Meet the Rest of the Cars and Trucks We Drove This Fall

From AMGs to Lincolns, we're driving all sorts of new metal.

2021 jeep grand cherokee l black side view
Will Sabel Courtney

We drive a lot of cars every year here at Gear Patrol. In addition to the brand-new vehicles we fly around the country (and occasionally beyond it, though less so in recent years for obvious reasons) to try out, we also often times have cars and trucks to drive on our own home turf. These can often be more rewarding tests; after all, we're putting them through the paces of our actual lives, seeing how they handle the daily grind of parenting, urban / suburban / rural living, and other challenges you likely find familiar.

So without further ado: a selection of reviews of new cars and SUVs we drove in the fall of 2021 — reviews you haven't seen before. Click on and enjoy.

all new corsair grand touring pairs advanced hybrid technology with lincoln first electric all wheel drive to deliver a powerful, confident and nimble suv that builds on the brand’s commitment to electric propulsion
Lincoln
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2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring

First off, let's just give Lincoln a round of applause for sticking with real names for its vehicles instead of using alphanumeric jibber-jabber or inventing new monikers that don't obey the rules of English or any other human language. Corsair, like Aviator and Navigator, evokes adventure and excitement in a way that, say, Lyriq just doesn't.

The Corsair — which is basically the Lincoln version of the Ford Escape — isn't the most notable compact luxury crossover, but the plug-in hybrid version certain makes it more worthy of attention. Fully charged, the battery pack delivers more than 25 miles of electric real-world range — enough for many a commute — and it can even drive all four wheels under electric operation. When you need to summon up the gas engine, you won't find much excitement — the naturally-aspirated inline-four is tuned for efficiency, and the CVT does it few favors — but the total system output of 266 horsepower gives it decent pep, especially when you turn the drive mode to Sport Excite, which adjust the throttle mapping to give you what feels like half the available power with the slightest brush of the throttle.

Of course, people don't buy Lincolns for excitement — they buy them for smooth, quiet rides in opulent interiors. Spend most of your time in EV mode, or on the highway at a steady cruising speed (the inline-four sounds a bit coarse when accelerating), and that's exactly what you'll get here. Like the Aviator and Navigator, the Corsair's insides pack comfortable, highly adjustable seats and ample physical buttons and controls. (Good thing, too, as the infotainment system feels awfully 2015 Ford Fusion.) Whether that combination of features is worth spending at least $51,485 on a compact crossover, however...well, that's up to you.

Price as Tested: $61,730

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2022 jeep grand cherokee l limited black
Will Sabel Courtney
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2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited

Jeep's new Grand Cherokee comes in a wide variety of variants: two- and three-row versions, off-road-focused and extra-luxurious trims, engines ranging from plug-in hybrid fours to old-school Hemi V8s. The version I had a chance to spend a weekend with, though, was about as Average Joe Swing Voter as you can get: the three-row, V6-powered four-wheel-drive Limited model.

The interior may not be as nice as the top-trim Summit or Summit Reserve models, but it still boasts most of the niceties the average mid-size SUV buyer wants: comfortable heater leather seats (in both first and second rows), a solid sound system (it may not have a name like McIntosh, but the six-speaker system plays SiriusXM well enough for most), and an abundance of both room and USB charging plugs. Plus, like other Grand Cherokee Ls, the Limited comes with just about every active safety system Jeep offers.

On the flip side, that all-new Grand Cherokee design looks a bit bland, especially in black with the rather-generic-looking wheels of the Limited model. The V6's power is adequate for the real world, but the aging 3.6-liter six is the sort of engine that deserves to be replaced by electric motors and battery packs — uncharismatic and not particularly fuel-efficient. It's not a dealbreaker...but if you enjoy driving, you'll probably wind up wishing you had the V8 offered in pricier models. —Will Sabel Courtney

Price as Tested: $50,925

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land rover defender 90 green 2021
Will Sabel Courtney
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2021 Land Rover Defender 90

My first dalliance with the short-wheelbase version of the new Land Rover Defender was spent toodling around suburban New Jersey — hardly the sorts of locale that puts a Landie to the test. For round two, I spent it navigating terrain that could better put it to the test: the streets of New York.

Between the endless construction and the omnipresent potholes, NYC streets can be nearly as challenging as an off-road trail, giving the Defender's suspension a chance to show its worth.The Defender 90's biggest urban advantage is its size: the two-door version's tidy dimensions can be a lifesaver in New York parking, where the streetside spaces aren't regulated by lines or other demarcations; you squeeze in wherever you can. Every foot shorter your car is opens up more potential spots. And the turbocharged inline-six offers more than enough to punch to send the Defender darting through traffic.

That said, the front seats, as in other new Defenders I've driven, are slightly uncomfortable — they're too squishy in the center and too firm on the sides, forcing you into a slump that, over long drives, can leave you a bit sore. And the fold-down center seat up front, while cool in theory, seems slightly pointless in practice; anyone who used it would be forced to either put their feet on the transmission hump (thereby jamming their knees into their chest) or slide their dogs into the passenger's side footwell (thereby pushing their legs into an unnatural angle).

Still, if you're looking for an SUV that's designed to take on the urban jungle as well as the actual jungle (and want something a little nicer than a two-door Wrangler or Bronco), the Defender 90 stands as an excellent choice. Sure, it's not as family-friendly as most SUVs...but who in the city has kids anyway?

Price as Tested: $68,650

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mercedes benz amg glb 35
Mercedes-Benz
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2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35

Every so often, I wonder why Subaru hasn't made a WRX or STI version of the Crosstrek — a cute-UV with a rip-roaring performance heart. Well, as it turns out, somebody does make something like that: Mercedes-AMG. Don't let the boxy proportions through you; the GLB-Class is around the size of Subie's fast-selling l'il crossover, with similar virtues (ease of entry, cargo capacity). But under the hood of the GLB 35 lies a turbocharged four-cylinder making 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft – just a couple units away from the same figures of the outgoing WRX STI.

Like a hot Subie, the GLB 35 is a fun little thing to toss about, with a roarty snarl from its engine as you wind up the boost and slingshot around larger SUVs and trucks before they realize what happened. There's no stick, sadly, but the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox offers paddles to let you be more involved in the fun. And unlike, say, the latest WRX, the AMG GLB packs serious visual panache.

Granted, the AMG costs almost $15,000 more to start than the last STI — and as with the other small front-wheel-drive-based Mercedes models, anyone expecting the sybaritic interior that "Mercedes-Benz" brings to mind might be a dash disappointed with the cabin. (Plus, the 4.5 inches of ground clearance is a far cry from a Crosstrek's 8.7.) But if you're looking a compact wagon-oid hatchback-SUV thing that's both unexpectedly roomy and surprisingly delightful to drive, this Merc might be worth the money. —Will Sabel Courtney

Price as Tested: $61,310

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volvo xc90
Volvo
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2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge

The XC90 is Volvo's flagship midsize crossover, of which I drove the swanky Inscription trim in plug-in hybrid form. The XC90 is getting a bit dated — the second-generation launched in 2015 — but it remains popular because it's excellent and what most people want.

If you're not quite ready to go full-on EV, the XC90 can function as one most of the time. Having 18 miles of EV range doesn't sound like a lot, but I made it through most of my suburban life without using a drop of gas. I say "most" because I couldn't resist a highway cruise to let the gas engine rip. The XC90 is also super-luxurious, if you're into Scandinavian minimalism, and delivers a fairly cushy ride with the 4-corner air suspension.

That said, the XC90, despite packing an impressive-sounding 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque, isn't particularly sporty. But I'm not sure who buys one to go corner-carving. – Tyler Duffy

Price as Tested: $81,690


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toyota rav4
Toyota
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2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

We probably don't need to introduce the Toyota RAV4 to you. The compact crossover is perennially America's best-selling passenger car. The TRD Off-Road is the top-of-the-line gas version with more aggressive styling and a specially-tuned suspension to stay on-trend and help fend off the Subaru Forester.

The RAV4 is comfortable, practical, efficient — and comes in at the size and price-point most buyers want. And if you live somewhere with dirt roads and an active winter, the TRD Off-Road has a more compliant suspension tuning and 3PMSF-rated all-terrain tires for winter.

But if you're going to RAV4 it up for $40,000, I don't really understand buying the gas version. If you have to deal with a droning engine, why not just go for the RAV4 Hybrid. It's quicker and it gets an EPA-rated 41 mpg city. (And let's not even get into the RAV4 Prime PHEV, which is an even more compelling deal.) The TRD Off-Road package is cool, but I'm not sure it overturns that logic. — Tyler Duffy

Price as Tested: $42,622

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mercedes amg e 53 coupé kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert 8,9 8,6 l100 km, co2 emissionen kombiniert 204 198 gkm, 2020,  outdoor, night paket, carbon paket ii, exterieur graphitgrau metallic   mercedes amg e 53 coupé combined fuel consumption 8,9 8,6 l100  km, combined co2 emissions 204 198 gkm, 2020, outdoor, night package, carbon package ii, exterior graphitgrey metallic
Mercedes-Benz
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2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 4Matic Coupe

As midsize cars go, it's hard to top the Mercedes-AMG E53. It hits the midway point between the smooth E450 sedan and the raucous, 600-plus horsepower E63. And it does so pretty much flawlessly. It can be a smooth sailer or an assassin with the flip of the drive mode switch. And let's face it, 429 horsepower is about as much as you can use in real driving.

What I, at least, don't quite get is why you would want a coupe body style. Mercedes calls many things a coupe now, but this is a classic, two-door one. I spent the week with that body style being mostly a nuisance trying to get two children in and out of car seats. The sedan seems like the more practical choice.

Be judicious with the option tree, however. Things you would anticipate would be standard on this expensive of a car — heated and ventilated seats or a head-up display — cost extra. Tweaking the appearance or leveling up the sound system can jack the price up in a hurry. – Tyler Duffy

Price as Tested: $100,160

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volkswagen taos
Volkswagen
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2022 Volkswagen Taos SEL

The Taos is Volkswagen's new compact crossover. It slots below the Tiguan. It's the de facto replacement for the Volkswagen Golf and Golf Sportwagen in America. I drove both versions at the launch event last summer; this time, I spent a week with the FWD SEL Taos.

As much as it pains me as a Golf owner, VW pretty much nailed it with the Taos. It looks like a baby version of the stylish midsize Atlas. It packs a surprising amount of rear seat and cargo space given its size. And 31 mpg from a combustion engine -powered crossover is not too shabby.

I would opt for the AWD version, however. It picks up a more sophisticated suspension setup, VW's sportier seven-speed DSG transmission and drive modes that let you add more steering heft. The Mk7 Golf was a riot, but this is something more Americans will buy. – Tyler Duffy

Price: as Tested: $32,685

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lexus lx
Lexus
9 of 9
2021 Lexus LX 570

I have a soft spot for the Lexus LX 570 (you can read the full review by Will Sabel Courtney here). It's a re-skinned J200 Toyota Land Cruiser, which means it's impressive off the pavement and absolutely bullet-proof all-around. This is the last year for this tried and true model; that said, unlike its Land Cruiser sibling, the LX will be back and all-new in 2022.

The LX 570 has gravitas. And few vehicles better capture the feeling you want from a luxury SUV, whether that's a plush cabin, commanding ride height or being insulated from noise, potholes or an ill-timed transmission shift.

The trouble is, it's 2021 and the outgoing LX is dated, almost laughably so when compared to its competition. It's one of the least efficient cars on the road. And it's a $90,000+ car that does not offer Apple CarPlay. The LX is also absolutely enormous, which I found out the hard way spending around a half-hour trying to park it in an airport parking garage and holding my breath for most of that time. – Tyler Duffy

Price as Tested: $100,605

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