Renegade. The name may come from Jeep’s past, but it just as well could describe the nature of the brand’s newest and smallest offering. The first Jeep to be imported to the United States, rather than built here, the Renegade dares to take the brand into new places. The Renegade’s base engine is a turbocharged 1.4L 4-cylinder coupled to a manual transmission. A larger 2.4L and a 9-speed automatic are also available. Hard core Jeep fans may scoff at the origins and FIAT-based architecture, but others may find the Trailhawk version appealing for its off road capability with a 4WD low setting as well as snow, sand, mud, and rock selectable terrain settings. Experience open air freedom with the Renegades two-piece removable ‘My Sky’ roof panels.
We know and love the FIAT 500 minicab in most of its iterations whether it be in frugal Pop trim or hot hatch Abarth guise. Problem is the brand’s dealerships have, up until now, had to make do with that lovable car and the awkward and clumsy 500L. In an effort to remedy this issue FIAT is bringing us the 500X. Marketed at as crossover (really, does simply offering AWD and hatch qualify this to fit that category?) this 4 door hatch is much prettier than the 500L and truer to the original 500’s character. The 500X offers a 1.4L turbo as standard and, unlike other crossovers like the Chevy Traxx and the Mazda CX-3, allows the buyer to opt to shift their own gears and push a clutch pedal. We suspect most customers will choose the 2.4L Tigershark mated with a 9-speed automatic. It should be interesting if this bigger spin on the 500X will increase traffic at FIAT ‘studios’.
We could have setup a full camera crew and spent a day at the Volvo display diving into the impressive details of the upcoming XC90 crossover SUV, but that will have to wait until this fall when we can get our hands on one of these stunning luxury rides from Volvo. If it seems like Swedish manufacturer has been a bit quiet these past few years you’re not alone, and we can hardly blame them considering the challenges of new ownership and the inability to borrow from a corporate parts bin for any aspect of their new XC90. But after our first chance to sit in and poke around the tastefully restrained yet modern design, we can confidently say Volvo fans are in for a treat. Beautiful textures, materials and technology make up possibly the most inviting cabin we’ve seen come along in years–certainly at the sub-$60k starting price. Couple that to impressive advancements in powertrain offerings, including a 2-liter four cylinder that is both turbocharged and supercharged and can be paired with a plug-in hybrid system to produce 400hp, and you’ll see why Volvo might have been too busy to draw attention to itself the past few years. Color us impressed and put this on your must watch list this year.
For anyone who thought Mazda’s CX-5 was as small as SUV’s needed to be, there is a surprise in the CX-3. Small crossovers, such as the Buick Encore, prove there is room to go smaller in the segment. The CX-3 draws on styling cues first presented by the fresh Mazda3 and Mazda6. SKYACTIVE-G is Mazda marketing lingo attached to the brand’s 2.0-liter gasoline engine that will be mated to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. All wheel drive is optional and features a front wheel slip warning system that detects slippage of the front wheels and redirects the car to the intended direction based on initial driver input. Sounds to us like Mazda is spending a lot of investment in technology to make an all wheel drive car handle like it is rear wheel drive. It all sounds promising, but Americans will have to wait until fall to try the system out for themselves.
Audi is a brand long associated with all wheel drive, wagons, and hatchbacks. The refreshed-for-2016 Q3, then is a natural fit into the brand’s portfolio. The most noticeable update is to the grille, which Audi executives refer to as a ‘three-dimensional Singleframe grille.’ Whatever you call it, this apparently the new look for Audi’s signature oversized grille opening. Audi would like to draw your attention to the unseen in the form of a 17% reduction of CO2 emissions. We’re sure enthusiasts will be more interested to know that the Q3 offers powertrain ranging in horsepower from 120 to 220 in most markets. The top engine will be Audi’s 2.0L TFSI. Not a lot of power, we admit, but as the smallest of Audi’s crossover offerings there are plenty of more powerful (and larger) offerings. Expect to see the Q3 this fall in the US.
Volkswagen seems determined to convince America that the brand can provide precision German engineering while appeasing America’s desire for larger, more powerful vehicles. The Cross Coupe GTE concept is VW’s interpretation of just such a combination. Intended to preview the brand’s upcoming 7-seat crossover the Cross Coupe differs from that production model by hacking down the wagon portion of the green-house into something far less practical. To our eyes it still doesn’t look like a coupe but it seems that our friends in Wolfsburg are eager to associate themselves with such spectacularly low volume hardware as the Acura ZDX and BMW X6. Even if buyer’s aren’t willing to give the abbreviated crossover bodystyle another chance, we can expect the full-fledged 7-passenger version to wear the same square jawed face of the GTE concept. Production for the 7-seater begins in Chattanooga, TN by the end of 2016. The GTE is powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain which produces 276 horsepower by means of a 3.6L VR6 and two electric motors (54 and 114 hp). It is capable of traveling 20 miles on electrified propulsion alone and is estimated to achieve a fuel economy rating of 70 MPGe. While it remains to be seen whether the production 7-passenger crossover will employ the GTE concept’s powertrain we can expect that Volkwagen will finally have a legitimate 3-row crossover to offer stateside coming late 2016.
Mercedes isn’t content to let one automaker suck up all the consumers clamoring for a crossover utility that thinks it’s a four-door coupe (we’re looking at you BMW X6 ). So today they took the wraps off a new addition to their rapidly expanding lineup of utilities with the GLE Coupe. Available in regular GLE 450 guise with a twin-turbo 3-liter V6 at its heart or 577-hp extra speedy GLE 63 AMG strength, the new high-style crossover will get down the highway just fine. Both models utilize standard 4Matic all-wheel drive and 7-speed automatic. We didn’t think there was much of a market for crossovers with limited people and cargo hauling abilities (RIP Acura ZDX) but Mercedes has produced a solid looker with massive 22″ wheels pushed out to all four corners and a full range of interior luxuries to help convince people to part with their money.
For 2016 Lincoln strives to differentiate itself from Ford with the all-new MKX midsize crossover. When the MKX first debuted it look a lot like a Ford Edge with an upscale grille. If that sounds to you more like a Mercury than a Lincoln you would not be alone. The new MKX succeeds in distancing itself from its platform-mate Edge with entirely unique exterior styling and a classy interior. While the MKX looks much like its smaller sibling, the MKC, there is no mistaking this crossover for a Ford. The split ‘winged’ grille remains and shouldered fenders stand at all for corners. Unlike the Edge, the Lincoln will not be offering a 4-cylinder engine, but will give buyers an option of the corporation’s 3.5L V6 or a more powerful 2.7L EcoBoost V6. Lincoln is promising more than 330 hp. and 370 lb.-ft. of torque. While no rocket, this powertrain should keep the MKX from stagnating and will hopefully give Lincoln a solid product anchor Lincoln for a steady increase in credibility in the premium car market.
For a number of years automakers have offered crossovers to those who dislike the stigma of a minivan and don’t need the bulk of a cumbersome truck based SUV. As more and more so-called crossovers have proliferated the market these 3-row family vehicles continue to morph. The latest Q7 from Audi seems to take a full stride from SUV towards car-based station wagon. Indeed, the roofline and beltline both appear to have lowered significantly compared to the original Q7, as has the front fascia. Audi claims that the overall height of the vehicle has been reduced while the length has been increased. In stark contrast to its old-school family truckster proportions, the Q7 is motivated by a thoroughly modern body and powertrain. The Q7 sheds the equivalent mass of three to four teenagers; a whopping 716 pounds has been removed from the curb weight. The Audi offers a pair of 3.0-liter gas and diesel engines. The supercharged gas engine produces 333 horsepower while the diesel achieves a respectable 272 horsepower rating. Audi continues to stuff plenty of technology into its vehicles, and the Q7 appears to be no exception. Audi’s MMI infotainment system returns with haptic feed back and updated functions to make searching and inputting simpler and more intuitive. The rear seat passengers have access to the Audi tablet, which is connected to the MMI navigation, radio, media and car functions. It appears that Audi’s updated Q7 may give rear seat passengers even less reason to plead for the answer to ‘are we there yet?’
Toyota wants to move the latest Highlander onto more buyers’ radar and they’re doing that by toughening up the style to attract more men and refining the family friendly features to keep it’s female fan base from straying to the competition. We like what they’ve done inside with smart designs like the massive center console, useful full-width dash shelf and teen-friendly second row captain’s chairs. Toyota has given us less to get excited about under the skin with carryover engine and a 6-speed automatic that doesn’t push any envelopes. Do we recommend the total package or suggest a pass? Our latest video review has that answer.