GM's future SUVs and crossovers: Light-truck based, heavy sales

January 20, 2017

Crossovers and SUVs at General Motors don’t die—they multiply.

After the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse made its official debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, a better picture of the automaker's plans for the next generation of crossovers came into view.

Bookended by one of the most energy-efficient vehicles to ever hit the streets and one of the thirstiest, even the range of just the Chevrolet division's crossovers and SUVs comes in more shapes and sizes than "The Fellowship of the Ring."

Call it the awkward teenage years for GM crossovers. Some crossovers have grown, some haven’t; some are wearing fancy new clothes, others shouldn’t leave the house looking like that. What would your mother say about how you’re dressed right now? Can you see yourself in the mirror, young man? March yourself right upstairs and put on some clothes.

Oh. Anyway, if there were any doubt about GM’s intentions for the next few years, the 2017 Detroit auto show should settle it:

It’s crossovers all the way down, ma’am.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

Chevrolet Bolt EV: Yeah, we don’t call it much of a crossover either. But Chevrolet’s all-electric hatchback with a high seating position is clearly the future for GM. Judging by its critical success already, expect this one to stay around for a while.

What’s next? More trim levels. Initially offered in LT and Premier trims, the Bolt EV should grow into Chevy’s usual lineup of trims; a price-leader LS seems inevitable and Tesla has proven that the sky is the limit for some buyers.

2017 Chevrolet Trax

2017 Chevrolet Trax

Chevrolet Trax: The small subcompact crossover finally received a needed makeover and finally looks like it should belong with other Chevy crossovers—the last generation, we mean. Although it doesn’t sell in the profane numbers like its bigger brothers, don’t expect the Trax to go anywhere anytime soon.

What’s next? Ahead of a likely facelift in 2019, the Trax should adopt the slightly more efficient and more powerful 1.4-liter turbo-4 found in some trims of the related Buick Encore.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Chevrolet Equinox: An all-new model is nearly here, and features a trio of turbocharged engines—including a turbodiesel. This is Chevy’s bread-and-butter model—any changes to this require a Council of Nicaea-type decree.

What’s next? This under-the-skin twin to the GMC Terrain is brand new, so it's early to speculate on where Chevy will go. Expect the 9-speed auto on all models (the GMC pairs it to its base engine, while the Chevy utilizes a 6-speed), maybe a surround-view camera system too.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse: Here’s where this gets interesting. Most of GM’s newer crossovers are smaller or lighter for their new generation, but not the Traverse. The Traverse is longer and more macho than the generation it’s replacing, which may open a hole between Equinox and Traverse for a new crossover. (Blazer, anyone?)

What’s next? It’s too early to say what’s in store for the all-new Traverse, which was unveiled at the 2017 Detroit auto show. Although the Traverse’s more butch look may say more about another GM model’s future…

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

Chevrolet Tahoe: …and by that, we mean the Chevy Tahoe. The smaller body-on-frame SUV from Chevy has a now-shaky future thanks to fleet-wide fuel economy regulations and an encroaching Traverse—even though they sell these things by the gazillions and their profit margins are enormous. The Traverse has more room and can return better fuel economy. And GMC always has the Yukon.

What’s next? A 10-speed automatic transmission co-developed with Ford could help flagging fuel-economy numbers for this General.

2017 Chevrolet Suburban

2017 Chevrolet Suburban

Chevrolet Suburban: Don’t look now, but the oldest name for the Chevrolet SUV/Crossover lineup is also the slowest seller. That’s relative—more guzzling Suburbans rolled off lots than did thrifty Sonic compacts—but the Suburban will need to be rethought in coming years to comply with new fuel economy standards.

What’s next? See 10-speed, above.

2017 Buick Encore

2017 Buick Encore

Buick Encore: The diminutive premium subcompact crossover needs more than an engine to separate from the Chevy Trax—it needs a new mission. Buick won’t change much on the Encore until the next decade, long after Buick overhauls its other crossovers.

What’s next? More models with a new, direct-injection 1.4-liter turbo-4. Perhaps a 1.6-liter turbodiesel borrowed from the new Equinox?

2017 Buick Envision

2017 Buick Envision

Buick Envision: The automaker’s stop-gap crossover ‘tweener sourced from China has been a slow seller in its first year. Only an inch longer than the new Terrain and Equinox, the Envision has a narrow, but important, niche.

What’s next? New geopolitical realities make the Envision’s future incredibly hard to predict.

2016 Buick Enclave Tuscan Edition

2016 Buick Enclave Tuscan Edition

Buick Enclave: Undoubtedly the next GM crossover to get a full makeover, the Enclave hit a sweet spot for many critics in its Traverse-sized ride, but better quality. It’s the last crossover from GM’s class of 2008—a remarkable decade-long run from an automaker who, at the time, was in the throes of bankruptcy.

What’s next? Full redesign based on the Traverse. Expect lots of leather and lots of room.

2018 GMC Terrain, 2017 Detroit auto show

2018 GMC Terrain, 2017 Detroit auto show

GMC Terrain: We can see the future for GM’s crossovers in the new 2018 GMC Terrain—we just can’t see in its blind spots. It’s a bolder take on style and tech, and its turbodiesel is a surprise in the segment.

What’s next? The 2018 Terrain is too new to say what's next. Maybe a bear or something?

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

GMC Acadia: GMC’s Acadia was new for 2016 and shares more in common with the Cadillac XT5 than the Chevrolet Traverse, with which it shared a skeleton for the last generation. Shorter and lighter than the outgoing model, now the Acadia likely won’t step on bigger models from GMC.

What’s next? GMC may consider stuffing a turbo-4 borrowed from the bigger Traverse RS into the Acadia for better fuel economy.

2016 GMC Yukon XL

2016 GMC Yukon XL

GMC Yukon/Yukon XL: The Yukon twins' fates are tied to the Tahoe/Suburban all the same—with one important caveat: the GMC Yukon could live on, the Chevy Tahoe may not. GM recently dumped more than $1 billion into the Texas plant that makes all of the above, so they'll carry on in some form or fashion, we're just not sure yet.

What's next? Same as Suburban/Tahoe. We'd expect 10-speeds soon.

2017 Cadillac Escalade

2017 Cadillac Escalade

Cadillac Escalade: The granddaddy of all GM SUVs is a cash cow. A sacred cash cow, that is. We can't read the tea leaves here because anything is possible for the Escalade, except that it won't go away, and that it'll likely reach farther into six figures to better compete with ultra-luxury SUVs.

What's next? On one hand, it could get a dedicated platform like Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen has hinted. On the other, that's a costly endeavor for just one product. Too hard to say.

2017 Cadillac XT5

2017 Cadillac XT5

Cadillac XT5: The luxury crossover that replaced the SRX will eventually be joined by a range of crossovers for Cadillac that may include sportier, smaller and bigger versions. The XT5 is close with the Acadia now and could get richer trims soon.

What’s next? Perhaps a plug-in powertrain developed specifically for the crossover.

Cadillac XT3/XT7: Almost assuredly, Cadillac will run to add smaller and bigger crossovers to fill gaps in its lineup. We’ve heard rumblings that Cadillac isn’t keen on swiping from GM’s parts bins, so perhaps these will be all new—or significantly modified versions of the Terrain/Equinox and Traverse/Enclave.

What's next? These things.

2019
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2019
The Car Connection
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.