TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HYBRID PLATINUM AWD QUICK TAKES. Toyota made “hybrid” synonymous with high fuel efficiency more than 20 years ago. Later, Toyota introduced the first hybrid SUV in its class, the 2006 Highlander. Leave it to Toyota to again raise the bar for hybrid SUV functionality by making the 2020 model the most fuel-efficient Highlander Hybrid ever. The bottom line is an eye opener for the efficiency-minded: 243 total system horsepower and up to a manufacturer-estimated 36 combined MPG. The latter is a 24-percent improvement over the previous-generation Highlander Hybrid’s 29 combined MPG. Yet, Highlander Hybrid still delivers the everyday acceleration, power and responsiveness that family buyers expect. In another Highlander first, the hybrid is now available in either 2WD or AWD, further expanding hybrid technology to a new group of buyers.
LEXUS RX 350 L 2020 QUICK TAKES. The pioneer of the luxury crossover segment is receiving an update – inside and out – for the 2020 model year. The new 2020 Lexus RX and RXL three row enhance both their elegance and captivating appeal through improved driving dynamics, an updated Lexus Multimedia System, additional standard safety features and elevated styling that bring a new sophistication to the RX lineup.
All 2020 Lexus RX models feature updated exterior styling that includes revised front and rear fascias and a new standard 18” wheel design. Triple-beam LED headlamps have also been redesigned as an option. Inside, an available 12.3-inch touchscreen paired with the remote touch pad supports added dynamic voice and navigation functionality. The updated Lexus Multimedia System now includes advanced in-dash technology to simplify a guest’s life, such as Apple CarPlay® integration for your iPhone.
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L
Not long ago, before every manufacturer offered one if not more, if your family drove an SUV it was likely either a Ford Explorer or a Jeep Grand Cherokee. And over the past 3 decades, the Grand Cherokee has advanced to the position of the flagship Jeep, with some trim levels so powerful and opulent that their price tags can rise above $100,000. But never has there been a Grand Cherokee big enough for a 3rd row. Enter the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L with 7-passenger seating. Moving off of its German-derived platform for the first time in over a decade the unibody Grand Cherokee L now rides atop an Italian-born, rear- or all-wheel drive architecture preserving its iconic 4X4 capability while promising an even more premium experience on-road. Top of the line Overland and Summit models feature an updated air suspension with adaptive damping shocks that Jeep says delivers world-class driving dynamics. Combined with active engine mounts that stiffen at higher speeds and an enhanced noise cancellation system, this should be one very quiet and comfortable cruiser. The powertrains are familiar with the 290 horsepower Pentastar V6 serving as the standard engine and the don’t-call-me-a-HEMI 5.7-liter V8 an option on Overland and Summit. It’s rated at 357 horsepower and can tow 7,200 pounds. Both are paired to an 8-speed automatic with the choice of 3 available 4X4 systems ranging from a basic, single speed transfer case to one with a low range and a limited slip rear differential. Add the Off-Road Group to that system and you’ve also got steel skid plates, more aggressive tires, and up to 24” of water fording capability. With the Quadra-Lift air springs, there’s up to 4+” of additional height span, more impressive off-road geometry and nearly 11” of ground clearance. Selec-Terrain offers 5 different modes for set-it-and-forget-it driving.
But the Grand Cherokee’s biggest evolution likely lies in here where the objective was to create one of the most exquisite and technically advanced interiors in the industry. Using handcrafted materials with an attention to detail, available features include seat back massage, ventilated 2nd row seats, a mix of 12 USB ports, customizable ambient lighting, quad zone climate control, and something I’ve always dreamed of owning, a 19-speaker McIntosh audio system – an automotive first.
The second row comes with standard “tip and slide” bucket seats and an available power-folding third row. Bench seating is optional. The third-row seat features a 50/50 split and both the second- and third-rows fold into a flat-load floor.
An all-new UConnect5 system features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s a rear seat monitoring camera first seen on the Chrysler Pacifica, a digital rear view mirror, a head-up display, night vision, and more…including late availability of advanced hands-free driving. Don’t need the 3rd row? The 5-passenger Grand Cherokee will also be redesigned later this year with plug-in hybrid variants also on the way and an even more luxurious Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer to follow.
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.
2020 AUDI Q7 55 REVIEW BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES. It’s no surprise; Audi sells far more SUVs these days than cars. And its largest has just been updated with modern tech and a new engine. This is the family-friendly, 3-row Audi Q7.
With a starting price of $55,795, admittedly the family has to have some money in the bank, but that being said this is the only Audi with seating for up to 7, standard all-wheel drive and 7,700 pounds max towing. Mine is the top-of-the-line Q7 Prestige, certainly well-equipped but not fully loaded, with an as-tested price of $76,040.