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2006 SUV Sneak Preview

Acura RD-XWHAT: Acura plans to launch a {{{BMW X3}}} competitor, previewed by the Detroit show concept above.WHEN: Late 2006.KICK GLASS: The RD-X concept features acres of glass, including a massive windshield-moonroof combo.

{{{Audi Q5}}} and Q7 WHAT: The Q7 and the Q5 are Audi's ultra-late arrivals to the SUV party. The Q7 (previewed as the Pikes Peak) is based on the Volkswagen  Touareg and the {{{Porsche Cayenne}}} but is stretched to squeeze in a third-row seat. Audi ditches the low range, skid plates, and diff locks to save 385 pounds, but  the Q7 does get a three-position air suspension, MMI (Multi-Media Interface), and dual sunroofs. A 4.2-liter V-8 will be joined by a 3.6-liter VR6 and, later, by a version of Lamborghini's V-10. The Q5, based on the next A4, aims at the BMW X3. Like the Q7, it forsakes heavy-duty off-road gear but offers hill-descent control and air suspension. The Q5's Quattro all-wheel-drive system has a 40/60 percent front/rear torque bias. Likely engines include a direct-injection 2.0-liter four and a 3.2-liter V-6. The 4.2-liter V-8 could power an S-line version. A six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG do the shifting. There's no third row, but the back seat moves fore and aft. Audi hopes to sell 70,000 of each. WHEN: The Q7, an '06 model, will debut at this fall's Frankfurt show; the Q5 follows in 2007. CHANGE OF PLAN: The Allroad Quattro was supposed to be Audi's sport-utility, but now that idea seems hopelessly naive. The Q7 and the Q5 will attend to SUV folk, while upcoming Allroad versions of the A6 and A4 Avants target the neo-SUV crowd.

{{{BMW X5}}} WHAT: The larger second generation moves farther from the X3, with third-row seating, refined ergonomics, and an improved four-wheel-drive system, Dynamic xDrive. WHEN: Late 2006. MORE OF THE SAME: The current model has aged well.

{{{Ford Explorer}}} SportTrac WHAT: This is the long-overdue second-generation SUT. WHEN: Fall 2006. LIVIN' LARGE: The Explorer pickup will grow longer and wider, complementing the 30 percent larger pickup bed. Ford might even give it an independent rear suspension.

{{{Hyundai Santa Fe}}} WHAT: The all-new, larger, Sonata-based Santa Fe moves away from the Tucson, gets a third-row seat, and ditches its loopy styling for angular new sheetmetal that apes the {{{Honda Pilot}}}. WHEN: Fall 2005. ONE TO WATCH: Hyundai continues its relentless growth.

{{{Jeep Commander}}} WHAT: This larger, seven-seat sibling to the Grand Cherokee has sheetmetal inspired by the late Cherokee. Spy pics reveal an upright greenhouse and a neo-Cherokee face. WHEN: Fall 2005. A SHAME: That Jeep is following the three-row-seating herd.

{{{Jeep Grand Cherokee}}} SRT8 WHAT: The next chapter in the SRT8 saga (Chrysler 300C, {{{Dodge Magnum}}}) also will focus on the 6.1-liter Hemi, upgraded brakes, and a sport suspension. WHEN: Fall 2005. ROLE REVERSAL: SVT takes a hiatus; SRT takes the stage.

{{{Lincoln Aviator}}} WHAT: The late-arriving Lincoln crossover on the Mazda 6 platform will replace the slow-selling Explorer-based version. WHEN: Fall 2006. NEW POWER: The Aviator will be one of Ford's first applications of the new 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 that will likely go into the Five Hundred and the Freestyle soon.

Mercury Meta One WHAT: A crossover concept built on the Ford Freestyle platform, it's powered by the Euro-spec Jaguar S-type's well-regarded new diesel plus a 35-kW electric motor. WHEN: 2007. IT'S ALIVE!: Mercury continues its return from near death.

{{{Mitsubishi Raider}}} WHAT: A new, {{{Dodge Dakota}}}-based pickup gets extended or double cabs and V-6 or V-8 power. WHEN: Fall 2005. AH, JEEZ: We don't need another mid-size pickup, but Mitsubishi sure needs new products.

{{{Pontiac Torrent}}} WHAT: The replacement for the Aztek has a 185-hp V-6 and available all-wheel drive. WHEN: Fall 2005. DING, DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD: The most significant thing about the ruggedly handsome Torrent, a rebadged Chevy Equinox, is that it isn't the Aztek.