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SUVs – An Inevitable Must in Suburban North America

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By Raj S. Rangarajan

As the ad says, if you have a load of people and/or cargo to transport, it’s more economical and fun to invest in a sport utility vehicle (SUV).

North America’s obsession with SUVs has been ceaseless over the decades and is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future. With more and more SUVs and crossover trucks becoming vehicles of choice in several households, and with newer, upgraded, cost-efficient, upscale models being offered by car manufacturers, the consumer has a wide choice, at varied purchase-levels that suits individual families.

New York’s 116-year-old International Automobile Show at Jacob Javits Center, few months ago, featured more than 1,000 automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and concept cars with 60 world and North American vehicle debuts with more than a million visitors attending the ten-day event.

Among the inaugurals were awesome SUV’s, sedans and trucks from well-known brands. Not to be outdone was a cute i-Road Toyota 2-seater 3-wheeler that is ideal for a romantic neighborhood romp or for a pleasant downtown dinner or even for the mundane, but necessary trip to the grocery.

After attending twenty New York auto shows, this writer realized, its almost the same drill every year: the hype and hoopla in varied degrees, with colorful balloons and festive confetti, charming shiny models of woman and machine, ghost-written speeches, and a lot of fun for the uninitiated and the veteran.

We are all familiar with Lexus SUV or the BMW SUV or, for that matter the Lincoln or the Honda sport utility vehicle. With the American Independence Day weekend in the U.S. you should be seeing the 8-speed Levante SUV from the prestigious and distinctive Maserati stable. Aggressive looking, the front introduces tapered headlights with upper headlight unit connected to the radiator grille.

Also seen in your neighborhood will be the first SUV from Jaguar, the F-Pace – a British import that offers a choice of 340- or 380-hp supercharged 3-liter V6 mated to an 8-speed transmission. Another England-crafted Bentley, imminently available is the Bentayga, powered with a twin-turbocharged W12 engine with a top speed of 187 mpg.

Among the models that wowed the car connoisseur were the all-new Audi’s R8 Spyder with V10 engine, found in the R8 LMS racecar, a Quattro all-wheel drive; the 740i and 750i xDrive from BMW’s 7 Series that shows up new technologies such as “Gesture Control” and “Wireless Charging”; Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Quadrifoglio that is powered by a Ferrari-derived 505-horsepower V-6 bi-turbo with a starting price of about USD 70K; and Infiniti’s QX30 line powered by turbo-charged 4-cylinder mated 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

In the luxury and obviously pricier category were Lexus LC 500 luxury coupe powered by a 5-liter V8 engine that carries 10-speed automatic transmission in the rear wheels, a first in luxury autos; the Mercedes’s E-Class nine-speed auto transmission; the Volvo S90 with Sensus Connect touch-screen, clutter-free interior with a T8 Twin-Engine plug-in hybrid option and the new 4th generation Prius’s 1.8-liter VVT-i gas engine with an anticipated fuel economy rating of 58 MPG, made possible with lighter aerodynamics.

It is fair to say that in spite of a sputtering economy, the car lover’s intoxication with speed, luxury, hi-tech gadgetry it seems a cinch almost always to equip oneself with new wheels. Add to that the average North American’s zest for attending a car show such as the New York International Auto Show, and one could be certain that it would be yet another fun-filled, exciting day with one chasing one’s dream of getting a swanky set of “souped-up” wheels one day, or upgrading one’s model and status incidentally. Or, perhaps just another day for indulging in nostalgia, and reflections on what could be or could have been!

With new models slated for a 2016 or 2017 Fall debut into the competitive auto market – the real challenge – to borrow a cliché – is when rubber literally meets the road.

 

Volvo’s Future of Driving survey spoke with 10,000 respondents on autonomous (or driverless) drivers:

  • 92% believe that people should be able to take control of driverless cars at any moment
  • 81% agree that car manufacturers, not car owners, must take responsibility if an accident occurs when a car is driven autonomously
  • 90% feel that autonomous cars should be able to pass a human driving test
  • 88% of people think that technology in autonomous cars should respect the love of driving
  • 78% believe that technology in autonomous cars will make their time traveling more useful and worthwhile

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* Raj S. Rangarajan is a New York based freelance writer. He covers trend stories on art, auto shows, reviews books and films for media based in New York; Toronto, Canada; and India. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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