Elite 8 American Cars
Utility Vehicle: Dodge Durango
Domestic automakers are at the forefront of the midsize crossover segment. The Buick Enclave/ GMC Acadia/ Chevrolet Traverse kicked off the switch from trucklike SUVs to more carlike and efficient crossovers in 2006, and Ford and Dodge have since built even better models. We prefer the Dodge Durango among this closely matched group for its combination of on-road dynamics, classy cabin, fine engines and rugged good looks. We also prefer the 3.6-liter V6 engine because it offers plenty of power and improved fuel economy over the brawny but thirsty 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The addition of an 8-speed automatic transmission later this year should further improve the V6's power and efficiency.
Pickup: Ford F-150 3.5 EcoBoost
American automakers consistently set the tone for the full-size pickup segment, and no manufacturer does it better than Ford. The F-Series pickup has been the best-selling full-size truck for 35 straight years, and with good reason. Its winning combination of refinement and capability was further enhanced for the 2011 model year, when Ford introduced four new engines. All are notable improvements in terms of power and fuel economy, but we are especially impressed with the turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. It delivers more usable power with greater efficiency than any rival's V8. Plus, Ford offers a model for every taste, from a basic work truck to high-end luxury haulers to the SVT Raptor extreme off-roader.
Van: Dodge Grand Caravan
While the Dodge Grand Caravan has always offered the space and utility that families need, we wouldn't have been comfortable recommending it before last year. The vehicle was simply too sloppy on the road and offered outdated engines, and the interior just felt cheap. The update to the 2011 model reined in the ride, introduced a more powerful and efficient engine, and improved the design and materials of the interior. Now we rate it right up there with its Japanese rivals. We chose the Grand Caravan over its Chrysler sibling the Town & Country based on price. Both are essentially the same vehicle, but the Grand Caravan sells for less than $30,000, while the Chrysler starts at $30K, though it offers more equipment.
Hybrid: Chevrolet Volt
The Volt may not be selling well, but that's a function of its $40,000 sticker price, not the quality of the car. Chevrolet calls it an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) because it runs almost exclusively on electricity, but if it has a gasoline engine and one or more electric motors, it's a hybrid. The Volt impresses for how much it feels like a regular car. Power is about the same as a typical 4-cylinder engine, and the ride and handling are pleasant. You can fill it with gas and never use the electric range, or you can plug it in every night and rarely use gas. If prices of the Volt and other EREVs can come down, Americans will accept them in much greater numbers as the next "green" alternative.
Vote for the best American car in the MSN Autos Poll, located under Related Content below.
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
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I own a Corvette and a cadillac .
NO TROUBLE WITH EITHER CAR
BUY USA IF IS A CAR OR ANYTHING ELSE.
Our family started driving Corvette in 1964, would not be without a Vette. I agree with Vette Addict
It gets in your blood.
When you buy American made you support our companies large and small. Our Nation's workforce as a whole, from engineering, science, office workers, the skilled trades and the manual laborer and also the U.S. Armed Forces. All because the more Americans that are working the more taxes are getting paid and the more dollars we have to support our country's needs. Take pride in your Country, be American, buy American and do not support other countries before you support your own Country first. I love my County and I take a lot of pride in owning a vehicle that in Made in the U.S.A.!