Big SUVs. Just a few years ago they were held up as the enemy of all things that were wrong with the U.S. auto industry. Environmentalists bashed Detroit for making too many.

But big SUVs have their places. If you have to tow boats and trailers, most drivers will opt for a full-size pickup or SUV. They can be alternatives to minivans for carrying kids. And they are very safe. The mass of SUVs make them a good bet when in a crash with other vehicles.

The following SUVs are Top Picks from our friends at Vehix.com.

Chevrolet Suburban

Chevrolet Suburban

The Chevrolet Suburban is the longest continually produced model in the auto industry.

Equally adept at transporting cargo and/or up to nine passengers, the 2012 Suburban has been improved with the addition of hill-start assist, a blind-spot warning system, and standard trailer sway control, which makes towing at highway speeds much smoother and safer. These features are in addition to OnStar telematics, six airbags, and rear parking sensors. It all ads up to an overall 4-Star rating from the NHTSA.

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Chevrolet Tahoe

Chevrolet Tahoe

A shorter version of the Suburban, the 2012 Chevy Tahoe has rugged good looks and a lot of capability. The Tahoe is a true body-on-frame sport utility vehicle, meaning its ride is a bit bouncy over rough pavement. Yet for drivers who seek a big rig that also boasts a touch of green credibility, the Tahoe is available with a hybrid powertrain that delivers up to 23 mpg on the highway.

Those are important points, though buyers on the hunt for a safe SUV will be more interested in the Tahoe’s overall 4-Star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as equipment that includes six airbags, OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, StabiliTrak, and a new trailer sway control feature. A blind-spot monitor is also a welcome addition.

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GMC Acadia

GMC Acadia

This is GMC's version of the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. Like its corporate cousins, the Acadia has been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick and has earned an overall 5-Star rating from the NHTSA. In other words, the 2012 GMC Acadia is a safety homerun, one that’s equipped with six airbags, OnStar emergency response services and StabiliTrak, as well as available amenities like rear-parking sensors and a blind-spot monitor.

Thankfully, that high-degree of safety comes in a stylish package accented by generous interior room and a pleasant driving experience.

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Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse

Shoppers may be surprised to learn that the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse is more spacious than its seemingly larger brother, the Chevy Tahoe. As you might expect, the V6-powered Traverse is also more fuel efficient.

The Traverse's interior is not as nice as the Tahoe, but it does have plenty of safety features: six airbags, StabiliTrak traction and stability control, OnStar telematics with emergency response services, a blind-spot monitor, and a rearview camera. Add to that list an IIHS Top Safety Pick award as well as a 5-Star overall crash-test rating from the NHTSA, and you have what amounts to one of the market’s safest SUVs.

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Ford Expedition

Ford Expedition

The only non-General Motors on the list, the Ford Expedition has not been tested by the IIHS, but it has been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, earning a four-star rating by the government regulator.

Like Chevy, Ford has equipped its big ‘ute with six airbags, an electronic stability and traction control system, and a trailer anti-sway feature that allows for more confident towing. A blind-spot monitor is also on the Expedition’s menu of safety amenities, as are a 911 Assist function and a rearview camera.

For those who appreciate the 2012 Expedition’s comfort and utility, yet need more cargo space, Ford offers an elongated version known as the Expedition EL. Both models have earned an overall 4-Star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, and are fitted with features such as six airbags, AdvanceTrac stability and traction control, trailer sway control, and a 911 Assist emergency response system (not standard on the XL trim).

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GMC Yukon

GMC Yukon

Rounding out the Vehix.com list is the 2012 GMC Yukon, which is identical to the Chevy Tahoe but with some extra chrome and wood bits and bobs. If you choose to check it out, you will see that it's features and engineering work to protect its passengers, as indicated by its overall 4-Star crash-test rating from the NHTSA.

As is the case with its Chevrolet-badged counterpart, the GMC Yukon offers generous amounts of space and comfort with safety to match. Safety features include six airbags, OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, a blind-spot monitoring system, StabiliTrak, and a rearview camera.

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