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Crossovers: The Perfect Porridge

Crossovers are everywhere these days, and with good reason. Remember the story of Goldilocks? There are full-size SUVs with lots of seating and lots of room like a too-hot bowl of porridge. Then there are sedans with less of everything making them the too-cold porridge. Crossovers are the just-right choice in the middle. The challenge is that there are so darn many it can be hard to choose.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue wants to be your just-right bowl of porridge, so Nissan added plenty of features to give it appeal. Did it manage to add enough milk and honey to make the Rogue the perfect porridge?

Well, perfection is a tall order, especially since what’s perfect for me isn’t perfect for you or perfect for your neighbor. Everyone has their own specific needs when it comes time to buy a car, so Nissan expanded the Rogue lineup, added new tech features, and improved the Rogue’s ride and powertrain to make it a better fit no matter your priorities.

The all-new 2021 Nissan Rogue shows off a fresh new look that makes it more modern. There’s a new headlight design alongside the signature Nissan V-motion grille and the Rogue shrinks a bit coming in 1.5-inches shorter than the outgoing model. It’s lower, too, which helps it handle better. You might not immediately see or feel these small changes, but together they create a better looking and better-handling crossover.

Zero Gravity for Maximum Comfort

The interior of the Rogue still features Nissan Zero Gravity seats, and this makes us happy. It sounds like marketing mumbo jumbo, but these seats are fantastic. Driving the Roque over the holidays, we had the opportunity to take it on a couple of longer trips that had us in the car for hours at a time. The seats never got stiff or uncomfortable, which makes the Rogue a great choice for families with road trips in their futures.

In addition to its comfortable and roomy interior, the Rogue has numerous safety features to set your mind at ease, including standard Nissan Safety Shield 360. This bundles a bunch of safety features together including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear automatic braking, which are all but sure to save you from a fender bender or two.

ProPilot Gets an Upgrade

Nissan’s ProPilot Assist technology, which isn’t technically self-driving but instead gives the driver an assist with steering and adaptive cruise control, gets a series of improvements. It brakes more smoothly and adjusts steering more consistently, especially if a car cuts you off in congested traffic. The big news, however, is the availability of ProPilot Assist with Navi-link on select trims. Using navigation data, this adjusts your speed in advance of highway off-ramps or tight curves for a smoother ride.

And of course, there’s plenty of connected tech, too. An 8-inch touchscreen is standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with both USB and USB-C ports up front. As you move through the trim lineup, you get goodies including a 10-speaker Bose audio system, two rear USB chargers, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, and Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity.

Choose from four trims, including the new upscale Platinum, with a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All are powered by a 181-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission that is noticeably quieter than the outgoing Rogue. Even under hard acceleration, you won’t be bothered by the sounds under the hood intruding into the passenger compartment.

Room for Cargo, Room for People

And of course, the new Rogue still has the same flexibility as the prior Rogue for managing people or cargo depending on your priorities of the moment. Seating for five easily reconfigures with a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat. There’s up to 36.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats or 74.1 cubic feet behind the front seats and the Rogue can even tow up to 1,350 pounds should your needs be greater.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue gets the updates it needs to stay relevant in a crowded segment. Advanced safety technologies, a comfortable and attractive interior, and good cargo capacity give it the versatility and functionality crossover buyers crave. Pricing from $25,650 to $36,830 makes sure it’s also a crossover that families can afford.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue lets you have your crossover porridge and eat it, too.

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The Defender is Back

The Land Rover Defender is back after a too-long absence from the U.S. market. This boxy off-roader combines the luxury of a Land Rover with the off-road chops of, well, a Land Rover. Available with two-doors or four-doors, if you’re looking for a luxury SUV equally suited to city streets and muddy fields with stand-out styling, then you should take a closer look at the 2020 Land Rover Defender.

Let’s start with the look of the Defender. You’re either going to love this SUV or think it’s odd. We rather like its style because it doesn’t look like every other SUV on the road. It’s boxier than the rest, tall, and imposing. It looks like it should be capable and because this is a Land Rover, it lives up to that expectation.

There’s a tailgate-mounted spare tire that gives it an old-school vibe, but that tire is flanked by rounded square lights that are thoroughly modern. There are inset panels on the hood that look a bit like tire tracks and give what would otherwise be an expanse of sheet metal some visual punch. It’s modern and vintage all at once and it attracts attention.

Tough Luxury

Inside, there’s seating for up to seven with an airy, open interior. Those in back get a bit of extra light thanks to what Land Rover calls Alpine lights. These narrow, rectangular windows sit at the roofline and not only brighten the interior but add to the Defender’s unique presence.

Nothing in this SUV is delicate or timid. While some luxury SUVs have a level of refinement that make them feel fragile, not so with the Defender. It’s comfortable, with quality materials throughout and feels every bit the luxury vehicle, but it’s not one you’ll be afraid to get dirty. There’s a toughness to the Defender’s interior that won’t have you panicked the first time the family dog runs through it with muddy paws.

And there will be mud if you’re doing it right because the Defender has ample off-road capability. All-wheel drive is standard along with hill descent control, and a range of drive modes to suit most every terrain. The Terrain Response system allows for normal, rock crawl, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, or sand modes. The Defender can also wade through nearly three feet of water. If you have serious off-road plans, then the Defender is ready.

Plenty of Power

Power for the Defender 110 SE we drove comes from a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine with 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s a responsive powertrain that has no trouble getting the Defender’s bulk up to highway speeds. Much like the interior of the Defender is rugged without the delicacy of other luxury SUVs, the engine in the Defender isn’t a mild-mannered thing.

You feel and hear its power when you step on the gas, but it’s not intrusive or annoying. This capable SUV is still a luxury vehicle, so there’s nothing harsh about the engine or the ride. It’s power with a dose of refinement. As capable as it is off-road, on-road it’s well-mannered and composed making it a relaxing ride for driver and passenger alike.

While there are other vehicles that can handle off-road adventures, there aren’t many that also boast a luxury pedigree. That sets the Defender apart from the rest, as does its price. As tested, with extras including a sliding panoramic roof, heated third row, 14-way heated and cooled front seats, and three-zone climate control with rear cooling assist, our Defender came in at $75,440.

It’s not the most affordable off-road choice, but those looking for an off-road luxury SUV will find it’s well worth the investment.

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Cadillac XT6

Cadillac adds a new SUV to the family

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 is an all-new three-row crossover with room for up to seven passengers with a spacious and luxurious interior. Consumers are moving away from sedans toward more versatile SUVs and crossovers and the XT6 is Cadillac’s effort to lure those customers.

There’s a choice of only two trims, both of which offer an upscale, luxury experience. This is a Cadillac, after all, and that badge means you ride in luxury no matter which trim you choose. This includes a wide range of safety features, a powerful engine, and an elegant interior.

Power for the XT6 comes from a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission. This is a large vehicle, but it has no trouble getting up to speed and easily merges into heavy highway traffic. While the XT6 is responsive and powerful, it’s never harsh.

This isn’t an SUV that focuses only on power. When you hit the gas pedal, the engine responds in kind, but acceleration is smooth and quiet. You hear the engine, but it in no way intrudes on the passenger experience. The 9-speed transmission works unnoticed in the background further enhancing the ride quality for passengers.

Luxury looks inside and out

The XT6 puts a priority on luxury starting with bold exterior styling. The Sport has a black grille, window moldings and roof rails and the option for 21-inch wheels. The Premium Luxury takes a more traditional approach with bright finishes and its own unique wheel treatment. Each has a distinct look, but both are unmistakably Cadillac.

A long list of standard features includes leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, power liftgate, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a power-fold third row. That power-folding third row makes it easy to switch between passengers and cargo and takes the stress out of reconfiguring the seating as your needs change. Options include a heated second row, and a variety of packages that add carbon fiber, wood, and premium leather accents. The XT6 is the perfect vehicle for simply relaxing and enjoying the trip.

There’s seating for seven with optional second-row captain’s chairs that take seating down to six, but offer a more comfortable ride. Either way, the second row is spacious with plenty of headroom and legroom. Even the dreaded middle seat isn’t such a bad deal and won’t leave that passenger anxious for the trip to be over.

The third row in any SUV is tough for adults, but the XT6 has enough room for all but the tallest passengers in its third row. Kids will find it downright spacious and something of an escape that lets them sit in their own little world away from the boring adults up front.

Stay connected and entertained

Infotainment features an 8-inch touchscreen, wi-fi connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 6 USB ports spread across all three rows. There’s also a new controller to make navigating the system easier. Rather than a rotary dial that only spins, it tips like a joystick controller for a game console. It’s a small change, but one that makes the system easier to operate.

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 has a wide range of standard and available safety features along with excellent crash test results. It earned an overall 5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2020 Top Safety Pick+.

Standard safety includes forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, front and rear park assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. Available features include reverse automatic braking, and night vision, which uses infrared sensors to see obstacles you might not otherwise see in the dark.

The Premium Luxury starts at $52,695 with front-wheel drive or $55,690 with all-wheel drive. The Sport has standard all-wheel drive with pricing from $57,095. The all-new 2020 Cadillac XT6 is a full-size SUV that delivers a genuine luxury experience with the prestige of the Cadillac brand.

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A choice of four affordable trims

The 2021 Kia Seltos is the latest vehicle to join the Kia lineup. This new crossover slots between the smaller Kia Soul and larger Kia Sportage with an affordable price point and sizing that’s ideal for city dwellers.

Available in four trims, the base LX starts at $21,990 with standard all-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. It has 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque and is paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. If you don’t want all-wheel drive, the Seltos does offer front-wheel drive, but only on the S trim, which is one step up from the base LX.

Those who want a more responsive ride will appreciate the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that’s available on the S at $25,490 and standard on the top SX with pricing of $27,890. It jumps to 195 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque and is paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission.

A small car doesn’t need a big engine, even for merging into high-speed highway traffic, but having one does make things a lot more fun. We spent a week with the SX and its peppy turbocharged engine and found it a happy little ride to sling through the corners.

Enjoy the quiet

It’s also worth noting that the Seltos is quiet. The thing with many of the vehicles in this class and at these price points is that they’re loud. They’re not intended to be luxury cars with supremely quiet interiors, which is fine, but no one wants to feel like they’re riding with the windows down when they’re quite firmly closed.

The Seltos offers an impressively quiet ride, even at high speeds. There’s minimal road and wind noise and an unexpected thunderstorm that drenched the roads in rain and surprise puddles still wasn’t enough to make the interior loud. It’s something you’ll appreciate during long commutes or that multi-state road trip.

Along with being quiet, the Seltos has a comfortable interior with room for five passengers. Those up front will find plenty of space even if they’re on the tall side, but the back seat isn’t exactly spacious. It’s great for two adults, although it will seat three. We’d only do three passengers for quick trips. On longer trips, even two will want to be swapping with those up front to stretch out a bit.

Fully-featured at every trim

Adding to the appeal of the Seltos are its standard features. There’s an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 6-speaker audio, and automatic cruise control as standard features. The SX sees the addition of a 10.25-inch touchscreen, navigation, and Bose premium audio.

All but the base trim also gets a suite of safety features that includes forward collision avoidance assist with car and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane following assist, and lane keep assist. That’s a wide range of features for a vehicle that tops out at $27,890.

It’s also easy on the budget with good fuel economy. It gets an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 29 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and up to 27 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

Room for your stuff

Finally, the Seltos blends passenger comfort with cargo versatility. There’s 26.6 cubic feet behind the second row with 62.8 cubic feet behind the first row. It’s not as roomy as a large SUV, but it easily manages the family’s luggage or supplies for the latest home improvement project.

The 2021 Kia Seltos is a strong offering in a crowded segment. An attractive and comfortable interior, affordable pricing, and a choice of responsive engines make it a top pick for crossover shoppers.

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Is it time to make the switch to an EV?

The 2020 Nissan Leaf enters its second decade this year, which may be a surprise to those who think of electric vehicles as something new to the market. There aren’t a lot of EVs on the road, but they have been around awhile, just under the radar of most shoppers. That’s changing as the charging infrastructure improves and the number of EVs on the road slowly increases. Although the Leaf isn’t new, Nissan has continually upgraded their little EV with new features that give it wider appeal.

The big news this year is the addition of Nissan Safety Shield 360 as a standard feature. This includes key advanced safety technologies including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, and high beam assist. There’s also standard forward collision warning, lane change intervention, and blind spot intervention. These features make the 2020 Nissan Leaf a compelling choice for those who put a priority on safety.

Nissan Leaf

No range anxiety here

One of the biggest considerations when buying an electric vehicle is range. There’s a considerable amount of worry that you’re going to run out of juice with nary a charging station in sight. That fear was a bit more warranted years ago before EV charging stations started showing up everywhere from malls to offices to grocery stores.

Even if there aren’t a lot of charging stations where you live, the reality is that most people drive less in a day than what an EV can handle. There’s a choice of two range options with the Leaf. The base Leaf is available in two trims with a 40 kWh battery and a range of 149 miles. The Leaf Plus has a 62 kWh battery that extends that range to 226 miles in a choice of three trims.

Look at those numbers for a minute. Most people don’t drive 149 miles in a day. Even fewer drive 226 miles. That means most people who purchase a Leaf will only ever need to charge it at home. While the Leaf might be a charging challenge on a road trip, it’s easily able to handle the average daily commute without requiring a desperate search for a charging station.

Nissan Leaf

A well-equipped range of trims

Short-range versions of the Leaf are available in two trims with room for 5 passengers. The long-range Leaf adds a third trim with more comfort and convenience features. Standard Leaf features include manually adjustable front seats, suede seating surfaces, and an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with 4-speaker audio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The SV adds the option for a power driver’s seat with heated front seats along with additional standard features including HD radio, 6-speaker audio, and NissanConnect EV with navigation. The SL makes the options on the SV standard and adds more premium touches. These include a standard 7-speaker Bose audio system, LED low beam headlights and daytime running lights, and leather seating surfaces.

Nissan Leaf

The sound of silence

Driving an EV is something that feels a little weird at first. You push a button, the car is on, and you don’t hear an engine because there isn’t one. That lack of sound is true inside and out, which is why the government requires EVs make sounds anytime they’re operating at low speeds or moving in reverse. Pedestrians might not otherwise hear the vehicle and risk stepping into its path.

This year, Nissan upgraded those sounds to fall in line with U.S. vehicle regulations slated to go into effect on September 1, 2020. At speeds under 18.6 mph, it emits a constant tone and in reverse it emits a pulsing chime. Like the lack of noise when you turn on the Leaf, those sounds are a bit odd to hear at first, but quickly become a pleasant background to the drive experience.

The Leaf is a comfortable and responsive ride ideally suited to 4 passengers although 5 work for smaller trips. There’s minimal road noise, although wind noise picks up in poor weather. The large infotainment screen is a welcome feature and it’s well-positioned for both driver and passenger. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto keep you connected and the cabin’s smaller size makes conversation easy.

Nissan Leaf

Driving with the e-Pedal

There are a several unique features found on the Leaf. First, the gear shift is a flat, round joystick on the center console. It’s easy to use, but not intuitive and takes time to become second nature. Another unique feature is the e-Pedal, which is engaged at the press of a button. With the e-Pedal, you don’t need to use the brakes and can instead use only the accelerator to bring the car all the way to a stop. This takes a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it and hop back into a car without this feature, you’ll realize how nice it is not to have to use two pedals to drive.

The 2020 Nissan Leaf is a solid choice for those in the market for an electric vehicle. A choice of three trims and two powertrains lets you pick the one that’s right from your needs and helps make the Leaf more affordable for those who drive shorter distances. The Leaf starts at $31,600 while the long-range Leaf Plus starts at $38,200 making it an affordable option in either guise.

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