Dodge SUV offers superior performance - again

The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT is a $64,090 high-performance SUV, costing nearly twice as much as the base Durango. COURTESY PHOTOThe 2018 Dodge Durango SRT is a $64,090 high-performance SUV, costing nearly twice as much as the base Durango. COURTESY PHOTO  The Dodge Durango has always stood apart from competing three-row crossovers.
Unlike a Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander, the Durango is a hardy workhorse of a truck. Ever since the current generation debuted as a 2011 model, it’s offered a class-exclusive V8 engine that allowed it to tow a large trailer. Furthermore, this cousin of the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers the burly, rumbling “tough” feel of a full-size SUV rather than the mild-mannered minivan-esque vibe of most competitors.
For 2018, Dodge has further distanced itself from any competitor by introducing a new Street and Racing Technology version: a high-performance, high-capability SUV with a whopping 475-horsepower V8, an even higher towing capacity and sports-car suspension tuning. The result is brash, ridiculous fun from a vehicle that can seat six passengers, carry tons of cargo and drag an 8,700-pound trailer.


Land Rover offers blend of function and character

Land Rover Discovery front cropped for webThe Land Rover Discovery is a midsize luxury SUV with true off-road capability.      COURTESY PHOTO  As today's mainstream brands offer loads of features, sumptuous interiors, advanced technology and refined driving experience, it can be difficult for a luxury vehicle to distinguish itself.
Some models offer an incremental improvement over their mainstream alternatives — you pay a little more, and you get a little more. But others take a more radically different approach, providing an experience that you'd never find in an ordinary vehicle.
An example of the latter is the Land Rover Discovery, a British-built midsize luxury SUV that was fully redesigned last year to replace the LR4. The Land Rover brand focuses solely on delivering superior off-road capability, which already puts its vehicles in a different niche from even Mercedes-Benz or Lexus, much less Honda or Chevrolet. Distinctive styling inside and out further separates the Discovery from other SUVs or crossovers, and the latest model also boasts some clever family-friendly features to keep it practical on an everyday basis. Prices start at $53,085.
In recent years, Land Rover sold this vehicle as the LR3 and LR4. But this latest generation marks a return to the market for the storied Discovery name. But while the name brings to mind the model’s aggressively-boxy predecessors, today’s Discovery is more softly styled. The decision to make such a clear departure from the model's roots likely stemmed from aerodynamic considerations as much as aesthetic ones and the result has gotten mixed reviews: Some applaud the new looks as attractive and modern, while others denounce them as generic and derivative.
Inside, however, the new Discovery is pure Land Rover — and better than ever. The tested car’s rich white leather upholstery sets the scene, and the dashboard’s elegantly simple rectangles stand apart from the elaborate swishes and curves found in many contemporary vehicles. A large new 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system keeps the cabin modern, both functionally and visually.


Two SUVs avoid typical family-friendly focus

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee cropped for webThe 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV that blends off-road capability and on-road luxury. COURTESY PHOTO  While sport utility vehicles were once designed to focus on off-road capabilities, Most of today's market-leading SUVs and crossovers are built as family cars that tend to prioritize the more everyday qualities of interior volume, gas mileage and value for the money.
Such vehicles often look and feel as dull as that description sounds. While the Honda Pilot, for instance, is often a terrific family car, such smooth, quiet, spacious minivan-like family-haulers offers little verve or personality to attract someone without plans to shuttle a carload of kids.
But a few larger SUVs – the midsize Jeep Grand Cherokee and the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe – manage an appeal that transcends the norms of their market segments.
Neither stands out as a family car. While both are decently spacious, to be sure, they’re far from the market leaders in that regard.
But the Tahoe and Grand Cherokee make up for those deficiencies by boasting uncommon levels of heavy-duty capability with the looks to match.


Reviews of the 2016 Toyota Prius and Land Rover Range Rover

Redesigned Toyota Prius improves on a familiar set of virtues

2016 Toyota PriusThe 2016 Toyota Prius is even more fuel-efficient than its predecessor and also nicer to drive. COURTESY PHOTO

Ever since its introduction more than 15 years ago, the Toyota Prius has dominated the market of hybrid cars – vehicles that use an electric motor to assist with a gasoline engine, reducing gasoline usage. Its distinctive shape sets it apart from the rest of traffic, making it instantly recognizable as one of today's most iconic fuel-sippers.

But unlike some of its rivals, the Prius has also excelled at everyday functionality. It's a roomy five-door hatchback with respectable five-passenger seating and ample cargo space. Rivals from Honda and Chevrolet have never been able to match the Prius for utility.

And now for 2016, Toyota has fully redesigned the Prius to build on its longtime strengths while adding new ones.

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