The cabin is gorgeous. Absolutely top-notch for $53,000…very reminiscent of what you’d find in a Lexus SUV. And hey, Toyota listened…there’s now a height-adjustable passenger seat on XLE grades and above. And though there’s still no wireless CarPlay or Android Auto this JBL Audio System is astonishingly good. And the quietness of this cabin lets you take in every note. When I first tested this new Highlander a couple of years ago I discovered Lexus-level luxuriousness to this new Platinum trim. Toyota had taken their popular 3-row SUV and refined it to the point where it blurred company lines. Replacing the powerful and smooth V6 is Toyota’s latest gas-electric hybrid design starring a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and 2 electric motors producing 243 total horsepower…52 fewer than in the non-hybrid models. And with the all-wheel drive option there’s a 3rd electric motor back here powering the rear wheels, doing its own thing without the need for a mechanical connection to the transmission. Storing the energy for the motors are old school nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries situated under the rear seats. Al of this results in the heaviest, least powerful, lowest towing rated Highlander you can buy BUT – and this is of course the Hybrid’s trump card –mileage which is 52% higher than the gas-only model with the secondary benefit being extended driving range. This one will take you 600 miles on a single tank! And in times like these 35mpg city/ 34mpg highway sounds great for a midsize SUV – though I’ve averaged a tad less than 30mpg in the winter cold.
Chances are you don’t know where your nearest Genesis dealer is and if you’re a casual car shopper you may not even know what Genesis is. Think of them as the best kept secret in the luxury car segment and this GV70 SUV is the epitome of why. So stop the excuses because if you don’t you’ll miss out on one of their buried treasures like this new GV70; an SUV that checks all of the boxes other than high price. The base 2.5T model starts at $42,000 while this more powerful 3.5T begins at about $54,000. That scores you a 375 horsepower twin-turbo V6 and plenty of additional goodies. Mine is fully loaded with the Sport Advanced and Sport Prestige packages totaling nearly $10,000 in optional equipment. Highlights include these Nappa leather seats with suede inserts in this stunning Ultramarine Blue, crazy-looking 21” wheels wearing Michelin all-seasons, carbon fiber trim, a digital gauge cluster with a 3D appearance, a brilliant head-up display, and Remote Smart Parking Assist – a nice get for those of us with tight garages. This GV70 is beyond loaded; you name it and it’s in here with the only glaring omission being the absence of wireless phone projection…a company problem. So whether you’re the driver, riding shotgun or being chauffeured in the rear, your comfort and convenience is completely covered. And though this is considered a small SUV, the sizing feels perfect…not too big, not too small with cargo and passenger dimensions right in the sweet spot. The GV70 is Genesis landing their strongest punch to date, practically daring you to ignore them. 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige
A truck/SUV crossover with decidedly car-like cabin, similar in length to Hyundai’s Palisade 3-row SUV and it’s a curiosity worth exploring.
I’ve always been supportive of car companies who dare to do something different. And when I think back to some of the most memorable cars I’ve tested names like Baja and Avalanche come to mind. Which leads me to this new pickup truck/SUV called the Santa Cruz. I fell in love with it when I first saw it in concept form years ago but unlike most automakers who keep their experiments in the design lab Hyundai has the guts to actually bring this one to market. And it’s a curiosity worth exploring.
The Santa Cruz drives like a car. It’s nimble, peppy, quiet, comfortable – an anti-truck, if you will. The turbo is really strong; it rides very comfortably and drives with an unexpected purpose. And with 8.6” of ground clearance, solid Michelin light truck tires and a switch to lock in the traction of all 4 wheels, the Santa Cruz has the advantage of a full-time all-wheel drive system and not part time like some other small trucks. I’m just surprised Hyundai didn’t include an off-road mode in addition to the snow setting.
Raise your hand if you want a Jaguar sedan? Not many of you? Ok, so the XF is probably not your first choice when shopping the British brand but there’s something sneaky good going on with this top-of-the line R-Dynamic model that I think you should now. Yep; SUVs and EVs are the name of the game for the leaper these days BUT the slow-selling XF – we’re talking less than 100 per month – has been updated for 2021 with simplified choices: now just one engine with 2 tunes in the 4-door body-style. High-performance variants, wagons and diesels have left the building. But I’m going to give you some reasons why this updated XF – particularly this R-Dynamic model – shouldn’t completely be ignored. First off, with a starting MSRP of $45,145 including destination this is one the least expensive ways to get into a Jaguar. Secondly, just like their best-selling F-PACE, the XF has been given the once over this year with a thoroughly updated cabin almost identical to that found in the SUV. And lastly, despite that a 4—cylinder turbo is the only engine left on the menu, this XF P300 with the optional Dynamic Handling Package achieves sleeper status with its sinewy backroad moves. As it sits, this car is priced at $62,695. That gets you the 296 horsepower, 295 pound-feet of torque 2.0-liter turbo, all-wheel drive, 20” wheels, British Racing Green paint and just about every option Jaguar offers. But it’s the $1,350 Dynamic Handling Package you’ve got to have in order to get that friskiness you want. For about 8 grand less than a comparable Mercedes E-Class with more exclusivity, the XF is worth a look and hey, you can’t get 20” wheels or green paint on the Benz.
The 2021 Pacifica will offer an advanced all-wheel drive system that preserves Chrysler’s coolest and most proprietary feature – Stow ‘n Go seating – the ability for the 2nd row seats to disappear into the floor. There’s also a new bougie Pinnacle model with standard all-wheel drive and a bunch of add on goodies such as the Premium and Safety Sphere Group and the Uconnect Theater Family Group which includes a new feature called the FamCam Interior Camera – a way for parents to keep tabs on the little ones, even in rear facing car seats. And the seatback video screens have always been a big hit right from the start. With a MSRP at $55,665, this isn’t your blue collar minivan, but it still does an excellent job of making family travel as easy and as enjoyable as can be and offers big time flexibility with a heaping dose of Chrysler cleverness.