As useless as they might seem to some people, the luxury full size vehicle segment is one that is a fairly large seller in the United States. The ability to travel off the road – in most cases -, haul a family and cargo, and ride around in the lap of luxury is the quintessential American dream.
That might have been a lie, as America’s offerings in the luxury SUV market aren’t all that good compared to the rest of the world. That doesn’t mean that the U.S is lagging behind though. It might not be great, but the Cadillac Escalade is the king of bling and one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road.
So, what sort of characteristics do we look for in these monsters of the road? Obviously, they need to look good because, after all, that’s what matters most with these things. The motors need to be strong and fuel efficient, the interiors need to be built and laid out well, and they need to be able to travel in the rough stuff. There is no price cap for these vehicles.
Hit the jump to see the list.
10) Cadillac Escalade
The rappers’ favorite ride isn’t all it’s cranked up to be. It might have that look that makes heads turn and environmentalists riot, but there are way too many issues with the big Caddy. The interior is still a tad low rent and the third row seat is only suitable for a small child or a small dog. Either way, you’re probably going to have to remove it in order to get any cargo room. The fuel economy is terrible and the brakes feel like they would be better suited on the Chevrolet Aveo. Although it might be famous, the Escalade falls harder than Lindsey Lohan. Prices start at $63,160.
9) Lincoln Navigator
Stuck in the 1950s and still have a love of chrome on everything? Well, Lincoln has a vehicle for you. The 2010 Navigator has styling that we find to be a bit too flashy. Actually, that’s an understatement, the Navigator is terrible looking. Not to mention it could be out gunned by a canal boat. It’s not all bad though, the interior is very high class, the ride is quiet, and the price is pretty low considering the competition. Prices start at $54,960.
8) Mercedes GL
Mercedes-Benz might be strong in the sedan and coupe department, but in the SUV market, the German company is a bad as Chrysler is at small cars. The GL is fairly decent and it has the badge, but you better get ready to pay a serious price for any sort of options. As far as the ride goes, it might be a bit floaty, but the V8 engines are strong. Inside, the cabin is very luxurious and the seating is comfortable, but the second row can’t be adjusted. Prices start at $59,959.
7) BMW X5
We know that BMW is the ultimate driving machine, and a ride in the 3-Series, 1-Series, and the other car like vehicles proves that, but their SUVs are lacking. The ride is a bit firm for something in this segment and the steering is very heavy at lower speeds. That means driving this vehicle around the parking lots of shopping centers and schools will be quite the task. While the steering might not work at lower speeds, it’s brilliant at higher ones. The interior is awesome and built very well, and the engines are strong and decently fuel-efficient. Prices start at $47,600.
6) Acura MDX
We had a chance to drive the MDX when it first came out in its new design, and we liked it, but there are a few things that we could do without. First, the styling won’t be for everybody and the dashboard has way too many buttons. There is also a space issue, as other vehicles offer more room for the same price. On the road, the MDX is highly capable and the engines are strong and efficient. There are plenty of toys to play with and the ride is spot on. Prices start at $42,230.
5) Lexus LX
This vehicle is just about as rare as a Ferrari, as we would be hard pressed to find one out on the streets. The badge and the styling are quite good and the V8 has some punch. The ride and handling are soft enough for luxury fans and good enough for sportier drivers. The LX is even good off the road, which is something the Acura and the BMW are pretty bad at. The third seat lacks room and the cargo capacity isn’t all that great. Prices start at $76,950.
4) Audi Q7
We would think that for all the love we give Audi they would return the favor with an R8 for a week, but that hasn’t happened yet. Come on Audi! The Q7 delivers the same excellent build quality as other Audi models and the interior is brilliantly laid out. The handling is sensational and there are many high tech options. The Q7 has had a tad too much bratwurst, as weight can hamper acceleration and fuel economy. The rear seat, like the Lexus, is an issue. Prices start at $46,900.
3) Range Rover
This is our favorite SUV for many different reasons. We love the look of the exterior and the interior and we love the fact that it can be used in any situation. On the track, the Range Rover Supercharged model can compete with Mustangs and off the road, it can beat up Hummers. The ride is supple and each motor is wonderful. Sadly, reliability has been an issue, but Land Rover claims that the problem has been solved and since we’ve yet to drive the new one, we’ll take their word for it. The price is also a tad high, at $78,425.
2) Infiniti QX
Years ago, the QX was a ticking time bomb. The electronics could go any minute, but Nissan’s luxury brand has resolved those issues. The styling is bold, and some will love, but some won’t. The interior and build quality are very high and the V8 motor is strong. For such a large machine, the handling is great as well. The ride can be a tad hard for some and the third row is an issue. The 2011 QX is a massive leap forward for the company. Prices start at $56,700.
1) Porsche Cayenne
As a car, we hate this thing. It’s like Land Rover building a coupe with a four-cylinder. Yet, as an SUV – ignoring the company’s history – the new Cayenne is brilliant. As a driver’s SUV, it’s incredible. The motors are strong and the turbocharged model is blistering fast. The handling is surprisingly good and the ride quality is better than expected. The seats are comfortable, but nowhere near as good as the Range Rover or the Infiniti. While the Cayenne doesn’t attract knowing stares like a red 911 would, it still earns points when its name is dropped at parties and let’s be honest, why else would people buy these vehicles? Prices start at $46,700.
SUVs are a very interesting topic. Crossovers are the new "it" thing and normal SUV models, like the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Tahoe are rare and are only made by the American automakers, and Land Rover of course. So, if you want true off-road ability and a high ride, luxury is the way to go and in this case, the Porsche is brilliant.