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2021 Lexus NX300 Review | 2021 4-Runner 4x4 Review | 2021 Camry SE Review | 2021 Acura TLX Review | 2021 Honda Ridgeline Review | 2022 Bronco Outer Banks


2021 Sequoia PRO-TRD

Have you ever had a friend that was balding but refused to embrace it and tried weird electric hats, spray paint, or just continued the same hair habits even when they did look good anymore? That’s my opinion of the 2021 Toyota Sequoia, it just keeps with the same tried and true habits. But under most bad haircuts sits a well-shaped head.

The 2021 Toyota Sequoia is in desperate need of a make-over. Wearing all the same fashion as it always has, it seems to be stuck in an era of truck-based SUV’s that lumber about. However, under the dated exterior design is an extremely capable off-roader. Capable of comfy trail riding or as much rock crawling as a production-based truck can handle. The one area that really impresses me about the whole Toyota line-up is the color palette. The test truck was in the same Lunar Rock color as the Tacoma TRD from earlier in the run. Lunar Rock appears to be flat gray, for the curious.

If you’re in the market for a huge SUV it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider the Toyota Sequoia. The beast seats seven passengers very comfortably, is ready for most excursions and has good road manners. Power is the same tried and true 5.7-liter V-8. While offering enough torque to result in decent off-road capability, it falls a bit short when it tries to get in a hurry. I personally feel this power deficiency has much more to do with the three tons of weight it has to move about. The Sequoia feels almost clumsy around town. It just felt like a 90’s car to me. Maybe the suspension was tuned for off-roading, I don’t know, but whatever the case, it was somewhat disappointing.

I have to admit, although the styling is a bit bland, I think the nostalgia is kind of cool. The Sequoia screams, look past me, nothing to see here, in today’s look at me world, this somehow resonates with me. Instead of screaming for attention you can simply go about your day knowing that if things turn bad, you’re in one of the more capable vehicles on the road.
Pricing starts in the mid-sixties and seems well placed, in that regard. With some of the larger SUV’s cost thousands more. Let’s face it, if you’re in the market for a 2021 full sized SUV, you need to be ready to spend a pretty penny to get it.

I suspect that we will see a completely updated Sequoia in the near future, probably featuring turbos and smaller displacement. I would encourage Toyota to consider making it a bit nimbler. I know it’s a lot to ask to have a seven-passenger truck that is fun to drive, but I know Toyota can do it.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Little has changed within the last few years. Gas mileage is not great. Copious amounts of room for passengers and toys.

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW:
You’ll never go wrong with any Toyota 4×4. Sometimes subtly is sophisticating. Best color choice is the Lunar Rock




2022 Bronco Outer Banks 2.7 Liter Eco-boost

Not since the release of the re-vamped Mustang and the re-vamped Camaro, in the early 2000’s has there been anything close to the anticipation of the 2022 full size Bronco release.

Finally, the day arrived to receive the all-new Bronco. I’ve recently embraced the off-roading world and currently drive a Jeep for my daily driver. It’s not a Wrangler, it’s a Grand Cherokee. From my short seat time in the Bronco nothing became clearer to me than Ford’s efforts to put out its version of the Jeep Wrangler. Think the classic TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. In the opening it describes the main character as stronger and faster, better than before.

In some ways I think FOMOCO did just that. I think there are a few rattles to shake out and in truth I am reviewing a pre-production model. Given that, I was impressed. I knew the 2022 Bronco would be capable off-road, no surprise there. What I really wanted to find out was how it acted as a daily driver.

Around town it actually has decent manners. With a size that is neither too large to park or too small to be comfortable the Bronco offers the perfect balance.

One of the best features to me is the ability to remove basically the entire body, doors, and front and rear quarter panels can be removed. Yes, it takes a few minutes, but how cool is it that you can ride trails in a brand-new Bronco without worries of scratching your paint? The other thing about the body that impressed me was the rigidity. The Bronco has two bars, one on each side running from the rear of the truck to the A-Pillar. This gives the Bronco much needed frame rigidity, in the absence of a true top.

About that top, the wind noise at highway speeds is deafening. The roof is split into four parts with two parts placed directly above the driver and front passenger. The wind travels through the connection points and honestly, makes it very hard to have a conversation, at highway speeds. I would opt for either the convertible top or hard top. The driver who delivered the Bronco said the hard top is very quiet. Let’s give Ford credit for bringing off the launch of the Bronco in the middle of a world-wide pandemic.

The power-plant is my favorite in the eco-boost line-up of motors. It’s the 2.7-liter Eco-boost and in my opinion, it feels stronger than the 3.5-liter. I saw a video last year of three F-150’s, outfitted with different engine options pulling trailers, the 2.7 out preformed the others. It was also the choice in the Fusion Sport AWD that is one of my favorites. Push the accelerator lightly and you won’t hear a thing. Stomp on the go pedal and the Bronco jumps to life and growls like an animal, in the woods.

The test vehicle was blessed with the OUTER BANKS package that offers 18” wheels, a 4.27 rear axle with locking differential, a hard top molded in color, and storage bags to keep your top from being ruined while it’s off the Bronco. Comically, it also offers sound deadening in the headliner. Roof rails with cross members make carrying a load easy and tie-downs at the front of the hood offer extended confidence that cargo won’t blow away.

The interior is two-toned leather in chocolate and tan. Heated seats are included and may I suggest cooling for the seats, in future models. The infotainment center has a 12-inch touch screen which is easy to use and dominates the dash. There is more than enough room in the rear seats to accommodate any size human or canine.

The mileage was not listed, as the Bronco was a pre-production model, but I averaged around 17MPG in town and on a trip to Lufkin to see Tyler Legacy win their football game.

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW:
Great off-road performance, good looks, great power and an amazing turning radius. Ready for larger tires and wheels without needing a lift. Retro appearance and comfortable ride.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
First year model released during the world-wide pandemic. Priced around $53,000.00 USD. Hard top has more road noise than a car with know roof. Order the 2.7 Eco-boost.




2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD

Honda finally built a Truck! The latest version of the oft maligned AWD bedded Honda impressed me. There is enough storage space to sustain life for months, and daily use is enjoyable and easy.

I know, truck guys are going to laugh at me, and I get it. If your definition of a truck is a six-inch lift and 35’s, or four tires on the rear axle, just ignore this review. Move on, nothing to see here. However, if you are not in that group, pay attention and read on. The 2021 Honda Ridgeline has more than enough capability to satisfy any urban truck owners needs. Honestly, even if you want to fly down back country roads and traverse cow pastures, the Ridgeline could be a great choice for you.
I haven’t found many that think the styling is aggressive enough but, Honda has certainly given the latest version a bit more brawn. If you consider the Ford Raptor a Miami Hurricane football player from the nineties, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline would be more of your five-foot-ten, 175lb defensive back for The Colorado School of Mines. Sure, the smaller player can’t break as many bones, but effectiveness, even in football is not always about size. Sometimes the space between the ears can be a very effective sports muscle. The 2021 proves this theory is sound for urban trucks as well.

Let’s start with the most impressive feature. It’s clearly the storage capability. The Ridgeline is the first truck I’ve seen utilize the area beneath the bed. Directly in front of the tailgate is a significantly sized, water proof storage compartment, perfect for anything you need to lock or keep dry. Even when completely full you can use 100% of the truck bed for whatever load you carry, up to 1,200lbs.The tie down points are well placed and strong enough to anchor any load. Loading the Ridgeline is super easy thanks to a multi-function tailgate that not only drops, but swings.

With a towing capacity of 5,000lbs. I would venture to say that the target consumer of the Ridgeline won’t be using it to haul hay, but it could pull a one-horse trailer, or side by side, or a couple of jet skis, or smallish boat. Let’s be honest, if you are looking at the Ridgeline you probably don’t intend to tackle the Rubicon or start a Hot Shot delivery service.

Spending a week behind the wheel, I found the 2021 Ridgeline enjoyable to drive, surprisingly quick…..seriously, and super comfortable. Honda waste no space. It seems every possible nook and cranny has storage potential. I think I counted 8-10 drink holders. The console is spacious and can be used as a writing surface, in a pinch.
I mentioned that the 2021 Ridgeline is quick. This was a HUGE surprise to me. In the new world of drive-by-wire there is usually a bit of a lag when you punch the accelerator. In sport mode, the Ridgeline comes to life. I know, I know, it’s a 280HP V6, but put the Ridgeline in SPORT MODE and hit the gas and the truck positively jumps off the blocks. I don’t know how many configurations are changed in the fuel-air mixture and timing, but it makes all of the difference. Assisting in the performance is a nine-speed transmission and standard AWD. The Ridgeline is unbelievably well mannered around town. It’s quiet and comfortable with a good ride height and tight steering.
The single biggest update is the infotainment stack with better graphics and an actual VOLUME KNOB!

Listen, I get it, you can’t take the Ridgeline to a redneck mud park and not get ridiculed by the methamphetamine addled great unwashed. Here’s the deal though, when was the last time you attended such an event? If you’ve ever tried to load or unload a modern F-250 or lifted truck you know that it’s cumbersome at best. Don’t even get me started on Parking. The Ridgeline is very easy to load and unload 20 bags of mulch or a half a cord of wood. In addition, how often do these lifted trucks ever see less pavement than the Ridgeline. It’s a pick-up for a grown-up.

Pricing starts at $36,000 and can be optioned up to $42,000. Honda has always been associated with great long-term reliability and I’m sure that if you purchased a new Ridgeline, it would serve you well for years.

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by the overall performance of the Ridgeline. You see, you won’t ever find me at a mud park. At 55 I am probably the point of the spear of potential Ridgeline owners. It’s a great driving, comfortable truck with adequate towing and hauling capability, it’s quick and best of all… IT’S GOT A VOLUME KNOB.

Dependable, comfortable, quiet and sturdy.

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW:
Mileage is good, priced correctly and it has a volume knob.

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW:
Mileage is good, priced correctly and it has a volume knob.




2021 Acura TLX A-Spec Turbo 2.0

The year was 2013, which seems farther away in time than the Khaleesi’s reign. The car was Kia’s AWD Optima Turbo. It was my car of the year that year. It was fun to drive, economical and stylish.
Fast forward to the Covid age and the next car to capture my heart is the 2021 Acura TLX 2.0 Turbo A-Spec. As good as the Kia was back in the, ahem…day, the Acura makes it look like a sickle compared to a combine. The TLX has absolutely won me over.

Someone from the Honda Motor Company reached out to me before the car arrived advising me of the incredible new technology, and how much easier it is to work than it was in the last version of the TLX. Not sure, at the time of this review that I agree, but I DON’T CARE! I’ll cover the tech later in the review, but know this, the performance and sheer driving experience of the all-new TLX is what stole my heart.

I’ve always been averse to knobs as shifters and dial-up performance. I think drive by wire is about as thrilling as pellet smokers but, no more. Acura has changed me forever.
From the moment I opened the drivers side door and slipped into the leather dipped cockpit I was ready to be impressed and the Acura TLX did not disappoint. The gauge cluster immediately attracted me with the different visual settings. I reached out, hit the start button and boom….. nothing major happened. The Acura sat quietly idling like any of the other twenty billion WHITE four door sedans, in the parking lot, at my office. As I surveyed the dash, I noticed that not only could I chose sport mode, but I could stack Dynamic mode on top of that.
Wanting to try these features out quickly, I exited the parking lot and jumped on the loop. The TLX rides as smoothly and quietly as any car on the road in normal driving mode, but who the hell wants to keep an AWD sedan in normal mode? I reached down to recalibrate the mechanical function to Sport Mode with the added help of Dynamic Mode.

Like magic. The 2021 Acura TLX A-Spec surged under its own power. The exhaust volume increased from a whimper to a growl. Now, I’m really interested. I did what any car guy does when he feels the presence of performance, I floored it. Jesus, Joseph and Mary, this car is an ABSOLUTE BLAST to drive in sport mode. It was as if I had purchased a completely different version of the car. What started out as a ho-hum grocery getter was now an urban assault vehicle. Quick ratio steering, responsive throttle and touchy brakes, the whole nine as they say.

After three days I had gone through a tank of gas. Not because the A-Spec gets crappy mileage, because I could not get out of the car. I found every excuse I could think of to get the A-Spec out of the driveway and onto the road where it belongs.

As much as the performance AWD captivated me the interior was just as impressive. The deep red leather with very dark gray accents just finishes the total design. It’s a little flashy but, subdued enough to look at home with two rear doors. The front seats are adjustable 12 different ways and offer warm and cold air for your back and backside, while offering the perfect match of comfort and stability.
I’ve been reviewing cars since 2006 and it’s not everyday that people stop me to ask what I’m driving, especially a four door. That wasn’t the case with the A-Spec. The exterior styling is fantastic and combines soft curves with sharp lines. The rear of the TLX is one of the best in the industries, in my opinion. I love the rear-end of the Acura as much as I hate the rear-end of the C-8.
Now….about that tech. There is a mouse on the center console directly in front of a pad to rest your hand on, while operating the infotainment center. I found that for those of us that drive with our right hand resting on the console there is a 10,000% chance that you will inadvertently cause your fingers to tap said mouse when there is zero intention to do so. Also, the sensitivity level of the mouse pad is just shy of a boy king. It requires a very delicate touch that is almost impossible in traffic.

Excluding the operation system, the sound system is absolutely stunning with all 17 speakers emitting a clarity only few can approach. Whether low frequency or high frequency is your favorite, both are crystal clear and full as a Lord’s belly.

The wi-fi Hot Spot feature is impressive and the HD Radio, Sirius and Bluetooth allow you to make your own playlist or enjoy a more corporate selection.
Did I mention the 2021 Acura TLX A-Spec is a blast to drive? The mileage is eh, good. It was not as impressive as it could have been mainly because it’s so much fun to drive but, 29MPG Hwy and 21MPG in town is not bad for a car this much fun.

Now for the second-best feature of the TLX, the price. Coming in under fifty grand, at $47,275.00 fully loaded, the A-Spec is a must have upgrade to the base model Acura TLX.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Great value, sophisticated styling, AWD, comfortable and sporty.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
It’s likely going to be my car of the year for 2021.




2021 Toyota Camry SE


The 2021 Toyota Camry SE is now well into the Camry re-do run. When Toyota changed the design of the Camry around 2016, I think. I was blown away with the styling. Cutting and sharp lines define the Camry. It was so radically changed that it looked at home on a NASCAR track along with Mustangs and Camaros. I wanted to purchase a vehicle that had the ability to go off-road so, I did not end up purchasing the Camry but, I was so close. In my opinion the current Camry has a better exterior design than almost any car, on the road for the last few years. While I’m sure there is a re-design in the future, I think Toyota has an incredibly high design bar to exceed with the replacement, at some point.

Although the exterior styling is fantastic, we spend most of our time with our collective butts in the seats. The 2021 Camry does not disappoint here either. The model reviewed this week is the SE AWD. This means that I actually get to review what many of you purchase. Typically, the manufactures send us the hard loaded versions of their cars and trucks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the sunroofs and top shelf audio packages as much as the next guy or, girl but, most people don’t buy the completely loaded out versions. Much like you and I, they are on budgets that have become even more tightened in the last twenty months. Which means that this review talks directly to those on a budget.

The Camry, as delivered did have an additional package on it. The package is the Nightshade edition. Although really just an appearance package, it does make the Camry looks like the car Batman uses when he has to pick up the kids from school instead of fight crime. With 18-inch Alloy black wheels and a MIDNIGHT BLACK/METAL BLACK paint job, the 2021 Camry looks as sinister as a grocery getter can get. Some Auto-writers like the great Roger Gray dislike black cars because the color hides the body lines of the car. While I can’t disagree with this entirely, it’s not true in this case. The metallic black lays over the strong body lines of the Camry, like a pair of spanx over a body builder.

Enough about the exterior, lets make our way into the cabin. First, and above all, the Camry is silky smooth to drive, extremely quiet on the road and has a comfortable driver’s position. There are too many distractions by the safety-tech but, that’s with all new cars. One thing that annoyed me terribly was the rear seat belt warning chimes. Toyota seems more worried about children’s safety than an arm of CPS. The only way I was able to cancel the annoying alerts was to keep all three rear seat belts buckled with NO occupants. I want to know that all my passengers are safe but, when they are absent, I don’t want a constant reminder that I’m driving a family sedan. This is annoying knowing the rear seat is in an unoccupied state, however, it is extremely roomy when being used, offering an excess of leg room that is atypical for an economy car.

I’ll begin to wrap up covering the 2.5L 4-Cyl engine putting out a, ahem…. 202HP and 182lbft of torque. By todays standards the Camry SE is under-powered. The placement of paddle shifters is over- kill to the highest order. The Camry actually performs better ignoring them altogether. I tried every way possible to improve the performance of the Camry. The only thing that could be more misplaced than the paddle shifters would be a speed adjusted rear spoiler.

Giving some relief from the lack of performance, the Camry’s mileage is very good, 24 city and 34Hwy. I actually exceeded these numbers.

Last but not least, the Bluetooth interface and audio controls are effortless to work. The Apple Car-Play can always be counted on as a pain in the ass however, the sound system rewards your effort nicely.

The 2021 Camry SE is a fantastic college car option. Be sure and visit Classic Toyota, in Tyler and see one for yourself.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Affordable, comfortable, roomy and fuel efficient.

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW:
Incredibly easy to drive, great sound system and fantastic design.




Review: 2021 Lexus NX 300

It’s always interesting to get a vehicle on the last year of the Model. An all-new NX is expected from Lexus in November of 2021. But in the meantime, lets cover what the 2021 Lexus NX 300 does and doesn’t do well.

I can think of no better place to start than the cabin’s Multimedia display and 14 speaker Mark Levinson Premium Audio System. This is simply the best sounding car stereo system I’ve ever heard. I think in 2012 or so FOMOCO did and extensive study on the cabin of the F-250. Ford designed a sound system that was tailored to the cabin of the truck. Until this week, that was the best sound I ever heard in a car or truck. The Levinson system is superior in every way. I discovered this by accident when a popular Metallica song came on with the volume previously raised for my 55 y/o ears to clearly hear the hands-free phone system. It is without a doubt the crispest, distortion free sound I’ve ever heard. The bass was booming as with most new cars but, it was the mid-range and highs that were most impressive. I would consider the Lexus NX for this option alone.

Fortunately for buyers that is not the only reason to consider the 2021 Lexus NX 300. The road manners and comfort level give you what you’ve come to expect from Toyota’s luxury brand. The manners and comfort are exceptional. Unfortunately, it’s almost as fun to take the SAT as it is to drive the NX 300. Honestly, it’s kind of a yawn. The good thing is that’s what we have come to expect with crossovers. With a slightly higher ride height than a sedan the visibility is enhanced as well as making ingress and egress less difficult.

The exterior was…..wait for it….WHITE. Lexus calls it Eminent White Pearl. I say it’s one of a trillion white crossovers and SUVs. Just full disclosure I drive a white SUV. That in no way makes the White Lexus NX any easier to find in the parking lot. It’s time to call on manufacturers to discontinue white SUVs. I can’t count the number of times I went to the wrong car, in the parking lot this week.

Inside however a beautiful interior awaits. A palette of browns and tans give the NX 300 a definite luxury feel. The stitching accents are perfect as well. Although the driving experience cannot be described as fun, or exhilarating, it is extremely comfortable and enjoyably effortless to drive. The anti-collision tech seems to, no pun intended, stay in its lane, not overpowering the driver. More like a trusty co-pilot or, a Brittany Spears conservator.

Power and mileage are both respectable, if not impressive. The 2.0 Turo putting out a very pedestrian 225HP, paired with a six-speed auto-trans is saved from embarrassment by a very responsive AWD system. Eight air bags help to ensure your safety in the event the accident-avoidance software fails. I mean, it’s not the drivers’ fault at this point, right?
The Lexus NX 300 has a manufacturer’s Suggested Retail of $45,360.00. It was $52,025.00 as tested with the Triple-Beam LED Headlights as the most expensive option at $1,515.00

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Solid mileage reliability and comfort.

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW:
Great sound System, maybe worth the purchase, New model coming in November.




Review: 2021 4-Runner 4×4 TRD-PRO

Overlanding is the combination of camping and off-roading. By very definition it implies fun and challenging situations. Those challenges are met by the 2021 Toyota 4-Runner. Although you can enjoy the 2021 4-Runner 4×4 TRD-PRO around town, you really need to stray off the beaten path for the fun to begin in earnest.

To put the 2021 Toyota 4-Runner to the test we took it to the state of Arkansas. A trip that would test the comfort of a five-hour drive and the toughness of an off-road park. The results were more impressive on the unforgiving rocky terrain than on the Texas and Arkansas blacktops.

It takes incredible, almost impossible engineering to create a truly tough weekend warrior and a cocktail getter. Toyota takes another swing at it with the newest addition of their tried-and-true Sport Utility, the long respected 4-Runner.

I found myself wondering how many fights the interior engineers had. I can imagine one yelling that leather seats don’t belong in a REAL off-roader, another arguing that sensitive lane departure is a must!

For all the fighting that must have taken place, the outcome was worth it. If you’re looking for a dual-purpose vehicle that can move kids and cargo around M-F and allow you almost fearless off-roading capability the 2021 4-Runner merits your consideration.

Toyota sent this test vehicle in Lunar Rock with a solid black interior. Lunar Rock is a sort of gray, if you’re wondering. It’s powered by a 270HP 4.0-liter V6 that has enough power to merge in traffic but is somewhat loud under normal driving conditions. On the trail however, the 270ftlbs of torque seem sufficient to tackle most obstacles in your path. The five-speed trans seems to struggle to find the correct gear on mountain roads, but it keeps the 4-Runner stuck to the ground and moving forward on any off-road surface.

As usual accident-avoidance tech is the most off- putting aspect of any new vehicle. Adding insult to injury, it’s nearly impossible to keep it quiet down narrow, winding mountain roads. Think of the song in Tommy Boy, “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” and imagine Joe Pesci reading a quantum physics book in your ear, through a mega phone. It’s just irritating!

Ride comfort is not really what the 4-Runner is all about and you get what you would expect from a fully framed truck with a solid rear axle. Although the ride is as stiff as the lower half of Ted Williams, it’s not a terrible ride. The handling is very good in traffic and the only improvement here would be a tighter turning radius.
4-runner photo

Milage was as advertised with 19mpg on the highway and 16mpg in the city. Honestly, solid numbers for the capability of the 4-Runner.

Thanks to Hot Springs Off-Road Park for hosting us and allowing the 4-Runner to enter its natural habitat. If you are ever near Hot Springs Arkansas and a Bath House is not your go to move, I definitely recommend this park.

Given that this Park is in the mountains there were tons of rocks. The ¼ -inch skid plate was needed and performed as designed and the tuned shocks and crawl-mode were a life saver.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • The fully loaded 2021 4-Runner 4×4 PRO V6 starts at $50,470 and processing and handling fees bring it to a cool $52,164.00
  • Toyota Safety Sense P – Pre-Collision Sys with Pedestrian Protection, Cruise Control, Dynamic Cruise Control, ****** LANE DEPARTURE ALERT******, Star Safety System
  • Premium Audio with 8-inch touch screen and 15 JBL Speakers, subwoofer and amplifier, Hands-free Bluetooth and Smart Key.

WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW:

  • 17-inch TRD Flow Form Alloy Wheels, Nitto Grappler Tires, TRD Sport Tuned Shocks and Springs, A front stamped TRD Skid Plate Pro badges throughout, TRD All-Weather Floor Liners,
    High performance Fog Lights.
  • Part-time 4×4 System with Active TRAC, Locking Rear Differential, Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control and Hill Start Assist Control
  • It’s very capable off-road.

Worth every bit of the sticker price, the 2021 Toyota 4-Runner 4×4 TRD PRO offers everything you need if you’re a weekend warrior with a family to shuffle around in between your adventures.




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