The Best European & Japanese SUV Vehiclesby Michelle Hornaday
SUVs, or sports utility vehicles, combine the comfort of a passenger car with the practical uses of a pickup or larger truck. European Car magazine says of the SUV market: “Though SUVs were originally built for off-road driving and included four-wheel drive, more popular versions are built primarily for on-road driving.” Japanese and European automobile companies offer a variety of SUVs, from compact to large luxury models, for virtually every consumer’s needs.
Honda CR-V holds the number one position on the U.S. News list of Affordable Compact SUVs. Priced in 2010 at $21,000 and up, reviewers praise the CR-V for its safety, practicality, improved power and redesigned exterior. Edmunds.com lists a comfortable and quiet ride and nimble handling as strengths of the CR-V, with its only weakness seen in highway passing power. The CR-V is powered by a 180-hp engine and a five-speed automatic transmission with Honda’s “Grade Logic Control” shifting system, according to Honda’s website. Interior features include seating for five passengers with rear seats that split for flexible storage needs. 2010 Honda CR-V automobiles.Honda.com/cr-v/
The Toyota Highlander ranks sixth out of 28 in the U.S. News rankings of midsize SUVs and starts at $25,000. The Highlander is also available as a hybrid from $35,000 in 2010, and four-wheel drive and towing packages are available. Strengths include an optional third row of seating, good fuel economy and smooth handling, according to U.S. News. The Highlander was redesigned in 2008 to offer a more luxurious and spacious interior, according to Car and Driver magazine. Toyota Highlander Toyota.com/highlander
The Mercedes-Benz GL is priced starting at $59,000 and ranks second in large luxury sports utility vehicles on the U.S. News list. The GL-class seats seven passengers, is powered by two V-8 engines with a seven-speed automatic transmission, and is able to tow up to 7,500 pounds, according to the Mercedes website. Safety features include nine standard air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system and PRE-SAFE, a Mercedes “innovation that can sense an impending collision and help prepare front-seat occupants.” Reviewers praise the GL’s fuel economy and luxurious interior, but warn that the GL is not suited for off-road driving. Mercedes-Benz GL mbusa.com/mercedes/data/pdf/brochures/2010-GL-Class.pdf
The BMW X5 is priced starting at $47,000 and was “renewed and enlarged” in 2007 with the addition of an optional third row, according to Motor Trend magazine. Standard safety features include electronic stability control, head and side airbags, and a rear-view camera. A six-speed automatic transmission and BMW Advanced Diesel engine power the X5, according to the BMW website. BMW X5 bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2010/X5/X5SAVExplore.aspx
Michelle Hornaday lives in Edmonds, Washington and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Washington State University and a Master of Education from Northern Arizona University. She is currently a freelance writer for various websites.