The 2012 model year is offering numerous new SUVs.
With two SUV segment superstars—the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee—recently given a total workover, it would be easy to assume that 2012 could be an “off year” for this class of vehicle.
But in fact, many automakers have ramped up their SUV ranges, although much of the activity has been at the higher end of the market. Though the march of crossover products continues, SUVs seem to be thriving—especially in Canada’s currently buoyant market. Newcomers for 2012 underline this fact convincingly and we’ll take a look at some of the highlights.
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Mercedes-Benz may not have started the trend towards luxury SUVs, but it certainly played a role. The new model year brings us a third-generation M-Class and it boasts even more refinement than the earlier much-praised product. The basic lines of the old model are still there, though all the sheet metal is new, and the engine range is wider than ever.
Buyers will be able to choose from a new 3.5-litre direct injection V-6, a 3.0-litre V-6 turbo diesel and (a little later) an AMG-developed V-8. As with all vehicles from the famed Stuttgart manufacturer, luxury and refinement abound.
At the other end of the price spectrum, Honda is launching a new CR-V, for many years one of the most popular compacts in this class sold in Canada. This fourth-generation product has what Honda calls “more expressive” exterior styling and adds refinement at a level not expected at this price point.
The vehicle is more spacious and the load floor is lower, making for easier cargo loading. The interior is all-new too and there’ll be a “Canada only” Touring model available.
Honda is aiming for best-in-class fuel efficiency with its new CR-V. The vehicle’s 4-cylinder engine is expected to be a development of a proven unit presently in use. While the bigger V-6 Pilot SUV doesn’t benefit from a total makeover for 2012, it does have enhanced styling, more comfort and convenience features and what Honda claims is the best fuel economy in the three-row, 8-passenger SUV class.
Jeep’s latest Grand Cherokee has been around for a while now, but for 2012, the automaker is bringing us the long-anticipated SRT8 performance version of the vehicle. In Mopar parlance, “SRT” means serious power and the new Grand Cherokee will top 100 km/h in five seconds with its whopping 6.4-litre Hemi V-8. This must make it the quickest off-roader on the planet, but expect it to be fairly expensive.
Audi’s Q3 represents the automaker’s initial foray into the compact SUV segment and as one might expect, it looks like a scaled-down version of the company’s larger variants. More an urban vehicle than an off-roader, the Q3 should find a ready market among younger buyers who want to get a foothold in the “Audi family.”
Four-cylinder gasoline and diesel powerplants are offered in worldwide markets, but we’ll probably get only the 2.0-litre TFSI (gas) version. Seven-speed transmissions are featured and a long options list will help the buyer turn this Audi into a very luxurious little vehicle.
If ever two compact SUVs were going head-to-head, it would be the Q3 and BMW’s new X1. They almost look like the same vehicle with an individualized nose job, but of course, each has its unique characteristics.
The X1 fits nicely into BMW’s range along with the larger X3 and is based on an all-wheel drive platform like some other BMW xDrive models. There’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder under the hood and it produces an impressive 241-horsepower. An 8-speed automatic transmission is featured.
Range Rover’s stylish new Evoque takes the British automaker into previously uncharted territory because rather than fitting into the super-luxury large SUV category, it’s more of a trendy urban cruiser. Even so, it is a Range Rover, so expect it to handle all kinds of surfaces and weather conditions. Two and four-door versions are available – very unusual in this class nowadays – and the engine is a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard in Canada. This is the lightest and smallest product ever marketed by Range Rover and though it may look more like a fashion statement than an SUV, it has decades of Land Rover history behind it.
Mitsubishi’s RVR may not have the panache of the new Range Rover, but it gets the urban CUV (crossover utility) job done in fine style. It’s a peppy drive with its 2.0-litre, 148-horsepower 4-cylinder and you can buy one with either 4WD or 2WD.
There’s an interesting pair of transmission choices for RVR buyers—a 5-speed manual or a continuously variable unit (CVT) with paddle shifters selecting six points. Best of all, RVRs start at less than $20,000, an increasingly hard-to-find price point, even with compact SUVs.
Porsche is bringing its hybrid expertise to the SUV class with a new Cayenne variant. The vehicle uses a supercharged 3.0-litre V-6 and a single electric motor and will cruise at 140 kmh without using the gasoline engine.
The powertrain is aided by an 8-speed automatic transmission and Porsche says that the rig will top 100 kmh in 6.8-seconds. Fuel consumption will run around 9.0-litres/100 km—remarkable for what is a fairly large SUV with all the usual capabilities.
Mazda debuted its 2013 CX-5 compact SUV/crossover at the recent Frankfurt auto show and it promises to be an excellent companion to the automaker’s larger and more opulent CX-7 and CX-9 models. The CX-5 takes advantage of Mazda’s remarkable new SKYACTIV integrated technology package which benefits almost every aspect of the vehicle.
Other SUVs lurking on the horizon include a hybrid version of Toyota’s RAV4 and the first entry into this class by, of all makers, Maserati. The Maserati Kubang (where do they find these names?) has Jeep underpinnings and is clearly a result of the alliance between Chrysler and Fiat. Obviously, it will be expensive, but judging by the number of Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers on Canada’s roads, it will surely sell, if only in limited numbers.
General Motors seems to be having a quiet 2012 as far as SUVs go, but that can only mean there’s something exciting coming along for the early season auto shows.