Currently the fastest growing segment in the industry is the crossover, so named since they take the attributes of sport utility vehicles, which began as truck-based products with a separate frame, and merge them to a car platform.
The idea is to provide the better ride and handling characteristics of a car, and also deliver better fuel economy. With few exceptions, any new product called a SUV these days is technically a crossover.
Even some venerable SUV nameplates like Explorer and Pathfinder have made the transition to car-based crossover platforms. Automakers are finding relatively few buyers were using the rugged truck capability of their SUVs. Now that the promise has come to fruition and these vehicles are delivering on carlike fuel economy, people are rediscovering the "U" – the utility – that originally made SUVs so popular.
One of the best examples of where a crossover can take you in the compact class is the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Available with a four- or six-cylinder engine and a standard segment-first nine-speed automatic transmission, it can deliver great mileage on the highway. In another first, all-wheel drive models automatically decouple the rear axle when the extra traction is not needed to reduce the drag on fuel economy. To keep the Jeep loyalists happy, the Cherokee Trailhawk model is offered with its own four-wheel drive system designed for hardcore off-roading.
"People like the size, the fuel economy, the functionality and they love the interior," said Cary Bosak, president of Bosak Jeep in Merrillville. "It has a more modern look, but people are overwhelmingly embracing it as a Jeep."
You can also find the Cherokee at Bobb Auto Jeep in Cedar Lake, Greigers Jeep in Valparaiso and Thomas Jeep in Highland.
A compact that debuted in 2008 and became the second best selling vehicle in the Nissan lineup, the Rogue is completely redesigned for 2014. A more spacious and refined interior now allows for an optional third row seat. The Rogue is available at Napleton Auto Werks in Schererville, Southlake Nissan and Bob Rohrman Nissan in Burns Harbor.
Luxury brands are no strangers to the crossover craze, but a new angle consumers may not have expected out of luxury crossovers is a performance model. Audi's recently released SQ5 brings its high-performance S-Line treatment to the popular Q5 crossover. Its supercharged 354-horsepower V-6 can take the SQ5 from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Some subtle exterior touches and unique wheel choices set the SQ5's look apart. The interior features special gauges and standard leather seating. It's available at Team Audi in Merrillville.
Quickly following up on the Los Angeles Auto Show debut of the compact GLA crossover, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the GLA45 AMG. Established in 1967, AMG is Mercedes-Benz's performance division. Like its sibling, the CLA45 AMG sedan, the GLA 45 AMG extracts an unbelievable 360 horsepower out of a turbocharged two-liter, four-cylinder engine. The GLA will be arriving at Napleton Auto Werks in Schererville.