Rogue grows to happy medium in SUV/crossover market
Nissan restyled its entry-level crossover, the Rogue, last year to give it a less trucky appearance and smooth its ride along with its appearance.
It works and offers a little more interior room and overall length than most small SUVs, like Toyota’s RAV4 and Ford’s Escape. Rogue feels a little bigger, hitting a happy medium between small and compact crossovers.
The test unit was a metallic red SV, the mid-level Rogue, with AWD. Base price is a reasonable $25,840, so with an $860 delivery fee comes in at $26,700, well below the median price of a new vehicle, now $31 grand plus. The tester added a premium package for $1,590 and a few smaller options to set the bar at $28,660, a high value crossover to be sure.
Handling was good with a fairly substantial feel to the wheel, but quick steering for a crossover. And the Rogue stays well planted even in tight turns and on damp pavement thanks to its AWD system.
The Nissan’s ride is compliant too, not as truck-like or sharp on bumps as some smaller utes and crossovers. Potholes and railroad tracks are minor annoyances, not major events. Continue reading 2015 Nissan Rogue SV AWD→
Dodge generally doesn’t try to blend in as a brand, favoring bolder styling than most competitors. That’s what some of us like about Dodge.
Dodge’s Durango though is a bit different in that it stands out from other large SUVs, especially with its wide full-body width taillights. Yet, in its own way, Durango blends in with Dodge’s own minivan styling. Several people asked me if this was a new Dodge minivan, when, to me at least, it seemed obvious the Durango is an SUV.
First, it looks bigger than a minivan, and to be honest, Dodge did its best to distinguish the bright red (Redline Pearl) SUV from anything on the road. The test ute was the R/T version, which means there’s a HEMI under the hood, and this also was the Blacktop edition. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Blacktop means the red ute has gloss black aluminum wheels, gloss black Durango badges and an equally gloss black grille and outside mirrors. All that glossy black costs just $295 extra and actually makes this big ol’ SUV look pretty darned sporty, like a ute with attitude!
Naturally putting Chrysler’s muscle-bound HEMI V8, all 5.7 liters worth, under the hood gives it some rumble power. The V8 cranks 360 horsepower and a monster 390 ft.-lbs. of torque. Tromp the gas pedal and Durango R/T gallops to life. That’s no small deal for a 5,531-lb. SUV with all-wheel-drive. But this one feels energetic right from the get-go. Continue reading 2015 Dodge Durango R/T Blacktop AWD→
Lincoln Navigator a restyled Expedition for a lot more
Back-to-back test drives of Ford’s Expedition and Lincoln’s Navigator proved both are extremely comfortable, luxurious large sport-utility trucks, but also highlighted the folly of marketing.
These were close to identical trucks, both loaded with technology and luxury touches, the Ford being the near top-end King Ranch edition. Only an Expedition Platinum exceeds it in price and goodies.
The Lincoln comes in but one trim, but starts about where the King Ranch edition stops for price. The prior week’s Expedition was $64 grand, and the Lincoln started at $65,055 with a $995 delivery fee, about $200 more than the Ford’s delivery fee. Both are made in the same Louisville, Ky., factory.
Here’s the folly, to me, of two brands offering the same vehicle under different name plates. Since the King Ranch and Platinum models cost as much as the entry-priced Lincoln there’s too much overlap, not enough differentiation. Once the Lincoln added a few options, such as a $995 sunroof, and $6,550 package that included larger tires and wheels (which the King Ranch had) and the fancy Lincoln Drive Control, it hit $73,895.
To me that’s almost $10 grand more, for the same truck, except the sunroof and Lincoln Drive Control. That feature uses sensors to allow the suspension, electric power steering and other vehicle dynamics to interact and create a comfortable ride. It also includes noise dampening, which helped keep the cabin quiet. But then the Expedition was no slouch in those areas either. Continue reading 2015 Lincoln Navigator 4×4→
Lexus NX 300h (hybrid) long on edgy styling, short on power
Credit Lexus with designing a sporty, exciting looking hybrid SUV/crossover.
With swept-back styling the NX looks fast and agile from its sporty LED headlights to its sculpted angular sides. It stands out from most of the luxury SUV crowd, and its hybrid-ness, only adds to the appeal, if you’re looking for high-tech efficiency to match the looks.
The tested pre-production “silver lining metallic” model was the top-end NX 300h, the h signifying it’s a hybrid. Sadly, it was only the front-drive model, not all-wheel-drive, which would have helped give it grip on a couple slippery, snowy mornings.
I love the angular looks, but I couldn’t warm to the overall hybrid experience.
Oh, it’s easy to love the economy. I put on 255 miles and just used 8.5 gallons to average 29.9 mpg in a week that was heavier on highway miles than usual, about 70%. Hybrids perform most impressively in city driving, the NX being rated at 35 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway by the EPA.
But here’s the deal. I get tired of hearing the high-pitched whine of the hybrid recharging its batteries every time I let off the gas pedal or got on the regenerative brakes. Partially you notice that whine much more here because the NX is a luxury ute with good sound deadening for road noise, but that clears the way to hear the whirr of the electric motor and braking. Continue reading 2015 Lexus NX 300h FWD→
There, now I feel better, it’s out there. I’ve gone road hunting in CJ’s that still hurt my back, but it was still fun! I have owned a 1986 four-door Wagoneer (XJ), then a 1996 Grand Cherokee (ZJ), a Liberty (KJ). Designed by Diamler at the time and not my favorite because it was way to top-heavy as you can see here after an Illinois driver on his cell phone clipped me. I walked away.
It’s the only vehicle I have exited through the sun roof. We currently area about to purchase our 2011 Wrangler Unlimited (JK) off our lease and I can’t wait to start making it more our Jeep. First thing I’m going to do is put a cold air intake to give it some zip. I have been to Camp Jeeps at both the Chicago and Milwaukee auto shows. Milwaukee was the better ride. Check out the videos from my rides. Yup, all in.
It was when American Motors, where my dad worked, bought Kaiser’s money-losing Jeep operations in 1970 that I started to dig into the history of the Jeep brand. AMC was hurting at the time and this was a big gamble for them but the Jeep utility vehicles complemented AMC’s passenger car business. Actually it saved the company. AMC was able to share components, achieving volume efficiencies, as well as capitalizing on Jeep’s international and government markets.
It created the Sport Utility market
The four-door Jeep Wagoneer (SJ) set the pace as it was the first luxury 4×4 sold and produced from 1963 to 1991, nearly 30 years before the term SUV was in vogue. Compared to what GM, International Harvester, and Land Rover were offering at the time, it was the Wagoneer’s luxury that set the bar. Adding to success of the Wagoneer, and it’s two-door version Cherokee AMC introduced in 1973 was the Quadra-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive system which attracted even more people to Jeep products who wanted four-wheel-drive traction without the inconvenience of a manual-shift transfer case and manual locking hubs.
The Wagoneer Limited you see in these images which later morphed into the Grand Wagoneer, had the whole deal, deep pile carpeting, advanced overhead cam inline six and then later a monster AMC 401 V8 engine, auto transmission, power windows, a/c, power steering, power brakes, an independent front suspension and yes, real wood outlining the fake vinyl wood as you can see in this example which I think is a 1981. It’s a little on the rough side but there are lots of places that specialize in full restorations like GrandWagoneer.com. The vehicle still has a following even though the last Grand Wagoneer rolled off Chrysler’s Toledo assembly plant on June 21, 1991. Now that Fiat owns Jeep there were images floating around showing a modern version of the Grand Wagoneer which I have heard won’t come on the market for another couple of years.
I would love to have a Grand Wagoneer to show off to the people I know who drive Cadillac Escalades or Range Rovers. Sure buddy, one on one! I made a trip to one of my favorite sites, Hemmings, and found Grand Wagoneers from the mid-20’s to all the way up to 50 grand like this one. Have you looked at the current prices of the Caddy or Rover?
So what if you don’t have the cash?
Surprisingly with such a long run, you’d thing there would have been a promo model made but it never happened, however this Grand Wagoneer produced by AutoArt is a great alternative. I picked up this 1/18th scale diecast about five years ago for around $100. Even though AutoArt has stopped producing them, they pop up on eBay except for the white one which is nearly impossible to find. Check out the details on this. All the doors open, along with the hood and rear lift gate. The interior has real carpeting and upholstery. Check out the engine bay. I love looking at this. I keep hoping that someday there will be a way to take it and scale it up into the real deal.
SUVs have become as commonplace as spring potholes, and large luxury SUVs, at least by appearance, fill a sizeable spot in this pricey segment.
This week’s Lexus “tungsten pearl,” silver, GX460 Luxury, certainly fits the bill. This is the top-level luxury version of Toyota’s 4Runner, not the biggest, baddest big-boy ute, but robust to say the least.
Start with the mechanical muscle under its hood, a 4.6-liter V8 with variable valve timing and 301 horsepower. That’s plenty of grunt to push the full-time 4-wheel-drive ute’s 5,179 lbs. up to highway speeds. Naturally linked with a 6-speed automatic tranny the power is delivered smoothly and effectively so getting up to full gallop is easy. All three GX460 models come with the same powertrain.
Steering effort is moderate, so not as heavy as one might predict when you see its girth and know its heft. Actually the GX460 handles well, with little lean in high-speed turns and it’s easy to fit into a grocery parking lot space. In fact, its turning radius is a moderate 38.1 feet, about the same as some compact utes.
While this is a body on frame truck, which sometimes means a bouncier truck ride, Lexus tames even our current asphalt moonscape with the GX460. Coil springs and gas shocks up front and rear air springs and gas shocks absorb anything that comes their way. The ride is well controlled and luxurious and sound deadening material keeps the interior extremely quiet.
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.
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→