Tag Archives: Subaru Outback

2022 GMC Terrain 4AT AWD

GMC’s restyled Terrain a worthy SUV to fit a family budget …

I’d be lying if I said my expectations were high when the bright Cayenne Red GMC Terrain AT4 was deposited in the family driveway.

This is a compact entry-level SUV from GM’s truck brand that starts just under $30 grand, a value leader, and the word among auto writers is that it’s down on power. Soooo …

Yet one person’s lack of power is another’s value statement. Nothing wrong with that.

I’m even a bit upset with myself because three years ago I’d tested Terrain’s kissin’ cousin, the Chevy Equinox, and liked it just fine, although the Chevy had a more powerful engine.

Consider this though.

Terrain comes in four trims, starting with the rear-drive SLE at that impressive $29,095 starting price (AWD adds $1,600), but the SLT is next up the line and probably the best value as it adds heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel and power rear hatch, all for $33,045.

The tested AT4 is new for 2022 and is intended for buyers interested in light off-roading capability and appearances. Dressed in the spiffy bright metallic red paint job ($695 extra) and with black accents, grille and lower-body cladding the Terrain looked like a serious off-roader. In fact, I got more comments and passersby looks in this than some luxury sport sedans I’ve driven. That may say more about the market for SUVs than just styling though.

The AT4 adds Goodyear Sport Terrain tires, traction selection with an off-road mode, hill-descent control, a steel skid plate under the nose and embroidered AT4 headrests. List price is just $35,145 and AWD is standard.

Luxury lovers can upgrade to the Denali trim, always the peak of GMC’s trims, and still pay just $37,700. But Denali adds a color HUD, premium suspension, luxury leather interior and trim, cooled front seats and heated back seats, plus wireless charging along with Pro Safety Plus, which adds more safety gear.

So, for families in search of an SUV that fits a normal budget, Terrain certainly should be on the shopping list.

Watch Mark’s video review: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 GMC Terrain AT4 – YouTube

Yet here’s what sold me right away, the ride.

GMC has figured out that American roads are abysmal and instead of stiffening the ride for performance, softened and tuned it for comfort. Bravo! So, bounding over crater-like pot holes, frost-heaved pavement, half-filled blacktop cracks and way too expansive expansion joints, Terrain remains calm and collected. Passengers barely notice the carnage beneath the Goodyear R17 tires. By the way, replacing these over time will be a lot cheaper than getting new 20-inchers, or larger.

That ride is worth the price of admission, but the steering is light too, as is the vehicle. It’s easy to park, and while steering feel is somewhat vague, Terrain is simple to keep in its lane. In tight turns there’s a little body roll, or lean, but hey, I’m not buying a Lamborghini for the family. I want them to be comfy.

Power is mild, but not horrible, because the 9-speed automatic works well with this small 1.5-liter turbo I4. Shifts are smooth and the 170 horsepower is used well, plus the torque at 203 pound-feet, helps Terrain pull away from stoplights reasonably well.

And … the AT4 comes with AWD, so in rain, snow or other slop you’ll have improved traction. Plus this trim offers three terrain settings with 2WD being the default that will save on fuel and is what you’ll need until that rain or snow hits. Then you press down and turn a knob on the console for AWD, and if you’ve ventured off road there’s a setting for that too. Simple and effective unless you plan to do serious rock crawling.

That front steel skid plate also will protect the undercarriage if there happen to be a few rocks and sticks on your path.

Outside, the body has been given more definition and its looks muscled up. The black trim helps set that off and the lights, front and rear, are sharply styled, reflecting a more upscale look.

Inside, Terrain is simple, yet attractive and roomy. Seats feature a perforated dark gray leather top with cloth sides. Contrasting stitching is a golden brown that also is featured on the dash and leather steering wheel.

There also are small bits of imitation carbon fiber for door trim and a teeny bit on the passenger’s side dash. The plastic console is a matte gray as is the steering wheel hub, both welcome because they do not reflect the sun, ever.

Seats though are the standout here, being well formed to give good hip and lower back support, yet just the right firmness so a long drive won’t burn up your bottom. Rear seats are roomy, as are the fronts, so four adults easily fit and five will too, if the person sandwiched in back isn’t an NFL tackle.

Rear seats split and fold flat and there’s some storage beneath the cargo floor for carrying stuff. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the hatch is powered.

Optional equipment here was mostly value priced and likely wanted and/or needed by most buyers.

For instance, the Pro Safety Plus package that is standard on Denali runs just $645 here and includes lane-change alert, side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control and a safety alert seat. That’s pretty nice as it slightly vibrates the driver’s tooshie if there’s something in your blind spot or in your path as you back up.

The dual-pane sunroof and power shade are a bit much at $1,495, but certainly brightens the interior.

A $1,180 infotainment package adds a premium Bose stereo with seven speakers, navigation system with voice recognition, an 8-inch color info screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay hookups.

A tech package also adds HD surround vision, front and rear park assist and a HUD for $850.

The test Terrain was to have heated front seats, but that chip is in short supply, so it wasn’t included, but could be added by a dealer once the chip is available. For now, GMC gives a $50 credit, but the buttons are built in to the console already.

Sharp-looking headlights here!

All told, with options, this Terrain hit $39,960, well below the average new vehicle price.

There are a few things I’d change inside though, starting with widening the inner portion of the console by about a half inch so a cell phone could lay flat, plus add wireless charging. A bit wider would be even better as folks with taller cell phones could then lay theirs flat too.

Then there’s the biggest faux pas, the automatic shift buttons on the lower center stack. They are odd and confusing as they are laid out horizontally, AND are a mix of push and pull toggles. Weirdest design I’ve seen, but you must push Park and Neutral, while you must pull a toggle to engage Reverse and Drive. Not cool!

Gas consumption was cool though, or at least darn good for an AWD compact SUV. I got 26.4 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the Terrain at 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway on regular fuel. The RWD model gets up to 30 mpg.

Terrain should be on any value-oriented family’s shopping list, especially if you need or want an SUV that’s roomy and delivers a superior ride.

Others to consider include Mazda’s CX-5 and new CX-50, along with the VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford’s Escape, and Subaru’s Outback, to name a few.

Even the taillights are handsomely styled on GMC’s entry-level SUV.

FAST STATS: 2022 GMC Terrain AT4 AWD

Hits: Muscular looks, great ride, decent acceleration, AWD, and three terrain settings. Dual-pane sunroof, power hatch, Bose stereo, comfy seats, roomy interior, skid plate, and good standard safety features.

Misses: No wireless charger or heated front seats, console cubie too narrow for Android phone to lay flat, confusing horizontal push/pull shift toggles.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 1.5-liter turbo I4, 170 hp/203 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 3,659 lbs.

Wheelbase: 107.3 in.

Length: 182.3 in.

Cargo: 63.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/28

MPG: 26.4 (tested)

Base Price: $35,145 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $33.631

Major Options:

Infotainment pkg. II (Bose premium audio w/7 speakers & amp, 8-inch HD color touchscreen w/Nav & voice recognition, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), $1,180

GMC Pro Safety Plus pkg. (lane change alert w/side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, safety alert seat, adaptive cruise control), $645

Skyscape sunroof w/power shade, $1,495

Tech pkg. (HD surround vision, front and rear park assist, HUD), $850

Cayenne Red paint, $645

Heated front seat credit, -$50

Test vehicle: $39, 960

Sources: GMC, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx edition

Biggest Subaru offers three rows, more comfort …

Subaru has this love-all thing going with the environment, and who can blame it. National Parks and dogs are universally loved and tying your sales to either seems a no-brainer. I mean baseball and apple pie had already been tried.

Subie’s latest love is the Ascent, its large SUV, although it’s only moderately large, keeping in mind that its customers likely won’t want to pull a Queen Mary-size trailer to the campgrounds. It’s unique too in that while being only modestly big it can seat up to eight people, the third row being best for short hauls and assuming a second-row bench seat. The tester had second-row captain’s chairs, so could carry seven.

To sexy up its models Subaru has added Onyx editions, which means trim is blacked out, such as the grille, roof rails, wheel well cladding, mirrors, a rear spoiler, and exterior badging. Even the Onyx’s special 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels are black. The effect is somewhat slimming and stealthy. Plus this one was Autumn Green Metallic, which means a somewhat gray green with some sparkle, but a shade that mostly serves as forest camouflage.

Ascent is easily the most comfortable Subaru. I own an Outback and the ride in the longer wheelbase Ascent is light years smoother, not that the Outback is harsh. Handling too is nimble considering this is a 196.8-inch long vehicle. Most large utes feel big and somewhat cumbersome, not the Ascent. A trip out Holy Hill way proved its grip and stability in sweeping turns littered with falling leaves, and its comfort on some questionable rural roads.

Power is another water bottle in Ascent’s backpack. Subie is known for its boxer engines, also known as horizontally-opposed as the pistons move back and forth nearly horizontally like a boxer’s arms. This is the newer 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that pounds out 260 horsepower, enough to gallop up to highway speeds with ease while dispensing only moderate engine drone, something my Outback has aplenty.

Power is linked to the AWD system via a Lineartronic CVT or continuously variable transmission. Subaru and Nissan seem to have figured these out best among the automakers, their purpose being smooth and efficient power that saves fuel. I’ll drone on about that in a bit.

But shifts seem properly stepped and smooth, which creates further comfort for the fam.

Watch Mark’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zV11YraQPI

Inside, the Onyx edition gets all jiggy with fake carbon fiber trim on the dash and doors and figuring you’ll likely be hiking and biking the seats are made of a soft StarTex water-repellant material. It looks a bit like leather but is actually more cushioned and feels softer to the touch, but remains easy to clean.

Seats here are gray with charcoal-colored trim and gray stitching. Dash and doors are black except for the fake carbon fiber trim while door releases are chrome and there’s satin chrome finish by the console shifter. Gloss black trims the center stack and 8-inch touchscreen. A smaller 6.5-inch screen comes in base models.

I like how the touchscreen works, and that there are knobs for volume and tuning. There’s also tri-zone climate controls standard, meaning separate front seat controls, plus a system for the second row occupants.

A $2,200 option package upgrades to that 8-inch screen, which I like better than the massive reflective screen now in Outbacks. Other goodies in the package include a cargo cover, which can be stored under the cargo floor, a voice-activated Tom-Tom navigation system, smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with a spectacular panoramic sunroof. I only wish wireless phone charging were part of this gig.

This is the right size of screen, not too big, or too small!

But standard here are heated seats and the heated steering wheel for the Onyx, plus there’s a power hatch and all the safety equipment that Subaru has to offer via its EyeSight system.

That encompasses a lot and it functions efficiently. There’s blind-spot warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and centering, emergency braking, automatic high beams, and steering responsive LED headlights.

I also like the X-mode button on the console that is meant for off-roading. It is basically a hill-descent system to keep the vehicle, which has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, from over accelerating down a steep incline or loose soft or rocky surface. That allows the driver to better maintain control when off road.

Second row seats fold and slide forward for third row access.

I’d be remiss to not mention the excellent head and legroom in front and row two. Row three is tighter on leg and knee room. Occupants will want to talk nice to row two folks so they will slide their seats forward a bit.

Also a plus for all Subarus is the A-pillar and mirror placement on the doors. There’s a sealed vent window between the two that give better side sightlines than in most SUVs and crossovers, notorious for their monster A-pillar/mirror combos that obstruct side views.

Note too that cargo space is modest behind that third row seat, but wonderful once it is down. So if you need a third row on occasions, but not always, Ascent is a healthy hauler of both people and gear. It also will pull 5,000 pounds, so campers and two-up trailers are no problem.

Two things that could be improved though are interior noise levels and gas mileage. I noticed more road and wind noise in Ascent than in some competing SUVs and crossovers. It wasn’t a racket, just more noticeable than in a few others.

MPG is my bigger concern. I love the outdoors and clean air and national parks and all that as much as the next person. But I managed just 21.7 mpg in a fairly even highway to city mix. EPA says 20 mpg city and 26 highway for Ascent. After driving the marginally smaller Kia Sorento hybrid a week earlier and netting 37.6 mpg I was shocked by the low average here. Subaru needs a hybrid system, and now, for its entire lineup. Hybrids are a stepping stone to cleaner air and better climate, so you’d think would be a major part of Subie’s technology platform. Other brands already are there.

Lecture complete!

Finally there’s price, and here the Ascent continues to impress, as did all its driving characteristics. The Onyx starts at $39,120, including delivery. With its option package it hit $41,320, just a smidge above the average new car price.

Lesser models are more affordable of course. The base, which seats eight, lists at $32,295 while the top-level Touring starts at $45,445.

Ascent is atop Subaru’s lineup in performance, comfort and family utility. Its MPG needs work.

FAST STATS: 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx

Hits: Roomy, high-value AWD SUV with good power, nimble handling, comfy ride. Big sunroof, heated seats and steering wheel, will seat up to eight. X-mode good for off-roading, soft easy-clean well-formed seats, power hatch, good sightlines and broad range of safety equipment.

Misses: No wireless charging, interior could be quieter. MPG not impressive, could use hybrid system.

Made in: Lafayette, Ind.

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo boxer 4, 260 hp /277 torque

Transmission: Lineartronic CVT automatic

Weight: 4,542 lbs.

Wheelbase: 113.8 in.

Fancy black wheels are part of the Onyx edition.

Length: 196.8 in.

Cargo: 17.6-86.0 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 20/26

MPG: 21.7 (tested)

Base Price: $39,120 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $36,648

Major Options:

Package (cargo cover, panoramic moonroof, STARLINK 8.0 nav, 8-in. high-res touchscreen, smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice-activated nav by TomTom), $2,200

Test vehicle: $41,320

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Ford Edge ST AWD

Edge ST’s twin-turbo adds a major power bump …

Since crossovers are king at the moment it’s understandable that Ford, or any vehicle maker, would want to grab every niche within that market, hence the Ford Edge ST.

While the ST would welcome family buyers, as do the other Edge models, this one takes aim at the performance-oriented buyer that’s not afraid to spend a little, or more, extra for said performance.

So, while an entry-level front-wheel-drive Edge buyer may be happy to be economical and spend just $32,195 (MSRP with delivery), an ST buyer may be willing to part with $44,510 (MSRP with delivery) to even upwards of $50 grand. Continue reading 2020 Ford Edge ST AWD

2019 Ford Edge Titanium AWD

Edge’s new turbo and tranny provide crossover zip …2019 Ford Edge Titanium AWD

Ford revamps and upgrades its popular Edge mid-size crossover for 2019, discarding its V6 for a twin-turbo I4 and a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

The result is a fairly peppy crossover that will easily haul five adults with oodles of rear seat legroom and equally expansive cargo area. Continue reading 2019 Ford Edge Titanium AWD

2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

New Rogue comfortable, roomy …2018 Nissan Rogue

Rogue is Nissan’s top-selling vehicle, has been around awhile and proved itself reliable, and if you’re a Star Wars geek, its name appeals like none other on the market.

Continue reading 2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

2017 MINI Cooper S Countryman All4

MINI’s Countryman is bigger, not necessarily better … 2017 MINI Cooper S Countryman

The new MINI Cooper Countryman goes too far, but maybe that’s what U.S. buyers want.

It’s the biggest MINI yet. I know that sounds contradictory for the small British-born make now made by BMW. But it’s true. This is MINI’s version of a crossover or small sport-ute with a longer and wider body, plus ALL4, its all-wheel-drive system is available.

It also appears to be less MINI in styling as it looks more bulky than cute. Think of that cute guy/girl in high school that packed on a few pounds by the 10-year reunion. In fact, the Countryman is just short of 500 lbs. heavier than the MINI Clubman that I enjoyed last year.

To put it nicely, the Countryman feels more substantial than earlier models and obviously is designed to accommodate larger U.S. passengers. The Countryman gains four inches of rear seat legroom compared to its predecessor and being a 4-door it’s easy to load five people aboard. I did it on a lunch run and one of the riders was a 6-footer.2017 MINI Cooper S Countryman

So while the MINI-ness of the Countryman seems a bit of a stretch (pun intended), the usefulness of it should make it more attractive to folks who intend to actually haul a family in it on a trip. Another family plus? The rear seats fold down flat in a 40/20/40 split to expand the generous 17.6 cubic feet of cargo space, but allow rear seat riders. Likewise the seats will recline slightly and the entire rear seat will slide forward a couple inches if you’re simply carrying cargo, not rear seat passengers. Continue reading 2017 MINI Cooper S Countryman All4

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SE

New VW Golf Alltrack brings fun to wagons …2017 VW Alltrack

Volkswagen brings a little fun to the small wagon market, which is a niche of a niche these days, but certainly compares well with small crossovers.

But instead of a tall boxy AWD vehicle, the Golf Alltrack is a decidedly leaner machine that looks downright sporty compared to a crossover. In fact, the Golf Alltrack is an offshoot of the Golf SportWagon, same basic vehicle, but raised a seemingly minor 0.6 inches for a 6.9-inch ground clearance and uses VW’s fine 4Motion system for grip.

The silver test wagon, which VW aims to compete with Subaru’s Outback and Crosstrek, was the mid-level SE model. The S with manual transmission starts at $26,670, while the test unit listed at $30,530 with no options and an $895 delivery charge.2017 VW Alltrack

What you get is a dandy handling, light and quick wagon that will haul quite a lot. Like most crossovers and such, it could go on minor-league muddy, rutty, non-paved surfaces, but really is aimed at on-road use. That’s thanks to the 4Motion system that runs the car at 90% front-wheel drive and 10% of the power in back most of the time. Once slippage is sensed, it splits the power 50/50. Continue reading 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SE

2015 ZOOMIE Car of the Year Awards

Zoomies: The Everyman’s Car of the Year, where style and value still matter

Zoomie got kicked to the curb this year, after 25 years of top car selections for the Milwaukee newspaper.

mark savage, savageonwheels.com, honest car reviews, zoomie award
Art: Stuart Carlson

Hey, stuff happens!

So while you didn’t get to see my top car, hybrid, crossover, etc. selections in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after 25 consecutive years, you can see them here. I hope you also hear, or heard, me chat them up on WUWM’s (89.7 FM) Lake Effect show on March 9.

Zoomie backstory

My Zoomie Car of the Year was launched in 1990 as a response to what I thought a travesty. Noted car mag Motor Trend had just dubbed the bulbous whale-like Chevrolet Caprice, that of big city taxi fame, as its Car of the Year.

OMG!

This was the year that Mazda had launched its soon to be iconic Miata roadster, the first, the best and the most affordable sports car ever. I had to right a wrong!

Thus, my first Zoomie (named after my brother Steve’s iguana) went to the Miata, instantly setting the automotive world right – even if said world was fully unaware.

NOW … 26 years later I’ve driven roughly 1,300 cars and trucks and use that as my basis for selections. Yet I only compare the vehicles I’ve driven in the past year, since the last Zoomie Awards, for Car of the Year, and other categories as befit the past year’s fleet.

My intent, as always, is to select a car for the masses, but one with styling flair, something that’s fun, yet also delivers value.

So you won’t see a Ferrari, Bugatti or Lamborghini here (uh, they’ve never even invited me to drive one), but the award also won’t go to a big ol’ truck either, as they simply aren’t fun or sporty, ever.

Now the envelopes please: Continue reading 2015 ZOOMIE Car of the Year Awards