Category Archives: SUVs and Crossovers

Higher vehicles, designed to tackle tough road conditions, but which are mostly just used to go to the mall.

BMW X6 M Driven: The best and worst of BMW

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The big teal thing you see here is a BMW X6 M, and it’s everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with BMW sitting on the same four wheels. Think of it as a BMW M5 with AWD and more ground clearance. Being an X6, and not an X5, it’s also a “Coupe SUV,” which I still find very odd.

On a totally subjective level, I’m not a fan of the BMW X6. I’d even say it’s the flagship of everything I don’t like about the modern BMW brand. They’ve been over-segmenting like crazy, trying to carve the market into thinner and thinner slices, and the X6 is largely where it began.

It all started when Mercedes made the CLS, a beautiful sedan with the sleek design and style of a coupe. BMW saw how well it was received, and decided to try and do the same thing, but with a big SUV. The problem is SUVs aren’t sleek by nature, so the sloped roofline makes the X6 look bulbous and awkward from most angles. With such a large chunky profile, I just think the full roofline of the X5 looks a lot better. People seem to like the X6 because it’s different, but different isn’t always a good thing.

So, in my eyes, BMW was shooting for style, and they missed by a mile. Why, then, would anyone buy an X6 over an X5? Apparently I just don’t “get it.”

In an effort to try and understand the X6, I figured I’d take a spin in the ultimate BMW X6 M. It’s everything the X6 can be with an extra serving of horsepower and handling. If there were any way to make me come around to the BMW X6, driving this beast would surely be it.

First, come along for the ride…

Continue reading BMW X6 M Driven: The best and worst of BMW

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Porsche Macan Turbo Review: Like a Fancy WRX for Rich People!

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The Porsche Macan is basically a luxury rally car for the financially well-endowed, and the Turbo is the Mac-daddy of the lineup. It’s remarkable just how good Porsche has been able to make this car considering it shares its underpinnings with the very vanilla VW Tiguan. It took a while for fun to find its way into the crossover segment, but after driving this Macan Turbo, I can vouch that it definitely has.

It was one of those things I had to experience to believe. I figured the Macan might just be nothing more than a faster Tiguan with a Porsche body and a nice interior; that would’ve been just fine for most Macan buyers, and a mediocre Macan would’ve still been a solid revenue car for Porsche. Thankfully, they went over and above to preserve the integrity of their speed-synonymous brand. The Macan Turbo is a real Porsche, a new type of Porsche to be sure, but a real Porsche within its mold.

Continue reading Porsche Macan Turbo Review: Like a Fancy WRX for Rich People!

Jaguar F-Pace S: Enthusiast Approved

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Damn, everyone is jumping on the crossover bandwagon. Clearly following Porsche’s success, Maserati, Bentley, and now Jaguar have now all made high-riding vehicles for people who want a station wagon that isn’t a “station wagon.” I haven’t been much of a fan of crossovers until pretty recently, when some of them have stepped into the ring of high performance. Yes, there is now a full segment of fast crossovers that handle pretty darn well, and they’re sort of like big, comfy rally cars.

I’d heard a lot of praise being thrown at the Jaguar F-Pace, so when I was able to try on out for myself, I jumped on the opportunity. The car I drove was the top-of-the-line F-Pace S, so if this one didn’t impress me, none of them would. And you know what? In many respects, it may be the best fast crossover I’ve driven to date.

Continue reading Jaguar F-Pace S: Enthusiast Approved

Toyota RAV4 XLE 2WD Review: More Ground Clearance With Less Compromise

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Last weekend my girlfriend, Gabrielle, and I travelled deep into the lake country of Minnesota for a family gathering of sorts. I don’t get up there as often as I’d like to, and I always feel like the visit is too short when I do. This trip was different in a few ways, though. My Grandma Ann’s health had been declining, to the point where I knew we needed to get out to try and see her. I wanted her, and the rest of the family, to meet Gab, and I knew time was becoming a factor. Unfortunately, as it happened, our visit came a few weeks too late.

Our trip to Minnesota became about finding solace as as a family, and showing support for my Grandpa Don in this most trying time in life. On the lighter side, Gab got to meet everyone, many of whom had been anxiously waiting to see if she was real for some time. We really had a great time, and it was beautiful just being together with everyone as a family. It was a short trip, but it was extremely valuable.

Now, me being me, I don’t like to rent a car without doing an article on it. Gab likes crossovers and she loves bright blue, so this particular Toyota RAV4 seemed to check all of the right boxes in the car park. It’s not the sort of car I usually review either, so I figured it might add some relevancy for this site in areas other than expensive sports cars.

A few years back, my parents and I had a RAV4 in Sedona, Arizona, and we were thrilled with how well it did with some rather intense surprise off-roading. That one was 4WD, though, and this one was 2WD, so I guess it’s more of a “RAV2”. Even still, rural Minnesota has some off road areas, so I figured the ground clearance may come in handy, along with that legendary Toyota dependability.

Continue reading Toyota RAV4 XLE 2WD Review: More Ground Clearance With Less Compromise

Infiniti QX80 Limited Review: The Plush Utility Vehicle

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I believe the term is “Land Yacht.” A massive, expensive way of getting from place to place for people who like to take up their slightly-more-than-fair share of space in the world. It also works great if you have a large family, although, most forms of birth control are a lot cheaper than this $90,000 behemoth.

Either way, if this is the way you want to get around in the world, then the Infiniti QX80 Limited will do a lot to float your boat. Maybe a Cadillac Escalade is too “Tony Soprano” for you. Maybe you’d like a Mercedes GLS, but, unfortunately, your local dealer just sold their last one to another real estate agent who’s drowning themselves in payments trying to “project an image of success” to their clients. Have no fear, the QX80 is here to save the day, and you just might be glad you didn’t get the others.

Continue reading Infiniti QX80 Limited Review: The Plush Utility Vehicle

Cadillac XT5 Review: The Cadillac of Toasters

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The market for luxury crossovers is a heated contest between slightly different flavors of vanilla. I mean, for all intents and purposes they are all pretty much the same exact car with an inch of difference here and there. They each look a little different, but really just a little, and they all seem to have the same general checklist of features.

So how does one go about reviewing the newest crossover offering from GM’s flagship luxury brand, the Cadillac XT5?

I’m not going to waste much time blowing smoke up your ass nit-picking this and that about this car. The bottom line is its very good at being very acceptable. It’s not going to reinvent the Cadillac brand, but then again, it isn’t the car that is supposed to do that. The XT5 is a volume seller for a large market segment, one that is targeted at people who don’t really care about their cars much past their basic functionality.

Let’s be real here, crossovers aren’t cars so much as they are “transportation appliances” for people who just want to get from A to B safely and comfortably. Crossovers are exceedingly practical for all of the needs of the average person, and their larger size and higher stance makes people feel safer behind the wheel. These vehicles are tailor made for the average driver, who will be very happy with all they get from a car like this.

Naturally, social class does come into play, and that’s why the Cadillac XT5 exists for middle-upper class people who feel they’ve managed to claw their way above a plebeian Chevy Equinox.

Continue reading Cadillac XT5 Review: The Cadillac of Toasters

Volkswagen Touareg TDI: The Dieselgate Review

This 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI is my dad’s daily driver, and despite us owning it for nearly 5 years now, I’ve yet to do a review on it until now. But with the advent of Dieselgate, which now affects our Touareg, I figured it was time.

In the video I review the Touareg, and how it’s been for our family over the years. Then, with that in mind, I give my take on Dieselgate and what we plan to do as things progress.

I wrote an article on Dieselgate earlier, before the V6 diesel models were affected, but now that our Touareg has been drawn into it, I wanted to do show my take on the full issue on video.

Enjoy!

Here are some pics of our VW Touareg TDI shot by our friend, Dan Valanzola:

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-Nick Walker

Jeep Renegade Limited Review: The Italians Have Made A Jeep You’ll Love!

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When you think of Jeep, you think of the iconic Jeep Wrangler. Drawing its heritage all the way back to the army jeeps of World War II, the Wrangler has become the staple off-road vehicle of choice for many.

Many people just love the Wrangler’s unique style, though, without much interest in actually using its vast off-road capabilities. These buyers spell big opportunity for Jeep.

You see, while the Wrangler is quite “cool”, it’s strict off-road focus gives it some pretty serious drawbacks when it comes to everyday on-road driving. Anyone wanting to drive a Wrangler for its style points will have to be willing to sacrifice on fuel economy, practicality, handling, comfort, and security (with open models). Kind of a tough sell.

The big solution for Jeep was to create an all-new model that would take the Wrangler’s DNA and distill it into a more useable package for normal on-road use.

The new Jeep Renegade is that solution. Where the Wrangler is an off-roader first and daily car second, the Renegade is daily car first and an off-roader second.

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Renegades are selling well, and I do think Jeep may have a home run on their hands here. Honestly, there are more buyers out there who just want a Jeep for the unique style of the brand, rather than to actually go rock crawling in the desert.

My girlfriend, Gab, is a perfect example. She’s all about the Jeep image, and she loves the car’s features, but she’s not all about getting it muddy or traversing the Mojave desert in her spare time.

Gab got this black 2015 Jeep Renegade Limited a little over a month ago, and she’s been letting me drive her around in it. I feel I’ve gotten to know the car pretty well at this point, and now it’s time to share my take on it with you, my dear readers.

So put your boots on and lets get to it! Continue reading Jeep Renegade Limited Review: The Italians Have Made A Jeep You’ll Love!

2015 Subaru Forester Reviewed (Grade: B)

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Monday morning, I go out to start the Subaru Legacy GT, back in early December 2014. It’s cold outside and I’m in no mood to deal with things going wrong. I’m greeted by an angry-looking little red light on the dashboard shaped like a battery. When it’s getting colder outside, this is the one light I wish didn’t exist. Too bad. My alternator had started to fail, and fail it did, just 12 hours later. I got a tan Forester as a loaner, which was miles better than calling a cab that smelled like pee for five days. Continue reading 2015 Subaru Forester Reviewed (Grade: B)

2016 Volvo XC90 Review: Tell The World You’ve Made Babies In Style!

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Why does one need a seven passenger vehicle?

Well, maybe you’re popular and have a lot of friends. Or, perhaps more likely, you haven’t been using condoms, but still won’t pull out before the job is done, because that would be disgracefully un-Patriotic. You wouldn’t want to disappoint Uncle Sam now, would you? Of course not.

But now you find yourself surrounded by screaming little bastards of various sizes, and you need a vehicle that can fit everyone, together, all at once… what joy! The car had better be extra comfortable too, because, with all that screaming in the back, it certainly won’t be easy to relax while you drive.

You could buy a minivan, but that’s just demeaning to your character. I mean you’re clearly an attractive person because you’ve been able to make lots of babies. So why buy a car that will turn you into a shmuck now?

You don’t want to sell out, and the best news is you don’t have to. There are plenty of nice and stylish SUVs out there that you will be delighted to drive the family around in. And Volvo has just brought a formidable new player to the game…

Meet the all-new 2016 Volvo XC90, which is a completely new flavor from the previous XC90. Where the old XC90 was too soccer-mom-ish, maybe a small step up from a minivan, the new XC90 is a suave and luxurious SUV. Eager to compete at the top, it’s new sense of style on the surface also comes with many clever improvements underneath. What we have here might be the most interesting 7 seater on the market.

Driving Impressions

I took a camera along for the ride, so you can see my realtime reactions to the car for yourself.

Continue reading 2016 Volvo XC90 Review: Tell The World You’ve Made Babies In Style!

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review, Al’s Take (Grade: B)

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Out at Amelia Island, ride and drives last year were few and far between.  Luckily for me, SRT was there and proudly offering a few cars to test.  The Chrysler 300 SRT was available, but as most of our readers know, I tested that last summer and found it underwhelming.  On Nick’s persistent recommendation, I took the the other option they had, this Billet Silver Metallic Grand Cherokee and asked myself this question: What makes this better than the Chrysler, and what elements does this vehicle have that I want to see in others?  The surprisingly substantial drive I took allowed me to answer more than just those questions.
Continue reading 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Review, Al’s Take (Grade: B)

Test Driven: 2014 Range Rover Supercharged (Grade: B)

The Range Rover is a hard vehicle for me to place sometimes.  It has the trappings and the appeal of a luxury car, but can tackle off-road trails like nobody’s business.  This year, Land Rover did a ground-up redesign of the old girl and at Pebble Beach, I took a chance on this big black beast after taking a Rolls-Royce out for a spin.  Now, I drove an older one on a short off-road course last year and it was a rather eye-opening experience, where I learned just how capable the old one was.  This time, though, there was no rock-crawling or dune-smashing.  It was just me, a representative, and the 17-Mile Drive.  After I shut the door, I had some interesting things to ponder. Continue reading Test Driven: 2014 Range Rover Supercharged (Grade: B)