The Yukon comes in three distinct flavors: a regular truck-based three-row SUV that's a Chevy Tahoe underneath the skin, complete with a 320-bhp 5.3- liter V-8; a 14-in.-longer version that's a Chevy Suburban underneath the skin; and an HD model with a stronger frame and a 352-bhp 6.0-liter V-8. There are also Denali models that feature a 403-bhp 6.2-liter V-8, as well as heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, retracting running boards and leather upholstery. The Denalis have a special sound-insulating package to make them quieter inside. These are not sissy trucks, though, since capable off-road packages are available with locking rear differentials, big tow hooks in the front and a front skid plate. The Hybrid Yukon and Denali get an impressive 20 mpg in the city.
GM’s Acadia hits the family sweet spot with 7- or 8-passenger seating, front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive layout, and towing capacity of 5200 lb. The second-row Smart Slide system makes it easy to crawl in or out, and you don’t have to travel far down the option list to find a kid-friendly rear-seat entertainment system. Families who avoided the worst of the Great Recession’s carnage may want to examine the upscale Denali, which includes perforated leather seats with matching door trim, heated and cooled driver and passenger seats, a head-up display and Dual SkyScrape sunroof. GMC keeps things simple with a single powertrain configuration, a 288-bhp VVT V-6 with 6-speed automatic. For 2012, there are new colors and some formerly optional equipment is now standard.
The Toyota Land Cruiser remains at the top of the class when it comes to luxury and off-road capability. It provides legendary durability and reliability thanks to Toyota's impressive level of quality control.
The four door Land Cruiser can seat up to eight passengers in three rows of seating. A 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission sends power to the four-wheel drive system. Driving at low speeds on rough or steep terrain, the Crawl Control system automatically controls the vehicle's engine and brakes which allows the driver to focus on steering. The Land Cruiser boasts ten airbags and standard with four-wheel anti-lock brakes, brake assist, active traction control, tire-pressure monitoring system, vehicle stability control, and active front headrests for whiplash protection.
The requisite tools to survive both the natural and concrete jungles may be disparate, but both can be handled competently by the Lexus GX 460. Positioned between the city-going RX and the Land Cruiser-based LX, the GX 460 comes standard with off-road features such as full-time 4-wheel drive with an electronically controlled transfer case, a Torsen limited-slip differential with an electronic locking feature, Crawl Control and Downhill Assist Control. When it’s time for the urban environment, the GX coddles with 10-way adjustable heated/ventilated seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, nine-speaker audio system and power fold-flat third-row seats. Want more? Kick up the content with the available Convenience or Comfort Plus Packages.
Okay, it may look a bit dated, but the Escape lineup--including the petroparsimonious Hybrid--has always received the very latest in Ford safety and convenience technology, and can even parallel park itself, thanks to optional, class-exclusive Active Park Assist. There's an Escape for almost any price point. You can pretty much have it your way, with drivetrain choices ranging from frontdrive 5-speed-manual 2.5-liter I-4 to a silky, flex-fuel V-6 sending 240 bhp to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic. Or any combination thereof. Plus the aforementioned Hybrid that can run up to 44 mph in full electric mode and is EPA rated at 34 mpg in city driving. But act fast: Expect an all-new 2013 Escape to hit the streets sometime in 2012.