Nissan’s Murano was one of the earliest pure crossovers. It has been around for 16 years. But now in its third generation it has been extensively refreshed for the 2019 model year and it looks sleek, slick and svelte. The V-motion grille was more pronounced. There were redesigned LED headlights and taillights, new LED fog lights and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels. But I think were the big boost came was inside. That begins with what was under the hood. The 2019 Murano was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that made 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to what Nissan has branded an Xtronic CVT or continuously variable transmission. They’ve put a lot of work into this technology that many manufactures took a look at and walked away. CVTs don’t have the gears, it is a pulley system. The point is there are fewer parts so they are easier and I presume cheaper to manufacture. The upside is that they get better gas mileage than regular transmissions but it is all downhill from there. They are loud under acceleration, they seem to be slow and since there are no gears they are disconcerting to drivers. A CVT can actually make it seem like there is something wrong with the vehicle. Nissan through its engineering prowess has done away with most of the downsides of CVTs. This transmission was quiet, it transferred power to the wheels efficiently and it feigned gear shifts so well it left me wondering does the it or does it not have a CVT. It did and this one could be put in manual mode. Anyway, the combination gave the 2019 Murano an EPA rating of 20 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. The Murano was quick and relatively quiet under hard acceleration. And it did feel like gears were shifting rather than the drone that comes with most CVTs. But the real surprise was the interior. It was quilted leather with stitching. The seats were comfortable; the front set was heated and cooled while the back set was heated.
Even before my week test driving the 2019 Subaru Forester was up my opinion had been reached. It was very satisfying to the point of being a very impressive midsize crossover that delivered on a number of levels. Under the hood was a 2.5-liter Boxer engine, meaning horizontally opposed four-cylinder that made 182 horsepower and 176 pound feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. The Forester had an EPA rating of 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined. This new engine provided more than enough oomph in day to day driving. I really don’t care for CVTs but this one was not bad. Acceleration was good and it was fairly quiet, for a continuously variable transmission. The first driving characteristic I noticed about the Forester was its handling. It was Go-Kart precise. Just the slightest turn of the wheel and the midsize crossover went in the direction the wheel was turned. Reaction time to driver input was almost instant. Styling was new for 2019 too. Subaru said it was more rugged. The exterior had shoulder lines that followed around the pillars to emphasize height and strength. Prominent wheel arches emphasized the standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system’s functionality. Subaru is one of the few manufactures that make all-wheel-drive standard. The front, side and rear under guards were also standard on all models, with color finish according to trim line. New LED headlights were standard on all models. The wheelbase was increased to 105.1 in. from 103.9 in., with the gain benefitting rear seat legroom, which is now 39.4-in., a 1.4-in. increase. I got into the rear seats and found them comfortable. There was plenty of headspace, hip room and I think three people could sit in the back seat in relative comfort. And because the Forester sits deceptively high, the drive tunnel was not that much of an intrusion into the interior space.
I thought that big body on frame sport utilities were, well, obsolete. But I was wrong. After spending a week test-driving the 2019 Lexus LX 570, I’ve learned that it is still an admired aspirational vehicle. More than once I was asked for the keys, or whether I was driving it. During my week with the LX, I discovered it was a spacious powerful sport utility. Under the hood was 5.7-liter normally aspirated V8 that made 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of torque. It should not matter in this price range but for the record the EPA rating for this LX 570 was 13 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. Ninety percent of the torque is available at a relatively low 3,600 rpm. The engine was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This LX could tow up to 7,000 lbs.
The 2019 Ford Escape might be the best deal in the automaker’s lineup. The reason is simple, there’s a new model on the way. We may not see it for a while but it has debuted at the New York Auto Show. That means to clear showroom floors, Ford has to make the 2019 Ford Escape even more appealing than it already is. In other words, I’m talking about lower prices on a world class small crossover. We had the front-wheel-drive Ford Escape SEL. It was powered by a 1.3-liter four cylinder turbocharged engine that made 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Ford’s F-150 Limited is a lot of pickup truck. It is the top of the line model of the bestselling vehicle on the American market for the last 41 years. And it has an almost $75K sticker. This truck had so much equipment it was challenging to note it all. But first let’s cite the basics; after all it is a pickup truck. The test vehicle was the Ford F-150 4X4 Supercrew Limited. Under the hood was Ford’s 3.5-liter V6 Ecoboost (dual turbocharged) High Output engine. It made 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. Ford bills the F-150 with this engine as the most powerful light duty pickup in America.
DETROIT – Volvo has come to market with a bunch of products during the last five years. But the 2019 Volvo V60 just might be the slickest and that’s saying something since it is a station wagon. Volvo has gained plaudits for sticking to the station wagon market long after they fell out of favor with the car buying public. Their called Estates in Europe and the Swedish automaker has had at least one in its stable since 1953’s Volvo Duett. Now it has four, the V90 regular and Cross Country and the same for the V60. Of the group I like the V60. Mirroring the body style of the midsize S60 sedan, the V60 was low, the sheet metal was swept back and it looked wider because of the low stance. It had the face of Volvo including the “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlight design and the new grille with Volvo’s Iron Mark badge. The name Volvo across the tailgate in block letters left no doubt as to the brand. My test vehicle was a regular station wagon, not the V60 Cross Country which sits a little higher off the ground. Ground clearance for the “regular” V60 Estate was 5.4 inches. That got down to five inches with one person, me, in the car. It was powered by Volvo’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a turbocharger and a supercharger. I still don’t think the automaker gets enough accolades for the merging of these blowers. In this iteration the T6 makes 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque at 2,200 rpm. The engine was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination meant power and efficiency. The Volvo V60 T6 got 21 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined.
The 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse is a no nonsense crossover designed to handle day-to-day driving needs. Its angular styling was eye catching. There was the three-bar grille and 18-inch alloy wheels. It was powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that made 152 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a continuously variable transmission or CVT that was engineered to act like it had eight gears. It also had all-wheel-drive. The Eclipse Cross had an EPA rating of 25 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined. This was not a particularly fast or quick crossover. It was made for deliberate driving. At times the CVT would act as if it was shifting gears. However, as with most eight-speeds I felt first two gearshifts but not the rest. This transmission could also be shifted manually and it had paddle shifters as well.
Kia may have hit on the right product at the right time with its all-new 2020 Telluride, a midsize but large three rowed crossover. We came here to southwestern Colorado to put the Telluride through its paces. We went down Colorado 141 over the Dolores River which cuts through of course the Dolores River Canyon with its 1,200 foot red granite canyon walls. Look beyond and you can see 12,000 foot mountains all round. Kudos to Kia for picking this place; they could have found a much easier path. C141 is a narrow two-lane twisting affair. We climbed from our base camp, the Gateway Canyons Resort and Spa which was at 5,000 feet up to Telluride (yep, the vehicle is named after the town) which was at more than 9,000 ft. But I’m ahead of myself. The Telluride is the first SUV designed by Kia in the U.S. specifically for the U.S. market. It was styled in Irvine, California and will be built at Kia’s assembly plant in West Point, Georgia. It is indeed the company’s new flagship and they wanted it to be bold and boxy; their words not mine. It is the largest Kia ever built and it can seat seven or eight passengers, depending on whether the second row has captain’s seats or a bench seat. The Telluride had a long broad hood. The design made the tiger grille wider and taller. Dual headlights were stacked; it had inverted “L” taillights with LED stripes. The windshield was upright and the sides were smooth but bulging and that conveyed strength. And there were elongated nameplates on the edge of the hood and on the lip of the liftgate. This Kia was the real deal. It had skid plates with twin exhaust tips that let you know it can go off-road. Grab handles were integrated into the center console for such occasions. I passed up the off road course in favor of pushing back to basecamp. Under the hood was a 3.8-liter direct injection V6 that made 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque at 5,600 rpm. This engine was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It is the only engine available and it gets 20 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined for front wheel drive. All-wheel-drive gets 19 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined.
Trying to have a van for every need, Ford has significantly updated its Transit Connect cargo van. To be clear, the Transit Connect comes in two configurations. One is for cargo and the other can carry passengers. I had the model that was specifically for cargo. There is a bigger, Ford Transit and it too comes in either passenger or cargo configuration. The pitch to customers is that the Transit Connect can lower cost for personal and small business customers. And as not to get it twisted, this was not a minivan, there were no side windows, just panels. There are three trim levels of the Transit Connect: XL, XLT and Titanium. I had the XLT. It came with a 2.0-liter direct injected four cylinder engine that was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination made 140 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque and got 24 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined. There is also a 2.5-liter gasoline engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine comes with a CNG/LPG gaseous fuel prep package. A 1.5 liter turbo diesel that Ford has branded EcoBlue will be available this spring. It too has an eight-speed transmission. There are two wheelbase choices that allow the passenger carrying Ford Transit Connect to accommodate five or seven passengers. As Ford said in its press material, “there’s a Transit Connect for everyone.”
DETROIT – I was really impressed by the 2019 Ford Edge. In a phrase, it has grown. I’m not talking about its size which looks about the same. I’m talking about stature and equipment and perception. I always thought the Ford Edge was a poor-man’s Ford Explorer but not anymore. I had the Titanium trim with all-wheel-drive. It came with what Ford has branded EcoBoost. In this case, that was a 2.0-liter twin scroll turbocharged engine. This engine made 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. I would like to see that torque available at half the rpms but this was a very capable engine. It moved the 2019 Edge with authority, it provided plenty of oomph when needed and it was really quiet at low speeds. And it got 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. I neglected to say that the 2019 Edge also had paddle shifters. I did not use them, but apparently enough drivers do because automakers keep equipping some vehicles with them. Anyway, I was mildly surprised that my test vehicle did not have drive-modes. But it really didn’t need them. It had a MacPherson strut front suspension and an independent integral link set up in the rear. Given that there were still some icy spots on the road, my driving was not all that aggressive. Still, the Edge’s ride was smooth and steady. Although it had that intangible heft that comes with a quality build, the midsize Edge did not have that bounce that comes with truck-based sport utilities; it had unibody construction.