2021 LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90 TEST DRIVE

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.

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2021 FORD RANGER TREMOR TEST DRIVE

Just as Ford is preparing to reveal the next-gen Ranger due in 2023, I’m running through the mud in this Cyber Orange Ranger Tremor and loving every minute of it. Following the off-road oriented Super Duty Tremor comes this Tremor package for the Ranger. It gives owners a truck with even more capability, taking it several notches beyond the FX4 Package. Powered by a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo producing 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, the Tremor Off-Road Package is priced at $4,290 and is available on XLT and Lariat grades exclusively in the SuperCrew 4X4 configuration. A lifted suspension provides nearly another inch of ground clearance which combined with the new 32” Grabber tires improves the Ranger’s off-road metrics. FOX shocks with external reservoirs at the rear and hydraulic rebound stops keep things comfortable even over severe terrain. A steel front bash plate, skid plates, 2 new recovery hooks in the rear, a locking rear differential and a Terrain Management System round out the package. Even the traction control system has been recalibrated for improved acceleration while driving on loose surfaces. Now the price of this one is $48,755 – certainly not cheap – but it’s a fully loaded top of the line Tremor. A more plebeian XLT Tremor starts at $42,745. It can tow 7,500 pounds with the optional trailer tow package. This is one rugged truck with a soft side that satisfies on a number of fronts so if you’re in search of an off-road rig that still fits in your garage and is ready to go right out of the box, the Ranger Tremor would be my first choice. FOR TESTDRIVENOW CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES’ COMPLETE VIDEO REVIEW & TEST DRIVE OF THE 2021 FORD RANGER TREMOR, GO TO: https://testdrivenow.com/ford-ranger-tremor-test-drive/

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2022 NISSAN FRONTIER TEST DRIVE

2022 NISSAN FRONTIER TEST DRIVE
The last time Nissan redesigned the Frontier YouTube was just getting ready to launch and the first iPhone was still 2 years away. That’s the type of product cadence that would make even Toyota jealous. I’ve always been a fan of this truck so I’m very curious to see what Nissan has been cooking up over the past 2 decades. So no surprise, here in the new Frontier; the cabin’s design and tech level have been significantly enhanced and the new powertrain – which in an peculiar move was actually introduced on the old Frontier for the 2020 model year – adds a 9-speed auto in addition to a more efficient, smaller displacement V6 that makes more horsepower. Stick shifts and 4-cylinders are gone but just about everything else concerning the Frontier’s resume looks very familiar. There’s still the King Cab model with the small rear doors and a 6’ bed or the full 4-door Crew Cab with the 5’ bed or optional 6’ bed on midlevel SV trims. And this PRO-4X remains the top dog Frontier but this time around you can get it without the 4 – in other words it’s now also available in 2-wheel drive. The wheelbase is the same, towing capacity of 6,270 pounds is about the same and max payload of 1,230 pounds has increased by 4 bags of Quikrete. It is 5” longer, 2” wider and 1” shorter in height, the bed is deeper, there are now 2 front two hooks, and 18” wheels have been shelved in favor of 16” and 17” sizes exclusively. In Baja Storm with red accents it looks great – like a baby Titan. The PRO-4X is the most aggressively styled model and is the most capable in terms of off-road adventures with all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, a locking rear differential for times when you get stuck and 3 steel skid plates to protect the family jewels. And then on the comfort and convenience front the 2 available PRO packages add in such niceties as a bass-rich, Fender premium audio system, a moonroof, heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, an around view monitor, wireless charger, remote start, a spray-on bedliner, 4 tie-down cleats, and LED bed lighting. On the tech front, another optional package sprinkles in high beam assist, blind spot warning, intelligent cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and other assistance features leading to an as-tested price of $44,710. For a fun comparison, that’s $15,000 more than the last Frontier SV I tested about a decade ago. https://testdrivenow.com/2022-nissan-frontier/

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2021 JEEP WRANGLER 4xe TEST DRIVE

Taking a drive out to nature should be a Zen-like experience. Now you can spec your Wrangler with a plug providing up to 25 miles of quiet 4X4 EV adventures. It’s kind of cool that the Wrangler would be the first Jeep offered in the states that can operate on electricity alone. The new 2021 4xe is exclusively available in the 4-door Unlimited bodystyle and comes in 3 trims with this Sahara being the entry-level model with a starting MSRP of $51,300 including destination but excluding the $7,500 federal income tax credit.
So here’s what I’ve gathered about the 4xe this week. When you’re on electric it’s really special but like all plug-ins, it’s appeal decreases once the 25 miles or so of electric is gone. After that it’s just another hybrid. Secondly, I don’t know if it’s just my test car but the air conditioning has trouble keeping up when in EV mode, kind of like some mild hybrids when you’re waiting at a stoplight And as always, remember that in the cold winter months your EV range may drop by over 40%. But all told I really like the 4xe. It drives well, it brakes and transitions power sources without any hybrid shortcomings. It’s a worthy precursor to an anticipated fully-electric Wrangler that could arrive in 2022.

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2021 FORD BRONCO SPORT TEST DRIVE

Think of the Bronco Sport as the Escape’s country cousin. Built South of the Border upon a unibody, front-wheel drive platform that’s significantly shorter than the Escape’s but about 3” taller, the Bronco Sport is equipped with standard 4-wheel drive and carries a starting MSRP of just over $28,000. Ford has given the trim levels cool names like Big Bend and Outer Banks but it’s this Badlands model that they deem the pinnacle of off-road performance. So if you want the more powerful engine, the better 4-wheel drive system, the differential lock, more drive modes, all-terrain tires, off-road tuned suspension, an extra inch of lift and more aggressive off-road geometry, then this is the only model for you. $34,315 is where the pricing starts and this one with the amenity-laden Badlands Package and Co-Pilot360 Assist + driver tech checks in at $37,705; slightly less than a loaded Jeep Compass Trailhawk which serves a similar purpose in life and about $12,000 less than a comparable Bronco Badlands.
The best part of the Badlands is that it kicks butt off-road while providing a really, sophisticated, softly-sprung ride on-road. And the cabin’s quietness adds to the sense of it being more substantial than the price would indicate. The turbo’s strong too and Ford has made it sound good from in here. I’m less impressed with the heavy dose of Escape interior bits which felt old and less-than right out of the gate when it was last redesigned. But all told the Sport makes for an excellent, more affordable companion to its bigger brother. And those who choose this Badlands model are getting one tough little SUV.

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