by Chris Chase
Springtime usually awakens driving-enthusiast fantasies of sports cars and convertibles, but as is the way in today’s marketplace, new SUV and crossover models are making most of the headlines as the weather warms up this year.
And there’s a pretty impressive variety of new and redesigned SUVs on their way to Ontario’s showrooms in the coming weeks and months, from full-size luxury models to plug-in compacts.
If you’re dreaming of a sporty coupe but will likely settle for a practical crossover as your next ride, read on for some of the forthcoming offerings for the 2021 and 2022 model years.
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L and 2022 Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer – On sale spring/summer 2021
This year, Jeep will make a big move – literally – into the three-row SUV market with a pair of new models that seat up to seven.
First up is the 2021 Grand Cherokee L, which should be arriving in Jeep showrooms as you read this. This first-ever seven-seat version of Jeep’s current flagship introduces the fifth generation of the Grand Cherokee and will be followed later this year by a five-seat version to be sold as a 2022 model.
The Grand Cherokee L’s prices, which range from $52,500 to $82,000, reinforce Jeep’s mission to fill a gap between the mainstream and luxury slices of the mid-size SUV marketplace.
Like the current Grand Cherokee, the new L model will be powered by either a 3.6L V6 or a 5.7L V8 engine, depending on trim. Jeep has not said whether it will offer the new L variant with the high-performance SRT and Trackhawk packages available in the current five-seat Grand Cherokee.
This summer, Jeep will get even more serious about its upscale intentions when it rolls out the 2022 Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, a pair of full-size SUVs that will move the brand into all-new territory.
Jeep’s primary goal is to attract buyers on their way to a General Motors or Ford dealership: The Wagoneer aims to steal sales from the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe, while the posher Grand Wagoneer will compete with the Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, and GMC Yukon Denali. But Jeep’s newcomers will also compete with imports like the Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX80, the Toyota Sequoia and Lexus LX, the Mercedes-Benz GLS, and the Land Rover Range Rover.
At the low end of its pricing scheme, the Wagoneer will overlap with the Grand Cherokee L with MSRPs ranging from about $70,000 to $86,000. The luxurious Grand Wagoneer, meanwhile, will start at just under $101,000 and top out at $121,000. Among the latter’s standard and available niceties will be 24-way adjustable front seats with massage, heated and ventilated second-row seating, and a McIntosh sound system with 23 speakers and a 1,375-watt amplifier.
When they arrive in showrooms, Jeep’s new full-sizers will feature all-V8 powertrains. The Wagoneer will use a 5.7L V8 with a 48-volt mild hybrid system promising 392 hp and 404 lb-ft of torque, while the Grand Wagoneer will get a 6.4L V8 making 471 hp/455 lb-ft.
All Grand Cherokee L and Wagoneer models will be standard with 4WD: Entry-level models will use a full-time automatic system, while posher versions will get low-range gearing for more serious off-road potential.
2022 Hyundai Tucson – On sale April 2021
This is a big year for Hyundai’s Tucson compact crossover, which enters its fourth generation for the 2022 model year with concept-car styling cues and its first-ever hybrid and plug-in hybrid options.
While the Tucson’s overall shape is not groundbreaking, Hyundai got creative with the details, like the LED daytime running lights hidden in the grille and fang-like taillights.
Most versions of the Tucson use a conventional gasoline powertrain comprising a 2.5L four-cylinder engine (187 hp), an eight-speed automatic transmission, and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Initially, the top of the range will consist of a pair of hybrid models that derive 227 hp from a 1.6L turbo four-cylinder and an electric motor, connected to a six-speed transmission. This summer, Hyundai will add a plug-in hybrid version with 261 hp and 51 km of all-electric range that will almost certainly become the priciest way to buy a Tucson.
Despite the fancy details, the Tucson remains affordable. Prices for gasoline-powered versions start at $27,699 and top out at $36,999 for the performance-oriented N-Line package. Tucson’s high-end Luxury ($38,799) and Ultimate ($41,499) trim levels come exclusively with the hybrid powertrain.
Among the new Tucson’s available high-tech features are a digital gauge cluster, remote smart parking assist, and driver safety assists like forward collision avoidance with cyclist detection, highway driving assist, and adaptive cruise control.
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander/2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – On sale April 2021
As you read this, Mitsubishi has both new and improved versions of its Outlander SUV in Canadian showrooms.
The new one is a redesigned, fourth-generation model for 2022 that marks the Outlander’s first wheels-up redo since 2007.
The all-new 2022 Outlander looks more substantial than before, mostly because it is. Mitsubishi took advantage of a platform shared with the latest Nissan Rogue to make the Outlander 51 mm wider and add 36 mm to its wheelbase, creating extra space inside: the automaker says front and second-row seat occupants each get about an inch more legroom.
But the Outlander’s styling also contributes to its more imposing appearance. Little about the 2022 Outlander’s look was carried forward from the old design, though it has a similar front-end treatment with C-shaped chrome elements that bracket the grille.
Inside, the new Outlander catches up to its competitors with a modern dash that can be optioned with a digital gauge cluster and some fancy finishes that lend an upscale feel.
Power comes from a new 2.5L four-cylinder engine with 181 hp, an increase of nearly 20 hp over the outgoing car. A continuously variable automatic transmission and AWD are standard. Last year’s V6 engine option is gone.
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander prices range from $31,998 to $42,178.
On the improved side of the ledger is the 2021 Outlander PHEV. It keeps the outgoing model’s body and interior but gets a larger gas engine, stronger electric motors and a larger battery. All told, the changes add 31 hp (for a new total of 221) and 4 km of electric driving range for a promised 39 km of EV driving before the gas engine has to fire up.
2022 Kia Carnival – On sale spring 2021
Technically, the Kia Carnival is not an SUV. Kia is calling its replacement for the Sedona a “life utility vehicle,” which is the brand’s attempt to hide the fact that this is a minivan with some SUV-like styling touches.
The Carnival’s bold, handsome face and overall shape remind us of the last-generation Ford Explorer, but there’s no denying that its sliding rear doors make it a minivan. Whatever Kia wants to call it, the brand hopes the Carnival’s good looks and some new features will help it stand out from its competitors.
For example, you can remotely open both sliding doors and the tailgate with one button for easier loading of people and cargo. There’s an intercom system and a night-vision camera so those up front can see and hear what’s happening in the back, and you can option in heated and ventilated second-row seats with leg rests and business class-style headrests. Also available are a digital gauge cluster and a 12.3-inch infotainment display that flow together to look like one big screen.
Kia says the Carnival seats up to eight, with removable second-row seats and a third row that folds into the floor, as is typical for the class. With the second and third rows out of the way, the Carnival’s floor can accommodate 4×8 sheets of building material. And Kia’s claimed 4,100 litres of cargo volume behind the front seats is the most in the minivan class.
Powering the Carnival is a new 290-hp, 3.5L V6 engine (up 14 hp over the Sedona’s 3.3L) matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite Kia’s hope that the Carnival’s styling will attract some SUV shoppers, there is no all-wheel drive option.
Kia prices the 2022 Carnival to start at $34,495, and the top SX trim goes for $48,295.
2022 Nissan Pathfinder – On sale summer 2021
Nissan’s mid-size Pathfinder SUV gets a rugged new look for 2022, along with an updated powertrain and a cabin that’s both loaded with technology and promises more utility.
The new Pathfinder’s styling has a lot in common with the smaller Rogue, but with more sharp edges to play up its size and extra capability. While it presents a bold face, the rear end leaves no doubt as to what you’re looking at, with a Pathfinder badge spanning much of the width of the tailgate.
Some of what’s underneath the body is new, too. While the Pathfinder uses the same 284-hp V6 engine and platform as before, it gets a nine-speed automatic transmission in place of the outgoing model’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). That combination lets the new Pathfinder maintain the previous-generation’s 2,722-kg (6,000 lb) towing capacity.
The Pathfinder’s redesigned cabin is as notable a departure as its exterior, with bolder, boxier shapes replacing the soft lines of the old design. It looks less luxurious, but Nissan says it’s quieter thanks to better sound insulation. It’s also more modern, with options like a digital gauge cluster, a head-up display, and a 9.0-inch infotainment display (in place of a smaller standard screen, but Nissan doesn’t specify its size).
Other neat interior tricks include a cargo area wide enough to fit a full sheet of plywood between the rear wheel wells (with the rear seats folded, of course).
In Canada, all Pathfinder models will come standard with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated windshield washer nozzles. Nissan will announce 2022 Pathfinder pricing closer to the model’s summertime launch.