About seven years ago, in the midst of a financial crisis and chronic reports of tipsy trucks, car dealers couldn’t give away new SUVs. But fast forward to today and the combination of low gas prices and a renewed appreciation for the style and space of SUVs are driving a big surge in sales.
Since sport utilities come in just about every size and shape, choosing one that suits your needs can be tricky. Fortunately, our panel of experts is up to the task, so we asked them to set their sights on the best mid-sized SUVs sold in the $50,000 range.
5th place: Audi Q5
The emissions scandal dogging Volkswagen and Audi has put the kibosh on the sale of diesel versions, but our experts say that shouldn’t put you off checking out the other gasoline and hybrid versions of Audi’s sleek and elegant Q5. Based on the A4 sedan platform, the Q5 looks more like a tall wagon than a traditional SUV, but it still tackles the worst weather Mother Nature can conjure up. Gentile says it has “one of the nicest interiors of any manufacturer” and offers up a sporty and fun driving experience.
4th place: Jeep Grand Cherokee
This is “the original yuppie sport ute,” says Cleaver. It comes with multiple engine choices, including the only diesel powerplant in our group—but it’ll cost you an extra $7,000 (and you’re unlikely to recoup that in fuel savings). Still, the Grand Cherokee is decidedly upscale with every luxury trim available. This is the sixth year for the current model with no replacement in sight, but Nika Rolczewski says it still holds up well. “Good looks and great drive make it my winner.”
3rd place: Cadillac SRX
The SRX gets top marks for its sharp-edged exterior and smooth V6 engine, but Corbett says the styling is really “just a bit of prestige lip gloss” on a very old car. While there are plenty of tech features, our critics gave the climate and entertainment system a thumbs-down for its entirely digital controls. Buyers may soon find the current SRX feels a bit stale with a new version coming out soon. “The replacement looks impressive so you’ll need a compelling deal to consider this car at this time,” says Corbett.
2nd place: Lexus RX350
Lexus is Toyota’s prestige label and the line-up has a reputation for premium vehicles with outstanding reliability. The RX350 is the biggest seller in the Lexus stable and in many ways a benchmark vehicle in this segment. “With its reliability and durability, the RX has a better long-term ownership proposition than German-branded rivals,” says Ron Corbett. For 2016, it’s been given a dramatic new exterior but the inside remains as upscale and refined as ever. Better yet, it’s built right here in Canada.
Best deal: Acura RDX
Based on the boxy Honda Pilot, the Acura RDX got a makeover for 2016 that allows it to stand out in a crowd. Rod Cleaver calls it “an honest-to-goodness compact premium crossover” with “refined styling and a V6 engine that is a big improvement over the previous model.” Not only is the engine strong and smooth, but the RDX comes with Honda’s fuel-saving variable cylinder shut-off system—and there’s more technology inside to keep passengers comfortable, as well. “The RDX has a luxurious and spacious cabin with plenty of innovative technology to keep you safer on the road,” says Petrina Gentile. One of the few quibbles is its use of the wheel-drive (AWD) system instead of the more performance-oriented Super Handling AWD found in the bigger Acura MDX.