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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC

Outlander remains a middler in SUV marketoutlander1

Mitsubishi’s new Outlander is a handsome SUV, but remains a middler.

Its performance falls in the middle of the crowded small to mid-sized sport-utility market. Little stands out.

The tested “rally red” ute was the 3.0 GT S-AWC model, meaning it’s loaded with Mitsubishi’s more desirable V6 engine and all-wheel-drive. This model’s base price of $28,195 isn’t bad, but not the lowest cost on the market either.

Trust me, you’ll want the 3.0-liter V6 version because it generates a decent 224 horsepower. Although torque is a modest 215 so you’ll have to jam the accelerator to get it to jump up to passing speed or to hustle onto the freeway. The base model touts a mild 166-horse 2.4-liter I4, not a great choice to haul around a 183.3-inch long sport-ute that can weigh between 3,200 and the test unit’s 3,571 lbs.

While power is decent in the test ute, its forte is handling. Steering is relatively quick with very minor play in the wheel. Handling is good with only modest lean in high-speed turns. It’s a pleasant highway cruiser and easy to control.

Ride though is relatively firm, with the Outlander’s tail seeming to jump and bump readily over sharp road creases. While not uncomfortable, the jolts are more noticeable than in many utes of this stature. For instance the Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester’s rides feel more compliant. Continue reading 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC

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2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD

New Journey Crossroad improves the breed

All credit goes to Chrysler and its Italian parent, Fiat, for constantly improving the handsome Journey mid-size crossover.dodge1

My first couple drives in the Journey left me wanting, the last one four years ago was a step up and now this latest tester, a bright pearl red Journey Crossroad with all-wheel-drive, was a leap forward.

Outwardly you’d think this is pretty much the same vehicle as a few years back with some exterior tweaks. But many of my previous complaints are gone. That’s not to say Journey is perfect, but heck, what $32 grand vehicle is?

Let’s start with the overall drive quality. That always has been pretty good, the big upside here being a comfortable ride, quiet interior and reasonable power along with light easy handling. This model also has all-wheel-drive, so should perform well in winter, a decided plus in Wisconsin.

Journey is easy to drive, its six-speed automatic shifting smoothly and its 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing providing ample power. The V6 is rated at 283 horses and if you tromp the gas pedal it’ll get up and go, but there is a noticeable lag in acceleration at the start. I noticed it most when cruising between Milwaukee and Indianapolis on a weekend jaunt. Press the gas pedal as you ease into the passing lane and then wait for the acceleration to pick up. Yes, you can pound the gas pedal, but that creates a less than appealing ride for passengers. So plan ahead, as you might with a vehicle packing a turbocharged engine.

dodge3Handling is light and Journey is easy to park in a tight spot. Braking is fine with four-wheel discs plus stability and traction control. Journey rides on 19-inch tires. Continue reading 2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD

2014 Jaguar XJL AWD

Jaguar XJL extends the legend with AWDjag1

Jaguar’s image has been polished, tarnished and polished several times, but its history of racing success, generous power and spirited road manners, along with an expectation of gentlemanly comfort, endures.

The restyled XJL does nothing to dispel the legend, with its muscular but trim lines, big chrome grille and vertical tail lamps. But there are some surprises, too.

First, this is a large sedan with mammoth interior that will accommodate five adults with NBA length legs. The XJ’s long-wheelbase model features a limo-like 124.3-inch wheelbase, or somewhere between Chevrolet’s big Tahoe and Suburban SUVs for wheelbase, and they aren’t small. Overall length is sizeable too. In fact, a Tahoe is more than four inches shorter in lengthy. Trust me, this Jag is roomy.

Jaguar’s engine creates 340 horses, which may sound mild for a Jag, but since the car is light for its size, just 4,153 lbs., the car feels relatively nimble. The surprise to long-time Jag devotees may be that there’s no V8 in this model, but the 3.0-liter V6 is supercharged. That gives you quick power when you need it, but doesn’t tax your gas mileage too much in normal stop and go driving.

The XJL, and this one had all-wheel drive (another surprise), is rated at 16 mpg city and 24 highway. I ran it about 60% highway miles and got 20.1 mpg. That’s good for the size and power of the vehicle, plus it being all-wheel drive.

AWD allows the supercharged XJ to keep its composure, even in snow.
AWD allows the supercharged XJ to keep its composure, even in snow.

Acceleration is smooth and strong with the Jag’s 8-speed automatic transmission savageonwheels.com, car reviewsdelivering seamless shifts. My only concern with the drivetrain is the gas-saving “intelligent stop-start” feature. Like a hybrid, the Jaguar’s gas engine shuts off at stoplights or nearly anytime you’re stopped in traffic, or at a drive-up window, etc. When you take your foot off the brake, the engine automatically refires. Both on the shutdown and the startup there is a noticeable shudder that seemed less refined than I’ve felt in various hybrids. Several riders commented on it, saying they would be disappointed in that shake after paying roughly $85 grand for such a luxury yacht.
That’s right, the XJL starts at $83,700 and with only a delivery charge, no options, hit $84,595. This, apparently, is the price for merging luxury and notable styling.

But while there was that hiccup when the engine shuts off to save fuel, the powertrain and the interior are incredibly quiet. This may be the quietest car I’ve driven in several years. With the car stationary and running I got 64 decibels on an iPhone app that my friend loaned me. That jumped to only 67 when a friend’s daughter played her French horn just outside the car in a sound test we did for my You Tube video review. Outside, by the horn, the decibels hit a peak of 118.

Continue reading 2014 Jaguar XJL AWD

2013 Honda CR-V

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.honda-cr-v-exterior-side

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