Hyundai Adds a Hybrid

By Derek Price

Hyundai is upping the appeal of its Santa Fe crossover with an all-new hybrid powertrain this year.
It’s an alluring option for people who want good gas mileage along with bang-for-the-buck value. My tester, a loaded Limited model with leather seats and a luxury-car level of driving aids, rang up around $40,000, making it one of the best bargains I’ve driven recently.
Purely in terms of fuel economy, the Santa Fe doesn’t stack up to a number of hybrid competitors. The federal government rates it at a combined 32 mpg in city and highway driving, a nice leap over the 24-mpg rating of its gas-only, all-wheel-drive cousin.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid carries a 40-mpg combined rating, though, while the Honda CR-V Hybrid hits 38.
In comparison, this new Hyundai shines in things that are harder to quantify: smoothness and sophistication.
To me, the Santa Fe feels like a more premium product than either the Honda or Toyota competitors. It responds faster and accelerates more authoritatively — admittedly not high on the priority list for hybrid shoppers — but also has a supremely quiet cabin that makes highway rides impressively pleasant, especially for this price point.

The Hyundai Santa Fe is updated for 2021 with fresh styling in front and back. The big news, though, is the addition of a hybrid model.

Switching between electric and gasoline power feels seamless, whether mashing the gas pedal at a green light or merging in highway traffic. It doesn’t have the anemic feeling that some hybrids suffer from for the sake of fuel economy.
All versions of the Santa Fe get a noticeable update for 2021 with a fresh look in the front and back, plus more standard equipment. The cabin also is cleaner now thanks to a new center stack and console design with electronic buttons to control the transmission.
Quilted Nappa leather gives the interior a high-end look. Coupled with a new design for door inserts and a suede-like headliner, the overall impression leaves more of a “wow” factor than most competitors at this price point.
So does the technology.

Electronic shift-by-wire transmission gear selectors free up space in the Santa Fe’s updated cabin.

The latest Santa Fe comes with all the requisite driver-convenience goodies either standard or optional. Hyundai’s Highway Drive Assist is so refined that it feels almost like the vehicle can drive itself, even though the driver needs to maintain full attention for safety.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available this year to make connecting smartphones easier. Even more impressive is the ability to pull forward or backward into parking spaces by remote control, making this the only vehicle in the segment with that capability.
Overall, the Santa Fe looks and feels more like a smaller version of the plush, outstanding Palisade SUV. The hybrid version draws even more comparisons with its silent acceleration.
Pricing starts at $33,650 for the Blue trim. The more full-featured SEL Premium is priced at $37,600, while the Limited tops the lineup at $39,950.
The gasoline-only Santa Fe starts at $27,000 and tops out at $42,450 for the fancy new Calligraphy trim with 20-inch wheels.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD ($39,950). Options: Cream white paint ($350), carpeted floor mats ($155).  Price as tested (including $1,185 destination charge): $41,640
Wheelbase: 108.9 in.
Length: 188.4 in.
Width: 74.8 in.
Height: 66.3 in.
Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine plus 44-kW electric motor (combined 225 hp, 195 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 33 city, 30 highway

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

Why buy it?
It’s a smooth, sophisticated two-row crossover. The new hybrid powertrain delivers better fuel economy without sacrificing much performance.

Posted in Hyundai

A Different Path

By Derek Price

Toyota knows its truck buyers don’t necessarily follow the pack.
While Ford, General Motors and Ram dominate the American full-size pickup market, the all-new Toyota Tundra takes a decidedly contrarian path with a total redesign for 2022.
In some ways, it’s more like those American-brand trucks that drive such big sales numbers — and profits — for the companies that build them. It’s roomier, bolder, stronger, tougher and more capable than ever before, following the same playbook domestic trucks have used for decades. Those descriptors are familiar.
At the same time, the new Tundra takes a controversial and unprecedented path by omitting the one thing every other full-size truck offers: a V8 engine.
Will full-size pickup buyers embrace a truck that doesn’t offer a V8? It’s an open question.
To be sure, the powertrain Toyota fitted to its new truck is as impressive as any eight-cylinder competitor. The 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 makes 389 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, enough to make the 5,095-pound truck feel noticeably quicker than the outgoing Tundra.
It’s also impressively refined. Toyota’s former V8 was spectacularly smooth, but the new turbo V6 feels even smoother to me. Coupled with a 10-speed automatic transmission, its driving experience is as robust and responsive as any truck on the market.

A huge grille opening and muscular fenders are among the many dramatic changes on the Toyota Tundra. It is completely redesigned for 2022.

Part of that refined feeling comes from another unconventional change: ditching the old leaf-spring suspension. Like the latest Ram 1500, the new Tundra uses coil springs in back, which deliver a more buttery, less bouncy ride than leaf springs do. The ride is so much more appealing that I predict all the truck makers will get rid of the old leaf-spring designs within the next few years.
Soon the Tundra will get even more muscular, too. Toyota says it will offer a hybrid version of the powertrain that uses electrific motors to boost its output all the way to 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet.
The new Tundra is rated to tow up to 12,000 pounds or haul 1,940 pounds of cargo. That’s more than the outgoing version but doesn’t quite match some domestic trucks’ numbers including the current crown-holder, the Ford F-150, with its 14,000-pound tow rating and 3,250-pound payload capacity.
Finally, the 2022 Tundra looks completely fresh inside and out.
Toyota is proud of the fact that the Tundra is a thoroughly American product. It’s built in Texas and was designed by teams in California and Michigan specifically to appeal to American buyers, and you can sense that everywhere you look.

The all-new Tundra has a contemporary, tech-focused cabin that is a major upgrade over the outgoing model.

The new body mimics the same “bigger is better” philosophy that domestic brand trucks are taking to extremes lately, with a grille that is comically large and an upright stance that looks like it’s trying to both intimidate and imitate the 18-wheelers that crowd American highways.
It drives the tough-guy point home with fender flares and a bulging hood.
Inside, everything about the Tundra is a dramatic upgrade. Materials are soft. Construction is tight and precise. The layout is logical and comfortable, right down to little details like the wide, comfy shelf where your arm can rest by the window.
It’s also thoroughly modern. Like all the best contemporary cars, a huge digital touchscreen takes center stage with an array of useful and entertaining features, including wireless connection to smartphones and a number of new aids for towing and off-road driving.
Toyota has not released pricing for the new Tundra. The outgoing 2021 model starts at $34,025 and tops out at $53,400 for the off-road-focused TRD Pro.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Toyota Tundra (pricing not yet announced)
Wheelbase: 145.7 in.
Length: 233.6 in.
Width: 80.2 in.
Height: 78 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (389 hp, 479 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: Not yet rated

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

Why buy it?
A total redesign gives the Tundra a very modern, capable upgrade for 2022. A new, bold look and sophisticated turbocharged V6 headline the many changes.

Posted in Toyota

Yukon Redesigned for Tomorrow

By Derek Price
GMC has created a new generation of its giant, range-topping Yukon and Yukon XL SUVs that are equal parts predictable and surprising.
On the predictable side, the new Yukon follows the same big-SUV formula it’s stuck with for more than a decade: mounting a spacious, car-like cabin atop a stout, truck-like frame. Its ability to do car things and truck things in one comfortable vehicle continues to be its biggest selling point.
If you like surprises, though, look at the gas mileage rating it earned when fitted with an optional Diesel engine. The federal government rates it at 27 mpg on the highway and 21 in city driving.
The 4×4 version drops those numbers down by 1 mpg, but it’s still shocking to me that a vehicle this big can be that efficient. It gets better mileage ratings than some 1997 Honda Accords with a four-cylinder engine, according to That blows my mind.
My test drive in the fancy Denali trim of a new Yukon XL showed technology marching forward in other ways, too. It has more digital real estate now, including a big, 10.2-inch touchscreen and an improved head-up display that can project all kinds of useful information onto the windshield.

The GMC Yukon has an all-new design with upgrades befitting a fresh generation. More digital screens inside, a redesigned rear suspension and exclusive Denali interior treatments are among the changes.

Denali models also get, for the first time ever, their own unique interior treatment. The layout of the instrument panel, second row of seating and color choices are all exclusive to the Denali, helping it fight off an influx of new competitors, including the redesigned Lincoln Navigator and fresh-on-the-scene Grand Wagoneer from the people at Jeep.
After having spent time inside all of them, the Grand Wagoneer’s cabin strikes me as being the best of this very luxurious bunch. It has an Achilles heel that the Yukon can exploit, though.
Yes, it’s back to fuel economy again.
The most upscale Jeep is only available with one engine, and it happens to be a gas pig rated for 13 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway. A Yukon with the Diesel engine starts to look downright thrifty in comparison.
It’s not a bad powertrain, either. Coupled with a 10-speed automatic transmission, it shifts and scoots with authority, moving the 6,088-pound vehicle around as if it’s much lighter.
I was surprised to see the turbocharged, 3.0-liter, six-cylinder Diesel in my Yukon XL tester only makes 277 horsepower. It feels like a whole lot more from the driver’s seat thanks to its brawny 460 pound-feet of torque.
It’s a beast of an engine for off-the-line acceleration, yet its Diesel clatter noise is kept to a reasonable level even under full throttle.

The upscale Yukon Denali gets its own exclusive cabin, including a special instrument cluster layout and four unique color choices.

You can opt for insanely big, 22-inch wheels on the Yukon Denali that would look perfect in Drake’s next music video, but if you do I’d recommend getting the Air Ride suspension, too. Wheels that huge tend to wreck the smooth ride that makes vehicles like this feel so buttery on the highway.
Not only does the Air Ride suspension help smooth out the ride, but it also can lift the vehicle an extra 2 inches for off-road driving.
The new-generation Yukon also fixes one of its longstanding weak points. An independent rear suspension helps with comfort over uneven pavement and creates more space in the cabin, including a dramatically lower floor for loading cargo into the back. That alone is a huge improvement.
Pricing starts at $51,995 for the SLE with rear-wheel drive. Opting for the 4×4 system adds another $3,000.
The new Yukon AT4 trim, designed to mix serious off-roading with luxurious amenities, is priced at $66,095. The full-blown-luxury Denali models start just under $70,000.
All Yukon trims also are available in longer-wheelbase XL versions for more cabin space.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 GMC Yukon XL Denali ($74,370). Options: Premium paint ($645), Denali premium package ($6,500), max trailering package ($415), premium capability package ($1,795). Price as tested (including $1,695 destination charge): $85,420
Wheelbase: 134.1 in.
Length: 225.2 in.
Width: 81 in.
Height: 76.5 in.
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel (277 hp, 460 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 20 city, 26 highway

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

Why buy it?
It’s completely redesigned with today’s best technologies packed inside, including a surprisingly efficient Diesel engine option.

Posted in GMC