Platform sharing has long been a strategy employed by major automakers as a way of getting the most out of their development dollars. The key to successful platform sharing has always been to ensure that each brand involved is able to produce a distinctive vehicle that isn’t just a clone of the other. This often means grafting unique styling, special engine options or exclusive features onto the automobile’s basic design to give it that individual touch.
Crossovers and SUVs often share platforms, particularly in the luxury segment. Let’s take a closer look at 10 crossovers and SUVs that share platforms and examine how they manage to develop their own identities despite borrowing each other’s basic underpinnings.
The 2011 Chevrolet Traverse is the largest crossover in the brand’s lineup. This full-size people mover features a chassis that is closer to that of a sedan than a truck, which allows it to offer better comfort and handling than vehicles like the Chevrolet Tahoe. Inside, Traverse provides three rows of seating that enables it to handle up to eight passengers, and with the rear accommodations folded flat it can handle as much as 116.4 cubic feet of cargo. The Chevrolet Traverse is also the most affordable of the vehicles that share its platform, which means that it provides solid value at the entry-level.
The 2011 Chevrolet Traverse is motivated by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that generates 281 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque (with an additional seven horsepower and four lb-ft of torque available through the LTZ trim’s dual exhaust setup). A six-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties, while fuel mileage is rated at 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway. All-wheel drive can be ordered as an option on the Traverse.
The 2011 Buick Enclave shares its chassis and mechanical details with the Chevrolet Traverse, giving this full-size crossover the same seating, interior storage capacity, horsepower (with all trims featuring dual exhaust) and fuel economy as its Bowtie-wearing cousin. Where the Buick Enclave differs from the Traverse is in terms of its styling, interior materials and premium features, as the Enclave is intended as the most luxurious large crossover available from General Motors.
The 2011 Buick Enclave’s exterior styling is also far curvier than that of the Traverse, and it also features standard HID headlights, 19-inch wheels and a power liftgate. Three zones of automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped wood steering wheel are also included on all versions of the Enclave. Higher trim levels provide items such as heated leather seats, active headlights, a Bose surround system and a panoramic SkyScape sunroof. The Enclave’s interior trim tends towards wood grain and chrome, adding a more upscale feel when compared to the less swanky Traverse.
The 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a large mid-size sport-utility vehicle that has built its reputation on a combination of off-road capability and urban practicality. In addition to its five passenger seating and the ability to haul up to 69 cubic feet of cargo (with the rear seats folded), the Jeep Grand Cherokee also provides the choice of three four-wheel drive systems, the hot rod SRT8 trim (which features its own unique all-wheel drive system) and a host of premium features found in the Limited trim.
Three engine options are available with the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee, all of which are matched with a five-speed automatic transmission. The base motor is a 3.7-liter V-6 that generates 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque while returning 16-mpg city and 21-mpg highway. Next up is a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 that provides a healthy 357 horses and 389 lb-ft of torque while dropping fuel mileage by only two miles per gallon city and one mile per gallon highway. The SRT8 model cranks up the performance with a 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 that grinds out 420 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage for the SRT8 shows as 12-mpg around town and 16-mpg on the highway.
The 2010 Jeep Commander borrows the Grand Cherokee’s platform but stretches it out so as to provide a third row of seating and bump passenger capacity up to seven. Total available cargo space remains identical to that of the Grand Cherokee. In terms of styling, the Commander adopts a box-like, right-angle look that dips into Jeep’s past, while inside the Limited trim maintains a similar level of premium features and options compared to the vehicle upon which it is based.
In terms of drivetrains and off-road equipment, the 2010 Jeep Commander provides essentially the same mix of engines and four-wheel drive systems as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The most notable exception is the absence of the SRT8 trim – the Commander does not get a high output V-8 engine above the 5.7-liter HEMI. The larger and heavier Commander also offers more resistance to the base V-6’s charms, forcing on it fuel mileage numbers that are slightly lower than those of the Grand Cherokee featuring the same engine.
The 2011 Honda Pilot represents the Japanese brand’s largest SUV, offering the ability to shuttle eight passengers from point A to point B as well as the option of using the crossover to instead haul up to 87 cubic feet of luggage or other bulky items. The Honda Pilot also comes in four trim levels, allowing buyers to start with the well-equipped base LX model and move on up to the luxury-laden EX-L edition, which includes heated leather seats, a sunroof and available options such as a voice-activated navigation system.
All versions of the 2011 Honda Pilot are motivated by the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine that provides 250 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. Mated with a five-speed automatic transmission, this unit features a fuel economy rating of 17-mpg in city driving and 23-mpg on the highway. Drivers who require an additional traction edge can opt for the vehicle’s available all-wheel drive system.
The differences between the 2011 Acura MDX and its Honda Pilot platform-mate can be summed up in a single word: technology. Although the MDX drops seating capacity down to seven and offers slightly less total cargo space, the luxury suv is truly notable for the sheer amount of premium high tech gear it makes available. The Technology package provides a climate control system that actually uses GPS to track the position of the sun relative to the vehicle, as well as a voice-controlled navigation system and the Acura ELS surround-sound entertainment system. Ordering the Advance package provides an extensive list of safety features, such as adaptive cruise control and a collision mitigation braking system, as well as an adaptive suspension that improves the crossover’s handling.
The technology investment continues under the hood of the 2011 Acura MDX, which features a larger and more powerful 3.7-liter V-6 when compared against the Honda Pilot. Offering 300 ponies and 270 lb-ft of torque, the MDX also benefits from the Acura Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system that can actively manage torque while cornering for maximum control and surefootedness. A six-speed automatic transmission helps the Acura MDX return fuel mileage numbers of 16-mpg in the city and 21-mpg during highway cruising.
The 2011 Ford Flex full-size crossover is meant to capture both the minivan and the SUV crowd by combing seating for seven, 83 cubic feet of total cargo space and a tow rating that maxes out at 4,500 lbs. The vehicle’s styling – a flat roof and slab sides – is reminiscent of the surf wagons of old, but inside the Flex delivers modern conveniences such as the innovative Ford SYNC vehicle interface, as well as a navigation system and a host of luxury options.
The 2011 Ford Flex starts out with a 3.5-liter V-6 as its entry-level engine, a unit which is good for 262 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is available as an option, and a six-speed automatic transmission is included as standard equipment. Fuel mileage for the front-wheel drive Flex comes in at 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway. The Flex can also be found with an EcoBoost engine pulling duty between the front fenders, which makes use of twin turbochargers to pull 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque out of its 3.5-liter V-6. All-wheel drive is standard with the EcoBoost model, as is a six-speed auto transmission. Fuel mileage for the high performance crossover shows as 16-mpg around town and 21-mpg highway.
The 2011 Lincoln MKT offers a radically different styling take on the Ford Flex platform, grafting on the brand’s toothy corporate grille and much swoopier body work that effectively obliterates the Flex’s rectangular shape. The premium MKT offers less interior room than the Flex as a result of its cosmetic changes, due largely to its sloping rear roofline, but seating capacity remains the same. The Lincoln crossover is loaded with standard equipment, providing a comprehensive list of luxury features and offering options such as a panoramic sunroof, power folding third row seats, adaptive cruise control and even an automatic parking system.
Mechanically, the 2011 Lincoln MKT mirrors the drivetrain choices found in the Ford Flex. Horsepower in the base engine is somewhat tweaked (268 ponies and 267 lb-ft of twist), but the EcoBoost motor matches the Flex note for note. Fuel mileage is also rated at one mile per gallon less on the highway with the standard V-6.
The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe represents the apex of the brand’s SUV lineup. The Tahoe can tow (up to 8,500 lbs), haul (with up to 109 cubic feet of interior room available) and swallow passengers (nine passenger seating). The vehicle’s full truck frame makes it a brawny off-road option, as does its optional four-wheel drive, while inside the Tahoe can be equipped with a decent amount of standard equipment or optioned up into LTZ trim territory. The latter installs features such as heated and ventilated leather seats, an active suspension system and a Bose surround sound system.
The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe features a 5.3-liter V-8 engine that generates a stout 320 horsepower along with 335 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission manages this output, and the vehicle’s fuel economy is listed as 15-mpg in city driving and 21-mpg on the highway.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade full-size luxury SUV snags the Chevrolet Tahoe’s truck frame and general dimensions, essentially matching it in terms of towing, passenger (up to eight) and cargo capacity. Stylistically, however, the Escalade is far more extroverted, sporting an enormous grille and fender vents that set it far apart from the Tahoe. Inside, the vehicle is also awash in leather, wood trim and polished metals, and extensive electronic features and options such as HID headlights, three zones of automatic climate control, a voice-activated navigation system and a two-screen DVD entertainment system are available. The Escalade can also be equipped with LED headlights, 22-inch wheels, retractable running boards and an active suspension system.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade ups the power ante by replacing the Tahoe’s 5.3-liter V-8 with a 6.2-liter eight-cylinder unit of its own. Capable of generating 403 horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque, the engine can drive either the rear or all four wheels if optional all-wheel drive is specified. Fuel mileage for the luxury SUV is rated at 14-mpg around town and 18-mpg on the highway.