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COTY 2015: Big metal, big money, big features

POSTED BY Dinesh Appavu ON 15 November 2015

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In the penultimate review of the categories for the New Straits Times – Maybank Car of the Year 2015 Awards, we find the SUV 4X4, Premium SUV and Pick-Up categories under spotlight before the we walk through the last two categories and conclude the series.

Two of the nominees in the SUV 4X4 category; the Nissan X-Trail and the Isuzu MU-X, are also nominated in the SUV 4X2 category that precedes it albeit in 2WD configurations.

The Nissan has received some flak for its two airbags as the majority of its peers adopt a higher airbag count but the X-Trail has the distinction of being the only 5+2 seater in its class and the added occupant capacity would be welcomed by some buyers.

On the other hand, the MU-X with 4WD can lay claim to proper off-roading credentials with its body-on-frame construction. Nonetheless, the introduction of the Jeep brand in Malaysia has seen two of its models clashing in the very same group; the Cherokee Trailhawk and the Wrangler, and the duo arguably possess a stronger case in calling off-roading credentials their own.

However, the SUV 4X4 class is as much about the ability to navigate the less beaten path as it is the supermarket car park and this could play into the hands of the Nissan as the Isuzu and Wrangler lack the refinement while the Cherokee Trailhawk, as luxurious as it is, is simply overpriced.

Big metal, big money and big features define the next category, the Premium SUV. A five-strong group make up the numbers this time, comprising the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Porsche Cayenne, Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X6 CKD and the Infiniti QX80.

The clear favourites here would be the sportiest of the lot; the Porsche Cayenne, and the locally-assembled BMW X6 that makes it more affordable; relatively of course. An all-new Land Rover is always a valid reason to pop out the champagne and the Discovery Sport has certainly been credited with a fair share of hype but it remains to be seen if it lives up to the expectations.

Jeep’s flagship model is certainly an interesting alternative to the usual line-up of premium SUVs but the consumers may require some time to warm up to the American brand.

Completing the group as the dark horse would be the mammoth QX80. Designed primarily with the American and Middle East markets in mind, the QX80 is powered by a monstrous 5.6-litre V8 and stands out on the road due to its sheer size but it does fall behind in terms of equipment and features although its interior is as opulent as it can get with fine materials cosseting every inch.

Lastly, we reach the Pick-Up truck class and its varied mix of nominees, including the facelift of a previous Overall Car of the Year winner; the Ford Ranger.

The Ranger received more than just a cosmetic enhancement with its facelift that included a revised engine and interior as well as the switch to electric power steering that allowed the fitment of lane-keeping assist in the Wildtrak variant. Furthermore, the suspension has been retuned for a more comfortable ride, lending to the improved overall drivability together with the electric power steering as well.

Hoping to put up a challenge is the all-new Mitsubishi Triton that proved to be an easily maneuvarable pick-up in urban conditions. Making reappearances are the Toyota Hilux TRD Sportivo and Isuzu D-Max Diablo, both sporting cosmetic upgrades for added appeal to the urban consumers.

Completing the round-up for this category is the Tata Xenon. The Xenon makes no qualms about its true purpose as nothing more than a robust workhorse to get the dirty work done and dusted with.

Next week, we put the final two categories; also the most exciting, under the spotlight. The Sports Car and Performance Car groups are always filled with fun machines and this year we have quite a match-up of sporty metal.