2019 Ram 1500
Things have seldom been easy for the Ram. You know, Detroit’s other truck brand that’s not Ford or Chevy. But things have certainly been looking up lately; as Ram’s full-size pickup sales have been steadily increasing, even outselling the Chevrolet Silverado a few months along the way. So, let’s see if an all-new 1500 is “Ram Tough” enough to muscle its way permanently up the ranks.
It was the 3rd gen Dodge Ram that really got the ball rolling for the brand when it arrived for 2002. Ushering in firsts like Mega Cab and the return of Hemi power. 2009 saw a 4th gen. debut with all-coil spring suspension and side-saddle Ram Box storage. Now, 2019 sees the most all-new Ram 1500 in decades, one that FCA hopes will usher in a whole new era of power, comfort, and utility for today’s truck buyers.
Much like Ford, the 1500 went on a weight loss plan, though not as drastic, shaving only about 225-lbs; mostly due to more high-strength steel in the frame, with aluminum for the tailgate and some suspension parts.
The frame is still stronger, however, boosting payload to 2,300-lbs., and max towing capacity to 12,750.
The exterior look is smoother, yet still has a hint of the big rig look of the 90’s. No more crosshairs, just lots of big Ram letters and a new seemingly Transformers-inspired Ram head logo.
We much prefer the Rebel’s, blacked-out malice. And spent some time doing some nastiness of our own in the Arizona desert. The Rebel’s off-road capabilities take a small step up; its 1-inch of lift now come from hardware, not simply pumping up the air spring suspension as before. You also get a locking rear differential, unique Bilstein shocks, skid plates, and updated electronics. It’s still not on the same flight plan as Ford’s Raptor, but now at least on the radar screen.
The Ram 1500 was already the best riding rig in the full-size pickup ranks due to the only 4-corner air suspension out there; new Frequency Response Damping for this year, takes it up one step further.
Front brake rotors are now 14.9-inches, the biggest in the segment.
For now, only the two gas engine options return and their output stays the same; which means 305-horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque for the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, and 395-horsepwer and 410 lb.-ft. of torque from the 5.7-liter HEMI V8.
Both get an eTorque mild hybrid system with a 48-volt battery pack that enables auto stop/start, boosts overall efficiency, and even provides a little extra torque. It’s standard with the V6, optional on the HEMI. No word yet if or when a diesel will return.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for a HEMI 4X4 are 15-City, 21-Highway, and 17-Combined. No official ratings for the 3.6-liter just yet. So the HEMI’s Energy Impact Score is slightly worse than average at 19.4-barrels of yearly oil use, with CO2 emissions of 8.6-tons.
We spent most of our Arizona-based early drive time with the HEMI, and it felt just as powerful as always, though we don’t remember the gas pedal being this sensitive, which seems a little out of place in a big truck. There’s a new 850-watt electric fan to cool it, and it’s very noticeable when it kicks in.
Transmission remains an 8-speed automatic, and everything is still put in motion with a dash-mounted rotary shifter; but operation has gotten much quicker, making 3-point turns less stressful. Otherwise, in normal driving, the transmission behaves fairly well.
Active noise cancelling seemed to keep road noise to a minimum, though we did hear some wind noise in our pre-production test vehicle.
The upgraded interior of the 1500 is otherwise most impressive. We loved the available 4th generation of FCA’s UConnect touchscreen, now 12-inches in size. It remains logical and responsive as always. Front seats are very comfortable and top-line Limited trim is simply exquisite. Both Crew and Quad cabs are available, with the most interior space in the segment.
Base pricing is $33,340 for a 2-wheel-drive Tradesman; which you probably won’t buy unless you are indeed a tradesman. Most will find a Ram 1500 that slots between there and the Limited 4X4’s $59,035.
Well, just when it looks like things are set to really take off for the 2019 Ram 1500, there’s an inconvenient truth, that an all-new Chevrolet Silverado is arriving at almost the same time. So, FCA had better make some hay while the sun’s shining. It’s still the best cruiser with a bed out there, but it will take a lot more than that to permanently take silver home.
- Engine: 3.6 liter / 5.7 liter
- Horsepower: 305 / 395
- Torque: 269 lb.-ft. / 410 lb.-ft.
- EPA: 15 mpg city / 21 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 19.4 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 8.6 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