Automakers are clearly shifting gears when it comes to SUVs. Steering away from off-road designs, the updated sport-utility vehicles are now all about amenities, which was made clear as General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Subaru introduced their new and updated crossover SUVs at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. All of these SUVs are designed for comfortable, family-friendly on-road use.
Those still looking for something with more brawn than comfort should turn to today’s Nissan Pathfinder. Mechanically related to the Nissan Frontier pickup truck, it has an available V8 engine, can go off-road, and is capable of towing a 7,000-pound trailer. In fact, it’s one of the last midsize SUVs to hold out against the push for family-friendly crossovers. Here’s a closer look at the SUVs that were unveiled.
2013 Nissan Pathfinder
The new, redesigned 2013 Pathfinder, on display in a preview concept form at the 2012 New York International Auto Show, is going the way of the Ford Explorer by switching from rear-wheel-drive architecture to a lighter-duty front-wheel-drive construction. These changes will allow for a smoother ride, better on-road handling, and a roomier interior. When a production version is unveiled later this year, it will face off against several newly unveiled crossover models: an all-new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe and updated versions of the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse, as well as the Explorer and such models as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
The new Santa Fe, which debuted at the auto show Wednesday, will be offered in two sizes: a five seat “Sport” model and a seven-seat model, which is a longer version with three rows of seats. The Sport model’s four-cylinder engines will be music to the ears of many drivers, as it promises class-leading fuel economy of up to 33 miles per gallon on the highway. The Santa Fe Sport will slot directly above the smaller, less expensive Tucson. The seven-seat model has a powerful 290-horsepower V6, and it will replace the slow-selling Veracruz as Hyundai’s largest SUV.
2013 Chevrolet Traverse
The 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, also unveiled Wednesday, sported a shiny new grille and a revised interior. A cool new safety feature was also added: The Traverse holds a first-of-its-kind airbag that deploys between the front seats to keep passengers from bouncing off each other in an accident. The 2013 Buick Enclave, shown earlier this week, and the 2013 GMC Acadia that debuted earlier this year at the Chicago Auto Show, offer more of the same, but with more luxury touches. Though these models are old by automotive standards – their basic design dates to 2007 – GM hopes relatively minor tweaks will keep these cars competitive.
2013 Honda Crosstour
Another new crossover shown at the New York show is a concept car previewing the 2013 Honda Crosstour, a bigger, taller all-wheel-drive hatchback version of the popular midsize Accord. The Crosstour, formerly called the Accord Crosstour, has been something of a sales dud since it went on sale as a 2010 model. Honda hopes a new grille, a revised interior and more features will make the difference.
Subaru XV Crosstrek
Subaru is also showing a tall hatchback at the show: The compact Impreza-based XV Crosstrek is making its North American debut. It has a higher ride height than the Impreza and a few different styling touches, but it’s nearly identical to that car – right down to its 36 mile-per-gallon highway mileage rating, better than any non-hybrid SUV.
Luxury SUVs Compete With More Affordable Options
Cadillac, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz also each introduced updated premium crossover SUVs at the New York show. The 2013 Cadillac SRX has modified styling and new features; the 2013 Lexus RX made its North American debut sporting a new front end; and Mercedes-Benz showed a 2013 GLK and GL with revised interior and exterior styling, and a new fuel-efficient diesel engine on the GLK. Additionally, BMW debuted the first U.S.-specification of the X1 compact crossover, which was already on sale in other world markets and will start from a relatively affordable $30,650. Some even more affordable crossovers unveiled this week at the New York Auto Show include the updated 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, 2013 Subaru Outback and 2013 Toyota Venza, which each saw fairly minor design changes.
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Brady Holt, a Washington D.C. newspaper reporter, has had a lifelong interest in cars in the automotive world, and he’ll share his thoughts at every available opportunity. Brady has written for Examiner.com since 2008, and covered the ’08 New York International Auto Show with Edmunds.com’s Inside Line team as a student journalist. His work can be found on Examiner.com.