If it looks like a Mini, sounds like a Mini and drives like a Mini, is it truly a Mini? Last year, Autosavant tested this theory as implemented in the Mini Cooper S Countryman: the brand’s first true four-door crossover. Equipped with a six-speed manual, front-wheel drive and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the Countryman proved a capable defender of the brand, albeit stretched several sizes. But could it stand up to its competitors that offer all-wheel drive and turn the focus to technology?
Edge? Why Edge? Why not “Corner,” or “Side,” or “Top”? Because we’re not talking about that kind of edge. Let’s not get all literal. This Edge is all about cutting edge, edginess, and the eponymous member of the band U2: Coolness, in a word. The Ford Edge is so-called because it wants us to see it as representing the cutting edge of automotive fashion. And in a way it does, as a member of that trendy species, the crossover SUV, and now, in EcoBoost guise, as belonging to that even trendier subspecies, the fuel-sipping turbo-4, hopeful successor to the V6 and V8 guzzlers of yore, available in the new Explorer, too, and in more members of the Ford family and relatives in due course. The manufacturer claims the engine attains the giddy heights of 30 miles per gallon on the highway; EPA estimates concur. Pretty good for an SUV-type vehicle. Is it true? Well, I devoted my attention to this and other urgent questions over the week during which a handsome metallic-green Edge EcoBoost Limited was my daily driver.
By Roger Boylan
GM offers three versions of this pleasant vehicle: the working-stiff’s Chevrolet Equinox (previously reviewed in these pages), the fancy-pants Cadillac SRX (actually on a premium version of this platform shared with the recently deceased Saab 9-4x), and the present, modestly upscale iteration, the GMC Terrain, which was my ride for a week. (The also recently deceased Saturn Vue was another close relation.) While the vehicle may be similar in feel and specs to its relatives, at least GM has made it look completely different from the Equinox – for better or worse.
By Kevin Miller
Subaru made a name for itself selling rugged, capable passenger cars and crossovers featuring horizontally-opposed engines and all-wheel drive. After more than a decade of selling just two sizes of sedans and wagons, the automaking arm of Fuji Heavy Industries jumped on the crossover boom and unleashed the B9 Tribeca into the market for model year 2006. Featuring unusual styling and a 3.0 liter H6 that required premium fuel, the B9 Tribeca wasn’t a huge sales success, and the vehicle was restyled shortly thereafter for the 2008 model year, when its name simply became “Tribeca”. Continue Reading →
By Charles Krome
Looking at it today, it’s hard to imagine how radical the design of the 2002 Isuzu Axiom seemed when the vehicle was first introduced. But its sophisticated, highly stylized exterior was unlike that of any other SUV or crossover on the road at that time—and remember, too, that there weren’t very many of the latter on the road at all back then. Both Honda and Toyota had deployed their crossovers, but the only unibody crossover entries from Nissan or the Big Three were the Ford Escape and Plymouth PT Cruiser. That era’s Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 were taking pains to hide their pedestrian beginnings as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, respectively, and the whole concept behind crossovers was looked upon with disdain by a fairly large swathe of American buyers.
By Roger Boylan
My test Highlanders arrive on auspicious occasions. Last year’s came on the weekend of my daughter’s high-school graduation, and was pressed into nonstop service ferrying out-of-state relations hither and yon. This year its ’11 successor, a white (or “blizzard pearl”) front-wheel-drive Limited, rolled up just before Memorial Day weekend, with an agenda nearly as full. Over the following week I covered more than 500 miles across the Texas Hill Country, which, as I’ve pointed out many times in these pages, is the ideal terrain for road tests. It subjects a vehicle to a variety of driving conditions, easy and difficult, the difficult ones including extreme off-road treks and, during our sporadic tropical downpours, near-flood conditions; but it hasn’t rained here in ages, and the Highlander isn’t made for off-roading, at least not in front-wheel-drive mode (AWD is available). It’s made for the solid middle-class family market of solidly middle-class families with between $28K and $40K to spend depending on trim (Base, SE, Limited), and who have a yen for something less domestic than a minivan but not an SUV, exactly… a crossover, that’s it. Something that looks like an SUV, with an SUV’s cargo capacity, but that rides like a car, and almost handles like one. That’s where the Highlander comes in.
By Charles Krome
Yep, that lowercase “a” is correct. I guess it’s sort of like “quattro” or, on the other hand, LEAF or JUKE. But the car I saw while out making a doughnut run over the weekend is notable for being more than just an early entry in the goofy capitalization sweepstakes. This is actually Audi’s first crossover.
The 2001 Audi allroad 2.7T reached our shores in the second half of the year 2000 to fill a huge hole in the automaker’s lineup. And by “huge,” I mean about the size of a Ford Explorer. Although this was the same year that the Blue Oval’s SUV would find itself mired in a controversy over rollover accidents, it also marked the vehicle’s high-water mark in sales, with 445,157. Needless to say, sport-utility sales had taken over the U.S. marketplace.
By Chris Haak
Since the launch of the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, GM has struggled to keep up with demand for its popular small crossover. First, it acquired sole ownership of the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario from Suzuki where the Equinox and Terrain are built. Suzuki had been building the GM-based XL7 there, but the Suzuki kind of fizzled out in the market, leaving Suzuki with no product and GM with the opportunity to add to its production capacity.
Then, to further boost output, GM began shipping incomplete Equinox body shells from Ingersoll to its flexible and underutilized car plant in Oshawa for painting and final assembly. That move added 60,000 to 80,000 additional units of Equinox production capacity and allowed additional Terrain production at the original plant. Still, it’s not enough for dealers, who still report that they can’t get enough of the hot-selling vehicles, more than a year after their launch. Last month, dealers had only a 30 day supply of new Equinoxes in inventory, which is half of the ideal 60-day level.
By Chris Haak
With the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer, Ford reallywants you to know that it has re-invented the SUV. Except that Ford was far from the first to peddle something called an “SUV” built on a unibody platform; we’re not sure who was the first, but at the very least, the XJ Jeep Cherokee pre-dates the 2011 Explorer by 27 model years. More recently, the Camry-based Toyota Highlander and the Accord-derived Honda Pilot have been offering family-friendly midsize SUVs wrapped in trucklike packaging.
The Explorer, of course, had been the poster child of the 1990s SUV boom. In those years, Ford sold nearly a half million new Explorers every year, with the peak coming at 445,157 units sold in 2000. Last year, the company barely cracked tenth of that sales volume with the Explorer, as 52,190 of them found new homes. You see, the Explorer later became the poster child for the 2000s SUV bust. Ford thinks that it now has the right formula with the 2011 Explorer to reverse that trend, and regain some of the lost sales momentum that the original featured.
By Charles Krome
Sometimes, reviewing two vehicles in a row from the same brand can border on the redundant, but not this time around. A 2011 Buick Enclave CXL with all-wheel-drive ended up in my driveway the day after I said goodbye to a 2011 LaCrosse, and experiencing them back-to-back was an eye-opening affair. Although both are, obviously, current production vehicles, their different positions in their respective life cycles was much in evidence, and much to the newer LaCrosse’s advantage.
The Enclave is probably best thought of as a reboot of the Buick Roadmaster station wagon from the mid 1990′s—that is, as a premium full-size people hauler that’s not a minivan. But speaking of which, the key here is to remember that GM’s big crossovers (including the Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and the late Saturn OUTLOOK) were designed to replace the General’s minivan lineup, not necessarily to be SUV alternatives. That helps explain the size of these vehicles, too. The Enclave is listed at 201.8 inches in length, and the only other crossover that big is the Ford Flex, essentially Ford’s minivan replacement. To put this into context, the three-row Honda Pilot is Honda’s largest crossover, but it’s “only” 190.9 inches long; the Honda Odyssey minivan is 202.9 inches. (The punch-line here? The Roadmaster wagon stretched a yacht-like 217.5 inches.)
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