Tag: suv review

By on September 1, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Habanero Orange - Image: © Timothy CainIt took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in 2008, more than a decade after the compact SUV craze began, the first-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores. The Tiguan was more premium-priced than it deserved to be and smaller than it needed to be, but with a potent powerplant and fun-loving on-road behavior, those who could afford it and fit in it were happy.

It took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in the summer of 2017, nearly a decade after the first Tiguan arrived and eventually watched the release of two new Honda CR-Vs, two new Hyundai Tucsons, countless rival redesigns, and a bevy of new competitors, the second-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is now competitively priced. It’s properly sized — marginally larger than many rivals rather than distinctly smaller. This time, however, because of extra weight and an intransigent powertrain, the Tiguan doesn’t feel quite so punchy off the line. And in place of a dynamic repertoire vaguely reminiscent of an Mk5 Golf GTI — lively steering, quick turn-in, grippy cornering — the 2018 Tiguan is comfort-focused, keen on absorbing and mollifying and coddling.

Bigger, more comfortable, and arguably more attractive? The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan finally sounds like a Tiguan American crossover buyers might actually want. (Read More…)

By on August 15, 2017

2017 Buick Envision Preferred AWD - Image: © Timothy CainGeneral Motors apparently believes you’ll pay a genuinely lofty price for the 2017 Buick Envision precisely because it’s a Buick.

A basic 2017 Buick Envision, upgraded with Preferred trim in order to select the $1,850 all-wheel drive system, costs $38,645. That’s correct: the least costly AWD Envision is priced from $38,645. General Motors will sell you a larger, V6-engined, AWD GMC Acadia for only $445 more.

But that’s a GMC. A generic, garden variety, menial GMC. The Envision seeks to mercilessly trample on the Acadia’s blue collar status.

Who would want a spacious GMC when you could own a Buick; a smaller, less powerful, China-made Buick with cloth seats, no sunroof, blank switches at the front of the center console, and no advanced safety gear? Evidently, the person who’s willing to pay a premium for the Buick tri-shield badge. You know, the buyer who places a value on supposed Buick prestige over and above any accompanying equipment that may (or may not) accompany this alleged luxury SUV. (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk - Image: © Timothy CainThis is the new, second-generation 2017 Jeep Compass, tested here in $35,200 Trailhawk guise, including $5,510 in options.

It’s two inches shorter than the old Compass but two inches wider. The new Compass offers 20-percent more cargo capacity than the old Compass and, according to the specs, marginally less space for passengers. The Trailhawk’s 8.5-inches of ground clearance is up by four-tenths of an inch.

Forget the specs, though. And for a moment, forget the price. This new Jeep Compass is better than the old Jeep Compass.

It would be difficult not to be.

But comparisons with the an old Jeep Compass that went on sale in 2006, while making for easy reading and easy writing, won’t take us very far. Rather, our goal is to determine whether the new 2017 Jeep Compass is a worthy compact utility vehicle today.

Because improving upon a vehicle that, in 2006, TTAC called “ an ugly, gangly, underpowered, mud-aversive half-breed,” a vehicle that “stomps all over Jeep’s reputation as America’s purveyor of authentic off-road vehicles,” wouldn’t be surprising, sufficient, or significant. (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainTwo turbochargers. 362 horsepower. 384 lb-ft of torque. AMG’s 31:69 front/rear torque bias. 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. AMG-tuned air suspension. 14.2-inch front rotors. 285/40R20 rear tires. 640 watts and 14 speakers of Burmester surround sound.

Forget all that.

This is a story all about cargo volume. 10-14 percent more cargo volume. Sweet, sultry, scintillating cargo volume.

The 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic lineup is two vehicles strong. In one AMG GLC43, your dog stands up and waits for the liftgate to close. In the other, your dog rolls over, plays dead, and doesn’t get up until the end of your journey.

This is the latter, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe. It’s a genuine performance vehicle, with the power, grip, tenacity, and even finesse one expects from a performance vehicle, but also with style — love it or loathe it — that has practical implications for ol’ Bailey, the Bouvier des Flandres. (Read More…)

By on April 12, 2017

2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD – Image: © Timothy Cain

You’re about to read a review of the 2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD, and you’re quite possibly well aware of the criticism the Encore has endured here at The Truth About Cars.

“The Encore is one of the worst cars I’ve driven in a long time,” TTAC’s former managing editor wrote in 2015. “Is the Encore the worst Buick ever?” Corey Lewis asked late last year.

Meanwhile, the Encore has appeared on my personal list of the eight vehicles I don’t want to own for four consecutive years.

Building good small cars is hard. It turns out, building good small SUVs — we can call them subcompact crossovers — based on those small cars can be just as challenging. That doesn’t mean Buick got the Chevrolet Sonic-based Encore all wrong. Refreshed for 2017, the Buick Encore has some redeeming qualities.

Would I buy one? At $35,825, you can’t be serious. But I’m beginning to understand why your mother might want an Encore. (Read More…)

By on December 16, 2016

2017 Acura MDX black, Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

With remarkable consistency, the Acura MDX has remained exceptionally popular for more than 15 years, through three generations, and in the face of increasing competition.

Vital to the fortunes of American Honda’s upmarket brand, the MDX is consistently Acura’s top-selling model, earning more than one-third of all Acura U.S. sales in four of the last seven years. No premium-badged three-row utility vehicle now sells more often in America.

But why is it so popular? And does it deserve to be such an automatic choice for nearly 5,000 buyers per month, for more than 835,000 American SUV buyers since its launch in 2000?

Refreshed styling for the 2017 model year joins key mechanical upgrades from the 2016 model year to create this fully optioned $59,340 Acura MDX: all-wheel drive, entertainment package, technology package, advance package.

With distinctly wintry pre-winter conditions and six occupants aboard, we spent one week with a 2017 Acura MDX and came away with few heartfelt compliments and few serious complaints. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2016

2017 Cadillac XT5, Image: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars

When the original Cadillac SRX appeared for the 2004 model year, it rode atop a rear-wheel-drive unibody platform, offered three rows of seats, and asked a question rarely asked today: “V8 with that?”

Six years later, General Motors saw fit to yank the SRX out of that class and plunge it into the murderously competitive front-wheel drive, two-row luxury crossover field, shoving it in direct competition with the segment’s dominant sales king, the Lexus RX. Hand-wringing ensued, yet that iteration of the SRX sold nearly 100,000 copies globally in 2015. Not bad for a five-year-old model on the outs.

For 2017, Cadillac — drunk on the New York City skyline and “image spaces” in SoHo — introduced its CT6 sedan before turning its attention to updating its best seller.

Will Cadillac’s new utility, now christened XT5 and built in Saturn’s old Spring Hill digs in Tennessee, follow the brand’s relentless path to Audi-ization?
(Read More…)

By on August 17, 2016

2017 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

I’ve long since given up on the idea that it’s possible to have a truly unbiased review of an automobile — or anything else, for that matter. Nevertheless, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the service of that, I’m going to say up front that I completely despise this generation of Explorer. I didn’t like it when I reviewed an early model five and a half years ago, and I like it even less now that alternatives like the refreshed Grand Cherokee exist.

The worst thing about the Explorer is that it’s fundamentally a crappy version of the Ford Flex. The Flex is a thinking person’s station wagon. The Explorer is an idiot’s SUV. Perhaps a kinder, and more accurate, way to put it is this: the Explorer is a Flex remixed to appeal to women. I’ve yet to meet a woman who likes the Flex. In order to stop this from being a 1,200-word combo-diss-fest-and-Flex-hagiography, I’ve hired the infamous Danger Girl to offer some balance in my review of this brand-spanking-new-with-24-miles, $44,065, front-wheel-drive SUV.

Let’s do this.

(Read More…)

By on August 2, 2016

2017 Nissan Armada at Nissan Adventure Drive in Carmel, California, Image: © 2016 Josh Burns/Off-road.com

Wherever roads fade to tracks, bridges give way to fords, and addresses become coordinates, an intense internecine war is under way. Since the Land Cruiser and Patrol were born in 1951, Nissan and Toyota have battled over which automaker produces the best large, go-anywhere, do-anything SUV. It’s a competition that has spawned battle wagons of ever increasing size, off-road capability, passenger comfort, and refinement.

Unfortunately, American consumers have been sidelined.

Sure, Toyota will sell you a Land Cruiser, but the average Toyota store sells fewer than three Land Cruisers a year. It’s the Tundra-derived Sequoia that leads Toyota’s full-size SUV campaign in North America. Likewise, Nissan began offering the Titan-based Armada in 2004. Although the Nissan has consistently outsold its Indiana-built rival, it has long been a battle for third and fourth place.

Nissan is now taking aim at loftier objectives.

(Read More…)

By on April 22, 2016

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350, Image: © 2016 Steve Lynch/The Truth About Cars

Those of you who railed against Bark’s glowing review of the 2016 Ford Mustang convertible by claiming his “Ford bias” tainted his viewpoint might also think my yarn about this vehicle is spun in a similar vein. After all, I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services for 17 years, and here I am reviewing my own Mercedes-Benz-subsidized retiree lease vehicle. How could I possibly be objective, you ask?

Before we find out, bear in mind that I’ve driven a total of over 60,000 miles in ten separate copies of the last generation ML350 and its variants, so I know this SUV’s predecessor inside and out.

Most changes made to the GLE are positive, but there are a couple glaring exceptions.

(Read More…)

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