Savage On Wheels

Mark Savage

There’s no denying a certain panache in the Land Rover name and a certain pride a Rover driver feels in its ability to crunch through the Serengeti brush and ford rushing hippo-infested streams as it takes you deep into the rugged, wild outback.

Yet Rover is no rough and tumble Jeep. It has evolved into a luxury brand and proudly wears a hefty price at which one should expect all the finery a car maker can pack into a leather-slathered interior.

Mark Savage

Our electric car future receives another jolt of energy with the arrival of Kia’s Niro EV.

If you believe electrics are a fad and that internal combustion is the only way to go, you’re in for a shock. Because all the carmakers are rushing to get full electric cars and crossovers onto the highways as quickly as they can. In the short-term, the hybrids and plug-in hybrids are the way to go. But with mainstream cars like the Niro being electrified, it’s only a matter of time until one is in your driveway.

2020-Jeep-Wrangler-Unlimited-Sahara
Mark Savage

A couple of years back, I drove the newly redesigned Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and was wowed by how much better it rode and drove than previous Wranglers.

For those who don’t worship Jeeps as God’s gift to off-roaders, the Wrangler (two-door) and Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) are Jeep lovers’ favorite Jeep. They look decidedly Jeepy, like updated World War II workhorses, but with today’s interior finery and much better fit and finish outside. Plus, they aren’t all olive drab. My test unit was Firecracker Red, a bright red that looks great.

Mark Savage

Bare bones cars are a rarity today. Even the low-cost sedans that serve as entry-level vehicles for most car makes are far from what we would have called “basic transportation” just a decade or two ago when cars still had crank windows.

Take this week’s dandy little Nissan Versa SR for example. With a starting price of just $19,135, including delivery, you’d think this spiffy Electric Blue sedan would be about as bare bones as car makers go to satisfy the needs of the low-budget shopper. But you’d be wrong and the metallic blue paint job is only example one.

Mark Savage

Subaru’s handsome Outback seems to have overrun southeastern Wisconsin roads. And it makes sense. The Outback is practical for families and also empty-nesters looking to travel in comfort and safety, all at a high value and with AWD.

Full disclosure, my family owns a 2017 Outback, so I knew what to expect when I test drove the 2020 line-topper, the Touring XT. But there were a few surprises. Three stand out: the new 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer 4-cylinder engine, the giant new infotainment screen, and a heated steering wheel. The trio are major improvements.

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.

2019-honda-civic-review
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.

Pages