With so many options in the SUV and CUV segment these days, it's hard to put a finger on what really separates one utility vehicle from another. Indeed, the vehicles at each level tend to get similar fuel economy, cost about the same price and even kind of look alike.
Strategic Vision's Total Quality Index, however, offers a very strong point of differentiation for consumers. Taking testimonies from actual vehicle owners into account, the company compiles an annual list of vehicles that lead the pack when it comes to overall quality and owner satisfaction.
Strategic Vision has presented Total Quality Awards annually since 1995. Based on Strategic Vision's quantitative "ValueCentered" NVES study, the Total Quality Index was calculated from 45,390 buyers who purchased 2012 models during September to December 2011.
What follows are the highest quality SUVs and CUVs, according to the study. If you're shopping for a utility vehicle, you should put some of these at or very near the top of your list.
Entry Utility: Volkswagen Tiguan
MSRP: $22,995 - $36,820
Invoice: $22,075 - $35,347
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway
The Tiguan is Volkswagen's entry into the ever growing small SUV segment. German design and engineering helps to try and set it apart from the competition. The Tiguan is powered by VW's versatile 200-hp 2.0L turbo FSI engine mated to either a six-speed manual (S FWD only) or six-speed automatic transmission along with a choice of front-wheel drive or 4Motion all-wheel drive.
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Mid-Size Crossover Utility: Ford Flex
MSRP: $30,885 - $43,850
Invoice: $29,110 - $40,891
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg City, 25 mpg Highway
The Ford Flex is a full-size family vehicle that features three-rows of seating, bold styling and is highly functional. The Flex competes directly in the popular crossover segment. The front-wheel or all-wheel drive Flex is powered by a 285-hp 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine. Available on the all-wheel drive Limited only is the 355-hp 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine.
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Mid-Size Traditional Utility: Jeep Grand Cherokee
MSRP: $27,495 - $59,995
Invoice: $27,041 - $56,956
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 23 mpg Highway
The Jeep Grand Cherokee retains Jeep's legendary off-road prowess while providing many luxurious and technical amenities. The Grand Cherokee is available in two-wheel and four-wheel drive configuration with four trims levels: Laredo, Limited, Overland, and SRT8 (four-wheel drive only). All trims (except the SRT8) are powered by a 290-hp 3.6-liter V6 paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The V6 can be upgraded to a 360-hp 5.7-liter V8 Hemi engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The SRT8 trim features an exclusive 470-hp 6.4-liter V8 Hemi engine.
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Large Utility: Nissan Armada
MSRP: $39,870 - $55,120
Invoice: $36,298 - $50,162
Fuel Economy: 13 mpg City, 19 mpg Highway
The Armada has the power and size to accommodate whatever owners ask of Nissan's flagship SUV. The Armada seats up to eight people and is available in either rear- or four-wheel drive. Class leading towing capability comes from a 317-hp 5.6-liter V8 mated to a five-speed automatic. An E85 Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) version is available.
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Near-Luxury Utility: Range Rover Evoque
MSRP: $43,145 - $44,145
Invoice: $39,478 - $40,393
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway
The Range Rover Evoque is Land Rover's new 5-passenger luxury compact SUV, offered in two bodystyles: the Evoque Coupe, a production version of the dynamic LRX concept car, and the versatile Evoque 5-Door. The Range Rover Evoque is powered by a new 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with rotary shifter, manual mode and steering wheel paddles, while Land Rover's unique "Terrain Response" system enhances all-surface, all-weather capability.
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Luxury Utility: BMW X6
MSRP: $59,800 - $70,400
Invoice: $55,195 - $64,950
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg City, 23 mpg Highway
The BMW X6 Sports Activity Coupe combines coupe-like agility and style with the versatility of a SUV. The distinctive 4-door, 4-passenger X6 features two rear seats in a sculpted single-seat design and BMW's xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive system. The BMW X6 is available in two trim levels: xDrive35i and xDrive50i. The xDrive35i is powered by a 300-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, while the xDrive50i boasts a twin-turbo V8, generating 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque.
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