We’ve already recapped our favorite efficient cars and hybrids, but what about the SUVs? Even with sky-high gas prices, new SUVs of all sizes are coming to market. This year brought some of the best interiors and fuel efficiency yet in this segment, but what glorified station wagon took our staff’s hearts?
Joe Wiesenfelder: 2009 Volvo XC60
Put simply, there were some impressive redesigns this year, but I have to go with an all-new entry — especially when it's a smaller alternative to an existing SUV: The XC60 is a handsome vehicle with a high-quality interior and all the safety features you could possibly want. It isn't too small in practical terms compared to the XC90, but it is smaller. These days, smaller is better.
David Thomas: 2009 Nissan Murano
This was a tough call. It came down to the Murano, the 2009 Subaru Forester and the 2009 Volvo XC60. The Murano’s high-end interior, amazingly bizarre headlights and price — lower than the outgoing model — won me over. They probably will also win over a lot of car shoppers.
Mike Hanley: 2009 Volvo XC60
The XC60 is the latest entry in the small luxury crossover category, which includes models like the Acura RDX and Land Rover LR2. It enters this growing market well-positioned to win buyers with its sleek good looks, impressive array of safety features, and striking cabin, which can have some pretty radical color combinations if you're the adventurous type.
Kelsey Mays: 2009 Nissan Murano
While the new Forester represents an improvement over the previous one, its differences don’t strike me as vast. The new Murano does: Its cabin sets a new bar for quality among midsize SUVs, and as Dave noted, the lower price tag makes it all the more appealing. The guys at Infiniti need to have a talk with Nissan; the quality differences between the two are getting awfully blurry.