2021 MERCEDES BENZ E450 TEST DRIVE

The Mercedes E450 is undoubtedly a rich, robust car with lots of goodies. It’s a very satisfying way to travel and there are all sorts of ways to upgrade and customize it taking it from $62,000 to $82,000. With the air suspension, rapid heating for the massaging, leather seats, increased cabin isolation via acoustic and heat absorbing glass, the air balance fragrance atomizer and a Burmester Surround Sound System, spending time in here is akin to a day at the spa. The hallmark characteristic of this E-Class are its beautifully, soft, sumptuous and dynamic drive that is just oozing with high-class refinement. The E450 has been designed to melt away stress and deliver a buttery smooth experience. It’s the strong/silent type with robust power and impeccable handling in the luxury sedan vein. So choose a massage program, up the fragrance level and heat up all the touch-points; the E450 embodies relaxing precision and is an absolute delight to drive.

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2021 RAM 1500 TRX TEST DRIVE

A 702-horsepower 1500 designed to eat the outdoors for lunch. This is the new Ram TRX. When your truck comes standard with Launch Control, 35” tires, nearly 12” of ground clearance and a feature called Jump Detection you just know insanity will ensue. And that’s exactly what Ram delivers in this extreme version of an off-road truck. Ram has given this truck all the proper tools you’d ever need and they’re integrated with a modern touch that makes the TRX even cooler. From the many drive modes detailed beautifully up here to the TRX and Performance Pages on the big screen, this is the most comprehensive package of gauges, hero measurements, and driver assist features you’ll find anywhere. It’s all so brilliantly complete and exhaustive that it just adds to the feeling that there’s nothing this truck can’t do.
If I could have ANY truck I’ve ever tested over the past 23 years – and I’ve driven all of them – this would be it, hands-down. What RAM has done with the standard issue 1500 is already very impressive but this? This is nuts. The TRX is massive, looks completely apocalyptic, chews up the earth and spits it out without breaking a sweat, runs with an insanely powerful engine whose supercharger sounds just as insane, and yet possesses the most advanced, luxury and tech laden cabin in the truck segment. This is supremely modern and beyond spacious; the very epitome of having your cake and eating it too. Yes, the gas mileage is atrocious and at over $87,000 it’s basically relegated to rich guy fodder but this is the AMG S-Class of trucks, holding nothing back.

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2021 NISSAN ROGUE TEST DRIVE

Nissan has designed their best-selling Rogue to meet the needs of today’s young families. This two-tone Blue/Black example with a smattering of options checks in at $40,060. That’s eye opening but keep in mind that the Rogue is not a compact SUV but rather a midsize. It’s been redesigned with newfound presence that’s evocative of something more rugged yet upscale…look closely and there’s a hat tip to Land Rover in the body. The cabin is special. This is a huge leap forward both in terms of its appearance and the features that Nissan has stockpiled in here. Now, it is nearly 40 grand so let’s not act like they’re giving the store away or anything but it is extremely well-equipped and contains all of the features I would want in my new car. This is smart, well-executed, sized right and brimming with goodies people will love. Count me in.

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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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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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