Best trucks this year are all SUVs
Detroit – While the exhibit floor at this year’s show is packed with pickup trucks, none of them are new. Instead, the focus is on revamped SUVs. Some, such as the fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder, is all new in a traditional large truck format. But, among the new nameplates, it’s the exception. The rest are smaller SUVs aimed at younger family buyers and also at ageing Baby Boomers who are downsizing.
For 2012, there wasn’t a single cargo bed among the three finalists for North American Truck of the Year. Instead, this annual award category was populated only by SUVs — the BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque and Honda CR-V. This year, Land Rover took top honours with its all-new Evoque. This is the first time Land Rover has won the North American Truck of the Year award. Decided by a group of 50 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada, Truck of the Year is chosen based on the following categories — value for the dollar, innovation, handling, performance, safety and driver satisfaction.
This small SUV prototype shown here is the second generation of the Acura RDX. This five-passenger crossover is looking to not only add an updated fascia to market but also a new engine, transmission and all-wheel-drive system. Scheduled to launch this spring, the new engine will be a 3.5-litre V6 engine that produces 273 horsepower— 33 more than the outgoing model. The RDX also gets a six-speed automatic transmission with a new lock-up torque converter and a new, lighter all-wheel-drive system. The RDX exterior gets a longer sculpted hood with lines that draw the design out on a longer frame and wider track. This feature also translates to larger door openings, increased passenger room and more cargo space. Also new will be Amplitude Reactive Dampers, a power rear tailgate and a new motion adaptive electronic power steering system. On the tech side, look for a new three-view rear camera, advanced navigation system and up to 15 gigabytes of music storage.
Buick rolled out the Encore, an all-new compact SUV that Ed Welburn, head of GM design, says is a cross among utility, luxury and practicality. The Encore taps into the young person’s need for luxury and the Boomers’ need for downsized practicality, says GM. Nicely styled, though small, it will seat five people and their cargo.
However, the Encore will also strive for fuel efficiency with a standard Ecotec 1.4L turbo four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission. Inside, the cabin is very Buick with a mix of dark and light tones accented with ice-blue ambient lighting and bright wood-grain trim. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel will be available.
The Encore is not due in showrooms until the first quarter of 2013.
The all-new Infiniti JX35 has been unleashed here with a very specific mission — to do battle in the seven-passenger luxury SUV segment. To that end, it’s been well armed; firstly with a classic crossover look and interior appointments that feature premium materials and smart innovations. Infiniti claims the JX’s design offers extra legroom in all three rows while still leaving ample cargo space behind the third row. Innovative features include a multi-mode middle seat that opens to the third row without having to remove a child seat from the second row.
New technical innovations include an industry-first Backup Collision Intervention system, which also works with the Blind Spot Intervention protocol. This system not only warns but can also engage the brakes to avoid a collision. Offered with both front-wheel drive and Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, the JX is driven by a 3.5L DOHC V6 mated to a sport-tuned CVT. The engine is rated at 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.
Large and luxurious, the Lexus LX 570 has debuted an updated outside look along with new interior features such as mahogany wood trim. Showing a new front spindle grille, new 20-inch alloy wheel design and upgraded interior, this eight-passenger SUV is meant to deliver luxury driving on-road and off.
For 2013, there are new LED daytime running lights, a new headlamp design and new larger fog lamp bezels. Tail lamps are also updated, while the rear licence plate surround gets a revised look and the tow hitch cover is more integrated. Both front and rear bumpers are refreshed and the side mirrors get integrated turn signals. Inside the eight-passenger cabin, the driver gets a new Easy Access seat (that moves with you), while the wheel and driver’s seat automatically retracts when the engine shuts off. Front seats get improved cooling ability and a series of cameras in the front grille and under the passenger outside mirror let the driver check hard-to-view areas. By pressing a button on the dash, the driver will get multiple views on the navigation screen. In addition, when off-road, the system remains active at less than 12 kilometres an hour in a simultaneous split-screen mode.
The Pathfinder, Nissan’s best-known nameplate, takes its North American bow here — as the fourth generation of this well-known SUV. Though it’s still being called a concept, the all-new look and style of the sweeping Pathfinder body lines must be production bound. In fact, it’s probably the lack of a completed interior that resigns it to concept status. However, the Pathfinder is slated to go on sale at Canadian dealerships this fall, so Nissan will just have to be ready with its interior appointments. What we do know about the inside is that it will continue to offer three rows of seating, cargo/people flexibility and room for seven passengers. Also new in the Pathfinder will be a next-generation CVT and V6 engine that together are expected to increase combined city/highway fuel economy by 25%. A new four-wheel-drive system is being called “intuitive” and Nissan says that the Pathfinder’s towing capacity will be competitive within its segment.
Also debuting from Nissan is the e-NV200 Concept. Based on the popular Nissan NV200 multi-usage vehicle, which is available in Japan, Europe and China (it certainly looks to be the little brother of the NV commercial van), the e-NV200 Concept is a full electric vehicle. Unlike the larger NV, Nissan is suggesting that this smaller electric van may well be of equal use to businesses or families. Certainly, it will offer the typical flexible, roomy interior of a van -— while also being clean and green. The e-NV200 Concept shares its major drivetrain components with the Leaf. Its power is supplied by a lithium ion battery composed of 48 compact modules and a high-response 80-kW AC synchronous motor that generates 207 lb-ft of torque.
Photograph by: Bill Pugliano, Getty Images