What makes a vehicle a “crossover”? I thought I knew, and that it was some sort of small car-based SUV/tall wagon type vehicle, like a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. That being said, the CR-V, RAV4, and CX-5’s of this world fall more into the “cute-ute” camp rather than crossover, at least in my book. To take my misguided understanding a bit further, I consider cars like the XV Crosstrek, Volvo XC70, and Audi Allroad to be just jacked-up wagons. Suffice it to say, I don’t have a clear understanding of the definition of “crossover” in my own mind.
I just completed a two-week test of the all-new Ford Explorer Sport. It was a revelation. The last time I spent two weeks with a Ford Explorer—or, indeed, any time at all with an Explorer—was in 1996. I rented a handsome ice-blue version of the then-innovative SUV and drove from my new home in south-central Texas to do some book readings and meet up with family members in Washington, D.C.. (Ah, those were the days. K Street! The Mall! Billary in the White House!) It took, if memory serves, most of three days, with stops on the way in Hope, Arkansas, where a cornucopia of kitschy Clintoniana greeted the visitor to the great man’s birthplace, and the following night in some dump in Tennessee whose name escapes me because I deleted it from my memory banks as soon as it faded into the distance; I remember a dank motel, surly desk manager, ominous sounds in the night.
The last time Ford affixed a “SPORT” badge to its Explorer sport-utility vehicle, it was to distinguish the two-door model from the four-door. Some two decades after that vehicle’s launch, for 2013, the range-topping Explorer has been fitted with a hi-po, EcoBoost V-6. Would it be sufficient oomph to allow the Explorer to compete with the current crop of full-size SUVs?
With a long weekend of family camping planned, I tried to think of the perfect vehicle to request for a weeklong loan. Corvette? Not enough seats. Terrain? Not enough room for bikes. Sierra Denali HD? Plenty of size and space, but what if it rained and our gear got wet? Then it dawned on me: Suburban.
Next time you’re in the Kalahari Desert or the Hindu Kush, check out the cars. Chances are you’ll see two kinds: Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers, with maybe the odd Jeep Wrangler or Nissan Patrol lurking in the background. But if the UN peacekeeping forces are anywhere nearby, they’ll be exclusively in Land Cruisers, of which the UN has bought approx. 12,000 copies over the years. Why? That’s easy: Land Cruisers are big and practical and they don’t break down. Go-anywhere durability has been their stock in trade since 1953, when an early-model Land Cruiser scooted up Mount Fuji, setting a record for the first and highest automotive jaunt up Japan’s sacred mountain. “The Land Cruiser,” opined the New York Times, “may be the world’s most admired off-roader.”
How’s this for a crazy notion: Is Chrysler the new Hyundai? The answer, I think, is “no,” but there are some interesting parallels between two automakers who at face value probably could not be any more different. Specifically, I’m referring to the fact that recent Hyundais have been dramatically better than the models that they replaced. Where Hyundai previously sold cars mostly on the strength of its warranty coverage and price, its products are now improved to the point that they occupy positions among the class leaders.
The Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the best full-sized SUVs. It looks good, it rides well, it offers towing capabilities up to 8,500 lbs., and it can haul up to nine passengers, admittedly at a pinch for a couple of them; or two passengers and a bunch of stuff; or numerous variations on these themes. The first two rows—captain’s chairs in the LT and LTZ, split bench in the base LS—are very comfortable and have as much leg- and head room as most sedans but more wiggle room for shoulders and hips, because the hefty Tahoe is 6 ½ ft. wide. If you fold down the second row of seats and remove the third row (not without some heaving and grunting) the Tahoe boasts almost 109 cu. ft. of cargo space.
If it looks like a Mini, sounds like a Mini and drives like a Mini, is it truly a Mini? Last year, Autosavant tested this theory as implemented in the Mini Cooper S Countryman: the brand’s first true four-door crossover. Equipped with a six-speed manual, front-wheel drive and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the Countryman proved a capable defender of the brand, albeit stretched several sizes. But could it stand up to its competitors that offer all-wheel drive and turn the focus to technology?
Over the last week we have been driving around a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara edition. Like the large majority of the people who will buy, own, and drive one, we spent most of our time with the Jeep on paved surfaces. We have split this video review into three parts; the first part covers driving a Wrangler on the street. In the second, we take the Wrangler to an off road park to have some fun. In the third and final video, we show what’s involved in removing the Wrangler’s roof; it requires far more than just pushing a button.
By Kevin Miller
In previous writing here on Autosavant, I’ve gone on record with the fact that I’m not really a truck person. I like vehicles that feel maneuverable, go fast efficiently, and have just the right amount of space for my family and the things I want to take with me. Last year our family finally had to upsize from my Volvo V70, and the Ford Flex we chose seemed like a huge vehicle, though its dynamics that are more car-like than truck-like.
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