The off-road segment is the hottest in the industry. Everyone wants a piece of the Jeep life and automakers of all-kinds are jumping in including Subaru with their upcoming Wilderness sub-brand. And of course, the Canyon AT4 is designed with outdoor adventures in mind – an all-terrain package that’s available on every GMC with the exception, ironically, of the Terrain but that’s coming as well for 2022. Their small pickup has been updated this year across the board, and now the AT4 adds off-road confidence through standard 31” Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, a specifically tuned suspension with an Advanced Hill Decent Control System, an automatic locking rear differential and a transfer case skid plate. It possesses a bolder exterior design with dark chrome finishes, a larger grille and red recovery hooks. But this truck doesn’t stop there. With the addition of the Off-Road Performance Package you get a suspension leveling kit for the front end. Combined with the removal of the front air dam this Canyon’s approach angle is a friendlier 30 degrees. It’s also paired with rockers for added body protection and more skid plates for the middle of the truck. There are also unique 17” gloss black wheels, Carbon Black AT4 logos and a gloss black exhaust tip. All-weather floor liners and a spray-in bed liner round out the upgrades at an added cost of $3,195. It’s a great looking truck in Summit White powered here by the standard 3.6-liter V6 producing 308 horsepower through an 8-speed auto, returning 19mpg. You can also spec this AT4 with a diesel at a significant price increase but either way the AT4 is only available as a full 4-door Crew Cab with either a short or long box. With the next gen Nissan Frontier right around the corner and a recently introduced, beefed-up Honda Ridgeline and Ranger Tremor Off-Road Package already on sale, there are a lot of compelling choices in this segment that will give the Canyon AT4 a run for its money.
Denali is to the city as AT4 is to the wilderness. It’s another GMC sub brand that is being spread throughout their entire lineup and here on the Yukon includes all-terrain tires, skid plates, a more off-road friendly front fascia, an off-road driving mode, hill decent control and of course 4-wheel drive with an auto setting and low range. Couple those attributes with the optional air suspension with an extra 2” of lift and a limited slip differential and the Yukon cuts through deep snow like a hot knife through butter. Pricing starts at around $66,000 and when you load it to the roof with all kinds of goodies – including the optional panoramic – you end up here at $75,960. With the Traction Select System and wheel-specific 4-wheel drive, the Yukon AT4 feels like the beast you expect it to be but with the polish of a luxury SUV on-road. AT4 is a cool idea and will no doubt continue to bear fruit for GMC throughout their entire lineup.
The Mazda3 has the hot hatch look but until now it was all for show. Introducing the 2021 2.5 Turbo with standard all-wheel drive providing the oomph this car desperately needs. A car I’ve previously been ambivalent about has been given renewed life with a turbocharged engine. Feed it premium gas and it’ll reward you with 250 horsepower. That’s a huge 72% gain compared with the non-turbo 3 and it peaks much sooner. The top trim Premium Plus model which adds real leather, navigation, a 360 degree camera with real button, traffic sign recognition, and myriad other driver assistance features. Plus, you get the front air dam, gloss black roof spoiler and larger tail pipes. As tested, you’re looking at $34,820. The cost of the turbo and all-wheel drive adds about $3,000. Mix in all-wheel drive and big torque output and suddenly the 3 is a very entertaining drive with plenty of hot hatch spunk and a loveably safe toassability. Where Mazda comes in strong is in the driver assist arena where auto high beams, Traffic Jam Assist, driver attention monitor and rear cross traffic alert. The new turbo 3 hatch is the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel of a Mazda in some time and with this engine in the new CX-30 Mazda will really be making hay.
Acura has absolutely nailed it. I’ve got a week with this range-topping MDX Advance Package in gorgeous Performance Red Pearl with standard Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, priced at $62,175. The headline-grabbing trait is, without a doubt, how awesomely the MDX drives. So if you appreciate precise, effortless handling and a supple ride even in your family 3-row then this is definitely the one for you. So this model goes full peacock, showing off everything the new MDX has to offer such as premium leather, 16-way sport seats, 27 different ambient lighting schemes replete with cool names, 20” wheels, a large and informative head-up display, a 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D premium audio system with 4 speakers in the headliner, and a surround-view camera system with a conveniently located activation button on the end of the wiper stalk. Great in the snow as well as in the curves, this MDX is a driver’s SUV with family capabilities at a smart price.
TOYOTA CAMRY SE NIGHTSIDE EDITION. Freshened styling, all-wheel drive and a Dynamic Force engine pumping out 203 horsepower, the Camry SE Nightshade Edition, with its honest to goodness key and no side blind zone alert, could be the $30,000 car of your darker dreams. So, what is it you want out of your Camry? There are 17 different choices in the Camry family. The car you’re looking at here blends 4-wheel traction, the sport-tuned suspension of the SE trim and the sinister looks of the Nightshade Edition and with the Carpet Mat Package, MSRP is $29,839. Fact of the matter is that this chassis is stellar and despite its lack of oomph I really enjoy driving this Camry; the ride is as smooth as Taylor Swift’s airbrushed face and this car legitimately handles – Toyota has nailed the suspension tuning. The engine is a smooth character as well but, man, it often feels really slow and the disconnecting all-wheel drive system can be clunky. The SE Nightshade Edition; a Camry that I like but one that leaves me wanting a little more.