When Chevrolet introduced the Traverse way back in 2009 few would have guessed that it would soldier on without a major revamp until 2018. Eight model years is ancient in today’s marketplace, especially in the hot crossover segment. The Traverse remains the brand’s largest crossover and slots below the jumbo Suburban and Tahoe SUVs. All the basics characteristics that made the Traverse remain; front wheel or all wheel drive with available 8-passenger seating. The exterior styling seeks to draw the Traverse into line with the rest of Chevy’s lineup. It finds a balance between the sleek lines of the new Equinox and the blocky Suburban, complete with wide sail shaped C-pillar. This time around the Traverse is distanced from its GMC Acadia platform-mate by featuring class leading legroom for third row passengers whereas the GMC has shed weight, length, 3rd row space, and cargo volume. Improving on the packaging of the outgoing Traverse this new large crossover now has under floor storage behind the 3rd seat. Like the Acadia, the Traverse now offers a base 4-cylinder turbo that will certainly improve fuel economy and a V6 that allows for a respectable 5,000 lb towing capacity. A 9-speed automatic should allow for better efficiency than the outgoing 6-speed. Smart stop-start technology should also help save fuel around town. A myriad of driver assist and safety features bring the Traverse up to date including forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, low speed forward automatic braking, lane keep assist, full speed forward automatic braking, surround vision, adaptive cruise control, and intellibeam headlamps. It has been a long wait for the new Traverse but it looks like Chevrolet has done its homework to pull this large crossover in line with the best of the industry.
Volkswagen is focusing its efforts to restore brand credibility in what executives refer to as the “diesel crisis” and launched a three way assault at NAIAS to due so. This included the rollout of the Atlas and Tiguan production crossovers along with the retro electric van Buzz concept. The Atlas would make one shrug since it isn’t anything new to the marketplace, except that it is a new product that VW has never offered stateside before; a midsize 3-row crossover. VW executives admitted that one thing that has held back its popularity in the U.S. is the brand’s premium pricing on mainstream products. To remedy this, VW promised that the Atlas would start at $30,000 and top out around $48,000. One novel feature is the ability to tilt and slide the 2nd row of seats while a car seat is installed in order to gain access to the 3rd row. No diesels in this crossover, but a 3.6L V6 with 276 horsepower gets the propulsion done. The Atlas spans 198.3 inches, swallows 96.8 cubic feet of cargo, and seats seven. That’s a formula that normally plays well in Peoria. Now to see if Americans take notice.
For 2018 Volkswagen attempts to draw the compact Tiguan crossover more in line with American tastes. Volkswagen claims that roughly 25% of its sales volume was represented by diesel powered vehicles and it hopes to retain buyers who recognized the strong design and precision engineering offered in its other products. As part of its efforts to mend relationships with disgruntled consumers after last year’s diesel-gate scandal, the redesigned compact Tiguan gains a third row seats. This long wheelbase Tiguan is 10.6 inches longer between the wheels. Referred to as 5+2 seating, it is obvious that the third row is intended for occasional use or for children. The exterior is freshened with LED headlights and tail lights and features VW’s modern chiseled sheet metal. Without any diesels available, the Tiguan forges ahead with a turbocharged direct injection TSI 2.0L 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8 speed automatic. Active all wheel drive available under the guise of 4motion with four selectable drive modes. A digital cockpit allows the instrument panel to be reconfigured. The new Tiguan may not be a revolutionary crossover, but it does seem to be a sign that VW is committed to paying attention to Americans want in a small crossover.
Volkswagen has teased the world with two concepts that drew inspiration from the original Type 2, best known to Americans as the “Microbus.” The first concept in 2001 was dubbed with the obvious moniker “Microbus Concept.” A good ten years passed and no return of the beloved Microbus appeared. Instead VW gave us the “Bulli” concept which was a small MPV with styling again reminiscent of the original air-cooled hippie van. Alas, this concept would not come to fruition either and American customers were offered a rebranded Dodge Caravan dubbed Routan instead. Now in 2017 VW debuted the oddly named I.D. BUZZ concept that closely mimics the original Samba bus. I.D. stands for “identity,” “idea,” “individual,” “intelligent” and “iconic design.” BUZZ, VW claims, is a phonetic word play on “bus” and the “buzzing” of the van’s electric drive system. Sorry, Volkswagen, but Bulli was a much more endearing name. Officials insist that the I.D. BUZZ isn’t a retro design, but that the original van’s shape was so iconic and efficient that it is the intuitive package that houses an all-new all-electric vehicle architecture. That may be the case but there is no mistaking the pronounced beltline that dips down toward the front fascia with a massive VW logo proudly displayed front and center. Four little hockey-pucks on the corners of the roof provide sensors for autonomous driving and a 111 kW battery provides energy for propulsion while stowed below the cargo floor. A perfectly flat load floor provides for seemingly limitless interior configurations. While VW hopes this electric, autonomous concept would satisfy forward thinking Americans, many of would just be happy if the storied German brand would just offer this heritage inspired van to fill the van void in its portfolio.
When GM axed the Pontiac brand back in 2009 it not only left Buick-GMC dealerships without its sister brand, but it also left them without a small crossover. GMC stepped up to the plate for the 2010 model year and gave the world the Terrain which was based heavily on the Chevrolet Equinox. Though the exterior styling was completely different the two vehicles shared powertrains and interiors. The 2018 Terrain seeks to give the diminutive crossover more independence from its Chevy cousin. The interior is no longer shared with the Equinox and offers a curious button activated transmission not available in the Equinox. Exterior styling is smoothed out compared to the blocky outgoing mode and features a floating roofline that is becoming cliché as well as a dramatically rising beltline. Disgruntled Volkswagen owners should take notice that the Terrain now offers a 1.6L 4-cylinder turbo diesel along with 1.5L and 2.0L turbocharged gas engines. As expected, front-wheel drive models are complimented with available all-wheel drive. Those keeping track will notice a V6 is no longer available. SLE and SLT basic models are topped by the premium Denali trim. Expect to see the new Terrain in dealerships late 2017.
Let’s say you walked into a Nissan dealership looking for a new crossover and found the Juke to be too small (or too weird) and the Rogue is just too big, you would find yourself out of options. For 2018 Nissan has remedied this with the Rogue Sport. Don’t confuse this as a mere trim level of the Rogue because the Sport is an entirely different vehicle much like when Chevy offered a K-Blazer and S-10 Blazer, Ford offered a Bronco and Bronco II, and Jeep offered a Grand Wagoneer and Wagoneer. None of those vehicles shared any significant componentry with their larger namesakes and neither do the Rogue and Rogue Sport. The Rogue Sport comes in three trim levels all powered by a modest 141 hp 4-cylinder coupled to a CVT with available all-wheel drive. While that combination doesn’t sound at all appealing to the enthusiast, we must remember that the Rogue is selling like hotcakes in a market hungry for crossovers. The Rogue Sport may fill the space in Nissan’s lineup in a way that customers desire. Look for the Rogue Sport to hit showrooms in Spring of 2017.
You say you long for the Nissan Sentra SE-R that was once praised as a modern interpretation of the BMW 2002? Well, Nissan has decided the way to scratch that small-car performance itch is to offer you the Sentra NISMO. Powered by a turbocharge four, gears are manually(!) swapped via a six speed transmission with a good old-fashioned clutch pedal in order to best wring out the 188 horses and 177 lb-ft of torque. Large bolsters on the front seats and a red stripe on the steering wheel pointing up round out the enthusiast oriented interior. Red rocker panel trim hints that this car is more than basic economy transportation. The package is rounded out with 18” wheels. No pricing is officially announced by we expect this will run a couple thousand dollars more than the $21,990 SR Turbo.
The Chrysler Pacific kicked off the North American International Auto Show by receiving the first ever North American Utility of the Year Award. The jury of journalists likely recognized the goodness of the overall package, but no doubt were influenced by the class-exclusive plug-in hybrid drivetrain. The Pacific Hybrid offers an all-electric driving range of 33 miles and delivers an overall EPA rating of 84 MPGe. The overall driving range with combined electric and gas power is a respectable 566 miles. The gas side of the hybrid equation is an upgraded 287 horsepower 3.6L Pentastar V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic. The battery pack locates under the floor, so minivan buyers in love with the stow-and-go seating will have to sacrifice that versatility. Eight passenger seating also is not available on the Hybrid so you’ll have to limit your passenger count to seven. It appears that with the Pacifica Hybrid, the inventors of the modern minivan are not content to give up their stronghold on the market.
Audi claims that 54% of premium new car sales are actually crossovers. It is no wonder then, that Audi unveiled a concept version of a future crossover, the Q8. Painted in a bright Bombay blue, the Q8 slots above the Q7 in status, but sports a chopped cargo compartment rather than a cavernous cargo hold good for transporting occupants in a third row of seats. The Q8 looks like pure Audi featuring a massive octagonal grille and vintage-Quattro inspired boxed fenders. The interior features an enormous black panel incorporating all gauges and infotainment screens. Motivation is provided by hybrid combination of a 333 horsepower 3.0L V6 and a 100 kW electric motor. Audi claims fuel efficiency of a 102.3 mpg an CO2 emission of 85.3 g/mile. Batteries are able to be recharged in about two and a half hours. Audi executives stated that the Q8 concept is a preview of a production vehicle. We expect that vehicle will share the concepts powertrain since the internal combustion portion of the package is a parts bin component. Now, will the production vehicle come in Bombay blue?
In recent years automakers have expanded the use of the term coupe to include sedans and crossovers with cut-down rooflines. As the number of offerings in those niche markets expands it is refreshing to see Audi remain faithful to the classic two door coupe and convertible market with the A5 and S5. While Audi took the wraps off the coupes several months ago, their convertible (cabriolet in Audi-speak) companions were unveiled at NAIAS. These coupes and convertibles have always been a favorite of enthusiasts and the updated cars follow so close to the formula of the original that it has us asking “what’s new?” The four cylinder in the A5 provides a respectable 252 horsepower while the V6 in the S5 adds a significant 102 horsepower to that figure. The A5 briskly hits 60 mph in 6.0 seconds while the S5 achieves that same speed in a blink-and-you’ll-it 4.8 seconds. Alas, no manual transmission is available. A 7-speed auto is offered with the A5 while the S5 features an extra gear. Audi’s signature Quattro all-wheel drive is standard on all variants and handling has been improved with both a wider track and wheelbase. In case the classic coupe formula limits your lifestyle too much, the A5 and S5 are also offered in 5-door coupe format, which in Audi terminology is designated “Sportback.” This essentially means that you get an extra set of doors and useful hatch to access the expandable cargo hold. Whether you like the flair and independence of the two door or the versatility of the 5-door, the A5 and S5 offers performance to match the good looks.