2021 GMC CANYON AT4 TEST DRIVE

The off-road segment is the hottest in the industry.  Everyone wants a piece of the Jeep life and automakers of all-kinds are jumping in including Subaru with their upcoming Wilderness sub-brand.  And of course, the Canyon AT4 is designed with outdoor adventures in mind – an all-terrain package that’s available on every GMC with the exception, ironically, of the Terrain but that’s coming as well for 2022.  Their small pickup has been updated this year across the board, and now the AT4 adds off-road confidence through standard 31” Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, a specifically tuned suspension with an Advanced Hill Decent Control System, an automatic locking rear differential and a transfer case skid plate.  It possesses a bolder exterior design with dark chrome finishes, a larger grille and red recovery hooks.  But this truck doesn’t stop there.  With the addition of the Off-Road Performance Package you get a suspension leveling kit for the front end.  Combined with the removal of the front air dam this Canyon’s approach angle is a friendlier 30 degrees.  It’s also paired with rockers for added body protection and more skid plates for the middle of the truck.  There are also unique 17” gloss black wheels, Carbon Black AT4 logos and a gloss black exhaust tip.  All-weather floor liners and a spray-in bed liner round out the upgrades at an added cost of $3,195.  It’s a great looking truck in Summit White powered here by the standard 3.6-liter V6 producing 308 horsepower through an 8-speed auto, returning 19mpg.  You can also spec this AT4 with a diesel at a significant price increase but either way the AT4 is only available as a full 4-door Crew Cab with either a short or long box. With the next gen Nissan Frontier right around the corner and a recently introduced, beefed-up Honda Ridgeline and Ranger Tremor Off-Road Package already on sale, there are a lot of compelling choices in this segment that will give the Canyon AT4 a run for its money. 

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2021 FORD BRONCO SPORT TEST DRIVE

Think of the Bronco Sport as the Escape’s country cousin. Built South of the Border upon a unibody, front-wheel drive platform that’s significantly shorter than the Escape’s but about 3” taller, the Bronco Sport is equipped with standard 4-wheel drive and carries a starting MSRP of just over $28,000. Ford has given the trim levels cool names like Big Bend and Outer Banks but it’s this Badlands model that they deem the pinnacle of off-road performance. So if you want the more powerful engine, the better 4-wheel drive system, the differential lock, more drive modes, all-terrain tires, off-road tuned suspension, an extra inch of lift and more aggressive off-road geometry, then this is the only model for you. $34,315 is where the pricing starts and this one with the amenity-laden Badlands Package and Co-Pilot360 Assist + driver tech checks in at $37,705; slightly less than a loaded Jeep Compass Trailhawk which serves a similar purpose in life and about $12,000 less than a comparable Bronco Badlands.
The best part of the Badlands is that it kicks butt off-road while providing a really, sophisticated, softly-sprung ride on-road. And the cabin’s quietness adds to the sense of it being more substantial than the price would indicate. The turbo’s strong too and Ford has made it sound good from in here. I’m less impressed with the heavy dose of Escape interior bits which felt old and less-than right out of the gate when it was last redesigned. But all told the Sport makes for an excellent, more affordable companion to its bigger brother. And those who choose this Badlands model are getting one tough little SUV.

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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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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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2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave 4X4

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave 4X4 Review By Car Critic Steve Hammes.
If you’re into 4-wheeling, then you know that not all off-roading is the same. So while the Trail-Rated badge graces Jeep 4X4s after they’ve proven themselves in 5 critical categories, this first-ever Desert Rated Jeep operates under a different set of criteria. Anyone who likes Jeeps would love to have this one in their garage for those doors off, windshield down, top removed kind of days…just ask Siri where the nearest desert is. MSRP as-tested: $61,315

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