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Last week, we presented our five favorite automobile test drives from the 2019 year. This week, it’s our five favorite SUV/truck category test drives Here we go.

1. 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

When you test drive a vehicle that states on the dashboard “cruise control not operative in race mode,” you know you’re driving something special. This Italian-built, small to midsize SUV arrived in Quadrifoglio trim with AWD featuring an all-aluminum, Ferrari-designed, 2.9-liter V6 that produces 505 horsepower and 443 lb. ft. of torque from its twin-turbo, four-valves per cylinder design. 

This Alfa Romeo is one of the most exciting vehicles I’ve ever driven, and this includes over 1,500 different vehicles test driven over a career that now spans five decades. Stelvio feels like an SUV and a sport sedan with a top speed of 176 thanks to the special Pirelli performance tires in 20-inch design and all that Ferrari power. Entry $79,995, as tested $85,890.

2. 2019 RAM 3500 Mega Cab

Easily making the “5 most impressive” list was the RAM 3500, delivered in dually rear tire Mega Cab 4x4 dress with a Cummins Diesel under the hood. Outwardly, RAM 3500 is both intimidating in a good way and stunning thanks to its overall mass. Our RAM 3500 4x4 featured the optional 6.7-liter Cummins 1000  lb. ft. torque High Output (HO)  Turbo Diesel hooked to a heavy duty AISIN 6-speed automatic. This option will set you back $11,795, but in the world of truck lovers this RAM garners respect from onlookers.  

Built for serious work, the RAM 3500 Mega Cab is also a mover of passengers whether headed for work at the quarry or taking the kids to a little league game. Family and friends will marvel at the spectacular interior, loaded with every amenity option and safety feature found in today’s top luxury vehicles. Entry $33,245, as tested $84,370.

3. 2019 Jeep Wrangler

This one happened to be named Motor Trend Magazine’s “SUV of the Year” for 2019. This new generation Wrangler 4x4 offers numerous off-road improvements over and above previous Wranglers. Our tester was the upper class and more rugged Rubicon two-door, Jeep’s top liner that features many exclusive features, including the extreme duty and off-road inviting 4:1 Rock-Trac HD Part Time 4WD System.  

Under the hood sits a powerful 24-valve 3.6-liter, 285 horse Pentstar V6 engine delivering 285 horses and 260 lb. ft. of torque. New to Wrangler is an eight-speed automatic transmission that costs $2,000 more than the standard six-speed manual and comes with hill descent and Tip Start features. Built in Toledo, Ohio, all Wrangles are classified as SUVs and do not compare well to automobile style SUVs in safety ratings or ultimate comfort features. However, when you take this same Jeep off road or drive in a snowstorm, the Wrangler transforms into an outstanding vehicle far superior to the many AWD/4x4s on the road today. Entry: $28,045, as tested $51,645

4. 2019 Nissan Armada  

One of the bigger SUVs on the road, the 2019 Nissan Armada came in Platinum Reserve 4WD trim and is near fully loaded including a Tri-Zone DVD entertainment system with dual 8-inch monitors. 

Sharing many dimensions and mechanicals with big brother luxury SUV Infiniti QX80 4WD, Armada features an enhanced 7-speed automatic transmission with downshift rev match and a new chassis that debuted in 2018 that is two-inches shorter. Gone is the rough riding Titan truck chassis, which previously served as the base for Armada underpinnings.

With a final assembly point in Los Angeles, Armada for 2019 is powered by a 5.6-liter V8 that delivers 390-horses and best-in-class towing of 8,500 pounds for both the 4WD and rear 2WD models. Entry $47,100, as tested $69,425.

5. Dodge Durango SRT 392

Assembled in Detroit, the SRT Durango has a 6.4-liter 392 Hemi sitting under the hood delivering 475 horses and 470 lb. ft of torque. By the way, SRT stands for Street & Racing Technology in the Chrysler dictionary.

The current generation Durango is built on a Jeep Grand Cherokee car-like unibody chassis available in either rear or AWD formats. Few if any AWD three-row SUVs built today can compare with Durango SRT, which is built exclusively for consumers who still seek American-built high performance. Entry $62,245, as tested $76,450.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.


Auto Bits

Americans paying for pothole damage

A new focus article by AAA reveals that American drivers spend an average of $3 billion on pothole damage repairs each year. And that repair cost data is now two years old. With the average cost to build an entirely new high school building in America at $45 million each, the damage to our vehicles is costing Americans the equivalent of 67 new high school buildings per year. 

Drilling down to the individual level, the study also says that the average pothole damage repair bill is $300. And your insurance is unlikely to cover any of that since your deductible is likely $500 or $1,000 — if you even have insurance to cover the damage. “In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair told The Insurance journal. “The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage.” 

If your vehicle is damaged due to hitting a big pothole, stop the vehicle in a safe area and take some pictures. You can try to get reimbursed for the damage from the government agency responsible for the road. Some areas take more responsibility than others.



Did You Know

About 2.1 million light electric vehicles (mostly cars) were sold in 2018.