SUV/TRUCK REVIEWS

The 2018 Buick Encore offers impressive fuel economy and strong tech features, and stands out in a crowded compact SUV class.

In case you haven’t noticed by their constant presence on the roadways, smaller SUVs continue to be a strong trend in auto sales. Higher end brands are among those cashing in on this, and Buick is no exception -- with their compact Encore being their best-seller in terms of overall numbers in the U.S.

I recently spent some time in a Buick Encore, and I’m back with a full report on what it offers in this busy segment.

The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport faces tough competitors in the SUV battleground, but comes out with high marks.

Not all vehicles named Santa Fe are the same. Knowing that one size won’t fit all SUV shoppers, Hyundai aims to please all potential buyers with both a three-row Santa Fe model, plus a two-row Santa Fe Sport model -- because for many people that third row would never be used.

I recently spent some time in a 2018 Santa Fe Sport, and I’m back with a full report on how it stacks up in the SUV landscape (hint: pretty well).

LOOKS

If you’re looking to make an impression, the exterior profile of the 2018 Santa Fe Sport really does stand out in the class. While not overly fancy, it’s got an attractive grille and headlight design, and a somewhat sleek package for an SUV.

The vehicle I tested, a 2018 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate AWD, featured 19-inch alloy wheels, roof side rails, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, auto HID headlights, LED taillights, and power side mirrors with turn signal indicators.

Inside, there were sharp wood highlights spread throughout the interior, plus truly comfortable leather seating, not to mention an attractive panoramic sunroof that lets you appreciate the outside world more while driving. Leather was also featured on the steering wheel and shift knob.

One strong point of the 2018 GMC Acadia is its versatility in terms of cargo space.

As SUVs continue to top the list of most carbuyers’ wish lists, and more and more automakers expand their offerings, it’s a constant struggle to keep up. One of GMC’s top offerings is its three-row mid-size offering, the GMC Acadia, which battles such category heavyweights as the Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and newcomer Volkswagen Atlas.

After some time driving a 2018 Acadia, I’m back with a full report on how it holds up in the category.

LOOKS

Versatility and space is key with any SUV. And the good news is that the 2018 Acadia offers a healthy amount of storage room with the second and third rows down. It’s also very easy to lower the seats, and even with the seats up there is easy access to the Acadia’s third row. Be aware though, the back seat is pretty tight and I would recommend for kids only whenever possible.

The leather-appointed seating in the Denali model I tested was quite comfortable.

I had a 6-passenger setup (2/2/2), but you can also opt for a seven-passenger version.

Other niceties included heated and ventilated front seats. Optional second-row heated seats; leather wrapped steering wheel; LED daytime running lights; 20-inch polished aluminum wheels; and a sunroof. Denali touches make it shine inside (wood accents) and out (grille).

It takes either three hours or seven hours to charge the plug-in version of the XC60, depending on your outlet.

Before we even dive into the eco-edition of the Volvo XC60, let’s just establish a baseline here:


The standard gas-only XC60 is one of the best luxury SUVs on the market -- period. My time in that vehicle stands out, in part due to its truly luxurious interior, sharp panoramic moonroof, top-notch leather upholstery and of course a great ride quality. Last but not least, massaging front seats are offered that actually do a great job massaging your back and shoulders and are easy to control (Just don't get too comfy and lose focus on the road).

So beyond all that inherent goodness in the XC60, the question now becomes: What benefit is there to upgrade to the plug-in hybrid version of the XC60? (And a quick hint, FYI: If you want the gas-only model, I would act quickly; as Volvo has committed to launching only hybrid or electric vehicles from 2019 onward, as they fully embrace the eco-friendly movement in the auto world).

HOW’S THE RIDE?

The 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 eAWD is powered by a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine, plus an 87 horsepower electric motor. The total combined output is a stout 400 horsepower and 472 lb.-ft. of torque.

 

The Escalade is a lot of vehicle to haul around, but those who can afford to pick one up will be impressed by its design and tech-savvy features.

 

Close your eyes and think of a large, luxury vehicle.

It’s very likely that a vision of a Cadillac Escalade popped into your head -- probably a black one like the one I recently tested.

This brand and model has become synonymous with the lifestyles of those who can legitimately call themselves a boss, those who need to have a sharp vehicle to show around clients and associates.

And on the domestic front, families looking to be the most blinged-out drivers in the school dropoff line have been known to seek out the Escalade, too.

Basically a tricked-out version of the GMC Yukon XL or Chevy Suburban, it’s become a symbol of success. But the question is -- is that reputation merited, and how does the vehicle compare to other luxury SUVs?

The 2018 Lexus NX 300h is an impressive compact SUV that also offers strong fuel mileage due to its hybrid powerplant.


Small SUVs are all the rage. And being green is also on the minds of many carbuyers.

If you’re in the luxury realm, and both these things are on your wish list, your choices are pretty limited, but Lexus has one impressive offering with its 2018 Lexus NX 300h hybrid.

I recently spent some time in one and here is a full report on what it offers and who might be interested in picking one up.

If space is what you need, the GMC Yukon XL won't disappoint.

Numbers don’t lie, and in the case of the 2018 GMC Yukon XL, the numbers are pretty staggering.

It’s among the largest and longest vehicles available to car buyers, coming in at 224 inches long, 81 inches wide and 74 inches tall.

This big boy is a truck-based twin to the Chevy Suburban, with the main wrinkle being its Denali trim level, which pushes the Yukon XL into a higher echelon in the GM landscape.

I recently tested this behemoth and I’m back with a full report.


LOOKS

Size is everything with the Yukon XL, which grows from the base Yukon by more than 20 inches in length. Leg room in the third row also grows by nearly 10 inches when moving up from the standard Yukon to the XL, and cargo volume behind the third row more than doubles.

Point blank: Everyone and everything in the Yukon XL will be comfortable and roomy.

The 2018 Audi SQ5 is aimed at the luxury SUV buyer who wants some extra power and agility in their ride.

Some cars are fast. Others are faster.

And others are “holy xXxX this thing gets moving” fast.

The 2018 SQ5 crossover from Audi is in the final category, and I recently spent some time in this street legal rocket and am back with a full report.

LOOKS

Like the regular 2018 Audi Q5 … the 2018 Audi SQ5 is a well-designed crossover with an attractive look. But where the Q5 is strictly classy, the SQ5 moves up to looking sporty and classy due to a sharp high-performance looking exterior and interior. The optional matador red metallic paint job sparkled. 20-inch wheels are standard but you can upgrade to 21-inch wheels.

On the inside, my test vehicle featured a black interior with excellent detail.

The standard materials inside the SQ5 are a mix of leather and Alcantara suede, plus nice touches are offered like the optional Carbon Atlas inlays.

 

The Nissan Armada is a large, powerful ride that will fit even the biggest families comfortably.

For some people, bigger is always better.
Thankfully for them, several automakers have not given up on producing full-sized SUVs, the stunningly large vehicles which look like they could fit most of a traveling circus inside of them, and which you might hear an echo in if you yelled to the people in the back row..

One of those full-size SUV options -- the Nissan Armada -- recently went through a remodel, and I recently got to test out the 2018 version. I’m back with a full report on what it offers and how it compares to others in the class -- which also includes the Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe.

LOOKS

The big change with the redesign is that the Armada is now based off the same underpinnings as its more upscale corporate sibling, the Infiniti QX80.
And just like the QX80, the Armada can be described as big -- as in very big, wow that’s big!

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 continues the brand's legacy of making sporty and fun-to-drive vehicles of all sizes.

With each new model year, even if there aren’t wholesale changes, any Mazda vehicle needs to continue to demonstrate some key abilities in order to maintain the brand’s reputation -- and chief among them is a stout driving performance.

I recently spent some time in the 2018 Mazda CX-5, a vehicle that has long been a favorite of mine in the mid-size SUV category, and I’m back with a full report on how it holds up to expectations.

LOOKS

While not a lot is new in the 2018 CX-5 due to a significant remodel one year ago, you do get some changes for the new year, including a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel.
This exacerbates an already well-appointed interior in the CX-5, not at luxury level but sharper looking and more comfortable than most vehicles in the segment. You’ll find mostly soft surfaces, high-class touches on the dashboard. and leather-trimmed seating. A power moonroof is offered for a nice visual touch.

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