2009 XKR New Car Test Drive
The Honda CR-V is roomy and convenient and easy to drive. You can put lots of stuff in it and the back seats are roomy and comfortable. It rides nice and smoothing, without the jouncy harshness of most SUVs. It's surprisingly maneuverable in tight quarters and handles well on winding roads.
The CR-V has grown up. Literally: Last year, a new model was launched that was larger, roomier, and more powerful than the first-generation model, and the new CR-V reclaimed its leading position in the compact sport-utility race.
Along with the Toyota RAV4, the CR-V was one of the original cute-utes: Not quite a sport-utility, but more than a car, offering an upright seating position, all-wheel drive and decent cargo space. Since it was built on a car platform (the Honda Civic), its highway-friendly ride and handling made it drive more like a car. This combination attracted buyers who needed a minivan, but wanted something smaller and more maneuverable, and something that didn't look like a minivan. That was in mid-1997.
Since then the field has become crowded with competitors, including the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Hyundai Santa Fe. The Chevrolet Tracker and Suzuki Vitara offered more truck-like engineering for better off-road capability. Land Rover introduced its luxurious and highly capable Freelander, while Jeep launched its highly capable and slightly larger Liberty.
With the 2002 model, however, the CR-V got back in the hunt. It still isn't any good off-road, but it's quite competent on the highways and byways where most of these vehicles are driven most of the time. The Honda bests many of its immediate competitors in both qualitative and quantitative measures, while trailing in a few minor areas.
For 2003, Honda has added coat hooks in the rear compartment and enlarged the front storage console to better accommodate cassettes and CDs. Otherwise the CR-V remains unchanged. The Honda Element is one of those vehicles that elicits that great question: What's that? Some people hate the thought of driving a car that's the center of attention, but others find that's part of the thrill of owning a car that's different from other vehicles on the road.
Honda is known for conservative styling, which is not a bad thing for the majority of people who are only looking for reliable and functional transportation. However, pizzazz and style are important ingredients if you're one of those looking for something different.
Honda has really gone out on a limb with the Element. It is a very different looking vehicle aimed at young male buyers who need a truck to haul their stuff but want the security of an enclosed cargo area and the performance of a car. Honda took its own sweet time getting its first family-size SUV on the market, but a couple of minutes behind the wheel of the 2003 Honda Pilot makes it clear that every moment was well spent.
The all-new Pilot brings Honda virtues to a new class of vehicle. The interior packs eight seats into an overall package so short that the EPA considers the Pilot a compact SUV. However, its competition will be the world's midsize SUVs. The Honda Pilot offers more cargo space than the Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, and Toyota Highlander.
The Pilot also sets the pace dynamically, with a 240-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 and the same crisp, predictable handling that have made the Honda Odyssey minivan and Acura MDX SUV hits. The Jaguar XK is a thoroughly modern car, having completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2007, and it competes well with the latest versions of the Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 6 Series, and Cadillac XLR.
The outgoing Jaguar sports car, the XK8, lasted 10 years on the market and, toward the end, had become a patchwork as new technologies such as satellite radio, navigation and airbags had to be adapted to it. Its V8 horsepower number began with a 2 instead of a 3, putting it way behind the competition. There were also new safety and emissions goals to be met. So for 2007, Jaguar replaced the XK8 with a brand-new car from the ground up, the first aluminum-chassis sports car in Jaguar's six decades of production.
Riding on a much longer wheelbase than before, the latest XK offers substantially more interior space. The seats are more comfortable, the gauges are nicer, and everything works better. Benefiting from the lightweight chassis, the 4.2-liter V8 propels the XK from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds, says Jaguar. Its rigid chassis and the latest CATS adaptive suspension provides a smooth ride and demonic cornering, coupled with accurate steering and powerful brakes. Gone is the old J-gate transmissions shifter, replaced by a more conventional design that offers a Sport mode with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
For 2008, the Jaguar has refined the XK with better interior materials, a concealed (rather than retractable) audio antenna, and more equipment bundled into the optional Luxury Packages. Nineteen-inch run-flat tires are available for 2008, and four new colors have been added for convertible tops. A high-technology, limited-production Portfolio Edition was also introduced.
The XK heritage dates back to the fast and sensual XK-120 of 1949. This latest design of the XK is beautiful and evocative of the breakthrough XK-E of the early 1960s, with some Aston Martin and Ford styling cues thrown in. (Jaguar's Scottish chief designer, Ian Callum, designed the Aston Martin DB-7 and DB-9.)
Like its luscious ancestors, this latest XK is a tasty combination of Jaguar style and traditional British luxury-car wood, leather, and quietness.
The CR-V is offered in two trim levels, with a choice of two or four-wheel drive. Options are extremely limited; as Honda firmly believes that the fewer the options, the less a car costs to build. It's available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The base LX is well equipped for $19,360. It comes standard with air conditioning with micron filtration, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, cruise control, an adjustable steering column, power mirrors, power windows, power four-wheel-disc brakes, front and rear power outlets, and a removable folding picnic table. Also standard is an automatic transmission, which is an $800 option on other models.
A five-speed manual transmission is available on the four-wheel-drive LX ($19,760). With the automatic, the 4WD LX costs $20,560.
Side-impact air bags add $250. Aluminum wheels are available as a dealer-installed accessory.
EX comes with four-wheel drive only, and adds a premium stereo, anti-lock brakes, privacy glass, remote keyless entry, aluminum wheels, and a power moonroof. It lists for $22,060 with the five-speed manual, $22,860 with the automatic. The 2003 Honda Element is available in two trim levels with a manual or automatic transmission and front wheel drive. An optional all-wheel-drive system will be available half way through 2003. All models come with the same new 160 horsepower i-VTEC 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's found in the new Accord.
DX is the entry-level model (about $16,560). It's really a starting point, however, as it does not even come standard with a radio or air conditioning. Honda expects many young buyers to opt for this model, as they will want to install their own stereo system and customize the vehicle.
EX (about $20,510) adds numerous extras such as air conditioning, alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, power mirrors, stereo sound system and other features.
Automatic transmission adds about $800 to the base price of each trim level while all-wheel drive adds about $1200 to the cost. A loaded EX model with automatic transmission and AWD will top the price range at around $21,500. All Pilots feature Honda's patented VTM-4 electronically controlled full-time all-wheel-drive system, a 240-horsepower V6 engine, and a five-speed automatic transmission.
Two models are available: LX ($27,360); EX ($29,730).
LX offers a range of standard equipment including air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM stereo, in-dash CD player, driver and front passenger front and side airbags, power windows, mirrors and door locks.
The EX raises the ante with standard aluminum alloy wheels, synchronized front and rear automatic climate control, a powerful seven-speaker stereo.
Option packages include EX with leather interior trim ($30,980); EX with leather interior trim and rear entertainment system ($32,480); EX with leather interior trim and navigation system ($32,980). Prices do not include a $460 destination and handling charge. The 2008 Jaguar XK coupe ($74,835) and convertible ($80,835) come with a 4.2-liter, 300-horsepower V8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Standard wheels are 18-inch alloys.
The XKR coupe ($86,035) and convertible ($92,035) add a supercharger to the same engine for 420 horsepower. XKRs come with high-performance brakes, active front lighting, and 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside are sport seats with added lateral support, polished stainless pedals, a suede-like Alston headliner and aluminum trim. Outside, the XKR is distinguished by a deeper front valance, mesh grille inserts, and body-color hood louvers.
Standard equipment for all XK models includes all the power accessories and other amenities you'd expect at this level, plus 10-way power seats with memory, DVD navigation, keyless entry and keyless start, a seven-inch video display, Bluetooth capability, cruise control, 160-watt Alpine stereo with 6CD changer, rear park assist, and an electronic parking brake.
The Luxury Package for the XK ($3,300) adds 16-way power seats with adjustable bolsters, soft-grain leather interior, heated leather steering wheel, leather gearshift knob, power-fold exterior mirrors, and 19-inch alloy wheels. A similar package is also available for the XKR ($2,500). The Aluminum Luxury Package for the XK ($8,125) combines the soft leather 16-way seats with aluminum interior trim and 20-inch alloy wheels. Advanced Technology Packages for the XK ($2,750) and XKR ($2,450) add adaptive cruise control, front park control, and (on the XK) active front lighting. The Premium Sound Package ($1,875) comprises an eight-speaker, 525-watt Alpine Premium Dolby surround sound system with Sirius satellite radio (subscription sold separately).
Several wheel options are available as stand-alones, including 19-inch alloys ($1,200), 19-inch chromed alloys ($1,400), 19-inch chromed alloys with run-flat tires ($1,700), and 20-inch alloys ($5,000).
The Portfolio limited edition ($12,000) for the XKR adds Alcon brakes with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston calipers in the rear, 20-inch polished alloy wheels, polished aluminum power side vents, leather-edged floor mats, a 525-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system with Sirius Satellite radio, and Celestial Black metallic paint. Buyers can choose American Walnut or engine-spun aluminum interior trim at no extra cost. Also included is the XKR Luxury Package described above. Jaguar said that just 255 Portfolio Editions would be available in the U.S. Adaptive cruise control is available as a stand-alone option ($2,200).
Safety features for all XKs include front and side air bags, ABS with EBD, traction control, dynamic stability control, and tire-pressure monitor. Also included on convertible models is electronic roll-over protection: If the convertible should roll over, two rollover bars come blasting up through the rear glass to stabilize the rear of the compartment.