Tag Archives: 4WD

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe

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

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

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

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

Here’s the deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention this is pricey?

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAST STATS: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe

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

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

Made in: Detroit, Mich.

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

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,521 lbs.

Wheelbase: 116.7 in.

Length: 193.5 in.

Cargo: 37.7-70.8 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,000 lbs.

MPG: 23/combo gas/electric

Fuel: Premium recommended

Electric range: 25 mph

MPG: 18.2 gas/37.1 combined (tested)

Base Price: $64,280 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $62,667

Major Options:

Diamond black crystal pearl paint, $395

Test vehicle: $64,675

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Jeep

2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone CrewMax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pull a trailer and take out a second mortgage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of leather and luxury inside the Capstone edition.

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

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

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

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

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

Airy cockpit with a panoramic sunroof, roomy rear seat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manual rear window sunshades are standard on Capstone.

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

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

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

No mistaking what this truck’s name is.

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

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

FAST STATS: 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone CrewMax (Hybrid)

Snazzy headlight styling on Tundra.

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

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

Made in: San Antonio, Texas

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

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,710 lbs.

Wheelbase: 145.7 in.

Length: 233.6 in.

Cargo bed: 5 ½-foot

Tow: 11,450 lbs.

MPG: 19/22

MPG: 19.8 (tested)

Base Price: $75,225 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $70,357

Major Options:

Special paint color, $425

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

Ball mount, $50

Test vehicle: $76,760

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Toyota Tundra

#Tundra Capstone

#Toyota

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

V8 makes luxurious Defender crazy fast, but for off-roading? …

If vehicles were to be judged strictly on how well they drive then Land Rover’s two-door Defender 90 V8 would be a champ, both on and off road.

You see, Defender is a short-wheelbase British designed Jeep, historically, and the entry step into Land Rover’s now ritzy luxury lineup of larger SUVs. Defender is meant to be taken off road, to bound over boulders, to slop in mud, to ford streams (it’ll wade in up to 35.4 inches of bubbling brook).

Yet it’s not a Jeep, it’s a luxury SUV all its own and this version packs an ego-pleasing 518-horsepower V8. That’s better for highway hot-rodding than off-roading, and the ride and handling here deliver a luxury feel that you won’t find in any Jeep Wrangler, even the 4-door Unlimited.

No, the Defender 90 V8 is a luxury two-door with all the fixins and a price tag of $105,550 that seems to discourage off-roading and the dents, scrapes and mud that come with it.

Still, it’s a land-based cruise missile with a top speed of 149 mph and a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.4 to 4.9 seconds, says Car and Driver magazine. Land Rover’s 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly and the pistol-grip shifter delivers a jet pilot’s control mindset.

Handling is light and easy and cornering a pleasure. Parking this big beauty is a breeze.

Top heavy? Sure, a little bit, but with 22-inch Continental tires underneath you feel pretty sure-footed and the air suspension soaks up the city street cracks and crevices with ease, mostly. That’s saying something for an SUV with just a 101.9-inch wheelbase. Normally something this short is akin to riding on a skateboard, sitting down.

See Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 – YouTube

Check out Paul’s Car Spot on a vintage Rover too!

Around town Defender delivers a decidedly luxury ride, feel and handling. Put it off into the weeds and gravel and it’ll perform nicely too. Sadly Rover thinks everything should be controlled through its 11.4-inch touchscreen, which is plenty big and easy to see. Oh, but that size screen costs $140 extra. Really? Even bigger screens are standard on $40k vehicles.

And let’s admit this right here, touchscreens are fine for adjusting the radio and such, mostly while sitting at a traffic light or in your driveway, but when driving, a dedicated button often is the wiser choice. So to go several layers deep into the screen and try to find the one of 16 icons that takes you to 4WD, etc. Well, that’s not easy and can be frustrating. Decide on any off-road settings before you roll.

That touchscreen though is just the beginning of some questionable styling and functional attributes inside the Land Rover.

My tester was a deep color-shifting black, or Santorini Black, as Rover calls it. The interior was equally black, just not as shiny. Seats though were cloth with suede-like inserts, which were plenty comfy and power adjustable. But I’d expect soft high-end leather standard at the $100k price, plus wouldn’t leather be easier to clean if I did go off-roading and flipped some mud inside? I mean there are thick rubber floor mats all around so you won’t sludge up carpets.

The pistol-grip shifter, nice as it is to shift, is on the center stack, but juts out to block an easy reach to the climate control dials, which by the way include the heated and cooled seat functions. Those also can be found through the info screen.

Extending from the center stack back to between the front seats is a giant semi-open bin, cup holders and cooler/storage box just under the armrest. Nice again that the box cools so you could carry two cans of soda there on a trip, but that big bin under the stack is not real useful as the industrial looking supports all around it make it hard to retrieve anything dropped down in the bin. 

Door trim still features the bolt-on Rover look.

That leads to the oversized lid on the cooler/storage box that partially covers the wireless charging tray just in front of that box. Easy to slide the phone in for charging, but to retrieve it you’ll need to open the box’s lid. Awkward!

Likewise it’s awkward to climb in the Rover and especially so for rear seat riders. First problem, this is a two-door. Second problem it’s a huge step up (11.5 inches of ground clearance) to get inside, but there are plenty of grab handles on the dash and ceiling. Third, for the rear seat, which is fairly roomy, a person must press a button once to power the front seat forward, then flip a stiff lever atop the seat to flip the seatback forward. Once settled in back it’s easiest for your passenger-side front seat occupant to press, and hold, a power seat button to return the seat ever so slowly to its original setting. Again, really? I’ve been in $20k econo-coupes with one-lever manual seat access to the rear seat.

There’s a latch and two power buttons on the seat’s side.

Note too that if the rear seat is occupied there is precious little cargo room behind the seat, maybe one upright suitcase or several grocery bags. The rear seats do fold down to boost storage. But in practical terms the Defender is a two-person vehicle, while five could tolerate short hops around town.

One final clunker is that rear door in place of a hatch. I know Jeep-like vehicles have this feature and it does fit in well with the snazzy retro styling, including the mammoth 22-inch tire on the rear door. But that makes that door heavy and, again, awkward for loading in certain circumstances. Having the tire handy on the rear door though will be convenient when you blow a tire on a rocky outcropping when off-roading in your luxury ute.

Naturally there are good points too, like the styling, which received several compliments during my drive, and the side skylight windows just under the rear roofline.

Folks like the skylights above the large rear windows.

A panoramic sunroof is standard too and the seats are both heated and cooled, and incredibly comfortable. I like the radio volume roller on the steering wheel hub and the wheel itself is wrapped in the coziest suede covering I’ve experienced in a vehicle. I’d pay extra for that on any vehicle, along with the heated wheel, which is standard here.

The sound system is stellar too, a premium Meridian surround system with 700 watts of power. Boom!

Precious little storage behind the rear seat and the heavy rear door opens wide.

Gas mileage is mild to say the least, but then you had to have the V8, right? The EPA rates this at 15 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. I managed 16.9 mpg in a week’s mixed driving. Premium petrol is preferred, naturally. A 3.0-liter inline 6 mild hybrid also is available by the way.

Again, the starting price is $105,550 and with three small options this one drains an IRA account for $106,710. But honestly, I’m not sure anything should be optional at the starting price here for a small SUV, no matter how off-road worthy.

That said, there are eight trim levels for the Defender 90, and the base starts at $57,700 with delivery, so avoiding the higher trims and the V8 will put this into a whole other price category. And for folks wanting a more useful, but equally ornamental, version there’s the Defender 110 with a 17-inch longer wheelbase and four doors, so a family could properly use it.

The square taillights look great, but that monster spare tire weighs down the door.

That would compete well with Jeep’s new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

As it is, this one competes with the likes of the Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited (4 doors), and Grand Cherokee. Other possible capable off-roaders with luxury leanings include Toyota’s 4Runner or even its Highlander and of course Ford’s new Bronco, although its ride is not nearly so nice as the Rover’s. Most of these start in the upper-$40,000 range.

If you simply must spend more than $100 grand on a luxury off-road worthy SUV there’s also the Mercedes-Benz G Class, or G-Wagon as most folks call it. That starts about $141,000 and is even boxier. The Rover certainly wins that matchup on the styling front.

Fast Stats: 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

Hits: Thrilling power, snazzy retro looks, off-roading ability in spades, easy handling, nice ride for short wheelbase. Panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled seats, radio volume roller on wheel, Meridian sound system, heated suede-wrapped steering wheel, easy to park and a lot of grab handles.

Misses: Rear hatch opens out like door, tire on door makes it heavy, gear shift lever in way of climate controls, difficult multi-layer touchscreen, awkward access to off-road settings and clunky access to rear seats. Big step-up height, wireless charger partially blocked by big armrest/storage box lid and little cargo room.

The V8 really fills the engine compartment here.

Made in: Nitra, Slovakia

Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 518 hp/461 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,334 lbs.

Wheelbase: 101.9 in.

Length: 180.4 in.

Cargo: 14-34 cu.ft.

Tow: 8,200 lbs.

MPG: 15/19

MPG: 16.9 (tested)

Base Price: $105,550 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $92,718

Major Options:

WiFi-enabled w/limited data plan, $360

Premium interior protection w/storage pack, $660

11.4-inch touchscreen, $140

Test vehicle: $106,710

Sources: Land Rover, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4

Mid-size pickups are now bigger than full-size used to be ….

When is big only mid-size? Well, today, when in the truck world mid-size means big, just not huge, like a “full-size” pickup.

Case in point the mid-size Ford Ranger, which is actually two-plus inches longer and has a wheelbase 7 inches longer than a full-size F-150 pickup had 20 years ago. That’s how much trucks have grown.

Friends and neighbors laughed when I told them the Ranger was Ford’s mid-size, noting it LOOKS like a full-size pickup, or at least how it used to look. They were right.

It also didn’t help that this SuperCrew in mid-level XLT trim also piled on the Tremor package for $4,290. It’s an off-roading package for folks who put their $40+ grand romper through the mud bogs of the world. It also pushes a moderately priced pickup to (in this case) $44,430. That’s way more than my first house cost.

Now I don’t mean to pick on the Tremor, or the Ranger, as Ford is about to launch its new Maverick compact pickup to take the place of what used to be its compact Ranger (got that?) a few years back. Maverick will likely fit more budgets and at least look like a smaller pickup. Great!

But this one is tall and long at 210.8 inches compared with a 2001 F150 at 208 inches long. Ground clearance is 8.9 inches with this 4WD version and we might as well get the Tremor package listing out of the way as it loads up the truck for serious off-roading.

Tremor includes (and I’ll skip a few minor trim and floor liner upgrades) an off-road suspension with Fox (high-end) shocks, Continental General Grabber R-17 off-road tires (noisy on the highway), snazzy step-like running boards, electric locking differential, front differential, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates to avoid damage off road, a terrain management system, upfitter (Ford’s word) switches, and rear tow hook.

I took the truck to a mild off-roading area and it took the big dips and humps with ease and it’s easy to turn the dial on the console for four-wheeling. That little excursion also tweaked something in the cab’s rear, so a rattle ensued thereafter even on smooth pavement.

And while the off-roading suspension is tuned well for ditch banging, it’s mighty bouncy on city streets with railroad track crossings and dips or expansion joint spaces seeming to be the biggest bounce producers. Not real comfy for town driving, but stellar on smooth highways.

Watch Mark’s Ranger video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaBBdbsBHs4

Aiding that is its quick steering, for a large, er mid-size, pickup. The steering weight is dead-on and easy to handle while parking is simple because the truck turns into tight spaces so well. Ranger is an easy driver, just a rough rider.

Power?

There’s only one choice, but it’s solid. The 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbo I4 delivers an impressive 270 horsepower with a 310 torque rating. That makes Ranger quicker off the line than you might anticipate with a bigger truck. Gas mileage is only rated at 19 mpg city and highway with the Tremor edition, but I managed 20.8 and was a bit heavier on city driving. The computer insisted I was getting 23 mpg.

Power comes quickly and easily without too much engine noise, which seems improved since my last Ranger eval a few years ago. Its 10-speed automatic tranny is a smooth operator too.

Folks wanting this off-roader to also be a towing machine will be pleased that it can pull 7,500 pounds and has a payload of 1,860 pounds. That’s segment-leading and currently only Nissan’s Frontier offers more horsepower at 310.

I should remind you that this was the SuperCrew version, which means it has four full-size doors and a roomy rear seat that will easily hold two or three adults. With two they can use the fold-down armrest/cupholders.

The SuperCab is basically the old extended cab with little rear half doors that fold backward and small rear seats that are cramped for anything other than a short haul or miniature people. The benefit of the SuperCab is that it has a full 6-foot bed while the SuperCrew’s bed is just 5-feet. SO if you need to haul stuff it’s SuperCab. If you need to haul family then SuperCrew.

On the pricing front the SuperCrew costs about $2,000 more and 4WD adds roughly $4,000 to any configuration.

On to the interior.

First, Tremor adds spiffy step-like running boards that provide easy step-ups for front or rear passengers, but these are better than the old solid bars. They are wider and easier to step on, even when wet, plus open to let water and muck slide through. A smart and useful design.

The snazzy Velocity Blue (bright metallic blue) Ranger doesn’t go wild with interior design, pretty straightforward and usable. Oh, there are red and gray Tremor logos on the seat backs, but the rest is black leather with gray stitching on the seats and black cloth inserts in the doors.

Door release and air vents are a smoked chrome while the console is flat black as is the dash and door trim.

Info screen is large enough and simple to use.

The info screen is moderately sized but an easy touchscreen to use while the main instrument panel gauges were analog with turquoise needles that were incredibly easy to see. Radio volume and tune knobs are large and the climate controls simple to figure out. Everything was easy to use while driving, not distracting like digital touchpads, etc.

Atop the dash are six auxiliary switches that can be programmed to use with accessories such as big over-cab lights, a wench, etc. That’s part of the Tremor package.

Safety equipment is sound as the XLT trim adds Co-Pilot 360, Ford’s safety system with blind-spot warning, a trailer tow monitor, park sensors, the 8-inch screen and both WiFi hot spots and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Supposedly it adds lane-keep assist, but I didn’t see that on the tester and frankly was happy to not have it. It’s mostly an annoyance around town and obviously would need to be switched off when off-roading, like the parking sensors. I forgot to switch those off initially and crazy-making beeping ensued as I drove through tall grass.

A technology package for $995 added smart cruise control, a navigation system and forward sensing. Yes!

Seating is another Ranger strong point as these seats provide excellent lower back, kidney and hip support. Some sedans could use these seats. However, they were manual and the driver’s seat included a handle on the side to raise and lower it. The seats also are not heated.

This mid-level Ranger also fell short on a few other items I would expect at $40 grand plus, such as push-button start. Not here, Ranger uses the old switchblade-like key. Unfortunately the tester’s key blade stuck in the fob and had to be pried out each time it was used.

There also was no wireless phone charger, just plug-ins, and the tailgate flops down like a soccer player looking for a penalty. Most tailgates now have an easy-lower mechanism that slowly deploys so as not to smack you as they fold down. Smartly there was a spray-in bedliner for $495.

Spray-in bedliner protects the truck’s bed.

Pricing is all over the place for Ranger, starting at a low-ball $26,000 for the base XL SuperCab with RWD. This XLT with the SuperCrew and 4WD listed at $35,940, including delivery. After all the options, including $750 for Tremor graphics (pricey stickers) and a few other goodies, hit $44,430.

I know that seems high for a “mid-size” pickup if you haven’t shopped for one of late, but the full-size ones easily go for $50,000 to $70,000 today.

As it is, the Ranger is a good competitor for the top-selling Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and its cousin the GMC Canyon, plus the new Frontier and Honda Ridgeline.

Some would argue it also competes with Jeep’s Gladiator pickup, but I think that’s a whole different market, simply because it’s a Jeep!

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4

Hits: Good towing power, quick acceleration, easy handling, dial-in 4WD, and roomy enough for 4/5 people. Co-Pilot safety system, handy side steps, bedliner, 6 auxiliary dash switches, comfy supportive seats. Solid off-road ability.

Misses: Extremely bouncy ride, no heated seats, no push-button start, no easy-lower tailgate, no wireless charger. Only a 5-foot bed, tire noise on highway, tester had rattle in rear of cab, and switchblade key hard to open.

Made in: Wayne, Mich.

Engine: 2.3-liter turbo Ecoboost I4, 270 hp

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 4.650 lbs.*

Wheelbase: 126.8 in.

Length: 210.8 in.

Cargo bed: 5-foot

Tow: 7,500 lbs.

Payload: 1,860 lbs.

MPG: 19/19

MPG: 20.8 (tested)

Base Price: $35,940 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $34,550

Major Options:

Equipment group 301A (auto. day/night mirror, 110-volt power outlet, reverse sensing, leather shifter and steering wheel covers, sport appearance package), $1,670

Tremor off-road package (see story), $4,290

Technology package (adaptive cruise control, navigation, forward sensing), $995

Spray-in bedliner, $495

Tremor graphics, $750

Remote start, $195

SecuriCode keypad, $95

Test vehicle: $44,430

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com, *Car and Driver

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 RAM TRX Crew Cab 4×4

Devilish T-RX ready to crush Ford Raptor sales …

Tell someone you’re driving a 702-horsepower pickup and they look at you like you’ve grown horns from your noggin and said 29-cent gas is back.

But it’s true, the Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab packs a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8, the same used in both the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats. Rating is 702 horses and torque of 650 lb.-ft. with a reported 0-60 mph burst of 4.5 seconds, although some folks have tested it as low as 4.1 seconds. Top speed is said to be 118 mph.

You may be saying to yourself, that’s a racer, not a pickup and you’d be right, except the TRX is street legal, if you can afford one.

This is a Muscle Truck, much as in years past we’ve had Muscle Cars, and still do, thankfully. Continue reading 2021 RAM TRX Crew Cab 4×4

2020 Ford Expedition Max Platinum 4×4

Expedition Max redefines big luxury truck …

There’s big, and then there’s Max. In this case Max is Ford’s new Expedition Max, as if the original Expedition weren’t large enough. Apparently it was not.

The Max is nearly a full foot longer than the original’s 210 inches and this special Burgundy Velvet Metallic ($395) test SUV was the Platinum edition with 4-wheel-drive, the tippy top of Ford’s SUV lineup.

And let’s get this out of the way right up front, it’s priced like the Platinum edition it is, starting at $81,505 with delivery and checking in at $84,065 as equipped. That’s way up there and competes well with its cousin, the Lincoln Navigator, which with 4WD lists at $76,185. Note too that Navigator’s twin-turbo V6 creates 450 horsepower, while the tested Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 delivers a healthy 400 hp. Continue reading 2020 Ford Expedition Max Platinum 4×4

2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

New engine improves Nissan’s compact pickup …

I’d been looking forward to testing Nissan’s 2020 Frontier compact pickup since hearing about its upgrades at the Chicago Auto Show in February, just before the Covid lockdown.

A Zoom update this spring further stoked my curiosity. I much prefer compact pickups to the big boys and Frontier has always been a strong competitor in what now is really a mid-size market. Yet due to Covid shutting assembly plants and some timing issues Nissan’s 2020 model just arrived and is going on sale, about when you’d expect a 2021.

No problem. It was worth the wait.

How so? Continue reading 2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

2020 Lexus GX460

Lexus GX460 a bit of a throwback, but that’s OK …

A few years back we drove an old Toyota RAV4 loaner while our car was in the shop. The RAV had no power windows, just cranks, and a radio with six buttons, no screen. It felt refreshing and fun to drive.

So why not a little mild throwback design on cars and their features?

Lexus, of all folks, has kept its mid-size SUV, the GX460, cousin to the Toyota 4Runner, about the same for 10 years, which means it lacks a few frills that today’s SUVs have. Yet, at its heart it’s a beauteous beast that is fit to go off-roading like a Jeep or Land Rover, but feels as luxurious inside as the finest luxury sedan. Maybe Lexus is on to something. Continue reading 2020 Lexus GX460

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Army Green tells you this SUV isn’t for wimps!

4Runner TRD Pro a muscular drive …

My wife calls Toyota’s 4Runner a manly man’s truck, and it certainly is.

Tall, muscular looking, big tires and wheels, a hood scoop, a husky luggage rack on the roof and an engine that growls along with knobby tires that rumble on the road. Yes, manly and a serious off-roader, made even more so by being the TRD Pro edition. Continue reading 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2019 Nissan Pathfinder SV AWD

Pathfinder SV rocks on the simple side …

For those looking for a mid-size sport-utility truck or crossover with a third-row seat, it’s possible you’ve chosen the most competitive segment for your vehicle search.

That’s where this week’s perfectly fine Nissan Pathfinder finds itself. After more than 30 years on the market Pathfinder is a known quantity, an expected strong value and good ride. It remains so, but then so are most of its competitors, the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and the newish Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent. All are solid choices. Continue reading 2019 Nissan Pathfinder SV AWD