NAIAS 2017: Say Hello to Your Next Rental Car, the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

You know it. Nissan knows it.

Consumers are fleeing cars in favor of high-riding crossovers. And the Rogue Sport is another one.

Despite the name, Nissan’s newest utility is less Rogue Jr. and more overseas transplant. Nissan America adapted the Qashqai, available in global markets since 2006, with a new name to meet North American tastes (though not in Canada, where it’ll still use its Turkic nomenclature). The renaming ensures we can pronounce it (and Nissan can preserve its Star Wars connection). More importantly, it hitches the new crossover to Nissan’s best selling nameplate.

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NAIAS 2017: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 and GLA45 Drops in Detroit, Gives You New Bumpers

Mercedes-Benz has a total of seven model series in the SUV/crossover playing field, ranging from its granddaddy G-Wagen to the compact GLA. Given SUVs and crossovers are enjoying record sales numbers, it should be no surprise manufacturers are wont to outdo their competitors by keeping them as fresh as possible.

Applying their considerable engineering might, the boffins in Stuttgart will kick off 2018 with a neue version of the GLA — with some new bumpers.

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2017 Honda CR-V First Drive Review - Vehicular Happy Meal

Update: An earlier version of this story stated the 2017 Honda CR-V was “American-made.” However, the CR-V is manufactured in both the United States and Canada for North American consumption. Sorry, Allistonians.

We sat down for dinner in a rented space shortly after arriving in Monterey, California. The food, standard fare for such a gathering, consisted of no less than three different types of meat, the usual suspects of sides, and one or two items my small-town mind couldn’t infer from the non-Anglo-Saxon names printed on the buffet placement cards.

This was normal for a manufacturer press launch dinner: provide just enough “exotic” items for attendees to feel fancy, privileged, and cultured, but make sure the usual assortment of normal standbys are present so as not to confuse the rest of us with indecipherable choice.

Not adventurous enough to take on that mystery sushi? Here’s some roast beef.

That sauteed vegetable of dubious origin giving you second thoughts? Here, have a potato.

To the front of the room stood two new 2017 Honda CR-Vs. Much like the edibles offered to the journosaur guests, one of the examples wore a resplendent, bright hue; the other a more muted pigmentation for those with more conservative sensibilities.

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Volkswagen Reveals Atlas, the Midsize Three-Row Crossover With VW's Future on Its Shoulders

The Atlas, Volkswagen’s entry into the hotly contested three-row crossover segment, is here — and it has the company’s future fortunes resting on its shoulders.

Volkswagen has not been doing well in the United States. Since 2012, its best sales year this millennia, VW has shed 30 percent of its sales volume. The brand that invented the compact car in the eyes of many Americans now finds itself in 14th place on the brand leaderboard with a 1.6 percent market share.

Dieselgate didn’t help, but its unbalanced product range may be the more nagging culprit. This is VW’s first mainstream, three-row crossover.

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Rental Review: 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

I’ve told epic tales before. Specifically, I’ve told you a story or two about the times I’ve spent at EPIC Hotel in Miami. In your author’s humble opinion, it’s the best hotel in America. The combination of the brilliant customer service, the enormous suites overlooking Biscayne Bay, the rooftop pool, the jazz club, and the best Japanese steakhouse anywhere makes EPIC, well, epic, even before all the kids were saying it.

I stayed at EPIC this past week while working in Miami, and there was only one thing about my week that didn’t fit the description: my rental car — a 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

In a place where everything about the experience is finely crafted and authentically brilliant, the Trailhawk is that awkward kid who’s trying too hard to fit in.

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Ace of Base: Mazda CX-3 Sport

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that is — all things considered — the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

Yes, yes, yes. I know. Another bloody crossover. But before you scroll down to re-read one of Jack’s breathless exploits or Sajeev’s rants on automotive style, permit me the following: what would happen if Mazda spent all its R&D budget shoehorning a rotary engine into the upcoming MX-5 RF?

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2017 Cadillac XT5 AWD Review - Tennessee Flat Top Box

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?

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2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD - The CUV That Thinks It's A Minivan

Car shoppers who need to carry more than four people should buy vans. Full stop. The minivan form factor is superior in nearly every manner to the SUV; from passenger comfort, to cargo room, to flexibility, the van wins. Yet American shoppers have largely abandoned the symbol of Eighties momness for the three-row crossover, this decade’s mom taxi.

While Nissan has offered minivans in various forms since the mid-80s, it’s a relative newcomer to the three-row CUV market with the 2013 Pathfinder. For 2017, Nissan has refreshed the Pathfinder — inside, outside, and underneath — all in an effort to make this big wagon appeal to all manner of drivers.

Including those who should be buying vans.

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2016 Fiat 500X Rental Review - It's Definitely Bigger

Fiat is marketing its new crossover as bigger, more powerful, and ready for action.

If you caught Fiat’s Super Bowl ad for the 500X, it relies heavily on sex appeal. The implication: that the 500X is more … erm … “excited” than the 500. So I was intrigued when a rental car branch recently told me the only SUV they had left was the 2016 Fiat 500X.

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2016 Lexus RX 350 AWD Review - Tradition in Disguise

“I hope someone’s watching.”

That thought ran through my head on my first night in the 2016 Lexus RX 350. No, I wasn’t doing something the cops should know about. This is TTAC, not Vice.

See, night had just fallen, and Lexus’s stalwart midsize luxury crossover was taking me home. I pulled up to the last stop sign and signaled for a right turn. Well, didn’t the RX 350’s yet-unnoticed LED cornering lamps light up that street corner like a baseball diamond. Nice — this is what people pay for, I thought. I hope someone’s watching.

It’s fickle, but it’s the little things that make you feel special. For my mother, it was the fender-mounted turn signal lamps that got her into her first new car — a ’76 Plymouth Volare (a decision she rightfully laments to this day.)

Cobble together enough feel-good features — ideally paired with a reliable powertrain (side-eye to the former Chrysler Corp.) — and you’ve got a pretty compelling package to dangle in front of buyers.

That’s assuming they like the face.

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2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo Review - Jumping Off the Blandwagon

The SUV’s rise to king of the automotive fiefdom is well documented. Seizing the chance for fat profits and sales glory, manufacturers took their existing product, added a couple of doors and ladled on the chrome. Buyers flocked to them like Brexiters lining up to change their vote. In time, thanks to Prius driving tofu-twinks wearing nuclear-free peace sandals, these brutes became as politically correct as a Monsanto home fracking kit and, with a few exceptions, have been resigned to the dustbin of history.

OEMs recognized the trend, slowly backing away from the behemoth machines. Modifying their smaller unibody offerings, tall two-box crossovers soon dotted the landscape, watering down the SUV formula until buyers were left with the automotive equivalent of Metamucil.

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2016 Toyota RAV4 AWD Review - Competent Guy Gets the Reward
“Competent” — it’s one of the least sexy words in the dictionary. Hell, the word “dictionary” is arguably sexier. You’ll find the term next to “cardigan” and “financial adviser,” which are probably familiar words for someone known to be competent.Competent Guy is that dude in the office who doesn’t cause you any grief. He never fails to complete a task, doesn’t cause any drama, and avoids pissing everyone off. He’s the reliable friend people ask to help them move. It’s guys like this who keep an operation humming along, and their reward is being able to put down roots, grow old, and enjoy the spoils that come from being a respectable member of society.The Toyota RAV4 is the Lucy fossil of crossover SUVs, and it didn’t get there by making a bad impression. No nameplate reaches 22 years of age by frustrating owners, and you don’t become (and stay) the top-selling crossover by being hard to live with. For volume-hungry automakers, the RAV4 (aka. Competent Guy) is a rolling how-to guide for sales success — do the basics well, avoid controversy, don’t offend with styling, and make a good enough impression during the test drive that buyers take it home after the date.It’s after the vows are exchanged that Competent Guy starts to show off his quirks.
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2016 Kia Sedona Review - Minivan in a Crossover Suit

Let’s face it: Nobody wants to drive what their parents drove, even if it’s the right vehicle for the task at hand. Minivan shoppers balked at their parent’s station wagon, and CUV shoppers seem to believe that minivans are the gateway to mom-jeans and velcro sneakers.

My sister-in-law is the perfect example of a conflicted minivan shopper. With four kids, she needs a minivan. However, because she grew up sitting in the back of a string of Chevrolet Astro vans, she has a special hatred reserved for minivans. It probably doesn’t help that her parents recently traded in an Oldsmobile Silhouette for a Chrysler Town & Country.

Technically, a family of six will fit in your average three-row crossover, but even the biggest CUVs have a cramped back seat and limited cargo compared to the average minivan.

Seeing an opportunity to differentiate itself, Kia decided to put a different twist on the Sedona when it was redesigned for 2015. The latest Sedona gives up some traditional minivan practicality in an attempt to appeal to crossover shoppers on the fence.

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2016 Mazda CX-9 First Drive Review - Three Rows of Zoom-Zoom

When Mazda initially launched the CX-9, it aimed the crossover firmly at American buyers — 80 percent of CX-9 production came to the U.S., and exactly 0 percent stayed in Japan. It was an American under the sheetmetal, too, built on an older platform shared with Ford.

For 2016, Mazda completely redesigned its large, three-row crossover with an eye on improving dynamics, efficiency and giving the brand a near-luxury alternative. Yep, Mazda believes its new Signature trim — featuring such adornments as heads-up display, Nappa leather, and real wood trim — is an alternative to the Acura MDX.

Mazda hasn’t gone completely upscale, however. Most of the CX-9 lineup aims squarely at the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Chevrolet Traverse.

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2016 Infiniti QX50 AWD Review - Athletic Heavy Drinker

From krill-hungry Lincolns to Predator-style Lexus grilles, the automotive market is littered with luxury crossovers like rocks covering the landscape of my home province of Newfoundland. With few exceptions, they’re all ponderous boxes offering the driving dynamics of tapioca pudding. Adding a sport package to these machines simply upgrades them to slightly warmer tapioca pudding.

The 2016 Infiniti QX50, though, surprised me … and I like surprises — for example, buying a new type of beer and finding it to my liking, or having a tool work better than expected. These are all experiences that give me pure joy. Heck, I even bought my first house largely based on the fact its floorplan wasn’t what I expected.

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  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Maybe those union dues will help soften the landing. Employment there used to be 4000 people, and the plant has been at risk for 15 years. Stellantis did recently say that it would be trimming dead wood so it could rebuild the company. The Cherokee is finished, but I bet the plant reopens with a smaller workforce once Stellantis figures out what to do with it.
  • Zipper69 The Bronco is a soft option and has the style that the Jeep lacks. The actual ability of the respective vehicles is irrelevant, they "compete" on image alone. The Bronco is new and trendy and production can't keep pace with demand
  • MaintenanceCosts Will the Bronco have a four-motor configuration a la Rivian? That seems to me like the right approach for an EV off-roader. Enables lots of neat tricks.