Top Six Luxury SUVs and Crossovers by Class

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Top Six Luxury SUVs and Crossovers by Class

Maserati
Is this the future of luxury SUVs? The proposed Maserati Kubang on the road. Photo © Maserati

Even in tough economic times, people demand luxury. And why shouldn't they?

Auto manufacturers have responded to demand with some truly spectacular vehicles. The point of entry for luxury SUVs has to include a list of standard features, including:

  • Leather seating surfaces
  • Heated front seats (ventilated seats are a big plus, too)
  • Real wood or metal interior trim
  • Upsized alloy wheels
  • High levels of fit and finish, inside and out
  • High levels of interior sound dampening
  • Powertrain refinement
  • Six-speed or more automatic transmission
  • State of the art safety equipment
  • High-end electronics options

Each of the vehicles on our list has these key features, and some even have more as part of their standard equipment. The vehicles on this list have been selected based on their overall excellence within the class, which sometimes comes down to just one unique feature.

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Full Size

2012 Mercedes-Benz GL.
2012 Mercedes-Benz GL. Photo © Jason Fogelson

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is available with three different powertrains: a 4.6-liter gasoline V8 in the GL450; a 5.5-liter gasoline V8 in the GL550; and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 in the GL350 BlueTEC. Each variant gets hooked up to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

It's the turbodiesel engine that elevates the GL to the top of its class. With 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque on tap, the GL gets an impressive 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway while providing impressive driving dynamics and an absolutely solid feel in every respect.

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Full Size

2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.
2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Photo © Cadillac

You could argue that the Cadillac Escalade sparked the growth of the luxury SUV in the United States, and you wouldn't be wrong. Escalade was the aspirational vehicle for many rising stars during the 1990s and early 2000s. The current Escalade may have slipped a bit in popularity, but Cadillac punched back with the Escalade Hybrid.

The Escalade Hybrid transforms the gas-guzzling icon into a fuel sipping role model, achieving class-leading mileage estimates of 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway. If that doesn't ease the guilt of conspicuous consumption, perhaps the idea of transporting seven passengers with comfort, luxury and efficiency will help.

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Mid-Size

2011 Lexus GX460.
2011 Lexus GX460. Photo © Jason Fogelson

Lexus GX 460

I've been known to do a bit of off-roading, most of it intentional. There are few vehicles that make both off-roading and on-road driving as seamless and elegant as the Lexus GX. It combines the rugged capabilities of the ​Toyota 4Runner with the luxury and technology packages that have made Lexus into the United States' best-selling luxury brand.

GX one-ups 4Runner with a six-speed automatic transmission and a 4.6-liter V8 under the hood (4Runner's biggest lump is a V6 with a five-speed nowadays), and puts the competition on notice with an available Mark Levinson audio package that turns the GX cabin into an amazing listening booth. Just point GX toward the horizon, crank up the tunes, and enjoy the ride.

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Mid-Size

2012 Infiniti FX35.
2012 Infiniti FX35. Photo © Jason Fogelson

MID-SIZE: Infiniti FX

If you are the kind of driver who keeps all four wheels on the pavement at all times, off-road ability doesn't concern you. If you take it one step further, and you're a driver who enjoys performance but needs the space and luxury of an SUV, Infiniti has got you covered with the scarab-shaped FX.

Available with a 303-hp 3.5-liter V6 in the FX35, or with an even more potent 390-hp 5.0-liter V8 in the FX50, dollar-for-dollar, FX just might be the most fun-to-drive of any luxury SUV on the road, especially when the road gets twisty. Porsche's Cayenne Turbo gives FX a run for the money, but at twice the price -- a disqualification even in the luxury market.

06
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Compact

2013 Acura RDX.
2013 Acura RDX. Photo © Aaron Gold

Acura RDX

There's a lot of new competition in the compact luxury crossover field, and one of the first revised vehicles to hit the market for 2013 is the refreshed Acura RDX. Loaded with standard technology, the RDX still manages to undercut the competition on price, while delivering a comfortable, sporty ride with luxury accommodations.

RDX has ditched the quirky turbocharged four-cylinder engine of the previous generation in favor of a 3.5-liter V6, upping the horsepower, torque and fuel economy in the process. Sounds like a good decision to me. This is the vehicle for tech heads, with a ton of technology available to play with.

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COMPACT

2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 4-door.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 4-door. Photo © Jason Fogelson

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

I've saved the best for last. The most innovative vehicle to roll off the line at Land Rover so far, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is a true compact luxury vehicle with decent off-road chops, delicious on-road manners and a unique, cutting edge design.

Traditionalists were afraid when Land Rover announced that a compact Range Rover was on its way, but they needn't have — the Range Rover legacy is intact in the new Evoque. Whether in coupe or four-door configuration, the stylish new Rover really does evoke the essence of the brand, without slavishly repeating its design.

And this new vehicle is no design exercise. It's a useful, dynamic and capable SUV with a high dose of comfort and luxury inside. A twin-turbo 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder gas engine provides the motivation, producing 240 hp and 241 lb-ft of torque. Composed road manners and surprising off-roadability complete the package, which will attract many new buyers from the city dwellers and fashionistas.