to mimic the feel of what we all think of as normal transmission shifts.

While not overly stout, the Mitsubishi will still tow 2,000 pounds of trailer and without the weight of a V6 the Outlander delivers excellent fuel economy. The EPA rates this at 24 mpg city and 30 highway and I can confirm the upper end as I cruised the highway about 80% of the time and logged 30.2 mpg.

This one will go off road some too, if needed. There’s 8.4 inches of ground clearance and 6 drive modes (Normal, Tarmac, Snow, Mud, Gravel and Eco), so slopping around a bit is acceptable. That Tarmac setting appears to be a Sport mod that stiffens the steering effort and aids low-end acceleration. Fine if you need it, but mostly you won’t.

Handling is easy and just responsive enough to feel well suited to either city or highway driving. The SUV is easy to keep in its lane on the highway, even on a blustery summer day. And while there is a wee bit of lean in turns the body remains well centered and the SUV simple to control.

Ride is quite pleasant on the highway but can be a bit stiff on bumpy city side streets. Never a severe ride, there is a bit of jiggle on big pot holes and pavement creases.

Yet the interior is so comfy and quiet that the family won’t squawk much.

The test SUV was a bright Alloy Silver Metallic with a light gray semi-aniline leather interior that looks fancier than the pricing indicates. The seats and door panels are quilted with a soft diamond patterned leather. That and the double-pane side front window glass help cut road noise and create a hushed quality to the interior.

The dash and door tops are black and there are brushed chrome look door releases, trim and air vent covers. A carbon fiber-look trim tops the door arm rests, along with more leather and there’s a tweed textured chrome trim and gloss black atop the console, which is a little wider than most so you may find yourself leaning your accelerator leg against it regularly.

Seats are well shaped and soft so quite comfy too, especially on a highway drive. The front seats also are heated.

Front and second row space is generous, plus there’s a third row seat for short hops with small ones snuggled in back. That third row neatly folds down into the cargo floor to create generous storage space and while row three may help for around town trips, it’s not really for a lengthy road romp. Loading cargo is easy as the SEL comes with a power hatch and there are remote seatback releases in back too.

Other interior details to consider?

  • The driver’s seat is powered and there are two seat position memory buttons on the driver’s door.
  • The shift knob on the console is quite wide and includes a push button for Park. And there’s a wireless phone charger in front of that, under the center stack.
  • This top-end SEL upgrades the standard 8-inch infotainment screen to a 9-incher. That seems just the right size and this one was easy to operate while driving.
  • Climate controls are handled with two large knobs and then buttons for fan speed and directional adjustments.
Quilted leather inserts soften the door panels.

About the only thing lacking here is a sunroof. Many utes and crossovers now offer panoramic ones standard on top-level trims. One is an option here as part of the $2,700 Touring package. That adds a head-up display, manual rear side sun shades, a Bose premium audio system with 10 speakers and heated steering wheel. Up to you Rockefeller.

Mitsubishi smartly includes its Mi-Pilot safety package as standard on all Outlanders. That packs a smart cruise control system, lane keep assist and lane centering, road sign recognition and a Stop & Go system to aid fuel economy.

The SEL also adds automatic high beam headlights, blind-spot warning and lane change assist, front parking sensors, driver attention alert, and rear cross-traffic alert and emergency braking.

More good news comes from the marketing department, in that Mitsubishi keeps Outlander affordable and a high-value family friendly small SUV. The base ES starts at $27,290 including delivery while this high-end SEL with AWD lists at $34,940. That’s still way below the average new vehicle starting price these days.

The test unit added just a Welcome package that includes carpeted floor mats, a touch-up paint pen, and a console tray mat) for $160, and a retractable cargo cover for $195 to end up at $35,295. That’s a bargain, especially considering Mitsubishi’s 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

For the record there are currently 7 trims for Outlander and all are standard with front-wheel-drive. Adding AWD is a $2,000 option. A plug-in hybrid is available too, but is a carryover of the former Outlander model, at least for now.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC

Hits: Sharp looks, especially the nose, plus AWD, good power and easy handling. Pleasant highway cruiser with good MPG and a third row seat. Roomy interior, big info screen, 6 drive modes for off-roading, dual climate controls, heated front seats, supportive seats with quilted leather, wireless phone charger, power rear hatch plus good standard safety devices.

Misses: No sunroof, ride can seem stiff on bumpy side streets and console is wide.

Snazzy wheels here!

Made in: Okazaki, Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, 181 hp/181 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic w/Sport

Weight: 3,681 lbs.

Wheelbase: 106.5 in.

Length: 185.4 in.

Cargo: 33.5-63.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 24/30

MPG: 30.2 (tested)

Base Price: $34,940 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $34,502

Major Options:

Welcome package (carpeted floor mats, touch-up paint pen, console tray mat), $160

            Cargo cover, $195

Test vehicle: $35,295

Sources: Mitsubishi, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate

Nimble, powerful XC40 Recharge a bit shy on range …

Electric power is coming, and quickly, to some car makes, Volvo being a prime example.

Its compact SUV, the XC40, debuted just a couple years back, but now is available with full electric power from twin electric motors, one front, one rear. This version is known as the XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate, one up from the base Plus model.

Price is appropriately luxury-based and today’s auto buyer must be prepared for some sticker shock for most electrics, but more on that in a few nanos.

From the performance standpoint, the nimble XC40 Recharge is packed with electrons and rated at 402 horsepower with a torque rating of 486. Like most electrics the acceleration is both smooth and instantaneous, easily capable of triple digit speeds within the confines of a highway entry ramp.

Also, like its gas-powered version, this XC40 handles well with a sporty flair. Steering is quick and precise, but with a heavier feel than the gas-only model. Ride, as in the earlier test drive is fairly well controlled, but still a bit chattery over crumbling Midwest roads. A longer wheelbase would help smooth that some as witnessed in some competing models.

Those are the basics, so let’s charge right into the electrics of this Volvo.

There are twin electric motors driving the front and rear wheels as the XC40 has full-time AWD. That’s great for Wisconsin and upper Midwest winters. But … the range is just 223 miles on a full charge. Laudably that’s up 15 miles from last year’s model, but still well short of some competitors. Think Tesla, VW’s ID.4, and Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, some of which even cost less.

The plug-in here is on the driver’s side rear quarter panel, much like a gas filler cap. Many electrics have the power in the nose or front driver’s side quarter panel. Wish the industry could agree where this should go. In my garage the front plug-ins are easier.

As with other electrics there’s a frunk, a small trunk up front that allows Volvo to put the charging cable up there. That’s fine, but with the outlet in the rear, storing it under the cargo floor might be preferable.

Watch Mark’s video: 22 Volvo Recharge Review – YouTube

Note too that charging is slow for most of us with 120-volt outlets. I got about 1% of charge per hour of charge, the equivalent of 2 miles of power. So, a 12-hour overnight charge netted about a 13 percentage point increase or 26 miles. I stopped at a ChargePoint (240-volt) charger (first ones I visited at the website’s suggestion were for a company’s employees, not the public), and it netted a 2% charge every 15 minutes, so 8% an hour, or 16 miles. Cost is roughly $1 an hour.

Still, unless you’re leaving the vehicle to charge overnight you’re not filling it up.

For the record, the EPA rates the Volvo at 92 mpge city and 79 highway as you use the charge faster at higher speeds and when the vehicle is under more stress, such as going up hills.

My experience is you’d be wise to top-off every night or two if commuting around town. I blew through about 25% of the charge running to the other side of town and to a friend’s house in a nearby suburb. Oh, and most electrics, including this Volvo, suggest only a 90% charge to preserve battery life, but cutting daily range.

Volvo’s shift-by-wire single-speed automatic tranny is fine and uses the power effectively. Plus there’s one-pedal driving as with other electrics, meaning you simply use the accelerator, rarely the brake.

Thor’s Hammer headlights are still a Volvo thing!

That’s because the electric motors brake the car quite quickly once you let off the go-pedal. In fact, it can feel rather sudden, so you quickly learn to feather off accelerator pressure to slowly coast to a stop. The upside is any coasting or braking helps recharge the batteries some, so in stop-and-go city driving you use less power as you’re constantly regenerating power, and there’s a gauge on the dash to show you that.

Beyond the power source, the XC40 is a fine luxury SUV with crisp good looks and an attractive interior.

This medium gray model, with a hint of sparkle, runs $695 extra. Gray is hot right now and most colors, even gray, cost extra on luxury makes.

Meanwhile, the interior is a soft gunmetal gray leather known as NuBuck. I thought it was fake leather originally, but a little research tells me it’s made from the top grain of the cowhide, said to be tougher so it’ll wear longer. Its surface is sanded to give it a consistent appearance that also feels a lot like suede.

That gave the XC40 interior a luxury feel and the leather seats and shifter both feature white stitching that add depth and definition. A silver and black patterned metal trim on the dash and doors adds a jeweled look, while the console top is mostly gloss piano black, which reflects some on sunny days. Then there’s an odd bit of gunmetal gray felt-like material that lines the console’s sides and inside door panels. It felt and looked more downscale than the rest of the interior.

Mid dash is a 9-inch touchscreen. This is the same as Volvo has been offering for several years that requires touching one of four menu choices to find the radio, navigation, etc. Then there are various screens beyond that, obtained by sliding the others. All that is too squirrely to deal with while driving once beyond the main screen.

There’s also a screen that tells you the current charge level and estimated miles of range you have. A button there will allow a driver to maximize the charge as it slightly decreases the SUV’s climate system (fan speed and temp). You’ll barely notice, but it did extend my range on one drive.

Volvo includes a fine Harmon Kardon stereo and a wireless phone charger in the console. Overhead is the requisite giant sunroof, but it can be a bit tricky to operate as you can tap or barely touch the overhead button or use a slide action that will either open, tilt or slide the sunshield back. Getting that right took several tries each time as it often wanted to open the entire roof when I just wanted the inner shield retracted.

Unsure of your range? Check the big info screen.

Seats are relatively comfy up front and roomy in back. The front seats are heated as was the steering wheel here, a $150 option that’s worth it for our clime. Oddly the seats weren’t cooled, something I’d expect at this price point. There also was no power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

The XC40 easily carries four adults and five can sneak in on a short ride. Plus there is generous cargo space under the power hatch. Volvo claims you could tow 2,000 pounds of trailer, but remember that will suck down your battery power more quickly and reduce range.

Pricing is at the upper end of this segment, especially considering range.

The base XC40 Recharge Plus starts at $56,495 with delivery while the tested Ultimate lists at $59,245. With just two options this one costs $60,090.

Competitors include the Mach-E, id.4, Tesla Y and the new Genesis GV60 that I hope to review this summer.

Here’s the frunk with the Volvo charging cord neatly wrapped inside.

If you prefer gas power, the XC40 touts a 2.0-liter I4 turbo with 248 horsepower that goes rocket fast in Dynamic mode and runs about $46,000 well equipped.

FAST STATS: 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate

Hits: Good looks, excellent electric power, precise handling and full-time AWD. Big sunroof, heated wheel and front seats, big touchscreen, quality stereo, a stylish luxury interior, plus a full bevy of safety equipment.

Misses: Touchscreen (beyond main screen) is distracting to use while driving and no power tilt/telescope steering wheel or cooled seats in front. Chattery ride on rough roads and the electric charge range is limited to 223 miles.

A stylish tail on Volvos features vertical lights.

Made in: Ghent, Belgium

Engine: Twin electric motors w 78 kWh-lithium ion battery, 402 hp/486 torque

Transmission: Shift-by-wire single-speed automatic

Weight: 4,763 lbs.

Wheelbase: 106.4 in.

Length: 174.8 in.

Cargo: 57.5 cu.ft. (rear seats down)

Tow: 2,000 lbs.

MPGe: 92/79

Base Price: $59,245 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Metallic gray paint, $695

Heated steering wheel, $150

Test vehicle: $60,090

Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Lexus LX 600 F Sport Handling

A Land Cruiser in fancier duds and an in-your-face grille …

Big comes in all sizes. That may sound counterintuitive, but consider the new Lexus LX 600, which replaces the LX 570 that had grown old in styling and tech.

Not to worry, the LX 600 looks massive with possibly the industry’s biggest, most intimidating grille while featuring a whole host of new tech slathered into its high-end luxury leather interior.

Sadly for the Lexus it followed Lincoln’s Navigator Black Label in my review vehicle rotation. They DO compete, but the biggest Lexus falls short of the Navigator in size and even some features. More on that in a sec.

It’s big, but the F Sport model’s grille isn’t quite as intimidating as other versions!

While no one would ever accuse the LX 600 of being petite at 200.5 inches long with a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and weighing in at 5,665 pounds, it’s smaller than several of its key competitors, including the Navigator and Cadillac Escalade.

For instance, the Lincoln rides on a 10-inch longer wheelbase (softer ride), and is 10 inches longer overall while weighing just 200 lbs. more. Escalade is nearly identical in dimensions.

The power edge goes to Lincoln too with its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 creating 440 horses and 510 pound-feet of torque. Lexus certainly is no slouch, packing 409 horses and a torque rating of 479. It climbed West Virginia’s mountains with ease, even with five folks and mucho luggage aboard.

It also won the gas mileage war, an important battlefront these days. In mostly highway driving I managed 19.9 mpg with the Lexus, a full 1 mpg more than the Lincoln.

But luggage space was a major concern. While the LX 600 offers seating for 7 with a wide bench seat in row 2 in the tested F Sport Handling edition, there is precious little cargo space behind row 3. With it in place there’s about 8 inches of storage behind the seat, so good for 3, maybe 4, grocery bags, sideways.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Lexus LX 600 – YouTube

I used the power buttons under the one-piece powered hatch (the LX 570’s split tailgate is gone) to lower both third row seats and then had enough cargo room for five suitcases and various boxes, duffels and snack sacks. Note too, the third row seats now fold completely flat.

Not much cargo space at all if the third-row seats are deployed.

Navigator had much more cargo room, 103.3 cubic feet compared with 64 here. Escalade has even more.

The Lincoln also smartly features a 2/3-1/3 split for its row 3 seating, which would benefit the LX 600 immensely given its miniscule storage behind row 3. Its 50/50 split gives a third-row passenger more elbow room, but leaves less cargo space.

That said, the four adults and one teen were comfy on our trip to Huntington, W.Va. for the burial of my wife’s mother. But the teen would have loved his own seat behind the adults. Note that Lexus offers an Ultra Luxury model with seating for just four, including massaging captain’s chairs for row 2 and a big console between the seats. Nice, if four seats will do ya.

How about the ride and drive?

Well, this is the platform that Toyota’s much vaunted Land Cruiser rolled on until being discontinued in the U.S. market for 2022. The LX 600 replaces that and is aimed at pulling Land Cruiser intenders to the Lexus brand for their off-roading fun.

LX 600 has that capability with full-time 4-wheel-drive and crawl control, plus 8 inches of ground clearance along with smallish running boards to avoid packing too much mud and muck on them if slopping about in your luxury truck. Hard to imagine that, but then Lincoln, Land Rover and Jeep Grand Wagoneer buyers may consider the same thing. These all cost north of $100 grand these days.

Power is quite good from the twin-turbo V6 with no turbo lag and smooth shifts provided by a 10-speed automatic tranny. Again, there was plenty of grunt to get up some steep rural mountain roads and Lexus says its SUV will pull 8,000 pounds, just 300 less than the Navigator for instance, or 200 less than the Cadillac.

Ride was mostly smooth, well-controlled and the interior quiet. But as with the Navigator and most trucky SUVs there is considerable bounce or rebound over uneven roads. Abrupt craters and cracks actually are smoothed out quite well, but it’s the rolling pavement that tends to give the Lexus and others the rock and roll that can become annoying when there’s a lot of it in a short span. The Lexus rides on big 22-inch Dunlap tires, same size as the Lincoln.

Handling is easy and well composed, not much body lean in turns, especially when loaded down for a trip. And various drive modes from Eco to Sport+ stiffen the steering feel and adjust shift points and suspension. Comfort mode is best most of the time, but Sport gives the SUV the extra boost it needs when jumping onto a crowded highway.

Know too that this F Sport has stiffer suspension settings to improve handling and provide more road feedback. In that way it’s much sportier feeling than the larger Navigator. But when buying, test an LX without F Sport tuning to see if your tushie prefers firmer or softer damping and if the sportier handling meets your demands.

A lot of leather here, and the red really makes this interior pop!

Inside there’s no denying the Lexus looks and feels high-end. The tested Onyx Black model featured Circuit Red leather seats and otherwise black trim from dash to headliner. Special Hadori-inspired aluminum trim added a lighter, elegant element to the look. It’s featured on the console and door panel inserts.

Hadori is a traditional Japanese polishing technique to create a wavy silver finish on swords.

That’s Hadori polished metal trim on the doors. Plenty of legroom here too.

Seats are well shaped and the leather soft enough to make it pleasant riding for several hours at a time. But the Navigator had more electronic controls to adjust side bolsters and various lumbar settings, plus a massaging feature for both front and rear seats. The LX had none of those in the F Sport trim, including no lower cushion extension that many taller drivers prefer.

I must say that despite more than 1,200 miles in the second row bench, the three passengers never complained of any discomfort or ride fatigue due to the seats, so a strong testament that row 2 was comfy. Front and second row seats also were automatically heated and cooled in response to interior temp conditions, oh, and the steering wheel was heated.

Lexus also upgrades the LX to a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, a much needed improvement compared with the old console-mounted touchpad and knob. The screen worked fine and the test SUV included a snazzy Mark Levinson sound system, costing $2,660 extra. A smaller screen below the info touchscreen handles climate control functions.

Two screens, the big top one is infotainment, the lower one for climate controls.

More tech? There’s also a panoramic view monitor, a HomeLink system, headlamp washers, wireless phone charger, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a HUD, six USB ports and Bluetooth.

Overhead is a small sunroof and shade that only really covers the front seats. Most SUVs and crossovers now feature panoramic sunroofs. The Lexus also features manual side sunshades.

The SUV’s power hatch was rather sensitive too, often beeping while we were loading and unloading the vehicle. I suspect it was sensing our foot movements that normally would open or shut the hatch, and it did try to close once while someone was hauling luggage from the cargo area.

Safety tech equipment is substantial as you’d expect, including a blind-spot monitor, parking assist, auto braking, pre-collision systems, frontal collision warning, smart cruise control, lane departure alert, road-sign assist and smart high beams.

We hit the road in the big Lexus. That’s a bridge over the Ohio River from beautiful Huntington, W. Va., to Ohio.

The lane departure system was OK, but sort of moved the vehicle side to side a lot (as these often do), and required the driver keep hands on the wheel. The Navigator had a semiautonomous system, ActiveGlide, that worked well and allowed the driver to remove hands from the wheel for extended periods. Escalade has a similar system called Super Cruise.

On the upside, Lexus trimmed 441 pounds from the previous model by using aluminum for the doors, hood, fenders, and roof. When driving it’s easy to notice the constant flex in the lighter hood.

The twin-turbo V6 here is much more efficient too. The EPA rates it at 17 mpg city and 22 highway. My 19.9 indicates the estimates are reasonable and better than the old V8 that made roughly 380 hp. How much better? I got just 10 mpg with the Lexus LX 570 in my last test and 13.3 mpg with the Land Cruiser. Big improvement! One would suspect a hybrid system could be coming to help it further.

That’s a LOT of grille!

Then there’s the exterior styling. From the side or back the LX 600 looks much like other large luxury SUVs, but the nose is decidedly distinctive because of its massive trapezoidal grille. Most versions’ grilles feature imposing chrome horizontal bars, but the F Sport fills the grille with black mesh. Either way, it’s an eye catcher that one either finds impressive or oppressive.

Bottom line, this Lexus, like the Lincoln or Land Rovers or big Jeeps, is for high rollers, not average SUV buyers, or those with low six-figure incomes.

The base is $88,245, the Premium lists at $96,245 and the Luxury model is $104,345. This F Sport, which was a pre-production model has a list price of $103,790, including delivery, and its estimated cost was $106,450. The Lincoln was slightly more.

That LX 600 Ultra Luxury model with a reclining captain chair behind the passenger and seating just for four, moves up several more notches to $127,435. The seats also add massage functions.

Some competitors such as those listed earlier are in the same financial neighborhood, while others like the Escalade, GMC Yukon Denali, and Chevrolet Suburban live a few blocks over in the classy, but more cost-efficient hood.

FAST STATS: 2022 Lexus LS 600 F Sport Handling

Hits: Distinctive grille, strong more efficient power, true off-road ability, luxury interior, large touchscreen, automatic heated/cooled front and rear seats, heated wheel, power fold third row seats, multiple drive modes, comfy seats, wireless charger.

Misses: Massive grille, small sunroof, almost no storage if third row in use, bouncy ride, no massaging seats, third-row seats split in half not 2/3-1/3, no bottom seat cushion extender for driver.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, 409 hp/479 torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,665 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Length: 200.5 in.

Cargo: 11, 44, 64 cu.ft.*

MPG: 17/22

MPG: 19.9 (tested, mostly highway)

Base Price: $103,790 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $94.226

Major Options:

Mark Levinson premium audio system, $2,660

Test vehicle: $106,450**

*US News & World Report figures

**estimated, pre-production vehicle

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Lincoln Navigator Black Label

Navigator a big luxury liner with massaging seats, power & more ….

Lincoln’s long luxurious Navigator feels a lot like cruising a highway in your family room, if your family room is loaded with tech and massaging chairs.

If like mine, yours is not so equipped then for a wee bit more than I paid for my home 30 years ago, a Lincoln Navigator Black Label may be just what you need, especially if you regularly transport seven people.

Navigator is a high-end luxury land yacht along the lines of Jeep’s new Grand Wagoneer with a price to match and an equally quiet and plush interior. My, oh my, cattle must go into apoplexy when either passes their pasture.

The Lincoln touts a perforated Venetian leather interior, black here, with “Brandy” stitching on the seats, dash and steering wheel. I’d call the color brown and the piping around the seats’ edges matches. Navigator’s seats are wonderfully shaped, but if you need to adjust Any aspect, there’s a button for that. Plus both row one and two feature a massaging function that is quite nice.

First, a bevy of buttons on the door allow all seat features to be adjusted, including raising and lowering the headrest. There’s power lumbar, side bolsters, lower cushions and all just require a tap or two on the massive 12-inch info screen to adjust. Once that’s accomplished and saved for the driver and up to two others, you might as well click on the first of two long flat buttons on the door above those seat controls to set your masseuse in motion. Ahhh!)

There are five massaging patterns and four are equally impressive, including Circular, Relax, Recovery and Rolling. The Pulse function is just OK. All feature three strength levels so you can really ratchet them up to whatever level you need for comfort or to stay away on a long drive. I recommend Relax and Rolling as they work up and down your back and across your bottom in a pleasant motion.

Running boards are powered, so neatly fold up and down, allowing easy boarding.

Now if such luxury would happen to relax you too much, to the point of the driver dozing on a long highway jaunt, well ActiveGlide to the rescue. This is Lincoln’s new semi-autonomous driving mode that is activated like smart (or otherwise) cruise control. Once on, it will center the SUV in its highway lane and you can put your hands on your lap. Now most of these systems insist the driver keep a hand touching the wheel. Not this one, mostly.

I drove roughly 10 miles at times on a weekend outing to Green Bay without touching the wheel. ActiveGlide works on about 120,000 miles of well-marked highways, think mostly interstates. The catch is that occasionally, when highway side markings disappear or are obscured, the system clicks off and asks you to restore your hands to the wheel. You must stay alert.

The system also monitors your eyes as it drives via a camera behind the power tilt/telescope steering wheel. If you happen to enjoy talking to a front seat companion and turn your head for very long, or heaven forbid you do doze, the system will beep to alert you to again pay attention to the road.

Other than the occasional cutting out, the system worked well. Although it also beeped from time to time to tell me to put my hands on the wheel when they weren’t BOTH at the 10 and 2 positions.

Watch the video: Mark Savage reviews the behemoth class 2022 Lincoln Navigator – YouTube

There’s more tech to talk about, but let’s get to the ride and drive particulars.

Navigator is roughly the size of a Chevrolet Tahoe or GMC Yukon, and a bit shorter than the Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer.

Ride is similar to those in that this being a body-on-frame truck the ride is trucky. Oh, it’s pretty smooth mostly, but over uneven roads there’s bounce that you wouldn’t get in a car or crossover. Occasionally our washboard roads created a little rock and roll motion, not disturbing, but riders noticed.

Power is good from the refined twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that makes an impressive 440 horsepower and delivers 510 pound-feet of torque. An Excite drive mode makes the truck jump away from a stop, but remember that’ll suck more precious gasoline. But enjoy a Bezos blastoff if you can afford it.

Other drive modes adjusted via the console knob include Normal, Normal 4×4, Slippery, Deep Conditions (snow and mud), and Conserve, the opposite of Excite.

The power is applied via a silky 10-speed automatic, and Navigator is happy to drink regular fuel. In fact, I was impressed to get 18.9 mpg in about 85% highway driving. It registered just 12 mpg or so in city trips. The EPA says to expect 16 mpg city and 22 highway.

Handling? Shoot, this is a big SUV, so steering is on the lazy side and there’s some body lean in turns. But the turn-in is decent for parking lot action, making Navigator easy to slip into a grocery lot parking stall.

Back to the quiet luxury interior, what really sets Navigator apart from much of the competition, save the new Grand Wagoneer.

Standard are three-level heated and cooled seats and real wood trim that is impressive looking and features a snazzy modern-looking pattern of squares that interconnect. The pattern is on both the dash and console top.

Again, that info screen is enormous and easy to use, being a touchscreen. No fumbling around here. Climate controls include temp toggles on the console and then there’s the push-button transmission buttons at the center stack’s lower edge. Easy to just punch these, so less confusing than the recently tested GMC Terrain where half the buttons were push and the others pull. I’d still prefer a shift knob or rotary dial, but at least this one makes sense and you’ll get used to it.

Overhead is a giant twin-pane sunroof and shade, plus rear seat passengers get buttons to open or shut the shade at their pleasure. Kids love this. Second row folks also get a giant console between the captain’s chairs for other controls, including the massage features. There are no side window sun shades though.

Climbing aboard is easy with automatic power deployed running boards and then big boarding handles at each entrance, naturally leather-wrapped and brandy stitched. The second row seats will fold flat and also have a power button on the door frame to release them and allow them to slide forward. The exiting passenger, or entering one can then push or pull the seats forward for easier access. However, these seats are heavy, so require some muscle to push back into place and latch.

Oodles of room when rows 2 and 3 are folded flat. Need to carry lumber?

Third row and second row seats can be powered down from inside the power hatch on the driver’s side, but only the third row can be powered back up. The third row seats also split 2/3 and 1/3, a benefit when traveling and carrying five people and luggage.

When both rows are folded down the Navigator offers a massive 103.3 cubic feet of cargo space. It also tows up to 8,300 pounds of trailer and boat, etc.

All the usual safety equipment is here and the Chrome Caviar (really?) Dark Gray Metallic test vehicle added two packages, one for $625 adds the massaging second row captain’s chairs and the other at $1,750 adds the metallic gray paint, suede-like headliner, the fancier Venetian leather seats and Active Glide.

Fancy wood trim and spiffy jewel like speaker covers here too!

There’s no getting around the price here, which starts at $104,775, including delivery, for this Black Label (Mabel, wasn’t that a beer?) edition. With options this hit $107,050. My house cost less and has three sinks and two toilets! Maybe in a future model!

Anyway, for the penny-pinching luxury large SUV buyers, a rear-drive Standard edition lists at $78,330, with AWD adding $3,000. A mid-level Reserve model is $94,155 for the AWD model.

What’s the monthly loan payment? If you have to ask, you can’t afford to navigate the deal. If you can, this is a top-shelf 3-row luxury liner any family could enjoy!

FAST STATS: 2022 Lincoln Navigator Black Label

Hits: Plush, huge 3-row SUV with good smooth power, mostly comfy ride and AWD. Plus, massaging seats rows 1 and 2, power retractable running boards, 12-inch info screen, giant sunroof, heat/cooled seats, power third row seats, power-down second row, wireless charger, power fold/slide second row, and quiet interior. Good safety gear.

Misses: Ride can be a bit bouncy, ActiveGlide semi-autonomous driving system cuts out occasionally and asks for hands on the wheel intermittently, second row seats quite heavy and difficult to push back into place after lowering.

Made in: Louisville, Ky.

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, 440 hp/510 torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,884 lbs.

Wheelbase: 122.5 in.

Length: 210.0 in.

Cargo: 20.9-103.3 cu.ft.

Tow: 8,300 lbs.

MPG: 16/22

MPG: 18.9 (tested)

Base Price: $104,775 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $101,767

Major Options:

Equipment group 800A (black Venetian perforated leather seats w/Brandy stitching, suede-like headliner, carpet/suede floor mats, Co-Pilot 2.0, ActiveGlide, Chrome Caviar Gray paint), $1,750

Second row captain’s chairs w/massage, $625

Test vehicle: $107,050

Sources: Lincoln, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 GMC Terrain 4AT AWD

GMC’s restyled Terrain a worthy SUV to fit a family budget …

I’d be lying if I said my expectations were high when the bright Cayenne Red GMC Terrain AT4 was deposited in the family driveway.

This is a compact entry-level SUV from GM’s truck brand that starts just under $30 grand, a value leader, and the word among auto writers is that it’s down on power. Soooo …

Yet one person’s lack of power is another’s value statement. Nothing wrong with that.

I’m even a bit upset with myself because three years ago I’d tested Terrain’s kissin’ cousin, the Chevy Equinox, and liked it just fine, although the Chevy had a more powerful engine.

Consider this though.

Terrain comes in four trims, starting with the rear-drive SLE at that impressive $29,095 starting price (AWD adds $1,600), but the SLT is next up the line and probably the best value as it adds heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel and power rear hatch, all for $33,045.

The tested AT4 is new for 2022 and is intended for buyers interested in light off-roading capability and appearances. Dressed in the spiffy bright metallic red paint job ($695 extra) and with black accents, grille and lower-body cladding the Terrain looked like a serious off-roader. In fact, I got more comments and passersby looks in this than some luxury sport sedans I’ve driven. That may say more about the market for SUVs than just styling though.

The AT4 adds Goodyear Sport Terrain tires, traction selection with an off-road mode, hill-descent control, a steel skid plate under the nose and embroidered AT4 headrests. List price is just $35,145 and AWD is standard.

Luxury lovers can upgrade to the Denali trim, always the peak of GMC’s trims, and still pay just $37,700. But Denali adds a color HUD, premium suspension, luxury leather interior and trim, cooled front seats and heated back seats, plus wireless charging along with Pro Safety Plus, which adds more safety gear.

So, for families in search of an SUV that fits a normal budget, Terrain certainly should be on the shopping list.

Watch Mark’s video review: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 GMC Terrain AT4 – YouTube

Yet here’s what sold me right away, the ride.

GMC has figured out that American roads are abysmal and instead of stiffening the ride for performance, softened and tuned it for comfort. Bravo! So, bounding over crater-like pot holes, frost-heaved pavement, half-filled blacktop cracks and way too expansive expansion joints, Terrain remains calm and collected. Passengers barely notice the carnage beneath the Goodyear R17 tires. By the way, replacing these over time will be a lot cheaper than getting new 20-inchers, or larger.

That ride is worth the price of admission, but the steering is light too, as is the vehicle. It’s easy to park, and while steering feel is somewhat vague, Terrain is simple to keep in its lane. In tight turns there’s a little body roll, or lean, but hey, I’m not buying a Lamborghini for the family. I want them to be comfy.

Power is mild, but not horrible, because the 9-speed automatic works well with this small 1.5-liter turbo I4. Shifts are smooth and the 170 horsepower is used well, plus the torque at 203 pound-feet, helps Terrain pull away from stoplights reasonably well.

And … the AT4 comes with AWD, so in rain, snow or other slop you’ll have improved traction. Plus this trim offers three terrain settings with 2WD being the default that will save on fuel and is what you’ll need until that rain or snow hits. Then you press down and turn a knob on the console for AWD, and if you’ve ventured off road there’s a setting for that too. Simple and effective unless you plan to do serious rock crawling.

That front steel skid plate also will protect the undercarriage if there happen to be a few rocks and sticks on your path.

Outside, the body has been given more definition and its looks muscled up. The black trim helps set that off and the lights, front and rear, are sharply styled, reflecting a more upscale look.

Inside, Terrain is simple, yet attractive and roomy. Seats feature a perforated dark gray leather top with cloth sides. Contrasting stitching is a golden brown that also is featured on the dash and leather steering wheel.

There also are small bits of imitation carbon fiber for door trim and a teeny bit on the passenger’s side dash. The plastic console is a matte gray as is the steering wheel hub, both welcome because they do not reflect the sun, ever.

Seats though are the standout here, being well formed to give good hip and lower back support, yet just the right firmness so a long drive won’t burn up your bottom. Rear seats are roomy, as are the fronts, so four adults easily fit and five will too, if the person sandwiched in back isn’t an NFL tackle.

Rear seats split and fold flat and there’s some storage beneath the cargo floor for carrying stuff. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the hatch is powered.

Optional equipment here was mostly value priced and likely wanted and/or needed by most buyers.

For instance, the Pro Safety Plus package that is standard on Denali runs just $645 here and includes lane-change alert, side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control and a safety alert seat. That’s pretty nice as it slightly vibrates the driver’s tooshie if there’s something in your blind spot or in your path as you back up.

The dual-pane sunroof and power shade are a bit much at $1,495, but certainly brightens the interior.

A $1,180 infotainment package adds a premium Bose stereo with seven speakers, navigation system with voice recognition, an 8-inch color info screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay hookups.

A tech package also adds HD surround vision, front and rear park assist and a HUD for $850.

The test Terrain was to have heated front seats, but that chip is in short supply, so it wasn’t included, but could be added by a dealer once the chip is available. For now, GMC gives a $50 credit, but the buttons are built in to the console already.

Sharp-looking headlights here!

All told, with options, this Terrain hit $39,960, well below the average new vehicle price.

There are a few things I’d change inside though, starting with widening the inner portion of the console by about a half inch so a cell phone could lay flat, plus add wireless charging. A bit wider would be even better as folks with taller cell phones could then lay theirs flat too.

Then there’s the biggest faux pas, the automatic shift buttons on the lower center stack. They are odd and confusing as they are laid out horizontally, AND are a mix of push and pull toggles. Weirdest design I’ve seen, but you must push Park and Neutral, while you must pull a toggle to engage Reverse and Drive. Not cool!

Gas consumption was cool though, or at least darn good for an AWD compact SUV. I got 26.4 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the Terrain at 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway on regular fuel. The RWD model gets up to 30 mpg.

Terrain should be on any value-oriented family’s shopping list, especially if you need or want an SUV that’s roomy and delivers a superior ride.

Others to consider include Mazda’s CX-5 and new CX-50, along with the VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford’s Escape, and Subaru’s Outback, to name a few.

Even the taillights are handsomely styled on GMC’s entry-level SUV.

FAST STATS: 2022 GMC Terrain AT4 AWD

Hits: Muscular looks, great ride, decent acceleration, AWD, and three terrain settings. Dual-pane sunroof, power hatch, Bose stereo, comfy seats, roomy interior, skid plate, and good standard safety features.

Misses: No wireless charger or heated front seats, console cubie too narrow for Android phone to lay flat, confusing horizontal push/pull shift toggles.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 1.5-liter turbo I4, 170 hp/203 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 3,659 lbs.

Wheelbase: 107.3 in.

Length: 182.3 in.

Cargo: 63.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/28

MPG: 26.4 (tested)

Base Price: $35,145 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $33.631

Major Options:

Infotainment pkg. II (Bose premium audio w/7 speakers & amp, 8-inch HD color touchscreen w/Nav & voice recognition, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), $1,180

GMC Pro Safety Plus pkg. (lane change alert w/side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, safety alert seat, adaptive cruise control), $645

Skyscape sunroof w/power shade, $1,495

Tech pkg. (HD surround vision, front and rear park assist, HUD), $850

Cayenne Red paint, $645

Heated front seat credit, -$50

Test vehicle: $39, 960

Sources: GMC, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 BMW X3 xDrive 30 i

Putting a little Sport back in Sport-utility vehicle …

Remember what SUV stands for? Sport-utility vehicle.

Sport was originally part of the equation for these AWD, off-road intending vehicles that have taken over the auto world along with their cousins, crossovers. Funny, not many SUVs feel sporty, yet this week’s drive was the blissful anomaly.

BMW knows a little something about sporty handling and spunky performance and it shows in its X3 compact premium luxury SUV. This was the AWD model, the X3 xDrive 30i, which increased its grip and grins when our June monsoons unloaded.

X3 comes in three trims, the base rear-drive sDrive 30i and this mid-level xDrive, both with peppy 2.0-liter twin-turbo I4s. Then there’s the crazy fast M40i with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter I6. Horsepower is 248 in the two lower models and 382 in the M. All prefer premium gas, so to manage driving costs, this xDrive model may be the safer bet.

Power is smooth, but gives the small SUV plenty of oomph heading onto the highway, especially in Sport mode. There also is Comfort for daily driving and Eco Pro for gas saving. Power runs to all wheels via an 8-speed automatic here, or rear wheels for the sDrive model. Car and Driver magazine says the X3 will do 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds while its top speed is said to be 130 mph.

Fancy wheels and 21-inch Pirelli performance tires.

Handling is quick and precise, something that may surprise you if you’ve driven many other SUVs. The X3 corners like a sports sedan, well balanced and light enough to remain frisky, not trucky. And it is moderately light, weighing in at just more than 4,000 pounds.

Aiding grip were the 21-inch Pirelli performance tires, a $1,550 option. And these are run-flats, so no need for pack a spare.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 BMW X3 xDrive 30i – YouTube

Ride too is well-controlled, meaning there’s enough steering wheel and seat of the pants feedback to avoid the numb feel of many SUVs. Yet the ride is not so stiff as to necessitate a Preparation H application. The test for me is railroad tracks, which are a minor jiggle here and even those annoying highway expansion joints do no harm.

Ironically the X3’s fun driving character manages to meld well with its practical side. The interior feels roomy and the cargo space in back is stellar, with some storage under the floor and second row seats that easily fold completely flat. But even with them up there’s more than 28 cubic feet of cargo room, plenty for five or six full-size suitcases.

This Brooklyn Gray Metallic test vehicle was handsome too, its twin kidney-shaped grilles being more restrained than some new BMW noses, although I like both looks as they are distictive. However, this gray paint though looks more battleship gray than metallic, a styling trend right now. Plus it costs $550 extra, only black and white being standard colors. A cool metallic Tanzanite Blue is available, but that’s $1,500 extra. Ouch!

Inside, the X3 is well laid out and simple to navigate, yet also stylish.

Seats are a light tan leather with black dash and door tops. Leather is an option though, $1,450 worth to get this Vernasca covering, which includes dyes and protective finishes. This black dash is what BMW calls SensaTec, sort of a soft rubber texture that I think should be standard, but is part of the bulging M Sport package that adds $4,100 to the sticker.

What do you get for that?

It’s mostly visual, including an aerokit outside along with Shadowline (black) trim, fancy M Y-spoke bi-color wheels of gray alloy, black gloss roof rails. While inside the package includes the SensaTec dash, a thick leather M-Sport steering wheel, and something BMW calls Rhombicle smoke gray aluminum trim.

No denying that aluminum trim looks sharp on the dash and doors, but really, I could live with whatever is standard. Here the console still comes with a gloss black surface, which can be reflective on sunny days. How about a matte finish to avoid blinding the driver?

Those leathery seats not only look good, they are mighty comfy too, with good hip and lower back support, plus the power side bolsters adjust via buttons on the side of the driver’s seat. Got long legs? The lower cushion will extend manually to give more support.. One drawback though, IMHO, the self-tightening seatbelts for the front seats. These snug up on your chest after the SUV is placed into gear. It’s disturbing to most passengers, especially women.

Comfy and luxurious rear seat accommodations!

BMW heats the seats too, along with the steering wheel, yet the seats are not cooled. I found the wheel extremely thick, less easy for smaller hands to hold. I like the leather, but the wheel could be thinner and I’d prefer a flat-bottom race wheel. The heated wheel is not standard, it’s part of a $1,850 premium package that also includes a HUD and gesture control for radio and info screen adjustment. The latter is not needed.

BMW bumps up its info screen and the radio is easy to adjust. Plus, get this, there are 8 radio buttons below the screen that you can program with your favorite stations. Old tech, but perfect!

Overhead is a dual-pane sunroof to brighten the interior. However, there’s no wireless phone charger a major faux pas, although one is available for $500. Also, and this was odd, the roll-top cover over the cupholders and console storage tends to stick, making it quite hard to open. The solution? Almost close it all the way, just don’t latch it.

All the usual standard safety devices are here, blind spot, lane departure and smart cruise, for instance.

The test SUV also added a dynamic handling package for $1,400 that included variable sport steering and M Sport brakes with red calipers. Those (despite their color) help provide performance-level braking if you plan to push the X3 to its natural limits.

Another option, for $900, is the live cockpit pro system with navigation on the big screen, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Gas mileage is fine, other than the ute’s desire to drink premium fuel. I got 25 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway while the EPA rates the X3 xDrive at 21 mpg city and 28 highway.

The good news, for luxury SUV buyers, the base rear-drive model starts at $44,695, very competitive with the likes of its competitors, the Lexus NX, Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 and primo new Genesis GV70. Adding AWD costs $2 grand more, so $46,695, including delivery, for this one.

That’s still less than a Porsche Macan or Mercedes-Benz GLC. However, with all the options on this one it hit $58,490 and that’s more than many mid-size SUVs these days, although they may not be as Sporty.

Snazzy taillights here!

Oh, and to get that high-horse 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6 model, the M40i? Well, it starts at $58,798 and, wait for it … there’s even a special X3M, the M signifying it’s a land-based rocket. M models always cost more for their performance perk. The X3M lists at about $71,000 with delivery, but there’s a 473-horse twin-turbo baby in that one. Oh my!

FAST STATS: 2022 BMW X3 xDrive 30i

Hits: Spunky yet practical. Good looks, power, handling, AWD, and cargo space. Controlled ride, comfy supportive seats, 8 radio buttons, dual sunroof, heated steering wheel and seats, big screen.

Misses: No wireless charger, roll-top cupholder cover sticks, auto-tightening seatbelts, thick steering wheel, cost of options, and premium fuel drinker.

Made in: Spartanburg, S.C.

Good storage room in the rear here.

Engine: 2.0-liter twin turbo I4, 248 hp/258 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,079 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.8 in.

Length: 185.9 in.

Cargo: 28.7-62.7 cu.ft.

MPG: 21/28

MPG: 25.0 (tested)

Base Price: $46,695 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $43,995

Options:

Brooklyn Gray metallic paint, $550

Oyster Vernasca leather, $1,450

Dynamic handling pkg. (variable sport steering, M Sport brakes w/red calipers), $1,400

M Sport pkg. (aero kit, SensaTec dash, Shadowline exterior trim, gloss black roof rails, aluminum Rhumbicle smoke gray interior trim, M Sport steering wheel, M Y-spoke bi-color gray alloy wheels), $4,100

Premium pkg. (heated steering wheel, lumbar support, HUD, gesture control), $1,850

Tire upgrade (21-inch performance Pirelli P Zero run-flats), $1,550

Live cockpit pro w/navigation (XM radio 1-year, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay), $900

Credits from deletes, -$350

Test vehicle: $58,490

Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Mazda CX-9 Signature

Attractive styling, 3 rows make CX-9 a standout …

Family vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, but Mazda’s CX-9 mid-size SUV is among the more attractive 3-row options with its distinctive beak-like nose.

So many SUVs and crossovers are so darned boxy that it’s nice to see a distinguishing characteristic. Amazingly the CX-9’s design dates back to 2016, yet still looks fresh, although I suspect a freshening will be coming soon.

This one was a top-of-the-line Signature edition in a sedate dark Machine Gray Metallic ($595 extra). Black is the only color that doesn’t cost extra, but the smart money is on the Soul Red Metallic that is Mazda’s absolute best, and if you’re paying extra, well, it only makes sense. Plus the neighbors will suspect you’ve gotten a raise.

Still, several people complimented the Mazda’s look and this model is fine for transporting 6 people as there are captain’s chairs in the middle row. I drove it to Indianapolis for the Indy 500, and it comfortably carried three of us and our luggage, then six of us to the racetrack. Oh, the third row is stingy with foot and knee room, but is fine for hauling folks around town.

All CX-9 models also now come with all-wheel-drive, which is nice that a favored feature isn’t another add-on.

With just the color being an option here the Signature ended up at $49,030. A base Sport model that will seat seven due to its middle row bench seat, goes for $36,505, again with AWD. There are four other trims between the two extremes, the new Touring Plus trim that adds heated and cooled front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, plus leather seats, is a prime choice at $41,660.

All will drive roughly the same as the engine, tranny and suspensions are identical.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Mazda CX 9 – YouTube

Mazda’s fine 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G turbo I4 delivers generous power, rated at 227 horsepower on regular gas and up to 250 hp if you sell a kidney and splurge on 93-octane premium fuel. Power is good and smoothly delivered via the SkyActiv-drive 6-speed automatic, which includes a console-mounted toggle to engage Sport mode. That firms the steering some and creates more low-end torque for faster getaways from stoplights. In either Normal or Sport the CX-9 hits highway speeds well before you run out of entry ramp.

Handling is typical Mazda responsive, making the CX-9 among the most fun SUVs to drive, especially below $50 grand. And the suspension is quite adept at soaking up bumps without the ride turning floaty.

A big grille, but not as overwhelming as many, plus it blends well with the hood.

Mazda also employs something it calls G-Vectoring Control Plus that adjusts the turbo engine and applies the four-wheel disc brakes based on steering effort. The upshot is that if a driver eases up on acceleration and begins a turn, the power from the AWD shifts toward the front wheels to provide increased traction. Not a big deal in dry summer weather, but it would be helpful in our sloppy winter and fall seasons.

Inside, the CX-9 interior tends toward luxury, yet the pricing is just below entry-level luxury models by other makes.

A luxurious looking interior with quilted leather seats gives the CX-9 a ritzy look.

The gray SUV went with a black over brown interior design, the seats being perforated brown Nappa leather with quilted leather outer edges and bolsters, plus white piping, all to insinuate luxury. Mazda uses real wood, Santos Rosewood, for trim on the dash and doors, but also adds a thin chrome ring atop the console, which is gloss black and therefore reflects on sunny days.

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped with the usual controls on its hub. Plus aluminum trim is used sparsely on the dash and doors, while big Bose stereo speakers fill the front lower door corners. All of this makes the CX-9 look and feel like a luxury vehicle.

This console and dash are easily seen and used while driving.

Seats are powered up front and include heating and cooling there, with just heated second row seats. Rear seat occupants also get their own climate controls and plug-ins for phones and other electronics in the big center console between the captain’s chairs. Third row folks have plug-ins too.

Everyone enjoyed the seat comfort, except the driver. While hip and back support is good, I found the butt pocket to be too hard and my tailbone was burning after about 100 miles. A lunch break was welcome, but the feeling returned further down the road.

Climate controls are easily adjusted via big buttons and knobs below the center dash air vents. However, Mazda’s radio is still clumsily adjusted via a console knob. There is no touchscreen. This remains a huge source of consternation and makes adjusting the radio and other on-screen activities difficult while driving. Good news? The screen is 10+ inches and mounted atop the dash.

The second row is roomy and includes a large console.

Mazda also includes wireless phone charging beneath the dash’s center stack and a navigation system is standard on Signature. However, the nav screen defaults to a fairly close-up view and reverts back to that even after using that center knob to adjust for a longer, say ¼- to ½- mile view to see what’s ahead. Ugh, if I adjust it, I want it to stay where I set it.

In back is the requisite power hatch and the third row seats easily fold forward to create a reasonable cargo area. There also is storage beneath the cargo floor and there are fairly large indentations to the sides behind the wheel wells, great for placing items you simply don’t want to trundle about.

A lot of room in back with row 3 folded down.

Mazda delivers a fine smart cruise control system and the safety equipment we’ve all come to love and demand, such as rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, 360-degree monitor, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, and an adaptive front light system.

Other goodies include manual second-row side window shades, 2 memory settings for the driver’s seat, visors with extenders, an inside release for the fuel door and one-step releases for the second row seats to allow for passengers to more easily slide into the third row.

There also is a sunroof, but it’s among the smallest I’ve seen the last couple years, just covering the front seats. Most SUVs and crossovers now offer dual-pane panoramic sunroofs, which I would expect the next generation CX-9 to include.

How’s this for handsome door panel styling and trim?

Also be aware that the center console is rather wide and leads to a bit smaller footwell space for the driver and front seat passenger.

Finally, on the practical fuel economy front, the EPA rates the Mazda at 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. I managed 25.9 mpg in mostly highway driving with three of us aboard and our luggage.

Hybrids will do better, but for its size (nearly 200 inches long) and weight (just over 4,400 pounds) the CX-9’s figures are more than competitive.

For families needing space, comfort and AWD, Mazda’s CX-9 is a solid, stylish, sensible choice.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mazda CX-9 AWD

Hits: Stylish looks, good power, sporty handling and smooth ride. Quiet interior, 3 rows of seats, power hatch, wireless charger, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, smart cruise and solid safety devices, big climate buttons, large screen, sport driving mode, good mpg.

Misses: Console-controlled info screen is a clumsy pain, navigation defaults to close-up view even after adjustment, no touchscreen, small sunroof and firm butt pocket makes driver’s seat tiring on long drives.

Just can’t get enough of this nose and how it blends with the hood and lights. Bravo Mazda designers!

Made in: Hiroshima, Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G turbo I4, 227 hp/ 310 torque (250 hp, w/93 octane gas)

Transmission: SkyActiv-drive 6-speed, automatic w/Sport mode

Weight: 4,409 lbs.

Wheelbase: 115.3 in.

Length: 199.4 in.

Cargo: 14/4-71.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/26

MPG: 25.9 (tested)

Base Price: $47,435 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $45,883

Options:

Machine gray metallic paint, $595

Test vehicle: $49,030

Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

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