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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

America’s most wanted SUVs in South Africa: Part 2

CX-9 represents the pointy end of Mazda's SUV range, but compared to its rivals, sales have been poor to say the least.

As much as they have become the bane of many buyers over the years, the facts are just that. The SUV, no matter how small or big, has become the modern day family’s preferred choice of vehicle with the added benefit of not being tarmac bound.

What’s more, mention the three letters denoting the Sports Utility Vehicle, plus its various sub-divisions, the mind immediately heads across the pond to North America where the initial boom of the late 1980s and especially the early 1990s saw every manufacturer rush to join a section of the market that has become one of the most lucrative, but also oversaturated today.

With just over 17-million new vehicles sold last year, of which 8.2-million were SUVs, it is not hard to see why the States has become SUV central and a key market that often receives international bound models before other markets.

In this second and penaultimate feature, The Citizen Motoring takes a look at four more SUVs that are unlikely to be offered in South Africa anytime soon, in spite of their makers being present locally. It is worth noting that with the departure of General Motors (GM) three years ago, models from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC are not included, along with offerings from Dodge as well as the upscale divisions of Ford (Lincoln), Honda (Acura) and Nissan (Infiniti).

Honda Pilot

The first and final step-up from the Passport, the Pilot has served as Honda’s flagship SUV in the States since debuting 18 years ago, with the current third generation marking 2020 as its fifth year in production, notwithstanding a mid-life facelift handed out two years ago.

Appearing nothing more than a stretched CR-V on first glance with Mercedes-Benz R-Class styling traits at the back, the Pilot provides seating for eight and like the Passport, is powered by a 3.5-litre petrol V6 that sends 206kW/354Nm to the front or all four wheels via a button-operated nine-speed automatic gearbox.

Stickered from $31 650 (R584 697) and equipped with features, depending on one of the five trim level offered, such as Honda’s Sensing suite of safety systems, a kick-motion activated electric tailgate, heated second row, a 10.2-inch drop-down rear entertainment system and CabinControl that allows the various infotainment functions to be controlled via a user’s smartphone, the Pilot would make for the ideal spiritual successor to the Accord if it were to be offered locally.

Hyundai Palisade

Like its mechanically identical twin, the newly crowned World Car of the Year, Kia Telluride, the rather massive, and polarising Palisade has been causing a few stirs of its own since debuting at the Los Angeles International Auto Show two years ago.

Taking its name from Pacific Palisades, a neigbourhood located in Southern California, the big Hyundai also seats eight and rather cheekily, according to the brand, is roomier inside than the Ford Explorer and has a bigger boot than the Pilot despite no actual figures being revealed.

RELATED: America’s most wanted SUVs in South Africa: Part 1

Powered by the same 217kW/355Nm 3.8-litre V6 engine as the Telluride that is matched to an eight-speed automatic with a choice of front or all-wheel-drive, the Palisade has recently come under the spotlight following reports from Australia that it will be offered with right-hand-drive, but so far, no word of this has been cast in stone.

Mazda CX-9

An undoubted oddity for not being offered in South Africa given that it is marketed in Australia, the CX-9 represents the pointy end of Mazda’s SUV range, but compared to its rivals from GM, the Blue Oval, Nissan, Toyota and Fiat-Chrysler to name but a few, sales have been poor to say the least with only 26 861 units moved throughout 2019.

The recipient of a number of industry awards, the CX-9 has surprisingly been kept largely unchanged since its debut four years ago, with the just over five metre long seven-seater utilising a singe drivetrain option; a 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbocharged petrol also used in the 6 that delivers 184kW/420Nm. In spite of having a single transmission option, a six-speed automatic, the CX-9 does come with the option of front-or-all-wheel-drive.

Equipped with tech ranging from an eight-inch MZD Connect infotainment system, a Heads-Up Display and 12-speaker Bose sound system, to Smart City Brake Assist, Distance Recognition Support and Radar Cruise Control, only the apparent lack of a competitive price tag and possibly a diesel engine can be seen as factors preventing Mazda South Africa from bringing the CX-9 to market.

Toyota Highlander

Taking into account the unveiling of the fourth generation model in November last year, the unibody Highlander placed second behind the RAV4 on Toyota’s 2019 sales charts, with its 239 438 units sold placing it seventh overall on the list of top-sellers in the US last year.

Based on the GA-K version of the TNGA platform, the Highlander sizes up from the RAV4 by not only incorporating a more aggressive look, but with seating for seven or eight and with five trim levels; L, LE, XLE, Limited and the flagship Platinum that receives features such as a 12.3-inch infotainment system, Heads-Up Display, an 11-speaker JBL sound system, a surround view camera system and a digital rear-view mirror.

Powered by either a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine combined with an electric motor for a total system output of 177 kW or a brand-new 3.5-litre V6 that punches out 221kW/357Nm, the unavailability of the Highlander on local shores is not only compounded by it being offered with right-hand-drive in the Australian market Kluger, but also that is leaves a considerable gap in Toyota’s SUV range between the RAV4 and the body-on-frame Fortuner.

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