Featured Reviews

4Runner adds loaded TRD Sport

Toyota already is through four generations of the venerable 4Runner, and for 2022, it adds a flashy TRD Sport model that expands its versatility

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Grand Cherokee gets the 'L' in there for 2022

When Jeep brought out the fifth generation of the Grand Cherokee for 2021, it added a stylish "L" version, elongated to contain a third-row seat.

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Right tires can improve Cadillac XT5 and XT6

Cadillac addressed both midsize lengths with the 2022 XT5 and XT6, but make sure you have the best tires for winter driving.

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...and even a winter storm couldn't dim the Niro's functionality.

All-electric Kia Niro powers through Duluth test

Kia brought out the Niro as a compact hybrid, but for 2022 an all-electric version offers silent but quick acceleration and 237 miles of range, even while visiting Duluth winter.

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New Sienna is Toyota's link to exciting future

Toyota has big plans for future hybrids, but for 2022, the Sienna HSE is both a hybrid and uses all-wheel-drive to aid customers.

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2022 Suburban fills huge body with luxury

Chevrolet gave its huge Suburban a new platform for 2021, so for 2022 it gains refinement of features such as suspension and interior amenities.

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Kia varies 2022 Carnival forms, prices

Koa's long-standing Sedona has been a solid minivan, but as the segment regroups, the superb Carnival replaces the Sedona for 2022.

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Best Prius yet adds AWD, Lithium-ion battery

Toyota continues to set the pace for hybrid technology, and the 2022 Prius XLE features 50-plus mpg and all-wheel drive.

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Aviator Hybrid comfortable way to make memories

.Lincoln is stepping out of the shadow of Ford's truck and SUV domination, offering an Aviator Hybrid that could stir up the luxury 3-row SUV segment

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The 2022 Ford Maverick is conveniently downsized but retains the look of a larger pickup.

Modern Maverick could be Ford's bargain bonanza

Just when you thought Ford had blanketed the pickup industry, it brings out an attention-grabbing Maverick compact pickup price from $20,000 for 2022.

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Enormous Grand Wagoneer tips scales at Rally

October 26, 2021 by · Comments Off on Enormous Grand Wagoneer tips scales at Rally
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Enormous is the key word to describe the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer, although luxury is a close second.

By John Gilbert

Not every one of the newest cars are keepers, even though the battle for hyperbole seems never-ending among auto writers. For example, back in the 1960s, when I first started writing about cars for the Minneapolis Tribune, I got a wide assortment of cars to drive from press fleets in Chicago, and one of those was the Jeep Wagoneer.

It was large, bulky, and while loaded with features that could justify a higher price than the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, I never had good luck with the Wagoneer or Grand Wagoneer. Electrical malfunctions and weird actions that convinced us it was haunted by an evil spirit plagued us every time we had one.

The weirdest was when I requested a base Cherokee, and they sent me the fanciest Grand Wagoneer made. Oh no, I thought, but I persevered. It was the middle of winter, and our older son, Jack, was playing hockey in a frigid, natural-ice facility at Breck School. After the game, we hustled outside into 10-below temperature, and walked hastily to the parking lot at the end of a building. Then we heard the steady bleating of a car horn in the distance.

We got to the corner and discovered it was our Wagoneer. Without an alternative, I got the hood up and pulled the wires to the horn to stop the noise. We got inside, sharing a laugh about the weird luck, and found the Wagoneer battery had died of its own hand. A jump start got us home, and after that, we gingerly hooked up the horn, and learned that it only honked whenever we turned left.

When they stopped making Wagoneers, we celebrated. Now, to my horror, Jeep has reincarnated the Grand Wagoneer for 2022. I hadn’t seen one in person yet, but last week, at the MAMA Fall Rally at Elkhart Lake, Wis., where an assortment of new vehicles was presented for the trials by journalists, I saw this huge apparition and realized it was a Grand Wagoneer.

My older son, Jack, who also is my co-driver, co-tester, and photography aide, and who had accompanied me on the nearly 6-hour drive from Duluth to Elkhart Lake, said: “Jeep makes so many vehicles that are normal size and a lot of fun. Why would they make a huge vehicle like that.”

So there I was, reduced to defending the move. Because various size Jeeps are enjoyed by many owners, if a family adds a new baby or needs more room, they have to recommend to a potential buyer that he’d best head to a Chevy dealer and buy a Tahoe or Suburban. ince those are the most profitable vehicles on the road, Jeep and its bosses decided they ought to build a Suburban-sized SUV that retained the utility of other Jeeps but could easily fit three rows of seats in, and, I suggested, a fourth if necessary.

Carefully matched light walnut woodgrain covers consoles and dashboard in theleather-lined Wagoneer..

The Grand Wagoneer drives surprisingly well, with modes to reach a reasonable facsimile of “sport,” and it also won my vote for the best luxury vehicle on the premises. Without a doubt, it has the most luxurious interior I’ve ever been in, with, I suggested, enough wood to panel your rec room. And enough leather to panel the den. The price tag climbs over $100,000 and either stood out or was met with scorn by everybody there.

Belonging to the Midwest Auto Media Association (MAMA) is a great benefit to journalists who wrote about cars from all over the country, and among the highlights of each year is when the annual MAMA Spring and Fall Rallies take place. We gather at Elkhart Lake, Wis., each spring and at Joliet, Ill., each fall, so that we can test-drive the latest vehicles from all the manufacturers at one place — the Road America road cours in the spring and the Autobahn Club track in the fall.

The past two years have disrupted out perfect world, of course, and while we all were sad when last year’s rallies, and auto shows, etc., were postponed and then cancelled. We don’t know if we’ll ever get back to normal, or fi maybe we’ll get used to something called the “new normal,” but we made a bold step in that direction on Wednesday and Thursday, October 13 and 14, to get something of a taste of the “good ol’ days” when MAMA held its usual spring rally in the Fall of 2021.

Such diversions are common at the Rallies, with manufacturers; reps on hand to answer questions, although I find the newest wave of PR folks are a lot like the newest wave of social-media “auto writers,” whose knowledge of vehicles and engines is superficial at best. Read more

Hybrid model boosts Tucson over competition

October 16, 2021 by · Comments Off on Hybrid model boosts Tucson over competition
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Top model of new Tucson has glossy grille, through-grille LED headlights, and Hybrid.

By John Gilbert

For exactly a decade, Hyundai has surged from being a South Korean interloper on the automotive scene to becoming a surprising competitor and then a superior product for solid quality, technology and fuel efficiency all at once, in both its cars and its SUVs. It was the 2011 model year when the Sonata was totally redone to ignite Hyundai into the future. The new Sonata and Elantra now lead the way for Hyundai sedans, while the large Palisade and the compact Kona have set high standards, large and small, for SUVs.

A year ago, Hyundai redesigned its Santa Fe, the midsize SUV entry, leaving only the Tucson in need of renewal. That renewal is happening right now. The redesign is outstanding, and thrusts the Tucson as a 2022 model up into the heady atmosphere dominated by the RAV4, CR-V, Rogue and CX-5 — the outstanding entries from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda, respectively, Japan’s top vehicles.

Just being clustered with those four is a high achievement, but the Tucson is more than that, despite what the evaluators at Motor Trend might suggest. In its latest issue, Motor Trend compared the Tucson with the CR-V, RAV4 and Rogue in a recent issue, and ranked the CR-V first, but apparently figured readers wouldn’t notice that the RAV4, Rogue and Tucson all were equipped with competitive 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engines, while the CR-V had a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4 — and with the advantage of the only turbo engine, it ran away with the performance categories.

Flashy design finishes at rear on 2022 Tucson Hybrid, with room in comfort for five.

Turbochargers can do that for a smaller, higher-revving engine. To be fair, however, the magazine could have tested the Tucson model I drove, which was the “Ultimate,” and came with a turbo 1.6 engine, plus a hybrid setup with a battery pack stashed under the back seat. Frankly, I like all of those other vehicles, and the Mazda CX-5, as well, but switching to the zippier 1.6 turbo in the Tucson would have put it on equal performance footing with the CR-V, and adding the hybrid technology vaults it above and beyond that elite group.

The 1.6 turbo has a strong-enough 180 horsepower, and adding the 44.2 kW electric motor adds 59 horsepower from 1,600-2,000 RPMs, and boosts the Tucson to a combined 226 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque. The point where the torque, or power, hits its peak is all-important to performance, and the Tucson Hybrid’s toque peaks at 0 RPMs — zero — and stays at that peak up to 1,500 revs. The LG Chem battery pack is a 270-volt Lithium-ion polymer. unit that rests flat on the floor, under the rear seat, which also gives the Tucson a mid-engine weight characteristic.

Under the skin, the Tucson is 182.3 inches long with a 108.5 inch wheelbase and weighs 3,762 pounds with all-wheel drive. Independent front and rear suspension uses MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink set-up at the rear. A big reason for the solid feel to the Tucson is the rigidity of the platform, plus the body-strength that comes from a high dose of high-strength steel and high-tensile steel from Hyundai’s own steel plant.

The new Tucson is a 2022 model, and while it borrows from the classy Palisade, and the Santa Fe, I think it steps boldly ahead to establish a new face for Hyundai. But while discussing performance, I must point out that in a week’s time driving up and down the North Shore of Lake Superior, and scaling and descending the steep hills of Duluth, Minnesota, I found the performance was not only outstanding in the Tucson, but the fuel economy went off the scale. Read more

BMW engine boosts Supra to new Toyota image

October 7, 2021 by · Comments Off on BMW engine boosts Supra to new Toyota image
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos, Uncategorized 

New tweaks upgrade fifth-generation Supra style for 2021, including less-obnoxious nose.

By John Gilbert

The idea that folks at Toyota are going through a “second childhood” takes root from the fact that the Japanese auto giant has hit the market with several sports coupes, convertibles and racy vehicles in the last few years. The upscale Lexus LC500 was the subject of my review here just a few weeks ago, as the 6-figure pinnacle of luxury-performance, and now, before October gets far enough along to threaten us with some foul weather, we’ve got to also check out the 2021 Toyota Supra and declare it the company’s bargain luxury-sports car.

Actually, the bargain sports car of the Toyota line is the unfortunately-named Toyota 86, an under-$30,000 sports car built jointly with Subaru, using Subaru engines, and almost identical to the Subaru BRZ.

The new Supra is a completely different story. If working a jont-venture with Subaru was a good idea for a low-slung sports car, then working the magic combination with BMW to come up with the Supra is even better, and a mid-$50,000 price point is a comparative bargain when you know you’ve got the same 3.0-liter inline 6 made by BMW for its new M4 sporty coupe.

The Supra is a grand old name in Toyota lore, starting as a stretched out luxury model of the Celica coupe three decades ago, and it persisted as a powerful sporty cruiser with a potent Toyota in-line 6 and all of the company’s advancing technology. Toyota even stretched the Supra out into a “2 plus 2” model with a jump-seat behind the two buckets.

Times change, and with its new upscale Lexus brand also needing vehicles, the Supra disappeared from the U.S. market just over 20 years ago. Toyota now is on a movement to shed its stodgy, conservative image, and after its Lexus sports cars and sportier leaning of Toyotas, the company brought back the Supra name on an exotic-looking new sports coupe as the fifth-generation Supra for 2020.

The look of the Supra didn’t dazzle men when it first came out for 2020. I knew it was something of a composite vehicle jointly created by Toyota and BMW, giving it legendary heritage from two international automotive legends. But it had this extra-prominent nose that I thought made it look, well…ugly.

Bright red Supra stood out as the Northern Minnesota leaves started changing color.

Anyhow, after a few slight revisions, a 2021 model of the Supra showed up for me to test drive, up and down the North Shore of Lake Superior in mid-September, just before the leaves were turning color, and it was a pure, bright red attention-grabber. So, too, were the grooves and scoops and contours that pretty well obscured the nose. The nose! What happened to the nose? The prominent beak was modified to the point its nose is no longer is objectionable, in my humble opinion, and you can judge for yourself from the accompanying photos.

Similar in size and intention to the LC55 Lexus, which cost somewhere north of six figures, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Supra was more like the mid-$52,000 range, which is definitely a bargain, by comparison.

Under the hood is a 3.0-liter inline 6, which could have been built by Toyota in the old days, but is built by BMW today, and certainly not a bad choice. Traditional sports car buyers will appreciate the rear-drive platform, although I could foresee all-wheel drive in the future.

This twin-turbocharged 6 delivers 382 horsepower and 368 foot-pounds of torque through an 8-speed transmission, directly to the rear wheels. The car handles with great precision, with a platform also from BMW’s engineers. You can play with the drive mode switch and get into sports settings that heighten the stiffness and the tightness of the steering and suspension, and turns the exhaust from mellow to raucous. Read more

CX-30 perfect fit in Mazda’s SUV lineup

October 1, 2021 by · Comments Off on CX-30 perfect fit in Mazda’s SUV lineup
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

The Mazda CX-30 fits between the CX-5 and the compact CX-3, which the CX-30 replaces.

By John Gilbert

The unprecedented summer dryspell slowed the streams to a trickle and had the effect of diminishing the usual dramatic change in foliage colors along the North Shore of Lake Superior. That point was driven home to me when I had the chance to test drive a 2021 Mazda CX-30 for a pre-autumn week, and the faintness of the leaves’ color was dramatized by the vividness of the familiar Mazda color of “Crystal Soul Red Metallic.”

Without question, I am a devoted follower of the brilliant technology that has gone into Mazda vehicles, especially in the last couple of decades. While remaining a small player world automotive competition, Mazda turns loose its engineers and designers to ,ake every vehicle a creative endeavor. The result usually is to upgrade the Mazda fleet into world-class vehicles with amazing technology under the skin.

The CX-30 is an example of how Mazda governs itself. The Hiroshima company seemed to have things in order with two sedans — the Mazda3 compact and the Mazda6, a sporty and luxurious intermediate with full-size room — and three SUVs, the CX-3 subcompact, the CX-5 midsize, and the CX-9 near-full-size. with three rows. The CX-5 was just right, with adequate rear seat room and stowage space, and the heart of a performance vehicle.

The CX-3, however, was just plain too small. Only very small children could fit in the rear seat if the front buckets were in normal position, although it might have been the perfect agile SUV for a single driver.

Limiting the interior to two roomy rows of seats leaves good luggage space.

Mazda went back to the drawing board and hustled up its next generation to solve the issue. The plan is to rename those SUVs, with the CX-3 being scratched and replaced by a new vehicle — the CX-30, with significantly more room than the CX-3, but not quite up to CX-5 dimensions. Obviously the  plaviouslyn calls for a new CX-5, slightly enlarged to make more room for the CX-30, and it will be called the CX-50, and a new CX-90 will follow to replace the CX-9. Read more

Compact GLA 250 packs Mercedes punch

September 24, 2021 by · Comments Off on Compact GLA 250 packs Mercedes punch
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Being compact makes the Mercedes GLA250 an appealing alternative.

By John Gilbert

The classic stature of Mercedes Benz automobiles runs all the way back to the company’s origin, in the late 1800s. You could say it runs back to when Daimler and Benz first met, except one of the wonderful legends of the company is that the two built competing vehicles and they never did meet, despite dwelling only a few miles apart. The incorporating of the two came after both pioneers had died, and it’s safe to say that while both had visions of what a motorized carriage could be, undoubtedly neither could have envisioned the evolution of cars to today’s standards.

To say nothing of trucks.

While Mercedes cars retain the iconic nature of the ultimate luxury sedans, the always-expanding array of Mercedes SUVs is just as iconic, from the largest all-terrain and luxury family haulers to the most compact. As it turns out, after being completely impressed with all the SUVs, by personal favorite comes down to the GLA250 — a compact but fully capable vehicle that will do anything its owner might bid it to do.

Easy North Shore commute to Grand Marais, and Minnesota’s one particular harbor.

While spending a week with a 2021 model GLA250 4Matic SUV, we put it through its family-hauler paces on the hills of Duluth, Minnesota, as well as a pleasant trip up Lake Superior’s North Shore on the legendary Hwy. 61 up to Grand Marais, a pleasant destination that gets close to the Canadian Border but provides an artsy stop with shops, restaurants, and that One Particular Harbor protecting the sailboat landings from the sometimes temperamental Lake Superior. That is the perfect setting for a destination drive as well as some hiking trails both in and near town. Read more

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