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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Brand Leaders Keep SUV Market Alive and Well

SUVs lost market share to crossovers when shoppers got tired of poor fuel economy and bouncy rides from their truck-based platforms.  Utlimately, they made the choice to trade ruggedness for light-duty refinement.  To have staying-power in the traditional SUV sector required innovation and stand-apart branding.  

The 2016 Cadillac Escalade proved that there is a long lasting market for the luxury SUV, and the Escalade still thrives since its debut in 1999.  Even as a number of strong competitors have entered this segment, the Escalade holds its spot as a status symbol and a strong seller.  It offers available seating for up to eight passengers, nice V8 power, good towing capacity and a quiet interior.  Updates on the 2016 model include an improved CUE infotainment system and a lane-departure intervention system, plus the fact that all Escalades come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.  Driving the Platinum level, we enjoyed the extra bling of a special upper grille, 22” 9-spoke painted wheels with chrome inserts, nice wood and leather extras, front passenger seat massage and a center console cooler.  The 6.2-liter V8 engine produces 420 hp and 460 lb. ft. of torque to its rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive transmissions; both are EPA estimated at 17 mpg combined.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee answers with engine options—all with capabilities you would expect from a Jeep—along with plenty of interior luxuries, a smooth ride and class-leading fuel efficiency; this carefully executed combination truly sets the Grand Cherokee apart among SUVs.  The standard 3.6-liter V6 with auto stop-start technology plus variable valve timing and lift improves the 2016 model’s fuel economy and horsepower; it can also be ordered with a 5.7-liter V8, 3.0-liter diesel V6 or even a 475-hp V8 SRT model.  Weight reductions via additional aluminum suspension components improve efficiency across the lineup.  (Our standard V6 got 21 MPG combined.)  With rear-wheel drive and three 4-wheel drive system options, there’s no compromising on Jeep heritage.  It’s hard to imagine needing more than the Overland trim level on our test model including Advanced Technology Group.  For those who must have it all, the top-of-the-line Summit adds even more.
You’ll trade some on-road comfort and fuel efficiency, but the 2016 Land Rover LR4 will always have a loyal group of buyers who appreciate the authentic off-road capability and beautiful interior design that this iconic brand brings to the table.  Every 2016 Land Rover LR4 is powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that produces 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that powers all four wheels. Also standard is an auto stop-start function, yet it still attains a mere 16 MPG.  Among the three trim levels offered, we tested the top of the line HSE Lux, which caused us to daydream about a jungle trek where we could easily tout ourselves plus five more adventure seekers in sheer comfort.  (An optional 3rd row allows up to 7 passengers!)

The 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser delivers on many fronts, including off-road capability, smooth ride, 8,100 pounds of towing capacity and seating for eight.  Its new 8-speed automatic transmission gives it the extra uumph.  The new model also adds several nice safety features and updated technology.  Its V8 engine boasts 381 hp, but rated at only 15 MPG combined, it’s not the choice if fuel efficiency is high on your list.  With tons of standard equipment and many luxurious appointments, Toyota narrows it down to one trim level.  Its off-road features include Crawl Control among a host of others that make the Land Cruiser hard to beat off the pavement, while it also meets the mark on the road.

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