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Matt Barnes

Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he's not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn't true. Matt lives in the Utah mountains and often posts cool off-roading videos to his Instagram and YouTube channel.

LightFox 20″ LED Light Bar and 4″ Pods Review

LightFox LED Light Bars Vic Offroad sent us a few LightFox LED light bars to test. The items they sent are the LightFox Rigel Series 20 Inch LED light bar with a combo beam and the LightFox 4 Inch LED light bar 2 Pack. We tested them in comparison to the factory headlights on an upcoming project vehicle and found them to be significantly brighter. Even the little 4″ pods put out more light than the headlights. Overall we found them to be very bright and well built. There are many budget LED lights on the market, but we are …

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2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe Review

The Plug In Hybrid Wrangler With the market moving away from fossil fuels, Jeep has brought us the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe as an excellent stepping stone to an electric future. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to check out the video. Outside Outside of the Rubicon 4xe we find all of the features on a standard Rubicon. However, many of those features come in a different accent. Starting from the front, we can see blue colored accents on the recovery points and on the hood decal. While the headlights are a traditional round shape, they are modern LED’s that …

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4WD King D6-10 Lightbar Test

4WD King 10″ LED Light Bar 4WD king reached out and asked if we would test one of their D6-10 LED lightbars, of course we were happy to oblige. As a manufacturer, 4WD King makes a variety of budget LED lighting systems. Despite being on a budget they still have IP68 and IP69k ratings for resistance to water and dust intrusion. The IP68 rating means that it must be dust tight during a test that lasts up to 8 hours and water tight to at least 1 meter for continuous water submersion. The IP69k rating means that it can withstand …

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2021 BMW X5 45e Review

The Plug In Hybrid X5 The X5 has been a big hit worldwide since its inception and now the plug in hybrid BMW X5 45e is adding another aspect to the lineup. Outside To the untrained eye, there isn’t much to obviously set the X5 45e apart from the rest of the X5 lineup.  Up front the kidney grille is just as large and in your face as on other X5’s. The lower bumper opening is also oversized with additional large vents on the outside edges. Everything about the front end is big. Newer to the US market are the …

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2022 Chevy Trailblazer AWD ACTIV: Made in Korea for the USA

Trailblazer: A Blazer but smaller With Blazer styling but in a more Korean and Chinese friendly size, the Trailblazer ACTIV is an attractive and fun city car that is slightly larger than the Trax. Outside Setting the ACTIV apart from the rest of the Trailblazer lineup is a unique front end. The grill has a different style mesh, and the front bumper features a plastic bash plate and higher clearance for better off-pavement capability. Lighting up front is divided into three segments. Up top are the daytime running lights and signals, in the middle sit the actual headlights, and down …

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2021 Lexus NX 300h Luxury Review

On It’s Way Out The 2021 Lexus NX is being redesigned for 2022, but how does this outgoing model stack up to the competition? Outside The exterior of the 2021 NX 300h is sleek and modern and really doesn’t look like it’s in need of an update. Up front, the signature Lexus spindle grill is massive and prominent. Projector LED headlights sit up high with Nike swoosh daytime running lights just below them. LED fog lights sit inside of aesthetic cooling ducts at the bottom of the bumper. Moving down the side, the small proportions of the NX become more …

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2022 Kia Carnival Review: Better Than Ever

Changing the Game Over the past decade Kia has made great strides in every aspect. Their vehicles are more powerful, more capable, more reliable, and more comfortable than ever before. All of that rings true for the 2022 Carnival. 2022 Kia Carnival Worldwide Kia’s minivan has been known as the Carnival for years, but now Kia is bringing that nameplate to the United States. With the name change, Kia has taken the opportunity to revamp the design of the minivan which they call an MPV or Multi-Purpose Vehicle. We had more people asking about the Carnival than just about any …

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2022 Nissan Pathfinder Drive Review

Heading Back To Its Roots For many, the R51 Pathfinder is the peak of the Pathfinder era. It had a stout 4.0 V6 and an optional V8. Power was run through a reliable 5-speed auto to a transfer case with a true low range. Finally it had body on frame architecture, making modifications for off-road much easier. So how does the 2022 Pathfinder stack up? Nissan sent us a pre-production model to test for a week. As such there may be some minor flaws that are still in this vehicle that will be worked out before production begins. 2022 Pathfinder …

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2020 Kia Sportage SX AWD Review

Kia Sportage Old but Pertinent We are expecting an updated Kia Sportage for 2023, but for now our local media fleet has a 2020 model still available. We decided to take a look at this soon to be replaced model to see how it compares to the newer competition.  Outside Reminiscent of the Subaru CrossTrek, the Kia Sportage appears to be a lifted, more off-pavement capable version of a compact sedan. However, unlike the CrossTrek, there is no sedan counterpart for the Sportage. In the front, the familiar Kia grill is actually small by today’s standards. The hood bulges on …

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2022 Infiniti QX55 Review

QX55: Beauty and the CVT? All new for 2022 is the QX55 from Infiniti and what a looker it is! Infiniti has done an excellent job in the design of the QX55, making it stand out from the competition. Exterior From any angle the QX55 looks beautiful. The design has flowing curves and sharp creases. The LED headlights, bulging hood, large grill, front splitter, we could go on, all combine and work together to complete eye catching design. From the front the grill is the most prominent feature immediately drawing the eye to the giant Infiniti logo in the center. …

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San Hima Bike Rack: The Easy Way

San Hima Hitch Mounted Bike Rack San Hima makes a variety of cargo solutions, and one of those is a hitch mounted bike rack. With so many options on the market at varying prices, how does the San Hima bike rack stack up to the competition? What sets it apart from the others? Is it worth the price? Full Disclosure: Vicoffroad.com sent us a San Hima hitch mounted bike rack free of charge for our review Installing the San Hima Bike Rack When we opened the box, we were pleasantly surprised to find that no assembly was required. We removed …

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2021 Nissan Kicks SR Review

2021 Nissan Kicks SR Review Nissan has updated the Kicks with new styling outside, some improved surfaces inside, and standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Underneath, it remains largely the same as the 2020 model. Exterior On the outside the Kicks gives the appearance of a vehicle that would be used for outdoor activities. The slightly higher ride height and roof rails with cross members let people know that it wants to go exploring with some kayaks or bikes up on top. Being designed for a younger crowd the Kicks comes in vibrant and eye-catching colors. Our tester was adorned …

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2021 Mercedes GLA 250 Review

2021 Mercedes GLA 250 The smallest crossover in Mercedes lineup, the 2021 GLA, is an all new generation for 2021. It can be had in front wheel and all-wheel drive formats. All versions, including the AMG specs, use an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic and a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine. However, power and torque range from 221 hp and 258 ft-lb of torque in the GLA 250 to 382 hp and 354 ft-lb of torque in the AMG GLA 45. Along with the twin scroll turbo, the engine is equipped with a 48-volt system to power some accessories and another compressor, …

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2021 Chevy Blazer RS Review

2021 Chevy Blazer RS While not much has changed for 2021 on the Blazer vs the 2020 there is one major difference. The Blazer Premier no longer has the dual clutch rear differential, leaving the RS as the only Blazer equipped with this feature. Exterior Many are lamenting that the new Blazer isn’t anything like the K5 Blazer of yesteryear. However, if you think of it more as the S10 Blazer it’s not as hard of a pill to swallow. While the Blazer is attractive overall, the RS trim adds many appearance features for a sportier, more athletic look. In particular …

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2021 Buick Envision Review

2021 Buick Envision The 2021 Buick Envision was redesigned for 2021, and with Buick’s attempts to appeal to younger buyers, the Envision has a much more captivating design than the outgoing model. Exterior The Envision is the best-looking GM vehicle in this class. As far as exterior design goes Chevy’s Equinox utilitarian, GMC’s Terrain is boxy, and Cadillac’s XT4 is conservative. This leaves the sporty spot for the Envision. The nose is long and low with multiple creases in the hood creating a sporty and powerful look. The grill is large, but not overly so, with plenty of cooling for …

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2021 Infiniti QX80 Premium Select Review

Infiniti QX80 Premium Select 4wd The current generation Infiniti QX80 has been around for a decade now, yet it remains a strong seller for the brand. For 2021 improvements are minor, as is expected for year to year updates. The main focus for 2021 is more standard driver-assistance features. Exterior The exterior of the QX80 was last updated in 2018 and no major changes have taken place for the 2021 model year. It’s a sleek design that makes the massive SUV appear muscular and sporty. The Premium Select trim has dark chrome appearance features which work very well with the …

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2021 Chrysler Pacifica Limited Video Review

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Limited AWD The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is always one of the top, if not number 1, selling minivans in the US each year. Why do people love it so much? Check out our video below to find out! 2021 Pacifica Pricing The Pacifica Limited AWD that we tested had a base price of $48,390. With the limited being a very well equipped trim, it was only equipped with one option, the S Appearance Package for $295. Add in the $1,495 destination charge and the total comes to $50,180. Interestingly enough this puts the Limited AWD model right …

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Towing with the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum – Review

Cadillac Escalade Platinum GM has updated their large SUV platforms which include the Tahoe/Suburban, Yukon/XL, and Escalade/ESV. We had a chance to tow two different travel trailers a total of 500 miles with the Escalade Premium. This was done on a road trip to Capitol Reef National Park in Central Utah. The Escalade Platinum model we tested was equipped with the 6.2-liter V8. Specs On GM pickup trucks and large SUVs, they provide a sticker, usually on the B pillar behind the driver’s door, with towing information. All manufacturers should take note, as this is much better information than can …

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BougeRV 30-quart Fridge/Freezer Review

BougeRV 30-Quart Fridge/Freezer BougeRV reached out to us asking if we wanted to review a portable refrigerator. Of course we obliged, and they sent us a 30-quart single zone fridge/freezer. At 30-quarts, this fridge/freezer sits on the small end of the portable fridge/freezer selection. A cooler with roughly the same external dimensions would have closer to 40-quarts capacity. However with the 12-volt fridge there is no need for space consuming ice to keep it cool, and it can be set at a desired temperature rather than whatever temperature the ice/dry ice keeps a cooler at. Items included in the BougeRV …

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Truck Claws Review and Giveaway

What are Truck Claws? Truck claws are a traction device that is strapped onto the tires of a vehicle that is stuck in sand, snow, or mud to help free it. How do they work? Truck Claws use a heavy-duty ratchet strap to attach a carefully designed extruded aluminum block to the tire. This system frees stuck vehicles by both lifting the vehicle and biting into the terrain. The lifting action frees the tire from the suction of mud while the biting edge of the block grips ice and the large flat face provides for traction against snow, sand, and …

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2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD Review by Matt Barnes

Kia Sorento X-Line AWD The Kia Sorento is now on its 4th generation and has been given a major update for 2021. Oddly enough it competes in the same class as the Telluride despite being noticeably smaller. Kia sent us a top dog Sorento X-Line to review for a week. Exterior Outside, Kia has done an excellent job with styling the new Sorento. It is more chiseled and aggressive than before, but not boxy and off-road looking like the Telluride. Up front, the blacked-out grill is large and attractive with a “KIA” lettering logo. Future models will have updated emblems, …

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Chains, Straps, or Ropes? Best Recovery Tool by Matt Barnes

Chains, Straps, or Ropes? Best Recovery Tool We’ve all been there or come across someone who has. Whether off playing in the sand or mud, or driving down an icy highway and sliding into a ditch, most of us have seen, or been in, a vehicle that needs recovered. We tested a variety of recovery tools for towing to see which one is best for any given situation. What should you store in your recovery vehicle? Chain Decades ago, chains were the main method used to tow a disabled or stuck vehicle. They are widely available and can serve many …

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2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Off-Road Review by Matt Barnes

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor New for 2021 is the Tremor package on the Ford Ranger. The Tremor includes everything the FX4 has, like Trail Control, Terrain Management, a locking rear differential, etc. On top of the FX4, the Tremor includes a steel bash plate, 0.8-inch lift, Fox 2.0 shocks with remote reservoirs, and 32-inch General Grabber ATX tires. Before the Tremor, the Ranger FX4 was the top dog off-roader in the Ranger lineup. What have all the upgrades of the Tremor done for real world performance improvements over the FX4? High Speed High speed off-road is clearly where the Tremor …

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2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat Review by Matt Barnes

2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat Adding the Hellcat Durango to the list in Dodge’s 700+ horsepower stable, and dropping the Journey and Grand Caravan, Dodge now offers a hellcat in all of their current production vehicles. Exterior The exterior of the Hellcat Durango, as with the SRT, is subdued yet powerful. The hood contains two functional vents and a hood scoop. The bumper is more aggressive than the standard Durango, and a little lower. From the side the Hellcat Durango is very similar to other Durangos. However, there is a noticeable bulge in the hood, the splitter on the front bumper …

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2021 Mercedes AMG GLE63 S Review by Matt Barnes

2021 Mercedes AMG GLE63 S The Mercedes AMG GLE63 S lives in a market segment we don’t fully understand. What we do know, is that we love the absurdity of it. Exterior From the outside the GLE63 is a little deceiving. From some angles it appears much smaller than it actually is, but not from the front. The grill is large, but the gigantic outboard bumper openings are what really draw attention. With the massive Mercedes tri star emblem in the center of the grill, there is no question who makes the GLE. There are very bright LED headlights with …

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Review by Matt Barnes

2021 GMC Canyon AT4 The GMC Canyon AT4 is an all new trim level for 2021. GMC released the current version of the Canyon in 2014 as a 2015 model year and this 2nd generation is nearing the end of its life. However, before it goes GM has given it a facelift and minor update for the 2021 model year. Exterior For added off-road capability the Canyon AT4 trim adds 31” DuraTrac tires from Goodyear, suspension more oriented for off-road travel, G80 real locking differential, and additional skid plates. In the looks department GM has painted the tow hooks red, …

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2021 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Review and Snow Run By Matt Barnes

2021 Colorado ZR2 The dated Colorado receives a few minor updates for 2021. On the exterior, the ZR2 gets a revised facia and better visibility for the driver. The tow hooks up front have been painted red to make them easier to find. For the rear the tailgate now features a stamped “CHEVROLET” instead of the bow tie emblem. Inside the Colorado remains the same as in years past. The two Engine options remain the same for the ZR2. A diesel option with the 2.8-liter Duramax inline 4 that has 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque or the 3.6-liter …

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2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Review by Matt Barnes

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Chevy’s experience with full size SUVs runs deep. In fact, the oldest nameplate in automotive history is the Suburban. That said, the Tahoe Z71, being the Suburban’s slightly shorter sibling, has more pedigree behind it than nearly any other vehicle on the market. How does the latest model stack up to this incredible heritage? Exterior Despite being from the same GM trio, the Tahoe looks significantly different from its Yukon and Escalade siblings. The front end of the Z71 is clearly designed to be more rugged and off-road ready than other Tahoes. Starting from the bottom, …

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2021 Toyota Rav4 Prime XSE AWD Video Review by Matt Barnes

2021 Rav4 Prime Overview The Rav4 Prime is Toyota’s plug in hybrid version of the Rav4. It has the most horsepower and torque and is the quickest Rav4 we’ve tested. Our test model was a Rav4 Prime XSE AWD. The base price is $41,425, but our tester was nicely equipped with premium audio ($1,650), Weather Package (375), Special Color ($425), Premium Package ($3,765), and a few other minor things totaling $731. Throw in the $1,120 destination charge and the total MSRP of our tester was $49,461. The Rav4 Prime has impressive driving chacteristics and is fun to drive. We enjoyed …

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2021 GMC Yukon Denali Review by Matt Barnes

2021 GMC Yukon Denali GM has always been the leader in full size SUV sales. With the introduction of the Suburban in 1935, they have more experience in the game that any other brand. For 2021 GM completely redesigned their full-size SUV lineup, including the Yukon Denali. Full disclosure: GMC sent us a 2021 GMC Yukon Denali with a full tank of gas for us to review. Exterior The first thing noticed on the exterior of the Denali is the massive mesh grill with bold GMC lettering. It’s bold and aggressive. The LED headlights bracketed with the daytime running lights …

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2021 Durango R/T Tow N Go Video Review by Matt Barnes

2021 Durango R/T Tow N Go Review Dodge is a standout among manufacturers today. Offering gobs of power in a variety of vehicles with a stick it to the man attitude has made Dodge one of the few remaining companies willing to pay out fines for poor fuel economy to give the people what they want. The R/T Tow N Go is the performance oriented Durango for those who can’t justify the insanity of the SRT or Hellcat, but still want to have fun. It also gives the driver the possibility of towing a significant 8,700 pounds. Is the Durango …

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2021 Nissan Titan Pro 4x Review and Off-Road By Matt Barnes

2021 Titan Pro 4x We recently had the chance to put the 2021 Nissan Titan Pro 4x through its paces. The Titan XD’s little brother is an excellent truck, and can be a great value when purchasing at a discount! Our test model’s MSRP was $61,345 including all options and the destination charges. Review Overall the Titan is an excellent truck with great on road manners. The VK56 5.6-liter V8 has the power get up to speed and tow up to 9,310 pounds. The new for 2020 9-speed automatic has smooth yet crisp shifts. It seems to be in the …

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2020 Ford Ranger Lariat Drive Review By Matt Barnes

2020 Ford Ranger Lariat Ford brought the Ranger back to the U.S. as a 2019 model year. However, it has been living its life globally since 2015. While that is still much newer that the 2021 Nissan Frontier that’s been around since 2005, its not exactly the all new platform it appears to be. On-Road One of the first things noticed when driving the Ranger is that the rear suspension is stiff. The payload capacity of the Ranger is in line with many half-ton trucks. Consequently, this makes the little Ranger feel harsh over bumps when unladen, but also provides …

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2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport Review by Matt Barnes

2020 Atlas Cross Sport Adding the Atlas Cross Sport to VW’s lineup brings a new dimension to the Atlas. While the Cross Sport is heavily based off the three-row Atlas, it does have some Urus design cues. Volkswagen sent us a near top of the line Atlas Cross Sport V6 SEL Premium for a week to review. Exterior Crossover coupes have been on the market for a few years now. Americans wanting the space of a crossover with the driving dynamics of a sports car have this new class of vehicle. BMW started this trend with the X6 and now …

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2020 Titan XD Platinum Reserve Drive and Off-Road Review by Matt Barnes

2020 Titan XD Platinum Reserve Nissan updated the Titan XD for 2020 with a bit of a refresh. Horsepower is up just a little when using premium fuel and gone is the 5.0 Cummins V8 diesel. Nissan only offers the Titan XD in one configuration, the Crew Cab with a 6.5-foot bed. This was the biggest seller in previous years and should help Nissan cut costs while still providing consumers with what they want the most. Exterior Outside the Titan XD has been given a new front design that’s a bolder and more aggressive. Every trim level has a unique …

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2021 Toyota Sienna Video Review by Matt Barnes

The 2021 Toyota Sienna is a great effort to stop the decrease in minivan sales. If anything, the minivan battle is heating up between the Pacifica, Odyssey, and Sienna. While the Sienna keeps the looks similar to the previous generation Toyota has made some body changes that really up the appeal. Beyond the updated looks, Toyota has greatly improved the driving dynamics as well. Toyota has done an excellent job in making the ride and handling more like a sedan than a van. Gone is the nauseous wafting feeling of yesteryear, in is a firm-controlled ride.

2021 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Review by Matt Barnes

The Rogue is Nissan’s top selling vehicle. Therefore Nissan knew that any changes made would have to be done with precision. Nissan has a noteworthy plan to introduce 10 new models over the course of 20 months and the Rogue is part of that plan. Quick Take Nissan has been struggling the past few years, but we are hoping these new updates to nearly all their models will change that. Helping push the value concept, the Rogue has the most standard safety technologies in its class. This includes Nissan Safety Shield 360, Intelligent Driver Alertness, and Rear Door Alert. Furthermore, …

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2020 Ford Expedition Review by Matt Barnes

2020 Ford Expedition Can the 2020 Ford Expedition take on GM’s Tahoe/Yukon twins? GM created the full-size SUV segment and has pretty much been the undisputed leader until recent years. Many have tried, but few have been successful in competing with GM in this arena. The Ford Expedition is one of the few that have. The last major redesign of the Ford Expedition was in 2018 and the updates for 2020 have been minor. Consequently, Ford sent us a middle of the pack Expedition Limited 4×4 to test for a week. There are two wheelbases of the Expedition available, the …

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2021 GMC AT4 vs 2021 Chevy RST Z71

Half-ton truck diesel engines have made their way into the big three American brands. Ford and Ram both use 3.0-liter V6 engines while the GM products use a 3.0-liter Inline 6. How does this engine perform in GM’s 1500 twins and what are the differences between the two trucks? GMC has been trying to differentiate themselves from Chevy as a more premium brand. Often times new tech will debut in the GMC and trickle down into the Chevy equivalent i.e. the MultiPro and MultiFlex tailgates. Other times GMC will get tech not available in the Chevy i.e. the Denali exclusive …

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2021 Mercedes GLS 63 AMG Review: Sand Monster By Matt Barnes

  Exterior Even to the untrained eye, the Mercedes GLS 63 AMG is clearly something out of the ordinary. There are subtle design cues everywhere and when combined they let everyone know that this is no ordinary GLS. The front grill and bumper are a little more aggressive, the rims are massive and wrapped in sporty tires, and even at idle the sound from the dual exhaust is noticeably different from the standard GLS. Everything about this vehicle says something great is hiding under that large voluptuous body, yet somehow it appears understated. Overall, the AMG GLS looks very similar …

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2020 4 Runner TRD PRO Review By Matt Barnes

With Toyota sending us the 4 Runner TRD PRO to test for a week, we have now had seat time in all their currently available off-roaders. The 4 Runner still uses the 4.0 V6 and 5 speed auto, which uses a little more fuel and isn’t as refined as some newer offerings, but that didn’t matter once we left the pavement. In our opinion, the 4 Runner TRD PRO is the best Toyota for all types of off-road terrain. Scroll to the bottom to get our take on the other TRD PRO Vehicles. The 4 Runner TRD PRO starts at …

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2021 Chevy Trailblazer Video Reviews By Matt Barnes

Chevy re-released the Trailblazer as a 2021 model year crossover. It is available with a pair of 3-cylinder turbo power plants, and has optional AWD. Our test model was a 2021 Trailblazer AWD Activ model. The new Trailblazer is a much smaller package than the previous generation which was a body on frame SUV. Becoming a small crossover with a unibody frame has completely changed the Trailblazer from what it used to be. It now handles fairly well and has a very stiff chassis. The engines are all new for this year first debuting in the Buick Encore GX. The …

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2020 GLB 250 Video Review By Matt Barnes

Recently we had the chance to test a 2020 Mercedes GLB 250 with the 4Matic AWD system. The on-road driving chacteristics of the GLB 250 are amazing and it is quite capable off-road as well. The 4Matic AWD system should be great for all weather conditions. Check out the videos below for our complete review. Review Off-Road Pricing The base price of our tester was $38,600 but it had nearly $20,000 in upgrades bringing the total with destination charges to $57,475. The options were: Titanium Grey/Black Leather $1,450 AMG Line Sport Steering Wheel $360 20” AMG Multi-Spoke Wheels, Black $1,050 …

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2020 Mazda CX-30 Off-Road Drive Review By Matt Barnes

Mazda is unique in the automotive world, as it doesn’t report to a parent company. Mazda has a proven record of making reliable and fun to drive vehicles. They have once again delivered with the all new CX-30. Exterior From the outside the CX-30 looks very similar to the Mazda 3 hatchback. Upon closer inspection it becomes clearer that these two are quite different. The CX-30 is about 5-inches taller than the 3 with an additional 2.5-inches of ground clearance. Interestingly enough the CX-30 is also shorter than the 3 by 2.5-inches and has a 3-inch shorter wheelbase. The exterior …

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Mercedes Sprinter 2500 Review by Matt Barnes

Mercedes offers over 30 configurations of the Sprinter van, suiting a wide variety of needs. The Sprinter also offers the only true 4wd system in the class. Ford has an AWD system for the transit van and all others in the class are 2wd. Mercedes sent us a 12-passenger high roof 4wd Sprinter 2500 to evaluate for a week. All 4wd models are equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel engine and 7-speed automatic transmission. 4wd System Sprinter vans are often converted into capable motorhomes for adventurists. The factory 4wd system is a big plus for those leaving the beaten …

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2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Review Off-Road By Matt Barnes

Honda’s number one selling vehicle in the United States is the CR-V. As such, Honda engineers and designers are going to do their best to keep this vehicle a major competitor in its class. For 2020, there has been a minor refresh to the front end and the center console. The one major change for 2020 is the introduction of a hybrid model for the first time in the CR-V’s history. Exterior On the outside, the CR-V has design cues that are similar to the Civic. The hexagonal-shaped grill houses the Honda emblem and some swooping chrome trim that underscores …

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Toyota Highlander Platinum Hybrid Mountain Drive By Matt Barnes

Toyota was first to market a mass-produced hybrid vehicle with the Prius, and they continue to innovate and improve. The new Highlander is evidence of that with incredible efficiency for a three-row SUV. It switches from full electric to hybrid to full gas motor so smoothly that you’ll miss it unless you’re paying very close attention. The e-CVT uses an ingenious planetary gear system, so no belts like other CVT’s. Toyota has made significant updates for the 2020 Highlander and it is by far the best Highlander yet! Exterior Toyota redesigned the Highlander for 2020 and it looks significantly better …

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2020 Pacifica Hybrid Limited Review By Matt Barnes

The Chrysler Pacifica is possibly the most awarded minivan ever. FCA has invested billions of dollars into the development of the Pacifica in an effort to make it the top of its class. So, what has all the investment done for this hybrid family hauler? Exterior Elegance is not a word often used on minivans, but the design of the Pacifica is a great example of a top tier product. The upper and lower grills combine to produce a dumbbell shape for the front end. The hood has clearly defined lines that flow into the sides and disappear seamlessly. Oddly …

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2020 Lexus ES300h – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

The Lexus ES is moving upmarket. Can it step up to the task? The seventh generation ES was new for 2019 with the 2020 model receiving a few minor updates. Moving forward, the ES will have to cover for its traditionally sportier sibling with Car and Driver, reporting that the GS is going out of production.   Exterior You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Lexus ES for a sports sedan. The updated design is beautiful, sporty, and luxurious. The ES is longer and lower than the previous generation with the wheels pushed out to the corners. It is a gorgeous …

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2020 Jeep “JLUR” Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel – Off-Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

After four years off, FCA brought back the 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel. This time they’ve decided to add it to the Jeep Wrangler. Enthusiasts call the newest Wrangler the JL.  If it’s the four-door version they, add a “U,” and for the Rubicon trim they add an R. Our test model was a 2020 JLUR EcoDiesel. Video Intro   Overview Arguably America’s most rugged vehicle, the newest Jeep Wrangler has been modernized without compromise to off-road ability. The Jeep brand is FCA’s top seller in the U.S., and the Wrangler is a big portion of that. In order to please a wider …

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2020 Cadillac XT6 Drive Review – By Matt Barnes – An Almost Excellent 3-Row Crossover

The XT6 is a front wheel drive luxury crossover from Cadillac using the same platform as the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse. While the quadruplets are based on the same platform, the XT6 looks significantly different. The XT6 is more upscale and sportier than the other three. It appears nimbler and more luxurious yet retains the same 310 hp 3.6-liter V6 used in the others. Exterior When compared to its siblings, the XT6 has sharper lines, a lower body, and more chrome. The headlights are unique from all other Cadillac vehicles, but the grill, bumper, and fog lights …

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2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo – Off-Road Drive Review – By Matt Barnes

Kia is at it again! The new-to-market 2021 Seltos is another attempt from Kia to bring a well-equipped and capable crossover to market at a great price. Like the Telluride, the Seltos has an opportunity to disrupt the market. We have previously tested the base Seltos S FWD and quite enjoyed it. Now, Kia has sent us the Seltos SX Turbo AWD for review of a top trim sub $30,000 small crossover. Intro Video Overview Seeing the differences between the base model and top trim model is always a good thing when purchasing a new vehicle. It’s a good way …

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2020 Toyota C-HR – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

For decades, Toyota has been known for having bland vehicle styling. To change that reputation, they have recently made an effort to modernize their vehicles and add exciting features to the body work. From the new Camry to the Tacoma, we’d say that it’s working. Continuing that trend, Toyota has updated the 2020 C-HR with a restyled front end, bold new colors, and attention-grabbing wheel designs. Toyota sent us a 2020 C-HR Limited trim to test for a week.   Exterior The most common colors on vehicles sold in the US today are white, black, and every shade of grey …

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2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 – Mountain Drive Review +Video – By Matt Barnes

The premium crossover class is very competitive and constantly growing. To play in this field, manufacturers must be at the top of their game. Mercedes has updated the GLC for 2020 with some new exterior styling bits, optimized wheels, the updated MBUX infotainment system, and more power. Exterior The GLC is very stable in appearance. It is short and low with a long wheelbase and wide track. As is common with many vehicles today, the grill is oversized and the Mercedes emblem in this grill might be the largest emblem on any vehicle I’ve seen. Because of all this, and the …

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2020 Toyota Land Cruiser – Off-Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

What can be said about the 200 series Land Cruiser that hasn’t already been said? It’s been around since 2008 and has only had a few meaningful changes since then. For 2020, there is an all new Heritage Edition that removes the rear seats and center armrest cooler and adds a roof rack, BBS forged wheels, and special badges. Other than that, little has changed from the 2019 model year. For our review, Toyota sent us a base model Land Cruiser for a week. Keep in mind the base model Land Cruiser starts at over $85,000 and there is only …

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2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro – Off-Road Review – By Matt Barnes

Like nearly all other body-on-frame vehicles Toyota makes, the Sequoia is getting old. The current generation came out for the 2008 model year. Of course, there have been updates here and there over time, but there hasn’t been a major redesign in 12 years. For 2020, Toyota has introduced the TRD Pro trim level to the Sequoia. Like all other TRD Pro vehicles, the Sequoia has upgraded suspension components and a few unique color and trim items. Exterior No matter how you look at it, the Sequoia is a beast. Nearly everything about it is big. The front greets you …

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2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road – Off-Pavement Drive Review – By Matt Barnes

The RAV4 is a tent-pole for Toyota USA with nearly half a million sales in 2019 and as the top-selling SUV in the United States. The RAV4 was updated in 2019 to be better in almost every way. Toyota moved away from the bland styling of yesteryear to create a more athletic and polarizing vehicle with more Tacoma and 4Runner design cues. Toyota is offering a new trim level for the RAV4, the TRD Off-Road for 2020 to match this newly masculine and athletic theme. On-Road For on road driving, the TRD Off-Road handles similarly to all other RAV4’s we’ve …

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2020 Kia Telluride – Off-Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

Kia has created a winner with the all-new three-row Telluride. It has won many industry awards for best in class. Is it actually as wonderful as it seems? Outside If you have seen any of Kia’s advertising for the Telluride, you will have likely seen it wading through water or plowing through mud. Kia is pushing the Telluride as a capable, go anywhere family hauler. To push this idea even further, Kia has given the exterior design of the Telluride a boxy off-roader look. Kia has done an excellent job of separating the Telluride from the Palisade, which shares the …

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2020 BMW X6 40i – Off-Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

Sports Car in a Crossover’s Clothes: the New BMX X6 German vehicle manufacturers have recently been flooding the US market with a variety of crossovers; Audi offers six, Mercedes offers eight, and BMW offers seven. For BMW, they offer their SUVs as wagons and coupes. The X1 is the wagon and X2 the coupe riding on the same platforms. This goes for the X3 and X4, and the X5 and X6. The only wagon without a coupe is the new X7 as there is no X8 available yet. BMW was kind enough to give us a week with an X6 …

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2020 Infiniti QX80 Edition 30 – Off-Road Test Review By Matt Barnes

Like Lexus and Acura, Infiniti has been around for quite a while now and they are no longer new players in the game. What does thirty years of experience building luxury vehicles stack up in the new Infiniti QX80? To celebrate 30 years of Infiniti for 2020, Infiniti is offering an Edition 30 Package throughout its lineup. In the case of the QX80 Luxe we received for review, the package includes 22-inch forged dark aluminum alloy wheels, black mesh grill, dark chrome exterior trim, black mirror caps, additional badges, graphite headliner, and 1st row illuminated EDITION 30 kick plates. When …

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2020 Chevrolet Blazer Premier AWD – Off-Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

Chevy released the Blazer one year ago and has already done a complete renaming of it’s trim levels for the 2020 model along with a few other trim and package updates. Chevy added a new mid level engine option with the 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder. Trim level names have changed from L, 2.5L, 3.6L cloth, 3.6L leather, RS, and Premier to L, LT, 2LT, 3LT, RS, and Premier. They have also added an auto start stop override button, three new exterior colors and a new redline edition. For our testing Chevy sent us a top-of-the-line 2020 Blazer Premier AWD …

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2020 Lexus NX300 F Sport – Review By Matt Barnes

Lexus tries to keep a model as long as possible before they make any major updates. This holds true for the NX which is largely unchanged since its debut in 2014. So what, if anything, is new for 2020? Outside there are a few color changes with Silver Lining Metallic and Autumn Shimmer no longer available and Cadmium Orange being added. Inside the infotainment system now has Android Auto (for all NXs built after October 1st 2019) which joins Apple CarPlay that became available last year. There is an optional Mark Levinson audio system. The steering wheel now includes power …

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Sweepstakes! Win A Free Fastway Ball Mount Tow Hitch

Engine Adventures is giving away an all new Fastway Flash Integrated Scale Ball Mount. This adjustable height ball mount has a built in tongue weight scale to make finding your tongue weight easy and provides for a safer towing experience. The mirror finish is so reflective you could use it to shave. The ball mount comes in four different drop sizes ranging from 4 inch to 10 inch drops and the winner will get to choose which size they want. The prize package also includes a set of locking hitch pins to keep the ball mount secure. Currently it is …

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2019 Honda Passport Elite – Off-Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

Returning after a 16-year hiatus, the Honda Passport is a large, 2-row CUV that slots between the Pilot and CRV. The Passport is built on the same platform as the Pilot and Ridgeline and uses the same power train, but is six inches shorter, one inch taller with an extra inch of ground clearance. Exterior All Passports come with a blacked-out grill and LED lights, but the Elite we tested had glossy trim throughout and even gloss black wheels. Other trims get a matte finish with polished aluminum or grey wheels. One thing that is immediately apparent is that the …

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2019 Toyota Sequoia TRD Sport – Review By Matt Barnes

The only major update for to the Toyota Sequoia 2019 is the all-new TRD Sport trim level. In addition, many safety features are now standard that were optional in the past. This includes blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and rear cross traffic alert. While the platform is over a decade old, it is still relevant. Toyota has one of the best reputations for reliability and the 5.7 V8 is still on par with its large SUV rivals for horsepower and torque. Review Video     Outside The Sequoia is very large and has a significant presence, yet it still somewhat …

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2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD 2500 6.6L Gas V8 – Off-Road Review + Video – By Matt Barnes

Chevy has updated the 2500 and 3500 Silverados for 2020. The grill is even bigger than before, the cab is longer and more spacious, the bed is wider and longer, and they are now offering a bigger V8 gas engine. Chevy has used the 6.0 gas V8 for over a decade now, and it’s long past due for a major update. We found the new 6.6-liter V8 gas engine to be more than adequate for most uses. With a towing capacity of up to 16,600 pounds most weekend warriors will be able to take their boats to the lake or …

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2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition – Review By Matt Barnes

Nissan gave us the opportunity to drive the 2019 Pathfinder SL 4wd Rock Creek Edition. The Pathfinder name has been used by Nissan for almost 60 years, and this newest iteration delivers. The Rock Creek Edition adds a ton of the most commonly popular features at a discounted price and makes for a beautiful color scheme. Outside There’s something about the color scheme and Midnight Pine Metallic paint that says “take me on an adventure”, but Nissan doesn’t add any additional off-road capability with the Rock Creek Edition. What it adds is a plethora of dark and rugged themed features, …

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2019 Nissan Armada – On and Off-Road Review – By Matt Barnes

For 2019, the Armada only gets additional standard features that were options last year. Things like rear door alert, intelligent cruise control, automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning are now standard across the Armada lineup. Outside Being the largest SUV in Nissan’s lineup, the Armada has presence. It is slightly larger than a Tahoe but smaller than an Expedition, putting it right in the middle of its class. While some other vehicles are starting to look the same as everything else in their class, the Armada has standout looks. Recently, Nissan has done an excellent job in creating beautiful …

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2019 Nissan Murano SL AWD – Road Test Review + Video – By Matt Barnes

Nissan has done a good job of making their SUV’s feel higher class than they have in the past. Often, Nissan’s are thought of as budget Toyotas, with great reliability but very basic. However, in the past few years, Nissan has moved into luxury interiors with comfortable seating and plenty of standard safety features. While bare bones base models are still available for price conscious customers, it’s Nissan’s middle and upper trims that really bring out the comfort and convenience features. Outside Our test model was an AWD SL trim with the premium Sunset Drift paint color. It is a …

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2019 Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss – Off-Road Traction Systems Test

Spending time with the 2019 Chevy Trail Boss allowed us to dive deep into how the various traction systems work on all light duty Chevy trucks. We combined the information we gained from speaking with an engineer at Chevy with some real-world testing and here is what we found. All of the systems below work in 2WD, AWD and 4WD Chevy trucks except of course for the 4WD auto, 4WD high and 4WD low for vehicles not equipped with 4WD or 4WD low. Brake Limited Slip There are a variety of manufacturers that use a brake limited slip system as …

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2019 Toyota RAV4 XSE Hybrid – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

Toyota made many changes to the Rav4 for 2019, including a new chassis, new bold look, and more space. How will Toyota’s top seller in the United States fare with these new changes? Coming in at $37,699, is this loaded crossover worth the coin? Overview The Rav4 has long been a big seller for Toyota. It was an early, if not the first, car-based SUV, now called crossovers. For 2019, the Rav4 is more aggressive with a higher stance and a half inch higher ground clearance. This bodes well for the Rav4 Adventure whose focus is on outdoorsy people who …

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2019 Ford F-150 Limited – Road Test & Towing Review – By Matt Barnes

With the intense pickup truck wars in full effect right now, manufacturers are offering more luxury and ease-of-use features than ever before. Coming in at the very top of Ford’s F-150 lineup is the new Limited model. Recently, Ford sent us an F-150 Limited for review and we found that there were only six added options. Nearly every other conceivable feature is standard equipment. The Limited model is only available in the Super Crew 5.5 ft. bed configuration. It comes with so many features on the interior that there are few things that can be optioned. On the inside, our …

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2019 Lexus RX350 F Sport AWD – Review By Matt Barnes

For 2019, there haven’t been many changes to the RX 350 F Sport from the 2018 or even 2017 model years. It remains a strong seller for Lexus and a great all-around vehicle. Inside, the F Sport trim adds a variety of interior pieces from the pedals and steering wheel to the F Sport leather trim and seats. Outside, the F Sport gets a nice set of 20-inch rims and a couple of F Sport badges. Performance wise, there aren’t any substantial changes. It still uses the 295 hp V6 that all other RX 350’s use, however, the F Sport …

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2019 Volkswagen Atlas R-Line V6 – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

The Volkswagen Atlas is a vehicle that rides, drives and handles much smaller than it actually is. For 2019, it has been updated to include more standard features across the lineup, including forward collision warning, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Our test vehicle was the SE w/ Technology R-line model equipped with the 3.6 liter V6 and 8-speed automatic. Mid-size SUVs have been gaining in popularity for quite some time now, which is a great thing for buyers in this segment. Being in a profitable segment means that there is a lot of R&D put into these vehicles, …

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2018 Toyota Land Cruiser – Off-Road & Towing Review – By Matt Barnes

The Toyota Land Cruiser has a loyal global following, and for good reason. It is one of the most reliable, longest lasting vehicles in automotive history. Cruisers are lauded as the ultimate overlanding vehicle. There are many different variants sold throughout the world, but here in the United States, we get one model with one trim level, and only one available option package. Unless you account for the Lexus LX570, which offers a few more features and a more luxurious interior. To test the capability of the Land Cruiser, we decided to head into the desert hills to see what …

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2018 Lexus GX460 – On & Off-Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

Badged as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado worldwide, the Lexus GX460 is a luxuriously adorned version for the United States and other upscale markets. The underpinnings are as durable as one would expect from a Toyota product with all the luxury of a Lexus. Interior The GX460 is a very luxurious vehicle with all the features you would expect in a Lexus. The leather is soft and supple, with heated and ventilated seats. The second row has heated seats, but not ventilated. The steering wheel is also heated. The middle row captain’s chairs are comfortable and allow easy access to …

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Battle of the 2019 Jeep Cherokees – Trailhawk Vs Limited – By Matt Barnes

A few months, back we had the chance to test drive the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited. We really enjoyed our time with the vehicle and you can read about it here. Recently, Jeep sent us the Trailhawk version of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee, with the same 3.2 liter V6 and 9 speed automatic transmission. This gave us a good opportunity to compare the two similarly equipped vehicles, costing within $200 of each other. Similarities Both 2019 Cherokees we tested came with: Adaptive cruise control Lane keep assist 9 speaker audio system with the 8.4 inch Uconnect and GPS setup Leather …

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2018 Lexus RX450h – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

The 2018 Lexus RX has always been a big seller for Lexus, and the new version is the best one yet. All variants of the mid-size luxury SUV use a 3.5 liter V-6, but the 450h (hybrid) model adds a small battery and three electric motors. There is also a new long version that has been stretched a little over four inches to accommodate 3rd row seating. Like all Lexus vehicles, the RX 450h has high quality interior materials, a quiet ride and smooth braking and steering. Does the hybrid RX really deliver luxury-car feel and econo-car mileage? The V-6 …

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2019 Mercedes-AMG GLS63 – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

With a $125,000 base price, the Mercedes GLS 63 AMG is out of range for many people. For those who have the wherewithal and need to haul six people, it is an excellent — and perhaps only — choice. Featuring a hand assembled AMG 5.5 liter twin turbo (Mercedes calls it a biturbo) V8 with 577 horsepower and 561 torque, the GLS AMG has only one three-row performance competitor: the 475 horsepower Dodge Durango SRT 392.  [Audi is not bringing the diesel SQ7 to the USA.] When it comes to luxury, the Mercedes is at the top in this class. …

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2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392 – Road Test Review + GIFs – By Matt Barnes

The SRT 392 Durango is by far the best-looking Durango produced to date. The SRT package takes the Durango from mundane to monstrous. As we spent more time with it, the Durango just kept growing on us to the point that we didn’t want to return it. Exterior It’s nice to know that the hood vents and scoop are real and have an actual purpose, something not seen on many vehicles today, performance or otherwise. The SRT 392 sits lower than the standard Durango and has a more aggressive stance with wider tires. The black dual racing stripes that run …

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2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4×4 – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

When looking at the new 2019 Jeep Cherokee, one may wonder how a solid axle XJ from a few decades ago has evolved into a smooth-riding, fully independent suspension and a seemingly less off road capable vehicle. From our experience, the new Cherokee is much better on road and is every bit as capable and possibly even more capable than its predecessor. Exterior For 2019, the Jeep Cherokee has a few exterior updates that are different from the 2018 model, making it more attractive and lighter. The bumpers, LED head lights, LED tail lights, hood and liftgate have all been …

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2018 RAM 2500 Limited 4×4 Long Box – Road Test Review – By Matt Barnes

When thinking of an HD pickup truck, the first things that come to mind are diesel power and a terrible ride. Only one of those two things is true with the 2018 Ram 2500 Limited Crew Cab 4×4 Long Box. Our test vehicle came with a lot of upgrades and packages, making it one of the most comfortable three-quarter ton trucks we have ever driven. Exterior This was an attractive truck from nearly any angle. It really stood out from all the other vehicles around it due to its enormous size and alluring deep indigo red paint. The Limited Tungsten …

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