Steve’s Top Picks

2022 INFINITI QX60 TEST DRIVE

Once a rival to Lexus, Infiniti has been mired in old product and meandering business plans for years. The recently introduced QX50 didn’t set the world on fire as they had hoped so this new QX60 better click and it will. This is a solid evolution of what made the 1st one so popular; now smarter, more premium and better packaged for greater convenience. A base, front-drive QX60 Pure is priced at just under $48,000 and leases for $671 per month but we don’t do much base around here so my tester is an all-wheel drive QX60 Autograph; a metaphor referencing its personalized style. And this is a beautiful reimagining of the body with a judicious use of chrome and this gorgeous Moonbow Blue paint. It’s less curvy and more muscular now with a pronounced front end design proclaiming affluence. The footprint is nearly identical to before but this one is wider with a little more ground clearance though inside the 2nd and 3rd row legroom has decreased while cargo volume behind the 3rd row has increased by 2 cubic feet. There’s also a nifty underfloor storage box back here and of course, the tailgate can be foot activated. The 3rd row seats don’t power fold but they do get a power assist when raising them. And in general the configurable seat action is a QX60 strong suit. To access the 3rd row, just press this button at the base of the seat and the rest of the movement is done for you. And because the 2nd row captain’s chairs slide and recline and the 3rd row seats also recline, as long as everyone is courteous there’s enough room for 6 in here without any whining from the kids. And when it’s time to get out, there’s another one-touch button for that. So very family friendly though other than a couple of mixed-type USB ports there’s no entertainment features or screens back here…not even as an option.
Extremely limited in availability, the 2022 Infiniti QX60 can be ordered in Pure, Luxe, Sensory and Autograph trims in either front- or all-wheel drive with up to 6,000 pounds of towing capacity including trailer sway control and a transmission oil cooler. I’m not sure it’ll be the savior the brand needs but it’s certainly the best SUV Infiniti offers and will no doubt resume its reign as their sales leader.

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2022 CHEVROLET TAHOE RST TEST DRIVE

Chevy has revived this new generation SUV reintroducing the big 6.2 V8. This is the 2022 Tahoe RST and the drive is phenomenal. If you want the 6.2 it’s optionally available on the 3 trims just below High Country; RST, Z71 and Premier leaving just the LS and LT out of the party. And it really makes the most sense here on the RST considering this is the sporty model with its numerous blackout treatments, 22” wheels and Victory Red accents on the Jet Black leather seats. A richer sounding cat-back upgrade is available as are Brembo front brakes but they’re not cheap…choosing those options add nearly $5,800 to the price. Chevy bundles the 6.2 V8, dual tip exhaust and Magnetic Ride Control in what they call the Sport Performance Package priced at $3,815. The MRC system reads the road every millisecond to deliver real-time damping and more precise body control – it’s an absolute must-have on any Tahoe, providing an exceptionally smooth and luxurious ride. Even without the air suspension on my last Tahoe High Country tester, this Magnetic Ride Control RST is off the charts good at graceful, big SUV motoring. It’s almost hard to believe how great this drives. Not only is the 6.2 powerful but it’s also refined and smooth…and thirsty, unfortunately. But the centerpiece of the RST’s luxury level drive is Magnetic Ride Control…holy smokes. Even on 22s the ride is buttery smooth and never sloppy or truck-like. Whether you’re taking a long trip with it…which I’ve done, or driving around town, this is very Range Rover-like in its vault-like quietness and supreme ride quality. Exceptional in every way.

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2022 VOLKSWAGEN TAOS TEST DRIVE

The Tiguan and Atlas now have a little brother. The 2022 Taos is a subcompact SUV though one that’s smartly packaged to maintain sizable interior proportions. Now, I’ve been running this little guy all over the place this week – through the mountains of New England, taking it on day trips, etc. and it’s clear: VW has yet another winner in their growing SUV stable.
The Taos is one of the most pleasant surprises to come across my test drive schedule this year. It performs far above its $33,000 as-tested price by exceeding expectations in nearly every area. The drive is spot-on VW with dynamic characteristics on par with the Golf. The Audi-like tech features have me double checking the sticker price and all of the intangibles just click; it looks good as you approach it, it’s accommodating to its passengers and the size is perfect for day trips and running errands. I’ve averaged over 32mpg on regular to boot though VW recommends using 91 octane to achieve the engine’s full power. If you don’t need the Tiguan’s bigger cargo area the Taos is a no-brainer. Even so, with the 2nd row seats folded flat and locked in place the Taos’ max cargo volume is nearly identical to that of the Tiguan’s. Where the Tiguan gains an advantage is cargo volume behind the 2nd row. And what if I told you this one actually has more rear seat legroom? I also love the shopping bag hooks back here which can each hold 5 pounds. Unlike in the Tiguan and Atlas there’s no R-Line available here so this SEL trim serves as the highest Taos example and everything you see here – other than the floor mats – comes standard for $33,185; that’s quite the attractive price when you consider all that the Taos is. The only notable option my tester doesn’t have is the $1,200 panoramic sunroof. And if you were thinking of adding a hitch the Taos is not designed for towing a trailer. But this SUV is a real delight. VW should sell a ton of these and it’s easy to see why.

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2021 FORD RANGER TREMOR TEST DRIVE

Just as Ford is preparing to reveal the next-gen Ranger due in 2023, I’m running through the mud in this Cyber Orange Ranger Tremor and loving every minute of it. Following the off-road oriented Super Duty Tremor comes this Tremor package for the Ranger. It gives owners a truck with even more capability, taking it several notches beyond the FX4 Package. 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 exclusively in the SuperCrew 4X4 configuration. 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. 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 a Terrain Management System round out the package. Even the traction control system has been recalibrated for improved acceleration while driving on loose surfaces. Now the price of this one is $48,755 – certainly not cheap – but it’s a fully loaded top of the line Tremor. A more plebeian XLT Tremor starts at $42,745. It can tow 7,500 pounds with the optional trailer tow package. This is one rugged truck with a soft side that satisfies on a number of fronts so if you’re in search of an off-road rig that still fits in your garage and is ready to go right out of the box, the Ranger Tremor would be my first choice. FOR TESTDRIVENOW CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES’ COMPLETE VIDEO REVIEW & TEST DRIVE OF THE 2021 FORD RANGER TREMOR, GO TO: https://testdrivenow.com/ford-ranger-tremor-test-drive/

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2021 AUDI Q5 TEST DRIVE

The Q5 provides the sporty performance and fun-to-drive experience you expect from an Audi while also providing exceptional ride comfort. Audi’s vehicle lineup is vast with a dizzying array of choices that even I find difficult keeping up with. So have you ever considered why it is that the Q5 has separated itself from the pack to become the brand’s best-seller? Well, if you drive one it’s pretty easy to understand.
Audi recognizes it has a very good thing going on with the Q5 so now in addition to the standard and high-performance SQ5 models the brand with four rings has introduced Sportback and plug-in hybrid variants. But the Q I’m spending time with is the Q5 45 TFSI quattro. Translation? It’s the basic all-wheel drive Q5 with the 2.0-liter turbo which comes in 3 flavors: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige with prices ranging from near $45,000 to about $58,000. And this here is the Goldilocks model: the Premium Plus in upcharge Manhattan Gray metallic paint, with optional 20” wheels, Navigation package and Bang & Olufsen sound system for an as-tested MSRP of $53,040. It’s imported from Mexico but the drive most certainly speaks German.
Certain vehicles instantly make the perfect handshake and this is one of them. Getting in and out, finding your comfort zone, not having to think about where certain features are and having enough room to accomplish everyday tasks is what the Q5 is all about. Not too big, not too small, feature-laden but not over the top, it’s an SUV aimed to please. Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist is now standard on this Premium Plus trim and helps to destress the driver when sitting behind the wheel is reduced to monkey business. The Top view camera system is also now a standard feature on this trim and includes an off-screen activation switch. And the touchscreen navigation unit is user friendly with satellite mapping, intuitive controls and wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s also the head unit for the impressive 19 speaker surround sound system – a $950 option. Tri-zone climate control means no temperature wars, the panoramic sunroof adds elevated comfort to the slide and recline rear seats, and heated front seats with a heated steering wheel make winter a little more bearable. And there’s no need to mount your EZ-Pass on the windshield – with Audi’s Integrated Toll Module the transponder is built into the Q5’s rearview mirror. Other favorite features of mine include auto high beams, virtual cockpit plus with various, easy to change views and folding 2nd row seats that can be dropped with remote levers and then click reassuringly into place to create a nearly flat, expanded cargo area which can be accessed by a kick of the foot. And if you were wondering, the Q5 can tow 4,400 pounds – not bad.

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