Category Archives: SUV/Truck Reviews

2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman 4×4

A real bare bones work truck with a Hemi 

Pickups used to be for farmers, builders and such, tradesmen if you will. That was before we all decided we need pickups just to drive around town taller than the rest of the world and to haul sod, peat moss and soccer players on weekends.2012 Ram Tradesman pickup

Well Chrysler, under the guise of its truck brand, Ram, thought tradesmen needed a good solid low-cost truck. Voila! The 2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman 4X4 in basic white, the most popular color for vehicles in the U.S. market.

This is a bare bones workers truck with standard cab and comes with a 4.7-liter, 310-horse V8. Base price for a 2-wheel drive standard cab pickup, with RamBox cargo system is $22,125. An even more basic model without the RamBox system, which entails two giant toolbox bins built into each side of the cargo bed, is $21,125 and that’s with a 6-foot 4-inch bed that’ll hold a sheet of plywood. Continue reading 2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman 4×4

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2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

Titanium edition pricy as a near premium small ute

Let’s start with the shocking part, the price. The tested Ford Escape listed at $34,735.2013 Ford Escape

Granted this IS the top-of-the-line 2013 Escape Titanium 4WD, but that price is near premium small-ute territory, one where you expect a luxury nameplate. By adding the Titanium moniker it means you get a LOAD of tech features and the horsy 2.0-liter GTDI I4 EcoBoost engine that cranks an impressive 237 hp.

EcoBoost is a turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers monster power and normally delivers better gas mileage than a V6 with equivalent power. That may be, much of the time, but I got a ho-hum 20.5 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA has rated this model at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, so I expected better. Continue reading 2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech

RDX soothes this Savage beast

2013 Acura RDXFlying into Washington D.C.’s Dulles Airport for a family wedding, I was frazzled from a day of flight delays, noise and airport confusion. But there in the parking lot was my soul soother, my nerve mender, a new 2013 Acura RDX.

This RDX is more spacious, more luxurious feeling and a better all-round performer than its predecessor, which was no slouch to be sure. The interior is roomy, comfortable and quiet. Its power hatch welcoming to a big load of luggage. Everything looks and feels right for a small to mid-size crossover. It didn’t hurt that mine was the upscale AWD Tech model, which means it was slathered with goodies and gadgets.

But at its base is solid performance that any luxury crossover owner would want.

Its new 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 delivers a healthy 273 horses, up from 240 hp with the previous turbocharged 4-cylinder. But the turbo delivered it with more low-end oomph. This is silky smooth after harnessed to Acura’s 6-speed automatic that features Sport/Shift, including paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. I doubt most drivers will use that feature often, but it’s a perk if you prefer more performance. Continue reading 2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech

2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Suzuki finally earning some respect as quality improves

For years Suzuki’s cars and small utes didn’t garner much respect, but you have to earn respect, and NOW Suzuki is getting some.

That’s after its fine Kizashi sedan and SX4 small crossover raised awareness in the brand by being well designed and executed, with quality more on par with other entry-level and value brands. Another winner is its Grand Vitara, a small sport-ute that’s fun to drive, simple and delivers excellent value.

My silver tester was the mid-level Ultimate Adventure model with 4WD. And even with its impressive sounding name, it lists at $23,949, including delivery. This is where entry-level sport-utes used to be priced and what some, like Jeep’s Liberty started out to be. Continue reading 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion

Volkswagen Tiguan: Putting the Sport into Sport-Ute

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed driving Volkswagen’s restyled Tiguan, a small sport utility with the emphasis on sport.

The silver test ute was the mid-level SE with 4Motion, a giant sunroof and a navigation system, so it started at a very un-small price tag of $32,480.

Thing is, for that price I can find a lot of fairly sporty utes that don’t require premium fuel, get better gas mileage and frankly have better acceleration than this I4 turbo unit, at least during normal driving situations. Continue reading 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion

2012 GMC Terrain

2012 GMC Terrain

GMC’s Terrain is a cousin to Chevrolet’s Equinox, with the GMC getting the boxier styling and the Chevy having smoother lines.

When I drove a GMC Terrain a couple years back I was impressed by its fit, finish and good value in the small sport-ute or crossover market. Not much has changed in a couple years and mostly that’s good.

Terrain slots in above the many smaller SUVs and crossovers, but isn’t big enough to be a 7-person hauler. Yet there is ample room inside for five adults and their luggage. Plus, in its nine trim levels the GMC comes with a 182-horse 2.4-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder engine that is rated 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. That creates a fine economy hauler for folks who prefer a taller vehicle to a standard mid-size sedan. Continue reading 2012 GMC Terrain

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep, savageonwheels
Photos Courtesy Chrysler, LLC.

With Hummer gone, Jeep is our resident Alpha male off-road vehicle and truth be told, it has been for 70+ years. Hummer was the upstart.

While Wrangler is Jeep’s real Type A personality, it’s more sophisticated brother, the Grand Cherokee is no shy guy. Take the Limited model for example.

Standard with a 290-horse Pentastar V6, our silver test model upped the ante with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with variable valve timing and Fuel Saver Technology aimed at eeking out an extra mpg while still giving the Jeep major grunt. Continue reading 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee