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2021 Mazda CX-9 Review – The sacrifices we make for family

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Mazda makes some gosh-darned good looking cars, if you’ll excuse my language. The 2021 CX-9 presents a challenge, like all three-row SUVs: the most practical shape for maximizing cabin space would be a big box on wheels, but then you’ve made a minivan and people accuse you of being boring. Even with the demands for passenger and cargo space, though, the CX-9 manages to squeeze in some curves – and some fun when the road curves, too.

The Soul Red paint doesn’t hurt – familiar but still mesmerizing in its deep, saturated crimson – and the chrome work on the outside falls on the tasteful side of sparkling. The upright grille and narrow headlamps with their circular DRLs are a particular joy, while the plastic cladding around the wheel arches somehow manages to strike a balance both of style and practicality. It looks a lot like a magnified CX-5, and that’s no bad thing.

Pricing kicks off at a competitive $34,160 (plus $1,175 destination) for the Sport trim, with the $35,950 Touring adding leather, a sliding second-row bench, and a power lift gate. My CX-9 Signature AWD, meanwhile, topped out the line-up at $47,980.

Regardless of trim, you get a 2.5-liter turbo-four with 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque assuming you’re willing to pump premium gas. Mazda pairs it with a six-speed automatic transmission and, as standard, front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is a $1,900 option on all but the Signature, which has it as standard.

In FWD form, the EPA rates the CX-9 as good for 22 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined. The AWD version drops 2 mpg on the city and highway numbers, for a 23 mpg combined figure. In my own, mixed driving I saw more like 20 mpg, though I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly driving sedately a lot of the time.

That’s because, a rarity in the three-row SUV category, the CX-9 is actually surprising fun to drive. It seems smaller than the exterior dimensions would suggest, with precise steering that, though a little on the light side, still feels more engaging than that of its rivals. Mazda tunes the suspension on the firm side, sacrificing a little of the comfort other such SUVs promise in return for flatter cornering and a general sense of enthusiasm that’s sorely absent in most of this segment.

Push the Sport mode switch and things get more urgent, albeit at the cost of a some refinement. The CX-9 doesn’t have fancy adaptive suspension, and the six-speed transmission is down a few ratios on what some of the more modern competition offer. The result is that things get louder and the automatic tries to hold lower gears longer, but the core charms are relatively unchanged. I found myself preferring the normal drive mode, which doesn’t temper the decent low-end torque on offer.

In the cabin, the 2021 model year brings some upgraded infotainment tech across the range. All CX-9 get a 10.3-inch display atop the dashboard running new software, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, tri-zone climate control, blind-spot warnings with rear cross-traffic alerts, and adaptive cruise control. The Signature trim has second row captain’s chairs, a hands-free power lift gate, LED lighting front and rear with adaptive front lights, a power sliding glass moonroof, and both real wood and aluminum inlays.

The metal and wood feel great, and the Signature’s quilted leather is positively luxurious, though that does only serve to draw attention to the fact that not quite all the switchgear lives up to their good impression. Some of the buttons feel a little plasticky, like the drive mode switch and the rotary/joystick controller for the infotainment system. They look the part, but some of the allure is dampened when your fingers actually get involved.

I’ve not been the biggest fan of Mazda’s infotainment systems, but this 2021 refresh tightens things up. The new graphics are simplistic but a huge step forward over the clunky old UI, and it’s easy to navigate, while the Mazda Connected Services suite offers app-access to things like remote locking and remote start. An IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating is impressive, too.

When it comes to space, though, rivals have Mazda beat. Slotting the full contingent of family and luggage into a Kia Telluride or Ford Explorer, for example, only ends up emphasizing the CX-9’s decision to go with style over practicality. There’s 14.4 cu-ft of trunk space with all seats up, 38.2 cu-ft if you drop the easily-lowered third row down, and 71.2 cu-ft maximum. The boxier Telluride bests all of those easily.

The same goes for rear passenger space, particularly in the third row, where 29.7 inches of legroom and 35.4 inches of headroom also fall short of less design-minded alternatives. Smaller kids should be fine, but anybody larger is going to complain.

2021 Mazda CX-9 Verdict

Perhaps, though, their grumbling won’t reach the driver. Even if it does, there’s a fair chance the person at the wheel will be too busy enjoying themselves with the Mazda’s eager on-road enthusiasm to pay too much attention to what’s going on in the peanut gallery.

It’s a criticism you could perhaps level at most of Mazda’s range: that the automaker is simply too devoted to keeping driving fun in mainstream vehicles to maximize their practicality. That’s a hard stance to dislike, even if the rational shopper has probably already moved on to other dealerships. The CX-9 isn’t the most frugal, or the most usable, but if you have to drive a three-row SUV then why not opt for one that’s actually interesting?

In the end, if you just want to move around as many people, and as much of their stuff, as possible, there are plenty of big, earnest SUVs out there. If you’d like some fun, though, and you’re willing to sacrifice a little on the more mundane considerations to get it, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 deserves your consideration.

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Polestar 2 electric car reveals paid download to add horsepower

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Polestar has released a downloadable over-the-air (OTA) update for all long-range dual-motor versions of the Polestar 2. The electric automaker’s latest performance software upgrade unlocks more horsepower and nippier acceleration, good things to have in a premium electric performance car.

Polestar has already released numerous software updates for the 2, but most of them had something to do with convenience features and range/charging improvements. The latest software upgrade is the first time Polestar applies its tuning magic to an all-electric model. If you’re old enough to remember, Polestar started life in 1996 as Volvo’s tuning arm similar to BMW’s M division and Mercedes-AMG.

So, what does the performance update give you? It adds 67 more horsepower and around 15 torque, boosting the power output to 470 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. What’s more, the power boost has given the Polestar 4 nippier acceleration. According to the automaker, accelerating from zero to 60 mph now only takes 4.4-seconds, better than the outdated software’s 4.7-seconds.

Best of all, everything happens with a few taps on the screen. The Polestar 2 is not a slow car by any means. In stock form, the Polestar 2’s 408-horsepower translates to an “addictive wave of instant torque, combined with a satisfying thrum rather than the bordering-on-harsh electric shriek some EV motors produce,” said executive editor Chris Davies upon driving the Polestar 2 last year. But with 67 more horses, the software update has added more spice to the EV’s grand-touring potential.

Furthermore, Polestar claims the additional muscle has no penalties for range and energy consumption. Equipped with a 78 kWh battery, Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor achieves an EPA-rated 233 miles of range. It has an 11 kW onboard charger and supports up to 150 kW of DC fast charging. With the latter, you’re looking at zero to 80-percent in around 40 minutes.

However, the latest Polestar 2 performance software upgrade is not free of charge. It starts at around €1,000 ($1,130) and is currently available to download in Europe, including the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Finland. Meanwhile, Canadian and US owners can avail of the OTA update starting early next year.

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EPA gives 2022 Ioniq 5 EV better range than Hyundai’s first claims

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South Korean automaker Hyundai has outdone itself with the 2022 Ioniq 5. Not only did Hyundai create an awesome-looking all-electric vehicle that won’t look out of place in the film set of Back to the Future 2, but the Ioniq 5 managed better range numbers than Hyundai initially suggested.

As Hyundai revealed today, the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 can achieve an EPA-rated 303 miles of driving range, and those numbers apply to the single-motor rear-wheel-drive variant equipped with a 77.4 kWh battery pack. Other markets get two battery options, including a smaller 58.2 kWh unit, but all U.S.-bound Hyundai Ioniq 5s will have the 77.4 kWh long-range battery option.

With a single electric motor, you’ll have 225 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque at your disposal, which is plenty enough for most driving applications. But if you want a zippier Ioniq 5, you’ll need to go for the dual-motor AWD variant with a combined 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque. Both configurations allow a top speed of 115 mph, while the maximum tow rating is 2,000 pounds. Hyundai claims zero to 60 mph in under five seconds, not bad for vintage-inspired EV.

However, the AWD model achieves lower EPA numbers: 256 miles on a single full charge. If the batteries go flat, the Ioniq 5 offers what Hyundai claims is the world’s first multi-charging system that supports both 400V and 800V charging infrastructures. A standard Level 2 10.9 kW onboard charger replenishes the batteries in around 6.5 hours. But if you have access to a 350 kW DC fast charger, the Ioniq 5 can juice up from ten to 80-percent in under 20 minutes.

Furthermore, Hyundai has partnered with Electrify America to give Ioniq 5 owners total access to the latter’s network of over 700 charging stations across America. Each Ioniq 5 comes with free and unlimited 30-minute charging sessions for two years from the purchase date. Suddenly, the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 has become a top choice in the EV category. With over 300 miles of range and free unlimited charging, the stakes have gone higher, and we have yet to discuss the Ioniq 5’s tasteful yet purposeful retro design.

Starting life as the Hyundai 45 EV Concept at the 2019 IAA auto show in Germany, the production Ioniq 5 is essentially a concept in production guise. The angular styling is a throwback to yesteryears, but there’s genuine substance behind its quirky design. The Ioniq 5 has a four-inch longer wheelbase than a Hyundai Palisade (measuring a lengthy 118.1-inches, the longest wheelbase in a Hyundai production vehicle) despite measuring a full 14-inches shorter in length.

Combined with shorter front and rear overhangs, Hyundai claims Ioniq 5 has a greater passenger volume than the Ford Mustang Mach E and VW ID.4. In addition, Ioniq 5 has 27.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats. Meanwhile, folding the rear seats reveal 59.3 cubic feet of storage space.

Other neat features include Hyundai’s V2L function that essentially turns the Ioniq 5 into a humongous power bank. Best of all, it can even charge a stranded EV. “Ioniq 5 introduces the Hyundai brand to a whole new set of buyers,” said Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai North America. “Owning one is going to be a new experience and lifestyle that only the Iooniq brand can provide.”

The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 will sell this winter in three trims: SE, SEL, and Limited. Hyundai has yet to disclose the MSRP, but we’re expecting base prices to start under $45,000.

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2022 Honda Passport goes upmarket with one monster price hike

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This winter, the redesigned 2022 Honda Passport is arriving at dealerships with a significant price hike. The base Sport trim from the outgoing model is gone for 2022, making way for the new base EX-L trim with standard front-wheel drive (AWD remains a $2,100 option).

With base prices starting at $39,095 (including $1,225 destination fees), the 2022 Passport is about $5k more than last year. What’s more, it now costs thousands of dollars more than its nearest competitors like the VW Atlas Cross Sport, Toyota Venza (which is a hybrid), and Hyundai Santa Fe.

For the money, you get an array of premium equipment like perforated leather seats with contrasting stitching, a remote power tailgate, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, wireless charging, and remote engine start. Also standard are 20-inch alloy wheels and a one-touch power moonroof.

All Honda Passports have a 3.5-liter V6 engine pumping out 280 horsepower to the front wheels or all four wheels using the brand’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Both drivetrains have and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Honda Sensing is also standard across the lineup and includes hi-tech safety aids like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, collision mitigating braking, and road departure mitigation.

The all-new Passport Trailsport has standard AWD and is the most off-road ready of the bunch. It starts at $43,695 and gets machined 18-inch wheels, chunkier off-road tires, and silver skid plates. It also has bespoke logos, rugged front/rear bumpers, heated wipers, and a 10mm wider track. All 2022 Passports with AWD feature up to 8.1-inches of ground clearance and a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

“The new Passport and Passport Trailsport don’t just look rugged; they’re ready, willing, and able to get dirty tackling trails,” said Michael Kistemaker, assistant vice president of Honda National Sales at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Meanwhile, the range-topping 2022 Passport Elite starts at $46,665. It has trim-specific 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated tiller, heated rear outboard seats, and a hands-free power tailgate.

Honda’s 2022 Passport is an attractive proposition for adventurous lifestyles despite the price hike. The Passport entered rallying a few months ago will continuously see action in the American Rally Association (ARA) series throughout 2022, so we have no question about the Passport Trailsport’s off-road pedigree. But is it $5,000 better than the competition? We’re itching to find out.

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