A Look at the Class of 2021

Vehicles, not college grads, that is.

By Gary S. Vasilash

There are lots of new vehicles that have been or will be introduced this year. So on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we dedicate the show to talking about some of them.

And the “we” includes “Autoline’s” John McElroy; Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief of Cars.com; Gary Witzenburg, president of the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year Awards and freelance journalist, and me.

The GMC HUMMER EV Pickup (Image: GMC)

Among the vehicles discussed:

  • Acura MDX: Fourth generation of the utility. Three rows. Edgier styling. Solid suspension. What’s not to like? Apparently the True Touchpad Interface.
  • Buick Envision: A crossover with meticulous attention to detail, inside and out. Does the fact that it is made in China have anything to do with that?
  • Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing and CT4-V Blackwing: A lesser bat-out-of-hell (the 4 has a 472-hp engine) and a full-blown one (the 5 has a 668-hp engine).
  • Chevy Bolt EUV: The second electric vehicle (EV) in the lineup that looks more like an SUV, presumably to appeal to those who can’t get enough of that body style.
  • Ford Bronco: A hard-core off-road vehicle, coming soon to a driveway near you. Get the Sasquatch Package and get extra ground clearance and the approach and departure angles that make climbing rocks not an issue. Get the optional Honda
  • GMC HUMMER EV Pickup. 1,000 hp 11,500 lb-ft of torque. 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. 350+ miles of driving range. Fast charge up to 100 miles in 10 minutes. You can’t get a reservation for Edition 1, which is coming out this fall and has an MSRP of $112,595. In the fall of 22 there will be more available with a reduced price: $99,995.
  • Honda Civic Sedan: The 11th generation appears to be what will bring Honda back to being Honda. Which should make sedan enthusiasts every enthusiastic.
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz and Tucson and IONIQ 5: whether it is a little truck-like vehicle, a compact sport ute that comes with two flavors of hybrid as well as a conventional ICE powertrain, or a fully electric crossover, seems that Hyundai is the Overachiever of the Year.
  • Kia Carnival: Don’t call this a “minivan.” Don’t.
  • Nissan Frontier: It has been a while since Nissan has brought out a new version of its pickup (e.g., the one that is out now appeared in. . . 1998), so they’ve clearly had time to get this one right.
  • Rivian R1T: Will this electric pickup from a startup be a success in the market?

And much, much more.

Which you can see right here.

Engineering the 2022 Acura MDX

How the flagship of the brand was made even better

The Acura MDX is certainly an important name plate in the company’s lineup. For one thing, the vehicle, which goes back to the turn of this century, has had cumulative sales of more than 1-million units. And there have been sales in excess of 50,000 for 14 of the last 21 years. And, according to Acura, it is the “best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time.”

The first generation was from 2001 to 2006; second from 2007 to 2013; third from 2014 to 2020; and the all-new fourth generation, model year 2022, has just been launched.

Tom Nguyen, chief engineer and 2022 MDX Global Development Leader, Honda R&D Americas, said that when he was given the assignment to develop the new MDX, his mandate was easy to understand but not necessarily easy to execute: “Don’t screw it up.”

2022 MDX A-Spec: sporty, but a three-row people and cargo-hauler. (Image: Acura)

(Who hasn’t heard something like that from their boss at some point in time?)

So Nguyen and his team went at not merely improving what came before, but creating a vehicle that they hope will not only resonate with MDX loyalists, but bring in new buyers.

One of the advantages that Nguyen says he and his colleagues had during the development was that there was a concerted effort at Acura to create vehicles that are athletic and dynamic. This is evident in the RDX and the TLX.

The ‘22 MDX is based on an all-new platform, said to result in the most rigid SUV the company has had. The torsional rigidity of this MDX is 32% greater than that of its predecessor.

Why does this matter? It contributes to safety—a paramount consideration—but also to the ride and handling of the vehicle. And speaking of which, they developed both a double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension for the vehicle.

Nguyen talks about the development of the MDX on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, freelance automotive journalist Nicole Wakelin, and me.

An interesting aspect of the new MDX is that while they were driving for sportiness, they also made the vehicle bigger than its predecessor—2.2 inches longer, 1 inch wider and with a 2.8-inch increase in wheelbase. While you’d think that bigger would mean something that is more wallowing, Nguyen says that through structural design as well as the use of things like structural adhesives—35 meters of adhesives—the vehicle keeps its wheels planted and the vehicle capable of moving where and as it should (with a belt-driven electric power steering system and available Super Handling All-Wheel Drive contributing to that).

And you can see what Nguyen has to say here.