Meet the Cars and Trucks We're Driving in Summer 2021
Check out some of the cool vehicles we haven't had a chance to tell you about yet.
Here at Gear Patrol's Motoring desk, we're lucky enough to drive a lot of new cars. Not just cars, of course: cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, and basically any other type of four-wheeled conveyance you might think of. As with all the products we test here at GP, many of them are worthy of standalone stories highlighting what makes them great — but sometimes, the never-ending rush of baking up great stuff for you means we don't have the chance to give every single new car the individual post it deserves.
So, as we did last spring and last winter, we're taking some time to salute some of the other vehicles we've driven this summer that you haven't heard about yet on Gear Patrol. Grab yourself a nice canned cocktail and enjoy.
It’s hard not to feel a pang of pity for the Discovery. For most of the 1990s, it was the lynchpin of the Land Rover lineup in America, the sole inheritor of the fabled off-road legacy here (apart from the Range Rover, which was already starting to move more upmarket). Today, though, it feels a bit neglected; while the Range Rover range has expanded to four models and the Defender has arrived as a third model line, the Discovery rolls on somewhere between the former’s luxurious extroversion and the latter’s outdoorsy nature.
Indeed, the Disco’ 2022 model-year update has gone largely unnoticed in the motoring world. But while it might not be obvious from the outside, the 2022 Discovery is indeed noticeably improved over its predecessors. The 355-hp turbocharged mile-hybrid inline-six is wonderfully smooth — a noticeable improvement over the old V6 — and offers the sort of low-end torque that’ll prove very handy should you ever actually decide to put its myriad off-road features to the test. (There’s still a turbo four as standard, but given that it gets worse fuel economy and doesn’t save you much money, you’ll want the turbo six.) The new Pivi Pro infotainment system is a marked improvement, although not without issues; it didn’t dim nearly enough in a dark tunnel in my tester (even with the brightness turned all the way down), and the menu layouts sometimes seem designed to confuse.
And, of course, the Discovery still looks damn cool, both inside and out — and, if you toss on the $700 Advanced Off-Road Capability Pack, it’ll leave just about every other family SUV behind if you ever need to go off-pavement. Not that you would...but you could. —Will Sabel Courtney
Pros: Elegant design, bountiful off-road capability, smooth and pleasant driving experience
Cons: Not quite as luxurious as some SUVs for the money, much smaller inside than it seems
After driving the Wrangler 4xe in Texas back in the spring, I was keen to get my hands on it here in my hometown to see how this plug-in hybrid Jeep would do in the city. How many miles of electric-only driving could I coax out of it in New York traffic? How often would the gas engine need to kick on to help deal with the sudden accelerations needed to slice through the urban tangle?
Sadly, I never had the chance to find out; when I picked the Wrangler up for the first time, the 17.3-kWh battery was basically drained, and my attempts to juice up over a 110-volt connection in my parking garage were fruitless. (To be fair, it was plugged into a power strip shared with half a dozen delivery e-bikes, so the outlet may have been pushed past the edge of its powers.) Still, several days of driving around with 0 miles of EV-only range proved just how much better the 4xe is than other Wranglers under any circumstances. Unlike all other Wranglers bar the Hemi-powered 392, you need never overthink passing maneuvers or on-ramp acceleration; there’s always 370 horses and 470 lb-ft there at your beck and call. Even with the battery technically out of range, there was enough charge to occasionally glide through parking lots at jogging speed, and the stop-start was seamless enough that I never felt the need to turn it off the way I do in most cars.
Bottom line: even if you only get the chance to charge up its battery once in a blue moon, the 4xe is still the pick of the Wrangler litter. —Will Sabel Courtney
Pros: All the great parts of a Wrangler, just with more power and more efficiency
Cons: All the less-appealing parts of a Wrangler, but for more money
The newest Pathfinder, as Tyler pointed out in his first drive, is certainly a step up from the past one. But after spending a week driving it all around the greater Tri-State area, it’s hard to see it as a big enough leap forward. The new nine-speed automatic is certainly an improvement over the old CVT, but it also helped me realize that, well, the 3.5-liter V6 generally sounds wheezy and asthmatic under hard acceleration — which you’ll need to do often, as those 284 horses have a lot of mass to lug around. The interior looks like a cheap attempt to do a luxury car, dominated by black plastic both shiny and muted. And the oddly-padded seats felt like the car equivalent of those overstuffed generic leather office chairs you find at Staples: they may look comfortable, but they don’t seem to have been designed with much thought as to ergonomics. (Which is a shame, as many of Nissan’s other cars have exceptionally comfy front seats).
Still, it’s certainly not all bad. The new Pathfinder looks far more interesting from the outside than its predecessor — or, indeed, many other midsize three-row crossovers; you’re not gonna lose this one in the mall parking lot. And it’s genuinely roomy inside: I was able to squeeze six full-grown adults in for an hour-long drive without complaint, and there was still room behind the third row for some odds and ends. All told, though, the new Pathfinder — while a substantial improvement — isn’t quite impressive enough to warrant recommending over some of the other stalwarts of this popular class. —Will Sabel Courtney
Pros: Bold looks, ample interior space, reasonable price
Cons: Feels a bit cheap inside, the Honda Pilot exists
Mercedes-Benz would like you to believe that the GLA-Class is an SUV, but in reality, it's a hatchback standing on its tippy toes — which, in turn, makes the GLA 35 a hot hatch trying to look as tall as possible. With a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 302 hp and 295 lb-ft under the hood, all-wheel-drive and a 174-inch length, it's fairly close to, say, a VW Golf R in terms of its specs. And shocking as it may be to think about, the GLA 35's starting price of $48,600 is less than $4,000 more than the 2022 Golf R's base MSRP — a gap that drops to barely more than $3K if you opt to spec the Vee-Dub with the dual-clutch automatic to match the AMG's gearbox.
From behind the wheel, the Merc certainly drives like a hot hatch — or a very warm one, at least. Acceleration off the line isn't mind-bending — in this weird, wild world we live in, a 5.1-second 0-60-mph time is closer to a Honda Accord than a supercar — but once the four-cylinder is revved up and the turbocharger spinning, it zips and rips through traffic like a champ, aided by its tidy size. And while the (slightly) elevated ride height may blunt the handling a tad versus a true hot hatch, it certainly makes entry and exit (and the loading of groceries) easier. And hey, if you like the GLA 35 but wish it were a tad lower, that's why Mercedes offers two different sedan versions, as well: the A 35 and CLA 35. —Will Sabel Courtney
Pros: Plenty fun to drive, decently roomy inside for such a small "SUV," looks better than competitors
Cons: Interior could be nicer for the money, could do without the body cladding
These days, "Win the Super Bowl, drove off in a Hyundai" doesn't pack quite the insulting punch it did when Kanye first said it in 2005. After all, Hyundai has upped their game over the last decade and a half like few carmakers ever have; here in 2021, Hyundai (and Kia, and Genesis) products are capable of standing toe to toe — or even above — the competition. The new Elantra isn't just aiming to win on quality and features, though; it's aiming to make a splash with its design, as one glance at its creased sheetmetal will tell you. This is not a compact car for those who want to blend in.
My top-trim Elantra Limited's biggest distinguishing features versus less leather seats and a 10.3-inch touchscreen, but really, anyone actually shopping for an Elantra would be better off going with a lesser model. Even the base car packs an eight-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, blind spot detection, and the same 147-hp inline-four that gets 33 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway for around $20K; the mid-tier SEL adds the ability to pair the car with your phone and and to open the trunk without using your hands for about $1,300 more, and the $950 Convenience package brings stop-and-go active cruise control, heated seats and the Limited's bigger screen, among other things. In other words, you can have a damn nice Elantra for under $22K out the door.
And in all honesty, there's little in the Limited that would leave you wanting to spend the extra cash. The upmarket stereo is acceptable, not great; the leather is decent, but not notable; and the interior trim's hard plastic seems much more suited to a car closer to 20 grand. The Elantra's best traits are its inherent qualities — its design, its roominess, its efficiency and its value. At $26K for a Limited, it's competing against bigger, better vehicles; at $22,000 or so, it'd be a solid choice for anyone who needs four wheels and wants some style. —Will Sabel Courtney
Pros: Looks like a more expensive car outside, excellent fuel economy; tons of features
Cons: CVT doesn't really make the most of what power there is; you'll spend hours trying to figure out that circle on the left side of the dash and be annoyed when you learn it doesn't do anything
The previous versions of the Nissan Rogue were...well, a joke is too strong an word, but they certainly were among the least-interesting, least-inspiring vehicles on sale today. Granted, the compact crossover class isn't full of excitement — that's where people go for dependable everyday transportation above all else — but against the likes of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and so forth, the old Rogues didn't have going for them beyond affordable prices and unobjectionable looks.
The all-new version, though, is...pretty darn decent. My esteemed colleague Tyler said as much in his first drive review, but having spent the most immemorable drive of my life behind the wheel of a prior Rogue for our Janus Motorcycles story back in 2019, I had to see for myself. The SL trim seems every bit the part of a near-luxury vehicle inside, with fine-looking leather stretched taut over overstuffed seats and a fully-digital instrument panel. (It's a small detail, but I really appreciate the integration of the compass into the digital speedometer.) Power is adequate for the class, and the engine is surprisingly quiet on the highway; plus, the CVT does a solid job avoiding the ropey feeling of many such gearboxes. And the interior has a solid amount of room for four adults, so long as they're not too far above average size. The biggest pain point I had with the interior was the shifter; it's designed as a perfect palm rest, yet in doing so, I repeatedly (and unknowingly) popped the car into neutral, leaving me revving fecklessly when the light turned green.
And, above all else, the new Rogue actually looks pretty damn distinct. I'm not saying I'd buy one...but now, I can say I wouldn't tell people to buy something else. —Will Sabel Courtney
Pros: Stand-out-of-the-crowd looks, nice interior, solid fuel economy
Cons: Poor shifter design, the Mazda CX-5 exists
My time in the Lexus IS300 AWD sedan was cut short. Some jerk who didn’t leave a note scraped a side panel in the parking lot, which required an early trip back for repairs. But I had enough time to get the flavor of the compact sedan, which is...getting up there a bit since its debut in 2013.
The IS300 looks aggressive and sporty, particularly in the new Grecian Water Blue paint Lexus puts on every one of my test cars. And it’s supremely comfortable — at least from the driver’s seat — with a characteristically plush, if not entirely modernized, Lexus interior. But unlike German competitors, the IS300 just isn’t that sporty to drive. It’s not especially agile and — even with a V6 — feels underpowered. The engine seemed to be upshifting for better efficiency, even in Sport mode.
However, the IS300 is reasonably practical. My tester had all-wheel drive, a special snow driving mode and all-season tires. The back seat was spacious enough to fit two kids in car seats. And while it’s no driver’s car in this spec, the buyer just looking for a luxurious, comfortable and relatively affordable Lexus won’t be disappointed. - Tyler Duffy
Pros: Striking to look at, comfortable and luxurious inside
Cons: Not particularly sporty to drive
The S90 is Volvo’s larger luxury sedan. The Recharge T8 is the upgraded 2.0-liter PHEV engine, which puts out an impressive 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque.
The raw numbers make the S90 Recharge sound like a super-athletic monster. But that’s not really its game. I drove one to a track, but there would be little point in taking one on a track. It’s a refined road cruiser with an opulent cabin and a sublime ride with the optional Four C adaptive air suspension. It’s controlled, if not exactly precise, and it has an excellent Bowers & Wilkins sound system for epic road trip tunes.
Like the best luxury sedans, the Volvo S90 Recharge puts some serious power down on the rare occasion it's called upon to do so — 0-60 mph in less than five seconds, despite weighing about as much as a full-size truck. The T8 PHEV engine requires a bit more thought — keep it on the battery charger at home for maximum power. But you get excellent efficiency, with 23 miles of electric range and a not-so-terrible 30 mpg even when you’re relegated to just using the gas engine.
There’s not a lot to quibble about with the S90. But it’s 2021. Buyers prefer SUVs, and Volvo offers many of the same qualities in the XC90 Recharge, which will outsell the sedan more than 40 times over. - Tyler Duffy
Pros: Elegant Volvo exterior and interior, powerful and efficient.
Cons: No one likes big sedans anymore, bro.
Mercedes, like most luxury automakers, is now an SUV manufacturer. But the E-Class midsize sedan remains, at least in spirit, the quintessential Mercedes to those of us who grew up with the W124. The E450 4Matic slots above the base E350 with a mild-hybrid turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine delivering a robust 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
The E-Class is probably the best luxury midsize sedan on the market. And you could make a case the E450 is the Goldilocks version of it.
The E450 ride is exceptionally comfortable, competent and inoffensive. It's like if smooth jazz were a car. Shifts from the nine-speed automatic are intuitive and crisp. My tester had the optional air suspension, which ate up all the bumps. The cabin is plush, refined and premium-feeling. It's so quiet while driving, my wife asked if it was an electric car. For perhaps the first time in my test-driving career, she also had to ask me to pick up the pace as the ride quality calmed me a bit too much.
The only real quibble with the E450 — beyond it being around $5,000 more expensive than a comparable Genesis G80 — is it's not especially sporty. It doesn't have that extra precision, power and bite you get from an AMG model. That said, the the doctor driving this car to work probably never shifts out of Comfort mode — and it's so sublime, I only did so for testing purposes. - Tyler Duffy
Pros: Smooth ride, refined interior, supremely comfortable.
Cons: Doesn't have the zest of an AMG model
The Venue is Hyundai's entry-level subcompact crossover, and the Denim Edition is the top-level trim. I drove this car back in 2020, and my second go-around with it was pretty similar to the first.
The Venue is a great-looking car...by super-cheap subcompact standards. "Denim Edition" may make you think of some funky Jeep CJ from the 1970s, but it's actually an urbane, sophisticated and stylish trim that gives the Venue a more upscale look with a contrasting white roof. My wife thought the Venue was a Mini at first, which is precisely the vibe Hyundai was going for. The cabin also feels more spacious than one might anticipate.
One problem is that the Venue is underpowered — 121 hp and 113 lb-ft from the 1.6-liter inline-four — and not dialed in or engaging to drive. And that's very noticeable if you're trying to pass someone on the highway or go up a mild hill (which is how my go-to drive route starts, unfortunately). City car would be the best use case for it.
The other issue is: the award-winning Kona exists. It's not that much more expensive than the Venue, and while you don't get the chic looks, you do get more power, better driving dynamics and access to all-wheel drive. - Tyler Duffy
Pros: Looks chic, more headroom than you would expect, standard features provide some value
Cons: Lacks power, the Kona exists.
The Toyota Corolla isn’t a car you drool over or dream about. But it’s affordable and dependable compact-sized transport. And that has mattered more than wanton sex appeal to the 50 million buyers over the decades. Can a Corolla be fun? I drove Toyota’s best attempt at that, an XSE trim hatchback with the upgraded 2.0-liter inline-four and a six-speed manual transmission. The room temp hatch was a hoot — at least by Corolla standards.
The Corolla hatch has limitations. The steering — especially outside of sport mode — is a little soft. The tires aren’t ready for prime-time performance. And it can feel tepid under normal driving. But the manual helps the Corolla feel much more engaging than with the CVT. The stick shift was not an afterthought. It’s smooth, ergonomically pleasant with a longer stalk and it even has automatic rev-matching. And the Corolla comports itself pretty well in corners.
A markedly hotter version of the Corolla hatch — with a power infusion and much sharper tuning — would be excellent. And Toyota has hinted they may build a GR Corolla to be America’s version of the GR Yaris. The website page is still live.
The question with the current Corolla hatch isn’t so much whether it’s good. It’s whether good matches up to standouts like the Mazda 3, Honda Civic or departing Volkswagen Golf if you can find a 2021 model.
Pros: Solid handling, smooth stick shift, will last far longer than you want it to
Cons: Not particularly quick or sharp. The rear seating area is tight.
A Lincoln is fancier than a Ford. A Navigator is the fanciest Lincoln. And the Black Label is the fanciest Navigator. So as you might expect, the Lincoln Navigator Black Label is exceptionally fancy. You notice that right when you sit down in the optional 30-way power-adjustable massaging front seats that strain to work your piriformis through the plushness of the seat cushion.
The Navigator is a treat to drive. It delivers effortless power with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 putting out 450 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque with a smooth 10-speed automatic. That oomph translates into up to 8,700 lbs of towing capacity, making it one of the best towing SUVs you can buy.
The Navigator is also enormous. It took up most of my driveway, dwarfed the Telluride I had parked next to it and made my house look small. It handles itself with excellent body control for a vehicle checking in at nearly three tons. But it’s impossible at that size to be sporty. Its sheer girth also means it still only gets 17 mpg combined despite shifting down to a V6. I had trouble matching that in real life where I earned just 15 mpg. - Tyler Duffy
Pros: Looks great, undeniably fancy inside, drives very well
Cons: Gulps fuel and is absolutely enormous
We loved the 2020 Kia Telluride. As did pretty much everyone, it won World Car of the Year. I reviewed the identical 2021 model again, with the rival Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander Hybrid fresh in my mind. And I can confirm that it still feels a cut above the competitors.
No one pushes a three-row soft-roader to the limits. And the Telluride offers an ample comfort zone with them. It handles nimbly. It has very well-weighted steering. The 3.8-liter V6 delivers enough power and does it smoothly. Besides driving so well, the Telluride is comfortable and very premium-feeling with a ton of space. The upper trims make it feel like you bought a 60,000-plus luxury SUV when you spent a little above $40,000. Few cars have gone from a debut to being the segment benchmark this quickly.
My one real quibble with the car is the fuel economy. The AWD Telluride earns about 21 mpg combined — average-ish for the segment. That may not be a deal-breaker for you. But it would cause me to take a second hard look at the 35 mpg Toyota Highlander Hybrid. - Tyler Duffy
Pros: It looks premium, it drives great and it's super comfortable and practical. And it's just as affordable — if you can find one at MSRP — as the competition. What more do you want?
Cons: Fuel economy is middling
I’ll admit it. I didn’t really understand the Supra 2.0 entering this drive. It provides all the impracticality and weird aesthetics of the Supra but with a four-pot that puts out only 255 hp — 127 fewer than the 3.0 — albeit with an ample 295 lb-ft of torque. After driving it for a week, I still don’t really get it.
It's far from a bad car. That four-pot is the BMW 2.0-liter that anchors much of its lineup. But the Supra 2.0 is a car that’s almost impossible to define independently. It's just not quite as jaw-dropping and smile-inducing as the big-boy 3.0-liter Supra. And if you’re not being shocked and amazed and having your emotions played with by a Supra, what is the point?
I suppose that point could be the price tag. Starting a little above $43,000, the Supra 2.0 is $8,000 cheaper than the Supra 3.0 and about $17,000 less than a base Porsche Cayman. Some buyers will just want the look. And if you’re going to spend most of your time sitting in Miami or LA traffic anyway, you won’t notice the power deficit very often. The Supra 2.0 is also efficient. Our Motoring Editor averaged 35 mpg in it. - Tyler Duffy
Pros: No one will know you bought the four-cylinder by sight. Strong fuel economy.
Con: It's not the Supra 3.0.
What we know so far about the most-eagerly-awaited midsize truck.