Size Matters

January 2nd, 2019

2019 Jeep® Renegade Limited

By Don Armstrong

Full-size, body-on-frame SUV’s were once all the rage. Even today, they sell well. But for many in the Bay Area, the frameless, car-like, unibody construction of a crossover, or CUV, offers what most are looking for, including better fuel mileage.

Jeep Renegade
When we think of Jeep, most tend to see themselves off-roading in the Hill Country, or at least the sandy dunes down the coast. If you fall into that category, then the Renegade Trailhawk may be a perfect fit.

There’s no mistaking its boxy shape and seven-slot grille for anything other than a Jeep.

The Trailhawk edition is equipped with the larger 2.4-liter engine, that we prefer, delivering its 180-horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The interior is just plain fun, and the optional, larger 8.4-inch infotainment screen connects you to the world of Jeeping with ease. Seating is rugged yet comfortable. Second-row legroom may be a little tight for those over six feet but expect plenty of space in the cargo area. Removable MySky sunroof panels are a must option.

With the Renegade’s off-road suspension and bigger tires, the ride is a bit stiffer than the entry-level model. But isn’t this why you joined the posse?

Starting price for the Jeep Renegade is $18,445. The Trailhawk trim level, with a few options, is around $30,000.

2019 Buick Encore

Buick Encore
Playing on the near-luxury field puts the Buick Encore in a different class than the Renegade but is similar in size.

This GM brand is known for a quiet cabin and Encore delivers, thanks to Buick’s QuietTuning technology. Specially laminated glass along with sound deadening materials are among many items acoustical engineers employ to keep outside noise, outside.

The interior in our top-of-the-line trim, Essence, is very nice and comfortable, not over-the-top, but true quality throughout the cabin. Its infotainment system is well thought out and easy to use.

Powering our Encore is an optional 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that boasts a wee bit more horses than the base motor, 153 to be exact. We would like to see something closer to the Renegade’s output.

The ride quality is reassuring without being jittery at highway speeds. And that says a lot, considering Encore’s short wheelbase.

Pricing begins at $23,200.

No one manufacturer has an edge over another these days, so select the price range and type of sport ute that fits your needs and start exploring.

Beauty and the Beast

May 1st, 2018

By Don Armstrong

Each year, we get to drive dozens of new vehicles. However, it isn’t often we get excited enough to boast about a couple of all-new rides. This month we drive two, SUV’s that we think you’ll get excited about too after your test drives.

The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir tows a boat Wednesday, July 19, 2017 in Milford, Michigan. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for Buick)

Buick Enclave Avenir
Used to be, Buick was a “near” luxury brand. No longer. The completely redesigned Enclave Avenir can now be considered full-on luxury and a “Beauty” to behold.

We recently drove the “Avenir,” an all-new trim name for top-of-the-line features that now place this Buick in direct competition with Lexus and Infiniti.

The Avenir includes an exclusive three-dimensional mesh grille paired with chrome wings inspired by Buick concept cars, as well as 20-inch wheels. Five premium exterior colors are available along with a Chestnut interior with Ebony piping on the seats and contrasting stitching. Avenir floor-mats; a wood-accented steering wheel and Avenir-scripted sill plates are just a few items you’ll want to point out to your now jealous next-door neighbors.
A smooth 3.6L V-6 engine delivers 310-horsepower to 2 or all-wheels. An imperceptible nine-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models.

A premium suspension system with continuously variable real-time damping is also available.

Starting price for the Enclave is $40,970. Add several thousand dollars for models sporting the Avenir emblem.

BMW X3 M40i
The venerable X3 has become one of BMW’s most popular models with seating for 5 and a mastery of ride quality and handling. The all-new M40i adds the “Beast” factor to an already capable factory do-all.

When we say “all-new” we mean from the ground up, but you’d be hard pressed to see any noticeable deviations from the outgoing model. Side-by-side though, the ’18 model is larger than the old, which translates into more interior room.

We love inline 6-cylinder engines and BMW makes one of the best. Add TwinPower turbocharging to its 3.0-liters and you’ll have 355-horses that get to a full gallop faster that you can say, “giddyap.”

Its 8-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission with Launch Control is a delight in either full-automatic mode or paddle-shifted intervention. The full-time all-wheel drive system is the only one available, as it should be.

BMW is typically at the cutting edge of in-car connectivity but in the X3, Apple Car Play is in, and Android Auto is out.

The X3 M40i starts at $64,045.