The Lincoln Aviator.
CHICAGO: First, it was the wagon. Then the minivan (MPV). Now the three-row crossover is America's family hauler of choice.
No news there. But what is noteworthy is that this three-row segment, which also includes full-size SUVs such as the Lincoln Navigator and Chevy Suburban, accounted for nearly one in every four new vehicle purchases in 2018. And it's only getting larger for 2020. Take that, minivan.
"It's an expanding segment that is highly profitable," says Jeremy Acevedo, manager of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. "They've gotten massive buy-ins from automakers."
Hyundai, Kia, Lincoln, Cadillac and BMW all are rolling out new three-rows for 2020. Ford and Toyota are redesigning the Explorer and Highlander, respectively. There are so many crossovers it almost feels as if automakers are throwing noodles at the wall to see what sticks.
"Except the whole wall is the target, and you can't miss," Acevedo says, half-joking.
When crossovers became the dominant choice for Americans in 2016, it was fuelled by huge growth in small crossovers, which now claim 22.4 per cent market share, up 2 per cent from 2017, according to data from Edmunds.com.
Yet it is the family haulers - midsize crossovers and full-size SUVs, accounting for 24.2 percent of the market - that are hauling in big profits for automakers. (We're using the term crossover interchangeably with SUV, even though crossover is more accurate, despite marketing to the contrary. Only truck-based vehicles are SUVs.)
"SUVs come with a higher price tag, and buyers aren't as price-conscious as the compact crossover segment," Acevedo says. "These are priced well over industry average."
The average transaction price for the segment is US$43,131, which is over US$7,000 more than the average car price in the US (US$35,972), and over US$12,000 more than the average cost of the small crossover (US$30,844).
But it was the compact crossovers that kindled the craze in the first place, and that are driving buyers into the next model up. Together, the crossover segment is expected to comprise 50 percent of all new vehicle sales in 2019.
"The same shoppers are growing in income or life stages to dictate that jump to the next size," Acevedo says. "There are also more compelling offerings as automakers cover all their bases for that loyalty play, like Subaru."
Subaru's enviable growth has come on the back of its small crossovers Crosstrek, Outback and Forester. Since the cramped Tribeca was discontinued after 2014, Subaru didn't have a proper three-row to keep customers in love with the brand.
Until the luxury-leaning 2019 Subaru Ascent. Such was also the case with Volkswagen, which launched the excellent 2018 Atlas. Both models benefited from the faults of their predecessors and learned from the competition, earning best-of accolades from most outlets. More importantly, those models attracted shoppers from other brands.
This is a lesson Lincoln and Cadillac might be learning too late. "Domestic automakers got caught flat-footed," Acevedo adds. "Europeans have trotted out a ton of SUVs, and Lincoln and Caddy had been pioneers in the segment, so they're finally coming into the game."
Here's what they're bringing:
2020 Lincoln Aviator
Following the path of the flagship full-size Navigator, which was redesigned for 2018 and quickly became the best full-size SUV on the market, the all-new Aviator will come in six- or seven-seat configurations.
Based on the Chicago-built Ford Explorer, this luxury liner with available 30-way power-adjustable seats and a new 12.3 inch touch screen will be powered by either a 400 horsepower turbocharged V6 with 10-speed transmission or a 450-horsepower plug-in hybrid capable of 816Nm of torque.
It is rumoured to have 50km of electric range, but we won't know until closer to the summer delivery date. The real charm is on the inside. Lincoln is back as a maker of luxury vehicles, as reflected by the price range: US$51,100 to US$87,800.
2020 Cadillac XT6
The recent executive shakeup at Cadillac should act as a wakeup for General Motor's flagging luxury brand. The six- to seven-seat crossover with available AWD is powered by a familiar 310-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 engine with newer nine-speed transmission, same as in the 2019 Chevy Blazer.
More dramatic upgrades are on the inside, with a rotary multimedia controller like the ones used in German luxury makes. Six USBs come standard, a pair for each row of seats. Pricing closer to spring delivery date.
2019 BMW X7
Anyone who has been crammed into the third row of the X5 can finally emerge and try a proper three-row Bimmer. Available in six- or seven-seat configurations, the largest BMW activity vehicle (crossover) is powered by either a 335-horsepower 3-litre turbo inline six-cylinder (xDrive40i) or a new 456-horsepower 4.4-litre twin-turbo V-8 engine (xDrive50i), good enough to hit 100kph in 5.2 seconds, according to BMW. Eight-speed automatic on both engines. All-wheel drive, air suspension, 21-inch wheels and giant kidney grille come standard. It will be priced from US$73,900 to US$$92,600 and is due to arrive in March.
2020 Kia Telluride
The largest Kia ever outdoes the Sorento for three-row supremacy. While both offer eight-seat configurations, Telluride is longer with more interior room. The rugged design, with boxy ends, a steep square face and plenty of cladding reminds us of the Mitsubishi Montero for a new age; that should set it apart from the more minivan-ish Sorento. It's powered by a 291-horsepower 3.8-litre V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic with available all-wheel drive. Price announced closer to May delivery date.
2020 Hyundai Palisade
Palisade will replace the Santa Fe XL as the Korean brand's three-row crossover, and since it's longer with a longer wheelbase, the interior should be able to compete with the more American-sized midsize crossovers. Eight passengers fit with a second-row bench seat standard, though captain's chairs are available. Powertrain is the same as Telluride, but Palisade is not as rugged-looking. Price announced closer to summer delivery.
2020 Ford Explorer redesign
The best-selling three-row crossover, built in Chicago, has more power, more space and better technology, and returns to its roots with rear-wheel-drive architecture. It also advances into the future with the 318-horsepower Explorer Hybrid.
Ford says engine improvements and rear-wheel drive basis will improve towing capability from 1,360kg to 2,400kg in the 300-horsepower 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and a 12 percent increase to 5,600 pounds in the 365-horsepower twin-turbo V-6.
A 400-horsepower ST performance variant is offered as well. A new 10.1-inch touchscreen should make Sync3 better. Seven seats standard with improved third-row access, according to Ford. Starting at 32,765 dollars, expected in summer 2019.
2020 Toyota Highlander redesign
Last redesigned for 2014, the three-row hauler is expected to be redesigned for 2020. All we have so far are Internet spy shots with some ridiculous camo flaps. — Chicago Tribune/dpa