Long Term Future

Late last year, if you scanned the headlines, you undoubtedly noticed unnerving predictions for the future of the SUV. In the face of $4 gasoline, drivers were dropping their SUV s like a bad habit. Still, rumors of the death of the SUV are greatly overexaggerated. Surely Americans want to drive them. Only a return to $4 gas or an onerous Gas Guzzler Tax seem to be the hemlock for SUV drivers. The SUV is still recognized by many consumers as the ultimate mixture of utility, fuel economy, safety and practicality, according to director of auto industry research for IHS Global Insight. New offerings include the Mercedes-Benz ML450, Jeep Grand Cherokee, a revised line of Land Rovers, GMC Terrain, GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Outback, Mazda CX-7 and Mazda CX-9.

Consumers still want highly capable SUVs but they also want better gas mileage and an ever more comfortable ride. The new Jeep Grand Cherokee offers a good example of new New features include dramatic upgrades to construction with the use of underpinning hardware with the Mercedes ML-Class SUVs. A new variable-height air suspension system and a programmable four-wheel-drive system also feature, with a new V-6 engine. The new engine offers an 11 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and a 33 percent increase in horsepower. The new GMC Terrain compact SUV offers a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, featuring a fuel-saving direct fuel injection and a six-speed automatic transmission. These systems achieve 30 highway miles per gallon.

Anyone particularly interested buying a new SUV should keep in mind that the best way to improve fuel efficiency (rather than direct fuel injection) is to add hybrid electric power. The Yukon Denali model from GM offers two hybrid systems, developed in partnership with Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler and BMW. General Motors, in fact, offers two-mode hybrids for a range of full-size pickup and SUV models. The V6 hybrid powertrain offers 88 percent greater horsepower and consume 47 percent less fuel compared to the GM V8 model. Test drives of the new ML 450 hybrid proved very positive according to most reports. It is smooth and easy to drive in traffic. The process of charging the batteries makes the breaks a little jerky but the by hybrid system otherwise works seamlessly. The new Outback Subaru from offers a higher roof and greater ground clearance but the 2.5-liter engine also brings better fuel economy into the mix along with a six-speed manual gearbox. According to most analysts, it s the mid-size crossover SUV market that has become the key family car battleground for manufacturers, but the general decline of the American car market still makes it tough to introduce new models. Ludwig Willisch, president of BMW s M division, says consumers still want what SUV s provide. Comfort, safety and flexibility are still in high demand but as always, there are still obstacles for the industry to overcome.