Displaying items by tag: SUV
Since 1984, the Toyota 4Runner has made its mark in our lineup as a powerhouse SUV. It’s getting close to having a cult following because of its versatility with its on and off-road capabilities. This is what makes it a great option for any driver, not just those that like to take their adventure off the pavement. Anyhow, at Toyota of N Charlotte, it’s safe to say we’re BIG fans of the Toyota 4Runner, and we’re eager to announce that the ever popular SUV will be redesigned in 2023. Take a look at the details on what to expect from this new Toyota.
What Will the New Toyota 4Runner Bring to the Table?
The current N Charlotte Toyota 4Runner model has a 4.0L V6 engine with Dual Independent Valve Timing. Rumor has it that the 2023 model will offer more than just one engine option. Even though many fans are into the current configuration, adding a couple of options can increase the horsepower, torque, fuel efficiency, and overall create a more versatile SUV than what it already is! A turbocharged option could also be in the works—this will definitely bring an amazing drive time.
It’s possible that a hybrid option for the new Toyota 4Runner model will be in the works as well. As a company committed to going green, mixing this with a popular N Charlotte model is just the right move for the company. Not only does a hybrid model offer better fuel efficiency, it also offers an eco-friendly performance with fewer emissions.
As for looks, the current N Charlotte Toyota 4Runner has a muscular design along with defined lines and features that are out of this world. For a new Toyota 4Runner redesign, the anticipation is getting fans anxious because they know that when Toyota redesigns a model, it’s a drastic change. Our guess is that parts like the back end, front grille, lighting schemes, etc., will see changes. Other accessories like tow kits and roof baskets could even become standard. Thus, there’s reason to believe that the 2023 model will look different.
If an exterior overhaul is added, then changes in the interior would also be necessary. We predict new options are coming in for interior trim materials and fabrics, as well as more space with better distribution. Infotainment, safety, efficiency, and convenience features are predicted to be be added for a better drive time!
Test Drive the N Charlotte Toyota 4Runner Today!
We’ve obviously been very eager for the arrival of the 2023 Toyota 4Runner, but for now were going to in the moment and appreciate the current model of the 4Runner. Test drive the 2021 4Runner or any other new Toyota on our lot. You can get the feel of driving on of our renowned new Toyotas. Make your way to Toyota of N Charlotte today! We’re located at 13429 Statesville Rd just off I-77 at exit 23 in Huntersville. You can also call us to schedule an appointment at (704)875-9199.
The revised Audi Q5 40 TDI SUV delivers plenty of tech and surprising value
The revised Audi Q5 offers useful updates when it comes to efficiency, performance and on-board technology. It still looks stylish inside and out, it’s well built and although it’s a bit dull to drive, it’s comfortable, refined and practical. The real surprise here in the most basic Sport trim is that it delivers impressive value for money, with a generous amount of standard kit.
Think premium SUV, and the chances are that you’ll think of the Audi Q5. From the way it drives to the way it’s built and how it looks, the Q5 has always been a solid choice. But the pace of development in this class is fast, so there’s a new version of the German firm’s mid-size SUV.
The updates focus heavily on technology to keep pace with newer models in the class, as well as revisions to the 40 TDI diesel model we’re testing here, making it cleaner and more powerful, thanks in part to mild-hybrid electrification.
The level of standard kit has taken a step forward as well, so even this entry-level Sport model could offer everything you’ll realistically need, even if on its standard 18-inch wheels it doesn’t look quite as sharp or as aggressive as the sportier S line trim that sits above it. Sport still receives new LED headlights and the same overall visual updates, with a larger, more pronounced grille that features some silver vertical bars to help it stand out. There’s a different design for the front bumper, too, while at the rear the changes are less significant. It’s a subtle but effective facelift overall.
The SUV has also received the same treatment inside as its A4 and A5 siblings, with a new 10.1-inch central touchscreen as part of the MMI Nav Plus system that replaces the older scroll wheel on the transmission tunnel. There’s now a slightly awkward, rather shallow storage tray in its place, but build and material quality is still as good as you’d expect from an Audi, while the updated tech is sound. It works with the level of speed and response to your inputs you’d expect from a premium model, while there are lots of features, too.
There’s no real reason not to get on with the native system because the menus are fairly logical and easy to navigate, plus the graphics are great and the screen is well positioned in your eyeline (if maybe just a tiny bit too far away from the driver). But Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also fitted as standard, so you can plug in your smartphone instead if you want.
On top of this you also get heated sports seats in Audi’s twin leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, and autonomous emergency braking with collision warning and pedestrian detection.
The Q5 inherits its predecessor’s full five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, which is an important feature for a family SUV like this.
Practicality is also key, and with a 550-litre boot – expanding to 1,520 litres with the useful 40:20:40 split rear seat bench folded down – there’s plenty of luggage room in the Audi. You even get a powered tailgate as standard to boost the level of flexibility on offer.
It’s not the biggest load bay in its class, but the Q5’s boot is far from cramped, and the same goes for the interior. You sit up high, as you’d expect in an SUV, and that’s possible because the seat base isn’t the longest, which brings your legs closer back towards you with a greater bend in your knees. But the Q5 offers plenty of legroom and doesn’t struggle for headroom either.
Practicality is pretty much unchanged then, and it’s a similar story when it comes to how the Q5 drives. That’s because it’s still based on the VW Group’s MLB Evo platform, with multi-link suspension all round.
Nestled under the bonnet of our test car is Audi’s updated 2.0-litre 40 TDI diesel, which produces 201bhp and a respectable 400Nm of torque. That’s 14bhp up on its predecessor thanks, in part, to the addition of a new 12-volt mild-hybrid system, which sees a belt-driven starter-generator (BSG) deliver a small hit of power and torque to assist when pulling away.
However, the mild-hybrid system has had a bigger impact on efficiency. The BSG charges a small lithium-ion battery when slowing down, which can be used to power ancillaries such as the climate control and electric power steering. In addition, the 2.0 TDI unit can cut out and coast at speeds of up to 99mph when you’re in the right driving mode, while the stop-start system activates below 13mph. It also makes things smoother when the engine does restart.
Claimed economy stands at 44.8mpg with 165g/km CO2 emissions, but while Audi is doing its best to make diesel less of a dirty word, it still feels like that in the current climate, the plug-in hybrid TFSI e will be a better bet for drivers seeking big efficiency and lower running costs.
Performance is strong, though, with some weight saving on engine components and the extra grunt delivering a 7.6-second 0-62mph time. In reality, nobody ever stretches their car’s performance to this degree all that regularly, but in conjunction with the seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox, the 400Nm of torque means it doesn’t kick down too many gears all that often when you want a more than moderate burst of acceleration.
Even if it does, the changes are pretty smooth – not whip-crack fast but well slurred to keep things relaxed – and the TDI unit’s sound is suppressed well enough that while it’s audible, it’s far from intrusive.
There’s little road noise too, helped by this car’s smaller wheels. They do look a little lost next to the big body, but they also improve the car’s ride quality.
The Q5 isn’t quite the most comfortable car in this class, but it rolls over ripples and imperfections in the road surface without too much fuss or transmitting a great level of shock or body movement, so it’s a smooth cruiser.
It isn’t the most dynamic option, though. The steering isn’t quite as direct as we’d like, even for an SUV (those big tyre sidewalls probably don’t help matters), while there’s some roll. But the Q5 is dynamically tidy enough to suffice; it’s comfort that matters more in a car like this, which it delivers, but the Audi is a bit dull when it comes to any sense of engagement.
“The Mercedes GLC is an SUV that benefits from a lot of C-Class pedigree, but with a raised ride height and improved practicality”
Mercedes has had a car battling against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 since 2009, but to UK buyers this may not have been obvious because the old GLK-Class was only sold in left-hand-drive markets. However, since 2015, the GLC, which replaced the GLK, has been sold here and is an SUV version of the popular Mercedes C-Class saloon on which it’s based.
Mercedes gave the GLC a mild facelift in 2019, which involved some tweaks to the exterior design, some new engines and a plethora of technology upgrades inside. The updates were needed given how competitive the SUV market had become, and 2021 ushers in a plug-in hybrid version for the first time too.
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The revised GLC borrows engines and equipment from the C-Class. The similarities between the two models are harder to spot in style terms, however, unlike the Mercedes A-Class and GLA, which have more in common. The GLC is an attractive car in its own right, with the latest design including slimmer headlights and tail lights, and the latest Mercedes grille.
Every GLC comes with Mercedes' 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Versions badged 220 d and 300 d are fitted with the same 2.0-litre diesel, but tuned differently to produce 191 and 242bhp respectively. The 220d returns up to 45.6mpg and has CO2 emissions starting at 175g/km, while you can expect 42.8mpg and 184g/km from the 300 d, which are competitive figures. These are trumped by the GLC 300 e plug-in hybrid model, which can manage 26-31 miles of electric range and 122mpg. What’s more, its low CO2 emissions mean company-car tax is a third of the petrol and diesel engines.
A clear highlight of the GLC is its attractive and well built interior, which also has enough room for front and rear occupants to be comfortable, along with heater controls for people sitting in the back, which is surprisingly rare. There are lots of thoughtful cubbies and the 550-litre boot puts the GLC in the same territory as the X3 and Q5, while the Discovery Sport is more practical and has the option of seven seats.
The introduced the latest Mercedes MBUX infotainment system, but unlike all-new models, there's still a tablet-style central screen perched on the dash, that looks slightly incongruous. The software is a major upgrade, though, and the main screen now responds to touch as well as the central control pad. A regular set of dials are standard, while a large 12.3-inch digital version is available as an option.
On the road, it soon becomes apparent that Mercedes concentrated on comfort when developing the GLC. It’s very smooth on the standard suspension and even more cosseting if the optional air-suspension is fitted. Drivers on the hunt for thrills may feel short-changed, though – while the Volvo XC60 is even softer, the newer BMW X3 is more responsive and poised on a country road.
There are effectively three trim levels, consisting of the core AMG Line trim, plus Premium and Premium Plus versions. The 220 d engine is only available in AMG Line Premium and below; the more powerful 300 d is the AMG Line Premium and up. Desirable items like a powered tailgate, reversing camera and Artico leather upholstery are all included, along with sat nav and LED headlights. AMG Line Premium GLCs gain distinctive body styling and an interior makeover, as well as even bigger 20-inch alloy wheels.
AMG Line is now the most appealing trim for company-car drivers and we'd recommend spending the extra monthly finance cost for private buyers too, to benefit from all the GLC has to offer. The Premium equipment line includes adaptive headlights, running boards, a larger instrument display, ambient lighting, augmented reality navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and wireless smartphone charging.
Before it was facelifted, the GLC came 61st out of 100 models in our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but reliability wasn't a strong point, so owners will be hoping issues have been remedied. Further peace of mind should be provided by the GLC’s five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating.
Mercedes GLC SUV - MPG, running costs & CO2
The Mercedes GLC is actually quite economical given its size
The Mercedes GLC is pretty economical for an SUV, with its claimed figures rivalling the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Mercedes also offers competitive warranty and servicing plans.
Mercedes GLC MPG & CO2
The 220 d version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine can return up to 45.6mpg, reducing slightly in top trims with optional wheels fitted. CO2 emissions of 175g/km mean it sits in the highest BiK band, which won’t appeal to company-car drivers. The more powerful GLC 300d is a shade less economical, at up to 42.8mpg, with emissions of 184g/km. By comparison, the BMW X3 xDrive 30d offers more pace and returns 46.3mpg with 159g/km.
Petrol engines are offered too. A GLC 300 model promises up to 33.6mpg, while the AMG 43 and 63 models above are even thirstier. They certainly prioritise speed over running costs; you can expect 26 and 22mpg respectively. All petrols are in the top BiK band.
A plug-in hybrid GLC 300 de version is now available, pairing the 2.0-litre diesel engine with a 13.5kWh battery. It offers 27 miles of electric range and up to 156.9mpg if you regularly recharge the battery, while business users will be drawn to its 12-13% BiK rate. It’s also exempt from the London Congestion Charge until October 2021. In 2021 it was joined by the GLC 300 e, with a petrol 2.0-litre engine and an electric range of 26-31 miles. It can officially manage up to 128.4mpg with emissions of 62g/km and it takes around 2.5 hours to charge the battery using a 7kW home wallbox.
After the first year's CO2-based road tax (generally included in the on-the-road price), Mercedes GLCs cost £150 a year to tax, or £10 less if it's a hybrid. Every GLC now has a list price (including options) of more than £40,000, making it liable for an additional surcharge of £325 a year in years two to six, bringing the annual bill to £475 during that period.
Insurance groups for the facelifted Mercedes GLC are quite high, with diesel versions starting in groups 32 and the GLC 300 de in groups 44-45 out of 50. Oddly, this is just as high as the AMG versions in groups 41-44.
Mercedes provides a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty on all of its new models, which is the same as BMW offers on the X3. Pan-European Mercedes Roadside Assistance is also included, that can last up to 30 years if you keep the car maintained within the dealership network.
Mercedes offers fixed-price servicing plans that cover all scheduled maintenance. You can pay all in one go up front or spread the cost over monthly instalments, which should be about £35 for a diesel GLC.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Engines, drive & performance
Its diesel engines are smooth, but the Mercedes GLC is more of a comfortable cruiser than an exciting driver’s car
Engine choice is reasonably limited in the Mercedes GLC, but the two diesel options are very smooth on the move. All also come with four-wheel drive as standard – a system Mercedes calls 4MATIC. The GLC is almost car-like to drive and as comfortable and sophisticated as a luxury limousine – a happy consequence of sharing a platform with the C-Class saloon.
The GLC is at its best when driven in a relaxed, unfussed manner than on spirited back-road jaunts. Although all models have clever dampers as standard, they seem optimised for soaking up bumps and improving ride comfort rather than providing sharper responses. For a truly rewarding SUV driving experience, the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace remain the cars to beat, although in the comfort stakes, the Merc trumps the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The Volvo XC60 is even more comfortable still.
Mercedes GLC SUV nose20
The GLC leans a little during hard cornering, but not so much as to feel unsettling and less than the Audi and Volvo. The steering is accurate enough, yet feels rather light and requires quite large inputs, so there’s little to encourage fast driving anyway. It’s far better to ease off the accelerator and cruise, which the Mercedes does very well.
All models use a smooth, responsive nine-speed automatic gearbox, which does a good job of keeping the engine revs low in the interest of fuel economy. The four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged and uses traction control to ensure a firm grip on the road – any wheel found to be slipping is lightly braked and the engine's power is sent to the wheel on the opposite side to get you moving again.
Mercedes GLC diesel engines
Many people buying an SUV of this size will choose a diesel, and there are two available, badged 220 d and 300 d. Both are different versions of Mercedes' four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine, which is smoother and quieter than the 2.1-litre diesel it replaces, but still slightly more clattery than the best diesel engines found in rivals.
It might not appear like it if you look at the official performance claims, but most drivers will be satisfied with the slower 220 d, and it suits the GLC well. Mercedes claims 0-62mph times of 7.9 for the 200 d and 6.5 seconds for the 300 d, both of which will be more than fast enough for most SUV owners. That means our top pick is the cheaper 220 d, and it's a shame this isn't available with every trim level. Unlike the coarse old engine, the GLC 300 d we sampled was as smooth and quiet as a petrol, but with even more urge in real-world driving.
Talking of petrol, the GLC 300 with 254bhp is available, featuring a new turbocharger, engine design and particulate filter all aimed at reducing emissions. It's also fitted with a mild-hybrid system that can recoup energy as the car slows down, then use it to aid acceleration. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds, while its top speed is 149mph. AMG models are even faster - the 43 model cracks 0-62mph in under five seconds, and the 63 and 63 S reduce this to four seconds or less. With the speed limiter removed, the GLC 63 S will carry on all the way to 174mph.
Most plug-in hybrids use a petrol engine, but the GLC 300 de has a diesel engine for long-range economy. The combination produces 302bhp, so the PHEV is quick too - 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds. For 2021 the petrol-based GLC 300 e plug-in has also arrived, and it's even faster, taking just 5.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
Its 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and electric motor produce a combined 316bhp, and it does a good job of prioritising electric power when the battery is charged. In this mode it's almost silent, and even when the petrol engine kicks in it's almost imperceptible. There's also a clever regenerative braking system that can be adjusted using the paddles behind the steering wheel or left to work automatically based on the road and traffic.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Interior & comfort
The Mercedes GLC has a well built interior and even the entry-level model has loads of standard kit
The Mercedes GLC boasts an impressive, high-quality dashboard and interior design that’s more luxurious and up-to-date than what you’ll find in many rivals. All models are well equipped, but you’d expect them to be considering the GLC’s price. We'd recommend choosing an AMG Line Premium trim or above to really experience all the GLC has to offer.
Thanks to a honed suspension setup and using some parts from the Mercedes C-Class saloon, the GLC is very comfortable on the move whether on the standard steel springs of the Sport or the optional AIRMATIC system. Road and wind noise are minimal and a clever crosswind prevention system helps to keep the GLC stable at high speeds. Even the more sportily tuned AMG Line models maintain the comfortable ride of the Sport, although the wider tyres do kick up a little more noise from the road.
Mercedes GLC dashboard
The GLC shines when you sit behind the wheel. The entire design looks like it’s been lifted straight from the C-Class saloon, as there’s loads of solid metal switchgear and clear instruments. The middle of the dashboard is dominated by a single piece of wood or gloss-black veneer that starts from just underneath the infotainment screen and swoops down to connect to the centre console.
The classic air vents look like they’ve been taken straight from a vintage aircraft and the control for the sat nav and infotainment is the only control interruption on the centre console. The steering column-mounted gear selector is a little strange to get used to, though. It's also a shame that the standard analogue gauges and central trip computer look dated compared with the digital instruments fitted in AMG Line Premium trim.
The GLC now comes in AMG Line trim as standard but extra kit can be added by upgrading to Premium and Premium Plus versions. Even the entry-level model has a comprehensive amount of equipment: a reversing camera, Parktronic, a powered tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, leather seats, automatic climate control, sat-nav and DAB radio are all standard.
The AMG Line Premium version throws in a sports bodykit and interior makeover, sports suspension, 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, adaptive headlights, ambient lighting and a 12.3-inch digital instrument display. Premium Plus is even more lavish, thanks to a panoramic sunroof, Burmester stereo system, keyless entry, 360-degree camera view and memory front seats and steering wheel.
The Driving Assistance package is worth considering if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, adding blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and a system that applies the brakes if it thinks you're about to hit the car in front. Air-suspension can also be fitted, further improving the ride quality. If you plan on towing, an official tow bar costs around £750.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Practicality & boot space
The Mercedes GLC provides loads of storage areas and its boot is a decent size, if not class-leading
Considering it’s an SUV, the GLC is easy enough to get into, as its doors open nice and wide. The steering wheel and driver’s seat have plenty of adjustment and there’s plenty of room in the back. Boot space is good, if not class-leading, but the plug-in hybrid offers noticeably less due to its batteries taking up some of the luggage room.
Mercedes GLC interior space & storage
The GLC offers a decent amount of leg and headroom in the rear, but the transmission tunnel can eat into space for the middle-seat passenger.
Interior storage is good, thanks to a generous space in the front armrest and a deep cubby in front of the infotainment dial in the centre console. The door bins can all hold bottles and rear-seat occupants get their own air ventilation and an armrest that features a storage cubby and two cup-holders.
Total boot volume is about on par with a lot of the GLC’s rivals. The 550 litres on offer is the same as what you get in the BMW X3 and equal to the Audi Q5’s boot. However, it’s less than what’s available when you fold down the Land Rover Discovery Sport’s third row of seats. The GLC’s rear seats fold in a 40:20:40 configuration with the pull of a lever, offering extra versatility and more room in the boot if needed.
In the boot you’ll find the usual range of neat practical touches like anchor points for smaller items and a cubby either side to store bits and bobs. The boot itself is square and the opening is large, so getting awkwardly shaped items in should be a breeze, especially with the power-operated tailgate.
Compared to the 550 litres you get in petrol and diesel cars, the PHEV’s boot is a bit smaller at 395 litres. That’s only 25 litres more than in the A-Class hatchback but at least the boot floor is flat, unlike the annoying step in the boot of the E-Class plug-in. It also benefits from underfloor storage, so you can keep your charging cables separate from your shopping.
All diesel GLC models can tow 2,500kg – more than most versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, and matching the D240. Both the GLC 300 de and 300 e can also tow up to 2,000kg, which is an impressive amount for a plug-in hybrid.
Small but welcome updates keep the nearly new Kicks SUV fresh and competitive.
If I'm entirely honest, the Nissan Kicks didn't have the makings of a hit when it was first announced for the U.S. market. Adapted from elsewhere in the world and a bit behind Nissan's own styling curve, it appeared to be a quick and dirty move to get something, anything in a suddenly hot segment. Driving it, though, revealed its charm. What it lacked in specs it made up in value and practicality. It surprised with a carefully chosen but impressive list of standard features and a genuinely enjoyable driving experience. Even so, Nissan has kept on top of updates, culminating in this smartly refreshed 2021 Nissan Kicks.
The biggest fix is right up front, where Nissan has given it a nose job. Although the Kicks has always had a fun, funky vibe going on, the old car's puckered face always made it look like it had already been on Nissan lots for years. Pumping up the grille and upgrading the headlights (all the way up to full LED units on the SR trim we drove) have gone a long way toward making the Kicks look like a new car rather than a retread. The rear end didn't need as much help but got it anyway for a net gain.
The most important work, though, was done inside. It sounds like a small thing, but a new center console is worth talking about here. Few things remind you of how cheap a car is as not having a center armrest for the front passengers. Nissan has fixed that with a full-length center console featuring an enclosed bin for your things, an armrest, and big cupholders. Deleting the old-fashioned handbrake made it all possible, and you get a modern electric parking brake as a bonus. Unfortunately, you do have to pay for it because you can only get it on the SV and SR trims. The base Kicks S keeps the old setup.
Hovering above all that is an updated infotainment system. Seven inches is standard, but it now provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality free of charge. The optional upgrade unit grows to 8.0 inches and now includes a Wi-Fi hot spot and over-the-air software update capability.
You have to look a little harder for the other big get. The Kicks has always had the hardware needed for adaptive cruise control but didn't offer the feature until now. Add it to the shockingly long list of active and passive electronic driver aids, which already got a big upgrade for the 2020 model year and most of which is standard on all models.
The new splashes of accent colors on the seats and doors are more visible. It's a small thing, but on a car with fun two-tone paint options, the black-on-black interior needed more pizazz, and it didn't take much to dress things up. The Kicks already felt like a screaming deal at $25,000 fully loaded (before dress-up accessories), and the '21 updates only make it feel like you're getting more for your money.
That feeling doesn't extend to the mechanical bits, but they were already doing a fine job. With only 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque and no substantial weight added, the Kicks drives exactly the same as it always has. Here again, there's nothing special on the spec chart, but Nissan does a lot with a little. Its simple suspension works quite well at providing a comfortable ride and chipper handling. It still has a bit of body roll, and the steering still feels disconnected, but somehow it's fun to swing around a corner when you get the chance.
Similarly, the continuously variable transmission is tuned well to make it feel like the little engine is really trying. It's still among the slowest new cars on the road— it needs more than 10 seconds to get up to 60 mph—but its eager demeanor makes it feel quicker than it is. Meanwhile, it continues to get excellent fuel economy at 36 mpg on the highway.
It can get noisy getting up to speed and then cruising on the freeway, so I again have to recommend the SR Premium package if you can swing it. The Bose Personal Plus stereo included in the package delivers better sound quality than some luxury cars I've driven. It's an easy recommendation when the whole package, which gets you nice faux-leather seats, a security system, a cargo cover, and heated steering wheel and front seats, only rang in at $1,000 last year. Now, though, it includes the NissanConnect services, a WiFi hotspot, and over-the-air software update capability, so don't be surprised if the package price goes up.
Although Nissan hasn't released complete pricing yet, we do know the starting price has gone up by $430 to $20,595. That's still an incredible deal, though it's worth remembering the base model didn't get any upgrades. We're still waiting to find out how Nissan will price the SV and SR models with the new goodies. Even if those prices do go up a bit, the Kicks will likely top out in the neighborhood of $27,000, and that still could be a killer deal, especially now that there's even more to back it up.
I've always maintained the Nissan Kicks' greatest quality is its honesty. It's an inexpensive car that doesn't try to trick you into thinking it's something it's not. The good features aren't all reserved exclusively for the top trims or buried in dozens of add-on packages. Everything is straightforward and a solid value. It's a car that knows what features you actually want and delivers them with unpretentious style.
Ford’s latest pony car is a near-silent, totally environment-friendly galloper shaped like a crossbreed cocktail of Aintree winner and steeplechase champion. Badged Mustang like millions of great American sports cars launched since the nameplate first popped up in 1964, the Mach-E is heralded as decidedly dynamic EV which puts street cred above cabin acreage and presence before lollipop aerodynamics.
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Similar to the reborn Bronco, the e-CUV is designated to build a bridge between the brand’s glory years and a planet-friendlier tomorrow. Question is, where exactly does the electric Ford rank in the fast growing catch-up queue which includes new arrivals like the VW ID.4 and the Volvo XC40 Recharge?
Give me a spec debrief
Designed in Dearborn, the Mach-E is arguably not quite centrefold pretty but well proportioned, functional and unmistakably Ford; like a grown up Kuga with pursed painted lips and a nicely rounded rear end with Mustang-style taillights.
The cosseting cabin of the electric Ford is a notably more up-market suite on wheels than the loveless driver environment of the Tesla clad in plastified hide and jinxed with below-par build quality, the cheapo somewhat off-the-mark interior of the ID.4, or the iPace work station which appears to be different mainly for the sake of nonconformism. There’s a larger-than-life centre touchscreen running Ford’s new Sync 4 infotainment, complemented by a smaller rectangular display in the driver’s direct field of vision. With the exception of the rotary volume control, the buttons on the steering-wheel and the circular gear-selector first copyrighted by Jaguar, access to all MMI areas is by touchscreen and voice control.
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All first edition models (like our test car) of the Mach-E are already sold out, so your choice in the UK comprises Standard or Extended Range versions, both available with either rear- or all-wheel drive. Prices start at just over £40k before the plug-in car grant has been applied.
Here are the different versions:
Standard Range RWD: 265bhp, 6.1sec 0-62mph, claimed 273-mile range
Standard Range AWD 265bhp, 6.2sec 0-62mph, claimed 379-mile range
Extended Range RWD 290bhp, 5.6sec 0-62mph, claimed 248-mile range
Extended Range AWD: 346bhp, 5.1sec 0-62mph, claimed 335-mile range
Ford is also planning a Performance Edition, though that’s as-yet unconfirmed for the UK. For comparison, the most potent Mach-E is around four grand more expensive than the 340bhp Model Y AWD, which fields a less potent 72.5kWh battery but will accelerate in 5.1sec from 0-62mph, reach a top speed of 135mph and can charge with up to 250kW. While the blue oval effort is restricted to 111mph, it matches its key rival against the stopwatch, and it boasts 21 miles of extra distance.
Oddly, the first few miles disappoint. What’s wrong with this chewing-gum steering which feels as if a rope with a sack of potatoes attached to both ends was straddling the rack? Switching off the lane guidance fixes it: no more woolly self-centering now, no half-hearted auto-corrections, no vague feedback with increasing lock. The insurance companies love these assistance systems, committed drivers hate them.
After many hours behind the wheel, the steering no longer feels quite so odd, though that V-shaped self-centering phenomenon and the on-lock lightness have not gone away completely. Instead, assets like the pinpoint accuracy, the relatively tight turning circle of 11.6 metres and the balanced damping have come to the forefront.
The low-speed ride is knobbly, but that weighty skateboard underneath gets into a rhythm above 40mph. Composure remains flat at all times (thanks to the low centre of gravity and a pair of anti-roll bars), and the straight-line stability is as unperturbed as the car’s stance through hurried changes of direction, under hard braking and when staging a borderline overtaking act which is obviously never ever interrupted by a potentially critical upshift action.
How fast is it?
Well, to make the best use of the Mach-E is to play with the new drive modes, poetically named Whisper, Active and Untamed. In Whisper, the steering is too light and there is a Do Not Disturb sign dangling from the accelerator pedal. In contrast, Untamed cannot wait to unlock the high voltage corral and speed up the direction determinator, but the computer-generated driving noise sounds like the tumble dry programme of a distant washing machine, lift-off exaggerates that controversial one-pedal feel, and fake downshifts are the rule under braking. No, thanks. So, Active it is, which strikes a purposeful balance between relaxed and excited, makes coasting a way of life, subtly synchronizes the sensations telegraphed to your palms and feet. Sadly, there are no shift paddles to play with, be it to trigger instant energy regeneration or release momentum for a more emphatic flow.
Still in Active, the brakes are every bit as attentive as the throttle, the stopping power is strong and progressive, and despite repeated attempts we could not detect the exact transition point between electric and hydraulic deceleration. If anything, this time-warp energy-squashing system needs a strong right foot to combat the slowly rising pedal pressure.
Ford Mustang Mach-E: verdict
Ford’s first fully electric planet-saver is fun to drive, commendably efficient as well as cool to look at and to be seen in. The brittle low-speed ride and synthetic steering mark it down, but there’s a little more flair here than a Tesla Model Y.
The verdict: The new 2020 Buick Encore GX is a small, premium-priced SUV that feels neither premium nor exciting, with bland materials and a meek powertrain. It gets the job done, though — assuming “the job” is mostly “being a little bigger than an Encore” (which remains in Buick’s lineup).
Versus the competition: Buick’s entry in the seemingly never-ending stream of small SUVs is outshined by others in the class that offer nicer interiors or far better driving experiences — or sometimes both — for thousands of dollars less.
The Encore GX is Buick’s latest and second-smallest SUV, bigger only than the Encore, which was one of the first subcompact SUVs on the market and the brand’s bestseller. The Encore is smaller than both the Envision and Enclave and offers buyers a choice of front- or all-wheel drive and two turbocharged three-cylinder engines. The Encore GX with FWD has a continuously variable automatic transmission, while AWD versions get a more traditional nine-speed automatic. Trim levels, in ascending order, are Preferred, Select and Essence.
My test vehicle was a FWD Encore GX in the top Essence trim. It had the optional turbo 1.3-liter engine and Buick’s Sport Touring, Convenience and Advanced Technology packages. The Sport Touring package ($650) adds a dash of spice, with body-colored side molding, “sport” front and rear bumpers, a unique grille with red accents and package-specific 18-inch wheels (different from the 18s every Encore GX gets standard). The advanced technology in the Advanced Technology Package ($1,790) includes a 360-degree camera system, a head-up display and built-in navigation. The Convenience Package ($770) adds automatic parking assist, a rearview camera mirror and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Our test vehicle’s total price, including a $995 destination fee, was $34,115.
That’s a fair amount of money for a small SUV that, at its best, evoked feelings of “This car sure is … adequate.” The Encore GX competes against other small SUVs like the Mazda CX-30, our recent SUV-comparison-test-winning Kia Seltos, and a vehicle with which it shares its platform, the Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Even with its more powerful optional engine, the Encore GX still has only 155 horsepower, which isn’t many ponies to call upon when the accelerator is pressed. It’s never going to be a quick car, but that’s almost certainly fine for those considering buying one. It’s quiet on the highway and remains fairly composed at higher speeds despite its small size. Passing maneuvers are a bit of a stretch, but once the Encore GX wakes up from its highway hypnosis, it does what you want.
Around town, particularly in the model I drove, with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission, you really need to stand on the gas to keep up with aggressive city traffic. This caused one of my least favorite behaviors in the GX: torque steer. There was so much torque steer — a phenomenon in which engine power applied to the front wheels causes them to pull to one side or the other. The wheel would practically jump out of my hands trying to turn to one side under strong acceleration, which would be more forgivable if the Encore GX were impressively quick or at all fun to drive. As it is, it’s just aggravating; I’d recommend choosing an AWD model for this reason alone. There also aren’t any available driving modes to increase throttle or transmission response or to tighten up the suspension or steering.
Steering itself feels numb and vague; it doesn’t communicate where the nose and wheels are pointed at any given moment. There’s so much play in the steering wheel before it actually turns the wheels, it reminded me of an early-2000s Mercury Grand Marquis — or the time I was 12 and got to steer a DUKW during a Boston Duck Tour in the Charles River.
Choppy pavement — of which there’s plenty around Chicago — unsettles the Encore GX more than other small SUVs I’ve driven over the same roads. There was also more body roll in turns than I expected. The SUV feels like a much bigger vehicle when you’re driving it until a modern RAV4 pulls up alongside and dwarfs you, which may appeal to buyers looking for a big car feel without an actual big car.
Or big-car fuel economy, for that matter. Our FWD-and-turbo 1.3-liter engine combo is the most efficient of the Encore GX range, with EPA-estimated gas mileage of 30/32/31 mpg city/highway/combined. With AWD, those ratings dip to 26/29/28 mpg. The FWD turbo 1.2-liter GX is rated 26/30/28 mpg. The Mazda CX-30’s much more engaging driving experience is also less fuel-efficient; FWD versions top out at 25/33/28 mpg and AWD SUVs at 25/32/27 mpg.
One much-appreciated feature on the Encore GX was the ability to deactivate the engine’s automatic stop-start feature. GM had not previously allowed owners to turn the feature off, and while reducing engine idling is good for the environment, being stuck in a traffic jam on a sweltering summer day with an engine that refuses to run while stopped — significantly reducing the air conditioning’s effectiveness — has made me yearn for at least the option to deactivate. It seems GM finally trusts its owners in this regard.
Despite the Encore GX’s high price, its interior doesn’t have a premium or even fun feel. The monotone interior you see above has the materials quality you’d expect in an SUV priced a few thousand dollars less. Truly, the only premium or near-premium interior in this class belongs to the Mazda CX-30, but at least other contenders in the segment don’t position themselves as upmarket choices the way Buick does.
That said, the Encore GX’s features do have more of a premium feel. It has an available head-up display, rearview camera mirror, 360-degree camera system and available self-parking feature. But those features aren’t tangible and aren’t always in use, whereas Encore GX drivers are always sitting on low-quality leather (in the Essence) or touching parts of the interior that could use more padding. Even the head-up display is an old-school flip-up version that sounded like a cassette tape being ejected whenever it rose into position or folded down when the car was turned off. The HUD is at least visible when wearing polarized sunglasses, so kudos to Buick for that.
Buick’s standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is adequate, with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (2021 models also get standard wireless compatibility). It has modern enough graphics and a straightforward user interface. For all the ways the CX-30 tops the Buick in premium feel, Buick has Mazda beaten here.
Visibility is fine, with no major blind spots, and the optional 360-degree camera system helps out in tight spots. I was comfortable in the backseat, with decent headroom and legroom. Buick estimates cargo volume at 23.5 cubic feet with the backseat upright and 50.2 cubic feet with it folded down. The smaller Encore has 18.8 and 48.4 cubic feet, respectively. A trip with four adults — or even two parents and two kids — might be pushing it, but two adults plus pets will be fine. Based on manufacturer specifications, the CX-30 has less cargo volume, while the Seltos and Trailblazer have more.
Standard safety features on the Encore GX include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and automatic high beams. That’s a big deal for a GM product; traditionally, some or all of these features have been higher-cost options. Some features are still optional, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera system, a head-up display, a rearview camera mirror and an automatic parking feature.
The 360-degree camera system was very useful and I’ve already praised the head-up display’s visibility with polarized sunglasses, but the Buick’s other features felt more nice-to-have than necessary. I’ve never been a huge fan of rearview-mirror camera displays, as they always disorient me a little by providing a slightly different view than what my eyes expect. And automatic parking assist would be more useful if the Encore GX weren’t already so small and easy to park. I’ve used similar features on larger vehicles to help determine if an unfamiliar car would fit in a particular spot, but the answer to that question in the Encore GX is almost always “yes.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t yet crash-tested the Encore GX. In this regard, it should not be mistaken for the other Encore, which has an entirely different platform and, thus, different crash characteristics. Once the Encore GX is tested, the results will appear here, with other small SUVs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Encore GX a four-star overall safety rating, out of a possible five stars. In our Car Seat Check of the Encore GX, the small SUV earned mixed scores
Is the Encore GX a Smart Buy?
It’s hard to say if the Encore GX is a smart buy. On the one hand, with sticker prices at the top of the line approaching — or even exceeding — $35,000, the model is hard to recommend. But will buyers ever need to pay even close to sticker price?
I prefer the Chevrolet Trailblazer to the Encore GX both in terms of interior quality and driving experience, and the Mazda CX-30 far surpasses the Encore GX in everything but infotainment systems. If, however, you care about buying a car from a domestic brand that’s ostensibly nicer than Chevrolet — even if the car itself is assembled in South Korea — and if you can get a decent deal on an Encore GX, it will likely meet your needs.
The Toyota Hilux pick-up has been updated for 2021, and now boasts a punchy 2.8-litre diesel engine
The Toyota Hilux has always been seen as a practical, no-nonsense work vehicle, and the latest updates mean it should be on any premium pick-up truck buyer's shortlist. The new engine packs a punch without impacting running costs too severely, while the Invincible X model has the looks and kit to appeal to buyers that need an upmarket work vehicle that also can carry a family in comfort - all while offering more off-road ability than most buyers could possibly need.
Of all the pick-up trucks for sale in the UK, the Toyota Hilux is the one with a reputation that precedes it. It's become a beacon for Toyota's reputation for reliability and durability, and is found in all four corners of the globe. However, when it comes to the 'lifestyle' angle of the UK's one-tonne pick-up class, it has never quite hit the mark.
One thing that's held the Hilux back is a relative lack of power. Unlike rivals, Toyota has never offered the Hilux in the UK with a high-power engine, but that's all change for the 2021 model year, with the arrival of a new 2.8-litre diesel packing 201bhp. That means the Hilux is now second only to the Ford Ranger in the four-cylinder pick-up pack for power. It's available with six-speed manual or auto gearboxes, while selectable four-wheel drive and low-range gears make the most of that power and the 500Nm of torque on offer. An automatic limited-slip diff in 2WD mode also helps with traction when running in the Hilux's most efficient setting.
Other revisions under the skin include suspension that has been tuned to deliver a smoother ride when unladen, helping to reduce the amount of bounce that one-tonne pick-ups often suffer from when there's no payload in the back. Also, the power steering now offers variable assistance depending on which drive mode is selected, with extra assistance given in low-range mode for off-road driving.
On the road, the Hilux has definitely been improved. The engine can still get noisy under acceleration – especially if you use the whole rev range – but the extra power means you don't spend as much time on the throttle as before. That automatic LSD function helps get the power to the road in 2WD mode with minimal fuss, too. When you do back off, the cabin is quiet and refined, with next to no wind or tyre noise. It's a real step change for the Hilux, and means this truck now offers the kind of hushed cruising that you'd get from an SUV.
However, while the revised suspension is designed to help eliminate 'bounce', the Hilux isn't automatically a smoother ride than a Ford Ranger. There's a distinct patter sensation when running over bumps, with the front and rear wheels delivering a similar amount of movement back to the cab. In comparison, a Ranger's front suspension will smooth out a bump, but with the rear having a bit more of a jolt to it. Overall it means that the Ranger feels like it offers a better compromise than the Hilux when unladen. Still, the Toyota is a better performer than the Mitsubishi L200, while the leaf spring set-up is more composed than the multilink system found on the Nissan Navara.
What really impresses is that Toyota has managed to improve the Hilux on tarmac without compromising its off-road talents. Even on standard road-biased tyres, the Hilux offers a level of ability in the rough that will meet the demands of almost all drivers. Simply switch to the low-range 4WD setting, and a suite of electronic aids will help you battle through the rough stuff. Hill descent control, a reprogrammed stability control system, improved throttle response and a lower engine idle speed mean the Hilux is better suited to off-road driving than ever.
Go for the top-spec Invincible X model, and the 201bhp diesel is standard (the 2.8 is optional in Invincible trim, while lower-spec models come with the existing 148bhp 2.4-litre diesel), and there's a long list of extras, too. The X gets a unique exterior look, with minimal chrome trim, black cladding for the grille, wheelarches and tailgate, plus exclusive 18-inch wheels and black chrome housings for the standard LED headlights.
Inside, a JBL audio system delivers excellent sound clarity - although the dashtop speakers do reflect slightly in the windscreen - and sat-nav is included with the infotainment, although the new eight-inch touchscreen also introduces Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the Hilux if that's your preference. There are heated leather seats up front, ambient lighting throughout the cabin and everything feels well built. Maybe it's not quite as plush as an SUV, but you certainly don't feel short-changed.
Competitive finance rates help with that, too. Thanks to strong residuals, the Hilux is available with competitive finance rates. Add in Toyota's five year/100,000-mile warranty if something unexpected happens, and this is a pick-up that makes a strong case for itself.