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.
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.
Nissan Titan (Price as tested: $39,505)
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.
2017 Infiniti QX60 (Price as tested: $60,045)
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.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.
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.
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.
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.
Mazda was not the first brand to get into the compact SUV segment -- far from it in fact.
But when they did arrive in the segment, they brought a unique angle to the game: An enjoyable ride.
While other brands focused on the utility of the vehicle while often ignoring the need for a strong performance, Mazda decided it could do both with its crossover, the CX-5.
And while its sales numbers are nowhere near segment leading, the CX-5 has still been a remarkable success due to the fact it’s been able to offer that driver satisfaction in a package where that’s normally not found.
After spending some time in a CX-5, i would say it’s easily one of the best handling and most fun to drive SUVs available.
Toyota’s got a good thing going in the U.S.A.
Not only do their sedans dominate the sales charts, but when we move up to the SUV/crossover ranks, they’re right up there too.
Case in point: The Toyota RAV4 compact SUV. When this vehicle’s first generation came around in the mid-1990s, it was among the first offerings to fit into this new segment, which is now among the most dominant in the overall sales numbers two decades later. By being an early bird, the vehicle drew many fans and its current sales success reflects that.
For those who aren’t aware, the RAV4 is neck and neck with the Honda CR-V for the best-selling SUV in America (RAV4 sold 352,154 in 2016, vs. 357,335 for the CR-V). Not too shabby, and it might explain why RAV4s are as common to see on the roadways as overly eager road-crossing squirrels.
Still, this is a really tough segment -- with not only the CR-V but a ton of other options available (Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Chevy Equinox, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue are just some of the other vehicles to consider). So does the experience in a RAV4 live up to the sales numbers? I recently spent some time in one and I’m back with a full report.
Let’s be honest: The last time minivans were considered cool, the original “Ghostbusters” movie had just come out in the theater. Since then, their reputation has gone steadily downhill.
That’s why the death of the minivan has been trumpeted for years by naysayers, who claim SUVs are now the better alternative. And on one hand they are somewhat accurate, with minivan sales dwarfed more and more each year by the endless parade of compact, midsize and full-size SUVs flooding the market right now.
On the other hand, while some minivans are dying off (RIP Mazda5 and Nissan Quest), others are proudly continuing to bear the soccer mom-car badge -- including Honda’s Odyssey, Chrysler’s new Pacifica, the Kia Sedona and the vehicle I just tested -- the 2017 Toyota Sienna, which has proudly carried families for the past two decades.
One thing about Audi that no one can deny: No matter what size or shape of luxury vehicle you are seeking, they probably have you covered with a solid option. That’s true not only for the sedans (where the A series runs from the A3 to A8, with multiple models in each number), but also in the SUV lineup, where you can opt for a compact Q3, a full-sized Q7, or the middle child, the Q5 -- which I recently had a chance to test.
In essence, the 2018 Audi Q5 can be described as the Q7 minus a bit of length and the third row, which is a good thing considering how well the Q7 does everything.
Inside, the key question in these midsize SUVs is whether the back seat is actually comfortable. Good news here is both rows of the Q5 are roomy, with impressive legroom for the class. Seating is high-end and comfortable, storage is adequate, and you get attractive wood trim designs up front.
The exterior of my test vehicle was the usual stunning Audi white (Ibis white to be exact), which is a sight to behold and a unique look that instantly identifies the brand. And the design -- while not overly bold -- is supremely classy and elegant. This is a juxtaposition when compared to the more bold and dramatic designs on competitors such as Lexus.
If I had to pick a word to describe the design of the Audi Q5, it would be clean. You can tell a lot of effort went into making sure this vehicle is one that people want to drive and want to have in their driveway.
Lexus’ lineup has become increasingly bold-looking in recent years, particularly up front in their grille designs. But does the drive offer that same bold feel?
If you’re talking about the F Sport models they offer, absolutely. I recently tested a 2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport, which isn’t your typical grocery-getter luxury midsize SUV, and I’m back with a full report.
Inside, the looks are typical for Lexus -- lots of refined, comfy, high-end materials, plus the extra wide, multi-paneled infotainment system screen to greet you.
Outside though is where things get interesting on the RX. It’s a bold and aggressive design for a luxury SUV, by any measure -- even moreso on the F Sport version -- and puts out a strong attitude before you even step in the vehicle. It’s a bold contrast against more stodgy SUV designs you’ll see from German automakers like Audi, Benz and BMW. And sales of the RX show that this type of bold design is a hit with the public.
Inside the RX is still cozy, with a heated leather steering wheel, but the seat itself was at times not comfortable due to its crunched sport setup.
The F Sport package is what stands out here too, including:
-- 20-inch F Sport aluminum alloy wheels
-- F Sport tuned suspension with front and rear performance dampers
-- F Sport exclusive aluminum pedals
-- F Sport unique exterior trim
-- Chrome dual exhaust
This package not only affects the looks, but makes for a more engaging drive.