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 HYUNDAI ELANTRA TEST DRIVE

Whether you want a traditional gas engine, a 54mpg hybrid or a turbo with a 6-speed, the new Elantra has got it covered.  With spacious passenger volume and a trunk that’s bigger than that of a Mercedes S-Class, this is an affordable, frugal, do it all kind of sedan that Hyundai decided needed edgier styling.  And boy did they deliver on that front.  Now, I’m not sure it’s going to age very gracefully because the body is so overly styled with crazy creases and a very prominent grille, but if you’re allergic to boring in the inexpensive, not-so compact car segment this is your cure.  Much like Hyundai did with the new Sonata, they’ve reversed course on reigning in the design and instead opted to make a visual splash and that it most certainly does. For $26,000, you are not going to beat what this Elantra Limited is offering.  It’s highly stylized, pleasing to drive and packed with high-end features and top notch infotainment.  And because this system is fed information from the cloud you’re navigation is always up to date and the Blue Link system can answer common questions through speech much like you would ask Siri.  When is Mother’s Day?  But for times when you’re using the Smart Card you have to place in down here on the wireless charger in order for it to start the car.  And this area down here is kind of congested already because you still have to use your Lightning Cable on this particular model so the ergonomics get a little muddy.
At night, the ambient light choices add a dash of Mercedes to your sub-$30,000 car – another reason you might want the Limited.  Loaded with advanced safety features and creature comforts – though no heated steering wheel, this is the kind of car that would have cost $40,000 not long ago.  Now, you can lease this exact car for $212 per month.  Pretty impressive but it has 2 things working against it: 1) it’s not an SUV and 2) it’s not electric so the Elantra’s relevance is waning.  

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2021 TOYOTA VENZA TEST DRIVE

This is the nicest, most modern new Toyota cabin in a long time, but is it just a fancier RAV4 Hybrid? Fact is they do share the new Toyota platform like several other of their sedans and crossovers. This new Venza feels like a completely different vehicle; much more luxurious and upscale. And I’m really digging this Limited grade. With a starting price of $33,645 including delivery, the Venza slots in between the RAV4 and the Highlander occupying the space of a quasi-midsize 5-seater but in reality its interior dimensions are more compact.  Going into my test week I can’t say I was really expecting too much – Toyota has been the target of my criticism of late – which is why I’m so surprised at how well they’ve executed the Venza’s return.  It’s as smartly crafted and perfectly positioned as any model in their vast lineup.   

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TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HYBRID PLATINUM AWD

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.

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LEXUS RX 350 L 2020 QUICK TAKES

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.

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