We drive a lot of cars every year here at Gear Patrol. Sometimes that involves exotic, Instagram-worthy trips. But we're also testing new vehicles frequently on our home turf. And 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.
Here are some of the cars we've been testing in 2022.
I'll boil down the V90 Cross Country to one word. It's excellent. It's still very much a wagon, even with the cladding and extra bit of ride height to fool you. The interior is spacious and, like most Volvos, elegant. It's reasonably quick. It handles nimbly. And with a softer, off-road-tuned suspension, it's just comfortable.
I've had colleagues call the V90 CC the best car on sale. I would not go that far. But I found it fantastic for the actual driving I had to do. School run? Seamless. Jaunt down to Detroit for a car event? Utterly smooth. It's not as sporty as Mercedes or Audi offerings can get in the wagon space, but it's markedly cheaper.
The V90 CC is, technically, a mild hybrid. But I lament that Volvo does not offer its refreshed Recharge powertrain on the Cross Country wagons. A V90 CC running on batteries for extended periods rather than earning in the low 20s mpg in city driving would be just about perfect.
I say just about because I found the infotainment screen moderately annoying. Vertical alignment is great for phones. But horizontal is easier to see and use in the car. Nine inches isn't big enough to do all the things demanded of those screens now. And a car this nice should not have a tiny, compressed rear camera view. - Tyler Duffy
Base Price (As Tested): $55,200 ($68,440)
The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S may be the best overall athlete in the SUV world. The AMG GLE 53 SUV — we must specify that it’s the SUV, not the coupe — is a step down from that. It’s a midway point between the apex predator and the more staid GLE 450. Its 3.0-liter inline-six is tuned up from the GLE 450 to 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. And it brings the vibe of the big AMG at a more affordable price point — albeit one that can creep past $90,000 if you’re not careful with options.
AMG is about style as much as performance now, especially if you’re buying a lukewarm SUV. And the AMG GLE 53 SUV delivers with the AMG power domes on the hood, the striking red Nappa leather interior (which would not be my first choice) and matching red brake calipers that add some drama to an otherwise bland big crossover.
The 429 hp output is about all the power you need — the AMG GLE 63 S is not usable on real roads. The AMG GLE 53 SUV does less with it than the E-Class would, riding higher and packing an additional 600 lbs. However, the E-Class won’t match the AMG GLE 53 SUV’s potential 74.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
Were I buying a GLE, I would stick with the GLE 450. BMW puts more into their closest equivalent of the AMG GLE 53 SUV, the X5 M50i. It starts for about $10,000 more. But you get more than 500 horsepower and a V8. The AMG GLE 53 SUV does not feel like that much of an upgrade. - Tyler Duffy
Base Price (As Tested): $73,550 ($90,550)
Sometimes, there’s more to a new car than meets the eye; other times, as with Jerry Seinfeld’s mailman neighbor Newman, there’s less. With the Land Rover Defender 110 V8, though, it’s exactly what you’d expect with the name: the new Defender, just with eight pumping cylinders under the hood.
The resulting product drives, well, just as you’d expect: like a new Defender with substantially more power. Remember, that supercharged V8 is the same one found in the likes of the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and F-Type, an engine which not only makes more than 500 horsepower with ease (518, in this case) but also makes the most delightful noises from its engine and exhaust. Every one of those ponies feels as though they’ve come to play — floor the gas, and the soft-sprung SUV rears back like a Chris-Craft on plane as it shoots towards the horizon, ripping from 0 to 60 in comfortably less than five seconds and leaving you laughing like a kid flying down a hill on your first bike. And while the blown 5.0 is hardly a model of fuel efficiency, the Defender V8 did achieve 17 mpg over 100 miles of mixed driving — not far off from what I’ve seen in the six-cylinder model.
Going V8 also brings a few distinct design touches, if you go for the Carpathian Edition I tested. Blacked-out trim adds some menace to a design that, quite frankly, can seem a little cute and cartoon-ish in select colorways. The microsuede-wrapped steering wheel feels great to the touch, better than most such alcantara-clad rims; likewise, the seats are partially coated in the same material, which feels great against the skin and allows ample airflow from the ventilated seats to reach your ass.
If there’s an issue, it’s price. Much as with the Wrangler, adding a V8 to this off-road icon jacks up the price to eyebrow-elevating levels; while the regular Defender 110 starts at $54,975, the V8 version will cost you a minimum of $112,775 — more than twice as much. Personally, though, I’d probably take this over, say, any sort of Range Rover you could buy for similar money. It may be less luxurious, but it’s equally comfortable, equally capable (if not even more so) and almost certainly quicker — all with less pretension. —Will Sabel Courtney
Price as Tested: $116,870
I drove the Mercedes-AMG GT. There are several GTs in the Mercedes lineup. I testedt he entry-level version of the GT Coupe, packing a twin-turbo V8 with 523 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque. It remained in the fleet as a 2021 model as Mercedes struggled to build V8s in 2022 due to supply chain issues.
I spent a fair amount of time in the AMG GT, a lot of it stuck in traffic and routing around a sea of orange construction barrels. When I could uncork the AMG GT, it was rapid (0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds) and had phenomenal grip. The V8 sounds robust. It’s not exceptionally light. But it has a stately presence that reminded me a bit of the 1988 560SL my parents had and unwisely sold. And it looks the part of the aggressive sports car, particularly with my tester’s $9,150 Stealth Edition appearance package.
The AMG GT is nearing the end of its model run, which went into production in 2014. And while the materials — Nappa leather and black piano lacquer — were sumptuous, interiors have taken a step forward since then. The AMG GT felt cramped and not very ergonomic and the touchpad infotainment system felt a bit dated.
There are two main issues with the AMG GT. First, it’s expensive. My base model started at $118,600 and ended up at $137,050. Heated and ventilated seats and the premium sound system had to be added. The second issue is that the Porsche 911 exists and is the default choice for this type of sports car until proven otherwise. Perhaps Mercedes will do so next time around. - Tyler Duffy
Base Price (As Tested): $118,600 ($137,050)
I've driven this generation of Miata several times. And spoiler: it's still really great. It looks phenomenal. It offers the purest of Mazda driving dynamics with a six-speed manual, RWD and a naturally-aspirated two-liter motor. Throw in precise steering and a curb weight under 2,400 lbs, and you have a car that's fun to drive fast — even though with 181 hp, you probably won't be going quite fast enough to threaten your driver's license.
My discovery this time was the Miata's soft top, which is the best engineered manual soft top I've experienced. The roof can be unclasped and pulled back in seconds with two swift movements of one arm. And even with a tight right shoulder, I still had no difficulty.
That said, the MX-5 Miata is tiny. I'm 5'11" and of average "jackets fit me off the rack" proportions. And the Miata is perhaps the only car I've driven that felt like I was too tall for it. My line of sight fell right at the top of the windshield. And my not exceptionally generous posterior was too large for the Recaro seats.
Having two kids, I enjoyed one of the core Miata experiences: watching it sit idle in my driveway as I used another car to do every bit of practical driving I had to do that week. - Tyler Duffy
Base Price: $27,650
The Mercedes brand has become more flamboyant of late. It's a company that brings you aggressive, hulking AMG cars, humongous digital displays and opulent Maybachs. The E-Class heyday came in a different era where Mercedes made a handful of elegant, understated vehicles. And the E450 hews the closest to that vision of Mercedes.
Leveling up to the E450 gets you Mercedes's brilliant turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and a bump up to 362 hp and 369 lb-ft, enough push to get you from 0-60 mph in less than five seconds. The ride quality with a mild hybrid is smooth and quiet — to the point my son asked if we were in an electric car. The cabin is spacious and comfortable, even with two kids in car seats. It gets 30 mpg on the highway. And oh yes, there's standard 4Matic+ AWD.
The E450 does not tote gear. It would disappoint on a track. It's a sedan designed to make the "office to country club valet" stand trek with minimal irritation. It does that impeccably. You can find fancier luxury sedans than the E450. And Mercedes will sell you a lot more whoop-ass with the E53 or E63 — spoiler: you're not going to use it in real traffic. But no one needs more luxury car than this.
If I must find something to quibble about with the E450, my tester did not have the ventilated seats ($450), which, even in my northern climate, are becoming a must-have summer option. - Tyler Duffy
Base Price: $62,750
BMW fans know by now that anything with the letter M and the word Competition in its name is going to be quick. The X3 M Competition is no disappointment: in fact, it’s not unfair to call it damn quick. (I may have used a stronger expletive when I floored it for the first time.) Granted, there can be a bit of lag when you boot it if you’re driving gently — not so much turbo lag as kickdown from the transmission — but once it gets going, or if you leave the eight-speed automatic in its more aggressive drive modes to keep the engine a bit more boiled, hoo boy. Car and Driver ran a nearly-identical X4 M Competition from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, and it feels eminently believable from behind the wheel.
Not that you’ll really want to rush anywhere, considering how nice the interior is. The seats may not be the torture device-esque ones found in the edgiest new M models, but they’re firmly bolstered; settling in takes a moment, but once that’s done, they’re supportive and comfortable. All the materials and graphics and buttons feel worthy of the premium pricetag. And while the X3 may be a long way from the biggest beast in the BMW family, there’s plenty of room for friends or family inside; four regular-sized adults could fit inside nicely.
On the flip side, the X3 M Comp is very aggressive for a luxury crossover — even one that seemingly aims to be an M3 with more ground clearance. The ride is taut and firm, which is great when setting a fast pace through turns, but less ideal for dealing with city streets and worn-out highways — i.e. the places this crossover will spend most of its time. Even with the gearbox set to its most placid shift program, gear changes are fast and firm; the torque converter feels as though it locks up quicker than most. Again, great for driving fast, but less ideal for the way this car is liable to be driven 99 percent of the time.
All in all, the X3 M Competition feels more like an M3 SUV than I would have expected — both for better and for worse. For better because, remarkably, BMW managed to translate the performance of its iconic sport sedan to a high-riding SUV very well; for worse because, well, it feels like a missed opportunity to cater to a bigger group of buyers who want a bit more livability out of their ostensibly more family-friendly car.
That said, at least you’re not paying extra for it. While normally SUVs tend to be a bit more pricey than their sedan or wagon equivalents — partly because added metal costs added money, partly because, well, companies can — the X3 M Competition is actually (slightly) more affordable than its M3 counterpart. Spec an M3 sedan with AWD to match, and you’re looking at $81,795 — versus $80,795 for the crossover. —Will Sabel Courtney
Price as Tested: $87,345
The GLS is Mercedes’s flagship SUV, the crossover equivalent to the S-Class. I drove the GLS 450 4MATIC, the base model with a 362 hp 3.0-liter inline-six. For much of 2022, it was the only model, with Mercedes shelving the V8 GLS 580 and AMG GLS 63 models due to production issues.
You don’t get 600-plus horsepower with the GLS 450. Why you would need that in a three-row SUV that will never see a track is unclear. And my tester made do with the standard Airmatic Air Suspension rather than the predictive E-Active Body Control version. But it starts under $80,000 (though my tester went up to $94,000). On paper, it’s a little better on fuel with a 20 mpg combined EPA rating. And you don’t pay the penalty for it in everyday driving, where the GLS 450 delivers a seamless and luxuriant daycare pickup.
Many Mercedes vehicles can serve as family cars. Though the full-size GLS is the best suited. You can have three spacious rows of seats or a gigantic 48.7 cubic foot trunk if you fold the third row and slide the second row forward. Heated/Ventilated seats come standard. And my tester’s interior was fetching with a little extra spent on espresso brown/black leather ($1,620) and Natural Grain Grey Oak wood trim ($160).
Many GLS buyers will go to the top of the trim line because they can, even if they never scratch the surface of the car’s capability. But the GLS 450 proves you don’t need to do that to get a quality three-row Mercedes. - Tyler Duffy
Base Price (As Tested): $77,200 ($94,230)