Tag Archives: crossover

2014 Lexus RX 450h

H = hybrid in luxurious 450h crossover for a smooth quiet cruiser
lex450Lexus makes quiet, comfortable and reliable vehicles as well, if not better, than most car makers and its RX crossover has been a hit for years, being an early entry into the crossover, or tall wagon, market.

Certainly Lexus does nothing to embarrass itself with its latest RX iteration, and this was the 450h, which means it’s a hybrid. That translates to better gas mileage and quiet startup and running. But then all of the RX models are quiet as a church on a snowy Sunday morning.

Yet quietness is just one of the RX 450h’s virtues.

The metallic tan (satin cashmere metal is what Lexus calls it) test vehicle delivered good gas mileage with its hybrid assist system and in both Normal and Sport mode it accelerates well. Steering effort is moderate and handling is smooth and linear so you always feel in control.

A seamless all-wheel-drive system keeps it well planted even in heavy snow. I had this during a pre-Christmas snowstorm and traction was excellent.

Under the hybrid’s hood is Lexus’s proven 3.5-liter V6 that features variable valve timing and is backed up by a hybrid battery system that combined gives the RX a substantial 295 horses. There are three driving modes, with Normal and Sport allowing all those ponies to be used, although you’ll likely burn more gas. The ECO mode, which I used for several days, delivers lame low-end power. You creep, although smoothly, away from stoplights.

The hybrid uses an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission with an intelligence feature that helps it understand your power needs and driving habits. This system gives it an infinite amount of gear ratios, allowing the crossover to accelerate as efficiently as possible. It’s incredibly smooth, but again, most of us will prefer anything but the ECO mode. Continue reading 2014 Lexus RX 450h

2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-5 better than ever with more powerful enginemazda cx5

Give Mazda credit, once it decided to remake its small sport-utility for 2013, it didn’t rest on its laurels, although it could have for a couple years.

Nope, for 2014 it rolls out a new efficient, and more powerful 2.5-liter I4 using its Skyactiv technology that aims at fuel economy, plus performance.

So, while last year’s CX-5 mid-size sport-utility was a delight to drive, with upscale looks and feel, the 2014 ups the performance ante and still delivers excellent gas mileage for a ute with all-wheel-drive.

I tested the top-level Grand Touring model with AWD, so it tips the money scales at $28,870, but that’s still well below the average price of a new vehicle these days. With a fancy, and mostly unneeded, tech package it hit $31,890, right at the average cost of a new vehicle.

But here’s the deal, the new 2.5-liter engine with variable valve timing and Skyactiv technology manages an EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, just one mpg lower than the 2.0-liter I4 that comes in entry-level models and that makes just 155 horses. The power difference is noticeable. Continue reading 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2014 KIA Sorento SX Ltd. AWD

Sorento handling, performance make it more fun than Santa Fekia1

KIA has raised the bar with its revamped 2014 Sorento crossover, making it a much more enjoyable drive than the 2012 model I tested roughly 18 months ago.

This is the smaller cousin of last week’s Hyundai Santa Fe, which wins on value and size, but Sorento wins on handling and performance, while packing the same engine and transmission.

For the record, the new Sorento looks much like its predecessor, which means it’s attractive, I think more than Santa Fe. But the wheelbase also is 4 inches shorter and overall it’s 9 inches shorter in length. That makes it look, and feel, a bit sportier. It’s also 200 lbs. lighter, and that improves its power to weight ratio, which you feel at every stoplight.

Where the Santa Fe felt heavy and somewhat lumbered away from a stop, the Sorento seems livelier. Both feature Hyundai’s new 3.3-liter, DI V6 that packs 290 horsepower. This is a new engine replacing the KIA 3.5-liter V6 that made 276 horses. The new V6 comes in all trims except the entry level LX which features a DI I4 that creates 191 horses.

Fuel efficiency dips a bit, according to EPA ratings. But remember KIA got into a bit of trouble with the EPA for using more optimistic numbers than it should have on previous models. I was happy with 23.7 mpg in about 70% highway driving, but I must say the trip computer was about 2 mpg more optimistic. I’m seeing a pattern here. The EPA rates this model at 18 mpg city and 24 highway, running on regular gas. Note too there is an ECO mode button you can press to suppress acceleration and reduce gas consumption. Continue reading 2014 KIA Sorento SX Ltd. AWD

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS AWD

Santa Fe grows into large crossover with third row seat

Korean automaker Hyundai’s market share is growing in the U.S. market and its vehicles are getting larger too. It appears Hyundai has adopted the age-old American car strategy of not only expanding its offerings, but its vehicles’ dimensions.santa1

Case in point, the new Santa Fe, what used to be a modest mid-size sport-utility truck, is now a large crossover. It’s heavy, 4,098 lbs. It’s long 193.1 inches. It has a large 3.3-liter V6 engine, and its gas mileage is mediocre at 18 mpg city and 24 highway.

I drove the GLS AWD model, meaning it has all-wheel-drive, which naturally adds some weight and cuts its gas mileage. But AWD does give Santa Fe some of its old sport-ute functionality. Outwardly the Santa Fe looks like most other large crossovers, not much to distinguish it. In fact, it looks more like a minivan now, but with outward opening rear doors instead of sliding van doors.

The crossover’s size means it now has room for a third row seat, which is split, and will fold flat in back to boost cargo capacity that otherwise is moderate. My test unit, a Night Sky Pearl (metallic blue/gray), had no power hatch, which seemed a bit odd at the asking price of $35,180. A power hatch is optional though. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS AWD

2013 Infiniti FX37 AWD

FX37, a love-hate relationship

Infiniti’s racy FX37 sport-ute is a classic case for a love-hate relationship.Infin Fx

If you enjoy performance, and don’t really expect such from a sport-ute, you’ve got to love how the FX37 responds. It feels like a tall Porsche, with oodles of power from its new 3.7-liter V6. In fact, Infiniti rates it a 325 horses and even that seems as if it might be a tad low.

The 3.7 replaces the former 3.5-liter V6, which wasn’t too shabby itself. And the bright metallic blue test ute was the all-wheel-drive model, so right out of the blocks it had power and road grip on its side. Toss in a healthy helping of fine handling and the FX37 delivers premium performance at a modestly premium price.

The base FX37 with rear-wheel drive starts at $44,950, while the tested AWD model lists at $45,750. And at that you get a silky 7-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control that allows you to shift manually.

Where the hate comes in, and hate may be a bit harsh, is subject to one’s design leanings primarily. That, and depending on whether you expect a cushy ride, or one reflecting the sporty nature of this beast, you may feel luxury dictates the former. Continue reading 2013 Infiniti FX37 AWD

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

 Attractive Crosstrek a bit of sedan, wagon, crossover 

Subaru_XV_Crosstrek-2Subaru’s new crossover, the XV Crosstrek, is an attractive vehicle that splits the difference between sedan, wagon and crossover, with many of the good characteristics of each.

But the Crosstrek, which rides on the compact Impreza platform, is underpowered, so keep that in mind if you plan to haul four people or a load of stuff under its roomy hatchback.

I like that Crosstrek has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, but looks more like a tall hatchback than a true crossover or SUV, now a dying breed as most truck-based SUVs have switched to car chassis. But, like a Subaru sedan, this has good road manners. It’s easy to drive and handles well with a moderately light steering feel from the electronic power assisted steering system.

Best of all, it’s useful. Not only will four adults fit in the Crosstrek, but you can haul a load of junk, er stuff, in back with its 22.3 cubic foot cargo bay. Fold flat the split rear seats and it’ll haul 51.9 cubic feet of your best stuff, just like a wagon. And it has AWD, like an SUV. Continue reading 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL AWD

No longer truck-based, Pathfinder a softer, more civilized crossover

            Back in the day, which wasn’t long ago, Nissan’s Pathfinder was a sport-utility truck that was truck tough and set for off-roading and hauling gear.path1

Today, like many of us as we age, it has gotten a little softer and is tailored now more for comfort. Oh, it can haul and is available with all-wheel-drive, but you are not going to take this off road. In fact, with its remodel for 2013 it is pure crossover, leaning toward minivan. That’s because it’s no longer truck-based, instead riding on the Nissan Altima sedan’s platform.

The silver test vehicle, a pre-production model, was the almost upper end SL model, so begins at $36,070 and with just a trailer towing package at $400 and the $780 delivery charge ended up at $37,250. You can spend less if you opt for the entry-level S model with front-wheel drive. It begins at $28,650 and bumping up to an AWD model moves you to $30,250. There’s a mid-level SV with cloth seats and then the SL, plus a Platinum edition 4×4 model at $41,150.

If mall cruising and hauling a family is your main purpose, the Tennessee-made Pathfinder is accommodating. Its interior is spacious, like a minivan, with oodles of head and legroom in the first two rows of seats, plus a third row is standard and folds easily into the rear floor to boost cargo room. Continue reading 2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL AWD