2022 INFINITI QX55 FIRST LOOK

2022 INFINITI QX55 FIRST LOOK BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES.
When it arrived 3 years ago, the QX50 small SUV was supposed to be the centerpiece of an Infiniti revival. Instead, sales have been extremely disappointing and now parent company Nissan is planning on steering the brand away from its luxury aspirations and more towards, what their COO has described, as a Nissan-plus brand.  That brings us to the just revealed 2022 QX55 – a coupe-styled derivative of the QX50.  The pair fleshes out the small end of Infiniti’s trifecta of SUVs and share much in common.  The new 55 is powered by the brand’s innovative variable compression turbocharged 4-cylinder producing the same 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.  And no surprise, the CVT remains as the only transmission.  The biggest difference between the two is that this one comes with all-wheel drive and 20” wheels as standard.  Bolder in its design, the QX55 is for the owner who is willing to sacrifice some cargo room for greater style.  Other than a reduction in luggage volume, the 2 are nearly identical dimensionally.  Available in Luxe, Essential, and Sensory trim levels, details regarding pricing and fuel economy will be announced closer to launch in the spring of 2021. 

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2021 TOYOTA SIENNA FIRST LOOK

Toyota’s infamously long product cadence has caused the Sienna to slide all the way to the 4th spot in minivan sales. That may not sound bad until you realize there are only 5 of them on the market. But going on sale this November is an all-new 2021 Sienna Toyota hopes can challenge the segment-leading Chrysler Pacifica. How will it accomplish this? Well, though they no longer own the market with it the Sienna continues to offer all-wheel drive – a big plus in the snowbelt – but here’s the headline: all models will be hybrids. Not a plug-in like the Pacifica, mind you, but a battery-motor- engine deal nevertheless. 245 horsepower and 36mpg is the hook Toyota hopes can reel you in. with this new model strategy. It’s an all-new vehicle from the ground up, elevating the Swagger Wagon look with a fresh design and new features Toyota says make this the most sophisticated, versatile and enjoyable Sienna ever. Engineers focused on reducing noises in the frequencies where conversation takes place, while also mitigating the feeling that you’re driving a bus by using what they call the Bridge Console, ergonomically positioned high with lots of storage, helping to alleviate stress and boost driver comfort. And then there are a host of other convenience features that have become minivan staples such as kick open and close sliding doors, sliding 2nd row captain’s chairs, modern connectivity but not wireless phone projection, Driver Easy Speak, and a vacuum. Above and beyond good stuff like a digital rearview mirror, head-up display, bird’s eye view camera and a refrigerator give the Sienna some distinction. Pricing for the very base FWD Sienna LE with its 8 passenger seating and stowable middle seat starts at $35,635 including delivery while a 7-seat AWD Platinum checks in at $51,635.

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2021 DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT

2021 DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT FIRST LOOK BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES. 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat
The 2021 model year will see Dodge’s lineup reduced to 3 models; a coupe, a sedan and an SUV. But for the first time – and perhaps the last – each one can be ordered as a Hellcat. Though a Journey Hellcat would have been fun, the Durango is the next in line to receive the brand’s outrageous supercharged HEMI V8. As one of the few remaining sanctuaries for 8-cylinder muscle, when Dodge refreshes one of their core models you can bet there’re going to be bigger engines and more horsepower on the menu. So to accompany the more aggressive styling and updated cockpit every Durango receives this year, there’s a new king of the hill model that reaches beyond the already potent SRT 392. This Hellcat, which produces 710 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque from its 6.2-liter engine, puts down a 0-to-60mph time of 3.5 seconds via Launch Control and Launch Assist. That’s faster than a BWM X6 M! Its quarter-mile time is an equally crazy 11.5 seconds. And how about a top speed of 180 mph while still capable of towing 8,700 pounds? It sticks to the road with more downforce thanks in part to its new rear spoiler and has greater stability turning into corners afforded by the Hellcat-tuned suspension. Reservations open in November with pricing set at $82,490 including destination.

2022 ACURA MDX FIRST LOOK

2022 ACURA MDX FIRST LOOK BY CAR CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES. A new MDX is coming and it’s a big deal. Why? For one, it’s the best-selling luxury 3-row SUV of all-time so this is a vehicle people are obviously interested in and 2) for Acura as a brand, the MDX and its smaller sibling the RDX do all of the heavy lifting in terms of sales. So in executing this next generation model Acura must be careful but not overly conservative. What you’re looking at here is a near-production ready prototype of the all-new model that goes on sale early next year. Acura now considers the MDX its flagship model and labels it the most premium, performance-focused and technologically sophisticated SUV in the brand’s history. Wider than before with a 3” longer wheelbase, this MDX debuts an all-new light truck platform that Acura states is built for athletic handling, refined ride comfort, exceptional cabin quietness AND one that’s capable of supporting the brand’s vaunted Type S treatment due later next summer. The standard engine will be the familiar 3.5-liter V6 while the MDX Type S will gets its own powerplant; a 3.0-liter turbo V6 producing 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, distributing its power via a 10-speed automatic and Acura’s brilliant, next-gen super-handling all-wheel drive system. This MDX also debuts a new double wishbone front suspension, known for its sporty handling.
The wider body enables more legroom in all 3 rows and more headroom for 3rd row occupants while bolstered sport seats with 9 massage modes and 27 different lighting schemes dazzle up front! The cockpit has gone digital and the RDX’s touchpad interface makes its way over to the MDX, featuring Acura’s largest ever center display. And in-car audio continues to blossom with an available 25 speaker, 1000 watt, 22 channel ELS Studio 3D sound system.

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2021 HONDA RIDGELINE FIRST LOOK

2021 HONDA RIDGELINE FIRST LOOK BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES

I’ve always wanted a Ridgeline; it’s a great lifestyles truck that’s as smart and versatile as they come, but like many of you, its soft, mini-van-like styling has kept me from pulling the trigger.  Honda realizes that so to broaden its appeal they’ve toughened up its appearance.  Going on sale early next year, the 2021 Ridgeline features all-new sheet metal from the A-pillars forward, with a power dome hood, more upright grille, brighter LED headlights and a prominent skid plate.  Out back, the new bumper flaunts more aggressive exhaust outlets.  And butching it up even more are rugged-looking 18” wheels and a wider stance. But if that’s still not enough testosterone for you the new Honda Performance Development package sports these bronze-colored wheels, unique grille, black fender flares and special graphics.  And it’s available on all trims. Last year, the 9-speed auto became standard on all Ridgelines and is paired to a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with an available torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system.  A unibody truck with car-like ride and handling yet capable off-road, the 2021 Ridgeline’s pricing will be announced closer to launch.     

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