Thus, it was no surprise that the new Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Ford Everest were launched in quick succession in mid-2015 in Thailand, known as the "Detroit of Asia".
While the three Thai-built seven-seater rivals have rugged pick-up truck underpinnings and powerful turbo-diesel engines, combined with impressive off-road capabilities, they also offer refined and high-quality interiors for family excursions.
In other words, these big SUVs offer the robustess and heavy-duty power of a workhorse, and at the same time, the cabin comforts and seating capacities desired by large families.
Carsifu.my took a closer look at these three tough seven-seat SUVs at the recent 32nd Thailand International Motor Expo 2015 in Bangkok.
The 2015 Hilux pick-up truck-based Fortuner had simultaneous global premieres in July in Bangkok, Thailand and Sydney, Australia.
This second-generation Fortuner gets Toyota’s new direct-injection turbo-diesel engines which offer better fuel efficiency, performance, and noise reduction.
Its new 2.8-litre diesel engine is also seen in the latest Hilux pick-up truck launched in Thailand in May, and in the redesigned Land Cruiser Prado launched in Japan in June.
The same engine lineup includes the 2GD-FTV 2.4-liter direct-injection turbo diesel engine.
The Fortuner also has 2.4-litre direct-injection turbo diesel and 2.7-litre petrol variants, with prices ranging from 1,199,000 baht to 1,599,000 baht (RM142,181 to RM189,591).
Both the new 2.8-litre and 2.4-litre diesel engines use a compact high-efficiency variable geometry turbocharger, produced in-house by Toyota.
They also feature a next-generation advanced thermal insulation diesel combustion technology, which reduces cooling loss during combustion by 30%.
The Fortuner is offered with a new six-speed automatic transmission, and more expensive models can come with safety features and luxuries such as seven airbags, hill-start and downhill assist control, reverse camera, touchscreen audio display, roof rails, bi-LED headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, and a powered back door.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
The 2015 Pajero Sport also had a world premiere in Bangkok in August, and is billed as the most technically advanced off-road capable SUV ever produced by Mitsubishi Motors.
Prices are from 1.138 million baht to 1.45 million baht (RM134,909 to RM171,924), depending on variant.
This new Triton pick-up based SUV uses Mitsubishi's new Dynamic Shield front face design concept, which gives it a very distinctive look.
The Pajero Sport gets a new 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel engine with 181ps, and in a Mitsubishi-first, a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
This powertrain can provide a 17% improvement in fuel economy over its predecessor, with diesel consumption rated at eight litres per 100km.
For off-road terrain, the new Pajero Sport gets an upgraded Mitsubishi Super-Select 4WD-II four-wheel drive system, complemented by a new Off-road Mode (first on a Mitsubishi model), and Hill Descent Control.
Designed for greater water wading depth, the new Pajero Sport can better tackle bad roads and flooded terrain.
It's also said to be a quieter vehicle, with better handling stability and ride quality due to improved body mounts and upgraded sound insulation.
Top-grade variants get active safety features such as Multi around Monitor System (MMS) to display a bird’s eye view of the vehicle's surroundings, and Forward Collision Mitigation system (FCM), which uses a front-mounted radar that helps in judging the risk of an accident.
With FCM, an audible warning is given if there is a collision risk, followed by automatic braking if there is a high risk.
There is also Blind Spot Warning (BSW, a first on a Mitsubishi model) which uses ultrasound sensors in the rear bumper, and alerts the driver when a vehicle is in the driver’s blind spot.
Meanwhile, Ultrasonic misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS) reduces the chance and severity of hitting obstacles when the driver mistakenly presses the accelerator when stationary or at speeds of up to 10km/h.
Developed on a Ranger pick-up platform, the new Ford Everest also offers refined interior comfort and efficient off-road technology.
Three variants are available, with the 2.2-litre Titanium 4x2 priced at 1,389,000 baht (RM164,655); the 3.2-litre Titanium 4x4 at 1,599,000 baht (RM189,591) and top-grade 3.2-litre Titanium+ 4x4 at 1,749,000 baht (RM207,403).
While the 2.2-litre Duratorq four-cylinder diesel engine has plenty of grunt with 160ps of power and 385Nm of torque, the 3.2-litre Duratorq five-cylinder diesel engine provides more heavy-duty performance.
Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Offered in rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, the 2015 Everest embodies Ford’s fun-to-drive DNA.
In the cabin, there are more than 30 cleverly designed stowage spaces, multiple power outlets and fold-flat second- and first-in-class power-fold third-row seating.
For cabin quietness, the new Everest has Active Noise Cancellation in addition to optimised cabin sealing.
Meanwhile, Ford’s SYNC 2 offers an eight-inch touchscreen, voice command and control of the car’s entertainment system, climate controls and connected mobile devices.
The entertainment system features a first-in-class 10-speaker sound system with an integrated subwoofer.
As for off-roading, the new Everest has intelligent four-wheel drive, an active transfer case with Torque on Demand, Terrain Management System, a best-in-class water-wading capability of 800mm, 225mm of ground clearance, and aggressive approach and departure angles to help drivers navigate difficult terrain.
Another segment-first technology in the new Everest is Curve Control, designed to help drivers maintain control when approaching turns too quickly.