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This month on MotorWeek we take our first in-depth look and drive in the Tesla Model 3, the “affordable” battery-electric car from the most famous car brand that didn’t sell its first car until a decade ago. That first car was the Tesla Roadster, a two-seater EV built on a highly modified Lotus chassis. We tested a Tesla-supplied Roadster press car in 2011 and called it “a milestone electric vehicle.” But, I guess our rave review wasn’t good enough for Tesla since we’ve never gotten a factory test car since. That puts us in the same boat as many others in the automotive press. All of the subsequent Tesla tests on MotorWeek, the Model S sedan and Model X crossover, have been either owner’s cars or from a dealer.
That brings us to the Tesla Model 3. While we have been in and around the compact Model 3 since it first became available, once again an owner was kind enough to let us extensively evaluate their personal car. What we found, however, was pretty impressive.
We think it is fitting that Tesla chose Model 3 as the name for their entry-level EV, as they are looking to do for battery electric sedans what the BMW 3 Series has done for sport sedans, namely, to become the EV benchmark for others to follow.
Other than lacking an upper grille slot, the compact Model 3 bares a strong resemblance to the larger Model S. Its slick front end leads to a very big windshield; where the arching roofline flows hatchback-like to a very short rear deck and tall back end.
Body panel fitment is not as great as what you’d find in the typical luxury car, but we hear improvements are being made as production continues to ramp up.
The interior is surprisingly pleasant; new era minimalism at its finest. Just a long linear dash with air vents, a steering wheel with two stalks, and a horizontal touch screen jutting out of that IP. No buttons, dials, knobs, to be found, save for some programmable scroll wheels on the steering wheel.
All info is displayed on that 15-inch center video panel, and there’s a wealth of it; however, it is fixed and cannot be tilted towards the driver.
On the road, the ride is well composed, with a solidly tight but not jarring ride. It indeed drives much like a European sport sedan. There is a somewhat noisy rear suspension, mostly noticeable because of the lack of engine noise. But, with an output of 271-horsepower the Model 3 is quite fast.
Our rear-driver was equipped with the Long Range battery pack, which is the only one available right now. Tesla doesn’t provide exact specs, but it is rated in the neighborhood of 70-kWh. Base 50-kWh models, as well as twin-motor all-wheel drive versions, will be added into the production mix later this year. There’s 310-miles of range with the bigger battery. Range for the base model is 220-miles.The government gives the Model 3 MPGe Ratings of 136-City, 123-Highway, and 130-Combined.
For more of our impressions of the 2018 Tesla Model 3, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3736 that begins airing May 11, 2018. For a listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable network.
The Tesla Model 3 is the best convergence of high technology and the practical automobile that we’ve yet seen. While the future for Tesla, the car company, is still a little cloudy, one thing is crystal clear; the Model 3 is here today, and will be the populous EV benchmark for years to come.
Road Test: 2019 RAM 1500
Goss' Garage: Transmission Fluid Flush
FYI: Katzkin Interiors
Long Term Update: 2018 Honda Odyssey | 2017 Kia Niro
Motor News: IIHS Crash Tests | EV Rules
Road Test: 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Podcasts: The “Green Car” Podcast (Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-Pace, Kia Niro PHEV, MINI Countryman PHEV)
In Podcast 180, John Davis and the MotorWeek crew are talking all about green cars! They review the Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-Pace, Kia Niro PHEV, and Mini Cooper S E Countryman Plug-In Hybrid. Then, they discuss a lightning round about your phone replacing your car keys, and they answer a viewer question about minivan features.
Engine: 3.6 liter / 5.7 liter
Horsepower: 305 / 395
Torque: 269 lb.-ft. / 410 lb.-ft.
EPA: 15 mpg city / 21 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 19.4 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 8.6 tons/yr
Things have seldom been easy for the Ram. You know, Detroit’s other truck brand that’s not Ford or Chevy. But things have certainly been looking up lately; as Ram’s full-size pickup sales have been steadily increasing, even outselling the Chevrolet Silverado a few months along the way. So, let’s see if an all-new 1500 is “Ram Tough” enough to muscle its way permanently up the ranks.
It was the 3rd gen Dodge Ram that really got the ball rolling for the brand when it arrived for 2002. Ushering in firsts like Mega Cab and the return of Hemi power. 2009 saw a 4th gen. debut with all-coil spring suspension and side-saddle Ram Box storage. Now, 2019 sees the most all-new Ram 1500 in decades, one that FCA hopes will usher in a whole new era of power, comfort, and utility for today’s truck buyers.
Much like Ford, the 1500 went on a weight loss plan, though not as drastic, shaving only about 225-lbs; mostly due to more high-strength steel in the frame, with aluminum for the tailgate and some suspension parts.
The frame is still stronger, however, boosting payload to 2,300-lbs., and max towing capacity to 12,750.
The exterior look is smoother, yet still has a hint of the big rig look of the 90’s. No more crosshairs, just lots of big Ram letters and a new seemingly Transformers-inspired Ram head logo.
We much prefer the Rebel’s, blacked-out malice. And spent some time doing some nastiness of our own in the Arizona desert. The Rebel’s off-road capabilities take a small step up; its 1-inch of lift now come from hardware, not simply pumping up the air spring suspension as before. You also get a locking rear differential, unique Bilstein shocks, skid plates, and updated electronics. It’s still not on the same flight plan as Ford’s Raptor, but now at least on the radar screen.
The Ram 1500 was already the best riding rig in the full-size pickup ranks due to the only 4-corner air suspension out there; new Frequency Response Damping for this year, takes it up one step further.
Front brake rotors are now 14.9-inches, the biggest in the segment.
For now, only the two gas engine options return and their output stays the same; which means 305-horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque for the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, and 395-horsepwer and 410 lb.-ft. of torque from the 5.7-liter HEMI V8.
Both get an eTorque mild hybrid system with a 48-volt battery pack that enables auto stop/start, boosts overall efficiency, and even provides a little extra torque. It’s standard with the V6, optional on the HEMI. No word yet if or when a diesel will return.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for a HEMI 4X4 are 15-City, 21-Highway, and 17-Combined. No official ratings for the 3.6-liter just yet. So the HEMI’s Energy Impact Score is slightly worse than average at 19.4-barrels of yearly oil use, with CO2 emissions of 8.6-tons.
We spent most of our Arizona-based early drive time with the HEMI, and it felt just as powerful as always, though we don’t remember the gas pedal being this sensitive, which seems a little out of place in a big truck. There’s a new 850-watt electric fan to cool it, and it’s very noticeable when it kicks in.
Transmission remains an 8-speed automatic, and everything is still put in motion with a dash-mounted rotary shifter; but operation has gotten much quicker, making 3-point turns less stressful. Otherwise, in normal driving, the transmission behaves fairly well.
Active noise cancelling seemed to keep road noise to a minimum, though we did hear some wind noise in our pre-production test vehicle.
The upgraded interior of the 1500 is otherwise most impressive. We loved the available 4th generation of FCA’s UConnect touchscreen, now 12-inches in size. It remains logical and responsive as always. Front seats are very comfortable and top-line Limited trim is simply exquisite. Both Crew and Quad cabs are available, with the most interior space in the segment.
Base pricing is $33,340 for a 2-wheel-drive Tradesman; which you probably won’t buy unless you are indeed a tradesman. Most will find a Ram 1500 that slots between there and the Limited 4X4’s $59,035.
Well, just when it looks like things are set to really take off for the 2019 Ram 1500, there’s an inconvenient truth, that an all-new Chevrolet Silverado is arriving at almost the same time. So, FCA had better make some hay while the sun’s shining. It’s still the best cruiser with a bed out there, but it will take a lot more than that to permanently take silver home.
Engine: 3.0 liter
Torque: 332 lb.-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.8 seconds @ 100 mph
EPA: 18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 15.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 7.1 tons/yr
We suspect that among the reasons that station wagons don’t sell that well in the U.S. is because they are usually so boring! Now I know Volvo, BMW and others have made attempts to counter that in the past. And, now there is another marque trying to change perception. It’s Jaguar with their anything but boring XF Sportbrake! It’s crossover-like utility in a gorgeous package. Now let’s see how it performs.
To find out how we arrived at this 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake, we have to go back to the mid-20th century. At that time, station wagons were the family vehicle of choice. But, in the 1980’s, wagons gave way to minivans, which gave way to SUVs in the 1990’s, followed by crossovers in this century.
While all of this was happening here in the U.S., European families were making due with wagons and hatchbacks the whole time. But, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is much more than just “make due”.
Our “look at me” red test car is one slick-looking 5-door, you might even call it sexy; sitting atop the 2nd gen XF chassis. And while Jaguar didn’t make the last gen Sportbrake available here in the states, this generation XF wagon was designed with an eye towards the U.S. market from the get-go.
Jaguar thinks there are now enough high rollers here who want the space of a four-season crossover without the utility “baggage” as it were.
So accordingly, it comes in S trim only; which means a supercharged V6 engine with all-wheel-drive, sport body kit, self-leveling air suspension, and 20-inch wheels, they’re all standard, no penny-pinchers need apply.
Most measurements are the same as the XF sedan, but Jag has done fairly extensive work; taking weight out where it can to minimize any gains from the full-length roof, complete with standard roof rails and a large glass panel.
The storage area is, of course, different, 31.7 cubic-ft., over 50% larger than the sedan’s trunk space, and just a couple of cubic-ft. shy of their F-Pace midsize crossover; max cargo with seats folded is 69.7 cubic-ft.
Much like the sedan, the Sportbrake could use a nicer interior. Things appear fairly plain for a luxury car; and while we’ve finally gotten Jag’s Touch Pro multimedia system mostly figured out, it’s far from our favorite system.
By now, we’re very familiar with the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that powers the Sportbrake. And it feels like a monster as always, whipping up the same 380-horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque here as it does in the F-Pace.
It’s a great engine indeed, working in conjunction with a ZF 8-speed automatic.
Both brought the goods home at our test track, as there was a strong launch with great traction off the line. We hit 60 in 5.3-seconds.
Power builds quickly and steadily as the RPMs climb, but it seems to save a little bit extra, for when you get to the upper registers. Shifts are firm and direct without being jarring. The ¼-mile was completed in 13.8-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour.
When it comes to handling, the Sportbrake is solid, capable, and willing the way that few crossovers can be. It’s not that it’s a lightweight, coming in right around 2-tons; but it sure doesn’t feel that heavy, weaving in and out of the cones with very minor understeer. It’s just a pleasurable experience that’s more akin to a sport sedan, with a low center of gravity, all-wheel-drive grip, and great responsiveness to your inputs.
We even had a chance to drive our Sportbrake through some substantial winter weather, and found it ridiculously good in snow; as we were driving near posted speed limits on snow-covered roads without any issues.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 18-City, 25-Highway, and 21-Combined, so we were quite pleased with a 24.0 miles-per-gallon average on Premium. Just slightly below average for the Energy Impact Score, at 15.7-barrels of oil burned and 7.1-tons of CO2 emitted annually.
Base pricing of $71,445, firmly puts it into the premium category, versus the mainstream family utility.
And since Jaguar doesn’t exactly sell a whole lot of XF sedans, a wagon version is not likely to set any sales records either. However, a highly satisfying, right-sized, premium, cargo-hauling piece of luxury, that helps you remember the joy of driving, and truly feels like something special; well now, they might have something there. And that something is the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake.
By now you all know that there is no such thing as any fluid on an automobile that lasts forever. Also you should know that there is no such thing as a sealed automatic transmission. Now what am I getting at here?
Automatic transmission fluid doesn’t last forever. Transmissions need to be flushed and that should be done every 2-3 years or 24-36,000 miles. But here is where you can get into trouble, because some shops sell you a flush but what they actually do is a fluid exchange and they are not the same thing.
Now a fluid exchange is for cars that have a dipstick such as this one does. And what they do is they have a machine that is attached to tubes like this. These tubes go down into the dipstick tube and the longer one pulls fluid from the bottom of the pan. The shorter one puts fresh fluid in. It’s just exchanging fluid. It’s not cleaning anything, it’s not really doing much of anything, and it may actually be detrimental to the transmission.
Now let’s raise this car up and take a peek at what a real transmission flush looks like. Now let’s see what a real transmission flush is. First thing up here we have cooling lines that come from the transmission to a cooler that is in a radiator or ahead of the radiator. Now what we do is disconnect one of those cooling lines and we take these two lines from the flush machine, one of them gets hooked onto the line that we just disconnected, the other gets hooked into the radiator. Now what we have done is we are diverging the fluid that normally circulates through those lines in the cooler, we’ve diverted it through our flush machine. Now there is no pumps or pressure or anything like that, it all relies on this normal circulation inside the transmission.
Alright, now, we put chemicals in it. We run the engine. The chemicals clean the inside of the transmission, including the torque converter, which is very very important. Those are things you don’t get with the fluid exchange. Now with the engine still running, we control where the fluid goes in the machine and so on and we can watch the color of it to see it get clean but what happens is that we trap all of the dirt that comes out of the transmission inside of the flush machine and we add brand new fluid. And that’s the important part because you have to make sure that shop doing this job for you that they use a fluid that is approved for your car. Do this, you can double, triple, quadruple the life expectancy of your transmission. And if you have a question or a comment, drop me a line right here at MotorWeek.
An automobile that matches your unique personality is a must. That sentiment helps fuel the global car accessories market. A 360-billion-dollar industry! Custom automotive interiors are a big chunk of that. Millions which are crafted by a company you’ve probably never heard of - Katzkin Automotive Leathers. As FYI reporter Stephanie Hart shows us making their one-of-a-kind seat covers and installing them is a thorough process that’s pretty cool to watch.
STEPHANIE HART: We are behind the scenes at the Katzkin Automotive Leather factory in Montebello, California. The company has transformed more than two million vehicles over the last thirty five years.
Here, old world techniques meet the latest technology. Crafting customer leather interiors that are affordable.
“What is the appeal of custom leather interior?”
MILES HUBBARD: “We find 80 percent of customers prefer leather if they can get it. It cleans easily, easy to maintain, smells good, there is a feeling of leather that’s different from sitting in cloth.”
STEPHANIE HART: On the flip side, leather upholstery can stain easily. And it’s more expensive to fix than fabric. Over time, leather can also fade and crack. Still., nothing gives a car interior a premium look like leather. The type of leather Katzkin uses comes from Brazil.
“Workers inspect each hyde for any imperfection because nothing can replace the human eye, they take a pen, like this, and look for flaws… oh here’s one right here… they mark it”
“Next they head over here… and put the hyde’s on these horses. This actually stretches out the leather and gets rid of any wrinkles.”
“Finally the hides are put here on this high tech sophisticated cutting machine from France.”
It works like a scanner - cutting out those flaws, we circled, so the seats come out flawless.
Since the 1980’s, Katzkin has refined production. At the heart of it –family.
“How did the name katzkin come to be?”
MILES HUBBARD: “Mitch Katz and his sister Leslie founded the company in 1983. They were brother and sister - next of kin - that’s how they came up with Katzkin the name of the company we get that question all the time.”
STEPHANIE HART: At that time, the only way a new car buyer could have a leather interior was to buy it through their dealer. There weren’t many choices and it was expensive! So buyers were forced to settle for cloth. Katzkin changed all that. Offering more choices for less. The company was sold several years ago. But that innovation… still drives them today.
The finished products are boxed and shipped ready to be installed.
From California to Maryland… we are behind the scenes in this garage and we’re going to see how the Katzkin leather interiors are installed in this Subaru. That’s Frankie Thomas. He’s doing the install.
When the seats hit his workbench - it’s go time so rewarding work?
FRANKIE THOMAS: Yes, this is rewarding work… very rewarding work.
STEPHANIE HART: This time around, Frankie is installing two tone seat covers. With leather panels and vinyl sides. A really popular look right now! We turn up the heat
FRANKIE THOMAS: “Makes your stitches line up perfectly”
STEPHANIE HART: And a little t-l-c .. Goes a long way.
FRANKIE THOMAS: “If you want you can give it a try Stephanie.”
STEPHANIE HART: Muscle comes in handy too.
FRANKIE THOMAS: The seat rest itself will go into the holes. You kind of just feel where it is the outside edge. With cars changing every year its a new process every time you do it.
STEPHANIE HART: All installations go through a series of safety tests.
PETER DALY: They go through crash testing, air bag deployment and so on and so on they are as safe as the original equipment leather interiors.
STEPHANIE HART: And it’s time to put the pedal to the metal, but we’re not going anywhere just yet.
This is affectionately called the headshrinker machine. And rightfully so!
FRANKIE THOMAS: When it gets down to a good point you put this on top of it and slide it right down.
STEPHANIE HART: And there you have it! One seat down… three more to go. As you can see I’m loving this new car smell. I’m impressed. A job well done! From the factory in California…to the install in Maryland… to the finished product. From start to finish the whole process took 24 hours. A Katzkin leather interior, including installation, starts at $1,500. The result made this car, and its owner, forever unique.
In their latest round of crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety focused on how well small SUVs protect not only the driver---but the front passenger as well.
Since the left and right sides of a vehicle are each unique in design, IIHS wanted to see if small SUVs, that rate “Acceptable” or “Good” in driver-side overlap front crash tests, are just as safe on the passenger side.
In the 7 new tests, the BMW X1, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Jeep Compass, and Mitsubishi Outlander all earned a “Good” rating. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport earned a Marginal score, while the Ford Escape earned a Poor rating. The Escape had earlier rated Acceptable on the driver’s side test. A total of 16 small SUVs have been tested so far.
The vehicle travels 40 mph toward a barrier with 25-percent of the right front overlapping the barrier. It simulates contact with another vehicle, tree, or utility pole. For IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK PLUS status, a vehicle must have a Good or Acceptable passenger-side crash rating.
The trend toward EVs is undeniable. Federal regulators are breaking a certain “long-held silence” in the name of safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has set the standard for how much noise hybrids and EVs must make at low speeds.
This addresses concerns that electrified cars are so quiet that pedestrians, the visually impaired and bicyclists may not hear them coming.
The cars will be required to have operating acoustics up to 18.6-miles per hour. Half of a carmaker’s electric fleets must comply by September 1, 2019, with all- qualifying a year later.
Some brands have already started making their EVs and hybrids “more audible” well ahead of the deadlines. And that’s it for this week’s Motornews.
Comparison Test: Full-Size SUV Challenge
Goss' Garage: Measure Up
Over the Edge: Art House
Long Term Update: 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
Quick Spin: 2018 Porsche 718 GTS
Track Test: 2018 Subaru WRX
No matter whether you have one big car or two Minis, if you’re going to do on it yourself, chances are you’re going to have to have something to measure parts and so on with. Well the old tried and true is a micrometer such as we see here just make sure you use your standard to keep it perfectly calibrated.
But in today’s world, well it’s digital let’s face it. And here we have the most common tool that you’re gonna find around the repair shop. And that is a digital micrometer caliper whatever you wanna call it. And this can measure inside, outside, and depth. See here we can measure the inside of something here we measure the outside over here we measure the depth. In other words if we wanted to see the inside diameter of this lifter bore here we would simply put it in here, take the reading and there we have it.
Alright now brake rotors big problems on cars. How do we measure them? We use one of these dial indicators, it has a flexible arm that we clamp to the chassis of the vehicle then we align this to the rotor and spin the rotor and watch what happens. A lot of them are two thousandths of an inch or less that is allowed to keep the brake from pulsating.
Alright now other things you may wanna know the inside diameter of a pipe or something like that, here we can check the inside diameter of this cylinder by putting this tool down in here. Now what we’re actually doing is when we put the tool in here we put it in compressed then we turn this, these come out against the sides then we lock it down again and then use one of these other tools to measure the distance from end to end. Not good enough for machine shop work but good enough to get to in the ballpark.
Another thing that we see lots of times is you have to torque various bolts, intake manifolds, heads, things like that. So you wanna make sure that there’s nothing down in the hole that is going to prevent the bolt from tightening properly or torqueing properly. So, this depth indicator because it’s really gentle, we can put this down in there, and we can measure the depth and compare it through all of the holes to make sure there’s no debris, old gasket or something like that down in there because that will ruin your day.
And if you have question or a comment, drop me a line right here at MotorWeek.
For those who find it impossible to follow a crowd, mediocrity is a killer. A cookie cutter life-style just isn’t for them, or for the cars they drive. So, let’s see how one artist keeps his creative juices moving, as we go over the edge – and drive mobile art - with Zach Maskell.
ZACH MASKELL: “So there you are just cruising along and you come across something interesting. Instead of just cruising by and taking a picture, why don’t you stop, and take a look.”
This feast for the eyes sits in Hyattsville, just minutes away from University of Maryland’s College Park. We’re bending, mending, and building inside the world of retired art conservator Clarke Bedford.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “I started making assemblage sculpture and whatever many years ago. I’ve always made it. It’s my favorite. Found object things is traditional Cubist art form. It’s 100 years old. In terms of doing an environment, the house, the cars and all that it started maybe 20 years ago.
ZACH MASKELL: DEMISE… a 1984 Volvo 240 wagon… known as an industrial revolution machine or steampunk.
DEBOCLE… a 1946 Chevy school bus… imagine pulling up to late for class in this bad boy.
And the Flagship of Bedford’s 6 car fleet… an ’88 Ford Econoline… VANADU. Many of the objects sprayed with carburetor cleaner to give it a weathered look.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “You can’t have anything falling off. Even a little thing so they’re bolted to the body. Or bolted to something that’s bolted to the body.”
ZACH MASKELL: Springs, Lamp posts, and the occasional skull. Made up of things otherwise not valuable, the end result is meant to have sustenance… that’s what assemblage is all about.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “Most of the time people are really happy to see it.”
ZACH MASKELL: Checking my medical records… yes I’m up to date on my tetanus shot.
His cape cod style home, also known as Vanadu Art House is decked out mainly in recycled metals. He finds rusty bits from the street, visits junk yards, thrift shops and antique stores all across the east coast.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “Everything you make, everything you put somewhere, you’ve chosen. And it’s eccentric and it’s extreme but when I walk into it – it’s kind of enveloping and I like that.”
CLARKE BEDFORD: “ I like to be in a place that I find comfortable.
ZACH MASKELL: Step inside and feel Clarke’s passion for objects from the late 18 and early 1900’s. A period in art he’s fond of… late Victorian and the start of modernism.
WILLIAM SCHENCK: “My wife and I both love it. It was actually a big selling point for our house. Sort of a lack of that sort of expression in the area.
ZACH MASKELL: Clarke says our culture dictates that every one of our cars look identical. These mobile art galleries separate that… and suggests that not conforming is okay.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “I don’t think of myself as a car person, my father certainly wasn’t.
ZACH MASKELL: While admittedly not a mechanic either, he confessed his respect for rat rods and their a-typical expression. Off for a spin we go.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “You can already see the people wondering what’s coming down the road.”
ZACH MASKELL: A 1995 Caprice Wagon… and his daily driver.
ZACH MASKELL: “It feels really nice. It’s got that classic ‘drives like a boat on air feel.’ Very Nice.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “That’s good, that’s pretty much what it is. It does have these cylinders in the rear springs, to lift of the back because of all the extra stuff on it.”
ZACH MASKELL: And good thing too. It felt heavy… Heavy metal.
CLARKE BEDFORD: “A lot of time you’ll get people who say ‘oh you really made my day.’ And I sort of think ‘Oh gee. That’s great, but it’s sort of too bad also. Because your day shouldn’t be quite that limited.
2018 Chevrolet Tahoe
2018 Ford Expedition
2018 Nissan Armada
2018 Toyota Sequoia
Whether it’s the economy, low gas prices, or just the cyclical nature of the automotive world, full-size, body-on-frame SUVs are back envogue. Plus, they are now being completely modernized for even bigger success in the future. So, along with our colleagues at cars.com we’ve put the latest big utes to the test, to see which one stands out.
Big family-size rigs have a purpose of course, and it’s not just towering over people on your daily commute. When it comes to hauling and towing maximum amounts of people, gear, or toys; they really are the most comfortable choice.
This landscape of big truck SUVs, where 3rd rows are standard and V8-style power are the norm, is represented here by…
…the Chevrolet Tahoe; segment volume leader and last revised for 2015…
…an all-new Ford Expedition, the only competitor here not actually sporting a V8…
…the Nissan Armada, relaunched for 20-17, and now based on Nissan’s global Patrol SUV, not the Titan pickup as before…
…and finally, our oldest competitor here, the Toyota Sequoia, last redesigned for 2008.
This time we set up camp in Phoenix, Arizona, racking up as many miles as possible in a week’s time; in just about every scenario imaginable, including towing through the nearby Superstition Mountains.
And if there’s one constant with full-size utes, it’s that you’ve got to pay to play, so no price cap here; which means a fairly wide range of MSRPs, from the 70-g’s of the domestics, to the relative bargains of our two Asian competitors. Be sure to head to cars.com for complete details on our test.
If we’re here to pick a winner; that means there’s going to be also rans as well, and coming in 4th place is the Toyota Sequoia. It was truly facing an uphill battle against these newer designs; but it wasn’t all bad news, it did come with the lowest price here by quite a margin at $59,873, with reliability that’s second to none.
BRIAN ROBINSON: “Getting in the Sequoia, it feels like a dinosaur compared to the rest of the vehicles here; the nav. screen is tiny and not well-integrated, there are lots of hard plastics everywhere. But there are also some nice, big control knobs and the ride is quite good… …it’s just that its older design keeps it well behind the pack here.”
BRIAN NORMILE: “…if you had told me this was maybe a 2013 or ’12 I would have believed you, except for the fact that it’s the new trim level… …it’s got some basic safety features, but it’s lacking the full list that the others here have, and it’s definitely lacking in terms of comfort and convenience features…”
JOHN DAVIS: 3rd place goes to the Chevrolet Tahoe. A long-time benchmark in the segment, it’s still the most truck-like rig of the bunch, sporting the biggest engine here, as well as the highest price tag. Yet it put that monster motor to good use, getting the best fuel economy of the bunch during our towing loop.
BRIAN ROBINSON: “…the Tahoe has a comfortable interior and a powerful engine that tows trailers like they’re barely even there… …it’s not perfect though, the exterior mirrors are barely adequate in normal use, much less in towing, and the really wide center console gives it a claustrophobic feeling compared to most of the others here…”
MARK WILLIAMS: “…the Chevy Tahoe RST is kind of the athlete of this group; it’s got the biggest V8 engine, which sounds amazing through the dual pipe exhaust, but is also performs really well even when we’re towing…”
JOHN DAVIS: A bit of a surprise, it’s the Nissan Armada that came in 2nd, mostly due to the over the top luxury of its Platinum Reserve interior, at a price well below the domestic entries, at $67,145.
BRIAN ROBINSON: “…the Armada feels very solid, surprisingly so, yet it still has a good ride; the interior is comfortable; it just can’t hang with the domestics when it comes to towing and overall capability…”
AARON BRAGMAN: “…it has plenty of features, and it really is kind of the luxury version of these vehicles; it is super plush inside, absolutely quiet, and really a pleasure to drive…”
JOHN DAVIS: It’s no secret, domestic brands do full-size trucks right; and the SUVs based on them are quite nice as well. So we’re not really shocked that the new Ford Expedition won. Based on the long-time best-selling truck in America, the F150, the twin-turbo V6 Expedition did everything we asked of it in true V8 fashion, while packing in more luxury and features than any other entrant here.
AARON BRAGMAN: “Ford’s new Expedition is the first big new update to a really popular product in a long, long time; and they really did knock this one out of the park. It’s better in every single conceivable way; it’s more comfortable, it’s more fuel efficient, it’s more stylish, it operates really well in terms of its cargo flexibility inside, it drives really well, super quiet, and then you get some of that turbo spool-up from the turbo V6.”
BRIAN ROBINSON: “…as the newest design here, the Expedition has a lot going for it, including a gorgeous interior, smooth 10-speed automatic transmission, great tech interface, and just way more features than any of the other vehicles here…”
JOHN DAVIS: So, a domestic brand’s effort was the standout here, but it’s clear that others are catching up. And wherever your allegiances lie, there are plenty of good options for your full-size SUV wants and needs.