Toyota considers this XSE Hybrid the RAV4’s flagship model. It features a sport-tuned suspension, racier styling and a standard 2-tone paint scheme. So if you’re shopping for a small SUV that delivers fun and frugality, put the XSE Hybrid on your short list. The RAV4’s redesign has been a runaway success for Toyota, partially because they’ve done such a good job at offering it in multiple flavors. From a very capable TRD Off-Road model to plug-in hybrids and everything in between, there’s likely a RAV4 that’ll specifically fit your small SUV needs. And this one here is the sportiest one you can buy without a plug; the XSE Hybrid.
This is the highest non-full M model; the M440i with xDrive as standard. MSRP starts at just under $60,000. It’s a luxury performance car that delivers high levels of both attributes; it’s fast and fun while at the same time comfortable and techy. Its heart continues to beat with a 3.0-liter turbo-6 but one that yields significantly more; 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, allowing it put away 60mph 3/10ths of a second faster, now clocking an eye-opening 4.3 seconds assisted by launch control. With an additional 48-volt battery providing mild hybrid technology, this car’s mixed metal makeup tallies an extra 150 pounds versus the previous model but it feels even more athletic. With the benefit of extras such as the Adaptive M Suspension and High Performance Tire Pack, the M440i is a blast to drive with supreme road holding confidence, a cabin-infused with delightful sounds and the ability to rocket out of corners thanks to the M Sport Differential. A double push of the Sport button takes you to into Plus and it’s this setting where the car truly earns its moniker “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” The 8-speed auto is incredibly smart so using the paddle shifters isn’t even necessary to keep the gearbox in the sweet spot. The steering is quick and nicely weighted and the engine is extremely responsive, backed by some convincing sounds in the cabin and a chassis that’s willing to dance. The windshield is squinty but the leather sport buckets with adjustable side bolsters allow you to find an agreeable seating position that sits you low, closer to the car’s center of gravity for a feeling of greater connectedness. And there’s a head-up display to keep you focused on the road ahead. As for the ride quality? It’s exceptional no matter what mode you’re in. Combined with a quiet cabin and a long list of modern comfort features, the 4 can happily play serene and composed. Despite the additional power, the stellar gas mileage holds the line thanks to the mild-hybrid setup, earning 25mpg in mixed driving. If you’re down with the new styling, rest assured the rest of the 440i is going to make you very happy.
2021 CADILLAC ESCALADE TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES.
GM’s extra-large, body-on-frame SUVs have all recently undergone comprehensive transformations but this one is the headliner. It’s America’s aspirational SUV and has been for over 20 years. I’ve driven all of them, but this 5th generation Escalade is by far the most ambitious evolution. Bigger, techier, and far more sophisticated, this is the Escalade at the pinnacle of success. It’s a 6-figure, ostentatious symbol of over-the-top American living where 16mpg matters not and supersized is a way of life. But this one also sweats the details with attention paid to even the minutest particulars.
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor First Look By Car Critic Steve Hammes. 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor
Following the recently released off-road oriented Super Duty Tremor comes a Tremor package for Ford’s smallest pickup. When equipped with the Tremor Off-Road Package, the 2021 Ford Ranger gives customers a truck with even more capability, taking it several notches beyond the already-capable FX4 Package. A lifted suspension provides nearly another inch of ground clearance which combined with the new 32” Grabber tires improves the Ranger’s off-road metrics for tackling tougher angles. FOX shocks with external reservoirs at the rear and hydraulic rebound stops keep things comfortable even over severe terrain. A steel front bash plate, skid plates, 2 new recovery hooks in the rear, a locking rear differential and Terrain Management System round out the package. Even the traction control system has been recalibrated for improved acceleration while driving on loose surfaces. Inside, you’ll find a bank of auxiliary power switches to control accessories such as a winch and lights and special Tremor accented seats. Powered by a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo producing 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, the Tremor Off-Road Package is priced at $4,290 and is available on XLT and Lariat grades in the SuperCrew 4X4 configuration.
2020 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES. When you’re really passionate about something you dive deep into your desires. If you’re an audiophile you’ll pick up on every nuance of the speakers, or if you’re a watch collector you’ll have intimate knowledge of its inner workings. And that’s what buying a Porsche is like; it’s a car for the driver who appreciates exactness and demands the best no matter the cost.
The priciest options on this tester are the Black/Bordeaux Red leather interior, the Adaptive Sport Seats with memory, the Sport Package which includes the exhaust, the front axle lift system to keep that chin off the ground, the rear axle steering and the Bose sound system. As-tested, this car comes in at $137,570 and features new easier to control touchscreen infotainment with wireless CarPlay and other innovative features.
At face value you could say it’s just another Silver 911…but its added muscularity and new lighting design give it the subtle newness you’re looking for while retaining its unmistakable silhouette.