Four short takes: Kia Nero, Cadillac XT6, Chevy Silverado HD and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Every February brings a wintry gathering of the New England Motor Press Association for a chance to sample the latest offerings in our test fleet. Here are four quick takes from earlier this month.

Kia Niro

Kia’s compact class crossover is available as a hybrid or as a completely electric vehicle. While hybrids start at $23,400 and return up to 43 mpg, the front-drive Niro EV sampled can travel up to 239 miles on a charge from a 201-hp electric motor that produces exciting forward motion. Quiet, roomy and well-endowed with features and simple-to-use controls, the Niro EV ($47,000 with every option) is still eligible for the federal electric car tax incentive of $7,500, while most of its competitors are not. Responsive, with excellent visibility and everyday versatility, the Niro got two thumbs up from your Maine testers.

Cadillac XT6

This full-size, three-row crossover is Cadillac’s first rendering in this expanding category, and a sensible alternative to drivers who don’t need the towing capacity of the larger Escalade. Using a 3.6-liter 310-hp V-6, the XT6 is buttery smooth with a new nine-speed automatic funneling power through the front- or all-wheel drive chassis. At 199 inches long, the XT6 (starts at $52,695, $71,700 as shown) is the same size as the Lincoln Aviator (Ford Explorer) and can tow up to 4,000 pounds. The Cadillac’s extensive safety portfolio includes rear pedestrian detection and automatic braking as well as a selectable view rear camera/mirror.

Some of the XT6’s competitors offer high-output versions or hybrid models. Cadillac will add a hybrid model next year, yet this design seems like a fitting home for the Blackwing 550-hp V-8 from the departing CT6 sedan — creating an XT6-V.

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax

Chevy’s HD pickup lineup gains the styling changes seen from last year’s Silverado 1500, while adding a new 6.6-liter, 401-hp gas V-8 engine to these hard-working trucks. The Duramax 6.6-liter 445-hp turbodiesel carries over, yet tow ratings rise to 17,400 for gas-powered 2500 models and 35,500 for diesel-powered 3500-series trucks using a gooseneck system. Pricing starts at $34,100 while our top Duramax Crew Cab stickered for $72,200.

Key points include GM’s new multi-dimension camera systems that include 360-degree selectable views for the truck — forward and reverse — plus the five-camera towing system. Diesel engine braking and hill descent programs have been improved, plus the Duramax gets a smooth new 10-speed automatic as well as an AutoTrac all-wheel drive setting in the 4WD system, while a new step built into the front corner of the fenders greatly aids cargo box access. The Chevy’s cabin is not as polished as in the Ram or Ford, yet it is brimming with the latest technology.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The full-size Cullinan is the British marquee’s first SUV — and already the premium luxury brand’s top-selling model. Rolls calls it “Supreme Liberty — the Pinnacle of Luxury.” There is no doubt that this extroverted SUV — painted a brilliant purple here — makes a grand statement.

Riding on an air suspension, the Cullinan ($327,750 base, over $400,000 as shown) is powered by a twin-turbo V-12 making 563-hp that spirits this three-ton device from 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. Ignore the 12/20-mpg EPA estimates, most owners will never visit a gas station. Features include 22-inch wheels, suicide doors, rear privacy glass and shades, massaging rear seats, plus a center-rear cooler with distinctive champagne flutes and a whiskey decanter. The Shooting Star headliner uses fiber optics to depict the night sky, while the power liftgate/tailgate has leather-covered pop-up chairs and a table for viewing the fox hunt, polo matches or Patriots game-day tailgating.

The cockpit is impressively detailed, using textures and materials that no one else does. Nothing else quite says you have arrived like a Rolls Royce SUV.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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