As it turns out, the near future holds little drama, but it’s at least likable.
In case there was any lingering doubt about the importance of tall wagons in the North American market, look no further than the highly influential Los Angeles, Calif., Auto Show, which takes places every November.
Given its demographics, one might think the L.A. show is Ground Zero for the latest Italian supercar from Ferrari or Lamborghini, or some preposterously ostentatious luxury car from Bentley or maybe Rolls-Royce. Not this year. This year is officially the year of the tall wagon, as every automaker seems to be catering to the hottest market right now. Among the offerings at this year’s show were a couple of scintillating European utility vehicles.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Barely back in the North American market, this FCA subsidiary stunned the media and the crowds with a new and distinctly Italian-flavoured tall wagon called the Stelvio. And it’s not just your run-of-the-mill grocery getter, either. The base Stelvio is powered by a 280-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. That’s plenty for most drivers. But the mack daddy Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes with a 505-horsepower engine that will propel it to 60 mph (96 km-h) from rest in 3.9 seconds. The styling might be hot enough to convert sports-car lovers to wagons.
Jaguar will offer an all-electric wagon in the North America by mid2018 when it puts the production version of the dashing I-Pace on sale. The sleek ride features a cab-forward design and a range of about 350 kilometres, which is identical to the new Chevrolet Bolt EV. Jaguar said the new car will fully charge in two hours (using a high-voltage quick charger) and will reach 80 per cent of charge in just 90 minutes. Talk about taking dead aim on the Tesla Model X. This is far more than just an F-Pace with an electric drivetrain; it’s bold step forward for Jaguar.
Set to go sale next spring, the 2018 Audi Q5 is all new. It will be critical to the company’s success as the outgoing model was the brand’s best seller in 2015. Interior passenger and storage space is improved for the new model, which gets a new powertrain in the form of Audi’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. Performance improves, too, as the zero-to-60 (100 km-h) mph sprint takes 5.9 seconds, down from seven seconds.
Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition
It’s not as sexy as either the Alfa or the Jag, but the Star Wars-inspired Nissan Rogue model is a pretty cool idea, even with a name that’s way too long to roll off the tongue easily. The new film, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” opens Dec. 16 and Nissan is launching its latest generation of the popular tall wagon at about the same time, so why not? Nissan will build 5,000 of the Star Wars-themed Rogues for the United States and 400 more for Canada.
In today’s automotive marketplace, size matters some, but what really counts are features. The 2018 EcoSport will become the smallest utility that Ford sells, yet it will offer a number of premium features, including a 675-watt B&O PLAY audio system, Ford’s vastly improved Sync 3 connectivity and four different trim levels. If you’re thinking that the EcoSport is aimed at the youth market, you’re spot on. Engine choices include a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo and a non-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder.
The bread-and-butter midsized Mazda tall wagon is updated for 2017 and in the second half of calendar 2017 it be available with something the automaker has never before offered in North America: a diesel engine. Called the SKYACTIV-D 2.2, the new powerplant is designed specifically to showcase Mazda’s clean-diesel technology. And with the previous CX-5 model already a critical and commercial success, the new one ought to build on its strengths and be even better still.