See also:

Part 1: Family Cars (over $25,000), Prestige, Sports and Performance
Part 2: Economy (under $18,000), Sports Coupe/Sedan (under & over $30,000)
Part 3: Family Cars (under $25,000), Luxury Coupe & Sedan, Minivans

Part 5: Compact SUVs, Pickups & “Green” vehicles

Today, we take a look at what’s new in station wagons and two groups of sport utility vehicles (SUV) in the mid-size and luxury classes. As usual our mini-overview is complete with comparison price information and same day performance statistics collected at the Car of the Year evaluation event in Belleville, Ontario, last month.

Best new Station Wagon:

Wagons are obviously still popular in Europe where all the entries in this category originated.


Volkswagen Passat 4Motion
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Volkswagen Passat 4Motion:

The all-wheel-drive version of the Passat wagon comes with a 2.8 litre 6-cylinder that’s rated at 190 horsepower and the test car came with the optional Porsche 5-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with the manual operation feature. The 4Motion system continuously distributes power to all four wheels through an automatic locking Torsen centre differential. In normal driving conditions the drive ratio is 50/50, but it can go up to a 67/33 front-to-rear ratio or vice versa. Safety features include side-curtain air bag protection, anti-lock brakes and traction control with electronic differential locking (EDL).

Base Price: $38,055 As tested: $40,270
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 9.3 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):41.8 metres

Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 13.7/9.1 city/highway

Volvo V40
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Volvo V40:

The wagon version of the first compact Volvo to be sold in Canada and to many observers the V40 looks even better than the sedan version. Its low-pressure turbo engine is super-smooth and powerful and the list of standard safety innovations is impressive. As well as side air bags, a side-curtain air bag offers additional head protection in a side impact. Dual-stage front air bags and the WHIPS (whiplash protection) seating are up front and it has ISO-FIX child seat attachments for optional Volvo-designed, rear-facing child safety seats in the back.

Base Price: $31,995 As tested: $37,395

Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 9.0 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):40.2 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 10.5/6.8 city/highway

Volvo V70
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Volvo V70:

The new V70 is now more like a wagon version of the Volvo S80 sedan, in terms of looks and size. It’s longer and wider than last year, however it still comes with the in-line 197-horsepower, 5-cylinder engine with a low-pressure turbo. Not just a low-emissions this engine, it also has a smog-eating PremAir radiator with a special coating that Volvo claims can convert ozone to oxygen as air flows through it.

Base Price: $43,495 As tested: $48,380
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 8.8 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):40.8 metres

Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 11.8/10.1 city/highway

Best new Intermediate Sport Utility Vehicle:

Not so long ago almost all SUV’s came in this size and it’s still an ultra-competitive category. However, even in this SUV stronghold is fragmenting into vehicles that originated from either car or truck based platforms. The new Toyota Sequoia should also have been an entry in this class, but was not entered by Toyota.


Dodge Durango RT
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Dodge Durango R/T:

The performance version of truck-based Durango is called R/T, Dodge’s first high-performance SUV. Durango can seat up to eight passengers and the roof is raised to provide theatre-style seating for the back two rows. A 250 horsepower, 5.9-liter Magnum V-8 engine combined with full-time four-wheel-drive and a limited slip rear differential gave it the quickest off-the-line acceleration in the group. R/T package includes; leather and suede upholstery, high-back front bucket seats, a performance-tuned suspension and a special tires and wheels.

Base Price: $38,410 As tested: $47,220
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 8.6 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour): 45.1 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 19.6/12.8 city/highway

Ford SportTrac
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Ford Explorer SportTrac:

A truck/SUV hybrid based on the Ford Explorer. The SportTrac has a roomy, feature-filled interior and a 1.2 metre long, SMC (composite-plastic) pickup style cargo box. It has a longer and stiffer frame than Explorer, a specially tuned suspension and bigger, meatier brakes. Inside it has titanium trim accents on the door handles and console. Power comes from a 4.0 litre V6 that delivers 205 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. Options include swing-over tubular bed extender and a lockable hard tonneau cover.

Base Price: $33,445 As tested: $39,100
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 10.6 seconds

Braking (100 to 0 km/hour): 47.1 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 19/15 city/highway

Nissan Pathfinder
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Nissan Pathfinder:

The 2001 Pathfinder has a new engine and gets a mild facelift that includes new multi-parabola headlights, body-coloured bumpers, new taillights and a modified tailgate design. The new 3.5 litre V6 is lighter and more powerful motor that features continuously variable valve timing, a variable intake system, a new piston design and drive-by-wire throttle control. A unique feature of this engine is that the cylinder head and block have separate have separate cooling flow paths, which improves thermal efficiency and head gasket life.

Base Price: $38,200 As tested: $40,200
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 9.7 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):42.1 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 15.6/11.9 city/highway

2001 Subaru Outback H6 3.0
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Subaru Outback H6 – 3.0 VDC:

A new 6-cylinder engine is the big news in this wagon/SUV hybrid. The H6 package also includes alloy wheels, larger brake discs, a new climate control system and lots more. The 212-horsepower 3.0 litre H6 engine is a horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ style engine that has the inherent advantages of a lower centre of gravity and more even weight distribution. It comes with a new Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) drivetrain that splits power 45/55 front to rear in most conditions.

Base Price: $43,995 As tested: $43,995
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 9.5 seconds

Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):40.6 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 10.9/8.1 city/highway

Best new Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle:

I’m sure some of the elder executives a BMW and Mercedes still cringe at the thought of having an SUV in their product line. However, consumer demand for a high-end SUV continues to soar.


2001 Acrua MDX
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Acura MDX:

Built in Alliston, Ontario, the MDX is Acura’s first SUV and it comes with seven -passenger seating, leather upholstery and front/rear climate control systems. Power is provided by a 240 horsepower 3.5 litre SOHC V6 engine (also used in TL and CL) that meets ULEV (Ultra Low) emission standards. It has front and rear subframes and an independent suspension, with stabilizer bars, in both the front and rear. The MDX uses a full-time four-wheel-drive system and has a 3500 lb. trailer and 4500 lb. boat towing capacity.

Base Price: $47,000 As tested: $47,000
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 8.7 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour): 43.3 metres

Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 13.9/9.4 city/highway

BMW X5 3.0i
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BMW X5 3.0I:

This is a new and more-affordable version of BMW’s sport-activity-vehicle. It comes with the 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line engine (225 bhp @ 5900 rpm) and standard features include electronic limited slip differential, a self-levelling rear axle, all-wheel-drive with Automatic Stability Control (ASC-X), Corner Braking Control (CBC), Dynamic Braking Control (DBC) and the Land Rover inspired Hill Decent Control (HDC). A Steptronic automatic transmission is a no-charge option.

Base Price: $56,800 As tested: $64,570

Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 9.4 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):39.8 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 13.8/9.2 city/highway

GMC Yukon Denali
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GMC Yukon Denali:

This big, bold full sized SUV comes in both a standard and long wheelbase “XL” versions. The front grille, side cladding, running boards and projector beam headlights are the main visual changes and a new full-time four-wheel-drive system is the highlight of the technology improvements. Power comes from a massive 6.0 litre 320 horsepower, Vortec V8 engine. The interior has also been redesigned and now has a multi-functional centre console.

Base Price: $59,960 As tested: $61,100
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 8.4 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):44.1 metres

Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 20.4/14.0 city/highway

Infiniti QX4
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Infiniti QX4:

Like its plebeian relative the Pathfinder (see intermediate SUV) the QX4 has a new 3.5 litre version of the VQ engine and will only be offered in one fully-loaded version. Changes to the appearance include new front and rear bumpers, 3-spoke wheels, side cladding, a wider front grille, Xenon headlights and new jewel-like taillights. Inside there’s a new instrument panel, power sliding roof and 6-disc in-dash CD player and active front seat head restraints.

Base Price: $48,000 As tested: $48,000

Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 9.5 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):43.9 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 15.6/11.9 city/highway

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Mercedes-Benz ML55:

The go-much-faster version of M-Class is a limited production vehicle prepared by AMG, the high-performance and racing arm of Mercedes. Its hand-built 5.5 litre V8 engine can pump out 342 horsepower and propel it down the road faster than any other production SUV in the world. A Tele Aid system combines GPS and cellular phone technology, similar to GM’s On-Star. The many features of this system include remote engine diagnosis, door unlocking (if you lock keys in the vehicle) and theft alarm and position notification.

Base Price: $90,500 As tested: $90,500
Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 6.7 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):42 metres

Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 17.2/12.5 city/highway

Volvo V70 Cross Country
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Volvo V70 Cross Country:

Another hybrid station wagon/SUV, the Cross Country is the active-living, urban version of the new V70 (see wagons). It has more ground clearance (22 mm more than its predecessor), full-time four-wheel-drive, extra body cladding, fog lights and a roof rack. The rear seat can be folded down in three sections and an electrically powered cooler box fits in the rear centre seat when the backrest is folded. The all-wheel-drive system uses a centre viscous coupling and a new feature is its “TRACS” traction control system.

Base Price: $48,995 As tested: $53,720

Acceleration (0 to 100 km/hour): 9.2 seconds
Braking (100 to 0 km/hour):43.7 metres
Fuel Consumption (litres/100 km): 13.2/9.7 city/highway

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