SUV/TRUCK REVIEWS

The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir is a roomy SUV that seats seven comfortably.

With some auto brands, there’s often debate about how to classify them. With Buick, the debate centers on whether it’s truly a luxury brand (like fellow GM stablemate Cadillac) or something less -- perhaps more of a premium brand that’s more plush than Chevy but not quite at a Cadillac level.

Either way, it’s really all semantics. Because in the end, what matters is that a vehicle is well-built, performs well and looks great. And with the vehicles Buick has been putting out in recent years, they are certainly meeting that expectation.

I recently spent some time in Buick’s largest SUV -- the three-row Buick Enclave, which can be considered the crown jewel of the Buick lineup -- and I’m back with a full report.

The 2018 GMC Terrain has undergone a full redesign, for the better

Long overdue for an upgrade (it hasn’t had one since being introduced in 2009), the GMC Terrain compact SUV finally gets one for the 2018 model year.

In a segment that continues to be hot and see more entries, it’s critical to stay fresh.But is it fresh enough? I recently spent some time in a 2018 Terrain and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS
Less boxy and rigid, and more sleek and aerodynamic, than its predecessor, the 2018 GMC Terrain is seriously upgraded in exterior looks for 2018. It’s not so extreme a change that it blends in with the crowd now (the grille still screams GMC), but it’s enough of a change that you definitely won’t confuse it with the prior version. In the process of the upgrade, the Terrain lost a few inches of length and shed several hundred pounds of weight.

The interior is high-end and comfortable, especially on the Denali model, which is at near luxury level. It’s one of the most comfortable small SUVs you will find on the market.
It also feels surprisingly roomy for a small SUV, not claustrophobic like some of them can be. A power sunroof is offered too.

The Toyota 4Runner is one of the few vehicles available primarily aimed at those who prefer to drive off-road and need a vehicle capable of doing so.

Appealing to everyone is the goal of some vehicles. Those are the ones that generally top the sales charts.

In the meantime, there are plenty of other vehicles that focus on what they do best, and aim for their niche market, and the Toyota 4Runner is one of those. This longtime favorite of drivers who love to go off-road continues to play to that crowd and remains successful, because it knows what it is and builds on those strengths.

I recently spent some time testing a 2017 4Runner 4x4 TRD Off-Road, and here’s my report on what it has to offer. (Note: the 2018 4Runner is essentially the same vehicle)

The 2018 Chevy Tahoe is a top seller among full-size SUVs, for many good reasons.

“Go big or go home!” is a saying I seem to hear often these days, with everyone from poker players to “Jeopardy!” contestants spouting this all-or-nothing wisdom.


But when it comes to buying a vehicle, the good news is you can go big AND go home -- you just need to get one of the few remaining truck-based full-size SUVs that are still available to consumers to do so.

One such entry in this small (but very profitable) segment is the 2018 Chevy Tahoe, which I recently had a chance to test. I’m back now with a full report on how it compares to the other remaining big boys on the battlefield including some others from within the GM stable (which collectively dominate this segment in sales) and the Ford Expedition.

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 has a sharp look, and handles very well for an SUV.

The general thoughts of someone buying a three-row SUV tend to focus on things other than power and the ride quality -- Buyers seek out storage space, they want maximum seating and they want safety features on the family vehicle. Often, people will settle for a disappointing ride if the other boxes are checked, since their priorities have changed due to that thing called family.

Luckily, they don’t always have to make that sacrifice, as evidenced by vehicles like the 2018 Mazda CX-9, which I was recently able to spend some time in. Despite being a three-rower with capacity for seven, the experience of driving the CX-9 is not what you would expect -- in a good way..

 

The Chevy Equinox has been redesigned for 2018, and also includes a diesel engine offering.

Did I hear the word diesel?

It’s pretty rare these days … as diesels were never that hot on this side of the pond, and after the scandals involving Volkswagen and other automakers in recent years it’s a format that few automakers are eager to explore here, as they choose to leave their diesel offerings overseas and not stateside.

But for those who dare (GM is offering diesel engines on the Chevy Cruze and GMC Terrain in addition to the Equinox), it remains an alternate way to offer better fuel milage without offering hybrid or electric vehicles.

 

The question is: Can diesels ever really catch on the U.S.A.? I recently tested a 2018 Equinox diesel and I’m back with a full report.

The Jaguar F-Pace is a bold entry for the brand into the SUV segment.

Even as they rose in popularity, SUVs weren’t always something that people thought would make their way to every single automaker -- particularly sports car brands like Jaguar.

But Jaguar couldn’t resist, and it’s even spread from there (Alfa-Romeo, Maserati and Lamborghini now have SUV offerings, and Ferrari is reportedly has one in the pipeline -- who woulda thunk it?).

As much as the sports car purists are made sick by this development (“how dare they tarnish the brand” or something like that is often muttered), there’s no denying the SUV and its practicality are here to stay -- even in the upper echelons of the automotive world.

Having debuted for the 2017 model year (and now already updated for 2018 edition with more engine options and other additional features), the F-Pace made its mark in the luxury SUV class instantly. As the brand continues to grow its offerings in this segment (the compact E-Pace and electric I-Pace are just around the corner), the F-Pace was their opening shot.

I spent some time in an F-Pace 35t R Sport, and here’s my take on how it fits in the scheme of luxury SUVs.

The Nissan Titan comes prepared to get the job done.

Nissan Titan (Price as tested: $39,505)
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While truck sales are dominated by the trio of Ford, Chevy and Ram, we shouldn’t forget that there are other capable options out there worth considering. And I’m not talking about getting a truck for a Sunday drive: I’m talking about the Nissan Titan, which comes ready to do some work, whether it be hauling or towing, as a pickup truck should do.

With a starting price under $30K, the Titan is a strong option -- especially if you opt for the 5.6-liter V8 engine and its 390 horsepower/394 lb.-ft. of torque.

I used a Titan to haul some large loads of metal and appliances to the scrap yard, and it held up well throughout. It gets the job done, which is the point of a truck like this. Towing capacity is over 9,000 pounds, and payload capacity is just over 1,900 pounds.

Official mpg numbers on the Titan are 15 city/21 highway and 18 combined.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t want this big machine as my daily driver, as it’s too slow and lumbering for that, but if I was in the hauling and towing business on a daily basis, i would have to give it serious consideration.

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2017 Infiniti QX60 (Price as tested: $60,045)
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When people have money to spend, they’re often going to spend in on cars. That’s why it’s so important for automakers to get their big luxury vehicles right, as brand loyalty is a key factor so you don’t want to screw that up from the start.

I’ve driven multiple versions of this next vehicle, the Infiniti QX60 (previously known as the JX35 upon its initial launch), and it only gets better with time. It remains one of my favorite luxury SUVs, inside and out.

Recent upgrades to the QX60 include boosted power from the engine, as well as a larger infotainment screen up front. Outside design is sharp, recognizable and smooth looking -- typically the case with Infiniti. Inside layout is created for comfort for driver and passengers, with quality leather plus wood grain touches to enhance look.

Its 3.5-liter V6 (295 horsepower, 270 lb.-ft. of torque) isn’t best in class but still doesn’t disappoint. The tech setup is a bit too button-laden; could be simplified. But that’s a minor quibble since the vehicle’s drive quality is smooth to the point I’d call it silky. Fuel mileage numbers are 19 city/26 highway/22 combined, and safety ratings are top-notch.

Bottom line: Unless you absolutely need the most powerful engine in class, the QX60 is one of your most comfortable, safest and family-friendliest options in the luxury SUV category.

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AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

The 2017 Hyundai Tucson Night features an all-black design.

Special editions are often a topic of debate among automotive aficionados -- some see them as gimmicky and unnecessary, but others applaud the diversity of models that they bring.


One particular trick that you see automakers pull out from time to time is the all-black look, and that’s what Hyundai did for its “Night” edition of the 2017 Tucson, which I recently spent some time in.

So what’s the verdict? Read on for the details.

LOOKS

As you might guess from its name, the Hyundai Tucson Night is black all around. That includes the exterior (Black Noir Pearl to be exact, a particularly striking shade of black), its 19-inch alloy wheels and their black finish, and black interior seating.

Put me in the camp of loving these special editions, especially when they come together this well. The Tucson Night looks super sharp, by any measure. It’s got an almost aggressive look to it, which fits well with the paint scheme.

The 2017 Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk features a unique look and design, and is built for off-road capability

Jeep is a brand that will always have an audience, both in America and abroad, and it carries a lot of the load for FCA. Much of that success is from annual top-sellers like the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, but there’s also some very cool special editions that come out -- including the 2017 Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk, which I recent had a chance to test out.


IT’S GOT THE LOOK

The Renegade comes in many trim levels, including the off-road friendly Trailhawk. The Desert Hawk is basically a limited edition of the Trailhawk with a very cool look that’s all its own. As with most Jeeps, the trail-rated Desert Hawk is aimed at those who like to hit the road where the road ends

Visually the Renegade Desert Hawk is one of the most attractive vehicles I’ve seen all year. It starts with a strong paint scheme (Mojave Sand), then up front it features the bold Jeep grille and a unique headlamp design, going up to the hood and its huge but not gaudy map decal design. It’s not a stretch to say that when driving a Desert Hawk, no vehicle on the road will look quite like yours.

Other colors are offered on the Desert Hawk (gray, white, green), but the Mojave Sand is easily the best-looking option.

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