Savage On Wheels

Mark Savage

Ford’s Explorer is the ubiquitous family SUV. It’s likely today’s 20- and 30-somethings think of Explorer as what mom and dad, their uncles, cousins and maybe a brother or sister drove, or still drive.

There are a lot of Explorers on the road and to be honest, Explorer was one of the first super popular SUVs to persuade car buyers to switch to trucks. At its peak, it was selling more than 400,000 units a year. After just a few years on the market, it became one of the top 10 best-selling vehicles of the year.

Mark Savage

Coming off an underwhelming performance from a Range Rover Evoque, the new Mercedes-Benz GLC was an absolute dream to drive.

The Benz felt more lively with better power, better handling and a better ride than the Evoque, and while still pricey, it costs $4,000 less. Granted the Evoque is better looking than the staid, yet stately, Mercedes, but do you want looks or performance? Oh, and everything worked on the Mercedes in contrast with the Rover.

Mark Savage

Range Rover’s new Evoque stirs a $64,000 question: Do you expect your new vehicle’s climate control system and heated/cooled seats to work every time you start the vehicle?

Apparently the answer is, no!

Despite my “Yulong White” test vehicle’s $64,000 price tag, those systems worked about half of the time. I shouldn’t have been surprised — many auto writers and buyers have complained of electronic glitches in their Range Rovers through the years. I even heard of one writer having both of the giant 10-inch info screens fail to work in a test vehicle.

Mark Savage

The day after Hyundai’s Racing Red Veloster N arrived, it snowed. I know, it’s too early, but it snowed. It was exactly the wrong time to have this peppy high-value street racer, this toy that is perfectly aimed at the bullseye that is the youth market.

On dry pavement, this Veloster N is a hot hatchback that rocks like it’s meant for the rally circuit. In fact, last May I got to rallycross an N on Road America’s go-kart track and it was one of my favorites. It handles and it’s quick. Plus, the racetrack was smooth, so no ride issues.

Mark Savage

Small SUVs and crossovers are nearly as thick these days as political pundits, so it takes some effort to separate one from the mob of little tall wagons.

Lexus tries, with some success, with its NX 300, based on the previous generation Toyota RAV4 platform. As in much earlier times, Toyota tries with styling. The big deal here is its giant spindle grille and fancy 3D taillights outside, and its multicolored interior, even though the colors are black and white.

Mark Savage

I declared the Kia Telluride the finest SUV I’d driven in ages and an absolute winner in every way when I drove it last June. But its kissin’ cousin, the Hyundai Palisade is equally as praiseworthy.

Don’t make me choose between Palisade and the Telluride, although on price the Hyundai seems to have a slight advantage.

READ: 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD Review

Mark Savage

You simply must admire the marketing genius of a car company that dubs its LED headlights as Thor’s Hammer.

Volvo wins that honor with several of its latest models. The powerful headlights project a T, hence the Thor nomenclature. The latest hammering of lights I witnessed was on a beautifully sculpted Volvo S60 sedan, but not just any such sedan.

Mark Savage

There’s no doubt we’re an entitled society from top to bottom. But when one slides behind the steering wheel of a Lexus RX 350L it’s hard not to feel a strong urge of entitlement, and contentment.

Granted, I’m lucky to get such a chance, but my dark metallic blue (nightfall mica) 350L AWD Luxury model was the right vehicle at the right time for a road trip to northern Wisconsin (the Warrens area). So, four of us settled into the gray and black leather interior, along with our luggage, and simply relaxed.

Mark Savage

Hybrids in general, particularly plug-in hybrids, are becoming the way to go for families looking for the best fuel economy, or socially conscious buyers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.

Fortunately, the hybrid market just keeps expanding while becoming more affordable.

Mark Savage

Honda's Civic is a mainstay in the small car market. Why? It has been around for years, remains affordable, and comes in three body styles, sedan, coupe and hatchback.

All of those traits make it unusual. And for the past few years Honda designers have been trying to create a bit more visual excitement with Civics that feature sharp creases and angles that frankly, always make me think of a kid’s Transformer toy. Some love it, others, not so much. I find the nose appealing, the profile acceptable, and the rear end rather garish.

Mark Savage

This may be overstating it some, but if ever there were a modern-day Volkswagen Beetle in both spirit and style, it would be Kia’s sweet Soul.

Mark Savage

A loaded-down road trip to Minnesota was the perfect test for Honda’s latest crossover/SUV, the midsize Passport.

You may recall Passport as a midsize SUV offered earlier by Honda until 2002. It was a revamped version of Isuzu’s Rodeo — remember Isuzu? This is a whole new beast and a dandy one at that.

I drove a black forest pearl Passport Elite, a pre-production model that most maker would be proud to claim as a full-on productions model. The paint job was spectacular, appearing dark metallic green in sunlight and black just as soon as there were clouds overhead.

Mark Savage

Sports cars used to be more plentiful. But as we Americans have become larger, so have our cars, crossovers and trucks. Rare is the sporty or sports car, and rarer yet, one we could afford.

But in 1970, Nissan introduced its Datsun 240Z, a long-nosed low-slung sports car with quick handling and a modest price. That same formula is working for 2020 as Nissan launches its 50th Anniversary edition of the Z car, now a Z370.

Mark Savage

Luxury and prestige have their price. And for Audi’s largest SUV, the Q8, that starts at $68,395.

Luckily, that includes delivery charges — and to be honest, quite a lot else. Think of this as the SUV version of Audi’s fancy pants A8 sedan, which as a top-line model you’d expect to be loaded.

The Q8 is a five-person luxury hauler with oodles of head and legroom front and rear, plus a sizeable cargo area in back. This also is sleek looking (for an SUV), giving it some personality, which again, you’d expect for this price.

Mark Savage

If you’re looking for a mid-size sport-utility truck or crossover with a third-row seat, you might’ve chosen the most competitive segment for your vehicle search.

That’s where the perfectly fine Nissan Pathfinder finds itself. After more than 30 years on the market, Pathfinder is a known quantity, an expected strong value and good ride. It remains so, but then so are most of its competitors: Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and the newish Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent. All are solid choices.