YONKERS, NY — The Consumer Reports automotive testing staff has put six 2011 sport-utility vehicles with significant changes under the microscope and found much to like about three of them and not so much to like about the other three.
The three that performed well under the magazine staff’s battery of tests were the Infiniti QX56, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Porsche Cayenne. None, however, earned a recommendation because they are too new for the magazine staff to assess their predicted reliability.
The remaining three vehicles — Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX — scored too low in the tests to earn a recommendation.
“In a highly competitive category, all three of these vehicles have a number of strengths, but each had some notable weaknesses that forced their testing scores to fall below our standard for a recommended SUV,” explained David Champion, senior director of the magazine’s auto test center,
The mid-sized, mid-sized luxury and large luxury SUVs were chosen because all have received significant changes for the 2011 model year.
Testers found that the Cayenne ($63,805 as tested) handles exceptionally well for an SUV while offering a controlled and compliant highway ride. However, some controls were fund to be confusing. The test vehicle was powered by a 3.6-liter, 300-horsepower V-6 engine and returned an average 19 mpg.
The large and luxurious Infiniti QX56 ($63,395) was difficult to maneuver, and had poor emergency handling. On the plus side, it had lots of cargo space and and the ability to tow up to 8,500 pounds. Power was supplied by a 5.6-liter, 400 horsepower V-8 engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Average fuel consumption was 15 mpg.
The all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee ($42,765) cornered well, delivered a comfortable highway ride and showed significant refinement over its predecessor. The 5.7-liter, 360-horsepower V-8 engine was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and the combination returned an average 14 mpg.
The Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ ($57,435) was unsettled on rough roads, but its highway ride was smooth and compliant. Overall, however, handling was considered “ungainly” and stopping distances were long. The 5.3-liter, 320-horsepower V-8 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, returned an average 14 mpg.
The Lincoln MKX ($50,235) had a smooth highway ride, absorbed bumps well and exhibited improved handling over the 2010 model. The 3.7-liter, 305-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission combined to return an averge 18 mpg.
The similar, but less luxurious Ford Edge ($37,635) earned points for its easy access, interior space, improved handling and lively engine.
The 3.5-liter, 285-horsepower V-6 engine was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that sometimes shifted with a jolt. Average fuel consumption was 18 mpg.
The Ford and Lincoln were both downgraded for their touch control systems that replace traditional knobs and switches with touch-sensitive controls or touch screens. Testers found them to be complex and confusing.
Full reports on the six vehicles can be found in the January issue of Consumer Reports, now on newsstands. They also are available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.
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