This is it! The final round of this year’s roundup of vehicles that I worked with but appear elsewhere in the mediasphere. This is also among the final group of vehicles being considered for #VOTY19.
Sometimes, it is hard to track which vehicles were published where. However, CarSoup.com has been getting the lion’s share of my work lately. It is with intention, as they try to build traffic for vehicle reviews before site visitors select which vehicles they should choose from. It works that simply. But, hey, at least V&R gets some traffic on here for our (er, my) reviews. You’ve read then, right?
Without further ado, here's a summary of what I have been working with over the past few months…
2019 VOLKSWAGEN ARTEON: Let me make this brief…this is a very good Volkswagen. Since it replaces the CC, the Arteon offers more cargo space, improved rear headroom, and more power from its 2.0liter turbocharged TSI engine. Plus, it has an 8-speed automatic instead of a DSG. What makes this story more interesting is that the Arteon represents a small demographic for Volkswagen that needs more representation. It is clearly better than its rivals – the few that match up with it directly. Think of it as a mature Golf R that oozes luxury and coddles you at every turn. It’s a stretch to say that, but it was the last thing that came to mind after a week in this car. Price as tested: $42,790. Vehicle provided by Volkswagen of America.
2020 ACURA RDX: Without the newest NSX, there would not be this RDX. This is truly a step in the right direction with its focused styling, right-sizing, strong performance, and great pricing. However, you would have to take up a learning curve for the push-button transmission set-up and the new trackpad for the infotainment system. Once you overlook those two details, then you realize how much of a success the new RDX has been for Acura – and Honda. Price as tested: $47,195. Vehicle provided by American Honda Motor, Inc.
2019 VOLVO S60: This is the first Volvo made in the USA. No, seriously. And, before you ask, I found no difference between it and one made in Sweden or Belgium. With that said, the S60 currently stands as the sportiest premium sedan made in this country. It has wonderful handling, despite a firmer ride from the R Design trim. It has heavily bolstered seats, even if it took almost to the end of its time to get comfortable. It also offered 316 ponies of turbocharged and supercharged thrust that will put a smile on your face. So, if you’re looking at a BMW 3-Series, put this on your shopping list! Price as tested: $55,490. Vehicle provided by Volvo Car USA.
2019 MAZDA6: Whenever I drive a Mazda6, I find that my faith in cars has been restored. It is a comfortable cruiser with a luxurious interior, superb road manners, and superb fuel economy. All of this from the turbocharged Signature model. It is one of my favorite vehicles for a reason. Price as tested: $36,815. Vehicle provided by Mazda North American Operations.
2020 JEEP GLADIATOR: Simply put, this is the pickup truck version of the Wrangler. Or, is it? FCA stretched the Wrangler 4-door by 30 inches to accommodate a five-foot box in the rear. The wheelbase was stretched, as well. The result is a strong pickup truck with equally strong bones, capable of towing up to 7,650 pounds and carrying up to 1,600 pounds in the box. It also snapped some necks and caused some "Jeep Waves" in my time with it. Does it all suffice for FCA’s mid-sized pickup truck? Or, is this a gimmick? Well…if you use it as a truck, then, by all means, it will do. Price as tested: $55,840. Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
2019 NISSAN KICKS: The subcompact SUV segment needs more definition. If a class of vehicles does not have all-wheel-drive as standard or an option, does that make it an SUV? This is the quandary about the Nissan Kicks, simply because it is available with front-wheel-drive only. It is a shame, really, considering how spunky the standard 1.6-liter engine is, as well as the Xtronic CVT being vastly improved for smaller engines. It is also a pretty competent vehicle for urban living. There are a couple of elephants in the room to address when talking about the Kicks – the original intent of this vehicle and what it replaced in the USA. We should skip those while we’re ahead… Price as tested: $23,725. Vehicle provided by Nissan North America.
2019 GMC CANYON: And, not just any GMC Canyon – it's the Denali! Well…it actually feels like an SLT with a few extras. When one thinks "Denali," they think of soft leather seating, higher-grade materials, and more content available. What I got was a cabin that reminded me more of an SLT (or second-from-the-top trim level of any pickup truck) with its firm seats and OK quality leather. Then again, the Canyon is a very solid pickup that does the job of towing up to 7,000 pounds with its 3.6-liter V6, 8-speed automatic, and four-wheel-drive. Maybe there were some expectations that were not met for a luxury pickup – even a midsized one. Price as tested: $45,775. Vehicle provided by General Motors.
2020 VOLVO XC40: Considering what it accomplished in my care, I wanted to see whether the XC40 would be a great long-distance driver. Actually, it can be pushed to do the drive from our headquarters in the Twin Cities to Cedar Rapids and onward to the Chicagoland area. It certainly has space, performance, and economy to do the job. The ride quality is quite good, even over rougher sections of interstate highways. Where it shined was in the city, where SUV/crossovers of this size really belong. Its size lends itself to being maneuverable in urban enclaves and tight parking spots. No wonder why it’s a leader in its class. Price as tested: $47,395. Vehicle provided by Volvo Car USA.
2020 HYUNDAI PALISADE: A preview drive in July revealed a lot about this new midsized three-row crossover/SUV. Let alone trying to compare it and its platform-mate, the Kia Telluride. The result is the discovery of its own personality. The Palisade’s big and bold styling and the Limited's posh cabin is the right combination one should look for in this segment. I will even add that the technology onboard is definitely on point when it comes to vehicle and passenger protection and safety. There is a tremendous amount of space for 7-8 people inside, along with easy access to the third row. If one can get past the push-button transmission – which works just fine, once you get used to it – then it should be considered your next family transport. Yes, it’s that good! Price as tested: $47,605. Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America.
2019 FORD ECOSPORT: Last year, Ford decided to add this global small SUV to the North American lineup. We laughed. We thought that it would not sell well. Actually, it’s selling just fine – sixth in its class behind Subaru, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, and Jeep. But, why is it not selling? Maybe it’s just too small? Maybe it’s not as well-executed as one would expect from a Ford? Maybe it the lack of overall performance – in this case, the 2.0-liter engine chosen for the all-wheel-drive system? Maybe people want Escapes instead of EcoSports? Given the top six in its class, I can name four from that list that is much better than the EcoSport. If there is a consolation, the other one is worse than the Ford. Facts! Price as tested: $28,380. Vehicle rented by Victory & Reseda for evaluation purposes.
2020 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 2500HD: In contrast to the new 2020 GMC Sierra 2500HD I reviewed recently, this Chevy arrived here as a work truck. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, since a majority of heavy-duty pickup trucks sales go to commercial customers. These customers do not want a luxury interior and all of the bells and whistles. Since I got the new gasoline-fueled 6.6-liter V8, most of these trucks are put to work within several miles of their base of operations. With all of that said, there is a sense of solidity in the newest heavy-duty pickups from GM. The new gas engine is livelier and feels as it will pull its own weight. Though, it really does need more driver-assist features at this level, because not everyone who drives these trucks is a professional. Still, commercial customers should consider this truck for the reason that, yes it gets the job done. Price as tested: $48,420. Vehicle provided by General Motors.
2020 TOYOTA YARIS SEDAN: Four years ago, I attended the last regional media drive for Scion. It featured this car, known as the iA sedan. Since then, Scion folded. Toyota took on the little car that was a collaboration with Mazda collaboration and slapped the Yaris name on it. No one would fault Toyota for doing so and not import the real Yaris stateside. Nor would you fault them for turning a Mazda2 into a fun little subcompact that you can get without overloading on options for under $20,000. In fact, you might enjoy commuting in this lightweight urban runabout.I know I did… Price as tested: $19,705. Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor North America
All photos by Randy Stern