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Land Rover, Mitsubishi have the best websites according to a new J.D. Power study

Land Rover and Mitsubishi have the best websites according to a new semiannual study by J.D. Power.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Before buyers set foot in a dealership, nearly all of them explore their options online. A new study from J.D. Power has determined that Land Rover and Mitsubishi have the best website experiences of all mass-market automakers.

The U.S. Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study is a semiannual examination of the usefulness of manufacturer websites during the process of shopping for a new vehicle. J.D. Power studied four key usability features of the sites as part of the evaluation: information/content, appearance, navigation, and speed.

Mitsubishi Motors homepage Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

"This year's study was redesigned to underscore several recent trends seen in automotive vehicle manufacturer websites," said Jon Sundberg, senior manager of digital solutions, J.D. Power. "We've taken note of the digital advancements OEM websites are implementing to evolve the automotive shopping experience. Items like personalization, customization and digital retailing are being implemented or are on the digital road map for many OEM sites, and we wanted to ensure the customer has a voice in these areas. We've even added self-guided videos and transcripts of shoppers using OEM websites to give further context to the shopping experience."

To conduct the study, 10,031 new vehicle shoppers were surveyed. To be considered a new vehicle shopper, respondents had to indicate that they will be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months. The survey was fielded in November 2019.

Out of 1,000 possible points, luxury automaker websites received an average of 834 points. The mass market brands averaged 826. Land Rover was the highest ranked with 864 points. Mitsubishi was the highest-ranked mass market brand achieving a score of 848.

J.D. Power first started surveying automaker websites in 1999.

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The material Jaguar Land Rover is adding to its vehicle interiors is called Econyl.

Photo courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

As automaker work toward more sustainable business practices, Jaguar Land Rover is working with Econyl nylon to develop high-quality interiors made from ocean and landfill waste. The automaker promises that next-generation Jaguar and Land Rover models will feature floor mats and trims made with Econyl fiber from recycled industrial plastic, fabric offcuts from clothing manufacturers, fishing nets from the farming industry, and those abandoned in the ocean– known as 'ghost nets'.

Econyl nylon was created by Aquafil. It's already been sued in the high-end fashion, sportswear, and luxury watch industries to create handbags, backpacks, swimwear, and watch straps. In one year, the company recycles as much as 40,000 tons of waste, making it in to the nylon. For every 10,000 tonnes of Econyl raw material produced, 70,000 barrels of crude oil are saved and 65,100 tons of carbon emissions equivalent are avoided.

Jaguar Land Rover Econyl interior Jaguar Land Rover has committed to including more sustainable materials in its interiors.Photo courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

Turning to sustainable materials isn't a new idea. For years Ford has been incorporating all manner of materials into its vehicles including tomatoes, soy, and coffee chaff from McDonald's. General Motors recently showcased a breakdown of how recycled materials are used inside their automobiles.

Bentley's facility in Crewe, England is collecting rainwater for use in its office building allowing the company to not have to draw from the local water system.

Each year automakers release their sustainability report, which champions all the ways that the company is moving forward in its resources conservation plans. This year's GM report sets forth numerous goals. Among them, by 2030, 50 percent of the parts used in General Motors vehicles will be made with sustainable materials. Additionally, GM's Spring Hill plant in Tennessee will run solely on solar power by 2022.

FCA made big strides in 2019. Their 2020 sustainability report touted their 40 percent reduction in water use and 27 percent carbon footprint reduction per vehicle.

Jaguar Land Rover Econyl interior Photo courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

This week Polestar announced that its Precept concept vehicle is headed into production. When the Precept debuted a few months ago, the company bragged about its sustainable interior.

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The Land Rover Defender holds up when compared to the Defenders of the past.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

If you know anything about extreme off-road expeditions and four-wheel-drive icons, you know the Land Rover Defender. If you have an imprint in your head of vehicles that have roamed the wilds of Africa or the outback of Australia, you'll likely conjure up an image of these stalwart, boxy and tall-legged utilitarian models kicking up dust across the savannah. You might even have a memory of Defenders ferrying British royals around their castle grounds or on hunting and fishing forays.

Since the 80s, this legendary SUV has garnered a fervent fan-following. It has been a workhorse and conqueror of jungles around the globe, but unavailable in the U.S. market since 1997 due to stiffened safety regulations. An all-new version has been reimagined for the 21st century; the five-door 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 is on sale now while its stablemate, the three-door 2021 Defender 90, goes on sale in the new year.

2020 Land Rover Defender The Defender is easy to drive, but steering is a bit heavy.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The Defender has been engineered on a new all-aluminum unibody platform that is the stiffest Land Rover body ever created; it has short front and rear overhangs that aid in off-roading, with a rear-mounted spare tire. New is a fully-independent suspension, twin-speed transfer box and permanent four-wheel-drive. It has been crafted for personalization with four different Accessory Packs (Explorer, Adventure, Country, and Urban), and the greatest number of individual accessories ever offered by the brand.

I drove the 2020 Defender 110 X on a three-day test drive of more than 200 miles. The tester was set up with a number of options, including electronic air suspension, and retailed for $85,750. The X derivative is adorned with a Gloss Black inset contrast hood with Gloss Black claddings, along with front and rear skid pans and other trim elements that are coated in a Starlight Satin finish, while Windsor Leather and Steelcut Premium Textile accent the interior.

I am a "classic" Defender enthusiast and have driven these models on numerous extreme off-road journeys around the globe, so I approached my evaluation of the new model with a bit of mild trepidation fearing that I would favor the original and eschew the new. There were many pleasant surprises.

2020 Land Rover Defender A day of testing included on- and off-road driving.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

I found the emblematic upright, brick-shaped silhouette had morphed into a more contemporary expression penned with softened lines that will enhance fuel economy over the '97. Its looks are appealing and mesh well with other models in the Land Rover portfolio, with angles of approach and departure that speak to its off-road mission, and up-level styling cues and trim elements.

The interior was not only bright, roomy and ergonomically pleasing but laden with luxe-level comfort and convenience features, such as heated and cooled seats, wireless charging and heads-up display. I appreciated the lockable 1.5-gallon glovebox, deep door pockets and thoughtful array of stowage features.

Off-roading requires supplies and supplies require storage space. The Defender's second-row seatbacks split 40/20/40 for flexibility and loadspace rails on the floor of the rear cargo area come with load retention accessories to keep smaller items from moving around inside. A lockable, heavy-duty steel Security Box adds protection and secures to the loadspace rails; it can hold laptops, tablets and other valuables, while an exposed cross car beam serves as a shelf to hold 1.83 gallons of open storage. A clip-in, washable loadspace cover doubles as a ground mat for picnics or for changing mucky footwear on wet surfaces.

2020 Land Rover Defender The interior of the Defender is upscale with an intuitive infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The drive route took me on fast-moving highways and along slow, meandering byways providing two different opportunities to evaluate the vehicle's design prowess for serious four-wheeling and its intelligent off-road technologies. Defender's road manners were excellent, with a slightly heavy-handed feel to steering. Its responsive suspension brought confidence to navigating its mass of more than 5,000 pounds on tight and twisty tarmac with adaptive dampers monitoring body movements up to 500 times per second and responding almost instantly to optimize body control and comfort.

The Defender, as tested with the available 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, provided an ample 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, seamlessly runs through the gears for smooth up- and down-shifting and its stopping power comes in a measured manner. The engine features mild-hybrid technology which helps it get off the line more efficiently.

Our first foray into off-roading was at the Land Rover Experience Center, in Manchester, Vermont, where a lengthy, wooded off-road course with stretches of technical track provided an opportunity to try out the bevy of intelligent off-road tech, including Terrain Response 2 with its new Wade program (Defender has 35 inches of water fording capability) and Land Rover's new off-road Configurable Terrain Response system, which is designed to set up the Defender for precise conditions using the center touch screen controller. A choice of three settings for the throttle and gearbox response, steering and traction control, lets drivers tailor their Defender.

2020 Land Rover Defender The Defender has 35 inches of fording capability.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Other cool tech includes advanced All-Terrain Progress Control (moves the vehicle independently at preset speeds) and ClearSight Ground View, a forward-facing camera which was developed for extreme off-road situations, and shows the hidden area directly in front of the vehicle using the central touchscreen.

That touch screen, a 10-inch Pivi Pro system comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and over-the-air updates.

After trying out the 2020 Defender technologies on steep up and downhills, off-camber slopes and through water, we motored on a series of logging roads and dirt tracks to the top of Mt. Equinox, that sits at nearly 4,000 feet along the Green Mountain range, in southern Vermont.

2020 Land Rover Defender A two-tone paint scheme is available.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Two days of off-roading and multiple miles of driving on paved roads brought confirmed insight. The legendary Defenders of the past will still appeal to purists and will always kick up dirt in the outbacks and savannahs of the world, and likely still ferry the Royals. The new Defender is laudable; it's designed and engineered to appeal to today's buyers and it will soon develop its own fan following.

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