Many of the vehicles in this month’s test group have strengths, such as great towing capacity or impressive agility. But each also has at least one notable weakness.
Our group includes a wide range of vehicles: luxurious barges, sporty models, and family haulers. Of the six models we tested, five are refreshed or redesigned. And in the competitive SUV field, you can find many other well-rounded choices.
Three of our tested vehicles, the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Edge, and Lincoln MKX, scored too low to be recommended. The Infiniti QX56, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Porsche Cayenne (all available to subscribers) lack reliability data and are too new to recommend.
The redesigned Cayenne has a luxurious interior and agile handling that makes it sportier than many sedans. It shares its platform with the redesigned Volkswagen Touareg. The V6 version we tested is the most expensive model in our group, at $63,805. Hybrid and V8-powered versions are even more pricey.
We tested a V8 version of the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee as a follow-up to the V6 test (available to subscribers) in our December 2010 issue. In our previous test, the V6 version skidded and hopped sideways in our avoidance maneuver, which earned it a poor score in emergency handling. We purchased the V8 version to see whether it performed any better at its handling limits (it did) as well as to evaluate the performance of its 360-hp, 5.7-liter V8 powertrain.
We bought our V8 Grand Cherokee with a different four-wheel-drive system, Quadra-Trac II, which provides more offroad capability than our V6’s Quadra-Trac I system. In its Limited V8 trim, the Grand Cherokee cost us $42,765.
The Ford Edge and its similar but more luxurious Lincoln MKX cousin have been freshened for 2011, with improvements in handling, fuel economy, and interior quality. But the big news is the performance of the much-hyped but overcomplicated MyFord Touch driver-interface system. (See Ford’s high-tech controls.) And despite improvements elsewhere for the Ford and Lincoln, the new controls contributed to their overall scores falling below our threshold for recommendation. We paid $37,625 for our Edge and $50,235 for the MKX.
Rounding out our group are two large SUVs, the redesigned Infiniti QX56 and the Chevrolet Tahoe. Both have three rows and are built on truck-based body-onframe platforms. (The other vehicles in this group are unibody, or “car based.”)
The luxurious Infiniti has all the amenities and plushness of the carmaker’s sedans. It was priced at $63,395.
Since we last tested the Tahoe, it got a new six-speed automatic transmission to improve fuel economy and acceleration. Tested in top LTZ trim, it cost $57,435.
Redesigned sport-utility models just now arriving in showrooms include the compact BMW X3 and the redesigned threerow Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer. The Porsche Cayenne’s cousin, the Volkswagen Touareg, has been recently redesigned; we just bought a Touareg for a later test. The compact Saab 9-4X, based on the Cadillac SRX, arrives this spring.