2022 INFINITI QX55 FIRST LOOK

2022 INFINITI QX55 FIRST LOOK BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES.
When it arrived 3 years ago, the QX50 small SUV was supposed to be the centerpiece of an Infiniti revival. Instead, sales have been extremely disappointing and now parent company Nissan is planning on steering the brand away from its luxury aspirations and more towards, what their COO has described, as a Nissan-plus brand.  That brings us to the just revealed 2022 QX55 – a coupe-styled derivative of the QX50.  The pair fleshes out the small end of Infiniti’s trifecta of SUVs and share much in common.  The new 55 is powered by the brand’s innovative variable compression turbocharged 4-cylinder producing the same 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.  And no surprise, the CVT remains as the only transmission.  The biggest difference between the two is that this one comes with all-wheel drive and 20” wheels as standard.  Bolder in its design, the QX55 is for the owner who is willing to sacrifice some cargo room for greater style.  Other than a reduction in luggage volume, the 2 are nearly identical dimensionally.  Available in Luxe, Essential, and Sensory trim levels, details regarding pricing and fuel economy will be announced closer to launch in the spring of 2021. 

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2021 TOYOTA SIENNA FIRST LOOK

Toyota’s infamously long product cadence has caused the Sienna to slide all the way to the 4th spot in minivan sales. That may not sound bad until you realize there are only 5 of them on the market. But going on sale this November is an all-new 2021 Sienna Toyota hopes can challenge the segment-leading Chrysler Pacifica. How will it accomplish this? Well, though they no longer own the market with it the Sienna continues to offer all-wheel drive – a big plus in the snowbelt – but here’s the headline: all models will be hybrids. Not a plug-in like the Pacifica, mind you, but a battery-motor- engine deal nevertheless. 245 horsepower and 36mpg is the hook Toyota hopes can reel you in. with this new model strategy. It’s an all-new vehicle from the ground up, elevating the Swagger Wagon look with a fresh design and new features Toyota says make this the most sophisticated, versatile and enjoyable Sienna ever. Engineers focused on reducing noises in the frequencies where conversation takes place, while also mitigating the feeling that you’re driving a bus by using what they call the Bridge Console, ergonomically positioned high with lots of storage, helping to alleviate stress and boost driver comfort. And then there are a host of other convenience features that have become minivan staples such as kick open and close sliding doors, sliding 2nd row captain’s chairs, modern connectivity but not wireless phone projection, Driver Easy Speak, and a vacuum. Above and beyond good stuff like a digital rearview mirror, head-up display, bird’s eye view camera and a refrigerator give the Sienna some distinction. Pricing for the very base FWD Sienna LE with its 8 passenger seating and stowable middle seat starts at $35,635 including delivery while a 7-seat AWD Platinum checks in at $51,635.

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2022 ACURA MDX FIRST LOOK

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.

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2021 HONDA RIDGELINE FIRST LOOK

2021 HONDA RIDGELINE FIRST LOOK BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES

I’ve always wanted a Ridgeline; it’s a great lifestyles truck that’s as smart and versatile as they come, but like many of you, its soft, mini-van-like styling has kept me from pulling the trigger.  Honda realizes that so to broaden its appeal they’ve toughened up its appearance.  Going on sale early next year, the 2021 Ridgeline features all-new sheet metal from the A-pillars forward, with a power dome hood, more upright grille, brighter LED headlights and a prominent skid plate.  Out back, the new bumper flaunts more aggressive exhaust outlets.  And butching it up even more are rugged-looking 18” wheels and a wider stance. But if that’s still not enough testosterone for you the new Honda Performance Development package sports these bronze-colored wheels, unique grille, black fender flares and special graphics.  And it’s available on all trims. Last year, the 9-speed auto became standard on all Ridgelines and is paired to a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with an available torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system.  A unibody truck with car-like ride and handling yet capable off-road, the 2021 Ridgeline’s pricing will be announced closer to launch.     

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2021 KIA SORENTO FIRST LOOK

2021 KIA SORENTO FIRST LOOK BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES. A 3-row family vehicle, the Sorento is offered with optional 2nd row captain’s chairs for either 6- or 7-passenger seating. Kia says the redesigned model provides more interior flexibility with improved legroom and cargo room. The platform it’s built upon is lighter and stronger, affording improved driving dynamics, including acceleration and ride and handling. An available full digital gauge cluster, Connected Routing for real-time navigation that can predict upcoming traffic, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration, and enhanced voice controls highlight the tech improvements. A new feature called Last Mile Navigation even provides walking directions to the driver’s final destination if the vehicle is parked within a 1.2 mile radius and the Find My Car feature uses the Sorento’s cameras to capture pictures of the car and its surroundings which are then accessible via the UVO app. All very cool stuff. And the depth of new driver assistance features is off the charts…if you get into an accident with this Sorento you’ll have no one to blame but the man in the mirror.
About the powertrain options; it starts with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder paired to a traditional 8-speed automatic making 191 horsepower, then a turbocharged version of that motor hooked up to a 8-speed dual clutch transmission producing 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. Moving up, there’s a front-wheel drive only, gas-electric hybrid rated at 37mpg in mixed driving and finally an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid with an estimated 30 mile all-electric range. Kia’s optional all-wheel drive system uses torque-vectoring and a center-locking differential to give added power to the rear wheels when needed.
The X-Line SX-Prestige gets the off-road look with exclusive bumpers, unique 20” wheels and bridge-type roof rack to complement its 1” increase in ride height, standard all-wheel drive and hill decent control. Pricing will be announced closer to its on-sale date near the end of 2020.

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