2009 Lemon Aid SUVs

SUVs  (Acura to Chrysler) 

 


Acura MDX

Chrysler Dodge Nitro

Chrysler Jeep Compass

Acura RDX

Chrysler Jeep Commander Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee

 

 

Chrysler Jeep Liberty

 

 

 

 

 

Chrysler to GM


Volume sales of Sport Utility Vehicles in Canada are increasingly clustered around so-called Sport Cute models based on compact car platforms. These so-called Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs), possess a high seating position, good cargo capacity and can carry four or five people comfortably.


The CUV format is moving into bigger and bigger vehicles. The Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, and Toyota Highlander all have three rows of seats, and ample cargo space, if not necessarily at the same time. GM’s massive Acadia-Enclave-Outlook-Traverse quartet can seat up to eight and still haul some cargo as well.

Truck-based SUVs like the Ford Explorer, once at the core of the market, have been pushed to the margins of the segment and even out of it. GM’s TrailBlazer-Envoy-9-7 trio and the Aspen/Durango twins from Chrysler are already gone. Impressive towing capacity, about the only advantage the truck-based units have over CUVs, is not enough to sustain these old-tech models.

There are a number of new and renewed models this year. The third-generation Subaru Forester went on sale in the summer of 2008 and the second-generation Honda Pilot arrived in showrooms in the fall of 2008. Kia introduced its large body-on-frame Borrego SUV, which supplants the Sorento, at the beginning of the 2009 model year. The Sorento morphs into a CUV for 2010. The third-generation Lexus RX350 went on sale as a 2010 model in the spring of 2009, with the RX450h hybrid following in the summer. The Volkswagen Tiguan, the only non-premium European CUV available, made a successful debut in the summer of 2008. Volvo’s 2010 XC60, a smaller companion to the XC90, went on sale in the spring of 2009. The Ford Escape-Mazda Tribute twins that received new bodies for 2008, got new drivetrains for 2009. The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox (and Pontiac Torrent) have been on shown on the auto show circuit, and will be on sale by the fall of 2009.

SUVs are usually taller and heavier than passenger cars, and weight will count in a crash with a lighter vehicle. The separate ladder frame on truck-based SUVs provides a stiff protection perimeter for an SUV’s occupants in a collision with a lighter vehicle, but will inflict a disproportionate amount of damage to any car it hits. Some CUVs, like the Volvo XC90 and the Acura MDX, contain clever engineering that brings the point of contact at the front of the vehicle down to passenger car height.

 

SUVs are registering better scores in crash tests than they did even a few years ago. Half the vehicles in this category have attained Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Rollover protection, which keeps side-curtain airbags inflated longer in the event of a rollover accident, is common in this segment. Electronic stability control, which can reduce single vehicle accidents by correcting a skid, often before the driver knows the vehicle is losing control, is standard on all the vehicles covered in this section this year.  

 


 

 

 

 

 

Acura MDX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA
ACURA MDX (AWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 3.7L-V6 300 HP
Transmission: 5A
City fuel economy: 13.8L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
Nothing of note.

Performance
The large V6 provides strong response at all times, and while generally smooth and quiet, it does take on a distinct howl when accelerating hard. The transmission delivers smooth shifts and is well matched to the engine. The suspension on the Elite model tested served up impressive stability and crisp handling for such a behemoth. The MDX’s ride is on the firm side, and large bumps can send a jolt and a sonic boom through the vehicle. While nimble enough in town, the MDX is built for the open road, where it excels. The MDX has elegant, easy-to-scan gauges, and logical steering-wheel-mounted control stalks. However, the plethora of buttons crammed into the dash centre stack to control climate, navigation, audio and video functions, is an ergonomic puzzle that takes a long time to decipher. Except for some overly-faux alloy accents, the cabin reflects quality components and careful assembly. Comfortable and supportive seats front and rear. Third-row occasional seats are for the nimble. Good cargo space. Superb audio and video equipment. Though the navigation system made a few choices local drivers wouldn’t, and was a bit slow to re-calculate a course if its own wasn’t followed, it was fairly accurate.

Reliability
Above average reliability. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on powertrain.

Comments
Power from the 3.7L V6 reaches the wheels via the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. The system varies torque between front and rear, with a 90/10 percent front/rear split being the default condition. Torque delivered to the rear wheels can be sent 100 percent to one side or the other, or shared equally. During cornering, one rear wheel is “over-driven” 1.7 percent to improve handling and stability. The optional Elite package adds Active Damper Sport Suspension, which employs magnetically-charged particles contained in the shock absorber fluid to firm up the suspension as needed. To partially address the mismatch in height between the MDX and passenger cars in head-on crashes, the MDX has a bar located in the lower front bumper to prevent it from overriding car bumpers. Properly equipped, the MDX can tow 2268 kg (5000 lbs.). Made in Canada.

Pricing
The Tech and Elite packages are both overpriced by about $1000. Big rebates for cash buyers.  

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags, side-curtain airbags and front seat knee-bolster airbags. The MDX was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Ranked first of the 11 vehicles in its class. Good resistance to rollover as tested by the NHTSA. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Acura RDX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA
ACURA RDX (AWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 2.3L-4T i-VTEC 240 HP
Transmission: 5A
City fuel consumption: 12.5L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
A power front passenger seat is now standard

Performance
Honda’s 2.3L turbo four is a paragon of flexibility and “right now” urge. It delivers V6 response but also consumes as much fuel as a V6 with similar power. The engine mates well with its five-speed automatic. The thumb-paddle-equipped manumatic shift feature works well, but seems out of place on a family bus. If the engine has a fault it is its prosaic engine note. Nicely-weighted steering responds quickly to orders from the helm, and cornering is flat and stable. The ride is acceptably firm on good pavement, but gets rocky over rough tarmac. Good control of wind noise, but road noise suppression is lacking at this price point. While the dashboard is crammed with a multitude of features and looks impressive, there are too many buttons and it takes a long time to learn how to use them. The RDX’s cabin is solidly constructed from attractive materials. Good exterior paint and panel fit. Seating comfort is good front and rear, and the car is spacious for its size. Cargo space is ample and versatile. Extreme weather changes caused the Tire Pressure Monitoring System on the RDX tested by the APA to signal a fault when none existed.

Reliability

Not rated, insufficient data. Acuras are generally reliable. Four year bumper to bumper warranty, with five years/100,000 km on the powertrain

Comments
Though spun off the Honda CR-V, the RDX is longer, wider, lower, heavier, is built on a longer wheelbase, and shares no exterior body panels with the Honda. From the side, the car is clean and contemporary, but the front end looks like it bears styling elements from several separate cars crammed together. The Super Handling All-Wheel drive (SH-AWD) system uses all-wheel drive to improve performance and stability. It can also transfer torque both front-to-back, and from side-to-side. Properly equipped, the RDX can tow up to 680 kg (1500 lbs.). Made in the United States

Pricing
The Tech package is a bit expensive for its additional contents. Take a look at the Mazda CX-7. A fully equipped CX-7 GT has an MSRP about $5000 less than an RDX equipped with the Tech Package. However, Acura’s rebates can shrink the gap for cash buyers.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The RDX was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Ranked 7th of the 11 vehicles in its class. Good resistance to rollover as tested by the NHTSA. Standard ABS and ESC.  


 

 

Dodge Nitro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BELOW AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
DODGE Nitro (RWD, 4WD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 3.7L-V6* 210 HP, 4L-V6 255 HP
Transmission: 6M, 4A*, 5A
City fuel consumption: 14L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Drivetrain changes include revised rear axle shafts, retuned springs, shocks, anti-roll bar and steering gear valving. A retuned brake booster, new calipers and a revised brake pedal ratio improve brake feel. Monochrome paint treatment is now standard on all models.

Performance
The Nitro’s high-torque 3.7L V6 delivers good power from low revs. The engine is noisy in town and under hard acceleration, however, much of the noise might be down to deliberate exhaust tuning. Heavy fuel consumption. The Nitro’s basic four-speed automatic is all the truck needs. With a firm ride, tippy handling, and light, lifeless steering, the Nitro is not a dynamic paragon. The spongy, long-travel pedal makes braking hard to modulate. The Nitro’s four-wheel drive system is less practical than the automatic “on-demand” systems used in most rivals. Rear-wheel drive, the Nitro’s default drive mode, makes the truck a handful to drive on snow and ice. The Nitro’s vehicle stability system intervenes very late in the game. The Nitro has clear gauges, and simple, logical controls. It is a long way up to the Nitro’s cabin, and once installed, comfort is not ideal due to cramped footwells and seats that, while substantial and supportive, do little to retain occupants during cornering. Rear legroom is good, however, the rear seat has firm, flat cushions, and ingress-egress is poor due to the height off the ground as well as a narrow lower door aperture. The Nitro’s door mirror placement and the slope of the windshield pillars combine to reduce vision to the front of the vehicle

Reliability
Average reliability predicted, like most current Chrysler products. Three-year/60,000 bumper to bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The Dodge Nitro is a platform mate of the Jeep Liberty. Power stems from the 3.7L V6 seen in various Chrysler group vehicles, and a 4L V6 seen in various big Chryslers. With the 3.7L engine, power goes to the rear wheels, or optionally to all wheels, via a six-speed manual transmission, or a four-speed automatic. The 4L engine is linked exclusively to a five-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is an option on the SE and SXT, but is standard on the SLT and R/T. Trucks with automatic transmission get a full-time four-wheel drive system, with a part-time apparatus fitted to manual-transmission Nitros. There is no two-speed transfer case available. Nitro sales were down about 40 percent in 2008. Properly equipped, the Nitro can tow up to 2268 kg (5000 lbs.). Made in the United States.

Pricing
Four-wheel drive is a $3000 option on the SE and SXT trim levels but is standard on the SLT and R/T. Option package prices are in balance with the additional content they contain.

Safety
Standard side-curtain airbags. The Nitro was rated Good in the IIHS frontal, Marginal in the side impact test and Poor in the rear impact test. Ranked 24th of the 26 vehicles in its class. Average resistance to rollover as tested by the NHTSA. Standard ABS and ESC. 


 

 

 

 

Jeep Commander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
JEEP Commander (AWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 3.7L-V6 210 HP, 4.7L-V8* 305 HP, 5.7L-V8 MDS 357 HP
Transmission: 5A
City fuel Consumption: 15.6L/100 km
ESC:  Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
The Commander's passing was just a rumour, as it returns for 2009. Variable valve timing and 27 horsepower have been added to the 5.7L V8.

Comments
The Jeep Commander is a seven-passenger Jeep spun off the Grand Cherokee platform. The truck is built on the same wheelbase, but is 46.5 mm (1.9 inches) longer, 27.7 mm (1.5 inches) wider, and 106.1 mm (4.2 inches) taller than the Grand Cherokee. The extra height combines with the longer tail to create enough space to wedge a third seat into what would usually be a cargo area. The Commander bears a striking resemblance to the 1984 Cherokee. The exterior has a slightly military appearance, and with blocky shapes, Allen Key accents and a big gnarly shift knob, so does the cabin. The big gauges are easy-to-read, and the temperature and audio controls are straightforward. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, the middle seat is supportive and has adequate legroom, but the third seat is really meant for kids. Cargo space is virtually non-existent in seven-seater mode, but is respectable, especially in height, when the last two rows of seats are folded. The Commander is powered by three familiar Chrysler engines, a 3.7L V6, and V8s of 4.7L and 5.7L capacities. Power is sent to the ground via a five-speed automatic in all cases, but three different drive systems are used. Quadra-Trac I, a full-time one-speed all-wheel drive system with no low range, is standard on V6-powered Commanders. Quadra-Trac II adds an electronically-triggered two-speed transfer case with a low range, and a neutral mode for towing. Quadra-Drive II, standard on the Limited model, adds electronically-controlled limited slip differentials to the transfer case and both axles. The Quadra-Trac systems are permanently split 48/52 front/rear, but theoretically, Quadra-Drive can send all available power to one wheel if that is the only one with traction. The Commander is stuffed full of safety gear, including ABS, ESC, traction control, side-curtain air bags for all three rows, roll-over protection, and a rear parking beeper. Reports in the automotive press indicate the Commander is pleasant to drive, with a good ride and predictable handling. Acceleration is adequate with the V6, good with the 4.7L V8, and very good with the Hemi. The Commander is very capable off-road as well. Commander sales dropped by 30 percent in 2008 following a 70 percent dip in 2007. Properly equipped, towing capacities are 1588 kg (3500 lbs.) with the V6, 2948 kg (6500 lbs.) with the 4.7L V8 and 3266 kg (7200 lbs.) with the Hemi. Made in the United States

Reliability
Few complaints have been received about the Commander since it was launched in 2005. Three-year/60,000 bumper to bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain. Though it is very expensive, a Chrysler extended warranty is recommended if you plan to keep the truck longer than three years. APA members can get a discount on the warranty when buying their vehicle from a dealer recommended by the association.

Pricing
The Sport model retails for about $5000 less than a Limited with similar equipment.

Safety

Seat-mounted side airbags are not available, but three-row side-curtain airbags are standard. Not tested by the IIHS. The Commander earned Very Good scores in the NHTSA’s frontal crash test for the driver and front passenger. Side impacts not tested. Average resistance to rollover as tested by the NHTSA. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

 

Jeep Compass

 

 

 

BELOW AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
JEEP Compass, JEEP Patriot (FWD, AWD*)
Body Styles: 4SW
Engine: 2L-4 158 HP, 2.4L-4* 172 HP
Transmissions: 5M, CVT* (Continuously variable transmission)
City fuel economy: 9.9L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
New dashboard, console, upper door panels, greater sound proofing and more padded cabin surfaces inside. Mechanical changes include a quieter exhaust, revised suspension tuning and a new 2.4L-front-wheel drive model.

Comments
Car-based sport-cutes dominate the tall wagon market in Canada and the Dodge Caliber-based Compass and Patriot have been well received by Canadians. Though they look different outside, these vehicles are identical under the skin. The Compass is all soft enveloping forms, whereas the Patriot displays traditional square-rigged Jeep styling cues. Cabin materials are much improved for 2009. Good cargo and passenger space. Power comes from either a 2L or a 2.4L fours also seen in the Caliber and Sebring. Transmission choices are a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Power goes to the front wheels, or optionally, to a part-time on-demand all-wheel drive system. All-wheel drive is optional on both models, the Patriot being “Trail Rated” in Jeep’s parlance. A coarse sounding engine and high road noise were constant companions on these vehicles prior to the latest refinement enhancements. The CVT works well but can shudder when in heavy traffic. The manual shift mode of the CVT is fun to use. The front seat tracks are exposed if the seats are adjusted toward the rear. They look ugly and could be ankle scrapers in the right circumstances. The Compass and Patriot did well last year, with combined sales up to about 25,000 units in Canada, 30 percent ahead of 2007. Properly equipped, the Compass can tow 907 kg (2000 lbs.). Made in the United States.

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Unproven mechanical units. Three-year/60,000 bumper to bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain. A Chrysler extended warranty is expensive but is recommended if you plan to keep the truck longer than three years. APA members can get a discount on the warranty when buying their vehicle from a dealer recommended by the Association.

Pricing
All-wheel drive is a $2200 option. The Patriot's base MSRP is $1000 cheaper than the Compass due to missing equipment, with the price gap shrinking on fancier versions. The North Editions of both cars lack value, but the extra content on the Limited far exceeds the tariff demanded.


Safety
Standard side-curtain airbags, optional seat-mounted side airbags. The Compass was rated Good in the IIHS frontal, Marginal in the side impact test and Acceptable in the rear impact test. Ranked 12th of the 14 vehicles in its class. Good resistance to rollover as tested by the NHTSA. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

 

 

Jeep Grand Cherokee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
JEEP Grand Cherokee (AWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 3L-V6 Diesel 215 HP, 3.7L-V6 210 HP, 4.7L-V8* 305 HP, 5.7L-V8
MDS 357 HP, 6.1L MDS 420 HP (SRT8)
Transmission: 5A
City fuel economy: 15.6L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Variable valve timing and 27 HP added to the 5.7L V8. The cabin on the Laredo trim level has more soft touch surfaces for 2009. The popular diesel engine continues as a 2008.5 model

Performance
This Jeep feels agile and wieldy for such a serious truck. The ride is on the resilient side of firm. The diesel V6 is strong, flexible and much more economical than V8-powered models. The engine is quite smooth, but drivers never forget that it is a diesel. Low windshield header. Comfortable seating front and rear, but cabin space, especially in the rear, is unimpressive for such a big vehicle. Good cargo capacity. The dashboard has clear gauges and logical controls.

Comments
A 3.7L SOHC V6, a 4.7L SOHC V8, a 5.7L “Hemi” OHV V8 with a Multi-Displacement System (MDS) that idles four cylinders during low-load situations, and a 3L diesel are available on mainstream Grand Cherokees. The SRT-8 is powered by a 6.1L version of the “Hemi”. Three all-wheel drive systems are offered on the Grand Cherokee. Quadra-Trac I, standard on the V6 Laredo, has a single-speed transfer case, a permanent 48/52 front/rear torque split, and an ABS-based limited slip system. Quadra-Trac II, which adds a dual-range transfer case to the mix, is standard on all V8-engined Grand Cherokees. Quadra-Drive II, optional on the Limited, adds electronically-controlled front, centre and rear differentials, which can go from fully open to fully closed, theoretically sending all available torque to one wheel if it is the only one with traction. All models use a five-speed automatic transmission.

The diesel engine is a hit, with about 80 percent of buyers picking it over the numerous gasoline versions that are available. Properly equipped, towing capacities are 1588 kg (3500 lbs.) with the V6, 2948 kg (6500 lbs.) with the 4.7L V8 and 3266 kg (7200 lbs.) with the Hemi and the Diesel. Made in the United States.

Reliability
Few complaints have been received about the current model. Average reliability is predicted. A Chrysler extended warranty is expensive but is recommended if you plan to keep the truck longer than three years. APA members can get a discount on the warranty when buying their vehicle from an APA recommended dealer. Three-year/60,000km bumper to bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
A fully loaded Laredo is a much better deal than a Limited. The additional outlay for the Overland trim version is too high for the content the package contains.

Safety
Seat-mounted side airbags are not available but side-curtain airbags are standard. The Grand Cherokee was rated Good in the IIHS frontal, Marginal in the side impact test and Good in the rear impact test. Ranked 22nd of the 26 vehicles in its class. Good resistance to rollover as tested by the NHTSA. Standard ABS and ESC.   


 

 

 

Jeep Liberty


 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
JEEP Liberty (4WD)           
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 3.7L V6 210 HP
Transmission: 6M, 4A*
City fuel economy: 14L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Drivetrain changes include revised rear axle shafts, retuned springs, shocks, anti-roll bar and steering gear valving. A retuned brake booster, new calipers and a revised brake pedal ratio improve brake feel. Rain sensing wipers are now optional.

Performance
The V6 feels quick, is smooth and quiet when driven normally, but sounds coarse when pushed. The steering lacks feel but is nicely geared and weighted. The Liberty rides much more smoothly than its turbulent predecessor, and feels much more planted on the road than the first Liberty ever did. Comfortable seats and good cabin room front and rear. The dashboard features legible instrumentation and logical controls. Attractive cabin materials (two-tone leather on the Limited) and careful assembly. The massive cloth sunroof was quiet whether it was open of closed. Cargo space goes from adequate with the rear seat up to good when it is folded down.

Reliability
Predicted average reliability as the old Liberty, which uses the same mechanical units, was one of the most reliable Jeeps built. A Chrysler extended warranty is expensive but is recommended if you plan to keep the truck longer than three years. APA members can get a discount on the warranty when buying their vehicle from an APA recommended dealer. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The 3.7L V6 is the sole engine available. Command Trac II, a part-time four-wheel drive system suited to off-road work and sloppy surfaces, is standard. Selec Trac II, which can be left engaged on all surfaces, is optional. The new Liberty did not stop the sales slide the model has been experiencing. Sales dropped about 25 percent in 2008, following a drop of 20 percent in 2007. Heavy real-world fuel consumption. Properly equipped, the Liberty can tow up to 2268 kg (5000 lbs.). Made in the United States.

Pricing
Both the North and Limited packages are great value. The Selec Trac II all-wheel drive system is a $500 option. A four year old Liberty is worth about $5000 less than a Honda CR-V of the same vintage.

Safety
Standard side-curtain airbags. Seat-mounted side airbags are not offered. The Liberty was rated Good in the IIHS frontal, Marginal in the side impact test and Poor in the rear impact test. Ranked 24th of the 26 vehicles in its class. Average resistance to rollover as tested by the NHTSA. Standard ABS and ESC.