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Sneak Peek: New trucks, SUVs and crossovers for 2013

Bumper crop of new SUVs and crossovers


October 9, 2012
by Howard J Elmer

From the September 2012 print edition.

In the auto world, some years are bigger than others. In the truck world, for 2013, it’s a small year with the only real story being the mid-cycle refresh of the Ram 1500. However for crossovers there is a bumper crop of 2013 models; mainly because some traditional SUVs are morphing into more crossover-style vehicles, pushing into that segment. This shift is led by a move away from full-frame construction and boxy truck-like designs. The New Ford Escape is a prime example, followed by the Nissan Pathfinder—both old-school SUVs that have gone ‘soft’ this year.

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Pickup Trucks

2013 Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 has relied heavily on its 5.7L Hemi engine over the past several years. However, sensing the turning tide, Ram has added the Pentastar V6 to the lineup for 2013. What makes this more than just a routine engine addition is the TorqueFlite 8. This new eight-speed transmission is a first for any pickup truck and turns the 3.6L V6 (with 305hp and 265lb-ft of torque) into a powerful, fuel-saving wonder.

Also new is an air suspension (another first in a half-ton) that supports the truck and has load-leveling capability. With the air suspension there are also two off-road modes, each raising the height of the truck when engaged. A third, Aero-Mode, drops ride height at highway speeds adding one percent to fuel economy—and a keyfob activated fourth, Park-Mode, dumps all the air for easy in and out of the vehicle. Overall the air bags can raise and lower the truck a total of 10cm.

Inside, there is a new, customizable, full-colour seven-inch vehicle information centre in the dashboard, improved steering wheel controls and a centre-stack 8.4-inch touch screen. Chrysler’s Uconnect access debuts on this new Ram with Wi-Fi hotspot capability. This feature will let you work on the internet, right in the truck, where ever service is available, as well as having Uconnect receive email and read it to the driver.

A nice upgrade to the popular Ram Boxes and the tailgate is a new auto-lock feature using the keyfob. Also new, buried in the fine print, but of key significance to those who work and tow, is the addition of the 6-foot 4-inch cargo bed to the Crew Cab model—a shortcoming on previous trucks.

2013 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra and Heavy Duty
2014 is the upcoming next generation for GMs 1500-series twins. And in the meantime there isn’t a peep out of the General as to what to expect. So with all its attention focused on next year, the 2013 models will remain very much the same for both the half-ton truck and the HD segment.

2013 Ford F-150 and SuperDuty
For 2013 the F-150 will get a mild design change and all-new driver control technology; specifically the MyFord Touch voice-activated driver controls. Up front, the fascia is lightly massaged and the truck also gets high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps.

The only area that Ford doesn’t seem to have exhausted is the luxury segment. For 2013 they have added a Limited trim package, for a total of eight now. They have also fixed a flaw on the half-ton, adding new trailer tow mirrors. While still an option, these power, folding and telescoping mirrors are something the F-150 definitely had need for. SuperDuty trucks remain virtually the same next year.

SUVs

2013 Ford Escape
For 2013 we are getting an all-new Escape; and when I say new, I mean from the rubber up. In fact, if you love your old Escape, hang on to it, because there won’t be another like it.

No remnant of the old three-box body style is left at all. This sleeker new look actually hides the fact that this Escape is slightly longer than the old model—a space difference put to good use with more cargo space inside. So while room for stuff is up, the seats have slimmed down. They’ve shed 1.4kg each, yet with added functions. Two-way lumbar support and two-way power recline join the familiar six-way adjustable norm for greater position variety. Front seat head restraints are now also four-way adjustable too.

Powering this new Escape is either a two-litre four-cylinder, a 1.6L four-cylinder version (both of which are EcoBoost engines) and a non-EcoBoost 2.5L motor as a base. In fact the 1.6L motor has so far only been available in Europe; Escape will be its first North American pairing. Making 178hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, the 1.6L EcoBoost pushes power through a six-speed automatic to drive an all new intelligent four-wheel drive system very much meant for on-road traction control.

Also new this year is an automatic hatch opener—activated by making a kicking motion under the centre of the rear bumper. This unlocks and raises the liftgate. The cargo deck height has also been lowered in next year’s model. As for other electronic features, the 2013 Escape will have Ford’s park assist available as well as a new Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) that searches for vehicles in the Escape’s blind spots and sounds a warning. It also detects cross-traffic, like when backing out of a parking space.

Nissan Pathfinder
The 2013 Pathfinder is another SUV that has crossed over, leaving its truck-like image behind. It will weigh less than its predecessor, offer a 26 percent improvement in fuel economy and morph to a shape that is anything but old-school SUV. Nissan says the new design pays homage to the previous three generations of Pathfinder; however it is now built on a unibody platform. With this body change comes some new features like a panoramic dual-panel moonroof. Its front panel opens, while the fixed portion extends over the second and third rows.

All new Pathfinders will be powered by an advanced 3.5L V6 engine that makes 260hp, driven by Nissan’s CVT transmission. One concession to the Pathfinder of old is a continued tradition of selectable 2WD, 4WD and an available intuitive all-mode 4×4 system.

Inside, new materials and design features are built around the concept of comfortable seating for up to seven. All new electronics for 2013 include a touch-screen monitor, Bluetooth, hands-free phone, 13 speaker Bose audio system, dual-zone climate control, rear-view monitor, remote engine start, tri-zone entertainment system, heated steering wheel, and heated and cooled seats in the front and second row.

Hyundai Santa Fe
Probably the best news about the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is that its price will not increase despite the redesign and addition of content. This five-passenger SUV has now been designed with Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” styling. Engine-wise, next year sees a new 2L turbocharged GDI engine being added (making 264hp and 269lb-ft of torque). The base engine is a 2.4L four-cylinder that makes 190hp and 181lb-ft of torque. The V6 option has been dropped.

This four-cylinder only lineup has increased fuel economy by an average of 12 percent. Each engine is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual mode.

Other available options are AWD with Active Cornering Control (ACC), sliding second row seating, heated seats, rear-view camera with park assist sensors and a full range of safety equipment in addition to the seven airbags.

Porsche Cayenne GTS
After two generations of Cayenne this high-powered sports-car-like SUV from Porsche is no longer an anomaly. Now for 2013 it’s been refreshed and added a GTS model; sliding in between the 400hp V8 version and the V8 Turbo top-of-the-line.

The body is 24mm lower and the rear track is 17mm wider, while the front axle has grown by 13mm. Special side skirts and wider wheel arches (all in the body colour) shape the side view, while the window frames are painted high-gloss black. A roof spoiler with a twin-wing profile is prominent, yet functional, increasing real down force on the rear axle.

CROSSOVERS

Volvo XC70
This update is applied to the third generation of the XC70—one of the first crossovers. For 2013 they’ve added a redesigned upper instrument panel, housing the new standard Volvo Sensus system. This lets the driver run the audio and navigation system from one spot—displayed on a seven-inch high-definition colour monitor.

It will continue to offer its 3.2 and T6 AWD versions—but with all new trim levels. For example, the new 3.2 Premier trim level has leather seating surfaces, power glass moonroof, power passenger seat, Walnut inlays and dark tint rear windows. The Plus package adds a power tailgate, front and rear park assist, 12V outlet in the cargo area, grocery bag holder, remote garage door opener, keyless drive, a compass in the rear view mirror, private locking, power folding rear head restraints and a cargo cover. Platinum adds a premium sound system, nav with voice control and rear camera.

Subaru XV Crosstrek
For 2013 Subaru is debuting an all-new vehicle in the XV Crosstrek. The name, by itself, leaves no doubt as to where it should fit in automotive descriptions. This all-wheel drive crossover utility offers a five-door design, with fuel efficiency delivered in a capable go (almost) anywhere AWD package.

Available as a five-speed manual or CVT automatic transmission the Crosstrek is powered by Subaru’s two-litre Boxer engine. This motor makes 148hp and 145lb-ft of torque. This five-passenger vehicle comes with standard roof rails, and the cargo area is protected with a standard floor cover and has tie-downs and grocery bag hooks. Crosstrek will also tow up to 680kg.

Three trim levels offer more comfortable interiors and additional conveniences like leather-trimmed upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control system, chrome door handles, body-coloured mirrors with LED-integrated turn signals, in-dash navigation and back-up camera.

Subaru projects that the 2013 XV Crosstrek will be granted five-star safety ratings in coming NHTSA front and side crash tests.

Infiniti JX
For 2013 Infiniti has filled a gap with this large crossover, fitting it between the huge QX 56 and the smaller sporty FX. Here are some of the highlights: second row seat slides and tilts with one lever to allow easy third row access; even with a car seat fixed in that second row seat. The second and third row also get individual HVAC vents. The second row can also be equipped with twin video screens in the front seat headrests as well as split seating, armrests, storage and audio/video controls. Doors open wide, locks stay on even in park and overhead the moon roof gives everyone a view. See? Minivan.

In a family vehicle safety always comes up; so the JX carries all the electronic helpers that are normal (as well as standard AWD), yet they have also managed to add an all new one—one that is a world first. Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) does what its name implies, however the reality of how it might save a darting child or prevent a blindsided accident is significant. c.a.r.