With the vast selection of new vehicles for 2019 and 2020, do you ever wish you could drive a bunch of them in one day? We were fortunate enough to get the chance to do just that when we joined the Midwest Automotive Media Association in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the 2019 Spring Rally. There were more than 100 vehicles from the major automakers to choose from, and once we narrowed down our list, we tested out about twenty of the latest and greatest on and off pavement. After taking a plethora of trucks, crossovers, and sedans out over the two-day rally at Road America, these five came out on top as our favorites.
1. 2020 Kia Telluride
The 2020 Kia Telluride gets rave reviews, so we were thrilled about getting behind the wheel of this new three-row crossover. Kia has come a long way from the days of being just an economy brand, and the new Telluride is evidence of this shift. The exterior leaves a lasting impression with a boxier body than most crossovers in the segment and an aggressive front fascia accentuated by the prominent "tiger nose" grille. The rugged touches on the exterior hint at the Telluride's off-road capability which we tested out firsthand on the course at Road America. The course consisted of steep hills, rocks, and mud, and we were impressed that the Telluride handled nearly all with ease thanks to the Telluride's Torque Vectoring AWD system.
When the off-road adventure concluded, we concluded the Telluride is an excellent and practical SUV to drive on-road. Space is the name of the game with generous seating for 7 or 8. Even the third row had enough legroom for adults. The Telluride presented us with a smooth and quiet ride along with seat cushioning that made us believe we could take a long road trip in this CUV without any discomfort or fatigue. Under the hood, the only available powertrain includes a 3.8-liter V6 for 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque which was plenty to give this large SUV some pickup on our street drive. One of the biggest benefits of the Kia Telluride as a family vehicle is the value it offers with a very affordable starting MSRP in the low $30s.
2020 Kia Telluride Starting MSRP: $31,690
2. 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT N Line
The biggest surprise of this year's rally was our street drive in the new 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT N Line. When we hear "Hyundai Elantra" a sporty, quick, and fun-to-drive vehicle isn't usually the first thing to come to mind. The new GT N Line model changes that perception. The exterior offers more aggressive styling for the sporty hatchback along with an all-new front fascia and grille which improves aerodynamics. The interior matches the sporty aesthetic with premium black leather seats flaunting contrasting red stitching and foreshadowing we would have driving it.
As we pulled out of Road America and onto the winding local roads of Elkhart Lake, we noticed the quick acceleration and the responsive steering and handling. The GT N Line engine carries over from the outgoing Elantra GT Sport in the form of a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four good for 201 horsepower. The gifts that the new N Line bring for the Elantra GT include stiffer engine mounts, transmission mounts, and springs. Plus, the tuning of the shocks and steering has been noticeably improved to extract a better driving experience.
2019 Hyundai Elantra GT N Line Starting MSRP: $23,300
3. 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i
We don't always get excited for 3-row family haulers, but when we do, it's at the Spring Rally. Nothing could be more true of the large and luxurious 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i. The most voluminous member of BMW's crossover family isn't shy about its presence and it backs it up with a multitude of luxurious touches on the interior and a great driving experience. As soon as we stepped into the X7 xDrive50i, we were impressed by the premium materials and the large, user-friendly infotainment.
Taking the largest Bimmer for a spin (or two) around the block really showed off its refinement and power. A comfortable and quiet ride along with good handling and acceleration for an SUV of its size was a welcomed surprise. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine is powerful enough to give this large SUV some pep and this family hauler held its own when it came to steering around the curvy roads of our street drive.
2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i Starting MSRP: $75,750
4. 2019 Lincoln Nautilus
Lincoln replaced the outgoing MKX crossover with a refreshed model that goes by the name of the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus. This was our first time driving this addition to the lineup, and we were far from disappointed. In addition to the attractive exterior which will remind you of the larger Lincoln Aviator, the 2019 Nautilus offers attention-grabbing style and comfort. The refined white leather seats with excellent cushioning won't leave you wondering if you're sitting in a luxury vehicle - you'll know it.
Thanks to the quiet and spacious cabin and smooth ride, this was the vehicle we most regretted having to bring back after the street drive. The base engine for the 2019 Nautilus is a 2.0-liter Ecoboost turbocharged inline-four for 245 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque. We drove the more powerful 2.7-liter Ecoboost twin turbo V6 with 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque which offered quick acceleration and plentiful power for this 5-seater SUV. It's one of the most distinctive, if not the most distinct, American luxury crossovers for sale today. Kudos to Lincoln for pulling it off.
2019 Lincoln Nautilus Starting MSRP: $40,340
5. 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Double Cab
We may have reviewed the 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro earlier this year, but the Spring Rally gave us a whole new perspective on this rugged truck. After driving it on the off-road course at Road America, we were surprised how much better it is off-road than on pavement. While the Tacoma TRD isn't the cushiest or most luxurious truck to commute into work every day, the off-road capability makes it ideal for those who like to play off the beaten path. We'd describe the interior of the Tacoma TRD as utilitarian rather than premium, with roomy interior storage and a spacious bed.
The off-road course is where the Tacoma TRD Pro got the chance to shine. We were confident taking this truck up and down the steep inclines and rocks thanks to the TRD Pro's approach, departure and break over angles of 35.0/19.1/23.9 degrees. Another benefit of the TRD Pro, when it comes to ditching the pavement, is the electronically controlled locking rear differentials for optimal traction and control on the rough terrain.
2019 Toyota Tacoma Starting MSRP: $42,960