SUV/TRUCK REVIEWS

Honda's back in the truck game with the impressive 2017 Ridgeline.

While it was gone from the market for a couple of years, the Honda Ridgeline wasn’t quite about to disappear. Instead, it got a major revamp, and the result is the 2017 Ridgeline -- a freshly updated and strong competitor in the newly resurgent category of small trucks.


I recently spent some time in a Ridgeline and here's my take on the experience.

 

VW's Touareg is currently the largest SUV sold by the automaker, until the new three-row Atlas comes out this spring.

Volkswagen is primarily known for its cars -- the Jetta, Passat, Beetle, etc. -- and that’s the first image of a VW most people will get in your head.

But the folks in the front office are thinking about SUVs and how to boost their stake in that ever-growing segment of the auto industry. Later this spring, the three-row VW Atlas will debut, and will be the largest SUV in the lineup. Until the Atlas debuts, the two-row luxury-lite Touareg SUV is the largest VW has to offer, and I recently spent some time in one.

The 2017 GMC Acadia was redesigned for 2017

Nine years is a long time for a vehicle to go without a refresh, but that’s how long it took for the GMC Acadia, which finally gets a new look in 2017 as it aims to grow its sales with a redesign.


The new Acadia has gone on a bit of a diet -- getting shorter and lighter -- and the question now is: Will the changes be enough to improve this midsize SUV’s standing on the intense battlefield that this segment has become?

NEW LOOK

For the 2017 version of the Acadia, you lose just over 7 inches of length, about 3.5 inches of width, plus just under 7 inches of height. Add that all up and the inside is a bit smaller -- less head room, less leg room, less cargo space. The other part of the diet is the weight, roughy 700 pounds are gone.

The design changes mean that if you go for a three-row version of the Acadia, you’ll have less room in the back seats -- meaning they’re strictly for little ones. The weight change means a peppier drive due to less poundage being hauled around with you, and of course a boost in the fuel mileage numbers.

Chrysler Pacifica Touring L-Plus

 

Let’s be blunt: Chrysler (and parent company FCA) have a lot riding on its new 2017 Pacifica minivan.


With the impending disappearance of the Chrysler 200 sedan, the Pacifica will soon be one of only two remaining Chrysler nameplates (the other being the Chrysler 300 full-size sedan). Sure, there is also a hybrid version of the Pacifica available (and a rumored all-electric version coming in the future), but if you’ve only got two vehicles in your portfolio, they better be great and they better be selling.

WIth that in mind, Chrysler has worked hard to make the all-new Pacifica (a replacement for the long-running Town & Country minivan … not a reboot of the Pacifica crossover that stopped production after 2008) as competitive as it can be vs. the other minivans and boatload of SUVs available to families.


Did FCA and Chrysler do enough to make it work? I just spent some time in a Pacifica and I’m back with a full report to let you know.

The Dodge Durango offers more power than your typical SUV.

Despite the common perception, SUVs don’t have to be boring grocery getters.

Don’t believe me? See Exhibit A: The Dodge Durango.

I recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Durango Citadel, and the experience was far from pedestrian. Yes you can and will haul the family around in it, but it also shows a likeable character you don’t see in much of SUV world.

RAM's truck lineup offers the best mpg numbers in the segment, courtesy of its EcoDiesel engine.

The domestic pickup truck battlefield is not an easy one, but Fiat Chrysler’s RAM brand has a trick up its sleeve -- and it’s called diesel. While the competition might focus more on new materials being used to lighten the vehicle, or towing, or overall ride and drive quality, RAM is standing out from its competitors by offering an EcoDiesel engine and the higher fuel mileage that comes with it.

I spent some time testing a 2016 RAM 1500 Limited Crew Cab with an EcoDiesel engine, and I’m back with a full report.  

LOOKS

A pickup truck should be tough and sturdy, and also look that way. RAM has you covered there, and this vehicle is fully equipped to handle your workload either at or near the level of its competitors (if you’re actually going to use it for work and not just take it to the grocery store, that is).

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 is a new model, replacing the SRX crossover

A crossover by any other name is … not the same?

That’s the question at hand as Cadillac introduces the brand new 2017 XT5 crossover, which is the replacement for their top-selling model, the SRX. The goal, of course, is that the updated model in this category will perform even better than its predecessor.

Being a Cadillac, the XT5 is going have a get some respect right off the bat on name alone. But it still has to deliver the goods, as the luxury crossover market is extremely competitive right now.

I recently spent some time driving an XT5 and I’m back with a full report on how it fits into Cadillac’s lineup and the luxury market.

Infiniti has upgraded the QX60 crossover for the 2016 model year.

The luxury vehicle class, more so than more pedestrian cars, is very much about brand loyalty. So anyone trying to make inroads needs to constantly be updating and improving their vehicles in order to stay relevant.

Such is the case with Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, which continues to search for that magic bullet that will catapult it up toward the sales realms that the more well-known luxury brands can claim.

While I’ve have mixed experiences driving Infiniti sedans over the years, I’m a longtime fan of their SUV lineup. Several years ago, before all the name switching to the QX coding, I was an instant supporter of their brand-new three-row JX SUV, and recently drove the latest version of this vehicle -- the 2016 Infiniti QX60.


With exterior upgrades, plus a quieter and more insulated ride and a generally sportier feel to the ride, the changes are noticeable, but is it good enough to draw customers from the luxury competition?

Mercedes-Benz's Sprinter passenger van features comfortable seating for 12, plus storage space in the rear.

“I’m going to drive THAT THING? This should be interesting”


That’s the thought that ran through my head when I first saw the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter passenger van pull up to my driveway …  

Until you see one of these vehicles up close, and see it side by side against regular vehicles, you can’t appreciate its size. This full-size van makes large SUVs look like small cars, and small cars look like toys to be flicked away with your finger.


With their vertical design, approaching the size of a UPS truck, and featuring comfortable seating for a dozen people plus a large storage area in the rear, they’re an amazing sight to see.

 

The 2016 Range Rover HSE Td6 offers excellent fuel economy, and off-roading chops, a rarity among large luxury SUVs

Say the word diesel these days and negative images come up to most people (what with that little VW scandal); but let it be known that diesel is by no means dead.

In fact, if you’re for looking diesel vehicles that deliver amazing fuel economy, there are some scandal-free options out there for you -- provided you have a few bucks.

In this case, make that a lot of bucks -- as I recently tested Land Rover’s 2016 Range Rover HSE Td6, which I can honestly say is among the most impressive vehicles I’ve driven in recent years -- diesel or otherwise.

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