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2016 Ford Escape is about to walk the plank

Just a few months ago, Ford announced a mild-refresh to the popular 2017 Ford Escape. While we have not yet been able to drive this refreshed compact crossover, I just took its outgoing 2016 model for a drive. The “lame duck” Escape impressed me far more than I would have expected. With the new-ish 2017 model just around the bend, no doubt dealerships will begin selling this exact model at a big discount in the near future. If you’re in the market for a compact crossover, listen up.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4X4 Diesel – ‘Murican luxury done right

If you are shopping for the most luxurious 5-passenger sport-utility vehicle you can find that can also tow the SS Minnow to the shore without breaking a sweat, look no further. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 comes with an interior as refined as the best Lexus can offer while having the off-road ability of a Range Rover and towing capability of a pickup.  Driving this vehicle will make you very quickly forget everything you thought you knew about who the leaders in sport utility luxury are.

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Driven: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4

We never turn down the opportunity to drive a Jeep Wrangler.  Despite being a poor choice for a daily commuter, it’s one of our all-time-favorite rides. Why do we love it so much? It’s awesome at going off-road. We took one for a spin to see what’s new for 2013 and also drove down one of New Hampshire’s many non-maintained Class 6 roads. Let’s go for a ride.

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First Drive: 2010 GMC Terrain

Think of it as the bold alternative to the Chevy Equinox- We’re behind the wheel of the new (and surprisingly great) 2010 GMC Terrain.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 GMC Terrain

A few days ago we had the opportunity to test out the new 2010 Terrain through the winding roads of Michigan in the suburbs of Detroit. Sampling both the V6 and I4 variants in SLE and SLT trim levels.  After spending the good part of a day in and around the Terrain- here’s our first impressions.  We’re scheduled to test out the Terrain in full here at the office in just a few weeks, so stay tuned for a more in depth road test.

Strengths

  • Extremely solid and well composed ride soaks up bumps and always feels in control
  • Well designed seats are extremely supportive and comfortable
  • Four-cylinder/front-wheel-drive fuel economy (32mpg) is good enough to make this a replacement for a car

Weaknesses

  • Exterior styling that’s not for everyone
  • Base price is over $2k more expensive than the Equinox

We also appreciated

  • Noise canceling technology in the four-cylinder model makes it a quieter ride than the V6
  • Rear view camera is standard across all trim levels
  • USB audio / iPod interface – standard
  • Brownstone interior treatment (seen below) looks rich and upscale
  • Three highly textured cloth seat options

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 GMC Terrain

Conclusion

Move over Toyota, Ford, &  Honda- a new competitor has hit the small/midsize SUV landscape and is every bit worth a look.  Featuring a solid drive, premium interior materials, and shockingly great fuel economy(I4/FWD), the 2010 Terrain is sure to make some converts out of people who had previously sworn off American automobiles.  Amazingly well executed.

Specifications

Base Price: $24,995 [SLE1/FWD] – includes destination
Engine: 2.4L Direct Injection I4 or 3.0L Direct Injection V6
Power: [I4] 182-horsepower/172lb-ft torque , [V6] 264-horsepower/ 222lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (standard)
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy (city/highway)
I4/FWD: 22/32mpg
I4/AWD: 20/29mpg
V6/FWD: 17/25mpg
V6/AWD: 17/24mpg

First Drive Gallery

Mercedes nears almost perfection with the all-new 2010 GLK compact SUV

Finally, Mercedes has made an everyday SUV that is rave worthy. I could go on for hours about the G wagon, which could probably drive on the moon, but that’s not considered a daily driver SUV by most of us.

No, the Mercedes SUV that has left me impressed is the new 2010 GLK 350. It’s the first in the Mercedes lineup that drives like a Mercedes sedan. It’s the Mercedes for the person who wants to combine an SUV with the legendary luxury of the Mercedes sedan. To me, it’s the Mercedes C class you wouldn’t mind getting dirty.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

Lest anybody accuse me of plagiarism, I want to include this quotation from the Mercedes press material verbatim because it is spot on: “At first glance, the new GLK appears to be a smaller version of the GL, but a closer look reveals a modern interpretation of the iconic G-Class. In sharp contrast to the relatively soft forms of other similar-sized vehicles, the striking, angular nose of the GLK sets it apart from the competition.”

Not quite sure the politically correct way to put this, but Mercedes SUVs (except for the G wagon) are pretty wimpy looking. They tend to say “Bloated sedan coming through.” They lack attitude. I like the GLK because it doesn’t strive for anonymity. It makes a bold statement just like Mercedes used to make with everything it sold. OK, time to steal one more line from the press kit: “(T)he bullish shape of the new GLK suggests power and agility.”

The GLK350 is powered by 268-horsepower, a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 258 lb-ft of torque. It leaves a driver wanting for nothing in any situation. Mercedes says its 0-60 time is a downright spirited 6.5 seconds for its two-ton weight. This is a true Autobahn crawler so it likes to run along seamlessly at 80 mph forever. So, it’s best to use cruise control, especially during a holiday weekend.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

There’s just one problem. The cruise control system Mercedes has is despicable. It’s a stick on the left side of the steering wheel that your fingers constantly think are the turn signals. Now, I read a surprising statistic recently that only 10 percent of drivers use their turn signals, but I’m still old fashion. About the only time I don’t use them is when I’ve inadvertently engaged the cruise control instead.

The GLK also presents a comfortable level of safety. Standard equipment includes front and side air bags as well as window and knee air bags. The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system comes with electronic stability control and adaptive braking, which features hill-start assist, priming of the brake system for more spontaneous response in the event of panic braking and using braking to dry the discs in wet weather. An additional safety boost comes from the headlight system with integrated cornering light function and headlamp assist.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

I’m a bulky guy so I don’t complain when a vehicle presents a challenge because I’m the problem. However, I do like compact vehicles that welcome my entrance. The GLK 350 is an easy vehicle to get in and out of. Passenger comfort is great. Two six footers can sit behind one another comfortably as demonstrated during a recent press trip to upstate New York.

I was at Bear Mountain to take part in an International Motor Press Association event called Spring Brake (clever name, don’t you think?). Anyway, the day involved the opportunity to drive up to 55 different makes and models. At the end of the day, I found myself wanting to get behind the wheel of the GLK. I liked it so much that I finagled an extra day in it.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

The one thing I don’t like about the GLK, but mostly because I’m cheap, is its required 91 octane. This SUV would be perfect in my book if it ran on 87 octane (or better yet came in a diesel version). It’s EPA rated at 16-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. Neither number is going to blow your socks off, especially with the more expensive recommended fuel.

The new GLK350, with standard 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, is priced at $35, 900, plus an $875 destination fee. The GLK350 with rear-wheel-drive is priced at $33,900 plus the $875 delivery fee. Frankly, I don’t find this pricey at all for a Mercedes SUV.

(Questions and comments about this review and other automotive concerns can be e-mailed to [email protected] All queries are answered.)

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 Specifications

Wheelbase: 108.5 inches
Length: 178.3 inches
Width: 79.4 inches
Height: 66.9 inches
Curb weight: 4036 lbs.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 268 hp
Torque: 258 lb. ft.
EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 16/22
Base price: $33,900
As-tested price: $35,900
Also consider: Acura RDX, Mazda CX7, Volvo XC60

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 Photo Gallery

Road Test: 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid

If there was ever a vehicle that portrayed what may be the ultimate paradox it may be the 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid.

And, yeah, that thang’s got a Hemi, too.

Take one full-size SUV that has three rows of seating, can tow up to 6,000 pounds, boasts 385 horsepower from a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine and toss in a two-mode hybrid setup to boost in-town gas mileage and provide 20/22 EPA estimates from the 27-gallon gas tank and you’ve got the Durango Hybrid. During the past week, the trip computer registered 20.4 miles per gallon overall during more than 600 miles of mixed driving.
That figure, of the estimates guessed by many who offered sympathy at the size of the land-locked Leviathan on wheels, surprised everyone at its relative miserly way.

2009 Dodge Durango with highlighted Two-Mode Hybrid System

Utilizing a two-mode hybrid setup, the big Durango takes advantage of a fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System (MDS) technology. Total output, when combined with the advanced two-mode hybrid system, is 400 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque – the most powerful hybrid SUVs. This mechanical magic results, according to Chrysler, at a 25 percent increase in city mileage and 40 percent overall.

The hybrid system, which was developed with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, delivers a “two-mode” full hybrid system by integrating proven automatic-transmission technology with a patented hybrid-electric drive system.

The two modes in the hybrid system result from low- and high-speed electric continuously variable transmission (ECVT) modes. During the two ECVT modes, the system uses electric motors for acceleration, improving fuel economy, or for regenerative braking to utilize energy that would normally be lost during braking or deceleration. The energy is stored in a 300-volt battery pack for later use. The system’s two modes are optimized for city and highway driving. The setup includes four fixed gear ratios for “efficiency” and power-handling capabilities.

The first mode is designed for low speeds and light loads. In this mode, the vehicle can operate in three ways: electric power only, engine power only, or any combination of engine and electric power.

In city use, up to about 20 mph, Durango runs off battery power, sounding like an oversized golf cart until the Hemi kicks in.
The second mode is used primarily at highway speeds. The second mode provides full power from the HEMI when needed, such as passing, pulling a trailer or climbing a steep grade. Durango’s 380 lb.-ft. of torque is more than enough for low-end grunt pulling.

A controller determines when to use the first or second mode and shifts the torque as needed.

A 300-volt battery pack powers the system without crabbing interior room – which is cavernous to say the least. A rectifier located under the hood converts AC to DC in order to power conventional 12-volt accessories, including interior lighting, climate control and the audio system.
The MDS system shifts the engine from using all eight cylinders to four, depending upon the power required. A light green hard-to-see and read dash light displays a needle showing when the economy is at its best while cruising.

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid

Though Chrysler, aka Dodge, claims the MDS shifts back and forth seamlessly, and a CVT transmission is supposed to provide seamless shifting up and down the band range I found otherwise.

MDS did not work behind the scenes without interfering with the ride, noise or being noticeable. Neither did the CVT. This was surprising because other vehicles with similar setups rode and drove as advertised. Instead, I found that slower traffic along Route 33 and through Market Square caused Durango to constantly hunt and search for the right speed and setting. Disengaging or changing it up was noticeable and disappointing.

Despite its largess – which is another disappointing factor since it was originally introduced in 1998 as the perfect midsized SUV – measuring nearly 18 feet long and weighing 5,553 pounds empty, Durango was rather light on its feet, aided by power rack-and-pinion steering. Of course, turning or parking in any parking area will be a challenge, but is aided by the rearview camera in the tailgate.

To support a vehicle of this size one needs 18-inch standard tires and a stiff suspension for its fulltime 4×4 ability. Thus, the independent front suspension and rear coil springs with a solid rear axle provided a torsionally stiff and somewhat jarring ride when it came to rough road and railroad tracks. Much more vibration was transmitted into the cab that I had expected and found acceptable given today’s standards.

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid

There’s little to want in the way of options in Durango and it comes loaded with a price tag as big as its profile: $44,540 with $800 additional for delivery. Toss in a tow package, power sunroof and a rear seat video package and the sticker soared to $48,410 for a vehicle that might have been a technical marvel 3 or 4 years ago but is viewed with disdain today.

For someone with a large speedboat, horse trailer or family that skies and needs the 102.4 cu. ft. provided with the rear seats folded down, (68.4 c.f with the seats up) it’s a workhorse.

But for the company trying to find its way back to what made it what it was when the Bobs – Eaton and Lutz – ran it, an oversized Durango and a hybrid edition Hemi are the wrong mixes at the wrong time.

2009 Dodge Durango Specifications As Tested

Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI® Hybrid, OHV, V-8 with Multi-displacement System (MDS)
Power Output: 345 hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 380 lb.-ft. @ 4200 rpm
Electric Motor Output: 87 hp
Torque: 235 lb.-ft.
Type: 2 AC synchronous electric motors
Voltage: 300 V max
Battery Power Output: 40 hp
Voltage: 300 V
Type: Sealed Nickel-metal hydride
Total Power Output: 385 hp
Emission Control: Dual three-way catalytic converters, heated oxygen sensors, electronic EGR and internal engine features
MILEAGE: 19/20 mpg (city/hwy)
Transmission: Two-mode Hybrid
Wheelbase: 119.2″
Length: 202.1″
Width: 76.0″
Height: 73.6″
Base Price: $44,540
Delivery: $800
Options: $3,070
As tested: $48,410

2009 Dodge Durango Photo Gallery