Base Price: $27,350
17 city/22 hwy
The Honda Pilot is that brand's version of the MDX with fewer goodies but the same car-like handling. Both vehicles inherit the Honda hallmark of a gear selector that slips from fifth to fourth where the detent starts.
Base Price: $36,995
17 city/25 hwy
A growing segment of the CUV market emphasizes performance. BMW's X3, modeled on the 3 Series sedan, represents this niche well with its nimble handling and precise steering. The inline, six-cylinder engine gets to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. For off-roaders, stability control and hill descent control (brakes) come standard.
Limited cargo space means the X3 is more of a sports sedan than a sports wagon. The six-speed manual transmission is rough in first gear, so the five-speed automatic may be preferable. Likewise, drivers may want to avoid any sports handling packages – the ride is already athletic enough.
Base Price: $24,890
Mileage (mpg): 19 city/25 hwy
The Saturn Vue has a platform similar to the Chevy Equinox, but a little shorter. Its big draw is the Redline version ($26,885 base), which brings a 3.5L V-6 with 250 horsepower into play with a punch. Zero to 60 mph is a sprightly 7.5 seconds. The Vue also comes in a front-wheel drive version.
Base Price: $36,700
Mileage (mpg): 17 city/23 hwy
No trucky feel here – the Acura MDX is a smooth rider. The 3.5L V-6 powers to 60 mph in the mid-9 second range.
The MDX touring model ($42,700 base) negotiates curves nicely and has a good on-center feel for long trips. Inside, legroom is ample, side mirrors are large, and controls fall easily in hand. In the back it features three rows of seating with the last one folding beneath the floor if needed. All-wheel drive with vehicle stability control comes standard.
Base Price: $45,450
Mileage (mpg): 15 city/19 hwy
The performance-designed Infiniti FX45 features a 4.5L V-8 engine and can hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds – very fast for a CUV. In fact, the FX45 rides on the same platform as the Nissan 350Z sports car. Although FX45 starts at $45,450, a navigation system, smart cruiser control, and interior goodies can quickly increase the price to the mid-$50,000 range.
Base Price: $25,595
Mileage (mpg): 20 city/27 hwy
The Freestyle drives solid and stable, controlled over bumps with minimal lean on curves. The seats (in three rows) feel high and the driving position is excellent. It favors the SUV look with wheel opening bulges and a grille like a Ford Expedition.
The six-speed automatic has only "drive" and "low" selectors, equipped instead with a technology called continuously variable transmission. A pulley arrangement seamlessly picks the right ratios, giving higher fuel economy and better acceleration.
Underneath, Freestyle rests on a Volvo XC90 crossover chassis. The 3L V-6 grinds out enough power to go from 0 to 60 mph in a crisp 8.5 seconds
Base Price: $27,000
Mileage (mpg): 20 city/25 hwy
The Nissan Murano is a twin to the FX35, a smaller version of FX45. Murano works off the same sporty platform as the Nissan Altima. A leather package is optional, as are other upscale luxuries, but at a base of $27,000 it costs little more than half its FX45 cousin.
NOT QUITE CUVs
Some SUVs behave like CUVs even though they're not technically crossover vehicles. These machines were designed from the ground up, so they can't be called a spin-off from a car, minivan, or truck.
Range Rover HSE
Great off road or on long trips. Permanent 4WD configuration. Luxury package includes a heated steering wheel.
Jeep Liberty Renegade
Comes with a row of roof-mounted spotlights. A bargain at the low end of the price scale.
Not much crossover – it's a 4WD station wagon. Designed for bad weather or treacherous roads, not off-roading.
Rides like a much larger vehicle. Great for long drives. Styling mixes traditional Volvo and aggressive SUV touches.
An early non-crossover that feels compact by today's standards. Comes with leather, wood interiors, navigation system, and heated seats.
Cross-country cruiser. The smooth ride stiffens with an optional suspension setting when going off pavement.
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