As it turns out, the near fu­ture holds lit­tle drama, but it’s at least lik­able.

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS - BY TOM JENSEN, WWW.WHEELBASEMEDIA.COM

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 I-Pace

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.

Audi Q5

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.

Ford EcoS­port

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.

Mazda CX-5

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.

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