5 Best New Crossovers
A new wave of crossovers offers more of what a family needs.
After years of buying burly sport-utility vehicles meant more for rocky moonscapes than America's tame thoroughfares, consumers are turning to more realistic transportation in the utility category: the crossover. While these truck/car hybrids offer less than the more trucklike SUV forebearers capability (they typically aren't typically built for off-road travel or tow as much), crossovers are just as spacious, offer better fuel economy and are, bottom line, more of what a family needs.
Crossovers aren't an entirely new phenomenon, though. If you define a crossover as a high-riding wagon with a car-type unibody structure underneath, they date back to 1996 with the release of the Toyota RAV4. Plenty of other vehicles followed, including the Honda CR-V, BMW X5, Acura MDX, Nissan Murano, Infiniti FX, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Cadillac SRX.
For the most part, these early crossovers have aged well, too, and that has ensured their continued popularity in the marketplace. Meanwhile, trucklike SUVs have seen a sharp decline in sales, and many have been discontinued.
Below, we present the five best new crossovers released since the 2007 model year. None of these vehicles will perform the off-road antics of, say, a Jeep Grand Cherokee or a Toyota 4Runner, but they all come with all-wheel drive, so they will be just fine for family vacations to muddy campsites or the beach.
The Lexus RX, first offered in 1999, is the envy of the luxury automakers. With sales hovering around 100,000 units annually, it is a great money-maker for parent Toyota and the best-selling luxury crossover. That success has inspired several luxury brands to build their own versions of the 5-passenger RX. The one we like the best is the Audi Q5.
Based on the sporty A4 sedan and wagon platform, the Q5 is one of the best-handling crossovers on the market. While it doesn't have nearly as much cargo space as the RX, the Q5 is competitive in terms of passenger space. The small ute comes with only one engine, a 270-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 that gets things moving nicely, propelling the vehicle from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Plus, it can tow up to 4,400 pounds, which is impressive for a small crossover. The starting price of $37,000 is par for the class, but it will be too high for some buyers.
Rumor has it that Audi will soon offer its capable turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine in the Q5. With 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque on tap, the 2.0 should motivate the Q5 quite well while also offering much-improved fuel economy and a starting price point closer to $30,000.
With the 2007 model year release of the 8-passenger GMC Acadia and its sister vehicles, the Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook, General Motors struck a major blow to the traditional SUV, including its own Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Tahoe and GMC Envoy and Yukon. The Acadia and its sisters offered ride and handling sophistication that had never been achieved by vehicles of their size. They also made much better use of interior space.
With the demise of the Saturn brand, the Outlook has since gone the way of the dodo. But GM has also introduced the Chevrolet Traverse. Together, the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse totaled 187,000 sales in 2009, while the TrailBlazer and Envoy, which accounted for almost a quarter-million vehicle sales in 2006, have been dropped from the automaker's lineup.
The Acadia's footprint is actually larger than that of the Chevy Tahoe, and it has more cargo space (117 cubic feet versus 108.9 cubic feet). Despite its size, the Acadia goes just as easy on gas as the smaller Honda Pilot, and rear-drive models are actually rated one mpg higher for highway fuel economy. The Acadia can tow up to 5,200 pounds, too. You should consider a full-size truck-type SUV only if you need more towing capacity. Bottom line: These are pleasant, efficient vehicles that have changed family transportation for the better.