Top 19 Hottest SUVs of 2008

Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008

Sport utility vehicles are getting sportier than ever, while some of the largest among them are going hybrid to save fuel and save face.

Swelling sales of sport utility vehicles show no sign of abating and their continued popularity seems to clash with widespread concerns over fuel prices and the environment. But manufacturers have responded to the changing times with new sportier and “greener” SUVs to ensure their longevity.

Click through for the list of the Top 19 Hottest SUVs of 2008.

Top 19 Hottest SUVs of 2008:

1. 2009 BMW X6 Concept
2. 2008 Buick Enclave
3. 2008 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
4. 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
5. 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid
6. 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid
7. 2008 Ford Esacpe Hybrid
8. 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid
9. 2008 Hummer H3 Alpha
10. 2008 Infiniti EX 35
11. 2008 Land Rover LR2
12. 2008 Lexus LX 570
13. 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid
14. 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
15. 2008 Porsche Cayenne
16. 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
17. Spyker Peking-to-Paris
18. 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
19. 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser

Related Stories:

A Posher 7-Series
More Kitten than Cat for Jaguar
The Off-Road King gets Refined
The Future of Lincoln Sedans
Porsche is Packing More to the Punch

Top 19 Hottest SUVs of 2008 Gallery:

Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008   Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008    Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  Top 10 Hottest SUVs of 2008  

View Slideshow

 

Hottest SUVs of 2008: More Sport and Utility

Sport utility vehicles are getting sportier than ever, while some of the largest among them are going hybrid to save fuel and save face.

by Jim Gorzelany
ForbesAutos.com

Swelling sales of sport utility vehicles show no sign of abating and their continued popularity seems to clash with widespread concerns over fuel prices and the environment. But manufacturers have responded to the changing times with new sportier and “greener” SUVs to ensure their longevity.

SUV sales remain remarkably healthy and account for 26.5 percent of the new-car market through the first 10 months of 2007. That”s a 2.5 percent increase over the same period last year, according to CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Oregon.

But high gasoline prices and changing consumer trends are causing buyers to reject what were once the segment”s stalwarts. “You”ve got the crossovers, luxury models and compacts growing in sales, but it”s the traditional midsize models like the Ford Explorer that are getting killed right now,” says Lonnie Miller, director of industry analysis for the market research company R.L. Polk and Company in Southfield, Mich.

Car-based crossover utility vehicles, a subset of SUVs that incorporate characteristics of minivans and wagons, are on the rise in terms of sales and the sheer number of models becoming available. Through the end of October they accounted for 49 percent of all SUV sales, up 7.5 percent over the same period a year earlier, according to CNW. “We are at the point where most SUVs are or will become crossovers, simply because they make more sense,” says David Wurster, president of market research firm Vincentric, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “You”ve got vehicles like the Toyota FJ Cruiser that are SUVs on purpose, but not many people actually use SUVs for off-roading and such.”

Miller notes that the genre”s growing popularity goes beyond its quantifiable advantages over traditional truck-based SUVs. “In terms of styling and appeal to women drivers, car-based crossovers have the edge,” he says.

One sub-segment of the market that”s poised for rapid growth is upscale, small sporty crossovers, like the new-for-2008 Infiniti EX35 and Land Rover LR2, as well as the coupe-like BMW X6 that will debut next spring. Sporty SUVs are gaining traction among those who want to drive something more expressive and exhilarating than the typical family-minded SUV, but can”t justify buying something less practical. “It”s a nice way for luxury brands to get younger buyers in the door,” Miller says.

Meanwhile, a fleet of full-size gas/electric hybrid-powered SUVs will be bringing the latest fuel-saving technology to what are among the worst gas-guzzlers on the road. This winter, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and GMC Yukon Hybrid will hit dealers’ showrooms, followed by hybrid versions of the Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango, and Cadillac Escalade next year. All are based on so-called “two mode” hybrid technology that General Motors and Chrysler developed jointly with BMW. Because they”ll have large battery packs, powerful electric motors, and the ability to run on electricity alone at lower speeds, they should get 25 percent to 30 percent better fuel economy in combined city/highway driving. This is particularly significant when considering that these new hybrids will retain much of the rugged towing and hauling abilities of their non-hybrid counterparts.

Other high-end hybrid SUVs will follow in a year or two, including those based on the BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne.

While GM”s big hybrids are being presented with real fanfare, one new hybrid SUV is flying so far under the radar as not to be noticed. Mazda is conducting what amounts to a one-year test-marketing campaign for the new Tribute Hybrid, which is its version of the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid.

Mazda will sell about 350 Tribute Hybrids for 2008 only in California through select dealers. “We”ll reevaluate the vehicle’s acceptance and make a decision on what to do next year,” says Jeremy Barnes, Mazda North America”s director of product and corporate affairs. “This is our first experience with a hybrid, so we want to approach the distribution numbers cautiously.”

As is the case with cars, hybrid technology adds significantly to an SUV”s sticker price “” the Tahoe will start at just over $50,000, though GM isn”t saying what percentage of the cost is vested in the gas/electric powertrain. As such GM expects to sell only about 5-10 percent of its full-size models in hybrid form, according to Mark LaNeve, the company’s sales and marketing chief.

Some feel the promotional benefits of offering big hybrid trucks outweigh any short-term profit potential (or lack thereof) for Chrysler and GM. “It”s more about the halo effect of selling a big hybrid than it is about selling a big hybrid,” R.L. Polk”s Miller says.