This here is the Bronco Wildtrak – the most expensive Bronco – designed for high-speed, all-out dessert runs…a terrain type foreign to my area. Instead, I’ve got a freshly fallen 3” sleet bomb with some snow on top. This is the only Bronco which comes standard with the Sasquatch Package taking ground clearance to 11 ½” through long-travel Bilstein shocks and 35” mud tires mounted to 17” beadlock-capable wheels. There’s a higher final drive ratio delivering more torque to the ground and it also possesses a nearly 2” wider track. The Wildtrak also comes standard with the more powerful 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 rated at 315 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque on regular unleaded – 330 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque if you feed it premium. A 10-speed auto is the only available transmission on Wildtrak, rated at 17mpg. This one is also optioned with Dual Tops: a Carbonized Gray removable hard roof with a sound deadening headliner which was left at the shop and – the way it was delivered to me – with a retractable full soft top. Removing the standard fog lamps on this tester is the optional Ford Performance Heavy Duty front bumper which includes upgraded front steel bash plates. Other notable extras on this Bronco include leather-trimmed vinyl seats, a 2” hitch receiver for max towing of 3,500 pounds and the most lavishly equipped Lux Package which essentially turns this Bronco’s interior into that of a well-stocked Explorer’s.

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It wasn’t long ago that small trucks were dropping like flies as the bigger is better philosophy led to half-ton madness. But driving around an F-150 on a daily basis can get old – and expensive – pretty fast if you’re using it as a car replacement. Even the Ranger may be more truck than you need. So in comes the Maverick with its 4.5’ bed, car-like ride and a starting MSRP of $21,490. A 42mpg highway hybrid powertrain and 2-wheel drive are standard but the truck you’re looking at here has the gas-only 2.0-liter turbo and checks in at $35,320. That’s because this is the highest level Lariat trim with the Luxury Package. Alto Blue is an upcharge color, the black wheels are optional and the hard tri-fold tonneau cover is the most expensive one Ford offers. So while the base model is a best buy for the shopper interested in say a second vehicle for weekend errands this one with all of the creature comforts and driver assistance features is designed to be your only vehicle and driven every day. So if your ego is writing checks your budget can’t cash, maybe it’s time for a small truck.  And if so the Maverick is exceptionally well done.

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If BMW doesn’t sell more models than any other automaker then it’s pretty darn close. There are a dizzying array of body-styles and variants from which to choose but it’s this one here, the X3, that outsells them all. And now into in the 5th year of its 3rd generation, the 2022 X3 receives some notable updates.
The difference between a 248 horsepower X3 and one with 382 horsepower is the main reason this M40i model is the one to have. It’s not the range-topping X3M mind you but honestly, if it’s a quick, sporty, fun-to-drive SUV you’re looking for this M40i is more than adequate. All-wheel drive is standard for a starting MSRP of $58,795, about $12,000 more than an X3 xDrive30i. Yes, that’s a hefty premium and if you’re more into the show and less into the go the M40i’s performance upgrades will be lost on you but for those who get excited by a launch controlled 4.4 second 0-to-60mph time, sophisticated handling and racy sounds this is the one you’ll want. And the 3.0-liter turbo-6 gets a boost this year from a 48-volt battery that adds 11 horsepower of electric drive, contributing to the stellar acceleration. This setup also supports regen braking which helps to smooth out and extend the duration of the engine start/stop function when paused in traffic. With the M Sport Differential, real leather seating, the Premium Package and heated rear seats MSRP is $64,290 or an $876 per month lease. With phenomenal performance, the X3 M40i is the small SUV calling all drivers.

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So you’re shopping for a small SUV, I see. Maybe a CR-V? RAV4? Rogue? Well, if you’re like me and tend to zig when others zag, perhaps an Eclipse Cross should be on your list. They sell in minuscule numbers as compared to the class leaders and with the updates this year Mitsu has made it more competitive. Introduced for the 2018 model year it never really caught on, mainly because it’s butting heads with some mammoths of the small SUV segment and for a small time player in this market you’ve got to do something really special to garner attention, and that apparently didn’t happen. So for 2022 it grows by over 5” in length, increasing cargo capacity to bring it more in line with its rivals. Inside there’s now a power passenger seat – which doesn’t sound like much until you realize how hard they are to come across – and a redesigned infotainment system that no longer uses a touchpad and that has a screen that’s closer to the driver. With the vehicle’s added length comes a revised suspension with retuned shocks and springs for improved ride control. And lastly, the rear end has been restyled to remove bar bisecting the window. The 1.5-liter turbo-4 and CVT carryover. So how does 152 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque sound? Actually, not so bad as the Eclipse Cross presents as sportier than the rest of the herd… Mitsu’s most distinguishing trait. It rides firmer, sounds racier and handles more spiritedly than you might expect making this a good choice for those who don’t follow the herd.

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This whole Wilderness thing is perhaps the smartest idea Subaru has ever had. It just makes too much sense; an all-wheel drive, outdoorsy brand with dogs in every commercial is perfectly suited for something more rugged. It’s Subaru’s best-selling model and their owners love them but let’s be honest; it’s never been a looker. Dorky is the descriptor that always comes to my mind but this Wilderness model is a game changer for Forester, taking it in a completely more appealing direction. Now, Subaru could have done a Fugazy LL Bean Edition wheel and sticker job here but no; this is a real deal off-road upgrade: more ground clearance and thus better trail-tackling metrics, specially tuned suspension components to compensate for the vehicle’s added height, all-terrain Yokohama 17” tires, a deep snow and mud driving mode that can work at higher speeds than in other Foresters, a transmission with an 8th gear, if you will, for the paddle-shifted manual mode and that also automatically detects steep gradients and locks into lower gearing to get the power to the ground, 3,000 pounds towing capacity – double that of the other models and a roof that can support an additional 100 pounds for things like a tent. This one is also equipped with an optional aluminum under guard for the engine and it’s the only way to get this sharp Geyser Blue paint. It looks amazing and the copper finish accents and Wilderness logos are appropriately sprinkled inside and out to give it a special feel. Starting MSRP for the Forester Wilderness is $33,945 for what turns out to be the most well-executed Subaru of all-time.

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