When it’s time to upgrade to a sport-utility, your cover story might be practicality, but — let’s face it — the real motivation is finding fun on wheels.
After all, if you can’t get excited about your crossover — if you aren’t loading it with bikes, camping gear or surfboards — what’s the point? If it’s only used for dropping the kids off at school or schlepping groceries, might as well go kick the tires on a used beige minivan. That’s right: beige.
Sport-utility is all about seeking adventure, either in town or in the wild, and bringing along whatever you need, whether the destination is a tailgate party or just a day at the beach. And guess what? Manufacturers definitely get it. They’ve responded with lines of increasingly versatile and efficient models dripping with technology, comfort and a cool vibe to boot.
The latest 2013 lineup has it all, from sporty new compact gas-sippers to beefy luxury and everything in between.
Fun utility vehicles
Let’s start with the BMW X1, an all-new entry in the nascent subcompact crossover segment that packs everything you’d expect from a Bimmer in a small sporty package, including the unmistakable profile. The X1 is outfitted with a pair of peppy turbocharged engines: a 3-liter I-6 rated at 300 horsepower and 2-liter I-4 that gets a remarkable 34 mpg highway.
If you’re hooking up with this Bavarian beauty, might as well upgrade to the M Sport trim, replete with sport seats and an available Harman Kardon audio system. A panoramic moonroof and leather seating are optional.
We certainly can’t overlook the sleek and sexy Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, the first convertible crossover, seemingly made for sunny SoCal drives. The compact four-seat CrossCabriolet comes equipped with a power soft top and an impressive array of premium features, including Nissan Navigation and a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box with wrap-around Bose audio channeled through eight speakers and a powerful subwoofer.
“With its extraordinarily engineered convertible top, standard all-wheel-drive and room for four adults plus cargo, the CrossCabriolet is not just for cruising South Beach or Malibu,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan North America. “It’s a vehicle to take to lunch, running errands or on a long ski weekend in any part of the country.
“The Murano CrossCabriolet is the reinvention of versatility, encouraging people to rethink what a convertible can be.”
Taking it off the streets
Audi‘s new A4 Allroad crossover brings a tough outdoor attitude to the iconic brand’s high-end engineering and European style. Replacing the A4 Avant, the five-seat Allroad comes with quattro all-wheel-drive and packs a 2-liter I-4 flex-fuel engine that gets 211 horsepower and up to 27 mpg highway.
The interior is all Audi comfort and style, with brushed aluminum trim and optional three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles. Audi enthusiasts might opt for the Bang & Olufsen premium audio and sport seats, as well.
Rugged and fun, with an edge that sets it apart, Subaru’s all-new 2013 XV Crosstrek replaces the old Outback Sport, offering a fresher look, raised suspension and increased clearance.
The all-wheel-drive XV Crosstrek looks road-ready with a spoiler and roof rails, and ample standard features include steering-wheel audio controls and Bluetooth, with power moonroof and navigation offered as options.
Under the hood is a 2-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 148 horsepower and 33 mpg on the highway. An Eco gauge on the dashboard shows when the driver is employing the most fuel-efficient driving habits, and Vehicle Dynamics Control helps with stability and traction. With nearly 52 cubic feet of available cargo space, this five-seat Crosstrek makes the most of its small profile.
Supplanting the Tribute in Mazda’s crossover lineup, the 2013 CX-5 brings a nice mix of versatility, sport handling and safety features to go with a 2-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv engine that delivers up to 35 mpg. Available in all-wheel or front-wheel-drive models, the five-seat CX-5 offers up to 65 square feet of cargo space when the second-row seats are folded down.
Fully equipped for family adventures, the recently redesigned Ford Edge is serviceable as well as stylish, with a turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine rated up to 30 mpg joining a pair of V-6 engines, including a 3.7-liter unit that generates more than 300 horsepower.
The new Edge’s restyled look is sleeker and more modern, with a unique MyFord system that joins touch-screen and touch-pad controls to operate, well, just about everything. A range of options include a blind spot warning system, power liftgate and backup camera.
“The new Edge demonstrates how a refresh at Ford has become more than just a few design and interior tweaks,” said Elaine Bannon, chief engineer of the Edge. “We have taken every element of the Edge and completely reworked it, including three new powertrains, two new transmissions, a bold new exterior design and a completely new interior.”
—Bob Young, Custom Publishing Writer