In Wheel Time: Living the high life

December 31st, 2020

By Don Armstrong

Luxury and near-luxury offerings continue to evolve into an as-yet undefined blend of both worlds, and we are the winners. Two familiar Detroit mainstays now offer SUVs that would look good in anybody’s driveway, but the caveat is deciding which one scratches the itch.

Ford Expedition Max – King Ranch

The 4th generation Ford Expedition is a body-on-frame SUV, built on the F-150 truck frame. This may not mean much to most buyers but it offers maximum towing capabilities – 9,000 pounds. The MAX version is a foot longer than the standard size Expedition and allows more legroom for those in the 3rd row along with increased storage behind it.

Since you’ll be “all-in” with this King Ranch package, Ford adds the logo on all four sides for Bay Area braggin’ rights.

The King Ranch package is opulent, in a Texas kind of way, with heavy leather and embroidered King Ranch logos throughout the cabin. The Sync 3 infotainment system is intuitive, easy to use and understand.

All Expeditions are powered by a twin turbo V-6 engine, delivering 375-horsepower through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is optional.

The Expedition’s ride and handling qualities are superb, but parking at the HEB could be a little challenging at first.

Pricing for the Ford Expedition King Ranch MAX starts at $78,715.

Cadillac XT6

The Cadillac name is well known among luxury brands and the all-new for 2020 XT6 moves the marque another step forward in the highly competitive crossover segment. Unlike the Expedition’s truck frame architecture, the XT6 is unibody, meaning no frame and reduced towing ability.

Many of the recognizable Cadillac design elements, such as the front fascia and rear lighting are immediately recognizable as being part of the brand’s “look.” If that is what you are in search of, you won’t be disappointed.

We like GM’s infotainment system, like Ford’s, easy to use and navigate. That may sound cliché, but believe it or not, there are still some brands out there that overcomplicate this feature. When shopping, be sure to try them out.

Under the hood is a 310-horsepower V-6, married to 9-speed automatic transmission. The XT6 comes in a front-wheel drive layout with optional all-wheel drive at additional cost.

The ride is much sportier than Cadillacs of old, which we think competes nicely with some of its German competitors.

MSRP begins at $52,695

Big as You Want

April 1st, 2019

By Don Armstrong

The difference between a sport utility vehicle, SUV, and crossover utility vehicle, CUV, is capability. The body-on-frame SUV typically shares most of its underpinnings with a modified truck chassis, giving it more towing and hauling capacity. The CUV is more car-like, with its unibody construction. Each, however, has its own attributes.

Ford Expedition
Expedition is Ford’s version of the Chevy Suburban, a big, hulking, monster of a machine capable of hauling sacks of concrete, people and equipment, all while towing a loaded trailer. However, if you’re more into hauling the ball team and its equipment to the game, it makes the trip effortless, and in the luxury you can afford.

Ford’s infotainment system, Sync 3, provides all the tech connections you could ever want, while seating up to eight people. Air vents, controls and displays are located at your finger tip and easy to use.

Under the hood is a 375-horsepower, 3.5-liter, turbocharged V-6. A new 10-speed automatic transmission helps this beast achieve 17 MPG-city and 22-highway.

Ford researchers know the options most of us like on a do-all, like Expedition, and they package them in trim levels titled XLT, Limited and Platinum.

Pricing starts at $52,130.

Unless you are a Ford fanatic, you’ll also want to shop the Chevy Suburban, Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada.

Mazda CX-5
With a sportiness that attracts those who enjoy the art of driving, the Mazda CX-5 brings with it ‘the look’ that enthusiasts appreciate. The leading edge of its hood is thin and evokes a marathon runner’s svelte physique. The door skins have a sharp belt-line transition, giving it cutting-edge swagger.

The CX-5 has an inviting interior. The infotainment screen is perched atop the middle dash. Touch features are limited while the vehicle is in motion, but most can be accessed through a knob on the center console.

The 2019 model addresses the need for more grunt with an optional turbo version of Mazda’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers up to 250-horsepower through a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Its taut suspension fits the sporty nature of the brand. So, when there is an opportunity to carpet the throttle and zoom onto the freeway entry, you’ll do it with a smile.

The CX-5 starts at $24,350. You’ll have to get one of the top two trim levels to access the higher horsepower engine option.

SUVs Rule the Bay

August 1st, 2018

By Don Armstrong

Ford Expedition MAX
Leaps and bounds better than the outgoing model, the all-new Ford Expedition MAX finally gives the GM brand some real competition in the standard SUV category.

When compared to the Chevrolet Suburban, the Expedition Max is only 2.5-inches shorter. But there is a laundry list of differences. First and foremost is technology and that includes engine, transmission, suspension and the new Sync 3 infotainment system.

This body-on-frame SUV, now with independent suspension, delivers a family friendly ride.

Gone is the gas-thirsty V-8 power plant. A new 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 delivers up to 400 hp and 480 lb.-ft. of torque, which should handle its 9,000-lb. towing capacity with ease.

There are three trim packages available, XLT, Limited and Platinum and there is a sizeable price difference between each, so we suggest doing your research and picking one that best suits your needs.

Three rows of seating hold up to 8 passengers with plenty of legroom, the dash is taken from the F-150 pickup, a popular design that is highly functional. After decades of real-world research, Ford has a handle on what works.

We encourage you to check out the new Ford Expedition MAX that starts at $51,790.

GMC Acadia
In the world of SUVs, the crossover is the most popular. Usually built on a car chassis, these pseudo high-riders offer most folks everything that a body on frame sport-ute does but without the weight. And they usually deliver much better fuel economy.

Fully redesigned last year, the 2018 GMC Acadia packages the things a true crossover shopper is looking for in one sharp-looking package. And it’s priced competitively.

Interiors, in-general, seem to be moving toward a more complex, artsy design level. Not the Acadia, and we feel it makes a good fit for those inclined to head for the simpler things in life.

We loved the cloth seats because they weren’t ugly and were very comfortable. We like the faux wood accents and dash layout. In fact, there wasn’t much we didn’t like about the passenger compartment. The infotainment system was intuitive and easy to use.

A 4-cylinder engine is standard, but we prefer the optional 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 that gets 18 mpg-city and 25-highway. While others are going to a 10-speed automatic transmission, the GMC Acadia retains a six-speed.

The 2018 starting price hits the sweet spot at $29,995.

Bay Area Houston Magazine