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2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic Sedan

Restyled and sporty C class may again spur sedan sales …

The compact C Class sedan has been a hot seller for Mercedes-Benz for years, but its popularity has waned like yesterday’s boy band the last couple years and one has to wonder how much of that is because it hadn’t been redesigned in seven years.

That and the fact crossovers and SUVs are eating all sedans lunch these days in the U.S. market where bigger is always better.

Well, Mercedes will get its answer soon enough as it launched a restyled C Class for 2022. It’s sporty and touts an interior that you’ll either love, or strongly dislike. Hate is such a loaded word.

My tester was a black C 300 4Matic sedan, but be aware a coupe and convertible also are available, yet look more like the previous generation C Class as they have yet to be restyled.

Mercedes stretched the car two inches and lengthened its wheelbase an inch while widening it just a bit. The philosophy is old-school, longer, wider, lower. That formula has worked for various brands through the years.

I enjoyed how the C 300 drives. Its 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged I4 is perky with just slight turbo lag, even in Sport and Sport+ drive modes. This is no dragster, but there’s some kick and the engine sounds throaty and fun at high revs, albeit a bit tinny at idle.

Pressing the 255-horse turbo and Mercedes’ 9-speed automatic into service on the freeway was both smooth and speedy. The German automaker claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds and the C quickly galloped to 90 mph on a highway entry ramp, with more power still available. The C 300 can be pushed a bit and easily slips in and out of freeway traffic.

Plus the four-link front suspension and multi-link rear are finely tuned for crumbling Midwest roads so that even on the crumbliest of streets the ride was pleasant and well controlled. If only more crossovers and SUVs were this competent.

View Mark’s video: 2022 Mercedes Benz C 300 4Matic Sedan review by Mark Savage and Paul Daniel – YouTube

Handling is lightly weighted and nicely sharp if not sports sedan precise. This doesn’t feel like a BMW because it’s a Mercedes, so leans more toward luxury. Press the Dynamic button on the center stack’s base and either Sport or Sport+ mode will significantly firm steering effort, but never to a tiresome level. To me, Sport seems the best mode as it quickens acceleration, while firming the steering enough to feel more, well, sporty.

Add in the 4Matic AWD system and the 19-inch tires for excellent grip. We had some snow and sleet to contend with during my test. The car handles tight twisties well even with slop under its treads.

Note that the test car added the 19-inch tires and fancy blacked out spoked AMG style wheels. Those wheels add just $600 to the bottom line, quite reasonable for a spiffed look. But beware, there are viele extras here that push the C 300 to near upper-level luxury pricing.

Speaking of which, before we get to the spiffy interior, Mercedes has priced the C 300 at $46,600 for the 4Matic model, while a rear-driver starts at $44,600, so a $2 grand premium for AWD. At that price the car is at the upper edge of low-end luxury models. For instance, a Genesis G70, a lovely car, starts at about $39,000.

But Mercedes likes to sell its vehicles with ala carte options and the test car’s 16 add-ons could make one woozy. They propelled this one to $60,870. Ach du lieber! Choices are plentiful between the base and $60+ grand, including Volvo’s S60, BMW’s 3 Series, the Audi A4, Cadillac CT5 and Lexus IS.

Pricing be damned though if you love this interior.

The layout is bold and brassy and ladles on the digital finery with the best of them. But the impressive (or some say no) look starts with a $1,620 black and red leather package. Seats and doors reflect both colors and then there’s the glammy spray of metal-weave trim across the dash’s face and on the expansive center console. Other trim, such as door armrests and five oval-shaped air ducts is a satin chrome. Add in stylish aluminum speaker covers in the doors and the interior sparkles like a jeweled timepiece.

I like the two-tone look, although some may think it comes on too strong like a guy wearing an overabundance of Versace cologne. But compared with Mercedes’ all-black interiors of the past this is a breath of fresh air. Tan and cream would look smart too, but be less dramatic.

Beyond looks Mercedes updates the digital screens, a 12+ inch display for the driver’s instruments and separate nearly 12-inch info touchscreen angled toward the driver at mid center stack. They are high-def and the driver’s can be adjusted to reflect the dial structure and colors a person desires, including one allowing the nav map to appear mid-gauges. I like digitals, but sometimes there are too many choices and many look pretty flat.

The touchscreen was easy enough to use, but there are haptic touchable controls, so you swipe a button on the steering wheel to boost radio sound, or lower it. Also one can swipe a finger along the trough in the roof control panel to open or shut the dual panoramic sun roofs ($1,000 extra). That one was OK, but adjusting the radio sound took a lot of tiny swipes to reach a proper sound level. Dials my friends, dials work.

Rear seat passengers also were concerned that their sunroof shade closed in synch with the front roof’s. They wanted a separate control so they could leave theirs open when the driver had closed the main roof’s shade.

I can’t say enough good things about the power heated seats and their supportive side and back bolsters. Wow, these were terrific, just a scrunch less snug than Aunt Hilda’s hug at the holidays.

There are three memory settings along with power seat controls on the door panels, but I found them a bit clunky to operate, sometimes not responding with the angle I was hoping to adjust. Again, simplicity may be a better solution. Good news though, the heated seat button is on the door and is simple to push. It also turns on the heated steering wheel ($250 extra), a must in our climate. Oddly no cooled seats in this luxury sedan.

Rear seats are comfy enough, but headroom is a bit tight for taller riders. Still, we got three adults in the back seat and only the middle rider complained of the big transmission hump at the floor’s center.

No one complained about noise inside the Benz, thanks to acoustic glass, a $150 option. This interior is quiet enough for easy conversation, even at highway speeds.

Cargo room is good too as the Benz has a deep trunk (with a power lid). I think it’ll hold more than the 12.6 cubic foot rating Mercedes places on it. Below the floor is a lot of hidden cargo space too, something you won’t find in any hybrid or electric sedans. Speaking of which, neither is available in the C Series yet, although there’s a mild hybrid system here like some other akes are using.

The hybrid battery smooths the Stop/Start function, plus the electric motor between the engine and transmission (Integral Starter Generator in Mercedes terms), allows the sedan to cruise without using gas at highway speeds. That extends gas mileage. The EPA rates this at 33 mpg highway and 23 city. I managed 26.0 in a fairly even mix and the C 300 prefers premium petrol.

A few other points to ponder, Mercedes adds a wireless charger, but it costs $200 extra and it’s tucked deep inside the center console, so not easy to see or simply use. Good news though, the car warns you if you’ve left your phone once the ignition is turned off.

I also confused the gear shift stalk on the steering column’s right (very old school) with a wiper stalk. That’s on the left combined with the light function. Took a few days to remember not to tap the gear shift when I wanted to clear the windshield though.

Maybe I should have first used the Ask Mercedes (like Siri) function. It talks to you whenever you want. Just ask it questions although it often says it can’t help. You can, however, tell it to do things like adjust the heat, radio, and maybe I could have sought wiper assistance.

Standard safety equipment here is a bit slim too, including blind-spot assist, attention assist (kept saying the camera wasn’t working), and a rearview camera (standard on all vehicles now). But much of the rest is included in two pricey packages. The driver assistance option costing $1,950 includes active assists for distance, steering, lane change, lane keeping, evasive steering, emergency stop, speed limit and cross-traffic, along with route-based speed adaptation. Similar items are often standard on even lower cost vehicles. I’m thinking Toyota, Honda and Hyundai/Kia.

Another $950 package adds parking pilot with a cool surround view camera and the Parktronic parking sensor system.

A Burmester surround sound system adds $650, which as these things go isn’t a bad price. Cost for premium sound in other makes can run up to $3,500 extra.

Finally a $3,050 AMG Line with Night package adds blacked out body trim, sport pedals, fake leather dash, but also tunes the suspension and steering to contribute to this model’s sporty feel. The package also drills holes in the disc brakes for faster cooling in case you’ll be racing on weekends. Likewise it also adds a lower nose splitter and rear diffuser.

All those add-ons are nice, but sadly they pushed the C 300 to beyond $60 grand. If you can keep this shy of $50,000 it’s in the correct pricing segment for entry-level luxury.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mercedes Benz C 300 4Matic Sedan

Hits: Sporty feel, quiet and gorgeous interior, composed ride and AWD grip. Panoramic sunroofs, heated seats and wheel, cool dash with large info screen, wireless charger, super comfy supportive seats, power trunk lid and multiple drive modes.

Misses: Cost, haptic touch controls and touchscreen do not respond to a gloved hand, wireless charger awkward to access, no cooled seats, seat controls a bit funky to adjust, no separate control for rear sunroof, shifter stalk can be confused for a wiper adjustment initially.

Made in: Bremen, Germany, & South Africa

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 255 hp/295 torque

Transmission: 9speed automatic

Weight: 4,044 lbs.*

Wheelbase: 112.8 in.

Length: 187 in.

Cargo: 12.6 cu.ft.

MPG: 23/33

MPG (tested): 26.0

Base Price: $46,600 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

AMG Power Red/Black leather interior, $1,620

19-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels w/black accents, $600

Illuminated door sills, $150

Panoramic roof, $1000

Heated steering wheel, $250

Satellite radio w/free trial, $350

Advanced USB package, $300

Acoustic glass, $150

Enhanced ambient lighting, $250

Inductive wireless charging, $200

Digital lighting pkg. (projection headlights), $1,100

Multimedia pkg. (nav., augmented video for nav., head-up display), $1,700

Sound pkg. (Burmester 3D surround sound, online music streaming, Sounds personalization), $650

AMG Line w/Night pkg. (AMG body styling, brushed alum. sport pedals, MB-Tex dash, AMG floormats, sport suspension, sport steering, perforated front disc brakes w/MB calipers, high-gloss black elements including front splitter, grille trim, rear diffuser, side mirrors & window trim), $3,050

Driver assistance pkg. (active assists of distance, steering, lane change, lane keeping, evasive steering, emergency stop, speed limit and cross-traffic + route-based speed adaptation), $1,950

DA3 pkg. (parking pilot w/surround view, Parktronic w/active park assist surround view system), $950

Test vehicle: $60,870

Sources: Mercedes-Benz, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

*Car and Driver

#Mercedes-Benz

2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe

Plug-in hybrid smooths Wrangler power, boosts mpg …

Jeeps come in all sizes these days and with multiple powerplant choices, the latest of which provided the grunt for the tested 4-door Wrangler Rubicon.

Here the power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with plug-in hybrid system using a couple electric motors to help boost gas mileage and smooth out acceleration. Jeep calls the hybrid a 4-by-E, emphasizing its legendary 4-wheeling system. I’ve tested 4xe (Jeep’s alphanumeric abbreviation) previously and found it quite effective and efficient.

It extends gas mileage and it’s easy to plug in, even to an old-school 110/120 garage outlet. A charge overnight nets 20 to 25 miles of electric range. If you have a 240-outlet it takes less than 3 hours for a full charge.

The white (only color that doesn’t cost $495 extra) Rubicon arrived just prior to our Christmas meat locker chill down and a full charge was closer to 20 miles, but still, that helps make around-town driving more efficient. Sadly I was limited by the cold on how much charging I could do with another car in the garage. So I mostly ran on gas, leaving me with disappointing mpg, but then again it was below zero for several days, always a hamper on mpg.

What I like about the 4xe is that it runs on hybrid power, a blend of gas and electric, by default. Or press a button on the left dash for all electric, or to Save Electric. One imagines that when playing off-road one might use electric power to smooth acceleration AND avoid emissions in the wilderness, keeping it cleaner for other outdoors lovers.

In addition, running on Save-E allows the engine and brakes to help regenerate some electric power to the batteries. So, for instance, driving around town I went from 10% power to 25%, giving me a couple more miles of electric range that I could kick in when wanted.

Aside from the 4xe system this Wrangler is all Jeep, meaning it’s mostly utilitarian inside, yet not Spartan. There’s a 4WD shift lever to engage for better traction in snow, which was needed and proved helpful, or into low-range settings for mudding and splashing about. One can argue how many folks sinking nearly $70 grand into a Jeep will do that, but by golly one certainly can. In fact, it’ll ford 30 inches of water, if asked.

The little turbo I4 here sounds like it’s working pretty hard and can get rather groany, but power seems fine and definitely smoother when the battery power is helping give it an electric assist from a stop. There’s a lot of road noise too thank to its big off-road tires and the canvass roof overhead.

Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe review by Mark Savage and Paul Daniel – YouTube

I’d certainly prefer a solid top in winter, but this tester featured Jeep’s amazing Sky One-Touch power top that folds the canvas middle section of the roof back to let in the great outdoors when temps and monsoons allow. This unique feature doesn’t come cheap, a $4,145 option, but includes a rear window defroster and wiper, plus removable rear quarter windows.

Note that the doors are still removable on the Wrangler, but with this special roof the windshield will no longer fold down, a minor point to most of us.

Cool too that Jeep adds four auxiliary buttons below its center stack-mounted info screen and power window controls. That way one can add light bars and other accessories that can easily be programmed to work with a switch.

When off-roading one also can increase suspension travel by disconnecting the sway bar with a button on the stack.

For those of us keeping our SUVs between the highway’s white lines, the Rubicon 4xe is simple to control. The steering is extremely light (good for off-roading), but sufficiently vague to require some extra care when navigating quick turns and corners. The first inch of steering wheel input doesn’t really affect steering direction much.

Ride is generally pretty good, better and quieter than the Bronco I tested last year. But it’s Jeepy due to its two solid axles, so there is some bounce. Yet that is what many of its buyers claim to want as it provides a more exhilarating daily driving experience. Older drivers may prefer to add a cushion to the seats.

Yes, the seats and steering wheel are heated!

Speaking of which, the provided seats are plenty comfy and supportive, at least in front, for daily driving. There’s room for three adults in the rear seat too, although it helps if they are all on speaking terms. Headroom is generous, and limitless if the roof is retracted. Also, cargo room behind the second row seat is ample and the tested Jeep included all-weather floor and cargo mats for $170.

The Rubicon was not without its comfort perks either as heated front seats and a heated steering wheel were part of a $1,195 winter package that also added remote start, a Wisconsin and northern tier favorite. Seats were leather too and the dash was trimmed in a soft material, all black but trimmed in bright blue, the color most car makers use to signify electric battery-aided models. The leather adds $1,995 to the price tag.

That center stack may look intimidating, but it’s pretty simple to use.

While the info screen is modest at 8.4 inches it’s easy to read and use thanks to the UConnect system and large volume and tuning knobs. I had no problem adjusting the screen and its functions, plus it’s not overwhelming like the mega-screens in some SUVs.

Happy news too for off-roaders, there are grab handles all over the place, on A-pillars, dash, etc. Of course for us vertically challenged folks you’ll need one or more of those to enter the high-riding Wrangler as it has no running boards. Yet regular Jeep entry will help build upper body strength.

There are speakers in the solid bar overhead.

I couldn’t find a wireless charger here, but there are plenty of power plugs available. Note too that sun visors are a cheap hard plastic.

Pricing seems to put this in the luxury category when I always envision Wranglers, whether two- or four-door, primarily for serious off-roaders who will cake their wheels in mud.

A base Willys 4xe Sahara model starts at $57,500 including delivery and the upscale High Altitude lists at $63,235. Naturally off-roading is possible with any Wrangler, but the base for the Rubicon 4xe is $60,190 with delivery. The many options on the test SUV pushed this to $69,385, which might stir inhibitions about bouncing it off trees, bushes and rocks.

If not, well, more power to ya! But remember to plug-in every chance you get.

FAST STATS: 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe

Hits: Off-road capability, plug-in hybrid, Jeepy looks. Room for five, good storage, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, sway bar disconnect for off-roading and good ground clearance. Light handling, plentiful grab handles, 4 auxiliary buttons, power folding top.

Misses: Pricey, vague steering, bumpy ride, tire noise, noisy engine, no running boards, no wireless charger, low mpg when only using gas.

Nothing says Jeep like the seven-bar grille!

Made in: Toledo, Ohio

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, plug-in hybrid, 375 hp/470 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,318 lbs.*

Wheelbase: 118.4 in.

Length: 188.4 in.

Cargo: 27.7-67.4 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 49 electric-gas/20 gas only

Electric range: 25 miles

MPG: 16.7 (tested, prefers premium)

Base Price: $60,190 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $59,752

Major Options:

Leather seats, wrapped panel bezels, $1,995

Preferred pkg. 29V (Cold weather group, heated front seats, remote-start, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel), $1,195

Trailer tow/heavy-duty electrical group, $995

All-weather mats, $170

Sky One-Touch power top (removable rear quarter windows, rear window defroster, rear wiper/washer, storage bag), $4,145

Integrated off-road camera, $695

Test vehicle: $69,385

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

*=Car and Driver stats

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD

New hybrid is larger, more efficient, family-priced SUV …

Kia’s Sportage just keeps getting bigger and better, and now with a hybrid power system it’s more efficient and still can boast of family-friendly pricing.

That’s a lot!

But Kia and its twin cousin Hyundai have always been about value, generous feature content, top-notch warranties, and more recently about styling. The tested Sportage Hybrid EX AWD checks all of those boxes.

First, it was lengthened by 7.1 inches and its wheelbase stretched by 3.4 inches for this 2023 model. That translates into a better ride and oodles more passenger room in the rear seat and bonkers crazy large cargo space under the power hatch.

EX is the mid-level trim and probably the best deal for pricing and features. It’s loaded, including such goodies as heated outside mirrors, heated front seats and steering wheel, roof rails, a wireless charger and rear USB ports, a navigation system and twin 12.3-inch screen, plus all the safety equipment one now takes for granted, and a touch more.

Outside its profile is ubiquitous SUV, but its nose sets it apart with radical, yet stylish, arrow-shaped wild child headlight surrounds and a bold nose that some may consider a bit much, but when you see all the luxury makes packing garish monster grilles and logos the Kia seems to be whistling the same tune.

Yet it’s the solid performance and excellent fuel economy netted by the hybrid system that make Sportage a must-compare small to mid-size SUV. Worthy competitors are Hyundai’s Tucson, Honda’s CR-V, Mazda’s CX-5, Ford’s Escape, and Toyota’s RAV4.

Kia goes with a tiny 1.6-liter turbo I4 coupled with a hybrid system for power. That nets 227 horsepower that’s smoothly delivered via a 6-speed automatic transmission. No CVT here to slow up acceleration, instead the 6-speed gets right to it and gives the Sportage good low-end power for quick getaways.

Naturally there are several drive modes, including Snow, which locks the center differential and could come in handy in Wisconsin. Of course AWD is standard on this and the SX-Prestige trims of Sportage while the entry-level LX is front-drive, but offers AWD for about $1,800 more.

The hybrid system uses regenerative braking and coasting to repower the batteries to help give the car more oomph from a start and boost gas mileage. The AWD Sportage is rated 38 mpg city and highway because of that system and I got 32.2 mpg in about 60% highway and 40% city driving. Weather was cold and sloppy wet snow for a couple days.

Note a plug-in hybrid model also is available and delivers 34 miles of electric range on a charge. Power is also greater with 261 horsepower on tap.

Ride in this standard hybrid is pleasantly controlled and the lengthened wheelbase certainly plays a roll. Handling is easy too with moderate feedback from the steering, yet the Sportage is easy to control on the highway and I plowed through some blizzard conditions with this one and it never got squirrelly in the fresh snow. There’s slight body lean in tight turns at speed, like most utes.

My only concern kicked in between 45 and about 50 mph when there was a buzz or high-pitched hum that stirred in the cabin. Not sure of its origin, but did not seem to be road noise or wind-related.

Inside, the handsome dark metallic Vesta Blue Sportage looked more upscale than its price tag would insinuate. The dash and door panel tops were soft dark blue material with a cream colored lower section and the synthetic leather seats were also cream. Door armrests and the center armrest/storage box were that Navy blue to give this a sporty two-tone look.

A gray trim spread across the dash and doors too and Sportage’s center console was gloss black and included a wireless charger at its front. Satin chrome door releases and air vents  perked up the interior, giving it a bit of a jeweled look.

The driver’s instrument panel is a 12.3-inch digital number that blends into the 12.3-inch touchscreen that includes navigation and most of the other info screens and radio. It’s all easy to use, but the climate and radio buttons that basically toggle back and forth below the screen are touch-sensitive and mostly wouldn’t engage when I was wearing gloves. Not sure if all carmakers now design their interiors in SoCal, but here in the upper Midwest we wear gloves for 3-4 months every winter. It would be nice to not to have to remove them to adjust the heat and radio.

This is surprising too because Kia and Hyundai usually are better at interior controls than this.

Note too that when the Sportage starts it does not default the info screen to a home page so you can select from the 10 or so screen choices. It goes to one saying which driver (1 or 2) is driving so you know whose settings are installed. Odd!

One more thing. On a snowy day with the wipers and defrosters needing to do their thing the windows kept fogging with the climate controls on automatic. We had three people aboard and I kept switching back to the A/C mode to take the moisture from the air. Odd that the automatic climate didn’t do that for me. First world problem, but still!

Happily the interior is comfy with powered seats up front along with heated seats and a heated steering wheel too. While some Kia seats have been harder than I like these were fine and well-shaped. One minor complaint, while the heated seats and wheel buttons wisely were located on the console, they default to off, so each time you start the car you must remember to re-engage them. Many vehicles now remember such settings and pick up where they left off once the car is restarted.

Certainly the lengthened Sportage is extremely roomy inside, so it’s comfy for four adults and a fifth could fit in back, especially if none are too wide, or are young kids. And cargo room is phenomenal for this size SUV at nearly 40 cubic feet behind the second row. Fold those split seats down and it grows to nearly 74 cu.ft. Wow!

Overhead is a panoramic sunroof, but that’s part of the $1,500 EX Premium package that also includes LED lights inside, the power hatch and twin illuminated vanity mirrors. That later item is mostly standard now throughout the car world.

Add in the $155 floor mats and this EX that started at $32,285 with delivery grew to just $33,860. That’s a bargain for family transport this comfy and efficient. A base front-drive LX starts at $28,505, but the $30,385 AWD model will likely be a better choice in Wisconsin.

Move to the SX-Prestige and you’re looking at $37,485 for a loaded model. Then there’s that 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and the same for its batteries. Remember too that the average new car price is now $45 grand, so these are value-oriented models to be sure.

Consider too that the Sportage EX comes with forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian recognition, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, a driver attention warning, auto high beams, lead vehicle in motion alert, and reverse parking sensors along with cross-traffic alert, blind-spot assist and safe exit warning.

One bell and whistle it could do without is the annoying “Check Rear Seat” chime that sounds to warn you may be leaving a child in the rear seat. Really!

I suppose we’ll have to live with the bells and chimes until the cars all drive themselves completely. Then there may be an alarm to warn us when it’s time to exit the vehicle and if it’s safe to do so. Futurama is here!

FAST STATS: 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD

Hits: Interesting looks, good acceleration that seems less like a hybrid, good ride and handling plus AWD standard. Lengthened model offers good passenger and cargo room, includes heated front seats and steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, big info screen, four drive modes, wireless charger, power hatch, and solid safety equipment.

Misses: Climate/radio touch buttons below screen don’t work when wearing gloves, auto climate didn’t do well defrosting windows with three people in car, “Check Rear Seat” chime annoying, info screen doesn’t default to Home and heated seats and wheel default to off. Annoying buzz between 45-50 mph.

Made in: Gwangju, So. Korea

Cool light styling and nose trim too!

Engine: 1.6-liter turbo I4 hybrid, 227 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,896 lbs.

Wheelbase: 108.5 in.

Length: 183.5in.

Cargo: 39.5-73.7 cu.ft.

Tow: 2,000 lbs.

MPG: 38/38

MPG (tested): 32.2

Base Price: $32,285 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $31,666

Major Options:

Carpeted floor mats, $155

EX Premium pkg. (panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, hands-free hatch, dual illuminated vanity mirrors), $1,500

Test vehicle: $33,860

Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Kia

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB300 4Matic

EV puts a spark in new electric EQB wagon, er, crossover …

Automakers are doing buyers no favors with their insistence on introducing nonsensical alphabet soup when “naming” their vehicles.

German automakers are among the leaders in blending alphanumerics and the latest electric-powered wagon, er crossover, is a prime example, the Mercedes-Benz EQB300. Rolls right off the tongue, no?

To understand this is an electric vehicle one must know that Mercedes is now labeling its EVs as EQs, got it? So this is an electric B series, as in the GLB, which is the gas-powered wagon of the same design. Danke Herr Mercedes.

Know too that for 2023 Mercedes offers three EQBs, the 250, the 300, and 350. At least those ascending numbers are easy to figure in that each signifies more standard features and power that the one below it. The upper two also feature AWD, known to Mercedes as 4Matic, as standard. The base EQB250 is front-drive with just 188 horsepower from its single electric motor.

The 300 and 350 each pack dual electrics to power the front and rear wheels.

The 300 boasts 225 horsepower, while the 350 delivers 288 horses and, according to Mercedes, they will do 0 to 60 mph in 7 and 6 seconds, respectively.

I can attest that the EQB300 is a hoot that’ll scoot. Power delivered via the single-speed transmission is silky smooth and instantaneous. There was even a bit of chirp to the 18-inch tires, and secure traction once we got a little slop on the roads thanks to that AWD. But I can’t emphasize enough the fun of tromping the accelerator and being pushed back into the well-shaped black suede and leather seats, neatly trimmed in red stitching.

The car feels light too, despite its 4,718 pounds, but some of that is due to the low center of gravity it possesses with its heavy battery load cradled in the chassis. Handling is quick and precise. I liken the feel to that of a MINI.

Ride too is well-controlled and comfy as the Benz rides on a 111.3-inch wheelbase and uses McPherson struts and a wishbone arrangement for the front suspension and multi-link in back. Eyeballing the EQB’s petite countenance I expected a harsher ride, but this was pleasant if not plush.

Watch Mark’s video: 2022 Mercedes EQB Suv review by Mark Savage – YouTube

On the practical front there’s a 243-mile range if fully charged and I got 60 miles of range in an overnight charge on my ancient 110/120-volt garage outlet. Bravo! For plug-in hybrids it’s usually just 25-30 miles on such a charge. The Benz is a winner on fast charging and reportedly will do a 10% to 80% charge in 31 minutes on a fast charging system, when you can find one.

To my mind this one is practical for city and moderate travel, say to Madison and back.

For the record the higher powered EQB350 offers just 227 miles of full charge range. Electric range, as with gas engines’ mpg, is reduced substantially the more power their powerplants deliver.

The EQB300 is rated at 104 MPGe in city driving and 98 on the highway, again, you’re expending more power at higher speeds.

But this short wagon is smartly arranged and will haul four people in comfort or two and a load of cargo. In fact, even with the rear seat in place it’ll carry 22 cubic feet of goods, which is more than most mid-size sedans. Power up the hatch and drop those rear seats and that grows to 62 cu.ft., plus loading is easy as this vehicle isn’t a high rider, sort of like a MINI Countryman. Mercedes offers an optional third row, but no, please don’t.

A third-row seat is optional, but please don’t! Good cargo space without it!

As boxy and utilitarian as the exterior is, EQB’s interior is unexpectedly snazzy. There are those previously mentioned sharp seats, and they are well contoured and heated ($500 extra). But the dash is downright flashy with three round brushed metal air vents mid-dash and two more, one on each end of the dash for great looks, and air flow.

The dash and doors feature a diamond-patterned metallic trim and the door pulls and releases are a brushed metal. A fine red lighted piping frames the console, door panels and dash trim too. Sharp, and it complements the red stitching on the seats, dash and steering wheel, which wisely features a flat bottom, just $360 extra.

Overhead are dual sunroofs ($1,500 option), the front being larger than the rear. Seat power controls are located on the door panels too, so easy to reach and adjust.

The digital instrument panel blends into the info screen mid-dash, both just a smidge over 10 inches. And that touchscreen is easy to use and understand, although there’s still a touchpad on the console if you prefer that method. I don’t. It’s redundant.

I do though like that the climate controls are all toggles under the touchscreen, so are easy to adjust on the fly, as are the heated seat buttons mounted by the power seat control panels on the doors. Smart!

In case the default Comfort drive setting is not sufficient for the driver, three other modes are offered, Eco, Snow and Sport. In Sport the EQB nearly takes flight as the acceleration is so frenetic. I liked it, and that too is a toggle, which is simple to use even when wearing gloves. Hey, it’s Wisconsin!

Handsome door panels and easy seat adjustments here!

Naturally the safety systems are standard and prolific, including active brake assist, park assist, high-beam assist, driver attention assist (not touchy at all), blind-spot assist, stability control, and a rearview camera.

What’s missing? No wireless charger, heated steering wheel or cooled seats, and I’d lose that touchpad on the console.

Price is a bit steep too considering the vehicle size and middling looks. The base EQB250 starts at $53,400, the 300 at $57,545, and the 350 model at $61,200. Again those are all 2023 prices with delivery. The test EQB was a 2022, so slightly less, listing at $55,550 with delivery.

Add in the options and it hit $61,650, and that included $800 in unspecified credits. Maybe Mercedes felt bad it was adding $250 for the charging cable and $750 for the gray paint. I mean how else does one charge the vehicle without a cable? And sorry, gray paint is extra?.

The big add-on was the AMG night package that includes an AMG diamond black grille, and high-gloss black elements on the grille, window trim, and outside mirrors. Cost is a strong $2,890. Never mind!

But if smooth power, sporty handling and comfy ride are high on the shopping list for your first EV, you’ll do well to consider an EQB.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mercedes Benz EQB 300 4Matic

Hits: Super quick, excellent handling, controlled ride and AWD. Dual sunroofs, heated seats, cool dash and seat styling, climate control toggles, seat controls on door, quick overnight charging on 110/120 line, easy touchscreen and 4 drive modes.

Misses: Price, overall range, no wireless charger, no cooled seats or heated wheel. Touchpad on console is unnecessary backup system.

Aero-style wheels with star spokes and an MB emblem!

Made in: Hungary

Motors: Dual electric, 225 hp/288 torque

Transmission: Single-speed automatic

Range: 243 miles

Weight: 4,718 lbs.

Wheelbase: 111.3 in.

Length: 184.4 in.

Cargo: 22-62.0 cu.ft.

MPGe: 104/98

Base Price: $55,550 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Mountain gray metallic paint, $750

Charging cable, $250

AMG sport steering wheel, $360

Augmented video, $350

Panoramic roof, $1,500

Speed limit assist, $300

Heated front seats, $500

AMG night pkg. (AMG body styling, AMG diamond black grille, high-gloss black elements on grille, window trim and exterior mirrors), $2,890

Credits: -$800

Test vehicle: $61,650

Sources: Mercedes-Benz, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Mercedes-Benz

2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate: Bright Theme

Plug-in hybrid XC90 long on luxury, power, efficiency …

Apparently it’s time for me to adjust my thinking on where luxury SUV prices begin and end, especially end.

Volvo, long the bastion of safe, solid wagons has made the transition to SUVs easily as it already knew how to make big family-haulers and so a taller version with AWD wasn’t a huge stretch.

Lucky for our eyeballs, it also got away from its box-on-wheels styling to create handsome SUVs with some distinction to their nose and tail. Yes, the logo is large up front, but the grille not as retina crushing as most and its T-shaped headlight add some zest, likewise its tall vertical taillights.

Now it adds hybrid power to its large luxury SUV lineup, the XC90, everything from a mild-hybrid 48-volt system that aids in smoothing out the now requisite stop-start function to a plug-in hybrid. The tested XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate (almost top tier) Bright themed 7-seater was just that, a PHEV. That’s a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for the non-initial literate.

The good news for any plug-in, excuse me, PHEV, is that the midsize SUV can run on electric power for the first 20-30 miles, or as a driver chooses. That means around town where the SUV is most likely to gulp high-octane petrol it can be both more fuel efficient and non-polluting.

A gorgeous dark metallic blue XC90 arrived in my drive with about 25 miles of electric range while 36 is the predicted maximum plug-in range when fully charged. Sadly, this one didn’t have an adapter that fit my garage’s ancient 110/120 volt outlet, so I couldn’t add to its range. Still, there was enough to learn that the power delivery is smooth and pretty seamless when it kicked over to the gas-powered unit.

In all XC90s that’s a turbocharged I4 linked to a silky 8-speed automatic. With electric power supplementing the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine), that makes 455 horses with a torque rating of 523. On its own the ICE makes 312 horses and in mid-level B6 models that’s 295 horses. Entry-level B5 models boast 247 horses, still not shabby.

Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate review by Mark Savage and Paul Daniel – YouTube

So power is generous and will kick the XC90 to highway speeds in a hurry. A quick trip to the northern Chicago burbs and back was comfy and smooth. The interior is quiet, the ride mostly well-controlled now and handling predictable and easy. Cruising at 75 on the freeway is where the XC90 excels.

An optional $1,800 air suspension also improved ride quality quite a bit.

Another plus, AWD is standard, so when the highway got a bit slippery the Volvo remained sure-footed, like a soccer player shod in his or her grippiest sneakers.

The test XC90 was the Bright themed version, a Dark version is also available. That means this one had chrome exterior trim, including the grille, roof rails and window trim. Guess what the Dark edition features? Yes, blackened chrome grille, etc.

Inside, Volvo has mastered the look of luxury and elegant simplicity with a strong Swedish accent.

In this model fine gray wool blend seats were substituted for the usual leather. Sheer a sheep, don’t skin a bovine.

This looked and felt divine on a cold day as it wasn’t as chill as leather. Yet the seats and steering wheel where heated, although controlled through the info screen. Second row seats also are heated, but not the third, which is (like most third rows) tight for anyone older than 13, mainly short of knee room.

Volvo’s seats are well padded and shaped too, with excellent side bolsters and naturally a bevy of power adjustments for the driver including three areas, lumbar, back and leg cushions. You do this with a button on the seat’s side, but see the changes registered on the infotainment screen. There are three memory settings for the driver’s seat too.

Oddly this high-end Volvo still does not have a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, but it did have a monster panoramic sunroof. Manual sun shades grace the side windows.

Other niceties include lights over the rear doors and on exterior door handles. There’s also a mighty 1,400-watt Bower & Wilkins stereo with 19 speakers that will blast loud enough to wake the dead or any hungover New Year’s revelers. It runs $3,200.

Three rows of seats allow for large family hauling, or toting lots of gear!

Volvo also includes an SOS system among its bevy of electronic safety devices. Prime is Volvo’s Pilot Assist program that helps make this a semi-autonomous driver and includes the likes of lane departure warning with a tug to center the Volvo in its lane, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert that detects pedestrians, automatic braking for said obstacles and collision avoidance.

Volvo continues with its 9-inch vertical info screen, but adds a new 12-inch wide digital instrument panel that’s easy to read. The info screen is certainly readable too, but one must press the home button and then slide the screen about to find other functions a driver may want. It’s hard to use while driving, but not that tough to figure out when parked, so adjust it before you head out on the road.

Panoramic sunroofs let a lot of light into the Volvo XC90.

Other stylish trim inside includes black wood accents on the doors and dash with satin chrome door releases and shiny chrome around the screen that’s trimmed in gloss black. The console-mounted shifter also features an Orrefors crystal shift knob, something more high-end makes seem to be employing. There’s a spiffy elegance to it all.

In back under the power hatch is modest cargo space when the third-row seats are in place, but fold those down and storage room increases to 65.8 cubic feet, or lower rows 2 and 3 and that hits 85.7 cu.ft. Note too that the XC90 will tow up to 5,000 pounds, so a fishing boat and trailer or a couple trailered snowmobiles will be no problem.

When coupled with the plug-in electric power the Volvo is estimated to get 58 MPGe in the city and 55 highway, but once that is used up you’re back to the mid-20 mpg range. I got 27 mpg in about 70% highway driving, and that’s not bad for a 7-person AWD SUV or van. That’s also the EPA estimate for the XC90.

Pricing cuts a wide swath, starting at $57,000 for the base Core model with its lesser content, lower power, no leather interior and a 4,000-pound tow rating. A Recharge PHEV model starts at $73,000 and the tested Ultimate lists at $80,495, including delivery. With the added fancy stereo and air suspension this one hit $85,495.

One imagines a full-electric XC90 must be in the works now that the mild hybrid system is in place on lower levels and the PHEV is the top trim. For now, this will satisfy a family’s hybrid luxury SUV needs, while looking great inside, and handsome outside.

FAST STATS: 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate: Bright theme

Hits: Good looks, excellent electric power, precise handling and full-time AWD. Big sunroof, heated wheel and front and second row seats, big touchscreen, quality stereo, a stylish luxury interior, plus a full bevy of safety equipment.

Misses: Touchscreen (beyond main screen) is distracting to use while driving and no power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Made in: Gothenburg, Sweden

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4 w/plug-in electric motor, 455 hp/523 torque

Transmission: 8-speed Geartronic, automatic

Weight: 5,194 lbs.

Wheelbase: 117.5 in.

Length: 195.0 in.

Range: 36 miles per plug-in

Cargo: 15.8/65.5/85.7cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPGe: 58/55

MPG: 27 (gas only)

Base Price: $80,495 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $80,261

Major Options:

4-corner air suspension, $1,800

Bowers & Wilkins premium sound, $3,200

Test vehicle: $85,495

Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Volvo

2023 Lexus RX 350 Limited

Restyled RX 350 still fills luxury SUV prescription, but …

Luxury and utility are ubiquitous with the Lexus RX 350, otherwise known as the unofficial soccer mom car of suburbia.

This SUV that started out more as a tall wagon when introduced in the U.S. market in 1998 has been the best-selling luxury vehicle here for the past 10 years. Here’s why.

It is Toyota reliable, offers AWD for safety in sloppy weather, has a taller stance for better outward visibility, isn’t too tall to make access a problem, is quiet inside with a leathery interior, holds five comfortably, plus kid cargo under the power hatch, and has good power and ride. Oh, and for a luxury crossover it was reasonably priced.

One can now argue that last point, as the base front-drive RX 350 now tips the financial scales at $48,550 and the AWD model at $50,150. But those other points remain the same. Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, has not futzed with success much these past 25 years, other than the RX like an overwhelming majority of vehicles continues to grow larger. For 2023 the wheelbase stretches another 2.4 inches while for styling its tail overhang seems to have shrunk.

If anything, the styling might have stagnated a bit although the chrome roofline trim’s wave down toward the tail continues to add a bit of flair. The hood’s nose though now bulges more (Ram pickup inspiration?) as if its giant grille isn’t noticeable enough. Still, for practical purposes, the RX is just what the doctor ordered.

Handling is moderately easy and simple to control, the multi-link rear suspension provides a well-controlled ride and the new powerplant, a 2.4-liter I4 gives the crossover plenty of acceleration with 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. The only downside to this new engine, which replaces the old reliable V6 that had powered the RX for ages, is its growly nature. Accelerate hard and the RX’s air of luxury dissipates in a grumble that sounds more mid-priced than $50+k. The V6 sounded smoother.

Of course the point is to cut vehicle weight with a 4-cylinder vs. the V6 and with an 8-speed automatic to help gas mileage. To that point, the EPA rates the RX 350 at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Sadly in 30-degree weather I managed just 20.0 mpg in about 60% city driving.

But I did have the AWD available for when things got a little slick. Soccer moms and dads appreciate that too.

Watch Mark’s review: 2023 Lexus RX 350 review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Naturally Lexus loads the RX with all the relevant safety equipment one expects today, known here as Lexus Safety System+ 3.0. That includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, intersection support (arrows flash on the screen to show vehicles approaching from either side), motorcycle detection, smart cruise control with curve speed management, and lane departure alert and steering assist.

That raised bulge in the nose and hood seems a bit much to me.

Other techy items include a digital key, intuitive parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking, a head-up display, advanced parking which is an automatic parallel parking system, and Traffic Jam Assist, sort of an autonomous driving mode to help a driver in slow stop-and-go situations where the car can creep along and stay in the lane by itself. Nice for commuters or folks who regularly drive on congested highways.

In theory it frees a little time for a parent to scold a child or work an app or two on a cell phone.

Inside, the driver and occupants will feel sufficiently coddled as the gorgeous dark metallic blue test SUV scored dark gray and brown leather and suede seats with black upper door and dash surfaces. There’s even some suede trim in the door panels. Trim is a satin chrome and the info screen and air vent trim is a gloss black, while the console top is flat black. Overall there’s a hushed tone to the interior.

The test SUV also included handsome Mark Levinson stereo speakers in the doors. That stereo happens to add $1,160 to the price tag, but then you do get 21 speakers and excellent sound quality.

Wisely too Lexus has abandoned that touchy and inconvenient touchpad on the console that was used for tuning the radio and other info screen functions. Now there’s a ginormous 14-inch touchscreen mid-dash to find nearly all driver-selected functions, plus the radio tuning. It works much better than that pad.

A big info screen has been added and the touchy console touchpad eliminated.

The screen seems overly large, yet for us oldsters, it may be just the ticket.

Seats are typical finely contoured Lexus models with power up front and heated/cooled front and rear seats too, plus a heated wheel, a must here among the frozen tundra. There’s also a wireless phone charger and oodles of USB plugs front and rear.

Rear seats get heating and cooling controls.

Those rear seats also will power down to boost cargo space, already a generous 29.6 cubic feet behind row two. The second row seats also can be powered to a slightly reclined angle. Head and legroom are spacious in row two, another reason this is a primo family hauler.

I like that the RX steering wheel is powered too, so it’s simple to tilt or telescope for driver comfort and there are three seat memory buttons on the dash’s left. The driver’s seat and steering wheel also power back and up for easier entry and access once the ignition is off.

A panoramic sunroof is standard and manual sun shades grace the rear side windows, all completing the inner bling for RX 350.

One glitch on this tested pre-production RX 350, an annoying false driver attention warning beep. This happened a LOT, often when I was turning the steering wheel and my arm would cross in front of the driver’s instrument pod, I suppose breaking the electronic beam that was watching my eyes. One hopes that will be less touchy on production models.

Rear seats are roomy and panoramic sunroofs let in oodles of light.

I also am not a fan of the heated and cooled seat controls being located on the digital touchscreen. I feel they belong on the console for easy access whereas the RX used that spot for the auto stop/start button, a hill descent feature, a parking brake, and another off-roading button. Those will rarely be used. In the screen’s defense, the heated/cooled seats and heated wheel controls have an automatic feature so one could set them and forget them, although I found that leading to an over-warm derriere and palm on occasion.

One other design concern as more vehicles move to push-button door releases, copying Tesla. That push button confuses a fair amount of passengers who are looking for a lever. Even after they push the button they’re not sure if the door is to open by itself (it does on the Genesis G90), or if they should push it, pull up on the button area or what. This style change is a solution in search of a problem.

Lots of room for kid gear under the power hatch!

All of which returns us to pricing. I mentioned the basics earlier, but the tested RX 350 Luxury AWD model starts at an even more robust $58,150, including delivery. Adding just the stereo brings it to $59,310 and there are certainly more options that could push it to $65k.

There are a variety of trims for the RX 350 including hybrid models for most, including the Luxury edition. All those hybrids get better gas mileage as regenerative braking and the hybrid system provides modest electric power for early acceleration. I’d opt for a hybrid even though their power is slightly less at 246 horses. Its mpg ratings are 37/34, so quite the bump over gas-only.

A top-line RX 450h F Sport also is available starting at $62,750 and touts 366 horses and a 406 torque rating. Ironically the more powerful 450h gets better fuel economy at 27/28 compared with the tested gas-only Luxury edition, again thanks to hybrid help.

No doubt the RX 350 is still a sound choice for a family luxury SUV that even Goldilocks would consider Just Right!

FAST STATS: 2023 Lexus RX 350 Limited

Hits: Quiet and attractive luxury interior, AWD, controlled ride, fine safety equipment. Huge touchscreen replaces awkward console touchpad, comfy seats are heated/cooled front and rear, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, power tilt/telescope wheel, wireless charger, power down rear seats, good cargo space.

Misses: Annoying false driver attention warning beeps, growly engine on heavy acceleration, heated seats/wheel controlled on screen, too many functions on screen, less used functions are buttons on console, push-button door release confuses riders. Modest MPG.

I like the chrome trim’s swoosh style to the hatch.

Made in: Cambridge, Ontario

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo I4, 275 hp/317 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,155+ lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Length: 192.5 in.

Cargo: 29.6 – 46.2 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/28

MPG: 20.0 (tested)

Base Price: $58,150 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $54,445

Major Options:

Mark Levinson PurePlay Surround Sound w/21 speakers, $1,160

Test vehicle: $59,310

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#lexus

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD

Crossover version another solid, reliable Corolla …

Many automotive brands have their own version of the golden goose, the go-to model moniker that virtually assures success due to long-term image and reputation.

Ford has Mustang and F-150, while Toyota has Camry and Corolla. For nearly 50 years now in the U.S. market, Corolla has been synonymous with quality, reliability and value. Flashy? No, but a family sedan that’ll last close to forever.

Not surprisingly, Toyota now slaps the Corolla name on its new small crossover, just a smidge up from its much cuter and zippier C-HR. Not just a naming thing though as the new Corolla Cross rides on the same platform as Toyota’s Corolla sedan and wisely opts for its optional, horsier engine for power.

Don’t get too excited though, the 2.0-liter I4 delivers just 169 horsepower with a torque rating of 150, yet linked to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) the Corolla Cross displays adequate power, however with a steady groan during acceleration. Ignore that, as many of us would, because the rest of the small crossover is pure family comfort and value.

Handling is light and easy, ride is compliant and actually better than many larger crossovers and SUVs. A family of four will fit here and not be jostled severely on crumbling Midwest roads. Nope, Corolla Cross is a steady and above average performer like its sedan namesake.

Plus, and if you’re a crossover or SUV fan this is perfect, the tested XLE model had AWD to provide good traction in winter slop, of which we had a bit when I first got the car. No need to engage it, this is AWD, not 4WD like a Jeep or many SUVs. The AWD model also incorporates a multi-link rear suspension in place of the former torsion beam.

All this, plus more, at a base price of $28,840, including delivery, for this top-level trim. Go front-wheel drive and base level L model and the price drops to $23,410. Add AWD and the L lists at $24,960 for a 2022 model. Prices are rising a bit for 2023 and there’s a wait still on the Corolla Cross, depending on what you order.

A mid-level LE model with AWD runs $27,310 and may be the best value.

Watch Mark’s video: 22 Toyota Corolla Cross review by Mark Savage – YouTube

The test car added quite a bit of extras to hit $33,550, but that’s still a value considering the average cost for a new car or crossover now is about $45,000. The big ticket here was the audio system upgrade at $1,465, adding a JBL sound system with 9 speakers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa capability. The power sunroof and power hatch also added $1,250 to the sticker.

All the rest of the options were minor, including $299 for roof rack rails, which one might want if taking this on camping outings with a family and need a spot for a tent and other outdoor gear.

Standard though on the XLE is the larger 8-inch info screen as a 7-incher is standard on the L model. The screen includes both a volume and radio tuning knob too, much easier than toggles and on-touchscreen buttons that often don’t function if the user is wearing gloves. Just sayin,’ winter in Wisconsin!

XLE also includes two major safety upgrades, the blind-spot monitoring system and cross-traffic alert viewed through the rear-view camera screen. But Toyota is one of the leaders in packing safety equipment onboard as standard via its Safety Sense 2.0 system, even on the L model. The safety system includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and assist, smart cruise control, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beam headlights.

XLE also includes a wireless phone charger at the bottom of the center stack, but be sure to press the button there to turn it on or you’ll get no charge. Two USB ports are standard too, as are softer dash and door coverings.

That said, the plastic door and dash feel pretty good, but are indeed a textured hard plastic. Yet that’s what I expect at this price.

While the Corolla Cross exterior styling is pretty middle of the road, the interior looks sharp without being gimmicky. The seats are a two-tone tan and brown Softex (leatherette) and the dash and door tops are black. Trim around the screen and console is gloss black and trim around those and the dash is a satin silver. Handsome, yet simple.

Seats are well shaped to provide hip and lower back support and the XLE includes a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, an option on lower trims. The front seats also are heated. Bingo!

Headroom is more generous in the Cross than in the sedan as is rear legroom, so for growing families of four this provides some extra comfort. All the dash controls are easy to see, use, and reach and as with Subarus, the sightlines to the sides are improved by adding a vent window with a view between the A pillar and side mirrors.

Cargo space is generous in back, more than 25 cubic feet, and overhead are solid visors with extenders, something many higher priced vehicles no longer offer.

I drove the Corolla Cross during a chilly early winter week with off-and-on snow, but still was a bit disappointed in its gas mileage. Rated at 29 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, I got just 25.9 mpg in about an even mix of the two. I was expecting more like what the trip computer indicated at about 28.5 mpg.

For the record I had managed 33.7 mpg in a Corolla hatchback a few years ago and it featured the same engine and weighed just about 100 pounds less. Driving a hybrid Corolla sedan last year netted 65.6 mpg, which is tremendous. Know too that Toyota has introduced a hybrid version of the Corolla Cross for 2023, which may be the best value going!

As for competition, well, this is a super crowded market with the likes of Subaru’s Crosstrek, Kia’s Seltos, Hyundai’s Venue and Kona, VW’s Taos, Nissan’s Kicks and Rogue Sport, Mazda’s CX-3 and Honda’s HR-V as major competitors. Drive them all and decide, but ask about availability before you even head to the dealership!

FAST STATS: 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD

Hits: Easy handling, decent ride, AWD, good interior room and cargo space, plus power hatch. Value pricing, solid safety equipment, heated front seats, sunroof, wireless charger, 8-inch screen w/volume & tuning knobs, visors w/extenders. A hybrid now available.

Misses: Growly engine and down on power, anticipated better mpg, tinny sounding stereo.

Made in: Huntsville, Ala.

Engine: 2.0-liter I4, 169 horsepower/150 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,170 lbs.

Length: 175.6 in.

Wheelbase: 103.9 in.

Cargo: 25.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 29/32

MPG: 25.9 (tested)

Base Price: $28,840 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $27,278

Major Option: Power sunroof, $1,250

Audio Plus (8-in. touchscreen, 9 JBL speakers, Sirius XM 3-mon., security alarm, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay/Amazon Alexa compatible), $1,465

Auto-leveling front lights, $615

Carpet floor mats/cargo mat, $249

Frameless HomeLink mirror, $175

Door sill protectors, $179

Roof rack crossbars, $299

Rear bumper protector, $79

Activity mount, $399

Test vehicle: $33,550

Sources: Toyota kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Toyota

#Corolla

2022 Ford Expedition Limited 4×4

Expedition proves big is in for size, and price …

Remember when buying a large SUV didn’t cost as much as your first or second house?

Then again, your house didn’t have smart cruise control, a panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree camera, or even a fancy Bang & Olufsen stereo with 22 speakers. Heck, most of us used to be happy with a couple big boxy speakers and a receiver with bass and treble controls.

Well, times are changing fast and big is definitely viewed as both better and necessary by many vehicle buyers today, despite the increased cost of gasoline. To meet that demand Ford has refurbished its large Expedition SUV and like every other maker has slathered on so much luxury that it rides like a living room atop velvet wheels.

The tested Expedition Limited 4×4 added a whopping $13,960 worth of options to the full-size off-roader already gussied up in its mid-level trim that starts at $69,040, including delivery. So this handsome blue-gray, Blue Tinted Clearcoat ($395 extra), hit $83,000 on the nose. My second home was only slightly more and did come with a ½-acre lot. Hey, it was a few decades ago!

Beyond the size and cost, and note there are three trims costing more, plus an Expedition Max that’s nearly a foot longer, the Expedition is a pleasant highway cruiser. That’s because it’s loaded with luxury and seven drive modes allowing a driver to take it off road or at least splash through mud and slush with the ultimate authority.

I enjoyed the body-on-frame truck, and you would too on a long highway jaunt as the interior is quiet, the leather seats well cushioned and shaped, plus the handling easy, if vague. In fact, there’s barely any road feedback yet still the big brawler is easy to corral in a lane.

Oh, there’s body lean in a tight turn, but there’s no Sport in this Sport-Utility truck, outside of the Sport drive mode you can dial in to firm the wheel, but still it only feels heavier, not sportier or more responsive. Other modes include Normal, Eco, Mud/Rut, Sand, Slippery, and Tow/Haul. There’s also a Pro Trailer setting for easier backing up with a trailer, presumably hauling a high-powered cigarette boat.

Power is not a concern, despite the disappearance of Ford V8s. No, the twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost engine normally creates 325 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. But the test unit added the $9,880 option package that includes both a huge panoramic power sunroof and to the power point, an upgraded 440-horse version of the same engine. It also included a sport-tuned suspension, black painted aluminum wheels and a bunch more (see the stat box).

Towing? Yes, it’ll pull 9,300 pounds.

Shifting comes from a silky smooth 10-speed automatic and despite the sport suspension the Expedition’s ride is boulevard premium. Think old Caddy, Lincoln, or Buick sedan in their hay day.

Inside the Expedition is lined with black leather featuring red stitching, part of the Stealth package, and includes a flat black textured trim on the dash and console that is particularly snazzy and avoids nasty glare that gloss black trim often reflects. Trim around the trim is a chrome look.

No way to avoid the gargantuan 15.5-inch info screen mid-dash. It’s a $795 option here, replacing a 12-inch screen, which likely would be sufficient. No problem seeing this as it’ll overwhelm your eyeballs. Several friends told me it would be way too much for them to constantly look at, and I agreed in that it’s so big you struggle to find some of the touchscreen icons, such as those for heated and cooled seats and the heated steering wheel. Those need to be buttons that are easy to find on the console.

Most of the info screen’s functioning was good, and there’s a large volume knob embedded in the screen, a nice touch. But you must wait a minute for the screen to reboot every time you start the truck. Bigger isn’t always better!

Expedition is a three-row vehicle and roomy for up to eight passengers if you go with the standard second row bench seat. This one had captain’s chairs in row two (both heated), so would only accommodate seven. Cargo room is modest behind that third row, but large once it’s lowered and huge with both rear rows down. Remember there’s a Max version with another foot of cargo room in back.

This is a big beast with a roomy cabin and third-row seat, powered of course!

Ford puts power buttons inside the power hatch for lowering both the second and third row split seats, which makes it flexible for hauling long items, but still packing four or five passengers aboard.

Speaking of power, there are power-adjustable pedals and a power tilt/telescope steering wheel too, and a wireless charger in the console. Power running boards also deploy whenever the vehicle is unlocked or a door opened, and then re-fold after all doors have been shut for several seconds, or the ignition is turned on. I still worry about how these will survive Wisconsin winters, but I’m assured they will.

Not a huge fan of the rotary shifter, but one gets used to it.

Ford makes sure all the usual safety equipment is here, from smart cruise to lane control devices. All work fine.

A few odds and ends. Ford continues with its rotary gear shift knob on the console, which I still find a bit awkward, but I’m sure it’s here to stay.

That Stealth package also adds black accents in addition to the wheels, the badging is black as are the mirror caps and the tires are giant 22-inchers, meaning they’ll cost a fortune to replace, but then this is an $83k vehicle, so one assumes cost is a minor concern to the buyer.

Running boards are powered to aid in climbing aboard, and the sunroof is huge!

Likewise, gas mileage is nothing special. I got 17.8 mpg and the EPA rates this at 16 mpg city and 22 highway. Currently no hybrid Expedition is offered.

A base Expedition XL with rear-wheel-drive lists at $51,080 with delivery and one can add 4WD for about $2,000. That’s not inexpensive, but IS roughly $30 grand less than the tested Limited.

If you want or need more fancy features there’s the King Ranch and Platinum versions, the Platinum listing at $77 grand and easily exceeding $87,000 with options. A new more off-road worthy Timberline edition with additional ground clearance, bigger tires and underbody protection also was new for 2022.

One could imagine Expedition feeling overpriced, but consider the Chevrolet and GMC competitors, the Tahoe/Yukon and Suburban are equally pricy and the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer can hit $100,000 or more. Less pricey models are the Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia, depending on trims.

FAST STATS: 2022 Ford Expedition Limited 4×4

Hits: Handsome truck with oodles of power and room. Good ride, big towing capacity, off-road capable, seats 7 or 8, comfy seats, heated and cooled front seats, heated second row, heated wheel, good safety equipment, panoramic sunroof, power running boards, 7 drive modes, wireless charger, power pedals, power tilt/telescope wheel, pro trailer feature.

Misses: Vague steering, feels huge, monster info screen feels overwhelming, heated seats and wheel handled via screen, rotary shift knob takes getting used to.

Stylish headlights here!

Made in: Louisville, Ky.

Engine: 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, 375 hp/470 torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,837 lbs.

Wheelbase: 122.5 in.

Length: 210 in.

Cargo: 20.9-104.6 cu.ft.

Tow: 9,300 lbs.

MPG: 16/22

MPG: 17.8 (tested)

Base Price: $69,040 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $67,356

Major Options: Blue-tinted clearcoat, $395

Group 304A (panoramic roof, 3.73 Axle Ratio, black exterior badging, reverse brake assist, red brake calipers, 360-degree split view camera w/F&R washer, dual exhaust, floor mats w/logo, Ford Co-Pilot360 assist 2.0, black mirror caps, P285/45R22 tires, active 2.0 park assist, 22 speakers, engine sound enhancement radio equipment, enhanced active noise control radio equipment, Bang & Olufsen audio, black roof rails, power running boards, Stealth Performance Edition pkg. including red stitching, sport-tuned suspension & black painted aluminum wheels and 440-hp engine upgrade), $9,880

Heavy-duty trailer tow pkg., $795

CCD w/sport-tuned suspension, $995

ControlTrac w/3.73 EDLS, $1,100

15.5-in. info screen, $795

Test vehicle: $83,000

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

1967 Alpine A210 Le Mans #46

Spark’s latest Le Mans racer a long-tailed French blend …

Separating Alpine from Renault is difficult as their histories are so entwined, as is that of Gordini, although fewer may recognize that name.

But in the 1960s all three came together as Gordini-tuned Renault engines powered Alpine racers designed for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Renault’s racing arm footing the bill.

The result, several years in, was the dramatic and swoopy looking Alpine A210 racer that Spark Models beautifully recreates now in 1:43 scale.

The History

Alpine was formed in 1955 by Jean Rédélé to make sports cars and racers and did well enough that Shell Oil came to the firm in 1962 wanting 1.0-liter Gordini-tuned engines for a Le Mans effort. By 1963 the M63 racer had won its class at the Nurburgring 1000km race, although none of its three cars finished the 1963 Le Mans marathon.

However, by the 1966 Le Mans, which was won for the first time by Ford’s GT40, Alpine had the A210 with a stout 1.3-liter Gordini-tuned Renault and took first through third place in the energy-efficiency index while clocking speeds of nearly 170 mph.

The next year Alpine was back with a multi-car team and its No. 46 car driven by French racers Henri Grandsire and Jose Rosinski finished ninth overall and first in class for 1.3-liter cars. The duo completed 321 laps compared with the winning Ford GT40 driven by Americans Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt’s 388 laps. Since the team was aiming for an overall win there was no winning the efficiency index.

Grandsire and Rosinski were gentleman racers, but successful. Grandsire, who later became an actor, had won the same Le Mans class the previous year, while Rosinski, later to become a journalist and race team manager, also had previously won his class at Le Mans in 1962.

By 1973 Renault would buy Alpine and Gordini soon after, although the Alpine name disappeared into the Renault lineup by 1995. Yet it was re-introduced in 2017 with the Alpine A110 model. Meanwhile the Renault Formula 1 racing team was also rebranded in 2021 as Alpine, which it remains today.

The Model

               First, there’s the cool aero body with its long and finned tail, plus that stellar medium bright metallic blue paint scheme that quickly delivers the notion this is a French racer. The No. 46 car also features an orange stripe across the roof’s leading edge to help identify the car at speed from its sister cars.

               Racers were so much simpler in the mid-1960s and this streamlined beauty reflects that with just a small black oval grille up front framed between two round running lights to help with night vision during the 24-hour race. Regular headlights are under clear lenses and the hood is one that was hinged in front, so there are two silver hinges that appear both functional and decorative. A small brown leather-look strap is at the passenger’s side of the hood’s rear to no doubt further secure the racer’s hood when the car was speeding about.

               On the nose is the Alpine name in silver lettering.

               There also are small air scoops on the front fenders just before the doors and then rear fender bulges that appear to be bolted on over the wheel well tops, giving the racer muscular hips. Outside door hinges are molded into the front quarter panel and doors too.

               Both the windshield and rear window are huge, the back one blending smoothly into that sassy tail. The Alpine’s windshield is trimmed in silver and a delicate silver photo-etched metal twin-armed wiper that’s true to the original sweeps the window. Side windows represent the sliding glass that the real racer featured, an aid to cooling the cockpit. The driver’s side window is posed slightly opened, while the far side’s windows are closed.

               In back are amber taillights and a large single tailpipe exiting just to the right of center.

               Tires are treaded and the front wheel cover is a smooth silver disk while the larger rears are gold featuring an 8-pointed star pattern with visible lug nuts in the center ring.

               Markings are minimal beyond the large numbers, all black atop white circles, one on the hood, tail, and both doors. There is a red dot on each door in front of the number, and Alpine Renault is spelled out on the rear quarter panel, just aft of the door with “1300” printed just below, signifying the racer’s 1300cc engine.

               Three other logo decals are spread along the top of each front fender, a cat head with checkered flag, a Shell logo, and a black and white one I simply can’t make out, even with a magnifier.

               The black interior is difficult to make out, but close study reveals a three-spoke race steering wheel, the spokes in silver, a shift lever on the floor, and a silver shoulder harness on the race seat. Looks like a red fire extinguisher above and behind a passenger’s seat too. Funny that Alpine included the second seat in a racer, but maybe there was a rule requiring it in 1967. Whatever!

               Most Spark 1:43 die-cast models run in the $80 range, but often you can find them on sale online at sites such as Replicarz.com, one of the most reliable online retailers. I’ve used them for years to bolster my collection. Spark also makes several other versions of the Alpine A210, so look around and find which one most pleases your eye.

Plus, let me say that I love 1:43 scale models as they are such a great size for detail while remaining small enough to easily stack their cases. Spark and most other brands, come in stackable acrylic cases that are perfect for viewing, so no further display case is required. Save that cash to spend on more models!

               This Alpine is a sexy addition to any Le Mans collection, even if it wasn’t an overall winner!

Vital Stats: 1967 Alpine A210 Le Mans #46

Maker: Spark
Scale: 1/43
Stock No.: S5687
MSRP: $79.99

Link: Replicarz.com

#Le Mans

#Alpine

#Spark

#Diecast

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe

Electric hybrid adds cost, but boosts fuel efficiency, smooths power …

When Jeep launched the Grand Cherokee 30 years ago it was among the first luxury sport-utility vehicles on the market that still was affordable (not a Rover) and capable of off-roading.

Jeep continues to make its Grand Cherokee as off-road worthy as anything, including its more rugged looking Wrangler, but the price now peaks at Range Rover levels.

Yet kudos to Jeep for adding hybrid power to its latest Grand Cherokee even though that’s what nudges the price up. This plug-in hybrid, the 4xe, is exactly what makes sense as the go-between from gas to electric power.

Here’s the deal.

On this mid-size SUV Jeep couples a hybrid system with a small 2.0-liter turbo I4 so that an overnight charge on a normal home 120V power line nets 25 to 27 miles of electrical juice. That means that an average user who drives to and from work, or to run necessary daily errands, can run on electricity most of the time. By the way, the power is awesome smooth in the Jeep and when was the last time someone called a Jeep smooth?

In a 230-mile week of driving I evenly split my electric vs. gas powered driving, recharging with the driver’s side front quarter panel plug-in, each evening.

That meant each morning I had a 100% charge and most days I didn’t need more than that. Two trips to the other side of town during the week meant half of each trip was on the juice, while the other half was gas-powered. The results? My combined average was 37.1 mpg, while gas alone (sadly Premium is recommended) averaged just 18.2 mpg, showing the difference hybrid electric power can make. The vehicle also senses when 4WD is not needed and turns it off when not needed.

Cool too that Jeep allows the driver to select (via dash buttons) hybrid power, electric only, or save-E, which mostly runs the Grand Cherokee on gas, saving the electric charge for when you most need it, say in town, or when slopping around field or forest.

See Mark’s video: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Yes, there are still plenty of off-roading choices here, five to be exact. A console toggle allows the driver to select Rock, Sand/Mud, Snow, Auto, or Sport drive modes. Sport seems silly to me on an SUV and here it firms up the steering something fierce, not pleasant at all.

The others will engage the proper 4-wheeling system for the circumstances and if you’re rock-crawling becomes a habit there’s a button to unhook the front sway bar to create more wheel articulation. Note too, the Grand Cherokee has a maximum ground clearance of 10.9 inches, which is a lot. Plus, another toggle on the console allows the driver to hike up the haunches and lift the Jeep to its maximum height, or lower it for easy exits. This Jeep also will ford two feet of water safely.

There’s ample power here as the turbo I4 and hybrid electric motor provide a combined 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque so there’s a tow rating of 6,000 pounds. All is smooth and silky when electric is the power source, but when the Jeep switches to the gas engine, which is seamless, well, the little turbo groans considerably as it seems to be trying to bench press the vehicle’s full 5,500 lbs. Acceleration can be noisy with the tiny turbo.

Folks wanting constant smooth power application probably should opt for one of the gas-only powered Grand Cherokees that feature a V6 or V8. You’ll also save money up front, but more on that in a sec.

A blue tow hook, 4xe logo and jeep logo add color to the tail.

Handling is typical of a mid-size SUV, easy steering with modest feedback and a little body lean in tight turns. It’s all quite controllable and easy to maintain within a lane. Of course there’s all the usual safety equipment such as lane departure, blind-spot warning and parking sensors.

Ride is mostly good too, especially on the highway, but as with most trucks/utes gets jiggly on bumpy city streets as pot holes and expansion joints create some rock and roll, but then it’s a Jeep, right?

That’s not to say it isn’t luxurious. The Diamond Black Crystal Pearl ($395 extra) test SUV looked upscale, the ride is mostly well controlled, and the interior leathery.

Check out the blue tow hooks, hood stripe and blue-outlined Jeep logo here.

I like the little blue styling cues on the exterior, to subtly insinuate this is a hybrid. Apparently bright green and blue do that these days on hybrids and electrics. This one slapped blue trim on all the Jeep logos, the front and rear tow hooks, the rear hatch’s Trailhawk logo and a blue Trailhawk adhesive stripe on the hood, which also featured a flat black hood sticker.

Inside, the Grand Cherokee looks fresh and modern, a big step up from its predecessor.

More blue trim inside with the seat piping and stitching on the console.

Enough black leather here to frighten any herd of cattle, but with a tasteful blue (again) stitching to spruce it up. Seat edges were leather but the main seat surfaces a suede material. Classy.

Shiny black fake wood trim accents the dash and doors and is trimmed in satin chrome. The look is keen, but the reflection off that and the gloss black console surface can be blinding on sunny days now that we’ve passed the equinox and the sun rides at lower angles.

Seats are powered plus heated and cooled in front, with the outer rear seats also heated. I found the butt pockets rather snug in the front seats, but the rears (seats that is) were better. The steering wheel also is heated. One odd problem I found when trying to buckle up each trip, and that’s the seatbelt is hard to pull between the seat and door, a bit of a tight squeeze.

No problem with the digital equipment here though, a big center info screen and digital driver instrument panel. Some numbers on the driver display were a bit small, but the info screen was great and easy to use, plus includes adjacent volume and tuning knobs for the radio, a fine Alpine sound system in the Trailhawk. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard too.

A few things you won’t find on the Trailhawk were surprising though. There’s no sunroof, no wireless phone charger and no running boards. At this top-end pricing I’d expect all three. In the Jeep’s defense, there are oodles of plug-ins available for charging.

There was no passenger-side info screen in the test vehicle, but that’s ok, it’s an option as on Jeep’s Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

The digital instrument panel gives you a lot of info, but numbers are small.

Tire noise is considerable with the beefy R18 All-Terrain tires, which would be good for off-roading, but hum like an annoying tone-deaf 5-year-old who loves Disney tunes, even at low speeds.

In back is a power hatch hiding a load of cargo space, so a family of five can vacation, camp, haul, etc. while taking along all the sundries needed for comfort. Second-row seats split and fold flat and the SUV’s plug-in charger can be stowed neatly in a bag under the cargo floor.

Did I mention this is pricey?

Yes, and that was a bit of a shock (sorry) for this hybrid electric model. A base 2023 model (now at dealers) lists at $60,260, while a Trailhawk version starts at $65,455. Move up to an Overland and it’s $69,225, a Summit goes for $72,990, and the premium of premiums, the Summit Reserve starts at $77,470. All prices including delivery. For the record, a $7,500 tax credit may apply to the hybrid models, but check it before you buy.

There’s a lot of space under that power hatch, but only two rows of seats.

The tested 2022 model listed at $64,280 and only added the special color to hit $64,675. By the way, white is the only paint color that doesn’t cost extra on the Grand Cherokee, although other colors are mostly $395, so not a huge add-on.

While I’m all in on plug-in hybrids until our electric infrastructure grows considerably, I should point out that Jeep really charges for the privilege. For instance, a base V6 powered Grand Cherokee, the Laredo, lists at $40,120, but of course has fewer standard features and no 4WD.

Move up to the equivalent Trailhawk gas-only model and the sticker is $56,030. Between are Altitude and Limited models in the mid-$40,000 range.

So choose wisely, especially if your budget already is being stretched. The good news for all 4xe plug-in hybrids, you’ll pay less to power them weekly, and they run as smooth as a luxury sedan, just taller and with way bigger tires!

FAST STATS: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe

Hits: Off-road capability, five drive modes, plug-in hybrid boosted gas mileage, and good looks. Roomy luxury interior, power hatch, heated/cooled front seats, heated outer rear seats, heated steering wheel, Alpine stereo, good safety equipment. Sway bar disconnect for off-roading and good ground clearance with toggle to raise truck.

Misses: Pricey, tire noise, groany underpowered gas engine, no sunroof, no running boards, no wireless charger, reflective trim, ride can get jiggly, tight seat butt pockets and front seat belts hard to pull through between door and seat.

Made in: Detroit, Mich.

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, plug-in hybrid, 375 hp/470 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 5,521 lbs.

Wheelbase: 116.7 in.

Length: 193.5 in.

Cargo: 37.7-70.8 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,000 lbs.

MPG: 23/combo gas/electric

Fuel: Premium recommended

Electric range: 25 mph

MPG: 18.2 gas/37.1 combined (tested)

Base Price: $64,280 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $62,667

Major Options:

Diamond black crystal pearl paint, $395

Test vehicle: $64,675

Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Jeep