To say the Sorento’s transformation from rugged body-on-frame SUV to car-based softroader has been a sales success is putting it mildly. In the first 27 months of production Kia shifted more Sorentos than they did the 8 years prior. Sales numbers like that catapulted the Korean krossover (couldn’t help it) from CX-9/Xtera/Murano competition to 7th place in the midsized battlefield. Three model years later, Kia is spicing things up with a refresh. I know what you’re thinking: why bother looking at a refresh? Because 2014 brings enough changes to call the 2014 Sorento a redesign.
I remember when the RX rolled onto the scene in 1998. It was truly the first successful crossover as we would know it today. While everyone else was trying to produce a truck-based luxury SUV, Lexus took the Camry/ES platform, put a jelly-bean inspired box on top and jacked the ride height up to 7.7 inches. The result was instant sales success. As we all know however, success has a price. The marshmallow-soft FWD RX lacked road feel, steering feel and sex appeal. Although it’s a bit late in the game, Lexus has decided to fix that last problem with the introduction of the 2013 RX F-Sport. (Read More…)
The next example of the Fiat 500 range, the rather literally named Fiat 500XL, has revealed itself via a leaked photo. It looks a bit like a Fiat 500L that’s all swollen via anaphylaxis. The 500XL may not even make it to North America, but that’s ok. We’ll take the Panda instead. Apparently, the 500XL will have a third row of seats and grow to nearly 170 inches long, making it just barely acceptable for North American tastes. No doubt it will do well in Europe, which is currently in the throes of crossover fever.
I admit that upon first viewing the Buick Encore, I was repulsed by its goofy proportions and the poor fit and finish on the interior of multiple examples (yes, they were production examples, not hastily slapped together pre-production cars). But the market is what makes the winners and losers in the end, and the baby Buick is putting up some solid numbers.
Looking a bit like a hybrid between the Range Rover Evoque and a Subaru Outback, the VW CrossBlue Coupe Concept is the smaller companion to the larger CrossBlue that debuted at Detroit. The Coupe has a twin-turbo V6 and a plug-in hybrid system making 409 horsepower, but don’t expect that to make it into production. Hopefully the CrossBlue’s diesel engine does carry over to the production version, which is rumored to be the next Tiguan.
Mercedes-Benz “leaked” (i.e released) photos of the GLA concept ahead of its debut in Shanghai. The GLA is their latest move down the ladder as far as size and price-points go, but it’s also a harbinger of what’s to come from all automakers; another small, car-based crossover. You are going to be seeing plenty of these in the next few years, especially from premium brands that can squeeze lots of profit out of vehicles like these. Hatchbacks, wagons and body-on-frame SUVs are likely to suffer from this segment’s rise in popularity.
The upcoming Shanghai auto show is expected to be similar to the Geneva Auto Salon in that crossovers, particularly those from premium brands, will be some of the most anticipated reveals at the show. Buyers in global markets can get enough of them, and that situation is no different at home, where the small premium SUV segment is growing much faster than the equivalent sedan segment.
The rest of the world is becoming just as crossover obsessed as North America, and in the premium segment, a crossover is an absolute must for any car maker. PSA’s most recent round of efforts have been pretty poor, using the Mitsubishi Outlander as a starting point, but for their upscale DS brand, PSA is starting from scratch.
Lexus will launch a RAV4-based small crossover, intended to compete against the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Automotive News claims that the new crossover will be a hybrid and debut at the Geneva Auto Show, with a concept premiering at November’s Tokyo Auto Show.
The new crossover may not make it to North America. The compact premium SUV segment is very much a European-centric segment – for now. The success of the X1 may cause Lexus to change their minds about the new baby crossover
Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand I wrote off for dead last decade is targeting younger buyers with designs imported from Europe and finding sales success. The Verano turbo shattered my preconceptions, but can Buick do it again? A brown Encore arrived one rainy morning to see if it was possible. (Read More…)
What’s happening here? Is Toyota finally getting some style all of a sudden? The 2014 Highlander, shown here in Sanjeev Brown (my new name for Brown, in honor of all the misspellings of our dear Sajeev’s name that come across TTAC’s inbox) actually looks macho and handsome. The 2.7L 4-cylinder and 3.5L V6 are standard Toyota fare, though a new 6-speed automatic is a welcome update. All the usual active safety features, from lane departure warning to cross traffic alert to a blind spot monitoring system, are standards.
Jeep finally released the rest of the Cherokee lineup, including the more rugged Trailhawk version (above). The new Cherokee will have a choice of the Dart’s 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder, or a 3.2L version of the Pentastar V6, making 271 horsepower. Power will come through a 9-speed automatic transmission.
A selection of different all-wheel drive systems will be available. Jeep Active Drive I will be a basic all-wheel drive system, whle Jeep Active Drive II will include a low-range mode. Jeep Active Drive will have low-range and a rear locking differential. None of these modes will employ a transfer case – instead, there will be a planetary gearset at the differentials.
1 million units a year. That’s going to be the minimum volume necessary for car makers to survive, if you believe SEAT boss James Muir. His struggling brand sold just 320,000 cars last year, and their exposure is largely limited to economically ill countries in the sunny areas of Europe.
This years New York Auto Show marks the end of car show season – we won’t be treated to another one until the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. Like the Geneva show that preceded it, this one will be crossover and hybrid heavy, with a sprinkling of American muscle thrown in for good measure.
Back in December, TTAC was invited to a very secret presentation somewhere in Michigan, where an assembled crowd of journalists was shown the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. At the time, the car didn’t even have a name. It was called the “KL”. TTAC was shown the base car (shown in the photos) and an upcoming variant that you’ll see next week. When the sheet was pulled back, the murmuring and and hushed chatter that permeated the room immediately ceased. Nobody knew what to make of this new crossover.