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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –motoringtampabay.com

2021 Jeep Gladiator Diesel Just a year ago, Jeep had dispatched over its then all-new, gas-powered Gladiator Rubicon to us. Recently, we had the opportunity to test the diesel version of what is the only four-door 4X4 convertible in the market. Like to climb, trail and crawl, or haul tons of cargo, go water fording? In an open-air vehicle? Then this should be your ride!

Under the hood of the body-on-frame 2021 Gladiator sits the optional 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 engine ($4,000) putting out 260 horsepower @ 3600 rpm and 442 pounds-feet of torque @ 2800 rpm. The go-anywhere capable vehicle, with high and low transfer case gears, is mated to a typical 8-speed auto gearbox.

Our test drive, the Overland, was a standout dual three-piece hardtop and a soft top with removable doors, exposed hinges, fold-down windshield, front/rear hooks and tubular side steps. That this is a Jeep is even more apparent from the traditional seven-slot, keystone-shaped grille, flanked by rounded halogen headlights, square tail lamps, and a flat, clamshell hood reaching down to trapezoidal fender flares. The 4X4 is designed for off-road conditions such as traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording. Skid plates will protect the front, transfer case and fuel tank.

The cabin sticks to the original Jeep’s handy capability with 103 cubic feet of interior room. Storage cubicles are scattered throughout, including a bin under the rear seat floor. As are several 120-volt outlets. The instrument cluster is simply laid out with rounded speedometer, tachometer, temperature, fuel, oil and volt gauges. Also included are dual a/c, manual tilt/telescopic steering column, cloth seats, six-way manual driver and four-way front-passenger seats, push-button start, 7-inch UConnect touchscreen, leather steering wheel, lockable console and door armrest, and a 5-foot cargo bed. A roll-up tonneau cover is available for $595.

Standard safety features are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic stability, traction and trailer-sway control, anti-roll system, rearview camera, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Except for slightly loud road noise and engine, diehard Jeep aficionados will love the amazing talents of the rugged Gladiator. Simultaneously, the quintessential SUV with over seven decades of tradition is adept on neighborhood streets. Its off-road or on-road prowess makes the diesel version a remarkable and much-needed addition to the Jeep roster.


CADDY XT4 IS An entertaining compact crossover

2021 Cadillac XT4 PREMIUM LUXURY Close on the heels of the three-row luxury crossover XT6 some months ago, came its smaller sibling, XT4, from Cadillac. Debuting in 2019, it sits on a car-like framework but with all the bells and whistles you would find among competitors such as the Audi Q3 or the Volvo XC40.

The XT4 is packed with ample power, oodles of it, and luxury that only a Cadillac can offer. Under the hood resides a 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder engine that cranks out 237 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. The front-wheel-drive SUV is mated to a seamless 9-speed auto gearbox. A MacPherson strut front and a five-link independent rear work well to absorb unpleasant road bumps or curves. Steering response with the electric power rack-and-pinion is swift and accurate. Tow capacity is a satisfactory 3,500 pounds. And you can pick tour, sport and snow/ice drive modes.

Bright Galvano accents on the front grille, satin-aluminum window moldings and chromed door handles lend the compact XT4 a classy appearance. Vertical L-shaped LED headlights and tail lamps further enhance the bold look. The crossover boasts an upscale and luxurious interior with exceptional fit and finish, gloss levels and materials. An 8-inch color touchscreen in the center stack includes capactive controls, haptic feedback, gestures and voice recognition (yes, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available). Replacing the redundant knobs is a rotary dial controller with a new jog function. There is plenty of room – 48.9 cubic feet with rear seat folded; and total passenger volume is a worthy 100.6 cubic feet. Standard goodies are dual auto a/c, eight-way power driver and six-way front-passenger heated seats, manual tilt/telescopic three-spoke steering wheel ambient lights, piano black accents on the new gear shifter, satin aluminum roof rails, 7-speaker Bose audio, remote start, 60/40 rear seat, hands-free lift gate and hands-on CUE (Cadillac User Experience).

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, alerts for forward collision, rear-cross traffic, lane change and side blind zone, front/rear park assist, stability and traction control, rearview camera, auto emergency brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Seating five people in comfort, the XT4 is tough to beat if you consider performance, substantial cargo capacity, impressive fuel economy and a reasonable price. Competitors in the luxury crossover segment should be wary of this highly capable and enjoyable ride.



2021 Chevrolet TRAVERSE (HIGH COUNTRY)Numerous three-row SUVs compete vigorously in the market but among the standouts is the Traverse. Sharing its design with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, the body-frame integral structure of this Chevrolet will boost the confidence of any driver. It is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine putting out a healthy 310 horsepower @ 6800 rpm and 266 pounds-feet of torque @ 2800 rpm. That is plenty of clout to propel this nearly 4,400-pound SUV toward its destination briskly on challenging roads.

Power routed through the crisp-shifting 9-speed auto gear box delivers adequate performance. Standard active noise cancellation isolates occupants from road sound and imperfections in this front-wheel or all-wheel-drive ride.

Of course, it’s in the passenger/cargo department that the Traverse truly shines. Have a seat up front in the muscularly-styled SUV and you will notice that the center stack offers MyLink with a 8-inch color touch screen for hands-free phone and audio. Underneath the infotainment system are large illuminated climate control knobs. The instrument cluster of two gauge binnacles hosting readings for speedometer, tachometer, water temp, battery and fuel, as well as a driver information center, is simple but clear.

Thanks to tri-zone auto a/c, the driver and all passengers can control their own individual temperature settings. The 60/40 second-row folds via a lever while the 50/50 third-row seat can be power operated. That opens up 98.2 cubic feet of stowing area. Simply put, throw in a stroller, numerous pieces of luggage, backpack, ice chest, cooler, etc. into the cargo hold and the Traverse laps it all up. Lest we forget, there is a huge storage bin underneath the cargo hold.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, front center airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, antiskid system, stability and traction control, remote vehicle start, rearview camera, rear park, rear cross traffic and forward collision alerts, lane keep and hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Go ahead and ‘Traverse’ the landscape in the Chevy crossover. There is abundant power to ensure a quick but silent and smooth ride with superb handling and cornering balance. A solid chassis and exceptional people- and cargo-hauling capabilities in this virtually full-size SUV will serve the needs of large households quite well.


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