All Encompassing

Cargazing
By Derek Price

You could buy six different cars to do what this vehicle does.

It’s an electric car that runs on battery power, a gasoline car for road trips, an all-wheel-drive SUV for icy roads, a commercial van for hauling bulky cargo, a family car for carrying kids, plus a luxury car with cooled leather seats and a cabin packed with gadgets.

Or you could one machine that does it all: the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle.

Its name is a mouthful, but it translates into a vehicle that plays more roles than a community theater troupe.

The base Pacifica is a fantastic starting point for people who want a practical, quiet, smooth-riding van. The Hybrid version makes it dramatically more fuel efficient, including a battery driving range of more than 30 miles.

That’s enough to use it like a Tesla, without burning a drop of gasoline, for the vast majority of American families in everyday driving. When you need to go on a road trip, though, you don’t have to worry about finding a charging station because the Pacifica Hybrid still has a gasoline engine under the hood.

The Chrysler Pacifica is available as a plug-in hybrid with an electric range of more than 30 miles, plus a gasoline engine for longer trips.

That means it uses a best-of-both-worlds approach that I wish more car companies would copy. Until this country installs more charging stations for battery-powered EVs, plug-in hybrids that also burn gas can let drivers enjoy the benefits of EVs without any road-trip drawbacks.

My tester also came with the Pinnacle trim level, a fitting name for the most sumptuous minivan on sale today. Its cabin comes with quilted Nappa leather seats, a suede headliner, berber carpeting and custom pillows that make the back seats look extra fancy.

This loaded-up, eco-friendly Pacifica does so many things well that it makes me wonder why I don’t see minivans clogging up U.S. freeways. Instead, our roads are stuffed full of SUVs and crossovers, which makes no logical sense whatsoever.

Unless you’re towing a heavy trailer or driving on trails, vans are better than SUVs in every measurable way.

Compared to the average SUV — or, heck, even pricey luxury SUVs — the Pacifica has a smoother ride, quieter cabin, burns less gas, carries bigger cargo, has roomier seating and is priced cheaper than anything of a similar size.

Still, a lot of people won’t consider a van for one simple reason: fashion.

While I think the Pacifica is as pretty as minivans come, it’s still a form-follows-function van at its core. It can’t hide that fact, nor should it.

Personally, I like that honesty. “I’m big. I’m square. I have sliding doors,” is more appealing than “I’m a wimpy car that’s pretending to be a truck.” Most modern buyers opt for the latter when they choose a crossover vehicle, picking style over substance.

The range-topping Pinnacle trim includes Nappa leather seating and a suede headliner.

There is one criticism of the Pacifica that has to do with substance, though: you can’t get one of its best features, Stow ’N Go seats, on the hybrid or Pinnacle versions.

The regular gasoline Pacifica can come with magical Stow ’N Go second-row seats that fold down into hidden wells in the floor, but the hybrid version ditches them for battery space. The Pinnacle swaps them for wider, more comfy captain’s chairs in the second row.

Fortunately, the third-row seat folds flat with a quick, simple motion. You also can remove the second-row seats when you need to haul huge cargo.

As a whole, I’m enamored with everything about the Pacifica. It does so many things so flawlessly that it makes me wish buyers would get over their style hangups and drive more vans like this. The world would be a greener, happier, more comfortable place.

Pricing starts at $37,095 for the Pacifica or $48,478 for the hybrid version. The luxurious Pinnacle starts at $54,167 for the gasoline model and closer to $60,000 for the plug-in Hybrid version.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle ($58,050). Options: Premium paint ($495), manual folding mirror credit (-$73). Price as tested (including $1,595 destination charge): $60,067
Wheelbase: 121.6 in.
Length: 204.3 in.
Width: 79.6 in.
Height: 69.9 in.
Powertrain: 3.6-liter V6, 16-kWh battery pack and dual electric motors (combined 260 hp)
Transmission: Continuously variable
Fuel economy: 82 MPG equivalent

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

Why buy it?
It’s a phenomenally comfortable and efficient way to move people and things.

 

Posted in Chrysler

Fresh and Reliable

Cargazing
By Derek Price
Life is short, it’s said. And in America, it’s getting even shorter these days.
Life expectancy in this country has dropped precipitously two years in a row, according to the Centers for Disease Control, at least in part because our waistlines continue to grow.
The redesigned Kia Sportage is trying to do the opposite: get portlier while lasting longer.
The Sportage, long considered a small crossover, grows a whole lot bigger after its clean-sheet overhaul for 2023. It’s about half an inch wider and taller than before, plus a whopping 7.1 inches longer. That’s perfect for us growing Americans.
Unlike our flabby, COVID-ravaged bodies, though, new Kias seem to be getter dramatically healthier recently.
For the first time ever, Kia is the No. 1 brand in J.D. Power’s widely-tracked Vehicle Dependability Study, which surveys owners over three years about how many problems they had with their vehicles.
If they were people, Kias would be cover models on fitness magazines.

More than seven inches longer than last year’s version, the all-new 2023 Kia Sportage is roomier and more refined than before.

That presents a problem for the Korean brand because it spent decades building the automotive version of me: balding, pudgy, middle-aged cars who definitely are not cover-model material.

The new Sportage does a lot to change that reputation. It’s still a good value, delivering ample content and space for the money.
At the same time, nothing about it feels cheap.
Its redesigned body looks gorgeous, at least by affordable-small-crossover standards. It’s sleek, contemporary and fresh without straying too far from the familiar crossover shape that sells bazillions of copies in America every year. I thought my tester looked especially handsome in matte gray paint.
If you’re on a hunt for the nicest cabin in a mainstream crossover, you’d be hard pressed to beat this one, too. After this redesign, the Sportage looks and feels a lot like a scaled-down version of its bigger, pricier sibling, the Telluride, which raked in awards after it hit the market a few years ago.
I think Kia’s interior designers hit a home run with this car. Granted, my tester was a loaded SX Prestige model with lots of features and some upgraded materials that could have swayed my perception, but if I covered up the Kia badge on the steering wheel, I’d swear I was sitting inside something expensive and German.

An optional panoramic curved display fuses two 12.1-inch screens together for a seamless digital look across the dash.

Part of that perception is because of the optional dual panoramic curved display that covers a huge part of the dash with digital screens. It seamlessly fuses two different 12.1-inch panels together to sweep from behind the steering wheel almost all the way over to the passenger side of the vehicle, something I’ve only seen in pricey, high-end luxury cars before now.

The price of my tester was around $38,000, hardly luxury territory, but it came equipped with a lot of the content I’d expect in a pricier car, including lane keeping assist, smart cruise control, a panoramic sunroof and ventilated seats.
One place it feels like Kia skimped is in performance, though. It’s not a quick vehicle, even with the upgraded hybrid drivetrain that delivers 227 horsepower between a turbocharged gasoline engine and an electric motor. It’s more about fuel efficiency than thrills.
Pricing starts at $26,290 for the 2.5-liter gasoline version and just $1,200 more for the hybrid, which offers better performance and fuel economy. I think it’s well worth the extra money.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2023 Kia Sportage SX-Prestige AWD ($36,190). Options: Matte gray paint ($595), carpeted floor mats ($155)  Price as tested (including $1,215 destination charge): $38,155
Wheelbase: 108.5 in.
Length: 183.5 in.
Width: 73.4 in.
Height: 65.4 in.
Powertrain: 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder and 44-kW motor (combined 227 hp, 258 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 38 city, 38 highwayRATINGS
Style: 9
Performance: 6
Price: 9
Handling: 7
Ride: 6
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
The Sportage has been completely redesigned for 2023 with more space, style, technology and refinement.

Posted in Kia, Uncategorized

Earth-Shaking Power

Cargazing
By Derek Price

Geologists use seismic waves to find out what happens in the center of the Earth. It’s how they figured out the planet has a solid iron core, for one thing.

If scientists need more of those Earth-shaking waves to light up their sensors, all they have to do is fire up this truck: the Ram TRX.

Everything about the TRX is geologic — except for the speed at which it moves.

Built around the stout frame of the Ram 1500, perhaps the best light-duty truck platform the world has ever seen, it packs a Hellcat engine under the hood and straps on an extreme-duty off-road suspension designed for blasting through the desert.

Heck, it can blast just about anywhere it wants. Nearly a foot of ground clearance, lots of suspension articulation and a 702-horsepower supercharged V8 mean there aren’t many places a TRX can’t go.

It’s the fastest gas-powered pickup in the world, much to the Ford F-150 Raptor’s chagrin. When you fire up the 6.2-liter Hellcat and feel all 6,350 pounds of the TRX rumble, it measures on the Richter scale.

A 702-horsepower engine powers the Ram 1500 TRX, the fastest gas-powered truck for sale today.

Environmentalists would be appalled at this truck, and that’s kind of the point. It’s all about excess, not meeting a transportation need, with a 10-mpg city fuel-economy rating to prove it.

My tester’s price tag came uncomfortably close to $100,000, which should help limit the environmental damage because so few people can afford it. I spent hundreds of dollars on gasoline — all premium grade, which this truck requires to deliver full power — during my week behind the wheel.

Granted, I didn’t go easy on the throttle. It’s my belief that if someone hands you the keys to a 702-horsepower vehicle, you have a moral obligation to use every one of those horses.

If seismologists are flummoxed about all the weird waves echoing through the Earth’s mantle this week, they can blame me.

Aside from the fuel bill and the constant fear that Greta Thunberg might shame me mercilessly on Twitter, I loved everything about my week driving this monster truck. It’s everything one would expect from a vehicle that is 8 inches wider than the already gargantuan Ram, powered by a muscle-car engine and riding atop a suspension that turns curbs, ruts and potholes into mirror-smooth glass.

Every TRX comes with a 12-inch touchscreen that dominates the center console.

Its interior is supple, solid and well-built as a luxury car. It’s reasonably comfortable and quiet on the highway. The bed is easy to configure when you need to do actual truck things, and the cabin is roomy and packed with thoughtful storage spaces, including back seats that flip up with a single touch for moving bulky cargo.

Every TRX comes with a massive 12-inch UConnect touchscreen in the center of the dash. It’s designed in a way that makes good use of all that digital acreage, letting you split the screen in multiple ways to do what you need.

Pricing for the TRX starts around $80,000, more than twice the cost of a base Ram 1500. With options and a hefty $1,795 delivery fee, my tester rang up at $98,780.

If you’re trembling right now, it might not be from sticker shock alone. It could also be because someone across the globe pressed the TRX’s start button and set off another earthquake.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Ram TRX Crew Cab 4×4 ($78,790). Options: Premium paint ($100), trailer tow group ($295), advanced safety group ($995), bed utility group ($945), two-tone paint ($250), carbon fiber package ($1,295), Level 2 equipment group ($10,295), twi-fold bed cover ($695), trailer mirrors ($445), TRX graphics ($495), rock rails ($995), hood graphics ($895), trailer reverse steering control ($495).  Price as tested (including $1,795 destination charge): $98,780
Wheelbase: 145.1 in.
Length: 232.9 in.
Width: 88 in.
Height: 80.9 in.
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8 (702 hp, 650 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 10 city, 14 highway

RATINGS

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 6
Handling: 5
Ride: 9
Comfort: 7
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
The TRX rumbles its way into the record books as world’s fastest gas-powered pickup truck. It’s an incredible machine for those who can afford to buy and fuel it.

Posted in Ram

Reviews

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