UNDER $35KWinner: : Jeep Grand Cherokee
Every year, it gets tougher to put sport/utility vehicles into specific, well-defined categories, and this year is no exception. What's a midsize SUV? In this case, we drew the line at a 106-inch wheelbase. Even sending several SUVs to the compact sport/utility category, this segment is still so monstrous it holds three separate winners. This year's best midsize SUV under $35K is the Grand Cherokee. Starting from its base price of less than $30,000, you can build as on- or off-road-worthy a vehicle as you want, with five engines to choose from and several trim levels. And this is still the smallest truck in which you can get a diesel in the U.S.
Over $35KWinner: Volkswagen Touareg 2
We've been impressed with this vehicle ever since it first came on the market, and VW continues to refine and improve its biggest SUV in notable ways, including the addition of a 50-state-legal turbodiesel V-6 engine option for 2009. The Touareg blends excellent off-road ability, 7700-pound towing capacity, smooth power, and comfortable ride with up to 407 pound-feet of torque and 25-mpg highway fuel economy (and it has better fuel economy than any other engine in the line). This is an impressive all-around sport/utility that we think is strong enough to survive in a shrinking market.
OverallWinner: Land Rover LR3
What was once an old-fashioned work machine has thrust itself headlong into the modern age of off-roading. Starting with an already time-tested foundation, Land Rover's stout LR3 uses a fantastic Terrain Response system to make easy work of obstacles for drivers at any experience level, offers more room than you'd think for seven adults, and tows more than 7000 pounds. You don't need to go off-road to appreciate this SUV--but it helps. It isn't cheap, but you get quite an impressive vehicle for the money.