Summer’s heating up as families hit the road for vacation. There’s no question that sport and crossover utility vehicles (SUVs and CUVs) have claimed the family car market, but happily, the supply and variety from which to choose is incredibly healthy. Here’s an overview of some of the models tested by Latino Traffic Report (LTR).
Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD
Mazda’s best-selling vehicle in the United States, the CX-5, stands out in a crowded segment with its design, including the signature Soul Red Crystal premium exterior paint ($595) on the test model. For 2018, this compact CUV moves ahead of the pack by making the blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert a standard feature on all CX-5s, something even premium compact CUVs and SUVs don’t do. Also added to the standard features list for 2018 are a leather-wrapped steering wheel and new cylinder-deactivation technology; Mazda is the only automaker to offer this technology on a four-cylinder engine in North America.
The test model, CX-5 Grand Touring AWD, also included the i-ACTIVSENSE suite with High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go function.
Powered by a 2.5-liter engine that delivers 187 horsepower and 186 lb.–ft. of torque with cylinder deactivation for better fuel economy and matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the CX-5 should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It averaged 28.5 mpg on the test drive.
On road trips, entertainment features come in handy and Mazda’s infotainment system centers around Mazda CONNECT with a seven-inch touch screen, Bluetooth audio streaming, and phone pairing. While it took four steps to set presets, there appeared to be no limit to the number allowed, from AM to SiriusXM Satellite radio.
With seating for five and 59.6 cubic feet (cu. ft.) of cargo room with the second-row seats folded, the 2018 Mazda CX-5 has a starting price of $25,125. The as-tested price came to $34,685.
Since its launch in 2005, the Equinox has been Chevrolet’s second-best selling vehicle overall, after the Silverado. It includes what families want, convenience and versatility, plus a few other features that other small SUVs don’t.
Under the hood, the Equinox offers three engine choices, all turbos—a 1.5-liter, 2.0-liter, and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel (a segment exclusive). LTR drove the 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 260 lb.–ft. of torque. The Equinox test model had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel rating of 22/28 mpg. It averaged 26.7 mpg on the test drive.
Inside, the Equinox there’s up to 63.5 cu. ft. of maximum cargo space with the second row folded flat. During the test, the seats were heavy and slammed down when deployed.
Certain brands may have created a reputation for safety but Chevy offers its own signature safety technology, starting with Teen Driver (standard) that allows parents to set controls and review driving history in order to encourage safe driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle. The available Rear Seat Reminder, also on the test model, pings when the ignition is turned off to remind the driver to check the back seat before locking the SUV.
The standard MyLink infotainment system on the Equinox that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, can be matched to a standard seven- or an available eight-inch-diagonal color touch screen.
Available in four trim levels, and front wheel or all wheel drive (FWD or AWD) combinations, pricing for the next-generation 2018 Equinox starts at $24,525. The as-tested price came to $43,050.
Lexus NX 300h
For road trips, fuel economy, comfort, and cargo carrying matter. The Lexus NX 300h hybrid competes handily in these areas. The test model also included the Lexus navigation package ($1,815), another road trip essential.
Lexus excels at comfort and luxury and the NX 300h test model was no exception. Enhanced by the Luxury Package ($4,545), it included buttery beige leather seating with heated and ventilated seats in the front. The second row also included a power button ($400) for folding the seats flat and exposing 53.7 cu. ft. of cargo room.
Powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor through its electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, it has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 33 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It averaged 28.4 mpg on the test drive. The engine lacked a little power but the Sport mode, part of the standard Drive Mode Select system, gave it some oomph. Normal and Eco modes are also available as well as an EV mode for full electric power at speeds below 25 miles per hour (mph). Regenerative braking charges the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy of the wheels when the brake is applied, storing it in the nickel-metal hydride hybrid battery pack.
Semi-autonomous features like adaptive cruise control are standard but the blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert was added to the test model ($660).
Other standard features included a backup camera, dual-zone climate control, Lexus Enform safety connect, and a power tilt and telescopic steering column.
For 2018 it gets a refreshed exterior and improved handling.
Pricing for the 2018 NX 300h starts at $39,330. The as-tested pricing came to $51,683.*
BMW X3 xDrive30i
All new for 2018, the BMW X3 brings a sporty element to the premium compact SUV segment (or Sports Activity Vehicle according to BMW), making it a bit more fun to drive than its competitors. Like its siblings, the X4, X5, and X6, the X3 is built at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, SC where 70 percent of BMW vehicles exported to 140 markets worldwide are produced.
The third-generation sports new fascia features including a three-dimensional kidney grille and fog lights featuring a hexagonal design. It’s also the first X3 to offer a factory installed trailer hitch.
A twin-power turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder inline gasoline engine that produces 248 horses and 258 lb.–ft. of torque powered the X3 xDrive30i test model, matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles and xDrive all-wheel drive (AWD). It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. It earned 24.1 mpg on the test drive.
Four drive modes, Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, helped customize the ride and handling and overcome a slight turbo lag.
Adding to that was the new 50:50 weight distribution between the front and rear axle.
Standard features on the test model included tri-zone climate control, a 40/20/40 split folding rear seat that can be released from the rear to expose 62.7 cu. ft. of cargo room, WiFi hotspot, and power tailgate. The test model, X3 also included multiple packages—Convenience ($2,850), Driving Assistance ($900), Dynamic Handling ($1,400), Parking Assistance ($1,300), and Premium ($3,300)—that added features like a panoramic sunroof, variable sport steering, and oddly, a rearview camera—it’s standard on most vehicles these days.
Pricing for the 2018 BMW X3 starts at $42,450. The as-tested pricing came to $57,470.
Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription
Safety is paramount to Volvo so it’s no wonder that the redesigned 2018 version of the XC60 adds Oncoming Lane Mitigation to its list of standard collision avoidance safety features, plus advancements to two available features—the Blind Spot Information System with steering assistance, part of the Vision Package ($1,100), and Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous feature from Volvo, included on the test model with the Convenience Package ($2,000). It helped with steering, braking, and acceleration on roads at speeds up to 80 mph, like adaptive cruise control but without needing a car in front of it to follow.
Two remarkable four-cylinder engines power the new XC60, a turbo 2.0-liter with 250 horsepower and 258 ft.–lb. of torque on the T5 base and a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter with 315 horsepower and 295 lb.–ft. of torque on the T6 Inscription test model. It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. It averaged 22.1 mpg during the test drive.
Blessed with Scandinavian design, inside and out, the T6 test model standard creature comforts included leather seats, a beautiful dash intricately trimmed with driftwood-inspired wood accents, a nine-inch Sensus Connect touch screen that provided a clear vantage when utilizing the standard backup camera, a panoramic sunroof, multi-zone climate control, and 4G LTE connectivity with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. It offered seating for five and 63.3 cu. ft. of cargo with the rear seats folded, a loss of about four inches from the previous XC60.
The Luxury Package ($3,000) added heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats and the Advanced Package ($1,900) added a 360-degree backup camera, among other features.
Representing 30 percent of Volvo’s global sales, the 2018 XC60 has a starting price of $42,495. The as-tested pricing was $63,290.
Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium
Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the seven-passenger Atlas is a new entry into the midsize SUV market for Volkswagen. It offers utility with three rows of seats, including second and third rows that can fold flat to provide a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cu. ft. behind the front-row seats. The seats on the test model, however, were heavy and slammed down when deployed.
The digital 12.3-inch TFT display in the instrument panel can also be customized, a feature usually reserved for premium vehicles.
While a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque is available, the test model, Atlas SEL Premium, is only powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that delivers 276 horses and 266 lb.–ft. of torque and is matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The maximum towing for the V6 is 5,000 lbs. with a factory-installed hitch.
The standard Start/Stop technology that cuts the engine off at a stop also helps conserve gas and while noticeable, it was less jarring than other systems. That said, the test model had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 17/23 mpg. The test model, equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive, averaged 17.2 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. Four Motion also included Active Control with Eco, Individual, Normal, and Sport driving modes but power was noticeably lost in the Eco mode.
The test model also had three-zone climate control, leather seating with heated and ventilated seats in the front, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, a front and rear parking monitor, blind spot monitor, Fender audio, and eight-inch touch screen with navigation, and a CD player.
Pricing for the 2018 Atlas starts at $31,745. The as-tested pricing came to $49,415.
Ranger Rover Sport HSE
Some SUVs stand out for plushness, others for their off-road capability, and some, like the Ranger Rover Sport, for both. The test model, Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 doubled down on these attributes.
Piling tons of off-road capability onto a fancy SUV may seem at cross-purposes but the Land Rover’s brand legacy demands it. While most owners will keep their nearly six-figure SUV on the road, if they want to climb rocks, they can in the Range Rover Sport. Rather than drive modes, the Sport included off-road modes via the Terrain Response System—General, Snow, Mud and Sand.
The test model, however, stayed on the road, powered by the available 3.0-liter V6 diesel that produced 254 horsepower and 443 lb.–ft. of torque. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, it had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 22/28 mpg. It surpassed expectations during the test drive, achieving an average of 32.7 mpg.
Additional features affecting performance included Intelligent Stop/Start and full-time four-wheel drive (4WD). While the Sport version is supposed to be the more nimble Range Rover, it still felt heavy and at times, difficult to maneuver.
Of the multiple interior tech features, the stand out was the 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment four-panel display for selecting navigation, entertainment, climate control, and Bluetooth functions. Other posh features on the test model included a panoramic sunroof, Oxford perforated leather seats (heated and ventilated in the front), a TFT virtual instrument panel, Head-up Display, and a heated steering wheel. For 2018, the Range Rover Sport gets a refreshed exterior and new version of the InControl Touch Pro.
The test model was also equipped with advanced safety features like a blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, and parking assistance. Pricing for the 2018 Range Rover Sport starts at $67,745. The as-tested price came to $73,645.*
Infiniti QX80 4WD
It takes special needs to step up to the big boys in the SUV segment, e.g. lots of capacity and versatility. Luxury and comfort also enhance a vessel like the 2018 Infiniti QX80 full-size premium SUV, or as Infiniti’s press release says: “It will appeal to a buyer that wants for nothing.”
A 5.6-liter V8 engine with 400 horses and 413 lb.–ft. of torque matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission propelled the massive seven-seater (or eight-seater with the second-row bench instead of captain’s chairs) along the highway. The test model, equipped with computer-controlled 4WD and Drive Mode Selector (Snow and Tow), had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 13/19 mpg and a maximum towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. It averaged 15.3 mpg on the test drive.
Interior features on the test model testified to its unique craftsmanship, like real wood accents, illuminated doorsills, Infiniti’s InTouch eight-inch touch screen, and the Bose premium audio system with SiriusXM Satellite radio and two USB ports. While all QX80s come with leather seating, the test model stepped it up a notch with the semi-aniline leather (made from the most desirable portion of the animal’s hide) with contrasting stitching and piping, part of the Deluxe Technology Package ($5,700).
Additional features on the test model included the Theater Package ($2,450) with eight-inch monitors in the front headrests and heated second-row seats, and the Driver Assistance Package ($2,900) that included advanced safety technology like the blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, and back-up collision warning, among other features.
Pricing for the 2018 QX80 starts at $66,045. The as-tested pricing came to $84,660.
Toyota Land Cruiser
In 1957 the Toyota Land Cruiser was among the first Toyota vehicles sold in the U.S. Toyota’s oldest SUV currently on the market has evolved into a premium full-size SUV with refined good looks and advanced off-road capability.
The number eight figures prominently in the 2018 Land Cruiser, with seating for eight and a powertrain that includes a 5.7-liter V8 matched to an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The V8 produces 381 horsepower and 401 lb.–ft. of torque and has a maximum towing capacity of 8,100 pounds.
It has an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 13/18 mpg. It averaged 15.2 mpg on the test drive.
Safety advancements on this family vehicle include the standard Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) system, with a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beams among other features. Stepping up to the 4WD version, like the as-tested model, brought technology like a blind spot monitor, a front and rear parking sensor, and rear cross traffic alert.
While the seats are split 60/40 in the second-row and 50/50 in the third-row, they were heavy and a little awkward to deploy. Once folded flat, however, the cargo room expanded to 81.7 cu. ft.
Entertainment and convenience features on the test model included four-zone climate control, JBL audio with navigation and a CD player, a nine-inch touchscreen, and a cooler box in the center console.
Toyota has reserved its premium products for Lexus, but the Land Cruiser is an exception. Pricing for the 2018 Land Cruiser starts at $84,960. The as-tested price, with the rear entertainment system ($2,220) came to $87,180.
*Driving impressions based on a 2017 model.