Smallish Trucking

November 1st, 2019

By Don Armstrong

The names are from the past, but the 2019 Ford Ranger and 2020 Jeep Gladiator are completely new trucks that can be found in the mid-size category. We recently had a chance to drive both and found them nothing like their old namesakes, thank goodness.

Jeep Gladiator
Based on a lengthened Jeep Wrangler chassis, this mid-size truck combines all the off-road capability of the Wrangler with the added convenience of a pickup bed. Yes, the doors and top come off and the windshield folds down, just like the Wrangler. We like to think of it as the “Swiss Army Knife” of trucking since it is capable of off-roading like no others with its standard 4-wheel drive system.

Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V-6 that produces 285-horsepower and 260 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard while the 8-speed automatic is optional. This smooth and reliable power combo can tow up to 7,650 pounds, when equipped with the Max Tow Package, and haul up to 1,600 pounds.

Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment system is simply the best and, as you can imagine, options abound. The base Sport model starts at $33,545. The all-out Rubicon model adds an extra $10-grand.

The “look at me” factor is huge with the Gladiator so get your “thumbs-up” ready when you meet another Jeeper coming down the road.

FORD RANGER
Compared to the old Ranger, the all-new version is considerably larger, and to most, a notable improvement. Adding to its likability is a modern, albeit smaller, design interpretation of its big brother, the F-150.

Although the 2019 Ranger is “new” to the U.S. market, its bones originate in the 2015 Australian version, modernized and legalized for America. It has all the latest tech including Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system.

Two different cabs and a 5 or 6-foot bed are offered, along with 3 trim levels – XL, XLT and Lariat. We tested the SuperCrew Lariat with the FX4 off-road package, and a dealer installed tonneau cover. This is a great combination, but the $45,750 sticker can be a bit of a shock.

Powering this “mini 150” is a peppy, no-lag, 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine that delivers 270-HP and 310 lb-ft of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Towing is rated at 7,500 pounds, payload maximum is 1,860 lbs.

Pricing for the entry-level Ranger starts at $24,300.

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.