It’s been a decade since General Motors finally gave up on trying to stake out a claim in the minivan market and then trying to recast its vans as pseudo-SUVs. In 2006, GM launched an all-new platform for full-size crossover utilities that was known internally as Lambda and ultimately spawned four nameplates, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and the now-defunct Saturn Outlook. Having achieved some notable success with the platform with steadily growing sales of more than 200,000 units annually since 2010, an all-new second-generation Lambda is now ready and hit the streets in 2016 under a redesigned version of the Acadia.
The launch of the second-generation XC90 marked the beginning of a new era for Volvo a couple of years ago. The XC90 is the first model to ride on the company’s all-new scalable product architecture (SPA), the first all-new platform to come from Gothenburg since Ford sold the Swedish brand to China’s Geely in 2010. After initially being available only with boosted four-cylinder engines, the XC90 is now the first regular production plug-in model Volvo is offering in America and I recently spent a week driving one.
Earlier this year, nearly eight years after Ford started divesting its controlling interest in Mazda, the Japanese brand finally replaced the last of the products that shared hardware with the Dearborn brand. Mazda’s biggest vehicle was also its oldest with the original CX-9 lasting nearly a decade before a complete redesign. Now that the CX-9 is new and fresh, does it finally fit in with the rest of the family from the brand that says “driving matters?”
Torque is a good thing. To any gearhead, having copious quantities of readily available torque available under their right foot is always welcome and the 2010 BMW X6 M has plenty to spare.
Despite the best efforts of Volkswagen to kill the appeal of compression ignition engines in America once and for all, Dr. Diesel’s combustion cycle still holds some significant appeal as a means of improving fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The latest automaker to jump in with diesel engines is Jaguar Land Rover with the 2016 Range Rover Td6. While relatively few Americans will ever have the opportunity to drive this high-dollar luxury SUV, it’s actually surprisingly relevant as a probable preview of the 2018 Ford F-150.
When Steve Ballmer left the CEO’s office at Microsoft, he went and spent a good chunk of the fortune he had amassed buying the Los Angeles Clippers. If instead, he had chosen to become an automotive marketing executive, I could picture him stomping around the stage at a dealer meeting in a sweat drenched shirt shouting “Utilities! Utilities! Utilities!” As consumers increasingly opt for either traditional SUVs or more modern crossover utilities, automakers are scrambling to add more nameplates. For Kia, 2016 seems like the perfect time to launch an all-new version of the oldest continuous model in its lineup, the Sportage compact crossover.
If a vehicle is built continuously for 75 years with updates every decade yet it’s still instantly recognizable as the original, can it be considered retro? That’s certainly a question that applies to the Jeep Wrangler. Today’s Jeep Wrangler has a direct lineage back to the Willys MB/Ford GPW that supported millions of allied troops in World War II and the conflicts that followed. Today’s Wrangler is immediately recognizable and shares many of the attributes of those originals, but is also different in so many ways.
Over the course of its first 25 years, the Ford Explorer has had quite a roller coaster ride. It got off to a strong start in the original SUV wave of the 1990s eventually hit peak sales of more than 445,000 in 2000 before starting a decade of mostly steady decline. By 2009 when the shine was almost entirely off of the SUV in the depths of the great recession, Ford moved barely 52,000 Explorers. In 2011, Ford rebooted the whole concept, dumping the long-running body-on-frame layout for a car based unibody and it’s been smiles ever since. Fresh off a mid-cycle refresh, nearly 250,000 Explorers found a home last year, second only to the compact Escape. I spent a week with the new top-of-the-line Platinum edition and have some thoughts to share.
The Jeep Cherokee brand now has more than 40 years of history behind it and in many respects was responsible for transforming the SUV from a minor niche of the automotive market to a mainstream juggernaut. Following a decade during which the former DaimlerChrysler inexplicably re-branded the Cherokee as the Liberty in North America while keeping the original badge intact in the rest of the world, an all-new fifth-generation arrived last year with the old-school badge but some of the most radical changes yet to the skin and the platform.