2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition Review

Friday December 30th, 2016 at 11:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

By David Colman

Hypes: Precision Handling, Lively Drivetrain, Innovative Storage
Gripes: Tailgate, Hood Prop, Glovebox Need Refinement

After a two year absence, the Ridgeline returns to the marketplace minus its most identifiable feature. The flying buttress that long defined this Honda is gone. Not many owners will rue its absence. Although the Ridgeline’s iconic profile distinguished it from all other compact pickups, the cab side buttress interfered with rear vision as well as bed access. When you’re dealing with a bed as short as this one (5’3″), impaired access is inadvisable. But the redesigned structure makes side access easy. To understand just how short this pickup’s box is, place an adult size mountain bike in the bed. While the bike fits nicely, it takes up the entire floor.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

This Honda’s very versatile design is based on the company’s Pilot SUV, which was redesigned for 2016. Like the Pilot, the Ridgeline packs a sophisticated 3.5 liter V6, good for 280hp and 262lb.-ft. of torque. Those numbers will allow you to tow a 5,000lb. trailer – provided you keep the passenger and cargo load light in the truck. The owner’s manual gives you a specific breakdown as to how much the trailer load decreases when the passenger and cargo load increase. An integrated Class II trailer hitch and electrical receptacle are standard issue.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

The Ridgeline we tested, which Honda calls their Black Edition, is the most fully optioned and most expensive model in the line-up. Although you can opt for a crew cab 4×2 for a base price of just $29,475, the Black Edition 4×4 will run you $44,770 including $900 for delivery. That’s an expensive proposition, because some aspects of the Black Edition Ridgeline look more like a $30,000 product than a $45,000 one. For example, when you pop the hood to service the sideways mounted V6, you are forced to dismount a spindly support rod, then insert it into a specific hole, all while juggling the hood with your free hand. The sound deadening mat under the hood looks cheap. At the back end, the heavy tailgate thuds from upright to open with a disconcerting free fall crash. Its weight makes raising it manually quite difficult. Even the glovebox door mimics the tailgate, as it flops noisily open. Other domestic pickups have long since remedied such issues.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

In spite of these annoyances, there’s really a lot to love about the ingenious design of this crossover truck. Start with the basic design of the platform. Rather than the conventional body-on-frame design so common to compact pickups, Honda has chosen an alternate route they call “Integrated Closed-Box Frame with Unibody Construction.” In common English that translates into a one-piece body structure that provides a quieter ride, with better isolation from road imperfections. The Back Edition rides on model specific black alloy rims (8″x18″) with tall sidewall Firestone Destination all-season tires (245/60R18). The fully independent suspension of the Ridgeline works in consort with the tall Firestones to isolate you from road imperfections. Inside the cabin, outside noise is imperceptible, and even the nastiest potholes are neutered by the cushy Firestones. Yet this truck also corners with exceptional prowess. Its all-wheel-drive system metes power to all four corners with such precision that the suspension never loses traction. Substantial front and rear stabilizer bars help keep you on an even keel. Electronic, power- assisted rack and pinion steering is accurate enough to govern precise placement of this 4, 430 lb. vehicle. To Honda’s engineering credit, it drives smaller than it is.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

The V6 engine contributes greatly to the Ridgeline’s vibrant performance. When you toe into the throttle, power flow is gratifyingly immediate. 0-60mph test runs clock the Ridgeline at under 7 seconds, which is very quick for such an AWD truck. The 6-speed automatic transmission contributes smooth, immediate shifts, though it lacks manual paddle activated override. The V6 boasts cylinder deactivation technology, which allow this package to post an overall MPG rating of 21. When you combine this sweet drivetrain with all of the Ridgeline’s other features (hidden 7.3 cubic foot trunk in the floor of the pickup bed, folding, stowable rear seats, fully bevy of standard safety alerts), the Black Edition Ridgeline starts looking like something of a bargain surprise, even at $45,000.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6, 24 valve i-VTEC, Direct Injection, Variable Cylinder Management
  • Horsepower: 280hp
  • Torque: 262lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 18MPG City/25MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $44,770
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD Review

Tuesday December 20th, 2016 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

By David Colman

Hypes: Handsome Redesign, Packed with Standard Features
Gripes: Comes on Boost With a Bang

Kia has dramatically facelifted the Sportage for 2017. This pugnacious makeover is most apparent up front. A battery of quadruple fog lights flank a new grill that resembles pursed lips. High above the beltline, headlight clusters sweep backwards like a pair of raised eyebrows. Flared fender lips and deft side sculpting complete the new look.

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Standard 19 inch alloy rims, bearing 245/45R19 Hankook Kinergy GT rubber, replicate the natural beauty of a starfish. The Kinergy tires are well suited to the stable suspension tuning of the Sportage, offering a comfortable ride along with predictable twisty road handling. The Sportage’s newfound visual arrogance is appropriate given its turbocharged 2.0 liter, direct injection, 4 cylinder engine. This powerful mill makes 240hp and 260lb.-ft. of torque, so the Sportage can easily tow a trailer weighing up to 2,000 pounds.

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Kia provides you with a very positive shifting 6 speed automatic gearbox, fitted with small paddles at the steering wheel, as well as a gate for manual shifting via the lever mounted between the seats. The only drawback to the turbo motor is its explosive transition to full boost status. This jerky off/on behavior causes the Sportage to jump into action with such a sudden jolt that the rush of acceleration can be hard to control. Better modulation of turbo boost would alleviate the problem.

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

It’s otherwise hard to fault this newly revised Kia product. Since all-wheel-drive is standard on this model, you are assured that traction loss in inclement weather will never delay your journey. The inclusion of a locking center differential contributes even more predictability and control to off-road travel. Also helping in this regard are the Hankook tires, which are Mud and Snow rated.

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

The interior accoutrements are more than you would expect from a sports utility vehicle carrying a base price under $35,000. While not luxurious, the fittings in the cabin bespeak quality rather than cheapness. The steering wheel, with its nifty flat bottom, is an especially well tailored piece of equipment. The leather rim is fat and grip-able, the stitching is nicely done, and the bevy of cruise and entertainment controls on the left and right spokes are logically arrayed and useful. Nicely upholstered, leather trimmed front seats are a bit too hard and flat in the lower back area, but do provide lumbar adjustment. Unexpectedly, both fronts are heated and cooled.

Vision to the sides and rear is so good that you rarely have to resort to the backup camera image projected on the 8 inch navigation screen when reversing out of a parking place. However, that newly upturned snout makes direct frontal vision difficult. The extra ride height of this SUV’s suspension benefits parking maneuvers by allowing you to glide over curb bumpers you can’t see. A standard front/rear parking assist system also helps keep your Sportage ding-free.

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Kia’s revamped Sportage comes loaded with the full array of GPS-based information sources forgetful drivers require to keep them pointed in the right direction. You don’t have to pay a dime extra for Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Lane Departure Warning System, or Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The beauty of these reminders is that they can be used when required or switched off at will. A final incentive to purchase this Kia comes from the company’s unusually long 5 year/ 60,000 mile Limited Basic Warranty, which thoughtfully includes Free Roadside Assistance for that same period of time.

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

  • Engine: 2.0 liter direct injection, turbocharged inline 4
  • Horsepower: 240hp
  • Torque: 260lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 20 MPG City/23 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,895
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription Review

Thursday December 8th, 2016 at 11:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

By David Colman

Hypes: Palatial Interior, Great Back Seat
Gripes: Printed Owner’s Manual Not Provided; Perplexing Graphic User Interface

This all new Volvo sedan combines scintillating detail design with enough maddening driving nannies to staff a child care center. Let’s start with the S90′s positives first. Even the most cursory inspection of this Volvo leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is a work of art deserving of inclusion in a museum retrospective of Swedish design. From the outside, the S90′s clean lines and exceptional lighting treatments front and rear set it apart from anything else on the road. Volvo designers have endowed the grill with a ripe and luscious mouth, described as a “matte silver waterfall with a chrome frame.” If one car could define the word sleek, it would be this chic Volvo sedan.

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

But stylish as the exterior may be, it plays second fiddle to the sumptuous interior. The cockpit of the new S90 Inscription looks more like the latest living room ensemble from IKEA than a car interior. The cream colored seats, with perforated Nappa soft leather surfaces, invite close examination. Note the breathable perforations, the neatly tailored piping, and the standard inclusion of heating and ventilation systems. The rear compartment is equally alluring, with enough legroom to assuage a basketball pro. Although the rear side windows are big enough to survey the countryside, they can be configured to hide your presence thanks to manually operated “sun curtains.”

The $3,300 “Inscription Features” include “Linear Walnut Wood Inlays” that are stunning in their matte simplicity. They cover the central console, the passenger quadrant of the dash, and all upper interior door surfaces. These unvarnished swatches of wood comprise but a small part of the Inscription bounty. You’ll also appreciate the self-cleaning LED headlights whose beams bend with the direction of travel. The upper sections of the dash and lower sections of the door panels are leather upholstered. The already plush front seats benefit from inscription grade tweaks like power side bolsters, power under-thigh extension bolsters, and the subtle inscription of the word “Inscription” on the headrests. If you can’t get comfortable in this Volvo, you can’t get comfortable, period. Finally, the list of Inscription Features concludes with 19 inch diamond cut alloy rims. On our test vehicle, Volvo upped the contact patch by equipping it with a $750 set of 20 inch model-specific alloys shod with premium Pirelli rubber (255/35R20 P Zero).

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

A brand new 8 speed gearbox makes its Volvo sedan debut, providing smooth propulsion for the T6′s 2.0 liter engine. Thanks to turbo-charging and super-charging, the direct fuel injection engine, which is mounted sideways under the hood, produces 316hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. While the horsepower peak takes a bit of sprinting to achieve at 5600rpm, the torque flow maxes at just 2200rpm. Make no mistake, this Volvo is quick enough in a straight line to beat almost any of the German or British competition in the traffic light grand prix. The addition of all-wheel-drive makes the P Zero tires work even harder to gain traction at both ends of the car. Even when you push this admittedly heavy (4,220 pound) Volvo hard, it responds with predictable grip and commendable precision. The center console contains a rotating drive-mode selector, fetchingly done in knurled silver, that allows you to alter the car’s responses from lethargic (Eco) to alert (Normal) to spirited (Sport). But you must reassign your preference every time you restart the S90. With a ride this sportingly inclined, the absence of paddle shifts is a surprising omission.

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

At the outset, we mentioned Volvo’s preoccupation with safety measures that detract from the pleasure of driving. Here’s a brief list of the nannies that will drive you nuts if you fail to stifle them: low speed collision avoidance system; pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection system; run-off-road protection and run-off mitigation system; road sign information; lane departure warning and driver alert control. If you chose to drive with all these systems active, the S90 transforms itself from a pleasure module into a beeping, dash illuminating warning system that will reduce you to a bundle of over-wrought nerve endings inside ten miles. Turn most or all of these nannies off, and the S90 instantly reverts to being the slickest sedan Sweden has ever built.

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, direct injection, turbocharged and supercharged
  • Horsepower: 316hp @ 5700rpm
  • Torque: 296lb.-ft.@2200rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $66,105
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD Review

Wednesday October 19th, 2016 at 11:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

By David Colman

Hypes: Luxo Cab, Killer Rockford Fosgate 12 Speaker Audio
Gripes: Annoying “Tow” Mirrors, No EZ Bed Access

Due to some scheduled maintenance of our own vehicles, this Titan pulled extra duty as a sag wagon, accompanying us to various dealerships. This afforded me the chance to inspect the all new Titan not only from the driver’s seat, but also from the front and rear as it transited the Interstate. Bottom Line: the Titan is imposing to drive, and looks even more imposing to adjacent motorists. In particular, the enormous chrome grill, flanked by Batman style light clusters and underlined by a sweeping chrome bumper, elevates the Titan to King Kong status when it looms in your rear view mirror. In the remote event that model ID becomes necessary, 4 inch tall “TITAN” lettering is incised across the top of the chrome grill. L-shaped LED running lights embedded into the front light housings instantly identify the smiley face of this monster Nissan. The rear view is somewhat more restrained, with a pair of bulbous vertical tail lights flanking a massive tailgate adorned with “SL 4WD” lettering.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

Inside the Titan’s spacious cab, you’re sitting on top of the traffic whirl, with excellent sight lines in all directions thanks to extra tall side windows on all four doors. The gracefully contoured front doors droop at the forward beltline to permit welcome 3/4 front vision. The only hang-up in this carefully orchestrated penthouse platform is the design of the optional “Extendable Folding Tow Mirrors” which are part of a $360 Towing Convenience Package that also includes a trailer brake controller and a trailer light check system. The tow mirrors are so tall and narrow that they do not reveal the presence of immediately adjacent traffic. They are, however, fitted with parabolic lower quadrant mirrors that do reveal nearby vehicles. The problem with this double mirror setup is that it forces you to scan four separate panels simultaneously before reaching an informed conclusion about what’s next to you. In view of this shortcoming, the Titan’s standard blind spot warning system is a welcome addition.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

Nissan doesn’t mess around with inadequately sized wheels or tires. The 4WD SL comes standard with 20 inch alloy rims shod with 275/60R20 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A tires that lift the cab structure far enough into the sky to require the optional fixed running boards fitted to our truck. Despite clambering repeatedly in and out of the elevated cab, we never once lacked for a stable foothold or handhold because Nissan provided 3 solid grabs on either side up front, plus 2 more in back. Once ensconced in the front seating positions, you will marvel at the luxury level furnishings. The dual Captain’s Chairs proved quite comfortable for short and long haul runs. Both are heated and upholstered in perforated vinyl set off by handsome contrasting stitching. The driver’s side features 8-way power adjustment and lumbar fine tuning, while the passenger makes do with 4 positioning alternatives. In back, the rear seats offer vast legroom and headroom, but their bolt upright position mitigates against long distance comfort. This rear bench folds flat against the rear wall of the cab, providing 15 cubic feet of lockable interior cargo space.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

The bed of our test Titan was a real work of art with a bevy of LED lights installed just below the aluminum tie-down rail. These lights activate automatically when you drop the impact-cushioned tailgate or can be individually controlled via a push button on the lower dashboard. A particularly bright overhead light embedded in the cab roof contributes extra illumination to the bed, which features standard “Factory-Applied Spray-On Bedliner” as well as the “Utili-trak Channel System with 4 Adjustable Tie-Down Cleats.” About the only item missing here is a ladder or foot step to help you climb into the bed. Nissan could take a clue here from the fold-out step ladder Ford provides for its F Series pickups.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

Although the Titan’s “Endurance” V8 supplied to our test truck matched the 5.6 liter displacement of last year’s engine, output is significantly improved for 2017: horsepower jumps from 317hp to 390hp and torque grows from 385lb.-ft. to 394lb.-ft. This V8 is now coupled to a smooth shifting 7-speed automatic transmission instead of the 5 speed that predated it. All in all, the power management team performs with dispatch and precision. The 4WD unit features a shift-on-the-fly apparatus that allows you to select not only 2 and 4 wheel drive, but also low and hi 4WD thanks to a 2-speed transfer case. At one point, we were spinning the rear wheels while attempting to make a hill start on grass clippings, A simple shift from 2WD to 4WD provided instant thrust through all 4 Goodyears. The Titan then rocketed away like a top fuel dragster.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

  • Engine: 5.6-liter V8
  • Horsepower: 390hp
  • Torque: 394lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 15 MPG City/21 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $51,015
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Nissan |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


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