Tag: SUV

By on September 30, 2019

2013 Ford Flex

Seven years ago today, I bought a 2013 Mineral Gray Ford Flex SE. It wasn’t the ideal combination of options, nor was it the most desirable color — I would have preferred something in a Blue or Red, but Flex inventory was pretty limited, and Ford was offering some sort of quarterly promotion on in-stock inventory that was expiring that same day, so Mineral Gray SE it was.

180,000 miles later, it’s still in service as the family hauler. It’s taken thousand-mile-plus trips to places like Orlando, Minnesota, Kansas, and Iowa every summer, loaded to the gills with suitcases and sleeping bags. It’s endured through dozens of fruit punch spills and had hundreds of Cheerios trampled into its carpets. It even took a 40 mph hit to the rear subframe at a dead stop, and the precious occupants inside, my two young children, suffered nothing except a cup of spilled chocolate milk (which the interior also suffered, with a smell that took multiple cleanings to exorcise).

It started making a weird whirring sound in the dash a few years ago, but when the Ford tech said it would cost a few hundred bucks to fix, we simply got used to it. The “Check Fuel Filler Inlet” warning comes on every so often, as it does with all Fords of this era with capless fuel fillers, but I just clean it out and wait for the CEL to clear. It has consumed six sets of tires, but only two sets of brake pads — and it’s on the original shocks. I nearly knocked myself out with the tailgate once, thanks to the lack of a push-button feature, but honestly, I deserved it.

In other words, the Flex, long since paid off, continues to do exactly what I bought it to do all those years ago — transport my family with relative ease and comfort. I confess that I enjoy not having that $500-a-month payment anymore, and I fully expect to drive it another 2-3 years without issue (knock on wood). But if I did want to replace it, I’d have trouble doing so, because Ford won’t be making it after the 2019 model-year run expires. And that’s kind of a shame, because there’s nothing else like it.

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By on September 26, 2019

Toyota is updating the 2020 4Runner with more safety tech, infotainment options, and a compelling new trim. Based on the TRD Off-Road Premium trim, the 4Runner Venture Edition ditches the chrome to furnish customers with the ever-popular blacked-out experience. Mirrors, door handles, badging, and rear spoiler are all swapped for the darkest hue available.

The rest of the package plays to the body-on-frame 4Runner’s strengths. Toyota has fitted a Yakima Megawarrior roof rack as standard equipment as the vehicle’s crown jewel. Venture Editions also receive gunmetal 17-inch TRD wheels, while removing all other exterior references to Toyota Racing Development. The manufacturer suggests this provides the trim with “a cool, minimalist look,” and we find it difficult to disagree.  (Read More…)

By on September 18, 2019

The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport brings a rakish rear hatch to the refreshed Atlas line, but limits the midsize crossover’s seating configuration to five passengers. Once nestled inside VW’s upcoming Atlas variant, those five occupants will enjoy VW’s next generation Car-Net technology platform, while drivers can expect to be coddled by upgraded driver assistance technologies.

The Cross Sport applies an Audi Q7-esque not-a-coupe treatment that dials up the elegance, even when concealed by camouflage vinyl. If this is all it takes for buyers to feel like they’re avoiding the soccer parent image, then VW can expect to attract a style-sensitive buyer pool ready and willing to lose the small third-row seats. Even though the rear overhang is 5.7 inches shorter than the standard Atlas, it gains storage capacity in the transformation as a result of the removal of those rear seats. In its place is a flat load panel that covers a space-saver spare tire and optional Fender subwoofer. There’s actually a decent volume of unfinished storage capacity I’d expect many owners to find useful for infrequently used items. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2019

The news of Nissan’s recent financial trouble brought attention right where it needs to be: on lackluster product. In our most recent reporting regarding Nissan’s sales woes, I was asked in the comments whether I had any ideas for improvement. Well that got me thinking (and worked up), and it turns out I do have ideas, and they fall into three major categories.

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By on July 8, 2019

2019 Lexus LX 570 front quarter

In the beginning, Willys created the sports-utility vehicle. Now, the sports was negligible and the utility was strictly for the military-industrial complex, and darkness was over two continents at war. And when the war ended, Willys said “let there be civilians who want to drink cheap beer and go rock crawling,” and there were knobby tires and lift kits.

Then the off-roaders began to multiply, each taking their own form. And it was good. But then one saw that the fruit of a tree in the garden looked like a half-used bar of soap — this tree, known as the crossover, represents all that is evil.

Lexus has embraced everything within the realm of the sports-utility spectrum. From tiny crossovers to this massive 2019 Lexus LX570, nearly all needs can be covered. But is this biggest Lexus good or evil?

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By on July 2, 2019

Hyundai’s luxury Genesis brand is set to launch a new global electric vehicle architecture in 2021. Both a sedan and SUV are said to be in the works, positioning the Korean models to go head-to-head with Tesla Motors. These would be the first electric vehicles created under the Genesis moniker and are just a part of their growing commitment to developing alternative-propulsion vehicles. (Read More…)

By on July 1, 2019

1994 Mazda Navajo in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Mazda and Ford go way back when it comes to the badge-engineering game, what with all those Mazda-built Ford Couriers, Mazda-based Ford Escorts, Mazda-badged Ford Rangers, and so on. Since I love weird examples of badge engineering in the junkyard, I’m always on the lookout for the likes of a Saab-badged Chevy or Acura-badged Isuzu, and so I have been keeping my eyes open for a rare Mazda-ized Ford Explorer for quite a while. Most of them got crushed long ago, as the early Explorer has very little value today (due to its laughably small size and lack of luxury features, by 21st-century American-market suburban commuter-truck standards), but this ’94 just showed up in a Denver self-service yard.  (Read More…)

By on January 23, 2019

Don’t let the title confuse you; we’re not discussing how to save money on your electric bill. Today’s QOTD hopes to find utility vehicles of value, in both the SUV and CUV categories. Put on your thinking caps.

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By on December 27, 2018

2009 GMC Envoy Denali

Someone at General Motors has been studying the company history books again. Fresh news earlier this year taught us the company is bringing back the storied Blazer nameplate, appending it to a FWD-based crossover in a move that disappointed some fans but will surely delight GM beancounters as they’ll probably sell every one they can make to a crossover-thirsty public, the majority of whom care not one whit about the old body-on-frame machine.

A trademark application uncovered by a GM Inside News forum poster suggests GM could be poised to bring back another well-known badge. This time, it is GMC’s turn to plumb their collective memory for a popular name. The lead image above gives you all the clues you need as to which one it may be.

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By on December 20, 2018

2019 Mazda CX-5

If a gearhead is asked for car shopping advice, there’s a pretty good chance one of their recommendations will be a Mazda. The little Hiroshima Highway Hawks generally land on the sporty side of the segments in which they compete, whether one is talking about compact cars or SUVs.

For ages, the CX-5 has been a stylish entrant in the compact crossover class and is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle in America. It is a car notable for not being imbued with “Handling by Novocain (TM)” like so many of its competitors. For 2019, the CX-5 gains an optional 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four, meaning the CX-5 finally has a mouth to match its trousers.

And, oh yeah, the guy in charge captained one of the most prolific racing teams in the 24 Hours of Lemons.

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By on November 12, 2018

A couple of weeks out from the LA Auto Show at which it is scheduled to debut, a Russian car enthusiast site has published a picture of what certainly appears to be the 2020 Hyundai Palisade.

Cribbing a few styling cues from other recent Hyundai crossovers, including a grille vaguely shaped like a pointy mushroom bookended by low-slung headlight peepers, the ride shown here looks all set to appear in a school drop-off queue near you.

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By on November 5, 2018

1999 Acura SLX in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Even though we’ve just had two Japanese Junkyard Finds in a row, I’ve been searching for a discarded Acura SLX for so long that I had to share this ’99 in Denver immediately. (Read More…)

By on October 9, 2018

2018 Chevrolet Suburban RST

In some segments, familiarity is a good thing. The General has been the beyond dominant ruler of the king-size SUV segment for ages, ever since its competitors either stopped playing in the field or opted to equip their machines with V6 engines and independent rear suspensions. Both of those features are nobly forward-thinking but have yet to be rewarded by customers who seem to favor things they already know.

Casting a large-and-in-charge shadow, the Suburban you see here is endowed with seating for eight, cargo space best measured in acres, and 22-inch wheels. What’s absent? Oh yeah, a 6.2-liter engine.

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By on September 3, 2018

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

When The General created the Geo brand in 1989, the idea was that cars designed and/or built by Toyota, Isuzu, and Suzuki could be sold in the United States under the GM flag (Geos became Chevrolets after 1997). Of all the cars that bore Geo badging, the Tracker stayed in production the longest, when a Suzuki Grand Vitara-based Chevy Tracker could be purchased through 2004.

Here’s a frighteningly corroded 1993 Geo Tracker, spotted in a self-service wrecking yard in Joliet, Illinois. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2018

From 2009-2012, I spent some of the most frustrating days of my life behind the wheel of a Honda Pilot. My good friend Marc and I traveled the entire eastern half of this great nation in a Pilot with a 2008 Honda S2000 Club Racer in tow—literally—as we competed on the SCCA national Solo and Pro Solo circuit. If you haven’t done autocross at the highest level, you don’t know the frustration of having driven 12 hours each way for six minutes of total seat time over two days, only to lose a spot on the podium by less than a tenth of a second. My favorite memory is the time when Marc was so frustrated by the combination of a loss and being lost that he put his fist directly through his windshield-mounted Garmin GPS system.

The point of this opening paragraph is to let you know that I am one of the extremely few people who’ve actually done anything truck-related with a Honda Pilot besides taking it to Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond for a pretty nice little Saturday. The folks at Honda want to change this perception of the Pilot for 2019, and thus I was flown out to SoCal for two days to spend some time getting dirty with Honda’s three-row “light truck” SUV.

(Read More…)

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