One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Hyundai Venue is a petite, but loaded package

The Venue is a new subcompact SUV from Hyundai.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motors America

The 2020 Hyundai Venue isn't small. It's petite. And, Hyundai has managed to squeeze a lot in that little package. The kicker is that they've also kept the price low delivering on the "more bang for your buck" sales strategy the automaker successfully championed for at least half a decade.

Venue fits at the end of the Hyundai stable below the Kona. It's about the same size as the Nissan Kicks and Chevrolet Trax. The Nissan Rogue Sport, Kia Seltos, and Chevrolet Trailblazer are closer in size to the Kona. It's not as big as the Hyundai Tucson, Santa Fe, or Palisade.

2020 Hyundai Venue From the side, the Venue is cute and not all that quirky.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motors America

From the outside, the Venue is like its fellow subcompacts though its body styling is a touch like a first-gen Toyota RAV4. It's available in a two-tone paint scheme and its looks aren't too controversial though the grille isn't as attractive as the rest of the vehicle.

The subcompact crossover comes in just three trim levels: SE, SEL, and Denim. All the grades have the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine under their hood. It's paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission in the base model and available with an intelligent variable transmission (IVT). Venue SEL and Denim models have the IVT standard.

The engine delivers 121 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque. Though the numbers aren't high, the power is sufficient for the Venue to be used as a daily driver. Getting up to speed on the highway doesn't feel like quite the chore it does in the Kicks and there's a good amount of oomph to help the car pass at speed.

Hyundai has given us a front-wheel drive Venue. No all-wheel drive model is available but the company says it has a solution for that – Snow mode. Snow mode uses torque vectoring technology to escape situations that would make a driver want to use their all-wheel drive capability.

2020 Hyundai Venue Hyundai has given the Venue looks that are reminiscent of a first-generation Toyota RAV4.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motors America

Venue's real story is inside. The model is surprisingly spacious for driver and front passenger. Legroom for rear seat occupants is at a premium, but that's not unusual in this size vehicle. The seats are more comfortable than what you'll find in many cars today and deliver just the right amount of bolstering.

Hyundai believes that they've delivered the right technology for their customer in the Venue and it's hard to argue. It comes standard with an 8-inch infotainment touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation, dual charging USB ports, a rearview monitor, and heated front seats and side mirrors are available. The screen is responsive, and Apple CarPlay is easy to use on the system- just what you expect from Hyundai.

2020 Hyundai Venue The Venue's seats are surprisingly comfy.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motors America

The automaker has also equipped the car with Blue Link integrations including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Bluetooth is standard.

A good number of safety technologies are available including forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, driver attention warning, and rear cross traffic alert. Lane keeping assist was hit or miss during testing under the intense sun in Southern Florida. Either it was too sensitive or not sensitive at all. Other than that, all other systems worked as advertised.

2020 Hyundai Venue The Venue's infotainment screen is responsive and easy to use.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motors America

The 2020 Hyundai Venue starts at $17,350 making it one of the least expensive models you can buy. Topping out just over $22,00, the Venue Denim feels like a steal, especially because it comes fully loaded.

Hyundai isn't busy reinventing the wheel with the Venue. They're making a better wheel that is good for the masses and right within their budget guidelines. That's something that should be applauded, and rewarded with sales.

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The Tahoe has three available powertrains.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

When I write car reviews, I don't typically say very much about the engine and drivetrain unless there's something particularly interesting or unique about it.

I believe most car buyers don't really care about things like zero to 60 mph times or how many gears a transmission has. Those are features and statistics, and they're an imperfect measurement of an automobile.

I'm a fan of the Good-Better-Best school of cars, and it looks a bit like a bell curve. There aren't any genuinely terrible new cars sold today, so at worst, you're getting something that's Good. I'll call that the bottom 20 percent of the market. Sometimes these cars have engines that really are too weak and should probably be avoided, and I'll mention that in my review.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel-powered versions of the Tahoe look just like gasoline-powered Tahoes.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Then there's the class of Better, or the middle 60 percent. When I review these cars, I'll include a throwaway line about the engine or drivetrain as it's not worth mentioning in depth. They get the job done, but there's nothing to get excited about.

Then there's that top twenty percent where the magic happens. Whether it's the perfect majesty of a Rolls-Royce V12, the throaty bark of a Lamborghini V10, or even the brilliance of a Toyota Corolla Hybrid's effortless 52 miles per gallon — these are engines worth discussing.

And so it is again with my test car this week: the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. We've already reviewed two of the Tahoe's sister vehicles, the GMC Yukon and the Cadillac Escalade. Despite being from the same family, they're definitively different branches.

But under the hood of the Tahoe is an engine that is so firmly lodged in the Best category that I can't help but write hundreds of words about it. It's the 3.0-liter six-cylinder "baby" Duramax turbodiesel that was in the works at GM for more than a decade.

It gives terrific fuel economy (for a giant truck, anyway) and fantastic torque in everyday driving. I find it far preferable to the extraordinarily thirsty 6.2-liter V8 that I had in the Yukon and the Escalade and heartily recommend it to anyone buying a GM full-size SUV or half-ton pickup. That's even more impressive because the 6.2-liter V8 is already an upgrade over the smaller 5.3-liter V8 that comes standard in most Tahoe trims.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel The engine is a mighty six-cylinder.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

It sports 277 horsepower, which doesn't sound like a lot, but horsepower is a poor quantifier of engine performance. Because it's a diesel and because it has a turbocharger, the baby Duramax has gobs of torque with which to pull away from stoplights or accelerate on a hill, or when you're trying to pass someone and you need to accelerate from 55 to 75 mph as quickly as possible.

The Tahoe's diesel engine excels in all these scenarios while delivering an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined in the RWD trim that I drove. That's a healthy improvement over the 16 mpg combined from the 6.2L and four-wheel drive-equipped Yukon. It's worth noting that the four-wheel drive diesel fares a little worse, getting 22 mpg combined, but that's still far better than the traditional gasoline engine.

It does all this, and it can even tow up to 8,200 pounds when properly equipped, but most people will never tow anything heavier than a small horse trailer or a boat with their full-size SUV. If you're hauling that much weight on the regular, you've likely opted for a heavy-duty pickup.

The irony of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal is twofold. For one, some were pulling similar testing shenanigans that Volkswagen was — it's just that VW was the first to get caught. And second, those VW diesel engines were fantastic. They were torquey and excelled in everyday driving, pesky pollution aside.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel Tahoes are branded with the Duramax name.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

There's a dirty secret to the horsepower numbers that most carmakers cite: they peak at very high RPMs that average drivers will never reach. But torquey turbocharged engines like this baby Duramax? It generates 95% of its 460 pound-feet of torque at just 1,250 RPM, and then peak torque runs all the way from 1,500 to 3,000 RPM. That means you're in the prime torque band nearly continuously.

In plain English, that means it's way better to drive. It's more fun, it's more efficient, and thanks to all manner of fancy technology, diesel engines aren't weird and finicky anymore.

Yes, you should probably plug it in if you park it outside in frigid weather. But other than that one minor caveat, this diesel is nonpareil.

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The Ford Explorer Timberline joins the 2021 Explorer King Ranch as a new model for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Following in the footsteps of the Raptor and Tremor versions of Ford trucks, the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline debuts with a host of new equipment designed to make the popular SUV a more capable off-roader. Like what Subaru is doing with its Wilderness packaging, Ford will carry over the Timberland trimmings to multiple models.

"Ford is delivering on more capable SUVs with Timberline. Consumer data has shown us that now more than ever, customers want to get outside and explore nature with friends and family," said Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas & International Markets Group, Ford Motor Company. "Timberline hits a new sweet spot with these customers who want an ideal combination of passenger space, moderate off-road capability and great manners around town."

The Explorer Timberline has a new Forged Green Metallic exterior color. It has a blackout treatment on the headlights and taillamps, as well as the Ford oval. Timberline badges feature on the C-pillars and lift gate. Red Ember tow hoods are at the front and rated at 150 percent gross vehicle weight.

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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LED fog lamps, a Carbonized Gray grille, and dealer-installed Ford Performance auxiliary lights with a 160,000-candelas output come on the vehicle.

The 2021 Explorer Timberline comes standard with four-wheel drive with torque vectoring technology that works to distribute the right amount of torque to each wheel. It also has a Torsen limited slip rear differential, which helps prevent wheel spin.

Ford's Terrain Management System is also standard, allowing drivers to select between seven drive modes depending on road conditions. The Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport have a similar system. Hill Descent Control is also standard.

Steel skid plates line the front and rear underbody of the vehicle protecting the engine and transmission. Ford has given the model a 0.8-inch ride height increase and heavy-duty shocks that were originally developed for the Explorer Police Interceptor. Steering calibration, stabilizer bars and springs are specially tuned for Timberline – including an exclusive front rebound spring that helps prevent sudden jarring off-road.

The new Explorer has an approach angle of 23.5 degrees and maximum departure angle of 23.7 degrees, plus minimum ground clearance of 8.7 inches.

The rig rides on high-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R-18 all-terrain tires with a tread pattern designed to balance off-road traction and on-road quietness. The shoes are wrapped around high-gloss painted aluminum wheels that feature a laser-etched Timberline logo.

Explorer Timberline is powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

For customers who need to tow RVs, ATVs and boats to their adventures, the standard Class III Trailer Tow Package brings 5,300 pounds of towing capability.

The interior sports a Deep Cypress color way that is matched with an Ebony headliner, overhead console, pillar trim, grab handles, visors, and moonroof shade. The instrument panel has a Stone Mesh appliqué while other colors feature elsewhere. Satin Silver Twilight is on the center stack, steering wheel bezel and door armrest trim; Deep Cypress on door trim panel inserts; Deep Tangerine stitching on the seats, steering wheel and door trim; and Timberline logos on the front seats.

Rubber floor liners are standard and ActiveX cloth seats inserts are designed to be cleaned easily and keep bottoms in place on rough terrain.

Standard Ford Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot360 Assist+ technology features that include Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Speed Sign Recognition, Lane Centering, Evasive Steering Assist and voice-activated touch screen navigation. A 360-degree camera also comes on the model.

Buyers can choose three Outfitters packages – Outfitters SkyBox, Outfitters MegaWarrior and Outfitters FrontLoader. All three packages combine all-weather floor mats, crossbars and the selected Yakima rooftop accessories for customers to take even more equipment with them on their next adventure.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is available to order now and arrives at Ford dealers this summer joining the Explorer King Ranch and new Platinum grades in the company's lineup.

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