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Driver’s Notebook:2021 STANDOUTS!


Article by Dennis Malcolm Byron

Photography by Provided

2021 has been eventful so far, but the automotive industry has been gracious enough to keep things interesting and refreshing with innovation, pricing, technology and value. Now halfway through this year, here are some standout vehicles from SUVs to pickup truck and sedans that are worthy of consideration when car shopping.


2021 BMW M550i xDrive Sedan

Driving multiple passengers with this amount of fun, luxury and power behind the wheel certainly makes this new BMW hard to beat. This is especially true with the M Series designation, which traditional raises the bar—and hair—from the enhancements of the steering wheel to the 20-inch M Wheels with blue caliper brakes, to the world-class sport suspension and other cabin embellishments. Oh, and 532 horses under the hood. While customizing, strongly consider the Driving Assistant Plus and Parking Assistance Packages; Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection, City Collision Mitigation and Active Blind-Spot Detection are phenomenal, high-tech mind easers when on the road. The Executive Package comes rear sunshades, head-up display, wireless charging and BMW’s gesture control to provide more feel of royalty for both the driver and passengers. With numerous other wins including a new grille, spacious trunk and wider touchscreen for better functionality, this is easily one of BMW’s top sedans to date.

Engine: 4.4-liter BMW M TwinPower Turbo v-8, 32-valve engine

Gas mileage: 17 city/25 highway/20 combined city/highway

Price: $76,800 MSRP/$93,735 as reviewed

For more information, visit

Family Love

2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature

Mazda continues to step its game up every year. For such a gorgeous, well-equipped, three-row SUV to start at $34,160, the CX-9 line is one of the best values of the year to pamper up to seven passengers. Coming in trims, the Signature edition is the most luxurious. This brand continues to ascend when it comes to quality, reasonable price points, consistent 5-star safety ratings, and captivating style. The first and second rows come Nappa leather-trimmed; 10.3-inch display; the captain’s chairs have a center console; titanium metallic front grille, and the 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2 Surround Sound System with AudioPilot 2 completes the package. Its SKYACTIV-G 2.5 Dynamic Pressure Turbo engine isn’t shy either, pushing 250 horses under the hood. Ultimately, driving the family around is cool again; this is especially true in the reviewed “Machine Gray Metallic” exterior, which really catches the eye.

Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.5 Dynamic Pressure Turbo, 250 horsepower

Fuel Economy: 20 city/26 highway/23 combined

Price: $46,605 (Signature price)

For more information, visit


2021 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label

The Lincoln brand is an American icon when it comes to luxury, and the 2021 Nautilus maintains the streak with the Black Label edition. This year’s opulent five-passenger SUV comes with a redesigned dashboard which comes with easier functionality for the 3.2-inch touch screen, an upgraded SYNC 4 infotainment system, and a now highly appreciated feature: wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Spacious and well detailed, the base Nautilus is already generous with a plethora of standard features, but the Black Label goes the extra mile. Once considering all the perks including all-wheel drive, an adaptive suspension, 21-inch wheels, the Co-Pilot360 Plus package, adaptive headlights, smartphone keyless entry, remote start, and Revel Ultima 19-speaker sound system, and 4G Wifi. with an option for massage seats, the Black Label trim leaves virtually nothing left to desire. Keep shining, Lincoln.

Engine: Twin-Turbo 2.7-liter V6 engine

Fuel Economy: 19 city/25 highway/21 combined

Price: $65.090 (Black Label price)

For more information, visit


2021 KIA Sorento Hybrid EX

Family trips are even more desired if this stellar hybrid is the carrier. The redesigned Sorento comes already stocked with a generous number of amenities in the “S” trim to please up to six passengers with its spacious three-row cabin, including LED headlights, roof rails, heated front seats, captains chairs and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on an 8-inch touchscreen. “EX” takes it to the next level by providing the panoramic sunroof for sky gazing; more safety features (LED fog lamps, smart cruise control, enhanced forward collision avoidance); smart power tailgate with height adjustment; and wireless charging. With too many safety features to list, ample response at 227 horsepower, one-touch slide and fold second row seats for easy loading, spacious legroom, user-friendly infotainment controls, USB ports in all three rows, paddle shifters, and impressive gas mileage average 37 mpg, everyone wins in this remarkable fourth generation Sorento SUV.

Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged GDI powertrain

Gas mileage: 39 city/35 highway/37 combined city/highway

Price: $36,590 MSRP/$38,205 as reviewed

For more information, visit

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury 

In the large luxury SUV segment, this completely redesigned 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury is exactly that: Luxury. This three-rowed vessel comes with a 6.2-liter, V8 engine; 4G LTE WiFi; a rear-seat entertainment system including wireless headphones; and a theater-esque 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference sound system while sitting on 22-inch wheels. The four-wheel drive capability makes it a lot easier on the maneuvering as well. The “Super Cruise” option drives the Escalade by itself on certain highways, plus there is the 16.9-inch infotainment screen with HD surround vision, and the panoramic sunroof to list just a few of the numerous highlights. This opulent SUV starts at $88K, but there is a plethora of customization options for further pampering up to seven passengers spaciously in three rows.

Engine: 6.2-liter, V8 engine, 420 horsepower

Fuel Economy: 14 city/19 highway/16 combined

Price: $85,995 (Standard)/$106,810 (Fully loaded with multiple packages)

For more information, visit

Truck It.

2021 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4 Crew Cab

Hitting tight corners with all-wheel drive is certainly a plus for this greatly improved midsize pickup. The other “AT4” addition to its descriptor reflects its all-terrain capability with Duratrac tires, hill descent control, and upgraded off-road suspension package. Other pluses include the StabiliTrak stability control, “EZ” lift and lower tailgate, remote vehicle start, red front recovery hooks, and projector-type headlamps for optimal visibility. For a pampering cabin experience, owners will enjoy the BOSE premium audio system, 8-inch touchscreen, fully capable audio streaming, 4G LTE WiFi, wireless charging, and front heated leather seats to name a few perks. Overall, the Canyon comes with a lot of options for optimal customization. Besides crew-cab and extended cab, there are three engine types (including diesel) and four trims overall: the Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4 and Denali. This AT4 packs a 3.6-liter V6 heart pumping up to 308 horses and 7,600-pound towing capability.

Overall, GMC made a big statement with all of the Canyon trims and customizations to represent them in the midsize pickup sector.

Engine: 3.6-liter DI DOHC V6, 308 horsepower, 8-speed automatic transmission

Fuel Economy: 17 city/24 highway/19 combined

Price: $40,000 MSRP/$43,230 as reviewed

For more information, visit

More GMC news…

GMC also makes an even “bigger” statement with its Sierra 2500 4WD Crew Cab in the same AT4 format. This powerful pickup possessed many of the amenities the Canyon did cosmetically, but the X31 off-road suspension, 120-volt outlet in the cargo, a 220-amp alternator, and an optional HD surround vision with two trailer camera provisions were some of the major differences. (The various camera angles including the industry-first available “Transparent Trailer View” have received numerous “Best-In-Class” awards.) The reviewed version had the highly recommended Durmax 6.6-liter turbo diesel engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission maxing out at 445 horsepower and 21,130-lb. towing capacity. Starting at $58,400, the upgraded version totaled $78,050 and seemed well worth it.

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