The best SUVs for commuters today combine a number of attributes that were notoriously hard to find in the previous generation of sport utility vehicles. For commuters, crossover SUVs have become the rising star of the automotive world, affording plenty of luxury and capability in a package that performs well in maneuverability tests, has plenty of safety equipment, and even allows you to park in normal parking spots. That these SUVs are good for commuters doesn’t mean that they are any less adept at your weekend errands and road trips, however. On the contrary, you’ll find that the best SUVs for commuters are themselves excellent vehicles for a variety of purposes.
Subaru Forester Starting at $20,495
The Subaru Forester is an all-wheel-drive SUV that can be purchased in a wide variety of different option packages. There are two engines available, with the larger and more powerful being the 2.5 liter turbocharged option. The Forester earned a recommendation from Consumer reports for the 2011 model year, and scores consistently high in IIHS crash testing. While in-town commuting will only net you 21 miles per gallon in the forester, far below competing hybrid models, the turbocharged engine gives you a highway fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon, impressive even by car standards, much less in an all-wheel drive SUV.
Toyota Highlander/ Highlander Hybrid Starting at $28,090
A list of the best SUVs for commuters would be remiss without mention of the Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid. This mid-size SUV features crossover-like frame layout to improve driving dynamics while at the same time maintaining the utility of an SUV and economy of a large sedan. Either version is available as an all-wheel drive, and fuel economy is exceptional regardless of which version you choose. The hybrid is an excellent around-town SUV that averages 28 miles per gallon, while the non-hybrid Highlander returns a combined 19 miles per gallon while still being able to tow as much as 5,000 pounds. You can carpool to work on the weekdays while still being able to comfortably tow your boat to the lake on the weekends. In addition to the legendary Toyota reliability behind the Highlander, it has earned Consumer reports’ recommendation, as well as an IIHS top pick for vehicle safety in all testing situations.
Lexus RX/ RX Hybrid Starting at $39,075
The Lexus RX and its fraternal twin, the RX Hybrid, both earned Consumer Reports’ recommendation based on their reliability, fuel economy and performance, not to mention their consistently high owner satisfaction surveys. Among the best SUVs for commuters, the Lexus RX blends functionality, luxury and economy into a single package that is not only extraordinarily inviting, but easy to handle in traffic or in the car park. The hybrid version of the Lexus RX achieves as much as 30 miles per gallon in city driving, but just 28 miles per gallon on the highway. If your commute is predominantly in-town, the hybrid version might just be right for you. If, on the other hand, you spend most of your time on free-moving freeways, then the standard Lexus RX’s 24 miles per gallon highway fuel economy might be sufficient for you, and could save you as much as $5,000 off the MSRP.
Crossover SUVs have opened up the options for commuters both in cities and in outlying areas. Economical, efficient and easy to maneuver and park, the new generation of SUVs rises head and shoulders above old-school SUVs.
Subaru: Subaru Forester: www.Subaru.com
Toyota: Toyota Highlander: www.Toyota.com
Lexus: Lexus RX: www.Lexus.com
Consumer Reports: 2012 New car Preview: Consumer Reports Publications
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: IIHS top picks 2011: www.iihs.org