Sporty looks, but handling falls short
I’ve always liked Mazda vehicles because they look and drive a little sportier than most brands that us average middle class folks can afford.
That’s why I’m disappointed with the new Mazda CX-9, the large sport-utility/crossover I just tested. It only delivers on half the equation. It still looks a bit sportier than its competition, models like the boxy Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, but handling wasn’t up to Mazda standards.
My dark metallic gray CX-9 did have a new grille, less smiley and cartoonish than the previous model, but with a nose that still looks sleeker in profile than most large crossovers, sort of a tall sport wagon look. And its interior feels high-brow and is well finished. Plus this was the Grand Touring with all-wheel-drive, so it was loaded with electronic goodies.
But here’s the deal. I expect more responsive steering from a Mazda and, sorry to say, this just felt like other large sport-utes or crossovers. Steering is extremely light, but not as responsive as I felt in the last CX-9 I drove. It feels a bit vague with more wheel play than I had expected from past experience. That leads to a bit of lane wander on the highway. Continue reading 2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD
Good-looking crossover/SUV loaded with tech goodies
There are a lot of mid-size SUVs (crossovers) to choose from and now Hyundai has gone and redesigned its Santa Fe, to help complicate your choices.
First, it’s a good-looking reskin with an edgier look and Hyundai continues to refine its vehicles to make them more upscale to fill the demands of the U.S. marketplace. So this white test ute was awash in technical doodads and electronic wizardry, sadly pushing it toward the upper end of what many folks would expect to pay for a useful mid-size ute. The Santa Fe Sport with all-wheel-drive and Hyundai’s 2.0-liter I4 with a turbo lists at $29,450. That’s still in the ballpark. But this one ladled on two pricy premium and technology packages to push the tester up to $35,925. That’s $36 grand in my book.
We can argue price and value and all that, but first, let’s tell you what you get. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD
Upon further review … solid, but bulbous and not as refined as expected
Every once in a while I get to test a vehicle twice in a single year. It’s rare, but this week I had the 2013 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L with navigation, just one model year newer than the CR-V I had tested early last spring.
It confirmed my thoughts and observations, which cheers me that I didn’t miss the mark earlier. The good news, for the driver, is that this one was a pleasant Mountain Air (turquoise blue) color vs. the blah gray of the earlier model.
But, and I apologize if you feel you’ve heard some of this before, the CR-V remains a solid compact sport-utility vehicle with 5 more horses than the previous generation and a more rounded look. In fact, several friends and observers called the Honda’s rear-end ugly and too bulbous. It’s not attractive, but then few utes really are much more than boxes on wheels. Continue reading 2013 Honda CR-V
Luxurious crossover, quiet comfortable family mover
A lot of time has passed since I last tested Nissan’s fine Murano crossover, yet it remains a solid, quiet, comfortable family mover.
While many folks buy this in front-drive form, Nissan says, I had the next to top level SL model with AWD. That means it goes for nearly $41 grand, which seems high, until you consider many other crossovers with luxury leanings.
The tested dark metallic blue Murano started at $38,000 and ended up $40,855 with mainly a navigation system upgrade adding to the price. If price is a concern, start shopping at the S level, which begins at $29,960 for front-drive and $31,560 for AWD. There are four trim levels, the top, LE, going for $40,560 with AWD. Continue reading 2012 Nissan Murano SV AWD