A Crossover On A Diet

By Derek Price

When I think of Cadillac, there’s one concept that never comes to mind: light weight.
Yet that’s exactly what the classic American luxury brand is focusing on as it designs vehicles for a new generation of upscale buyers, people more interested in Earth-friendly fuel economy and sporty handling than the fuel-guzzling barges their parents and grandparents bought.
The latest example is the XT5, an all-new crossover that replaces the good but not exceptional SRX.
The XT5 is 278 pounds lighter than its predecessor, despite offering more leg room inside and a more substantial presence at the curb, something that helps its fuel economy. Cadillac also likes to brag that the XT5 is 100 pounds lighter than the impressive Audi Q5 and a whopping 650 pounds lighter than the Mercedes-Benz GLE.
The result is a vehicle that has a more snappy, crisp driving feel than the SRX, although without quite as much snappiness as I’d hoped.

With wheels pushed closer to the corners and a sleek, sloping roofline, the all-new Cadillac XT5 has the looks to back up its sportier driving feel.

While the XT5 is competent in corners, and certainly an improvement over the old SRX, I never felt like it wanted to be pushed hard. It seems to moan and groan about it rather than yell “wheee!” like the best crossovers in this class do.
Even its seat belts feel squeamish about cornering. When you pull enough G-forces in a turn, just at the point things start to get fun, the active safety system yanks the seat belts tight around your body because it apparently thinks you’re going to die.
And that’s a shame, because this new chassis feels like it has the potential to be spectacular. If it came with GM’s sophisticated magnetic ride control, or maybe a high-performance V package, it could cross into the territory of the truly extraordinary.
As it is, it’s a dramatic improvement over its forebears and a compelling vehicle to cross-shop against the pricey European and Japanese luxury brands.
I liked a lot of things about my XT5 tester: the looks, cabin, acceleration and a seemingly endless list of high-tech bells and whistles.
I even like its CUE digital interface, something other critics frequently target. To me, the CUE touchscreen system seemed to work very quickly, looked beautiful and was easy to learn and understand.

Authentic materials in natural colors make the XT5’s cabin feel warm and inviting. It’s designed to look clean and simple for a relaxing, calming impression.

I didn’t find it as frustrating to use as Lexus’ next-generation system, for example, which makes you operate it with a touchpad as if your 2017 luxury car was a 1997 black plastic laptop.
Inside, the cabin is as finely crafted as any of the competition — not that there are any slouches in this highly competitive class. It has a clean, simple look that almost evokes Scandinavian minimalism, but with natural colors and textures that beg you to touch them.
Given Cadillac’s goal to make its crossover feel sportier, the decision for its new engine makes perfect sense. It utilizes the same delicious 3.6-liter V6 that powers the ATS and CTS sports sedans.
The result is an engine that revs quickly and bellows beautifully out the tailpipes when you ask it to exert itself. It makes 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, numbers that until recently would be associated with truck-like V8 engines. Yet its quick response and smooth, syrupy power delivery feel about as un-truck-like as you can get.
It feels less like an SUV and more like a sports sedan, which is exactly what Cadillac thinks the next generation of buyers will be looking for.
Pricing starts at $40,390 and ranges up to $63,890 for the Platinum trim.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum ($62,895). Options: Driver assistance package ($2,340). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $66,230
Wheelbase: 112.5 in.
Length: 189.5 in.
Width: 75 in.
Height: 66 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp, 271 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19 city, 27 highway


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

Why buy it?
It has an all-new design with impressive looks, performance and technology. It feels like a sportier, more upmarket product than the outgoing SRX it replaces in Cadillac’s rapidly improving lineup.

Posted in Cadillac

Nissan Slices Rogue

By Derek Price

Crossover vehicles are so popular right now that car companies are apparently dumping them into a food processor to slice and dice them into tiny segments.
The latest sliver? Nissan has chopped its fast-selling Rogue into a new variant, the Rogue Sport.
Just looking at the two in pictures, I struggle to tell the difference. They both have Nissan’s familiar crossover face and the slightly rakish roofline that’s so in vogue right now.
Pull out your measuring tape, though, and the differences become clear. The Sport’s wheelbase is about 2 inches shorter, and its overall length is over a foot shorter than the ordinary Rogue, Nissan’s top-selling vehicle.
That means there are some drawbacks but also some advantages.
On the plus side, the Rogue Sport is more maneuverable and easier to whip into tight parking spaces than the bigger Rogue. It feels like a good fit for urban drivers, singles or young couples who don’t need the extra cargo space and heft that bigger crossovers often require.
On the other hand, you lose some of the attributes that make the Rogue so popular and versatile: its third-row seat and ample cargo area.
In the Rogue, putting the third-row seat in place means you’re left with a paltry 9.4 cubic feet of cargo space. But at least you have the option to fold that back seat down to expand the volume to a generous 32 cubic feet. Fold both the second and third rows flat, and you’re left with an SUV-like 70 cubic feet of space for hauling your stuff.
In comparison, the Rogue Sport has 22.9 cubic feet with the second-row seat up and 61.1 with it stowed away.

A new variant of the Rogue, called the Rogue Sport, is more than a foot shorter in length than the popular Nissan.

Power is similarly chopped for the Rogue Sport, all the way down to 141 horsepower compared to 170 in its bigger cousin. You can definitely feel the difference when you step on the gas pedal, but you won’t see a huge benefit at the pump.
The Rogue Sport gets a government rating of 25 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway, just a 1-mpg improvement over the Rogue. Given the 20-percent power deficit, I’d hope for better numbers than that.
As a whole, though, it checks a lot of the boxes that contemporary buyers are looking for: sporty styling, more versatility than a small sedan, good gas mileage and well-designed technology for safety and connecting smartphones.
It comes standard with Siri EyesFree, and a suite of advanced safety features — adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection — can be added for an extra charge. Those cost a total of $570 as part of the Platinum package on my SL-grade tester.

Nissan’s “gliding wing” design gives the Rogue Sport’s cabin a symmetrical, roomy appearance.

On the outside, the Rogue Sport looks every bit an athletic, sophisticated crossover. It may be visually overreaching, though, given its four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission are anything but sporty.
Inside, it feels more spacious than its compact dimensions would suggest. Nissan’s designers use what they call a “gliding wing” motif to give it a symmetrical, visually cohesive look that makes it feel roomy and modern from the front seats.
Pricing starts at $21,420 for the Rouge Sport, which is $2,400 less than the bigger Rogue.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SL AWD ($27,420). Options: SL Premium Package ($2,280), Platinum Package ($570). Price as tested (including $835 destination charge): $31,240
Wheelbase: 104.2 in.
Length: 172.4 in.
Width: 72.3 in.
Height: 63.3 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four cylinder (141 hp, 147 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Xtronic CVT
Fuel economy: 25 city, 32 highway

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

Why buy it?
It’s a more maneuverable, city-friendly version of Nissan’s most popular vehicle, the Rogue.

Posted in Nissan

Durango Offers Differences

By Derek Price

If you want to find another vehicle like the Dodge Durango, good luck.
Yes, it’s a three-row SUV, but it’s nothing like, say, the Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot. That’s like assuming, because they both have two legs, that an ostrich is the same as Jennifer Lawrence.
Drive one. You’ll see.
The Durango has carved out a niche that no other vehicle occupies, perhaps for a good reason: it’s a weird mixture of half truck, half muscle car. Nobody else builds a vehicle quite like this one.
On the one hand, with V8 power available, it can do some of the same jobs as big, traditional SUVs such as the Chevy Tahoe. It can tow 6,200 pounds and has seats that fold down to leave cavernous space on moving day.

The Durango has a snarling nose that emphasizes its sinister side. With a HEMI V8 engine and sporty suspension tuning available, it’s in a muscle-SUV class by itself.

On the other, it rides relatively low to the ground and handles more like a sports car than a truck.
With rear-wheel drive and a suspension that keeps body roll in check, it can change direction faster than a politician after election day. That makes it more fun to push hard than any other big SUV, unless you want to spend crazy money on something with a Mercedes, BMW or Porsche badge.
The question, then, is how long an outlier vehicle like the Durango can exist when the mass market has moved elsewhere.
There’s no question that mainstream buyers today are flocking to fuel-efficient, car-like crossovers that sort of look like SUVs, albeit ones with gutless engines and indistinct, cookie-cutter styling. Those are the vehicles that are hardest for me to write about because they’re so darn similar, like I’m reviewing flavors for Vanilla Magazine.
The Durango presents a different challenge. How do you review watermelon chocolate? Well, if you like watermelon and you like chocolate, you’ll probably enjoy watermelon chocolate.
If you like trucks and you like muscle cars, you’ll probably enjoy the Durango.
Personally, I relish that mixture because it’s so unusual. It has its drawbacks, starting with city gas mileage ratings of 19 mpg with the base V6 and 14 with the V8, but the benefits are plentiful. The Durango is a do-it-all vehicle that can haul your kids, tow your toys and make you smile on weekend drives, complete with a throaty roar and tire smoke if you’re so inclined.
It even looks the part, with a sleek, wagon-like profile and front grille that goes beyond aggressive. It’s almost murderous.

Also available with red leather, the Durango R/T’s cabin has a driver-centered layout with good visibility and a solid, weighty feeling from the front seat.

Even Dodge’s lineup changes this year bring out its homicidal side. The Durango GT supplants the Limited trim as the new volume model, with a monochrome, sinister, car noir look.
A new appearance package on the upscale Citadel models adds — I’m not kidding — “anodized gunmetal” trim on the steering wheel and speakers.
The Brass Monkey package is back this year, too, something I hope they’ll consider renaming Brass Knuckles.
The black leather interior in my Durango R/T tester added to my bad-guy impressions, but not all Durangos are so stark. Some are downright warm and cozy, a testament to the Dodge interior design team’s creativity.
Pricing starts at $29,995 for the SXT trim with rear-wheel drive. You can tack on an additional $2,600 to get all-wheel drive if you need it.
Topping the lineup is the R/T model starting at $44,695. Fancy options pushed the price of my tester up to $51,560, including some that surprised me: a nicely sorted adaptive cruise control system and a Blu-Ray player in the back seat.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2017 Dodge Durango R/T RWD ($42,095). Options: Technology group ($2,295), rear DVD player ($1,995), trailer tow group ($995), Brass Monkey appearance package ($595), second-row captain’s chairs ($995), second-row console ($300), power sunroof ($1,195). Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $51,560
Wheelbase: 119.8 in.
Length: 201.2 in.
Width: 75.8 in.
Height: 70.9 in.
Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (360 hp, 390 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 14 city, 22 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 9
Price: 8
Handling: 8
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 4
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
With the optional HEMI V8 engine and sporty suspension, it’s an unusual combination of thrilling to drive and highly capable.

Posted in Dodge