suv

Tested > 2011 Ford Explorer Limited

2011 Ford Explorer Limited

Review & Photo: Amee Reehal ©

 

Perhaps no other SUV is as iconic at the Ford Explorer. Once a box on wheels, the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer is totally redeveloped--a stylish, more sophisticated full-size SUV, the new Ford Explorer is like a well-travelled globetrotter with a better (wiser) outlook on life, exuding a whole new level of panache and style. Goodbye Samsonite. Hello Tumi.

Inside and out, the fit and finish of the 2011 Ford Explorer is evident. Producing a good-looking, well-crafted, high-quality SUV, that is not only refined but on the open road, very quiet as well, which Ford claims will rival the much more costly premium SUVs on the market. Ford has inundated the Explorer with technologies and features, including MyFord Touch and SYNC--again, rivalling the premium SUVs on the market. For 2011, the Explorer also finds more head and shoulder room, and the third-row seating is now a standard.

My Explorer Limited came with a few cabin options, including all-weather floor mats ($30); 2nd row dual captain chairs (500); a dual panel moonroof (1750); luxury seating package with powerfold third row seat (900); the navigation system (700); and the Technology package (2400) with active park assist, adapt cruise/collision warning, rain sensing wipers, and blind spot monitoring. Also optional, found on my tester, 20-inch polished aluminum rims ($600) and a trailer tow package-class III (500).

The idea that a full-size SUV's fuel efficiency can be in line with a full-size sedan may sound preposterous. Except to Ford with their introduction of the insane EcoBoost. Available later this year, the 2011 Explorer will be fitted with an optional EcoBoost 2.0L I-4 V6, providing huge fuel efficiency without comprising power. Combining gasoline and turbochargers, the EcoBoost puts down 237HP at 5500 RPM and 255-lb.ft of torque. Ultimately, rendering a 30-percent increase in fuel economy, which Ford claims is playing ball with the likes of Honda Accord V6. And even better fuel efficiency than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid (…Hybrid!).

Standard powerplant in the 2011 Ford Explorer is the 3.5L V6 with four-wheel drive and terrain management at the touch of a button. This V6 delivers 290HP and 255-lb.ft of torque. Mated to a unique six-speed transmission, performance and economy are increased with flexibility of optimum gearing for different situations. Optional in the 2011 Ford Explorer XLT and Limited models is the SelectShift Automatic transmission allowing manual shifting via a shifter-mounted button for thumb activated + or - gear changes.

The 2011 Ford Explorer adds an impressive list of innovative safety features, raising the safety bar within the SUV segment. The most notable of these include the industry-first inflatable rear seat belts. Ford recognized second-row passengers, including children and mature passengers, can be more vulnerable to head, chest, and neck injuries. Thus, the world' first inflatable seats belts. Upon deployment, these belts spread impact forces over five times more than the conventional seat belt, reducing pressure on the chest while helping control head and neck motion.

Here are the standard safety features found in all Explorer models:

  • AdvanceTracwith RSC features Curve Control functionality to provide braking – optimized by each individual wheel
  • Second-generation first-row airbags, side seat airbags
  • Belt-Minder® for driver and first-row passenger
  • Front passenger sensing system
  • Energy-management system pretensioning for height-adjustable first-row seat belts
  • LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system for outboard second-row positions, for safely securing child safety seats
  • SOS Post-Crash Alert System
  • Safety Canopy® side curtain airbags
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Optional safety features include Adaptive cruise control/collision warning with brake support; and BLIS (Blind Spot Info System) with cross-traffic alert.

For more info on the 2011 Ford Explorer, visit Ford Canada.

 

2011 FORD EXPLORER

2011 Ford Explorer Prices                                                                                          MSRP

Base V6 FWD

$29,999

Base V6 4WD

$32,999

XLT V6 FWD

$35,899

XLT V6 4WD

$38,899

Limited V6 FWD

$41,199

Limited V6 4WD

$44,199

Destination and Delivery

$  1,400

 

2011 Ford Explorer Optional Equipment Prices                                             MSRP

TIRES
XLT - 20 inch Polished Aluminum Wheels with P255/50R20 A/S BSW

$1,200

Limited - 20 inch Polished Aluminum Wheels with P255/50R20 A/S BSW

$   600

SEATS
Limited – 2nd Row Captain's Chairs (LTD requires Luxury Seating Package)

$   500

Limited - 2nd Row Console (LTD requires 2nd row Captain's Chairs)

$   150

Limited - Luxury Seating Package

$   900

XLT – Leather Trimmed Seats

$1,200

OTHER OPTIONS

 

6-Speed Selectshift Automatic™ Transmission (requires and only available with Trailer Tow

Inc

DVD Headrest (XLT, Limited)

$2,100

Technology Package (requires Luxury Seating package)

$2,400

Trailer Tow Package – Class III (including and requires 6-Speed Selectshift Automatic™ Transmission)

$   500

BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert (requires Reverse Camera) (XLT, Limited)

$   500

Floor Mats – Carpeted and All Weather (front/rear)

$   100

Moonroof – Dual Panel (XLT, Limited)

$1,750

Power Liftgate (XLT)

$   500

Rear Outboard Inflatable Seatbelts (XLT/LTD)

$   250

Reverse Camera (XLT)

$    500

Reverse Sensing System (Base)

$    400

Red Candy Metallic with Tinted Clearcoat

$    300

White Platinum Tri-Coat (XLT, Limited)

$   300

AUDIO
Voice Activated Navigation System (XLT, Limited)

$    700

SIRIUS® Satellite Radio (Base)

$    200

 

2011 Ford Explorer Fuel Economy                                   City L/100 km    Hwy L/100 km

Ford Explorer 4X2 3.5L – V6 6 speed automatic 11.9        8.0
Ford Explorer AWD 3.5L – V6 6 speed automatic 12.5

8.8

Ford Explorer 4X4 3.5L – V6 SST 6 speed automatic 12.5

8.8

 

 

Tested > 2010 Cadillac SRX

2010 Cadillac SRX AWD 4dr 2.8T Performance

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal

Arguably, one of the hottest CUVs on the market (going all Geek-to-Chic from last year’s version, Maury Povich styles), the 2010 Cadillac SRX will now certainly turn some heads, for all the right reasons. Renowned for their grandiose, full-size Escalade SUV, Cadillac’s SRX is the better option for those families looking for something a little more (ok, a lot more) scaled down with better fuel economy without compromising luxury and sufficient cargo. While the CTS wagon is certainly a compelling option, the SRX plays in a luxury segment that’s hitting home with most families these days.

This AWD turbo version starts at $55,870 Cdn MSRP and comes equipped with a decent list of standards all around. Add the two options you’ll likely want (as equipped on this tester), and the price jumps significantly to $62,445—including 20”x8” tech aluminum wheels over the standard painted cast aluminum version of the same size and a Navigation/Audio upgrade, both at $1190 and $5285, respectively. But you’ve got choices, nine SRX versions to choose from, to be exact, including the entry-level FWD 4-door model starting at $41,575 to the AWD 4-door 2.8T Premium at $62,770. Our SRX, the second highest of the bunch, is the AWD 4-door 2.8T Performance.

Fortunately, this second-coming of the 2010 SRX went under the knife, resulting in a bolder, sexier, much more confident styled version than the outgoing 2009 SRX, that was, frankly, an ambiguous half-wagon, half-truck, part hearse looking thing with a severe identity crises. With a completely restyled backend and retaining Cadillac’s iconic styling cues, our new Imperial Blue Metallic SRX is all grown-up sporting long, sleek lines with sharp cut edges from front to the dual chromed exhaust tipped back. The ultra-view double-sized power tilt/sliding glass sunroof with express open power sunshade is standard. Also standard, body-coloured power folding heated mirrors, Solar-Ray tinted glass with privacy tint on rear doors, and stunning LED tail lamps.

Exterior styling flows to the spacious cabin that finds heated leather seating surfaces; 8-way power driver and 6-way power passenger seats; automatic dual-zone climate control AC with air filtration and rear console vents; four auxiliary power outlets; auto-dimming rearview mirror with OnStar; and remote keyless entry with illuminated entry/exit lights, all standard in a long list of inclusions. No-charge entertainment includes Bluetooth for phone and voice recognition; USB port; roof-mounted hexband antenna; and CD/MP3 stereo mated to a 8-speaker premium Bose system. If luxury is really your thing, you’ll definitely look to upgrade to the HDD-based navigation system with pop-up nav screen, CD/DVD/MP3 stereo with a 10-speaker 5.1 surround setup. This’ll add nearly $5300 to the bottom line, but includes a plethora unmentioned upgrades (rear view camera, rear seat entertainment with screens, etc.) you’re SRX probably couldn’t live without.

The 2.8-litre SFI turbocharged V6 produces 300-hp—an optional engine on all AWD trims, with a 3.0-litre VVT direct injection V6 engine standard. The AWD finds a 6-speed auto transmission including driver shift control, down grade detection, and electronic limited slip differential. The sporty styling is matched by a sport-tuned suspension with continuous variable real time suspension damping. Standard safety features are plentiful, including traction control system, StabilTrak stability control system, trailer sway control, and OnStar in-vehicle assistance with a one-year service included, to name just a few.

For more info on the 2010 Cadillac SRX, please visit HERE

Tested > “Spring” – 2009 Porsche CayenneGTS

2009 Porsche Cayenne GTS

Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal

Kicking ass. This is precisely what the Cayenne SUV has been doing since its introduction back in 2002. Despite the naysayers (and there were plenty) who questioned Porsche’s (very late) foray into the SUV segment, the Cayenne has become a flagship vehicle for the Stuttgart automaker. Hey, that’s impressive. Adding depth to their ass-whooping, Porsche introduced a few variations of the best-selling vehicle, including the entry-level Cayenne (and Cayenne Tiptronic), Cayenne-S, CayenneGTS (and GTS Tiptronic), and the unrivaled, otherworldly Cayenne Turbo-S (replacing the CayenneTurbo last year). But for now, we’re only concerned with the slick 2009 Cayenne GTS Tiptronic, and if you’re in the market, perhaps you should be too because pound-for-pound, in terms of pure performance, price-point, and enhanced styling, the GTS is arguably the best Cayenne available…with or without the Nordic Gold (orange) Metallic paint.

Propelling this 5000-lb plus rocket is a 4.8 liter V8, putting down a respectable 405-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque—well ahead of the sub-300-hp entry-level Cayenne, yet worlds apart from the 550-hp Cayenne Turbo-S older sibling. But in terms of refined, naturally-aspirated power, the GTS version is a true showcase of Porsche engineering. Slide into the cabin, turn the ignition, and enjoy the raw growl of the V8. It with certainly set the tone, literally, for the ride ahead. While the majority of GTS’ rolling off the plant floor come with an automatic transmission, a 6-speed manual is now available at no cost. Think about it, a stick shift luxury SUV? That’s pretty damn cool, and rare. Our auto tranny GTS tester came equipped with the 6-speed Tiptronic-S. Paying the premium for the Tiptronic version (opposed to non-Tiptronic automatic) will definitely be a personal choice—some may love it, some may find it more of a novelty. For all the driving enthusiasts, just get the stick shift.

Alright, let’s get the paint colour issue out of the way. Our press CayenneGTS arrived with the $4280 optional Nordic Gold Metallic paint, a.k.a. Orange. Whether cruising down The Red Mile in Calgary, pulling into the grocery store lot, or rolling up to the golf course, this GTS garnered a lot of attention. And the love-hate reaction was almost always the same: ‘love the colour man!’ or ‘are you gay?’ (mind you, the writers dead-on matching golf bag didn’t really help). Fortunately for the haters, others colours are available. Trivial issues aside, the CayenneGTS exterior styling is simply gorgeous. It exudes luxury, sophistication, and an extra dose of sports appeal, including an aerodynamic body kit with a pair of huge dual tailpipes that look as loud as they sound. And that’s a good thing.

Huge 21” light alloy wheels are standard, wrapped in 295/35 rubber. 13.8” vented rotors with 6 piston calipers occupy the front, with 13” vented rotors with 4 piston calipers in the rear. All mated to a permanent all-wheel drive system. The GTS also sees a 3-mode shock system (Comfort, Normal, Sport) adjusting the damper settings for various driving styles, but Sport mode is the only one that matters folks, because it literally drops the ride, tightens the suspension, and opens up the dual-exhaust pipes producing serious noise. Of course, the GTS sees a plethora of other technologies including Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and Porsche Stability Management (PSM), to name a couple.

The cabin is roomy, comfortable, and very black (black leather interior is an extra $4440). Overall, a great balance of sporty styling and luxury. The 12-way power adjustable leather front seats are snug and well-bolstered, while the 3-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel is fairly big yet feels good in the hands. Forking out the extra $2310 for the Bose Surround Sound System and another $4500 for the Porsche Multimedia System with navigation are wise choices. Some may find the centre console clean and uncluttered, while others may feel unimpressed, expecting more gadgets and stuff. But one thing is evident: the touch screen is nestled fairly low in the console (perhaps move the vents and raise the screen higher?).

Despite the dismal economic environment, Porsche is holding it’s own in Canada. Recent figures show an overall dip in Porsche sales this past year. Yet the company’s flagship 911 and Cayenne models continue to do well, carrying most of the weight. In fact, Porsche’s Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) sales are actually higher, reaching an all-time single month record with 76 CPO vehicles sold in May 2009. The CayenneGTS new sales were down almost half in May 2009 compared to May 2008, but over the year, GTS sales were down by a reasonable 20%. So despite the auto industry’s current state with all the bailout shenanigans, the Porsche Cayenne continues to plow through the shit storm.

Sharp: - the Nordic Gold Metallic paint - Enhanced styling (i.e. quad tailpipes, aerodynamic kit) - Powerful non-turbo V8 - Optional 6-speed manual stick shift

Dull: - the Nordic Gold Metallic paint - Centre console (debatable) - You’ll end up comparing to the Turbo-S, so don’t drive one, seriously

The Verdict: In Canada, the entry-level Porsche Cayenne Tiptronic remains the manufacturer’s top-selling SUV (starting at $60,190), followed by the CayenneS. While the GTS Tiptronic sits third, with a base price of $91,090 CDN, it is perhaps the best of the bunch, in terms of best bang for the buck. It’s priced a good $60k less than the expensive Turbo-S, yet worth every penny more than the step-down V8 powered CayenneS with 20 less horses and no cosmetic enhancements. Kick-ass, differentiated styling and raw power. What else does one need?

Also posted at Sharp Magazine Online

Tested > Road Trip Review: Yukon to Kokanee

2009 GMC Yukon 2-mode Hybrid 4WD

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal

Let’s face it, the full-size SUV gets a bad rep. Its popularity seemingly fading as David Suzuki and Al Gore keep preaching (good guys, by the way). Often carrying connotations of being these brawny, gas-guzzling, unsafe, monstrosities occupying our roads. Perhaps, some of this is true. And the advent of the more politically correct Crossover (CUV) hasn’t really helped either. That is…until now!! (thun thun thaaaan!) Seriously, GM has recently introduced a few hybrid full-sized SUV models, including the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid, that not only defies what we’ve come to love (or hate) about these unappreciated gentle giants, but they’re redefining the segment altogether (in my humble opinion), introducing innovative technologies and award-winning features that consumers will value (and for the manufacturer’s sake, they better). GM has produced a very intelligent, fuel-efficient, full-sized SUV without compromise. Essentially, improving the new Yukon by trimming the fat (reducing weight and improving aerodynamics), introducing innovative technologies (2-mode transmission with hybrid setup), while retaining all the vital good stuff (towing capacity, payload capability, passenger space, cargo, and great beefy styling). An Obama-friendly, Weekend Warrior-worthy, Machismo-instilled SUV. Nice work.

Last year, a group of us set on a golf trip to the Kokanee Springs Golf Resort in British Columbia: 25 guys, 72 holes of golf, 3 days, and 13 hours on the road via a not-so-fuel-friendly 2008 Chrysler Aspen SUV. This year: more guys, more golf, a bit more debauchery, and new test vehicle to get us going: the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid.

The hybrid powertrain uses a Vortec 6.0L V8 gas engine with Active Fuel Management (allowing the V8 to run on 4 of 16 cylinders to save fuel) paired to a 4-speed automatic transmission (electronic variable). The ‘2-mode’ pertains to the V8 and the two electric motors that allow continuous variable operation at various speeds, particularly, high and low speeds. Unlike many hybrids on the market, this 2-mode system (co-developed by DaimlerChrysler, BMW, and GM) creates efficiencies for both highway and city driving. The electric motors are both powered by a 300-volt battery which charges during braking and while cruising. The Hybrid Power Flow Display on the navigation screen is really cool, and does a great job indicating exactly where and when power is being distributed, as well as when the regenerative braking or cruising is charging the battery. While $1.20/litre gas prices this time last year coupled with our 5.8L V8 Chrysler Aspen SUV for an 1100-km mountainous trek certainly didn’t do our wallets any favours, the more reasonable sub-$1/litre prices along with outstanding hybrid vehicle (full-sized SUV, that is) was a welcome change this time around. EnerGuide rates the Yukon Hybrid at 10.5L/100km (27mi/gal) in the city, and 9.8L/100km (29mi/gal) on the highway. GM claims an estimated 50% savings in city fuel economy versus the non-hybrid version. Though, most of our driving was on the highway—the roads from Calgary, Alberta to our destination at the Kokanee Springs Golf Resort in B.C. consists of about 30% typical highway and maybe 70% ascending roadway (with a good 100km of pure uphill twisties). So, the throttle was engaged nearly the entire time; not much ‘charging’ going on (thank-you Display!). Even so, we burned through less than 3/4 of a tank on the 550km trek en route. Respectable for an engine this size…pushing 5600 pounds through The Rockies.

The Yukon feels great behind the wheel and handles very smooth on the highway. Despite the abundance of technologies doing their thing (electric power toggling with the gas motor, valves cutting out and kicking in when needed, 2-mode transmission balancing, battery charging, etc.), these transitions were virtually unnoticeable. Power was available when needed and when passing other vehicles; suspension was superb in the corners. The extremely quiet/silent motor is a bit eerie, almost unsettling at first, particularly behind the wheel of such a large sled, but the shock wears off. Actually, it’s a comforting silence; kind of cool when you’re traveling and chatting with friends in the back.

Standard interior features include rear seat audio controls, rear view camera system, 3-passenger 50/50 split bench seat and removable 3rd row, leather appointed heated front bucket seats, 6-way power driver and front passenger seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a rear 115v outlet, DVD-based touch screen navigation system with voice recognition paired to the Bose premium speaker system and XM satellite radio including 1st 3 months service, and the new-for-2009 Bluetooth for phone, to name a few. The only options are a sunroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system—the two things we could really have used on our trip, particularly with three guys sharing the middle bench. Unfortunately, the third row 50/50 rear seats do not fold flat into the floor, evidently, chewing into our much needed cargo real estate. Unfortunately, we didn’t think about removing them before the trip. Fortunately, we didn’t remove them because apparently these seats weight a ton, and we’re not that strong, and we managed to fit everything in the end.

The exterior styling is gorgeous; a large frame with chiseled features and strong, clean lines from front to back. Everything is well proportioned, from the large front grill to the taillight structure. The improvements in aerodynamics add to the cleaner styling as well: no fog lamps nor tow-hook openings, larger grill for better cooling, no roof rack rails eliminating drag, and tapered running boards for better air flow.

So is it worth forking out the extra funds for a Yukon Hybrid opposed to the gas-powered Yukon SLT? Or perhaps even a Crossover such as the Buick Enclave or GMC Acadia? Will the premium price investing in a hybrid offset fuel savings or perhaps offset your guilty plastic-bag using, water-wasting conscious?

Absolutely. GM is redefining the brawny SUV, in all the right (green) ways.

For Pricing & More Info on the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid, visit http://www.gmc.com/yukon/hybrid/index.jsp

Tested > 2009 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne Turbo-S: Not an SUV

Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal

After all these years, I still remember the advertising tagline for the Porsche Cayenne when it was first introduced to North America in 2002: “It’s not an SUV. It’s a Porsche.” Priceless. This more or less sums it up. A) We realize we’re a little late to the segment; we’re not calling it an SUV. B) We’re Porsche. We build the world’s finest cars this side of Stuttgart. We don’t need to explain ourselves. Nor should they. Call it what you wish, sport utility or otherwise, Porsche has arguably created one of the world’s most impressive 4-door performance vehicles (with exception, perhaps, to the 2010 Porsche Panamera!)—marrying classic Porsche styling with craftsmanship, along with such audacious power and performance, the Cayenne Turbo-S’ nearest competitor is still stuck in The ‘90s. When Blazers, Tahoes, Escalades, and the like, had long inundated North American driveways turn of the century, Porsche was evidently M.I.A. Even the Europeans got in on the action with Mercedes-Benz releasing the M-Class in 1998 and BMW with the X5 in 2000. Sure, perhaps they were riding it out, assessing the SUV market before T-boning the competition for leftover sales. Or perhaps Porsche values craftsmanship over market share, going against the grain, building performance vehicles and not necessarily sport utility vehicles consumers seek.

Performance

Propelling this heavy 2360-kg rocket is a 4.8-litre twin turbo V8, producing a whopping 550-hp and 553-lb ft of torque, paired to a 6-speed Tiptronic-S transmission with the Hill Holder function, offering an extra 30-hp from the 2008 Turbo-S, sharing essentially the exact same displacement as the current model, the extra power comes by way of improved airflow via exhaust and intake, along with some engine revamping (and in case you were wondering, a 260-hp bump from the entry-level Cayenne…for an extra $100,000 or so, in case you were wondering this too). Clocking a zero to 60mph in 4.8 seconds with a top speed of nearly 280km/h, the Cayenne Turbo-S is fastest SUV available. Behind the wheel, the engine feels very smooth and clean. The V8 pushes this beast of a vehicle so effortlessly, you wouldn’t know this was an SUV until you got out gawked at it for a few minutes. Virtually, no noise or vibration—just pure Porsche refinement as one would expect.

Exterior Styling

Following the introduction of the first ever 2008 Turbo-S in 2007, the 2009 Turbo-S was introduced last year at the Beijing Auto Show. While both the ’08 and ’09 models are essentially the same, including the same powerplant, the latter does see some revisions with the more notable being extra horses. But hey, a few cosmetic changes second time around wouldn’t hurt, and if your friends can’t tell that you’ve traded up, the 21-inch SportPlus alloy wheels housed in wider fender flares should give it away. Other styling differences over the 2008 Turbo-S include an exclusive grey metallic paint option, body colour matched front intake grills and wheel arches, and Cayenne GTS style sporty aluminum quad tailpipes. If this doesn’t clear it up, it’s time for new friends.

The Cabin

The interior feels sporty with no compromise in luxury. The 12-way power front seats are well bolstered and comfortable. The unique 3-spoke multifunction wheel is wrapped in leather. The updated Porsche Communication Multimedia System Management (PCM) includes an array of things including navigation system and a 14-speaker surround sound Bose system. The touch screen is nestled in the middle of centre console, surrounded by an array of dials and buttons, sitting so low that toggling your view between the road and the screen is like watching a proper tennis match—except that this is both frustrating and dangerous. Perhaps relocate the vents and raise the entire centre console with the screen placed up top.

The Ride

The all-wheel drive is equipped with 38%/62% front/rear torque split, all sitting upon a fully independent air suspension system with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management). The slick yet useful suspension leveling and ride-height control offers a more fine-tuned drive. Other features include a Low Range gearbox with variable centre drift and the Porsche Stability Management (PSM). And for those who take the Cayenne’s ‘utility’ seriously, the towing capacity is rated at 7715-lb. More power deserves better stopping ability, especially in a vehicle this size. The 2009 Turbo-S comes with optional composite ceramic brakes paired to 14.5” vented rotors with 6-piston calipers up front, and 14.1” vented rotors with 4-piston calipers in the rear. The 21-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in 295/35 performance tires.

Safety

Some of the standard safety features include 2-stage driver and passenger airbags, side airbags integrated in the front seats, curtain airbags from the A to C pillars, 3-point front and rear seatbelts with pre-tensioners, encapsulated in a fully galvanized high strength steal body.

So, what was the holdup Porsche? What took so long getting into the SUV game? Frankly, who cares—today, the Cayenne is Porsche’s best selling product. And after spending one glorious week with the 2009 Cayenne Turbo-S, I can see why. Besides, when you’re behind the wheel of the Turbo-S, the past is quickly forgotten and the future is simply the open road ahead.

For more info on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne lineup visit http://www.porsche.com/canada/models/cayenne/

Tested > Road Trip Review: Aspen to Kokanee

That’s right. A 5.7L V8 SUV. They still make these things. Despite record oil prices and gas expected to hit $1.50/L in a couple months, manufacturers continue to roll them out. And from the looks of it, they’re selling too. In the two weeks I had the Aspen, I saw several others cruising the streets (mind you, we’re talking boom-town Calgary here). But the Chrysler Aspen truly epitomizes what a Sport Utility is and always has been—a luxurious, arguably invasive, gas-guzzling behemoth that makes no apologies. And why should it? Look up ‘SUV’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of the Chrysler Aspen.

The exterior styling is classic for this segment: overall big and beefy with splashes of chrome and just enough curvature not to be confused with its CUV cousins. The fenders roll out to house the large 20” aluminum chrome clad wheels wrapped in P265/50R/20 BSW all season tires (optional feature), with a 17” steel spare wheel. The front end is clean and simple, with a large bumper housing a couple inset fog lamps, and a massive grill of chromed horizontal slates with a subtle Chrysler emblem embedded up top. The body colour running boards run parallel to strips of chrome on the sides. Above are large side mirrors with memory control. The Aspen looks just as gorgeous from the back: a flat rear deck lid, clean straight lines, and squared taillights. The remote open/close function of the rear door was probably the most useful function on our trip. Or perhaps it was simply the coolest, whether opening it from afar as we approached the rear in our golf cart, or remotely operating in from the second floor of our building to allow my passengers access.

One thing’s for sure, the Aspen got a lot of attention. Whether driving in Calgary or on the highway. But nowhere more than the golf resort parking lot, where the ‘older’ guys showed the most intrigue. On a few occasions, while grabbing my clubs, I was approached by a few groups of these Boomers. Hovering the Aspen, wondering what it was, telling me they’re in the market for an SUV. Moments later, they were inside, checking things out, presumably impressed. My friends, average age 32 or so, would always question the fuel efficiency first, whereas these older dudes could care less from the looks of it. Big performance, big styling, big interior, big everything seemed most important. So it was obvious, to me anyway, that there’s still a market for the full size SUV.

The interior is spacious, as you can imagine. The base price for the Aspen is $49,995, and some of standard fittings include A/C, power sunroof, power 8-way driver seat, steering wheel with audio controls, power locks/windows with one-touch up-down feature. Audio ensemble including an AM/FM CD/MP3 radio, Sirius Satellite radio with one year service by Sirius, all paired to Alpine 8-speaker system. Notable standard safety features include front and side airbags, anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes, a tire pressure monitoring display, illuminated/keyless entry, and an electronic stability program. My press loaner, priced at $56,795 (including all taxes, and a bunch of other upgrades including the Trailer Tow Group package for $775, and Popular Equipment Group II package at $1725) includes some of the following optional interior equipment: A/C with Dual Zone Control (driver and front passenger controls), heated front seats, leather trimmed 1st and 2nd row seats, a 368-watt amplifier and Alpine subwoofer, security alarm. We also had the GPS navigation package including a rear back-up camera ($1900 option). I traveled with a couple old friends. Mark Zemenek, a regional marketing manager for a nation liquor distributor. He’s 6-foot-something, and slept in the 2nd row seating, laying flat mind you, so it’s safe to say there is plenty of room there.  Mike Cejalvo, a Civil Designer/Engineer, on the other had, was wide-awake, making note of all his surroundings. And like most engineers I know, making note of the details and how things could be better. Mike’s gripes include: manual lumbar support (I have to agree. The lever is located on the inside of the seat; you need to wedge your hand between the seat and centre armrest console, proving near impossible to access. And it’s manual?); too many vents; not much room for coins, maps, etc.; and gear shifter on the steering column gets in the way of the radio control use. Again, there’s plenty of room in the back. The 2nd row includes 40/20/40 split reclining seats. The 3rd row is 80/20, and is fairly room with sufficient legroom for the smaller passengers. You’ll get a better idea of rear cargo below:

below: 3rd row seating & rear cargo space

3rd row down:

3 sets of clubs laying flat, Mark's incredibly huge dufflebag for a short trip, more bags, more stuff, and my Chucks:

The long, windy road leading up to the resort was breathtaking. But we had a 2pm tee-time to hit, so I hit the gas. The Aspen handles remarkably well. Braking was good in the corners, and the V8 kicked in strong when pulling out of the twisties. Visibility was exceptional, including out the rear. Overall, the Aspen handled really well for its size and proved responsive. The passengers found the ride comfortable also, not too stiff. The power 8-way driver’s seat could really use better lumbar support (opposed to the two settings: flat or inflated), especially for our 6-1/2 hour drive each way. The steering wheel felt secure in the hands; with groves for the fingers, and the upper half of the wheel in wood looking sharp.

The trip was fun, the vehicle was perfect, realizing the Aspen is as grand as the gap that separates its target market to the SUV naysayer—it’s a lot of fun, but not for everyone. Either you love it or you don’t…much like golf.

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For more info on the 2008 Chrysler Aspen, visit http://www.chrysler.ca/en/aspen/index.html?gclid=COTS87D1q5MCFSY1agodBnFGog

You may also find this story posted at www.pasmag.com

(Special thanks to Jack Sulymka, Regional Communications Manager at Chrysler Canada Inc.)

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