SUVs make comeback at the 2009 New York auto show--photos
Astronomical gas prices last year seemed to kill the SUV market, but automakers at the New York auto show disagree. Mercedes-Benz shows off a new SUV hybrid, Jeep touts its new Grand Cherokee, and GMC launches the all-new Terrain.
Mercedes-Benz launched the hybrid version of its five-passenger luxury SUV. The ML450 Hybrid uses the two-mode hybrid system developed in conjunction with GM, BMW, and Chrysler. Current vehicles using this system are the GMC Yukon Hybrid, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.
The hybrid system uses two electric motors integrated with the transmission in conjunction with a 3-liter Atkinson-cycle six-cylinder gas engine. Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, and the combined powe-train output comes in at 335 horsepower and 381 pound-feet of torque.
The ML450 Hybrid can drive under electric power only at low speed and light acceleration. The power train seamlessly starts up the engine when needed. The driver can select a Sport mode or a Traffic Jam mode, the latter keeping the vehicle running under electric power even when the battery is low.
That tachometer is replaced by an electricity gauge, showing when the motors are drawing electricity from the nickel metal hydride battery pack or when the regenerative brakes are recharging the system.
Jeep rolled out its redesigned Grand Cherokee, which is built on the same platform as the Mercedes-Benz ML-class, a legacy of Daimler's ownership of Chrysler. The new Grand Cherokee features a modern look compared with its predecessor.
This Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with a new 3.6-liter V-6 engine estimated to get 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway in the four-wheel-drive version. That engine produces 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Jeep will also make the existing 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi available.
As part of its reconstruction, Jeep put a lot of detail into the interior of the Grand Cherokee in an attempt to make a truly luxury SUV. The leather feels thick, the wood solid, while other surfaces use soft materials.
A new air suspension, combined with four-wheel-drive electronics, let Jeep add its Select-Terrain system, similar to Land Rover's Terrain Response. With this system, drivers can easily program the car to handle different surfaces.
The electronics package available in the Jeep Grand Cherokee is impressive, packaging navigation, Bluetooth phone support, and entertainment under the UConnect brand. Along with hard drive-based navigation, the Grand Cherokee has iPod integration that lets you request music by artist name and song title, similar to Ford's Sync system. Even more impressive, the Grand Cherokee will also use the Sirius Travel Link system, integrating traffic, gas prices, and weather with the navigation system.
GMC added another SUV to its rather large lineup at the New York auto show, the five passenger Terrain. With a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder base engine, the Terrain is expected to get impressive gas mileage of up to 30 mpg. A direct-injection 3-liter V-6 engine is also available.
Built with an independent suspension, the Terrain is technically a crossover, having car-like attributes with an SUV body. It's a front-wheel-drive platform, although all-wheel-drive versions will be available.