Denali is to the city as AT4 is to the wilderness. It’s another GMC sub brand that is being spread throughout their entire lineup and here on the Yukon includes all-terrain tires, skid plates, a more off-road friendly front fascia, an off-road driving mode, hill decent control and of course 4-wheel drive with an auto setting and low range. Couple those attributes with the optional air suspension with an extra 2” of lift and a limited slip differential and the Yukon cuts through deep snow like a hot knife through butter. Pricing starts at around $66,000 and when you load it to the roof with all kinds of goodies – including the optional panoramic – you end up here at $75,960. With the Traction Select System and wheel-specific 4-wheel drive, the Yukon AT4 feels like the beast you expect it to be but with the polish of a luxury SUV on-road. AT4 is a cool idea and will no doubt continue to bear fruit for GMC throughout their entire lineup.
The Mazda3 has the hot hatch look but until now it was all for show. Introducing the 2021 2.5 Turbo with standard all-wheel drive providing the oomph this car desperately needs. A car I’ve previously been ambivalent about has been given renewed life with a turbocharged engine. Feed it premium gas and it’ll reward you with 250 horsepower. That’s a huge 72% gain compared with the non-turbo 3 and it peaks much sooner. The top trim Premium Plus model which adds real leather, navigation, a 360 degree camera with real button, traffic sign recognition, and myriad other driver assistance features. Plus, you get the front air dam, gloss black roof spoiler and larger tail pipes. As tested, you’re looking at $34,820. The cost of the turbo and all-wheel drive adds about $3,000. Mix in all-wheel drive and big torque output and suddenly the 3 is a very entertaining drive with plenty of hot hatch spunk and a loveably safe toassability. Where Mazda comes in strong is in the driver assist arena where auto high beams, Traffic Jam Assist, driver attention monitor and rear cross traffic alert. The new turbo 3 hatch is the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel of a Mazda in some time and with this engine in the new CX-30 Mazda will really be making hay.
Acura has absolutely nailed it. I’ve got a week with this range-topping MDX Advance Package in gorgeous Performance Red Pearl with standard Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, priced at $62,175. The headline-grabbing trait is, without a doubt, how awesomely the MDX drives. So if you appreciate precise, effortless handling and a supple ride even in your family 3-row then this is definitely the one for you. So this model goes full peacock, showing off everything the new MDX has to offer such as premium leather, 16-way sport seats, 27 different ambient lighting schemes replete with cool names, 20” wheels, a large and informative head-up display, a 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D premium audio system with 4 speakers in the headliner, and a surround-view camera system with a conveniently located activation button on the end of the wiper stalk. Great in the snow as well as in the curves, this MDX is a driver’s SUV with family capabilities at a smart price.
TOYOTA CAMRY SE NIGHTSIDE EDITION. Freshened styling, all-wheel drive and a Dynamic Force engine pumping out 203 horsepower, the Camry SE Nightshade Edition, with its honest to goodness key and no side blind zone alert, could be the $30,000 car of your darker dreams. So, what is it you want out of your Camry? There are 17 different choices in the Camry family. The car you’re looking at here blends 4-wheel traction, the sport-tuned suspension of the SE trim and the sinister looks of the Nightshade Edition and with the Carpet Mat Package, MSRP is $29,839. Fact of the matter is that this chassis is stellar and despite its lack of oomph I really enjoy driving this Camry; the ride is as smooth as Taylor Swift’s airbrushed face and this car legitimately handles – Toyota has nailed the suspension tuning. The engine is a smooth character as well but, man, it often feels really slow and the disconnecting all-wheel drive system can be clunky. The SE Nightshade Edition; a Camry that I like but one that leaves me wanting a little more.
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.