A Logical Alternative

Cargazing
By Derek Price

The Honda Ridgeline has long been a truck that happily flies in the face of established convention.
It’s built on a minivan platform and has a fully independent suspension, making it the most nimble, responsive pickup for sale today. It also gets decent fuel economy thanks to its unusual construction.
While it can tow a respectable 5,000 pounds, that’s less than other midsize trucks and a whole lot less than a full-size, half-ton pickup. It’s more than enough capability for a lot of buyers, though, who don’t need the towing and hauling overkill that today’s giant trucks are built to offer.
It’s the practical, logical alternative.
Honda decided to make the Ridgeline look a lot more like a traditional truck this year, though, with updates to all the sheetmetal in front of the windshield.
It’s more squared-off and upright now, less like a minivan. It even gets what Honda somewhat hilariously calls a “power bulge” on the hood.

Distinctive bronze wheels, part of the new HPD package, help the Ridgeline stand out from the crowd. The Honda pickup gets new styling for the 2021 model year.

An optional package from Honda Performance Development (HPD) makes it look even tougher. Black fender flares, a black grille insert, flashy graphics on the bed and eye-catching bronze wheels make it sharp.
Unfortunately, the $2,800 HPD package is strictly about appearance. Thoughts of a Type-R Ridgeline will have to remain fantasies for now, along with hopes for one built for serious off-roading.
The Ridgeline’s infotainment system is updated for 2021 with a new icon-based home screen and a real, physical volume knob, something I’ve wanted on Honda products for years. It responds slowly to inputs, though, compared to similar systems in other trucks.
All-wheel drive is now standard across the lineup.
A 3.5-liter V6 makes 280 horsepower, enough to make it feel quick at stoplights and when passing on freeways. A nine-speed transmission delivers fast, effortless shifts.
Perhaps the Ridgeline’s best selling points, though, are in the cabin and bed. They’re noteworthy for their smart layout and sheer size.

The Ridgeline’s infotainment system was updated this year with a new icon-based home screen and a physical volume knob.

This truck feels bigger inside than its mid-size domestic and Japanese-brand competitors. It rides fairly low to the ground, but the Ridgeline is so long and wide that it feels more like a full-size truck from the front seat.
Honda says it’s the roomiest cabin and widest bed in its class, and I believe it.
The Ridgeline’s size and capability help it stand out from two new brand-new, unibody-truck competitors hitting the market this year: the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.
A locking compartment called the In-Bed Trunk makes a great use of otherwise wasted space in the Ridgeline. The back seats are also easy to fold out of the way, which — when combined with a completely flat floor — allows for loading big pieces of furniture or cargo inside the cabin, protected from the elements.
Pricing starts at $36,490 for the Ridgeline Sport and ranges up to $43,920 for the Black Edition.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport ($36,490). Options: Premium paint ($395), HPD package ($2,800).  Price as tested (including $1,175 destination charge): $40,860
Wheelbase: 125.2 in.
Length: 210.2 in.
Width: 78.6 in.
Height: 70.8 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (280 hp, 262 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 18 city, 24 highway

RATINGS
Style: 6
Performance: 6
Price: 8
Handling: 9
Ride: 8
Comfort: 8
Quality: 10
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
It’s the Honda of pickups: logical and reliable. It’s a capable alternative to body-on-frame trucks.

Posted in Honda

Best on the Market

Cargazing
By Derek Price

Motor Trend just handed its SUV of the Year crown to a vehicle most people have never heard of.
After driving it for a week, I see exactly why.
The 2022 Genesis GV70 — the newest SUV from Hyundai’s startup luxury brand — doesn’t have the name recognition of Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or BMW, but I bet that’s going to change rapidlly as more people drive it.
The GV70 is a home run for Genesis, perhaps even more so than the original LS was for Lexus. If Genesis has any chance of surviving, much less thriving, in the competitive and image-conscious market for luxury cars, it needs a showstopper like this.
Everything about it is what today’s market needs, starting with digital innovation.
The electronic aids on the GV70 are too long to list. More importantly, they’re better designed than any vehicle I’ve driven in years.
The entertainment system responds instantly, without the annoying lag that even really expensive cars sometimes suffer from. The semi-autonomous cruise control lives up to the hype, driving very much like a human even in stop-and-go traffic. The safety warnings are less annoying than in most cars, piping up only when there’s a legitimate risk drivers should notice. You can even pull backward and forward in parking spots by remote control.
Inside and out, the GV70 looks and feels like a cut above average cars.

Parallel horizontal lines on the headlights and taillights give the Genesis GV70 a unique look. It recently was named Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year.

The styling is snazzy. Headlights and taillights take on a distinctive horizontal shape, like the parallel lines in the pin striping of a classic suit. Inside, everything flows like one cohesive piece with the various digital screens, vent openings, calm lighting and trim materials working together to create a lounge-like atmosphere.
It even performs like a sporty SUV should. Handling is crisp and precise, and 300 horsepower on tap from its turbocharged, four-cylinder engine makes merging and passing effortless. It’s also reasonably efficient, earning a 28-mpg rating from the federal government.
Being firmly entrenched in the more-power-is-always-better camp, I rarely say this, but it’s true: the four-cylinder engine is plenty. You can get a V6 that makes 375 horsepower in your GV70, but it would be overkill. People who want overkill should buy Porsches.
I have to dig deep to come up with criticism, but here’s my best attempt:
This vehicle has no reputation to rely on. It’s a completely new SUV from an almost-new brand, so no one knows exactly how reliable it’s going to be.

Vents, digital screens and controls flow together seamlessly in the GV70’s appealing, lounge-like cabin.

Plus, as perfect as the interior design is, there’s one glaring flaw: the gear selector and digital screen controller are both rotary knobs on the center console. All week long I found myself confusing one controller for the other. They’re labeled clearly, but it takes time for muscle memory to know the difference between shifting into park and changing the radio station.
It’s easy to forgive those flaws when you see the price. The GV70 starts at $41,000, which is less than the average transaction price for a new vehicle in 2021, according to Kelley Blue Book. My tester rang up over $50,000, but it still outperforms and out-impresses established luxury SUVs that cost many thousands more.
I don’t always agree with Motor Trend’s picks, but this one is spot on. The GV70 has enough innovation, style, substance and value to be the best SUV on the market this year.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 2.5T Advanced ($41,000). Options: Premium paint ($500), Select Package ($4,000), Advanced Package ($4,150).  Price as tested (including $1,045 destination charge): $50,695
Wheelbase: 113.2 in.
Length: 185.6 in.
Width: 75.2 in.
Height: 64.2 in.
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder (300 hp, 311 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 22 city, 28 highway

RATINGS
Style: 10
Performance: 9
Price: 10
Handling: 10
Ride: 8
Comfort: 7
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
The GV70 the most flawless new SUV to hit the luxury-car market in years. It feels ahead of its time.

Posted in Genesis

Tiguan Refreshed for 2022

Cargazing
By Derek Price

It’s interesting that Volkswagen’s best-selling vehicle is this one.
The Tiguan is a crossover, the most bland, derivative, cookie-cutter style of vehicle sold today — and also the most popular with buyers. VW, though, has spent decades building its brand reputation on being individual, different and fun, which is basically the opposite of every modern crossover.
How can this be?
The Beetle is no more, replaced by legions of Tiguan buyers who value practicality over spunk and originality.
An overhaul for 2022 tries to inject a bit more of that classic VW feel into the Tiguan, including the way it looks. Up front, its face looks more closely related to the brawny Atlas now, while the back end gets fresh LED tail lights and classy, spaced-out lettering.
The driving feel remains distinct in the segment, but in a subtle way. Power comes from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that feels like it belongs in the diminutive Golf more than something that tries to mimic the titanic Atlas. Its 184 horsepower is adequate, not exciting, just like its countless competitors.

Refreshed styling helps keep the Volkswagen Tiguan competitive in the compact crossover market. The Tiguan is VW’s best-selling vehicle, both in the United States and worldwide.

Its listed torque, 221 pound-feet, is much more impressive, and you can feel it when you first hit the gas pedal. The Tiguan lunges forward with an eagerness that many of today’s crossovers lack.
Inside, it focuses on another classic VW selling point: value.
The VW Digital Cockpit, which replaces traditional analog gauges with an LCD screen behind the steering wheel, is now standard equipment on every Tiguan. The top-level trim gets a screen a couple of inches larger.
Other standard features include push-button start with keyless entry, heated front seats and LED headlights. Even the base Tiguan lets you select different driving modes and comes with sensors to help prevent collisions in the front and sides.
One unusual thing about it is the interior layout that varies with the drivetrain.
If you choose the front-wheel-drive Tiguan, you automatically get three rows of seats. VW manages to squeeze in just enough space for some extra passengers in a pinch.
If you choose all-wheel drive, though, you only get two rows of seats standard. It leaves a generous amount of cargo space in back instead.

Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit is now standard equipment on every Tiguan. It replaces traditional analog gauges with a customizable digital display behind the steering wheel.

Volkswagen’s Travel Assist system on my tester worked as expected, controlling the vehicle’s speed and keeping it centered in lanes with little driver input. You still have to maintain awareness and keep some pressure on the steering wheel, but it does make driving for long periods of time, even in stop-and-go city traffic, more effortless.
Pricing is perhaps the Tiguan’s strongest point.
It starts at $25,995 for the base S model with front-wheel drive, making it extremely affordable for a three-row crossover.
The 4Motion all-wheel-drive version starts at $27,495, but again, you sacrifice the third row when you buy it. It doesn’t feel like quite as good a bargain because of that, but people who need the capability and confidence of AWD traction can still benefit from the choice.
Pricing tops out at $36,595 for the AWD SEL R-Line trim with more upscale content and sporty styling.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T SE ($30,995). Options: Premium paint ($395).  Price as tested (including $1,195 destination charge): $32,595
Wheelbase: 109.9 in.
Length: 186.1 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 66.5 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder (184 hp, 221 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 22 city, 29 highway

RATINGS
Style: 7
Performance: 6
Price: 10
Handling: 8
Ride: 5
Comfort: 6
Quality: 6
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
It puts VW’s spin on the popular crossover formula. A lot of standard features, including third-row seats in front-wheel-drive versions, make it a great value.

Posted in Volkswagen

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