A blizzard of SUVs triumph in winter’s challenging storms and snow
While our winter season began mild, it has struck with a vengeance, but SUVs with proper drivetrains have helped us traverse some of the most difficult driving conditions.
The 2019 Lexus GX4670 Luxury, the top of three trim levels, performed well for us with its 4.6-L, 32-valve, VVT-i, DOHC V-8 engine that produces 301 HP and 329 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 RPM.
The engine provides lots of punch and power with its six-speed sequential shift automatic, but not so great on fuel economy with EPA/DOT ratings at 16 MPG overall (15/city and 18/highway). We experienced close to the 16 over a week’s drive in inclement weather.
What we really like on the seven-passenger GX is its full-time 4WD system with a TORSEN limited-slip center differential and electronic differentia lock. It worked well for us in conjunction with the suspension system - a front independent double wishbone suspension with coil springs, gas shocks, and stabilizer bar, with a four-link rear coil/shock combo with stabilizer bar.
Being a Lexus, the GX Luxury is loaded with a generous list of standard features ranging from 10 airbags to 18-inch alloy wheels with mud/snow tires to the Lexus Enform navigation system to heated second row seats. Not much has been overlooked from a heated steering wheel we used constantly to the LED fog lamps that guided us through wintery night driving.
There are also abundant safety features from automatic collision notification to blind spot monitoring to rear cross-traffic alert. The rear-view camera worked exceptionally well for us, and the interior space was gracious with 41.7 inches of front leg room combined with 38.0 inches of head space. And a nice 64.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
Our tester had an MSRP of $63,555 (base model starts at $52,155) and we had one $2,340 option with the Driver Support Package (Levinson audio, radar cruise control, intelligent headlamps that we use a lot, added safety features, and more).
Even with a luxury interior featuring handcrafted details, the 2019 Lexus GX has genuine off-road capabilities and a towing capacity of 6,500 pounds.
‘Always Elegant - Never Ordinary,’ says Mazda
Well, Mazda may well be right when it comes to the 2019 CX-9 Signature AWD we recently tested. On the inside it has Nappa leather-trimmed seats, sculpted aluminum, Santos Rosewood trim, leather-wrapped and tilt/telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, Mazda radar cruise control, a delightful Bose audio system with 12 speakers, three-zone climate control, full-feature mobile connectivity, and plenty more.
So, if it’s “elegant” can we go off-roading or drive in winter weather, the answer is a simple yes. The predictive i-ACTIV AWD monitors multiple systems from outside temps to road grip to braking patterns. With its 20-inch all-season tires mounted to 20-inch alloy wheels, and solid suspension with stabilizer bars, this SUV can go just about anywhere during the winter.
Loaded with safety features, a power moonroof, heated power mirrors that we used daily, front and rear parking sensors, superb LED lighting (including fog lamps), our tester was powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.5-L turbo engine with a SKYACTIVE-Drive six-speed automatic that converts easily to a manual transmission. Fuel ratings are 23 MPG overall (20/city and 26/highway) and we garnered just above 23 MPG over seven days of winter driving.
Our CX-9 Signature, the top of five models, priced out at $45,365 and had six small options for a final MSRP of $47,040.
Meaty, rugged, powerful, and fun to drive
Over the past 35-plus years we’ve had some fun and exciting drives in the Land Cruiser, Toyota’s longest-running nameplate dating back to 1951. We’ve seen the transformation from a hard-to-drive truck to a classy, but rugged, SUV.
Two issues are prevalent with the single model Land Cruiser: 1) it’s highly capable off-road; 2) it’s expensive with an MSRP of just under $85,000.
The interior of the Land Cruiser has become much more stylish and techy over the years, but the exterior has retained a robust, albeit somewhat fashionable, appearance.
While there is everything to be desired inside the Land Cruiser (from JBL audio with integrated navigation to amazing safety features), from our view it’s all about off-roading. The Multi-Terrain Monitor checks front, side, and rear surroundings for obstacles and displays pics on the nine-inch navigation screen. The CRAWL system assists when the Land Cruiser needs to crawl over rocks or other terrain, and the full-time 4WD system with traction control works exceptionally well.
From almost 82 cubic feet of cargo space to a beefy 5.7-L V-8 engine, there is a lot to like about the Land Cruiser, sans its price.