2020 Cadillac XT6: Family of Seven

It feels like an extended hiatus since I last had the gratification of experiencing the sensation of a newfangled Cadillac and the usual pleasantries offered to customers. Thankfully, the luxury auto brand has restructured corporately, guided attention towards product launches, and set higher goals for owner loyalty and retention. A direct result of the refreshing game plan is the premium 2020 Cadillac XT6 which was highlighted recently from The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown during the national press drive.

Cadillac is in launch mode and will release a new ride to the marketplace every six months through 2021. With the expansion plan, the XT6 joins a family portfolio that includes the segment-leading XT4, a revitalized XT5, and the indomitable Escalade. The pinnacle of Cadillac mobility also includes an EV future and the extension of Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving which the XT6 will receive eventually. Although, I am very apprehensive with my vehicle taking over the cognition required for safe and harmonious driving. Hopefully, this will be an option. [Read more…]

2020 Hyundai Palisade: Family Focused Premium SUV

Experienced by Kimatni D Rawlins

Dubbed after “a line of high straight cliffs, especially near water,” it made perfect sense for Hyundai to invite us to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for the launch of their family focused 2020 Palisade premium SUV. Cascading mountainous terrain, idyllic landscapes and the inviting Lake Coeur d’Alene instantly turned on my adventurer mode. In addition, the town was buzzing with moms, fit fathers and their active kids which is the target market for this newfangled Korean SUV. [Read more…]

2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i: Technology Driven

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

It’s very obvious that Americans love their SUVs no matter the size or mileage. From smaller crossovers with amazing fuel efficiency to full-size, pompous road warriors that can escort seven in comfort, consumer demand for the latest utility continues to increase year after year. BMW is no stranger to the category as they literally offer an X-model for every personality trait and all capabilities starting with the introductory X1. So it wasn’t an afterthought that the technology driven 2019 X7 xDrive50i would be arriving soon to satisfy expectations for a bigger, smarter and more luxurious SUV in the marketplace.

Traditionally, individuals looking for a sizeable, sophisticated, and performance oriented SUV turned their attention towards the attractive Range Rover, Escalade or QX80. Income is typically not an issue as desire takes precedence over financial strategy. Room for friends and family, endless amenities and a powerful V8 are key ingredients to a recipe that showcases the owner’s societal status and core fundamentals. [Read more…]

2018 Audi SQ5 3.0T quattro tiptronic: Sporty Family Fun

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

I must say, this past week was one of Automotive Rhythms’ more thrilling automotive test drive experiences since we were piloting the 2018 Audi SQ5 3.0T quattro tiptronic compact-luxury SUV. Sporty, dynamic, and laden with advanced technology, the SQ5 is suitably fit for small families, adventurous singles, or young couples looking for enticement during each and every ride. Although, it felt more like a taller wagon in comparison to its bigger Q7 cousin, which means parking was never a qualm in crowded lots or on busy city streets. [Read more…]

2017 Jaguar F-PACE S: Extraordinary Moments

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Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

I fondly recall my internship years at Jaguar Cars immediately after graduating from Georgia Tech back in 2007. At the time luxury auto manufacturers were beginning to explore the development of SUVs so I queried Jaguar on their potential plans to join the movement. Owned by Ford back then, executives stated there were no product planning resources allocated for such a project. Well, thanks to parent company Tata it’s pleasing to see the British brand joining the ranks of Porsche who traditionally had only engineered sports cars. [Read more…]

2017 Audi Q7 3.0T: Great Adventures

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Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Audi is on a role as they finally broke through 200,000 units last year and continue their streak of 67 consecutive months of records sales. In a segment that sees roughly 1.8 million premium vehicles sold annually, the German purveyor of finely engineered sports cars, sedans and SUVS is up in a market that is currently down, which says a lot for the brand and its hallmark products. One of the most important vehicles in the Audi fleet is the venerable Q7 utility that has undergone a complete 2nd generation makeover from design to interior accouterments.

During the week and weekend of my daughter’s 13th birthday I scheduled a Florett Silver Metallic Q7 3.0T quattro tiptronic for the drive from Silver Spring, MD to Jackson, NJ so we could all enjoy Mika’s favorite theme park and end the magnetic summer in energetic fashion. The anticipation of Six Flags Great Adventure built up over a few weeks since the Rawlins Family treats road trips like first class Hawaii excursions. My wife Misa was especially ecstatic as she currently owns a 2012 Audi Q7 TDI and is thinking about upgrading to a fresher ride with the latest safety engineering and advanced driver technologies. The new Volvo XC90 is also in contention.

Sine we were bringing along my two daughter’s cousins, the vehicle’s three rows and seating for seven was essential. The third row now has power controls from both the rear of the SUV and a secondary set to the side of the second row seating for added convenience. The second row also slides and tilts for passengers that need enhanced comfort. But the most defining feature may be the three-zone automatic climate control with a cadre of vents that extend across the entire dashboard. This was essential because our journey would come during the region’s hottest few days of the summer. With sweltering temperatures reaching a 100-degree heat index, the Q7’s A/C had its hands full but kept us all cool as penguins throughout the 4-hour drive.

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Starting at $54,800 our Q7 was enhanced with an array of add-ons that tallied to $68,925. Notable upgrades included the 20” 10-spoke star themed rims wrapped in Goodyear 285/45R20 all-season run-flat rubber, the BOSE 3D Surround Sound audio system, the towing package which was perfect for loading up our bikes on the Thule rack, Audi MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch, Audi smartphone interface, WiFi for the kid’s gadgets, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Audi Active Lane Assist (AALA). The Panoramic sunroof and sunshade are standard. I must say this new Audi has some of the most impeccable drive traits out of any SUV on the road today. The first Gen was a bit rugged so Audi made its replacement more refined and technologically focused. For example, the latest air suspension setup also provides rear wheel steering for precise cornering and maneuvering and ACC uses cameras to monitor speed limit signs. However, I am no fan of AALA. The proactive safety system kept adjusting and correcting my steering inputs, which became annoying.

Misa was in love with everything featured within the premium cabin as well as its power and mileage capabilities. Currently she has the TDI diesel and averages 580 miles per fill-up. Audi hasn’t released a TDI for the 2017 model yet but the 3-liter TFSI V6 with 333-horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque is superb and the 8-speed Tiptronic transmission is fluid. We were highly impressed with its acceleration when the vehicle was weighted down with passengers and luggage.

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Visually, the new Q7 is the complete opposite of its predecessor. Gone is the rounded, bubbly design that gave the German SUV its pizzazz and definition. What you now get is the typical, angular motif that so many automakers roll with. Suffice it to say Misa wished Audi could have kept the original styling to go along with the elevated technologies which she is in enthralled by. I concur. On the return trip we kept eyeing 1st generation Q7s with allure but when we saw the new Q7 it did nothing to excite the senses. Even with the prominent, mammoth Audi grille, Alu-optic roof rails, tailgate spoiler, integrated dual exhausts tips and ability to outfit your ride with 21s, the Q7 still falls short of aesthetic authenticity.

But once you step back inside the opulent cabin and take the multifunction wheel you forget all about what’s outside and immediately focus on what’s inside. Conveniences include large door cup-holders, Apple CarPlay, soft touch ringed lights that illuminate with a slight swipe, key slot holder, the 8.3” TFT center display that retracts from the dash when the vehicle is ignited and the Audi Virtual Cockpit presented from the 12.3” TFT screen behind the steering wheel. The driver can select which view to take precedent such as full navigation.

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Overall the new Audi Q7 impressed when it was time to perform and the kids were satisfied which is essential during long drives. I can’t recall the last time either my wife or I called shotgun to drive home. That’s how great of a ride it is. The 2017 Q7 should definitely top your list of luxury SUVs alongside the BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Acura MDX and Mercedes-Benz GLS.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS: Fit Family Approved

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Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

There are not many large, luxury SUVs that are absolutely, positively incredible. Most offer pure opulence but no bravado while others focus only on the macho elements of utilities in a world where only a small percentage of customers take their pride and joys off road. Well, the refreshed and re-dubbed prodigy from Mercedes-Benz proposes the best of three worlds — lavishness, technology and stoutness — in one complete package.

Like a visit to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the contributions of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS including the reinvigorated interior are pretty magical. My experience test-driving the GLS range — including the AMG GLS63 — in Gateway, Colorado was impeccable to say the least. Tagged as the S-Class of the M-B SUV line due to an altered naming convention, the luxurious touring utility is fit for influential families looking for advanced technology, three rows of seating (standard), 4-MATIC AWD (standard) and diverse engines (four in total) to choose from including an economical diesel and the potent, hand-built 5.5-liter V8 Biturbo with 577 runaway horses. With this authoritative AMG variant I doubt parents have to worry about arriving late to the kids’ practices.

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Shortly after landing into Grand Junction Regional Airport an assortment of GLS models were awaiting for evaluative drives in route to the enchanting Gateway Canyons Resort nestled within the enthralling Red Rock Canyons. Life is so pure, simple and beautiful in Western Colorado that it was almost difficult to focus in on the task at hand. Well, until I was handed the key to my German chariot. This is what you call double the pleasure. Obtainable in four models — GLS350d 4MATIC, GLS450 4MATIC, GLS550 4MATIC and the aforementioned AMG GLS63 — Mercedes has positioned itself smartly for the diverse group of core, large-sized SUV buyers. Especially in correlation to pricing which can range from $67,050 for the 255-horsepower (457 lb.-ft. of torque) 3-liter V6 Turbo Diesel to $124,100 for the AMG.

Some of the noticeable differences with the GLS in comparison to the old GL (launched in September 2012) are a bolder front and rear fascia (especially the menacing chin spoiler), the new dash and interior including the 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, a newfangled grille, new bumpers, new LED taillamps, the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission with wheel-mounted paddle shifters and DYNAMIC SELECT with its assortment of transmission driving modes. The AIRMATIC air suspension with Adaptive Damping System has also been enriched to respond more adeptly to various road conditions. Working in concert with the transmission, DYNAMIC SELECT allows the operator to pre-select the setting most appropriate (up to six settings) for the task at hand whether for sporty driving or tackling snow-covered roads. You can also raise the suspension up to 12.5″ with the Off-Road Engineering package. A bevvy of new light-alloy wheels is also at your disposal. I became fond of the unique 21” spins standard on the GLS550 as well as the stationary and illuminated running boards. Another favorite is the 7,500 towing capacity from the factory available Trailer Hitch ($575). It’s a must for dads such as myself that bike often with the family and occasionally tow small trailers.

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Some may say I was hustling backwards since I began the tour from the airport in the AMG then subsequently dumbed-down my options to the GLS550 and lastly the GLS450. Well, I didn’t mind starting off in greatness. Inclusive in the full price of $131,470, my Lunar Blue Metallic AMG GLS63 was endowed with a Carbon Fiber trim ($1,590), Porcelain/Black Exclusive Nappa Leather, 22” AMG Matte Black rims ($1,750), AMG Sport Suspension, quad pipes, the Power EASY ENTRY ($400) one-button, flip folding seat technology for entering the third row area conveniently and the Rear Entertainment System ($1,950) with 8.3″ screens located on the seat backs of the powered, heated, ventilated, multicontour and massaging front row chairs. With the force of hurricanes powering the 5,754 lb. AMG the vehicle blows from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Honestly, it was challenging keeping it under 60 mph, even when applying light pedal pressure. Imagine that!

Day two would see us cruising to Arches National Park near Moab, Utah then on to Sorrel River Ranch for a healthy lunch. A $99,105 ($93,850 MSRP) Iridium Silver Metallic GLS550 4MATIC would be my ride over and a $78,550 ($68,700 MSRP) GLS450 4MATIC would escort me back to Colorado. Power in the 550’s 4.7-liter V8 Biturbo engine was impressive as the 449-horsepower felt more like 500, even in the higher altitudes. In this vehicle I paid more attention to COMAND’s infotainment and navigation features, the harman/kardon LOGIC7 surround system and Apple CarPlay. Of course I love how the interface of your smartphone is replicated on the 8” color COMAND screen such as music and audiobooks, but keep in mind Apple CarPlay also overrides the vehicle’s own apps and functions so you won’t be able to use any of them except the radio. Lane Keeping Assist is pretty aggressive and feels like a jolt when you drift outside the lane without signaling so stay focused. Although the 9-speed transmission is pretty efficient the mileage on the 4.7-liter is not. Expect only 13 city and 18 highway estimated mpg in the GLS550. This is why I would personally opt for the 362-horsepower 3-liter V6 Biturbo in the GLS450. In this case the GLS achieves approximately 17 city and 22 highway mpg.

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Available now (diesel coming at a later date) the GLS will help fortify Mercedes-Benz’s position in a growing utility market that is eager for grander products which present car-like agility, artificial intelligence and sport utility adventure.

2015 Lincoln Navigator: Retuned, Restyled & Re-Engineered

2015-Lincoln-Navigator-RearLeon Brittain

When you think of a thoroughbred the words power, elegance, style and heritage come to mind. So it was fitting for Lincoln to introduce the 2015 Lincoln Navigator in Louisville, Kentucky, home of one of the grandest sporting events in the country, the Kentucky Derby. With enough seating for a small VIP party and opulent accouterments to entertain their needs, showgoers of esteemed and elaborate spectacles like the Derby will truly appreciate the alignment of a luxury SUV that satisfies all needs and expectations. [Read more…]

2015 Porsche Macan: Small Wonder

Macan_Turbo_42Kimatni Rawlins

Looks like every luxury automaker is putting in their bids for the next hot, small, premium utility vehicle to meet the diverse needs of active consumer lifestyles. Whether a parent juggling three weekend games for your children, a hardcore off-road cyclist or a hospitable friend who volunteers their ride for road trips with the boys/girls, a vehicle that provides comfort, convenience, fuel efficiency and performance is always ideal. Land Rover presented the Evoque, Acura has the RDX, BMW rolls with the X3, Audi is on point with the Q5, Cadillac represents with the SRX and Porsche now enters the stadium with their all-new 2015 Macan. [Read more…]

2014 Audi SQ5 quattro Tiptronic: Performance Truth

2014 Audi SQ5 quattro TiptronicKimatni D. Rawlins

Running late for the girl’s soccer tournament and the team’s star players happen to be your 10-year-old twin daughters? No problem. Strap them in, quickly input the new game location in MMI’s ergonomic Navigation, throw the 8-speed Tiptronic transmission in Sport mode and dutifully be on your way. Petite, highly agile, potent and full of technological wonders, the 2014 Audi SQ5 quattro Tiptronic is one of the most remarkable SUVs on the planet. [Read more…]