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Posts Tagged ‘SUV review’

First Drive: 2017 Maserati Levante

Italian maker delivers its first SUV. Compatible combination or an automotive oxymoron?

by on May.03, 2016

The 2017 Maserati Levante starts out with the same underlying platform as the Ghibli sedan.

Say the name, Maserati, and you’re likely to picture a sleek sports car like the Ghibli, perhaps, screaming down the Autostrada. But bouncing along a rutted and rock strewn path that was old by the time the Romans packed it in?

That’s where we’ve found ourselves on a drizzly weekday morning, a couple hours outside of Milan, wandering our way through a course set up to train Italian mercenaries and special forces. Not the sort of place you’d traditionally expect to find a Maserati. Then again, the Levante isn’t your typical Maserati. The 2017 model is the maker’s first sport-utility vehicle. And we had come to Italy to find out if that was a compatible combination or an automotive oxymoron.

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Maserati has been toying around with the idea of adding an SUV to its line-up since 2003, when it showed off the original Kubang concept. The notion went nowhere until 2011, when a new prototype made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show. After taking a few unexpected detours, the rechristened Maserati Levante is about to start rolling into showrooms around the world.

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First Drive: Cadillac XT5

Catching up to a shifting market.

by on Mar.09, 2016

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 replaces the old SRX. It will be joined by 3 other new Caddy CUVs.

A lot has changed over the last 17 years. When Cadillac launched the original Escalade, the idea of a luxury SUV seemed something of an oxymoron. Five years later, Caddy was again at the cutting edge with the debut of its car-based crossover-utility vehicle, the SRX.

Today, however, utility vehicles — whether car-based or classic “truck-trucks” — rule the road, both in the mainstream and the luxury market. And, if anything, Cadillac has fallen behind competitors like Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The Detroit maker plans to launch four new CUVs by the end of the decade, starting with the Cadillac XT5, the new replacement for the aging SRX.

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To get a sense of what Caddy’s delivered, we headed for the hills – the mountainous terrain east of San Diego, where we had a chance to check out both the luxurious side of the new Cadillac XT5 as well as to see how it handled some seriously aggressive driving maneuvers.

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First Drive: 2016 Range Rover Sport Td6

No-compromise diesel is fuel-efficient, quick and powerful.

by on Sep.02, 2015

In the U.S. both the 2016 Range Rover and Range Rover Sport now offer a Td6 diesel option.

The rock and gravel path seems to vanish as we approach the edge of the cliff. But we’re determined not to give up. So, tapping a few buttons on the center console , we press on – and over, the big SUV maintaining complete control all the way down.

A moment later, we come to an equally daunting challenge. The only way to continue is to climb up and over a slick wall of granite. It’s the sort of obstacle that might leave other vehicles stranded. But not the 2016 Range Rover Sport Td6. We point the noise, tap another button on the steering wheel and lift our feet off the pedals. Requiring only a little guidance on the steering wheel, the Range Rover begins its climb as confidently as a mountain goat.

Trailblazing!

The British SUV has long had a reputation as one of the most competent trailblazers you could find. The 2016 model takes things to an entirely new level. And with the addition of the first diesel powertrain bound for the U.S., the 2016 Range Rover Sport Td6 adds to the formula unexpectedly compelling fuel economy.

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First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

Third-generation CUV should help redefine the brand

by on Jul.20, 2015

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson advances the Fluidic Dynamics design language.

Mention the name, Hyundai, and many American motorists will give you a blank stare. For its first two decades in the U.S. market, the Korean carmaker offered cheap, low-quality and largely forgettable products like the original – and oxymoronic — Excel. But if you’re one of those giving Hyundai the cold shoulder, it may be time to think again.

Along with Korean sibling Kia, Hyundai has delivered a series of surprises in recent months. They topped the charts among mainstream brands in J.D. Power’s latest Initial Quality Study, as well as AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. And one good reason is the Hyundai Tucson.

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The second-generation crossover, launched in 2009, was stylish, sporty and surprisingly well-equipped. Now, Hyundai is back with a third-generation Tucson, and with the compact crossover segment becoming increasingly competitive, we headed off to Minnesota for a first drive to see how it stacks up.

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First Drive: 2016 Honda Pilot

A minivan by any other name…

by on May.20, 2015

The 2016 Honda Pilot can push up above $40,000 in high-trim models.

What’s in a name, Shakespeare famously asked. He was, of course, referring to a rose. But we might ask the same about the word, minivan. Once one of the most popular body styles on U.S. roads, sales have slumped sharply in recent years as style-conscious buyers have migrated to SUVs and crossovers.

Honda, however, has come up with an interesting solution. Give buyers a minivan and just call it something else. Officially, the 2016 Honda Pilot is a utility vehicle. But for all intents and purposes, it’s a minivan minus the sliding doors.

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First introduced in 2003 and redesigned six years later, the third-generation Honda Pilot is more than just an update. It adopts a much more stylish exterior, an even more lavish interior, and plenty of new safety and creature comfort technologies. What stays the same is Pilot’s focus on providing the sort of comfort, functionality and flexibility that, in years past, would have drawn buyers to conventional minivans, including Honda’s own Odyssey model.

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First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

Honda delivers some big things in its small CUV package.

by on Apr.30, 2015

The 2016 Honda HR-V shares the basic architecture first introduced on the Fit hatchback.

Small, smaller, smallest. Like a growing number of its competitors, Honda has been both refreshing and fleshing out its utility vehicle line-up. And even as it prepares to launch an updated version of its biggest model, the Pilot, it’s entering an all-new segment with the pint-sized 2016 Honda HR-V.

What was once a modest niche is rapidly becoming one of the market’s hottest segments with new offerings such as the Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X joining earlier entries like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul. Honda, however, has big plans for the smallest of its utility vehicles, hoping to dominate the market much as it has with bigger offerings like the Pilot and mid-range CR-V.

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Sharing the same Mexican assembly line as the familiar Honda Fit, the 2016 HR-V also shares the same underlying platform as that latest-generation minicar. That’s good news for those who believe that good things come in small packages, yielding a flexible and roomy interior that will surprise those who expected a cramped interior with little space for either passengers or cargo.

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First Drive: 2015 Ford Edge

Smoothing out the rough edges.

by on Mar.11, 2015

The 2015 Ford Edge.

Ford has been a leader in the utility vehicle segment for the better part of a quarter of a century, going all the way back to the introduction of the first Explorer in 1990, a much more modern alternative to the bucky old Bronco.

The Explorer was a much more roadworthy vehicle, lightyears removed from the rough off-roaders of the past. Still, it took another 16 years before the Blue Oval took the next big step, introducing its first crossover model in the form of the original Edge.

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Like similar soft-roaders, it was intended more as a minivan alternative than something you’d take to the back woods. More refined looking, inside and out, with comfortable highway manners and plenty of family-friendly features. So, we were clearly curious to see how much the new 2015 Ford Edge would evolve considering the increasingly crowded and competitive nature of the midsize CUV segment.

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First Drive: 2015 Nissan Murano

A flagship crossover that remains a design benchmark.

by on Dec.08, 2014

The 2015 Nissan Murano shows off its V-Motion grille and floating roof design.

When the original Nissan Murano made its debut a dozen years ago, it stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the SUVs of that era. Conventional wisdom suggested that U.S. buyers wanted rugged utes capable of serious off-roading – or at least looking like they could handle the roughest trails.

One of the first car-based entries in the midsize segment, the Murano didn’t try to disguise what it was with lots of macho cladding. Instead, Nissan’s five-seat crossover put a premium on edgy styling, improved handling and reduced fuel consumption.

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Today, Murano has plenty of competition in a booming segment where car-based crossovers handily outsell traditional, truck-based SUVs. In fact, it’s becoming all but impossible to find a classic body-on-frame ute in a market where even the Ford Explorer and Nissan’s own Pathfinder have migrated to car-based platforms. But as Nissan makes clear with the launch of the 2015 Murano, its midsize model remains a styling trendsetter. (more…)

Rose Bowl or Bust

Buick Enclave takes us on a cross-country run for the ages to the centennial Pasadena game.

by on Jan.06, 2014

Our intrepid correspondent drove a 2014 Buick Enclave like this one from Detroit to Pasadena.

For more than a century, college football fans have packed their gear and headed out across the land to the “Grand Daddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

What began as a midwinter event to promote southern California tourism has grown into one of sports most heralded annual events, replete with a week’s worth of team and fan activities, a five-mile-long parade and a football showdown that makes even a non-fan’s bucket list. So when the opportunity presented itself to attend the 100th playing of said game, complete with all the pomp and pageantry, we jumped at the chance to become a rolling media stunt of our own.

Big Game!

While many of the fans attending the first college football matchup on the grounds where the Rose Bowl now stands no doubt hitched up their horse-drawn conveyances to get to the game, we stuffed and stowed our gear into a diamond white 2014 Buick Enclave for the cross-country journey to the 100th Rose Bowl between the Michigan State Spartans and the Stanford Cardinal.

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First Drive: BMW X3 xDrive35i

The Ultimate Freeway Machine Isn’t as Happy in Town.

by on Sep.09, 2011

The styling of the BMW X3 is an evolution of the original baby Bimmer sport ute.

It’s not surprising that BMW’s X3 xDrive35i loves to stretch its legs on the freeways and highways. After all, it was bred on Germany’s silky smooth and – in some places – speed limit-free Autobahn.

In that arena, the twin-turbo inline six provides effortless acceleration, there’s plenty of room for everyone and the X3’s many luxury features coddle occupants.

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So why does its personality completely change around town where it feels like a pit bull straining its leash?

The first-generation X3 was roundly criticized for its punishing ride and, in retrospect, the automaker admitted that the interior wasn’t as good as it should have been, either.

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