New 'Crossovers' more fuel efficient

LOS ANGELES The new mid-size SUV from Dodge looks a lot like many others on the road. But for Chrysler's Dodge division, it's a very important vehicle. The new 2009 Dodge Journey R/T (18-25 mpg, $25,920 base price) is a Crossover sport utility -- a first for the Dodge brand.

"The crossover gives them the look of a SUV, without the drawbacks of a body on frame design -- typically a rougher ride, thirstier appetite, and more capability than 95 percent of the owners need," said "Truck Trend" Editor Greg Whale.

The Journey bridges the gap between a station wagon and a minivan, and has some of the features of both. But most importantly, it looks like an SUV, which is an important trait for many buyers.

"They want something that looks rugged, that gives the impression that they can go off road, whether or not it really can," said Whale. "None of them will ever try, but they want to say, 'I can go off road.'"

This is shaping up to be a big year for new Crossovers, which are generally more fuel efficient than traditional truck-based SUVs. Nissan has two new ones this year -- the Rogue is on the smaller size to go up against models like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

Larger than the Rogue - but still not huge - is the redesigned 2009 Nissan Murano (18-23 mpg, $26,330 base price). Like the previous Murano, this new one emphasizes sporty handling to lure sedan buyers who need something bigger.

The term "Crossover SUV" is a broad one. It can include lots of different models -- luxury ones like the Lincoln MKX, or more sporty Crossovers, like the Nissan Murano. What they have in common is that while they may look like SUVs on the outside, underneath they're built more like cars.

Offering the "bling" of the Navigator in a trimmer size, the 2008 Lincoln MKX (16-24 mpg, $35,605 base price) is a sibling to the Ford Edge. It too offers car-like ride and handling and decent fuel economy ratings.

There is no third row seat for this Lincoln, but it does have a lot of style going for it. The interior gets a '60s retro look, and even the taillights offer a show-car glow at night.

These Crossovers aren't exactly economy cars -- but they do offer a bit more efficiency than what we've come to expect from SUVs.


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