Live HTC Flyer Review: Video on the Go
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Live HTC Flyer Review: Video on the Go

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With front- and rear-mounted cameras, the HTC Flyer begs to be used for capturing and sharing video. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what I was tasked to do for work this past week. I was glad to have the Flyer in hand to do it, and I’ve got the YouTube videos to prove it.

[Click here for Part 1 of my live review “First Impact”, here for Part 2 “Inking Experience”, and here for my ongoing ink note-taking in Evernote.]

To recap, my work for SNM, The Society of Nuclear Medicine, took me to San Antonio this year for our Annual Meeting, pitching in for press and PR support. Part of that was recording and producing video of the event. When HTC offered a Flyer to evaluate during the same time period, I jumped at the chance to put it to the test at the meeting.

I should also point out that our budget for this aspect of the meeting was zero. Our equipment consisted of an old Flip cam and whatever we provided ourselves. We all had iPhone 4s, so we were covered for cameras. However, since the Flyer arrived in time for me to take with me, I chose to put its 720p HD video and 5MP still camera to the test. How did it fare? The proof is in the YouTube.

 

 

Both clips were composed entirely of photos and video taken from the Flyer. The editing and production was done in Windows Live Movie Maker with royalty-free music downloaded from Amazon. There are three other videos from the event (two still pending approval), but they include content captured on iPhones. All content in these two are 100% pure HTC Flyer captured.

Obviously, the quality is not equal to a professional-level camera (or photographer and editor), but compared to a smartphone or point and shoot, the Flyer has some advantages. The 7″ screen was helpful in framing shots. I would do a pass over an area to see how it would look in motion before recording. The larger screen better conveys how the shot would appear when viewed on a full monitor. Despite its heft, the size made it easier to hold more firmly with both hands and steady the shot. I don’t have the steadiest hands, so this was an important factor for me.

On the downside, the screen gloss and lack of camera flash were problematic in opposing areas. The camera performed well in sunlight, but the screen was impossible to see at some angles. On the flip side, the screen was crisp in low light, but video focus was sketchy. Most shots in low light were too blurry to use. The audio was good for a phone-style camera, but with the microphone geared to record from the front, it captured my voice at a louder volume than that of the target. Great for narration, but not interviews.

While there’s no dedicated camera button, accessing the camera was quite easy. The lock screen includes a shortcut to launch the camera app with one move, as well as for mail, Internet, and calendar. The camera app offers the usual toggling between still/video and front/rear cameras, and access to the camera roll. Another button offers artistic effects, such as color filters and distortion, and it is capable of digital zoom.

Again, the Flyer’s not professional level in the camera department and it suffers some flaws, but it is more than adequate to use in place of a point and shoot. In general though, I think tablets in the 7″ range are in a good spot to provide better video recording. They offer enough space for a larger lens and flash than a smartphone, but are not so big as to be unwieldly. This could be a good niche for future models. Regardless, the Flyer delivered what I needed, and I’m quite pleased by that.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Sherry

    06/11/2011 at 9:00 pm

    Nice good review on the flyer. Wow you did all that with no budget? You are right that the screen size helps in framing the shot. Haven’t check amazon on music but will do. Mostly now use JewelBeat as music is under $1 royalty free. The size helps with the handling but I am concern it will be hard to keep it steady with one hand if I need. My other hand free for a moment. Better than to do it with a flip i guess Thanks. Good review all round.

    • Sumocat

      06/11/2011 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks. A co-worker called the videos “good for an amateur,” which, for the co-worker, is very high praise.

  2. Willem Evenhuis

    06/11/2011 at 10:53 pm

    video is ok. surprised about the color. I’ve noticed a pink hue issue on all htc camer’s since the HD2, but do not get an impression this is the case if the videos above are made with the HTC flyer. Still disappointed about the audio. For such a tablet it can surely be better, can’t it?

    • Sumocat

      06/12/2011 at 1:51 pm

      I haven’t noticed a pink hue in any of my shots so far. The color has been pretty accurate. As for the audio, I believe better microphone placement and automatic audio shifting to differentiate between when the front and rear cameras could help. But also keep in mind the noisy atmosphere at the convention center when judging that. I was afraid the ambient noise was going to turn out worse than it did.

  3. Dale Strauss

    06/13/2011 at 3:22 pm

    The Flyer is turning out to be quite the workhorse. Any word on what flavor of Honeycomb is coming its way, and more importantly, will it continue to rock the Sense UI? I think it trumps the stock Honeycomb I’ve seen.

    • Sumocat

      06/13/2011 at 4:12 pm

      I believe HTC has only announced that an upgrade to Honeycomb will be “coming soon” but not what version. However, Google has reined in Honeycomb deployment since then, so it’s kind of up in the air.

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2020 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport Review

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Just how good is the 2020 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport?

The 2020 Genesis G70 is a special combination of luxury, performance, and driving dynamics that are sure to bring a smile to your face. The Genesis G70 is a luxury sports sedan that punches up to the C-Class and 3-Series, with the ability to deliver fun and great engine noise at a more affordable price.

There is a lot to like about the 2020 G70 RWD 3.3T Sport, but you do need to accept a smaller back seat and an infotainment system that could use an upscale user interface. Thankfully the system does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is where many drivers will spend their time. Available in 2.0T, 2.0T Sport, and the 3.3T trims. I tested the Sport Trim with Rear Wheel Drive.

Driving the 2020 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport

The 2020 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport is a blast to drive.

The G70 is an absolute blast to drive. The rider is great, and even in sport mode it still feels very controlled. The expertise that went into fine-tuning the handling and performance shines through when it delivers a smile on twisty roads. Even when pushed, the car feels under control and the behavior is predictable and repeatable, which leads to a fun, yet safe experience. A low center of gravity and the electronically controlled suspension play together nicely, resulting in an excellent rider quality.

You can dial up Eco, Smart, Comfort, Custom, and Sport driving modes. Eco is optimized for fuel economy, Comfort for a smooth comfortable ride, and Smart adapts to your driving style. Sport mode optimizes for a more engaging driving experience, but it is still comfortable if you want to use this mode on longer highway trips. Custom lets you mix different options to match your preferred settings.

The twin-turbo 3.3L V6 provides plenty of power and the engine sounds excellent. The power and the exhaust note offer a compelling combination to the luxurious interior and refined looks. The G70 3.3T Sport is quick, with a 0-60 time under 5 seconds. The adjustable suspension lets you control how much feedback you feel, but even without adjustments, you get a lot of feedback from the road.

You can expect around 20 mpg combined with 17 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

Genesis G70 Interior

The G70 interior is beautiful and comfortable.

The 2020 Genesis G70 interior is positively luxurious. The materials are top-notch and I loved the quilted seats and armrest area. In addition to looking great, the seats are very comfortable. I cruised all over Northwest Ohio to check in on some friend’s kid’s baseball games, watching from a distance, and even after a long day of driving, I felt fresh. The layout of the cabin is good with a nice amount of center console storage and wireless charging when I wasn’t using CarPlay.

One small feature I loved was the adjustable bolsters on the seats, which lets you adjust for a tighter fit during aggressive driving, and a looser more comfortable grip during normal driving. These are easy to adjust using the controls on the side of the seat. You can also adjust some of the motion of the passenger seat using controls on the driver’s side. This is handy if you are helping someone get in upfront, or if you need to make room for an adult or kid in the backseat. The seats are heated on all models and on the Elite and higher they are also ventilated, which is a must-have upgrade in the middle of hot summer.

Rear seat legroom is a bit cramped, but it is good enough for kids, and an adult on a sort ride can be comfortable. If you plan to cruise with adults, look at the more spacious G80 or G90.

The trunk handled my collection of gear for road trips, hiking, and helping with a home renovation. It’s large enough to handle a handful of suitcases and other items that you will need on your road trips. On the Prestige and higher packages, you get a Power Trunk.

Infotainment & Safety

The Genesis infotainment system is good, but it looks like it was pulled right out of a Hyundai. It’s easy to use and the system works, but it doesn’t match the interior of the G70 as well as it could. The good news is that the system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You need to plug in to use these options, but with a cord, you get the best access to your messages, music, audiobooks, maps, and calls. You can also use Bluetooth to connect to the car for calls and music. The Lexicon 15 speaker stereo system is good, allowing me to find sanctuary on the road. Call quality over Bluetooth and CarPlay was good. There are three USB ports, two up front and one in the rear.

The infotainment system is good, but it could use updated graphics.

There is a lot of great safety technology and driver convenience features. The adaptive cruise control worked nicely, keeping me in pace with traffic as I cruised along the interstate. Standard safety and convenience features include;

  • Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
  • Lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist
  • Automatic high beam headlights

With the Elite Package, you get Low Beam Assist, which steers the headlights with the wheel, to light up the direction you are turning as you drive. This dramatically improves nighttime visibility.

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Nimble Disc Case Review: Recycled CD iPhone Case

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This plastic case is made from recycled CDs.

The Nimble Disc Case is an iPhone case made from 100% recycled compact discs. Yes, there is a chance that this awesome clear case is made from parts of the N’Sync,  Britney Spears, or Sublime CDs you carried from your car to your bedroom back in high school. Or whatever your favorite CD is.

Made from REPLAY post-consumer compact discs, these cases are available for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and iPhone SE 2020 models for $39.95 at Nimble and Verizon.

I’ve been testing the Nimble Disc Case on the iPhone 11 Pro Max for a few weeks and I’m impressed with the quality and excited about the sustainability factor that this case offers.

The Nimble Disc Case offers a lot of grip, and the edges have the right amount of give to them. Many cases are too rigid on the edges, which makes it harder to hold. This case doesn’t add much thickness to the iPhone 11 Pro Max and it still offers six feet of drop protection. This is more than enough protection for my day-to-day needs and while I haven’t tossed this case to the ground with my phone in it, there are features to help keep the phone safe.

There is a nice lip on the front of the Nimble Disc case that keeps the iPhone screen off surfaces when you set it face down, and it helps protect the phone when you drop it. On each back corner is a small raised section that keeps the phone from sliding on smooth surfaces. Overall the case feels very solid and it features all the hallmarks of a protective case in this class.

The front lip protects the screen.

Even with the raised edges, I am still able to reliably use the gestures on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. This was a concern with many of the cases I originally tested that featured lips. The inward curve on the lip helps alleviate that, and possibly I am more adept at using the gestures. I still prefer a case with no lip on the bottom edge, but this one doesn’t hinder switching apps or going to the home screen.

The clear design shows off the color of your iPhone, which is a nice feature. The case is made with anti-yellowing technology so it should stay as clear and crisp looking as day one. After a lot of outdoor use and a day at the beach, the case looks as good as the day I put it on. There is a Nimble Recycle logo on the back, near the bottom of the case and on the right edge of the case is “MADE FROM RECYCLED COMPACT DISCS” text.

The case is scratch-resistant, and it does a decent job of holding up to scratches, but after a month of heavy use, there are a few scuffs and scratches on the outside. This is to be expected, especially since I took this case on multiple hikes where I leaned it up against rocks and trees and to a rocky beach.

There is an anti-microbial coating, which helps keep the case clean. The biggest downside to this case is that like most clear cases, it shows fingerprints. I find myself cleaning the case at least once a week to keep it looking fresh and clean. That’s fairly common though some cases do use an oleophobic coating to keep fingerprints at bay.

The power button was a little stiff at the start, but it flexed after some use on my iPhone 11 Pro Max.

When I first started using the case the power button, or what Apple calls the side button, on the iPhone 11 Pro Max was very stiff and the phone was taking screenshots and it was not easy to activate. I took the case off, flexed the power button 20-30 times and it was better. After a few days of use, the power button started to feel exactly as expected. I would prefer the functionality on day one. Be prepared to wear in the buttons before you put the case on, and then for the first few days of using the case. The iPhone SE case was perfect right out of the box with no flex needed to get a perfect feel for the buttons. The iPhone 11 Pro case we tested did not loosen up enough to use, after trying to flex the buttons the case routinely made the test phone take screenshots when we tried to power it on. It is a good idea to check this when you get your case.

With each purchase, you get a free shipping label to send any used plastic case in for recycling. When you recycle an old case, you get 15% off your next order. The packaging for the case is plastic-free for easy recycling.

Even with the short wear-in period for the iPhone 11 Pro Max case and the issue with the iPhone 11 Pro option, I still like the Nimble Disc Case. The amount of branding just right and it’s a big bonus to have a sustainable case option that doesn’t sacrifice protection. You can buy one at Nimble or from Verizon.

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2020 Volvo XC40 Review

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The 2020 Volvo XC40 is a great subcompact luxury SUV that combines a fun and playful look with some of the best Volvo features to deliver a perfectly sized Volvo for many buyers.

Volvo packs in a lot of technology, a funky orange interior option, loads of technology including a handy semi-autonomous driving mode if you opt for the Advanced package.

We’re seeing more and more small SUVs on the market, and the 2020 XC40 stands out thanks to the premium cabin materials and variety of options. While you will need to spend time learning how to use the infotainment system, the big screen makes it easy to see lots of important information at once. The cargo area is small, but ultimately it had enough room for my adventures.

You can buy the 2020 Volvo XC40 in three options; Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription. I tested the T5 R-Design model that includes a more powerful engine, sportier appearance, navigation, and a panoramic moonroof.

2020 Volvo XC40 Tech & Driver Features

The XC40 infotainment system is good.

This little luxury SUV packs in a lot of great tech options and driver convenience features. While there are noticeable omissions from the larger Volvo SUVs, most of the things you’ll want are included or available.

There is a large 9-inch touch screen in the center of the dash. This is portrait orientation, which allows you to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the bottom and keep access to other car features and functions up top. The screen is bright and responds quickly to most taps. I mainly use Apple CarPlay while I am driving so that I have fast access to my messages, music, Audible, and my favorite map apps.

You can use some physical buttons for control, but most of your in-cabin controls are on the touch screen. The main menus are very easy to use, but it takes some time to learn the next tap. The system is a little slow when you first start the car, but once you are going it is quick. There are a range of included apps that you can use to pay for parking and more.

The XC40 works with Volvo On Call, which I wasn’t able to test, but the service lets you remote start from your watch, accept in-car deliveries with Key by Amazon and even share your car with friends and family through the app.

The in-car sound system is good, with a lot of control over the listening experience. I could sufficiently jam out when I needed and chill out to an audiobook when on a cruise. I definitely miss the full-scale Bowers & Wilkins sound system from the XC90, but the harmon/kardon premium audio is sufficient for the XC40.

Charge easily from any seat.

Chargers are available in the front and back seat, plus there is a wireless charging pad to put your phone on when you don’t need CarPlay or Android Auto. There is also a 12V charging point in the cargo area.

From a driver standpoint, the XC40 packs in a lot of cool tricks. One of my favorites is the semi-autonomous driving mode called Pilot Assist. This builds on the adaptive cruise control that keeps you flowing with traffic and allows the car to speed up and slow down, or even stop and resume in traffic. Pilot Assist helps steer the XC40, keeping you in your lane, even around some curves. You still need to keep your hands on the wheel and drive, but with Pilot Assist you don’t need to make as many small corrections while driving. It performs well, and is smoother than the system I used in the Hyundai Sonata, but not as soon as the BMW system.

The 360 Birds Eye View lets you easily get in and out of parking places without worrying about tapping another car or scuffing your wheels. The Intelligent City Safety feature can help avoid collisions with cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and even large animals. Blind Spot Monitoring alerts you to cars in your blind spot, and Cros Trafic alerts you when backing up. Cross Traffic will apply brakes to prevent a collision and the Blind Spot Information System with Steer Assist can help steer you back into your lane.

Our model also came equipped with a cool parking assist feature that helps you park in a tight spot automatically and then even helps you exit the parking spot.

2020 Volvo XC40 Interior & Style

The 2020 XC40 T4 R-Design looks very nice.

This is a small SUV, but there is a good amount of room for people, and a usable amount of cargo space. I am a huge fan of the fun orange floor option, which fits in nicely with the overall style of the XC40. The T5 R-Design features larger 19″ wheels, black rearview mirror caps, and a two-tone finish option with R-Design Nubuck upholstery. The exterior is sporty and fits the size very well. It’s fun and a little funky. There is a small garbage container built into the center console and even a flip-out hook from the glove box to hold a bag. I’m not a fan of the cupholder design. If you put a taller water bottle in it, there is a good chance that it will roll out while driving, but most cups do stay in place.

Inside the orange floor option really amps up the style and it works very well with the premium materials throughout the cabin. I was able to get comfortable as the driver and there was also a decent amount of room in the back seat.

The XC40 interior with optional flare orange is out of this world.

The cargo area isn’t very large, but it still feels very capable for the size. I like that there is a power outlet, an elastic strap to secure items, and a handy flip-up divider for keeping cargo secure or hiding small items that you need to keep handy. You can also use a kick under gesture to open the tailgate if your hands are full.

Driving the 2020 Volvo XC40

The power under the hood depends on if you opt for the T4 or the T5 option, which put out 184 and 248 horsepower respectively.  I tested the T5 R Design with all-wheel drive, which is a nice option to have for slick surfaces and the option I would choose if I was buying this in the midwest.

the 2020 Volvo SC40 T5 R-Design is fun to drive.

Power is good, and it delivers zippy acc3erlation for a small SUV. It pairs up with the eight-speed transmission very well. Shifts are timely and smooth. The engine is a bit loud when you are accelerating, but while cruising it sounds more refined and is less noticeable. You can tow up to 3,500 pounds with the XC40.

It is a fun vehicle to drive, with good handling and a sporty fun feel for a small SUV. The R Design is equipped with a stiffer suspension and you can opt for an adjustable suspension. The ride quality is good and all around this is a nice small SUV on the road.

The 2020 Volvo XC40 is rated for a combined 25 mpg, 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

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2021 Ford Bronco Off-Road Review First Ride

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How good is the 2021 Ford Bronco off-road?

The 2021 Ford Bronco looks cool, but how does it actually drive off-road? That’s a question I’ve been hearing since the reveal and now I can tell you how the 2-door Bronco handles off-road– at least from the passenger seat.

Ford recently let me take a ride in the 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door model through an off-road park in Michigan. This model was equipped with the seven-speed manual, which includes a Creeper Gear, and the turbocharged 2.3L EcoBoost inline-four capable of 270-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque. You can also get the 2021 Ford Bronco with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

While I am eager to get into the driver seat, experiencing the 2021 Ford Bronco does offer insights into the capabilities and the ease of using the off-road features. My driver was very experienced with the manual transmission found on this model. From the passenger seat, the shifting looked smooth and the Creeper Gear was a very handy option allowing for more control and torque over obstacles.

Ultimately I want to experience driving the new Bronco through these obstacles, but the control, and ease with which the Bronco and the Bronco Sport tackled the obstacles reminded me of an off-road easy mode.

In the case of the Bronco, this comes from a variety of handy features. Halfway through the off-road experience, we paused on a series of hills meant to put articulation to the test. Reaching up and pressing the sway bar disconnect button that is on the top edge of the dash, we boosted the Bronco’s articulation, making it easier to crawl off without worrying about tipping.

While you are off-road you can easily reach and engage common off-road features. (Prototype shown, final design may differ)

This is a prime example of the ease of using the features on the Bronco. In our Bronco Features roundup, we focused on the amount of attention that Ford put into the usability and livability of their off-road machine, and after spending part of the afternoon actually going off-road in the Bronco it’s clear that this strategy paid off.

I came away impressed with the off-road capabilities and ride of the 2021 Bronco. It’s a different experience in the passenger seat, but it’s also a place I’ve spent many hours in the Jeep Wrangler, which the Bronco is going head to head with. The ride quality off-road felt good on the passenger side, comparable with my time in the Wrangler.

Overall the experience was confidence bolstering. Yes, this was a course that the driver had run multiple times and he had a lot of off-road experience, but it felt like there was a lot of capability left in the Bronco. That’s something we’re looking forward to testing for ourselves soon.

We weren’t able to try out a lot of the on-trail tech in the Bronco during this experience, but the huge screen with Sync 4 and over 1,000 trail maps hold a lot of promise. That’s something we’re waiting to take a deep dive into soon.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport Off-Road Review First Ride

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The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is an impressively capable off-road vehicle and the G.O.A.T. modes are easy to access and deliver almost video game-like off-roading and control through a wide range of surfaces. The most impressive moment during my ride in the Bronco Sport was stopping near the top of a steep hill sitting there for a minute while a vehicle engineer explained a feature and then continuing up the incline from a full stop without any protest from the Sport.

Recently I had the experience of riding in the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport on an off-road experience in Michigan. While the best test is ultimately behind the wheel, there is a lot to learn from any off-road time in a new vehicle.

2021 Bronco Sport G.O.A.T. Modes

G.O.A.T. modes are helpful and easy to switch between.

The Bronco Sport includes G.O.A.T. modes (Goes Over Any Terrain), which is what Ford calls the different off-road modes. Switching modes is very easy, with a toggle on the center console. The driver reached back, turned a dial, and instantly switched to the best settings for the obstacle ahead. The placement of the switch, is good with no stretch needed and the dial is chunky enough to find and turn by feel, so you can keep your eyes on the trail.

Each mode changes a wide range of factors to deliver the optimal amount of power and control for what is in front, above or below you. The modes are Sand, Slippery, Sport, Eco, and Normal on all models. If you opt for the Badlands model, you also get Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.

Overall Capability and Confidence

Through various obstacles the 2021 Bronco Sport inspired confidence from the passenger seat.

As we took the Bronco Sport through the off-road park we went through Sand, water, mud, over some rocky obstacles and up steep hills. While we didn’t take the same routes as in the Bronco, the Bronco Sport was a very capable off-road vehicle. The ability to come to a complete stop on a hill and resume with no worry as well as the power that the G.O.A.T. modes feel like they will allow users to more easily do more off-road.

The modes and overall capabilities inspired confidence from the passenger seat. Ultimately I am looking forward to getting in the driver seat to feel what the Bronco Sport is capable of, which will give me better insight into the limitations, but during this brief experience, I came away impressed.

2021 Bronco Trail Tech

What’s it like to drive the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport off-road.

A few very interesting pieces of trail tech are available on the 2021 Bronco Sport. One that I really love and miss anytime I off-road without is the ability to use the front camera to see the trail in front of me. This helps with navigating around tight areas or checking over a steep drop. On the Bronco Sport, you can turn this on at low speeds and see what is ahead of you. There is also an option to go for a wider angle view that shows you more of what is around. The real benefit here is that the driver couldn’t easily see the front right corner clearance as we turned, but instead of stretching or relying on a passenger who may not know what they are doing, a tap showed the clearance on the center console.

Trail Control is essentially cruise control for off-roading. I’ve experienced this first hand in the Ford Ranger, and it’s a part of the Bronco Sport. This lets you set a specific speed, from 1 to 20 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse. The vehicle control acceleration and braking and you just need to focus on steering. This allows for very smooth control through obstacles.

While there is a lot to be said for manually controlling the off-road experience. This helps drivers get a feel for smoothly getting through the next challenge, and it’s an option — so you can stick to the DIY approach if you want.

There is an 8-inch screen for infotainment use, which also shows the front-facing trail camera. The vehicle includes Sync 4, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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