Tag Archives: CUV

Review – 2011 Ford Edge SEL: One Sharp Edge

2011 Ford Edge SELWhen you have a vehicle that sells well, a redesign can keep product planners up at night. The Ford Edge is just such a vehicle. So is the second generation a sharpened Edge, or did Ford mess with a good thing?

I recently spent a week with the second generation Ford Edge SEL to see if it is even better than the first generation.
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Fail – Mercedes-Benz 190E Converted Into A Crossover SUV

In Russia, we make SUV out of car! No, seriously, someone in Russia has decided to take this innocent Mercedes-Benz 190E and convert it into a SUV?

You might be saying to yourself: gee that 190E looks awfully short. Well that is because the owner chopped the rear end and then raised the ride height. That was just for starters.

One the vehicle was done being chopped and raised, fake bull bars made out of what appears to be PVC piping, were fitted around the vehicle. You know, for protection.

Once the “protection” was in place, it appears that the off-roader was painted in Rhino Liner? It is described as a “stealth paint job,” whatever that means.

Finishing off this piece of awesome is the rear mounted spare tire and headlight guards.

The vehicle is apparently dubbed the “E90.”

So you decide, is this a piece of awesome, or some horrible project gone wrong.

[Auto Motto]

Review – 2011 Kia Sorento EX: The Power To Surprise

Kia’s tagline is “The Power To Surprise,” and as of late they have truly been surprising. Revamping an entire vehicle line-upand adding new models all within a very short period of time is no small feat. First there was the new Soul followed by the new Forte, and now they have completely revamped the Sorento.

If you do not remember the last generation Sorento, no one will fault you. It was nothing special, just another body on frame SUV that got lost in the crowd selling on price, not features. Some compared its looks to the first generation Lexus RX300, which some would view as a compliment.

The front of the Sorento features Kia’s new signature grille, flanked by swept-back headlights. In some ways the headlights almost look related to the Acura TL. The honeycomb grille is matched by honeycomb surrounds for the fog lights, which which are placed in the bumper. The way light from the fog lights hits the ground makes them almost act more like driving lights then actual fog lights.

The sides of the Sorento have two sculpting points – one runs the length of the window sills until it flows into the C-pillar. The second sculpting point is low near the bottom of the doors. This brings in the sides to give the Sorento a less slab sided appearance.

The wheels on this particular Sorento were 18-inch alloys which fit nicely within the wheel wells. The side mirrors had LED repeaters while the tail lights continued with the honeycomb look from the front grille. While the front has more design character then the rear, I would say overall the exterior is a huge win.

Like the exterior, the interior is mostly a win. The new corporate steering wheel has buttons for most major functions, and they are strategically placed so your hands do not leave the wheel as often. The dashboard is made of hard plastic, but it looks decent. The interior lighting is ret and the gauges are white and red, which make them very easy on the eyes while driving at night.

The seats were all day comfortable, though the side bolsters on the front seat backs were a bit hard. The rear seat can easily accommodate three people, with a nearly a flat floor for your feet. The rear seats do fold down 60/40, but not completely flat due to the design of the rear seat bottoms.

If I had one major gripe about the interior, it would be the navigation system. The system itself works terrific and the street names are very legible with no jagged fonts. However, the system warning each and every time you turn on the car takes forever to allow you to hit accept and move past the warning screen. I am talking a ridiculously long time. There is standard iPod integration, along with Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the front seat heaters – they worked quite well, although they aren’t the fastest to heat up. Once on, they performed on par with what a Minnesotan would expect.

The only interior trim piece I could really find an issue with was the main center piece of plastic covering the front of the steering wheel. The top cut line was uneven and somewhat jagged. While disappointing, overall I was impressed with the build quality inside the cabin. While hard plastics are used in many places, all touch points such as arm rests and other areas were covered in a leatherette-like material. The interior is, without question, very class competitive.

The Sorento I was in had the base 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 175 horsepower and 169 pound feet to the front wheels. A V-6 and all-wheel drive is optional. The power is put down through a one-choice six-speed automatic with a manual shifting gate to the left. Off the line the Sorento has adequate power, but once up to speed you will need to plan your passes carefully. Highway passing is not a point and shoot decision. I also noticed that the transmission often got confused as to what it should do. When slowing to a stop from about 30 MPH the transmission would sometimes not know when to shift and suddenly make a large clunk as it shifted into a lower gear. It felt like a programming issue, though it could be an issue with this particular Sorento.

I wonder if Kia plans to put the four-cylinder from the new Optima, which puts out 200 hp and 186 lb-ft , into the Sorento as the base engine in the future. The slight bump in power would possibly help the situation with passing power on the highway. The new 2.0-liter turbo that is coming in the Optima would also be a good engine option, since it has more horsepower and torque then the optional V6.

Driving the Sorento was enjoyable for the most part. I averaged 18.8 mpg in the city and 25.2 mpg on the highway. A bit lower then the 21/29 EPA rating. The suspension is a little firm though that didn’t bother me. With that firm suspension came quite a bit of noise over rough surfaces. On the highway more road noise made its way into the cabin then expected, though it was acceptable, just not class leading.

The Sorento I was in was a EX with both the limited package and premium package 1. With a total of $3,750 in options the sticker price on this Sorento EX was $29,340 after destination. That puts it right in the heart of the CUV segment.

With competitors like the new Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Rav4, Ford Edge and many others, the Sorento can’t be just good enough, it has to be great. There is no question that Kia has good design direction both inside and out. The four-cylinder powertrain is adequate, but I’d probably opt for the V-6. The bottom line, if you are in the market for a CUV to haul the family around, you would be making a large mistake if you didn’t have the Sorento on your list. Turns out Kia’s marketing slogan does work – with its new styling language, the new Sorento really does have the power to surprise.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

CUV’s – Perception vs. Reality

Recently, I had a conversation with a baby boomer about her vehicle.  She drives a Honda CR-V and tells me she likes it.  It came up during the conversation that she thought her CR-V was a truck.  I started asking questions and digging into why she might think this.  Apparently, it has to do with the raised ride height, all-wheel drive, and overall vehicle appearance.  I then, as gently as I could, informed her that her “truck” was not really a truck, rather it was what many refer to as a CUV.  CUV stands for crossover utility vehicle and these are not “trucks” in the traditional sense.

When SUV’s first came onto the market, they were little more then short trucks with four doors.  They have since evolved, but many people in the general public see current CUV’S and traditional SUV’s as the same.  A CUV isn’t like a normal SUV in many ways – starting with the fact that they aren’t body on frame vehicles.  They are unibody and essentially based off car platforms.  They aren’t designed for the same capabilities as a traditional SUV.  The aforementioned baby boomer from earlier was shocked to learn that her CR-V is based off a car.

CUV’s still have all-wheel drive, but most do not have off-road capabilities or even a low range like a traditional four-wheel drive. However, there are some that have locking differentials for deeper snow and sticky situations.  Interestingly enough, many CUV’s are more capable then most consumers will ever need.  With all that said, towing capacities are much lower then that of a typical SUV.  The current Ford Explorer is a typical SUV, being body on frame.  That will all be changing though with the new version that is set to go on sale at the end of this year/beginning of next year.  The next generation Explorer went more mainstream, being unibody.  This trend is continuing to expand among other SUV’s, including the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee (though the Grand Cherokee has always been unibody).  The 2011 Grand Cherokee will also be unibody, though it will still retain hard core off -road capabilities in certain trim levels.

What this all boils down to is perception.  People seem to want an “SUV”, but they do not want the many things associated with them.  That list includes, but isn’t limited to, poor gas mileage, rough ride, sloppy handling and many other things.  There are things people still want though – like increased ride height and the idea of off road capabilities.  So what does this mean?  It means that people want some characteristics of the SUV and not others – and that poses a challenge to marketers.

Review – 2010 Chevrolet Traverse

Let’s be frank: I personally never felt Chevrolet had a great minivan. The Venture was ho-hum at best and the Uplander was a train wreck. In theory you are supposed to keep going until you get it right and I am all for that, but at some point, you need to cut your losses and refocus on something else. General Motors has done that exactly with the Lambda platform based CUVs and left the minivan behind.

The Chevrolet Traverse is the latest (and last to the market) of General Motor’s large CUVs. This is no small vehicle and, in fact, is pretty much the size of a Tahoe. The thing is, while it is almost as big as the Tahoe, it drives and rides completely differently. The ride is much more like a car-based vehicle and the reason for that is the unibody design and construction of the vehicle. The Tahoe is a body on frame design. The Traverse is an older truck style vehicle.

The sister vehicles to the Traverse are the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and the now dead Saturn Outlook. The Traverse launched with an upgraded motor from these other vehicles; a 3.6 liter V6 featuring direct injection technology. This engine puts out 281 hp and 266 ft-lb (288 hp in LTZ trim). The direct injection gave the engine both more power while maintaining acceptable fuel economy. The power is routed through the front wheels with all wheel drive as an option. The six speed automatic transmission does have manual shifting abilities via a rocker switch on the gear selector. The engine is rated at 17/24 in front wheel drive form, which is a decent rating for a vehicle of this size. I managed to average 17.6 mpg in mixed driving, although my city driving has lot of stop and go while going into work and really does kill the gas mileage. In the beginning of the week, when it was straight to work in downtown, I was averaging a mere 15.4 mpg. Once I started driving on the highways a more, my mileage crept up above 17 mpg.

I have driven a lambda based vehicle before but it is has been a while. Upon entering the Traverse, I looked in my rear view mirror and remembered just how big this vehicle is. Site lines are good with decent sized mirrors. Those mirrors each feature a refracted lens for your blind spot. Driving this big CUV was a pleasant experience. The steering was not overly light but more is more car-like than big SUV. The power is more than enough to overpower the front wheels on numerous occasions. Slamming the gas pedal will result in the tires trying to grip the pavement, but the traction control quickly kicks in.

The interior is styled very nicely. With a large amount of space to work with, the designers definitely tried their best to sculpt the materials to prevent the look of vast expanses of plastic and it is job well done for the most part. The dash has nice lines and fits well with the current Chevrolet styling theme. The interior was a very dark place with everything being dark charcoal (pretty close to black) and no sunroof option on this vehicle. The seats are wide and somewhat flat and, without question, these are seats made for Americans. I liked the front seatback design which is unique and looks nice. The second row tumbles forward to allow entrance to the third row which is not a place an adult will want to spend time, although a child will be comfortable and it folds flat at the pull of a handle. Another sign that this vehicle is made for Americans is the cup holders because they are literally everywhere.

The styling of the exterior is very conservative. The sides are very plain and almost slab sided. Upon looking further, you will notice a slight character line towards the bottom of the doors and one near the door handles. These are by no means strong lines, but rather soft. The lines all integrate with each other quite well, flowing from one panel to the next with no break. The front is the sharpest part of the vehicle. The dual port grille and the headlights show similarity to the rest of the new Chevrolet vehicles, while still being distinctly different. The overall exterior will not offend anyone and is by far the most conservative of the three other Lambda vehicles.

The Traverse I had was a 1LT with a sticker price of $31,745. The trailoring package, which included a heavy duty cooling system and trailer hitch, cost $525. The rear view camera system is a $450 option was done the right way, in my opinion. With no navigation optioned on this vehicle, the screen was integrated into the rear view mirror; very easy to use and convenient. The total sticker price after destination and options rang to $33,495, and while this is not cheap, it is competitive for its class.

The entire week I had the Traverse, I felt like I should be heading to the soccer field to pick up the kids. While the vehicle has more then enough power to get up and go, it is by no means sporty and that is not its intentions. The vehicle is a family hauler, designed and engineered to deliver the kids to soccer practice and make trips to Costco.

The competition is stiff in this segment and the Traverse is here for the fight. Naturally, the big blue oval is a competitor in the Ford Flex but actually, the Flex and the Traverse are completely different vehicles. I can not imagine someone that wants a Flex will even give the Traverse a second thought and vice versa.

In commercials, Chevrolet compares the Traverse to the Honda Pilot and, while both sport three rows of seating, the Traverse is the larger vehicle. Without a doubt, the Traverse is a highly competitive entry into a cut-throat segment and the vehicle I had at just over $33k is a decent alternative if you do not want a minivan. Chevrolet buyers finally have a vehicle that is not a minivan but can haul the family while achieving acceptable fuel economy

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Review- 2010 Cadillac SRX

The first generation SRX was really never the sales success that Cadillac hoped for.  Styling on the the first generation made it look like a tall, boxy station wagon.  With both an optional third row and V8, the first generation was rear wheel drive with all wheel drive as an option.  None of this really lined up with what the mainstream rivals were offering.

For the second generation, Cadillac has taken a much more mainstream approach.  The third row option was ditched, front wheel drive and all wheel drive replaced the old drive train and there is no more V8. The largest change is the price.  This generation is starting at $33,330 where the first generation was $38,880 for the V6 and $45,880 for the V8.  The new SRX is much more competitively priced.  You can immediately tell that Cadillac is gunning straight for the RX in every sense of the word.  A base SRX is now almost $4,000 less then the starting price of a Lexus RX.  So how does it stack up?

The interior is closely related to the CTS, which is not a bad thing.  The center stack with the rising screen is directly lifted from the CTS.  The software used in the touchscreen is definitely upgraded.  I could pair my phone using only the screen in the SRX while I had to dig out the manual to figure out phone pairing with the voice command system in the CTS.  The gauge cluster has a trick screen in the center of the speedometer.  This screen essentially had all the trip computer functions while also displaying the speed limit on most major roads.  Navigation directions are also shown with this display.  The interior has non-overpowering white LED “mood” lighting at night.  The seats are supportive but not firm.  They are much softer than the seats in the CTS Sportwagon which, in my opinion, were better.  The cargo area has a track running around it that sliders can be placed in to secure cargo.  This is a very nice feature that is executed quite well.

The styling of the SRX is strong both inside and out.  From the outside, the evolution of Cadillac’s arts and science styling is in full swing.  The sharp creases and strong character lines all play together to create a rather good looking CUV.  The rear end has the classic Cadillac “tail fin” tail lights.  The angular styling leaves a D pillar in the back that creates a large blind spot.  The rear window is very small, causing visibility to be less than stellar when backing up.  The back-up camera is a much needed feature.  The front air dam is low and I actually asked people at GM about this.  They said it was both for aerodynamics and it looks better in their opinion.  I do not know about all that, but in deep snow it acts as a plow.  The little touches on the outside caught my eye.  For example, the headlight has the Cadillac symbol stamped in the reflector.  One thing that did not add up was the GM chiclet.  This “Mark of Excellence” has now been removed from new models, but I assume the tooling for the SRX was already in place before the decision was made to ditch this “Old GM” symbol.

The engine in the vehicle I had was the base 3.0 liter direct injection V6 putting out 265 hp and 223 ft-lb to the front wheels.  All wheel drive is optional with this engine.  The optional 2.8 liter turbo V6 puts out 300 hp and 295 ft-lb to standard all wheel drive with torque vectoring.  Both engines feed out to six speed automatic transmissions with manual shift capabilities.  The base 3.0 liter is some what of a dog.  The lack of torque is the main problem here.  The SRX is not light weight, as such you can feel every one of those 265 hp and 223 ft-lb trying to get underway.  The vehicle is more engaging than the class champion, Lexus RX, but feeling the engine trying to cope with the vehicle’s weight is not the best experience even though it does get up to speed just fine.  More power would be welcome via the optional 2.8 liter turbo.  The problem with this option is the mileage, which is rated at 15/21 mpg while the front wheel drive 3.0 liter is rated at 18/25 mpg.  People seem to take these numbers very seriously these days and that turbo looks thirsty on paper for this vehicle segment.

The particular SRX I had was a premium collection vehicle with a sticker price of $47,010.  This is the top level non-turbo model.  There were not many options, but rear seat entertainment was on board for $1,295 and of course GM’s crystal red tintcoat for $995.  Each rear seat has a flip up monitor attached to the back of the front seats with two wireless headphones and  a wireless remote control that comes standard with the system.  I liked the set up, and in my opinion, was done correctly.  The upgraded stereo that was in this package was a 10 speaker 5.1 digital surround sound by Bose.  I was not really that impressed with the system.  It sounded decent enough but the optional Mark Levinson system in the Lexus RX is better.  I would have liked to have seen something like the optional Harmon Kardon system from the LaCrosse in the SRX.

Equipped with 20 inch wheels, low profile tires and front wheel drive, I will admit I was a little nervous when the blizzard came through town.  In fact, I drove through three blizzards and over 1000 miles within three days while driving the SRX.  The only problem that I saw was with the front air dam.  It is so low that it plowed through the snow and getting started down an unplowed street was not easy.  It is worth mentioning that I was able to make it up a driveway that was covered in 2.5 feet of snow.  To do this I had to turn off traction control and slam the gas in order for it to crawl its way up.  Overall, I was impressed with everything it did in the snow.  I somehow managed to eek out 26.5 mpg on the highway back through one of those storms.  That is 1.5 mpg more then the EPA’s 25 mpg highway rating.

So we have gone from a rear wheel drive with an optional third row and V8 to a front wheel drive and optional turbo V6.  How did we fare?  The SRX is now officially a competitive vehicle.  The last generation was not a mainstream approach and sales reflected that.  Yes, I do think the base engine is under powered.  In reality, the general public might not even notice.  They will notice the mileage numbers that the turbo gets and will not be that impressed with them.  I am guessing most SRX’s will leave the lot with the base 3.0 engine and customers will be content.  The vehicle has distinctive styling and I like the overall packaging.  While some powertrain improvements are needed, this new SRX is a solid contender in this hotly contested segment.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors