SUV/TRUCK REVIEWS

The number of people who can afford three-row luxury SUVs is not a large one, but it’s a market with some of the most intense competition in the industry. Battling for those big bucks is never easy, with so many strong products available, and loyalty is hard to sway.

 

One automaker doing its best to compete in this niche segment is Volvo, whose flagship XC90 SUV has stepped up its game this year to compete with the big boys as well as it can.

So what does Volvo bring to this battle of luxury SUVs? … Bold but not extravagant Scandinavian design, elegant look and feel, strong engine performance and handling and tons of space … though some issues with the tech system do hold it back from true greatness (more on that later).

 

The 2017 Acura MDX offers seating for seven.

With the intense competition in the category, luxury automakers have to focus greatly on strategy when designing their vehicles -- considering every detail from looks to performance as compared to the rivals in the segment.


I recently spent some time in a 2017 Acura MDX, the three-row SUV from Honda’s luxury arm, and I’m back with a full report on how well they did their homework as they aim to grow their share in the segment.

The 2017 Nissan Murano stands out among the midsize crossover competition

Making a good first impression is important. It sets the tone for everything that comes after. And unlike many crossover SUVs, which come across as just carbon copies of one another, the 2017 Nissan Murano makes a statement from the get-go.


Simply put, the Murano is one of the best-looking crossovers on the market, perhaps even the best. With its distinctive lines, its long and swooping shape, and a lower profile than most SUVs, the looks are wholly unique. That’s a big deal in a crowded SUV marketplace -- it catches your eye in a good way.

The 2017 Volvo XC60 offers a surprisingly fast ride, and brings Volvo's safety pedigree.

The Volvo brand -- once you move beyond its loyal, safety-focused followers -- finds itself in an interesting position. Volvo is not the first auto company people think of when they hear the word “luxury”, but that is how they identify (and price) their vehicles, which are up against the biggest international luxury automotive names in the world.


One of their top models is the XC60 crossover, which I recently had the chance to test. So the question is: How well does the 2017 XC60 hold up well against tough competition?

LOOKS

The XC60 is officially considered a compact SUV, but I found it to be closer in size and storage space to many midsize SUVs.

Put down the rear seats and your storage space is among the best in class. Legroom and headroom in the vehicle is excellent in all seats. Overall look and feel of the materials inside are high-class. The XC60 shows luxury pedigree, even moreso than some vehicles that cost a bit more. In part due to materials, there is a comfortable feel for the driver even on longer rides.

Exterior design on the XC60 isn’t as flashy or attractive as some rivals, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either.

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable crossover with some upgrades for 2017.

Now that crossovers are becoming the vehicle of choice for families, all the vehicles in this category constantly have to reinvent themselves to stay competitive.

Case in point: The Nissan Pathfinder. This is a fine vehicle, but was in need of a refresh for 2017 to catch up to the Joneses. I recently spent some time in a Pathfinder and have the scoop on how it competes.

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.

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