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 BMW 540i TEST DRIVE

Before SUVs dominated the automotive landscape, executive sedans like the 5 Series were the chariots of choice for white collar workers climbing the ladder of success.  And even though they’re not as popular as they once were, this new 540i serves as a reminder that the segment is still alive and well. 
The 5 Series is a technological tour de force, as long as you go all in on the option packages.  And this one has some really great cutting edge features including some new stuff that even I haven’t seen before, most of it related to driving assistance.  Like the graphical depiction of surrounding vehicles while driving on the highway to help with lane changes.  Speaking of which, this one can do that for you while using adaptive cruise control by simply tapping the turn signal…hands free.  And the extended traffic jam assistant can even do the mundane stop and go driving for you during your commute without constantly needing to grab the steering wheel.  And I also love how the head-up display integrates your smartphone’s mapping directions so no matter which navigation system you’re using the 540i has got you covered.  

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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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2021 SUBARU CROSSTREK SPORT TEST DRIVE

2021 SUBARU CROSSTREK SPORT TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES. For my money, this is the best Subaru you can buy. And I’ve held that opinion since it was first called the XV Crosstrek back in 2013. You can think of it as a bite-sized Outback. And now you can have one in Sport trim with a more powerful engine.

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2020 LAND ROVER DEFENDER TEST DRIVE

2020 LAND ROVER DEFENDER TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES. Spurred by low gas prices, choking traffic and an insatiable appetite for SUVs, the off-road vehicle movement has never been riper.  I’m talking about real capability that can get you away from all the craziness; from trucks to sport utilities there have never been so many competent choices.  Enter the new Defender – a modern interpretation of the iconic original.  The days of needing body-on-frame construction and solid axles to prove your off-road mettle are passé. This Defender is modern, smart and everyday luxurious while being respectful to its past.  It’s purpose-built for off-roading but that’s not its only personality trait.  Made from an all-new aluminum unibody Land Rover says is the stiffest platform they’ve ever created underpinned by a fully independent air suspension that bests a Wrangler Rubicon in ground clearance and hangs with it in other critical off-road geometry.  It pairs a full-time 4-wheel drive system with a sophisticated Terrain Response System replete with automatic center and rear lockers making off-roading an absolute breeze.  The electronics are amazing and configurable beyond the numerous pre-programmed surface types; I just wish the Terrain Response controls weren’t shared with the climate buttons and knobs over here at a decent reach from the driver.  You can view the selections on the center screen or right here depending upon how you’ve configured the display.  With these optional new Goodyear Wrangler Adventure tires, this Defender makes mud, ruts and rocks seem like a mere inconvenience.
When the Defender’s 67 year production run ended in 2016, it had already been nearly 2 decades since one could be found in a U.S. Land Rover dealership. The 1997 Defender 90 with its 4.0-liter V8, 4-speed auto and 13mpg was a British-born Jeep rival. But since, Land Rover’s SUV lineup has trended more towards afternoon tea and less to morning fox hunts. The Defender’s much anticipated return is finally here to recapture some of the original’s raw ruggedness with modern day accoutrements.
MSRP as-tested: $73,043

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