Seven years had passed since my last test of Honda’s hot-selling CR-V, its small sport-ute, but the wait was worth it.
I felt the 2013 model had fallen a bit behind the curve in the small ute market, but be assured Honda is back atop its game with the 2020 model. Mine was an Aegean blue metallic Touring model with all-wheel drive. That’s the top-level CR-V and it was fully equipped, so much so that there were no options. Continue reading 2020 Honda CR-V Touring→
Explorer ST puts the sport into sport-utility (at a price) …
Ford’s Explorer is the ubiquitous family SUV. It’s likely today’s 20- and 30-somethings think of Explorer as what mom and dad, their uncles, cousins and maybe a brother or sister drove, or still drive.
There are a lot of Explorers on the road and to be honest, Explorer was one of the first super popular SUVs to persuade car buyers to switch to trucks. At its peak it was selling more than 400,000 units a year. After just a few years on the market it became one of the top 10 best-selling vehicles of the year. Continue reading 2020 Ford Explorer ST AWD→
Whatever you think of crossovers, I’m here to tell you that some are sporty, some are fun to drive, and a few combine that with luxury befitting a fine sedan.
Acura’s RDX AWD A-Spec, newly restyled for 2019, is one of the above. It’s a rip-roaring good time that handles like a sport sedan and rides like a luxury car, when in its Comfort drive mode. Continue reading 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec→
Volvo, the Chinese-owned luxury car maker that builds its cars in Sweden and Belgium, has been on a roll now for a couple years. Its lineup of crossovers, like its wagons of the past, are well designed, utilitarian, but with enough luxury to easily take on its luxury ute competitors from Europe and North America.
Now comes the Volvo XC40, its first small crossover. I drove a bright metallic white ($595 extra) model with black roof to accent the handsome crossover. The combo adds a little more flair and a sporty look, aided by this being the T5 R-Design model. Continue reading 2019 Volvo XC40 AWD R-Design→
Toyota’s big ol’ Sequoia overdue for a restyling …
Toyota’s big Sequoia sport-ute is overdue for a restyling and needs a few interior upgrades to compete for class leader in this market dominated by the likes of Chevy and GMC’s Suburban, plus Ford’s Expedition and Nissan’s Armada.
Don’t ask me what Velar means; something to do with your soft palette, but that doesn’t make me think of cars much. So to me it sounds like another made-up car name. I suspect though that Land Rover feels Velar sounds sexy and luxurious, which is certainly how this sport-utility vehicle looks.
There’s enough leather and aluminum inside to worry cattle and cheer miners. Velar’s streamlined looks with a swept-back tail that tapers from front to rear is distinctive in the sport-ute market. Well, Kia’s Soul has a similar look, but on a much smaller scale. Continue reading 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE→
Leading up to Christmas I spent a week luxuriating in Santa’s sleigh.
Say what? It was Hyundai’s Santa Fe? Well then, never mind!
Yet then again Hyundai’s mid-size SUV is certainly big enough to haul a lot of goodies to good girls and boys all over southeast Wisconsin. The Santa Fe is a luxurious ute that if it had sliding side doors could pass for a minivan. In the tested Limited Ultimate AWD trim it would haul six adults with its two second-row captain’s seats and twin fold-down third row seats.
If you opt for a bench seat in the second row, Santa Fe will seat seven, which matches most minivans. And the cargo space behind the second row for gear, suitcases and such is sizeable. Even with the third row in place there’s plenty of room for grocery bags and odds and ends.
The AWD makes the Santa Fe a champ in sloppy weather too, giving it even better footing than say a heard of reindeer.
Hyundai revamped this ute for 2017 and drastically improved its looks, moving it away from boxy minivan and old ute styling to a fresher, more muscular stance that gives it a bit of a BMW’s swagger.
Handling is among the best for mid-size crossovers and utes too. Santa Fe feels responsive and corners well with just a slight lean in fast tight turns. Steering feedback is on the heavy side in Normal drive mode, of which there are three, including Eco and Dynamic.
Punch the Drive Mode button for Dynamic and the wheel firms up even more, maybe more than most drivers would want to deal with. But it also allows the 6-speed automatic transmission to hold the lower gears longer in order to boost acceleration. So in this mode the Santa Fe jumps, not up onto house tops, but onto the freeway like an aggressive sport sedan. Continue reading 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD→
BMW X3 has the street cred, but what about style? …
This week’s drive begs the question of style and performance vs. reputation and performance. How so?
The tested BMW X3 compact SUV is a direct competitor of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio I tested a week prior. Darn near the same dimensions, the Alfa is just an inch longer. Similar power too, the BWM having 20 more ponies under its hood.
The difference is in looks, styling if you will, and reputation. While Alfa has a performance reputation, the long-term reliability of its vehicles has historically been a bit sketchy. BMW boasts of being the ultimate driving machine, and generally has a stronger long-term reliability rating.
Face value though, that impression that hits you when you first see a vehicle, is all in the Alfa’s favor. It looks lean and fast and, well, a bit sexy if you can see that in a car. Its nose is distinctive, like no other. It turns heads. Continue reading 2017 BMW X3 xDrive 35i→
Young folks wanting a Jeep for its looks and rugged personality, but who are on an entry-level budget and prefer comfort to mudding ability can find refuge in Jeep’s Renegade.
This is a multi-trim model that ranges from $20 grand, including delivery, up to $30 grand for an off-roading version. Renegade is built on the Fiat 500X chassis in Italy, so quite a ways from Toledo, Ohio, the spiritual home of Jeep and its predecessor, Willys.
But Renegade, despite being a downsized Jeep offers much more civility for daily driving, plus that low-ball entry price. Mine was a near fluorescent neon green (dubbed Bright Hypergreen) that seemed to glow in the parking lot like one of those radioactive bars that Homer Simpson gets stuck in his pocket.
Folks at the office taunted me about the color, but it turns out to be quite fun to drive around in such a glow stick and was incredibly easy to find in any parking lot.
It’s the civility that strikes me most about Renegade. Ride is downright comfortable and tame, not the usual don’t-come-knocking-when-this-baby-is-rockin’ ride of its original off-roading cousin, the roughhewn Wrangler. Even on Wisconsin’s crumbling roads the Renegade delivered a relatively well-controlled an smooth ride, no small accomplishment for a vehicle riding on just a 101.2-inch wheelbase. Continue reading 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4×4→