More people are turning to crossovers and SUVs as their daily drivers, and this consumer preference shift was evident at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show as brands showcased and unveiled an impressive lineup of upcoming SUVs.
Some teetered on the edge of absurd – like BMW’s concept Vision iNext, an angular, electric autonomous vehicle. Others, like the Rivian SUV, took an entirely new approach to what’s practical. With so many taking center stage, here are five SUVs that stood out.
Kia unveiled the 2020 Soul, debuting a new yet familiar look for its popular subcompact. The automaker updated the overall design and included a healthy dose of modern technology across six new trims: LX, S, X-Line, GT-Line, EX and the EX Designer Collection.
The new Soul has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission or continuously variable transmission. Its standard engine offers 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, while its available turbocharged option churns out 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.
Kia’s technology upgrades include an available 10.25-inch HD color touchscreen that’s standard on the EX and the turbo-engine equipped GT-Line. Each trim features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth compatibility, as well as a suite of safety features such as forward collision avoidance, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and high-beam assist, a system that turns high beams off when facing approaching traffic.
Other trim-specific upgrades include a sporty front and rear fascia, integrated front grille fog lights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob on the GT-Line. The X-Line comes with a rugged body kit that includes body cladding, overfenders and roof rail-inspired accents, while the EX Designer Collection features a two-tone roof treatment and LED headlights.
Aside from the gas-powered lineup, Kia also announced the Soul EV that has 201 horsepower, 291 pound-feet of torque and a liquid-cooled lithium-ion polymer 64 kWh battery. Range estimates aren’t yet known.
BMW’s massive X7 made its debut at the show with the automaker’s sales and brand manager, Pieter Nota, bluntly stating, “It’s big.” With a 122.2-inch wheelbase and the capacity to seat up to seven passengers, Nota isn’t wrong.
Its base xDrive40i has a turbocharged 3-liter 6-cylinder engine that churns out 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque while the top xDrive50i has a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine, 456 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque.
With all-wheel drive, electric power steering and an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, each X7 model also comes standard with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and air suspension. BMW’s optional Dynamic Handling Package includes an adaptive suspension that reads the road in front of the vehicle, as well as high-performance brakes.
The X7 slots into BMW’s SUV lineup where similar vehicles such as the XC90 and Q7 for Volvo and Audi, respectively, reside. Priced at $73,900 for the xDrive40i and $92,600 for the xDrive50i, the X7 figures to be a popular release for BMW, who’s seen its sales of crossovers and SUVs make up more than 50 percent of its auto sales thus far in 2018.
Since joining the Mazda fleet in 2012, the automaker’s CX-5 has sold more than 2 million units worldwide. At this year’s LA Auto Show, the brand refreshed its popular crossover, giving it a direct-injection turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a few chassis upgrades.
Called the Skyactiv-2.5T, the CX-5’s engine produces 250 horsepower with 93-octane fuel or 227 horsepower with 87-octane fuel. Each lets the crossover produce 310 pound-feet of torque.
The CX-5 uses Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus, which increases the braking force on the outside of its wheels after the vehicle rounds a corner. Mazda also upgraded its steering, adding a software control system that works with the brakes to create a coordinated response.
Other upgrades include a 360-degree view monitor that has front and rear parking sensors, a 7-inch touchscreen display, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
One of the most interesting storylines from the 2018 LA Auto Show concerned the startup automotive company Rivian Automotive. Along with a fully electric truck, the brand unveiled a fully electric SUV, called the R1S, capable of churning out 753 horsepower to go along with a 400-mile range.
Powertrain, electronics and suspension included, the Rivian SUV will come standard in three separate trims. The differentiator among the trims concerns battery size and range, with the lower trims offering seven seats and the higher trim five.
The base model will have a 105-kWh battery, 240 miles of range and 402 horsepower, while the middle model will feature a 135-kWh battery, 310 miles of range and 753 horsepower. Its long-range model (not necessarily a “premium” version) has a 180-kWh battery, a 410-mile range and 700 horsepower.
For storage, the R1S features a front cargo trunk where a typical gas engine would be located. Though specific cargo capacity ratings weren’t shared, Rivian said the SUV will be able to carry roughly 1,800 pounds of on-board cargo and can tow up to 7,000 pounds.
It has a ground clearance of 14.6 inches when at the full extension of its air suspension system, as well as short front and rear overhangs to give it ample off-road and hill-climbing capability.
Rivian plans on outfitting the R1S with self-driving software that would allow it to drive, where legal, on highways with the driver’s hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. Its GPS, radar, lidar, ultrasonic sensors and cameras all feature software that’s updatable over the air – similar to the way in which Tesla updates its fleet of vehicles.
The R1S SUV hits showrooms in 2021, and Rivian has yet to announce a price.
Mercedes GLE 450
Though it was unveiled in Paris in October, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 made its U.S. debut at the 2018 LA Auto Show. Featuring the E-Active Body Control suspension, a suite of driver assistance systems and standard MBUX voice control, the $61,150 SUV hits showrooms in spring 2019.
The GLE 450 has a 3.0-liter inline-6 Turbo engine that achieves 362 horsepower with 369 pound-feet of torque. Its mild hybrid EQ Boost system also gets up to 21 horsepower when used. It also has a 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic fully variable AWD.
Inside, it has a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with Mercedes-Benz Navigation, an available enlarged panoramic sliding sunroof, 4-zone climate control and wireless smartphone charging.
Its E-Active Body Control suspension features Road Surface Scan, as well as the ability to control the spring and dampening forces for each wheel. Its Airmatic system also changes the suspension depending on the conditions of the road it’s on.
That system also improves the SUV’s off-road capabilities, giving drivers several different drive modes to choose from that alter traction control. Mercedes spotlighted its free-driving mode, which is capable of rocking the GLE by raising and lowering its suspension in the event it gets stuck.