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The Freelander 2 is new from the ground up, and will make its local debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney. It hasn't always been plain sailing Down Under for the popular European model, but with outstanding on-road performance as well as the class-leading off-road ability everyone expects from Land Rover, Freelander 2 seems set to leave its mark on our wide, brown land.

Freelander 2 is available with new petrol and diesel engines. The diesel is a 2.2-litre TD4 common-rail turbodiesel with peak outputs of 118kW and an impressive 400Nm, plus better fuel economy than its predecessor (as well as 43 per cent more power). A 3.2-litre i6 petrol producing a peak of 171kW represents a hike of 30 per cent in power compared with the previous V6, as well as a 10 per cent boost in fuel efficiency. Freelander 2 will be in Land Rover across Australia by mid 2007.

The Mazda CX-7 is the production version of the Mazda MX-Crossport Concept SUV, and will be built only in the company's Ujina Plant No. 2 (U2) located near Mazda's global headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan.

Australia has been confirmed as second in line for production of the new generation crossover vehicle (after the North American market).

It will go on sale here late this year priced below $50,000 and will be on public display at the Sydney show.

The Mazda CX-7 is a clean break from the fleet of traditional SUVs currently offered. Bringing together performance and design like never before, the Mazda CX-7 – like every Mazda – was engineered to exemplify sporty driving in keeping with the company's 'Zoom-Zoom' philosophy.

CX-7 promises sophisticated styling, an engaging drive, and the facilitation of fun.

Mitsubishi has just released its NS Pajero seven-seat 4WD with a complete makeover for the exterior design, a modern new interior, two new engines that are Euro 4 emissions compatible. The new model also heralds the reintroduction of the three-door 'shorty' short-wheelbase (SWB) models to inject additional excitement into the model range.

There hasn't been a SWB Pajero on sale since 1999, so the new model represents one of the most exciting product additions to the Mitsubishi range in 2006. The three-door model is the closest product consumers can buy to the acclaimed Pajero Evo that races across the harshest terrain in Europe and Africa in the Dakar rally. (There will also be a Pajero Dakar race car on display in Sydney.)

All the expected features – power steering, power windows, power exterior mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry with encrypted immobilisation and multiple storage compartments and cupholders – have been incorporated in to NS Pajero. All models also feature a multi-mode display, including trip computer, weather information and compass for which the 4x4 has become renowned.

Two new engines also deliver significant leaps in power and torque, while being more efficient and economical. The 3.8-litre 24-valve V6 MIVEC petrol engine produces maximum power of 184kW at 6000 rpm (a massive 24 per cent increase on the previous engine) and maximum torque of 329Nm at a very low 2750 rpm (up 6 per cent). It's also LPG compatible.

The new diesel engine is a common rail-version of the 3.2-litre diesel that was first seen in Australia in ML Triton when it was launched in July this year.

The biggest, boldest and certainly the most distinctive Subaru in the lineup will be shown production-ready in Sydney. There's a hint of Porsche Cayenne about the Tribeca's brash design, which is sure to polarize punters into 'love it' or 'hate it' camps, but nobody's arguing with the motive power choice – Subaru's venerable 3.0-litre horizontally-opposed 'boxer' six-cylinder engine, which is both responsive and low, keeping the centre of mass close to Terra Firma.

The 3.0-litre flat-six likes having its neck wrung, so this is an SUV that will appreciate a punt. It's mated to a fivespeed automatic gearbox.

Like most Subarus, you can expect this one to handle well, thanks to (almost) eons of involvement of the brand at the forefront of the World Rally Championship series. A low C of G and permanent, symmetrical AWD give the Tribeca rock-solid dependability across a range of surfaces, assisted by well-sorted suspension and responsive steering.

Build quality is exactly as you'd expect from the Japanese car maker that places engineering above all other concerns. High equipment levels are a given, plus three seating rows. A diesel engine is coming for Subaru but is still a way off – a boxer-style common rail turbodiesel engine currently under development by Subaru will be unveiled at next year's Geneva Auto Show.

The sense of relief in Holden's marketing division is palpable. The smiles are back and, at least for the immediate future, likely to stay.

The billion-dollar VE set the trend but it is the Koreanbuilt Captiva compact SUV that is really pushing the buzz. Holden has been staring with green-eyed envy at Ford's home-grown Territory and its runaway success in what has been one of the hot segments in the new car industry. "'It is nice to finally have an SUV that we can offer. It has been a long time coming," Holden's marketing boss John Elsworth said at the recent launch of the Captiva.

"It has been tough to watch the (SUV) segment grow and grow and have nothing we could play a part with." Even better news for Holden is that the Captiva, while built as a global GM model in South Korea, benefitted from a huge level of input in design and engineering from Holden staff. The result is a stylish, cleverly packaged compact or medium SUV with drive and ride quality comparable to anything else in the competitive market.

The new XC90 V8 represents not just an awesome performance SUV – if you visit the Volvo stand in Sydney you'll be looking at the first production V8 powertrain in Volvo's history.

There's some serious engineering gone into this vehicle, with Dynamic Stability and Traction Control plus Roll Stability Control systems representing just the tip of a very substantial safety iceberg culminating in a five-star NCAP crashworthiness rating (first SUV in the world to achieve that).

The 4.4-litre V8 develops 232kW and 440Nm, and features a 60-degree 'V', unlike most V8s, which are set to 90 degrees. The V8 is 16 per cent more powerful and also torquier than the outgoing T6 engine it replaces, snatching 100km/h just 7.3 seconds after a standing start. The V8's 60-degree V allows for a more compact design, allowing transverse mounting in the engine bay, which delivers superior crashworthiness. It's also the first petrol V8 to meet the demanding USA ULEVII emissions standard.

Volvo calls it the world's safest SUV and there's really no basis for disagreement. For $84,950, the world's safest SUV can also be one of the world's most capable.

The Audi Q7 has officially earned its stripes in Australia, having just completed an epic Trans-Continental Crossing from Sydney to Broome, spanning three weeks and 7000km. Fifteen Q7 vehicles took part in the grueling expedition.

In spite of very challenging terrain around areas like Innamincka and Birdsville where sharp, stony tracks are common, the notorious Mereenie Loop Road and areas of the Tanami Track in WA where the roads were characterised by huge potholes and harsh ruts, all 15 Q7s made their way to Broome unscathed.

Similar expeditions are planned annually for upcoming vehicles including the new allroad quattro and Audi Q5.

In the full 7000km of harsh Outback travel, the only technical requirements of the fleet were the replacement of 16 flat tyres, two broken foglights and a new pollen filter for each car. One vehicle needed minor cosmetic repairs, however only as a result of human error. All 15 vehicles completed the journey as they started – in excellent condition and free from squeaks and rattles.

Seven seat SUV with style; Shares ML-Class platform; Constant AWD via 4Matic system; 4.6-litre V8 power with 250kW output; Air suspension optional; Off-road pack available.

Two bold new V6s – petrol and hi-tech diesel; New 3.0- litre V6 turbodiesel with 165kW and 500Nm; New 3.6-litre V6 petrol with 206kW and 360Nm; Optional air suspension package; Constant AWD via 4XMOTION system; Frontal pedestrian/cyclist impact protection zones; Hero 5.0-litre V10 with remains storming 230kW and 750Nm remains.

All-new hi-tech 3.6-litre V8 turbodiesel; Replaces ageing BMW-sourced TDV6 diesel; Silky smooth runner with 200kW and 640Nm; Delivers 500+ Newton-metres between 1250 and 3750rpm; Frugal consumption: 11 litres per 100km likely; Magnificently competent ZF six-speed auto transmission.

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