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.
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.
While the smallest cars are far from the top of the sales charts, the opposite trend can be seen among the smallest of the SUVs.
In recent years, many automakers are jumping on the subcompact SUV bandwagon, and Toyota is no exception -- with their new C-HR model.
They are aiming at those who want the ride height but not necessarily the ride length.
But how does the C-HR (aka Coupe-High Rider) compare to others in this growing class like the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Chevy Trax? I recent spent some time in a C-HR and I’m back with a full report.
The exterior of the C-HR is truly unique … there’s nothing like it on the road. Odd shapes and lines can be found all around, plus you get a unique spoiler and you even get a goofy spot up high for the rear door handles. This will stand out against the typical run-of-the-mill compacts. Toyota and Lexus have chosen to go bold with designs in recent years. Some may like it and others won’t … beauty is in the eye of the beholder; and I actually kind of like this design.
What does an automaker do after a redesign gives it one of the best-equipped and strongest-performing SUVs in the luxury landscape? That’s easy -- you pretty much leave it alone for the next model year.
Such is the case for the 2018 Audi Q7, a three-row luxury SUV that follows a strong 2017 rethink. I recently drove a 2018 Audi Q7 3.0T quattro, and I’m back with a full report.
The look of a vehicle starts up front, and the Q7 features the always-attractive Audi rings atop a massive but tasteful horizontal-lined grille. Looking to the sides of the vehicle, you get a smooth profile with impressive lines and excellent aerodynamics.
Inside, the Q7 features room for seven passengers, but the back row is quite snug, and best reserved for small children. Also, the Q7’s maximum cargo space with back rows folded down is less than some of the competition.
Where the Q7 shines in is overall interior design. Up front you get a classy-looking long air vent setup, and the wood grain touches help complete the look on the dash (specifically, Terra Brown walnut inlays). I enjoyed the truly comfortable leather seating, even on longer rides, and the vehicle heats and cools very quickly.
Rare is the vehicle that’s hard to fit into a specific box … but the new Kia Niro is one of those vehicles.
The Niro is in a category with few direct competitors, if any. It’s a hybrid, which can be described perhaps as a wagon, perhaps a hatchback, and perhaps a small SUV/crossover, or some sort of combination of those options.
There are some vehicles out there which may be cross-shopped -- i.e. the Ford C-Max hybrid wagon, the Toyota RAV4 hybrid, the Prius hatchback and the Honda HR-V -- but none of those is an exact fit to what the Niro offers.
I recently spent some time in a Niro Touring model and I’m back with a full report on what it offers.
The Niro walks a fine line between categories, but is mostly wagon-like in its exterior look. It’s not the most attractive vehicle you’ll find, but not one that will cause you to avert your eyes either.
The big hit in the design is its roomy interior. It’s essentially a small SUV with room for five, 2 up front and 3 in back, and everyone can be comfortable. There’s a decent amount of storage room, especially with the rear seats folded down, but it trails other vehicles in total real estate for storage.
As Volkswagen rethinks their SUV lineup, the Tiguan was bound for a shakeup.
Having introduced the large three-row VW Atlas SUV last year as the top dog in the lineup, that left the Touarag and the Tiguan. And the Touareg got the boot.
The Tiguan, a compact SUV, gets an extension (10.6 inches longer) for its 2018 model, so it’s basically become a midsize SUV to replace the Touareg (and even offers a third-row option).
I recently spent some time in the 2018 Tiguan, and I’m back with a full report on how it holds up.
It takes a special vehicle and lots of effort to win top automotive awards like the North American International Auto Show’s top utility honor … and Volvo figured it out for 2018 with its XC60 reboot.
The stylish Swedish offering has drawn much acclaim in Detroit and beyond, but what’s all the hype about, and is it merited? I recently spent some time in a 2018 XC60, and I’m back with a full report.
Just like the larger XC90 on which it’s based, classy is the first word that comes to mind when you look at the XC60. Even sitting next to vehicles from BMW, Benz, Audi or Cadillac, the Volvo holds its own visually.
The exterior is distinctly Volvo -- somewhat bold yet still sleek and elegant. It’s a good mixed personality. 20-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires were featured on the vehicle I tested.
A panoramic moonroof with power sunshade is offered, and you will find very comfortable leather seating. The seats remain comfy on long rides, and the heated seats were very effective. The front seats can also use memory to save your settings.
Up front on the interior, you’ll find attractive and well-designed vertical slotted air vents. Another pretty touch is the subtle driftwood inlays up front. Rear seats are also roomy for the segment.
No need to fumble in your pockets, as the XC60 comes with keyless entry and drive. Four-zone climate control is featured, and you can fold down the rear seats for a good amount of storage space.
With some vehicles, you wonder what you’ll get with each model year, with tweaks coming on every version. And then there are vehicles like the Dodge Durango, which generally hold steady with what they offer yet continue to maintain the public’s interest -- because what they are doing is working.
I recently spent some time in a 2018 Dodge Durango, and I’m back with a full report on this SUV, which you could call the big friendly giant of the three-row SUV segment.
The short and simple way to describe the design of the Durango is that it’s perhaps the boldest looking of all three row SUVs. It’s large, heavy and muscular in design, a visual meant to present it as a strong vehicle -- which it is.
Sharing a platform with FCA relative the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango is longer than the Jeep and adds a third row and features lots of leg and headroom.
The Jeep brand, without a doubt, is one of the most recognizable brands in the auto world, and has its rabid fans across the globe. But when examining the lineup, highlighted by vehicles like the rough-and-tumble Wrangler and the plush Grand Cherokee, some tend to be more forgotten.
The Jeep Compass (which is larger than the subcompact Jeep Renegade, but slightly smaller than the Jeep Cherokee) is one of those more forgotten vehicles, so it has gotten a refresh in the past year in an effort to get it more up-to-date and boost its profile in the Jeep lineup.
I recently spent some time in a 2018 Compass and I’m back with a full report on what it has to offer.
Alfa Romeo SUV.
The fact that those words even exist tells you how much the automotive world has changed in the past several years.
An Italian company with a century of history built on curve-gripping sports cars and racecars wouldn’t have considered such a move before the SUV revolution took hold, but now they don’t really have a choice. With BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar, Maserati, Porsche and others in the mix already, they can’t risk losing luxury buyers who have migrated up to larger vehicles. Hence the Stelvio.
So what did Alfa do? Essentially they took a sports car and put it into the body of a small SUV. Here’s my thoughts on the finished product, which I recently got to spend some time in.
Built off the platform of the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulia, and fittingly named after a curvy mountain pass in Italy in the Eastern Alps, the Stelvio hits a home run in the looks department.
Your attention is immediately drawn to Alfa’s unique design up front, which I dubbed the “tri-grille” look. It’s got sharp-looking lines and curves, and for the record I have to say that the century-old Alfa Romeo logo (featuring a red cross and what appears to be a snake eating a man) is perhaps the best logo in automobiles.
As the list of entries into the category grows, three-row SUVs must continue to keep their name relevant, even if they’ve been successful for some time.
Such is the case of the Toyota Highlander, a longtime entry in this category full of upstarts, which seeks to maintain its position as one of the top-selling three-row SUVs.
I recently spent some time in a Highlander, and I’m back with a full report. (Note: I tested a 2017 Highlander, but the 2018 model is identical to the 2017 version.)