Tuesday, June 29, 2021

2021 LINCOLN NAVIGATOR BLACK LABEL

POWER AND PLUSHNESS PUTS NAVIGATOR AMONG THE BEST OF  LARGE LUXURY SUVS


If you are in the market for a luxury large SUV and don’t have the Lincoln Navigator on your list, you might be regretting it later, and not just because actor Matthew McConaughey has nice things to say about it and other Lincoln products in the automaker’s popular low-key TV ad campaign.

Posh, powerful, and packed with all kinds of technological features that don’t require a computer science degree to operate, the 2021 Lincoln Navigator serves as the flagship the company’s fleet of four crossovers/SUVs and is a can’t-go-wrong choice in any of its three versions.

Make that five considering that the long wheel-based Lincoln L that is available with Reserve and Black Labels, though not on the Base.Navigator.


This review is based on the 2021 Lincoln Navigator Black Label trim.

All Navigators come with a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that got a power boost in the 2018 redesign to 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque from the 380/460, respectively, of the previous generation.


That’s enough power to get its nearly three-ton curb weight moving at a pretty sharp pace while also providing a towing capacity of 8,700 pounds. 

A 10-speed automatic transmission replaces the previous 6-speed. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all but the regular-wheelbase Black Label model, which comes with standard all-wheel drive. AWD is an extra on other trims, including the Lincoln L.



You can select gears manually via paddle shifters, or you can set the Navigator into one of six driving modes — Normal, Slippery, Deep Conditions (mud/snow), Excite (or Sport), Conserve (or Eco), and Slow Climb (for steep terrain). All-wheel -drives models also offer a Normal 4X4 mode.

The government tags the fuel economy numbers at 16 miles-per-gallon city, 22 highway, and 18 combined for RWD models and 16/20/17 for AWD, and the edge it has over some of its competitors is that it runs on regular octane fuel.

All that is nice, but it is the interior and tech features that give the Navigator its sex appeal.


Standard on Black Label models are such features as upgraded leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, illuminated power running boards, 24-way power adjustable front seats with a massage function, heated rear seats, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen, one-touch fold-flat third-row seats, hands-free rear liftgate, tri-zone climate control, and special interior color packages.


The Black Label also gets some special design touches to give it a distinctive look.

Tech savvy folks also will appreciate niceties like standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wi-fi, and wireless charging for your Smart phone.

For the safety minded, there are a very refined adaptive cruise control system, active park assist, blindspot detection, lane-keeping assist that makes minor corrections without intruding on driver control, forward collision warning, a perimeter alarm, as well as the usual collection of seat belts and air bags.

A surround view camera can be activated via a button on the console also helps with parking procedures.

Starting MSRP for the 2021 Lincoln Navigator Black Label is $98,125. My vehicle for the week included a Special Edition Package that featured a specially painted black roof and monochromatic accents for the grille, 22-inch, 12-spoke black aluminum wheels, black side-view mirror caps, and spoiler.

That and the $1,295 destination and delivery charge ran the final bottom line to $105,115. Black Label buyers also get other extras that include free pick up and return for scheduled maintenance and free any time car washes! The Base Navigator starts at under $77,000.. 

What I liked about the 2021 Lincoln Navigator Black Label:
The cabin is very high class with premium touches throughout. There is lots of room, even in the third row. It actually can accommodate not just small children but adults as well and still leaves good room for luggage and stuff in the back. Infotainment features are plentiful and user-friendly. The screen for navigation is large and details can be picked up at a glance.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Lincoln Navigator Black Label: The twin-turbo V6 drinks fuel like a thirsty V8, though the fact it can run on regular gasoline is a bonus. I would quibble about the placing of the ignition button and the button to activate trailer features so close together. Even after a week I found myself punching the trailer button when I wanted to start the engine. Extra care needs to be taken when driving in urban environments because of the Navigator’s monstrous size. (You had better have a big garage if you don’t want to leave it in your driveway.)

Would I buy the 2021 Lincoln Navigator Black Label? As I have so often stated, I have no need for a full-size SUV so it doesn’t suit my needs. But if I was in the market for one, the Navigator would be at the top of my shopping list.




Tuesday, June 22, 2021

2021 INFINITI QX80 PREMIUM SELECT


INFINITI CUTS LIMITED TRIM FOR QX80, 

ADDS TWO NEW TRIM LEVELS FOR 2021


It assumed its present designation when the Japanese automaker adopted a new naming strategy for  its product line. Starting with 2014 models, Infiniti labeled its sedans, coupes, and convertibles as “Q” and crossovers and SUVs as “QX” with the number that follows not based on engine size but rather representing its status in the portfolio — essentially the bigger the number the bigger the vehicle.

Thus as you might deduce from the number 80, the QX80 represents that largest of Infiniti’s SUVs.

Got all that?

Though offering lots of room in a sophisticated interior and a powerful engine, the Infiniti QX80 generally has lagged behind the top-selling Cadillac Escalade and Mercedes-Benz GL/GLS Class in the large luxury SUV segment. The first quarter numbers for 2021 have it trailing both the Lincoln Navigator and BMW X7 as well, though not by much.



Most of the criticism aimed at the QX80 has to do with poor fuel economy and there isn’t enough separation between the QX80 and the parent-company’s Nissan Armada on which it is based. The interior is nice, yes, but a luxury vehicle should make you go “wow” when you first get in. The QX80 elicits more of a “Hmmmm.”

When it comes to room and cabin features and towing capacity, however, the 2021 Infiniti QX80 matches up well in its class.



The 2021 QX80 comes in three trim levels — Luxe and new Premium Select and Sensory models, the latter two replacing the 2020 QX80 Limited edition. This review is based on the 2021 Infiniti QX80 Premium Select that carries an opening MSRP of $76,450 in all-wheel-drive configuration.

A RWD Q80 Luxe starts at just under $70,000 before destination and delivery charges are added in, and the Sensory trim with AWD tops the portfolio at just over $83,000.


All QX80 SUVs get a 5.6-liter V8 engine under the hood mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. The engine packs a punch of 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque to move its nearly three tons with ease. Curb weight for the Premium Select is 5,706 pounds, and towing capacity for the QX80 is an impressive 8,500 pounds

Not surprisingly, that power comes at a cost in fuel economy. EPA ratings for the Premium Select AWD are 13 miles per gallon city, 19 highway and 15 combined, and premium fuel is recommended for top operation.

The QX80 not only will tow your boat comfortably, it also is up for off-road ventures. The 4-wheel drive system has settings for automatic, 4Hi and 4Lo along with Snow and Towing modes adjusted by a spin of a dial on the center console. Giant 22-inch wheels also are standard on Premium Select and Sensory trims, which also get a full-size spare.

Inside, leather seats with up to 39 inches of legroom up front and 41.3 in the second row coddle occupants. It’s not much of a task to get to the far back, but the third row is better left for smaller children in the case of long rides. Legroom room back there is less than 30 inches.

Storage capacity with third-row seats in place is 16.6 cubic feet. Fold up the third row and available space nearly triples to 48.6 cubic feet.



Some reviewers have criticized the infotainment system as being “dated,” but the dual-screen, InTouch system is easy enough to operate, and navigation is standard. Adaptive cruise control also has been made standard for 2021 to go along with such features as remote engine start, LED headlights and fog lights, roof rails, a power rear liftgate, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, heated front seats, hill start assist, trailer sway control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a wifi hotspot.

Safety features included in the MSRP for the QX80 Premium Select include forward collision warning and brake assist with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and prevention, an around view monitor, and blind-spot warning.

My vehicle for the week came with options that included premier paint, exterior welcome lighting, illuminated kick plates, roof rail crossbars, and a cargo package (cargo mat, cargo net, console net, and first-aid kit).

That ran the bottom line to $80,185 including the $1,395 destination and delivery charge.

What I liked about the 2021 Infiniti QX80 Premium Select:
Some critics have panned the two-screen setup for infotainment functions, but as someone who likes to fiddle with the radio I like being able to search the dial while keeping the navigation screen up. Some functions also operate on easy-to-use buttons or knobs. Lots of grab handles and a running board help you get in and out. There are good-size storage bins in both the front and second rows and decent cargo area behind the third row. Buttons both in the cargo area and on armrests lower and raise third row seats. Towing capacity is excellent. 

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Infiniti QX80 Premium Select: The top display screen (primarily for the navigation map and camera views) needs to be bigger. The V8 engine is very thirsty and likes the good stuff when it comes to fuel. Second-row legroom is plentiful, but you pay for it with a tight third row.

Would I buy the 2021 Infiniti QX80 Premium Select? I have no interest in buying a large SUV, even a nice looking one like the QX80. It has good roominess in the first two rows and has a competitive price for its segment. If Infiniti would give the cabin a major update, the QX80 would come highly recommended.



Monday, June 14, 2021

2021 HYUNDAI TUCSON LIMITED

 


HYUNDAI TUCSON NOW A REAL PLAYER 

IN COMPETITIVE COMPACT SUV SEGMENT


Move over Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, and other popular compact crossovers.

Another player has upgraded its game with Hyundai giving its best-selling vehicle, the Tucson SUV, a major refreshing for 2022 following the “Sensuous Sportiness” concepts espoused by the company’s Global Design Center in South Korea. 



From the outside, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson has the look of a luxury SUV, and the only thing missing from the premium-like interior is an analog clock in the middle of the flat, no-knob centerstack.

When it comes to appearance, comfort, space, and functionality, I would put the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited model that this review is based on up against any crossover in the compact class, including some in the luxury segment.



At 182.3 inches long, it is 6.1 inches longer than the 2021 Tucson, increasing second-row legroom to 41.3 inches and rear storage space to 38.7 cubic feet, 7.5 cubic feet more than its predecessor’s capacity.

About the only shortcoming would be in performance, and even this latest version with the conventional gas-engine powertrain has a bit more get-up-and-go than what previous generations offered.



The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine gets a slight horsepower and torque boost to 187 horsepower and 175 pound-feet, respectively, over the 181/175 of the 2021 Tucson.  That’s adequate for daily driving, and operating in Sport or Smart mode instead of Normal (or Snow) adds a bit of pep.

If you want more oomph, you need to get the one of the hybrid versions. The plugin Tucson hybrid, for example, offers a combined 261 horsepower from its 1.6-liter turbo engine and electric motor in addition to providing 32 miles of electric-only driving.



Along with the top-of-the-line Limited trim, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson also is offered in SE (or base), SEL, and N Line versions with front-wheel drive as standard. All-wheel drive is available on all trims, and an 8-speed automatic transmission is standard across the line. Fuel consumption for FWD modes is at the rate of 26 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, and 29 combined. AWD Tucsons are at bit thirstier with mileage figures of 24/29/26.

All Tucsons start with standard safety equipment that includes forward collision alert with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assist, high-beam assist, driver attention assist, and rear-seat occupant alert.

The Limited adds lane-follow assist, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, and parking assist systems that are optional on other trims.

The long list of standard equipment on the Limited makes other options moot.

That list includes a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and push-button start, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, leather-trimmed seats, expanded ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, power front seats with driver lumbar support, rain-sensing wipers, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 10.25-inch instrument cluster and 10.25-inch touchscreen for navigation and other infotainment features, Bose premium sound system, wireless charging, adaptive (Smart) cruise control, and three complimentary years of Hyundai’s Blue Link connective services.

In addition to the $169 for carpeted floor mats, the only extra for my tester was a $1,185 destination and delivery charge, bringing the final bottom line for the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited with AWD to $37,454.
 
What I liked about the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited:
The exterior styling is sharp. To me it looks very much like a particular luxury SUV from a rival Japanese automaker. The interior also has a luxury feel and is roomy and comfortable. There is even good legroom room in the rear seats (41.3 inches). The touchscreen for infotainment functions on the Limited is the largest of the Tucson trims and includes an easily read navigation map. The list of standard safety features is very extensive.

What I didn’t like about the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited: The infotainment system is not complicated to operate or anything, but I still would like knobs to make adjustments for some functions. You need to press buttons on the screen to adjust volume on the radio, for instance. Touch-sensitive buttons often can be touched by mistake. A little more punch in performance would be appreciated.

Would I buy the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited? Yes. Changes for 2022 have made the Tucson a strong entrant in the very competitive compact SUV segment.



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

2021 FORD BRONCO SPORT


BRONCO IS BACK FOR 2021 AFTER LONG PRODUCTION HIATUS


Ford put the Bronco on what would become a 25-year production hiatus after the 1996 model year even though just two years earlier it had been the most widely viewed SUV in the country.

That was, of course, on June 17, 1994, when television cameras focused on Los Angeles freeways as A.J. Cowlings led LAPD and California Highway Patrol  officers on a slow-speed chase with his former Buffalo Bills teammate, O.J. Simpson, in the back holding a pistol and allegedly threatening suicide rather than face murder charges over the stabbing death of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Brown. (Spoiler alert: He never followed through on his threat.)

CNN carried the entire incident live, and the main networks even broke into regular programming to give it coverage. According to accounts of  the evening, NBC gave it split-screen exposure with an NBA playoff game occupying the other half of the screen.


Saying that the decision to end production of the iconic 2-door SUV was unrelated to the notoriety from the chase, Ford replaced it with the full-size 4-door Expedition to compete with similar larger SUVs from Chevrolet and GMC.

The Bronco was relegated to used car lots until Ford resurrected the Bronco nameplate last year with a 2- and 4-door midsize version and a smaller, 4-door ute dubbed Bronco Sport hitting showrooms. Both offered off-roading capability in an attractive package equally at home on pavement. This review is based on the Badlands edition of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport.


Built on the same platform as the Ford Escape, the Bronco Sport comes in five trim levels including a limited production First Edition model. Though all Bronco Sports feature 4X4 drive, the Badlands is fitted with more off-roading capability than the less expensive Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks models.

Along with the First Edition, the Badlands gets the larger of the two engines offered in the Bronco Sport lineup. A 2.0-liter Ecoboost 4-cylinder engine puts out 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque for the Bronco Sport Badlands over the 181/190 available in the 1.5-liter 3-cylinder in the lower trims.



That engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission that features various driving modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, Mud/Ruts and Rock) and paddle shifters. Slipping into 4-wheel mode is as easy as turning a knob on the console.

The larger engine earns fuel ratings of 23 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway and 26 combined using regular fuel,  which is pretty much the figures that I obtained in a stretch that leaned heavily to highway driving.

The Bronco Sport seems a little more refined version of Jeep’s popular Wrangler, though that probably is unfair to both vehicles. The Bronco Sport handles more smoothly on the highway than the Wranglers I have driven, but the Wrangler may be up to more challenging off-roading extremes like the Rubicon Trail.


The Bronco Sport’s cabin features a lot of plastic finishes, but it has a clean, functional look and is roomy enough (at least up front). It has a very user-friendly infotainment system. 

Standard features in the Badlands include an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rubberized cargo floor and rear seat backs, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, liftgate with liftglass, roof rack, tow hooks, velour floor mats, heated front seats, remote keyless sentry, off-road suspension, and LED headlights, taillights, and fog lights.

Pricing was not included on the spec sheet (Monroney) for my test vehicle, which also included Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 Assist system and the Equipment Group 400a package, but the Bronco Sport Badlands carries a starting MSRP of $32,660. The Base and Big Bend models start under $30,000. The Outer Banks trim starts at $500 less than the Badlands, but you have to live with the less powerful 3-cylinder engine.

What I liked about the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport:
It cruises well on the highway and delivers good gas mileage while still packing a punch. Adaptive cruise control works well. The Sync 3 infotainment system is very user friendly except for an issue noted below. You can use small knobs to tune the radio and other larger knobs to manually adjust the A/Cl. The cargo area is spacious (32.5 cubic feet with seats in place, 65.2 with the second row folded) and features nooks on either side where you can put smaller bottles to keep them from rolling around, though I would appreciate at least one big enough to accommodate a gallon milk container.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport: The map for the navigation screen kind of “whites out” and it can be difficult to see the lines denoting some of the neighborhood streets (not the main roads). I also had an issue trying to enter an address via the voice command, but inputting it on the touchscreen was a snap. Not much leg for passengers in the second row.

Would I buy the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport? Yes. The Bronco Sport’s size hits a sweet spot for me. It’s big enough to handle a good amount of gear/luggage/etc., yet still small enough to fit in tight urban parking spaces. If you aren’t interested in the Badlands trim for off-roading, you can get a couple of Bronco Sport models for under $30,000.



Tuesday, June 1, 2021

2021 CADILLAC CT4


CADILLAC ADDS STANDARD FEATURES,

NEW PACKAGE, TO CT4 SEDAN FOR 2021


After its debut for 2020, the 2021 Cadillac CT4 small luxury sedan gets several updates this year with more standard features and an available Diamond Sky package of extras that provide some much appreciated styling upgrades.

Cadillac also is including what it says is the first “true” hands-free driver’s experience with its Super Cruise with Lane Change on Demand system that will work on more than 200,000 miles of compatible highways in the United States and Canada. The system is scheduled for late summer availability.

Among features added to the CT4 fort this year are a 12-inch digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Cadillac’s Buckle to Drive system that keeps a driver from moving the shifter out of Park for 20 seconds if the driver side seat belt is not fastened.



The system, however, can be turned off, which, at least to me, kind of defeats the purpose, but they didn’t ask me.

The CT4, which as may be deduced from the numerical designation, is a slightly smaller version of the 2021 Cadillac CT5 reviewed in this space in March and has a slightly friendly price tag than the midsize CT5.



It comes in four trims starting with the Luxury model that serves as the base. Other trims are Premium Luxury, Sport, and V-Series, the latter being the performance-geared entrant in the portfolio. This review is based on the CT4 Premium Luxury trim.

At the Premium Luxury level, the CT4 is offered with two engines, both turbocharged, with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder serving as the base and an optional 2.7-liter 4-banger upping the performance.



The 2.7L ups horsepower and torque to 325 and 310 pound-feet, respectively, from the 237/258 for the 2.0L. The 2.0L is paired with an 8 -speed automatic transmission and the 2-7L is mated to a 10-speed automatic.

Fuel economy figures for the 2.7L are 21 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway with standard rear-wheel drive (29 highway with all-wheel) to 23/34 for the RWD 2.0L (32 highway for AWD) so the difference is kind of negligible. The downside is that the 2.7L comes at an added cost of $2,500.



Standard equipment on the CT4 Premium Luxury includes 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and tail lamps, 12-way adjustable front seats (2-way lumbar), leather seating surfaces, keyless access and push-button start, driver’s seat memory settings, and safety features like automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian alert, HD rear vision camera, rear park assist, and the Buckle-to-Drive system mentioned earlier.

Adding to the $37,595 base MSRP on my test vehicle were options and packages that started with the 2.7L engine and its 10-speed transmission. Other extras included a Navigation and Bose Premium Audio package, a Climate Package (4-way power lumbar, heated front seats and steering wheel, ventilated front seats), and a Driver Awareness Plus package (lane change and blind-spot alert, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, following distance indicator).

That, along with the $995 destination charge, ran the bottom line to $45,715.

What I liked about the 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury sedan:
The infotainment system is much easier to use than Cadillac’s early efforts with its CUE system. The  2.7-liter turbo engine performs well and is worth the extra $2,500. It has more punch, plus it delivers good fuel economy.The exterior is sharp looking.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury sedan: The interior is nice enough, but doesn’t have much of a luxury feel about it even with the standard leather seats throughout. Excessive road noise detracts from the comfort of the ride.The back seat is small, offering only 33.4 inches of legroom. The trunk also is snug (10.7 cubic feet) even considering its small sedan class.

Would I buy the 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury sedan? Somewhat mixed feelings about this one. The price for the base model does let you get into the luxury class at a bargain level, but unless you add the expensive options and packages, you may feel you really aren’t getting a full-fledged Cadillac.