The Truth About Cars » crossovers The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:00:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » crossovers 2016 Cadillac SRX May See Local Production In China Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:00:29 +0000 01-2013-cadillac-srx-ny

On the strength of rising SUV sales in China, General Motors will likely add production of its next-generation Cadillac SRX in the emerging market in order to better capitalize on said sales.

The Wall Street Journal reports Cadillac as a whole is doing well in China, sales rising 72 percent from January through May 2014 to 33,760 units with the SRX making up the bulk of those sales at 14,496 units, a rise of 23 percent for the crossover in the same five-month period compared to 2013. The current model goes for ¥420,000 ($67,770 USD), and has been on sale in China since 2009.

The new SRX would likely arrive as a 2016 model, with the hope Chinese production would help the automaker avoid tariffs on imported models; the crossover is only assembled in Mexico at the present. GM itself has big plans for its premium brand, including a $1.3 billion plant in Shanghai, and a goal of 300,000 units sold/10 percent share of China’s premium market by 2020.

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2015 Infiniti ESQ Caught In The Wet In Spy Photos Fri, 13 Jun 2014 10:00:44 +0000 infiniti esq 1

Yesterday, we received word of the China-only Infiniti ESQ crossover, which is really the Nissan Juke minus the Nissan. Today, we have some spy shots and some information on the ESQ.

CarNewsChina reports the ESQ will enter the market by the end of the year, and will have few differences in appearance with the Juke, though most consumers won’t likely know about the badge-engineering exercise on the showroom floor; the Juke is not sold at all either as an import or as a locally made product.

Infiniti’s crossover will be assembled by the Dongfeng-Nissan joint venture, and will have the same 1.6-liter turbo delivering 200 horsepower and 184 ft-lb of torque to all four corners via CVT as the Juke Nismo. No price of admission has been given thus far.

infiniti esq 1 infiniti esq 2 infiniti esq 3 infiniti-esq-china-4 ]]> 15
Jeep’s Nine-Speed Undergoes Second Reflash For 100k Cherokees Fri, 30 May 2014 10:00:10 +0000 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002

Remember the nine-speed transmission in the new Jeep Cherokee that gave our rising superstar managing editor a hard time, followed by everyone else giving him a hard time about the truth of this car before walking back their statements in light of their seeing the light? More than 100,000 of the crossovers built before May 5 will need theirs readjusted.

Automotive News reports the software in the affected units will be subject to a five-minute software reflash, followed by a 78-minute test drive to ensure the transmission’s ability to learn how its owner drives is no longer hindered by digital bugs. While all owners will not need to bring their vehicles in for the work, those who do feel their transmission is lacking will have the fix covered for free under warranty.

The nine-speed, which also feeds power to the front and/or all four corners of the 2015 Chrysler 200, has been reflashed once before, and problems early on led to a delay in the introduction of the new Cherokee to sort out the kinks. For what it’s worth, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne isn’t concerned about what may be dinging the quality of the new transmission:

There are always teething issues with every transmission I’ve ever built, and I mean that literally. We keep tuning the transmission more and more as we get more familiar with it.

I’m never satisfied, but I think I’m OK with its application in the current car. It will get better six months from now, trust me.

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Editorial: Volkswagen’s Plan For A Cheaper Phaeton Is Another Disaster In The Making Tue, 20 May 2014 15:22:53 +0000 550x412xphaetons-550x412.jpg.pagespeed.ic.phcnXCd72w

The internet is abuzz with the possibility that the Volkswagen Phaeton might make a return to the United States – with a cheaper price point as well. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible idea. But not for the reason you might think.

At this point in the essay, other outlets would launch into a heartfelt soliloquy about the Phaeton’s technological brilliance, its lack of appreciation by the buying public and how a lower price point would tarnish its legacy as a Bentley Flying Spur built with the wrong badge.

None of that matters. Virtually nobody in America cared about the Phaeton, and fewer people bought one – save for our EIC pro tem, who has a great track record of buying rare, enthusiast vehicles that people praise online but consistently fail to purchase.

The big issue with this plan is that it is unbelievably nonsensical when looked at from a “business case” standpoint. The full-size car market is constantly contracting, with most nameplates – especially the Ford Taurus that VW cited as possible competition – seeing declining sales. Overall, the segment relies on fleet sales for about 50 percent of its volume – but given VW’s tactic of dumping Jettas and Passats in rental fleets, it might be possible to get a “Volkswagen Phaeton or similar” on your 2017 Disneyworld Vacation to Orlando.

Even more ironic is what’s taking sales away from full-size sedans. It’s crossovers, particularly the larger kind that VW doesn’t have, the kind that dealers are crying out for, the kind that VW cannot decide on where to build. For all its success in the rest of the world, Volkswagen seems constitutionally incapable of understanding the American market and its tastes. Some things can be chalked up to miscalculations. If the Phaeton arrives before a full-size crossover, it will be nothing less than unforgivable stupidity.

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Detroit Three Lead The Charge In Chinese SUV Boom Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:00:50 +0000 2014 Lincoln MKX Concept

Long after the first SUV gold rush in the United States, the Detroit Three are gearing up for a second gold rush, this time in China.

Automotive News reports SUVs and crossovers have snagged 19 percent of the local market in 2013 as the once-dominant luxury sedan market fell from 47 percent in 2000 to 15 percent. General Motors forecasts as many as 7 million SUVs will leave the showroom by 2020, with president Dan Ammann noting that 60 percent of first-time buyers in China bought an SUV last year. Further, Ford credits crossovers for a sales surge of 49 percent in 2013, pushing Toyota out of the No. 5 slot in a local market that views SUVs and crossovers as being, in the words of Chevrolet dealer He Sei, “sportier, more fashionable and more youthful” than other vehicles.

To capitalize upon the upcoming boom, GM brought the Chevrolet Trax to last week’s Beijing Motor Show with plans to add 10 SUVs during the next five years, while Ford introduced concept versions of the body-on-frame Everest and Lincoln MKX crossover, both of which will soon see production. Finally, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will resume Jeep production in China through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Company, with three models due in 2015.

Meanwhile, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Citroen are following the Detroit Three’s lead into the Chinese SUV/crossover market, bringing a number of concepts and production-ready vehicles to Beijing. That said, they will have a hard battle against the three U.S. automakers, as SUVs and crossovers have been their bread and butter since the first rush in the early 1990s through the late 2000s.

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Cain’s Segments: Luxury Crossovers Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:30:07 +0000 TTAC_luxury-crossover-sales-chart-February-2014

A strong start to 2014 has the BMW X3 leading its segment even as it’s challenged more closely in BMW showrooms by the slightly smaller and less expensive X1.

X1 sales in February jumped 57% to 2329 units, only 318 units shy of what BMW USA managed in January and February of 2013 combined. More direct competition for the X1 is set to arrive soon in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3.

At this time, however, potential X1 buyers look across the BMW showroom floor and wonder why they wouldn’t pay a bit more for the X3. Over the last two months, 62% of the X1/X3 juggernaut’s sales have been X3-derived, up just a hair from last year’s 61%.

The X3 outsold Acura’s much less costly RDX by 390 units in February. The RDX is wildly popular, but like the X3, it’s not among the quartet of top-selling premium utility vehicle nameplates in America.

That group begins with the Lexus RX, a viable alternative to these entry-level crossovers, particularly as Lexus doesn’t yet offer a production version of the LF-NX Concept. Likewise, the Cadillac SRX would be seen by many to be Detroit’s rival for the X3, RDX, Q5, and GLK, at least until Lincoln’s MKC arrives. The third-ranked premium SUV/CUV nameplate in America is the Acura MDX; it’s followed by the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

Although they don’t lead the way for premium automakers, for many buyers these entry points to the brands’ crossover lineups form the entry point to the brand, full stop. Forget the CLA, A3, and 2-Series; passenger cars with trunks that they are. Growth from these luxury crossovers is significant, especially when one considers that America’s new vehicle market hasn’t grown at all in 2014. The RDX, Q5, X1, X3, QX50, LR2, and GLK have all sold more often over the last two months than during the first two months of 2013.

The Audi Q5’s slight February decline was the first such decrease for the Q5 since October 2012. Q5 volume has improved each year since the model arrived in 2009. Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque is certainly small enough to be displayed here, although its base price might place it out of reach for a typical Acura RDX customer. Evoque sales are down 5% this year; February volume slid by 54 units. (The Range Rover Sport generated two-thirds of Land Rover’s U.S. February volume.)

Volvo’s XC60 is, not unlike the Volvo brand which it helps to lead, struggling in the United States. Like the Q5, XC60 sales have improved each year since it arrived in 2009, but 2014’s inauspicious start is not terribly surprising given the brand’s recent struggles to attract large numbers of American buyers.

Nevertheless, the story of small luxury crossovers is not told with an emphasis on irregular year-over-year decreases. The RDX, X1, X3, QX50, LR2, and GLK jointly rose 26% in February 2014. Those were not at all the sorts of figures commonly achieved by automakers last month.

2 mos.
2 mos.
Acura RDX
2911 2795 + 4.2% 5641 5284 + 6.8%
Audi Q5
2643 2753 - 4.0% 5417 5097 + 6.3%
2329 1482 + 57.2% 3661 2647 + 38.3%
3301 2175 + 51.8% 6000 4180 + 43.5%
Infiniti QX50/EX
220 150 + 46.7% 417 318 + 31.1%
Land Rover LR2
358 273 + 31.1% 721 573 + 25.8%
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
927 981 - 5.5% 1806 1910 - 5.4%
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
2624 2420 + 8.4% 4926 4816 + 2.3%
Volvo XC60
1146 1496 - 23.4% 2088 3062 - 31.8%
14,525 + 13.3% 30,677 27,887 + 10.0%
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Winterkorn: T-ROC Will Be Built If Customers Want It Sat, 08 Mar 2014 14:00:10 +0000 Volkswagen-T-ROC-Concept-02

Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn is optimistic for the future of the T-ROC, with the automaker willing to build the crossover if the customers want it.

Automotive News Europe reports the production version of the concept crossover — based upon the MQB architecture found in the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf — would slot between the compact Tiguan and VW’s planned Taigun subcompact SUV.

Winterkorn believes the concept will have a mass appeal for the automaker’s customer base — especially as sales of crossovers and small SUVs rise in Europe and the United States. VW brand head of development Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser concurred, dubbing the T-ROC a logical evolution of the Golf.

The three-door T-ROC seats four, comes with a removable tablet infotainment display, and is powered by a 2-liter diesel found in the Golf GTD, pushing 182 horses through all four wheels.

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New York 2014: BMW X4 Photos, Specs Revealed Fri, 07 Mar 2014 06:42:37 +0000 BMW X4 05

Ahead of its debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show, BMW has revealed photos and specs of their X4 crossover.

Automotive News reports the X4, underpinned by a slightly longer and lower X3 architecture — will be sold in the United States with the automaker’s xDrive AWD system mated to two turbocharged options: the xDrive28i 2-liter four pushing 240 horsepower, and the xDrive35i 3-liter six driving 300 horses. Both will be paired with an eight-speed automatic accessed via flappy paddles.

Standard features revealed include variable sport steering — with matching sports leather steering wheel — performance control and rear parking assist.

The X4s will exit the BMW factory in Spartanburg, S.C. this spring with a price of $45,625 for the 28i, $48,925 for the 35i

BMW X4 02 BMW X4 05 BMW X4 03 BMW X4 01 BMW X4 06 BMW X4 04 BMW X4 07 BMW X4 08 ]]> 25
Mazda CX-5 Closes In On 100,000 Sold Wed, 19 Feb 2014 16:15:20 +0000 2013 Mazda CX-5. Picture courtesy

Mazda moved nearly 80,000 CX-5s from the lot to the highway in 2013. If the automaker has its way this year, the C segment crossover may break 100,000 units sold.

WardsAuto reports Mazda North American Operations CEO Jim O’Sullivan his employer can hit the 100,000-mark again with the CX-5, placing the crossover alongside the Mazda3 within the company, and the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V in the overall C segment crossover record books.

Factors cited by O’Sullivan in his hopes for the CX-5 include a recovering United States auto industry, brand awareness among U.S. consumers, reduced fleet volume, a new plant in Mexico that will build the Mazda3 while allowing more capacity in Japan to be used for CX-5 assembly, and a growing enthusiasm for the C segment and small crossovers:

We’re seeing really good, organic growth from our current-generation Mazda3 customers that have bought maybe (the old compact) Protege, then Mazda3, (and) now (are) moving into crossovers and the CX-5.

Speaking of crossovers, O’Sullivan says Mazda is looking at entering the B segment with a subcompact crossover slotted under the CX-5. The so-called CX-3, expected to be based upon the Mazda2, would see production in Mexico beginning July 2015.

Finally, the CX-9 will undergo a new redesign for 2016, and will make use of the automaker’s SkyActiv brand of fuel efficiency technology upon introduction late next year.

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Hyundai, Mazda Eyeing Small Crossover Market Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:30:14 +0000 2011_Mazda2_Touring_--_11-30-2010_2.jpg

The growing small crossover segment, featuring the likes of the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore, Honda Vezel and Kia Soul, may soon find two new players in the game as both Hyundai and Mazda have their eyes on the prize.

Automotive News Europe and Automotive News report the two automakers are planning to release subcompact CUVs of their own down the road, with Mazda tying theirs to the newly redesigned Mazda2 due out later this year. The crossover would slot underneath the current CX-5 in Mazda’s home market, and would be priced between 1.5 million and 2 million yen ($15,000 – $20,000 USD).

Mazda also aims to bring the mid-size CX-9 to Japan as soon as 2015 following its next redesign; both new models would expand the automaker’s crossover lineup to three vehicles in their home market.

Meanwhile, Hyundai’s subcompact crossover is in the study phase according to Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski:

We’re always looking at segments that we’re not in right now that maybe we should be based on where the market’s going. We’re very intrigued by this B-segment CUV.

Zuchowski also announced that his employer may also bring a smaller luxury sports sedan within a couple of years, which would form a trinity with the Equus and Genesis sedans.

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Farley: Ford’s Global Growth Driven By Crossovers Fri, 14 Feb 2014 12:00:35 +0000 2015-ford-edge-concept-live-08

Though the F-150 rules over Truck Mountain and North America with an aluminium fist, Ford marketing boss Jim Farley told reporters in a meeting that crossovers are driving his employer’s sales growth all over the globe.

Automotive News reports Ford’s shifting focus to crossovers is thanks in part to the popularity among the automaker’s global audience for the particular body style, as Farley notes:

“Most people think the F series drove our top line unit growth. The No. 1 vehicle was the Escape/Kuga. No. 2 was EcoSport. Together they had about half-million-unit growth for us. The F series was a distant third.”

Farley expects global crossover sales to reach 20 million units by 2018, with 90 percent of the sales — led by the massive hit EcoSport — to be gained outside of the North American market. The aforementioned EcoSport was developed for Brazil, only to see sales jump 220 percent in 2013 upon launch in Europe, India and China.

Speaking of China, the nation is the biggest driver of the global growth now being experienced by Ford, where not only are subcompact crossovers are doing well as are exported North American mainstays Edge and Explorer. The Blue Oval aims to continue the trend when Lincoln’s MKC luxury compact crossover takes the global stage in June against the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Land Rover Evoque.

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Ford Expects SUVs, Crossovers to Drive Global Success Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:12:40 +0000 Explorer Sport front quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh

Is the future of motoring in the global marketplace in the good hands of the Golf, Forte and Fiesta? Not if you’re Ford’s vice president of Global Marketing, Jim Farley. In his mind, it’ll be a page from the 1991 Explorer’s successful playbook that will help his employer gain market and mind share the world over.

According to Farley, the Blue Oval will experience an overall 23 percent growth in sales between last year and 2017, while utility vehicle sales will boom to 41 percent in the same period (and straight up explode in China with help from smaller crossover utility models such as the oft-beleaguered Escape/Kuga, EcoSport and, of course, Explorer).

As for sales in established markets, though Ford and their competitors have had difficulties overall in the European market, utility sales are expanding like the universe at the start of the Big Bang. The automaker expect their utility sales to grow 65 percent between last year and 2017, while the overall utility market is projected to grow 30 percent.

To capitalize on this potential gold mine, Ford will use their One Ford plan to globalize their lineup of utility vehicles.

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Los Angeles 2013: Lincoln MKC, Gets Brand Specific 2.3 Liter EcoBoost Thu, 21 Nov 2013 14:46:57 +0000 2015 Lincoln MKC

There are so many automakers chasing the segment, perceived to be red hot, that one is tempted to set up a keyboard macro to type out “compact crossover”. The next step in Ford’s attempt to revive the Lincoln brand is exactly one of those, the 2015 MKC.


Though it’s based on the Ford Escape, the relationship isn’t obvious, with the MKC getting all new sheetmetal integrating the latest version of Lincoln’s split-wing grille and the brand’s new signature, taillamps that run from corner to corner. Offered on the MKC but not available on the Escape will be the new 2.3 liter EcoBoost four cylinder engine with 275 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque (the base 2 liter EcoBoost is rated at 240/270). Available in either front wheel drive or all wheel drive, the MKC offers what Lincoln is calling Continuously Controlled Damping adaptive suspension.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC 2015 Lincoln MKC


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Los Angeles 2013: Nissan Juke NISMO RS Gains More Power Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:15:25 +0000 Nissan Juke NISMO RS 02

Though the Juke is marketed as a fun-to-drive vehicle for members of Generation Why, Nissan knows it could do better to make the crossover a performance monster, too. Enter the Juke NISMO RS.

The RS brings to the table 215 horsepower out front from its 1.6-liter turbo-4 through a manual, or 211 through a CVT, with all-wheel drive available on the latter The suspension and steering have been tuned for better handling, with larger discs up front and vented ones in the back to bring the bug-eyed sprite to a halt. A revised exhaust and ECU also do their best to make the RS all that it was meant to be.

Inside, Recaro seats in red leather and black suede wait to hug you while the optional satnav — the only option available to both CVT and manual models — will help take you from one hipster hangout to the next.

Nissan expect the Juke NISMO RS to arrive in showrooms in early 2014.

Nissan Juke NISMO RS 01 Nissan Juke NISMO RS 02 Nissan Juke NISMO RS 03 Nissan Juke NISMO RS 04 Nissan Juke NISMO RS 05 Nissan Juke NISMO RS 06 ]]> 12
Cadillac Considers Lambda Based Unibody Crossover to Extend Escalade Brand Tue, 08 Oct 2013 16:46:50 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

As Cadillac introduces the all-new 2015 Escalade body-on-frame SUV, the luxury marque is considering extending the Escalade brand to include a large crossover that would slot in between the full size ‘Slade and the midsize SRX CUV. “I think there’s a lot of equity in Escalade,” Bob Ferguson, senior vice president of global Cadillac, told Automotive News at the NYC reveal of the revamped SUV, “I’d like to explore the notion of other vehicles that would carry that brand name.”

Ferguson said that GM planners “are still looking at” a unibody crossover larger than the SRX to complement the Escalade SUV, which is based on a GM truck platform. There is a segment of consumers that are looking for a large utility vehicle but one that’s more car-like. Of course with similar construction and layouts there’s no reason why an Escalade shouldn’t ride just as smoothly as a 1960s era BOF Cadillac sedan, but perception isn’t always the same as reality, and crossovers are a fast growing market segment. Since GM already makes the large Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse CUVs on the unibody “Lambda” platform, it seems likely that the next generation Lambdas will include a Cadillac.

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Rolls-Royce “Intensively Thinking About” Selling An SUV Thu, 12 Sep 2013 12:00:02 +0000 rollroycesuvchop1

Illustration by Garrett Bradford. All rights reserved, used with permission.

No sooner did Bentley confirm that they will indeed be producing a premium priced crossover, then Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes announced that they will join the other British ultra luxury marque in offering a utility vehicle, likely to cost even more than the Bentley, which is expected to start at about $250,000.

The least expensive Rolls-Royce, the BMW 7 Series based Ghost, starts at more than that price. BMW owns Rolls-Royce while another German automaker, Volkswagen, owns Bentley. “We are intensively thinking about entering the SUV segment,” Mueller-Oetvoes told Bloomberg in an interview at the Frankfurt auto show. “The SUV segment is very interesting. It has been incredibly stable during the crisis, and I think a luxury niche will develop.”

Crossover frenzy seems to be gripping the auto industry at all price points, including among luxury brands. The Rolls-Royce announcement follows previous news that Maserati would sell the Levante SUV starting in 2015 and CUV concept reveals at the Frankfurt Motor Show by both Jaguar and Infiniti.


Illustration by Garrett Bradford. All rights reserved, used with permission.


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Jaguar Will Take on 3 Series Segment & More With New Modular All Aluminum Architecture Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:20:30 +0000 Jaguar has a core competency in aluminum architecture. XJ bodies being assembled.

Jaguar has a core competency in aluminum architecture that will be applied to their new sedan and crossover. Pictured, XJ bodies being assembled.

The mid-sized mass-market luxury car segment is defined by the BMW 3 Series. Jaguar once tried to enter that segment with the X Type, but the “mini XJ” never caught on, in part because it was derided as a badge engineered Ford Mondeo. According to Automotive News The C-X17 crossover concept revealed in Frankfurt this week is based on a new all-aluminum platform that will underpin a “range of future Jaguars”, the most important of which will be a mid-sized sedan to again take on the BMW 3 and its competitors. Jaguar has a core competency in aluminum construction and having the first all-aluminum car in the C and D segments will be a selling point for the new models. While Jaguar Land Rover’s current sales are the strongest the British car maker has had, JLR’s owners, Tata, are hoping that JLR will reach three quarters of a million units by 2020 and ultimately joining the ranks of automakers selling a million or more cars a year. To do that Jaguar needs a volume product, the most logical being a mid-sizer. With CUVs sales booming, a crossover based on the C-X17 will also help reach that volume. While differentiating between a Jaguar crossover and the Land Rover lineup will be an issue, Jaguar does say that the CUV will have some off-road capabilities.

Smaller displacement engines are seen as the auto industry’s future and JLR has invested $776 million in a new engine factory in Wolverhampton, England that will produce an all-new JLR designed four cylinder engine in both diesel and petrol versions that will likely be the standard powerplants in the vehicles based on the new platform. However, since a very large percentage of luxury cars sold in North America are currently sold with V6 engines, expect a version of Jaguar’s new V6 to be available as well. The availability of all wheel drive is critical for selling cars in the northern half of the United States, and Jaguar made a big splash this past winter about offering AWD on the XJ and XF, so you can likewise expect the new sedan to share the crossover’s AWD components.

Another current trend in the industry is modular architecture and Jaguar says that the new platform will be scalable, so it could in theory be the basis of cars the size of a BMW 5 or Mercedes-Benz E Class, or crossovers larger than the C-X17, which is about the size of an Audi Q5.

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Cain’s Segments: Small Premium Utilities – August 2013 Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:00:43 +0000 TTAC_small-premium-SUVs-august-2013-chart

We’ll confirm it. Again. America is becoming ever more hungry for small premium brand crossovers, and that’s not simply a result of there being more $40,000 German utility vehicles from which to choose.

Exclude the BMW X1, which only became available late in the third quarter of 2012, and the small luxury SUV market (as we’ve defined it in the table below) grew 29% in the first eight months of 2013.

Sure, perhaps some of this growth can be attributed to an increased effort to lease vehicles to consumers who might otherwise consider a Ford Escape Titanium. But the growth rate in this category is far in excess of the overall industry’s 9.5% improvement; better than the overall SUV/CUV market’s 13.5% improvement, as well.

As is bound to be the case, improvement can’t be found in all corners of the category. The BMW X3’s 5% year-over-year drop through eight months, however, has occurred with a combined 74% increase in X1/X3 volume. And while Infiniti’s outdated QX50 (formerly EX) is down 47% this year, having fallen 42% last year, the gains of Infiniti’s three-row QX60 (formerly JX) have propelled Infiniti’s four-pronged utility vehicle lineup to a 19% boost in 2013.

Meanwhile, the year-over-year increases reported by the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60 have outpaced the industry average. Even Land Rover’s LR2 is selling better than it did in 2011 or 2012, although at little more than one-third the rate it did just six years ago.

Not unlike a hyped-up sports car that initially sells very well then gradually reaches a mature, steady monthly output, small luxury crossovers form an immature group. The difference, in this case, relates to the fact that consistent volume, a levelling off, may not occur for some time.

The Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Porsche Macan can attract more buyers than they pull away from the Q5 and GLK and Cayenne. The Lexus LF-NX Concept certainly doesn’t look like something that would attract most conservative RX buyers. And it’s not as though automakers will allow their current models to languish. Even in their current iterations, hoods are opening up to reveal diesel powerplants. Neither have we seen what will be done with second-generation versions of most vehicles in the segment.

So are consumers currently attracted to Q5s, RDXs, X3s, GLKs, and Evoques because they’re fresh and shiny? Of course, but there’s not about to be any lack of freshness or shine. On one hand, sales will not continue to grow at otherworldly rates; not forever. On the other, the BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon isn’t about to make a dent in the small luxury crossover category’s move up the ladder.

The Audi A4 Allroad rose 13% to 456 units in August and 161% to 3665 units year-to-date. The RX and SRX from Lexus and Cadillac, America’s two top-selling premium brand utility vehicles, combined for 18,634 August sales, up from 13,831 in August 2012. Year-to-date, the RX and SRX are up to 101,822 units from 95,566 during the same period in 2012. Base prices for the RX and SRX put them up against the smaller luxury crossovers. The Buick Encore, if you must throw it in the mix, has achieved August/YTD totals of 4296 and 19,724 units.

These nine tall wagons are responsible for 1.3% of America’s new vehicle sales so far this year, up from 1% during the first two-thirds of 2012.

Times have changed. In 2007, when the RDX, X3, and LR2 were laying the foundation, only 0.4% of the market belonged to the category.


8 mos.
Acura RDX
4381 2926 + 49.7% 30,517 16,863 + 81.0%
Audi Q5
3845 2007 + 91.6% 25,331 17,641 + 43.6%
2278 576 + 295% 16,504 576 + 2765%
2146 2829 - 24.1% 18,485 19,557 - 5.5%
Infiniti EX/QX50
236 216 + 9.3% 1189 2227 - 46.6%
Land Rover LR2
347 250 + 38.8% 2070 2038 + 1.6%
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
1070 700 + 52.9% 7463 5676 + 31.5%
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
2372 2775 - 14.5% 20,898 16,935 + 23.4%
Volvo XC60
1793 1897 - 5.5% 14,086 12,188 + 15.6%
14,176 + 30.3% 136,543 93,701 + 45.7%
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Crossover Sales Soar Mon, 09 Sep 2013 19:00:32 +0000 USA_small-suv-sales-chart-july-2013

If you want to know why Jaguar and Lexus are introducing compact crossover concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, all you have to do is check the sales data. Crossover sales are soaring, particularly compacts. Last month, Toyota’s RAV4 was up 50% year to year, and the CR-V at Honda had its best sales month yet. Car sales in general are good in the United States right now, with overall August sales up 17%, but sales of smaller crossovers have doubled that and then some at 36%. Crossovers have gained market share for 10 straight months and now take just over a quarter of the total market, on a pace to sell about 4 million units this year. Overall crossover sales are up about 2% from last year, with compacts making most of that difference. As recently as 2007, crossovers only made up 15% of U.S. light vehicle sales. Pickup trucks are usually seen as America’s favorite vehicles, but in August crossovers outsold pickups by almost a 2 to 1 margin.

Ford and Honda hope to sell as many as 300,000 Escapes and CR-Vs and Toyota is looking at selling more than 200,000 RAV4s this year, which would be a record for that model. Escape sales were down 5% in August, which Ford attributed to short supplies.


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Editorial: Event Horizon For Compact Crossovers Wed, 14 Aug 2013 15:25:37 +0000 mercedes-benz-gla-1

Normally this is something I would have saved for our “TTAC Staff” news items, but I’m the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz GLA is significant. We’ve reached the event horizon for compact crossovers and their global proliferation.

There’s long been a dichotomy in North America regarding SUVs and station wagons. Ask a certain group of car enthusiast and they’ll tell you that Americans, in their profligacy and pig-headedness, preferred wasteful, dynamically unsatisfying SUVs built on archaic ladder-frame truck underpinnings, or worse, crossovers, which had all the drawbacks of both cars and trucks. According to our wagon evangelists, Europhiles and tenured academics (oftentimes the three intersected), Europeans were wiser in preferring more efficient, car-based station wagons, which were more European and therefore superior to two-box vehicles with taller ride heights.

The past two years have turned that notion on its head. Buyers from Amsterdam to Mumbai to Zaragoza have been flocking to compact crossovers like the Opel Mokka and Dacia Duster, while those who have been less hard hit by the Eurozone crisis are flocking to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. Even in emerging markets like Brazil, small crossovers are in demand (click here for Marcelo’s definitive explanation of why these vehicles are so well suited for developing countries). It turns out that a raised driving position, higher ride height and SUV-like styling have resonated with consumers the world over. A list of France’s top-selling crossovers shows that 9 of the top 10 sellers are available in North America as well as Europe.

Products like the Mokka, Duster, the Renault Captur and VW Tiguan are all first-generation vehicles, and the segment itself is one of the few bright spots in a dismal European car market. There is plenty of room for growth too. The Nissan Qashqai, credited with inventing the segment in outside North America, has only been on sale since 2007, but its instant success has meant that nearly every brand is readying a competitor for the Qashqai or the smaller, B-segment Juke, for sale in the next couple years.

Beyond Europe, these vehicles are also gaining ground in global markets like the BRIC countries, Australia and even America, where Buick can’t keep enough rebadged Mokkas (dubbed the Encore) on dealer lots. Globally, Range Rover’s Evoque has been an unprecedented success, with Jaguar Land Rover unable to meet demand despite building the cars literally 24 hours a day.

Consumers aside, small crossovers are a profitable proposition for car makers as well. The Encore and Mokka share the Gamma II platform with more modest offerings like the Chevrolet Spin (a low cost minivan built in Indonesia and Brazil) and the Sonic subcompact in North America and Australia. While a Sonic can cost just over $14,000, an Encore’s base price is roughly $10,000 more. And one look at an Encore will reveal that the two cars aren’t terribly different both inside and out (even sharing the same 1.4: turbocharged powertrain).

For luxury car makers like Mercedes-Benz, which is introducing a new compact front-wheel drive architecture, the GLA will serve a similar purpose as the higher margin version of a premium compact sedan. Crucially for Mercedes, it will finally have something to compete against the Audi A3 and BMW X1, rather than letting its two rivals gobble up market share. While BMW continues to build the X1 in Germany, Audi and Mercedes have chosen lower cost production sites like Spain and Mexico (for Audi) and Hungary (for Mercedes) which can help maintain profit margins while also keeping assembly costs down.

The success of these vehicles mean that these vehicles aren’t going anywhere, and current conditions will only help entrench them further. Consumer tastes, the need for ever greater economies of scale through increased volume and utilizing of existing platforms. The enhanced potential for profit through these vehicles means that auto makers will be doing all they can to sell them worldwide. They also provide a regulatory boost for many OEMs when it comes to CAFE or Euro emissions regulations, as the smaller, more-efficient compact crossovers offset less efficient luxury and performance vehicles.

Luckily, wagons aren’t going anywhere, especially outside North America. But compact crossovers are here to stay. And I was totally wrong about them.

mercedes-benz-gla-1 mercedes-benz-gla-2 mercedes-benz-gla-3 mercedes-benz-gla-4 mercedes-benz-gla-5 mercedes-benz-gla-7 mercedes-benz-gla-8 ]]> 134
Hyundai Next To Enter The Small Crossover Party? Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:45:58 +0000 Hyundai_ix35_2.0_4WD_Premium_–_Frontansicht_(1),_29._Mai_2011,_Heiligenhaus

For all of Hyundai’s successes in Europe, it is conspicuously absent in perhaps the lone major growth segment on the continent; small crossovers. We’re not talking “small” in the sense of the Hyundai Tucson either. Think more along the lines of the Opel Mokka (our Buick Encore), the Ford EcoSport and the Dacia Duster. Even premium brands are getting into the fold, with the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA vying for market share.

It would only make sense that Hyundai would be whipping something up to compete in that space, and this was only confirmed by Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik, who told Edmunds

“I think it is something that we have to look at,” Krafcik said. “We don’t have any plans. (But) it does seem like there is a lot of action in stuff below RAV4- and Tucson-sized vehicles. A new segment is emerging.”

Krafcik is certainly correct about the emergence of a segment that barely existed in the United States prior to the arrival of the Buick Encore. Sure, the Suzuki SX4 existed, but it was basically irrelevant in the broader context of the market. The Encore has had a relatively stable time on the market so far – inventories suddenly shot up this month to 72 days, but prior to that, they were firmly in the 30 day range. Sales have been in the 2,000-3,000 month ballpark, a respectable figure for a very niche vehicle.

Small cars have traditionally been less than popular in America, but when wrapped in crossover packaging, it may prove more palatable to Americans. In world markets, these cars have been astoundingly popular for different reasons. While small cars are the norm over there, Europeans tend to like the higher driving position without sacrificing the small size required for their tight urban spaces. In the BRIC countries, the SUV-aesthetics are considered a premium feature over regular small cars. Either way, it looks like we’ll be getting a few more of these products in the near future – Hyundai included.

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Review: 2013 Juke Nismo (Video) Fri, 14 Jun 2013 23:24:30 +0000 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Let’s get one thing sorted. The picture above is not, I repeat not, the wasabi-snorting-485-horsepower-3.7-second-to-60 Juke that Nissan has been teasing. Instead, this is the Nismo treated Juke we saw at the Chicago Auto Show in February. If you’re disappointed, or if the unusual confluence of shapes that is the Juke has made you throw up a little in your mouth, don’t click past the jump. We warned you.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Calling the Juke’s styling “not everyone’s cup of tea” (as one person I met put it) or even “polarizing” hardly begins to describe what’s going on here. My week with Nissan’s smallest crossover in America was filled with awkward stares, gaping mouths and looks of revulsion. But that’s not the whole story. For every 10 people that wanted to run the Juke out-of-town like villagers wielding pitchforks, there were two or three that thought it was fantastic looking. No, cross that, they wanted to bear the Juke’s children. That’s how far they went. This makes the Juke the most polarizing car design I have seen. Yes, I’m including the unholy Aztec and Rendezvous. However you feel about the Juke’s design, you have to admit it took some brass balls to design it, produce it, and then keep selling it.

Let’s toss in another photo:

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior

Our own Sajeev Mehta performed one of his excellent “Vellum Venom” critiques of the Juke in March, so be sure you check that out. My personal reaction is mixed. I appreciate the overall dimensions of the Juke as most crossovers on the road are ridiculously over-sized, but I think that the design team got just a bit carried away. Especially with the front end. I don’t mind the round headlamps, the round proboscis doesn’t bother me at all, but those turn signal pods that rise from the hood reminded me of a frog. Frogs are tasty, but I don’t find them cute. Making them stand out even more is the fact that they can be seen inside by the driver and front passenger. That said, I appreciate polarizing designs because of the passion they inspire. If you’re one of those people who want to interbreed with a Juke, more power to you. One thing is for sure, you get an enormous heaping of style for Nismo’s $22,990 starting price.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Because the base Juke wears a starting MSRP of $18,990, my expectations were low. If you keep your expectations at a similarly realistic level, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. For $22,990 the Nismo version adds heavily bolstered Alcantara sport seats, a leather and Alcantara wrapped steering wheel, center arm rest, red tachometer, plenty of Nismo badges and red-stitching galore. Unfortunately, the standard hard plastic dashboard and the world’s least attractive headliner remain. Seriously, this has to be the same material the trunk liner in a Versa is crafted from, how much would it have cost for something out of the Altima? On the flip side, you have to keep reminding yourself that 27-large is as expensive as any Juke gets and the Nismo tops out at $26,460 with navigation, the CVT and AWD. That’s well below the average new car transaction price in America.

The Alcantara thrones are some of the most attractive (and best bolstered) seats you can find for under $30,000, but they still ride on the same 6-way manual driver’s and 4-way passenger’s seat frames as the regular Juke. This means the range of motion is limited and lumbar support is non-existent. Still, one must have perspective and you’ll find the same situation in most cars this price. I was disappointed to find that the Juke’s steering wheel doesn’t telescope making it hard for me to find an idea driving position.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Thanks to the  hatchback-like profile, the rear seats offer more room than you’d think by looking at the outside with enough head and legroom for a quartet of adult men. More surprising, those four guy’s bags will fit in the Juke’s surprisingly large and deep trunk. The reason for that large cargo area (with more under the load floor) is the Juke’s fairly tall profile and low ride height which allows for a deep (if strangely shaped) cargo hold. (Check out the video to see under the load floor.)

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Nismoing your Juke doesn’t improve the way your tunes sound, you get the same base AM/FM/XM/CD/iPod/USB head unit as the base Juke, with the same six unbranded speakers. For $1,150 you can add what Nissan used to call their “low-cost navigation unit” bundled with a Rockford Fosgate speaker system and 8-inch subwoofer. I was a bit skeptical about this combination, but the tuning of the RF system was surprisingly well-balanced for a factory up-sell. The big draw for me is the nav unit.

The nav system by itself seems to go for about $750 in other Nissan models and is one of the best navs on the market in my opinion. It’s not that it offers a huge feature set or slick graphics, what appeals to me is the low-cost and simple, straight-forward interface. The system has the basics covered from XM traffic and fuel prices to on-screen USB/iDevice integration and Bluetooth speakerphone integration. The one strange omission from the system is Bluetooth audio streaming which isn’t supported.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Shifter, 6-Speed Manual, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

Despite being the antithesis of square, the Cube and the Juke ride on the same Nissan Versa underpinnings. Thankfully the underpinnings are all they share. Instead of the wheezy 1.8L mill, Nissan cooked up an all-new 1.6L direct-injection four-cylinder for the Juke (they have since jammed it in foreign market Versas as well). The small engine is good for a [comparatively] large 197 horsepower (9 more than the regular Juke) and 184 lb-ft from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm (7 more). That’s a reasonable amount of power for something that could be seen as an upgrade from a loaded Sentra SR.

The Juke may be a funny looking creature with some cheap plastics inside, but even in base form it has road manners that impress. To create the Nismo, Nissan bumped up the tires to 224/45R18, stiffened the springs by 10%, tweaked the dampers, fiddled with the steering and bumped the final drive ratio. They then made the 6-speed manual transmission the standard cog-swapper rather than the CVT (standard in the regular Juke), added red mirror caps and called it a day.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

A trick that is sometimes used to make the sporty version of a car more dynamic on the road is to swap out the electric power steering for a traditional hydraulic unit. When I first hit the curves in the Juke I assumed Nissan had employed this trick. Much to my surprise, Nissan didn’t do that. Instead they tweaked the EPAS (Electric Power Assist Steering) system for improved feedback and a different level of assist. The result is impressive but made me ask: why don’t all EPAS equipped Nissans feel like this? In truth, the feel is still lacking compared to the “good old days,” but the steering is notably more direct and linear with just a hint of feedback from the wide front rubber. This is as good as it gets with EPAS.

Before the Juke arrived I had spent a week in the 2013 BMW X6M (our reviews are obviously out of order). Having the Nismo and an X6M back to back may sound like a real let down, but there’s another side. Obviously the Juke doesn’t handle or accelerate like an M, but there is something of the personality that struck me. No, I’m not just talking about the X6 being similarly polarizing in the style department, I’m talking on the road personality. They are similarly “eager.”  In this way, the Juke reminded me of a small dog that thinks it’s a big dog. It even has a chihuahua’s eyes. Is that good or bad? Good seeing as the Juke costs about 1/4th the price. I managed a 7.45 second 0-60 dash in the 6-speed manual model, let’s just say the X6M didn’t get there in 1/4th the time.

It gets a bit more complicated. You see, the Juke is two kinds of animal. If you get the 6-speed manual transmission you get plenty of torque steer, slick shifts and a more engaging ride. (And for some reason torque steer makes me smile when it’s on a small-scale like this.) If you get the AWD Nismo, you’re stuck with Nissan’s CVT. I’m no CVT hater but even I have to admit the CVT dulls the Juke’s personality. On the flip side, the torque vectoring AWD system makes the CVT/AWD Nismo the faster car on the track by a reasonable margin. If you have an oddly shaped place in your heart for Nissan’s over-styled crossover, you have a difficult decision on your hands. Either way the Juke is destined to be one of the rarer vehicles on American roads and I get the impression that’s just how lovers and haters of the Juke like it.


Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • The best handling chihuahua on the road.
  • Nissan’s torque vectoring AWD system is a hoot and a half.

Quit it

  • Saying the Juke’s looks aren’t for everyone is being polite.
  • What’s up with that headliner anyway?


Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.45 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 90.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 27.8 MPG over 589 miles

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Small SUV Crashopalooza: Detroit Loses, Dykes Win Thu, 16 May 2013 12:40:29 +0000

SUVs are usually regarded as safer than small cars. However, “most of the small SUVs tested for safety in crashes did not fare well in more stringent tests” performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Reuters says.

“US small SUVs scored badly,” writes the wire. Top honors took a trucklet that, according to the Urban Dictionary, is “driven by post-menopausal lesbians:” The Subaru Forester.

IIHS Small SUV Crash Ratings
Make, model Moderate overlap front Side impact Rollover Rear Small overlap front
2014 Subaru Forester G G G G G
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport G G G G A
2013 BMW X1 G G G G M
2013 Honda CR-V G G G G M
2013 Volkswagen Tiguan G G G G M
2013 Buick Encore G G G G P
2013 Ford Escape G G G G P
2013 Hyundai Tucson G G G G P
2013-14 Jeep Patriot G G G G P
2013 Kia Sportage G G G G P
2013-14 Mazda CX-5 G G G G M
2013 Toyota RAV4 G G G G NA
2013 Nissan Rogue G G A G M
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander G G A A NA
2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara G A A M NA
2013 Jeep Wrangler 2 door G P NA M M

The Forester is the only small SUV that received a “good” rating in the newly added Small Front Overlap Test. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport received an “acceptable” rating on the overlap test, and made second. The Forester and the Outlander were the only small SUVs to be awarded the IHS “Top Safety Pick+.”

The best-rated Detroit trucklet is the Buick Encore on place 6 with a poor Small Overlap rating. The Jeep Wrangler brings up the rear with a truly mediocre showing. Boo, hiss, Detroit – pussy-whipped by a Japanese transgender crossover that is also known as a “vag-wag?”

PS: Before you start to tar and feather me for Detroit bashing LGBT discrimination, please be notified that according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the term “dyke” originated “as a derogatory label for a masculine woman, and this usage still exists.” Shame on them. “However, some persons attempt to use it in a manner that they see as positive, or as a neutral synonym for lesbian,” and those persons include the Schmitts.

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Review: 2013 Toyota Venza (Video) Mon, 25 Feb 2013 14:00:33 +0000

Our recent looks at the Ford Edge Ecoboost and GMC Terrain prompted an email from a reader asking us to take a look at the 2013 Toyota Venza with these two American entries in mind. If you have a request or suggestion for a vehicle review, just click the contact link at the top of the page, or find us on Facebook and drop us a note.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Venza landed as a 2009 model year vehicle with a confusing mission: slot between the 7-seat RAV-4 and the 7-Seat Highlander as a 5-seat mid-sized crossover. The Lexus RX imitating shape of the Venza caused further confusion and the dimensions didn’t help either since the Venza is longer than the Highlander. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Toyota from shifting around 45,000 Venzas a year in America. If you think that number sounds low, you’re right. Ford sold 128,000 Edges and GM pumped out a whopping 316,000 soft-roaders between the Equinox and the Terrain.


While many crossovers try to hide passenger car roots with boxy wheel arches truck-inspired grilles, the Venza is more open about its sedan origins. Think of the Venza as a modern Camry wagon. If you want a crossover that looks more butch, opt for the closely related Highlander. Just remember it is no more capable off-road than the Venza since they share engines, transmissions, AWD systems and have identical 8.1-inch ride heights. While the side and 3/4 profiles scream Lexus RX to me, the Venza shares incredibly little with the Lexus, for better or worse.

For 2013 Toyota has given the Venza a mild facelift grafting their corporate three-bar grille to the four-year old profile. Aside from the nose job the changes are fairly mild and boil down to new wheels, light modules, paint colors, and a few additional base features. While not a change to the Venza, the new RAV4 is no longer available in a 7-seat version making the Venza’s position in the lineup easier to understand.

Despite the tweaking, I find the Ford and GM crossovers more visually exciting, especially the GMC Terrain with its mini-truck clothes job. The Ford Edge is blander, but somehow manages a less controversial front bumper than the Venza. The American options are slightly larger but actually less capable off road since they have notably lower ground clearances. Before you flame in the comment section, I’m not discounting the CX-7, Satta Fe or Murano, but this is a somewhat large segment and our reader request asked specifically about a GM/Ford/Toyota shootout. (If we did drop those three into the mix the Santa Fe would have been given my nod in the looks department.)


The Venza’s interior is starting to show its age more than the competition. With a decidedly asymmetrical design, a dashboard mounted shifter and a somewhat boring gauge cluster, the Venza failed to push many of the right buttons for me aesthetically. Of course style is subjective so I’d like to know your thoughts below. On a functional level, the dashboard layout ranks low on my scale because of the three-display theme where the clock, thermometer, trip computer and climate readout are set high in the dashboard on a small LCD. In addition to this functional setback there is plenty of hard plastic in the cabin leaving the Venza at the back of the pack in terms of haptic bliss. You won’t find the RAV4′s stitched pleather dash bits in the Venza, and strangely enough we didn’t find Toyota’s usual attention to detail either. Our tester’s dashboard had some ill-fitting trim and speaker grills which bugged me all week. Hopefully Toyota will refresh the Venza’s interior soon, although if you have kids that are rough on cars, hard plastic might be what you need, it holds up better in the long run.

For 2013, all Venza models get a power driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control standard. Should you opt for the higher trim levels, Toyota will toss in a power passenger throne as well. Regardless of your trim level and fabric choice, the Venza’s seats aren’t as comfortable on long car trips as the competition. Nobody in this segment provides a huge range of motion or much lateral bolstering in their front seats but the Venza’s seemed particularly flat and thin. With any vehicle purchase, try to get a long test drive or extended seat time at the dealer lot. Spend time in the seats to decide which vehicle is better at keeping your sciatica at bay.

The modern crossover is the spiritual successor to the station wagon and minivan. This shows in the back with thoughtful touches like reclining seat backs, available rear seat entertainment systems that have dual independent DVD players, fairly good visibility and seat bottom cushions that are fairly low to the floor. The low seat cushions mean that adults on long car trips may find their legs need a bit more support but kids will be happier with the seating position.

All Venzas swallow 36 cubic feet of IKEA purchases, notably larger than the American competition despite the fact that the Ford an GM CUVs are longer than the Venza. While the rear seats fold completely flat, the front passenger seat doesn’t fold making it harder to get long and bulky items inside. An important item overlooked by some CUV reviews is the payload capacity. The Venza’s 825lbs rating is adequate for four American-sized guys and a French poodle, while the Terrain’s 1,146lb payload could accommodate the same four dudes and 60 bricks from Home Depot. Not that either shopper is likely to encounter the latter situation.


Venzas start out with Toyota’s easy-to-use “Display Audio” system which features a 6.1-inch touchscreen LCD, USD/iDevice integration and Bluetooth streaming and speakerphone. The base system is easy to use and allows full access of your music device via the on-screen commands. Optional on base Venza models and standard on XLE and Limited is Toyota’s Entune software. Entune is analogous to Ford’s SYNC product, something we’ve seen for ages allowing the same level of voice command interaction with your music device and other aspects of the audio system. Entune’s voice responses are more polished than Ford’s thanks to its more recent design. Response times are snappy and the system’s accuracy was equal to the other systems on the market. Entune also allows smartphone app integration with the system so you can use the radio interface to control your Pandora streaming, search Bing for destinations and make reservations via Open Table. Originally compatible only with iOS devices, the system is now fully functional with most current Android devices.

Base and XLE buyers also have the option of adding on Toyota’s basic navigation software which acts like an “app” on the system and uses your smartphone for traffic and weather data rather than a satellite subscription service. The downside? You can’t access these services without a smartphone, so if you haven’t joined the 21st century and are still using a Motorola StarTac, you won’t be able Bing while you roll.  The audio quality from the base speaker package is merely average, if you care about your tunes XLE models can be had with the  $1,850 premium package which adds 13 JBL speakers (including a subwoofer) and a power moonroof.

Venza Limited models come standard with the up-level JBL speakers but strangely use an entirely different 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The 7-inch system should be familiar with any late model Toyota or Lexus owners as this is essentially the same software they have used for some time. The larger system uses a hard drive for navigation data and has a larger pre-programmed database built in. Toyota has updated this system to allow the same Entune app integration and music device voice control as the lower-end unit, but there’s a catch. If you want traffic data to show on this navigation screen you’ll need an XM Nav Traffic subscription since it won’t pull the data via your smartphone.

Compared to MyFord Touch, the Venza’s systems all have smaller touchscreens and lack the visual polish of Ford’s system. Entune doesn’t offer Ford’s easy-to-use voice text messaging assistant, the dual LCDs in the gauge cluster or the ability to voice command your climate control. In Toyota’s defense, Entune didn’t crash or freeze during our week (unlike MyFord Touch). Does that make Ford the winner here? No, that goes to GM with their new touchscreen infotainment system that beats both systems in terms of response, graphics and the smoothness of the voice command interactions.


While the competition is toying with boosted four cylinder engines, Toyota sticks with a more traditional four/six cylinder lineup for the Venza. The base engine in all trims is the same 2.7L four-cylinder engine as the Highlander and Sienna. Cranking out 181HP and 182lb-ft of torque the four cylinder scores 20MPG City, 26 Highway and 23MPG combined in FWD form and 20/26/22 when equipped with Toyota’s AWD system.

Should you need more shove, Toyota offers their ubiquitous 3.5L V6 for $1,820. This isn’t Toyota’s direct-injection six, but it does get dual variable valve timing to churn out 268HP at 6,200RPM and 248lb-ft of twist at 4,700RPM. Like the 2.7L engine the V6 is mated to Toyota’s 6-speed automatic transaxle. The extra shove may cost you more initially but it won’t cost you much at the pump with the FWD V6 having an identical highway mileage score and dropping only one MPG in the city. Add AWD and the numbers drop to 18/25/21 according to the EPA.

If you live in the snow belt, the optional AWD will set you back $1,450 with either engine. The system worked well on gravel roads and slick, leaf-covered back country lanes, but is decidedly slip-and-grip in feel. From a standstill in the Ford and GM crossovers, planting your foot on the throttle is a drama-free experience as the AWD system acts immediately preventing wheel spin in most circumstances. The Venza on the other hand one-wheel-peels for a short while before the system sends power to the back. While this arrangement is slightly less refined, it is unlikely to cause much of a problem en route to the ski resort.

Let’s be honest, nobody buys crossovers or SUVs for their on-road prowess. Of course that puts the crossover in something of a pickle since, unlike an SUV, they aren’t designed for off road use either. Rather the modern crossover is trying to be everything to everyone, the perfect family hauler, cargo schlepper, weekend ski shuttle,  and commuter car all while trying desperately to look like anything other than a minivan or station wagon. The result with the Venza is a fairly tall, softly spring crossover with a fuel efficient V6 engine and optional AWD. While far from sloppy out on the back roads, the Venza tips, dives and rolls more than my sedan-biased preferences care for. Compared to the GMC Terrain, the Venza feels far less composed and despite being smaller than the GMC, it feels much larger on the road. GM’s 3.6L direct-injection V6 delivers 301HP and 272lb-ft of torque and the difference is noticeable on the road and at the pump with V6 AWD Terrain only serving up 16/23MPG. Meanwhile the Edge’s optional 3.5L V6 lands in the middle in terms of power and economy.

Our V6 AWD Limited tester rang in a $41,904 which is a few hundred more than a comparably equipped Ford Edge but $3,639 more than a comparably equipped GMC Terrain while the Equinox is a bit cheaper still. This placed my final ranking as follows: GMC Terrain, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox and lastly the Toyota Venza. While I wouldn’t rank the Venza last in the entire segment, its age is starting to show and without some attention from Toyota to the interior quality and feel issues, the Venza will continue to sell largely on its reputation for reliable and dependable service.


 Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 6.3 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 14.9 Seconds at 93 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 21.5MPG over 658 Miles

2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seat Entertainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Front Seats and Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dash Display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 44
Review: 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar Take Two Fri, 13 Jul 2012 14:51:46 +0000

Volvo has long been the “safe choice” in more ways than one. The brand’s reputation is steeped in safety, but for the past 30 years “luxury with a hint of performance” has been a secondary focus. Even still, arriving at the country club in a Volvo won’t bring out the green-eyed-monster. Your fellow socialites will just think you were being safe and practical. Volvo may be the Birkenstock of the automotive world, but that doesn’t prevent them from creating the occasional irrational vehicle. While Volvo isn’t ready commit to build the insane 508HP S60R, they will sell you the most powerful small crossover in America: the 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design with Polestar. (If you don’t count the bat-s**t-crazy (in a good way) Nissan Juke R. Michael Karesh was able to wrangle an XC60 R-Design out of a local dealer for a quick take in December, but what’s the Polestar tweaked XC like to live with for a week? Click through the jump to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Founded in 1996, Polestar is rapidly becoming Volvo’s “pet” tuning company. While they have been “on the scene” for a while in Europe, the fact that Volvo North American is willing to cover Polestar upgrades under the factory warranty shows how serious the marriage is. Because Polestar is primarily a tuning company, there is little to distinguish the more powerful XC60 from its lesser brethren on the outside. The same modern lines blend with the traditional Volvo “hips” to form one of the more attractive crossovers on our shores. While the look is instantly recognizable as a Volvo, it is also thoroughly modern. If you doubt me, just park an XC60 next to an XC90 and compare. For R-Design duty, Volvo tweaked the bumper covers, added some chrome bling and swapped out the stock 235-width tires for the biggest rubber Volvo has ever used: 255/45R20s. Sadly the ever-safe Swedes shod the R-Design with all-season tires, fortunately that is easy to fix.


Volvo has long had a tradition of extended model lifetimes sprinkled with mid-cycle refreshes and yearly tweaks. To that end, the majority of the interior looks the same as the XC60 we had in December 2010 but Volvo has made some improvements to keep the XC fresh. Starting in 2011, all XC60 models get a 7-inch infotainment display in the dash. (Previously base models had an awkward cubby if you didn’t get the lackluster navigation system.) Also new for 2011 is a redesigned leather steering wheel with a thick rim and new infotainment controls. While there are still a few “Volvoisims” to be found (like the storage area behind the center stack and the off-beat two-tone upholstery color palate), the XC60 is mainstream luxury crossover all the way. Fit and finish in our tester was excellent and the soft-touch materials and leather easily tie with the BMW X3 for the best in this class. After a week with the XC60, my only complaint about the interior is the location of the infotainment/navigation screen. Volvo ditched their trademark “pop-up” LCD that was positioned high on the dash for a more conventionally located display. The new location means taking your eyes further away from the road to look at the map. With 30.8 cu.ft. t of space behind the rear seats, 67.4 cu.ft. with the rear seats folded and a standard folding front passenger seat, the XC60 will swallow more cargo than any of the Euro competition including those bulky IKEA furniture packs.


Volvo’s new “Sensus” system is a welcome (and long overdue) improvement. It combines a high-resolution, standard aspect ratio LCD in the center of the dash. While I remain disappointed that Volvo missed the opportunity to use a larger screen, the size is competitive with Mercedes’ COMAND system, the Q5′s MMI and the base screen in the X3. (BMW’s optional 8.8-inch iDrive screen is much more attractive however.) Volvo’s new interface is easy to use, well laid out and controllable via the steering wheel or the buttons and knob on the center console. Voice commands work as well as any of the competition but Apple iDevice integration continues to be a weak point. Navigating your iDevice is fairly easy but not as responsive as many systems and there are no vehicle specific apps with the Volvo system like BMW offers. The new system will certainly make XC60 owners happy, but they may get a twinge of techo-jeallousy when they step into their buddy’s Bimmer.

Well tuned audio systems have long been a Volvo hallmark. The XC60′s base 160-watt, 8-speaker system comes with standard HD Radio, Bluetooth phone integration, USB/iPod/Aux connectors and XM Satellite Radio. An optional 650-watt, 12-speaker premium sound system is available and adds Dolby ProLogic II decoding to the mix. Despite having a lower speaker count than BMW’s sound systems, I found the balance and tone of both system to be more pleasing than the German wares.


When Volvo first launched “R-Design,” it was simply an appearance package, thankfully that’s changed. Instead of designing a unique engine for the R-Design vehicles as they did with the former S60R and V70R, they turned to Polestar to boost the power from the existing turbo engine. The result is a 3.0L inline 6-cylinder engine with a single twin-scroll turbo that cranks out 325HP and a stump-pulling 354 lb-ft of twist. Power is routed to all four wheels via a standard Aisin 6-speed automatic and Haldex AWD system. Polestar was also allowed to stiffen the springs by 10%, fiddle with the steering ratio and reprogram the transmission for sportier shifting. Perhaps in deference to the rural Swedes that live with miles of unpaved dirt roads, Volvo left the Jeep-like 9.1 inches of ground clearance intact.


You’d think a curb weight 4,264lbs and over 9-inches of ground clearance the XC60 would handle like a pig, but the only swine metaphor that’s applicable is: this thing takes off like a stuck pig. We clocked a solid 5.6 seconds to 60, just 1/10th behind the 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i but more importantly a whopping 1.5 seconds faster than the first XC60 T6 we tested in 2010. The observant in the crowd will note this is 1/2 a second faster than the Q5 3.2 and nearly a full second faster than the GLK350. Suspicious? Indeed, but a trip to a local dealer with our testing equipment revealed identical times with the two R-Designs on the lot. When the going gets twisty the tall XC60 handles impressively despite the ride height and the all-season tires. The BMW is still the handling king of the luxury CUV class, but as unlikely as this sounds, the Volvo is a close second. The downside to this unexpected handling prowess is a harsh ride from the stiffer springs and low-profile tires.

No Volvo would be complete without a bevy of electronic safety systems to save your bacon. Unlike Infiniti however, Volvo takes a different approach to electronic nannies. Infiniti’s systems act obtrusively, intervening well before the point of no return while Volvo’s systems only act after the vehicle decides it is too late for you to do anything. For 2012 Volvo has updated their City Safety system to recognize pedestrians as well as vehicles in your way. As long as you are driving under 19MPH the system will intervene and stop you completely if it thinks an accident is unavoidable. Thankfully Volvo realized that 19MPH is a bit slow for American traffic and has announced that starting with the 2013 model year the system will act at speeds up to 31MPH. (No word if existing Volvos can be upgraded.) On the luxury feature front, the optional radar cruise control has been tweaked to handle stop-and-go traffic taking you to a complete stop and accelerating again when the traffic moves. The system behaves smoothly and ties with the latest Mercedes system for the best dynamic cruise control system available.

I think the XC60 R-Design might just be the best kept secret in the luxury market. While the X3 xDrive35i is the obvious sporty choice to quench your sporty CUV thirst, the XC60 R-Design delivers 99% of the performance and 95% of the technology for around $3,000 less. The XC60 R-Design proves that Volvo can make a dirt road-capable CUV with styling flair, BMW competitive performance, and enough electronic nannies to satisfy the risk-adverse in the crowd (not to mention your insurance broker). The real question is if buyers will actually cross-shop the Volvo with its German competition.

Volvo has long had a reputation for building cars that are safe and durable, but less than sexy. With a reputation like that, and a distinct lack of advertising to the contrary, the XC60 R-Design is likely to remain a niche product. Seriously, when was the last time you even saw a Volvo commercial on TV? Me either. Pity because the XC60 R-Design’s performance to cost ratio make it quite simply the best all-around luxury crossover.


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Volvo provided the vehicle, one tank of gas, and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.21 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.3 Seconds @ 99.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 20.1  MPG over 825 miles


2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Interior, gauges, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Interior, gauges, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Interior, radar cruise control display, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, wheels, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, front, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, front, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, rear, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, steering wheel, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, infotainment and HVAC controls, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Sensus infotainment system, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, front seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats folded, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 31