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Bentley, Ford, Mazda have new crossover/SUVs not to be overlooked

It’s an exciting time to be in the market for a new crossover or SUV in the 2016 model year.

Low fuel prices, new technologies and greater fuel efficiency are making them more desirable than ever. Here is a look at three crossovers/SUVs that are going to make a big impact in 2016.

Bentley Bentayga: This is the ultra-luxury SUV the world has been waiting for. Sure, Range Rovers are impressive statements, but this vehicle from Crewe, England, is going to be the instant king of the hill. It combines luxury with effortless performance and everyday usability (if you are among the 1 percenters whose everyday existence is slightly different from the rest of us). It has an all-new twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 powertrain that Bentley says is the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world.

The Bentayga will be out the first quarter of next year but will be on display Nov. 21 at Towbin Motor Cars in Las Vegas. For details, call 702-932-7110.

It can go ludicrously fast with a zero-60 time of 4.0 seconds. That’s unheard of in most sedans today, let alone massive SUVs. While off-road, an information panel is going to pump you full of information on such things as pitch, roll, wheel articulation, your steering angle, compass, bearing and altitude, because half the fun of being off-road is knowing exactly how high you are when conquering mountains.

“Customers are very excited,” said Jesika Towbin Mansour, co-owner of Towbin Motor Cars. “We’ve been waiting years for this car, and we’ve taken deposits for two years. Everybody has been waiting for this car. We have orders in and are very excited.”

Ford Explorer: For 25 years the Ford Explorer has reigned as America’s top-selling SUV. For 2016, Ford has made it a compelling vehicle with the new 2.3-liter EcoBoost, four-cylinder engine. It is rated at 280 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 310 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm on premium fuel. Compared to the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder it replaces, the new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine delivers an additional 40 horsepower and 40 pound-feet of torque — an increase of 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Also of note is the jump in power hasn’t affected the fuel economy numbers. Sure, fuel prices are lower, but it never hurts to get more power and pay less at the pump. Improvement in horsepower and torque comes with no significant reduction in fuel economy. The front-wheel-drive Explorer retains its EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 28 mpg highway, which is best-in-class.

Even more importantly, Ford says customers choosing a four-cylinder Explorer can opt for four-wheel drive and trailer towing capability. That was previously available only on the six-cylinder models. It has a towing capacity of 3,000 pounds. The V-6 models are rated at 5,000 pounds.

“They are selling incredibly well; Ford hit it on the mark,” said Brian Grinn, 2014 salesperson of the year at Ford Country. “People like the larger EcoBoost engine, and overall it’s more suited to the market. And they like the gas mileage. That’s the beautiful thing about it: It has the power of six-cylinder and the gas mileage of a four. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Grinn said that on the inside, the Explorer sports Ford’s SYNC system, which is voice-activated and connects with Blue Tooth devices. The My Touch system has an 8-inch touchscreen and provides even more voice capability.

The bottom line, he said, is buyers are appreciating how far the quality has come with technology, safety and looks in addition to what you can get as options.

“What you get on this vehicle is high-tech,” Grinn said. “You can see the European influence creeping in. A lot of people say the Explorer resembles the Range Rover. The body style is much more in that direction.”

Mazda CX-3: The CX-3, with its long hood and short overhangs, is a stunning vehicle to behold. It has a comfortable passenger cabin. Its entry and exit are easy thanks to a good hip point (basically the height of where your hip hits when seated).

Fuel economy is strong in the CX-3, which runs on regular fuel. The base, front-wheel-drive model is rated at 29 city and 35 highway for a combined 31 mpg. Fuel economy for the all-wheel-drive model drops down fairly significantly to 27 city and 32 highway for a combined 29 mpg.

The best thing about the CX-3 is it drives like a Mazda. Sure, it’s not going to eat up twisty roads like a Miata, but it is going to instill confidence. Twisty canyon roads can be taken on with confidence. In fact, when the Miata/CX-3 comparison was mentioned to Tyler Parry, sales manager at Planet Mazda, he said: “It comes pretty darn close.”

“(The CX-3) just came out (a month ago); it’s one of newest in our lineup,” Parry said. “It’s actually a pretty cool little car. We’ve sold quite a few.”

And Parry didn’t hesitate like a clunker on a cold day when asked what customers love the most about the CX-3: “The size!” he said. “It’s easy to park and has all the amenities in it.”

But it’s not what makes the CX-3 go that has new owners raving. It’s what makes it stop — on a dime.

Parry said the vehicle’s Smart City Brake support will stop the car in traffic to prevent an accident via a radar camera on the rearview mirror.

“It’s cool,” Parry said. “I’ve had plenty of customers call and say they would never use a car without it. It had worked for them already.”


Senior writer John Kelly contributed to this story. Contact him at jkelly@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0206.

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