During the 2006 Sport/Utility of the Year contest, we had 12 entries, six of which were truck-based SUVs, including the Ford Explorer, Hummer H3, and Nissan Xterra. We dubbed that field "The Dirty Dozen," as half the competitors, and certainly the winning Xterra, were legitimate off-roaders. One year later, the field swelled to 22 entries, nine of which were truck-based. In other words, a majority (13) had switched to car-based roots. Naturally, we said of 2007, "This year, everything changed..."

In both 2008 ("This year, the crossover takes a stand") and 2009 ("Rise of the machines"), we had a total of 24 SUOTY contestants, of which all but four-Toyota Land Cruiser, Kia Borrego, Lexus LX 570, and Toyota Sequoia-were car-based. Not surprising, just 12 months later, when the Subaru Outback won our 2010 Sport/Utility of the Year award out of a field of 11 SUVs, we observed that the crossover was once again dominating the sport/utility scene. Indeed, the Toyota 4Runner was the only non-crossover in 2010's assemblage. And since 2006, every winner but the Xterra has been car-based.

Will the crossover continue its proliferation and preeminence for 2011? Based on this year's 15 contenders, of which 13 are crossovers, it appears likely. The only two truck-based SUVs are the all-new Infiniti QX and Lexus GX. But don't discount those leather-lined V-8-powered brutes. Each is loaded with the latest technologies and luxuries, and both are at home in the concrete jungle.

Of the 13 crossovers in this year's field, seven offer (or will offer) a four-cylinder engine. Last year, that number was just three. In an attempt to deliver more fuel-efficient rigs-and ultimately to achieve upcoming CAFE numbers-automakers are downsizing vehicles and engines, and in some cases adding turbochargers to deliver horsepower comparable to that of a larger mill. Case in point: the 162.4-inch-long Nissan Juke (for context, a Civic coupe measures 175.5), whose tiny, 1.6-liter turbo I-4 generates a stout 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, yet sips gas at a rate of 27 mpg city/32 highway (FWD). Next year's Mini Countryman, also with a 1.6 turbo, will follow the Juke's lead down Compact Street. The updated Ford Edge and seven-seat Ford Explorer, as well as the next-generation 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe, all sizeable midsize sport/utilities, will be available with a 2.0-liter turbo I-4 in calendar year 2011. This downsizing trend isn't applicable just to four cylinders replacing six. The 2011 Audi Q7, for instance, dropped its 4.2-liter V-8 option in favor of a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. In the coming years, expect the shift to smaller engines-and such smaller SUVs as the Juke and Outlander Sport-to be on the rise.

Per last year, our group of esteemed judges graded this year's collection against six criteria (see sidebar), in an effort to best discern the cream from a very diverse crop. But unlike 2010, when we had a total of 14 vehicles including variants, 2011 presented a new wrinkle: 20 vehicles in all. Seeing as our usual protocol-subjecting every vehicle to instrumented testing and then a 35-mile road loop followed by a 3-mile dirt track-would not be feasible with so many SUVs, we adopted our Car of the Year procedure, which calls for weeding out contenders in phase-one testing (acceleration, braking, lateral g, figure eight, and autocross) and then green-lighting finalists on to phase two (on- and off-road loops). So without further ado, let's cross over to see which contenders got cut, which finalists battled for gold, and which worthy sport/utility rolled away with the calipers in tow.

Stuff we noticed

What's our vector, Victor?
Torque-vectoring-sending more torque to the outside wheel(s) and/or applying brake to the inside wheel(s)-improves handling and is no longer just for sports cars. The Cayenne and Juke offer this cornering technology.

Twentysomething
When it comes to SUV wheels, go big. The Grand Cherokee, Cayenne, and MKX offer 20s, while the Edge Sport and QX56 step up to 22s.

Eight is enough
It used to be that five speeds were a lot. Now the QX56 provides seven and the X5 and Cayenne up the ante to eight.

Touch and go
Forget buttons, knobs, and gauges. MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch connect the driver to vehicle technologies via LCD screens, five-way controllers, and voice commands.

Look, Ma, no hands!
Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, once a luxury-SUV convenience, is trickling down to budget vehicles. The Juke, Sportage, and Outlander Sport come standard with Bluetooth. (Surprisingly, the X5 and Cayenne make BT optional.)

DESIGN advancement
What the judges are looking for: well-executed exterior and interior styling; innovative vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.

ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE
What the judges are looking for: total vehicle concept and execution; clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; cost-effective tech that benefits the consumer.

INTENDED FUNCTION
What the judges are looking for: how well the vehicle does the job its planners, designers, and engineers intended it to do.

Efficiency
What the judges are looking for: low fuel consumption and carbon footprint, relative to the vehicle's competitive set.

SAFETY
What the judges are looking for: a vehicle's ability to help the driver avoid a crash, as well as the secondary safety measures that protect its occupants from harm during a crash.

VALUE
What the judges are looking for: competitive price and equipment levels, measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment.

THE JUDGES
ALLYSON HARWOOD
Associate Editor
RON KIINO
Editor at Large
CARLOS LAGO
Assistant Web Producer
TODD LASSA
Detroit Editor
Jonny Lieberman
Senior Editor
ANGUS MACKENZIE
Editor-in-Chief
SCOTT MORTARA
Road Test Editor
Frank Markus
Technical Director
KIM REYNOLDS
Technical Editor

2011 Acura MDX
Maybe it's just too complicated

WE LIKE: Mechanical upgrades highlighted by its new engine and transmission and SH-AWD system's razor handling.
WE DON'T LIKE: Mechanical complexity, ergonomic confusion, and menacing styling.

The Acura MDX must have been baffled by its experience at this year's SUV of the Year festivities. Here's a vehicle that loudly answers what's perhaps the automotive press' single biggest gripe about SUVs-that they drive like oatmeal on the road-with a brilliant technological reply, and it doesn't even make the cut to Round Two. What's up with that?

As Lassa put it, "You really don't use the MDX's SH-AWD system unless you get into the throttle in a turn. And I really don't care to get into the throttle much while turning in a high-profile vehicle like this. SH-AWD is more useful in lower sedans." That thunderclap you just heard was the simultaneous forehead slap of every product planner in the Honda empire.

However, the opinion wasn't unanimous. Said Lago, "Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive is aptly named. It provides a downright surprising amount of rotation-I even experienced some decent oversteer around the autocross." The testing director (that's me) rather liked it too, but I'm afraid the majority viewed it as simply more weight and complexity than benefit. Just reporting the facts, as they say.

Elements that got the majority's approval included the new 3.7-liter V-6 that sports a higher compression ratio, a stronger crankshaft and sturdier connecting rods, a more rigid block, and improved cooling. Though the engine's power rating is unchanged, the rpm spread between its horsepower and torque peaks has considerably widened, a good thing for driveability. And combined with the brainy new six-speed paddle-shift transmission, it returns a nice 1-mpg improvement in combined mileage.

Unfortunately, the MDX's visual revisions, which bring it in line with the brand's official "face," perhaps shouldn't have. The guillotine grille is downright scary, and its whole presence seems more weapon-like than handsome. And the interior? "C'mon, Acura, this center stack isn't working," noted Lago. That army of buttons blitzkriegs my psyche every time I want to change the stereo." And blitzkrieged psyches don't recommend SUV of the Year winners. -Kim Reynolds

2011 Acura MDX
Base price $43,440
Price as tested $54,965
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.7L/300-hp/270-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4600 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 108.3 in
Length x width x height 191.6 x 78.5 x 68.2 in
0-60 mph 7.1 sec
Quarter mile 15.5 sec @ 90.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 132 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.81 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.5 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/21 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.08 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING *****
DESIGN **
INTERIOR/Functionality **
PERFORMANCE ***
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ****
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE ****
BOTTOM LINE
Complicated taste for most, sweet handler to some.

2011 BMW X5
No big need for improvement

WE LIKE: Straight-line speed, sporty handling, great navigation screen, pleasant interior.
WE DON'T LIKE: Still funny-looking, still very heavy, still strictly an on-roader, silly shifter.

The BMW X5 is new for 2011, but is it new enough? We chewed on that problem while figuring out which SUV is best. The new X5 is quite a brilliant machine, one of the fastest, most sporting SUVs we've ever tested. However, at the end of the day, we decided that, while new, it wasn't enough of a departure from the 2010 X5 to really compete for our OTY honors.

Let's look at what is new. Under the hood sits BMW's new-for-last year, 3.0-liter twin scroll turbo inline-six. Like the twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight-six this engine replaces, the single-turbo'd mill produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound feet of torque. Tiny sidebar time: For those wondering what exactly a twin-scroll turbo is, instead of exhaust gasses entering the scroll through a single inlet, each exhaust header blows spent gasses into the snail, hitting the impeller in two places, i.e. twin-scroll.

Aside from the engine, the other big new feature is the eight-speed transmission. It's the same eight-speed unit found in the 7 and the 5 Series. Just like the twin-scroll six, this tech isn't bespoke to the X5, but rather is being implemented across the BMW range. Just like in BMW's sport and luxury sedans, the new-for-2011 eight-speed works excellently, providing both cream-smooth shifts and lots of overhead for leisurely highway cruising. There's also a bit of new sheetmetal on the nose and tail, but you'd have to be the biggest BMW fanboy this side of Bavaria to notice.

What does all this change add up to? One very impressive performance SUV, that's what. Says Lago, "I'm extremely impressed with the single-turbo gasoline X5. Its performance is right on the heels of the Porsche, even though it's down a hundred horsepower."

So what went wrong for the BMW? In a sense, the other German. While the X5 is kind of new, we felt the changes for 2011 weren't significant enough to merit a win. Think of it like this: The Porsche Cayenne had much room for improvement, and its engineers went for the brass ring. The BMW X5, on the other hand, was already good enough. - Jonny Lieberman


2011 BMW X5
Base price $46,675-$86,375
Price as tested $65,825; $66,325 (*35d; 35i)
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.0L/265-hp/425-lb-ft twin-turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve I-6; 3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbo
DOHC 24-valve I-6*
Transmission 6-sp auto; 8-sp auto*
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5027 lb (50/50%);
4794 lb (50/50%)*
Wheelbase 115.5 in
Length x width x height 191.2 x 76.1 x 69.9 in
0-60 mph 6.9; 6.1 sec*
Quarter mile 15.2 sec @ 89.5 mph;
14.6 sec @ 92.5 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph 125; 113 ft*
Lateral acceleration 0.81; 0.86 g (avg)*
MT Figure Eight 28.2 sec @ 0.59 g (avg);
28.3 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 19/26; 17/25 mpg*
CO2 emissions 1.03; 0.98 lb/mile*
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ****
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ****
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ****
OFF-ROAD ABILITY *
VALUE ****
BOTTOM LINE
Less spectacular than its fellow German rival.

2011 Ford Edge
On the verge of Crossover Land

WE LIKE: Powerful engines, upgraded interior quality, Sync system.
WE DON'T LIKE: Edge Sport's weight, price, heavy 22-inch wheels, and especially the brakes.

Can Ford repeat its Fusion magic with the 2011 Edge? They share a platform, and the Edge benefits from the same level of improvement as the '10 Fusion. Problem is, we never thought as much of the original 2007 Edge as we did of the 2006 Fusion.

For 2011, the base engine remains Ford's 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a six-speed automatic. Ford includes manumatic shifting, though it's a cumbersome gearshift toggle button. The Edge Sport's six-speed comes with paddle shifters, and its standard engine is a Mustang-based 3.7-liter. A 2.0-liter EcoBoost option will be added in 2011.

The lighter, front-drive 3.5-liter Edge SEL is 0.5 second quicker in the 0-60-mph test and 0.2 second quicker in the quarter mile than our all-wheel-drive Edge Sport, despite the Sport's 30-horsepower, 27-pound-foot advantage. The Sport is 0.9 second quicker in MT's figure eight, though, and its ride, while stiff, is not harsh like those of many crossovers with sport-sedan aspirations. Staffers prefer the SEL's ride as more appropriate for a family crossover. The Sport's optional 22-inch wheels add too much unsprung weight. And Ford failed to upgrade the brakes to match the Sport's image and big wheels. We recorded a best 60-0-mph stop of 124 feet, but braking performance deteriorated to 148 feet with subsequent stops, and, after taking time to cool the brakes, 155 feet. Unacceptable.

All Edges feature the MyFord Touch updated Sync system paired with premium Sony audio in the Sport. A $2870 package on our SEL upgraded the system with an 8-inch screen and a rearview camera, plus leather-trimmed seats, and ambient lighting. Technoids find Sync essential for voice control of nav, entertainment, and temperature. Some of us found it too fussy. Sync and MyFord are wrapped in a state-of-the-art interior with fit and finish among the best for a middle-priced model.

Ford's improvements to the Edge were enough to qualify it as a finalist for sport/utility of the year, far better than it did four years ago. Substandard brakes and too much mass helped keep it from serious consideration to win our calipers. - Todd Lassa


2011 Ford Edge
Base price $27,995-$38,845
Price as tested $35,055; $40,535 (*SEL; sport AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD; AWD*, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.5L/285-hp/253-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.7L/305-hp/ 280-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6*
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4075 lb (59/41%); 4405 lb (58/42%)*
Wheelbase 111.2 in
Length x width x height 184.2 x 76.0 x 67.0 in
0-60 mph 7.1 sec; 7.6 sec*
Quarter mile 15.7 sec @ 91.0 mph; 15.9 sec @ 88.9 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph 139 ft; 124 ft*
Lateral acceleration 0.76; 0.82 g (avg)*
MT Figure Eight 27.9 sec @ 0.62 g (avg); 27.0 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)*
MT observed fuel econ 16.9; 14.4 mpg*
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 19/27; 17/23 mpg*
CO2 emissions 0.88; 1.01 lb/mile*
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ***
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ***
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE ***
BOTTOM LINE
Significant improvements, but it's no Fusion.

2011 Honda Crosstour
Do '80s Honda fans need a step up?

WE LIKE: Smooth Honda V-6, Accord underpinnings, fuel efficiency.
WE DON'T LIKE: Weight, price, interior, styling. Five-speed automatic is a gear or two short.

Two American social phenomena inspired Honda to create the Crosstour from the platform of its wildly popular Accord sedan. First, the Mini Cooper is successful beyond prediction, leading BMW's competitors to erroneously conclude Americans will buy hatchbacks that cost more than $25,000. Second, the youngest baby boomers who made Honda the "it" brand of the 1980s are getting too old to step down easily into low-profile cars like the Accords of 25 years ago.

Phenomenon number two made the Crosstour an ungainly car. The post-millennium sedan targets baby boomers by combining the flexibility of a minivan with the step-in height and AWD capability of a crossover utility vehicle. Take the Accord sedan (far from the most handsome of the model's history), slope its three-box sedan body into a two-box hatchback, raise it to make room for AWD, design a prominent proboscis, and you have the '11 Pontiac Aztek.

Although the Crosstour's handling can be described as "carlike," with that higher center of gravity, it's a wallowy carlike, a letdown after traditional Accords. The Crosstour's added weight means the Accord's 3.5-liter V-6 must work that much harder.

"It didn't distinguish itself particularly in the dynamic realm," Markus notes. "It's an affront to my eyes, the usefulness is marginal, and the price is ridiculous."

Lago finds the Crosstour quieter and more fun to drive than the current Accord, while "it's plagued with a slow-responding automatic with (five) slow gears better fit for lunar travel."

Interior material and trim quality are not even the best Honda can do. "The door pulls are chintzy plastic, with the flash line right where your hand goes." Very un-Honda-like.

Fuel mileage is good for such a big, heavy model, though not best in class, matching the V-6 Toyota Venza within 1 mpg in either direction.

Hard as Honda tried, its convergence of sedan and sport/utility doesn't work well, and the Crosstour did not make it as a finalist for sport/utility of the year-a very un-Honda-like result. - Todd Lassa


2011 Honda Accord Crosstour
Base price $30,450-$34,800
Price as tested $37,000 (EX-L AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.5L/271-hp/254-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3962 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 110.1 in
Length x width x height 196.8 x 74.7 x 65.7 in
0-60 mph 7.5 sec
Quarter mile 15.7 sec @ 90.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 138 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.79 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.7 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 17/25 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.98 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ***
DESIGN *
INTERIOR/Functionality ***
PERFORMANCE **
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY *
VALUE **
BOTTOM LINE
Overpriced Accord the American buyer didn't request.

2011 Hyundai Santa Fe
Lost in the Korean crowd

WE LIKE: New engines and transmissions offer better mileage; tweaked styling.
WE DON'T LIKE: Underpinnings showing their age; styling overshadowed by cousin Kia's smart new looks.

If you happen to be the oldest among a large brood of siblings, you might understand the Santa Fe's current predicament. Not too many years ago, it was the company's SUV Only Child, the recipient of Hyundai's undivided attention. Well, it's alone no more. Today, it finds itself squeezed between the smaller Tucson and the bigger Veracruz, as well as having to contend with that Kia clan of half-brothers, including the Sorento and Sportage. Many of which are quite good, too.

For 2010, it's been updated enough to qualify for our SUV of the Year melee, but unfortunately not enough to evade our critics. Noted Lago, "The Santa Fe feels like it's from the old Hyundai, not the new, perception-changing one behind the Genesis, Sonata, and Equus." Frankly, that's not surprising, as this basic vehicle bowed back in 2007. At times, it showed: "A bit wallowy at speed, though it handles as competently as most SUVs," said Lassa. Moreover, one of its two new engines, the 276-horse, 3.5-liter V-6 (which replaces the previous 242-horse, 3.3-liter), didn't evade our furrowed brow: "Its engine idle is rough," he added.

Nevertheless, that engine, as well as the new 175-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder base mill (which takes the reins from last year's elderly 2.7-liter V-6), both provide nice boosts in fuel mileage. In cahoots with their new six-speed transmissions, the V-6's combined mileage improves by 2.4 mpg (AWD) or 3.4 mpg (FWD), while the base engine improves by 2.4 mpg (FWD with manual) to 3.7 mpg (AWD automatic).

Visually, the Santa Fe enjoys a few aesthetic tweaks that move it along in the right direction, including a new grille, a rejiggered lower fascia, and refashioned taillights. Recall the original Santa Fe? This descendant should go a long way in erasing that torturous memory.

The most noticeable consequence of the Santa Fe's recently arrived stablemates is the deletion of a third-row seat (there's a Veracruz for that, and the Santa Fe's bench was too small, anyway). And next year, it'll be underpinned by a version of the Kia Sorento's new chassis. Will it be enough? We shall see. - Kim Reynolds


2011 Hyundai Santa Fe
Base price $22,490-$31,090
Price as tested $25,900; $31,765 (*GLS; Limited)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.5L/276-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3793 lb (57/43%); 3870 lb (59/41%)*
Wheelbase 106.3 in
Length x width x height 184.1 x 74.4 x 67.9 in
0-60 mph 10.6; 7.4 sec*
Quarter mile 17.7 sec @ 78.2 mph; 15.7 sec @ 90.1 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph 139; 140 ft*
Lateral acceleration 0.77; 0.79 g (avg)*
MT Figure Eight 29.2 sec @ 0.54 g (avg); 28.7 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 21/27; 20/26 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.83; 0.87 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING **
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ***
PERFORMANCE ***
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE ***
BOTTOM LINE
Appears to be in a holding pattern until it receives its all-new chassis and styling.

2011 Hyundai Tucson
CUV: Curvaceous Utility Vehicle

WE LIKE: Well-executed cabin, great value, middle and top ranges.
WE DON'T LIKE: Artificial steering feel, unrefined ride.

Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design theme, which debuted on the second-gen 2010 Tucson, has paid big dividends thus far. As this issue went to press, year-to-year sales from September 2009 to September 2010 for the South Korean crossover had jumped a colossal 131 percent. Safe to say, Americans like 'em some Tucson.

We like it, too. Not only did we rank the Hyundai second in a comparison test, but we also voted it to round two of this year's competition, something we can't say for the Acura MDX, BMW X5, and Lexus GX. So what did we appreciate? Its value, for one. A base Tucson GL, with a 2.0-liter, 165-horsepower I-4 mated to a five-speed manual, starts at just $19,540. And the GL is not so "base," what with four-wheel disc brakes, iPod and USB connectivity, and keyless entry.

While we didn't have a GL on hand, we did procure the use of a front-drive, mid-range GLS ($22,640 base) and an all-wheel-drive, top-tier Limited ($26,990), both of which come with a larger 2.4-liter, 176-horse I-4 mated to a six-speed auto. Those two trims also offer a lot of bang for the buck. The Limited AWD, for instance, features leather, 18-inch wheels, heated front seats, and all-wheel drive with a lockable 50/50 torque split, all for under 27 large.

In addition to its value quotient, the Tucson delivered respectable test numbers-0-60 in 8.7 (GLS) and 9.8 (LTD), lateral acceleration of 0.72 g (GLS) and 0.77 g (LTD)-as well as excellent fuel economy. The GLS, rated at 22 city/31 highway, returned the best observed gas mileage (20.0 mpg). Further, cargo capacity, at 25.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 55.8 with them down, is admirable for a small crossover measuring just over 173 inches in length.

Alas, the Tucson traits we didn't like-vague steering, abrupt ESC intervention, noisy ride- neutralized the respectable and admirable ones we did appreciate. Regardless, a Sport/Utility of the Year needs to be more than just respectable and admirable. - Ron Kiino


2011 Hyundai Tucson
Base price $19,540-$26,990
Price as tested $22,740; $29,090 (*GLS; LTD AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD; AWD,* 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 2.4L/176-hp/168-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3182 lb (60/40%); 3369 lb (59/41%)*
Wheelbase 103.9 in
Length x width x height 173.2 x 71.7 x 65.2 in
0-60 mph 8.7; 9.8 sec*
Quarter mile 16.7 sec @ 83.9 mph; 17.4 sec @ 81.7 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph 127; 124 ft*
Lateral acceleration 0.72; 0.77 g (avg)*
MT Figure Eight 28.8 sec @ 0.56 g (avg); 28.5 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)*
MT observed fuel econ 20.5; 19.5 mpg*
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 22/31; 21/28 mpg*
CO2 emissions 0.77; 0.82 lb/mile*
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ***
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ***
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE *****
BOTTOM LINE
A few refinements and horses from top of class.

2011 Infiniti QX56
Could we award a second place?

WE LIKE: Surprisingly fast, and able to haul six adults around in total comfort.
WE DON'T LIKE: Ugly nose, sucks gas pumps dry

For SUV of the Year giggles, I decided to bring along a copy of Keith Bradsher's High and Mighty, the hard-hitting, near-hysterical screed detailing just how totally terrible the SUV is. Interesting, only two vehicles in our test meet Bradsher's five-point definition of what makes an SUV an SUV: It must have available all- or four-wheel drive, an enclosed rear cargo area, high ground clearance, and a truck-based ladder frame, and be marketed toward urbanites and suburbanites. The qualifying vehicles are the Lexus GX 460 and Infiniti QX56, and it's fair to say we loved the new QX, in spite of Bradsher's warnings.

We don't give an award for second place, and that's too bad for the big Infiniti. We fell in love with the fact that the QX56 could cool down six sweaty adults in the mid-August Southern California heat in a big hurry with its hefty A/C. Moreover, when we went to dinner and eventually home to the hotel, the sublimely luxurious and deeply comfortable Infiniti was the staff schlepper of choice. As Lassa noted, "This is perhaps the best SUV in its segment."

But it's not perfect. However hard we tried, no one could get past the bulbous grotesqueness of the QX's nose. In fact, from the A-pillar forward, the whole crew panned the looks. That said, from the A-pillar back, the QX56 is nicely tailored and quite handsome. We do need to mention that the QX56 is essentially a highly polished version of the not-for-sale-here Nissan Patrol, a truly ungainly vehicle. So in that regard, Infiniti did a decent-though not great-job with the new sheetmetal.

Still, the maker did a better than decent job with this big brute's road manners. Aside from wandering all over the place (if you leave the lane-departure-warning beep on, you will feel like burning her down to her halfshafts), the ride is compliant if not cushy. The handling is about what you'd expect from a three-ton cetacean, but the electronics do an admirable job of keeping this boat upright and in line. Meanwhile, the mountainous thrust from the QX's namesake 5.6-liter V-8 made for the second-quickest car of the test. Not bad; not bad at all. - Jonny Lieberman


2011 Infiniti QX56
Base price $57,565-$60,665
Price as tested $72,475
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 5.6L/400-hp/413-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5934 lb (52/48%)
Wheelbase 121.1 in
Length x width x height 208.3 x 79.9 x 75.6 in
0-60 mph 6.1 sec
Quarter mile 14.8 sec @ 93.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 130 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.71 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.4 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 12.2 mpg
MT Observed Fuel econ 14/20 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.20 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ****
DESIGN **
INTERIOR/Functionality *****
PERFORMANCE ****
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY ****
VALUE ***
BOTTOM LINE
A better Escalade for the few who care.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Doesn't advance state of art

WE LIKE: Fantastic interior, off-road prowess.
WE DON'T LIKE: Five-speed automatic; suspension needs fine-tuning.

For 2011, Jeep's topline trail crawler is built on an all-new platform, a version of the one beneath the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. (The Grand Cherokee version is designed for more extreme off-road use than the Mercedes.) This, plus new Fiat ownership, may give some Jeep fans reason for pause. Fear not-the new SUV has the most polish of any Jeep to date, and retains its off-road chops.

The Grand Cherokee comes with either a new 3.6-liter V-6 or a 5.7-liter V-8, both with a five-speed automatic and three 4WD systems. Selec-Terrain, which competes with Land Rover's Terrain Response, makes off-roading very easy. Push the appropriate button, and you're ready for the dirt. Add the myriad lux options available in the four trim levels, for perhaps the greatest number of permutations in this year's SUOTY.

There were pros and cons with both engines. In the Laredo X, weight overcame the 3.6's 290 horses. That Grand Cherokee didn't have the optional air suspension that the V-8 Overland was equipped with, and it felt nimbler on the road. Even with the Overland's 5.7-liter V-8, it felt faster, but not fast. With the V-6, the Grand Cherokee reached 60 mph in 8.6 seconds; the 5.7-liter knocked that down to 7.5. In addition, the air springs actually ride rougher.

The cabin was clean, simple, and easy to use, and also looked elegant. Past Grand Cherokee interiors lacked these attributes. There was next to no wind noise, and a genuine feeling of substance and strength. Minor gripes included an unusually fat steering wheel rim section and excessive tire noise.

When it came time for us to vote, the judges were impressed with how much more refined this vehicle feels without giving up its trail capability. But Jeep hasn't advanced the state of the art much here. Sure, the Grand Cherokee is great off-road and commendable on-road, but its five-speed automatic pales next to its competitors' six-, seven- and eight-speed units, and its engines deliver neither class-leading output nor decent fuel economy. - Allyson Harwood


2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Base price $30,995-$42,690
Price as tested $36,995; $46,005 (*Laredo; Overland)
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.6L/290-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6;
5.7L/360-hp/390-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8*
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4676 lb (52/48%); 5717 lb (54/46%)*
Wheelbase 114.8 in
Length x width x height 189.8 x 76.3 x 69.4 in
0-60 mph 8.6; 7.5 sec*
Quarter mile 16.4 sec @ 86.7 mph; 15.6 @ 89.2 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 126 ft; 136 ft*
Lateral acceleration 0.75; 0.75 g (avg)*
MT Figure Eight 28.2 sec @ 0.59 g (avg); 28.3 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)*
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/22; 13/19 mpg (est)*
CO2 emissions 1.06; 1.28 lb/mile*
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ****
DESIGN ****
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ****
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ****
OFF-ROAD ABILITY *****
VALUE *****
BOTTOM LINE
Best Grand Cherokee yet -- but not best in class.

2011 Kia Sorento
Aims high, but lands in the middle

WE LIKE: Styling, interior ergonomics, and powertrain.
WE DON'T LIKE: Disconcerting road noise, artificial steering.

The 2011 Kia Sorento has undergone a dramatic change for its second generation. This decidedly all-new SUV- the first Kia to be built in the U.S. - has abandoned the full-size, body-on-frame pretense for an updated version of the Santa Fe's unit-body construction.

The styling, which is the work of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, is just as striking in its departure from the Lexus RX lookalike of previous generations. Behind that corporate "tiger nose" grille is sheetmetal that is handsome, modern, and welcomingly subdued. Like the smaller Sportage, the Sorento at first appears to deliver more than its Hyundai counterpart. So it's a surprise that it doesn't make the first cut.

Road noise is the primary offense. On our test loop, the interior exhibits a surprising amount of creaks and groans, and the suspension booms over rough surfaces. Steering comes second. Symptomatic of the rest of the Korean entrants, the wheel has an artificial, over-boosted tactile sensation that increases with an oddly synthetic feel as it's turned off-center. These issues contrast sharply against the styling, which suggests a more sophisticated ride and package. Our expectations were higher as a result, and while we preferred the Sorento over the Santa Fe, most editors got out with a hesitant "half-baked."

Yet the Sorento remains a completely agreeable SUV. The 3.5-liter V-6 in our tester received compliments for feeling smoother and sounding more refined than the identical mill in the Santa Fe. And its interior earned positive remarks about its layout and design-third-row availability is always a plus-though we're still irked about how long it takes the navigation system to allow you to "Agree" to its legalese.

The Sorento's few faults may seem like niggles, but when placed in the context of the SUOTY field, they can't be overlooked. Kia's design language is coming into its own, easily surpassing Hyundai's efforts in this mix. But more time spent on massaging out the small kinks would allow the rest of the package to catch up. - Carlos Lago


2011 Kia Sorento
Base price $20,790-$29,890
Price as tested $29,890 (EX AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.5L/276-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4078 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 106.3 in
Length x width x height 183.9 x 74.2 x 67.3 in
0-60 mph 7.3 sec
Quarter mile 15.6 sec @ 90.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.78 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.1 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 19/25 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 0.91 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING **
DESIGN ****
INTERIOR/Functionality ***
PERFORMANCE ***
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT **
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE ***
BOTTOM LINE
The design writes a check the drive almost cashes.

2011 Kia Sportage
Styling and packaging make grade

WE LIKE: Edgy styling, upscale interior
WE DON'T LIKE: Vague steering feel and suspension tuning

Over the past few years, Kia has made gigantic strides in building not just competitive but potentially segment-leading vehicles. The new 2011 Kia Sportage is no exception with its all-new exterior, interior, and drivetrain upgrades.

The latest Sportage sits on a unibody platform that is 3.5 inches longer than its predecessor's. Kia has done away with the V-6, replacing it with two new I-4s (one is turbocharged, but that won't be available until next year). Most testers felt the new I-4 was only adequate, but did provide decent fuel economy. "I wish Kia had launched the Sportage with the 200-horse direct-injection 2.4-liter. That would have put it at the top of its class in another category besides design," said Kiino, "and the six-speed auto transmission is top notch, with seamless shifts and smooth action."

Design is one area where almost everyone felt Kia did a magnificent job, with multiple judges proclaiming the Sportage the best-looking vehicle in this year's field. "This is a new step forward in design for the Koreans," noted Lago. Exterior styling is much cleaner with a sleek, modern look, and the LED running lights complete the package. "Finally a Sportage that really looks sporty," logged Kiino.

Unfortunately, styling and packaging aren't the only things that make up a quality vehicle. It must also drive and ride nicely, which is where the Sportage falls short. "Wow, is this steering awful, it's the car's fatal flaw, totally vague on center then way too much gain off center," griped Markus.

Amplifying the sloppy steering is a suspension that's soft and harsh at the same time. You roll through the corners, bound down the highway, and if the pavement is broken, the Sportage has a nervous, unsettled feel to it.

The Kia Sportage is an appealing package in size and content, but as Lassa put it, "Kia in North America still must do a lot of work to tighten up mushy suspensions designed for the home market," especially when the 274-horsepower turbo engine comes out next year. - Scott Mortara


2011 Kia Sportage
Base price $18,990-$25,490
Price as tested $28,490 (EX)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 2.4L/176-hp/168-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3304 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 103.9 in
Length x width x height 174.8 x 73.0 x 64.4 in
0-60 mph 9.1 sec
Quarter mile 17.0 sec @ 83.1 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 126 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.75 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.7 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
MT observed fuel econ 19.0 mpg
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 22/31 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.77 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ***
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ***
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT **
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE ****
BOTTOM LINE
Wish the drive experience matched the sporty styling.

2011 Lexus GX 460
Overcautious and underdone

WE LIKE: Comfortable ride, excellent new engine.
WE DON'T LIKE: Intrusive ESC, awkward third row.

When Lexus announced there would be a new GX coming, we wondered what that would mean. Would it get the company's new 4.6-liter V-8?

Would it become a crossover?

Yes, and no. The GX 460 returns with new LX 570-like styling on a highly revised version of the previous GX's body-on-frame architecture. As most of the sport/utility market has turned toward car-based models, the Lexus is one of the remaining few that promises off-road capability and backs it up with genuine trail cred.

This SUV has a solid rear axle, adjustable-height suspension, full-time four-wheel drive with low range and lockable Torsen center differential, hill-start assist, and downhill assist, plus available crawl control. And, unlike crossovers, this SUV can tow 6500 pounds.

That the name changed from GX 470 to 460 is not a demotion, by any means. It reflects use of the new 4.6-liter V-8, which weighs less than the outgoing 4.7 and offers 38 more horsepower, 6 pound-feet more torque, and better fuel economy. It brought the GX 460 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and through the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds at 89.7 mph.

It's backed by a six-speed automatic transmission, which has one more cog than in the previous generation. While the new GX weighs nearly 500 pounds more than it did the year before, the sole engine choice puts out plenty of power to move 5112 pounds' worth of metal.

As capable as the GX is, though, when it came to its luxury vehicle status, the judges' opinions were mixed. Its ride is comfortable in a straight line, but in sharp turns, the stability control gets nervous and intrusive. There's room for improvement in the cabin, too. The third row could use a little more room and easier access, and the bottom cushions in the second row were flat and lacked thigh support.

Even though there are plenty of creature comforts, as well as a full array of safety equipment, that wasn't enough to sway the judges into voting for the Lexus as the Sport/Utility of the Year. - Allyson Harwood


2011 Lexus GX 460
Base price $53,220
Price as tested $57,619
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 4.6L/301-hp/329-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5112 lb (52/48%)
Wheelbase 109.8 in
Length x width x height 189.2 x 74.2 x 72.6 in
0-60 mph 6.9 sec
Quarter mile 15.4 sec @ 89.7 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 117 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.73 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.3 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 15/20 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.15 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ****
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ****
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ****
OFF-ROAD ABILITY ****
VALUE ****
BOTTOM LINE
Capable off-road, lacks polish on the highway.

2011 Lincoln MKX
All-new 'ute has pricey entry fee

WE LIKE: Bigger engine, better transmission, MyLincoln Touch.
WE DON'T LIKE: Questionable styling, high pricetag.

For most vehicle manufacturers, a midlife update consists of a slight styling change or a new trim level, but Lincoln's second-generation MKX got a complete redesign for 2011.

A significant change is the addition of Ford's Duratec V-6 engine and new manually shiftable six-speed automatic transmission. Displacement has been increased to 3.7 liters, which in turn increases output to 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Even with the big bumps in power, the MKX still gets a class-leading 25 mpg highway with front drive.

Lincoln also made major changes in the cabin, starting with the all-new MyLincoln Touch technology. The system provides a new interface for the climate, navigation, radio, and Sync systems.

Lincoln has replaced standard controls with a touch screen and five-way controller, so instead of buttons or knobs, control is now by touch-sensitive buttons and sliders or voice command, which some of our evaluators found temperamental to use. Capping off the cabin improvements are all-new seats made of higher quality materials that are bigger and more comfortable.

Front-end sheetmetal is all new as well, "I like the distinctive '41 Conti-style grille, though it looks better on cars and is going to age quickly," wrote Lassa.

Impressions of the all-new MKX during our SUOTY competition were a mixed bag. "This vehicle has personality inside and out with a look and feel more interesting than the those of the Lexus RX," Markus noted.

"The baleen whale is back," Lago exclaimed. "The MKX is a softer Edge with a few interesting details, but the $50,000 price tag completely takes it out of contention."

Lincoln took a big swing with its redesign of the MKX, adding a distinctive appearance and a more user-friendly, technology-loaded interior. In the end, the MKX's hefty as-tested price is what prevented it from garnering the top spot in our SUOTY competition. - Scott Mortara


2011 Lincoln MKX
Base price $39,995-$41,845
Price as tested $50,435 (AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.7L/305-hp/280-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4485 lb (57/43%)
Wheelbase 111.2 in
Length x width x height 186.7 x 76.0 x 67.3 in
0-60 mph 7.2 sec
Quarter mile 15.5 sec @ 91.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 132 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.77 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.6 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 17/23 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.01 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ***
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ***
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE **
BOTTOM LINE
Amazing interior amenities but at a premium price.

2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Big Lancer or little Outlander?

WE LIKE: Quality interior and good looks.
WE DON'T LIKE: Gutless engine, body roll.

Shorter than a Honda CR-V or Nissan Rogue, the compact Outlander Sport rides on the same wheelbase as its larger sibling, the 183.7-inch-long Outlander. The Sport's shorter overhangs reduce overall length by 14.6 inches over its seven-passenger big brother. Its smaller size-and lighter weight-also mean the Sport can be powered by a lower-horsepower engine, which improves fuel economy.

The only engine choice is a 2.0-liter, 148-horse inline-four with variable valve timing, backed by either a five-speed manual or continuously variable trans. Our topline SE had AWD (the only model available with it) and the CVT. At 3362 pounds, it was one of the lightest vehicles at this year's SUOTY. Despite that, it also felt like one of the slowest. It took 10.1 seconds to hit 60 mph, which was nearly 1.5 seconds slower than the Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage. Making it less entertaining was that it felt floaty, there was body roll, and the stability control intervened way too much.

But what the Sport lacks in performance thrills, it makes up for in feature content. Standard equipment on the SE include 18-inch wheels and tires, hill-start assist, tire-pressure monitoring, climate control with pollen filter, auxiliary jack, and tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped wheel with stereo controls. Ours also came with a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo with six-disc player and subwoofer; Sirius Satellite Radio; 40GB music server and navigation; and rearview camera. These options brought the Outlander Sport SE Navi to $27,540; those who want a base model Sport can pick one up for as little as $19,240.

In our tester, the interior features gave the look and feel of a vehicle that's more upscale. The in-dash display, paddle shifters, and backup camera got thumbs-up from the judges. The front seats didn't offer much lateral support, and the rear seats were somewhat cramped, but the generous sunroof provided a lot of visibility. For those who want plenty of features in a value-packed crossover, this is a good one to consider. But there are competitors that do this better, at about the same price. - Allyson Harwood


2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Base price $19,240-$23,740
Price as tested $27,540 (SE AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 2.0L/148-hp/145-lb-ft DOHV 16-valve I-4
Transmission Cont-variable auto
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3362 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 105.1 in
Length x width x height 169.1 x 69.7 x 64.2 in
0-60 mph 10.1 sec
Quarter mile 17.7 sec @ 79.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.76 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.9 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 24/29 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 0.75 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ***
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ***
PERFORMANCE **
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY **
VALUE ****
BOTTOM LINE
Lancer-like crossover is decent value, but not best in class.

2011 Nissan Juke
Plan 9 from outer space

WE LIKE: Criminally fun-to-drive dynamics, impressive interior electronics.
WE DON'T LIKE: Limited cargo room, limited backseat, limited off-road capability, and limited styling appeal.

Even when cast against the increasingly avant-garde crossover segment, the Nissan Juke looks downright alien. This is unfortunate, because the controversial styling, which aims to evoke the irrepressible machismo of rally cars and motorcycles, blocks the Juke's best attribute: It's a blast.

This is the most fun small car Nissan makes. Editors were uniform in their joy from behind the steering wheel. ("I love driving this car," the notes read. "It's a ton of fun.")

The turbo 1.6-liter is enjoyably aggressive, even when paired with a continuously variable transmission (a six-speed manual is available with FWD). The AWD model delivers torque vectoring and a more sophisticated multilink rear suspension, which pays dividends in driver enjoyment, encouraging high-speed hooliganism through our two-lane driving loop.

The interior is just as engaging. Our SV trim offers push-button ignition, iPod integration, Bluetooth, and Nissan's I-CON system, wherein the driver can access three preset driving modes that adjust the character of the steering, transmission, and throttle.

But while the electronics and fun factor are impressive, they can't hide the biggest issue besides styling: The Juke's intended purpose. Why is it a crossover? You need a magnifying glass to find the functionality. The lifted ride height implies some off-road ability, but the Juke rattles unnervingly when the pavement disappears ("Feels like it's going to shake apart," one editor noted). Its cargo capacity, at 10.5 cubic feet, is dwarfed by that found in the Honda Fit, Mazda3, and Volkswagen Golf.

When you drive the Juke, you'll have a blast. But you can't help but wonder how much better it could've been as a car. With a lower ride height and more sophisticated suspension-not to mention a completely new front end- the Juke could've been a strong contender in the sport-compact arena.

As is, it's a head-scratcher. And while that means many things, not one of them is Sport/Utility of the Year. - Carlos Lago


2011 Nissan Juke
Base price $19,710-$25,300
Price as tested $22,310 (SV)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 1.6L/188-hp/177-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission Cont-variable auto
Curb weight (f/r dist) 2932 lb (63/37%)
Wheelbase 99.6 in
Length x width x height 162.4 x 69.5 x 61.8 in
0-60 mph 6.8 sec
Quarter mile 15.2 sec @ 91.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 124 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.85 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.3 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
MT observed fuel econ 19.2 mpg
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 27/32 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.67 lb/mile
RATINGS
ENGINEERING ***
DESIGN ***
INTERIOR/Functionality ****
PERFORMANCE ****
ON-ROAD REFINEMENT ***
OFF-ROAD ABILITY ***
VALUE ***
BOTTOM LINE
To infinity, and beyond.