The 2012 New York Auto Show has a surprising twist, one that has been notably absent for several years from the auto show circuit. Sport-utilities and crossover vehicles could be the biggest newsmakers here in the Big Apple; their introductions far outnumber those of hybrids and electric-powered vehicles. As gasoline prices continue to tick upwards, and the economy continues its fragile recovery, automakers have refocused their attention on building smaller, sportier and more efficient crossovers and SUVs. Consumers still want the style and added utility of these vehicles, but this time around they can live without gas-guzzling engines and dull driving dynamics. These are our top picks among the new breed of sport utility vehicles and crossovers making a debut in New York City.
2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK
After three years, the Mercedes-Benz GLK gets a round of revisions and a new diesel-powered model added to its lineup. We've always enjoyed the blocky design of the GLK, which expertly mimicked the exterior of its big brother, the full-size GL-Class. The new GLK adds some extra power, in the form of a 302-bhp 3.5-liter V-6 engine, along with fuel saving features like a standard stop-start function. Available in front or all-wheel drive, the GLK350 goes on sale in August. The wait will be slightly longer if you prefer the GLK250 BlueTec, the first diesel GLK to make it to the U.S. A twin-turbocharged 2.1-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers 190 bhp and a substantial 329 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel economy and a long driving range will be the forte of the GLK250 BlueTec when it arrives, most likely early next year.
2013 BMW X1
BMW wants us to refer to the X1 as an SAV, a sport activity vehicle. Whatever you want to call it, the sub-compact X1 packs plenty of luxury into a petite package. Seen from the front, the X1 has the same forward thrusting grille and stage presence found on BMW vehicles like the 5- and 7-series sedans – though it trends more towards cuteness at the rear. The 5-passenger cabin is standard-issue BMW, with lots of high-quality plastics and business-like ambiance. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the entry-level X1 sDrive28i, which comes with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and automatic gearbox. Next up, the xDrive28i retains the 4-cylinder but adds all-wheel drive. At the top of the heap is the xDrive35i (a model exclusive to the U.S.), which comes with all-wheel drive as standard, and features a 300-bhp turbocharged inline-6 cylinder. Sales begin later this year, with prices ranging from $31,545 for the sDrive28i to $39,345 for the xDrive35i.
2013 Buick Enclave
The 2013 Buick Enclave has been given a modest refresh in time for the New York Show – think of this as a single session of Botox versus an extreme makeover. The grille is more pronounced and the headlights now have a sleeker shape than the ones used previously. The cabin has been similarly tweaked, with higher quality materials and plenty of soft-touch plastics. Like its corporate sibling, the Chevrolet Traverse, the new Enclave features a 288-bhp V-6 engine coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front or all-wheel drive is available, though you lose a bit of economy when opting for the latter. The front-wheel-drive Enclave delivers 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the all-wheel-drive model returns 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway. The new Enclave is also fitted with GM's front-center airbag, to protect occupants in the event of a side impact.
2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
For the first time, Porsche is bringing a diesel-powered version of its Cayenne sport-utility to the U.S. market. With a starting price of $56,725, the Cayenne Diesel is slotted above the standard gasoline-powered V-6 model, but far below the nearly $70,000 you'd fork over for a new Cayenne S Hybrid. Only a modest rear badge denotes this Cayenne has the 240-bhp 3.0-liter V-6 turbocharged diesel engine nestled up front. More impressive is the engine's 406 lb.-ft. of torque, which Porsche says is available from only 1750 rpm. Acceleration is strong, not sparkling, with 7.2 seconds needed for the sprint from 0 to 60 mph. While not yet EPA certified, Porsche says the Cayenne Diesel is capable of 20 mpg during city driving, and 28 mpg on the highway – for comparison, the Cayenne S Hybrid manages 20/24 mpg. Official mileage figures will be released closer to the start of sales later this year.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The Outlander Sport posted records sales in March, so Mitsubishi wasn't likely to make any radical changes when it came time to update its best-seller. Visual changes include a subtle reworking of the Sport's grille, black lower sides sills, and LED lighting worked into the taillights. A 5-speed manual continues to serve as the base transmission, though you can also team the Outlander Sport's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with a CVT gearbox. Mitsubishi says the optional automatic is now smoother and provides sharper acceleration. The suspension has also been retuned for a smoother ride – though we're hopeful this pint-sized crossover retains its sporty flavor.
2013 Chevrolet Traverse
The Impala sedan and next-gen Chevrolet Traverse are showing the future face of the brand. Say good-bye to the split grille we've seen for a number of years now on Chevy products. The Traverse also receives a set of redesigned taillights, and the license plate holder migrates to the tailgate. Powering the Traverse is a 288-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine, mated a 6-speed automatic transmission. The more advanced gearbox, not to mention the lack of an optional V-8, shows SUV buyers are now focusing as much attention on economy as they are on size and space. Thankfully, the latter attributes are never in short supply with the Traverse. There is room for eight onboard, and Chevy boasts that its updated crossover betters all rivals when it comes to cargo room.
2013 Ford Explorer Sport
The made its first appearance on Facebook, a few days prior to its arrival here in New York City. Sportier and more powerful than before, the Explorer Sport comes with a 350-bhp twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The chassis has been strengthened and the brakes beefed up to handle this extra jolt of horsepower. A quicker-ratio electric power-assisted steering system has also been fitted. While it might not harass the 1000-bhp Shelby Mustang at the track, or anywhere else for that matter, the Explorer Sport should be plenty of fun to toss around. It also looks pretty cool too. The Sport wears a slick set 20-in. alloys, low-gloss grey mesh grille, and blacked out head- and taillights. Usability and economy haven't taken a backseat to real-world needs, especially if you don't own stock in an oil company. Ford says the Explorer Sport delivers 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.