All of the full-size trucks on the market are pretty amazing…there isn’t a bad choice in the lot. But this Tundra Limited with the TRD Off-Road Package is a near-perfect blend of luxury sedan and weekend warrior hitting all the right notes in terms of comfort and capability. I love this truck for all that it is…but I just can’t believe Toyota didn’t give the 4-wheel drive system an auto setting…the other truck makers have learned that lesson but here you’re either in 2-wheel drive or 4-high with no variability for changing road conditions. Toyota wanted to make the Tundra the leader in driving comfort and this is a beautiful drive with car-like precision that’s been engineered into all of these new trucks. And with the off-road suspension you can tear down that trial while floating over the rough stuff. The new V6 grumbles like the V8, there’s plenty of power and the drive modes are intuitively integrated. Other than the lack of 4WD Auto this is a great setup for a truck that can do it all without going to extremes. I’ve really connected with this truck; it hits all of the right notes. Too bad it doesn’t fit in my garage.
This here is the Bronco Wildtrak – the most expensive Bronco – designed for high-speed, all-out dessert runs…a terrain type foreign to my area. Instead, I’ve got a freshly fallen 3” sleet bomb with some snow on top. This is the only Bronco which comes standard with the Sasquatch Package taking ground clearance to 11 ½” through long-travel Bilstein shocks and 35” mud tires mounted to 17” beadlock-capable wheels. There’s a higher final drive ratio delivering more torque to the ground and it also possesses a nearly 2” wider track. The Wildtrak also comes standard with the more powerful 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 rated at 315 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque on regular unleaded – 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque if you feed it premium. A 10-speed auto is the only available transmission on Wildtrak, rated at 17mpg. This one is also optioned with Dual Tops: a Carbonized Gray removable hard roof with a sound deadening headliner which was left at the shop and – the way it was delivered to me – with a retractable full soft top. Removing the standard fog lamps on this tester is the optional Ford Performance Heavy Duty front bumper which includes upgraded front steel bash plates. Other notable extras on this Bronco include leather-trimmed vinyl seats, a 2” hitch receiver for max towing of 3,500 pounds and the most lavishly equipped Lux Package which essentially turns this Bronco’s interior into that of a well-stocked Explorer’s.
This whole Wilderness thing is perhaps the smartest idea Subaru has ever had. It just makes too much sense; an all-wheel drive, outdoorsy brand with dogs in every commercial is perfectly suited for something more rugged. It’s Subaru’s best-selling model and their owners love them but let’s be honest; it’s never been a looker. Dorky is the descriptor that always comes to my mind but this Wilderness model is a game changer for Forester, taking it in a completely more appealing direction. Now, Subaru could have done a Fugazy LL Bean Edition wheel and sticker job here but no; this is a real deal off-road upgrade: more ground clearance and thus better trail-tackling metrics, specially tuned suspension components to compensate for the vehicle’s added height, all-terrain Yokohama 17” tires, a deep snow and mud driving mode that can work at higher speeds than in other Foresters, a transmission with an 8th gear, if you will, for the paddle-shifted manual mode and that also automatically detects steep gradients and locks into lower gearing to get the power to the ground, 3,000 pounds towing capacity – double that of the other models and a roof that can support an additional 100 pounds for things like a tent. This one is also equipped with an optional aluminum under guard for the engine and it’s the only way to get this sharp Geyser Blue paint. It looks amazing and the copper finish accents and Wilderness logos are appropriately sprinkled inside and out to give it a special feel. Starting MSRP for the Forester Wilderness is $33,945 for what turns out to be the most well-executed Subaru of all-time.
It’s a Jeep so above anything the brand has ever produced that it doesn’t even use the Jeep name. It simply goes by Grand Wagoneer and it’s the big, highly capable, opulent 3-row affluent Jeep owners have been waiting for. So watch out Escalade and Navigator; there’s a new 4X4 in town and it isn’t pulling any punches.
They’re both the same size – huge – but if you prefer your Wagoneer to be grand you’re going to need an extra $30,000 and an even more fervent desire for fossil fuels. Each premium fill up of its 26 gallon tank costs more than $100 in order to feed the 6.4-liter V8. Even with engineering tricks such as cylinder deactivation and a front-axle disconnect, consider yourself lucky if you get 15mpg. But the Grand Wagoneer’s story isn’t about fuel economy. It’s about oversized American opulence; a new choice for fat-cat families in the gigantic SUV segment. GM and Ford now have a new competitor to wrangle with and Jeep is coming in hot. But you can barely find the Jeep name on the Grand Wagoneer and if you go to Jeep’s retail site the Wagoneers receive their own special tab, so consider this a Jeep subbrand if you will.
This here is the penultimate Obsidian trim in the only monotone color choice; Diamond Black with a starting MSRP of just over $100,000. But despite the name, the Obsidian is also available in white, silver, red and blue. But even those colors receive 22” black wheels, black grille and badging, black interior accents and as a bonus a 23-speaker McIntosh audio system with a cool amp app to make you feel like you’re in a home theater. The sticker price of this one is $109,025 with the optional Rear-Seat Entertainment Group, Heavy Duty Trailer Tow Package and Convenience Group. But if the blacked-out treatment just isn’t for you, the Grand Wagoneer Series III is basically the Obsidian with more shiny metal and standard equipment starting at $4,000 more.
While everyone continues to go goo-goo gaga over the elusive Ford Bronco I, myself, would take a Defender any day of the week. Check their resumes and you’ll find the off-road metrics to be very similar. But this Defender is exponentially more polished and prestigious; satisfying on multiple levels, both on- and off-road. And this is the Defender the hardcore 4X4 crowd most desires. Pricing for the newly offered base 2022 Defender 90 starts at $49,050 including destination – erasing the previous model year’s premium over the 4-door model. It’s 17” shorter so changing directions in a tight spot is child’s play; the turning circle is reduced by 5’ as compared to that of the 110. The shrunken wheelbase also improves the ramp breakover angle by 3 degrees. Otherwise off-road dimensions between the 2-door and 4-door models are nearly identical.
If you’re truly going to use your Defender for frequent off-roading then this shorter 90 model will hold the greatest appeal because it’s easier to maneuver and has a higher breakover angle so you’d be less likely to get high-centered. But there are also a lot of tradeoffs to choosing the 2-door with the obvious one being access to the rear seats. This 2021 First Edition has none of them which makes it feel a little plain, with the only options being a tow hitch receiver and the off-road tires. MSRP of this one is $66,475 which means very little because it’s sold out. So for the 2022 model year there are 8 Defender 90 trims ranging from just under $50,000 all the way to a V8-powered Carpathian Edition for more than twice that.
With its toy-like looks, supreme drivability and off-road awesomeness, the Defender 90 is as solid as it gets.