Features

Future SUVs from Jeep, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lamborghini, Tesla, Honda

From luxury crossovers to tough off-roaders.

Jeep Wrangler

What We Know

To shed serious weight, the Jeep Wrangler is expected to use lots of aluminum in its first full update since 2006. (Though it won’t use it as extensively, Jeep can thank Ford for embracing its use on the new F-150.) The Wrangler’s solid axles and body-on-frame construction will remain, appeasing off-roaders who find the unibody, independent-suspension Cherokee and Renegade nigh impossible to upgrade for trails. The aluminum diet could allow Jeep to use a smaller, more fuel-efficient version of its Pentastar V-6 engine, most likely the 3.2-liter from the Cherokee. Fiat Chrysler’s filings with the SEC suggest the dated five-speed automatic will give way to the eight-speed used in the company’s other rear-wheel-drive models. Jeep might also finally get its wish to sell a diesel Wrangler in America, although it will likely use a new four-cylinder rather than the V-6 offered in the Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500.

Why It Matters

The Jeep Wrangler is such an icon (and cash cow, as one of Fiat Chrysler’s top-selling U.S. products) that it will never go away,but it needs to be overhauled significantly for today’s car industry. Above all, the SUV’s drinking habits pull down all of Fiat Chrysler’s average fuel-economy scores, so raising fuel efficiency is the biggest priority. Jeep also needs to keep from alienating loyalists, which means maintaining serious ability off the beaten track and sticking with a clearly identifiable Jeep design, even if the boxy shape becomes slightly sleeker and more aerodynamic. “I can assure you that we’re not going to disappoint anybody,” Jeep president and CEO Mike Manley boldly claims.

Potential Pitfalls

Jeep has built the Wrangler in Toledo, Ohio, for decades, but there are signs that could change. For one, production capacity at the plant is too low to meet projected Wrangler sales. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has also warned it could be too expensive to overhaul the plant for aluminum construction, although officials there are pushing for a pricey upgrade to keep the Jeep in Ohio.

When to Expect It

Look for the Jeep Wrangler in early 2018, likely putting it on schedule for a debut at that year’s Detroit auto show.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer


What We Know

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer will essentially be a stretched, more luxurious version of the next Grand Cherokee. It will seat seven versus the Grand Cherokee’s five. Power­trains will likely mirror those of the next Grand Cherokee, which itself is still nearly two years away from reaching showrooms, but Jeep could also borrow engines from the upcoming Maserati Levante crossover. While the Grand Wagoneer will retain some off-roading ability, officials freely admit its increased size will make it less ready for Moab than the brand’s other trail-rated vehicles.

Why It Matters

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee already competes with luxury offerings such as the BMW X5, so why not make an even fancier version to take on the likes of Range Rover and others? Strong sales of the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator underscore the market potential for a glitzed-up Jeep.

Potential Pitfalls

A large, luxurious model such as the Wagoneer is expensive to develop. If segment growth slows for any reason—say, a rise in gas prices—the business case could become much harder to make.

When to Expect It

Mid-2018.

Jaguar J-Pace


What We Know

The three-row Jaguar J-Pace sport/utility will likely be based on the face-lifted Range Rover and share its all-aluminum architecture. Aimed at rich country bumpkins and wealthy city slickers alike, the J-Pace will get a bespoke interior and exterior, with proportions said to be more Range Rover Sport than Sir Range. The crossover will be available in both short- and long-wheelbase configurations. In addition to the requisite six- and eight-cylinder engines, the J-Pace should also include a plug-in hybrid as well as high-performance RS and SVR variants.

Why It Matters

The recently revealed F-Pace is to the XF what the J-Pace will be to the XJ. Old-school Jaguar needs to tap into growing segments. The hottest segment today? Crossovers, with luxury crossovers being the hottest of the hot. The F-Pace will establish a foothold where no Jag has before—in the land of constantly evolving utility vehicles—and the J-Pace will follow close behind.

Potential Pitfalls

The J-Pace will be a niche model even by Jaguar standards, and one wonders whether it will generate enough volume to significantly help the automaker’s bottom line.

When to Expect It

We expect the Jaguar J-Pace will debut in 2019, a year after the all-new XJ is unveiled.

Land Rover Defender


What We Know

The all-new Land Rover Defender will appeal not only to off-road adventurers but also fashion-conscious urban guerrillas, with models ranging from a tough, no-frills utility truck to a butch-looking, go-anywhere luxury liner. Expect at least five different body styles: two-door short wheelbase with a metal top; two-door short wheelbase with a softtop; four-door long wheelbase with a metal top; two-door short-wheelbase pickup; and four-door long-wheelbase pickup.

The Defender should come with five engine choices: two diesel-powered four-cylinders (150 and 180 hp); two gas-powered four-cylinders (180 and 240 hp); and a 300-hp V-6 that will replace the current model’s ancient V-8. All engines will bolt to either a six-speed manual transmission or a nine-speed automatic.

The current Defender’s bash-proof live-axle rear suspension is set to survive, but it will no longer be located in a ladder-type frame made of tank-grade iron. Instead, Land Rover engineering has created a light, structurally rigid unibody that carries stout subframes fore and aft. A specially calibrated Terrain Response system, a sophisticated infotainment system, surround-view cam­eras, and navigation with dedicated off-road capabilities will be available. An optional low-range transfer case and two locking differentials should make mud hounds happy; those worried about getting their Ferragamos dirty will appreciate markedly improved interior comfort.

Why It Matters

Production of today’s tough-but-beautiful Land Rover Defender will end soon. The SUV remains popular as an expression of Land Rover’s go-anywhere heritage, but it has been black-flagged for its inability to meet pending standards for emissions, crash safety, and pedestrian friendliness. The all-new Defender will pull the nameplate into the 21st century, and it should have a much wider appeal than its predecessor as a result. Some 30,000 people worldwide are expected to buy an example of this Landie SUV each year—a big jump for the model. And here’s the best news: It’s coming back to America. Finally.

Potential Pitfalls

We don’t see many obstacles the Defender shouldn’t be able to easily overcome. The outgoing model that is still sold overseas dates to 1983, so it’s long overdue for an update. That said, the Defender’s archaic architecture and gruff personality have been big parts of its charm. If Land Rover softens the new Defender too much, it runs the risk of neutering a vehicle that’s been as timeless as a woodsman’s ax.

When to Expect It

The all-new Defender will arrive in 2018, just in time for the 70th anniversary of the Land Rover Series I.

Lamborghini Urus


What We Know

The Lamborghini Urus concept has been kicking around since its debut at the 2012 Beijing auto show. Lambo will lean on the VW Group—Lambo’s parent company—for the Urus’ platform, using the same MLB architecture found under the recently revised Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, and Volkswagen Touareg. The Urus could be the first recipient of a new high-revving, twin-turbo V-8 engine that Lamborghini is said to have in the works. Reports indicate Italy is offering tax incentives to keep production of the Urus there rather than at one of VW Group’s other European plants.

Why It Matters

We all cringed when Porsche introduced the Cayenne, but in the end it earned the brand more cash to develop 911s, Caymans, and 918s. There’s big money in SUVs, and Aston Martin, Bentley, and Maserati are all adding one
to their lineups. Lamborghini’s last SUV—the 1986-1993 LM002 with its Countach V-12—ended in pure, awesome excess, 1980s style.

Potential Pitfalls

The Urus will likely house quite a lot of modified Audi technology. Making it feel like a Lambo and not a souped-up mommy mobile is key.

When to Expect It

Lambo has announced it will debut in 2018.

Tesla Model X


What We Know

Riding on the same platform as the Tesla Model S sedan, the Model X crossover will have the dual-motor setup we’ve seen in the D versions of the Model S—one electric motor for each axle—to deliver all-wheel drive. And like the Model S, the crossover will offer multiple combinations of battery capacity and electric motor output, ranging from 70 kW-hrs and about 329 hp in the base model to about 85 kW-hrs and 691 hp for the highest-performing Model X. The dramatic falcon-wing doors from the 2012 concept vehicle will reach production, allowing easier access to the car’s second and third rows.

Why It Matters

Now that Tesla has shown it can produce a luxurious, high-performance electric sedan that also delivers good quality and reliability, the Model X will be the final test for the company’s legitimacy. If the Model X proves to be worth the wait, Tesla will pose a threat to other luxury brands, especially those with hopes of venturing into the all-electric arena. Tesla is already expanding its reach with all-wheel drive and the recently introduced Powerwall home battery. A high-volume, luxury-oriented family crossover would be a major boon to long-term corporate profitability.

Potential Pitfalls

The Tesla Model X’s launch date has been delayed repeatedly over the last three years, and nothing definitive has emerged to suggest imminent progress. In the meantime, another brand could crash the all-electric crossover party first.

When to Expect It

Early 2016 is the current estimate, but don’t hold your breath.

Honda Ridgeline


What We Know

The all-new Honda Ridgeline should be more trucklike in appearance and capability than its predecessor, thanks to an improved suspension setup and a more rigid body structure. The last Ridgeline had a cool tailgate that could open two ways, but the next-gen model will offer an even more fascinating French-door tailgate. Expect a version of Honda’s newly updated, more efficient 3.5-liter V-6 with at least 280 hp, with either a six- or nine-speed automatic transmission. Inside, the Ridgeline will be more luxurious, and the Honda Sensing suite of semi-autonomous tech will be available.


Why It Matters

Honda turned the hardcore truck world on its bed when it unveiled the 2006 Ridgeline, and not in a good way. But the unibody-constructed and unconventionally styled Ridgeline was in some ways ahead of its time. We’re betting
the new, more conventional-looking Ridge will find itself some takers.

Potential Pitfalls

The Ridgeline sold around 40,000 units a year in its heyday. If it can hit that mark, it’ll be around a while. If not, Honda’s product planning department will be in the hot seat.

When to Expect It

The 2017 Ridgeline should roll into Honda dealers by mid-2016.

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EPA MPG:

17 City / 21 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

13 / 55 cu. ft.

Seating:

4/4