SUV Sales Point to 2019 as Pivotal Year

In the race for automotive supremacy, it’s official: SUVs are pulling out ahead. According to industry forecaster LMC Automotive, SUV sales have risen a whopping 87% since 2013 and will account for close to 40% of the entire global auto market by 2025. While small sedans still conquer the globe, the vast selection of roomy and capable SUVs currently on display is threatening that hold—especially in the US. In fact, LMC predicts that SUV sales alone will cross the 50% line in America as early as 2020.

This won’t come as much of a surprise to those who have had an ear to industry chatter. With half a dozen automakers dusting off old SUV nameplates and others hinting at a similar move, 2019 stands to be a pivotal turning point for auto sales. This sudden influx of new models comes with a few reservations, though. Namely, concerns for the environment as well as the industry’s ability to absorb such a flood on the market. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, one thing is clear: SUVs are back. And what’s more, with so many options, they’re about to get much more affordable.

Let’s take a peek at five new models set to make a 2019 debut. While barely scratching the surface of what automakers have in store, these designs show the range of options that are about to become available.

2019 Chevy Blazer

First up, the Chevy Blazer. A classic name among SUVs, the Blazer began as a burly recreational vehicle built on a full-size pickup chassis. Packing a capable V8 and 4WD, it was masculine and rugged and ideal for outdoor adventures. Even its little brother, who arrived in 1982, was an innovative blend of compact utility and comfort. Riding high on that tradition, and hoping to get a cut of booming SUV sales, Chevy has re-released the Blazer. And while this new version will have old-school fans grumbling, “Mid-size SUV, my arse. That’s a crossover,” it proves our point that SUVs are back because there’s a very real—and very big—place for them in today’s market.

The new Blazer lacks the body-on-frame construction, grumbly V8, boxy styling, and 4WD of its grandfather. Instead, Chevy is offering a unibody, all-wheel drive mid-sizer with attractive, but familiar, styling and the option of either a 2.5-liter inline-four with 193-hp or a 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6. While that certainly doesn’t elicit memories of lake trips and backwoods off-roading, the new Blazer will likely still enjoy success. With name cachet, a 50th model anniversary this 2019, and a likely-MSRP in the mid to high 20s, the Chevy Blazer will find its niche.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe/Subaru Forester/Toyota RAV4

We promise, we’re not cheating here. While these three models aren’t new to the SUV scene, each is celebrating a new gen release come 2019. With the Sante Fe entering its fourth generation of production and the RAV4 and Forester their fifth, each model saw some significant upgrades.

Santa Fe

The new Santa Fe is actually the old Santa Fe Sport, while the old Santa Fe is now the new Santa Fe XL. Got it? Good. This is all part of Hyundai’s plans to overhaul its SUV lineup. And with six brand new or redesigned models debuting over a three year period, we’d say the company has taken its goal seriously.

The new Santa Fe (or old Santa Fe Sport, for those paying attention) sports a host of new safety and comfort features including upgraded seating, infotainment, and driver assist bells. It’s also been treated to more aggressive styling and a boost in size, allowing for more interior space. Additionally, Hyundai plans to roll out a diesel version with an optional third-row seat come 2020. That’s not to be confused with the old third-row Santa Fe (now Santa Fe XL) or the yet-to-be-named new, new third-row SUV. Got all that?

Forester

While styling hasn’t changed much for the new Forester, it has gotten noticeably bigger—and heavier. With a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase, it’s still a compact SUV, but leg room and cargo space have improved.

Subaru has also given the model a more powerful direct-injection 2.5 L boxer four-cylinder engine offering 185-hp and up to 33 mpg.

RAV4

The new 2019 RAV4 also received a 1.2-inch wheelbase extension, but also added .4 inch to the width, .5 inch increased ground clearance, and shortened overhangs. That means a bolder look and better off-pavement capability. The Adventure trim takes things one step further with bigger tires, a Tacoma-esque front bumper, and fancier AWD system.

Whether you classify these models as compact SUVs or traditional crossovers, their increased size and performance for 2019 hint to a new wave of vehicles that are working harder to split the difference between powerful SUVs and economic sedans.

2019 Lincoln Aviator

Moving into the luxury sector is another SUV yanked from retirement, the 2019 Lincoln Aviator. But don’t be fooled into thinking this new model can’t roll with the times. Sporting a hoard of fresh technology and safety features, the 2019 Aviator also offers an optional plug-in hybrid powertrain (a first for the automaker) and the ability to use your smartphone as a key.

While it’s not a traditional body-on-frame SUV, it does provide that third row of seating. This proves that SUV sales don’t lie: with spending up and fuel prices (relatively) steady, big SUVs are back in demand.

2019 BMW X7

Want more proof? BMW plans to hit dealerships with its first full-size, three-row SUV early next year. Roughly seven inches longer than the X5, the new X7 also sports a wider and taller stance. In the US, the model will be powered by either a turbocharged 3.0 L inline-six or the twin-turbo 4.4 L V8 that rests in some X5s. Expect over 300- and 445-hp respectively, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel drive.

Drivers can also expect to see plenty of gadgets, safety assistance, and creature comforts, as well as some off-pavement prowess. But as Car and Driver aptly points out, “This BMW is no Jeep, but that’s okay since its customers probably think of parking lots when they hear ‘off-road.’” With a starting price in the mid-$70,000 range, we wouldn’t call the X7 “affordable” per se, but it will surely find its place among the wealthy.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Go big or go home, right? If soaring SUV sales aren’t enough to convince you of the changing market tides, perhaps the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is. The first SUV produced by the ultra-luxury badge, the Cullinan is big, expensive, and representative of the power of consumer demand. At 208.6-in long, 70.9-in tall, 78.7-in wide and with a weight over 5,800 pounds, sporting a 6.75 L V12 capable of 563-hp, the Cullinan exists merely because it can. No human being willing to drop $325,000 on an SUV is ever going to actually hit the “Off-Road” button on the console. But if they did, they’d surely be in for one comfortable excursion.

As we mentioned earlier, these models barely scratch the surface of what automakers have in store for 2019. Not to mention the planned returns of the Ford Bronco in 2020, the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in 2021, a possible Xterra comeback, and maybe even a new small off-road SUV from Toyota. One thing’s for certain, things are about to get interesting. (And a little retro.)

Stay tuned, because we’re not done with this topic. Soon we’ll be exploring the possible repercussions of such a mass invasion of SUVs on the market. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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