There’s never been a better time to buy a new vehicle — or, at least, there hasn’t been a better time this year.
Japanese auto manufacturers have responded quickly to the parts and production shortages caused by the March earthquake. With inventories returning to normal levels, prices on new and used vehicles are dropping. Plus, to entice drivers back into dealerships, automakers have begun offering incentives, resulting in even lower prices. Here’s a look at some of the most exciting vehicles soon to be released into this buyer’s market.
Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover doesn’t add to its lineup often. The last time was in 2005, when we met the Range Rover Sport. But each time it does, the new model tends to represent a significant step forward. Starting at $43,995 and delivering 28 mpg highway, the super-stylish Evoque, available as a traditional four-door or a two-door coupe, could put a Range Rover within reach of a whole new driver demographic. The smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever, the Evoque is a nimble urban runaround that retains off-road credibility.
“It’s difficult for a vehicle to stand out in this crowded market, and the Evoque does so — in a positive way,” said Cars.com senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder.
Mazda is focusing on milking ultimate efficiency from the good old internal combustion engine, and the result is the CX-5 compact crossover, the company’s first vehicle to sport the Skyactive badge.
“Skyactive technology uses a high-compression-ratio engine to improve efficiency, as well as a lightweight chassis and materials … in order to increase fuel economy,” explained Kristina de la Cuesta, research director at IntelliChoice.com.
The CX-5 is expected to offer 40 mpg highway (even more from a rumored diesel version) and features an entirely new styling language.
Alongside Audi’s A4 Avant and new Q3 (see next page), the BMW X1 blurs the line between burly wagon and junior crossover. Due in the U.S. late next year, the X1 will combine entry-level luxury and small SUV capability with BMW’s lauded driving dynamics, including available all-wheel drive. While the X1 has been offered with a turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant in other markets, it seems
only a 3.0-liter straight six will be available here.
“More than any manufacturer, BMW has proved that Americans prefer SUVs/crossovers to wagons,”
Wiesenfelder said. “Will an even smaller one like the X1 succeed too? I’d count on it.
Infiniti JX Concept
A sporty crossover that seats seven, Infiniti’s JX should attract young-at-heart family drivers when it goes on sale in the U.S. in the spring. The handsomely functional JX is expected to buck Infiniti’s recent affinity for rear-wheel drive by riding on a tried-and-tested Nissan front-wheel drive platform. A continuously variable transmission will improve fuel economy from an expected V-6 engine, and a hybrid variant should also be offered.
“There are many similar models overall, but not as many luxury ones, so there should be opportunity for Infiniti here,” Wiesenfelder said. All will be revealed when the production JX debuts at L.A. Auto Show in November.
Though a U.S. release date has yet to be confirmed for this compact luxury crossover, it would make intriguing competition for BMW’s new X1. The Q3 is loosely based on Volkswagen’s Tiguan, but it sits lower and has sportier aspirations. Inside, the latest driver-assist and sat-nav systems are complemented by real aluminum knobs and available LED light packages. In Europe, Q3 prices are around 15% lower than Audi’s larger Q5. Look for similar pricing here.
“[The Q3] will feature more distinct coupe-like styling, Quattro all-wheel drive and will likely be offered with either four-cylinder TDI or TFSI [Turbo fuel stratified injection] powerplants,” de la Cuesta said.
This mid-size luxury crossover has been a consistent bestseller for Volvo since its introduction in 2002, and for good reason. The XC90 is a well-rounded combination of seven-seater practicality, refined comfort and Volvo’s near-legendary safety. Changes for the 2012 version are subtle, yet significant. There are LED running lights and a split tailgate. XC90 owners will also be able to download a mobile application onto their iPhone or Android that includes features like Car Locator, a diagnostic Car Check tool and a virtual dashboard. The XC90’s ever-impressive array of safety features includes electronic stability control, Blind Spot Information System and electronic brake-force distribution. A 3.2-liter gasoline engine and a choice of two five-cylinder turbodiesels are offered.
Mercedes-Benz ML Class
Mercedes-Benz’s M-Class was among the first luxury SUVs when it debuted in 1998, and well over a million of these mid-size beauties have been sold since. The third-generation ML350 is intended to continue the line’s success despite stiffer-than-ever competition in the segment. Built in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the new 350 boasts fuel economy that has improved to 17/22 mpg city/highway for the gasoline V-6 version (which retains its $49,865 starting price) and 20/25 mpg for the 3.0-liter BlueTEC turbodiesel ($51,365). The new ML also offers a “significant reduction in road noise through more extensive use of insulation materials, thicker windshield glass and door panel seals,” according to de la Cuesta.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
“We can’t wait to drive this one,” Wiesenfelder said. “The previous generation, last sold as a 2010, was a favorite — quicker than some versions of the Porsche Cayenne SUV for scandalously less money. The new SRT8 is based on a much-improved Grand Cherokee, so we don’t see how it could lose.”
Starting at over $55,000, this ultimate Jeep isn’t cheap. But its 6.4-liter Hemi will still shame most competitors from a standing start. Its monster Pirelli tires and huge Brembo brakes are more than just window-dressing.
Chevrolet Colorado Show Truck
“The new truck showcases GM’s goal of creating a new truck that is rugged enough for commercial use, but refined enough for consumers,” said de la Cuesta of Chevy’s Colorado Show Truck, which debuted at the Bangkok International Auto Show in March. (Thailand is the world’s largest mid-size truck market.)
Small pickups don’t sell as well as their big brothers in the U.S., but Chevy is hoping to be king in this niche with whatever production model emerges from the concept.
GMC Sierra All-Terrain HD Concept
Debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, GMC’s Sierra All-Terrain HD Concept is an aggressive-looking beast that had truck fans praying for a production version. Though still strictly a concept, the All-Terrain HD surely offers encouraging glimpses into future Sierra and Silverado models.
“The truck features a new crew-cab/short-bed body configuration, which allows for a wider track with the wheels pushed to the corners of the vehicle, enhancing off-road capability,” de la Cuesta said.
—Paul Rogers, Custom Publishing Writer