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
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
2023 Land Rover Defender 130
A Better Option For Large Families With An Eye For Adventure
It’s not a stretch to say that the newest Land Rover Defender is the best Defender ever. But, Land Rover has a different kind of stretch in mind for their latest Defender, the kind that enables you to bring more people along for the ride. So, join us for an adventure in the new Defender 130.
No doubt this latest 2nd generation Land Rover Defender is more refined than ever; but for 2023, it’s also bigger than ever with a new Defender 130. Working with the same 119-inch wheelbase as the 5-door 110, there’s more than 13-inches of overall length added, and to be honest, stretching strictly the rear body like that does make it look a little awkward, but certainly no less ruggedly appealing.
For now, buyers can choose between 1 of 2 turbocharged inline 6-cylinder options, the base 296-horsepower P300, and our mild hybrid P400 with 395-horsepower and 406 lb-ft. of torque. A 493-horsepower P500 supercharged V8 will be available in ‘24.
Regardless of which route you take, there’s more than enough grunt to move this longer 130, which is heavier than the 110 by only a couple of hundred pounds. Power delivery is smooth and steady, aided by the mild-hybrid system which is primarily in place for stop/start, but can add a little extra oomph at launch to cancel turbo lag.
But it’s really all about adding more space inside; so, a 3rd row is standard, featuring belts for 3, providing seating for a total of 8 passengers relatively comfortably. There’s more cargo space. Behind that 40/20/40 3 rd row, 13.7 cubic-ft, up from 10.5 on the 110. Behind the 2nd row, 43.5. While all seats down yields 80.9 cubic-ft.
Of course, one thing that doesn’t change no matter how much it has grown is off-road ability. And indeed, like every other Land Rover, it’s so capable that it’s mostly boring in rugged terrain situations, as the only hard work comes in selecting the proper terrain response mode; the Defender takes it from there.
We felt much more involved at our Mason Dixon test track where the 130 left the line more in a smooth and steady fashion than overly aggressive, but power built rapidly as we got moving, hitting 60 in 6.3-seconds. The engine whines more than growls, but the 8-speed automatic transmission keeps things right in the heart of the power band with timely and smooth shifts. ¼-mile completed in 14.6-seconds at 97 miles-per-hour. On the braking end, there was a soft pedal and a good bit of nosedive, but a very solid overall feel and short stops from 60 of just 115-feet.
The standard air suspension delivers a ride that’s more firm than floaty, but when it comes to handling, it felt a little lethargic through our cone course, with nowhere near the amount of precision we experienced over on the Range Rover side. Though steering was quick and light, and there’s wasn’t too much body roll, but that’s mostly because we had to keep speeds very low to prevent stability control systems from shutting down our efforts.
The 130’s interior environment and seat comfort, however, are not far off the Range Rover’s luxury experience. Even if you opt for the synthetic leather, now available across the Defender line, for those wanting to avoid true cow hide. The 11.4-inch Pivi Pro touchscreen mounted in front of the dash looks fantastic, but it’s still not the greatest to use, with very small print and lots of menu diving that requires much attention to navigate. There’s also new 4-zone climate control, along with plenty of storage nooks for all seating positions.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 17-City, 21-Highway, and 19-Combined. We averaged 19.7 miles-per-gallon of Premium. Still, it’s just slightly below average on Energy Impact Score, burning through 15.7-barrels of oil yearly with 7.9-tons of CO2 emissions.
With numerous trim levels and multiple powertrain options, there are an enormous number of Defenders to choose from. Just know the 130 starts at $70,575 and tops out with the V8 at $118,075.
Bigger isn’t always better, but if you’ve got a large family full of adventure seekers, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 is clearly a better option for spending some quality time well off the beaten path. And it’s not too big as a daily driver either. The 130 truly does deliver more, and does it without compromise.
- Engine: 3.0-liter I-6 Turbo
- Torque: 406 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.6-seconds at 97 mph
- EPA: 17 City / 21 Highway / 19 Combined
- Horsepower: 395
- 0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 115 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 19.7 MPG (Premium)