SUV Spotlight: 2017 Acura MDX

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2017 Acura MDX ©Honda Motor Company

Hot off the presses!  Acura announced today they will unveil the all-new 2017 MDX at the New York International Auto Show on March 23.

The new model will come with loads of design enhancements, more features and new, advanced powertrain technology.  “We are sharpening our focus on the Precision Crafted Performance DNA of the Acura brand and the 2017 MDX will integrate new styling elements and powertrain technology that takes us another step in that direction,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

With the MDX owning the title of the best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time, it’s not hard to imagine a new and improved model not continuing to hold the record. A good friend of mine drives a 2015 MDX and I loved it when she took me for a spin.  It’s size and functionality is very suitable to young families.  I personally can’t wait to see the latest generation when it debuts in late March.

The 2017 model was designed by the Acura Design Studio in Torrance, California.  The vehicle will be produced at the company’s Lincoln, Alabama auto plant.

 

SUV Spotlight: Range Rover Sport SVR

Range Rover SR 7

Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

While the Range Rover Sport SVR isn’t new for 2016, I felt as the fastest Land Rover ever produced, it deserved its turn in the Automobheels “SUV Spotlight”.   This baby did the infamous Nurburgring in a cool 8 minutes and 14 seconds, giving it one of the fastest times ever recorded by a SUV in standard production.

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Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

Many car consumers like to take a look at the inside of a vehicle. They are interested only in the creature comforts it can offer.  Does it have heated seats?  Does it have a sunroof?  Does it have navigation and streaming audio?  Does it have programmable seats and mirrors?  While I am a fan of all of these features, first and foremost, I want to know what lurks beneath the hood.  I don’t care how many features a car has, if it is gutless, I want no part of it.

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Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

The SVR delivers on everything.  Her contoured hood houses a beast of an engine, the range-topping 5.0-litre supercharge V8, producing 550PS and 680Nm.  The accompanying ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic  transmission and four-wheel-drive chassis help keep the beast in line, no matter what the weather conditions.  She’ll do 0-60mhp in 4.5 seconds and maxes out at an electronically controlled top speed of 162mph.  Working in tandem with the powerful engine, the transmission shift strategy is constantly monitoring the acceleration, brake inputs, lateral cornering forces, kick down requests and gradient severity to choose one of the 25 pre-determined programs to ensure the SVR seamlessly adapts to the driver’s behind the wheel behavior and road conditions.  The transmission also allows for driver control by offering paddle shifters along with the standard gear lever.  Drivers can easily swap between automatic and manual mode.

Range Rover SVR Interior

Range Rover Sport SVR Interior ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

Some would say given the amount of attention given to the engine, the refinement and luxury might have been slightly overlooked.  Not so, it delivers again on all fronts.  The SVR has received several enhancements to its exterior.  The front bumper has been fitted with beefy looking trapezoidal air intakes, while the hood receives Range Rover script, revised vents and a new grill.  Further contouring the vehicle, the side has been fitted with new, distinctive moldings, while the back has been given a high level spoiler and SVR-unique quad exhaust pipes.  At first glance one might think these revisions were for visual effect only.  However, Land Rover made no adjustments that do not serve a specific purpose.  The larger air intakes on the front allow for more airflow to the charge air coolers that channel air into the engine, the new front bumper’s NVH comb is fitted to ensure wind noise is reduced, along with front-end lift, allowing the front tires to retain a high level of grip, and the rear spoiler reduces lift and balances the new front bumper.

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Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

The SVR is available in seven colors, including the SVR exclusive Estoril Blue.  A contrasting Santorini black roof comes standard and works with the body-color side moldings, giving it an intimidating look and feel. Throw in the comfy, yet distinctive leather sport seats and the interior gives the driver the ultimate high-performance vehicle experience.  The interior is available in four rich colors with standard aluminum trim detail.  Carbon fibre trim for the door panels, center console, dashboard and steering wheel is optional.

Range Rover Sport SVR

Range Rover Sport SVR ©Jaguar Land Rover Limited

“The Range Rover Sport SVR is the ultimate in premium performance,” said Land Rover Design Director and Chief Creative Officer, Gerry McGovern. “Crafted by Land Rover’s ‘Special Vehicle Operations’, its performance-focused design revisions clearly differentiate the most powerful Land Rover ever produced from existing derivatives with its ground-hugging, assertive stance and additional road presence. This striking evolution retains the trademark DNA for which the Range Rover Sport is so widely acclaimed.”

With a base MSRP of $111,350, the price does limit the amount of consumers able to take advantage of the enviable performance, engineering and style this SUV delivers.  However, for those of you who do have over a hundred grand to drop on a mode of transportation, little else will get you where you want to go as quickly or as fiercely.  Happy Driving.

SUV Spotlight: 2016 Honda Pilot

2016 Honda Pilot 5

2016 Honda Pilot ©Honda Motor Company

The all-new 2016 Honda Pilot is the third generation to be designed and manufactured in America since the Pilot’s debut in 2003, as the first three-row mainstream SUV developed on a car-like unit-body platform.  Year over year the Pilot has set the industry standard for fuel efficiency, spacious interior, safety performance and dynamic handling performance within the mid-size SUV segment.  With the debut of this latest model, Honda is poised to set the bar even higher.

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2016 Honda Pilot ©Honda Motor Company

Honda has completely redesigned the Pilot from the ground up for 2016.  It’s goal: to better accommodate the needs of it’s passengers by providing more family-friendly utility, advanced technology and a wealth of premium amenities unavailable until now.  Major upgrades have been made to the interior quality with more standard features available on each trim, along with the arrival of the new top end Elite version, offering many Honda-first features including 20 inch wheels, ventilated front seats, headed second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, and a panoramic glass moonroof.

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2016 Honda Pilot Interior ©Honda Motor Company

 

Honda has also equipped its new family-friendly SUV with many new tech features.  Each Pilot comes equipped with up to five USB ports, four of which provide enough power to charge iPads or smartphones while they are in use.  An auxiliary jack, HDMI port for game consoles, 2 headphone jacks and up to three 12-volt power outlets are also included.  While all of these features provide for keeping the kids entertained in the back seat, the upsized 8-inch touchscreen Display Audio interface with available Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ will keep adults on the right path in the front.  The new system comes with updated graphics and capabilities including 3D renderings of your surroundings.

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2016 Honda Pilot Engine ©Honda Motor Company

Under the hood you’ll find an all-new engine from Honda’s EarthDreams Technology powertrain series.  The direct-injected 3.5 liter SOHC i-VTEC® V-6 engine, along with two all-new 6-speed and 9-speed transmissions, and intelligent variable torque management system (VTM4™), turns out 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque.  With a 19.5 gallon gas tank on each model, combined city and highway gas mileage ranges from 21-23 mpg.

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2016 Honda Pilot Interior ©Honda Motor Company

Finally, the new Pilot boasts additional cargo space in the form of 3.5 inches of added  length.  This allows for an inch more of tandem seating space and 1.3 additional inches in the cargo area.  Accessibility to the 3rd row has also been made easier with the inclusion of the one-touch second-row seat available on EX-L and above models.

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2016 Honda Pilot Cargo Space ©Honda Motor Company

From an exterior and interior perspective, the redesigned Pilot is a win for Honda.  The look of the vehicle is more streamlined and looks much sportier than the previous boxy models.  The interior looks much more comfortable and many more features are available.  The fact that there are so many trims available makes the Pilot a versatile choice for families looking at all price ranges in the mid-size SUV segment.  In truth I’ve never been a huge fan of Honda.  I’ve often found the engines sluggish and the finishes lacking.  However, my husband and I recently moved and borrowed a friend’s Pilot to help transport some of our larger items.  My husband found the engine to be quite exceptional, given the size of the vehicle.  He also said it felt roomy on the inside, but he didn’t feel he was driving a massive car.  He said it handled well, particularly given its size and the amount of cargo we loaded it with.  And when we went to the pump to refill the gas tank and return the car to our friend, we received no sticker shock.  It got great gas mileage, especially given its size.

I would have to drive the new 2016 to give the engine and handling a proper review, but based on our experience with a slightly older model, I would say I would be pleasantly surprised.  In a time when costs seem to be going up everywhere and quality seems to be going down, with the 2016 Pilot, Honda is delivering a quality product at a very competitive price. MSRP on the 2016 Pilot ranges from $30,145-$46,570.

SUV Spotlight: Mercedes GLS

The new Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS ©Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has been busy redesigning its popular G-Class SUV into the new Mercedes GLS.  Like its predecessor, the GL, the GLS is poised to become the “S-Class among SUVs” according to the German automaker.  The only full seven-seater within the premium European SUV segment, the GLS has an ample interior which provides the magic combination of luxury, comfortability, and safety.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS ©Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz hasn’t missed a step in the GLS design.  Offering 4 trims, the GLS d 350 4M, GLS 450 4M, GLS 550 4M, and AMG GLS 63, there seems to be something for every Mercedes SUV consumer.  Each GLS boasts a new dynamic exterior and luxurious interior.  The designers have placed the focus on redesigning the front end of the car, while modernizing the rear.  Inside the car, consumers will find a brand new instrument panel which includes a media display, new 3-spoke steering wheel configuration and a center console complete with  touchpad.  This new generation also includes more efficiencies, an additional DYNAMIC SELECT transmission mode, an improved air suspension system, a nine-speed 9G-TRONIC auto transmission, state of the art assistance system and the most recent telematics, including internet access and remote start capability.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS ©Mercedes-Benz

If all of that isn’t enough to get you going, look no further than under the hood.  The AMG GLS 63 boasts a 577 hp 5.5 liter AMG V8 which delivers a whopping 561 lb.-ft. of torque, perfect for drag racing fellow suburbanites, or that urgent soccer mom grocery run.  The Sport+ mode will definitely help you feel the need for speed while the OFF-ROAD mode will help navigate the vacation wilds.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Interior ©Mercedes-Benz

And how can one take advantage of all that power without accounting for proper safety?  Mercedes has taken care of that as well.  The standard driver assistance systems include COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS, Crosswind Assist and ATTENTION ASSIST.  Also available, are the PRE-SAFE® Brake with pedestrian detection, BAS PLUS with Cross-Traffic Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and sadly, Speed Limit Assist.  This SUV will practically drive for you with all the safety features.  As a member of the Mercedes family you also have access to Standard Services including automatic emergency call, Accident Recovery and breakdown assistance.  There’s a reason you pay more to drive a Benz and features like these are it, but they are worth every penny in my opinion.

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Interior ©Mercedes-Benz

Finally, there is not a roomier SUV available in the European SUV class.  There is ample elbow and head room available in all three of the seat rows inside the vehicle.  With many adjustment options, the center row makes the interior configuration flexible by way of a cargo position for optimum use of space.

With all of its sporty and luxurious finishings, the 2017 Mercedes GLS is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the SUV class, but only for those with deep pockets.  While MSRP was not available at press time, one can only assume it will be quite high, which begs the question: How much is a sporty exterior, a luxurious, spacious interior, and a badass engine under the hood worth?  For some the answer would be it’s priceless.  For those, the Mercedes GLS is the perfect fit.

SUV Spotlight: Ford Explorer

2017 Ford E XLT Sport

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package ©Ford Motor Company

As promised, February is the month of SUVs on Automobheels.com.  I will be reviewing all types of SUVs. Everything from the practical and affordable to the super luxurious and pricey.

First up, Ford Explorer, the best selling SUV in the world over the past 25 years.  That’s quite a claim, and quite a bit of time in the world spotlight, however, with the new 2017 Explorer XLT Sport Appearance package, they prove why they deserve it.

2017 Ford E XLT Sport Rear

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package ©Ford Motor Company

With SUV sales expected to grow over the next decade, Ford is ramping up options for the 160 million boomers and millennials who will be lining up to buy this type of vehicle.  “As members of the 80-million-strong millennial age group enter their prime child-rearing years, a leading indicator of more SUV sales, nearly 80 million aging baby boomers continue to prefer their SUVs,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford Motor Company vice president of Marketing, Sales and Service. “It’s a demographic double whammy and it all points to one thing – more SUVs for the foreseeable future.”  Along with that growing demand, Ford has also tapped in to the fact that SUV consumers want unique and customized, which is why they are offering the new trim for 2017.  They want their consumers to have more choice and more options when buying their new vehicle.  “In the market right now, across all our SUVs, customers are looking for unique colors, wheels and interior appointments,” said Omar Odeh, Explorer brand marketing manager. “We’ve worked closely with Ford Design to deliver a unique look that will resonate with customers.”

2017 Ford E XLT Sport Interior

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package Interior ©Ford Motor Company

Enter the new Explorer XLT Sport Appearance, with multiple updates to the both the interior and exterior including:

  • 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels
  • Magnetic Gray grille
  • Magnetic Gray mirror caps
  • Magnetic Gray rear appliqué
  • Ebony Black body side cladding
  • Black roof rack
  • Explorer hood badge
  • Dark Earth Gray leather for front seats, including outer bolsters by premium leather maker Salerno; Dark Earth Gray Miko® suede for seat back uppers and inserts with Umber scrim, and door trim inserts; Umber contrast stitching
  • Explorer logo floor mats

The new trim also comes equipped with the stellar standard features expected from Ford, including a 3.5L V6 engine, Intelligent Access with push-button start, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, Sync®3, LED fog lamps and more.

2017 Ford E XLT Sport Rim

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package 20-inch Magnetic Gray Wheels ©Ford Motor Company

“Our Sport Appearance philosophy is rooted in the fact that we know exterior appearance is the No. 1 consideration in SUV purchase decisions,” said Odeh. “The XLT Sport Appearance Package is a dramatic offering that gives customers another attractive option.”  Add to the sporty appearance the EcoBoost® engine available in every nameplate at Ford, and consumers not only decrease fuel emissions, but look good while doing it.

With the introduction of the XLT Sport Appearance Package option, Ford has positioned itself well to capture the growing SUV market in the next year.  They are actively taking into consideration consumer trends and demands and making it available to their customers.  The new XLT Sport Appearance Package model looks to have it all: a stylish and sporty interior, some decent power under the hood, and one mean looking exterior.  I can’t wait to take this baby for spin when it’s available.

 

 

 

Why Everyone Loves the SUV

2016 Jeep® Grand Cherokee SRT

2016 Jeep® Grand Cherokee SRT Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

There is one type of vehicle I seem to see more frequently than any other on the road and that is the Sport Utility Vehicle.  Everywhere you go people are driving them.  Whether they are small, midsize or gigantic, consumers seem to be clamoring for this type of transportation.  So what makes the SUV such a desirable choice for consumers?

2016 CX-9

2016 Mazda CX-9 Interior Photo Credit: Mazda USA

The first reason that comes to mind is convenience.  Five doors, higher off the ground, and plenty of space all contribute to the convenience of driving a SUV.  These days even the more affordable models are packed with luxurious features including, but not limited to, leather seating, navigation, memory seats, heated seats, streaming bluetooth and music, and televisions neatly installed in the back of the front headrests.  Imagine being a kid now.  Those torturous road trips we suffered through in the 80’s and 90’s suddenly become quite bearable, if not fun in these new modern vehicles.

2016 Volve XC90

2016 Volvo XC90 Photo Credit: Volv0 Car Group

The second reason is versatility.  No matter what you’re looking for as a consumer, you can be assured at least one of the SUV models available will satisfy your needs.  Looking for something huge to transport your multiple kids and dogs?  Plenty of models come equipped with the sought after optional 3rd row, giving you choice as to how you would like your back seat and cargo area configured.  Is an environmentally responsible mode of transportation a must for you?  Several car companies make models with optional hybrid engines so you don’t have to feel as guilty about driving such a big, beasty car.

2016 Bentayga

Bentley Bentayga Photo Credit: Bentley Motors

The final obvious reason to own one of these is the cool factor.  Even if you have a ridiculously large family, you don’t have to sacrifice style and comfort to accommodate everyone.  You don’t even have to have a family to justify owning a SUV.  You can find purpose for your ride with rugged, outdoorsy activities or at least make it appear as if you enjoy that type of thing.  Once upon a time when I was in sales and had to schlep all over the greater Los Angeles area with sales materials and samples in my car, my SUV was my savior.  Yes it was bigger than it needed to be and got sub-par gas mileage, but it was so comfortable to drive, I didn’t mind stopping in to the gas station every two to three days.

With all this in mind, I will be dedicating the month of February on the blog to SUVs.  I will provide in-depth coverage of several different models and putting them to the test. Everything from the dream SUV (did someone say Bentley?!) to the more affordable models for those of us regular folk and everything in between.  Be sure to check back regularly for new posts, especially if you’re contemplating making the leap to SUV ownership.

2015 LA Auto Show Highlights

It’s that time again.  All things new and exciting in the automotive world have descended on the LA Convention Center for 10 glorious days.  Since today is the first day doors will open to the public, I thought it fitting to share some of this year’s not-to-be-missed highlights.  Also, be sure to check the blog in the coming days, as I cover these vehicle debuts in more depth.

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Volvo Concept 26

#1: Volvo’s Concept 26
As someone who has spent way too many hours of my life in traffic, this was by far the most mind-blowing thing I saw at the auto show.  While I am a driving enthusiast, I have to say, the thought of being able to literally kick back and catch up on my Netflix while being squired around the stand-still streets of Los Angeles by my autonomous car had me practically turning cartwheels in front of the exhibit.

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Mercedes SL Roadster

#2: Mercedes SL Roadster
Mercedes is hoping the latest generation of the SL series will bring the luxury roadster segment back to life.  With its sleek lines and powerful performance specs, there is no doubt it will be a desirable option for those in the market for a two-seat roadster.  While launching this beauty in the fun-loving California market is a stroke of genius, it remains to be seen whether the $100,000 roadsters can make a comeback in light of our new economic realities.  If they do, the 2017 SL550 will most certainly be leading the charge.

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Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept

#3: Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept
After months of teasing, Audi finally revealed its beautiful, all-electric, luxury class sport SUV.  During the big reveal, Audi not only issued a mea culpa for the TDI debacle, but vowed to take the brand to the forefront of the electric mobility platform.  Boasting three electric motors and a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds, if the E-Tron Quattro Concept delivers what is promises when it hits the market in 2018, it’s will not be hard to take Audi at their word.  This concept is definitely worth stopping by the Audi booth to see in person.

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Jaguar F-Pace

#4: Jaguar F-Pace
Five years ago I met with a Jaguar representative at the LA Auto Show and asked if they had any plans to make a Jaguar SUV.  He laughed and pointed to the multiple Land Rovers and Range Rovers on display and said, “There are our SUVs…right there”.  Well turns out he was wrong, because on press day, Jaguar revealed their brand new luxury sports utility vehicle, the F-Pace.  Taking inspiration from it’s sports car brother, the F-Type, the F-Pace is the total looks and performance package for the soccer mom wanting to make a statement.

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Mazda CX-9

#5: Mazda CX-9
Mazda has finally finished its complete fleet overhaul with the unveiling of the all-new CX-9.  The last in its fleet to get a facelift, the new body style is all class.  It’s a bigger, roomier and higher performing version of the CX-5.  Packed with style and fun, this one is sure to be a hit with the family circuit.  While not as sexy as the F-Pace parked a few stalls away, it provides quite enough style for the practical price tag that comes with it.

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If you have some extra time, be sure to stop by the Toyota booth to check out the Back to the Future display featuring Marty McFly’s 1985 Toyota Tacoma, as well as a DeLorean-inspired Toyota Mirai, complete with gull wing doors and a Mr. Fusion.

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I also recommend trying your hand at the Dodge Viper Challenge.  Climb inside an actual Dodge Viper and race around a simulated track at top speeds.  Ask for the manual mode and you’ll feel like you’re actually flying around the racetrack.