Few vehicles are as convenient as utilities. Whether your choice is a truck-based SUV that drives in dirt or a car-based crossover that can haul your family and gets great gas mileage, most shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for in a utility vehicle. To that end, the following pages feature utility vehicles that will soon be on dealer lots, like the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, and a few that won't but are cool anyway, like the Jeep Renegade Concept. Ahh, one day...in the meantime, we get to choose from the Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Murano, and many more...
Photo credit: Staff, Automakers
2009 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
Porsche doesn’t discriminate against the SUV in the lineup just because it isn’t a Le Mans winner. Case in point: The 2009 Cayenne Turbo S. More power than any of its predecessors with 550 horsepower and 553 lb.-ft. of torque. Porsche says the Turbo S is a response to "enormous demand." Okay, they did say most of it's coming from the lands of new riches in Eastern Europe and Asia, but this Speedy Utility Vehicle is coming to America in August. So those of you who want to make the guy next door with the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG sweat will have just the vehicle to drench him.
2009 Infiniti FX
Infiniti redesigns the FX, its rear- or all-wheel drive crossover based on the same platform as the G sedan. Although styling isn’t radically different on the second generation, there are a few new features, including a seven-speed automatic transmission and larger V-8 engine. A 5.0-liter, 390-horsepower V-8 engine powers the FX50, while the FX35 will continue with a 303-hp 3.5-liter V-6. Both engines are coupled to a seven-speed automatic transmission with available paddle shifters.
2008 Audi A4 Avant
We like wagons, because they’re a one-vehicle solution to many of life’s problems. You have comfort and room since they almost always share their underpinnings with a sedan. You have ample cargo space because, well, they’re wagons. You also have sporty driving thanks to companies like Audi and wagons like the A4 Avant. The 2009 model year brings us an all-new A4 Avant, one based on the same platform as the new A5 coupe. We love that car, and are certain the A4 Avant promises good things to those who love to drive, but need to carry a lot of stuff, too.
Kia Soul Concepts
Kia debuted three concept versions of its upcoming Soul crossover at the Geneva show, each with a different personality designed to suit the needs of different buyers with unique tastes. As the crossover market expands, it will further segment, with manufacturers coming up with unique products like the Soul to suit the needs of buyers. While Kia has been short on specifics – we still don’t know engine and drivetrain combinations - the Soul has the potential to be a riff on Toyota’s Scion line, but with a funkier shape and no spinoff brand to complicate things.
2009 Volvo XC60
The XC60 is an all-new model from Volvo that goes on sale in the U.S. in early 2009. This crossover slots below the much larger XC90 and offers up a powerful turbocharged six-cylinder engine, luxury interior trim and an all-new safety feature called City Safe, designed to help drivers avoid low-speed collisions. There is one powertrain available in the 2009 Volvo XC60: A 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Rated at 281 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, this powertrain should have no trouble moving the XC60’s 4300 pounds with ease.
2010 Pontiac G8 Sport Truck
The 2010 Pontiac G8 Sport Truck is like cats and dogs living together. Or, say, Obama and Clinton sharing a ticket in 2008, or even mixing your color laundry with your white socks. Its plain weird, in a good way, but also in the way that makes you shake your head and smile at the guy who still wears a mullet. That’s the Sport Truck, as a matter of fact. Business up front by way of the Pontiac G8 sedan and it’s marvelous V-8 powertrain and a party in back, courtesy of a truck bed welded on at the B-pillar.
2009 Chevrolet Traverse
GM’s new crossovers – the Saturn OUTLOOK, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave – have won high praise from the media and public alike. Combining very good driving dynamics with unique styling and class-leading utility, they’re tough to beat. Yet a question has hovered over the whole line since the cars began trickling into showrooms: Where’s the Chevy version? Right here, in Chicago. Called the Traverse, it introduces a few new touches to the platform overall, such as a 286-hp direct-injection version of GM’s 3.6-liter V-6, and solidifies the styling theme Chevy started with the Malibu.
2009 Hummer H3T
Rumors of an H3 with a truck bed have abounded ever since the SUV was introduced. Turns out the rumors were true. The H3T boast five passenger seating and a five-foot truck bed big enough for dirt bikes, a snowmobile or the good ol’ sheet of plywood. Alpha versions will also be available, with GM’s 5.3-liter V-8 engine providing enough grunt for 5,900 pounds of towing capacity.
2009 Mercury Mariner
With as little fanfare as possible, Mercury took the wraps off the 2009 Mariner. The most important announcement is a power upgrade: 30 more horsepower (to 230) from the V-6, and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 170 horsepower. Mercury also upgraded the transmission from four to six-speeds. Other changes included some slight mods to the front fascia. Now all they have to do is fix that interior, and who knows? Perhaps the Mariner and its Ford Escape twin will flee the doldrums of slow sales and consumer neglect.
2008 Porsche Cayenne GTS
The 2008 Porsche Cayenne GTS slots in between the almighty Cayenne Turbo and the some-mighty Cayenne S with more power, a manual transmission and a more sporting suspension. Other upgrades include Porsche’s active electronic damping and air suspension as standard equipment, redesigned sports seats front and back, extended wheel arches and new bodywork front and rear. The GTS went on sale in February in the U.S. with an MSRP of $69,300. Plus, you get two nifty and exclusive paint colors: Nordic Gold and GTS Red.
2009 Ford Escape
Like the Mercury Mariner, the 2009 Ford Escape snuck under the radar, only this time at the 2008 Washington D.C. Auto Show. Like its Mercury cousin, the Escape has the same host of upgrades: a V-6 with 30 more horsepower (to 230), and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 170 horsepower. Ford also upgraded the transmission from four to six-speeds.
Ford Explorer America Concept
It’s now official: Body-on-frame SUVs have lost the fight to crossovers. This news comes not from an announcement from the International Federation of Sport Utility Manufacturers or something, but from a new Ford concept car, the Explorer America. Hear the name “Explorer,” and you think of the original SUV, a body-on frame truck that transformed the definition of a family hauler. The Explorer America is a very futuristic look at what the next iteration of the vehicle could be and – surprise – it’s a crossover.
2009 Honda Pilot
Even though the first-generation Honda Pilot continues to sell well, the second gen model is here, and it’s a winner. With more power, more room, and exceptionally clever interior packaging, the new Pilot manages to offer the interior room of a larger vehicle, but with the maneuverability of a smaller one. Couple that with an appealing interior and, well, let’s just say a distinctive new nose, and we think the new Pilot will continue to do well against ever more competitive vehicles.
Hummer HX Concept
Think of an off-road vehicle, and you probably still think of some form of Jeep. GM would love to have one of its Hummers pop into your head instead of a Wrangler or Grand Cherokee, and the HX Concept is designed to do the job, taking on the classic Wrangler on the world’s unbeaten paths. The HX boasts a 3.6-liter V-6 E85-ready flex-fuel engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and, of course, an off-road ready full-time four-wheel drive system with locking front and rear differentials.
Jeep Renegade Concept
Like the Wrangler, but want something with a little more sport? Then check out the Renegade. A resurrected name, but no, this isn’t just an option package for the current Wrangler. Instead, this Renegade Concept is a compact “B-segment” two seater with a cut-down speedster-style windshield, roll bar, a hose-out interior and eco-friendly Bluetec diesel/hybrid engine that delivers up to 110 mpg. The Renegade's battery pack will move the vehicle 40 miles on electric power alone, with the Bluetec engine supplementing power for up to 400 miles while battery cells recharge.
2009 Kia Borrego
Large sport utilities with V-8 engines are nothing new. In fact, some might even say that their day has passed as gas prices continue to rise. That hasn’t deterred some buyers, and Kia wants a slice of that pie. This is no namby-pamby car-based crossover, but a real body-on-frame SUV with off-road intentions. Kia says it will offer two engines in the Borrego: a V-6 and the company’s first production V-8. While specifics haven’t been given, we’re assuming the V-6 is a trucked-up version of the 3.8-liter V-6 found in the Amanti sedan, where it churns out a respectable 264 horsepower.
Land Rover LRX Concept
Rover says its LRX Concept is a very different vehicle than it has made before because it’s lighter, more compact and more “sustainable,” but is still in keeping with the brand’s off-road strengths. This three-door crossover is smaller than the LR2 and is being touted by Land Rover as a “cross-coupe.” Powered by a 2.0-liter, turbodiesel-hybrid that can run on electricity alone at speeds up to 20 mph, Land Rover says the engine can also run on biodiesel and meets Federal specifications. It sports Land Rover’s all-wheel drive system with hill-descent control and the Terrain Response system, which has an added Eco mode for lower emission driving in the city.
Saab 9-4X BioPower Concept
Rumors of a new Saab crossover have abounded for months now, so much so that one company executive even quipped that it would be named the 9-4X just to meet public expectation. Turns out, he wasn’t joking. The 9-4X BioPower Concept officially unveiled in Detroit features all-wheel drive, a 300-horsepower turbocharged E85-burning four-cylinder, and a specially designed ski storage compartment. Saab says the engine is “right sized” for the vehicle, delivering plenty of power but with reduced emissions thanks to the alcohol fuel. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and Saab’s XWD all-wheel drive system.
Saturn Vue Green Line Plug-In Hybrid
It ain’t easy bein’ green, especially when you’re trying to change your image from a purveyor of gas guzzling trucks and SUVs. GM’s tactic is multifold, and includes alternative fuels, fuel cells, and various hybrid technologies, including plug-in hybrids like the 2010 with the Saturn VUE Green Line Plug-In Hybrid. The Vue Plug In is based off the Vue Two Mode hybrid that goes on sale late in 2008, but with a lithium ion battery pack that can be recharged at home, giving it a 10 mile electric-only range for short trips.
2009 Saturn Vue Green Line Two-Mode Hybrid
Wait, doesn’t Saturn already have a Vue hybrid? Yes, it does, and it’s even called the Green Line. However, that model will get a significant boost in mileage when the Two-Mode goes on sale at the end of this year, with Saturn promising the new hybrid will be the most fuel efficient V-6 powered SUV of any sort on the market. Saturn projects fuel economy improvements of about 50 percent over the current XR thanks to a battery pack under the cargo floor and a two-mode transmission; take Saturn at its word and you get around 24 mpg city.
2009 Subaru Forester
The previous Subaru Forester was a respected, safe, and affordably-priced utility vehicle, but by no means was it a looker. To appease a greater percentage of the masses – and thus sell more Foresters – the 2009 Forester features a bold new look. Engine choices are largely unchanged though, with engine choices either a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four cylinder or a 224 turbocharged version. A five-speed manual transmission standard, with a four-speed automatic available as an option, and the all-wheel drive system has been improved. The redesigned Forester also comes with standard stability and traction systems, ABS, a new double-wishbone rear suspension, and a stronger chassis dubbed the Subaru Dynamic Chassis Control Concept.
2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid
Except for some mild tweaks to improve windflow, this is just a hybridized version of the Aspen you’ve already met. The Auburn Hills manufacturer is utilizing the two-mode hybrid system developed in partnership with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and finally getting into the hybrid game. Following in the footsteps of GM’s Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon hybrids, the Pentastar automaker chose to introduce the new hybrid system in its large SUV as well as in its Dodge stablemate the Durango.
2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid
Dodge charges onto the hybrid playing field by outfitting the 2009 Dodge Durango with a two-mode hybrid, the same system utilized in the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe hybrids and jointly developed with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and The BMW Group. Connected to the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is a two-mode hybrid transmission, allowing the Durango Hybrid to run solely on electric power at lower speeds and also use electric assist while operating at higher speeds. Speed control is managed through an Electric Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT).
Kia KND-4 Concept
This has to be a sign of impeding doom. Maybe we’re headed for an apocalypse. Regardless, be prepared for the worst, because the day of a Kia with 20-inch wheels has come, and that clearly proves something ain’t right with the world. Or maybe it’s a sign of good days to come. The company that has gained a foothold in the U.S. with small, well-backed vehicles proclaims that it’s now ready to tackle design, and suggests that the KND-4 Concept represents the direction Kia will take in convincing shoppers to purchase based on passion and not simply value.
2009 Nissan Murano
Car companies are fundamentally conservative entities. For example, when a car’s styling is a hit, the company will be reluctant to wholly redesign it, with “why mess with success” being the order of the day. Which brings us to the 2009 Nissan Murano, which at first (and second, possibly third) glance looks a lot like the first-generation Murano it replaces. The most obvious change is to the grille and headlights, which grow toothier and lensier, respectively. The 2009 Murano boasts a 265-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a CVT transmission that has been heavily revised for the new model. All wheel drive is an option, of course.
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
The Touareg has a baby bro, dubbed the Tiguan, and it’s VW’s first crossover. Built on a modified Passat platform, the four-door, all-wheel drive SUV goes on sale in the U.S. this summer. Tiguan will do battle in the same arena as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, although it won’t sell in the same high volume. The first batch of U.S. Tiguans will bring the 200 horsepower turbocharged, direct-injection, 2.0 liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine, or TFSI for short; late this summer 2008, the 2.0 liter, turbocharged diesel four-cylinder will arrive for all 50 states. The oil burner’s output is 140 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque.