The big bruisers of the U.S. auto market have been getting plenty bruised themselves in the sales department lately, but there remains a dedicated core of customers that still demand the capabilities—and capacities—only available in one of the best full-size SUVs of 2012. All of these choices stretch at least 200 inches in length, providing plenty of room for both gear and guests, while also offering the ability to haul along whatever doesn’t happen to fit in the cabin. Even better, despite all the utility offered on Autobytel’s preferred list of full-size SUVs for 2012, the vehicles are anything but purely utilitarian: They also deliver a full range of creature comforts and must-have technologies, too, so they can satisfy customers determined to go big or go home.
Best Full-size SUVs of 2012: Chevy Suburban
The only old-school SUV on our list of full-size SUVs for 2012 is the Chevrolet Suburban, a true body-on-frame truck that can seat up to nine(!) while—at the same time—it offers 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space—a more than 20 percent advantage over the rear cargo hold in the Honda CR-V. The Suburban also more than pulls its weight when it comes to towing, with the ability to haul up to 8,100 lbs. in its light-duty configuration or up to 9,600 lbs. in its HD setup.
The Suburban then takes a heavy-duty approach to amenities by offering a roster of standard and available content that is competitive with just about any of our best full-size sport utility vehicles of 2012. That means features including heated and ventilated seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with dual monitors and remote game plug-in, a Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio setup, power sunroof, navigation, Bluetooth technology, power-adjustable pedals, and Chevy’s exclusive Autoride suspension with a semi-active, two-position damping-control system.
Two robust V8 engines are available as well to provide up to 352 hp and 382 lb.-ft. of torque.
Best Full-size SUVs of 2012: GMC Acadia
Another of the best full-size sport utility vehicles for 2012 is the GMC Acadia, which is sort of a kindler, gentler version of the Chevy Suburban, wrapping three rows of Professional Grade advantages in a more car-like, crossover-style package that can hold up to eight occupants or more than 116 cubic feet of cargo, all while boasting a 5,200-lb. maximum tow rating.
Already one of the more premium entries on our list of full-size SUVs for 2012, the Acadia can be elevated into a full-on luxury model in the shape of the Acadia Denali. It brings a more sculpted, sophisticated exterior design that incorporates a model-specific polished grille, revised front and rear fascias, dual flow-through chrome exhaust outlets, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels, and HID headlamps; its well-appointed interior features a Denali-only Cocoa Dune color, heated/cooled front seats, a Color Touch navigation system, a SkyScape dual-sunroof system, and safety measures like blind-zone and rear cross-traffic alert.
But even the standard Acadia will showcase some new upgrades for the 2013 model year, thanks to a fairly thorough refresh that introduces a standard rearview camera, dual-flow damper shocks and struts, the industry’s first front-center airbag, and new design cues like LED exterior lights, a soft-touch interior, and updated styling.
Best Full-size SUVs of 2012: Ford Flex
The only EcoBoosted vehicle on Autobytel’s 2012 full-size sport-utility vehicle list is the Ford Flex—which also happened to earn the crown as the year’s Most Ideal Large crossover suv in the 2012 Autobytel/AutoPacific Ideal vehicle awards. The Flex lets owners live large in terms of technology, too, debuting the most up-to-date iteration of the MyFord Touch infotainment and connectivity system, as well as adaptive cruise control, the automaker’s Blind Sport Information System (BLIS), push-button and remote start, rain-sensing wipers, and inflatable rear seatbelts.
Like all of the best full-size sport utility vehicles of 2012, the Flex is a three-row vehicle, in this case with the ability to hold either seven people or 155.8 cubic feet of cargo, and it compliments that capacity with the power to pull up to 4,500 lbs.
Speaking of power, drivers have their choice of two different 3.5-liter V6 engines with the Flex, including the already-mentioned Ecoboost unit that produces 365 hp, 350 lb.-ft. of torque and up to 23 mpg highway—with all-wheel drive. The standard motivator for the Flex is no slouch either, especially since it’s been upgraded to supply 287 hp, 254 lb.-ft. of torque and an EPA line of 18/25/20, representing increases of 25 hp, 6 lb.-ft. of torque and 1 mpg in all EPA testing cycles as compared to the previous model.
Best Full-size SUVs of 2012: Infiniti QX56
The Infiniti QX56 brings a “best of both worlds” approach to Autobytel’s roster of best full-size sport utility vehicles for 2012, combining the rugged body-on-frame construction of a real sport utility with the kind of premium luxury that has long been a hallmark of the Infiniti brand.
The result is a vehicle capable of towing almost as much as the light-duty Chevy Suburban—8,500 lbs.—and packing in more than 152 cubic feet of stuff, while also treating up to eight occupants to a lavishly equipped cabin. Standard features on the QX56, for example, include a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, leather seating in all rows, a tri-zone automatic climate system, Bluetooth technology, a segment-first 360-degree around-view monitor, and pushbutton start.
As expected, Infiniti also caters to customers who demand even more luxury, with a touchscreen-controlled connectivity and entertainment system with an eight-inch WVGA color screen and navigation, a 13-speaker Bose audio system, a Theater Package with twin seven-inch video monitors and a pair of wireless headphones, and a full complement of electronic safety measures.
This member of our family of best full-size SUVs supplies drivers with a 400-hp V8 engine, seven-speed automatic transmission with Adapative Shift Control, and available Hydraulic Body Motion Control suspension to ensure a surprisingly dynamic driving experience.
Best Full-size SUVs of 2012: Dodge Durango
The Dodge Durango is positioned as the enthusiast-approved selection on Autobytel’s 2012 full-size sport-utility vehicle list, backed by two powerful engines: A 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that puts out a best-in-class 295 horses—in the Durango’s new-for-2013 Rallye trim—or the trusted 5.7-liter HEMI V8 that can release 360 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. That latter powerplant also provides the Durango with enough grunt to pull up to 7,400 lbs., yet it can still achieve 20 mpg in both rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations.
But the real difference-maker for this player on our team of best full-size sport utility vehicles of 2012 is its sophisticated suspension, which includes a short-/long-arm setup in the front, an isolated multi-link rear system, front and rear cradles, large sway bars, and aggressively tuned shocks and spring rates—and those road-ready features can be further enhanced with an available electro-hydraulic hi-po steering system. On the other hand, the Durango also takes care of its passengers with all the usual toys and technology, along with Dodge-only advantages like an available center-mounted console for the vehicle’s available second-row captain’s seats that provides added storage, lighted cup holders, a USB port and a 12-volt power outlet.