NEW CX-5: Mazda is one of the many automakers unveiling a new SUV model at the LA auto show. Image: Newspress
Los Angeles - America's shift from cars to SUVs is starting to look permanent, and automakers are scrambling to meet the demand.
Toyota, Ford, Subaru, Jeep and Volkswagen are all showing new SUVs at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show. Even traditional luxury car makers like Jaguar and Alfa Romeo are debuting SUVs at the show, which opens to the public on Friday (November 18).
Americans bought more SUVs than four-door cars for the first time in 2015, and the momentum is growing, according to registration data from IHS Markit. In the first nine months of this year, SUVs made up 39.5% of new-vehicle registrations; cars stood at 32%.
Unlike the previous SUV boom in the early 2000s, which fell victim to rising gas prices, this one is likely to stay. That's because automakers are offering more small SUVs with better fuel economy.
Here's what's appearing at the LA Auto Show:
Alfa Romeo Stelvio:
Named for a mountain pass in Italy that's known for its hairpin turns, the midsize Stelvio has Alfa's distinctive triangular grille and curvy styling. Under the hood is a 280-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired to an eight-speed transmission. Buyers can also opt for the top-of-the-line Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which has a 2.9-litre V6 that produces 505 horsepower. All-wheel-drive is standard on all models. The Stelvio, which will be made in Italy, goes on sale early 2017. Pricing wasn't released.
Jaguar I-Pace concept:
Jaguar is taking aim at Tesla Motors with an electric SUV that is due out in 2018. The five-seat I-PACE is a compact SUV, slightly smaller than the brand's gas-powered F-Pace and Tesla's Model X. It can go an estimated 355km on a charge and has electric motors on the front and rear axles that deliver 294kW and zoom from 0 to 100km/h in 4 seconds. Jaguar South Africa confirmed the I-Pace will arrive here in 2018.
Mazda has redesigned its CX-5 midsize SUV, which goes on sale in Japan in February and the U.S. after that. It has a new grille with narrowed headlights and cleaner, less chiseled sides. Mazda says the driving dynamics have improved and the interior is more comfortable. The engine choices — 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre petrol engines — remain the same.
The second-generation Countryman small crossover is the biggest Mini ever. It's 20cm longer than the outgoing model, with 30% more cargo space. Buyers can choose a 100kW, three-cylinder engine or a 140kW four-cylinder; automatic and manual transmissions are available. A hybrid model is also on the cards, expect the new compact SUV in South Africa during the first quarter of 2017
Toyota is also joining the subcompact SUV market with the C-HR, which stands for "Coupe-High Rider." The C-HR, which is already on sale in Europe, has bold, angular styling and a floating roofline that will spice up Toyota's conservative showroom. Europe has a hybrid version, but Toyota hasn't yet said which engines will be offered in the US. Toyota SA says its new SUV should arrive locally early in 2017,with local specifications to be confirmed closer to the launch.
Volkswagen's first three-row SUV fills a big hole in its product lineup. The seven-passenger Atlas, which will go on sale in the spring, comes with two engine choices — a 238-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder or a 208kW, 3.6-litre V6. Both are paired to an eight-speed transmission. All-wheel-drive is available, and Volkswagen says safety features like automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning and lane departure warning will be affordable options. The Atlas will be built in Tennessee and will not be sold in South Africa.