At the 2013 New York International Auto Show, new SUVs abound. Nissan, Infiniti, Subaru, and Toyota rolled out hybrid trucks, while Land Rover, Acura, Jeep, and Dodge all had new wares to unveil.
2014 Acura MDX
NEW YORK--Acura showed off its new MDX, a wholly reengineered SUV featuring a host of new technology. The engine, a direct-injection, 3.5-liter V-6, is the same as used in the new Acura RLX. That engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. LED headlights, similar to those found on the RLX, will also be available.
Retaining its five-passenger design, the new MDX features three different drive modes: Sport, Normal, and Comfort. The previous MDX showed impressive handling due to its all-wheel-drive and active suspension. Acura says it improved the handling with this generation of the MDX, showing an 8-second improvement in lap time on the Nurburgring in Germany. Acura changed the MDX's magnetic active suspension to something it calls Amplitude Reactive Dampers in the new model.
The new MDX can be had in either front-wheel-drive or with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system (SH-AWD). The previous generation could only be had with SH-AWD. The new front-wheel-drive version gets 23 mpg combined in EPA testing, 2 mpg better than the SH-AWD version.
The cabin of the MDX features Acura's new electronics, which we previously saw on the RLX. The interface uses a touch screen mounted above the console showing audio functions, and a dashboard-level LCD for navigation. The MDX will also get the new AcuraLink system, which lets drivers connect a smartphone for audio-based apps, including a restaurant guide and social media.
Not much has changed beneath the Highlander's sheetmetal. It's offered with the same four-cylinder and V-6 engine options as the previous model and is still available in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations.
The cabin makes increased use of soft touch materials on the dashboard and touch points. Toyota's display audio system is a standard feature. Although not pictured here, an 8-inch version of Toyota's Entune infotainment system is also available for users who want navigation and app integration.
Last year, Land Rover launched a significant update to its flagship Range Rover model, remaking the SUV with a lighter-weight aluminum body. At the New York auto show, Land Rover rolls out the Sport version of the Range Rover, traditionally a more road-capable vehicle. However, the new Range Rover Sport adds a V-6 engine option.
Despite its Sport label, this new model boasts 11.2 inches of ground clearance and a 33.5-inch wading depth. All Range Rover Sport models come with four-wheel-drive, although the base model will have a transfer case that automatically distributes torque between front and rear axles, defaulting to a 42/58 percent split. The Range Rover Sport can be had with a two-speed transfer case, which includes a low range for serious off-road work.
Unlike the Range Rover, which can be had only with a naturally aspirated or supercharged V-8, the Range Rover Sport comes with either a supercharged 3-liter V-6 or the supercharged 5-liter V-8. The V-6 generates 340 horsepower, while the V8 is good for 510 horsepower. Land Rover has also employed an idle-stop system to help save gasoline during traffic stops.
Land Rover uses four-way controllers on either side of the steering wheel for cabin electronics and other functions. The instrument cluster employs a 5-inch LCD between the speedometer and tachometer, but can be upgraded to a full 12.3-inch LCD showing virtual gauges.
Last year Nissan launched its radically redesigned Pathfinder. The Pathfinder Hybrid represents a new, more fuel-efficient drivetrain for the SUV. Similar to the non-hybrid Pathfinder, this one uses a unibody design with an independent suspension, and can be had in SV, SL, and Platinum trim levels.
The powerplant is a very new hybrid system for Nissan, a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that's aided by a 15-kilowatt electric motor. Total output for this system comes up to 250 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. That is equivalent to the V-6 Pathfinder's 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. The real win comes in fuel economy. Nissan estimates the Pathfinder Hybrid at 25 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
Similar to its gasoline-only counterpart, the Pathfinder Hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT). However, it also employs a secondary dual-clutch transmission designed to mix power from the engine and motor. One clutch works between the engine and the motor, while the other sits within the CVT. As the CVT is gearless, the clutches engage and disengage the engine or motor.
The gauges retain the tachometer of the gasoline Pathfinder, but include a little power gauge on its surface, showing when the drivetrain is consuming battery power. The navigation system on the Pathfinder Hybrid is optional.
As part of its rebranding, Infiniti changed the name of its new JX35 crossover SUV to QX60, although nothing changed with the actual vehicle. However, in New York Infiniti showed off the all-new hybrid version of the QX60, which relies on the same drivetrain as the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid.
Similar to the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, the QX60 Hybrid has a supercharged 2.5-liter engine and a 15-kilowatt electric motor. A lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the third-row seat stores electricity from braking regeneration, then feeds it back to the electric motor to help acceleration. Like the Pathfinder Hybrid, the QX60 Hybrid produces 250 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque.
As an Infiniti, the cabin should be a step up from that of the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. The QX60 Hybrid also gets Infiniti's driver-assistance features, which include the ability to brake for the driver in traffic.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee also debuted at the New York show, displacing the Liberty and reviving the iconic name. The automaker tells us that the Cherokee is better than the old Liberty in nearly every measurable way.
The new Cherokee has garnered a lot of negative criticism for its weird-looking front end. Jeep states that the angular face is more aerodynamic and fuel efficient, but we can't get past the extremely busy design, which features a vertical-bar grill that wraps up on to the hood and no fewer than six separate forward lighting elements.
Fortunately, Jeep has improved the on-road comfort and fuel efficiency of the Limited trim level and transformed this Cherokee Trailhawk edition into what looks like a proper rock crawler. Depending on which of the two available engines and three all-wheel drivetrain configurations are chosen, the Cherokee can achieve up to 31 mpg on the highway or lock its differential into a 4-LO ratio that is 90 percent lower than its predecessor for increased traction in severe conditions.
Jeep has also improved the driver comfort of the Cherokee. The new model features the automaker's UConnect infotainment system, a full array of digital audio sources, and an LCD instrument cluster that is driver-customizable. Available safety tech includes the Chrysler Group's first implementation of the ParkSense automatic parallel and perpendicular parking system.
The Subaru XV Crosstrek launched last year as a capable little SUV, with good interior space and all-wheel-drive. At the New York auto show, Subaru used the XV Crosstrek as the basis for its first hybrid. Little was changed from the base XV Crosstrek. Subaru kept the same drivetrain, but incorporated an electric motor into the continuously variable transmission. The result is an increase in power over the original, and a modest efficiency gain.
The engine in the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, and in its gasoline-only counterpart, is a 2-liter flat four cylinder, which produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Subaru added a 13.4-horsepower electric motor, which also powers the all-wheel-drive system. Subaru released no specifications for the combined drivetrain output, but it should be greater than the nonhybrid version.
Where the base XC Crosstrek gets 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, the hybrid version gets 28 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. That latter set of numbers works out to 31 mpg combined, 3 mpg better in the combined number than its sibling without the hybrid system.
Subaru uses a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, mounted under the rear cargo floor, for the hybrid system. Most hybrid cars these days have gone to lithium-ion battery packs, but Subaru's close association with Toyota might have led to the XV Crosstrek Hybrid's battery chemistry, as the Prius uses a similar battery type.
The instrument cluster looks unchanged from the gasoline-only XV Crosstrek, but the eyebrow display in the top center of the dashboard can show hybrid drivetrain information. The hybrid system gives the XC Crosstrek an idle stop feature, which contributes to its city efficiency.