What NEMPA Members Are Driving….

As winter turns to spring, NEMPA members are enjoying the gradual shift to warmer temperatures and the real hope of putting snow brushes and ice scrapers away for another year. And the cars? Their heated seats and steering wheels will get a rest as moonroofs are cracked open after a long slumber. Unfortunately, it’s also pothole season in New England, when the roadways suddenly bloom with craters of various diameters and depths. It’s not all bad, as attempts to avoid them provide an excellent opportunity to test a vehicle’s steering response.

Regardless of conditions, NEMPA members from southern Connecticut to northern Maine (and beyond) are busy evaluating every vehicle in the fleet. Here’s a quick look at just a few examples.

2022 Acura RDX A-Spec Advance

Text by Silvio Calabi, image courtesy of Acura

The ‘Blue Flash’—NEMPA’s Acura RDX—has been cruising around Midcoast Maine for a week. It’s a 2022 A-Spec Advance model, which means two things: First, it’s well optioned up; and second, as a road machine, it’s almost more German than the Germans. That is, its wraparound cockpit feels very purposeful and very focused, and it is equipped for hours of comfort and concentration behind the wheel.

2022 Acura RDX PMC Edition

The base RDX starts at just under $40,000 with front-wheel drive; AWD is a $2,000 option. From there, prices and options zig-zag upward through Technology, Advance, A-Spec + Technology, and A-Spec + Advance. With the destination & handling charge, our sample A-Spec Advance lists for $52,845. At that price, it feels like good value.

2021 Toyota Sienna Limited

Text and images by Thom Blackett

The minivan segment may not be as well populated as it once was, but I’d argue that the current crop of offerings is the best we’ve ever seen. That includes the 2021 Toyota Sienna, which benefits from aggressive new styling, a revamped trim lineup, and improvements to nearly every part between the front and rear bumpers.

2021 Toyota Sienna Limited

For me, the most notable change was also the riskiest: ditching the 296-hp V6 to make way for a standard hybrid powertrain using a four-cylinder engine paired with a CVT. Total output is now 245 hp. A loss of 51 hp is significant, especially in a vehicle designed to carry up to eight people and all of their stuff, but after a few hundred behind the wheel, I don’t have any complaints. Admittedly, even under full throttle the 2021 Sienna doesn’t feel particularly quick, though there’s sufficient grunt for merging into fast-moving traffic and the CVT does an admirable job of delivering power when needed. Plus, the Sienna retains its 3,500-lb towing capacity.

Of course, the switch to a hybrid system comes with the promise of improved fuel economy. The front-wheel-drive (FWD) Limited model I’ve been driving has EPA ratings of 36 mpg in the city and on the highway, yet I averaged closer to 40 mpg. By comparison, the Sienna’s old V6 was rated at 19/26 mpg.

Not surprisingly, the 2021 Sienna has also performed admirably in all other respects, with a relatively quiet interior, comfortable seating, and primarily intuitive controls (though I’d like a dash button for the power rear door). Plus, at a time when the majority of vehicles are sprayed in some variation of gray, black, or white, the Sunset Bronze Mica paint is a nice change.

2021 Toyota Sienna Limited

Price as Tested: $50,010, including a $1,175 destination charge

2022 Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback

Text and images by Matt Smith

The Honda Civic looks decidedly more grown-up this year. The forward leaning front end mimics the big brother Honda Accord and, on the inside, the 2022 Civic looks more like an Audi than a Honda. A delicate honeycomb covering the air vents spans nearly the width of the dash. It’s upscale and catches everyone’s eye, as do the silver, knurled controls for the climate control.

Of course, it’s still a Honda—not an Audi—so we shouldn’t be too surprised that the air vents behind the honeycomb don’t span that whole width, nor are the controls actually silver (or any kind of metal, for that matter). But it looks the part, nonetheless, and it being a Honda, we also shouldn’t be too surprised that it drives like a dream.

2022 Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback

The 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in this week’s Sport Touring Hatchback is way more fun in a Civic than it is in a CR-V, despite both employing a continuously variable transmission. This is point-and-shoot driving with quick response and a perfectly compliant chassis. Whether you’re burning up a freshly paved highway onramp or navigating a potholed city street, the 2022 Civic just makes you want to keep driving.

After Honda discontinued the subcompact Fit, the Civic has become the de facto entry to the brand for Honda customers (although the HR-V sells for a little less). At some companies, a car in this position ends up being a mess of cut corners and counted beans. At Honda, it’s a different story. The Civic doesn’t feel like a penalty box. It feels like a red carpet, rolled out for all the eventual Honda lifers. 

Price as tested: $31,260, including a $1,015 destination charge

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

Text and images by Craig Fitzgerald

I spent a few days in the all new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which seemed to be the talk of all the moms in the small MetroWest Massachusetts town I live in. Every stop for coffee elicited questions and comments from passersby, a good sign of interest for Jeep’s mid-size luxury SUV. 

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

Design and driving-wise, this is the best Grand Cherokee ever. It’s not often that you’d describe a vehicle like this as “entertaining” to drive, but it was. It’s fast on the open road, and surprisingly agile on the off-ramps without being punishing.

The 5.7-liter is just about perfect for something this size. I kept it out of the Sport mode most of the time, did all my running around in it this week including a run out to Millbury and back for my son, and put $38 worth of fuel in it this morning. I was anticipating a much higher fuel investment. The EPA suggests a combined rating of 21 mpg, which was exactly what I experienced.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

As it has been since the 1990s, the GC interior is impeccable, and the gray wood accents on the current edition are modern and subtly classy. This thing is $70k, so it SHOULD be nice inside, but in 2022, I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference between this and SUVs from traditional “premium” brands that expect another $25k for their products.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

I don’t think Night Vision is necessary, especially at $2,000 (in a package of other advanced safety technology) but it was nice to have on the dark back roads around here where animals and people wander out into the road with frequency. It’s kind of interesting to notice how hot transformers on the tops of utility poles are.

I’m not sold on Stellantis’s new Uconnect yet, though.

The old version has been my favorite of all the infotainment systems since it launched around 2013. It was logical, easy to use, and featured redundant knobs and buttons for the important functions. The knobs still exist, but the easy-to-read-at-a-glance screen is all new, and not great. I do not know why you’d mess with perfection, especially redesigning everything in a less readable “Gentrification” font. I’m going to need more time with it to see if my opinion changes. 

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

I will also note that the position of the headlight knob is perfectly placed to just slightly catch your knee every time you exit, turning the knob from Auto to On. I did it six times in four days. I think I’d fix that with Gorilla tape after a couple of weeks. 

The Grand Cherokee Overland 4×4 starts at $55,305. The tested MSRP was $70,360, including a blistering $1,795 destination charge.

2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III

Text and images by John Goreham

This week, I’m driving the new Grand Wagoneer. 

2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III

The Grand Wagoneer from parent company Stellantis, is an ultra-luxury three-row, full-size SUV. Based on NEMPA testing, it is fair to say that the Grand Wagoneer has reset the bar in this segment. 

2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III

Enter a Grand Wagoneer and the interior is stunning, even to those who routinely test luxury vehicles. Sumptuous and modern in equal parts, the Grand Wagoneer features up to 75 inches of total screen display area. 

2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III

There are nearly 45 inches of screen along the front instrument panel. Where is the rest? In the second row. That’s right, infotainment has now expanded to second-row occupants.

Every passenger in every row enjoys first-rate comfort and convenience in the Grand Wagoneer. There are USB power ports everywhere. The Wagoneer has a four-zone climate control system. 

In addition to its impressive luxury appointments, the Grand Wagoneer also sports a V8 engine with 455 lb.-ft. of peak torque. This luxury SUV can tow up to 10,000 pounds and its Quadra-Lift air suspension can rise to offer 10 inches of ground clearance. The Wagoneer line offers three 4X4 systems from which to choose. It can ford up to 24 inches of water. We’re heading out right now to test that feature!

2022 Grand Wagoneer Series III

Those looking for a luxurious full-size SUV that does not sacrifice utility need look no further than the 2022 Grand Wagoneer. 

Price as tested: $108,875, including a $2,000 destination charge

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