Best SUVs and Crossover SUVs of 2011

Last Updated: Jul 19, 2011

They’re all “sport-utility vehicles,” but crossovers have replaced traditional SUVs as America’s utility vehicles of choice. It’s a fine turn of events. Traditional SUVs bolt their wagon body to a separate heavy-duty truck frame. That’s good if you tow an 8,000-pound trailer, but not so great for everyday driving.  A crossover, by contrast, integrates body and frame into a single unit. Long used on cars, this “unibody” construction saves weight, which benefits ride, handling, fuel economy, even space efficiency. Few owners ever exceed the typical crossover’s 5,000-pound towing limit. And for those who venture from the pavement, advanced all-wheel-drive (AWD) electronics can make a crossover remarkably capable off-road, erasing one of the final arguments for an old-school, body-on-frame SUV. 

BEST SUV of 2011

2011 LEXUS GX460
The 2011 Lexus GX460 is the SUV of the Year because it’s a high-water-mark for a vanishing breed. There are but a handful of body-on-frame wagons left, and come model-year 2012, when the Nissan Xterra is discontinued and the Nissan Pathfinder turns crossover, this Lexus and the Toyota 4Runner that shares its basic design will be the only midsize members of the club. The GX460 is a fine place to watch the curtain come down.  Impeccably turned out in beautiful wood and leather, an array of smartly designed comfort and infotainment features at your service, its cabin is a quite respite from most every unpleasantry. The silken 301-horsepower V-8 pulls you along effortlessly and tows 6,500 pounds. AWD is standard and employs an amazing arsenal of automatic suspension/powertrain/traction aids to take the GX460 places no ordinary Lexus and few SUVs dare go. The GX460 treats four adults like royalty; seven fit if a couple of surfs squeeze into the third row. There’s 91 cubic feet of cargo room available, yet the GX460 is easy to maneuver in tight quarters and won’t dominate your garage space. Base-price range: $53,220-$58,015. (Note that all prices we list include the manufacturer’s delivery fee.) 

BEST Crossover SUV of 2011

2011 Audi Q5
The 2011 Audi Q5 is the Crossover SUV of the Year because it drives not merely like a car but like a premium sporty car. That’s no mystery when you consider it’s based on Audi’s excellent A4 sedan. This compact-class crossover does a fine job translating the A4’s responsive driving feel and classy cabin into SUV form. There’s good room for four adults and a class-average 57 cubic-feet of maximum cargo volume. More agile and less expensive than Audi’s larger  Q7 crossover, the Q5 debuted for model-year 2010 with a lively 270-horsepower V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain is joined for model-year 2011 by a less-expensive and more efficient 211-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder that works through an eight-speed automatic. It furnishes surprising spunk. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard and sufficient for any-weather duty and light off-roading.  Base-price range: $36,075-$43,375.