2017 Kia Sportage
No vehicle tells the Kia story better than their compact Sportage utility. One of their first U.S. models, it started out as a cobbled together, rough-and-ready, rear and 4-wheel drive, mini ute. Now in its 4th generation, it has become a stylish, sophisticated, feature-packed crossover. But, with all that change, has practically taken a backseat in the Sportage?
Despite the impressive progress that the Kia brand has had in recent years, big success in the compact crossover ranks has alluded them to this point. It’s still largely the RAV4, CR-V, Rogue and Escape’s domain. But, Kia hopes to change that with this 2017 Kia Sportage.
We like the sophisticated new design, and at first we thought we were crazy for seeing a strong Porsche Macan influence. As it turns out, this Sportage was actually designed in Kia’s Frankfurt studio, so we’re not so crazy after all.
The front end, with its pinched grille and high-mounted slant-back headlights, seems to share more in common with the car side of Kia than big brother Sorento. Both those headlights, and the available LED fog lights below, are mega bright.
And we’ve certainly taken a shine to Kia’s latest handsome interior designs as well. This primo SX looks fabulous. But just keep in mind, lower trim levels, though still very nice, are not quite the eye candy that this one is.
There’s a myriad of controls, plus the available UVO 8-inch touchscreen; yet Kia continues to deliver all you need in a clean, flowing design; that’s also easy to identify and use. And we like the fact that in upper trim levels, with the 4.2-inch TFT info center in the gauges, you get a confirmation message to just about every input you make. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available on EX trim and above.
Yes, there are still some hard plastics around, but they are not touch points; and they seem to blend in well with the soft ones.
Steering wheel controls also rate very good, and the wheel itself has a beefy European look and feel to it.
There’s both good room and adequate seat comfort up front for adults, and an increase in size allows for additional space for the rear seat passengers too.
Though cargo space still comes up short compared to segment kings RAV4 and CR-V at 30.7 cubic-ft. with rear seat backs up; 60.1 with them folded.
This Sportage is based on a new chassis that is notably stiffer, so road feel is proportionally more solid; and easily more agile feeling than its main rivals. Is that the Macan’s influence again?
But’s it’s very Kia under the hood. Base is a 181-horsepower 2.4-liter I4. Upgrade is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 240-horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque.
Naturally, we much prefer the turbo, as it has more than adequate power for moving the larger Sorrento, thus making this thing feel like a rocket; a really smooth one at that. Of course you do pay a penalty in fuel economy.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel-drive turbo are 20-City, 23-Highway, and 21-Combined, which we matched perfectly with our mileage loop. So, there’s a good Energy Impact Score of 15.7-barrels of oil used and 7.0-tons of CO2 emitted yearly.
Both engines connect to a 6-speed automatic, in front or all-wheel drive. Kia’s Magna Dynamax AWD system places as much priority on improved handling as it does getting you through slick conditions.
And it clearly feels very nimble through the cones; steering is also more precise than last year, yet still numb. But even with the improved capabilities, background electronic nannies become foreground fun-stoppers all too soon.
That all-wheel-drive system also provided great grip at launch, with zero wheel spin and only some minor turbo lag. We hit 60 in a nice 7.1-seconds. Shifts, however are sluggish; not too bad, but they hindered the true potential of this engine, taking us 15.4-seconds to complete the ¼-mile at 91 miles-per-hour.
On the other hand, a 110-foot average stopping distance from 60 is quite good.
A slight increase in base pricing puts a new Sportage LX at $23,885. All-wheel-drive adds $1,500 more.
Despite its continued refinement over the years, the fact that the Sportage has been unable to become a major player in the compact crossover segment is due more to the high volume of stiff competition than to any shortfalls. Regardless, there’s not much about the 2017 Kia Sportage that’s rough anymore; and it looks like the 4th time’s ready to be the charm!
- Engine: 2.0 liter turbo
- Horsepower: 240
- Torque: 260 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 7.1 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.4 seconds @ 91 mph
- EPA: 20 mpg city / 23 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 15.7 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 7.0 tons/yr
2023 BMW X7
Should Keep The BMW Faithful Coming Back For More
While BMW got serious about their SUV game around the same time as most other luxury brands, it took them until just a few years ago to deliver a 3-row example. This year, that X7 is updated with new style and new tech. So, let’s see if that makes it the ultimate premium 3-row family machine.
When it comes to utility vehicles, bigger seems to be better for a lot of people. So, for BMW, there’s none bigger or better than the X7 3-row utility, which for 2023 gets a comprehensive update after just 4-years on the market. That includes a facelift to bring it more in line with the new 7-series carline, which is to say joins the more vertical, aggressive grille party. Also, the actual headlights have been moved lower in the front fascia, with squinty DRLs above for the first time on a BMW. In back, taillights take on a 3D posture, with a new chrome bar connecting them.
There are also multiple new M Sport packages to choose from to spice up the exterior, with larger air intakes up front, high-gloss black trim, upgraded exhaust, cascade grille lighting, and 22-inch wheels, as well as M Sport brakes…
…and the interior too, with aluminum trim and exclusive steering wheel. But, by far the biggest change inside for ‘23 is a new dashtop curved display that eliminates the typical BMW well-hooded gauge pod and blends 12-inch Live Cockpit Pro into the 15-inch infotainment touchscreen, which now features iDrive8. Both a Head-Up Display and a large panoramic sunroof are standard.
Whether set up for 2 or 3 passengers, 2nd row seat room remains plentiful, and though the X7 doesn’t look ungainly large like many of its competitors, access to the 3rd row is quite good. Cargo space is reached through a fairly unique, Range Rover-style, split tailgate, which is quite oddly satisfying to watch unfold. There’s room for 48.6 cubic-ft. of goods behind the 2nd row, with a max of 90.4 cu.-ft.
The base xDrive40i has always been the sensible choice, even more so now with a new inline-6 turbo getting a significant bump in horsepower from 335 to 375, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that results in a total of 398 lb-ft. of torque.
At our Mason Dixon test track, there was enough to blast this big beast to 60 in just 5.4-seconds. That’s only about half a second slower than the V8 did the deed back in 2019. Making that optional 523-horsepower V8 simply overkill at this point. Our best ¼-mile pass was 13.9-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour. All X7s get a quick shifting sport-tuned 8-speed automatic transmission, which adds a new Sprint Function that finds the lowest usable gear instantly and maxes electric boost with a hold of the left shift paddle. What fun!
New looks and updated tech are cool, but BMW has also addressed dynamics as well, with a retuning of all chassis systems, including the optional Dynamic Handling Package which adds adaptive suspension with roll stabilization and uses GPS and camera data to prepare for what’s coming. We’re not sure if our slalom course was anticipated, but the X7 sure felt well-equipped to handle it. All-wheel drive is standard on all X7s, along with comprehensive drive modes.
In our braking runs, the pads bit down hard quickly, stopping us from 60 in just 115-feet with very little nosedive.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 6-cylinder are 21-City, 25-Highway, and 22-Combined. We averaged just 21.0 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
There’s an average Energy Impact Score; 13.5-barrels of oil yearly, with CO2 emissions of 6.5-tons.
Pricing starts at $78,845, and it’s a significant step up from there to $104,095 if you want the V8. Even more reason to stick with the 6-cylinder as far as we’re concerned.
It took the ultimate driving machine folks quite a bit of time to enter the 3-row family crossover segment, but when they did, they were able to create their largest utility ever and keep it consistent with their values. For 2023, the BMW X7 gets even more dynamic, embraces new tech, and looks better too. All things that should keep the BMW faithful coming back for more.
- Engine: I-6
- Horsepower: 375
- 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 115 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 21.0 MPG
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 398 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 13.9-seconds at 100 mph
- EPA: 21 City / 25 Highway / 22 Combined
2024 Mazda CX-90
A Force To Be Reckoned With
If you’ve been following Mazda lately, you’ll know they’ve been fielding some serious new designs; you could even say, they’re latest efforts are 10-times better than before. After all, the CX-3 became the CX-30, then CX-5 became the CX-50, and now it’s the CX-9’s turn. So, let’s find out if this all-new CX-90, their largest SUV yet, is a real multiplier or if it’s all just a numbers game.
Don’t think of this 2024 Mazda CX-90 so much as an updated version of the CX-9, as it’s more of a complete rethink of their 3-row crossover, the first built on an all-new, large vehicle platform for the brand. And this platform carries a host of surprises. Not only does it make the CX-90 bigger by every dimension, but it’s a rear-drive architecture, and features all-new powertrains, including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, and even an inline-6 engine.
Why an inline-6 to replace the CX-9’s turbo-4? Well, in general terms, I6s are better balanced, run smoother, and can deliver more torque at lower RPM. Just ask the BMW faithful, or any of the truckers you see going down the road hauling more than 20-tons of cargo with their inline-6s.
There are 2-versions of the longitudinally mounted 6, both assisted by turbocharging and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Output for the base Turbo is 280-horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque; this Turbo S cranks it up to 340-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. The PHEV, on the other hand, is based on a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4, working with a 100-kW electric motor to deliver 323-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque. A 17.8-kWh battery delivers 26-miles of EV driving.
It’s not the prettiest SUV, but it does have very smooth body work; plus, the longer hood and 7½-inches of wheelbase stretch over the CX-9, give it more stately proportions. All CX-90s come with i-Activ all-wheel drive and the brand’s first 8-speed automatic transmission; the longer wheelbase allows tow ratings to step up from 3,500-lbs. to 5,000.
At the test track, our Turbo S launched effortlessly with good grip on the way to a 6.4-second 0-60. The smooth vibes continued throughout the ¼-mile, with refined power delivery, seamless shifts, and a noticeably more solid and stable feel at speed than the CX-9. Our best time was 14.7-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, it still behaves like a Mazda, with very good steering feel and a solid presence in corners at low to moderate speeds. Some understeer and body roll will show up when pushed hard, but Mazda’s Kinematic Posture Control uses subtle selective braking to help the vehicle rotate, and safety systems will step in well-before it gets out of sorts.
There’s a nice firm feel to the brake pedal, delivering good stopping results of 118-feet from 60 miles-per-hour. You can feel a lot of weight transfer, but nosedive was well contained.
Another unique element the CX-90 brings is seating arrangements for 6,7, or 8. It’s the 8-seater that’s standard with 3-across bench seating for 2nd and 3rd rows. 7-seaters get either captain’s chairs in the 2nd row, or more contoured seats for the 3rd; 6-seaters sport 2nd row captains and the contoured 3rd row. Cargo capacity varies with seating, but is at best 15.9 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 40.1 behind the 2nd, and 75.2 with all seats folded.
As far as what it’s like to actually live with, the CX-90’s cabin is a clear step up, including on some trims suede-like materials, intricate stitching, and real wood, all consistent with what we’ve seen from the brand lately. A 10-inch dashtop touchscreen is standard for infotainment, with upper trims getting a larger 12.3-incher. We applaud Mazda’s inclusion of plenty of old-school manual controls for radio and climate, which keeps menu diving limited to secondary functions. PHEVs get a few unique controls and readouts to monitor drive modes and battery level.
Overall, the CX-90 is highly functional, entertainingly sporty to drive, and will be more competitive in the ever growing 3-row family crossover segment; and its posh interior may even attract luxury buyers on a budget.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Turbo S are 23-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a good 26.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Pricing begins with the base Turbo at Select trim for $40,970, PHEVs are available in Preferred trim and above starting at $48,820, and the Turbo S starts at $53,125.
Force multiplier is a military term for when strategic elements come together to produce results greater than would have been possible without them. Well, no high-level math skills are necessary here to see that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is clearly more than just a much better CX-9; it’s now a force to be reckoned with in the 3-row family crossover segment.
- Engine: 3.3-liter I-6
- Horsepower: 340
- 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 118 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.5 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 369 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.7-seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 23 City / 28 Highway / 25 Combined
- Starting Price: $40,970