Future Of Sport Utility Vehicles Essay, Research Paper
The Future of Sport Utility Vehicles
Many sources say you see more trucks and SUVs on the road than any other vehicle. According to these sources, Sport-Utility Vehicles are hotter than ever, climbing from seven percent of new car sales in 1990 to 16 percent in 1997. Automakers both here and in other countries are rushing to compete in this lucrative market; just about every brand has or soon will have at least one SUV to offer. Cadillac, Porsche, BMW, and even Volkswagen are planning to introduce an SUV by 2002 (”The Future of SUV’s” 13). In fact, evidence gathered through road tests, surveys, and research done by Automotive Magazines clearly shows there are many varied Sport Utility Vehicles, representing a wave for the Future. This is the wave of the future.
The Mercedes-Benz ML320 has been described as the most agile SUV that has ever been tested (”The Driving Experience” 16). It rides comfortably and quietly except on poor roads. It is stable in fast turns and performs fairly well in avoidance maneuvering. The 3.2-liter V6 provides ample power and the 5-speed automatic transmission is well matched to the engine. The unique 4-wheel drive system uses electronic traction control to divert power from a slipping wheel to a gripping wheel. Low range is available for off-road use. Stops were a bit long, especially in wet tests. The ML320 lists for $39,065.
The Lexus RX-300 is a neat crossbreed of SUV and station wagon (”The Driving Experience” 17). The Lexus rides firmly, with just a little jiggling. But even with a full load, the ride is better than most SUV’s. The steering feels a bit imprecise and numb, and a wide turning circle hampers maneuverability. The body leans sharply during hard cornering, and in avoidance maneuvering it plows ahead and then fishtails. The 3.0-liter V6 performs smoothly and responsively, averaging about 19 mpg. There is no low range for serious off-road driving. The overall braking performance was very good. The RX-300 lists for $39,401.
The Mercury Mountaineer is roomy and relatively inexpensive but the ride is uncomfortable (”Maneuverability” Internet). Bumps produce stiff, choppy pitching and occasional body shake. Even the highway ride is uncomfortable, and a full load makes matters worse. The engine sounds coarse and wind noise is quite pronounced. The 4.0-liter V6 accelerates briskly, averaging about 16 mpg. The vehicle shudders when the power shifts from the rear wheels to the front ones. The brakes are sufficient but stops were rather long, especially on wet pavement.
The Infiniti QX4 has been described as a ?wimpy re-badged Pathfinder’ (”Driving” Internet). The Infiniti is a poor cargo carrier, the ride is rough, and it is very hard to control at times. The steering feels slow, rubbery, and heavy in normal driving. Acceleration is poor; it averages about 16 mpg. There is a lot of wind rush and engine noise. The Infiniti’s brakes were adequate, but like the rest, stops were long on wet pavements. The QX4 lists for $37,955.
The Mercedes-Benz ML 320 is the new leader of the pack (”Recommendations” Internet). Having lots of cargo room is only the beginning. It is very comfortable and has a very smooth ride. It also performs very well off-road, carving its way through all types of terrain. The only downfall for this Benz came with its paint job. There is also an annoying rattle in the tailgate.
The Lexus RX 300 is described as very reliable (”Recommendations” Internet). It rides comfortably and quietly. It also is smooth and the efficient power train provides quick acceleration and reasonable fuel economy. It is really not designed for off-road use but does well in various types of terrain. Emergency handling is sloppy, the rear seat is very uncomfortable, and cargo space is modest.
The Mercury Mountaineer is a Ford Explorer in disguise (”Suggestions” Internet). It’s the least inexpensive SUV that is available. It offers the most cargo room of its kind. It also accelerates quickly and handles quite well. However, the design is becoming outdated. The ride is rough and the engine is noisy. It doesn’t brake or handle as well as the 1997 Explorer did. However, this may be due in part to the performance of the tires.
The inside of the Mercedes-Benz ML 320 also gave quite a performance (”Inside the vehicle” 16). Heated front seats with full power adjustment and leather trim are nice features. Passenger access is very easy. Storage includes a lockable drawer under the front passenger seat, a deep bin in the center console, 2 bins in the dash, and a roomy map pocket in each door. Most of the controls are well designed but the driver has to take his/her eyes of the road to operate the window switches on center console. In addition, the cruise control lever is too close to the turn-signal lever. The climate system works very well. The outside mirrors heat automatically at low temps. Falling asleep in this SUV would be no problem.
Dual front air bags, side air bags, and a pretensioner for both front seatbelts are standard on the ML 320. All five head restraints are high enough even when lowered. The ML 320 did well in the Government’s 35-mph crash test (”Safety and Reliability” 16). The driver dummy suffered moderate injury and the passenger dummy suffered no injury. The Mercedes can easily secure a child seat in any rear position. Strangely, the rear doors lack child proof locks. The 1999 model will automatically disable the front passenger’s air bag when a specially designed child seat is placed in the front (”Driving with kids” 16).
The interior of the Lexus RX 300 is very innovative (”Inside the vehicle” 17). To begin with, it features an 8-way power driver’s seat and an adjustable steering wheel. The roomy cabin provides most drivers/passengers with adequate legroom and headroom. The front seats provide good body support. An adjustable pad in the driver’s seat provides good lower-back support. The rear seat is especially firm in the center. Three six-foot men have ample knee, head, and hip room but limited toe space. The audio and climate controls are sometimes hard to tell apart. The digital screen for trip information is sometimes hard to see on a sunny day. The Lexus has less cargo room than most other comparably priced SUVs.
Besides dual air bags, the Lexus has side air bags in the front and four lap shoulder belts as well. The front belts have a pretensioner and an adjustable upper anchor. All five head restraints are high enough when lowered. The Lexus also has daytime running lights (”Safety and Reliability” 17). A child seat is easy to secure in the rear of the RX 300. The Lexus should be very reliable (”Driving with Kids” 17), judging by the Lexus ES 300 on which it is based. A poor finish on the hood was the worst of this vehicle’s defects.
There is plenty of room in the Mercury Mountaineer (”Interior” Internet). Three six-foot men have plenty of head, hip, knee, and toe room. Tall people like the Mercury’s driving position, but the seat cushion is too long for drivers with short legs. To reach the pedals, five foot drivers have to lower the seat, thereby compromising their view over the hood. The steering wheel feels unusually thin as well. Front seats are firm and supportive. Both seat backs have inflatable lower-back support. All instruments are easy to read. The climate system provides ample heating and cooling, but too much heat goes to the side-window defroster and the driver’s right foot.
The federal government has given the Mercury Mountaineer a high safety rating (”Safety” Internet). Besides dual air bags, it features four three-point safety belts; the front ones have an adjustable upper anchor. The front head restraints are high enough; the rear ones are too short when they are lowered and they do not lock in place. In the Government crash test, both dummies showed injury.
Driving with kids in a Mountaineer has been described as a ?blast’ (”Driving and kids” Internet). A child seat is easy to secure in the rear. A built-in child seat is optional. However, when it is folded, it forms an uncomfortable seatback. This eliminates the head restraint in that position. The Mountaineer lists for $33,210.
Compared to most other SUVs, the Infiniti QX4 is too cramped (”Interior” Internet). The seat controls are too far back along side of the cushion but most gauges are designed well and easily read. The rear wiper control is very small and placed too low on the instrument panel. However, the automatic climate control works great except on cold start-ups. This is basically a re-badged Pathfinder.
The Infiniti QX4 provides very poor protection in a crash (”Safety” Internet). In the government crash test, both driver and passenger suffered severe injuries. The Infiniti has dual air bags, 4 three-point safety belts and a center rear lap belt. A child safety seat can be secured in any of the rear seating positions (”Driving and Kids” Internet). Compared to other SUVs, the Infiniti QX4 is expected to have average reliability.
The 99’s are here for Christmas. In January, the Land Rover Discovery Series II arrives in showrooms and with it is expected to come a new era in lean control. It will be the first SUV in the world with Active Cornering Enhancement. “ACE” eliminates typical SUV body lean. With direction from the computer, hydraulic lines connected to the front and rear piston/ levers actively counter the lateral tilt of the vehicle body. Those piston/levers replace the front and rear anti-sway bars. This improves the ride dramatically (”Inside Land Rover’s no-lean machine” Internet). This new series also comes with a hill descent control. This system supplements engine braking on steep hills by automatically and electronically applying the brakes as needed while you drive. You don’t touch the brake pedal you merely push a button. The Land Rover is slightly lower and larger, with more space behind the second row of seats for cargo room. This SUV is still considered one of the best available.
The Grand Jeep Cherokee is still around. The 1999’s are bigger, more efficient, and more refined. The step-over height is one inch lower and the back doors are fractionally bigger, but the wheelbase was left the same for maneuverability in both city and off-road driving. The price ranges from $31,985 for 2-wheel drive and $34,415 for 4-wheel drive. The 4.7 liter V8 engine has 235 horsepower, and it displays the eagerness of a sports sedan with power to match. In off-road slogging, the V8 is docile yet strong. It clambers up steep slopes and crawls over chunks of concrete without breaking a sweat. It is truly keeping up with Jeep’s tradition in producing a superior SUV (”Jeep takes redesigned Cherokee to new level” Internet). The body style has changed a little bit; it is rounder and sleeker. This Grand Cherokee lists for around $37,500.
The bottom-line. Most fans of Sport Utility vehicles believe they should ride comfortably and quietly and they should also convert easily from passenger carrier to cargo carrier. Handling competently on and off road is also a must. According to most sources, the new leader of the pack is, without a doubt the Mercedes Benz ML320, and the least truck-like of the bunch is the Lexus RX300, a great family SUV! The Mercury Mountaineer is sufficient on a tight budget. Many think the new Infiniti needs a lot of refining. There are a lot of SUVs on the roads that are very expensive and very different.
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