2017 Acura RDX AWD Leading the Crossover Marketplace with Value and Cool features

Acura’s  RDX SUV has been around for a number of years, all of which have seen sales success to make the competition green with envy. Where competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and Lexus NX use turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, the RDX sticks with a robust V6 teamed to a smooth-shifting 6 speed automatic powering either the front or all four wheels. With seating for five passengers and a decent-sized cargo bay, the RDX makes a great luxury SUV for those who don’t need the added size and extra cost of the larger MDX. Acura’s full suite of luxury, technology and safety features is here, as is its unimpeachable reputation for reliability and excellent resale.  My test vehicle is a load All wheel drive with the loaded advance package.

The cool thing about the RDX when equipped with the Advance Package that includes every available feature offered on the RDX in one simple grouping. Add in all-wheel drive and you’re looking at price tag around $45,000.

The 2017 Acura RDX gets a few color revisions to its interior trim this year, but that’s about it. Acura’s dual-screen infotainment system presents a cleanly styled interface without of the multitude of buttons found on some competitors. Other touches of note include soft-touch materials, an available 8-way-power passenger seat, 10-way-power driver’s seat and a smart use of space for both passengers and cargo. For example, if the comfortable rear seats aren’t holding passengers, they quickly fold forward to create up to about 77 cubic feet of cargo space.

Fresh from an update last year, the 2017 Acura RDX SUV carries over its subtle tweaks that bring it in line with the more modern design language of the brand. Brilliant Jewel Eye headlights flank a revised 3-dimensional grille design, while around back the RDX’s taillights have the same signature look as the rest of the Acura lineup.

Most of the luxury SUV competitors the RDX faces don’t have the long list of standard features as the Acura, and fewer still at the price. The 2017 Acura RDX comes with things like dual-zone climate control, a 10-way-power driver’s seat, active noise cancellation, a multi-view rearview camera, and a 7-speaker/360-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with a 5-inch LCD display, USB/auxiliary inputs, voice-activated text messaging and Pandora Internet radio. Safety features include six airbags, stability and traction control, and Acura’s ACE body structure, which has helped it earn top crash-test ratings from both the government and the insurance industry.
While Acura tends to divide its major options into different model levels, Acura’s 2017 RDX breaks with this rule by offering the AcuraWatch package as a stand-alone option on all models, except the Advance Package, which includes it. AcuraWatch bundles adaptive cruise control, forward-collision braking and warning, and lane-keeping assist and departure warning in one package. All-wheel drive (AWD) is also available across the board. Navigation is available on the Technology and Advance packages, while the Advance adds luxury touches like ventilated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, remote starting, and automatic windshield wipers.

Under the Hood the 3.5 liter V-6 is not a powerhouse putting to a modest 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is good  EPA city rated at 19 city and 27 highway with my test vehicles advanced all wheel drive system.

On the road the 3.5-liter V6 delivers its power smoothly with plenty of low-end torque for quick acceleration and passing.  Cruising long highway stretches is where the RDX feels most at home, although the suspension is appropriately tuned for aggressive driving. However, don’t expect the RDX to perform like a BMW X3 or an Infiniti QX30. Acura’s almost fanatic desire to silence the RDX’s cabin is achieved through ample insulation and an active noise-cancellation system, while the AcuraWatch system helps keep everyone safe via the adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, collision warning and mitigation and lane-keeping assist.

While Acura tends to divide its major options into different model levels, Acura’s 2017 RDX breaks with this rule by offering the AcuraWatch package as a stand-alone option on all models, except the Advance Package, which includes it. AcuraWatch bundles adaptive cruise control, forward-collision braking and warning, and lane-keeping assist and departure warning in one package. All-wheel drive (AWD) is also available across the board. Navigation is available on the Technology and Advance packages, while the Advance adds luxury touches like ventilated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, remote starting, and automatic windshield wipers.

Acura’s RDX might not lead the premium-compact SUV class in any one area, but this is a vehicle that does just about everything well. A refined drivetrain, a ride/handling balance that’s among the best in the class, and a roomy, well-appointed cabin are its biggest strengths. RDX offers lots of comfort, convenience, and safety features at reasonable-for-the-class prices. Value-conscious luxury buyers would do well to put this Acura at the top of their shopping lists.

Lets talk about the sound system with ELS Surround Sound. the RDX for 2017 doesn’t need 20 speakers in every door to pull off amazing sound quality. The Acura ELS audio system is so well-engineered and fine-tuned, it blows the coils off systems costing twice as much. Fortunately, it’s incredibly affordable.

The system is designed by my friend Elliot Scheiner recording engineer and producer or Steely Dan, Donald Fagen,  The Eagles, Sting, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, Foo Fighters and dozens of others.  I have had pleasure of interviewing the “Master Of Sound” with 7 Grammys on his resume so far.many times.  He remains one of my personal favorite people to talk with about music or automotive surround sound.

Acura’s RDX might not lead the premium-compact SUV class in any one area, but this is a vehicle that does just about everything well. A refined drivetrain, a ride/handling balance that’s among the best in the class, and a roomy, well-appointed cabin are its biggest strengths. RDX offers lots of comfort, convenience, and safety features at reasonable-for-the-class prices. Value-conscious luxury buyers would do well to put this Acura at the top of their shopping lists. congratulations Acura  on the extremely well executed RDX.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD  6  speed automatic

Highlights

Value

ELS Surround Sond

All Arond Comfort

Lowlights

A little more power from V-6 would be great

So-So Fuel Economy

The Long Drive Rankings 1 Low 10 High

Exterior Styling 7
Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 7

Braking 7

Fuel Economy 5

Performance 7
Trunk-Cargo Capacity 8

Audio System 10

Value 10

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander SE= Great Value

In the over 20 plus years that I have been receiving press vehicles to evaluate each week.   I have only had four Mitsubishi products to test out.  During my ten years at Motor Trend there was lot of exposure to one of the most sporting models from the brand history the Evo but not much else.

When I got word that I was going to be evaluating a new Mitsubishi product I was not overly excited and my expectations were low.  The automaker has stumbled in recent years and  I occasionally have heard rumors about a pulling out of the North American market place. However after a week by the wheel of a 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander SUV my brand perceptions were dramatically changed and I find myself recommending this vehicle to listeners of my nationally syndicated radio show Autoworld.

The Outlander not be a well-known commodity, but when compared to the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Dodge Journey, it stands up surprisingly well. With a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines, two all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems and a host of cutting-edge safety and infotainment features, Mitsubishi’s Outlander crossover SUV proves both competent and affordable. With a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the Outlander’s coverage is nearly double that of the Subaru Outback, but identical to the Kia Sorento. A small dealer network may limit your buying options, but if a vehicle that rings spectacular value to the table the Mitsubishi gets raves from this journalist

For 2017, Mitsubishi’s Outlander SUV gains a number of upgrades. There’s a simplified AWD system on base models plus new features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert, a heated steering wheel, auto high beams and a multi-view camera system.

Behind the wheel the standard for cylinder engine paired with an excellent CVT transmission delivers surprisingly strong off-the-line acceleration and fuel economy up to 30-mpg highway. This is one of the best CVT automatics I have ever tested. The CVT is efficient, quiet and responsive, it squeezes every drop of power from the 2.4-liter engine while returning impressive fuel economy.

The 2.4-liter inline-4 cranks out 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque  while delivering in front wheel drive configuration 25 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
On the road the Outlander is not the best handling vehicle in the marketplacebt bt most average drivers they will never notice.  Braking is decent and the overall ride and drive is also pleasant

 

The Mitsubishi Outlander comes standard with seating for seven, who will enjoy an even nicer cabin for 2017. Controls are easy to use, and.interior has a more a more premium fee. The materials are nice, the design is clean and the interior is pleasantly quiet. Flipping and folding the second row is now easy, thanks to a system of straps and levers. That offers easy entrance to the very small third row. Fold down both rows and you create over 63 cubic feet of cargo space.

The styling revisions that debuted for 2016 carry over including the Outlander’s  aggressive nose and rear for a look that is unique, but isn’t universally loved. The angular nose, while definitely fitting into the Mitsubishi family, also hints at the looks of the Lexus NX SUV. Cool features like the electric windshield-wiper de-icer that helps keep ice and snow from building up n the wipers, a shark-fin antenna and power-folding side mirrors add an upscale feel.

The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander is available in four trims: ES, SE, SEL and GT. The vehicle ES model came with automatic climate control, keyless entry, 6-speaker touch-screen audio, rearview camera, Bluetooth, heated side mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels. My SE test model had a rearview camera, fog lights, dual climate control, heated front seats and push-button start. The Touring Package also includes navigation, rain-sensing windshield wipers, windshield-wiper de-icer, power-folding side mirrors, auto on-off headlights, a power tailgate, a heated steering wheel and power sunroof.

Attention  audiophiles,  the 2017 Outlander SUV offers a kicking 710-watt, 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio upgrade guaranteed to please the music lover in all of us. Deep bass is provided by a powered sub, and the system can be paired with a 40-gigabyte music-storage hard drive.  This system really impresses and fits the fun character of the vehicle as well.

My loaded test vehicle came to about $27,000 simply,  a tremendous value.  Want something different packed with a lot of vale in three row seven passenger SUV check ot the 2017 Outlander.

 

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD CVT Automatic

Highlights

Value

Simple layout

Rockford-Fostgage Sound System

Lowlights

A few cheap plastics

Not for those who vale great handling skills

The Long Drive Rankings 1 Low 10 High

Exterior Styling 7
Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 5

Braking 5
Fuel Economy 9
Performance 5
Trunk-Cargo Capacity 8

Navigation 8
Audio System 9

2016 Subaru Outback Limited 3.6 Outback Premium Crossover/Wagon Alternative

As a brand Subaru has come a long way since the initial models sold here in America during the late 60’s and 1970’s. I remember growing up on a middle class street in Needham MA when a college age neighbor purchased an early Subaru GL model. It was a rather awkward looking vehicle with a very low sticker price. Initially these Subaru models were front wheel drive with all wheel drive optional.

Living in Boston 99% of my life you get used to seeing a lot of Subaru standard AWD vehicles (except for BRZ sports car) on the road. As a matter of fact Subaru is best selling brand in all of New England. Bought my first Subaru in 2011 when the high performance coupe that my wife drove just could not handle a rear facing baby seat very well. I owned the Subaru for four years and it retained its value at trade in time better than any other vehicle have owned so far in my life.

With its flat four engine sitting low in my Forester the Subaru was a decent handling machine mated with an excellent standard all wheel drive. In the test car garage this week is an Ice Silver Metallic 3.6 Outback limited model and. This is by far the most technically advanced, luxurious Subaru’s 2016 Outback crossover wagon to date. The Outback Is one of the few crossover SUVs that can actually fulfill the promises made by its off roading look exterior pieces.

Unlike many other competitors’ in its segment the Outback’s all- wheel-drive system is designed to tackle more than just snowy roads and dusty trails. Its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and X- Mode off-road assist greatly assist the Outback’s ability. The 2016 Outback’s Limited luxurious interior combined with the latest driver-assist technology, such as Subaru’s amazing EyeSight collision-mitigation and active cruise control, elevate the Outback to the realm of many premium luxury SUVs. I used the active cruise control that work seamlessly on both the highway and clogged commuter highway traffic. The system hauling the Subaru down to complete stop and then picked up speed with the flow of the traffic moved forward down the highway. No input from driver’s foot pedals needed at all.

The Subaru Outback for 2016 delivers a comfortable ride, precise steering and lots more. For those families on a budget with rear facing car seat in the mix the large backseat combined with very good front seat travel make car seat hauling a breeze. Also if you are shopping for vehicle that excels in the areas of resale, fuel economy and safety, the 2016 Subaru Outback wagon is it. If you’re looking for a roomy family vehicle that can also tackle deep snow and off-road trails, the 2016 Subaru Outback can do that, too. Just remember this not a trail rated Jeep. If you need a serious off roader the Outback is not for you. But for most families its off road capillarity is perfect.

Living in Florida where it rains hard tropical style quite often. I was impressed when the roads turned nasty and you could feel the AWD system in play Overall I was impressed by our 2016 Subaru Outback crossover SUV’s quiet cabin, its car-like driving characteristics (based on the Legacy sedan) and its stable composure even in the most inhospitable driving conditions. Compared to the flat four engines, the 6-cylinder power plant provides a more sporty driving experience and is recommended for anyone who needs to tow.

On the road, Subaru’s Active Torque Vectoring enhances traction at higher speeds by automatically routing power for better stability. Off-road, the 2016 Subaru Outback’s true magic is revealed. Standard X-Mode bolsters low-speed traction while Hill Descent Control does all the braking on steep descents, allowing the driver to focus on piloting the vehicle. When not in use, the Outback’s roof-rack crossbars pivot to stow in the roof rails, thus reducing wind noise above the roof. The crossbars are also adjustable fore and aft.

The Subaru Outback crossover SUV for 2016 interior design and execution clean and functional, and  I like the latest touch- screen infotainment system’s design infotainment stereo system a first in Outback to date The seats are comfortable in all positions, especially the roomy, reclining rear seat (thanks to the Outback’s tall roof). Cargo space in this SUV is obviously leaps and bounds better than the Legacy sedan. That goes double with the seats folded.

It’s quieter than its predecessor, thanks in part to the way the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) mimics gear changes at full throttle Exterior styling wise this Subaru crossover-SUV wagon is definitely an improvement over the previous generation Outback.

The neatly integrated headlights and taillights blend with an upright, chunky look that incorporates Subaru’s new hexagonal grille and the Outback’s traditional round fog lights and rugged-looking lower body cladding. Cool features include grille shutters that close at speed to improve fuel economy, and LED taillights. Of course, there are the usual comfort and convenience features standard including power windows, air conditioning, power mirrors, cruise control, and so on. However, even the base Outback comes with a rearview camera and advanced safety features like under-seat-cushion airbags to prevent submarining in a crash.

Being a bit of audiophile I was very impressed with the 3.6 Limited’s optional upgraded is hands down the best system to date in any Subaru model I have ever experienced. It also includes air 7-inch screen, Aha, iHeart Radio, Pandora and, of course, Bluetooth, CD player and USB. Every Outback also comes with X-Mode, hill-descent control, active torque vectoring, and grille shutters. The EyeSight system, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane- departure warning, lane-keep assist, pre-collision braking and, on some models, steering-responsive fog lights. Also available is a power liftgate with a programmable maximum height, voice- activated navigation with a larger 7-inch screen, and a Rear Vehicle Detection System that combines blind-spot detection, lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alerts.

My test vehicle h a well executed is a leather interior trimmed with classy-looking faux wood. Sticker Price of my loaded test vehicle was $37,335.00 Under the Hood the 3.6-liter flat-6 puts out 256 horsepower and delivers 247 lb-ft of torque. EPA fuel economy numbers come in at 20-mpg city and 27 mpg highway. To me with extra engine punch is worth the added prime of admission.

Overall the Subaru lineup of vehicles continues to expand and improve, this is no doubt the best Outback to date. Premium crossover/SUV features at not so premium price.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine- AWD-CVT Automatic

Highlights

All Wheel Drive System

Resale Value

Roomy Backseat

Value

Lowlights

Some cheap plastics inside

OK but not great styling

Some might think Pricey for a Subaru

 

Scale 1 low-10 high

Exterior Styling 7

Interior styling and quality 7

Handling 7

Braking 6

Fuel Economy 7

Stereo System 8 Navigation System 8

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 9

2016 Ford Explorer Platinum = Great Luxury SUV

By Bob Long

Recently I had the opportunity to sample the reworked Explorer for 2016 and in particular had extra drive time in the all new Flagship model the Platinum edition.

I love Range Rover’s think of this as an American Blue Oval alternative  with a much lower price tag. With a base price starting at $53,000, the Explorer Platinum aims for customers who simply “want everything” in a simple  prepackaged model.  The folks at Ford say there are quite a few of those buyers out there in the marketplace.

Platinum is also meant to lure customers away from imports that may not have as much interior room or capability for the money, and also encourage folks who might be looking at a Yukon Denali despite not needing the traditional truck like body on frame construction with all negatives that comes from that setup including rough ride and poor handling.

If love loaded SUV’s the Explorer Platinum gets pretty much every option from a 3.5-liter Ecoboost twin-turbo V6 under the hood to quilted-leather door panels, massaging front seats and heated second-row seats.

Ford has also joined the growing number of automakers offering birds-eye camera systems on their large size machines. The Explorer goes a step further with a front side-view camera that “peeks” around corners at blind intersections and the like, plus washer-fluid sprayers for the front and rear cameras. Those of you in southern states may find that silly, but if you contend with snow and salt six months of the year, the camera washers are a face-palm innovation you’ll be thrilled to have.

Otherwise, the story here is coddling accoutrements and loads of tech: Aluminum and ash trim on the instrument panel and doors, a wood-and-leather-covered heated steering wheel, Smart USB ports for faster charging, park assist (parallel and perpendicular), lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and a panoramic moon roof. Ford also made noise about its new 500-watt Sony audio system.  Although megawatt multi speaker stereos are nothing new. After spending time with a wide variety of music on the Sony system as the resident audiophile at North America Driver, I can attest to its consistently stunning soundstage.

The 3.5-liter Ecoboost engine doesn’t make this hefty beast fast; rather, it delivers on Ford’s marketing refrain about delivering V8 power in a V6 package. A healthy 365-hp output and 350 lb feet of torque, and it simply moves the Explorer along with ease in any situation. There is no turbo lag its seamless across the power band.Ford claims 5,000 pounds of towing capability for the EcoBoost V6; its use for years now in the F-150 should allay any durability concerns.

I love the a terrain-management AWD system that adjusts parameters based on conditions, chosen using a console-mounted knob with normal, snow, sand and mud settings. None offer this much sheer bang, though: There’s little doubt the Explorer Platinum gives buyers just about everything they could dream up in terms of equipment; the fact it still slots in tens of thousands of dollars below an equivalent Mercedes-Benz (or GMC Yukon Denali, for that matter.

The 2016 Explorer brings new looks, new technology, and new thinking to Ford’s ubiquitous midsize SUV. The refreshed exterior borrows from Land Rover’s styling, and the new interior brings more refinements and ease of use, especially for shorter buyers, or those put off by Ford’s touch-sensitive control interfaces and earlier versions of MyFord Touch.  I love that Ford has replaced or some of the touch screens with real buttons and knobs.  In other cases there are redundant buttons to compliment the touch screen

The Ford Explorer seats up to seven in its three rows, and thanks to its overall size even the third row offers room for adults. The second row comes as either a 3-person bench, or it can be had with two bucket seats. Fold both seating rows and you have generous cargo space.

The exterior styling updates to the new Ford Explorer don’t alter the basic silhouette of the SUV, but the details are quite nice. The new standard LED low-beam headlights, grille, and bumper in front give this mainstream SUV a first-glance resemblance to a Land Rover Range Rover. Changes to the rear are more subtle, and mostly consist of new tail lights.

The new Platinum model comes with premium  high-end leather, leather-covered dash, and other luxury items. It is a great place to spend time. The Platinum model comes loaded at base price of $53,000 its Eco-Boost V-6 delivers 16 mpg city and 22 highway This is least expensive luxury SUV on the market. The Explorer Platinum gives buyers just about everything they could dream up in terms of equipment; the fact it still slots in tens of thousands of dollars below an equivalent Mercedes-Benz or GMC Yukon Denali.

Its time to take a second look at the Explorer as the 2016 model is much improved and if you are thinking luxury SUV put the Platinum model on your shopping list.  You may just save yourself thousands of dollars over other comparative models.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Engine

Interior design and materials

Terrain Management System

Sony Sound System

Buttons and Knobs insread of 100% touchscreen

Lowlights

Not as off road capable as Jeep Cherokee

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 7

Interior styling and quality 9

Handling 6

Braking 7

Fuel Economy 6

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

 

 

Zoom Zoom 2016 Maxda CX-9 Signature AWD Shines On Road.

 

By Bob Long

Over the 25 plus years that I been lucky to have a weekly press test vehicle to evaluate there are certain brands that have special place in my heart.  The Mazda brand has taken one of those spots as not only does the brand have a great lineup of vehicles all with sporting edge, but the folks at top of corporate ladder are true car people.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing folks like Mazda president Jim O”Sullivan dozens of times or VP Robert Davis also dozens of times. These are true car guys that live, sleep and eat Mazda.

I got extra drive time in the CX-9 Signature as the week I had the vehicle was the week Hurricane Mathew was moving into FL  With horrible forecasts predicting that this would be the ” Hurricane Andrew” for central Florida my wife and 6-year-old daughter fled to Pensacola FL to escape the storm and visit with fellow syndicated automotive  radio host Bobby Likis.

Our escape vehicle was the 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD that comes standard with just about everything you need and more.  Heated mirrors, a power liftgate with adjustable height stops, keyless ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alerts, and heated front seats are all standard. We were also were with treated with Nappa leather upholstery and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support (front passenger’s seat is four-way power). There is an 8-inch infotainment display and two USB ports in the second-row center armrest.

The CX-9 Signature trim also includes 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, LED foglights, automatic wipers, roof rails, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors, frontal collision mitigation warnings, a heads-up display, driver seat memory functions, retractable sunshades for the middle row seats, aluminum interior trim, additional interior lighting, a navigation system, a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system, and satellite radio. If that’s not enough, LED accent lighting and rosewood interior trim finish out the range-topping Signature CX-9.

Stepping inside the CX-9 Signature reveals a cabin that is befitting of an entry-level luxury model. . The second-row seats are comfortable and offer lots of legroom for taller passengers. Passengers appreciated the pull down shades and the climate control vents for extra comfort.

The third row can seat two, but adults will feel tight, especially on longer trips. It’s well suited for the younger kids in the family, however. There’s 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. With the rear seats folded, capacity expands to 38.2 cubic feet. With both seats stowed, it opens up to 71.2 cubic feet.

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 puts the “zoom” into practical vehicles . If you want a mainstream 3-row SUV that is an adept family vehicle for school drop-offs and a rewarding personal vehicle for a spirited trip to the office or couples weekend getaway, this is it.
Like most Mazda vehicles, the CX-9 has long been the most athletic, fun-to-drive SUV in its class. That remains the case with the all-new version. The biggest difference is how Mazda’s 3-row SUV gets its motivation. Where the former version used a strong V6, this new model is powered by a small,hearty turbocharged 4-cylinder. Horsepower is down some, but torque is up translating into great off-the-line acceleration. Moreover, it’s more fuel efficient. The all-new Mazda CX-9 feels lighter, nimbler and even more athletic than its predecessor, while also boasting a quieter ride.

Thankfully, the new CX-9’s dynamic ways don’t come at the cost of a stiff suspension. T. Credit should also be given to the CX-9’s automatic transmission, a 6-speed that’s well-matched to this engine. Like other Mazda’s, this one has a Sport mode that optimizes the engine and transmission for zippier performance.

The front seats are roomy, and the area feels commanding thanks to a wide console. Nestled in that console is a rotary dial and auxiliary buttons controlling the CX-9’s standard dash-mounted infotainment display. I addition to receiving the SkyActiv treatment like the rest of Mazda’s lineup, the CX-9 now also gets Mazda’s “Soul of Motion” design philosophy emphasizing sweeping forms, organic shapes, and the idea of movement even at rest. The new CX-9 is striking from an exterior deign perspective.

That big grille up front adds to the premium cred, yet doesn’t seem overboard. The tapering roof and forward stance make this SUV appear smaller than it is, and even its rear is pretty thanks to a horizontal treatment of the taillights and rear lip beneath the window. A pair of integrated exhaust outlets further emphasize this SUV’s sporty nature.

The engine is impressive using a new SkyActiv 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that replaces the former 3.7-liter V6. This new engine has fewer horsepower than the outgoing one, but greater torque. Horsepower, you’ll see two figures: 250 HP running on premium 93 octane. Most drivers will opt for regular unleaded, on which the engine makes 227 horsepower.  Torque is the big story here the little powerplant churning out an amazing 310 lb-ft of torque.   EPA fuel economy is rated at 21 city and 27 for my AWD  test vehicle.  Price for the top line model comes in at  $44,915

The CX-9 was easy to drive, I especially liked the heads-up display that you can see even with your sun glasses on, unlike some more expensive European models. The infotainment system was very intuitive  with its rotary dial on the console.

The all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature is a greatfamily transporter with a luxury feel and a little Mazda Zoom Zoom for the driver as well.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Engine

On Road performance

Nappa Leather

Bose Sound System

Lowlights

Heated but not cooled seats

No CD player for CD fans

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 8

Braking 7

Fuel Economy 9

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation 9

The Non Truck-Truck 2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition is Pure Joy

By Bob Long

I said on my national radio program AutoWorld with guest Mark Williams Editor and Chief at pickup trucks.com I was not going to title my print review “the non Truck Truck” but I have decided to do it anyway.  I really like the Black Edition and the title is on target.

Again, I did not expect to like this second generation Ridgeline that much but I liked it a lot  Both Mark and I were Editors at Motor Trend when the first generation took home the Motor Trend Truck of the Year Award.  But this second generation us so much better and this special edition is a knockout.  All black inside and out and running on set of black wheels the truck got positive feedback everywhere I drove greater Orlando FL

The Honda Ridgeline returns to a reinvigorated midsize pickup segment after a two-year absence. The fully redesigned 2017 Honda Ridgeline hangs on to what made it unique while introducing improvements that make it  a lot more functional and it will attract a wider audience.

The new Ridgeline still has more in common with Honda’s midsize SUV, the Pilot, than other trucks in the segment. The wheelbase has been stretched to accommodate a truck bed and the suspension components have added beef, but the Ridgeline still delivers a car like ride and manageable handling which in my opinion is good for that certain type of truck buyer.

The Ridgeline also gets an upgraded 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed transmission, a good combination that’s 30-horsepower stronger than generation one Ridgeline.  It puts out 280 HP and 262 lb-ft of torque.  EPA mileage numbers for my all wheel Drive test model
18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.  My load all wheel drive test truck came in price wise at around $44,000.

The Honda Ridgeline still only come in a single crew cab with short bed configuration. But this time around the forward cabin is as attractive and inviting as a Pilot, and is available with the Pilot’s full range of the latest tech and safety features. Meanwhile, the back row retains the class-leading legroom and unique folding rear seat that made the original Ridgeline so flexible and accommodating.

The old styling cues have been scrapped in favor of a more traditional bed design. The change makes it easier to reach into the forward end, and it allowed a 3.2-inch wheelbase stretch that enabled a longer bed. Now 66 inches long, the Ridgeline’s bed is 2.3 inches longer than a Chevrolet Colorado’s and 3.5 inches longer than a Toyota Tacoma’s. As for the Ridgeline’s signature in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate, they’re still here and as fantastic as ever.

But some aspects of the Ridgeline still trail the competition. The intelligent all-wheel-drive system now has driver-selectable terrain settings, but crossover SUV levels of clearance and suspension articulation limit it to light-duty dirt-roading. And while it is well suited to towing 5,000 pounds, those who want to tow more will need to look elsewhere.

The return of a much-improved 2017 Honda Ridgeline makes the midsize truck segment an interesting place. With the off-roady Toyota Tacoma on one end, the shrunken full-size familiarity of the Chevrolet Colorado in the middle and the practical and smooth-driving Honda Ridgeline at the other end, midsize truck buyers have a wide spectrum of choices.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline masters the careful balance between midsize truck and quiet, refined SUV. The cabin’s dimensions are essentially the same as they were in the last-generation Ridgeline, meaning that front and rear seats are pleasantly roomy for five people. The design is crisp and fresh, with greatly improved materials, and features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated seats and an 8-inch touch screen. If you want to carry gear inside, push the 60/40-split rear seat against the back of the cab to allow space for a bicycle or a 55-inch flat screen TV.

All Ridgeline’s come standard with  active noise cancellation, hill-start assist, and 18-inch wheels. Also standard are a rearview camera and the useful dual-action tailgate, eight tie-down cleats, truck bed lights, an in-bed trunk, and Intelligent Traction Management. Also in every Ridgeline are power windows with (front) auto-up/down, push-button start, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping wheel, air conditioning with filtration, and Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio. There are plenty of safety systems, including collision-mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot information with cross traffic, and LaneWatch. , adaptive cruise control, navigation, an acoustic windshield, truck bed audio, a 400-watt truck bed outlet, 3-zone climate control, leather seats, and heated front seats are options. The top stereo is a 540-watt, 8-speaker system which sounded great in my test Truck

Americans love trucks and my auto journalist friends have told me stories of the Texas State fair turning into a Truck international Auto Show. There’s a long-held set of ideas that many truck buyers consider obligatory  a body-on-frame platform is chief among them, along with purpose-built hardware like four wheel drive transfer cases and a solid rear axle.

I say this not a truck for that crowd but rather a different more Urban/suburbanite part-time truck most time a  small family SUV.  As I said earlier The Ridgeline’s awarded in-bed trunk makes a return in the second generation pickup, allowing for secured storage under the floor of the bed that also incorporates a drain plug at the bottom so it can also be used as an ice chest.
Adding to the Ridgeline’s tailgating prowess is the Truck Bed Audio function which uses the Ridgeline’s bed as an outdoor sound system. It might seem like a gimmicky feature at first, but in practice it sounds surprisingly good. Paired with the bed’s additional features, like a 400w power outlet and a dual action tailgate that can swing either down or out, the Ridgeline might be the most versatile party-mobile and Tailgate party king on sale today.  I think it just plain cool.  The 2017 Honda Ridgeline Black edition is pure joy to drive and packs a great bang for buck

 

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Truck bed audio system

Lowlights

Not for the hardcore Truck person

Some interior plastics could be better quality

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 7

Handling 7

Braking 6

Fuel Economy 7

Audio System 9

Performance 5

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation 9

The original Crossover Vehicle is still the Best…. Lexus RX-450H All New for 2016

By Bob Long

The Lexus RX is the crossover that started a whole new category of vehicle when first introduced in 1998.   The first generation RX 300 laid the ground work for one of hottest segments in the car buying world today the luxury crossover vehicle.

For the 2016 model year The Lexus RX is all-new.. Now in its 4th generation, this mid size luxury crossover features a bold new exterior design, revamped interior, and a bump in power over its predecessor. The vehicle has grown slightly and offers a lot of cool features.

Over the years the RX has become the Lexus brands best-selling vehicle and a benchmark for rivals such as the MDX from Acura, Mercedes GLE, Cadillac SRX  and the MKX from Lincoln.  My test vehicle of the week is a beautiful front wheel drive RX 450 H which combines a powerful  V-6 gasoline engine with electric hybrid drive for great fuel economy.

Styling wise Lexus calls the new  2016 RX as a “dramatic re-imagining”of the benchmark crossover.  In fact it is both bold and aggressive from many angles.  Keeping in step with the rest of Lexus lineup the RX wears the brands signature spindle” grille up front, fluid headlight housings with LED lights, a high belt line, and the 2016 RX’s most divisive element: a flowing, blacked-out C-pillar behind the rear windows. This element makes the Lexus’ roof appear to float. You’ll like it or you won’t. Personally I like the look of the new RX but admit some will find the RX face a bit polarizing.

There are many different favors of the RX but was great to sample the hybrid model for a week.  On the road the RX 450h hybrid model is super smooth and almost imperceptibly switches between gasoline and electric power.  The 450h hybrid pairs a 3.5-liter V6 with a battery-electric powertrain. Like a standard Prius, no plugging in is required, but premium unleaded gasoline is recommended. The 2016 RX 450h has total output of 308 horsepower and delivers great mpg numbers. The  gasoline engine alone cranks out 267 lb-ft of torque.  EPA  city mileage is rated at an impressive 31 MPG with a highway rating of 30 MPG.  Sticker price of my loaded RX450H model came to $60.359.00

Inside the all new RX-450H is great place to spend time.  Beautiful craftsmanship combined with is own unique style. One of the biggest changes for the new 2016 model is gear selector placement, which abandons its long-held position in the center dash to a more traditional spot in the console below. This opens space in the dash for easy-to-access climate and audio controls. The mouse controller just south of the gear selector is easier to operate. The seats are great, and there is plenty of legroom in back.  Cargo space is very impressive, with over 18 cubic feet behind the rear seats. That number expands to over 56 cubic feet with rear seats folded.

The Lexus RX has always been well-equipped, and the latest model is no different. My loaded 450H had the very cool huge 12.3-inch infotainment display, a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, the touch-free tailgate, navigation, a treat for audiophiles like myself in the exquisite upgraded Mark Levinson audio system.  My vehicle also had a full color heads up display and the world first  Touch-Free Back Door option makes it go presto by merely placing a hand near the Lexus badge.

Driving the RX 450H is a real pleasure even if you are not hybrid fan. This is one of the best systems out there in the automotive world.  The RX-450H is smooth operator at all speeds much as they have been in previous generations.  The vehicle is: comfortable, quiet and confident. This is an SUV for those who long for a soft ride and serenity, vs. drivers who prefer blasts down twisty roads accompanied by a roaring exhaust note.  Lexus does offer an F Sport model for a more sporty flavor and sheer performance.

Bottom line if you are in the market for a five passenger high fuel economy luxury crossover SUV the all new 2018 Lexus RH-45oH is a grand slam home run.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD 

 

Highlights

Styling

Luxury Features

Comfort

Fuel economy

 

Lowlights

60K may seem like a lot but is not in 2016

Bold Like it or not front grille

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 9

Handling 7

Braking 6

Fuel Economy 10

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation   8