2009: What's New In SUVs And Crossovers

By Zach Bowman
2009 Kia Borrego 1
2009 Kia Borrego

Last year wasn’t a great one for any carmaker, so manufacturers across the globe are hitting 2009 with an arsenal of new and updated rides in hopes of bettering their fortunes. While the SUV may be losing its grip on the throne of family transportation, the recent dip in fuel prices will likely see high-riding four-wheel drives rebound. This year brings a handful of new body-on-frame SUVs, but the crossover wave looks to be just taking off, with Nissan, Mercedes, Toyota and Dodge all offering up a new variant of the car/truck hybrid.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK

2009 Toyota Venza

When Kia announced its intentions to bring an all-new full-sized SUV to market, gas prices were happily hovering around the $4/gallon mark. At the time, no one was looking for a hefty, gas-swilling SUV. Now that gas has returned to a reasonable price, the Borrego is set to offer full-sized amenities at a mid-sized price. Available with either a 276 horsepower V-6 or a more potent, 337 horsepower V-8, this rig has the guts to go the distance with the likes of the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Tahoe. With the larger motor, the Borrego comes with an impressive 7,500-lb towing-capacity, and thanks to its six-speed automatic transmission, still manages to return a healthy 15 mpg city a 22 mpg highway. Kia’s base big-daddy SUV can be had for just $26,995. Progress is a good thing.

Kia’s not alone with a new take on the SUV. BMW is set to woo buyers with a little more coin to spend with its X6. This all-wheel drive bruiser sports original styling that may not be to everyone’s tastes. With a low roof line and dramatic sloping back glass, the X6 boasts looks that borrow more from the company’s coupes than classic, boxy SUV’s. Regardless of how you feel about the X6’s exterior, this BMW’s mechanicals offer up plenty to get excited about. The X6 is available with either a twin-turbocharged, direct-injection inline six-cylinder with 300 horsepower or a twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V-8 motor with 100 more horsepower. Pricing starts at $55,900 for the six-cylinder version.

Crossovers didn’t exactly fair well in 2008, but that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from rolling out a fresh batch of new models this year. Mercedes-Benz is leading the way with 2010 GLK. More of a compact utility vehicle than a crossover, the GLK relies on standard SUV styling to draw in buyers looking for a well-priced luxury ute. Available as a front-wheel drive or in Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC, the GLK is powered by a robust 268 horsepower V-6. Even with an advanced seven-speed automatic, this baby ute can only offer up 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. GLK pricing begins at $33,900.

This year’s a good one if you’re in the market for a high-riding luxury rig. Mercedes-Benz isn’t the only company out there to turn to. Lexus has refreshed its long-selling compact RX as a 2010 model. New tricks include a six-speed automatic transmission that helps out in the fuel economy department, as well as a little extra power out of the V-6 engine. The 2010 Lexus RX350 comes with a price tag around $39,000.

The company that molded family transportation with the minivan is back with the all-new Dodge Journey. The 2009 model delivers a healthy 25 mpg highway out of its 2.4-liter, 173 horsepower four-cylinder engine. Those are respectable numbers for a seven-seat vehicle, but if you’re willing to sacrifice a few mpgs for a little extra oomph, Dodge is also offering a 3.5-liter V-6 with 235 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque. Like all Dodge products, the Journey also comes with the company’s fantastic lifetime powertrain warranty – all starting at just $21,300.

Toyota’s also making waves in the crossover waters with its all-new Venza. The Camry-based crossover offers up the higher ride height drivers have come to prefer along with the stable, comfortable driving characteristics of a sedan. Outside, the Venza is handsomely styled, borrowing from the smart new lines of the Camry and working in its own language with a bold C-pillar out back. Powered by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with 182 horsepower, those looking for a quick machine best look elsewhere. For the rest of the motoring world, however, the Venza offers great fuel economy at 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. That’s great news for a five-passenger vehicle that starts at $25,975.

There’s no denying Americans are still hungry for vehicles that offer plenty of interior space and a high point of view, and automakers everywhere are hoping to capitalize on that in 2009. If you’re in the market for a stout new SUV or a spacious new crossover, now’s as good a time as any to look into any of these new models.

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