Monday, 08 August 2022
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As SUVs have exploded in popularity over the past decade, there are many desirable vehicles available to consumers, especially in the luxury segment, and competitors from around the world are vying for those luxury consumers.

On the domestic front in the U.S., the name that tends to come to our minds first when we think of luxury is Cadillac, a brand with a long history of excellence. Their lineup of SUVs (XT4, XT5 and XT6) are battling with the best of Europe and Asia, and must come strong to compete.

I recently spent some time in a 2021 Cadillac XT5 Sport, and I’m back with a full report on the experience.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle 2021 Cadillac XT5
  • Price as tested $68,765 (starts at $44K)  
  • Best feature Strong tech and safety features, attractive and luxurious design  
  • Rating 4 out of five stars   
  • Who will want this vehicle? Luxury buyers seeking a sleek, roomy and high-tech domestic SUV  
Posted On Wednesday, 05 May 2021 22:57 Written by
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Trucks are not the first vehicles people think of when Toyota is mentioned, but they have a long-standing place in its history. The mid-size Tacoma truck has been in production since 1995 and remains very popular today. And the full-size Tundra began its run in 1999.

Overall sales numbers for the Tundra are far behind the domestic trio of the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and RAM 1500, but a loyal fan base keeps the model holding down its spot as the top non-domestic full-size truck with more than 100,000 sold annually.

While the Tundra has not been fully redesigned since 2007 (it got a slight refresh in 2014, and a brand new model is expected for 2022), its longevity comes from a few key factors: Its powerful V8, Toyota reliability, and strong tech features. There were also a couple new editions announced for 2021 with new styling: The Trail and Nightshade models.

The Trail edition gets features including: 18-inch dark gray wheels with Michelin all-terrain tires, lockable bed storage boxes, spray-on bed liner, black exterior badging, chrome front grill, black fabric trim seats with unique tan stitching, and all weather floor liners.

I recently spent some time in a Tundra, and I’m back with a full report.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle 2021 Toyota Tundra 
  • Price as tested $48,970 (starts at $34K) 
  • Best feature Powerful V8 engine, safety features, affordability 
  • Rating 3.5 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle? Truck buyers seeking a powerful truck with strong safety features and Toyota reliability
Posted On Saturday, 17 April 2021 01:58 Written by
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Before we start, the question must be asked: What exactly is the Mazda CX-30 and why did Mazda add it to their lineup of crossovers in 2020?

Do not confuse it with Mazda’s CX-3, which is a different crossover offering from the automaker. The CX-30 is longer and more powerful than the CX-3, and it is ultimately a slightly raised version of the Mazda3 sedan/hatchback offering. On the grand scale of Mazda offerings, the CX-30 falls squarely between the smaller CX-3 and the larger CX-5.

While it may seem like overkill, automakers know that SUV buyers can be very particular, so having an option at every possible size offering is becoming the norm. (Though the naming of this model does admittedly create some confusion).

The CX-30, a very stylish vehicle, is one of those modern rides threading the needle between a car and an SUV, and hoping to provide you with the raised SUV look and versatility but smoother driving of a sedan. To entice buyers for the 2021 model, the CX-30 upgrades in its sophomore year include a new turbocharged engine option, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle 2021 Mazda CX-30  
  • Price as tested $31,700 (starts around $22K)  
  • Best feature Pure driving experience, luxury-level interior   
  • Rating 4 out of five stars   
  • Who will want this vehicle? Compact SUV buyers who want a powerful, tech-savvy ride  
Posted On Monday, 12 April 2021 05:25 Written by
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What is the Toyota Venza?

The name may sound familiar, as it was sold from 2009-2015 by Toyota as a wagon-type vehicle based on the Camry platform.

The Venza is back for 2021, but nothing like the original. Instead, Version 2.0 is a two-row crossover that is sold as a hybrid only, and features an attractive and modern design inside and out.

Its competition will be primarily other two-row crossovers that offer hybrids — such as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V — a tough battle since many of these models are among the best-sellers annually.

I recently tested a Venza and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS

With the return of the Venza, Toyota has hit a design home run.

Between its sharp-looking front end, attractive headlight design, smooth side lines, and high-end interior, it debuts high up on the list of two-row crossovers in terms of overall design.

To put the looks of the Venza vs. its leading hybrid crossover competition, it’s without a doubt that the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape hybrids lack the style and design quality you’ll find in the Venza.

You can tell it’s new and different compared to the mainstays in the category, and it has decent cargo space, too. (28.8 cubic feet behind the second row).

The Venza features 19-inch wheels on its top two trim levels (18-inch wheels on the base model), and a hands-free power liftgate.

The interior features SofTex-trimmed seats, heated & ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and an optional panoramic roof. The Star Gaze glass roof is unique in offering both “transparent” and “frosted” modes, with frosted mode reducing direct sunlight.

The design of the Venza has a goal of offering sedan-like driving comfort while also offering crossover versatility, and it achieves that goal for the most part.

HOW’S THE RIDE?

The 2021 Toyota Venza features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and three electric motors, offering a 219 combined horsepower. The latest Toyota Hybrid System can be operated in several modes, including: EV, Eco, Normal and Sport.

It features an electronic continuously variable transmission, and All-Wheel Drive is standard on all trim levels of the Venza, which is nice.

The big question with hybrids is what kind of driving experience they will offer. 

As far as the overall driving experience, I found it to be among the better options among hybrids I have tested. Acceleration is enhanced through the hybrid system’s low-speed torque boost and you get moving quickly.

The Sport mode approaches a normal driving experience. But keep your expectations at a realistic level: Don't expect a ton of power in any mode. And Save the EV and Eco modes for situations where you won’t be holding up traffic. Most of the time you can stick to Normal mode and get around in a reasonably enjoyable manner.

For those looking to maximize fuel mileage, a Hybrid System Indicator shows the system output and regeneration status to encourage eco-driving habits by offering a scoring function for the driver.

The Venza is agile and handles well, is responsive to driver input and is extremely quiet inside. Road noise is also kept out, as the Venza is extremely well-insulated.

If you’re more into off-roading, I would recommend opting for the RAV4 hybrid or other crossover options that are better equipped for such excursions than the Venza.

The Venza also features something called Predictive Efficient Drive (PED), which analyzes driving habits to help optimize hybrid battery charging. This system is designed to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop, then uses that information to help reduce energy consumption, and optimize battery charging and discharge ahead of hills or traffic congestion.

TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

As per usual, Toyota delivers with an impressive array of safety offerings, as well as strong tech features on the Venza.

Starting with safety, the Venza has you covered with a full array of features to keep you safe in the vehicle.

The standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system features a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams and Road Sign Assist.

For those worst-case scenarios, there are 8 airbags throughout the vehicle to keep you protected during a crash.

The backup camera, including dynamic gridlines, is a big help when backing up and in tight parking situations. There’s even a rear camera washer on the Venza.

Other helpful safety features on the Venza include a Blind Spot Monitor, Front and Rear Parking Assist with automatic braking, and a Bird's Eye View Camera that shows you everything around you.

Also, the Toyota Star Safety System features Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Brake Assist, Anti-lock brakes and more.

Moving on to the technology inside the Venza, I found that the voice commands worked very well, but the touch controls took some time to master. You’ll get there, but the learning curve is a bit longer than you’ll find in other vehicles.

A couple different touchscreen sizes are offered. The LE and XLE editions of the Venza feature an 8-inch touchscreen, while the Limited trim level offers a 12.3-inch touchscreen.

The Venza is in line with the latest technology, compatible with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity for streaming of phone calls and music. A 3-month trial of satellite radio is included, as well as a trial subscription to Toyota Remote Services, which allow you to start your vehicle and unlock/lock doors remotely.

Audio options include the standard 6-speaker system; or a JBL Premium Audio System with 9 speakers, including a rear subwoofer, which is powered by a 12-channel, 1,200-watt amp.

Another safety option is the 10-inch color Head-Up Display, which projects vital information at eye level to keep your eyes on the road. This is offered in an Advanced tech package that also includes rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Another very cool option is the digital rearview mirror. If the rear view is blocked by cargo or people in the back seat, simply flip a switch to get an unobstructed view from a rear camera.

MPG

The official fuel mileage numbers on the Venza are 40 city/37 highway/39 combined. I only averaged 31 mpg, but was mainly driving in Sport mode, which will lower your results. More eco-focused driving should keep you close to the listed numbers.

For comparison, the RAV4 hybrid and Ford Escape hybrid both list a combined 40 mpg, while the Honda CR-V hybrid offers a combined 38 mpg. 

PRICE

One thing that may keep Venza sales numbers lower than its competition is the pricing. My test vehicle was priced just over $43,000 and the base price starts about $33K. Trim levels include LE, XLE and Limited.

While the vehicle is quite upscale, the numbers may steer potential buyers in another direction. Most other vehicles are easier on the bottom line, and some are also more off-road friendly than the Venza.

As far as warranties, Toyota offers a 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty, and 60-month/60,000 warranty on the powertrain. Hybrid component repairs are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles. And battery coverage is for 10 years/150,000 miles.

BOTTOM LINE

While the Venza is not likely to become one of Toyota’s best-sellers, it’s yet another strong crossover option that buyers can choose from in a sea full of competition. With attractive and modern looks and design, strong technology and hybrid fuel mileage, there is a lot to like.

I also find it interesting that it comes as a hybrid only, which is another way it distinguishes itself. If you’re looking for a 2-row SUV, particularly one that is a hybrid, it’s worth exploring the Venza with a test drive.

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AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.


Additional Info

  • Vehicle 2021 Toyota Venza
  • Price as tested $43,100 (starts at $33K)
  • Best feature Strong fuel mileage, upscale design 
  • Rating 3.5 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle? Crossover buyers seeking a two-row hybrid option that looks sharp
Posted On Monday, 05 April 2021 01:40 Written by
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Entering the large SUV market with a bang in 2020, Hyundai debuted the impressive Palisade model, which has been flying from dealer lots ever since its debut. The upscale 3-row model is the largest and one of the most expensive vehicles sold by the automaker, but sales numbers remain high as it impressed straight out of the gate in looks, performance and technology.

In its second year for the 2021 model year, most of the Palisade remains unchanged. The main difference is the addition of the more upscale Calligraphy trim level, and the options packages are slightly adjusted.

I recently tested a 2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy model, and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS

Most SUVs aren’t traditionally known for unique or attractive exterior designs, but the exterior of the Palisade is one that will grab your attention.

Highlights include an especially eye-catching front grille, and a sharp wheel design. My Calligraphy trim level test vehicle also featured an exclusive 20-inch wheel.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle 2021 Hyundai Palisade
  • Price as tested $49,070 (starts at $33K)
  • Best feature Versatility, sharp style, safety features
  • Rating 4 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle? Families seeking a modern 3-row SUV that offers comfort and smart technology
Posted On Sunday, 28 March 2021 03:22 Written by
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